It seems like the Rocky Mountain Civil War symposium has snuck up on me this year. That's mostly because I'm not as involved this year as in previous years, especially last year. I knew my involvement would have to be severely curtailed with a baby at home. Some days it seems that getting anything accomplished at home is a big accomplishment, then other days multi tasking with a baby is a breeze. So I'm glad I don't have any symposium worries to also attend to. I'm sure next year I'll take on a few more tasks for the symposium but it might be awhile til I'm back to my normal workload.
In any case this is going to be a wonderful event that I'm glad to be attending. Although I work at every event (some more than others) I go to hear the speakers. Each year has had quite a good group, and this year is no exception. This year the theme is the making of Ulysses S. Grant as a commander.
There need to be a few battle themed presentations to show the growth of Grant and some of the obstacles he faced. The two battles picked were Shiloh and Vicksburg. Shiloh because it is really Grant's first major battle. Not disrespecting Fort Donelson but Shiloh is a much bigger battle. Vicksburg shows Grant overcoming many obstacles and growing as a leader to achieve one of the more important victories of the war. In my mind the top Shiloh authors are James Lee McDonough, Tim Smith, Larry Daniel and Wiley Sword. There are others of course but if we're looking to secure a major Shiloh historian these are the four I think of first. McDonough and Smith have spoken at previous symposiums and Sword will join them this year. Shiloh is my main interest so having had the opportunity to hear from three of the top Shiloh historians over the past few years is a real treat and hopefully we'll be able to get Daniels out in the future.
A large number of prominent historians have explored Vicksburg, especially recently it seems like Vicksburg is getting its due more and more. I'm excited that John Marszalek will cover this campaign for the symposium. I know Marszalek from his Sherman work but he is also now the Executive Director and Managing Editor of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, taking the reins after the departure of John Y. Simon. I'm sure his intimate access to Grant's papers will allow him to bring a unique perspective on Grant's handling of the campaign. Also Grant's papers have now been put online which is a fabulous researching tool.
Then its important to discuss Grant's work as general-in-chief. The two battle presentations have shown his growth as a commander so its only logical to have a presentation that covers the final year of the war when Grant had an impact on the entire war effort. Gordon C. Rhea seems like a great fit for this as his books covering the the 1864 Virginia Overland campaign are an incredible series, and Grant's impact is covered in each one. I'm not sure who better could fill this role.
At each symposium we have a presentation that doesn't follow the normal pace of battles. At the first event covering the Western Theater through Stones River it was a biography of Alexander Stewart, done by Sam Davis Elliott. Last year the theme was Lee's two Northern invasions and the extra presentation covered the differing methods of preservation utilized at Antietam and Gettysburg, by Tim Smith. This year the extra talk will be about the relationship between Grant and Rawlins by Peter Cozzens, another top notch Western theater historian.
Finally there needs to be an overview of Grant. There are a ton of biographers to pick from but my personal favorite is Brooks Simpson. One of my favorite books is his "Let Us Have Peace" which covers Grant's understanding of the politics of war. It changed my view of Grant as a commander and put me well onto the path that Grant's genius had more to do with winning the war than it being simply a matter of numbers. The first stories many of us read make it out that the Confederacy generally had better generals but that they lost due to the quantity of men the North could muster into service. Now I know that the Union was equal in quality as well, just suffered early in the war when its lesser talented generals faced the best the Confederacy had to offer (think Lee versus Pope at Second Manassas or Jackson in the Valley).
So the final panel consists of Brooks Simpson, Peter Cozzens, Wiley Sword, John Marszalek, and Gordon Rhea. Any one of them individually would be enough to entice me to attend the symposium, but having them all at one event makes this year a must see event (though to be fair there has not been one presentation previously that I did not want to see).
The day will end with a panel discussion and time for books to be signed. As always there will be a book room with a ton of good books and deals. I'll have a blog post showing all of the great books in a week or so. I saw the list the other day and was impressed with the variety of books. There is only one so far I want to get but that's because I already own every other book that will be there.
Tickets will be $50 again, which also includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Click here to order your tickets today. Tickets are selling at double the pace of last year. We're in a pretty big auditorium so I don't anticipate it being a sold out event but you should order your tickets today so that you do not run that risk.
If you have any questions please contact us at RockyMtnCWRT at aol dot com.