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.
Walter Day presents “Civil War Combat, the Battle of Shiloh”
Walter presented a re-enactment of Shiloh, which was the first major battle of what was to be a long and bloody war. The reenactment video was supplied by The History Channel DVD entitled “Civil War Combat,
America’s Bloodiest Battles”.
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.
Howard Jones on “George Washington and the Battle of Yorktown”
Yorktown was the decisive battle of the war and it ultimately resulted in our independence.
The Revolutionary War was entering its fourth year. Somehow, General George Washington had managed to keep the Continental Army intact against superior British forces. Then in 1778, the Americans won a stunning victory at Saratoga. This victory was the War’s turning point.
The French had waited for such a victory before they would support the American cause. In 1780, some 6,000 French troops were landed at Newport, Rhode Island under the command of General Rochambeau. These forces would later unite with the Continental Army in New York. Washington had always believed that the War’s deciding battle would be fought in New York.
As the joint forces prepared to attack they received a message from the Marquis de Lafayette who commanded a small detachment of troops near Williamsburg, Virginia. General Lafayette told them that the army of General Charles Lord Cornwallis had gone into winter quarters in Yorktown. Lafayette believed that Cornwallis could be attacked and beaten at Yorktown. A victory at Yorktown might just end the war.
In 1781, Washington decided to attack! The presentation will detail the story of Washington’s 400 mile march from New York to Yorktown. It will describe the 20 day siege that ended with Cornwallis’ surrender. And finally, it will tell the story of the 1783 Treaty of Paris that guaranteed America’s freedom and independence.
Howard Jones is the immediate past Commander General of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. Several years ago he was asked make a presentation to a fifth grade class about the Revolutionary War. He dressed as a Continental Soldier for the presentation and the kids loved it. Since that time he has given the same presentation dozens of times to both elementary school children and adult heritage groups.
Walter Day hosts “Spotsylvania Courthouse: The Clash of Grant and Lee at the Crossroads”
Walter hosted the Wide Awake Films documentary. For nearly two weeks in 1864, the titans of the Civil War—Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant—clashed violently, for the first time, at the crossroads of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia. Recorded during the 140th anniversary reenactment of Spotsylvania, this film highlights thousands of reenactors in a variety of media formats, from the ultra high resolution of high-definition video to the authenticity of archival looking film. Utilizing Wide Awake Films signature Civil War Combat Cameraman footage, Spotsylvania Courthouse is the first documentary of its kind. Winner of 2006 Telly Award.
Arthur Henrick on “Stories from the Battlefield: The Henry Rifle or the 16-shooter during the Great Rebellion”
Arthur’s talk concerned and displayed a modern reproduction Henry. He included quotes from actual accounts from enlisted men and officers on how they used and appreciated the expensive and treasured 16-shooters that Rebels called “that damn Yankee Rifle, loaded on Sunday and fired all week” and the resistance to its deployment in the Union Army.
Arthur also brought dummy modern rounds and an actual Henry round, and displayed the rapid cycling of a Henry. He also brought a fancy engraved 1866 Henry (also known Winchester Yellow Boy) that was introduced in 1867.
Arthur W. Henrick, a frequent presenter at the Peninsula Civil War Round Table, is a Civil War, Roman, and World War II reenactor.
Meg Groeling on “Lincoln on the Third Ballot!: The 1860 Republican Convention”
Meg Groeling just laughs at the antics of current politicians, knowing they pale when compared with folks from the past. One of the most famous “brokered” conventions was the one held in the Wigwam, in Chicago, in 1860. Champagne, oysters, promises made and hearts broken–all while Elmer Ellsworth’s Chicago Zouaves performed on the stage, keeping the doors open and giving David Davis and Ward Hill Lamon time to wheel and deal. We at least got Abraham Lincoln out of it! Who knows what will happen this time? Plus she is bringing Lincoln/Hamlin campaign ribbons! Maybe Harry’s Hofbrau will supply the champagne . . .
