Category Archives: Meeting archive

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.

Meeting of October 25, 2022

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.

Meeting of September 27, 2022

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.

Meeting of August 30, 2022

Tom Roza on “New York City Draft Riots”

One of the ugliest events to occur during the Civil War was the Draft Riots that took place in New York City in July 1863. The riots exposed deep rooted racial, political, and ethnic divisions that existed in New York City; these prejudices were fueled by massive numbers of immigrants fleeing Europe to escape famine, political division, and war. The riots were driven by several root causes:

  • Draft requirements that allowed wealthy white men to avoid the draft
  • Pervasive racial hatred directed at Negroes
  • Political corruption and division

Tom’s presentation delves into these root causes, what they caused, and the aftermath of the riots.

Tom Roza has been a student of history for over 60 years. His interest in history in general and the Civil War 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, which has been accepted by the Library of Congress into its Catalog; Tom is currently working on a sequel entitled Lost Cause – Justice Found.

Meeting of July 26, 2022

Mark Costin on “Confederate Campaign to Invade New Mexico, Battles of Valderde and Glorieta Pass”

The New Mexico campaign of 1862 was the only major Confederate campaign to expand the boarders of the Confederacy. Confederate Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley invaded the northern New Mexico Territory in an attempt to gain control of the Southwest, including the gold fields of Colorado and the ports of California. The talk will cover the campaign with particular attention to the two major battles of the invasion, the Battles of Valderde and Glorieta Pass.

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 third presentation the SBCWRT about 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 June 28, 2022

“Wargames: Fighting the Battle Before Firing a Shot”

This unique presentation will have three speakers—Jim Rhetta. Nick Stern, and Alan Sissenwein—cover the history, types, and usefulness of wargames to military planners. Simulating a battle in advance allows staff planners to identify factors that can have adverse or advantageous impacts on the desired outcome of military operations. Two examples will be presented of war games conduced prior to a planned military conflict that predicted the actual outcome.

Methods of conducting war games at the Strategic, Operational, and Tactical levels will be presented. Some questions this will present is if Civil War leaders could have wargamed their plans, could they have learned from them and achieved battlefield success more efficiently and with a lower cost in lives?

Jim Rhetta retired as a Col, USAFR, on the Intelligence Staff. In his career he participated in about 20 command post exercises that simulated planned combat operations in Korea, Europe, and other locations. Some of these war games simulated new and emerging weapon systems to determine their impact in Operation Plans and educate Staff planners on their impacts and limitations.

Nick Stern, like many of his fellow boomers, became interested in the Civil War during its centennial. A retired Disney artist, he now combines his pastimes of reading military history and painting toy soldiers to organize and play historical miniature wargames. The games are set in a variety of periods, including the Civil War. When not engaged in his hobby, he teaches art classes for the South San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department.

Alan J. Sissenwein became fascinated by history when he was a teenager and started playing board wargames when he was 16, later expanding this hobby to encompass miniatures wargaming and computer wargaming. He has been a member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table since 1997 and currently serves as its vice president. He has given several talks to the round table, including a series on the worst Union generals. A professional writer, he holds a Bachelor’s in history from UC Berkeley and a Master’s from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Meeting of May 31, 2022

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.”

Meeting of April 26, 2022

Mark Costin on “The Overlooked Conflict, the Trans-Mississippi Operations, Part III: The Battle of Wilson’s Creek”

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek fought on August 10, 1861, is considered to be the second major battle of the Civil War. Here a much smaller Union army split their forces and staged a surprise attack on the Confederates. Although the South maintained control of the battlefield and won the battle, long term the results were more indecisive and more bloodshed was to come.

The battle features familiar names from Mark’s previous talks: Ben McCulloch, Sterling Price, and Franz Sigel, as well as a new major player, Union General Nathaniel Lyons. In addition to the battle, the activities as Missouri splits into fractions after the 1860 election will be described.

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 third presentation the SBCWRT about 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 March 29, 2022

Alan Sissenwein on “Joseph Hooker: Greater Asset or Liability to the Union”

Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker is primarily remembered for having lost the Battle of Chancellorsville. His overall career in the Civil War, however, was a contradictory one, and Hooker remains an enigmatic figure. In the months before Chancellorsville, his administrative reforms to the Army of the Potomac, which included his efforts to raise morale at a time when it was hemorrhaging deserters, arguably saved it from dissolving. Other reforms provided the army with its first effective intelligence service and transformed its often-infective cavalry into a powerful force. As a division and corps commander, he usually fought well, but his overweening ambition and penchant for openly criticizing his fellow generals made him a source of dissension in the higher ranks of the Union army. This talk will ponder the question of whether Hooker was ultimately a greater asset or liability to the Union cause.

Alan J. Sissenwein, who became fascinated by history when he was a teenager, has been a member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table since 1997 and currently serves as its vice president. He has given several talks to the round table, most recently a series on the worst Union generals. A professional writer, he holds a Bachelor’s in history from UC Berkeley and a Master’s from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Meeting of February 22, 2022

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.