speaks about

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
at Ft. McNair Officers' Club, Washington, DC

(see directions here) or (download them in pdf here)

6 pm: Social Hour (cash bar)
7 pm: Dinner ($36 for dinner and lecture)
8 pm: Lecture ($5 for lecture only)

Reservations required by 5:00 pm, Tuesday, Dec. 5th
If you have any problems making reservations online or would like to know about alternatives to making reservations or payments online,
please email Paula Whitacre at <>

About the Topic:
Grierson’s Raid was arguably the most effective cavalry raid of the entire Civil War.

While many of the most famous cavalry raids were launched by Confederate leaders, such as J.E.B Stuart or Nathan Bedford Forrest, this was a Union raid. It was commanded by Benjamin Grierson who, despite a pre-war dislike of horses, quickly proved himself to be a brilliant cavalry commander.
His raid was part of Grant's successful campaign against the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, on the Mississippi River. Grant’s infantry were marching down the west bank of the river, getting into a position from where they could cross over onto the east bank south of Vicksburg. Grierson was ordered to launch a raid through the heart of the state of Mississippi to distract Confederate attention from Grant’s move and force the Confederates to move troops away from the city.

Starting with three regiments (about 1,700 men) located near La Grange, Tennessee, Grierson’s aim was to reach the Southern Railroad of Mississippi and destroy as much of it as possible. From there he could either return to La Grange or head south to the Union position at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

One of the reasons for his success was his willingness to split his force. On April 20, 1863, Grierson sent 175 men (what he called the “least effective portion of the command”) to La Grange with orders to make it appear that the entire expedition had returned. He then headed south with his larger force, fighting a series of minor skirmishes (the Official Records list eleven) and avoiding the Confederates chasing him. 

On April 24, Grierson reached the Southern Railroad and inflicted considerable damage. After learning more about the size of the Confederate forces behind him, he decided to continue south to Baton Rouge, reaching it safely on May 2.

In 16 days, Grierson’s men had marched 600 miles and fought multiple skirmishes, but with limited casualties: three dead, seven wounded, eight sick left behind, and nine missing.  On the Confederate side, however, Grierson claimed in his report to have killed and wounded 100 Confederates, captured another 500, damaged between 50 and 60 miles of railroad, destroyed over 3,000 stand of arms, and commandeered 1,000 horses and mules.

At the end of the raid, Grierson learned that at least 5,000 men had been sent out to capture him, which included a considerable number of Pemberton’s cavalry, detached from Vicksburg at a crucial moment when they would have been better used to watch Grant on the Mississippi. 
According to some, Grierson’s Raid was the most successful cavalry raid of the war for two reasons. First, it played a direct role in the success of Grant's main expedition against Vicksburg. Many of the Confederate raids arguably had no more than nuisance value (although Stuart’s ride around McClellan’s army on the Peninsula in the previous year could claim a similar significance as playing a part in the defeat of that army).
Second, Grierson had successfully taken a large cavalry force through entirely hostile territory in the heart of the Confederacy. Stuart, on the other hand, had been operating in Virginia, and other Confederate cavalry raids were made in friendly parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.

Thus, Grierson’s raid was an early example of the Union’s ability to bring the war to the heart of the Confederacy, which was repeated on a broader scale by Sherman in Georgia and the Carolinas over the next two years.

Adapted from:

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About Our Speaker:  Edwin Cole (Ed) Bearss needs no introduction to this Round Table or to most Civil War enthusiasts. He is a world-renowned military historian, author, and tour guide recognized for his work on the history of the Civil War and World War II.  We are gratified to have Ed as one of our Round Table's lifetime honorary member, yearly speaker, and frequent leader for our field trips and tours.

Ed is the author of numerous books including the definitive three volume series, “The Vicksburg Campaign.” He is a tireless advocate of Civil War preservation, donating his time to many organizations and activities involved with that mission, including serving on the board of the Civil War Trust. Among his many honors, Ed was named by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of its “35 Who Made A Difference.” Since 2005, the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia has recognized Ed’s contributions by making an annual “Ed Bearss Award” to a preservation cause of his choosing. To date, the Ed Bearss Award has provided more than $10,000 to worthy--many times little known--Civil War preservation efforts.

Ed has worked as a historian at the Vicksburg National Military Park, where he conducted research leading him and two friends to the long-lost Union gunboat the U.S.S. Cairo. He also located two forgotten forts at Grand Gulf, Mississippi. Ed rose in the National Park Service (NPS) to the post of regional historian and is acclaimed as more knowledgeable on the Civil War battlefields than virtually anyone else.

During his time with the National Park Service, Ed led efforts for researching, preserving, and interpreting among others: Pea Ridge; Wilson’s Creek; Fort Smith; Stones River, Fort Donelson; the battlefields around Richmond, Fort Moultrie, and Fort Point. Ed was named Chief Historian of the NPS in 1981, a position he held until 1994. He also served as special assistant to the NPS director from 1994 to 1995. After his retirement in 1995, Ed received the title "Chief Historian Emeritus," which he holds to this day.

Ed’s abundance of awards and honors are too numerous to mention. Some of the more recent include: the 2014 DAR Medal of Honor; the Douglas Southall Freeman Award for 2014 in honor of his book entitled “The Petersburg Campaign,” recognized as the best published book of high merit in the field of Southern history; and the Lincoln Forum’s Richard Nelson Current Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.  In addition, the Civil War Trust has established its annual lifetime achievement award in Ed’s name.

Currently, there is a bill pending in Congress (H.R. 2059) sponsored by Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), to recognize Ed, and he may soon receive a new accolade to add to an already lengthy resume: Congressional Gold Medal recipient. For more information about that effort, click HERE or visit

For information about the Round Table and to apply for membership, see the Tab above marked "About Us/ Membership Information" or click HERE


who will speak on


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

at Ft. McNair Officers' Club, Washington, DC
6 pm: Social Hour (cash bar)
7 pm: Dinner ($36 for dinner and lecture)
8 pm: Lecture ($5 for lecture only)
 Reservations required by 5pm, Wed., Nov. 8th
If you have any questions about making reservations online, please email

About the Topic:
For many, General George Armstrong Custer is better known for his exploits and controversies after the Civil War, especially the Battle of the Little Big Horn. His career in the Union army was a success, however, due in large part to his bravery and his audacity.  Described as aggressive, gallant, reckless, and foolhardy, Custer has become one of the most celebrated and controversial figures of the Civil War.

“Come on You Wolverines” Custer leads the Michigan Cavalry Brigade,
Gettysburg - July 3, 1863, by Don Troiani, dated 1980 (used with permission)

On June 29, 1863, Custer was commissioned to brigadier general of volunteers and assigned to command a brigade in Kilpatrick’s division. In that position, he led his men at Gettysburg to prevent J.E.B. Stuart from attacking the Union rear.

Throughout the war, Custer continued to distinguish himself as fearless, aggressive, and ostentatious.  His personalized uniform, complete with a red neckerchief, could be somewhat alienating, but he was successful in gaining the respect of his men with his willingness to lead attacks from the front rather than the back.

During the Richmond campaign in 1864, Custer participated in the battle at Yellow Tavern, where J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded.  He and his men were then transferred to the Shenandoah Valley, where he played a major role in the defeat of Jubal Early’s army at Third Winchester and at Cedar Creek. As Custer's final major act in the war, he led the division responsible for cutting off Robert E. Lee’s last avenue of escape at Appomattox.

In his presentation, Colonel Marc Thompson takes on this controversy, assessing General George Armstrong Custer: Combat Commander and Leader. Colonel Thompson’s presentation begins with a quick review of some of the major academic and professional military studies on combat leadership. Drawing from these studies, Colonel Thompson has offers an assessment methodology to evaluate combat command and leadership and uses this methodology to evaluate Custer’s performance at brigade and division-level command during several major combat actions between 1863 to 1865.

Sources:  Civil War Trust et al.

About the Speaker: 
Marc Thompson is a retired Air Force Colonel, with 28 years of service as an intelligence officer. His assignments included: two Pentagon tours (Air Staff & Joint Staff); two tours at Joint Combatant Command Headquarters, U.S Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base and U.S. European Command at Patch Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany; and a tour as Commander of the 692nd Information Operations Group at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.  Colonel Thompson currently works for Booz Allen Hamilton as a policy consultant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Directorate of Operations (J-3).

Always interested in U.S. History, Colonel Thompson’s focus was the Indian Wars, specifically the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the career of George Armstrong Custer. At the time of his first Pentagon tour (1984-1990), he was still very interested in the career of Custer but, being stationed close to our many Civil War battlefields, many on which Custer had fought, Colonel Thompson decided to visit them. His interest in Custer has never diminished, but his interest in the Civil War mushroomed.

Colonel Thompson is past-president and currently a member of the Executive Board of our fellow CWRT, Rappahannock Valley in Fredericksburg Virginia, a proud member of the National Park Service Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program, and a volunteer tour guide at Chancellorsville Battlefield for almost 15 years.

Colonel Thompson enjoys preparing and presenting Civil War lectures to various CWRTs, and when time permits, leading Civil War Battlefield tours in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. While a student at the NATO Defense College, he had the opportunity to lead a Civil War Staff Ride of the “Gettysburg Battlefield” for over 70 NATO officers.

Colonel Thompson graduated “cum laude” from the University of Puget Sound in 1976 with a B.A. in Political Science, and a Minor in German. He received his Masters of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma.


For information about the Round Table and to apply for membership, see the Tab above marked "About Us/ Membership Information" or click HERE