Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

Education and Preservation



August 10, 2017 Round Table Meeting: Whitney Snow, “Guntersville’s Teenage Civil War Diarist, Catherine Fennell”

TVCWRT August Presentation 2017


THURSDAY, 10 August 2017will be the next meeting
of the Tennessee Valley Civil War Roundtable!
Elks Club at 5:30 pm.Come have supper with us and socialize before the meeting —“fellowshipping”. If you like Southern food, the Elks have it!
Elks Club at 6:30 pm. Program

SUBJECT: “Guntersville Teenage Civil War Diarist: Catherine Fennell” by Whitney Snow
Catherine Margaret Fennell, born 5 December1842, was the daughter of James and Matilda Fennell who lived near Fort Deposit close to Guntersville, AlabamaHer father was a skilled physician who also owned a large plantation and about seventeen slaves.Though one of ten children, Catherine was sent to Norton’s Boarding School in Washington, D.C.It is there, in 1859, that she began keeping a diary.The first “book,” as she called it, ranged from studies and trips to the White House, Senate, House, and Smithsonian to shopping, gossip, and teenage angst.In many ways, these entries show a child preoccupied with indulgences like bonnets and ice cream, but in others about ill friends and political observations, they depict an observant young woman who was wise beyond her years.

It is the second “book,” however, in which Catherine rapidly transitions from girl to woman as she faces the perplexity and terror brought by the Civil War.The war held many tragedies for Catherine as her home town was destroyed, not once, but twice by the Federals. The lost of her immediate family and home as a result of the war was a microcosm of what many Southerners suffered.

She also provides a detailed description of the war in Guntersville.When the war finally ended, a dejected Catherine wrote until 24 June 1865 and abruptly stopped.On 27 December 1866, she married Andrew Esslingerand later had six sons and one daughter.Sadly, on October 9, 1884, at just 42 years of age, Catherine died of pneumonia.

Come hear the rest of this interesting story by Whitney Snow at the 10 August meeting.

October Campaign Ride

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June LRT Summary: Union Major General William “Old Rosey” Rosecrans

We enjoyed a fine turn-out of the LRT members and invited guests for our June topic:  Union General William Rosecrans…known as “Ole Rosey” to his soldiers.  Bob Hennessee (our Preservation Officer) led the discussion and guided us to consider that Rosecrans may have been unfairly maligned by his fellow generals after the war and especially by the historians of the mid-twentieth century, who minimized his accomplishments while emphasizing the events of the Battle of Chickamauga that caused his defeat and relief from command.


General Rosecrans was a West Pointer who resigned from the Army to pursue opportunities in industry and technology.  He secured a number of patents and had success in the Pennsylvania oil industry, but suffered serious facial burns in a coal-oil lamp experiment.  Rejoining the Army in 1861, Rosecrans had early success as a commander in West Virginia against General Robert E. Lee and became a hero in the Northern press as a result of his victory in the Second Battle of Corinth, Mississippi.  Command of the Army of the Cumberland followed, and Rosecrans seized most of Tennessee for the Union through the Stones River and Tullahoma Campaigns of 1863.  He was even considered as President Lincoln’s running mate for the 1864 “Union Party” (Rosecrans was a ‘War Democrat’).


Bob revealed that Rosecrans’ successes can be attributed to his ability as a careful planner, an innovative logistician, and to his inspiring presence on the battlefield.  However, these early victories also revealed Rosecrans’ faults as a commander:  His outspoken criticism of political and military superiors, his unwillingness to move against the enemy before all logistical arrangements were perfected, his preference for very complicated campaign plans, and his slowness to attack on the battlefield.  Bob also illustrated Rosecrans’ poor man-management skills (favoritism, publicly humiliating errant subordinates, even religious bigotry) and his habit of jumping his own chain of command to give orders to very junior commanders, often further confusing his subordinates during battle.  A good deal of discussion, focused by our medical experts, Doug Everett and Curtis Adams, on the consequences of Rosecrans’ insomnia and manic-depressive personality traits for his battlefield performance.  By the time of his defeat along Chickamauga Creek, Rosecrans was physically and emotionally used up and had used up the good will of his political and military leaders.


