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tv   The Civil War Illinois Civil War Soldiers Letters  CSPAN  August 10, 2021 5:53pm-6:55pm EDT

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companies and more including media com. >> at media com we're built to keep you ahead. >> media com supports c-span as a public service along with these other television providers giving you a front row seat to democracy. mark flotow's book features the writings of 165 troops from abraham lincoln's home state and covers the war from the earliest enlistees through final muster. he's interviewed by mike depew of the abraham presidential library and museum which hosted this discussion and provided the video. >> today i have the pleasure to talk to a good friend of mine. you and i have known each other for quite a few years here,
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mark, and been colleagues. i like to think we collaborated successfully on several different things. you're an anthropologist by training and then you ended up in state government. i know you had 30 years with the illinois department of health, and you finished off that time as the chief, the illinois center of health statistics. boy, if there's ever someplace some focus on what's going on right now in the world that would be it. something of a demographer and statistician. so what i want to do is ask you how it is you came to write this book. >> yeah, well, thank you for that introduction, mark. the idea for the book was actually a poetry project. i was inspired also by you with
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your series of lectures at the time of the civil war. and i wanted to write some commemorative poetry that if soldiers of the day were reading it that they would feel comfortable, and it would be something they could relate to. so i started doing some research on that. and i thought i could find a book or two that would have that sort of information in there especially for illinois, but i would have taken the midwest. but i couldn't really find such a book so i thought, going to have to do this the hard way. so i came over here to the presidential library actually just a couple doors down here on the second floor of the presidential library to look at manuscripts and personal letters. and i went through the card catalog and picked out as many illinois soldiers as i could find and just started and then
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after a couple of years, three years i had enough for poetry project. i gave a presentation of those of poets in the parlor series. and they ended up downstairs in the atrium for several months, hung up as two poster boards. i think that was 2016 so that would have been the last year of the centennial. but at that point i'd read so many letters and i couldn't find that book at the beginning i'd been looking for. i thought maybe there's a need there. maybe i should start working on that so i read more and started putting in a book proposal and fiechbally got the book. >> and how long diving into these letters? >> i don't know.
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i've read at least a few thousand. i don't know how many hours. i started in 2013 reading. and for the book i was probably reading up to 2018, 2019. i am still coming across other collections that i'm interested in and still reading. >> one of the things that really struck me about how you develop this book is the organization of it. can you talk a little bit about how you decided to organize these letters? >> well, the truth of the matter is the content was determined by the soldiers and not so much by me. so when i started the reading process i remember i think it was debbie ham who was in manuscripts and she protme the first collection. and she said what are you looking for in the collections and this is going to sound like a flippant answer but it was the truth. i said, well, i don't know really know what i'm looking for nor do i know that i'll
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recognize it when i see it. but i just started writing down things, and as i kept going through letters after letters things started to coalesce. there were certain topics that they wrote about, and some of those turned into sections, and then those sections turned into chapters and so there's these -- the chapters are thematic. but it was the soldiers who basically told me the content was going to be, so i just chose what i thought were good examples of various things whether that be them doing duty, sickness and trying to maintain health, whether that was combat, whether that was trying to manage affairs from afar, you know, home life, that kind of thing. they all coalesce that way. >> well, when we started talking about how we wanted to do this you were gracious enough to say
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well, why don't you pick some things that really move me. >> sure. >> so a lot of things i'm going to be asking about are things i really found compelling. here and the first one if we go to the next slide here, if you want to say one or two words about him? and here's the cover of the book, by the way. >> oh, yeah, yeah. yeah, thomas he was -- he was active in some of the mississippi campaigns and so on. he started his -- writing his letters actually from -- i don't remember if he was one of the people at camp butler, but he definitely wrote letters home to his spouse from camp defiance, which is where cara lives. >> and i know one of the invaluable parts of your book in the appendix you've got all
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these short narratives of these people you're highlight. >> so there's 165 different people that i took from so i have a short biography for each one of those. >> well, why did i find thomas seacord so compelling? this is the text if we can zoom in on that text and you can read it, sometimes it's a little bit difficult, but here's part of the text that i really found moving. i will write as often as you will, your letters are worth more to me than gold. and i thought that kind of summed up the whole project. >> yeah, it very much does. let me give you sort of a very similar but counter quotation which is actually on the next page of the book. and this is someone writing in may 1865 and he writes i noticed
