Monday, November 3, 2008
Our final panel will consist of Russel Beatie, Ted Alexander, Bradley Gottfried,Lance Herdegen and Timothy B. Smith. The theme is Lee Invades the North.
Russel Beatie, who is working on a multi-volume history of the Army of the Potomac, will provide an overview and give some context for the two campaigns. Ted Alexander, chief historian at Antietam, will talk about the battle of Antietam. Bradley Gottfried, who has done some wonderful work on Gettysburg including "Brigades of Gettysburg" and "Maps of Gettysburg" will talk about the battle of Gettysburg. Lance Herdegen, a leading authority on the Iron Brigade, will talk about the Iron Brigade's experiences at Antietam and Gettysburg. Timothy B. Smith, who has done much work on the creation of these battlefields into national parks, will talk about the formation of Antietam and Gettysburg and will include the modern efforts to return, primarily, Gettysburg to its war time appearance.
Like last year we will have time for author signing and will have many of the presenters' books for sale. We will also add a panel discussion to end the day's festivities. Last April we did not do this as we wanted to keep things simple for our first time, but now we feel confident enough to try a bit more.
Here is a reading list of what each author has written so that you can become a bit more acquainted with each presenter:
Russel H. Beatie
The Army of the Potomac: Birth of Command, November 1860-September 1861
Army of the Potomac, Volume II: McClellan Takes Command, September 1861-February 1862
Army of the Potomac: McClellan's First Campaign, March - May 1862
Timothy B. Smith:
The Golden Age of Battlefield Preservation: The Decade of the 1890's and the Establishment of America's First Five Military Parks
This Great Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park
The Untold Story of Shiloh: The Battle and the Battlefield
Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862
Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg
The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged by D. W. Reed
Those Damned Black Hats! The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign
The Men Stood Like Iron: How the Iron Brigade Won Its Name
Four Years with the Iron Brigade: The Civil War Journal of William Ray, Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers with Sherry Murphy
In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg with William J.K. Beaudot
Bradley M. Gottfried
The Artillery of Gettysburg
Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg
The Maps of Gettysburg: The Gettysburg Campaign June 3 – July 13
Roads to Gettysburg: Lee's Invasion of the North, 1863
Kearny's Own: The History of the First New Jersey Brigade in the Civil War
Stopping Pickett: The History of the Philadelphia Brigade
The Battle of Gettysburg: A Guided Tour with Edward J. Stackpole, and Wilbur Sturtevant Nye.
Monday, October 13, 2008
If you are a member of the roundtable you have seen that we are doing another symposium. In fact until events prove otherwise this will be an annual event. Last April we had a very good symposium on our first attempt. I've been sending out invitations for a few months now, and having some horrible luck. Last time we got our 5 presenters from 8 invitations, and the 3 rejections were pretty much expected (those were the guys that seem to be booked 2 years in advance). This year the early rejections were again from the previous time's rejections so I wasn't too worried, but then we had a hard time filling the list after that. I was starting to worry, in fact I had come to the opinion that if things were still going as poorly as they were by January 1st that we might have to cancel it completely.
Until this past weekend we had 2 yeses and 8 nos. Friday I sent out a batch of invitations again, giving them until November 1st to respond. I created a secondary list of who to invite on November 2nd and December 2nd if we still didn't have a full slate. If by January 1st we had only added 1 more presenter I was thinking we should pull the plug on this event or try something else entirely.
But Saturday afternoon I checked my email and we had our panel. I'm doing some final touches on the list, just reconfirming with some guys about schedules but it appears that we have our list. When the list in final I will reveal the panel for all, as well as have a reading list. Then we can begin the process of making flyers, registration materials and begin the task of marketing our event.
Our theme for the next symposium will be Lee Invades the North. We will have a presenter for Antietam and Gettysburg. Also one to provide an overview and put the campaigns into some context. We will have one to give a history of an army unit that saw extensive action in both battles. And we'll finish off with one on the history of the parks from the end of the battle to today. The only thing we're changing from last time is that we will have a panel discussion at the end of the day. In retrospect we thought that would have been a nice touch. We weren't 100% sure how to handle it the first time so we didn't do it then, and since it was our first attempt we wanted to keep it as simple as possible.
