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.
We invite you to join us for in-person meetings at Camden County College’s William G. Rohrer Center, 1889 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003, at 7:15 PM. (But see specific meeting notices below for changing locations this summer.) The program will also be simulcast on Zoom for the benefit of those members and friends who are unable to attend. Please email at least 24 hours prior to request Zoom access. We will meet at Ponzio’s Diner, 7 NJ Route 70, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 at 5:30 PM before the meeting for dinner and fellowship.
Effective May 25, 2022, Camden County College will require wearing of masks in all indoor public spaces on all campuses, regardless of vaccination status, until further notice. Exceptions to this policy may be made for persons seated in indoor areas designated for eating, and for events that allow a designated speaker to maintain a distance of at least six feet from other masked attendees.
Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, September 8, in Camden County College’s William G. Rohrer Center, 1889 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003. We will meet at Ponzio’s Diner, 7 NJ Route 70, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 at 5:30 PM before the meeting for dinner and fellowship. The program will also be simulcast on Zoom for the benefit of those members and friends who are unable to attend; please email at least 24 hours prior to request Zoom access. This month’s topic is
Elizabeth D. Leonard on “Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life”
Benjamin Franklin Butler was one of the most important and controversial military and political leaders of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Remembered most often for his uncompromising administration of the Federal occupation of New Orleans during the war, Butler reemerges in this lively narrative as a man whose journey took him from childhood destitution to wealth and profound influence in state and national halls of power.
Prize-winning biographer Elizabeth D. Leonard chronicles Butler’s successful career in law defending the rights of the Lowell Mill girls and other workers, his achievements as one of Lincoln’s premier civilian generals, and his role in developing wartime policy in support of slavery’s fugitives as the nation advanced toward emancipation. Leonard also highlights Butler’s personal and political evolution, revealing how his limited understanding of racism and the horrors of slavery transformed over time, leading him into a postwar role as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for Black freedom and civil rights, and one of its notable opponents of white supremacy and neo-Confederate resurgence.
Elizabeth D. Leonard is the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History Emerita at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. A native of New York City, she earned her Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California, Riverside, in 1992. Leonard is the author of several articles and five books on the Civil War-era including: Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War; All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies; and Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky, which was named co-winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize in 2012.
She is currently engaged in research for a new project, which weaves together a deeper study of Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt’s transformation from slaveholder to willing advocate and enforcer of Lincoln’s emancipation policies, and the story of the lived experience of enslaved men from the region of Kentucky where Holt was raised—including one of Holt’s own former slaves—as they ran from slavery to fight for freedom in the Union army and then returned to try and claim the promises of Emancipation.
Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, October 13. We have resumed in-person meetings at Camden County College in Blackwood, NJ, in the Connector Building Room 101 at 7:15 PM. We will continue to simulcast the programs on Zoom for the benefit of those members and friends who are unable to attend. Health and safety protocol at the college will require that masks be worn in all indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. We plan to meet at the Lamp Post Diner at 5:30 before the meeting for dinner and fellowship. This month’s topic is
Jim Remsen and Brad Upp on “Back From Battle: The Forgotten Story of Pennsylvania’s Camp Discharge and the Weary Civil War Soldiers It Served”
In the final year of the American Civil War, a special Union Army post was constructed just outside Philadelphia to handle a jumble of returning citizen-soldiers.
Many soldiers bore bullet wounds, broken bones, and other scars of combat. Some had lost limbs. Some were laid low by illness. Hundreds arrived half-dead as survivors of wretched prison camps. Others were blessedly unscathed—but all grappled with the fresh, ferocious memories of their time at war.
The post, known as Camp Discharge, did its best to move the young Union veterans on to their next assignment or, more often, back to civilian life. During its brief existence, it sat on a bluff overlooking what is today one of the nation’s busiest highways, the Schuylkill Expressway. The post was quickly dismantled, its story forgotten. The authors reclaim that remarkable history and trace the often tumultuous lives of the Pennsylvania volunteer soldiers who passed through Camp Discharge’s gates.
Jim Remsen is a journalist and author of several prior books; The Intermarriage Handbook; Visions of Teaoga; and Embattled Freedom. Since retiring as Religion Editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jim has pursued his keen interest in history, with a focus on underappreciated aspects of our nation’s local histories.
