American Civil War education, preservation and restoration
The round table meets on the third Tuesday of the month from September through May, except April, at the Knights of Columbus, 1114 American Boulevard West, Bloomington, MN 55420, for members and their guests. Social hour starts at 5:45 pm followed by dinner and a speaker at 6:30 pm. If you are not yet a member please see Join the Table for more information or contact Carol VanOrnum, Treasurer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a more complete description of the program, and a speaker bio, click on the presentation title.
2020-2021 Guest Speaker Schedule
September 15, 2020
“Lincoln’s Spies: Their Secret War to Save the Union”
– Douglas Waller
September 15, 2020
Lincoln’s Spies is a story about dangerous espionage and covert operations during the Civil War. It is told through the lives of four Union agents. Allan Pinkerton, whose detective agency had already brought him fame nationwide, was George McClellan’s failed spymaster, delivering inflated intelligence reports that made the Union general even more cautious. Lafayette Baker ran counter-espionage operations in Washington for the War Department, putting hundreds in jail and pocketing cash from graft he uncovered. George Sharpe, a New York lawyer, successfully ran spying for generals Joseph Hooker, George Meade, and Ulysses S. Grant, outpacing anything the Confederates could field. Elizabeth Van Lew, a Virginia heiress, ran a Union espionage ring in Richmond, providing Grant critical information as his army closed in on the Confederate capitol. And behind these secret agents was Abraham Lincoln who became an avid consumer of intelligence and a ruthless aficionado of covert action. The phone tapping, human collection and aerial snooping you see today’s spies doing can be traced back to the Civil War.
Douglas Waller is a former correspondent for Newsweek and TIME, where he covered the CIA, Pentagon, State Department, White House, and Congress. He is author of several bestselling books, including Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage; The Commandos: The Inside Story of America’s Secret Soldiers; and Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan. His latest book is Lincoln’s Spies: Their Secret War to Save the Nation.
October 20, 2020
“Union General August Willich”
– David Dixon
October 20, 2020
The life of Union General August Willich begins as a Prussian army officer who renounces his nobility and joins in the failed European revolutions of 1848. He emigrates to America, edits a daily labor newspaper in Cincinnati, and becomes one of the most accomplished generals in the Union Army. This story sheds new light on the contributions of 200,000 German-Americans who fought for the Union. Willich’s life offers a glimpse into the international dimension of America’s Civil War. For Willich, the nature and implications of that revolution turned not on Lincoln’s conservative goal of maintaining the national Union, but on issues of social justice, including slavery, free labor, and popular self-government. The Civil War was not simply a war to end sectional divides, but to restore the soul of the nation, revive the hopes of democrats worldwide, and, in Willich’s own words, “defend the rights of man.”
David Dixon earned his M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts in 2003. He has written books, given nearly 100 talks to audiences, appeared on Civil War Talk Radio and other podcasts. He hosts B-List History, a website that features obscure characters and their compelling stories.
November 17, 2020
“General U.S. Grant and the Battle of Belmont”
– Thomas Arliskas
November 17, 2020
The Battle of Belmont was General Grant’s first battle when he was in direct command of troops on the ground, and which, in fact, haunted US Grant to his grave. Arliskas will present memories and articles that have never been seen or in print on Grant’s first Battle. We will discuss the Battle itself, the repercussions, the poor press releases, and how General US Grant almost faced a court martial for his action at Belmont. Additionally, Arliskas will present how it was all tied to General John C. Fremont’s Western Command and how Fremont got the blame for Belmont and not Grant.
An accomplished author of magazine articles and several books, Arliskas has served on the boards of the Company of Military Historians, the North-South Skirmish Association, a Regional Commander for the local N-SSA teams, and a member of the 29th Wisconsin Infantry N-SSA. He was past President of the Milwaukee Civil War Round-table. He is retired and living in Milwaukee with his wife Terry.
December 15, 2020: “The Rock Fails to Roll: General George Henry Thomas at Kennesaw Mountain” -Brian Steele Wills
December 15, 2020
“The Rock Fails to Roll: General George Henry Thomas at Kennesaw Mountain” – Brian Steele Wills
December 15, 2020
The American Civil War opened avenues for many individuals to emerge as leaders in the conflict. In 1861, Southampton County, Virginia, native George Thomas brought with him a West Point education and extensive earlier service in the field, including active involvement in the Mexican American War. His meticulous manner, reflected in the pre-war nickname, “Old Slow Trot,” also raised questions in the minds of superiors and some colleagues about the degree to which Thomas might be able to contribute to ultimate Union victory. George Henry Thomas overcame his doubters to become one of the Union’s top generals, known best to history as “the Rock of Chickamauga.”
