Category Archives: Meeting archive

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

Meeting of October 27, 2020

Tom Roza on “The Presidential Election of 1864”

South Bay Civil War Roundtable Secretary Tom Roza provides an intriguing and detailed examination of the critically important and impactful presidential election of 1864.

Throughout its history as a democracy, the electing of a President has become one of the most important decisions Americans make as citizens. We not only select a political leader to guide our country through its legislative process, but also a person who is the Commander in Chief of our military and who in partnership with Congress, is responsible for the security of our nation.

Over the 230 years as a country, some presidential elections have become more significant than others. In his nearly 60 years of being a student of the American Civil War and the history of our country, Tom has concluded that the presidential election of 1864 has become the most critically important one. A civil war continued to rage and the destiny and future of our country was at stake as at no other time before or since.

Given that 2020 is a Presidential election year, this presentation on another very important election is particularly appropriate and timely.

Tom Roza has been a student of history for over 60 years. His interest in history in general and the Civil War in particular began with his elementary education in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has evolved ever since. As an officer and the Secretary of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable, Tom has made numerous presentations on the topic of the Civil War to both his Roundtable organization and other historical organizations in the Bay Area. Tom is also a published author of the book entitled Windows to the Past: A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War that has been accepted by the Library of Congress into its Catalog; Tom is currently working on a sequel entitled Lost Cause – Justice Found.

Meeting Minutes October 2020

Meeting of September 29, 2020

Differing Viewpoints: If Jackson Was at Gettysburg, Would the CSA have Won the Battle? YES: Tom Roza; NO: Jim Rhetta

To enhance the experience and enjoyment for South Bay Civil War Roundtable members who attend the monthly meetings, a new format for presentation topics has been developed to augment the more traditional formats. The new format is entitled “Differing Viewpoints”.

For a specific Civil War related topic, two views are presented on whether a critical component or element was present or occurred that would have changed the outcome. The two views are: YES – the outcome would have been different; NO – the outcome would not have been different. Each view can be presented by one or more members with each view taking up no more than 15–20 minutes. Slides or other visual aids can be used to support a view. This is NOT a debate—just a presentation of differing views.

For the September 29, 2020, SBCWRT meeting, the presentation topic is, “If Jackson was at Gettysburg, would the CSA have won the battle?”

The vast majority of Civil War historians have concluded that the Battle of Gettysburg was the high water mark of the Confederacy’s effort to become an independent country. Over the nearly 160 years since the battle was fought in July 1863, there have been numerous discussions on whether the outcome of the battle would have been different if Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had not died in May 1863 from wounds suffered at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Tom Roza will present the YES view; Jim Rhetta will present the NO view.

Jim Rhetta retired from Lockheed Corp, and 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 made several presentations on social, economic, and military subjects of the Civil War.

Tom Roza has been a student of history for over 60 years. His interest in history in general and the Civil War in particular began with his elementary education in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has evolved ever since. As an officer and the Secretary of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable, Tom has made numerous presentations on the topic of the Civil War to both his Roundtable organization and other historical organizations in the Bay Area. Tom is also a published author of the book entitled Windows to the Past: A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War, which has been accepted by the Library of Congress into its Catalog; Tom is currently working on a sequel entitled Lost Cause – Justice Found.

Meeting Minutes September 2020

Meeting of August 25, 2020

Tom McMahon on “Finding and Preserving the Past Through Human Memory”

Tom McMahon has conducted extensive research on the history of monuments going back to ancient times. With that as a backdrop, he will be discussing the issues today with Civil War related monuments and the appeal to remove those that are related to the Confederacy.

Tom McMahon is a 12-year member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table who never had a relative on either side of the Civil War as his great grandparents immigrated directly to San Francisco in 1858 from a devastated Ireland. Now, in his senior years, Tom is a person in constant transition who faces aging with an eagerness to stay young of heart and as educated as possible. A Depression era child, Tom has held a variety of jobs in a religious ministry, military service, teacher, mental health.

Meeting Minutes August 2020

Meeting of July 28, 2020

This meeting was not held because of COVID-19 concerns. Watch this website for potential rescheduling.

Tom Roza on “The Presidential Election of 1864”

South Bay Civil War Roundtable Secretary Tom Roza provides an intriguing and detailed examination of the critically important and impactful presidential election of 1864.

Throughout its history as a democracy, the electing of a President has become one of the most important decisions Americans make as citizens. We not only select a political leader to guide our country through its legislative process, but also a person who is the Commander in Chief of our military and who in partnership with Congress, is responsible for the security of our nation.

Over the 230 years as a country, some presidential elections have become more significant than others. In his nearly 60 years of being a student of the American Civil War and the history of our country, Tom has concluded that the presidential election of 1864 has become the most critically important one. A civil war continued to rage and the destiny and future of our country was at stake as at no other time before or since.

Given that 2020 is a Presidential election year, this presentation on another very important election is particularly appropriate and timely.

Tom Roza has been a student of history for over 60 years. His interest in history in general and the Civil War in particular began with his elementary education in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has evolved ever since. As an officer and the Secretary of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable, Tom has made numerous presentations on the topic of the Civil War to both his Roundtable organization and other historical organizations in the Bay Area. Tom is also a published author of the book entitled Windows to the Past: A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War that has been accepted by the Library of Congress into its Catalog; Tom is currently working on a sequel entitled Lost Cause – Justice Found.

Meeting of June 30, 2020

This meeting was not held because of COVID-19 concerns. Watch this website for potential rescheduling.

Kristin Patterson on “United States Tax Stamps Used to Raise Funds for the Civil War”

 

Meeting of January 28, 2020

Robert Burch on “The U.S. Navy in California”

A post-war photo of the USS Lancaster, commissioned in 1859, and served in the Pacific during the Civil War

The U.S. Navy’s history in the Pacific began with the formation of the U.S. Navy Pacific Squadron in 1821. The squadron consisted of only six warships and an auxiliary vessel under Commodore John B. Montgomery in April 1861. This small force was reinforced by another three warship, two auxiliaries and a shore-based U.S. Marine detachment over the next four years. On the opposing side, the Confederates were represented by only two privateers from the Atlantic Ocean and another three privateer plots originating in the Pacific late in the war that caused widespread fear in California coastal communities. In the end, no traditional ship-to-ship naval engagement or coastal raid occurred. Additionally, the critical monthly gold ships out of San Francisco that financed the Union war effort were never interrupted. This presentation will examine the ships, bases, and operations of these two small naval force as well as the U.S.S. Sacramento, named after the state capital, and the Russian Pacific Squadron’s much publicized and extended visit to San Francisco in 1863-64. This naval action is another forgotten aspect of California’s participation in the American Civil War.

Bob Burch is a native Californian from Santa Clara County, a retired U.S. Army colonel and graduate of San Jose State University where he read U.S. military history. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Navy War College. A lifetime student of the American Civil War, he read his first Civil War book in the fifth grade. As a young boy he was mesmerized when watching John Ford’s The Horse Soldiers (1959) starring John Wayne on the television rerun channels. He has visited all of the principle and most secondary Civil War sites during his 30-year military career, including multiple week-long visits to Gettysburg, his favorite battlefield site. Like most CWRT members across the county, he desires to understand his home state’s role in the war. He collected material for this presentation for over ten years followed by several years of analysis. This series documents his research in great detail. Time allows only key points 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 of November 26, 2019

Tom Roza on “If the South Had Won the Civil War”

We all know who won the Civil War; after four years of brutal slaughter where estimates now range that over 700,000 soldiers died and hundreds of thousands of others were horribly wounded, Union forces defeated Confederate forces. And after the Reconstruction efforts ended, the United States remained one nation.

