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Featured Articles

Ohio’s Civil War Generals:
Some Lesser Known

By Dennis Keating

Gettysburg 2013
by William F.B. Vodrey

Remembering 9/11
by William F.B. Vodrey

U.S. Grant Boyhood Home Rededicated By William F.B. Vodrey

A Review of Justice in Blue and Gray by Stephen C. Neff
By William F.B. Vodrey

Notes on the Lincoln Forum 2012
By Mel Maurer

The 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
By Dennis Keating

Lincoln's Assassination: Three Riddles
By John C. Fazio

The (Secret) Life and Letters of General George Gordon Meade
By George G. Meade

Lincoln’s Suspension of Habeas Corpus
By Dennis Keating

Lincoln and Grant:
The Westerners Who Won the Civil War

By Edward W. Bonekemper, III

My Thoughts Be Bloody
Prologue: The Players

By Nora Titone

Cleveland's Civil War Roundtable
Takes an Excursion into Fiction

By Karen R. Long

Gold, Greed, and a Vacuum of Law
By Carol Buchanan

’The Rebels are Upon Us’ The 1864 Confederate Invasion of Maryland, The Battle of Monocacy, and Jubal Early’s Move on Washington, D.C.
By Marc Leepson

The Great Battle of Gettysburg
By Max R. Terman

Assessing African American Attitudes Toward the Civil War (pdf)
A National Park Service Report prepared
by Hermina Glass-Avery

In the Shadow of the Civil War:
Passmore Williamson and the Rescue of Jane Johnson

By Nat Brandt with Yanna Kroyt Brandt

Scenes from The Fighting McCooks
By Barbara and Charles Whalen

Making a Covenant with Death:
Slavery and the Constitutional Convention

By Dr. Paul Finkelman

Blood, Tears and Glory: How Ohioans Won the Civil War
By Dr. James Bissland

Why Grant Won and Lee Lost
By Edward H. Bonekemper, III

Jefferson Davis's Imprisonment
at Fortress Monroe

By Clint Johnson

The Madness of Mary Lincoln
By Jason Emerson



History Under Siege
The Annual Report of the Civil War Preservation Trust



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Membership in the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable is open to anyone who shares the belief that the American Civil War is the defining event in U.S. history.






History Briefs

A small glimpse into the Civil War era

Robert E. Lee's Invasion of Ohio
By David A. Carrino
Roundtable Historian  

People with even a little knowledge of the Civil War likely know that Robert E. Lee led two invasions of the North, one into Maryland and another into Pennsylvania. However, Lee once invaded Ohio, and if Lee had been successful in this invasion, Ohio would have lost some of its territory. Worse yet, the territory that Ohio would have lost would have been lost not to the Confederacy, but to the state of Michigan.

This story starts in 1787 when Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance. In the Northwest Ordinance the border between the future states of Ohio and Michigan was stipulated as "an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan." This seems sufficiently definitive to be beyond question. However, the map that was used to determine this border, a map known as the Mitchell Map, was in error with respect to the southernmost extension of Lake Michigan. In fact, Lake Michigan extends further south than is indicated by the Mitchell Map, which places the border between Ohio and Michigan further south than originally expected.

The Michigan-Ohio Strip
(dark area, SE corner of map)

When Ohio applied for statehood, the proposed state constitution was written such that the border with the future state of Michigan was to run from Lake Michigan's southern tip to Maumee Bay. In other words, the border was to run not as an east-west line as stipulated in the Northwest Ordinance, but at an angle from the tip of Lake Michigan northeastward. The principal reason for this change was to include the city of Toledo and the mouth of the Maumee River within the borders of Ohio. This was important to Ohio, because at the time there was a proposal to build a system of canals that would link Toledo to the Ohio River. This means that there would be a shipping channel that would connect Lake Erie to the Mississippi River through Toledo, and this was expected to make Toledo a major shipping hub. When Congress reviewed Ohio's Enabling Act for its application for statehood, Congress rendered no decision regarding Ohio's northern border. In its report about the border issue, a Congressional committee stated that the committee "thought it unnecessary to take it, at the time, into consideration."

In 1805, two years after Ohio became a state, Congress created the Territory of Michigan, and it then became necessary to resolve the border issue. Several years later Congress authorized a survey to establish the border between Ohio and Michigan, but due to the War of 1812, the survey did not occur until 1817. This was fortuitous for Ohio, because at this time, the Surveyor General of the United States was Edward Tiffin, a former governor of Ohio. Tiffin employed a person by the name of William Harris for the survey, but instructed Harris to survey not the line stipulated in the Northwest Ordinance, but the line stipulated in the Ohio Constitution. Not surprisingly, the territorial governor of Michigan, Lewis Cass, felt that Tiffin was biased about the border issue, and he appealed to President James Monroe and to Congress for a survey of the line stipulated in the Northwest Ordinance. This survey was done the following year, 1818, by John A. Fulton, and Fulton's survey indicated that the border between Ohio and Michigan was south of the line stipulated in the Ohio Constitution, and furthermore that Toledo and the mouth of the Maumee River were in Michigan, not in Ohio. These two survey lines, named for the men who did the surveys, demarcated a thin strip of land that came to be known as the Toledo Strip with the city of Toledo at its eastern end. From north to south, the Toledo Strip is 5 miles wide at the Ohio-Indiana border and 8 miles wide at Lake Erie and encompasses almost 500 square miles.


From the Charger

Newsletter of the Cleveland CWRT

A Review of The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini
Reviewed by Dennis Keating

Prolific writer Jennifer Chiaverini has been best known for her Elm Creek Quilts series. It includes two Civil War related books: The Union Quilters and The Runaway Quilt. Her Civil War novel (Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker) about Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave dressmaker in Washington City who became close to Mary Todd Lincoln (and President Lincoln), focused on the relationship of these two women.

Elizabeth Van Lew

The Spymistress (October 2013, Dutton Adult) is her twenty-second novel. It focuses on the amazing life of another woman – Elizabeth Van Lew. A Virginian born into a wealthy Richmond family opposed to slavery, she was educated at a Quaker school in Philadelphia. After the death of her father in 1843, the family privately freed their nine slaves. Living with her widowed mother in a prestigious Richmond neighborhood, both were pro-Union and disheartened by Virginia’s secession in 1861. While Elizabeth’s brother, John, was also pro-Union, he was married to an ardent pro-Confederate.

The novel follows Elizabeth and other pro-Union Richmonders who joined her in helping the Union, including the formation of a spy ring. Overcoming the opposition of Lt. David Todd, the jailor of the Libby Prison (and Mary Todd Lincoln’s half-brother), Elizabeth carried food, medicine, and other materials to the imprisoned Union officers held in this former tobacco warehouse. She cultivated Gen. John Winder, in charge of the Richmond P.O.W. camps, on the grounds of providing Christian charity to Union captives whose conditions were horrific (despite Confederate disclaimers of abuse). This gained her an unfavorable reputation among her neighbors, which she tried to allay by showing a similar concern for wounded Confederate soldiers.

After gaining access to the jailed prisoners (often by either offering food or bribes to their guards), she began to smuggle information out of Libby Prison. This led to the formation of an underground spy ring to provide the Union army with important information about Confederate war policy and troop alignments. Van Lew scored her greatest success by planting Mary Bowser, a former servant, in the Confederate White House as a member of President Jefferson Davis’s household staff. Gen. Ben Butler and later Gen. Ulysses Grant would praise Van Lew and her fellow pro-Union supporters as their best source of information from the Confederate capital.

This was a dangerous game, with an early Union spy whose identity was revealed by captured Pinkerton agents hung. Chiaverini provides a spy mystery account of Van Lew’s adventures, including incidents threatening to uncover her pro-Union activities and the jailing of some members of her spy ring. This included her being denounced to the Confederate authorities by her estranged sister-in-law, whose husband, upon being forced into the Confederate forces defending Richmond against Grant’s Overland campaign in 1864, deserted. Nevertheless, Van Lew persisted and not only gathered information, but helped Union prisoners to escape. However, she lost her access to Gen. Winder, who was reassigned to oversee the Confederate prison in Andersonville (and then died in early 1865).


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