tv The Civil War CSPAN August 22, 2015 6:00pm-7:26pm EDT
general william tecumseh sherman's burning of savannah. he argues against the depiction of sherman as a villain. and also talks about how slaves reacted to sherman's victory. the smithsonian association hosted this 90 minute event. >> good evening everyone. can everyone hear me well? good. i'm mary mclachlan. i'd like to welcome all of you tonight to what promises to be a very stimulating program on the union general william t. sherman. before we begin and i introduce our speaker, i'd like to remind everyone to check their cell phones and make sure that they are turned off. and also remind t photos are prohibited during smithsonian association programs. and lastly, we are delighted to
have the c-span history channel program filming tonight. jeff shaara will be happy to take questions at the end of the program. we have microphones so c-span can capture your questions. if you will raise your hands we will just wait, if you could, to hold off on asking your questions until you have that microphone in your hand. it is a pleasure to welcome our speaker jeff shaara to the smithsonian. jeff was last here with us in 2013 when he presented an outstanding program on the battle of vicksburg. prior to that he was here in 2012 when he presented a program on the battle of shiloh. jeff shaara's trajectory as one
of the most acclaimed writers on it the civil war, the revolutionary war, and world war ii. he holds a degree in criminology from florida state university. at age 15 he operated a rare coin business, first out of his home and then at a retail store. in 1974 he moved to tampa, florida, and eventually became one of the most widely known precious metal dealers in florida. but in 1988, things changed. his father, writer michael shaara, wrote the classic novel "the killer angels." he died and jeff made the decision to sell his business and take over management of his father's estate. after the critical and commercial success of the film "gettysburg," jeff was
approached about the possibility of continuing the story and finding someone to write a prequel and sequel to "the killer angels." although jeff had no prior experience as a writer, he decided to take on the challenge. in 1996, his first novel, "god and generals," was published to critical acclaim. in 1998, the sequel was published and received universal praise. since that time, jeff has gone on to write 15 additional books, only one of which is the work -- is a work of nonfiction. in 2003, the major motion picture "god and generals," based on jeff's first book, was released by warner bros.
in 2007 jeff was named to serve on the board of trustees for the civil war preservation trust. tonight we have jeff's newest book on which tonight's program is based, available at smithsonian museum shops outside of this auditorium. this is the final installment in jeff's four book civil war series. with that said, please join me in giving a very warm welcome to jeff shaara. [applause] mr. shaara: thank you. what people watching this a few weeks from now on c-span will know is that the weather outside is about as bad as it can get. the fact that this many of you came here tonight is an extraordinary compliment. i take that very seriously. thank you. you could be home where it is dry.
this is an interesting time for me. this book just came out two days ago. it is a farewell for me, it's the end of an era. that kind of makes me sound too self-important, but it is an end of a series. it is the end of my relationship with some characters who i have really come to love. that is the ingredient that allows me to do this, is to get into the heads of these people and feel as though i love them. at the end, you have to say farewell. sometimes you say farewell during the story, something happens to someone, that can be pretty tough too. but the characters i want to talk about tonight are characters who do make it to the end. it has been quite a ride. it was quite a ride for them. it has been quite right for me.
-- ride for me. one of my problems anytime i have a book come out, is i don't know when i go on tour, this is the third stop on my tour that will take me through the month of june. i am still perky, that will change. what i do when i start a tour with a brand-new book, there's a real challenge because i have no idea what to talk about. one thing i have done in the past, and my wife has said, don't do that, is all stand up here on the stage and tell you what the book is about. that is sort of, i imagine some of you are sort of here to hear that. the problem is if i tell you too much of what the book is about, there is no reason for you to buy the book. [laughter] my publisher also sort of chimes in, don't do that. well i can't help it.
i needed to talk about these characters. if you know what i do, you know that what i don't do is write history books. it is not names, dates, places, fact and figures. i'm a storyteller, not a historian. that is a very important distinction to me. a lot of people say you are a historian. a lot of historians of say, no you're not. you don't have the phd. the bona fides. they are right. i don't pretend to. my job is to tell you good stories. that is the lesson i learned from my father, sitting around the dinner table as a kid listening to my father as the 12-year-old, 10-year-old at the table listening to the old man tell his story. that made an impression on me. i realized if i'm going to do this, it's not about the facts and figures, it is about getting you involved in the story with me. taking you with me back to the time.
well, i had done civil war and left civil war and said goodbye to robert e. lee and stonewall. i went and did a bunch of other things, american revolution, mexican war, then world war i, world war ii. but, something, actually you know, one thing i said to an audience here is people asked me -- i get the question, what you going to do next? the answer was korea. all of those veterans are saying, hey, we are getting older, too. yeah. the other thing is i realized i got excited. i've got a tremendous research library already on korea, and i'm ready to go, and then the thing happens in 2011. i realize there is an opportunity here to look at some things that nobody looks at very
often, not even a lot of civil war buffs. part of it came from all those letters i got from people in tennessee and mississippi who said you know, we are awfully tired of hearing about robert e lee in virginia. there is a whole lot of stuff that happened west of the appalachian mountains that nobody ever talks about. so i started looking at this, and i may have said to this audience before, publishers like trilogies. vampires, there are all kinds of trilogies. [laughter] i put them in a box i guess. we decided to do a trilogy on the war in the west. i started looking at the topics, and it actually played out really well because i wanted to do a story, one per year, and each one is around sort of the 150th anniversary of that event. the first one is very clear to me.
the bloodiest battle of the war up to its time, which was shiloh. you say shiloh, you heard of shiloh. most people really don't know what happened in shiloh changed history, changed at the rest of the war. two reasons. one, the death of one man, albert sidney johnston. he was a confederate commander, a lot of people have never heard of him and that's a shame because he's a really interesting guy. he died in 1862 in the middle of his own attack. at the time of his death, he is winning the day. the south is winning the battle of shiloh. the union army is in a mess, people are running like crazy, they are hiding along the riverbank of the tennessee river.
hundreds of soldiers have given up the fight. they are done. the south is trying to cut off the union army from the river and if they can do that the army has nowhere to go, it is over. it would be a crushing defeat for federal forces. that's what's happening when johnston goes down. the reason that changes history, first of all. albert sidney johnston was extremely close with jefferson davis, president of the confederacy. in the confederacy if you were friends with jefferson davis, you are going to do big things. if you weren't friends with jefferson davis, it did not matter how good of a soldier you were, he was going to find a way
to get rid of you. that is not a good way to run a war. we will talk about davis later. johnston also, in the hierarchy of the confederacy, he outranked robert e. lee. now, in the summer of 1862 robert e. lee is appointed command of the army of northern virginia. i suggest that had johnston not been killed at shiloh, there is a really good chance he would have gotten that appointment. he would have gone east because he wasn't so close to davis, and we never would have heard of robert e. lee. all those people i have met who claim to be a descendent of robert e. lee, and some of them are. i'm sure some of them aren't. they might now claim to be descendents of albert sidney johnston. [laughter] the other part of that equation is that the federal command -- commander at shiloh is ulysses grant. he is losing when johnston is killed. he turns around the next day and wins the battle.
had grant lost in that battle, that was the end of his career. likely we would never have heard of ulysses s. grant, 18th president of the united states. that is how history changed with shiloh. also, the first battle in the east that draws all kind of attention, mull -- manassas, bull. 1861. that was this -- the first big fight. the newspaper's website by the casualties, people -- were upset by the casualties, people were shocked. 5000 casualties. at shiloh, 18 months later, there are 40,000 casualties. but because of where shiloh is, very few people are aware just how horrible that fight is. that was obvious that that was going to be the first book of the series. the second book, if you look at what my father did with "the killer angels," he focuses just
on the battle of gettysburg. gettysburg is sort of in the center which worked out very well for me, working the prequel and the sequel. at the same time that denny's is happening in pennsylvania, there is something else happening along the mississippi river. that is the battle of vicksburg. so it made perfect sense to me that vicksburg would be the central piece of my trilogy. i've made arguments, i've gotten in a lot of arguments with historians. i live in gettysburg now. a lot of people don't care to hear me say that i think what happened in vicksburg was more important than what happened in gettysburg. ulysses s. grant received the surrender of the confederate
troops, the confederacy has lost all of the mississippi river. all the way down to the gulf of mexico, it that is in union control. they could move people up and down, all the way through the gulf with impunity. the confederacy, they lose texas, arkansas, most of louisiana. why is that important? men, food, supply, all cut off. those people are sort of on their own now. it divides the confederacy. that is a big deal. that was an easy second choice. the third choice was always going to be this book, "fateful lightning," it was always going to be sherman marching from atlanta at the end of the war. i realized why jump from vicksburg to atlanta, i skipped a whole bunch of history. i had to go back to new york and convince random house to let me do a four book trilogy. [laughter] they said yes. so i realize, i can't just skip
over a bunch of really important stuff and really important people. one of those people, all t way through this, there is a string that ties these books together, is sherman. the other string that is there for most of it is ulysses s. grant. but grant goes east. in early 1864, abraham lincoln figures it out, that we note -- need the right guy. he finds the right guy and puts grant in charge of the entire union army. grant when he leaves, he puts in charge behind him, sherman. sherman is now in command of the armies of the west. that is a huge part of history there. i skipped over chickamauga and chattanooga. all of this happens in late 1863.
chickamauga was a tremendous victory for the confederates. it's a disaster, it takes place in chickamauga, there is no town of chickamauga. it is in northern georgia. the union army is in chaos. they have run scrambling, retreating from the field, back to their stronghold of chattanooga, tennessee, across the border. it is a mess. it is bad. all the confederate generals realize this is an opportunity. think about what just happened that summer, gettysburg, vicksburg. the morale in the north is sky high, the morale in the south is in the pits. all of a sudden, at chickamauga, it turns around. we have defeated a major union army. all of the generals go to their commanders, and say, we've got them, let's go.
follow this up. bragg doesn't believe it. he doesn't believe the army has been that successful. he is cautious. so he delays, he has people underneath him who are going crazy that he has delayed. instead of what bragg, he kind of goes and looks, sees the union army there and chattanooga. if you know the lay of the land there, it is really interesting. you have high mountains on two sides, and the tennessee river is right there and then chattanooga is right there. bragg looks down at that and says, that's perfect. we will make a siege. we will get them right back. bragg wants a siege, the problem is there are not enough confederates to close the circle. the union folks and chattanooga are in kind of dire straits for a while, starvation going on, but grant arrives over the mountain. he comes in, he breaks the siege and supplies begin coming to
chattanooga. all those generals who were looking at bragg, realize we lost an opportunity here. in fact, bragg is so despised by his own generals they sign a petition to have him removed from command. that never happens in the army. that petition is sent to richmond, to jefferson davis. jefferson davis likes bragg, so he goes there. he goes to the headquarters to calm everyone down, to soothe their feelings and convince them everything is going to be fine. then he goes back to richmond. what davis has just done is handed bragg carte blanche to do whatever he wants. what do you think bragg does with all those people who signed that petition?
he purges quite a few of them from his army. these were good commanders and he finds a good way to get rid of them. not a really good way to win a war. as the union army gets stronger in chattanooga, he finally break out. you got grant, sherman, fighting joe hooker who lost the battle of chancellorsville. he is there now fighting under grant. what they do, they succeeded masterfully in just blowing bragg's troops off the mountain. it is a shining victory for the union. the one shining light in that story is the man who is a principal character in the story, and his name is patrick claiborne. there is a book written about patrick clayborn, unfortunately for the confederates, he is one man. he can't control what is
happening all over the rest of the field. i love this character, you would too. the defeat for the confederates at chattanooga is absolute. even jefferson davis can't hide. nobody will serve under bragg, but now he is jefferson davis advisor. but what has just happened by the defeat of the confederates in chattanooga, the door is wide open to atlanta. sherman takes control of the armies there. he knows what his job is. his job is to go to atlanta. it is enormously important. robert e. lee's army is in virginia. the rail lines are critically important, sherman recognizes, that's where we have to go next.
assuming command after bragg is gone is joe johnson. he is one of the highest-ranking generals in the confederacy. there is another guy who hates jefferson davis, the feeling is mutual. they feud all the time. but davis realizes we need someone to take up this defeated army and put them back together again to try to stop sherman from taking atlanta. it doesn't really work because johnson is, first of all, a master of retreat. [laughter] sometimes that's really important. you can preserve your army, live to fight another day. johnson's good at that. he really makes people feel good. it doesn't do anything for the people in richmond, and it certainly doesn't do anything for the newspapers in richmond. they began to joke around that he is so good at retreating that eventually his army will end up
in bermuda. [laughter] after a while as the fights push closer and closer to atlanta, there are some very minor victories for the confederacy. for the most part, sherman has the numbers. he's got the forces. he's got the guns. they get closer and closer to atlanta, and jefferson davis has seen enough of that. he gets rid of joe johnston and brings in a fighter. that's what we need, a fighter. he brings in john bell hood. john bell hood has already lost at least two limbs at that point. there is a really sort of really sick story. at the battle of chickamauga, john bell hood loses a leg. he is a texan. he wants the leg preserved and taken back to texas to be buried.
they pick some poor lieutenant on a horse with the leg and sent him off to texas. the leg never makes it. i can only imagine that nobody knows what ever happened to this guy, or what ever happened to the leg, but think about after about three days. what that ride must've been like, i'm guessing that that lieutenant said -- threw it in a ditch, and then went home. we don't know where the leg ended up. but john bell hood recognizes that he is been putting in this bind because of what joe johnston did not do. he did not fight effectively against sherman. hood understands that all eyes are on him. i'm going to fight. and he does. in three separate engagements around the city of atlanta he takes his army and throws it away into sherman's guns. he marches into these valiant attacks that are just absolutely
disastrous. he's so whipped, as he retreats, he withdraws his army into alabama. atlanta now belongs to sherman. sherman marches into atlanta and here's where the problems begin when you are dealing with sherman and his reputation. first of all, he is not, he does not go in and butcher the city of atlanta. he tells the citizens, please go. there is no reason for you to be here. bad stuff is going to happen. you can get out if you want. a lot of them do, a lot of them don't. he tells the mayor, the townspeople, there is no reason for you to be here. we are going to burn some things. sherman never decides to just go burn a bunch of homes. he is burning every factory,
every mill works, he tears up every railroad. anything that can give aid to the confederacy. unfortunately, when the wind blows and you are burning this factory next to a wooden house, it happens. john bell hood is being besieged by richmond to do something about this. hood realizes, he comes up with a new plan. i know what we will do, we will march north. we will go into tennessee, and we will go attack nashville. sherman, who is over here in atlanta, he will follow us. he will protect national. what they don't realize is that sherman has already sent george thomas up to nashville with a bunch of people. sherman could care less about nashville and whether john bell hood is doing. he has his eye on something else entirely, and he does not tell his own army.
he tells a couple of his own generals and he tells grant. he has to get grant and washington's permission to go the opposite direction. we are going to burn all those railroads, or in the bridges behind us and go the other direction. in georgia, you have three cities sort of in arranged like this. the one in the north, augusta. it is on the south carolina border, an important town. in the center you have will is built. milledgeville is the capital of georgia. south of milledgeville is macon. factories, armament works, important places all three of them. the confederates have exactly 4000 cavalry men in georgia to
oppose sherman. sherman has 60,000 troops with about 4000 cavalry of his own. all he has to do is confuse the confederates as to where he is going and they will not be able to unite everybody together to make some kind of attack on his army. he fools them. he absolutely convinces them that he could be going to macon, could be going straight ahead to milledgeville. they have no clue. he divides his army and sends them like fingers on this road. again, 60,000 infantry. he sends them on all these different roads. the confederate cavalry is watching this and they have absolutely no idea where he is going so they can never unite. they have to scatter. well, i'm doing exactly what i'm not supposed to be doing. i'm telling you what is in the
book. but there is a point to this and i'm going to stop now. the history is what it is. you know, most of you know, that sherman ends up at savannah. that was his intention all along. in savannah is the confederate commander william hardee. he is a west pointer, he writes the textbook on military tactics that they are using in both armies. hardee is the author of the book written in 1850. now he is a confederate commander. he is in savanna and he has 9000 troops. he figures out before anyone else just where sherman is going. he realizes there is not much point in just sitting here and waiting for him. that is all part of the story. hardee, i really like this man.
he is a good soldier. he knows his duty, he knows what he is doing on the battlefield, and he knows that their cause is hopeless. this is a big theme all the way through this story is that the confederate commanders, good confederate commanders, no matter what is coming out of richmond. boy is their stuff coming out of richmond. jefferson davis himself, who is completely delusional about confederate possibilities, they are saying things like now that sherman has cut himself off from atlanta he is going to get thrown in the ocean. his army is going to starve. now we've got him where we want him. all of this ridiculousness is coming out of richmond. newspapers in charleston, augusta, places like this. hardee is reading this with a great deal of sadness. he realizes that none of it is true.
he is right there. he knows exactly what is going to happen but he had to keep going. he has to keep doing his duty. that is a tough story for a man who values what he does and has an enormous amount of honor and a sense of excellence about what he does. he is faced with the impossible. that is sort of the story. sherman, the thing about sherman, and depending on when this actually airs on c-span, i may already have been through with this tour. i kind of hope so. i'm going next week to atlanta, jackson, mississippi, and birmingham. atlanta and jackson,
were both burned by sherman. i have to go and stand out in front of audiences in that town and tell them about this book. the reception there might not be as kind as the reception i'm getting from you. but history is what it is. my job is to tell the truth. here is what happened. yes, he burnt pieces of atlanta. it's a mess. i start this book, in my mind, with that scene in "gone with the wind" when scarlet o'hara is going through all the wounded, the conflagration of atlanta. those special effects they did, 1939, it's pretty amazing. that's what i imagine sherman is seeing as he is leaving atlanta. i did not steal margaret mitchell's idea but it is the history. it is what it is. that is where this story begins. with all due respect to the people of atlanta who have been sending me all this stuff about
the battle of peach tree creek, that is not what this book is about. that is another book. i could not convince random house to do a five book trilogy. it was just too much. [laughter] i agonize in every book i do about what to leave out. that is one of the problems. so i start exactly as sherman, on november 16, 1864, as sherman leaves atlanta and begins the march. the march itself is only half the story. when sherman gets to savannah, it's not over. lee and grant are still going at it in petersburg. the goal all along, sherman has in his mind, it's not just to capture savanna.
you can capture savannah, fine. it's not really useful to the confederacy because of the union blockade. they are not really shipping things out of there. it's just a nice place to be. but sherman realizes as nice surprise as that is, there is a missionary here. he wants to march his army up to join grant, to create an overwhelming force. he does the same thing he did across georgia. hardee is sitting up in charleston. look at a map, you go out of savannah, what is the logical place to hit next? it's charleston. sherman fakes them out again. if you know your geography, what is in the middle of south carolina? columbia, the state capital. that is the most controversial
thing that sherman is involved with. not that sherman did, what sherman is involved with. columbia burned. way worse than atlanta. it is a mess. columbia burned because of cotton. i am going to get grief from this, i know. actually on this tour, i am not going to columbia, south carolina. that was not a conscious decision. it's just that the publisher arranges my tours, i wanted to go to columbia but -- [laughter] in colombia, there are people who are still angry because sherman burned colombia. no, he really didn't. the fire was actually started by
confederate cavalry under wade hampton because they did not want the cotton to fall into the hands of the union soldiers. as sherman rising, there is a storm brewing. the winds are whipping like crazy. it's almost like there is snow in the air. it's not snow. it's flakes of cotton. that is where the fire begins. that wind whips up the fire. sherman's own people, his own staff, are out in the middle of the night trying to put fires out. it's a hopeless task. a whole division of union soldiers is brought into town to try to put the fires out. they can't. it's too late. is sherman culpable for that? of course he is. is he blamed for it? of course he is.
a lot of people say no, he didn't. we have to make a judgment. i just tell you what happened. that's as far as i'm going with the plot. the war ends, you know. [laughter] there are two other characters in this but i am going to tell you about. one of them is introduced in the shiloh book. his name is james seeley. he is now under fighting joe wheeler. a confederate cavalry general who serves as a major general in the spanish-american war with the united states army and commands teddy roosevelt and the rough riders. talk about full circle. there is a confederate cavalry commander, fighting joe wheeler. seeley fights under him and his right there on the front lines.
more than anyone else, he understands when he looks around him and sees, what we have left to fight -- hold these guys back? not enough. he is deeply in despair about this, but he understands that they have to fight. they have opportunities and chances, that is part of the story. i'm happy to bring seeley back. there is another character who was completely unique for me and i have never done this before. most people haven't done this, because you don't find many accounts. as sherman's army marches through georgia one of the things that happens, imagine. the army marches past a plantation. the plantation owners and the overseers and the people keeping the slaves in chains or whatever, they are gone. they take off. the slaves are sitting at the plantation watching this army
march by. they begin to realize, we don't have to stay here. they begin to follow the army. tens of thousands of them walk off the farms and plantations and begin to follow sherman's army. the only problem for sherman's army, they have to feed them. we are talking old people, young people, infants, children, women, girls. complete cross-section of humanity pours out and follow sherman's army. one of those people is a 19-year-old young man named franklin. franklin is born and raised on howell's cobb plantation. he was teh former governor of georgia. hardy has to deal with that. he leaves the plantation and this young man has been born and raised, and that's the only
thing he knows. life on that plantation. his father is there, his father has lost part of his legs to one of the dogs. that is a whole story in itself. the father is terrified of leaving because the father thinks, once the army has gone all the people will come back. we better go back to work in the field. franklin says no. he has seen what is happening, he walks off, leaves his father, and follows the army. franklin is an interesting character because he is ultimately ignorant. he can barely read. think about what they taught slaves, they taught them how to read the bible. they wanted them to be good christians.
the preachers would come and teach them how to read the bible. that's how he learned how to read. he can count to 100, he can add, he can do subtraction. now he is out in the street, in the road, surrounded by a sea of black faces and he realizes it's more people than he has ever counted kernels of corn. he did not know there were that many black faces in the world until he sees them all. he does not know what the city is until he sees savannah. what happens with franklin, the other part of this, and it is hard for us to put ourselves into that mind. i worked on this. think about, he is a smart man. a man with intellect with no education. he walks out, everything he sees is brand-new. the cannon, the artilleryman, the union artilleryman bragging about our big guns. all of this is a new sensory experience to franklin. several other things happen.
there is an example where union cavalry has bundles of confederate money. they are tossing it to the crowds and all of the negroes have gathered around grabbing this stuff out of the air in euphoria. franklin snatches a note out of the air and is looking at it. i was in the rare coin, precious metal business. i know what a confederate bill looks like. i've owned them. he is looking at this bill, think about slaves. bending over in a cotton field, working the land. he can't for the life of him understand why someone would put that image on a piece of money. what is there about that that is appealing to anyone? and he also realizes, money, he's not even really sure what
the money is for. the union cavalry is throwing it out in big heaps, it tells him it probably isn't worth -- tell this to a guy who is stuffing his pockets full. franklin also realizes, here's the army. all around him people are just in jubilation. you hear that a lot, the mr. lincon's boys. sherman heard it. the lincoln boys are coming to save us. an old woman tells franklin, we have been delivered. franklin is walking along with this parade of joy and he begins to wonder, what is going to happen when the army goes home? where are we going? we are following the army to where?
he doesn't know, when he gets to savannah people start talking about south carolina. he doesn't know what that is. that level of unawareness and intuition is a really interesting combination and i love the character of franklin. this is something again, i've never done this before. i don't know how it is going to be received. first of all, i never in the book use the term "african-american." this was 1864. they did not use that term. there are other terms i also don't use even though they are in memoirs, everybody else's memoirs. i don't cross that line. but the story of what it is like for the slaves when they realize they don't have to go back to the plantation, and then they had a different realization entirely. at ebenezer creek, georgia, a horrible thing happens. i'm not going to reveal it to you because it is in the book. [laughter] they find out the hard way that
all of those guys in blue are not necessarily their friends. just because the union army has delivered them and given them freedom does not mean that all those soldiers in blue like them. there are a couple of things that happen, and some of the slaves decide i would rather go home. they turn around and they go back rather than keep going and taking their chances. this is three-dimensional history. this is how it happened. one thing to read in the textbook, so many slaves, followed sherman's army. you read that all the time. if there are 50,000 slaves following the army, that is 50,000 minds seeing things differently than we do. one of the things about sherman
again i kind of joke. again, i don't think i'm going to get all that much grief in atlanta next week. i explore the character and his frailty, by modern standards this man is manic-depressive. bipolar. that is sort of a pretty accurate diagnosis. he suffers. his army is full of vim and vigor. a lot of the people marching across south carolina have never lost a battle. they are ready to fight. sherman is looking for the enemy, he wants to fight and and --end this thing, and yet he himself suffers from all kinds of fears and doubts. the anxieties, i'm not making apologies for him at all. people in atlanta may think i'm doing that. or columbia. that's just who he is.
that's my job. the research, sherman's memoir is wonderful. i have a book this thick of sherman's letters. his wife is another story. ellen sherman is a devout catholic. sherman is not. that is kind of a problem between them. it actually becomes a problem much later in their life when their son thomas wants to become a priest. sherman will have none of it. that causes a split in their family well after the war. there are a lot of things about these people that go way beyond what they do with a sword in their hand on the battlefield. that is my job. to take you with me and introduce these characters to you as human beings. they are not that different from us. that is the lesson i learned from my father. now, i want to wrap this up because i very much want to hear
from you. we are limited on time. i understand that. i could go on talking exactly about what i'm talking about now. i am working -- four years, five years ago, i was here. someone will always ask me what are you working on next? at that time, i told them what i wanted to do next was korea. i mentioned korea before. one of the reasons i really want to do korea is not just because veterans are writing me, which is very nice, but because if you think about this what do most americans who weren't there know about korea? "mash." with all due respect to alan alda and whoever, that is not about korea at all. it's about vietnam. that's a vietnam story.
look when it was made. what about the yellow river? i have the memoir of a chinese p.o.w., there are other side. i can do that. i'm so excited. i was really bummed to find out, because i will go to korea. eisenhower said that. i will go to korea. i found out that choisen is in the north. i will not go there. someone suggested, i will help you sneak in. yeah. that's a good idea. that's the next story, i've been on a book a year schedule.
i was trying to do each book a year, and it took a lot out of me. i can't do that again. i'm getting too old. i'm looking at probably 18 months, that's what i'm working on right now. talk about a change of pace and a completely different perspective. that's good for me, that's actually helpful. i'm excited about that. after that i very much want to do a vietnam story. that's my generation, i've received so many letters from people. guys who were in vietnam have sent me stuff and wants their stories put together. there's another example of what do i leave out? what i am not going to do is the lbj, mcnamara story. i want to be out there was somebody, as they said in apocalypse now, that's the story i want to tell. that's on the table as well.
a couple other things are on the table. i hope to be doing this for a long time, and i just have to say, for you to come out here tonight in this miserable weather and to sit here and listen to me ramble on about these characters, this is where i get my energy. this is where i get my enthusiasm for going home and sitting in my office and writing with my two fingers. writing these stories. i really thank you for that. i just hope that as i keep doing this, you keep coming back. if you keep coming back i will keep telling these stories. thank you. [applause] mr. shaara: questions, i will point to you. if you'll wait for the microphone, so we can hear you.
>> i know how much information is out there about the civil war in general, but you have introduced characters, franklin. where were your sources, and how did you research the development of the character? shaara: there are no really good sources. if you think about it, if you are looking at a source who is an escaped slave, most of them were illiterate. they did not write accounts. there were a few, but define the specific -- to find the specific account, i hate to say this way. it's a novel. i had to create this character and put as much accuracy into him based on what i could find out about plantation life, slave life. one of the orders sherman gives to his army in response to what he sees on the plantations? one of the orders he gives, and
this is true, shoot every dog you see. they take them out. those hounds could never again track down a runaway slaves. that is one of the bones that franklin throws to his father. that piece right there, sort of going back there from that and imagining what was it that inspired him to think that way. sherman did not have enormous affection for the slaves, the freed slaves. sherman and saw them as an encumbrance. he makes that very plain. by the end he changes his mind a little bit, which is to his credit. but he knows that lincoln wants this, and he serves lincoln. he is doing his job. he is very sort of non-involved emotionally with the plight of the slaves at first.
but he begins to see the things, that helped me see them as well. it put me on that ground. i know that's not a really good answer to your question, i really don't have one because it's here. it's part of seeing, people ask me all the time how do you write the dialogue? all i am doing is i get to the point where i'm there. all i'm doing is telling you what i see and what i hear. i don't mean to sound mystical about it, i'm not searching for ghost. that's what it feels like to me when i'm writing. i'm hearing a conversation and writing it down. i'm telling you what i hear. that's how the character of franklin involved. i'm just telling you what i'm thinking because he's there. there's not a good word for that. there's a lousy word for it,
which is magic. there's not a better word than that. when the words are coming at us, and i'm there, to me that is magic. that is what makes me a writer. that is why i love being a writer. i'm sorry that is not a better answer to your question. yes? >> when sherman was going south was he in contact with washington, d.c.? telegraphs, how do they communicate? shaara: this was one of the enormous controversies when sherman leaves atlanta. one thing he makes very clear to grant, the newspaperman who were traveling with him, david
cunningham is a reporter who was actually a character in the book. we'll guide. he is very plain. we are cutting off everything. there is a quote from lincoln, i know what hole he went into, we will wait and see what hole he comes out of. sherman can't talk to anybody. when sherman reaches the coast of savannah, the union navy is there. those people are wondering, are we ever going to see those guys -- this guy? sherman shows up, that's a great scene. but i mean, the navy, they are the first line of communication. they are sitting out there in their ships wondering what is going to happen. suddenly there is a fight and here is the union army. that's a wonderful scene. no. sherman tells the newspaper men, you said your last telegram at a glance their is no more until we get somewhere else. of course the newspaperman have to accept it. there was no communication. that is why grant was awfully nervous about giving this authorization.
people in washington were beside themselves, afraid that this is going to be an absolute catastrophe. it did not turn out that way. >> i appreciate you talking. i'm from atlanta. [laughter] >> i moved there from columbia, south carolina. [laughter] [indiscernible] >> i've been to chickamauga, i remember we were taught that when all of these guys were retreating, i wondered if he thought he could hold and sherman was going around him? my question is, had he remained in control of the army until
after the election, do you think that would have had any effect on the outcome? shaara: that's a real good what if, because the fall of atlanta in the late summer of 1864 basically hands the election to lincoln. atlanta is already in sherman's possession, which was again a huge morale boost for the north. it really cements lincoln's chances over george mcclellan. that is a really good what if, because had there been -- what was going on, what the smart confederates, not jefferson davis, with all due respect. he may have been a very smart man but he was also a very delusional man. the people who understood war and understood strategy and logistics, and understood the confederacy cannot win the way we are doing it now, what their
best hope was was you wear the north out. you drag it on for so long that people in the north get sick of it. we are tired of our boys coming home in boxes, let's get this over with. that was the best hope the confederates had. had sherman not taken atlanta, it was certainly possible that george mcclendon, who runs as the peace candidate, ihe can't win the war, he is going to make sure no one else wins either. he may have played up on that, as well as it was a moot point as atlanta fell but that is a real good what if. the only hope the south had was not victory on the battlefield but victory over the hearts and minds of the civilians in the north, and that might very well have worked. >> not to be outdone by the gentleman, i am from columbia south carolina and i would like to think that if you went there
they would welcome you with open arms. they have discovered a huge case cash of military materials. my question is related to what i read about, i think the first alabama calvary that accompanied sherman from atlanta to savannah. it was an all southern calvary or unit. i am curious as to how that particular unit played a role in your story. shaara: when you first read it you are confused because there is the first alabama calvary in the unit. i spoke to somebody in alabama and they told me the county they were from. they were fiercely unionist there. for whatever reason, they were
not real fans of the confederacy, and a bunch of guys volunteered, elected their officers, volunteered for service with the union army as calvary and they served and are in the book. i mention them because they actually play a role along the march to the sea because the cavalry is the lead, the scouts that even and -- advance. i purposely put that in the book because it surprised me when i read that. i had not heard of that before so it derves mention. i appreciate you bringing it up. the one in the balcony, yes. >> could use tell us more about the relationship -- could you tell us more about the relationship between grant and sherman? shaara: they were extremely close friends and it was grant's loyalty to sherman that allowed sherman to keep his job on more
than one occasion, because sherman was a hothead. he shoots his mouth off at newspaper reporters, which is never a good idea. sherman gets himself in trouble and grant saves him more than once. it is his advocacy of his fate in sherman. grant allows him to leave atlanta and make his march in the first place because of official washington is not at all happy about that plan. grant said, no, let him do it. that is the mark of a true friend and strategist to understand what sherman is capable of.
when grant's president, it is grant that promotes sherman to full general, four stars. yet not been a full general of the united states army, and sherman takes command of the entire west, the expansion of the west. sherman is in overall command of all of that and that is because of grant. these men are close for the rest of grant's life until 1885. their friendship is key in the smoke at dawn, the chattanooga story. i have a scene where sherman arrives and grant knows he is coming, and when sherman shows up, there's a moment, almost childlike scene between the two of them. it is accurate. people questioned the propriety of sherman calling grant "grant" and grant calling sherman "sherman." it is in their memoirs, both of them. they refer to each other by their last name. i love that. it is almost a term of
endearment. that is a legitimate friendship and it is a lot of fun to write about that, can -- especially when you look at the feuding and destructive relationships in the confederacy that could certainly have contributed to the downfall of the confederate army. so many people cannot get along. what was the effect of that? yes. >> and doing a fictional account of historical fact, are you tempted to cross the line of fact in order to enhance the fiction? shaara: i understand your question very well. in writing historical fiction with accurate historical fact, am i ever tempted to cross the line and play games with history?
the answer is a resounding no. a novelist, a person who writes novels, they can do anything they want. i mentioned how frequently hairy -- harry turtledoves. he writes alternative future -- fiction. on the cover of a book is a picture of robert e lee holding an ak-47. the gist of the story is that aliens go back in time and give automatic weapons for the confederate army, and the changes history. i do not do that. that is a more extreme example of what you are saying, but no, i am painstaking in trying to get it right. when i began to hear from teachers who were using my books in their classroom to teach history, first of all, what a compliment.
then i realized, if you are using a novel to teach history, the teacher has to have confidence that the facts in that novel are correct. once i learned that, that added significant responsibility to what i do to get it right, and that is why i do so much research. i make mistakes and people catch them, and we have changed things for the paperback. i am sure you can probably find something in here. i appreciate it when people catch mistakes because i want to fix it. is it tempting, sure it is. what i ever do that, no. one way of dealing with thoughts, i did it in the world war ii books first, is create composite characters. you cannot do that with sherman and grant, they are real historical figures, but when you have that kid, that g.i. on the front line or the cavalry guy, he starts as a real person. i have a memoir or a collection of letters, and i will bring in other experiences that other people had. they are all real, just not maybe to this one guy. it is very rare to find a soldier to be everywhere i need
him to be to tell the story. [laughter] shaara: that is my answer to that, is create a composite character who reflects the experiences of several people into one person. if i'm doing my job, you do not notice that. to you, it is a seamless story, i hope. no, the answer to your question, no, i would never do that. in my opinion -- and a lot of people who like fiction would disagree with this -- my books would lose and integrity and would deserve to if i played around with the facts. anyone else? over here. >> i have a question. was sherman's army self-sustaining or did they depend on supply lines? if they did, why did the
confederates not try to shut off the supply lines? shaara: there were six -- there were no supply lines. sherman recognized akin tennessee, forest is up there. that is one of the things that pushes sherman to cut the railroads, cut himself off completely. so he did not have to worry about what was going on behind him, so that army was totally self-sufficient. it is one of the reasons why, the bombers, and this is the most controversial thing about sherman's march, the foragers. they are called bummers, and go in advance of the army to get stuff. they also steal silverware, vandalized homes, and it is them that give sherman the worst reputation in georgia, but their job is very simple.
take these wagons and bring them back. that is how the army survived. as they get closer to savannah, if you know anything about georgia, you know closer -- the closer you get to the coast, the poorer the land is. you get into rice country. a lot of these people do not know what rice is. have to learn from the slaves had to cook rice so they could eat it. it gets pretty dicey for the union army once they get close to savannah. they also discover -- and i love this -- as they march into south carolina they discover oysters. the people along the coast, these are reasonably poor people on the coast of south carolina, are eating oysters as a staple in their diet. some guy from illinois, he is looking at this thing like,
really? [laughter] shaara: they also discovered sugarcane. because of what it does to you, it tastes great, and then they realize, this is like a confection, candy. they are eating it and sherman remarks he likes it because it tends to stimulate your bowels. they were entirely self sustained, which is why they were so much fear in washington about them doing this in the first place. anyone else? >> you explained how he sustained the army for food and shelter. how did he and sure he had enough munitions? ensure he had
enough munitions? shaara: they took a lot of munitions with them. his wagon train was limited but that is one thing they made sure they had, was munitions. they never had to use them. had he run into an army of 60,000 confederates, sherman probably would have had a problem. there were not 60,000 confederates. he had these little mosquito bites from cavalry and that is all it was until he got to savannah. he had the munitions. once he gets to the river, the navy begins to resupply him. they bring him cannons, naval
canids to use against savannah if he needs them. the navy comes to his help. it never was an issue, and i do not really know, and i have not seen it written how much ammunition they actually carried. because they never had to use it, it was never an issue. there was never a major fight in the march to the sea from atlanta to savannah, there was no single engagement. that is testament to sherman's sneakiness, what he got away with. yes? >> i do not know if it is in your book or not but i read as chairman was going south the confederates put landmines in the way. shaara: they were called torpedos. the term landmine is not in the book. they were torpedos, and sherman is outraged. there are several scenes, one of them in particular where they laid, they bury these things across the road with no other intention than to kill the lead guy in the column. it is not like they are putting thousands. the first guy on a horse trip one of these things and that is exactly what happens.
it is murder in sherman's mind. you can debate whether anything that happens in war is murder or not, but to sherman it is. he gathers up a bunch of confederate prisoners and has them clear the land mines. that is sort of justice. there are several examples. there is example at fort mcallister on the coast. and the confederates made significant use of those and the union rarely did. that is a confederate thing and i do not have an explanation for that. go ahead. >> throughout the history of the civil war, there were many instances where leaders on both sides were west point graduates, sometimes classmates, sometimes quite a bit of difference in seniority. what influence did that have on
leaders in the battles you have described? shaara: a great deal. sherman understands, and early in the war, this is a realization made by the north immediately is, boy, we lost a bunch of people who went south. there's a lot of guys who fought for the confederacy who were good commanders in the united states army. robert e lee among them, joe johnston among them. these are high-ranking, well-trained, well-qualified officers suddenly fighting for the confederacy. that is one of the reasons why early in the civil war the confederates were winning. the first two years of the war they win most of the major fights, and i think that is directly tied to leadership. as things go on, there's a war of attrition. it's sort of swings in the other direction. yes? >> i can understand the appeal of writing on vietnam and korea. have you ever considered carrying the stories of these characters through into reconstruction?
shaara: much like the argument i had in new york with my publisher with the american revolution, when i wanted to go forward to the constitutional convention. you have benjamin franklin and these people, key figures in the american revolution keep going and are involved in continuing the formation of this country. it is the same situation now. in the afterword of the book, arthur howard founds are -- howard university in washington. i did not know it was named for a union general. to do that would be really interesting. the problem is, that is a hard sell to my publisher because they are very much -- and i do not mean to be facetious -- very much of the opinion that if it ain't broke, do not fix it.
i have a genre that i focus on some to suddenly change -- so to suddenly change and do something different might not work. people follow what i write who are expecting certain things, and that might be a curveball. the story is fascinating, and you have got all that cast of characters. ulysses grant is right in the middle of it, not in a good way, unfortunately. it is just not what i do. time for maybe one more. >> i wonder if you can discuss why they closed out andersonville. shaara: sherman is aware of andersonville, the confederate prison in south georgia but it is way off his line of march. andersonville was significantly south of macon, and there is a
scene -- and this is historically accurate, it absolutely happened -- half a dozen soldiers come wandering in two sherman's cap in one of the towns in georgia, they are escapees from andersonville and they are in rough shape. they somehow made it all the way through georgia and they reach sherman's armie and on their knees, following. --bawling. they run into some confederate prison camps. the confederates have burned, and they find the graves of union soldiers, unmarked graves. that is pretty nasty stuff. andersonville was simply too far away for sherman to take a side route. it would have involved dealing with confederate cavalry and upset his timetable. he had a very definite plan. if you think about it, the best way to shut down andersonville, end the war.
anyone who criticizes sherman as a brute -- and people do -- what sherman was, and he taught this to grant, he was a master of the art of total war. there are quotes all through the book, and accurate quotes. something happened early on in the war during the vicksburg campaign, he is in a town in mississippi. the mayor comes out to meet sherman, please, we are not involved in the war, we are not military here, we do not support the confederacy, please do not burn our town. sherman writes them a letter, and we have the letter. he says, if all you know of this war is the occasional dead son that comes home, and there is weeping and a funeral, you have
no incentive to make the war stop. the only way you, the civilians are going to make the war stop -- and he carries this seem into georgia and the carolinas -- the only way civilians are going to make this war stop is if they feel the pain. not indiscriminate pain, but what he does -- and this is all the way through the story -- you shoot at me from your house, i'm going to burn your house. periodically, confederate cavalry will get in a courthouse in a small town and make it a fortress. then they skedaddle because they cannot stay there. sherman comes in and finds out where the confederates were, and burns the courthouse. he makes it plain, anybody takes a shot at me, i will bring down the fires of hell. pretty effective, and it works. criticize him if you want, but he understood total war.
without getting into, there are people that would argue that we forgot that in vietnam. we got involved in a war that we were not willing to fight totally because of a whole variety of reasons. sherman understood, you want to win the war, you win the war, you hurt people. that is how you win the war, and it worked. i will just leave it with that. love him or hate him, he understood what war was about. i'm going to go outside and sign books. thank you so much for coming. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
airs everyil war" saturday. to watch more go to our website, c-span.org. >> the library of congress in culpepper, virginia preserves and presides access -- provides access to the collection of television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings. the first-ever political ad created in 1912 by the democratic party. >> this is the earliest videotape in our collection. --comes from may, 19 sick
1958. it comes from a station and washington dc. a ceremony that was hosted by the president of nbc and attended by president eisenhower. ceremony, he flips the switch. >> the colors you see before you are color -- cameras easy before you are color cameras. button, thethis cameras are transmitting a live color picture. them, uleeep before making your first -- you will be making your first appearance on live television and color. >> it goes from black and white to color and he tells president eisenhower we are making two copies on this new type of your tape, mr. president. >> i have a strip of this tape. i have asked our engineers to make two copies. one will be sent to the white house for your personal
attention, the other will be sent to the library of congress of the archives may permanently capture a visual representation in color of this presentation. eisenhower: i think all of us realize in these times that it is important that our nations capital should be attached to every single citizen in this bestry, by the fastest, kind of communication. . nation, not a couldment, that one time tolerate three or four weeks of almostnow demand instantaneously, a reaction. >> our engineers recently did a new transfer of it.
55 years later, we are still able to copy this videotape. hail to the chief plays ♪ >> there is tremendous material out there waiting for a new generation of discoverers and to make some thing meaningful. there are a lot of stories that can be told in our collection. to make more of it available for our people to discover and enjoy. to tell us more about what we have. ♪ >> up next, a portion of a symposium focusing on asia and
the pacific in august 1945 as world war ii was coming to an end. recalls his world war ii experiences including his eyewitness account of the formal japanese surrender ceremony aboard the uss missouri. this event is about 25 minutes. it is now my distinct honor to tell you about a special gentleman who is joined us for the proceedings today. captain robert k kaufman, united states navy, retired. a native of pennsylvania he is a 1940 graduate of the united states naval academy. he participated in a number of atlantic convoys and the operation in africa while serving aboard a heavy cruiser. he applied for submarine school and upon graduation, he was