Meeting of February 13, 2020

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, February 13, at Camden County College in the Connector Building, Room 101. This month’s topic is

Michael Wunsch on “Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson & the National Union Party Convention, Baltimore, June 7–8, 1864”

Michael discusses the proceedings and key players of the two-day convention held at the Front Street Theater in Baltimore, including an overview of the National Union Party platform, the re-nomination of President Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln’s role (or non-role) as master ‘wire puller’ behind the decision to replace the sitting vice-president Hannibal Hamlin with lifelong Democrat Andrew Johnson.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Michael has been a resident of Philadelphia since 1966, graduated from La Salle College in 1980, and is employed by a Social Services company in Blue Bell, PA. He has been speaking on Civil War topics since 2002 including ‘Abraham Lincoln & the Great Central Sanitary Fair”, “Philadelphia and the Surrender of Robert E. Lee”, and “The Palmetto Flag, A Secessionist Newspaper in Philadelphia”. Michael is a member of the Delaware Valley CWRT, the GAR Civil War Museum & Library, the Lincoln Forum, and is currently the Corresponding Secretary for the General Meade Society of Philadelphia.

February 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of March 12, 2020

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, March 12, at Camden County College in the Connector Building, Room 101. This month’s topic is

Paul Prentiss on “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! – Admiral David Farragut and Battle of Mobile Bay August 5, 1864”

In the spring of 1864 the Southern heartland was still intact from the Shenandoah Valley to the red clay hills of Georgia. Richmond, Atlanta, along with the seaport cities of Mobile, Charleston, and Wilmington were thriving despite the Union Navy blockade. The effects of the Anaconda Strategy were felt but the impact was more an inconvenience than true suffering. West of the Mississippi the situation was very much the same except for New Orleans and a few Union garrisons on the coast. In the North the high hopes that followed victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg were turning into despair. The Northern electorate blamed President Lincoln for the mismanagement of the war and the November elections were looming. If the Confederates could deny the North a major military victory and hold out until the elections, it was a real possibility the South could win the war through a negotiated peace. Also, any Confederate victory could strengthen the northern Peace Democrat candidate George McClellan’s bid for the presidency.

Just how much did the Battle of Mobile Bay affect the national stage at this critical time? Some argue the victory helped Lincoln’s campaign win the presidency while others claim the closure of the port of Mobile hastened the economic defeat of the South and had little actual impact on the election. This presentation will set the scene, discuss major players, critique the strategy and tactics and debate the battle’s impact.

Paul Prentiss is a retired Navy Captain and Chief Scientist for a national science and technology company. The Massachusetts native graduated from the University of Michigan Physics program and Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. While serving in the Navy he was able to visit many worldwide historic sites and tread the ground where extraordinary events unfolded. Paul and his wife Susan live in nearby Marlton, NJ. He is a volunteer STEM mentor, trustee for the Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable of Philadelphia and active member of the Coastal Defense Study Group. His distant cousin, LT Roderick Prentiss, participated in the Battle of Mobile Bay as Executive Officer aboard the USS Monongahela where he was struck by flying splinters caused by cannon fire from Fort Morgan and subsequently died of his wounds.

Meeting of April 9, 2020

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, April 9, at Camden County College in the Connector Building, Room 101. This month’s topic is

Hampton Newsome on “The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864”

On a cold day in early January 1864, Robert E. Lee wrote to Confederate president Jefferson Davis “The time is at hand when, if an attempt can be made to capture the enemy’s forces at New Berne, it should be done.” Over the next few months, Lee’s dispatch would precipitate a momentous series of events as the Confederates, threatened by a supply crisis and an emerging peace movement, sought to seize Federal bases in eastern North Carolina. This is the story of these operations; the late war Confederate resurgence in the Old North State.

Hampton Newsome is an attorney residing in Arlington, Virginia. He holds a Bachelors in Public Policy from Duke University, a Masters in City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning from the University of Virginia School of Architecture, and his JD from the University of Virginia Law School.

Hampton is the author of Richmond Must Fall, covering the October 1864 Richmond–Petersburg campaign, and was recognized as a best book of 2013 by the Civil War Monitor. His book The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January–May 1864 was recently named as the Best Book of the Year for 2019 by the Civil War Books and Authors blog. He also maintains his own blog entitled “Ransack Garret and Closet.”

Meeting of December 12, 2019

Krista Castillo (via ZOOM) on “The Illustrations of Thomas Nast: Reconstruction, Politics, and Popular Consciousness”

The period of Reconstruction remains a point of contention among scholars, academics, and amateur historians largely due to the biases and opinions passed down through the generations. It is not until we step back and view the period from the context of the time that we can begin to understand the complexity of the issues involved. The illustrations of Thomas Nast, prominently displayed in Harper’s Weekly, reveal popular attitudes towards Reconstruction politics and emerging radical ideologies. In 1864, Nast played a major role in the presidential election. During the turmoil of the Reconstruction period, Nast revealed the corruption of New York City’s Tammany Hall, which led to the toppling of Boss Tweed.

Although Thomas Nast’s reputation as an illustrator, caricaturist and political cartoonist faded into obscurity over the past one hundred years, most Americans easily recognize the symbols he created such as the Democratic Donkey, the Republican Elephant and the most popular representation of Santa Clause. Nast’s deeply rooted convictions and skill transformed his pen into a weapon poised to eradicate injustice, characteristics that remain unmatched in his craft to this day.

Krista Castillo, a native of Northeastern Ohio, came to Fort Negley as the Education Manager in 2008. In 2010, she was promoted to Museum Coordinator and Site Manager. Krista holds degrees from Mount Union College (B.A., History) and Austin Peay State University (M.A., Military History). In addition to completing internships at the William McKinley National Memorial and Museum in Canton, Ohio and at the Don F. Pratt Museum at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Krista’s professional experience includes serving as registrar at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville, Tennessee and as a receptionist at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Krista has served as president of the Nashville Civil War Roundtable since 2009 and as a book reviewer for Civil War News since 2016. In March 2017, she was profiled by the Emerging Civil War blog in honor of Women’s History Month. Krista resides in Clarksville, Tennessee.

December 2019 Newsletter

Meeting of November 14, 2019

Cooper Wingert and Scott Mingus on “Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War”

The Civil War was the first conflict in which railroads played a major role. Although much has been written about their role in general, little has been written about specific lines. The Cumberland Valley Railroad, for example, played an important strategic role by connecting Hagerstown, Maryland to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Its location enhanced its importance during some of the Civil War’s most critical campaigns. Despite the line’s significance to the Union war effort, its remarkable story remains little known.

Scott Mingus, Sr.

Cooper Wingert

Cooper Wingert is the author of 12 books on the American Civil War and slavery, including Slavery and the Underground Railroad in South Central Pennsylvania, Abolitionists of South Central Pennsylvania, The Confederate Approach on Harrisburg: The Gettysburg Campaign’s Northernmost Reaches, and Harrisburg and the Civil War: Defending the Keystone of the Union. He is the recipient of the 2012 Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. Literary Award for Confederate History, and has appeared on C-SPAN Book TV and Pennsylvania Cable Network. He is a student at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pa.

Scott L. Mingus, Sr. is an author, tour guide, multiple award-winning miniature wargamer, patented scientist, and history buff based near York, Pennsylvania.

November 2019 Newsletter

Meeting of October 10, 2019

Chuck Veit on “African-Americans in the Union Navy”

For those familiar with the story of African-American regiments in the Army during the American Civil War, the history of black sailors in the Union Navy offers a surprising and refreshing contrast. United States Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles mandated that all enlisted men be treated fairly no matter the color of their skin, and enforced this order throughout all aspects of naval life. “The Navy has not been in the habit of examining a seaman’s complexion before shipping him; ‘Can you fight?’ is the only question.” This is a much-overlooked aspect of the black contribution to the Northern war effort, and deserves to be better known. Navy history offers the only period example of integrated service by men of many races and backgrounds.

Chuck Veit is the author of original research books, including A Dog Before a Soldier: Almost-lost Episodes in the Navy’s Civil War; Sea Miner: Major E. B. Hunt’s Rocket Torpedo; Natural Genius: Brutus de Villeroi and the U.S. Navy’s First Submarine; and two books focusing on the salvage exploits of Massachusetts native, John E. Gowen: Raising Missouri and The Yankee Expedition to Sebastopol. Sea Miner claimed the 2016 award for Narrative Non-fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England, and Yankee Expedition won awards in both the Perennial Seller category and Book of the Year in 2017.

Chuck is President of the Navy & Marine Living History Association and is a frequent speaker on 19th century naval topics at area historical societies and Civil War roundtables, as well as at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. Other venues have included the NOAA Maritime Heritage Education Conference, Mariners’ Museum Civil War Navy Conference, and the Naval Order of the United States in St. Petersburg, FL.

October 2019 Newsletter

Meeting of September 12, 2019

Ron Kirkwood on “Too Much for Human Endurance: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg”

The George Spangler story is the rare Gettysburg tale that has never been told in entirety until now. Amazingly, after thousands of books and many generations gone by, there was still uncharted territory about the Battle of Gettysburg until “Too Much for Human Endurance: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg” by Ron Kirkwood. Ron’s book and presentation discusses Spangler’s experiences and perspectives including;

  • The XI Corps Army of the Potomac hospital on George and Elizabeth Spangler’s farm, which treated up to 2,000 patients.
  • The First Division, II Corps hospital at Granite Schoolhouse on the Spanglers’ land. They had two hospitals on their property totaling probably 3,000 men.
  • The Army of the Potomac Artillery Reserve, which was based at Spangler and included 106 cannons and 2,300 men.
  • How the Army of the Potomac used the location and size of the farm militarily to help win the battle.
  • The Spanglers and their neighbors before the battle, during the battle and what happened to them after the battle.
  • Stories of the heroism and suffering of the patients, surgeons, nurses, Spanglers and Spangler neighbors.

Ron Kirkwood is the author of “Too Much for Human Endurance: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg,” which was published in May 2019. Ron is retired after a 40-year career as an editor and writer in newspapers and magazines including USA TODAY, the Baltimore Sun, the Harrisburg Patriot-News and York Daily Record. Ron edited national magazines for USA TODAY Sports, he was the editor in charge of National Football League coverage for USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and he managed the copy desk in Harrisburg when the newspaper won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Ron is a native of Michigan and a graduate of Central Michigan University, where he has returned as guest speaker to journalism classes as part of the school’s Hearst Visiting Professionals series. Ron lives in York, Pennsylvania, and has been a Gettysburg Foundation guide at The George Spangler Farm Field Hospital Site since it opened in 2013.

September 2019 Newsletter