Don Wiles on “Transport to Hell: SS Sultana, An American Tragedy”
SS Sultana (Library of Congress)
The worst maritime disaster in America occurred April 27,1865, north of Memphis on the Mississippi River. A steamship that was being used to transport returning Union prisoners of war from Confederate prisons to their homes in the Midwest area of the country exploded and sunk. There are a lot of mysteries and questions about the SS Sultana tragedy. The new technologies of steamboat engines, the making of repairs, the greed and conspiracies of Army officers and the Sultana officer, the amount of prisoners put on the ship, the operation of the ship on the flooded Mississippi, the government investigations, the trial to fix blame, the rescue and recovery efforts of the Navy and civilians, why was there no outcry from Americans, how could they ignore approximately 1700 dead from this disaster and now the question of sabotage.
A subject of the Civil War that had been forgotten from the time it happened up to the 1960s (one book was written in 1892). Several books and articles have now been researched and written starting in the 1960s. And now the Sultana’s location has been found and the possible excavation of the remains may be in the future. After 150 years a lot of questions are still unanswered.
An ancestor of Don’s was a prisoner in Andersonville and was on the Sultana and survived. Hear his unique story.
Don Wiles is a member of Old Baldy CWRT and is an amateur historian whose main interest is Gettysburg. His interest in the Sultana was generated by his interest in his family’s genealogy. Don is retired from 50 years as an Illustrator for industrial and commercial companies. He worked at the Kennedy Space Center doing illustrations for the Astronauts, NASA and companies during the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Soyuz, Shuttle, and various Satellite programs. He also did an illustration of the missile cruiser CG 64 Gettysburg for the commissioning in Philadelphia. Don lives in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.
April 2015 Newsletter
Herb Kaufman on “The Medical Treatment of Our Assassinated Presidents”
Over the years, many, many questions concerning the treatment of our assassinated Presidents have been raised. Beginning with the shooting of President Lincoln in 1865, this presentation examined the medical methods and treatment of our four assassinated presidents: Would President Lincoln have lived with modern medical treatment? Did the doctors really kill President Garfield? Why was President McKinley not taken to a hospital? How did the medical team approach the treatment of President Kennedy? These and other questions were answered in this presentation, “The Medical Treatment of Our Assassinated Presidents.”
We followed the circumstances of their shooting, explore the medical practices of that era, and analyze the medical advances or lack thereof, over the decades that intervened between the assassinations.
Herb Kaufman has been a life-long student of the Civil War era. He is a founding member of the faculty of the Civil War Institute at Manor College, and has taught life long learning courses on a wide variety of Civil War topics at a number of local universities and community groups. He is a well known speaker on a variety of topics relating to the era of the Civil War having presented programs to civic and community groups, and educational and historical associations throughout the Philadelphia area. Continue reading
Hugh Boyle on “Presidential Assassins”
Four men have taken the lives of American presidents. Their murderous acts have changed the course of American politics. Who were these murderers? Why did they do it? What did they hope to gain? What brought them to commit these crimes? This is their stories and what brought them to these tragic conclusions.
Hugh Boyle is a founding member and president of the Delaware Valley Civil War Round Table and the April 1865 Society. He serves on the faculty of the Civil War Institute at Manor College in Jenkintown, PA, where he teaches courses on Abraham Lincoln’s life and assassination as well as other Civil War topics. He also serves as Executive Director of the GAR Library and Museum. He is on the board of directors of the annual Bensalem Reenactment. He is a member of the Surratt Society and the General Meade Society and the Abraham Lincoln Association. He is a member of the Lincoln Forum and a book reviewer for Lincoln Herald magazine. He is the former publisher and book review editor of the “Civil war Brigadier” newspaper. He has given lectures to Civil War Round Tables, Museums, Historical Societies and civic groups. He has spoken at seminars and symposiums on Abraham Lincoln, his life his presidency and death. He is now retired from his position as National Sales Manager of Roadpro 12 volt electronics and lives with his wife Rose in Bensalem, PA.
February 2015 Newsletter
Round Table Discussion: “Grant vs Lee: Did Grant Win … or did Lee Lose?”
“To be a good soldier, you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love.” Robert E. Lee
“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” Ulysses S. Grant
While both Generals Grant and Lee had West Point educations, their respective views of warfare differed greatly. Grant believed in swift action, striking the enemy with vigor and force; Lee was a master tactician, evaluating his enemy’s strengths and weaknesses.
