tv The Civil War Brian Steel Wills George Henry Thomas CSPAN December 22, 2021 10:04am-11:01am EST
saturday at 3:15, coverage of a conference that looks at his legacy. including hi designs for college campuses such as stanford. watch american history tv saturdays on cspan2 and find a full schedule on your program guide or watch online any time at cspan.org slash history. and now more from the recent pamplin
>> non combat deaths in the american civil war. i'm very pleased to introduce dr. brian steel wills. >> well always good to be back and especially to see the people that i've done a lot of events with through the years, one way or the other. it is also good to see some of the folks that i'm meeting for the first time. so i'm glad that those of you who, this is first time for you. that's wonderful. now next year you can raise your hand when they say who's been here more than one year.
i've been here a number of years. and i was looking -- i didn't realize that's what the dots are for. and the good news is i haven't gotten it where it has to go back to the back side of the things yet. which is good because one shouldn't show one's back side in the south too much. one of the things my wife and i had a beach house at the holden beach and we really loved being there and we decided that that's an awful long way to go and we decided to end up selling it. and we kind of hit the market at just the right time. so we did okay. so i'm feeling pretty good about that. but one of the things kind of made me a little nervous about being at holden beach is that i don't really like to lay out on the sand. and i like to go in the water. and at least wade and jump into the waves a little bit. my wife says that i look like a dolphin or something jumping in. and i'm glad i don't look like what i thought she was going to say. you know, he looks more like a
beached whale there. and, anyway, one time the wave did knock me down. i had trouble getting back up. i thought uh-oh i better curtail these activities a little bit or i may not have them again in the future. and fortunately a strange woman came and helped me back up and it was not my wife. and i went back to her and said well i saw and i said why didn't you come down and try to help me out? i saw she was going to do it. i thought you would like that better. so there you go. i mean, i don't know what that all means. i really enjoyed the talks today. they were very very instructive and interesting. and i learned something. i've written notes down for everyone. and i appreciate that. i'm not going into the 30 minute diskwisition like will green.
one of the blessings i guess is that i'm here and not watching the kentucky game so i don't have to worry about that because kentucky may beat my dogs. the bad news about putting that in on tv now is in january or february they won't know what i'm talking, which is okay. they don't have know. i'm the director of the civil war center. i have some brochures in the back. we have a -- so we're going talk a little about george thomas today. and wills already had a laugh. . he said the man beneath the rock it's got to be a big rock for tomas and it would be but of
course the reason i picked that is that because that's his nickname or at least one of them, the rock of chick maulg. so that's kind of how a lot of people again when you sort of say the names, i thought the talk today and you talk about lincoln and lee and grant and you start thinking about what are the immediate images, if people know thomas at all, that is what they know. if they don't know tomas at all. they may know that. but they know at least that much. and by the way i think the students or young people don't know much about history, i wouldn't really blame them. i don't think they are trying to hide anything or obfuscate or spin or anything else. they just have loot other things on their minds. have a grandson already knows more about everything else i've ever known in my life. grandpa that's not how it's done -- i get that lecture every day. he loves a ring device. i don't mean to sell anything.
i hope that's not going to mean marketing problems for cspan. but e loves that sort of things. and he's always explaining it to me. he has at least six different jobs already. he's incredible. including a consultant for ballot health which is our health group in the region and he does all kind of things, from deliveries to you name it it's been ups, he's been everything. but, you know, i'm lucky to kind of be where i am and be aboveground and i kind of consider that a win every day and so i'm gonna say that if people don't know the rock of chickamauga, i'll get by. i'll survive but at least i try to explain some of who these people are to my students and get them to be at least a little bit aware of folks that live in the past. but getting back to my point before i lose my train of thought, if you're 16, 17, 18
