Volume 25, No. 9 – September 2012
Volume 25, No. 9
Congratulations to all the members, past and present, of the Civil
War Round Table of the Palm Beaches! Due to your loyalty and
support we will be observing our 25th anniversary in September. There
have been numerous changes through the years, but the Round Table
remains strong and viable. Many thanks to all who were
instrumental in making the Round Table so successful. We look
forward to your support during the next 25 years. Our deepest
appreciation to Cynthia Morgan for the donation of her late husband’s
books and research material. Robert was a most definite asset to
the Round Table and always enjoyed our meetings. The books will be
raffled in the coming months.
September 9, 2012 Assembly
Our Speaker in September will be Stephen Singer and the topic will be George A. Custer. Mr. Singer practiced defense law in New York City for forty-four years and was also a case worker in the City’s Department of Welfare. He was a former agent with the U.S. Treasury Department, Intelligence Division. He has written articles for Newsday newspaper in Queens, New York. Mr. Singer taught penology at St. Johns University and is currently teaching trial two days per week at the Public Defender’s Office in West Palm Beach. He lectures on historical subjects and criminal law.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012 Program
Rodney Dillon, an original founder of the Round Table who has served as both President and Vice President of the Round Table, kicked off our 25th anniversary celebration with Bringing the Civil War to Palm Beach County. Rodney was for many years the Administrator of the Broward Historical Commission. He teaches history at Palm Beach State College and has a book store called "Past Perfect Florida History." Please visit his website at: www.past-perfect-history-book.com.
[Note: your editor has taken liberties with this unscripted talk] This year marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Civil War Roundtable of Palm Beach County and the 151st anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War and secession by the State of Florida. At the time, there was no Palm Beach County and few settlers in its boundaries. Our first permanent white settler was August Lay, a deserter, who dug the Palm Beach Inlet by hand. What became Palm Beach County already had a Civil War relationship: Joseph Johnston, William Sherman, and George Thomas had all been stationed here. As an offshoot of the Seminole Wars, we have Military Trail, laid out by Robert Anderson (of Ft. Sumter fame). Robert E. Lee conducted a coastal survey in 1849. Jupiter Lighthouse (designed by Gen. George Meade), built in 1855-59, is the oldest building in the county. When the war began in earnest, pro Confederate citizens removed and hid its lights to help the blockade runners and hamper the Federal ships seeking to enforce the blockade.
"The first white settlers in Palm Beach County lived around 22-mile-long Lake Worth, then an enclosed freshwater lake, named for Colonel William Jenkins Worth, who helped to end the Second Seminole War in Florida in 1842.
During the pioneer era, the entire area was known as Lake Worth [after Col. William Jenkins Worth, the last commander of U. S. forces in Florida]; the town by that name would not exist until 1912. The first arrivals made their homes on Hypoluxo Island, near the south end of Lake Worth, and on the east side of the lake, now Palm Beach. Although the Palm Beach homesteads stretched from the lake to the ocean, most settlers built not on the oceanfront but on the lake. The middle of the island, and their property, was a swamp full of alligators and mosquitoes. The white settlers laid planks across it to make their way to the ocean, which they used for bathing and fishing. The Seminole Indians before them did not live on the barrier island, but rather inland." [Palm Beach History Online]
Many of the original settlers were Civil War veterans, mostly Confederates. After Henry Flagler built his railroad in the 1890s and opened up Florida, many Civil War veterans, now middle-aged or seeking to retire, moved here. Nathan S. Boynton and William S. Linton, Michigan residents and Union Army officers in the Civil War, arrived in 1894. Beginning in 1910, the State tried to drain the Everglades. The 20's brought the first Real Estate Boom. Settlers drove down here in Dixie Highway. Children of the Civil War veterans were born, grew up and lived here. They celebrated Confederate Memorial Day (the 4th Monday in April). In 1941 the United Daughters of the Confederacy installed a Confederate war memorial Woodlawn Cemetery. It has a Confederate flag and an inscription that reads:
"Forever now, among the immortal dead,
In the 1980's, the late Bob Godwin, a relative of Robert Shaara, author of Killer Angels and fascinated by James Longstreet and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, contacted the Civil War Times magazine and obtained its subscription list for Palm Beach County. This was an extremely difficult to accomplish but Bob was an extremely persuasive fellow. Bob used the list to dig up phone numbers and called people. Rodney met Bob in Jacksonville where Rodney gave a talk. The first meeting of the Roundtable was held on September 16, 1987 in a classroom in John I. Leonard High School. The first attendees were: Rodney Dillon, Bob Godwin, Joel Gordon and Greg Parkinson. These men decided to form the "Civil War Round Table of Palm Beach County." On October 4, Steve Carr joined the group, which elected Bob Godwin President and Rodney Dillon Vice President. There was no agenda: discussion was informal and talks naturally followed. The attendance grew slowly: 9 on November 11, 1987, 7 on January 13, 1988, 11 on February 10, 12 on March 9, 1988, at which meeting we welcomed our first female members, Judy Bennett and Wilma Roberts. By May 1988 the group had grown to 14, including Rebecca Williams and Pauline Nott. Our President, Gerridine LaRovere, along with Lowell Tyler, joined the group on June 8, 1988.
