Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

Education and Preservation


Round Table Meeting

mcilwain tv cwrt jan 2019.pdf

October 11th Round Table Meeting — Atlanta Campaign Logistics

Greg BiggsGreg Biggs, a great friend of the Round Table and a frequent contributor to our understanding of all aspects of the Civil War will be here on Thursday, 11 October. His topic is: “The question was one of supplies” – The Logistics for William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. Greg led us on two tours in as many years focused on the Atlanta Campaign a few years back. There will be some in the audience that will recall the fantastic insight into the campaign. 


Greg Biggs has been a student of military history for over 45 years. His study includes the Spartans through modern times. His Civil War articles have been published in Blue & Gray magazine, Civil War Regiments journal, North-South Trader, Citizen’s Companion and local publications. He also has an essay in the recent book on the Tullahoma Campaign and is working on first-person accounts of that campaign as well as a unit history of the 83rd Illinois Infantry.  Greg is a Civil War flags historian and has consulted with a number of museums and authors and has presented flags programs to the Museum of the Confederacy and the National Civil War Museum among others. He has also assisted the Civil War Trust in securing flags for their website.  Greg lectures across the country on Civil War topics, primarily on flags and the Western Theater and he throws in a little Revolutionary War too. Greg leads tours of the Fort Donelson Campaign, the Tullahoma Campaign, the Atlanta Campaign and where The River Campaigns Began: Cairo, IL to Columbus/Belmont, KY for Civil War groups, individuals and U.S. Army Staff Rides. He is the president of the Clarksville Civil War Roundtable and an officer of the Nashville CWRT. He lives in Clarksville, Tennessee with his wife Karel, a 7th Grade science teacher, and their four cats named for Confederate cavalrymen.


Clio’s Confederates: The Women who gave me my path

On Thursday, September 13, John Sledge presents Clio’s Confederates: The Women who gave me my path. Mr. Sledge’s presentation will focus on his grandmother and aunt on my father’s side, one in Mobile and one in Selma. One was born in 1889, one in 1894, so essentially, they were Victorian Southern women and bona fide steel magnolias as well. They knew people who witnessed the Civil War in Alabama first hand and their magical storytelling ability inspired me to become a historian.

John S. Sledge is senior Architectural Historian for the Mobile Historic Development Commission. He has a BA in History and Spanish from Auburn University and an MA in Historic Preservation from Middle Tennessee State University. He is the author of six books, including The Mobile River, and These Rugged Days: Alabama in the Civil War. His forthcoming title is The Gulf of Mexico: A Maritime History, to be published by the University of South Carolina Press in the fall of 2019.

August 9th Round Table Meeting — Alton Military Prison

Thursday, 9 August; Howard Mann presents “The Alton Military Prison”. Howard G. Mann is currently a member of the Nashville Civil War Round Table. Previously, he was a member and former President of the Kansas City Civil War Roundtable (2000 to 2014) and was a member of the Harrisburg, PA Civil War Roundtable (1992 through 1995).

Howard’s great-grandfather, George Thomas Tracy, was a member of the 3rdKansas Volunteers, Lane’s Kansas Brigade, and the 10thKansas Infantry during the Civil War. Howard speaks on a variety of topics with a focus on his great-grandfather’s regiment as well as topics related to the Trans-Mississippi West in the Civil War.

From January 1864 through August 1864, the 10thKansas Infantry was posted throughout St. Louis and specifically at Alton Military Prison where they guarded Confederate prisoners of war, civilians and federal prisoners at Alton Prison, Gratiot Prison and Myrtle Street Prison. The 10thKansas was seen by the residents of these communities as battle tested veterans having served throughout the 1862 Campaign in Arkansas culminating in the December 7, 1862 battle at Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Their controversial commander, Colonel William Weer, former Attorney General of the Territory of Kansas, was a former resident of Carlinville, Illinois and had ties to the area, although his actions would result in community and military dissention and, ultimately, a court-martial.

While material is plentiful on Alton Military Prison during the Civil War, a book on this topic has never been published. His presentation will shed light on an interesting topic.

