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, October 14, 7:15 pm — Dr. Caroline E. Janney on “Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army after Appomattox”
Thursday, November 11, 7:15 pm — Carol Adams on “Pulling for the Union: The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad in the Civil War”
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Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, October 14, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is
Dr. Caroline E. Janney on “Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army after Appomattox”
The Army of Northern Virginia’s chaotic dispersal began even before Lee and Grant met at Appomattox Court House. As the Confederates had pushed west at a relentless pace for nearly a week, thousands of wounded and exhausted men fell out of the ranks. When word spread that Lee planned to surrender, most remaining troops stacked their arms and accepted paroles allowing them to return home, even as they lamented the loss of their country and cause. But others broke south and west, hoping to continue the fight.
In this dramatic new history of the weeks and months after Appomattox, Caroline E. Janney reveals that Lee’s surrender was less an ending than the start of an interregnum marked by military and political uncertainty, legal and logistical confusion, and continued outbursts of violence. Janney takes readers from the deliberations of government and military authorities to the ground-level experiences of common soldiers. Ultimately, what unfolds is the messy birth narrative of the Lost Cause, laying the groundwork for the defiant resilience of rebellion in the years that followed.
Dr. Janney is the John L. Nau III Professor of the American Civil War and Director of the John L. Nau Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause (2008) and Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation (2013). She co-edited with Gary W. Gallagher Cold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign (2015) and edited Petersburg to Appomattox: The End of the War in Virginia (2018). She serves as a co-editor of the University of North Carolina Press’s Civil War America Series and is the past president of the Society of Civil War Historians.
Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, November 11, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is
Carol Adams on “Pulling for the Union: The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad in the Civil War”
“Pulling for the Union: The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad in the Civil War” is a presentation based on an exhibit that was displayed at the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The P&R was the predecessor of the Reading Railroad. Chartered in 1833, it was an expanding transportation leader by the time of the War Between the States. Its location, access to coal, and power were important drivers of the North’s industrial superiority. The presentation includes the many ways the P&R supported the war effort with its people and its resources.
Carol Adams is a volunteer who assists the Reading Company Technical and Historical Society with its educational project, the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum. Active with the RCT&HS since 1997, she currently serves as chair of Community Outreach, and enjoys modeling, exhibit preparation, and other museum work.
Lynn Cavill grew up in Upper Darby, attending Upper Darby High School. Graduation ceremonies were held in the Tower Theater (some Old Baldy members might remember the Tower Theater from their old concert days). After graduation, Lynn went to Drexel University to study math, but left half way through to get married. She has two daughters, Alice and Sandy, and four grandchildren, two of whom are now in the U.S. Air Force.
After a bit, Lynn got a job as a clerk with the U.S. Post Office. “While one piece of mail does not weigh a lot, handling 100,000 pieces of mail a day is a lot of work on your body.” This inspired Lynn to return to school and get a degree from the Community College in Philadelphia in Electronic Engineering Technology. This, in turn, helped her become an electronic technician for the Post Office, where she helped maintain the computer-operated mail processing equipment. She was the only woman doing this work at her facility and was fortunate to have good bosses during her career with the Postal Service.
One perk of her new job was that she travelled periodically to Norman, Oklahoma for training. Asked what are some of the positives about visiting Oklahoma, Lynn chuckled, “It’s not New Jersey.” But more seriously, Lynn was impressed with Oklahoma’s big sky. “You can see for miles,” she noted, though being in the plains also gets very windy. It also gave her an opportunity to see her maternal aunt and cousins, who live in eastern Oklahoma.
Travel is something Lynn really enjoys—especially her six Rick Steves’ tours. Some favorites include Paris & South France; Brussels & Amsterdam and several visits to Germany. But the trip that stands out is her journey to Normandy in 2011 with her 15-year-old grandson (now in the Air Force). She fondly recalls his hopping into trenches and pill boxes, their visit to the American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, Sainte Mere Eglise, and other sites. At dinner one night, her grandson ordered the special, which he happily discovered came with a glass of wine (age limits on wine and beer are more lenient in Europe).
Lynn’s hobbies include quilting, which she’s been able to focus on since her retirement a few years ago (she likes using 1850-1900 reproduction design fabrics in her quilts), and genealogy. This latter interest has led her to a couple of ancestors who fought in the Civil War. On her father’s side, she discovered her great-grandmother’s brother, Private Arnold M. Nichols, who grew up in Chester County, PA. He joined the 9-month 124th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which mustered into service in August of 1862. With less than a month of training, the 124th was sent to Antietam, where it fought near the East Woods, trading volleys with Confederate infantry in the Cornfield and supporting nearby Union artillery. They suffered 50 casualties that day. The 124th also fought at Chancellorsville before being mustered out later that month. Lynn spent many days at the Federal Building in Philadelphia, looking through rolls of microfilm to find out more about her ancestor. She discovered his 1903 petition asking the government to increase his $12/month pension. Lynn does not know if his petition was ever granted.
