NC CWRT Home Page


Past Programs
November 2008 meeting - Speaker: Michael Moore
Topic: "North Carolina Troops on the Virginia Peninsula"

January 2008 meeting - Speaker: Ed Bearss Returned!
A record-breaking 102 attendees turned out for Ed's annual visit to North Carolina!

November 2007 meeting - Speaker: Dr. Earl Hess
Topic: "Lee's Tarheels"

September 2007 meeting - Speaker: Dick Sommers
Topic: "Robert E. Lee's Strategy in the Eastern Theater"

July 2007 meeting - Speaker: A. Wilson Greene
Topic: "Civil War Petersburg: Confederate City in the Crucible of War"

May 2007 meeting - Speaker: Jon Sarris
Topic: "A Separate Civil War – Communities in Conflict in The Mountain South"

March 2007 meeting - Speaker: Clint Johnson
Topic: "Touring Lexington, Virginia"

January 2007 meeting - Speaker: Ed Bearss
Topic: "Wade Hampton and the Army of Northern Virginia Cavalry."

November 2006 meeting - Speaker: Dr. John Coski

John Coski Dr. John Coski, Director of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, traced the history of the Confederate Battle Flag from 1861 to the present day. A very informative and interesting presentation at our November meeting.






September 2006 meeting - Speaker: Chris Hartley

Chris Hartley Stoneman's 1865 raid in Virginia and North Carolina - with emphasis on William Wagner's Raid on April 4-12, 1865 in southwestern Virginia - was Chris Hartley's topic at this month's meeting.






July 2006 meeting - Speaker: Gregory Biggs

Tonia Smith A good crowd turned out to hear Gregory Biggs' discussion of "Nathan Bedford Forrest: Napoleonic Cavalaryman."






April 2006 meeting - Speaker: Tonia Smith

Tonia Smith Tonia Smith related the intriguing saga of two Confederate spies (Col. William Orton Williams and Lt. Walter Gibson Peter) and the mysteries surrounding the life of William Orton Williams - a cousin of Robert E. Lee's wife.






January 2006 meeting - Speaker: Ed Bearss

Edwin C. Bearss Ed Bearss delighted one and all again at his annual NCCWRT appearance! His topic this year was "How I Became a Civil War Historian," and he gave us insight into how he got where he is, as well as some pointers on who else to keep an eye on in the field.






November 2005 meeting - Speaker: Dr. Arthur W. Bergeron

Dr. Arthur W. Bergeron Dr. Bergeron's topic this evening was "No Braver Cavalier Ever Rode to Death: John Rogers Cooke," the commander of the 27th North Carolina Infantry Regiment.






September 2005 meeting - Speaker: Dr. Paul Escott

Dr. Paul Escott Dr. Escott spoke to us this evening about Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Clinton A. Cilley.






July 2005 meeting - Speaker: Richard McMurry

Richard McMurry A great program and an excellent turnout for Richard McMurry, who talked on "A New Framework for Civil War Military History" with the conclusion that the war was won in the West!






May 2005 meeting - Speaker: Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley Mark gave a wonderful visual and verbal presentation of "command partnerships of Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston in 1865."






March 2005 meeting - Speaker: Dr. Chris E. Fonvielle, Jr.

Dr. Chris E. Fonvielle, Jr. Another great talk by North Carolina native Chris Fonvielle at our 50th Anniversary meeting this month. Chris told us of the exploits of William Barker Cushing, a daring Union naval officer whose greatest success occurred on the North Carolina coast. Dr. Fonvielle was also presented with this year's D.H. Hill Award for his outstanding contribution to Civil War scholarship. His new book, Last Rays of Departing Hope: The Wilmington Campaign, is the book many of us will be reading next.




January 2005 meeting - Speaker: Ed Bearss

Ed with NCCWRT President Gene Adcock Our "must-read" lists expanded this evening with Ed's presentation of his "Favorite Civil War Books!"






November 2004 meeting - Speaker: Michael Musick

Michael Musick We learned a great deal this evening about how to do research at the National Archives from Michael Musick, who recently retired from that revered institution.






September 2004 meeting - Speaker: Dr. John David Smith

Dr. John David Smith Dr. Smith's engaging discussion at this month's meeting was on African American Soldiers in the Civil War.






July 2004 meeting - Speaker: John Goode

John Goode John Goode made an excellent presentation this month on the Battle of Kinston, which occurred March 8-10, 1865, and resulted in the last mass-capture of Union troops on a Civil War battlefield.






May 2004 meeting - Speaker: Eric Wittenberg

Ed! Eric Wittenberg gave an excellent talk on "The Battle of Trevilian Station" this evening!






March 2004 meeting - Speaker: Alan Lamm

Ed! Mr. Lamm discussed Civil War Chaplains.








January 2004 meeting - Speaker: Ed Bearss

Ed! Ed offered up a great "Comparison of Nathan Bedford Forrest and James Ewell Brown ('JEB') Stuart."






November 2003 meeting - Speakers: Chris Watford and Erica Wein

Chris Watford Chris's topic was "North Carolina Voices in the Winter of 1862 - 1863" - a reading of letters from North Carolina soldiers and a slide presentation of the authors.


