tv The Civil War Strategy and the Civil War CSPAN November 16, 2013 4:00pm-5:01pm EST
it would come from the marianas and fly 1,000 miles but they had to go over iwojima to get to tokyo. so iwojima would forewarn them by radar and they also had planes there that could shoot down the injured b-29s when they were returning. in fact, it got so bad that a friend of mine by the name of general randall who was there, he told me that they had submarines almost every 50 miles between tokyo and saipan to pick up the flyers. >> the battle for iwojima told by the men who were there, today at 5:00 eastern. part of american history tv this weekend on c-span 3. next, author donald stoker looks at the strategy and tactics of union and confederate armies during the civil war. he examines the objectives of union general george mcclellan and confederate general braxton bragg and how missed opportunities on both sides
affected the outcome of the war. mr. stoker is a strategy and policy professor at the naval war college in monterrey, california. the bryant park corporation, oxford university press and the new york historical society co-hosted this 55-minute event. >> thank you so much, paul. good evening, everyone. as paul mentioned, i'm alex kassl, manager of public programs at the new york historical society, and it's a pleasure to see so many familiar faces in the audience tonight and a great pleasure to introduce tonight's speaker and to once again partner with bryant park corporation and oxford university press on this terrific lecture series. we've had a great run this summer. next week is our final week in the series and at the historic society, we just announced the fall-winter series, and that's on the website now, brochures to come early september, so something exciting to look forward to. tonight's program will last about an hour and will be
followed by a book-signing by our featured speaker, donald stoker, professor of strategy and policy for the u.s. naval war college's program at the naval post graduate school in monterey, california. he is the author and editor of six books, including "strategy in the war of american independence 1775-1783" and "britain, france and the naval arms trade in the baltic 1919-1939." he also written for magazines like "north and south" and "military history quarterly" and "naval history." his recent book "the grand design strategy and the u.s. civil war" was critically acclaimed and won the fletcher pratt award for best civil war book of 2010. before we begin, we ask that you turn off any cell phones or electronic devices. and now, please join me in welcoming donald stoker. >> well, thank you all very much. i'd like to thank the bryant park corporation and new york historical society for having me
here. first thing i have to say is that everything i say is my opinion and not that of the u.s. government or the u.s. naval war college. that's my antifiring clause there, so. well, obviously, i'm here tonight to talk about the book that i wrote on the civil war. and i think obvious question to ask is, okay, why in the field with 60,000 books would someone else be foolish enough to write another book on the civil war? and the number's probably doubled since the anniversary here, the centennial. but my interest in the civil war developed from teaching it in our strategy and war class. and as we were teaching it, i was not very happy with what we had available, because there's a lot of great civil war literature and a lot very well written, but it tends to be dominated by battle narratives, often extremely good ones, but they didn't look at the bigger strategic issues and say, well, why is one side doing what it's doing?
what are they doing? why are they doing it? what are they hoping to accomplish by doing this? what are their actions? what impact are their actions actually having? you know, so i wanted to get beyond just the smoke and the bayonets and do very much a top-down view of what was going on. and i started out thinking, okay, i'll write a book 60,000 words or so from the secondary sources, so we'll have something concise that maybe i could use in the classroom. and as i dug into the literature more and more, i found out, well, none of it really addresses what we wanted to address. they say strategy, but they're actually talking about tactics. they usually talk about battles and call it strategy. occasionally, they talk about campaigns or operations as we would call it today and call it strategy, but they're never talking about the larger use of military force. what on the larger level, in the larger scale, what are the larger ideas driving what each side is doing and how does this relate to achieving their political objective, which the nutshell how we do analysis at the war college.
you know, so, the more i dug, and i started digging really into the primary source as much as i could. i pretty much abandoned the secondary literature and started looking at the letters of the people that are actually involved, which is wonderful reading, actually. the letters of grant, lee, lincoln, jefferson davis. i mean, it's -- well, not so much jefferson davis, but a lot of the other guys. reading their letters is really an education itself, and just amazingly interesting as well, and that's what i ended up building the book around. the framework is primarily their correspondence and the official correspondence from the war itself, which is readily available. and some of the memoirs, you know, as well. and so, i end up then with this 200,000-word book, which is a lot more than i intended to write and what the publisher expected to get once he got the book. he said what do i do with this? it's a lot longer than you told me, but hey, we'll work something out. and the book is, again, largely
drawn from their correspondence. and the big question here behind it is, okay, what does strategy have to do with the prosecution and result of the war? why does the union win? why does the south lose? what does strategy have to do with this? why does the union get its political objective of keeping the union together? why does the south not get its independence? now, using that as kind of my baseline and then looking at what the people were actually doing, what they were saying at the time, i came up with a number of conclusions that are somewhat controversial to those that are very familiar with the civil war. so, what i decided to do tonight was talk about very briefly three things that some are more controversial conclusions, and among civil war buffs, this will stir some problems here usually. one said george mcclellan was the civil war's greatest strategic thinker. that usually raises hackles on some people right there. and the same for braxton bragg, that he was the only confederate general to author a coherent,
strategic plan for the confederacy. no one else does it. and thirdly, that the campaign for vicksburg is fought at the wrong place, the wrong time for the wrong objective. the union should have been finding someplace else. well, first one then, on mcclellan. conventional wisdom on mcclellan is essentially that he's slow, disrespectful to lincoln that he's indecisive, a failure as a commander. some people would even say he was a coward. this man had three promotions for bravery in two years in the mexican war, not a cowardly bone in this man's body, but that is some of the criticism that you'll see leveled at him. and there's a lot of truth to some of the criticism, particularly in the very poor manner which he treated lincoln and dealt with lincoln. but to me, the loathing that you very often see in the literature toward mcclellan ends up clouding what are some very interesting, and for an american thinker during this period and up to this point, very original strategic ideas. mcclellan, who was he? in august of 1861 after the
failure of the union's offensive into virginia, lincoln brings george b. mcclellan to washington, d.c., and puts him in command of the forces there. he had had some success in west virginia against robert e. lee, who had become well known later on. as soon as mcclellan is brought to washington, d.c., he writes this extensive plan on how to fight the war and immediately gives it to lincoln. and this is the most far-reaching, strategic plan that an american general ever authored up to this point. now, this plan is critical, because it becomes the foundation stone for mcclellan's thinking for the rest of the war, or at least the time he's involved in the war, about how the war should be fought. he comes back to this over and over, and i'll talk about that here in a moment. okay, what is the plan, august of 1861? well, essentially, think about a map of the confederacy here, and mcclellan's plan boils down to attacking the confederacy from a various number of points at the same time.
one, first thing you want to do, or part of the plan -- it's a multiprong campaign. clear missouri with the troops that were there. he wanted to send a force down the mississippi river, reinforcing it with troops later raised in tennessee and kentucky, take nashville and eastern tennessee and the rail lines there, then move from kansas and nebraska against the red river area and into western texas. excuse me. he even considered an advance from california via new mexico. but the biggest element of it and the most important element of it was he wanted to raise an army of 273,000 men on the virginia theater that would be under his personal command. with this, he looked at this as being the main theater, and he would use this essentially to smash the rebels in the east, is the way he was thinking, then from there, drive deeper into the south. he also supported naval attacks on various points of the periphery of the confederacy. a lot of mcclellan's plans very often consider action of the navy. of course, the naval war college is important, right? we've got to talk about that. so, mcclellan even argued, urged
lincoln to consider mexico for help from mexico as well. again, think about a map of the confederacy, think about attacks from all these difference points at the same time. this plan is very often overlooked completely in civil war literature, or you'll see one paragraph about it and then they go on to something else, but again, this is the cornerstone of mcclellan's ideas about how you fight the war. what's good about this plan? a couple things. one, it takes advantage of the union's strengths and manpower and position. second, he recognizes how important it is to do simultaneous operations, put pressure on the confederacy at so many different points. and the key thing about this plan is, what mcclellan is hoping to do is win the war in one large multipronged campaign. he wants to fight a short war. and he's not just trying to secure some particular point, he's trying to win the war. and this is the key question, how do you win the war, right? that's the question you have to ask here. but there are problems with this plan. what's the problem? the biggest one is mcclellan
himself, which is yet to separate the plan from the planner, which is sometimes a little difficult there. to him, his plan was an all-or-nothing idea. if he doesn't get everything he wants and if he can't do everything exactly the way he wants to do it at exactly on the timetable that he demands, exactly under the conditions that he desires, then therefore, he can't do anything. this is a problem. and because he can't get what he wants, it becomes an excuse for inaction, and this becomes even worse when he moves to being general in chief and has other people under his control. now, what you end up with because of that, by the late 1861 is the union kind of sinks into a strategic paralysis. now, another problem is that mcclellan, having this army, this large army under his control, mcclellan is a wonderful strategic thinker. he's a very tactical -- or mediocre tactical and operational commander, and that's part of the problem with him making all this work. so, would mcclellan's plan have
worked? it's a fair question to ask. i think it would have, but there are a couple problems. first, raising an army of 237,000 men. but this is not beyond the union's capacity. february of 1862, mcclellan has 220,000 men under his control, so they're virtually at that number. executed by someone with a talent for implementation, i think mcclellan's plan could have led to an earlier victory for the union. the problem is, again, the execution. what grant does in 1864 is not incredibly different from what mcclellan's arguing in 1861. now, okay, so, if it's such a great plan, why doesn't it work? in march 1862, just as mcclellan's plan starts to bear fruit, lincoln relieves him from being general in chief, and then he did this when mcclellan goes to the peninsula in virginia to fight his campaign up to the gates of richmond. now, most people would say any time you fire mcclellan for anything, this is a good thing. but this actually has a very
terrible impact doing it at this time, has a bad impact on union strategy. i'll show you in a moment why i say this, because it's related to our second problem, our second issue, but keep mcclellan's story in mind here. now, second contention, that braxton bragg came up with the best strategic plan of any confederate general. well, again, saying something good about bragg gets you in just about as much trouble with civil war buffs as saying something good about mcclellan. he's probably the most hated of the southern generals and similar in some respects to mcclellan in that he's not very well liked by the people that write about him or write about the civil war. bragg before the civil war, just like mcclellan, had been an officer in the american army. he had a reputation for quarreling with everyone around him, even before the war. he carries this through into the civil war as a confederate general and into his post war career as well, where he manages to get fired because he argues with everybody around him. but just like mcclellan as well,
he had a lot of administrative skill and later when in command of the army at tennessee, he is very much able to build a functioning army from something that is in many ways dysfunctional. again, mcclellan also having the same type of skill, but he also suffers in some respects from indecision, again, arguably, just like mcclellan. little bit of background. the south had a cordon defense at the beginning of the war, meaning they had posts spread all around the confederacy. when mcclellan became general in chief in 1961, he began implementing his grand plan. in the western theater, he had two commanders. a man named hallick and don carlos buel. and he was trying to get these two generals in the fall of 1961 to push into kentucky and later into tennessee, but he can't get them to act. he complains about, my generals won't do anything. this is lincoln saying the same thing about mcclellan and other generals as well. and lincoln has also by this time got his own ideas about the
