Author Archives: hlj

Meeting of January 13, 2022

Mike Bunn on “The Assault on Fort Blakeley: The Thunder and Lightning of Battle”

On the afternoon of April 9, 1865, some sixteen thousand Union troops launched a bold, coordinated assault on the three-mile-long line of earthworks known as Fort Blakeley. The charge was one of the grand spectacles of the Civil War, the climax of a weeks-long campaign that resulted in the capture of Mobile—the last major Southern city to remain in Confederate hands. Historian Mike Bunn delves into the chaos of those desperate moments along the waters of the storied Mobile–Tensaw Delta, and also serves as a guided tour of Alabama’s largest Civil War battlefield.

Mike Bunn is an author and historian, and currently serves as Director of Historic Blakeley State Park in Spanish Fort, Alabama. He previously directed the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, a bi-state agency operating in southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia, and worked as a curator with the Columbus, Georgia Museum and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Museum of Mississippi. He has also worked with the Birmingham Historical Society and the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society.

He is author or coauthor of several books, including Fourteenth Colony: The Forgotten Story of the Gulf South during America’s Revolutionary Era; Early Alabama: An Illustrated Guide to the Formative Years, 1798-1826; Alabama From Territory to Statehood: An Alabama Heritage Bicentennial Collection; Well Worth Stopping to See: Antebellum Columbus, Georgia through the Eyes of Travelers; Civil War Eufaula; Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812; and The Lower Chattahoochee River (Images of America). Mike earned his undergraduate degree at Faulkner University and two master’s degrees at the University of Alabama. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Daphne, Alabama, with their daughter, Zoey. www.mikebunn.net

Steve Peters — Member Profile

Steve Peters was born on September 24th, 1947, in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and he was also raised there. He attended a self-contained school district, so the other kids were all from his town. Grades 7th through 12th were all in the same building and Steve’s graduating high school class only had 148 students. Given the number of kids in the school district Steve found himself in the same room with some of the other students for 12 years. As you could imagine, he grew very close to some of these kids and they would often do things outside of school together.

“I used to tell people that I had the best of both worlds,” Steve said. “I could walk out my back door and be in the middle of the woods; I could also walk out my front door and be in the middle of the city.” Steve was a Boy Scout and loved the outdoors. He used to go out to the woods with his friends to catch minnows to use as bait to fish for bass. When they weren’t out fishing or hiking, they would go out on the town attending one of the many local restaurants or one of the two local movie theaters. One of Steve’s other hobbies was stamp collecting. On top of all of that he played baseball, football, and wrestled in high school. He and his friends were always afraid to do anything reckless because two of his friends had brothers in the police force.

His family would attend car races at tracks just about every week. This tradition started way back in his father’s childhood when he fell in love with races. Ever since then Steve’s father loved racing and later passed it down to his children. Steve was at a racetrack before he was even one year old and grew up with a strong passion for racing. They used to go on Saturdays or Sundays after church to races. Sometimes they had to walk 3 miles between their car and their seat, but it was totally worth it to them. Steve’s dad also passed on a love of the North American railroad system. Columbia was one of the main lines of the Pennsylvania railroad, so Steve had many opportunities to see train cars. Steve’s dad would take him to see different train cars and tracks.

After graduating from high school in 1965, he attended Delaware Valley College where he earned a degree in animal husbandry in 1969. His favorite class was genetics and entomology. The professor of that class loved wrestling and previously knew Steve because he wrestled and played football in college. He worked on the college farm from his sophomore to senior year running the pig and swine operation. He was also a dorm counselor for three years. Steve never got any sports scholarships, so he had to take up these jobs to make his own way.

Toward the end of his college career, he became a part time truck driver and then shortly after graduated college and got a football coaching job in Conshohocken. He moved to Conshohocken and after a year got a job teaching agriculture in Northern Burlington County in Columbus, New Jersey, despite not having a teaching certification. It was a long commute, and he did that for a year until he got a job at Wood Archbishop High School teaching biology. He was a football and wrestling coach there for 20+ years. He also served as a high school and college wrestling official for 28 years. He did not need a teaching certification for this job either, but he knew it would make him a better teacher, so he earned one at Temple University. He then switched to teaching environmental science at the same school while taking more college classes to make him better at his job. He worked at Archbishop for a total of 46 years until retirement. While he was teaching, he was also a racecar official and photographer for a national racing publication for 30 years. He was able to attend local races during the school year after classes were over, and travel great distances on the weekend and during the summer.

Steve met his wife Carol in college, they married and had three children. They have been married for 46 years and now have four grandchildren. Nowadays Steve spends most of his time watching sports on television, fishing, driving others in his community or learning about history. Specifically, Civil War history. Steve’s interest in history started during a 3rd grade field trip to Gettysburg. Over years, he read books, went to reenactments and researched the historical significance of his surrounding areas. Steve said he would have become a history teacher, but his college did not offer the major.

