Living history: The local Civil War Roundtable includes members with a variety of interests

Monday, April 4, 2011
Dr. Frank Nickell speaks about General Ulysses S. Grant at the Cape Girardeau Civil War Roundtable Sunday, February 20, 2011 at Hanover Lutheran Church. (Laura Simon)

In the fall of 1993, Dr. Frank Nickell gathered a small group together at the Center for Regional History with the purpose of organizing the Civil War Roundtable. There are many similar groups throughout the country -- folks who gather together to study the Civil War and generate interest in local war sites and history. According to Nickell's records, the 12 individuals who gathered that October night officially began The Civil War Roundtable of Cape Girardeau. The group has been meeting ever since.

Typically, they listen to speakers, some of whom are quite well known. The late Dr. John Simon from Southern Illinois University, a noted authority on Ulysses S. Grant, was one of the group's favorites. Every April, the group heads to Fort D to do their part to maintain the 1863 fort and the replica powder house built by the WPA in 1937. Each of the current members comes there by way of varied interests.

C.W. Suedekum, past president, is curious about the military aspects of the war. He enjoys pondering the "what-ifs" for each battle and not just the most famous ones. He imagines the logistical challenges encountered with a "come-as-you-are" infantry led by commanders who had their training on the battlefields of the Mexican-American War -- not West Point or the Citadel.

Mike Hahn, a longtime member, travels to local historical societies to speak about Charles Schenimann's Civil War letters. Dr. Stuart Towns, a member who is also the chair of Southeast Missouri State University's Communication Studies Department, has written several books on the oratorical tradition of the South.

Now might be a good time to mention that an area of expertise is not required to become a member of the roundtable. In fact, the only requirement is that you pay your yearly dues, which, Suedekum noted, have not been raised since 2001. The Civil War Roundtable of Cape Girardeau meets every third Sunday at 2 p.m. in Hanover Lutheran Church. New members are always welcome.

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