war. he wants to push the south at a whole bunch of different points and he's writing about doing this, but again, this is very much similar to what mcclellan is saying. the problem is, the generals have a plan but they won't act. well, finally, in february of 1862, some of the union generals decide they should do something. and ulysses s. grant and flag officer foote in the army take donaldson on the tennessee and cumberland rivers. this is very critical here, because this breaks apart the confederate cordon defense, their defensive system in the west. it completely comes apart. here's where braxton bragg enters the picture. what follows in the course of this between the fall of those two forts, then general buell pushing down to kentucky and tennessee is the defensive system comes apart and at the very top of the confederate high command, they're like oh, my gosh, what do we do? we have no idea what to do here, so they're scrambling around. at this point, bragg comes into
the picture, writes a letter to the secretary of the war and says "our means and resources are too much scattered, the protection of persons and property as such should be abandoned and all means applied to the government and the cause. important strategic points only should be held. all means not necessary to secure these should be concentrated for heavy blow upon the enemy." so, he essentially argues, look, we need to abandon the periphery of the confederacy, mass all of our forces in various areas, concentrate is what he says. the periphery of the confederacy, he argues, is not that important. yes, it's terrible that we lose missouri, but it doesn't matter that much. south florida, it doesn't matter that much. the confederacy argues it would be stronger by stripping its periphery and concentrating its forces to give it the strength to then take back stuff from the union. now, this hits a nerve in richmond because they're searching for a solution, anything, what do we do. bragg says here's what we do. and the confederacy goes, yes, this is great, let's do this. and then he's -- the only confederate general that actually comes up with any idea
that stretches beyond just the local area. there's a lot of other confederate leaders talking about concentration during this time, but bragg gives the idea teeth. he gives it some teeth, gives it some reasoning and strength of argument behind it. now, what's good about his idea? well, he had identified the confederacy's main weakness. it doesn't have the strength to defend everything it holds, but the core of the confederacy, the vital core of the confederacy is where it has its strength. losing the periphery, it really doesn't matter that much. also, they realize they need to concentrate and carry the war to the union to have a chance of holding on. plus, he makes this case very rationally and looks at it beyond the battlefield, beyond just the local area and looks at the larger picture of the war. what are the weaknesses? well, one of the problems with bragg's idea is it primarily just focuses on what people that study the civil war call the western theater, mainly on the western side of the appalachians and some parts of the south. that's a problem.
it doesn't look at the entire confederacy. another problem is that the confederates arguably follow the plan or take the plan too far. when they concentrate, they arguably weaken -- or they do weaken areas too much. this is the consistent problem with the confederacy, what do you hold, what do you defend. this is the big problem for them. you've only got so much manpower and you're fighting above your weight, essentially. you're a middleweight fighting a heavyweight here and this is a problem for the confederacy and they take it too far. what does this mean then? think about this. we have union action, we have the western prongs of mcclellan's offensive finally starting to move, okay? we have the confederate reaction to this, concentration, concentrate the confederate military force to the west. what is the synthesis these two plans give us? well, as the confederates began scrambling in february of 1862, they're scrambling to concentrate their troops. at this same time, nashville falls to the union army under buell. in early march, mcclellan tells
general halleck, one of his commanders in the west, chattanooga's important, take chattanooga. now, is mcclellan right? yes, he's right about this, and what does this have to do with our story here? well, mcclellan, he's back -- he's still implementing his plan, his grand plan, a modified version of it. he wants the union to take chattanooga. and you know, from our perspective, this doesn't seem necessarily that critical, but when you think about it in the context of the civil war, particularly in 1862, it is a big deal. look at a map of the confederacy, and if you think about the rail net for the confederacy, there is one east-west rail connection at this time in the confederacy. it runs through chattanooga. also, if you want to get into the deep south, into georgia, into the carolinas, where you can gut the confederate logistics and hammer confederate morale, you've got to go through chattanooga, because you've got to have that route into the deep south so you can keep your own army supplied, at least to a point. so, mcclellan is thinking about the big picture here.
