Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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Overland Campaign 150th’s first program set in Spotsylvania

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The National Park Service, the Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center, and the University of Mary Washington are pleased to announce the fifth of the Fredericksburg area’s highly popular Years of Anguish speakers forums.

“Presidents and Generals and Descendants, Too” will take place Saturday, April 5, from 1-5 p.m. at Salem Baptist Church, adjacent to historic Old Salem Church on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County, a mile west of Interstate 95. The program is free. No registration or tickets are required. A book signing and reception will follow the main program.

This program is the first event in the National Park Service’s 150th anniversary commemoration of the 1864 Overland Campaign, which will include many special programs for the 150th anniversaries of the Battle of the Wilderness and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

"Rescuing the wounded from burning woods, Battle of the Wilderness"

“Wounded escaping from the burning woods of the Wilderness,” May 6, 1864. Sketch by special correspondent A.R. Waud. (NATIONAL PARK SERVICE)

“Presidents and Generals and Descendants, Too” will feature a mix of formal talks from two renowned Civil War scholars, Brooks Simpson and William Cooper, and a wide-ranging exploration of the trials and joys of being descended from figures of the Civil War era. This program will feature, among others, Bertram Hayes-Davis, great-great grandson of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Other participants will be:

Brooks D. Simpson is ASU Foundation Professor of History at Arizona State University and is perhaps the nation’s foremost scholar on the life and career of Ulysses S. Grant. He is the author of six books, including the acclaimed Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822-1865 (Houghton-Mifflin, 2000), and co-author or editor of ten more. More recently he has engaged the public in discussions about Civil War History through his much-praised blog, Crossroads. His program, “Lincoln, Grant, and the Winding Road to Victory,” will explore the dynamic relationship between Grant and President Lincoln in 1864, as the war roared to its climax and Grant risked all for victory.

William J. Cooper is Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State University. He is the author of two books on President Davis: Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era and Jefferson Davis: American, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2000. A native of South Carolina, a graduate of Princeton, with his PhD from Johns Hopkins, Dr. Cooper has been at LSU since 1980, and is a much-sought-after speaker. He will present, “Bold Strokes: Lee and Davis Make War,” an exploration of Davis’s relationship with his most important field commander, Robert E. Lee.

Bertram Hayes-Davis is the executive director of Beauvior, President Davis’s post-war home in Biloxi, MS. In June 2013, he culminated seven years of effort by opening the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library, an $11.5 million project at Beauvoir. He is a frequent speaker on President Davis’s life and legacy.

The program will be moderated by Dr. Jeffrey McClurken, Professor of History at the University of Mary Washington, and author of Take Care of the Living: Reconstructing the Confederate Veteran Family in Virginia (University of Virginia Press, 2009), and John Hennessy, Chief Historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

A note on access: Salem Baptist Church is located at 4044 Plank Road, Fredericksburg, VA, 22407, next to historic Old Salem Church, owned by the National Park Service. Parking will be in the lots for the modern church, with access off Route 3 (do NOT follow signs to Old Salem Church). Visitors approaching the site from I-95 should proceed straight through the light at Salem Church Road and do a U-turn at the next crossover, returning back through the light. Access to the church parking lot will be on the right.

For more information on this event please contact Tramia Jackson at or John Hennessy at

–National Park Service


  • jsmithcsa

    Thanks. This campaign in that horrible war is my favorite one to study and I look forward to seeing this.