Category Archives: Meeting announcement

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 April 25, 2023

Join us at 6:30 PM, April 25, 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.

Meeting of June 27, 2017

Bob Burch on “California in the Civil War: Other California Units”

This is the fifth of a twelve-part series on California and the American Civil War. This presentation will explore the history of those units that served in the Eastern Theater during the American Civil War that enlisted a good portion of their recruits from California or had that state’s name in their unit designation. Nearly ten percent of Californians who volunteered during the war did so into units from other states. They did so for a variety of reasons including the desire to represent their state during the war to preserve the Union. Consequently these “other California units” represented their state continuously from the Battle of First Bull Run until General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox four years later.

Eventually Californians served in five other states’ volunteer regiments. On the West Coast these units were the 1st Washington Territory Infantry and 1st Oregon Cavalry Regiments. On the East Coast these were the 32nd New York Infantry Regiment (aka “California Regiment”), Baker’s Brigade (aka “California Brigade”) of four regiments, and the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment’s “California Hundred” and “California Battalion”.

Along the way we will meet several forgotten Californians who served their country well. Colonel Roderick Matheson from Healdsburg who fought at First Bull Run and later died from wounds received at the Battle of Crampton’s Gap. Colonel Francis Pinto of San Francisco who commanded regiments during the Peninsula, 2nd Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville Campaigns. Major Archibald McKendry who commanded the California Battalion and eventually the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment when only a captain. Captain James Sewell Reed of the California Hundred who died while leading his unit against Mosby’s partisans and Captain Hugh Armstrong who replaced him and led that company from Battle of Fort Stevens until Appomattox. And Captain Henry Crocker of San Francisco who participated in nine battle and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

Except for the “CAL 100” Cavalry, these units have disappeared from history despite the presence of the California Regiment’s monument on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg and mention in many original source documents from newspapers to the Official Records. This presentation will attempt to remember and honor their contribution to the Union cause.

Bob Burch is a native Californian, born and raised in Santa Clara County. He is also a lifetime student of the Civil War. He had the opportunity to visit many Civil War sites from Florida to Pennsylvania to New Mexico during his 30 year military career. Like many California CWRT members, he desires to understand his home state’s role in the war. He started collecting material for this presentation ten years ago and initiated a serious study 15 months ago. This series documents his research in great detail. Time allows only a few key points from each slide to be presented. Numerous period photographs and magazine drawings are included for visual effect with the intent of comprehending California’s role in the Civil War.

Meeting Minutes June 2017