Musters


The First Defenders meet at 6:30 PM on the second Tuesday of each month from September through May. Meetings include dinner and a speaker who may be a guest or a member. Meetings are currently held at The Inn at Reading. A book raffle is held each month with all proceeds donated to battlefield preservation. Guests and new members are welcome. Space is limited in the restaurant, so please contact a board member or the First Defenders by email (see the CONTACTS page).

MEMBERS ONLY! Sign up to attend the upcoming event!

** REMEMBER, these events are for members and their guests only. If you are interested in becoming a member, please contact Dave Sweigert, the Membership Chairman, on the Contact page.

Click hear to download a membership application!

 
  • September
    2016
  • October
    2016
  • November
    2016
  • December
    2016
  • January
    2017
  • February
    2017
  • March
    2017
  • April
    2017
  • May
    2017
The Battle of Rappahannock Station: A Prelude to 1864-1865
 
The autumn campaign in Northern Virginia does not get much attention from historians or in Civil War literature, but Ed Alexander launched the First Defenders' 20th Campaign by explaining why the Battle of Rappahannock Station was an important and somewhat ground-breaking event in military tactics.

On November 7, 1863, two brigades of the Union Sixth Corps defied conventional tactics during their frontal bayonet charge against a like number of Confederates who protected a critical bridgehead on the Rappahannock River. Robert E. Lee had just left the area when the attack was about to open (and possibly avoided an ignominious capture!) convinced the river crossing was secure.  But, in short order, the Yankees executed a pair of flanking maneuvers supported by artillery that left veterans of Lee's Second Corps, "Stonewall" Jackson's old command, bewildered and defeated (and, for many, captured)!.

The action at Rappahannock Station did not loom large in the battles of the Eastern Theatre.  However, the tactics used would be repeated with greater success in May 1864 at Spotsylvania and again several times in front of Petersburg during the War's final year.

Alexander's description of the fall campaign and this battle in particular was another excellent program presented by the "young guns" from the Emerging Civil War stable, and brought this little-studied action to life with color and detail!
 
"Mosby's Rangers"- The Bane of Union Armies in Northern Virginia
 
"Mosby's Confederacy" extended primarily throughout Loudon and Fairfax Counties in northern Virginia, and it is fair to say John Singleton Mosby and his 43rd Virginia Partisan Rangers were worth more than their weight in gold as they continually vexed Union armies throughout the Civil War.  Indeed, Mosby's men never actually surrendered in 1865; they quietly disbanded, returned to their homes and eventually received pardons.

Jeff Wert, one of only a few speakers who has presented to the First Defenders on multiple occasions, has researched and written about Mosby and shared some of the hair-raising stories escapades of him and his men.  A retired high school teacher, Jeff added touches of humor in his descriptions of how Mosby's band evaded larger and better-equipped Union forces sent to destroy them while exacting a huge toll on northern logistics, disrupting plans and even conducting a brazen midnight raid that netted sorely-needed horseflesh and a Union brigadier general.  When told of the episode, Abraham Lincoln reportedly said, "For that I am sorry, for I can make brigadier generals, but I cannot make horses."

Mosby was a favorite of Confederate cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart, and also was favorably mentioned in Robert E. Lee's reports on many occasions.  Slow to embrace secession, Mosby nonetheless aggressively and ruthlessly led his men in support of the Southern cause.

Jeff is always an entertaining speaker, and took time before and after his talk to discuss a variety of Civil War topics with First Defenders.  An old friend of the Round Table, Jeff's take on Mosby's Rangers was interesting, unusual and well-received.


 

Women Soldiers in The Civil War
 
The Victorian Era was an age of men, but that did not deter more than a few women from making their ways into the ranks of Civil War armies.  Their reasons were often the same as the men: patriotism, a desire for adventure, defense of hearth and home and the like.  These determined women came from all social classes and educational backgrounds according to First Defender Sherri Stull, and went to great lengths to hide their "secret."  Sherri told specific stories of Frances Clayton, Jessie Hodgers, Sarah Edmonds, Loreta Velaquez and Sarah Wakeman.  They, along with many others, endured the hardships of the common soldier; if they were discovered, they would be whisked away from the armies in the fastest and easiest manner, but certainly would not be permitted to stay with the troops even after their combat prowess had been well-proven.  Those whose secret was kept from army officers risked the potential of being wounded, captured or even killed in battle.  