“Atlanta Campaign; Peach Tree Creek to the Surrender”, Dr. Stephen Davis

Dr Stephen DavisOn 14 June, Dr. Stephen Davis speaks on the “Atlanta Campaign; Peach Tree Creek to the Surrender”.  Dr. Stephen Davis is no stranger to the TVCWRT and always provides stimulation presentations. A longtime Atlantean, he has been a “Civil Warrior” since the fourth grade.  He attended Emory University and studied under the renowned Civil War historian Bell Wiley. After earning a master’s degree in American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he taught high school, then earned his Ph.D. at Emory, where he concentrated on the theme of the War Between the States in Southern literature. He is the author of more than a hundred articles on the War Between the States. He is the author of a book on the Atlanta Campaign, Atlanta Will Fall: Sherman, John Johnston and the Heavy Yankee Battalions (2001). He served as Book Review Editor for Blue & Gray Magazine from 1984 to 2005 and is the author of more than a hundred articles in such scholarly and popular publications as Civil War Times Illustrated and the Georgia Historical Quarterly.  He is also the author of What the Yankees Did to Us: Sherman’s Bombardment and Wrecking of Atlanta published by Mercer University Press in 2012. In a review in Civil War News, Ted Savas calls this book “by far the most well-researched, thorough, and detailed account ever written about the ‘wrecking’ of Atlanta.”  Dr. Davis served as a speaker and consultant for the television documentary, “When Georgia Howled: Sherman on the March,” a joint production of the Atlanta History Center and Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Dr. Davis writes a regular column, “Critic’s Corner,” on Civil War bibliography, for Civil War News, the monthly newspaper, for which he also serves as Book Review Editor.  He is a frequent and popular speaker to Civil War Round Tables and historical societies. He has spoken on What the Yankees Did to Usto the Civil War Round Tables of Buffalo, New York and Providence, Rhode Island. He has given talks at the annual meeting of the American Civil War Round Table in London (UK). In May 2016, Savas Beatie published a new paperback written by Dr. Davis:  A Long and Bloody Task: The Atlanta Campaign from Dalton through Kennesaw Mountain to the Chattahoochee May 5-July 18, 1864. His companion volume was released early in 2017: All the Fighting They Want: The Atlanta Campaign from Peach Tree Creek to the Surrender July 18-September 2, 1864.  Savas Beatie will release Dr. Davis’ next book, tentatively titled: Spurs Without Greatness: A Study of John B. Hood’s Generalship in 1864 is pending publication.

“The Battle of Port Royal”, Mike Coker

Mike Coker describes the battle of Port Royal; On Nov. 7, 1861, a massive U. S. Naval fleet and U. S. Army expeditionary force sailed into Port Royal Sound, South Carolina defeating the outnumbered and outgunned Confederates defending Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard.  This pivotal battle shaped the direction of the Civil War and had a lasting impact on the postwar period known as Reconstruction.  Using a variety of historic images, this program explores the legacy of this nearly forgotten point in the history of the United States.

A bit about the speaker; As a South Carolina native Michael D. Coker grew up surrounded by history.   Visits to the areas many old homes, battlefields and historic sites convinced him to pursue a career in a field where he could continue to learn more.  From 2000-2009 he served as the curator of the visual materials collection at the South Carolina Historical Society.  During that time he authored numerous articles for “Charleston Magazine” covering various topics of South Carolina history. In 2006 he was a co-author of the S.C. Historical Society publication “Historic South Carolina- A Pictorial History.” In 2008 his first book “Charleston Curiosities: Stories of the Tragic, Heroic and Bizarre” was released, followed by “The Battle of Port Royal” in 2009.   He contributed the essay “The Civil War at Charleston” for The City of Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual.  From 2010-2015 he served as Assistant to the Director at the Old Exchange Building and the Old Slave Mart Museum.  For nearly 20 years he has introduced travelers to his home as licensed tour guide for the City of Charleston. He has been featured on NPR’s “Performance Today” and appeared on the Smithsonian channel. He currently serves as the Executive Director at the Berkeley County Museum located at the Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner.

“How An Irregular Navy Shaped the Entire War”, Kent Wright

Privateers, the “militia of the sea,” initiated by Jefferson Davis alone, jolted the entire world to attention and forced Uncle Sam and John Bull to make instant policy decisions which impacted literally every industrialized nation. Davis’s private sea wolves proved that a real war had started. Their unleashing was the first offensive strategy in the war and the real reason Lincoln declared the blockade. They cleared the way for CS Navy Captains Raphael Semmes, John Maffitt, and others to plunder worldwide legally and spared American-born soldiers and sailors from the gallows. Their work essentially done by early 1862, these experienced Confederate seafarers quickly adapted to blockade running which helped to arm the South well enough to continue fighting. By their precedent-setting action, Queen Victoria’s subjects became blockade runners with virtual immunity from prison. Meanwhile, British shipbuilders and sailors happily sailed high-tech cruisers through the loopholes in British law to put a fearsome fleet into Confederate hands. Not bad work for a little irregular navy.


Kent Wright is a veteran of the nuclear navy and a mechanical engineering graduate of Iowa State University. He combines his lifetime experiences with his passion for history by focusing on the naval operations on river and sea, in home waters and abroad, during the War for Southern Independence. He has, through years of research, uncovered many startling facts which may change your mind about everything you have ever heard about Civil War naval history and a great deal of military history too. Prepare to be surprised as he shares fascinating discoveries and weaves British history into his topic.