Erica Wein Erica, a student at NC State, presented a paper on the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment.




September 2003 meeting - Speaker (scheduled): Eric Wittenberg

Col. Jack Travis Due to weather problems, our speaker for September, Eric Wittenberg, was unable to get to North Carolina, so our own Clint Johnson put together a program of his slides from the National Archives (203 of their most popular still pictures of the Civil War). These pictures are in the Still Picture Branch of the National Archives and Records in Washington DC. Thanks for filling in on short notice, Ron!




July 2003 meeting - Speaker: Col. Jack Travis

Col. Jack Travis "Civil War Field Artillery"










May 2003 meeting - Speaker: James Abrahamson

James Abrahamson "The Secession Crisis of 1860 - 1861"








March 2003 meeting - Speaker: Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson "The Carolinas' Civil War Characters"







January 2003 meeting - Speaker: Ed Bearss

Ed Bearss "A Comparison of Field Medicine during the Civil War and World War II"









November 2002 meeting - Speaker: Bob Zeller
Topic: The War in Depth

At the November dinner meeting author Bob Zeller of Pleasant Garden entertained thirty- four members and guests of the round table with a demonstration of stereo photography from the Civil War. Sitting in a darkened room and viewing photographs projected on a screen, we were treated to three-dimensional scenes of battlefields, slave markets, burning cities, and other places and events of the era that seemed nearly as real as if we had been there ourselves.

The photographs were selected from Bob's two volumes of stereo photos of the war published in 1997 and 2000. He began by noting that photography was still a new phenomenon at the time hostilities began, having been invented about 1839. The earlier techniques, such as daguerreotypes and tintypes, had opened the way, but each photo was unique and could not be reproduced. The invention of wet-plate photography in the early fifties and the ability to print many copies from a glass negative made photography a mass medium.

By 1860, photographs came in two forms - a small single photo known as a carte de visite, and a stereoscopic photograph of left and right images that one viewed through a stereo viewer that merged the two images into one with the illusion of depth. It is the latter images projected onto a screen that we saw in 3-D through special polarized eyeglasses.

The very first wartime stereo photos, the aftermath of battle at Forts Sumter and Moultrie in April of 1861, were taken by James Osborn and F. Durbec of Charleston. Seeing the destruction in three dimensions gives the viewer a new perception of the ferocity of the bombardment. Bob also discussed the work of other prominent photographers of the time, including Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner. He noted that each had his own style; for instance, Gardner tended towards post-battle scenes of death and destruction with maximum visceral impact, while Brady emphasized broader vistas of battlefields that made the viewer reflect upon the war.

Bob's presentation covered the whole spectrum of the war, including battlefield photos, mostly from the Eastern theater, naval operations including the first actual combat photograph, that of Union ships attacking Fort Sumter an 1863, slave life, hospitals, railroads, and destroyed buildings. Interesting novelties were the first "color" photos, each stereo photograph being hand- tinted! One of them, of several soldiers writing letters home, is in an amazing state of preservation.

We are familiar with many of these photographs as single photos, but it was eye-opening in more ways than one to see them in three dimensions.   - Sid Sidlo


September 2002 meeting - Speaker: Dr. William Barney
Topic: Secession Fever

Dr. William Barney, Professor of History at UNC-Chapel Hill, told round table members and guests at the September dinner meeting of the incredible emotional atmosphere in South Carolina, especially in Charleston, that led to the opening guns of the war with the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Dr. Barney's talk was based on his forthcoming book about the coming of secession entitled A Rebel in the Making. Southerners had been brooding about secession since the crisis of 1832, when the federal government and southern states clashed over tariffs, leading to John Calhoun's doctrines on states' rights, which included the right to leave the Union. In the years that followed, South Carolina radicalism (i.e., states' rights) dominated the southern political climate. Another crisis loomed with the controversy over extension of slavery in the territories in 1850, which led to more mutual distrust between North and South. Now the idea of secession was penetrating deeper into Southern consciousness. Dr. Barney pointed out that it was by no means a simple idea. The issues of slavery, statehood, finance, tariffs, constitutional rights, the conflicts between the growing working class and free black laborers, not to mention devotion to freedom, pride, and honor, all stewed in a combustible mix that spelled nothing but trouble ahead. And so it continued for several years. When the news came on November 7, 1860, that Lincoln had been elected, the secession pot finally boiled over. That evening in Charleston, cannons were fired, fireworks set off, and patriotic speeches delivered. For the next three days, the city was in a frenzy. Banners, flags, and pins advocating secession were seen everywhere. Most carried the image of a palmetto tree or a lone star, and often both, as symbols of the movement. Torchlight parades, cannon firing, and fireworks went on night and day. Most of Charleston attended a mass meeting on November 9 to hear secessionist oratory that continued into the morning hours (unsurprisingly, pro-Union speakers were banned). The call was for immediate, but peaceful, secession. Orators claimed that when the other southern states also seceded, the North would back down and separation would be a fact. Dr. Barney gave many graphic illustrations of the patriotism, pride, and frustration that were all played out in the carnival-like atmosphere of Charleston in November of 1860. A convention to vote on secession was called for Columbia in December, but when an epidemic forced the convention to Charleston, the people of that city rejoiced. On December 20, South Carolina took the fateful step of secession, and other states soon followed. From their vulnerable post at Fort Moultrie, Major Robert Anderson and his Federal troops watched the hysteria with great concern. After dark on the day after Christmas, Anderson quietly moved his troops to Fort Sumter. The South felt betrayed, and secession mania grew steadily. When the Federal troops at Fort Sumter surrendered on April 13, South Carolinians felt they had won a great victory, and while there might be some dangers ahead, independence was all but won. We will look forward to Dr. Barney's book.   - Sid Sidlo