he's thinking about what it takes to win the war. and at this point in what becomes very soon april of 1862, the union has troops two days' march from chattanooga, within striking distance of this city. now, again, mcclellan in march of 1862 he's implementing his grand plan, a version of it. part of this plan is to go to virginia and fight to the gates of richmond. at this point, he receives permission from lincoln to do this. he goes down to the peninsula. he puts the army of the potomac in motion. now, what is almost invariably overlooked in the literature is that mcclellan's peninsula campaign, in his mind, this isn't the whole focus of the war. this is part of a larger plan. now, in his mind, this is part of his multipronged defensive against the south. so, he's still looking at that as how the war should be won. but as you recall, you have something unexpected here that happens. when mcclellan goes to the
peninsula, lincoln relieves him as general in chief. at this point, there's no one driving the train in the union army, there's no one person controlling these prongs. and this is just at the point when the union is really starting to put the pressure on the confederacy. in many respects, the confederacy is starting to fray. now, this is a really bad mistake, arguably, on the part of lincoln. lincoln doesn't mean it to be one, but it ends up being that way. he then puts no one else in the job of general in chief, you know, which makes it even worse. and lincoln, essentially, becomes general in chief at the time. union general phil kearny, who later killed at 2nd manassas, he argued that what should have been done is mcclellan needed to be left as general in chief and someone else needed to be put in charge of the army potomac, because mcclellan at the strategic level is actually doing the job in many ways, but on the operational level, he just doesn't have what it takes. now, the last contention.
now, mcclellan's grand plan, to me, at this point in the spring of 1862 and in the early summer, there's so many good things going on on the side of the union that they have a chance here to end this war early. now, remember my last contention. this last contention, early union victory. this leads us to the third part of the story, but keep in mind what has come before us. july 4th, 1863, the confederate forces of vicksburg surrenders to grant's army. shortly after this, the mississippi is completely under the union control, and grant, who waged a brilliant, innovative, particularly for his day, campaign to take the city. when you look at what he does, it's amazing. but i would argue this is the wrong campaign at the wrong place at the wrong time. why do i say this? to prove this, i'm going to backtrack a little bit here. when the confederates began implementing bragg's plan to concentrate their forces, they concentrate in the west to meet the union offensive, the confederate commanders had a difficult choice. they got a very large area to
expand and they have superior union forces coming after them. they're in a very tough spot. so, the question for the confederate high command is, okay, we're going to concentrate. okay, where? what matters? what do we protect? and the choice for them fell down to this. do we protect chattanooga? we know how important it is. or do we protect the mississippi valley? this is also very important to us. what decision do we make? davis basically agrees with his leadership and says, okay, defend the mississippi valley. and the result of this is, you have a confederate army that begins to concentrate around corinth, mississippi, and the area near there. this leaves chattanooga virtually undefended and creates a great opportunity for the union. the problem for the union is, can they grasp this opportunity? now, as you'll recall, in march 1862, when mcclellan left to pursue his peninsula campaign, you have union troops not that far from chattanooga, you have the prongs of the union defensive very slowly starting to constrict the south in the west, and lincoln at this point,
playing the role of general in chief, reorganized his armies in the west, and he puts general halleck in command of all the union armies in the theater. this general is facing a situation most generals would only dream of getting. he's got two primary options that he can take, two very important options where he can do severe damage to the confederacy. he also has vast numerical superiority to pull this off and much better logistics. he can drive on corinth where the confederates are amassed he can go there and try to destroy this army or he can continue with the previous orders from mcclellan, take chattanooga and push into the heart of the confederacy. military theorists, carl von clausewitz, he talks about when commanders go after enemy centers of gravity, in his mind, he says when they go after enemy strengths, he includes among them the enemy's army, and he says the army is arguably one of
the most important centers of gravity, a nation's strengths. but he also says sometimes a commander will get an opportunity that will come up that is just so wonderful, it's so good and you can do so much damage to the enemy or reap such advantage from it that you ignore the center of gravity and then go after that. this is the situation that halleck has in the spring and early summer of 1862. he can go after the confederate army in the west, which is arguably, i think is part of the confederate center of gravity. when you break the confederate armies, the war ends. it really boils down to that. he can do that and he has the capacity to do that. or he can take chattanooga and completely shatter the confederacy's logistics, communications and break into the deep south two years early. halleck does neither of these things. he's got two golden opportunities. let's do neither. this is too often the problem with some of the leadership here. now, so what he does is he marches for corinth, but says i'm going to take this moderately useful rail junction
and gives essentially the confederate army two chances to steal a march on him. now, this is a great blunder. he goes there not to destroy the confederate army, plus, he does this very, very slowly and ignores the factor of time. this gives the confederacy time to recover, gives it time to mass more troops, gives it time to move its army from tupelo, mississippi, all the way to chattanooga, where they can now protect one of the most vulnerable parts of the confederacy. you know, plus, at this point, union strategy really, because of their failures, they probably missed the opportunity to make this a quick war. lincoln always wanted it to be quick. everybody always wants a quick war, right? leaders always want that. arguably now, they've missed that chance. now, the union will then begin a concerted effort to take vicksburg, and really starting in october of 1862, and this consumes an enormous number of men, material, a lot of time, does inflict a lot of damage on the confederacy eventually, but it's, in my mind, it's not where the war should have been fought. and another reason why i say
that is, i mean, if you think back, you'll recall, again, in april 1862, union forces are within striking distance of chattanooga, okay? the union, again, could have easily taken chattanooga, fought their way into georgia in the spring, and they could have done this in 1862 instead of '63 and into '64. so, they throw away this chance. if you think, after they take vicksburg, where does the union then concentrate its forces? well, halleck doesn't do a whole lot for a couple months after that, but finally in september, the union begins -- well, later in the fall, they begin their push on chattanooga, they take the city in september of 1863, then october of 1863, grant is sent there to relieve it and basically to fight the war into the deep south from there. so, they're back to where they were a year and a half before, you know. they're fighting there in april, then it takes them a year and a half to get back to where that is the focus. now, so, what do we get from all this? you know, first, i would say i think a lot of the conventional
wisdom regarding some of the key leaders and regarding certainly some of the strategic decisions that some of these key leaders make is not quite right, in my mind. and i could go on for other things in this as well. second, you know, having a good plan is one thing, you know. making it work is something entirely, entirely differently. sometimes the obstacle of implementation is the person who constructs the plan. the personality of leaders really, really matter. they're very critical. finally, the construction of strategy is hard, you know? that's an obvious, overly obvious statement, i know, but one of the keys here to doing this is to ask the right questions. if you're going to ask the right questions, you've got to have the right leaders, you know, at the top to do this. and the union here is very fortunate in this, where it does have very good leadership at the very top with lincoln, where you have a president who will go to his generals and say how do i win the war? how do i win the war?
how do i win the war? he's asking the right question, because that is the key question. and with lincoln, if the generals won't give him a plan, he will give them one himself. he's not afraid to think about it and learn. on the other side on the confederacy with jefferson davis, there is absolutely no record of him ever going to any of his generals and saying how do i win the war? he's not even asking the right question. if you're not going to ask the right question, you're not going to get the answer that you need. so, thank you very much and i'm told we have time for questions here. [ applause ] >> okay, we have a couple of mikes. if you would be kind enough to stand so we can see who you are because we're taping this program tonight, and then hold the mike up very close to your mouth so we can hear you. if you hold it like -- [ inaudible ]
-- impossible to hear. so, anybody? raise your hand. >> yes, sir. we learn from past to understand the present and maybe we have some idea of our future. and things are not as they appear to be, as you mention. i have about three question, if you can, whatever i know is too much, but let me start from the first one. only one question? >> only one, sir, yes. >> only one, okay. what do you think about new world order, which is the wrong translation of latin into english which is defacing present from all the knowledge you have in the past to apply to the present? >> i have no idea. [ laughter ] i'm not really into -- i really don't understand. yes?
go ahead. you pick, please. >> in grant's autobiography, he seems to imply that the generals had been officers in the mexican war and were looking for a negotiated settlement. do you think that affected general mcclellan and general halleck's strategy? >> no, i don't think that. i think i read -- later in the war regarding a negotiated settlement, he and some of the other generals, more some of his subordinates, were interested in that, but not something that gave the south everything they wanted, more of a settlement to bring things to an end and bring the south back into the union. as far as affecting mcclellan and halleck, i don't think so. to me, one of the problems with mcclellan is he thinks he can fight this war with a minimal level of violence.
and unfortunately, he's not right because he's got an opponent who's certainly willing to use as much violence as it takes for them to win. so, if you have an opponent that's willing to be violent, then you don't have a lot of choice if you're going to get what you want out of it. so, he talks about understanding the nature of the war, understanding what's motivating people, what's driving them, what are the factors going on here and a lot of other things, and mcclellan just doesn't understand that. and as the war goes on, he increasingly, where the violence escalates, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to get a grip on that. he eventually does, but he's a little slow to come to that. as far as halleck, i -- he remains an enigma to me. i think part of the problem is that he's very much steeped in the writings of jomini, the french-swiss military theorist and even translates some of it badly. i've checked the translations.
they're terrible. so, i don't think he quite knows what he's doing, he doesn't understand the theory that he thinks he knows. and he's not very decisive. he's brilliant in many ways. they call him old brains for a reason, but he just doesn't have the decisiveness that arguably you need for this job, which is a tough job. tough job. someone in the very back? >> donald? >> oh, yes, sir. >> thank you. what triggered mcclellan's deep-seated hatred for lipg lincoln as evidenced by his many letters back home to his wife and the complete utter lack of respect for arguably our greatest president ever? was there one incident or was it a accumulative series of events or conversations or falls-out? >> i don't think i could answer that. i can't think of any one thing. i don't think it was necessarily that lincoln was the problem. i think it wouldn't have mattered who was in the position
as part of the problem with that. and there is an inclination among mcclellan and halleck and some of the others to think that their civilian superiors should stay out of the way and that they don't understand the war. and in some respects, there's some truth to that. there's a lot of them that don't understand the war, but you could make a good argument that the military leadership doesn't understand it either. so, that's a sword that cuts both ways there. mcclellan's just a very odd personality, to say the least. hating to go back to clausewitz again, but mcclellan is an enigma. on one hand, he's brilliant, a mathematical prodigy. on the other, he ends up not being able to do what he needs to do. he talks about one of the problems with commanders, when sometimes as a very young officer, they're very brave, very energetic, will take risks and are just amazing.
mcclellan is like that as a young officer in mexico. i mean, there's -- he's very good. there's a reason why they make him general in chief of the army and he's in his late 30s, you know. so, it's not -- everybody thinks this is a good idea. but clausewitz also talks about, he says sometimes when people rise up to a level of great responsibility, they become indecisive because there's so much going on, it becomes difficult for them to manage it and then they get to the point where they won't take risks. and i think that becomes part of the problem with mcclellan at the top. he gets to the point where he won't take risks and becomes indecisive. the ideas are good, but making them work becomes the problem. because when mcclellan is brought to washington to command the army of the potomac, he is brought there to save the union. i mean, that's a lot of responsibility, if you ask me. when you think about it. i have problems managing one 10-year-old, so i think about what if they now put me in charge of several hundred thousand men and my actions determine whether they live and die or whether or not the union
survives. i think that's pressure. so, who might not buckle under that? that's a lot of responsibility, so. yes, sir. >> after he's cashiered, mcclellan demonstrates real political ambition. do you think that preceded his cashiering and that influenced his military judgment? a bloodied general wouldn't be as popular as someone who just got by successfully. >> i don't know enough about mcclellan's political history to answer that question. i didn't see that in my research, but i also was not looking for that in my research either, so i don't think i can answer that question fairly. yes, sir, i understand he was trying to get nominated for president, but i don't know if during the earlier period if he was thinking that far down the line or not. i just don't know for sure.
