Category Archives: Meeting archive

Meeting of March 31, 2015

Steve Batham on “Catalina Island in the Civil War”

Catalina Island Army barracks

Catalina Island Army barracks

Just twenty-six miles off the coast of Los Angeles, Santa Catalina Island became the home of the Union Army for one mysterious year. On January 2, 1864, eighty enlisted men under the command of Captain West occupied Catalina Island and forced the evacuation of its residents. By the end of the year, they were gone as quickly as they had arrived, leaving only their barracks behind. But why? The army remained completely silent about their intentions for the island and as a result, it has led to much speculation about their motivations. This forgotten military operation seems to be an inconsequential event in the scope of the Civil War, but this occupation reveals some of the larger issues that consumed California 150 years ago.

While we may never definitively know why the Union Army occupied Catalina, the presentation outlines three plausible scenarios. Could it have been to protect the coastline from Confederate privateers? Could it have been motivated by the allure of gold and silver mining? And what could be the possible connection to Indian wars in Eureka? Heavily researched utilizing firsthand accounts and other primary sources, the presentation will attempt to answer all these questions through a PowerPoint presentation. The Union Army barracks are still standing in Catalina and although it is privately owned today, the Professor Batham was granted a rare opportunity to photograph the interior of the original structure and will be sharing those pictures with the group during the presentation.

Steve Batham grew up in Los Angeles and spent several summers in Catalina. After receiving his B.A. and M.A. in history from CSU, Northridge, he lectured at his alma mater, College of the Canyons, and with students abroad at the University of Vienna. Steve moved to the Bay area in 2012 to teach at Foothill College where he serves as a professor of U.S. and Latin American history.

Meeting Minutes March 2015

Meeting of February 24, 2015

Robert Burch on “The Battle of Big Bethel and the Struggle for Control of the Yorktown Peninsula”, Part 2

Battle of Big Bethel, sketch by Alfred R. Waud

Battle of Big Bethel, sketch by Alfred R. Waud

Nested between the Siege of Fort Sumter and the Battle of First Bull Run (aka First Manassas) during the spring of 1861 is the often overlooked action at Big Bethel church, Virginia, on June 10th, 1861. Many historians and Civil War enthusiasts consider this action the first true battle of the war. Unfolding political and military events quickly turned Virginia into the first active theater of campaigning for Union and Confederate armies. The Yorktown Peninsula soon became the first contested area within that theater. Conceived by local Union Army leaders as raid to stop Confederate pickets from harassing Union troops, Big Bethel instead became the testing ground for two citizen armies that were mustered, equipped, trained, and deployed over a six-week period following Fort Sumter. Union volunteer regiments attacked Confederates led by John Magruder and Daniel Harvey Hill for three hours. What happened that day and its results were the focus of national attention on both sides until Bull Run six weeks later.

To properly place the action at Big Bethel in perspective, the presentation begins by summarizing the political and military events that led a peaceful nation to war. The political factors that caused thousands of volunteers to fight with passion on June 10th are highlighted. Next the military factors that caused Virginia to become the first active theater of operations and Yorktown Peninsula to host the war’s first battle are surveyed. All participating Union and Confederate regiments and their leaders are concisely portrayed. Finally, the aftermath, analysis and significance of the battle are reviewed. The PowerPoint slides document the product of the speaker’s 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 bringing to life the drama and passion of the war’s first test of arms. Continue reading

Meeting of January 27, 2015

Robert Burch on “The Battle of Big Bethel and the Struggle for Control of the Yorktown Peninsula”, Part 1

Battle of Big Bethel, sketch by Alfred R. Waud

Battle of Big Bethel, sketch by Alfred R. Waud

Nested between the Siege of Fort Sumter and the Battle of First Bull Run (aka First Manassas) during the spring of 1861 is the often overlooked action at Big Bethel church, Virginia, on June 10th, 1861. Many historians and Civil War enthusiasts consider this action the first true battle of the war. Unfolding political and military events quickly turned Virginia into the first active theater of campaigning for Union and Confederate armies. The Yorktown Peninsula soon became the first contested area within that theater. Conceived by local Union Army leaders as raid to stop Confederate pickets from harassing Union troops, Big Bethel instead became the testing ground for two citizen armies that were mustered, equipped, trained, and deployed over a six-week period following Fort Sumter. Union volunteer regiments attacked Confederates led by John Magruder and Daniel Harvey Hill for three hours. What happened that day and its results were the focus of national attention on both sides until Bull Run six weeks later.

