tv The Civil War Brian Steel Wills George Henry Thomas CSPAN December 22, 2021 4:37pm-5:35pm EST
documentary using c-span video clips that answer the question, how does the federal government impact your life. >> be passionate about what you're discussing to express your view no matter how large or small you think the audience will receive it to be. and know that in the greatest country in the history of the earth, your view does matter. >> and to all of the filmmakers out there, remember the content is king. and just to remember to be as neutral and impartial as possible in your portrayal of both sides of an issue. >> c-span awards $100,000 in total cash prizes and you have a shot at winning the grand prize of $5,000. entries must be received before january 20th, 2022. for competition rules, tutorials or just how to get started, visit our website at studentcam.org. and now more from the recent pamplin historical park civil
war symposium. >> i'm so very happy to introduce one ever our favorite people. dr. brian steel wills. the steel is interesting. you always put the steel in there. is it like man of steel type of think. >> mother's maiden name. >> mother's maiden name, okay. is the director for the center of the civil war area and from kennesaw state university in kennesaw, georgia. in addition to all of the things that he does, he leads tours, offers lectures and conducts programs, dr. wills is an author of numerous works. they're all good. related to the civil war, including the civil war in virginia. and in the movies. his newest book in glorious package, we are selling, and i highly recommend because it is amazing how many ways somebody could die in a war, okay. noncombat deaths in the american civil war. i'm very pleased to introduce dr. brian steel wills.
[ applause ] >> well it is always good to be back and specially 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 are -- this is first time for you, that is wonderful. now next year you could raise your hand when they say who has been here more than one year. i've been here a number of years. i was looking and i didn't realize that was what the dots were for and i haven't gotten if where it has to go back to the back side of the thing yet. which is good. because one shouldn't show ones backside in the south too much. but one of the things that my wife and i had a beach at the hole beach and we love being there and we decided that that is 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 this. but one of the things that kind of made me a little nervous about being at holden beach is that i don't really like to lay out on the and and i like to go in the water. and at least wade and jump into the waves a little bit. my wife said that i like like a dolphin jumping in and i'm glad i don't look like what i thought she was going to say. he looks more beached whale there. any way. one time the wave did knock me down. i had trouble getting back up and so i thought, oh, no, 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 pull me back up and it was not my wife. and i went back to her and she said well i saw that and i said well why didn't you come down and try to help me out. i said, i saw she was going to do it, i thought you would like that better.
so there you go. i don't know what that all means. i really enjoyed the talks today. they were very instructive and interesting. i learned something. i've written notes down for everyone and i appreciate that. i'm not going into the 30-minute disposition of about will green. i hope you don't mind, will. my afaction for you is endless and he and i do go back just like carmichael to softball days. but i was not on his team or on carmichael's team, i was on the petersburg battlefield bulldogs anddy not yet know i was going to go to georgia so i did not understand how significant that was going to be. that i was a bulldog that early. and one of the blessings i guess is that i'm not 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 on tfr now is that in january or february, they won't know what i'm talking about. which is okay. they don't have to know.
i am the director of a civil war center. i have some brochures in the back. please pick one up at your convenience. we have what we call a kennesaw core and we're welcome to try to get you to join because that means we could continue to do what we're doing. and i don't know if i just turn that on or off. oh, good. i turned it on. so we're going to talk a little bit about george thomas today and will had a laugh, said the man beneath the rock. that has to be a big rock for thomas. and it would be. but of course the reason i picked that is because that is his nickname, or at least one of them. the rock of chickamauga. so that is kind of how a lot of people, 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 thomas at all, they may not know that. but they know at least that much. and by the way, i think if students or young people don't know much about history, i wouldn't blame them. i don't think they're trying to
hide anything or obfuscate or spin. they have a lot of other things on their minds. i have a 5-year-old grandson who already knows more about everything else than i do in my entire life and i'm over 60, so in five years he's become a genius because he knows more about grandpa, that is not how it is done. grandpa, i guess that lecture. he loves a ring device and i don't mean to sell anything, i hope that is not going to mean marketing problems for c-span, but he loves that sort of thing. and he's always explaining it to me. he has at least six different jobs already. he's incredible. including a consultants for ballad health which is our health group in the region and he does all kinds of things from deliveries to you name it. he's been ups, he's been everything. so i could touch on a lot of things that somebody will have to bleep later on because they don't have licensing approval.
