Monthly Archives: January 2021

Meeting of February 11, 2021

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, February 11, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is

Dr. Lorien Foote on “The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy”

During the winter of 1864, more than 3,000 Federal prisoners of war escaped from Confederate prison camps into South Carolina and North Carolina, often with the aid of local slaves. Their flight created, in the words of contemporary observers, a “Yankee plague,” heralding a grim end to the Confederate cause. In this fascinating look at Union soldiers’ flight for freedom in the last months of the Civil War, Lorien Foote reveals new connections between the collapse of the Confederate prison system, the large-scale escape of Union soldiers, and the full unraveling of the Confederate States of America.

By this point in the war, the Confederacy was reeling from prison overpopulation, a crumbling military, violence from internal enemies, and slavery’s breakdown. The fugitive Federals moving across the countryside in mass numbers, Foote argues, accelerated the collapse as slaves and deserters decided the presence of these men presented an opportune moment for escalated resistance.

Blending rich analysis with an engaging narrative, Foote uses these ragged Union escapees as a lens with which to assess the dying Confederate States, providing a new window into the South’s ultimate defeat.

Dr. Lorien Foote is the Patricia & Bookman Peters Professor in History at Texas A&M University, where she teaches classes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, war and society, and 19th-century American reform movements. She is the author of The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor, and Violence in the Union Army (NYU Press, 2010), which received honorable mention as finalist for the 2011 Lincoln Prize. She is also the author of Seeking the One Great Remedy: Francis George Shaw and Nineteenth-Century Reform (Ohio University Press, 2003). Dr. Foote is the creator and principal investigator of a project with the Center for Virtual History at the University of Georgia that is currently mapping the movement of 3000 Federal prisoners of war who escaped from the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

Meeting of March 11, 2021

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, March 11, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is

Christopher Klein on “When The Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom”

The outlandish, untold story of the Irish American revolutionaries who tried to free Ireland by invading Canada.

Just over a year after Robert E. Lee relinquished his sword, a band of Union and Confederate veterans dusted off their guns. But these former foes had no intention of reigniting the Civil War. Instead, they fought side by side to undertake one of the most fantastical missions in military history: to seize the British province of Canada and to hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured.

By the time that these invasions—known collectively as the Fenian raids—began in 1866, Ireland had been Britain’s unwilling colony for seven hundred years. Thousands of Civil War veterans who had fled to the United States rather than perish in the wake of the Great Hunger still considered themselves Irishmen first, Americans second. With the tacit support of the U.S. government and inspired by a previous generation of successful American revolutionaries, the group that carried out a series of five attacks on Canada between 1866 and 1871—the Fenian Brotherhood—established a state in exile, planned prison breaks, weathered infighting, stockpiled weapons, and assassinated enemies. Defiantly, this motley group, including a one-armed war hero, an English spy infiltrating rebel forces, and a radical who staged his own funeral, managed to seize a piece of Canada—if only for three days.

Chris Klein is the author of four books, including When the Irish Invaded Canada and Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero. A frequent contributor to History.com, the website of the History Channel, he has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Harvard Magazine, Smithsonian.com, and AmericanHeritage.com. He graduated summa cum laude and with honors from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, in 1994, and is a member of the Authors Guild, Biographers International Organization, Boston Authors Club, and Irish American Writers & Artists.