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

Quiz for February 23, 2016

Civil War Quiz: Civil War Generals and Their Horses

Provide the name of the “Favorite” horse ridden by each of these Civil War Personalities

Q#1 – US Grant

Q#2 – Robert E Lee

Q#3 – George McClellan

Q#4 – William T Sherman

Q#5 – Philip Sheridan

Q#6 – Stonewall Jackson

Q#7 – Jeb Stuart

Q#8 – George Meade

Q#9 – George Thomas

Q#10 – Joe Hooker

Q#11 – Philip Kearny

Q#12 – Albert Sidney Johnston

Q#13 – George Armstrong Custer

Q#14 – Jefferson Davis

Q#15 – Nathan Bedford Forrest

Meeting of January 26, 2016

David Dixon on “The Lost Gettysburg Address: The Civil War Odyssey of Charles Anderson”

David Dixon Dixon - Lost Gettysburg AddressDavid explained why Anderson, a slave owner, sacrificed nearly everything to help save the Union and how he ended up sharing the spotlight with Lincoln at Gettysburg in November 1863. He gave one of the two principal speeches that bookended Lincoln’s masterpiece, then the speech itself was lost for 150 years and uncovered at a remote ranch in Wyoming.

Anderson’s colorful history includes a series of dramatic escapes from a Civil War prison in Texas, a close brush with death, commanding a Union regiment at the Battle of Stones River, defeating notorious Copperhead Clement Vallandigham in the Ohio gubernatorial race, then becoming Ohio’s governor himself.

David Dixon earned his M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts in 2003. He has published numerous articles in scholarly journals and magazines. Most focus on black history and on Union sympathizers in the Civil War South. His short biography of U.S. and Confederate congressman Augustus R. Wright appeared in The Georgia Historical Quarterly in 2010. He remains intrigued by the problem of defining “loyalty” in the context of civil war. He hosts “B-List History,” a website celebrating lesser-known historical characters and their amazing stories.

Meeting Minutes January 2016

Quiz for January 26, 2016

Civil War Quiz: Spies, Scouts, and Raiders

Q#1 – Before he performed his most famous role as artillery commander for Pickett’s Charge, what Confederate officer’s first role was that of spying on Union troops movements?

Q#2 – In the spring of 1862, US Grant appointed a man to create Grant’s espionage apparatus. What was this man’s name?

Q#3 – What is the name of the Southern woman whose spying activities earned her the name “The Siren of the Shenandoah”?

Q#4 – In 1863, a Union officer was appointed head of the Army of the Potomac’s Bureau of Information. What was his name?

Q#5 – What was the name of the Confederate Officer who set up the Confederate Secret Service Bureau?

Q#6 – Name the woman who was a Union sympathizer who lived in Richmond and among her spying activities also took food to the Union prisoners kept in Libby Prison?

Q#7 – What was the name of the Confederate spy who lived in Washington DC and stole George McClellan’s Peninsula order of battle and plans in April 1862?

Q#8 – A man who spied for the Union was actually the Superintendent of the key southern RF&P Railroad that supplied General Lee’s troops in 1862-63. What was his name?

Q#9 – What is the name of the Confederate spy who planted a bomb containing 12 pounds of power and exploded it on August 9, 1864 with the subsequent blast almost killing US Grant at the Union’s City Point Supply Depot?

Q#10 – What Confederate commander spoke these words: “In general my purpose was to threaten and harass the enemy on the border and in this way compel him to withdraw troops from his front to guard the line of the Potomac and Washington. This would greatly diminish his offensive power”

Q#11 – What was the name of the Union raider who in 1862 stole the Confederate locomotive named “The General”?

Q#12 – On April 21, 1862, the Confederate Congress passed legislation that was intended as a stimulus for recruitment of irregulars for service into the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. What was the name of this law?

Q#13 – Confederate William Quantrill named a Kansas Senator “…the chief of all the Jayhawkers and the worst man that was ever born into this world.” What was this Senator’s name?

Q#14 – In 1864, the Louisville Kentucky Courier Newspaper wrote that a band of Confederate guerrillas in Kentucky was led by a woman named Sue Mundy. This person was in fact a man. What was his name?

Q#15 – On August 25, 1863, General Thomas Ewing Jr., who was William Tecumseh Sherman’s brother-in-law, issued his General Order No. 11, which isn considered one of the most repressive measures ever inflicted upon an American civilian population. What was that order?

Jack Leathers Memorial, December 19, 2016

Lisa Leathers D’Angelo has provided information about the obituary and memorial service for her father, long time roundtable member Jack Leathers:

John C. (Jack) Leathers

March 3, 1933 – November 13, 2015

Longtime Resident of Saratoga, San Jose, and Los Gatos

Jack Leathers 1970sJohn C. (Jack) Leathers passed away on November 13, 2015, in Davis, CA. Preceded in death by his wife of 51 years, Giske Leathers, survived by daughter Lisa D’Angelo (Philip) of Davis, son John Leathers (Susan) of San Carlos, and Grandchildren Dominic, Benjamin, Christopher, Davin, and Jamie. He will be remembered as a great dad, a loving grandfather, a prolific reader of history books and writer of letters, a dedicated member of the Peninsula Civil War Roundtable, his weekly and exceptional grilling of steaks and “daddy” burgers, and for his LONG, daily walks throughout his life. He was one of the truly “good guys”.

