tv Panel Discussion on Westward Expansion CSPAN May 20, 2017 4:15pm-5:06pm EDT
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sale in the politics and prose tends. today, peter cozzens and william hogeland will be discussing their works that bookend the history of the us expansion westward from the atlantic states to the pacific. each book addresses the impact of that extension and the natural destiny on the lives, cultures and societies of the people indigenous to the continent, people we call native americans or american indians. it is not necessarily an element of american history that gives us great pride. gives the meaning to the expression land of the free and home of the brave but there are two sides to the history of the presentation of perspective of the new and indigenous elements in both of these books. william hogeland is the author of the autumn of the black snake. he writes and speaks and brings his banjo on topics that connect
american history and today's political and cultural struggles, his focus is on insurrection, economic crisis, social class and conflicting american visions of democracy, equality and liberty. he has several critically acclaimed works of early us history included in the american collection and the university of texas covering america series. the autumn of the fifth snake is his fifth book. it begins in 1791. these are the indian wars many of us are less familiar with. he writes of the battle between the pioneers and indians and the political battle between important for your figures in american history. peter cozzens is author and editor of 17 books on the american civil war and american west and recipient of a number of awards including the most recent book, the prize for
military history, very prestigious prize among historians. he recently retired from the 30 year career as foreign service officer at the department of state and prior to joining foreign service served as captain in the u.s. army, someone who has a career like that has time to offer 17 books and many of these books have the same sweeping nature of his early work. peter's newest book, the epic story of the indian wars for the american west, names are familiar, custer, sherman, grant and a host of other military and political figures and great native leaders such as crazy horse, sitting will, geronimo and red cloud. one viewer describe the work as a reminder the tragedy, not melodrama, best characterizes the struggles for the american west so please join me in welcoming the gaithersburg book festival welcome to william
hogeland and peter cozzens. [applause] >> thank you very much. we will try to keep it informal. we didn't bring banjos but each of us will talk about our books and interview one another, then take questions from you folks. my book the earth is weeping, the story of the indian wars, is a history of the climactic struggles for the american west from the end of the civil war until the tragedy at wounded knee, and i cover the entire sweep of the indian wars from the canadian border south into
the recesses of the sierra madre, mexico, a lot of beds of northern california, east to arkansas missouri rivers, three decades and a lot of struggles condensed into one book. what i have sought to do in my book more than anything else is tele balanced story from both the indian and white perspective equally. to give you the story from both perspectives as best i could. we jump back in history and i turn it over to bill. >> my book the autumn of the black snake came today, the story of the first war this nation ever fought. not only the first war the nation ever fought but the war in which the u.s. army was
formed. the army was formed as a national, federally organized force to fight this war but of course that army has gone on to have global significance and the politics of forming that army were a fraud to put it mildly. george washington wanted a standing army. a lot of people didn't. in the context of this war, the little-known -- doesn't figure in the popular imagine the same way, little-known founding indian war, our army was created and in fact takes place, the warfare takes place largely in the midwest. it was the conquest of what became the american midwest which so quickly after that started to become the industrial heartland, industrial economic driver that helped make america a great force around the world. i thought it is funny we don't
talk about this or. i got into it here and it is interesting how the two books in a funny way combine. once we fought the war, it begins to open up the entire conquests of what became the bigger american west. what peter -- epic, sweeping. this is the smaller, two or three sentences another book and i had to pry it open to get a story out of it so they complement each other and contrast in interesting ways. we are going to moderate ourselves, we will keep it moderate. >> i will ask questions and turn
it around and ask me and themes will develop, have some questions as well. the biggest question, what got you interested in the history of the war? >> i came to the indian wars circuit asleep. not at all intentionally. my other works were on the american civil war, i was writing a biography of john pope who is forgotten, after he lost the battle of second manassas. i was intrigued, pope went on to have a distinguished career as an army department commander in the west and what struck me was how empathetic he was toward the indians in their play and how
humanitarian he was in the general level discussed with the fraud and injustice perpetrated -- folks need more reading and his attitude was quite common among army generals who thought the indian wars. came at it indirectly so from that, increasing the subject overall. >> what comes up, one of the many things is the mythology around the indian wars. touch on the missed we are familiar with. >> one thing i argue in my prologue, to some degree or another all history is informed by myth but i would contend there is no other period in
