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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  August 6, 2016 1:00pm-1:56pm EDT

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followed by a panel with the city's police chief cathy the near. >> most people get defensive if they feel like you're being offense appeared being very is not a crisis, design dangerous situation. request versus demand. those things change dynamics of the debate. issue spotlight on police and race relations tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span and >> next on american history tv, author and historian david silkenat looks at the confederate defeat at the end of the civil war and the idea of southern honor. mr. silkenat explains how generals, politicians and citizens in the north and south viewed the concept of honor and how that perception shaped to their decisions during and after -- shaped their decisions during and after the war. this hour-long event was part of the annual summer symposium
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hosted by the gettysburg college and civil war institute. >> david currently serves as a lecturer in american history at the university of edinburgh in scotland. he teaches a wide range of courses in the u.s. south. after beginning his career as a high school teacher, in florida, he earned his phd at the university of north carolina, chapel hill. he taught at north carolina state university and there he published his first book, a superb one. "moments of despair, suicide, divorce and debt in civil war era north carolina." it explores the shifting sentiments of black and white towards suicide, debt and divorce in the post civil war south. this book received a number of awards. he's got a new book entitled, "driven from home, north carolina civil war refugees." it should be out in october.
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published by the university of north carolina press. so pleased he is here. his son was a scholarship recipient two years ago. we know their family very well. we are thrilled you are going to come back. he's going to speak about southern honor and southern defeat. southern honor is tossed around a fair amount. usually, it conjures up the idea of cheating each other. ueling, shooting each other. it is a much more complex ethic. i'm pleased that david is here to explore that topic with us. [applause] mr. silkenat: i want to begin by thanking pete for invitingly me and putting together a tremendous program. i'm looking for to this week
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forwardward -- looking to this week probably as much as you are. i want to thank the the entire staff, especially allison, for helping with the logistics. shortly after lee's surrender at appomattox, a union colonel received an unusual mission from general john pope. he traveled down the mississippi from pope's headquarters from st. louis to louisiana and from there, travel up the red river to shreveport where he was to demand general kirby smith's surrender using the appomattox terms as a template. the trip took nearly a month, far longer than he anticipated. insisting upon delivering pope's message in person, sprague was repeatedly delayed before he received permission to enter confederate lines. crossing into rebel territory on may 8, he traveled up river via
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steamboat sharing the vessel with simon buckner, who had surrendered in 1862 and now served as kirby smith's chief of staff. also on board were several paroled soldiers from lee's army now headed home. sprague hoped that pope's letter would make the smith's path clear. lee had surrendered in april 9. johnson had surrendered on april 26. and the general had accepted the surrenders of generals cobb, taylor and maury in the ensuing weeks. sprague had known kirby smith and buckner from the old army and expected them to bend to the logic of events. kirby smith read pope's message. he refused to respond immediately, explaining he was
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scheduled to meet with western confederate governors in marshall, texas, 20 miles west of shreveport. asked sprague to wait while he consulted with authorities. before he left kirby smith, sprague saw a benevolent desire to avoid "the infliction of needless suffering." when he returned a week later, kirby smith told sprague he could not surrender. in a lengthy memorandum, kirby smith articulated his reasoning. he argued that "my army was menaced only from a distance and it is large and well supplied and extensive country full of resources. unlike lee's worn and exhausted army at appomattox, his force faced no immediate threat.
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considering the different circumstances, the appomattox terms "were not such that a soldier could honorably except. accept." he argued "an officer can honorably surrender his command when he is resisted to the utmost of his power." given the condition of his army, he reasoned that "it cannot be said the duty imposed upon me has been fulfilled to the utmost extent required by the laws of honorable warfare." unlike some of his subordinates who harbored fantasies about the trans-mississippi confederacy continuing to fight, kirby smith did not hold unrealistic expectations about the military prospect before him.