July 2002 meeting - Speaker: Ernest Dollar
Topic: Confederate Angst

Forty round table members and guests were entertained at the July meeting as Ernie Dollar of Durham, attired as a Confederate soldier, presented his film The Evening Sun, the story of fictional Confederate soldier Elijah Council of Chatham County. Ernie is producer and director of the film, as well as its star.

Of the same genre as Cold Mountain, the recent popular Civil War novel by Charles Frazier of Raleigh, The Evening Sun also tells the story of a Confederate soldier disillusioned by the ravages of war. Elijah and his friends enlist at the beginning of the conflict to uphold the honor of the South. Under the tribulations of war, however, honor begins to erode. During a major battle (the movie uses reenactment footage from Gettysburg) Elijah, unable to bear the bloodshed any longer, runs away. On his journey he has flashbacks of home and his wartime experiences. But on arriving home, he is overcome by feelings of guilt and shame, and there the story ends.

Much of the film was shot in true wartime locations, and it was enjoyable to see familiar places such as Bennett Place, Duke Homestead, and Fort Branch, as well as Gettysburg, mentioned above, and New Market in the Shenandoah Valley. While the film is heavy with symbols of the struggle of conscience with honor during wartime, it should appeal to those who feel that war is more than a series of strategic military decisions and interesting battlefield maneuvers.   - Sid Sidlo


May 2002 meeting - Speaker: Peter Carmichael
Topic: Brave Willie Pegram, the True Southerner

Confederate Colonel William J. "Willie" Pegram was the archetype of the Southerner who believed that his cause, including the institution of slavery, was just, and who died courageously defending that cause. Such is the thesis that our May speaker, Peter Carmichael of UNC, presented to forty round table members and their guests in a provocative talk at the May dinner meeting. Born in Virginia in 1841, Pegram was a true believer in the South as a near-perfect Christian culture to which slavery was essential. But he also embraced the Union until Lincoln's call after Fort Sumter for troops to suppress the rebellion led him, like many others, to leave his studies at the University of Virginia and join a Confederate artillery company, where he soon became an officer. Pegram firmly believed, as evidenced in his letters, that God was on the side of the South, and even as late as the spring of 1865 he held steadfast to his conviction, in the face of adverse events, that when the period of trial was over, the Confederacy would triumph in independence. Although mild-mannered and shy by nature he had grown up at a ladies' boarding school operated by his mother after his father died in an accident Pegram was ferocious in battle, brave almost to the point of recklessness. In the Seven Days' battle, his artillery unit held a lone salient at Beaver Dam Creek under the withering fire of several Union artillery batteries converged on his position. His batteries took a severe mauling there and in a forward position at Malvern Hill a week later. Carmichael maintains that in these and later actions Pegram was simply living his belief that in the southern culture officers were naturally brave and did what officers were supposed to do push the guns as close to the enemy as possible. Peter added that an affectionate joke in Richmond after the Seven Days' battles was that Pegram had no choice he was so near-sighted that he had to get very close to the enemy to fire at him! But his ability and courage were everywhere admired. Pegram said that his artillery units would never be surrendered except over his dead body. His batteries took part in every major battle in the Virginia theater and could always be found where the fire was thickest, but while they often took severe losses, they never abandoned their guns. At the battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, Pegram was mortally wounded and carried from the field. Only then, at the end of the war, were his batteries overrun by Union troops.   - Sid Sidlo


March 2002 meeting - Speaker: Keith Alexander
Topic: Brig. Gen. Junius Daniel

Forty-three members and guests of the North Carolina CWRT had no choice at the March meeting but to "listen up" for our speaker, Keith Alexander, a retired Marine Corps instructor who is used to making recruits pay attention. His topic was Junius Daniel, a Confederate brigadier-general from North Carolina and a fine combat officer whose units won recognition in several major battles. Alexander is currently gathering material for an extended essay on Daniel that will eventually become the first modern biography of the general.

Beginning with Daniel's birth in Halifax, Alexander told of the people and events in Daniel's life that developed his character, especially the role of his father, an influential member of the U.S. Congress, who first obtained Daniel's entrance to West Point and later his colonel's commission in the Confederate army. The first regiment Daniel led in battle was the 45th North Carolina, whom he trained well and who performed with distinction in the Seven Days campaign. Daniel earned his brigadiership as a result of his leadership at Malvern Hill, where his horse was shot out from under him.

