Author Archives: hlj

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 July 8, 2021

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.

Dr. Christian B. Keller

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.

Meeting of June 10, 2021

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

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.

Meeting of May 13, 2021

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.

Meeting of April 22, 2021

Member Sharing Night

Dr. Ray Klein: Flat Old Baldy Travels Cambodia—One Thousand Years of War, Massive Construction and Destruction, Five Years of Civil War … What Next??

Dave Gilson: A Walking Tour of Civil War London

Priscilla Gabosch — Member Profile

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.

Meeting of April 8, 2021

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.

Meeting of March 25, 2021

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:

Meeting of March 11, 2021

Christopher Klein on “When The Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom”

The outlandish, untold story of the Irish American revolutionaries who tried to free Ireland by invading Canada.

Just over a year after Robert E. Lee relinquished his sword, a band of Union and Confederate veterans dusted off their guns. But these former foes had no intention of reigniting the Civil War. Instead, they fought side by side to undertake one of the most fantastical missions in military history: to seize the British province of Canada and to hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured.

By the time that these invasions—known collectively as the Fenian raids—began in 1866, Ireland had been Britain’s unwilling colony for seven hundred years. Thousands of Civil War veterans who had fled to the United States rather than perish in the wake of the Great Hunger still considered themselves Irishmen first, Americans second. With the tacit support of the U.S. government and inspired by a previous generation of successful American revolutionaries, the group that carried out a series of five attacks on Canada between 1866 and 1871—the Fenian Brotherhood—established a state in exile, planned prison breaks, weathered infighting, stockpiled weapons, and assassinated enemies. Defiantly, this motley group, including a one-armed war hero, an English spy infiltrating rebel forces, and a radical who staged his own funeral, managed to seize a piece of Canada—if only for three days.

Chris Klein is the author of four books, including When the Irish Invaded Canada and Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero. A frequent contributor to History.com, the website of the History Channel, he has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Harvard Magazine, Smithsonian.com, and AmericanHeritage.com. He graduated summa cum laude and with honors from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, in 1994, and is a member of the Authors Guild, Biographers International Organization, Boston Authors Club, and Irish American Writers & Artists.

March 2021 Newsletter

Meeting of February 11, 2021

Dr. Lorien Foote on “The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy”

During the winter of 1864, more than 3,000 Federal prisoners of war escaped from Confederate prison camps into South Carolina and North Carolina, often with the aid of local slaves. Their flight created, in the words of contemporary observers, a “Yankee plague,” heralding a grim end to the Confederate cause. In this fascinating look at Union soldiers’ flight for freedom in the last months of the Civil War, Lorien Foote reveals new connections between the collapse of the Confederate prison system, the large-scale escape of Union soldiers, and the full unraveling of the Confederate States of America.

By this point in the war, the Confederacy was reeling from prison overpopulation, a crumbling military, violence from internal enemies, and slavery’s breakdown. The fugitive Federals moving across the countryside in mass numbers, Foote argues, accelerated the collapse as slaves and deserters decided the presence of these men presented an opportune moment for escalated resistance.

Blending rich analysis with an engaging narrative, Foote uses these ragged Union escapees as a lens with which to assess the dying Confederate States, providing a new window into the South’s ultimate defeat.

Dr. Lorien Foote is the Patricia & Bookman Peters Professor in History at Texas A&M University, where she teaches classes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, war and society, and 19th-century American reform movements. She is the author of The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor, and Violence in the Union Army (NYU Press, 2010), which received honorable mention as finalist for the 2011 Lincoln Prize. She is also the author of Seeking the One Great Remedy: Francis George Shaw and Nineteenth-Century Reform (Ohio University Press, 2003). Dr. Foote is the creator and principal investigator of a project with the Center for Virtual History at the University of Georgia that is currently mapping the movement of 3000 Federal prisoners of war who escaped from the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

February 2021 Newsletter