Meeting of January 25, 2022

Join us at 7 PM, January 25, 2022, at Holder’s Country Inn in San Jose. See the UPCOMING MEETINGS/MEETING INFO tab for specific times and meeting details. This month’s topic is

Meg Groeling on “First Fallen: The Life of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the North’s First Civil War Hero”

Colonel Elmer Ellsworth was the first Union officer killed in the American Civil War. When it happened, on May 24, 1861, the entire North was aghast. Ellsworth was a celebrity and had just finished traveling with his famed and entertaining U. S. Zouave Cadets drill team. They had performed at West Point, in New York City, and for President Buchanan before returning home to Chicago. Ellsworth then joined his friend and law mentor Abraham Lincoln in his quest for the presidency. When Lincoln put out the call for troops after Fort Sumter was fired upon, Ellsworth responded. Within days he was able to organize over a thousand New York firefighters into a regiment of volunteers.

Was it youthful enthusiasm or a lack of formal training that resulted in his death? There is evidence on both sides. What is definite is that the Lincolns rushed to the Navy Yard to view the body of the young man they had loved as a son. Mary Lincoln insisted that he lie in state in the East Room of their home. The elite of New York brought flowers to the Astor House en memoriam. Six members of the 11th New York accompanied their commander’s coffin. When the young colonel’s remains were finally interred in the Hudson View Cemetery, the skies opened up. A late May afternoon thunderstorm broke out in the middle of the procession, referred to as “tears from God himself.” Only eight weeks later, the results of the battle of First Bull Run knocked Ellsworth out of the headlines. The trickle of blood had now become a torrent, not to end for four more years of war.

The story of Ellsworth’s life is complex, and fascinating, but it is also the story of many young men who fought and died for the Union. Elmer, however, was the first and -according to those who remember him – perhaps the best. Join us and REMEMBER ELLSWORTH!

Meg Groeling has spent years examining archival resources, diaries, personal letters, newspapers, and other accounts to tell Ellsworth’s story. In the sixty intervening years since the last portrait of Ellsworth was written, new information has arisen that gives readers and historians a better understanding of the Ellsworth phenomenon. She has included accounts of John Hay, George Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln, and the Lincoln family which put Ellsworth clearly at the forefront of the excitement that led up to the 1860 election of a president.

Quiz for January 25, 2022

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About the Union Naval Blockade?

Q#1 – Which came first: the naval blockade of the South or the Anaconda Plan?

Q#2 – At the beginning of the war, President Lincoln considered issuing an executive order closing for commercial purposes all harbors and ports under Confederate control. Why did the government of England prefer that Lincoln issue a naval blockade versus the closing of ports?

Q#3 – What was the name of the US Secretary of the Navy who was placed in charge of setting up the Union blockade of the South and what nickname was given to him by President Lincoln?

Q#4 – What was the name of the Confederate Secretary of the Navy who was charged with breaking the Union blockade?

Q#5 – What two foreign ports were used extensively by blockade runners as cargo transfer points?

Q#6 – What were the names of the three Union commands that made up the blockading fleet and where were they located?

Q#7 – Initially, the Confederate government relied on issuing “Letters of Marque” to privateers to break the Union blockade. What was the name of the first Confederate approved privateer?

Q#8 – In December 1861, what action did the Union Navy take to blockade the port of Charleston, SC?

Q#9 – What famous racing yacht took an active role in the Union blockade off the Charleston, South Carolina coast?

Q#10 – The captain of a Confederate blockade runner could earn how much money for each successful voyage?

Q#11 – What English city built many of the Confederate naval vessels including the Alabama?

Q#12 – How many Union ships of any type is the Confederate warship CSS Alabama credited with capturing?

Q#13 – As the Union fleet grew in size, speed and sophistication, more ports came under Federal control. After 1862, which three ports remained open for the blockade runners still in business?

Q#14 – On June 19, 1864, the Confederate warship CSS Alabama was sunk by the Union warship USS Kearsarge near the port of Cherbourg, France. Despite the superior gunnery displayed by Kearsarge and the deteriorated state of Alabama’s contaminated powder and fuses, what event prevented a possible battle victory for the CSS Alabama?

Q#15 – By the end of the Civil War how many Confederate blockade runners were either captured or destroyed?

Meeting of February 22, 2022

Join us at 7 PM, February 22, at Holder’s Country Inn in San Jose. See the UPCOMING MEETINGS/MEETING INFO tab for specific times and meeting details. This month’s topic is

Mark Costin on “The Overlooked Conflict, the Trans-Mississippi Operations, Part II: The Battle of Pea Ridge”

The Battle of Pea Ridge, March 6–8, 1862, was the decisive battle for Union control of the state of Missouri. This talk introduces the conditions in the Missouri/Arkansas area in late 1861 and early 1862 and then gives a detail description of the battle and the leading figures on both sides. The battle is often overlooked but offers many unusual features: Indians, Texas Rangers, a Union general named Jefferson Davis, and phenomenally bad luck by the Confederates.

Mark Costin is an engineer living in Sunnyvale, CA, working on functional safety for automated and autonomous vehicles. A long-time history buff, this is Mark’s second presentation the SBCWRT on the subject of the war in the Trans-Mississippi. He holds a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, an M.Eng from McMaster University, and a B.Eng from McGill University.

Meeting of May 31, 2022

Join us at 7 PM, May 31, at Holder’s Country Inn in San Jose. See the UPCOMING MEETINGS/MEETING INFO tab for specific times and meeting details. This month’s topic is

Tom Roza on “The State of Wisconsin in the Civil War”

At the start of the Civil War in April 1861, all 34 States were involved in one way or another in that traumatic conflict: 19 states had sided with the Union, 11 states had seceded and formed the Confederacy, and 4 were initially designated as Border States, although these states in their own way played an active role in the Civil War.

Each state has its own unique story in the role it played in the Civil War. The State of Wisconsin, presenter Tom Roza’s home state, had a very active role before and during the Civil War. Tom’s presentation traces the history of Wisconsin from its origins when Native Americans first occupied the region around 10,000 BC after the last Ice Age glaciers had receded north into Canda. Tom then covers the period of the 17th and 18th Century when Europeans first visited the region and how their arrival eventually forced out the Native Americans with Wisconsin eventually becoming a State.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Tom delves into the economic and political evolution of Wisconsin and how it took on a leadership role in the abolition of slavery. Finally, Tom describes in detail the economic, financial, and military contributions that Wisconsin made that proved pivotal in the ultimate victory for the Union. Tom’s presentation also includes the significant role Wisconsin women played in support of the effort to preserve the Union.

Tom Roza has been a student of history for over 60 years. His interest in history in general and the Civil War in particular began with his elementary education in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has evolved ever since. As an officer and the Secretary of the South Bay Civil War Roundtable, Tom has made numerous presentations on the topic of the Civil War to both his Roundtable organization and other historical organizations in the Bay Area. Tom is also a published author of the book entitled, “Windows to the Past: A Virginian’s Experience in the Civil War” that has been accepted by the Library of Congress into its Catalog; Tom is currently working on a sequel entitled “Lost Cause – Justice Found.”

Meeting of November 30, 2021

Kristin Patterson on “United States Tax Stamps Used to Raise Funds for the Civil War”

The United States Government enacted its first Federal Tax on October 1, 1862, to raise money to support a Civil War that had been going on much longer than President Lincoln had anticipated. This presentation will talk about the different revenue stamps that were created including ones inscribed Agreement, Bank Check, Certificate, Insurance, Mortgage, Playing Cards, Probate of Will, Proprietary, and more, ranging in face value from 1¢ to $200. These stamps are gorgeous pieces of history with many still attached to the item for which they collected the tax.

An 1865 receipt for salary payment to Brigadier General Lucius Fairchild who at the time was Wisconsin Secretary of State.

Kristin started collecting postage stamps when she was 10. For the past 20 years, she has focused on U.S. Civil War tax stamps and documents with revenue stamps. She has been very active in the philatelic community, serving 4 years as President of Sequoia Stamp Club, 15 years as Chair of PENPEX Stamp Show (www.penpex.org), and currently serving on the American Philatelic Research Library Board.

