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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Second-Guessing Richard Ewell: The First Day at Gettysburg

155 years later, it still resonates as one of the most second-guessed decisions of the war, a great "what if" or "what might have been."  On July 1, 1863, Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell decided it was not “practicable” to storm the Union position on Cemetery Hill after a hard day of fighting at Gettysburg.  As a result, many in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Lost Cause adherents and history itself have scapegoated "Old Baldy" for the Confederate loss in Pennsylvania, and critics have loudly wondered, “If Stonewall Jackson had been there....”  But, Ewell made a militarily sound decision—as a look at the facts will show.

Returning for his third program before the First Defenders, Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., is a professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University and historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property on the Spotsylvania battlefield. He also volunteers at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, where he still gives tours at four major Civil War battlefields (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania), as well as at the building where Stonewall Jackson died.
With Kris White, he is co-founder of Emerging Civil War. Together, they have co-authored a half-dozen Civil War books, and they’ve written features for every major Civil War magazine. Mackowski is also the solo author of Grant’s Last Battle: The Story Behind the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, and Strike Them a Blow: Battle Along the North Anna River. With Albert Z. Conner, Jr., he is co-author of Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac’s “Valley Forge” and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union. Mackowski and White were honored in 2016 by the Army Historical Foundation with its Lt. Gen. Richard G. Trefry Award for contributions to the field.

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.