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tv   After Words  CSPAN  November 2, 2014 9:00pm-10:01pm EST

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in the fall of 1860 as a senator from mississippi he served in that capacity interrupted in the middle 1850s by four years under franklin pierce. he was not a secessionist and he did believe in their right to secede it because he had a strong affinity for the union
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for which he had fought in the war he was a graduate of west point class of 1828 he was put on the committee of 13 to try to find some way out of the crisis precipitated by the response the deep south states starting with south carolina. everybody expected that they would pass. i think that he hoped at first it might be possible to find some kind of a solution to the burgeoning crisis of this union. >> host: so he wasn't a hothead. he didn't fantasize about
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leaving armies in the field becoming president of the confederacy. he preferred that it wouldn't have happened. >> guest: during the 1850s in the proposal for what became a compromise of 1850 he sometimes talked like a fire eater and said that if the north doesn't grant us our rights and buy the rights they meant to take their slaves into the territories and to recapture and escape the fugitive slaves in the north maybe we should set up for ourselves but for the most part he was known as a reasonable southern nationalist. >> host: and he traveled widely and gave talks in the north and at one point in his career he said they will conquer
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the rest of the continent. he had given a number of speeches and praised new england and actually when he got back to mississippi after that trip he was criticized by a love this paper editors to the north. demand that everybody expected it to be the candidate for president was a close friend of davis until of course the split came. >> host: how did a man like this that fought for the united states into the cabinet position was in the congress come in the senate, was not an avid secessionist how did he end up as president of the confederate states of america?
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>> guest: no one was going to emerge to the committee of 13 or for the congress itself. he thought a lot with the confederacy and re-signed in the senate. they were reduced to tears and went back to mississippi it was immediately a general chief of the mississippi militia at this stage in the process there was no confederate states of america yet. there were set to be about seven states that seceded from the united states and it was clear that the states would be facing
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potential military conflict if the army moved in and tried to coerce them to stay in the movement so he was named as a general chief and began organizing and look forward with regret and realism to the possibility that there was in fact the military conflict and while he went home along the mississippi river where he owned 113 slaves he was a large slaveowner and while they were making rose cuttings the morning of february 10 in messenger came with a telegram where a
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convention delegates from the states and the president of the confederate states of america i think that there were two basic reasons why they named him as president. he was known as a moderate and not as as a fire eater and they were trying to present to the world and especially to the states that haven't yet associated to the union states the image of reasonableness and moderation and military experience as a graduate of west point they served seven years in the regular army and commanded the regiment quite courageously and effectively and was wounded in battle as a wounded warrior and it served as the chairman of the senate committee on the
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military affairs and as the secretary of the more so there was no man in the south that was better qualified both in terms of these political expediency but especially his military training and experience to lead this new nation which its founders anticipated might have to fight for its success to its. they knew about the northern industry, the cannon, the firearms. he had traveled all over the country. he knew that he could read the census returns. he knew that while the south produced cotton and other crops and had a majority of the exports and earned most of the foreign exchange it was an
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overwhelmingly agricultural society and if the war did come it would be confronting a much more moderate diversified economy, said he so he was well aware of the challenges. once the war began many others expected in march to washington and conquest. he warned them that this was likely to be a difficult contest and they should recognize that it's not going to be an easy task. >> host: what were some of the advantages they started with? 750 square miles in the huge empire and the union wasn't there. >> guest: that is exactly right. that is something people don't
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appreciate that it is gaetz attention but it's more readily assent of revolutionary movements the confederate states of america began life in complete political and military control of nearly all of the territory they claim to control and they didn't have to fight to gain control of the territory of the resources and of the political institutions. that is a huge advantage because it takes a lot more to invade and conquer than it does to defend and survive. another advantage or quality that the confederate states had his potential these strong military leadership. not only davis himself, but a
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large number of fairly prominent officers and graduates at west point made the decision to join the confederacy and their names once virginia joined the confederacy the names were well known. robert e. lee, joseph johnston, stonewall jackson and a good many others. these are a good many talented officers and they are making a commitment now to lead the new confederate states army so even though the north had twice the population and industrial resources and commercial resources that are valuable if the nation is going to mobilize they still had a lot of advantages which made it possible for davis although he expected difficult and long war
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and also to be confident that they could win in the sense of surviving. >> host: after, the call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the insurrection and rebellion the secession after that happened what was the plan did he sit down with his top generals and to see what is our plan and how did we win? what were his first strategic moves? >> guest: to mobilize the army and train the army and point the officers and the administrators to station the troops as they begin to come in and of the confederacy had to rely on the
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state militias or volunteer his regimens. they didn't have a core of the army. it was the united states that had the core. so, to organize the troops and create an army was the first task and davis because of his experiment on the military affairs and secretary of the war was quite capable of doing a good job of that. the secretary of the navy stephen valerie turned out to be a good secretary of the navy and the person that appointed the secretary of the army turned out not to be very good at that so davis was his own secretary of war.
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he went from five secretaries of war into some of them felt it was nothing more than being a clerk but it was an advantage because davis did a very good job. he also sent rafael for turned out to be a hero in the confederacy to the north to purchase arms before the war actually began and he sent agents abroad to begin purchasing arms, so the initial steps of creating the army that did very effective jobs then the question was what do we do with his army. >> host: do you defend the entire confederacy? >> guest: that is what he hoped to do and part of the reason he hoped to do that was pressure from the state government legislatures. it became clear that once virginia cced it and got
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congress convention formed the confederacy, once they made the decision to move the capital to richmond after virginia they came into virginia where the two capitals were only 100 miles apart. >> host: was that one of the first bad strategic decisions i know that they have to impede virginia and that was pretty moving the capital. was it a bad strategy for the capital than 100 miles in washington, d.c.? >> guest: as you know it took the united states army longer to capture richmond and any other part of the confederacy and so it turned out to be quite
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successful in terms of defending the confederate capital. early in the war the confederate swastika nashville and new orleans. they lost to memphis, they lost lost a number of other places but it took four years for them to lose richmond so maybe it wasn't such a bad decision. in any case i think that it was an important political position as does the main reason for taking that position in the first place. davis was well aware that one of the cardinal rules is the principle of concentration. you should concentrate your forces in a substantial army that is capable of taking on the enemy armies in the two or three substantial army is. that would have seemed to dictate the concentration in the
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valley lets say in tennessee which was the northernmost confederate state but because for political reasons davis could not adhere to the principle, the governor of arkansas, louisiana and so on was insisting that they have to be defended. >> host: the governor of louisiana said we have 30 residents and they are all up north. the governors didn't want to send troops or uniforms, weapons is that one of the big dilemma is the president of the nation or the confederacy founded on the states rights, the rights of the individual states the two end of the war davis has to try to consolidate the states and
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make the governors of the states rely so he's got to violate states rights. >> guest: the difference between the states right into rights and the political pressures that go along with it and the smartest military strategy in the american revolution the united states had given up the huge territories to the british and eventually that happened in the confederate but in 1861 it would have been politically impossible for davis to strip the gulf coast, the south atlantic coast to defend virginia and tennessee. he had to be divert to some degree on the political pressures.
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they have the dispersed defense and sooner or later the enemy is going to break through that line and that is what will begin to happen in february of 1862. the wish begins to penetrate this and the consequence of that david admits not publicly but privately but it may have been a mistake to try to defend the entire frontier. the dissent from the governors
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it's almost too late and 64 and 65 davis says no single point is vital. if he had that attitude in 1861 no states or port or city is vital he might have had more freedom of action to be successful. >> guest: he might have that it's impossible to say in theory that's right it's another to say that as a practical fact i don't think that he had a choice in 1861 but in 1862 he does begin to concentrate the bulk of the first line of the troops in the confederacy and the major field armies in virginia and in tennessee and mississippi and of those three states prematurely he carries that one step farther
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not only in the concentration but also in the development of what he called a strategy of the offensive defense of. it would be the best defense is a good offense and robert e. lee who became the principal military partner not only as the best general but also the closest confidante and the best way to defend the confederacy was to seize opportunities when they presented themselves to take the offensive against the enemy armies and knock them back on their heels. >> host: let's turn back to davis in her circles.
