Twin Cities Civil War Roundtable

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Ancestors in the War

Program Descriptions 2014-15


For more information about the program, contact Jim Hinderks at


John Bell Hood had his back to the wall when he took command of the Army of Tennessee on the outskirts of Atlanta, July 17, 1864.  He had been appointed to the position in order to hold the city, yet if he made any retreat at all, Atlanta would fall.  William T. Sherman was determined to see that it did and, even as Hood took the reins of command, already had in motion one of his trademark turning maneuvers that he hoped would cut Hood's supply lines and force him to abandon the city, just as Hood's predecessor, Joseph E. Johnston, had done. Hood was different.  He would fight.  Three days after taking command he launched an attack on part of Sherman's army group.  Over several days, with an impressive display of skill on the part of generals and common soldiers of both sides, the Battle of Atlanta hung in the balance - its outcome largely shaping the remaining course of the struggle for the city.  Hood would never again have as good a chance to deal Sherman a campaign-altering defeat.

Steven E. Woodworth is professor of history at Texas Christian University and author, co-author, or editor of 31 books. Born in Ohio and raised in Illinois, he came to TCU IN 1997, where he specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Professor Woodworth has won numerous awards in his contribution to the study of the Civil War.





William Worthy Day lived in Steele County, MN for more than 50 years.  When he died in 1921 his obituary said nothing of his Civil War service.  Here we are 93 years after his death and we finally recognize his service, suffering and survival.  While we will see Day’s entire war experience, we will focus on the 15 months he spent as a guest of the Confederate army in six of its prisons, in particular Camp Sumter, aka Andersonville.  The treatment and suffering of prisoners of war remains one of the most delicate of the issues that have generated angry fallout after the Civil War. This program may illuminate this issue but it will not resolve it. 

Barry Adams was a high school teacher and principal in Kutztown, PA, from 1967 to 2002.  From 1997 to 2010, he was a licensed battlefield guide at Gettysburg National Military Park.  He is the author of several newspaper and magazine articles on the American Civil War as it relates to local communities, most recently the 43rd installment of a 51-part series, “Sesquicentennial: Steele County in the Civil War,”  published monthly by the Owatonna Peoples Press.  He and his wife, Joy, currently reside in Owatonna, MN.




The Civil War, like any war, brought out the need for emotional expression and songwriters responded.  In the South they sang about "The Bonnie Blue Flag" and "Maryland, My Maryland,” while George Root stirred northern emotions with "The Battle Cry of Freedom."  Around their campfires the soldiers sang about the girls back home with "Sweet Evelina," "Lorena," and "Lily Dale."   Benjamin Handy took a break from war to write "Up On the Housetop" and Patrick Gilmore rewrote the sad "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye" into the triumphant "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." 

Over the war's course, the early fervor of songs like Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic" gave way to the poignancy of "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boy Are Marching" and "The Vacant Chair."   We'll relive the emotional ups and downs with these and more.  Warm up those vocal cords!

Dale Blanshan is a retired minister, attorney, and educator, has appeared before thousands of patrons at more than 300 institutions in MN, WI, IA, ND, and IL. 




The First Regiment Minnesota Volunteer Infantry was the first volunteer regiment offered in service to President Lincoln after the fall of Ft. Sumter.  They were strong men, toughened by rugged pioneer life, and served in nearly every major battle in the eastern campaign with the Army of the Potomac.  They were known for their bravery - nowhere more so than at the Battle of Gettysburg, where their harrowing sacrifice saved the Union from defeat and helped turn the tide of the war.  Every Man Did His Duty tells the individual stories of over a hundred men who served in the First Minnesota, from the regiment's commanders to its courageous, young privates.

Wayne Jorgenson is a founding member of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry re-enactment group.  Since 1973, the group remains dedicated to educating the public about the life of the Civil War soldier and preserving the memory of the men who served in the original unit.   He maintains a website known as and has written a book, “Every Man Did His Duty: Pictures and Stories of the Men of the First Minnesota.”




