Member Profiles


Twin Cities Civil War Round Table

James Mewborn

James Mewborn’s interest in the Civil War began as a Boy Scout, hiking and studying the Tennessee battlefields near his home.  Born and raised in Memphis, TN, James learned from his father that he had three great uncles and a great-grandfather who all fought in the 13th Tennessee.  The youngest of the great uncles, Uncle Josh, had just turned 18 when he enlisted, joining his two older brothers in the regiment.  Only two weeks later, they all fought in the battle of Shiloh.  Uncle Joe was captured and sent to Johnson’s Island, Lake Erie, where he spent a year.  Somehow, there he started learning dentistry and went on to establish the Memphis Dental Society.  What James finds special is that his Uncle Josh lived long enough for James’ father to engage in many personal conversations about his war experiences.  These conversations were passed down to James. 

James attended college in Rhode Island, where he took the opportunity to visit the graves of General Ambrose Burnside and Governor William Sprague IV in Providence.  He attended law school in Baltimore where he met his Minnesotan wife, Susan.  For over 40 years, James practiced civil litigation before retiring in May 2020.   James has a broad interest in all aspects of the Civil War but enjoys learning the soldiers’ perspectives.  Unrelated to the Civil War, he enjoys English Tudor history, particularly Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. 

 

Sally Rubinstein

Sally Rubinstein has been a member of the TCCWRT for about 20 years, served as President from 2007 to 2009, and has been facilitating the book raffle before each meeting for the last 12 years. She’s a lifelong history student and earned a Master of Arts in history from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and was a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Minnesota. She was working as an editor at the Minnesota Historical Society Press when in 1999 the director asked her what topics the Press had not yet covered. She knew that they had not published anything about the American Civil War. She got the assignment, and her interest in the Civil War grew from there, leading to the publication of a dozen books by the Press.

She passed on her interest to her husband, Mitch, and their daughter, Rebecca, who researched and spoke on the soldier vote at the April 2021 symposium. Rebecca’s research was subsequently published in Minnesota History magazine. Sally’s ancestral connection to the War is her great-great-grandfather W. C. A. Bain from Indiana who served as a doctor in the Civil War. She also notes that her house in St. Paul was built in 1884 by Judson Wade Bishop, the Colonel of the Second Minnesota Regiment.

What Sally finds most interesting is the astonishing role Minnesota played in the War. As one of the newest states in the Union with a small population, it still sent about 25,000 men to fight for the North, playing significant roles in the major battles of Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Nashville. She’s proud that in every battle Minnesota soldiers fought in, they helped hold the line. She also feels it noteworthy that Minnesotans were the first to enlist, and Minnesota also had the last surviving Union veteran – Albert Woolson, who died in Duluth in 1956.

Bob Svacina

A former member of TCCWRT and a friend, Bob Waterloo, advised me if I would be interested. I was, and my wife Pat and I joined the Round Table in 2018.

On my mother’s side I can go back to Hardy Pace. He was a cofounder of Atlanta, Georgia and Pace’s Ferry across the Chattahoochee River. This was the site of a skirmish in the Atlanta Campaign for General Oliver O. Howard’s IV Corps.

I served in the Navy Reserves and the Air National Guard. My educational background was in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. I added an MBA in courses of my choosing. I’ve had various positions in engineering, sales, and management in the electrical industry and specifically in industrial and process automation.

My interest in the Civil War began in my American History class in high school. The subject was okay, but what was really interesting was the French Second Empire mansion of Major General Grenville M. Dodge that he had built in 1869-1870. It was only about 100 yards out the southeast window of my class room. My high school sat on land the General once owned. The Y M C A where I learned to swim was sponsored by the General. The Carnegie Grant Library, that I used often through high school, was built with extra Dodge money to make it the largest and most expensive Carnegie Grant Library in Iowa.

What really hooked me on the Civil War was the time I spent researching the Battle of Pea Ridge at the Iowa Historical Society. The writings were by Ed Bearss, of when the then, Colonel Dodge, was twice the deciding factor in the battle. Mr. Bearss was a rookie tour guide at Vicksburg when he wrote it.

