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May 2004
First Vice President:                   Rob Monroe, Editor       
Richard Forrester                     2416 Edenbrook Dr.     
Second Vice President:                  Richmond, VA 23228-3040  
Shep Parsons                   

May 2004 PROGRAM Dr. Elisabeth S. Muhlenfeld, "Mary Boykin Chesnut" 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 11, 2004, at the Boulevard United Methodist Church, 321 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA (corner of Boulevard and Stuart Ave.) Enter the basement door on the right side under the front steps. Dr. Elisabeth Showalter Muhlenfeld has been president of Sweet Briar College since August 1996. Prior to her arrival at the Amherst County school, she was Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Florida State University where she had held various positions since 1978. Throughout her administrative services at FSU, she continued to teach one or more courses a year in American literature and Southern literature. Dr. Muhlenfeld received a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina, concentrating on Southern literature for her doctoral studies. She is author of four books, including a biography of Mary Boykin Chesnut, a work on Chesnut's novels and an edition of Chesnut's original diaries, co-edited with historian C. Vann Woodward. Mary Boykin Chesnut: A Biography was nominated for various prizes, among them the Pulitzer, and was selected by Choice magazine as an "outstanding academic book." In 1992 the biography was reprinted in paperback, and has now had numerous reprintings. Dr. Muhlenfeld has written dozens of articles and essays and has made frequent presentations at state, regional, national, and international conferences and workshops, many of which have dealt with the works of Southern writers. She is a frequent commentator in newspapers, journals, and on C-SPAN and National Public Radio. Active in many professional organizations, she has served on various boards, committees and councils, including the Board of the Tredegar Civil War Center. Dr. Muhlenfeld is the current Chairman of the Board of Directors of the United Way of Central Virginia.
Review of the April Program The April meeting of the Richmond Civil War Round Table began with a reading of General Orders Number Nine. The recitation of Gen. Robert E. Lee's farewell address to his troops in the Army of Northern Virginia has been an April tradition with the RCWRT, marking the anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865.
Mark G. Malvasi
Mark G. Malvasi, a history professor at Randolph-Macon College, then addressed the Round Table on "My Brother's Keeper: Proslavery Thought and the Southern Critique of Modernity." Malvasi began his talk by stating no one wants to talk about slavery. When discussing the subject it is almost impossible to avoid being controversial. According to Malvasi, the generation of southern thinkers who came of age between 1815 and 1850 recognized the plight of the modern world arising directly from the brutal nature of the so-called free labor system and from the exploitive character of free society itself. They posited slavery as an alternative. One of the great myths of the 19th century, Malvasi says, is that there was an overall lack of education in the South. In general, southerners were well-versed in the Bible and maintained "a Christian defense of slavery." For the typical slaveholder of the mid-1800s, Malvasi explains, to maintain bondsmen meant to be "my brother's keeper." White southerners, being primarily products of an agrarian society, often bemoaned capitalism and its perceived lack of concern for the welfare of its labor force. Malvasi stated that "progress" (as it was defined in the North) meant "few in charge of many" to white southerners. This fueled skepticism in slaveholders who countered that slavery in the South was better than much wage work in the North. White southerners contended that this wage labor was "irresponsible" and more exploitive toward its workers than slavery. Antebellum southerners reasoned that all societies had foundations in subordination - it was always necessary for one class to rule another -- and all advanced civilizations had slavery. Servitude prevented anarchy, they believed, and slavery was necessary to establish and maintain moral, social and political order. Malvasi stated that white Southerners of the mid-19th century believed that without slavery there would be no standard of living and blacks would live in squalor. Some of the most passionate proslavery arguments came from antebellum white southerners who looked to the Bible for justification. They proclaimed that God had decreed slavery and that Authority-Subjugation was His way. Pointing to Old Testament scripture, they noted that even God's chosen people, the Israelites, owned slaves. In the New Testament, St. Paul told slaves to obey their masters. The South, Malvasi explained, is vilified by the remaining symbols of slavery. During the 20th century, southern conservative thinkers argued that slavery had come to the South without decision. Their efforts to distance themselves from the legacy of slavery, Malvasi said, have obscured the most critical and imposing insights of their antebellum forebears.
