Previous meeting topics

Nov. 9, 2017:  Guest speaker Candice Shy Hooper gave an enthusiastic and entertaining presentation on her book entitled Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War—for Better and for Worse.  The book cover features four military wives, Jessie Frémont, Nelly McClellan, Ellen Sherman, and Julia Grant, whose stories had been previously known only through their husbands’ famous military careers.  But the reality of each of these wife-husband relationships, Candice stated, “is far more complex.”  Embedded in a lighter shade in the center of the book jacket is a silhouette of Lincoln—around whom these women’s war years revolved.

Candice’s chapter titles were carefully crafted to reflect the nature of each woman’s devotion to her husband during the war, as well as the roles each played in her husband’s military war years.  Two of these generals, Frémont and McClellan, were “failures”—gone by the end of 1862.  At that point, the other two generals were on the rise:  Sherman and Grant.  These four generals’ wives had an impact on many of their husbands’ wartime decisions—“for better and for worse.”

Part I:  “Friendly Fire”:  Jessie Benton Frémont, wife of Gen. John C. Frémont (the “Pathfinder”), was politically astute, well-educated, and forceful.  She met with Lincoln late at night on Sept. 10, 1861, to talk about her husband’s controversial order freeing the slaves in his Western Dept.’s command.  The meeting took on a confrontational tone, according to Lincoln.  Jessie had “crossed the line” in meeting with the president.  Then her husband ignored the presidential order to revoke the emancipation of slaves in his military department.  Lincoln soon lost all confidence in Frémont’s ability to command, and removed him from that senior military assignment.

Part II:  “Self-Inflicted Wounds”:  Mary Ellen (“Nelly”) Marcy McClellan, was the wife of Gen. George B. McClellan.  She was the daughter of an Army officer and had received numerous marriage proposals, including three proposals from McClellan.  But during the war, she avoided the limelight.  In McClellan’s daily letters to her from his camps, he criticized everyone in political power, especially Lincoln.  But McClellan, a narcissist, had a giant ego.  “Nellie encouraged McClellan’s worst instincts,” Candice asserted, and he responded to Nelly’s urging that he should mistrust everyone in the Lincoln administration.  After McClellan’s death in 1885, Nelly gave permission for his letters, which contained insulting remarks about prominent officials, to be published—most likely not realizing the damage that this publication would bring.  If “Little Mac” suffered from a bad reputation when he was a general, his posthumously published letters brought him even farther down in history’s estimation of him.  He was the general everyone loved to hate—and that sentiment remains to this day.

Part III:  “True Faith and Allegiance”:Ellen Ewing Sherman, wife of Gen. William T. Sherman, suffered from a visibly dreadful disease called “scrofula,” which caused skin boils.  But “Cump,” as Sherman was called within his family, and Ellen were devoted to each other.  When Sherman was publically called “insane” in Dec. 1861 in a prominent newspaper, Ellen met with Lincoln, who readily sympathized with Sherman’s breakdown.  Lincoln told her he still had confidence in him and advised her to allow some time to pass.  Later, when Sherman wanted to quit the army in the early part of the Vicksburg Campaign, Ellen talked him out of it.  Without Ellen, “Sherman might have fallen off the map,” according to Candice.

Part IV:  “Center of Gravity”:  Julia Dent Grant, wife of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, had an even more debilitating physical disorder.  She was born with strabismus (cross-eyes) and therefore was very self-conscious.  Julia was photographed only in profile.  Perhaps because of her eye condition, she found it difficult to write her husband letters that he longed for.  But Julia “was the source of his strength” for her husband during the war.  She journeyed 10,000 miles under harsh and dangerous conditions, sometimes with her children, to be his stabilizing force in time of war—and her presence did just that.

Candice closed her presentation with a summation quote from Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives:

“The reader of Civil War history cannot help but be struck by the symmetry of the story of these two sets of U.S. Army generals.  The first set, John Charles Frémont and George Brinton McClellan, were like meteors.  They blazed at first sight, raced high in the public’s eye, left chaos in their wake, then faded from view.  The second set, William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant, were like stars.  In the fading light of dusk they were only dimly perceived, but their brilliance emerged as night fell.  In the darkest hours, they shone brightly enough to light a path home, and they endured.

“There is symmetry, too, in the wives’ stories. Jessie Benton Frémont and Mary Ellen McClellan both displayed the most conventional nineteenth-century wifely attribute—uncritical, worshipful endorsement of their husbands’ every instinct.  But their support for the slender reeds that were their husbands proved disastrous to the generals and nearly so to the nation. T hey provided emotional strength that enabled their husbands to persist in their incompetence and delusion and to reject the advice and friendship of their commander in chief, whom both wives equally disdained.  In the end, Jessie and Nelly contributed most to the Union war effort by accelerating their husbands’ removal from active command.

“Ellen Ewing Sherman and Julia Dent Grant were no less smart or socially polished than Jessie and Nelly.  Their husbands loved them, and they loved them in return, but Ellen and Julia did not hesitate to take issue with the generals when they believed their actions to be wrong or their judgments ill advised.  Their belief in their husbands’ character and potential was ardent, but it was not unbounded.  They intelligently supported their husbands’ best instincts—including trust in and admiration for Lincoln—and rebuffed their worst.  In military terms, Ellen and Julia were their husbands’ centers of gravity, the source of the strength that Sherman and Grant used to win the Civil War.”



Oct. 12, 2017:  Member Larry Skinner read passages from a diary kept by a 16-year-old girl, Mary Louise (“Molly”) Creighton, who had moved with her family to Waldo, Florida, in 1862.  Molly’s diary entries went from July 1864 to the summer of 1865, the last 12 months of the Civil War.  Larry personalized the war through Molly recounting her everyday life in the backwater of war with horrific battles raging elsewhere across the Confederacy and skirmishes taking place in the Florida scrub and along the coast.

The Civil War touched the lives of those living in Waldo with the appearance of Florida’s “Swamp Fox,” Capt. J.J. Dickison, who moved in and out of North Central Florida, befriending those in Waldo, including impressionable teenager Molly Creighton.  Dickison’s name and his 2nd Florida Cavalry permeate her diary, and Larry interspersed in-depth accounts of Dickison’s maneuvers and skirmishing across the peninsula during this time.  Besides being captivated by the Swamp Fox’s exploits, Molly’s daily notations included braiding palm fronds into hats and baskets, trying to stay on top of unending sewing needs, experiencing toothaches, going to church, attending candy pulls and eggnog parties, and missing a soldier.

George Bryce had come into her life, 12 years her senior. For months she referred to him in her diary as “Mr. Bryce,” but toward the end of her entries, he simply became “George,” the love of her life.  They married in the fall of 1865 and raised 13 children in what is today southwest Nassau County, Florida.  They started a community which they named Bryceville—where Larry Skinner resides today. George made a fortune in the turpentine and sawmill businesses, and eventually acquired more than 10,000 acres of land between his homestead and the St. Marys River.

Life went on for this young girl who lived on the fringes of war. Molly wrote of hearing about the Yankees’ various failed incursions into the interior of Florida, but she also recorded learning about the surrenders of Lee and Johnston. Just as Molly would weave palm fronds into useful everyday items, Larry expertly wove a detailed account of this part of Florida during the Civil War’s last year.

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Sept. 14, 2017:  Boyd Murphree gave an insightful presentation on The Other Team: Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet.  During the course of the war, cabinet positions under Jefferson Davis’s Confederate administration numbered six:  secretaries of State, Treasury, War, Navy, Attorney General, and Postmaster General.

As in any presidential administration, cabinet members come and go, but Davis’s cabinet team seemed to come and go with great frequency during its brief four-year existence:  19 names filled these six positions at various times—whether they were “acting” or “permanent” secretaries.  Only two stayed in place the entire four years: Stephen Mallory (Navy)and John Reagan (Postmaster).  Given Davis’s controlling personality and efforts to micromanage the war, the saying at the time was that Davis was the head of each of these departments.

