Meeting of January 31, 2023

Join us at 6:30 PM, January 31, at Denny’s Restaurant located at 2077 North First St, San Jose, CA 95131 and via ZOOM. This month’s topic is

Ron Vaughan on “The Franco-Mexican Conflict”

Ron will present on the first year (1862) of the French Intervention in Mexico. Mexico’s civil war is related to ours in several ways (topic of another of his lectures): There was concern in the USA that the French could intervene on behalf of the Confederacy; Mexican volunteers fought on both sides, and at the end of our war; Union and Confederates volunteered in the armies of both the Republic and the Imperials; historians often overlook that the Rio Grande River was a large hole in the Union Navy ‘s blockade; while the US Sanitary Commission held fund-raisers, many Northern cities also formed “Juarez Societies” to raise money for the Mexican Republican armies; Cinco De Mayo is a big holiday among US Hispanics.

Ron Vaughan, MA, graduated from California State University Fresno in 1970 with a BA in history and a Secondary Teaching Credential. After an interlude of teaching, he earned a MA in history in 1978. At this point he decided to keep history as a hobby and served as a Social Worker for 33 years (last 9 in HIV-AIDS Case Management), until 2008. Since then he has volunteered for various community boards, especially as head docent at the Tulare City Historical Museum. He has been a member of the San Joaquin Valley Civil War Round Table Since 1995, and currently is the Secretary-Treasurer and newsletter editor. He has given lectures on the Mexican War, Trans-Mississippi Civil War: Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, Sibley’s New Mexico Campaign, and the history of African American Soldiers. He has had magazine articles and books/booklets published on African Colonial Warfare, the Spanish Civil War of 1930s, the Mexican War, and “Viva Juarez” on the French Intervention in Mexico. He has been a re-enactor of many historical periods from Ancient Rome to WW II. Also, he is an avid participant in historical miniature war games and a 2018 Jerry Russel Award winner.

Quiz for January 31, 2023

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 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 28, 2023

Join us at 6:30 PM, February 28, at Denny’s Restaurant located at 2077 North First St, San Jose, CA 95131 and via ZOOM. This month’s topic is

Jean Libby on “Kansas Free State Battery, 1856”

Commanding a crude dugout fortification, the daguerreotype of a cannon with a battery of six men records the first battles of the American Civil War known as Bleeding Kansas. This presentation suggests a more specific date than that in the Kansas Historical Society “September 1856,” the probable location as Lawrence, Kansas, and attributed photographer as John Bowles. The donor of the image was the abolitionist Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson. The presentation documents identities of the men of the cannon battery as close associates of John Brown, including one of his sons. Subsequent interaction with Brown and service during the Civil War is remarked.

“Old Sacramento,” which some Kansas historians and the author Jean Libby suggest is at the center of the daguerreotype, is a six-pound bronze cannon taken in the Mexican-American War in 1847. In his famous epic march, Col. Alexander Doniphan and the 1st Missouri Volunteers Regiment rolled the artillery over 900 miles to the Mexican Gulf Coast, steamed up the Mississippi to St. Louis, then brought ten cannons to Kansas Territory in 1856. “Old Sacramento” changed possession four times between Proslavery and Free State advocates in the battles of Bleeding Kansas.

The story seemed to end when the cannon exploded in 1896, filled with mud to attempt to raise bodies from the Kansas River. A second large piece was found in an archaeological dig in 2014. The Watkins Community Museum of History in Lawrence, which owns the relics, with the University of Kansas, has examined the artifacts and concluded the composition is “more like a church bell than a cannon” in public presentations held in 2021 and 2022. The manufacture of artillery using the Napoleonic methods of the late 17th and early 18th centuries is an integral part of the history for this presentation.

Jean Libby is a retired history instructor at California Community Colleges in northern California. John Brown publications: “After Harper’s Ferry: California Refuge for John Brown’s Family” in The Californians, January-February 1989; “John Brown’s Maryland Farmhouse” in Americana Magazine, January-February 1983 (with John Frye); author and photographer of Mean To Be Free: John Brown’s Black Nation Campaign, produced by the Radio and Television Station of the University of California, Berkeley, 1986.

