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


Upcoming Lectures

The following programs will be streamed on the museum Facebook page.

Recovering the Voices of the Union’s Midwest Irish

Friday, August 14  |  Noon  |  Presenter: Damian Shiels  |  Watch Live on Facebook

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.


I’ve Heard of Her: Queen Liliuokalani

Thursday, August 20  |  Noon  |  Watch on Facebook

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.


The Wounding of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Friday, September 11  |  Noon  |  Presenter:  Dr. Gordon Dammann  |  Watch on Facebook

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.


Virtual Programs

Civics 101

Wednesday, August 19  |  Noon  |  Free but donations appreciated  |  Register Here

Could you pass the Civics Test to become a U.S. citizen? Test your knowledge in a fun trivia competition, while you learn about the American government and history that inspired the questions. Use your smartphone, tablet or laptop to compete.  Advance registration required. This program will be streamed using Zoom.  A link will be emailed a few days before the program.


History Happy Hour:  The First Woman Presidential Candidate

Wednesday, August 26  |  7 – 8:30pm  |  Free but donations appreciated  |  Register Here

Grab drink, settle in to your couch, and get ready for a night of scandal, sexism, and Victorian Spiritualism as museum staff discuss Victoria Woodhull, a suffrage movement leader, a Spiritualism practitioner, and the first woman to run for President of the United States.  Advance registration required. This program will be streamed using Zoom.  A link will be emailed a few days before the program.


Great Lakes Civil War Forum: Command Decisions

Saturday, September 12 | In-Person Check-In 8:30am | Program Begins 9:30am  |  Register by September 9

During this annual forum, four renowned Civil War historians will consider decisions made by Union and Confederate military leaders at several of the most important campaigns of the Civil War: Antietam, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Petersburg.

Presentations and Speakers

The Battle of Perryville

Chris Kolakowski

In 1861 Abraham Lincoln said “I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.” Over ten weeks in the late summer and early fall of 1862, Confederate armies invaded the Bluegrass State in an effort to wrest it form Union control. They retired after a series of maneuvers and battles culminating in the Battle of Perryville on October 8. This talk will examine this critical campaign and battle through some of the key personalities and their decisions.


“Sir I Have No Division:” Command Decisions and Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg

Wayne Motts

Join historian and author Wayne E. Motts as he explores the command decisions surrounding Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. What options did Robert E. Lee have for Confederateforces for July 3? What was Lee’s original plan for the day? What led Lee to decide on a frontal assault? What support and planning did he envision and provide for the charge? What were the consequences of these actions? These questions answered and many more.


Negley on Horseshoe Ridge

Dave Powell

On September 20, 1863, Union General James S. Negley faced a difficult battlefield choice. Negley and two brigades of his decision occupied Horseshoe Ridge on the Chickamauga Battlefield. Though the fight had not yet come to Negley’s sector, much of the rest of the Army of the Cumberland appeared to be breaking and routing around him, fleeing the field. Confederates swarmed to the northand south, menacing both flanks. Worst of all, Negley could not communicate with his Corps Commander, George Thomas; and the only reply he received to a message sent to army commanderWilliam Rosecrans offered no help. Apparently abandoned by higher command, Negley struggled to choose: Should he retreat and save what he could, or stand and try and rally what forces he could. Negley chose to retreat. It was a fateful decision, made under the most trying of circumstances, which ended his career.


Grant, Lee, Butler and Beauregard at Petersburg: June 12-18, 1864

Will Greene

From June 12 through June 18, 1864 the Army of the Potomac and elements of the Army of the James moved to, along, and across the James River, and for four days engaged grossly outnumbered Confederate defenders. At the end of the fighting, Petersburg–Virginia’s second largest city and the key to the Confederate capital at Richmond–remained in Rebel hands. This period created some of the most enduring controversies in Civil War military history. Was Robert E. Lee completely baffled by Ulysses S. Grant’s movement to and across the James? Should Union forces have pushed into Petersburg on the night of June 15 after capturing two miles of the Confederate defense line? Why did Benjamin Butler fail to exploit his opportunity to cut communications between Richmond and Petersburg on the Bermuda Hundred peninsula? Was P.G.T. Beauregard’s generalship at Petersburg brilliant or flawed? A. Wilson Greene will address all of these topics and more in a talk based on his recent book, A Campaign of Giants: The Battle for Petersburg.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in-person attendance to the Forum is limited to 50 people. Therefore, two options are available.  The registration deadline for both is Wednesday, September 9.


In-Person Attendance:  $65 ($55 FOM) – includes all four programs with live in-person presenters, coffee breaks, breakfast snacks, boxed lunch.  Register for In-Person Attendance Here


Virtual Attendance:  $45 ($35 FOM) – includes all four programs streamed live to your home computer/device via Zoom.
Register for Virtual Attendance Here


Past Lectures

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


Gettysburg Stories: Monuments and Iconic Locations

Watch on Facebook

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

Watch on Facebook

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

Watch on Facebook

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

Watch on YouTube

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

Watch on YouTube

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

Watch on Facebook

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

Watch on Facebook

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

Watch on Facebook

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

Watch on Facebook

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.


I’ve Heard of Her: Jane Addams

Watch on Facebook

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

Watch on YouTube

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

Watch on Facebook

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?