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Volume 26, No. 11 – November 2013

Volume 26, No. 11
Editor: Stephen L. Seftenberg

President's Message

On behalf of the Executive Board I want to thank everyone who participated in the Speaker’s Fund Drive. Your generous support of the Round Table was thoroughly appreciated.

At the October meeting someone asked me how Civil War Round Tables began and if there is a national headquarters. In 1939, a group of men in Chicago decided to formalize their interest in the history of the Civil War and formed the first "Civil War Round Table." The second oldest is the Milwaukee Round Table. Through the years Round Tables were started in different areas of the United States as well as other countries. There are Round Tables in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany and England. Membership was often limited to men only. Fortunately, this policy has changed.

From the beginning the purpose of a Round Table is "the study and better understanding of the Civil War." Each one is autonomous and operates independently with its own organization and programs. There is absolutely no enforced conformity. Matthew Borowick has written many articles and a handbook on the different ways Round Tables function. There is no formal national organization or headquarters. However, in 1968, CWRT Associates was established by Jerry Russell. It served as a clearing house to disseminate information to individual Round Tables. Mr. Russell was chairmen until his untimely death in 2003. He was an early advocate of Civil War preservation and worked tirelessly for this cause. In 1975, the National Congress of CWRT was founded. These organizations are no longer active. [Editor’s note: the web sites of "every" CWRT in the world as of March 12, 2010 can be found on a link to our website!]

The most amazing aspect of Round Tables is its membership. The organizations are not just composed of historians, military experts, and scholars, but of men and women from all walks of life who want to study the War in greater detail. I believe that if Union and Confederate soldiers were alive today, they would give us a nod of approval for studying these important years in the history of our country. Each time a Round Table member walks into a meeting I would like to think that the Civil War veterans would say, "Our sacrifice was not in vain."

Gerridine LaRovere, President

November 13, 2013 Program

Dr. Francis J. DuCoin, a consultant at the U.S.S. Monitor Center at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, will talk about "The USS Monitor, Then and Now." Dr. DuCoin states: Everyone learned about the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac in fifth grade, and the members of the Palm Beach Civil War Round Table are certainly smarter than fifth graders, so I will not dwell on the battle. Instead I will review the industrial and political synergy that came together so the USS Monitor could be built; the chain of events that caused this first battle between ironclad ships; who really won the engagement; the discovery of the Monitor’s wreck; the recovery of and conservation of artifacts; and the recovery and internment of two unknown sailors from the Monitor’s turret.

October 9, 2013 Program

AdamsRichard Barlow (Rich) Adams, Capt., USRA, born in San Antonio, Texas, United States Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1967, was the first of three brothers to graduate from West Point. After graduation, he deployed to Vietnam as an artillery forward observer, then became a fixed-wing aviator and transferred to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. After his military service he became a consulting civil/environmental engineer. He has served as a part-time adjunct professor in the graduate engineering school at SMU and as an adjunct assistant professor at West Point.

His critically-acclaimed historical novels include "Eben Kruge: How 'A Christmas Carol' Came to be Written," a story about Charles Dickens at the age of thirty and what inspired him to write the Christmas classic, and "The Parting: A Story of West Point on the Eve of the Civil War," a factually-based story about the West Point Class of 1861 in its final year at the Academy, and the confrontation of best friends in the first major battle of the Civil War. [Your editor has read the book and recommends it highly for flowing style and meticulous craftsmanship -- you really feel what it was like to be a cadet!] Adams identified himself as a product of 211 years of "The Long Grey Line" of West Point graduates. He was encouraged to write The Parting by Mary Elizabeth Sergent (1919-2005), who wrote three books chronicling the Classes of May and June 1861 and the life of John Pelham, and challenged him to write the story from the cadets’ points of view of the eleven months between August 12, 1860 and July 21, 1861. He tells the story in three flashbacks from the days before the First Battle of Bull Run [Manassas to the South] back and forth to and from three academic periods (summer encampment, first and second semesters).

