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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  April 12, 2015 1:31pm-2:02pm EDT

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reenacting. i will do living history where i can, i have been requested at various laces as i know general grant -- berries places as i had general grant will. guest: i plan on continuing to portray general grant because i have no political ambitions at this time. ultimately, very soon, i'm going to start portraying president grant as well as general grant. host: what sort of events will those be like? guest: living history events, a lot of educational, professional leadership organizations, such as that. people want to know how grant did what he did, how president grant did what he did. host: grant's memoir became a best seller after he died.
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generally, did you write your own? guest: i did not write memoirs. i asked various officers for paperwork, but i only lived five years after the war. host: wheeling have one more caller left on the air on american history tv. is somebody there? you are on american history tv. caller: i would like to know -- i read that for you, general lee, that you took it very bad when you lost the war. how did you cope and what did you do after the war? what did you do to cope from the loss of the war? guest: the first thing i did was get with my family in richmond and took some time of i guess you could say seclusion with the family.
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we left richmond for a friends farm which was far away from the people who wanted to come and pay their respects to me. i basically put my hands in the arms of god and said show me what to do next. host: general grant, you were in washington after the war. guest: in august of 1866, they created the rank general of the army and i got my fourth star. i was the first general of the army and was general in chief until the republican party approached me after andrew johnson's term was nearing an end and requested i run. i did not want to run, but i felt the party that had elected president lincoln had come to me and asked me and i should answer the call, so iran for the presidency. host: general ulysses s. grant
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portrayed by kurt fields and general robert e lee coat -- portrayed by thomas jesse. inc. you for being with us and with our viewers as well. our program continues here at the 150th anniversary at the surrender of the army here at northern virginia at appomattox historical park. in just a moment, we will be joined by elizabeth varon author of "appomattox: victory defeat and freedom at the end of the civil war." in the meantime, we are going to let you watch some of the sites and sounds happening here at appomattox court house national historic park. we will continue with your calls in just a moment for elizabeth varon. you are watching american history tv on c-span3.
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host: let's go live to have a maddox in northern virginia here
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on c-span3 on the 150th anniversary of the surrender at appomattox. think some of the sites there making their way to the stacking of the arms. here, we are joined live by elizabeth varon, the author of a number of books, including her most recent, "appomattox: victory, defeat and freedom at the end of the civil war." we want to make sure we invite our callers and viewers to join in on the conversation. the phone numbers are on your screen. you can send us a tweet at c-span history and we are on facebook. elizabeth varon, thank you for joining us. elizabeth: this is the best place to be. host: we asked the man who was portraying general grant how many days he was relating this
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plan. elizabeth: grant has a mandate from lincoln and he knows what lincoln wants. lincoln said in his second inaugural address that he wanted a piece without malice and charity for all. lincoln is in favor for what we call a soft these, for a piece that will bring those southern brethren back into the union as swiftly as possible. grant knows that is the spirit lincoln intends and knows his brief as a military man is to affect the surrender of lee's army. at the political question, a heavy, fraught question, whether these confederates will vote or hold office or have property that was confiscated and restored to them, those questions are beyond grant's jurisdiction and those will be dealt with by civil authorities
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by politicians, congressman, back in washington dc -- back in washington, d c. this is a military convention the purpose of which is to affect the surrender of lee's med. this protects the lives of lee's men but does not resolve the political situation. grant hopes those political questions will be resolved in the spirit of malice toward none and charity toward all. host: we are seeing a lot of reenactors here today. how did the confederate troops view their yankee victors and how did the northern troops view their southern counterparts? elizabeth: it is tempting to think of this as a moment of forgetting and forgetting. -- forgiving and forgetting. grant's magnanimous terms said
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you are free to go home provided you obey the laws where you reside in each confederate is giving a -- given a parole past the stop grant's terms are magnanimous and the confederates are glad of that. but from the start, there's disagreement about what that magnanimity meant. it was an emblem of the north's moral superiority, the righteousness of the union caused. that was designed to reflect the repentance and atonement of those confederate soldiers for the sins of the confederacy -- secession and slavery. confederate soldiers did not believe there worsens for which they had to atone. it was an homage to their courage and the heartfelt war. the images the two armies had of each other were images shot through with stereotypes. they had been stoked by the
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bitterness and brutality of the war. the confederates tended to see the yankee army as an army that brought to their brute force. the yankee victory has been one of overwhelming numbers and resources. the army is a mercenary army of hirelings and cause in a northern industrial machine, not in a favorable light. yankees tended to see confederate soldiers, the rank-and-file, the men who had in effect been duped of a slaveholding aristocracy. they are negative images these two armies have of each other and they have to grapple with those here. host: there is a prominent presence here in 2015 of the u.s. colored troops -- the african-american troops. elizabeth: they are present here
