Meeting of February 27, 2024

Join us at 6:30 PM, February 27, at Holder’s Country Inn Restaurant located at 10088 N Wolfe Road, Suite 130, Cupertino, CA 95014, across from the former Vallco Fashion Mall and via ZOOM. This month’s topic is

David Hsueh on “Gone with the Wind: The Controversial Legacy and Forgotten Memory of Joseph E. Johnston”

Few Confederate officers divide Civil War academia more than General Joseph E. Johnston. A select few consider him a strategic genius and the Confederacy’s most underappreciated general. Most, including many Civil War students in the South, nickname him “Retreatin’ Joe Johnston” or “The Great Retreater”, and blame him for some of the Confederacy’s biggest military failures.

Of course, the legacies and “greatness” of many, if not all, generals of the Confederacy are debated. However, unlike fellow Virginians Generals Lee, Jackson, and Stuart, Johnston had no monument in Richmond’s historic “Monument Avenue” — displaying that his story seems to be almost forgotten from Southern public memory and left out from “Lost Cause” discourse.

Other than Lee, perhaps there has not been a more important figure to Confederate military operations than General Johnston. On paper, his resume seems impeccable, with stints commanding the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee, while also being engaged in the First Manassas, Peninsula, Vicksburg, and Atlanta Campaigns. Even still, despite being the Confederacy’s fourth highest ranking officer by seniority and the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. Army to resign his commission, Johnston’s name remains almost unknown to the general public compared to Lee, Jackson, and Stuart.

The presentation “Gone with the Wind: The Controversial Legacy and Forgotten Memory of Joseph E. Johnston”, details General Johnston’s life and vast military involvements, addresses his controversies and problematic relationships, and seeks to explain why he has seemed to fade from memory. By presenting different viewpoints and perspectives, it is hoped that listeners will be able to better understand Johnston’s personality, behavior, and actions, while being able to form their own opinions of him.

David Hsueh is a second year political science major at West Valley College who is awaiting transfer into a UC for Fall 2024. As an avid history learner since kindergarten, his first introduction to the American Civil War came when he read about President Lincoln. However, his true passion for the Civil War began after his first viewing of the movie Gettysburg, and his subsequent visits to the Gettysburg and Antietam Battlefields at age 11. His favorite book on the Civil War is Adam Goodheart’s 1861: The Civil War Awakening.

His current research lies with the First Manassas/Bull Run Campaign. Reading Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography by Craig Symonds, and his studies of the campaign, have led him to develop a strong curiosity for General Johnston because of his controversial standing amongst Civil War buffs and historians alike.

Quiz for January 30, 2024

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About John Brown?

Q#1 –When and where was John Brown born?

Q#2 – How did Brown’s parents, Owen Brown and Ruth Mills describe their son, John Bron?

Q#3 – When the Brown family moved to Hudson, Ohio, what was the name of the man who ingrained in a young John Brown the seeds of Abolition?

Q#4 – John Brown’s father became a leading and wealthy citizen of Hudson and operated a tannery. Which future US President’s father was employed at the tannery?

Q#5 – With no school beyond the elementary level in Hudson at that time, how did John Brown acquire additional academic education?

Q#6 – When he was 12 years old and away from home moving cattle, what incident did he witness that John Brown decided to dedicate his life to improving African Americans’ condition?

Q#7 – Where did John Brown plan to get his higher education?

Q#8 – After returning home, what profession did John Brwon teach himself from a book?”

Q#9 – John Brown knew the Bible thoroughly and could catch even small errors in Bible recitation. After the Bible, what were his favorite books read?

Q#10 – In 1836, what incident further reinforced John Brown’s Abolitionist fervor?

Q#11 – In 1850, the United States passed the Fugitive Slave Act, a law mandating that authorities in free states aid in the return of escaped slaves and imposing penalties on those who aid in their escape. What action did John Bron take in response to this new law?

Q#12 – The Pottawatomie massacre occurred in Kansas during the night of May 24 and the morning of May 25, 1856. Under John Brown’s supervision, his sons and other abolitionist settlers did what?

Q#13 – At the start of the raid at Harper’s Ferry, what initial actions did John Brown perform?

Q#14 – After experiencing some initial success, what mistake did Brown make that led to Federal and State forces being alerted to the raid?

Q#15 – Why was John Brown’s trial conducted by the State of Virginia and not by the Federal Government?

Meeting of November 28, 2023

Alan Sissenwein and Jim Rhetta on “Wargaming: Napoleon at Waterloo”

Basic wargaming can acquaint players with the same battlefield factors and limitations faced by Civil War generals. These factors include different combat strengths of units, terrain effects on movement and combat, and different rates of movements between infantry, artillery and cavalry units. Wargames also demonstrate the amount and differences in firepower between attackers and defenders that are needed to achieve planned results.

