In addition to researching and writing little-known naval history, I
enjoy delivering presentations on a number of the episodes I’ve
discovered.* I’ve spoken twice at the Maritime Heritage Conference in
Norfolk, six times at the Naval War College in Newport, to the Naval
Order of the United States in Jacksonville, at the Portsmouth Navy
Yard’s 238th Anniversary Ball, and at the Mariners’ Museum Civil War Navy
Conference in Newport News. Other venues include a large number of
historical societies, Civil War Roundtables and schools in the
Northeast. I’ve also been interviewed on Civil War Talk Radio to discuss A Dog Before a
Soldier as well as Sea Miner. If you are interested in a presentation,
please contact me by email
African Americans in the Union Navy*
Many are familiar with the story of the U. S. Colored Troops (most commonly showcased by the well-known 54th Massachusetts Regiment), and it is usually assumed that life in the Navy was similar. It was not. The experience of blacks afloat was very different than the treatment their fellows received in the Army. They received the same pay, same medical care, same bonuses, same access to post-war sailors' homes, and enjoyed an equality under the Navy justice system denied their fellows anywhere else. [This presentation will eventually be another book; presently, however, folks who have heard the talk can buy "Notes to Accompany a Presentation on African Americans in the Union Navy," which provides details behind the slides in that lecture.]
How the U.S. Navy Won the American Civil War
Along with Alligator, this heretical-sounding talk is the most-requested presentation I give. The claim is based entirely on what people at the time recognized as the U.S. Navy’s critical contribution to Union victory. Although this information might not make a believer out of everyone, the story is thoroughly documented in historical records, and comes as a surprise to most audiences.
Alligator, the Civil War’s First Submarine*
Although CSS Hunley garners almost all the modern media attention, she was actually one of more than twenty submarines built during the War of the Rebellion–and far from the most advanced. That laurel belongs to the first submarine of the war–and the first in the U.S. Navy–Alligator. This talk details the background of the inventor, the boat’s design and systems, and the various missions she undertook.
On the Verge of the Great War, 1864-65
This is the highest possible level view of the Rebellion. Looking well beyond our usual inward focus on the war, "Verge" describes the intricate maneuverings of world leaders to influence and affect the course and outcome of our Civil War. There are a surprising number of surprising players--including Pope Pius IX, who openly sided with the Confederacy and tried to stop Irish Catholics from fighting for the Union; Russia, far from being the ally we believe she offered to be to Lincoln, but in reality using our war for her own ends; England, which, far from intervening, could not economically afford to see the close of hostilities, and needed to prolong rather than stop the fighting; and other nations (Spain, Austria, Belgium, Italy, and Prussia) that all had interests in the war, and were poised to fight alongside France and/or England had either country become militarily involved. Europeans perceived of the war as much more than we did then or do today; to them, it was literally an epic struggle between repression and liberalism, a turning point in world history, and Northern victory spawned a wave of reform across that continent.
Monitor’s Unknown Mission: The Navy Raid on the Petersburg Bridges
Despite 150 years of research on USS Monitor, one mission escaped all the history books–until 2008, when I discovered and researched an assignment that could easily have resulted in her capture or destruction in June 1862.
Lewis Horton, Medal of Honor, USN
Unlike my other talks and research, this one focuses on a single individual and his experiences during the war. Lewis Horton served two hitches in the Navy between 1861 and 1863, suffered and survived incredible hardships, and lived to exceed those experiences in the years after the war. Winning the Medal of Honor was probably the easiest thing he ever did!
The Great Navy Cattle Drive
Despite the humorous title, this talk details a very unusual episode that illustrates the vital role played by the Navy in interdicting Confederate supply lines throughout the war. An excellent example of innovative command in a rapidly-changing and fluid situation.
A Handsome Affair: The Navy at Fort Butler
The 1863 Battle of Fort Butler at Donaldsonville, LA, has never been researched from a naval perspective. Doing so provides the key to the survival and success of the wildly-outnumbered Union garrison, and resolves a mystery that has dogged local researchers for over a century.
Edward B. Hunt’s Sea Miner
“Sea Miner” is not a talk for the faint of heart–-it is, quite literally, rocket science. Edward Hunt’s incredible weapon seems to belong to at least the Second World War (or perhaps much later). If you are tired of the “same old Civil War stories” of bludgeoning tactics and staggering losses from wounds and disease, Sea Miner will show you what the scientists were up to during the war. Don't worry: there is no math in the presentation!
Farragut's Passage of the Forts
An image-heavy and dramatic presentation of the most critical hours of the War of the Rebellion--and perhaps the real turning point of the war!
Upon the Best Authority
A (mostly) light-hearted romp through a selection of articles from my four-volume compendium of period news articles. The talk (as well as the books) showcase American society as her people saw themselves. Many of the short pieces never made the history books, and will come as a surprise to a modern audience. By turns hilarious, frightening, unusual, and terrifying!
This talk details the rise of self-taught maritime salvage operator John Gowen, and his astounding feat in the harbor of Gibraltar–accomplishing in record time a project that had stymied the best divers on the planet for over eight years.
The Yankee Expedition to Sebastopol
After recapping the episode detailed in Raising Missouri, this talk continues John Gowen’s story as he moves on to undertake the largest maritime salvage operation in the history of the world–and the least known.
In addition to books and talks, my work has appeared in the following magazine and journals:
Naval History: “First Shiloh,” “A Novel Naval Scout,” “The Great Navy Cattle Drive,” “Raid on Pitch Landing,” “The Innovative, Mysterious Alligator.”
American Historical Print Collector Society’s Newsletter: “Wells & Gowen Submarine Armor.”
Historical Diving Times: “Submarine Armor and the Civil War Submarine Alligator” and “The Difficulty is in Knowing How: The Rise of John Gowen and Salvage of the First USS Missouri."
Civil War Navy: “Submarines in the Civil War” and “The Strangest Weapon of Them All: Edward B. Hunt’s Sea Miner.”
Journal of the Company of Military Historians: “Researching a Ship’s Medicine Chest” (with L. Veit), “Lewis Horton, USN, MoH,” "The Great Navy Cattle Drive," and "Engagement at Deloges Bluff."
Warships International: “A Weapon of the Utmost Simplicity: E. B. Hunt's Rocket Torpedo.”
Interesting topics notwithstanding, it is only fair to share some feedback on how I present. After all, a great topic poorly presented is boring. Following are some excerpts of audience responses to a Sea Miner presentation I shared with members of the Puget Sound Civil War Round Table in October 2016--the most technical of my discussions and potentially the most mind-numbing. The full text is available on their site."Rarely have I been so mesmerized and intrigued by a subject as I was by Chuck Veit's presentation about the 'Sea Miner.' "
"He covered a subject entirely new to me [and] made the art of designing and firing [a] torpedo understandable to laymen."
"I was prepared for everything from a guy mumbling as he read his lecture out loud, all the way up to a high quality college lecture. Chuck exceeded my expectations in every way--it was fascinating information, well-presented, and I was so glad I went!"
"I thought the torpedo presentation was fascinating. ... There was so much information passed along in such a short time, I wish I was able to hear it again."
"When the presentation began, it was obvious that Chuck is a first-rate researcher and storyteller."
*Alligator is not exclusively my research; I am a small part of a larger team that has been uncovering the story of the boat for more than a decade. Similarly, “African Americans in the Union Navy” is based mostly on the published work of a number of other individuals, which I assembled into a talk.
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