The Great Debate of 2022: Opening Remarks

Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?

By William F.B. Vodrey – debate moderator
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2022, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2022 Roundtable meeting was: “Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?” Four members made presentations on the topic; the article below was the opening remarks made by the moderator of the debate.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome.

We’re here tonight for the annual Dick Crews Cleveland Civil War Roundtable Debate, named after my longtime predecessor as moderator. He recruited me for a debate on the most important battle of the Civil War not long after I joined the Roundtable, and I’m still grateful to him. (I chose the 1862 Battle of New Orleans.)

Our topic this year is, “Fired But Not Forgotten: Of all the Civil War generals and flag officers relieved of command, subjected to a court-martial or otherwise disciplined by superiors, which of them least deserved his fate?” It was selected by our president, Mark Porter, a privilege of office as is customary for the Roundtable’s leader in any given year.

You will notice that all of our debaters tonight are men. I’m grateful that they agreed to debate and I’m sure they’ll do a fine job, but I think it’s unfortunate that no women members of the Roundtable volunteered to debate, and no one whom I asked agreed to do so. I will say again, as I’ve said in years past, that all are welcome – and encouraged – to participate as debaters, regardless of gender, age, historical expertise, or length of Roundtable membership. We don’t expect anyone to be an absolute expert on the Civil War, and diversity among our debaters is certainly something we hope to achieve.

These are our debaters tonight, along with the officers each chose. By random draw just a few minutes ago, they will speak in this order:

Gene Claridge: Major General Gouverneur K. Warren, USA
Mel Maurer: General Joseph E. Johnston, CSA
Jake Collens: Major General Fitz John Porter, USA
John Fazio: Major General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, USA

Each debater will get eight minutes to make his pitch for his particular general. It was going to be five, but was increased at the request of one of our debaters. I strongly encouraged each debater to time himself while practicing at home. In past years, some debaters have been surprised and even irritated by how quickly their time passes. I hate to cut anyone off, but I will when I must, to be fair to the other debaters. After each person’s presentation, there will be five minutes for questions and answers with the audience. Then, when each debater has had his turn, there will be a general discussion and rebuttal opportunity for all four.

The debate winner, chosen by vote of the membership, will, as always, receive fabulous prizes.

And now, let us begin!

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