On the first day at Gettysburg, Daniel's brigade, part of Rode's division, found itself overwhelmed by Union forces in the confusion that marked the action at Oak Ridge. It fought bravely, but had the greatest losses of any in Longstreet's corps. Daniel was commended for gallantry in the battle report.

At Spotsylvania, Daniel's brigade was again in the thick of the fighting. The brigade was forced out of its trenches on May 12, 1864, by the ferocious Union onslaught at the "mule shoe," or "bloody angle" as it was afterwards called. Daniel was mortally wounded while leading a counterattack, and died the next day.

Junius Daniel was one of the outstanding combat officers of the Confederate army, but there is no monument to him at Spotsylvania or elsewhere. Alexander and others are now making an earnest effort to raise the necessary funding.   - Sid Sidlo


January 2002 meeting - Speaker: Ed Bearss
Topic: The Young Robert E. Lee

Ed Bearss

A big crowd - some 80 attendees - gathered this evening to hear Ed Bearss relate the pre-Civil War experiences of Robert E. Lee on this, the 195th anniversary of Lee's birth. After a brief synopsis of Lee's background - his graduation from West Point in 1829 and his subsequent postings in Georgia and New York - Ed took us back....back to 1846 and the days before the outbreak of the Mexican War....

In 1846, Robert E. Lee was a young captain in the Corps of Engineers, stationed at Governor's Island in New York, and had never heard a shot fired in anger. The war with Mexico had begun, and Lee was delighted to receive an assignment to join General John E. Wool's army in Texas, whereupon he left New York and arrived in San Antonio after stops in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Port Lavaca. The American army under General Zachary Taylor had by this time already won significant battles at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, and would go on to march past the Rio Grande and into northern Mexico pending the outcome of armistice negotiations (the armistice would soon be suspended). Lee was among the troops who made that same march with Gen. Wool, and was often out in front of those troops with the Corps of Engineers, building roads for the march.

The young Captain Lee learned some valuable lessons during these early days in Mexico. The "Napoleon of the West" - Mexican General Santa Ana - had been smuggled into Mexico by the Americans, but had double-crossed them and formed an army of his own. Rumors were flying that Santa Ana was approaching with this great army. Lee was sent out on a reconnaissance mission, but having lost his Mexican guide along the way, he thought he'd stumbled upon Santa Ana when he saw fires in the distance -- but soon learned how tricky perceptions can be when it turned out to be a herd of sheep instead of a great army! A very close call with friendly fire was another of Lee's experiences during this time, when a shot fired by an American on picket duty passed between his arm and his chest. Lesson learned: never assume that the fellow on picket duty knows who you are just because you know who he is!

Lee soon began to win acclaim among his superior officers because of his boldness and good judgement. He was ordered to report to General Winfield Scott after the battle of Buena Vista, and he joined Scott's staff (along with some other soon-to-be-prominent Civil War personalities such as P.G.T. Beauregard, George Meade, and George McClellan). The subsequent Veracruz expedition was another chance for Lee to shine; after an amphibious landing at that walled city, Lee was ordered to erect a battery which would house the six 64-pound guns that helped conquer Veracruz. Manning those guns was very popular duty; shifts changed every 24 hours to accommodate everyone - including a young Lt. Thomas J. Jackson. Lee's skill during the fighting at Veracruz earned him his first mention in orders for combat (as opposed to construction), and once the report of the city's capture was carried to the U.S. Congress, Lee earned his first battle commendation.

After Veracruz was taken, the Americans advanced towards the Mexican capital. They moved out on Cortez's 1521 road in 4 divisions, traveling one day apart. In Lee's group this time was yet another soldier who would gain prominence during the Civil War: Joseph E. Johnston. There was also another close call in store for Lee on this march; hearing the approach of a group of people speaking Spanish, Lee took cover "hugging the ground" behind a fallen log, where he was forced to remain for some 8 or 9 hours before darkness fell and the group finally moved on without ever discovering his presence.

Approaching the mountain known as Cerro Gorgo, Lee speculated that if they could take the mountain from the occupying Mexicans, they could gain the nearby road to Jalapa. In spite of Santa Ana's troops commanding the sheer cliffs along the Rio del Plan, Lee and his men stormed the mountain, inflicting heavy casualties and routing the enemy. This action earned Lee another mention in the official orders, as well as a brevet promotion to major. Santa Ana, meanwhile, retreated to Mexico City.

By mid-May of 1847, the Americans were within 80 miles of Mexico City. Here they were forced to halt to wait for replacement troops; the time of the 1-year volunteers was expiring, so they were delayed until early August while the new troops arrived. Future president Franklin Pierce was among the new replacements that soon advanced on Mexico City.

