Dr. Bob Asnard on “CSS Shenandoah”
Bob recounted the story of the C.S.S. Shenandoah from when she was the Sea King, being built in English docks, fitted-out in the Azores, her various escapades, as well as her final battle with the New England Whaling Fleet of the Arctic.
Jack Mather on “The Lees”
Honor in 18th and 19th Century America, an examination of dueling and a study of a family that lost honor and then regained it.
Charlie Sweeny on “Thugee: The Murder Cult”
Our loyal secretary presented a program of how the British Raj eliminated this hereditary tribe. An entire Hindu religious group of murdering thieves was given a 19th-century Final Solution. Charlie notes that the wonderful 1938 movie Gunga Din, was a fictional account of Thugee.
Libra Hilde on “Confederate Politics” (postponed from the July meeting)
Dr. Hilde’s talk considered the initial goals of the Confederacy and how the war undermined these goals. While Southerners intended to preserve the Old South and their way of life, fighting a war of this magnitude led to unanticipated political, economic, and social change. While the focus will be on Confederate politics, there was a brief discussion of economic and social revolution. The Radicals in the South began the war with a vision of states’ rights, but the South became, like the Union, a far more politically centralized nation in an effort to successfully prosecute the war. The second part of the talk focused on Confederate politics and the internal tensions between those who pragmatically recognized a need to centralize power and those who refused to temper their state’s rights stance. In the end, opposition to Davis, particularly from governors, severely compromised Southern unity. Internal political divisions over habeas corpus, control of arms, conscription, and problems created by a one party political system were also addressed.
Hal Jespersen on the “Seven Days Battles”
In the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan landed his Army of the Potomac at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and slowly advanced up the Virginia Peninsula in an attempt to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. At the indecisive Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), the Confederate commander, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, was severely wounded and soon replaced with Gen. Robert E. Lee. In late June, Lee launched a series of attacks against McClellan that have come to be known as the Seven Days Battles, including the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines’s Mill, Glendale, Malvern Hill, and a few other (comparatively) minor engagements. Some historians describe the Seven Days as a campaign, others as a lengthy battle with daily engagements. If you subscribe to the latter view, the Seven Days ranks behind Gettysburg as the second bloodiest battle of the war, with approximately 36,000 casualties. Hal gave a brief overview of the initial movements and battles in the Peninsula Campaign, and then describe each of the Seven Days in detail. He also discussed the strategic importance of the campaign and gave his opinions on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the two opposing commanders.
Hal Jespersen is the webmaster for the Peninsula Civil War Round Table. He is a retired software industry executive and engineer who is currently busy as a freelance cartographer. You can visit his Civil War mapping website at http://www.cwmaps.com, and his Civil War travelogues at http://www.posix.com/CW.
Howard Jones on “George Washington and the Battle of Yorktown”
The Revolutionary War was entering its forth 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! Howard’s presentation detailed the story of Washington’s 400 mile march from New York to Yorktown. It described the 20 day siege that ended with Cornwallis’s surrender. And finally, it told the story of the 1783 Treaty of Paris that guaranteed America’s freedom.
Walter Day on “The Red River Fiasco”
In March of 1864, Adm. David Dixon Porter started up the Red River with an overpowering naval force. Two months later, the Union Admiral was lucky to emerge with any of his most prized warships.
On April 27, 1864, the combat core of Porter’s powerful Mississippi Squadron idled helplessly on the wrong side of shallow water near Alexandria, Louisiana. The army he counted on for mutual support was defeated, in retreat and verging on panic. Confederate forces, once so easily cowed, now swarmed the riverbanks eager for payback. A river that should have been rising was instead falling. Porter faced one of two impossible choices: surrender his fleet or destroy it.
Hanging in the balance was Federal control of the Mississippi River and the career of one of the Navy’s most storied admirals.
Walter Day is a retired Microwave Electronics Engineer with 53 years of experience in the field. He is a great-grandson of a Confederate Infantryman. He has been interested in Civil War history for decades and a member of PCWRT for the last decade. Walter has served as President and is currently the Program Chairman.
