Category Archives: Meeting archive

Meeting of January 31, 2012

Lee Meredith on “The Strategic Impact of Railroads in the Civil War”

man with arms akimbo

Lee Meredith

As we have studied the Civil War we have become aware of the major impact railroads had on the outcome of the war. Not even in existence 32 years before Bull Run, there were over 29,000 miles of track when the war started. The armies of McClellan, Lee, Grant, Sherman, and others could not have undertaken the massive movement of men and material without them. You can argue for Napoleon’s massive armies, however Napoleon fought on the relatively flat, cultivated open country of western Europe and Russia and not the mountainous, forested and wet lands of the eastern United States. Continue reading

Meeting of September 27, 2011

Bobb Hubbs on “Holly Springs—Grant’s Worst Nightmare?”

Bob’s presentation detailed the Holly Springs Raid and reviewed Grant’s greatest challenge. Grant’s strategy for the capture of Vicksburg and the final phase of the Anaconda Plan was introduced. The first campaign for the capture of Vicksburg and the ramifications of that effort was presented. What was Grant’s reaction to the incompetent response to the attack by Van Dorn and his cavalry and the capture of Holly Springs. Why of all of the events in Grant’s life would the Holly Springs Raid be worse than others? Continue reading

Meeting of August 14, 2011

Gary Yee on “Civil War Prisons – Interesting Prison Escapes”

At this year’s picnic meeting in Los Gatos, Gary Yee described several of the more famous and infamous prison escapes performed by both Union and Confederate POWs. The presentation also included descriptions of the types of facilities used for prisons on both sides, along with how they were managed (or in most cases mis-managed). Gary described in detail the elaborate efforts POWs performed in escaping from their captivity. This most likely was Gary’s last SBCWRT presentation since he is moving to Colorado. Continue reading

Meeting of July 26, 2011

Tom McMahon on “The Wheel Becomes a Weapon of War, From Iron Age Cart to Iron Horse”

Tom McMahon’s maternal Irish grandfather was born the year the Civil War ended. Tom often wonders what life would have been for him if the military draft had reached his great grandfather in San Francisco. Tom’s dad, born in 1881 in Virginia City, Nevada, maintained locomotives for the Western Pacific Railroad. Tom is having a ball, searching and discovering.

Meeting of June 28, 2011

Dr. Libra Hilde on “Healing Bodies, Morale, and Memory: Female Nursing in the Civil War South”

Meeting description provided by Gary Yee:

Prof. Hilde’s book is being released by the Univ. of Virginia this coming February. There’s already another book on CW nurses, but the author whose name escapes me covers mostly the North. There’s a lot of presumption that the South did the same. That’s where Libra differs. Continue reading

Meeting of May 31, 2011

Adam Arenson on “The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and Cultural Civil War”

headshot

Adam Arenson

The Civil War revealed what united as well as what divided Americans in the nineteenth century—not only in its deadly military conflict, but also in the broader battle of ideas, dueling moral systems, and competing national visions that preceded and followed. This cultural civil war was the clash among North, South, and West, as their leaders sought to shape Manifest Destiny and slavery politics.

No site embodied this struggle more completely than St. Louis, the largest city along the border of slavery and freedom. This sweeping history reveals a city at the heart of the cultural civil war. St. Louisans heralded a new future, erasing old patterns as the United States stretched across the continent. They tried to reorient the nation’s political landscape, with westerners in the vanguard and St. Louis as the cultural, commercial, and national capital. Continue reading