so, i will let you pick whoever. >> i understand that after sherman, general sherman took over atlanta in order to help him decide what decisions to make, what course of action to take in georgia, he telegraphed washington, d.c., certain departments there, to get certain information as far as crops and all sorts of other things to help him decide, and they telegraphed the information back to him, and he used that information in factoring his decisions, which seems to indicate to me there was already a well-established bureaucracy in washington, d.c. and if that's the case, what role did that play in the union, helping
the union win the war? >> so, if i understand the question, what role does the bureaucracy play in helping the union win the war? >> yes. if there's such a thing as bureaucratization of the war. >> raising the men, raising the equipment, moving the armies, keeping the money in a situation, that's certainly all very, very important. enough horses. just making enough guns and powder and all of the other various things that you need, you have to have that. you see an industrialization of war. some people look at the civil war as being a modernizing effect in that, where you have this growth of bureaucracies. you have the nationalization of industry in the south, of arms industries, for example, which they bring them under the control of the confederate government in order to arguably make sure they're doing what the confederate government wants them to do, to invest in it and so on and develop and expand it, so certainly on both sides, the bureaucracy matters. sometimes the bureaucracy gets in the way as well, but you
can't raise the stuff and manufacture the stuff that you need to fight the war without it, and certainly you cannot raise the units. yes. >> in the very early days of the war when mcclellan was putting his strategy together, to what extent did lincoln consult with the civilian authorities, namely, his cabinet, in order to also bring their wisdom to bear on the issue of how do we win this war and how can we do it quickly? >> he often consults with his cabinet, very, very often, constantly, and they're often very much sources of encouragement and often sources of discouragement, depending on the cabinet member. as far as in relation to mcclellan's plan, i'm trying to recall if there's any specific examples where he discusses that
plan with his cabinet members, and i can't think of any. lincoln's reaction to it seems to be muted at best to it. and one of the problems of the plan is that mcclellan doesn't keep his boss sufficiently informed as to what's going on, his boss being lincoln. but also, at this point when mcclellan comes up with the plan, lincoln has kind of side-stepped the chain of command himself here with this, because winfield scott's still the general in chief. shouldn't lincoln be going to winfield scott for this and not mcclellan? you know? so, lincoln's kind of monkey-wrenched the system himself a little bit in that, so. >> professor, i want to thank you for a terrific lecture. >> thank you. >> a friend of mine is kay larson. she wrote a book on ann carroll, i believe her name is? a lobbyist in washington. and it's alleged that she is the
first one to put a push for the campaign down the mississippi. she was -- it was a one-page on her in the encyclopedia of the civil war. i wonder if you know anything about her or what you might think about this? thank you. >> i have never heard of this one. there's 60,000 books on the civil war. i've missed a few of them, so i'm sorry, i can't answer that. the first recollection that i know of that is from winfield scott's anaconda plan, where he first talks about that. but it may entirely be possible that someone has uncovered something that predates it. i honestly don't know. >> i was wondering, at the beginning of the war, pinkerton seemed to have such a tremendous influence on mcclellan, constantly feeding information, overinflating the size of lee's army. how much do you think that had an effect on the way that he
behaved as a general? and i always thought mcclellan would have made a great chief of staff, he was such a great organizer. but how much influence did pinkerton have on mcclellan? >> there's a book by a gentleman named fischel, a retired intelligence officer a couple years ago, where he deals a lot with that in the development of the intelligence services. it certainly has an impact, but pinkerton essentially didn't know what he was doing and would give really bad numbers and give regiments a full strength that were half strength and things like that and that would distort the numbers. but why mcclellan then takes those numbers and extrapolates those into being even larger than the ones that pinkerton gives him remains a mystery as far as i know. i have seen different things postulated for it, but there may be -- someone may know the answer that's here that i don't, but i have never seen anyone come to any clear conclusion as to why with that.
