Skip to main content

tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  December 7, 2014 10:01am-11:11am EST

10:01 am
grant repeatedly attacked and attempted to outflank the entrenched rebels, finally gaining an advantage that led to a confederate retreat, and days later, lee's surrender. richard somers takes us into the minds of each commanding general. he argues that the siege was unique in military history and discusses how the conflict brought about the end of the war. this talk is about an hour. >> ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the director of the u.s. army educational center and the entire staff of the u.s. army heritage and educational center, and the u.s. army war college, welcome to the third lecture of our series. the u.s. army war college sponsors the series to provide an historical dimension to the exercise of generalship,
10:02 am
strategic leadership, and war fighting institutions of power. we would like to extend a warm thank you to the army heritage center foundation for their support and everything we do. please be aware that the book for tonight is on sale in the gift shop, and we will have a book signing directly after the lecture. all proceeds go to the foundation to support the growth of the army heritage and education center. our speaker is dr. richard somers. he is a native of indiana and obtained his bachelor's degree in history from the carleton college in northfield, minnesota. he earned his doctorate in history at rice university in 1970. the u.s. army employed him right here at carlisle barracks, making him the last chartered member of the organization to be hired. he held the position until 1997 and served in various capacities until his retirement in 2014.
10:03 am
the doctor was a professor of military history in 2007 and 2008 and continues to teach courses at the u.s. army war college. he has made numerous television appearances, addressed audiences across the nation, and has presented three times prior to tonight. dr. summers has written over 100 books, articles, entries, and reviews primarily on the civil war and is a distinguished member of many historical organizations, including the society of civil war historians and the civil war trust. ladies and gentlemen, i present dr. richard somers. [applause] >> thank you, carl.
10:04 am
it is a pleasure to be back home. in devoting 43 years of my professional career here, i can never leave. it is always a part of me. i'm so happy to be able to share in our perspectives in military history presentation tonight. in this 150th anniversary season of the siege of petersburg, i would like to talk about richmond redeemed, enduring lessons in leadership from the siege of petersburg. the siege proved one of the longest operations of the civil war, some nine and a half months from june of 1864 to april of 1865. it pitted two of the greatest generals in american history directly against each other.
10:05 am
robert e lee and ulysses s. grant. it was waged by two of the finest armies of americans that have ever been raised, the resilient federal army of the potomac and the hard-hitting confederate army of northern virginia. those were the antagonists, which had grappled for the entire war, were reinforced with several newer armies that have been created only in 1864. serving in those armies were senior subordinates who had figured prominently and other battles like gettysburg and antietam, which are so familiar to all of us here tonight. these officers include such prominent northern commanders as george g meade, winfield scott hancock, and david m greg, and
10:06 am
such senior southern soldiers as with that prelude, let us summarize the siege before we assess it. petersburg, virginia, situated on the right bank of the appomattox river 20 miles due south of richmond, was militarily important in its own right as the 10th largest city of the confederacy. as the head of navigation on the appomattox, as the site of the confederate states led works, which manufacture of bullets for lee. the strategic significance of petersburg lay in logistics. how fitting isn't that the u.s. army's center is now situated at
10:07 am
fort lee, just east of petersburg and our new director colonel hardy came to us from the logistics center at fort lee? throughout the civil war, petersburg functioned as the rail center for richmond. from northeast, southeast, south and west, railroads ran to the city. from there, a single railroad continued north to the confederate capital. food stuff from southside virginia, armaments from the ports along the lower atlantic coast, salt and lead from southwestern virginia, and most vitally, reinforcements all funneled through petersburg to richmond. only one other railroad running southwest through danville and
10:08 am
the carolina piedmont connected the capital with the rest of the confederacy. defending petersburg was crucial to defending richmond itself. capturing the city would comparably cripple the capital. in the first three years of the civil war, danger remained distant as lee's masterful generalship kept the union far from the rail center. ulysses s. grant changed all of that. by the spring of 1864, grant served as general in chief of the entire united states army. as eastern theater commander and as commander of what i like to call army group grant, an admittedly anachronistic term which i will nonetheless use because it so accurately conveys
10:09 am
