Category Archives: Meeting archive

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

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

Meeting of January 14, 2021

Alice L Baumgartner on “South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War”

The Underground Railroad to the North promised salvation to many American slaves before the Civil War. But thousands of people in the south-central United States escaped slavery not by heading north but by crossing the southern border into Mexico, where slavery was abolished in 1837.

Based on research in twenty-seven archives in three countries, South to Freedom tells the story of why Mexico abolished slavery and how its increasingly radical antislavery policies fueled the sectional crisis in the United States. As enslaved people escaped across the Rio Grande, and the U.S. government failed to secure their return, slaveholders came to believe that their interests would be best protected outside of the Union. Mexico’s laws also had an impact beyond the borderlands. Southern politicians hoped that annexing Texas and invading Mexico in the 1840s would stop runaways and secure slavery’s future. Instead, the seizure of Alta California and Nuevo México upset the delicate political balance between free and slave states.

As U.S. Congressmen debated the status of slavery in the former Mexican territories, Northern Democrats balked at the prospect of reestablishing slavery where it had been prohibited. Abolition in Mexico thus undermined the norm of admitting slavery in southern territories while prohibiting it in northern ones—a norm that had kept sectionalism at bay since the Missouri Compromise.

Alice L. Baumgartner is assistant professor of history at the University of Southern California. She received an MPhil in history from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar, and a PhD in history from Yale University. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

January 2021 Newsletter

Meeting of December 10, 2020

Bob Russo on “The Wounded Knee Massacre”

The Wounded Knee Massacre, often and inaccurately called the Battle of Wounded Knee, was a massacre of several hundred Lakota Sioux people by soldiers of the United States Army. The massacre took place on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

On the tragic morning of the massacre, members of U.S. 7th Cavalry entered the camp to disarm the Lakota. An elderly member of the tribe refused to give up his weapon while others began a tribal dance known as the Ghost Dance. In the struggle a shot was fired and the U.S. army began shooting at the Native Americans with Hotchkiss Guns from a nearby hillside. Lakota warriors fought back, but most had already been disarmed by the Army.

More than 250 Lakota men, women, and children were dead and over 50 others wounded. Other estimates place the number of Lakota dead at over 300. Twenty-five soldiers also died with over 35 wounded. Many Army casualties are thought to be from friendly fire. In a final insult over Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians approved two resolutions denouncing the Medal of Honor awards and urged the U.S. government to rescind Medals.

The massacre ended the Indian Wars but it took forty years of treaty violations, battles, false promises and government intrusions and failures to reach the day of the massacre. In September 2019, after spending about two years reading about the history, Bob Russo, an Old Baldy and Delaware Valley CWRT member visited the site of the massacre with his wife, Carol.

Join Bob for the story of this horrific tragedy and the events that led up to it. Ties to Civil War personalities, a 1980 Supreme Court decision on ownership of the Black Hills and the genocidal words of an author of a book, that later became a historic and well-known motion picture, will be discussed.

December 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of November 12, 2020

Carol Simon Levin on “Reclaiming Our Voice: New Jersey’s Central Role in the Fight for Woman Suffrage”

This is the story of the role of New Jersey women in the long struggle for women’s suffrage.

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, women had the right to vote in only one state, New Jersey, a right they would lose in 1807, and not win back for more than five generations. New Jersey’s role in the struggle to regain that right is largely overlooked.

It is well-known that Elizabeth Cady Stanton proclaimed “all men and women are created equal” at the Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY. Few know that she lived in Tenafly in 1869, when she and Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and wrote the first three volumes of their History of Woman Suffrage.

Hear the stories of these and many other women with Jersey ties – including the Grimke sisters (who spoke out against slavery and for women’s rights from their home in Shrewsbury), Dr. Florence Spearing Randolph (chair of the NJ Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and executive board member on the NJ Woman Suffrage Association), Alice Low Turnbull Hopkins (who threw her considerable support behind Alice Paul’s Washington pickets), and Alice Paul, the dynamo who re-energized the movement for a federal amendment.

Carol Simon Levin is a retired librarian, author, storyteller and program presenter based in Bedminster. In 2016, she wrote a book, “Remembering The Ladies: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candidates,” about amazing American women, which was illustrated by 36 artists. It is an interactive book about lost stories of fascinating and forgotten women in American history. In addition to a coloring page, each entry includes a short biography, a fascinating fact and a quote by the woman. It includes recommendations for further reading for kids, teens, and adults, and suggestions for activities and activism and places to visit.

November 2020 Newsletter