Meeting of October 18, 2011

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.

Meeting of September 20, 2011

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.

Meeting of August 16, 2011

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

Meeting of July 19, 2011

Rene Accornero, DVM, on “Horses in the Civil War”

photo of dead horses

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.

Meeting of June 21, 2011

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

Meeting of May 24, 2011

Dana Lombardy on “Secret Turning Points of the American Civil War”

black-and-white headshot

Dana Lombardy

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.

Meeting of April 19, 2011

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.

Meeting of March 15, 2011

Hal Jespersen on “William S. Rosecrans”

title slide from a PowerPoint presentation

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

Meeting of February 15, 2011

Bob Hubbs on “How Lincoln Won the War Without the Help of His Generals”

two guys in a tent

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.