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tv   The Civil War Union Gen. Winfield Hancock at Gettysburg  CSPAN  March 25, 2018 9:16pm-10:01pm EDT

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infringement by the army. one of the things we look at, you start off with an attempt with treaties being made and broken into ignored. -- and ignored. rights are being trampled on. fast-forward, 2018. standing rock. not much has changed. i think that is one of the to grapple with as native american historians. it looks as if in balancing we have tohings, take indian land and resources.
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but we pay attention to indian rights. which one trumps, excuse me, the other? i think we know. sometimesan: historians talk about the past, as history being the study of change over time. it is also continuity. thank you for giving us so much to think about tonight. >> [applause] on behalf of the president and the george washington university, here is a token of our appreciation. your own george washington. dr. colin calloway: thank you. dr. brunsman: thank you all for being such a great audience. we have birthday cupcakes at the reception. professor will be doing a
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signing. thank you. dr. colin calloway: thank you very much. >> [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] announcer: you were watching american history television, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on to c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. we talk aboutt, the book "observing hancock and argues that and he
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general hancock was the most influential and successful of the union court commanders at gettysburg, crediting him with several key decisions and maneuvers that played a major role in the union victory. the gettysburg heritage center hosted this 40 minute talk. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018]
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>> the county battle of gettysburg from a new perspective. one that focuses on both the military aspects, as well as the new perspective. beyond our museum, we offer additional programming for both the general consumer, and groups alike. talks, you can experience historical programs most weekends. and we have a saturday spotlight series, with educational programs in the evenings. you can visit us seven days a week, or visit us online. we do offer shipping. we will introduce our first speaker. the author when an award for
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outstanding senior thesis. later spent years researching and writing his book, observing .ancock at gettysburg he now teaches at the morris county school of technology. article, is now leastble in a nuclear july issue of the gettysburg magazine. without any further i present to you paul reisner. x thank you very much. it is my pleasure to be here. i assume everyone who needs to hear me can hear me. i have nothing to correct in what miss myers said.
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let's get to it. my book is about hancock at gettysburg. are relatively limited, because i can talk about this forever, basically, i can talk hours, we are0 limited to a little over 30 minutes. hours,i am going to talk aboutl hancock at gettysburg on the first day of battle. there is some very brief background, to talk about, who is general winfield scott hancock. he was born an identical twin with his brother hillary in 1824 at montgomery square, pennsylvania. the two boys ended up growing up in norristown, pennsylvania,
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where they relocated at a very young age. he was admitted to west point on july 1 of 1840. that would be, as it turns out, 23 years to the day before he rode onto the battlefield at gettysburg as a major general. it may not have seemed like he would someday become a major general raced on the fact -- based on the fact that he was 18th in a class of 25 at the u.s. military academy. he was well respected and well liked despite mediocre grades. he joined the mexican war after lobbying very hard for it over
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approximately a year in july 1847. after the mexican war, he met almira russell in st. louis and was married in 1850. later in october, she gave birth to their son russell, and in 1857 to their daughter ada. hancock in the civil war, when the civil war broke out, he was not a general then. i believe captain hancock was in los angeles, which was more than just a three-hour flight away from the eastern theater. he did not get actively involved in the civil war until the peninsula campaign the spring of 1862.
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that is where he won renown, the battle of williamsburg of early in the peninsula campaign. i believe general mcclellan referred to him as hancock the superb, because of the job he did, and the name stuck. later in 1862, he replaced the mortally wounded general richardson, commanding a second core division at antietam. he took that division into battle in the futile series of charges that took place at fredericksburg that december, 1862. about two months before gettysburg was the battle of
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chancellorsville, where his division carried out what was considered a brilliant rearguard action, helping the army get away to safety at the battle of chancellorsville. come june 10, about 21 days before the battle of gettysburg, he becomes commander of the second corps. he is only in command for about three weeks when the battle starts on july 1. what made hancock superb? i like to break it down into three things. excuse me, i like to break down into four things, three of which were most important during the first day of engagement. tactical facility, a fast eye,
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the ability to read a battlefield instantly, which the trench would say, what is literally translated as the flash of the eye, a coupes d'oiel. a fast eye. he was a good tactician in that way. not as important on the first day, but important the next two days was his tenacious discipline. his decisiveness, very decisive guy, a very confident man. when he made a decision, when he took sides in a controversy, he stuck with it.
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he could -- it wasn't just a matter of being stubborn. he really believed it. he had confidence in his decisions. this helped him deliver orders very emphatically. he did not hesitate. he did not waffle. he did not mince words. when he made an order, it was clear what the person he was ordering was supposed to do. they tended to do it. this was related to his charisma. some people called him the most handsome man in the army of the potomac, so surely he was good-looking to substantial degree. he had great posture. he was six feet two inches. he always dressed very cleanly and very well organized. apparently in combat, he was magnetic.
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apparently in combat, he was magnetic. you could recognize them from afar. he had a booming voice, and speaking of his voice, he was quite profane in battle. which seemed to be effective for him. in the social circle, however, he was properly courteous, generous, and genial. he was popular both among his social circle and as a combat commander. that brings us to july 1. that brings us to july 1. what is going on on july 1? well, the confederates are north of gettysburg. in the process of concentrating, we would prefer them to
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concentrate around cash town. this diagram is not a diagram of a historical actuality. it is for the confederates. it is not for the union army. this was meade's plan. this was the pipe creek plan he intended tentatively to use. to the south and southeast were baltimore and washington, which were the two main points that meade, commanding the army of the potomac was supposed to cover, and probably not long after midnight on july 1, the wee hours of july 1, he and his staff come up with this plan to organize the army around pipe creek and await attack from lee.
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that is the tentative plan when hancock rides up to tiny town with his corps, about 12 miles south of gettysburg and meets meade in the late morning. meade tells them about the pipe creek plan. they discuss various matters and adjourn. i believe at the time they did , know the first corps had been engaged in some way outside of gettysburg. they definitely know minutes after their meeting finishes, meade gets word that general commanding the first corps, which has begun an engagement with the army of northern virginia, he learns
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that commander reynolds has been either killed or taken out, unable to perform. at that point, he says to hancock, goes to hancock's tent and tells him, i want you to go to the field at gettysburg and take command. the 11th corps under general howard was also there. howard by rank assumed command when reynolds was killed. so he is leading the 11th corps. there is also the first corps beauford's cavalry outside of gettysburg. meade sends hancock to take
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command. there is irregularity there. hancock is junior in rank to general howard, not by much. i believe they became major generals on the same day, which makes them equal. but i believe howard became a brigadier general before hancock, making him hancock's senior. by the way, this picture, this image shows the two men, hancock and meade, at gettysburg. i'm not saying this illustration intends to illustrate them at tonnytown. it is just a nice painting of the two meeting.
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here is a diagram that intends to be accurate for july 1. we have the confederates attempting to concentrate west of gettysburg. we have the union scattered not very far from gettysburg. what happens is, by the end of the day, only the first corps, which was already fighting, and the 11th corps would reach the battlefield that day to take part in the battle. roughly the entire confederate army, or almost the entire confederate army gets there first. the confederates get there as some would say the firstus with the mostus. on the right they outflank general barlow, and on the left they overpower the other general
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and gain a very thorough victory, pushing all the union units from the first and 11th corps back into town, a very small town not much more than 3000 inhabitants. now you are talking about 20,000 or so union troops retreating into town and out through south of town, coming up cemetary hill. this defeat occurs while hancock is en route to gettysburg. what you could say is the first order that hancock made at gettysburg, he finds wagons on the taneytown and gettysburg
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road, and he orders them south, to get out of the way in case retreat is needed. i put some circles around the here of what it may have looked like at the evergreen cemetery gate when hancock arrived. center circle the appearing to give orders to general double day. there is general howard who seems to be sulking, seems to be unhappy about something. no one is precisely sure what happened when hancock arrived on the field. he was supposed to tell howard that he was taking command, and
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one assumes he did so. however, there are various -- there is a spectrum of opinions. it is a controversy, the hancock-howard controversy. there is a spectrum of versions as to what happens when these two men met. howard who was in command and hancock who came to take over. on the one hand you have hancock's version of events, which is he simply rode up, found howard, told him he was taking command of the field, and howard acquiesced. on the other extreme, you might call it the howard camp, is that hancock said meade sent me here to take command, and howard said, no, you cannot take command. i am your senior in rank.
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in between is the idea, also pushed by some people, that they knew how important it was to cooperate, and they split command one way or the other, one version being one guy take the right side of the baltimore pike and the other guy take the left side. here is some flavor of what we are talking about. a major who claimed to have been the only one to have witnessed the initial conversation between hancock and howard when hancock arrived, he says that howard, when hancock told him i am here to take command, he said no. hancock offered to show him the orders, and howard said simply, general hancock, i do not doubt
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your word, but you can give no orders while i am here. meanwhile, hancock himself in a later publication, said simply that howard replied when asked if he wanted to read the orders from meade, replied that he did not want to read the orders but acquiesced in my assumption of command. these guys go and argue about this for the rest of their lives. a person who gives you an idea of the middle ground version is howard's younger brother charles howard, who was on general oliver otis howard's staff. he is one of several people who
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says they split command, saying howard replied now was no time for talking and would be glad of hancock's cooperation and suggested that he locate the troops south of the pike, and that howard would attend to the north side. there is your three versions. hancock assumes command is one. howard stubbornly maintains command is another, and they split command is the third. abner doubleday later wrote several books, and in one of the books he wrote, we have a copy of hancock's writing in the margins of doubleday's book, where it says howard refused to hancock's authority. he writes, no scene occurred.
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you see how these two different opinions or three are not going to relent. we do know that howard wrote a note to meade later in the day, referring to the order to replace him, the above will disgrace me. howard is clearly upset about something. he is upset about being replaced in command, but he does not admit to it. another version by howard, his official report published at the end of august that year, he says that, actually hancock said
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general meade had sent him on hearing the state of affairs that he had given him his instructions while under the impression that he was my senior. this is a new version of what happened. meade did intend to replace me in command, but he was mistaken. he thought hancock was my senior. hancock and his official report, i arrived at gettysburg and assumed command. one last bit of the back-and-forth, the courtroom argument if you will. in 1876, howard publishes an article in the atlantic magazine
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saying that hancock said general meade has sent me to represent him on the field. there is no talk according to howard about replacing him in command. "it did not strike me that that hancock without troops was doing more than directing matters is a temporary chief of staff for meade." hancock seizes on this. he thinks as he publishes an article a few months later in the galaxy, december 1876, he thinks he has caught howard in an inconsistency. he says that this proves general howard contradicts himself. "he admits when i arrived on the field he knew that general meade has sent me to supersede him.
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in his article, it did not strike him that hancock without troops was doing more than directing matters as a temporary chief of staff. if he stands by his report, he falls by his article. if he stands by his article, he falls by his report." i think the facts are pretty well on hancock's side. he makes a good point here. i'm going to explain why i don't think what transpired between them was particularly important. here is what i mean. hancock has this commanding presence. hancock has a reputation. people know about him. people respect him. people want to follow his orders. it was a hancock who was
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animated, dynamic, who is magnetic in his appearing to the fleeing soldiers. general warren soon to become the savior of little round top says, i think hancock's personal appearance there did a great deal toward restoring order. sydni cook of the 147 new york says, hancock almost let us to -- lead us to doubt whether there was cause for retreat at all. and, um,t whittier the knoll, whose knoll? i am sorry. that slipped my mind.
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knoll, his battery, i shall never forget the inspiration of his commanding, controlling presence and the fresh courage he imparted. that is whittier commanding stephen's battery. cutler's manor in action was simply the result of the confidence of hancock's presence. we are getting the sense that hancock got the attention and obedience of the fleeing soldiers who stopped fleeing and took positions. ertz, airts, -- carl sh
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division commander in the 11th corps, second in command to howard, says his mere presence was reinforcement, and everyone on the field felt stronger for his being there. this is the second in command saying that. francis weygand mentions the magnificent form of hancock. he said that hancock had potent magnetism. his appearance soon restored order out of seemingly hopeless confusion. ok, so there are a lot of people -- i can go on, but i won't. i can go on about hancock being in control. people responding to hancock.
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he stops the retreat, he turns it into retrenchment. he turns a flight into fight and they start to settle the soldiers down into commanding positions on cemetery hill. conversely, howard now -- i am not accusing howard of being a bad guy. he gave his arm in the peninsula campaign. he is courageous, he is well trained, he is thoughtful, he is a good guy, but he does not have the command presence, apparently, that hancock had. that is not a severe criticism, because not a lot of people did. ok? but charles morgan reports, general howard himself was apparently despondent and his brother could not restrain his mortification at the behavior of the corps. halsted, the guy who claims to
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be the only person to have witnessed their first meeting, says howard was near the cemetery gate and he looked the picture of despair. swinton now from the times. howard was and efficient -- an efficient officer, but rather of a negative nature. and referring to the confusion, says, he had not been able to quell the confusion on cemetery hill. this is what i think is really damning. general buford, division, calvary division commander who you could say started the battle of gettysburg. who was there from the opening shots in the morning west of town, by 3:20 p.m. in the writes a note to his
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boss alfred pleasanton and says , jenna reynolds was killed this morning. in my opinion, there seems to be no directing person. i think that is critical. "there seems to be no directing person. we need help now." he is saying, we are getting towards late afternoon and he does not sense anybody is in command, even though officially howard was in command of the field upon hearing that reynolds was killed. alright? i think that is particularly damning coming from buford. so, i believe that the debate over what was said, or who said what to whom, is essentially moot because people were responding to hancock. they were not responding to howard. i do not know if he was despondent, that could be a little severe. but anyway, hancock's disposition.
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hancock is the guy who populated popes hill. howard had been there all day, but hancock when he shows up he sees we have to worry about more than just cemetery hill where the soldiers are coming, we have to worry about the right flank. and he sends a division of the corps toe two -- first culp's hill. and number three, he takes the battery. i forgot his name, but it was of theson's battery , he places them on steven's knoll.
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that is an important disposition, because the east side of east cemetery hill is very steep. that is a good thing, because it makes it tougher for the enemy to climb. but it makes it impossible for the artillery to cover it. artillery on the crest cannot shoot down. so hancock puts the artillery next to, beside east cemetery hill, what will become known as steven's knoll. that is major disposition number three. his fourth disposition occurs when the 12th shows up in the form of erie's division. this is getting late. this is getting an hour or so perhaps after hancock had arrived. sion to the 12 corps divi the northern slope, or the northern foot of little round top. which i think was impressive, because the battle had occurred north and west of town.
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and they were populating these strong positions on cemetery ridge, cemetery hill, and culp's hill, but hancock has the tactical facility to think we we got to do something about little round top. it is an elevated piece of ground. secondly, it will help alleviate the threat of lee trying to turn or flank the union left. effectively, what hancock does is sketch out the framework for what becomes known as the union's fishhook line. atthey are going to fight gettysburg, they will be filling in between the positions that hancock has laid out. the famous fishhook will develop from hancock's dispositions.
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he is effectively the architect line. fishhook ok. i do not have too much more time, but i want to say a few more things. oh. hancock's, of course his first order was to take command of the field. secondly, however, he was to report to meade on what was going on. meade wanted hancock to help him make a decision on whether to plan andhe pipe creek send everybody to gettysburg, or to stick with the pike plan and withdraw from gettysburg. he sends to messengers -- two messengers at different times.
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first charles morgan, then second, with a written message, major mitchell. he sends both of them down to meade, telling him the state of affairs at gettysburg. he does not take a stand. he does not say, yes, we should fight here. but he does not say the opposite, that this is no good. he says we are in a place that can not to be well taken. and i think we will be alright until night. he also says, we can retire. we can fight here, as the ground seems not unfavorable for good troops. this is what he says to meade. and meade has two versions himself of what was going on. he reports to the joint committee on the conduct of the war. not 2016, i do not know where that came from. 1863, excuse me. he says, excuse me, that was 1864. i received the report from hancock.
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which caused me to determine to fight a battle at that point. that is what he says on march 5, 1864. sorry about the incorrect piece. a week later, on march 11, he testified to the committee, i , therefore, did not wait for general hancock. it is possible he was feeling pressure from the terrible trio of butterfield, sickles, and hooker, who were accusing him of being not just unaggressive, but of being cowardly. so he says in his second testimony, i sent people before i got word from hancock. anyway, these are the two men at gettysburg. but that essentially concludes my presentation on hancock on the first day of battle.
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two points. first, he was in command regardless of what transpired between howard and hancock. second, that he disposed, distributed the troops in a very deft way. i should say finally of course, that he also communicated with meade about this situation. so i will leave it at that. i think he was a very important guy, and on the first day, clearly. thank you very much. [applause] mr. bretzger: if anybody has any questions, i will be glad to take them. i do not know if we need a microphone. anybody have any questions? >> can you talk about why it was so important to howard that he would have been in command?
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mr. bretzger: i can, i think. good question. the question was, why would it be so important to general howard that he be thought of, at least, as in command? he was having reputation problems, especially after chancellorsville. he had some reputation problems i think since bull run. but he had a terrible showing at chancellorsville. stonewall jackson's famous flank march landed on howard's corps, the 11th, in the woods. stonewall jackson snuck around and attacked roughly at dusk and sent howard's men reeling. it was a stampede and i think it
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was -- sometimes people come o hard on howard, but i think it was a stampede. and so howard was still reeling from this and he did not want then it to be known that he was superseded in command by a junior. ok? so i think he had this, i suppose, he had this on his mind when it came to, when it came to talking about who was in command at gettysburg. you know, reputation was everything in this era, especially to these guys. so he did not want -- he wanted to find a way, something to counteract the fact that he had failed so badly at chancellorsville. good question. thank you. are there any other questions? ok. well, i hope you have enjoyed it and i thank you all very much. [applause]
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