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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  January 12, 2015 6:00am-6:23am EST

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savannah is about 20 minutes and includes the unveiling of a new historical marker about the march to the sea.
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good afternoon. i'm bob jepsen, chairman of the georgia historical society and i'd like to welcome you all to madison square on this warm and balmy day. i'm taking a big risk, we believe that the bells are finished for awhile, so i hope you can hear me. part of our mission at the georgia historical society is the education of the history of the great state of georgia and we're here today to dedicate a marker that represents an event, people, and a time in our 1tñ history, and to get on with the program, i'd like to introduce the president of the historical society, dr. todd gross. todd? >> thank you, bob. thank you, sir. thank you. well, thank you, bob. and good afternoon, everyone. let me add my welcome to this historical marker dedication
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commemorating the 150th anniversary of the end of the march to the sea. one of the best-known, but most controversial, and i would hasten to add, misunderstood, aspects of the american civil war. the marker we dedicate today is one of 25 markers installed by the georgia historical society and our partners, over the last five years as a part of the civil war 150 historical marker project. a public education and heritage tourism initiative, launched by the georgia historical society to help georgia's and visitors to our state gain a better understanding of the cataclysmic struggle 150 years ago that shaped and changed forever the destiny of our nation and the continued relevance and meaning of the civil war to the world we live in today. the georgia historical society is the independent statewide institution responsible for collecting and teaching georgia
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history. founded in 1839, the society is the oldest continuously operated historical institution in the south, and one of the oldest in the nation. for the past 175 years the georgia historical society has helped georgians through education and research to study the past, in order to make sense of the present and create a better future for us all. as a public history institution the georgia historical society serves as the bridge between the academic community, and the people of our state, taking the cutting edge historical research being produced in universities around the nation, and connecting it with the general public, thereby creating and expanding access to history. one of the most significant ways in which we make scholarly history available to a wide audience is through the georgia historical marker program. since the program was privatized in 1998 the georgia historical
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society has placed over 200 markers across the state. these markers provide an executive summary based on sound scholarly research by trained credentialed historians of the events and people that created modern-day georgia. building on this successful private/public partnership on the eve of the civil war sesquicentennial the georgia historical society developed with the georgia department of economic development, the georgia department of labor, and the georgia department of natural resources, a project to promote heritage tourism by telling stories about the civil war that had been here to foremissing from the public narrative as defined and interpreted in the public spaces of our state. a year-long survey conducted at the beginning of the project revealed that of the nearly 1,000 civil war historical markers in georgia over 90%
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were about battles and leaders. there was virtually nothing about the role of african-americans, and women, about unionists and their resistance to secession and confederate authority, and about the story of the home front, and the war's impact on society. in short the existing markers presented a lopsided picture of the war that ignored large segments of our state's people, rendering the war a purely military event. so beginning in 2010, the georgia historical society launched a storytelling campaign, aimed at making the public narrative more inclusive by relaying the experiences of all georgians, black and white civilians, as well as soldiers unionists as well as confederates, we did this by bringing to the public the findings of historians from over the last 50 years making accessible scholarship that takes an unblinking
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intellectually honest look at the war, and that challenges all of us to stand on new ground and to see a familiar event in a new light. the marker we dedicate today is a prime example of what this project is all about. it is one of two markers, one in atlanta, where the march began, and one in savannah where it ended, that anchor both ends of the savannah campaign and provide an interpretive overview for the 50 existing markers put up since the 1950s that trace sherman's route to the sea. the georgia historical society developed technology that allows the public to find these markers, and the stories they tell in communities all over georgia. there is a free smartphone app for iphone and android, and a new website that allows users to create custom designed driving tours using google maps and historical markers. one of the most important and consistent partners in the
