Our July Newsletter and Meeting

July 22nd, 2009 – Our 64th Meeting

The next meeting of the Clarksville (TN) Civil War Roundtable will be on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009, in the auditorium of the Clarksville Customs House Museum and Cultural Center, 200 S. 2nd Street. From Borders continue south on Wilma Rudolph Blvd. into downtown and turn left on 2nd Street. From Ft. Campbell Blvd, continue south past Two Rivers Mall into down town. This is now 2nd Street. The museum is on the right side of the street on the corner of 2nd and Commerce Streets. The meeting begins at 7:00 pm and is always open to the public. Members please bring a friend or two – new recruits are always welcomed.


“The Rifle Musket in the Civil War: Myth and Reality”

This month we welcome Dr. Earl J. Hess from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN. This beautiful campus is located just south of Cumberland Gap.

Most Civil War historians claim that the advent and wide-spread use of the rifle musket changed warfare and was the primary cause of the massive casualties. The increased accuracy and extended range of the rifle over older smoothbore muskets took on Napoleonic tactics and soundly defeated them – or so it is believed.

However, starting with British military historian Paddy Griffith in his book “Battle Tactics of the American Civil War,” and continued with Brent Nosworthy’s brilliant “Bloody Crucible of Courage,” historians have taken a serious examination of the actual effectiveness of the weapon based on the training of the troops and actual battle accounts from the Official Records and other sources. What has been discovered is that the soldiers were never properly trained to aim the weapon using the back sights nor were they taught range estimation. Additionally, with is lower muzzle velocity, the rifle Minie bullet flew with a parabolic curve rather than the flat trajectory of the faster smooth bore rounds. This curve was known before the war thanks to tests but the soldiers were not trained to overcome it.

What has been discovered, and Dr. Hess’ current book which is the topic of this month’s program adds much to the previous two works cited above, is that most Civil War battles were fought well within closer smoothbore ranges and that those older weapons firing the buck & ball rounds, caused many casualties on their own including at Antietam. Dr. Hess notes that despite the Civil War being a war where both sides were armed with rifle muskets, it was the last major war with those weapons. Several European powers had developed and deployed breech-loading rifles and breech loaders, and two major repeating rifles in America (the Henry and the Spencer) also saw combat action in the Civil War.

Dr. Hess will detail the capabilities of the rifle musket and compare it to the smoothbore along with examples of battle use. It will be found that in the hands of specialist sharpshooters or skirmisher units, the rifle musket performed as expected because the soldier was properly trained. But for the line infantry regiments, it was not much different than Marlborough’s British Redcoats at Blenheim in 1704 who were magnificently trained to fire four rounds per minute downrange burying their foes with firepower – but it was not well aimed fire.

Dr. Earl J. Hess, a Missouri native, is the director of the History Program at Lincoln Memorial University where he holds the Stewart W. McClennad Chair. He has also taught at three other universities in his career. Dr. Hess is the author of twelve Civil War books including books on Pickett’s Charge, Wilson’s Creek, the Pettigrew-Kirkland-McRae North Carolina brigade and several titles on field fortifications in Eastern Civil War campaigns. He has also written a number of Civil War articles for journals and magazines.

Please join us for a detailed explanation on the rifle musket in the Civil War by noted historian and author Dr. Earl J. Hess. Dr. Hess will have copies of his books available at the meeting.

NOTE: Borders has in stock a number of Dr. Hess’ books. Stop by Borders for your purchases and bring them to the meeting for him to sign for you! Borders has been very good to us – please support them with these book purchases.


James Epperson of Ann Arbor, MI gave a very well-informed and often entertaining program on the fate of Civil War prisoners of war and the Dix-Hill Cartel formed to deal with the problem. Beginning with the first prisoners of the war, notably the large numbers taken at Ft. Donelson, both sides made overtures to the other after deciding that the growing number of prisoners was becoming a big problem. At times in the early war, one side would have more captives than the other but that could change quickly. So the cartel was formed for exchanges with officers and ranks being swapped according to set formulae. While good in intentions, both sides had problems and the whole thing pretty much fell apart by the late war. As Epperson stated, there were good men that made bad decisions and these POWs were the victims of that.