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my companions some of them would seem like life itself was a burden to them. but what a change has come over their kouns instance, a change from cereo to joy. has it been a great victory or has peace been declared? no, the mail has come into camp and they have received letters from their loved ones at home. yes, that accounts for it. for the time being all their hardships and suffering are forgotten all through the medicine of a letter. >> you know, you're reading that quote. it remind me as an oral historian i've interviewed hundred of veterans obviously not from the civil war. world war ii, korea, vietnam war on terror, and that's a constant thing. that communication from home whether it's letters and phone calls or e-mails and texts today, it is so important to these soldiers. >> back then letters for them were the next best thing to
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being there. i mean today maybe it's zoom or facebook live. but back then it was definitely letters. >> well, in this next slide i want to go through one of the biggest challenges you had to face because the educational level of the soldiers at that time and their writing skills wasn't quite up to what we had to say today. so my question is how do you sort through this and figure out what they had to say? >> so when i went to start looking at these letter collections, in the back of my mind i was hoping there would be transcriptions, but those were rare. i learned not to trust any previous transcriptions by others. i got very adept at reading them and finding mistakes and if you want it done right, you've got
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to do it yourself. also on day one you have to be able to read cursive writing. >> you think we should be teaching cursive writing in school today? >> i'm not saying that. if you're going to be going in history and reading old documents and letters even if it's just from world war ii or the karina war, you're going to need to be able to read cursive writing. but i also found there was not much in the way of punctuation. on this slide you've circled the only three places where there's even any kind of punctuation on the letter. and there are some people that wrote during a time that punctuation was used pretty much the way we did. but that was almost the exception rather than the rule. and i've come to learn part of the reason for this is because they are writing many times as if they are speaking to someone.
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so if are speaking to someone, you do not say i am fine, period, how are you, question mark. no, you leave that punctuation off. plus they are also writing to loved ones, other family members, relatives, close friends who know what their voice sounds like, what their inflections are, what their accent is like and so on. so punctuation is almost superfluous in that regard. so you have to mentally kind of get into their head as you read various soldiers' letters on how -- you almost get a sense for how they spoke sometimes. >> do you have a sense of the educational level of most of these soldiers had? >> i don't know about educational level but in the 1870 national dissenial census
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was the first time they asked about literacy. so for illinois it was just about 90%, so if you want to backtrack to, you know, 5 or 10 years earlier, it's got to be at least 80% or 85% were literate. but as you find out, as you read the letters, you find there is a gamut of literacy that is some people write phonetically. and soldiers is spelled s-o-l-g-e-r-s instead of their correct spelling. so you get into that and you're able to figure out their words. and in the book i have not made it into good english. so if they have misspellings and lack of punctuation that is in there. when i feel it gets too bad i put brackets in to help.
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but that is part of the reading experience though in the book i save you having to read cursive writing. >> well, the thing that strikes me about this time period, and we can be critical about how poorly they spelled and the lack of punctuation and things like that, the united states has far exceeded any country in the world at this time for literacy. >> that could be true. that could be true. and i think most of them did and i think those that could not write they had fellow soldiers in their tent or company who could write for them. they still wanted to communicate with home. and as a matter of fact soldiers that were wounded for some reason they could get people from the sanitary commission or other people that would write letters. >> interesting. >> yeah, there's one chapter called a lifeline of letters. it's the first chapter, and that's what these letters were for them.
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not only did they want to write letters but they were desperate as we just read before to receive them as well. >> well, let's go to this next slide and it's really the first lengthy quote. i'm calling this seeing the elephant, which you know. and most people who are civil historians and know about the civil war, that means you've seen combat. tell us a bit about captain david norton? >> yes, captain norton is writing to mary chapman. this is an interesting story because they had not met. and captain norton from a fellow officer got a dare. i dare you to write to this lady named mary chapman who he called molly back home. so captain norton sort of used that slim introduction to write an initial letter to her to try and get a correspondence going.