Kristin has authored two books. In 2003, she self published It’s a Wrap! U.S. Revenue Stamps Used on Playing Cards, 1862–1883. This colorfully illustrated book highlights fifteen U.S. Playing Card Manufacturers. In 2010, she published her second book, WESTPEX – The First 50 Years, about the most successful stamp show in the U.S.

Kristin has also written many articles for philatelic journals, including the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg. This article discusses how the Gettysburg Cemetery came to be and how the union states funded the effort.

Kristin has donated for our raffle some taxed documents (signed by Civil War Brigadier Generals) from the period she will be talking about in her presentation. Make sure to purchase some raffle tickets at this meeting; all proceeds go to the SBCWRT. We hope to see you November 30, 2021.

Quiz for November 30, 2021

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About Unusual or Unique Battles and Engagements of the Civil War?

Q#1 — This is considered to be the northernmost land action of the civil war. Name the town and state where it occurred.

Q#2 — What is unique about the Battle of Athens that occurred on Aug. 5, 1861?

Q#3 — What was the last battle of the Civil War?

Q#4 — This is considered to be the westernmost battle of the Civil War. Name it.

Q#5 — This famous frontiersman commanded Union troops at the 1864 Battle of Canyon de Chelly, the only Civil War battle fought against the Navajo. Name him.

Q#6 — This battle, part of Morgan’s raid, was the largest battle in Ohio during the Civil War. Name it.

Q#7 — Cavalry raids were common in the Civil War. Union Colonel Abel Streight’s raid depended on an animal other than a horse. What was the animal?

Q#8 — What battle had the most one day casualties in the Civil War and what was he number of casualties?

Q#9 — What battle had the most total casualties in the Civil War and what was the number of casualties?

Q#10 — The siege of Petersburg saw the first use of Gatling guns in combat. How were these weapons obtained?

Q#11 — This engagement was unique in the fact that white soldiers were the minority in both fighting forces. Native Americans made up a significant portion of each of the opposing armies and the Union force contained African-American units. Name the battle.

Q#12 — This battle is considered to be the first organized land action of the war, though generally viewed as a skirmish rather than a battle. Name it.

Q#13 — This battle prominently featured an acoustic shadow which prevented a Union attack. Name it.

Q#14 — This battle saw the only lancer charge of the Civil War. Name it and described the outcome.

Q#15 — This battle saw an attack on entrenched Confederate lines by a Union Navy “boarding party” of 1,600 sailors and 400 marines armed with revolvers and cutlasses. Name it.

Meeting of October 26, 2021

Bob Sweetman on “How the Union Won the Battle of Gettysburg”

[Bob Sweetman joined us from Gettysburg, PA, via a ZOOM session.]

The Union victory at Gettysburg was not just a matter of luck—it was the combination of great leadership, courageous fighting spirit, and a fortunate choice of terrain. All three factors came together to allow the Army of the Potomac to achieve a victory. This victory was not certain until the last moments of the battle.

This Zoom talk examines these factors and is a companion to the novel The Loyal, True, and Brave, which chronicles the action between the beginning of the battle of Chancellorsville and the end of the battle of Gettysburg. Set in a narrative form, the format allows the reader to experience the thoughts and motivations of four of the key players in the final Union victory. These four individuals are Generals George Meade, Winfield Hancock, and Daniel Sickles. Sergeant Henry Taylor of the First Minnesota is also one of the individuals.

The talk takes a bigger picture view of the operations, concentrating of the main action and key decisions. One cannot understand what happened at Gettysburg unless they know the events of the battle of Chancellorsville. The talk, then, begins with Chancellorsville, Lee’s greatest victory, and ends with Gettysburg, Lee’s greatest defeat.

Join Bob Sweetman in a fact-filled presentation of the events involved in this critical two months of American history.

Robert J. Sweetman (Bob) has been deeply interested in the American Civil War since his father took him to visit Gettysburg at the age of ten. As a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point and as an army officer after graduation, he has experience with both the theory and application of the military art. Bob is a member of the Civil War Talk Forum and the Historical Writers of America. He remains an avid student of civil war history. Stay in touch with him at www.robertjsweetman.com and at facebook.com/robertjsweetman.

