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tv   The Civil War Military Rivals Ulysses S. Grant Robert E. Lee  CSPAN  February 17, 2018 6:00pm-7:01pm EST

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any other questions? all right. thank you very much. i will be out in the bookstore. announcer: this is american history tv 48 hours all weekend c-span.ekend only on johnncer: next, historians marszalek and craig symonds look rivalry between generals ulysses s. grant and robert e. lee, comparing their childhoods, experiences at west point,
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theons during mexican-american war. the new york historical society hosted this hour-long discussion. >> we are thrilled to welcome back three frequent guests of historical society tonight. f. marszalek is the giles distinguished professor of meritus at mississippi state university, the executive managing editor of the ulysses s. grant association, written orek has edited numerous acclaimed books memoirsg the personal of ulysses s. grant released earlier this year and you will store. in our museum craig l. symonds is the ernest j. king chair at the u.s. naval newport, rhode island, and professor emeritus academy,s. naval author and editor of several books u.s. military history,
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civil war at sea. monitor, is the director at the roosevelt house public policy institute at college. in 2008, he was awarded the byional humanities medal president george w. bush. he is the author or editor of 50 books of lincoln and the era, including winner lammon lincoln prize. i ask if you have a cell phone or beeper, please turn off your and any other electronic devices. now, please join me in welcoming our guests. thank you. [applause] >> good evening.
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delighted to see you again as we back in time, a century and a half, to look at another aspect war we've yet to cover in our many sessions with you. tonight we're going to go right to the top. going to explore the andonalities, achievements maybe some failures of the two commanding generals whose rivalry, competition, may be even a little contempt for each other, marked the final battles of the war and the surrender theyall but ended it and grantf course, ulysses s. and robert e. lee. have these two characters ever been in the news lately. we could notg, have chosen a better moment, as we know lee has been all but off his pedestal, therally, in some parts of
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country, in this roiling national controversy over confederate memorials. things look better for general one thing, our friend, ron chernow, has his extraordinary biography of grant and he is back in the news and for another thing, our friend john marszalek has just published an annotated and of ulysses s.e grant's memoirs which we'll talk and it ise go along another triumph for anybody who wants to read one of the great war-time autobiographies in and also in any accessible volume that gives us through.t help us congratulations to you. one more shout-out for john and his wife, jean, who is here today.
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they, and i'm giving jean at credit for this, have just opened the new ulysses s. grant presidential library at mississippi state university where john has taught, and having just come back from there, i can tell you, is absolutely spectacular and just beautiful wonderful to access, and thanks john grant is winning all over again. about's go back and talk these fellas. upbringings,rent of course, but both had difficult fathers so i thought start there and i guess we'll start with the grant. tell us a little bit about the and dad.g john: grant had the misfortune, of havingu could say, a father who was completely in that herom him
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believed that even from the earliest time, that somehow he should be one of the most the country.ple in and the result was that, over father, jesse, would do and say things to try to build up the son, even though he completehe son was a losers, ulysses s. grant was an absolute losers. but what happens is, the is, is thatthing grant's father is a writer. interested in politics. he's interested in all sorts of things and he's a very outgoing of an individual. whereas grant takes after his mother. his mother's very quiet. we know very little about her because grant doesn't say much about her. my favorite stories about them is that when grant fathera letter to his and basically says, leave me war., let me fight this
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you keep sending me people to latere, to give jobs to, as president to be made post masters, just stop it, i'm not put up with it any longer. that was the kind of relationship they had, even grant's father gave him a job just before the war started not doing very well financially. but generally speaking, their was horrible. harold: how about, you're going mantle of robert e. lee. i guess i am. that's my role here. this photograph was taken in 1863, roughly about at the of gettysburg and he became the image, the marble man as thomas connelly called him, an icon for the south and i that tight rein on himself and stern visage we
