On November 20 the Board of Trustees voted to place at-large board member Linda Schlegel into the vacant vice president position. The board then voted to have Mike Bell fill the at-large board member position created by Linda accepting the VP slot. It is important to note that these are interim appointments, effective until the next election of officers in June 2024. Many thanks to Linda and Mike for stepping up to fill these positions through the current program year. In an effort to more fully develop our ability to enhance financial support, the board has also taken steps to incorporate and establish the JLC CWRT as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It is anticipated that there will be a brief discussion of the round table’s current financial situation immediately before the Third Annual Civil War Challenge gets started on January 11, 2024. We look forward to sharing this vital information with our members.


     The Chamberlain Round Table has had two excellent programs since returning to the Morrell Room, Curtis Memorial Library in October. The October 12th program featured Bob Conner discussing how James Montgomery’s abolitionist stance influenced his pre-war and wartime experiences as a Union Army officer. Bob effectively pointed out how Montgomery’s career was far more complex than is portrayed in the movie Glory. Our audience came away with a clear view of Montgomery’s pre-war activities with the free-state movement and a much better understanding of the scope of his wartime service. Many thanks to Bob for providing a compelling view of this controversial abolitionist leader.

     On November 9th we enjoyed the program presented by Ben Kemp, of the Literary and National Landmark of the U. S. Grant Cottage State Historical Site, entitled “Grant and Twain: Authors and Friends.” Ben’s presentation was intriguing. Ulysses Grant and Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) seemed unlikely friends and colleagues who shared an awareness of injustice and unfairness. Ben pointed out the encounters that brought the two men together as friends and, in spite of their well-known successes, how both of “the Sams” also experienced significant losses, disappointments, and failures in their lives. Both were “invented in the caldron of the Civil War” and both would be noticed for their talents. Their similarities were profound, among them being family men who were forced into separation from their families, sharing an appreciation for the “common man,” being storytellers in their own right, and both becoming world travelers later in life. Ultimately, it was Twain’s personal intervention that procured an exceptionally lucrative publishing deal for Grant’s memoirs, thereby ensuring the Grant family a secure financial future . . . just as the general would have wanted.





Union Veterans’ Memorial, Bull Run, Second Civil War Battle of Manassas, Virginia. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith reproduction number LC-DIG-highsm-12468.


     The September 2023 post to our “Civil War History” tab examined postal activities during the Civil War. The article referenced the use of postage stamps in lieu of small change in response to the shortage of small denomination coins. One result of the coin shortage was the emergence of so-called “encased postage stamps.” The use of encased postage stamps provided a means to advertise and addressed the coin shortage problem at the same time. The front of the stamp was protected by thin, clear layer of mica.*

Photo courtesy Paul M. Zebiak.

* Q. David Bowers, A Guide Book of Civil War Tokens (Atlanta: Whitman Publishing, 2013), 418-424.


Photo provided by Steve Garrett.

     Steve Garrett’s recent review of Don Umphrey’s Southerners in Blue (see the “Reviews” tab) points out how the book emphasizes the challenges that faced pro-Unionists living in northern Alabama during the Civil War. Steve’s interest in this subject is grounded in his own family history. As it turns out, Steve’s great uncle, Ralph Williams, was a pro-Union Tennessean who evaded Confederate conscription, joined the Union Army, and was wounded while serving as a cavalryman. Steve’s Great Uncle Ralph survived the war and carried the bullets that felled him in his pocket for the rest of his life.


     Brunswick’s Skolfield-Whittier House, Pejepscot History Center, hosted our opening program of the season. Our members and friends enjoyed an illuminating presentation by historian and author Elizabeth D. Leonard, Colby College’s Gibson Professor of History, Emerita. Dr. Leonard’s presentation, “Let’s Stop Calling Him ‘Beast’: Revisiting the Life and Work of General Benjamin F. Butler,” convincingly pointed out that Butler’s life and legacy was far more complex than traditional narratives have portrayed. The presentation provided extensive insights into how perceptions of Butler varied, shaped by the perspective of the source—often denounced by Confederates (and “lost cause” proponents in the post-war era) and northern elites while, in his time, being widely supported as a friend to “the underdog.” Butler was an ardent unionist and context is an important aspect of his Civil War service and legacy. His wartime mission was to suppress the rebellion and his administrative policies provided an early “roadmap” for reconstruction. Butler’s “contraband” policy did much to transform the nature of the war and he was an early proponent of African Americans serving in the Union Army. After the war Butler worked to sustain and expand the gains brought about during the Civil War. He became an adamant opponent of President Andrew Johnson’s policies and advocated for desegregation, women, workers, and veterans. Elizabeth Leonard’s program was a welcome kick off to the round table’s 2023-2024 season.



Carol Manchester

     In 1996 Maine State Music Theatre premiered Chamberlain: A Civil War Romance, book by Sarah Knapp, lyrics by Steven Alpern. Our son played in the pit and his wife performed on stage.  In preparation for their roles, there was much discussion in our household about Joshua L. Chamberlain, and that was the beginning of our dedicated interest in the Civil War.

     Fast forward to the early 2000s.  As family members were cleaning out the eaves of the Manchester farmhouse, a box of Civil War letters, saved from soldier Joseph K. Manchester, came to light.  Several letters had been located over the years, but not this trove.  One evening when Dave and I dug amongst them, we realized that Joseph and the 9th Maine had been at Battery Wagner, Morris Island. Having seen the movie Glory, we were hooked on Joseph’s story.  He was wounded on the July 18, 1863, assault when the 9th Maine followed the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (U.S.C.T.) and he died on August 3rd in Beaufort SC.  I wrote a book based on his letters, gave presentations in 2012-13, and learned about Civil War roundtables.  The rest is history.

     One additional tangent: Dave’s dad had an interest in the Civil War, particularly the 20th Maine, and sometimes talked among his friends about the regiment. I do not believe he knew that Eben, older brother to Joseph served in the 20th Maine as a wagoner, but Dave’s dad would have relished that connection.

Camp of the 9th Maine Infantry Regiment on Morris Island, South Carolina. G.T. Lape, Photographer. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-DIG-ppmsca-69257.



     Please check to see that your annual dues are up to date. Members are asked to renew annually, during the month they joined the round table. Your dues are critical to ensuring that our round table will remain a viable organization. The current dues structure remains the same as previous years: individual memberships at $25, family memberships at $35, and student memberships at $15. Additional contributions are welcome and most appreciated. A downloadable renewal form is located at the “HOW TO JOIN” tab of the website. Dues can be remitted to the Chamberlain CWRT, PO Box 1046, Brunswick, ME 04011-1046 or at the door as you arrive for a monthly meeting. Please renew now!