“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Meg Groeling on “First Fallen: The Life of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the North’s First Civil War Hero”
Colonel Elmer Ellsworth was the first Union officer killed in the American Civil War. When it happened, on May 24, 1861, the entire North was aghast. Ellsworth was a celebrity and had just finished traveling with his famed and entertaining U. S. Zouave Cadets drill team. They had performed at West Point, in New York City, and for President Buchanan before returning home to Chicago. Ellsworth then joined his friend and law mentor Abraham Lincoln in his quest for the presidency. When Lincoln put out the call for troops after Fort Sumter was fired upon, Ellsworth responded. Within days he was able to organize over a thousand New York firefighters into a regiment of volunteers.
Was it youthful enthusiasm or a lack of formal training that resulted in his death? There is evidence on both sides. What is definite is that the Lincolns rushed to the Navy Yard to view the body of the young man they had loved as a son. Mary Lincoln insisted that he lie in state in the East Room of their home. The elite of New York brought flowers to the Astor House en memoriam. Six members of the 11th New York accompanied their commander’s coffin. When the young colonel’s remains were finally interred in the Hudson View Cemetery, the skies opened up. A late May afternoon thunderstorm broke out in the middle of the procession, referred to as “tears from God himself.” Only eight weeks later, the results of the battle of First Bull Run knocked Ellsworth out of the headlines. The trickle of blood had now become a torrent, not to end for four more years of war.
The story of Ellsworth’s life is complex, and fascinating, but it is also the story of many young men who fought and died for the Union. Elmer, however, was the first and -according to those who remember him – perhaps the best. Join us and REMEMBER ELLSWORTH!
Meg Groeling has spent years examining archival resources, diaries, personal letters, newspapers, and other accounts to tell Ellsworth’s story. In the sixty intervening years since the last portrait of Ellsworth was written, new information has arisen that gives readers and historians a better understanding of the Ellsworth phenomenon. She has included accounts of John Hay, George Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln, and the Lincoln family which put Ellsworth clearly at the forefront of the excitement that led up to the 1860 election of a president.
Kristin Patterson on “United States Tax Stamps Used to Raise Funds for the Civil War”
The United States Government enacted its first Federal Tax on October 1, 1862, to raise money to support a Civil War that had been going on much longer than President Lincoln had anticipated. This presentation will talk about the different revenue stamps that were created including ones inscribed Agreement, Bank Check, Certificate, Insurance, Mortgage, Playing Cards, Probate of Will, Proprietary, and more, ranging in face value from 1¢ to $200. These stamps are gorgeous pieces of history with many still attached to the item for which they collected the tax.
Kristin started collecting postage stamps when she was 10. For the past 20 years, she has focused on U.S. Civil War tax stamps and documents with revenue stamps. She has been very active in the philatelic community, serving 4 years as President of Sequoia Stamp Club, 15 years as Chair of PENPEX Stamp Show (www.penpex.org), and currently serving on the American Philatelic Research Library Board.
Kristin has authored two books. In 2003, she self published It’s a Wrap! U.S. Revenue Stamps Used on Playing Cards, 1862–1883. This colorfully illustrated book highlights fifteen U.S. Playing Card Manufacturers. In 2010, she published her second book, WESTPEX – The First 50 Years, about the most successful stamp show in the U.S.
Kristin has also written many articles for philatelic journals, including the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg. This article discusses how the Gettysburg Cemetery came to be and how the union states funded the effort.
Kristin has donated for our raffle some taxed documents (signed by Civil War Brigadier Generals) from the period she will be talking about in her presentation. Make sure to purchase some raffle tickets at this meeting; all proceeds go to the SBCWRT. We hope to see you November 30, 2021.
Bob Sweetman on “How the Union Won the Battle of Gettysburg”
[Bob Sweetman joined us from Gettysburg, PA, via a ZOOM session.]
The Union victory at Gettysburg was not just a matter of luck—it was the combination of great leadership, courageous fighting spirit, and a fortunate choice of terrain. All three factors came together to allow the Army of the Potomac to achieve a victory. This victory was not certain until the last moments of the battle.
This Zoom talk examines these factors and is a companion to the novel The Loyal, True, and Brave, which chronicles the action between the beginning of the battle of Chancellorsville and the end of the battle of Gettysburg. Set in a narrative form, the format allows the reader to experience the thoughts and motivations of four of the key players in the final Union victory. These four individuals are Generals George Meade, Winfield Hancock, and Daniel Sickles. Sergeant Henry Taylor of the First Minnesota is also one of the individuals.
The talk takes a bigger picture view of the operations, concentrating of the main action and key decisions. One cannot understand what happened at Gettysburg unless they know the events of the battle of Chancellorsville. The talk, then, begins with Chancellorsville, Lee’s greatest victory, and ends with Gettysburg, Lee’s greatest defeat.
Join Bob Sweetman in a fact-filled presentation of the events involved in this critical two months of American history.
Robert J. Sweetman (Bob) has been deeply interested in the American Civil War since his father took him to visit Gettysburg at the age of ten. As a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point and as an army officer after graduation, he has experience with both the theory and application of the military art. Bob is a member of the Civil War Talk Forum and the Historical Writers of America. He remains an avid student of civil war history. Stay in touch with him at www.robertjsweetman.com and at facebook.com/robertjsweetman.
Jim Rhetta on “Tennessee, the Strategic Value of the State”
Most attention of writers on the Civil War is focused on events and leaders in the Northern Virginia area of operations. What many overlook is that Tennessee had an important strategic position that both sides valued for their war efforts. Most battles fought in the state were not just meeting engagements between armies, but were to protect or seize key rail, river, and infrastructure systems that both sides viewed as essential.
Tennessee had a rail and river system essential for Confederate movements that would also enable the Federal Army to advance in the deep south to seize the industrial areas of Atlanta and Savannah. The conflict over this river and rail network would draw the Federal Army of the Tennessee into combat against the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
This topic will have both a slide presentation on the strategic value and operations in the state as well as a 25-min video on the subject with human accounts of the impact of the conflict in Tennessee.
The Confederacy was confident that a cotton embargo would induce Britain and France to ally with the Confederacy. Why was the South so confident of this? Cotton was indeed King,… but not in the way the South thought it was. Come hear the fascinating story of cotton and its importance in the world economy since the 19th century.
Abby Eller has long been a history lover, American history especially, because history explains how we got to now. Abby is fascinated by the Civil War as the single most transformative event in American history.