Category Archives: Meeting archive

Meeting of September 8, 2022

Elizabeth D. Leonard on “Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life”

Benjamin Franklin Butler was one of the most important and controversial military and political leaders of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Remembered most often for his uncompromising administration of the Federal occupation of New Orleans during the war, Butler reemerges in this lively narrative as a man whose journey took him from childhood destitution to wealth and profound influence in state and national halls of power.

Prize-winning biographer Elizabeth D. Leonard chronicles Butler’s successful career in law defending the rights of the Lowell Mill girls and other workers, his achievements as one of Lincoln’s premier civilian generals, and his role in developing wartime policy in support of slavery’s fugitives as the nation advanced toward emancipation. Leonard also highlights Butler’s personal and political evolution, revealing how his limited understanding of racism and the horrors of slavery transformed over time, leading him into a postwar role as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for Black freedom and civil rights, and one of its notable opponents of white supremacy and neo-Confederate resurgence.

Elizabeth D. Leonard is the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History Emerita at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. A native of New York City, she earned her Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California, Riverside, in 1992. Leonard is the author of several articles and five books on the Civil War-era including: Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War; All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies; and Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky, which was named co-winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize in 2012.

She is currently engaged in research for a new project, which weaves together a deeper study of Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt’s transformation from slaveholder to willing advocate and enforcer of Lincoln’s emancipation policies, and the story of the lived experience of enslaved men from the region of Kentucky where Holt was raised—including one of Holt’s own former slaves—as they ran from slavery to fight for freedom in the Union army and then returned to try and claim the promises of Emancipation.

Meeting of August 11, 2022

Dr. Kenneth Rutherford on “America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War”.

In “America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War”, Dr. Kenneth Rutherford traces the development of anti-personnel landmines from their first use before the Civil War, to the early use of naval mines, through the establishment of the Confederacy’s Army Torpedo Bureau, the world’s first institution devoted to developing, producing, and fielding mines in warfare. Ken Rutherford, known worldwide for his work in the landmine discipline, and who himself lost both legs to a mine in Africa, relies on a host of primary sources to highlight the widespread use of landmines across the Confederacy.

Ken is a professor of Political Science at James Madison University, and Director of JMU’s Center for International Stabilization and Recovery. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University, and B.A. and MBA degrees from the University of Colorado. Ken served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania (1987-1989), a UNHCR Emergency Refugee Coordinator in Senegal (1989), a humanitarian emergency relief officer in northern Kenya and Somalia (1993), and was a Fulbright Scholar in Jordan (2005). He lost both legs to a landmine while serving in Somalia.

Ken’s work spans over two decades in more than 40 countries, including Vietnam to bring assistance to survivors, and in Bosnia, where he escorted Princess Diana to visit landmine victims and their care providers in an effort to bring attention to their plight. He was a leader in the coalition that won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and that spearheaded the 1997 International Mine Ban Treaty ultimately signed by 164 nations. Ken is also a co-founder of the Landmine Survivors Network.

Meeting of July 14, 2022

Peter Miele on “Talking Flags: The United States Army Signal Corps on July 1 and Beyond”

During the Gettysburg Campaign, the United States Army of the Potomac was relying on an infant organization, the Signal Corps, to perform duties of observation and communication. On July 1, in the Cupola of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Signal Officer Lt. Aaron B. Jerome was the “eyes” of General John Buford as the largest battle in the western hemisphere erupted. Pete Miele of the Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center explores how this organization was formed and how they affected the course of battle.

Pete Miele is Executive Director of the Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center, and President of the Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation. After graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a degree in History and Secondary Education, he began his career in secondary education, teaching American History, World History, and American Studies. In 2013, he relocated to Gettysburg, obtained a MA in Applied History from Shippensburg University, and found employment with the new Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center. For seven years, he worked at the Museum in various roles in education and operations and, in 2020, was named the Museum’s Executive Director, the position he currently holds. A frequent lecturer, Pete has presented at national conferences of the Society of Civil War Historians and the American Association of State and Local History. His interests include 19th century mid-Atlantic social and cultural history, environmental and medical history, and museum studies. In fall 2021, Pete began work towards a PhD in American Studies at Penn State, Harrisburg.

Meeting of June 9, 2022

A.J. Schenkman on “Unexpected Bravery: Women and Children of the Civil War”

The American Civil War divided the United States from 1861 to 1865. During those years, over two million soldiers served in both the Union and Confederate Armies. What is little known is that not only the numerous children, some as young as 12, enlisted on both sides, but also women who disguised themselves as men in an attempt to make a difference in the epic struggle to determine the future of the United States of America.

A. J. Schenkman is a New York-based writer. Since his start writing for local newspapers, Schenkman has branched out into writing for magazines, blogs, and academic journals, in both history and other subjects. Schenkman is also author of several books about local and regional history. Please be sure to visit him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Check out his website AJSchenkman.com and his new podcast authorajschenkman.podbean.com.

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.

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

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.