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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

Rosie the Riveter and the Bloodiest Day in American Military History
By David A. Carrino
Roundtable Historian  

During World War II many American women worked in factories to produce materiel for the war effort. These women were personified in the image of a female factory worker that came to be known as Rosie the Riveter. Similarly, numerous women worked in munitions factories during the Civil War, in both the North and the South, and represent Civil War era Rosie the Riveters. Some of the North's Rosie the Riveters suffered a ghastly tragedy in the explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, which was a village at that time, but is now part of the city of Pittsburgh. The Allegheny Arsenal explosion occurred on September 17, 1862, the same day as the battle of Antietam.

Construction of the Allegheny Arsenal began in 1814. The site, which is on the banks of the Allegheny River northeast of downtown Pittsburgh, was selected by William Barclay Foster, the father of composer Stephen Foster. The location of the arsenal was chosen to make it accessible to easy shipping of its products westward into the expanding U.S., and also because the land on which the arsenal was built was owned by William Barclay Foster, which means that he made a tidy profit from the sale of the land to the U.S. government. Prior to the Civil War, the arsenal had been visited by a number of dignitaries, including President James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette, Charles Dickens, and former President John Quincy Adams.

The commander of the arsenal at the outbreak of the Civil War was Colonel John Symington, which was a matter of controversy. For various reasons Symington's sympathies were not clear. One of his sons fought for the Confederacy, one of his daughters appeared in church one Sunday wearing a Confederate rosette, and, worst of all, shortly after South Carolina seceded, Secretary of War John Floyd, whose Southern sympathies were well known, ordered Symington to ship cannon and small arms to New Orleans, and Symington attempted to comply with this order, although intense pressure from Union-loyal residents of the area caused the War Department to cancel the shipments. In spite of all this, Symington continued to serve as commander of the arsenal.

The Allegheny Arsenal operated extremely well and without incident for the first 17 months of the war. The facility included several buildings, one of which was used to store barrels of gunpowder that were transported by horse-drawn wagon to other buildings as needed. At around 1:00 p.m. on the day of the explosion (or about the time that Ambrose Burnside's men finally took the bridge over Antietam Creek), Joseph Frick was delivering ten barrels of gunpowder to the ammunition building, in which small arms cartridges and other munitions were made. The roadway that Frick used was a newly constructed one made of stone. After Frick delivered the gunpowder onto one of the building's porches, Robert Smith, who was assisting Frick, asked him to carry away some empty wooden boxes. According to witnesses, while Frick was maneuvering the wagon toward the porch, there was a spark from either a horseshoe of the wagon's horse or the iron rim of a wagon wheel. The spark was caused by the extreme dryness of that summer combined with the use of stone for the roadway. The results were catastrophic. The spark ignited loose gunpowder that was lying on the roadway, and three separate explosions over the course of several minutes destroyed the ammunition building. Frick was thrown 200 yards from his wagon, Smith was blown to bits, and the remains of the building became an inferno.

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