NPS Winter Lecture Series 2014 – The Civil War in 1864

Our annual Winter Lecture Series kicks off on Saturday, January 4 and continues until Sunday, March 9. These free, hour long lectures will explore subjects and themes relating to the Civil War in the year 1864. Lectures take place on Saturday and Sunday and  begin at 1:30 PM inside the Museum and Visitor Center. We invite all those interested to attend what we believe will be a diverse and fascinating series of talks.

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Saturday, January 4
“My time I suppose has passed, and I must now content myself with doing my duty unnoticed” – George G. Meade in 1864:

Not all of George Meade’s battles were waged on the battlefield. The year 1864 found the victor of Gettysburg under attack from the northern press, the United States Congress, and from the ranks of his own army. Would Meade be able to win the 2nd battle of Gettysburg? Would he be overshadowed by the emergence of U. S. Grant on the bloody battlefields of the Overland Campaign? Explore the most tumultuous year in George Meade’s life – Chris Gwinn

Sunday, January 5
1864 – The War for the Rail Lines

The Federal offensives of 1864 were designed to take advantage of the rail lines under its control and disrupt and destroy the Confederate rail system.  Conversely, the Confederates needed to threaten the ever lengthening supply lines of the Federals, and fiercely protect their own rail lines in order to survive – Bill Hewitt

Saturday, January 11
General U.S. Grant tries to win the war in ’64’

General Grant received overall command of the entire Union war operation in 1864.  Until this point in the war, Union strategy had been effectively without concert of action.  Grant sought to correct this by ordering offensives across the entire Confederacy in the spring of 1864 in an attempt to overwhelm the Confederate armies and end the war.  Join Matt Atkinson as we explore the successes and failures of the Union war effort – Matt Atkinson 

 Sunday, January 12
The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association

In the spring of 1864 the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association was officially chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The organization’s purpose was to preserve the site of the greatest battlefield of the war that had yet been fought.  Nothing of its kind and purpose had ever really existed before – Angie Atkinson

Saturday, January 18
“We have preaching in camp every day:” The Southern Religious Revivals of the Winter of 1863-1864  

Did the defeat at Gettysburg with its heavy casualties spur the great revivals that swept through the Southern armies during the winter of 1863 and 1864?  The revivals changed the Confederate soldier’s tone, tenor and perception of the war. The intensity of those outdoor revivals were, and still are unrivaled as a phenomenon within an American army during a war. What prompted these religious spectacles and what did they look like? How did these events shape the South going forward? – Troy Harman

Sunday, January 19
 “Damn the Torpedoes!” Admiral Farragut at Mobile Bay

Ever since the capture of New Orleans, in April 1862, Rear Admiral David G. Farragut had set his eyes on the city of Mobile, AL and especially Mobile Bay. This was last major haven for blockade runners on the Gulf Coast. Finally, in August 1864, Farragut and part of his West Gulf Blockading Squadron, with help from the Army, will have their chance to close off Mobile Bay. This would prove to be the last major naval engagement of the war and the last major naval engagement in which wooden ships played a prominent part. The Age of Sail was coming to an end – Karlton Smith

Saturday, January 25
“Day after day we stupidly and drearily wait the order that summons us to the fearful work” – The Army of the Potomac from Brandy Station to Petersburg

The winter and spring of 1864 brought a major re-organization and new faces to the Army of the Potomac.  The advent of Ulysses S. Grant signaled that the war this army had known from 1861-1863 was about to change.  As one soldier quipped, Grant “wants soldiers not yappers.”  On May 4 the army pushed into the tangles of the Virginia Wilderness to commence its spring offensive. All knew hard fighting lay ahead but few could have imagined how deadly it would prove, for the spring and summer of 1864 in Virginia would herald a new type of relentless combat that took a psychological as well as a physical toll on the army, and tested it as nothing before in the war had -  D. Scott Hartwig

Sunday, January 26
“There is no use talking about peace now, we have got to fight it out.” Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864