years old or whatever, you got a million things on your mind and you can think about what you were like. and look, i was a history nut. so i was one of those people who was already reading history books at very young age but lot of people don't do that. and then when you are in your 20s, you are trying to start a life and a career and you are too busy doing things like that. you get in your 30s, now you are trying to get promoted. you got other issues, kids starting to grow up. you get this your 40s. you see where i'm going with this? it is really not until you are in your 50s and maybe even 60 that is you finally have some time to sit back and relax and learn and grow and enjoy. so if part of the problem seems to be that when you talk to people they don't know anything or seem to have any appreciation for history, just give'em time. they will get to it. problem is you and i will be gone. but that's all right. we'll be in a better place being happy up there. and by the way, you know, we talked about controversial figures. and nathan befrd forest is one i
wrote about. and he was saved at the end of his life. which means that whether you like him or not on earth. it doesn't matter. he's gonna there and. you are and going to have to deal with it. and it is okay. because we can be saved as by grace. okay. back to the rock of chickamauga. of course the other name that he's probably as well known is old slow trot. and i just picked different images of this. if you want to talk about maybe the most nick named general. he's a candidate. he gets up there. some would call hip pop thomas and this and that. he gets all kind of names. but rock of chickamauga or slow trot are the two names that seem to be the things that pop up the quickest. so as a biographer one of the things i wanted to do was get past that. what does the surface tell us but then what do we learn about
that individual as we get deeper into their personality? i grew up in old nancyman county which is suffolk now and next to southampton which is close to sussexicious and in shampt county you have got two generals that are important and maybe more but at least two. george thomas and william ma hone. and thomas does have a home place that is still there. you can actually go there and see home place. it is private. so don't be crazy about it but i'm sure they are used to at least one or two people. the room that he was born is now a half bathroom. i don't know what that says about him. i realize as historians we can begin to parse that and interpret that. what could that mean? it means they wanted a half bathroom. do you get that idea that in
history most of the time it is not as much as we make it out to be. i'm just saying. the problem is they won't buy our box if we don't make it out to be something special and different and unique. and new, whatever new means. do they realize that anybody 10 years older than the book that came out don't remember it anyway? so it is new to those people. and to some of us, i hate to say in our mental phases like mine. it is new tomorrow. how do you remember, what was your -- oh never mind. so you see my point. old slow trot. i wanted to get beneath this line of these immediate markers that identify. as a biographer i really enjoy that piece of history. there are all kinds of types of history. biography is fun to me because you get into that person and that individual. now, we know that grady mckinney once say i don't want to write about brag anymore because i don't want to live with him.
and understand. i would suggest you not write about them. write at about the people that you're kind of engaged with. because you are going to spend some time with'em. you are going to spend time digging through and reading everything. and at the end of the day you are going to learn a lot about them. by the way my next book is not going to be a civil war book per se. it is going to be very different. called running the race, the public face of charlton heston. and i'm telling you it is the most interesting book i've ever written. i love it. it is going to be good. and i'm really looking forward to it. it is sort of set up like his life and sort of ben hur type stories like a race. my wife and i go to keeneland a lot and we love to go up and watch the horse races. well this is kind of like that. and it is designed to try to look at him as he both sets himself, develops himself but then reinvents himself, finds a
new audience. you know it is amazing that moses and ben hur can end up being on the planet of the apes. it is amazing. em but that was not on purpose. all right. so biography lets me get underneath these sort of surfaces and lets me learn about this person. i actually think i figured thomas out pretty well. i have a real good understanding of william dorsey pinder, another fella i wrote about. i think i know nathan bedford forest. the people i've spent time looking at i feel like i've got on the know them. here are roots in shampt county for george thomas and you can see the markers there and there is looks like a cemetery style
and you will notice he's born july 31, 116. by the time of the war he's mature. he's moved along in life. and we'll talk about some of the things that make him who he is. some of the character traits and elements that define him or help us understand them. one is his service in mexico. we were talking about doing a book that talks of craig seems and i were talk about doing people in mexico and chapters on that for a book. and thomas was in mexico. service there. and in virginia it is booun vista.uena vista. . and lafayette not lafayette and monochel not monticello.
i guess better than being in versailles than in versailles. and he begins to make his name and one of the things he's famous for is standing his ground. holding his ground. as he will say later on i saved my section of brags. and that is artily and at booun vooesuena vista by being a little slow. they think rock. they think solid. you can see the terms that are used for him. and they don't let you understand that underneath there simmers a lot more than that. and sometimes it is held back. it is held in. one of the problems is he's not going to live to a ripe old age. and i think in part because he
internalized a lot. and if you internalize a lot there are things thash going happen to you that will be adverse to your health down the line because eventually that will play out one way or the other. when i was at the university of richmond, i saw another richmond spider his license plate. yeah, i loved being there. i really did. farm boy from suffolk with every baptist scholarship you could have because i was still baptist schooled a little bit and i went to ur and i had a great time. but also there are a lot of stresses and strains and i know at one point i had an ulcer. and i just decided i'm not gonna do that. i'm not gonna let these things build up in me and i've never been that quiet ever since. now, that isn't where i turned in personality. i turned in personality in high school. when i went from an introvert to class president because i -- actually school president. i'm sorry. because i decided i wasn't going to his anymore. i was missing so much because i
would internalize and go home and not do things. thomas is that way. i think part of the reason i connected to thomas, he's very quiet person in his own way. he tries to do his duty. he tries to do it to the fullest possible. but he doesn't seem applaud its. i think you will see that here in a minute where he doesn't really cultivate trying to get rewards and trying to get thanks and appreciation for everything he does. he wants it. i was more like the magnificent 12 or 15. you know, stick around i might
be the magnificent 2 or 3 by the time you are at number 735 and you can -- woes a been here 735 -- me okay. well there you go. they will truck dr. wills out. he'll be in a chair by then. comatose but i'll give you a talk for at least a minute or two. and by the way, i got the tell you this before we go. he was going to get from his neighbors in southampton county the elements you see at the bottom of the screen. so he's going to get all this fancy engraved material and it was going to be given to him but he had to give a speech. and that mortified him. sword's one thing. but speech? no. don't need to be giving speeches and later on we'll talk about that too a little more. but his neighbors very proud of his service and wanted him to know and he was proud of it. he just didn't want to give a speech about it. i love this is one of my favorite quotes very few know or remember because it comes at a
different spot in the book. i couldn't tell you where it is. but i said the thomas humor pre war. and you will notice as the south carolina girls flirt very charmingly, you notice he's interested in flirting with them or having them flirt with them but he says when matters become serious they give a very decided practical illustration of the domestic policy of their state of south carolina by nullifying instantly. full fieing instantly. i think i connect that that. al i really do. when i was in high school, like i would try to figure out. if you ask this girl to go out. especially the little cheerleader will she say yes or laugh in your face and i was always worried she'd laugh in my face so i needed somebody like will green by me that has that natural charisma and energy. that would tract the women and then at least i'd get the friend. but you know will green is just a charming young man. i'm not going to talk about the rest because their wives are present but anyway.
i've always said about craig simons. i hope one day i'm as handsome as he is. that's all i'm gonna say about that. i love that picture. i've got throw a movie in there because i love movies and wrote about the movies and there is scarlet o'hara. oh, do you think that's who afraid of? look at that beautiful picture thereof a terrifying john c. calhoun. when you talk about nullification, that may have been what thomas had in mind. if they full fied i will look like that or they will look like that or something will look like that. thomas will see service in a wide range of areas. we do not have time to go into all of that but part of that too mostly dining courts martial in texas and other things with robert e lee. but i think this quote is telling and i realize some people are going to say dr. i can read quotes but i tried to put the lettering large and em
bold. but it saysky not leave something sure to get out of order. now think about someone who is now obsessing with making sure things are done and realizing that if you are the author of responsibility, that is going to fall on you. so you really can't leave because if you do, it always seems when i leave that something goes wrong. and that is thomas. this obsession with doing it in full detail, doing it completely but also making sure it gets done. and this obsession that if you are not there to do it, you know, you are going to -- may pa i a price. so i had to stick by and attend everything or else affairs went wrong. i put the little train in the bottom because another thing that people, i love the comment this morning, or earlier where it says that robert e lee was human. i've got lot of thoughts about robert e. lee which i will not sure with you today. i may write a book one day robert e lee is not wrong.
and everybody may they that o they know what it means. everything he had to do he had a reason for doing it. may not have worked. may not have been successful. may not have been the best choice but he had a reason. he didn't just do it because he felt like it. he did it because it made sense. we lead a lot of folks and sometimes just a simple explanation for it as i thought that that would work. i teach, why did sherman attack there? because if you punch your way through you can end the campaign quicker. and by the way with grant, his boss and friend, bogged down in virginia. he punches through, he looks successful when the other guy isn't. isn't that fun? when you can rub it if their face, i got this done. are what are you still doing up there? god knows probably sending some cavalry down to hicksford -- whatever group the place that was. but you know what i mean. now, i will say.