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on the morning of april 9, 1865 when lee tries to break through the trap sheridan and grant have late and they are instrumental in foiling the plan. for african-american troops that participation looms large. there's a great moment of pride and an irrevocable earning of their right to resolution. host: we have a number of calls waiting. elizabeth varon is our guest. let's go to sit in denver. caller: thank you for this great program. my question -- i'm glad you alluded to the presence of african-american union soldiers. my question involves the
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deployment of the african-american soldiers in virginia as occupation troops and maybe you could shed some light, like in winchester virginia, african-american troops were there as occupying forces. could you shed some light and some relevant insight and maybe a story of what that was like? elizabeth: african-american troops are among those union soldiers who are occupation forces and locales around the south. there is some hesitancy about using them in this capacity because they understand symbolically the presence of african-american troops will be something that provokes bitterness on the part of x confederates. we will see that very quickly in the early days of reconstruction
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, confederates will begin to weave a potent myth about its harshness and begin to weave an argument that the union's effort to bring change to the south political change and social change, those efforts are in some sense the breaking of a covenant that has been made here at appomattox. in essence grandpa's term can be read as a plea to the south. we don't want to punish you further, but we don't want you to change. white southerners, x confederates will treat demand for change as a form of punishment and will argue they contravene the spirit of grandpa's magnanimity. what is important to take away here is that grant's terms, all
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of the things we have seen traumatized over the past several days are and ending, the death knell of the confederacy the premier institution of the confederate independence. everything that transpires here is a beginning point. the surrender seen any presence of african-american troops and the questions of their role in the life of the nation and military occupation, all of these questions are fraught and they become a touchstone for the debate for the controversy to which the color only. host: we go to gina next on american history tv. caller: it's nice to be able to talk to you, miss elizabeth. i'm from alabama and i moved to cheyenne, wyoming. i have a little story -- it's
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not a question, but i guess you might call on the lighter side the true story of the surrender. that day at appomattox, when the two generals met general grant was dirty and disheveled and the honorable robert e lee showed up on traveler in a new suit. general grant happened to ask general lee, may i see your sort. generally most graciously let him see the sword and grant took it as surrender. that is a true story of what we call the surrender. so the south did not surrender. host: thank you for sharing. elizabeth: there are many stories connected with the surrender that don't stand up to
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scrutiny, the less to say. the idea lee offered grant the sword and greg refused to take it is one of them. what you allude to there is the appearance of the two men -- grant, disheveled, muddy frockcoat, lee dressed very handsomely in a dress uniform. the people present in the courthouse read a lot into the appearance of those two men symbolic of those. he had more that she had molded them into a formal army and they were proud of grandpa's disheveled appearance. the confederates saw them -- they were proud of lee's appearance. every detail of the settings -- of the setting here was highly
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symbolic and americans read a great deal in to be tail. host: was that symbolism only after the fact? elizabeth: no, and this is something we should appreciate. news travels to this place -- that evening, new yorkers have gotten word of the surrender. new york is the media capital of the country then as it is now and word disseminates throughout the north. in some places, word travels less quickly and the newspaper business works -- was in shambles and the south that in the deep south, people don't here until late april, on the periphery in texas, they don't here until may. but the minute those details the exchange of the letters details of the terms to which they agree, details of the way
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they were dressed, as soon as those details at the papers and are analyzed. and they are, as we would say today's colloquialism, they are spun. he says to the starving exhausted truth, there is no shame in such a defeat. in the eyes of the northern press covering events here, that is a political statement, as one abolitionist paper put it, it's a slap in the face to loyal union soldiers. every detail is politicized postop -- every detail is politicized. caller: thank you for your work on appomattox. i want to tell everybody on your chapter on defeat, you give more coverage of the u.s. colored troops and their reaction of the
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former slaves, people who were enslaved right there in appomattox and i wanted to ask you to talk about where are the u.s. colored troops today? i don't see them there and this is my second time watching the program. where are they represented where are the people of appomattox represented? you talk about william harrison who says he was with grant at appomattox, a former slave that had all load his owner as a servant. could you please talk more about the role of u.s. colored troops and why we don't see them here today? elizabeth: it is a fascinating story. there has been in the course of this commemoration at the park service, there has been a great deal of acknowledgment about this vital piece of the story but there's always more to be
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said as the caller has suggested. i alluded to the role of the united states colored troops year as liberators, members of the victorious army. but africans in this section of virginia and throughout the south regarded april 9, 1860 five, as a general day of liberation. part of my research that surprised me most, is african-americans across the country celebrated that april 9 anniversary of until the world war i era will stop what were they celebrating? in this war, freedom follows the union army where the union army was successful. lincoln issued his famous proclamation in 1863 but until the confederacy had been brought to heel, it could not be grasped by many slaves in the south.
