Historian to speak at Civil War Living History Weekend


SIDNEY — Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, educator, and Kennesaw, Georgia, resident Michael Shaffer will be traveling to Sidney, Ohio, for the biennial Civil War Living History Weekend Sept. 17-18. Shaffer, the author three books and hundreds of articles on the Civil War, will make two presentations on Saturday and one on Sunday. He will also bring the most recent book he’s authored and offer it for sale.

Published in February, Shaffer’s most recent book is entitled “Day by Day Through the Civil War in Georgia.” The book offers a daily account of the social, political, economic and military events that took place in Georgia during the 1,630 days just before succession through the end of the war.

Shaffer will talk about the Civil War in Georgia on Saturday morning. In the afternoon, Shaffer will talk about the Atlanta Campaign.

The Atlanta Campaign will be of particular interest to local residents. Quite a number of soldiers from Shelby County were involved in the Atlanta Campaign, several of them losing their lives during that battle.

The Atlanta Campaign began on May 7, 1864. It continued until Atlanta fell on Sept. 2, 1864, setting the stage for Sherman’s March to the Sea.

The titanic struggle began when Major General William T. Sherman began battling Confederate General Joseph Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. Although the Army of Tennessee, numbering 53,800, was the largest in the South at the time, it was severely outnumbered.

Sherman’s forces included Major General George H. Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland, Major General John M. Schofield’s Army of the Ohio, and Major General James B. McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee totaling more than 110,000 troops. Shaffer will skillfully tell the story.

On Sunday, Shaffer’s topic will be Stoneman’s Raid. One of the last major actions of the war, Shaffer will expertly weave the story of how Major General George Stoneman’s cavalry, some 6,000 strong, entered North Carolina from Tennessee in late March,1865, intending to cut off Confederate General in Chief Robert E. Lee’s escape routes in the event of his expected defeat in Virginia.

Shaffer holds both BA and MA degrees with honors in Military History with an emphasis on Civil War studies. He currently teaches courses on the Civil War at Kennesaw State University and at Emory University. In addition, Shaffer is a member of the Society of Civil War Historians, Historians of the Civil War Western Theater, and the Georgia Association of Historians.

“I grew up in Virginia,” Shaffer said. “There were 120 Civil War battles fought in Virginia, so growing up, evidence of the Civil War was all around me.”

“I think I was 12 when my parents took my brother and me to Saltville,” Shaffer continued. “From that point on, I was hooked.”

“In school, so much of what is taught in history class took place hundreds of years ago in distant countries,” Shaffer explained. “I think the immediacy of the Civil War and not needing a passport and lots of money for travel were also factors for my exposure to local battlefields on family trips.”

“Fast forward to 2011, I moved to Georgia to take the position at Kennesaw State University,” Shaffer said. “I began collecting materials for teaching purposes and as the collection grew, knew that I’d eventually use the letters written by soldiers and the documents I’d found to write a book.”

“Then the pandemic hit. In addition to teaching, I had speaking engagements across the country that from March 2020 on, were canceled,” Shaffer explained. “In fact, my entire calendar was erased. Rather than just be quarantined, I began writing.”

“About half-way through, I was diagnosed with cancer, and had major surgery in April 2021. It took a couple of months of recovery before I even felt strong enough to sit at a keyboard and continue,” Shaffer noted. “Fortunately the book gave me something on which to focus following surgery, and following fifteen months of actual writing, I was able to submit it to the publisher in November 2021.

The book, “Day by Day Through the Civil War in Georgia,” joins his other works including “In Memory of Self and Comrades: Thomas Wallace Colley’s Recollections of Civil War Service in the 1st Virginia Cavalry” and “Washington County, Virginia in the Civil War.” Copies of all three books will be available for sale during the weekend.

“I am delighted to welcome Michael Shaffer to Sidney’s Civil War Living History Weekend,” Event Chair Mike Barhorst said. “He had planned to attend the event in 2020, but of course, that event was cancelled due to the pandemic. I look forward to finally meeting him in person after so many phone calls and email messages.”

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