Meeting of June 28, 2016

Paul Quigley on “The Fourth of July in the Civil War Era”

US_flag_35_starsHow did Americans celebrate the anniversary of their nation’s birth when the nation was falling apart? In this lecture, Professor Paul Quigley explores Civil War Americans’ varied attitudes to the Fourth of the July. Northerners used the holiday to rejoice in Union victories. African Americans seized the opportunity to prove their American identity. And white southerners wondered whether they should celebrate Independence Day at all. These fascinating stories are hidden in thousands of newspaper articles, speeches, letters, and diaries from the Civil War years. Quigley demonstrated a new website, “Mapping the Fourth of July in the Civil War Era,” which allows anyone interested in Civil War history to transcribe, tag, and discuss these documents online.

Paul Quigley is Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and the James I. Robertson, Jr., Associate Professor of Civil War History in the History Department at Virginia Tech. A native of Manchester, England, he holds degrees from Lancaster University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Quigley is the author of Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848-65, which won the British Association for American Studies Book Prize and the Jefferson Davis Award from the Museum of the Confederacy.

Meeting Minutes June 2016

Quiz for June 28, 2016

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About William Tecumseh Sherman That’s Not Associated with the Civil War?

Q#1 – What was William Tecumseh Sherman’s birth date?

Q#2 – What town and state was Sherman born in?

Q#3 – What explanation did Sherman provide for how he was given his middle name of Tecumseh?

Q#4 – What famous American Founding Father was Sherman distantly related to?

Q#5 – Sherman’s father, Charles Robert Sherman, died unexpectedly in 1829. At the time, what legal position in did Sherman’s father hold?

Q#6 – When Sherman entered West Point in 1836, what future famous Union Civil War general was his roommate?

Q#7 – After graduating from West Point in 1840, in what conflict did Sherman experience his first military action?

Q#8 – Did Sherman see any combat action in the Mexican–American War of 1846-48?

Q#9 – In 1850, Sherman married Eleanor Boyle (“Ellen”) Ewing. How many children did they have?

Q#10 – In 1853, Sherman resigned his captaincy in the United States Army. What position did he assume in the private sector?

Q#11 – In 1859, what important administrative position in the academic sector was Sherman appointed to?

Q#12 – In June 1865, Sherman received his first post Civil War command. What was that command?

Q#13 – In 1875, Sherman published a two-volume book of his memoirs. What was the title of the memoirs?

Q#14 – In retirement, Sherman was much in demand as a colorful speaker at dinners and banquets. What famous playwright was Sherman fond of quoting?

Q#15 – In 1891, what famous Confederate general served as a pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral and died one month later of pneumonia?

Book Faire, July 2016

In 2015, the SBCWRT membership approved the acceptance of two very large donations of a wide variety of Civil War media (books, magazines, brochures, newspaper clippings, videos, etc). We then agreed to use the donations as part of a fundraising effort.

We formed a subcommittee and developed the concept of having a “Book Faire”. This event will be held in July 2016 at Laney College in Oakland in collaboration with other military historical organizations. Book Faire 2016

Meeting of May 31, 2016

Tom Roza on “The Civil War: The Story of the Artillery DVD”

artillery DVDThe Civil War pitted countrymen against countrymen in the most brutal and bloody chapter in American history. This commemorative 40-minute DVD entitled “The Story of Civil War Artillery” from the History Channel archives explores one of the factors that finally helped bring it all to a close: the revolutionary new artillery weapons of the day.

This in-depth documentary uses period photographs, factual re-enactments, first-person accounts, and interviews with noted historians to bring fascinating details of the use of artillery to life. The feature begins with a description of the role of the Artillery Commanders and how they used their weapons for maximum effectiveness. Next is a graphic presentation of the advancements in artillery engineered and developed primarily by Federal forces and manufacturers that eventually evolved into “Big Gun Warfare”.

The video then explores the various types of fortifications that both North and South used during the Civil War and the effect that artillery bombardments had on reducing their effectiveness. It concludes with a detailed presentation on the use of artillery at the Battle of Gettysburg including the massive bombardment executed by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia preceding Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863.

Meeting Minutes May 2016

Quiz for May 31, 2016

Civil War Quiz – What Happened During the Month of May, 1861-1865?

Q#1 – The Battle of Seven Pines was fought on what dates?

Q#2 – What are the primary dates for when the Battle of Chancellorsville was fought?

Q#3 – Stonewall Jackson died on May 10, 1863, from his wounds. What were his last words?

Q#4 – Two major battles were fought in May of 1864 at the start of what was called the Union’s Overland Campaign. What are their names and the dates they were fought?

Q#5 – On May 4, 1865, a significant event regarding President Lincoln occurred. What was that event?

Q#6 – On May 20, 1861, what major political decision was made by the Confederate government?

Q#7 – On May 20, 1862, what important legislation did President Lincoln sign into law? Hint: It was not a military related act

Q#8 – On May 16, 1863, General U.S. Grant fought and won what battle as part of his Vicksburg Campaign?