The game to be played is Napoleon at Waterloo, a basic and fast-moving game that gives players a feel for the tactical factors of that battle. The game rules will be explained to the players, who will maneuver their 26 units and engage in simulated combat with them to achieve a battlefield decision.

Alan Sissenwein has been a member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table since 1997 and currently serves as its vice president. A professional writer, he holds a bachelor’s degree 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 book on the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Jim Rhetta retired from Lockheed Corp, and also retired from the USAF Reserve as a Colonel in the Intelligence Community. In both careers he monitored, analyzed and reported on global conflicts and crisis for the DoD Community. His careers required him to write and present Daily Intelligence Briefings, threat assessments, and weekly activity reports. He published classified books on foreign air defense threats and Order-of -Battles. He continues to monitor both current events and historical subjects for their impact on us today.

Quiz for November 28, 2023

What Do You Know About the Civil War Peace Conference?

Q#1 – When was the Civil War Peace Conference held?

Q#2 – What historical name has been traditionally given to the conference?

Q#3 – What unique facility was used to hold the Conference?

Q#4 – Who was the Lead Union Representative?

Q#5 – Who was the Lead Confederate Representative?

Q#6 – What position did the Confederate representative hold in the Confederate government?

Q#7 – Who else besides the Lead Union representative attended the Conference for the Union?

Q#8 – There were two additional individuals other than the Lead Confederate Representative that attended the Conference on behalf of the Confederacy. Who were they?

Q#9 – In response to pressure from some in the Confederate government to seek a peaceful versus military end to the war, Confederate President Jefferson Davis extended what proposal to President Lincoln.

Q#10 – In preparation for the Conference, Jefferson Davis gave his three commissioners instructions to explore all options except one; what was that exception?

Q#11 – What was the main reason that the Union Congress was shaken by the news of possible peace negotiations with the Confederacy?

Q#12 – What was the main reason that the Radical Republicans in Congress were opposed to the Conference?

Q#13 – After the Conference began, the Union representatives put forth several conditions that were mandatory in order to end the war through peace negotiations – what were these conditions?

Q#14 – During the negotiations, the question of slavery was discussed, specifically Emancipation Proclamation. How did the Union representatives describe the scope of the Proclamation?

Q#15 – What was Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s reaction to what the Union representatives had proposed at the Conference?

Meeting of November 1, 2023

Chuck Seekamp on the “Iron Brigade”

Chuck Seekamp started to investigate the Iron Brigade while reading about the Stonewall Brigade. It seemed that these two units met quite a bit and then stopped. Why? The history of Iron Brigade shows why.

Chuck got interested in the Civil War in high school back in the late 50s. He joined the NCWA about 30 years ago. He started in the Confederate Artillery, then as a favor, after 6 or 7 years, switched over to the Confederate Medical Unit. He has read enough books to forget most titles and authors but does remember most of what they say or their opinions on subjects. He has been with the Round Table for about 15 years.

Quiz for November 1, 2023

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About Union Support in the South During the Civil War?

Q#1 – Not all people living in the Confederacy supported secession. Those opposed were know by five names – can you name at least two?

Q#2 – During the post-Civil War period called “Reconstruction”, what was the different derogatory name given to Southerners who supported the Union?

Q#3 – Which three Confederate states has the largest number of people supporting the Union?

Q#4 – In which Confederate state was the “Free State of Jones” located?

Q#5 – Prior to the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, people living in the South that supported the Union were counting on what action by President Lincoln to avoid an armed conflict?

Q#6 – Virginia is known for providing many of the best Confederate officers such as Robert E Lee, Thomas, “Stonewall” Jackson, AP Hill, JEB Stuart, among others. However, many southern soldiers in the US Army remained loyal when their states seceded. As is the case of Virginia, what percentage Virginian officers in the United States military stayed with the Union?

Q#7 – Approximately how many Southerners served in the Union Army during the Civil War?

Q#8 – Every Southern state except one formally raised military organizations of white troops; which state did not?

Q#9 – Which state provided the most southerners to the Union Army?

Q#10 – In what role were Southerners who joined the Union Army extensively used in areas of the Confederacy that became occupied by the Union?

Q#11 – Other than being opposed to slavery, what was another major reason many Southerners were opposed to secession and sided with the Union?

Q#12 – Among Southerners of German ancestry, what actors played an important role in many of them refusing to serve in the Confederate armed forces ?

Q#13 – He became known as the founding father of West Virginia who described secession as “self-murder” and “an insult to all reasonable living humanity, and a crime against God.” What was this person’s name?

Q#14 – As the Civil War dragged on, one critical factor drove many Southern white women to move to the forefront of another kind of Unionism?

Q#15 – What were the four Southern states that initially voted against secession?