Adams emphasized that the book was "based on facts derived from archival research and nonfiction publications," and seasoned by his experiences as a West Point cadet, graduate and as an adjunct assistant professor at West Point. This research and these experiences form the basis for the story’s portrayal of West Point in 1861, "the cadet class system, the regimen of summer encampment, the hops at the West Point Hotel, the meals in the mess hall, the routine of barracks life, the academics, the extracurricular activities of the cadets and the inexorable unraveling of the country." (The Parting, page 381). At Adams’ request, more than a dozen attendees raised their hands to attest that they have visited West Point. Mary Ellen Prior volunteered that she was a graduate of Ladycliffe College, then located just outside of Thayer Gate. Adams then disclosed that our president had dated a cadet and had been on Flirtation Walk with him!

PelhamIn August 1860, West Point had 278 cadets. The story focuses on John Pelham (9/7/1838 - 3/17/1863), of Jacksonville, Alabama; his room mate, Thomas Lafayette Rosser (10/215/1836 - 3/29/1910), born in Virginia but raised in Texas; Edmund Kirby (5/11/1840 - 5/28/1863), of Brownsville, New York; Henry Algernon duPont (7/30/1838-12/21/1926), of Eleutherian Mills, Delaware; George Armstrong Custer (12/5/1839-6/25/1876), born in New Rumley, Ohio, but raised in Monroe, Michigan; and Emory Upton (8/27/1839-3/15/ 1881), of Batavia, New York.

[Note:  Pelham’s 1858 photograph, taken in the Matthew Brady studio, was well known in the South. While many copies were made, the original was long thought lost. It was held by Pelham’s sister, Betty, and kept by her descendants in a fire-proof safe. In 2010, Pelham’s great-great grand-nephew consigned the picture for auction. It sold for $41,825.]

RosserAdams introduced us to Clara Bolton, of Philadelphia, a senior at Clermont College (both fictional) who, with five other girls and two chaperones visited West Point in August 1860 to take part in the "hops" (dancing) and the search for husbands, and to Benny Havens (real) long-time tavern keeper (a thorn in the side of the Academy’s anti-drinking rules). Benny was known for his famous "flips" (eggs, rum, ale, sugar, spices, beaten to a frothy mixture and then heated by a white-hot iron bar (the "flip dog"). Many generations of cadets (including Jeff Davis, Jackson, Grant, Longstreet, Sheridan, Sherman and Pickett) had sneaked out after taps, at the risk of being kicked out of West Point, to experience Benny’s unique "education."

Adams and a companion West Point graduate then sang several verses of "Benny Havens, Oh," the first of over 60 verses penned by cadets by 1860:

CusterduPont"Come fill your glasses, fellows,
and stand up in a row.
To singing sentimentally,
we’re going far to go.
In the Army there’s sobriety,
promotion’s very slow.
So we’ll sing our reminiscences
to Benny Havens, Oh"


The book contains the verses composed by John Pelham on the last night at Benny Havens’ place:

UptonKirby"Go we now our separate ways,
fate’s not to us been just;
We know not what the future holds,
the lifeblood poured from us,
But when all is done and all is past,
we pray God heals our pain
And brings us back to Benny’s place,
to toast our bond again.

Oh! Benny Havens, Oh! --
Oh! Benny Havens, Oh!
We’ll sing our reminiscences
Of Benny Havens, Oh!"

