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

January 2017 - On Tuesday evening, January 24, 2017, Dr. White’s presented “Lincoln and Civil Liberties”. In the spring of 1861, Union military authorities arrested Maryland farmer John Merryman on charges of treason against the United States for burning railroad bridges around Baltimore in an effort to prevent northern soldiers from reaching the federal capital. From his prison cell at Fort McHenry, Merryman petitioned the Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for release through a writ of habeas corpus. Chief Justice Taney issued the writ, but President Lincoln ignored it. In mid-July Merryman was released, only to be indicted for treason a Baltimore federal court. His case, however, never went to trial and federal prosecutors finally dismissed the charges in 1867. 
In "Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War", Jonathan W. White reveals how the arrest and prosecution of this little-known Baltimore farmer had a lasting impact on the Lincoln administration and Congress as they struggled to develop policies to deal with both northern traitors and southern rebels.

Jonathan W. White, Ph. D. is an Associate Professor and Senior Fellow in the Center for American Studies at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. He admits a particular interest in Abraham Lincoln and U. S. constitutional history. In addition to teaching courses in American Studies at CNU, he also serves as the university’s Prelaw Advisor. Jonathan has authored several books, including “Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War”, and “Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln”, as well as numerous scholarly papers and articles. Dr. White is an undergraduate of Penn State, and completed his graduate studies at the University of Maryland

February 2017 - Emmanuel Dabney presented “’catching us like sheep in a slaughter pen’…
United States Colored Troops At  The Battle Of The Crater”. In mid-June 1864, Union troops assaulted Petersburg, Virginia for four days; however, a staunch Confederate defense by General Pierre Beauregard and the arrival of General Robert E. Lee’s army forced Lt. General Ulysses Grant to have his troops dig in. Days later, a young officer hatched a plan for digging a mine and blowing up a Confederate battery outside the city. In early July 1864, Major General Ambrose Burnside decided that he wished to use his division of United States Colored Troops in the advance of an assault to be made following the explosion of gunpowder beneath the Confederate earthworks outside Petersburg.
In “‘catching us like sheep in a slaughter pen…’: United States Colored Troops at the Battle of the Crater” Emmanuel Dabney will highlight personal stories of privates, non-commissioned officers, and officers who participated in the battle. He will also address the myth of all the United States Colored Troops being trained for the battle ahead of time. The talk will also uncover some of the fates of those men who became casualties as a result of the fighting.
Emmanuel Dabney has worked at Petersburg National Battlefield since 2001. After completing high school in Dinwiddie, Emmanuel graduated magna cum laude with an Associates of Arts from Richard Bland College, graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and completed a Master’s degree in Public History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

March 2017 - Dr. Ken Rutherford, Ph.D. presented “Landmines in Our Backyard The Civil War’s Buried History”. In early May of 1862, after stalling the Union offensive on the lower Peninsula for well over a month, Confederate forces abandoned the defensive works that spanned from Mulberry Island to Yorktown. As the jubilant Yankees entered the abandoned Rebel positions, they were shocked and dismayed to discover the presence of “subterra torpedoes”, buried to retard the advance of the Union soldiers. The presence of these “subterra torpedoes”, which we currently refer to as “landmines”, signaled the first use of this weapon in modern warfare.
In spite of initial Confederate bans regarding the utilization of landmines, time and the tides of war led to the re-evaluation of their use by the Southern leadership. Dr. Ken Rutherford’s research and presentation will outline the numerous locations throughout the Confederacy where landmines were utilized during the subsequent years of the conflict. 
Kenneth R. Rutherford, PH.D. is the Director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery and Professor of Political Science at James Madison University. In his capacity as Director, he leads fundraising and strategic planning for CISR, which is recognized as a global leader in international efforts to combat the effects of landmines and explosive remnants of war, including the rehabilitation of post-conflict societies. 
Dr. Rutherford is the author or co-editor of four books related to issues related to the modern banning and removal of landmines. He has testified before Congress and the United Nations, and published more than forty articles in numerous academic and policy journals.
Dr. Rutherford co-founded the Landmine Survivors Network, and is a renowned leader in the Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition that spearheaded the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the global movement that led to the 2008 Cluster Munitions Ban Treaty.

