Author Archives: hlj

Quiz for May 30, 2023

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About the Use of Railroads During the Civil War?

Q#1 – After fighting broke out in 1861, the country had a rail network totaling more than 30,000 miles. Approximately how many miles were in the North and how many in the South?

Q#2 – From the beginning of the war, what was the Confederate government’s policy regarding which type of traffic received priority on its railroads?

Q#3 –What was the name of an American civil engineer and railroad construction engineer and executive who, as a Union Army General, played a key role in the Civil War where he revolutionized U.S. military transportation, particularly the use of railroads?

Q#4 – From an overarching policy perspective, how did the South view the use of its railroad and train system?

Q#5 – What basic engineering and design flaw plagued the South in being able to more effectively utilize its railroads that did not exist in the North?

Q#6 – In 1862, why did the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad rescind its Southern support severely impacting Confederate military operations in Virginia and Tennessee?

Q#7 – What event occurred a month prior to the war’s first major engagement at the First Battle of Bull Run regarding the use of the railroad that initially caught Southern forces off-guard?

Q#8 – What use of the railroad by Confederate forces was critical to the southern victory at the Battle of Chickamauga in early September of 1863?

Q#9 – There were six railroads serving Richmond, VA. What were these six railroads unable to do that limited their effectiveness?

Q#10 – What was the number of new locomotives produced in the South after the war began?

Q#11 – During the Civil War, the amount of new railroad mileage laid in the North was 4,000 miles. What was the amount for the South?

Q#12 – On January 31, 1862, the U.S. Congress passed legislation authorizing President Lincoln as Commander in Chief to do what regarding the railroads?

Q#13 – What risky venture regarding locomotives did Union commanders sometimes employ to gather information on Confederate forces?

Q#14 – What did the term “railroad monitors” refer to?

Q#15 – What were “Rifle Cars”?

Meeting of April 25, 2023

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 April 25, 2023

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About American Civil War Army and Navy Connections?

Q#1 — Alonzo Cushing was awarded the Medal of Honor defending the Union position on Cemetery Ridge against Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. What was his younger brother famous for?

Q#2 — Continuing with Alonzo Cushing, the current US warship, the USS Gettysburg, honored him in a special way in 2014. What was this honor?

Q#3 — What is the connection between the Battle of Gettysburg and the USS Monitor?

Q#4 — What was the first combined operation of the Union Army and Navy in the American Civil War and what was the outcome of the operation?

Q#5 — Ranald Slidell Mackenzie was a career United States Army officer serving in the Union Army during the American Civil War and the following Indian wars. His Uncle John Slidell was involved in a serious naval related diplomatic event. What was it?

Q#6 — Brigadier General Henry Hayes Lockwood was a brigade commander during the Civil War. What was his connection to the Navy?

Q#7 — Union General John Pope built his reputation based on this combined operates victory on the Mississippi River. Name it.

Q#8 — United States Ram Fleet was active in the battle against the Confederate River Defense Fleet for control of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. What was unusual about this fleet?

Q#9 — The United States Ram Fleet was commanded by a well-known civil engineer. Who was he and what happened to him during the Civil War?

Q#10 — Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition was part of Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan. The first battle of the expedition was an amphibious operation. Name it.

Q#11 — The Battle of Sayler’s Creek, the last major battle before the surrender of Lee’s Army at Appomattox. What was its significance with respect to the Confederate navy?

Q#12 — This Civil War land battle saw a “boarding party” attack made by 1,600 sailors and 400 marines. Name it and what was the outcome?

Q#13 — On March 14, 1862, the Union undertook an amphibious operation. What battle resulted?

Q#14 — Union Major General John A. McClernand successful led a combined operations assault. What was the name of the battle?

Q#15 — The army unit was initially commanded by navy officers. Name it.

Meeting of March 28, 2023

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.

Quiz for March 28, 2023

Civil War Quiz: What Do You Know About Women’s Role in the Civil War?

Q#1 – In the years before the Civil War, the lives of American women were shaped by a set of ideals. What was the name that historians call these ideals?

Q#2 – According to the best available records from the Civil War, how many women disguised themselves as men and fought in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War?

