Speaker Archives

September 27, 2017

“Border State Son: Harry S. Truman and the War Between the States”

by David Schafer

During this program, David Schafer will describe what happened to Harry Truman’s ancestors during the Civil War, and how that history influenced young Harry. Truman was a well-read amateur historian of the conflict. You will learn what Truman learned from his study of the Civil War, and how he applied that knowledge to his political career and presidency.

The American Civil War echoed through Harry Truman’s lifetime like the lingering notes of a distant trumpet. For Harry Truman, the war was always there as an ever-present reminder of his border state heritage. President Truman’s ancestors survived the war on the Missouri – Kansas border, but his family—especially his pro-Southern mother and grandmother—harbored grudges for the rest of their lives. Young Harry listened to his ancestors’ war stories and became fascinated with the war. Truman grew up revering Lee and Jackson, but in time came to admire Lincoln and Grant, too. His knowledge of Civil War history influenced his political career and informed some of his presidential decisions. In 1958, the former president helped found the Civil War Round Table of Kansas City and became the organization’s first speaker with his presentation of “An Amateur Historian’s View of the Civil War.”

Dave Schafer grew up in Richmond, Kansas (a small town that is 35 miles south of Lawrence). Beginning in the fourth grade, Dave developed a great interest in the American Civil War.

He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. (Bachelor of Science in Education with a history major and political science minor in 1985 and Master of Arts in History in 1987.)


Dave Schafer began his National Park Service career in 1987 at Fort Scott National Historic Site (NHS) in Kansas. Since then he has worked as a park ranger at other historic sites in Hawaii, Missouri, Texas, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

From 1992 to 1999, he worked as a park ranger at Harry S Truman National Historic Site in Independence, Missouri. During his time there, he led park visitors through President and Mrs. Truman’s home. While researching the history of President Truman, he kept finding references to the president’s interest in the Civil War. That research sparked his interest in the topic that he will present to the Civil War Round Table of St. Louis.

Since July of 2013 he has been serving as chief of interpretation and resource management at Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Texas. He oversees the park rangers providing interpretive programs and tours at the park, primarily at the Texas White House at the LBJ Ranch and the president’s boyhood home in Johnson City.

A list of parks where he has worked (including temporary assignments):

• Fort Scott National Historic Site (NHS) in KS (1987-1992).
• U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, Honolulu, HI (1988).
• Harry S Truman NHS, Independence, MO (1992-1999).
• Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Strong City, KS (1997). Temporary assignment.
• Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Johnson City, TX (1999-2006).
• San Juan NHS, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2006). Temporary assignment.
• Washita Battlefield NHS, Cheyenne, OK (2006-2009).
• Brown v. Board of Education NHS, Topeka, KS (2009 to 2013).
• Nicodemus NHS, Nicodemus, KS (2012-2013). This was a temporary assignment as acting superintendent.
• Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Johnson City, TX (2013 – present).

October 25, 2017

“The Cultural History of Death in America”

by Paula Zalar

This talk and slide presentation traces the evolution of American mourning customs from the Colonial era to the present, and explains what anthropologists have called our “dual response” to death and grieving.  Zalar will explain how the Civil War shattered existing attitudes and behavior, and moved our broken society into new beliefs and practices.

NOTE:  This lecture, detailed and graphic, might be disturbing for some attendees.

Writer/speaker Paula Zalar offers first-person, costumed portrayals of famous Missouri figures, and others notable for their connection to our state’s history.  She has performed for Bellefontaine Cemetery, the Chatillon-Demenil Mansion, The Robert Campbell House Museum, and an array of organizations, groups, and societies.

Zalar grew up in Missouri and Illinois. While researching in Montana for an article on the Blackfeet Indians, she literally bumped into a principal actor from the film, DANCES WITH WOLVES – and from this chance meeting she became a publicist for Native American actors, artists, and musicians.

In her years as a journalist covering Indian country, she’s written about Native America for an array of publications in the United States and abroad.  She’s been a judge for the “Miss Native America” pageant, a speech writer, consultant, and mentor for Native American projects.

An award-winning writer, Zalar is currently editing a novel set in the “Shinin’ Times” of the St. Louis fur trade era.

“For the many years I lived in California I was always eager to return to the Midwest, immerse myself in our state’s rich history.  My family came to Missouri with Nathan Boone and a group of settlers via the Boonslick Trail in 1817.   For my ancestors’ two hundred years of investment in Missouri land and institutions, their time and history here, I consider myself an ‘absolute Missourian.”  I treasure who we are, and where we come from.  I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

November 29, 2017

“Julia Dent Grant and the Importance of Family”

by Pam Sanfilippo

Education Director
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library,
Museum & Boyhood Home

Julia Dent Grant, like her famous husband General and later President Ulysses S. Grant, has been both praised and criticized since her husband rose to fame during the Civil War. She has been credited with keeping him sober and accused of being a Southern sympathizer who owned slaves. Most historians do agree, however, that Ulysses and Julia shared a loving relationship that only ended with his death.

Although Julia Grant wrote her memoirs in the 1890s, they remained in manuscript form until Dr. John Y. Simon received permission from the family to edit and publish them in 1975. They serve as an ideal complement to Grant’s memoirs, providing insight into the personal lives of these two famous individuals.

Historian and educator Pam Sanfilippo will share excerpts from the biography she is currently writing on Julia Dent Grant. Her extensive research brings to light the story of Julia Grant, who was both a woman of her times and an equal partner with her husband.

Pam Sanfilippo earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in American history from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, an M.A. in American history from Washington University in St. Louis, and has completed coursework for a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Pam worked as Historian and Education Director at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site from 1995 until 2014, when she moved to Abilene, Kansas, to become Education Director at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home. Moving from the home of a 19th century general who became president to the home and library of a 20th century general who became president has been a rewarding experience.

She is the author of numerous essays, articles, and publications, including “Eliza Johnson and Julia Dent Grant” in Wiley’s A Guide to First Ladies; “Grant and the Mexican-American War,” in Wiley’s A Guide to Reconstruction Presidents; and “Sunlight & Shadow: Free Space/Slave Space at White Haven,” in Her Past Around Us: Interpreting Sites for Women’s History. She served as Guest Editor for “America’s Civil War: Challenges, Perspectives, Opportunities,” a thematic issue of Cultural Resource Management, and since moving to Kansas wrote “Dreams of a Barefoot Boy,” a series of 16 articles for Newspapers in Education through the Salina Journal and other Kansas newspapers. Her biography of Julia Dent Grant will be published by Southern Illinois University Press as part of the Ulysses S. Grant Association’s World of U. S. Grant series.

January 24, 2018

Railroads During the War of the Rebellion

by Robert J. Amsler, Jr.

This talk will discuss the status of the railroads during the civil war and their use as both strategic and tactical assets.

Robert Amsler is an attorney in St. Louis.  He is the past Commander of the Ulysses S. Grant Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans and Commander of the 2nd Missouri, the Sons of Veterans Reserve Unit. He has worked with the National Park Service at Whitehaven and The Old Courthouse in the past.

February 28, 2018

“Wilson’s Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It”

by William Garrett Piston

Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

Little remembered today outside Missouri, the August 10th Battle of Wilson’s Creek was one of three startling Confederate victories in the summer of 1861, the others being Bull Run/First Manassas in Virginia in July and Lexington, Missouri, in September.  Wilson’s Creek pitted Union forces under Nathaniel Lyon against a unique coalition, Confederates led by Ben McCulloch and Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard, a pro-secessionist militia in a state yet to pass an ordinance of secession.  Occurring when men were rushing to participate, as they expected the conflict end by Christmas, Wilson’s Creek was also notable for the manner in which volunteer troops, North and South, fought to uphold the honor of the communities that had sent them off to war.

William Garrett Piston retired in August 2017 after teaching for twenty-nine years in the Department of History at Missouri State University, where he specialized in the Civil War and American military history.

A native of Tennessee, he received his B.A. and M.A. from Vanderbilt University, and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina.  He is a past president of the Civil War Round Table of the Ozarks and a member of the board of directors of the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation.

He is the author/coauthor of numerous books and articles, including Lee’s Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History; Portraits of Conflict; A Photographic History of Missouri in the Civil War; and Wilson’s Creek; The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It.  He is currently working on a history of Marmaduke’s January 1863 raid from Arkansas into Missouri, which resulted in the battles of Springfield and Hartville.

Copies of Piston’s book Wilson’s Creek; The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It will be available for sale at our February meeting. The proceeds of sales will go to the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation.

March 28, 2018

“The Union Forever: The San Francisco Bay Area and the Civil War”

by John P. Langellier, Ph.D.

As the year 1861 unfolded the United States experienced its gravest crisis.   Factions prepared to resolve their longstanding differences by force, the populations not only of the North and South but also of the West began to take sides. If the country faced its darkest hour in 1861, the coming rebellion not only cast its shadow over the East and South, but also West, particularly in strategically important California.  War clouds especially hovered above San Francisco.  Amidst rumors of secessionist plots to create an independent “Republic of the Pacific,” local Unionist leaders prepared the Bay Area for a Confederate attack.

The next four years would witness a flurry of activity. The history of the Civil War and the Golden Gate is lesser known than the many battles fought east of the Mississippi, yet it is a saga worth telling, and will be the subject of John P. Langellier, Ph.D.’s March 2017 presentation to the St. Louis Civil War Round Table.

John Phillip Langellier received both a BA and an MA in history and historical archeology with an emphasis on the Spanish Borderlands and American West from the University of San Diego He subsequently obtained his PhD from and Kansas State University in military history, with the completion of his dissertation “Bastion by the Bay: San Francisco’s Military Heritage from Presidio to Park.”

His work experience included a dozen years with the United States Army with assignments to the Presidio of San Francisco, U.S. Army Hawaii, U.S. Army Europe, and the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth. Further, he has served as director of Wyoming State Museums, on the core staff that founded the Autry Western Heritage Center, as deputy director of the Reagan Presidential Library, as well as more recently as executive director of Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, and finally as the director of the Arizona Historical Society’s Central division in Tempe until his retirement in 2015 to pursue consulting, public appearances, and full time writing.

Dr. Langellier has published scores of articles and dozens of book with such diverse titles as El Presidio de San Francisco Under Spain and Mexico, Custer: The Man, The Myth, The Movies, and his latest work Fighting for Uncle Sam: Buffalo Soldiers in the Frontier Army. He also has served as a consultant and occasionally as a producer for films and television beginning with Apocalypse Now. He is most proud of three documentaries about blacks in the U.S. Army the most recent of which was For Love of Liberty, hosted by Halle Barry, for PBS.

April 25, 2018

“Dred Scott: the Case for Collusion”

by David T. Hardy, Tucson Attorney

In the judicial field, Dred Scott v. Sandford stands as the prime example of the law of unintended consequences. Chief Justice Taney sought to “stack the deck” in favor of slavery, create a perpetual roadblock to free-soilers and abolitionists, and squelch the rising Republican party. Instead, the decision fatally undercut Stephen Douglas’ campaign, ensured the election of Abraham Lincoln, and brought about the abolition of slavery.

But was this historic ruling the product of the lawyers’ collusion? The defendant, John Sanford, played so little a role in the case that the attorneys and the Court mis-spelled his last name as Sandford. All the evidence indicates that he had no claim to owning Scott; he had long since moved from St. Louis to New York City and become very wealthy there. The person who could assert a claim to Scott and thus should have been sued was his sister, Irene. And Irene had reasons to keep her name out of the case….

David T. Hardy is an attorney in solo practice, Tucson, AZ, and a member of the bar of the Arizona Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court, and a number of federal Circuit and District Courts. He has published five books and 26 law review articles, which have twice been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and by 12 of the 14 U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. One of the articles thus cited is Original Popular Understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment As Reflected in the Print Media of 1866-1868, 30 Whittier L. Rev. 695 (2009). Another article is Dred Scott, John San(d)ford, and the Case for Collusion, 41 Northern Ky L. Rev 37 (2014).

Mr. Hardy’s book I’m from the Government, and I’m Here to Kill You: The True Human Cost of Official Negligence will be released in October 2017.

May 23, 2018

“Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and the Medal of Honor”

by Lance Geiger

Mary Edwards Walker was presented with what has become one of the most controversial Medals of Honor in the history of the award. Mr Geiger will discuss the controversy surrounding her award in the context of her Civil War service, her award nomination, and other medals of the era.”

Lance Geiger is an amateur historian who presents the popular YouTube channel  “The History Guy: Five Minutes of History,” which has over 13000 subscribers.

September 28, 2016

“Myth of the Lost Cause: False Remembrance of the Civil War”

by Ed Bonekemper

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.

Robert E. Lee, general-in-chief CSA. Portrait by Edward Pearce, Artist/Member

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.

October 26, 2016


by 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.

November 30, 2016

“Jesse James Joined a Death Squad:  The Causes and Consequences of Missouri’s War within the Civil War”

by T.J. Stiles

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.

January 25, 2017

“My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love”

by Molly Kodner

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.

February 22, 2017

“On the Altar of the Nation: The aftermath of the Civil War”

by Bonnie Vega

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.

March 22, 2017

“Myths and Facts about Lincoln”

by Curtiss Wittbracht

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.

April 26, 2017

“Weapons of Mass Destruction considered during the Civil War”

by Mark Laubacher

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.

May 24, 2017 Meeting

“Teacher of Civil War Generals”

by Allen Mesch

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.

September 23, 2015

“The Red Battle Shirt of Gen. A. P. Hill”

by Patrick Falci

Actor / Performing Historian

Pat Falci gained fame not only for his role as the General A.P. Hill, from Gettysburg, but also as director/screenwriter Ron Maxwell’s historical advisor for both that movie and Gods and Generals. Pat provided casting director Joy Todd and the actors with photographs and research for both films and even scouted out locations in Maryland and took Maxwell on a Stonewall Jackson tour of Civil War battlefields and other historical sites. Pat, a native of Astoria, served as Jeff Shaara’s historical advisor, providing research and tours of Civil War sites portrayed in his books, and vetted John Jakes’s manuscripts for On Secret Service and Charleston, at its editor’s request.

He has spoken at count less CWRTs throughout the country and has wowed them consistently.  He is the recipient of the CWRT/NY Distinguished  Service Award, the Fort  A.P. Hill Commander’s  Award for Excellence, the  U.S. Army M.D. of Washington, D.C. Commanding General’s Award, the  U.D.C. Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal, and the S.U.V. Commander’s Award for Excellence. In addition to these honors, he has earned a commission of Colonel from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
For 19 years now, Patrick has been the face of General Ambrose Powell Hill. Before that, he was a Civil War re-enactor for another 15 years with the 14th Tennessee Archer’s Brigade, Hill’s Light Division and he has been immersed in the history of the “War Between the States” for even longer.

Ever since the movie Gettysburg, where Patrick created the role of Hill, he has been enlightening the public about “Lee’s Forgotten General.” In fact he joined the Museum of the Confederacy in the unveiling of Hill’s 13th Virginia regimental flag, which he helped raise over $10,000 to restore. Hill’s wife Dolly made the flag, in part from her own wedding dress, and the restoration was a project dear to Patrick’s heart.

It’s the same love of preservation that has prompted a lifetime membership in the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), talks on Civil War subjects  throughout the ountry, and a school program called  “The Life and  Times of the  Civil War Soldier.” He was the first 3-time president of the Civil War Round Table of New York, traveling to places like Richmond where he delivered a speech for the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) on Lee’s Bicentennial, January 19. 2007. You might even have caught him as a keynote speaker at Grant’s Tomb and he is an honorary member of the Virginia SCV.

Ambrose Powell Hill, Jr. (November 9, 1825 – April 2, 1865) was Confederate armygeneral who was killed in the American Civil War.

A native Virginian, Hill was a career United States Army officer who had fought in the Mexican–American War and Seminole Wars prior to joining the Confederacy. After the start of the American Civil War, he gained early fame as the commander of the “Light Division” in the Seven Days Battles and became one of Stonewall Jackson’s ablest subordinates, distinguishing himself in the 1862 battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.

1842: Hill was nominated to enter the United States Military Academy in 1842, in a class that started with 85 cadets.
1861: On March 1, 1861, just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Hill resigned his U.S. Army commission.
1862: He gained early fame as the commander of the “Light Division” in the Seven Days Battles and became one of Stonewall Jackson’s ablest subordinates, distinguishing himself in the 1862 battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.
1862: Hill was promoted to brigadier general on February 26, 1862, and command of a brigade in the (Confederate) Army of the Potomac.
1863: Following Jackson’s death in May 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Hill was promoted to lieutenant general and commanded the Third Corps of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which he led in the Gettysburg Campaign and the fall campaigns of 1863.
1864: His command of the corps in 1864–65 was interrupted on multiple occasions by illness, from which he did not return until just before the end of the war, when he was killed during the Union Army offensive at the Third Battle of Petersburg.

For more sources (Click Here)

October 28, 2015

“He Rode with Custer: Lt. Edward G. Granger”

by Sandy Barnard

In late August 1862, a 19-year-old Detroit youth signed up as a second lieutenant with the 5th Michigan Cavalry. During the next two years, Lt. Edward G. Granger, the subject of Sandy Barnard’s talk, would see action in virtually all of his regiment’s engagements, including such storied fights as Yellow Tavern and Brandy Station. During his last 12 months of service, he served with distinction as a highly valued staff aide to Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer, commanding the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. On Aug. 16, 1864, Granger carried orders from his commander directing the final charge by two of the Brigade’s regiments against the enemy at the Battle of Crooked Run, Front Royal, Va. Unfortunately, riding between the two regiments, Granger went missing at the front. Several months later, it was confirmed that he had been killed in action.

In the wake of Granger’s disappearance, General Custer wrote to his uncle a highly personal, heartfelt letter of condolence that said, in part:

“I sincerely regret even his temporary loss, as no officer of my command has been more faithful and attentive in the discharge of his duties than Lieutenant Granger. In addition to this, the personal relations existing between us from our being members of the same military family, are the most intimate and unreserved. Please convey to Mrs. Granger, to Miss Mollie and to all his relations, my heartfelt sympathy and assure his mother and sister that no effort will be spared by me to learn the exact condition and fate of the son and brother.”

Fortunately, at least 43 letters written by the young soldier to his family members at home in Michigan have survived. They offer considerable insights not only into Army life in camp and on the field of battle, but also uniquely into General Custer himself and his fellow soldiers.

Sandy Barnard, a journalist and non-fiction writer for more than 45 years, specializes in researching the Civil War and the Plains Indian wars. He is especially well-known for his research and writing on the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the career of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, and the men of the 7th U.S. Cavalry who served with him or followed him. Barnard is recognized for his expertise on newspaper reporter Mark H. Kellogg, killed with Custer at the Little Big Horn; First Sgt. John Ryan, a prominent Little Big Horn survivor; and Major Joel H. Elliott, a key 7th Cavalry officer in the 1860s. In the 1980s, Barnard assisted the National Park Service with media relations during archeological projects at then-Custer Battlefield National Monument.

His most recent book is A Hoosier Quaker Goes to War, The Life & Death of Major Joel H. Elliott, published in 2010. His earlier publications include Where Custer Fell, Photographs of the Little Bighorn, a study of historic photographs of the Little Big Horn Battlefield in collaboration with James S. Brust and the late Brian C. Pohanka, published in 2005, and Ten Years with Custer, a 7th Cavalryman’s Memoirs, published in 2002. All three books received the John M. Carroll Book of the Year Award from the Little Big Horn Associates for their respective years of publication. His 1996 biography of 7th U.S. Cavalryman, Custer’s First Sergeant John Ryan, also won the 2012 Jay Smith Award from the Little Big Horn Associates. Perhaps his most popular book remains his third edition of Digging Into Custer’s Last Stand, whose first edition appeared in 1986.

His other books include:

Campaigning with the Irish Brigade: Pvt. John Ryan, 28th Massachusetts;

I Go With Custer, The Life and Death of Reporter Mark Kellogg;

Shovels & Speculation, Archeologists Hunt Custer;

Speaking About Custer.

In early 2016, what will be his 14th book, Photographing Custer’s Battlefield, will be published by the University of Oklahoma Press. A continuation of Where Custer Fell, this book will focus on the 45 years of battlefield photographic work by Kenneth F. Roahen, a U.S. Fish & Game Service agent and a well-known freelance photographer. Currently, Barnard is editing the Civil War letters of Lt. Edward G. Granger, 5th Michigan Cavalry, who served as a staff aide to Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer while he commanded the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. The manuscript is also under contract with the University of Oklahoma Press.

For nearly 25 years, Barnard served as editor of the annual Greasy Grass magazine published by the Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association. A U.S. Army veteran who received the Bronze Star Medal while serving as an intelligence officer in Vietnam in 1968-1969, Barnard holds degrees from Boston College and the University of Missouri School of Journalism. A former newspaper reporter in Missouri and North Carolina as well as a freelance writer, Barnard is a retired journalism professor from Indiana State University. Today, he lives in Wake Forest, N.C., where he operates AST Press and Indianwarbooks.com. He writes and speaks frequently about the Indian wars and Civil War.

For book info (Click Here)

December 2, 2015

“The Battle of Wilson’s Creek”

by Ted Hillmer, Jr.

The November and December meetings are combined because of the holidays

In the early morning hours of August 10, 1861, the rolling hillsides of southwest Missouri echoed with the sounds of fierce combat. When the smoke cleared, almost 2,500 men were killed, wounded, or missing.  The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, the second major battle of the Civil War and the first west of the Mississippi, marked the beginning of four years of invading armies and ruthless guerilla warfare in Missouri.

The talk will center on the activities within the battlefield and a presentation of the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service.

Ted Hillmer, a federal government employee for 38 years with the US National Park Service, is presently Superintendent for Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield located in Republic, Missouri.

January 27, 2016

“Robert C. Wood, Surgeon General of the West”

by Dr. John Fahey

Robert C. Wood is one of the unsung heroes of the Civil War. Son in law of President Zachary Taylor and politically connected in Washington DC, Wood supervised the delivery of combat casualty care support for the entire Western Theater from 1862 through the end of the War. Operating from his office as Assistant Surgeon General in St. Louis, Wood was a tireless advocate for procuring the medical personnel, supplies and equipment critical to supporting Grant and Sherman’s Vicksburg campaigns. Using original correspondence from the National Archives and Library of Congress, the talk will illustrate the difficulties Wood surmounted in coordinating medical support for Grant’s armies in the Western Theater from the summer of 1862 through 1864. The talk will also briefly discuss the relationship between the military medical establishment and the civilian relief organizations such as the Western Sanitary Commission in St Louis.

John Fahey, M.D. is currently in private practice in Decatur Illinois. He retired from the Navy in 2003 after a 30 year career during which time he was the Commanding Officer of the Naval Operational Medicine Institute in Pensacola Florida and the Commanding Officer of the Naval Hospital in Great Lakes Illinois. He has lectured extensively about military medicine in the 19th century and has given talks at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, the Order of Indian Wars Symposium in Denver, and the annual Symposium of the Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association in Montana. He has had articles published in North and South, Military Medicine, and New York History. He is currently at work on a biography of Bernard John Dowling Irwin (1829-1917) who established the first full service field hospital at Shiloh and performed the first action for which a Medal of Honor was awarded.

February 24, 2016

“James Eads and his Gunboats”

by Mrs. Cher Petrovic

Union supporter James Eads, a gunboat builder, made his fortune as a young man by salvaging sunken riverboats along the Mississippi River.  Eads, a self-educated engineer, devised his own diving bell from a 40-gallon whiskey keg, helping him reclaim cargo.  By the time he was 40 years old, he had become a wealthy, prominent St. Louisan.

Soon after war broke out, Eads expressed his concern about the Union’s need for a strong navy presence on the Mississippi River to his friend, Attorney General Edward Bates.  Bates, a fellow St. Louisan, knew of Ead’s river expertise and supported his building a fleet.  He also helped Eads get an audience with Lincoln.

After Eads traveled to Washington to meet with military leaders, the War Department contracted him for seven of what would be called “City Class” gunboats.  With shipyards in Carondelet, Missouri, and Mound City, Illinois, Eads kept 4,000 men working around the clock, seven days a week.  These were the first ironclad warships to be built, four at the Carondelet shipyard and three at Mound City.

Despite disruptions in government cash flow, Eads financed construction with his own funds.

Cher Petrovic is a historian, photographer for national publications and is involved with Civil War reenactments.  She teaches at St. Louis Community College.

March 23, 2016

“Archaeological Discoveries of Missouri Battlefields”

by Douglas D. Scott

The Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi West: Archaeology of the 1861 Battles of Boonville and Wilson’s Creek, the 1862 Battle of Moore’s Mill, and the 1864 Centralia Massacre.

The American Civil War was truly brother against brother, especially in the state of Missouri. There pro-southern Missouri Militia fought Union regulars and volunteers. On 17 June 1861 Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard camped east of Boonville was attacked by General Nathaniel Lyons’ Union forces in the first pitched battle of the Civil War in Missouri. In August Lyons was killed in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. In March 1862 Federal troops pursued Col. Joseph Porter as he attempted to recruit men for the Confederacy in Missouri. Several fights occurred including one at Moore’s Mill in the Kingdom of Calloway. Subsequently 1500 other battles and skirmishes followed in Missouri before the war ended. One of the later and perhaps most horrific fights was the 1864 Centralia Massacre where over 150 Union volunteers were killed by a Bloody Bill Anderson’s Confederate Missouri guerrillas. Recent archaeological and historical studies of the battles of Boonville, Wilson’s Creek, Moore’s Mill, and Centralia have recovered physical evidence supporting the historic records in the broadest sense, but adding considerable detail to the stories by showing there is more than is recorded in the recollections of participants or the official record of events.

Douglas D. Scott, Colorado Mesa University, retired from National Park Service after more than 30 years of with the Department of the Interior. He is currently a Visiting Research Scientist at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, as well as an affiliate of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Dr. Scott received his Ph.D. in 1977 in Anthropology from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has worked throughout the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain West on a variety of archeological projects.  He specializes in nineteenth century military sites archeology and forensic archeology. He is particularly noted for his expertise in battlefield archeology and firearms identification having worked on more than 50 battlefield sites, including Little Bighorn, Sand Creek, Big Hole, Bear Paw, Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, Centralia, and Santiago de Cuba.  He was awarded the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award in 2002 for his innovative research in battlefield archeology that started with his work at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. In 2015 he was the recipient of the J. C. Harrington Medal from the Society for Historical Archaeology for his lifetime achievements in the field of historical archaeology and as a founding leader in the field of conflict and battlefield archaeology.

For more information (Click Here)

April 27, 2016

“The Lincoln-Douglas Debates”

by Timothy Good

Tim is the superintendent of the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.

The Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debates of 1858 marked a significant crossroads in the political career of Abraham Lincoln. Though he lost the United States senate seat for Illinois to Stephen A. Douglas, the debates launched Lincoln into political prominence and eventually contributed to his successful run for the presidency. This program will focus on Lincoln’s political evolution during the debates through a narrative approach, evaluating his debate strategy and seemingly inconsistent views on slavery and racial inequality.

Timothy S. Good, a twenty-five year National Park Service veteran, is currently the superintendent at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, a place which commemorates the life, military career, and presidency of our 18th President. Good began his career in Washington, D.C. serving at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site. He then served a 14-month detail for the NPS Washington Office Information and Telecommunications Division, duty stationed at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., where he helped develop the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, a computerized database of 6.3 million soldier records and several thousand unit histories.  Good then served on the National Mall in Washington, D.C, Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Ill., Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Brecksville, Ohio, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, and the Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska before beginning his current assignment in 2009.

Good graduated from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., with a Bachelor of Arts in American History, attained his Master of Arts in History through the University of Durham, England, and earned a diploma from the United States Naval War College.

He has authored four published books, American Privateers in the War of 1812:
The Vessels and Their Prizes as Recorded in Niles’ Weekly Register (2012), Lincoln for President: An Underdog’s Path to the 1860 Republican Nomination (2009), The Lincoln-Douglas Debates and the Making of a President (2007) and We Saw Lincoln Shot: One Hundred Eyewitness Accounts  (1996).

May 25, 2016

“The Marines at Harper’s Ferry”  

by Will Hutchison

Will Hutchison, U.S. Marines and Army retired, provided leadership for a preeminent Civil War living history unit at Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park.

In October 2009, at Harpers Ferry, Will portrayed a Marine officer leading the U.S. Marines who assaulted the Armory Engine House and captured the Abolitionist John Brown. Will also provided research, recruitment, authentic weapons, uniforms and training for the company.
For many years, Will has been instrumental in developing the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company. A company of active and retired marines, equipped, accoutered and armed with appropriate uniforms, they portray marines of the past to educate the public about the role of the Marine Corps in American History.

Will Hutchison is the award-winning author of the fictional Ian Carlyle series. He is considered a military history authority, and has collaborated on historical films and major historical events. Will is a sought-after international lecturer on the American Civil War and the Crimean War and an exhibitor of his own fine art photography. Outside his professional and writing interests, he is actively involved with the United States Marine Corps Historical Company, many American Civil War historical organizations, and the Crimean War Research Society.

September 24, 2014

“Price’s Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of Missouri (Shades of Blue & Gray)” 

by Dr. Mark A. Lause

Dr. Mark A. Lause, is Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati, and is the author of numerous other books.

Lause’s account of the Missouri Campaign of 1864 brings new understanding of the two distinct phases of the campaign, as based upon declared strategic goals. Additionally, as the author reveals the clear connection between the military campaign and the outcome of the election, he successfully tests the efforts of new military historians to integrate political, economic, social, and cultural history into the study of warfare. In showing how both sides during Sterling’s Raid used self-serving fictions to provide a rationale for their politically motivated brutality and were unwilling to risk defeat, Lause reveals the underlying nature of the American Civil War as a modern war.

In the fall of 1864, during the last brutal months of the Civil War, the Confederates made one final, desperate attempt to rampage through the Shenandoah Valley, Tennessee, and Missouri. Price’s Raid, the common name for the Missouri Campaign led by General Sterling Price, was the last of these attempts. Involving tens of thousands of armed men, the 1864 Missouri Campaign has too long remained unexamined by a book-length modern study but now,  Civil War scholar Mark A. Lause fills this long-standing gap in the literature, providing keen insights on the problems encountered during and the myths propagated about this campaign.

General Sterling Price marched Confederate troops 1,500 miles into Missouri, five times as far as his Union counterparts who met him in the incursion. Along the way, he picked up additional troops; the most exaggerated estimates place Price’s troop numbers at 15,000. The Federal forces initially underestimated the numbers heading for Missouri and then called in troops from Illinois and Kansas, amassing 65,000 to 75,000 troops and militia members. The Union tried to downplay its underestimation of the Confederate build-up of troops by supplanting the term “campaign” with the impromptu “raid.” This term was also used by Confederates to minimize their lack of military success. The Confederates, believing that Missourians wanted liberation from Union forces, had planned a two-phase campaign. They intended not only to disrupt the functioning government through seizure of St. Louis and the capitol Jefferson City but also to restore the pro-secessionist government driven from the state three years before. The primary objective, however, was to change the outcome of the Federal elections that fall, encouraging votes against the Republicans who incorporated ending slavery into the Union war goals. What followed was widespread uncontrolled brutality in the form of guerrilla warfare, which drove support for the Federalists. Missouri joined Kansas in reelecting the Republicans and ensuring the end of slavery.

“Price’s Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of Missouri (Shades of Blue & Gray)” 
by Dr. Mark A. Lause.
Click here

For a complete list of books by Mark A. Lause found at Left Bank Books, (Click here)

Mark Lause

Lause has done extensive work in nineteenth century labor and social history, including numerous articles in academic journals and reference material.  His initial work focused on early printers to discuss the origins of an American labor movement: “Some Degree of Power”: From Hired Hand to Union Craftsman in the Preindustrial American Printing Trades, 1778-1815. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1991) documented the first generation of unionists in that craft.

Lause’s subsequent work has sought new ways of examining and understanding the sectional crisis and the Civil War “from the bottom up.”  He argued for the complexity of the Republican and Unionist coalition—before and after—in Young America: Land, Labor, and the Republican Community (Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 2005) on the antebellum land reform movement and The Civil War’s Last Campaign: James B. Weaver, the Greenback-Labor Party & the Politics of Race & Section (Lanpham, Md.: University Press of America, 2001). His Race & Radicalism in the Union Army (Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009) explores the wartime collaboration of blacks, Indians and whites in the Transmississippi under the leadership of those abolitionists, land reformers, socialists and others who had been associated with John Brown before the Civil War. The Antebellum Political Crisis & the First American Bohemians (Kent, OH:  Kent State University Press, 2009) discusses the cultural impact of escalating sectional and electoral pressures on antebellum radicalism.  His Price’s Lost Campaign: the 1864 Invasion of Missouri (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011) uses social and institutional history to cast light on the neglected Civil War expedition that largely closed the conflict west of the Mississippi River.  A Secret Society History of the Civil War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011) examines the importance of several clandestine, fraternal traditions as a means of understanding how ordinary citizens, including African Americans, struggled to shape their history.

In addition, Lause is completing a monograph on the politics of mid-nineteenth century American spiritualism and finishing a major work on the labor movement during the Civil War, as well as composing a second book on the close of 1864 Missouri campaign.  Afterwards, he aspires to pursue several projects in nineteenth century European and comparative fields.

October 22, 2014

“Lincoln’s Happiest Day” 

by John and Pamela Voehl, 

a one act play of the Lincolns just prior to leaving for Ford’s Theater.

Join President and Mrs. Lincoln and the rest of us for an evening of fun, food and entertainment.  Discover President and Mrs. Lincoln in a setting that most people do not contemplate.

John and Pamela Voehl will perform a short play, Lincoln’s Happiest Day, portraying Abe and Mary Lincoln’s last full conversation on the afternoon of April 14, 1865, just before they leave the White House for Ford’s Theatre.

They have also had a question and answer period following the play.

We know that everyone will find this an interesting way of looking at this couple and the civil war.

December 3, 2014

“Ben Butler in New Orleans”

by Dale Phillips,Historian and Superintendent at Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Dale Phillips, 54, began his Springfield assignment July 18, 2010. He succeeds Jim Sanders, who retired Jan. 1 after 41 years with the National Park Service, including five as site superintendent at the Lincoln Home.

“My area is the Civil War. It’s a period of history that has always interested me, and I’ve been to Springfield many times,” Phillips said.

His 30-year career with the park service has included assignments at the Gettysburg, Fort Sumter and Chickamauga national parks and battlefields. He worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Shelbyville, about 75 miles southeast of Springfield, from 1978 to 1981.

Phillips, a native of New Jersey, said he already has begun to familiarize himself with a series of “Living History” sesquicentennial celebrations that begin this year with the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency.

Annual sesquicentennial programs are planned from 2011, the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, through the 2015 sesquicentennial commemoration of Lincoln’s assassination.

Benjamin F. Butler (1818–1893)

Benjamin F. Butler was a controversial, self-aggrandizing, and colorful politician who served as a Union general during the Civil War. A state senator in Massachusetts, Butler was a delegate to the 1860 Democratic National Convention, where he briefly supported Jefferson Davis. Always popular, he was nevertheless dogged by charges of corruption, abuse of power, and, when he accepted a general officer’s commission from Abraham Lincoln in 1861, incompetence. Even his appearance inspired commentary. A Union staff officer penned in his diary how Butler cut “an astounding figure on a horse! Short, fat, shapeless; no neck, squinting, and very bald headed, and, above all, that singular, half defiant look.” During the Civil War, Butler made substantial contributions to the Union war effort, including a policy that allowed the United States government to skirt the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law by claiming that escaped slaves were “contraband of war.” In this way, he was able to put African American to work on fortifications and helped to pave the way for emancipation. He also served as a military administrator for occupied regions in Virginia and Louisiana—where he was particularly hated—before a lackluster performance as commander.

To read more (click here)

January 28, 2015

“Varina Davis”

by Sandi Swift

St Louis Educator and Living Historian, a first person account.

Sandi Swift has worked in the St. Louis School systems for 16 years, has reenacted for over 25 years and travels throughout the country at Civil War Reenactments.  She is active in the Hibernian organization, currently a Division and State officer.  Sandi serves as President of the Irish Sister Cities Organization and is a board member of the Missouri River Irish Fest, being the chair of the Cultural events and currently their grant writer. Her love of history and remarkable resemblance to Varina Davis sparked her interest in the First Lady of the Confederacy.

Varnia Davis, The First Lady of the Confederacy

Born a Belle on a Southern plantation, Varina was only 17 years old when she captured the heart of Jefferson Davis, an older widower who was taken with her beauty and intelligence. By the time her visit ended two months later Varina and Davis were unofficially engaged. Jefferson Davis had intended to live the life of a planter, but within just a few months of the wedding, he was nominated for a seat in the US House of Representatives.

Long interested in politics, Varina was ideally suited for the life of a politician’s wife.

Learn about Varina’s triumphs and tribulations in this presentation and take a look into the life of a Southern Lady.

Confederate president Jefferson Davis and wife, the former Varina Howell of Natchez, Mississippi, and the following picture of the bridal pair.


Mrs. Davis is on the far right, holding infant.

This is a link to Left Bank Books of St. Louis (a locally owned and operated store) where you can currently purchase this book as an eBook, hard cover, or paperback  (click here)

Here are some links to find out more information about Varina Howell Davis.

Civil War Women Varina Davis (click here).

Scandalous Women – First lady of the Confederacy: Varina Howell Banks (click here).

Wikipedia – Varnia Davis – (Click here).

February 25, 2015

“Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion” 

by Harold Holzer

Author, Lecturer, and Lincoln Scholar.

HAROLD HOLZER is one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. A prolific writer and lecturer, and frequent guest on television, Holzer serves as chairman of The Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, successor organization to the U. S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC), to which he was appointed by President Clinton in 2000, and co-chaired from 2001–2010. President Bush, in turn, awarded Holzer the National Humanities Medal in 2008. And in 2013, he wrote an essay on Lincoln for the official program at the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama. He is serving currently as the first Roger Hertog Fellow at The New York Historical Society.

Harold Holzer’s book —

“Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion”

Won the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.  It is a prize for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln or the American Civil War Era.

Here is a link to the New York Times article (click here)

“Lincoln believed that ‘with public sentiment nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.’ Harold Holzer makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Lincoln’s leadership by showing us how deftly he managed his relations with the press of his day to move public opinion forward to preserve the Union and abolish slavery.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin

From his earliest days, Lincoln devoured newspapers. As he started out in politics he wrote editorials and letters to argue his case. He spoke to the public directly through the press. He even bought a German-language newspaper to appeal to that growing electorate in his state. Lincoln alternately pampered, battled, and manipulated the three most powerful publishers of the day: Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald, and Henry Raymond of the New York Times.

When war broke out and the nation was tearing itself apart, Lincoln authorized the most widespread censorship in the nation’s history, closing down papers that were “disloyal” and even jailing or exiling editors who opposed enlistment or sympathized with secession. The telegraph, the new invention that made instant reporting possible, was moved to the office of Secretary of War Stanton to deny it to unfriendly newsmen.

Holzer shows us an activist Lincoln through journalists who covered him from his start through to the night of his assassination—when one reporter ran to the box where Lincoln was shot and emerged to write the story covered with blood. In a wholly original way, Holzer shows us politicized newspaper editors battling for power, and a masterly president using the press to speak directly to the people and shape the nation.

This is a link to Left Bank Books of St. Louis (a locally owned and operated store) where you can currently purchase this book as an eBook, hard cover, or paperback  (click here)

For a complete list of all of the books by Harold Holzer (click here)

March 25, 2015

“The Confederate’s Fighting Chaplain, Fr. John B. Bannon”

by James Gallen

James Gallen is the Chairman of the Military History Club of the Missouri Athletic Club and a member of the William T. Sherman/Billy Yank Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans.

Father Bannon was a St. Louis pastor and chaplin of the First Confederate Brigade.  President Jefferson Davis appointed him as envoy to Pope Pius IX and the Irish people.  After the Civil War he was a prominent member of the Jesuit community in his native Ireland. His career reflected the deep division in St. Louis, the impact of European attitudes towards the struggle and its lingering effects on the lives of its survivors.

Father John B. Bannon: Confederate Chaplain and Diplomat Published Sunday, January 16, A.D. 2011 | By Donald R. McClarey

There were a great many brave men during the Civil War, but I think it is a safe wager that none were braver than Father John B. Bannon.  Born on January 29, 1829 in Dublin, Ireland, after he was ordained a priest he was sent in 1853 to Missouri to minister to the large Irish population in Saint Louis.  In 1858 he was appointed pastor of St. John’s parish on the west side of the city.  Always energetic and determined, he was instrumental in the construction Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist church.  Out of his hectic schedule he somehow found time to become a chaplain in the Missouri Volunteer Militia and became friends with many soldiers who, unbeknownst to them all, would soon be called on for something other than peaceful militia drills.  In November 1860 he marched with the Washington Blues under the command of Captain Joseph Kelly to defend the state from Jayhawkers from “Bleeding Kansas”.

There were a great many brave men during the Civil War, but I think it is a safe wager that none were braver than Father John B. Bannon.  Born on January 29, 1829 in Dublin, Ireland, after he was ordained a priest he was sent in 1853 to Missouri to minister to the large Irish population in Saint Louis.  In 1858 he was appointed pastor of St. John’s parish on the west side of the city.  Always energetic and determined, he was instrumental in the construction Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist church.  Out of his hectic schedule he somehow found time to become a chaplain in the Missouri Volunteer Militia and became friends with many soldiers who, unbeknownst to them all, would soon be called on for something other than peaceful militia drills.  In November 1860 he marched with the Washington Blues under the command of Captain Joseph Kelly to defend the state from Jayhawkers from “Bleeding Kansas”. – See more at: (Click Here)

April 22, 2015

 “The Murder of Bull Nelson” 

by Rob Girardi

Chicago Homicide Detective, Author, and Historian

On September 29th, 1862, a Union army general literally got away with murder.

