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The history, the people and the stories of the Upper Midwest


In-Person Programs

The Iron Brigade at the Battle of Gainesville

Tuesday, October 6  |  6:30 – 8pm  |  Instructor: Lance Herdegen  |  $20 ($15 FOM)  |  Register Here

The first mjor battle for the four Western regiments which wold become the Iron Brigade came the late afternoon of August 28, 1862, West of the old battlefield of First Bull Run. for 90 minutes the regiments fought elements of Stonewall Jackson’s army in what would be the opening phases of Second Bull Run. The Blackhats called the fighting Gainesville, but it is known now as Brawner’s Farm. It was the first of four pitched battles in a space of three weeks. Mr. Herdegen examines new sources on the battle, what was learned by the brigade, and how it affected the fighting at Second Bull Run, South Mountain, and Antietam.


The Strange and Supernatural of the Civil War

Tuesday, October 27  |  6:30 – 8pm  | Instructors: Doug Dammann and Jenn Edginton  |  $15 ($10 FOM)  |  Register Here

Explore spooky stories and artifacts during a tour of the Fiery Trial gallery. Lights will be dimmed to show off some of the strange and macabre aspects of the gallery. Did the bodies of deceased soldiers glow on the battlefield? Did Mary Lincoln host seances in the White House and why? Did soldiers have premonitions of their own death before battle? The tour will explore these strange stories and more.


Virtual Programs

Victorian Monsters & Ghosts – Virtual Workshop

Friday, October 16  |  7 – 8pm  |  Instructor: Jenn Edginton  |  $5 (Free for FOM Members)  |  Register Here

Get into the Halloween spirit and learn about witches, vampires, ghosts and more that have haunted since Victorian times. Learn about their dark histories, why they became so popular, and how they have stayed with us today. A Zoom link will be emailed the week of the workshop.


Top Ten Myths of Shiloh – Virtual Workshop

Tuesday, October 20  |  6:30 – 8pm  |  Instructor: Dr. Timothy Smith  |  $15 ($10 FOM)  |  Register Here

There are a lot of misconceptions about Shiloh. Ulysses S. Grant himself remarked that it was the most misunderstood battle of the war. Examine the top ten myth of Shiloh, placing them in context of when they came about and why they are faulty. Only once we have dug out the myths can we then concentrate on the real story.


Ambrose Bierce: One of America’s Greatest Horror Writers – Virtual Workshop

Thursday, October 22  |  6:30 – 8pm  |  Instructor: Steve Acker  |  $15 ($10 FOM)  |  Register Here

The writings of Ohio native Ambrose Bierce combine the graphic descriptions of the Civil War that only a veteran can provide plus the narrative skills of one of America’s great writers. Known as Bitter Bierce, his stories are often sharp satires of human folly, intense journeys into the Civil War, or horror stories sure to keep Stephen King up at night. Examine this little known but highly influential author, his feelings about humanity, and some of his best short stories in both the Civil War and horror genres. A Zoom link and materials will be emailed before the workshop.


Upcoming Lectures

The Other Civil War in Mexico

Friday, October 9  |  Noon  |  Presenter: Phil Angelo  |  Watch on Facebook

At the same time the U.S. was torn apart by Civil War, Mexico was embroiled in its own conflict as France took the opportunity to intervene in Mexico, setting up Maximilian, an Austrian, as the Emperor of Mexico.  Mr. Angelo with discuss how the two conflicts influenced each other, and how the Mexican-Confederate border along the Rio Grande was a key hole in the blockade. Learn about heroic and tragic figures Benito Juarez, Maximilian, his widow Carlotta, and Porfirio Diaz.


Lincoln and the Presidential Campaign of 1860

Friday, October 30  |  Noon  |  Presenter: Doug Dammann  |  Watch on Facebook

As we enter the final week of election campaigning, explore the similarities and differences of modern campaigning to that of Lincoln’s 1860 campaign. Take a look at the daily and monthly actions of Lincoln to discover how he promoted himself, his relationship with his running mate, and how he prepared for the November 6, 1860 election.


Sir Butternut Comes to Madison

Friday, November 13  |  Noon  |  Presenter: Larry Desotell  |  Watch on Facebook

Examine the experiences of Confederate soldiers of the 1st Alabama Infantry, in both the Battle of Island No. 10 and their experiences as prisoners at Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin. Gain insight into their personal background such as age, occupation, income and connection to slavery.


