Civil War discussion organization for the greater Philadelphia area
Welcome to the website of the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table, serving the greater Philadelphia area with a discussion forum for Civil War-era topics. See the MEETING INFO tab above for meeting times and directions, butnote special scheduling below for coronavirus meeting restrictions.The following upcoming meetings are online webcasts only, with ZOOM credentials distributed to members by email:
Thursday, July 8, 7:15 pm — Dr. Christian B. Keller on “The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy”
Thursday, August 12, 7:15 pm — Neil P. Chatelain on “Defending the Arteries of Rebellion: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861-1865”
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Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, July 8, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is
Dr. Christian B. Keller on “The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy”
Why were Generals Lee and Jackson so successful in their partnership in trying to win the war for the South? What was it about their styles, friendship, even their faith, that cemented them together into a fighting machine that consistently won despite often overwhelming odds against them?
The Great Partnership has the power to change how we think about Confederate strategic decision-making and the value of personal relationships among senior leaders responsible for organizational survival. Those relationships in the Confederate high command were particularly critical for victory, especially the one that existed between the two great Army of Northern Virginia generals.
It has been over two decades since any author attempted a joint study of the two generals. At the very least, the book will inspire a very lively debate among the thousands of students of Civil War his- tory. At best, it will significantly revise how we evaluate Confederate strategy during the height the war and our understanding of why, in the end, the South lost.
Since 2011, Dr. Christian B. Keller has been Professor of History in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the United States Army War College, Carlisle, PA, where he teaches courses for senior leaders on the theory of war and strategy, national security policy and strategy, and the American Civil War. In 2017 he was named the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Chair of National Security.
Previously, he served as Professor of Military History for five and a half years at the Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Belvoir, VA, and has also taught at numerous civilian institutions, including Shippensburg University, Gettysburg College, Dickinson College, and Washington and Lee University. In 2001-2002, after completing his Ph.D, Dr. Keller was a Fulbright Professor of American History at the University of Jena, Germany.
A native of Carlisle, Dr. Keller lives with his wife, Kelley, in an antebellum house that witnessed the occupation of Carlisle Barracks by Confederate troops at the end of June 1863.
Ellen Preston grew up in Bellmawr, NJ, attending Highland High School. If you went to a Highland HS sporting event back in the 1970s, you may have seen Ellen as she was the Highland Tartans’ school mascot. Her outfit included a kilt, sash, gaiters, hat and bagpipes. How did she come to play the bagpipes? Ellen played clarinet in the school band and her teacher encouraged her to try bagpipes. While not easy to learn, she did it and still plays to this day, including at her son’s wedding. And yes, she did get to bonnie Scotland—three times.
In high school, Ellen read Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, sparking a lifetime interest in the Civil War (another favorite Civil War book is Tony Horowitz’s Confederates in the Attic). Her Civil War focus was further nurtured by a trip to Gettysburg with her Girl Scout troop when she and her Scout-mates reenacted the fighting at Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.
After high school, Ellen attended Sterling College in Vermont before joining the Air Force as a life support specialist. She later took night school courses at Camden County College and got a Master of Science degree on-line from Swinburne University in Australia. Since getting her degree, Ellen has held many diverse jobs, including an anti-terrorist food expert, working for Amtrak on its $100 million labor schedule system, and her current position for the Delaware River Port Authority running its SAP Systems Upgrade project.
Ellen’s husband, Dietrich, is another Old Baldy member and Civil War enthusiast. They’ve been married 8 years though have known each other long before that, having met on South Street in Philly 26 years ago. Ellen saw him and a voice in her head said, “He’s the one.” So she went over and struck up a conversation. It turned out they both had mutual friends and they kept in touch over the years. And eventually they got married. Between them, they have three children from a prior marriage: Rowen Gunn (39) lives in Colorado while Remy (16) and Liam (18) reside in Pennsylvania.
Ellen has been with Old Baldy for 6 years and has served on its Board of Directors. But her most famous Old Baldy contribution has been her New Jersey Civil War map. The map started as a lark—she’s always had an interest in local history—and began researching places in New Jersey with Civil War connections. She then placed them on a map which eventually became the New Jersey Civil War map featured at our Old Baldy meetings. “It’s been a fun project,” Ellen noted, “which has really taken off.”
