Why is there still so much interest in the Civil War?
The American Civil War between the Union and the Confederacy began on April 12, 1861 and ended in 1865.
After more than two years of the pandemic, the membership of the Brunswick Civil War Roundtable continues to grow.
Two Civil War enthusiasts, Tom O’Donnell and Wally Rueckel, met at a party in 2009 and their conversation turned to the Civil War. They talked about their interests in battlefield tours, the books they have read, and the Civil War roundtables they have visited or been a member of.
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Having moved to Southport from the northern states, where they attended meetings and helped run round tables, and since Brunswick County did not have a round table, they wanted to start one in the area.
Chuck Roedema, director and president of communications and publicity for the Brunswick Civil War Roundtable, said he thought the reunion announcements sounded interesting, worth following, and as they all live in the middle From this “great Civil War battlefield,” people just wanted to learn more about what happened here over 150 years ago, and in many cases, in their own backyards.
The Roundtable has been organized for people of all ages, genders, or ethnicities, and a major goal is to accommodate people with no real knowledge of the Civil War in order to fulfill the Roundtable’s mission to educate and communicate an unbiased history of the war.
The Roundtable held its first meeting on Tuesday 4 May 2010 at Morrow’s Hall at Trinity United Methodist Church in Southport. Eighty-five people attended, and surprisingly almost half were women. The room had a capacity of 300, but roundtable attendance grew steadily, so in December 2015 the group occupied the North Carolina Baptist Assembly Hatch Auditorium in Ft. Caswell. The auditorium, which includes a balcony, can accommodate 1,000 spectators.
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In September 2020, the Roundtable had to rethink meeting management, as COVID-19 continued to grow and meetings could no longer be held in person. Thus, the meetings were held via Zoom.
The Brunswick Civil War Roundtable is considered the nation’s largest Civil War roundtable, according to an October 2017 edition of “The Civil War News,” a national publication aimed specifically at Civil War enthusiasts. .
COVID-19 caused a setback with the meeting scheduled for April 7, 2020, but at the previous meeting the roundtable had a record 597 attendees, added 25 new members, and set a new record of 1,387 members.
The success of the roundtable is due to outstanding guest speakers. To name a few, actress and educator Carolyn Evans, portraying Harriet Tubman; university professor Derek Maxfield and Tracy Ford, representing Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant; renowned national historian James I. “Bud” Robertson; local celebrity historian Chris Fonvielle; and Jim McKee, site manager at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site.
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The organization returned to in-person meetings in September 2021 with 250 people in attendance and the addition of 32 new members. The total number of members had returned to more than 900, with some still present via Zoom.
A majority of members are over 50, many retired and women. The youngest participant to date is an 8-year-old who participated in January 2019.
The Brunswick Civil War Roundtable has no political agenda of any kind. The meetings are held to study the battles, campaigns, skirmishes, tactics, logistical capabilities, medical treatments, and methods the Union and Confederates employed during America’s bloodiest conflict. The Roundtable does not attempt to justify or perpetuate the political motivations of politicians, leaders, businessmen or advocates from the North or the South.
In asking a question about recent controversies surrounding the Civil War, E. Gifford Stack, editor of Call to Arms (Monthly newsletter of the Brunswick Civil War Roundtable) and member of the Roundtable’s Board of Directors Civil War Roundtable, said the controversies “are centered on monuments in the public domain. The Brunswick Civil War Roundtable does not engage in any discussion of this topic, nor do we want more speakers who advocate and promote loyal views on monuments. There are other organizations for those who want to support such a program. Again, we study the history – from 1861 to 1865 – of this period of transformation in America’s past.
The Roundtable is committed to supporting other nonprofit organizations, primarily in support of Civil War history and preservation and education, both locally and regionally.
The Brunswick Civil War Roundtable meets September through June, the first Tuesday of each month at Hatch Auditorium, Baptist Assembly, Caswell Beach. There is also another roundtable group in Wilmington, the Cape Fear Civil War Roundtable, which meets the second Thursday of each month at Harbor United Methodist Church.
For more information, visit brunswickcivilwarroundtable.com.