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and as you go through the correspondence which is another collection here in the abraham lincoln presidential library you can tell they're sort of building up this intimacy. they exchange pictures. they talk about a little bit what life at home might be if they got together and so on and so on. so he is making a mighty effort to impress her through his letters. >> and when we were talking about this, mark, the thing that impressed me was we got this excerpt from this letter as you said goes on and on and on. >> yeah, this is lengthy letter so you can tell he's really trying to make a good impression, but he was an officer who was an aide to a general. and so he had perspectives that a lot of other sole jorz on the ground might not have had at this particular engagement here
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at missionary ridge part of the chattanooga campaign. >> one of the reasons i found so compelling about this particular excerpt because it was about missionary ridge which was my absolute favorite moment of the civil war. and i think as you'll listen to this clip you'll understand why. so if you could play that please. >> orders were given for our lines to move up and for our skirmishers to drive the revelers at the foot of missionary ridge. it was gallantly done and general barrett's division was ordered to assault the enemies works, to create a diversion in favor who could be heard opening his part of the game. gallantly those noble men charged across the open field and separated from the enemy amidst a person storm of shots and shells. they have taken the entrenchments. here they are ordered to stop, but, no, the balls are flying
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too thick. they could not stop and live. and absolutely without orders they charged on up the hill. a thrill of anguish passed through ever frain. they are lost, but long before the order could be carried to the anxious troops, a shot that shook the air and forward they rushed upon what seemed to be an evitable destruction. onward and upward sped those intrepid soldiers. backward fly the astonished and frightened rebels. oh, how beautiful those starry flags looked as they floated out that steep mountain side covered in grisling bayents and canons? do they pause to await the arrival thaf their slower comrades? no, every man pushes forward into the very mougs of the canon and slay, capture or drive away their rebel artillrists. the enemy completely dumbfounded
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fly. the victory the most glorious of the war is ours. >> and i would kind of agree with him, maybe the most glorious. it was extremely rare you'd have an adault like this against an entrenched enemy on the top of the hill and that was successful. >> now, i need to add a counter point here. this kind of description is extremely rare and that is one of the reasons why i happen to include this. more often when i soldier was in a battle and they wrote home about it unless it was the first battle when it was kind of novelty to them and they might describe different things that happen so their parent or spouse knows a little bit of what's going on, their description of a battle will be, for example, we'll take missionary ridge. we fought a great battle at missionary ridge. i'm okay or not okay.
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so-and-so that you know is doing fine or was wounded. but you can read all about the particulars in the newspapers. because they'll probably know more about it than i do. and that's it. so that was, again, part of that lifeline kind of thing. hey, i know you read about the battle and you know our regiment was there, i'm okay, i'm okay. that was what they wanted to convey, not some sort of description of what the combat was like. >> and you mentioned this captain was on a general staff. the average soldiers experience in his perspective is maybe the ten or 20 guys he can see around him. >> i don't know if you want to mention anything about second lieutenant before i actually read this one to the audience. >> just go ahead. >> and i will tell you this, that this is written from a camp in near jackson, mississippi.
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in july 19, 1863, and a significant part of that this would have been right after the surrender of vicksburg, mississippi. >> that's correct. >> so there they are sitting around the campsite. of course that old tune soon brought those of the boys who were not on post together before the song was half through, i could see by the light of the burning town and cotton that the silent tears stood in many an eye. >> so very poignant moment. and it reminds me of christian mcworders book. here is somebody playing on a piano and for some bizarre
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reason is in the entrenchments or ramparts somewhere and they're playing it. it turns out prior to the union capturing that there was somebody named private douglas carter of texas who played on that same piano before he was captured during the siege. that same piano still exists. he was able to get that. that is this private douglas carter of texas. and the piano resides in the confederate memorial hall museum in new orleans. so you can still see it. and when i found this on somebody's website, they didn't know the union side of it. they knew about the confederate part, so i was able to make this connection. >> and your comments here just illustrated another thing i think was so successful on how you put this book together. the narration that you use to tie all these things together