but i'm lucky to kind of be where i am. and be above ground and i kind of consider that a win every day. and so i'm going to say that if people don't know the rock of chickamauga, i tried to explain to my students and get them aware of folks that live in the past. but getting back to my point before i lose my train of thought, if you are 16, 17, 18 years old or whatever, and you have a million things on your mind and you could think about what you were like and, look, i was a history nut so i was already reading history books at a young age but a lot of people don't i do that. and when you are in your 20s, you're trying to start a life and career and you get in your 30s now your trying to get promote and you have other issues, the kids are starting to grow up and you get in your 40s and you see where i'm going with this. it is not until your in your 50s and maybe even 60s that 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 them time. they'll get to it. the problem is you and i will gone but that is all. that is all right. we'll be in a better place, being happy up there. and by the way, we talk about controversial figures, nathan bedford forest is another one that 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 going to be there and you have to deal with it. so if you don't like nathan bedford forest, you'll have to get over it. there won't be anything to tear down or move because he's going to be there and it is okay because we could be saved as by grace. okay, back to the rock of chickamauga. the other name that he's probably is well-known by most folks is old slow trot. and i just picked different images of this.
if you want to talk about maybe the most nicknamed general, this is -- he's a candidate. he gets up there. some people could call him pat thomas and this and that. so he gets all kinds of different 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 biographer, one of the things i waned to do was to get past that. what does that surface tell us but then what do we learn about that individual as we get deeper into her personality. i grew up in old nancy count and it is suffolk and close to sussex and in southampton county you have two generals that are important, and maybe more but at least two. george thomas and william mahome. and they still have a homeplace that is there so you could go there and see the homeplace. it is private so i won't try to be too crazy but i'm sure they're used to one or two
people stopping and taking history of the times and markers and some of those are going to be -- you'll see at least one of them here in just a minute. the room that he was born in is now a half bathroom. i don't know what that said about him. again, i realize that as historians we could begin to pars that and interpret that, what could that mean? it means they wanted a half bathroom, do you get the 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 books if we don't make it out to be something special and different and unique and new and new, whatever new means. do they realize that anybody ten years older than the book that came out don't remember it any way. so it is new to those people. and to some of us, i hate to say it in our mental phases like mine, it is new tomorrow. so it is new tomorrow. i don't remember. what was your name.
never mind. so you see my point. so old slow trot. i want to get beneath this line of these immediate markers that identify. as biographer, i enjoy that piece of history. there are all kinds of types of history, biography is fun because you get into the person and the individual. now, we know that grady mcwinnie said i don't want to write about brag any more because i don't want to live with him any more. and i understand that. there are people you don't want to liver with. i suggest you note write about them. write about the people that have engaged with because you're going to spend some time with them and digging through and reading everything and at the aebds ever day you're going to learn a lot about them. and by the way, my next book is not going be a civil war book. it is a very different book. it is called "running the race, the public face of charleton heston." and i'm telling you it is most interesting book i've ever written an it is going to be
good. savage batey is going to put it out when the book as rife from china. [ laughter ] and i'm really looking forward to it. it is about the -- set up like his life in sort of ben hur type of stories through a race. my wife and i go to keeneland and watch the horse races. so this is kind of like that. and it is designed to look at him as he both develops himself but reinvents himself, finds a new audience. you know it is amazing that moses and ben hur could end up being on the planet of the aips. it is amazing. but that is not accidental. did he that on purpose and he did that a lot throughout. i won't tell you any more because that is not the talk and i don't want to waste too much more of my time. all right. so biography lets me get underneath these sort of surfaces. lets me learn about this person. i think, i figured thomas out pretty well. i have a real good understand of william dorsey pender, another
fellow i wrote about. i think a know nathan bedford forest so i feel like i've gotten to know them. so here are roots in southampton county for george thomas and you could see the mercks there and there is a -- it looks like a a cemetery-style marker there in the yard. he is not on that. we'll talk about it later why he is not. but his family and his roots are very definitely in southampton county. by the time of the war he's mature. he's moved along in life a good bit. and we're we'll talk a little bit about some of things that make him who he is, some of the character traits or elements that define him or help us understand him. one is his service in mexico. we were talking about doing a book -- craig simens and i were talking about doing books on people in mexico and chapters on that rather for a book.