This was a most informative program delivered by a speaker with total command of the topic who displayed a good sense of humor at times. This speaker and program are highly recommended for your CWRT!


August, 2009 – Dr. Michele Butts, Austin Peay State University – “1st U.S. Volunteers, Galvanized Yankees.”
September, 2009 – Russell Bonds, Atlanta CWRT and author – “Stealing The General” (based on his book)
October, 2009 – Lee Anderson, Western Kentucky University/Clarksville CWRT – “Remembering Calamity: The Total War Fallacy”
November, 2009 – Jim Hoobler, Tennessee State Museum – “Occupied Nashville”
December, 2009 – Max Hochstetler, Austin Peay State University/Clarksville CWRT – “The Decker Brothers and the 32nd Indiana Infantry in the Civil War”
January, 2010 – Howard Kittel, Director and CEO, the Hermitage – “The Civil War In The Shenandoah Valley”
February, 2010 – Dr. Wally Cross, Austin Peay State University, “The Commanders Of Ft. Donelson”
March, 2010 – Thomas Cartwright, former Director, Carter House Historic Site – “The Battle of Thompson’s Station”


Thanks to all of you, the Clarksville CWRT continues to grow. We would love to have you join us! If you have friends interested in the Civil War, please bring them along. July is our fiscal year when dues for the current campaign were due. If you haven’t paid your dues for this season yet please do so. Our dues help us get great speakers and for historical preservation. Annual dues are as follows:

Single membership – $20
Family – $30
Military – Active duty and Veterans – $15
Military Family – Active duty and Veterans – $25
Student – $10

Former members and our many guests – We would love to see you back at the Clarksville CWRT meetings every month and we hope that you will consider rejoining us! To our guests, thank you for much for coming to see what we are about. Your dues money goes towards helping to pay the travel expenses we get to visit us so we hope that you considering joining our ranks very soon. Welcome to our new members!!!!!

Clarksville CWRT silent auction – Each month we hold a silent auction of donated items to help raise more money for the club’s treasury. If you have something Civil War related that you would like to donate please bring it to the meeting. Thanks very much to all of you who have donated items.


Fort Negley Park Special Silver Screen Saturday – July 18th, 2009

Has it really been 20 years since the classic film “Glory” was first released? In honor of the 20th Anniversary of the film, one of the very best Civil War movies ever made, Ft. Negley Visitors Center will be showing the film as part of the Silver Screen Saturdays program. The visitors center is open from 9 Am to 4:30 PM and the film will be showing at 10 Am and again at 2 PM. Supporting the event will be film memorabilia, tintypes of 54th Massachusetts soldiers, equipment displays and a cast member from the movie. The event is co-sponsored by the 13th USCT Living History Association and it is free and open to the public. The 54th was not the first black Union regiment but it was the most famous and the film on them remains a classic.

Please support the efforts of Ft. Negley Visitors Center in their public outreach.

Virginia Governor and Delegates Speaker Weigh in on the Wilderness Walmart Site (From the Civil War Preservation Trust email)

(Richmond, Va.) – In a bipartisan letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) and House of Delegates Speaker William Howell (R) jointly urged the county to reconsider plans to locate a Walmart supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield. The letter, addressed to Orange County Board Chairman Lee Frame and dated July 13, 2009, emphasizes the Commonwealth’s commitment to historic preservation and the need to bring all interests together to resolve the controversy.
The heart of the message states: “[W]e strongly encourage your Board to work closely with Wal-Mart to find an appropriate alternative site for the proposed retail center in the vicinity of the proposed site yet situated outside the boundaries of Wilderness Battlefield and out of the view of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.” Further, the Governor and Speaker offer the services of the state to help forge a compromise, writing: “[W]e stand ready to offer the technical service of any and all state agencies that could be of help to the County and Wal-Mart….” The letter goes on to reference those agencies: the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Department of Historic Resources.
The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, an organization of national, regional and local preservation groups, indicated support for the announcement by the Governor and Speaker, noting that the Coalition first proposed a similar solution in January of this year. “We firmly believe that encouraging Wal-Mart to move to an alternative location is in the best interests of both the National Park and Orange County residents. We are prepared to work with the Commonwealth, the county, Wal-Mart and local citizens to find an alternative location that benefits all.”

A Story from “Glory”

Back in the late 1980s, your president and secretary were both members of the Long Beach CWRT in California. One of the programs featured Ray Herbeck, who was the re-enactor coordinator for the film ”Glory.” His program detailed all of the experiences in making the film as accurately as possible from Herbeck’s personal philosophy of “no fat re-enactors in the front ranks” to stories from the set and how non-reenactors trained and got into their roles as Civil War soldiers. In the question and answer session after the program, I asked Mr. Herbeck why the film did not include the story of Sgt. William Carney, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions bearing the colors of the 54th at Battery Wagner. He replied that his family did not want to be involved in the film. He also stated that he was puzzled by their response.

Carney was recognized for his heroic deed in July, 1863, the first black soldier in the war to be so honored but it was not until May, 1900 that his medal would be awarded.

Civil War Preservation Trust Transfers 176 Acres to Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park (CWPT)

(Washington, D.C.) – Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (NHP) expanded by 176 acres on Thursday June 25, 2009, as the Civil War Preservation Trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit dedicated to protecting the country’s remaining Civil War battlefields, transferred a key part of the battlefield to the National Park Service (NPS) during ceremonies on historic School House Ridge.
The transfer ceremony was be part of a day-long series of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s Raid and the beginning of the American Civil War. Other events included panel discussions by leading Civil War scholars as well as a tour of NPS-owned sites associated with John Brown’s raid and the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry. The anniversary event was cosponsored by NPS and the Virginia and West Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commissions.

Harpers Ferry was the scene of two pivotal events in Civil War history. Many historians consider militant abolitionist John Brown’s October 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, an attempt to incite armed slave rebellion, one of the Civil War’s precipitating causes. The Battle of Harpers Ferry, fought on September 1215, 1862, culminated with the largest mass surrender of U.S. troops until World War II. CWPT acquired the $1.3 million School House Ridge property in 2002 with the aid of federal and state matching grants. In the ensuing years, the property has been maintained with an eye toward improving the visitor experience by transferring the land to NPS.

New Audio and DVD Programs from the Teaching Company

The Teaching Company is offering a number of their recorded courses for sale at greatly reduced prices. Among them is Course #885, The American Civil War. The lecturer is Gary W. Gallagher from University of Virginia (author of “The Confederate War”, “Myths of the Lost Cause” among others). The DVD edition, which includes over 1,000 maps, photos, graphics and other illustrations with 24 hours of lectures, is normally offered for over $500 is now available (until 7/16/09) for about $110 plus shipping. The audio only CD is $70. Phone orders to 1-800-832-2412. Website is http://www.thegreatcourses.com.

CSS Arkansas Confederate Ironclad Museum display opens in North Little Rock, Arkansas (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 11, 2009)

Recognizing the short but colorful history of the Confederate ironclad Arkansas, the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock has opened a display of artwork and replicas of the boat’s armor and cannonballs. The display is a preview of the forthcoming 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The gunboat’s Civil War action lasted from July 14 to August 6, 1862, when it fought to keep the Mississippi River from Union control. The 165-by-35-foot Arkansas, built with railroad iron and lumber, held 10 cannons and a cast-iron ram below its waterline.

The Arkansas successfully fought three gunboat battles in one day against a superior Union fleet on July 15, including running a gauntlet of 33 Union boats at Vicksburg. When the Arkansas’ inferior engines failed in its next engagement against the Union fleet Aug. 6, the crew abandoned the boat after setting it ablaze, resulting in an explosion that sank the boat. What remains is buried beneath a levee near Baton Rouge. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday on the north shore of the Arkansas River east of the Main Street bridge.

(NOTE – The CSS Arkansas’ construction began in Memphis and the vessel was completed in Mississippi)

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