KCWRT welcomes historian Scott Mingus back to Knoxville


Historian and biographer Scott Mingus will speak to the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Details of the meeting on the left of this page.) His topic will be William “Extra Billy” Smith.

Scott Mingus is a scientist and executive in the paper industry and holds patents in self-adhesive postage stamps and bar code labels. He was part of the research team that developed the first commercially successful self-adhesive U.S. postage stamps.

Scott has written a dozen books and many articles on the Civil War, and his biography of Confederate General William”Extra Billy”; Smith won the 2013 Nathan Bedford Forrest Southern History Book Award and the James I Robertson Jr. Literary Prize. He also has written six scenario books on miniature war gaming and was elected to the hobby’;s prestigious Legion of Honor.

Scott maintains a blog on the Civil War history of York County (www.yorkblog.com/cannonball) and is a sanctioned Civil War tour guide for the York County Heritage Trust. His great-great-grandfather was a 15-year- old drummer boy for the 51st Ohio. Other family members fought at Antietam and Gettysburg.

William ‘Extra Billy’ Smith topic of April KCWRT meeting


Historian and biographer Scott Mingus will speak to the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Details of the meeting on the left of this page.) His topic will be William “Extra Billy” Smith.

William “Extra Billy” Smith, the oldest and one of the most controversial Confederate generals on the field at Gettysburg, was also one of the most colorful and charismatic characters of the Civil War.

William “Extra Billy” Smith

Known nationally as “Extra Billy” because of his prewar penchant for finding loopholes in government postal contracts to gain extra money for his stagecoach lines, Smith served as Virginia’s governor during both the War with Mexico and the Civil War, served five terms in the U.S. Congress, and was one of Virginia’s leading spokesmen for slavery and States’ Rights. Extra Billy’s extra-long speeches and wry sense of humor were legendary among his peers. A lawyer during the heady Gold Rush days, Smith made a fortune in California and, like his income earned from stagecoaches, quickly lost it.

Despite his advanced age, Smith took the field and fought well at First Manassas, was wounded at Seven Pines and again at Sharpsburg, and marched with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. There, on the first day at Gettysburg, Smith’s frantic messages about a possible Union flanking attack remains a matter of controversy to this day. Did his aging eyes see distant fence-lines that he interpreted as approaching enemy soldiers, or did his prompt action stave off a looming Confederate disaster? What we do know is that his calls for support diverted limited Confederate manpower away from attacks against Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill that might have turned the tide of Southern fortunes in Pennsylvania.

Come join us as Scott Mingus, drawing from his award-winning 2013 biography, paints a broad, deep, and colorful portrait of one of the South’s most interesting leaders and devoted sons. Extra Billy Smith will satisfy anyone who loves politics, war, and a great story well told.

KCWRT Scout’s Report, April 2017

April 2017 

Ft. Dickerson Park clean-up day set for April 1


The Knoxville Civil War Roundtable sponsors a Ft. Dickerson Park clean-up day twice a year (Spring and Fall).

This year’s Spring Clean-up day is Saturday April 1.

We spread mulch on the trails, pick up fallen debris, and trim brush.  The Knoxville Police Department Explorer Scouts provide huge labor assistance. Knoxville Parks and Recreation provides the mulch and a loader.

All willing workers welcome.

KCWRT provides refreshments and light snacks.  Time is 9:00 – 12:00 noon.  Bring rakes, pitchforks, trimming and brush clearing tools.  Park at the top of the Fort Dickerson hill.  Enter off Chapman Highway south at the new entrance and stop light.  All are welcome.

Excellent community service hours.

Photos from our visit by General and Mrs. Grant (Curt Fields)

Photos from the visit Tuesday night by General (Curt Fields) and Mrs. Grant.

Photos by Dennis Urban

Scout’s Report: March 2017

The Scout’s Report, March 2017

MARCH2017 ev

President’s message: A book of Civil War facts


Thank you to everyone who attended the February meeting to hear Professor Earl Hess speak on “Civil War Tactics”. Total attendance for the lecture was seventy-nine. There were forty-five diners, five who were non-members. Also attending were an additional twenty-four members and four who were non-members to hear the presentation. Thank you once again for your support and interest in the Round Table.

Remember to make your dinner reservation by 11 a.m. Monday March 13th to hear historian Curt Fields speak on “Appomattox: The Days before the Surrender”. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you at the March meeting.

Everything you need to know about the war that divided the nation by David Vaughan

I found this book at the back of my book case and thought it would be interesting to look at the war from a lighter point of view. It is written for high school level readers and presents many facts and stories in an easy to read format. Here are a few short snippets taken from the book that I found interesting.

The Rebel Yell: Historians believe the rebel yell was first heard at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. After nearly 14 hours of fighting, a corps of soldiers under Pierre G. T. Beauregard began a counterattack against Union forces and launched the now-famous wail. When the Union forces saw – and heard – what was coming at them, they panicked and fled in retreat. The rebel yell was heard during every major battle after that.