Many of these men were chosen not because of their administrative abilities, but because they came from states that needed to be represented in the Confederate government—and the basis of the Confederacy’s formation was states’ rights.  Many had been lawyers and politicians, and three were even foreign born (Judah Benjamin, Stephen Mallory, and Christopher Memminger [Treasury]).  A common denominator among them was that they were all slave owners.  But unanimity didn’t reign in the cabinet.  Before Fort Sumter, several of these men were even opposed to going to war.  Davis’s “cold and arrogant,” intransigent temperament and unwilling to take criticism didn’t help morale in the cabinet—or the war effort.

Among the various cabinet appointees discussed, Dr. Murphree emphasized the two most competent men: Stephen Mallory (Navy)and Judah Benjamin (Attorney General; War; State). Robert Toombs (State)was best known for being volatile and always at odds with Davis. John Reagan (Postmaster), a loyal member, made his escape with Davis and was subsequently captured. Davis, in his delusional state of mind, made Reagan also the head of the Treasury as they fled Richmond—but the Confederacy didn’t exist anymore.

Alexander Stephens served as vice president throughout the war, but feeling ignored and always in poor health, he remained in Georgia most of the time.  He was an intellectual and opposed secession, conscription, and impressment of agricultural supplies.  He was a peace advocate—but he stayed on as VP because he was a “moderating influence” in the cabinet.

 Davis was not the ideal president, but he was seen as the only viable candidate who had political, military, and administrative experience.  These diverse cabinet members were not a “team of rivals,” as in Lincoln’s cabinet, but they were the most able that the South had to offer to govern.


Lithograph shows the CSA president and his cabinet shortly after the beginning of the Civil War. Print courtesy: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.Note:Robert E. Lee (center) was an advisor, not a cabinet member. This print was originally published in New York shortly after the end of the war, but does not include any of the replacement appointments made during the course of the war.

Left to right: Stephen Mallory, secretary of the navy; Judah P. Benjamin, attorney general; Leroy Pope Walker, secretary of war; President Jefferson Davis; Gen. Robert E. Lee; John Reagan, postmaster general; Christopher Memminger, secretary of the treasury; Vice President Alexander Stephens; and Robert Toombs, secretary of state


August 10, 2017:  no meeting


July 13, 2017:   Author Philip Leigh made his third appearance at our Roundtable to speak on one of his latest books:  The Confederacy at Flood Tide:  The Political and Military Ascension, June to December 1862 (2016).  Leigh stated that June to December in the second year of the Civil War offered the Confederate States of America the best opportunity—militarily, diplomatically, and politically—to attain independence, and then explained why the CSA’s efforts failed.

Phil’s phrase “flood tide” refers to the CSA’s “rising flood” during those seven months spilling into all theaters of war—reaching its farthest range during the four years of war:  Eastern, Western, and Trans-Mississippi—not just limited to Lee’s victories in the Eastern Theater. Using detailed maps, Phil showed the pre-flood tide and post-flood-tide situations in all the military theaters—wins and losses on the battlefields.

But the “flood tide” also reached, most notably, a British Parliament that was on the verge of recognizing the CSA’s independence during the second half of 1862.  In September (soon after Second Manassas), the British prime minister, Lord Palmerston, called for intervention due mainly to the British textile industry desperately needing southern cotton.  September 1862 was the closest that Britain ever came to intervening, believing that the North and South should be two separate nations.

Phil spoke about how the CSA secretly contracted in early July 1862 with Laird and Son Shipbuilders in England to build two ironclad rams. U.S. Secretary of State William Seward applied strong diplomatic pressure, via Minister (Ambassador) Charles Francis Adams, to prevent these ironclads from final delivery—or else a state of war would exist between the U.S. and England.  In 1863, the British government backed down and seized these two weapons of war, which would never see service in the Confederate Navy.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation halted the CSA’s flood tide.  Announced in the fall of 1862 and going into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, this decree was a military strategy to undermine the southern slave-based economy.  But it also gave Lincoln the moral high ground, nationally and internationally.  With this document, the South realized that as a slave-owning society, it would never be internationally recognized, and no other country would offer its support—on any level—to the Confederate States of America.

In the last half of 1862, many Southerners could almost grasp triumph, recognition, and independence.  But this elusive dream quickly faded in 1963—with slow destruction setting in. The Confederacy realized, especially the realistically minded Lee, that it could not win a war of attrition.

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June 8, 2017:   Noah Gengler, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, gave an informative presentation on Sibley’s Campaign in the New Mexico Territory.  He described the vision of CSA Brig. Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley (1816-1886) for the Confederacy to establish an empire in the Southwest, and extend the Confederacy across the lower U.S. to ports on the Pacific Ocean.  Due to the federal blockade, the Confederacy needed an extensive supply line across the southern frontier states.  The Confederacy also eyed the gold and silver mines in Colorado and California to help bankroll their cause.  Because Jefferson Davis would not provide troops, horses, supplies, or other resources for this far western campaign, Sibley, on his own, recruited 2,500 Texans for the Army of New Mexico.  Sibley’s untrained army set out to capture Fort Craig and Fort Union and take Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Noah discussed Sibley’s two Far West campaigns whose routes in this harsh desert climate were dictated by water and springs: 1) the Confederate victory at the Battle of Val Verde (Feb. 20-21, 1862) up the Rio Grande Valley near Fort Craig; and 2) the Confederate loss at Glorieta Pass (also known as “Apache Canyon” and “Pigeon’s Ranch”) near Santa Fe (March 26-28, 1862).  In a surprise movement in this second campaign, Union troops destroyed Sibley’s rear wagons and supplies, forcing his troops to retreat and ending his likely unattainable and unrealistic dream to extend the Confederate domain into the American Southwest and thereby connect the Confederacy to the West Coast.

Due to Sibley’s ongoing struggle with alcoholism before, during, and after the war, he was nicknamed “the walking whiskey keg.”  His inebriated state also had an impact on the way he conducted his operations.  But Sibley’s overall campaigns also failed because of poor logistics.  Noah discussed other influential—and colorful—military players in these territorial battles: Edward Canby, John Baylor, Kit Carson, John Slough, John Chivington, William Scurry, the Pikes Peakers regiment, among many other characters.

Noah spoke of the comical incident on Feb. 20, 1862, when US Brig. Gen. Edward Canby at Fort Craig permitted a few of his soldiers to sneak two mules—securely strapped with artillery shells—into the Confederate camp’s mule herd at night.  The soldiers then lighted the 24-pound shells, knowing that the explosion would create chaos and destruction in the Rebel camp.  But seeing the Yankees skedaddle on their horses after lighting the short fuses, the devoted mules decided to turn around and follow the Yanks back to their camp.  Spotting the pursuing mules charging after them, the Union soldiers galloped faster and faster—but the two innocent mules could not keep up.  The desert night sky then lit up with a fiery explosion.  Those two mules gave their lives for the Union cause.

Gen. Sibley was also an inventor.  Prior to the war years, while serving as an officer on the Texas frontier, he designed the conical 12-foot-high Sibley tent that could house 12 to 20 soldiers.  The easily assembled tent with a collapsible center pole design was patented in 1856, and used extensively in the Civil War by both sides, but mostly by Union troops (44,000 were made during the war).  He also invented the Sibley Tent Stove, which was made of sheet metal.  Sibley never received royalties from the federal government for these much used inventions because he had resigned his commission in the Federal Army to serve as a Confederate officer.

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May 11, 2017:  Guest speaker Dr. Boyd Murphree gave a very informative talk on John Milton (1807-1865), who served as Florida’s governor during the Civil War.  He settled in Jackson County (northwest of Tallahassee) in 1845.

