Category Archives: Meeting archive

Meeting of January 14, 2021

Alice L Baumgartner on “South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War”

The Underground Railroad to the North promised salvation to many American slaves before the Civil War. But thousands of people in the south-central United States escaped slavery not by heading north but by crossing the southern border into Mexico, where slavery was abolished in 1837.

Based on research in twenty-seven archives in three countries, South to Freedom tells the story of why Mexico abolished slavery and how its increasingly radical antislavery policies fueled the sectional crisis in the United States. As enslaved people escaped across the Rio Grande, and the U.S. government failed to secure their return, slaveholders came to believe that their interests would be best protected outside of the Union. Mexico’s laws also had an impact beyond the borderlands. Southern politicians hoped that annexing Texas and invading Mexico in the 1840s would stop runaways and secure slavery’s future. Instead, the seizure of Alta California and Nuevo México upset the delicate political balance between free and slave states.

As U.S. Congressmen debated the status of slavery in the former Mexican territories, Northern Democrats balked at the prospect of reestablishing slavery where it had been prohibited. Abolition in Mexico thus undermined the norm of admitting slavery in southern territories while prohibiting it in northern ones—a norm that had kept sectionalism at bay since the Missouri Compromise.

Alice L. Baumgartner is assistant professor of history at the University of Southern California. She received an MPhil in history from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar, and a PhD in history from Yale University. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

January 2021 Newsletter

Meeting of December 10, 2020

Bob Russo on “The Wounded Knee Massacre”

The Wounded Knee Massacre, often and inaccurately called the Battle of Wounded Knee, was a massacre of several hundred Lakota Sioux people by soldiers of the United States Army. The massacre took place on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

On the tragic morning of the massacre, members of U.S. 7th Cavalry entered the camp to disarm the Lakota. An elderly member of the tribe refused to give up his weapon while others began a tribal dance known as the Ghost Dance. In the struggle a shot was fired and the U.S. army began shooting at the Native Americans with Hotchkiss Guns from a nearby hillside. Lakota warriors fought back, but most had already been disarmed by the Army.

More than 250 Lakota men, women, and children were dead and over 50 others wounded. Other estimates place the number of Lakota dead at over 300. Twenty-five soldiers also died with over 35 wounded. Many Army casualties are thought to be from friendly fire. In a final insult over Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians approved two resolutions denouncing the Medal of Honor awards and urged the U.S. government to rescind Medals.

The massacre ended the Indian Wars but it took forty years of treaty violations, battles, false promises and government intrusions and failures to reach the day of the massacre. In September 2019, after spending about two years reading about the history, Bob Russo, an Old Baldy and Delaware Valley CWRT member visited the site of the massacre with his wife, Carol.

Join Bob for the story of this horrific tragedy and the events that led up to it. Ties to Civil War personalities, a 1980 Supreme Court decision on ownership of the Black Hills and the genocidal words of an author of a book, that later became a historic and well-known motion picture, will be discussed.

December 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of November 12, 2020

Carol Simon Levin on “Reclaiming Our Voice: New Jersey’s Central Role in the Fight for Woman Suffrage”

This is the story of the role of New Jersey women in the long struggle for women’s suffrage.

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, women had the right to vote in only one state, New Jersey, a right they would lose in 1807, and not win back for more than five generations. New Jersey’s role in the struggle to regain that right is largely overlooked.

It is well-known that Elizabeth Cady Stanton proclaimed “all men and women are created equal” at the Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY. Few know that she lived in Tenafly in 1869, when she and Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and wrote the first three volumes of their History of Woman Suffrage.

Hear the stories of these and many other women with Jersey ties – including the Grimke sisters (who spoke out against slavery and for women’s rights from their home in Shrewsbury), Dr. Florence Spearing Randolph (chair of the NJ Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and executive board member on the NJ Woman Suffrage Association), Alice Low Turnbull Hopkins (who threw her considerable support behind Alice Paul’s Washington pickets), and Alice Paul, the dynamo who re-energized the movement for a federal amendment.

Carol Simon Levin is a retired librarian, author, storyteller and program presenter based in Bedminster. In 2016, she wrote a book, “Remembering The Ladies: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candidates,” about amazing American women, which was illustrated by 36 artists. It is an interactive book about lost stories of fascinating and forgotten women in American history. In addition to a coloring page, each entry includes a short biography, a fascinating fact and a quote by the woman. It includes recommendations for further reading for kids, teens, and adults, and suggestions for activities and activism and places to visit.