At the end of the evening, the opinion of Rosecrans remained mixed, but Bob had convinced all of the justice done by those recent historical publications that accurately point out his many contributions to the ultimately successful conclusion of the War for Reunion.


–David Lady, RT Secretary

Bicentennial Celebration

We regret to inform you that the TVCWRT “Beer, bourbon, and BBQ” Scheduled for this Saturday, 19 August at the Roundhouse Depot, has been CANCELED. Refunds for purchased tickets will be issued.

Thank you for your support of this event. We apologize for any inconvenience.


Join us on August 19 at the Roundhouse Depot for Beer, Bourbon & BBQ!  This event celebrates the Bi-Centennial of the State of Alabama.

What’s Happening?

BBQ from Doctors BBQ in Grant.  All the sides and fixings to go with it.

Beer tastings from local breweries.  Green Bus, Blue Pants, Straight to Ale are just a few.

Bourbon from Prichards, brining Sweet Lucy.  Local Bourbon Crafter Irons Distillery are lined up now.  More may come.

Musicians playing for your enjoyment:  Old Town Brass, Milltowne, James Smith, Karen Newsum.


Tickets are as follows:

Before August 5:

$40 (must be over 21 and show ID)—you get everything.  Food, beer & bourbon.

$30 (no alcohol and/or under 21) –Food and entertainment

After August 5:

$45 (over 21)

$30 (under 21 or no alcohol)

Day of:  Limited number of walk up $50

Partial proceeds go to Depot Museum restoration.


April LRT: Those political generals, both Yank and Reb

April 27,2017

Those political generals, both Yank and Reb

Presented by David Lady

April Round Table Meeting:Civil War Photography in Alabama

Elks Lodge, 725 Franklin St., SE, Huntsville, AL

April 13, 2017 6:30PM




Frances Osborn Robb has been researching the history of photography in Alabama for more than twenty-five years. A native of Birmingham, she holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College, the University of North Carolina, and Yale University. She has taught at Texas Christian University, the University of North Texas, and the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. She has curated and judges exhibitions, written for scholarly and popular publications, and examined more than 200,000 Alabama photographs. Her book, Shot in Alabama: A History of Photography, 1839-1941, and a List of Photographers, was published in January 2017 by the University of Alabama Press.


Robb’s presentation will discuss photography in Alabama during the Civil War, the subject of a chapter in her new book. Robb will show examples of likenesses, views, and event photographs that were made in Alabama, as well as Alabama-associated photographs that were taken of Alabamians at duty stations or encampments outside the state. These photographs range from images of militia groups organizing for war, likenesses made for military men to leave behind them for their loved ones, encampment photographs, and images that show the context of the war as experienced in Alabama. Program participants may bring original or copy photographs with them for Robb to examine and comment on after her program.

February LRT-Forrest’s operations during the Nashville Campaign

“Remember that this coming Thursday, 23 Feb at 6:30 PM, our Little Round Table will draw on the considerable knowledge and experience of John Scales, who will help us all learn and understand more about the operations of Nathen B. Forrest’s Cavalry ‘Corps’ as it supported the Confederate advance into Middle Tennessee in the winter of 1864.

More generally known as “Hood’s Nashville Campaign,” the Confederate Army of Tennessee began with high but desperate hopes of seizing Nashville, defeating the Federals and moving into Kentucky and even Virginia. Those hopes proved to be unachievable, and  the campaign is now known for the slaughter of the storming Confederates at Franklin and the decisive defeat of Hood’s Army outside of Nashville.

As you check the enclosed sources and ponder John’s study questions…look for displays of Forrest’s leadership and tactical skill throughout the campaign, and consider his overall contribution to whatever success the Confederates had prior to their great defeat. Ask yourselves whether good use was made of his skill and his men’s courage by General Hood.

Should be a good night…and I retract all earlier statements that I made about an Elks Chicken buffet on Thursday night. There is no buffet, although you can order dinner of their usual menu. Consider joining the Elks Burger devotees as early at 5 or 5:30 for good fellowship before we saddle up and draw sabers….I mean, revolvers; we are focusing on Forrest’s cav.”

