Meeting of May 26, 2020

John Quarstein discusses his book “Big Bethel: The First Battle”.

On June 10, 1861, one of the first military engagements of the American Civil War took place at Big Bethel, Virginia. Confederate troops occupied the area around Big Bethel and Little Bethel Churches from which they would reconnoiter the Union positions around Hampton and Old Point. The Union Army, tired of the incursions, determined to put a stop to them.

John V. Quarstein is an award-winning author, historian and preservationist. He served for 30 years as director of the Virginia War Museum, and is the director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia. Quarstein is the author of 15 books and six PBS documentaries. His books include the Big Bethel: The First Battle (2011) and the Henry Adams prize winning The Monitor Boys: The Crew of the Union’s First Ironclad (2010).

Meeting of May 14, 2020

Drew Gruber on “The Battle of Williamsburg, Forgotten Now and Then”

The Battle of Williamsburg took place on May 5, 1862, in York County, James City County, and Williamsburg, Virginia. It was the first pitched battle of the Peninsula Campaign, in which nearly 41,000 Federals and 32,000 Confederates were engaged, fighting an inconclusive battle that ended with the Confederates continuing their withdrawal. Drew’s presentation describes the battle with specific focus on personal stories and the New Jersey brigade, as well as key factors as to why the battlefield has been largely developed and forgotten.

Drew A. Gruber is the Executive Director of Civil War Trails which connects visitors to over 1200 sites across six states. He is also the acting Director for the Williamsburg Battlefield Association and served a three year term on the Board of Historic Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. A native of Ocean County New Jersey, he lives today in Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife Kate.

May 2020 Newsletter

Special Meeting of April 29, 2020

Ron Kirkwood on “Women at the George Spangler Farm XI Corps Hospital – Battle of Gettysburg”

The United States government wasn’t prepared for the human carnage when two giant armies left behind 20,000 wounded, suffering, maimed and dying Union and Confederate men after the Battle of Gettysburg. As a result, men were dying because of a lack of medical care, food and other essential supplies. And then civilians stepped in, especially women. Learn how women volunteered and played a major role in saving the day and lives at one farm with the online PowerPoint presentation “Women at the George Spangler Farm XI Corps Hospital – Battle of Gettysburg” by author Ron Kirkwood.

Meeting of April 9, 2020

Hampton Newsome on “The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864”

On a cold day in early January 1864, Robert E. Lee wrote to Confederate president Jefferson Davis “The time is at hand when, if an attempt can be made to capture the enemy’s forces at New Berne, it should be done.” Over the next few months, Lee’s dispatch would precipitate a momentous series of events as the Confederates, threatened by a supply crisis and an emerging peace movement, sought to seize Federal bases in eastern North Carolina. This is the story of these operations; the late war Confederate resurgence in the Old North State.

Hampton Newsome is an attorney residing in Arlington, Virginia. He holds a Bachelors in Public Policy from Duke University, a Masters in City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning from the University of Virginia School of Architecture, and his JD from the University of Virginia Law School.

Hampton is the author of Richmond Must Fall, covering the October 1864 Richmond–Petersburg campaign, and was recognized as a best book of 2013 by the Civil War Monitor. His book The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January–May 1864 was recently named as the Best Book of the Year for 2019 by the Civil War Books and Authors blog. He also maintains his own blog entitled “Ransack Garret and Closet.”

April 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of March 12, 2020

Paul Prentiss on “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! – Admiral David Farragut and Battle of Mobile Bay August 5, 1864”

In the spring of 1864 the Southern heartland was still intact from the Shenandoah Valley to the red clay hills of Georgia. Richmond, Atlanta, along with the seaport cities of Mobile, Charleston, and Wilmington were thriving despite the Union Navy blockade. The effects of the Anaconda Strategy were felt but the impact was more an inconvenience than true suffering. West of the Mississippi the situation was very much the same except for New Orleans and a few Union garrisons on the coast. In the North the high hopes that followed victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg were turning into despair. The Northern electorate blamed President Lincoln for the mismanagement of the war and the November elections were looming. If the Confederates could deny the North a major military victory and hold out until the elections, it was a real possibility the South could win the war through a negotiated peace. Also, any Confederate victory could strengthen the northern Peace Democrat candidate George McClellan’s bid for the presidency.

Just how much did the Battle of Mobile Bay affect the national stage at this critical time? Some argue the victory helped Lincoln’s campaign win the presidency while others claim the closure of the port of Mobile hastened the economic defeat of the South and had little actual impact on the election. This presentation will set the scene, discuss major players, critique the strategy and tactics and debate the battle’s impact.