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however, says he was in a stronger military position than lee, kirby smith believe he deserves better terms. he believed the federal government's insistence on the appomattox terms as they intended to "humiliate people who have defended gallantly." kirby smith proposed immunity from prosecution, a full restoration of political rights and the freedom to leave the country unhindered. any less liberal terms would be contrary to the laws which custom has made binding among military men and would engender rebellion. the word that appears over and over again in kirby smith's memorandum to sprague is honor. his defeat was inevitable but he wanted to ensure that when defeat came, it came without the necessity of him sacrificing his honor. what i'd like to do today is honor shaped the contours of the confederacy's
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final months, how it influenced the transition from wartime to peacetime and how it affects the major questions of reconstruction afterwards. for a man of civil war era, the idea of honor possessed levels of meaning that have now largely disappeared. for them, honor was something to be prized, cultivated and fiercely guarded. to read the diaries and correspondence of men in the 1840's, you'll see a preoccupation with honor the borders on obsession. for all the importance they attached to honor, however, it can be difficult to appropriate supreme court justice stewart definition of obscenity, they knew honor when they saw it. definean be difficult to to appropriate
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supreme court justice stewart 's definition of obscenity, they knew honor when they saw it. a a few broad generalizations can be made, however. first, honor was primarily about how one was judged by the outside community. the community established a set of social paradigms a man of honor must uphold. one could not be a man of honor alone on a desert island. second, honor was interwoven with masculinity. while women could be venerated for their verdure, only men could have honor. third, the meaning of honor, the precise rules and values that men needed to uphold, very based on geography and social class. for young men attending harvard, for instance, from the 1850's, honor was obtained through self-discipline and restraint. a man of honor was one who was in control of his emotions and the world around him. conversely, poor immigrants in new york might demonstrate their honor through their prowess in a tavern brawl or at the gambling tables. some of the most interesting and controversial scholarship on
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honor in the civil war has looked at the way it which honor functioned in the south. within the context of a slave society, honor took on a particular valence. when the master slave dynamic functioned as the dominant cultural metaphor, honor became intertwined with mastery. men of honor were masters over their slaves in over their -- and over their households and masters within their community. to challenge of man's honor was to make them into a slave. because the metaphorical stakes were so high, southern white men responded viscerally to any challenge to their honor. even minor slights required in immediate and bold response. some historians have linked this profound obsession with honor with the distinct features of southern society
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y. honor hopes to explain why dueling, which had died out in the rest of the world by 1800, continued in the south decades later. while the duel remain the purview of the planter class, poor white southerners were no less invested in the culture of honor. like their counterparts, poor whites responded with violence, often in the form of what one historian referred to as rough-and-tumble brawls. the flip side of honor was shame. failing to uphold one's honor had social ramifications. dishonorable men were ostracized from polite society and effectively socially dead. the greatest fear of planters as was they would be unmasked. the facade of honor they had worked to project would crumble and they would become socially marginalized. the slide we see is from florida where one florida politician feels like he has been insulted by another politician who he claims has not given him the due
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which he needs as an honorable man. when the war came, honor help drive men into military service in both the north and the south. there was no greater venue than combat to showcase and enhance one's honor. reading soldiers diaries and correspondence before the first battles, their greatest hope was that they would fight honorably and from many their greatest fear was not that they would die on the battlefield that they would behave dishonorably. for northerners and southerners alike, honor extended beyond the individual in concentric circles. they valued independent honor not only on a personal basis, but they also sought to protect the honor of their families, their community, their state, region, and country. when the war came, soldiers manifested similar affinity when it came to protecting the personal honor as a soldier and the honor of their regiment, their army, and their nation. their preoccupation with honor house to explain why soldiers invested so much emotional
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energy in material manifestations of their honor, such as regimental flags and were willing to die to protect them. by january, 1865, most outside observers concluded the confederate defeat was inevitable. to be sure, many confederate soldiers whom jason philip has dubbed diehard rebels maintained confederate victory was just around the corner even went all the evidence seems to suggest when all theeven evidence seems to suggest otherwise. a sentiment that jefferson davis appear to have shared. for those who saw the writing on the wall, however, they began to calculate how they could and the war without bringing dishonor on themselves and their countrymen. was it possible to be defeated without sacrificing their honor? abraham lincoln was cognizant that defeating the confederacy and bringing the war to conclusion required appealing to confederate sense of honor.