this i heard joan baez on tv, on the radio rather. and she says when so much cavalry came. poor george stoneman can't catch a break. she couldn't figure out what the heck he was. no that's not what the original say bus that's all right. somebody from canada asked me at the ses question centennial what that all meant. thomas eventually comes back's. and as he's stepping off the train he steps on to what he thinks is solid green only to tumble down a very long embankment. he wrenches his back. if you have ever hurt your back or your feet, everything hurts. because if you back hurts especially you can't lay, you can't sit, you can't stand. i'm not sure what other things
count you. you can't do anything. and he was seriously looking at whether he might have his active military career tom to a close because of that accident. and so a man who's already kind of got a reputation for being methodical and slow, boy, he's physically got a reason to be methodical and slow now. and he actually looked for a while like he might have to find another line. he taught artillery and other things at west point. maybe if he can teach something like that the vmi or somewhere else he can at least get a check. paycheck. get something to do. so he's pondering other possibilities when the situation continues to go, to deteriorate and go downhill. i hate to use that since he's just fallen. i don't want to hit time twice but at any rate. you know, he's trying to figure out what to do in case his active career is over. and his active career is not over. he's going to be okay but he's not real sure. so there are lot of people that spectacular, well thomas really wanted to be confederate or
really pro southern or whatever. and he's born in virginia so if there is a national crisis and it turns into hostilities, will his loyalty be good and even maybe more importantly will he be enthusiastic. so we'll talk a little bit about that as well. but that train zenit, you know, really tyke him for a while as the nation continued toaccident know, really tyke him for a while as the nation continued to unravel. then with the breakup of the unit the question is which loyalty will he have? to the commonwealth of virginia or certainly ample individual who is those that. the t word gets thrown around really easy and a book about robert e lee where that's prominent. traitor. traitor. that doesn't get us very far. when you say that, you have already shut a lot of doors because what else does someone want to read when you throw that line out right away that someone
a traitor. and what do you think some people said about thomas. if he stays with the union and he was from virginia and you feel like he should have gone with the confederacy and he doesn't, he is a traitor. well f we start throwing the t word around we'll be busy all the time just throwing that word out and so forth. but look what francis thomas, his wife, will say. he met her at west point when he was instructing and robert e lee for a period of time. superintendent. so they had that connection. but she says there never was a word passed between general thomas -- i think it is interesting when your wife calls you by your title. but i do think they had genuine affection for each other. they just were formally affectionate, i guess. so if they were having a malted together they would be careful ant the straws. one has to be careful. but anyway. never a word passed between general thomas and myself upon
any of the family. no pressure on him. upon the subject of his remaining loyalty to the united states government. we felt that whatever his course it would be from a conscientious sense of duty. she did know her hulz and he did have a conscientious suns of duty. that no one could persuade him to do what he felt was not right. and another line that's not really here. but just the same idea. the general would always know what he should do. now, if your wife tells you you should always know what you will do. you know what you are going to do. if you want to stay married and stay with her at the house. i'm just is a iing. and i said house. i didn't say house. i'm from eastern virginia, suffix. but i love this next quote here. there is lot of debate even within the ranks about you know what we should do and when we should do it and how we do it and he will say at one point to questioning subordinate, seems to me sir you are fighting on
the wrong side. you are in a uniform, you need to behave as if you are in that uniform. if you decide to get out of that uniform, that is a different issue. while you are in that uniform you need to get your mind right. and eventually his mind is where he says himself, i've thought it over on all sides. i've thought about this thing. and i've decided that i shall stand firm in the service of the government. so he's going to stay with the united states government and the union. downing thomas, i kind of played off that term because it is fun. robert anderson, from fort sumter will speak on his behalf. sherman said he spoke on his behalf. in fact he puts in if you want to do memoirs if you wondered any happened or not that's sherman memoir but that's okay. we'll throw it in here. trudeau would have different label, he would be the fourth label. the first trusted and down. this o would be fourth. we ain't trusting it but it's
there. you know. but anyway, he supposedly confronts thomas. didn't confront him. sees him, talks with him and he says what are you going to do? are you going to go south and he says yes i'm going south. and he says oh my god tom. you got me in trouble. i've spoken out on your behalf but i'm going south at the head of my troops. i don't know they actually ever had that conversation but it was thomas and sherman that did have relationship that went back to west point. and no one could probably have been a more indicative case of someone who was both best and worst at the same time as a friend because thomas and sherman could be very close. and sherman could say very nice things about him. in fact the title of my book really kind of ties into a sherman quote that thomas was as true as steel. but then he had also said, but he is slow. so he never seemed to saying?