On our first anniversary, September 7, 1988, 21 men and one woman were in attendance. At this meeting, the group decided to request a voluntary donation of $1.00 per person per meeting. The slogan, "Haversacks and Saddlebags," was adopted. In 1989, dues of $15.00 per year, single or couple, were adopted and $120 was collected, along with $7 from Elden E. Billings, of Washington, D. C., who became our first "Associate Member." As attendance grew, the locations changed to the Biology Lab, the Music Room, the Library and finally (in 1994) the Polish American Club. Discussions familiar to us today took place: membership fees ($15) and associate membership fees ($7). We adopted a Constitution and By Laws, which never been substantively amended. Annual dues are now $25 single or couple before June 30 and $15 after then. Membership has recently ranged between 75 and 90.
From the beginning, we were able to attract a wide range of students, scholars, authors, reenactors and collectors to discuss and expound. What topics! Battle leaders; campaigns, the soldier’s life in camp and on the march, wives, girl friends and others, how "common" people coped, politics and politicians, economics and demographics, financing the war, the blockade and blockade runners, war at sea, war on the rivers, great cavalry raids, diplomacy, food (who could forget Gerridine’s hard tack?), music, weapons, teaching out-of-shape recruits from the audience how to march in formation, technology, medicine, sex, foreign born participants in the war, Jews on both sides, counterrevolutions like the "Free State of Jones," the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglass debates (reenacted live!), Abraham Lincoln as a lawyer, as a debater and as a political and military leader, George McClellan, Robert E. Lee, U. S. Grant, Benjamin Franklin Butler, James Longstreet, George Custer, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, Judah P. Benjamin, Logistics in the Civil War, Andersonville and other prisons, What happened to the generals after the war ended, Civil War nurses, The love life of Abraham Lincoln, a live prime time interview of Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Davis by a Civil War reporter, various movies, including participating in the premiere of "Gettysburg," miniatures, the causes of the war, what if? and could war have been avoided. Last, but not least, Robert Macomber (left), best-selling author of the "Peter Wake" series, graced our Holiday Party for nine years in a row!
We steadfastly kept the organization nonpartisan. That doesn’t mean, of course, that our members were non-partisan! Our meetings were even filmed by John I. Leonard High School students! We participated in an ongoing History Project at the South Florida Fair Grounds. From time to time we sent speakers to area schools, condo and homeowner groups and civic clubs. We also answered phones for WXEL’s pledge drives. With funds raised by the monthly raffles, and the sale of coffee cups we donated to a variety organizations such as the "General Longstreet Memorial Fund," and, more recently, The Civil War Trust.
Leland Smith got involved in a joint project with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (which he helped start) in locating and decorating the graves of Civil War veterans in Palm Beach County: 25 Union veterans are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, two in Lake Worth cemetery, two in Delray Beach and one in Boca Raton.
Our membership has included many subscribing to the "Lost Cause." Monroe Ackerman gave a talk in which he stated the case that slavery caused the war. As a result, many Confederate reenactors dropped out of the Roundtable. At one point, Gerridine LaRovere was moderating a meeting when two elderly gentlemen almost came to blows. One member has proudly stated that she will be buried on a Civil War battlefield.
Bob Schuldenfrei, our energetic webmaster and membership recruiter, has written a wonderful essay for our website entitled, "Why the Civil War Still Matters." He points out that more than 80,000 books about the war have been published, with more coming out each year. Bob was also the recipient of the "Golden Hardtack Award" given to the member who contributed the most to the Round Table during a calendar year.
For the last six years, Steve Seftenberg has edited our monthly Newsletter, filled with reports of talks, reading lists, copies of interesting articles and materials from other Civil War Round Tables, with whom we exchange newsletters. He also published a book consisting of the 2009 and 2010 Newsletters, which were sold to raise funds to contribute to the Civil War Trust for battlefield restoration. Between Bob and Steve, you can now download articles going back to 2006 on our website, www.civilwarroundtablepalmbeach.org.
Rodney closed his talk by pointing out that his great great grandfather, lived in Kentucky, joined the Confederate Army, fought in Kentucky, was discharged, went home, was captured and sent to prison camps in Ohio and then Maryland. He was offered parole if he volunteered for the United States Army. He became a "galvanized Yankee" and fought the Sioux Indians out West.
Rod then brought his sparkling talk to an end by answering questions from the audience.
Last changed: 08/31/12