tv The Civil War Brian Steel Wills George Henry Thomas CSPAN November 25, 2021 3:34pm-4:31pm EST
there is no confederate counter attack during the appomattox campaign. it is defensive fighting that happens at saylors creek. but again, two times there is an option to do something that way preserve the offensive possibilities. he sent a force down to hold them off and got the army moving south, that would have said he wants to keep the fight going. or if he moved up portion along the south side of the river and said i am trusting alexander. if he tells me know. i go with him on that one. i hear what you are saying. stedman was in motion for months or a month and a half. maybe he looked at it to buy more time and it didn't.
anyone else? thank you. [applause] >> i am so very happy to introduce one of our favorite people, doctor brian wells. they always put this deal is that man of steel type of thing? mother's maiden name? and then professor of history at kennesaw state university and kennesaw georgia and in addition to all the things he does and offers lectures and conducts programs. and author of numerous works for all good related to the civil war including the civil war in virginia and in the movies. his newest book and glorious passage and i highly recommend
how me different ways somebody can die in a war. [laughter] noncombat tests in the civil war i'm pleased to introduce doctor brian steel wells. [applause] >> it's always good to be back. and then doing a lot of events. is also good to see some of the folks we're meeting for the first time so i am glad that those of you that this is the first time view that is wonderful now next year you can raise your hand when they say who has been here more than one year. [laughter] i have been here a number of years. i didn't realize that is what the dots were for i have not gotten it to where it has to go back to the backside of the thing yet. [laughter] which is good because you don't want to do that in the south too much. [laughter]
but one thing, my wife and i had a beachhouse of holden beach. we loved being there and decided that's a long way to go. we decided to ended up mom —- end up selling it we had the market at the right time and did okay. i'm feeling pretty good about that. but it made me a little nervous about being out holden beach is that i don't really like the layout on the sand. i like to go in the water and at least weighed and jump into the waves a little bit. my wife says that i look like a dolphin jumping in. i'm glad i don't look like what i thought she was going to say. [laughter] more like a beached whale. but one time away did not we down and i had trouble to get up. i thought i better curtail these activities a little better i may not have been again in the future.
fortunately a strange woman help to come call me back up and it was not my wife. i went back to her and she said i saw that i said why didn't you come down and try to help me out? she said i thought she would do and she would like that better. [laughter] there you go. i don't know what that means. i really enjoyed the talks today they were interesting. i learned something. i have written notes down for everyone and i appreciate that. not going into the 30 minute disposition about will green. i don't mind. my affection for you is endless. and he and i go back just like carmichael softball games that i was not on his team i was on the bulldogs i did not yet know i was going to go to georgia so i didn't know how significant that would be that i was a bulldog that early.
one of the blessings is that i don't have to worry about texas kentucky beating my dogs that january or february they won't know what i'm talking about which is okay they don't have to know. i am the director of the civil war center i do have brochures in the back. pick one up at your convenience and we are welcomed to get you to join because that means we can continue what we are doing. so we'll talk about george thomas today that man beneath the rock that has to be a big rock for thomas but that is his nickname. so that's how a lot of people when you say the names with the talked today talk about lincoln and grant and start to think about those immediate
images. the people know thomas at all that's what they know if they don't then they may not know that. but they know at least that much. by the way as students, young people don't know much about history. i wouldn't blame them. i don't think they are trying to hide or all the skate. there's just a lot of other things on their mind. i have a five -year-old grandson who already knows more about everything else than i do in my entire life and i am over 675 years he has become a genius grandpa that's not how it's done. i get that lecture every day. hope it doesn't mean marketing problems for c-span. but he loves that sort of thing and is always explaining it to me. he has at least six different jobs already. he is incredible including a consultant for ballot health. and in the region.
and then i have to believe that later on. because they don't have licensing approval. i'm lucky to be wary and and that so people don't know then i will get by and i will survive. but try to explain of who these people are to my students and get them to be a little bit aware of folks in the past. by getting back to my point before i lose my train of thought, if you were 16, 17, 18 years old, we've got a million things on your mind. think about what you are like. was already reading history books at a young age but a lot of people don't do that.
when you are in your twenties you try to start a life and a career in your too busy to do things you're in your thirties trying to get promoted. then you get in your forties do you see where i'm going? it's really not until you are in your fifties or sixties that you finally have some time to sit back and relax and learn and grow and enjoy. so part of the problem seems to be when you talk to people they don't know anything or have appreciation for history. give him time. i'll be gone but that's all right. we will be in a better place being happy up there. by the way talk about controversial figures when he was saved at the end of his life so whether you like him or not on earth come it doesn't matter. he will be there and you have to deal with that.
there will be anything to tear down or move because he will be there and that is okay because we can be saved by grace. so of course the other name he is probably well known by and i just picked different images of this. so to talk about the most nickname general is a candidate. and has all kinds of different names. so one of the things to get past that. so i grew up what is now suffocate such one —- which is close to sussex. and in southhampton county have two generals that are
important at least two. george thomas and william mahon or billy mahon. and thomas does have a place that is still they are. it is private i would not try to be too crazy. but i am sure they are used to one or two history people stopping taking pictures and the markers and you will see at least one of them here in just a minute. and to have a half bathroom a note that says about him but as historians we can interpret that. what does that mean? it means they wanted a half bathroom. do you get the idea that in history most of the time it is not as much as we make it out to be? i'm just saying. the problem is they won't buy a books or something new.
they don't remember it anyway it is good to those people and those in our mental state it is new tomorrow. i don't even remember. so i want to get benny's those immediate markers and as a biographer i really enjoy that piece of history they're all different types of history but at one —- biography is fun to me because you get into the person in the individual. and i want to write about that because i want to limit them anymore. i understand that their palms of people you don't want to live with. right about the people you have engage with. you will spend some time with them. you will spend some time digging through and reading everything and then you will learn a lot about them and so by the way my next book will
not be civil war with the public face of charlton heston. i'm telling you it's the most interesting book of ever written at some point the book will arrive from china and i'm really looking forward to it. and then to be set up we go to queensland a lot watch the horse races it is kind of like that. and then to look at him and see sets himself and develops himself so it is amazing the canada being on the planet of the apes. [laughter] but that was not accidental they did that on purpose. that want to waste too much more time.
so biography lets me get under the surfaces so i have a real good understanding of william dorsey so the people i have spent time looking at i feel like i have gotten to know them so here are the roots in southhampton county and you can see the markers and it is estimate on —- some attire on —- cemetery style. we will talk later but he is not honor but his family and roots are very definitely in southhampton county and born on july 31st, 1816 so by the time of the war he is mature and has moved along in life a good bit we will talk about the things that make him who he is and those character traits talking about doing
books on someone in mexico and doing chapters on that for a book and thomas was in mexico it's buena vista to me. [laughter] i don't know what those virginians were drinking but the same thing to take it into tolliver. [laughter] them and in georgia they screw things up it is lafayette and monticello. but i guess it's better than being in verse i - - verse i in kentucky so thomas was fighting and imparted this you will see an open feel battle
and then to began to make his name in one of the things the same as for is standing his ground and then say i save my section that is the artillery of battery by being a little slow. now he is showing some tenderness there. there is a tenderness to thomas that i think people always quite get they think rocks. they think solid. and they don't let you understand that. there is a lot more than that. and sometimes it is held back. one of the problems is he will not live to a ripe old age in part because he internalizes a lot. if you internalize a lot things that will be adverse to your health down the line. eventually that will play out when we are the other. >> i love being there.
i really did i was farm boy with every baptist scholarship and i had a great time but also there were a lot of stresses and strains i know at one point i had an ulcer i decided i would not do that i would not let them build up and i have never been acquired ever since. that's not where i turn and personality i turn and high school when i went from an introvert to class president actually school president i'm sorry. i decided i would not miss anymore i was missing so much because i would internalize and go home and i do things. anyway thomas is that way the reason i connected to thomas a very quiet person in his own way trying to do his duty that he doesn't really cultivate to
get rewards or thanks and appreciation he wants and he does is a one act like he wants it i feel like i attached to that pretty well. somebody said you have moved up of the historians because those ahead of you died. [laughter] i said that's a good. [laughter] and longevity as part of the phrase so you stick around and then you move up to the magnificent seven it was probably a few years ago may be the magnificent but then you stick around i may be the magnificent two or three by the time you are at 735. he will be in a chair, chose by then but i will talk for a minute or two.