On the eve of the 100 Year Centennial of the Civil War, in the November 22, 1960, issue of Look magazine, author MacKinley Kantor published a fictional account set as a history text, entitled “If the South Had Won the Civil War.” The article generated such a response that it was published in 1961 as a book.

MacKinlay Kantor was a writer who also wrote several novels about the American Civil War as it actually happened some of which are: Lee and Grant at Appomattox, Andersonville, and Gettysburg among others. The premise for “If the South Had Won the Civil War” relies on several significant events: some a bit questionable, but others very plausible

Tom Roza has been a student of history for over 60 years. His interest in the Civil War began with his elementary education in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has evolved ever since. As an officer and the Secretary of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable, Tom has made numerous presentations on the topic of the Civil War to both his Roundtable organization and other historical organizations in the Bay Area. Tom is also a publish author of the book entitled, “Windows to the Past: A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War” that has been accepted by the Library of Congress into its Catalog and Tom is currently working on a sequel.

Meeting Minutes November 2019

Meeting of October 29, 2019

Gary Yee on “Port Hudson and Why It Matters”

With Vicksburg’s fall, Lincoln declared the Father of Waters was unvexed to these sea. Lincoln was only partially right. One hundred ten miles further south along the Mississippi River in Louisiana stood Port Hudson. So long as it remained in Confederate hands, Union mercantile traffic could never reach New Orleans and from there, to foreign ports.

Initially overlooked by both sides, its defenses were built slowly by the Confederates and the Union neglected its strategic importance until after the Confederates began occupying it. Realizing that something must be done to capture Port Hudson, a change in command for Union land forces was necessary and Nathaniel Banks replaced the relatively inactive Benjamin Butler. Along with a change in command, new regiments were raised to ensure its success.

Like Vicksburg, Port Hudson was a joint Army and Naval effort led by Farragut and Banks. While the Confederate garrison under Maj. Gen. Franklin Gardner was cut off, it defied the larger host and established the record for the longest siege in the Civil War. Its defense would have lasting implications affecting the outcome of the war and like a Shakespearean play, it had its heroes, villains and buffoons.

Gary Yee is no stranger to the South Bay Civil War Round Table. He used to regularly attend with his uncle, Bill Yee and Helen Trimpi (dec.) and has given several talks there. Additionally, he was a member of the SFCWRT, Peninsula CWRT and the Friends of Civil War Alcatraz. With the cooperation of all the Bay Area CWRTs, Gary helped to organize the 2010 Annual West Coast Civil War Conference which, conveniently enough for him, was at his workplace at the SF War Memorial.

After retiring, Gary Yee relocated to Colorado where he attended the nation’s oldest gunsmithing school at Trinidad State. Besides earning an Associate Science degree, he became an adjunct instructor there and has led school field trips to a private gun museum near Sante Fe as well as the Civil War battlefield in Glorietta, New Mexico. Naturally, this forced him to learn about the battle and campaign; something which was he was well up to. He still enrolls in classes at TSJC and has taken engraving, relief carving, silver wire inlay to add some artistic element to his flintlocks. Most of his time though is spent researching and writing. This year he had a title on sharpshooting that was published by Osprey. Currently he is working on a short book on the Port Hudson Campaign and a book on WW II sniping.

Meeting Minutes October 2019

Meeting of September 14, 2019

South Bay CWRT 2019 Annual Picnic Meeting

Jim Rhetta on “The Civil War in the Generations of Human Warfare”

There is no doubt that the Civil War had tremendous impact on the nation’s history. However, some Civil War enthusiast and historians have stated that the Civil War is still currently studied for examples to shape and influence modern military practices and tactical operations.

This presentation will describe the Generations of Human Warfare and that the Civil War was at a unique tipping point between the Generations of Mass and Firepower. Some initial uses in the Civil War as armored ships, submarines, and observation balloons later improved and evolved into common components of later conflicts. However technological changes quickly rendered Civil War era tactics and operations ineffective and obsolete.

