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tv   QA Elizabeth Samet  CSPAN  February 24, 2019 8:00pm-9:02pm EST

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memoirs. 9:50, senator amy klobuchar campaigning in new hampshire. this week on q&a, west point english professor elizabeth samet discovers her annotated edition of ulysses s. grant's memoirs. brian: elizabeth samet, you have a book over 1000 pages long called the annotated memoirs of ulysses s. grant. what is different about this book? ms. samet: the subject of grant is well written about by so many
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people, mostly by historians. i am a professor of literature. my primary interest was in his language and the way that he represents his war experience. i wanted to try to put the book in its cultural context and in in the spectrum of war writing. i wanted to show how challenging it is to write about war and how grant does that. brian: you teach english to what group? ms. samet: i teaching was to cadets, everything from our first year cadets, known as plebes, to our upperclassman who are sometimes majors. we have a full range of underclassmen. brian: anything different from
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teaching to a cadet at west point and a student at a normal university? ms. samet: there are many similarities, but my students have a particular idea of what they will be doing after graduation. our study of literature has a shared context that i think mig ht not be the case at other institutions. brian: how did you go to west point? ms. samet: part of that answer is grant. i was in graduate school at yale reading the memoirs. i can't even tell how i came to them, but i was reading them when i was supposed to be writing my dissertation. they surprised me and introduced me to west point where he was an ambivalent cadet. i found myself attracted to his story. soon after, the opportunity came to teach their. re.
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brian: what attracted you to the memoirs? ms. samet: i appreciated a more florid and ornate approach to writing. and a more heroic and glorified account of war. his account is the antithesis. it is lean and spare. as agarded war business he was trained to do but he never reveled in it. he never took delight or relish in the activity. brian: what is the period of time? beginmet: the memoirs with his boyhood. he doesn't spend much time on that. he spends a great deal of time on the mexican war. he goes all the way through the end of the civil war and stops there.
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brian: what do you think of him? ms. samet: i admire him. i admire him because he is fallible. towill often own up to that, failures. he was willing to tell a joke on himself. in that, he shared something with lincoln. he was always willing to suggest he had learned something or figured something out along the way. brian: one of the biggest surprises isn't the memoire, it's a note on the flap. there is so much there. a tanner's son, failing at so much, turned savior of his country, a slave owner turned mass emancipator. the warrior transformed into a warrior poet. ms. samet: ta is a big grant fan.
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he did a wonderful series in the atlantic on his experience of reading memoirs. --hink he found in grant someone who did rise in modern circuit -- modest circumstances to become a great savior of the union and a mass emancipator. brian: where did you grow up? ms. samet: boston. brian: anybody in your family in the military? ms. samet: my father was in the navy in world war ii. brian: did you ever talk to him about that? ms. samet: i talked to him about his war and his army which was very different from today's army. he always downplayed those experiences. he was willing to talk to me about them. he served much of the war as an air traffic controller in india. brian: how often do you have to
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be in the classroom? ms. samet: we are in the classroom comparable to most civilian institutions. teach a few courses each semester and meet with students individually as well. brian: what would i most likely hear you talking about? ms. samet: probably a specific passage. i love to dig in with poetry or the evidencek at and see what it has to tell us. brian: do they read the memoirs? ms. samet: they do. i have always taught various excerpts. this year i am teaching a war literature elective and we are focusing on the civil war so grant's memoirs will be part of that. brian: so many people have come to this chair and talked about grant. here's one of the most recent
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ones, ron chernow. with got into the habit, great fortitude and courage, he would go four or five hours at a stretch without eating or drinking. that wasn't just to avoid the pain of swallowing, but to avoid taking painkillers that might interfere with his mental clarity. any -- i don't know if any masterpiece like this has been composed under such terrific circumstances. even mark twain said that style is flawless and no one can improve upon it. was such aht it great military memoir that it deserved to stand alongside seasoned commentators. many have agreed. brian: what would you add to that? ms. samet: i would suggest that
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the story of the memoir's composition is part of wetlands this book it's great power. the pain that grant suffered, the way he had to conserve his energy, the library of congress has a collection of many of the notes that grant would write. ofad the moving experience readin g the manuscript alongsie those notes. you see the dissolution of his depletingody, and the of the reserves of energy he has left, and a desired determination to give every last ounce of strength to the memoirs. he didn't want to write them initially, but is compelled to by a few calamitous circumstances including bankruptcy and the diagnosis of
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his cancer. brian: do you know how many exact days there are after he finished this to when he died? ms. samet: it is only a few days when he's doing th elast correc -- doing the last correcting proofs. his new -- he is near saratoga, new york. you can still go to the cottage. you can see the circumstances where he wrote it, the same chair in which he sat. you can get a sense of the whole atmosphere. author,n 2016, an white, did a book. here is what he had to say. >> it puts us right into the story of maybe he wcould win. he uses action verbs.
