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2014 2015 The Beginning of the End


September 17, 2014

North Anna, Cold Harbor & the Crossing of the James”

Guest Speaker: Ed Bearss, NPS Historian Emeritus, Civil War Author

Our 58th consecutive Program Year, 2014-2015 begins on Wednesday, September 17th, a week earlier than originally planned. For the past three years our guest speakers have followed the 150th historic sequence of the Civil War in the East with emphasis on capturing the "General’s Eye” view. Last year’s program concluded with a most interesting look at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and how questionable operational decisions, flawed intelligence, and consequential errors were made at the general’s level on both sides.

Kicking off our new speaker series "The Beginning of the End” is an absolute living legend--a true "Rock Star” of Civil War history, the acclaimed Historian Emeritus, NPS and author, Ed Bearss. He will resume our Sesquicentennial investigation of the Overland Campaign right where we left it last June following the heavy fighting at Spotsylvania. Gen. Grant, seeking to lure the Army of Northern Virginia from its entrenchments continues his relentless battle of maneuver, sidling east, attempting to turn Gen. Lee’s right flank. He is blocked by Lee’s clever defensive inverted "V” at the North Anna, and then gambling that Lee’s army is exhausted, orders an ill-conceived assault upon the zigzagged fortifications of Cold Harbor resulting in over 7000 causalities and finally, surprising Lee by stealthily crossing the James River only to be thwarted into a siege at Petersburg.

Your new CWRT officers include Paul Scott as Vice President, Bill Huber as Treasurer, and Mike Frye as Secretary. We have a strong team that I believe will provide a memorable year. Over the summer, we concluded negotiations with Jepson Center. Despite the 3% meal price increase (guaranteed for two years), we are able to absorb this modest increase while still maintaining the high quality of meals we currently enjoy. We are moving forward on new nametags with a larger, more readable format and suitable lanyard. Once again, I renew my request for website assistance in improving its qualityat civilwarroundtablefredericksburg.com.

Pat Quinn, President, 2014-15

October 22, 2014 "Siege of Petersburg"

Guest Speaker: Grant Gates, NPS Historian, Petersburg NB

Since crossing the Rapidan River on May 4,1864, Lt Gen Grant’s Army of the Potomac has been engaged in constant, bitter fighting with Gen Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Despite the fires of the Wilderness and the earthen work entrenchments of Spotsylvania, North Anna, and Cold Harbor, Grant persists and still Lee reacts with imagination. But on June 11th, after his defeat at Cold Harbor, Grant moves the Army of the Potomac out at night, and steals a march on Lee. Grant feigns towards Richmond but instead crosses the James River over a 2100’ pontoon bridge (then described as a modern miracle of engineering) —his objective—Petersburg. With its five railroads, it was the key transportation hub to Richmond. Only 2200 Confederates under Gen PGT Beauregard lightly but valiantly defends Petersburg. But consequential mistakes in Union staff orders, faulty maps, and lack of initiative, all create subsequent delays. Soon nightfall forestalls what could have been a major shortening of the war. Instead, Lee has time to reinforce and so starts what has become characterized as the Siege of Petersburg. It is in fact, not a classic siege as was Vicksburg. As we will discover, it is more of a campaign that encompassed 292 days of combat, maneuver and trench warfare between June 15, 1864 and April 2, 1865. Lee is never trapped at Petersburg. In fact, he launches a massive, although unsuccessful, attack against Fort Stedman east of Petersburg (acknowledged by most historians as the start of the Appomattox Campaign). Grant maneuvers as well, mustering eight distinct offensive operations, sometimes striking simultaneously, north and south of the James River.

Our distinguished guest speaker Grant Gates, Historian NPS, from the Petersburg National Battlefield will pick up where Ed Bearss left us off, "with Grant having faked Lee out of his jock strap” and guide us through the longest battle in civil war history. Grant, a resident of Fredericksburg and graduate of George Mason College, commutes to Petersburg National Park where he has worked for the past 17 years.