His colorful antebellum life included: fathering 14 children, becoming an attorney, participating in two dueling challenges, committing a murder—and being acquitted, serving as the head of the Florida militia, and being elected to the Florida House of Representatives for two years.  These experiences, among many other activities, made Milton a rising star in Florida prior to the outbreak of war.  In 1860, he was nominated for governor by the Democrats and won the election, but didn’t start serving in that position until Oct. 7, 1861.

From the outset, he was frustrated by Jefferson Davis not allocating troops or resources to protect the Confederacy’s southernmost state and its vulnerable 1,350-mile coastline.  In many letters to Davis, he requested “desperate aid.”  But Davis’s recurring answer was that Florida would have to defend itself and fend for itself. Florida was neglected and unprotected due to a lack of Confederate resources.

John Milton was one—if perhaps the only southern governor—who could be considered a “Confederate nationalist.”  He saw the need for each Confederate state to respond nationally in order to win rather than each state putting itself first, based on states’ rights.

Still he opposed the [Confederate] Conscription Act of 1862—the first military draft on a “national” basis.  But Florida sent 15,000 soldiers to the Confederate armies with 5,000 becoming casualties—one of the highest percentages of killed, wounded, captured, and missing of any Confederate state.

In his last speech, he said that “death would be preferable to reunion.”  Despondent over the impending fall of the Confederacy, Milton allegedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 1, 1865, at Sylvania, his plantation home near Marianna.  Dr. Murphree brought John Milton’s trials and frustrations to life in time of war.

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April 13, 2017:  Dr. Tracy Revels, professor of history at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, spoke about her book (2016) entitled Florida’s Civil War:  Terrible Sacrifices.

Dr. Revels, a social historian, presented many provocative “social factors that shaped Florida during the Civil War and its role within the Confederacy.”  She spoke as to why “Florida was lost even to the Lost Cause.”  Her points included:

  • Florida sent a disproportionate number of eligible white males to the Confederate war effort, compared to all the other Confederate states.
  • Florida Gov. John Milton realized that the rallying point of states’ rights was not a good foundation for governing because that kind of base superseded Confederate nationalism across the South.
  • Florida experienced all aspects of the Civil War in the South: battles, raids, skirmishes, guerrilla activities, refugees, occupation of key cities, a blockade, food shortages, and fleeing slaves.
  • Floridians became disillusioned by the hardships of war and many turned pro-Unionist as the dragged on, especially those who lived east of the St. Johns River.
  • Florida’s one big battle, Olustee, fought on Feb. 20, 1864, sustained one of the highest proportions of casualties of any battle fought in the Civil War.
  • Florida’s had an important role, after the fall of Vicksburg, in supplying foodstuffs, mainly beef, to the Confederate armies.  But the state had a poor, if nonexistent infrastructure to herd the cattle north from the mid to southern part of the state.  Also, the state’s coastal salt production “wasn’t enough to make a difference.”

In her conclusion, Dr. Revels stated that Floridians should know their past because they “have a debt to the past.”


FlaCWmap for May

Map:  Territory in Confederate military possession in 1861:  green and yellow.  Territory reclaimed by the Federals:  green.  Territory in Confederate possession in Jan. 1864:   yellow. [Map courtesy:  Florida Center for Instructional Technology, University of South Florida]



March 9, 2017:  Member Charie Covell gave an excellent Confederate Philately presentation about his collection of Confederate stamps and their “postal history,” which denotes envelopes with the stamps, addresses, and cancellations intact.  Charlie’s PowerPoint presentation showed a variety of stamps and envelopes, the first being a very valuable envelope postmarked Montgomery, Alabama, and dated Feb. 4, 1861—the first day of the establishment of the CSA.  However, the Confederate Post Office Dept. (CPOD) wasn’t officially established until 17 days later on Feb. 21.  John H. Reagan became the highly competent CSA Postmaster General on March 6.  During the next seven months, the United States provided postal service to the new Confederacy until officially halted by Pres. Lincoln on Aug. 26, 1861.

Some letters in the South didn’t have stamps—due to their unavailability as the war dragged on.  The envelope’s upper right corner was just marked “paid.”  In 1861, the U.S. postage rate was 3¢ per half-ounce, and the CSA rate until June 1, 1861, was also 3¢.  On July 1, 1862, the CSA postage rate was raised to a universal rate of 10¢.  The first CSA stamps portrayed profiles of President Davis. Subsequent CSA stamps—in various tones of green, blue, orange, and brown—depicted Thomas Jefferson, John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, and George Washington.  In all, 14 different stamps were issued by the CPOD, ranging in face value from 2¢ to 10¢.

Charlie’s other topics included stamp perforations, patriotic covers and designs (flags, portraits, slogans, cartoons, battle scenes, verses), advertising, and college emblems. One of the most famous CSA cover envelopes shows a cartoon titled “Abe Lincoln the destroyer. He once split Rails. Now he has split the Union.” One of those cartoon envelopes sold for $50,000 in 2013.

When paper became scarce in the South as the war continued, envelopes were made from wallpaper, advertising broadsides, maps, and charts—anything passable as paper. Some envelopes were even recycled, that is, turned inside out. Charlie also covered how mail from POW camps on both sides was sent through an exchange point.

He covered the letters between Confederate cavalry captain Winston John Thomas Stephens (1829-1864) and his wife Octavia (“Tivie”), of Welaka, Florida, as featured in the book Rose Cottage Chronicles: Civil War Letters of the Bryant-Stephens Families of North Florida. Charlie displayed his own impressive collection of Confederate stamps, envelopes, and books. Because of the value of certain stamp issues and covers, forgeries are not uncommon. He discussed the challenges of distinguishing between genuine Civil War era stamps and forgeries.

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Feb. 9:  Member Bob Wooley spoke on the Skirmish at Station No. 4 near Cedar Key on Feb. 13, 1865.  He began by noting the importance of Cedar Key: 1) the western terminus of the cross-state Florida Railroad; and 2) as a port for blockade runners to have ready access to a railroad.

Almost 400 Union forces, under the command of Major Edmund Weeks, occupied the Cedar Keys: the U.S. 2nd Cavalry (pro-Union Floridians) and the 2nd USCT (black troops).  After several previous raids inland, these two Union regiments were confronted by the enemy on their return from yet another interior raid—a four-day incursion ending back near Cedar Key on Feb. 12.

Capt. J.J. Dickison, known as the “Swamp Fox of Florida,” and his troops had been raiding east of the St. Johns River.  They made a monumental effort to get to Cedar Key upon hearing of this latest Union inland foray and saw a chance to push the larger Union forces back to Cedar Key.  At sunset on Feb. 12, Dickison’s troops reached the Florida Railroad Station No. 4, which was a trestle bridge four miles from the coastal community.

The Confederates—despite running low on ammo and also for their only 12-pounder howitzer cannon—confronted the Federals on the eastern side of the trestle at 7 a.m. the next day.  The day before, Major Weeks and prisoners had gone by boat to Depot Key.  At the end of the day on Feb. 13, the Yankees had to abandon the stolen horses and cattle, and several wagons hauling other loot and flee to the islands. The skirmishing was aggressive from both sides of the bridge: 160 Rebels vs. 400 Yankees.

Weeks and Dickison’s post-skirmish reports vary on the nearly four-hour skirmish:  Dickison reported that he ran low on ammo for his small arms and solid shot for his artillery, so he had to retreat.  Weeks said that a bold Federal counterattack pushed Dickison’s men to withdraw. But both sides withdrew from either side of the trestle at Station No. 4.  This skirmish site can be seen from the public dock on the island side of Number 4 Channel—but no historic markers are on site.

Skirmish at Station 4:   This sketch is from Dickison and His Men: Reminiscences of the War in Florida (1890)by Mary Elizabeth Dickison.  The drawingshows Confederate troops firing on the Federals.  In the background is Number 4 trestle.
Sketch courtesy:

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Jan. 12, 2017:   Member Bill Zettler spoke on the topic Major Gen. Carl Schurz: German-American Icon of the Civil War Era. He discussed the influx of German immigrants into the United States in the 19th century, and felt that historians tend to overlook the disproportionate role that German-Americans played in the Civil War—about 25% of all Union troops were of German descent.