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ws adverbs and adjectives. auther who visits him elicits all kinds of ideas on the figures of the era, a rambling can and -- abraham lincoln and others. it is memorable to read this. it is clear, spare english-language. lincoln said he liked the uage.en lang -- saxon langa single syllable words. grant writes in the same way. brian: did you read his book? ms. samet: yes. ishink ron white's book interesting in a lot of elements, especially grant's word use and methods.
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ernow emphasizes a couple of things. he emphasizes the presidency and that weres strides made. theof which were erased in compromise of 1877. too muchuchernow makes of grant's alcoholism. instead of looking at it as a moral failing as it would have 19thregarded in the century, to look at it more as an addiction. i think when grant was alone in between the mexican and civil wars, he probably did drink to excess. the circumstances surrounding his resignation from the army are mysterious. the temptation to make
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relationship or struggle with alcohol the main narrative of his life. brian: this is called an annotated memoir. what is that mean? ms. samet: it is full of my own annotations and illustrations. that is where i try to put his descriptions in parallel with descriptions of similar or same episodes by his contemporaries. a description of a siege or an withk, comparing those descriptions of other periods. everything from the connection that twain makes between caesar's commentaries and grant's. i would put caesar in there. brian: twain was the publisher of the book? ms. samet: yes. brian: what was the time when
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you said, i've got to do this? ms. samet: fortunately, my editor said, would you like to do this? i said, it would be a great idea. i had been unwittingly preparing it since graduate school. it was a dream come true to be able to spend so much time with this book that would in many ofs shap eme my ideas military culture and attitudes. a lot of that comes through grant for me. brian: when did that start? ms. samet: i poured on most of the work in the last 3 years. brian: it only took three years to do what you did here? an samet: it was organization of thinking i had been doing for a long time but it was intensive work.
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brian: what is the most fun? ms. samet: that is a difficult question to answer. there are some of the parts i enjoyed. one of the parts i enjoyed was going to battlefields and being able to bring the book along and see the terrain. one of grant's great strengths as a commander was his ability to understand terrain and topography. he writes about it with an ease and great clarity. i don't share that automatic understanding of terrain. to be able to go shiloh. to be able to understand the topography he's describing in the book was a great treat. one of the other elements i enjoyed was photography. through photography, it was another way of making sense of
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the war and the way we remember it. brian: there is a lot of your photography in the book? ms. samet: i was able to include that, along with images from the west point archives, the library of congress, and other places. what do you say to someone who doesn't -- brian: what do you say to someone who doesn't care about the civil war? you know you will find these people in some places. what is shiloh and what happened there? ms. samet: shiloh was in tennessee. it was the first major battle in the western theater. the western theater is largely neglected in favor of the eastern theater. shiloh is a two-day battle. it has a tremendous number of casualties. like antietam, a more well-known battle in the east, it changes the way people think about the war. a lot of soldiers and civilians thought the civil war would be over in months. shiloh confirmed for grant that
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they'd have to win the war by conquest, that this was all or nothing. brian: that was 1862. how long did you spend their? ms. samet: i spent a nice day at shiloh. i looked around at northern mississippi as well. there still is an important railroad junction there. int was the site of a battle the war. it took about a month for union troops to make it down to corinth. by the time they get to corinth, grant had been criticized heavily for not being prepared and for being surprised.
