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Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

Education and Preservation

mcilwain tv cwrt jan 2019.pdf

To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862

Although I was unable to attend the special December meeting of the TVCWRT, I was told the topic was well represented and the speaker really understood his topic. For those of you who also were unable to be there, the subject of December’s meeting was the Dunker Church at Sharpsburg, Maryland. Coincidentally, the subject of this review is the Maryland Campaign of 1862 as presented in To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862, a new book by Robert Orrison and Kevin R. Pawlak.

The book is part of the Emerging Civil War Series, from Savas-Beatie Publishers, offering easy-to-read overviews of some of the War’s most important battles and stories. The series received the Army Historical Foundation’s Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award for contributions to the literature on the history of the U.S. Army. More information can be found at www.emergingcivilwar.com. 

To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862, is precisely what the title describes, a guide. It is, in fact, a driving and, occasionally, walking, tour guide of the entire campaign, which lasted from early September to November of that year during which several actions and skirmishes occurred, including, of course, the battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland, along the banks of Antietam Creek. Each chapter focuses on the movements and locations of the Confederate and Federal armies as they moved and counter-moved across western Maryland and northern Virginia that autumn. Although it would be a daunting task to visit and describe every location, the authors have given readers a book that definitely hits the more important ones and even takes them to a few out-of-the-way spots and hidden gems along the way.

Each tour stop or key military action is shown on maps by Hal Jespersen (five driving tour maps and nine troop movement/battle maps) and each chapter is peppered with photographs of key figures, monuments, and locations you will see along the way. Points of interest are described in detail along with an admonition to respect the rights of private homeowners who live in historical structures. Picture captions provide historical and interesting information on the subject. Every point along the trip is provided with turn-by-turn driving directions, typically starting at a visitor center or location important to that chapter’s focus, and each tour stop includes GPS coordinates.

Most of the tour routes follow the actual roads traveled by the opposing armies and you’ll find that the paths of these armies crossed in more than a few places. Accordingly, although a site may be listed in more than one chapter, the point of view is that of the units visiting at the time, so the reader doesn’t get the same information and, possibly, learns something new each time.

Getting back to my introductory paragraph, the Dunker Church at Sharpsburg was, interestingly, mentioned only briefly in the text. First noted in the narrative as the target of General Hooker’s men the morning of September 17, and then in a photo caption, the plateau surrounding the church was said to be “artillery hell” for General Stephen Dill Lee, who had posted 15 guns in the area and lost 85 men from his battalion to the severe fire of the Federal guns pounding his position. Even though it’s not a focal point of the tour, the church was (is) located in the center of many important landmarks familiar to students of the battle including the Cornfield, East Woods, West Woods, and Bloody Lane. 

To Hazard All definitely lives up to its purpose; an easy-to-follow guide to the important, and some “hidden”, sites associated with the Autumn 1862 Maryland Campaign. Scattered across 120 miles of western Maryland, the history and natural beauty of the area cannot be denied. Readers living in the region can use this book as an easy “day-tripping” guide, and for those living farther afield, the text offers readers an introduction to the area’s features. If you decide to visit, To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862, is a great place to start.

 

Reviewed by Lee Hattabaugh

The Million-Dollar Man Who Helped Kill a President

President Lincoln was reviled by many in the Confederacy, being considered the cause of the Civil War and the personification of all the wrongs the North had perpetrated on the South.  As the war ran on, and particularly in its waning days, many concluded that his assassination was warranted.  These feelings came together on the evening of April 14, 1865, when John Wilkes Booth shot the president at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.  Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward had also been targeted that fateful night.  President Lincoln died the next morning.  The would-be assassin targeting VP Johnson lost his nerve, and Seward was only wounded.

Anger and hatred flared in the North, and federal efforts to find and bring the conspirators to justice were intense.  Booth was shot resisting arrest in a barn on Garnett’s Farm in King George County, VA on the morning of April 26, 1865.  In the ensuing days and weeks scores of others were arrested (including co-conspirator David Herold who was with Booth when he was killed.)  Having had the slightest contact with the conspiracy was grounds.  In the end, all were released except for eight.  Of these, each was found guilty of participating in the conspiracy.  Four were executed by hanging, three were given life prison sentences, and one sentenced to six years.

One of those caught up in the sweep was an Alabama firebrand lawyer, George Washington Gayle, former Democratic state legislator and US attorney for the Southern District of Alabama– the “Million-Dollar Man” whose involvement in the assassination Christopher Lyle McIlwain, Sr. studies in this book.  Conventional histories portray Gayle as a tangential figure, certainly sympathetic to efforts to bring President Lincoln down, but not a direct player.  Mr. McIlwain sees Gayle’s role differently – less tangential and more direct.  What was Gayle’s contribution to the assassination of PresidentLincoln? It revolved around his publication in a local newspaper, the Selma Dispatch, in December 1864 a call – an advertisement – for contributions towards raising $1 million (and towards which he contributed the first $1,000) for the express purpose of paying for the assassination of President Lincoln, Vice President Johnson, and Mr. Seward by the following March 1, 1865.  Serious intent?  Did it substantively contribute towards the actual assassination? You must read the book to find that out, but I will saythat Mr. McIlwain provides substantive argument and wellreasoned conclusions.  

