Meeting of May 29, 2018

Join us at 7 PM, May 29, at Holder’s Country Inn in San Jose. See the UPCOMING MEETINGS/MEETING INFO tab for specific times and meeting details. This month’s topic is

Abby Eller on “Judah Benjamin, The Brains of the Confederacy”

Judah Benjamin is scarcely remembered today. And yet, Jefferson Davis’s wife Varina Howell Davis stated that he would meet with President Davis for hours every day to discuss Confederate government matters. Judah Benjamin was known as “The brains of the Confederacy.” During the Civil War, Judah Benjamin, Jefferson Davis, and Varina Howell Davis formed a close friendship that lasted the rest of their lives. But when Jefferson Davis wrote his memoirs at the end of his life, he only made the briefest mention of this man. Why was this? And Judah Benjamin’s life story after the Civil War was so remarkable, it would be unbelievable if it weren’t actually true.

Abby Eller joined the Peninsula Civil War Round Table in July of this year. She and her husband Dave live in Menlo Park. Abby has been an American history buff ever since high school. In 2013 she joined Historic Union Cemetery Association based here in Redwood City.

Quiz for May 29, 2018

Civil War Quiz: What Facts Do You Know About Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant?

Q#1 – Robert E. Lee’s father, “Light Horse” Harry Lee, fought with George Washington during the Revolutionary War. What role did Lee have a Washington’s funeral?

Q#2 – What was Ulysses S. Grant’s actual name at birth and what does the letter ‘S’ in Grant’s name stand for?

Q#3 – Lee was born on his father’s 51st Birthday. What are the origins for giving him the names ‘Robert’ and ‘Edward’?

Q#4 – After Grant resigned from the Army in 1854, he spent the next seven years in several professions: farmer, real estate agent, and rent collector. What was the job he performed on St Louis street corners?

Q#5 – What reason did the Federal Government give to justify the seizing of Lee’s home ‘Arlington’?

Q#6 – Grant struggled to secure a field command at the outbreak of the Civil War. What was the first field command he was given?

Q#7 – Where did Lee rank in his West Point graduating class of 1829?

Q#8 – Where did Grant rank in his West Point graduating class of 1843?

Q#9 – Lee served as a tactical commander in the Mexican-American War under what General?

Q#10 – Grant struggled with alcohol throughout his life. During the Civil War, Grant’s penchant for binge drinking was usually kept in check by what person?

Q#11 – What was the result of Lee’s first military operation as a Confederate general at the Battle of Rich Mountain that took place on July 11, 1861, in Randolph County, Virginia?

Q#12 – What was Grant’s and his wife’s reason for declining the invitation to attend the play at Ford’s Theater with President Lincoln and his wife?

Q#13 – Lee never referred to Northern soldiers as “the enemy”. What phrase did he use to refer to them?

Q#14 – How did Grant prevent Robert E. Lee from being charged with treason after the Civil War?

Q#15 – What were the causes of Lee’s and Grant’s deaths?

Meeting of June 26, 2018

Join us at 7 PM, June 26, at Holder’s Country Inn in San Jose. See the UPCOMING MEETINGS/MEETING INFO tab for specific times and meeting details. This month’s topic is

Larry Tagg on “The Generals of Shiloh”

Storytellers instinctively know the importance of character. Writers of history too frequently forget this, especially writers of military history, whose work is too often limited to strategy and tactics, weapons and supplies. Battles, particularly, present a chaos so intense that merely describing events and sorting out causes and effects is a difficult task. Historians must devote so much effort to faithfully reconstructing a battle’s events that men’s characters are often too little mentioned.

The biographical approach to Shiloh is also valuable as a snapshot of American culture, fourscore and six years after the country’s birth. The color and diversity of the battle’s generals provide a kaleidoscopic view of the society of the period. The United States in 1860 was an unmilitary nation with a tiny standing army. When war broke out in Charleston Harbor in April 1861, hundreds of new generals had to be minted to command hundreds of thousands of new soldiers. These new warrior-leaders were not professionals, but were elevated overnight from a hodge-podge of street-level occupations. Of the 63 brigade-and-up leaders at Shiloh presented in this book, only 14 were serving as career soldiers when Fort Sumter fell, a year before the battle. Thirteen more were lawyers, prominent in their communities and well-connected. Twelve were politicians, including the previous Vice President of the United States, now a Confederate. There were five businessmen (including an Iowa hatter), four plantation owners, two teachers, a millwright, a sheriff, a blacksmith, a riverboat man, a geologist, a horse breeder, a bishop, a newspaper editor, a farmer, a cotton broker, a stagecoach operator, a bridge engineer, a Navy ordnance officer, and an architect. The most famous of them all, Ulysses S. Grant, was clerking at his father’s dry goods store in Illinois.

