Former U.S. Army Chief of Military History, Brigadier General John W. "Jack" Mountcastle, U.S. Army (Retired), is our kick-off speaker for the critical 2012-2015 sesquicentennial years in this region, General Mountcastle will speak to us on the momentous Civil War period from fall 1862 to summer 1863 from a distance of 150 years. His presentation is:
Originally from Richmond, VA, General Mountcastle graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a B.A. in history in 1965 and was commissioned in the Armor branch. During his 32-year Army career, he commanded tank units at all levels from platoon through armored brigade. He served twice in Vietnam and spent a total of ten years in Germany during the Cold War. During the 1970s, Jack earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University and taught Military History at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Promoted to Brigadier General in 1994, he assumed the duties of the Army Chief of Military History in Washington, D.C. He received the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star Medal, four Legions of Merit, and two Bronze Star Medals during his military service.
After retiring in 1998, he returned to Richmond and became the Director of Heritage Tourism Development at the Virginia Tourism Corporation. After several years, he followed his heart back to the classroom and has been teaching Civil War history courses at the University of Richmond since 2001. He frequently lectures at the Virginia Historical Society, serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations, and is the President of the Richmond Civil War Round Table. He maintains his active interest in leadership studies and leads professional development programs for military and corporate groups at selected battle areas in the United States and in Europe. He and his wife, Susan, make their home in Glen Allen, Virginia.
We hope you will join us for our kick-off event for the 2012-2013 Program Year.
Feedback On A Terrific Presentation
October 15, 2012
Last months guest speaker, BG John W. Jack Mountcastle, USA (Retired), former Chief of Military History, expressed his deep appreciation for your warm welcome and lively questions as he provided us with an outstanding overview of the fall 1862- summer 1863 campaign year. He was quite impressed with our group and, as he is the current president of the Richmond Civil War Round Table as well, we should all take that as quite a compliment.
Our generals eye view of the Civil War in this region at a distance of 150 years continues with guest speaker Francis A. OReilly and his talk, based on The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock. For the first time in our 55-year history, our Wednesday, October 24th and Wednesday, November 28th meetings will take the unprecedented step of devoting two meetings to a particular event. At these two meetings, Mr. OReilly will guide us in our journey to fully understand the momentous battle and its sequel, the infamous Mud March, which nearly brought the Unions premier army to the point of disintegration. As the author of the book the venerable Ed Bearss described as a tour de force, a must read, one of the best and most informative books I have seen in recent years. In a graceful and elegant style, OReilly masters an awesome challenge. He integrates the nuts and bolts of one of the Civil Wars significant but often overlooked campaigns. He highlights action by the decision makers but does not forget the horrific experiences of soldiers and civilians caught up in the kind of life-and-death struggle in an urban environment that would become commonplace in twentieth-century warfare. Franks study has accurately been called by Gordon C. Rhea the definitive and eminently readable account of the Fredericksburg Campaign as he marches to the foremost rank of modern military historians. That is no small praise considering some of the other works on the campaign, especially those of LTG Edward J. Stackpole (1957) and Gordon C. Rable (2002). Frank, a career National Park Service historian with the National Park Service at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, is also the author of Stonewall Jackson at Fredericksburg: The Battle of Prospect Hill and numerous articles. Appropriate to his career pursuits as well as our treatment of the first of Lees greatest victories, he is a graduate of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA, and previously lived in Guinea, VA, near the Jackson Shrine. He now lives with wife Amy near Salem Church in Spotsylvania County, VA. Come join us for a tour de force of our own, led by the most knowledgeable historian on the subject. This meeting will also include a 5:30-6:00 PM book signing with a limited number of books available and a sign-up sheet for those who miss out and wish to order.
Feedback On O'Reilly--Terrific Presentation to a Terrific Turnout
October 28, 2012
I'm sure everyone will agree that Frank O'Reilly's talk was outstanding providing important insights into our understanding of the Battle of Fredericksburg. We'll try to allow for more time for questions at the November meeting. I submitted my questions to him in an email. My specific questions to Frank (and his answers in red) were:
Q1. What exactly happened with the rest of the Federal artillery -- the more than half of which went into Fredericksburg? Did they ever get into positions and render effective fire in support of the attacks?