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and give the background and context i think is invaluable and helped people really enjoy this that much more, so kudos in that respect. >> well, thank you, but that's the job of any editor really. >> okay. and let's go to the next slide if we can. and i'm going to read a quote from a letter written by private victor gould to the parents of private george clark. and this one really struck me. your son fell mort wale wounded. he was struck with a shell tearing his body desperately and also tearing both legs almost entirely off. he lived one hour and then quietly fell asleep leaving many true and loving and i trust christian friends to mourn his loss. tell my parents, said he, that i die a brave man and in defense of my country. wow, but the thing that
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surprises me, mark, on this he wrote the parents about the gory, gory details of his death. >> my experience in general whether it is about death or specific details about the wounded or horrible circumstances i was often surprised what they would write to their mom or their center or their spouse or significant other that might almost seem inappropriate. but, again, as i had said, they had as the soldiers a need to express themselves, to get this sort of out and to people back home what was going on. but for them as a kind of release of what's going on. but there's another thing going on here. so this is covered in a book by
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drew gillpenfoust called this republic is suffering. and she talks about what they call the good death. that is being surrounded by family and friends as you're on your deathbed and you have your affairs in order, you're wishing people well, and, you know, those kind of things. well, you know, a civil war and battlefields totally mess that up, totally complicate it and so on. but for loved ones or parents to find out the circumstances of their son's or brother's or husband's death was of a comfort to them even if there were gory details that were being described to them. that was part of knowing how it occurred. and that is as close they could get to being with them or experiencing that at that
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moment. >> amazing. well, the next one i selected was sergeant william smith to his wife and i think i'll let you talk a bit more about that to set this one up. it's talking about what some called the peculiar institution, what we all know today as slavery. william smith was not only a fairly good writer, but he was expressive, and he was naturally inquisitive. so he talked to southerners when they were in occupied territory, citizens and so on. but as he said he was a keen observer and his wife mary who he called polly asked him this question about slavery. and you have to remember that the median age of union soldiers and probably illinois soldiers as well was around between 23 and 24 years of age.
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median meaning that at that age half of them are younger than that and the other half are older than that. so that means there's a lot of teenagers and people in their early 20s and so on that are soldiers many of them who had never left their state. i was just reading a letter from someone who lived only two counties away from the mississippi river but had never seen the mississippi river until they went to alton and had never seen a steam boat before. so there's all these new experiences. so his wife is asking him about slavery. so we should hear this clip. >> now to the question how does slavery look to the naked eye? the shortest answer that i can give and express myself upon the subject is that it looks many times worse than i ever imagined. it is true that i have never saw the lash across the backs of old men and gray-headed women, but i have seen men who plow, hoe,
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chop and lay rails, i have seen pregnant women with only an excuse for a shirt and short petty coat on. i've seen dozens of men, women and children at the different kinds of work under a white man that was almost as ignorant as the slaves he drove. i have seen one woman that has tended 18 acres of corn and suckled an infant that was born after she commenced to break the ground. i have seen a young wife modest and nice walking along the street, a slave woman walking close behind her carrying the first born of her modest mistress. look at their figures. it is very nearly the same. see their backs? oh, says one, they're both alike. look at their gait. it is nearly the same. examine their features, look close. they certainly resemble and she
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tells you it was a wedding gift from her father. the secret is out. they are half sisters. look at them again. they favor in every feature and action, the only difference is in the color. >> we're hearing a letter written by william read by his wife, and you can imagine she's reading to relatives, he's going to the local store. >> the point here is very poignant and very well-expressed. it just really sinks in what slavery can be like or what they had also called amalgamation. that is the joining of two
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different races which, you know, is a much different opinion than -- than -- it's old thinking, if you will. but he makes this point so well, what really goes on in a slavery state or under slavery conditions. and what is sort of interesting about this so there was this little something at the end of the letter, and i have it in the book here, and it says in the same letter along the margin of the last page written sideways is a drawing of a single hand pointing to a sort of post-script. and the postscript was charlie which smith's temp mate says for you to burn this without reading it because it was such a topic to put into a letter like that, that you should just burn the letter, don't even read it.