At 6-4 and 300 pounds, General William “Bull” Nelson may have been the biggest general in the war. And by all accounts, his foul temper matched his size. The native Kentuckian and prewar naval officer had been promoted to general by President Lincoln, and at this time in 1862 was trying to organize the defenses of Louisville, Kentucky, against a threatened attack by General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army.

Subordinated to Nelson was an equally feisty general, the oddly-named (for a Union general, at least) Jefferson Davis. The two clashed. Nelson criticized Davis for not knowing how many troops he (Davis) commanded – – and on September 22nd, Nelson relieved Davis of his command. Davis seethed over the rebuke, which led to a fatal encounter at the Galt Hotel in Louisville a week later. In front of witnesses, including prominent army officers and politicians, Davis shot and killed Nelson. The motives behind the shooting, and how Davis was never punished for his murder, make for a fascinating look at the interplay of personalities and politics. Among other results, the murder probably kept the Union army from decisively winning the Battle of Perryville a short time later.

On April 22nd, Robert I. Girardi will examine the murder through the lens of 22 years of experience as a homicide detective. Robert Girardi is an author and historian and is a popular speaker and consultant on the American Civil War to audiences of all ages.
Robert earned his M.A. in Public History at Loyola University of Chicago in 1991. He is a past president of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago and a past vice president  and newsletter editor of the Salt Creek Civil War Round Table. He belongs to two other Civil War round tables in the Chicago area. He is a fellow of the Company of Military Historians and is an associate member of the Sons of Union Veterans. He is on the editorial review board of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society and was the guest editor of the 2011-2014 Civil War Sesquicentennial issues. He was the winner of the 2010 Chicago Civil War Round Table’s prestigious Nevins-Freeman Award. In 2012 he was named to the board of directors of the Illinois State Historical Society, and in 2013 joined the board of directors of the Camp Douglas Restoration Society. IN 2014 he was awarded the Milwaukee Civil War Round Table’s Iron Brigade Association Award for Civil War scholarship.

For a complete list of books that Robert Girardi has published and are available locally (click here)

May 27, 2015

Timothy Good, Historian

Superintendent of the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, talking about the fateful night of April 14, 1865. Lincoln, Booth and Ford’s Theater.

September 25, 2013

Ed Bonekemper holds a B.A., cum laude, in American history from Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania and an M.A. in American history from Old Dominion University in Virginia. He also earned a J.D. from Yale Law School. Ed was a Federal Government attorney for 34 years, including 11 years on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard, from which he retired as a commander. He taught maritime and constitutional law at the Coast Guard Academy and military history at Muhlenberg. Ed has been the Book Review Editor of Civil War News since early 2010. For over 15 years, he has been a Civil War speaker at hundreds of Roundtables and numerous other forums, including eight appearances at the Smithsonian Institution.

His five Civil war books are: “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”. His many published articles include: “The Butcher’s Bill: Ulysses S. Grant is often referred to as a ‘butcher,’ but does Robert E. Lee actually deserve that title?”, Civil War Times, April 2011, pp. 36-43; “General Disobedience: ‘Little Mac’ Let John Pope Twist in the Wind,” Civil War Times, December 2010, pp. 32-39, and “Is Grant or Lee Greatest General?”, The Washington Times, March 29, 2008, p. D3.

“Antietam: A Calamity of Errors” will explore the Maryland, or Antietam, Campaign and focus on the deadly Battle of Antietam fought by the armies of Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan. That battle was the deadliest in American military history. Ed will discuss the strategic and tactical errors that placed Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a position in which it should have been destroyed and the offsetting strategic and tactical errors of McClellan that saved Lee’s army from destruction. He will conclude with an explanation of the battle’s ramifications and significance that made it perhaps the most important battle of the Civil War.

October 23, 2013

“The U.S. Marines at the Battle of Bull Run: Emending the Record”

by David M. Sullivan

David M. Sullivan, Fellow of The Company of Military Historians and recipient of its Distinguished Service Award, received his B.A. in Military History from the University of Massachusetts in 1993. Mr. Sullivan is an award winning author with over seventy articles dealing with The United States Marine Corps, the Confederate States Marine Corps, and the Confederate States Navy published in Civil War Times Illustrated and numerous other publications. His fo ur -v ol um e “The United States Marine Corps in the Civil War” (1997-2000) places the Marine Corps in its rightful place beside the most famous units of the American Civil War. “He has produced an encyclopedic yet readable historical account that documents the Marine Corps’ splendid service, dispelling incorrect notions and correcting erroneous assumptions,” noted Foundation President Lt. Gen. Ron Christmas, USMC (Ret.) “…the standard by which all other Civil War accounts must be judged.”

Mr. Sullivan is the co-author of “The Civil War Uniforms of the United States Marine Corps – The Regulations of 1859” (2009). He edited, revised, annotated, and expanded Ralph W. Donnelly’s 1984 version of “Biographical Sketches of the Commissioned Officers of the Confederate States Marine Corps” (2002) and has been the editor of “Military Collector & Historians”, the journal of the Company of Military Historians, from 1999 to the present, and since 2000 has held the position of administrator of that organization. Numerous authors have disparaged the performance of the Marines in the Battle of Bull Run.

December 4, 2013

“Gone with the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema”

by Brian Steel Wills, Ph.D.

When it comes to popular presentations of the American Civil War, few phrases evoke images of that conflict as powerful as “Gone with the Wind”, although that epic motion picture had more to do with the adventures of a young Southern woman than depictions of war-related themes. This difficulty in melding stories with facts has been the dilemma of film regarding historical subjects, with Hollywood frequently turning its focus first to entertainment values and then to the historical foundation or framework. Nevertheless, from the silent era to the present day, motion pictures have provided one means by which people have connected with their past. In the process a rich mosaic of figures has emerged for movie audiences that, in some instances, have become iconic, and the sweep and grandeur of the subject matter has proven particularly well-suited to the big screen of the cinema. In more recent years, subjects have broadened to include other aspects, such as the famed 54th Massachusetts in “Glory”, the smaller-scale drama in backcountry Kentucky of “Pharaoh’s Army”, or the struggle for passage of the 13th Amendment in “Lincoln”.

But, in each instance, the Civil War in cinema has provided at least the introductory platform for learning more about the era’s issues, events and personalities.

Brian Steel Wills is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. He has received various teaching awards and is the author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War including “George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel” (2012); “The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest”; “The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia” (2001); and “Gone with the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema” (2006).

January 22, 2014

“The Big Divide: A Travel Guide to Historic and Civil War Sites in the Missouri-Kansas Border Region”

by Diane Eickhoff and Aaron Barnhart

The Big Divide: A Travel Guide to Historic and Civil War Sites in the Missouri-Kansas Border Region, by Diane Eickhoff and Aaron Barnhart.