There are few studies of women soldiers in the Civil War (although a recent Mort Kuntsler painting did shine a light on a female Georgia militia unit, the Nancy Harts, that actually went head-to-head with Union cavalry), but Sherri brought refreshing light to the stories of some of these women and what they experienced, and in the process expanded First Defender insights into a unique aspect of the Civil War. 
 



 

 Join us for our monthly meeting!

Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Time: 6:30PM
Location: The Inn at Reading, 1040 Park Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610

 
"Second Battle of Winchester" featuring author Scott Mingus
 
In the summer of 1863, as Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia began its inexorable push northward toward Pennsylvania, only one significant force stood in the way -- Union Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy's division of the Eighth Army Corps in the vicinity of Winchester and Berryville. Believing that the enemy was merely a cavalry raid or feint, the veteran Indiana politician-turned-general chose to stand and fight. His controversial decision put his outnumbered and largely inexperienced men on a path to what most observers considered to be a military fiasco when Milroy lost half his force and routed ingloriously from the final battlefield. Many of the Northern soldiers who fought at Second Winchester, however, believed their three-day, ultimately unwinnable resistance delayed the vaunted Rebels from entering Pennsylvania long enough to buy time for the Army of the Potomac to arrive and defeat Lee at Gettysburg.  Scott Mingus tells the story of these men and the first act of the Gettysburg Campaign.  

Scott Mingus is a scientist and executive in the paper industry, and was part of the research team that developed the first commercially successful self-adhesive U.S. postage stamps.  The York, Pa., resident has written fifteen Civil War books. His biography of Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith won the 2013 Nathan Bedford Forrest Southern History Award as well as the Dr. James I Robertson, Jr. Literary Prize, and was nominated for the Virginia Literary Award for Non-Fiction. Scott maintains a blog on the Civil War history of York County (www.yorkblog.com/cannonball). His great-great-grandfather was a 15-year-old drummer boy in the 51st Ohio Infantry, and other family members fought in the Army of the Potomac at Antietam and Gettysburg.
 




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Join us for our monthly meeting!

Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Time: 6:30PM
Location: The Inn at Reading, 1040 Park Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610

 
"The Burning of Chambersburg" featuring First Defender Bob Shuman
   
In the summer of 1864, Confederates visited the south-central Pennsylvania town of Chambersburg for the third time.  Dispatched by Lt. General Jubal Early as part of his "Second Valley Campaign," raiders under the command of Brigadier General John McCausland demanded a $500,000 ransom from the town or they would burn the town.  That amount could not be raised, and by the Rebels returned south of the Mason-Dixon Line, much of the town lay in smoldering ashes.  In the North, it was considered an infamous crime (for which Early would be accused of war crimes) while Southern partisans hailed it as justice for what they had experienced at the hands of Union armies.  Today, like the mythical phoenix, Chambersburg has risen from the ashes and is the seat of Franklin County.

Long-time Round Table member and Chambersburg native Bob Shuman knows as much about this often-overlooked event as anyone alive today, and has spoken on "the burning" before many audiences.  An educator by trade, Bob is retired from the Pennsylvania State University where he spent more than a quarter century at the Berks Campus.




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Join us for our monthly meeting!
 

Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: The Inn at Reading, 1040 Park Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610

Topic: "Simon Cameron" by Paul Kahan

   

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Join us for our monthly meeting!

Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Time: 6:30PM
Location: The Inn at Reading, 1040 Park Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610

Topic:  "McNeil's Rangers"





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Join us for our monthly meeting!

Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Time: 6:30PM
Location: The Inn at Reading, 1040 Park Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610

Topic:  "An Evening with Ed" featuring the one and only Ed Bearrs!


 

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Join us for our monthly meeting!


Date: Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Time: 6:30PM
Location: The Inn at Reading, 1040 Park Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610

Topic:  "Myths of the Lost Cause" featuring author Ed Bonekemper


Click on the sign up button above if you plan on attending the upcoming event. We need to know who is coming to be able to accommodate everyone. Thanks!