I know its a long way off but our next symposium will be October 3, 2009. Mark it on your calendars now.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
After the war Grant used his popularity to become President. It was not something he didn’t initially seek but once in office he seemed to enjoy it, as he served two terms and nearly ran for a third. His presidency was marked with scandal but that was mostly because the men who served under him were not trustworthy, there is no indication that Grant was a “dirty” President. He simply made bad choices in the men he delegated power too. He also became bankrupt again as he trusted the wrong men to take care of his personal fortune.
Grant wrote the memoirs so that his family would not be poor. He wrote them with the aid of Samuel Clemens and neither man probably realized the full financial windfall Grant’s family would receive from them, approximately $450,000 in 1885. Some even consider Grant’s memoirs to be a literary masterpiece.
If time allots Richard has also suggested using the extra time to discuss Civil War novelties. Basically anything you've found odd or wanted some clarification on. We can use this time to probe the minds of our esteemed membership.
Richard recommends the following books:
Adams, James Truslow. The March of Democracy. Chapters 3-5.
Wilson, Edmund. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War. Chapter 4
Grant, Ulysses S. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The meeting will be at Bob's house for our customary final meeting dinner. The meeting will start at 6 since dinner is included, made by Bob's wonderful wife, Judy. Email for directions.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
The first meeting for our next symposium will take place this coming Thursday at Ian's house. Email me for directions. By the end of the meeting we need to have decided the following things:
1) Pick a date for the next symposium
2) Pick a topic
3) Have a list of speakers to invite, hopefully with contact information for several of them
4) Figure out what other organizations we want to invite to the event
5) Have a list of things we need to do to make the next event be even better than our inaugural effort.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
From April 18 to April 28, Farragut bombarded the two forts, before finally running thirteen ships passed the forts on April 24th. Once this was accomplished New Orleans fell to Farragut without any more blood shed.
The Confederacy would make a few efforts to recapture New Orleans but none of them had much chance of succeeding. New Orleans would spend the rest of the war occupied by the Union, most notable by Benjamin Butler who earned at least two wonderful nicknames during his time in New Orleans, "Beast" and "Spoons."
This month Ray Polster will discuss this early battle in the Union's effort to control the Mississippi river and to also strengthen the blockade.
Ray suggests the following books:
The Night the War was Lost by Charles L. Dufour
Capture of New Orleans by Chester G Hearn
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Ticket sales 2925
UT CC Sales 623
Cash Sales 1904
book returns 296.19
TOTAL INCOME 5748.19
DIA Hyatt 984.08
Name Tags 16.19
Misc Postage 4.40
Book Invoices 2185.79
Book return shipping 5.54
Tax - Aurora 78.87
Tax - Colorado 61.00
TOTAL EXPENSES 5852.74
We lost money, but not much. After sending out a survey of the membership they overwhelmingly said that they were fine with the roundtable subsidizing the symposium by $104.55. In fact they said we could run a much larger loss, we had nearly as many people who said we could be $1000 in the red as said $500 in the red. We don't intend to ever be that far off budget estimates but it was a nice vote of confidence to receive.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Last year when we did our Grant theme we had to cut a few battles out to fit the theme to a calendar year. One of the battles that lost out was Spotsylvania Court House. Dave Townsend will help fill in that gap at our next meeting. This battle was actually a series of engagement lasting from May 8th to the 21st. Lee’s lines were about four miles long with a salient, dubbed the Mule Shoe, his only weakness.
On May 10th and 12th the Union assaulted this salient, the first time with 12 regiments under Emory Upton and the second time with Hancock’s entire 2nd Corps of 15,000 men. After expelling this force Lee completed a fall back line and the Union took the Mule Shoe for good. In all roughly 10,000 men fell in the fighting in this area.
Grant would try again on May 18th to break Lee’s lines but was again repulsed. This convinced him that the line could not be broken at Spotsylvania and he would have to move around Lee’s right flank once again. The next time they’d meet at the North Anna River.
