One of the unique aspects of gathering information from members of Old Baldy CWRT and writing about them is the wide diversity of interests the members have. When you walk into a meeting and see the many individuals one could assume the simple fact that they are “Civil War Buffs.” However, how the members became part of OBCWRT is in itself a factor that separates this group from other fraternal organizations. Karl Pusch, in this writer’s opinion, is a person who exhibits a common interest that the membership shares about the Civil War, but as a different perspective on the how and why membership is important.
Karl was born and raised in Phillipsburg, NJ and although he moved to South Jersey in 1973, he will always consider Phillipsburg his home town. After graduating from Phillipsburg High School in 1963, he earned his BA in History from Lafayette College in 1967. Returning home from a three-year enlistment in the Army in 1970 Karl enrolled at Lehigh University working on an MA in history. After finishing his MA in 1973, he took a job at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and worked in the Training Division, EEO Office, and the Employee Relations Division. When the yard closed in 1995 Karl worked as a salesman for Macy’s and J.C. Penny and retired for good in 2008.
Through marriage to quote Karl he inherited two wonderful daughters who have blessed him with three granddaughters. Unfortunately, daughter Katherine lives in Arizona and daughter Jennifer lives in Oregon. He is a big fan of Lafayette football a Friend of Lafayette Football and holds memberships in the Maroon Club, the Marquis Society and the Fleck Society. Presently, Karl resides in Washington Township with his dog Buddy, who is a registered service dog, who has an official ID badge from Lafayette College and has been officially photographed with the college president. Karl enjoys riding his bike, skiing, and playing softball and enjoys doing home fix-up projects.
Karl’s became interested in the Civil War after seeing “Gone With the Wind” when it was re-released in 1954. About the same time, he read a mini-biography of Robert E. Lee, viewed a classic TV show “You Are There” that dramatized the surrender at Appomattox, and finally read a comic book dealing with Jackson’s role at Chancellorsville. In spite of that interest, Karl’s first love of history was always about Ancient Greece and Rome: his favorite comic book will always be the Classic “Caesar’s Conquest,” the condensed version of Caesar’s “Commentari de Bello Gallico.” He said he read it at least 20 times, to the point where he could recite portions of it. He can recall reading about the Second Punic War in James A. Breasted’s “Ancient Times….” and being the only person in his third and four grade classes who could spell or pronounce Epaminondas
One of Karl’s stated advantages of working at the Shipyard was the generous vacation time granted which has allowed him to visit almost every Civil War Battlefield east of the Mississippi River. A ROTC Summer Camp in 1966 allowed him to check off a trip to Gettysburg, an extended summer trip in 1974 allowed him to visit numerous sites in Kentucky and Tennessee with stops at Ft. Donelson, Perryville, Mill Springs, Shiloh, Nashville, Franklin, and Murfreesboro. Future summer trips allowed him to visit major battlefield and other historical sites in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Karl has also visited more than 25 countries in North America, South America, Europe, the Mideast, and Asia and several at least twice. He has visited an incredible number of historic sites along with major battlefields far too numerous to mention in this snapshot, but it is sufficed to say Karl has check offed major “bucket list” sites.
During his numerous visits to various battlefields he was concerned how American sites were being subjected to urban land development encroachment especially after visiting some battlefields in France and England. Except for modern paved roads, the battlefields at Crecy (where on August 26, 1346 Karl was serving as a Welch archer under the command of the Black Prince, on the right flank, on the downward slope near the windmill), Agincourt, Waterloo, Hastings, Naseby, Bosworth, Field, Flodden and Bannockburn look much the same as they did when these battles were fought. The French and English Governments are aggressively committed to preserving their historic sites. Karl had a hard time understanding why we weren’t doing the same here in the U.S. So, when the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites was formed in 1987, he immediately joined. As with many organizations, it had its growing pains and trials, but it is now known as the American Battlefield Trust, an organization committed to preserving sites from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War. It is because of the ABT that Karl is a member of the OBCWRT; Karl met member Ed Komczyk at a Trust conference four years ago, Ed told Karl about Old Baldy; Karl attended a meeting, liked what he experienced and has been with us since then.
Karl’s favorite Civil War movies are– Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind, Gettysburg, and The Horse Soldiers. His other favorite movies are Lawrence of Arabia (he feels this is the greatest movie ever made), Bridge on the River Kwai, The Sea Hawk, The Third Man, Quo Vadis, The Robe, 300 Spartans, Helen of Troy, and the Desert Fox. His favorite Civil War books are Douglas Southall Freeman’s “Lee’s Lieutenants” and Ed Coddington’s (one of Karl’s instructors at Lafayette) “Gettysburg: A Study in Command”.
Karl still has several “bucket list” things he would like to do; traveling the Trans-Canada Highway from Vancouver to Montreal, visit the Custer Battlefield, Mt. Rushmore, the Devils Tower, and the Mesa Verde. But most important to him is to see a Toledo Mud Hens game at Fifth/Third Bank Field
As you can see Karl has a unique perspective on our common interest.
Member profile written by Steve Peters
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.
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.
