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The Charger Archives | 04/14

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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

MORE ARTICLES>>

 

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

 

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Charger Editor 

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.


 

 

 

 

 

Join Us for Our Next Program...


Wednesday, May 14, 2014 @ 7 p.m.

Soldiers and the Homefront:
A Northern Community Confronts
the Civil War

Presented by Dr. Nicole Etcheson

After his uncle died in the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Josiah Williams struggled to break the news to his parents. Since the body was not recovered, they refused to believe that Whitfield Reed was dead. After trying to discourage their notions that Uncle Whit might be a prisoner, Josiah finally described in graphic detail seeing his uncle shot in the head. Historians have debated the nature of the gulf that emerged between Civil War soldiers and the homefront, or even whether such a gulf ever existed. Josiah Williams, and other Union soldiers from Putnam County, Indiana, became both distinct from and yet still parts of their home community.

Our speaker: Nicole Etcheson is the Alexander M. Bracken Professor of History at Ball State University. She is the author of A Generation at War: The Civil War Era in a Northern Community (which won the 2012 Avery O. Craven Award from the Organization of American Historians and Best Non-fiction Book of Indiana from the Indiana Center for the Book at the Indiana State Library); Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (2004); and The Emerging Midwest: Upland Southerners and the Political Culture of the Old Northwest, 1787-1861 (1996).

Dr. Etcheson grew up in southern Indiana and, after graduating from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, went to Indiana University, receiving her PhD in 1991. She has taught at Hiram College, the University of South Dakota, and the University of Texas at El Paso before taking the Bracken Chair at Ball State in 2005. She is currently working on a project about suffrage which examines voting rights for ex-Confederates, African Americans and women in the post-Civil War era.

Meeting Time: Meetings begin with a social hour at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7, and the speaker at 8.  Meetings typically end by around 9:30.

Meeting Location: Meetings are held at Judson Manor at the corner of East 107th Street and Chester on University Circle in downtown Cleveland.  Map to Judson Manor

To make a reservation: Use the Dinner Reservation Form on this website, send an email to or call 440-449-9311 and leave a message on the voice mail.

FULL 2013-14 PROGRAM SCHEDULE>>

History Briefs


A small glimpse into the Civil War era

The Day Rosie the Riveter Died
By David A. Carrino
Roundtable Historian  

One of the most iconic images from World War II is Rosie the Riveter. It is a stylized depiction of a female factory worker, and it is meant to portray the large number of American women who worked in factories to provide materiel for the war effort. The Civil War had its generation of Rosie the Riveters, and on Friday March 13, 1863 a horrendous tragedy befell a number of them. This occurred when there was an explosion at the Confederate Laboratory on Brown's Island in Richmond, Virginia. The Brown's Island Laboratory was not a laboratory in the sense that we know today; there was no testing or experimentation happening there. The Confederate Laboratory on Brown's Island was a munitions factory. While the small number of administrators were men, almost all of the workers were women between the ages of 9 and 20, and all of them were poor. The Brown's Island Laboratory was distinct from the Tredegar Iron Works and manufactured cartridges, fuses, caps, grenades, and friction primers. The facility was located on an island near the northern shore of the James River. Originally the facility was in some buildings on land near the James River, but Brown's Island was cleared and the facility relocated to separate it from the city in case of an accident.

The Confederate Laboratory on Brown’s Island,
Richmond, Virginia


On March 13, 1863, 80 to 100 workers were in a large room at the factory. Several different activities had been consolidated in the room, because an expansion of another building had not been completed. In one part of the room small arms cartridges were being filled with gunpowder, and in another part of the room defective cartridges were being broken open to salvage the gunpowder for reuse. Other workers in the room were boxing percussion caps and friction primers, and still others were filling cannon cartridge bags with gunpowder. There was also a coal stove in the room. The explosion occurred between 11:00 a.m. and noon. The cause of the explosion was detailed afterward by Mary Ryan, an 18-year-old Irish immigrant who caused the explosion. She was making friction primers that day in the same room where the other activities were taking place. Friction primers are short metal tubes filled with explosive material that are used to detonate the gunpowder inside a cannon in order to propel the projectile. As the name implies, friction primers are designed to detonate via the application of friction. One of the last steps in manufacturing primers involved coating them with wax and varnish to protect them from moisture. Mary was having difficulty removing some primers from the wooden board on which she had varnished them, probably because the varnish had bonded the primers to the board. She tried to separate the primers from the board by banging the board against the table on which she was working. This was sufficient to detonate the primers, and Mary was thrown up to the ceiling. After coming down, Mary was thrown by a second explosion that was most likely caused by the airborne gunpowder dust or the other explosives in the room.

CONTINUE BRIEF>>

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).

CONTINUE ARTICLE>>

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable