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 Life of Jacob Dolson Cox, Ohio Citizen-General

The wrenching events of the Civil War transformed not only the United States, but also the men unexpectedly called to lead fellow citizens in this first modern example of “total war.”  Jacob Dolson Cox of Ohio was among those who rose to the challenge and he is recognized as one of the Union's best “citizen generals.”  He did so well that General Sherman offered him a brigadier generalship in the regular army at war's end.  He is perhaps one of the best examples of why the stereotype of "political general" is not always a valid one.

During his school days at Oberlin College, no one could have predicted that the intellectual, reserved Cox possessed a “military aptitude.”  Cox's successful military career included helping to secure West Virginia for the Union; co-commanding the left wing of the Union army at the Battle of Antietam; breaking the Confederate supply line, leading to the taking of Atlanta; and commanding the defensive line at
the Battle of Franklin, which effectively ended the Confederate threat in the West.  His services at the Battle of Franklin were one of the best examples of the skills a "civilian general" had attained. His last campaign was in North Carolina, where he defeated Braxton Bragg at the battle of Kinston/Wyse Fork.  His first post-war position was as military governor of western North Carolina, based in Greensboro.

After the war Cox proved to be a true Renaissance man, with careers as Governor of Ohio, Secretary of the Interior, Congressman, President of the University of Cincinnati, and President of the Toledo and Wabash Railway.  But of Cox's postwar careers, his greatest recognition came from being the best participant historian of the Civil War. His several histories of the conflict are to this day cited by serious scholars as a foundation for the memory of many aspects of the war.

Eugene D. (Gene) Schmiel's book, "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," was published in 2014 by Ohio University Press.  It is the first biography of this highly-respected Union general whose accomplishments in the war belie the myth of the incompetent "political general."  Mr. Schmiel is a retired U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer, who now works part-time at the Department of State.  A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he was an Assistant Professor of History at St. Francis University (PA) before joining the Foreign Service.  Schmiel has a Ph.D. degree in History from The Ohio State University, and he coauthored with his wife Kathryn a book about life in the foreign service.

October 8, 1862- Perryville-That Battle That Wasn’t Supposed to Be

As the summer of 1863 waned, the two major armies of the fledgling Confederacy go on the offensive.  One, the Army of Northern Virginia led by the indelible Robert E. Lee, begins what has become known as the Maryland Campaign.  The other, the Army of Mississippi, led by a new general, Braxton Bragg, initiates his Kentucky Campaign.  Both campaigns will test the mettle of the armies and men involved.  Heroes will be created, mistakes will be made and for one general his ability and tactics tested.

The Maryland Campaign of Robert E. Lee culminates with the tactical draw at Sharpsburg, and has been heavily researched and reported. But, what of the other major campaign? What do you know of the Kentucky Campaign, other than the Battle of Perryville coming three weeks after Lee’s return to Virginia?

First Defender Greg Stull will give an overview of the planned Kentucky Campaign and another unplanned battle which, much like Sharpsburg, wasn’t supposed to happen.

Greg Stull has had a lifelong interest in the War for Southern Independence.  He grew up listening to the rich family history being told by relatives during summer visits to his grandparent’s home in Mississippi and his aunt’s farm in Tennessee. He is a descendant of Leonidas Polk, the Fighting Bishop, through his mother, and also had relatives that fought with the 1st Tennessee Cavalry.  In addition to relatives on his mother’s side fighting in the western campaign he also had relatives on his father’s side with the 27th & 22nd Virginia infantry regiments as well as a few on Yankee side with the 6th & 7th Maryland infantry units.

Greg and wife Sherri have four children and two grandchildren (their youngest son is currently serving proudly with the 173rd Airborne). He is also a Lutheran Lay Minister and is employed as an engineer for a steel company.  In his spare time, Greg is a member of the SCV, Meredith Poole Camp.   He and his wife are also active members of Lee’s Lts Army of Northern Va, living history group as well as with the 21st NC Reenactor group.  As living historians, Greg and his wife portray Francis and Lt. General Leonidas Polk.  With the 21st NC, they both take the field as privates.  Greg has given many speeches in first person as Gen Polk over the years at Round Tables (this is his second for the First Defenders!) and organized re-enactments.

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.