nice he doesn't say something not so nice. kind of the sherman/thomas relationship. very interesting. and we heard about oath taking you know what constitutes whether i should take an oath or not. suzanna did a good job of that. but thomas says i don't care. if you want me to take the oath every day before breaking news and, or each meal, let me know and i'll take it and we can move on from there. i'm not going to question about that. president lincoln even is still waiting him out. too many examples of people that do have a southern connection that have been problematic one way or the other. now i'll do this very quickly because this is just one of those fascinating character moments on one part of this engagement. the battle of middle springs takes place in which thomas is going to confront a force in the field is led by felix
zolacoffer, and i love that name zolacoffer. but that fight which is on a very wet and kind of misty morning and the men, a lot of'em are using old flint lock weapons and so forth. it is not, you know, it is early in the war. and ammunition getting damp and wet's problematic. there will be several bayonet attacks this which sort of neutralize the need to fire anything when you can fight by bayonet. but, and unfortunately for zolacoffer he rides into the union lines by accident. and then starts ordering the federals to stop firing, that they are firing into their friends, and they do. and until an aid comes up and says general, those are the enemy. now, if you are going to do that, i would strongly suggest you do it a little more quietly. go up and say general, we got to get the heck out of hear. right? but no. he yells it out and then worse
he shoots the horse of the union officer in front of him who is speed frye from lexington, kentucky. back in those days we couldn't love kentucky basketball. they dang sure loved kentucky horses. the bullet hit his horse. it probably couldn't have been worse because you hit a kentuckian horse, we got problems. and so frye and the men fire back and zolacoffer is killed. why didn't they know who i zolacoffer rus? he was wearing a raincoat and couldn't see his uniform. and he sounded like officer. so what the heck. when officer says stop shooting you stop shooting. quite a number of instance of friendly fire and that's common thing that can happen. uniform confusion everything and else. this quote actually comes from at the end of that long day of fighting, thomas is closing in on beach grove which is a fortified camp.
earth worked but it is fortified. and he's trying to bring everything up and get in position. remember i told you he's detail oriented. a grant, a sherman or forest would have probably kept pushing till they pushed him in the river. that is the difference. i pushed all day long we need to replace losses and fresh ammunition, get an order. get swatd, bring up some artillery. they are in a fortified earth work position. they have a swollen river behind. not much way to get out. at least that's the thought d if you ever studied horseshoe bend you kind of understand you get your back to a river, it could be bad. but you get my point. so thomas holes up and during the night the little steam boat "noble ellis" ferry these men over ship load by ship load until they are all gone or essentially all gone.
may have been a few stragglers and wounded or what not. be thank you bulk of the army is gone. and by the way it disintegrates. they all scatter and go home, or go away of they may come back later but they go away and so it is a very decisive victory. the problem is that thomas had in mind i'm going come in the next morning say i've got you bottled up. there is nowhere to go. you need to surrender. and if they had surrendered, imagine who would be unconditional surrender. not grant. but thomas. look at the january versus february. so interesting enough, thomas had a moment that could have captured headlines. of course he's not a headline grabber. that's part of his problem. but any any rate, he comes up and the enemy is gone. the troops are gone. the confederates have gotten away. and the same speed frye who had his horse shot out from under him and got mad said general why did you finish'em off last night. and i have love it. i've already told you some of the reasons why that would have
been hard to do. and thomas was maybe smart to make sure that you regroup before you take that final blow, whatever that blow will be. but he was so busy getting set up, he said hang it, frye, i never once thought of it. i think that's really very telling about it. first of all he didn't have to admit that. second of all, it does tell you that his mind was so much on getting prepared that he didn't think if i don't strike now i miss a shot. i miss an opportunity. so again if you want to look at faults of people, that's certainly both good and bad. good in character to be honest and transparent and all of those good things and yet someone who missed an opportunity that someone else may not. now, in the kentucky campaign of course we know from brag moving into the kentucky that william rose krantz will be put in command when booul gets removed and don carlson boule is
supposed to be removed in the course of that campaign. and when they are looking for someone to do that tay turn to thomas and thomas refuses. thomas says, you know, i don't want to take a command in the middle -- i don't want to take over command in middle of a campaign i didn't design with an army that i didn't get prepared. cnn this is not my fair to me. it is not fair to them. it is not fair to anybody. it is not fair to booul. so things are allowed to play out at least a little bit. after all we'll have periville which will help turn things around a little bit. and the president of the united states famous line is let the virginian wait. we will try thomas. but let the virginia wait. thomas is upset. now there is a slew of communications try to straighten all this out but thomas is upset. and later on he says everybody thinks i'm modest and self