Paul Prentiss is a retired Navy Captain and Chief Scientist for a national science and technology company. The Massachusetts native graduated from the University of Michigan Physics program and Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. While serving in the Navy he was able to visit many worldwide historic sites and tread the ground where extraordinary events unfolded. Paul and his wife Susan live in nearby Marlton, NJ. He is a volunteer STEM mentor, trustee for the Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable of Philadelphia and active member of the Coastal Defense Study Group. His distant cousin, LT Roderick Prentiss, participated in the Battle of Mobile Bay as Executive Officer aboard the USS Monongahela where he was struck by flying splinters caused by cannon fire from Fort Morgan and subsequently died of his wounds.

March 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of February 13, 2020

Michael Wunsch on “Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson & the National Union Party Convention, Baltimore, June 7–8, 1864”

Michael discusses the proceedings and key players of the two-day convention held at the Front Street Theater in Baltimore, including an overview of the National Union Party platform, the re-nomination of President Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln’s role (or non-role) as master ‘wire puller’ behind the decision to replace the sitting vice-president Hannibal Hamlin with lifelong Democrat Andrew Johnson.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Michael has been a resident of Philadelphia since 1966, graduated from La Salle College in 1980, and is employed by a Social Services company in Blue Bell, PA. He has been speaking on Civil War topics since 2002 including ‘Abraham Lincoln & the Great Central Sanitary Fair”, “Philadelphia and the Surrender of Robert E. Lee”, and “The Palmetto Flag, A Secessionist Newspaper in Philadelphia”. Michael is a member of the Delaware Valley CWRT, the GAR Civil War Museum & Library, the Lincoln Forum, and is currently the Corresponding Secretary for the General Meade Society of Philadelphia.

February 2020 Newsletter

Meeting of December 12, 2019

Krista Castillo (via ZOOM) on “The Illustrations of Thomas Nast: Reconstruction, Politics, and Popular Consciousness”

The period of Reconstruction remains a point of contention among scholars, academics, and amateur historians largely due to the biases and opinions passed down through the generations. It is not until we step back and view the period from the context of the time that we can begin to understand the complexity of the issues involved. The illustrations of Thomas Nast, prominently displayed in Harper’s Weekly, reveal popular attitudes towards Reconstruction politics and emerging radical ideologies. In 1864, Nast played a major role in the presidential election. During the turmoil of the Reconstruction period, Nast revealed the corruption of New York City’s Tammany Hall, which led to the toppling of Boss Tweed.

Although Thomas Nast’s reputation as an illustrator, caricaturist and political cartoonist faded into obscurity over the past one hundred years, most Americans easily recognize the symbols he created such as the Democratic Donkey, the Republican Elephant and the most popular representation of Santa Clause. Nast’s deeply rooted convictions and skill transformed his pen into a weapon poised to eradicate injustice, characteristics that remain unmatched in his craft to this day.

Krista Castillo, a native of Northeastern Ohio, came to Fort Negley as the Education Manager in 2008. In 2010, she was promoted to Museum Coordinator and Site Manager. Krista holds degrees from Mount Union College (B.A., History) and Austin Peay State University (M.A., Military History). In addition to completing internships at the William McKinley National Memorial and Museum in Canton, Ohio and at the Don F. Pratt Museum at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Krista’s professional experience includes serving as registrar at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville, Tennessee and as a receptionist at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Krista has served as president of the Nashville Civil War Roundtable since 2009 and as a book reviewer for Civil War News since 2016. In March 2017, she was profiled by the Emerging Civil War blog in honor of Women’s History Month. Krista resides in Clarksville, Tennessee.

December 2019 Newsletter

Meeting of November 14, 2019

Cooper Wingert and Scott Mingus on “Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War”

The Civil War was the first conflict in which railroads played a major role. Although much has been written about their role in general, little has been written about specific lines. The Cumberland Valley Railroad, for example, played an important strategic role by connecting Hagerstown, Maryland to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Its location enhanced its importance during some of the Civil War’s most critical campaigns. Despite the line’s significance to the Union war effort, its remarkable story remains little known.

Scott Mingus, Sr.

Cooper Wingert

Cooper Wingert is the author of 12 books on the American Civil War and slavery, including Slavery and the Underground Railroad in South Central Pennsylvania, Abolitionists of South Central Pennsylvania, The Confederate Approach on Harrisburg: The Gettysburg Campaign’s Northernmost Reaches, and Harrisburg and the Civil War: Defending the Keystone of the Union. He is the recipient of the 2012 Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. Literary Award for Confederate History, and has appeared on C-SPAN Book TV and Pennsylvania Cable Network. He is a student at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pa.

Scott L. Mingus, Sr. is an author, tour guide, multiple award-winning miniature wargamer, patented scientist, and history buff based near York, Pennsylvania.

November 2019 Newsletter