July 18th, 2018 – Our 168th meeting. We continue our fourteenth year!
The next meeting of the Clarksville (TN) Civil War Roundtable will be on Wednesday, July 18th, 2018 at the Bone & Joint Center, 980 Professional Park Drive, right across the street from Tennova Hospital. This is just off Dunlop Lane and Holiday Drive and only a few minutes east of Governor’s Square mall. 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.
Our Speaker and Topic – “A “Devil” Of A Situation: Forrest’s Attack on Fort Pillow”
As Confederate major general Nathan Bedford Forrest approached a small isolated fortification on the banks of the Mississippi north of Memphis in April 1864, he would soon become associated with one of the Civil War’s most infamous episodes. The fall of Fort Pillow left the Union garrison of between 557 and 580 black and white Union troops with between 277 and 297 deaths or mortal wounds; 64 percent attributed to the black units and 31-34 percent to the white Tennesseans. The toll for the attacking Confederates rested at 14 killed and 86 wounded. The most devastating of the Union losses came early in the fighting when the commander, Major Lionel F. Booth, suffered a fatal wound while standing near one of the fort’s embrasures, forcing leadership to pass to Tennessee Unionist, Major William F. Bradford. Forrest’s ability to recognize and take advantage of terrain features and other elements, the miscalculations of the Union commanders, and the panic attendant to the disintegration of the fort’s defense, including the chaotic nature of the fighting as it concluded, in addition to the attitudes and emotions of the combatants, all contributed to the unusually high loss of life for the defenders.
Following an investment of the fort, Forrest sought to achieve a surrender of the garrison. The failure to accomplish this outcome left the Confederates with the necessity of subduing the defenders by assault. Forrest’s men quickly swarmed over the parapet and scattered their opponents. In the chaos and panic of broken and pursuing troops, any sense of order evaporated, especially below the bluffs on which the inner works were situated. Many tried to surrender, while others plunged into the water to escape; still others continued to resist, all the while under a hail of Confederate fire. A plan to cover the retreat with support from the gunboat New Era proved impossible on account of the earlier expenditure of much of the vessel’s ordnance and Forrest’s placement of Southern troops along the riverbank near the landing.
A United States Congressional investigation of the disaster resulted in the conclusion that “an indiscriminate slaughter” had taken place after the fort had fallen, “sparing neither age nor sex, white or black, soldier or civilian.” This “massacre” had featured terrifying examples of brutality, including the burning and burying of live victims. At the same time, Forrest consistently refused to accept that the deaths at Fort Pillow amounted to any more than would be attributable to combat and that his policy toward prisoners reflected accepted practices. Yet, accusations of massacre and atrocity continued. In any case, the Confederate capture of the fort, with its garrison of Tennessee Unionists and African American troops became the most controversial moment of his wartime career.
The isolated post and its leadership had offered little match for the Confederates, but in the latter stage of the fight General Forrest lost control of his men, some of whom killed members of the Union garrison who should have been spared. Fort Pillow fit into patterns of behavior in warfare that occurred before and after 1864 and elsewhere in that bloody year of the conflict. The degree to which Nathan Bedford Forrest was a hero, as the “Wizard of the Saddle” despite the actions of April 12, 1864, or a villain, as Sherman noted with the name, “That Devil Forrest,” or more widely as the “Butcher of Fort Pillow,” has remained a matter of heated debate.
Brian Steel Wills is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. He is the author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War. His latest publication is Inglorious Passages: Noncombat Deaths in the American Civil War (Kansas, 2017) and has just be named as the 2018 Richard Barksdale Harwell Award winner for the best book on a Civil War topic for the year 2017 presented by the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta.
His biography of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, A Battle From the Start: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest (HarperCollins) is currently in reprint as The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest (Kansas). This work was chosen as both a History Book Club selection and a Book of the Month Club selection.
His other titles include The River was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest and Fort Pillow (Oklahoma, 2014); Confederate General William Dorsey Pender: The Hope of Glory (Louisiana State University, 2013); George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel (Kansas, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2013 Harwell Award; Gone with the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006); The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia, (Virginia, 2001) and an updated edition of the James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr., Civil War Sites in Virginia (Virginia, 2011).
Last Month’s meeting
Historian Aaron Astor gave us an in-depth study of the Civil War on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. While some might list this as a near vacant zone, Dr. Astor showed that a lot of events took place in this region, which could be argued is Tennessee’s fourth region. Beginning with the regions geography and how that influenced the political and military events in the region, Dr. Astor carried forward to the people and the main characters involved in what would become internecine warfare of a particularly brutal kind. “Champ” Ferguson and “Tinker” Dave Beaty both were deeply involved in attacks against political foes as the Civil War swirled around them. This was one of the most interesting and unique programs we have ever had – informative, entertaining and different – and presented by a fine historian. We appreciate Dr. Astor coming to visit with us!
August 2018 – Dr. Nancy McEntee, historian/author – “Haversacks, Hardtack, and Unserviceable Mules; the Civil War Journey of a Union Quartermaster in Tennessee”
September 2018 – James Glick, historian – “Combat Loads and the Myth of Sunny Dixie?”