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there was some controversy that raged throughout the rest of the 19th century. halleck arrived on the scene, he pushed grant off to the side and made him second in command. grant had not much to do. the army took a month to make its way to corinth. halleck and the confederates were convinced that they were reinforcing corinth when they were evacuating. theirid the used to put ears to the rail in civilian life and could tell which trains were full and which were empty. the heavy -- empty
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trains were leaving and the heavy trains were coming back. the confederates ended up fooling them. there were so many that when sherman writes home about the time tellingpends his wife that the number of forces on the battlefield is astronomical. throughout the war, the number of horses and mules to be burned or buried is incredible. brian: the first person i interviewed here on grant was 1997.y -- in i want to run a clip where we talk about grant's role in the civil war. >> if there's no grant, there is no victory in the war for the civil union. this would have ended with a stalemate with a negotiated
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peace. what kind of peace that would be i don't know, but i believe that grant was the only general who could coordinate the union's to ensure lincoln's victory in 1864. brian: what would grant -- ms. samet: he said it several times that he had a tenacity and a will to keep going where other generals had been daunted. the other strength he had was that grant understood the political context of war fighting. i'm not sure all of his contemporaries did. he understood the priming of victories, the need for what
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was called a political general, appointee,ho was an who could bring in votes, who could recruit effectively. there were a few political generals. john logan was one. they turned out to be good commanders in the field, but man y were not. it was an inconvenience that grant had to put up with, but he understood the reasons for it, and he understood that lincoln's war aims had to do with tactics, operation, and strategy. brian: you talk about two historians, lloyd lewis and bruce catton. you talk about the revisionism of grant. on our survey of presidents, he from 32 to when was he at his lowest and
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why the revision? ms. samet: at the time that he died, he was the most famous american and the world. he had achieved celebrity greater than lincoln. in the world tour he took after his presidency, he went to japan and was greeted as a great hero. after his death, his death and his funeral, in which there were two confederate and two union pallbearers, it was a great moment of reconciliation. unfortunately, that drive toward reconciliation, on the heels of reconstruction, was achieved at the expense of african-americans. frederick douglass, before grant's death, talked about peace among the whites, and what that would mean for the country. what it ended up meaning was the rise of jim crow in the south
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and rolling back all of the the 13th and, and 14th amendments for african-american civil rights. causee think of as a lost nostalgia, really got into gear in the 1890's and throughout the early part of the 20th century, culminating in the 50th reunion at gettysburg. woodrow wilson, the first president from the south after the civil war, and who introduced segregation into washington, d.c. and the federal workforce, in his history of the american people, he espoused this idea of reconstruction. --t it was mr. radical tyrannical ideal that was
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imposed upon the south. lewis and catton, in the middle of the century, really began a resurgence that has continued ever since, as we've continued to reevaluate the war and our own attitudes toward memorialization. brian: can you explain more about lost cause? my reading is that phrase has come up more and more in recent years. ms. samet: the southern cause was romanticized. the memorial engines started revving up before the war ended. there were many people, including confederate officers, organizations like the united daughters of the confederacy, who worked honestly to burnish
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this lost cause. as a result, the submerging of slavery and this idea of states rights. a decoupling of the cause of slavery from state's rights. there is what some have called the plantation myth. the idea that the south was a peaceful place and everyone was better off at that time. this nostalgic lament, this deeply romantic version of southern culture, which triumphed, i think -- and there was nothing in the northern literature that counteracted it. falnertorian, eric said, the north won the south, memory south won the
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-- won the war over the memory. anan: an historian wrote annotated version of this two years ago. what is a difference between his book and what you have done? ms. samet: i think it could not be in better hands than in john's. i spent a wonderful week down there doing research. it is from an accident of circumstance that that's where he is and where he taught that the library ended up there. it is quite nice and fitting. bute strange initially, ultimately, an appropriate idea that the preservation of grant's legacy can happen . his annotated memoirs that he
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came out with a few years ago is the crowning jewel. beenemoirs have conspicuously absent in that collection. john is a historian. his teams emphasized and helped us to understand a lot of the military and historical context. if i had his book and your book, what is the substantive difference between them? ms. samet: in his book, whenever grant offers a casualty number or mentions a figure, john will have the exact casualty number and where to find it. this fact checking of grant and everylumination that
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figure has a wonderful biography that will tell us who that figure is. they complement each other in a lot of ways. while i tend to be scrupulous in matters historical, i don't chase down every statistic. i point out that grant was not always correct in certain things, but i'm more interested in the way he were members it and the way he chooses to present war. i often delve into the moments when he doesn't describe something. what grant fails to mention here is some aspect of the conflict. when he talks about casualties on a battlefield, i will often pair those moments with a detailed description of field hospitals, from surgeons of the time, or accounts from those of a contemporary novelist. r that has a detailed
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description of a field hospital in his manual. grant does not do that. he's deceasedon, since 2008, want to talk about what he didn't like about grant. he was responsible for the grant papers. videos so you can see what he is saying. >> it is true that in december, ordersgrant issued expelling the class from the department in tennessee. that doesn't mean the state of tennessee, that means the entire department that stretches from occupied areas in mississippi, all the way up to kentucky and into fofeduca.