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talk about the rivalries, the disobedience isn't it the case that just like lincoln d. just had a terrible time next >> guest: they have some of the same kinds of problems among some of the principal generals i suppose an outstanding example of that in the confederacy was boulevard that had a high opinion of himself and very low opinion of davis. if they they came into conflict fairly early after the first confederate victory in the world they are concerned of taking credit for that issue to report that they took not turning him
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loose to do even more damage and that began in the deterioration of the relationship of the general and basically they sent him to the western theater. they became the commander of the army and then they took an unauthorized leave of absence. the two of them never got along after that or at all. joseph johnston who was the senior commander in virginia entered into a quarrel about the relative rank of the generals and in the confederate army and then as the commander is sometimes confusing there were two armies of the potomac in the
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latter half of 61 and 62. the better-known union army under george mcclellan but the confederate army was also called at that time the army of the potomac into the commander was joe johnston who believed he newsletter that if he was informed that davis would overrule some of his command decisions if he kept davis informed and the relationships of those gentlemen began to deteriorate and when it looked like johnston might even give up richmond in order to keep his army whole they came up to the parting of the ways that the
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sharp conflict and if johnston hadn't been wounded at the battle may 31st 1862 who knows what would have happened. but he was wounded and was out of action for six months and robert e. lee became the commander in virginia and there of course began a very positive partnership between lee and jefferson davis. >> host: was it supposed to be carried out and presented johnson surrender out of informing davis or seeking the commission lacks? >> guest: by >> guest: by the time the government was virtually dead. >> host: but they were able to reach each other. >> guest: it was entirely in the character because he had done so many times. >> host: let's talk about the personality into the character
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because he's gotten a bad rap in history about being jealous, unfriendly, egotistical, unyielding, and possible i noticed in your book that at the end you say the genitals or are more to blame than davis. it is especially true for some others as well but in those cases davis did have the reputation of being an austere and rigid holding a grudge or thin skin above criticism and that isn't totally a mess. like most stereotypes, there is something under there. there is a little bit of five-year under that spoke but i think that his character has been defined on the years by his critics not only among the
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generals but the state governors joe brown and george being the foremost example and certain senators being the outstanding example and certain editors pick the charleston mercury and the richmond examiner bees were people that either heated debate this from the outset were they came to hate him and they have shaped i think much of our stereotype perception of his personality defects and i think that he was never able to fight off some of these stereotypes except among the inner circle people that knew him well like robert e. lee himself with the chief cabinet official and
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others who had a good and positive relationship with davis and found him to be warm and personable among the people that live close to him. he didn't have much of a sense of humor. i suppose that is one of the greatest contrasts between the commanders in chief but he could be warm and personable with people that he liked and who like ten. i think that he's been defined more by his enemies. >> host: i agree he was unlike him in that way and it's interesting the image of these two men. >> guest: they were also born 100 apart. >> host: both that reasoning
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minds. but i've always thought that they had one ultimate thing in common which is this neither one was going to compromise and surrender. i like to think of davis and lincoln and i don't mean this in a pejorative sense, just i think of them as the two greatest killers in american history for this reason. they were willing to send hundreds of thousands of men to their deaths to vindicate the principles and they would have sent more. i don't think either one would have given up. lincoln wouldn't have given up liberty in the union. you quoted this line from lincoln in the book the issue is distinct and inflexible and it is an issue that can only be tried by war and decided they victory and lincoln said he cannot voluntarily accept the union and we cannot yield it. would they have ever come to a peaceful solution?