I’ve Heard of Her Programs

Lizzie Borden

Thursday, October 15  |  Noon  |  Presenters: Jenn Edginton & Samantha Machalik  |  Watch on Facebook

Lizzie Borden made headlines as a murderer, but was she guilty or innocent? Learn about the person behind the haunting childhood rhyme, what happened after her parents’ death, and why her legacy continues on.



This monthly program is for individuals living with early to mid-stage memory loss and their care partners. Participants are engaged in lively conversations, storytelling and other multi-sensory activities.

All SPARK! programs are currently being offered virtually. Please register for the free program at [email protected] or 262-653-4141. A link to Zoom will be emailed to all registrants the week of the program.


Storytelling and the Civil War

Friday, October 16  |  2-3pm

Soldiers spent long hours by the campfire, thinking of home, and telling stories of their lives. Authors, like Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, wrote about the Civil War. During this program we will hear stories and write our own.


Past Lectures

*** The following lectures are available to watch online.***


The Great Camel Experiment

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Presented by David Noe. On paper it seemed like a good idea. Beginning in 1856 and continuing in the years leading up to the Civil War, the U.S. Army conducted experiments using camels to transport supplies in the arid regions of the west. This program traces the experiment from its beginnings in acquiring the animals, some of the tests and tasks they performed, why the experiment failed, and what became of the animals after the war.


The Wounding of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

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Presented by Dr. Gordon Dammann. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. began attending Harvard College in 1857. Shortly before he was to graduate, Holmes left Harvard to join the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment, serving as a captain in Company A. During his time in the Union army, Captain Holmes was wounded three times – 1861 at the Battle of Balls Bluff, September 1862 at the Battle of Antietam, and May 1863 at Chancellorsville. At Antietam he was wounded in the neck and left for dead on the field. Instead he recovered and rejoined his regiment two months later. Holmes survived the war and returned to Massachusetts where be began a law career. In 1902 he was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President Theodore Roosevelt and served on the Court for thirty years.  Dr. Dammann, author of five books on Civil War medicine and founder of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, will discuss Holmes’ service with the 20th Massachusetts, the three times he was wounded and his amazing recoveries.


Seceding the Secession

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Presented by Eric Wittenberg. The Northwestern third of the Commonwealth of Virginia finally broke away in 1863 to form the Union’s 35th state. Author Eric Wittenberg chronicles these events in an unprecedented study of the social, legal, military and political factors that converged to bring about the birth of West Virginia.


Recovering the Voices of the Union’s Midwest Irish

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Presented by Damian Shiels. Nearly 250,000 Irish American soldiers and sailors served the Union during the Civil War. Despite their numbers, their experience has remained little-studied outside of famed ethnic formations such as the Irish Brigade. One reason for this is the presumed lack of surviving correspondence from these working-class, often illiterate men. Years of extensive research into a previously overlooked source has now revealed that letters from hundred of these men do exist, and they offer us an entirely new perspective on the Irish experience of Northern service. Using the letters of Midwestern Irishmen, Mr. Shiels’ talk will explore their stories, and what they mean for our perceptions of the Irish in the American Civil War.

More About Damien Shiels

Damian Shiels is an historian and archaeologist. He has lectured and published widely on both social military history and conflict archaeology. He previously spent time as a curator at the National Museum of Ireland, where he was part of the team that designed and prepared the award-winning Soldiers and Chiefs military history exhibition. He established and runs the website.


Gettysburg Stories: Monuments and Iconic Locations

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Presented by Steve Acker.  Veterans left monuments to honor their unit’s deeds and sacrifices. The early preservationists saved key battlefield features so we could walk in the steps of those who fought there. Mr. Acker will use those historical elements, plus maps and images, to tell the stories within the story of the three days fight we know as Gettysburg.


New Philadelphia

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Presented by Gerald McWorter and Kate Williams-McWorter.  The authors of the new book, New Philadelphia, detail the life of “Free Frank” McWorter, an ex-slave from Kentucky who recreated the Illinois town New Philadelphia in 1839 near Hannibal, Missouri. New Philadelphia was an integrated community that became a key stop on the Underground Railroad. The book sets the stage by placing New Philadelphia in the context of the Blackhawk Wars and the Potawatomi Trail of Death, Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, and the travels of European visitors. It also tells the story of the McWorters, the integrated community they built in Pike County, and the ongoing work to find out more of its history.


