Discussion in the Round, by Greg Bayne
The Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter, Volume 7, Number 1
British folklore has it that King Arthur met with his men at a round table, treating them as equals as they talked about, well, king stuff. Today, Civil War discussion groups often are called "round tables." While members may range from the professional historian to the beginning re-enactor, and comprise of both men and women, the talk is open and all opinions are welcome. While these groups exist throughout the world, it seems very fitting that this month's article comes from a member of a very large and active Civil War Round Table in England.
Think of Civil War Round Tables and you can probably name quite a few. If asked to name the oldest ones then you might guess Chicago (1940), Milwaukee (1947), and Atlanta (1948). But, did you know the United Kingdom has one of the oldest Round Tables? The American Civil War Round Table (ACWRT-UK) was formed in 1953 as the "Confederate Research Club" by a small group of friends with a common interest in the American Civil War.
Subsequently the club was renamed. Membership grew and grew and now, in its fifth unbroken decade of existence, it is one of the longest standing Round Tables in the world. We recently celebrated its Golden Jubilee, held over a weekend, which attracted Ed Bearss, Joe Whitehorne and Frank O'Reilly to visit and attend as speakers. JEB Stuart IV was guest of honour at our dinner.
The aim of the ACWRT (UK) is to promote and advance interest in, and knowledge of, the military, naval and civilian history of the American Civil War 1861-65. Membership stands at nearly 300.
The ACWRT(UK) holds on average six meetings a year, including an annual luncheon, usually in Central London. The usual format is for a presentation by a guest speaker or a fellow member of the Round Table, followed by a question and answer session. The organisation produces its own magazine, Crossfire, which is published three times a year. It contains articles from eminent US Civil war personalities, as well as material supplied by our own Round Table members.
The society encourages original research into a range of subjects, in particular the activities of Britons engaged in the War. We especially inform one another of UK sites with an American Civil War connection. We have been involved in a number of preservation projects and we are very active in supporting American Round Tables to help them to preserve battlefield and heritage sites in the USA.
The Round Table has recently initiated a $500 challenge - we promise to raise at least $500 dollars towards a preservation cause if challenged to do so by another Round Table or preservation group. We are currently fundraising toward the restoration of the Confederate 1st National Battle Flag at Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters Museum in Winchester, Virginia.
For further information about this, our other activities, or to sample an edition of Crossfire, visit our website at www.americancivilwar.org.uk
Let me know if you would like to propose a fundraising challenge. The next could be one that you suggest - please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Greg, for taking the time from your Round Table activities, as well as your real job, to share the story of ACWRT-UK with us.
Greg's interest in the Civil War started early and came easily. He spent his early childhood in the US, and his American father traces his own roots to Virginia. Greg tells us that while other CWRT members have a variety of regular jobs, their common interest draws them together to make their lively and robust group continue to thrive after more than 50 years.