and thomas was in mexico. he gets two brevets for his service there. i don't know what those virginians were drinking but they're the same thing. by the way in georgia they screw things up all the time. it's lafayette not lafayette. but i guess it's better than being in versailles versus versail. he begins to make his name in artillery. and one of the things he's famous for is standing his ground, holding his ground. and as he will say later on i saved my section of braggs, a
battery at buena vista by being a little slow. he is showing some tenderness there. they think rock, solid. you can see the terms that are used for him, and they don't let you understand it. underneath there simmers a lot more than that, and sometimes it's held back. it's 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 internalizes a lot. and if you internalize a lot there are things going to 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 spotter, his license plate. i loved being there. i really did. i was a farm boy from suffolk with every baptist scholarship you could have. and i went to ur and had a great time, but also there was a lot
of great stresses and strains, and i know at one point i had an ulcer. and i just decided i'm not going to do that. i'm not going to 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 where i went from an introvert to class president -- actually, school president because i decided i wasn't going to miss anymore. i was miss so much because i would internalize and go home and not do things. well, anyway, thomas is that way. i think part of the reason why i connected to thomas, he is very quiet person in his own way, tries to do his duty. he tries to do it to the fullest possible, but he doesn't seek clodit schg. he wants it. he just doesn't want to act like
he wants it. someone tells me you've moved up in historians for me because the top three historians ahead of you died. i said, well, that's good. that's good. and i just said longevity to borrow the phrase from dr. king, longevity has its place. you stick around and eventually you can move up to the magnificent seven. it was probably a few years ago i was more like the magnificent 12 or 15. and by the way, i i've got to tell you this before we go. he was going to get from his neighbors in southampton county, says he's going to get all this fancy engraved car material, and
it was going to be given to him but he had to give a speech. and that mortified him. sword is one thing, but speech, no, we don't need to be giving speeches. and later on we'll talk about that, too, a little bit more. this is one of my favorite quotes very few people know or remember because it comes as a different spot in the book. i couldn't tell you where it is, but i said to thomas humor pre-war, he said you'll notice the south carolina girls flirt very casualty, but he said when matters become serious they give a practical illustration of the domestic policy of their state of south carolina by nullifying instantly. i think i connect to that. i really do. when i was in high school i
tried to figure out if you ask this girl to go out especially the little cheerleader will she say yes or laugh in my face. so i needed someone like will green next to me that had that natural charisma and energy that would attract and at least i'd get the friend. i've always said about craig simons i hope one day i'm as handsome as he is. i've got to throw a movie in there because i love moviesch i wrote about the movies. do you think that's who he's 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 nullify i will look like
that or something will look like that. okay, thomas will see service in a wide range of areas. coo do not have time to go into all of that, but part of that time is mostly during court-martial in texas. i think this quote is telling, and i realize some people are going to say dr. wills i can read quotes. but if you're in the very back you actually may not. i tried to put the lettering in large and bold, now think about someone who's now obsessing with making sure things are done and realizing if you're the officer of responsibility it's going to fall on you. so you really can't leave because if you do it always seem when i leave that something goes wrong. and that's thomas. this obsession with doing it in full detail, doing it completely but also making sure it gets done. and this obsession if you're thought there to do it, you
know, you may pay a price. so i had to stick by and attend to 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 robert e. lee was human. i've got a lot of thoughts about robert e. lee, which i will not share with you today. i may write a book one day called robert e. lee was not wrong, and everybody will think they know what that means. what it actually means is everything he ever did he had a reason for doing it. it may not have worked, may not have been successful, might have been not the best choice, but he had a reason -- but he didn't just do it because he felt like it. he did it because that makes sense. and sometimes it's just as simple an explanation for it and i thought that would work. 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 his way through, he looks like he's successful when the other guy isn't. isn't that kind of fun when you can kind of rub it in their face and say i've got this done, what are you still doing up there? god knows probably sending some cavalry down to whatever group and place that was. but you know what i mean. i will say this. i heard joan baez on the radio the other day and she said when the cavalry came poor george stoneman couldn't catch a break. now, that's not what the original says but that's all right. somebody from canada asked me that what did that mean and i had to tell them and all that stuff. the reason the train is there thomas eventually comes back east. he steps off the train to stretch his legs.