A study of the generals of Shiloh also illuminates the entire history of the Western Theater in the first year of the war. Shiloh was the improbable rendezvous of more than a hundred thousand Americans. They were men here who had fought in and brought experience from every battle in the West over the previous twelve months. Mostly, however, Shiloh was a meeting of young men who had never fired a gun in anger. Some of the new recruits had just received the first muskets they had ever held. That they fought so hard and so well in dense, ravine-crossed woods, under amateur officers, is an indication of the intensity of their will to fight.

The consequences of the Battle of Shiloh were profound. Strategically, the Union armies, by defeating the Confederate concentration of the Army of the Mississippi, opened the way to capturing the rail hub of Corinth on May 30 and the city of Memphis on June 6, 1862, two months after the battle. The horrific casualty totals that appeared in the nation’s newspapers, however, produced both the most immediate and the longest-lasting result of the battle: its effect on the nation’s psyche. More than twenty thousand men lay on the field killed or wounded at the battle’s end (and 19 of the 63 leaders on these pages), a number which shocked and dismayed the entire American public. These were unimaginable losses, higher than the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Mexican War combined. In the Eastern Theater, news of the holocaust convinced Major General George McClellan, stalled on the Yorktown Peninsula, that his campaign must be won by strategy and maneuver, to avoid the sort of hard fighting that had produced such hideous gore at Shiloh. McClellan’s decision resulted in the Siege of Yorktown, followed by a slow build-up around Richmond that ended, three months later, with the loss of the Peninsula Campaign after a week of hard blows by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

What followed was a Civil War that took on the dimensions first glimpsed only after Shiloh. Richmond would not be threatened again for two more years, after hundreds of thousands more casualties, and the war would not end for three more bloody years.

Born in Lincoln, Illinois, Larry Tagg graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. A bass player/singer of world renown, Larry co-founded and enjoyed substantial commercial success with “Bourgeois Tagg” in the mid-1980s. He went on to play bass for Todd Rundgren, Heart, Hall and Oates, and other acts. He recently retired after teaching high school drama, English and Asians and Middle Eastern literature in the prestigious Humanities and International Studies Program in Sacramento, CA. Larry is the author of the bestselling book The Generals of Gettysburg, a selection of the Military Book Club, and The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln.

Meeting of July 31, 2018

Join us at 7 PM, July 31, at Holder’s Country Inn in San Jose. See the UPCOMING MEETINGS/MEETING INFO tab for specific times and meeting details. This month’s topic is

Tom Roza on “Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill: Third Corps Commander, Army of Northern Virginia”

A native Virginian, Ambrose Powell Hill (aka A.P. Hill) was a West Point graduate who served in the United States Army in both the Mexican–American War and Seminole Wars. A strong believer in state’s rights, Powell resigned his US Army commission in March 1861 and offered his services to the fledgling Confederate Army.

After the start of the Civil War, Hill gained early fame as the commander of the “Light Division” in the Seven Days Battles and became one of Stonewall Jackson’s ablest subordinates, distinguishing himself in the 1862 battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.

In 2014, Tom Roza (current South Bay Civil War Round Table Secretary) presented a general overview on the life and experiences of A.P. Hill. However, during the past four years, Tom has conducted additional extensive research on Hill focusing on his critical role as Third Corps Commander beginning with the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 and concluding with his death in April 1865 at Petersburg.

The untimely death of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 caused General Robert E. Lee to significantly reorganize his Army of Northern Virginia into three Corps. Lee promoted A.P. Hill from his role as a division commander to commander of the newly formed Third Corps. Hill had established an exemplary record as a division commander. But, there is significant evidence that Hill’s leadership skills did not always translate into the more complex role of Corps Commander. Hill often struggled with the logistical, tactical, and most importantly, strategic differences between leading a single 4,000 to 5,000-man infantry division versus an infantry Corps consisting of three divisions of 15,000-18,000 soldiers.

