Monthly Archives: December 2021

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.”