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January 2001
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

Ed Bearss
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) Your Name___________________________________________________ Address_____________________________________________________ Telephone [home] (___)____-_______ [work] (___)____-________ Please check the membership category for which you are making a payment: ___ $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 RCWRT membership. ___ 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.
NEW URL! 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: or just
Richmond Civil War Round Table Newsletter Art & Carol Bergeron, Editors 3901 Paces Ferry Road Chester, VA 23831-1239

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