Four Local History Events


Feb. 28, Tuesday, 4:00, Early Works Museum, 404 Madison Street – Free

Dr. Ed Davis on his new book, Alabama: the Making of an American State

Bridges served as the director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History for thirty years. He has served as president of the Alabama Historical Association, as well as a member of the Alabama Historical Commission, the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame, the Governor’s Mansion Advisory Board, and the Alabama Historical Records Advisory Board.


March 9, Thursday, 6:30 – Elks Lodge, 725 Franklin St., Huntsville – Free

Dr. John Marszalek, “Sherman: Myth and Reality,” Tenn. Valley Civil War Round Table.  Dr. Marszalek is the retired distinguished professor of history at Mississippi State.  This is a return engagement for Dr. Marszalek, who has proven popular with area Civil War buffs.  He serves as the Director of the Mississippi State Distinguished Scholars Program, and is also the Executive Director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant  project at Mississippi State. Over the course of his career, Dr. Marszalek has published more than 150 articles and written or edited 11 books.


March 12, Sunday, 2:00 – HMCP Library, Main Auditorium – Free

Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society general membership meeting

Speaker is John Rankin, local historian and preservationist, who will present an overview of the historical collection of Dr. Frances Cabaniss Roberts, stored at the UAH Salmon Library’s Special Collections archive.  He will also illustrate the process of digitization he uses, and the resultant evolving database developed by Deane Dayton to make the collection searchable on-line.  Upon conclusion, he will list a few of the interesting case examples, allowing for audience selection to see the details of the data — all in a Power Point presentation.  Rankin retired after a 31-year professional engineering and management career with Boeing.


March 22, Noon, Huntsville Country Club – $20 for lunch – Deadline for registering: Mar. 15

Ranee Pruitt Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation in Huntsville & Madison Co.

Keynote speaker: District 3 Senator Arthur Orr, Chairman, Alabama Bicentennial Commission, who will be introduced by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.  This program is open to all area historians, spouses, their friends, and all area elected officials.  For a registration form, contact John Allen via email at, or call 256-539-5287.

February Round Table Meeting-“Lincoln’s Evolving Policy on Slavery” Presented by John Mason

This month, yours truly will be the featured speaker and, as a means of paying tribute to our 16th President during the month of his birth, he will be the subject of my presentation.  I will try to explain Mr. Lincoln’s continuing metamorphosis on the key issue of his time – slavery.  In Bottom Rail on Top: Abraham Lincoln’s Evolving Stance on Slavery, I will use his own words to tell the story that led to his becoming known as the Great Emancipator.  It wasn’t an easy journey for him, and there were many side roads to be explored and bumps to be navigated along the way. 

I hope you will find it both enjoyable and enlightening.



January Little Round Table-Darryl Carpenter Confederate Railroads Part II

Darryl Carpenter will lead the Little Round Table discussion of “Southern Railroads and the Confederate War Effort”

The Civil War is the first war in which railroads were a major factor. In the 1850s there was rapid growth in the railroad industry throughout the United States and 1861, 22,000 miles of track had been laid in the Northern states and 9,500 miles in the South. The great rail centers in the South were Chattanooga, Atlanta, and most important, Richmond. Very little track had yet been laid west of the Mississippi.

Few of the 100 railroads that existed in the South prior to 1861 were more than 100 miles in length. The South had always been less enthusiastic about the railroad industry than the North; its most successful businessmen focused on large market agriculture, and left industrial investment to men from the Northern states. The railroads existed, they believed, solely to get cotton or other crops to the ports. By September 1863, the Southern railroads were in bad shape; for a number of reasons the railroads began to deteriorate very soon after the outbreak of the war with the North. Difficulty of rail movement was often cited as a reason the Confederate armies were so often short of food, fodder, and even ammunition.

Still, the Confederates made imaginative use of the railroads to move entire armies more rapidly to the field of battle, much earlier than the Federals.

Darryl will lead the discussion, but all members are invited to contribute as the LRT concludes our three-month long review of Confederate wartime logistics, which began in November with Emil Posey’s discussion of Confederate Arsenals and Depots.