Substitutes: Future Presidents Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland, both of draft age, avoided military duty by paying others to serve for them.

Spencer Rifle: Union ordnance men turned down the Spencer repeating breech loading rifle in 1860 with the explanation that soldiers would fire too quickly and waste ammunition. Smarter minds prevailed, and the Spencer eventually made its way to the battlefield, but not until near the end of the war.

The Homes of Wilmer McLean: Wilmer McLean witnessed firsthand both the beginning and the end of the Civil War. McLean’s family estate was located near Manassas, Virginia, directly in the path of the Battle of Bull Run.
McLean was so shaken by the incident that he decided to move as far away from the war as possible, settling his family in Appomattox, a quiet town southwest of Richmond. The McLeans lived in relative peace for almost the entire war, only to find the conflict knocking on their door once again on April 9, 1865. McLean was asked about possible locations in which Lee could meet with Grant to discuss surrender terms. McLean reluctantly offered his own home.

Civil War Facts:

 Astoundingly, only one civilian (a young woman who was struck by a stray bullet) was killed during the three-day battle at Gettysburg.

 During the Battle of the Wilderness, fighting was halted on several occasions as both sides tried to rescue wounded comrades from the uncontrolled brushfires that threatened to burn them alive.

 The first federal income tax law was enacted during the Civil War but died after the war was over. It wasn’t until 1913 and the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment that the income tax became part of the U.S. Constitution.

 Weapons fire on both sides was often wildly inaccurate, due to the limitations of the weapons and the hurried panic of the men who used them. As a result, some soldiers estimated that it took a man’s weight in  lead to kill a single enemy in battle. According to a Union munitions expert, each Confederate who was shot on the battlefield required 140 pounds of powder and 900 pounds of lead.

 At the Battle of Chickamauga, the 535 members of the 21st Ohio Infantry Regiment used their Colt revolving rifles to help prevent a Union rout. During the five hours of fighting, the 21st Ohio fired off more than 43,500 rounds, proving the superiority of repeating rifles. Commented one captured Confederate soldier: “My God, we thought you had a division there!”

 Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson drew his sword so infrequently that it actually rusted in its scabbard.

 The Civil War soldier was paid very little for laying his life on the line. Top pay for a Union infantry private was just $16 a month. His Confederate counterpart received $18 a month, but it was worth considerably less due to skyrocketing inflation.

 At its height, the Confederate POW camp near Andersonville, Georgia, contained more than 33,000 Union prisoners, making it the fifth largest city in the Confederacy.

 Lieutenant David H. Todd, commandant of the Confederate Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, was the half-brother of Mary Todd Lincoln.

 Jefferson Davis’s plantation in Mississippi was turned into a home for freed slaves at the end of the war.

In April, Eric Wittenberg, Attorney, Historian and Author, will present “Brandy Station” at the Round Table’s monthly meeting on April 11th, 2017. I’m looking forward to Mr. Wittenberg’s thoughts and insights concerning this topic.

John Stegner, President


The Everything Civil Book by Donald Vaughn

Welcome to Knoxville, Gen. Grant (Curt Fields)



Curt Fields will be the speaker at the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable on Tuesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. (See details for the dinner on the left side of the page.

Dr. E. C. (Curt) Fields, Jr., is an avid and lifelong student of the American Civil War. His interest in portraying General Ulysses S. Grant was driven by that study and his deep respect and admiration for General Grant. Dr. Fields is the same height and body type as General Grant and therefore presents a convincing, true-to-life image of the man as he really looked. He researches and reads extensively about General Grant to deliver an accurate persona of the General. His presentations are in first person, quoting from General Grant’s Memoirs, articles and letters the General wrote, and statements he made in interviews.

Curt Fields as Gen. Grant

Dr. Fields holds a Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Education from the University of Memphis. He later earned a Master’s degree in Secondary Education and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Curriculum from Michigan State University. He is a career educator who taught for eight years at the junior and senior high school levels and then served for 25 years as a high school administrator. He also has taught as an adjunct Sociology Professor at the University of Memphis and in Education for Belhaven University’s Memphis campus.

Dr. Fields is now an educational consultant and living historian. As a consultant, he has worked in leadership development as espoused and practiced by General Grant with several corporate and civic groups. As a living historian, Dr. Fields portrayed General Grant at the 150th Sesquicentennial observations of Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Raymond, Vicksburg, and at Appomattox Court House in 2015. He has portrayed the general on film as well staring as General Grant in the Visitor Center film shown at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park and in the Discovery Channel’s three-part documentary series “How Booze built America.” Dr. Fields also was featured as General Grant, giving his life story, on the Civil War Trust website.

