Our January 2024 round table was a busy evening! The meeting started with a report and discussion of the round table’s current and projected financial condition presented by our Treasurer, Jim Sanborn. Using our 2022 – 2023 experience as a basis, Jim’s presentation included a review of the round table’s operational expenses and revenues, including the dues structure, and the issues facing both sides of the balance sheet. The audience actively participated in the discussion offering valuable comments and suggestions for the board to consider as we move forward.
Following Jim’s presentation Phil Schlegel kicked off the third Civil War Round Table Challenge. This year “Team Meade” (the right side of the room) took on “Team Thomas” (the left side of the room), for the multiple-choice, question and answer PowerPoint contest. Team Thomas carried the evening and, by all accounts, a great time was had by all.
HOW I BECAME INTERESTED IN THE CIVIL WAR
Last June we posted Mike Bell’s version of how he became interested in the Civil War, followed in September by Carol Manchester’s story. That seems like a great way to get to know our round table members a little better, so I thought that I’d follow up with my own experience. For me, it started in the early 1960’s with a hard-cover copy of the Golden Book of the Civil War (American Heritage). I became fascinated with the color 3D maps on the printed page and the stories that accompanied them. To this day, a map to accompany the story of a battle means a lot more to me than the printed word alone . . . even to the point that I will often print off a map to consult as I read the story of an unfolding battle.
For those of you who are “baby boomers,” the next part of my story may be similar to yours! In the early 1960’s the Civil War Centennial was in full swing. The Civil War Centennial commemorative stamp series remains vivid in my memory. I vaguely recall watching a Civil War-themed television program called The Americans which, according to IMDb, ran for a single season in 1961. Then, when I was 14, my dad and I went on my first Civil War field trip, taking in Gettysburg, Antietam, and the host of the nearby Virginia battlefields.
I was introduced to Bruce Catton’s “Army of the Potomac” trilogy as well as his “Centennial History of the Civil War” series. My interest in examining the minute details of battles, battle maps, and contemporary and post-war art blossomed from there. After getting out of the army and moving to Gettysburg I became active in the North-South Skirmish Association, gaining hands-on knowledge of Civil War-era weapons, participating in many sponsored competitions, and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts. The many contributions of Shelby Foote, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, the Roots mini-series, and so many others before and after, simply added to the foundation laid at a very early age.
The adventure continues to this day. Only recently I was astonished to learn that I have a Civil War relative . . . a great, great uncle who served in the 22nd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry! It’s too bad I didn’t know that back in 1961, but I’m pleased to have that new information now!
Again, we hope that some of you will share your stories of how you got interested in the Civil War.
At the December 14th meeting our long-time JLC CWRT member and friend Steve Bunker presented us with an excellent learning experience. Steve provided a poignant and educational overview of the history and far-reaching impacts of the so-called “Triangular” trade of enslaved persons prior to and during the American Civil War. Steve’s discussion and explanatory slides were further enhanced as he shared and described a number of associated artifacts. Many thanks to Steve for delving into this abhorrent practice in such a meaningful way.
The impact of Civil War round tables is profound. They provide a link to that struggle. There are other groups that are part of this tradition, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War being one of them. Descended from the fabled Grand Army of the Republic, the SUVCW has a number of active camps here in Maine. My son Jon and I recently were inducted into the Corporal Samuel Cobb Camp based in Rockport. Jon and I share the Civil War service of James Whiting, my 2x great grandfather, of the 2nd Minnesota. Jon is also fortunate to have the added connection of Elijah Trelease, his 5x great uncle, of the 2nd New Jersey. We look forward to another avenue to honor our ancestors’ commitment to the Union as the American experiment continues.
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.
REMEMBERING ALL OF OUR VETERANS
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE
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.