Monthly Archives: November 2020

Meeting of December 10, 2020

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, December 10, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is

Bob Russo on “The Wounded Knee Massacre”

The Wounded Knee Massacre, often and inaccurately called the Battle of Wounded Knee, was a massacre of several hundred Lakota Sioux people by soldiers of the United States Army. The massacre took place on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

On the tragic morning of the massacre, members of U.S. 7th Cavalry entered the camp to disarm the Lakota. An elderly member of the tribe refused to give up his weapon while others began a tribal dance known as the Ghost Dance. In the struggle a shot was fired and the U.S. army began shooting at the Native Americans with Hotchkiss Guns from a nearby hillside. Lakota warriors fought back, but most had already been disarmed by the Army.

More than 250 Lakota men, women, and children were dead and over 50 others wounded. Other estimates place the number of Lakota dead at over 300. Twenty-five soldiers also died with over 35 wounded. Many Army casualties are thought to be from friendly fire. In a final insult over Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians approved two resolutions denouncing the Medal of Honor awards and urged the U.S. government to rescind Medals.

The massacre ended the Indian Wars but it took forty years of treaty violations, battles, false promises and government intrusions and failures to reach the day of the massacre. In September 2019, after spending about two years reading about the history, Bob Russo, an Old Baldy and Delaware Valley CWRT member visited the site of the massacre with his wife, Carol.

Join Bob for the story of this horrific tragedy and the events that led up to it. Ties to Civil War personalities, a 1980 Supreme Court decision on ownership of the Black Hills and the genocidal words of an author of a book, that later became a historic and well-known motion picture, will be discussed.

Meeting of January 14, 2021

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, January 14, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is

Alice L Baumgartner on “South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War”

The Underground Railroad to the North promised salvation to many American slaves before the Civil War. But thousands of people in the south-central United States escaped slavery not by heading north but by crossing the southern border into Mexico, where slavery was abolished in 1837.

Based on research in twenty-seven archives in three countries, South to Freedom tells the story of why Mexico abolished slavery and how its increasingly radical antislavery policies fueled the sectional crisis in the United States. As enslaved people escaped across the Rio Grande, and the U.S. government failed to secure their return, slaveholders came to believe that their interests would be best protected outside of the Union. Mexico’s laws also had an impact beyond the borderlands. Southern politicians hoped that annexing Texas and invading Mexico in the 1840s would stop runaways and secure slavery’s future. Instead, the seizure of Alta California and Nuevo México upset the delicate political balance between free and slave states.

As U.S. Congressmen debated the status of slavery in the former Mexican territories, Northern Democrats balked at the prospect of reestablishing slavery where it had been prohibited. Abolition in Mexico thus undermined the norm of admitting slavery in southern territories while prohibiting it in northern ones—a norm that had kept sectionalism at bay since the Missouri Compromise.

Alice L. Baumgartner is assistant professor of history at the University of Southern California. She received an MPhil in history from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar, and a PhD in history from Yale University. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Meeting of February 11, 2021

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, February 11, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is

Dr. Lorien Foote on “The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy”

During the winter of 1864, more than 3,000 Federal prisoners of war escaped from Confederate prison camps into South Carolina and North Carolina, often with the aid of local slaves. Their flight created, in the words of contemporary observers, a “Yankee plague,” heralding a grim end to the Confederate cause. In this fascinating look at Union soldiers’ flight for freedom in the last months of the Civil War, Lorien Foote reveals new connections between the collapse of the Confederate prison system, the large-scale escape of Union soldiers, and the full unraveling of the Confederate States of America.

By this point in the war, the Confederacy was reeling from prison overpopulation, a crumbling military, violence from internal enemies, and slavery’s breakdown. The fugitive Federals moving across the countryside in mass numbers, Foote argues, accelerated the collapse as slaves and deserters decided the presence of these men presented an opportune moment for escalated resistance.

Blending rich analysis with an engaging narrative, Foote uses these ragged Union escapees as a lens with which to assess the dying Confederate States, providing a new window into the South’s ultimate defeat.

Dr. Lorien Foote is the Patricia & Bookman Peters Professor in History at Texas A&M University, where she teaches classes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, war and society, and 19th-century American reform movements. She is the author of The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor, and Violence in the Union Army (NYU Press, 2010), which received honorable mention as finalist for the 2011 Lincoln Prize. She is also the author of Seeking the One Great Remedy: Francis George Shaw and Nineteenth-Century Reform (Ohio University Press, 2003). Dr. Foote is the creator and principal investigator of a project with the Center for Virtual History at the University of Georgia that is currently mapping the movement of 3000 Federal prisoners of war who escaped from the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

Meeting of March 11, 2021

Join us at 7:15 PM on Thursday, March 11, for an online web conference (no physical meeting). Members will receive ZOOM dial-in instructions via email. This month’s topic is

Christopher Klein on “When The Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom”

The outlandish, untold story of the Irish American revolutionaries who tried to free Ireland by invading Canada.

Just over a year after Robert E. Lee relinquished his sword, a band of Union and Confederate veterans dusted off their guns. But these former foes had no intention of reigniting the Civil War. Instead, they fought side by side to undertake one of the most fantastical missions in military history: to seize the British province of Canada and to hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured.

By the time that these invasions—known collectively as the Fenian raids—began in 1866, Ireland had been Britain’s unwilling colony for seven hundred years. Thousands of Civil War veterans who had fled to the United States rather than perish in the wake of the Great Hunger still considered themselves Irishmen first, Americans second. With the tacit support of the U.S. government and inspired by a previous generation of successful American revolutionaries, the group that carried out a series of five attacks on Canada between 1866 and 1871—the Fenian Brotherhood—established a state in exile, planned prison breaks, weathered infighting, stockpiled weapons, and assassinated enemies. Defiantly, this motley group, including a one-armed war hero, an English spy infiltrating rebel forces, and a radical who staged his own funeral, managed to seize a piece of Canada—if only for three days.

Chris Klein is the author of four books, including When the Irish Invaded Canada and Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero. A frequent contributor to History.com, the website of the History Channel, he has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Harvard Magazine, Smithsonian.com, and AmericanHeritage.com. He graduated summa cum laude and with honors from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, in 1994, and is a member of the Authors Guild, Biographers International Organization, Boston Authors Club, and Irish American Writers & Artists.