To properly place the action at Big Bethel in perspective, the presentation begins by summarizing the political and military events that led a peaceful nation to war. The political factors that caused thousands of volunteers to fight with passion on June 10th are highlighted. Next the military factors that caused Virginia to become the first active theater of operations and Yorktown Peninsula to host the war’s first battle are surveyed. All participating Union and Confederate regiments and their leaders are concisely portrayed. Finally, the aftermath, analysis and significance of the battle are reviewed. The PowerPoint slides document the product of the speaker’s 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 bringing to life the drama and passion of the war’s first test of arms. Continue reading

Meeting of November 25, 2014

Tom Roza presents the video, “Ulysses S. Grant and the Virginia Campaign in 1864”

Brooks Simpson at CWI 2014

Brooks Simpson at CWI 2014

As part of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute hosted its Annual Summer Conference. One of the featured events was “U.S. Grant and the Virginia Campaign in 1864,” presented by Brooks Simpson, an American historian and History Professor at Arizona State University.

Simpson is the author of six books, the coauthor of two more, and the editor or coeditor of eight other books and is perhaps best known for his work on Ulysses S. Grant. At the Gettysburg College Civil War Institutes’s Summer Conference held in June 2014, Professor Brooks Simpson discussed Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign, which was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June of 1864.

Simpson discusses numerous little known facts such as how Grant’s initial plans for taking over command in the eastern theater of the Civil War were vetoed by then Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The presentation discusses how Grant’s role as commander developed and evolved in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War during the 1864 period.

The presentation will be a video streamed from C-SPAN’s web site.

Meeting of September 30, 2014

Hal Jespersen on “Civil War Cartography”

CWMaps web page

CWMaps web page

Readers say that one of the most important features of a modern book about the Civil War is a good collection of understandable, accurate maps. Hal’s presentation will reveal some of the details behind the process for creating such maps. Hal Jespersen’s cartography business has produced over 800 maps for Wikipedia and numerous books, magazines, and battlefield displays. Hal discussed  the state of mapmaking during the war, reviewed the work of some famous cartographers, and described tools and processes he uses to create maps. Some of the technical concepts included were projection, elevation rendering, evaluating the accuracy of the Official Records Atlas, and plotting the courses of 19th century rivers, roads, and railroads.

Continue reading

Meeting of August 23, 2014

Jim Rhetta on “Slavery & Slave Ancestry”

Jim Rhetta and John Herberich

Jim Rhetta and John Herberich at the 2014 Picnic

Jim’s two-part presentation started with Slavery, a Socioeconomic System. It discussed the economic conditions that created slavery, the comparative value of slaves, and the emerging financial forces on slavery. The South was unaware that the increasing amount of currency in circulation, growing immigrant-fueled labor pool, and changing social values were threatening the economic viability of slavery. These emerging socioeconomic forces would have eventually made slavery unprofitable had the Civil War not been fought.

The second part was on Tangled and Incomplete, Tracing Slave Family Histories. It presented the difficulties of researching African-American family histories due to the forced illiteracy in slavery, limited census data, and paucity of travel, legal, and property records. It includes the family history of Jim’s Great-Grandfather’s slave-holders as well as both sides of his family. The value of oral traditions and histories were revealed in this 40-year search of his family history.

Meeting Minutes August 2014

Meeting of June 24, 2014

Tom Roza on “Ambrose Powell Hill, A Confederate Warrior: Gettysburg to Petersburg”

During the four year history of the Civil War, there have been a number of military leaders on both sides who exhibited a wide variety of both strategic and tactical skills as well as personal courage under fire. For the Union, there were Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, William Sherman, and Philip Sheridan among others. For the South, you have Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Stonewall Jackson, and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

But, there is one other person who is on a par with these individuals: Ambrose Powell Hill of Virginia. Hill’s entire adult life was spent in the military and during that period, his body was wracked with a variety of medical illnesses and maladies. Despite his very poor health, which deteriorated over time, Hill rose to become the best division commander in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and finally the Corps Commander of Lee’s Third Corp. Hill’s exceptional battlefield tactics were nowhere better demonstrated then at the Battle of Antietam when he marched his troops 17 miles and saved Lee’s army from almost certain destruction.