And on her mother’s side, she learned of her great-great-grandfather, Private George W. Goff, who fought for the South with the 8th Arkansas infantry at Shiloh before transferring to a local cavalry unit (Price’s), where he served the remainder of the war.
Lynn’s favorite Civil War site is Gettysburg where, in addition to the battlefield, she enjoys waking around the town. She noted that her visit to Gettysburg contrasted with her first visit to Antietam, which is more secluded. At Antietam, she forgot to take water with her and realized too late that there was nowhere nearby to get something to drink.
Lynn has always been interested in history, and when a friend mentioned the Old Baldy Civil War Round table to her eight and a half years ago, she joined up. And we’re glad she did.
Herb Kaufman on “Little Round Top: Another Look—Was it really the key to the Battle of Gettysburg?”
In 1974, with the publication of Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, the focus on the Battle of Gettysburg shifted to three actions that were reinforced with the 1993 movie Gettysburg: John Buford’s stand on July 1; the battle for Little Round Top on July 2; and Pickett’s Charge on July 3.
Subsequently Little Round Top has become the focus of the entire battle, leaving the impression that Chamberlain’s defense of the hill saved the Union Army, changed the outcome of the battle and directly lead to the defeat of the Confederate army.
While Chamberlain’s brigade was certainly heroic, was this small hill truly the center point of the battle as so many would have us believe? Was Little Round Top truly the key to this epic three-day battle? You may be surprised by Herb’s answer!
Herb Kaufman has been a teacher, lecturer and living historian of the Civil War for more than 20 years. He is a founding member of the faculty of the Civil War Institute at Manor College and an Adjunct Instructor of Civil War history at Camden County College. 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.
Herb has also been a Civil War reenactor, and was an Educational Associate at the former MOLLUS Civil War Museum & Library in Philadelphia. He has received numerous awards for his continuing work in education and support of the history of the Civil War. Mr. Kaufman is a member of the Board of Directors and Curator of the GAR Civil War Museum of Philadelphia. He is currently the treasurer of the Delaware Valley Civil War Roundtable, and has been a member of the Old Baldy CWRT for more than 20 years. He is also a member of numerous historical and community organizations. Herb possesses a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Education from Temple University.
Bill Holdsworth was born in Norristown, PA, 1955. He is the eldest of four children, from his mother Martha Jane and his World War II veteran father John. Bill first attended catholic school in a suburb in Philadelphia but switched to a public school in Montgomery County in 4th grade. At 12 years old Bill got his first job as a caddy at a golf course. He then worked three years at a Burger King until he landed a job that would ignite the spark to his career.
In high school, Bill started working at a record store in a mall at age 16. The record store was a melting pot of all ages to meet and connect through music. Bill said that his middle-aged boss would often have to find records for customers based on them humming or singing the song they were looking to buy. In addition to learning about all kinds of music and artists through the job Bill would also go to a lot of concerts. He has attended over 1000 concerts throughout his life and he has been to almost every concert venue in Philly. His favorite artists include Johnny Cash and Bob Marley with his favorite genre of music being reggae. When Bill wasn’t selling records or going to concerts, he was participating in high school club sports such as the winter and spring track team for shotput and discus as well as the intramural basketball team. He continued working in the music retail business through college at Montgomery County Community College. During this time, he also picked up a second job as a school bus driver. He would work the mornings and afternoons and go to class in-between.
Bill loved working grew tired of school, so after two years of college he dropped out and quit his bus driving job to pursue his music sales career full time. He worked a combined seven years in music retail and then two years for a wholesale distributor called Suburban One Stop. After that he worked for major record companies like RCA Records, Motown, PolyGram records and the Universal Music Group. Bill said the most important skill he learned was knowledge about people and music throughout the world. When records started to lose popularity Bill along with hundreds of his other colleagues were laid off from the same company. He was then hired by Music Video Distributors which is where he currently works.
While working on his life professionally Bill also worked on it socially and romantically. Bill’s aunt worked at a flower shop and introduced him to her employee, Deborah. She and Bill fell in love and got married a year and a half later in 1984. Debbie and Bill went on to have three sons, William, John and Kenneth. Around this time Bill developed a new hobby of fishing in freshwater. His favorite fish is the smallmouth bass.
Bill’s passion for military history started after reading Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs. He then saw an ad in the paper about a local civil war heroes event going on at Norristown High School. There he met a representative from the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table named Steve Wright. After learning more about the CWRT he decided to join, and he thoroughly enjoys attending and participating in the meetings and events. Steve and Bill became great friends and to this day go on many trips to historical battlegrounds, most notably traveling to the island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific in 2015 for the 70th Anniversary Re-Union of Honor. Bill hopes to retire in the next year to make more time for volunteer organizations, hobbies and family. The OB CWRT is grateful that Bill and Debbie joined as she has produced our wreath for General Winfield Scott Hancock’s tomb for the last 27 years.