>> thank you very much. >> yes, sir. >> my question about strategy and saving the union and ending slavery. it seemed that in the beginning of the war, lincoln was very intent on preserving the union and promised not to disturb slavery. after the emancipation proclamation, that changes very much, and by the end of the war, it seems like this has been a war about slavery. how does that affect strategy? was there a different strategy? did strategy get impacted when we were fighting this war for a different reason? >> emancipation, it's interesting. when you think about it, is emancipation a strategy or strategic tool, meaning a method for winning the war, or is emancipation a political objective, an objective for which the war is fought, a reason for fighting the war. obviously, you won't have a
civil war without slavery. that's the primary driving factor, but you're correct. when the war first starts, lincoln is -- lincoln was always an abolitionist but lincoln was also a ruthless pragmatist in that he would do whatever it took to keep the union together. he says that very often, if i have to get rid of slavery to end the war, i'll do it. if i can end the war by preserving slavery, i don't have a problem doing that either. because his most important idea is to end the war, and he's reluctant to attack slavery in the beginning primarily because of kentucky and other parts of the union -- or kentucky's neutral at the beginning, because it's a slave state and hasn't seceded and he doesn't want to drive pro union slaveholders into the arms of the confederacy is essentially one thing he doesn't want to do. you know, but, as the war goes on, lincoln increasingly looks at the slave population as being
a critical element in the fighting of the war for the south. having this large slave population enables the south to put a lot more of its white male population into the field as soldiers because they've essentially got the slaves to keep the industry and the economy running. and so, lincoln comes to the conclusion that, well, i need to get -- i need to do whatever i can to break the south. one way to break them is to eliminate slavery. and so, emancipation for him becomes, this becomes at first a military tool. this is a way to take a strength of the confederacy, their slave population, and then not only hurt them economically, but also, hey, let's make them soldiers and arm them. this will give us lots and lots of more people to put into the field, which makes it even better. so, this becomes very much part of a military tool, and there are some that argue that the
population manpower that the slave population now gives the union is a deciding element for having enough men to get the job done, you know, because this is very manpower-intensive thing. whether that's true, i don't know, but the arguments i've seen for it are very, very good. so, to me, emancipation is first, it's a strategic tool, but then it becomes a political objective of maintaining it and making sure the slaves are free, because when lincoln and davis are trying to negotiate an end to this thing, one of the caveats that lincoln throws down is, hey, the slaves are free, that's it. no going back on this one. so, what initially the objective for the union is, for lincoln, is preserving the union, but it becomes preserving the union and destroying slavery in the south as well. this certainly becomes another objective with it. the microphone, sir. >> what was the size of lee's
army at the beginning, vis a vis the union? and lee was often criticized for his attack policies, but he knew numbers were not on his side. even at gettysburg, he seemed to be desperate to push an end to the war. is that your reading? >> as far as numbers at the beginning of the war, i really can't answer that off the top of my head. i simply don't know, and there are so many different points where you can judge the beginning for lee and which army he's in command of. as far as lee at gettysburg, i'll throw out one thing. i don't think it's the high tide of the confederacy for one. i think that's nonsense, so. the high tides are before manassas because they control more than they'll ever control, but that's a different matter. as far as what lee is trying to accomplish, there's a lot of argument on that, and the record is not -- some could say it's not particularly clear on that. but i think -- i look beyond the battle, because it's not just
the battle that he's there to fight. lee is thinking in a larger scale here with this. he's thinking about in the campaign, what can he accomplish strategically? well, he wants to hurt the union morale. lee's idea, if there is one and if the record for what you can piece together from it is correct, to me, it seems to be his larger idea is to inflict enough damage on the union for them to cry uncle, to realize it's not worth it, raise the cost, okay? but that answers the question of okay, if your strategy in a sense is going to be raise the cost of a war so high that the union is unwilling to pay it, how then do you do that? lee's conclusion is, well, i fight battles somewhere, particularly if i can fight a war in the north, a victory there or victories other places, this will convince the north, it will be such a morale blow that they will quit. now, that raises a whole host of other problems, you know, there as well, if that's the way you're going to fight the war. can you afford to fight in the north?
is it too dangerous to do that? are you overextending yourself? yeah, i would say yes. my conclusion with what lee is doing, and everybody is welcome to disagree, is that, yes, i think he is correct and he has figured out how you win this, if there's any way to do this for the south, is you've got to raise the cost of the union. to me, the union's center of gravity is their public opinion. if you can shatter northern public opinion, people quit voting to put republicans into office, this robs lincoln of his political support in congress and people stop joining the union armies. if there's no public support of the war, if you don't join the armies, there's no political support, the war's over. the confederacy will get what it wants. if you want to break union morale, break public opinion, how do you do that? to me, the best choice lee has is to fight a defensive war and try to protract it, you know, drag it out as long as he possibly can. to me, he takes too much risk by going north into maryland in '62 and far too much risk by going north into pennsylvania in 1863.
to me, the only reason he even gets away with the armies in either cases is because the union generals just drop the ball, you know. his armies should not have gotten back south, i think.ball. his army should not have gotten back south. yes, sir, anybody else? >> how would you rate grant versus lee as strategists and technicians, especially when they faced each other during that 1864 in virginia? >> well, i think it's difficult to rate lee as a strategist because he's given so little opportunity to act like one. i mean, it's never -- he's made general and chief with the confederate army, i think it's in february or march of 1865. by then there's not much left to command. so his commands always before this are really tactical and operational. so at best he's an operational
commander usually, so he's not given the opportunity to see what if they put him in charge in 1862 and jefferson davis said, okay, lee, win the war for me, how do i do? but he never asked the question given the responsibility to do it. so i find it difficult to judge that fairly. i could very well be wrong about that, but i find it difficult to judge fairly. as far as comparing grant and lee there together, it's very interesting to look at the campaign there in 1864. one of things that you're really comparing more as tactical commanders and somewhat as operational commanders there. it is interesting, one of the things that comes, i don't know if i can judge one more than the other, but what is interesting to me is that they are both very, very good at guessing what the other person is going to do. to me, that's something that really stands out when you look at that campaign. anyone else?
