Roundtable discussion night: “Your Family Military History”
– Do you have a Civil War ancestor?
– Do you have a family member with other service?
– Do you have military experience?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions…
… to share your story at our January Roundtable meeting.
Plan to use about 10 minutes, and just let Herb, Harry, or Dave know in advance!
January 2016 Newsletter
Randy Drais on “Rock Carvings at Gettysburg”
One of the more unusual facets of the Gettysburg battlefield is the existence of many rock carvings. Made by soldiers during the battle or by veterans upon their return or by civilians or tourists, rock carvings can be found on many areas of the 6,000 or so acres that encompass the Gettysburg National Military Park.
Looking for rock carvings is an extremely interesting and unusual way to explore the battlefield, but it is also an extremely interesting and unusual way to discover some of the battlefield history that is often overlooked or quickly forgotten, especially of the personal and often tragic stories of soldiers, both Union and Confederate, who left their mark, both figuratively and literally, on this hallowed ground.
Randy Drais, amateur Civil War historian and Battle of Gettysburg buff, looked at many of the rock carvings on the Gettysburg battlefield and the stories behind them.
Born and raised in York, Pennsylvania, Randy Drais developed a keen interest in the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Campaign immediately after a 5th grade field trip to that famous Civil War battlefield. A lifelong passion to learn more resulted in his creation in March 2008 of a website, http://battleofgettysburgbuff.com/, for individuals who wish to learn and do more than the average visitor to the battlefield. A companion website, http://battleofgettysburgbuff.net, Facebook page, and a quarterly newsletter soon followed.
A graduate of York College of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in International Studies, Randy has worked in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania Department of State, and the Pennsylvania Senate. Married with two daughters, Randy recently retired on January 1, 2015, and will be able to devote even more time to his main passion, learning even more about the Battle of Gettysburg and sharing that information with others.
December 2015 Newsletter
Paula Gidjunis on “A Country Worth Fighting For: The History of the 128th PA”
The 128th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry men came from the counties of Bucks, Berks, and Lehigh. These volunteers enlisted in August 1862 for nine months in response to the fear of invasion of the North by the Confederate Army. Entering the battle of Antietam in Maryland after one month’s service, they had very little military training and paid with heavy casualties. By the battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 they were fully trained soldiers and possibly were the catalyst in the friendly fire shooting of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. As they became hardened veterans, their enlistment expired.
Paula Gidjunis is a retired middle school Social Studies teacher and currently works as a bookkeeper for JPG Photography and teaches history at Manor College. She serves on the board of the Delaware Valley CWRT and chairs their Preservation Committee. She also serves on the board of the Historical Society of Montgomery County. She has a B.A. in History/Education, a certificate in Historical Preservation, an M.B.A., and recently earned her M.A. in History from LaSalle University.
November 2015 Newsletter
Robert Hicks on “‘Straight and swift to my wounded I go’: The Reality of Civil War Medicine”
Bearing the bandages, water and sponge, Straight and swift to my wounded I go… To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss.
– Walt Whitman, “The Wound Dresser”
Despite recent commemorations of Civil War battles and leaders, the war’s medical dimension has received comparatively little public attention. America’s “good gray poet,” Walt Whitman, who volunteered in hospitals during the war, observed that “the real war will not get in the books.” For Whitman, the war’s true story was found in the hospital. The war affected every family: on average, one citizen in ten was killed, wounded, or became sick because of the war. The massive casualties made huge demands on medical practice, stimulating the reorganization of professional medicine. Faced with catastrophe, the federal medical establishment re-invented itself and created the modern hospital-centered mode of emergency care that remains the Civil War’s chief legacy to medicine. Focusing on specific wounded soldiers as lenses to understand the larger picture of the medical war, this presentation follows their experiences from the battlefield to distant general hospitals. The presentation previews the permanent exhibition of “the real war” at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Injury, Death, and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia.
Robert D. Hicks, PhD is the director of the Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He also directs the F. C. Wood Institute and holds the William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine. Formerly, he supervised exhibits, collections, and educational outreach at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. He has worked with museum-based education and exhibits for over three decades, primarily as a consultant to historic sites and museums. This work led Robert to obtain a doctorate in maritime history from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. Concurrent with the museum consulting, Robert worked for the Commonwealth of Virginia as a senior program manager in criminal justice, providing managerial assistance throughout the state. Earlier, he performed criminal justice work in Arizona, and obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees in anthropology and archaeology at the University of Arizona. He also served as a naval officer with the U.S. Naval Security Group. His most recent book is Voyage to Jamestown: Practical Navigation in the Age of Discovery (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2011).
October 2015 Newsletter
John Zinn on “New Jersey Base Ball during the Civil War Era”
John traced the game’s origins in New Jersey and Philadelphia and pointed out prominent early teams and players. He also touched on the impact of the war on the game’s development in New Jersey and how the state’s soldiers brought the game to the battlefront. There was also a description of how the early game differed from today’s game, especially regarding rules and equipment.
