Category Archives: Meeting archive

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

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