The emphasis of the presentation was on the most popular and recognizable German-born general of the war, Carl Schurz (1829-1906), who immigrated to this country in 1852 after harrowing experiences in the 1848 revolution.  He arrived in the second great wave of Germanic immigration. He wielded strong influence on his troops and on the political front.  He was a journalist, editor, orator, musician, lawyer, and politician.  He served as ambassador to Spain in the early part of the war and led German troops, as a brigadier general, in some of the most important battles, including Gettysburg. Post-war, he served as a U.S. senator (from Missouri) and as a secretary of the Interior (under President Hayes).

Bill concluded with the country’s radical change in its perspective of Germans because of the U.S. entry into the Great War. Anti-German sentiment reared its head—so much so that commonplace nouns were adjusted to reflect the times: sauerkraut was changed to “liberty cabbage,” German measles became “liberty measles,” hamburgers were renamed “liberty sandwiches,” and dachshunds were now named “liberty pups.”  Bill added that nothing changes.

Below left: Speaker Bill Zettler.  Below right: Brig. General Carl Schurz.  Photo courtesy:

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Dec. 8, 2016:  no meeting

Nov. 10, 2016:  Guest speaker Bruce Smith gave an enthusiastic, animated talk on “Secret Naval Missions of the Civil War:  Both Sides.”  Bruce focused on two commando-style nighttime coastal raids:  1) the Union raid, led by Lt. William Cushing, on the Confederate ironclad ram Albemarle on the night of Oct. 27-28, 1864, at Plymouth, North Carolina; and 2) the Confederate raid on and capture of the USS Water Witch, led by 1st Lt. Thomas Pelot on June 2, 1864, in Ossabaw Sound, south of Savannah.  The Water Witch served with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  Both raids on enemy ships were bold, dramatic, and successful, but each raid had its moments of humorous behavior and action.

Bruce Smith, former director for 12 years of the National Civil War Naval Museum in Port Columbus, Georgia, interspersed his talk with photos of the museum’s full-scale reproduction (2009) of the Water Witch. The museum’s logo is the Water Witch.

Below left painting:  David and Goliath, by artist Paul Bender, illustrates the small Union Navy launch’s spar-torpedo attack, led by daring William Cushing on the Albemarle.  Painting courtesy:

Below middle:  speaker Bruce Smith

Below right photo:  sidewheel steam gunboat USS Water WitchPhoto courtesy:  Library of Congress and

Bottom photo:  CSS Albemarle. Photo courtesy:

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Oct. 13, 2016:  Member Toni Collins spoke on Civil War Blockade Running on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the title of her latest book (2016).  Toni gave a fact-filled and anecdotal presentation on the history of blockading the Confederacy’s Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico 3,500-mile-long coastline.  This Northern strategy was known as the “Anaconda Plan,” conceived by Gen. Winfield Scott, to strangle the Southern states.  This naval blockade became increasingly more effective as the war progressed.  The East Gulf Coast Blockading Squadron, based at Key West, was responsible for most of the Florida coast from Pensacola to Cape Canaveral.  This squadron was more aggressive than the other blockading squadrons with its many landing party raids, patrols, and skirmishes on Florida’s inlet-studded west coast.

Toni spoke of the number of Southern “privateers” being issued a “Letter of Marque and Reprisal,” which was “written authorization from a government to a private party to fit out a ship at that person’s own expense to attack and destroy the shipping of enemy nations [in this case the commerce of the United States].”  During the war, these smaller shallow draft ships were outshone by the highly successful Confederate commerce raiders, such as the Florida, Shenandoah, and Alabama.  The primary targets of these landing raids were the salt-making operations along the 1,300 mile-long coast.  Confederate authorities were sometimes at odds with the Southern blockade runners who smuggled in the more lucrative frivolous items rather than the much needed military and medical necessities.

Toni cited numerous examples of blockade runners’ adventures with details of cargo, draft, and comedy of errors to give a personal touch to these men who ran the gauntlet.

Below left:  Member Fred Donaldson talking to speaker Toni Collins at the book signing table.   Below right:  Toni’s book on which she based her talk.



Sept. 8, 2016:  Guest speaker Dr. Matt Gallman, University of Florida history professor, gave a lively presentation on Lincoln’s “Blind Memorandum,” dated Aug. 23, 1864.  The 60-word note, presented to his cabinet for their signatures—but folded over and sealed so they couldn’t read it, stated:  This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected.  Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.  — A. Lincoln”

Dr. Gallman discussed the note and its purpose in the context of the 1864 presidential election—the first presidential election held in wartime.  He spoke about the Union’s dire military and political situation in the summer of 1864.  Among other challenges, Sherman seemed checked outside of Atlanta and Grant had suffered the Crater debacle at Petersburg.  Serious political dissension existed within both parties, as well as growing pressure for peace.  Amid this depressing and frustrating scenario, Dr. Gallman questioned, as have other historians, why the cabinet members—all of whom were lawyers—would have signed it—sight unseen.  What was Lincoln thinking he would accomplish by writing this memorandum?  As lawyers, he and the entire cabinet would recognize their signatures would carry no legal weight.  But Lincoln “liked to think things through and be aware of history.”  And in other instances, he produced documents clearly intended for his “historical legacy.”  Dr. Gallman suggested that perhaps, as Lincoln told Stanton after the election, he doubted McClellan would work with him, but he would have demonstrated that he had done his duty with a clear conscience.

Dr. Gallman added that within 10 days after writing the “Blind Memorandum,” Lincoln’s chance to win the election appeared greatly increased with 1) Sherman taking Atlanta; 2) the Democratic Party adopting its “Chicago Platform,” which would have ended the war and brought the South back into the Union with slavery intact; 3) choosing a “peace” Democrat to run as vice president (George H. Pendleton); and 4) the “let’s finish what we started” soldiers voting in the field.  Lincoln received 55% of the popular vote compared to McClellan’s 45%; electoral vote:  Lincoln: 212; McClellan: 21.

Below left photo:  Two years into the war, this photo, taken Nov. 8, 1863, shows the war’s heavy responsibilities and Federal military uncertainties ingrained on Lincoln’s face.  Photo by: Alexander Gardner.  Photo courtesy:

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July 14, 2016:  Member Bill Zettler gave a poignant and very personal presentation titled German Voices. German-American soldiers played a major role in the war. 516,000 soldiers—23.4% of the 2.2 million Union troops—were immigrants; of those 516,000 immigrants, 216,000 were German immigrants. Bill followed three ancestral German-American privates 1) Martin Goth, Co. G., 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers; 2) Garret Cornelius Bush, Co. C, 7th New Jersey Volunteers; and 3) Berrien M. Zettler, Co. B, 8th Georgia Regiment. Bill divided his talk into five themes for each family relative: Prelude, Detonation, Euphoria, Reality, and Aftermath. He provided evocative quotes from each of these three men in these five phases of the war. He also shared the “shock and awe” experienced by Georgia ancestor, Berrien M. Zettler—in his own words—after Sherman’s troops ransacked his family’s plantation near Savannah. The Civil War is not just about battles and generals. It is about people—and Bill brought to life the faces and stories of three soldiers who fought for their causes and beliefs.

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June 9, 2016:  Well-known author, photo technology historian, and archivist Bill Ryan spoke on Bringing Digital to Brady Photography in the Civil War.  He described how photography began in America when telegraph inventor Samuel Morse (1791-1872) brought the daguerreotype process from France around 1840.  Famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady (1822-1896) studied under Morse. Brady learned about daguerreotypes and later mastered the “wet collodion process”—which Ryan described as a “nightmare” requiring 20- to 30 sec. exposure times.  This process would be used to produce thousands of negative images on glass during the Civil War years. Brady was both a technical and marketing genius.  The well-to-do lined up to pay to be included in his Gallery of Illustrious Americans, which he established across the street from P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York City.

The Civil War transformed both the process and cultural impact of photography, as images of the horrors of war were seen by Americans as never before.  Brady and his associates made the war “come alive.”  Brady’s “What’s-It Wagon,” a traveling photo laboratory, became the norm for on-site photography production.  The Edward Anthony Company sold Brady all his supplies and also sold supplies to the Confederates (echoing the April 2016 CWRNF talk on Trading with the Enemy by Philip Leigh).  Having spent his fortune buying up hundreds of negative plates and deeply in debt, Brady gave the bulk of his collection to the Edward Anthony Company, which later became Ansco, where Bill Ryan worked and first encountered the Brady photo collection.

Ryan brought many prints for his talk, and marveled at the amount of detail hidden in the “grainless” glass negatives.  His PowerPoint presentation showed multiple Brady prints along with high-definition enlargements Ryan had made from the negatives, with scans at 2000 DPI, revealing people and items that had previously never been seen.  He also spoke about how these black-and-white and sepia-toned photos have lasted for more than 150 years ago—and will outlast today’s digital images in the Cloud.

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May 12, 2016:   Guest speaker Peggy Macdonald, executive director of the Matheson History Museum, gave an informative and entertaining talk about Edmund Kirby Smith (1824-1893) and Jesse Johnson Finley (1812-1904), two familiar Gainesville names with schools named after each of these Confederate generals. Finley served directly under Smith’s command in the Kentucky Campaign in 1862.

Dr. Macdonald spoke about the removal of the Edmund Kirby Smith statue in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall—with a replacement yet to be determined.  She focused on the controversy surrounding downtown Gainesville’s Confederate soldier statue, erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1904. The statue remains in place despite the 2015 highly public debate—and anger—surrounding its possible removal to another location, such as on the Matheson Museum grounds.

According to Peggy Macdonald, the statue is all about money: 1) it would cost too much to move the statue to various suggested locations; 2) it would cost too much to place a Union statue next to “Old Joe” as a balance to history; and 3) it would cost too much to repair the damage to the cheaply made zinc statue, now 112 years old, that a move would create.  Dr. Macdonald cited the cost of the three Heisman statues on the UF campus as being $500,000.  She concluded, “I don’t see him [“Old Joe”] going anywhere soon.”

Photos:  top left:  speaker Peggy Macdonald; top right:  J. J. Finley; bottom left:  Edmund Kirby Smith; bottom right:  Confederate statue on Gainesville’s downtown square


Kirby Smithold Joe


April 14, 2016Guest speaker Philip Leigh talked about Trading with the Enemy: The Covert Economy during the American Civil War,based on his book of the same title (2014). The “covert economy” was all about intersectional trade. Just prior to the war, King Cotton comprised 70% of U.S. exports to feed the textile mills in England and supplying New England’s mills. Philip Leigh explained that with the advent of war, Lincoln was concerned that England and France might come in on behalf of the South to get that much needed cotton. Lincoln quietly let some ships laden with bales of cotton slip through the blockade so cotton would not become a “bargaining chip” for Europe to enter on the side of the Confederacy. “Generally, Confederate president Jefferson Davis looked the other way out of necessity, whereas Lincoln looked the other way out of policy,” according to Leigh in his book Trading with the Enemy.

Leigh discussed the many Northerners who profited from this illegal trade, such as Sen. William Sprague (RI) and Major Gen. Benjamin Butler. The small non-blockaded Mexican town of Matamoros on the Rio Grande thrived during the war because Texas cotton was transported across the shallow river and then shipped to international ports. Halifax in Nova Scotia, Nassau in the Bahamas, and Bermuda all played important roles as blockade-running centers in this illicit but sanctioned North-South trade. Southerners needed arms, medicines, and other essentials, and trading cotton paved the way toward getting some of those vital wartime items, which, according to Leigh, may have prolonged the war. In his book, Philip Leigh stated that the characteristics of this “shadowy commerce” of trading with the enemy included “widespread bribery, fraud, smuggling, and theft.” Upper right photo courtesy:


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March 10, 2016:  Member John Paling gave the second part of his presentation on his distant cousin, an abolitionist, titled: Thomas Jackson’s Letters, Part II: The End of the War and Beyond.  John continued his role as “ambassador of Thomas Jackson” by providing his relative’s reflections on Lincoln’s assassination—through Jackson’s grief-stricken letters. John also read John Wilkes Booth’s justification letter, dated November 1864.  Contrasting these two radically different perceptions of “reality,” John demonstrated how easy it is to not see what is in front of our eyes, and suggested we should try “to see things from more than one perspective.” Below right photo: Lincoln’s presidential box at Ford’s Theatre taken after the assassination.  Photo courtesy:

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Feb. 11, 2016:  Dr. William Link, professor in UF’s History Dept., gave an excellent talk titled: The Atlanta Campaign: Invasion, Destruction, and Remembering in the Civil War South, based on his book  Atlanta, Cradle of the New South: Race and Remembering in the Civil War’s Aftermath (2013 hardback; 2015 paperback). Dr. Link discussed the fall of Atlanta and its post-war rise, i.e., the war being transformational for Atlanta because it was the crucial hub for five railroads thus becoming a boom town during the war; Sherman’s order of Sept. 7, 1864, to deport civilians, and the written reactions to this order by Gen. Hood and Jefferson Davis; the impact of Henry Grady’s promotion of the city’s future; and how the city reshaped and redefined itself, receiving the nickname “Chicago of the South.” Dr. Link presented many of George Barnard’s famous post-war photos that showed the city’s devastation.

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Jan. 14, 2016Member Bob Wooley gave a well-organized informative talk about the famous CSS Alabama,secretly built in Birkenhead, England, in 1862 as the Enrica, and subsequently transformed into a Confederate commerce raider in international waters. He discussed the three most influential men in the short two-year life of the raider: Stephen Mallory, James Bulloch, and her captain, Raphael Semmes.  The raider sailed 67,000 miles, taking 2,000 prisoners and $5.1 million in spoils of war (about $78 million today), which led to the “Alabama Claims” sought by the United States from the British government after the war. The sunken remains of the Alabama were found in the English Channel in November 1984.

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December 10, 2015:  CWRNF Holiday Dinner: 29 members and guests attended

            The CWRNF made $258 from the raffle! Aaron Colverson, our guest fiddler, played four songs: Garry Owen March, Gravel Walk, Amazing Grace,and the Ashokan Farewell. Aaron was quite a crowd pleaser and the CWRNF thanks him for enhancing the evening’s period festivities.

       Member Sue Wooley had the winning raffle ticket for the gift basket containing Civil War-related items. A special dinner guest was Dr. Matt Gallman, UF history professor. His book, Lens of War, was one of the raffled books. Sue Wooley also had the winning ticket for that outstanding book and had it autographed on the spot by Dr. Gallman. Member Fred Donaldson, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, had the winning ticket for one of the bottles of wine, aka “Oh Be Joyful” (as soldiers in both Blue and Gray referred to their alcoholic spirits). Fred’s wine was labeled Rebel Red from the Adams County Winery in Gettysburg. The Civil War-themed holiday dinner was genial, full of history, and enlivened with tuneful, recognizable period music.



November 12, 2015:  Guest speaker Keith Kohl gave a highly informative and detailed talk about famed Capt. John J. Dickison (nicknamed Florida’s “Swamp Fox” and “Gray Ghost”) and his 2nd Florida Cavalry Co. H engagements with Federal troops in Florida—the two most famous being: 1) Battle of Horse Landing on May 23, 1864, in which his cavalry ambushed, captured, and sank the Union warship USS Columbine on the St. Johns River (site located today near Rodeheaver’s Boys Ranch). This was the only known incident in U.S. history where cavalry sank an enemy ship. 2) Battle of Gainesville on Aug. 17, 1864, in which Dickison’s cavalry—after 90 minutes of fighting—sent the Federals reeling back to Jacksonville. This battle was considered one of Dickison’s greatest victories. The guerrilla warfare leader has been credited with keeping Federal forces at bay in Florida. Right photo below: Mural showing the Columbine with Dickison’s men lying in wait. Muralist Betty Sutliff painted Columbine, which is located on the side of a building at South Third Street & St. Johns Avenue in Palatka.



Oct. 8, 2015:  Guest speaker Jon Sensbach, UF history professor, addressed the onset of the war from the viewpoint of a Southern opponent of secession, Hinton Helper, which led to discussing why non-slave-owning soldiers fought for the Confederacy. Angry Southerners thought Hinton Helper was trying to split Southern whites along class lines. Helper wrote The Impending Crisis of the South, which made him famous overnight—on both sides—for the opposite reasons. Jon talked about the planter aristocracy—some 3,000 families, each of which possessed at least 100 slaves, accounting for some 10% of the nation’s slaves. These planters dominated the political, social, and economic framework of the South, and they launched secession and the war to secure the yeomen farmers’ loyalty to defend their homeland. These elite slave owners wanted to hold each southern state intact, knowing that the poor white farmer, not able to rise in the slave-dominated economy, would have to fight for their respective states. Also, the fear of black equality would be another uniting factor and motivate the non-slave-owning farmers to fight.



September 10, 2015:  Guest speaker Bob Grenier gave a very entertaining, high-energy talk about his book Central Florida’s Civil War Veterans (2014). He provided a personal look into the lives of Civil War veterans—on both sides—who settled in the central counties of Florida. He also spoke of several women who entered the annals of Florida’s post-war history in their efforts to memorialize the Civil War. He spoke of this book as a tribute and memorial to veterans through photographs and accompanying captions that went beyond simple identification.

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July 9, 2015:   Guest speaker Philip Leigh gave an edifying presentation on Robert E. Lee’s famous Special Order #191 (written Sept. 9, 1862), a copy of which was fortuitously found in a Maryland field by a Union corporal on Sept. 13 during the Antietam Campaign. This famous historical incident is documented in Leigh’s new book Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies. Special Order 191, signed by R.H. Chilton, Adjutant for General Lee, concerned the Army of Northern Virginia’s movements and campaign plans. But McClellan procrastinated and failed to take advantage of this valuable military intelligence. McClellan repeatedly depended on detective Alan Pinkerton and cavalry commander Gen. Alfred Pleasanton’s gross over-estimations of the number of Lee’s ANV troops–hence McClellan’s reluctance to confront Lee. Phil Leigh discussed the “blame game” among the Confederate officers, couriers, and future historians about this lost dispatch. To see Leigh’s New York Times “Disunion” article (Sept. 12, 2012) titled “Lee’s Lost Order,” click here.



June 11, 2015:  Guest speaker Dr. Chris Ruehlen gave a highly informative presentation titled “The New York City Draft Riots: Causes, Consequences, and Popular Memory.” Dr. Ruehlen provided background leading up to the New York City’s draft riots, and examined how the riots (July 13-16, 1863) started as a protest against the draft—the first federal draft, but the violent demonstrations eventually transformed into larger race riots with important consequences. He discussed the two most important causes of the riots: 1) The Enrollment Act passed in March 1863, also known as the “Conscription Act” and 2) the Emancipation Proclamation, which meant fighting for the freedom of blacks who would work for a much lower wage than the Irish and other ethnic immigrant laborers. The resentment had been building up prior to and during the war between the native-born and immigrants, between the poor and the rich (who could hire a substitute at $300 (in today’s currency: about $5,800), and between the white and free blacks.

Earlier this year Dr. Ruehlen traveled to New York City to try to find historical markers or monuments at various sites of the lynchings, fires, and the Colored Orphan Asylum (Fifth Avenue & 43rd/44th streets); he found no such plaques to describe the most destructive mob violence in American history between the time of the Revolution and 9/11, with approximately 120 dying (which included 11 lynchings). The rioters, mostly Irish laborers, unleashed their pent-up anger at pro-war newspaper offices, free blacks, upper class whites, and the draft office. The mobs roamed the city with no opposition the first several days because U.S. Army troops were still at Gettysburg. The rioters looted and plundered businesses, torched public buildings (including the orphanage and the site of the draft lottery at Third Avenue and 46th Street), cut telegraph wires, and murdered free blacks. Property damage at that time was estimated to be about $5 million; in today’s currency: about $95 million.

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May 14, 2015:  Member Fred Donaldson gave a talk entitled “The Beginning of the End.” Fred spoke about the baggage belonging to Jefferson Davis that ended up in Waldo after Davis had been captured four weeks earlier near Irwinville, Georgia. Fred talked about the contents of the three trunks—as given in official records, which had made the journey from Richmond down into Florida to David Yulee’s Cottonwood plantation in Archer and back to Waldo. The trunks’ contents included: Davis’s dirty laundry and personal hygiene items, boots, plug tobacco, side arms and ammunition, six boxes of cigars, private correspondence, portraits of Davis, his wife Varina, and Gen. Lee, and $20,000 in Confederate paper money. Fred discussed, in detail, the routes that other high-ranking officials, including Judah P. Benjamin (in disguise) and John C. Breckinridge, took to escape capture, enabled by the so-called “Southern Underground.” Fred based much of his information on the book Flight into Oblivion (1999) by Alfred J. Hanna.

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April 9, 2015:  Guest speaker Matt Gallman spoke onTwo Roads to Appomattox:  Grant, Lee, and the Meaning of Surrender.”This date, April 9, 2015, marked the 150th anniversary of Gen. Lee surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865.

Dr. Gallman examined the interplay between politics and war and showed the letters exchanged between Lee, who was trying to negotiate a political “peace” treaty, which was at odds with Grant trying to negotiate a military “surrender.” Dr. Gallman said that this gathering in the McLean house “was the most important meeting in American history.” He showed famous lithographs of the McLean parlor, and each subsequent print had more and more generals appearing to record that they were at the surrender. He presented lithographs of the death watch in the Petersen house in which the number of cabinet officers and other prominent officials kept increasing in order to preserve themselves for posterity at such a historic moment.

Dr. Gallman brought copies of his new book, co-edited with historian Gary Gallagher, entitled Lens of War: Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War, to autograph.The book presents both iconic and unfamiliar photographs from the Civil War, along with commentary from a variety of scholars.

After the talk, the CWRNF played a short video titled The Civil War in Four Minutes showing the continually changing battle lines over four years of war thrusting deeper into the heart of the Confederacy—in rapid-fire four minutes.

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March 12, 2015:  Member John Paling gave CWRNF members and guests an informative and highly entertaining presentation on his distant cousin, Thomas Jackson. A British citizen who emigrated to the United States in 1829, Jackson became an American citizen and made his fortune as a ropemaker in Reading, Pennsylvania. In addition to his business ventures in mid-19th century America, Jackson took on the task of becoming an amateur, though eloquent, reporter on the momentous issue leading up to the Civil War—slavery.

Jackson sent moving, poignant letters back to England in the antebellum period and through the Civil War years about witnessing slavery firsthand. He directed his letters to a cousin in England with the express purpose of getting them published in newspapers. The purpose of these many letters was to try to get the British public to see that the Parliament vote and opinion on the side of the Confederacy meant that it was also a vote in favor of slavery. Thomas Jackson was an ardent abolitionist in a time when–even living in a northern state–such a title had negative ramifications.

John Paling gave dramatic readings from selected portions of Jackson’s letters. More than 150 years later, Paling, calling himself an “Ambassador of Thomas Jackson,” is hoping to re-evaluate what took place to see if we can learn any lessons for the present day. He invited audience members—and anyone else outside the CWRNF—to share his/her opinion on this subject at this email address:

John Paling would be pleased to offer a similar presentation of the Thomas Jackson letters for other groups. If anyone would like to learn more about Jackson, all his letters are available as transcriptions, as well as the scans of the original letters, on this website:

Photos below:  left:  speaker John Paling; right: iconic photo of slave Wilson Chinn, “a branded slave from Louisiana,” whom Thomas Jackson met; bottom: signature of Thomas Jackson on one of his numerous letters to his cousin in England; this letter is dated Aug. 13, 1862.




