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Inglorious Passages: Noncombat Deaths in the American Civil War

Brian Steel Wills – Speaker for March 18, 2019

Brian Steel Wills is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. In addition to leading tours, offering lectures, and conducting programs, Dr. Wills is the author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War. These publications include biographies of Confederate generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and William Dorsey Pender, and award-winning studies of Union general George Henry Thomas and on noncombat deaths in the Civil War. He is also the current President of the Atlanta Civil War Round Table and a member of the Georgia Civil War Commission. A graduate of the University of Richmond, Va., and the University of Georgia, he spends time on his farm in Virginia when not teaching and working in Kennesaw.

President’s Report

Ireceived an email on Wednesday night, February 13, 2019, alerting me of an auction that was scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 17, at Bluegrass Auction and Appraisal here in Lexington. The “alert” came about because to be auctioned were the contents of the Helm Place on the Bowman Mill Road. That magnificent antebellum house was the home of Emily Todd Helm, the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln and the widow of Confederate Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin Helm, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863. The Helm Place was also the home of long time Roundtable member Joseph B. Murphy and his wife, Mary Genevieve, the daughter of none other than William H. Townsend, the founder and first president of the Kentucky Civil War Roundtable. Townsend had actually acquired the house for his daughter from Benjamin Hardin Helm, Jr.

Oil portrait of William H. Townsend

Among the items to be auctioned was the oil portrait of Mr. Townsend, commissioned by the Roundtable, and painted by Howard Barron of London, England; it hung over the mantelpiece in the parlor of the Helm Place. The portrait was presented to Mr. Townsend by Roundtable Secretary, Hambleton Tapp, on the Tenth Anniversary of the founding of the Roundtable on November 18, 1963 in the ballroom of the Lafayette Hotel. The guest speaker that night was none other than Bell I. Wiley, one of the foremost Civil War historians in America and the mentor of such notable Roundtable speakers, members, and officers, as Charles Roland, Otis Singletary, James I. “Bud” Robertson, and many others. Wiley said that night that Townsend “personified the charm and eloquence of this part of the country more than any man I have known.” Townsend died on July 25, 1964.

I believed that the Townsend portrait was a vitally important piece of the history of the Roundtable, and it was critical that we obtain it. I mobilized a group of Roundtable members – Gary Detraz, Chris Anderson, Bill Farmer, and Neil Rush. Chris, our Treasurer, came up with $300.00 from the Roundtable account; Bill, our Vice President, offered $200.00, and Neil $150.00. Gary performed the bidding. I am happy to report that the Kentucky Civil War Roundtable obtained the portrait of its founder, William H. Townsend! Thank you Gary, Chris, Bill, and Neil. The portrait will be presented to the Roundtable at the March meeting.    

Kent Masterson Brown | President

Secretary’s Report

As we noted in our previous newsletters and again during the January 2019 meeting, starting with the March 2019 KYCWRT meeting, we are “changing the way we do things” to make the meeting RSVP process more reliable and more cost effective.

Unless you have affirmatively opted out of our new process, you will not be receiving a copy of this Newsletter by U.S. Mail (and, as a result, you will also not be receiving an RSVP card for the March 2019 meeting through the mail). To RSVP for the March 2019 meeting, please either RSVP online through the KYCWRT’s website,, by paying for your meal(s) or alternatively, by timely contacting Susie Morton, our Administrator, by email at or by phone or text at (859) 221-7199.

A.J. Singleton – KYCWRT Secretary

If you did affirmatively request to receive the Newsletter by mail, you will still be receiving the traditional RSVP card. Please note, however, that even if you receive the RSVP card in the mail, it is still preferred that you RSVP through the KYCWRT website or by contacting Susie at the email address or number previously stated. Doing so will avoid the possibility that your RSVP card is lost in the mail or not timely received. It will also provide you the comfort of knowing that your RSVP has, in fact, been timely received.

RSVPs Generally: We must still receive your RSVP by the Wednesday before the meeting; otherwise, you (and your guests) are not guaranteed a spot (or a meal). Members (and guests) will not be seated (or presented a meal) without a timely-made reservation.

We must provide the Embassy Suites with our RSVP numbers by Close of Business the Wednesday before the meeting – i.e., 5:00 pm on March 13, 2019.

Guests: Starting with the September 2018 meeting, the guest fee (in addition to the $29 meal charge) is $25 per guest, for a total of $54 per guest. Payment is due in advance by paying for “Single Meeting Dues” online or at the door.

Cancellations: Any RSVP cancellation needs to be received no later than 4:00 pm of the Friday before the meeting (in this case, by March 15, 2019). If you need to cancel, please contact Susie Morton.  If you do not timely cancel your reservation or miss the meeting, you will be charged $29 per person for your reserved meal.  

EMAIL ADDRESSES: If you have a new or different email address and/or your physical address has changed, please remember to share that information with Susie at and/or me at so that we can update our records accordingly.

CIVIL WAR FAMILY PHOTOS AND STORIES: To add content to both the KYCWRT Website and our Facebook Page, we would like to know if you have any photographs of ancestors who fought in the Civil War. If you have any such photos (and any accompanying stories) that you would be willing to share with us so that we could share with others, please let Susie or me know by email. This could prove to be a fun, educational, and rewarding project for our KYCWRT.

Chris Anderson – KYCWRT Treasurer

Treasurer’s Report

The Kentucky Civil War Roundtable finished the 2018 year at a near breakeven thanks to a reduction in missed meals expense and increased income from members’ dues, guest fees, auctions and charitable contributions. Let’s hope this trend continues in 2019 as we attempt to increase membership and hold the line on expenses.

A few of you have commented about the $25.00 guest fee policy. This policy, adopted by the Board in 2018, helps cover our meeting production expenses (which exceeded $15,000.00 in 2018) and encourages repeat guests to become members. The Board feels that $25.00 is a nominal charge for anyone to attend one of our meetings.

Unpaid membership dues and meals were $1,094 as of December 31, 2018. We have since rebilled and or contacted many of these folks trying to collect before the March meeting to avoid deleting anyone from membership for nonpayment by March 31, 2019.

Our membership to date is 342 with the goal of reaching 400. Please consider bringing a guest to an upcoming meeting or recruiting a member to join to help us achieve the 400.

Administrator’s Report

Hello Members!! I want to remind you of a couple of administrative changes taking place with this Newsletter.

This Newsletter marks our full transition to Electronic Mailing!! Unless noted to me, from here forward all KCWRT correspondence will be sent electronically.

Receipt of your electronic newsletter is your reminder of the upcoming meeting and that means you’ll need to RSVP for the meeting without the RSVP card.

How do I RSVP without the card you ask? You can RSVP on the website by prepaying for your meal if you wish. Or you can email me at or text/call me at 859-221-7199.

Electronic mailing is a huge step toward reducing our postage/printing expenses which were well over $1500 last year. Thank you for your assistance with our effort to curb some of our operating expenses.

Looking forward to seeing you at the next Meeting.



The Kentucky Civil War Round Table is the largest in the nation in terms of membership. Membership is open to all. Membership fees entitle you to attend five dinner meetings per year in January, March, May, September, and November (each member must pay for his/her own dinner) and the KY Civil War Roundtable newsletters, as well as access to special events.