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it was an act of extreme wretchedness, and extreme ignorance, of which grant became deeply ashamed. so ashamed that he doesn't mention it in his memoirs and doesn't speak of it later on. brian: your take? ms. samet: i think john simon is exactly right. memoirs,t, in her mentions it briefly and calls it an obnoxious order. brian: that is his wife? ms. samet: yeah. he was ashamed of it, and he was. lincoln immediately rescinded it. he did spend the rest of his life trying to atone for it. rightlas -- i think he was rightly deeply ashamed. brian: where is the best research that you did? ms. samet: i figure a variety of places.
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the library at mississippi state, the library of congress. point has some fascinating documents relating to grant's time as a cadet, but also some letters from later on. the of the west point special collections offers are some of from grant'spapers contemporaries. you find all sorts of records. you can see what it reinforced for me. how intimate their relationships were. knew will often mention i so-and-so at west point. it is his way of suggesting that he knew how someone's mind worked, he knew how that person would respond in an emergency. brian: you have pictures of the monument in new york city.
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i heard you tell the story about a woman you overheard standing there. do you know what i'm talking about? ms. samet: yes. i often make a pilgrimage to grant's tomb. live.ot far from where i it used to be the most popular landmark in new york city, earlier in the 20th century. there was a time, several decades ago, where it had fallen into disrepair. it has been fixed up and is looking better. and not sure everyone knows what they are looking for. i did overhear a tourist say to her companion, i didn't even know we had a president named grant. brian: what was your reaction? ms. samet: i laughed. i didn't intervene, but it struck me. obviously i am interested in grant as president and that
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presidency was puzzling and troubling in many ways, but when i think of him, i think of him first as a writer. that is how i first encountered him, not as a general or a president. brian: has he written anything other than this memoir? ms. samet: you can read his wartime dispatches and letters. i read some of those from earlier in his life. near the end of his life, he did write a few articles for the sentry magazine, the first one on shilo. magazineow the century first encouraged him to write memoirs. when mark twain saw the deal, he said, i can do much better. brian: this is a quote from gore vidal. ulysses s. grant's memoir was
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the best american prose. proof that genius is innate since west point's endless department, in his day, did not dazzle. what is the english department at west point like now? ms. samet: it is like the english department elsewhere. we teach two courses in our core curriculum, composition and literature. we teach philosophy in our department. it is a department of english and philosophy, and we have english and philosophy majors. brian: you write a quote of william t. sherman. what was his personal relationship with grant? ms. samet: he and grant first encountered one another at west point. they became reacquainted durin g the civil war.
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men, it was the most important professional relationship of their lives. it was characterized by a great deal of trust. they had disagreements on occasion. decidedburg, when grant on his strategy of running the the fortress, -- cutting loose from his base of supply, sherman cautioned against this. he wrote a note saying htis. cutting looseof from supplies is some thing that sherman took to an extreme in his march to the south later on. they had a relationship where sherman felt he could register his disagreement. i think that's a sign of true
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loyalty. you are ready to register your disagreement. when that complaint has been lodged, to carry it out, which sherman did. grant this is from what wrote. the conceit was knocked out of me by two circumstances that happened soon after the arrival give me athes which distaste for military uniform that i never recovered from. what is the background on that? he is often pictured in the civil war wearing a regular coach with the general straps, the insignia, the shoulder straps. he did not like grand uniforms. he tells that story in his youth of getting that first uniform and being mocked by people at home. another model of this is zachary taylor whom he encountered in
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the mexican war. two generals, the nicknames, old rough and ready for taylor and -- for scott emphasized the difference. grant said, scott liked to use all the uniforms the regulation allowed and taylor was often seen in a farmer's hat to protect him from the sun, sitting sideways on his horse, watching the battle. scott was always dressed to the nines. i think grant took taylor as a model in that and in his prose. he said taylor wrote orders in light which so plain there could be no mistaking it. brian: abraham lincoln was a private or whatever in the mexican war. did lincoln and grant ever cross paths in the mexican war? ms. samet: no. lincoln was in the blackfoot war, as it was called?