March 8th Round Table Meeting: Debbie Watts, “Captain Ryman”

On Thursday, March 8, it will be a special treat for the TVCWRT. An Award-winning actor/playwright/director Tom Dolan and author/musician/educator Debbie Mathis Watts Debbie Wattsportray Music City’s Legend Captain Tom Ryman and Bettie Baugh Ryman in the multi-media musical stage play “The Ryman Diaries”. The play is being staged at various venues, including the downtown Nashville Public Library. Playwright Debbie Watts and veteran actor Tom Dolan are in their fourth year of production with The Ryman Diaries, a stage play depicting the life and adventures of Captain Tom Ryman, the Cumberland River pilot whose fortune helped him to build Nashville’s Gospel Tabernacle, which was later re-named the Ryman Auditorium.  The couple tell of their adventures during the Civil War; Bettie the hero whose family narrowly escaped the Battle of Franklin, and Tom, who relates of his time in captivity with the Union Army.

Debbie will also be promoting the book version which includes the monologues from the play, as well as Bettie Ryman’s recipes.

To read more about their company, Tennessee Stage and Film, and their other plays and productions, go to:  The Ryman Diaries will be performed at the Palace Theatre, Crossville, Tennessee, April 20th and 21st and at the STAAR Theatre in historic Antoinette Hall in Pulaski on August 25th and 26th.

In the fall, The Ryman Diaries will be performed at the Arts Center, Murfreesboro.  Tom and Debbie will debut “From Tennessee, To The White House With Love: Tennessee’s First Ladies,” on April 7th at a free performance at the Metro Library Auditorium, 615 Church St., Nashville, TN.

The play is based on Watts’ book, with additional dialog from Dolan. The actors penned seven original songs for the production. Film clips feature flashbacks of young Bettie and historical stills provided by the Metro Archives. “Both Bettie and Tom had the hearts of musicians, so it was totally fitting that they would play and sing,” said Watts, who worked as a writer-producer at TNN: The Nashville Network. “They were true romantics who laid the musical foundation for Middle Tennessee.”

A veteran educator, professional pianist-vocalist, and author, Watts’ theatrical roles include Mollie in “Mousetrap” and Agnes in “I Do, I Do”. Dolan has received national acclaim starring as Elwood P. Dowd in “Harvey”, Dr. Albert Schweitzer in “Memoirs from Africa”, and Sam Clemens in “Mark Twain Live”.

February 8, 2018 Round Table Meeting: Ed Kennedy, “Horses in the War Between the States”

In 1943, the U.S. Army dismounted its two horse cavalry divisions with their supporting horse-drawn field artillery units. This was in the middle of WWII. Only one year earlier, the 26th U.S. Cavalry had conducted the last combat cavalry charge on horseback on a modern battlefield against the Japanese. It was the “death knoll” that spelled doom for horse-mounted soldiers in the U.S. military. However, a century and a half ago during the War Between the States, horses were the primary means of transportation for cavalry, field artillery, and the thousands of wagons that carried supplies for the armies. Millions of horses and mules were used. Over a million died in service. Just a century ago during WWI, they were a major means of land transportation for the Army. Yet, few people today are very familiar with equines and with the exception of a small percentage who use them for recreation and sport, few have ever had any personal contact with them.

To understand the armies and the war years better, an appreciation of these animals is useful, even necessary. While taking a group of senior officers to the Little Bighorn battlefield several years ago, the program presenter was not surprised when a senior officer, who knew nothing of horses, made the pronouncement that they could literally be treated as one would treat a vehicle when done driving it. His total lack of understanding showed a lack of an ability to critically reason and analyze the actions that occurred in that particular campaign where a number of cavalry horses in Custer’s command died of heat exhaustion on 25 June 1876 — enroute to the battlefield on the Little Bighorn that very day.

How much did equines eat? How much water was required for them to drink daily? How often did they require shoeing? What diseases affect equines? Things that were common knowledge just three generations ago are now a mystery to many but the soldiers 150 years ago depended on this knowledge in order to fight.

Ed Kennedy is a retired infantry officer who taught horsemanship, horsemastership and competed in horse sports for 20 years. A former member of the Fort Benning Hunt and the last surviving Army foxhunt, the Fort Leavenworth Fox Hunt, he has owned a number of horses to include Missouri Foxtrotter, Quarterhorse, Thoroughbred, and Appendix breed horses. He earned his German Rider’s Badge in Bronze in 1993 and has little money left due to horses using most of it.

Please plan to come a few minutes early to the program to take a written quiz on horses in the war. Bring a pencil or pen.

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