and i have to tell you this before we go. he was going to get from his neighbors in southhampton county the elements you see at the bottom of the screen with all of the fancy engraved car in material. and given to him but he had to speech. that if i know speeches we don't need to give speeches that his neighbors are very proud this is one of my favorite quotations. very few people know or remember because it comes at a different spot in the book. i cannot say where it is. [laughter] but south carolina girls flirt very charmingly he's noticing is flirting with them but when it becomes serious i gave a practical illustration of the
domestic policy of their state of south carolina to nullify instantly. [laughter] i think i connect to that. when i was in high school if you ask a girl to go out especially the little cheerleader will she say yes or laugh in your face? i was worried she would laugh in my face so i had somebody like will green who had the natural charisma and energy to attract the women and then get the friend. [laughter] but will green is a charming young man. i will not talk about the rest because their lives are present. [laughter] anyway. i have always said that. i hope i'm day ims hansen is years. but all i will say. i do love that picture i have to throw movie in there because i love movies i wrote about the movies and there is little here are.
- - scarlett o'hara. look at john calvin talk about nullification meeting that the thomas had in mind. i will look like that or they will look like that. thomas will see service in large range that part of that is mostly with court-martial in texas and among other things was robert e. lee. and there were connections including at west point. but this quotation is telling. i am realizing people will say you're not actually may not. i try to put the lettering at large and in bold that i cannot leave something to get out of order. now if they are obsessing with making sure things are done in realizing if you are the officer responsibility, that will fall on you. c really can't leave. because if you do it always
seems that something goes wrong. and the session with doing it in full detail doing it completely and also making sure it gets done and this obsession if you're not there to do it, you may pay a price. so that the train in the bottom because another thing i love that comment this morning that robert ev was human. i have a lot of thoughts of robert e. lee. i may write a book one day saying robert ely was not wrong. and then to have a reason for doing it. that may not have worked. that may not have been successful maybe not the best choice. that he had a reason but he didn't just do because he felt like at that because it made sense and i think that is something we read a lot
sometimes it is just a simple explanation that i thought that word work i teach at kennesaw why did sherman attack there? because if you punch your way through you can and the campaign quicker and by the way with grant and his boss and friends bogged down in virginia he punches his way through it looks like he is successful when the other guy is not. isn't that fine when you can rather than their face and say i got this done? what you still doing up there? i heard on tv the other day rather the radio and joan said when so much calvary came, porch joe stoneman can't catch a break. [laughter]
so much calvary. no. that is not the original says. somebody asked me at the sesquicentennial meant i had to tell them who george stoner was. that was fun. but the train is there because thomas comes back east. he steps off the train to stretch his legs. i'm sure this has never happened to anybody. and he steps onto what is solid ground but it is a long embankment. he wrenches his back. if you have ever hurt your back or feet, everything hurts. if your back hurts you cannot lay or sit or stand i am not sure what other things count. and really looking if he could have his active military career come to a close because of that accident so he already has that he has a reason to
have that to be methodical and slow. look like he may have to find another line maybe because it teaches something like that. he could at least get a paycheck so he is pondering other possibilities but then trying to since his active career is over. so a lot of people speculate if you want to be confederate and born in virginia so there is a national crisis and it turns into hostilities. and maybe even more importantly is he loyal or enthusiastic? but that train accident that
took him out for a little while as the nation continue to unravel. >> so with the breakup of the union the question is which loyalty will he have? is at the commonwealth of virginia? is there ample numbers of individuals who chose the state of virginia over something else? that t word is thrown around real easy with a book about robert e. lee that prominent trader. that is not get is very far. when you say that you already shut a lot of doors because what else does somebody want to read when you throw that line out right away that somebody is a traitor? what people say about thomas? if he stays at the union and is from virginia and you feel like you should've gone with the confederacy and he doesn't. he is a traitor. if we throw that word around we will be busy all the time. but look what francis
thomas, his wife will say meeting her at west point as an instructor and robert e. lee was the superintendent they had that connection. but there never was a word pass between john altman —- general thomas. is interesting when your wife calls you by your title. but they did have genuine affection for each other i really do. they were just formally affectionate i guess. [laughter] . . . .
but then anyway there is a lot of debate but we should do and when we should do and how else we should do it and he will say at one point to this questioning subordinates it seems you are fighting on the wrong side. you are in uniform and need to behave as if you are in that uniform if you decide to get out that is a different issue that while you are in uniform you have to get your mind right. and eventually his mind is where he says himself i thought it over on all sides. and i have decided i shall
stand firm in the service of the government. he will stay with the united states government and the union. doubting thomas i played off that term. robert anderson of course from fort sumter will speak on his behalf. sherman says he spoke on his behalf so trudeau would be the force label. we don't trust anybody there. but supposedly he confronts thomas he sees him and talks with him and he says what are you going to do? what you go south he says yes and then says oh my god you got me in trouble and said
that i'm going south that the head of my troops i don't know if they actually have that conversation but it was thomas and sherman had a relationship to go back to west point and no one could have been a more indicative case of someone who is both best and worst at the same time as a friend because thomas and sherman to be very close in to say very nice things about him but that ties into a sherman quote and is true as steel but then said that he is slow this is something not so nice that is that relationship it is very interesting but thomas will be told when he has to take an oath when we heard last night about oath taking and what constitutes whether or not i should take an oath or not.
but thomas says i don't care if you want me to take the of everyday before breakfast and each meal taken we will move on from there i will not question about that. but even president lincoln is still waiting him out there been too many examples of a southern connection is been problematic one way or another. it is a fascinating character moment the battle of mill springs and it's led by felix and a newspaper editor turned soldier and i like that name. but that is on a very wet and misty morning using alternate lock weapons it is early in the war and ammunition is getting damp and wet and
problematic it will be several bayonet attacks but unfortunately was all a cough right into the lines by accident and then to start firing they are firing into their friends and they do then they aid comes up and says general, those are the enemies. if you are going to do that, i would strongly suggest you do it a little more quietly. [laughter] say general we have to get the heck out of here and then worse he shoots the horse of the union officer in front of him from like six —- lexington kentucky so back in those days they sure loved kentucky horses. the bullet hit the horse and it cannot be worse because
we've got problems. so then and then fire back and they say why did they know who he was? he was wearing a raincoat and they could not see his uniform and he sounded like an officer so what the heck when officers say stop shooting he stop shooting so in my talking glorious passages there were instances of friendly fire is a common thing that could happen uniform confusion and everything else. so this quote actually comes from at the end of the long day of fighting thomas is closing in on a and tried to bring everything up and to be in position remember told you he was detail oriented? that would've kept pushing intel he pushed them in the river he said i pushed all day long we need to replace our
losses we need to get situated and bring up some artillery and we have us willing cumberland river behind an asset that if you ever study horseshoe bend get back to a river because we are bad if you are the indian in that case but you get my point so thomas period and during the night little steamboat which does a marker dedicated will ferry these men over by ship load until they are gone or essentially all gone. maybe a few stragglers that the book is gone. by the way it disintegrates and scatters and goes home. they may come back later. so very decisive victory and then to say i got you bottled
up and if they had surrendered imagine who would be unconditional surrender? not grant. but thomas. look in january versus february some interesting the enough thomas had a moment that could capture headlines. but at any rate the enemy is gone they got away but that seems speed had his horse shot out from under him and got mad and says why didn't you finish him off last night? and i love it. i've already told you some of the reasons that would have been hard to do. thomas was maybe smart to make sure you regroup before you take the final blow whatever that will be. that he was so busy getting set up, he said i never once thought of it that is very telling first of all you have
to admit that and second it tells you the mind his mind was getting prepared that he didn't think final strike now i will miss the shot and is an opportunity so that is good and bad good in character and transparent and all of those good things and someone missed an opportunity that somebody else may not. in the kentucky campaign that william stark rosencrantz will be put into command and supposedly even being removed in the course of the campaign so looking for someone to do that they turned to thomas who refuses and says i don't want to take a command in the middle of a campaign that i did not design with an army i did not get prepared this is not fair to me or to them or
to anybody. so things are allowed to play out a little bit but when time comes to consider what is happening in the president of the united states to find the famous line is that the virginian weight. thomas is upset there is a saloon of communications but thomas is upset later on he says everybody thinks i'm honest and self-effacing. not quite as modest as everybody thinks i but i have made my case and that has been heard and that is the outcome and the result of it and we will stick with that in one of my favorite lines i have made my last protest hereafter he
may put a stick over me if you choose to do so and i will take care to manage my command whatever it may be it will not be involved in the mistakes of the stick if you mess up it will not be my fault but a tell thomas you are given an opportunity and you declined it would be hard to turn around and give it to you again today that the campaign is over and we are moving on. stubborn and offense making sure don't go too much overtime to have time for questions but there is at least two occasions where that will be a hallmark for him especially as we saw in chickamauga oh to be famous for defense for he will be the one to hold the army together while that we groups in m&a try to figure out what to do
this is to famous things. there are some questions and it goes back to the whole history in business. hemi people have to write about it for it to be true? and to see what makes sense of the circumstance in the individual. and in thomas' case he was dozing and had a tendency after a long hard day but then he wakes up and says something profound and maybe the only one that hears it at this in the room because the microphone was down but back in the back they don't hear it so he must not have said it because they will say that he said it but it doesn't matter if they heard him at least he can make the argument he might have said that and it does fit his personality. this army cannot retreat.