the reality that he commanded a group of armies. in all of these capacities, grant carried the war from central virginia to the vicinity of richmond. in 30 days of almost incessant fighting, from the battle of the wilderness on may 5 and sixth, to the battle of cold harbor on june 1-3, he compelled the confederates to concede there forward position and confronted them with the constriction of the close and can find coverage of their capital. -- and can find coverage of the capital. in a daring southward strike in mid-june, grant crossed the chickahominy river, crossed the mighty james river itself, and attacked the capital's crucial communication center, petersburg. his leading core overran the outer defenses but did not
10:10 am
capture the cockade city itself. federal failure to recognize opportunity saved the city. a grand assault by the unionists on june 18 was bloodily repulsed. even worse disaster befell the yankees less than a week later in their efforts to cut confederate communication south of the cockade city. those dual defeats on june 18 and june 22, 23rd ended the mobile warfare of spring that had carried of the armies from the rapid than river to the appomattox. -- from the rapid downriver to the appomattox. -- the rapid and
10:11 am
appomattoxthereafter, operations stagnated into the slowness of summer, and the siege of petersburg began. this siege was not tactical. it lacked the parallels and other facets that type of five european siege warfare. since the era of martial band. the infamous battle of the crater on july 30 was an aberration, totally uncharacteristic of the siege, yet petersburg unquestionably was a siege. on the higher planes of operations, strategy, and grand strategy. in essence, grant used the siege to fix the gray coats in place at petersburg and richmond, thus to deny lee the operational and strategic initiative, which the virginian have used to such
10:12 am
advantage in 1862 and 1863. grant's great entrenched camp closed in on petersburg from the east where fort lee now is. with its incessant shelling and sharpshooting, they created an ongoing threat, which the southerners could not ignore. more dangerous were the attacks, some of them two-pronged, some of them first strike, which grant launched from the security of that camp against undermanned positions north of james river and against vulnerable supply lines south of petersburg. nine such attacks, which i have termed offensive, punctuated the nine and a half months of the siege. most were marked by mobile field
10:13 am
battles in the open rather than by assaults on well defended positions. the most significant strikes were the fourth offensive in mid-august, which cut the vital weldon railroad linking petersburg to the blockade runners ports on the lower atlantic coasts, the fifth offensive in late september, the subject of my book, which nearly compels lead to abandon petersburg and made richmond in the greatest danger of capture by a field army the city ever face until she was occupied without resistance in april of 1865. another major one was the eighth offensive in early february, which extended the federal left flank to hatcher's run, and the ninth offensive in late march,
10:14 am
which finally netted both petersburg and richmond. overnight, april 2 and third, 1865, lee abandoned petersburg, abandoned his james river defenses, abandoned his capital of health for a last desperate -- itself for last desperate flight toward north carolina, but north carolina proved too far away. the federal forces were too advantageously positioned. the butternut brigades had been the butternut brigades had been too badly battered throughout the course of the siege. one week to the day after the final fighting at petersburg came appomattox. by the spring of 1865, indeed, ever since late 1864, the siege had assumed strategic dimensions. grant made this clear in his
10:15 am
letter on december 18 to his trusted subordinate and friend william t sherman, who had just completed his devastating march to the sea. my own opinion, wrote the general in chief -- now we are quoting general grant -- my only opinion is a versatile and out of virginia and if the cause of the south is lost, he wants richmond to be the last place surrendered. if lee has such views, it may be well to indulge him until we get everything else in our hands. this siege thus became a strategic tool for fixing the southerners in place in the old dominion while philip h sheridan and george h thomas devoured the rest of the confederacy.
10:16 am
by march of 1865, sherman had shoved the western theater all the way from tennessee deep into north carolina, while in the eastern theater, lee remained pinned at petersburg. that is the essence of a strategic siege. there the nine and a half months of the siege have been summarized in just nine and a half minutes, but i'm not done. [laughter] the various mobile field battles that marched each offensive are fascinating. many in our audience and viewing on c-span have heard me speak on one or another of those battles. here tonight, however, in the army war college community, the focus should not be technical but operational and strategic.
10:17 am
it let me then suggest some enduring lessons in strategic leadership derived from the siege of petersburg, an operation lasting nine and a half month proclaims perseverance, both its prizes and its pitfalls. grant's bulldog tenacity in grabbing hold of the army of northern virginia in the wilderness of spotsylvania and never letting go all the way through petersburg to appomattox is one of the greatest hallmarks of his generalship. yet just what did this tenacity, this perseverance and tail at petersburg? part of it, it seemed, involved fixing the southerners in place tactically, operationally, and strategically.
10:18 am
such fixing in place did not come easily. time and again in the mobile field battles south of petersburg and north of james river, grant was defeated tactically. even so, he managed to weave such setbacks into operational and strategic success. he achieved such success. despite those battlefield setbacks because he remained undaunted. his calm, quiet confidence in himself gave him the determination to keep up the struggle. then too his assurance in his own mind of ultimate federal victory in the siege and in the war gave him the ability to press ahead despite temporary
10:19 am
setbacks. together, such self-confidence and such certainty of success produced military peace of mind, which freed him from doubt, fear, anxiety, and torment that had vexed so many other army commanders and which thus enabled him to focus on succeeding in the siege and on winning the war. yet within such military peace of mind, grant was neither arrogant nor bullheaded. an even greater hallmark of his strategic leadership than tenacity was his ability to learn and apply the lessons of experience. such a faculty had won him
10:20 am
victory at vicksburg. it also produced the prize of petersburg. when he perceived that frontal attacks, which had worked so well in the western theater, brought only heavy casualties in the east, culminating in the disastrous repulse of june 18 in the first battle of petersburg, grant explicitly forbade such assaults against well defended, fortified positions. he launched no further such attacks throughout the siege until the final onslaught of april 2. again, when experience demonstrated that sequential two-pronged strikes on both sides of james river were not working, he progressively altered the timing of those strikes until, by late october,
10:21 am
they became simultaneous. when simultaneous strikes too failed, he again adjusted his tactics to massive first strikes by his left south of the cockade city. such first strikes carried him to hatcher's run in february and carried him into petersburg and richmond in april. yet grant was not the only senior leader to display perseverance at petersburg. his confederate counterpart also showed tenacity in holding that city and richmond. lee understood their practical significance to the southern war effort and cause, and he fought to save those cities. fought is the key concept. lee did not sit supinely in his
10:22 am
trenches awaiting bluecoat attacks. when they left their defenses of the entrenched camp to attack him, he left his defenses to attack them. although he never again controlled the strategic initiative, which remained in grant's hands, the great confederate commander repeatedly challenged the yankees for control of the operational and tactical initiatives. the ensuing battles were not static, set piece struggles of attack and defense but fluid, mobile field battles that raged up and down the ground in which the secessionists' superior knowledge of the terrain helped them halted the union advance. counterattacking attackers
10:23 am
offers obvious advantages. it even more significantly, those counterattacks reflect lee's approach to warfare. he did not equate probable disadvantage with certain loss but rather strove to redirect to the military situation to his advantage. by way of contrast, joe johnston in georgia when threatened with fallback, and when threatened again, he would fall back, and when threatened again, he still fallback. he did not fall back. lee fought back. lee was prepared to abandon petersburg on september 30 if necessary to save richmond, yet he did not yield to such likely
10:24 am
danger but battled back and saved both cities. through such biting tenacity, oh the prolonged the security of his supply lines, his army, and his country for another nine. months. at the end, he eventually came, and all was lost. the graycoats held onto petersburg for too long. i do not blame leave for this decision or this outcome. he did not become general in chief of all confederate armies until february of 1865. too late to affect the course of the war. the decision to remain in richmond rested with the government. as a professional soldier of the confederate republic, lee loyally carried out government policy.
10:25 am
there is an aspect of perseverance, however, where lee may be criticized. unlike grant who learned from experience, the virginian continued fighting in ways that had worked well earlier in the war but were no longer applicable in the mid-1864. unlike at chancellorsville, his counterattacks at petersburg almost never drove the union strike force from the field. at best, they simply stopped the force short of its objective. counterattacks failed to overcome the confederates. -- the federals. instead, they simply produced mounting confederate casualties with no corresponding conquest. for lee at petersburg, the old
10:26 am
ways no longer worked. such hallmarks of generalship characterized the exercise of command by lee and grant at petersburg. yet with armies ranging from approximately 50,000 to 60,000 secessionists, and from 100,000-127,000 bluecoats, the two commanders obviously could not control everything themselves but had to rely on senior subordinates. here too lay lessons in leadership. to begin with, both commanding generals worked with and through their senior subordinates, not around or despite them. they accorded those responsible subordinates latitude to exercise the responsibilities of their office.
