Richard Forrester, President Rob Monroe, Editor
8008 Spottswood Road 2416 Edenbrook Dr.
Richmond, VA 23229 Richmond, VA 23228-3040
June 2005 PROGRAM
Mr. William W. Bergen
"Two Commanders, Two Armies, Two Objectives:
The Overland Campaign of 1864"
8:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 10, 2005, 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.
William W. "Bill" Bergen has been obsessed with the Civil
War for nearly as long as he can remember. He holds the
distinction of nearly flunking fourth grade because his
teacher said his only talking about the Civil War was a sign
of a problem. Notwithstanding that near-setback, he went on
to become apparently the only Civil War military historian
Vassar College has ever produced.
In addition to leading battlefield tours for more than 30
years, Bergen has lectured widely on the Civil War, and is a
regular instructor at the University of Virginia's annual
Civil War conference where he is the resident expert on the
Army of the Potomac. He is the author of "The Other Hero of
Cedar Creek: The 'Not Specially Ambitious' Horatio G.
Wright," a lengthy biographical essay that will be published
later this year by University of North Carolina Press. He
is engaged in a long-term study of how politics affected the
designation of general officers in the Army of the Potomac.
Bergen holds a masters degree in public administration from
UVa, and is an assistant dean of the university's law school
where he handles a variety of assignments for the Dean,
including facilities planning and admissions. He will speak
to the Round Table on what Lee and Grant faced before the
Summary of May Meeting
It would be almost impossible to find someone more
knowledgeable about the Battle of Fredericksburg than Frank
O'Reilly. An author of acclaimed books on the subject and a
Park Service historian, O'Reilly decided to take a different
approach when he spoke at the May meeting of Richmond Civil
War Round Table. Rather than give a standard overview of
the December 1862 clash along the Rappahannock, O'Reilly
focused instead on the more obscure details and overlooked
facts about the battle and the events leading up to it.
Who planned the Fredericksburg Campaign? McClellan?
Burnside? O'Reilly said there was no correct answer. Soon
after replacing McClellan in November 1862, Burnside met
with Henry Halleck to discuss what direction the Union army
should take next. Halleck attempted to persuade Burnside to
go through Culpeper where he could be supplied via the
Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Also, argued Halleck, the
streams and rivers would not be as wide there as they would
be closer to the Chesapeake Bay.
Burnside could not be convinced. He believed supply lines
would not be as threatened in Fredericksburg. The Richmond,
Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad could be defended
easier, Burnside countered, and pontoon bridges would
alleviate the problem of crossing a wide river. This
illustrated a basic difference between McClellan and
Burnside, O'Reilly observed. Burnside dug in his heels to
do something while his predecessor dug in not to do
something. No doubt Lincoln liked this change of attitude
and agreed with Burnside.
Ulric Dahlgren was sent to Fredericksburg and found it
undefended but Union delays allowed Lee time to mass his
troops there. By the time of the battle, Lee's 78,000 men
met Burnside's 135,000. The two armies would never be this
The south side of the battlefield was more important,
O'Reilly stated, but Burnside never recognized it as such.
The general's crisis at Marye's Heights made him forget
about the south battlefield. He attacked the north side of
the battlefield seven times but made only one offensive
action to the south. At Prospect Hill, Jackson's 35,000
Confederates easily repulsed the 8,000 federals. Attacking
Stonewall, O'Reilly noted, was usually a "career-ender" for
On December 11, 1862, Fredericksburg became the first
American city to be bombarded (by Union forces). The city
was also the unwilling site of urban conflict, the first
street fighting in American history. It was also the first
American city to be looted since British forces sacked
Washington in 1814.
Pamplin Park Hosts Old Time Fair
Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil
War Soldier will host its Fifth Annual "Old Time Fair" on
Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26. The park will combine
Civil War era living history with the fun of a mid-1800s
county fair. The 19th century entertainment includes music,
dancing, food and activities for the entire family at the
park near Petersburg in Dinwiddie County.
Special Programs Planned
at Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill
The Richmond National Battlefield Park will be offering
special programs at the sites of two famous clashes of the
Seven Days Battles of 1862. On Saturday and Sunday, June 25
and 26, the Gaines Mill anniversary program will include a
living history encampment, park ranger guided tours, musket
firing demonstrations and historical talks. Events will run
from 10am to 5pm Saturday and 10am to 4pm Sunday.
On the first two Friday nights in July, the Richmond
National Battlefield Park will host special History at
Sunset programs, "King of Battle: Artillery at Malvern Hill"
on July 1, and "Behind the Lines: Gaines's Mill" on July 8.
Both events are free and begin at 7pm on the battlefields.
On Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10, the Richmond National
Battlefield Park will present a Malvern Hill anniversary
program. Special activities include Union artillery and
Confederate infantry demonstrations, park ranger guided
tours, musket firing demonstrations and historical talks
throughout the weekend. Events will run from 10am to 5pm
Saturday and 10am to 4pm Sunday. An added bonus on Sunday
will be a special walking tour exploring the eastern half of
the Malvern Hill battlefield on lands recently added to the
Lunchtime Lectures Offered in June
The Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Virginia
will be hosting lectures in June that are of special
interest to Civil War enthusiasts. At noon on Thursday,
June 16, at the Virginia Historical Society, Donald M.
Wilkinson will present a talk on "The Most Good for the
Confederacy: Capt. John Wilkinson CSN." Capt. John
Wilkinson was the foremost blockade runner of the Civil War
but also engaged in commerce raiding, construction of
ironclads, covert operations, and purchasing ships and
supplies abroad. He was the only naval officer to command
every type of vessel operated by the Confederacy. Donald
Wilkinson is writing a biography of this prominent naval
figure and will speak on his wartime career and on the
Confederate government's overall naval strategy.
At noon on Thursday, June 30, The Library of Virginia will
host Peter S. Carmichael speaking on "The Last Generation:
Young Virginians in Peace, War and Reunion." Assistant
professor of history at the University of North Carolina at
Greensboro, Carmichael will discuss his new book that
challenges the popular conception of Southern youth on the
eve of the Civil War as intellectually lazy, violent and
dissipated. Carmichael examines the lives of more than 100
young white men from Virginia's last generation to grow up
with the institution of slavery. He finds them deeply
engaged in the political, economic and cultural forces of
their time. By examining the lives of members of this
generation on personal as well as generational and cultural
levels, Carmichael sheds new light on the formation and
reformation of Southern identity during the turbulent last
half of the nineteenth century. A book signing will follow
the free talk.
RCWRT Monthly Speakers for 2005
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Richmond Civil War Round Table Newsletter
Rob Monroe, Editor
2416 Edenbrook Dr.
Richmond, VA 23228-3040