Pat Quinn, President, 2014-15

November 19, 2014 "Battle Of The Crater”

Guest Speaker: Emmanuel Dabney, NPS Historian, Civil War Author

Of the eight offensive operations of the Petersburg Campaign, the Battle of the Crater was intentionally not covered during Grant Gates presentation last meeting. The "Pit” deserves a more detailed examination for in its study, we are given insight into the times. Its history contains displays of marvelous Yankee ingenuity amidst massive brutality, politics, racism and incompetence. By early June 1864, federal trenching in Maj. Gen. Burnside’s IX Corps sector had progressed to within 400’ of Elliott’s Salient. A bold idea was then seized upon by Lt. Col Pleasant, Commander of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry for breaking the Confederate earthworks. His idea was to secretly tunnel under and explode 8000 pounds of black powder in a mine paralleling the earthworks thus creating a hole in the Confederate line. This "opening of the gates”, would allow Union troops to rush in to take Petersburg with a full frontal assault that, if successful, could have decided the war. As we will see, however, despite weeks of preparation, one of the Civil War's most horrific events took place: the slaughter of thousands of Union troops, including many African-Americans (USCT), in a giant pit created as a result of a poorly planned and executed Union mission. After several hundred Confederates perished in the initial mine explosion and the Union troops entered the crater, the Confederates quickly recovered and launched several counterattacks led by Maj. Gen. William Mahone. The break was sealed and the Federals were repulsed with severe casualties. Brig. Gen. Ferrarro’s division of black soldiers was badly mauled. Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside was relieved of command while General Grant, disgusted, summed it up best saying it was "the saddest affair I have ever witnessed in the war”

We heartily welcome Ranger Emmanuel Dabney of the National Park Service at Petersburg National Battlefield to discuss—The Battle of the Crater. The fact that he is an African-American provides us a most unique perspective that has long been missing of this battle. After completing high school in Dinwiddie County, 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 and completed a Master's degree in Public History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Pat Quinn, President, 2014-15

January 28, 2015

M/G Gouverneur K. Warren – Meade’s Troublesome Lieutenant

Guest Speaker: John Hennessey

Welcome back from the holidays, hoping yours were as joyous and family-filled as mine. To start off the New Year let me pique your interest with a question. How does a young mathematics instructor from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point subsequently become the "Hero of Little Round Top”, a brevet Major General and Corps Commander only to find himself later relieved of field command and not be exonerated until 14 years after his death? To tell the tale is our friend and frequent guest speaker, John J. Hennessy, Chief Historian and Chief of Interpretation, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP. He will point out that the Army of the Potomac was filled with characters both memorable and forgettable--subordinate commanders who came and went, and a few who endured and helped give the army its identity. Gouverneur Warren was one of most memorable and enduring of all--a complex, prickly personality who, despite clashes with his peers and superiors, survived in numerous command positions. John will explore this New Yorker's wartime career as an accomplished yet troublesome lieutenant to Meade, Hooker, Burnside, Pope, and McClellan.

John Hennessey was born near Worcester, MA and attended the State University of New York at Albany where he received an undergraduate degree in history and economics. While planning on a career in banking, he took a temporary job at the Manassas National Battlefield Park and consequently stayed nearly four years. He returned to New York in 1985 where he spent three years in state government. The NPS lured him back south, and John took a position at Harpers Ferry. It was during his times in New York State government and at Harpers Ferry that he wrote his book Return to Bull Run (named a Civil War 100 classic book by Civil War magazine). In May 1995, he was appointed assistant superintendent of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP, and in 2002 he was named Chief Historian.