Despite Hill’s exceptional qualities as a battlefield commander, he often had run-ins with his superiors that resulted in Hill being arrested on several occasions and relieved of command, only to be reinstated when the Army really needed him. Hill was involved in virtually every major military event that the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was involved in from First Bull Run in July 1861 to the collapse of the Southern defense of Petersburg in April 1865.

The story of A.P. Hill takes numerous interesting twists and turns both in his personal and military lives. And, Hill’s interaction with his troops and his superiors reveals numerous little known insights into what made the Army of Northern Virginia the effective fighting force it became. Therefore, in order to do justice to telling the story of AP Hill, there will be two presentations:

  • May: West Point to Chancellorsville
  • June: Gettysburg to Petersburg

Tom Roza has been a student of the American Civil War since 1960 and has toured several battlefields that AP Hill participated at (Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Courthouse). This provided Tom with the ability to see first-hand the terrain where Hill led his troops in combat and these experiences have helped shape the content of the presentations.

Tom’s previous presentations for the SBCWRT have been on John Buford, Winfield Scott Hancock, and Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Meeting Minutes June 2014

Meeting of May 27, 2014

Tom Roza on “Ambrose Powell Hill, A Confederate Warrior: West Point to Chancellorsville”

A.P. Hill (Wikipedia)

During the four year history of the Civil War, there have been a number of military leaders on both sides who exhibited a wide variety of both strategic and tactical skills as well as personal courage under fire. For the Union, there were Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, William Sherman, and Philip Sheridan among others. For the South, you have Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Stonewall Jackson, and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

But, there is one other person who is on a par with these individuals: Ambrose Powell Hill of Virginia. Hill’s entire adult life was spent in the military and during that period, his body was wracked with a variety of medical illnesses and maladies. Despite his very poor health, which deteriorated over time, Hill rose to become the best division commander in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and finally the Corps Commander of Lee’s Third Corp. Hill’s exceptional battlefield tactics were nowhere better demonstrated then at the Battle of Antietam when he marched his troops 17 miles and saved Lee’s army from almost certain destruction.

Despite Hill’s exceptional qualities as a battlefield commander, he often had run-ins with his superiors that resulted in Hill being arrested on several occasions and relieved of command, only to be reinstated when the Army really needed him. Hill was involved in virtually every major military event that the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was involved in from First Bull Run in July 1861 to the collapse of the Southern defense of Petersburg in April 1865.

The story of A.P. Hill takes numerous interesting twists and turns both in his personal and military lives. And, Hill’s interaction with his troops and his superiors reveals numerous little known insights into what made the Army of Northern Virginia the effective fighting force it became. Therefore, in order to do justice to telling the story of AP Hill, there will be two presentations:

  • May: West Point to Chancellorsville
  • June: Gettysburg to Petersburg

Tom Roza has been a student of the American Civil War since 1960 and has toured several battlefields that AP Hill participated at (Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Courthouse). This provided Tom with the ability to see first-hand the terrain where Hill led his troops in combat and these experiences have helped shape the content of the presentations.

Tom’s previous presentations for the SBCWRT have been on John Buford, Winfield Scott Hancock, and Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Meeting Minutes May 2014

Meeting of April 29, 2014

Dave Wildman on “Iowa’s Martyr Regiment, The Story of the Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry”

Dave Wildman

Dave Wildman

(From Drew @ Civil War Books and Authors)

Iowa’s Martyr Regiment: The Story of the Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry, “is another fine unit history. But it is not a typical one. While many Hawkeye formations forged enviable battle records in the western and Trans-Mississippi theaters, the 38th always seemed to miss the action. Nevertheless, the roster of dead was incredibly high for such a comparatively meager combat history. While only two men were killed in action or mortally wounded, sickness sent over 300 of its soldiers to an early grave.”

In its battle with disease, the Thirty-eighth suffered a no less honored destiny than many regiments whose flags were covered with the names of battles. Combined with those discharged for disability and its combat casualties the Regiment suffered a fifty percent casualty rate without participating in any one of the great battles of the war. These dead are scattered along the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa to New Orleans, and along the Gulf coast from Brownsville, Texas to Barrancas, Florida. Unlike other regiments, perhaps the Thirty-eighth Iowa’s battle flag should have been covered in black crepe, indicative of its fight with an unseen monster. Continue reading