Brad Upp is a board member of the Lower Merion Historical Society and a former educator. His upbringing near Camp Discharge stoked a fascination with history and led him to become a Civil War historian, relic hunter and re-enactor representing the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry. Brad is a skilled collector of artifacts from various periods of history, a passion that has taken him to a myriad of locations throughout the United States.
Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, November 10, in Camden County College’s William G. Rohrer Center, 1889 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003. We will meet at Ponzio’s Diner, 7 NJ Route 70, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 at 5:30 PM before the meeting for dinner and fellowship. The program will also be simulcast on Zoom for the benefit of those members and friends who are unable to attend; please email at least 24 hours prior to request Zoom access. This month’s topic is
Chuck Veit on “A Lively Little Battle: New Perspectives on the Battle of Fort Butler, Donaldsonville, LA, 28 June 1863”.
The little-known Civil War engagement at Donaldsonville, Louisiana, is the Battle of Fort Butler, which saw a ragtag collection of 200 Union soldiers (mostly invalids) unaccountably repel the assault of a 1700-man Confederate force in the early morning hours of 28 June 1863. Lively Little Battle, as one contemporary newspaper described the action, includes multiple eyewitness accounts (the majority never before referenced) with every stage of the action diagramed with maps based on a previously undiscovered 1863 plan of the fort found in the National Archives. The story told in this book and the conclusion drawn shine a new and different light on this small and long-misunderstood action.
Chuck Veit is the author of original research books, including A Dog Before a Soldier: Almost-lost Episodes in the Navy’s Civil War; Sea Miner: Major E. B. Hunt’s Rocket Torpedo; Natural Genius: Brutus de Villeroi and the U.S. Navy’s First Submarine; and two books focusing on the salvage exploits of Massachusetts native, John E. Gowen: Raising Missouri and The Yankee Expedition to Sebastopol. Sea Miner claimed the 2016 award for Narrative Non-fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England, and Yankee Expedition won awards in both the Perennial Seller category and Book of the Year in 2017.
As President of the Navy & Marine Living History Association, Chuck has presented naval history at living history events, lectures, and conferences including NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Education Conference, the 2012 Civil War Navy Conference at the Mariners’ Museum, the Naval War College, and the Naval Order of the United States at Jacksonville. As a freelance graphic designer, Chuck has taught Graphic Design at the university level and in a corporate environment. He holds a Bachelor’s in Studio Art and Historical Linguistics, and a Masters in Historical Linguistics from Clark University.
Dr. Kenneth Rutherford on “America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War”.
In “America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War”, Dr. Kenneth Rutherford traces the development of anti-personnel landmines from their first use before the Civil War, to the early use of naval mines, through the establishment of the Confederacy’s Army Torpedo Bureau, the world’s first institution devoted to developing, producing, and fielding mines in warfare. Ken Rutherford, known worldwide for his work in the landmine discipline, and who himself lost both legs to a mine in Africa, relies on a host of primary sources to highlight the widespread use of landmines across the Confederacy.
Ken is a professor of Political Science at James Madison University, and Director of JMU’s Center for International Stabilization and Recovery. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University, and B.A. and MBA degrees from the University of Colorado. Ken served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania (1987-1989), a UNHCR Emergency Refugee Coordinator in Senegal (1989), a humanitarian emergency relief officer in northern Kenya and Somalia (1993), and was a Fulbright Scholar in Jordan (2005). He lost both legs to a landmine while serving in Somalia.
Ken’s work spans over two decades in more than 40 countries, including Vietnam to bring assistance to survivors, and in Bosnia, where he escorted Princess Diana to visit landmine victims and their care providers in an effort to bring attention to their plight. He was a leader in the coalition that won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and that spearheaded the 1997 International Mine Ban Treaty ultimately signed by 164 nations. Ken is also a co-founder of the Landmine Survivors Network.
Peter Miele on “Talking Flags: The United States Army Signal Corps on July 1 and Beyond”
During the Gettysburg Campaign, the United States Army of the Potomac was relying on an infant organization, the Signal Corps, to perform duties of observation and communication. On July 1, in the Cupola of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Signal Officer Lt. Aaron B. Jerome was the “eyes” of General John Buford as the largest battle in the western hemisphere erupted. Pete Miele of the Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center explores how this organization was formed and how they affected the course of battle.
