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