american history that is so deeply shrouded in mist that the indian wars of the american west -- it is traditionally presented in much popular fiction, cinema and to a lesser degree more serious works of nonfiction, absolute struggle between good and evil with villains and heroes being changed to accommodate and evolving national consciousness. what you had in the first 80 years after wounded knee was the story of the indian wars presented in which the government was trying to civilize the west, the army was seen as shining night of an enlightened governmental policy and indians were vilified or trivialized, certainly presented
1-dimensional fashion and wounded knee, 1970 of the year later one of my favorite films, little big man, dustin hoffman and the american indian movement, the growing national sentence of guilt over the injustice done to the american indians, coincided with the latter years of the vietnam war and the story shifted to the other extreme and you had the indians being absolute good and the army and government embodying absolute evil. the truth never reflects one extreme or the other and i tried to bring balance. the three principal miss i touched on quickly, one of the myths the government pursuing
indian policy that was extermination in nature, it was never -- there was never an intention of the government to exterminate the indian, cultural genocide to use a modern term doing away with the indians way of life was taken for granted if the indian were to survive but physical genocide was not part of the government's intention. the myth the army was hell-bent on exterminating the indians i alluded to john pope's views and tried to counter that in my book. thirdly, a notion that there was a united indian resistance against white encroachment in the west and nothing could be farther from the truth. no tribe was ever unified, white expansion, accommodation and traditional elements in each
tribe but those of the principal miss i try to disabuse the reader of in the book. >> in terms of consistent white opposition, the question of indian identity throughout your book, is there a common indian identity that the tribes go around. how does that function? >> no sense of indian this among the indians. the indians identified first and foremost as members of extended family group, secondarily members of their tribe, thirdly and occasionally as part of an alliance with one or two other tribes but never as members of a larger ethnic or racial group.
rarely indians identify above the tribal levelland tribes have been fighting one another for many many years before whites appeared on the scene. it was generally a contentious relationship among tribes in the west. >> root causes of that what you said. competing with each other for so long already. are there other causes for the absence you identify? >> the struggle for hunting grounds, land, limited resources and the cultures in the west for the most part were warrior cultures and the only way a younger man could make anything of self, a younger man couldn't even date a girl until he established for himself a
certain number of war owners and those war honors were obtained at the expense of other tribes, stealing horses, taking scalps, counting coup. this warrior culture is a fundamental part of the way of life among the tribes in the west. >> which leads me to this question, that is one kind of warrior culture. can you speak to the contrast between the upbringing and training of the indian warrior, give more detail of that, that would be interesting and that of the american soldiers. >> the contrast couldn't have been more stark. indian boys were raised from childhood to become warriors, a little bow and arrow among
tribes, the comanche children started riding horses at age two or three so that warrior nature was implicated from the time they were toddlers, and as army officers who had any amount of time in their west readily acknowledged the indians, a couple in the book consider the army officers to be the finest calvary men, national cavalry and national soldiers in the entire world. certainly man for man they were far better fighters than the army. the post-civil war army was a disaster. it was really the nadir of the u.s. army after founding. you had the civil war fought by veterans, volunteers fighting
for a purpose. the postwar army was a volunteer army that numbered as little as 25,000 blue at one point. the pain was lower than it was during the civil war. there were few incentives to enlist. the desertion rate was 80%. most men fired their first shots from their weapons when they were engaged with indians. there was very little training of any sort. and listed men were drunken dissipated lot in large member as were their officers in large measure. why is that q as the army shrunk opportunities for promotion shrunk. i won't say entirely so but
among most of the officer corps before the rank of general if you had anything going for you, you got out of the army after the civil war, the indian war, west point graduate, it took 25 years to make major, 37 years to make colonel if you live that long so the army was a very poor organization but what it did have was it was fought better, more individualistic. >> there are great figures, people are familiar with people who show up in your book. your view of these great figures we might know change markedly in the consequence as a consequence of your research and the writing process? >> i don't want to steal time from bill or you folks.