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lee's army was so potent a symbol -- the pretense of racial superiority, all the confederacy stood for, this limbs large as a freedom day. there are two stories here at appomattox that involve african-americans, both liberators and the liberated. that makes this symbolically a very powerful symbol. host: our cameras are all over and we have seen the reenactors of the colored troops here as well as the reenactors of some of the freed slaves were here. we hope to be able to see them as well. elizabeth: the caller's right to know that this is a very important subject about which there is still a lot to learn. host: let's go to linda in
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panama city, florida. caller: first of all, c-span thank you so much. elizabeth, i bought your book when i saw you lecture. i have no question, i have a comment. the book, everyone needs to get it. whatever your interest is -- if you are watching now, obviously you are interested in the civil war. i've had the honor of going there and reading your book and it's the best book ever written about this moment in time. i thank you so much for what you did and the time and sacrifice on your family, i don't want to embarrass you but the reason i read it initially i'm a direct line descendent -- my great, great grandfather was with the georgia 20th and he was there this day, 150 years ago. he made his way back to georgia and he became a tenant farmer
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alongside former slaves. your book represents what happens -- what happened and gives the true story regardless of the blue, the gray or the slave, we all stand on the shoulders of every single person who was involved with appomattox. elizabeth: thank you for your comment. i want to pick up on one thing that you said that is that you visited appomattox. one thing i want readers to take away is the importance of coming to these places. the park service in this commemoration and this sesquicentennial has been heroic in their efforts. we have seen a very nuanced and sophisticated view of things and a lot of people have worked very hard and a lot of people who studied history, what we want is for this momentum to keep up and for people to come back to these
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places. they always have something new to teach us on a second, third fourth visit. i feel a little bit of this age of electronic distractions, the days of throwing the kids back into the station wagons and taking kids to the historic parks are long gone. we all have to make a concerted effort and convey to young people in particular how important it is to see these places first hand. host: when you drive into appomattox, there's a sign that says appomattox -- the place where our nation reunited. what do you make of that? elizabeth: the view of this as a moment of reunion and healing coexists with a more complicated battle over the meaning of the terms. it's a battle fought out by politicians and so forth.
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it's very powerful for americans because there was a strong sense in 1865 that america was ending its civil war in a way civil wars have not ended. our civil war was never destined to end that way because in the minds of the victorious union the point was to make the union whole again. reprisals were never in the cards. there was a powerful sense on the part of the people in the union that confederates had been led astray by their leaders and if they could just be distant drawled, they could be right back into the national old and a profound hope that mercy and magnanimity would speed that process. we see in the same newspapers
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debating the nature of the terms, we see americans congratulating themselves on the civil way they ended their civil war. these are sort of two sides of the appomattox story. host: let's see if we can get one more call from joann in new jersey. postcode go ahead. caller: i was not aware that she was on grant staff. what was his job on staff? what happened to robert lincoln? we never hear about that anymore except for that time on the train? is her any literature on him or a way to know what happened to that man? >> the best lincoln biographies out there will help you follow up that story. lincoln's role at appomattox was not a major one.
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he was a soldier who came to the war late. it was perhaps important symbolically. what i like to say about the composition of those entourages is that you have an grants entourage a large number of his right-hand men. these are his administrative officers, aids the camp, most important generals. they are there to bear witness to the surrender at this joyous moment. and interestingly joyous moment for them, they give us perspective on what happened there that conflicts with each other. we don't have a detailed account by robert lincoln or by others. they differ in their interpretation of what happens. some of the officers feel that lee at this moment of surrender was capable of cordiality, others felt that lee


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