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Tri Cities Civil War Round Table welcomes historian Dennis Urban

Submitted by Wayne Strong • Nov 9, 2019 at 4:30 PM


The Tri Cities Civil War Roundtable will welcome a master historian to its November meeting.

Author Dennis Urban will present “Civil War Life and Times in Knoxville, TN 1861-1865” at 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 11, in room 219 of the Toy F. Reid Eastman Employee Center on Wilcox Drive in Kingsport. The program is free and open to the public.

Monday’s event will also include Tri Cities Civil War Round Table’s massive book sale. Those interested in adding to their Civil War libraries will find hardback and paperback books, CDs and DVDs, and magazines available at greatly reduced prices. The sale helps fund future programming.

Urban is a life-long student of the Civil War; his intense interest beginning in elementary school. He grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. within an hour’s drive of many of the significant eastern theater battlefields. He attended high school in Washington, D.C. near the Civil War site of the Harewood Hospital. He’s a 1969 graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in secondary education. His major area of study was the Civil War through which he took many courses and seminars during his college career. He is a consummate researcher, reader and Civil War historian.

The presentation begins by setting the stage of what Knoxville was like in 1861: businesses, population, sympathies, geographic importance and the complexion of the three grand regions of the state. That leads into the two secession attempts. Emphasis shifts to many of the noteworthy families and individuals living in Knoxville — many of them generally unknown except to those who read and study Knoxville Civil War history.

“My purpose is to stimulate interest in Civil War Knoxville and encourage additional reading as well as to show that these were real people living experiences that influenced them for the remainder of their lives,” writes Urban, who stresses this is not a military-focused talk.

A retired fire chief from Montgomery County, Maryland, Urban moved to Oak Ridge in 2004 and retired from the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education. He had concurrent careers in sales and marketing for 25 years and in the volunteer fire service for 35 years. He is a past president of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable having served three terms from 2013 to 2016. Since his move to the area, he studies the Civil War history of Knoxville and East Tennessee. He is designated as a master local historian by the East Tennessee Historical Society. His interests and research have led to the development of several Knoxville-centric presentations.

His first book, “The Making of a Civilian Soldier in the Civil War: The First Diary of Private William J. McLean Along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Affair at Edwards Ferry” was published Sept. 17 by New Academia Publishing. Much more than a simple diary transcription, the work describes the early family history of a young man, a brother, and a father; all who answered Lincoln’s call for volunteers. Researched over many years, this work adds significant new information to the history of the storied 34th New York Infantry.

Prior to every program, members of the Tri Cities Civil War Round Table dine with the guest speaker from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at The Chop House in Kingsport. Anyone interested in joining the group for dinner should contact Wayne Strong at [email protected] or (423) 323-2306 for reservations.

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