These differences exposed weaknesses in Hill’s leadership that from time to time resulted in an adverse impact on the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s chances for success. The presentation effectively details both Hill’s accomplishments and shortcomings during the critically important period of June 1863 to April 1865.

Tom Roza’s primary interest in the Civil War is not centered on the battles, armaments, or politics of that momentous period in our country’s history. Instead, he has focused on a study of the people who were involved in the Civil War—who they were; what was their background; what were their values and principles; and how did they influence the outcome of the Civil War. Civil War personalities that Tom has made presentations on include: John Buford, Jeb Stuart, Winfield Scott Hancock, Robert Gould Shaw, and Nathan Bedford Forrest among others.

Tom is also a published author; his book Windows to the Past: A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War was published in May 2107 and was accepted by the Library of Congress into its catalog in November 2017. The book is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and eBook formats.

Meeting of April 24, 2018

Tom Roza presents the DVD “History Channel/Civil War Journal: West Point Classmates – Civil War Enemies”

The Presentation: “Civil War Journal” is The History Channel’s series that chronicles the happenings of the American Civil War through the memoirs of those who took place in it.

The episode entitled “West Point Classmates – Civil War Enemies” focuses on the story of a special fraternity of men who attended the US Military Academy at West Point in the years leading up to the start of the Civil War. The program features such Civil War notables as: Robert E Lee, Ulysses Grant, Stonewall Jackson, William Sherman, Jefferson Davis, and George Pickett among others some of whom while cadets at West Point, became close friends and comrades, but often ended up facing each other on the battlefield.

This 43-minute program effectively communicates how West Point training influenced the eventual outcome of the war and how the camaraderie and relationships that were fostered at West Point in the end were instrumental in how the war ended.

The Presenter: Tom Roza has been a student of history in general for the past 60+ years and became an avid historian of the American Civil War beginning in 1961 during the 100 year Centennial of that great conflict. Tom’s professional career spanned 48 years in the field of Information Technology until he retired from in 2013.

During over five decades of studying the Civil War, Tom’s main interest has primarily focused on the human interest aspects of the people involved and affected by that event. Tom’s recently published novel, “Windows to the Past – A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War” effectively examines and portrays the impact on everyday people living in the South of the political, social, and economic factors that first led to secession, then Civil War.

Tom has been a member of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable organization since 2008 and is currently an officer and Secretary for that organization. Tom has made numerous presentations to both his Roundtable organization and other organizations on topics such as: Confederate Cavalry Generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jeb Stuart, Union Cavalry General John Buford, and Union Infantry Generals Winfield Scott and Robert Gould Shaw.

Meeting Minutes April 2018

Quiz for April 24, 2018

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About the Federal Government during the Civil War?

Q#1 – Who was President Lincoln’s first Vice President?

Q#2 – Who were President Lincoln’s two Attorneys General?

Q#3 – Why was Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s first Secretary of War, forced to resign early in 1862?

Q#4 – Salmon P. Chase, who was Lincoln’s first Secretary of Treasury, was named and approved to what position in December, 1864?

Q#5 – For Lincoln’s first presidential inauguration on March 4, 1861, who administered the oath of office?

Q#6 – Several major federal agencies were established during Lincoln’s presidency. Three of them were: the Department of Agriculture, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and the Freedmen’s Bureau. What were the names of the other two?

Q#7 – Shortly after taking office in 1861, President Lincoln took the drastic action of suspending the right of habeas corpus in Maryland. What justification did Lincoln use for this action?

Q#8 – The Enrollment Act was legislation passed by the United States Congress and enacted on March 3, 1863. By what other name was this legislation known?

Q#9 – What authority was provided to the Federal Government by the Confiscation Act of 1862?

Q#10 – The Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863, applied in the eleven states that were still in rebellion in 1863. What four states, where nearly 500,000 slaves existed, were not covered?

Q#11 – Lincoln vetoed only four bills passed by Congress during his Presidency; the only important one was the Wade-Davis Bill of 1864, which was proposed for the Reconstruction of the South written by two Radical Republican Senators. Why did Lincoln veto this bill?

