Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Meet the Author of Kill Jeff Davis: The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864 - 3/29

University Club Hosts Talk & Signing with Bruce Venter

Historians have largely neglected the story of Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s 1864 raid on Richmond, Virginia – ostensibly organized to free some 13,000 Union men held at Libby Prison and on Belle Isle. Now, recently-uncovered primary sources paint a different picture of what really happened on those wet, snowy days in February and March more than a century and a half ago.

On Tuesday, March 29, author and historian Dr. Bruce M. Venter will discuss and sign his book Kill Jeff Davis: The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016) at the National Register-listed University Club at 141 Washington Avenue from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

A meet the author reception will begin at 6:00 with the presentation commencing at 7:00. A book signing will follow the program, and books will be available for $25.


In this detailed and deeply researched account of the most famous cavalry raid of the Civil War, Venter describes an expedition that was carefully planned but poorly executed. A host of factors foiled the raid: bad weather, poor logistics, inadequate command and control, ignorance of the terrain, the failures of supporting forces, and the leaders’ personal and professional shortcomings. Venter delves into the background and consequences of the debacle, beginning with the political maneuvering orchestrated by commanding brigadier general Judson Kilpatrick to persuade President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to approve the raid. Venter’s examination of the relationship between Kilpatrick and Brigadier General George A. Custer illuminates the reasons why the flamboyant Custer was excluded from the Richmond raid.

The purported goal of the controversial Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid on Richmond (February 28–March 3, 1864) was to free some 13,000 Union prisoners of war held in the Confederate capital. But orders found on the dead body of the raid’s subordinate commander, Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, point instead to a plot to capture or kill Confederate president Jefferson Davis and set Richmond ablaze. What really happened, and how and why, are debated to this day. Kill Jeff Davis offers a fresh look at the failed raid and mines newly discovered documents and little-known sources to provide definitive answers.

In a lively narrative describing the multiple problems that beset the raiders, Kill Jeff Davis uncovers new details about the African American guide whom Dahlgren ordered hanged; the defenders of the Confederate capital, who were not just the “old men and young boys” of popular lore; and General Benjamin F. Butler’s expedition to capture Davis, as well as Custer’s diversionary raid on Charlottesville.

Venter’s thoughtful reinterpretations and well-reasoned observations put to rest many myths and misperceptions. He tells, at last, the full story of this hotly contested moment in Civil War history.
A veteran of 26 years of service in the Albany City School District, Bruce Venter is president of America’s History, LLC, a tour and conference company. This company is best known for its highly successful annual conference on the American Revolution. Bruce is a past president of the Richmond Civil War Round Table, has written articles for Blue and Gray and Civil War magazines and lectures frequently on Union cavalry topics. He will be leading a Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid tour in April for America's History.

There is no cost for the program but reservations are required and may be made by calling the Club at 518-463-1151; by sending an email to ellen@universityclubalbany.com; or on the Club’s website at www.universityclubalbany.com. The event is sponsored by the University Club Foundation and one need not be a member of the Club to attend.

The University Club of Albany Foundation is a 501c3 corporation formed in 2009 to recognize and maintain the unique historic and architectural significance of the National Register-listed University Club building, its historic neighborhood and the city of Albany, where it has been located since its inception in 1901. Support for educational programming at the University Club is provided by AT&T.

For more information about the University Club, visit www.universityclubalbany.com.

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