i bet this has never happened to anybody in here. i actually hope not. and as he's stepping off, he steps off onto what he thinks is aul udground only to tumble down a very long the bankment. he wrenches his back. if you've ever hurt your back or your feet, everything hurts, okay? because if your back hurts especially you can't lay, you can't sit, you can't stand. i'm not sure what other things count. you know, you can't do anything. and he was seriously looking at whether he might have his active military career come to a close because of that accident. so a man who's already got a reputation for being methodical and slow, boy, he's physically got a reason to be methodical and slow now. he had taught artillery and other things at it is, maybe he
can at least get a check, a paycheck, get something to do. so he's pondering other possibilities when the situation continues to deteriorate and go downhill. i hate to use that since he's just fallen and i don't want to hit him twice. at any rate he's trying to figure out what to do in case his active career is over. and his active career and not over. he's going to be okay but he's not real sure. so there's a lot of people that speculate thomas really wanted to be confederate or really pro southern orwhatever. will his loyalties be good and even if he's loyal will he be enthusiastic? but that train accident, you know, really took him out for a little while as the nation continued to unravel. so then, of course, with the breakup of the union the question is which loyalty will he have? will he have it to the
commonwealth of virginia? there are certainly ample numbers of individuals who chose it over something else. i'm going to tell you there when you say that you've already shut a lot of doors because what else does someone want to read when you throw that line outright away that someone is a traitor? by the way, what do you think some people said about thomas? if he strays with the union and he was from virginia and you feel like he should have gone with the confederacy and he done, he is a traitor.
she says there never was a word passed between general thomas. i do think they had genuine affection for each other. i'm just saying, you know, one has to be careful. but anyway never a word passed between general thomas and myself between any of the family, no pressure on him upon the subject of his remaining loyalty to the united states government. we felt whatever course would be from a conscientious sense of duty. she did know her husband, and he did have a conscientious sense of duty, that no one could persuade him to do something he felt was not right. this is the same idea, the general would always know what he should do. now, if your wife tells you you should always know what you should do, you know what you're
going to do. if you want to stay married and stay with her at the house, okay. i'm from eastern virginia but i don't say whose. but anyway i love this next quote here. there is a lot of debate even in the ranks about what we should do and when we should do it and how we should do it. and he will say at one point to one of his questioning subordinates he says seems to me, sir, you're fighting on the wrong side. you're in a uniform, you need to behave you're in that uniform. if you decide to get out of that uniform, that's a different issue. but while you're in that uniform you need to get your mind right. and eventually his mind is where he says himself i've thought about it on all sides and i've decided i should stand firm in the service of the government. so he's going to stay with the united states government and the union. doubting thomas i kind of played
off that term because it's fun. robert anderson of course from fort sumpter will speak on his behalf. sherman said he speaks on his behalf. if you're doing memoirs and wondering if anything happened or not that's the sherman memoir. but that's okay, we'll throw it in here. he would be that fourth label. this would be the fourth. bt anyway he supposedly confronts thomas -- he doesn't confront him. he sees him, talks with him and says what are you going to do? are you going to go south, and he says, yes, i'm going south. he says oh, my god, tom, you've got me in trouble. i've spoken out on your behalf. he says i'm going south with my troops. i don't know they actually had that conversation, but it was thomas and sherman that did have
a 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 ties into a sherman quote, thomas was as true as steal, but then he also said but he is slow. so he never seems to say something nice and doesn't say something not so nice. that's kind of the sherman-thomas relationship. it's very interesting. i like thomas will be told when he has to take an oath. we talked about last night about oath taking, what constitutes whether i should take an oath or not. well, thomas says i don't care. if you want me to take the oath every day before breakfast or each meal, let me know and i'll take it. even president lincoln is still
waiting him out. there's been 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 mill springs takes place in which thomas is going to confront a force in the field led by felix, a zealous newspaper editor turned soldier. and i love that name. but in that fight which is on a very wet and kind of misty morning and then the -- a lot are using old flintlock weapons and so forth, it's early in the war and ammunition getting damp and wet is problematic. there'll be several bayonet attacks which will neutralize the need to fire anything when you can fight with a bayonet.
unfortunately, he rides into the union lines by accident and then starts ordering the federals to stop firing, that they're firing into their friends, and they do until an aide comes up and says general, those are the enemy. if you're going to do that, i would strongly suggest you do it a little more quietly. go up and say general, we've got to get the heck out of here. and worse he shoots the horse of the union officer in front of him who was speed fry from lexington, kentucky. now back in those days they couldn't love kentucky basketball, but they dang sure loved kentucky horses. the bullet hit his horse. it probably couldn't have been horse, because you hit a kentuckien's horse, we've got problems. so speed fry and the men fire back and he's killed. he's wearing a ring that covered his uniform, and they couldn't see his uniform, and he sounded
like an officer so what the heck. in my book there are quite a number of incidents of friendly fire, and that's a common thing that could happen, uniform confusion and everything else. this quite actually comes from a -- at the end of that long day of fighting thomas is closing in on beach grove which is a fortified camp and trying to bring everything up and get everything in position. remember i told you he's detail oriented. a grant, sherman or a forest would have kept pushing until they pushed him in the river. that's the difference. thomas says i pushed all day long, we need to replace our losses, we need to get fresh ammunition. we need to get in order, get situated,bri up some artillery. they've got a swollen cumberland river behind so not much way to
get out, at least that's the thought. and if you've ever studied horseshoe bend you kind of understand you get your back to a river, it could be bad if you're creek rivert that case and someone's andrew jackson. but you get my point. thomas holds up. and during the night the little steam boat noble ellis, which there's a marker dedicated to it, will ferry these men over ship load by ship load until they're all gone or essentially all gone. there might have been a few stragglers and what not, but the bulk of the army they all scatter and go away. so it's a very decisive victory. the problem is that thomas had in mind i'm going to come in the next morning, say i've got you bottled up, there's nowhere for you to go, you need to surrender. and if they had surrendered imagine who would be the unconditional surrender, not grant but thomas. look at january versus february.
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 at any rate he comes up and the enemy's gone. the troops are gone. the confederates have gotten away. and that same speed frye who had his horse shot out from under him and got mad comes up and say, general, why didn't you finish him off last night? and thomas was maybe smart to make sure you regroup before you take that final blow, whatever that blow will be. but he was so busy getting setup he said hang it fry and never once thought of it. i think that's really telling. first of all, he didn't have to admit that. second of all, it does tell you his mind was so much on getting prepared he didn't think if i don't strike now i'll miss a shot, i'll miss an opportunity. again, if you want to look at
the faults of people that's certainly good and bad, good in character to be honest and transparent and all those good things. and yet someone who has missed an opportunity that someone else may not. now, in the kentucky campaign of course we know from bragg moving into kentucky that william stark rosekranz will end up being put into command when bueller gets removed. they turn to thomas and thomas refuses. thomas says i don't want to take over command in the middle of a command that i didn't design with an army i didn't get prepared. you know, this is not fair to me, not fair to them, not fair to anybody. but when time comes to consider
what should happen the move is then moved to william stark rosekranz and not george henry thomas, and the president of the united states the famous line is let the virginian wait. thomas is upset. now, there's a slew of communications that try to straighten all this out, but thomas is upset. and later on he says everybody thinks i'm modest and self-effacing and all those things. i'm not quite as modest as everyone thinks i am. but i have made my case, and my case has been heard, and this is the outcome of it, the result of it and we'll stick with that. and then of course one of my favorite lines here, i made my last protest while the war lasts. i will take care to so manage my command that whatever that command may be it will not be involved in the mistakes.
of course he tells thomas you were given an opportunity and you decline, it would be hard to turn around and give it to you again now that 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 i want to make time for questions. thomas is noted in defense. you'll notice where there are at least two occasions where that is going to be a hallmark for him. he will be famous for defense there. but i love this he is going to be the one that sort of holds the army together. this gets back to that whole historian business again. how many people have to hear something for it to be true? how many people have to write
about it for it it be true? and ultimately you've got to see what makes sense for the circumstance, what fits the personality of the individual. and i think in thomas' case he was kind of dozing. he was kind of dozing off a bit and he hears something, and he wakes up and says something profound, and maybe the only people who hear it are on this end of the room because his mic was down, but back in the back they must not have heard it. it doesn't matter because if these people heard it you can make the argument he might have said that. and what did he say? this army can't retreat. that's thomas. that is vintage thomas, this army can't retreat and no better place to die than here. we're going to die. we might as well do it here. we can't retreat. and ultimately, of course, stones river turns out
successful for the federalists. after the break through and everything has gone downhill very fast, it's thomas who holds on against multiple attacks. maybe the argument should be and there will a concern at some point there is a force approaching and we're not sure what that force is. i think it was on the front. it's used as my background, but it's pointing off. he's not getting any prints, by the way. he's not flashy like forest, stuart, lee. you don't see a lot of prints anymore either. you notice that market has changed. anyway, he's actually handing his looking glass over because his horse is a little unsteady but they always say a horse is 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 rub it up. and when he was calmer would smooth it down. and you'd say what is that? it's just a tale about his personality. that's what his tendency was. anyway after the comment it would ruin the army to withdraw now. this position must be held until night. and the idea being we can't pull off this position until the time is right and would say the same kind of thing and i do like this quote where he basically says when other people were panicking and fleeing from the field thomas was steady as a rock. he was solid as a rock. he was standing right there. and thomas i think showed some of that personality trait of reliability and dependability.
