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
Don Hayden on “The Amazing MacArthurs”
Major General Arthur MacArthur
(Meeting description provided by Charlie Sweeny.) Few nations have had the likes of the brave père et fils MacArthur. Both were awarded the Medal of Honor for battlefield leadership and bravery.
The father, Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, was born in Massachusetts. He served throughout the Civil War in the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. At age 20 he was made lieutenant colonel. He was wounded three times and was brevetted (meritorious promotion in rank) four times. He was Sheridan’s “Boy Colonel of the West.” He was cited for “Gallant and Meritorious Service” in battles at Perryville, Stones River, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, Dalton, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, Jonesboro, and Franklin. He fought in the Indian Wars as a regular army officer (1866-1886). Continue reading