10:27 am
as theater commander and army +group commander, the illinoian focused on strategy and left operations and tactics with core commanders. army of the potomac commander mead retained grants respect, although the two generals never became close personally. the other yankee army commander benjamin f butler was the quintessential political general of the union army. despite butler's many shortcomings as a field commander, grant recognized both the massachusetts man's talents and also understood the necessity of working with such an influential politician. not until butler finally discredited himself with the powder boat fiasco in december of 1864 did the general in chief
10:28 am
at last have grounds for removing the insubordinate subordinate. butler's successor was the able professional soldier and were ordered for whom fred would who had who had earned grants respect and friendship in the western theater. because the illinoisan liked board, he tolerated the junior officers quaint conceits. such antics by other senior subordinates usually cost them grant's respect and therefore their command. william f smith, william t h brooks, and quincy adams gilmore were all relieved of their core commands when they demanded actions or promotions that grant was unwilling to grant them. john given almost suffered the same fate and much more tragically by the final hours of the siege.
10:29 am
war had so drained the reservoir of good will that he had earned on little round top that neither mead nor grant would save him from the implacable wrath of philip sheridan. sheridan's practice of summarily removing generals on the field of battle was atypical. more characteristic was grant's practice of avoiding wholesale housecleanings of subordinates and instead working with or through them before they either succeeded or discredited themselves with either their ineptitude or overweening ambition. lee's command style was similar. earlier in the war to be sure, he had cleansed the army of northern virginia of senior subordinates who had not
10:30 am
measured up. by the time petersburg was besieged, however, the terrible attrition of general officers reduced him to working with and through those who remained. by then, the great stonewall jackson and jeb stewart were dead, and james long street had been severely wounded. the best of lee's subordinates was beauregard, but he departed on september 23, and soon thereafter, was put in command of the western theater. a month later, the able long street returned to duty. among the newcomers, wade hampton and john b gordon proved promising, but richard h anderson was disappointing. then richard s you will and ap hill had never lived up to expectations. indeed, just before the army's
10:31 am
besieged petersburg, he was eased out of field command and put in charge of the department of richmond. by then, the capital was no backwater. there he rendered his most significant contribution by saving the capital from federal attack on december 29. whether subordinates are able or not, they are the tools with which senior leaders must work. the chain of command, moreover, runs upward as well as downward. one of the greatest strengths of both commanders was they understood the proper relationship between the
10:32 am
uniformed general in chief and the constitutional commander-in-chief in a republic at war. they worked with president lincoln and president davis, and certainly not against them. those great generals earned and retained the respect of the chief executives and thus were accorded the latitude to apply their professional abilities in service to their embattled nations. contrast their success to what became of beauregard, joe johnson, george mcclellan, and many other commanders who constantly quarreled with their respective governments and thus were kept on close rein or marginalized.
10:33 am
were shunted aside altogether. this ability to work with the president comes through clearly in the following correspondence between grant and lincoln in mid july of 1864. in my opinion, wrote the lieutenant general, there ought to be an immediate call for say 300,000 men to be put in the field in the shortest possible time. grant then specified many benefits from increasing the fighting force. finally, he summarized, the greater number of men we have, the shorter and less sanguinary will be the war. yet he did not stop but went on to make clear that -- i give this entirely as my views and not in any spirit of dictation. always holding myself in
10:34 am
readiness to use material given to me to the best advantage i know how. the following day, the president replied. yours of yesterday about a call for 300,000 is received. i suppose you have not seen the call for 500,000 made the day before in which, i suppose, covers the case. [laughter] -- always glad to have your suggestions. [laughter] so close and so effective were the bonds that link and not only -- that lincoln not only welcome to grant's suggestions but also engaged in a little harmless humor about them. not that war was a laughing matter, but that the two men were close enough to share a smile as they together strove for success.
10:35 am
that exchange not only underscores their effective working relations. it also provides other lessons in strategic leadership. grant recognized the benefit of applying overwhelming force, and he realized that the north possessed such power potentially. his great talent lay in understanding how to convert advantages into achievements. yet all the while, he did not demand perfection. unlike some senior leaders who insisted on waiting until everything was perfectly arranged and thus often waited forever, grant was willing to give it a try with whatever resources were at hand.