January Round Table Meeting

Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

“Civil War Alabama”

By Christopher Lyle McIlwain, a distinguished lawyer, Civil War historian, author, and lecturer.

Thursday, January 12, 6:30 p.m.

Elks Lodge, 725 Franklin St., Huntsville

No charge for the program; optional chicken buffet at 5:30 p.m. for $8.95

Visitors welcome.  256-539-5287 for info.

Christopher Lyle McIlwain
Christopher Lyle McIlwain

Christopher Lyle McIlwain will be speaking about Alabama’s role in the Civil War.  Chris’s “Civil War Alabama” is a landmark book that sheds invigorating new light on the causes, the course, and the outcomes in Alabama of the nation’s greatest drama and trauma.  Based on twenty years of exhaustive research that draws on a vast trove of primary sources such as letters, newspapers, and personal journals, he explains how Alabama’s citizens came to take up arms against the federal government.

A fledgling state at only 40 years old, Alabama approached the 1860s with expanding populations of both whites and black slaves.  They were locked together in a powerful yet fragile economic engine that produced and concentrated titanic wealth in the hands of a white elite.  Perceiving themselves trapped between a mass of disenfranchised black slaves and the industrializing and increasingly abolitionist North, white Alabamians were led into secession and war by a charismatic cohort who claimed the imprimatur of biblical scripture, romanticized traditions of chivalry, and the military mantle of the American Revolution.  And yet, Alabama’s citizens were not a monolith of one mind.  Chris dispels the received wisdom of a white citizenry united behind a cadre of patriarchs and patriots.  Providing a fresh and insightful synthesis of military events, economic factors such as inflation and shortages, politics and elections, the pivotal role of the legal profession, and the influence of the press, Chris illuminates the state of white, antebellum Alabamians divided by class, geography, financial interests, and political loyalties.

Chris McIlwain is an attorney in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  He is an avid scholar of Alabama history, including its role in the Civil War.  He has spent the last 25 years researching nineteenth-century Alabama, focusing particularly on law, politics, and the Civil War.  His article “United States District Judge Richard Busteed and the Alabama Klan Trials of 1872” appeared in the Alabama Review.

November Slides

November Slides Download


November Round Table Meeting

TVCWRT topic for November 10, 2017

The Unraveling of a Confederate State:

The Last Year of Civil War Alabama Part 1


By John H. Allen


Originally presented to the Alabama Association of Historians

Jacksonville State University this past February.

November Slides



In the last year of the Civil War, Confederate Alabama was running short of just about everything, and every aspect of life was disintegrating.   Before the conflict finally ended, some 25-percent of Alabama’s white population was receiving some form of relief.  The Southern Cause was dying, as it was said, “by the graduals.”  Nine reasons for the disintegration have been identified and will be presented.

Meanwhile, with disorders occurring everywhere, and Federal armies marching thru the state, the Alabama legislature refused to give the governor control of the militia.  So, Alabama limped toward defeat with thousands of militiamen under the control of neither the governor nor the Confederacy.

Finally, this paper will explore how the much romanticized Southern Cause was, in fact, not supported by great numbers of its citizens in Alabama.


Our speaker is John Allen (Bio)

He was a multiple-award-winning radio and TV reporter when he came to Huntsville 40 years ago to work at WAAY.  Since that time, he has also worked at UAH, Intergraph, and Amana in Fayetteville.

While on the Beautification Board here, he was instrumental in getting ordinances passed that provided a tree ordinance, a tree commission, a city arborist, and landscaping of commercial parking lots and street medians.

John was once president of this Roundtable for five years, during which time, he inaugurated the “Little Roundtable Discussion Group,” now in its sixth year.  He is currently president of the Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society where he recently hosted 100 historians from five surrounding counties for a Bicentennial update.

He is married to Joan, a school teacher, has two grown children and one grandchild.  Here now, speaking on…

The Unraveling of a Confederate State:

The Last Year of Civil War Alabama…

Please welcome John Allen

John H Allen at Shiloh National Battlefield - 2013
John H Allen at Shiloh National Battlefield – 2013

The Yellowhammer War: The Civil War and Reconstruction

The Yellowhammer War: The Civil War and Reconstruction

 Edited by Professor Kenneth W. Noe Ph.D.

