Welcome to website of the San Francisco Peninsula’s own Round Table. Founded in 1972, we are a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and preservation of America’s Civil War era history. You are welcome to join us on the third Tuesday of each month to hear noted historians and authors speak on various topics related to the War and other history topics. See the MEETING INFO tab above for meeting times and directions. Upcoming meetings:
Join us at Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City, 11:30 on Tuesday, June 20. See the MEETING INFO menu item for specific times and directions. This month’s topic is
Jack Mather on “Two British Generals and the Struggle for Control of North America”
One died and was successful, one failed and lived: James Wolfe, John Burgoyne, and the birth of the United States of America.
Join us at Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City, 11:30 on Tuesday, August 15. See the MEETING INFO menu item for specific times and directions. This month’s topic is
Jim Balassone on “George Henry Thomas”
George Henry Thomas, called “The Virginian” by Abraham Lincoln, is one of the most remarkable general officers of the Civil War. He was never defeated when he was in command of the Union’s forces, was a brilliant strategist and tactician, and was adored by his troops. He suffered the lowest casualty rate and inflicted one of the highest casualty rates on his opponents. Consider the following:
- George Henry Thomas, the Most Successful Union General of the Civil War. Why hasn’t he been given his due? Why is he buried in Troy, NY? His bust resides in Grant’s Tomb!
- Thousands of Southerners fought for the Union but Thomas, born in Virginia, is the focus of the most resentment because he was…. a better general?
- At Chattanooga, he oversaw construction of the Union cemetery; grave layouts were usually organized by States: “Mix them up. Mix them up. I am tired of states’ rights.”
- “We must be as considerate and kind as possible, or we will find that in destroying the rebels we have destroyed the Union,” after the Battle of Atlanta.
- “Just twice was a major CSA army driven from a prepared position in complete rout—at Chattanooga and at Nashville” …Bruce Catton
- Bottom Line: Casualty Rates– Commanding General’s Average (Opponent’s): Thomas 5.0 % (23.3), U S Grant 18.1% (31.0), R E Lee 20.2% (15.4)
Jim Balassone has studied General Thomas for several years. He has read his two primary biographies, walked his “Rock of Chickamauga” stand in Georgia, and generally been infatuated by the man’s character and grace. Jim spent a 45-year career in high-tech marketing, working for IBM, Hitachi, and several smaller firms in Silicon Valley, Europe, and “back East”, and then 12 years teaching business ethics at Santa Clara University before retiring in 2015.
His mother’s great uncle was a member of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Jim has been a student of the Civil War for thirty years, visiting most major battle sites, and voraciously reading the military and biograph masterpieces of this seminal American conflict.
Howard Jones on “John Paul Jones, An American Hero”
Howard’s presentation was about the heroics of John Paul Jones who took the fight for American independence to the British Isles during the Revolutionary War. The epic battle between the American ship, Bonhomme Richard, and the British ship, Serapis, is legendary in naval history. His ultimate victory became the basis for the creation of a United States Naval Academy and a world-power American Navy.
Howard is a Marine Corps Veteran and a graduate of the University of Oregon. He is the immediate Past Commander General of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. He is a former President of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. In addition, he served for 12 years as the Public Member of San Mateo County’s Local Agency Formation Committee, (or, LAFCo). Howard frequently gives presentations about American history to elementary grade school children and heritage groups such as the DAR, SAR and the UDC.
Ruthanne Lum McCunn on “Hidden History: Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Civil War”
In this vividly illustrated talk, Ruthanne Lum McCunn brings to life the amazing stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the Confederate and Union Navies and Armies, including that of Thomas Sylvanus (Ah Yee Way), the veteran whose life she reclaimed in Chinese Yankee. Discussing the subsequent battle of Chinese veterans for citizenship, she also explores an important and virtually unknown chapter in America’s rocky yet persistent struggle towards a more perfect Union.
Ruthanne Lum McCunn is a writer of Chinese and Scottish descent whose award-winning work has been translated into eleven languages, published in twenty-two countries, and adapted for the stage and film. She is most recently the author of Chinese Yankee, the true story of Thomas Sylvanus.
