Civil War history buffs gather for talks with experts, lively discussions about era

Special to The Bluffton PacketOctober 24, 2011 

The Civil War is more than a history lesson to the members of the Lowcountry Civil War Round Table.

The group discusses and debates topics focused on military, social, political, personal and other aspects of the Civil War regularly as part of its goal to educate others about the war. The group has prepared a four-day commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the war for December, but it also holds presentations at least eight times a year for war buffs, historians and others who might find the subject interesting.

On the second Wednesday of most months (September through November and January through May), more than 100 people gather at Bluffton High School to watch a formal presentation from a Civil War scholar. Subjects and speakers for these presentations include an actress who impersonates Civil War characters and discussions of strategy at specific points during the war.

"We tend to get the real experts from throughout the country to come speak at our programs," said Mike Vezeau, communications committee chairman for the group. "One, because we're a very large group, but secondly, because most of us come from other places, we know and have had contact with some of these experts."

On the day after each presentation, members can also attend an informal discussion with each speaker, Vezeau said.

The group has 325 members, most of whom reside in Sun City Hilton Head. However, Vezeau said the group has members from all over the area.

The Lowcountry Civil War Round Table started in 2000 after the Hilton Head Civil War Round Table was disbanded. The organization's goal is to educate and generate interest in the war and its historic sites and monuments. Vezeau said the reason the group has so many participants is because of the location and the type of people who live in the area.

"There's a lot of retired folks that relocated here from other areas, and they brought with them their great interest or their fleeting interest in the Civil War," he said. "Also, with South Carolina pioneering the seccession movement, it's a hotbed of the origination of the Civil War."

For Vezeau, his interest grew after one of his sons became interested.

"When he turned 6, I gave him a Civil War canteen. From that point on, he became highly interested in the Civil War ... . He's attended and given presentations at several other Round Tables."

The group is filled with people with various opinions about the war, making some discussions lively. However, Vezeau said, the group tends to promote speakers who are well known in the Civil War field, and can be trusted to handle each subject professionally.

The next presentation will be at 6:45 p.m. tonight. Guy Hasegawa, an expert in the field of Civil War medicine and author of the book "Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine" will discuss the medicine and treatment of soldiers in the Confederate Army and Navy.

"He's a pharmacist who is going to talk on medical treatment on the Confederate Army and Navy," Vezeau said. "How the scarcity and expense of drugs forced the Confederacy to set up medical labs to make drugs."

As the sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War approaches, the group has helped plan and promote events in the area. From Dec. 1 to 3, several local groups will sponsor events including lectures, theater performances and boat tours, all of which focus on the Civil War in commemoration of its 150th anniversary.

"I would say one of the key things is, the reason the Civil War still has interest is it was a really critical point in the country's history," Vezeau said. "It was one of the points in the time that could have torn the country apart. Emotions are so strong, depending on where you are, about the Civil War and about its outcomes."

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