tv QA CSPAN August 7, 2016 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
what my father had done. i go there. so from the time i was a young boy i was interested in it. philip -- history is the best teacher. host: how many were you a professor russian mark prof. robertson: it was a one-year course. students took up because they host: how many books have you written? prof. robertson: i don't remember. it has very little to say for it.
you and i just take it for granted. he had not had feelings like that before. watching -- i cried writing chapter one. he would become the most brilliant general in the world. tactics and the deception. even more than that, jackson was fighting for god in this war. searched throughout his young adult years.
he became a presbyterian, not really. he dedicated his life to god. jellico but of an he became the father that jackson never had. everything he did was for god. he gave thanks to a glass of water. comes, jackson .oncludes he goes into this war not to fight yankees but to slay the amalekites and to kill the mortal enemy of biblical times.
host: where did he get that from? >> he got it from the old testament. he saw god also. god.elligerent he has his love for children. childrenhe had for came from the love he had received. in the book gods and generals, they did a wonderful scene. he met young janie corbyn who was five years old and that was an attraction between the two of them.
that was in june of 1861. jim hanger was wounded very badly and he lost a leg. the surgeons of that day who gave him thee usual peg like that we all hear about. it was very uncomfortable. treatment and then and he was good at carpentry and the like. certainly one day he comes stomping down the steps. it is shaped like his original like and then he decides to go in and to fastball it. 750,000 about unofficial limbs around the
world. he all went with a young teenager. i counted 70 people you read about in this book. i'm just going to toss out some names. you said the colts of lost causes. what was that? he just thought that yankees overwhelmed them. it washe war reconstructed. confederatekeep the dream alive. he began to permit -- perp perpetuate on what is today called the lost cause. overwhelmed by forces. the planned that it was a lost cause and jim.
his associates in many prominent that went against the confederate ceiling. one long street very quickly he joined the republican party he becomes the jesus of the lost cause. they just butchered him. he joined the republican party and they went after him too. never accept defeat. he was burning his confederate uniform and the flag later. he became a general
and his first battle was may of 1962. his left leg was shot off. he came back and then his left arm was shot off. when the democrats finally got into power, they ran nichols for governor. they used a unique motto. he won in a landslide. host: would you give a quick synopsis? when was the civil war fought? 3 million menn: roughly.
one million southerners. yes, women did serve. butmany we do not know there were a lot that got into the army. it says something. i don't know, i'm not sure if anyone really knows. there are many women. how many were in the north and the south? prof. robertson: the total fatalities. the war department made a computation of 612 thousand drive. i think it is woefully inadequate. i would say three quarters of a million. someone said no. they died in the war.
probably to-one. 250,000 there. i think you have to add another half-million. they had amputated limbs. 30% loss.king about knowing what you know now. prof. robertson: let me use my own state as an example. the united states constitution was established and that nation began, virginia was 180 years old. 1861 when civil war comes,
the family had been in virginia for 225 years. when he says i cannot drop my sword against my birthplace, he was referring to the commonwealth of virginia. it was not old enough to have wisdom. allegiance was very deep. it went as far back in generations. i think one has to keep that in mind. i am not the littering -- belittling slavery. it could explain the actions of decent men. they fight because virginia needs them not that they support the confederate cause. they did not believe in slavery. his state needs him so he went to war. you talk 20,000 students
at virginia tech over the years? for a long time there were 577. then when we went over to the semester system you don't have as many. it dropped down. after you spend a semester with the students, what did they most often say what they change their mind about? prof. robertson: the human element. that is the way i taught history. history should be the most exciting subject of all because it is the story of human beings. note -- no two human beings are alike. humanwain once said that beings are the only animals that need to blush. we are unpredictable.
are most lacking in civil war history. we just don't realize how to control the feelings. it is easier to make a college class last but is difficult to make them cry. i wanted them to feel that heartache and sadness. feelted them to patriotism. it first comes out in the civil war. we had a country to feel picture out of the bow fought ourselves. cemetery.national there you see these men gave themselves for their country. we must remember that. i've succeeded. host: what story over time?
prof. robertson: you just start .uoting why not let this old or to do the talking? i've presented. they invest emotions and feelings. she was the mascot and the men in the regiment loved them. -- dedicatedcated to her soldiers. they thought she was dead but cleaning up the battlefield they found her guarding. early february she was
killed. two soldiers took down their muskets and with their hands they dug a blade. the would say that was not end of the story. pennsylvania put up a monument in gettysburg and from afar it looks like all of it. ledge is inthe isnd -- ingrained and she immobilized in eternity. that story affected people. there are some funny things.