Meeting of April 26, 2011

Donald Stoker on “Grand Strategy in the Civil War”

book cover

Donald Stoker’s book

There are more than 60,000 books on the Civil War. None provide a full discussion of the conflict’s strategy—except Donald Stoker’s Grand Strategy in the Civil War. Stoker, of the U.S. Naval War College’s NPS program, reveals, in the words of the presidents, generals, and admirals, the grand, strategic sweep of the war. The much maligned George McClellan had a vision of Union strategy stretching far beyond his ill-fated Peninsula campaign, one that could have produced Union victory in 1862. The clearest picture yet of Lincoln’s evolution as a strategic thinker also emerges, one in which his clarity and decisiveness in political thought and control shines through just as brightly as his strategic failures. Lincoln had many good strategic ideas, but too often he failed to insure that his subordinates carried them out. One of these, Henry Halleck, McClellan’s successor, cost the Union many lives, and was one of the reasons Union victory was so long delayed. Grant and Sherman emerge as decisive operational and strategic thinkers. Sherman, in many respects, was the best of all. Continue reading

Meeting of March 29, 2011

Larry Comstock on “The Union is Saved! The Atlanta Campaign of 1864”

Atlanta Campaign Map

Atlanta Campaign Map

Larry’s talk covered two campaigns proceeding at the same time in the spring of 1864. The first of these was the military campaign of the army group under General William T. Sherman to attack General Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee encamped at Dalton, GA and to drive towards Atlanta, GA. The key figures in the three armies making up the force were presented. The logistics of the campaign was discussed with particular reference to the Western & Atlantic Railroad that supported both armies (from each end). Two significant battles of this military campaign (Resaca and the Battle of Atlanta) were emphasized. This campaign was one of the five campaigns directed by the new commander of the Union Army, Lt. General U.S. Grant. By mid-July the Atlanta campaign was the only one with any likelihood of significant military success. This was the result of the Army of the Potomac being in a standoff with the Army of Northern Virginia with both entrenched around the Richmond-Petersburg lines. Continue reading

Meeting of February 22, 2011

Dana Lombardy on “Secret Turning Points of the American Civil War”

man posing in library

Dana Lombardy

Dana Lombardy, designer and editor of the battlefield guidebook The First Battle of Bull Run: Campaign of First Manassas, presented one his popular series of “secret” turning points lectures with a look at the decisions (and non-decisions) that have been overlooked or downplayed in most books written about America’s Civil War. What nearly happened in 1862 that could have crippled or stopped President Lincoln’s war plans? What act of disobedience enabled the Union army to stay and fight at Gettysburg after its initial defeat on July 1? Continue reading

Meeting of January 25, 2011

René Accornero, DVM, on “Horses in the Civil War”

photo of numerous dead horses on a battlefield

Horses of Bigelow’s Battery

René’s discussion on horses in the Civil War included man’s relationship to the horse and why over a million horses and mules died in the war. The ancestral horse was discussed as well as purchasing horses, care and diseases of horses, and horses in battles such as in the Peach Orchard and the Bliss farm in the Battle of Gettysburg. Pictured here are some of the eighty-eight horses of Capt. Bigelow’s battery killed at the Trostle farm. Famous horses of generals were mentioned and the fact that Gen. Grant permitted the Confederates to keep their horses after the surrender at Appomattox.

Horses in the Civil War (René’s PowerPoint slides in PDF format)

Meeting of November 30, 2010

Bill Noyes on “Sketch Artists of the Civil War”

sketch of wounded Civil War soldiers

Waud, Wilderness wounded

The following description was provided by Bill after his talk:

The American Civil War was the beginning effort at illustrated journalism on a large and comprehensive scale on our side of the Atlantic and a far bigger and more successful effort than had occurred anywhere. The first such weekly newspaper, the Illustrated London News, had been established in 1842 and covered the Crimea and Garibaldi campaigns but not to the extent that our war was covered. American papers merely copied their coverage during these conflicts. Continue reading

Meeting of October 26, 2010

Hal Jespersen on “William S. Rosecrans”