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his involvement in the mexican war -- brian: he was against it. ms. samet: he spoke out against it and was ridiculed as a result. i'm not even sure they would have known each other. by lincoln's own account of his is service, he says that he very self-deprecating about his un-heroic war service. brian: here is an example of how you use literature. your words. grant's playful yet literary vignette calls to mind a moment greatkens'great expectations. ms. samet: great expectations was in my mind. it was serialized and published in the 1860's.
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timean see cadets at the checking it out from the library and readnig ing it. i associate it with that time period. there is a moment in great isectations when pip andenticed to a blacksmith, has modest expectations until he gets an unknown benefactor. one of the first things that happens is he gets a new suit of clothes. he parades through the town and is mocked, mercilessly, by some one in town. that reminded me of grant when he is mocked in town in his brand-new uniform. brian: when you teach the plebes, when the notice that they get interested? ms. samet: they get interested
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day one. they have been plunged into a new world and culture and are full of curiosity. they have an energy and a curiosity. if you have a passion for your subject matter, matter what it is, they respond. brian: you started teaching at the academy in what year? ms. samet: 1997. brian: you have known some of these young men who went to war? ms. samet: yes. men and women who were gone to war and come home. some have gone to war repeatedly. one of my former students, now a major, referred to his life for several years there as a war commuter. that it became normal to go back and forth to afghanistan. brian: you have a footnote, grant expresses his frustration with reporters on several occasions. franker still in his
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, was oftennce frustrated and personally wounded by the false stories regards --ted in about his incompetence and his drenching. ms. samet: he was not particularly happy with the freewheeling reporters who arrived in camp and told various stories and rumors. he knew the damage that rumors could do to the army. he does not have a progressive attitude toward the reporters or the press. i think he was particularly frustrated with what he regarded as tall tales, or even just criticism that the press would render. ,rian: you quote john keegan
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grant had a particular aptitude for the telegraph. later on, his first historian, william plum, writes, thus the united states telegraph became the medium of communication by which hundreds of thousands of armed men were directed from point-to-point, commissary, and assistance ordered, and they known, as all as the story of the great success and defeats. ms. samet: i think it was hugely important for grant being able to communicate and being able to dispatch,with a great large numbers of supplies as well as troops. i think grant adapted to those
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technologies. here were also times that lost complete contact with sherman and trusted that sherman was going about his business in georgia, which he was. those technologies had limitations and they still had to use scouts and careers. brian: you had 70 chapters and a conclusion, and an introduction, and an editor's note. did you ever count the number of footnotes? ms. samet: i did not. i can't answer you on that. brian: for someone who hasn't seen your book, it has the memoirs of grant and below that, you have your explanations. how did you keep track of all that? ms. samet: one of the wonderful aspects about the book was the quality of design.