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looks andwith his appearance largely because of his father. lighthorse harry dashing cavalry man. lighthorse harry was a scandal in virginia. one of his recent biographers it'sd him a well bred cook not going too far to call him virginia's bernie madoff. one quick story about that is that lee showed up, robert e. lee's father -- of course the lees were famous in virginia, well known family. up, knocked on a neighbor's door and said my need tos run off, i borrow a horse to get home, so andman lent him a horse also said i'm going to send a slave along with him to bring you arriveack after at your home. days pass with no news of the
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the horse and or finally the slave showed up a week later, bedraggled looking and the master said, what happened, he said it turns out not runlee's horse did off. he sold him and when he got home he sold your horse, too. and he said why are you so late in coming home. he said he sold me, too. so this reputation of being a incubusscoundrel was an that robert e. lee carried with him all his life and i think he spent much of his life trying to be that marble man, that stern, impeccable, west point graduate who never got a single demerit partly to overcome the burden of lighthousether like harry. was a littleant bit boy and throughout his life, he's a great horseman so he aally knows this neighbor has horse that ulysses grant really
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wants and his father says no the asking too much for it but i'll tell you what, grant wears guy out, wears his father out. so the father says, here's what you do. $15 for the horse. if he doesn't want to take it, $20 for the horse. if he still doesn't take it, go up to $25. goes to see this man and says, my father says that $25supposed to offer you for the horse. will you take? i'd be happy to. never outlived that and his father said, what i fool son.e for a hal: so they're succeeding despite their fathers. they both go to west point for different reasons, i suppose. it's expected -- military tradition of his family. grant because his father doesn't pay for college and if he can get him appointed, he and maybee education he'll learn something useful
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like engineering or mathematics which is what he was interested in. but tell us about their careers at the academy. lee this time.h craig: robert e. lee, class of point, showed up during the model cadet plebe summer and throughout his anointedar he was first captain of the corps, highest military ranking. academically.d everybody always asked, who was first. mason whocharles lived a life of austerity, did army, as moste did not in the 19th century. went to west point to get a free many cases. get training and education, many worked for railroads or banks. was rare to stay in the army after you graduated. lee was one of those who did, have thisid he mythical record of almost a
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perfect everything, never got a single demerit. there's actually a book at the west point library, each page a cadet, filled with late for muster and all and thenngs listed lee's, you turn to robert e. blank,age and it's absolutely blank. four years, never late for always perfect. and then stayed in through all the doldrums years after graduation, and rose to the rank 40-somet colonel after years in the army. so he plugged away at it. at westwhat about grant point? john: grant had no desire to be no desire to be at west point. in his memoirs he talks about he comes home one day and his father has worked a deal with a congressman with whom he isn't even talking but they work out a deal to get grant into
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and grant -- his father tells him this. and grant says, well, i'm not going. go.n't want to and the father says, yes, you're that craigthe reason mentioned. actually then said, he said, well, my father -- in his memoirs, my said i'm going, i guess i must have to go. reluctantlyery except he's happy about the fact he's going to be able to travel. he's going to be able to see the united states he never saw before. there and you've heard the famous story. hiram ulysseswas grant. take those first three letters, h.u.g. imagine going to any college being "hug."kname and that's what grant has. but he shows up and the sergeant day,e officer of the whoever he was, looks -- goes
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through his papers and says, well, you're ulysses s. grant not, i'm said, no, i'm hiram ulysses grant. well, the paper here says you are ulysses s. grant. turns out the congressman knew called himody ulysses and he knew his mother's was simpson so he said must be ulysses s. grant so he gives him this name and the or officer, whoever he is, basically says, well, you you is as we have ulysses s. grant. you're hiram ulysses grant. you're saying you're not that guy. if that's true, go back home, come back another year with the right name. said, knowing what his father would think, he decides not to go back and he accepts the name and yet the first three so, he continues to use ulysses.