Title slide of Hal's PowerPoint presentation

Title slide of Hal’s PowerPoint presentation

Our webmaster, Hal Jespersen, presented the life of one of his favorite Civil War generals, William S. Rosecrans, and asked the question: “How did a man of so many accomplishments fall from the heights of strategic success into relative obscurity?” Hal’s answer: an acerbic tongue that made enemies of at least two powerful men-Ulysses S. Grant and Edwin M. Stanton-and one poorly worded order at the battle of Chickamauga. Hal covered Old Rosy’s entire life, but concentrated on his Civil War campaigns, including Iuka/Corinth, Stones River, Tullahoma, and Chickamauga. Continue reading

Meeting of September 28, 2010

Tom McMahon on “Morality and War”

President’s Message: The annual vote for officers was held at the August SBCWRT picnic. These officers agreed to serve for one more year: John Herberich, President; Steve Wetlesen, Vice President; Rene Accornero, Treasurer; Larry Comstock, Secretary; Tom Miller, Membership; Bill Noyes, Preservation; Hal Jespersen, Webmaster; Gary Moore, Historian. Kevin Martinez has assumed the Publicity Director position previously held by Fred Rohrer. Since we are switching to a Web site, the Newsletter position will be left vacant. Continue reading

Meeting of August 14, 2010

Tom Christianson on “Opening of the Battle of Chickamauga”

In the history of the Civil War, the Western Theater has long been overshadowed by the the Eastern Theater. Only recently have serious studies by renowned historians Stephen Z. Starr in his three volume work, The Union Cavalry in the Civil War (1985) and David Evans’ Sherman’s Horsemen (1996), focused on cavalry operations in the Western Theater. During this same time, the battle of Chickamauga has become one of the most studied events of the war, researched by William Glenn Robertson, and a number of other military historians including our own Lt. Col. Tom Christianson, U. S. A. (Retired). As a military historian, Tom taught history at West Point and the Army Command and General Staff College. He has worked with Glenn Robertson and participated in the “staff walks” for military leadership classes studying the battles and battlefields of the Civil War. Other than Gettysburg, perhaps no other site has been studied as closely as Chickamauga, which was designated as the first National Park in 1890. Continue reading

Meeting of July 27, 2010

Dr. Libra Hilde on “Cultural, Social, and Political Trends and Events That Led up to the Civil War”

Dr. Libra Hilde, Assistant Professor, Dept. of History, San Jose State University, discussed the cultural, social, and political trends and events that led up to the Civil War. Her exceptional presentation covered a wide variety of issues and generated numerous questions from her enthusiastic audience. Her overall theme dealt with Southern masculinity and the militaristic culture that helped propel the South into a war it could not win. Continue reading

Meeting of June 29, 2010

Dr. Joe Wagner on “Civil War Medicine”

Civil War Medicine, with one major exception, was virtually unchanged from practice in the dark ages. Bacteria were unknown. Sanitation was primitive, handwashing by surgeons considered unnecessary. The one enormous discovery that was used extensively by both Union and Confederate surgeons was anaesthesia. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) was discovered in 1845, ether in 1846, and chloroform in 1847. Smallpox vaccination was mandated but not rigidly enforced. Soldiers shared vaccine materials, often with disastrous effects. Measles, a childhood illness, was far more serious in adults. In one battle, half a regiment was out of action due to measles. Many soldiers from rural areas had no exposure to common childhood illnesses, and hence no immunity. Continue reading

Meeting of May 25, 2010

Larry Comstock on “The Lincoln Writ” — Abraham Lincoln and the New Almaden Mine

Larry discussed the writ issued by President Abraham Lincoln in May 1863 to be enforced by the U.S. Marshall in San Francisco:

“Whereas, Andres Castillero and divers persons have under a pretended grant from the Republic of Mexico occupied the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine. And, Whereas By the decision of the Supreme Court it has been adjudged that the grant is fraudulent and void. Continue reading

Meeting of March 30, 2010

Tom Roza on “Winfield Scott Hancock – A Man for the Ages”

