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NOTICE: Due to the covid-related meeting restrictions, the December meeting will be "zoom." CWRT members will be sent access instructions via email .


December 11th
David Powell on Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah Valley

David Powell's latest book, Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah, provides a fresh perspective on the May 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign. By shifting attention away from the VMI cadets to the Union military's strategic goals and command structure, Powell adds nuance and depth to a well-studied campaign. (h/t CivilWarMonitor)

The battle of New Market enjoys a status in that belies its small scale. This is largely due to the drama surrounding the participation of the Virginia Military Institute cadets. While the cadets are celebrated for their actions, historians often cast Union General Franz Sigel as an incompetent buffoon who missed a golden opportunity to sweep Confederate forces from the Shenandoah Valley in the days leading up to the battle. As a 1983 graduate of VMI, David A. Powell knows the story of the cadet's actions at New Market very well. Rather than focusing on this well-covered subject, however, Powell's study brings Franz Sigel's role in the campaign to the forefront, placing his actions and decisions in the broader context of Union grand strategy and command structure.

Powell's analysis allows for a greater appreciation of the challenges Sigel faced during the campaign, including Grant's unrealistic timetable for the invasion and the failure of other Union forces to cooperate with Sigel, but he does not exonerate the general. Sigel's reliance on Col. Augustus Moor and Maj. Gen. Julius Stahel, who ignored Sigel's orders to pull back from New Market on the morning of May 15, suggests his questionable judgment. His hodgepodge assigning of units--ignoring the established chain of command--led to confusion on the battlefield. Powell observes that by ordering a counter-charge with shaky, inexperienced troops at a key point during the battle of New Market, Sigel had lost sight of the broader strategic goal of avoiding a catastrophic loss to keep Confederate troops occupied on the field and away from Gen. George Crook's planned advance on Staunton.

Chicago-area resident Dave Powell has published 8 works on the Civil War, including volumes on the Chickamauga and Tullahoma Campaigns, and his latest, Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah.

For our 2020-2021 program year, we proudly welcome these outstanding speakers:

Sept. 11th, 2020: Fergus Bordewich on Congress at War
Oct. 9th: Stuart Sanders on Perryville
Nov. 13th: John R. Scales on General Nathan Bedford Forrest
Dec. 10th: Dave Powell on Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah
Jan. 8th: Jennifer Murray on General George Meade
Feb. 12th: Leslie Goddard presents Clara Barton
Mar. 12th: Greg Biggs, The Nevin-Freeman Address
Apr. 9th: Ron Kirkwood on Too Much for Human Endurance: The Spangler Farm Hospitals
May 14th: Michael Hardy on General Lee's Immortals
June 11th: Wil Greene on Petersburg

Copies of recorded meetings are available for a small charge. Click here for a printable list of recorded meetings. More current meetings can be viewed on Youtube.

Our meetings are held at:

Holiday Inn O'Hare
5615 N. Cumberland, Chicago, IL 60631
Parking at the Holiday Inn is FREE
Map and Directions

Dinner $40.00 Members and Non- Members
Cocktails at 5:30, Dinner at 6:30

Presentation only is $10 per person.
Payable at the door, cash or check. Be there by 7:15. For those attending the presentation only, your reservation is appreciated but not required.
Dinner reservations should be received by Sunday evening prior to the meeting.
Please make your reservation in advance by emailing DinnerReservations@ChicagoCWRT.org with the names of your party or by calling (630) 460-1865
Cancellations: email us at DinnerReservations@ChicagoCWRT.org  or call (630) 460-1865

Dinner choices. The CWRT has gone to a buffet style dinner. The buffet will include caeser salad, pasta, garlic bread, two meats (grilled chicken, meat balls, or Italian sausage) and dessert.