Arming Ohio

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Presented by Phil Spaugy.  In 1861, when Governor William Dennison found that the federal government could not supply Ohio’s needs for infantry small arms, he resorted to three methods to arm his state’s soldiers: collection of state arms that remained in the hands of local militia companies; procurement of imported and domestic arms on the open market, and modernizing the weapons acquired from the Ordnance Department in April and May, 1861. Mr. Spaugy’s talk will show how Governor Dennison relied upon his staff to accomplish these tasks and procure weapons for the state’s soldiers.


The War That Made Beer Famous

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Presented by Lance Herdegen.  Explore how the love of beer spread throughout the Union Army during the Civil War.


Illinois Regiments at Gettysburg: July 1863

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Presented by Dennis Doyle.  Illinois contributed three regiments to the combat operations during the Summer, 1863 Gettysburg Campaign: The 8th and 12th Illinois Cavalry Regiments, and the 82nd Illinois Infantry Regiment. This program will show how the three Illinois Regiments provided many over-looked but essential military roles during the Gettysburg Campaign. From the firing of the first shot of the battle, to establishing the first hospital at the Gettysburg Train Depot, to one of the first occurrences of house to house combat during the Civil War, Illinois soldiers played a critical role in the battle.


The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War:
A History of the 12th Virginia Infantry From John Brown’s Hanging to Appomattox, 1859-1865

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Presented by John Horn.  The 12th Virginia has an amazing history. John Wilkes Booth stood in the ranks of one of its future companies at John Brown’s hanging. The regiment refused to have Stonewall Jackson appointed its first colonel. Its men first saw combat in naval battles, including Hampton Roads and First Drewry’s Bluff, before embarrassing themselves at Seven Pines. Thereafter, the 12th’s record is one of hard-fighting from the Even Days’ Battles to Appomattox. Its remarkable story is told here in full.


Medical Innovations of the Civil War

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Presented by Trevor Steinbach.  Both the myths and the “truth” about Civil War Medicine will be discussed in this informative session. With over 5 years researching, writing and presenting to the public, you will understand why this was an important transition in medical science leading to discoveries that save lives both on and off the battlefield today.


The Vicksburg Campaign: Grant’s Masterpiece

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Presented by Dan Nettesheim. Compare and contrast Grant’s generalship with John Pemberton’s, placing special emphasis on the decisive maneuver phase of the campaign. We will examine such areas as command and control, relationships with superiors and subordinates, decision making, strategy, and maneuver.


The 29th Wisconsin at Vicksburg

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Presented by Tom Arliskas. The 29th Wisconsin, an untested regiment in 1863, contributed greatly to the Union success during the Vicksburg campaign. The 29th organized at Camp Randall, mustered into the army on September 27, 1862, and left the state for Helena, Arkansas, on November 2. By March 1, 1862, the 29th was assigned to the 13th corps and sent toward Vicksburg. During Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign to take the city, the 29th “fought like veterans” in its first battle at Port Gibson. Later at Champion’s Hill, the regiment advanced across an open field and carried a Confederate position by a bayonet charge, capturing some 300 prisoners, but at a cost of 114 killed and wounded.


Josephine Baker

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Josephine Baker was a dancer, actor, part of the French resistance against the Nazis, and involved in the American Civil Rights Movement. Learn about her life as she rose to stardom despite racial inequality, leaving her home country, and WWII.


I’ve Heard of Her: Queen Liliuokalani

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Queen Liliuokalani was the last monarch of Hawaii. However she was in exile for most of her reign. Learn about her life on the islands before she became queen, how she wrote “Aloha Oe” and why sugar and a U.S. backed coup led to her nation becoming a U.S. territory.


I’ve Heard of Her: Jane Addams

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Jane Addams was a social advocate, reformer, and social worker. Her work in re-imagining how tenement houses worked in Chicago was a catalyst for change in the entire United States. although her life was often overshadowed by her work, she was a driven woman who was involved in the suffrage movement and known for her views on children and gender.


I’ve Heard of Her: Belle Boyd

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Maria “Belle” Boyd was a Confederate spy during the Civil War. So why is she buried near Wisconsin Dells? And how did she get the nickname Belle? Hear stories about growing up in a wealthy family in Virginia, why she felt forced to action in support of the Confederacy, and how she avoided prosecution for her crimes.


I’ve Heard of Her: Betsy Ross

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Betsy Ross has been an iconic woman in U.S. history after General Washington asked her to sew the first American flag. But wait, did that really happen? Who was the woman behind family lore and what is the real story connecting a young woman from Philadelphia to the flag?