Category Archives: Meeting archive

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.

Meeting of January 25, 2022

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.

Meeting of November 30, 2021

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.

An 1865 receipt for salary payment to Brigadier General Lucius Fairchild who at the time was Wisconsin Secretary of State.

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.

Meeting of October 26, 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.

Meeting of September 28, 2021

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.

Meeting of August 31, 2021

Abby Eller on “King Cotton”

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.

Fort Point Civil War Tour, August 28, 2021

The South Bay Civil War Round Table has scheduled a special event to help celebrate the return to in-person Roundtable meetings. On Saturday, August 28, 2021, a tour of the Civil War era Fort Point facility in San Francisco has been arranged. Here is the schedule:

Noon: Meet at Holder’s Country Inn; park in back parking lot at restaurant

Noon–1 pm: Carpool to Fort Point in San Francisco

1–4 pm: Tour Fort Point

4–5 pm: Carpool back to Holder’s

5–7 pm: Dinner at Holder’s

Meeting of July 27, 2021

Alan Sissenwein on “The Worst Generals of the Civil War, Part IV”

This is a continuation of previous meeting presentations.

Most authors of the Civil War have focused on presenting the best Generals of the Civil War and their traits that led to that status. They focus heavily on Lee, Grant, Sherman, and Jackson as books on them abound. This focus overlooks the fact that there were generals at the opposite end of the leadership spectrum who were ineffective leaders.

For this presentation Alan Sissenwein will present more of the worst Federal generals. What made these generals selected for that status include bad leadership, bad battlefield results, poor decision-making, abrasive personalities, and abuse of subordinates. This will also cover the factors that allowed for bad generals to emerge and in some cases the inability to remove them from senior leadership positions.

Alan Sissenwein, a native Californian, is a professional writer who has been a member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table since 1997. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Although he has been fascinated by history since he was a teenager, his interest in the Civil War only took root during his last semester of graduate school, which was spent in Washington D.C. He likes to say that in California the Civil War is an abstraction but on the East Coast it’s a presence. He has previously given talks to the South Bay Civil War Round Table on such subjects as George Armstrong Custer and George Brinton McClellan.

Meeting of June 29, 2021

Mark Costin on “1864 General Sterling Price Raid”

By 1864 Missouri had been in Union control for two years. Believing that Missourians wanted liberation from Union forces, the Confederates made a desperate to divert Union forces from other war theatres; the Confederates attempted to retake Missouri. The campaign, often referred to as a raid but much larger in actuality, was led by General Stirling Price, former Missouri Governor, and consisted of 11 major and minor engagements. The campaign was ultimately a disaster for the Confederacy.

This talk will outline the strategic situation in Missouri in 1864 as well describe the personalities and battles of the campaign.

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 first presentation the SBCWRT. He holds a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, an M.Eng from McMaster University, and B.Eng from McGill University.

Meeting of May 25, 2021

Robert O’Connor on “Mrs. Slater — The Missing Lincoln Conspirator”

This mysterious lady who always wore a mourning veil over her face was a confidant of John Surratt, Jr. She was a courier of messages between Richmond and the Confederate Secret Service office in Montreal. She is mentioned by several witnesses in the Lincoln Conspiracy trials, but there is a lot of confusion about their testimony. No one can describe her. She is arrested and questioned, but released and disappeared. Her story is interesting.

Robert O’Connor is an historian, researcher, and the author of 18 Civil War books who lived in Charles Town, WV. Is now retired and writes full-time. Writes about subjects or characters not widely known in the field. Has been named finalist four times in national book competitions. www.boboconnorbooks.com