Monthly Archives: October 2018

Meeting of January 10, 2019

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, January 10, at Camden County College in the Connector Building, Room 101. This month’s topic is

Hal Jespersen on “Civil War Cartography”

Readers say that one of the most important features of a modern book about the Civil War is a good collection of understandable, accurate maps. Hal’s presentation, offered via Skype from California, will reveal some of the details behind the process for creating such maps. Hal Jespersen’s cartography business has produced over 2,900 maps for Wikipedia and numerous books, magazines, and battlefield displays. Hal will discuss the state of mapmaking during the war, review the work of some famous cartographers, and describe tools and processes he uses to create maps. Some of the technical concepts included were projection, elevation rendering, evaluating the accuracy of the Official Records Atlas, and plotting the courses of 19th century rivers, roads, and railroads.

Hal Jespersen is a retired computer industry executive—formerly of Sun Microsystems—who has a strong interest in studying the Civil War. Hal was a U.S. Army Signal Corps officer in the 1970s, including Viet Nam, and then held a variety of computer software jobs in Silicon Valley until his retirement in 2010. Although he studied some military history and visited some battlefields as an ROTC cadet, Hal’s overriding interest in the war was triggered recently by a specific event—reading Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels in 2003. That led to a period of voracious reading about the Battle of Gettysburg and to the first of a number of trips to that hallowed ground.

In 2004, Hal began to make significant contributions to the Civil War articles on Wikipedia, and is the principal author of about 130 battle and campaign articles as well as an equal number of biographical articles about Civil War generals. In addition to the text of the articles, Hal has produced over 2,900 Civil War battle maps, which are appearing in a number of online sites and numerous books. Hal focuses his interests primarily east of the Mississippi, and although he loves the Army of the Potomac, believes that the war was substantially won in the Western Theater.

Hal’s mapping website, www.CWMaps.com, includes about 200 freely available maps of the war, as well as information about his custom cartography business. His personal website, www.posix.com/CW/, contains links to his important Wikipedia articles and a large number of travelogue articles, recording his visits to Civil War battlefields and seminars over the years. Hal is the webmaster for three Civil War Round Tables, including Old Baldy.

Meeting of November 8, 2018

Scott Mingus on “The Second Battle of Winchester: The Confederate Victory That Opened the Door to Gettysburg”

In the summer of 1863, as Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia began its inexorable push northward toward Pennsylvania, only one significant force stood in the way — Union Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy’s division of the Eighth Army Corps in the vicinity of Winchester and Berryville. Milroy, affectionately known to his men as the Old Grey Eagle, would stubbornly defy repeated instructions to withdraw to safety even as the overpowering Rebel force approached. Believing that the enemy was merely a cavalry raid or feint, the veteran Indiana politician-turned-general chose to stand and fight. His controversial decision put his outnumbered and largely inexperienced men on a path to what most observers considered to be a military fiasco when Milroy lost half his force and routed ingloriously from the final battlefield. Many of the Northern soldiers who fought at Second Winchester, however, believed their three-day, ultimately unwinnable resistance delayed the vaunted Rebels from entering Pennsylvania long enough to buy time for the Army of the Potomac to arrive and defeat Lee at Gettysburg.

Today largely forgotten in the plethora of Gettysburg media attention, the Second Battle of Winchester in its time proved to be politically charged for the Union, with President Lincoln and the War Department seeking to save face; Milroy seeking to save his now tainted career; and the beleaguered soldiers seeking redemption. On the Confederate side, Robert E. Lee believed he had found in Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell a worthy successor to the late, lamented Stonewall Jackson. Gettysburg would prove that the promise of Second Winchester was only an illusion on many fronts. Lee’s inner circle of senior leaders was lacking a significant cog, and his army was not as invincible as the overwhelming victory over Milroy had suggested.

In this book, multiple award-winning authors Eric J. Wittenberg and Scott L. Mingus, Sr. combine their writing and research talents into what may be the definitive account of Second Winchester. Using more than a hundred fresh sources, they weave together the individual soldier’s stories into a comprehensive, highly readable narrative that takes the reader back to the pivotal battle that opened the door to Gettysburg.

Scott Mingus is a scientist and consultant in the global pulp & paper industry, and holds patents in self-adhesive postage stamps and bar code labels. The Ohio native graduated from the Paper Science & Engineering program at Miami University. While working for Avery Dennison, he was part of the research team that developed the first commercially successful self-adhesive U.S. postage stamps. He has written nineteen Civil War and Underground Railroad books. His biography of Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith won multiple awards, including the Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. Literary Prize for Confederate History. He has also written several articles for Gettysburg Magazine, as well as for various historical journals.

Scott and his wife Debi live in York, Pa., and for more than a decade, he was written a blog on the Civil War history of York County (www.yorkblog.com/cannonball). He received the 2013 Heritage Profile Award from the York County Heritage Trust for his contributions to local Civil War history. He also has written six scenario books for Civil War miniature wargaming. His great-great-grandfather was a 15-year-old drummer and rifleman in the 51st Ohio Infantry under General George “Pap” Thomas, and other family members fought at Antietam and Gettysburg in the 7th West Virginia.

November 2018 Newsletter