Monthly Archives: May 2021

Jim Heenehan — Member Profile

Jim Heenehan
Jim Heenehan

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.

Meeting of August 12, 2021

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.