Milt Diggins on “Stealing Freedom Along the Mason-Dixon Line: Thomas McCreary, the Notorious Slave Catcher from Maryland”
Slave catching and kidnapping, and the politically blurred distinction between them, contributed to growing hostility in the decades prior to the Civil War, a controversy that inflamed passions along the Mason-Dixon Line. The story of Thomas McCreary, a Maryland slave catcher and kidnapper, and his community presents a closeup view and insight into the controversies over slave catching. Prigg v. Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania’s efforts to protect the rights of its citizens and residents; the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; trials in Philadelphia; the career of Philadelphia’s notorious slave catcher, George F. Alberti; and the Christiana Resistance and subsequent treason trial fold into this story. The Maryland government insisted McCreary was a heroic slave catcher, and proslavery advocates insisted on their constitutional right to recapture accused fugitive slaves without restrictions in northern states. Many Pennsylvanians, and some Marylanders and Delawareans, regarded McCreary a villainous kidnapper, and two Pennsylvania governors wanted him extradited from Maryland and tried for kidnapping. African Americans who experienced the brutality, communities outraged by the incursion of slave hunters, and abolitionists openly opposed to slavery struggled for justice. But stakeholders in the institution of slavery went to great lengths, including murder, to protect the institution without qualms about their methods.
Milt Diggins is a retired educator, an independent researcher, public historian, speaker, and the author of Stealing Freedom along the Mason-Dixon Line: Thomas McCreary, the Notorious Slave Catcher from Maryland. He has researched the Underground Railroad, slave catching, and kidnapping in the Philadelphia-Wilmington-Baltimore Corridor, and he has given numerous presentations on those issues throughout the region. His book, Stealing Freedom along the Mason-Dixon Line, published by the Maryland Historical Society, uses the story of an Elkton slave catcher and kidnapper to frame a larger story of slave catching and kidnapping in the region around the time of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
Martha Moore on “Washington Roebling, Civil War Engineer”
Martha’s presentation covers Col. Washington Roebling’s service in the 6th N.Y. Independent Battery, his work building wire suspension bridges in Virginia, mapmaking, battlefield redoubt construction, aerial surveillance, and his role at Gettysburg under Gen. Gouverneur Warren.
Martha Moore is a founding trustee of the Roebling Museum, located in the former company town of Roebling, New Jersey. The museum’s mission is to document and interpret the engineering innovations of John A. Roebling, the company he founded, and the social history of the Roebling workforce and company town. In the decade-plus since the museum’s founding Martha has been involved in research, exhibit development, fundraising, and governance of the museum. She was for many years a national reporter for USA TODAY and is now a writer for Columbia Law School. She lives in New York and is a descendant of John A. Roebling.
Bill Vosseler on “Major General George H. Thomas—’Time and History Will Do Me Justice’”
Bill presents the life and military career of Major General George H. Thomas, USA, Commanding, Department and Army of the Cumberland, the greatest general in the line of Virginians from George Washington through Winfield Scott.
Born in Virginia, George Henry Thomas (July 31, 1816–March 28, 1870) was a West Point graduate, a career U.S. Army officer, and one of the principal commanders in the Western Theater. Undefeated in battle, he was appointed by Lincoln a Major General in the Regular Army, one of only five authorized by Congress. “…it is doubtful whether his heroism and skill … has ever been surpassed in this world.” Abraham Lincoln commenting on General Thomas at Chickamauga.
William S. (Bill) Vosseler holds a BS in Business from Rutgers University. Retired from the Prudential Insurance Co. of America, in 2007 he founded Civil War Recreations, a company specializing in the recreation and worldwide sale of historic Civil War medals, ribbons and uniform related items. Bill serves as Executive Director of the American Civil War Charitable Trust (ACWCT), a non-profit organization that raises money to promote Civil War study and to help American Civil War related organizations, nationwide, in their historic preservation, veterans’ grave restoration, and educational efforts. In 2000, he founded the Union Library Civil War Round Table in Hatboro, PA, which met monthly until 2015. He is also founder and past Camp Commander of the Baker/Fisher Camp 101, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), Department of Pennsylvania, and a Legacy Life Member of the 12th Armored Division (WWII) Association. Having served in the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam, he is a combat disabled Veteran and a Life Member of the Disabled American Veterans. Bill and his wife Peggy reside in Garnet Valley, PA.
Dave Prentiss on “Saving Democracy: Lincoln’s Political Religion and the American Pursuit of Justice”
Mr. Prentiss examines the connection between Lincoln’s early speech, On the Perpetuation of our Political Institutions, and the Gettysburg Address, and how together they reveal the fundamental principles of democracy and justice that guided Lincoln during his presidency.
David Prentiss is a member of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. He teaches courses in constitutional law, American government, political philosophy, leadership studies, urban politics, and public opinion dynamics. His research interests include the American founding, Progressivism, democratic leadership, political philosophy, Jane Austen, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Professor Prentiss is a frequent speaker on democracy, leadership, and liberal education, with a special focus on Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Frances Perkins, and Harry Truman.
He is the former board chair of the Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford, MA and currently serves on the school’s Advisory Council. He is also the President of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra. Professor Prentiss received a B.A. in Philosophy at Assumption College, a J.D. from New England School of Law and a M.A. in Political Science at Boston College.
Bennett Carlton on “Have We Taken the Mountain? – The Civil War Battles of General Charles G. Harker”
Bennett Carlton is the author of Have We Taken the Mountain?: The Civil War Battles of General Charles G. Harker. The book chronicles the military exploits of a local New Jersey soldier, a West Point graduate, who rose in rank to brigadier general in the Army of the Cumberland before being mortally wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Prior to Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, Harker fought in all the major battles in the western theater: Shiloh, Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. Harker was regarded as one of the rising young stars of the army, prompting General William T. Sherman to write, “Regret beyond measure,” the loss of General Harker.
The author is senior library assistant at the Logan Township Public Library. He was formerly an editor and proofreader for a major pharmaceutical company, and is a former tour guide for Centipede Tours of Philadelphia. He is a long-time Civil War reenactor and is currently writing a second book, a history of the American Revolution in Swedesboro and Woolwich Twp., New Jersey, where he resides.