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Wednesday, February11, 2015 @ 6:30 p.m.
How the U.S. Navy Won the Civil War
Neil K. Evans
A case can be made that the
American Civil War was won not by Ulysses S. Grant, William T.
Sherman and Phil Sheridan and the superior might and materiel of the
Northern Armies but rather by the United States Navy. Union victory
was generated first, by Abraham Lincoln’s clear and motivating
articulation of the causes and nature of the war and the reasons it
had to be fought and second, by the United State Navy blockading
southern ports, limiting the effectiveness of Confederate privateers
on the high seas, and, perhaps most importantly, in projecting U.S.
naval might up and down the interior waterways of the United States
- hindering Southern troop and
- making joint Northern naval and
army operations possible,
- and, finally, denying the
Confederacy the use of those rivers for commercial purposes.
Northern ingenuity in developing
and producing such weapons not only won the Civil War but also
shaped our modern Navy as a tool for projecting U.S. power and
policy around the world.
Neil Evans was born in Harbor
Creek, Pennsylvania. He received his B.A. in History from the
University of Rochester (ROTC) and his law degree from the
University of Pennsylvania Law School. Between college and law
school, Neil served 10 years in the U.S. Navy (3 years active; 5
active reserve, and 2 inactive), serving on the U.S.S. Fidelity
for 3 years including at the Beiruit landing and off the coasts of
the Bay of Pigs and the Dominion Republic.
After law school Neil joined the
law firm now known as Hahn, Loeser & Parks, LLP in Cleveland,
becoming a partner in 1971. Neil served as Chair of the firm’s
litigation department and, in the course of this practice, helped
found the Attorneys’ Liability Assurance Society (a large-firm
malpractice insurance company). As an adjunct Professor, Neil
taught insurance law at both Western Reserve University and
Cleveland State University Law Schools. He is now retired
after 31 years of practice.
Neil has served as trustee, chair
and/or president of numerous civic organizations, including: the
Ohio Historical Society; the Ohio Humanities Council; the Ohio
Chamber Orchestra; the Property Committee of the Presbytery of the
Western Reserve; the Cleveland Branch of the English Speaking Union
and the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve; and, of
course, the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable for which he served as
president in 1984. Neil is also a member of the Western
Reserve Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Neil was married in 1964 and has 3
children and 7 grandchildren and currently resides in Beachwood,
FULL 2014-15 PROGRAM SCHEDULE>>
Meeting Time: Meetings begin with a
social hour at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30, and the program at
7:30. Meetings typically end by 9.
Our meetings are held at Judson
Manor (the former Wade Park Manor residential hotel), located
at the corner of East 107th Street and Chester in downtown
Cleveland, just off University Circle.
Map to Judson Manor
History of Wade Park Manor
You must make
a dinner reservation for any meeting you plan to attend no later
than the day prior to that meeting (so we can give a headcount to
the caterer). Make your
reservation one of three ways:
- Send an email to
Click any of the 'Make a Dinner Reservation"
links on this page.
440-449-9311 and leave a message on the voice mail.
small glimpse into the Civil War era
The Decisive Battle of the Civil War:
An Unlikely Nomination
By David A. Carrino
One of the topics that Civil War enthusiasts
enjoy debating is the question of which Civil War battle was the decisive one.
As a way of delving again into the thorny subject of the Civil War's decisive
battle, a nomination for this distinction is made herein. It is likely that no
one will agree with this choice for the Civil War's decisive battle, but if
nothing else, the selection of this battle as the decisive one can be taken as
an example of how a seemingly distant and unrelated occurrence can have a
profound effect on subsequent events. The two Civil War battles that are most
often mentioned as the war's decisive battle are Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
However, to give consideration to the nomination proposed herein, then it is
necessary to accept that the decisive battle of the Civil War did not occur in
1863 in Pennsylvania or Mississippi or, for that matter, anywhere else during
1863. The decisive battle of the Civil War also did not take place in 1864 or
1865. Nor did it occur in 1861 or 1862, and it did not happen in Virginia,
Maryland, Georgia, or Tennessee. The decisive battle of the Civil War happened
in 1847, and it took place in Mexico. The decisive battle of the Civil War was
the battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican-American War.
The battle of Buena Vista took place in
February 1847. A U.S. army under the command of future president Zachary
Taylor was advancing south in Mexico. Taylor received word from a scout that a
much larger Mexican army under Antonio López de Santa Anna was moving to
oppose him. Taylor positioned his army in a mountain pass to give his smaller
force the benefit of terrain. Part of Taylor's army was positioned on high
ground on the left. Santa Anna's battle plan was to try to move against and
around this left flank, and he sent elements of his army to do so. In spite of
the advantage of the high ground, the Mexicans were driving the Americans
back, and the left flank of Taylor's army was on the brink of collapse. At
this point Taylor sent forward a Mississippi regiment, the Mississippi Rifles,
which was under the command of Taylor's son-in-law, Colonel Jefferson Davis.
Davis's regiment managed to hold off the Mexicans, but the battle was far from
over. A renewed and fierce Mexican attack led to the American lines once more
being on the verge of crumbling. To drive off the enemy force Taylor sent in
an artillery unit under the command of Captain Braxton Bragg with explicit
orders from Taylor to "maintain the position at every hazard." What is
remarkable about Bragg's artillery unit rushing forward is that it was done
with no infantry support. Only 50 yards from the enemy, Bragg's unit
unlimbered and drove canister into the advancing Mexicans, which brought the
attack to an end.
From the Charger
the Cleveland CWRT
A Monument to Service:
The Cuyahoga County Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument
By Tim Daley and Richard T. Prasse
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument commemorates
in stone, bronze and glass the service of those enlisted and appointed from
Cuyahoga County during the Civil War. Their names are captured in marble
inside the Monument’s Memorial Tablet Room, etched alongside those with whom
they served during the national struggle. The story of the Monument’s creation
was also a struggle. The idea to erect a monument was first proposed by
William Gleason in October 1879 to the Soldiers and Sailors Society in
Cleveland. Gleason with two others were charged to test the idea the following
week at a reunion of Union Veterans. The project was approved with a committee
appointed to seek funding support from the State of Ohio. Their advocacy
resulted in eight different legislative acts by 1894 in support of the
construction of the Monument.
With funding provided for, a Union Army
Veteran, Levi Scofield, was selected to develop the plan. Scofield had served
in the war as an officer in the 103rd O.V.I., fighting in the Western Theatre.
Returning to Cleveland after the war, he became an architect, responsible for
the design of large public works such as the Ohio State Penitentiary, the
Ridges Institution in Athens, Ohio and the Mansfield Reformatory (made famous
more recently as the prison in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption).
For this project, Scofield worked for expenses, never charging a fee for his
services. However, local objections slowed down the plan. Returning to the
Ohio General Assembly, the committee was replaced in 1888 by an appointed
Monument Commission which today remains the body responsible for the use and
control of the Monument and the southeast quadrant of Public Square in
Cleveland. The battle for approval and construction wound its way to the Ohio
Supreme Court which approved the General Assembly’s power to delegate the
authority to the Monument Commission. A later attack in Federal Court also
resulted in victory for the veterans and the Monument. The more complete story
on the Monument’s construction and labor pains has been told by Bill Stark in
the Ohio Historical Society’s Timeline in February 2003 under “Legal
Maneuvers.” Reprints are available at the Monument.
"Beyond the Battlefield"
An Ohio History Connection Symposium
By William F.B. Vodrey
The Ohio History Connection (the newly-rebranded
Ohio Historical Society) on November 8 hosted a symposium on Ohio's home front
during the Civil War. Nine historians, professional and amateur, explored
various topics in three panel discussions.
Prof. Carol Lasser of my alma mater, Oberlin
College, led off with a talk about Ohio soldiers' courtship-by-letters. Many
of the young men were eager for a commitment from their sweethearts (or the
young women they hoped would be their sweethearts) as they went off to war.
Some of those courted were taken aback by the hurried ardency of the soldiers,
but many agreed to marry their boys in blue. One of those who married the
woman he wooed by mail was Giles Shurtleff, a U.S. Colored Troops officer
after whom Shurtleff Cottage (now an Oberlin B&B) was named.
I then spoke about Ohio's Civil War
governors, William Dennison, David Tod and John Brough. The first was a Whig
turned-Republican, the other two War Democrats. Each did well in office,
strongly supporting the Lincoln Administration's military policies. In time,
however, all three lost political support and were denied reelection, each
worn down by the demands of civilian wartime leadership of the state.
Dr. David Bush of Heidelberg University, head
of the Friends and Descendants of Johnson's Island (on the board of which CWRT
members Kirk Hinman and I serve), discussed the POW camp for Confederate
officers on Johnson's Island near Sandusky, and recent discoveries at the
archeological dig there. Bush talked about binge drinking among the prisoners'
guards while they were on leave (several dozen saloons in Sandusky were glad
to take their money), and the recent reenactment of the historic 1864 base
ball game between two teams of rebel prisoners.
The Confederate Battle Flag,
Personal License Plates, and Litigation
By Dennis Keating
In Tony Horowitz’s Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
(Random House, 1998), he devotes a chapter entitled “Dying for
Dixie” to the killing of a neo-Confederate in Kentucky devoted to
the Confederate flag by a black teenager and the antipathy of African-Americans to
Confederate symbols that defended slavery. In contrast, many
Southerners regard the flag as a symbol of Southern patriotism and
reject attempts to ban it from public places. The definitive history
of the Confederate battle flag and the contemporary controversies
over its display is The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem
(Harvard University Press, 2005) by John Coski, Library
Director of the Museum of the Confederacy.
Perhaps the best known
controversy was the flying of the flag over the state capital of
South Carolina, the birthplace of the Confederacy, beginning in
1961. The NAACP mounted a campaign in 1987 to remove the battle flag
from the capital domes of Alabama and South Carolina and from the
state flags of Georgia and Alabama. Corsi recounts these political
and legal battles in a chapter entitled “What We Stood For, Will
Stand For, and Will Fight For”. The South Carolina controversy
resulted in an NAACP-declared national tourism boycott in 1999 and
it became an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. In 2000, South
Carolina removed the flag from the dome and moved it to Confederate
soldiers memorial on the capital grounds (an unsatisfactory decision
to the NAACP).