Meeting of September 26, 2023

Opposing Views: If the newly formed Confederate government had chosen to immediately export as much cotton as possible, instead of withholding it from European markets, could the Confederacy have prevailed?

Could the Confederacy Have Prevailed? YES (Abby Eller)

If Only: The Confederacy could’ve leveraged their “white gold” to prevail. If only the leadership had made some simple yet crucially important decisions that would have made all the difference.

Could the Confederacy Have Prevailed? NO (Jim Rhetta)

If the Confederacy could have exported as much cotton as possible they would not have won, too many other non-cotton factors precluded it. Principal cotton factors against it include: 1. There was a glut of cotton in England which was not used up until fall of 1862. 2. The harvest of 1861 ran from July to October, and the blockade would have been strengthened by that time. 3. The harvest of 3 million bales could not be transported via inadequate rail lines in a combat environment, faced insufficient warehouse storage, and insufficient shipping to move to England.

Abby Eller is President of the Peninsula Civil War Roundtable. She has no ancestors who fought in the Civil War as far as she knows. Growing up in Memphis, Tenn, Abby was intrigued by how the Civil War has meant so much to Southerners, a hundred years later. Civil War history includes much more than military history. Abby is fascinated by how the war transformed the course of American history. Throughout America, the war set in motion changes that are with us today.

Jim Rhetta retired from Lockheed Corp, and also retired from the USAF Reserve as a Colonel in the Intelligence Community. In both careers he monitored, analyzed and reported on global conflicts and crisis for the DoD Community. His careers required him to write and present Daily Intelligence Briefings, threat assessments, and weekly activity reports. He published classified books on foreign air defense threats and Order-of -Battles. He continues to monitor both current events and historical subjects for their impacts on us today.

Quiz for September 26, 2023

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address?

Q#1 – When did President Lincoln give his Second Inaugural Address?

Q#2 – How many words are contained in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address?

Q#3 – Lincoln makes numerous religious references in his Second Inaugural Address. How many times does Lincoln mention the word “God”?

Q#4 – Lincoln used his second inaugural address to touch on the question of “Divine Providence: Why?

Q#5 – In the speech, what does Lincoln make reference to regarding the causes for the ongoing Civil War?

Q#6 – What is the main point of Lincoln’s second inaugural address?

Q#7 – What was unique about Lincoln’s second inaugural address?

Q#8 – With his speech, what was Lincoln’s main message to people living in the North?

Q#9 – Regarding the people living in the South, what was Lincoln attempting to accomplish with his speech?

Q#10 – What was unique about Lincoln’s second inaugural address?

Q#11 – In the speech, in what context did Lincoln use the phrase “scourge of war”?

Q#12 – In the crowd present in front of the East Portico of the United States Capitol where the speech was given, what two special groups were in attendance?

Q#13 – The closing paragraph contains two additional glosses from scripture “let us strive on to… bind up the nation’s wounds.” It is a reworking of what Psalm from the Old Testament of Bible?

Q#14 – What was Lincoln’s appeal to his audience in the second inaugural address?

Q#15 – What was the general reaction to Lincoln’s second inaugural address in his home state of Illinois?

Meeting of August 29, 2023

Mark Costin on the “Battles of Fort Fisher”

By late 1864 virtually every Southern port on the Atlantic seaboard besides Wilmington, DE, had been closed by the Federal blockade. As long as Wilmington remained open, blockade runners could continue to supply the Confederate forces in the eastern theater. South of Wilmington the Confederate army constructed some of the world’s most sophisticated fortifications for the time. A key fortress was Fort Fisher. This talk discusses the two two joint army-navy combined operations to take Fort Fisher and close the port of Wilmington. The first unsuccessful one in Dec. 1864 and the second successful attack in January 1865.

Mark Costin is an engineer living in Sunnyvale, CA, recently retired from working on functional safety for automated and autonomous vehicles. A long time history buff, Mark now has more time to devote to his hoppy. He holds a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, an M.Eng from McMaster University, and B.Eng from McGill University.

Quiz for August 29, 2023

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About The Mason Dixon Line?

Q#1 – Which four states’ borders were defined by the Mason Dixon Line?

Q#2 – Why was the Mason Dixon Survey needed?

Q#3 – What was the timeline of the survey?

Q#4 – Why were the Native Americans opposed to surveyors?

Q#5 – Jeremiah Dixon was the surveyor. What was Charles Mason’s profession and how did he contribute to the survey?

Q#6 – What is the length of a surveyor’s chain?

Q#7 – What other surveying equipment was used by Mason Dixon?

Q#8 – What natural barrier formed part of the Mason Dixon Line?

Q#9 – In addition to the Mason Dixon Line what else defined the borders between the free and slave states?

Q#10 – What states south of the Mason Dixon Line stayed with or joined the Union prior to 1865?

Q#11 – How was the Mason Dixon Line marked?