Q#3 – With the outbreak of war in 1861, thousands of women eagerly volunteered to help with the Union cause forming organized ladies’ aid societies. What did these societies provide?

Q#4 – Many women wanted to take a more active role in the war effort. What was the name of the woman who inspired other women to find a way to work on the front lines, caring for sick and injured soldiers and keeping the rest of the Union troops healthy and safe?

Q#5 – Responding to increasing number of women wanting to support the war effort, in June 1861, what was the name of the agency created by the Federal Government?

Q#6 – What was the name of the female activist that was appointed the Superintendent of Army nurses be the Federal Government?

Q#7 – What was the name of the female American novelist, short story writer, and poet who was also a nurse for the Union Army?

Q#8 – For the Confederate troops, in addition to cooking mending clothing, and performing nursing duties, what personal act did they often perform for wounded soldiers?

Q#9 – In addition to performing nursing duties in hospitals, where else did Southern women volunteer to perform these duties?

Q#10 – What was the name of the woman who worked as a cook and nurse for the Union before she was asked to organize former slaves in South Carolina into a spy network?

Q#11 – This wealthy widow from Virginia, freed all her family’s slaves after her husband’s death. During the Civil War, she brought supplies to Union prisoners at Libby Prison. While visiting the prisoners, she picked up important tactical information about Confederate positions from them and passed that information on to Union leaders using couriers. What was this woman’s name?

Q#12 – On the Confederate side, this wealthy debutante from Martinsburg, Virginia working as a nurse, she wooed Union officers and convinced them to share information with her about troop movements. She then passed this information on to Confederate officers. What was her name?

Q#13 – This woman was also a Civil War nurse. She supplied her own wagon and drove out to the field of battle to tend to wounded soldiers without any permission of the Union War Department. What was her name?

Q#14 – For the Confederate government’s Department of the Treasury, what role was assigned to women?

Q#15 – Allan Pinkerton was made head of the Union Secret Service and one of his first orders was to conduct surveillance of a suspected Confederate female spy. What was the name of this spy?

Meeting of February 28, 2023

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).

Quiz for February 28, 2023

What Do You Know About Civil War Participants with Same Last Name? But Are They Related?

Q#1 — Including Robert E. Lee, there were six Confederate generals with the last name of Lee. Only one was not closely related to Robert E. Lee. Name him.

Q#2 — These three Confederate generals with the initials A.P., D.H., and B.J. were not related but have the same last name. What is it?

Q#3 — These four Confederate generals with the initials A.S., J.E., G.D., and R.D. were not related but have the same last name. What is it?

Q#4 — This Union general had the same first and last names as a prominent Confederate politician. Who was he?

Q#5 — Three Confederate generals with the last name of Jackson associated with the nickname “Mudwall”. Only one is related the Stonewall Jackson. Name him and the other two.

Q#6 — Brothers George Bibb Crittenden and Thomas Leonidas Crittenden have this unique distinction. What is it?

Q#7 — An Ohio family had 14 members fighting for the Union including six reaching the rank of brigadier general or higher. What was their last name?

Q#8 — William Barker Cushing was an officer in the United States Navy, best known for sinking the CSS Albemarle during a daring nighttime raid on 27 October 1864. What did his older brother achieve?

Q#9 — These two cousins were both Confederate generals killed during the Civil War. One was the first general to die in the Civil war and the other died at Gettysburg. Name them.

Q#10 — During June 1863 Union forces used Elizabeth Meade, sister of George Meade, home Ashwood as a headquarters. What was remarkable about Elizabeth?

Q#11 — Lieutenant General Richard Taylor had a notable father. Who was he and why was he significant?

Q#12 — These two Union generals with the same last name both commanded divisions at Shiloh. Who were they and were they related?

Q#13 — Confederate General Benjamin Hardin Helm wife had a famous half-sister. Who was she?

Q#14 — Sisters Eva and Rebecca Taylor married two close friends. What was their significance with respect to the battle of Antietam?

Q#15 — This Union general saw three brothers, two brothers-in-law, and his cousin J. Johnston Pettigrew serving in the Confederate military. Who was he?

Meeting of January 31, 2023

Due to technical difficulties this presentation has been rescheduled for April 25, 2023.

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 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.