A frequent contributor to “The Civil War Courier” (A Civil War monthly newspaper), Dr. Fields is a member of The Tennessee Historical Society, The West Tennessee Historical Society, The Shelby County Historical Society, The Nathan Bedford Forrest Historical Society, The Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association, The Appomattox 1865 Foundation, The 290 Foundation (dedicated to the Civil War Navies), The Civil War Trust, and the Ulysses S. Grant Association.

Up next (March 14, 2017): the days leading to Appomattox


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In the last days of March, 1865, Lieutenant General U. S. Grant had planned to assault General Robert E. Lee’s thinly-manned lines around Petersburg, Virginia.

Curt Fields as U.S. Grant

He felt that enough time had dragged by in the nearly year-long campaign and that Lee could not withstand a simultaneous attack all along his lines. However, General Lee, anticipating the assault, attacked Grant first. That attempted break-out failed, and Lee began to fall back, abandoning Richmond in the process. The next few days were a blur as one savage battle after another was fought by a far- from-dead Army of Northern Virginia. But Lee was running out of time and food.

On April 7th, Grant sent the first letter to Lee of what became a short series of exchanges between the two generals, a series that culminating in the surrender meeting in the most unlikely of places for such a momentous event.

At the next KCWRT meeting, General Grant (played by historian Curt Fields) will talk of those letters and what was transpiring during the two days they were exchanged.

The General will also speak about the actual meeting between himself and General Lee, what was said, and what happened in the 75 or so minutes they were together in Wilmer McLean’s parlor. He will address what he said in the surrender letter he wrote to General Lee effectively ending the war, and why he wrote what he did. He will also touch briefly on the unintended ramifications his letter later had on President Andrew Johnson’s Cabinet and administration.

The next KCWRT meeting is Tuesday, March 14. Details are at the left of this page.

ETHS seeks nominations for history award


The East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS) invites nominations from across East Tennessee for Awards of Excellence in the field of history. Each year, the society recognizes individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the preservation, promotion, programming, and interpretation of the region’s history. The awards have been presented each year since 1982.

Awards are in five categories:

The Award of Distinction recognizes a special project, such as publications, building preservation, or special program, such as a conference, heritage event, publication, lecture series, or other.

Community History Award recognizes excellence in community leadership, specifically in promoting the preservation of local/regional history and heritage.

History in the Media Award is presented to someone in the field of television, radio, newspaper, magazine, or Internet for outstanding contributions to the promotion of our region’s history.

Teaching Excellence Award is for outstanding or innovative teaching of history at any level, grades one through adult education.

The Society’s most prestigious recognition is the Ramsey Award for Lifetime Achievement. This award is reserved for one who, over the course of a lifetime, has made outstanding contributions to the understanding and preservation of East Tennessee history. It is named for ETHS founder and early historian, Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey, author of The Annals of East Tennessee to the End of the Eighteenth Century.

ETHS Awards of Excellence recipients will be recognized at the East Tennessee Historical Society Annual Meeting on May 2. For more information about the awards or to request a nomination form, please contact the East Tennessee Historical Society by phone at 865-215-8824 or visit the website at www.eastTNhistory.org. The deadline for submission is April 17, 2017.

New this year is the Dorothy E. Kelly Preservation Grant, sponsored by the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable. This annual grant, not to exceed $500, will be awarded to a group, individual or organization for a Knoxville Civil War preservation project, which can include site preservation, new or replacement signage, site clean-up or rehabilitation, or other Knoxville effort. The grant award will also be announced at the ETHS Annual Meeting on May 2. Grant applications are available at the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable website www.kcwrt.org and on the ETHS website.

Headquartered in the East Tennessee History Center, the East Tennessee Historical Society was established in 1834 and is a regional organization covering 35 counties and has 2,000 members across the United States. ETHS presents a variety of public programs, including the Museum of East Tennessee History, a lecture series, genealogy workshops, East Tennessee National History Day, and the family history programs, “First Families of Tennessee” and “Civil War Families of Tennessee.”



In December 2015 the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable (KCWRT) created the to honor Dot Kelly for her many years of service to the KCWRT and her tireless efforts towards the preservation of Knoxville’s Civil War history and historic sites. This annual grant, in an amount not to exceed $500, will be given to a group, individual, or organization for a Knoxville Civil War preservation project. Beginning in 2017 and in future years, the annual grant information and application will be included with the East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS) Awards of Excellence announced each February.

All applications for the Dorothy E. Kelly Preservation Grant are to be submitted in writing on this application mailed to the KCWRT, P.O. Box 52232, Knoxville, TN 37950-2232. Please mark the envelope “2017 Dorothy E. Kelly Preservation Grant”. Submissions will be reviewed and awarded by the KCWRT. The winner will be announced at the ETHS annual meeting on May 2, 2017.

Click below to download a copy of the grant application:

Final 2017 Application 3-2-17