A look at the three Generations of Warfare currently in practice will reveal how human conflict has evolved in directions and means beyond what could be conducted and even imagined in the Civil War.

Meeting of August 27, 2019

Jim Rhetta and Tom Roza on “How to Write a Book”

Writing is something that people do almost every day whether it is associated with their work profession or just on a personal basis. One of the most intriguing and compelling components of writing is storytelling where the author presents their thoughts that, depending on the content, is intended to either entertain, educate, or both.

Students of history such as members of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable are exposed to numerous stories regarding events and people that are associated with the Civil War, the most significant aspect in the history of the United States of America. And, often that exposure to literally tens of thousands of events and characters can stimulate within a person the creative desire to tell a story from their perspective.

The purpose of this presentation is to share with the SBCWRT membership the personal experiences of two of its members, Jim Rhetta and Tom Roza, on how to leverage that creative desire into positive action.

Tom will share is personal experience regarding his love of writing and how that was translated into the creation of his recently published novel, “Windows to the Past” A Virginian’s experience in the Civil War.” The presentation will include a description of the actual writing effort and the advice and guidance Tom received on how to effectively write a historically-based novel. This will include the extensive work Tom preformed with an experienced fictional editor. Tom’s portion of the joint presentation will include the often-frustrating effort to get his book published.

Jim will provide guidance on the descriptive components of writing in that era to reach the reader and provide a more captivating book. Writers should be aware of and describe the wide variety of vehicles and horses on the roads in that time. The social factors of the time include the large family sizes, drinking practices, social manners, and the role of religion. Sights and sounds include the colors and styles of clothing worn, type and state of crops in the fields, the feel of travel, and conditions of the buildings and infrastructure. Descriptions of these factors can combine to take the reader back to that era and have a deeper connection to the story.

Tom Roza has been a student of history for over 60 years. As an officer and the Secretary of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable, Tom has made numerous presentations on the topic of the Civil War to both his Roundtable organization and other organizations in the Bay Area. Tom is a published author of the book entitled, “Windows to the Past: A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War” that has been accepted by the Library of Congress into its Catalog, and is currently working on a sequel.

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 foreign threat systems, global conflicts and crisis for the DoD Community. His careers required him to fuse multiple data sources 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.

Meeting of July 30, 2019

Robert Burch on “Military Operations Out of State″

A post war period photo of Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory, named after the commander of the 5th California Infantry and initially built by soldiers from that unit

Bob’s presentation will focus on operations conducted by the California Volunteers during the Civil War in rough chronological order. Two battalions were first deployed to the Pacific Northwest to replace outbound Regular Army units joining the Army of the Potomac in late 1861. In early 1862 three regiments composed the famous California Column in its epic march across present-day Arizona and New Mexico into Western Texas during the heat of summer to assist repelling a Confederate invasion. This remains one of the classic marches in U.S. Army history in terms of organization and logical preparation. Later that same year another two regiments marched overland to Utah to defend the primary line of communications between California and the East. Finally, two regiments were concentrated in Southeast Arizona Territory to deter possible war with France as French forces occupied the Mexican state of Sonora in late 1864. Collectively these Volunteer units protected all U.S. territory west of the Rocky Mountains for nearly five years from outlaws, hostile Indians, and Confederate threats.

