tv The Civil War The Civil War and Western Theater Tactics CSPAN December 1, 2019 11:20pm-11:55pm EST
monday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. >> next on the civil war, university of cincinnati professor christopher phillips talks about the way tactics and ideologies from the western theater, such as guerrilla fighting, influenced other theaters of the civil war. this talk was part of a day long conference hosted by the university of virginia center for civil war history. >> our final speaker of the day is dr. christopher phillips, a professor of american history and the university distinguished professor in the arts, humanities and social sciences at the university of cincinnati. he's the author of seven books, including "the rivers ran backward: the civil war and the remaking of the american middle border," which is right back there in the back, and this very impressive book won the tom
watson brown prize for civil war history in 2016. we're delighted to welcome today professor phillips. [applause] >> can everybody here? ar? first of all, i want to thank carey and liz and gary for inviting me to speak and bringing me all the way here from the wilds of virginia backcountry. also known as the ohio country. i long wondered why grant like the and other ohio illinoisan, that i've been summoned east to the mother state. [laughter] >> but after hearing gary's opening talk, i know now. [laughter] >> it's to give the naughty talk. after asking carey about topics, to which he replied whatever you , want to talk about, that sounded a little to me like asking the condemned how long
they want the hanging rope to be. i have only 30 minutes, and so at least the hanging won't take too long. but true to naughty form, i'm going to start with a vignette, from post war to introduce what i call the western way of war, an idea that gary's union war actually inspired. so there, gary, it's the benefit of batting last. i've got a lot of ground to cover because the west is a rather large theater, and i have the map to prove it. on october 15, 1874, as the first hard frost ended a balmy indian summer carpeting , springfield, illinois, in falling leaves the civil war returned to town. not that it had ever been really far from anyone's mind. less than a decade before, nearly as the fighting ended, residents and their former neighbor had -- the martyred president abraham lincoln in a hillside crypt a few miles north
of the old state capitol where he had served four terms in the state legislature. only blocks away, a new state capitol was under construction. the gravesite of the wartime president had since offered towns people a painful reminder of the sacrifice the war had exacted from their community and the nation. only the night before, a public dedication of a new burial tomb and monument marked, as we'll find out, not so permanent resting place of lincoln, and three of his sons. this evening, the newest reminder of the bloody struggle was a reunion of union veterans. many of them officers of the society of the army of tennessee. the most decorated of union's western armies and who met at the leland house. springfield's toniest hotel near its bustling capital square to commemorate the murdered president by celebrating his, or more rightly, some of his military forces' victory.
the coincidence of the meeting and the dedication demanded that distinguished illinoisans, especially republicans, be prominent among the speakers. besides the vice president and the secretary of war, there were the state's current governor and former governor, richard oglesby and john palmer, as well as other noted illinois war generals. john pope, stephen hurlbut. at the head table sat other western generals, the society's current president and commanding general of the army, william tecumseh sherman, and george armstrong custer. he complicates nearly everything always. so just know that. he was still alive, though, that's not complicated. neither of their battlefield exploits needed introduction. mand the man -- nor did the sitting next to sherman. one time illinoisan, long time aot commander, national war hero and current u.s. president, ulysses s. grant. nearly a decade after the war's
end, the nation's eyes no longer saw this president exclusively through the lens of war victory. politics hung heavy over this meeting, besieging grant's post-war leadership. rampant white violence in the form of democratic redemptions were sweeping away republican governments in the former confederate states, and a recent liberal insurgency within the republican ranks, with its epicenter in the western states had erupted in part over radical led constitutional amendments giving citizenship rights to former slaves including the right to vote. all now threatened grant's legacy, and with it, lincoln's. only this week, in the wake of a catastrophic midterm election, scandal ridden republicans whose bloody shirt had vanquished democrats for a decade, were trounced nationwide. losing 96 congressional seats and costing the republicans their 16-year house majority.
it's still the national party's worst ever defeat. in lincoln's and grant's illinois, republicans lost eight of fourteen congressional seats, and the results in indiana and ohio were worse. more even than in the scandals depression, voters were responding to reconstruction which one indiana newspaperman characterized as "crimes and blunders of the administration for which its treatment of the south stood conspicuous." of his region, meaning the western region, this editor concluded simply, everybody is democratic now. unsurprisingly, these veteran officers made few claims to national reconciliation on this night. in jeopardy was the victory narrative itself, one that at least among its eastern claimants trumpeted emancipation as a lynchpin, one that with lincoln's assassination at the hands of a pro-slavery extremist
had helped to fashion. carrying chips on their shoulder boards, speech makers drew down on not one but two targets. former confederate foes in the south and former blue coated compatriots in the east. these had been placed initially by the progress of the various campaigns and then weighted at the two-day grand review of the armies that paraded down pennsylvania avenue in may 1865. the celebrated 90,000 man army of the potomac had marched. the army of the west, 178 regiments strong marched the next day. symbolically, the parade appeared to emphasize the accomplishment of the eastern armies over those from the west. the bugle call of reason thus would sound loudest this night reminding westerners, many of them former or current democrats, including even grant, and conservatives in the audience that another victory narrative needed cultivating. one that celebrated the military contributions of the western
armies. their hard fighting. which these men believed had, in fact, won the war for the union. special attention was reserved for sherman's destructive 1864 georgia campaign, referred to simply as the march. that they now universally affirmed had won the war. mentioned only obliquely during the evening was the freeing of slaves. much less its importance to victory. following grant's expectedly brief nationalist toast, our country and all of it, poetry toasts and speeches celebrated the invincible western armies that, in their words, had never been defeated. and then john pope stepped to the podium. a career u.s. army officer and now department commander in st. louis, this westerner was known for his bombast. derisively called pope's bull that had alienated eastern troops and soldiers during his
brief command in virginia in 1862. this is what he said partly, i have come to you from the west. where we have always seen the backs of our enemies. he was also known for the defeat by lee shortly thereafter at manassas. now his fellow westerners and virginians, knew him as a hardliner, someone who had used the army as a wartime bludgeon against the city civilians and dakota sioux in minnesota in response to irregular violence. pope offered his former comrades a new bull, a stronger meat as he called it. pardon the pun, please. western armies had won the war by their hard style fighting. and eventually adopted that approach in all theaters that brought the confederacy to its knees. naturally their officers then , assumed the mantle of leadership in national government in the wake of union victory.
as pope reminded them tonight, and this is his quote, when the war was over, we found that the president of the united states was a western man. the vice president, a western man, the speaker of the house a western man, secretary of the treasury, a western man, secretary of war, a western man, you're getting the idea, right? the secretary of the interior, a western man, the postmaster general, a western man, the attorney general, a western man, the general of the army, a western man, the lieutenant general, a western man, the admiral of the navy, a western man. and then he goes on to finish, the whole power of the government both in its civil and military departments had in this great struggle passed into the hands of men of the west. he wasn't just talking about the post war there. and with rousing tears surprisingly, the officers soon adjourned. the venue for this celebration might have been fitting but the
, timing words and tone spoken at the meeting offered profound ironies. western veteran officers saw their contributions to the civil war victory as both seminole and overlooked. in their minds, they hadn't just won the war, they had transformed it. expanding its scope and trajectory to a transgressive type of warfare that could and did achieve victory. upir collective voice welled from a war record supporting these claims and an unflinching awareness of what had transpired in their home region pushed them on. many of the war's leading commanders like grant and sherman were from the western border region, but pope had told them all of the. -- all of that. this region had provided the ideological and political foundation and violent dress rehearsal for the war itself in the conflict known as bleeding kansas. more saliently, once the war began several of these western , states served as a proving
ground for what much of the conflict would ultimately become. namely, one that saw debilitating guerrilla warfare increasingly plague much of the war-torn slave states. one fought with hard war military policies and occupation that both leveraged and targeted civilians by slavery politics. and lastly and perhaps most ironically, one that saw the earliest and fullest incorporation of war time emancipation of slaves into its scope. a reality that the springfield meeting had so consciously avoided. these commanders, including those in the room that night, had transferred their western kind of war eastward, shaping union war strategy and declaring -- and carrying victory, and that's what they believed. so let's take on these various pieces. first, as dan sutherland has told us, guerrilla warfare in the west erupted nearly as the war began if not everywhere at once. in missouri and western virginia, irregular violence
quickly destabilized civilian populations as state leaders and military commanders contended with deeply contested loyalties. independent, irregular bands, pro-union and pro-confederate, roamed many rural localities already in the war's first months. retaliatory warfare followed. night riders stole horses. saboteurs destroyed symbols of federal authority including railroads, trestles and bridges. they interrupted mail, attacked stagecoaches, fired at riverboats or derailed trains with women and children still aboard. enough for one editor to claim, "it's degrading to think white men would do this." this guerrilla uprising was more than a spontaneous response to the sudden presence of federal troops. the long conflict over slavery in the west immediately transformed it into what i call a hard line war. in which soldiers and officers
in both armies and regular fighters quickly used support for or opposition to slavery as measures of civilians' loyalties. shaping military action and civilian response. not surprisingly, the kansas missouri border, long seeing violence over slavery witnessed among the earliest and most blatant violations of civilian rights, whether secessionists, neutralists or unionists. abolitionists, jayhawkers, as they were known, including james montgomery and charles jennison, entered missouri within weeks of mustering from kansas, to exact justice for decades of what they considered pro-slavery sins. a unionist in jackson county complained that jennison's men had stolen horses and assaulted women. robbed families and even the local post office and committed more extreme acts of terror including burning homes and "putting ropes around innocent
men's necks, threatening to hang them." george caleb, the artist, you may know him, soon complained that hardlining kansans, "have made war upon union men as fiercely as secessionists, and they were turning quiet citizens into desperate guerrillas. this retributive war gradually engulfed many parts of the and the west,tion exploding after lincoln's announcement of emancipation to reveal the causative link between slavery and irregular warfare. in response to what historian jim mcpherson has determined lincoln's strong arm strategy, the president gave a long leash to union commanders in these western states who demonstrated the inclination and capacity for aggressive military measures against confederates and irregulars alike. in the war's first year, he often appointed politicians to rank and promoted them. regardless of political
affiliation. or at least those who assumed the most bellicose postures. nathaniel lyon, john c. fremont, franz siegel, david hunter, james henry lane, and john pope aforementioned, all stationed initially in missouri, were the earliest beneficiaries of lincoln's latitude, allowing his soldiers as he put it on the ground to engage in often shocking treatment of civilian populations nearly as the war started. shermanilliam tecumseh who after returning to kentucky , following a bout of depression worsened by unhappy stints in deeply divided st. louis and louisville, quickly adopted a dialectic opposition -- and this is sherman, when one nation is at war with another, all the people of the one are enemies of the other. this is what he wrote to the secretary of the treasury, salmon chase. and he went on to finish, most unfortunately, the war in which
we're now engaged has been complicated with the belief on the one hand that all, on the other, are not enemies. by march 1862, guerrilla warfare would convince sherman to adopt in western tennessee what james henry lane had done in 1851. collective punishment. namely, putting entire towns to the torch. this is sherman's quote. this is an expense not chargeable to us, once complaints reached him but to , those who made the war and generally war's destruction and nothing else. this is long before he said war is all hell. these federal hardliners took a binary view to loyalty. anyone who was not a unionist was disloyal. john edwards, the lieutenant -- lt. col.ged,
judged, "loyal men have the same sympathies in a common cause in contrast with the neutrals as he called them, and a great many terror stricken secessionists." this quickly led to suppressive measures including, as george mcclellan wrote, overwhelming physical force. mcclellan, of course, had lived in cincinnati for a decade prior to the war, and he was an eager aspirant for a more prominent eastern command and lincoln was prompted to bring him eastward as the new general of the army. ahead of the national army. conversely with the notable exception of those who prematurely pursued slave emancipation or whose aggressive field generalship earned the president's respect and thus protection, western commanders who urged caution or conciliation to allow time for slave states with majority
unionist populations to reconsider secession and reenter the union, they were replaced. among them, winfield scott, william s. harney, robert anderson, don carlos buell and, of course, mcclellan himself. all of them pro slavery democrats. unlike mcclellan, westerners would make good on such boasts in their own region. in northern missouri, in july 1861, stephen hulbert -- a staunch republican, waged the kind of warfare that others had initiated a few months earlier in the western part of the state. when hulbert's men learned that john mcafee, the deposed speaker of the missouri house was at his home in shelby county according to the report he was arrested , and required by general hulbert to dig trenches in the hot sun all day. a unionist remarked and he went on to say, he told me -- he set him at it. still it was admitted that it , was doubtful if any charge could be maintained against him.
outrages will make more enemies than thousands of men can quell. within two months of his release, mcafee had joined missouri's legislature and presided over its secession ordinance. waldo johnson, a u.s. congressman, whose home was burned in osceola in missouri in september 1861, would lead the u.s. house for the confederacy. when a detachment of the second iowa volunteer shot to death an alleged northern missouri disloyalist for flying the secession flag in june 1861, the commander, lieutenant colonel james m. tuttle broke no criticism. perhaps i am responsible, he responded, when confronted publicly about the shooting, if so, i have nothing to take back. our business down there was to put down the rebel colors, and of course, we commenced as soon as we so where the work commenced. down, and so did he. in august 1863, in response to the mass murder of nearly 200
civilians in lawrence, kansas, by guerrillas under william quantrill, collective retaliation would find its fullest form. ohian thomas euwing jr, the adopted brother of william t. sherman, ordered the depopulation of four missouri counties bordering kansas. only those judged loyal could return. the others were banished and troops burned their homes and fields at harvest time. in part, this destructive warfare occurred because many union officers and soldiers in the western region used slave holding as an essential measure of disloyalty, just as confederate troops saw it as proof of loyalty. not surprisingly, anti-slavery hardliners were among the quickest to judge. union officers and soldiers especially anti-slavery republicans, did not easily divest themselves of long-held ideological predilections gained from years of struggle and even violence with slave state citizens over the peculiar institution.
few now saw a need to conciliate pro-slavery residents, especially slave owners. just as poet james russell lowell argued in 1861, "there can be no such thing as a moderate slave holder. moderation and slavery cannot coexist." so, too, provost-marshal of palmyra, missouri, efron wilson, was equally blunt. any man who would hold a slave with the very few exceptions is neither a christian, a patriot, or a loyal citizen. or as another put it, the americans who are slave holders are the enemies of the government. prejudice among many such unionists derived from absolutist views of the inferior culture of slave holding communities. federal soldiers from the northern portions of the west labeled these border state residents as worse than just secess. in many places, they were pukes.
slavery is a litmus of royalty easily cross fertilized with , emancipation politics because both were occurring nearly from the beginning of the war. before congress began wrangling over the army's authority over black fugitives and political generals like benjamin butler issued well known contraband policies particularly the one in tidewater, virginia, one that historians regard as having commenced the march away from slavery and noninterference in war politics, in the west, so, too, federal troops, state militia and slaves on the ground had commenced the holding march toward war time emancipation. within days of firing on fort sumter, james henry lane and james montgomery were in contact with prominent northern proclaiming their , intention to liberate slaves if granted army commissions. by the time they got them, they and other kansas jayhawkers were
confiscating slaves from the missouri slave owners. liberating them, using them as laborers or enlisting them as soldiers. lane and montgomery became known widely as negro thieves because of how they regularly confiscated slaves from missouri citizens. as a new brigadier general, lane used his troops to liberate slaves held by the wives and children of missouri men in rebel service and boasted that his kansas brigade would be joined by "an army of slaves marching out." exasperated by lane's zeal and resulting civilian complaints, by fall, general henry w. halik, commander of the army in missouri referred to lane's raids as great jayhawking expeditions. in the west, the progress of emancipation followed the army's movements southward. even before his predecessor, john c. fremont, the republican party's first presidential candidate in 1856, had entered a
-- had issued a short-lived emancipation proclamation, one that lincoln rescinded for fear of driving border states headlong into secession. troops in northern and southeast missouri were enticing missouri slaves to abscond and become servants for fair wages. the military freely used slaves who offered information about guerillas and disunionists. prior to his removal from command, he pursued retreating confederates southward in missouri. fremont would not allow contraband slaves to be returned to the masters to reclaim them. this was also going on in northern missouri when illinois troops entered, and in eastern or southern missouri when illinois and indiana troops entered as well. as the western armies pushed south into the mississippi valley, the buckle of the nation's plantation belt, a humanitarian crisis created by the flood tide of fugitive slaves who fled their owners to
union camps in western tennessee, into eastern arkansas and northern mississippi, pressured both political and military policy. union officers required to return these slaves often refused to comply, encouraging congress to begin debate over new policies about confiscation and contrabands and commanders like grant advocated putting them to use as laborers. >> in the summer of 1862, congress enacted the second confiscation and militia acts, allowing the military to free, employ, and even enlist slaves from the confederacy. by the time lincoln completed the final draft of his emancipation proclamation, permanently altering the political and ideological trajectory of the war, black troops from the western border states were already in military service in the west. kansas jayhawkers included liberation of slaves in their goals. as early as november 1861, charles jennison reportedly led an entire company of liberated
western missouri bondmen under the command of a black officer on a raid. two months later, loosely recruiting instructions from the war department as well as congress's authorization that the president employ as many persons of african descent as they deem proper for the suppression of the rebellion, james henry lane formed the first kansas colored infantry, the first black regiment of the war. despite the secretary of war's admonitions that they should not be received, lane's black enlistees comprising slaves from missouri, arkansas and indian nations filled nearly two regents. boasting, if we're jayhawkers, we're jayhawking for the government. in october, 1862, detachments of lane's brigade saw action, repulsing repeated attacks by white missouri horsemen at island mound, the first engagement of armed black troops in the war.
like montgomery, james montgomery and others, and lane, when grant and sherman were promoted to command of virginia and georgia, after nearly unerring success, they transferred with them their western style of war making. both put it to deadly use. grant's campaign, sherman's the march, and fellow ohioan sheridan's burning of the shenandoah valley and that night in 1874, sherman was not there, he was out west, but they vetted him nonetheless, all came to the strategic turn which broke the confederacy's capacity and its people's will to resist. in the fall of 1874, veterans of these western theaters gathered in springfield to honor their slain commander in chief and
, they clearly believed that nearly from the war's outbreak, they and their soldiers had exerted a pivotal influence on the trajectory of the war. they claimed victory by their hard fighting, and they understood that many if not most of the war's pivotal measures had commenced in the west. carried to the war's eastern theaters by celebrated westerners, but also grant, sherman and sheridan but also by lesser known commanders like john pope, james montgomery, these westerners' integration of collective hard line and hard war policies as responses to conventional and irregular warfare that engulfed much of the west, and their employment of war time emancipation as a weapon against the confederacy, all of which put civilians in the crosshairs of military policy, became the collective strategic elements that ultimately drove the confederacy down. despite these officers' ambivalence toward war time emancipation and african-american soldiers, the veteran officers who gathered in
illinois' capital believed that they had cause to celebrate their contributions. and certainly they did. their western way of war had become the nation's. thanks so much. [applause] >> i am happy to take questions. i ran a little over. i'm sorry. i know i'm between you and the panel. so anything you don't think of now, i'll be there. >> -- how effective they were and how much they created new opposition? >> you're asking me how successful were hard war policies? [inaudible] >> i think the answer to that is both. on the one hand, hard policies
as they are known, clearly brought more guerrillas out into the bush than perhaps previously had been. not certain exactly how many would never have come out, but for them, they decided to go into the brush specifically because local unionists militia decided to get information, hang their stepfather. or should i say hang him without killing him. that certainly drove them out. in other cases, some of these hard war policies clearly, for example, order number 11, pretty much ended all guerrilla activity in those four counties, by depopulating them, but that's a little bit like schlessinger's claim in vietnam, weeding a garden with a bulldozer. that's not practical for the entirety of the american landscape, but it certainly worked in those four counties and increasingly more and more commanders turned to those sorts
of policies and practices as the war went on. and not surprisingly guerrilla , warfare continued to proliferate. at least until the election of over and then it seems , to have just died. >> do you consider the lincoln administration as turning a blind eye to the type of social situation that was taking place in kentucky and missouri as the war continued, the bloodbath that was taking place there between the citizens? >> that's a really, really good question. it's a hard one to answer. i personally don't believe he took a blind eye. i believe he knew what was going on, on the ground, and increasingly as the war went on , he began to send hardliners into those "back water" assignments, but not simply to get them out of the front lines but rather to send them there such as rosecrans.
waged for six weeks during the summer of 1864, what he called, what was it, a war of, war of liberation, but a different kind. it was counterinsurgency, against guerrillas. lincoln appointed payne to that post specifically because he knew that this hardliner would take hardline measures. i think rosecrans was sent there not simply to get him out of trouble but rather to accomplish something in a place that was known for unconventional and irregular warfare and chaos. and rosecrans got all he bargained for there. and in some sense, that helped to tarnish his reputation as well. his inability to quell the violence in missouri despite the price is right.