Category Archives: Meeting announcement

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 June 27, 2017

Bob Burch on “California in the Civil War: Other California Units”

This is the fifth of a twelve-part series on California and the American Civil War. This presentation will explore the history of those units that served in the Eastern Theater during the American Civil War that enlisted a good portion of their recruits from California or had that state’s name in their unit designation. Nearly ten percent of Californians who volunteered during the war did so into units from other states. They did so for a variety of reasons including the desire to represent their state during the war to preserve the Union. Consequently these “other California units” represented their state continuously from the Battle of First Bull Run until General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox four years later.

Eventually Californians served in five other states’ volunteer regiments. On the West Coast these units were the 1st Washington Territory Infantry and 1st Oregon Cavalry Regiments. On the East Coast these were the 32nd New York Infantry Regiment (aka “California Regiment”), Baker’s Brigade (aka “California Brigade”) of four regiments, and the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment’s “California Hundred” and “California Battalion”.

Along the way we will meet several forgotten Californians who served their country well. Colonel Roderick Matheson from Healdsburg who fought at First Bull Run and later died from wounds received at the Battle of Crampton’s Gap. Colonel Francis Pinto of San Francisco who commanded regiments during the Peninsula, 2nd Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville Campaigns. Major Archibald McKendry who commanded the California Battalion and eventually the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment when only a captain. Captain James Sewell Reed of the California Hundred who died while leading his unit against Mosby’s partisans and Captain Hugh Armstrong who replaced him and led that company from Battle of Fort Stevens until Appomattox. And Captain Henry Crocker of San Francisco who participated in nine battle and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

Except for the “CAL 100” Cavalry, these units have disappeared from history despite the presence of the California Regiment’s monument on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg and mention in many original source documents from newspapers to the Official Records. This presentation will attempt to remember and honor their contribution to the Union cause.

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 June 2017