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if they could be persuaded that ending the war was more honorable, thousands of lives could be saved. when lincoln met with grant and sherman at city point in march, he instructed them to offer generous terms that would not compromise confederate honor. let them surrender and go home, lincoln told him, they will not take up arms again. let them all go, officers and all. let them have their horses with them to plow with. and their guns to shoot crows with. give them the most liberal and honorable of terms. many confederates also believe d that a quick end to the war would be the best way to protect their honor. foremost among them was colonel breckenridge. convinced in 1865, defeat was inevitable, breckenridge argued
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that "the confederacy should not be captured and fragmented, but we should surrender as a government that we may thus maintain the dignity of her cause and secure the respect of our enemies in the best terms for our soldiers." he recognized that surrender carried some risk, particular for those who might face prosecution for treason. nonetheless, breckenridge maintained "this has been a magnificent epic. let it not terminate in farce." jefferson davis refuse to d to consider any outcome short of a complete confederate independence. davis's intransigence grew out of a stubborn faith in confederate destiny and his belief that his moral and political obligations to his office precluded surrender when it results in his country's demise. as davis told one associate, "the confederate constitution does not allow him to treat for his own suicide." when it finally came time for confederates to lay down their arms, questions of honor were at
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the forefront. confederates hoped his surrender in such a way as to minimize any lasting shame while union officials cognizant of how dearly rebels protected their honor, saw to minimize the dishonor that surrender would entail. while we look at grant's conduct at appomattox, it is clearly understood helper from the confederates held her honor. -- it is clear he understood how strongly the confederates held their honor. and went to great lengths not to offend lee. he one of them to see that defeat did not necessarily mean they were without honor and the reunification could take place without a lasting shame looming over their heads. grant understanding of the role of honor and the army of northern virginia, host to explain why he did not demand lee's sword or why he ordered his men to halt any celebrations that might embarrass the confederates.
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in his memoirs, grant noted "when news of the surrender first reached our lines, our men inspired a salute of 100 guns in the honor of the victory. i sent word to have it stopped. the confederates were our prisoners and we did not want to exult over their downfall." this illustration is probably the first published illustration of the meeting of lee and grant at appomattox. it is published by courier and ives. it appears to be for sale in new york less than a month after the surrender. for those of you who have been to appomattox or who have seen the actual artifacts in the smithsonian or read the surrender recognize that almost everything about this image is wrong. they didn't sit at the same table. that is not what the chair looks s looked like, that is not what the wallpaper looks like. that was not grant's uniform. what i like about this image is i think it tells us something about the way the war ended, or one version of the way the war ended. here are two men sitting at a table having a conversation as.
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-- as equals. at the point at which they are the most unequal. lee's army is broken. grant's army is not. if they walk out of the table without an agreement, bad things are going to happen to lee's army. for this moment, they are meeting as equals. this is a more accurate depiction of what happened, a painting which is now housed at the virginia historical society, painted around 1920. i often show this paid into my -- painting to my students and ask them, especially, these are british who may not know the civil war iconography, who is the victor in this painting? [laughter] >> if you did not know that grant is the victor you would've thought that lee would walk out of here cheering. i think it says something about what southerners thought about
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the end of the war. several decades later. the magnanimous tone expressed by grant and other generals may have had unintended consequences. some confederates went home believing that since the honor was intact, they could continue to for claim confederate dollars -- proclaim confederate values even after the confederacy ceased to exist. that surrender did not necessarily mean defeat. as confederate general richard taylor, son of zachary taylor and jefferson davis's brother-in-law, told the subordinate, "you will explained -- explain to your troops that a surrender will not be the consequence of any defeat but is simply yielding upon the best terms and with the preservation of our military honor to the logic of events." even more disturbingly,
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an alabamian noted that appomattox was "not the surrender of principles that no honorable man could bear, but a surrender which honor was earned and the moral grantor of the south rescue height unknown before." turning home after the surrender, he establish the whites of white carnations that predated the klan. although appomattox march the beginning of the end for the confederate nation, many rebels left with their commitment to values of white supremacy intact and reinforced. at appomattox and at the surrenders that followed at bennett place and other sites, union and confederate generals used a shared vocabulary distinguished between honorable and dishonorable surrender with that had been established at the beginning of the war. major robert anderson was praised as a here at fort sumter
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-- as a hero at fort sumter for his bravery prior to surrender, only capitulating after suffering from heavy bombardment and with no prospect for victory. other officers, such as david tweet, isaac went were vilified when they surrender prematurely. this paradigm of the honorable surrender holster explain why kirby smith could not bring himself to surrender under the same terms accepted by robert e. lee. lee found himself in a position where continuing to fight would produce only further effusion of blood. that phrase shows up over and over again in surrender negotiations. kirby smith had not reach that ed that threshold where he could order his men to stack arms. in his comparative study of defeat, wolfgang sleeve andbush,
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wolfgang argues that one of the most unusual features of the civil war was how quickly southerners developed a rationale to explain defeat. he notes that most nations usually take a generation before consents of narrative develops about why and how they lost. but confederates seem to arrive at a common explanation almost as soon as the war is over. as michael o'brien has observed, few cultures are better prepared ideologically for the disaster of war. many explanations have been deposited for this. my personal favorite is that the southern obsession with scotland host explain why narratives honorable defeat came so quickly. like scotland, southerners saw themselves as a distinctive region within a larger political union. reading the poetry of robert burns, southerners had a ready vocabulary to describe how one could fight, lose and yet remain heroic and honorable. that fits the entire narrative of scottish history. mark twain was overstating the case when he claims the civil
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war would not have happened if southerners had not read walter scott's novels. the southern obsession with scotland, which is everywhere when you look for it, may help them understand how defeat and honor were not irreconcilable. one of the earliest articulations of a next donation -- of an explanation for confederate defeat came in the form of lee's farewell address at appomattox. on the evening of april 9, the same day he surrendered to grant, lee assigned his aide with the task, how to sympathetically explain the surrender and thank the troops for their sacrifice? when by 10:00 a.m. the next morning, he had not yet completed the address, lee sequestered in his personal ambulance until he finished, posting an quarterly outside so as not to be disturbed. when he finished the draft, lee pruned it to 181 words, that
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would become a sacred texts for for veterans of the army of virginia. we see an early copy of lee's general order number 9. and later a reproduction, it was reproduced many times in the 150 year since. -- years since. lee praised them for their sacrifice over four long years of war. their defeat had come from any deficiency on their part but from overwhelming numbers and resources. they had fought honorably in and their defeated not tarnish ed their honor one iota. they could return home with their heads held high. one of the conspicuous features of lee's address is the absence of a scapegoat. for lee, the union resources was ere the beginning and end of its
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defeat. other confederates did seek to place blame. while many committed lee's words to memory, they tried to forget what general thompson told his men when he surrendered in arkansas. unlike lee's farewell address which was covered by clerks and distributed to commanders, thompson chose to address the troops in person. on june 5, he told 5000 confederate soldiers "i now come to surrender you and hope you will make better citizens than you have soldiers." [laughter] >> thompson claims they had been defeated because they lacked the honor to fight bravely. i know there are gentleman here. i know there are some damn sneak y, cowardly dogs. many of thompson's soldiers rejected this claim that they were without honor.
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and one pleaded with thompson to talk to us like gentlemen, sir. at the outburst, thompson threatened to whip the next man to interrupt him. not unsurprisingly, thompson's soldiers left the surrender feeling embittered that the commander would challenge their honor at the moment of defeat. whether they were praised like lee's troops or blamed like thompson's, confederate soldiers had to return home to confront the material reality of defeat. for these men, their defining experience is everything turned out other than they had hoped. they had gone off to fight believing they would return victorious. the degree to which the return home for some to confront their -- forced them to confront their tremendously. while the whole confederacy faced defeat, destruction was distributed unevenly. some soldiers were lucky enough to return home unscathed, resuming their life with little interruption. many more found the transition to peacetime did not come easily and they could see their failures all around them. some returned home to find that
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their farms had been destroyed. physically and emotionally disabled veterans had to cope with the fact that their bodies could no longer do what they once did. soldiers who had lost limbs worried they would be unable to work and support their families. thousands more suffering by from persistent ailments, chronic diarrhea, dysentery. debilitating conditions that made resuming a normal life extraordinarily difficult if not impossible. others had injuries that were not visible, that cost former soldiers to be committed to causedused -- that former soldiers to be committed to insane asylums by the droves. as the south experience but one newspaper described as a suicide
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epidemic among its veterans. to be sure, the trauma of war exacted a heavy price on union and confederate soldiers, but northerners could gain some solace from the fact that their sacrifice has contributed to victory. while former rebels can only look down at their empty sleeves and be reminded of their defeat. defeat also brought uncertainty. confederates had a clear vision of what victory would mean. they knew that they would have their independence, slavery, and white supremacy would be maintained. defeat opened up a range of possible futures, many of which former confederates dreaded. when union officials talked in summer of 1865 of making treason odious, what does that mean? would they be imprisoned? would they lose their land? what power would they have at the ballot boxes? what badges of dishonor would the union make them wear as a consequence of defeat? for men of honor such uncertainty was almost as bad as being unmasked. if one could not control the present or future, how can one claim to be a master? some former confederates cannot live with this looming
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uncertainty. fearing what would happen if you were taken into federal hands, florida governor john milton killed himself in april 1865, proclaiming that "death would be preferable to reunion." if ever there were someone who was the embodiment of southern ruffin.t was ruffin had gone to charleston in 1861 to purchase a paid in the bombardment of fort sumter. on june 17, ruffin shot himself rather than face the dishonor of living under union occupation, proclaiming in his diary his unmitigated hatred to yankee rule. here, we see him in his uniform. and the last page from his diary. you can read where he talks about his unmitigated hatred for yankee rule. this bit about wrapping himself
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in the flag probably did not happen but was invented by one of his descendents. nationalists could only see ruin in a future without slavery and independence. while few southerners followed his example, many felt the overwhelming dishonor of defeat. for instance, one virginia soldier upon hearing of lee's surrender "if this, if true, a deathblow to our cause and perhaps the whole confederacy. i cannot describe my feelings on this that occasion. this is really awful. what an immense loss of life and property and all for naught. what is to be our future doom?" some of those who felt dishonored by defeat believes that they would only regain their honor through violence. they cannot respond violently against union soldiers, but they could target recently emancipated african americans.
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many former confederate father honor slipping away with every advance made by former slaves. because of the complex way in which honor and white supremacy were intertwined, they interpreted black activism ranging from building their own churches and schools to political mobilizations, as a direct affront to white supremacy and to their honor. fresh from appomattox, julian carr boasted that he " horsewhipped in negro wench because she had publicly insulted and aligned a southern lady." while white southerners to not need much justification to prompt violence against african americans, the shame of defeat and the culture of honor provided a framework for racial violence of reconstruction. violence erected in memphis and new orleans. massacres of 1866 and prompted the foundation of the klan, a
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terrorist organization committed to defending the honor of the south. the political and social struggles of reconstruction through up prawn white southerners profound sense of dishonor brought upon by defeat. only by violently resisting and rebuilding white supremacy could they hope to restore their honor. rebuilding their honor also helped form the core of the lost cause, the mythology that helped them sustain the white south. the name lost cause came, as i imagine most of you know, from an 1866 history written by edward pollard.
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a pro-slavery ideologue, he had written a book advocating the reopening of the african-american slave trade, pollard saw in the confederacy the embodiment of his aspirations. although critical of the davis administration, pollard was a true believer in the righteousness of the confederate cause and was convinced that victory was inevitable. when the davis administration fled richmond, pollard remained behind and watched the city burn. according to "the new york times," he raided the union are in by putting on a bold front and talking rather defiantly. when he came to explain confederate defeat in his book, pollard picked up on many of the themes lee suggested in his farewell address. the south has manifested a greater virtue in the late war. the exhibitions of generalship, chivalry, and all the noble sentiments that properly belong to the state of war were largely on the confederate side, he said. the defeat occurred because of the superiority of union numbers. he also placed blame at the feet of davis. he argued that if he did not dishonor the south.
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even though the confederacy was defeated, he honored their men, and their cause had not. the confederates have gone out of this war, pollard observed, with the proud, secret, dangerous consciousness that they are the better men. pollard's pronouncement that defeat did not mean dishonor had long legs. for 50 years later, the dedication of the unity monument, julian carr who had boasted about whipping an african-american woman after appomattox, delivered a speech entitled peace with honor. he told the audience that no confederate soldier had ever been asked to surrender the principles for which he fought. defeat, he argued, had only brought only honor to the confederacy. we lost, he told him, but we won. thank you.
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[applause] mr. silkenat: pete tells me everybody needs to come to the microphone if they have questions. all right. >> did you notice any discernible difference between the post war reactions of the, of lee's veterans who had -- and thompson's veterans who were insulted? did they carryover into reconstruction? mr. silkenat: i think, you know, it is hard to follow it
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specifically. lee's status among his soldiers only was elevated after his conduct at appomattox. if you read their accounts of being there and seeing him, they are overwhelmingly blowing. whereas thompson, as you would imagine, they do not have any nice things to say about him. the extent to which they carried it down to what they did later is difficult to ascertain. that is a good question, though. >> from chicago, illinois. this is a vaguely formed question. forgive me. i worked at harpers ferry. we get a lot of visitors and we tell them about how the soldiers had surrendered, they are paroled. and largely left to their own devices. then eventually exchanged for confederate soldiers. people, they walk away from the story, i guess honor meant a lot more back then than it does now. that is their main take away. i thought this was fascinating talk and thought, i am not sure exactly what i am asking but is
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there more that visitors should take away about 19th century honor? mr. silkenat: you are talking about this interesting period in the history of the war in which they have a prisoner exchange system, mid 1862 through mid 1863. the way it worked was essentially after you were captured in battle or at harpers ferry, you would be -- within 10 days you would be paroled on your honor not to fight again and were exchanged for an equal amount of soldiers on the opposite side. and it appears that 99% of soldiers on both sides upheld it. when they said, i pledge on my honor i will not fight until i have been exchanged. they actually pushed back sometimes. when their officers said, maybe we want you to fight against native americans in the west. they said, no, we are not going to do that. i think that speech is a way in which soldiers on both sides
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valued their honor. in fact, that kind of system would work. i cannot think of another war in which you would parole enemy soldiers and say, promise not to fight again. we trust you. i cannot think of another war in which that happens with that number of soldiers. >> david from connecticut. you explained very well the very sensitive nature of lincoln and the north in terms of awareness of the importance of honor and dictating surrender terms to try to not be overly aggressive in that way. could that have been a mistake, do you think, in terms of encouraging later some of this horse whipping and lost cause kind of stuff that followed? mr. silkenat: counterfactuals are always fun.
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i think the alternative, if you imagine lincoln had gone and told grant and sherman, push for hard terms. that would've made it that much harder for lee to surrender, for johnson to surrender, for these confederates to surrender. the war would've lasted months longer, thousands of lives would've been lost. doing the calculus on what the short-term benefits, long-term effects, it is very hard to do. >> thank you. >> hi. i'm going to follow up on that question there. therefore, peter carmichael without his scarf indicated wish and not talk about issues of inevitability. what you're indicating here is that like it or not, respecting the right of confederates to save face at the end of the war simply promoted a spirit of resistance, and on the other
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hand, not to disregard that imperative, what in fact embittered confederates even more. so, this does open up the question of then what kind of war termination strategy would have led to a much more compliant ex-confederate citizenry -- during reconstruction? mr. silkenat: sure. i think confederates responded, if you look at individual soldiers, they responded to surrender at appomattox, they responded in different ways. you look at lee's army in the days before appomattox, some of them, because they determined the war is over and they worried about what happened -- some of them lee was saying, i do not want to surrender. i want to join johnson's army and continue to fight. if you look at what happened in
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texas, a part of kirby smith's army says, even though also surrendering, we are not going to surrender. we will go to mexico and fight for someone in mexico. but they will figure they fight for someone and regain their honor that way. on the other hand, i think many soldiers responded to the end of the war with relief that the war had ended, that they could go home, that this cause was i think many of them realized was doomed months earlier, that they were able to have a peaceful and relatively easy transition. i'd have a hard time figuring out what lincoln could have done and what grant could have done differently that would have yielded a better result. i think invariably when you are dealing with an end of a war, you have to be very careful about trying to make sure that you are not giving away the victory, you are not making the rich are worth nothing but on
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the other hand, especially a civil war when you are trying to unite with the former enemy as citizens, offering an open hand is probably the best way to do that. i think that was sort of the essence of lincoln's policy and grant's policy. >> vermont. we've talked about honor and the kkk. and, and the terror that they rained on the south. are there any examples of southerners acting in what we would consider an honorable way and defending -- african-american rights? mr. silkenat: that's a -- i think, if you look at the south
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after the war, you do have the figures who decide they're going to sort of challenge black freedom any way they can, whether it is to challenge black freedom through enacting black codes or through terrorist organizations like the klan. you have lots of white southerners, former confederates who recognize that the end of the war had some consequences in the best strategy was not to resist emancipation, but to try to figure out a way to embrace it. for more details, i would refer due to parsons new book on the klan, which came out a few months ago. which will answer that question for more detailed than i have time for. yes, sir? >> bob from massachusetts. you place tremendous emphasis almost exclusive emphasis on
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honor as a cause of all the horrors of racial violence and reaction during reconstruction. i think to me that is kind of over simplifying. mr. silkenat: i agree with you. i was using it as a lens. a multicultural explanation for violence is a more accurate one. >> that is, you overlook simple racism and desire for power and everything else. mr. silkenat: i think those things are fundamentally connected. the way in which they talk about honor and race and power, those in the minds of many white southerners in the mid-19th century are so connected ideas that distinguishing them i think is almost impossible. i agree with you that what i am doing here was taking a particular slice to try to
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explain some of the features of reconstruction. but we have a whole week to understand reconstruction. yes? >> hi, i'm from california. tying off that last question, you talked about why superiority being tied to honor. was there any difference in poor white southerners versus flatland slaveowners? mr. silkenat: so, one of the ways in which, if you think about the antebellum south, one of the ways in which slave owners appeal to non-slaveowners and got them to support slavery as a political institution, they told him, look, you are in some ways equal to us because you are white. as long as there are slaves, they will be the mud sill of society and we as white people will be the dominant political and economic and social race in the south.
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and therefore, you as a poor white southerner, you should support slavery even if you do not own slaves yourself. even if it may not be in your economic -- to do so. it helps to explain why for instance so many non-slaveholding whites were eager to fight for the confederacy. i think helped explained much of what happened after the war, too. >> thank you. >> lewis from pennsylvania. this question is about the indians who fought for the confederacy. the general who surrender the last of the confederate forces. he was out west. so, how did the indians, did they have a sense of honor? do you know anything about that?
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mr. silkenat: so, he i believe is cherokee? if you look at what the cherokee did in the 1830's is to a large extent they had already assimilated into white southern culture. that is to say that the strategy the cherokee embraced considering white settlement in the southwest to try to assimilate to the extent they could, whether that is religiously, in their naming practices, think about the important charity -- cherokee chiefs. a guy named john ross. were land owning slaves. many of the cherokee are slaveowners. that strategy is not work out so well for them, you think about the trail of tears.
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that they had assimilated far more than most native americans to southern white culture. and i think that is part of the reason why the confederacy sought to -- they are sharing a similar moral framework to other southerners in that respect. >> thank you. >> hi. i'm elizabeth robertson. i'm from north carolina. i personally believe that this idea of southern honor still kind of continues on in the south today. and i was wondering if you could answer why and how that continues and what are the positive and negatives of that? mr. silkenat: oh, geez. [laughter] >> like a short overview at least. mr. silkenat: um, yeah. my expertise is the 19th century, not the 21st. so, i would say that if you're looking for continuity between the south of the 19th century
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and the south today, i think with one looks at the amount of violence in the south, the preoccupation with fire arms, i think some of that can be tied, even if only in a tangential way to southern ideas about honor in the 19th century that have survived, thinking about the honor of one's family and these kinds of ideas are still present at least in some parts of the south today. so, you know, i'm very hesitant to draw any direct connections between events yesterday and events 150 years ago, but i think you touched on something that is probably there. there is some remnants of the southern culture of honor that remains. luckily, there are not that many duels anymore. thank you. >> david rosen from alexandria, virginia. to what extent was the culture of honor shared to the military? given that both sides, senior
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military leadership came from -- mr. silkenat: one of the things they taught at west point was honor. i think one of the reasons why grant and lee and sherman and all these guys have a common vocabulary about honor is their common military service. if you look at most of the main generals on both sides were trained at west point or trained at military academies who based their curriculum on west point. therefore, i think some of that common experience about what it means to be an officer explains why they're able to share this common vocabulary about when can someone surrender honorably and when can one not surrender honorably. you can imagine this happens all the time if you think about for sumter, you've got andersen insider fort. his student, outside the fort.
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they are sharing a common military experience, a common expense in the army and a common expense of west point. that is the huge part of why they're able to speak with the same language. >> hello. i'm from california. do you think that the honor that a soldier, like a lower soldier felt was brought upon that soldier by a high-ranking commander, or do you think it was more based on the individual's ideology? mr. silkenat: so, honor, the way i formulated today is primarily about how one is seen by one's community. and so, i think for an individual soldier, what other soldiers in your regiment thought about you. if they thought you fought bravely, that was a tremendous importance. but recognition from superior officers about your bravery or
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your conduct or your honor i think was very important to soldiers as well. they had a conversation with lee, for instance, they would tell that story over and over for the rest of their lives. conversely, i think a lot of soldiers felt a great deal of honor and pride in whoever their commanding officer was. soldiers who fought with lee were extraordinarily proud to have fought under lee. soldiers who fought under other generals were somewhat less proud of, depending on who they were. it works in a complex way about how an individual determines how their honor is formulated. >> after the war with the reintroduction of confederate states in the union, how the competing senses of honor between the north and the south played a role in the politics of the country as a whole? like with the reintroduction of the confederacy into the congress, how some of these
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reforms in the reconstruction period came about? mr. silkenat: you say the hardest question for last. ok. so, i think there are debates that are going on in the north about, the beginning of reconstruction and throughout reconstruction about how much they're, going to make union victory mean something, how much they are going to make the badges of dishonor, how much you're going to make those stick on former confederates. when the confederates elect representatives to congress and the fall of 1865, the union -- they know we are not going to recognize the union members of congress. how much are you going to make the responsibility for the war rest upon southerners' shoulders. if you think about the burdens placed upon white southerners by the 14th amend it and by military reconstruction, i think
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some of that is in large part, the outcome of a debate about how much you want to dishonor former confederates and how difficult that is going to make reintroduction, reintegration of the country. thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend and every weekend on american -- on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> this weekend, our road to the white house coverage takes us to the green party political convention in houston. see the acceptance speeches by the green party nominees for president and vice president. watch commercial-free coverage
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on c-span. listen on your desktop or mobile device. watch anytime at >> up next on "the presidency," historians talk about the process of writing a presidential biography. they have written about george washington, andrew jackson, ulysses s. grant, franklin d roosevelt, and george h.w. bush. this was part of a pulitzer prize symposium hosted by the george w. bush presidential center. it is just over an hour. [laughter] mr. bush: thank you. that is enough. laura and i want to welcome you. all of us who work here are thrilled you are here. i've got mixed emotions. i am thrilled to be a part of this. but i'm disappointed you're not here to give me the pulitzer prize for the book i wrote.


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