A Brief History of
the Sacramento Civil War Round Table
By Dr. Donald J. Hayden
The Sacramento Civil War Round Table (SCWRT) was founded in June 1961 by
five Directors who were named Sherrill Halbert (Sacramento), James H.
Oakley (Sacramento), Charles B. Leavenworth (Rancho Cordova), J. T.
McMenamin Sacramento), and Chester Gannon (Sacramento). Founded as a
not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, the Sacramento CWRT is one of the
oldest Round Tables in California. No records remain of those early days
except the Articles of Incorporation and the By-Laws. The mission was
and is to perpetuate interest in the Civil War, further the collection
of Civil War relics and weapons, preserve Civil War records, impart
Civil War knowledge, and encourage visits to Civil War sites.
Establishing the Round Table may have been the 100-year anniversary of
the War, however, the exact reason(s) is unknown.
The Round Table Founders' interest was probably historical but many
members may have been re-enactors and, as in later years, the
demonstration and firing of period weapons and obtaining gunpowder
became an important, if not the primary, interest of the Club. Bill
Donaldson has been a member of the Sacramento CWRT since the 1970s and
said the Club had few members at that time. Bill became President in
1976 and the Round Table grew to about forty members. His tenure led to
a revision of the Corporate Articles and By-Laws and the addition of
monthly speakers and a newspaper, the Battle Cry. Members of the Round
Table frequently attended and participated in public events and parades,
and made educational presentations at schools and other venues. Monthly
meetings were held at various places around Sacramento and sometimes in
members' homes. In 1977, Eric Ericson volunteered his theater on R
Street as a regular meeting place. Annual dues at that time were six
dollars per family.
During the 1980s, the group continued along the same path. Lectures were
given more frequently and public appearances continued but slowly the
members drifted away. Eugene R. Morrow was the President in the
mid-eighties and some meetings were attended by ten or less members.
Efforts were made to increase attendance. Ken Hansgen became the
Secretary and was excellent at preserving records and recording the
minutes of the Round Table. Ken retired and moved to Savannah, Tennessee
in 1996 and became a tour guide at Shiloh National Battlefield.
In the 1990s, new members joined in large numbers, maybe in part to the
Ken Burns' 1990 documentary "The Civil War." Many are still with the
Round Table; Carol and Steve Breiter, George W. Foxworth, John Zasso,
Mitch and Ardith Cnota, Fred Bohmfalk, Paul Ruud, Donald J. Hayden, and
others. Carol became the President in 1994 and slowly changed the
monthly meeting format to educational presentations. Carol was President
for multiple years. George became the Treasurer in 1994 and remains at
that post to this day. At his first meeting as a new member in 1996,
Walt Bittle volunteered as Secretary where he remained until he moved to
Warrenton, Missouri in 2004. Fred Bohmfalk became the first Editor of
the Battle Cry in 1995, followed by Bernardo Buenrostro in 1997 and Paul
Ruud in 1999. Up to 1995, the Battle Cry was published by the President
with a host of other duties. In 1998, Jerry Russell from Civil War Round
Table Associates of Little Rock, Arkansas, asked the Sacramento CWRT to
host the 16th West Coast Civil War Conference. In 1999, the Sacramento
CWRT joined the computer age and a website (http://www.sacramentocwrt.com)
was set up by Bernardo Buenrostro and Steve Breiter. Bernardo became the
Webmaster at that time and remained until 2007.
In the year 2000, the Sacramento CWRT hosted the 16th West Coast Civil
War Conference in Sacramento. The speakers were Wiley Sword, Brian
Wills, Herman Hattaway, Tom Cartwright, and Jim Stanbery. The subject
was "Shiloh", and Fred Bohmfalk was the Conference Chairman. Paul Ruud
was elected President in 2001 and served for multiple years. He was
followed by Dennis Kohlmann and Don Hayden who also served for multiple
years. Jim Middleton became the lifetime Battle Cry Editor in 2001. In
2006, the Sacramento CWRT hosted the 22nd West Coast Civil War
Conference and the subject was War on the Waters. Dennis Kohlmann was
the Conference Chairman and the speakers were Ed Bearss, Craig Symonds,
Dennis Ringle, Kevin Foster, and Jim Stanbery.
Since the untimely death of Jerry Russell in 2003, most Round Tables
(except the San Joaquin Valley CWRT) have not hosted the Annual
Conference. Generally, the Sacramento CWRT always has the highest
Conference attendance and continues to support the Conference. To
further that tradition, the Sacramento and Elk Grove CWRTs are hosting
the 27th Conference in 2011 and the subject is 1861. The speakers will
be Craig Symonds, Brian Wills, William C. (Jack) Davis, Jim Stanbery,
and Larry Tagg. Paul Ruud is the Conference Chairman.
Finally, the Sacramento CWRT serves as tour guides to lead
Sacramento-area children at the annual Gibson Ranch Civil War
Re-enactment Schools Day Program, sponsored by the National Civil War
Association (NCWA). The NCWA uses living history to help the public to
better understand the American Civil War. By portraying the manner in
which the soldiers and civilians lived, worked, fought, and died during
the Civil War era, the NCWA hopes to keep alive the spirit and sacrifice
made by the men, women, and children of that time. This is the Program
that is presented to about 2,700 to 3,000 students each year. Upon
request, the Round Table continues to provide Civil War presentations to
other Round Tables, schools, and civic groups. For additional
information about the Sacramento CWRT, such as presentations, meetings,
location(s), and dates, go to the web site at http//www.sacramentocwrt.com.
The Sacramento CWRT plans to maintain an active Club and the Board of
Directors are discussing how we might further the mission that was
established by our Founding Fathers in 1961. The Board is also
researching and writing a comprehensive history of the Round Table. Our
hope is that the importance of the American Civil War in this nation's
history will not be forgotten.