A1. Federal artillery on the southern end of the battlefield did a superlative job supporting the principal effort. Union guns on the northern end of the battlefield met with several critical setbacks. Long-range guns on Stafford Heights could reach the Confederate heights, but they lost all accuracy in firing at extreme range. An attempt to move light guns out of town initially failed because the infantry commanders had brought over smoothbore Napoleons. There was a long delay while rifled pieces were funneled across the river to replace them. Then the rifled pieces suffered from want of commanding positions. Confederate artillery not only held the dominant topography, it also had several weeks to familiarize itself with all of the landscape and landmarks to cover every contingency. When Union guns attempted to enter the field, they were smothered. When they set up on the western edge of the city, they still had to fire uphill at the crest of Marye's Heights. Most of their shells ranged long. And again, the Confederates easily zeroed in on them. Tough break for the Federal artillery.
Q2. Did anyone ever attempt to hasten movement of the XI and XII Army Corps to get them involved in the Southern attacks?
A2. Franz Sigel's so-called Reserve Grand Division was deliberately left behind around Stafford Court House and points north to guard the Army of the Potomac's overland line of communications. They were responsible for everything from Stafford up to Prince William--and then Samuel P. Heintzelman, head of the Washington defenses, had to worry about it. The XI and XII Corps only closed on Burnside's primary force once it became apparent the Fredericksburg operation had failed and they were going to turn Stafford into an armed winter camp.
Q3. Why didn't the Federal cavalry ever get into the fight?
A3. Hemmed in by the river, the city, and the heights, Union cavalry was relegated to a relatively passive role in the initial phase of the battle. Northern cavalrymen attempted to recon the Lansdowne Valley on December 12 and met with a pretty serious counterattack from Hood's division. From that moment on, it appears (from the placement of the cavalry units on the field) that Burnside expected the cavalry's role would be the pursuit element in a breakout of the Rappahannock Valley. Once Lee was driven from the heights, Bayard's cavalry was primed to seize the principal roads southward. Pleasonton's cavalry remained on Stafford Heights with the ability to pursue west along the Plank Road or south along the Richmond Stage Road--or stretch behind the advancing Army of the Potomac and guard the line of communications. As it was, only the 1st Pennsylvania Reserve Cavalry and 1st New Jersey Cavalry saw action near Deep Run on December 12; and the Pennsylvanians ended up skirmishing on the Union far left on December 13. Only the 8th Illinois Cavalry came under long-range shell fire while guarding the northern approaches to Fredericksburg from a position along the canal.
Al Conner is the current president of the Round Table, having previously served two terms earlier in this decade. A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (BA, history) and Georgetown University (MA, government; certificate in national security studies), served in the Regular U.S. Army infantry and military intelligence branches for 12 years, including tours in Vietnam in both branches and five years in the 82ndAirborne Division. He then served with the Defense Intelligence Agency for 18 years (including a 12-year detail with the Central Intelligence Agency). During his intelligence career he studied the armies of China, North Korea, Vietnam, and the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact states. He has also extensively studied the history of the U.S. Army. He has published two books, contributed to a third, and authored over twenty articles in professional journals. He is also a four-time past president of the Stafford County Historical Society and this year marks his 16th year of active membership in our Round Table.