The story of the Steamship Sultana is a story of sadness and greed.  The ship was allowed to only carry 376 passengers and had a cargo-hold that could carry 700 tons.  However, the overloaded ship, filled with soldiers who had already survived some of the fiercest battles in American history, met a terrible fate on April 27, 1865, as it slowly steamed north from Vicksburg towards Helena, the final stop before the explosion.  About 1,800 people perished that night, making it the worst maritime disaster in American history. 

Louis Intres is an adjunct instructor of history at Arkansas State University, specializing in U. S. history.  His research interests include the Southern River System:  The Steamship Sultana.  Intres brought together a collection of Sultana artifacts for the first real public exhibit of its kind and has worked tirelessly to make the exhibit a success.




John Waugh’s presentation, “Lincoln and the War’s End” will revisit the last five months of the Civil War and what President Lincoln was doing.  We will live again the drama of the passing of the 13th Amendment, the second Inaugural, Sherman’s March through Georgia and the Carolinas, President Lincoln’s 16-day stay at the front with General Grant, his walk through the streets of burning Richmond the day after it surrendered, and the final peace at Appomattox. 

Mr. Waugh is a former newspaper correspondent who forsook the present in 1989 to begin reporting the past.   He has written and has published a dozen books since then, on the Civil War era, including his latest book, "Lincoln and the War's End."  Mr. Waugh will present on his newest book at our meeting.  He researches and writes from his office-home in Pantego, Texas.




Dubbed the “Wizard of the Saddle,” and “That Devil Forrest,” Nathan Bedford Forrest rose from private to lieutenant general in the Confederate cavalry during the American Civil War.  His application of common sense tactics and ferocious combat leadership by example won for him a reputation as one of the finest commanders of mounted troops on either side of the conflict.  Brian Wills will lead us through the remarkable and controversial life of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Mr. 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, Georgia.  He is the author of numerous works and has received many awards, including the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Commonwealth of Virginia.




Mary Chesnut’s Diary From Dixie is said to be one of the most important books about the Civil War – an eyewitness narrative of the catastrophic Southern defeat. While her husband, General James Chesnut, served as an Aide de Camp to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Mary Chesnut was able to closely observe and write about nearly all the leaders of her era – both North and South.  She collected photographs (cartes des visite), intending to illustrate her diary, but after her death, her albums were lost for nearly 100 years.  In 2007, Marty Daniels made a stunning discovery when Chesnut’s albums surfaced on eBay.  They rushed to purchase them at auction, see to their publication, and then donate them to the University of South Carolina to be reunited with Chesnut’s papers.

Marty Daniels is the editor and co-author of Mary Chesnut’s Illustrated Civil War Diary and Photograph Album, Mulberry Edition. (Pelican Publishing, 2011).The two-volume publication won the University of South Carolina’s Alan D. Charles award for non-fiction in 2012.  Marty Daniels has family roots in both Minnesota (her father), and South Carolina (her mother).  In South Carolina, she tends Mulberry Plantation Archives containing letters, war diaries, maps and documents spanning 300 years of American history.

Program Descriptions 2015-16

September 15, 2015
Tim Smith on “Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation”
In the spring of 1862, there was perhaps no more important location in the western Confederacy than Corinth, Mississippi, the railroad “vertebrae of the Confederacy.”  Major General Henry W. Halleck declared on May 25, “Richmond and Corinth are now the great strategical points of war, and our success at these points should be insured at all hazards.” Corinth’s defender, P. G. T. Beauregard, similarly argued to Richmond immediately after Shiloh that, “If defeated here, we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause.”  As a result, Union and Confederate armies vied for control over the town over almost the entire year of 1862, first in a spring siege and then in a fall battle.  Examining Corinth in the Civil War, especially in the pivotal year of 1862, can thus help us understand the crucial events wedged between and often overshadowed by Shiloh and Vicksburg.