Jack Leathers was born on March 3, 1933 (3-3-33!) to Alexander Frank Leathers and Margaret Cochran Leathers in Marion, Indiana. An only child, he grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and Winona, Minnesota, playing golf and football (wearing # 33!) before attending college at the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington, and graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1955, where he would earn a degree in Business, row on the crew team, and serve as president of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and sports editor of the yearbook. A two-year stint in the Air Force was followed by the start of his career as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch in Oakland, CA. He began working in Commercial Finance in the early 60’s, working for various banks and lending institutions in San Francisco and Chicago throughout the 70’s and 80’s before closing his career as a San Jose based small business consultant.

In 1962 his passion for all things Scandinavian led him to meet and marry Giske Erichsen, the daughter of a Norwegian banker who had recently moved to San Francisco from Oslo, Norway. His daughter, Lisa (Elisabeth), was born in 1963 as they settled in San Jose. Son John Erich was born in 1967, and three years later they settled in Saratoga. A five (5) year stay in Barrington, Illinois was followed by a return to the Bay Area and Saratoga, where they would settle in the Blue Hills neighborhood for the better part of sixteen (16) years before living in Santa Clara, Los Gatos, the Villages in San Jose, and finally Davis, CA to be near daughter Lisa and family.

An only child, he valued time by himself, enjoying long (5-10 miles), solitary walks to think and hours reading and writing in his home office. But as a father, he was always accessible, always supportive of our endeavors yet honest in his commentary, generous with his time despite his long commutes from Barrington to Chicago or Saratoga to San Francisco, and always able to tell you that he loved you. Always.

A celebration of his life will be held Saturday, December 19, 2015, at 2:00 pm at Saratoga Federated Church at 20390 Park Place in Saratoga with a celebration of life right after (most likely 3 pm) at Los Gatos Lodge, 50 Los Gatos/Saratoga Rd in Los Gatos (near highway 17). There will be hors d’oeuvres and wine and lots of sharing about my dad. My brother and I would be honored to have you all join us.


Meeting of November 24, 2015

Robert Burch on “California in the Civil War, Part 2: Californian U.S. Volunteer Units”

4th California Volunteer Infantry

4th California Volunteer Infantry

California contributed twelve regiments and five battalions of U.S. Volunteer infantry and cavalry to the Union War effort of 1861-65. These 15,575 soldiers served across the entire Western United States from Washington to Arizona Territories, and as far east as Wyoming Territory and Texas. They checked Secessionist activities in southern California, repelled a Confederate invasion of New Mexico, and conducted numerous campaigns against hostile Indians including the famous Battle of Apache Pass.

This presentation provides an introductory analysis of the California Volunteers followed by detailed histories of each regiment and battalion. Each unit history includes a historical summary, commander’s biography, and map with detailed wartime duty locations. Drawing from extensive original and secondary historical sources and photographs, this presentation provides the most exhaustive history of these regiments available.

This is the second of an eight-part series on California and the American Civil War. This series explores California’s role and contribution to the Union with an emphasis on the military aspect of the conflict. Part one outlined California’s political and military situation in April of 1861. The third part will summarize Californian soldiers in units credited to other states, including the famous “California Hundred” and California Battalion. Continue reading

Quiz for November 24, 2015

Civil War Quiz: Facts Regarding the Army of the Potomac

Q#1 – What was the initial name of the Army of the Potomac when it was formed in 1861?

Q#2 – Who was the very first commander of the Army of the Potomac before it was assigned that name?

Q#3 – It is a popular, but mistaken, belief that John Pope commanded the Army of the Potomac after McClellan’s unsuccessful Peninsula Campaign. What Union Army did Pope command at that time?

Q#4 – The Army of the Potomac underwent many structural changes during its existence. In November 1862, how did Ambrose Burnside structure the Army?

Q#5 – True or False: The Confederates also had an army named the Army of the Potomac.

Q#6 – Who was responsible for establishing the corps structure in the Army of the Potomac?

Q#7 – Once corps were established, what was the criteria for appointing corps commanders?

Q#8 – Why were the I and III Corps disbanded in 1863?

Q#9 – Who took over command of the Army of the Potomac after George Gordon Meade?

Q#10 – After taking command, what structural action did General Joseph Hooker implement regarding the cavalry?

Q#11 – In late 1863, two corps was sent west. Name them.

Q#12 – After Major General George G. Meade became Commander of the Army of the Potomac, who took brief temporary command during Meade’s absences on four occasions?

Q#13 – The “Fighting 69th” New York Infantry was part of which brigade?

Q#14 – Due to attrition and transfers, the army was reorganized in March 1864 with only four corps. Name these corps.

Q#15 – After the end of the war, what was the disposition of the Army of the Potomac?