A lifelong student of American History with a focus on the Civil War, Hoptak earned his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Kutztown University and his Master’s Degree in History from Lehigh University. He also holds and Instructional I Certificate in Social Studies and Citizenship Education in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Hoptak is currently employed as a Park Ranger/Park Educator at Gettysburg National Military Park. Previous to working at Gettysburg, Hoptak worked for eight seasons as a Park Ranger at the Antietam National Battlefield.
Hoptak is a frequent lecturer at Civil War Roundtables and Historical Societies, and is the author of a number books and articles, which have appeared in such publications as America’s Civil War, Civil War Times, and Pennsylvania Heritage. He has authored two books for the History Press’ Civil War Sesquicentennial Series: The Battle of South Mountain (2011) and Confrontation at Gettysburg: A Nation Saved, A Cause Lost (2012). He also penned a guidebook for the Antietam National Battlefield, entitled Antietam: September 17, 1862, published by the Western Maryland Interpretative Association, 2011. His first book, published in 2004 and titled First in Defense of the Union: The Civil War History of the First Defenders, chronicles the history of the first five companies of Northern volunteers to arrive in Washington after the commencement of hostilities. His other books include Dear Ma: The Civil War Letters of Lieutenant Curtis Pollock, First Defender and First Lieutenant, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry (Sunbury Press, 2017), Our Boys Did Nobly: Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Soldiers at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam (2009), They Will Be Remembered By A Grateful People: Civil War Heroes of Schuylkill County (2009), and Antietam Trivia (2009).
John is also active in matters of historic preservation and among other ventures, he led the effort to place historical tablets in the city of Pottsville in honor of General James Nagle, and led a successful campaign to restore the 48th Pennsylvania monument at Antietam by replacing the missing sword from the Nagle statue.
Although interested in all aspects of the war, John’s main interest lies in the Civil War history of his native Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, and particularly the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, a regiment recruited almost entirely from Schuylkill County. John hosts a blog dedicated to the 48th PA, which can be found at: www.48thpennsylvania.blogspot.com