The Mexicans had strongly fortified their positions on the east side of Mexico City. Lee had been making reconnaissance treks around the capital and had made maps of the area, so General Scott was aware of the terrain - two large lakes and the Pedregal (a 15-mile-wide lava bed) lay to the south, but Lee had found a way between the mountains and lakes and across the Pedregal that would allow the Americans to make a flank attack towards Mexico City. He made three dangerous crossings of the Pedregal which would soon earn him a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel; he led the troops of Gustavaus Woodson Smith across, then left them there to return to Gen. Scott, who had gone to San Antonio. Scott sent him back with orders to begin the attack. Forces led by Bvt. Major Generals Gideon Pillow and David Twiggs began the approach, but came under heavy fire from Mexican General Valencia's troops. American reinforcements soon arrived and helped the Americans rout Valencia's forces to San Angel and back towards the Churubusco River.

Santa Ana regrouped yet again, this time at Churubusco, where more vicious fighting took place before the Americans once again won the day. At last Santa Ana requested another armistice, to which Scott agreed. However, three weeks of negotiations brought no agreement, so the Americans renewed hostilities on September 8th and resumed their approach to Mexico City. Their last big battle took place near the Castle of Chapultepec, a one-time residence that had become the "West Point of Mexico". Scott received word that the Mexicans were melting down church bells for cannon, and he knew the fighting would be fierce. Lee, who by now had been breveted a lieutenant colonel for his actions at the Pedregal, was ordered to establish 4 batteries to attack Chapultepec. One battery would be manned by the 8th U.S., whose ranks included Lt. George Pickett. Stonewall Jackson was also in the first battery. Lee supervised the building of these batteries, and after staying awake for 48 hours straight, soon passed out from lack of sleep; he did not take part in the attack itself. Lt. Pickett, though, was the soldier who was handed the colors and who planted them at Churubusco when the Americans finally overran the castle. They didn't stop there, however; they headed straight for Mexico City itself and seized the gates, sending Santa Ana fleeing for Montezuma. Once Scott and his men entered the city, the city officials asked Gen. Scott what it would take for him to control his soldiers; he asked for $150,000 in return for maintaining order. Mexico's capital city was now in American hands.

For his part, Lee was once again commended - for his construction of the batteries around Chapultepec, he received a brevet promotion to colonel. The Treaty of Guadalupe de Hidalgo was finally ratified, ending the conflict and establishing new boundaries for the U.S. and Mexico.

So the war itself was over, but in retrospect, what did it all mean for Lee? Ed summed it all up for us by examining both the highlights and some of Lee's weaknesses. For one thing, the Mexican War afforded Lee his first chance to perform as a combat engineer. It also gave him the opportunity to work closely with some characters who would later play a prominent role in the Civil War; besides the aforementioned Johnston, Beauregard, Smith, McClellan, Jackson and Pickett, he also had interaction with Joe Hooker, who served as Gideon Pillow's chief of staff. It was interesting to note how these one-time allies ended up opposing one another just a dozen years later.

Lee established a reputation for himself early in the war. Gen. Scott - who himself was known as "America's First Soldier" - had feelings for Lee that bordered on demi-god. When Britain and America were eye-to-eye over the Pig War in 1859, Scott remarked that Lee was the best soldier America could have and that he should be insured for $5 million. Lee showed himself to have audacity; this would later be questioned during the early days of the Civil War, but there was no question about it in Mexico. He also learned good leadership skills from Scott, who never micromanaged his troops; he gave orders and allowed his subordinates to do their jobs and carry out those orders. Also, Lee's flanking attacks at First and Second Manassas were reminiscent of Scott's preferred style of attack.

Lee learned the value of good reconnaissance and communication, and of good fortifications - including how to reconnoiter and bypass them. These were all skills that would serve him well during his later commands.

Ed reminded us that as good as he was, Lee did not learn everything he needed to know during the Mexican War. The Mexican army was substandard and had no good leadership, so he got no experience fighting skilled troops. He had no chance to fight against cavalry. He didn't have the opportunity to command large numbers of men, a skill that he would certainly need later; he also got no exposure to utilizing railroads, which would play a big part in the Civil War. But in spite of these drawbacks, Lee got very good grounding for his later stage of soldiering.

Lee returned to building forts once he left Mexico, and served as the superintendent of West Point from 1852 to 1855. He wasn't well known by the public after the war, but Gen. Scott remembered him; on the eve of the Civil War, Scott encouraged "Old Man Blair" (advisor to presidents) to offer Lee command of the D.C.-area troops. Lee declined, resigned from the U.S. Army, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As always, Ed painted a vivid picture of long-ago battles, and made us feel a part of the action. It was interesting to learn about Lee's early days and to hear "teasers" of the conflict which would later make him famous. All agreed it was a fitting way to celebrate the birthday of one of the South's most beloved leaders.  - Twyla Jackino


November 2001 meeting - Speaker: Lee Kennett
Topic: The Psychology of William T. Sherman

Was Union general William T. Sherman "crazy" -- the victim of a serious manic-depressive disorder, as many historians claim -- or was there some other reason for his sometimes bizarre behavior? This was the question historian and NC CWRT member Dr. Lee Kennett started out to answer five years ago. He presented his findings in his recently-published book Sherman: A Soldier's Life, and shared them with twenty-eight other round table members in November.