>> we will be okay. >> i would say to give a teaser to buy my book, custer comes off a little better than i thought he would. i don't consider him to have been a fool and i don't exculpate him for little bighorn but i understand where things went wrong for him. no one is black or white but the closest to one emerging, the closest to evelyn's geronimo. he was a despicable figure and i will leave it at that and let you read the book. on the other side of the coin, oliver otis howard who founded the university, no one in the army by his fellow general says
the general emerges very favorably and on the indian side, a very high appreciation for chief sitting bull and chief joseph. >> what is coming up? what is your next sweeping epic? >> my next book will be a biography of a railroad train. [train horn] >> can everyone hear me okay? sort of a nice sound. adds to the ambience of it. my next book will be a biography of chief tecumseh, the great shiny chief -- shiny chief who led the indian alliance in the old northwest, killed in the war of 1812 and interestingly his career as a warrior took shape, took form during the time of buildup.
it was very helpful to me. not only did i enjoy it but it was helpful to understand the early years of tecumseh's life. >> they do goad together. by two books. >> i wish i could say for the price of one. >> i will always the first question back to bill and ask what got him started and interested in this topic. >> i come at it from a different angle. the early republic specifically resistance to the early republic. my first book was about the whiskey rebellion, and i got into it that way. i have been studying resistance to the founding generation's
plans for the country and the founding generation this, responses to that. of the three books i have done on that this is the big story. the big resistance. this is the attempt to prevent us expansion west and north of the ohio river which was a massive national project, george washington and many others could not have envisioned without successfully achieving that but while it seems inevitable to us now that it had to happen, no way it couldn't have happened, people of the time from washington to arthur sinclair to anthony wayne, successful general, to the various leaders of the indian confederation that resisted this it wasn't obvious to them that it would happen. whether this would be a successful conquest or whether the nations would be able to
actually resist and even prevent white expansion westward so without the action in this book it is hard to imagine the early republic thriving so it fits into my work in terms of coming at it from that angle. the biggest and best of the stories of resisting the foundation that did in the end occur. >> speaking of the founding fathers like george washington and others like alexander hamilton figuring in this story. i came away from figuring their motives were not entirely disinterested to say the least. how might my perception of these men change through the lens of the story? >> washington is an important character in this book because his interest in that land, talking about what became the
midwest. the ohio country, the illinois county and michigan and indiana and the rest of the midwest. in that region, personal interest in that region begins his career as an important person in america. he made his way as a young man beginning in his teenage years by figuring out where the best land was and finding ways to invest in it. he was largely disinherited in favor of his older half-brother is and massive advantage, people think only hamilton didn't come from massive advantage but washington didn't come from massive advantage and he had to make up for a lot, to be a man by the standards given to him by hustling and becoming a major
investor and developer in land down the ohio valley but he wasn't the only one. everybody who could was in the game at that time so it wasn't a surprise, anything but a surprise that once the nation had been formed the one of the key policy issues was can we gain sovereignty of that land. again, it gets to the same issue you were talking about, villainy versus heroism. once you find out how personally interested all these people where you can begin to scorn them more, denigrate them. they were hypocrites. it is more complicated as it always is. we can relate to their combining their vision of a nation with an expensive imperial vision. it wasn't just washington, hamilton, it was jefferson.
brings all the conflicting strands of the founding together but it is certainly let them off the hook of having perfect, devoid of interest because they weren't. they were like everybody else and those desires coincided with a busy world changing time. one thing that came out of that was this conquest and that is what it was to take american possession of the midwest. >> to the other side of this picture can you speak to the principal indian leaders in this period and tell us why they are not so well known as leaders in the west? >> a big question. my main characters, the people i focus on the most on that side
our little turtle, miami war leader and. jacket, shani war leader. among people who are interested in these topics, that whole subject. their relationship was very interesting. they collaborated with great brilliance to defeat at first american transgression across the ohio river into their area. little turtle and blue jacket working together had the biggest, enjoyed the biggest victory in all of the history of the indian wars. that is not even controversial. no one has heard of them. you can see me getting defensive about my guys. just in itself and interesting fact we haven't heard about. must be telling in some ways, they had the most successful
campaign against the us ever and what came out of it was the formation of a military force. national united states military force that hadn't existed before that became our military establishment and what came out of it was the conquest of the beginnings of the wars to conquer our slice of continents. the fact we don't know their names will never stop striking me as surreal and the relationship was fascinating because they were different personalities because they work together really well and under certain pressures they stop working well together and that drama is part of the drama of the story. >> in the battle we were talking about with blue jacket and arthur sinclair. nearly 900 soldiers were killed,
