The Slave Who Captained the Ship to His Freedom

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015-2016, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the February 2016 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


There is an old joke that is intended to convey the lesson that in order for a person to attain a particular goal he needs to do more than simply petition the Almighty and then let God decide whether or not this goal should be realized. As this joke goes, a man died and went to heaven, and when he came face to face with the Sovereign of the Universe, he said to God, “I am certainly happy to be here in heaven, but there is a question that I have long wanted to ask you. During my life on earth I prayed to you every day, often more than once per day, that you would let me win the lottery. But even after years of praying, I never won the lottery. The Bible says that if someone asks, it will be answered, yet you never answered my prayer to win the lottery.” God looked compassionately at the man and in a gentle voice said, “My son, it was always my desire to see you be happy, but that was one prayer that I was not able to answer.” The man replied, “You are God almighty. How could you not have been able to answer that prayer?” God responded, “Even with all my almighty powers, I was not able to answer your prayer to win the lottery, because you never bought a lottery ticket.” Just as the old joke admonishes that more must be done to address personal needs and desires than simply prayerfully await intervention by the Almighty, a slave named Robert Smalls did not merely wait for his freedom to come to him, but won his freedom in a unique and daring escape.

Continue reading “The Slave Who Captained the Ship to His Freedom”

Whose Maryland?

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015-2016, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the January 2016 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


The opening lines of the official state song of what was once one of the 13 original colonies are as follows. “The despot’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland, my Maryland. His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland, my Maryland.” In light of the uncomplimentary things that were written in the Declaration of Independence about King George III, it is not surprising that the state song of one of the 13 original colonies refers to a despot. But what may be surprising to many people is that the despot referred to in the state song of Maryland is not George III, but Abraham Lincoln. In other lines Lincoln is referred to as a tyrant and a vandal, and near the end of the song there is a line that calls opponents of secession “Northern scum.” These sentiments are expressed in this song because this song, which is titled “Maryland, My Maryland,” was not written at the time of the Revolutionary War, but was written in late April of 1861 as a poem urging Maryland to secede from the Union. In spite of the fact that the song advocates secession, “Maryland, My Maryland” remains the state song of Maryland.

Continue reading “Whose Maryland?”

Some Other South Carolina Rebels Who Fought for Secession

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015-2016, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the December 2015 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


Near the end of the movie Glory there is a depiction of the attack by the 54th Massachusetts Regiment on Fort Wagner. This attack took place on July 18, 1863 on Morris Island near Charleston, South Carolina as an attempt by forces of the national government to take Charleston from the rebels who held it. Some years prior to this assault, government forces attempted to capture Charleston by attacking a fort that was situated on a different island near Charleston, an island named Sullivan’s Island. In the battle on Sullivan’s Island, the rebels held a fort that guarded the entrance to Charleston harbor. Combined naval and ground forces of the national government planned to take the fort and then capture Charleston. In ground forces alone, the rebels on Sullivan’s Island were outnumbered two to one. The naval fleet of the national government included nine warships, while the rebels had no naval force during the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. In spite of this, the rebels repulsed the forces of the national government, inflicted five times as many casualties as they suffered, and prevented the capture of Charleston. Although the Battle of Sullivan’s Island pit rebel troops against forces of the national government, this battle was not between men in blue and men in gray. In the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, the rebel forces were American colonists, the government forces were British, and the battle took place on June 28, 1776 or four score and seven years before the attack of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment on Fort Wagner. In December 1860 South Carolina’s defiance was expressed by its secession from the United States. But in an earlier act of defiance, some other South Carolina rebels fought in support of secession against forces of their national government in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.

Continue reading “Some Other South Carolina Rebels Who Fought for Secession”

Six Degrees of Simon Bolivar Buckner

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015-2016, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the November 2015 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


A popular movie trivia game is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The object of the game is to connect a particular movie actor with Kevin Bacon step by step via movie co-stars from a movie in which that particular actor appeared to a movie in which Kevin Bacon appeared. One of the fascinations of this game is that Kevin Bacon, an actor who is not particularly prominent, can be connected to even very prominent actors. Something similar can be done with Civil War officers, who had many shared experiences prior to and during the war. In keeping with the use of a less prominent individual, one Confederate officer who has some interesting and not well-known connections with some prominent Union officers is Simon Bolivar Buckner. Buckner had a role in Ulysses Grant’s Civil War nickname, and prior to the war Buckner did a gracious favor for Grant. During the war Buckner gave advice in his hometown to a young Union officer who had no military training; later in the war this young Union officer made a wise military decision for his own troops that more prominent Union officers had not yet made. Buckner’s closest childhood friend was the man who was responsible for the Confederate victory at Chickamauga. Buckner also has a connection to William McKinley, although this connection is electoral, not military. In a military connection that extends beyond the Civil War, Simon Bolivar Buckner commanded troops on Okinawa in World War II, and he was mortally wounded near the end of that battle.

Continue reading “Six Degrees of Simon Bolivar Buckner”

A Civil War Greek Tragedy

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015-2016, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the October 2015 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


“In times of peace sons bury their fathers; in times of war fathers bury their sons.” This quote comes from the ancient Greek text The Histories, which was written by Herodotus in the second half of the fourth century B.C. The Histories chronicles events that happened in ancient times in Greece and western Asia. The Histories is part fact, part opinion, and part fable. The quote about peace and war was spoken by a man named Croesus, who was king of Lydia, a kingdom in what is now western Turkey. Croesus was one of those fathers who buried his son, not because of war, but because of a tragic accident involving an ancient weapon of war. Croesus had had a dream in which he saw his son killed by a spear. Because of this he refused to allow his son to fight in battle. At one point during his reign, Croesus received a report of a giant boar that was ravaging a province in his kingdom, and the people in that province petitioned Croesus to send a hunting party to kill the boar. Croesus’ son, Atys, told his father that he wanted to lead the hunting party, but Croesus refused because of the dream. However, Atys convinced Croesus to let him lead the hunting party by telling his father that a boar does not wield spears. When the hunting party found the boar, the members of the group surrounded the animal and began hurling spears at it. One of the spears missed the target and struck and killed Atys, which both fulfilled the prophecy in the dream and filled Croesus with deep remorse for allowing Atys to lead the hunting party. The Civil War has a story like that of Croesus and Atys, and it involves Confederate General William J. Hardee and his only son, Willie.

Continue reading “A Civil War Greek Tragedy”

A Civil War First, or Not

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015-2016, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the September 2015 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


If a person-on-the-street quiz were done in Cleveland, and the participants were asked to name the inventor of the automobile, the most frequent answer would almost certainly be Henry Ford. This same answer would almost surely be most frequent if the quiz were given in New York or Atlanta or Los Angeles or definitely Detroit. But the answer would be different if the quiz were given in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, or certainly Mannheim. In Germany the inventor of the automobile is Karl Benz, and in reality Benz beat Ford by 11 years in the creation of an automobile. Sometimes, for reasons that are not entirely clear, inaccurate assignments are made to historical firsts. There are many historical firsts that are associated with the Civil War. For instance, as some, perhaps many, Civil War enthusiasts know, or think they know, the first submarine of the Civil War was the H.L. Hunley. Even Shelby Foote said so in Volume 2 of his Civil War trilogy when he wrote about the Hunley, “She was, in short, the world’s first submarine.” Or was she?