Q#12 – What was the “Ten Percent Plan”, known formally as the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction Act, that was a proclamation issued on December 8, 1863, by President Lincoln?

Q#13 – In 1861, Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861, creating the first federal income tax. What was the initial tax percentage value and what was the minimum income amount?

Q#14 – In June 1864, Lincoln approved the Yosemite Grant enacted by Congress. What was the purpose of this legislation?

Q#15 – In October 1862, France, which had established a puppet state under the rule of Maximilian I of Mexico, proposed an armistice and joint mediation of the American Civil War by France, Britain, and Russia. What was the US Government’s response?

Meeting of March 27, 2018

Robert Burch on “California in the Civil War: Securing the State in 1861″

California’s involvement in the American Civil War remains one of the great hidden facets of that conflict. One subject never explored by Civil War historians are the military operations within the state. Despite public expression of hope and confidence, doubt existed among senior Unionist politicians and U.S. Army officer’s regarding the prospects of preserving California in the Union in April 1861. Yet eight months later California was secured Union state after bold use of very limited Federal military resources and emergence of pro-Unionist Governor Leland Stanford.

The internal state Secessionist and external Confederate threat to California was real. Three lines of effort were developed to achieve their goal. Secessionists politically advocated a ballot referendum proposing to secede California from the Union and establish the “Republic of the Pacific” with intend of ultimately joining the Confederacy. At the same time, they militarily pursued raising a Secessionist Army to seize state by force. Externally the Confederate Army in Texas proposed capturing Southwest U.S. with assistance from California, Nevada and Arizona volunteers (the New Mexico Campaign, discussed in a later presentation).

This presentation describes this threat and the Union response. It is the product of original research that drew on multiple original and secondary sources, principally the Official Records and various secondary local history articles. This story is described in rough chronological order:

  • Non-Military Actions Laying Foundation for Bloodless Military Victory
  • U.S. Army Secured San Francisco
  • U.S. Army Secured Los Angeles & San Diego
  • U.S. Army Secured San Bernardino
  • California Volunteers Relieved Regular Army Units
  • California Volunteers Secured Southern California
  • Measurement of Success – Capture of Daniel Showalter

What is the so what? It’s relevance. First, how state politicians and U.S. Army leaders secured California for the Union in 1861 offers insight into a successful counter-insurgency operation. Secondly, unlike similar situations in the Border States during the Civil War, and the nation as a whole, this success was without bloodshed or lingering, deep division among the civil population. Finally, the state “economic boom” resulting from the Federal government’s appreciation to California for its loyalty after the war is still attracting immigrants to California over 150 years later.

Bob Burch is a native Californian, born and raised in Santa Clara County. He is also a lifetime student of the Civil War. He had the opportunity to visit many Civil War sites from Florida to Pennsylvania to New Mexico during his 30 year military career. Like many California CWRT members, he desires to understand his home state’s role in the war. He started collecting material for this presentation ten years ago and initiated a serious study 15 months ago. This series documents his research in great detail. Time allows only a few key points from each slide to be presented. Numerous period photographs and magazine drawings are included for visual effect with the intent of comprehending California’s role in the Civil War.

Meeting Minutes March 2018

Quiz for March 27, 2018

Civil War Quiz: How Did Weather Affect the Civil War?

Q#1 – What is the name of the meteorological period that the Civil War took place at the tail end of?

Q#2 – What was a well-known example where weather adversely affected Union general George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign in 1862?

Q#3 – At the September, 1862, Battle of Chantilly, what weather condition helped contribute to the death of Union general Philip Kearney?

Q#4 – What battle was fought on May 15, 1864, where hundreds of Confederate soldiers’ feet became stuck in the mud as they attempted to cross a wheat field which the soldiers forever dubbed the “field of lost shoes?”

Q#5 – At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863, what weather condition helped to contribute to the element of surprise of Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack?

Q#6 – Following his dreadful defeat at Fredericksburg the previous December, what was the name given to Union general Ambrose E. Burnside’s January 1863 military maneuver involving the Army of the Potomac?

Q#7 – What was the name given to one of the most famous (and comical) weather-related incidents during the Civil War that occurred on March 22, 1864, in Dalton, Georgia?