March 25, 2015

Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign "No Such Army Since The Days Of Julius Caesar"

Guest Speaker: Eric Wittenberg, Author, Historian

Nearly four years after the jubilant cries for secession had rang out in Savannah, Maj Gen Sherman marked the end of his "March To The Sea” with its capture in January 1865. Lt Gen Grant then ordered him to embark on ships to assist in the Siege of Richmond. Maj Gen Sherman dissuaded Grant from boarding and instead persuaded him that he should march north through the Carolinas instead, conducting a "hard war”, destroying everything of military value along the way, similar to his march through Georgia. Sherman was particularly interested in targeting South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, for the effect it would have on Southern morale. As he approached Columbia, the state Capital, his army had grown to over 88, 000 men divided into three wings. His opposition was the battered Army of the Tennessee under Gen Joseph E. Johnston (previously relieved of duty during the Atlanta Campaign) comprising of 15,000 scattered men. During February and March, six battles were fought as Sherman pursued Johnston toward Raleigh. His troops marched 425 miles in 50 days and by mid April, Johnston told President Jefferson Davis "Our people are tired of war, feel themselves whipped and will not fight…My small force is melting away like snow before the sun”. Three days after the death of President Lincoln on April 15th, Johnston signed an armistice with Sherman and subsequently surrendered all forces in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
Our speaker for March is an old friend, Eric J. Wittenberg who is coming from Columbus, Ohio to speak to us. He has combined his legal career with the remarkable production of over 16 books and 24 articles all on the Federal Cavalry. Many of these works have brought him to national attention and specifically to the Rappahannock Region. A native of the Philadelphia area, he graduated from Dickinson College and holds both Law and Public and International Affairs graduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.

Pat Quinn, President 2014-15

April 22, 2015 "Myth of the Lost Cause: False Rememberances of the Civil War"

Guest Speaker: Ed Bonekemper, Author, Historian

Last month Eric Wittenberg discussed the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate Army to General William T. Sherman at the Bennett Place, April 26, 1865. It was the second and last major stage in the peacemaking process, which ended the War Between the States. General Lee's surrender at Appomattox 17 days earlier was the first. Johnston surrendered by far the largest share ofthe troops still in the field. He surrendered all Confederate forcesin the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, which took those States out of the war.With these surrenders, we have essentiallycompleted the battlefield journey through the Sesquicentennial. We now turn our attention to study the peace and the meaning of the Civil War. Historically important questions arose which are still argued today. What was the nature of slavery and was it a dying institution in 1860? Was slavery the primary cause of secession and the Civil War? Could the South have won the Civil War? Was Robert E. Lee one of the greatest generals in history? Did James Longstreet lose the Battle of Gettysburg and thus the Civil War? Did Ulysses S. Grant win the Civil War simply by brute force and superior numbers? Did the North win by waging an inglorious "total war”?

This month’s speaker, Ed Bonekemper, loves to advance these arguments and debate them at Civil War Roundtables and other forums, such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Delta Queen, the Lincoln Forum of the District of Columbia, and the Chautauqua Institution. A good example is his highly critical analysis of Robert E. Lee’s Civil War generalship that led to a C-Span appearance. During his research, he discovered that many pro-Lee historians had denigrated Ulysses S. Grant in order to glorify Lee, leading to a positive analysis of Grant, another book and yet again another appearance on C-Span. His presentation to us will be largely based upon his soon to be published book of the same title, where he explodes notional answers to many of these central questions as "False Remembrances of the Civil War” which have fueled the "Myth of the Lost Cause”. His presentation will undoubtedly prove to be lively but learned.

Ed earned his B.A., cum laude, in American history from Muhlenberg College, an M.A. in American history from Old Dominion University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is the author of five Civil War books: Lincoln and Grant: The Westerners Who Won the Civil War; Grant and Lee: Victorious American and Vanquished Virginian; McClellan and Failure: A Study of Civil War Fear, Incompetence and Worse; A Victor, Not a Butcher: Ulysses S. Grant’s Overlooked Military Genius, and How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War. He is the Book Review Editor of Civil War News and was an adjunct lecturer in military history at Muhlenberg College from 2003 to 2010. His latest book The Myth of the Lost Cause will be published this fall.

Pat Quinn, President 2014-15

May 27, 2015 "Burying Our Confederate Dead...but Not The Past "

Guest Speaker: S. Waite Rawls, III
Co-CEO American Civil War Museum

After the Civil War ended, elite Virginia women started 'memorial associations' to find, disinter, and rebury the Confederate dead. In Virginia alone, 72,000 soldiers, including the ones buried at Sharpsburg and Gettysburg, were reburied. These ladies weren't content to stop there, as they started Memorial Day, erected tombstones and monuments, started the LMA, the UDC, and the Museum of the Confederacy. This is their remarkable story, a story that has resonance here locally for one of the very first Ladies Memorial Associations was started by a group of Fredericksburg women who purchased land for a Confederate cemetery in 1867. Still active today, the LMA maintains the cemetery.

Our annual Civil War Round Table service project under Past President Fred Howe, Jr. has helped replace many broken or illegible Confederate grave markers in that cemetery with new ones funded by the government. However, after receiving one replacement in 2011 and three more in 2012, governmental support for the project was then halted by a reinterpretation of federal law. Despite the lack of federal support, Fred has managed (some-Howe) to purchase and install new markers each year. This month, along with Round Table volunteers, he installed six new grave markers in preparation for Memorial Day. Congratulations to Fred and all our volunteers for their wonderful efforts.

Our guest speaker this month is S. Waite Rawls, III. He became the Co-Chief Executive Officer of the American Civil War Museum in 2013 when the Museum of the Confederacy, where he had been President since 2004, combined with the American Civil War Center at Tredegar, the White House of the Confederacy and the Appomattox Museum. Formerly, he spent thirty years as an investment banker in New York and Chicago, including being the Vice Chairman of Continental Bank. Additionally, he has been an Adjunct Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Visiting Professor at the Darden School (University of Virginia). A native of Franklin, Virginia, he joined their local Civil War Roundtable at age 9. He has a BA from the Virginia Military Institute and his MBA and JD from the University of Virginia.

Pat Quinn, President 2014 - 2015

June 17, 2015 "The Civil War in Memory"

Guest Speaker: Dr. James I. "Bud” Robertson, Jr
Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Renowned Historian and Scholar

Last week while at the Civil War Trust Annual Conference in Richmond, I had the very great pleasure to meet this month’s featured speaker, Dr. James I. "Bud” Robertson, Jr. for the first time. After listening to his presentation, I was totally taken by his approach to history. He characterized himself as a social historian as he believes that somewhere along the line, Civil War historians have lost the human dimension and failed to focus on that often-overlooked aspect of the War.

Dr. Robertson served as Executive Director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission in the 1960s and worked with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in commemorating the war's 100th anniversary. He then taught 44 years at Virginia Tech, where his upper division course on the Civil War era attracted 300 or more students per semester and made it the largest class of its kind in the nation. At his retirement in 2011, the University named him Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History. He is a charter member (by Senate appointment) of Virginia's Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and is actively engaged in the state's numerous observances

A Danville, VA, native, Bud is the author or editor of more than 25 books, including biographies of Gens. Robert E. Lee and A. P. Hill, several works on the common soldiers, and three studies written for young readers. His massive biography of Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson won eight national awards and was used as the basis for the Ted Turner/Warner Bros. mega-movie, "Gods and Generals." Robertson was chief historical consultant for the film.The recipient of every major award given in Civil War history, and a lecturer of national acclaim, Dr. Robertson is probably more in demand as a speaker than anyone else in the Civil War field. He holds a Ph.D. degree from Emory University and honorary doctorates from Randolph-Macon College and Shenandoah University.

Bud is the author/father of the Old Dominion's newly adopted traditional state song, "Our Great Virginia." which the governor signed into law last month. For all of you sports fans, Bud also served as an Atlantic Coast Conference referee for 16 years. His forthcoming book is to be published in September/October 2015 by National Geographic Society. His presentation is based on stories from his new book. I cannot overstate how fortunate we are to have him speak to us. A true legend, he has achieved "rock star” status as an historian and Civil War scholar. Let’s have a great turn out.

Finally, I’d like to personally thank my Executive Officers: Paul Scott, Bill Huber, Mike Fry and Beth Daly for all their support and effort over the past twelve months. The Roundtable is more secure, stable and enlightened because of them. Have a great summer and I’ll see you all in September.

Pat Quinn, President 2014 - 2015

Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg
Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg
Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg
Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg

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