Civil War Roundtable group still growing and learning

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Civil War Roundtable, established in 1993, provides a forum for members to come together for study, discussion and growth concerning the American Civil War. A membership of about 30 encourages respect for and historical reflection about the broad dimensions of the middle period of American history.

Roundtable charter member Mike Hahn said he's always learning something new. At the roundtable and at Rotarian programs on the Civil War, Hahn has presented topics that bring history to life. His great-grandfather, Fred Hahn, served in the Civil War with Company G of the 1st Missouri Engineers. His great-grandfather also worked on the Civil War earthwork fortification (one of three remaining in the state), better known as Fort D, located on the corner of South Fort Street and West Fort Street, a few blocks from the old May Greene School. At the time of his death in 1936, he was the oldest Civil War veteran in Cape Girardeau County.

The Civil War Roundtable will hold "Fort D Days" May 6 and 7 with a grand opening to the public, featuring re-enactors and other activities to be announced.

"It was a wretched time to be in Missouri," said roundtable member Scott House. Although battles in Missouri were not on the scale of those at Gettysburg or Atlanta, sentiment remains strong because Missouri played host to both factions. The location of the state made it advantageous for either side to occupy.

Two brothers from Egypt Mills, Edwin and Eugene Poe, even fought against each other in the Civil War. After the war they put aside their differences and farmed together.

The roundtable group's first meeting was on Halloween night of 1993, and even included an appropriate mascot, a black cat named Bart who has since meandered off. But students, professors, former members, history buffs with Civil War veterans in their family trees and those without, continue to gather 'round the roundtable on the third Sunday of each month at Hanover Lutheran Church to learn more about the Civil War.

A focus on trips to historic sites and reviews of books, movies and TV programs centered around the Civil War were important to the group from the beginning. Charter member Rob Weeks said that at one point they watched all of the Ken Burns series on the Civil War. Weeks adds to the group's resources by making his traveling library, with an expanse of titles on the subject, available to members.

The group has branched out, and day trips to Fort Davidson State Historic site at Pilot Knob, Mo., the Stars and Stripes Museum in Bloomfield, Mo., and museums at Paducah and Columbus, Ky., are taken regularly.

Meeting topics have included "Embalming in the Civil War," "Three Lives Touched by Shiloh" and "Mark Twain's Service in the Civil War," presented respectively by Tony Fleege from SIU-Carbondale, club member Weeks and Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle.

Projects in historic preservation have included the relocation of a Confederate memorial stone from Morgan Oak Street to the Common Pleas Courthouse (financed by Cape Girardeau Daughters of the Confederacy), installing fencing around the cemetery of a family whose ancestors fought on both sides and the ongoing restoration of Fort D with funding from the Convention and Visitors Bureau and private donations, help from the city and a lot of volunteer hours.

Other recent community projects include a library discussion, led by members Scott and Patty House, on "Widow of the South," a United We Read selection, a presentation, "Underground Railroads" by Dr. Frank Nickel, director of the Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University, and a presentation on Fort D at the Family Resource Center's after-school program.

More than 200 Roundtable chapters exist nationwide, with more than 10 chapters in other countries.

New members are always welcome and may be interested to learn that Missouri ranks third in states with the most Civil War sites.

335-6611, extension 133

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