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tv   The Civil War Harold Holzer on Civil War Objects  CSPAN  August 21, 2020 12:50pm-1:37pm EDT

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the state of affairs immediately after the war, road to democracy, here is germy and a ceiling on your home. and on sunday account 6:00 p.m. eastern on american artifacts, a to tell the history of african-americans in congress. then at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a look at past political convention acceptance speeches by presidential nominees including bill clinton and george h.w. bush. explore iing the story. watch american history tv this weekend on cspan3. up next on civil war, his tor can yan harold holzer and valerie paley talk about artifacts featured in their
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publication. discussing objects relating to soldier's uniforms. this took place online and the new york historical society provide d the video. >> so now, civil war fashion. and to help us understand the past as a historian at new york historical, i work alongside these treasures every day and it is my great privilege to use them in exhibitions as well. but harold, let's tell our audience about the inspiration for our program, the book, civil war in 50 objects. how can only 50 objects tell such a sweeping story? >> we used to ask ourselves that question often when we were whittling down the list and
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there was so much to choose from. the hardest things to preserve are textiles. some are really extraordinary in terms of how they survived. >> absolutely. we have a uniform. some military buttons. foot locker and a drum. very interesting. fashion, maybe, maybe not. but in aggregate, they tell the story of uniform courage outfitting the civil war soldier. let's start with this uniform. so, surviving uniforms or textiles for that matter as you say, in fine condition from the civil war, are very rare and
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this one is impeccably preserved. and it's unique. it's a pretty cooky looking costume to wear into combat. can you tell us about this? >> sure. so this is a zwa uniform and believe it or not, the soldiers who wore these duds were considered the toughest dudes in the union or confederate ar amy. they wore those jackets and also a fez with tassle on top. they were modelled from the french from the mor rock cans so it was noted for fierceness.
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they started the war in this costume until somebody kind of figured out they were pretty easy targets in this outfit. it sort of declined what all through the war they were worn as impractical as they looked. >> but there's a strange incongruity between the combat fierceness of the soldiers and the way they were dressed. you say in the book they look like harem dancers. it's curious. who popularized this style? >> so, his name was elmer. i know we have a picture of him coming up. he was a kridrill master and ma we should do the next slide o so
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people can take a look. he did not wear it, but his cadets dead. he organized a video, very celebrated show in chicago, and what his zarobs did was they ran double time around the stage in circles. sort of like cheerleaders or the way bands march at football stadium where they take off and jump up. his guys had rifles. they would cock the rifles. put it at their shoulders. it was very well received and he became something of a celebrity at a very young age. he was also a law student of lincoln's in his law office and was his bodyguard when he traveled from washington the springfield to become president. so they were acquaintances.
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then organized the unit when the war started and got into the fray really before it started for most people. >> as the war, well, at the beginning of the war, elsworth turns out to be a war hero and kind of a martyr. would you tell our audience why? >> yeah. in fact, he was the first of more hero for the north. so, when the war started when ft. sumter fell, federal authorities wanted to secure the virginia side of the river opposite washington, d.c., and that meant alexandria to start and ellsworth was a frequent guest at the white house and playing with the lincoln boys on the roof of the white house, he noticed a huge confederate flag flying in alexandria. he could see it with a telescope.
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by the way, i've seen the remains of this flag. it was big. so he decided to march his zarobs across the bridge to the other side of the potomac as the union forces captured alexandria. he went to this hotel. he marched up the stairs to the roof. he tore the flag down. he put it over his shoulders and he descend ed the staircase and as he got mid way, the proprietor of this hotel, his name was james jackson, who was a relative of the man who would become stonewall jackson a couple of months later at bull run, and jackson shot ellsworth dead then ellsworth's men shot jackson dead. so there were actually two martyrs create nd one day. one for defending a confederate flag. lincoln was devastated. he gave ellsworth a funeral in the east room of the white house. his family attended. he wrote a very famous letter of
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condolence to ellsworth's parents and it was a great tragedy for the family and as you can see, i think we can see in this next image, that the prince of paintings of ellsworth, song sheet covers. they elevated this poor, young guy into a martyr as you noted, overnight. >> we notice that one of the soldiers is wearing a costume. but he isn't himself. so that's kind of interesting. >> i don't think he did. i think he always wore the regular uniform, but his soldiers wore the zarob uniforms. >> so are all the uniform in collection of new york historical, it was owned by one david p. davis. let's just see the uniform again. we know he must have been to service in the bronx and served for two years. where did we see action?
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do we have a sense of that or not? >> yeah. he was in a unit by the way, that was called the red legged devils. so you could see that again, they took pride in this uniform and combined the flamboyance of the uniform with their toughness, and he did see a lot of action. he was on the virginia peninsula with the mcclellan army and its failed attempt to capture richmond in early 1862. it was in the battle of second buell r bull run and antitum in september '62. fredericksburg in '62. one of the worst union defeats and finally ended in virginia in may. may 1863. so almost up until the battle of gettysburg before he mustered out. as we see, uniform in tact. no holes. no tearing. that's why we were able to get it at the historical society.
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>> it's a phenomenal object. >> next, we have something a bit different. these are military buttons mounted on a card. this is also an interesting relic of the war in that soldiers were avid collectors of souvenirs of their service. these were easy to acquire from battlefields, but repeatedly, they also took them by stealing personal property from helpless civilians or prisoners or even corpses. tell us about the fellow who collected these buttons. >> sorry about choking up. i'm not choking up with emotion. with allergies. so yeah, it's kind of a macabre hobby.
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each state and unit had its own. these are union enterprising buttons. his name was fred mississippi stater and he was in the 7th new york, which was a pretty elite regiment. there was also an extraordinary number of actions, including spotsville, pennsylvania, which was bloody. but as you say, they would snatch these from wounded and dead servicemen on the field and we also have evidence that they, some may have taken them from shallow graves. there was such an interest in get iting them. you also mentioned prisoners. it was considered one of the worst insults you could render to a prisoner of war is to rip a
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button off a uniform, so that was partially humiliation and partly this mania for collectibles. >> let's see a photograph of, i'm sorry. of the kinds of things that this collector would have taken the buttons off of these jackets. very macabre, indeed. >> would have been totally, sorry, he just would have been totally uninhibited about walking up and down this line of corpses in maryland. he took them as they took shoes. they, whatever they could grab. >> another collection of supplements. buttons that the first selection of buttons. you can see the other slide. here are some other confederate buttons from a variety of sources. it's interesting.
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we note d these are from 1860 s before the war, presumably because they created the uniforms. so lincoln himself received some gifts of war of souvenirs such as these and others but what sorts of relics did he receive? he got a cane made from the hull of old iron sides. he got another relic from the burned hull of the merrimack, the ship we discussed last week, that battled monitor. he got some faded translucent leaves from the battle of gettysburg that had been allegedly bloodied in the frenzy of the battle in july. he got them in the fall when the leaves were falling off the trees and turning. he got socks. he got soap.
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bibles. anything you can imagine. as he said to his wife once when another suit arrived unsolicited from a tatailor, he said if there's one thing we're going to get out of this, it's new clothes. unfortunately, she took it to the heart and thought that meant she should run up the credit card bill. >> which she did. >> which she did. >> our next object also is not clothing, fashion, but a foot locker, with belongings. nothing luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but the experience of generals is very different from that of privates. we want to talk about that a little bit? is. >> generals had their own tents and beds and chairs. i think our friend, william
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payne, was a step below. he was a cartographer, a mapmaker. very important in terms of quickly sketching out terrain. it looks rustic, but it's an amazing utilitarian foot locker. think of the very best carry on that you could take on an airplane, if anyone can remember doing that. this is the civil war era equivalent of a great carry on and you can see, because this has been beautifully photographed with a lot of its contents, it had his epilets on top. souvenirs. medals and his tools of the trade. you see a mapmaking tool here, i forget what's it's called because i use d the tool once that makes a circle.
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this is what he would use on his horse. he would strap it on. again, amazingly intact relic as we keep discovering. the the history, society has this just extraordinary range of artifacts. in addition to this particular foot locker, payne has an interesting, it might be a tool we still use. he won a contest. >> that's like the tractabretra
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one. i had forgotten that detail. it was an inventer. and as you pointed out, val, that he, payne used this in his subsequent engineering career and we have some evidence that he was helpful in the construction of the brooklyn bridge. in the 1870s and the '80s and got a medal from the chief engineer, which he also just threw into the foot locker. >> there it is, we have a little silk that advertises it there in the foreground of that image. but back to this foot locker for a second, i think payne saw some serious action and he recorded it, being a surveyor and kind of guy who did that sort of thing. where did he see action? where did this foot locker see action? >> the most notable thing he saw
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and recorded in his diary was what we call the high water mark of the confederacy. it's arguable in materials of military history. but he was on the scene for picket's charge on the third day of the battle of gettysburg. july 3rd, 1863 so, he saw waves and waves of unprotected confederates amassing then marching then running toward the union lines and really being mowed down by artillery then by gunfire. he was witnessed to the last stand of the confederacy in terms of invading the north. is there evidence i presumab presumably --
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>> there are little souvenirs from his exalted post war career. he also worked on the flushing railroad. be his portable work desk. he was an engineer in the field. and i guess he must have thought after the battle of gettysburg, this is all gravy. i survived. my baggage survived and i'm just going to thank my lucky stars that i can have a civilian career in engineering. >> finally, our last object this evening is a snare drum. so it's beautiful. it's highly decorative. and pleasing. but it served as utilitarian, tell us what these drums were
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for. >> what a great object. look at the painted eagle and stars and eagle is clutching in its claw an american flag. it is an amazing example and so drums were not just for military bands. they were used in all aspects of camp life in the civil war and in battle. the sound of the rat a tat tat of the drum would be the first thing a soldier heard for revly. it would start with a drum roll then a bugler. the drum came first. so they was used in camp and also at the moments when
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soldiers did have leisure, there were bands that performed in camp and the drum was of course the rhythmic staple of the military band as well. but in battle, troops marched off to the tapping of the drums and they followed the drums. when the battles became smoke filled and bullet riddled and really scenes of confusion and mayhem, soldiers in precarious position, listened for the sound of the drums. because not only would that signal a place where they could coales again or regoup, but also the drums were used for issuing orders. >> you write that they're almost in a category of weapons.
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absolutely. >> it had the power to inspire precision. >> absolutely. >> so, who owned this drum? >> so, i think we know that although we don't know who made it, as the caption here indicates, we know it was owned by a drummer boy named charles mosley. i think although we don't have a picture of little charlie, we do have a drummer boy photograph in the next slide that shows how young and innocent at first. or this is mosley.
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sorry? say it again, val? i'm sorry. >> phillip corel. a 14-year-old. this is a typical drummer boy. looks petrified. some drummer boys, some were as young as 7 years old, which is i think quite an extraordinary thing to contemplate. >> yeah. they were extraordinarily young and there was a lot of criticism of that by reformed groups. they thought these youngsters, well, aside from being exposed to grave physical danger, that worse even, their souls were being subjected to the evils of camp life. like card playing and drinking. i think it's fair to say this was a generation that came of age too quickly.
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because of the romance of the military service, which they soon found out was not quite so remanhatt romantic. some went with fathers. some older brothers. their life, when there wasn't a battle or musical celebration, was pretty dismal because they're expected to be like servants in camp p. shining shoes, fetching things for soldiers and although there were the wealthier officers would often give them tips to supplement their little salaries, the poorer soldiers, the rougher guys, maybe the zarobs since they were the roughest, some were pretty abusive. they slapped them around. they teased them. so it was a very difficult life. some of them came out the war,
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at least the genera, another kind of celebrated volunteer. >> yeah. there were 3,800 soldiers who were aged 16 or younger who actually served with the federal army. it's quite something. so, do you know, did we know what happened to the owner of our drum mr. phillip corel? >> you know, that he lived a long, long time. think about a crumb er drummer boy of the civil war who survived into the presidency of franklin d. roosevelt. and he survived to see the world war i, the depression. automobiles. airplanes and a tthe new deal. he lived until 1935. he served in the 99 new york.
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served with winfield scott hancock. nothing demonstrates a transition more to modern war. and at the end of the war, there was someone who had been named after him. scott had been famous in the next one. hancock was known as hancock the magnificent, so you would imagine the drummer boy had to be spruce and the drum beautiful. we don't know much about his life, but he again, was a fredericksburg. lived on to age 88 and i'm sure he told stories about the war for the rest of his life because the drummer boys were sort of endured to the real fear in some ways. >> sure. but they were also romantiroman in artistic expressions.
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>> yeah. homer and other artists did famous renderings of them. the most famous by william morris hunt. who heard about the battle of ante tum, where drummer boy had been hit by a bullet and had looked up to one of his older comrades and said, if you lift me up, i'll drum us through. so hunt did a portrait of, sorry, eastland shons johnsens. did a portrait of this drummer boy perched on this soldier's shoulder. it's probably not anatomically, but there he was, drumming away in the midst of battle. they were in poetry and song and maybe in a way, society made some excuses for the fact that
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it had forced these young men into danger and adulthood before their time. >> absolutely. so, we are about ready for a q&a and maybe we can see the image of the poor objects once again. so, our first question is do many of these buttons we showed survive? >> yeah, the buttons are hard to destroy. unless you step on them and squash them. so it's one of the advantages of metallic objects and you know, people still find the remnants of bullets and you know, artillery on civil war battlefields although not recommending we search because it's actually against some hard service rules to dig and forge and use metal detectors and all of that. but what's amaze iing about the buttons and their survival, i think what makes them unique is that the fellow who we presume
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snatched them personally did such a great job of cataloging them. he mounted them. he numbered them. he wrote a beautiful headline there. that's a handwritten confederate buttons period. and then for each number, he list ed the orgin of the design of the button. now maybe museums have done that research for themselves, but -- others may have, but i have never seen a collection of these relics cataloged at the time by the person who found them. or sees them. so i think that a makes this pretty unique. >> absolutely. and at new york historical, we have collections of revolutionary war buttons from the new york city area, too, so they are very durable objects. our next question is are there comparable collections of union army buttons sm. >>? >> yeah, the civil war museum in
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harrisburg has a good collection. the new civil war museum in richmond, which was on the side of a confederate munitions factory, has a good collection. i hear of them more in the south. >> any in gettysburg? a museum there? >> yeah, they have a wonderful visitor's center and they have a good collection as well. >> was their standardization of union and confederate uniforms, did that apply to the fancier uniforms? >> the uniforms were very local affair at first.
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they paid tribute to states. more than the national authority and called up the militia. so, at the battle of run, there were enough confederates wearing bluish uniforms to confuse a lot of people, including other confederates and other union men who didn't quite know whether they were shooting at friends or enemies. yeah, later because some confederates were kind of a butternut color. so i think federal, the union r army eventually was well funded enough to approach the kind of uniform look. no pun intended or pun intended.
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don't you think the zarobs were always confusing? that standing out when artillery began to bear down, they were lucky if there was a little cluster over there. . >> there was a uniformity and you couldn't tell if they were confederate or union. there's a question for me, is how or when can we see the objects in these programs. soon after this book was published, we had a mini exhibition of a objects, but in of them remain on view in our center on fourth floor of new york historical. and soon er than you know it, we'll be back in the museum and we'll be able to see them. we should probably put a little label on the ones we feature nd this program. >> and there's much more.
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i know we have a little time but we don't have a special segment devoted to flag. they have some amazing flags including north and south. one that i'm going to just talk about even though we don't have a picture, just think of a little american flag. don't need too much imagination to conjure up that image. but, and this is a period in which we're witnessing or participating in demonstrations all over the city and country. after the battle of ft. sumter, which we talked about last week, an american flag, it was reported, had been trailed in the mud by the confederates then returned to major robert anderson, who took it back to
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new york and that flag was shown at union square at a demonstration of 100,000 people, but the historical society has one of 100 flags that a lady put on her window. maybe on broadway or 5th avenue in low eer manhattan, to demonstrate her loyalty. if you look, do research at the historical society, which i did for this book and have done on several occasions, you find out that flag merchandise sold out really quickly, just as they did with black crepe with lincoln's funeral. so i'm just amazed at the textiles in the collection. >> and they survived, too. >> yeah. you know, val, may i ask you a question? >> sure. >> okay. so what kind of preservation efforts have to be made to keep
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a uniform like this in tact and not just falling into pieces? >> it's quite, almost scientific. we have great technicians and conservators on staff who monitor the deterioration of textiles. which is one reason why they n cannot be on view for longer than three months tops, and then we put them aside and then wait several years before we can show them again. so, but you know, conservation efforts with proper kind of boxes, proper kind of temperature controls. all of those things go into. yeah, it's complicated. but the colors on this particular costume are just so vivid. yeah, it is a testament to our conservators on staff. >> and also, the con ser vserva
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have dealt with it in the first 50 years before these refrigeration techniques were on hand. that's what's so amazing about this. >> exactly. here's a question about the uniforms and you can probably answer this because it also includes lincoln. how did he feel about these uniform sns. >> well he loved the displays. the drills. again, we're looking at it and laughing at the pajamas, but these guys were the proudest and most uninhibited and fearless. you have to be very fearless to wear white booties and a sarong and a fez. lincoln was a great fan of watching military parades. those that went by the white house in materiearly days of th. with his hand on his heart when the troops went by. when he visited the troops in virginia as he did fairly often,
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he rode up and down the lines inspecting. so he would have seen these and they were always pointed out to him again, as the roughest and toughest guys, and of course having known ellsworth. having seen him with his command around the white house, he was used to them and felt that they also represented volunteerism because all of this was before the draft. these were guys who volunteered not only to serve, but to wear this kind of outfit. >> here's another question about the uniforms. that is did mcclellan help introduce them into the union army and how did grant feel about them? >> that's a very good question. >> they were embedded in the sfts before mcclellan became a commander. there would be zwabs at the
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battle. by the way, winslow homer once said these guys must be crazy in short. you know, to be out there. although he did some beautiful, beautiful paintings of cap light that are at the presidential museum. playing pitching whites and lounging around in camp. so they, they wore these, but no, one would, it's a good supposition to say that mcclellan was involved because he was pretty flamboyant in his own way. and grant, one would assume that the soldiers who were marching south relentlessly through the wilderness, cold harbor and in that awful spring and summer of 1864 and were in the trenches before petersburg in early 1865.
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i would guess there weren't many in the regiment. >> another question about souvenirs like the buttons. were they collected for bragging rights or for their market value? >> another really good question. i would say bragging rights in terms of humiliating enemy prisoners. not so much monetary value, but souvenir value. i was there. i was in the fray and the, you know, in the same way that american soldiers and world war ii collected to try to including weapons, enemy weapons, german and japanese weapons and sabers, that they were told they couldn't bring back. they somehow managed to bring back just something about the i've been to the war and here's the evidence mentality. that's very, very powerful. and i understand.
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>> sbeeindeed. did lincoln have a point of view involving looting? >> e yes. remember, there was a fine line between foraging and looting. there was a code of conduct in the service that was pretty rigidly enforced at that time. there was no abuse of women on the home front. eck sepgss were punished toughly. the union and confederate armies could not supply themselves sufficiently, so they had to live off the land. and that meant particularly when robert e. lee marched into maryland in 1862, with a very thin supply line, that meant taking whatever they wanted. their pillaging involved chickens and cows. apples. lee marched into maryland at
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apple harvesting time so he practically took every apple off every tree in maryland. by the way, let's say one thing else about robert e. lee who's pretty much in the news today because of the statue controversies, but he also took as hideous souvenir, three back men and sold them back into slavery. in the south. he captured free people and enslaved them. that was the most hideous of all the souvenirs. then of course we go to sherman. in late 1864. who forages his way through georgia. there are two points of view on that. one is that he burned georgia and the other is that he spared georgia in some ways but not engaging. here's one, well, i'm going to do a teaser. when we talk about appomattox in a future program, i'm going to
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talk about another, another famous bit of souvenir hunting. i'll save it for that. >> save it for that. >> yeah. >> we have a few minutes left. and a couple more questions. who made these uniforms and how expensive were they? were any made in new york city? >> i would say they were these were expensive. some were, some soldiers paid themselves. the union army gai an allotment to soldiers to buy uniforms. there was a certain pride. we talk about systemic racism and how long it's existed. back in the civil war, even when african-american troops were
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finally allowed to volunteer to risk their lives to save the country and then slavery, white soldiers were given an allowance to buy uniforms. black soldiers had the cost deducted from their salary for the first few months. douglas came to lincoln to protest not only that the soldiers were getting a lower pay grade, but that they had to buy their own uniforms. lincoln said he was sorry, but we had to do it this way in the beginning to just get the white soldiers past this revolution of an integrated army, which was really separate black units. so, that's sort of a sad aspect of, there was uniform courage, but the government did not have the courage to treat all uniforms and their soldiers equally.
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>> we have one minute left. one more question. was there any etiquette against killing drummer boys? >> you know, i would think that once the smoke fills, fills a battlefield, bullets go where they go and drummer boys were wounded. that's a great question. we'll ask people to write into us and tell us if they know if etiquette forbade that. i hate ending on a question i don't know the answer to, but there we go. it's inevitable. >> well, uniform courage is our theme and certainly the drummer boys were examples of that. so, i am afraid we are out of time. so harold, thank you again for being a fount of fascinating information. >> week nikt this is month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on cspan3.
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in 2015, for our american artifacts series, we traveled about 45 minutes west of new orleans to visit whitney plantation in wallace, louisiana, so learn about the history of slavery in america. following is a conversation hosted by monticello. it focuses on how depictions of slavery in jefferson's life have changed in recent decades. watch tonight and enjoy american history tv this weekend and every weekend on cspan3. american history tv on cspan3 exploring the people and events that tell the american story. every weekend. coming up this weekend, saturday, at 10:00 eastern on real america, 75 years ago, august 15th, 1945 marked the end of world war ii. we'll feature three films about the state of affair. road to democracy.
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here is germany and a ceiling on your home. and on sunday, at 6:00 p.m. eastern on american artifacts. a two-part program on african-americans in congress. u.s. house of representatives historian matthew wasnewski and farrah elliot use a selection of artifacts to tell the history of african-americans in congress. then at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a look at past political convention acceptance speeches by presidential nominees including bill clinton and george h.w. bush. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on cspan3. >> next on the civil war, harold holder and valerie paley of the new york historical society talk about artifacts featured in their joint publication, the civil war in 50 objects. in this program, they discuss art created during


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