10:36 am
those resources often sufficed to produce positive results. the president liked the results and the attitude of the general who was always willing to act. lee too was willing to act but under much different circumstances. he knew that the south had fewer soldiers and fewer resources, and he realized that time was not on his side. he could not wait for perfection of positions, powers, and plans, for they remained unattainable. he instead tried to make his own perfection in outcomes by seizing strategic and operational initiatives or by resting it from the yankees. in 1862 and 1863, he often managed to achieve such results.
10:37 am
by the time that petersburg was besieged, grant controlled the strategic and operational initiative, and lee was reduced to fending off federal offenses. yet, as we consider grant and lee and their senior subordinates, it is important that we not mistake them for the magnificent monuments that grace our national battlefields and our public places today, the statues of meade and hancock, lee and long street, grant looking down the national mall in washington, or wade hampton in columbia, south carolina. those giant sculptures of bronze and marble honor the generals, but they are not the generals. the generals themselves, we must
10:38 am
always keep in mind, were real, live human beings with varying degrees of the qualities, noble noble and ignoble, which marked the human condition. courage and heroism and honor, to be sure, but also rivalry and jealousy and resentment and bitterness and vindictiveness. by the time that the armies reached petersburg in mid-june of 1864, the soldiers were exhausted physically and psychologically from over six weeks of incessant fighting and marching and fighting yet again. so were their commanders during the hot, dry, seemingly ceaseless siege.
10:39 am
anger flared along meade and his division commanders, and among federal division commanders, as well. such strife certainly effective command relations and also sometimes affected operations. such personal animosity is not confined to petersburg, to the civil war, or to olden times. it can flare up today and tomorrow. senior strategic leaders need to recognize that reality and to be prepared to deal with it. understanding human dimensions of high command is just one lesson from the siege. persevering, weaving tactical setbacks into strategic success, adapting flexibility of methods to purpose, not yielding to
10:40 am
possible threats but fighting back against the odds, displaying strategic vision, converting advantages into achievements, functioning effectively within chains of command upward, downward, and laterally. all of these are enduring lessons in leadership from the siege of petersburg when richmond was redeemed. and i thank you. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, we are going to do a few questions now. i will start on this side. if you have a question, please raise your hand. we do have quite a few people, so please limit yourself to one question at a time.
10:41 am
do we have anybody over here to start us off? here we go. >> just a question about lee's strategic vision. you commented on the fact he had a strategic division, but could it also not be the case that by 1864, he knew that the south lost? there wasn't an opportunity in the offensives of 1863. in fact, if he had strategic vision, perhaps as a leader, he should have encouraged his president to sue for peace earlier than april of 1865? any thoughts on that? >> thank you, jeff. that's an excellent question. i think it is pretty clear that well along into the siege lee came to realize that the cause of the south is lost.
10:42 am
i don't think he had reached that decision in the spring or summer or even fall of 1864. lee was fighting back and fighting very effectively to maintain his position and to keep up the struggle. there are so many indications that the confederates themselves did not realize their grand strategic peril. talking about the whole civil war now -- unitl it was too late. even when sherman had cut loose from atlanta for his march through georgia, the confederates really didn't know where he was going, whether he was headed east towards charleston, south to tallahassee, southwest to mobile. it turns out he went southeast
10:43 am
to savannah, and it is not surprising that the confederates didn't know because even the federal planners did not know, and their logisticians had supplied positions all along the coast that wherever sherman struck at blue water he could be resupplied. once sherman made his march and captured savannah on december 21, the confederates were still not sure what he was going to do next, and they positioned their forces all around him to include south of savannah to guard against the danger that he might march against thomasville, the railhead in southern georgia, or to liberate andersonville, or perhaps to threaten tallahassee. it really wasn't until he moved north through the carolinas that it became clear to the confederates in richmond how dire was their peril.
10:44 am
i don't think lee or anyone else foresaw that danger as early as any point in 1864, and that he is continuing to do his duty to bravely and honorably uphold the struggle. other questions or comments? >> thank you very much for a fine presentation. i have a question about leadership, which you just touched upon. late in the civil war, and i don't know exactly when, ulysses grant was given the authority to promote general officers in the field subject to confirmation by the united states senate.