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effort has been the georgia battlefields association, and i am pleased to introduce the president of that organization mr. charlie crawford. charlie? >> the goal at georgia battlefield's association, and we're just about to celebrate our 20th anniversary, is to save battlefield land. so that would naturally lead to the question perhaps, what brings you to participate in this particular effort. well, we find an important part of getting people to support preservation of battlefields is to educate them about where historic sites are. and so when todd, who i've known for quite a few years now, approached me about gba participating in this effort, we thought it was a good fight. and so we're happy to help with both the financing, and the preparation of these particular markers, and have done, oh, about ten or so now in conjunction with georgia historical society. so, we're happy to participate. i'm glad to see so many people
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here. we want you to be aware of the history that surrounds so many of us throughout the state, especially here in a city such as savannah and i think you'll be pleased with the result. thank you. >> charlie thank you. the georgia battlefields association has been an important partner we would not have been able to do all that we did without them. well, on december 22nd, 1864, three days prior to the third christmas of the civil war, united states army general william t. sherman sent a telegram to president abraham lincoln announcing the capture of savannah georgia. one of the confederacy's largest cities, and last remaining ports. with typical wit sherman presented the city to the president as a christmas present along with 150 heavy guns, plenty of
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sherman decided that the time to widen the kwurden and pain of the war beyond just rebel soldiers to include the civilian supporters of the confederacy, especially the common folk. sherman believed that forcing noncombatants to field what he called the hard hand of war was a military necessity. making the war as harsh as possible but bringing victory more quickly and with a minimum loss of life on both sides. it would undermine confederate morale on the home front. trigger a wave of desertions from the armies destroy the confederacy's ability to wage war and prove to the rebels that their cause was hopeless and their government impotent to protect them and their property. this new hard war doctrine was fully sanctioned by the united states government. the previous year president abraham lincoln had approved the creation of the libor code, a
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set of rules based on accepted practices that authorized the army to destroy civilian property, starve noncombatants, shell towns keep enemy civilians in besieged cities, free slaves and summarily execute guerrillas if such measures were deemed necessary to winning the war, and defending the country. to save the country the code's author the columbia professor francis libor stated is paramount to all other considerations. like other wartime chief executives right down to the present day, lincoln was willing to take drastic measures to ensure the survival of the united states. so on november the 15th, 1864, sherman's army set out from atlanta on its infamous march to the sea, cutting a swath of destruction towards savannah on the coast. sherman swore to make georgia howl and in his special field order number 120 he laid out the rules of destruction and conduct for the march. the army was to, quote forage
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liberally on the country, with details of men sent and officers sent out each day to gather food. soldiers were instructed not to enter private homes and to discriminate between the rich who were usually hostile sherman observed and the poor and industrious who are usually neutral or friendly. now, to be sure, there was more destruction than allowed by these orders. sherman's soldiers, as the historian joseph gladhar has written, saw this as a golden opportunity to teach the people of georgia the hardships and terrors of a war which they blamed confederates for starting and continuing despite repeated defeats on the battlefield. some homes especially of those wealthy slave holders considered guilty of bringing on the war, were burned. private dwellings were entered, and personal property was taken, or ruined. and civilians were stripped of
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more food than the army needed or could possibly consume. beyond food and livestock high value targets included anything that could be used by the confederates to continue the struggle. factories, mills, cotton gins, warehouses, train depots, bridges, and railroads. still, in georgia relatively few private homes like that of howell cobb a former federal official deemed a traitor by sherman, or those adjacent to cotton mills and factories, were burned. one study, conducted in the 1930s, comparing wartime maps with existing antebellum structures found that most along the route of the march were still standing and those that were gone had been lost largely due to post-war accidents. and despite the commonly held belief reinforced by the movie "gone with the wind" that sherman reduced the entire city of atlanta to a smoldering ruin approximately half of it was completely destroyed roughly
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the same proportion of chambersburg, pennsylvania that had been burned by confederates the previous july. as this author intended, the march to the sea was harsh on civilians. losing crops, food stores and livestock left noncombatants with little to eat as winter approached. but the fear sherman created was more powerful than his acts of destruction. the site of federal troops marching across the state destroying property, and pillaging virtually unopposed had a demoralizing effect on white georgians who supported the confederacy. by waging war against the minds of his opponents sherman's march achieved its creator's goal of hastening an end to the conflict. the wives of confederate soldiers along the route of the march who feared that they lay in the path of sherman's advancing legions begged their husbands to come home, and desertions increased significantly during the fall and winter of 1864-65.