Q#8 – What weather event contributed to the sinking of the USS Monitor off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina?

Q#9 – What was the weather like during Jefferson Davis’s inauguration for the presidency of the Confederate States of America in February 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama?

Q#10 – At the Battle of Gettysburg, Rev. Dr. Michael Jacobs, a math professor at what was then called Pennsylvania College recorded his observations three times a day during every day of the battle. What was the name of the book he created that contains very specific details on the weather at the Battle of Gettysburg and the role it may have played in battle?

Q#11 – During the Battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864, there were unseasonable high heat temperatures that adversely impacted both armies both during and after the battle. How did these high temperatures affect the armies after the battle?

Q#12 – What was the most frequent emotional comment that Union soldiers who had to endure bad weather conditions in southern locations included in their letters home?

Q#13 – Union prisoners incarcerated at Andersonville did what in an attempt to shield themselves from the rain and heat?

Q#14 – Why did a number of Confederate soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg actually die from drowning?

Q#15 – During Union general William T. Sherman’s march into South Carolina, massive storms caused numerous rivers to flood their banks. What adverse affect did his cause Sherman’s march?

Meeting of February 27, 2018

Nick K. Adams on “The 2nd Minnesota in the Western Theater”

Nick K. Adams, great-great-grandson of Cpl. David Brainard Griffin, will describe the organization of, and first two years of action of the 2nd Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers in the Western Theater. His compelling presentation will be personalized by selected readings from the 100 letters Griffin wrote back to his young family on the Minnesota prairie prior to his death at the Battle of Chickamauga.

Those letters have been published as My Dear Wife and Children: Civil War Letters from a 2nd Minnesota Volunteer. A companion novel that tells the home front story of the family’s difficult struggle to survive while Griffin was gone has recently been published as Away at War: A Civil War Novel of the Family Left Behind. Autographed copies of both books will be available for purchase at the meeting.

Nick K. Adams grew up in Los Angeles County and now resides in Tacoma, WA, having retired from a career in elementary education. He has followed a life-long passion of interest in the American Civil War after learning of his own g-g-grandfather’s participation and sacrifice in that pivotal period. He continues to speak at schools, libraries, service clubs, and Civil War Round Tables, and is an avid Civil War re-enactor in his portrayal of Minnesota’s 1861 Governor Alexander Ramsey who sent his grandfather into the conflict to preserve the Union.

Meeting Minutes February 2018

Quiz for February 27, 2018

Civil War Quiz: Little Known Facts About the Civil War

Q#1 – Approximately what percent of the soldiers who fought for the Union Army were immigrants?

Q#2 – When black soldiers began signing up with the Union Army in early 1863, why did they refuse their salaries for 18 months?

Q#3 – True or False: Was there more than one attempt to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln?

Q#4 – Both before and during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln advocated a policy called colonization – what was this policy all about?

Q#5 – In 1863, what justification did the United States Government use to confiscate Robert E. Lee’s Virginia estate and turn it into a cemetery?

Q#6 – During the Civil War, there were two prominent individuals named Jefferson Davis. One was the president of the Confederate States of America. Who was the other?

Q#7 – Stonewall Jackson was a well known hypochondriac. Often, Jackson thought himself “out of balance.” What physical action did Jackson perform, even under fire, to counteract this perceived medical malady?

Q#8 – Stonewall Jackson also suffered from poor eyesight. What action did he perform to attempt to improve his vision?

Q#9 – After President Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, what unusual item was found in his leather wallet??

Q#10 – Daniel Emmett, a loyal Unionist who in the 1850s was the composer of the song “Dixie,” became disgusted by the song’s popularity in the South after the Civil War began. How did President Abraham Lincoln characterize the song “Dixie”?

Q#11 – What was the original name of the holiday that is now known as Memorial Day?

Q#12 – What were the names of the seven future U.S. presidents who served in the Civil War?

Q#13 – At the Battle of Gettysburg, which Confederate unit suffered the worst regimental losses in a single battle: 708 of 800 killed, wounded, or missing?

Q#14 – Horses and other draft animals had about a 7-month life expectancy during the Civil War. Approximately how many horses died during the war?

Q#15 – What happened to President Lincoln’s personal copy of the Emancipation Proclamation?