Lee has taken on the extremely difficult task of assessing Sherman's inner character from letters and other written records of more than a century ago. He was ably assisted by Dr. Martha Simpson, a professional psychologist. Lee's thesis is that Sherman was not insane, but was the victim of narcissistic personality disorder, which shares some behavior patterns - especially elevated and depressed moods with manic depression. While we ordinarily think of narcissism as too much self-love, narcissistic disorder is the opposite -- a sense of worthlessness, or low self-esteem, often the result of psychological wounds in childhood. The victim of this disorder compensates for these negative feelings by inventing a "false self" that outwardly exhibits confidence and great self-assurance. He feasts on the praise and honor that comes his way, but inwardly has great doubts. Yet they needn't be crippling. While the manic-depressive, without treatment, just gets worse, the narcissist, in spite of the "lows," can lead a full and productive life. They tend to be restless persons, and in today's terms, "workaholics." And so we have William Sherman and many other great men (and women) of history.

Lee illustrated his diagnosis with descriptions of facets of Sherman's character that reveal his basic narcissism while at the same time deflating some of the myths about the controversial general.

Sherman was a brilliant man who craved the honor and glory that his "false self" required, loved to be the center of attention, and knew how to get it all. The campaign from Atlanta to Raleigh brought him praise and fame. After the war, he never turned down invitations to speak at dinners and other grand ceremonies. And he worried a great deal about his image, both public and private. Yet another element of narcissism: Sherman modestly appeared to deprecate it all. He assiduously fostered his image as a soldier, somewhat withdrawn and uninterested in politics. But he read newspapers avidly and had firm thoughts on current politics.

Another myth about Sherman that falls apart under examination was his supposed popularity with his troops. Lee claims that his reputation as the "beloved general" is a result of exaggeration by his biographers. Sherman was a good leader and those serving under him were well-provisioned, but he was not congenial with them nor especially popular. He was indifferent to battle casualties except as they affected the outcome of a battle. Lack of empathy, i.e., insensitivity to others' feelings, is another side of narcissism.

One of the biggest myths about Sherman is his image as a fiend, destroying everything in his path. Most of the stories such as Sherman personally setting a Roman Catholic church afire in Columbia, or the burning of every house between Atlanta and Savannah, began with other persons and wartime events and have changed and grown greatly in the telling. The policy of taking the war to the people and destroying their resources and will to win goes back to Biblical and Roman times.

In the question period after the talk, Lee was asked why, if Sherman was so worried about his image, did he dress so shabbily in contrast to many other generals (Hooker, for instance). The answer was that most western campaign generals were indifferent to their appearance on the field; but Sherman would dress very well for banquets, reviews, and other more formal occasions.

Lee notes in his book that Sherman "is not always easy to figure out, or even to follow." Psychological analysis is a bit outside the box for most Civil War buffs, so we thank Lee Kennett for presenting the workings of Sherman's mind in a way that his listeners could follow.   - Sid Sidlo


September 2001 meeting - Speaker: Richard McMurry

Forty-six members and guests gathered at Nick’s Cuisine on September 15 to hear historian and NC CWRT member Dr. Richard McMurry speak from his latest book, Atlanta 1864: Last Chance for the Confederacy. Richard is known for his iconoclastic views about Civil war events and personalities, and this enjoyable talk was no exception.

Richard began by reminding us that there were four, and only four, significant campaigns during the war, and all of them were in the Western Theater – the first, from Fort Henry down the Mississippi River to New Orleans (except Vicksburg), and eastward into Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, subdued much of the western Confederacy; the second was the Vicksburg campaign that secured Union control of the entire Mississippi River and dealt another great blow to Southern morale; the third, the Chickamauga-Chattanooga campaign, brought all of the vital state of Tennessee under the Union flag and set the stage for the fourth and last great campaign, that of Atlanta.

Richard’s thesis is (and has long been) that the Union won the Civil War in the western campaigns, and the battles in and around Virginia were largely irrelevant. Richard believes that by the end of 1863 it was clear there could be no Confederate military victory that would assure independence. The only hope for the South was negotiated peace with a conciliatory Union administration that would follow Lincoln’s defeat in the November election of 1864. To achieve Union victory during 1864, Gen. Ulysses Grant, now commanding all the armies, embarked on an ambitious strategy of five simultaneous offensives. By mid-year, three of those were unqualified disasters – Benjamin Butler in the Bermuda Hundred, Franz Sigel in the Shenandoah Valley, and Nathaniel Banks in Louisiana. In Virginia, Robert E. Lee was getting the better of Grant, the North becoming demoralized by the unimaginable losses of the Army of the Potomac. Only the army of William T. Sherman, pushing Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston’s army back to Atlanta, was succeeding.

Traditional Southern history held for many years after the war that Johnston was only seeming to retreat, but was really drawing Sherman’s army into a trap, and would explode from Atlanta with a staggering blow that would exterminate the Federals, after which the victorious Confederates would march North to help Lee destroy the Union forces in Virginia. But, says Richard, there is no way that could have happened. Johnston had given up far too much in vital territory and resources, and all that saved him from inevitable disaster was his replacement by John Bell Hood, who was left to pick up the pieces as best he could.

