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).


MEMBERS ONLY! Sign up to attend the upcoming event!


Naval Schemes, Plots and Interesting Tidbits

While much of the focus of the Civil War is on the land activities, a number of interesting events took place on the water as well.  As the title implies this presentation will cover events such as the “first” (?) Navy Seals (Confederate and Union), Confederate chutzpah on the Mississippi, cavalry afloat, the Shimonoseki Campaign in the search for the Alabama, war on the Great Lakes and influence of the Russian Navy, among others.

Dale Kratzer is a long-time member of the First Defenders Round Table.  He is a retired water resources engineer with a lifelong interest in the Civil War, and is currently is an adjunct professor at Alvernia University where he teaches courses on the  environment.  Dale served in the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps with a Seabee Battalion in Vietnam and Puerto Rico (which may help explain his interest in the Navies aspect of the Civil War!).   And, while he never authored any Civil War books, he has lectured in Alvernia’s Seniors College on Civil War topics.  His previous presentation to the First Defenders was on the Battle of Glorietta Pass in New Mexico.

Schuylkill County's Coal Heavers:  The 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers

Originally commanded by Colonel Henry L. Cake, formerly of the National Light Infantry, the 96th Penna Volunteers served for three years in the Second Brigade, First Division of the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac.  Principally comprised of War Democrats, the regiment fought with determination at Gaines' Mill, Crampton's Gap, Salem Church and at Spotsylvania on May 10 and again on May 12, 1864.  The regiment lost 6 officers and 126 enlisted men -- killed or mortally wounded -- in its three years of service.

This talk will highlight the regiment's military engagements, offer a few quotes regarding the direction of the war and reactions to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.  In addition, the program features quotes from the soldiers of the 96th to describe the generals they served under -- Slocum, Bartlett, Franklin, Brooks, Sedgwick and Upton.

David Ward was born in Pottsville, and graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 1980 with BA in history.  Dave subsequently attended Southern Connecticut State University and graduated with master’s degree in history and library science. He has been a professional librarian at New Academy, Livingston, New Jersey, and the assistant library director at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut.  Dave founded the Connecticut Civil War Round Table in spring 1989 serving as the program chairman from 1989-1995.  He also hosted the New England Civil War Conference June 1990-1992, and was the owner/operator of the popular battlefield tour company Civil War Tours 2000-2015.

Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg

More than 150 years after the event, the fateful attack by 12,000 Confederate infantrymen against the Union position on Cemetery Ridge still emotionally resonates with Gettysburg enthusiasts like no other aspect of the battle. On the afternoon of July 3rd, Robert E. Lee would order perhaps the most legendary charge in American military history that would ever after be known (perhaps inaccurately) as “Pickett’s Charge.”

Often considered the turning point of the battle of Gettysburg and, by extension, the Civil War itself, much has been written about the battle itself and Pickett’s Charge in particular.  A participant observed the charge “has been more criticized, and is still less understood, than any other act of the Gettysburg drama.”   This program will bring the events of that sultry July afternoon in south-central Pennsylvania into crystal clear reality that will provoke a new understanding of this critical event by seasoned Gettysburg trampers and greenhorns alike.

Wayne Motts is the Chief Executive Officer of The National Civil War Museum, one of the largest museums in the country dedicated to the study, interpretation, preservation and exhibition of the American Civil War.  His professional resume is an impressive list of nationally recognized organizations.  Wayne has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Adams County Historical Society, the Curator of the Cumberland County Historical Society, and Senior Research Historian for the TravelBrains Corporation. Wayne has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at the Gettysburg National Military Park since 1988. In 2013, Wayne received the Emeritus Guide designation for more than twenty-five years of service, and as such was one of the youngest guides to be so recognized with that honor.  Wayne received his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Military History from The Ohio State University. He received his Masters of Arts in American History from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

James Hessler has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park since 2003.  His book Sickles at Gettysburg (Savas Beatie, 2009) was awarded the R.E. Lee Civil War Round Table’s “Bachelder Coddington Award” and the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table’s “Distinguished Book Award” as the most outstanding work on the Gettysburg Campaign.  Jim's latest book (co-authored with Wayne) Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, was released in July 2015 and has been received very favorably by both readers and critics alike as the first battlefield guide ever published on the famous July 3 assault.  Jim has been a guest on Travel Channel, NPR, PCN-TV, Breitbart News, Civil War Radio, and Gettysburg Daily. He was one of the primary content designers for the Civil War Trust’s mobile Gettysburg application and animated maps. Jim has written several articles for Gettysburg Magazine and other national publications He is a frequent speaker at Civil War Round Tables and has taught courses for the Gettysburg Foundation and Harrisburg (PA) Area Community College.  James Hessler has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park since 2003.