Monthly Archives: October 2020

Meeting of January 26, 2021

Join us at 7 PM, January 26, for an online ZOOM meeting. Login information will be emailed to all members. This month’s topic is

David Dixon on “The American Civil War: A Radical, International Revolution”

Radical Warrior: August Willich’s Journey from German Revolutionary to Union General (University of Tennessee Press 2020) is the biography of a Prussian army officer who renounced his nobility and joined in the failed European revolutions of 1848. He emigrated to America, edited a daily labor newspaper in Cincinnati, and became one of the most accomplished generals in the Union Army. This story sheds new light on the contributions of 200,000 German-Americans who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

In an age of global social, economic, and political upheaval, transatlantic radicals helped affect America’s second great revolution. For many recent immigrants, the nature and implications of that revolution turned not on Lincoln’s conservative goal of maintaining the national Union, but on issues of social justice, including slavery, free labor, and popular self-government. The Civil War was not simply a war to end sectional divides, but to restore the soul of the nation, revive the hopes of democrats worldwide, and defend human rights.

David Dixon earned his M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts in 2003. His first book, The Lost Gettysburg Address, told the unusual life story of Texas slaveholder Charles Anderson, whose speech followed Lincoln’s at Gettysburg, but was never published. It turned up 140 years later in a cardboard box in Wyoming.

David spoke at Gettysburg National Military Park’s Sacred Trust Talks, appeared on Civil War Talk Radio and has presented to more than sixty Civil War Round Tables from coast to coast. He hosts B-List History, a website that features obscure characters and their compelling stories at www.davidtdixon.com.

David’s current book, published by the University of Tennessee Press, is the biography of German revolutionary and Union General August Willich. His current project is a biography that highlights the role of emotions in Southern allegiance in the Civil War.

Meeting of November 24, 2020

Jim Rhetta & Alan Sissenwein on “The Worst Generals of the Civil War, Part I”

Most authors of the Civil War have focused on presenting the best Generals of the Civil War and their traits that led to that status. They focus heavily on Lee, Grant, Sherman, and Jackson as books on them abound. This focus overlooks the fact that there were generals at the opposite end of the leadership spectrum who were ineffective leaders.

For this presentation Alan Sissenwein will present some of the worst Federal generals and Jim Rhetta will cover the worst of the Confederate generals. What made these generals selected for that status include bad leadership, bad battlefield results, poor decision-making, abrasive personalities, and abuse of subordinates. This will also cover the factors that allowed for bad Generals to emerge and in some cases the inability to remove them from senior leadership positions.

Jim Rhetta retired from Lockheed Corp, and also retired from the USAF Reserve as a Colonel in the Intelligence Community. In both careers he monitored, analyzed, and reported on global conflicts and crisis for the DoD Community. His careers required him to write threat assessments, weekly activity reports, and publish classified documents. He continues to study both current events and historical subjects for their impacts on us today. He has produced several presentations for Round Tables, including “Civil War Newspapers, the first use of Open Source intelligence”, “The Blockade and its Effectiveness”, “Tracing Slave Family History,” and “Attack and Die, Cultural Influences on Civil War Combat.”

Alan Sissenwein, a native Californian, is a professional writer who has been a member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table since 1997. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Although he has been fascinated by history since he was a teenager, his interest in the Civil War only took root during his last semester of graduate school, which was spent in Washington D.C. He likes to say that in California the Civil War is an abstraction but on the East Coast it’s a presence. He has previously given talks to the South Bay Civil War Round Table on such subjects as George Armstrong Custer and George Brinton McClellan.

Meeting Minutes November 2020

Quiz for November 24, 2020

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About Generals to Politicians and Politicians to Generals?

Q#1 – This Civil War general was very significant in the history of the Whig party. Who was he and why was he significant?

Q#2 – This general finished second in the 1880 presidential election. Name him.

Q#3 – This former congressman was appointed as a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of Tennessee and then was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. He was killed commanding troops at the Battle of Mill Springs. Name him.

Q#4 – John C. Breckinridge was the 14th vice-president of the United States and became a Confederate general. He was commander at what Confederate victory and what position in the Confederate government did he hold at the end of the war?

Q#5 – Of officers without previous military experience, he was one of three to achieve the rank of lieutenant general in the Confederate army. He was elected to the South Carolina General Assembly in 1852 and served as a state Senator from 1858 to 1861. After the Civil War he narrowly won the bloody 1876 election to became governor of South Carolina. Name him.

Q#6 – This professor and Civil War general was elected governor of Maine four times (1866, 1867, 1868, 1869). Name him.

Q#7 – This Civil War general and author made two unsuccessful bids for a seat in Congress (in 1868 and 1870) and was appointed territorial governor of the New Mexico Territory, where he served from August 1878 to March 1881. Name him and his most successful novel.

Q#8 – This Confederate cavalry commander in 1880 was elected from Alabama as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives. He later served as major general of volunteers in the Spanish-American war. Name him.

Q#9 – Future president Rutherford B. Hayes ended the war as a brevetted major general. In which campaigns of the war did he mainly serve?

Q#10 – Future brigadier general and president James A. Garfield only personally commanded at one battle. Name it.

Q#11– General George B. McClellan, as the democratic candidate, lost the 1864 Presidential election to Lincoln. Did ever he compete for any other political office?

Q#12 – This Civil War general was a member of the House of Representatives and an important ally to Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas. His commission as a general was based on Lincoln’s desire to retain political connections with the Democrats of Southern Illinois and he eventually became second in command under Ulysses S. Grant. Who was he?

Q#13 – How was General John C. Frémont, Union commander at the battle of Cross Keys, very significant in the history of the Republican party?

Q#14 – This Civil War general was a Republican member of the House of Representatives for Missouri prior to the war. He was appointed a colonel of Missouri volunteers in July 1862. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in August 1862 and then to major general in November. He commanded a division in the Vicksburg campaign and in the fighting about Chattanooga, and was one of William T. Sherman’s corps commanders in the final campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas. After the war he opposed the Congressional Reconstruction policy, and on that issue left the Republican Party. In 1868, he was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for vice president, running with Horatio Seymour. Who was he?

Q#15 – He was an attorney, the first Chief Justice of Kansas, and leading free state advocate and Union Army general during the American Civil War, commanding the defense of Fort Davidson at Pilot Knob, Missouri, during Sterling Price’s raid. After the war he became a two-term United States Congressman from Ohio, 1877–1881, and narrowly lost the 1880 campaign for Ohio Governor. Who was he?