Sam Craghead, President Art & Carol Bergeron, Editors 4361F Lakefield Mews 3901 Paces Ferry Road Richmond, VA 23231 Chester, VA 23831-1239 February 2001 PROGRAM Robert E. L. Krick "J. Ambler Johnston and the Round Table's 50th Anniversary" 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, February 13, 2001, at the Boulevard United Methodist Church, 321 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA (corner of Boulevard and Stuart Ave.) Enter basement door from Boulevard side. This month's meeting will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our roundtable. To commemorate that singular event, our program will delve into the early history of the group, with a special focus on our anniversary project: the revision and re-issue of Mr. J. Ambler Johnston's book Echoes of 1861 - 1961. Krick will talk briefly about the beginning of the roundtable, and some of its achievements over the years. The second part of the program will deal with Mr. Johnston and his book. In addition to his tenure with the Richmond Civil War Round Table, Ambler Johnston was a trusted friend of Dr. Douglas Southall Freeman and a very active participant in the preservation of local Civil War history. Late in his life, Mr. Johnston reminisced about the early history of the area battlefields and the personalities associated with Civil War Richmond in the early 20th century. The book includes a short account by longtime Roundtable member Bill Mallory about the formation of our group in 1951. Our reprint of this volume includes an index, a listing of the past presidents, and an expanded section chronicling all of our previous speakers and their subjects. Mr. Johnston's original driving tour of the area battlefields has been updated by Sam Craghead to reflect modern alterations to the route, and that will be in an appendix as well. Copies of his entertaining memoirs will be on hand for sale. Robert E. L. Krick presently is an historian on the staff at Richmond National Battlefield Park and is widely published on Confederate subjects. His recent research has focused on Confederate staff officers. Krick has been a member of the Richmond CWRT for ten years and is a past president.
Review of the January Program
Dr. Charles F. Bryan, Jr., Executive Director of the Virginia Historical Society, gave an excellent presentation that focused on his recent publication, Eye of the Storm: A Civil War Odyssey. Edited by Bryan and Nelson D. Langford, the book is the five thousand page, illustrated memoir of a long-forgotten Union private and mapmaker, Robert Knox Sneden. Sneden enlisted in the 40th New York Infantry (Mozart Regiment) at age 29 after the fall of Fort Sumter. As a soldier and a mapmaker, he was present at many famous battles of the war. Sneden was captured by Confederate partisan John S. Mosby in 1863 and spent much of the rest of the war as a prisoner in Richmond and the Andersonville prison camp. Sneden was exchanged in December 1864. Throughout the conflict, Sneden kept a journal and sketched many sites of his wartime experiences. Together, his narrative and art constitute one of the most important recently discovered Civil War documents. Bryan began by detailing the Historical Society's acquisition of Sneden's manuscripts, sketches, and watercolors. In 1994, an art dealer telephoned the Society and inquired if it was interested in purchasing some Civil War "scrapbooks." The collection had been held in a bank vault in Connecticut for about sixty years. At first, the curators expressed interest but had some reservations about what the scrapbooks might contain. The dealer brought the material to Richmond for inspection. The tattered albums held approximately five hundred richly colored drawings and maps, and the staff of the Society realized the great historical significance of the material. Many of the drawings were of Virginia scenes, and showed buildings that have been lost over the years. A generous donation from Mr. Floyd Gottwald, Jr., of Richmond made it possible for the Historical Society to buy the artwork. This was the largest unknown collection of Civil War watercolors ever to become available to an historical institution. The staff of the Historical Society began researching Robert Sneden to fill in the story behind his sketches and maps. This led to the location of his brother's great-grandson, who lived in upstate New York. Informants said that he owned Sneden's wartime diary. When the gentleman was contacted, he stated that he owned a diary/memoir that consisted of five large volumes. These documents were then stored in a rental facility in Arizona. The owner went there to get them and then brought them to Richmond. Only four of the five volumes still existed. Sneden appears to have written a memoir based upon his diaries beginning in the 1870s. Surprisingly, this new collection included hundreds of additional drawings, bringing the total up to nearly eight hundred. Bryan and his staff again approached Mr. Gottwald for a donation, and a deal was made that brought the memoir and new sketches to the Historical Society in late 1997. After describing the Sneden collection, Bryan presented a slide show that highlighted some of the maps and sketches. He explained that Sneden probably did pen and ink drawings in the field of many of the scenes and turned them into watercolors later. A few appeared as engravings in Volume Two of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. Sneden's view of Mount Vernon, done in December 1861, is the only one of its kind known. He made two watercolors of the Cole House on the Ruffin plantation across from Harrison's Landing, one of them showing the home after it had been set afire by Union troops. Several other sketches also are the only known illustrations of the sites depicted.
Spring Field Trip Since the last meeting, the bus for the field trip to Manassas on April 21 has sold half the seats, and Brag Bowling is receiving reservations nearly every day. If this pace continues, we will be sold out by the next meeting. All members who have hesitated making their reservations with Brag should send in their checks soon. Only in this way can you guarantee a seat on the bus. The tour guide will be John Hennessy. Cost will be $15 per person. Everyone should bring his own lunch. The group will leave from the parking lot near the Lowes and Walmart Stores at the corner of Brook Road and Parham at 6:30 a. m. and will be back at around 6 p. m. Hennessy plans to escort the group along the Union "invasion" route to the battlefield and will spend much time at Blackburn's Ford, Henry House Hill, and other important Confederate victory sites. The Union side of the battle will not be neglected. If time permits, Hennessy may also include a few Second Manassas sites. Round Table members will have first option at reservations, which will be on a "first come first serve" basis. There are only 45 seats on the bus, so please act quickly. Reservations can be sent by mail to: Brag Bowling 3019 Kensington Avenue Richmond, VA 23221 All checks should be made payable to the Roundtable. Brag will also accept checks at the meetings prior to the tour. Any questions can be directed to Brag at (804) 359-0382.
From the Editors We welcome submissions to the monthly newsletter, although we cannot always include them due to space restrictions. Please send potential items to us no later than eighteen (18) days prior to the meeting date.
Richmond Civil War Round Table in Cyberspace. The Round Table's Web site includes the monthly newsletter, CW book reports, photographs, other CW web site links, and a list of forthcoming speakers. The URL or Web address is: www.rcwrt.org or just rcwrt.org
Richmond Civil War Round Table Newsletter Art & Carol Bergeron, Editors 3901 Paces Ferry Road Chester, VA 23831-1239