Farragut was raised in the south and married into a Virginia family that supported secession. When Virginia left the Union, Farragut and his wife had to decide within 24 hours which action to take. Farragut decided to support the Union; he and his wife went to New York. At the age of 60 Farragut brought 50 years of naval experience to the U.S. Navy. Jack’s presentation was the story of the man and his career.
Jack Mather is a long-time member of the PCWRT and is well read on broad historical topics. Jack is a retired teacher of history at both the high school and college level.
Joan Larrabee on “Lt. Vincent Scally’s WWII Memoirs of China-Burma-India”
Vincent Scally Sr. was born in 1916 in Honolulu, Hawaii, into a military family. He saw his first airplane as a child at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and knew that someday he too would fly. He enlisted as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces in October, 1941. He served as a B-25 Navigator in the China-Burma-India Theater from June, 1942, until October, 1943. He flew “The Hump” several times. The B-25 “The Spirit of ’76” carried a crew of six and flew two missions a day, providing there were sufficient bombs and fuel.
While he was in China, Vincent’s wife Betty kept a scrapbook of news articles, telegrams, photographs, and other materials. In later life Vince wrote about his World War II experiences in a memoir entitled “Hurry Up and Wait.” His experiences in China as a young man in his 20s were to have a profound impression on him and was to affect him and his family his entire life.
Joan Scally Larrabee sailing west up the Yangtze River to Chungking
Vince’s Number One Daughter, Joan Scally Larrabee, was born while he served in China. She grew up in Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, England, Georgia, Alabama, and Guam while her father continued his service in the US Air Force. She earned an A.B. Degree in history at Stanford University and a Masters in Urban Planning at San Jose State University. She began her career at the City of San Jose in 1974 at the San Jose Historical Museum (now History San Jose), and later worked for the City in the fields of community services and transportation. Joan first visited China in 1980 and again in 2000. Using her father’s memoir and her mother’s collection of historical materials, Joan presents a program on his WW II experiences.
Dana Lombardy on “1914: Firepower and Maneuver in the West”
Could Germany have won the Great War in 1914 or was their strategic plan doomed to failure?
The popular impressions of World War One on the Western Front are usually of the stalemate of trench warfare. But it did not start that way. There was open warfare for the first two months, with German armies nearly reaching Paris before they were stopped. Trench warfare also earned more than one general the sobriquet of “donkey” who led lions, but in 1914 about one-third of the French and German generals were replaced or fired for failing to meet expectations. Why did the German armies nearly win, and why did they ultimately lose in 1914? Dana Lombardy presented a new look at the critical first 45 days of the war in the West.
Dana Lombardy was an Associate Online Editor for Armchair General magazine and now does research, writing and design through Lombardy Studios. Dana is best known for his nearly twenty television appearances, including multiple episodes of The History Channel’s “Tales of the Gun” series. He has contributed as an editor, cartographer, graphic artist and designer on many books, games, and magazines, and was Publisher of Napoleon Journal from 1996 to 2000.
Jack presented a wide-ranging look at the issues of U.S. History and the teaching of same, starting with Parsin Weems, then Charles and Mary Beard, and ending with James McPherson and the Texas Board of Education. Jack will include themes such as “manifest destiny,” “no frontier,” “the melting pot,” “courses and results of the civil war,” and more.
Current issues include removal of statues, renaming of buildings, and activism on the college campus.
Meg Groeling on “My Spirit Passing By: Sullivan Ballou’s Story”
Meg told the story of Ballou’s personal aftermath of the First Battle of Bull Run.
Meg Groeling currently teaches math at Brownell Middle School, named for E. E. Brownell, a California educator who was named for Colonel Elmer Ellsworth and is related to Corporal Francis Brownell, the man who shot the man who killed Ellsworth. She has also taught at other public schools in California and Maryland. She contributes to World At War and Strategy and Tactics, history and war-gaming magazines. Her undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in American History was from California State University, Long Beach, and she will receive her Masters degree in History, with a Civil War emphasis, in January 2016.
Savas Beatie published her first book, The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial of the Civil War Dead, in the fall of 2015. This is a volume in the Emerging Civil War Series, although it differs from the others in that it takes on a much broader range of subjects. The book has received excellent reviews.
She has also written First Fallen: the Life and Times of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the only biography written about Ellsworth since Ruth Painter Randall’s, published in 1960. In it, she challenges some of the assumptions made about Ellsworth and uses his life as a lens through which to view the attitudes and events of the urban North prior to the Civil War. Southern Illinois Press has picked it for publication sometime within the next two years.
She is a regular contributor to the blog Emerging Civil War, exploring subjects beyond the battlefield such as personalities, politics, and practices that affected the men who did the fighting.
Chris Palmer on “Ten Crucial Days: The Trenton–Princeton Campaign, December 25, 1776–January 4, 1777”
After the Battles of Long Island and White Plains and losses of Forts Washington and Lee, Washington retreated south. The British army pursued and the Revolution appeared to be lost. Washington made it across the Delaware but General Lee dallied and was captured. Washington was trying to pull together other retreating army units to Pennsylvania and regroup. Many American enlistments would end on December 31 and the situation was dire. The British were issuing citizen pardons in New York and New Jersey, Loyalists rejoiced and sent peace feelers to end the conflict. Howe was becoming certain it would end and went into winter quarters in New York and Cornwallis prepared to go home on leave. Washington decided to strike before the end of the year at the Trenton, New Jersey garrison of British and Hessian troops. The campaign over the next ten days turned the Revolution around and both sides knew a long conflict would follow.
Chris Palmer is a professional geologist with emphasis on hydrogeology and engineering geology. His geologic practice is throughout the greater Bay Area with occasional work in other states, mostly in groundwater production and contaminant assessment. Originally an east coast native (New Jersey), Chris has lived in California for nearly 43 years. While his profession is geology, his avocation is history. As a life-long history student he is especially interested in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, history of science, and general historical topics. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution Silicon Valley Chapter and is the color guard commander, showing color at various parades and supporting veteran groups in the Bay Area.
Charlie Sweeny on “World War II Submarine Appendectomies”
Undersea warfare has many inherent dangers beyond those provided by the enemy. Among these are the high probability of a life threatening disease, injury or medical conditions. Submarines face an additional hazard in that they typically operate far from hospitals or large surface ships and the WWII boats had low submerged speeds. Each vessel must be capable of operating on its own.
Charlie Sweeny has not only Navy Medical experience as a Corpsman, but made a civilian career of hospital administration.
Chris Palmer on “Bleeding Kansas: A Brief look at the Struggle for Kansas Statehood and the First(?) Battles of the Civil War”
1855 Free-State poster in Kansas Territory, calling for action against slavery supporters and slavery-supporting laws (Wikipedia)
The Kansas–Nebraska Act was passed in 1854 and settlers started to move into the new territory. Neighboring Missouri was a slave state since 1820 and realized a “threat” to their possible slave expansion west. A part of the Kansas–Nebraska Act was popular sovereignty where residents could vote for or against slavery. Missouri did not want a neighboring free state and flooded Kansas to get political control of the territorial legislature. “North and South Rights” are debated for free men to vote their fate while property rights slave holders see their liberty intruded upon. If Kansas is admitted slave, slavery may expand throughout the US rendering the Missouri Compromise of 1820 moot. Things escalated as political forces built on Free-State and Border Ruffian sides with voting problems, intimidation, beatings, theft, and general mayhem. As a shooting conflict starts in 1856, will Kansas enter as a free or slave state?
David Moore on “William S. Rosecrans and the Union Victory”
David described how General Rosecrans fought in our theaters of the war: West Virginia 1861, Northeast Mississippi 1862, Tennessee 1863, and Missouri 1864. He explained why relatively few people today know much about him and about the political machinations that caused him to be removed from command four times. He raised the question of whether Rosecrans deserves to be more remembered today and what should be done to achieve that. David also touched on the general’s personality. He has been called the only general of genius on the Union side and his interests ranged from engineering to theology.
