Meeting of May 31, 2011

Adam Arenson on “The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and Cultural Civil War”

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Adam Arenson

The Civil War revealed what united as well as what divided Americans in the nineteenth century—not only in its deadly military conflict, but also in the broader battle of ideas, dueling moral systems, and competing national visions that preceded and followed. This cultural civil war was the clash among North, South, and West, as their leaders sought to shape Manifest Destiny and slavery politics.

No site embodied this struggle more completely than St. Louis, the largest city along the border of slavery and freedom. This sweeping history reveals a city at the heart of the cultural civil war. St. Louisans heralded a new future, erasing old patterns as the United States stretched across the continent. They tried to reorient the nation’s political landscape, with westerners in the vanguard and St. Louis as the cultural, commercial, and national capital. Continue reading

Meeting of April 26, 2011

Donald Stoker on “Grand Strategy in the Civil War”

book cover

Donald Stoker’s book

There are more than 60,000 books on the Civil War. None provide a full discussion of the conflict’s strategy—except Donald Stoker’s Grand Strategy in the Civil War. Stoker, of the U.S. Naval War College’s NPS program, reveals, in the words of the presidents, generals, and admirals, the grand, strategic sweep of the war. The much maligned George McClellan had a vision of Union strategy stretching far beyond his ill-fated Peninsula campaign, one that could have produced Union victory in 1862. The clearest picture yet of Lincoln’s evolution as a strategic thinker also emerges, one in which his clarity and decisiveness in political thought and control shines through just as brightly as his strategic failures. Lincoln had many good strategic ideas, but too often he failed to insure that his subordinates carried them out. One of these, Henry Halleck, McClellan’s successor, cost the Union many lives, and was one of the reasons Union victory was so long delayed. Grant and Sherman emerge as decisive operational and strategic thinkers. Sherman, in many respects, was the best of all. Continue reading

Meeting of March 29, 2011

Larry Comstock on “The Union is Saved! The Atlanta Campaign of 1864”

Atlanta Campaign Map

Atlanta Campaign Map

Larry’s talk covered two campaigns proceeding at the same time in the spring of 1864. The first of these was the military campaign of the army group under General William T. Sherman to attack General Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee encamped at Dalton, GA and to drive towards Atlanta, GA. The key figures in the three armies making up the force were presented. The logistics of the campaign was discussed with particular reference to the Western & Atlantic Railroad that supported both armies (from each end). Two significant battles of this military campaign (Resaca and the Battle of Atlanta) were emphasized. This campaign was one of the five campaigns directed by the new commander of the Union Army, Lt. General U.S. Grant. By mid-July the Atlanta campaign was the only one with any likelihood of significant military success. This was the result of the Army of the Potomac being in a standoff with the Army of Northern Virginia with both entrenched around the Richmond-Petersburg lines. Continue reading

Meeting of February 22, 2011

Dana Lombardy on “Secret Turning Points of the American Civil War”

man posing in library

Dana Lombardy

Dana Lombardy, designer and editor of the battlefield guidebook The First Battle of Bull Run: Campaign of First Manassas, presented one his popular series of “secret” turning points lectures with a look at the decisions (and non-decisions) that have been overlooked or downplayed in most books written about America’s Civil War. What nearly happened in 1862 that could have crippled or stopped President Lincoln’s war plans? What act of disobedience enabled the Union army to stay and fight at Gettysburg after its initial defeat on July 1? Continue reading

Meeting of January 25, 2011

René Accornero, DVM, on “Horses in the Civil War”

photo of numerous dead horses on a battlefield

Horses of Bigelow’s Battery

René’s discussion on horses in the Civil War included man’s relationship to the horse and why over a million horses and mules died in the war. The ancestral horse was discussed as well as purchasing horses, care and diseases of horses, and horses in battles such as in the Peach Orchard and the Bliss farm in the Battle of Gettysburg. Pictured here are some of the eighty-eight horses of Capt. Bigelow’s battery killed at the Trostle farm. Famous horses of generals were mentioned and the fact that Gen. Grant permitted the Confederates to keep their horses after the surrender at Appomattox.

Horses in the Civil War (René’s PowerPoint slides in PDF format)

Meeting of November 30, 2010

Bill Noyes on “Sketch Artists of the Civil War”

sketch of wounded Civil War soldiers

Waud, Wilderness wounded

The following description was provided by Bill after his talk:

The American Civil War was the beginning effort at illustrated journalism on a large and comprehensive scale on our side of the Atlantic and a far bigger and more successful effort than had occurred anywhere. The first such weekly newspaper, the Illustrated London News, had been established in 1842 and covered the Crimea and Garibaldi campaigns but not to the extent that our war was covered. American papers merely copied their coverage during these conflicts. Continue reading

Meeting of October 26, 2010

Hal Jespersen on “William S. Rosecrans”

Title slide of Hal's PowerPoint presentation

Title slide of Hal’s PowerPoint presentation

Our webmaster, Hal Jespersen, presented the life of one of his favorite Civil War generals, William S. Rosecrans, and asked the question: “How did a man of so many accomplishments fall from the heights of strategic success into relative obscurity?” Hal’s answer: an acerbic tongue that made enemies of at least two powerful men-Ulysses S. Grant and Edwin M. Stanton-and one poorly worded order at the battle of Chickamauga. Hal covered Old Rosy’s entire life, but concentrated on his Civil War campaigns, including Iuka/Corinth, Stones River, Tullahoma, and Chickamauga. Continue reading

Meeting of September 28, 2010

Tom McMahon on “Morality and War”

President’s Message: The annual vote for officers was held at the August SBCWRT picnic. These officers agreed to serve for one more year: John Herberich, President; Steve Wetlesen, Vice President; Rene Accornero, Treasurer; Larry Comstock, Secretary; Tom Miller, Membership; Bill Noyes, Preservation; Hal Jespersen, Webmaster; Gary Moore, Historian. Kevin Martinez has assumed the Publicity Director position previously held by Fred Rohrer. Since we are switching to a Web site, the Newsletter position will be left vacant. Continue reading

Meeting of August 14, 2010

Tom Christianson on “Opening of the Battle of Chickamauga”

In the history of the Civil War, the Western Theater has long been overshadowed by the the Eastern Theater. Only recently have serious studies by renowned historians Stephen Z. Starr in his three volume work, The Union Cavalry in the Civil War (1985) and David Evans’ Sherman’s Horsemen (1996), focused on cavalry operations in the Western Theater. During this same time, the battle of Chickamauga has become one of the most studied events of the war, researched by William Glenn Robertson, and a number of other military historians including our own Lt. Col. Tom Christianson, U. S. A. (Retired). As a military historian, Tom taught history at West Point and the Army Command and General Staff College. He has worked with Glenn Robertson and participated in the “staff walks” for military leadership classes studying the battles and battlefields of the Civil War. Other than Gettysburg, perhaps no other site has been studied as closely as Chickamauga, which was designated as the first National Park in 1890. Continue reading

Meeting of July 27, 2010

Dr. Libra Hilde on “Cultural, Social, and Political Trends and Events That Led up to the Civil War”

Dr. Libra Hilde, Assistant Professor, Dept. of History, San Jose State University, discussed the cultural, social, and political trends and events that led up to the Civil War. Her exceptional presentation covered a wide variety of issues and generated numerous questions from her enthusiastic audience. Her overall theme dealt with Southern masculinity and the militaristic culture that helped propel the South into a war it could not win. Continue reading