Below is a listing of many of my presentations. I am always happy to customize a program for your venue or event.
The Union Prisoners at Camp Douglas
Camp Douglas, on the south side of Chicago, was Illinois' largest training camp. More than 40,000 volunteers mustered here. In February 1862, the camp was converted to accommodate Confederate Prisoners of war. About 24,000 Confederates were held there during the war, of which 6,000 died. The story is well-told. Yet lesser known is the story of the thousands of Union POWs who were held in the camp while awaiting parole. This is an account of their troublesome experiences.
Major General John Eugene Smith, Galena's Forgotten General
Galena, Illinois, was a lead-mining and riverboat port in northwestern Illinois during the Civil War era. The town boasted nine generals who served in the war, most famously Ulysses S. Grant. But another general was arguably more important in the early days of the war. This is his story.
Abraham Lincoln and the Common Soldier
Abraham Lincoln spent every single day of his presidency surrounded by soldiers. He interacted with them, and mutual trust and devotion grew between them. Soldiers came to regard the president as Father Abraham. How and why this occurred is the focus of this presentation.
The Civil War Generals: Comrades, Peers, Rivals in their Own Words
A study of the opinions that Civil War generals of both sides expressed about their friends, enemies, and rivals.
Chicago's Memory of the Civil War
A discussion about the Windy City's portrayal of the Civil War in its public art, parks, and cemeteries and how the memory and significance of these have changed over time.
Chicago Fights the Civil War
An overview of Chicago's role during the Civil War, including leaders, military units, and local activities and events.
The Rise and Fall of the Grand Army of the Republic in Chicago
The Grand Army of the Republic was the largest veterans' organization after the Civil War. The G.A.R. was especially important in Chicago. The legacy of these veterans is with us today, but public awareness has faded with time. This is the story of this legacy.
The Changing Memory of the Civil War
The Civil War was the most important era in United States History. A divided Union fought a fratricidal war that had unending consequences. The human toll exacted left all sides with a quest for meaning and a need to memorialize the huge sacrifice and heroic service. As the nation bound its wounds, reconciliation was facilitated by memorializing leaders of both sides. Over time, the meaning has been lost, as modern thinking refuses to understand the relevance of some monuments and advocated their removal.
The Murder of Major General William "Bull" Nelson
In September 1862, Union General Jefferson c. Davis shot his superior, General William Nelson in cold blood and in front of numerous witnesses. Davis was arrested but ultimately was not prosecuted. This is the story of how this occurred. Robert's insights into the investigation are based on his 25 years as a Chicago Homicide Detective.
Gouverneur K. Warren's Last Battle; The General and the Historians
Gouverneur K. Warren is remembered as the Savior of Little Round Top. He was highly regarded for his education and competence but also accused of being too cautious by the generals who removed him from command. His record belies this, however. But Warren has suffered in the history book because of the long reach of his enemies. Here, the facts are reevaluated with some unpleasant revelations.
Civil War Artifacts
A discussion of the various items used by soldiers in the Civil War, including uniforms, equipment and weapons. Artifacts and reproduction items are used to illustrate this presentation, which is designed to promote audience participation.
The Life of a Common Soldier in the Civil War
Designed as an interactive presentation suitable for school classes in both middle and high school. The talk is also appropriate for older audiences. A discussion of the life and experiences of Civil War soldiers and the transition from civilian to military life. Using artifacts and reproduction items, covering a variety of topics including food, medicine, and military drill.
Civil War Corps Command
The American Civil War brought forth armies larger than anything previous in our history. No generals were prepared to handle armies of the scale needed to prosecute the war. This is an examination of how the corps structure came into effect and how some generals performed within the scope of their new responsibilities.
The Engineers at Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 1862 was a disaster for the Federal army. But it needn't have been. The army's engineers were late in arriving with the necessary bridging equipment to cross the Rappahannock River. An all-day effort under fire ultimately succeeded, but not without dire results. This is a study of how and why this occurred.
Civil War Engineers
Most students of the Civil War are drawn to the massive battles, tactics, and personalities of the great conflict. Less well-known is the role of the support services. Here, the role and many vital responsibilities of engineers in the war are discussed.
Railroad Defense in the Atlanta Campaign
In May of 1864, William T. Sherman advanced upon the city of Atlanta. His campaign forced him to rely upon a vulnerable 473 miles supply line along the route of the railroads. this is an in-depth examination of the means Sherman used to protect his communications deep within enemy lines.
Illinois Fights the Civil War
An overview of the role Illinois played in the Civil War. Although no battles were fought in the state, it played a decisive role in the outcome of the war.
The Midwest Fights the Civil War
An overview of the contributions of six states in the Union heartland during the Civil War.
An overview of the battle of Gettysburg is illustrated with the artwork of Keith Rocco.
A discussion of how leaders of the North and South allowed their own personality conflicts to interfere with the operation of the war's progress.
The Union High Command at Chancellorsville
A study of the high command in the Army of the Potomac in the period between the Battle of Fredericksburg and the battle of Chancellorsville.
Success and Failure in the Heartland: Leadership at Forts Henry and Donelson
An examination of the effects of Union and Confederate leadership on this decisive campaign in 1862 highlights both the mistakes and right decisions that were made.
Abraham Lincoln's Doctor's Dog
An irreverent look at some of the Civil War's bizarre, unorthodox, and ridiculous events.
Illinois at Andersonville
Almost 900 Illinois soldiers died while imprisoned in the infamous P.O.W. camp in south-central Georgia. here is the story of their experience and the effort to erect a monument to them.
Illinois' Civil War Prisons
This is the story of the four prisoner of war camps in Illinois during the Civil War resulting in the deaths of more than 10,000 Confederate soldiers.
William Passmore Carlin, the Fighting General
A study of this Illinois general. Carlin was highly regarded for his competence on the battlefield, but his combative nature caused him trouble with some of his superiors.
The Little Giant and the Big War: Stephen A. Douglas and the Civil War
Senator Stephen A. Douglas was Abraham Lincoln's staunchest political rival. This is a look at how this man affected the Civil War, despite his death on June 3, 1861, before the worst of the war had begun.
Dark Horse: The 1860 Republican Convention and the Nomination of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago
Abraham Lincoln was a dark horse candidate for the Republican nomination, but a variety of circumstances made it possible. Not the least of the reasons was the location--Chicago.
Leonidas Polk and the Fate of Kentucky in 1861
The State of Kentucky attempted to remain neutral in the opening days of the Civil War, but the strategic city of Columbus demanded attention from both sides. Confederate General Leonidas Polk occupied the city in September 1861, an act which cemented Kentucky for the Union cause.
The Real War Will Never Get in the Books
An evaluation of the accuracy and veracity in many of the widely consulted primary sources of the Civil War.
Non Civil War
Shadow Over Chicago: Al Capone and the Windy City
A look at how Al Capone and his reputation are remembered in Chicago.