David Moore has been a history guide on the east coast with a particular concentration in his native Washington DC/mid-Atlantic region for more than 35 years. He accidentally came upon the story of General Rosecrans while looking for the grave of Mary Surratt, and has spent more than 20 years researching and writing his book.
Howard Jones on “How the United Daughters of the Confederacy Saved Lee Chapel”
The story begins with Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House and moves to Lee’s time as President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. One of Lee’s first acts as President was to plan for and construct a chapel on the campus. The chapel would be used for both daily worship and school assemblies. The chapel was completed in 1868 – just two years before the death of Robert E. Lee. The name of the college was changed to Washington & Lee immediately upon Lee’s death.
On January 24, 1912, Dr. Henry Louis Smith became the President of Washington & Lee. He soon began a campaign to raze Lee Chapel and replace it with a larger and more suitable structure. Initially he received support for this project from all quarters. But a small chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Lexington did not share Smith’s vision. In fact, the ladies would begin a letter writing campaign that would transform the issue into a nationwide debate. The story of their valiant efforts to save Lee Chapel is the topic for this presentation.
Walter Day hosts “Civil War Journal: The Commanders”, part 2
Walter hosted a video presentation, Civil War Journal from the History Channel. This episode was titled “Sherman and the March to the Sea.” This video is part of an acclaimed series from The History Channel that chronicles the American Civil War. The series uses archival photographs, diaries, articles, re-enactments, and scholarly commentary to tell the story of the War Between the States. This episode chronicles General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march to the sea. Leaving Atlanta in flames and ashes, Sherman’s troops waged a scorched earth campaign from there to the coast, disheartening the Confederacy. Hosted by Danny Glover and produced by The History Channel.
Chris Palmer on “Invasion of the Chesapeake – War of 1812 Bicentennial Defense of Washington and Baltimore”
Bombardment of Fort Henry, 1814 (Wikipedia)
Chris presented an overview of the British raiding of the Chesapeake in 1813 and 1814 and the Battles of Bladensburg at Washington and North Point, Hampstead Hill, and Fort McHenry at Baltimore. Most of the land War of 1812 had been fought along the Canadian border, around Niagara and Great Lakes, with some naval actions on the Lakes. The British were trying to end the American war and to harass and to divert US forces from the real British objective of attacking Plattsburgh, New York. The British hoped that having finally defeated Napoleon, they could end the American war and perhaps take back portions of New England and secure the Canadian border by the two-prong simultaneous action in the Chesapeake and taking Plattsburgh and defeat the American army at the same time. The Chesapeake raiding forces’ goals were to harass and panic the Americans, bottle up US Navy ships, and prevent privateers from escaping Baltimore to raid British shipping. Privateers were a real irritant and the British commanders wanted to make the “den of pirates” in Baltimore pay by taking McHenry and then Baltimore.
Chris Palmer is a practicing geologist and hydrogeologist consultant working mostly on applied groundwater contaminant problems, and some engineering geology. Most of his work is in the Bay Region and at times he has worked in other states over the last 34 years. He is a life-long amateur historian, mostly American history as well as world history and history of science.
Walter Day hosts “Civil War Journal: The Commanders”
Walter hosted a video presentation, Civil War Journal from the History Channel. The episode was titled “West Point Classmates: Civil War Enemies.” West Point was influential in both sides of the American Civil War, as graduates from the prestigious academy would become combatants in the fight between North and South, but the conflict could not destroy the bonds that originated in school. Hosted by Danny Glover and produced by The History Channel.
Libra Hilde on “Native American Experience during the Civil War”
Stand Watie, Cherokee leader and brigadier general, CSA
Libra Hilde is an Associate Professor at San Jose State University. She did her undergraduate work at UC Berkeley and her graduate work at Harvard. After completing her Ph.D. in 2003, she spent two years teaching at Stanford University. Dr. Hilde’s research and teaching interests focus on 19th century America, particularly the Jacksonian period, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and women’s history. She also has a strong in background in 19th and 20th century Native American history. Her first book, Worth A Dozen Men: Women and Nursing in the Civil War South, was published in the Spring of 2012.