Pete Miele is Executive Director of the Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center, and President of the Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation. After graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a degree in History and Secondary Education, he began his career in secondary education, teaching American History, World History, and American Studies. In 2013, he relocated to Gettysburg, obtained a MA in Applied History from Shippensburg University, and found employment with the new Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center. For seven years, he worked at the Museum in various roles in education and operations and, in 2020, was named the Museum’s Executive Director, the position he currently holds. A frequent lecturer, Pete has presented at national conferences of the Society of Civil War Historians and the American Association of State and Local History. His interests include 19th century mid-Atlantic social and cultural history, environmental and medical history, and museum studies. In fall 2021, Pete began work towards a PhD in American Studies at Penn State, Harrisburg.
A.J. Schenkman on “Unexpected Bravery: Women and Children of the Civil War”
The American Civil War divided the United States from 1861 to 1865. During those years, over two million soldiers served in both the Union and Confederate Armies. What is little known is that not only the numerous children, some as young as 12, enlisted on both sides, but also women who disguised themselves as men in an attempt to make a difference in the epic struggle to determine the future of the United States of America.
A. J. Schenkman is a New York-based writer. Since his start writing for local newspapers, Schenkman has branched out into writing for magazines, blogs, and academic journals, in both history and other subjects. Schenkman is also author of several books about local and regional history. Please be sure to visit him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Check out his website AJSchenkman.com and his new podcast authorajschenkman.podbean.com.
SAVE THE DATE. Mark Saturday, May 14, 2022, with a bold red circle as we are going to celebrate not only Old Baldy’s 170th birthday but also the 45th Anniversary of our Round Table. Join us in celebrating these two extraordinary events. Round Table members, family and friends are all invited over to hosts Paul and Susan Prentiss’s home located in Marlton, NJ.
We will be out in the back yard, sitting in lawn chairs to maintain social distancing. The dining fare will be similar to last year but with improvements. We will have hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, sheet cake, chips, cheese & crackers plate, and whatever you want to bring.
The initial Picnic Planning email will be sent in early April. Send your ideas to Paul at to make this momentous event a smashing success.
Drew Gruber on “The Battle of Eltham’s Landing and the New Jersey Brigade”
The Battle of Eltham’s Landing, also known as the Battle of Barhamsville, or West Point, took place on May 7, 1862, in New Kent County, Virginia, as part of the Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War. Brig. Gen. William B. Franklin’s Union division landed at Eltham’s Landing and was attacked by two brigades of Brig. Gen. G. W. Smith’s command, reacting to the threat to the Confederate army’s trains on the Barhamsville Road. Franklin’s movement occurred while the Confederate army was withdrawing from the Williamsburg line, but he was unable to interfere with the Confederate movement.
The Battle at Eltham’s Landing was little more than a heavy skirmish. There were 194 Union casualties and 48 Confederate. Franklin told McClellan, “I congratulate myself that we have maintained our position.” Although the action was tactically inconclusive, Franklin missed an opportunity to intercept the Confederate retreat from Williamsburg, allowing it to pass unmolested.
Drew joined Civil War Trails as the Executive Director in August 2015. He was previously employed with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and was appointed by both Governor McDonnell and Governor McAuliffe to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. He credits his grandfather for his interest in history, whose “Victory at Sea” VHS tapes were constant in Drew’s early years. Drew is fascinated by the lives and experiences of the average soldier and citizen who navigated battlefields, towns, and landscapes during the war. He lives in Williamsburg with his wife Kate and their two cats. He enjoys reading, oysters, craft beer (or spirits), and music. Drew holds his M.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University, a B.A. from Mary Washington College and was the Lawrence T. Jones III Research Fellow in Texas Civil War History in 2013.
Gil Hahn on “Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War”
The Federal blockade of the Confederate coast during the American Civil War (1861-1865) did not cause the ultimate Federal victory, but it contributed to that victory to a significant degree. The Federal blockade deterred much of the commerce that might have flowed into the Confederacy, but it also created a profit opportunity for those willing to accept the risk of running the blockade. Although blockade running sustained the Confederates’ ability to continue the battle for four years, the effect of this economic warfare substantially weakened the armies upon which the Confederate assertion of independence rested.