you can't retreat. and ultimately okay of course stones river turns out successful for the federals. and everything goes downhill very fast thomas who holds on against multiple attacks and then to go around and at some point then there is the famous picture. he is it flashy and then you don't see a lot of the george thomas prints. so the market has changed
dramatically. so he is handing the looking glass over but he always said the horses like the writer. very calm and steady and cool. and when he was is, to smooth it down. it is just a tell about his personality. and that is what his tendency was. she —- i can think of a lot worse tendencies and then that word ruined the army and the position must be held until night with the idea we cannot pull off of this position until the time is right. but then when other people were panicking and fleeing
thomas was steady as a rock standing right there. and with that personality trait of reliability and dependability and that solidity that comes with him. i like this because basically the president in the united states comes full circle to someone disparaging thomas and likening him to week generals from other places and says you can say what you want to but thomas has earned our respect and proven himself that there are no more suspicions about him and no more doubts. he has done incredible service at chickamauga. in chattanooga he will briefly be in charge we have rosencrantz there this is why you have me out to lunch. boom. there it goes. did you see that.
[laughter] my five -year-old grandson had nothing to do with that. [laughter] i learned that before that sucker was born. he's not getting credit for everything technologically. and he promises he will hold chattanooga until they starve and then forces and russians with every reason why thomas and grant have some problems. they claim is that thomas and grant will fall out because of shiloh then grant is put on a shelf. if grant wages war in a different way than thomas , then that did not mesh. it clashed as part of the problem. we will go through this but ultimately and then down in missionary ridge to first set
the table and then finish off the siege of chattanooga at missionary ridge. so that shermans wheel horse. i promise to finish this very quickly. but sherman says that thomas is is off the wheel horse and with three sets of forces the lead pair and the swing pair and those that are the closest with the and that is the one that you don't ride. so he was trying to say one of the two horses that matter the most to me the only ones with the brakes with those big strong strapping horses didn't put anything you could even play john and the lead horse. [laughter] he is a dear friend we go back long way and i look forward to his talk but he could be a
lead horse. and then with the heavy lifting so the swing pair that is a total waste i will not take anybody out because that would be sad to say who the total waste is but it is very significant you cannot control it and somehow that's not the horse you will ride. i love that picture of sherman but he doesn't like he is unsavory i do have a different line but the national campaign with the last major campaign he is relieved twice and grant is on his way to replace specifically. and thomas is part of grandson patience and grants desire to have a strike that will be
these any potential with nashville late 1864 there is an i.c.e. storm. all kinds of problems and then bringing in andrew jackson smith troops from abroad and out and again thomas has a lot to do with his plate will not strike before he is ready because he knows the worst thing he can do is launch a blow that isn't successful. so it has to be overwhelming and he has to get the job done. but john calhoun could tell you different he is about to get smashed it's another one of those things with the sledge of nashville to hammer
him. so one thing that thomas complained to wilson was they treat me like a child they don't think i'm capable of doing a campaign. after the success and then to finish them off and then said dang it i told you we would like them. and that is when thomas repeated something he was very excited. and when you try to get regular promotions and then is happy to get it but also not happy because to say i earned this earlier i earned us at chickamauga. not here at nashville. i will take it.