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>> guest: there was no compromised piece. >> host: so what is behind these treaties? >> guest: they faced a movement in their societies and if they have to appear to be willing to consider the possibility of peace negotiations but each one of them set conditions that he knew were unacceptable to the others are neither davis nor lincoln had any confidence or hope that the peace negotiations would result in actual piece. and that's why lincoln made that statement at davis would have agreed 100%. davis was quite literally i think the last considered standing. everybody else in the south by may of 1865 had given up but not
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davis. he was still trying to get away can escape to make it across the mississippi may be to texas and it was the last confederate army to surrender and continue from there. it wasn't really over until davis was captured and imprisoned. >> host: people forget he wasn't fleeing for his life trying to or trying to escape the country or find refuge. he wanted to fight on and he kept moving himself to the proclamation. he said the confederacy would live. and another time he said i would be the cause if there is one man that would follow me. at one point when the soldiers had mostly split off and he was left with an entourage de said
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what's wrong and they said it's over mr. president. and then he said why argue with me then? dot one animal sacrifice his life to fight for the confederacy. all of us will die to save you cut your wife and your children but it's over. >> guest: he never would admit that although it isn't quite sure to read we can't be quite sure that he wouldn't admit it publicly. >> host: did he want the history to record that he held nothing back and he gave his all to the cause but there wasn't one more thing he could have possibly done? >> guest: absolutely. >> host: you have recommended in the war planning as jefferson
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davis did was that micromanagement counterproductive and was he too involved in all of the decisions >> guest: he might have been better off if he'd been general in chief or maybe secretary of war. he was a workaholic and a detail man in the sphere that he cared about was a military. he couldn't delegate authority and that's why he went through five secretaries of the war because he was his own secretary of the war for many of the major decisions yet even some of the minor administrative aspects of managing a military establishment. davis would put in long days and
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sign off and and approve even the promotion of lieutenants and things like that. he would have been willing if he hadn't worked so hard and managed to get enough rest and regular meals he would have been in better shape to make some important strategic decisions i think that part of what people saw was the result of stress and poor health. not only was he more involved in hands-on military leadership and
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planning than any other chief executive in history but he also suffered from more maladies, more sickness and elements than any other chief executive in history. he was virtually blind in one eye and he suffered from serious morale champagne serious headaches and recurrence of an old theater, what was called a catchall term for stomach problems. >> host: he had the same serious malaria that killed his first wife. >> guest: that's right which he never got over either so he would have to take to his bed for days and sometimes even weeks at a time during the course of the war but one thing when he did, he continued working. >> host: 12 or 15 hour days. >> guest: but i think that the
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stress and the overwork contributed to put people saw as his temper and his bearing of crutches. he would have been better off. he could not let other people handle it. >> host: didn't he also despise people that he thought were working for their own personal benefit? he would not do anything for himself. i remember when he was informed that the union army was closing in on his plantation and he was asked should we send troops to get your sleeves and save your properties and valuables and he said the army of army of the confederacy does not do personal favors. and he viewed himself above and said if you are decide if you are a person that did that you
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are. >> guest: that's right. if you look back what were the greatest moments and is there a particular day or a couple of days they almost pulled it off? >> guest: davis wanted to be with the army when they faced their first test but he had to stay in richmond because the congress was scheduled to meet for the first time on july 20. but on the morning of july 21, he commandeered a special and they arrived on the battlefield more or less at the moment of victory and a joined the
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headquarters that evening and had urged them to follow up the victory with the continuation of the attack. they more or less talked him out of it. >> host: didn't they show up and say i am jefferson davis? >> guest: some of them did a follow back to. but they were taking credit for this kind of behavior and that was a source of some tension but that was a high point for davis and while they didn't think that was going to end the war they said we've won the war and it's all over.
