The Fourth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge will focus on “Great Defenses of the Civil War” this year. Presenter Chris Kolakowski contends that the Army of the Cumberland’s defense at Stones River ranks among the turning-point events of the war. His talk, “I Will Die Right Here’: The Army of the Cumberland at Stones River,” will focus on that pivotal stand.
“During the Battle of Stones River, the Union forces underwent a near-death experience unlike any large Federal army in the war to that point,” Chris says. “The political and military stakes of this battle were critical. As Lincoln said later, ‘the Union could have scarcely lived over” a Union defeat at Stones River.’”
While the tactical situation on the battlefield was, at times, precarious, the result had enormous strategic implications. “Union fortunes through the fall and early winter were on the downswing, but the Army of the Cumberland’s victory at Stone’s River finally put an end to that, so the army’s defense ended up having major strategic importance,” says Chris. He explores this idea at greater length in his Emerging Civil War Digital Short, “The Union’s Great Crisis: The Fall of 1862.”
Chris was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He received his BA in History and Mass Communications from Emory & Henry College, and his MA in Public History from the State University of New York at Albany.
Chris has spent his career interpreting and preserving American military history with the National Park Service, New York State government, the Rensselaer County (NY) Historical Society, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Kentucky State Parks, and the U.S. Army. He has written and spoken on various aspects of military history and leadership from 1775 to the present. He has published two books with the History Press: The Civil War at Perryville: Battling For the Bluegrass and The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaign: This Army Does Not Retreat, and his study of the 1941-42 Philippine Campaign titled Last Stand on Bataan was released by McFarland in late February 2016. In September 2016 the U.S. Army published his volume on the 1862 Virginia Campaigns as part of its sesquicentennial series on the Civil War. Chris is also a contributor to Emerging Civil War.
Chris lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where he is director of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial.
Tickets for this year’s Symposium, Aug. 4-6, 2017, are available for $125 (order here). They include Friday night’s reception, speakers, keynote address, and historians’ roundtable; Saturday’s line-up of talks; coffee service and lunch on Saturday; and Sunday’s tour of the Brandy Station battlefield.