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this hemorrhaging from robert e. lee's army in virginia further he depleted his already thin ranks, and allowed general ulysses s. grant to deliver the knockout blow in the spring of 1865. from the vantage point of the 21st century sherman's way of war seems a dramatic departure from earlier methods, and has prompted some historians to characterize his george to the sea as the birth of modern total war. but hard war was not total war. while the march destroyed property and infrastructure and visited suffering and fear on the civilian population it lacked the wholesale destruction of human life that characterized world war ii. sherman's primary targets food stuffs and industrial government and military property, were carefully chosen to create the desired effect and never included mass killing of civilians, especially those law-abiding noncombatants who
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did not resist what sherman described as the national authority. indeed, sherman always claimed that his war on property was more humane than traditional methods of conflict between armies. he even told one south carolina woman that he was ransacking her plantation so that her soldier husband would come home and general grant would not have to kill him in the trenches at petersburg. he was fighting to bring rebels back in to the union, not to annihilate them. at the end of the march, when the people of savannah surrendered virtually without a fight, they were completely subjugated, sherman wrote. he saw no need to wreck the city's military and industrial facilities or to destroy private homes. an end to resistance mitigated any further need for destruction. five months earlier sherman had told the mayor of atlanta, if you and your citizens will give up, i and this army will become your greatest protectors. and it was a lesson not lost on
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savannahians. the fate of the march of the city where the march to the city ended was different than the fate of the one where it began. sherman demonstrated for the first time in the modern era the power of terror and psychological warfare in breaking an enemy's will to resist. this concept would come into full bloom during world war ii when both axis and allied powers deliberately and indiscriminately bombed civilians in order to create terror, and win the war by any means at their disposal, including dropping two atomic bombs. it would be seen again during the vietnam war when america bombed hanoi dropping on a single city more ordnance than the united states dropped in all of world war ii. indeed, in america in the 20th century, waged total war to such a frightening extent that one wonders if sherman had commanded in world war ii or vietnam, would his detractors be so repelled by him, especially
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those white southerners, taught to hate him as a war criminal? if he had served in the same army a century later and had worn khaki or green rather than blue, and if his targets had been germans, japanese vietnamese, or islamic terrorists, rather than confederates, would we still loathe him to the same degree? francis libor's words, written in 1862 to save the country is paramount to all other considerations, could have been spoken by generals 0 mar bradley or george patton as they smashed their way through another german town. or curtis lemay as he ordered the fire bombing of japanese cities. history has deemed them heroes, because their actions were against their country's foreign foes, while sherman has been vilified as a terrorist because his actions although less severe, were against his country's domestic enemies. rightly or wrongly, sherman did what he deemed militarily
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necessary to win the war within the rules laid down by his government, and to save his country. rather than an aberration, his hard hand of war fits well within the american military tradition. it is no wonder that such distinguished generals as john personing, george patton, and norman schwarzkopf would revere and emulate swarmen. schwarzkopf even kept on his desk during the first iraq war a quote from sherman. war is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and i say let us give them all they want. like the war tactics of his 21st century successors and the enhanced interrogation techniques employed more recently, sherman's march to the sea reveals the moral ambiguity of war and the extent to which americans are willing to go when our national existence is at stake. i would like now to invite the
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members of the board of the georgia historical society to join me me at the marker and charlie crawford from the georgia battlefield association will read the marker text as we unveil it. you stay on this side. that's it? >> the march to the sea. on december 21st, 1864, during the civil war, u.s. forces under general william t. sherman captured savannah, completing the march to the sea. a military campaign devised to destroy the confederacy's ability to wage war, and break the will of its people to resist. after destroying atlanta's industrial and business but not residential districts, sherman's 62,500 men left that city in mid november and marched over 250 miles, reaching savannah by mid december.
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contrary to popular myth sherman's troops primarily destroyed only property used for waging war. food railroads, train depots factories, cotton gins and warehouses. abandoning their supply base, they lived off the land destroying food they could not consume. they also liberated thousands of enslaved african-americans. sherman's hard hand of war demoralized confederates hastening the end of slavery and the reunification of the nation. erected for the civil war 150 commemoration by the georgia historical society, and georgia battlefields association. [ applause ] >> thank you. >> good job, as always. >> thank you. >> well, that concludes the ceremony. thank you all for coming. remember, that there is a free phone app for android and iphone for finding all these markers. there is a website if you go to the georgia his core cal society site to find all of the new markers plus the 1,000 existing
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markers about the civil war. you can use those to create driving tours around the state, and learn about this fascinating


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