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The Chicago Civil War Round Table Monthly Meetings

411 EpisodesProduced by Marc KunisWebsite

The Civil War Round Table of Chicago present programming of interest to devotées of American Civil War history, support preservation of Civil War battle sites, and sponsor a very popular annual battlefield tour. Founded in 1940, The Civil War Round Table of Chicago was the very first of over 200 suc… read more


Oct 1952 - William Townsend on Cassius Marcellues Clay: The Lion of Whitehall - Chicago Civil War Round Table Monthly Meeting

Date: October 17, 1952
Speaker: William H. Townsend
Subject: “Cassius Marcellus Clay: The Lion of Whitehall”
President: Elmer Gertz
Meeting: 116th Regular CWRT Meeting
Running Time: 77:24

Comments from Barbara Hughett’s book:

October 17, 1952 is a special date in Round Table history. Colonel Wm. H. Townsend, who had spoken to the group at Lincoln Memorial University during that first battlefield tour, came to Chicago to give his rousing talk on “Cassius Marcellus Clay: The Lion of Whitehall.” (It had originally been scheduled for the previous May but, due to illness, Townsend had been forced to reschedule.) Many who were present that evening mention Townsend’s talk as the most memorable Round Table address they’ve ever heard. The subject matter was rich. That Lexington citizen of another era, friend of Abraham Lincoln, early leader in the abolitionist cause, champion of womanhood, diplomat, bowie knife artist, and soldier was surely “one of the most colorful figures ever to march across the pages of American history.”
The speaker was also a colorful figure. Ralph Newman talked about William H. Townsend of Lexington, Kentucky in a 1983 lecture: “…One of the nation’s leading attorneys, he assembled a remarkable (Lincoln) collection, mainly from the 1920s to the 1940s. He was the author of many books, the most significant of which was Lincoln and His Wife’s Home Town (1929), which appeared years later in revised and expanded form as Lincoln and the Bluegrass (1955)….One of the first Lincoln books he read was (William Eleazar) Barton’s The Paternity of Abraham Lincoln (1920). When Townsend sent the volume to Dr. Barton for an inscription, I began a friendship which resulted in the two men journeying through Anderson County, west of Lexington, in search of the history of the Sparrow and Hanks families. He became a close friend and adviser to Emilie Todd Helm, Mary Lincoln’s half-sister and the widow of Confederate General Ben Hardin Helm. He ultimately became the owner of Helm Place, the perfect place for a great collection of Lincolniana…” In this lecture, Newman said of Townsend that “those who knew him can still hear his voice and be reminded of another Kentuckian who would lean back in his chair and say, “That reminds me of a story….”
The October 17 meeting was held in the bungalow apartments on the roof of the Sherman Hotel, twenty-five floors about Chicago’s loop, “with a longer cocktail hour than usual embellished with hors d’oeuvres.” The “unusually large number” of 121 members and guests (including the owner of the Sherman) attended. In introducing Townsend, President Gertz said: “This isn’t going to be simply a talk. This is going to be an event.”
An article in the Fall 1952 Lincoln Herald gives an account of the talk. In part, it says: “Colonel Townsend, after first belittling his own ability as a speaker before any but ‘a small compulsory audience of twelve,’ proceeded to eat his own words by holding his hearers spellbound for an hour-and-a-half while he told in simple, forceful, and graphic terms the life story of Cassius Marcellus Clay, the ‘Lion of Whitehall’ and President Lincoln’s chief supporter in holding Kentucky for the Union….As he described General Clay’s prowess with the bowie knife and the many times in which he was compelled to wield it in duels, Colonel Townsend drew from a scabbard at his belt the actual weapon, flourishing it to his audience. When he spoke of Clay’s carved-ivory handled bowie knife that he used only on dress occasions, the speaker pulled that out too. And when he told of the immense horse pistol that President Lincoln had presented to Clay, out of Colonel Townsend’s holster came that weapon. The effect on his listeners of this dramatic realism can be imagined.”
“The Lion of Whitehall” talk was later produced as a long-playing record. Currently available on tape cassette, it is as compelling and entertaining, as it was the night it was delivered

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