effacing. i'm not as modest everybody thinks i am is but i a made my case and this is the outcome of it. and we'll stick with that. and one of many i favorite lines here. i've made my last protest while the war lasts. you may here after put a stick over me if you choose to to so. and i will take care however to so manage my command that whatever that command may be, it will not be involved in the mistakes of the stick. if you are the stick's gonna mess up, it won't bemy fault. and hallic tells thomas you were given opportunity and you declined. hard to turn around andive get to you again. tell you now the campaign is over and we're moving on that we're moving on with you. stubborn in defense. i won't go through the long of this because of our time. and want to make sure i don't run too much over time so we have time for questions. but thomas is noted for defense. you will notice that there is at
least two occasions where that is going to be a hallmark for him, especially as we saw at chickamauga. he will be famous for defense there. but i love this. that he is going to be the one that sort of holds the army together while it regroups and then in a counsel of war when they are trying to figure what to do thomas says two famous things. now again there are some questions and this gets back to to whole historian business again. how how many people have to hear about it for it to be true. how many people have to write about it for it to be true? and ultimately you got to kind of see what makes sense for the circumstance, what fits the personality of the individual. and i think in thomas's case he was kind of dosing. he had tendency when he'd had a long hard day to take --. and he's kind of dosing off a bit but he hears something and wakes up and says something profound and maybe the only people who hear it are on this end of the room because his mic but down. but back in the back they don't hear it so he must have not said
it because they won't say. doesn't matter. if these people heard him at least you can make the argument that me might have said that and it does fit his personality. well what did he say? this army can't retreat. i mean, that's thomas. that is vintage time. this army can't retreat. and no better place to die than here. if we're gonna die, may as well here. we can't retreat. and ultimately of course stones river turns out successful for the federals. all right it is not -- chickamauga, after the breakthrough and everything is gone downhill very fast. it is thomas who holds on against multiple attacks. maybe the argument should be they should have been combined attacks and go around and flanks et cetera, et cetera and there are concerns that at some point there is a force approaching that we're not sure what that force is and that's what there is a famous picture i don't know
if it's on here or not. he's pointing off. he doesn't get many prints by the way. he's not flashy like forest stewart, lee. so he doesn't get many prints. you don't see a lot of george thomas prints running. of course you don't see a lot of prints anymore either. you notice that market has changed dramatically. but anyway so he's actually handing his looking glass over because his horse is a little unsteady. but they always said his horse was like its rider. very calm, very steady. very cool and by the way. thomas supposedly when he got really excited would take his beard and run it up. and when he was calmer would smooth it down. and you say well what you know what -- it's just a tell about his personality. he'd just get all excited and a that is what he would do. that's what his tendency was. i can think a lot of worse tendencies to do. but anyway, the comment is it will ruin the army to withdraw it now. this position must be held until night and the idea being we
can't pull off of this position until the time is right. well, they -- he'd said the same kind of thing at stone river. this army can't retreat. and i do like this emerson quote where he basically says when other people were panicking and free fleeing from the field thomas was steady as a rock. he was solid as a rock. he was standing right there. and you know, thomas i think showed again some of that personality trait of reliability and dependability. and that solidity that would come with him. i like this because it is basically the president of the united states coming around full circle, that he will make to someone disparaging thomas and likening him to weakened, weak generals from other places and he says, you know, you can say what you want to but thomas has earned our respect. thomas has proven himself, that there are no more suspicions about him. no more doubts. and he's done incredible service
at chickamauga. at chattanooga he will briefly be in charge while grant comes over. you will notice i've got rose krantz there. boom. there he goes. see that? i learned how do that. and my five year old grandson had nothing to do with it. i learned that before that sucker was born. now, he ain't getting credit for everything technological. and look who pops in the screen. our buddy ulysses s. grant. thomas and grant have some problems, they claim that part of the thing about thomas and grant is that thomas and grant will fall out because of shiloh.
you know after shiloh grant gets put on the shelf. that is not i think it. if grant wages war in a very different way than thomas and i think that that just didn't mesh. it clashed and i think that is part of the problem. and we won't go through all this if you have questions we'll ask but ultimately it's thomas think troops who first set the table and finish off the siege of chattanooga at missionary ridge. sherman's wheel horse. i goed do this only because i was old ar till risk at perg and i promise to finish quicklypete finish quickly. i think what he was trying to say is the horse that was one of the two horses that matters most to me, the wheel horse, they are o the only ones with the brakes.
