Richard Forrester, President Rob Monroe, Editor
8008 Spottswood Road 2416 Edenbrook Dr.
Richmond, VA 23229 Richmond, VA 23228-3040
July 2005 PROGRAM
Dr. Richard M. McMurry
"A New Framework for Civil War Military History"
8:00 p.m., Tuesday, July 12, 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.
An Atlanta native, Richard McMurry received a B.S. degree
in history from VMI and an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Emory
University. From 1967 to 1981 he taught history at Valdosta
State College in Georgia and taught as an adjunct professor
at North Carolina State University from 1981 to 1988. Since
1988 he has been a freelance writer and speaker and has
served as a guide/historian for many tour and cruise groups.
McMurry has authored more than 100 articles on various
facets of the Civil War. He has edited or co-edited several
works, and is the author of numerous award-winning books
including Virginia Military Institute Alumni in the Civil
War: In Bello Praesidium. His latest book is The Fourth
Battle of Winchester: Toward a New Civil War Paradigm.
McMurry now makes his home in Roanoke.
For almost a century and a half, most people have held a
very limited view of Civil War military history. They have
looked at the subject only in a context that focuses on the
battles fought in one small area of the war. This extremely
limited view, McMurry asserts, imprisons people in a narrow,
provincial framework that produces a misleading
understanding of the conflict. This poor understanding in
turn gives an erroneous interpretation not only of how the
war was fought but also of several larger questions relating
to the nation's military history in general and to the Civil
War in particular. What is the best framework for
understanding Civil War military history? McMurry will
explore this question at the RCWRT's July meeting.
Summary of June Meeting
The June meeting of the Richmond Civil War Round Table began
with the announcement that our annual holiday dinner would
take place November 8 at the SunTrust building downtown.
Hobbie Godwin gave a brief talk on the history of the
RCWRT's gavel. At early Round Table meetings, members would
speak on various subjects or review books. As expected,
opinions were not always well received by all in attendance.
These early meetings often created quite a stir. Godden
laughed as he recalled an uproar being caused over the
correct pronunciation of the word "pontoon." "Sometimes the
ladies in the audience would have to retire," he chuckled.
Finally, in 1959 a gavel was employed to maintain order.
Round Table members have come and gone but the gavel has
Our June speaker, William Bergen, was introduced by a fellow
University of Virginia history professor, Gary Gallagher.
Bergen spoke to the Round Table about what Grant and Lee
faced before the Overland Campaign. When Grant took over
the Army of the Potomac in March 1864, he felt uncomfortable
being a westerner promoted above easterners. At the time
the only clear cut Union victory in the East had come "on
their home turf" at Gettysburg.
The spring of 1864 marked the first time the top Union
general faced off against the top Confederate commander.
"The contrast between Lee and Grant could not have been
greater," Bergen stated. Lee had an impeccable record at
West Point, while Grant and was remembered by a classmate
primarily for his "ability to compose and maintain horses."
By the Overland Campaign, the 57-year-old Lee knew his
generals and lieutenants well. He had promoted many of them
himself for their aggressiveness in battle. Nevertheless,
the Confederate commander had concerns resulting from the
loss of some of his most trusted subordinates in the past
year - Pettigrew, Pender and Jackson.
At the same time, the 42-year-old Grant was faced with
changing the culture of "McClellanism" in the Army of the
Potomac. He was as unfamiliar with his commander's
capabilities as Lee had been before the Seven Days battles.
But Grant faced a formidable opponent in 1864, unlike Lee in
1862, Bergen noted. By the time of the Battle of the
Wilderness, Grant still had not learned all of his unit
Lee's 64,000 men faced Grant's 120,000 during the Overland
Campaign. Despite this gap, Bergen said, other factors
evened the playing field. A handful of Confederate raiders
did much to hamper the Union army's progress. A much
greater percentage of Lee's troops had seen combat. The
bounty system had provided poor soldiers to the Army of the
Potomac, Bergen said. Often these new men were bounty
jumpers and the desertion rate - about 7,000 a month -
nearly equaled Union battle casualties.
Lee and Grant shared similarities as well. Moral courage in
offensive warfare was a trait both commanders possessed.
