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Cal U roundtable to focus on Civil War intelligence

| Saturday, March 7, 2015, 5:09 p.m.
Woodward Jr.
Woodward Jr.

With what would prove to be less than a year remaining in the Civil War in July, 1864, as Union troops advanced on Richmond the nation's capital would be threatened by Confederate forces under the command of Jubal Early. Union reinforcements, however, prevented an all-assault on the Capital.

What had gone unnoticed was that approximately 15 percent of the Confederate troops in the Richmond area had somehow escaped detection by Ulysses S. Grant's intelligence chief, George Sharpe, as they made their way to Washington.

Thus, the $64,000 question: how did the Confederate forces escape detection?

“I will tell that story (at the Roundtable),” said a laughing John D. Woodward Jr. not willing to let the cat out of the bag.

Woodward, born and raised in Charleroi, and a 1977 graduate of Charleroi Area High School, “will tell that story” Thursday at the monthly gathering of the California University of Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable.

In addition to Woodward's presentation, “A Union Intelligence Failure: How Did ‘Old Jube' Give the Yankees the Slip?” in an accompanying side-bar story line he tells the story of that Union intelligence misstep, and address the Union's Bureau of Military Information, the intelligence service led by Col. George H. Sharpe.

How, again, did the Union did not notice that action (by Confederate forces)? “That's my presentation,” Woodward, 55, chuckled.

Woodward's interest in the Civil War dates back to his childhood in Pennsylvania, which included summer visits to Gettysburg, he recalls. His father, John D. Woodward Sr. was a World War II combat veteran, having served in North Africa and Italy. As Washington County Recorder of Deeds for over two decades, he attended annual Pennsylvania State conferences, sometimes held in Gettysburg. On several occasions, Woodward accompanied his father to those Gettysburg conferences and the battlefield was always on his “must-see” list, fostering his interested in the Civil War. (Following, incidentally, Woodward's father's death in 1970, his mother, Olga Woodward, became the county's Recorder of Deeds from 1971-1989.)

For the last eight years, Woodward, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in economics, the London School of Economics, London, England, and Georgetown University School of Law, has served, in addition to being an attorney, as an adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, where he teaches courses in international relations.

Woodward will meet Civil War enthusiasts in the Kara-Booker Great Room in the Kara Alumni House. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Additional information may be obtained by emailing or by calling 724-258-3406.

Les Harvath is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

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