aroundraced the dell is a few years old. said oh no you are an ugly man. it may make you more attractive to the voters. he said ok. he blew that bill for what he is now famous. that is human. that is anhe blew emotional andy consist of empathy that we can get with those people. you cannot sit back on -- and pass judgment on events over 150 years ago. someoneset when i hear that if the general had done this, he would've won the war.
you cannot pass judgment like that. you have to acknowledge it. that is the only way you will understand history. host: how much money did the north have and the south have to support the work? prof. robertson: that is almost incomparable. the south was leaning heavily on agriculture. sherman, he said he people are crazy. is going to farmers wage a successful war against industrialists. it was this industrial revolution.
these mass charges when you go back to the middle ages. long the muskets has jumped five times farther and the weapons have become bigger and more destructive. we have the grappling gun and new weapons coming up. we have increased ranges. so these soldiers are coming across the field. war where theil advantage can shift. named that for forest in your book. you connected it to the german blitzkrieg. commanded household. gather in one of the southern men would hold their courses.
they would be successful -- back and right away. the germans did that same kind of thing on the eastern front especially. so that was more of that to come. it was a quick strike kind of thing. how did you teach yourself about the civil war? prof. robertson: i don't know, i just kept learning. i started under the outstanding social historian. i had the good fortune to be appointed by president kennedy as the centennial commission. host: these are historians?
prof. robertson: yes. i just learned it from them. you can smell the gunsmoke. he taught me a lot about writing. research, the blanket you can cover everything. you just don't go out looking for particulars. from them i learned these tidbits. i may be self-made but it was done. you have a paid -- phd from emory? prof. robertson: i have a doctor of humanities as well. host: how many battlefields did you go to? have you been to all of them? prof. robertson: i've been to all of the major ones.
i'm not too interested in strategy and tactics. i'm interested in the common soldiers. letting the soldiers tell their own story. that is what i am interested in. the people and how they feel. how they think and react. host: you talk about seven presidents and i'm going to ask you about each of those? or even older? how did you get out of it? prof. robertson: you could buy your way out. owned 20 slaves, you would be exempt in the south. you are determined by the congress that you are more liable to go back home overseas.
slavesid anyone go by prof. robertson:? prof. robertson:yes they went through great lengths. you may get yourself out of service at you have to have it to stay out. they create business mac next. host: you write about them in the book? ?hat is your opinion >> it would start at $500 and then go up but that was a lot of money back in those days. mores certainly 10 times
than it would be today. who did they pay too? >> if i interpreted it correctly you would hope he would get killed because once he is dead, you are dead. host: was it legal? you get a whole class of empty choppers who have made a living going around signing up his substitute and my substitute and just buying up all these payments and no one reporting for duty. the worst of the lot. he had done it 38 times. of -- accepted substitute. leaving grover
cleveland bought his way out. any other presidents? prof. robertson: so many of them go on into politics. no, i don't think so. that would be a disadvantage in a political campaign. host: george maclennan, you write about. prof. robertson: brilliant. probably one of the greatest organizers of armies in american history. many but he were was a perfectionist. never -- it was always ready to go. host: who was equal? where did he come from? it was brilliant. he was a rising star so when
he was thehim american officer. it was a very promising young man. they got tired of the slow pace and became president of a big railroad. he started to offer his services to the state. they asked him to come by columbus. that he gaveressed him charge of the ohio troops. if you look at the mountains over west virginia, when the disaster at manassas occurred. mcclellan's report of these sounded like
armageddon here. he glorified himself. in charge ofim -- the largest union army. he spent the largest nine months building this army and making it a huge fighting force. .20,000 men all decked out put that creation into battle. hesitates and he drags his feet there. problems on all the washington. -- he was greatly influenced by a french military man. taught that umass as
many men into position. then the enemy will equip. down the line, the men who eventually won the war grant and sherman don't know a hoot about chest. but they are great checkers players. they know how to clean the board. wiping out all the opposition. that is how the north winds. maccallum's cannot win the war. brian: how did the general run for president in the middle of the civil war? james robertson: mcclellan was fired and went home. the army of the potomac for the most part still loved him. he kept them out of battle. he did not risk their lives by extending a needlessly into combat. he has strong support in the military. brian: how would he have been? james robertson: early 40's.
