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tv   The Civil War Military Rivals Ulysses S. Grant Robert E. Lee  CSPAN  February 25, 2018 1:14pm-2:16pm EST

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he is not able to kill a bear. want to be having a successful hunting trip. one tracked down the old they are an incapacitated it. he said here, you can shoot his and the president said no, i will not. show how that there to they took the old bear, and he turned it into a cute and cuddly it, becamehe called a really popular one. also it became a recurring in the cartoon. >> watch the entire program on political cartoons sunday at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. eastern.
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this is american history tv only on c-span3. announcer: next, historians john marszalek and craig symonds look at the military rivalry between civil war generals ulysses s. grant and robert e. lee, comparing their childhoods, experiences at west point, actions during the mexican-american war. the new york historical society hosted this hour-long discussion. >> we are thrilled to welcome back three frequent guests of the new york historical society tonight. john f. marszalek is the giles distinguished professor of history meritus at mississippi state university, the executive managing editor of the ulysses s. grant association, dr. marszalek has written or edited numerous acclaimed books
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including the personal memoirs of ulysses s. grant released earlier this year and you will find it in our museum store. craig l. symonds is the ernest j. king chair at the u.s. naval college in newport, rhode island, and professor emeritus at the u.s. naval academy, author and editor of several books u.s. military history, including the civil war at sea. hal holtzer, our monitor, is the director at the roosevelt house public policy institute at hunter college. in 2008, he was awarded the national humanities medal by president george w. bush. he is the author or editor of over 50 books of lincoln and the civil war era, including winner
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of the gilder lammon lincoln prize. i ask if you have a cell phone or beeper, please turn off your cell phone and any other electronic devices. now, please join me in welcoming our guests. thank you. [applause] >> good evening. delighted to see you again as we go back in time, a century and a half, to look at another aspect of the civil war we've yet to cover in our many sessions with you. tonight we're going to go right to the top. we're going to explore the personalities, achievements and maybe some failures of the two commanding generals whose rivalry, competition, may be even a little contempt for each other, marked the final battles
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of the war and the surrender that all but ended it and they are, of course, ulysses s. grant and robert e. lee. and, boy, have these two characters ever been in the news lately. perfect timing, we could not have chosen a better moment, as we know lee has been all but knocked off his pedestal, literally, in some parts of the country, in this roiling national controversy over confederate memorials. things look better for general grant and for one thing, our friend, ron chernow, has published his extraordinary biography of grant and he is back in the news and for another very important thing, our friend john marszalek has just
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published an annotated and reedited volume of ulysses s. grant's memoirs which we'll talk about as we go along and it is another triumph for anybody who wants to read one of the great war-time autobiographies in american history and also in an accessible volume that gives us notes that help us through. congratulations to you. one more shout-out for john and his wife, jean, who is here today. they, and i'm giving jean at least half credit for this, have just opened the new ulysses s. grant presidential library complex at mississippi state university where john has
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taught, and having just come back from there, i can tell you, that it is absolutely spectacular and just beautiful to look at, wonderful to access, and thanks john grant is winning the war all over again. so let's go back and talk about these fellas. totally different upbringings, of course, but both had difficult fathers so i thought we'd start there and i guess we'll start with the grant. tell us a little bit about the upbringing and dad. john: grant had the misfortune, i guess you could say, of having a father who was completely different from him in that he believed that even from the earliest time, that somehow he should be one of the most important people in the country. and the result was that, over time, the father, jesse, would do and say things to try to build up the son, even though he thought the son was a complete losers, ulysses s. grant was an absolute loser.
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but what happens is, the interesting thing is, is that grant's father is a writer. he's interested in politics. he's interested in all sorts of things and he's a very outgoing sort 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. but one of my favorite stories about them is that when grant writes a letter to his father and basically says, leave me alone, let me fight this war. you keep sending me people to
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promote, to give jobs to, later as president to be made post masters, just stop it, i'm not going to put up with it any longer. that was the kind of relationship they had, even though grant's father gave him a job just before the war started when grant was not doing very well financially. but generally speaking, their relationship was horrible. harold: how about, you're going to take the mantle of robert e. lee. craig: i guess i am. that's my role here. this photograph was taken in
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1863, roughly about at the battle of gettysburg and he became the image, the marble man as thomas connelly called him, an icon for the south and i think lee kept that tight rein on himself and stern visage we associate with his looks and appearance largely because of his father. his father was lighthorse harry lee, dashing cavalryman. lighthorse harry was a scandal in virginia. one of his recent biographers called him a well bred cook it's
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not going too far to call him virginia's bernie madoff. i'll tell 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. but he showed up, knocked on a neighbor's door and said my horse has run off, i need to borrow a horse to get home, so the man lent him a horse and also said i'm going to send a slave along with him to bring the horse back after you arrive at your home. days pass with no news of the man, the slave or the horse and finally the slave showed up a week later, bedraggled looking and the master said, what happened, he said it turns out colonel lee's horse did not run off. he sold him and when he got home he sold your horse, too.