John Zinn is an independent historian with special interest in the history of baseball as well as the Civil War. He is the chairman of the board of the New Jersey Historical Society and was the chair of New Jersey’s Committee on the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. John is the author of three books including two about the Brooklyn Dodgers as well as numerous essays and articles. He is currently working on a biography of Charles Ebbets, longtime owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers. John also writes a blog on base ball history entitled “A Manly Pastime.” He holds BA and MBA degrees from Rutgers University and is a Vietnam veteran. John is the score keeper for the Flemington Neshanock vintage base ball team. John lives in Verona, N.J. with his wife Carol.
September 2015 Newsletter
Herb Kaufman on “‘Frankly my dear:’ Hollywood and the Civil War”
Clark Gable, John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Olivia de Havilland, and Sally Field are but a few of the countless notable Hollywood stars who appeared in motion pictures that have the Civil War as their narrative. Some of the films were frivolous (only Hollywood could make a Civil War comedy); others were based on actual experiences and events; many were based on historical novels; and all are designed to entertain.
While no Civil War film captures the breadth and depth of the full experience of the war, there are some notable Civil War films that teach about the war and others are noteworthy for absurdity, and simply for sugar-coating reality.
This program presented many of the notable, interesting and more remarkable films that capture different perspectives about the Civil War. It examined the writers, novels, and the films, many of which have become iconic depictions of this historic era.
August 2015 Newsletter
John Jorgensen on “The Southern War Against the Confederacy: Unionism in the Seceding States”
The American Civil War is remembered primarily as a contest between North and South; however, the reality of wartime identity politics was far more complex than this regional narrative admits. As many as one Southern soldier in ten served in the “Northern” army (and this number excludes as many as two hundred thousand ex-slaves who swelled the Federal ranks!). The Union Navy’s highest ranking officer was a Southerner. Four Confederate states (not counting West Virginia) elected pro-Union governors during the conflict, and on the last day of the war, the President of the United States was a man who called a Confederate city home.
John examined the diversity of Southern opinion on the issues that lay at the heart of the war. He took a broad look at some of the many ways in which Unionists in the South contributed to the Federal war effort, politically and militarily. And he began to answer the question, How did the war come to be remembered as North versus South in spite of all this?
The son of a noted Gettysburg scholar, John Jorgensen is a history teacher from Woodbridge, NJ. He holds a BA in Political Science from Fairfield University and a Masters in Social Studies Education from Rutgers University. In one way or another, the American Civil War has been a lifelong passion for him.
July 2015 Newsletter
Jane Peters Estes on “The Battle of Gettysburg: Where Were the Women?”
From the best known to the most obscure, this program discussed the many roles filled by women during the deadliest battle of the Civil War. With information gleaned from diaries, letters, and newspapers of the period, many parts of this program are told in the actual words of the women who lived through the battle.
Jane Peters Estes has been a living historian and active member of Delaware Valley region historical organizations for almost 30 years. Her current affiliations include; Historical Military Impressions, GAR Museum, 26th and 28th PA Volunteers, Mount Holly Historical Society, New Jersey Civil War Heritage Association, General Meade Society, and the Union Patriotic League. She has had articles published in Civil War Lady Magazine, Citizen’s Companion Magazine, Philadelphia Bride Magazine, and People Magazine.
Jane last shared some of her expertise with members of OBCWRT in 2011 when she presented “Christmas Past,” a delightful overview of the origins of many of our Christmas traditions. Her many programs and presentations include: Civil War Nurses, Fashions of the 1860s, Grave Matters (Victorian Mourning Customs), Wedding Customs and Traditions, Women’s Lifestyles of the 1860’s, Vivandieres, Pets of the Past, and The Battle of Gettysburg: Where Were the Women?
June 2015 Newsletter
The Scheier Brothers on “Civil War Women: Nurses, Leaders, Soldiers, and Spies”
The Scheier Brothers described the contributions of dedicated northern and southern women during the war.
Benjamin and David Scheier, veterans of the Union Army, are composite characters based on actual soldiers’ memoirs, diaries, and other historical records and reflect the experiences and attitudes of soldiers of the era.
The brothers related what everyday life was like, as seen from the perspective of those who served. David told how women served in the Civil War, not always as nurses, but also as women in disguise who fought alongside their husbands. In time, David revealed that “his” name is Sarah, and that “he” is actually Benjamin’s wife, one of the hundreds of married and single women who hid their gender and honorably served as soldiers. Sarah has many tales to tell about women who served as soldiers, nurses, and as spies.
Robert Silverman and Diana Newman, the creators of Benjamin and David Scheier, are Civil War living historians with experience teaching and serving as docents at museums. Robert is a veteran and also serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey Foundation. They reside in Long Branch, NJ.
They created the characters of Benjamin and David Scheier for the purpose of presenting history in an easily accessible and historically accurate way. The Scheier Brothers presentations follow several themes, ranging from the everyday lives of soldiers, to the participation of women, and especially New Jersey women, in the Civil War, and also Civil War mascots. The brothers visit in character; punctuated with period photographs, art, and humor. They may even sing a song or two if time permits.
May 2015 Newsletter
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