in new jersey, the democratic party got a hold of him and his ego was such. he ran for such president's. initially the remick adds -- democrats are running on the piece for prayer -- platform. mcclellan did not believe in that. he did not convince enough people. everybody thought that mccullen was going to end the war. mainly because lincoln was the beneficiary of some timely victories. summer ofing -- agencies before, lincoln was convinced they were going to lose. one of the arguments we historians have is when the climactic moment of the war. gettysburg, antietam, the summer of 64? i think it is the summer 64. everyone is losing. sherman had taken off with
atlanta and they waltzed all the way down. other offenses coming up the james river were disastrous. a campaign in southwest virginia fell apart. mr. lincoln wrote a conciliatory loader -- letter concerning defeat. and things turn around. suddenly they when enabled victory at mobile. later, sherman takes control of the shenandoah valley. sherman takes atlanta. and the tide is beginning to shift and although grant has believed him down and seemingly nothing has happened, that is important stagnant points of the war. nevertheless, down momentarily. by autumn, the unions on to victory. brian: how big did abraham lincoln when? james robertson: it was not
close. he allowed the soldiers to come home and vote. who previously had been so much in support of notllen now see that it is an empty piece, but in the course victory we're capable of getting. the ownership was a determining force. brian: in your chapter on torture:, handed up -- george mcclellan, handed up governor? james robertson: new jersey politics is like anyone else's, nobody else was around. the opposition disgraced themselves and go off a boat and drowned. today, the state capital of heavily in -- helena beautiful
statue. mcclellan had a short life. he died of pneumonia in the mid-50's. one of the things i do in this book and largely because i work myself the graduate school in the funeral business in atlanta, i determined the cause of these deaths of these men who died. stanton, asthmatic. >the secretary of war. he had a heart attack from wheezing. medical talking to associates, you can say he died of asthma but it might've been long cancer. they knew so little in those days. the causes you have to guess at. about back your statement working in the funeral business. what kind of work to do to? james robertson: everything.
thousand the days when the funeral homes maintain services and bombing.on the i have conduct funerals and i did my work. can you think of a quieter place to study than a funeral home? i thoroughly enjoyed it. i did it for four years. brian: what did you learn about death? james robertson: i learned a lot of things. , i love the respect business. it is a accounting business. -- a caring business. you see people in their most honorable and you don't you can to help. thought it was an honorable thing to be involved in. i can sell of the business, but i enjoyed the work and helping people. brian: you mentioned several times the impact of the civil war on medicine.
can you tell us more? james robertson: certainly. physicianted to be a in 1860 and he wanted to be the best, you went to the jefferson medicaid -- medicine cause. the curriculum was two years. the second-year was a repetition of the first year. they could teach you everything known about the field of medicine in one year. although they are called 25geons, i doubt if one in had ever held a scaffold or wanted to. they are basically trained pharmacist who had a bag load of pills and not a great friday. opium. simple drugs. they don't know the basics. they are never taught graduate school, medical school anything about military medicine. how do you treat a gunshot room -- wound? they don't know.
i have great sympathy for physicians, most historians do not. even the limitations of the knowledge, i think they did a remarkable job. one of the individuals after the civil war, the father of modern military medicine, it was letterman who just conceived of all kinds of things, three stages of hospitalization. a first aid station on the battlefield. a field station behind and a dental hospital back of the rear. he established lines of transportation and he prioritized injuries. it was not who got here first. records,ted medical each man has his own medical record. organized an ambulance corps to get the wounded off the field as quickly as possible. i think a good comparison would be to the battle of shiloh.
camewas before letterman to the forefront and the battle was friday and several days later, the day the wounded were still on the field. the wounded were mostly desperate battle of gettysburg, by july 5, the benefit was clean. all the wood had been removed. -- wounded had been removed. he literally saved thousands of lives by his medical treatment. the chief of the medical services in eastern europe and in 1945, he once wrote not a day goes by in world war ii that i did not think god for jonathan letterman. brian: if you are a soldier during the civil war and you had a leg blown off, what would they do? what about the pain and operating? you mentioned opiates.