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and he said why are you so late in coming home. he said he sold me, too. so this reputation of being a virtual scoundrel was an incubus 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 having a father like lighthouse harry. john: when grant was a little bit boy and throughout his life, he's a great horseman so he really knows this neighbor has a horse that ulysses grant really wants and his father says no the guy's asking too much for it but i'll tell you what, grant wears this guy out, wears his father out. so the father says, here's what
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you do. offer him $15 for the horse. if he doesn't want to take it, offer him $20 for the horse. if he still doesn't take it, go up to $25. well, grant goes to see this man and says, my father says that i'm supposed to offer you $25 for the horse. will you take? i'd be happy to. and grant never outlived that and his father said, what i fool i have for a son. harold: so they're succeeding despite their fathers. they both go to west point for different reasons, i suppose. lee because it's expected -- military tradition of his family. grant because his father doesn't want to pay for college and if he can get him appointed, he gets a free education and maybe
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he'll learn something useful like engineering or mathematics which is what he was interested in. but tell us about their careers at the academy. let's start with lee this time. craig: robert e. lee, class of 1829 at west point, showed up and was the model cadet during plebe summer and throughout his entire year he was anointed first captain of the corps, therefore, the highest military ranking. finished second academically. everybody always asked, who was first. man named charles mason who lived a life of austerity, did not stay in the army, as most did not in the 19th century.
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went to west point to get a free education in many cases. get training and education, many worked for railroads or banks. it was rare to stay in the army after you graduated. lee was one of those who did, not only did he have this mythical record of almost a perfect everything, never got a single demerit. there's actually a book at the west point library, each page dedicated to a cadet, filled with late for muster and all these things listed and then lee's, you turn to robert e. lee's page and it's blank, absolutely blank. four years, never late for anything, always perfect. and then stayed in through all the doldrums years after graduation, and rose to the rank of brevit colonel after 40-some years in the army.
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so he plugged away at it. harold: what about grant at west point? john: grant had no desire to be a soldier, no desire to be at west point. in his memoirs he talks about how 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 west point and grant -- his father tells him this. and grant says, well, i'm not going. i don't want to go. and the father says, yes, you're going, for the reason that craig mentioned. but what grant actually then said, he said, well, my father -- in his memoirs, my father said i'm going, i guess i must have to go. so he goes very reluctantly
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except he's happy about the fact he's going to be able to travel. he's going to be able to see parts of the united states he never saw before. so he gets there and you've heard the famous story. his real name was hiram ulysses grant. take those first three letters, h.u.g. imagine going to any college with your nickname being "hug." and that's what grant has. but he shows up and the sergeant or the officer of the day, whoever he was, looks -- goes through his papers and says, well, you're ulysses s. grant and grant said, no, i'm not, i'm hiram ulysses grant.
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well, the paper here says you are ulysses s. grant. turns out the congressman knew that everybody called him ulysses and he knew his mother's maiden name was simpson so he said must be ulysses s. grant so he gives him this name and the sergeant or officer, whoever he is, basically says, well, you know, what we have you is as 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. so he said, knowing what his father would think, he decides not to go back and he accepts the name and yet the first three years or so, he continues to use hiram ulysses. the interesting thing, he's a mediocre student.