and that solidity would come with him. i like this because it's basically the president of the united states coming full circle and likening him to weak generals from other places and he says you can say what you want to but thomas has earned our respect. thomas has proven himself. there are no more suspicions about him, no more doubts. and he's done incredible service at chicamaw. boom, there it goes. i learned how to do that and my 5-year-old grandson had nothing to do with it. he ain't getting credit for
everything. he promises grant he'll hold chattanooga until we starve, and they almost did starve. talked about horses and rations and all the rest when you've got every difficulty in the world and part of the reason why thomas and grant have some problems. they claim that part of the problem about thomas and after shiloh grant gets put on a shelf. that's not it. if grant wages war in a very different way than thomas and i think that didn't we won't go and then down in missionary ridge it's thomas' troops who first set the table and finished off the siege of not chattanooga at missionary ridge. sherman's wheel horse, i've got
to do this because i promise to finish this very quickly but sherman says thomas is his off wheel horse. if you've got three sets of horses you've got the lead pair, the swing pair and the pair closest to the limber, the ammunition chest on wheel and the off horse on the wheel pair is the one you don't ride. and i think what he was trying to say was the horse that was one of the two horses that matters most to me, the wheel horses, they're the only ones with the breaks, and they were important. you can put anything in a lead horse. you can probably put john coughky in a lead horse. and i look forward to his talk, too, but he's going to lead us along. the swing pair, good lord, they're just a total waste.
but the wheel pair are significant. they're important but you can't control it. somehow that's not the horse you're going to ride. for thomas it really was that way. for love that picture of sherman. he does look like he's unsavory in that picture, doesn't he? i actually have a different line but i won't do that. but he's unsavory. okay, so the nashville campaign which is thomas' 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 and grant's desire to have a slightly bold strike to relieve any potential somehow something bad would happen and late 1864 there's been an ice storm and
all kinds of problems thomas has come together including bringing andrew jackson's troops out from abroad and in that area. and again, thomas has got a lot to do on his plate, and he's not going to strike before he's ready because he knows the worst thing you can do is launch a blow that isn't successful. when it comes it's got to be overwhelming, and he's got to get the job done. and by the way, back to the point thomas is known as a defensive general. john bell hood could tell you different because he's about to get smashed. he's about to get the -- another one of those things, the sledge of nashville to hammer him. that makes it sounds like a wrestler, doesn't it? one of the things that thomas had complained to wilson was that, you know, they treat me like a child. 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 finishing them off, he says dang it to hell, wilson, didn't i tell you we'd lick them. so he gets a promotion because of this victory, and remember the old army when you're 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's also not happy because in a lot of ways he says i actually earn this earlier. i earn this not here at the nashville. i'll take it. i know we've talked about going to cemeteries, wayne and i did. wayne and i both like cemeteries, don't we, wayne? and there's thomas' -- before it
was power washed and other things so there he is. so he's not buried in virginia. he's buried in troy, new york, with his wife's family. so again it gives you some sense of the influence. so he doesn't live that long after the war. it comes on in a hurry and he's gone by the end of the day so pretty bad. he was reading some stuff about nashville where john scofield was taking credit about everything and it upset him so much it killed him. so remember all that stuff being internalized, there's a lot more about that we can talk about later but that's one of the reasons why i'm not a fan of scofield. if you're a big scofield fan, god bless you, he needs all the help you can get.