do they have medicine? james robertson: they had crude medicine. crawford had chloroform. if you want a cigarette or cigar you have explosion so they used chloroform. depending how often they operated with anesthesia or without, we don't know. oftentimes when it was said to given a shot of looksee -- whiskey and the men held you down and the amputation occurred. positions were often criticized for quick to abdicate. i dispute that. you keep a man lineup there and you have nothing -- know nothing about antiseptics and you're just inviting gangrene. and other diseases to take over. rather than giving it daily to get -- treatment, just cut it
off and start afresh. i think was the most promising of the treatments. they were free to amputate. and they did it. brian: seven presidents, i will avoid abraham lincoln at the moment. started before the civil war, james buchanan. james robertson: worst president. he was a man who just got caught 1850's.e chaos of the he had a dilemma. on the one hand he did not think secession was constitutional on the other hand, he cannot find anything in the constitution to stop them. to stop theim secession process. his closest friends were southerners. he was just can't miss tremendous dilemma and all he could hope for was to get out of
office before the explosions came. which he managed to do. can -- didn't you can it was an attorney -- james buchanan was an attorney and out of touch with the people. gracious hostesses to make to the white house enjoyable. he just bungled badly. sayingionist today are and coming to his defense. revision does not -- brian: right after the civil war and when abraham lincoln was killed, andrew johnson. james robertson: he is next to last. johnson was a total mistake. he was a democrat. 1954, lincoln thought it would be politically to his advantage to have a democrat run on the republican ticket and johnson did. died, there was a
democrat and republican administration and nobody liked him. he had a terrible personality. yet come out of poverty. he had this ingrown enmity to men of wealth and property. men of influence, he just did not get along with. he merely gets into trouble with radical republicans in congress and nobody wanted him or paid attention to him. he ends up getting impeached. brian: what is a radical republicans stand for? james robertson: they were hardline a problem can's -- republicans who did not agree with lincoln's construction. lincoln asked that 10% of residents pledge allegiance to the union and the state can come back. said, myal republicans
god, we thought a four-year war. the sense of secession must be punished. they went out to the south with a vengeance. a were led mostly by abolitionists who proved to be abolitionists of the moment. was the 13th amendment is out and blacks are free, once piece comes, it is apathy over the north while involved -- the radical republicans really helped the black man is very open to argument over the long-haul. brian: u.s. grant. james robertson: he is a hero of the civil war. it is grants determination that wins the war. after the war, he fully expected to be elected president. both properties -- parties wanted him to run. he did not know anything about politics. the confirmation --
compromising, political acumen of altar he just sat back and accepted all the gifts and the accolades for two terms. he runs on a simple statement, let us have peace in the country is on apart. introduced a system of nepotism never challenged until the kennedys came into office and every relative was put on the payroll and several of his cabinet members for a most indicted for high crimes and misdemeanors. it was a terrible eight years. which proves once again that the nation can survive the voters. survived the great regime and there are revisionists who disagree with that. historianswell known writing major books on u.s. grant. while the sudden -- why all of a sudden? james robertson: the previous
writing has been so critical that i suspect there try to find new points and give branches do. -- grant his due. he was not captivating. know, he was determined. he just would not quit as a general. you see this in vicksburg and petersburg. you just keep patting and patted. indeed i'm talking about the 1854 election, grant had not beaten lee, but he had him pinned down. he had taken away the one thing his great army had going for them and that was mobility. they cannot move. it was trapped. times quite willing to let , desertion, disease do what the army cannot too. brian: how many horses killed? james robertson: 1.5 million.
killed. all died. ones, when when the half-million. james robertson: miss use -- m isuse, one in half-million. it is heartbreaking. brian: how many books are yours and print? james robertson: a half-dozen. brian: i counted 11 on amazon. seller? the best james robertson: stonewall jackson. it is in the 15th printing. and the untold civil war is second. attractive thanks to national geographic's hard work. referred theyrd -- case -- hayes? part of theson:
1864 all-encompassing campaign that great initiated and hayes went from that to the white house. yet had distinguished career in ohio and was elected president in 1876 and his one remember will act was to order the end of reconstruction. the occupation of the south and officially ends. one thing the voters liked about him where his, sister served one term. it was an interesting term. president hayes and his wife were teetotalers. they were very evangelical. no alcohol, no smoking. the first lady became known as lemonade lucy. they had a state dinner and after this date during the -- dinner the secretary of state came out and said what a wonderful evening and the water for the campaign.
-- flowed like champagne. men were wounded in battle that cannot be presidents -- came to be presidents? james robertson: hayes and grant. he thought with crutches, grant. mckinley was ok. two of them were hurt. move into a couple presidents and you have their assassins in your book. to start with, garfield. what did he do? james robertson: garfield was a brilliant man and probably the last president of poverty that we've had. he worked himself up. he was chief of staff to union general until 1863 when he went
to congress and served as a 1880 andublican until was more or less the compromise candidate. the republican party was split into two wings and each of those wings could not get its potential nominee nominated so want to garfield. he had been in office for months . ofin, showing a lack medicine. the bullet they get to surgeons was somewhere in his body and each day they were going with a finger and try to find the bullet. lingered on her 59 days before he died. -- for 59 days until he died. the assassin statement in court, i did not kill garfield, the
doctor did. i do something. -- just shot him. i felt that people should know what is in the mind of an assassin, so they know what is in the mind of the people they weren't. -- wound. i felt that both assassins needed some kind of identification. what makes a man want to kill the president? especially in the case of mckinley who probably was the most popular president in office during his heyday. everybody loved him. except for the absolute poor. he served a second term and everybody loved him. why would somebody to shoot him? the assassin ended up being an anarchist. to equal the thing, he would -- have'sabs group
group to balance the status. brian: what about mckinley and the civil war? james robertson: he was a sergeant. did they know each other? james robertson: yes they did. he did what he could to help. though he was in poor health. from your knowledge of comparison there any with the civil war era and today? james robertson: yes. it is what worries me. i see in today's politics the polarization and negativism.