April 2017 - Ernie Price presented “Marching Out Of Formation:Confederates Going Home After Appomattox”. After surrendering their arms on April 12, the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia began their individual journeys home with their paroles and little more than the remembrance of General Lee’s poignant farewell address.
Ernie Price will tell the rest of the story about the journey of the soldiers as they left Appomattox. (Keep in mind, as you read this announcement and when you attend the meeting on April 25, that the many if not most of the soldiers were still making their way home on these particular dates 152 years ago.) Ernie Price is the Chief of Visitor Services and Education at the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. After earning an undergraduate degree in history at Longwood College and a Masters of education at Lynchburg College, Ernie joined the National Park service in 1997. He has been at the Appomattox location since 2008.

May 2017 -  Chris Kolakowski presented “The Battle Of Missionary Ridge”.  "The Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863, was the climax of the various Battles for Chattanooga. A great Union strategic victory, it set the stage for the 1864 thrust to Atlanta. It also was the foundation of the MacArthur military dynasty, because of the heroism of 18-year-old Arthur MacArthur of the 24th Wisconsin.

Christopher L. Kolakowski was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Va. He received his BA in History and Mass Communications from Emory & Henry College, and his MA in Public History from the State University of New York at Albany.

Chris has spent his career interpreting and preserving American military history with the National Park Service, New York State government, the Rensselaer County (NY) Historical Society, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Kentucky State Parks, and the U.S. Army. He has written and spoken on various aspects of military history from 1775 to the present. He has published two books with the History Press: The Civil War at Perryville: Battling For the Bluegrass and The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaign: This Army Does Not Retreat. In September 2016, the U.S. Army published his volume on the 1862 Virginia Campaigns as part of its sesquicentennial series on the Civil War. He is a contributor to the Emerging Civil War Blog, and his study of the 1941-42 Philippine Campaign titled Last Stand on Bataan is was released by McFarland in late February 2016.

September 2017 - Patrick Falci a/k/a General A. P. Hill presented "Up Came Hill" (A. P. Hill at Sharpsburg).

At 6:30 in the morning on September 17, 1862, a courier sent by Gen. Robert E. Lee arrived at the headquarters of Major General AP. Hill in Harper's Ferry, VA. A battle had commenced early that morning in Sharpsburg, MD and General Lee needed help. Lee knew he was outnumbered more than 2 to 1 at what would be known as the Battle of Antietam, and that A.P. Hill and his men were the only ones who could help him. In one half-hour, Hill would have his men on the march at the double-quick.

For 25 years, Patrick Falci has been the face of General Ambrose Powell Hill. Before that, he spent 15 years as a reenactor with the 14th Tennessee— Archer's Brigade, Hill's Light Division. He created the role of General Hill in the movie Gettysburg and was the historical advisor to director Ron Maxwell, as well as bestselling author, Jeff Shaara. Amongst his many achievements, he served as the 3-time president of the Civil War Round Table of New York and has been a guest speaker all over the country for his knowledge on the Civil War.

October 2017 -Dennis Frye presented “Did McClellan out-think Lee during the first Confederate invasion?”
We often laugh when we think of George McClellan. We enjoy making McClellan the Union's whipping boy. McClellan, himself, brings little sympathy to his cause. Full of bravado, often arrogant, and sometimes insubordinate, McClellan is the general we like to dislike. We chuckle when he claimed, following the first invasion of the North, that it was the second time he had saved the North. Yet when Robert E. Lee was asked after the war who was the best Union general he faced, he responded with George McClellan. Was McClellan as incompetent and ineffective as history has branded him? Discover some answers as we ask:  "Did McClellan out-think Lee during the 1st invasion?"
Dennis E. Frye is the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Writer, lecturer, guide, and preservationist, Dennis is a prominent Civil War historian. Dennis has numerous appearances on PBS, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, C-SPAN, Fox News, A&E, and Voice of America as a guest historian. He helped produce Emmy award-winning television features on the Battle of Antietam, abolitionist John Brown, and Maryland during the Civil War. Dennis is one of the nation’s leading Civil War battlefield preservationists.  He is co-founder and first president of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, and he is co-founder and a former president of today’s Civil War Trust, from whom he received the Trust’s highest honor - the Shelby Foote Award.  Dennis also earned the prestigious Nevins-Freeman Award for his lifetime achievements in the Civil War community. Dennis is a tour guide in demand, leading tours for organizations such as the Smithsonian, National Geographic, numerous colleges and universities, and Civil War Round Tables.  Dennis also is a well-known author, with 98 articles and nine books.   Harpers Ferry Under Fire received the national book of the year award from the Association of Partners for Public Lands; and September Suspense:  Lincoln’s Union in Peril, was awarded the 2012 Laney Book Prize for distinguished scholarship and writing on the military and political history of the war.  Dennis has written for prestigious Civil War magazines such as Civil War Times Illustrated, America’s Civil War, Blue & Gray Magazine, North and South Magazine, and Hallowed Ground, and as a guest contributor to the Washington Post.  Dennis resides near the Antietam Battlefield in Maryland, and he and his wife Sylvia have restored the home that was used by General Burnside as his post-Antietam headquarters. 