Civil War general seated

Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock

Tom delighted the club members his presentation on Winfield Scott Hancock. Tom provided a very thorough and detailed description of Hancock from his childhood growing up in Pennsylvania, attending West Point, and participating in his first combat during the Mexican War. The presentation included Hancock’s extensive experience as an Army Quartermaster in duty assignments that ranged from Florida, to the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions and California. Tom described the deep and warm friendships that Hancock developed with fellow soldiers such as Lewis Armistead, Richard Garnett and Harry Heth. Continue reading

Meeting of February 23, 2010

Gerald S. Henig on “Lincoln at 200 – In Fact Rather than Fiction”

As we commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, our 16th president remains an enigmatic figure shrouded in myth and legend. Many questions still surround this well-loved but perplexing man. For example, Lincoln had less than a year of formal education: How did he achieve such literary grandeur? Lincoln was a commander in chief with no military training or experience: How did he prove so effective? He opposed the abolitionist movement: How did he become the great emancipator? By focusing on Lincoln as orator, advocate of freedom commander of Union forces, and wartime political leader, Professor Gerald Henig helped us separate fact from fiction in order to understand better this uncommon common man. Continue reading

Meeting of January 26, 2010

Mary Deborah Petite on “The Women Will Howl”

Mary's book cover

Mary’s book cover

Slicing through Civil War history is not unlike cutting through a layer cake. The icing represents themes of grandeur and glory, the first layer, the epic battles and their heroic outcomes. The next layer represents the decorated heroes and martyrs, the major players. Following them are the histories of the Armies, Divisions, Brigades, and their bold leaders. Finally, and after all else, come the stories of the common soldier. What is frequently overlooked, however, is that the stage upon which these great battles are fought, the land across which armies of tens of thousands surge, also represents the lives of the millions of civilians who depend on that land for their industry and survival. Their voices are rarely heard. And so it was with the women mill-workers of the small mill town of Roswell, Georgia, when William Tecumseh Sherman’s cavalry swept into town on July 5, 1864. Continue reading

Meeting of November 24, 2009

René Accornero on “Retreat from Gettysburg”

Gettysburg Campaign Retreat Map (Hal Jespersen)

René talked about the massive efforts of General Robert Lee and his command as they sought to move people, equipment, and scavenged supplies back to Virginia after being defeated at Gettysburg. More than 57 miles of wagons and ambulance trains and tens of thousands of livestock accompanied the army back to Virginia. The adverse conditions of the driving rain and muddy quagmires were described as General Meade attempted to attack the trains. Battles were fought at South Mountain, Hagerstown, and Williamsport, but Lee’s skillful use of terrain and defenses allowed him to escape. Washington’s criticism of Gen. Meade was also discussed. Meade’s failure to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia prolonged the war for two more years. Continue reading

Meeting of October 24, 2009

Larry Comstock on “Pickett’s Charge”

Map of Pickett’s Charge (Hal Jespersen)

In this talk the attacks by the Army of Northern Virginia and the response by the Union Army of the Potomac over the first two days of the battle of Gettysburg were outlined. The status of the Army of Northern Virginia after the first two days and the alternatives perceived by General Robert E. Lee for the third day were presented. The factors that led Lee to choose a frontal attack on the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge were then discussed. The talk then detailed the massive artillery barrage followed by the advance of Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble’s divisions toward Cemetery Ridge. The “High-Water-Mark” of the advance and the actions by the Union Army that led to the repulse of the Charge were presented. All the reasons for the failure of the Charge followed by some observations by men who participated in the charge were then discussed. Download slides (PDF format, about 9MB).

Newsletter October 2009

Meeting of September 29, 2009

Tom McMahon on “Life, Death and Religion in the Civil War.”

Tom McMahon set the scene for his talk by establishing his position as ordained Catholic priest, former US Army chaplain, and California licensed Mental Health Therapist. Tom choose the title of his talk based on the work in which he has been involved for over 50 years. Continue reading