“The John Brown Daguerreotypes” was published by The Daguerrean Society in The Daguerreian Annual 2002-2003: 31-50. Jean curated and published John Brown Photo Chronology, catalog of the exhibition at Harpers Ferry 2009 with a Supplement in 2016. The traveling collection has been exhibited by the National Archives and Records Administration at Philadelphia (2010), the Gallery of the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka (2011), and the Watkins Community Museum of History in Lawrence (2012).

Meeting of March 28, 2023

Join us at 6:30 PM, March 28, at Denny’s Restaurant located at 2077 North First St, San Jose, CA 95131 and via ZOOM. This month’s topic is

Alan Sissenwein on “Antietam: A Pivotal Diplomatic Turning Point in the Civil War”

“Battle of Antietam” by Kurz & Allison

After a summer of military victories, Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland on September 2, 1862, precipitating the greatest crisis the Union would face in the Civil War. The governments of Britain and France were following Lee’s progress closely. The British were considering granting the Confederacy formal recognition if Lee continued his string of battlefield successes, and the French planned to follow Britain’s lead. For Jefferson Davis, foreign recognition offered the possibility of securing Confederate independence. Abraham Lincoln, for his part, needed a Union victory in Maryland as a prelude to issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure that would, in addition to its sweeping social effects, do much to undermine Confederate support in Europe.

With November mid-term elections looming in the North, the campaign was also important to domestic politics. Lee hoped a Union military defeat would lead to a Republican defeat at the polls that would make it impossible for Lincoln to continue the war.

With so much at stake, no other military campaign would be more vital to determining the Civil War’s outcome than the Antietam campaign.

Alan Sissenwein has been a member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table since 1997 and currently serves as its vice president. He holds a bachelor’s in history from UC Berkeley and a master’s in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He is currently writing the second draft of a nonfiction book about the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Meeting of November 29, 2022

Martha Conway on “Women in the American Civil War: Nurses, Doctors, and Soldiers”

Martha says: “As a writer of historical fiction, I am often surprised at the research I uncover. When I conducted research for my novel The Physician’s Daughter—focusing on 19th century medicine, women’s lives, and the American Civil War—I discovered the many ways women contributed to the war effort. I was also intrigued to find out how many of our now-common medical practices came about during the Civil War. This presentation will be a blend of Civil War medical advances, and the women who found ways to “help the cause”—and not just from the sidelines.”

Martha Conway is the author of several historical novels, including The Underground River, which was a New York Times Book Editor’s Choice in 2017. Her latest novel, The Physician’s Daughter, takes place immediately after the American Civil War, as young Vita Tenney strives to become the doctor that her brother, had he survived the war, would have been. The Physician’s Daughter recounts one woman’s fight to follow her dream, and explores the Civil War’s effects on Vita, her family, and war veteran Jacob Culhane. Martha lives in San Francisco and is a creative writing instructor for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program.

Quiz for November 29, 2022

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About the Little Known Facts Regarding Fort Sumter?

Q#1 – Why was Fort Sumter Built?

Q#2 – How did Fort Sumter get its name?

Q#3 – On what was Fort Sumter Built?

Q#4 – What were the basic design requirements for housing the number of soldiers and guns?

Q#5 – In which direction were all the guns pointed?

Q#6 – What caused a 7-year delay in the construction of Fort Sumter on?

Q#7 – What was the construction status of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861?

Q#8 – What were the names of the three Charleston Harbor Shore Batteries that Fort Sumter was designed to reinforce and provide protection for?

Q#9 – How many sides did Fort Sumter have and how thick were its walls?

Q#10 – What Southern military unit performed the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861?

Q#11 – During the attack on Fort Sumter, the American flag was shot down. What was the name of the Union soldier who raised the flag back up?

Q#12 – How many casualties resulted from the attack on Fort Sumter that began on April 12, 1861?

Q#13 – What happened to the American flag that flew over Fort Sumter?

Q#14 – What was the result of the Second Battle of Fort Sumter that occurred on September 8, 1863?

Q#15 – What is the official name of the Fort Sumter Medal and why was it awarded?

2022 West Coast Civil War Conference Announced

2022 West Coast Civil War Conference: “Grant vs Lee: Combat Strategy & Tactics in 1864 Virginia”

(On October 8, the conference organizers confirmed that the conference is going ahead as scheduled.)

November 4-6, 2022

Hosted By the San Joaquin Valley CWRT. Speakers include Gordon Rhea, Eric Wittenburg, Chris Mackowski, Jim Stanbery, and Brian Clague.

Wyndham Garden Hotel Fresno Yosemite Airport, 5090 East Clinton Way, Fresno, CA 93727-1506, (1-559-252-3611 or 1-866-238-4218), $103.00 per night, or wydhamguestreservations.com.

To register, send in the registration form.

Meeting of October 25, 2022

Abby Eller on “The Grand Army of the Republic: Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty in the Gilded Age”

After the Civil War, the United States would never be the same. Historian Stuart McConnell said “ The Civil War experience hung over the postwar North in a thousand different ways.” The Grand Army of the Republic, the largest of all Civil War veterans’ organizations, was a fraternal lodge, benevolent society, special interest political lobby, and tireless promoter of patriotism on the local and national level. During the tumult of the Gilded Age, the GAR grappled with the nation’s obligations to those who’d sacrificed in the service of their country, and worked tirelessly to promote patriotism and recognition of veterans’ valor.

We hope you’ll join us at our next meeting, to explore the significance of this unique organization. As Stuart McConnell said, “the late 19th century was a postwar era.”

Abby Eller is president of the Peninsula Civil War Round Table, as well as an active member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table, for the past several years. Since high school Abby has been interested in American history. In her opinion, there are so many aspects of Civil War history to explore, the impact of the war was so far reaching, that a final, complete Civil War history can never be written.

Quiz for October 25, 2022

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About Events Leading to the Civil War?

Note: Some of the events contained in the quiz have many aspects to them.  The answers to the questions must be in the context of how these events contributed to the Civil War.

Q#1 – What Do You Know About the Northwest Ordinance of 1787?

Q#2 – What Do You Know About the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798-99?

Q#3 – What Do You Know About the Missouri Compromise of 1820?

Q#4 – What Do You Know About the Tariff of 1828 (aka) Tariff of Abominations?

Q#5 – What Do You Know About the Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion (aka the Southampton Insurrection)?

Q#6 – What Do You Know About the Nullification Crisis of 1832-33?

Q#7 – What Do You Know About the United States vs. The Schooner Armistad Court Case?

Q#8 – What Do You Know About the Texas Annexation?      

Q#9 – What Do You Know About the Mexican–American War?

Q#10 – What Do You Know About the Wilmot Proviso of 1846?

Q#11 – What Do You Know About Manifest Destiny? 

Q#12 – What Do You Know About the Nashville Convention of 1850?

Q#13 – What Do You Know About the Compromise of 1850?

Q#14 – What Do You Know About the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850?

Q#15 – What Do You Know About the Ostend Manifesto of 1854?

Meeting of September 27, 2022

Abby Eller on “Grant’s Memoirs: How and Why They Came to Be Written”

Ulysses Grant: One of America’s greatest generals, his strength was an iron will and nerves of steel that kept him clear-headed and determined under conditions of enormous stress. His great weakness was inability to realize that some people, no matter how friendly, should never be trusted. Grant’s strength and weakness would unexpectedly collide to produce what critics have acclaimed as a great military memoir and an American literary classic.

Abby Eller, a lifelong American history enthusiast and Civil War history buff, is an active member of the Peninsula Civil War Round Table and the South Bay Civil War Round Table. She volunteers at the San Mateo County History Museum secondhand bookshop, where she curates the military history section.