Q#9 – On May 11, 1864, the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Virginia was fought. What important commander was mortally wounded in that battle?

Q#10 – On May 15, 1864, a battle was fought where the entire cadet corps from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) made up a portion of the Confederate forces. What was the name of that battle?

Q#11 – On May 2, 1865, the United States Government issued a monetary reward for the arrest of Jefferson Davis. How much was that award?

Q#12 – On May 10, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by U.S. troops. What is the name of the location where Davis was captured?

Q#13 – On May 29, 1865, then President Andrew Johnson took what action regarding most ex-Confederates?

Q#14 – What major event occurred in Washington, DC, on May 23-24, 1865?

Q#15 – On May 12, 1865, the last land engagement of the Civil War was fought. Where did this action occur?

Meeting of April 26, 2016

Eric Faust on “The 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War”

11thMichiganVolunteerInfantryFollow a hard-fighting Union regiment all the way from its recruitment at the outset of the war through its participation in several major battles in the western theater, and finally, through muster out. Michigan’s 11th regiment was initially raised independent from its state government, much to Governor Austin Blair’s consternation. In some respects, this unit typified Federal infantry units as a whole: Its soldiers enlisted to preserve the Union, initially giving little thought to slavery. They marched off to war confident of a quick victory. And they learned to fear disease more than bullets.

But in other respects—especially on the battlefield—this was not your average Union infantry regiment. The 11th Michigan fought tenaciously at Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and in the Atlanta Campaign. The unit’s finest moment came at Chickamauga, where it captured a Confederate general and repeatedly employed the bayonet against superior numbers on Horseshoe Ridge to help prevent the destruction of the Army of the Cumberland. Yet despite its impressive battle record, this enigmatic regiment suffered from shaky discipline at times (scarcely being restrained on one occasion from murdering Copperhead Clement L. Vallandigham and vice presidential candidate George H. Pendleton), and unlike the majority of Federal soldiers, its war-weary men overwhelmingly and emphatically declined to reenlist when the time came.

Eric R. Faust Conspicuous GallantryEric R. Faust is a software engineer by day, and a historian on nights and weekends. He holds a B.S. in computer science, with a cognate degree in history, from Michigan State University. He is the author of The 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War (McFarland, 2015) and editor of Conspicuous Gallantry: The Civil War and Reconstruction Letters of James W. King, 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry (Kent State University Press, 2015). He recently moved to Palo Alto from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Meeting Minutes April 2016

Quiz for April 26, 2016

Civil War Quiz – What Do You Know About George Henry Thomas?

George_Henry_Thomas_-_Brady-HandyQ#1 – In what state was George Henry Thomas born?

Q#2 – In 1831, what incident occurred that forced the Thomas family to flee from their home and hide in the nearby woods?

Q#3 – While a cadet at the West Point Military Academy, what nickname did the other cadets give to George Thomas?

Q#4 – What person who would gain enormous fame fighting for the Union during the Civil War was Thomas’s roommate and close friend?

Q#5 – After graduating from West Point in 1840, what military unit in the army was Thomas first assigned to?

Q#6 – In 1851, Thomas returned to West Point in what capacity?

Q#7 – When Thomas returned to West Point in 1851, who was the Academy Superintendent with whom Thomas would eventually establish a close professional and personal relationship?

Q#8 – During Thomas’s long military career both before and during the Civil War, what was the only wound he suffered in combat?

Q#9 – At the outbreak of the Civil War, being a Southerner, Thomas struggled with the decision on which side to join, but opted to remain with the United States. What was thought to have been the main factor in his decision-making?

Q#10 – On January 18, 1862, where did Thomas win the first important Union victory in the war defeating Confederate Brig. Generals George B. Crittenden and Felix Zollicoffer?

Q#11 – In the fall of 1862, what military command did Thomas refuse to accept?

Q#12 – After the battle what future president who was a field officer for the Army of the Cumberland was instrumental in Thomas becoming became widely known by the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga”?

Q#13 – Prior to the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, why did General US Grant send Maj. Gen. John A. Logan to Tennessee with an order to replace Thomas?

Q#14 – After Thomas’s decisive victory at the Battle of Nashville, what other nickname was given to him?

Q#15 – Thomas died on March 28, 1870, at the age of 53 while serving in San Francisco, California, as commander of the Military Division of the Pacific with headquarters at the Presidio. What was the cause of death?

Meeting of March 29, 2016

Bob Burch on “Californian U.S. Volunteer Units, Part 2: Cavalry”

This is the second of a three-part presentation on the California Volunteers and the third in the California and the American Civil War series. The first presentation provided an overview of the mustering process used by Union states to generate new regiments with an emphasis on its application in California. This second presentation focused on California Volunteer cavalry regimental histories while the third will focus on the infantry regiments. Each unit history includes a historical summary, commander’s biography, and map detailing duty locations. Drawing from extensive original and secondary historical sources and photographs, this presentation provides the most exhaustive history of these regiments available.