Lt. Col. John Stevens on “The 1st Marine Brigade, The Fire Brigade, in the Pusan Perimeter”
Summary provided by Charlie Sweeny: This gallant siege was a desperate fight by unprepared UN troops against North Korean invaders.
In June of 1950 the North Korean Army suddenly attacked its southern neighbor. The merciless flood was easily able to defeat the totally surprised South Korean Army. President Truman and the United Nations went to help the South. The U.S. Army and the Marine Corps ordered available troops to the Korean peninsula and sent them into action. Continue reading
Charlie Sweeny on “Some Aspects of Slavery”
Charlie covered slavery in ancient history, slavery in recent history, and slavery today.
Dana Lombardy on “Stalingrad: Hitler’s Lost Opportunity, 1942”
The battle of Stalingrad was one of the greatest turning points of World War II. This presentation offered insights into the strategic options, operational flaws, and tactical developments using charts, photos and diagrams to help explain how the city combat evolved over two months (September to November 1942). Was German defeat inevitable, or could operational brilliance overcome strategic blunders?
Dana Lombardy served as online editor for the Weider History Group, publisher of America’s Civil War, Civil War Times, and nine other historical magazines. He is also known for his nearly twenty television appearances, including multiple episodes of The History Channel’s “Tales of the Gun” series. Dana 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.
René Accornero on “Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain”
René presented a detailed accounting of the life of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, from his birth, to his early academic career, to his service in the American Civil War, and finally his life in politics and as a university president.
Bob Asnard on “April, 1865. The Month that Saved America”
(No description provided.)
Jack Mather on “What Did You Do During the War, Daddy?”
Jack gave us a look at both well known and little known Americans who were draft eligible during the Civil War. The following description was provided by Charlie Sweeny.
Jack’s presence contributes greatly to his most thorough approach to the topic. We heard about the 1863 military conscription with the purchase of substitutes (Abe Lincoln paid $500 for his) as well as the New York and Cincinnati draft riots. Noted Union and CSA veterans were cited. Included were Eli Lilly and George Westinghouse. JP Morgan joined the substituters. George Robinson earned a gold medal for protecting Seward from one of Booth’s assassination gang. Henry James was physically unfit. George Roosevelt (FDR’s third cousin) lost a leg at Gettysburg. Paul Revere’s grandsons were: Dr. Edward, KIA at Antietam, and Joseph, KIA at Gettysburg. Jonathan Letterman reorganized battlefield rescues and triage (Antietam was cleared of all battle casualties in 24 hours; in prior times, soldiers lay on the field for up to five days with no help), and so forth. It was an amazing presentation. Thank you, Jack, for another engrossing time.
Stephen Aguirre on the “5th New York Volunteer Infantry, Duryée’s Zouaves”
Stephen covered one of America’s most significant Zouave units, the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, Duryée’s Zouaves. None attained a more exalted reputation for military bearing, proficiency of drill, and discipline under fire, than Duryée’s Fifth New York. The 5th New York was one of perhaps fifty regiments uniformed in the colorful North African style of the French Zouaves, whose exploits in the Crimean War had gained them world-wide fame. The 1860 tour of a champion militia unit, the U.S. Zouave Cadets, led by young Captain Elmer E. Ellsworth, had firmly established the Zouave style in the American public’s mind. The 5th New York was but one of many units born in the “Zouave Craze.”
Stephen Aguirre is an amateur Civil War historian, reenactor and lecturer. Professionally he is a high technology strategic planner and was previously a licensed Architect. He is an avid reader on Civil War histories with a particular interest in American Zouave units. Stephen has been an active member of the American Civil War Association for twelve years, serving as the Battalion Sergeant Major for the last 4 years. He is a active member of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, Camp 4 Phil Sheridan, San Jose, California, currently serving as Junior Vice Commander. Stephen holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from University of Southern California, Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, and Master of Electrical Engineering work from San Jose State University. He lives in San Jose, California with his lovely wife Taija and their sagacious Wire Fox Terrier, Aalto.