November 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of October 22, 2020

Ronald S. Coddington on “Faces of Civil War Nurses”

A collection of rare archival images and biographical sketches of the dauntless women who served as nurses and caregivers during the Civil War.

During the American Civil War, women on both sides of the conflict, radiating patriotic fervor equal to their male counterparts, contributed to the war effort in countless ways: forming charitable societies, becoming nurses, or even marching off to war as vivandières, unofficial attachés to the regiments.

In Faces of Civil War Nurses, Ronald S. Coddington turns his attention to the experiences of 77 women of all ages and walks of life who provided care during the war as nurses, aid workers, and vivandières. Their personal narratives are as unique as fingerprints: each provides a distinct entry point into the larger social history of the brutal and bloody conflict. Coddington tells these determined women’s stories through letters, diaries, pension files, and newspaper and government reports. Using identified tintypes and cartes de visite of women on both sides of the war, many of them never before published, Coddington uncovers the personal histories of each intrepid individual. Following their postwar stories, he also explains how the bonds they formed continued long after the cessation of hostilities.

The fifth volume in Coddington’s series on Civil War soldiers, this captivating microhistory will appeal to anyone with an interest in the Civil War, women’s studies, social history, nursing, or photography.

From 2001-2016, he authored Faces of War, a regular column in the Civil War News. Each month, Ron profiled a soldier, and each was illustrated with an original, wartime carte de visite photograph. His subjects were enlisted men and non-commissioned officers, and officers below the rank of colonel. Ron believes that appreciating the role of the volunteer soldier is key to understanding America’s greatest conflict. He writes, “The history of the Civil War is the stories of its soldiers and sailors.”

In 2004, a collection of columns became part of Ron’s first book, Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories. A companion volume, Faces of the Confederacy: An Album of Southern Soldiers and Their Stories, followed in 2008. Four years later, the publication of African American Faces of War: An Album marked the third book in the series. A fourth volume, Faces of the Civil War Navies: An Album of Union and Confederate Sailors, was released in 2016. All are published by The Johns Hopkins University Press. His fifth and final volume in the series, Faces of Civil War Nurses, is scheduled to be released on Oct. 6, 2020.

Ron also wrote for the New York Times Disunion series from 2011-2014. His contributions documented the experiences of the enlisted men and line officers who participated in the Civil War. In 2013, he became editor and publisher of Military Images, a quarterly magazine dedicated to showcasing, interpreting and preserving early American photographs of soldiers and sailors.

Ron has participated as a speaker at numerous Civil War-related events, and at meetings for round tables and other organizations. A 1985 graduate of the University of Georgia, Ron lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Anne. He is currently an Editor for The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

October 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of October 8, 2020

Mark R. Brewer on “Swim, Surrender or Die: The Union Army at the Battle Ball’s Bluff”

The Battle of Ball’s Bluff, fought October 21, 1861, near Leesburg, Virginia, was an early, small battle that left a major impact on the entire Union war effort.

The operation was planned as a minor reconnaissance across the Potomac to establish whether the Confederates were occupying the strategically important position of Leesburg. Brigadier General Charles Pomeroy Stone commenced a raid, which resulted in a clash with enemy forces. A prominent U.S. Senator in uniform, Colonel Edward Baker, tried to reinforce the Union troops, but failed to ensure that there were enough boats for the river crossings, which were then delayed. Baker was killed, and Confederate reinforcements routed the rest of Stone’s expedition.

The Union Army forces under Major General George B. McClellan suffered a humiliating defeat. Although modest by later standards, the losses alarmed Congress, who then established the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, a body that would provoke years of bitter political infighting.

Mark Brewer holds an M.A. in U.S. History from Temple University, and taught history for many years at the public school, county college, and university levels. Though his ancestors all fought for the Union, and one was killed at Ball’s Bluff, Mark was a Confederate re-enactor from 1983 to 1990 (nothing to do with politics, rather that Confederate re-enactors are more laid back and a lot more fun!). He has published five books; two fantasy fiction novels and three works of history. His 2019 book on Ball’s Bluff is entitled Swim, Surrender or Die: The Union Army at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Mark and his wife Laurie reside in Pitman, NJ.

October 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of August 27, 2020

“My Favorite Book Night” hosted by Paul Prentiss

We would like members to take 5 to 6 minutes to describe a book they would like to share with friends and the reason why. We will then allow a minute or two for members to ask questions. It doesn’t have to be a Civil War book but something you think will be of interest to the Round Table members. The meeting will take place on Zoom and be moderated by Paul Prentiss. Hopefully we can have a dozen or so members share their titles.

Please email Paul with your name, book title, author, and a very brief description of the book (no more than two sentences). We will provide the list of books being discussed to the members with the Zoom meeting notice. Paul’s email address can be found in your Membership Roster.

August 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of September 10, 2020

Amy Murrell Taylor on “Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps”

The Civil War was just days old when the first enslaved men, women, and children began fleeing their plantations to seek refuge inside the lines of the Union army as it moved deep into the heart of the Confederacy. In the years that followed, hundreds of thousands more followed in a mass exodus from slavery that would destroy the system once and for all. Drawing on an extraordinary survey of slave refugee camps throughout the country, Embattled Freedom reveals as never before the everyday experiences of these refugees from slavery as they made their way through the vast landscape of army-supervised camps that emerged during the war.

Amy Murrell Taylor, Wednesday June 27, 2018, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Mahan

Dr. Taylor’s research focuses on the social and cultural history of the U.S. South in the 19th century. Her latest book, Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps (UNC Press, 2018), has received multiple awards including the Merle Curti Social History Award and the Avery O. Craven Award, both from the Organization of American Historians, as well as the Tom Watson Brown Book Award from the Society of Civil War Historians, and the Nau Book Prize from the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History. It has also been awarded the Frederick Douglass Book Prize given by the Gilder Lehrman Center for for the Study of Slavery, Abolition, and Resistance, Yale University, and was short listed for the Stone Book Award given by the Museum of African American History.

She previously examined families divided by national loyalties in The Divided Family in Civil War America (UNC Press, 2005). Taylor is the co-editor, with Stephen Berry, of the “UnCivil Wars” series with the University of Georgia Press, as well as an editorial advisory board member of the Civil War Monitor magazine and a past member of the board of editors of the Journal of Southern History. She is also involved in a variety of public history and historic preservation projects in central Kentucky.

September 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of August 13, 2020

Kevin M. Levin on “Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth”

More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, scores of websites, articles, and organizations repeat claims that anywhere between 500 and 100,000 free and enslaved African Americans fought willingly as soldiers in the Confederate army. But as Kevin M. Levin argues in this carefully researched book, such claims would have shocked anyone who served in the army during the war itself. Levin explains that imprecise contemporary accounts, poorly understood primary-source material, and other misrepresentations helped fuel the rise of the black Confederate myth.

Kevin M. Levin is a historian and educator based in Boston, Massachusetts, who specializes in the history and memory of the American Civil War. He holds M.A. degrees in Philosophy from the University of Maryland at College Park and in History from the University of Richmond.

Meeting of July 28, 2020

Dr. Michael Birkner on “Eisenhower: The Necessary Man”

Dr. Birkner’s presentation focuses on the circumstances surrounding Dwight D. Eisenhower’s decision to run for president in 1952, and how his distinctive style of leadership proved efficacious and popular. Ike went from being ranked 22nd out of 34 American presidents in 1962 by a panel of presidential experts, to 5th out of 44 in 2018.

He will also discuss the history and experiences of the Eisenhowers in Gettysburg, as well as the mission and works of the present-day Eisenhower Society.

Dr. Michael J. Birkner is professor of history at Gettysburg College, and a Trustee of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Society of Gettysburg. His scholarship focuses on aspects of 19th- and 20th-century America. His many books include The Governors of New Jersey: Biographical Essays (2013), McCormick of Rutgers: Scholar, Teacher, Public Historian (2001), an edition of The Papers of Daniel Webster: Correspondence Series (1986), a social history of his home town of Bergenfield, New Jersey (a CHOICE outstanding academic book, 1994), and three edited volumes on President James Buchanan. His latest, co-edited work is entitled The Worlds of James Buchanan and Thaddeus Stevens (2019).

Dr. Birkner is recognized for his work on Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 2018 he led a Gilder-Lehrman summer seminar at American University on Eisenhower’s presidential leadership. He has published a biography of Eisenhower for middle-school students, an illustrated history of the Eisenhowers titled Encounters With Eisenhower (2015), and numerous scholarly and popular articles on aspects of the Eisenhower presidency. From 1998-2016 he collaborated with the Eisenhower National Historic site supervisory historian in running a summer institute for secondary school teachers focused on Eisenhower’s presidency. He consulted on the e-Eisenhower Project of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, and the revamping of the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas, and to the multi-part documentary on Eisenhower’s generalship and presidency produced by Starbright television. He has been an on camera presence both for the Eisenhower documentary segment on the presidential election of 1952, and to the film introducing visitors to James Buchanan’s home, Wheatland, in Lancaster, PA.