This is a substantive yet concise read.  It provides history at the personal level of the growth and development of the Secessionist movement and, ultimately, the assassination plot, principally as that history developed in South Carolina and Alabama, with the focus on Gayle within the pantheon of local politicos and activists all along the way.  Mr. McIlwain’slawyerly experience and training shines through with his meticulous attention to detail and masterful reliance on period newspaper reporting and commentary for flavor and contemporary context.

It eventuated that Gayle was apprehended by federal authorities and held in prison pending trial by military tribunal – a trial that never came.  For various reasons analyzed by Mr. McIlwain, the trial was delayed.  Then, in an interesting turn, President Andrew Johnson authorized his parole from the prison at Fort Pulaski near Savannah, Georgia.  The terms of his parolerequired him to return to Alabama for trial by a civil court rather than a military court (which was falling out of favor as the venue of choice).  President Johnson finally pardoned him in full on April 27, 1867, before the civil trial could be arranged.  It turned out to be quite a ride for Mr. Gayle, and quite a tale described by Mr. McIlwain.  Enjoy!

Christopher Lyle McIlwain, Sr., has been practicing law for more than three decades in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This is the third book Mr. McIlwain has written.  The other two were Civil War Alabama (co-authored with G. Ward Hubbs; Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2016) and 1865 Alabama: From Civil to Uncivil Peace (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2017).  He has also published several articles in a variety of history journals.

Your reviewer is Emil L. Posey, former Vice President of the TVCWRT, now continuing to support by being part of the Stage Crew. His work history spans almost 45 years of military and civilian service to our country.  He retired from NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center on December 27, 2014.  He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland; is a former president of the Huntsville chapter of the National Contract Management Association, and is a life member of the Special Forces Association.  He is also a member of Elks Lodge 1648 (Huntsville, AL) and the Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society.  He is a dedicated bibliophile, and is a (very) armchair political analyst and military enthusiast.

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.

 

The Maps of Fredericksburg: An Atlas of the Fredericksburg Campaign, Including All Cavalry Operations, September 18, 1862 – January 22, 1863

The Maps of Fredericksburg is a very complete exposition of the campaign leading from Antietam (September 1862) to the Mud March (January 1863). It is also a detailed hour-by-hour and event-by-event discussion of the actual battle at Fredericksburg in early December. Laid out in a very user-friendly format of a map on the right-hand side and facing page text explaining the map, the book serves as a useful and insightful guide to not only the battle itself but also as to why the battle took place when and where it did. Author Bradley Gottfried has written five other books documenting the campaign in the East and his experience shows on every page.

There are a few flaws. A number of misprints are present throughout the book, most in the text but a few on the maps as well. Many of the maps used the same “base map” and there are instances of icons from one illustration not being erased before the base was utilized for another map. There are also several instances of the “north-indicating arrow” not actually pointing north, which can cause some disorientation if the reader is not careful. However, as long as you are aware of these, the book offers what I would consider an indispensable guide for those who wish to study the battle in detail or knowledgeably tour it. I highly recommend it on that basis.

 John Scales is a former President of the Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table and continues to lead tours and discussions regarding the Civil War.

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.

September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam

The Dunker Church is no stranger to those familiar with the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862).  Antietam is an iconic battle, known for it being where Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was turned back in its first invasion of the North in a battle that saw the highest number of casualties in a single day in the whole of the war. But how much do you know about the church itself?  In one of the great ironies of the Civil War, “in the middle of this whirlwind of violence stood the small white washed building founded on the principles of peace and dedicated to the brotherhood of all men.“

This is a tight history of a single artifice on a major Civil War battlefield.  Despite its narrow focus, it is an easy and delightfully interesting read.  It describes the spiritual journey of a small German pacifist religious sect — separate in their own trajectory, but part of a much larger historical meme — and how their journey intersected with a violent sweep of history when war overtakes them. Schmidt and Barkley tell their story — who the Dunkers were, how they came to be, and how this small church, caught up in a battle in a war over slavery, both of which (war and slavery) its congregation considered abominations, became one of the three most iconic churches in US military history (the others being the Alamo Mission and the Shiloh Meeting House).

It begins with the construction of the church, its layout and furnishings, and typical congregation activities as well as the Brethren themselves.  There is a concise summary of the overall battle (plus an appended more detailed description – a “tactical overview” – of the action immediately around the church), followed by an interesting discussion of local impressions in the days immediately preceding and following the battle, as well as activities in and around the church itself during the battle. It contains interesting vignettes, such as the loss of the Dunker Bible and its return, and the accompanying story of Brother John T. Lewis’s roll in its return.

Schmidt and Barkley don’t stop with the battle’s end.  They go on to tell of the repair of battle damage, the various battlefield markers and memorials, unit reunions, and the church’s ultimate demise in the early 1900s.  Following its collapse during a particularly fierce windstorm in 1923, the battlefield was left with only the church’s foundation until it was rebuilt and rededicated on September 2, 1962, just a few days short of the 100th anniversary of the battle.

Alann Schmidt spent 15 years as a park ranger at Antietam National Battlefield.  Terry Barkley has served as an archivist and museum curator at Bridgewater College in Virginia, a Brethren-related institution.  Together they have produced a marvelous description of this church, its people, and its place in history.  Well written, full of rich detail and visuals throughout, this is a big “little” story of how we, as individuals and institutions, can and do get swept up in events beyond our control and yet somehow endure. Enjoy!

  Your reviewer is Emil L. Posey, former Vice President of the TVCWRT, now continuing to support by being part of the Stage Crew. His work history spans almost 45 years of military and civilian service to our country.  He retired from NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center on December 27, 2014.  He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland; is a former president of the Huntsville chapter of the National Contract Management Association, and is a life member of the Special Forces Association.  He is also a member of Elks Lodge 1648 (Huntsville, AL) and the Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society.  He is a dedicated bibliophile, and is a (very) armchair political analyst and military enthusiast.

Roundtables Teach American Heritage

Begun in Chicago in 1941, “Civil War Round Tables” are historical study organizations that are independent of each other. The name “Round Table” connotes a setting where discussions and presentations occur, not a physical, round table. Organized as IRS 501(c)(3) entities, Round Tables are sited all-around the country by those interested in the study of the American War Between the States. The local “Round Table” is the Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table founded in 1993 and celebrated its 25th anniversary this summer. The purpose of the organization is to provide a forum for nonpartisan study, education and discussions concerning the American War Between the States and to support the preservation of Civil War battlefields with related activities.

Round Table members are a varied lot with professional historians, amateur historians and people who just enjoy history. Members’ backgrounds are varied as well with a mix of blue and white collar workers of all ages. As an example, President Harry Truman was one of the founders of the Kansas City Civil War Round Table because of his personal interest in his family’s participation in the war. In order to encourage membership by younger people in the Tennessee River Valley, special dispensation is granted for dues by high schoolers (free membership).

Monthly programs include presentations by a number of different speakers on a wide variety of topics dealing with the period of 1861-65. It is not all about battles, operations and tactics but presentations cover other issues such as technology, personal biographies of participants and sociological issues. Noted authors and historians frequently travel from around the country to present to the Round Tables.

Every year, the TVCWRT conducts a field trip to historical sites related to the war.  This October, a two-day visit to northern Mississippi will follow the campaigns and battles of Gen. Nathan B. Forrest in the defense of the state in 1864. The visit is based on the recently published book, “The Battles and Campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest 1861-1865” by TVCWRT member (and former president), retired Brig. Gen. John Scales, Ph.D. The trip will allow participants to actually visit a number of battles and engagements sites of the studied period and is open to the public with priority to Round Table members.

Surprisingly, despite decades of existence, there are those who have never heard of Round Tables. For professional military personnel, Round Tables provide a great way to learn military history so applicable to the military profession. In fact, foreign military officers have frequented Round Tables including a visit by an attaché stationed in Washington, D.C., to the TVCWRT. Many foreign military officers see value in studying our “Civil War” and the international officers at the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, all take an elective on the war culminating in a trip to Gettysburg annually.

The war spanned four years, covered thousands of miles of territory, and involved millions of Americans. It remains a significant defining event in our national history.  Hundreds of new books are published each year about the war and the Civil War Round Tables provide a valuable venue through which intellectual knowledge about our American history can be shared. Visitors and guests are always welcome to attend the meetings and hopefully, become members. The TVCWRT meets the second Thursday of every month at the Elks Lodge at 725 Franklin St. in Huntsville.

                                                 

Retired Lt. Col. Ed Kennedy

New Market resident

Alabama and the Civil War: A History Guide

The book should have another subtitle; South of the Tennessee River. But, even as his work minimizes the war in communities north of the Tennessee River it fulfills the subtitle; A History & Guide. The most impressive chapters address manufacturing, prisons, forts, and key players.

Mr. Jones does not divulge the criteria that he used to choose the key players he addresses and it will challenge your imagination why he chose Emma Sansom and completely ignores the first Secretary of War, Leroy Pope Walker. He does address politicians, fire eaters, and Generals, but ignores the home front, bushwhackers and partisans. The value of the narrative is not in the detail but in the timelines that give a perspective on the life and times affecting the key players, logistics facilities, and events.

Mr. Jones narrative will garner interest from some of our most avid Civil War enthusiasts and disappoint others who cherish infinite details. But the descriptions of the war industry in Alabama south of the Tennessee River and the overview of battles perpetrated by Union Army General’s James Wilson and Able Streight, and Union naval officers Rear Admiral David Farragut and the seldom addressed incursion up the Tennessee River to the Shoals in North Alabama by U.S. Navy Lieutenant S.L. Phelps will delight others. Union General’s Ormsby Mitchel’s capture of Huntsville and Edward Canby’s capture of Mobile are also mentioned.

I define Mr. Jones work as an introduction to the Civil War in Alabama and in only 180 pages of narrative there are nuggets of information that will tweak your interest. It is an excellent, although compressed, source to begin further study.

 

Reviewed by Arley McCormick

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