R.Danny Witt, President John M.Coski, editor 5500 Ashton Park Way 1201 E.Clay St. Glen Allen, VA 23059 Richmond, VA 23219 APRIL 2000 PROGRAM DON ALLISON "HELL ON BELLE ISLE: THE DIARY OF A CIVIL WAR POW" 8:00 p.m., Tuesdav, April 11, 2000 Boulevard United Methodist Church, 321 N. Boulevard (corner of Boulevard and Stuart Ave.) Enter basement door from Boulevard side. The April program holds special interest for the Richmond Civil War Round Table, as it presents the experiences of a soldier held in the local prisoner of war camp that wasn't Libby Prison. Jacob Osborn Coburn, of the 6th Michigan Cavalry, was a prisoner at Belle Isle during the winter of 1863-1864 when overcrowding and extreme cold transformed the beautiful island in the James into a living hell. In editing and narrating his 1997 book, Hell on Belle Isle: Diary of a Civil War POW, Don Allison drew on his experience as a journalist as well as on a lifetime of studying the Civil War. Allison received a degree in journalism from the University of Toledo in 1980 and began working as county editor of the Daily Bryan Times in 1982. He is now editor of that newspaper. He has ancestors on both sides of the conflict, and first became interested in the war while visiting relatives in Alabama. It was while researching a history of the 38th Ohio Infantry that he found a clipping announcing the publication of the diary of Jacob Osborn Coburn in a local small town newspaper in 1935. He found and reprinted the transcript of the diary in his own paper in 1989, then began preparing an annotated version of the diary. Allison resides in Bryan with his wife, Diane, and youngest son, Joe. His oldest son, Stuart, is a graphic designer who designed the cover for his father's book.
Dr. Steven H. Newton - Defending Richmond: Joseph E. Johnston and the Last Ditch Review of March Program by Sam Craghead How would history remember Joseph Johnston had he been killed at the battle of Seven Pines and not merely wounded? Perhaps history would remember a professional soldier who was wounded eleven times in his career, or a man who was as given to self-deprecating humor as to his well-known pride and "inordinate ambition." Our March speaker, Dr. Steven Newton, considered several such provocative rhetorical questions in an effort to understand a man whom students of the Civil War often reduce to caricature. Already known for his acclaimed Joseph E. Johnston and the Defense of Richmond, Newton is finishing a study on the Confederate army in 1864 that challenges conventional wisdom and explores another controversial phase of Johnston's career. What would Joseph Johnston have done in June 1862 had his wounds at Seven Pines been minor enough to merely put him out of action for a few days? Would Johnston have acted - as Robert E. Lee acted - to drive George B. McClellan's Federal army away from Richmond? Dr. Newton believes that Johnston would not have acted as Lee did because of a fundamental difference in style between the two Virginia generals. Newton observed that whereas Lee endeavored to frustrate his enemies' plans by making them work and fight for what they expected to achieve easily, Johnston sought to select favorable terrain and compel the enemy to attack him at disadvantage. Lee's victory at Fredericksburg was, for Johnston, the ideal battle. It was jealousy and a sense of injustice that prompted Johnston's oft-quoted quip that "no one will ever attack me in such a place." Dr. Newton came not to vindicate Joe Johnston, but to explain him. He did not refute the criticism that Johnston was willing to abandon the Confederate capital city in 1862 or Atlanta in 1864, but he did deny that Johnston was consequently "spineless" and "characterless." Similarly, Newton noted that, Johnston's quip about Lee and Fredericksburg notwithstanding, someone did come and attack him in such a place - at Kennesaw Mountain in June 1864 - and that Johnston failed to take full advantage of the opportunity. Johnston's command decisions were based on reasoned analysis that arose from his military training. But Johnston used reasoned analysis to reach the wrong conclusions, Newton argued, and Johnston compounded his failure by continuing to reach the wrong conclusions even when experience taught him that he was wrong and that his commander-in-chief disagreed with him. This was the tragedy of Joseph Johnston. The Richmond Civil War Round Table Web Site The RCWRT board on March 28 approved the creation of an official RCWRT website and appointed a committee to create and maintain the site. The committee will consist of members Gary Cowardin, Marc Vallario, and Joe Childress; RCWRT president Danny Witt will be a board liaison to the committee. They will begin constructing the official site soon. In the meantime, members can inspect the unofficial test home page at: http://members.tripod.com/~g_cowardin/rcwrt Spring Field Trip registration Spotsylvania battlefield is so near, yet so far - and the Richmond Round Table has not visited there in at least than fifteen years. Join in for a full-day tour of the battlefield. Our guide will be one of the historians at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park - either Frank O'Reilly or Mac Wyckoff. The bus departs at 7:45 a.m. from the James River Bus Terminal, 915 North Allen Ave. (located between Broad and Leigh streets) and will return by 5:30 p.m. Guests are welcome. Please bring your own lunch and drink. Please make checks payable to RCWRT and send along with the form below to Clark Lewis c/o Mays & Valentine / P. O. Box 1122 / Richmond, VA 23218-1122. Please register by April 20. If you have questions, please contact Clark Lewis at 697-1474 or via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Date: ___________________ Name: ______________________________________________________ Address: ___________________________________________________ _________________________ Phone Number: __________________ Number of reserved seats: _______ x $18.00 = $______ (Make check payable to RCWRT) Please note that the reservation deadline occurs before the next newsletter; thus, this is the only newsletter that will carry a registration form for the Spotsylvania trip. Announcements _____________ Ukrop's Golden Gift program. It's that time of the year again - when your Ukrop's Golden Gift certificates will benefit battlefield preservation, specifically the newly-merged Civil War Preservation Trust. Ukrop's card holders will receive in their May newsletter a certificate for the amount you "earned" based on purchases made between January 31 and April 1, 2000. Please give or mail your certificate to David West at 88 West Square Dr. / Richmond, VA 23233. _____________________________ Book by RCWRT member. The Henrico County Historical Society still has copies available of High Meadow: Robert E. Lee Drew His Sword by Dr. Hugh Douglas Pitts. This is a history of the Dabbs House, where Lee maintained his headquarters during the summer of 1862, and includes the diary of Rev. Cornelius Walker. The book is available for $10 (tax included) and $3 postage. Send check (payable to Henrico County Historical Society) to Mr. Dudley Lanthrip, Treasurer (2020 New Market Rd. / Richmond, VA 23231). For more information, call the Society at (804) 501-5682. _____________________________ Richmond Civil War Round Table Newsletter John M. Coski, editor 1201 E. Clay St. Richmond, Virginia 23219