While Ellen does not have a favorite battlefield, she has visited many Civil War sites. Rich Jankowski likes to kid her as being the only other person he knows who has visited the Prairie Grove battlefield in Arkansas (Ellen was out there on a business trip). But her most memorable trip to a Civil War site was in 2017 when she was on a Fort Sumter tour during the total solar eclipse. Her group was at the fort when the eclipse began before moving onto a boat and seeing the climax on the water. “It was probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” recalled Ellen. “As it got closer to totality, a really creepy feeling came over us. The shadows were all wrong. While not totally black, it was dark enough.”
Her many other interests include life in the 1800s, nature photography (she has 30,000 photos, including eagles, ospreys and herons, her current favorite focus), kayaking and horses. Ellen has also served as the chairperson of the U.S.–Icelandic Horse Congress. This group helps with the importation of horses from Iceland. Because the breed is raised in this far north island nation, the isolation results in a unique small and sturdy steed. Ellen once wrote an article for an equine publication on riding Icelandic horses in the Pine Barrens which still generates comments from those fond of this unusual breed.
As can be seen, Ellen is a person of many interests and we are fortunate that her interests include the Civil War and the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table.
As a child growing up in New Rochelle, New York, Jim Heenehan received a special gift from his parents: a Marx Civil War toy soldier set. Not long after, he began collecting Topps Civil War Trading cards, and in April 1965, his parents took him to Gettysburg where he climbed a cannon and walked up Little Round Top. A lifelong passion for Civil War History ensued.
Years later, two books, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and Twentieth Maine by John Pullen, ensured that his interest would continue.
“I found these books compelling as they tell the story of the heroic actions of Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment in their defense of Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg,” said Heenehan. “The bravery of Chamberlain and the 20th Maine helped save Little Round Top, the loss of which would have spelled defeat for the Union cause.”
“For his tenacity and heroism at Gettysburg, Chamberlain was later awarded the Medal of Honor in 1893,” he added.
Yet Heenehan’s interest in the Civil War goes far beyond just visiting battlefields or reading about Civil War history—he has also published four articles about the war, including one on the Philadelphia Brigade defending against Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg and one recounting the Civil War service of five key Union regiments that defended Gettysburg’s Little Round Top, which were published in The Gettysburg Magazine and America’s Civil War Magazine.
“The Battle of Gettysburg has always been of special interest,” said Heenehan. “And that interest is one of the reasons I joined the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table 25 years ago.”
Currently a resident of Bryn Mawr. Pennsylvania, Heenehan is a retiree from the Environmental Protection Agency where he litigated administrative law cases. It was while working for the EPA that that he met his future wife, Carolyn, who was in Philadelphia temporarily on a fellowship from The Pennsylvania Council of The Arts. She is also a Civil War buff.
“Pre-covid, I was a regular attendee at the Old Baldy monthly meetings and participated in a number of the group’s activities,” he said. Now meetings are twice a month on Zoom, although we are hoping that in-person meetings will resume later this summer or fall.”
“I think most members are looking forward to that,” he added.
Heenehan is also looking forward to the return of another activity: baseball, in particular Philadelphia Phillies baseball. An avid fan for many years, he was in the stands when the Phillies won their first World Series in 1980.
“Since this was their first World Series win, I had plans to go on the field and celebrate at the end of the game, which was traditional,” he said. “I had no idea that this would be the first time that fans would be prohibited from coming onto the field after the home team clinched the world series.”
“So, when policeman on horseback surrounded the field, I had to come up with another plan,” he said.
With a chutzpah that only a Philly Fanatic could understand, Heenehan joined a group of women he surmised were the Philly wives and walked with them onto the ballfield and into the dugout, telling the security guard that he was the younger brother of Del Unser, a reserve Philly outfielder who had a good post-season. No further questions were asked, and he was escorted into the clubhouse to celebrate with the with the team. Sadly, his ruse was discovered when he sat down next to Del Unser’s wife who blew the whistle on him.
But there are no regrets on Heenehan’s part for this somewhat devious incident, and indeed, perhaps even a sense of pride. After all, how often do you get the chance to meet someone you idolize? And, if you ever take chances in life, won’t you regret it later on?
If I were to ask James Heenehan that question, I have no doubt what his answer will be: go for it.
Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, August 12, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is
Neil P. Chatelain on “Defending the Arteries of Rebellion: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861-1865”
Most studies of the Mississippi River focus on Union campaigns to open and control it, while overlooking Southern attempts to stop them. Neil Chatelain’s Defending the Arteries of Rebellion: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861-1865 is the other side of the story—the first modern full-length treatment of inland naval operations from the Confederate perspective.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis realized the value of the Mississippi River and its entire valley, which he described as the “great artery of the Confederacy.” This was the key internal highway that controlled the fledgling nation’s transportation network. Davis and Stephen Mallory, his secretary of the navy, knew these vital logistical paths had to be held, and offered potential highways of invasion for Union warships and armies to stab their way deep into the heart of the Confederacy.
Neil P. Chatelain is an adjunct professor of history at Lone Star College-North Harris and a social studies instructor at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School in Spring, Texas. The former US Navy Surface Warfare Officer is a graduate of the University of New Orleans, the University of Houston, and the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Neil researches U.S. Naval History with a focus on Confederate naval operations. He is the author of Fought Like Devils: The Confederate Gunboat McRae (2014), and many magazine, journal, and online articles. He lives with his wife Brittany in Humble, Texas.
Jeffery William Hunt on “Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station: The Army of the Potomac’s First Post-Gettysburg Offensive, From Kelly’s Ford to the Rapidan, October 21 to November 20, 1863”
Contrary to popular belief, the Eastern Theater during the late summer and fall of 1863 was anything but inconsequential. Generals George Meade and Robert E. Lee continued where they had left off, boldly maneuvering the chess pieces of war to gain a decisive strategic and tactical advantage. Cavalry actions and pitched battles made it clear to anyone paying attention that the war in Virginia was a long way from having been decided at Gettysburg. This period of the war was the first and only time Meade exercised control of the Army of the Potomac on his own terms, but historians and students alike have all but ignored it.
Pressured by Washington to fight but denied strategic flexibility, Meade launched a risky offensive to carry Lee’s Rappahannock defenses and bring on a decisive battle. The dramatic fighting included a stunning Federal triumph at Rappahannock Station—which destroyed two entire Confederate brigades—that gave Meade the upper hand and the initiative in his deadly duel with Lee, who retreated south to a new position behind the Rapidan River.
Jeffrey William Hunt is Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum, the official museum of the Texas National Guard in Austin, Texas and an adjunct professor of History at Austin Community College, where he has taught since 1988. He had also served for many years as the Curator of Collections and Director of the Living History Program at the Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. Jeff holds a Bachelors Degree in Government and a Masters Degree in History, both from the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of several books on the Civil War, including the critically acclaimed and award-winning Meade and Lee After Gettysburg: The Forgotten Final Stage of the Gettysburg Campaign, from Falling Waters to Culpeper Court House, July 14-31, 1863 as well as Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station: The Problems of Command and Strategy after Gettysburg, from Brandy Station to the Buckland Races, August 1 to October 31, 1863.
David Dixon on “Radical Warrior: August Willich’s Journey from German Revolutionary to Union General”
An estimated 200,000 men of German birth enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, far more than any other contemporary foreign-born population. One of these, Prussian Army officer Johann August Ernst von Willich, led a remarkable life of integrity, commitment to a cause, and interaction with leading lights of the nineteenth century. After resigning from the Prussian Army due to his republican beliefs, Willich led armed insurrections during the revolutions of 1848–49, with Friedrich Engels as his aide-de-camp. Ever committed to the goal of universal human rights, he once dueled a disciple of Karl Marx—whom he thought too conservative. Willich emigrated to the United States in 1853, eventually making his way to Cincinnati, where he served as editor of the daily labor newspaper the Cincinnati Republican.
With exhaustive research in both English and German language sources, author David T. Dixon chronicles the life of this ingenious military leader—a man who could also be stubborn, impulsive, and even foolhardy—risking his life unnecessarily in the face of overwhelming odds.
David Dixon earned his M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts. His articles appear in numerous scholarly journals and magazines. David Dixon hosts “B-List History,” a website celebrating obscure characters and their amazing stories. www.davidtdixon.com.
By just about any standard Priscilla Gabosch has had a full and interesting life.