Total Union losses for the two week battle is usually put at around 18,000 men, though one source claims only 13,000. Confederate losses are widely reported in the 10,000 to 13,000 range. While the losses are huge we also most remember that Lee started the battle with roughly 52,000 men and Grant started with nearly 100,000. This was the beginning of the arithmetic that Lee could not win.
Dave suggests the following books:
Grant and Lee: the Virginia Campaigns 1864-65 by William A Frassanito
The Virginia Campaign 1864 and 1865 by Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys
The Battles for Spotsylvania CH and ... Yellow Tavern by Gordon C. Rhea
Bloody Roads South: May-June 1864 by Noah Andre Trudeau
As always everyone is encouraged to bring in additional items to sweeten the pot. The drawing will take place at 6:45 PM just prior to the new business portion of the meeting. The presentation will begin promptly at 7:00 PM.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Echoes of Thunder: A Guide to the Seven Days Battles by Matt Spruill. Signed by the author. I can have this one personalized too if you'd like. Roundtable price $23, retail $24.95
Winter Lightning: A guide to the Battle of Stones River by Matt Spruill. Signed by the author. I can have this one personalized too if you'd like. Roundtable price $23, retail $24.95
Stones River: Bloody Winter in Tennessee by James Lee McDonough. Signed by the author. Roundtable price $21, retail $23.95
A Southern Boy in Blue: The Memoir of Marcus Woodcock, 9th Kentucky Infantry (USA) by Kenneth Noe. Signed by the author. Roundtable price $15, retail $18
Doctor Quintard, Chaplain C.S.A. and Second Bishop of Tennessee: The Memoir and Civil War Diary of Charles Todd Quintard by Sam Davis Elliott. Signed by the author. Roundtable price $35, retail $42.95
Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg by Timothy B. Smith. Signed by the author. Roundtable price $18, retail $22.95
Memoirs of the Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion by Robert J. Trout. Roundtable price $35, retail $45
Chimborazo: The Confederacy's Largest Hospital by Carol C. Green. Roundtable price $18, retail $22.95
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Our final speaker was Sam Davis Elliott talking about General Alexander P. Stewart, about whom he has written a fine biography. I'll admit I have not read the biography, but I have a copy and will one day soon read it.
Stewart is one of those commanders who have largely been forgotten. This is a bit strange in that he was one of the few a corps commanders in the Army of Tennessee. There are artillery captains in the Army of Northern Virginia that have had more written about them.
One thing I did know about Stewart is that he largely escaped most of the bickering in the Army of Tennessee. While much of the high command was dividing into pro or anti Bragg factions Stewart somehow managed to walk a thin line between both groups.
Sam mentioned that he got the bug to write about Stewart after passing his statue on the courthouse grounds in Chattanooga. Somehow I did not know about this statue, and I've been to Chattanooga a number of times. Next time I'm there I'll make a point of visiting the courthouse to see the statue.
The last time I was in Chattanooga I happened to meet Sam. I had gone back there for a week of wandering and on my last day there I participated in a ranger led hike of the Wauhatchie. As we gathered in the parking lot we introduced ourselves to each other and we finally met in person after exchanging emails over the various message boards we both belong to. The idea of the symposium was in my mind at that time, I think at that point we were still discussing if we though we could pull it off. As we walked up Tyndale Hill the ranger asked if we wanted to do some bushwhacking to the very top (the trail was not officially open yet). I think Sam was the first to speak and his answer was something along the lines of "how else would we spend our time, lets go up there, be among the first to see it." That sort of bushwhacking mentality is the same as our study groups' have and I knew right then that he was one of us. Once we started inviting people to the symposium he was one of the first ones we asked, he cemented it that day on Tyndale Hill. I knew if he had that sort of enthusiasm about bushwhacking to see entrenchments he could easily project that enthusiasm into a talk. And I was right, I really enjoyed the talk and mentally moved the Stewart book to the top of my to-read-list.
Our fourth speaker was fellow round table member Matt Spruill. Even though he's a member he was no slouch when it came to presentations. I've always enjoyed discussing the war with Matt because he offers a perspective from a modern military officer. Also Matt does a good job of giving a balanced view of things. He will not blast a general's decisions without first exploring the position that general was in; what did he know of the situation, what were the options available to him? Then if a general still made a poor decision he will not hold back with his opinion, but he makes you think critically of what options really did face the general in the heat of the moment. The decision might seem bad at first but when you look at all the sides of the issue often times you come away with a greater appreciation of what the general faced and what he finally decided to do. This is what Matt has added to my thinking of the war.