Timothy B. Smith is a veteran of the National Park Service and currently teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin.  In addition to numerous articles and essays, he is the author, editor, or co-editor of 14 books and has won numerous awards.  His most recent book is Shiloh: Conquer or Perish (2014), won the Richard B. Harwell Award from the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta.

October 20, 2015
Robert Girardi on “The Murder of Union General William “Bull” Nelson”

In the summer of 1862, Confederates invaded Kentucky and Union Major General Don Carlos Buell entrusted the safely of Louisville to his most trusted subordinate, Major General William Nelson.  Nelson ordered new recruits to the front to protect Louisville and assigned Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis to organize them.  Davis resented his assignment, argued with Nelson, and was relieved of command and ordered out of the city.  Davis returned a week later and in a heated confrontation, shot Nelson dead. 

Historian and Chicago Police Detective, Robert Girardi, will examine the facts and circumstances of this Civil War homicide case.  Robert is a past president of the Civil War Roundtable of Chicago, a fellow of the Company of Military Historians, and a member of the Sons of Union Veterans.  He has received numerous awards and written and edited a number of books related to the Civil War.

November 17, 2015
Krista Castillo on “Fort Negley: A Symbol of Union Occupation, Confederate Defeat, or Something Else Entirely”

Although Fort Negley is best known as the largest inland masonry fortification built during the Civil War, the site’s history is far more complex and compelling.  Constructed by African Americans impressed by the Federal Army to prevent Nashville’s recapture by Confederate forces and rebuilt by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, controversy and differing ideologies surround the fort to this day. Fort Negley represents liberation and a pathway to eventual freedom to some and serves as a tangible reminder of defeat and enemy occupation to others. Still others see the fort and surrounding park as an oasis in an ever changing and growing metropolis. This presentation examines Fort Negley’s multilayered past rooted in the Civil War and evolution as a public park.

Krista Castillo, a native of Northeastern Ohio, came to Fort Negley as the Education Manager in 2008. In 2010, she was promoted to Museum Coordinator and Site Manager. Krista earned a BA in History from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio in 2000. In 2012, she completed a Masters in Military History at Austin Peay State University. Krista currently serves as president of the Inter-Museum Council of Nashville (ICON), as president of the Nashville Civil War Roundtable, and as an editor of The Encyclopedia of Nashville and Davidson County scheduled to launch online next year. She resides in Clarksville with her husband, two daughters, and six spoiled dachshunds.



December 15, 2015 –
Stephen Chicoine on “Renegade – The Unconditional Union Men of Texas”

Texas was sharply split by both geography and the ownership of slavery. Many wealthy slaveowners from the Deep South moved to Texas to escape the boll weevil and to exploit the undepleted soil.  West of Austin, the rugged Texas Hill Country was dry and arid and better suited to raising livestock, and the independent ranchers of the Hill Country had little use for slaves.  They saw no reason to secede from the Union.  The secession of Texas was the result of many factors, including the well-established secret society, The Knights of the Golden Circle.  There were many Texans opposed to secession, even those who accepted the institution of slavery.  

Throughout the Civil War, there was considerable opposition to the Confederate government.  The Confederate authorities brutally suppressed such dissent as best they could.  When the war ended, Texas Unionists suffered considerably during and after Reconstruction.  The Lost Cause movement erased the heroic story of Texas Unionists.

Steve Chicoine grew up in Decatur, Illinois.  He has been an avid student of the Civil War for over 50 years.  He is a graduate of University of Illinois and Stanford University.  He worked for 25 years in Houston in the oil business before moving to Minnesota.  He is the author of 13 books, including his latest, RENEGADES, which is the result of a decade of research, beginning with his wife’s ancestor, an officer with the First Texas Union Cavalry.  


January 19, 2016 –
Christopher Price on “’Gettysburg of the West’ Battle”

“The Gettysburg of the West” includes many battles fought in the Trans-Mississippi West, including: Battle of Glorieta Pass, Battle of Westport, Battle of Franklin, Pea Ridge and Battle of Honey Springs.  In particular, the Honey Springs battle can be compared to Gettysburg because it represented a shift in who was winning the war.  Honey Springs was also unique because of the role of African Americans played in it and the precarious circumstances of the Native Americans who had been forced to relocate to Indian Territory (Present Day Oklahoma) in the 1830’s.  