AmesAdams pointed out that President Lincoln had offered to put Robert E. Lee in charge of the Union Army, but Lee declined and, after Virginia seceded, resigned from the U. S. Army and went South to glory and tragedy. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (5/28/1818 – 2/20/1893), of Louisiana, served as West Point Superintendent for only five days in 1861! Pelham and Rosser (against the wishes of their parents and the advice of Lt. Fitzhugh Lee (Class of ‘56), Robert Lee’s nephew and Tactical Officer, of Pelham’s D Company, who had advised Pelham and Rosser to watch what he did and "Jump when I jump"), instead followed the advice of President Davis, intending to stay until they graduated and continue to improve their military talents. But when the Lincoln Administration took over, the Secretary of War required all cadets to swear an oath of allegiance to the Union and discharged all cadets who declined to take the oath. Moreover, when word of Fitzhugh Lee’s advice reached Republican ears in Congress, he was immediately transferred elsewhere.

Adams then stepped into the shoes of Pelham and Kirby. Lastly: Adelbert Ames (10/31/1838 - 4/13/1933), the last Civil War veteran to die, speaking in 1933. "War is a distant memory. So many changes – the horse is obsolete, we fly like birds, we fought the ‘War to End All Wars,’ Lindbergh flies from Long Island to Paris nonstop!" I remember 1st Bull Run, where I got my Congressional Medal of Honor. We started out on a flanking maneuver that was supposed to be 7 miles but turned out to be 14. By the time we got there, we were worn out. Through my binoculars, I saw John Pelham on his horse."

Adams said he had circled cadets’ pictures in his 1967 West Point yearbook from states that had been in the United States in 1860 and imagined them parting. "It breaks my heart to see the tragedy of parting. Truly, the war was brother fighting brother. He then brought to our attention, Reconciliation Plaza, financed by the West Point Class of 1961. It is the largest monument at West Point and the names of all cadets on both sides of the Civil War are inscribed on black granite. Over 900 West Pointers fought in the war. By war’s end almost 450 were generals! Of the 60 major battles in the Civil War, 55 were commanded by West Pointers on both sides; the other 5 had at least one side commanded by a former West Point cadet.

ChartAdams finished by putting a chart on the screen breaking down cadets who served and who died:

The Round Table gave Russ Adams a round of applause for his presentation (especially his singing!).

A Fight in the Fields:. The Impact of the Civil War on Midwestern Agriculture
By Robert C. Welch, The Courier, Civil War Round Table of Central Florida [edited]

As war tore the nation apart, farmers in the Midwest, or the Northwest as it was known then, faced major adjustments to their ways of life. While fighting never reached these areas, the largest issue facing farmers during the war was the lack of manpower due to military enlistments. While not every male eligible to serve enlisted, many states saw a sizeable portion of that population go to war. For example, 49% of Iowa's male population of military age served in the Union Army, the highest percentage of any Northern state. Of all the men that served in the Union Army, 48% were farmers. With this large body of manpower unavailable to work, the wages laborers demanded rose. Families struggled to continue the work that fathers, husbands, and sons left them. Boys took greater responsibility on the farm, learning by trial and error or by advice found in letters from the front. Many wives and daughters took to the fields to make sure the farm survived.

ReaperResponding to labor shortages, farmers quickened the pace of adaptation to new technologies chiefly machines designed for harvesting crops. Rather than taking days to harvest crops by hand, farmers invested in devices that yielded faster harvests of larger fields. During this time, manufacturers changed the way they marketed their goods. Images within the ads showed women operating the machines, demonstrating their ease of use for women in charge of field work while men were off to war. Other ads showed crippled veterans, most noticeably missing one arm, operating mowers or reapers, as in the ad at the right!

The Civil War also helped push Midwestern farmers closer to a more commercial model of agriculture. As with any war, troops need to be fed, clothed, and their supplies moved from place to place and farmers supplied the army with horses, mules, pork, beef and wool for uniforms. The price of wool skyrocketed with the demand for new uniforms. The army and navy needed to eat, and farmers rushed to fill contracts for pork and beef with meat packers. Canning increased shelf life. Investing in extra animals in the short run provided farmers with added cash income through the commercial marketing of animals for the war effort.

The war acted as a catalyst for change in agriculture, opening the way for major changes in farming during the second half of the nineteenth century.


Last changed:  10/28/13

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