not as many soldiers killed in that one battle as these two chiefs lead the entire indian war in the american midwest. these guys had something going. >> not even proportional but in terms of numbers. it blows my mind that we don't know about that. the war i am discussing does not have a name. the war that formed our nation and formed our movement toward becoming the -- a great nation as hamilton and jefferson defined and others of their generation. doesn't have a name. the enemy or from the other point of view, those who were conquered don't seem to have names. i mentioned two that we know the most about. it was a gigantic confederation
of nations that came together to resist. not just these two and their people but a big consideration of nations and they had success for a wild. >> speaking of that, i was talking about lack of indian identity in the west but that was not the case east mississippi river. talk about how strong that sense of community was in the role it played in that. >> it is quite different in the story i am telling, more like they developed without giving up the identity. members of nations and branches of nations. they did define themselves for the first time in that area, it wouldn't necessarily be the term they would use. we get interesting vocabulary problems talking about this
which in themselves are worth dwelling on. there is a strong hand in the movement forward where a lot of differences were put aside in order to resist this first major incursion of the united states so they think of themselves as a movement among -- it wasn't perfect because nothing ever is but there was a movement to do that, define the indigenous people as indigenous first whatever their other differences were to keep the united states back behind the ohio river. at the same time no. to imagine that could ever have prevailed, the politics among these nations was very complicated and very intense and there were many many members of that group that were pushing back against perfect military unity against the united states, some hoping to make deals with
the united states and others hoping to play the role of middlemen and brokers, honest brokers for p sometimes, sometimes less honest. the complexities are there but there was an ideology that partly defined the confederation i'm talking about. >> a wrap up question before we open it up. mike talked about how the indian warriors compared with the army in my period. >> what you were saying resonates very much. after sinclair's defeat the u.s. army such as it was, it wasn't a legitimate army anyway in terms of size or composition. there was no army. he had to build the u.s. army once congress passed the real army bill, had to build the u.s. army from scratch and he did it so we give him credit for that. however you feel about the
effects of his efforts he was a powerful leader in many ways but he was working -- the people who joined in those days there was a backdoor draft, a way of getting 3 squares a day and some clothing for some people so you didn't have a lot of people, would sign up for the army and you have signed up, that sounds great but they are taking you into the middle of what you consider to be nowhere with potentially devastating consequences so desertion was a huge problem and is what was created by relentless training and real and much physical punishment. flogging plays a huge role in how the army did develop. so we don't go on and on we get you into this, we only have 15 minutes left, i think. anyone want to ask a question or
make a comment? sorry. i forgot. you have to wait for the microphone to ask your question. i always forget. we better remind each other of that. >> i am wondering what are the feelings or attitudes of the current native american people about what happened during the period you wrote about in your book? >> that is a question i can spend an hour on in and of itself. i don't think there is any real consensus. one thing i should have added to this lack of indianness, fought on the side of the army.
of the government. and the building of the transcontinental railroad. one thing they will show is the ones who made that possible were the poni indians who form the battalion and drove off the cheyenne and sioux warriors, a year off of the construction of the railroad. tribes like the crow, i have come to know a number of crow and they are generally quite pleased with the way things turned out. their reservation part of it is on land they had lost to the sioux and got back after the indian wars. they are generally content. obviously the tribes the didn't fare so well, the apache, the sioux, have a very different view of it and they see, they
see it through their own particular lens and they see the government corruption, the broken treaties, broken promises that led them to where they are. if you have never been on a reservation in the west, it is quite a cheerful experience. it really is. speaking of the cheyenne or the apache sioux reservation was the misery continues to this day but just like the tribes were not unified then, they are not unified now. you have little battles going on between the sentence of geronimo in descendents of the opponents of geronimo and they are still fighting their own bold internal battles. there is no sense of consensus among tribes that did not fare
well that we -- that they got shafted which they did. >> the microphone is going around. >> can you explain how you got the title of your book autumn of the black snake? >> the black snake is a name for general anthony wayne. name his enemies gave him when he was on the march and it was not intended as an insult. it was a compliment. grudging complement to an enemy they respected because the black snake, the actual black snake of nature, the animal, doesn't sleep. that was their idea. little turtle, when he saw wayne coming, they kept trying to raid his supply, they had targeted strategic tactical ideas how to stop forward motion not by trying to take casualties so much as making it impossible to move forward but they could not