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so fortunately mary ignored that just request, but it's great we have it and can learn from it. >> and that's the point of this whole book and all these letters. we get into their hearts and souls by reading these things. >> you have to remember that we are essentially reading other peoples mail. and i have to admit there's kind of an allure to that. but also it was something never intended for us to read. i think if those people were still alive and they, you know, found out some of their personal letters were showing up in a book they might be aghast at that. but for us as historians it's invaluable. >> have you heard from some of the descendants of these people who are in the book? >> yes, some i have. and of course they're not the
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original soldiers. they're, you know, great, great grandchildren, those kind of things. and they're thrilled. i've gotten some really nice comments, people have shared portraits. other people have seen who's in there and they say, hey, i have something about that person. so i've discovered a number of other things and a lot of those things i've put up on the website. so the website becomes like -- makes the book a little bit more of a living document. >> well, the next thing i wanted to focus on in this next slide is a little bit about the motivations and feelings and beliefs the soldiers themselves had about the cause they're fighting for. so i've selected a passage that touches both on the emancipation proclamation which was written after antitum in september' 62 and went into force in 1863 and
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a bit about the upcoming election. >> an answer to part of owen's letter in regard to the opinion of the soldiers in regard to the emancipation proclamation, et cetera, i have this to say. that if the people of north knew how the soldiers cursed them for allowing men to speak tree treason as they do now, i think they'd put a stop to it. men that came here, strong democrats are democrats no longer. men who came here with no intention of interfering with slavery are now abolitionists. and in regard to their opinion of the administration, if the soldiers can vote in 1864 for president of the u.s., old abe will again be president. you may not believe what i have told you, but if you live to see 1864 you will find my words true if old abe carries out what he
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has commenced. although we are tired of war, we had rather fight for the next ten years than compromise with treason. >> strong words. >> yeah, now, again, i'm going to have to off a counter point. this is not necessarily the majority opinion among the soldiers. and especially something like this, which is somewhat political, really reflects the diversity of democrats and republicans in illinois. illinois is somewhat a microcosm of the entire nation in how it's divided in opinion. so the opinions of the emancipation proclamation you find for other soldiers varies quite a bit. some of them think this is a terrible idea because now the south is going to fight all the harder. they are going to be so mad at
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us that they're really going to dig in their heels kind of thing. but a lot of them do look at it first as a war measure as opposed to a social measure. but they had comments about that as well. some thought, well, this could be a good thing. some thought, well, this is not a good thing. and i put a lot of that diversity in here. so i wanted to sort of offer that sort of counter point just based on what you happened to pick up. >> if you want a bit more of this or a lot more of this go visit the abraham lincoln presidential museum. with all these dissident voices on all the strong opinions they had on this very subject. >> yes. >> that's one of my favorite parts because it really does show the angst and the difficulty that abraham lincoln faced when he was president of
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the united states. >> yeah. at the beginning of the war certainly not all the soldiers in illinois that signed up were abolitionists. in fact, they would have been in quite a minority. but some of them came to this when it did happen, that is the emancipation proclamation that it was a good thing because it would shorten the war and they would get home sooner. that was the overriding thought that would be in the back of their minds all the time. and that's why they kept up on politics and newspapers because they were looking for signs and symptoms of the war starting to come to a conclusion and when will we be home. >> there weren't any that says this is going to lengthen the war? >> yeah, there were some that said, yes, this could potentially lengthen the war. >> i think most historians today would come down on the side of the latter. but that's a debatable point as oftentimes historical issues are. now, i've highlighted a lot of
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the things i've found really interesting. tell me what some of your favorite letters are. >> okay. so as a social scientist i'd have to say that my favorites were the 165 soldiers that made the cut that made it into the book. some of them wrote more eloquently, expressed themselves better than others. but every one of them had something to say that contributed to the book. it's probably not the answer you're looking for, but i really don't have any favorites. now it is your prerogative as a reader to have favorites on what i you happen to like and thanks for sharing those. but i'm glad to have all of them quite frankly. >> as you mentioned i gave a series of presentations on the main civil war battles during
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the centennial. so that was my deep dive into civil war history. i learned so much going through that process. this exercise was quite different for you. you had to have enough knowledge about the war to put all these things in context. but it strikes me that you got to know these soldiers on a much more personal level. is that a good way of saying it? >> yeah, the way that i sort of think of it is, you know, a lot of times when you read civil war books that are about particular battles, campaigns and so on, general, those are great. that's a top down approach. my approach was the opposite. was to start with the boots in the mud, the soldiers, what their stories were and then coalesce those into those topics, those sections and chapters. so i was very much a bottom up approach to find out what the
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civil war was like for them. >> you got your degree in anthropology. then you're a demographer, statistician, i know you do ark arkiology as well and then poetry. >> i've always enjoyed writing but i'm not what i think of as a naturally gifted writer. i need a lot of practice. so poetry helped me smooth out my style. and writing this book, one of the preludes to the book not only was the poetry but as i was collecting the letters, i started to see some of these themes. so i had a selection of
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colleagues, friends even people in other countries who could care less about the civil war each friday i would send out a e-mail which was theme-based, things i'd been reading in the letters. and i was surprised at how eager people that didn't even know anything about the civil war wanted to hear these personal stories. and so that got me practicing writing and got me to get these topics together. then the book came together after that when i decided finally to do a book that coalesced. so i call these sort of the 46-essay period. because there's 46 weeks in succession when i sent out these e-mail blasts to people. and more and more people said i want to get those, too, kind of thing where finally i was sending it out to 40 or 50 people. >> in the process of reading all
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these letters then, did you have a sense you could really get inside these men and what they were thinking and how they approached life and their ambitions and their struggles? >> you really got to know them. and that's why i felt it was so important to provide these brief bios at the end. and it's appendix a, and it's a big chunk of the book. i've had some readers come back to me and say i read those separately, i read all of them as opposed to something you could use as a reference. oh, william smith, what happened to him kind of thing. well, yes, you can find that out and easy to look that person up but -- >> so what did happen to some of these men? >> so let's pick a few of them. so you started with thomas seacord. thomas seacord ended up never seeing his wife again. he got sick in mississippi. he ended up in a hospital and he was -- what sometimes happened
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to people that were in hospitals, they didn't necessarily have in the field nurses and so on, so they expected people that were not so sick to sort of help out the other hospital staff with some of the patients. and he would go around and he would, you know, tell so-and-so died overnight or so on. and then a couple weeks later he was one of those people and he was buried there. william smith who i had just mentioned who wrote so beautifully ended up dying also in mississippi at i don't want to call it the battle of -- more like sort of a large skirmish. i actually wrote a little bit about that in -- for those of you who are illinois state historical society members in illinois heritage in their july, august issue about -- >> how about captain norton? he was wooing this young lady he had never met.
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>> so captain norton was an aide to general palmer. and when they were in georgia they were taking in part of the sort of overview where the troops on the union and confederate side were there. and in one of his books i think it's called maybe profiles in courage where he picks out various soldiers. turns out norton i found out later was one he had picked out. so there was a couple of confederate sharp shooters who had snuck into range and they were aiming to shoot palmer. so they fired and they missed, but they hit norton. i think he got hit in the head and he died within a minute or two. so he never, ever met molly chapman back in illinois. >> i've got to believe that you get so involved with these peoples' stories that kind of
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stabs you in the heart when you get a piece of news like that. >> there are so many stories. there are the ones that, you know, they were p.o.w.s, and i have a different chapter on p.o.w.s because -- so here's the beauty of civil war letters. they were not censored so that's why you get all this good information. the prison war letters you can get i'm feeling okay or i have a touch of pneumonia or whatever it might be, but they couldn't give much in the way of details, so they're very kind of bland. but for that chapter as an exception i took some of the soldiers reminisces and what they said about being at the bell island prisoner of war camp