October 2018 – Gerald Augustus – author/historian – “The Battle of Campbell’s Station, Longstreet’s East Tennessee Campaign”
November 2018 – Dr. David Gregg, pastor, historian – “John Bell Hood In Muscle Shoals, Alabama, 1864”
February 2019 – David Deatrick, Louisville CWRT – “Kentucky Union General Lovell Rosseau”
June 2019 – Brad Butkovich, historian/author – “The Battle of Allatoona Pass: The First Battle of Hood’s Tennessee Campaign”
Some of our speakers are authors and bring books to sell at our meetings. Please support them by buying their books.
IMPORTANT – MEMBERS AND DUES: – DUES ARE DUE AT THE JULY 2018 MEETING. WHEN YOU ARE CURRENT YOU WILL GET A NEW CWRT MEMBERSHIP CARD FOR THE NEXT FISCAL YEAR. 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:
- Student – $10
- Single membership – $20
- Family – $30
- Military – Active duty and veterans – $15
- Military family – Active duty, veterans, and family – $25
Please plan on paying your dues at this month’s meeting. If you cannot attend please send payment to Greg Biggs, 2600 W. Henderson Way, Clarksville, TN 37042.
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A NAME TAG THEN YOU ARE NOT CURRENT WITH YOUR DUES. PLEASE PAY AT THIS MEETING AND GET CURRENT SO WE CAN CONTINUE TO BRING FINE PROGRAMS.
CIVIL WAR NEWS AND EVENTS
Clarksville Civil War Roundtable Loses A Wonderful Member – Memorial Service Information – Saturday, July 14, 2018 in Russellville, KY
It is with great regret that we report the passing of Irene Ahlgrim of Russellville, KY. She left us on Thursday, June 6th after a brief illness. She was 87. A Memorial service, celebrating her life, will be held in Russellville on July 14th at Kirby Summers Funeral Home. Visitation will take place from 12 noon until 2PM, with services immediately following. We hope that many of you can attend. One of her last requests was that donations be made to the Clarksville Civil War Roundtable. What a great lady she was. We all will miss her smile and the twinkle in her eye very much.
There will be a memorial service for Irene on Saturday, July 14th, at Summers, Kirby, and Sanders Funeral Home located at 210 N. Thurston Drive. The service begins at 1 PM. To get there head into Russellville on US Highway 79. At the Emerson Bypass/US 431, turn left. At Fischer Street, turn left and then left onto N. Thurston Drive.
There will be a reception afterwards at Ariela Italian Restaurant in downtown Russellville. PLEASE call them at (270) 731-0004 to let them know how many will be attending.
Hopefully many of you will be able to attend this solemn affair and honor one of our best members ever.
Kentucky Member Wants To Share Rides to the Clarksville CWRT
Nora Lacayo attended our meetings as a guest of Irene Ahlgrim. She really would love to keep attending and would like to share rides to our meetings. If you can help her please call her at – (270) 725-8695.
Vetfest – A Celebration of American Military Veterans – Franklin, TN, Saturday, November 10, 2018
This year’s Vetfest will take place at historic Harlindale Farm in Franklin. Located at 239 Franklin Road just north of downtown Franklin and the Harpeth River, this annual event celebrates American military veterans. This year the whole family can attend and see entertainment, veterans owned businesses, a Kid’s Zone and much more. Food trucks will be on hand. The event begins at 9 Am and ends at 5 PM. For more information please visit their web site – http://www.vetlinx.org
Congress of Civil War Roundtables Announce Annual Meeting and Tour – August 17-19, 2018
In 2017, the Congress of Civil War Roundtables met for the first time to discuss planning and other items designed to help sustain and grow the Civil War Roundtable movement. This comes at a time when it seems that interest in the Civil War is declining what with schools not doing a good enough job teaching this important era and thus not helping to create a new generation of Civil War buffs who would join CWRTs. The congress was the brainchild of Mike Movius of the Puget Sound Civil War Roundtable in Seattle, WA. Numerous other CWRTs have joined in.
This nationally focused organization had a very successful first meeting in Centreville, VA, and now continue with their 2018 meeting to be held in Harrisburg, PA this coming August.
Sustaining and growing CWRTs is the focus of the CWRT Congress. Last year, they held a very successful symposium hosted by the Bull Run CWRT in Centreville, VA. (To read what attendees had to say, click this link: http://www.pscwrt.org/activities/CWRT-congress/2017-congress.html)
This year, the congress will be held in Harrisburg, PA hosted by the National Civil War Museum with assistance from the Harrisburg CWRT. The agenda this year is much expanded to include a reception on Friday, August 17 including a behind the scenes tour of the museum and a presentation by Chris Mackowski on That Furious Struggle: Chancellorsville and the High Tide of the Confederacy.
On Saturday, the congress begins with “takeaways” including enhanced fundraising and speaker recruitment, no cost marketing, preservation and CWRT assistance and social media as the lynchpin to 21st century marketing. Following the congress, there will be a book signing with eleven Civil War historians and authors, a networking opportunity and dinner at the museum.
On Sunday, Wayne Motts, CEO of the museum and licensed battlefield guide, will be conducting a tour of the Gettysburg battlefield.
To learn more about the 2018 CWRT Congress, to register for the event and to get a discounted rate at a local hotel, click the button below or use the following link:
We hope that you can attend this wonderful event. I have put in for them to visit in Clarksville in 2019 and we can host the congress and bring a lot of great Civil War buffs to our area. We will need a lot of help from our members to make this happen.