Bob Burch is a native Californian from Santa Clara County, a retired U.S. Army colonel and studied U.S. history with a concentration in U.S. military history at San Jose State University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and War College. He is also a lifetime student of the American Civil War. He read his first Civil War book while in the fifth grade. He had the opportunity to visit all of the principle and most secondary Civil War sites from Florida to Pennsylvania to New Mexico during his 30-year military career, including multiple week-long visits to Gettysburg, his favorite battlefield site. Like most CWRT members, he desires to understand his home state’s role in the war. He collected material for this presentation for over ten years followed by several years of analysis. This series documents his research in great detail. Time allows only a key points 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 of June 25, 2019

Bill Yenne on “The Civil War Careers of Tom Custer”

The life, the legacy, and the Civil War years of Captain Thomas Ward Custer have long been overshadowed by those of his older brother—George Armstrong Custer—yet he was significant in his own right as the first soldier ever to be awarded two Medals of Honor. Tom fought at his brother’s side through the climactic battles of 1865 and during campaigns in the West, yet it is widely forgotten that he had two distinct Civil War careers—the first as an enlisted infantryman in an Ohio regiment, and a second as a cavalry officer in a Michigan brigade. Bill Yenne pulls back the curtain from the life of the wrongly overlooked younger brother and tells the stories of those two Civil War careers.

Bill Yenne is the award-winning author of numerous works of military history, as well as books on other historical subjects, including a highly regarded biography of Sitting Bull, and several novels. His recent book, The Other Custers: Tom, Boston Nevin & Maggie in the Shadow of George Armstrong Custer, tells the compelling stories of Tom and the “other” siblings, and how not one, not two, but three of the brothers died at the Little Bighorn. He lives in San Francisco, and on the web at www.BillYenne.com.

Meeting of May 28, 2019

Libra Hilde on “African American Soldiers and the Civil War”

The talk explores the recruitment of African American men into the Union Army, their motivations for fighting, who fought, treatment and experiences in the army, and exemplary service. Although the talk given by Dr. Hilde in her university class only considers African American soldiers in the Union, she hopes to add information on the proposed recruitment of enslaved men into the Confederate Army, a plan that never came to fruition (the war was essentially over) and did not have the support of slaveholders.

Dr. Libra Hilde is a professor in History at San Jose State University. She received her Ph.D. at Harvard University in 2003. While she teaches a broad array of undergraduate and graduate courses, her research focuses on race and gender in the 19th century U.S., with a particular emphasis on the Civil War and slavery.

Meeting of April 30, 2019

Nick Adams on “A Civil War Story of the Family Left Behind”

What was the Civil War like for the families of those who chose to fight?

Nick Adams will be telling one such story in a thematic outline of his new book: Away at War: A Civil War Story of the Family Left Behind. This will be a follow-up to his presentation last year which focused on the 100 letters his great-great-grandfather wrote back from the Western Theater battlefields (My Dear Wife and Children: Civil War Letters from a 2nd Minnesota Volunteer).

He will share with us the terrible impact, the pain and anxiety, and the untold suffering war can cause the families of soldiers. With the winter of 1861 approaching, Minerva Griffin and her three young children are alone on the Minnesota prairie, for the husband and father of the family has left them for the fight to preserve the Union. She is now responsible for preserving both farm and family for his hoped-for eventual return. It is a true tale, developed from his letters home, of the difficult struggle to survive experienced by those left behind.

Nick Adams

Nick Adams’s passion for the American Civil War began at the age of nine, when his mother first told him about her great-grandfather, David Brainard Griffin, who had fought with the 2nd Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers, and had been killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. What she didn’t tell him about at that time was the 100 preserved letters he had written back to his young family on the Minnesota prairie … because she didn’t know about them, for they had been passed down in another branch of the family. When they were finally shared with her some forty years ago, she was permitted to make a single copy, which she graciously gave to Nick because she knew of his life-long interest. The originals are presumed no longer to survive, but his copies have been deposited with the Minnesota Historical Society.

Following post-graduate studies in Church History (Abilene Christian) and Sociology of Religion (University of Iowa), Nick spent 30 years in Pastoral Ministry and Social Justice, then returned to teaching, this time at the Elementary School level, and completed 20 years in the classroom. It was during those classroom years that the letters were given to him. By reading his personal account of involvement in the conflict, they became the perfect instrument for creating student interest in the period.