February 12, 2015:  Guest speaker Barbara Oberlander gave a presentation entitled: “The Other Lincoln: Mary Todd Lincoln: Our Most Controversial First Lady.” This was an appropriate topic because this meeting date, Feb. 12, is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (1809-1865). Barbara spoke about the impact on Mary’s life in losing three of her four sons and her husband being assassinated—sitting right next to her. These and other events traumatized Mary’s already highly emotional condition. Today, she could conceivably be diagnosed as being “bi-polar.” Mary was extravagant in her spending sprees, insecure emotionally, and very headstrong and opinionated in her relationship with her husband. Yet she—probably more than anyone else—pushed Lincoln into the White House, believing in his greatness. Barbara concluded that perhaps Mary Todd Lincoln should be more pitied than censured.

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January 8, 2015:  Guest speaker Steve Stanley, well-known and highly regarded Civil War mapmaker, spoke about the making of Civil War maps he creates for the Civil War Trust ( His maps are easily recognizable and have set a new standard for historical accuracy in battlefield cartography. In response to many questions, he elaborated on the Civil War Trust and that organization’s history in purchasing 1) privately held property once part of Civil War battlefield acreage and 2) Civil War-era historical structures (for example, Lee’s headquarters at Gettysburg). He spoke about how to create a Civil War battlefield map with a “layering” technique: 1) put in the topographical lay of the land, 2) add creeks, rivers, lakes, etc., 3) add current roads and old roads, 4) add trees, historical buildings, railroads, 5) add troop deployment, 6) add legend, topographic shadowing, clocks, compass. His maps, considered among the best in historical cartography, have been a longtime essential of the Civil War Trust, and his maps have raised millions of dollars for preservation. Steve Stanley’s maps have also appeared in a wide variety of publications. He talked about his new book coming out in late spring 2015 featuring detailed maps on Pickett’s Charge.

Mr. Stanley brought copies of his books to sell and autograph: 1)The Complete Gettysburg Guide: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and Other Topics of Historic Interest; 2)The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook: Facts, Photos, and Artwork for Readers of All Ages: June 9 – July 14, 1863; and 3)The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses: Synopses, Orders of Battle, Strengths, Casualties, and Maps: June 9 – July 14, 1863.

Member Stewart White gave a short presentation on the “Rebel Yell” and played part of a CD entitled The Rebel Yell Lives! He bought several copies of the CDs at the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) in Richmond to sell the CWRNF book table. The CD was produced by the MOC in 2008.

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Dec. 11, 2014: Holiday Banquet:  32 CWRNF members and guests came to the second annual holiday dinner on Dec. 11. The evening’s theme focused on the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Savannah in Dec. 1864—the climax of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Members and their guests read quotes from letters written in late 1864 and early 1865 about the surrender of Savannah: from white Savannahians who experienced the month-long military control; from newly freed slaves and what they confronted; from Sherman’s troops and what they lived through as they occupied this city of 20,000 residents; and from10,000 evacuating, dejected Confederates under Gen. Hardee and what they felt in abandoning Savannah.  Thanks to all the members and their guests who helped make this dinner a success!

The CWRNF’s holiday dinner raffle was a fundraiser success: $204!! The five winners were: 1) Jackie Davison: basket of Civil War-related gifts; 2) Judith Comeau: bottle of Savannah River red wine and a bale of cotton; 3) Eric Starnes:bottle of Savannah River red wine and a bale of cotton; 4) Stewart White: DVD of the movie Gettysburg; 4) Ann Christie: CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Songs of the Civil War.


Top row: Left: CWRNF’s board members: L to R: Eric Starnes, Bill Zettler, John Walsh, Diane Fischler, Stewart White, Terry Huston, standing behind raffle basket. Right: boll of cotton & a “Sherman necktie” at each place setting

Second row: Left: Stewart White & Sid Mayer.  Right: display of some of the raffle prizes

Third row: Left: Judith Comeau, John Paling, Joyce Hallman, John Walsh. Right: Jackie Davison, John Buckta, Lise Abrams

Fourth row:  Left: Eric & Renee Starnes, Rosemary Cortez, Ann Christie, Carol & Bill Zettler. Right: members & guests

Fifth row: Left: place settings with boll of cotton, a “Sherman necktie” & map of March to the Sea. Right: close-up of table setting showing map of Sherman’s March to the Sea



November 6, 2014:  Speaker  Ray Carson, author, professional photographer, and the University of Florida’s chief photographer, gave a talk on Civil War photography. He cited several famous photographers who made their mark in American history: Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan. These three men brought the war to the doorsteps of the home front. Ray discussed tintypes, ambrotypes, and daguerreotypes, and the process in creating them. Ray is author of The Civil War Soldier: A Photographic Journey, published by Stackpole Books, 2000.  The dust jacket reads:  “Through stark, unposed photographs of Civil War re-enactors, photographer and re-enactor Ray Carson has captured this reality of the common soldier’s life. Combining the intimacy and intensity of modern photojournalism with the authenticity and historical feel of 1860s photography, Carson has painted a vivid portrait of both the glory and the tragedy of the Civil War.” He has exhibited his photographs  in numerous galleries  throughout the United States, and has published  in national magazines, including Discovery Magazine, Archeology Magazine, and U.S. News & World Report.

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October 2, 2014: Speaker:  Donna Waller spoke about  “The War with Mexico: Dress Rehearsal for the Civil War.”  She discussed how the war with Mexico set the stage for the American Civil War, both militarily and politically, and emphasized President James K. Polk’s hands-on approach to that war. Ms. Waller has been an instructor at Santa Fe College for nearly 30 years; she retired as a professor of history in 2011.  Her teaching focus has been on the Civil War and the history of the American presidency. At the end of the program, member Sid Mayer gave a short presentation on the “Rebel yell.”

Donna Waller speaks about the Mexican War's impact on the American Civil War


September 4, 2014:  Four member speakers: Fred Donaldson, Stewart White, Eric Starnes, and Diane Fischler spoke about their ancestors who fought in the Civil War. Rick Doughty talked about successful relic “hunting” in downtown Gainesville and finding buttons and bullets in and around the downtown square from the Battle of Gainesville that took place on August 17, 1864.


August 7, 2014:  Historian and author Keith W. Kohl spoke on the Battle of Gainesville with a PowerPoint presentation. The battle took place on August 17, 1864, and this year marks the 150th anniversary of that battle. A Confederate force defeated Federal detachments on a raid from the Union garrison near Jacksonville, Florida.  Keith pointed out several downtown Gainesville landmarks where the battle transpired. Prior to his presentation and following the talk with a Q&A, he autographed copies of his book, Florida’s Civil War Years (2011).  Accompanying Keith was his son, Jonathon, and friend Sergeant Ken Pemmons. Thank you, Keith, for a highly informative talk about a battle right in our own backyard!