Soon after retiring from teaching, he attended a Delaware Valley Civil War Round Table (CWRT) meeting and met the “crazy guy in glasses” Rich Jankowski. The speaker at that event was the author of some of the Civil War books Steve was reading, Ed Bonekemper. Steve was blown away by the enthusiasm put forth by Rich and the members Old Baldy, so he joined our Round Table. He is a frequent attendee of the pre-meeting dinners at the Lamp Post Diner, traveling down from Lansdale with Steve Newcomb. His smile and positive attitude are welcomed at our meetings. He also joined the Delaware Valley and the Bucks County Round Tables as well as the GAR museum in Philadelphia.

Profile written by Talon Lauriello.

Meeting of December 9, 2021

Member Social Night

Our Round Table has weathered the global pandemic well. Old Baldy CWRT exits stronger, expanded and looking forward to 2022. In December, instead of a regular meeting with a presenter or discussion, our Round Table will host a social evening. This will be to mark the upcoming Holidays and to welcome back members and guests we have not seen in eighteen months. The event will be available on Zoom for those not yet ready or unable to attend in person. Plan on joining us to discuss our journey this year, our path forward and share good cheer with the membership.

Besides interaction, conversation and camaraderie, we will also be discussing several issues about moving forward including our revised book raffle. The topics with discussion points will be included in the December newsletter for members to review before the 9th. Come out to let us know your plans for 2022 and where you will be taking Flat Old Baldy for an adventure. Your input is important in planning next year for our Round Table. Tom Scurria will provide an in-depth review of the planning so far on our Western Theater Symposium at the end of April. He seeks your feedback on how to make it a superb event for all attendees.

If you are planning to attend in-person, please let Sean Glisson know (SGlisson@myrepublicbank.com), so we have an accurate count. To prepare, review our newsletters and programs for the year to jot down some comments to pass on the Board. Remember to bring money to purchase a copy of our South Jersey Civil War sites map. They make great holiday gifts for history minded individuals. Look forward to seeing many smiling faces on December 9th.

Lorraine Gancher — Member Profile

Lorraine Gancher grew up in Garfield, NJ (named after the Civil War general and president), an industrial town along the Passaic River not far from New York City. She often took the train or bus into New York City with family or friends for various excursions. She remembers seeing the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall at Christmas time and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. She also has fond memories of her trips to the Museum of Natural History, the Bronx Zoo, and the Statue of Liberty.

Back in high school, Lorraine had a strong interest in history. While learning about the kings and queens of England, she and her friends adopted the personalities of various royalty and wrote each other spoof letters. For example, as Lady So and So, the Lady in Waiting to Princess Such and Such, she wrote her friend, the Duke, “We just visited your estate and really enjoyed our stay.” Lorraine’s love of letters also prompted her to become pen pals with fellow teenagers in England, South Africa and Australia. Her Aussie correspondence continues to this day, causing Lorraine to reflect, “The mail is my friend. I’d hate to see it leave.”

After high school, Lorraine attended Montclair State College (now University), where she received a Teaching degree in Social Studies for Junior and Senior High School and a Librarian degree for grades K–12. Upon graduation, she moved to South Jersey, becoming a librarian in the Bellmawr school system. She first worked 30 years at the elementary school and then 10 years at the middle school as a school guidance counsellor because she received her Master’s Degree in Student Personnel Services from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University).

In addition to her librarian duties, Lorraine also helped organize PTA fundraising and various after school activities. These included decorating for the school dances, and “Read Aloud Night,” where she got the mayor, members of the police force and others to read various children’s books for the students. Lorraine helped out with all the school activities, like Book Fairs and contests. She also got parents involved and volunteering. On holidays Lorraine dressed up to read to the younger students, performing as a pumpkin, a turkey and even a talking Christmas tree.

The school district appreciated Lorraine’s efforts and had a surprise for her before she retired. A friend of hers suggested they attend an upcoming school board meeting to be held outdoors at the school. As Lorraine always went to these school board meetings, she was happy to go. “They were doing work on the outside of the school,” Lorraine recollected, “and a drape hung over one side of the building. I had no idea something else was going on. At the end of the meeting, I am called up to the podium, a cord is pulled, the drape comes down, and there is my name in stainless steel letters on the side of the library.” The Bellmawr Park Elementary School library is now the Lorraine A. Gancher Library. What an appropriate honor for someone who loves reading and spent her career helping students.

And speaking of kids, Lorraine also raised three stepchildren of her own—James, Kristin and Tammy. They have since moved all over the country but she keeps in touch with letters, phone calls and gifts. Lorraine prefers these more personal interactions to email correspondence.

Lorraine first learned of Old Baldy while taking a course on the Civil War with Dr. Pesda at the Camden County College Civic Center during the Civil War Sesquicentennial. At the course, she met Old Baldy members Joe Wilson and Gerri Hughes, who encouraged Lorraine to join our Round Table, which she did six years ago. Lorraine enjoys reading Civil War letters, has visited Gettysburg, including the Eisenhower farm, and has been to several sites in Virginia. But her love of history transcends the Civil War. She’s been to Jamestown, Roanoke, several historic lighthouses, and various places in the Hudson River Valley. Some favorite Hudson River spots include Hyde Park, Olana (Frederick Church’s home), Sleepy Hollow, West Point and Bear Mountain.

To this day Lorraine loves taking classes on all sorts of subjects, usually at St. Peters College, Glassboro University or Camden County College. As she notes, “I consider myself an eternal learner as I’ve been going to classes since I was 5.” And fortunately for us, she also learned about Old Baldy at a Camden County College class just a few years ago.

Meeting of November 11, 2021

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.

P&R Hiawatha locomotive

John Galie — Member Profile

John Galie was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1955. At the age of five, he and his family moved to Heritage Village in Marlton, New Jersey, which is where he grew up. He attended Saint Joan of Arc elementary school and he was in the first graduating class. He then went to Holy Cross in Delran for high school and John told me that it was painful. There was a far distance between his house and the high school with only one bus traveling between the two once a day. Because of this, he didn’t participate in many after-school activities. He did however find some solace with the photography club since we could complete his assignments in and around his home.

John quickly realized that he wanted to become a mechanic so during high school he worked at small local repair shops specializing in lawn mower repairs. He learned a lot there and worked hard. His father’s philosophy was that if you want something you have to earn it and John took that to heart. He even worked as a janitor at his old elementary school for some extra money in order to buy his own tools.

After graduating from high school his father wanted him to go to college, so John chose to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia to become a Mechanical Engineer. His career path would forever change after his co-op program year with the National Weather Service in Washington, DC. There he was exposed to a computer for the first time and it blew his mind. Right then and there he decided to change his major to Electrical Engineering and continued at Drexel for two more years.

During his third year at Drexel, he met a girl while on his Co-Op assignment in Washington, DC, named Patricia, who was a senior at Penn State. They were married during his junior year and moved to Flint, Michigan, where Pat took a job with A.C. Spark Plug. This move required changing schools so John transferred to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He had to drive 50 miles to and from school which left no time for extracurriculars. The tedium of traffic and the annoyance of never attending a football game at this school was all worth it though when John graduated Magna Cum Laude and got a great job at IBM.

His job involved developing semiconductors and processing technologies in East Fishkill, New York. In 1986 IBM reorganized and asked employees to volunteer to switch into different branches of the company. John volunteered to switch from the manufacturing side to the technical sales force. Over the years, John’s various account responsibilities included State and Local Governments, casinos in Atlantic City, and finally the U.S. Army.

This sales position took John and his family to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which is where he currently resides. He and his wife have been married for 45 years and they have four children who all became engineers. John has been involved with several volunteer opportunities such as being a Cub Scout leader for his son, Little League Coach, as well as being a Big Brother. John served on the Cherry Hill Board of Education for 12 years which enabled him to present all four of his children with their high school diplomas. Now his children are grown, and he enjoys spending time with his eight grandchildren. John retired from IBM in 2008 after 30 years of service.

John’s interest in history started at an early age, when one cold November morning, his father woke him and his brother at four AM and said “get up, you two are coming with me.” His father had business that day in Washington, DC, and afterwards took the boys to Arlington National Cemetery. It was Tuesday November 26th, 1963, the day after JFK was buried. His parents both served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. His father was a radio intercept operator-(German)-stationed in Europe and his mother was a high-speed radio operator in the Women’s Axillary Corp (WAC), stationed at Vint Hill Farms, Virginia. What really ignited his spark of interest in Civil War history was his first visit to Gettysburg with his good friend Bob Russo. After which he started looking into his family history and discovered that his grandfather served in World War I and his great grandfather served in the Civil War, 12th VA Co G. John went to Old Baldy meetings off and on for a few years until eventually deciding to join the organization. He has been a member for five years now and thoroughly enjoys it. John is currently a volunteer battlefield interpreter at the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, where he conducts weekend tours on a monthly basis.

Profile written by Talon Lauriello.

Meeting of October 14, 2021

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.

Lynn Cavill — Member Profile

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.

Meeting of September 9, 2021

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!

man in a flag tie
Herb Kaufman

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.