talk about doing the cemetery wayne and i both like cemeteries. and before it was power washed. he is not buried in virginia. he is buried in troy new york with his wife's family. so that gives you a sense of her influence. he died dies march 20th and doesn't that much longer after the war of heart attack or stroke or something because it comes on in a hurry and he is gone by the end of the day. it is pretty bad. i'm not a doctor. he was reading some stuff about nashville where schofield is taking credit for everything and it upset him so much that it killed him. so remember all that stuff internalizing it it killed him. there's a lot more we could talk about later.
that's one reason i'm not a fan of schofield. if you are a big schofield and god bless you he needs all the help he can get. [laughter] how do you love kilpatrick unless you are interested in cooper? [laughter] do you know why i said that? anderson cooper his can goes back to kilpatrick so when soldiers set i would like to have a chance to go on leave and the general said i haven't seen my wife and three and half years and a fellow said me and my woman ain't that kind. and that thomas cracked up laughing which is not common for him. so the good soldier got him laughing. i found this in the records about his work after the war was over and he wanted to transfer a guy out of his command because he was listed as a for the sister of the
same name that can play an instrument. [laughter] it's hard to be a musician for can't play an instrument and then when he went to the west coast but then on a wide ranging inspection tour all the way to the northwest and into alaska that it was a total waste of space and it wasn't anything that seals so he didn't see that but still have that sensitivity because i did fast traveling for a slow man then finally the temper sherman would say it's not as much as the world thinks even as early as going all the way back to kentucky when they first started the war he starts in the eastern theater with one engagement
and is in the western theater from then on. they call him to make a speech at camp nelson. but is called out to make a speech and says i will not do it. band the speechmaking that is a word he chooses and why does anybody want to speak or talk to make a speech we are here to make soldiers and then saw somebody abusing the animals. go home you may do well to feed the cattle that you will not feed my soldiers abusing the soldiers and the animals will not work. my favorite is the postwar comment where a southerner ignores him for a considerable period of time and then decides his neighbor, george
henry thomas might be nicer to. he tries to make pleasantries and he says too late. remember he repeats himself you defend away the day of grace i hope i haven't offended away my day of grace that will do it for george henry thomas. [applause] i will leave that up there for a minute he really did feel the history would do him justice i will leave that to you that actually happened he was actually cast in washington and his face was on some money but thomas is an interesting character and that's my picture after looking at each other with four benning georgia that goes
all the way back to fort benning georgia. questions? that petersburg battlefield we were very good. >> so you show the monument in washington dc also in lebanon kentucky is it time to have a monument here in virginia quick. >> there are some arguments that could be a way to get the civil war back on monument avenue. [laughter] that's a thought remember i went to the university of richmond and i used to go down monument avenue quite a lot now i guess it is monument left avenue. there are some places that might hold him he was a virginian and a prominent
figure if you can bring that to life, i don't know. >> talk about internalizing issues. can you talked about internalizing the animosity because he stayed with the union? >> the question is the animosity and they were not even speak his name but in always considered important how you raised as a child give you indications of what you would be and the one brother in vicksburg was the one that was probably the most realistic. i don't think george had a choice to do other than what he did. but supposedly the sisters were so angry they turned out
portrait of thomas to the wall and did other things to show their displeasure. i've never been in the house just to the house never actually seen the bathroom or used the bathroom i've just heard about it so i cannot swear there is a picture turned backwards but that is one of the famous stories. i know that bothered him i know that had to tear him up because he had to feel that his family was important to him and he was so to understand the middle child you are a negotiator and the firstborn you take that sweet little angel who can do no wrong and then you try to hold everybody else together with those two extremes because you have to placate and as part of the personality he learned how to placate and then if you go
today you will not see jerusalem you will see portland but again the family had slaves a future union general the family had slaves. he supposedly snuck out reading materials for them to see and use and of course whether he did or not but that just sounds good on paper i do know why and historian or biographer that looked at nashville as a great moment of epiphany for george thomas that he realizes when james stedman that when a lot of those black troops are killed across the confederate line takes place.
and he says that this proves it will fight that people read internet and finally he recognizes african-americans will fight. but what he always did so he will try to train you but you have to prove yourself and you prove yourself in battle you can prove yourself in battle he doesn't care you'll be his people in his position always was i did not do anything that my army made me he never said it is because of me. these achievements took place because my army did this and made me. >> i worry about after all of the good food and cookies. thank you for having