Category Archives: Meeting archive

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

Meeting of August 16, 2009

Gary Yee on “A Plan Gone Wrong: The Siege of Battery Wagner (July 21, 1863 to September 7, 1863)”

Gary Yee

Gary Yee

Charleston harbor was defended in the Civil War by Fort Sumter in the middle of the channel and, in the north, on Sullivan’s Island by Fort Moultrie and, to the south of Fort Sumter, on Morris Island by Battery Gregg. To defend Battery Gregg from attack from the south, Battery Wagner was established on Morris Island by the Confederates. The Federal commander of the attempt to capture Charleston was Brig. Gen. Quincy Gilmore and his plan was to land troops on Morris Island and capture both Batteries Wagner and Gregg and then reduce and capture Fort Sumter which would allow the navy to steam into Charleston harbor. Continue reading

Meeting of July 28, 2009

Bob Hubbs on “How Lincoln Won the War Without the Help of his Generals”

Bob’s presentation focused on Lincoln’s relationship with his generals in high command during the Civil War. Among the “highlights” or major points of Bob’s presentation were:

  • A review of Lincoln for what he really was relative to the manner in which he selected, communicated with, and demonstrated confidence in his generals. Continue reading

Meeting of June 30, 2009

Norman Patrick Doyle on “Two Civil War Generals in Mexico”

two 19th-century generals

Generals Twiggs and Harney

Patrick’s presentation included an overview of the Mexican-American War, 1846-1848, beginning with the actions of President James K. Polk that were, to a great extent, factors that precipitated the conflict. Patrick then sequenced the significant battles of the war, beginning with the first major battle, May 8, 1846, at Palo Alto, adjacent to modern day Brownsville, Texas, and concluding with the culminating battles of the war at Churubusco (on September 19, 1847) and Chapultepec (September 14, 1847). Gen. Winfield Scott’s troops continued to occupy Mexico City until the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on May 22, 1848 which officially ended the war. Continue reading

Meeting of May 26, 2009

Larry Tagg on “The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln”

Larry Tagg's book cover

Larry Tagg’s book cover

Larry’s presentation focused on the central and most meaningful aspects of his recently released book, entitled The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: The Story of America’s Most Reviled President. It revealed a number of interesting and informative insights relative to the immense unpopularity of Lincoln as he assumed the Presidency following the election of 1860. Among the highlights of Larry’s presentation were the following:

  • Lincoln was inaugurated at a time when the Presidency was tarnished by a string of poor presidents who preceded him (Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan) and at a time when all authority was little regarded. Continue reading

Meeting of April 28, 2009

Jack Mather on “Sherman—Fall 1864 to the End of the War: Myth and Reality”

Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman (Wikipedia)

Jack’s presentation evolved around the two following communications:

Oct. 9, 1864, Sherman to Grant: “Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, horses and people will cripple their military resources … I can make the march and make Georgia howl.” Continue reading

Meeting of March 31, 2009

Brad Schall on “The Political Climate in California 1850-1870”

Brad’s presentation centered around the crucial elements of the 1856 and 1870 elections. He examined both the role and impact of California’s first two Senators: William Gwin and John C. Frémont. He addressed “Why the South needed California to be a Slave State” and to what extent did slavery already exist in California. Within this context Brad related the stories of Mary Ellen Pleasant and the David Broderick vs. David Terry duel.

Newsletter March 2009

Meeting of February 24, 2009

Larry Comstock on “The Other End of the Line — The Union Right Flank at Gettysburg”

Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 (Hal Jespersen)

Most attention about the battle of Gettysburg is given in the popular press and in the movie Gettysburg to the attacks on July 2, 1863, on the Union left flank and on the center of the Union line on July 3rd (Pickett’s Charge). Who has not heard about Little Round Top, Devils Den, the Peach Orchard, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and the 20th Maine? Larry’s excellent presentation described the events that took place on the Union right flank that were equally important. The geography of Gettysburg and the military importance of the surrounding hills were emphasized. Continue reading

Meeting of January 27, 2009

Charles Sweeney on “Aspects of Slavery During the Civil War”

Charles Sweeney’s presentation focused primarily on slavery and its ramifications during the Civil War, but his presentation also examined slavery in a more comprehensive context. Among the key points of his presentation were:

Meeting of November 25, 2008

Jean Libby on “John Brown: A History and Photo Chronology”

antique photo calling card

Image purchased on eBay by Jean Libby in 2001. It was one of the mystery photographs (date, original sitting and photographer unknown) examined at the November 25th meeting.

Jean’s presentation charted twelve photographs of John Brown the abolitionist through three time periods: the organization of the Underground Railroad and resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law (1846 – 1850), Free State vs. Slave State (1854 – 1857), and the Harpers Ferry Raid (1858 – 1859).

There are several versions of the dozen photos studied, including “How many photo portraits are there of John Brown with his beard?”

Jean’s original chronology in 2002 was made with forensic anthropologist Eileen Barrow at Louisiana State University, who specializes in making aging models of missing children. Her original research on the subject has convinced archivists and experts that some dates and places of commonly viewed photo images of John Brown were incorrect. Continue reading

Meeting of October 28, 2008

Fred Bohmfalk on “Baseball During the Civil War”

Civil War “buffs” and baseball enthusiasts alike were in for a real treat as Fred Bohmfalk’s presentation of “Baseball during the Civil War” enlightened us relative to the origin and somewhat obscure beginning of the game to its reputation as our “national pastime” of the modern era. Continue reading

Meeting of September 30, 2008

Tom Roza on “John Buford at Gettysburg”

portrait of Civil War cavalry officer

Brig. Gen. John Buford (Wikipedia)

Although covering other aspects of of John Buford’s life and Civil War exploits, this presentation focused primarily on his role and strategic contributions to the Union cause at the Battle of Gettysburg. Here is a brief synopsis of Buford’s role on that fateful first day of the battle:

“On the morning of July 1st, 1863, Buford’s men faced west as the sun rose to their backs. Shortly after daylight, one of his troopers posted on the road to Cashtown fired at the advance of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth’s entire Confederate division, sending up the alarm in Buford’s camp. The dismounted cavalrymen, acting like infantry skirmishers, put up a stubborn, slow defense over the two miles to Buford’s main battle line atop McPherson’s Ridge. The Union tactics here called for measured, deliberate resistance that traded ground for time. By the time Heth’s men reached Herr’s Ridge opposite Buford’s main line, two hours of precious daylight had passed and supporting Federal infantry had approached to enter the brawl. Buford, and then infantry commander Maj. Gen. John Reynolds, had their eyes on the ultimate prize—the higher, better ground to the east and south of the town.” This action, combined with the strategic decision of commanding the high ground would have a major impact on the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg. Continue reading

Meeting of August 10, 2008

Jack Leathers on “George Thomas: The Rock of Chickamauga”

portrait of Civil War general

Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas (Wikipedia)

Although Jack’s presentation was comprehensive in covering much of George Thomas’s personal history and military career, Jack began by focusing on what was to be his most notable battle—the September 19-20, 1863, Battle of Chickamauga, the one that would earn him the acclaimed nickname of “The Rock of Chickamauga.”

Following his recounting of this momentous battle, Jack reviewed the career of George Thomas—how Thomas graduated near the top of his class at West Point in 1840 and received his first assignment to fight the Seminole Indians in Florida.

Jack next touched on Thomas’s service during the Mexican War as he served under Gen. Zachary Taylor and proved himself in the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista. Continue reading