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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


CWRT December 2020 Meeting - David Powell on Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah Valley

David Powell on Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah Valley  David Powell's latest book, Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah, provides a fresh perspective on the May 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign. By shifting attention away from the VMI cadets to the Union military's strategic goals and command structure, Powell adds nuance and depth to a well-studied campaign. (h/t CivilWarMonitor)  The battle of New Market enjoys a status in that belies its small scale. This is largely due to the drama surrounding the participation of the Virginia Military Institute cadets. While the cadets are celebrated for their actions, historians often cast Union General Franz Sigel as an incompetent buffoon who missed a golden opportunity to sweep Confederate forces from the Shenandoah Valley in the days leading up to the battle. As a 1983 graduate of VMI, David A. Powell knows the story of the cadet's actions at New Market very well. Rather than focusing on this well-covered subject, however, Powell's study brings Franz Sigel's role in the campaign to the forefront, placing his actions and decisions in the broader context of Union grand strategy and command structure.  Powell's analysis allows for a greater appreciation of the challenges Sigel faced during the campaign, including Grant's unrealistic timetable for the invasion and the failure of other Union forces to cooperate with Sigel, but he does not exonerate the general. Sigel's reliance on Col. Augustus Moor and Maj. Gen. Julius Stahel, who ignored Sigel's orders to pull back from New Market on the morning of May 15, suggests his questionable judgment. His hodgepodge assigning of units--ignoring the established chain of command--led to confusion on the battlefield. Powell observes that by ordering a counter-charge with shaky, inexperienced troops at a key point during the battle of New Market, Sigel had lost sight of the broader strategic goal of avoiding a catastrophic loss to keep Confederate troops occupied on the field and away from Gen. George Crook's planned advance on Staunton.  Chicago-area resident Dave Powell has published 8 works on the Civil War, including volumes on the Chickamauga and Tullahoma Campaigns, and his latest, Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah.

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