Since retirement, Nick has authored three books about the letters. Last spring he presented to our roundtable his story, as related in the letters (My Dear Wife and Children: Civil War Letters from a 2nd Minnesota Volunteer). This year he will tell his family’s story: Away at War: A Civil War Story of the Family Left Behind.

Meeting of March 26, 2019

Tom Roza on “American Revolution vs. the Civil War: Similarities and Differences”

The two most momentous events in the history of the United States of America occurred less than a century apart; the Revolutionary War occurred in 1775-1783 and the Civil War in 1861-1865. The objective of the Revolutionary War was to create United States of America; the objective of the Civil War was to preserve it. Being a student of history for over 60 years and having conducted extensive research into the root causes for each of these two conflicts, there are numerous social, economic, and political similarities – as well as some differences.

From a high level, people living in the Thirteen Colonies, because of the vast geographical distance from England and Europe in general, and the mixing of different ethnic cultures, with each passing day, were drifting further apart from their European ancestors. In the United States, the North had become more urban, industrialized, and its citizens were more migrant that produced a philosophy that America was a “Union of States”. Conversely, the South was more rural, agrarian, and its population was more sedentary; generation after generation grew up and lived in the same towns and counties; that produced a philosophy that America was a “Collection of Independent States”.

From a social perspective for the period leading up to the Revolutionary War, while most of the people living in the thirteen colonies were of English ancestry, cohabitating with other European ethnic groups as well as being in close proximity to Native American Indians produced a vastly different set of values from those living in England and other European countries. The American colonists saw themselves as more independent and were creating a more homogenous society. For the period leading up to the Civil War, American citizens living in the North had retained that homogenous society perspective that resulted in a more inclusive citizenry. American citizens living in the South sociologically had evolved into a more exclusive society that supported slavery and viewed non-Caucasians and those from non-Protestant religions as foreigners.

From an economic perspective, the British Parliament used its power to impose numerous trade tariffs, barriers and regulations that retarded the economic growth of the colonies. Similarly, the United States Congress imposed numerous trade tariffs, barriers, and regulations that retarded the economic growth of the Southern States.

From a political perspective, the thirteen colonies had no representation in Parliament and were denied the same individual rights that were granted to citizens living in England. With the abolitionist movement in the North attempting to prevent slavery from being allowed in the new states being formed in the western territories, Southerners feared they would lose political power in Congress that would both perpetuate the imposition of unfair economic laws but also eventually result in the abolition of slavery throughout the United States.

The presentation “American Revolution vs. the Civil War: Similarities and Differences” takes in-depth look at these two momentous events.

Tom Roza has been a student of history for over 60 years. His interest in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War began with his elementary education in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has evolved ever since. As an officer and the Secretary of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable, Tom has made numerous presentations on the topic of the Civil War to both his roundtable organization and other historical organizations in the Bay Area. Tom is also a published author of the book entitled Windows to the Past: A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War, which has been accepted by the Library of Congress into its catalog. Tom is currently working on a sequel.

Meeting of February 26, 2019

Mike MacDonald on “Civil War Swords”

Mike McDonald is a sword collector with over 200 in his collection. He will cover the different sword patterns, designs, and manufactures of the Civil War era. The foreign influence on US sword designs was strong and due to a continuous shortage, foreign manufacturers supplied many of the swords used on both sides in the conflict. Although they accounted for a very small percentage of casualties, they were a highly visible item in the war due to regulations that officers carry them as a symbol of rank and authority.

Meeting of January 29, 2019

Jim Tortorici on “Federal Ironclads and Their Technology”

During the Civil War, the CSS Virginia, a captured and rebuilt Union steam frigate formerly known as the USS Merrimac,engaged the USS Monitor in the first battle between iron-fortified naval vessels in history. The ironclad warships proved their value in battle. No longer would wooden ships be viable in war. The battle had changed the course of naval warfare.