Continue reading “A Civil War First, or Not”

The Southbound Underground Railroad

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2016-2017, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the May 2017 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


The Civil War has been called the first modern war, because many innovations that had been developed in the years prior to the Civil War saw their first extensive wartime use in the Civil War. In keeping with this, the January 2004 Cleveland Civil War Roundtable Dick Crews Debate focused on the topic of the equipment or innovation that had the most effect on the Civil War. One of the five innovations that were discussed was railroads. Most historians agree that the Civil War was the first war in which railroads saw widespread use and had a major impact. For example, at the First Battle of Bull Run, Joseph Johnston used a railroad to rapidly move his troops from the Shenandoah Valley to reinforce P.G.T. Beauregard. A few months after the Battle of Shiloh, Braxton Bragg moved his infantry by rail along a circuitous route from Tupelo, Mississippi to Chattanooga, Tennessee so he could join forces with an army led by Edmund Kirby Smith for an invasion of Kentucky. Railroads were instrumental prior to the Civil War in the development of the United States due to their capacity for rapid transportation in all directions throughout the country. However, there was one pre-Civil War railroad that operated in only one direction. This railroad, which operated without locomotives and without tracks and was a railroad in name only, was the Underground Railroad, and it went essentially only in a northbound direction.

Continue reading “The Southbound Underground Railroad”

“The Rest of the Story”

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2016-2017, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the April 2017 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


“And now you know the rest of the story.” This is the tagline that was used by news broadcaster and commentator, and dispenser of Americana, Paul Harvey to close each of the segments of a radio series that he did. In each segment of that series, which was named The Rest of the Story, Paul Harvey related a story about some person or event in which there was some kind of interesting and unexpected anecdote or connection. This series was on the radio for decades, so there certainly was no shortage of subject material. But if Paul Harvey ever needed another subject for his series, he could have used the front-page story of the July 4, 1863 Harper’s Weekly for a segment of his program The Rest of the Story. On July 4, 1863, the day that Vicksburg fell and the day after Pickett’s Charge, the front-page story in Harper’s Weekly was an account of a bold attempt at espionage by two Confederate officers near Franklin, Tennessee. Mel Maurer, past president of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, included an account of this story in part three of a six-part article which Mel wrote about his life in Franklin. Mel’s account of this tale of espionage appeared in the September 2001 issue of The Charger, and Mel’s article is archived on the Roundtable’s web site. Neither the Harper’s Weekly account nor Mel’s account includes the intriguing side story that is connected to the episode of attempted espionage that occurred outside of Franklin. This history brief describes the intriguing side story, which contains a tragic romance.

Continue reading ““The Rest of the Story””

Destiny Personified

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2016-2017, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the March 2017 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


Destiny is defined as “the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person in the future” and is also defined as “the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future.” For many people living in the United States prior to 1865, destiny was shackled in chains and consigned to chattel servitude. Bondage was the only destiny that these people realistically foresaw for themselves. However, history has shown that sometimes what appears to be an immutable destiny is not necessarily fixed in the cosmos. In the classic movie Casablanca when Victor Laszlo was taken into custody by the police and was being led away to be imprisoned, Rick Blaine said to Laszlo, “It seems that destiny has taken a hand.” For some who were victims of what was euphemistically called the peculiar institution, destiny did take a hand. One such person is Allen Allensworth, and because destiny took a hand on behalf of Allensworth, he was able to make important contributions to American society. As one person wrote about Allensworth, “Born into slavery and sold many times to different owners, the future looked bleak for the young Allen. But life had some specific plans for the gutsy, hard-working, and brave (Allensworth).”

Continue reading “Destiny Personified”

Rosa Parks’ Historical Rhyme

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2016-2017, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the February 2017 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


There is a witty quote about history repeating itself, which conveys the notion that history repeats itself in a poetic way. The quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, although there is no evidence that Mark Twain ever said or wrote it. It is easy to believe that this is a Mark Twain quote, because its pithiness sounds like Mark Twain. This quote exists in a few different forms with slightly different wording, but all of the versions of this quote convey the same notion. One version of the quote states, “History does not repeat itself, but it does tend to rhyme.”

Continue reading “Rosa Parks’ Historical Rhyme”