Christopher Price began his career with the National Park Service at Grand Canyon National Park as a museum technician.  Career advancements led him to the Outer Banks of North Carolina which includes Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and the Wright Brothers National Memorial.  His responsibilities included locating, evaluating, and documenting cultural resources for the purpose of research and interpretive purposes as well as protecting them from natural disasters and human activities. Christopher returned to Oklahoma as the Director of Honey Springs Battlefield, a Civil War site operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society. Here he manages all aspects of the cultural and natural resources of the historic site.  He holds a Masters of Arts in Museum Studies from the University of Oklahoma.


February 16, 2016 – 
Dr. George Wunderlich on “Civil War Medicine”

George Wunderlich is currently the Executive Director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine where he formerly held the position of Director of Education.  George came to the Museum in 2000 after moving from Missouri where he was Founder and Director of the Historical Education Center of St. Louis.  Since then he has developed historically-based medical leadership training programs for the Joint Medical Executive Skills Institute, The United State Army Medical Department (AMEDD) the  Interagency Institute for Federal Health Care Executives, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences  and various other civilian and governmental organizations.  In 2011 he was awarded the Order of Military Medical Merit by Army Surgeon General Lieutenant General Eric B. Schoomaker for his support of military medicine. He is a nationally known speaker on various Civil War topics and can be regularly seen on the History Channel, PBS, National Geographic and the British Broadcasting Corporation. 


March 15, 2016 –
Robert May on “Lincoln Douglas, the Myth of America’s Westward Expansion, and the Coming of the Civil War”

Just retired from Purdue University, Professor Robert E. May has authored four books dealing with the causes of the Civil War, including his recent Slavery, Race, and Conquest in the Tropics: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Future of Latin America--a finalist for the 2014 Lincoln book prize. He has also edited a widely-praised book on Civil War diplomacy titled The Union, the Confederacy, and the Atlantic Rim, appeared on C-SPAN and in historical documentaries, and has authored articles for such journals as Civil War History and North & South. At Purdue, he taught courses on Lincoln, the Civil War, and Southern history, and won Purdue's highest award for teaching.

His talk, entitled "Lincoln Douglas, the Myth of America's Westward Expansion, and the Coming of the Civil War will attack the stereotype that most of us have taken as gospel since high school--that the argument over the territorial expansion of slavery between Lincoln and Douglas (and Northerners and Southerners) in the 1850s, which is often considered the primary cause of the Civil War, only concerned the West. May insists that the argument not only also had to do with whether U.S. slavery could be spread to Latin America, but also that there is no separating Kansas and Latin America when discussing the origins of the Civil War. 


May 17, 2016
Al Stone as General Robert E. Lee in “The Dilemma”

From 1857 to 1859, Robert E. Lee served as administrator of his Father-in-Law’s estate at Arlington.  Prior to that time, he had known no other life but that of a military officer.  Now, with the passing of Mr. Custis, he was called upon to settle a large estate consisting of several plantations and numerous other assets, including the personal possessions of George and Martha Washington which had been inherited by the Custis family.  During a two-year leave of absence, his attention was directed toward the planters’ challenges they faced with the ever increasing presence of political intrusion from Washington City.  Was the central government overstepping its bounds in legislating; were the rights of the states being usurped; were the written and expressed intentions of our Founding Fathers being cast aside in order to propagate an ‘unwritten constitution’, a strong, national government. These and other questions surfaced over and over again.  Then on October 17, 1859, Robert E. Lee was dispatched to Harper’s Ferry and the war was beginning.

