Join us at 6:30 PM, September 27, at Denny’s Restaurant located at 2077 North First St, San Jose, CA 95131 and via ZOOM. This month’s topic is
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.
Join us at 6:30 PM, October 25, at Denny’s Restaurant located at 2077 North First St, San Jose, CA 95131 and via ZOOM. This month’s topic is
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.
Join us at 6:30 PM, November 29, 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).
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.