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>> host: you write that neither davis nor lincoln knew at the outset what this was going to cost. let's say one side or the other new at the beginning knew at the beginning what was going to cost by the end. if they could look into the future with one side have made an all-out absolute commitment in 1861 that we now know was unimaginable to them if the confederates knew what they were going to sacrifice what they've done everything that they had to take washington in the summer of 1861 or whether they really launched the offensive in 1861 which they failed to do? >> guest: davis did want to follow up. i don't think that he necessarily thought that they could capture washington but they could inflict more damage. the other question you asked if
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lincoln or davis or both of them had known what it was going to take to carry on the war for four years, would they have made that could? we don't have the answer to that either. but it didn't recall us to become clearer we were determined to fight on rather than to concede to the enemy. so if that is any indication they would have been willing even knowing the cost in 1861 but that's something that we cannot know for certain. i think another high point probably came in in june or july and august of 1862 when they appointed robert e. lee as the commander of northern virginia
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and he immediately began planning in offenses and davis supported him and carried it out and drove mcclellan away from richmond and then moved to northern virginia and one the second battle and invaded maryland. the confederacy was on the role. the british and the french were talking about intervening by offering their mediation on the basis of the confederate independence and recognizing the confederacy even if lincoln refused. clearly the high point for the confederacy came in 1862 and retreated to both of the armies after those battles came as a
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setback. but the confederacy bounced back and then in the invasion of pennsylvania which davis gave full support. he wasn't able to give as many troops that he did give intyre support for the cabinet wanted to weekend the army to deal with the threats there especially in vicksburg but that is the third highpoint. one more is the summer of 1864 when davis is actually out on
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the battlefield with both grand and benjamin butler are closing in on richmond but now they have. the blues as the summer of 1861. it is causing a swelling of peace in the north and it looks like it is going to be defeated at least the democrat on the platform well when. >> host: there was a time he thought he was going to lose. >> guest: no question about it. here is how they could have won the war by helping out by not
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losing. i don't think that the davis necessarily solve this as a high point he was stating that the actual victories back in 1861 and 62 and 63 had been highpoint but nonetheless be out what appeared promising because it looked like the north was going to fill in at the top and then of course came the fall of atlanta and that i think was the greatest blow to davis. he blamed joe johnston for that and i think he probably was right about johnston's failure to carry out the defensive and ben davis removed him from the command. >> host: didn't someone say they would have lost the battle in atlanta by fleeing south?
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>> guest: today gettysburg has gone countless times. is gettysburg today but it was then commented that lincoln or davis or lee think that was the highpoint and did high point and did people think then we've lost the war or was gettysburg not the disaster that vicksburg or atlanta lies in the eyes of the confederacy? of >> guest: it was not such a disaster. in the eyes of the northern people not so much lincoln at gettysburg was a huge victory and got a lot more press than a captured in part because the media center of the country then as it is now was in the northeast and the army of the potomac came from the eastern
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states. so gettysburg had a huge impact on the public opinion but not so much in the south in terms of the strategy of the war i think dick spurred was more important in terms of the politics in the fall of atlanta that gettysburg came to have a special place more than it did at the time and lincoln was disappointed that they didn't follow up the defenses tactical victory of the union army at gettysburg within the offensive strategy that might have inflicted the job as it was tracked by the high waters for ten days. >> guest: he would have resigned but maybe we would have
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had a more aggressive general after that. >> host: i noticed in the book you confessed that you begin with a bit of a bias. you didn't think much about jeff davis or admire him in any way. admittedly you are union man and you announced that in the buck. as you got he got to know jesus better what is the word a sympathy and understanding, any affection? >> guest: i haven't changed my mind that the wrong side in the conflict that led to the civil war he was a proslavery man and i think the confederate have succeeded it would have been a disaster for the course of
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american development so i have not changed my mind on that. but if you grant davis his principles and his perceptions and to have more sympathy or empathy would be the right word i could put myself in his place instead of being a union man i am now the confederate proslavery man. these are my convictions. i'm going to stand by my convictions and here's how i want to defend them in the country that i played a part in creating. i tend to have more of an understanding if you grant those things. in part that's because i conceived of the kind of dislike of his strongest critics and
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even joseph johnson or joe brown of georgia. they were more egregious characters and events so they tend to have a certain degree of empathy. >> host: i wondered what would you say about that because i had the same dilemma when i wrote my book on jefferson davis i didn't know very much about jefferson davis when i began the book. i knew what had been said about him and at one point in the book i thought is something wrong with me and my starting to side with the confederacy but i wasn't and i developed the empathy that you did looking at him being in that position that he faced it was an interesting feeling because i didn't come out of my book confederates were proslavery but it was
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interesting to put ourselves in his shoes. >> guest: when i started the book i was skeptical if i should even be writing this book because i didn't think i could put myself in his shoes but the more that i got into it, the more i was carried along by the story and the drama of the story and the attempt to understand and even appreciate what he was trying to do even if it was dead wrong. >> host: can you give me a list of two or three or four genitals of the men he could rely on? >> guest: robert e. lee was the first one and in a kerry s. way, i came to have more sympathy than i had had before.