cooper is so much betterch the thomas humor, he showed humor in a lot of ways. and they said thomas cracked up laughing, which is not common for him. this soldier actually got him totally goofballing as you might say. i found this in the records about his work after the war was over, and he wanted to transfer a guy out of his command because the guy was listed as a musician, and he says he must have possibly been mistaken for a sister of the same name who could play an instrument.
when he went to the west, to the coast he ends up on a wide ranging inspection tour all the way through the northwest into alaska. by the way, he predicted alaska was a total waste of space in anything -- and wasn't anything but seals or something like that be useful coming out of it. so he didn't see that. but in the thousands of miles he went he still had that sensitivity because he came back and said i did pretty fast traveling for a slow man, the old slow trot. and then finally that temper. sherman would say he's not as imperturbible as the world thinks. he starts in the eastern theater in one engagement and then he comes out to kentucky, and he's in the western theater from then on. but they call on him to make a speech at camp nelson or one of
the camps. i can't think of it at the top of my head. but he's called out to make a speech and he says i'm not going to do it, damn the speech making. and he doesn't usually say bad words but that's the word he chooses if he does. and he says go home, sir, you may do well to feed the cattle but you're not going to feed my soldiers. abusing the soldiers and abusing the animals is not going to work. and i guess my favorite is this post-war 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 says, too late, too late, sir. remember i said he repeats
himself if he gets excited? too late, too late, sir, you have send away your day of grace. i hope i haven't send my day of grace with you. and that's going to do it for george henry thomas. i'll leave that up there for a minute so you can see. he did really feel like history would ultimately do him justice. he was actually cast on a medal. there's portraits made and his face on some money, too, in fact, but thomas is an interesting character. and oh, by the way, my set of books if you want to know there's my picture with thomas' we're looking at each other in fort benning, georgia, that goes all the way back to fort ben georgia, and these are my books. okay, questions. do you have any questions about george henry thomas or about biography or anything else?
we were very good. one of the things i did with will was i talked to him a lot when he was on days to distract him. i think we've got one in the very back and then we'll get you up front. >> he has an obscure monument in kentucky. is it time for him to have a monument here in virginia? >> there are some arguments he might be a way to get the monuments back and that's a thought. i went to the university of richmond and i used to go down monument avenue quite a lot. now it's monumentless avenue. he was a virginian, and he is certainly a prominent figure, so who knows there's enough money to bring that to life, i don't know. got a question up here. >> you talked about the problem of internalize issues.
can you talk a little bit about internalizing the animosity that his family held for him because he stayed with the union? >> questions about the animosity his family held, and his sisters would not even, quote, speak his name although they did give a brief answer to questions about his early raising or always considered important to see how you were raised as a child and that would give you indications how you would be later on in life. his brother was one the one probably the most realistic. he said i don't think george had a choice to do other than what he did. but supposedly the sisters were so angry 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. and i know about the bathroom. i've never actually seen the bathroom or used the bathroom.
so i can't swear there's a picture there turned backwards, so 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 he was. he's a middle child. 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 who can do no wrong and somehow you try to hold everybody else together with these two extremes because you've got to, you know, placate. and i think that's part of his personality, too. i think he learned how to placate. by the way, he was there when the nat turner rebellion took place. he actually fled. back then cortland was called jerusalem. you'll not surm, you'll see cortland. and he had -- the family had slaves. here's a future union general
that 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 just sunds good or not remains. he realizes when james steadman rather looks like steedman but pronounced steadman holding those lines in place. and he said this proves it, those men will fight. and some people read into that okay finally he recognizes that african-americans will fight.
he did this from his 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've got to prove yourself. and you prove yourself in battle and he doesn't care who you are he's going to be his people. and by the way his position always was i did not do anything, my army made me. i think it's impressive, too, he never really said it's because of me all these good things -- these achievements took place. it's because my army did this. my army made me. other questions? i've worn you out after all that good food and cookies and things. thank you, again, for having me. i really enjoyed it. thank you so much. >> download c-span's new mobile app and stay up-to-date with live video coverage of the day's political events from live
streams of the house and senate floor to key congressional hearings to the white house and supreme court oral arguments and even our live interactive morning program where you hear the voices every day. download the app today. >> american history tv continues now with more from the civil war symposium. >> i'm very privileged to introduce a. wilson green. it says he's retired. i don't believe that. from a 44-year career in public history most notably as a former and founding executive director of someplace. will previously serve as historian and manager with the national park service before becoming the first president of association for the preservation of civil war studies. he's currently at