USS Cairo

The Union built a formidable force of river ironclads, beginning with several converted riverboats and then contracted engineer James Eads of St. Louis, Missouri, to build the City-class ironclads. These excellent ships were built with twin engines and a central paddle wheel, all protected by an armored casement. They had a shallow draft, allowing them to journey up smaller tributaries, and were very well suited for river operations. They were not as heavily armored as the ocean-going monitors of the Union, but they were adequate for their intended use. More Western Flotilla Union ironclads were sunk by torpedoes (mines) than by enemy fire, and the most damaging fire for the Union ironclads was from shore installations, not Confederate vessels.

Jim’s presentation will cover the armor, engine, and guns of the federal ironclads, focusing on the USS Cairo.

Jim Tortorici was born in 1946 in Chicago, IL. He spent much of his youth in Chicago and Westchester, IL, Ogden, UT, and moved to San Jose, CA, in 1960. He attended Campbell and Blackford High Schools graduating in 1964. In 1969, Jim graduated from San Jose State University with a BS in Industrial Arts specializing in Business and Industry. Jim received his MA in Industrial Technology in 1976 from San Jose State University.

Upon graduation from San Jose State University in 1969, Jim served on active duty for three years in the US Marine Corps and then entered the Reserves retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1995. Upon release from active duty, Jim was hired as a Design Draftsman in 1972 at Ford Motor Co in Milpitas, CA. In 1974 Jim was hired by IBM in San Jose retiring as an Advisory Engineer in 2001.

Jim has been married for 50 years to his wife Barbara. They have three children, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Jim’s interest in ship modeling began in his youth building plastic and wood models. This interest broadened to flying scale model aircraft and scale model railroad trains as an adult. Later Jim began specializing in ship models with his affiliation with the South Bay Model Shipwrights Club. Some of his more detailed projects include the HMS Victory, HMS Halifax, the 1678 Grosse Jacht, the USS Monitor, and currently the USS Cairo.

Meeting of November 27, 2018

Jim Rhetta on “Paying for the Civil War”

A very significant and invariably overlooked component to any conflict is that fact that it has to be paid for. Historian focus on tactical and strategic decisions and actions and commonly ignore the revenue sources necessary to maintain an effectively military force. Two examples will be presented of cases where Nations ran out of funds to continue a conflict, and the impacts of one to this day.

This presentation will cover how both sides funded their forces in the Civil War from the only three sources still available to nations today – Taxes, Bonds, and Printing Money. Both sides used a mix of these three sources in different ratios and faced social and economic limitations on how much could be extracted from each funding source. The amount of funds raised and management of the National economies involved had a strong correlation to the tactical results of the Civil War.

Meeting Minutes November 2018

Meeting of October 30, 2018

Robert Burch on “California in the Civil War: Defending the State 1861–1865″

Wartime photo of Camp Babbitt at Visalia, an alleged center of Confederate partisan activities

California’s involvement in the American Civil War remains one of the great hidden facets of that conflict. Many amateur historians and journalists in recent years have published articles in magazines or on the Internet discussing alleged Civil War events across California between 1862 and 1865. This presentation combines all documented events into one forum for a clear, concise and complete operational picture of what happened within the state during the last four years of the war. In hindsight, none of these events has any connection with the war. However, at that time they were so considered and reflect California’s involvement in the great struggle to preserve the Union. The story ends with the post-war return of Regular Army regiments.

