Williamsburg Civil War Roundtable

The purpose of this organization shall be to promote discussion and study of the Civil War and to further stimulate interest in all aspects and phases of the Civil War period.

Past Speakers

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January 2023 -  Drew Gruber presented “The Siege of Yorktown”. In the early Spring of 1862, the Union Army of the Potomac was transported from the Nation’s Capital area down the Chesapeake Bay to the lower Virginia Peninsula bounded by the James and York Rivers. The Union manpower of approximately 125,000 troops marched up the Peninsula in early April until confronting an extensive Confederate defensive line established behind the Warwick River from Mulberry Island (present day Fort Eustis) across the Peninsula to Yorktown. The initial Confederate defensive force, numbering approximately 12,000 troops, brought the Union advance to a halt. As a consequence of overcoming such a formidable defensive obstacle, the Union high command chose to implement a siege.

February 2023 - John J. Fox presented “Fort Gregg - The Confederate Alamo”. The Confederate Alamo is the first book-length study ever written about the chaotic and bloody Battle of Fort Gregg. By April 2, 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant’s men had tightened their noose around the vital town of Petersburg, Virginia. Trapped on three sides with a river at their back, the soldiers from General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had never faced such dire circumstances.

March 2023 - J. Michael Moore presented “John Taylor Wood and The Rebel Horse Marine”. Join historian J. Michael Moore for a lively discussion of John Taylor Wood's career and exploits as one of the most successful Confederate naval raiders.  The Chesapeake Bay was a vital Union communication and supply link from Washington, D.C. to Fort Monroe. With great ingenuity and incredible forethought, Wood developed the “boats on wheels” concept for attacking Union shipping.  Wood earned the sobriquet of the Rebel Horse Marine with a naval raiding career that was something out of the action-adventure genre of fiction and foreshadowed the development of commando and special operations warfare in the twentieth century."

April 2023 - Dr. Lorien Foote resented "Union Soldiers on the Loose in the Confederancy".During the last winter of the Civil War, nearly 3,000 Union prisoners escaped from Confederate prisons in the Carolinas and fled toward Union army lines.  Black and white southerners fed, hid, and guided the fugitives across hundreds of miles of dangerous terrain.  Lorien Foote will share what the journey of escaped prisoners reveals about Union soldier’s experiences in the final months of the war and the transformation of the home front to a battle front inside the Confederacy.

May 2023 - Dennis Frye presented: “Stonewall Jackson’s Greatest Victory: Harper’s Ferry.   General Lee had a problem - Harpers Ferry. He could not continue his proposed invasion into the United States with this strategic position in the hands of U.S. forces. Something must be done. Lee devised a complex plan, perhaps his most complex of the war. He summoned his most aggressive lieutenant, Stonewall Jackson, to lead the sensitive mission. But soon much went wrong. Despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, coupled with the enemy's discovery of Lee's orders, Jackson in his final independent command of the war brought Lee victory - Stonewall's most brilliant battlefield victory. Dennis E. Frye recently retired after 20 years as the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

September 2023 -  Hampton Newsome's presentation covered the little-known Federal offensive against Richmond during the Gettysburg Campaign – the subject of Mr. Newsome’s book Gettysburg’s Southern Front. Sometimes referred to as the Blackberry Raid, the operation was led by John Dix and provided a significant opportunity by U.S. forces to threaten the Confederate capital and damage Lee’s operation in Pennsylvania.

October 2023 - On October 24th Dr. Jonathan White presented “Lincoln Destroys the Slave Trade: The Extraordinary Unknown Story of Appleton Oaksmith”   This talk explored the extraordinary lengths the Lincoln Administration went to destroy the illegal transatlantic slave trade during the Civil War. Using the unknown story of a nineteenth-century sailor named Appleton Oaksmith as a lens, Jonathan W. White will show the various (and heretofore unknown) steps that Abraham Lincoln and his secretary of state, William H. Seward, took to forever stop illegal slavers—including using the suspension of habeas corpus, the use of civil courts, and an international kidnapping scheme.

To view speaker listing prior to current year, click here