10:45 am
i assume that that authority came to him through lincoln and stanton and probably the senate. i know you probably do know, but it was by that method that chamberlain achieved brigadier general. were there any other officers so promoted by grant in the field, and do you know throughout the course of american history if any commanding general was given such authority besides grant? >> well, general lee in effect had that power. the appointment power rests with the president. the senate's role is to confirm presidential appointments, and that is both the appointment by grade to be of brigadier general or a major general, and also, core command and army and department command were
10:46 am
considered presidential appointments. grant promoted several officers during throughout the course of the siege of petersburg, certainly not chamberlain alone, but it's always consistent with the basic government practice of heating recommendations of officers in the field as to whom they wanted as their senior subordinates. not every officer that grant wanted was provided to him. it is very interesting that at the time jubilation erupted in the shenandoah valley in july and then remained a threat and the lower shenandoah valley, even burning chambersburg, pennsylvania on july 30, the
10:47 am
officer whom grant wanted to put in charge to deal with the threat posed by general early was none other than william b franklin. despite franklin's performance elephants landing his , performance at cranston's cap, fredericksburg, his performance in the red river campaign, all of which fell short of the high expectations that had been a accorded to franklin going into the civil war, grant who had never actually served with franklin during the war nonetheless had high confidence in his ability, but there had been a time when they had been together. that was at the u.s. military academy when franklin was the number one graduate in grant's class, and i have to think that
10:48 am
cadet sam grant is still looking up to the number one man in his class. however that may be, washington denied him that promotion, and said, franklin just will not do for this position. his next choice was general meade, to give him a more independent command that he enjoyed as an executive officer within grant's army group, but then something happened. i'm not entirely sure what. it might have been the battle of the crater, which ended the career of general burnside, but did not present meade in a favorable light. meade is no longer in the picture after july, and the command is finally entrusted to philip h sheridan. sheridan was not the first choice for that command.
10:49 am
he was the third choice. that was a case where grant did not get his first choice. probably one of the cases where the north was well served by franklin was not put into command. >> thank you. to follow-up up on your discussion on the animosities and rivalry that took place just before the siege of petersburg, as i understand it, that happened on both sides. >> very much so. >> beauregard had lee listen to beauregard in the beginning, rather than doubting him. the outcome would have been entirely different. the same thing is true with the northern advances initially before the siege took place. it was just a total lack of
10:50 am
cooperation and even follow up. some of that is attributed to the tremendous defeat in the battle of the crater. everybody was fatigued and what have you. i mean at cold harbor. beauregard was still trying to overcome some bad press early on. do you support that? >> to a considerable extent. not so much bad press, but his bad command relations with richmond, president davis, secretary of war sedin, the nominal general in chief braxton bragg. there had always been a certain healthy rivalry between lee and beauregard as two very bright engineers on winfield scott's staff in the mexican war, as two superintendents of the military academy, although beauregard was stopped in taking that position
10:51 am
by the outbreak of the war. within the confederacy, lee was the third ranking general and beauregard was the fifth ranking general, but the real problem was the bad relations -- this underscored another point that i made -- no matter how good beauregard was, and i think he was the second-best army commander in the confederacy after lee. stonewall jackson might have proved to be a great army commander, but he was never given that chance with a real field army. among the officers entrusted with army command, i would put beauregard close behind lee. the big difference is that beauregard is constantly feuding with richmond and feuding with braxton bragg, and thereby, he is nullifying his ability to
10:52 am
bring his great talents to the service of the confederacy the same way that mcclellan and rosencrantz and other union generals by feuding with washington reduced or nullified their ability to serve the united states in the war. as to the exhaustion, certainly cold harbor is the culmination, but i would suggest it's really the almost incessant fighting that begins on may 5 in the wilderness and continues through june 23 at the first battle of the weldon railroad that just wears out the armies physically and psychologically. grant recognizes this, and that is one reason that petersburg becomes the siege and that he
10:53 am
doesn't continue always moving by his left flank in the mobile warfare that had carried the armies all the way from culpepper county down to prince george and dinwiddie county's at petersburg. the terms fatigue and psychological exhaustion were not known to military medicine in the mid-19th century, but that is not to say the conditions did not exist. they just were not recognized. this is an important part in fraying the tempers and leading to be feuding and animosity among commanders. joe, when you get a microphone -- >> your presentations are always stimulating. you did a great job on npr this morning, too. a question on grant's strategy -- after the overland campaign,
10:54 am
and yeah, i understand something about combat stress -- he sat himself down at petersburg for nine and a half months. the army couldn't restore itself within a month or so and just go back. lee was just hanging on by his toenails. any comment on grant's change in strategy besides what you just said earlier? >> good questions, joe. the army of the potomac would restore itself, but it would take much more than a month to do it. it really took the winter of 1864, 1865 with the relatively reduced pace of activity -- there were two offensives, one in december, one in february, but really, the armies could rest essentially over that winter and regain their fighting
10:55 am
tone. some of the officers and soldiers who had been wounded earlier in the war or even earlier in the 1864 campaign, and i regard the operations from may of 1864 to april of 1865 as a unity campaign. officers returned to duty. after being wounded. also, the new regimens that were being raised under this call for 500,000, which lincoln and grant had their little laugh in mid july -- this began to produce vast numbers of troops. not 500,000 but large numbers of troops started arriving at the petersburg front in mid-september and would continue on through october into early november.