The U.S. Army transitioned from combat to stability operations upon successfully securing the state for the Union in late 1861. The Army also transferred operational responsibly at the military district level to various California Volunteer regiments. These units conducted what we today call “military support to civil authority.” These ranged from operations against hostile Indian “war bands” to assistance to local law enforcement to counter common criminal gangs disguised as partisans. Concurrently the state militia supported local law enforcement agencies in some of the “California Squatter Wars” during this period. This story is presented in rough chronological order:

  • Background – Military Situation in January 1862
  • Events Shift North
  • San Jose, Healdsburg and Vallejo
  • Bald Hills Indian War (Omitted)
  • Owens Valley Indian War (Omitted)
  • Northeast California Indian Wars (Omitted)
  • Visalia
  • Santa Clara County
  • Preparation for War with France (Omitted)
  • Victory: End of California Secessionism & Return of Regular Army

This presentation omits discussion of the various Indian Wars and preparation for war with France to focus on alleged Civil War-related events. Omitted parts are part of the California wartime experience, but excluded due to time constraint. They are listed above simply to offer a complete outline of wartime military events within the state during the war.

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 October 2018

Meeting of September 25, 2018

Abby Eller on “The Destruction of Slavery During the Civil War”

At the outbreak of the Civil War, as Southern white men went off to fight, everyone knew they could count on the labor and loyalty of their slaves back home. Or could they?

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation has been criticized for only freeing the slaves in the rebel states but not in the loyal states. It is said, it did not really free any slaves at all. Or … did it? Would it surprise you to know that tens of thousands of slaves were already emancipated before the Emancipation Proclamation?

Abby’s talk will cover the fascinating story behind the demise of slavery during the Civil War, and how decisive this was to the war’s outcome.

Meeting Minutes September 2018

Meeting of August 18, 2018

Ted Savas on “The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865.

LeRoy Wiley Gresham was born to an affluent slave-holding family in Macon, Georgia. A horrific leg injury left him an invalid, and the educated, inquisitive, perceptive, and exceptionally witty 12-year-old began keeping a diary in 1860–just as secession and the Civil War began tearing the country and his world apart. He continued to write even as his health deteriorated until both the war and his life ended in 1865. His unique manuscript of the demise of the Old South—lauded by the Library of Congress as one of its premier holdings—is published here for the first time in The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865.

LeRoy read books, devoured newspapers and magazines, listened to gossip, and discussed and debated important social and military issues with his parents and others. He wrote daily for five years, putting pen to paper with a vim and tongue-in-cheek vigor that impresses even now, more than 150 years later. His practical, philosophical, and occasionally Twain-like hilarious observations cover politics and the secession movement, the long and increasingly destructive Civil War, family pets, a wide variety of hobbies and interests, and what life was like at the center of a socially prominent wealthy family in the important Confederate manufacturing center of Macon. The young scribe often voiced concern about the family’s pair of plantations outside town, and recorded his interactions and relationships with “servants” Howard, Allen, Eveline, and others as he pondered the fate of human bondage and his family’s declining fortunes.

Unbeknownst to LeRoy, he was chronicling his own slow and painful descent toward death in tandem with the demise of the Southern Confederacy. He recorded—often in horrific detail—an increasingly painful and debilitating disease that robbed him of his childhood. The teenager’s declining health is a consistent thread coursing through his fascinating journals. “I feel more discouraged [and] less hopeful about getting well than I ever did before,” he wrote on March 17, 1863. “I am weaker and more helpless than I ever was.” Morphine and a score of other “remedies” did little to ease his suffering. Abscesses developed; nagging coughs and pain consumed him. Alternating between bouts of euphoria and despondency, he often wrote, “Saw off my leg.”

The War Outside My Window, edited and annotated by Janet Croon with helpful footnotes and a detailed family biographical chart, captures the spirit and the character of a young privileged white teenager witnessing the demise of his world even as his own body slowly failed him. Just as Anne Frank has come down to us as the adolescent voice of World War II, LeRoy Gresham will now be remembered as the young voice of the Civil War South.

Theodore P. Savas is an award-winning author, attorney, publishing consultant, and the managing director of one of America’s leading independent publishing companies (Savas Beatie LLC: www.savasbeatie.com). Ted founded the South Bay Civil War Round Table in 1989; its first meeting of four people was held in his living room in San Jose.

Meeting Minutes August 2018