Al Stone, who portrays General Robert E. Lee, has been a lifelong student of the Civil War.  As the color of his hair and beard changed from brown to white, Al began to assume the role of a Confederate officer which later developed into portraying one of America’s greatest generals.  He has portrayed the General in classroom settings, at award ceremonies, church gatherings, reenactments, Chautauqua’s, on theater stages and other special occasions.  Selected to portray Gen. Lee in the documentary titled “April 1865” for the History Channel as well as numerous other films, he has been described by Civil War re-enactors and historians alike as presenting the “most accurate impression of General Lee in the union today.”  Al was also given this designation by Robert E. Lee IV and other family members while visiting with them during the celebration of the General’s 200 birthday in 2007.  Al portrayed General Lee at the annual reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg for eight years with his last appearance there in July 2013 – the 150th anniversary of that engagement. 



Program Descriptions 2016-17

September 20, 2016  
Why the Civil War Made Our Modern Food
, Bruce Kraig

How many people know that what we eat today and what we buy in our supermarkets, is the result of a war fought 150 years ago?  The Civil War was the first war with mass mobilization of men and material.  And with it came what are now familiar effects: centralization of authority and economies into the hands of governments and larger business entities; technological change and intensification.  All of these have to do with food production because, as Napoleon supposedly said, an army travels on its stomach. The North won the war because it produced more food (and arms) and organized its distribution better than the South. The ultimate result of all this was massive changes in the way that Americans grew, shipped, and processed food - and, of course, in what they ate.

Bruce Kraig is Professor Emeritus in History at Roosevelt University in Chicago where he taught a wide variety of courses in history, anthropology, and popular culture. He also taught culinary subjects at the culinary school of Kendall College, Chicago. Kraig has appeared widely in the electronic media as writer and on-camera host and narrator for a multi-award winning PBS series on food and culture around the world. He has written and edited hundreds of articles on food in newspapers, journals, and for encyclopedia.


October 18, 2016  
The Battle of Falling Waters, George F. Franks III

Many historians agree the Gettysburg Campaign concluded with the Battle of Falling
Waters, Maryland, on July 14, 1863.  Although not the climactic battle of the
war desired by President Abraham Lincoln, it remains a story of miscalculation,
bravery, larger-than-life personalities, tragedy and a cover-up.  The story does not end with the battle. Included is an intriguing tale about veterans of the Battle of Falling Waters, Maryland decades after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s rear guard clashed with Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s cavalry.

George F. Franks, III has been passionate about the study of the American Civil War.  He studied history at the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Pittsburgh.  George is the founder and President of the Battle of Falling Waters 1863 Foundation, Inc. and a member of the Board of Directors of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. 


November 15, 2016  
Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg, Tom Huntington

Born in 1815 in Spain (where his father, from Philadelphia, served as an agent for the U.S. Navy), George Gordon Meade graduated from West Point, fought in the Mexican-American War and built lighthouses.  He received command of the dysfunctional Army of the Potomac only three days before winning the pivotal battle of Gettysburg, and he remained the army’s leader until it was dissolved on June 28, 1865. Meade died in 1872, helped to his grave by wounds he received ten years earlier.  Author Tom Huntington wrote his book, Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg (Stackpole Books, 2013), because it seemed the history books have largely overlooked the man who led the Army of the Potomac for the final two years of its existence.

Tom Huntington has written several books and articles regarding the Civil War and is the former editor of American History and Historic Traveler magazines.  Although a Maine native, he now lives in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Beth Ann, and two children. He is currently working on a book about the Maine soldiers who fought at Gettysburg.


December 20, 2016  
The USS Maple Leaf:  Its History, Discovery and Excavation, Lawrence Babits

In 1862, the passenger ship Maple Leaf was chartered to the U.S. Army, bringing Union troops south to Virginia. In 1863, Confederate prisoners-of-war (POWs) on the ship overpowered their guards and took control of the vessel.  After landing, the POWs escaped to Richmond. The Union recovered the boat and continued to use it to transport troops along the East Coast until April of 1864, at which time the Maple Leaf struck a Confederate "torpedo" (what we would now call a mine) off Mandarin Point in the St. John's River. The explosion tore the bow of the ship apart, ripping through the deck and killing four soldiers. The vessel sank quickly and has remained buried in the river since that time.   It is now a National Historic Landmark. 