Called everything from the country’s “top television critic” (KNX Radio) to “the dean of Leno criticism” (New York Observer), Aaron Barnhart has been on the staff of the Kansas City Star since 1997. His syndicated columns, blog posts, even his tweets are regularly quoted everywhere from the New York Times to Gawker. He is widely regarded as the nation’s leading expert on late-night television. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CBS Radio, and countless NPR and news-talk programs from coast to coast, including Canada.

For 16 years the authors have been driving back and forth across one of the least visible and most contentious borders in American history: the Missouri-Kansas state line.  This boundary — this line in the dirt — once produced the fierce border wars that gave the world John Brown, Jesse James, William Clarke Quantrill and Ride With the Devil. But it also produced Harry Truman, Amelia Earhart, George Washington Carver, and three world-famous painters whose works could not have happened anywhere else.  The Civil War was fought here in the West before it was won in the East. The battles at Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge were crucial to keeping Missouri in the Union. History was made right here, by African American regiments who were seeing combat for the first time in the Civil War (long before the 54th Massachusetts of Glory renown).  Now it’s your turn to discover this remarkable landscape. The Big Divide will take you to the most compelling and unique sites where history happened along this turbulent border. Diane and Aaron — she’s a historian, he’s a journalist — can tell you why these sites mattered and make it easy for you to put together a themed driving tour to your tastes. If you’ve got kids, they’ve got you covered, too.

The web site is www.TheBigDivide.com

February 26, 2014

Custer historians Father Vince Heier (left) and Gregory J. W. Urwin (right) author of: Custer victorious: the Civil War battles of General George Armstrong Custer

“Not the Best General, But Certainly the Best Man: A Curious Event in Custer’s Civil War Career (Among Others)”

by Round Table Member Reverend Vincent A. Heier

George Armstrong Custer is known primarily for his tragic defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Civil War students will recognize him as one of the most effective Cavalry commanders in that war. But can we separate the legend from the man? This presentation will focus upon an incident between Lt. Custer and Confederate officer John “Gimlet” Lea. Both had been friends in the Civil War and now will meet again in a most unique situation. The presentation will also relate another later event in General Custer’s Civil War career and finally will offer some of his personal answers to a questionnaire he filled out for a young admirer.

Fr. Vincent Heier is a retired St. Louis priest and longtime member of the Roundtable. he has authored a book on Little Bighorn postcards and contributed to a number of books and articles on all aspects of Custer.

March 26, 2014

“Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral, The Life of Samuel Francis Du Pont”

by Colonel Kevin J Weddle (US ARMY Retired), Professor of Military Theory and Strategy US Army War College

Kevin J. Weddle, Ph.D.,
COL(Ret), US Army

Professor of Military Theory and Strategy

Department of Distance Education, US Army War College

Once revered as one of the finest officers in the U.S. Navy, Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont is now, when remembered at all, criticized for resisting technological advancement and for half-heartedly leading the disastrous all-ironclad Union naval attack on Charleston.

Although his reputation appeared unshakable after he won the first major Union victory of the Civil War in South Carolina, the failed attack on Charleston brought his career to an abrupt end. Relieved of his command, he was also maligned in the press.

In Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral: The Life of Samuel Francis Du Pont, Kevin J. Weddle challenges this reduction of Du Pont’s legacy, combining new and known sources to uncover a thoroughly modern, though flawed, Du Pont.

Despite the fact that Du Pont’s name has become intertwined with the ironclad due to the catastrophic battle that brought shame on both the man and the machine, Weddle reveals that the admiral was the victim of a double irony: although Du Pont championed technological innovation, he outspokenly opposed the use of the new ironclads to attack Charleston.

Only when his objections were overridden did his use of these modern vessels bring his career to a tragic end. Weddle exposes this historical misunderstanding, while also pinpointing Du Pont’s crucial role in the development of United States naval strategy, his work in modernizing the navy between the Mexican War and the Civil War, and his push for the navy’s technological transition from wood to iron.

In his examination of key documents from Du Pont’s life and career, Weddle unveils the life-long partnership that Du Pont shared with his wife and confidante, Sophie, who served as an immediate counsel to many of his decisions, while also tackling larger historical questions such as civil-military relations, attitudes toward slavery, innovations in military strategy and organization, and the introduction of new military technology in wartime. Both enlightening and moving, Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral will appeal to scholars interested in American, technological, and military history, as well as the general reader interested in the Civil War.

Click here for link to this web site

April 23, 2014

“Guerrillas in Civil War Missouri”

by James W. Erwin

James Erwin, former owner of Main Street Books, signed copies of his new release, Guerrillas in Civil War Missouri (The History Press) at Main Street Books in historic St. Charles, Missouri.

Jim Erwin will speak about Guerillas and Guerilla Hunters in Civil War Missouri. Federal troops fought more than 1,000 engagements with Confederates in Missouri during the Civil War – most of them with guerrillas throughout the state. It was left to the armies in other theaters to provide the dramatic charges and the heroic defenses. In the guerrilla war, a seemingly peaceful countryside could turn into a bloody ambush without warning. Civilians, regardless of their allegiance or attempts to remain neutral, were caught in a war where they had to choose a side.

Mr. Erwin is the author of two books on the subject. Guerrillas in Civil War Missouri tells the stories of guerrillas led by William Quantrill, Bill Anderson, and others (including future Missouri bank and train robbers Jesse and Frank James) who carried on hit-and-run warfare against soldiers and civilians. Guerrilla Hunters in Civil War Missouri covers the Union troops recruited to fight the guerrillas. In over three years of the war, these boys for most were in their teens and early twenties, were engaged in what one of them called “hard service,” and they became hard men. Combat, when it came, was often short, sharp, brutal, and unforgiving. In Missouri neither side showed mercy for defeated foes.

May 28, 2014

“Cinders & Silence: Order No. 11 and Western Missouri’s Burnt District”

by Tom Rafiner, author and storyteller

Tom Rafiner
Author and historian
Parkville, MO

Link to web site – click here

Tom Rafiner is an independent researcher, historian, and author.  Tom grew- up  in Jackson County, Mo. and has western Missouri ancestral roots stretching back to 1831.  During the Border War and through the Civil War his ancestors felt the angst of the fighting and suffered the pain of refugees under Order No. 11.

Since 2003 Tom has devoted his full energy and passion to recovering the Burnt District’s lost history.  By relentlessly pursuing the stories of individual families and communities, he has brought the historical mosaic of Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties into clearer focus.

The commitment to documented detail has carried Tom to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. five times.  His pursuit of first hand stories has led him throughout the Midwest.

A sought after speaker, storyteller, and historian, Tom has appeared on Public Television and, as a historical consultant, provided material to Midwestern newspapers.

In addition to local presentations in over 40 Missouri and Kansas counties, he has been appeared at the Kenosha, Wisconsin Civil War Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the State Historical Society of Missouri, and the Kansas City Public Library’s “Missouri Valley Series.”  Tom has been the keynote speaker at the Missouri state conventions of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of Union Veterans.