The Chamberlain Round Table extends our sincere thanks to the management and staff of Skolfield-Whittier House, Pejepscot History Center, for hosting our September meeting. Their hospitality is much appreciated. Please note that we will be back at our usual meeting place, the Morrell Meeting Room at the Curtis Memorial Library, beginning on October 12 and for the rest of the 2023-2024 program season. The program topics are posted at the PROGRAMS tab, so please mark your calendars for the second Thursday of each month. We look forward to seeing you there.


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.


     We need a member of the round table to join the leadership team as vice president. If you can help out, please contact any officer or board member. Your input and support are critical to lead or CWRT into the future.



     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!