DRUM & BUGLE
Voice of the Rappahannock Valley Civil War Round Table
Rappahannock Valley Civil War Round Table Newsletter
2018, Volume 15, Issue 12
Would Still Be Drowned in Tears -
Spiritualism in the Lincoln White House"
When: Monday, December 10, 2018
Location: Brock’s Riverside Grill
Times: Social Begins 6:00 pm, Dinner 6:45 pm, Meeting Begins
Would Still Be Drowned in Tears - Spiritualism in the Lincoln White House"
Hamilton is an independent historian and the current manager of the Mary
Washington House in Fredericksburg. She holds a Masters Degree in History
from San Diego State University. She spent several years as a docent at the
haunted Whaley House in Old Town San Diego and participated in historical
events around California as a Civil War living historian before moving to
Virginia. Hamilton is the author of "I Would Still be Drowned in Tears:
Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House."
in the midst of a bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife
Mary suffered unspeakable heartache when their young son died. To combat
her grief, First Lady Mary Lincoln became a devotee of Spiritualism, making
the White House a center for Washington DC's Spiritualist community. For
decades, historians have maintained that President Lincoln only attended a
few seances in an attempt to protect his mentally unstable wife. This
narrative is incorrect. Using a host of previously neglected primary
sources, historian Michelle Hamilton documents the numerous séances
President Lincoln attended and the personal interest he had in the religion
Insubordination: Custer vs. Kilpatrick in the Third Cavalry Division”
by Dr. Bruce Venter
A Review of the November 2018 Program by Greg Mertz
aware that George A. Custer typically has a much stronger reputation among
students of the Civil War than Judson Kilpatrick, Dr. Bruce Venter began his
program by sharing with the audience various quotes from soldiers who served
under either of the two officers and asked members of the round table to
guess which cavalry commander the quote described. The quotes were all
highly complimentary and the first point Venter made was that a large number
of Kilpatrick’s men thought that their commander was just as brave, daring
and talented as Custer’s men felt about their commander.
The reputation of Kilpatrick
is often attributed to a few accounts, mainly the published accounts
that are easily found. Perhaps the most quoted caricature of Kilpatrick
comes from Gen. George G. Meade staff officer Theodore Lyman, who called him
“a frothy braggart without brains.” Charles Francis Adams, a captain in the
1st Massachusetts Cavalry wrote,
“Kilpatrick is a brave, injudicious boy, much given to blowing and surely
will come to grief.” Yet neither of these men actually served under
Kilpatrick; the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry served in divisions
commanded by William W. Averill, Alfred Duffie and David McM. Gregg in 1863
– the year in which Kilpatrick commanded a division in the Army of the
Potomac. The book by James H. Kidd of Custer’s 6th Michigan is
full of praise for his brigade commander, and criticizing Kilpatrick serves
to further elevate George A. Custer.
One of the more popular
statements about him was attributed to William T. Sherman, under whom
Kilpatrick served after the February, 1864 failed Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid.
James H. Wilson wrote in his memoirs that Sherman supposedly said,
"I know that Kilpatrick is a hell of a damned
fool, but I want just that sort of man to command my cavalry on this
expedition." But Venter reported that when the memoirs were published,
Sherman wrote a letter to the New York Times in 1876, claiming he never said
such a thing. Only by digging beyond the easily found published accounts and
looking at the letters and diaries of those who served under Kilpatrick can
we find accounts that put Kilpatrick in a better light.
Kilpatrick was born in New Jersey. When attending West Point, at five
feet, five inches tall, he was known as “Little Kil.” Even though during
the Civil War he was nicknamed “Kill cavalry” -- allegedly because of his
disregard for the welfare of his horses, and perhaps also attributed to his
recklessness regarding his men -- he was most often called by his West Point
nickname or as “Old Kil” by his men during the war. He graduated 17th in
the May class of 1861 and became a captain in the 5th New York Infantry.
Kilpatrick received his first of three wounds in the war at the June 10,
1861 Battle of Big Bethel.
Kilpatrick moved over to the cavalry with the help of his connections with
the prominent Davies family of New York, and became the Lieutenant Colonel
of the 2nd New York Cavalry. From February to late June of 1863 Kilpatrick
led a brigade. Then in the cavalry reorganization just before the Battle of
Gettysburg, he was assigned to lead a division. His division comprised the
brigades commanded by two of the “boy generals” -- Custer and Elon J.
Farnsworth. Kilpatrick has been criticized for the charge at Gettysburg
resulting in the death of Farnsworth, but Venter pointed out that he was
carrying out an order from corps commander Pleasonton when doing so. In
addition to being engaged in many actions of the Gettysburg Campaign,
Kilpatrick also led his division in multiple encounters with the enemy in
the Bristoe Campaign over the fall of 1863. His wife Alice died in November
of 1863, followed by the death of his one-year old son Judson in December.