In the ten days after he took command, Hood fought three large battles – Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, and Ezra Church – that brought Sherman’s army to a standstill, raised Southern hopes, and further eroded Northern morale. It was only after Sherman, finally aware of what he was up against, swung his army south and west and cut Hood’s one remaining supply line, the Macon and Western railroad at Jonesboro, that Hood was forced to abandon the city. The fall of Atlanta restored Northern morale and will to win, Lincoln was re-elected, and the last hope for Southern independence had vanished.

Richard’s talk was delivered with insight and humor, as usual. He related anecdotes of his early years growing up in Georgia and of his teaching experiences there, and the value to him of seeing battlefields first-hand in order to understand fully what happened. He encourages us to do the same.   - Sid Sidlo


July 2001 meeting - Speaker: Dr. Lindley Butler

Maritime historian Dr. Lindley Butler told an audience of forty members and guests at the July dinner meeting that in his opinion the rebel navy, in spite of its small size, was the most effective offensive weapon of the Confederacy. Its well-known deep-sea cruisers, such as the CSS Alabama and the CSS Florida, sank over 100,000 tons of Union shipping, captured 200 prize vessels with nearly a million tons of weapons, ammunition, and other badly-needed supplies, and sent an untold amount of cargo to the bottom of the ocean.

But the Confederate ironclad gunboats that operated in the harbors and on the rivers of Virginia and North Carolina were also significant factors in the war. Butler began with the success of the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac) against powerful but wooden Union warships at Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862, a battle that, as we know, changed the course of naval history.

The most successful of Confederate ironclads was the CSS Albemarle, built in North Carolina and commanded by Commander James W. Cooke. In April of 1864, two days after commissioning and with workmen still on board, it sailed down the Roanoke River to support CSA Gen. Robert Hoke's capture of Plymouth by destroying the Union gunboats defending the town.

For an attack on New Bern early in May of 1864 the Albemarle left the river and steamed into Albemarle Sound, only to run into a squadron of wooden Union gunboats waiting for her. The four-hour scrap that followed left the Union fleet decimated, but the injured Albemarle had to limp back to Plymouth for repairs. In October of 1864 the Confederate ironclad was sunk at Plymouth by Lt. William Cushing using a spar torpedo attached to a small steam launch. The gunboat was raised from the bottom of the river in 1867, towed to Norfolk, and sold for scrap.

Butler also briefly discussed each of the celebrated Confederate deep-sea cruisers and their famous commanders, especially Commander James Waddell of Pittsboro and the CSS Shenandoah, the scourge of whaling vessels in the Pacific Ocean.

Slides of the ships and their commanders added greatly to Dr. Butler's survey of the accomplishments of the Confederate navy.   - Sid Sidlo


May 2001 meeting - Speaker: Martin Fleming

Another interesting program by "one of our own" was the highlight of this month's meeting, when Martin Fleming taught us all a few things about one of the Civil War's earliest battles. The events at Rich Mountain in 1861, in what was then western Virginia, get surprisingly little "press time" considering the rather wide-sweeping effects of the Union victory. Martin argued that this particular battle was more decisive than the great Battle of Gettysburg, where, when all was said and done, the two armies were still in essentially the same positions that they were prior to the battle. At Rich Mountain, on the other hand, Union General George B. McClellan was attempting to gain control of the Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike and to protect the B&O railroad, both of which were vital for supplying the troops of both armies. A small Confederate force under General Robert S. Garnett was trying to hold the area from a fort known as Camp Garnett, when Lt. Col. John Pegram came in and took over command; he was in charge when McClellan, leery of making a frontal assault, opted instead to accept the help of a local guide to make a flank attack on the Confederates. He sent troops under the command of Brig. General Rosecrans up the mountain with young David Hart (his family's farm was at the summit of Rich Mountain and sustained damage in the battle). There they surprised a small force that Pegram had placed there to guard his rear. Badly outnumbered, the Rebels still managed to hold the summit for awhile, but eventually gave way and retreated to Camp Garnett. Pegram, realizing he was defeated, withdrew his forces that night. This put the Federals in control of the area for good, and allowed the local - and primarily pro-Union - counties to split off from Virginia two years later and form the State of West Virginia. This glorious victory also put another feather in the cap of General McClellan, who afterwards became the commander of the Army of the Potomac, and from there -- well, as Martin said, "that's a story for another day".

Martin and his wife Monika have been members of our round table since 1995. Martin is currently a vocational counselor at Tarboro High School, and he gives frequent talks on Civil War topics; he also had an article on the battle of Rich Mountain published in the August 1993 issue of Blue and Gray magazine. Previous jobs include stints as a National Park Service Seasonal Ranger at both Gettysburg and Petersburg. Martin and Monika also belong to the William Dorsey Pender CWRT in Rocky Mount, NC.   - Twyla Jackino