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in richmond or andersonville in georgia or some of the other ones to sort of flesh out the illinois soldier experience. >> i think one of the most tragic events of the civil war happened after the civil war when all those prisoners released from andersonville get on the steam ship sultana which sinks in the middle of the mississippi river taking scores if not hundreds of them to their deaths. >> hundreds of them. yeah, the boilers blew because it was way overloaded, and yeah, a lot of people drowned. >> well, there's so much to talk about in this book. it was such an excellent read. i hope that those who are watching this today or in the future will take the opportunity to buy this. but just a couple more questions here. >> sure. >> how well has the book been received? >> i think it has been well-received. so earl ier this year the illinois state historical
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society honored the book by giving it the russell p. strange memorial book of the year award for 2020. and because of the pandemic i got that news through snail mail. you know, a certificate came in, and you could have pushed me over with a feather. i was so shocked. but they had recognized it as that's their highest award for publishing in history. the book now is tartling to take on a life of its own. there's someone who contacted me that said they'd like to develop a curriculum from that. somebody else this is actually down at siu carbon dale. it sounds like they are interested in doing podcasts of parts of the book and then uploading those. you know, they call themselves
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blanket fort radio theater. it's one of those things you can put in a search engine and it'll pop up what they're currently working on. >> so similar to what we had in terms of finding people who are willing to bring these quotes to life? >> exactly. >> that sounds ideal for a podcast. >> yeah, i hope they go through with it. it would be excellent. >> how many other books are there out there like this ipother states or collections that letters that have been edited in the manner you've done it? >> well, there's quite a number of collections that are one soldier or in some cases what i aul the double rainbow is when you have the soldiers letters and the spouses or, you know, those people at home so you can kind of see the exchange. but in terms of collections of letters, there are some that are just smaller collections like maybe, you know, 20 soldiers because they were in the same regiment or from the same area
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or from a variety of areas. but the one that i found that comes the closest was done before my book was by john zen called this wicked rebellion. and it was about letters from wisconsin. but it's all letters sent to editors, and so as people had kept these scrapbooks of all these local wisconsin newspapers, and so they had all these soldiers letters. but they're not all personal letters. sometimes there's dear editor, blah, blah, blah. sometimes they are letters that went home and someone said let's put this in the local newspaper. so some are a bit more guarded or maybe have an axe to grind or something like tat. if it was official correspondence or some other thing that was not personal like diaries, for example. diaries are not necessarily
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conversational and soldiers kept those for various reasons. i didn't include those. i just wanted those personal letters, those personal stories with those details. >> i think so much what you've got in the book these are universal things any soldier from any northern state could erelate to, and the public would be well-served to read this if they want to understand pennsylvania, ohio, new york even. and i think it's time to turn it over to joe. >> yes, wonderful presentation, gentlemen. and to mark flotow, thank you so much. as someone born and raised at the very southern tip of the state, thank you for correctly pronouncing my hometown correctly. but we've had folks checking in from arizona, florida, kansas, virginia, texas, oregon, nevada, rhode island, massachusetts, even a viewer in yemen, around
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the world watching today. >> terrific. >> and we've had several questions that tie into the broader themes of this. william wants to know, mark, were there any families and letters who had families on both sides of the conflict? >> none that i read for this particular book although there was certainly those sorts of circumstances. now, i did have one or two instances where there was a father and son that went to fight in the same regimen as if the father was going to keep an eye on the son kind of thing so they would experience together. i was surprised actually even though as i'd said earlier the median age was around 23, 23 1/2, how many soldiers i found that were in their 40s or 50s or had been mexican war veterans that still went on and went into the civil war. and i don't mean necessarily
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higher officers. some of these were privates that were in their 50s. so, no, i didn't come across those. but some father-son that went together as family members and brothers, too. >> lisa wants to know do any of the letters speak about having seen lincoln himself or who had known him? >> i cannot think of anybody who said that they saw lincoln, but there is a very interesting letter where soldiers in springfield that were waiting for their final pay in discharge went to it lincoln home and talked to the woman or the lady of the house, which was actually mrs. lushia tilten. the tiltens had an agreement to live there while the lincolns were in washington, d.c.
