History Briefs 2007-2008

By Mel Maurer, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2007 & 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: From 2007 to 2011, Mel Maurer filled the position of Roundtable historian. During Mel’s tenure as historian, each Roundtable meeting opened with a ‘history brief’ presented by Mel, each ‘brief’ providing a small glimpse into a less-explored corner of the story of the Civil War. This page collects the history briefs from the 2007-2008 Roundtable season. Following Mel’s tenure as historian, his successors likewise presented history briefs at the beginning of each Roundtable meeting. The history briefs that were written by Mel’s successors are also on the Roundtable’s website, each of those history briefs on a separate web page.


September 2007

Lincoln secretary, John Hay, writes to Lincoln’s other secretary, John Nicolay.

“Executive Mansion
Washington, September 11, 1863

“Washington is as dull here as an obsolete almanac. The weather is not so bad as it was. The nights are growing cool. But there is no one here except us old stagers who can’t get away. We have some comfortable dinners and some quiet little orgies on wine and cheese in my room.

Continue reading “History Briefs 2007-2008”

History Briefs: 2009-2010

By Mel Maurer, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2009-2010, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: From 2007 to 2011, Mel Maurer filled the position of Roundtable historian. During Mel’s tenure as historian, each Roundtable meeting opened with a ‘history brief’ presented by Mel, each ‘brief’ providing a small glimpse into a less-explored corner of the story of the Civil War. This page collects the history briefs from the 2009-2010 Roundtable season. Following Mel’s tenure as historian, his successors likewise presented history briefs at the beginning of each Roundtable meeting. The history briefs that were written by Mel’s successors are also on the Roundtable’s website, each of those history briefs on a separate web page.


September 2009

September 1862: Union forces under General George McClellan hold back the invading forces of General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. Some words of those days:

General George McClellan, upon being handed the Battle plan of General Lee:

“Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go home.”

Continue reading “History Briefs: 2009-2010”

Grant’s Troops Cross the Mississippi and Movement toward Jackson

By Daniel J. Ursu, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2020-2021, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the December 2020 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


Picking up where we left off at the end of November’s history brief, during April of 1863 Union General U. S. Grant’s troops had marched south along the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River to rendezvous with Union Admiral Porter’s fleet and cross to the eastern shore in the vicinity of Grand Gulf. Specifically, McClernand’s corps of about 10,000 troops would board the transports after Porter’s river ironclads destroyed the Confederate batteries atop the cliffs defending the town. Mr. Ed Bearss, former Chief Historian of the National Park Service and renowned expert on the Vicksburg Campaign, characterized it as follows in his book Fields of Honor, “By April 28, Grant’s troops and Porter’s fleet are ready to undertake what, for that time and place, is a formidable amphibious operation.”

Continue reading “Grant’s Troops Cross the Mississippi and Movement toward Jackson”

Grant’s Combined Arms Generalship at Vicksburg – Part II

By Daniel J. Ursu, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2020-2021, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the November 2020 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


We resume where we left off in October with General Grant having decided to move ahead with Admiral Porter’s daring plan to help achieve Grant’s goal of ultimately landing troops on dry ground on the east bank of the Mississippi south of Vicksburg. Porter’s plan was to slip by fortress Vicksburg “running the batteries” under the cover of darkness. However, before we venture further, one of our members, Brian Kowell, after reading last month’s history brief submitted some additional research to me on the ironclads in Porter’s fleet that I believe readers of this history brief would enjoy.

Continue reading “Grant’s Combined Arms Generalship at Vicksburg – Part II”

Grant’s Combined Arms Generalship at Vicksburg – Part I

By Daniel J. Ursu, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2020-2021, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the October 2020 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


Please recall last month’s history brief where we left off with the end of Grant’s creative winter efforts of 1862-3 to bypass Vicksburg, which sputtered out in a haze of impracticability. From the engineering attempts for a proposed trench to reroute the Mississippi River along the neck of a peninsular bend near the fortress city, itself, and the push for a channel through marshy terrain to ultimately join with the Red River and its tributaries and thence to the Mississippi and finally a military effort to land troops just north of Vicksburg through the Yazoo River environs, all of these endeavors came to naught. But not for lack of effort; Grant recorded in his “Memoirs” that he was proud of the hard work his troops had undertaken, which had at least kept them productive outside the campaigning season. Now Grant huddled with Admiral Porter to devise a daring combined arms effort to achieve his goal of landing his troops on dry ground on the east side of the river below Vicksburg.

Continue reading “Grant’s Combined Arms Generalship at Vicksburg – Part I”

Grant’s Winter of 1862-3: Three Attempts at Vicksburg

By Daniel J. Ursu, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2020-2021, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the September 2020 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


Please recall Grant’s campaign in the West to capture Vicksburg where we left off at the CCWRT December 2019 meeting with the “Battle of Chickasaw Bayou.” This was a defeat for General Grant, who commanded a two-pronged attack to vanquish the fortress. The first prong was his own movement through central Mississippi that would hopefully draw Confederate troops from Vicksburg to allow a direct thrust at the fortress. The second prong along the Mississippi River was under his friend and colleague, General Sherman. Grant’s drive was short-lived as his supply lines were disrupted by “that devil” General Nathan Bedford Forrest amongst others. Accordingly, Confederate General Pemberton maintained the majority of his troops in the Vicksburg defenses and decisively repulsed Sherman’s attack through the Chickasaw Bayou.

Continue reading “Grant’s Winter of 1862-3: Three Attempts at Vicksburg”

The April 1861 Madness

By Patrick Bray
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2014, All Rights Reserved

Sesquicentennial observations of the Civil War will end in April 2015. This past August marked the beginning of centennial observations of World War One (WWI), a conflict to which the Civil War has been compared.

Continue reading “The April 1861 Madness”

Charleston 1861: The Other Star-Spangled Banner

By William F.B. Vodrey
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2003, 2005, All Rights Reserved

On April 14, 1861, after an extensive bombardment, the outnumbered and outgunned Union garrison of Ft. Sumter surrendered to the Confederate forces in and around Charleston harbor. U.S. Army Maj. Robert Anderson insisted, as a condition of his troops’ surrender, that they be permitted to fire a 100-gun salute to the huge United States flag that had so defiantly flown over the fort during the battle. Confederate Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard agreed to the demand of Anderson, his former West Point artillery instructor. The Union guns began firing the salute, but on the 47th round, Union Army Private Daniel Hough was killed in the accidental explosion of a pile of cartridges; five others were wounded. Hough was the first casualty of the Civil War. The salute was promptly reduced to 50 rounds. Maj. Anderson and his troops then boarded a steamship and sailed north, with the flag, into history.

Continue reading “Charleston 1861: The Other Star-Spangled Banner”

Tactical Defeat

By Matt Slattery
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Charger in the winter of 2002.


Many of the books on the Civil War (the fighting Civil War) deal with the strategy of the governments, North and South, and as carried out by their leading generals. Then there is a great break and many books then turn to the story of the individual soldier, the young man in blue or gray, and his contention with the terrors of battles and the risks of years’ long campaigning.

Continue reading “Tactical Defeat”

Breaks in the Storm

By Matt Slattery
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Charger in the spring of 2001.


In the history of war much has been written of the drama, the excitement and the glory of battle. Little ink has been spilled to tell of the vast effort, mental and physical, of the preparation for battle. We will not burden you with it here, except to relate that three times during the Civil War these enormous efforts were made and there was no battle. Look at the good side of it from the soldiers’ standpoint: there were no casualties.

Continue reading “Breaks in the Storm”