Civil War Talk Radio: November 10, 2006

Air Date: 111006
Subject: Joseph Hopkins Twichell, Chaplain of the 71st New York
Book:  The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell
Guest: Steve Courtney

Summary: Steve Courtney, along with his co-editor Peter Messent, has produced a fine volume of previously unpublished letters from a Civil War chaplain, The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell.

Brett’s Summary: Steve Courtney, a journalist with the Hartford Courant, edited the letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell, a Congregationalist minister who ended up becoming the chaplain of the 71st New York, a largely Irish-Catholic regiment.  Courtney mentioned at the top of the show that his co-editor Peter B. Messent is “the foremost Mark Twain scholar in England.”

Twichell’s nearly 900 pages of letters was only recently discovered, showing that new information on the war, even from primary sources, is still very much forthcoming.

Twichell led a fascinating life.  He was acquainted with Dan Sickles before the war, an acquaintance which led to his appointment as the chaplain of the 71st New York (aka the 2ns Excelsior Regiment) despite the religious differences between Twichell and his men and despite the fact Twichell had not yet been ordained.  The chaplain was also a lifelong friend of Mark Twain from when they met after the war until Twain’s death in 1910.

Courtney talked quite a bit about Twichell’s earnestness, especially in his letters to his father.  Although he did have a tendency to be “a bit of a prig”, according to Courtney, he was generally able to get along well with his men.

One other interesting conversation during this episode concerned Twichell’s (surprising considering the age) tolerance of Roman Catholicism.  Courtney said this tolerance came from his friendship with an Irish-born farmhand he knew as a child and his experiences learning about Irish culture as a result.

Civil War Talk Radio airs most Fridays at 12 PM Pacific on World Talk Radio Studio A. Host Gerry Prokopowicz, the History Chair at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, interviews a guest each week and discusses their interest in the Civil War. Most interviews center around a book or books if the guest is an author. Other guests over the years have included public historians such as park rangers and museum curators, wargamers, bloggers, and even a member of an American Civil War Round Table located in London, England.

In this series of blog entries, I will be posting air dates, subjects, and guests, and if I have time, I’ll provide a brief summary of the program. You can find all of the past episodes I’ve entered into the blog by clicking on the Civil War Talk Radio category. Each program should appear either on or near the date it was first broadcast.

Check out more summaries of Civil War Talk Radio at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog.

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