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and so you find out a little bit about the lincoln home. one thing that was shared with the lincoln home folks here was that they mention the lady of the house played the piano for them. and they said, this is the first thing we've heard there might have been a piano there. now, who put it there whether it was the tiltens or lincolns, that's for somebody else to figure out. >> if i could add just a quick note on that, the vast majority of illinois soldiers fought in the western theater. lincoln saw an awful lot of soldiers, but it was almost entirely in the eastern theater operations. >> that's correct. >> a couple of questions that tie in together, you touched a bit on one of the soldiers letters, but what did the soldiers write about lincoln and how his actions affected morale? >> all right, so there is a
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chapter called leaders, generals and old abe. so soldiers wrote a lot about those that were over them, that were in charge and whether, you know, some of them were very happy with the decisions that were made and some were very critical. and so there were certainly comments about old abe. as the one you picked up and we had read here that, you know, abe is the man for us. there were others that were critical when things looked bad, you know, when the war was going badly, that our leaders are, you know, they're not together. and again, what's in the back of their mind is when are we going to get home? when is this war going to be over? >> i think it is relevant to suggest, though, that the soldiers given a chance to vote in that 1864 election most would
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say overwhelmingly they came down on the side of lincoln and not mcclellan. >> that is absolutely true. and as a footnote to that because of the way that the constitution in illinois was, soldiers in the field were not one of the state's -- illinois was not one of the states that could vote in the field. there were some that were able to get home and vote, but that was the only way they could do that. >> one of our viewers this afternoon chimed in from yemen. one says greetings from germany and follows up to brad's question. says brilliant question, she had like to expand that to whether there are any letters where the writer and the recipient were on different sides of the conflict. >> not in the letters that i read. i do have a few letters where they wrote to an uncle that was
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like in another regiment or fellow soldiers that were perhaps in another theater or war. but, no, i didn't -- for this sample of 165 i used i didn't have an instance like that. that's an interesting thing. >> mark asked did you see any letters from deserters on either side. >> they did talk about people that did desert or sometimes it was an instance they called french leave. and french leave means it's something where in france it's where somebody leaves a party without telling the host or hostess that they're leaving kind of thing. it's sort of a slightly impolite thing. for the soldiers french leave was something where i'm going to leave for a little bit and then i'm going to come back. well, in the military's eyes
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that's desertion. but some went back because, oh, my spouse is about to deliver or my father is dying and they couldn't get a furlough. so they might desert for that particular reason. sometimes they weren't caught. sometimes they got pardoned. often soldiers saw themselves, hey, i volunteered so all this military stuff, you know, is flexible. well that of course is not true, but they tried to flex it in certain circumstances. >> and lastly, nice to hear from jenny lee on her lunch hour watching from just down the hall here literally in the same building. she's part of our conservation preservation team. they take all these old documents and other items and restore them. she wants to know did you use letters from other institutions to draw from your book? >> no, i actually did not.
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i looked at other institutions. i looked at the logan museum. i looked at the library and a few other places. and for various reasons i ended up not using them. the letters i found here covered not only the span of topics but also the geography and backgrounds and political ideology that sort of spanned the gamut. the other thing is i'm, you know, as a former demographer i realize i'm in the last quarter or last fifth of my life. so i got to get a move on if i'm going to get the book out kind of thing. there's much more out there, but, no, i was able to do this. and because i'm an independent scholar and i don't have other funding sources to be able to
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travel, although there are more and more things that are interesting that are online, i did enjoy looking at the real thing here. >> well, that's certainly a testament to folks that are doing research of any kind. chances are good if it has to do with illinois, the civil war or lincoln. amazon.
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i do recommend siu press and for
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a reduced price. it's like two for one. they gave me a copy of the electronic version and i said, yeah, thanks, i don't know what i'll do with it. i do a lot with it. the book has an incredible index. i hired one of the best people possible, one of the readers to do that. but it is so great to use the electronic version to word search. so you've read something and you go, hey, where was that thing about slivery to the naked eye, and you can put up those words and it'll pop up in the e-book. >> needless to say a great christmas gift. >> yes, christmas is coming right up. thank you, joe. >> just trying to help. just trying to help. mark depew as always thank you for a wonderful job of moderating the discussion. and mark flotow, the author and
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editor of, well, actually the civil war soldiers wrote the letters but you edited it all together, put it into context. in their letters, in their words, illinois civil war soldiers write home. thank you for the presentation today, a wonderful discussion. >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government. we're funded by these television companies and more including mediacom. >> the world changed in an instant but mediacom was ready. internet traffic soared and we never slowed down. schools and businesses went vuch wale and we powered a new reality. >> mediacom supports c-span as a public service along with these other television providers. give you a front row seat to democracy. >> next historian michael shafer looks at the life of thomas
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wallace colley. using journal entries and letters mr. shaffer discusses the experiences in key battles such as the severe wounding in 1863 and the amputation of his left foot a year later. the civil war round table hosted this event. >> thank you, again, for the invitation to speak here in the old dominion home. and i want to take just a couple of seconds to thank two specific groups. i was a lone story short. i was invited to speak at a church in washington county inn july 2016. the church was celebrating their 150th anniversary, and they invited me to come up and talk about what it might have been like trying to start a church in the immedia


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