Sam Craghead, President Art & Carol Bergeron, Editors
4361F Lakefield Mews 3901 Paces Ferry Road
Richmond, VA 23231 Chester, VA 23831-1239
January 2001 PROGRAM
Dr. Charles F. Bryan, Jr.
"The Robert Knox Sneden Memoir and Sketches"
8:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 9, 2001, at the
Boulevard United Methodist Church, 321 N. Boulevard,
Richmond, VA (corner of Boulevard and Stuart Ave.)
Enter basement door from Boulevard side.
Dr. Charles F. Bryan, Jr., is the Executive Director of
the Virginia Historical Society. His presentation to the
Round Table will focus on his recent publication, Eye of the
Storm: A Civil War Odyssey. Bryan received his doctoral
degree in American history from the University of Tennessee
in Knoxville. He has written on the Civil War in Tennessee
and about the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Bryan is currently
working on a book on historical organizations and
Eye of the Storm, edited by Bryan and Nelson D. Langford,
is the five thousand page illustrated memoir of a
long-forgotten Union private and mapmaker, Robert Knox
Sneden. This book has been cited by Professor Gary
Gallagher as a "rich store in pictorial and narrative
material to students of the Civil War. His (Sneden's)
drawings and paintings depict many places for which we have
no other pictorial representations. This highly unusual
account which is enhanced by the editor's excellent work,
quickly should take its place among the invaluable published
primary source on the conflict."
Sneden enlisted in the 40th New York Infantry (Mozart
Regiment) at age 29 after the fall of Fort Sumter. As a
soldier and a mapmaker, he was present at many famous
battles of the war. Sneden was captured by Confederate
partisan John S. Mosby in 1863 and spent much of the rest
of the war as a prisoner in Richmond and the Andersonville
prison camp. Sneden was exchanged in December 1864.
Throughout the conflict, Sneden kept a journal and sketched
many sites of his wartime experiences. Together, his
narrative and art constitute one of the most important
recently discovered Civil War documents.
Bryan will not only discuss the saga of Robert Knox Sneden,
but he also will detail the Historical Society's search and
acquisition of Sneden's manuscripts, sketches, and
Review of the December Program
Edwin C. Bearss presented an outstanding program on the
U.S.S. Cairo. Using a large number of slides, he explained
not only the history of the ironclad but its recovery and
restoration. Bearss began by saying he was telling the
group how "not" to raise an ironclad. Cairo was one of
seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the
upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads
were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns.
The "city class" gunboats were designed by Samuel M. Pook
and built by river engineer James B. Eads. Cairo was
constructed at Mound City, Illinois, and commissioned in
January 1862. The Cairo was destined to see only limited
action in the engagement at Plum Point in May and in the
battle of Memphis in June. Her most significant action came
six months later when she kept a rendezvous with destiny. On
the cold morning of December 12, 1862, Cairo led a small
flotilla up the Yazoo River, north of Vicksburg, to destroy
Confederate batteries and clear the channel of torpedoes. As
the Cairo reached a point seven miles north of Vicksburg the
flotilla came under fire, and her commander ordered the guns
to ready. As the gunboat turned towards shore disaster
struck. Cairo was rocked by two explosions in quick
succession, which tore gaping holes in the ship's hull.
Within twelve minutes the ironclad sank into 36 feet of
water without any loss of life. Cairo became the first ship
in history to be sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo.
Over the years the gunboat was soon forgotten, and her
watery grave was slowly covered by a shroud of silt and
sand. Impacted in mud, Cairo became a time capsule in which
her priceless artifacts were preserved.
By studying contemporary documents and maps, Bearss, then
the Historian at Vicksburg National Military Park, was able
to plot the approximate site of the wreck. With the help of
a pocket compass and iron bar probes, Bearss and two
companions, Don Jacks and Warren Grabau, set out to discover
the grave of the Cairo in 1956. The three searchers were
reasonably convinced they had found the Cairo, but three
years lapsed before divers brought up armored port covers to
positively confirm the find. A heavy accumulation of silt,
swift current, and the ever-muddy river deterred the divers
as they explored the gunboat. Local enthusiasm and interest
began to grow in 1960 with the recovery of the pilothouse,
an 8-inch smoothbore cannon, its white oak carriage and
other artifacts well preserved by the Yazoo mud. With
financial support from the State of Mississippi, the Warren
County Board of Supervisors and funds raised locally,
efforts to salvage the gunboat began in earnest.
