Author Archives: hlj

Meeting of May 12, 2022

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.

Meeting of April 14, 2022

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 Fallon — Member Profile

Bob and Vicki

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.

Profile written by Jim Heenehan

Meeting of March 10, 2022

Meg Groeling on “First Fallen: The Life of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the North’s First Civil War Hero”

On May 24, 1861, Col. Elmer Ellsworth became the first Union officer killed in the Civil War. The entire North was aghast. First Fallen is the first modern biography of this national celebrity, Northern icon, and mostly forgotten national hero.

Ellsworth and his entertaining U.S. Zouave Cadets drill team had performed at West Point, in New York City, and for President James Buchanan before returning home to Chicago. He helped his friend and law mentor Abraham Lincoln in his quest for the presidency, and when Lincoln put out the call for troops after Fort Sumter was fired upon, Ellsworth responded. Within days he organized more than 1,000 New York firefighters into a regiment of volunteers.

When he was killed, the Lincolns rushed to the Navy Yard to view the body of the young man they had loved as a son. Mary Lincoln insisted he lie in state in the East Room of the White House. The elite of New York brought flowers to the Astor House and six members of the 11th New York accompanied their commander’s coffin. When a late May afternoon thunderstorm erupted during his funeral service at the Hudson View Cemetery, eyewitnesses referred to it as “tears from God himself.” The death of the young hero was knocked out of the headlines eight weeks later by the battle of First Bull Run. The trickle of blood had now become a torrent that would not stop for four long years.

Meg Groeling is a regular contributor to the blog Emerging Civil War, exploring subjects beyond the battlefield such as personalities, politics, and practices that affected the men who did the fighting. A writer, teacher, and curriculum developer since 1987, she has taught at both the elementary and middle school levels for more than thirty years. She graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a B.A. in liberal studies and has been involved in continuing education for her entire career.

Meg received a master’s degree from American Public University, majoring in military history with a Civil War emphasis. Savas Beatie published her first book, The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial of the Civil War Dead, in the fall of 2015. This is a volume in the Emerging Civil War Series, although it differs from the others in that it takes on a much broader range of subjects. The book has received excellent reviews and has already gone into its second printing. She lives in Hollister, California, in a lovely 1928 bungalow covered with roses outside and books inside.

Meeting of February 10, 2022

Chris Bagley on “The Horse at Gettysburg: Prepared for the Day of Battle”

Horses are some of the many unsung heroes of the American Civil War. These majestic animals were impressed into service, trained, prepared for battle, and turned into expendable implements of war.
There is more to this story, however. When an army’s means and survival is predicated upon an animal whose instincts are to flee rather than fight, a bond of mutual trust and respect between handler and horse must be forged. Ultimately, the Battle of Gettysburg resulted in thousands of horses killed and wounded. Their story deserves telling, from a time not so far removed.

Chris hails from Canton, Ohio, where he resides with his wife Becky. Chris has been a Registered Nurse for 31 years and currently works as a surgical nurse. He became a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park in 2016. He always had a love and fascination of horses from childhood which continues to this day.

Chris first visited the fields of Gettysburg at the age of ten, and then returned when he was thirty. This led to a lifelong passion for reading, study, and visitation of the field. On one of his many trips, he took a guided tour of the battlefield on horseback. The experience prompted him to prepare and take the examination to become a Licensed Battlefield Guide, which he completed and passed in August of 2016. The first tour he gave was done so on horseback. For the past three years, Chris has conducted tours over the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg National Military Park, but the memory and privilege of riding over the field on horseback further influenced him to study and learn about these animals. He has always loved horses and now is combining the two. Chris is a lifelong native of Canton, Ohio with his wife, Becky.

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.