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i was more involved in that and i had been on previous projects because of the illustrations as well. there are times where i had to figure out what would be the fantastic for the this and that. their was shuffling around to find the right moment to annotate a particular moment in the war or to illustrate what was happening to civilians. that is another reason i like going to battlefields. people to forget that would carry on, farmers were living their lives while armies marched through with the town on their heels. using diaries during the siege of the expert, using diet -- vicksburg, using diaries from
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civilians of the time, offered a great counterpoint. brian: on page 691, you have this about casualties. historians estimated total of 195,000 union -- are approximately 15% of the former and 12% of the latter, died. you quote from this report on famine. what was that? ms. samet: not sure exactly which -- brian: let me read to you. autumnthe middle of last that this process of slow starvation became intolerable, incurious, and cruel. the cornbread became of the roughest and coarsest description. portions of the cob were ground in. there were peas and maggots in
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the crystalis. when they made soup, it floated on the surface. ms. samet: i believe that is a description of the would-be prison in richmond. nhe sanitary commission, a organization of volunteers, was trying to detail the various preparations in prisoner of -- in prisoner of war camps. to be a prisoner of war during any conflict is a horrible thing. it oftenonflict, entailed those kinds of hard ships. the conditions and the food were horrible. brian: did you go to either prison? ms. samet: i have not. historians done
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on capturing the civil war? how well did the government do at keeping records? ms. samet: in the civil war, the number of casualties generated caused the war department to keep records in a more regular fashion. the war department afterward has the official records, as its called, of the war, of the rebellion, and a multivolume compendium of northern and southern war correspondentsce, dispatches, and orders. it was amazing. sheer number of people involved made the war department realize that record-keeping was vital. they made a point to preserve the history of the war in these records. brian: i noticed the name brooks
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simpson. brooks simpson was here in 2000 talking about grant. here is something he had to say about the general. >> he was an extremely able commander, able to master challenges that felled other men. his success was not inevitable. improvising,er at responding, on the spur of the moment, to changes in plan and circumstances. i think he played favorites. sometimes he was too stubbonrn n favorites.o those sometimes he forgot that the enemy also had a will and was trying to impose it upon him. there are things that grant did that were not so shrewd. ms. samet: i think the point
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about grant's aggressiveness is on the mark. his errors were those of being too aggressive. he had a moment early in the civil war when he was chasing a confederate commander named harris through missouri. camp thatp on harris' and just been vacated. he realized that the enemy was as afraid of him as he was of the enemy, and he called that a valuable lesson. sometimes, he didn't always remember or take certain precautions. sometimes those errors of aggression didn't yield great results. keen tohole, he was make decisions. he was frustrated and impatient with commanders who took a long time, who delayed. that was his great frustration with various commanders. brian: as you know, william
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mcfeely had a book, but he hasn't been here and we don't have any excerpts from him. have these books sold? ms. samet: i think so. the most recent books have been in the news of late and have sold well. mcfeely's book won a pulitzer prize. in civil war history, there are always enthusiasts who want to read the latest take on a given .igure particularly fisher's -- figures who have undergone revision. brian: the same note with brooks simpson's reference in it starts out this way -- perhaps more than any other engagement, the assault at cold harbor gave grant the reputation as a butcher. why? ms. samet: the assault at cold harbor -- unfortunately, the
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confederates had already had time to entrench and this assualt was ordered and the casualties were devastating. i have some accounts in there of the cries of the wounded and the sheer number of casualties. that and one of the attacks at vicksburg are the two things that grant has said he regretted the most. he also regretted the exposure of a traitor at -- this is an example of some of the errors of grant as a commander. he was very willing to delegate. he did not once to spend a lot of his time worrying about matters that his subordinates could do. as a result, he freed himself to think about strategic issues. sometimes he didn't intervene when he should have.
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he let the squabbles of other commanders interfere with the effectiveness of the various operations. he owned that error at cold harbor. that is the thing that his detractors seize on. in those low periods of his reputation, when he is called a drunk and a butcher, it is cold harbor that people have in mind. it was a devastating battle. brian: the last person i ever expected to read about in your book was tallulah bankhead. who was she and why is she in your book? ms. samet: to the bankhead is in for -- tallulah bankhead is in for a couple reasons. i did make reference to those little foxes in thes outh. those references to the civil war in the 20th century that i wanted to bring in. her grandfather was a confederate veteran.
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she wasn't sometimes in washington attending various festivities with him. this is the sort of example of the strangeness with the way we have remembered that war. he appeared in his confederate uniform on the floor of the senate on the occasion of a reunion and marched down pennsylvania avenue with a fellow senator in his union uniform. this is that strange emblem of reconciliation. i thought that was important to talk about and to think about the ways in which those figures, who had served in the confederacy, made their way back into national life in various contexts. brian: his name was john bankhead, the senator from alabama. you quoted him here. address, 0 memorial
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ofator bankhead, this date radical republican charles sumner, he emphasized unity above all. two years before his death -- senator bankhead made on this floor a motion that the senate of their over the day parade. i imagine all who were present must recall the scene when senator bankhead dressed in a uniform of confederate gray to simple ass always -- always, without notice and without a raid arose and addressed the nation. i never would have guessed that a senator could have appeared in his old confederate uniform on the floor of the senate. it is a remarkable moment in history. brian: when is this a $45 book?
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john russell young reported nt's memory julia gra of the day of the assassination. here are the notes. the darkest day of my life, said the general, of lincoln as good assassination, i did not know what it meant. as a war andt it now we had to fight it as an assassination. he goes on. while i was with the president, a note came from mrs. grant saying she must leave washington that night. she wanted to go to burlington to see our children. i was glad to have the note is a did not want to go to the theater. he had been invited to go to the theater with lincoln. i made my excuse and at the proper hour week started for the train. what else happened that night? grantmet: grant and julia had been invited to go to
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theater -- go to ford's that night with mrs. lincoln and the president. i'm not sure that julia grant and mrs. lincoln got along all that well, but i think they wanted to get back to new jersey where their children were. grant was happiest with his family and wanted to get back to them. they ended up going straight home. grant had to turn right around and go back to washington as soon as he had learned of the assassination. chance that he was not there. brian: this is the amazing thing -- as we were driving along pennsylvania avenue, a horseman drove past us at a gallop. this is someone who had been rude to them at lunch. into the carriage,
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grant said, there is the man who sat near us at lunch today with some effort to overhear our conversation. it turns out it was john wilkes booth? ms. samet: the conspirators -- it was so mysterious. afterward, they probably regarded themselves as quite fortunate to have escaped. brian: later on, walt whitman comes into the picture. that is part of your english. ms. samet: walt whitman, in his poetry and drum taps, and his account as working as a volunteer nurse and tending to wounded soldiers, writes a great deal about the civil war. he writes a great deal about --one of the things it is interesting about whitman is he notes in the beginning the great enthusiasm for war. the volunteers marching off thinking it would be a lark and would not last, parading to the streets of manhattan.
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and the war turning into something different. a lovely portrait of grant in which he suggests that he has some distinctively american virtues of a kind of modesty. it is a very affectionate portrait. brian: we are about out of time. gary cooper is in this, movies are in this, frank capra. if grants were sitting here today, what is the one question you would want to ask first? ms. samet: oh wow. actually, this will probably come as a surprise, i would want to hear more about something he alludes to only briefly. that's what i think of as the lost years. it would be about that time in the pacific northwest, where his letters revealed to julia how
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miserable he is. i would want to hear more about how that period shaped his thinking about the army and war itself. brian: our just teaches english literature at west point. her name is elizabeth samet. this is the annotated memoirs of ulysses s. grant. thank you for joining us. ms. samet: thank you very much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> for free transcripts, visit us at q&
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next sunday on q&a, u.s. army veteran eileen rivers discusses her book beyond the call. that's next sunday on c-span. >> c-span's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up, we'll preview the week ahead in washington. and washington post congressional reporter -- and the latest on the u.s.-china trade talks with robert daly. be sure to watch washington general, live at 7:00 a.m. foronday, the center
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strategic -- hosted a conference with rod rosenstein on norms in the united states. live coverage begins at noon >> the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. >> ask not what your country can do for you. ask what you can do for your country. >> and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon. >> c-span's noah's book, "the presidents", noted historians rank the best and worst chief executives. an examination into the lives of 44 historical presidents, with interviews of noted presidential historians.
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challenges they face, and the legacies they have left behind. published by public affairs, c-span's "the presidents" will be on shelves april 23, but you can preorder your copy today at or wherever books are sold. next, british prime minister theresa may takes questions from members of the house of commons. then democratic presidential candidate senator amy klobuchar talks to voters in new hampshire. and at 11:00 p.m., another chance to see q&a with elizabeth samet talking about her annotated edition of the memoirs of ulysses grant. >> ahead of her meetings with european leaders on brexit negotiations, british prime minister theresa may took questions from members in the house of


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