Dr. Birkner served twice on the Pulitzer Prize jury for History, the second time in 2006 as jury chair. From 2014-2016 he served as President of the Pennsylvania Historical Association. He received his bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Virginia in American history.

Meeting of July 9, 2020

Roseann Bacha-Garza on “The Civil War on the Rio Grande: 1846-1876”

Long known as a place of cross-border intrigue, the Rio Grande’s unique role in the history of the American Civil War has been largely forgotten or overlooked. Few know of the dramatic events that took place here or the complex history of ethnic tensions and international intrigue and the clash of colorful characters that marked the unfolding and aftermath of the Civil War in the Lone Star State.

To understand the American Civil War in Texas also requires an understanding of the history of Mexico. The Civil War on the Rio Grande focuses on the region’s forced annexation from Mexico in 1848 through the Civil War and Reconstruction. In a very real sense, the Lower Rio Grande Valley was a microcosm not only of the United States but also of increasing globalization as revealed by the intersections of races, cultures, economic forces, historical dynamics, and individual destinies.

Roseann Bacha-Garza serves as program manager for the Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools (CHAPS) Program at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She is the coauthor of Blue and Gray on the Border: The Rio Grande Valley Civil War Trail and coeditor of The Native American Peoples of South Texas. She resides in McAllen, Texas.

July 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of June 29, 2020

Richard R. Schaus on “Lee Is Trapped, and Must Be Taken: Eleven Fateful Days After Gettysburg, July 4–14, 1863”

Lee is Trapped, by Thomas J. Ryan and Richard R. Schaus, was the winner of the 2017 Edwin C. Bearss Scholarly Research Award, and the 2019 Hugh G. Earnhart Civil War Scholarship Award from the Mahoning Valley Civil War Round Table. The book focuses on the immediate aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg and addresses how Maj. Gen. George G. Meade organized and motivated his Army of the Potomac in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s mandate to bring about the “literal or substantial destruction” of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s retreating Army of Northern Virginia. As far as the president was concerned, if Meade aggressively pursued and confronted Lee before he could escape across the flooded Potomac River, “the rebellion would be over.”

Richard R. Schaus, Sergeant Major, US Army (Ret.), served on active duty for more than 30 years in a variety of army and joint military intelligence assignments both at home and abroad. Rick is a lifelong student of the Civil War and American military history, and the Gettysburg Campaign in particular.

Meeting of June 11, 2020

Bobby Jorgensen on “The Federal Bridging Operation at Fredericksburg”

December 1862 found Union Major General Ambrose Burnside’s winter campaign in Virginia stalled and at risk. Expanding upon a campaign plan he had originally proposed to his predecessor, Burnside had set off on a campaign to outmaneuver the Army of Northern Virginia en route to Richmond. Key to this advance was securing the city of Fredericksburg. Initially Burnside had stolen a march on his adversary and arrived on the outskirts of the city unopposed. However, as November turned to December, logistical delays combined with unfavorable topographic and meteorological conditions to delay Burnside’s army on the northeastern bank of the Rappahannock River while the Army of Northern Virginia began concentrating on the opposite bank and around the city. With the elements of speed and surprise no longer on his side, Burnside began modifying his campaign plan to include a deliberate river crossing onto an enemy held shore where he had previously expected to cross unopposed.

Bobby Jorgensen works in the financial services industry in New York City. Prior to joining the banking world he served as a combat engineer officer in the United States Marine Corps, where he participated in a number of gap crossing operations. He still serves today as a Major in the Marine Corps Reserve.

June 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of May 26, 2020

John Quarstein discusses his book “Big Bethel: The First Battle”.

On June 10, 1861, one of the first military engagements of the American Civil War took place at Big Bethel, Virginia. Confederate troops occupied the area around Big Bethel and Little Bethel Churches from which they would reconnoiter the Union positions around Hampton and Old Point. The Union Army, tired of the incursions, determined to put a stop to them.