November 2017 - Eric Buckland presented  “John S. Mosby – The Perfect Man in the Perfect Place”.

Colonel John Singleton Mosby, Commanding Officer of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry (Mosby’s Rangers) - remains a sterling example of the quintessential unconventional warfare warrior and leader. The tactics, techniques and procedures he used during the War Between the States from January 1863 to April 1865 are still studied today by United States Army Special Forces and Rangers and by the United States Marine Corps. Mosby’s personal courage, intelligence, innovativeness, audacity and innate understanding of how to plan, conduct and command irregular operations made him a very painful and persistent thorn in the side of Union forces arrayed against him and a celebrated hero in the South.

However, even strong personal attributes and exceptional ability need to be coupled with good fortune and circumstances in order to achieve the type of sustained success enjoyed by Mosby and his Rangers. “John S. Mosby: The Perfect Man in the Perfect Place” will offer superb insight into how John Mosby was able to utilize and adapt his strengths and abilities to successfully fulfill his mission requirements, confront the enemy threat, use the operational area’s terrain to his benefit, recruit men to his unit and garner the support and loyalty of the local population.

Eric Buckland’s interest in Mosby's Rangers began when he was a young boy and increased during his 22-year military career.  Most of that time - he retired from the Army as a LTC - was spent in Special Forces. Eric had multiple deployments to Panama, Honduras and El Salvador in the 1980’s and believes that his military experience provides a unique understanding of Mosby’s Rangers.

December 2017 - Brian Steel Wills presented “Gone with the glory: The Civil War in Cinema”.

History comes at us in many fashions. Cinema has offered its own version of the Civil War, often reflecting the times in which films appear and the expectations that audiences of those periods bring with them. Reality is less well served, but the characters and stories that emerge are nevertheless indelible parts of our collective culture and experience. When it comes to popular presentations of the American Civil War, few phrases evoke images of that conflict as powerful as Gone with the Wind, although that epic motion picture had more to do with the adventures of a young Southern woman than depictions of war-related themes. This difficulty in melding stories with facts has been the dilemma of film regarding historical subjects, with Hollywood frequently turning its focus first to entertainment values and then to the historical foundation or framework. Nevertheless, from the silent era to the present day, motion pictures have provided one means by which people have connected with their past.  In the process a rich mosaic of figures has emerged for movie audiences that, in some instances, have become iconic, and the sweep and grandeur of the subject matter has proven particularly well-suited to the big screen of the cinema. In more recent years, subjects have broadened to include other aspects, such as the famed 54th Massachusetts in Glory, the smaller-scale drama in backcountry Kentucky of Pharoah’s Army, or the struggle for passage of the 13th Amendment in Lincoln. But, in each instance, the Civil War in cinema has provided at least the introductory platform for learning more about the era’s issues, events and personalities.

Brian Steel Wills is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.  He is the author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War.  His most recent publications are The River was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest and Fort Pillow (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014), Confederate General William Dorsey Pender: The Hope of Glory (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013) and George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2013 Richard Barksdale Harwell Award for the best book on a Civil War topic for the year 2012 presented by the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta.  His latest work is Inglorious Passages: Noncombat Deaths in the American Civil War (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2017), just out.


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