California contributed two regiments and one battalion of cavalry to the Union War effort. These soldiers served across the entire Western United States from Idaho to Arizona Territories, and as far eastward as Wyoming Territory and Texas. They checked Secessionist activities in southern California, repelled a Confederate invasion of New Mexico, protected mail routes across the West, and conducted numerous campaigns against hostile Indians including the famous Battle of Apache Pass. They also suffered the highest losses of all the California regiments during the war.

Among the eleven regimental and battalion commanders were some of the most famous or colorful characters serving with the California Volunteers. These include detached Regular Army officers Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Franklin Davis of Alabama who commanded the 1st California Cavalry and died leading a Union brigade at Brandy Station, as well as Colonel Andrew Jackson Smith of the 2nd California Cavalry who later commanded a corps with distinction at Nashville and Mobile Bay. Most commanders were long forgotten Californians who served their country in time of crisis. They include Colonel Edward McGarry of the 1st Cavalry who gained fame during the Shoshone Indian Campaign. Colonel Clearance Bennett, also of the 1st Cavalry, was instrumental in preventing Secessionist capture of Southern California. Major Salvador Vallejo, Native California Cavalry (NCC) Battalion, whose troops fought Confederate Partisans near San Jose. And eccentric Major John Cremony who later led the NCC against hostile Indians in Arizona.

This presentation put to rest the notion that California only panned gold for four years to pay for the Union war effort. It highlights the exploits and contributions of the California Volunteer Cavalry.

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 March 2016

Quiz for March 29, 2016

Civil War Quiz – War on the Frontier

Q#1 – What was the name of the famous American frontiersman who joined the Union Army and led the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry against Confederate forces at Valverde, New Mexico, in February 1862?

Q#2 – What was the name of the Union officer who was in charge of the Department of New Mexico in 1861 and resigned his commission to join the Confederacy?

Q#3 – What was the name of the powerful Union ironclad that was involved in the April-May 1864 Red River Campaign?

Q#4 – During the Civil War for the Union effort, California raised 8 regiments of infantry, 2 of cavalry, and several smaller specialized units. What was the total number of volunteers that made up these units?

Q#5 – What was the main military purpose for Union troops raised in California?

Q#6 – In the region west of Rocky Mountains, what posed the biggest military threat to Federal troops?

Q#7 – What was the name of the Apache War Chief who engaged in many battles with Federal troops, most famous of which was in the area of Apache Pass?

Q#8 – Pro Southern Democrats dominated California politics prior to the Civil War. What was the nickname given to the governmental office building in San Francisco that was used during pre-war times by these politicians?

Q#9 – On November 29, 1864, a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia attacked and destroyed a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians inhabited in southeastern Colorado Territory. What was this event called?

Q#10 – In the Spring of 1864, after taking over command of all Union forces, US Grant assigned which general to deal with the Indian War problems in the West?

Q#11 – True or False: At the beginning of the Civil War, Confederate sympathizers threatened to separate Southern California from the rest of the state and declare if part of the Confederacy?

Q#12 – Which side won the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, the first major battle of the Trans-Mississippi Theater, which was fought on August 10, 1861, near Springfield, Missouri?

Q#13 – The 1st California Cavalry stationed at Fort McLane in far western New Mexico Territory brutally tortured and murdered a famous Apache chief. What was the chief’s name?

Q#14 – What is the name of the battle that took place in Texas on September 8, 1863, that has often been credited as the most one-sided Confederate victory during the war?

Q#15 – At the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 6–8, 1862, what was a major factor that influenced Confederate General Earl Van Dorn to abandon the battle and retreat from the field?

Meeting of February 23, 2016

Jim Balassone on “George Henry Thomas, Virginian for the Union”

George H. Thomas (Wikipedia)

Few Southerners in the U.S. Army remained loyal to the Union. Thomas fought for the North and secured key victories at Mill Springs, Stones River, Chickamauga Creek (after which he became known as the Rock of Chickamauga), Chattanoga, and Nashville, where Hood’s Army of the Tennessee was nearly annihilated by Thomas’s forces.

At the time, Thomas was considered one of best Union generals of the Civil War, never having been defeated. Yet he has been eclipsed by the likes of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan. Furthermore, Thomas distinguished himself during Reconstruction, fighting for the rights on newly freed blacks and using Federal troops to enforce the law in his military district (Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama).

Why is he a near unknown? Understanding George Thomas gives all of us a new perspective of the Civil War, and undermines many of the assumptions of the “Lost Cause”.

Jim Balassone, recently retired from a hi-tech and teaching careers here in Silicon Valley, has been a Civil War “buff” for about 15 years, reading extensively on the subject, traveling to numerous battle sites in both the East and the West. The more he reads, the more he understands that the topic is limitless. He is, however, a die-hard unionist!

Meeting Minutes February 2016