Since then, I’ve made it a priority to visit Civil War sites in my travels: Shiloh, Tupelo, Corinth, and the fort at the entrance to Mobile Bay. My wife and I have visited several museums of Civil War leaders. Last year I produce a twenty-two YouTube video on the museums: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FtL7PUudbE

Brett Johnson

Brett’s interest in the Civil War was sparked in 2005 when his boss passed on Michael Schaara’s Killer Angels to him she had received from a management course. He later joined the Twin Cities Civil War Round Table in 2015. He received his B.A. in Economics from St. Olaf and an MBA from the University of MN and worked in finance and systems development at Control Data and Target.

Brett’s interests include traveling and camping. His two adult children could claim that he dragged them to more battlefields than any of their history teachers had seen! More recently, Brett has taken annual one-week trips to southern Civil War battlefields with a high school friend who lives in Dubuque, IA. The biggest surprise on one of the trips was when he saw the baseball field in Hot Springs, AR, a favorite spring training grounds 100 years ago, where Babe Ruth hit his first 500-foot home run!

Brett has also learned that he has an ancestor who fought with the 5th MN for General Sherman, which included digging trenches in Vicksburg, MS.

Brett has been an avid reader of the Economist magazine since going on a college junior year abroad in Oxford. His most recent Civil War reading, in the summer of 2021, was Lincoln on the Verge, a fascinating chronicle of Lincoln’s 13-day trip to Washington D.C. to assume the Presidency. His favorite historical author is Robert Massey, who has written massive volumes on many subjects and people, including Peter the Great, and Castles of Steel (WW1 battleships). Brett is excited that his wife has recently taken interest in the Civil War as well, and she will be joining the Round Table for the 2021-2022 season.

Ken Flies

Ken is the Past President of TCCWRT and chairs the TCCWRT Marketing Committee and has been a member of TCCWRT since 2008; and is also a past member of the Hiawatha and Rochester round tables. Ken’s Civil War pedigree includes numerous relatives, ranging from generals to privates, serving in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota regiments. He is a member of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society and has lectured frequently, locally and nationally, especially on the Battle of Nashville and the XVI Corps. Civil War writing efforts include the production of a play, The Guerillas from the Greenwood and the poem An Ode to a Soldier Long Forgotten that won the Editor’s Choice awards of the National and International Libraries of Poetry.

In 2011-2015 Ken served with the Minnesota Governor’s Sesquicentennial Task Force, conducting commemorative services and obtaining new granite markers for 14 of the only 20 Minnesota soldiers killed in the war and returned for burial in Minnesota. In 2014 Ken established the first ever marker by any state on the Nashville Battlefield where 98 Minnesotans were killed. In 2014 he placed three State historical markers in his hometown of Plainview, Minnesota, noting the exploits of a unique company of Civil War soldiers.

In 1962, Ken was the youngest first ever Peace Corps Volunteer from Minnesota at age 19. He has been involved in the start-up and development of more than a dozen companies and organizations domestically and internationally. He is the author or two books: Into the Backlands and Retrieving Isaac and Jason. In 2002 he was recognized by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as an outstanding rural entrepreneur and in 2012 by Governor Mark Dayton for his entrepreneurial contributions to the State of Minnesota. Ken is widowed and resides in Eagan, Minnesota.

Carol VanOrnum

Carol has been a member of the TCCWRT since 2010. As a child, her family took many road trips, stopping at Civil War battlefields. It was the seed that was cultivated into a love of Civil War history. After reading Killer Angels, she became fascinated by the personal relationships developed throughout the Civil War between soldiers, generals, politicians, and the families back home. She has been secretary/treasurer of the TCCWRT since 2011. In 2017, the TCCWRT Board sent her to Manassas to attend the first annual CWRT Congress conference, an organization which was created to help Civil War round tables thrive and survive. The seminar provided ways to improve your Civil War round table. The ideas she brought back were implemented, such as creating an updated logo, a vibrant website, a Facebook page, and more.

In the summer of 2020, Carol was invited to be on the Board of the CWRT Congress (first woman!) as the Director of Communications. Her role includes creating a quarterly newsletter and an annual report. She enjoys seeing and sharing how other round tables around the country and world find ways to keep their round tables thriving.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that she discovered she had Confederate ancestors. The King family hailed from Roswell, GA. She has four 5X-great uncles who fought and died or were wounded in the war; two other uncles served in the ministry and medical field. Her G G G grandfather, Barrington King, operated a textile mill which was burned by General Sherman’s army. Her main interest and research is Sherman’s Atlanta campaign as it made its way through Roswell, and she gives lectures on that episode.

Carol lives in the Hopkins area with her rescue dog, Mittie, who is named after Mittie Bulloch, the mother of Teddy Roosevelt and a true Southern belle.

Stephen Osman

Stephen Osman is a graduate of St. Olaf College who retired as senior historian with the Minnesota Historical Society. He managed Historic Fort Snelling for over three decades, and actively researches, speaks and writes about Minnesota’s role in the Civil War and the Dakota War. Osman served with the US Army Reserve in Psychological Operations at Fort Snelling, is an elected fellow of the Company of Military Historians, and a long-serving board member of the Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum, the Friends of Fort Snelling, Heritage Arms Society and the Pond Dakota Heritage Society. He is the author of Fort Snelling Then and Now: The World War II Years, Fort Snelling and the Civil War and numerous articles in history journals, and published the scholarly journal Minnesota’s Heritage.

Stephen’s interest in the Civil War dates back to grade school when relatives passed their ancestors’ artifacts onto him. He was a member of the Bloomington-Normal Illinois Civil War Round Table in those days. In 1973 he co-founded the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry reenactment group and led them to numerous national events and movie filmings. For the past two decades he has chaired the multi-Round Table committee that produces the annual Minnesota Civil War Symposium.

Stephen’s wife Wendy is a talented historic costumer and member of the TCCWRT. Their three adult children all volunteered at Historic Fort Snelling when young, but only son Austin now seems to have fully caught the history bug.

Darryl Sannes

Darryl Sannes has been studying the American Civil War, as a hobby, all of his adult life. He co-authored the three-book set, Patriots of Brooklyn, the stories of men from Brooklyn Township who served in the Civil War. From 2011 through 2015 he served on the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force. He has been to all of the major Civil War Battlefields at least once and has been to Gettysburg 11 times. Sannes has over 500 Civil War books in his library. He has been a member of the TCCWRT since 2006 and has been an officer and board member for the last five years. Darryl has also presented on Civil War subjects to the other Minnesota Civil War Round Tables. Sannes is a board member for a local non-profit, is active with the Brooklyn Historical Society, and spends most of his retired time researching history and genealogy.

Nancy Johnson

My name is Nancy Ray Johnson and I have belonged to the group since 2014. I first became aware of the TCCWRT from a bookmark that was handed to me at another event. At my first meeting, I truly enjoyed the reception I received and felt very welcome in the group.

Ancestry is my real passion and I have been working on my family history for over 25 years. My mother and maternal grandmother both belonged to The Daughters of the American Revolution. Through my Grandmother Pearl Baker Siemen, I inherited A Childs History of Waseca Co. Minnesota for Fifty Years 1854 – 1904, and the two-volume set of the Minnesota in the Civil War and Indian War 1861-1865. These books I later learned are in the Minnesota Historical Society for reference. My Great Grandfather, Samuel White Baker was in the 2nd. Regiment of Cavalry in Company C. He enlisted on Dec. 1, 1863 and was discharged Nov 17, 1865. I have his discharge papers. His Cousin Asa Mosher was also in this company. They both took part in the battle of To-Ha-Kouty Mountain on the east side of the Dakota Bad Lands and the battle of the Little Missouri. He also may have been among those who rescued a wagon train run by Captain Fisk heading to the Idaho gold fields. I have 14 Civil War Soldiers that I have documented and have pictures of 10 of these. All but two of the ancestors are in my Grandmothers English descent.

I joined the Round Table to learn more about the Civil War. The First Minnesota Voluntary Infantry is most important to me because my ancestor, Ludwell James Mosher, was one of the first to enlist on April 16th, 1861, in Company G., under Captain Louis McKune. He was 23 and fought at the second battle of Bull Run and was wounded there. On July 2nd, 1863, he was again wounded in an arm and leg in the charge at Gettysburg that made the Minnesota First Infantry the heroes of that day.

I was born in Minneapolis and have lived there and in the western suburbs. I have two married daughters who live near me, and four grandchildren.

Lana Blumhoefer

I joined the Twin City Civil War Round Table in 2012. I have served on the Board of Directors for the past several years. I love getting together with everyone there and listening to all the speakers and always learn something new. I feel I am among my “own kind,” and I wish I had found this group years ago!

My interest in the Civil War is learning how it affected the relationships between people in both the North and the South – the “brother against brother.” I am interested to learn about the men who had to leave their wives and other loved ones behind not knowing if they would ever return to them and how hard that must have been on both these men and the ones they left behind. I like to learn how the men handled their day-to-day life in the war and also how their families survived without them. So, the emotional side of the war is what interests me the most.

I won the American history award in my small-town high school one year. I also had read the book and saw the movie Gone With the Wind in high school. I had watched several Civil War mini-series on TV and also saw the Ken Burns Civil War documentary series and all of that really fueled my desire to learn more.

I got my love of history from my Dad. He never got to tour any historical areas of the USA but I did, and he would always love to look at my photos, mementoes and stories that I would tell him about all the historical things that I had seen. It really was a special bonding time with my Dad and is a special memory for me now. I used to tell him that I had to look at things twice on the history trips that I went on, once for me and once for him! He has now passed but I know he would be so surprised and proud that I found this group and am even on the Board of Directors now.

I have toured various Civil War sites such as Gettysburg – twice, Nashville, Springfield IL, Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, Chancellorsville, Washington DC, Richmond, and a few other sites in Arkansas and Missouri. Gettysburg is my favorite battlefield site as I can really feel the history there and have felt spiritual things there that I have not felt at any other historical place. Antietam, Appomattox and Atlanta are on my “bucket list” of places that I would still like to visit.

I also have an interest in the US/Dakota War of 1862 since I was born and raised in that area of southern MN and have toured many of those sites as well. Because of my interest in both of these wars I have wished that I had an ancestor that had been involved in either of these wars, but I do not believe I do.

I have also toured some Revolutionary War and colonial sites such as Philadelphia, Boston and the New England area.

Some of my other interests are many types of dancing such as polka, ballroom and Latin. I like to sing Karaoke, movies, reading, concerts and going to craft shows. I enjoy public speaking and can speak a little Spanish.

Bruce Cooper

Bruce Cooper is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and currently works as an analytical chemist at 3M.

Bruce’s interest in American history in general and the Civil War in particular dates back to childhood. During that period his family acquired The Golden Book History of the United States. Bruce spent many hours reading the 10 volumes and studying the many illustrations painted by Alton Tobey. He still owns the original 10 volume set.

Bruce joined the Round Table in 2011. He served as President of the Round Table during the 2017-2018 season. He currently serves on the Board as a Director and is editor of the TCCWRT News newsletter. He is also the administrator of the “Civil War Round Table – Twin Cities Group” on Facebook.

Bruce enjoys historical travel. During the last decade he’s traveled to Kansas City MO (World War One Museum, Truman Presidential Library) in 2010, Nashville TN (Andrew Jackson’s “The Hermitage,” Shy’s Hill, Stone’s River Battlefield) in 2014 and Virginia (Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg National Battlefield Parks, Appomattox Courthouse NHS and Battle of New Market) in 2018. He had hoped to celebrate his 60th b- birthday at Gettysburg NBP in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on those plans.

Bruce also enjoys bird watching, fishing and drawing/painting (mostly bird, fish and other wildlife). He currently lives in Andover MN with his wife Melodie who is also a Round Table member since 2019.