The Army of Northern Virginia emerged from the defeat at Gettysburg a dangerous and still viable army. Throughout the late summer and fall of 1863, Lee’s command continued to outmaneuver the Army of the Potomac.  Through the winter of 1863-1864 the army recovered and prepared itself for the spring.  By April, Longstreet and his veterans were back from Georgia and the army was fit, tough, and ready for the new Union offensive all knew was impending.  Hardened as Lee and his veterans were the campaign in Virginia that spring and summer eclipsed anything they had experienced and tested the army as it had never been tested before – John Heiser

Saturday, February 1
“Yankees in Georgia! How Did They Ever Get In?!”Sherman’s Army and the March from Atlanta to the Sea

Following the capture of Atlanta in September of 1864, momentous decisions faced General William Tecumseh Sherman.  Where to go now, and why?  His forces, energized with victory, lay seemingly poised into the very heart of the Confederacy, yet also at the end of a long, potentially vulnerable supply line.  Mythology meets practicality as we explore Sherman’s solution to this conundrum, as his forces target Savannah – Bert Barnett

Sunday, February 2
The Civil War: The Untold Story – A PBS Film
Episode Five – With Malice Towards None

In the spring of 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army of 100,000 men marches from Chattanooga toward Atlanta, Georgia, the industrial hub of the Deep South.  Twenty miles north of Atlanta, Sherman’s army is soundly defeated at Kennesaw Mountain. Sherman’s defeat combined with Grant’s bloody stalemate in Virginia, stirs a Northern electorate grown weary of war. The presidential election is in November, and Abraham Lincoln’s chances for a second term are dwindling by the day. The Democrats nominate George McClellan.  The party’s platform calls for a negotiated peace with the Confederacy in which slaveholders will be allowed to keep their property.  If McClellan is elected, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation will almost certainly be struck down. Though victorious at Kennesaw Mountain, the outnumbered Confederate Army falls back to a defensive position at Atlanta.  After 6 weeks of bloody conflicts around Atlanta, Sherman wires Washington: “Atlanta is ours and fairly won.” For the first time in the war, many in the North now believe victory can be achieved.  Eight weeks later, the president defeats McClellan in a landslide.  After the election, Sherman begins his March to the Sea.  The largely unopposed march across Georgia to Savannah is a psychological blow to the Confederacy, and a stunning conclusion to the war in the Western Theater.

Saturday, February 8 
“The Saddest Affair of the War “– The Battle of the Crater

Few other single-day battles of the American Civil War have captured as much attention as the July 30, 1864, Battle of the Crater. On that Saturday and after weeks of preparation, soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania exploded a mine underneath the Confederate defensive line just east of the city of Petersburg and in so doing presented a golden opportunity for the Union brass to break the siege at Petersburg and perhaps bring an end to the war. But after so remarkable a feat in tunneling under the Confederate lines and in exploding the mine, the resulting attack was a complete and tragic disaster for Federal arms. The fighting that ensued in the Crater between the Union 9th Corps and the soldiers of William Mahone’s Confederate Division was severe, savage, and costly. The battle also witnessed the first large-scale involvement of black troops in the war’s Eastern Theatre. In the end, the battle resulted in a resounding defeat for the Union and a victory for the Confederates–their last major victory of the war–with total casualties exceeding 5,000 men. Afterward, there was much finger-pointing and blame in an affair that brought out the worst in the Union high command, revealing prejudice, bias, and jealousy at the the highest levels of command. – John Hoptak

Sunday, February 9
“So You Think You Could Command a Civil War Army?”

At one time or another in 1864, there were eighteen armies in the field varying in size from 7,000 to 70,000 soldiers. About two dozen generals were tasked to command these forces; some did poorly, but all struggled. Civil War buffs can be critical of the blunders committed, imaging how they might have done better. Yet what was the magnitude of pressures faced? In this program you will be invited to sit in the saddle commanding an army on the move and into battle, and reckon the myriad decisions you would need to be making. Any wrong decision might well lead to defeat. Are you ready to command?  – Chuck Teague

Saturday, February 15
If These Things Could Talk – 1864

Original objects from the park’s museum collection are examined for the larger stories they tell about the war in 1864 and the advances in technology of weapons that occurred that year – Tom Holbrook

Sunday, February 16
Little Mac vs. Honest Abe: Abraham Lincoln, George McClellan, and the Election of 1864

By the summer of 1864 Abraham Lincoln’s chances of being elected to a second term seemed bleak. The end of the war was nowhere in sight, members of his own cabinet eyed the presidency for themselves, and George McClellan stood poised to triumph in the fall elections. The fate of the Union rested not on the battlefield, but with the ballot. Join Ranger Christopher Gwinn and explore the most pivotal Presidential election in American history – Chris Gwinn

Saturday, February 22
Kennesaw Mountain and the Atlanta Campaign

The fall of Atlanta in September 1864 ranks as one of the most important Union victories of the American Civil War. Yet, at the outset of the campaign, Union success was far from a sure thing. On June 27 the Confederate army under Gen. Joseph Johnston made a determined stand on Kennesaw Mountain, blocking the road to Atlanta for the Union army under General William Tecumseh Sherman.  Sherman chose to make a frontal assault upon Johnston’s position which resulted in some of the hardest, and most costly fighting of the entire campaign.  Although a Confederate victory the battle at Kennesaw Mountain provided important lessons for Sherman and his men that ultimately helped them to capture Atlanta some two months later – Dan Vermilya

Sunday, February 23
“Can those be men?” – The Prisoner of War Experience in 1864

Seeing Union prisoners return from Belle Isle Prison in Virginia, Walt Whitman remarked, “Can those be men?”  Entering the fourth year of the war and the cessation of prisoner exchange by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, previously established temporary prisoner-of-war camps ballooned beyond capacity prompting the construction of new pens in 1864 by both Union and Confederate authorities.  With increased numbers of prisoners came explosions of disease, illness, and death. Trace the prisoner of war experience in 1864 through diaries, journals, and letters from soldiers both North and South – Dan Welch

Saturday, March 1 
Battle of Brice’s Crossroads – Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Greatest Victory

Forrest entered the service as a private and surrendered as a Lieutenant General.  Along the way, this uneducated backwoods fellow learned the art of war – Forrest style, culminating in the year 1864 with controversy at Fort Pillow, his greatest victory Brice’s Crossroads, and an all-out effort by Union General William T. Sherman to thwart “that devil Forrest.” – Matt Atkinson

Sunday, March 2 (Ford Education Center)
Like the Oncoming of Cities” – Freedom’s Dilemma

By 1864 slavery was being destroyed by the sword and by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Wherever the Union army went tens of thousands of African Americans fled the plantations where they had been enslaved and sought freedom behind Union lines.  No one was prepared for the numbers that arrived and particularly how quickly they came.  As one chaplain wrote, “it was like the oncoming of cities.”  The army was forced to improvise and established camps for the newly freed people but it was not trained or equipped to facilitate the transition of hundreds of thousands from slavery to freedom.  The challenge to the army and the freedmen proved immense – Angie Atkinson

Saturday, March 8 (Ford Education Center)
Spring 1864 Congressional Hearings on Meade at Gettysburg: “Witch hunt or Fair Play?” 

General George Meade had to appear before a congressional subcommittee in Washington in the Spring of 1864 to answer several questions seemingly aimed at diminishing his performance at Gettysburg. The several loaded questions leveled at him, and his corps’ commanders, who also testified, appear in retrospect to be unfair at best, and a witch hunt at worst. What were the intentions of the Committee on the Conduct of War? Did they simply ask questions that needed to be asked, or did they hope to raise doubts about the administration’s ability to prosecute the war? Why burden the memory of a great Union victory with innuendo’s that Meade could have done more? – Troy Harman

Sunday, March 9 (Ford Education Center)
“Longstreet to the Rescue:” The Battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864

On the morning of May 6, 1864, the second day of the battle of the Wilderness, Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia were on the verge of collapse. At the critical moment, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and his First Corps came swinging onto the field “like a fine lady at a ball.” This program will examine the impact of Longstreet’s attack on the morning of May 6, the circumstances surrounding Longstreet’s wounding, and what the Confederates thought could have happened if Longstreet had not been wounded – Karlton Smith

 

*Programs will be held in theaters Jan. 4 – Feb. 23, and in the Ford Education Center, March 1 – 9.
Schedule is subject to change

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One Response to NPS Winter Lecture Series 2014 – The Civil War in 1864

  1. Pingback: January 2014 BRIGADE CALL – Robert Ashcraft | Civil War Round Table of Eastern Pennsylvania

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