Keith Kohl and son Jonathon


June 5, 2014:  Members Terry Huston and Eric Starnes gave a joint talk on Cold Harbor, fought May 31 to June 12, with the famous Federal charge on June 3—150 years ago this month. Eric took the perspective of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia troops, including after-action reports, and Eric spoke from the standpoint of Grant’s Army of the Potomac’s troops. Grant said of the battle in his memoirs, “I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. . . . No advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”

Painting of Battle of Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, published by Kurz & Allison in 1888. Kurz & Allison was a major publisher of chromolithographs in the late 19th century. Based in Chicago, the publishers built their reputation on large prints published in the mid-1880s depicting battles of the Civil War. (Source:

Painting of Battle of Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, published by Kurz & Allison in 1888. Kurz & Allison was a major publisher of chromolithographs in the late 19th century. Source:


May 1, 2014:  Showing of movie titled “Echoes of Captivity,” the second of the two orientation movies shown at the Andersonville National Historic Site. This movie is shown as a prelude to the CWRNF’s field trip on May 10 to Andersonville. This documentary was made in 1998 by the National Park Service; it is narrated by Colin Powell. The movie uses narrative and visual material from the Andersonville Historic Site to bring viewers through the prisoner experience from capture to repatriation. Wars covered include the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. The pervading theme is that POWs have suffered similar brutalities throughout all the wars that America has fought: fear and uncertainty after capture; a strenuous and dangerous march to a prison camp; horrid conditions in the camp including rotten food, violent guards, and poor living conditions in general; a will to live and communicate; escape if possible, and repatriation to a welcoming country and family. Member Diane Fischler gave a talk on Andersonville as a follow-up to the POW documentary and as a prelude to the field trip on May 10.

Union POWs inside Andersonville Prison in west central Georgia. Photo courtesy:

Union POWs inside Andersonville Prison in west central Georgia. Photo courtesy:


April 3, 2014:  Member John Walsh talked on the history of Libby Prison in Richmond and what happened to that structure after the Civil War. The building was constructed before the war as a three-story food warehouse. In 1889, it was disassembled and moved to Chicago to be rebuilt and serve as a war museum from 1889 to 1895. After the museum failed to draw enough crowds, the building was dismantled in 1889 and sold in pieces as souvenirs.

Confederate Libby Prison which held officers from the Union armies. The former warehouse was located on the James River waterfront in Richmond. Photo courtesy:

Confederate Libby Prison which held officers from the Union armies. The former warehouse was located on the James River waterfront in Richmond. Photo courtesy:


March 6, 2014:  Show & tell on two guns: Member Eric Starnes brought his Spencer carbine and Mississippi rifle. He discussed the importance of this carbine as being one of the most popular firearms of the Civil War though it was not issued until the latter part of 1863. He talked about the 1841 Mississippi percussion rifle as being altered to accept angular bayonets.

Spencer carbine—lever action repeating rifle. Sketch courtesy:

Spencer carbine—lever action repeating rifle. Sketch courtesy:

Documentary shown: one of the two orientation movies presented at Andersonville National Historic Site titled “Voices from Andersonville”—which focuses on the history of the prison from 1864 to 1865. The prison officially opened in February 1864—150 years ago this month. This movie was shown as a prelude to the CWRNF’s field trip on May 10 to Andersonville. Also shown: “The Civil War in Four Minutes”: In a scale of one week equals one second at the bottom of the screen, this short DVD graphically shows the continually changing battle lines as a nation tears itself apart. In the lower right corner, a casualty counter tracks the mounting numbers lost to disease, capture, and death.


February 6, 2014:  Member Diane Fischler talked about the Confederate submarine Hunley, which mysteriously disappeared on the night of February 17, 1864, outside Charleston Harbor. This month marks the 150th anniversary of its sinking. The Hunley reveals a story about technical ingenuity and revolutionizing naval war.

Confederate submarine Hunley, which changed Naval warfare. The Hunley sank on February 17, 1864, outside Charleston Harbor. Photo courtesy:

Confederate submarine Hunley, which changed Naval warfare. The Hunley sank on February 17, 1864, outside Charleston Harbor. Painting courtesy:

Member Eric Starnes talked about the Battle of Olustee, which took place in North Florida on February 20, 1864—150 years ago this month. In February 1864, the commander of the Department of the South, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, launched an expedition into Florida to secure Union enclaves, sever Rebel supply routes, and recruit black soldiers. Brigadier General Truman Seymour moved deep into the state, occupying, destroying, and liberating, meeting little resistance. On February 20, 1864, Seymour approached Brigadier General Joseph Finegan’s 5,000 Confederates entrenched near Olustee. One infantry brigade pushed out to meet Seymour’s advance units. The Union forces attacked but were repulsed. The battle raged, and as Finegan committed the last of his reserves, the Union line broke and began to retreat. Finegan did not exploit the retreat, allowing most of the fleeing Union forces to reach Jacksonville. The Battle of Olustee was the largest Civil War battle fought in Florida.


January 2, 2014:  Members John Walsh and Terry Huston discussed the topic titled “Who’s in Command?” about Generals Oliver O. Howard and Winfield Scott Hancock at Gettysburg. After General John F. Reynolds was killed on Day 1, Major General George G. Meade, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, sent Hancock ahead to take command of the units on the field and assess the situation. Hancock thus was in temporary command of the “left wing” of the army, consisting of the I, II, III, and XI Corps. This demonstrated Meade’s high confidence in Hancock because Hancock was not the most senior Union officer at Gettysburg at the time. Hancock and the more senior XI Corps commander, Howard, argued briefly about this command arrangement, but Hancock prevailed and he organized the Union defenses on Cemetery Hill as more numerous Confederate forces drove the I and XI Corps back through the town. Hancock had the authority from Meade to withdraw the forces so he was responsible for the decision to stand and fight at Gettysburg.


December 5, 2013:  Holiday dinner at Napolatano’s restaurant in Gainesville. Participatory program in which members and their guests read selected passages from letters and diaries written by Union and Confederate soldiers during the four Christmases of the Civil War. These selections reflected the sentiments of soldiers in all wars.


November 7, 2013:  Member Terry Huston presented a talk on the Battle of Chattanooga, which took place November 23-25, 1863. This month marks the 150th anniversary of that battle. It was a Federal victory pitting the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Tennessee under General Grant’s overall leadership against General Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. Major engagements of the battle included Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Rossville Gap.

Battles of Chattanooga, November 23-24-25, 1863. Map courtesy:

Battles of Chattanooga, November 23-24-25, 1863. Map courtesy:


October 3, 2013:  General discussion of various Civil War topics


September 5, 2013:  Member Terry Huston gave a talk on the Battle of Chickamauga, which took place on September 19-20, 1863, marking the end of a Union offensive in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia.  This month marks the 150th anniversary of that battle. It was a Confederate victory pitting General Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland against General Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. The battle was the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the war, and had the highest number of casualties in the war for a two-day battle; Gettysburg had the highest casualties for a three-day battle; Antietam had the highest casualties for a one-day battle.

Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863, in northwest Georgia. Photo courtesy:

Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863, in northwest Georgia. Photo courtesy:


August 1, 2013:  John McLean spoke about the Battle of Gainesville, which took place on August 17, 1864. John is the narrator of the battle re-enactment, located behind the Matheson Museum in downtown Gainesville—on the site of the actual battle. Next year marks the 150th anniversary of that battle. A Confederate force under Capt. J.J. Dickison of the 2nd Florida cavalry defeated Union detachments under Col. Andrew L. Harris on a raid from the Union garrison in the Jacksonville. Gainesville was site of a railroad junction and depot in North Central Florida.

July 4, 2013:  No meeting due to the Fourth of July holiday


June 6, 2013:  Member Sid Mayer gave a talk titled “Civil War Humor Stories.”


May 2, 2013:  Member Eric Starnes presented a talk on the Battle of Big Black (or Battle of Big Black River Bridge), which was fought May 17, 1863. The battle was part of the Vicksburg Campaign. General Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursued retreating Confederate General Pemberton following the Battle of Champion Hill in the final battle before the Siege of Vicksburg.


April 4, 2013:  Member Diane Fischler spoke about the history of Andersonville, the infamous Confederate prison in Georgia. Of the 45,000 Federals who had entered through its gates at various times in 1864, 13,000 died—a 29% death rate of men who succumbed from exposure to the elements, malnutrition, dehydration, contagious diseases, scurvy, pneumonia, severe diarrhea, deadly dysentery.


March 7, 2013:  General discussion of various Civil War topics


February 7, 2013:  General discussion of various Civil War topics


January 3, 2013:  General discussion of various Civil War topics