During the symposium Matt presented the battle of Stones River, subject of his most recent battle field guide (and I've reviewed it here previously). Matt had two statements that I thought were interesting and needed more contemplation.
The first was that "successful commanders need to make judgement decisions and take acceptable risks." This goes along with things I've been taught by Matt before but I've never heard him phrase it quite that way. In some ways it seems so simple, the good generals make decisions after weighing the different options, figure out what risks they are willing to take and choose accordingly.
The Stones River statement Matt offered was that Bragg should have weighted his main attack on the left by adding Breckinridge's force behind Cleburne. Bragg would have been taking a gamble that Rosecrans would not attack his weakened right wing but it would have increased the odds of a successful attack by the left wing. We could all debate whether doing so would have been an acceptable risk. I believe that it would be an acceptable risk because if the attack had succeeded the results might have been extraordinary. Rosecrans might have been completely surrounded and forced to fight for his survival, and Bragg might have dealt the major blow that the Confederacy needed in the West to revive its sinking fortunes. As it happened Bragg did not manage the battle well enough to provide a major victory and ended up with a tactical draw and a strategic defeat.
Friday, April 11, 2008
But on a serious note Ken talked about the Perryville campaign. I thought he did a very good job of laying it all out. He got a little into the blow-by-blow stuff but not so much that your head is swimming with details. I especially liked how he detailed the various options available to Bragg at the beginning of the campaign and how the boldest option somehow became the best option. One of his gems of insight was when he said that it impossible to understand the Civil War if you separate the military, political and social elements. That they are all connected, in fact these separate forces are what ends up pushing Bragg to select the option he does select (instead of swinging from Tupelo to Chattanooga and then north into Kentucky, he could have struck Buell between Corinth and Chattanooga or he could have assaulted Corinth directly).
Ken also talked a bit about how weather played such a huge role in this campaign, as well as the other campaigns of 1862 in the West. He said that if he was doing the book now he’d try to explain the toll of drinking very little water (and then having substandard water when it was available) had on the soldiers and animals of both armies.
I’ve read his book, and have tramped those fields. As a sign of how well his talk was received by the rest of the audience, as soon as his talk was over his book sold out from our book room. I was glad to hear about that as I knew it meant we made a good choice in selecting him as a speaker.
A theme that kept popping up during the day was memory, and Perryville is no exception to the memory debate. In Perryville’s case its a matter of how a pretty major battle somehow falls out of the public memory. Perryville started to disappear from the newspapers right away as other events quickly filled the paper, things like the battles of Iuka and Corinth, the fall Congressional elections and the debate of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Then after the war it remained a lesser battle. But the locals have worked hard to protect it. They have done their best to prevent it from being changed, and last week they actually did so again by rejecting a request from a developer to build many homes.
The second speaker of the day was Tim Smith. Not to slight any of our other fine speakers but this was the presenter I was most anxious to see. Tim is a former Shiloh ranger who I’ve bumped into a few times before at the park, I’ve enjoyed all of his books and he was talking about my favorite battle to study. He did not disappoint.
Basically Tim talked about the “battle after the battle,” the historiography of Shiloh. This is the sort of thing I love and I was worried that others might find it not as interesting. But the few people I’ve talked to about this so far liked it, it was not the normal for them. They adapted well to a Shiloh talk that was not about the movements of regiments and batteries.
He laid out that there are four main schools of Shiloh historiography. The first is the veterans school and it started as soon as men had a chance to sit down and talk about what happened that day. This school lasted into the 1890s when the number of veterans dwindled.
The second school began with the formation of the park and the appointment of David W. Reed as the first historian. This is when the first mentions of the Hornets’ Nest emerge at all and it will soon grow to legendary status as, perhaps, the most important part of the battle. Reed’s regiment fought in the Hornets’ Nest which would explain why Reed put more emphasis on this than any previous author. This school dominates current thinking and Tim brought up the story that at the Visitor’s Center are two large maps (made by Reed) that visitors can touch and the spots that Reed emphasized have been touched so often that they have been rubbed off the map. Next time I’m there I’ll be sure to check this out. The spots are Shiloh Church, Pittsburg Landing, the Hornets’ Nest and the Sunken Road.
The third school Tim called the Johnston/Sword school. To this school the death of Johnston was the most important event of the battle. Wiley Sword’s book came out in the 1970s and he recently revised edition spends a great deal of time trying to determine conclusively where Johnston was killed. Long story short, Sword believes its much farther north than where its marked at the park. I’m not convinced and I got the impression that very few others agree with Sword.
The final school would be revisionist. This first appeared in the 1960s with Cunningham’s dissertation but it remained largely unread until recently (in an edited version by Tim and Gary Joiner). The first published book in this school would be Larry Daniel’s. This school is still developing but it is reevaluating the other schools and putting more emphasis on events in other locations, like what Sherman and McClernand accomplished on the Union right.
If I had to guess (and I should have just asked the question but didn’t think of it then) I would say that Tim is of the revisionist school. I think he’s willing to accept parts of Reed and Johnston’s school but feels that their emphasis is not the whole story.
Something else I had never thought about is that the Confederacy was roughly twice the size of the colonies of 1776. One of the reasons the British lost that war was because fighting on that scale is difficult, not only in space but everything that goes along with it (logistics being the major consideration). Of course since then numerous railroads had been built and the river system in the West favored the Union. But even so there was some belief that the size of the project might be enough to prevent the Union from winning.
He also went into Kentucky’s geographic importance. I’ve heard this before, but to paraphrase a Confederate Kentucky makes invasion of the West more difficult because the Ohio River forms a natural defensive line and would prevent the Union from exploiting the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers (at least until they breached the forts that would likely be built at the confluence of each of those with the Ohio.
He also made two statements I found interesting discussion fodder. One is that Shiloh was a “narrow tactical victory with major strategic importance.” I don’t have a problem with that statement at all, I think it fits, but I can see that others might not agree. The other is, “If the Kentucky line [the reality line thru Bowling Green not the imagined line on the Ohio] was intact at the time of Antietam would that battle have as much importance, would Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation?” His point being that nothing about Antietam makes it vastly important than that the Emancipation Proclamation follows. I’m not so sure about this one. I can understand that the situation would then basically be a small Union foothold throughout all theaters but Antietam would still have significance as an invasion turned back. I don’t know if that would be enough of an event for Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, but since he probably still had it in a desk drawer waiting for his moment me might have seized on this event as the big moment again.
The presenters themselves were fantastic. We had selected authors we thought would be good but we truthfully had no idea how well it would turn out. Just because a guy writes a good book does not mean he can speak in front of a crowd. But our guys were a good batch, I’ll post a bit more about each one this week as they all brought up some insights and questions I’d like to share and comment on.
They were also highly complimentary of what we had put together. I’m not sure if they were just being nice but I’d like to believe they were being honest. Down the road we’ll send out surveys to speakers and attendees to gauge reactions to our event, I think then we’ll have a complete picture.
The hall was pretty good sized, I took this first thing in the morning. Eventually we'd fill about half the place. The Community College of Aurora videotaped the first half of the day for their community cable access station, hopefully we'll get a copy of that. I'd love to share it on here or youtube but we'll see if that's possible.
Here is our book room. We had books for all of our presenters. I'd like to thank the University of Tennessee Press, Kentucky University Presss and Savas-Beatie for helping us out with this. The University of Tennessee Press did the most for us as they also sent catalogs, bags, a table cloth, and other promotional materials. We've dealt with them from the very beginning on this, back when it was just a kernel of an idea.
One of our roundtable members, Bob Moulder, set up a display showing a fraction of his impressive collection. My favorite aspect of Bob's collection is that there is a personal story behind each item. He just doesn't have a certain model of sword, he knows who carried it in the war and what happened to him, that's impressive. That's a Bob behind the table, but not Bob Moulder, its his friend and day's assistant Bob Huddleston.