Confederate Cabinet focus of Cal U's Civil War roundtable
Theirs are anything but household names and most unlikely unrecognizable except to a certain few.
Robert Toombs, Christopher Memminger, Leroy P. Walker, Stephen R. Mallory, John H. Reagan, Judah P. Benjamin.
Perhaps if titles were added, as well as a potential giveaway year, 1861, it may help: Robert Toombs, Secretary of State; Christopher Memminger, Secretary of the Treasury; Leroy P. Walker, Secretary of War; Stephen R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy; John H. Reagan, Postmaster General; Judah P. Benjamin, Attorney General.
Ring a bell? Not yet?
As shots were fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., harbor to open the Civil War in April 1861,Toombs, Memminger, Walker, Mallory, Reagan, and Benjamin became the initial Cabinet members of President Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy.
On Thursday, those perhaps somewhat obscure Cabinet members will come to life as Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Joe Mieczkowski addresses the California University of Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable with his presentation, “Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet,” the same title of one of his two books – the other, “Lincoln and his Cabinet” – published in 2011.
In his eighth year as a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg's hallowed grounds, where he brings “a passion to the story of Gettysburg and what happened,” Mieczkowski, 62, recently elected president of the approximately 150 licensed guides organization, admits to developing an appreciation of what happened at Gettysburg later in life, like so many others. But, he added, his interest in Lincoln and subsequently Davis and their respective Cabinets was essentially 38 years in the making.
Having worked for the Social Security Administration for 38 years, “the fact that I worked for the government drew me to this topic,” said Mieczkowski, originally from Reading but who now resides not far from the battlefield. “I began to compile information about Lincoln and about Davis, describing his presidency, and the personalities of his Cabinet. But in lecturing on the Civil War I realized much is available about Lincoln, but not as much about Davis and even less about his Cabinet. Politicians pull the levers of power, generals carry out those orders. In addition to working as a guide, I lecture about critical decision points of the Civil War, decisions Lincoln made which were better decisions than those made by the Confederacy, ultimately leading to the Union victory in the war. Many of the political strategies of the South went wrong.”
Further explaining his findings following years of research, Mieczkowski added, “The South made a huge political miscalculation. Rather than sell its cotton to European nations/factories to make money for the war effort, the South withheld the sale of cotton in a political strategy that backfired and led to the collapse of the Confederacy. Eventually Europeans were able to obtain cotton from other sources. This is unique in that the Confederate government was crippled from within. In addition to military issues on the battlefield, there were considerable internal dissensions in Davis' Cabinet, including the fact that Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, worked to undermine Davis.”
While biographies about Lincoln are falling from bookshelves, “There are some good biographies available about Davis,” Mieczkowski noted, “and there are far fewer books about members of his Cabinet, although they are now out of print.”
However, there is more to Mieczkowski's interest in the respective cabinets and their officers. He is also a living historian, portraying and lecturing extensively at Civil War events about Simon Cameron, wealthy Harrisburg resident, U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, and Lincoln's first Secretary of War. During the Remembrance Day activities in Gettysburg on Nov. 24, Mieczkowski, in top hat and frock coat, portrayed Cameron.
When he is not conducting battlefield tours or wearing his top hat and frock coat, Mieczkowski, who graduated from Salem (W.Va.) College with a degree in human relations followed by graduate work at Penn State in public administration, conducts leadership programs for corporate managers and government executives through FEMA and for the Lincoln Leadership Institute in Gettysburg,
Mieczkowski will address roundtable enthusiasts in the university's Kara Alumni House. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with the meeting starting at 7 p.m. Anyone interested in Civil War history is welcome to attend. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 724-258-3406.
Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- More charges filed against alleged ‘Spider-Man’ robber
- Carroll woman accused of prescription drug scheme
- Trial to begin Monday in Rostraver home invasion
- Youngwood man’s crash knocks out power in Monessen
- Hartman returns to coach American Legion ball in Mon Valley
- California, Pa. native John Messana hit high notes in opera, culinary roles
- Benefit 5K race, bike run planned for Mon Valley
- Solomon Auto Group plans new Ford complex in Brownsville