Neither general got the fight he wanted during the Overland
Campaign. Both generals were adept at words, Bergen stated,
and had to apply these talents often in writing letters to
their presidents. "We underestimate Grant's political
sense," Bergen said. The Union commander realized immediate
battlefield successes were necessary to win the upcoming
election for Lincoln.
Subcommittee to Meet July 22
The Clerk's Office of the House of Delegates has announced
that the first meeting of the Virginia General Assembly
Joint Subcommittee to Examine the Cost and Feasibility of
Relocating the Museum and White House of the Confederacy
will be held at 10am on Friday, July 22. The majority of
the meeting will take place in Richmond in House Room C of
the General Assembly Building (the SE corner of Broad and
9th streets, across the grounds from the State Capitol).
While the agenda has not been set, it is expected that the
subcommittee will elect a chairman, and the museum's
executive director, Waite Rawls, will give a detailed
presentation on the situation. It has been suggested that
subcommittee members will then walk several blocks north to
the museum for a formal tour, but that has not yet been
determined. This meeting and the three or four meetings
that follow are open to the public.
Until a chairman has been elected, citizens may voice their
opinions to the bill's patron, William Janis (R-House
District 56). His contact information is: P.O. Box 3703,
Glen Allen, VA 23058; (804) 726-5856, or e-mail:
Del_Janis@house.state.va.us. Any questions about the agenda
for this meeting should be addressed to Robie Ingram or
Bryan Stogdale in the Division of Legislative Services,
Civil War Buffs Mourn the
Loss of Two Noted Historians
Last month the Civil War community was saddened to learn of
the deaths of two of its most recognized and respected
historians. On June 15, Brian C. Pohanka, 50, died of
cancer at his home in Alexandria. On June 27, Shelby Foote
died in Memphis at the age of 88.
Born in Washington, Mr. Pohanka became enthralled with the
Civil War at a young age. He was a voracious reader and
favored American Heritage history books and Bruce Catton's
works. Mr. Pohanka went on to earn a history degree from
Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. He worked as a senior
researcher for the Civil War series of books published by
Time-Life. He was a consultant for the History Channel's
"Civil War Journal" series and worked as an advisor and
military coordinator for major motion pictures such as
"Glory" (1989) and "Cold Mountain" (2003). Mr. Pohanka was
instrumental in forming the Association for the Preservation
of Civil War Sites, now known as the Civil War Preservation
Trust. CWPT President James Lighthizer credited Mr. Pohanka
for helping to "start the battlefield preservation movement
that we know today."
A native of Greenville, Mississippi, Mr. Foote attended the
University of North Carolina for two years, served during
World War II, and worked as a journalist in his younger
years. He moved to Memphis in 1953 and lived there the
remainder of his life. He worked 20 years to complete The
Civil War: A Narrative (1974), a three-volume epic that
brought him acclaim. But it was Ken Burns' 1990 "The Civil
War" documentary on PBS that immortalized Mr. Foote to
thousands of viewers. Mr. Foote's commentary and
distinctive Southern drawl were prominently featured in the
film and he instantly became a somewhat reluctant celebrity.
Fall Field Trip Announced
The Richmond Civil War Round Table fall tour will be held on
Saturday, October 1, 2005. Our guide will be John V.
Quarstein, Director of the Virginia War Museum and author of
"The Battle of the Ironclads". He is an expert on the Civil
War on the Virginia Peninsula and a dynamic tour guide. We
will begin our tour at Lee Hall and visit several land sites
in the morning. After lunch at Fort Monroe, we will board
the Miss Hampton II and explore the scene of the historic
clash between the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor.
The bus departs at 8am from the James River Bus Terminal at
915 North Allen Avenue (located between Broad and Leigh
streets) and will return by 5pm. The cost is $35 per
person. Guests are welcome. Please bring your own lunch
and drink. Note that security measures at Fort Monroe
require that all visitors present a photo ID. If you have
questions, please contact Bernie Fisher at (804) 730-1785 or
via email, email@example.com. Please make checks
payable to RCWRT and send along with the form below to:
7300 Ann Cabell Lane
Mechanicsville, VA 23111
2005 RCWRT Fall Field Trip
Date: ______________ Name: _________________________________________________
Phone Number: (_____) ______-________
Number of reserved seats: _____ x $35 = $ _______ total
(Make check payable to RCWRT)
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