Born in Norristown, PA in 1953, Wayne Blattner’s Civil War interest seems foreordained. He attended the Abraham Lincoln elementary school and as a Cub/Boy Scout (fortunate to earn Eagle Scout in 1968), participated in the Norristown Memorial Day parades which ended at the Montgomery Cemetery, where the Scouts placed flags on the graves of local Civil War veterans.
After high school, Wayne studied at a technical drafting school in Reading, PA, where he received a certificate of Drafting and Design. This launched him on his career of drafting electrical engineering diagrams showing the locations of the electrical wiring, outlets, light receptacles, and fire alarms for building renovations and construction. Though Wayne jokingly referred to himself as “the dinosaur in the room” because all the other engineers had degrees, he had great bosses who helped him advance his skills. He worked 24 years as a Senior Electrical Designer for Bala Consulting Engineers in King of Prussia and retired in 2020 from his final job at Kupper Engineering in Ambler, PA.
As a kid, Wayne attended Camp Innabah in Chester County. He liked it so much that in his late teens he took a second job joining the camp support staff. This proved fortuitous as he met his future wife, Cheryl, there in 1975. She was working in the program staff, as a camp counselor. They hit it off and got married two years later, moving to Royersford, PA. They have two children – Kurt (who is also an Eagle Scout) and Corrine, born in 1982 and 1985, respectively.
Wayne’s Civil War interest stems from a family reunion in the late 1980s. He was talking to his great aunt, who told him that when she was a child she often spoke with her two grandfathers, both of whom fought in the Civil War. These were Mills Williamson, who served first with the 4th PA Infantry (a 90-day unit) and then the 95th PA Infantry (part of Upton’s VI Corps brigade), while William Charles was with the 5th PA Cavalry. William Charles was a widower who lived his final years with Wayne’s great aunt’s family. This inspired Wayne to research his great-great grandfathers’ Civil War service.
Then in 1990, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary came out and Wayne was hooked. He did additional research and learned of five other relatives who fought in the Civil War, one of whom, John Burnett, also served in the 95th PA Infantry. Burnett’s sister, Martha, married Mills Williamson, and the two brothers-in-law enlisted together in the 95th PA after Williamson’s service with the 4th PA ended. Wayne also discovered that Williamson was wounded during Grant’s May 12, 1864 attack at Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle. Later, Wayne was on a tour of the Spotsylvania battlefield with the legendary Ed Bearss (one of his six Ed Bearss tours). The night before the tour he asked if the next day Ed could show him where his ancestor got wounded and Ed said OK. The next day was a hot, humid, 95-degree scorcher. As the day and tour drew to a close and people began returning to the buses, Wayne figured Ed must have forgotten their conversation. Suddenly, Ed called out, “WHO’S THE GUY FROM THE 95th PA?!!!!” Wayne meekly raised his hand and Ed walked him over to the spot where the 95th PA did its fighting and where his great-great grandfather probably got wounded.
Wayne’s favorite Civil War books include Gordon Rhea’s volumes on Grant’s Overland Campaign as well as Eric Wittenberg’s books on cavalry engagements. His favorite battlefields are Gettysburg, where three of his ancestors fought, followed closely by Antietam. Besides Old Baldy, which Wayne joined in 1995, he belongs to many other Civil War organizations, such as the Civil War Round Table of Montgomery County, which meets in Norristown (Wayne’s “home” Round Table); the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, General Hartranft Camp #15, which meets in Harrisburg; the Gettysburg Foundation; and the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, which also organizes Civil War tours.
Wayne’s other outside interests include both model trains and vintage steam engine trains. While his model train setups as a kid were limited to layouts around the tree at Christmas, later in the 1980s and 90s, he began to take 1-2 day steam engine excursions, ranging from the more local Scranton to the Poconos trips to a 2–day steam engine outing from San Jose, CA to San Francisco and back. One possible train inspiration was Wayne’s maternal grandfather, who worked as a fireman and then an engineer for the Reading Railroad. Wayne must have thought of him every time he “took a ride on the Reading” when playing Monopoly. In addition, Wayne is an avid ancestry.com guy who has researched over 35 families for family members and friends. He has traced his own family tree back to his 7th great-grandparents, who were part of the Schwenkfelder 1734 migration from the Poland/Germany area of Europe. They came to William Penn’s new colony to escape Europe’s religious intolerance and most settled in Montgomery County.
Wayne’s Civil War connections start with his ancestors who fought in the war and continue today to his numerous Civil War groups which, happily, include the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table.
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.
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.