they are important. big strong, strapping horses. you can put anything in the lead horse. you can probably even put john koski in a lead horse. you'll be all right. i'm just teasing. john a good friend. i look forward to his talk to. but he could be a lead horse you see because he's just going to leland us along and he's not really all that heavy lifting. the swing pair, they are just a total waste. i'm not going pick anybody out because that would be sad. but the wheel pair are very significant. and yet they are important but you can't control it. somehow that's not the horse you are going to ride. and for thomas that really was that way. i love that picture of sherman. if we weren't on tv, i probably couldn't say this but he does look like he's unsavory if that picture. doesn't he. he looks unsavory. i actually have a different line but i won't do that. but he's unsavory. so at the nashville campaign
which is thomas's last major campaign. he almost gets relieved twice actually. and grant's actually on his way once to replace him specifically. and thomas is partly the product of, again, grant's impatience. grant's desire to have a lightning bolt strike that will finish off john bell hood and relieve any potential somehow something bad could happen at nashville in 191864. there eats been an ice storm. again all kinds of problems that thomas had to overcome cobbling together including bringing in andrew jackson smith's troops from abroad. out in the mississippi or that general area. and again, thomas has got a lot of to doen his plate and he's not going to strike before his ready because he knows the worst thing you can do is launch a blow that isn't successful. when it comes its got to go come and its got to be overwhomming and he's got get the job done
and back to the point, thomas is known as the defensive general. zolacoffer could tell you different but he died. john bell hood could tell you different because he's about to get smashed. he's about to get another one of those things, the sledge of nashville, to hammer him. make it sounds like a wrestler, doesn't it? but i -- one of the things that thomas had complained to wilson was that, you know, they treat me like a child. and they don't think i'm capable of doing a campaign and when he sees wilson later on after the success of pushing back the confederates at least a bit and then finishing them off, he says dang it to hell, wilson, didn't i tell you we'd lick'em? and that is other tell for thomas. when he repeated something he was really excited. so he gets a promotion because of this victory. and remember the old army when you are trying to get regular promotions, that would mean
something after the war is over. he is happy i'm sure to get it but he also is not happy because in lot of ways he says i actually earned this earlier. i earned this at chickamauga, not hoar at the nashville. i'll take it, i won't turn it back, but i'll take it. thomas is at rest. i know we talked about -- we talked about going to cemeteries, wayne and i did. wayne and i both like cemeteries, don't we, wayne? there's thomas' -- before it was power washed and some other things but there he is. he's not buried in virginia, he's buried in new york, troy, new york, with his wife's family. so again, it gives you some sense of her influence. he dies on march 28th, 1870, so he doesn't live that long after the war. and he dies basically of an apoplectic attack, a heart attack or stroke or something, because it comes on him in a hurry and he's gone by the end of the day, it's pretty bad.
i'm not a doctor so i won't try to say exactly what it was. he was reading something about nashville where john schofield was taking credit for everything and it upset him so much that it killed him, all that stuff being internalized, it killed him. we'll talk more about that later. that's one reason i'm not a fan of schofield. if you're a big fan of schofield, god bless you, he needs all the help he can get. how do you love kirkpatrick unless you're anderson cooper? do you know what i said that? they're kin, they go back in line to kilpatrick. cooper is so much better. the general said, haven't seen my wife in 3 1/2 years and the fellow said, general, me and my woman ain't that kind. and they said that thomas just cracked up laughing, which is not common for him.
