We would like members to take 5 to 6 minutes to describe a book they would like to share with friends and the reason why. We will then allow a minute or two for members to ask questions. It doesn’t have to be a Civil War book but something you think will be of interest to the Round Table members. The meeting will take place on Zoom and be moderated by Paul Prentiss. Hopefully we can have a dozen or so members share their titles.
Please email Paul with your name, book title, author, and a very brief description of the book (no more than two sentences). We will provide the list of books being discussed to the members with the Zoom meeting notice. Paul’s email address can be found in your Membership Roster.
Join Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable at Historic Soldiers Weekend, Saturday, September 26, 2020, 9am–5pm. This year’s event is held at the Air Victory Museum in Lumberton, NJ. Members are invited to donate an hour of your time to help share information at our display table.
Amy Murrell Taylor on “Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps”
The Civil War was just days old when the first enslaved men, women, and children began fleeing their plantations to seek refuge inside the lines of the Union army as it moved deep into the heart of the Confederacy. In the years that followed, hundreds of thousands more followed in a mass exodus from slavery that would destroy the system once and for all. Drawing on an extraordinary survey of slave refugee camps throughout the country, Embattled Freedom reveals as never before the everyday experiences of these refugees from slavery as they made their way through the vast landscape of army-supervised camps that emerged during the war.
Amy Murrell Taylor, Wednesday June 27, 2018, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Mahan
Dr. Taylor’s research focuses on the social and cultural history of the U.S. South in the 19th century. Her latest book, Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps (UNC Press, 2018), has received multiple awards including the Merle Curti Social History Award and the Avery O. Craven Award, both from the Organization of American Historians, as well as the Tom Watson Brown Book Award from the Society of Civil War Historians, and the Nau Book Prize from the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History. It has also been awarded the Frederick Douglass Book Prize given by the Gilder Lehrman Center for for the Study of Slavery, Abolition, and Resistance, Yale University, and was short listed for the Stone Book Award given by the Museum of African American History.
She previously examined families divided by national loyalties in The Divided Family in Civil War America (UNC Press, 2005). Taylor is the co-editor, with Stephen Berry, of the “UnCivil Wars” series with the University of Georgia Press, as well as an editorial advisory board member of the Civil War Monitor magazine and a past member of the board of editors of the Journal of Southern History. She is also involved in a variety of public history and historic preservation projects in central Kentucky.
Kevin M. Levin on “Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth”
More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, scores of websites, articles, and organizations repeat claims that anywhere between 500 and 100,000 free and enslaved African Americans fought willingly as soldiers in the Confederate army. But as Kevin M. Levin argues in this carefully researched book, such claims would have shocked anyone who served in the army during the war itself. Levin explains that imprecise contemporary accounts, poorly understood primary-source material, and other misrepresentations helped fuel the rise of the black Confederate myth.
Kevin M. Levin is a historian and educator based in Boston, Massachusetts, who specializes in the history and memory of the American Civil War. He holds M.A. degrees in Philosophy from the University of Maryland at College Park and in History from the University of Richmond.
Dr. Michael Birkner on “Eisenhower: The Necessary Man”
Dr. Birkner’s presentation focuses on the circumstances surrounding Dwight D. Eisenhower’s decision to run for president in 1952, and how his distinctive style of leadership proved efficacious and popular. Ike went from being ranked 22nd out of 34 American presidents in 1962 by a panel of presidential experts, to 5th out of 44 in 2018.
He will also discuss the history and experiences of the Eisenhowers in Gettysburg, as well as the mission and works of the present-day Eisenhower Society.
Dr. Michael J. Birkner is professor of history at Gettysburg College, and a Trustee of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Society of Gettysburg. His scholarship focuses on aspects of 19th- and 20th-century America. His many books include The Governors of New Jersey: Biographical Essays (2013), McCormick of Rutgers: Scholar, Teacher, Public Historian (2001), an edition of The Papers of Daniel Webster: Correspondence Series (1986), a social history of his home town of Bergenfield, New Jersey (a CHOICE outstanding academic book, 1994), and three edited volumes on President James Buchanan. His latest, co-edited work is entitled The Worlds of James Buchanan and Thaddeus Stevens (2019).