Quiz for October 26, 2021

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About England’s and France’s Involvement in the Civil War?

FRANCE

Q#1 – What was the Second French Empire official position on the Civil War?

Q#2 – What was a major economic factor that was pushing France to recognize the Confederacy?

Q#3 – What was a major factor regarding any French decision to recognize the Confederacy?

Q#4 – What warning did the US Government issue to France regarding the Civil War?

Q#5 – What population factions in France tended to support the Confederacy?

Q#6 – What population factions in France tended to support the Union?

Q#7 – What action did the French government take regarding the sale of the ironclad CSS Stonewall that was built in France?

ENGLAND

Q#8 – Overall, what was England’s official position on the Civil War?

Q#9 – What tactic was employed early in 1861 by Confederate President Jefferson Davis in an effort to get England to recognize and support the Confederacy?

Q#10 – What impact did the Union blockade of the South have on England and what action was taken as a result?

Q#11 – Generally, what was British public opinion on the Civil War?

Q#12 – What was the Trent Affair?

Q#13 – What became known as the “Alabama Claims”?

Q#14 – What were the positions of the three members of the English Cabinet, Chancellor of the Exchequer William E Gladstone, Foreign Minister Lord Russell, and Prime Minister Lord Palmerston regarding involvement in the Civil War?

Q#15 – What military action during the Civil War pretty much sealed England’s decision not to support the Confederacy?

Meeting of September 28, 2021

Jim Rhetta on “Tennessee, the Strategic Value of the State”

Most attention of writers on the Civil War is focused on events and leaders in the Northern Virginia area of operations. What many overlook is that Tennessee had an important strategic position that both sides valued for their war efforts. Most battles fought in the state were not just meeting engagements between armies, but were to protect or seize key rail, river, and infrastructure systems that both sides viewed as essential.

Tennessee had a rail and river system essential for Confederate movements that would also enable the Federal Army to advance in the deep south to seize the industrial areas of Atlanta and Savannah. The conflict over this river and rail network would draw the Federal Army of the Tennessee into combat against the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

This topic will have both a slide presentation on the strategic value and operations in the state as well as a 25-min video on the subject with human accounts of the impact of the conflict in Tennessee.

Quiz for September 28, 2021

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About Generals Killed During The Civil War?

Q#1 — This general was killed on April 2, 1865 by a Union soldier, Corporal John W. Mauck of the 138th Pennsylvania. Name him.

Q#2 — After his death his old West Point classmate John Bell Hood paid a warm tribute to his character. He was the second-highest-ranking Union officer killed in action during the war. Name him.

Q#3 — This Civil War battle started disastrously for the Confederates as the general commanding the right wing and his second in command were killed very early in the engagement. Name the battle and the generals.

Q#4 — Generals Robert S. Garnett and Felix Kirk Zollicoffer have this distinction. What is it?

Q#5 — What were the circumstances of Union General W. H. L. Wallace’s death?

Q#6 — This Confederate general was killed at the Battle of Yellow Tavern. Name him.

Q#7 — Two of Pickett’s three brigade commanders were killed during Pickett’s charge. Name them.

Q#8 — This Confederate general uttered the phrase “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall,” leading to Stonewall Jackson’s nickname but was mortally wounded shortly thereafter. Name him.

Q#9 — He was the first Union general to die in the Civil War. Name him.

Q#10 — Killed by a sniper, among his last words were “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Name him.

Q#11 — He was the highest-ranking officer, Union or Confederate, killed during the entire war. Name him.

Q#12 — This Confederate general was killed by a Federal 3-inch shell at Pine Mountain, Georgia on June 14, 1864. Name him.

Q#13 — Union general John F. Reynolds was killed at the start of the Battle of Gettysburg. Why is his death considered controversial by historians?

Q#14 — This battle saw the deaths of six Confederate generals. Name the battle and the generals.

Q#15 — What were the circumstances of Union General William “Bull” Nelson’s death?