Conference to Focus on Women and the Civil War The 6th Conference on Women and the Civil War, June 25-27 in Richmond, features the latest in research into women's roles during the conflict. The conference, jointly sponsored by the Society for Women and the Civil War (SWCW) and the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC), includes the following presentations: The Stories Behind the Socks: Women's Handiwork as Social and Political Expression (Karin Timour); History Done Her Wrong: The True Story of Mary Custis Lee (John Perry); The Civil War Diary of a Good Woman: Mary Samuella Hart Curd (Dr. Susan Arpad); The Horizontal Trade (Elizabeth Topping); Listen Ladies One and All: Northern Soldiers Yearn for Their 'Fair Cousins of the North' (Dr. Patricia Richard); Women on Trial: The Courts-Martial of Southern Women by the Union Army (Beverly Lowry & Dr. Thomas Lowry); Soliloquy for Sarah (Robin Young); The 'Fairer' Sex of the 1860s: How Patriotic Women Raised Money in Support of the Union (Dr. Gwen Harding-Peets); Period Correct: 19th Century Sanitary Protection Protection (Virginia Mescher). Saturday night's entertainment will feature the U.S. premiere of "The Unsexing of Emma Edmonds," a documentary on the life and adventures of Sarah Emma Edmonds, alias Pvt. Franklin Thompson, 2nd Michigan Infantry. Optional events include, on Friday, behind-the-scenes workshops on the MOC uniform and flag collections, as well as furniture and decorative objects in the White House of the Confederacy and, on Sunday, an optional 4-hour bus tour of Civil War Richmond focusing on sites relating to women. For more information: or E-mail: or 540-381-4518.
RBA Announcements The Richmond Battlefields Association (RBA) will hold its annual meeting on Saturday, June 12, at Willis Methodist Church on the Frayser's Farm/Glendale battlefield. William J. Miller will give a talk on the battle and lead a walking tour through the southern two-thirds of the battlefield. This is a great and rare opportunity to see the privately owned Whitlock Farm in the heart of the battlefield. The event is free, open to members and non-members alike, and begins at 10:00am. For more details go to Please save your 2004 Ukrop's Golden Gift Certificates to benefit the Richmond Battlefields Association (RBA). Ukrop's will send the certificates to its customers during the month of May. While we know many organizations participate in this program, please try to direct your, and your friends', certificates to help our local efforts to save area battlefields. Please bring your certificates to a RCWRT meeting or mail them to: David West 88 West Square Drive Richmond, VA 23233 Thank you for your continuing support of the RBA!
Symposium Explores the War in Shenandoah Valley in Fall 1864 In the fall of 1864, as the Union solidified its control of the Shenandoah Valley, Federal troops passed from village to village, destroying farms, mills, livelihoods -- this "breadbasket of the Confederacy". On May 21-22, noted historians John Heatwole and Jeffry Wert will lead a symposium on this devastating time. Based at Bridgewater College, the event will offer participants their choice of three tours exploring the personal stories of this tragic consequence of the American Civil War. For more information or to register online, visit Registration deadline is May 15. The symposium is sponsored by the CrossRoads - the Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, Bridgewater College and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, the management entity for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District. This is a 140th Anniversary event in the Shenandoah Valley. For more information about the calendar of 140th events, visit
RCWRT Monthly Speakers for 2004
Newsletter Deadlines To facilitate the printing and timely distribution of the monthly newsletter, information for it should be submitted to the editors no later than the following dates: June newsletter May 28 July newsletter July 2 August newsletter July 30 September newsletter September 3 October newsletter October 1 November newsletter October 29 December newsletter December 3 Information may be emailed to
Richmond Civil War Round Table Newsletter Rob Monroe, Editor 2416 Edenbrook Dr. Richmond, VA 23228-3040

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