Auburn University Alumni Professor and Draughon Professor of Southern History



The Yellowhammer War: The Civil War and Reconstruction
The Yellowhammer War: The Civil War and Reconstruction

Professor Noe is well known to the Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table having presented various topics regarding the war as one of our most notable speakers.

Professor Noe assembled this series of essays by equally notable authors addressing various aspects of the war and Reconstruction in Alabama. The essays cover often neglected fields such as race, religion, women, the home front, and Reconstruction. And, of particular interest this month is the essays written by Sara Woolfolk Wiggins, Terry L. Seip, Michael W. Fitzgerald, Jason J. Battles, and Bertis English, all focused on various aspects of Reconstruction and the civil rights movement.

Free People of Color in Madison County, AL by Nancy Rohr

Free People of Color in Madison County, AL

by Nancy Rohr


Free People of Color in Madison County, AL by Nancy Rohr
Free People of Color in Madison County, AL
by Nancy Rohr

Was it purgatory on earth, neither slave nor equal in the community? Nancy Rohr has documented, through the available records of Alabama and the county, and presented snippets of the life and the time Free African Americans coped in Southern society before and during the Civil War. It is not a novel but for those interested in the social environment of the Old South there are ample storylines to tingle the imagination and reflect on the impact of a deliberately segregated society on a single segment of its population. She outlines the patriotic justification that secured freedom for some slaves, freedom as the reward for loyalty to the master, and other legal methods for slaves to join a free society. The short descriptions of individuals who’s legal documents illustrate a struggle the freed slaves endured to support themselves and their families in a community that, at best, was ambivalent and, at worst, accusatory and violent. And, the primary focus is the Madison County Community.  She illustrates the civil changes that affected the lives of all citizens and presents findings in records where returning to bondage was a better alternative to freedom. It is a documentary illustrating the struggle for equality in a society where the African American is seen but seldom noticed until the fear of insurrection surfaces. Ms. Rohr’s essay is supported by the census of 1830 – 1860;  The Black Huntsville census of 1865; and material found in the Alabama State Assembly (legislature) and Madison County court records. A must for the library of anyone interested in the Old South society.

The Newsletter Editor’s interview with TVCWRT member and author Nancy Rohr.

Editor: Free People of Color is an interesting topic. Why did you choose to research and write about that particular subject?

Ms. Rohr: Curiosity leads a lot of folks astray. There were a couple of   emancipation cases in the Probate Deed books, and I couldn’t understand why. One thing leads to noticing another and then more cases just seemed to appear.

Editor: Recognizing that the topic is not one that most Civil War buffs would necessarily pick up to read, did you find any particular individual that merits additional research and could add more depth to the attitude and disposition of other residents of Madison County?


Ms. Rohr: Originally my work was to be an essay to tie up what I had learned about the real cases that followed at the end of the book. For me the first section was to understand the issues and their importance to real people. The last part, is the “good” stuff – who they were and how the individuals must have gotten through life as I had learned it to be in that very first part.

Of course it will not be of interest for Civil War buffs, and alas, I’m afraid few other folks will care. But how could one ignore, once connections were made to the life of Rachael A. Pauper? (Somewhere today her family must have a real surname.) There were five generations going back to Native Americans in Virginia. That family could account for ancestors’ from1770 and in the legal system of the times for us to read today.

Editor: What would you most like the readers of Free People of Color in Madison County- Alabama to take away from your book?

Ms. Rohr: My goals have always been the same for everything I’ve written – just for a reader to pause and think for one moment on one page, “Gee, I didn’t know that!”

Editor: Many writers find information that is interesting but just doesn’t fit in the outline or storyline of their book. Did something stand out that you just couldn’t include in the text?

Ms. Rohr: No, I was more concerned about all the free people of color I might not have found – yet.

Editor: What is the topic for your next effort?


Ms. Rohr: Next topic? Next topic? One doesn’t know what that is until it’s found!


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