Subsequently, the Virginian in blue took a prominent role in the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, commanding the largest of the three armies assigned to William T. Sherman. Sherman occasionally became exasperated with Thomas’s more cautious approach to campaigning, but often placed him at the center of the movements. It was Thomas who received the order to attempt to break through the Confederate lines of Joseph Johnston at Kennesaw Mountain in June. Nevertheless, he found the work formidable as a result of facing some of the Confederacy’s finest fighters—Patrick Cleburne and Benjamin Franklin Cheatham at the “Dead Angle.” Union success would have to wait before the “Rock” could roll on toward Atlanta.
Brian Steel 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, Ga. Dr. Wills is a member of the Georgia Civil War Commission and immediate past President of the Atlanta Civil War Round Table. He is also the author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War.
May 18, 2021: “The Infamous Dakota War Trials of 1862: Revenge, Military Law, and the Judgment of History” – John Haymond
May 18, 2021
“The Infamous Dakota War Trials of 1862: Revenge, Military Law, and the Judgment of History”
– John Haymond
January 19, 2021
The military commission trials that took place in the immediate aftermath of the US-Dakota War of 1862 remain an intensely controversial element of Minnesota’s most devastating conflict. The grim details of those proceedings –the frequently cursory nature of the 392 trials and the secrecy under which they were conducted; the total lack of defense counsel for the Dakota defendants; the 303 death sentences; the 38 men hanged on a single gallows in Mankato – have led many modern observers to conclude that the trials, executions, and subsequent expulsion of Dakota people from Minnesota were appalling injustices. The prevailing view also holds that Colonel Henry H. Sibley never had the necessary authority to convene the military court in the first place. Historian John A. Haymond examines the US-Dakota War and the military commission trials from the essential perspective of 19th century military law and reaches several surprising conclusions that directly challenge many long-held interpretations of this history.
John A. Haymond is a conflict historian who studies the history of military law and social justice issues. He has a BA in history from the University of Minnesota Duluth, an MSc in history from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and is working on a PhD based on his research on the Dakota War trials. He is the author of three books: The Infamous Dakota War Trials of 1862: Revenge, Military Law, and the Judgment of History (McFarland & Co, 2016); The American Soldier, 1866-1916: The Enlisted Man and the Transformation of the United States Army (McFarland & Co, 2018); and Soldiers: A Global History of the Fighting Man 1800-1945 (Stackpole Books, 2018). His fourth book, a study of the 1917 Houston Mutiny and courts-martial, a case that resulted in the largest mass execution of American soldiers in U.S. history, is currently underway. His work has been published in scholarly journals both in the United States and Great Britain, and he writes a regular feature about the history of the laws of war for Military History Quarterly. He served twenty-one years in the U.S. Army and currently resides in Washington, where his wife is an Army medical officer at Joint Base Lewis McChord.
February 16, 2021: “Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln” – John Fazio
February 16, 2021
“Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln” – John Fazio
February 16, 2021
More than a hundred books have been written about Lincoln’s assassination, yet one of the few certainties surrounding his death is the fact that little about it is certain. The literature on the subject is replete with errors, theories and guesswork. This comprehensive re-examination of the facts seeks to correct major and minor errors in the record, reconcile differences of opinion, offer explanations for unknowns and evaluate theories. Drawing on hundreds of sources, Fazio covers the prelude to the war, Booth’s accomplices and their roles in the conspiracy, the kidnapping ruse that concealed the intended decapitation of the United States government, the mysteries surrounding key players (Parker, Forbes and Cobb), the assassination itself, the attempted assassinations, Booth’s escape, the death of the president, the pursuit of the fugitives, the death of Booth and the trial and sentencing of his co-conspirators (except John Surratt) and one innocent man. The simple conspiracy theory is rejected by Fazio in favor of the theory that Booth worked with the complicity of the highest levels of the Confederate government and its Secret Service Bureau, whose twofold purpose was retribution and snatching Southern independence from a weakened and chaotic Federal government.
Fazio, is a member of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable and has been its president. He frequently speaks on the war before Roundtables and other groups, has written and published numerous articles on the war and teaches Civil War history at Chautauqua Institution. He is also a member of the Lincoln Forum, the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Cleveland Grays and the Surratt Society.
March 16, 2021
“Gone With the Wind and the Construction of Civil War Memory“ – Leslie Goddard
March 16 2021
Seventy-five years after its blockbuster premiere in 1939, Gone with the Wind continues to inspire both passionate devotion and academic criticism. One historian has called it “almost certainly the single most powerful influence on American perceptions of the Civil War.” In this illustrated slide lecture about the history of the movie, we’ll consider both the accuracy of its portrayal of the American Civil War and its lasting influence in shaping popular understanding of Civil War history. What accounts for this film’s widespread – and enduring – popularity among viewers? Does Gone with the Wind still matter in scholarly and popular conversations about the Civil War?
Leslie Goddard holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University specializing in U.S. history and American studies, as well as a master’s degree in theater. A former museum director, she is the author of two books on Chicago history and currently serves on the executive board of the Chicago Civil War Round Table. She speaks frequently on topics in history with particular expertise in the areas of Civil War history, women’s history, and Chicago history.