David Ainsworth on “SS Jeremiah O’Brien—Then and Now”
David’s talk covered the geopolitical basis for the Merchant Navy Liberty Ship building during WWII, its peculiar origins, its astonishing achievements, and the distinguished deployment of the ship itself in the Normandy invasion and elsewhere. Finally, he will cover its return to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of Operation Overlord in 1994 and the way in which the old ship—still operating—contributes to the community today.
David Ainsworth graduated from the University of Kansas and subsequently served as an infantry and embarkation officer in the U. S. Marine Corps. He attended Golden Gate Law school in San Francisco and practiced maritime law for thirty five years, first for Matson Lines and then American President Lines, where he served as Vice President and General Counsel. He has also been of counsel to a Washington DC law firm and presently consults for a San Francisco based shipping company. He has authored two novels, In Extremis and The Chasm, both political suspense stories (visit www.davidainsworthbooks.com for details) and is a member of the volunteer crew of the SS Jeremiah O’Brien (docent and Chairman of the Speaker’s Bureau.) He resides in the Napa Valley and enjoys making wine each fall for his house label, Admiralty Cellars.
Gene Paleno on “The Porter Conspiracy”
Gene has written a well-researched non-fiction historical novel about a relatively unknown Civil War Major General. Although innocent, Fitz John Porter was accused of losing a crucial battle and tried and convicted for cowardice and disobedience. This true story reveals the political false reasons for his court martial.
The tale depicts the Second Battle of Manassas in grim, eye-witness accounts of the fighting and dying during three days in August 1862. President Abraham Lincoln’s unhappy part in the tragedy is woven together with the events of that period like threads in a bloody tapestry to create the changes that shaped and changed America for all time.
Gene Paleno has farmed in Lake County for nearly fifty years and been writing even longer. During most of the good part of a century of life Gene has had more occupations and professions than you can count on both hands. He writes to entertain. Gene has written fifteen full-length novels and several collections of stories on a wide range of subjects, and a weekly newspaper column of the animals and people he’s met while he’s farmed…to novels about the Civil War, Lake County history, and Adult science fiction and fantasy.
Asked, “Why do you write?” his reply was, “Because I must. Writing is like breathing. It is the reason I wake each day glad to be alive.” “Besides,” he adds, “Seeing my stories in print and knowing people enjoy reading them is like having Apple Pie… and I love Apple Pie.”
Join us at Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City, 11:30 on Tuesday, January 17. See the MEETING INFO menu item for specific times and directions. This month’s topic is
Jim Rhetta on “Newspapers and Open Source Intelligence in the Civil War”
The Civil War is called the “first modern war” due to the first use of many new and modern technologies. Often overlooked is the fact that it was also the first war that newspapers covered capable of reporting events in less than 12 hours. With the majority of the population literate, this capability produced a new and significant impact on both war efforts that politicians on both sides had not experienced before and were unprepared for. In addition, newspapers frequently printed information of high and timely military value, an action that never occurred before, which enraged generals on both sides. This information is now known as Open Source Intelligence, can be of high value, and is commonly used by all participants in current global conflicts.
Howard Jones on “Cumberland Island: the Story of Patriots, Strong Women, and Incredible Wealth”
Cumberland Island is located along the Georgia coast, just North of Jacksonville, Florida. The story begins with Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Green and his plans to harvest Live Oak trees on the island for shipbuilders. His widow, Caty Greene Miller would eventually operate a large plantation on the island for many years. Included in the presentation are bits of history about the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812 and the Civil War. The topic also touches on the lives of Eli Whitney, Light Horse Harry Lee, and his son Robert E. Lee.
After many years the island would be purchased by Thomas Carnegie, the brother of Andrew Carnegie. Thomas Carnegie’s wife, Lucy, would be the central figure during this period. She would live like royalty in the immense Dungeness mansion they had built on the island. But eventually, the money ran out and her heirs fought over the future of the island. Ultimately, her heirs signed an agreement with the National Parks Service that would allow them to sell their property and still live on the island for the rest of their lives.
Howard Jones is a long-time member of the Round Table as well as the immediate past Commander General of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars.