Musters – Events

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 Regimental Staff page).

 

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The Battle of Monocacy: In Their Words

The comparatively small action along the Monocacy River near Frederick, Maryland, on July 9, 1864 is often called "The Battle that Saved Washington."  There, a pick-up force of Union troops under the command of Major General Lew Wallace stalled the storied Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia for much of the day before being compelled to fall back.  A tactical loss for the North, it would prove a strategic victory by delaying Jubal Early's Confederates long enough for additional troops to be rushed from the Petersburg trenches to the defense of the national capital.  Early may have "scared Abe Lincoln like hell," but he failed to take Washington.  However, rather than looking at the Monocacy commanders, this talk focuses on five common soldiers...three Yankees and two Rebels...who fought the battle by examining their writings to see what the private soldiers on the field can tell us about the “The Battle that Saved Washington.”

Ryan Quint graduated from the University of Mary Washington and is a seasonal park historian at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.  His Civil War interests focus on the Union armies and Jubal Early’s 1864 invasion of Maryland.  He is author of the Emerging Civil War Series book Determined to Stand and Fight: The Battle of Monocacy.

Antietam Endgame

The events leading up to the Battle of Antietam have been recounted many times and are generally familiar to most Civil War students: Lee's decision to move into Maryland following his summer triumphs over two Union armies, Lincoln's decision to restore McClellan to command of the Army of the Potomac, the famous "Lost Order," the struggles at South Mountain, Jackson's capture of 12,000 Federal soldiers at Harper's Ferry, and, finally, the bloodiest day in American history on September 17, 1862 along the banks of the Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg.  But, the story does not end when the sun sets on that late summer day, and more than 72 hours remain in the Maryland Campaign.  This program examines the next three days...September 18-20...and their repercussions for the Lee's first venture across the Potomac.

Kevin Pawlak works as a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Antietam National Battlefield and is education specialist for the Mosby Heritage Area Association. Kevin also sits on the Board of Directors of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University, and the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. Previously, he has worked and completed internships at Harper's Ferry National Historical Park, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, and the Missouri Civil War Museum. Kevin graduated in 2014 from Shepherd University where he studied Civil War history and historic preservation. He is the author of Shepherdstown in the Civil War: One Vast Confederate Hospital, published by The History Press in 2015.

The Second Battle of Franklin

On November 30, 1864 one of the most sanguinary battles of the Civil War took place south of Nashville near the sleepy town of Franklin, Tennessee.  By the end of the day, the Confederate army of John Bell Hood had engaged in an assault nearly twice as large as Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg the year before.  Crashing up against prepared Yankee breastworks, the resulting carnage in just five hours totaled more than 6,500 Rebel casualties, more than 20-percent, including six general officers one of whom, Patrick Cleburne, was arguably the finest division commander in the Confederate armies.  The heart and soul of the Army of Tennessee was gone, and two weeks later that once-valiant fighting force was all-but eliminated in front of Nashville.

The Battle of Franklin is often overlooked.  No national military park exists there, and almost the entire battlefield has been swallowed up by modern development.  But, a new battle is in progress, one which is focused on preserving that which is left and interpreting the titanic struggle and its aftermath in a 21st Century fashion.  The Second Battle of Franklin is intended to remedy the oversights of the past, pay homage to those who struggled there in what may have been the climactic battle of the Western Theatre and shine a well-deserved spotlight where it has long-been absent.

Craig Breneiser is serving his fourth term as president of the First Defenders Civil War Round Table.  This is his second presentation to the group, and he has been long-intrigued by the 1864 Tennessee Campaign that has been eclipsed in history by Sherman's March to the Sea, but which almost certainly played a more critical role in the outcome of the Civil War.  Craig is the retired director of the Berks County 9-1-1 Center, and currently works as a consultant for Essential Management Solutions, LLC.  He lives with his wife, Lisa, in Lehigh County where he continues to contemplate writing his book.