The Southern Indiana Civil War Roundtable (SICWRT) was founded in 1957 by Gordon “Bish” Thompson, a newspaper columnist with the Evansville Press. That year on April 9, 1957 – the anniversay of the Battle of Appomattox Court House – the group hosted Gen. Ulysses S. Grant III. Proclaimed an “honorary citizen of Evansville” by Mayor Vance Hartke, Grant surveyed briefly his grandfather’s early history and highlighted some of his campaign experience.
The SICWRT (initially called the Civil War Rountable of Vanderburgh Court House) was a popular and vibrant group. Each year it hosted an annual Appomattox Day Banquet, perhaps borne out of the group’s first high profile speaker on the anniversary of that battle.
By 1979, after a strong run of over two decades, the SICWRT had become defunct. However in 1990, perhaps inspired by Ken Burns’s Civil War documentary, the group was resurrected with great success. Ron Keeping, Ron Harper, and Tim Hermes – the new organizers – met on the third Tuesday of each month at the Newburgh Library. Keeping acted as the “un-official chairman” at the time. As the SICWRT had done before its hiatus, the group heard from guest speakers and reviewed Civil War memorabilia. One month, the roundtable even re-enacted the Battle of Shiloh with miniatures.
In 1991 the SICWRT acquired a replica cannon to display in the Newburgh Library. The cannon, which was made of hollow sheet metal, was built by Dale Brand, owner and operator of a sheet metal company. It was left to the roundtable by Brand’s widow.
Change occurs in any organization and that held true for the SICWRT as well. After an extended period of meeting in Newburgh, the SICWRT returned to its roots in the early 2000s under the leadership of Tom Murray and met in Evansville at various public library branches. More recently the group has met on the third Thursday of each month at the Evansville Fraternal Order of Police in downtown Evansville.
Throughout its history the SICWRT’s traditional approach has remained the same – good speakers, good fellowship, and respect for the rich history of the U.S. Civil War.