Hopes of lifting the ironclad and her cargo of artifacts
intact were crushed in October of 1964 when the three-inch
cables being used to lift the Cairo cut deeply into its
wooden hull. It then became a question of saving as much of
the vessel as possible. A decision was made to cut the
Cairo into three sections. By the end of December the
battered remains were put on barges and towed to Vicksburg.
In the summer of 1965 the barges carrying the Cairo were
towed to Ingalls Shipyard on the Gulf Coast in Pascagoula,
Mississippi, for treatment.
In 1972, Congress enacted legislation authorizing the
National Park Service to accept title to the Cairo and
restore the gunboat for display in Vicksburg National
Military Park. Delays in funding the project halted
progress until June 1977, when the vessel was transported to
the park and partially reconstructed on a concrete
foundation near the Vicksburg National Cemetery. The
recovery of artifacts from the Cairo revealed a treasure
trove of weapons, munitions, naval stores and personal gear
of the sailors who served on board. The gunboat and its
artifacts can now be seen along the tour road at the U. S.
S. Cairo Museum.
Richmond Civil War Round Table
Membership Dues are Due
Dues must be postmarked no later than 1/30/01
Dues received after this date will be returned to the
sender. Ex-members may reapply for membership and will be
placed on the waiting list for reacceptance a year later
into the 2002 membership.
Dues are to be sent in check form only to:
Gus Faeder, RCWRT Treasurer
10207 Salem Oaks Place
Richmond, VA 23237
Please include the bottom portion of this form with your
check for membership dues. This information will be used on
the roster and newsletter mailing list.
Check No._______________(record keeping information only)
Telephone [home] (___)____-_______ [work] (___)____-________
Please check the membership category for which you are making
___ $25.00 Resident Member (individual)
___ $35.00 Resident Couple members (husband & wife)
___ $10.00 Non-Resident Member (individual) - defined as
a member living 50 miles outside of Richmond.
___ $15.00 Non-Resident Couple members (husband & wife) -
defined as members living 50 miles outside of Richmond.
___ $10.00 Senior Member (individual) - defined as a member
who is 65 years of age with 10 years of RCWRT membership.
___ Are you 65 years or older?
___ Have you been an active member since 1990?
A "yes" answer to both questions qualifies you for
this membership category.
___ $15.00 Senior Couple Members (husband & wife) - defined
as members who are 65 years of age with 10 years of joint
___ Are both of you 65 years or older?
___ Have you had joint membership since 1990?
A "yes" answer to both questions qualifies you for
this membership category.
Spring Field Trip
This year's Spring Field Trip will be held on April 21 and
will be a visit to First Manassas. The Round Table has not
toured First Manassas in more than 15 years. The tour guide
will be John Hennessy. Cost will be $15 per person.
Everyone should bring his own lunch. The group will leave
from the parking lot near the Lowes and Walmart Stores at
the corner of Brook Road and Parham at 6:30 a. m. and will
be back at around 6 p. m.
Hennessy plans to escort the group along the Union
"invasion" route to the battlefield and will spend much time
at Blackburn's Ford, Henry House Hill, and other important
Confederate victory sites. The Union side of the battle
will not be neglected. If time permits, Hennessy may also
include a few Second Manassas sites.
Round Table members will have first option at reservations,
which will be on a "first come first serve" basis. There
are only 45 seats on the bus, so please act quickly.
Reservations can be sent by mail to Brag Bowling at 3019
Kensington Avenue, Richmond, VA 23221. All checks should be
made payable to the Roundtable. Brag will also accept
checks at the meetings prior to the tour. Any questions can
be directed to Brag at (804) 359-0382.
From the Editors
We welcome submissions to the monthly newsletter, although
we cannot always include them due to space restrictions.
Please send potential items to us no later than eighteen
(18) days prior to the meeting date.
Richmond Civil War Round Table in Cyberspace. The Round
Table's Web site has been available for several months. It
includes the monthly newsletter, CW book reports,
photographs of previous meetings, and a list of all
forthcoming speakers. The NEW URL or Web address is:
Richmond Civil War Round Table Newsletter
Art & Carol Bergeron, Editors
3901 Paces Ferry Road
Chester, VA 23831-1239