raid his supply. this -- he was mad anthony but he was mad anthony because he was maniacally disciplined about precautions and little turtle saw that and called him black snake. some thought we would beat him anyway, it will be another sinclair battle, little turtle was like he doesn't sleep as we have to start rethinking this. comes from that nickname he was given. >> i am curious about two things. the time period of autumn of the black snake starts after the revolution. is that correct? >> the actual war is later than that and climaxes in 1794. >> the militias that were formed
are still state militia. and what took place on the state level. >> this was a critical thing, the murder of the militia system. the militia system such as it was, washington felt it played of negative role in the revolution. he was dismayed by what he considered the old discipline of the militia and the possibility of achieving any coalescing force. during the revolution against militia. as they were beginning to when the revolution we might survive this and win, he was pushing hard, the continental congress before there was a u.s. congress for a permanent peacetime establishments. this is anathema to so many people at that time who were --
that is a standing army. we can't have that. there is a tool of monarchy and oppression so what happens during the course of the story. i mix the war with the politics of replacing the militia system with the nationally run army. the politics are complicated and i can't give the whole answer now but this is a critical moment in american history for that reason. thanks for the question. >> i am a long ago classmate of peter cozzens, shout out to knox college in illinois. one thing many of us know about history is slavery was not just ended by lincoln, not just ended by the civil war been a decade-long abolitionist movement. i'm wondering if there was anything comparable in the indian realm, european american voices in the 19th or even the
18th-century that said the brutal extermination of the aboriginal peoples of north america is morally problematic? >> most definitely. the longer the indian wars went on in the west and the closer they came to their termination the larger this movement grew. they called themselves eastern humanitarian movement. largely former abolitionists in search of a new cause and they were genuinely interested in the indians welfare, the indians well-being and entreaties being implemented as they should be but with this caveat. even the most ardent advocate of indian rights through the lens of that time did not believe there was anything worth saving
in the native cultures. they believed the only way the indian could be saved was through his civilization and christianization. kill the indian to save the man. there was a strong movement even during the course of the indian wars. you see this divide in the national press. the national press east of the fighting zone, east of the mississippi river was quite pro-indian as were members of congress in the east and midwest, whereas the west there really was, there was a popular extermination sentiment among many. the only good indian is a dead indian. there was a bifurcation in attitude but there was a strong
indian rights movement but that did not -- the indian rights movement was opposed to genocide but using the lingo of today was entirely fine with cultural genocide. >> going back to this idea of local organizations like militias, as they go through the west how much does that settlement movement play into how the government responds? do you get what i am asking? >> as settlement goes on, reform for self protection and so forth. >> what is the relationship between that change and the national? >> in the period i am talking about there was an uneasy and cobbled together kind of relationship in which because there was a national army now
there is a national army, hamilton for example was like we don't need these militia at all. .. i thought the british helped the indians in defeating st. claire, how big -- is that true and what was the impact of that? >> yeah. the relationship between the british america and native confederation i'm talking forms
a major part of story and it was complicated and again very front and highly problematic but they definitely did support that confederation. not only in the sinclair defeat but also confederation against wayne as well but only up to a point and one of the tragic moments where the confederation, blue jacket, believe they could depend on british support and little turtle said if they don't give us artillery, they're not helping us. they can talk all they want. what anthony wayne thought he showed in the battle was that the native confederation could not rely on british support. it was in tend just a lot of talk. >> thanks. >> once you took the element -- >> the last question.
>> and he died in the world of 1812. the situation between british and indians were similar then. the british wanted the indians there assort of a buffer against the united states but they department want them to precipitate a war that might draw direct britain in direct conflict against the united states. so they were dangerous game. >> no clear what was going on. >> exactly. exactly. i think we -- one more question. okay, one more question. >> or we can just talk randomly. [laughter] >> was there a justification for that or was it just a blatant -- >> that's a key question.
>> from the u.s. point of view the justification was that great britain succeeded the land and the united states says that's ours, we have a treaty document that says it's our and the native people living there, well, you didn't defeat us yet, we are still fighting you. so first you have to defeat us at least and so that -- the u.s. felt it had strong justification, though, an i think that's an important -- an important point to bring out. i appreciate that question. >> i think that does it. i want to thank bill and peter for their discussion and -- [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you. >> they would be signing books immediately after. hopefully and probably meeting with -- will be signing down here. thank you again for attending, don't forget to fill out the