Underneath the Civil War:

Dr. Gordon McKinney will speak at this month’s meeting of the Brunswick County Civil War Round Table. Courtesy photo

Dr. Gordon McKinney will speak at this month’s meeting of the Brunswick County Civil War Round Table. Courtesy photo

What: Brunswick Civil War Round Table Meeting
When: Tuesday, March 5th
6:30 p.m.
Where: Southport Trinity UMC
209 E. Nash St., Southport
Cost: $5 guest admission
Info: (910) 253-7382

North Carolina’s Role in the Civil War was based on innumerable inner conflicts, with major events and issues stemming from geographic isolation in the west, regional politics, competing loyalties and more. Along with the impact of Confederate policies, civilian violence, and the resulting abolition of slavery, this month’s Brunswick Civil War Round Table will tackle all of these matters of the past with guest speaker, Dr. Gordon McKinney. His upcoming presentation is entitled, “This Part of the State is in Deplorable Condition: Civil War in Western North Carolina.”

McKinney is a Northwestern University graduate and published scholar, and he has taught history at three universities. Specializing in 19th-century Appalachian history, McKinney has written several books and articles on central and southern Appalachia, including “Zeb Vance: North Carolina’s Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader.”

Since the Brunswick Civil War Round Table’s inception in May 2010, the group has brought outside speakers to the podium to discuss expert knowledge and opinions related to various topics revolving around the civil war. The speaker gives a presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session at the end.

Wally Rueckel is the president of the Brunswick Civil War Round Table. He says that, with co-founder Tom O’Donnell, their group started, literally, around the dinner table with a handful of Civil War enthusiasts and some retired experts.

“All of those folks were in this area and were associated with the topic and knew the history here,” Rueckel shares. “Each had different forums to educate the community. We felt that this area would be right for a Civil War round table … It doesn’t mean it was the best thing to focus on, but it was just what we were interested in very deeply.”

When the round table was first getting started, as Rueckel explains, the group wanted this forum to operate differently than round tables of the past 50 or so years, which often revolve around Civil War battles only.

“We didn’t want it to just be the four years of the Civil War—we wanted it to be about the effects leading up to it and the reconstruction afterwards,” he says. “We wanted to have a broader base, and we wanted to have something about the geo-political environment.”

Aside from the traditional talks of battles, topics have revolved around multiple perspectives, matters of reconstruction and the African American role in the war. Forums have included “Civil War Logistics,” “Exploits of Female Soldiers, Spies and Femme Fatales: Heroes or Harlots?”, and “The African American Experience in the Civil War.”

“The beauty of it is that probably no one likes all of the topics, but they all enjoy them because they haven’t thought about them before,” Rueckel says. “For this round table, we wanted the people to know that North Carolina was not a cookie-cutter piece of the South.”

While the March round table also will cover the large number of Union sympathizers in parts of the state and the troubles farmers and their families faced when they had to leave for war, it will tie in how certain events had a lasting effect in North Carolina.

The communications chairman of the Civil War Round Table, Chuck Roedema, says he doesn’t consider himself a history guru but feels that the appeal of their round table is the wide range of topics, such as this, that draw a diverse membership of more than 550.

“When we look around our round table we see a very different audience; we probably see a majority of people who are not Civil War buffs,” he tells. “But they are just interested in knowing more about this period of history, specifically close to home in the Cape Fear area.”

Though Roedema says the round table also offers participants the chance to socialize with others from the surrounding community, it mainly provides a rare and intimate look into local Civil War history.

“Our meetings are much more than talking about the battles,” he affirms. “It’s really an opportunity to learn about something that very few folks really know about as it relates to North Carolina and [in this meeting’s case] the western part of the state.”

The Brunswick Civil War Round Table will meet Tuesday, March 5th at Southport Trinity United Methodist Church located at 209 E. Nash St. Registration and refreshments begin at 6:30 p.m., and the meeting is free with membership. Guest admission is $5, which may be applied toward the $25 annual membership dues.

For more information about the Round Table or the meeting, contact Wally Rueckel at (910) 253-7382 or visit the club’s website at www.brunswickcivilwarroundtable.com.

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