At our January meeting, all members of our round table had the opportunity to consider their own feelings and beliefs of Generals Grant and Lee. Once Grant took command of the Union armies in 1864, how did the North’s perspective of the war change? How did Lee respond to Grant’s tactics? Was Grant truly a “butcher” in his use of the army? Did Lee fail to use his resources in the most effective manner? What could either of them have done differently?
January 2015 Newsletter
William Sia on “Reconstruction”
With the goal of stimulating thought and discussion, Old Baldy Civil War Round Table member William (Bill) Sia reviewed the positions taken by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson while serving as Chief Executive, the specific actions taken by members of Congress to assert their leadership, that is through legislation and Constitutional amendments, during these administrations, and key decisions handed down by the Supreme Court during this era.
After earning a B.A. at King’s College and an M.A. at Trenton State College, Bill Sia taught American Government to seniors at Pennsauken High School for thirty-five years. He would like to think, as all teachers do, that he contributed to their growth both as students and citizens.
December 2014 Newsletter
Joe Wilson on “Civil War Artifacts: The Story Behind the Relics”
Old Baldy C.W.R.T. member Joe Wilson discussed some of his most interesting relics that have a solid history and are often identified to a soldier. An identified relic opens the door and sheds light on the path of the relic through its storied history. Included in the presentation will be the personal Bible of Joe’s great-great-grandfather, Corporal George Garman of the 36th PA Volunteers, which came into Joe’s possession by a series of strange coincidences after a visit to Greenwood Cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia. Glued to the back cover of the Bible, Joe found a photo of Corporal Garman taken upon his release from Andersonville Prison. This image lent a face to an ancestor he had been researching for many years.
Joe Wilson is an avid Civil War relic collector. A retired plumber, in addition to belonging to Old Baldy, he is a member of the General George Meade Society and the Civil War Trust. He is currently working on a book entitled In Line of Battle: The Pennsylvania Reserves.
November 2014 Newsletter
Joseph G. Bilby on “Freedom to All: New Jersey’s African-American Civil War Soldiers”
Joseph G. Bilby discussed the findings of his new book, which details the story of the state’s black soldiers in the Civil War, and also addressed African-American military service in New Jersey before and after the conflict, from Revolutionary War militiamen to the state’s segregated First Separate Militia Battalion of the 1930s and the post-World War II New Jersey National Guard, which, in 1948, led the nation in integrating its military force
Most Civil War African-American New Jersey soldiers served in the regiments of the United States Colored Troops organized at Camp William Penn outside Philadelphia. Perhaps the most famous of these regiments was the 22nd United States Colored Infantry, a unit that broke the Confederate line at Petersburg in June, 1864, fought through the siege of Petersburg, was one of the first Union units to enter Richmond, marched in President Lincoln’s funeral parade in Washington, participated in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and served on occupation and border guard duty in Texas before returning home for discharge in the fall of 1865. Bilby will relate the histories of the Camp William Penn regiments with large numbers of Jerseymen in their ranks, as well as the stories of individual members of those units.
Joseph G. Bilby received his BA and MA degrees in history from Seton Hall University and served as a lieutenant in the First Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1966-1967. Mr. Bilby is Assistant Curator of the New Jersey National Guard and Militia Museum in Sea Girt, a member of and publications editor for the New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, a columnist for The Civil War News and a free lance writer, historian and historical consultant. He is the author, editor or co-author of over 400 articles and nineteen books on New Jersey, the Civil War, and firearms history, including Freedom To All, the story of New Jersey’s African American Civil War Soldiers, the award winning New Jersey Goes to War and most recently, as co-author of 350 Years of New Jersey History: From Stuyvesant to Sandy and Hidden History of New Jersey at War (The History Press, 2014). Mr. Bilby has received the Jane Clayton award for contributions to Monmouth County (NJ) history, an award of merit from the New Jersey Historical Commission for his contributions to the state’s military history and the New Jersey Meritorious Service Medal from the state’s Division of Military and Veterans Affairs.
October 2014 Newsletter
Steve Wright on “The Custer Myth”
The first full-length biography of George Armstrong Custer appeared within months after his death – just about the same time that a dramatic portrayal of his killing was created for Buffalo Bill Cody’s traveling Wild West Show. Since that day in June 1876 when George Armstrong Custer lost his life on the rolling hills above the Little Big Horn River, his life and death have been steeped in mystery and legend. People who have never read a word about Custer have strong opinions about what kind of person he was and how he lived his life. With “The Custer Myth” Steven Wright explored how the legend came to be and how Custer’s life differed from and was similar to the legend.