Then after the failed Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid on Richmond in February of
1864, he was transferred to serve under Sherman for the remainder of the
war. In November of 1865 Kilpatrick was named minister to Chile, where he
met and married his second wife Luisa. He died of Bright’s Disease at the
age of 43 and is buried at West Point.
Custer and Kilpatrick had a contentious association. Venter believes that
they were too similar and were akin to being rivals. Both were in their
20’s -- Kilpatrick 27 and Custer 23 when Custer was assigned to Kilpatrick’s
division. Both were physically flamboyant with conspicuous hair –
Kilpatrick’s whiskers and Custer’s curly locks. Both wore non-standard
military uniforms, were War-Democrats, were known for their strong sex
drives, had dashing qualities, and rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming
major generals by war’s end. Venter felt they were the antithesis of John
Buford and David McM. Gregg – cavalry division commanders in their 30’s who
did not clash with one another.
Some of Custer’s biographers felt that the start of their dispute stemmed
from the Buckland Mills engagement during the end of the Bristoe Station
Campaign – an action also derogatorily called the “Buckland Races” as
Custer’s brigade rode into an ambush and tried to escape in great haste with
Confederate cavalry chasing after them. But Venter thought that the young
Union cavalry officers argued from the very beginning of their association.
As a former staff officer of Cavalry Corps commander Alfred Pleasonton,
Custer went over Kilpatrick’s head and communicated directly with Pleasonton.
When Kilpatrick ordered Custer to investigate an accusation against a
lieutenant in his command, Custer instead provided his superior with his
assessment of the officer and did not carry out an inquest. Custer was
remiss in filing his after-action reports.
Kilpatrick reacted in a manner that would be the most insulting to Custer –
being deprived of an opportunity to participate in an engagement deep in
enemy territory. In Kilpatrick’s final expedition with the Army of the
Potomac – the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid of February, 1864, Custer was not on
the raid, even though a portion of his brigade participated in it. Instead,
Custer was assigned to conduct a demonstration against Charlottesville – too
far from Richmond to have any real impact on Confederate reaction to
Kilpatrick’s movement. Custer’s absence was the crowning piece of evidence
that he had completely fallen out of favor with Kilpatrick.
There will be an auction at the December dinner meeting of the 2018 Mort
Kunstler Christmas Tree Ornament. The ornament is being donated by June
Brown, and the proceeds will be donated to the CVBT for their Myer's Hill
2019 membership fees are due by January 1st and may be paid by cash, check,
or credit card.
Please contact Bob Jones to order your dinner in advance or to confirm your
dinner reservation. Please call Bob Jones @ 540-399-1702 or send him your
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
ATTENTION - The 2019 Membership Drive has Opened! - ATTENTION
Current, Past, and hopefully New Members of the RVCWRT,
We have started our 2019 Membership Drive.
Between your reading this notification to 31 December 2018 you will have
numerous opportunities to renew your membership with a great organization of
1. In person at our upcoming Dinner Meeting on December 10th.
2. Visit our website at http://www.rvcwrt.org/membership.pdf to download
the membership form.
3. Print, complete the form; mailing it, along with your renewal fee to:
RVCWRT P.O. Box 7632; Fredericksburg, VA 22404
After 31 December 2018, if we have not received your membership renewal then
regretfully the next time that we see you in 2019 you will be charged full
price for participation in one of our Dinner Meetings, Bus Tours, or other
special activities. Also, until we have received your renewal you will no
longer receive any of our e-mail notifications.
That being stated, there is a silver lining within this potential bad news.
The next time that we happily see you in 2019 you will have the opportunity
to on-the-spot, renew your membership and therefore be able to continue to
enjoy the privileges that are currently afforded to you.
Don't delay, renew your membership Now.
National Park Service Announces Special Programs for the 156th Anniversary
of the Battle of Fredericksburg
Saturday, December 8th and Sunday, December 9th, join the National Park
Service in commemorating the 156th Anniversary of the Battle of
Fredericksburg with historian-led programs.
