Nearly 20 years ago I attended my first Civil War Round Table meeting in Washington Pennsylvania. I was about 11 years old and my dad saw a small add in the newspaper advertising a talk on the Civil War. The next week we attended and ever since that night I have been hooked. Personally, I think that a night at a Civil War Roundtable is almost always a worthwhile venture. But some may not know what a Round Table is. Therefore I thought I would write a little about these devoted bodies of Civil War Buffs, for those who may not be familiar with these organizations.
A Civil War Round Table is a collection of folks that have an interest in the American Civil War. The size of the group varies between 10 to 150. Though the number of members may vary, every round table seems to be made up of roughly the same mix of members. There always seems to be one or two members that work hard at scheduling speakers and keep the meeting moving forward. Of course there are the members who come to listen and are there month after month. And then there is the old sage. Every roundtable has that one member who knows a little bit of everything about the Civil War, and are always the go to person in case the scheduled speaker can’t make it.
Some groups will have nationally known historians, while smaller groups may have some speakers you may not know, but are many times just as good as the big names. Many of the larger groups hold annual field trips to historic sites and battlefields.
In my career I have had the opportunity to travel and speak at many Round Table’s. Larger groups normally have a dinner, while smaller groups normally serve to light refreshments. Some are there for the dinner or the cookies, but most are there to be surrounded by fellow buffs and are looking to expand their knowledge on the war.
It is always great to hear the lively discussions of the war over dinner. Following dinner there are normally announcements, a recap of the last meeting, and then the speaker is introduced and they do their thing.
Dinner or no dinner I love to hang around after my talks and speak to some of the members in greater detail. Almost every group has a handful of devotees that do not want the night to end, and want to pick the speakers brain all they can.
To those of you thinking of going to a Round Table and just haven’t pulled the trigger yet, GO. You will not be sorry. Every Round Table I have attended have been warm and welcoming. Don’t feel like you have to be an expert, believe me, there are all knowledge levels there. Plus, with the 150th cycle upon us, many Round Tables have some great topics following the 1862 timeline of the war.
If you should decide to find a Round Table, take your kids or grand-kids. The one fact that always sticks out at every roundtable that the Civil War Community is an aging community. At almost every Round Table I speak, I am the youngest person in the room, normally by 20 or 30 years.
Be sure to check our homepage for a list of Round Tables. If we don’t have one listed in your area do a Google search. Believe me they are out there and not just in the United States. The American Civil War is a hot topic in Great Britain and Europe; and even across the pond there are Round Tables. Plus don’t forget to check our Upcoming Presentations Page, we are always out there speaking on a variety of topics.