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2013 2014 Civil War Years 1863 to 1864

September 25, 2013

Speaker: Clark B. “Bud” Hall

Topic: Bristoe Station

I hope everyone has had a good summer. September not only means the kids are back in school, but our starts a new program tear - this is our 57th!

This year, as the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War continues across the nation, we will continue to explore the significant battles fought in this area 150 years ago.

Last year we saw signal victories for the South at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and the rebuilding of the shattered Army of the Potomac at the “Valley Forge” of the Union Army in.

This year we will examine some smaller – but important – battles at Bristoe Station and Rappahannock Station, the repulse of the reinvigorated Army of the Potomac at Mine Run, and the two big battles in the spring of 1864, The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. Along the way, the naval war will return with a fresh look at the remarkable Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which has a special connection to Fredericksburg.

First up, we have Clark B. “Bud” Hall, opening our program year on September 25 with a presentation about the Battle of Bristoe Station in which Bud will explain how Confederate Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill botched an attack on two Union corps and lost a lot of Lee’s respect in the process. Besides being a recognized Civil War historian, Bud is a distinguished historic preservationist, whose crowning achievement was to be part of the recent effort to purchase Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station.

Scott Boyd, President

November 25, 2013

Speaker: Mike Block
Vice-President of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield


The Civil War is often remembered through the names of Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chancellorsville and Chickamauga, large battles that have left indelible marks on this nation. But, there were many smaller events that were just as personal, just as life-altering. Just as terrible.

On November 7, 1863, Major General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac boldly struck at Kelly’s Ford and Rappahannock Station. Their success and the unmitigated disaster that the Army of Northern Virginia suffered are largely forgotten. Lost between the Bristoe Campaign and the Mine Run Campaign, Rappahannock Station geographically positioned the Army of the Potomac for its eventual successes in 1864 and 1865.

Michael Block’s presentation will focus on the tactical aspect of the twin battles that took place along the Rappahannock, using letters, diaries, newspapers and official reports to capture the individual struggle for very small pieces of land. Like the great battles of the Civil War, the thirty minute fight would carry on into the 1920’s, as soldiers on both sides strived to stake claims to a small portion of history.

Scott Boyd, President

January 22, 2014

Speaker: Scott Boyd

Topic: The H.L. Hunley

Cancelled due to inclement weather.

February 26, 2014

Speaker: Dr. John Coski

Topic: 1864

Welcome back from the holidays! To take our minds off the cold weather, we have an excellent speaker , John Coski, from the Museum of the Confederacy. We’ve had a fair amount of material presented in recent years on President Lincoln, the Army of the Potomac and the Union perspective. Dr. Coski will provide some balance by giving us the Confederate outlook 150 years ago as 1864 began. Here’s his preview: "Animated by Cheerful Confidence’: Confederate Morale and Expectations in Early 1864"

The popular notion that Gettysburg was "the high tide of the Confederacy" implies that Confederate defeat was inevitable after the summer of 1863 and that continued resistance was useless – or worse. As Gary Gallagher and other historians have emphasized, the concept of a "high tide" is the product of 20/20 hindsight. Southerners in 1863 could not know that defeat was less than two years away and further resistance futile.

What then was the mood among Southern soldiers, civilians, and political leaders in the winter of 1863-1864 as the Confederacy anticipated the fourth year of war? This program will probe for answers to this question, relying primarily on letters, diaries, speeches, and other primary sources.

John M. Coski is Historian and Vice-President for Research and Publications at The Museum of the Confederacy, where he has worked in various capacities since 1988. He earned his B.A. from Mary Washington College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the College of William and Mary. He is the author of several books, most notably "The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem", published in 2005 by Harvard University Press, and Capital Navy: The Men, Ships, and Operations of the James River Squadron (published in 1996), and more than 125 essays, articles, and reviews. He has recently begun research toward what he hopes to be a book-length history of Belle Isle.

Scott Boyd, President

March 26, 2014

Speaker: Beth Parnicza

NPS Historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Topic: Battle of the Wilderness, Part 1 -Artifacts and Individuals in the Battle

Our daily lives--our lived experience--is often shown in the items we own, the things we carry with us, or the pieces we leave behind. Artifacts of the past, whether treasured and carefully passed down through generations or used, discarded, and instantly forgotten, can therefore tell us a national story through a very personal lens. Participants in the Battle of the Wilderness left a trail of possessions in the wake of the fight. From melted lead that bore witness to the unspeakable horror of the Wilderness' infamous fires to the everyday items of a woman who refused to yield even her yard to the Yankees, each artifact can tell a story of the battle, those who witnessed it, and a nation that felt the shockwaves of the first clash of Lee and Grant in the Virginia woods. This talk will explore several such items and the stories of those who used them.

Scott Boyd, President

Arpil 23, 2014

Speaker: Beth Parnicza

NPS Historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Topic: Battle of the Wilderness, Part II - Command Decisions

Virginia's unusually dry spring of 1864 witnessed the first clash of military giants Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Each a legend in his own right, they finally met on the field of battle in the tangled woods of the Wilderness of Spotsylvania County, 70 square miles of dense, second-growth forest. They were well-matched in several qualities: both possessed intense stubbornness and aggressive military instincts. Both faced the challenge of subordinate officers who fell short of their commander’s expectations.

Grant maneuvered an awkward command structure, with Army of the Potomac commander George Meade leading his army directly, but answering to Grant. Eastern subordinates were not used to Grant's bulldog tenacity, and Grant balked at what he viewed as unnecessary caution. Lee struggled with the lack of trustworthy subordinates and faced an army twice the size of his own. Though he was able to coax Grant into battle in woods that cut down the disparity of numbers, Lee finally confronted a commander who would not back down or offer the kind of opportunities Lee was famous for exploiting. In dusty crossroads, small farm clearings, and tangled woods, these titans grappled for the slightest advantage or hint of weakness. Their decisions and reactions set the tone for the Overland Campaign and ultimately determined the course of the war.

Scott Boyd, President

June 18, 2014

Speaker: Greg Mertz

Supervisory Historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania

Topic: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House – Accurate Information But Wrong Conclusions at the Bloody Angle

It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve the club as an officer for the past six years. I am confident the new group elected at the May meeting will do well in 2014-2015: Pat Quinn (President), Paul Scott (V.P.), Mike Frye (Secretary) and Bill Huber (Treasurer). Many thanks for their service to outgoing Treasurer Joel Meers, Secretary Beth Daly and soon-to-be-former V.P. Quinn (who was also Secretary for a year).

Last month, in part one of our look at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, we examined the action from May 7-10 from the standpoint of military intelligence. We looked at the types of information that Federal General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee gathered, how they gathered it and what conclusions they made from it. We saw that the absence of federal cavalry resulted in the Grant making some very logical conclusions based upon inaccurate information.

In part two, at our June 18 meeting, Greg Mertz will continue the discussion of military intelligence and its on the battle from May 11-19, the most famous portion of which is the May 12 fight for the Bloody Angle. A significant amount of his talk will be the intelligence analyzed on May 11 leading up to the Bloody Angle fight. This time we will see that the Confederates have the opposite problem from what the Federals experienced early in the battle. Lee had more cavalry with him than did Grant, and for the most part the information Lee received was correct. However, the part of Lee’s cavalry that was absent included cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart. Stuart also served as Lee’s de facto chief of intelligence. Lee ended up making the wrong conclusions from the largely accurate information. Intelligence continued to be a key aspect of the final actions of the battle, just as it had in the opening engagements.

Scott Boyd, President
Civil War Round Table or Fredericksburg, Inc.
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