Gil Hahn is an attorney and historian who grew up in Washington, DC, near Battery Kemble, one of the ring of forts defending the Federal capital, and also within easy touring range of many Civil War battlefields in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Gil works part time at the Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, which preserves the original DuPont gunpowder factory, and where he demonstrates and explains the operation of nineteenth century industrial equipment, including the steam engine.
Bob was born in Camden, NJ. He’s the third oldest among nine Fallon children. “You didn’t want to be late for meals!” Outgrowing their home, the family moved to Merchantville in 1957. There, he attended St. Peter School and Merchantville High School.
“Back in those days, young kid’s activities included sports, biking, and playing war games with toy guns. The latter seemed so natural, because most of our parents served during WWII, and we wanted to be just like them. My youthful interest in warfare was expanded when a buddy introduced his collection of books and artifacts from that War and the Civil War. I never really lost interest.”
Upon high school graduation, and with Vietnam intensifying, Bob enlisted into the Marine Corps. “It was my turn to act.” Arriving in Da Nang on January 30, 1968—start of the Tet Offensive—he was assigned to the 1st Marine Division. For 13 months, he witnessed the full spectrum of war. “Combat made indelible impressions. To this day, at an instant, when triggered, I can be back there seeing, sensing, and feeling the heart-pounding events.”
Retuning to stateside duty, he had 2½ more years of his enlistment obligation—a difficult adjustment from the trials of combat. “Initially, it was difficult, simply finding peace. Fortunately, I was able to turn around, primarily from my family, some friends, and my religion. Others weren’t so lucky. Another factor was a re-assignment from Quantico to DC, where I was selected as a staff car driver, taking notable military and political figures to and from all the Capitol-area venues. But it also included many funerals at Arlington Cemetery. At times, that was tough.”
Enlistment ended mid-1971. Bob then went to electronics school and became a technician at Schaevitz Engineering in Pennsauken, NJ. He worked there for 20 years, with increasing roles, and became the Engineering Manager. “During this time, a mentor encouraged me to start college. I did, and enjoyed it, graduating nine years later from The University of Pennsylvania (aided by the GI Bill). Also, during this time, I met Vicki, a wonderful woman, who, along with her three children, brought new meaning to my life.” They married and now have four grandchildren. Vicki also graduated from Penn. Recently ending her career as a Data Processing Manager for the State of New Jersey, she is an accomplished quilter.
He held two more Engineering Manager posts in Voorhees and Cherry Hill, before retiring. Vicki and Bob have lived in Medford, NJ for the past 25 years.
Bob renewed his interest in The Civil War after viewing the 1990 Ken Burns Miniseries, and followed-up by reading Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, which lead to many more period books. A favorite among the people he studied was A.P. Hill. “The guy had moxie.” A focus of Bob’s studies is comparing the experiences of Civil War soldiers to his own.
After some internet research, he discovered the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table. He called the phone number, and Mike Cavanaugh answered. They had a good conversation and Bob joined Old Baldy in 2005.
Bob has been to several battlefields. He finds them all memorable. While Antietam and Gettysburg are large-scale, he found the simplicity of Ball’s Bluff to be more poignant. “Vicki and I went there years ago, a fall afternoon, a tranquil setting: the brilliant autumn leaves, the stillness. For a time, we were the only ones there. While reflecting, it was like being in church.” One prerequisite for their battlefield touring is its proximity to fabric stores, for Vicki.
Bob’s other interests include: working-out (basement gym), reading (mostly historical topics) and classical music (all periods, especially Baroque). But, of prime importance is applying time and attention to the overall welfare of the extensive Fallon Family.
In closing, Bob said that he “thoroughly enjoys Old Baldy. It gives me what I want: quality presentations and learning something new or about topics I had forgotten. Rich Jankowski and his team have elevated the Post with remarkable achievements, and made great advances in the diverse scope of Civil War education.” We appreciate Bob’s sentiments and are glad he connected with Mike Cavanaugh 16 years ago.