Dr. Birkner is recognized for his work on Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 2018 he led a Gilder-Lehrman summer seminar at American University on Eisenhower’s presidential leadership. He has published a biography of Eisenhower for middle-school students, an illustrated history of the Eisenhowers titled Encounters With Eisenhower (2015), and numerous scholarly and popular articles on aspects of the Eisenhower presidency. From 1998-2016 he collaborated with the Eisenhower National Historic site supervisory historian in running a summer institute for secondary school teachers focused on Eisenhower’s presidency. He consulted on the e-Eisenhower Project of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, and the revamping of the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas, and to the multi-part documentary on Eisenhower’s generalship and presidency produced by Starbright television. He has been an on camera presence both for the Eisenhower documentary segment on the presidential election of 1952, and to the film introducing visitors to James Buchanan’s home, Wheatland, in Lancaster, PA.
Dr. Birkner served twice on the Pulitzer Prize jury for History, the second time in 2006 as jury chair. From 2014-2016 he served as President of the Pennsylvania Historical Association. He received his bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Virginia in American history.
Roseann Bacha-Garza on “The Civil War on the Rio Grande: 1846-1876”
Long known as a place of cross-border intrigue, the Rio Grande’s unique role in the history of the American Civil War has been largely forgotten or overlooked. Few know of the dramatic events that took place here or the complex history of ethnic tensions and international intrigue and the clash of colorful characters that marked the unfolding and aftermath of the Civil War in the Lone Star State.
To understand the American Civil War in Texas also requires an understanding of the history of Mexico. The Civil War on the Rio Grande focuses on the region’s forced annexation from Mexico in 1848 through the Civil War and Reconstruction. In a very real sense, the Lower Rio Grande Valley was a microcosm not only of the United States but also of increasing globalization as revealed by the intersections of races, cultures, economic forces, historical dynamics, and individual destinies.
Roseann Bacha-Garza serves as program manager for the Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools (CHAPS) Program at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She is the coauthor of Blue and Gray on the Border: The Rio Grande Valley Civil War Trail and coeditor of The Native American Peoples of South Texas. She resides in McAllen, Texas.
Richard R. Schaus on “Lee Is Trapped, and Must Be Taken: Eleven Fateful Days After Gettysburg, July 4–14, 1863”
Lee is Trapped, by Thomas J. Ryan and Richard R. Schaus, was the winner of the 2017 Edwin C. Bearss Scholarly Research Award, and the 2019 Hugh G. Earnhart Civil War Scholarship Award from the Mahoning Valley Civil War Round Table. The book focuses on the immediate aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg and addresses how Maj. Gen. George G. Meade organized and motivated his Army of the Potomac in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s mandate to bring about the “literal or substantial destruction” of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s retreating Army of Northern Virginia. As far as the president was concerned, if Meade aggressively pursued and confronted Lee before he could escape across the flooded Potomac River, “the rebellion would be over.”
Richard R. Schaus, Sergeant Major, US Army (Ret.), served on active duty for more than 30 years in a variety of army and joint military intelligence assignments both at home and abroad. Rick is a lifelong student of the Civil War and American military history, and the Gettysburg Campaign in particular.
Bobby Jorgensen on “The Federal Bridging Operation at Fredericksburg”
December 1862 found Union Major General Ambrose Burnside’s winter campaign in Virginia stalled and at risk. Expanding upon a campaign plan he had originally proposed to his predecessor, Burnside had set off on a campaign to outmaneuver the Army of Northern Virginia en route to Richmond. Key to this advance was securing the city of Fredericksburg. Initially Burnside had stolen a march on his adversary and arrived on the outskirts of the city unopposed. However, as November turned to December, logistical delays combined with unfavorable topographic and meteorological conditions to delay Burnside’s army on the northeastern bank of the Rappahannock River while the Army of Northern Virginia began concentrating on the opposite bank and around the city. With the elements of speed and surprise no longer on his side, Burnside began modifying his campaign plan to include a deliberate river crossing onto an enemy held shore where he had previously expected to cross unopposed.
Bobby Jorgensen works in the financial services industry in New York City. Prior to joining the banking world he served as a combat engineer officer in the United States Marine Corps, where he participated in a number of gap crossing operations. He still serves today as a Major in the Marine Corps Reserve.
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).
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.