the chaos of a dysfunctional government. i see the 1850's all over again. .'m truly alarmed , people seemeems to think that america can exist over any kind of impediment and that is not true. democracy is the most tenuous form of government. it can't take much of a beating as only people are involved. yet our leaders don't seem to know this. what disturbs me and i hate to get political, but what disturbs me are our leaders who just don't know history. said the bestnce news i get is the history i did not know. leaders today are not like that. they are politicians. and politicians think of the next generation. statesmen think of the next generation.
what do you think is happening? james robertson: we don't have heroes. we lost that love of country that has brought us so far. , we have lost sight of the one thing, the only thing that holds this country together and it's a willingness to compromise. united states compromise -- constitution is the greatest manual of comfort my street it shows the give-and-take of the founding fathers and we don't to this today. i cannot understand how our national leaders can make the statement that i will not compromise and feel himself worthy of an office in a democratic government. coppermine and democracy are the same thing. -- compromise and moxie of the same thing. -- democracy are the same thing. brian: were we better off as a country that the north one? james robertson: absolutely.
there's no question about that. if the south had won we would have become the balkans of the western hemisphere try to get together in a nebulous bit of methods. and montana have nothing,. massachusetts and kansas would have had nothing in common. .he union had to be it would have been disastrous for the nation to try and continue to exist. in 1930.u were born and you are still at it. why? james robertson: i love what i do. i love history. it is the most exciting subject that there is. beings,e study of human or they are and what they could be and what they were not.
i have great respect for history. one of the first adages, in the nation that forgets his past has no future. it would cut 3000 years of documents the point that out. it is exciting. i get up in the morning excited. thing this is a personal from we invited you a couple must come on the program and the day you were to come here you fell down the steps and posted your left arm -- busted your left arm. how is it you are so repaired? james robertson: i had probably the best elbow orthopedist in the nation. brian: how much damage did you do? james robertson: i was working and thethis program doorbell rang and it disrupted my thinking and i went down the steps and halfway down i went elbowing and fortunately, i landed on the elbow. it could have been on my head or
my writing arm or an arm or leg or hit. hip. the first orthopedist said on a scale of 1-10, you have a 12. but he put me in touch with this orthopedist and douglas chapman andall he does his elbows in 53 minutes he inserted a new elbow and cleaned up the old one and here i am. there are certain things i can't do yet and maybe never can but i'm alive. brian: we are glad that you are here. i'm sorry our first appointment did not work out. are you writing anymore and lecturing? james robertson: i'm lecturing all the time. writing, not really. i've done a little book about a huge collection at a big library in virginia called civil war
echoes in virginia and comes out late this month. i'm looking around at the history of the peninsula between the potomac which was seemingly isolated during the war and if i can find enough letters and diaries are my think there's a good story to tell of the suffering and isolation. brian: stonewall jackson, eliminating him for the moment, if you had one person that you wrote about that you would like to sit down with, who would it be? james robertson: generally. james robertson: -- general lee. i would just to why he was the nation's greatest reconciliatory when northerners and southerners are butting heads, he was talking about reconciliation. it was a necessity of bringing the nation back together again. taking atrated that by bankrupt college and making it
an international institution. washington and lee university. he the way, one of the ways thought about reconciliation was to his credit and this, sounds critical he his forgot the past. he would not talk about the civil war. he would not grant you know breeze -- interviews or right memoirs. he would be certainly violently opposed to the confederate flag in any shape or phone -- for being shown. the war is over. i have lead people into battle and now i must leave men to peace. brian: our guest is professor james robertson. teacher at virginia tech. the book we are talking about, he has about 20 of them, after the civil war, the heroes,
villains, civilians who changed america. we thank you for coming in. glad you are well. james robertson: thank you so much for having me. ♪ >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q and a.org. q and a programs are also available at c-span.com and at c-span progress -- podcasts. >> if you enjoyed this week's q and a interview with james robertson, here are some other programs you might like. author stephen pouliot on his , the assault that drove america to civil war. historian hero holster discusses his book.
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