Lawrence E. Babits, is a George Washington Distinguished Professor, East Carolina University Professor Emeritus, former Director of Maritime Studies, with a Ph.D. from Brown University, and a BA and MA from the University of Maryland-College Park.  He has extensive experience in military and maritime archaeology.  He has been a reenactor since 1961 and is currently involved with researching smoothbore musketry accuracy and shooting Civil War weaponry competitively with the First Maryland Infantry of the North-South Skirmish Association. He has written numerous site reports, articles and books regarding the Civil War and Civil War archaeology. 


January 17, 2017   
Island Number 10, Neil Simonson

In March and April of 1862 the Union Army and Navy launched a campaign to
capture Island #10 of the Mississippi River, the tenth Island south of Cairo, Illinois, hoping to open up the entire Mississippi for Union control.  The successful operation catapulted John Pope to national fame, propelling him to command at Second Manassas.  But the ignominious defeat relegated him to Minnesota and the remnants of the Dakota-US War of 1862.  Neil Simonson will outline the geography, routes and personalities connected with the battle.

Neil Simonson has studied the Civil War since 1954.  He is the former publisher of the Gopher Prairie Paper.  He currently lives on the Vermillion Shores.


February 21, 2017  
Amiable Scoundrel: Lincoln's Scandalous Secretary of War, Paul Kahan

His contemporaries called him the “greatest of wire-pullers” and “corrupt as a dunghill." Historians have been no kinder, branding him a “crafty manipulator with few scruples” and “a deadweight, an embarrassment.” The man they are describing, Simon Cameron, has become shorthand for corruption and graft during the Civil War, but there was more to Cameron than his reputation suggests. Half a century ago, Kelley sagely noted that “Cameron’s reputation has stood in the way of an objective appraisal” of his life.  Surely he was, as his critics long maintained, an opportunist, but there was more than simple self-advancement at work. This is an opportunity to reassess Cameron's successes and failures during his brief tenure as Secretary of War and discuss the often misunderstood reasons for his ouster from the War Department.
Dr. Paul Kahan is a well-known and respected authority on nineteenth-century U.S. history. He earned a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Temple University in 2009 and has published five books.  Find out more about Dr. Kahan and his work by visiting his website,


March 21, 2017  
“It is a Marvelous Thing”:  The U.S. Sanitary and Christian Commissions, Daniel J. Hoisington

During the Civil War, two great relief agencies provided support and care for Union soldiers. Both provided an opportunity for civilians, far behind the lines, to connect with the soldiers. The two agencies, though, were very different in their philosophies and operations — highlighting alternate views of charitable work that are still relevant today. Mr. Hoisington will weave in the stories of two representatives to shed light on their work: Frederick Law Olmsted of the Sanitary Commission and John Chamberlain, the brother of Joshua Chamberlain, who served with the Christian Commission at Gettysburg.

Daniel J. Hoisington has a M.A. in American history from the University of Virginia and completed all course work for the Ph.D. degree. He is the author of 12 books and numerous journal articles, including Heritage: Preserving Eden Prairie’s Past and A German Town: A History of New Ulm, Minnesota, and his recent Brown County Historical Society exhibit, Never Shall I Forget: Brown County and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.



April 8, 2017  Symposium


May 16, 2017 
Overrun with Free Negroes: Politics and Resettlement, Leslie Schwalm

Leslie’s talk, "Overrun with Free Negroes:  Politics and Resettlement," will explore the wartime flight and relocation of enslaved people out of the Mississippi Valley into the states of the Upper Midwest, where they encountered varied and conflicting responses to emancipation and black migration.

Professor Leslie Schwalm is a historian of slavery, war, and emancipation, as well as an historian of gender and race in the nineteenth-century U.S.  In addition to her appointment in the University of Iowa’s Department of History, she holds an appointment as Professor in the Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies.  She earned her Ph.D. in 1991 from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  She has written numerous essays and several books on these subjects. 



Twin Cities Civil War Round Table