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