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i have accepted had accepted the usual stereotype that he was a general and the just stuck with him too long. i changed my mind on both of those i don't think that he was as bad as his critics who were self-serving and were subordinates in the army of tennessee. and the davis did to try to replace him. you try to get joe johnson to take the commander and in 1863 johnson again defied his wishes on that. i won't say that bragg was one of his best generals but he came to that conclusion and he was the top general.
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the davis came to him with a lot of confidence who basically destroyed his over aggressiveness and cost an arm and a leg. so i guess you could say that he had the growing competence as johnston's successor and he did keep sherman out for the last six but it looks like a johnston was going to abandon. >> host: but he was no better than mcclellan. >> guest: that is exactly right. the advantage goes to lincoln because he got rid of mcclellan.
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>> host: was he a hero in the south or did that ever belonged to the general's? he became a beloved hero after the war and after that he survived lincoln by 24 years. did the first love of the south really belonged to stonewall and others and jefferson davis? >> guest: yes that's true i don't think that he was as unpopular among the ordinary people in the confederacy as the image we might have from the newspapers. he was the subject to savage criticism but i think that he maintained a certain amount of popularity with the ordinary confederate citizens.
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on the three trips that he took to deep south in the course of the war in december 1862 at the fall of 1864 he spoke at a dose dusting or more venues during those trips almost into large and enthusiastic crowds so there was some residue of support it even affection among the general population. but at the same time that the governors, senators, newspaper editors were criticizing him that doesn't mean that he was as popular as the worst wrong while jackson but he was probably more popular than the popular image we would have of his place in the southern infections that would indicate. >> host: in the record there was evidence of the behavior of the people in the confederacy even during the final to scape.
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he passed an old poor woman in a cabin and she held up in infant child an infant child and said he is named for you. davis took the claim and gave it. the town who lamented these were not for the governors and the elites in the country. >> guest: at the same time though, davis davis in some ways in retrospect became more popular than he was because of the martyrdom of the imprisonment. and even he was chained for the first few days which was even though the time of the lowest popularity after he was captured the fact that he was chained and in the present made him an object of sympathy in the south.
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is america was that they come for four years x. >> guest: they always kept in mind when it meant which was holding out and wearing out the will of the northern people to continue making the sacrifices necessary to win this war. but even if atlanta had not fallen or had been re- elected, the whole story might have been different. once the atlanta falls had major victories in the shenandoah valley then it is all over but there were possibilities that if -- as long as he is president and maintains the support of the northern people, the confederacy cannot win but it's possible
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they can if lincoln is not. >> host: plus robert e. lee wright when he said no that no man could have done better? >> guest: i think he was. consider the alternatives. robert toombs, those were the two main competitors when he was chosen. they may have lost the war by 63 >> guest: i don't think anybody could have done better. >> host: hell should we remember the cost of today you
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mentioned how you think of him but how should the american people remember jefferson davis, how should we remember this war and remember the confederacy? >> guest: we should remember it as a great testing of american nationality and american national freedom. and the country survived the test by remaining one nation and by abolishing slavery. that means we remember the confederacy as a challenge to that moment of testing and triumph and jefferson davis is the leader of the challenge. but if we grant that, then davis is somebody that we need to know more about because if we are to understand that successful survival of the challenge by the
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united states, we have to look at the other side of the story the leader of the party that challenged the survival. >> host: the guest has been james mcpherson author of jefferson davis as commander in chief. >> booktv signature program in which authors of the latest on fiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policymakers and others familiar with their material. after words airs every weekend at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9 p.m. on the day into 12 a.m. on the day. you can also watch online. go to and click on the series and the topics list on the upper right side of the page.
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rebecca talks about the history of canine warriors going back to 1942 and it describes the use of dogs in iraq and afghanistan. during this event held at the sixth historical synagogue in washington, d.c., she is in conversation with james, national correspondent for the atlantic create this is test under an hour. .. >>


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