Another outstanding Civil War Seminar at Longwood University on Saturday. I’m a little late posting my “after action review,” choosing instead to spend my day visiting Richmond area sites on the way home. But here’s my take.
Let me say first, for those who didn’t attend but have in the past, the hosts moved the event to a larger auditorium with better facilities this year. Jarman Hall has a full A/V suite to include a very large projection screen… which came in handy for several lectures.
After the introduction by Dr. David Coles, the first speaker, David Ruth, discussed Fort Sumter as the center piece of the secession crisis. I thought Ruth’s presentation well-balanced. At one point in the presentation, Ruth discussed the linkage between the South Carolina forces and Tredegar Iron Works – thus “bringing it home” to the predominately Virginia audience.
John Hennessy presented next, discussing many commonly held myths about First Manassas. Of course he detailed the whole “Stonewall” Jackson bit. For the Appomattox boosters in the audience, he quickly brought Wilmer McLean in proper perspective. But Hennessy also covered the notion of civilians accompanying and impeding the army on the field.
Patrick Schroeder gave a rather detailed presentation centered on the 11th New York Infantry, better known as the Fire Zouaves. He prefaced the history of the unit with an introduction to Zouave units, the National Guard Cadets, and of course Elmer Ellsworth. But Schroeder spent considerable time detailing the movement of the Fire Zouaves on the field of First Manassas, to include action against J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry… which leads to the next speaker.
Jeffry Wert’s presentation was a year late. Originally scheduled to speak last year when all things cavalry were on the slate, Wert could not attend due to weather. Our loss, as Wert’s overview of J.E.B. Stuart’s military carer certainly would have complemented – or contradicted – those of Eric Wittenberg, Clark “Bud” Hall, and Scott Patchan. Always good to get different angles on the subject!
But I must say Mike Gorman’s presentation analyzing wartime images of Richmond stole the show. In addition to a long list of credentials, Gorman also runs the Civil War Richmond web site. What you see on the site is just a “tease.” During the presentation Gorman “zoomed” down to the fine details of the photos, mostly taken in the days shortly after Confederate evacuation. Perhaps the most important lesson I walked away with was the level of composition the photographers put into their work. There’s a reason the state capitol often showed up in the frame with the ruined industrial heart of Richmond.
Yes, five good speakers with great topics.
Dr. Cole announced March 3 as the date for next year’s seminar, and the focus on 1862 subjects. Speakers currently listed include John Hennessy (2nd Manassas), Tom Clemens (Maryland Campaign), Thomas McGrath (Shepherdstown), and Frank O’Rielly (Fredericksburg).
See you there next year!