Robert Sidwell, a Kent State doctoral candidate, will speak at the Peninsula Library June 14 on General Robert E. Lee’s staff during the Peninsula Campaign. Sponsored by the Cuyahoga Valley Civil War Round Table, the 7:30 p.m. talk is free and the public welcome.
According to Sidwell, “the education of staff was hardly mentioned even in the Regular Army."
"Regulations focused on how to drill and maneuver small bodies of men on the parade ground or in action, but the only staff functions given any attention were supply requisition forms,” he said. “Neither the Union nor Confederate armies paid any real attention to specific staff training. Neither side had anything like a modern "staff school." Regulations said nothing at all about the duties of 'aides-de-camp,' often the most numerous of all personal staff officers. As a result, staff officers' duties were often literally whatever their generals said they were.”
Sidwell’s interest in the Civil War came early in life.
“My interest in the Civil War began when I was in fifth grade and I found out that the southern commander had the same first name as me," he said. "I checked Ken Burns' "Civil War" out of the local library, and became completely hooked on the story of the states fighting each other.
“I did not have a single book that "drew me in" the way Burns' documentary did. But I heavily enjoyed Craig Symonds' "Civil War Atlas" and William C. Davis' "Battlefields of the Civil War" when I was just getting started. I still heartily recommend them to anyone just beginning to learn about the war.”
He has spent a lot of time at Kent State. “Counting my master's degree years, I have been at Kent State since Fall 2007. I have been working on my doctorate since Fall 2009.”
During this time he spent a year as Assistant Editor of the Journal of Civil War History and studied at the Virginia Historical Society on a Mellon Fellowship.
Sidwell said, “Because of the award, I was allowed to personally handle and examine the Army of Northern Virginia's official order and telegraph books. Additionally, I went to the University of Virginia, where I examined the unfinished and unpublished memoir of Charles S. Venable, one of Lee's staff officers, in addition to several personal letters and an account of Venable's family written by one of his sons.”