Steven J. Wright first developed an interest in the Lincoln assassination and Civil War by perusing his father’s personal library as a young boy. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s University (Collegeville, MN) and a Master of Arts degree in American History and American Indian Studies from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In addition, he holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Drexel University. The former Curator of Collections of the late Civil War Library and Museum, he has written two books, including a small volume on the Irish Brigade, contributed to seven other volumes, and published more than 300 articles or book reviews in such publications as Blue and Gray, America’s Civil War, Civil War News, Civil War Times, The Courier, The Surratt Courier, the Lincoln Herald, and the Wild West History Association Journal. He is a member of the faculty of the Civil War Institute of Manor College, in Jenkintown, PA. In addition he is a member of a number of historical societies and Civil War Round Tables, including being Past President of Old Baldy Civil War Round Table and is a Life Member of the Surratt Society. Wright currently works as a Librarian with the Free Library of Philadelphia. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Irene, who is a Children’s Librarian with the Free Library of Philadelphia.
September 2014 Newsletter
Round Table Members’ Favorite Book(s) Night
Was there a particular book related to the Civil War that first grabbed your attention and led you to a lifelong interest in this history? What Civil War book or books stand out in your memory and why? Are you reading something right now that you have found riveting and would recommend?
The members informally discussed books that have impacted us as avid Civil War enthusiasts.
August 2014 Newsletter
David Trout on “The 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteers at the Angle”
Dave Trout and Rich Jankowski
72nd P.V. Monument at gettysburg
David Trout presented an extensive and detailed program on the court case of the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment on its placement of its monument at the wall (“Angle”) at Gettysburg during Pickett’s Charge. Using the transcripts of the case, Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association v. Seventy-second Pennsylvania Regiment, which was published in 1889 in a very limited form. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard the case and decided that he 72nd monument should be placed where it is now. The presentation was done in a very unique form with lots of visuals and a unique voice narration done by computer. A lot of research was done by David to present all the pros and cons of the actual position of the 72nd during the battle. There was also lots of testimony by actual participants that made for a better understanding of the fight at the wall. A great History Lesson.
July 2014 Newsletter
Kerry Bryan presents “A Salute to Old Glory: The Story of the American Flag”
Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July—This is the season when we Americans fly our flag with special pride and honor those who have served our country is so many ways, from the Founding Fathers to the soldiers of the Civil War, from courageous citizens to our troops today in Iraq and other troubled areas.
In the spirit of this season when we celebrate the Red, White, and Blue, Old Baldy program coordinator Kerry Bryan offered a reprise of her PowerPoint program, “A Salute to Old Glory: The Story of the American Flag,” which some round table members may have seen in 2012 when she presented it at the Union League. The 2014 program included some updates.
June 2014 Newsletter
David O. Stewart on “The Lincoln Deception”
David O. Stewart is a lawyer-turned-author who writes historical narratives and lives in Garrett Park, Maryland. His non-fiction works include The Summer of 1787, which examines the creation of the United States Constitution, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, and American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America.
In September 2013, Kensington Books published his first novel, The Lincoln Deception, which explores the secrets of the John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy. Stewart invites readers to “sink into the crepuscular gaslight of Washington in 1900 as our mismatched heroes struggle to scrape away the myths, misunderstandings and lies surrounding the John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy, while dodging the powerful secret forces that need to keep the secrets … secret.”
May 2014 Newsletter
Betsy Carpenter on “Elias Wright: Teacher, Military Leader, Surveyor Extraordinaire”
We met Civil War Brevet Brigadier General Elias Wright (1830-1901), a Captain in Company A, 4th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment, who fought in the Peninsula Campaign, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, and who went on to serve as Colonel of the 10th United States Colored Troops at the Battle of Fort Fisher. Betsy described his contributions to South Jersey, including his 30-year collaboration with Joseph Wharton that resulted in his comprehensive survey of the initial 96,000 acres that formed the nucleus of today’s Wharton State Forest, the state’s largest forest. Originally a native of Durham, New York, he married Julia Ashley of Port Republic in 1855, lived in Weymouth Furnace, Elwood, Batsto, and finally Atlantic City where he died.
Betsy Carpenter, a long-time resident of New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve, has served as Public Programs Coordinator for this State’s Pinelands Commission, and today continues as a historic researcher and freelance writer.
Betsy Carpenter at Kaaterskill Falls, near General Wright’s birthplace in Durham, Greene County, NY
April 2014 Newsletter
Bill Jenkins on “The H.L. Hunley: First Submarine to Sink an Enemy Ship”
H.L. Hunley (Naval History and Heritage Command)
H. L. Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the American Civil War, but a large role in the history of naval warfare. Hunley demonstrated both the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare. She was the first combat submarine to sink an enemy warship, although Hunley was not completely submerged and was lost at some point following her successful attack. The Confederacy lost 21 crewmen in three sinkings of Hunley during her short career. The submarine was named for her inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley, shortly after she was taken into service under the control of the Confederate Army at Charleston, South Carolina. Continue reading
Robert Branch (Living Historian) on “Octavius V. Catto”
Robert Branch as Octavius V. Catto
In the mid-1800s Octavius Valentine Catto blazed new trails for equal rights for people of color. Modern day heroes such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson would walk in his footsteps more than 100 years later. Although Octavius Catto lived a full and dramatic life in Philadelphia, too many Philadelphians have never even heard his name. Until now. W were introduced to one of the most inspirational leaders of all time.
Robert Branch is a native Philadelphian who earned his Bachelor of Science degree for mechanical engineering from Swarthmore College. He won the Innovator award from the Electric Power Research Institute for his work in foundry sand reclamation. He later spent over ten years working with disadvantaged children in South Africa, where he was named Volunteer of the Year. Upon his return to the U.S., he decided to pursue a career as a performer. He works as a historic interpreter, storyteller and tour guide. Robert Branch portrayed Octavius Valentine Catto during Mayor Nutter’s press conference to announce the city’s contribution toward a project to erect a statue at City Hall in Catto’s honor. Robert has also performed Catto to support diversity initiatives at PNC Bank, law firms, universities, and schools.
Octavius Catto (Robert Branch) with Mayor Nutter
February 2014 Newsletter
Bruce Sirak on “Charles Smith Olden: New Jersey’s Lincoln”
Bruce Sirak as Gov. Olden
Bruce Sirak of Burlington Twp., NJ, is a founding member of the Camp Olden Civil War Round Table, named for New Jersey’s first training camp during the Civil War.
When Bruce was 10 years old, his family visited Gettysburg, where he learned about one of the greatest battles ever fought on American soil. That vacation inspired him to develop a strong interest in the Civil War era, an admiration for patriotism, and great appreciation for all United States veterans. Now he is not able to put down any book about U.S. history, and he has expanded his interest in history to include all world wars.
January 2014 Newsletter
Don Ernsberger on “Meade’s Breakthrough at Fredericksburg”
Today when we hear or read of the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, attention is usually focused on the countless infantry charges up Marye’s Height´s into the artillery and rifles of the Confederate Army. Yet some historians have argued for many years that the key to the entire battle on December 13 was the action downstream where Meade´s Pennsylvania Reserves broke, for a short time, the Confederate lines in an attempt to carry out what many believe to have been Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s true objective that day. Mindful that this critical part of the battle had been often overlooked, Civil War historian Don Ernsberger researched and wrote Meade’s Breakthroughat Fredericksburg, which was published in 2012. Don presened on this topic to our round table on December 12th, 2013, the eve of the 101st anniversary of the battle.
Don Ernsberger has had a lifelong interest in history, particularly that of the American Civil War era. He taught history and philosophy for many years at Council Rock High School (PA) and Gwynedd-Mercy College before retiring in 2001 to work for eight years as a deputy chief of staff for the United States Congress. To date he has written six well-received books on Civil War military history. He also has been an avid Civil War reenactor with the 69th PA.
December 2013 Newsletter
Paula Gidjunis on “Civilians in the Civil War: Homefront to the Battlefield”
Paula Gidjunis gave us an in-depth presentation on civilians who answered the call to support the men who did the fighting on the Battlefields. She used a PowerPoint presentation to display the photographs of many of these these famous civilians. She also had excerpts from period diaries and letters. She discuss the impact of the Civil War on civilians and how they coped with the destruction of war. Many of the subjects were the women who became nurses in home town hospitals and those who went and served the wounded in battlefield hospitals. She also discussed the aid and comfort given to the underground railroad system, the civilian spy networks that supported the Army on both sides. A very interesting and educational presentation.
Paula Gidjunis is a retired middle school Social Studies teacher and a current instructor at the Civil War Institute at Manor College. She also works as a bookkeeper part-time. Continue reading
Valerie Josephson on “Stirring Times, The Lives of New Jersey’s First Civil War Surgeons”
Even before President Lincoln called for 75,000 militia volunteers, four New Jersey regiments were forming for a three month tour. One surgeon and one surgeon’s mate were commissioned to each unit. They were not your average doctors. In a time when it was still possible to become a doctor by apprenticeship, two did and six attended prestigious medical schools. Six had gone to the American frontiers before the war. One was a graduate of the London School of Pharmacy who came to America to seek his fortune. When the three-month enlistment was up, only two did not apply for further service. Four entered the Volunteer Medical Corps, two served with four New Jersey regiments, and one was commissioned in the U.S. Navy.
Valerie described the four regiments, their mission in Virginia and the actions of the medical staff during this period. She provided a brief profile of each physician, but focused on the 4th New Jersey Militia, which was drawn from the Trenton-Camden area and their two medical men, Dr. Alvin Satterthwait and Dr. Elias B. Woolston.
Dr. James Paradis on “Camp William Penn and Its Influence on the Civil War”
Dr. Paradis spoke on the historical background that led to the establishment of Camp William Penn in the summer of 1863 in Chelten Hills, PA, which became the largest site for the training of United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) in the North. He outlined the history of the camp itself, highlighted some of the more dramatic events that occurred there, and further illustrated some of the important actions and impact thereof attributed to U.S.C.T. regiments who trained there between 1863 and 1865. Continue reading
Round Table Discussion of “West versus East: Where Was the Most Important Field of Battle?”
The Civil War was fought over a vast area of the continent and on the sea as well. At the meeting this month we discussed some of the events during the war and how they influenced the war and the Nation. This includes politically, on the populations of the opposing areas, strategically in directing the war and to the soldiers fighting the war. How did rivers and different geographies change plans, actions and results? Points considered: the role of the press in reporting the war, the effect of the home front, the support of States on each side and which events did make a difference in the outcome of the war. It was a lively discussion that went in various directions.
August 2013 Newsletter
Arlene Harris on “Major General John F. Reynolds: Duty – Honor – Sacrifice”
Arlene Harris as Kate Reynolds
Arlene Harris spoke in first-person format as Catherine (“Kate”) Reynolds, the sister that John F. Reynolds was closest to throughout his life. Presenting information based on Reynolds family letters, as well as military records, “Kate” started by reviewing “her brother’s” early life and education, particularly his experiences in the Mexican War. After explaining how what he learned and accomplished shaped the Code of Honor he would live and die by, she showed how truly dedicated and valuable to his country he was, and how General Reynolds contributed to the Union victory at Gettysburg. Her talk emphasized the last weeks of John Reynolds’s life, leading up to his tragic but heroic death on July 1, 1863. Continue reading
Paul Lader, Esq. on “The Civil War: A Sampling of the Strange, the Odd, the Fascinating, the Mundane, and the Outright Fabricated”
Here are a few samples from Paul’s talk:
The Strange: Did you know that the Third Reich’s Hitler Youth Leader had a grandfather who was an officer in the Union Army?
The Odd: Speaking of the Third Reich, there were two Union soldiers with the surname of Hitler.
The Fascinating: The survival or demise of a wounded young junior officer at the Second Battle of Manassas would have profound consequences on the course of history in the mid-20th Century. (You’ll have to attend to Paul’s talk to find out who that junior officer was!)
The Fabricated: Robert E. Lee’s last words were not “Strike the tent.” They were something else, and it was not very flattering… Continue reading
Scott Mingus, Sr. on “Jubal Early in the Advance to Gettysburg”
Scott Mingus, Sr.
In late June 1863, two powerful columns of Confederates troops approached the Susquehanna River, one marching through Carlisle toward Harrisburg and the other heading through Gettysburg and York towards Wrightsville/Columbia. This talk will cover the latter command, that of Jubal Early, as it conquered Gettysburg and then accepted the surrender of York, the largest Northern town to fall during the entire war. State militia defending the river crossing then burned the world’s longest covered bridge to prevent Rebel passage.
Scott L. Mingus, Sr. is an executive in the paper industry, and holds patents in self-adhesive postage stamps and bar code labels. He was part of the research team that developed the first commercially successful self-adhesive U.S. postage stamps. The York, Pa., resident has seven Civil War books listed on amazon.com. Mingus also has written several articles for The Gettysburg Magazine. He maintains a blog on the Civil War history of York County, Pa. (www.yorkblog.com/cannonball), and is a tour guide for the York County Heritage Trust. He also has written six scenario books on miniature wargaming.
Because of a last-minute speaker cancellation, there was no formal presentation this month and a Civil War DVD was viewed instead.
April 2013 Newsletter