Topic: Make Richmond Howl! : Prelude to Chancellorsville
Our Sesquicentennial 2012-2013 Generals Eye view of the critical events taking place in the Rappahannock Region continues with the momentous battles of Second Fredericksburg/Chancellorsville. The dramatic sequence of events has emerged in the talks by BG Jack Mountcastle with his strategic and operational overview of 1862-1863; Frank OReilly on the Fredericksburg and Mud March Campaign; and Al Conner on the Army of the Potomacs Valley Forge. Our unique, two-months per subject format also continues as we confront the series of battles which have been termed both Lees Greatest Victory and The Smoothbore Volley that Doomed the Confederacy (the death of Stonewall Jackson). As we have already seen, it was to be Hookers opportunity to manifest the finest army on the planet in such a way as to solidify command and push on to victory in the East. It represented the first opportunity for the Army of the Potomacs cavalry corps to fight as a major unit. Many questions would be answered as the Federal army moved out of their Stafford and King George camps in late April 1863. Could the Federals execute their brilliant plan? Was Lee's army truly invincible? And, if so, what would happen next? No one is better suited to objectively and dispassionately guide us through this history than John J. Hennessy, Chief Historian and Chief of Interpretation, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
May 26, 2013
Speaker: Eric Wittenberg
Our "general's eye" program-year focusing on the 1862-1863 years is culminating with the story of the creation of the Army of the Potomac's Cavalry Corps in Stafford on February 5, 1863, and its rapidly being thrust (embarrassingly, 20 days later) into action at Hartwood Church and then launching the first large Federal raid at Kellys Ford (March 17th). Measured from these key events, our speaker will describe the Federal cavalrys' Coming-of-Age, Stonemans Raid in April and May in conjunction with the Chancellorsville battles would reveal the flaws in the corps initial leadership and the need to purge Stoneman and Averell. Surviving commanders, Pleasonton, Gregg, and Buford would perform better at Brandy Station by surprising Stuart on a large scale and engaging in violent cavalry-on-cavalry combat. All of this set in motion the rapid development of the young generals who would lead the Cavalry Corps to decisive victory in the East - Wesley Merritt, Ranald Mackenzie, and George Custer. Later, in 1863, the deployment of the new seven-shot Spencer repeating carbine and the best of modern horse care at the new, $2.5 million Giesboro, MD facility (capable of handling up to 30,000 horses at a time) were critical additions. Under Sheridan, in 1864, the Cavalry Corps was fully capable of engaging any Confederate Cavalry or Infantry force. The Corps opened the road to Appomattox two years later and slammed the door on Robert E. Lee's Army.
As important as this all was, it is equally significant to understand the contemporary decline of the Confederate cavalry during this same period.
A native of the Philadelphia area, he graduated from Dickinson College (incidentally, the same alma mater as Stafford Abolitionist Moncure Daniel Conway) and holds both Law and Public and International Affairs graduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.
For a number of reasons, we want our May 22nd meeting to be the biggest of the year. First, our guest speaker, Eric Wittenberg, is the foremost expert on the Federal cavalry. Second, this is the 150 Anniversary of the birth of the Cavalry Corps in Stafford County during the Army of the Potomacs Valley Forge resurgence. Third, we will elect our officers for the next year (and will be returning to our previous practice of the newly-elected officers running our final June meeting.) Finally, we will host the largest exhibit of cavalry artifacts, documents and relics in our CWRTs 56 year history, in conjunction with two pictorial arrays on the birth and subsequent history of the Cavalry Corps. You can show your support for all weve tried to achieve this program year by maximum attendance at our May meeting.
Speaker: Col Glenn Trimmer, USAF (ret)
Topic: Stafford County Civil War Park: Union 11th Corps Encampment Site for "Valley Forge" Winter of 1862/63
Col. Trimmer, our culminating speaker for this program year, was raised in Staunton VA. He moved in the 9thgrade to Richmond where he graduated from Manchester High School. He is a 1977 VMI graduate and 25-year USAF veteran. After military retirement he worked first with the Boeing Missile Defense Systems Engineering Team, Crystal City VA for 5 years, and then with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, Dahlgren VA for three more, retiring in 2010 as Chief of Staff to the Aegis BMD Systems Engineer.
Glenn and his wife Becky live in Stafford and have one son Ross, a daughter-in-law Erin, and one grandson Oliver, who all live in Richmond.
At our next meeting, Glenn Trimmer, Executive Director of the Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites, will provide us an overview with photos of the eight-year effort by the FSCWS to preserve and open a Civil War park in Stafford County. The park opened on April 27, 2013 and preserves multiple historical sites related to Union encampments, fortifications, and roads the Army of the Potomac built during the winter of 1862-1863. This is where the Valley Forge of the Union Army happened, which our outgoing president Al Conner spoke about so eloquently at our January and February meetings.