10:56 am
here in pennsylvania, we think of the series of troops from the 198th to the 211th that would come down. we all know about the raw troops at first bull run who fought but could not stand under the pressure of a day's fighting. we so close to antietam, so many of us have visited there, know about the raw regiments in the army of the potomac that had only been in uniform for a few weeks when they were thrown into the maelstrom at south mountain and antietam. it was not reserved to july of 1861 or september of 1862 to
10:57 am
have this effect on raw troops. it is a universal truth throughout the entire civil war that raw troops need time to train, and sometimes, the most healthy and tempering training comes by being bloodied in battle. in the sixth offensive, a lot of these new regimens that had just reached the front in early october and were thrown into action in late october broke and ran just like the troops at antietam and first bull run. they needed time. it's not to say that they were cowards or that they were poor material. they just needed time. and by the spring of 1865, they had had the time and experience to prove to be effective soldiers. there is also the matter of individual replacements.
10:58 am
there is a misunderstanding that is often told about the civil war -- shall i use a modern term -- army force generation --was fundamentally different between the union and confederacy. the south would put individual replacements into existing units, whereas the north would raise entirely new units. there is certainly some truth in those two statements but not entirely. the yankees began putting many individual replacements into existing units starting after gettysburg in the late summer and early autumn of 1863, continuing through the rest of the war. some of these men were called up in response to the national conscription. more were called out in response
10:59 am
to the increased bounties that were being offered. there's nothing wrong with an honest enlistment bonus. there is something terribly wrong with bounty jumping. much lower caliber of individuals were brought forward to be put into these regiments in response to these various recruitment efforts that would change the tone of those regiments. a new england yankee regiment , the 35th massachusetts regiment received a great influx , of german recruits fresh off the boat in september of 1864. these were not the 48ers who had a great commitment to liberty in germany and carried their german liberalism and sense of liberty over to the united states and lived in our country for a dozen
11:00 am
years and identified with the northern cause, or in a few cases, the southern cause. they a were fresh off the boat. they could speak german, but they couldn't speak english. the officers couldn't speak german. it was very difficult to communicate, and the commander of that regiment in one of the battles we cover in "richman redeemed" -- said, we stood there when the confederates attacked and really could not contribute anything and would have been justified in leaving the field except for the obvious propriety of sharing the casualties with everybody else. well, that is not the way to win a battle, but that is often the consequence of this type of individual replacement.
11:01 am
again, we think of another great new england fighting regiment, the fifth new england. the soaking road, the bloody road at antietam where colonel cross gave his charge across the wheat field at gettysburg. hampshirehe fifth new had to be stuck inside a readout different regiment with a different regiment guarding the gate to make sure the unit did not desert en masse. lacking commitment to the war effort in contrast to the original soldiers who had one such imperishable glory on the peninsula, antietam, and gettysburg.
