Thursday, September 27, 2012

CVGS Program Review - "The Civil War and the Onslaught of Modern Warfare"

CVGS Member John Finch presented "The Civil War and the Onslaught of Modern Warfare"  for the regular Program Meeting of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society on Wednesday, 26 September at the Chula Vista Civic Center Branch Library.

John started his presentation with a definition of the Civil War (called the "War of Northern Aggression" in the southern states), and said it was a defining moment in American history.  He reviewed some of his reference materials, including the Civil War PBS Series by Ken Burns, the book Killer Angels by Michael Schaara, and the book Prisoners of the Civil War by Douglas Westfall.

The statistics on casualties of the Civil War are horrific:

*  3.2 million persons served (2.21 million for the North, 1.05 million for the South)
*  524,000 died (364,000 for the North, 160,000 for the South)
*  The population of the USA in 1860 was 32 million, so about 1 in 10 persons served.
*  17% of those that served died, and many more were wounded.

John noted that habeas corpus was suspended in 1862 by President Lincoln in order to prevent the Maryland and Delaware legislatures from meeting to secede from the Union, and thereby isolating Washington, D.C.  The legislators spent the war in Fort Warren, a prison camp near Boston, as did the Governor of Kentucky.

He discussed the Battle of Gettysburg in some detail, using an excellent map showing the movements and battle lines with the Union troops on Cemetery Ridge and the Confederates in the valley to the west.  He also described Joshua Chamberlain's heroics on Round Top on 2 July 1863 and on Cemetery Ridge on 3 July 1863.

To demonstrate the horror of typical battles, John showed about 10 minutes from the movie "Gettysburg." - beginning at the start of Pickett's charge up Cemetery Ridge.  He also discussed the weapons and ammunition used in this war.

The military service record of John's relative, Charles H. Finch of the Pennsylvania 143rd Infantry Regiment, was presented  - he was wounded at Gettysburg, sent to a hospital, furloughed home, and went back into the service.  John obtained the papers from the National Archives.

The interesting service and subsequent lives of two different men were summarized:

1)  William H.H. Clayton on the Union Iowa 19th Infantry Regiment, who served up and down the Mississippi River, was a prisoner of war after Vicksburg, sent to a Texas prison, furloughed back to Iowa, married, moved his family to Orange county, California, and founded the Sunkist company. 

2)  William T. Glassell was from Orange County, Virginia, but was serving in the U.S. Navy on the USS Hancock on the California coast when the war broke out. After a 7 month journey to Baltimore, he resigned from the US Navy, but was arrested and sent to Fort Warren.  He was furloughed, went back to Virginia, enlisted in the Confederate Navy in an ironclad, boat.  He was captured again, and sent to a prison camp in New York.  After the surrender, he was furloughed, went back to his home in Virginia, but his brother had migrated to California, so Glassell went there, was granted a large tract of land in Orange County, and died there in 1879.

John briefly described the information that can be found online on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors system (, on FamilySearch (, on Ancestry ( on the United States GenWeb (, and on Fold3 (  Original military records can be ordered, for a fee, from the National Archives on their website (

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