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not as bad a student as has been indicated sometimes. he's actually 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 but he only reads through his lessons once because he hates them. he thinks it's a waste of time. spends most of his time reading novels. there are no novels at the
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library at west point so he and others form a group and they order books and they exchange them but when grant leaves west point, he's about the middle of the class. and as he leaves, he gets a position in a unit in -- outside st. louis and we'll talk about what 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 his artistic ability. he was a pretty good painter and draftsman. he did some really interesting landscapes and animal studies, little side of him that most people don't realize. just parenthetically before we get to their first big war-time experience, grant served some time, after the academy, in upstate new york, way upstate new york, and lee served some time in brooklyn, fort hamilton. in fact, some of you may remember that a -- actually, a replacement tree, a tree that replaced a tree that he had planted in brooklyn was recently removed as part of the perhaps overzealous effort to remove anything associated with lee. so at the end of that war, scott
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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 he the man to watch. harold: i guess what i like about grant at this period and john, you could elaborate on this -- is that he sees what we only came to see later, that it was an ill advised, nasty 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
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states should not have done, the way it was handled, et cetera. and keep in mind, too, that grant is anti-slavery. his father is an anti-slavery-ite and this mythology -- i just got a phone call two days ago, i was telling harold, from someone 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 he could have used the money if he sold him but grant in the
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mexican war, grant is a quarter master and he hates the idea that he's a quarter master because that means he's not on the front lines. but stop and think how important was that for his later career in the civil war. we don't like it talk about logistics because it's boring, it's dull. but the general who does the best is the guy who can feed his army and make sure they have weapons and make sure they have bullets, et cetera. my favorite story, i suppose -- two favorite stories about grant and the mexican war. the one episode where he carries -- he and a couple of soldiers, carry a cannon up into the belfry of a church and they out-flank the mexican line and just blast them, blast them across the open area. his commanding officer says, what a great idea, grant, i'll send you another cannon. and grant thinks to himself, we can't fit another cannon up there. but he's smart enough -- and this is, again, very important later on -- 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 it but then, of course, there's two other episodes where the one episode where he is an officer, quarter master, logistical,
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officer, and he's suddenly swept up in the american attack and he says later, i didn't have the moral courage to stop moving forward because i knew as a quarter master 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 horn, so to speak, and blankets himself with the horse and just runs across the opening in various streets where the mexicans are targeting and he gets through and he's a great hero. he's not nearly as well known as robert e. lee is but he learns a lot and he learns a lot 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 that when the two meet again at appomattox years later, grant
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says to lee, i remember you well from 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 was not really noticeable. john: let me just add, that's a great story and it may be true but it may not be true because lee may have said that he remembered him but you're right. harold: not in the memoirs when you just edited. plug number two, by the way. john: yes, but in other places. who knows.
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that's one of those things we'll never know. harold: here's a "who knows" story. sounds a little bit like a myth but i'm going to ask craig. the story is that when the civil war breaks out or at least when secession occurs, old winfield scott who is now in his 70's and can't really do much field command anymore. he's enormous, old. craig: wait a minute, be careful with that word "old." 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
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command the union armies in the next couple of days lee writes his dramatic 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. craig: it's true in spirit. winfield scott did not physically, personally, face-to-face offer that position robert e. lee but he did deputize an individual to silent lee out on the possibility of
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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 the one he wanted to command the union army in case of a crisis and lee had made it clear to everyone that whatever virginia did was what he would do. the nation for robert e. lee, he'd taken an oath to the constitution of the united states, as all officers did and still do, but in his mind for his entire life, virginia was his country. and whatever virginia would do, he would do. so he kind of turned away this idea and scott knew that if virginia seceded, which, of 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 willing to accept scott's advice.
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lincoln, early in the war, of course, wanted to lean heavily on the professional soldiers. lincoln knew what his strengths were and where they weren't and was perfectly willing to accept scott's advice. but it was not going to happen because lee wasn't going to do it. john: i was just going to mention, too, i think just to add to what craig has said, we hear -- we always hear the story about lee 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. but an actual fact, 40% or something in that range, of
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officers in the american army, when the war came, stayed with the union, and even members of lee's family. harold: 40% of southerners? john: 40% of virginians who were in the american army stayed with what became the union army. harold: george thomas, probably most famous. john: exactly. so you have that kind of situation. and you also have a situation where numbers of relatives in lee's own family stayed with the union army. so it's a 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 know what the percent is -- of southern born american officers stayed by the flag.
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i will point out that a far larger percentage of union naval officers stayed by the flag. you may deduct whatever information you like from that. but this business of pacing up and down. this comes from dallas southall freeman who 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 -- it's still in print -- the marble man, as thomas connelly called him, this iconic, perfect individual. and he has a chapter called "the decision he was born to make." and it consists of supposedly people listening to robert e. lee's footsteps as he went back and forth in this room making up his mind of what to do. freeman is dramatizing that event. i don't think there was ever a doubt in lee's own mind about the decision he was going to make.
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he was going to go with virginia. and elsewhere in freeman's biography, that becomes very clear. so i think is kind of freeman gilding the lily a bit. harold: there's though source for it. john: when you talk about the navy, more navy people stayed. there weren't many ships in the confederacy, so -- [laughter] craig: for those of you who don't know, john was army, i was navy. harold: i was civilian. so i'm going to advance the
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slides here so that we get to see -- of course, the main thing they do in terms of their image, whether it's a conscious effort to look more ferocious or adult or simply the lack of opportunity to shave, is that they become their iconic selves by growing beards. and did we get to how grant gets -- i don't think we got to how grant gets in the army. we had lee pacing or not pacing but give us a few seconds on how grant -- as you pointed out a minute ago, he's not doing well, he's working in a tanning factory that his father owns with his younger brother as his boss. could not have been fun. the tanning factory was not fun on its own.
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it's pretty hideous to the senses. how does he get into the army? how does he do it and gets to be an officer right away? john: it was very difficult for grant to even get in the army. the famous story, which is true is, he was asked to lead a meeting in galena where he lived simply because he was a west pointer and they looked around and they said i don't see any other west pointers around so you do it, grant. he almost loses at fort donelson. but the important thing about 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.
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>> so lee is banished to western virginia at first. >> yes. >> not to sound ageist, but he is known as granny lee. >> yes. he was prematurely gray, perhaps. west virginia was not a state yet, but western virginia, being mountainous, 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
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terrain is difficult and he's not very good at it. his subordinates are terrible. they decide to do something else. he learns from this experience, as well, that how you give your orders and to whom you give them determines whether they will be fulfilled. he orders the troops today again, but culturally that is not satisfactory. 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. early on in 1861, 1862, there were some bumps. >> craig made the comment that lee was not that old.
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consider that grant was only in his 30's. they were both learning, but lee had much more experience than grant at the beginning. he is the youngest president of the united states up to that point, i think before kennedy. >> teddy roosevelt. >> right. >> we should spend a minute on
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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 union armies by march 1864? >> in a sentence, what happens is henry w howick turns out to not be a good, efficient general. he is the man who i think is one of the leading figures of the civil war when it comes to logistics and preparing troops
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and dealing with politics. >> he was also the subject of another book by john. [laughter] >> lincoln said about him, he 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. lincoln understood that and harold would know that better
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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. he was not crazy about the idea of becoming a general. >> is good that 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. yes, the war will be won or lost in the west, but you have to put on a good show and defeat robert e. lee in the east. >> so how does he go from granny lee? >> i want to focus on east versus west. we think the civil war takes part in a 100 mile corridor. but the big, sweeping movements ended up being strategically decisive in the west. this is where grant, talking about learning on the job, he commands at shiloh, they lose the first day and win the second. the vicksburg campaign is a
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grant. and he relieves the siege at chattanooga. the successor west is the stair steps leading to the politically sensitive if not so decisive job of leading. lee's job is easier than that. he has this lack of success in western virginia and then morphs into becoming jefferson davis' military advisor, he talks to him about what should be done next. he is kind of in a henry howick position. johnson cannot command, he was wounded, and somebody has to take command of the army outside
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richmond and lee is right there. davis essentially turns to lee and 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 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 manpower in those seven days, 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
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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. lee went some battles, fights to a draw and some in the east, plagues the various on aggressive union commanders put 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 result, the surrender, could the fighting in 1864 and early 1865 have gone any other way than it did?
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the reason i asked the question is because grant is 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 covered so much but we have so much more to do. >> i have heard that accusation. 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 buffalo should not have gone into the super bowl that year because i had such great players and the other team did not, it
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doesn't make a great deal of sense. in this case with grand, grant 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 you look, what historians are doing now, looking not 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
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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. if you are a team that is maybe like navy playing notre dame, if 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. and that is what we did. when you look at the cap at chancellorsville, for example, before they were head-to-head, it characterizes his use of troops. he divided the army in half, and then divided that in half and sent a quarter on a 25 mile flight march to strike the rear of the enemy army.
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it is hugely risky. lee felt the risk was essential because he was outmanned, outgunned, out supplied, out financed. if lee looks like the dashingch. strategist as compared to grant with the cudgel in his hands, it is because they each dealt with the command they had in a way appropriate to the resources available to them. >> i think the key element for each is 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 eye that could see the entire picture.
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manage their armies in a way appropriate 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 successively as artists dealt with it. this is a pretty realistic view of the surrender seen and perhaps the most realistic of who commissioned by the man 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 an apple orchard, and here is a bout to that, and here is a cornwallis type surrender.
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with the entire army arrayed before them. my view is, to throw this in, that lee attains somewhat iconic status in the north as a result of this rush of images intended to celebrate grant. in a sense, lee is ennobled, and giving in gracefully, preventing a guerrilla war and i think it helps his image and it certainly elevates grant to be in such surroundings as his former better at west point. >> i think you are right. i think grant's 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
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said i gave my word, we cannot do any of this, it would break my word. but i think, 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 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.
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we don't know how they came to own a photograph of grant, mary lincoln was not an admirer of a man she regarded as a butcher and thought was being rewarded too handsomely after her husband died and she was not. robert lincoln, who was on grant's 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 mythification of lee, it is a 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. i just want to spend some time with wonderful questions i have gotten, although we will not be able to tell the postpresidential story. let's start with you, craig.
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what turned out to be lee's fatal flaw, if any? >> i suppose what most southerners would say is he commanded an army half the size of his foe and lee might have agreed with that. if he had a fatal flaw in terms of how he commanded, it was because he believed his soldiers were invincible. if the great weakness, at gettysburg at pickett's charge, he believed that despite 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.
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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 and attack the enemy, and they were willing to do that and believe they would succeed at the end. 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? it is almost as if he wished the war would climatically come to a close. >> it goes to the question of whether time is a confederate ally, as john 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, and his reelection in 1864 was decisive,
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the north would win the war. allyaid time is not our and the union will win unless we seize the moment. that is why he crossed the potomac. that is why he was hoping the shock of a confederate victory in union territory in antietam, open negotiations, let's end the bloodshed. 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 may not be correct, but i think that is the way leave viewed it. viewed is the way lee 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. >> another flaw may have been that he didn't see a continental war, he saw a war in virginia.
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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. here is an interesting question. grant mentioned as a slave owner, lee certainly was, how did each regard the recruitment of african-american troops? we will start with grant. >> grant 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 that troops, black troops, be included in the union army. that is not what sherman said or
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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 had was a contingent of african-americans who had fled a plantation near vicksburg and come into grant's line, one of the first occasions he was exposed to that and had to make a decision. his orders were to accept them. they came from jefferson davis's own plantation. the original work of art that depicts this arrival is owned by the new york historical society. it is worth mentioning.
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lee, there is a myth that robert e. 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. robert e lee, along with 99.4%, i made up that number, along with his generation, was a racist. he did not believe blacks had any rights or could be effective citizens. he did not believe blacks had any rights that any white man was bound to recognize. but he was a pragmatist in terms of war. in march of 1865, note the date, he surrenders in april. in march of 1865, a little rump confederate congress, passed a law authorizing the recruitment of black soldiers. that was the only time the confederacy became involved in this thing. they raised two companies, did not issue than any weapons, they drilled with broomsticks. lee was asked, would you accept black soldiers, and yes he would, because at that moment,
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anybody who can hold a place in the line and wield a weapon he would accept. he was not enthusiastic about it, nor was jefferson davis. nor were their regiments of black troops that fought for the confederacy, at all, ever. this is both men at the end of the war, lee on his back porch in richmond at the end of the war, grant in a more heroic pose. here they are as older men, and there was a meeting in white house shrouded in mystery, grant as president and lee president of a college that became washington and lee university. here is lee on his famous wartime horse, traveler. copies of which were sold -- i should not do that yet.
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i will advance it quickly and then go back. to raise money for his tomb, it was funded by the sale of that print. i want to end 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, 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. when you think about that, i think ron chernow said to me fairly recently, grant was suffering from cancer, throat cancer, and the only thing you can do in these days was to water down opium.
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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 four 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 because he wants to make sure his beloved julia will have some money left. >> because he was ruined. by the real bernie made off of his time, frederick ward. , i hate to end quoting groucho marx, but who is buried in grant's tomb? entombed rather lavishly but you gentlemen have brought both of them back to life tonight. thank you. [applause]
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>> i just want to remind everyone these three wonderful gentleman will be in our museum store signing books. thank you so much for a great program and thank you for joining us. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] a tweet from madman across the water asking about an issue that still resounds today. his question is about how many people were fathered by u.s. gis in vietnam, how were they treated 45 years after the u.s. to berkshire -- after the u.s. departure? >> you can be featured in our programs, join the conversation on facebook at history.
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>> next on "the presidency." a look at the relationship between president george h.w. bush and bill clinton and russian president boris yeltsin, and how they influence the new russia after the dissolution of the ussr. the university of virginia's miller center convened scholars for a conference looking at the complicated history between u.s. and russia leaders over the last century. the discussion included assessments of franklin roosevelt, richard nixon, ronald reagan, as well as their russian counterparts. this is about one hour. >> as with the end of the cold war, events are rushing forward with breathtaking speed and just when you think you are beginning to digest what happened i 1992, weight, there is a new administration in office and talbot is going to explain it to us.


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