March 2001 meeting - Speaker: Dave Smith

"The biggest Jeb Stuart fan north of the Mason-Dixon Line!". That's how Mr. Dave Smith, the President of the Greater Boston CWRT and our speaker at the March meeting, was introduced to us. The qualification of "north of the line" was so as not to confuse him with our own Kent McCoury, who is surely Jeb's biggest fan south of it! At any rate, Dave kept his promise and presented a lively discussion of the "real" James Ewell Brown Stuart - the man behind the cavalier persona, the plumed hat and flowing cape. He told us of Jeb's upbringing, his education, and his relationships with his family, especially his beloved wife Flora. Dave had a notebook filled with documents and transcripts of the letters Jeb had written, which offered convincing proof of the devotion to family and the dedication to duty exemplified by the famous Confederate cavalry officer. In a talk that focused more on the man behind the legend than on the war-time feats that created the legend (though some of those were certainly mentioned), Dave showed us that Jeb Stuart was a man driven by deeply-held convictions and a belief in the cause for which he fought; a man who respected both the cause and the soldiers he led in the fight for that cause. And Dave was also in complete agreement with Kent, who argued in his talk last year that Jeb Stuart was in no way responsible for the Confederate loss at Gettysburg! In spite of later claims to the contrary, Stuart was where he was ordered to be, when he was ordered to be there, doing what he was supposed to be doing. And you can't ask for more than that.

A short question-and-answer period followed Dave's talk, which wrapped up the meeting for the evening. Our thanks to Dave for making the trip down here.   - Twyla Jackino


January 2001 meeting - Speaker: Ed Bearss

Ed Bearss Gettysburg: the "high-water mark" of the Confederacy? Not according to Ed Bearss, who feels that the high-water mark was instead the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky in October of 1862. So began Ed's discussion of the battle at our January dinner meeting, which drew the customary high attendance.

Setting the stage for the autumn confrontation, Ed gave us a run-down of the events leading up to the largest land battle fought in the state of Kentucky. Things were looking good for the Confederacy in the western theater up to that point, with the army advancing north and causing panic in the cities of Louisville and Cincinnati. Federal commander Buell, who was losing "the race" north, had lost favor with the Lincoln administration and received orders to step down, though his replacement, Gen. George Thomas, convinced Washington not to enforce the orders while the situation in Kentucky remained unstable.

Bragg, the Confederate commander, had done everything right up to this point, until he decided to move his troops to unite with Kirby Smith. This left Louisville open for Buell to move in, which he did. With the marching and maneuvering that followed, the harsh conditions that prevailed in the hot, dry countryside, and the blunders committed on both sides, the end result was a battle in which the outnumbered Confederates were ultimately defeated.

The Federals, with a commander injured in a fall with a horse, were looking more for water than for a fight that day in October, but things don't always go according to plan. With Bragg and Smith off enjoying the inauguration of the new governor, the Rebels engaged Buell's three disjointed corps marching to Perryville, while Buell himself was completely unaware of the confrontation due to the phenomenon of acoustical shadow. The combination of hills and valleys combined with wind direction rendered him unable to hear the sounds of the battle. It was late in the day before he issued any orders; meanwhile, one of his division commanders, Gen. Phil Sheridan, having recently been reprimanded for attacking without orders, watched as the Rebs passed in front of him and attacked and captured many of Col. Lytle's brigade.

In spite of early success, the outnumbered Confederates were eventually repulsed. The Yankees expected the battle to continue the following day; Gen. Bragg had other ideas, though, after taking stock of the situation. He realized that he had seriously underestimated the strength of Buell's army, and that, combined with the harsh conditions, the recent major Confederate loss at Antietam, and the knowledge that few Confederate replacements were available in the area, convinced him that Kentucky was not worth fighting for. He retreated, and thus ended the Confederate push northward. He managed to retain his command in the face of harsh criticism afterward, unlike his counterpart Buell, who was sacked for good for failing to hammer home his victory by pursuing the retreating Rebels.

Ed, as always, told the story in such a way as to make us feel we'd actually seen the battle. He peppered the tale with interesting and humorous "human interest stories". He also described the battlefield itself for us, explaining that, for sheer and unaltered beauty, Perryville is rivaled only by Antietam. And he did a good job of convincing us that the Battle of Perryville was indeed "the high-water mark of the Confederacy".   - Twyla Jackino


November 2000 meeting - Speaker: Kent McCoury

At our November meeting, the program was presented by NC CWRT member Kent McCoury, the Assistant Site Manager at Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham. Kent presented a defense of J.E.B. Stuart's often-criticized "ride around the Union Army" during the opening battles at Gettysburg, and offered compelling evidence that Stuart's bad reputation following that conflict was due primarily to the jealousies of one of his fellow Confederates. "Bad press" circulated by General Lee's aide-de-camp, LTC Charles Marshall, went a long way towards making Stuart out to be the scapegoat for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. According to Kent, who offered a 6-page bibliography to back up his case, Stuart was simply following Lee's orders, and in so doing, fell victim to one man's crusade to ruin the reputation of the more-famous cavalry leader.

Kent has been a long-time member of our round table, and is also a founding member of the Durham CWRT, which meets at Bennett Place. He has a B.A. in History from Appalachian State University, and has pursued graduate studies in both history and library science. He has been the assistant site manager at Bennett Place for the last twelve years.   - Twyla Jackino


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