Born in the Midwest outside of Chicago, she also attended college in a rural area and subsequently has lived on both coasts. We are fortunate that her husband’s job led to a relocation to the Delaware Valley and that she likes the East Coast best.
Priscilla went to Blackburn College where she received her B.A. degree with a major in English and a minor in languages.
In addition to her formal education Priscilla has taken advantage of the Center for Learning and Responsibility—including several courses on the Civil War. She is currently engaged in an Opera Appreciation class as well.
After college, Priscilla went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad and having aptitude for technology, she was chosen to participate in the company’s program for training in computer programming, which has put her in good stead for her further work in the insurance and banking areas. At retirement, she was working as a Business Systems Analyst in IT at a bank involved in Mutual Fund management.
Priscilla and her husband have been breeding and showing Rhodesian Ridgebacks since 1983. From this, she has become involved in the AKC as a licensed judge and has been involved with several dog clubs, serving in a number of positions, including Chairman of one, AKC delegate, Treasurer, Past President, Recording Secretary and Chief Steward.
Priscilla is also an avid reader with, as she puts it, eclectic tastes.
Her interest in the Civil War was sparked after taking several courses at CCLR about generalship and battles of the Civil War. She particularly enjoys strategy, not only of the Civil War, but other conflicts as well—she lists “Zulu” as one of her favorite movies and was impressed by how a small group of soldiers could hold off a large attacking force. The subject of slavery and the WWII genocide has also moved her to learn more about these topics.
While she has many and varied interests and accomplishments, Priscilla feels particularly proud of her being chosen to judge the National Specialty of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States in 2005—selected by her peers. She has also been awarded the AKC’s Good Sportsmanship Medallion not once, but twice. In addition, she has been Gloucester County Kennel Club’s Show Chairman for 20 years.
All in all, a very accomplished life that most of us can aspire to.
Walt Lafty on “9th New Jersey Infantry and The Bermuda Hundred Campaign”
A campaign that was an integral part of Grant’s spring offensive plan of 1864, the fighting in Bermuda Hundred in May of that year is mostly forgotten. Overshadowed by the other battles in Grant’s push to Richmond, the Bermuda Hundred Campaign suffered thousands of casualties. With engagements that started at Port Walthall Junction on May 6, the campaign concluded at the second battle of Drewry’s Bluff on May 16 with over 6,000 casualties in that final battle alone.
It ended with the famous quote on the resulting situation for Union Commanding General Benjamin Butler, that he “was in a bottle . . .the enemy had corked the bottle”. It was also a campaign in which the 9th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment would suffer its greatest losses of the war. The 9th was the only New Jersey Infantry Regiment in the entire Army of the James. There were also two artillery batteries representing the state of New Jersey.
Walt Lafty is a member of the Old Baldy CWRT and the Delaware Valley CWRT where he is a Board member as well as a member of the Preservation Committee. He also serves as Secretary for the Baker-Fisher Camp #101 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, located in Hatboro, PA. In addition, Walt is the Research Administrator for the G.A.R. Museum and Library in Philadelphia.
Paul Prentiss on “Life in the Army Camps”: A Roundtable Discussion Night
Old Baldy members are invited to participate in an all-hands round table meeting to discuss Life in the Army Camps on Thursday, March 25th. This is an extremely broad topic with so many aspects that everyone should find something interesting to look up and share.
The American Civil War was not a continuous battle. Instead, the majority of time was spent with long monotonous residency in camps punctuated by short periods of the terror and chaos of combat. Due to the nature of campaign goals, Armies could be in the field for several months, or up to a year. One thing Soldiers could always count on was a long outdoor stay in all types of weather.
What interests you about a soldier’s life in camp? Was it the food/diet, medical care, general living conditions, entertainment, camp furniture, animal companions, good order and discipline, recreational activities, spies, illness/disease, ordinary activities, sanitary conditions, visitors, spiritual needs, camp followers, gambling, physical security, available vices, military training, logistics, camp locations or home-front support? Above is a short list of things that may interest you to bring to the round table discussion.
Hop on the internet, grab that book off the shelf, watch that movie again or find that magazine article. Refresh your memory on your favorite camp interest and share with us in March.
A simple search of Civil War Camp Life brings up a host of items: