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tv   The Civil War Harold Holzer on Civil War Objects  CSPAN  August 21, 2020 5:40pm-6:27pm EDT

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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 and house courier uses artifacts to tell the history of o-african-americans in congress. then at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a look at past acceptance speeches by presidential nominees including bill clinton and george h.w. bush. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. up next on the civil war, historian harold holzer 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 discussion objects related to soldiers
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uniforms and acute ma. >> so, civil war fashion. this series has been investigating the power of objects to be emblem mattic of historical events. 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 the audience a bit about the inspiration for the program, the book "civil war in 50 objects." how can only 50 objects tell such a sweeping story? >> well, as the cover shows, we managed to vary messages, tactile objects, images. probably as you force us to describe this as civil war fashion -- i'll get you for that later -- the hardest thing is to
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preserve the textiles. the objects we're going to discuss today, some of them are really extraordinary in term of how they've survived. >> yeah, absolutely. and without further ado, let's get to our four things this evening. >> right. >> we have uniform, military buttons, a foot locker, and a drum. very interesting. fashion? maybe, maybe not. but an aggregate, they tell the story of uniform courage outfitting the civil war soldier. so, surviving uniforms, or textiles for that matter, as you say in fine condition from the civil war are very rare. and this one is impeccably preserved and it's unique. you have to admit it's a pretty
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cookie looking costume to wear into combat. can you tell us about this outfit? >> this is a zwa uniform and believe it or not the soldier who is wore these duds were considered the toughest dudes in the union or confederate army. they wore these baggy pant loons, sashes, short jackets. you see the leggings. and what we don't see is that they also wore a fez with a tassel on top. so, these uniforms were modelled after the uniforms that the french in turn adapted from the month rock cans. so, it became a french foreign leej i don't know look and known for fierceness. 25 confederate regiments and 75 union regiments started the war in this costume until somebody kind of figured out that they
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were pretty easy targets in these outfits. so, it sort of declined. but all through the war they were worn as impractical as they look. >> there's a strange incongruity fierceness between the soldiers and the way they were dressed. you say in the book that they look like dancers. it's curious, who popularized this style? >> so, really we can give credit to a new york from ute ka. his name was elmore. i know we have a picture of him coming up. and he was a drill master. and maybe we should do the next slide so people can take a look. >> yes, there he is. >> there he is. he did not wear the zwa but his cadets did.
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he organized a brigade that did show on stages across the country, very celebrated show in chicago. and what they did was they ran double time around the stage in circles. they broke off sort of like cheerleaders or the way bands march at football stadiums, where they break off and jump up. his guys had rifles. they would dock the rifles. they would put it at their soldiers. anyway, it was very well-received and he became something of a seb celebrity at very young age. he also was a law student of abraham lincoln's in his law office and was his body guard when he travelled from washington to springfield to become president. so, they were acquaintances. and then organized a unit when the war started and got into the from a really before it actually started for most people.
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>> and as the war -- well, at the very beginning of the war, he turns out to be a war hero and actually a kind of martyr. would you tell our audience why? >> yeah, in fact he was the first war hero for the north. so, when the war started, when fort sumpter fell, the federal authorities wanted to secure the virginia side of the river opposite washington, d.c. and that meant alexandria to start. and he was a frequent guest of 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. by the way, i've seen the remains of this flag. it was big. so, he decided to march across the bridge to the other side of the potomac as the union forces
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captured alexandria. he went to this hotel, marched up the stairs to the roof. he tore the flag down. he put it over his soldiers and descended the staircase. as he got midway, the proprietor of this hotel, who was named thomas -- his name was james jackson. he was a relative of the man who would soon become stonewall jackson a couple of months later at bull run. and jackson shot ellsworth dead and ellsworth's men shot jackson's men dead. so, there were two martyr. lincoln was devastated. he gave ellsworth a funeral on the east room of the white house. his family attended. he wrote a very famous letter of condolence to ellsworth's parents. it was a great tragedy for the
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family. you can see in the next image that there were prints and paintings of ellsworth, song sheet covers, maybe not the most accurate deipictions in the world, but they elevated this poor young guy into a martyr, as you noted, overnight. >> we noticed that one of the the soldiers is wearing the costume like he isn't himself which issing interest. >> i don't think he did. i think he always wore the regular uniform. but his soldiers wore the za uniforms. >> so, our own uniform at the collection of new york historical, it was owned by david p. davis. let's see the uniform again. we know he mustered into service in fort skylar in the bronx and served three years. where did he see action? we have a sense of that, do we not? >> yeah, he was in a unit, by the way, that was called the red legged devils. so, ukyou could see that again,
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they took pride of the uniform and combined the flamboyance of the uniform with their toughness. he was on the peninsula with the army and the failed attempt to capture richmond. he was in the battle of the second bull run. and on and on. he was at antetum in september '62. fredericksburg in december '62, one of the worst union defeats. and finally ended his service in virginia in may 1863. so, almost up until the battle of gettysburg before he mustered out. as we see, uniform intact. no holes, no tearing. so, that's why we were able to get it at the historical society. >> well, it's a phenomenal object. next, we have something a bit different. these are military buttons mounted on a card.
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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 momentous from the battlefield. reputedly, they also took them by stealing the personal property from helpless civilians or prisoners or even corpus. tell us about the fellow who collected these buttons. >> this fellow -- we know, as you say, sorry about choking up. i'm not choking up with emotion, but with allergies. it is a macabre hobby kind of, but a clever one because the buttons were really amazing. each state had its own. each unit had its own. these are union collected buttons by an enterprising
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soldier. the soldier was in the seventh new york which was a elite regiment. we know that he was also at an extraordinary number of actions including pennsylvania which was bloody. as you said, these would these from wounded and dead serviceman on the field. we also have evidence that they -- some may have even taken them from graves. there was such an interest in getting them. also, you mentioned prisoners. so it was considered one of the worst insults that you could render a prisoner of war, is to rip a button off the uniform. so that was partially humiliation and partially this mania collectibles. >> let's see this typical
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photographed -- oh, i'm sorry. of the kinds of scenes that this collector would have taken the buttons off of this -- these jackets. very macabre indeed. >> sorry, he would have been totally uninhibited about walking up and down this line of courses. they also took ammunition and guns and shoes. whatever they could grab. >> we have another collection as well which sort of supplements the buttons that the -- first selection of buttons. if we could see the other slide, here's another variety of buttons from different sources. they are quite beautiful. it is interesting, we noted that these are from 1860. so before the war presumably because they were created for the uniforms.
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lincoln himself received some gifts of war, some souvenirs such as these, and others. but what sorts of relics did he receive? >> he got a cane made from the hull of the old iron sides. he got another relic from the burned hall of the mary mac, the ship we discussed last week. he received 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 of the trees and turning. he received socks, soap, many bibles, canes, walking sticks, everything you can imagine. as he said to his wife once when another suit arrived
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unsolicited from a taylor, he said, mary if there's one thing we are going to get out of this it is new clothes. unfortunately, she took him to hard 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 per se or fashion, but a foot locker with belongings. it was nothing luxurious by any stretch of the imagination living in the field through the civil war. but the experience of generals is very different from that a privates. we want to talk about that a little bit. >> generals of course had their own tents and servants and beds and chairs. i think our friend william paine here was a step below. he was a cartography, a map maker, bring important in battle in terms of getting out to rain. so he got this --
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it looks rustic, but it is an amazingly utilitarian foot locker. think of the very best carry on that you can take on an airplane if anyone can remember doing that. this is the civil war era equivalent of a great carry on. you can see because this is beautifully photographed with a lot of its contents, it had his epilepsy. it has flags. it has his own souvenirs. it has medals. and it has his tools of the trade. a map making tool, i forget what it is called and i should know because i used it in school once. it makes a circle with the pin. this would be what he would use. he would strap it onto a horse when ready to move on and he did use it at several battles. it has take measures and sketchbooks.
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amazingly intact. as we keep discovering, the historical society has this extraordinary range of artifacts that testified to not only the art of war but the everyday work life of war. >> in addition to this particular foot locker, paine has a very interesting -- he perfected and held a patent for a tool we still use, the coiled flat steel tape measure. that's unique, i don't know if that is what it is in the corner there. he won a contest for his new invention. >> yes. that's right. the retractable one. we absolutely still use it. it is a much smaller model, but i had forgotten that detail. he was an inventor as well. however, we don't make many
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monitors. as you pointed out valerie, he use this in his subsequent engineering career. we have some evidence that he was part of the construction of the brooklyn bridge in the 18 seventies and eighties. he got a medal from the chief engineer which he also just threw into the foot locker. >> there it is. we have the little silk advertises in the foreground of the image. back to this foot locker for just a second. i think pain saw some serious action and he recorded it, being a server and doing that kind of thing. where did he see action? where did this football chrissy action? >> most notable thing he saw and recorded in his diary was what we call the high water mark of the confederacy. it is arguable in terms of
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military history, but he was on the scene for pickets charge on the third day at the battle of gettysburg. july 3rd, 1863. he sought waves and waves of unprotected confederates just amassing and then marching and then running toward the union lines. and really, they were mowed down by artillery and then by gunfire. so he was a witness to the last stand of the confederacy in terms of invading the north. that never happened again after that. >> this foot locker was as well. is there evidence that he used the footmark or after the war? presumably so i imagine. >> there are little souvenirs from his prosaic and his exulted post war career. the bridge was one. what i think he also worked on the flushing railroad.
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it sounds very unglamorous compared to pickets charge, but his portable work desk -- he was an engineer in the field. i guess he must have thought after the battle of gettysburg, i have survived, my baggage has arrived and i'm 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. it's beautiful and highly decorative. aesthetically pleasing as well. but it served quite a utilitarian purpose in battle. tell us what drums were used for. >> first of all, i want to endorse what you said about what a great object it is. look at the painted eagle and stars. the eagle is clutching in its
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claw the american flag. it's an amazing example. drums were not just for military bands, they were used in all aspects of camp life in the civil war and probably more importantly in battle. first of all, the sound of the drum would be the first thing that a soldier heard every morning for rabidly. it would start with a drumroll and then the mueller. someone famously said where i want to kill the beutler. the drone was used in camp life, and also the moments where soldiers did have leisure. there were bands that performed
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and camp and the drum was the staple of the military band as well. however, in battle troops, if they were marching forward, marched off to the tapping of the drums. they follow the drums. when the battles became smoke filled and bullet riddled and really scenes of confusion and mayhem, soldiers and precarious position listen for the sound of the drums. not only would that signal a place where they could coalesce again or regroup, but also the drones were used for issuing orders. >> you write that they are almost in a category of weapon. >> they had the drum instructions. >> yes. absolutely. and it had the power to inspire a kind of precision because of the sound as you said.
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>> they marched in rhythm, absolutely. >> so who own this drum? >> i think we know that, although we do not know who made it ward as the caption here indicates, we know that it was owned by a drummer boy as they were called. he was named charles mosby. 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 just how young and innocent, at first. this is actually mosby. okay. >> this is mosby. the >> story? say it again valerie, i'm sorry. >> philip corral, he was a 14 year old. this is a typical drummer boy
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who looks putrefied. some were as young as seven years old which i think is an extraordinary thing to contemplate. >> they were extraordinarily young and there was a lot of criticism about that from reform groups. they thought that these youngsters -- we'll, aside from being exposed to grave physical danger, their souls were being exposed to the evils of camp life like card plate and drinking. i think it is fair to say that this was a generation that came of age too quickly. some of them came from unhappy home lives. some of them because from the romance of military service, which they soon found out was not quite so romantic. some went with fathers and older brothers. by the way, their life when
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there was not a battle or musical celebration, which pretty dismal. they are expected to be servants in camp. shining shoes and touching things for soldiers. although there were the wealthier officers would often give them tips to supplement their salaries, the oldest soldiers -- i'm sorry, the poorest soldiers, we refer guys, they were pretty abusive. they slapped them around. they teased them. so it was a very difficult life. some of them came out of the war as a celebrated kind of volunteer in wartime. >> yes. there were 3800 soldiers that were aged 16 or younger who
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actually served with the federal army. that is quite something. >> yes. >> do we know what happened to the owner of our drum? of mr. phillip corral. we know he lived a long long time. think about a drummer boy of the civil war who survived two years into the presidency of franklin the roosevelt. he survived to see world war i, the depression, automobiles, airplanes and the new deal. he lived until 1935. he had served in the 99th new york, by the way. he served with general winfield scott hancock. nothing demonstrates a transition from old-fashioned war tomato war that there was a
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general at the beginning of the war called winfield scott and at the end of the war there was someone named after him. hancock was known as hancock the magnificent. you can imagine the drummer boy had to be spruce and the drumming had to be beautiful. we don't know much about his life, but we do know that he was at fredericksburg, gettysburg. i'm sure he told stories about the war for the rest of his life because the drummer boys were immune to the real fear in some ways. >> they were also remember -- romanticized and memorialized later in many different artistic expressions. >> yes. >> other artists did famous renderings of them. the most famous is probably by
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william morris hunt. he had heard about an episode at the battle of antietam where a drummer boy had been hit by a bullet. he looked up to one of his older comrades and said, if you lift me up i will drum us through. so hunt did a portrait -- actually, hunt did another drummer boy. this is eastman johnson, sorry. eastman johnson did a portrait of the drummer boy perched on a soldiers soldiers. anatomically, it is probably impossible. but there he is sitting on a shoulder and drumming away in the midst a battle. they were lionized in poetry and song. maybe in a way, society made some excuses for the fact that it had forced these young men into adulthood and danger well before their time. >> absolutely. so, we are about ready for our
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queue and a. maybe we can see the image of the four objects once again. our first question is do many of these buttons that we show survive? >> yes. the buttons are hard to destroy unless you step on them and squash them. it's one of the advantages of metallic objects. people still find the remnants of bullets and even artillery on civil war battlefields. it's actually against park service rules to dig and forage and use metal detectors on all of that. what is amazing about these buttons and their survival, and i think what makes them unique, is the fellow who we presume snatched them personally, did such a great job of cataloguing them. he mounted them, he number them, you wrote a beautiful headline
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there. that is a hand written confederate buttons period. then for each number, he listed the origin of the design of the button. maybe museums have done that research for themselves, but i have never seen a collection of these relics catalogued at the time by the person who found them or sees them. i think that makes this pretty unique. >> absolutely. and at new york historical, we also have collections of revolutionary war buttons from the new york city area as well. they are very durable objects. our next question is, are there comparable collections of union army buttons? >> yeah. the civil war museum in harrisburg, pennsylvania has a good collection. the new civil war museum in richmond, which is on the side of an old confederate munitions
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factory has a collection. i hear of them more in the south. i think the west point museum as a pretty good collection as well. >> maybe gettysburg as well perhaps? >> yes. they do have a wonderful visitors center and exhibition. they have a good collection as well. >> was the standardization of uniforms for the union and confederate army, did that apply to fancier uniforms? >> this was a mix. as you can see from this zouave uniform, which doesn't seem to have any buttons, although there may have some on the back of the sleep -- uniforms were a very local affair at first. these buttons bore the emblems of a local units and regiments. they paid tribute to states
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more than the national authority. they were not -- the uniforms were not uniform. at the beginning of the civil war, and the battle of bull run, there were unethical federates weighing blue-ish uniforms to confuse a lot of people including other confederates and other union men who did not quite know whether they were shooting. later, some confederates war a kind of butternut color. i think the union army eventually was well funded enough to approach a kind of uniform look, no pun intended or pun intended i guess. don't you think the zouave were always confusing? standing out when artillery began to bear down. they were lucky if there was a
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little cluster of zouave, fire over there instead of randomly. >> there was a uniformity to the zouave costume and you could not tell if they were confederate or union. >> exactly, that was another problem. >> so there's a question from me. that is how and when can we see the objects in these programs? soon after this book was published, we did have a mini exhibition of all of the objects. however, many of them remain on view on the new center on the fourth floor of the new york historical. sooner than you know it, we will be back in the museum and we will be able to see them. we should probably put a little label on the ones that we have featured on this program. well >> and there is much more. i know we have a little time and we don't have a special segment devoted to flags, but i
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also mentioned that. along the lines of beautifully preserved textiles that the historical society has some amazing flags, both north and south. that includes a small palmetto flag that was found at fort summer. one that i will just talk about, even though we don't have a picture of it. think of a little american flag. this is a period where witnessing or participating in demonstrations all over the city and all over the country after the battle of fort's hunter, which we talked about last week, an american flag was reported to have been trailed in the mud by the confederates and then returned to major robert anderson who took it back to new york. that flag was shown at union square at a demonstration of
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100,000 people. however, historical society has one of the little flags that a lady put on her window, maybe on broadway or fifth avenue in lower manhattan, to demonstrate her loyalty. if you do research at the historical society, which i did for this work that i have done on several occasions, you find out that flag merchants upped the prices of flags. you can see it in the advertisements. they sold out really quickly, just as they sold out of black crepe when lincoln's funeral happened. i'm just amazed at the textiles and the collection. >> and they survived as well. >> yes. you know what? >> sure. >> so what kind of preservation efforts have to be made to keep a uniform like this intact and not just falling into pieces? >> i'm a scientist --
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it's almost scientific. we have great technicians and conservatives on staff who monitor the deterioration of textiles. that is one reason why they cannot be on leave for longer than perhaps three months tops. after that, we put them aside and wait several years before we can show them again. the conservation efforts with the proper kind of boxes and proper kind of temperature controls. >> i would imagine. >> it's complicated. however, the colors for this particular costume are such so vivid. it's a testament to the conservator's on our staff. >> also, those who dealt with it before modern preservation techniques were in hand. that is what is so amazing. >> exactly. here is a question about the
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zouave uniforms, and you probably can answer this because it includes lincoln. how did he feel about these zouave uniforms? >> well, he loved the displace. he loved the drills. again, we are looking and laughing at the pajamas, but these guys were the proudest and most on inhibited 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, both those that went by the white house in the early days of the war. he was always on hand with his hat over his heart as the soldiers and flag went by. when he visited the troops in virginia, as he did fairly often, he marched up and down the lines. he would have seen these. they were always pointed out to him as, again, the roughest and toughest guys.
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and of course, having known ellsworth and seen him with his command around the white house, he was used to them and felt that they also represented volunteer-ism. because all of this was before the draft. these were guys who volunteered, not only to serve, but to wear this kind of out there outfit. >> here is another question about the zouave uniforms. that is, did mcclelland help introduce the zouave into the union army? and how did grant feel about them? >> that's a very good question. so no, they were embedded in the service before mcclelland became commander. remember, he doesn't take command until the fallible run and there have been zouave at the battle. wind slow home or once said, they must be crazy to be out there.
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although he did some beautiful paintings of camp life that are at the museum. it is a good supposition to think that mcclelland was involved in this. he was pretty flamboyant in his own way. they were in the service before, and grant i don't know the answer. but one would assume that these soldiers who were marching south relentlessly through the wilderness, cold harbor and that awful spring and summer of 1864. they were in the trenches in early 65 in petersburg. i would guess there were not many zouaves in the regiment at that time. >> another question about souvenirs like the buttons. were they collected for
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bragging rights or for their market value? >> another really good question. i would say bragging rights in terms of intimidating intimate prisoners and humiliating enemy prisoners. not so much monetary value, but souvenir value. i was there. i was in the fray. in the same way that american soldiers in world war ii collected detritus including weapons, enemy weapons, german and japanese and sabers that they were told they couldn't bring back. they somehow managed to bring back. there's something about the i've been to the war and here's the evidence mentality that is very very powerful. i understand it completely. >> indeed. next question. did lincoln have a point of view regarding looting? >> yes. remember there was a fine line
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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 and people were punished very severely. but eventually, the union and confederate armies could not supply themselves too efficiently so they had to live off of the land. and that meant, particularly when robert e. lee marched into maryland in 1862 with an supply line, that meant taking whatever they wanted. the men pillaging involved chickens and cows and apples. lee marched into maryland during apple harvesting time so he practically took every apple off of every tree in maryland. by the way, let's say one other thing about robert e. lee.
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he was in the news today again because of the statute controversy. but robert healy also took three black men as hideous souvenirs and sold them back into slavery. he captured free people and enslaved them. that was the most hideous of all the souvenirs. of course, then we go to sherman in late 1864 who forages his way through georgia. you know, there are two points of that. one is that he burned georgia and the others that he sort of spread georgia but not engaging differently. i will do a teaser. when we talk about appomattox in a future program, i will talk about another famous bit of souvenir hunting. i will save it for that.
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>> we have a few minutes left and a couple of more questions. who made these uniforms and how expensive were they? for any made in new york city? >> i would say these were expensive. some soldiers paid themselves. the union army gave an allotment two soldiers to buy uniforms. but i'm sure that these were funded by philanthropic works in the states where they were raised. there was a certain pride, again, of wearing these. let me 0.1 thing out. we talk about systemic racism and how long it has existed. back in the civil war, even when african american troops are finally allowed to volunteer and risk their lives to save the country and and slavery, white soldiers were given an allowance to buy
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uniforms. black soldiers had the cost deducted from their salary for the first few months of their service. when frederick douglass came to lincoln to protest, not only that the soldiers were getting a lower pay grade, but that they had to pay for their own uniforms unlike the white soldiers. lincoln said, sorry, but we had to do it this way in the beginning to just get the white soldiers passed this revolution of an integrated army. it wasn't really integrated. that is sort of a sad aspect. the government did not have the courage to treat all new recruits and soldiers equally. >> indeed. let's see, we have one minute left. >> okay. >> one more question. was there any marshall etiquette against killing drummer boy's? >> you know, i don't know.
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i would think that once the smoke fills was a battlefield, bullets go where they go and drummer boys were wounded. that is a great question. we will ask people to write into us and tell us if they know if etiquette existed. i hate ending on a question i do not know the answer to, but there we go. it is inevitable. >> but uniform courage is our theme and certainly the drummer boys were example ours of that. so, i am afraid that we are out of time. harold, thank you again for being a fountain a fascinating information.
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next on the civil war, historian herald holzer and valerie paley of the historical society talk about artifacts in their joint publication. the civil war in 50 objects. in this program, they discuss art created during and after the war including paintings of abraham lincoln, the irish brigade and battle seats. this conversation took place on line and the new york historical society providee


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