Category Archives: Meeting archive

Meeting of February 16, 2016

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 GroelingMeg 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.

Meeting of January 19, 2016

Chris Palmer on “Ten Crucial Days: The Trenton–Princeton Campaign, December 25, 1776–January 4, 1777”

Retreat thru the JerseysAfter 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.

Meeting of December 15, 2015

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.

Meeting of November 17, 2015

Jack Mather on “What Happens to the Generals When the War is Over?”

Jack’s presentation looked at the post war experiences of John B. Gordon, Joseph Wheeler, Jubal Early, William Rosecrans, Oliver O. Howard, and Benjamin Butler.

man reading a speech

Jack Mather

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.

Meeting of October 20, 2015

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)

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?

Meeting of September 15, 2015

David Moore on “William S. Rosecrans and the Union Victory”

Rosecrans Moore bookDavid 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.

Meeting of August 18, 2015

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.

Howard Jones Commander Gen Robert E Lee Monument

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.

Meeting of July 21, 2015

Jack Mather on “World’s Fairs In San Francisco: 1894 and 1915”

man reading a speech

Jack Mather

Jack’s presentation included such topics as Little Egypt dancing (for men only!); Germans made up to look Japanese, pulling rickshaws; ukulele concerts; and Sousa’s Marching Band.

Meeting of June 16, 2015

Walter Day hosts “Civil War Journal: The Commanders”, part 2

Civil War Journal Stonewall JacksonWalter 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.



Meeting of May 19, 2015

Chris Palmer on “Invasion of the Chesapeake – War of 1812 Bicentennial Defense of Washington and Baltimore”

Bombardment of Fort Henry, 1814 (Wikipedia)

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.