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2023 2024 Program Year

September 27, 2023


Speaker: Gregory Mertz

The Battle of Cedar Mountain, also known as Slaughter's Mountain or Cedar Run, took place on August 9, 1862, in Culpeper County, Virginia, as part of the American Civil War. Union forces under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks attacked Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson near Cedar Mountain as the Confederates marched on Culpeper Court House to forestall a Union advance into central Virginia. After nearly being driven from the field in the early part of the battle, a Confederate counterattack broke the Union lines resulting in a Confederate victory. The battle was the first combat of the Northern Virginia campaign.


October 25, 2023


Speaker: Sarah Kay Bierle

The Battle of Cedar Creek, or Battle of Belle Grove, was fought on October 19, 1864, during the American Civil War. The fighting took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Northern Virginia, near Cedar Creek, Middletown, and the Valley Pike. During the morning, Lieutenant General Jubal Early appeared to have a victory for his Confederate army, as he captured over 1,000 prisoners and over 20 artillery pieces while forcing 7 enemy infantry divisions to fall back. The Union army, led by Major General Philip Sheridan, rallied in late afternoon and drove away Early's men. In addition to recapturing all of their own artillery seized in the morning, Sheridan's forces captured most of Early's artillery and wagons.


November 15, 2023


Speaker: Ken Rutherford

Despite all that has been published on the American Civil War, one aspect that has never received the in-depth attention it deserves is the widespread use of landmines across the Confederacy. These “infernal devices” dealt death and injury in nearly every Confederate state and influenced the course of the war. Modern landmines were used for the first time in history on a widespread basis during the Civil War when the Confederacy, in desperate need of an innovative technology to overcome significant deficits in materiel and manpower, employed them. The first American to die from a victim-activated landmine was on the Virginia Peninsula in early 1862 during the siege of Yorktown. Their use set off explosive debates inside the Confederate government and within the ranks of the army over the ethics of using “weapons that wait.” As Confederate fortunes dimmed, leveraging low-cost weapons like landmines became acceptable and even desirable. The controversial weapon was the brainchild of Confederate General Gabriel J. Rains (who had experimented with explosive booby traps in Florida two decades earlier during the Seminole Wars), and other Confederates soldiers developed a sundry of landmine varieties, including command-controlled and victim-activated. The devices saw extensive use in Virginia, at Port Hudson in Louisiana, in Georgia, the Trans-Mississippi Theater, during the closing weeks of the war in the Carolinas, and in harbors and rivers in multiple states.

Debates over the ethics of using mine warfare did not end in 1865 and are still being waged to this day. Dr. Rutherford, who is known worldwide for his work in the landmine discipline, and who himself lost his legs to a mine in Africa, relies on a host of primary and secondary research to demonstrate how and why the mines were built, how and where they were deployed, the effects of their use, and the reactions of those who suffered from their deadly blasts. According to some estimates, by the early 1990s landmines were responsible for more than 26,000 deaths each year worldwide. Landmines, argues Dr. Rutherford, transitioned from “tools of cowards” and “offenses against democracy and civilized warfare” to an accepted form of warfare. The genesis of this acceptance began during the American Civil War.


January 24, 2024


Speaker: Bert Dunkerly

In the center of Richmond, VA the James River flows through the site of numerous wartime industries. One of the most important was the Confederate Laboratory on Brown’s Island. There workers prepared ammunition for the Confederacy’s war effort.

he Laboratory’s workers could produce 200,000 small arms cartridges a day, or about 1,200,000 a week. Those numbers sound impressive, but the army’s need for ammunition was never-ending. For a major battle the Army of Northern Virginia required about five million small arms cartridges and 40,000 rounds of artillery ammunition.

With so many laboring in such a sprawling complex and lacking the modern training and safety guidelines in place today, an accident was bound to happen. On Friday, March 13, 1863, citizens in downtown Richmond heard a large explosion at the waterfront.


February 28, 2024


Speaker: Scott Boyd

H. L. Hunley, also known as the Hunley, CSS H. L. Hunley, or CSS Hunley, was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the American Civil War. Hunley demonstrated the advantages and dangers of undersea warfare. She was the first combat submarine to sink a warship (USS Housatonic), although Hunley was not completely submerged and, following her attack, was lost along with her crew before she could return to base. Twenty-one crewmen died in the three sinkings of Hunley during her short career. She was named for her inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley, shortly after she was taken into government service under the control of the Confederate States Army at Charleston, South Carolina.

Hunley, nearly 40 ft (12 m) long, was built at Mobile, Alabama, and launched in July 1863. She was then shipped by rail on 12 August 1863 to Charleston. Hunley (then referred to as the "fish boat", the "fish torpedo boat", or the "porpoise") sank on 29 August 1863 during a test run, killing five members of her crew. She sank again on 15 October 1863, killing all eight of her second crew, including Horace Lawson Hunley himself, who was aboard at the time, even though he was not a member of the Confederate military. Both times Hunley was raised and returned to service.


March 27, 2024


Speaker: Christian Keller

An innovative collection of essays about the strategic reasons for Confederate defeat, edited by Christian Keller and written entirely by U.S. Army professors and students. Topics include military and political leadership, intelligence failures, economic and diplomatic issues, and the significance of the Trans-Mississippi Theater.

Southern Strategies is the first-ever analysis of Confederate defeat using the lenses of classical strategic and leadership theory. The contributors bring over one hundred years of experience in the field at the junior and senior levels of military leadership and over forty years of teaching in professional military education. Well-aware that the nature of war is immutable and unchanging, they combine their firsthand experience of this truth with solid scholarship to offer new theoretical and historical perspectives about why the South failed in its bid for independence.

Southern Strategies confirms the reality that the outcome of the American Civil War cannot be boiled down to one or two simple reasons. It offers fresh and theoretically novel interpretations at the strategic level that open new doors for future research and will increase public interest in the big questions surrounding Confederate defeat.


April 24, 2024


Speaker: Doug Crenshaw

Seven Days’ Battles, (June 25–July 1, 1862), series of American Civil War battles in which a Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee drove back General George B. McClellan’s Union forces and thwarted the Northern attempt to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. McClellan was forced to retreat from a position 4 miles (6 km) east of the Confederate capital to a new base of operations at Harrison’s Landing on the James River.


May 22, 2024


Speaker: Matthew Hulbert

John Newman Edwards rubbed shoulders with generals during the Civil War and then with Emperor Maximilian and Empress Charlotte in Mexico following Confederate defeat. After Maximilian's execution, Edwards returned to the newly re-United States and waged a one-man war against Radical Reconstruction. A hard-driving (and hard drinking) newspaper editor, author, and duelist, Edwards created the myth and legend of the James-Younger Gang, established the historical foundations of the Civil War in the Missouri-Kansas borderlands, and became the architect of Missouri's own "irregular Lost Cause." In spite of this seemingly made-for-Hollywood story, John Newman Edwards isn't a household name in 2024. This talk will explain why -- as well as how his saga is a grand tapestry of nineteenth-century politics and culture that forces us to reconsider much of what we think we know about the American Civil War.


June 12, 2024


Speaker: Mark Maloy

Mark Maloy is a historian currently working for the National Park Service in Virginia. He holds an undergraduate degree in History from the College of William and Mary and a graduate degree in History from George Mason University. He has worked at numerous public historic sites and archaeological digs for the past fifteen years. Among the sites he has worked at include the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the Civil War Defenses of Washington, and Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial. He began his career with the Park Service at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park in Charleston, South Carolina.  He has written numerous articles on the Civil War and is the author of two books on the Revolutionary War: Victory or Death: The Battles of Trenton and Princeton and To the Last Extremity: The Battles for Charleston

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