this soldier actually got him totally goof awing, as you might say. his records after the war was over, he wanted to transfer a guy out of his command because the guy was listed as a musician and he said he must have possibly been mistaken for a sister of the same name who could play an instrument. apparently that hannah could not play a musical instrument. hard to be a musician if you can't play an instrument. and then he went after -- when he went to the west, to the coast, was actually stationed in san francisco at the presidio, he ends up on a wide-ranging inspection tour all the way through the northwest into alaska. by the way, he predicted that alaska was a total waste of space and it wasn't anything but seals or anything like that that would be useful coming out of that, so he didn't see that. in the thousands of miles he went, he still had sensitivity, because he said, i did pretty
fast traveling for a slow man, the old slow trot. finally, that temper. sherman would say he's not as imperturbable as the world things. in kentucky, when they're trying to start the war and get settled, he starts in the eastern theater, one engagement, falling waters, in that area, then he comes out to kentucky, in the western theater, they call on him to make a speech at camp nelson or one of the camps, i can't think of it off the top of my head, but anyway, he is called out to make a speech, and he says, i'm not going to come it, damn the speechmaking. he didn't usually say bad words but that's the word he chooses if he does. he says, why does anybody want to speak, why doesn't anybody want to talk, we're here to make soldiers, we're here to get the job done. finally, he saw somebody abusing the animals and he says, go home, sir, by the next train, you may do well to feed cattle
but you're not going to feed my soldiers, you're not going to be here abusing the soldiers and abusing the animals is not going to work. and i guess my favorite is this postwar comment where a southerner ignores him for a considerable period of time and then decides that his neighbor, george henry thomas, might be worth getting to be nicer to. and he goes up and tries to make pleasantries with him and he said, too late, too late, sir. remember i said, he repeats himself if he gets excited. too late, too late, sir, you have sinned away your day of grace. well, i hope i haven't sinned away my day of grace with you. and that's going to do it for george henry thomas. [ applause ] i'll leave that up there for a minute so you can see, he did really feel like that history would ultimately do him justice. i'll leave it to you whether that actually happened. he was actually cast on a medal,
there is a statue at thomas circle in washington. there are portraits made, his face on some money too in fact. thomas is an interesting character. by the way, my set of books, that's my picture with thomas' -- we're looking at each other at fort benning, georgia. and these are my books. okay. questions. do we have any questions about george henry thomas or the biography or anything else? petersburg battlefield bulldogs. i talked to will a lot on base to distract him. yes. >> so you show george thomas' monument in washington, dc. he also has a very obscure monument in lebanon, kentucky. >> that's right. >> is it time for him to have a monument here in virginia? >> there are some arguments that
that might be a way to get the war back on monument avenue. i went to the university of richmond and i used to go down monument avenue a lot. now i guess it's monument-less avenue. but there are some places that might hold. he was a virginian and a prominant figure so who knows if there's enough money to bring that to life. i don't know. i had a question up here. >> you talked about internalizing issues. can you talk a little bit about internalizing the animosity that his family held for him because he stayed with the union? >> the question is about the animosity that his family held. his sisters really would not even, quote, speak his name, although they did give a brief -- answered some questions about his early raising. it was always considered important to see how you were raised as a child, that would give you indications of what you'll be later on in life.
his brothers were less -- his one brother especially, the one in vicksburg, i should say, was the one who is probably the most realistic. he says, i don't think that george had a choice to do other than what he did. but supposedly, the sisters were so angry that they turned the portrait of thomas to the wall and did other things to show their displeasure. i've never actually been in the house, i've just been to the house. i know about the bathroom, i've never actually seen the bathroom or used the bathroom. but -- so i can't swear there's a picture there turned backwards, i can't swear that's true, but that was one of the famous stories about it. and i know that bothered him, you know it had to tear him up because he had to feel like his family was important to him, and it was. he's a middle child. does everybody understand what a middle child is? you're a negotiator. you're trying to take that brat of the first born, which i was, by the way, so i can say that,
or you take that sweet little angel of the last born, and you somehow try to hold everybody together of these two extremes because you have to placate. that was part of his personality too, he learned how to placate. by the way, he was there when the nat turner rebellion took place. he actually fled. courtland was called jerusalem, if you go today you won't see jerusalem, you'll see courtland. the family had slaves. here is a future union general whose family had slaves. and he supposedly snuck out reading materials for them to see and use. and of course whether he actually did or not or that just sounds really good for him to have done anyway, you know, on paper, that is at least one of the things. now, i do know one historian, one biographer who sort of looked at nashville as a great moment of epiphany for george
thomas when he realizes james s-t-e-d-t, stedtman, will crush the confederate line or take place. and he says, this proves it, those men will fight. some people read into that, finally he recognizes that african americans will fight. what he always did, he did this from the earliest days in kentucky, when he was trying to train kentucky farm boys to be soldiers, he's going to try to train you but you got to prove yourself. and you prove yourself in battle. and if you can prove yourself in battle, he doesn't care who you are, you're going to be his people. and by the way, his position always was, i did not do anything, my army made me. it was very impressive too, he never really said it was because of me, all of these good things
or these achievements took place, it's because my army did this, my army made me. other questions? all right. i've worn you out after all that have good food and the cookies and things. thank you again for having me, i really enjoyed it. thank you very much. [ applause ] weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday, american history tv documents america's sunday. and on sundays, book tv brings you the latest on nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies, including comcast. >> do you think this is just a community center? no, it's way more than that. >> comcast is partnering with a thousand community centers to create wi-fi so students can be ready for anything. >> comcast along with