John V. Quarstein is an award-winning author, historian and preservationist. He served for 30 years as director of the Virginia War Museum, and is the director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia. Quarstein is the author of 15 books and six PBS documentaries. His books include the Big Bethel: The First Battle (2011) and the Henry Adams prize winning The Monitor Boys: The Crew of the Union’s First Ironclad (2010).

Meeting of May 14, 2020

Drew Gruber on “The Battle of Williamsburg, Forgotten Now and Then”

The Battle of Williamsburg took place on May 5, 1862, in York County, James City County, and Williamsburg, Virginia. It was the first pitched battle of the Peninsula Campaign, in which nearly 41,000 Federals and 32,000 Confederates were engaged, fighting an inconclusive battle that ended with the Confederates continuing their withdrawal. Drew’s presentation describes the battle with specific focus on personal stories and the New Jersey brigade, as well as key factors as to why the battlefield has been largely developed and forgotten.

Drew A. Gruber is the Executive Director of Civil War Trails which connects visitors to over 1200 sites across six states. He is also the acting Director for the Williamsburg Battlefield Association and served a three year term on the Board of Historic Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. A native of Ocean County New Jersey, he lives today in Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife Kate.

May 2020 Newsletter

Special Meeting of April 29, 2020

Ron Kirkwood on “Women at the George Spangler Farm XI Corps Hospital – Battle of Gettysburg”

The United States government wasn’t prepared for the human carnage when two giant armies left behind 20,000 wounded, suffering, maimed and dying Union and Confederate men after the Battle of Gettysburg. As a result, men were dying because of a lack of medical care, food and other essential supplies. And then civilians stepped in, especially women. Learn how women volunteered and played a major role in saving the day and lives at one farm with the online PowerPoint presentation “Women at the George Spangler Farm XI Corps Hospital – Battle of Gettysburg” by author Ron Kirkwood.

Meeting of April 9, 2020

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.”

April 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of March 12, 2020

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.

March 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of February 13, 2020

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 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

Meeting of August 8, 2019

James Mundy on “The Tanner Manuscript – In the Right Place at the Right Time”

At the ripe old age of 18, Corporal James Tanner lost both legs below the knees at Second Bull Run. Almost three years later, in the early morning hours of April 15, Tanner would create one of the most compelling documents recording the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Jim Mundy, Director of Education and Programming at the Union League of Philadelphia, will talk about Tanner, his manuscript, and the circumstances of his life that led up to that night, and his life afterwards as a veteran and citizen.

James G. Mundy, Jr. is Director of Education & Programming for the Archives of the Union League of Philadelphia. A native Philadelphian, Jim graduated La Salle University with a BA in History that included a concentration of courses in archival management. He started working at the Union League May 15, 1978 as the Associate Archivist. Between 1979 and 1989, Jim held the positions of Librarian and Archivist/Curator. In 1989 Jim moved into club management, holding several positions including House Manager and Membership Director, before moving back into the history and archival fields. In October 1996 he became the Director of Library & Historical Collections. In 2012, now as part of the Abraham Lincoln Foundation staff, Jim became the Director of Education & Programming. Jim is also the Curator of Art. In his current position, Jim is responsible for the research and installation of the exhibits in the Heritage Center; the training and scheduling of docents and tours; scheduling the League’s cultural programming; and the management and care of the League’s fine art collection. Jim also serves as the League’s historian.

Jim is the past President of The Woodlands Cemetery Company and The Woodlands Trust for Historic Preservation in West Philadelphia, the German Society of Pennsylvania and The Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery, and the past Vice President of Development of the American Friends of the Attingham Summer School for the Study of British Country Houses and Collections. Jim also served on the Board of Directors of The Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association.

Meeting of July 11, 2019

Sarah Kay Bierle on “From California to Gettysburg: The Hancock Family”

A special live Skype presentation.

In 1858, Winfield and Almira Hancock and their two children moved to California. As a U.S. Army officer, Winfield S. Hancock’s duties had taken the family to several remote outposts, but their time in California would be some of their most memorable days. The American Civil War began while the Hancocks were in California, and this conflict presented challenging choices. Their decision—made in California—would impact one of the great battles of the war.

Sarah Kay Bierle is the managing editor for Emerging Civil War’s blog and owner and conference coordinator at Gazette665, a California-based business focused on advancing history discussion and education. A graduate from Thomas Edison State University with a B.A. in History, she has spent the last few years researching, writing, and speaking about the American Civil War. Her fourth book, “Call Out The Cadets”—a nonfiction study on the Battle of New Market—released this spring from Savas Beatie.