Francis Hamit on “The Queen of Washington”
Francis is the author of the novel The Shenandoah Spy and talked about his follow-on work about renowned Confederate spy Rose Greenhow, The Queen of Washington. The following description was provided by Francis:
I am not a pure historian, but rather a creator of historical fiction focused on the Confederate Secret Service and Navy (and they were parts of a whole). My first book, published in 2008, was The Shenandoah Spy. It was about the first year of Confederate Army spy and scout Belle Boyd’s career. Belle used a lot of classic intelligence techniques in her espionage, including seduction of enemy officers. The second book in the series is The Queen of Washington and is about Washington society grande dame Rose Greenhow, who also used her “feminine wiles” to gather critical intelligence for the Confederate government. Continue reading
Rene Accornero, DVM, on “Horses in the Civil War”
The horses of Capt. Bigelow’s battery
Rene’s discussion on horses in the Civil War included man’s relationship to the horse and why over a million horses and mules died in the war. The ancestral horse was discussed as well as purchasing horses, care and diseases of horses, and horses in battles such as in the Peach Orchard and the Bliss farm in the Battle of Gettysburg. Pictured on the right are some of the eighty-eight horses of Capt. Bigelow’s battery killed at the Trostle farm. Famous horses of generals were mentioned and the fact that Gen. Grant permitted the Confederates to keep their horses after the surrender at Appomattox.
Ray Cosyn on the “The Lincoln Funeral Train”
In April 1865 two major events occurred in the United States that continue to resonate with us today. One was the ending of the Civil War, the other the assassination of our president, Abraham Lincoln. Within one week of Lee’s surrender to Grant, our president was gunned down in Washington, setting off an event that reached millions of Americans in that time of great stress. That event was the Lincoln Funeral Train. The train was intended to allow Lincoln’s casket to be seen by as many as possible in the time available. The train followed a route that brought it to the major population centers of the East. It allowed thousand of the townspeople, who waited through the night in the rain, to catch a glance at the moving funeral train. Ray Cosyn, a local historian, gave us insight into the event and the impact that it had on the populace. Continue reading
Dana Lombardy on “Secret Turning Points of the American Civil War”
Dana Lombardy, designer and editor of the battlefield guidebook The First Battle of Bull Run: Campaign of First Manassas, presented one his popular series of “secret” turning points lectures with a look at the decisions (and non-decisions) that have been overlooked or downplayed in most books written about America’s Civil War. What nearly happened in 1862 that could have crippled or stopped President Lincoln’s war plans? What act of disobedience enabled the Union army to stay and fight at Gettysburg after its initial defeat on July 1? And how did the organization of the Confederate vs. Union artillery affect the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg?
Dana Lombardy was an Associate Online Editor for Weider History Group web sites (WHG publishes Civil War Times and America’s Civil War magazines). 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 magazine from 1996-2000.
Bob Hildenbrand on “From Combat to Slave Labor: The WWII Berga Affair”
Charlie Sweeny provided the following description of Bob’s talk:
The Germans selected American POWs who were Jewish and sent a group of them to a construction site. These U.S. 100th Infantry Division soldiers were to dig pits in the cliffs to enable synthetic fuel facilities to be built. Berga is in eastern Germany south of Leipzig. The men were subjected to very hard labor and very short rations. Bob lost half his weight.
There were already Jewish prisoners at the site when the POWs arrived. The 350 GIs were to dig holes and dump the dirt into the nearby river. The project was closed down in March of 1945. The POWs were then marched 100 miles west until they were liberated on 23 April by the U.S. 11th Armored Division.
Of the 350 Battle of the Bulge POWs, 75 died before the war’s end. One half just gave up, stopped socializing and died. Marasmus.
Bob survived the war, went on to earn a PhD in Physical Chemistry at the University of California Berkeley. He put his experiences behind him until he got a telephone call from a researcher. He was asked, “What did he think of the German treatment of Jewish POWs?” Bob did not realize if there were Jews or not among the soldiers.
Two years later Bob received a check for $23,000 payment from the German Government for forced labor. A book, “Soldiers and Slaves” by Roger Cohen, details the story.
After the war, on the GI Bill, Bob attended Johns Hopkins University and then the University of California at Berkeley, culminating in a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry. For the last 40 years, Bob has been with the Physical Sciences Division of SRI in Menlo Park.
Hal Jespersen on “William S. Rosecrans”
First slide of Hal’s presentation
Hal Jespersen presented the life of one of his favorite Civil War generals, William S. Rosecrans, and asked the question: “How did a man of so many accomplishments fall from the heights of strategic success into relative obscurity?” Hal’s answer: an acerbic tongue that made enemies of at least two powerful men—Ulysses S. Grant and Edwin M. Stanton—and one poorly worded order at the battle of Chickamauga. Hal covered Old Rosy’s entire life, but concentrated on his Civil War campaigns, including Iuka/Corinth, Stones River, Tullahoma, and Chickamauga. Continue reading
Bob Hubbs on “How Lincoln Won the War Without the Help of His Generals”
Lincoln and McClellan at Antietam
Bob’s presentation focused on Lincoln’s relationship with his generals in high command during the Civil War. Among the major points of Bob’s presentation were:
- A review of Lincoln for what he really was relative to the manner in which he selected, communicated with, and demonstrated confidence in his generals.
- Lincoln as a military strategist as well as a shrewd politician.
- Identifying the generals Lincoln eventually replaced.
- Lincoln’s masterful use of the telegraph in monitoring both the crucial Civil War battles as well as the progress and effectiveness of his generals.
- Lincoln’s “photographic memory” in recalling the details of crucial battles as well as the “pitfalls”, shortcomings, and inept battlefield decisions of his generals.
- Lincoln’s search for “just the right general” (or combination of generals) to carry out his aggressive strategy in the pursuit and defeat of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
Bob Asnard on “Andersonvilles of the North”
The Andersonvilles of the North seldom get much attention. The camps were of increasing importance as the war ran on because the North ended prisoner exchanges as part of a policy to weaken the South. Thus, when camps were bad and unhealthy, Rebel prisoners were exposed to steady, unceasing danger.
Art Buckley on “Mary Todd Lincoln”
Art presented the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, the first woman designated as the First Lady of the United States, and certainly the most controversial. Meeting description provided by Charlie Sweeny:
The story of the upper class lady married to an uncultured country man is worthy of Victorian fiction but it was the truth of our sixteenth chief magistrate’s emergence from the boondocks to the top circles in the land. Continue reading
Walter Day on “The 8th Alabama Infantry, Wilcox’s Brigade”
Meeting description provided by Charlie Sweeny:
The regiment was organized in Richmond on June 11, 1861. A rabid secessionist, Col. John Winston (twice governor of Alabama) was the commander all the way to the Battle of the Wilderness. The 18th fought in almost every battle in the East room the Peninsula to Appomattox. They were among the most faithful of the Army of Northern Virginia. They fought against McClellan, Hooker, Burnside, and ultimately Grant. They were part of the steady, sturdy backbone of Bobby Lee’s Army.
It is amazing to think of the plodding dedication shown year after dangerous year: Yorktown, Malvern Hill, Second Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Defense of Petersburg. Our speaker’s kin, Grandpa Day, left the Confederate Army after Appomattox. It took two months and a lot of walking to get home to Alabama. As with many of the veterans, his health was ruined. He died in September 1865 leaving a wife and seven children. The men of the 18th Alabama did not turn in their regimental battle flag. It was cut into pieces and shared.
Jack Mather on “Bell Ringers and Fire Eaters: Southern Rhetoric on the Road to War”
Jack presented colorful overviews of some of the Southern secessionist extremists in the late 1850s, including Edmund Ruffin, Louis Wigfall, William Yancey, and Preston Brooks. The following description was provided by Charlie Sweeny:
The time from the 1840s on became more and more intermittently inflamed over slavery. Power brokers of the North and the South warily and wearily watched each other and jealously pursued each slight, grievance or assault with noisy vigor. Typical of the era was Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. He loudly reviled some Southern-tilting senators: Sen. Butler (S.C.)—Don Quixote, whose Dulcinea was “the harlot slavery”; and Sen. Stephen A. Douglas as Sancho Panza “the squire of slavery ready to do its humiliating offices.” Continue reading