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the interesting thing, he's a mediocre student. not as bad a student as has been indicated sometimes. a pretty good student. he's really good in math. he wants to be an assistant professor of math. so he's not really all that bad hishe only reads through lessons once because he hates them. he thinks it's a waste of time. most of his time reading novels. are no novels at the library at west point so he and theys form a group and order books and they exchange them but when grant leaves west middle ofs about the the class. and as he leaves, he gets a position in a unit in -- outside st. louis and we'll talk about happens there, one of the major turning points in his life when he meets a certain young lady there in st. louis. harold: what i was always astonished by in terms of grant's service at west point is
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his artistic ability. was a pretty good painter and draftsman. he did some really interesting landscapes and animal studies, little side of him that most don't realize. wet parenthetically before get to their first big war-time experience, grant served some after the academy, in upstate new york, way upstate lee served some time in brooklyn, fort hamilton. of you mayme remember that a -- actually, a replacement tree, a tree that replaced a tree that he had was recentlyooklyn removed as part of the perhaps to removes effort anything associated with lee. said,e plaque that robert e. lee planted a tree here which is sort of a fact. but anyway, i just thought i would throw in our little brooklyn association with lee.
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so, obviously, the big thing for was thets of that era ican war. they will not look like theselves but here are two guys. that is lee, who some called the handsomest man in america, on left. and ulysses grant, who was not the handsomest man in america, on the right. us, i want to get to their war-time service because it sort i've always up and that -- i'll do my part because it's image related. grant had two models in mexico, the two big commanders were win who is perhaps the most over formal general in the army, whom he admired very much. and zachary taylor, old rough on whom granthink modeled himself. with lee thist
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time. lee in the mexican war. had an interesting career. craig: lee had a great career war.g the mexican of all of grant's staff officers, lee was probably the one who made the greatest to american success in that campaign and i do want that thiseveryone, campaign, the one that began at vera cruz. began in the that .orth, taylor invaded but the united states launched a veracruz on the gulf coast, marched all the way inland to mexico city and conquered an empire, a remarkable campaign. mountainsver in the and winfield scott conducted that, one of the great campaigns of american military history. and it was possible at all, in part, because of the contributions of robert e. lee. was a mere lieutenant and
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then captain, but lee on several occasions to find out in this road through the mountains where the enemy was and would ride out either by himself or with a single guide. so far andt he went the guide said i'm not going further, it's too dangerous, and went by himself, crossing a lava encrusted plain to find the the enemy forces and find a road that would out-flank win, which allowed scott to his big victory at sarah gordo and elsewhere on this campaign of that war, scott wrote in his after-action report, that this was the most brilliant young officer in the army so as he had been at west point, the untouchable, brilliant, iconic robert e. lee, so, too, in the mexican war was to watch. harold: i guess what i like about grant at this period and could elaborate on wes -- is that he sees what only came to see later, that it was an ill advised, nasty
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adventure in mexico. tell us about grant and his military and also conscience-struck reaction. john: grant's reaction to the mexican war is completely negative. he believes it is absolutely a mistake, something the united done, theuld not have way it was handled, et cetera. and keep in mind, too, that grant is anti-slavery. an anti-slaveryite and this mythology -- i just phone call two days ago, i was telling harold, from who told me that grant had eight families of slaves. that's not close to accurate. grant had one slave and he freed him for nothing at a time when the money if used he sold him but grant in the quarterwar, grant is a master and he hates the idea that he's a quarter master that means he's not on the front lines.
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stop and think how important was that for his later career in the civil war. about't like it talk logistics because it's boring, it's dull. who does theal best is the guy who can feed his they haveake sure weapons and make sure they have bullets, et cetera. i suppose --tory, two favorite stories about grant and the mexican war. one episode where he ofries -- he and a couple soldiers, carry a cannon up into a church and they out-flank the mexican line and blast them, blast them across the open area. his commanding officer says, what a great idea, grant, i'll another cannon. and grant thinks to himself, we up't fit another cannon there. but he's smart enough -- and
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this is, again, very important he's smart enough politically to say, thank you, mr. officer, we will certainly use the cannon to our best advantage. and, of course, he doesn't use but then, of course, there's two other episodes where the one where he is an officer, logistical,er, officer, and he's suddenly swept american attack and he says later, i didn't have the courage to stop moving forward because i knew as a my job was in the rear. and then finally, the most dramatic episode is where some soldiers, american soldiers need ammunition, need some help. and grant is a great horseman. so he figures out, if he gets on a horse and holds on to the speak, and blankets himself with the horse and just
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runs across the opening in various streets where the mexicans are targeting and he gets through and he's a great hero. known asnearly as well robert e. lee is but he learns a lotand he learns a particularly from zachary taylor. that's the guy that he models himself on. harold: i don't want to get ahead of that story but i've always been amused by the fact again at the two meet apmattics years later, grant says to lee, i remember you well the mexican war, you were so gallant and noticeable. of course, general, you may remember me there, lee says, no, i don't remember you. i don't know whether he was psyching him out or whether he .as not really noticeable john: let me just add, that's a great story and it may be true be true because lee may have said that he
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you're right. but harold: not in the memoirs when you just edited. plug number two, by the way. john: yes, but in other places. who knows. those things we'll never know. knows" meares a "who story. sounds a little bit like a myth craig. going to ask the story is that when the civil war breaks out or at least when occurs, old winfield scott who is now in his 70's and really do much field command anymore. old.enormous, craig: wait a minute, be careful "old."at word harold: i think you're in better shape. craig: he's 71. harold: and weighs 300 pounds and can't get on his horse. he goes to lee and says, secession is at hand, will you the union armies in the
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next couple of days lee writes statement that he can't raise his sword against his state. do you think there was really a meeting? people also confuse it with a meeting with lincoln which i don't think it ever happened. in spirit. true winfield scott did not physically, personally, offer that position robert e. lee but he did to silentn individual lee out on the possibility of this and it was very clear and i think accurate at the time that winfield scott believed robert e. lee was the best officer of his generation and wanted to command the union army in case of a crisis to lee had made it clear everyone that whatever virginia did was what he would do. lee,ation for robert e. he'd taken an oath to the constitution of the united states, as all officers did and in his mind for his entire life, virginia was his country. do,whatever virginia would he would do. so he kind of turned away this and scott knew that if virginia seceded, which, of
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course, eventually it did, that lee would go with virginia. but it is true that scott wanted him to command. he had broached that notion to lincoln who was perfectly to accept scott's advice. lincoln, early in the war, of course, wanted to lean heavily the professional soldiers. lincoln knew what his strengths and and where they weren't was perfectly willing to accept scott's advice. but it was not going to happen wasn't going to do it. john: i was just going to mention, too, i think just to has said, weraig hear -- we always hear the story pacing up and down and he did trying to decide whether to join the union, join the confederacy and i cannot remember where i read this or i learned this. an actual fact, 40% or something in that range, of officers in the american army, when the war came, stayed with and even members of
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lee's family. southerners?f john: 40% of virginians who were army stayed with what became the union army. harold: george thomas, probably most famous. john: exactly. so you have that kind of situation. you also have a situation where numbers of relatives in own family stayed with the union army. really intriguing case. craig: let me make a couple of comments about that. one is that yes, it's true, that a significant number -- i don't percent is -- of southern born american officers stayed by the flag. a far point out that larger percentage of union naval by the flag.ed you may deduct whatever information you like from that. this business of pacing up and down. southalls from dallas
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wrote a biography of robert e. lee, as detailed as anyone would want, published in the 1930's. it's what created for that generation at least and still -- still in print -- the marble man, as thomas connelly perfectim, this iconic, individual. and he has a chapter called "the decision he was born to make." consists of supposedly people listening to robert e. back footsteps as he went and north this room making up his mind of what to do. dramatizing that event. i don't think there was ever a own mind about the decision he was going to make. he was going to go with virginia. in freeman's biography, that becomes very clear. so thing is kind of freeman the lily a harold: there's though source for it. john: when you talk about the navy people stayed. there weren't many ships in the
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so --eracy, [laughter] craig: for those of you who army, i wasjohn was navy. harold: i was civilian. to advance the slides here so that we get to see -- of course, the main thing terms of their image, whether it's a conscious effort ferocious or adult or simply the lack of thattunity to shave, is they become their iconic selves and did we get to how grant we got todon't think how grant gets in the army. we had lee pacing or not pacing seconds on howew grant -- as you pointed out a minute ago, he's not doing well, working in a tanning factory that his father owns brother as hisr boss. could not have been fun. the tanning factory was not fun on its own. pretty hideous to the senses. how does he get into the army?
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gets to be do it and an officer >> it was very difficult for grants to even get into the army. the famous story, which is true, he was asked to leave a meeting where he lived simply because he was from west point. he did not see any more west pointers. they formed a company. he said, i'm not going to take command of a company, i should have at least a regimen. he goes with the company to springfield, illinois, where they are going to organize these regiments, and he is ready to go home. nobody wants to take him. finally, the governor of illinois, a man named yates, season accidentally and says grant, would you take care of the paperwork for all of these soldiers that want to come in,
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because you are in the army and the quartermaster corps and you know about that sort of thing. so a grant does it should -- so grant does it. the only reason he is in charge of the volunteer regiment is because the commander of the unit is a loser and the regiment is going amok. they decided to bring in grant as the commanding officer, he quickly restores order and the rest is history. early daysly -- the for them are not glorious. we assume sprung it's not great. from 1862, what is he doing exactly? does early, and i think harold is right, he is not
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successful at all, but he understands area early in the war, you have to do several things. you have to take the mississippi be --and eu also have to and eu also -- and you also have to be on the offensive. you cannot be putting people on the river and weight than out -- wait them out. you can't do that, the confederacy is waiting to survive. attempts adoes is couple of battles, one of which doesn't work out very well, but what grant achieves, which is the amazing thing, if early in february of 1862 at fort hendry and fort donelson, he went important victories there.
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he almost loses at fort donelson. aboute important thing grant, he continues to learn in his losses and learns over time that in order to win the war, you have to keep moving forward. you are going to win the war in the west, not the east. >> so he is aggressive from the beginning, even though the engagements are not particularly watershed moments. >> that's right. >> so lee is banished to western virginia at first. >> yes. sound to sound a just -- asist, but he is known granny lee. >> yes. he was prematurely gray, perhaps. west virginia was not a state virginia, thern amount miss, slavery did not mountainous,being
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slavery did not take full root. early in the war, lee is assigned to defend western virginia, this hostile area and he has in different troops, the train is difficult -- the terrain is difficult and he's not very good at it. his subordinates are terrible. they decide to do something else. experience,om this as well, that how you give your orders and to whom you give them depends on -- them determines whether they will be fulfilled. he orders the troops today again, but culturally that is not satisfactory.
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the civil war will become a war of trenches as much as bayonets. early on in 1861, the troops he commanded, they did not want to dig with a shovel, that is slave work. they called him king of spades, they called him granny lee, he only wanted to dig in. but this was before they figured out the war yet. he is figuring it out as he goes along. 1861, 1862, there were some bumps. >> crank made the comment about -- craig made the comment that lee was not that old. consider that grant was only in his 30's. they were both learning, but lee
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had much more experience than grand at the beginning. -- them grant at the beginning. youngest president of the united states up to that point, i think before kennedy. >> teddy roosevelt. >> right. >> we should spend a minute on this so that we can move on to head-to-head engagements. each one gets to be commanding general for a different reason. the death of someone else or the failures of others. quickly, how does grant get to become commander of all the unit -- union armies by march 1864? >> in a sentence, what happens turns out towick not be a good, efficient general.
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is the man who i think is one of the leading figures of the civil war when it comes to logistics and preparing troops and dealing with politics. >> he was also the subject of another book by john. [laughter] him, heln said about said he had to be friendly with him because he had no other friends. [laughter] >> he is a sort of the bureaucrat. >> he is the bureaucrat and grant is the guy who pushes forward. >> how does grant get to the top? >> because lincoln decides this is the guy that understands what war has become, that war has become constant forward movement. previously in virginia when union troops lost mcclellan or burnside, they would turn around and go back. not grant, he would keep moving forward and simply wear down the other side.
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lincoln understood that and harold would know that better than anybody in his research. lincoln understood that, too. >> you mentioned grant understood the war was going to be one or lost in the west. --was not crazy about the it about the idea of becoming a general. --is good that he told him his good buddy told him to stay out west. sherman would become the commander in the west. >> so he is confident. >> yes. i think grant understands the politics. won or lost will be in the west, but you have to put on a good show and the feet robert e. lee -- and defeat robert e. lee in the east. >> so how does he go from granny
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lee? eastwant to focus on versus west. we think the civil war takes part in a 100 mile corridor. movementsg, sweeping ended up being strategically decisive in the west. grant, talking about learning on the job, he commands at shiloh, they lose the first day and when the second -- and win the second. the vicksburg campaign is a grant. at he relieves the siege chattanooga. the stairsor west is steps leading to the politically sensitive if not so decisive job of leading. job is easier than that. he has this lack of success in
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western virginia and then morphs into becoming jefferson davises military -- davis' advisor, he talks to him about what should be done next. he is kind of any henry halleck -- howick position. johnson cannot command, he was wounded, and somebody has to take command of the army outside richmond and lee is right there. davis essentially turns to lee and says your -- says while your friend recovers from his wound, will you take over the army? lee thinks it will be temporary. what he does in the first month of his command is strike at this union army, he pounds it for
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seven days, the famous seven days campaign outside richmond. he pounds it so thoroughly, mcclellan loses his nerve and retreats, and it is perceived as a great confederate victory. it comes at great cost, the confederacy loses 20% of its days,er in those seven but it saves a richmond for being occupied in the first year of the war and from that moment on, lee is unassailable, he goes up from victory to victory until gettysburg, which we will bring up later. [laughter] >> i will show the result to put a different picture up. i think we know about gettysburg and we have even done it here, we know about antietam. fights toome battles, a draw and some in the east, plagues the various on aggressive union commanders put
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before him, and then grant comes east in 1864 and they go head-to-head. when we look at the inevitable result, what we know is the thelt, the surrender, could 1865ing in 1864 and early have gone any other way than it did? the reason i asked the question --because grant is played plagued with the charge that he sacrificed tens and thousands of men, and that the only way he could win was being a butcher, whereas lee was a superior strategist. why don't we do a quick assessment of generalship as they confront each other. i only say quick because we have
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covered so much but we have so much more to do. accusation.ard that that grant was a butcher, he threw his men in, lee was a great general and all the rest. it strikes me as a football fan to think in terms of a great football team, like my buffalo bills used to be. [laughter] >> in any case, to say that uffalo should not have gone into the super bowl that year because i had such great players and the other team did not, it doesn't make a great deal of sense. grants case with grand, does use his army in a way no one has used the army up to that point. no union commanders have been able to use the army in the same way. it should be pointed out that if what historians are
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doing now, looking not just a wrong numbers, percentages -- just raw numbers but percentages. what percentage of troop size was lost in virginia. lee has the worst record of anybody in the entire civil war in sacrificing his troops. the argument can be made, for example, that what we needed to do was go on the offensive and keep going so that the north would get sick of the war and they would say confederacy, go away. but that is not the weight lee fought the war, he was an aggressive commander, always on the attack and he lost a huge number of men. >> we don't want frank to be the defender of lee, but do it from his vantage point and reputation. >> let me use the buffalo bills example. maybe are a team that is like navy playing notre dame, if
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you are 30 pounds lighter per man and you don't have a quarterback with a rocket arm and a running back that will get 200 yards per game, you might try a double reverse pass and set of a full back up the middle. we did. is what when you look at the cap at chancellorsville, for example, before they were head-to-head, it is characterization -- it is -- it characterizes his use of troops. in half, ande army then divided that in half and sent a quarter on a 25 mile flight march to strike the rear of the enemy army. it is hugely risky. lee felt the risk was essential because he was outmanned, outgunned, else applied, out supplied, outt financed. so he had to take this approach.
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if you looks like a dashing strategist as compared to grant cudgel incultural -- his hands, it's because they reacted appropriate to their resources. >> i think the key element for each his temperament. neither to my knowledge ever lost his temper, ever shouted at a subordinate, ever lost his nerve at a critical moment, that they could see the field, the isaac could see the entire hat could- the eye t see the entire picture. a managed their armies according to the resources they had available. i think they were both brilliant. >> i'm going to show a few more images in which the scene grew in importance successfully as artists dealt with it. this is a pretty realistic view of the surrender seen and perhaps the most realistic of
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all, commissioned by a man who -- by the man who owned the home in which the surrender took place. he needed it to raise funds, because when the union army was finished, they took his furniture as souvenirs. >> souvenirs. >> the myth grew that the surrender took place outdoors in , and here is ad bout to that, and here is a cornwall type surrender. my view is, to throw this in, iconice attains somewhat status in the north as a result of this rush of immigrant -- rush of images intended to celebrate grant. -- isense, lee is an old
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it helps and i think his image and elevates grant to be in such splendid surroundings. >> i think you are right. nt'sink grants image -- gra image grows not only because of what happens here, and it does happen here, he was very magnanimous toward the confederates, and robert e lee understood it. there was talk of putting robert e lee on trial and grant went to president andrew johnson and said i gave my word, we cannot do any of this, it would break my word. , to add to what harold said, i think the image of robert e lee grows because there is a conscious effort in the late 1870's, 1880's and even into the 20th century to make virginia the most important
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place in the war, the confederate army the most important unit and robert e. lee the leading general. as a result, we get the drunkard myth, the myth of the butcher and so on. in other words, to build up lee, you have to destroy grant. >> i just want you all to know, as i show these photographs, fascinating back story to them. both of these photographs were owned by abraham lincoln. mary lincoln, to be specific. we don't know how they came to own a photograph of grant, mary of aln was not an admirer man she regarded as a butcher and thought was being rewarded to handsomely after her husband died and she was not. robert lincoln was on grants
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staff and brought this photo back to the white house after appomattox and showed it to abraham lincoln, who supposedly said, and here we go with the lee, it is a of good face, a noble face, i am glad the war is over at last. that is the photo lincoln had and it came from robert. very odd. some timet to spend with wonderful questions i have gotten, although we will not be able to tell the postpresidential story. , with you what turned out to be lee's fatal flaw, if any? >> as opposed what most southerners would say is he commanded an army half the size of his foe and lee might have a great -- have agreed with that.
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if he had a fatal flaw in terms of how he commanded, it was because he believed his soldiers were invincible. weakness, att gettysburg at tickets charge -- at pickets charge, he believed geographical circumstances and the daunting defensive line of the union army, that his men had proved to him they could do anything. they believed that, as well. that's why when he asked them to do it, you see that mile-long open field with guns on the other side, we would like you to march across that end attacks, they did it and believed they would succeed. if he had a fatal flaw, it was the belief his soldiers could do anything. >> what about his strategic vision that he should be on the offensive in the north when he could've held out in the south much longer?
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almost as if he wished the war would climatically come to a close. ofit goes to the question whether time is a confederate ally, as was suggested, and a lot of postwar analysts have argued, or not. the north was a stronger industrially, militarily, financially, in terms of population, railroad, any measurement you can find. as long as the public in the north would sustain the lincoln administration, the north would win the war. ally,a, time is not our -- as lee said, time is not our ally and was we seize the moment. why he was hoping the shock of a confederate victory ,n union territory in antietam open negotiations, let's end the bloodshed.
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and when his army was at its peak, some shocking event to win this before we are overwhelmed was the only way the south could win it. that might not be correct but i think that's how he viewed it. >> i would add, i think sherman may have hit on the head when he said the problem with robert e lee was he was guarding the front porch while his enemy burned the bedrooms. beenother flaw may have that he didn't see a continental war, a war -- he saw a war in virginia. he was a soldier of virginia beginning to end. when he had an officer that disappointed him, he sent him out west because he wanted the war in virginia to be the one that occupied all his time and attention, and that was a flaw, as well. >> to his credit, grant sought joint operations in simultaneous action from the beginning.
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here is an interesting question. mentioned as a slave owner, lee certainly was, how did each regard the recruitment of african-american troops? believed with lincoln that the emancipation proclamation should be enforced. he was out west, in mississippi in the vicksburg campaign up and down the river, and he insisted , be troops, black troops included in the union army. that is not what sherman said or other people said, but grant was a great believer that we should indeed use black troops, and he thought they could make the difference as lincoln did. ,> by the way, to that point one of the first experiences he contingent of african-americans who had fled a
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plantation near vicksburg and come into grant's line, one of the first occasions he was exposed to that end -- exposed to that and had to make a decision. they came from jefferson davis's own plantation. the original work of art that the fix this is owned by the new york historical society. it is worth mentioning. robertere is a myth that a lee and jefferson davis loved the idea of recruiting african-americans and many believed there were confederate african-americans no matter how many times we say there were not. >> that is a myth. 99.4%,e lee, along with i made up that number, along with his generation, was a racist. he did not believe blacks had any rights or could be effective
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citizens. pragmatist in terms of war. date,ch of 1865, note the he surrenders in april. in march of 1865, a little rump confederate congress passed a law authorizing the recruitment of black soldiers. as the only time the confederacy became involved in this thing. they raised two companies, did not issue than any weapons, they drilled with broomsticks. accept asked, would you black soldiers, and yes he would, because at that moment, anybody who can hold a place in the line and wield a weapon he would accept. itwas not enthusiastic about , nor were jefferson -- nor was jefferson davis. but there were not any african-american soldiers in the confederacy at all, ever. >> at the end of the work, lee on his back porch at the end of
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the war. heroic pose.ore here they are as older men, and there was a meeting in white mystery, grantin as president and lee president of a college that became washington and lee university. famous lee on his wartime course, traveler. copies were sold to raise -- i should not do that yet. i will advance and in go back. to raise money for his tomb, it was funded by the sale of that print. with this image, grant in his last days in upstate new york near saratoga, sitting on a rattan chair that still exists on that porch,
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editing his memoirs. which leads us to john and his new version of the book. this might be his most heroic act, don't you think? >> it was. he literally died a few days after he completed writing his memoirs. , in you think about that think ron chernow said to me grant wasently, suffering from cancer, throat cancer, and the only thing you can do in these days was watered-down opium. and yet he wrote pages upon pages upon pages. and if you look them, they were very few changes, that's how good he was. whereas most historians, we are lucky if we get for five pages in one day. this is a really marvelous picture and it indicates a man who is absolutely brave to the very end. the reason he is so brave is
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because he wants to make sure his beloved julia will have some money left. >> because he was ruined. by frederick ward. as we end, i guess we will end ,- i hate to" in groucho marx but who is buried in grant's tim? --tomb? >> you gentlemen have brought both of them back to life tonight. [applause] >> i just want to remind these three wonderful gentleman will be in our museum store signing books. so much for a great program and thank you for joining us. [applause]
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>> this is american history tv, 48 hours every weekend every weekend, only on c-span. >> on american history tv, we learn about james s burns who served in the u.s. house and senate as a supreme court justice and in the franklin d. roosevelt administration. explains how burns was a key figure in the implementation of the new deal and the management of the wartime economy. the relationship between fdr and burns and how they would shape the united states at a time of great uncertainty. we will also hear from supreme court justice stephen breyer. the supreme court historical society hosted this 50 minute program in the supreme court chamber.


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