11:02 am
to the extent that those individual replacements have any merit at all, they, too, need time to learn soldiering and it took a while to create this condition for them. for the confederates, they, too, continued to put individual replacements into their ranks. very few new confederate units were being raised late in the war, and there weren't a lot of them in backwater areas to be brought to the front, either. there was actually a large call up of individual replacements to come to the confederates of in october of 1864, in response to a bill and order from the war department that would use slaves
11:03 am
and reservists, these reservists being men beyond the normal military age, use these to take over conscription and enforcement and impressment duties, working -- in which you have done such great work, mike lynch. to free up these able-bodied men who were performing these important duties in the rear to free them up to join the forces at the front. and so, if you look at the roles of lee's army, it is actually stronger at the end of october, despite all of its casualties in five big battles, stronger than it is at the end of september, because these individuals have joined it.
11:04 am
but, some men who were perfectly happy to be the soldier guarding the danville prison or enforcing conscription in charlotte, north carolina or impressing crops around augusta, georgia, weren't at all happy to be in the trenches of petersburg, richmond, where the cannonballs were exploding and the sharpshooter bullets were flying. the first dark night, they might literally head for the hills, the hill country of appalachia became a great haven for people who had escaped from -- fled from military service, deserters. and until such time as they made their getaway, they spread the cancer of their lack of commitment among the good and faithful soldiers who remained. just in this subject of desertion, in the late summer,
11:05 am
early autumn of 1894, there is almost a dynamic equilibrium of desertions of confederates deserting to the union army and unionists deserting to the confederate army at petersburg. the confederates would put out flyers in german and belgian and dutch and gaelic, inviting these new individual replacements to come over to the confederacy. all of that begins to change in mid-november of 1864. on november 8, president lincoln is overwhelmingly reelected. the peace democrats, the copperheads, are completely repudiated by the northern people. it becomes unmistakably clear that there will be four more years of unrelenting war. and one week to the day, after the reelection of lincoln, general sherman cuts loose from
11:06 am
atlanta for his march to the sea, which devastates much of the interior of georgia. and with these two fundamental blows to the psyche of the confederate war effort, desertion by the gray coats greatly increases over defections from the union lines. so, joe, thank you for that question. please. please. >> we have time for one more. >> i won't promise a quick answer, though. [laughter] >> good evening. you talked about the strategic leadership. can you talk about the nature of the relations between the presidents of the union and their military officers? so between lee and davis and lincoln and grant. thank you. >> thank you, chuck.
11:07 am
this was extremely important, these relations. by constitutional prescription -- we all know it's in the u.s. constitution. it was the same wording verbatim in the confederate's constitution. the president shall be commander in chief of the army, navy, of the united states, and of the militia of the several states when called into the actual service of the united states or confederate states. by constitutional prescription, the president has the right to involve himself in the war effort. but no president, not even george washington, who certainly had the credibility during the whiskey rebellion, wants to assume field command of the army. the presidents want to work through the generals and admirals in charge of our armed forces. but it's understanding the proper relationships, striking
11:08 am
the right balance, some of the great war presidents we've had like franklin d. roosevelt strike a very good balance. other presidents, like polk or lyndon johnson, don't strike such a good balance, but they have the right to involve themselves. and good generals understand that and work with their presidents. and both grant and lee understood this. and it was one of their greatest strengths and one of the principal reasons why the presidents accorded those generals the latitude to apply their great ability in behalf of their respective nations, whereas you can go all the way back to winfield scott and look at joe johnston and mcclellan and many civil war generals, to admirable fallon and mccrystal, and carry it right on up to
11:09 am
general macarthur to admiral fallon and general mcchrystal in our own time, to see what happens to able professional military men who set themselves against their own government. there's only going to be one outcome, a situation like that. and there should be only one outcome. and the professional military that we have here in the army war college community, the future strategy leaders of our armed forces, understand that relationship and it's one of the greatest insights that military history affords to our professional military education today, which is one of the reasons why history is one of the enduring themes here at the army war college. and so that i might not be an enduring theme here all night -- [laughter] >> i'll thank you for this opportunity to have spoken to you. [applause]
11:10 am
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] >> you are watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span three. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule, upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest news. new magna carta exhibit opened at the library of congress in washington dc, where a 1215 copy went on display for the 800th anniversary of the documents creation. king john originally signed the document under pressure from his barons at runnymede, england. american revolutionaries look to the rights guaranteed by the magna carta as they rebelled against the english crown. princess anne was part of the


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on