yes? >> do you see any confederate generals who were possible strategists? albert sidney johnson, for example. >> no. albert sidney johnson sometimes is touted as what could have been if albert sidney johnson had not gotten killed, but when i look at his command of his area, his area of command there and look at the management of the things he was -- i don't see how anyone can come to that conclusion. certainly he was a brave man, strageringly brave. but bragg has the potential and lee has the potential and is the smarter man in the room with the
other generals. i don't know if i can answer that. most union and confederate generals, they really aren't taught to think at a larger level. some of them do it distinctively. but i don't know that i can answer that. yes. yes, sir. >> how do you see the naval strategy in this effect on civil war? >> the blockade, which is essentially what passes for union naval strategy best, i think is very important, very critical. there's not much else you can do with the union other than that, but it's very, very pivotal for choking the economy. and the confederates shoot themselves in the foot with the way they react with the money and restricting the importation and the cotton embargo is just madness, to say the least. but the blockade is very critical for injuring everything that the south can do. and it keeps them from arming
themselves the way they could have. the more important effect to me, i think, is raising the cost on the civilian population and wearing them down, you can't import the medical supplies and the other supplies, like needles, for example, you can't get the needles you need. you can't get the shoes you need. one of the reasons lee doesn't take offensive in the fall of 1833 is because he doesn't have shoes. he's afraid he doesn't have blankets and shoes and pants for them. keeping stuff like that out is just one more things that drapes the south. the confederates actually have some very innovative naval thinkers in thinking about ironclads and gun boats and things for the operations, but they don't have the industrial capacity to make it work. they can't make a decent steam engine at the idea to do it.
but there are some smart guys thinking of it, but they don't have the infrastructure to do it. >> we have time for two more questions because we want you to get some book signings as well. two more. >> in the back, please, i'm told. yes, sir. >> hello. could you please comment on the strategic thinking of general thomas, the stay teenageric thinking of general thomas jackson and what the results would have been differently if he was not shot two months before gettysburg? >> in modern terms it would not classify most of the things that jackson does as strategic, as strategic thinking. he was a tactical and one of the most brilliant commanders in the war. as far as what would have happened if he's not killed earlier, it certainly would have made lee's army more effective later in the war, having him as a core commander. far better than the guys that replace him, but as far as a decisive impact, i don't think
it would have decisive impact, no. yes, sir. >> along the same lines, is there any record to judge long street as what kind of strategic grasp he might have had? >> what's interesting is long street postulates a lot of plans that some, you could classify them in some respects as strategic plans, but they are mostly operational plans. and they are unbounded -- it would require suspension of the laws of physics to get any of them to work. some of them are just mad to say the least. i got in trouble with one person for saying that, because they are very much a long street fan. and i'm from georgia and say that, long street is from georgia, so i really get in trouble then for saying that. no, long street works very well to me as long as lee is looking over his shoulder. so, well, thank you all very, very much. i appreciate it. >> we want to thank you, professor stoker.
that was a great program. we have time for a book signing, so the books are at the back table. you can purchase them back there and come up here to have him sign. american history tv will be at the soldiers national cemetery at gettysburg national park in pennsylvania this coming tuesday to cover the commemorative ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of abraham lincoln's gettysburg address. speakers include civil war historian and author james macpherson and interior secretary sally jewel. you can watch this ceremony on thanksgiving day, thursday, november 28th, at 4:00 and 10:00 p.m. eastern time. here on american history tv on c-span3. jaqueline kennedy's time as first lady was defined as never before by images, a young family entering the white house, international fame, and the tragedy of a grieving widow all within three years. watch our program tonight at
10:00 p.m. eastern and sunday at noon on c-span and live monday our series continues. >> mrs. johnson as first lady loved to show off the texas love for country in her home, the guests to the ranch would often informally gather here in the den, and various heads of state came to visit. we do have a few things to speak to her connection to the room here. one of the things she wanted to highlight was the native american heritage here in the hill country. and we do have a small collection of arrowheads over there. she had an eye for copper and collective various items throughout the years with gifts from various friends. mrs. johnson gave a tour of the house in 1968 that was filmed where she featured the china we see here purchased in mexico, very colorful. first lady mrs. johnson spent a lot of time here at the ranch. it was very important because it provided such a respite from all the turmoil of washington, particularly later in the presidency when the johnsons could come home, recharge their batteries and make that
connection back to the land and this place they valued so much. >> first lady lady byrd johnson on c-span. there are serious scholars in women studies. most departments include their fair share of non-ideological academics who just offer straightforward courses, sometimes wonderful courses in women's psychology, or women in literature, but ideologically fervent statistically challenged hardliners set the tone in most women studies department. yet all that i have ever seen. and if there's a department that defies this stereotype, let me know, i would love to visit them. conservative women, moderate women, libertarian women, traditionally religious women, left out. >> her critiques of the late 20th feminism and american culture have let critics to label her as anti-feminist. sunday december 1st on "in
depth" your questions for christina hoff some somers. and join mark levin on january 5th. book tv "in depth" the first sunday of every month on c-span2. next on american history tv, we hear from two world war ii veterans about their experience in the pacific theater who both fought in the battle of iwajima. they both spoke in washington, d.c. this is about an hour. hello, good morning, everybody, and thank you all for being here. i am honored to be given this opportunity to introduce these fine gentlemen and be among these great military war heroes. first i would like to introduce mr. donald mates, a marine corp
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