Saturday, December 8th
Crossing the Rappahannock. This program will look at the dramatic events of
December 11, 1862, as the Union army struggled to get across the
Rappahannock. We will take the same view of the event as thousands of
soldiers did, watching from the heights of Chatham, above the crossing. With
John Hennessy. 60 minutes. Meet at Chatham (120 Chatham Lane,
a.m.: Fighting in the Streets. Join Frank O’Reilly as he walks the streets
that witnessed the first major urban combat in American History on December
11, 1862. 90 minutes.
the upper pontoon crossing at Sophia and Hawke Streets (GPS Coordinates:
38.307868, -77.460916). On-street parking available nearby.
p.m.: “Men fell like leaves in autumn:” The Fight for Prospect Hill. Join
Greg Mertz to explore the Southern end of the Fredericksburg Battlefield,
the only place where Union troops were able to penetrate the Confederate
line. 90 minutes.
Tour Stop 6, Prospect Hill (GPS Coordinates: 38.248090, -77.435651)
Sunday, December 9th
a.m: In the Footsteps of the Irish Brigade
Frank O’Reilly for what has become a legendary walk through the streets of
Fredericksburg to the Sunken Road. Two hours.
the City Dock, 201 Sophia Street. Note: plan for a walk back to your car
after the program.
p.m.: 156th Anniversary Remembrance Walk
Elizabeth Parnicza for a walk of reflection and remembrance along the Sunken
Road. 60 minutes.
the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center, 1013 Lafayette Boulevard,
in the Fredericksburg region during December can be unpredictable. Check the
forecast in the days leading up to the programs, and keep an eye on the
park’s Facebook page for weather updates. Warm or layered clothing and
comfortable, sturdy footwear is recommended for all programs.
additional information, visit the NPS website at www.nps.gov/frsp, check the
NPS Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FredericksburgSpotsylvaniaNMP,
or call the park at 540-693-3200.
Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg
As a courtesy, the RVCWRT provides as a regular feature each month, the
ongoing scheduled speakers for the CWRTF’s 2018 Program Year. The Civil War
Round Table of Fredericksburg normally meets on the fourth Wednesday of
every month (except for one meeting held on the third Wednesday of June
2018). Dinner Meetings are held at the UMW’s Jepson Center located at
1119 Hanover Street, Fredericksburg, VA, dinner cost is $32.00
per person. Advance reservations should be made by email:
or telephone: 540-361-2105.
CWRTF’s Scheduled Speakers for the
2018 and 2019 Program Year:
January 23, 2019
"Civil War Railroads"
February 27, 2019
Dr. Bradley Gottfried
"Maps of the Battle of
March 27, 2019
"James Hanger and the
April 24, 2019
"The 1861 Peace
May 22, 2019
Patrick Schroeder, NPS
June 19, 2019
"The Vicksburg Canal"
SEPT. 25, 2019
Brian E. Withrow
“Ulysses S. Grant in Character”
Michael K. Shaffer
“In Memory of Self and Comrades: Thomas W. Colley’s Recollection”
Executive Committee Bios
Each month this newsletter
will feature a short biography of one of our Executive Committee members.
This month we feature Bob Jones
Executive Committee Bios
Each month this newsletter will feature a short biography of one of our
Executive Committee members. This month we feature Bob Jones
Mr. Robert L. Jones
A native of Ohio, (Solon), he received his undergraduate degree from Hiram
College (Ohio) and a Master’s Degree from Syracuse University (N.Y.). He
joined IBM as an Applied Science Systems Engineer, and then joined the
faculty at the University of Maryland directing medical computing. Following
that career in Baltimore, he was a Data Center Director for the State of
Virginia in Richmond, then he joined the faculty at Virginia Tech as
Associate Director of Academic Commuting.
He returned to IBM as a Senior Program Administrator in Connecticut and
retired in 2002 from a position as a staff accountant for IBM-World Trade.
In retirement, he returned to Virginia as a resident of Orange County.
His interest in the Civil War stems from his grandfather, a corporal in the
115th Illinois, and his cousin, a Lt. Colonel with the 12th Indiana Cavalry.
He serves as a volunteer historian for the National Park Service at
Chancellorsville, a guide at Graffiti House in Brandy Station, a
Past-President of the Brandy Station Foundation, a Past-President of his
home owners association, and now President (second consecutive term) of the
Rappahannock Valley Civil War Round Table, and is an Interpretive Guide at
Montpelier. Any infrequent spare time finds him on some local golf course.
The Drum and Bugle Newsletter is published monthly, by the
Rappahannock Valley Civil War Round Table, Post Office Box 7632,
Fredericksburg, VA 22404. Each month, The Drum and Bugle newsletter is also
placed on our web-site, www.RVCWRT.org. Yearly membership dues are $35.00
for an individual, $45.00 for families, and only $7.50 for students.
Membership is open to anyone interested in the study of the Civil War and
the ongoing preservation of Civil War sites.
RVCWRT Executive Committee:
Member at Large:
Member at Large:
Member at Large:
Media & Events Coordinator:
Newsletter Editor & Webmaster: