2016 - 2017 Campaign
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Wed. Sept. 28, 2016 Meeting

Ed Bonekemper,

"Myth of the Lost Cause: 

False Remembrance of

the Civil War"

The Southern-created Myth of the Lost Cause has long dominated Americans' remembrance of the Civil War, the country's watershed event. In many ways, that Myth has been America's most successful propaganda campaign.


Historian Ed Bonekemper examines the accuracy of the Myth and how it has affected our perception of slavery, states' rights, the nature of the Civil War, and the military performance of Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and James Longstreet. He begins by discussing the nature of slavery in 1860, including whether it was a benign and dying institution.


The heart of his analysis is whether slavery was the primary cause of secession and the Confederacy's creation. He does this by examining Federal protection of slavery, slavery demographics, seceding states' conventions and declarations, their outreach to other slave states, Confederate leaders' statements, and the Confederacy's foreign policy, POW policy and rejection of black soldiers.


Drawing on decades of research, Bonekemper  then discusses other controversial Myth issues, such as whether the South could have won the Civil War, whether Lee was a great general, whether Grant was a mere "butcher" who won by brute force, whether Longstreet lost Gettysburg for Lee, and whether the North won by waging "total war."

Ed Bonekemper earned a B.A., cum laude, in American history from Muhlenberg College, an M.A. in American history from Old Dominion University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.


He is the author of six Civil War books:

The Myth of the Lost Cause: Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won;

Lincoln and Grant: The Westerners Who Won the Civil War;

Grant and Lee: Victorious American and Vanquished Virginian; McClellan and Failure: A Study of Civil War Fear, Incompetence and Worse;

A Victor, Not a Butcher: Ulysses S. Grant’s Overlooked Military Genius, and

How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War.  


Ed is the Book Review Editor of Civil War News and was an adjunct lecturer in military history at Muhlenberg College from 2003 to 2010. He served as a Federal Government attorney for 34 years and is a retired Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.  

Robert E. Lee

Portrait by
Edward Pearce
Wed. Oct. 26, 2016 Meeting

Hilda C. Koontz,



In the early morning hours of April 27, 1865, the steamship Sultana exploded and sank on the Mississippi River seven miles north of Memphis.  To this day, it is still the most costly disaster in U.S. maritime history, yet it receives scant mention in the annals of the Civil War.  

On board the ship that night were nearly 2400 people, mostly Union prisoners of war returning from Andersonville and Cahaba; a mere 600 of them survived.  

This program will introduce you to the ship, the hapless souls that sailed aboard her that night, the heroic and not so heroic acts of the survivors, and the greed, incompetence and mechanical forces that caused her demise. We will also discuss why this tragedy is still buried in American history.

 Ms. Hilda C. Koontz is a writer, editor and former journalist.  She is a frequent speaker for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Washington DC and Frederick MD, for Civil War round tables and historical associations in the mid-Atlantic region, the Chicago Civil War Round table, The Little Big Horn Associates, the “Maryland and the Civil War: A Regional Perspective” conference and for the Road Scholar program. Ms. Koontz is a current Director and Past President of the Gettysburg Civil War Round table, holds an MA from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul MN and a BA from Hood College in Frederick MD.  She is the editor-in-chief of A Sanctuary for the Wounded, The Civil War Hospital at Christ Church, Gettysburg PA and is currently writing a history of one Maryland family’s human contribution to the Civil War. She has been a Civil War re-enactor for over 20 years and resides near Gettysburg PA.

Wed. Nov. 30, 2016 Meeting

T. J. Stiles,

"Jesse James Joined a Death Squad:

 The Causes and Consequences of Missouri's War within the Civil War"

T.J. Stiles discusses why Missouri, a border state that was overwhelmingly pro-Union, suffered the Civil War's most savage guerrilla fighting—far worse than what Custer experienced in Confederate Virginia—and explores its lasting consequences.

T.J. Stiles received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in history for his new book, Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, and the 2010 prize in biography for his previous work, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, which also received the 2009 National Book Award for nonfiction. Trained as a historian at Carleton College and Columbia University, he has written independently about the Civil  War era since he began work on his first book, Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, published in 2002.
Wed. Jan. 25, 2017 Meeting

Molly Kodner,

"My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters 

of Captain James Love"

Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, James E. Love enlisted as a sergeant in the United States Reserve Corps, and left St. Louis with his fellow Union soldiers on June 15, 1861. The following day, James sent the first of many letters home to Eliza Mary “Molly” Wilson, the beloved fiancée he left behind. A prolific writer, James continued to write to her, 160 letters in all, for the duration of his Civil War service. These letters are now part of the Archives at the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis, and the Society published the letters as a book, My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love. Molly Kodner, editor of the book and Archivist at the Missouri Historical Society, will read excerpts from James’s letters regarding his Civil War service and the great love story of James and Molly, which also evolves throughout the letters.



Molly Kodner has lived in St. Louis for her entire life, except for her four years as a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she got a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1997. Following graduation, Molly started as an intern in the Archives department at the Missouri Historical Society. She received her Masters degree in History and Museum Studies from the University of Missouri­-St. Louis in 2001. During her time in graduate school, Molly continued to work in the Archives at the Missouri History Museum, eventually leading to her current position as Archivist.  

            Wed. Feb. 22, 2017 Meeting

Bonnie Vega,

"On the Altar of the Nation: 

The aftermath of the Civil War"

 The Civil War will for the first time in American history create the nation state.  The bodies of the 620,000 - 750,000 men who died in the war lay on the altar of the nation. This conflict had profound effects on the federal government, national politics, Northern economy, changing social and economic structure of the South but the most radical development would be the change in the black experience.  The question has to be asked is “did they die in vain”?  You will make that decision at the end of the presentation.

Bonnie Vega received an undergraduate degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis and has a Masters in Counseling Psychology from St. Louis University.  Ms. Vega has taught Global History at St. Louis University High School and American History and AP US History at Evansville Day School in Evansville, IN.

For the past five years Bonnie has lectured in American History at the Missouri History Museum.  A few of the topics she has covered are a five-part series on the Civil War; programs on George Washington; the history of St. Louis; the history of American slavery; Thomas Jefferson; Prohibition; Manifest Destiny; Religion in America.  She is now doing a 28-part series called “Great Moments in American History” which is the history of the United States from the first inhabitants of North America to the Civil Rights Movement.

Bonnie volunteers at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL and presents lectures to the volunteers on topics relating to Abraham Lincoln.


Wed. March 22, 2017 Meeting
Curtiss Wittbracht,

"Myths and Facts about Lincoln"

Many myths have grown up about Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.  But maybe some of them are true after all!  Mr. Wittbracht will explore some of the lessor known aspects of Lincoln's life involving his loves, his faith, one of his more unusual legal cases, the dual that never occurred and the unknown assassination attempt.


Curtiss Wittbracht, an Illinois native, has been interested in Lincoln since he visited the Lincoln sites as an eighth grader and has been interested in Lincoln ever since.  He has read numerous written works about Lincoln and makes presentations to schools and the general public about Lincoln.

He is our round table's Lincoln scholar and amazes us with the breath and depth of his knowledge on Lincoln, the man and his life.

           Wed. April 26, 2017 Meeting

Mark Laubacher,

"Weapons of Mass Destruction

 considered during the Civil War"


In an effort to bring about resolution to the Civil War, creative suggestions and research was offered by individuals, many of whom were civilians.  Several of such suggestions involved the use of chemical and biological agents as unconventional weapons by both Confederate and Union forces against their adversaries.


The Confederacy considered weaponizing numerous chemicals and biological agents. A Southern civilian offered a detailed plan to take Fort Pickens by the deployment of a poison gas from a balloon.  Another suggested using red pepper and veratria, or hydrocyanic acid and arseniuretted hydrogen in artillery shells.  To combat a tunneling operation by Union forces, Confederate troops created fuse activated sulfur smoke cartridges. Chinese stink balls were considered as an adjunct to break the siege of Petersburg. Chloroform was to be used in a plan to thwart USS Monitor. A plot to sell smallpox contaminated clothing to Union forces was devised by a Southern sympathizer. A high ranking Confederate surgeon suggested the use of potassium cyanide and hydrochloric acid in artillery shells.  A medical doctor from Kentucky schemed to contaminate the New York water supply with strychnine, arsenic, and prussic acid.  This same physician executed a plan to infect the population of major Northern cities and President Lincoln with yellow fever. 


The Union also researched and discussed uses of chemicals on Rebel troops. A New York City schoolteacher thoroughly researched a chlorine ordinance to be contained in an artillery shell. Another idea was to fill a hand-pump fire engine with chloroform for dispersal on troops. A captain proposed using a cacodyl glass grenade for ship-to-ship fighting.  The grenade would also have contained arsenious acid.  In a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, a professor envisioned the combination of hydrochloric and sulfuric acids on Confederate lines.  There were over 1500 different schemes, suggested by Northern citizens, for disposing of CSS Virginia (Merrimac), including a plot to poison the crew. A Wisconsin citizen wrote to the governor, and suggested using kites to drop red pepper over Confederate camps. 


With the exception of the yellow fever scheme, weapons of mass destruction were not sortied as neither President Lincoln nor President Davis gave authorization, as both disapproved of unconventional warfare.  Both feared the negative propaganda, the infuriation of the citizens, and reprisals from irregular warfare.  As a result, on April 24, 1863, President Lincoln issued General Order No. 100, which prohibited the use of poison in any manner.  This presentation, complete with photos and descriptions, will discuss and illustrate the chemical and biological poisons considered by both militaries during the War Between the States.  It is imperative that history shows that such weapons of mass destruction were considered, but not utilized.

Mark Laubacher is a RN and paramedic working as a Certified Specialist in Poison Information since 1992 at the Central Ohio Poison Center located at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio.  Prior to this, he was a full time staff nurse at Children’s Emergency Department for 4 years.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Capital University in 1989.  He is also currently a faculty member for Grant Medical Center Paramedic Program in Columbus, Ohio.  Having delivered over 400 presentations, he routinely presents at the state and national levels on various topics of toxicological emergencies. 


A student of US Civil War history, Mark presented a paper on snake bites to Union and Confederate soldiers at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine Conference in 2013.  He did the same at the Society of Civil War Surgeons Conference in May 2014.  A review of unconventional weapons that were considered during the Civil War was given in New Orleans in September 2014 to the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology. He is active member of the following: 1st Ohio Light Artillery Battery A, Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable, Society of Civil War Surgeons, National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and Society of Civil War Historians.  His publications include:


Laubacher, Mark. "Snake Bit--Perpetuated Error: No Snake Bites to Civil War Soldiers." Blue & Gray Magazine 30, no. 5 (July 2014): 45-52.


Laubacher, Mark. "The First Medical Man aboard USS Monitor," Journal of Civil War Medicine 19, no. 2 (April/May/June 2015): 60-71.

Wed. May 24, 2017 Meeting

Allen Mesch,

"Teacher of Civil War Generals"

From the training field at West Point to the entrenchments at Fort Donelson, Charles Ferguson Smith was the soldier's soldier. The call of duty was a magic sound for which he was always ready to make every sacrifice. He was the very model of a soldier, calm, prudent, self-poised, and bold. During his nearly forty-two year military career, these qualities earned him the respect and admiration of his peers. As both a teacher and role model, he influenced army officers who became generals during the Civil War. However, his story is more than an account of battles fought and victories won. Through his correspondence, we discover a man who combined the qualities of a faithful officer, an excellent disciplinarian, an able commander, and a modest, courteous gentleman.

ALLEN MESCH is an author, educator, and historian. Allen teaches classes on the Civil War at Collin College. He has visited over 132 Civil War sites and shares his over 4,000 photographs through his web site Civil War Journeys (http://www.civil-war-journeys.org). Mr. Mesch writes a Civil War blog called Salient Points (http://salient-points.blogspot.com) and reviews books for theCivil War Courier. Allen earned a masters degree from MIT and his bachelors from Clarkson University. Please see Allen's web site, www.AllenMesch.com, for more information.

For more information on his book click on PDF below.

Join us for a Friendly & Fun Evening of Civil War History!

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We meet at:

2801 Telegraph Road
Mehlville (St Louis), MO 63125

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Doors open at 5:30

Meal served at 6:30

Presentation at 7:30
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