Join Us for Our Next Program...
Wednesday, December 10, 2014 @ 7 p.m.
John Nicolay and John Hay
Presented by Dan Zeiser
Lincoln’s official secretaries John
Hay and John Nicolay enjoyed more access, witnessed more history,
and knew Lincoln better than anyone outside of the president’s
immediate family. Hay and Nicolay were the gatekeepers of the
Lincoln legacy. They read poetry and attended the theater with the
president, commiserated with him over Union army setbacks, and
plotted electoral strategy. They were present at every seminal
event, from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to
Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address—and they wrote about it
after his death.
In their biography of Lincoln, Hay
and Nicolay fought to establish Lincoln’s heroic legacy and to
preserve a narrative that saw slavery—not states’ rights—as the sole
cause of the Civil War. The popular image of Lincoln as a humble
man with uncommon intellect who rose from obscurity to become a
storied wartime leader and emancipator is largely Hay's and
Nicolay's creation. (From the publisher of Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image.)
Our speaker: Dan Zeiser has been a student of the Civil
War since childhood. A history major at Kenyon College, the Roundtable has permitted
him to continue to indulge his fondness for historical figures such as George
Thomas. Over the years, Dan has contributed many articles to The
Charger and has made presentations to the Roundtable on several
occasions. He is known, mostly by himself, for his quirky, yet scholarly
pieces and always appreciates the kind forbearance of members for his
historical ramblings. Dan joined the
Roundtable in 1992, served as its president in 1997 and then as Editor of The
Charger from 2004 - 2014. He is a lawyer with a mediation practice here in
Cleveland where he lives with his wife and three children.
FULL 2014-15 PROGRAM SCHEDULE>>
Meeting Time: Meetings begin with a
social hour at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30, and the program at
7:30. Meetings typically end by around 9.
Our meetings are held at Judson
Manor (the former Wade Park Manor residential hotel), located
at the corner of East 107th Street and Chester in downtown
Cleveland, just off University Circle.
Map to Judson Manor
History of Wade Park Manor
You must make
a dinner reservation for any meeting you plan to attend no later
than the day prior to that meeting (so we can give a headcount to
the caterer). Make your
reservation one of three ways:
- Send an email to
Click any of the 'Make a Dinner Reservation"
links on this page.
440-449-9311 and leave a message on the voice mail.
small glimpse into the Civil War era
The Fabricated Letter of Robert E. Lee
By David A. Carrino
who has an e-mail account has received them: those forwarded e-mails
that relate some preposterous, attention-grabbing information about
some public figure and are intended to put that public figure in a
bad light. President Barack Obama is a Muslim who will not recite
the Pledge of Allegiance, and his birth certificate is a forgery. At
a right-to-life rally, President George W. Bush repeatedly used the
word "feces" instead of "fetus." Many years before 9/11, Senator Al
Gore was warned by Oliver North about Osama bin-Laden. The origin of
these e-mails is almost never known, but people who oppose these
public figures and the causes they embrace send these e-mails around
the internet to discredit both the public figures and their causes.
At best, these e-mails are misleading embellishments that bear
little resemblance to the truth, and many times they are simply
false. But with the Internet these e-mails can reach and potentially
sway an incredibly large and widespread number of people. The Civil
War had a similar fabrication that was circulated to readers as a
factual occurrence, although it, of course, was not disseminated by
The fabrication was a letter purportedly
written by Robert E. Lee to his eldest son, Custis. The letter was reportedly found in Lee's
home, Arlington House, and was first published in the New York Sun on November
26, 1864 and then subsequently published in other newspapers. The
two-paragraph letter was supposedly written to Custis Lee when Custis was a
cadet at West Point. In the first paragraph, Robert E. Lee purportedly gives
advice to his son about honesty in dealing with others, and in the second
paragraph Lee discusses devotion to duty.
From the Charger
the Cleveland CWRT
The April 1861 Madness
By Patrick Bray
Sesquicentennial observations of
the Civil War will end in April 2015. This past August marked the
beginning of centennial observations of World War One (WWI), a
conflict to which the Civil War has been compared. In this analogy
the Civil War was the first full scale “modern war” which yielded
substantial improvements in weaponry, communications,
transportation, sanitation, medical treatment, logistics, and naval
capability. Moreover, the ability of the national governments,
particularly the Federals, to mobilize vast social, political, and
economic resources previewed the possibilities of total war in which
whole societies, not just their militaries, were deeply drawn into
conflict. The experience of total war — at least in some if not most
parts of the South -- would make civilians painfully aware of the
suffering and depravations of a new front, the home front.
Despite the presence on both sides
of numerous European military observers as well as actual combatants
from abroad, it seems that few if any of the lessons of the Civil
War were put to use in WWI. Despite the overwhelming advantages
which modern military technology afforded the defense, WWI was
marked by frequent futile frontal assaults on well-fortified
positions. Élan proved ineffective against machine guns as no man’s
land repeatedly became a killing field.
Shelby Foote was Wrong!
By Dick Crews
Way back in the year 2000, when William
Vodrey was President of our Roundtable, Shelby Foote was our big name speaker.
You can argue that Ed Bearss or Bruce Catton are bigger name Cleveland CWRT
speakers but Shelby Foote was by far the most expensive.
One theme Foote repeated frequently was that
the American Civil War produced two geniuses: Abraham Lincoln and Nathan
Bedford Forrest. Lincoln has stood the test of time but Forrest made one
serious error, effecting the outcome of the Civil War, which has been ignored
This summer I visited Fort Pillow, Tennessee.
Fort Pillow is located 50 miles north of Memphis. The Fort was on the
Mississippi River. The river has now moved two miles west.
The Fort itself was built as an outer defense
for Memphis but when Island #10 in the Mississippi River was taken by Union
Forces the fort was abandoned by the Confederates.
No important Civil War battles were fought at
Fort Pillow. History treats the attack on the Fort by Nathan Bedford Forrest
on April 12, 1864 as a racial act. There was no military reason for the attack
and later Forrest founded the Ku Klux Klan after the war this conclusion seems
to fit. History missed that the Fort Pillow attack was important to the
outcome of the Civil War.
A Rebuttal to “Shelby Foote
By Greg Biggs
I read with interest the Dick Crews
op-ed on how
Shelby Foote got it wrong
when he called Nathan Bedford Forrest one of the two geniuses of the
Civil War. Forrest remains a controversial figure of the Civil War
but he was, as Foote suggested, a true genius. With only some six
months of any type of education, he rose from a private to
lieutenant general by the end of his war career, only one of four
American soldiers to do so. You simply do not get that high without
some level of talent and, dare I say genius. The fact that many of
his raids and campaigns are still studied by military colleges also
attests to his military ability.
Mr. Crews focused on the Fort
Pillow raid of April 1864, but left out quite of bit of context.
First, Forrest simply could not go wherever he wanted without
permission of his superior. At this time, Forrest was one of two
cavalry commanders in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and
East Louisiana, which was then commanded by Lt. General Leonidas
Polk. Anything Forrest wanted to do had to be approved by Polk who
authorized this raid. The main objectives were to disrupt Union
supply lines, in particular the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, and to
recruit. Forrest had already been very successful recruiting behind
Union lines in West Tennessee. Thanks to this, he now had a cavalry
corps of two divisions under James Chalmers and Abraham Buford
(related to the Union Gen. John Buford).