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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  June 26, 2011 9:00am-10:00am EDT

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>> next on booktv civil war historian jeffry wert recounts robert e. lee's command of the confederate army from june 1, 1862, to the battle of gettysburg. this is just over an hour. >> good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. i am the executive director of the lehigh valley heritage museum here in allentown, pennsylvania. welcome to today's program. i'm delighted to have all of you here. we have won the most esteemed civil war authors and historians in the country today.
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jeffry wert will be speaking about his new book, "a glorious army: robert e. lee's triumph, 1862-1863". and this book we are delighted to say is a main selection of the history book club, and the military book club your this book is one of the most sought after civil war books in the country right now today. he is the author of nine books, and has been writing about the civil war for 40 years. it took a while to get that out, 40 years. he really is well-known from pennsylvania to california. is most noticeable achievements, one of them a biography on general james long street, the confederacy's most controversial soldier. we are delighted to have jeffry wert with us here today at the conclusion he will take your questions. let's give jeffry wert a nice round of applause. [applause]
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>> thank you. thanks, do. good afternoon. when i was here in the fall, many people, i don't know if you here or not, many of you are so kind to ask questions, so please, if you have questions i will allow time for this. i had a timeframe but if you have questions i certainly would like to hear them, or if you disagree with what i have to say. in fact, i was thinking about this coming down on the drive this morning, this is the first full talk i've given on the boat. so if parts of it don't make sense, forgive me. i haven't gone through this altogether at this time. so please, when i'm done i would like as many questions as you have. when robert e. lee rode out nine-mile road on sunday june 1, 1862, to assume command of the army in northern virginia, there were i will tell you very few people who are quite optimistic
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about the prospects. there were few in regiment but there weren't many. now, lee had that great virginia family name. he is a west pointer, model soldier, in many ways. but he hadn't commanded in west virginia in the fall of 61 between lousy weather and even worse subordinates. it was a failed campaign so that kind of hung over his reputation. actually lee was temporary exile to if you will to south carolina and georgia to build coastal defenses until march of 1862 when jefferson davis needed a military advisor. so he chose lee and lee joined davis. what was critical for the next march, april and may was that these two men develop mutual respect and trust for each other. where as davis, you know, had so many problems with johnston who if you ask johnson who have so
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many problems with jefferson davis, your johnston withheld information from davis and the relationship was very, very icy. and is getting more difficult. then, of course, johnson was wounded on may 31 in a fine of seven pines or fair oaks. as davis rode away that evening on may 31 lee was with them. and you could make the argument who is going to command the army and davis had little choice. there was no subordinate to give it to switch unduly instead i'm going to appoint you to temporary command. not permanent command. expected maybe johnson would return. so that's how they got the job of in command of the army in northern virginia. when he joined the army. he realized very quickly that one, johnson was a bad administrator. so the organization of the army was weak. discipline in the camps was
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miserable in many ways. hill wrote to his wife at that time, he wrote that hundreds if not thousands of men would sneak away from camp and enjoy the saloons and brothels of richmond on a constant basis. you can't run an army that way. so, lee and turned inherited an army that was not quite ready for what lee is going to expect of them. yet i thought about this when i was doing it, i'm thinking you can't write in the book at all the stars align. people would think, you can't prove all the stars aligned. but in the sense, all the stars aligned for the confederacy on that june day. you have robert e. lee who is of unknown quantity and quality certainly, but there is nobody really in the army of the potomac, union army of the potomac which were at the gates
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of richmond, that simply -- i know their names, stonewall jackson, james long street, jeb stuart, ap hill, dhl, there simply wasn't in the union army those kind of subordinates. so what they needed, if you will, with somebody who could take them somewhere, and that man was lee who rode out that morning on sunday june 1. what did tranforty immediately? he did what he would do for the next three years. he went to work. he issued an order immediately sang that all commanders will have their brigade and division regiment at a moments notice. two days later, two days later, lee decided that he was going to attack the union army at the potomac. what is critical to understand
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about this, and i think it's what becomes a hallmark of his generalship survey for the next 13 months, but argued that as long as he could do it, lee had assessed, if you will, rationally, you know, some had argued he had that in eight combativeness. maybe he had come it's hard to measure that. if you remember there's a famous conversation between one of davis' aide joseph eyes and the future arcturus in the army, and this happens soon after he was taken command, and alexander asked is generally audacious enough? we need audacity. and he said alexander, you're going to see shortly all the audacity you need to see. and i had it right, but the thing is it doesn't come from a combativeness of such. it comes from a calculation on lee's part.
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if you look at june 1862, the confederacy had a terrible winter. you have nashville was captured. you have the battle of shiloh where the confederacy lost. and you have new orleans captured. excuse me, the union army of the potomac was within a handful of mouse of richmond. the attitude in the north was if you recall, they shut down the recruiting offices. they thought the war was going to be over shortly. there was every reason to believe that it may be over very shortly. so the winter of 62 was a winter where the confederacy essentially fought in the defensive, and the union army had swallowed up vast stretches of land and the largest city in the confederacy had been captured in new orleans. lee saw that only chance they had against an opponent whose material might and manpower may not be unlimited but it was certainly unlimited compared to
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the confederacy. and he felt he had to take the war to them. you had to assume the offensive. you had to take risks because if you don't take risk, year and possibly for a slow death. and to prevent that, lee calculated that the only thing that the confederacy needed to do, if you will, would be audacious and bold. some have argued that lee was too bold, but what i will tell you, lee within what the the southern people expected their generals to do. you know, the old line was any good read -- they probably exaggerated number's but they believe, you know, their voice could with a fair number of yankees. they had this martial attitude in the south prior to the war, and the davis administration, he wanted aggressiveness, but the
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southern people wanted -- so when lee is aggressive, he in turn is reflecting what the southern people expected him to do. and by doing so, if you're a general, you can dictate within your theater how the campaigns are the operations are going to unfold. it's strategic or operational offensive. so within two days, he conferred on june 2 and june 3, with a few of his commanders. jackson is still in the shenandoah valley completing his campaign. conferred with some but lee had made the decision within two days to strike the enemy. charles marshall who was his military secretary would say later in writings and certainly it must have come from conversations with lee and it certainly is reflected in lee
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strategy, lee believe the best way to defend richman was to be a as far away from possible. in other words, you have to take the were a way from richmond. with the george b. mcclellan and the army of the potomac sitting on your doorstep, somehow you have to get them away from the. if you jump ahead to 64, what happens? grant takes the war to richman, does me? and then from richmond to petersburg and lee's arm is going to bleed a slow death. so to lee you have to fight another way. the other calculation, this is critical to understand, lee will write about this time and again, and he paid close attention to what was going on in the north. as a trivia, some of you might -- lee's favorite newspaper was "the philadelphia inquirer." he thought that had the most reliable correspondence with the army of the potomac. he would read other newspapers but his favorite was "the
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philadelphia inquirer." but anyhow, he knew that the confederacy to win this war had to achieve on the battlefield, but ultimately what they had to do was to break the will of the northern people. the will of the northern people to sustain the war effort in the face of defeat and sacrifices and losses of husbands and brothers and so forth, that was the german analyst, it was the center of gravity, it's the crucial thing that has to be broken. and to do that, in lee's mind you i do fashion to get a series of battlefield victories that might break the will of the northern people. and force the lincoln administration to negotiate a political settlement. the confederacy could never conquer the north. so they had to bring the north to the table. and in lee's tight elections
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that was part of his strategy. and so as many well know, at the end of june 1862, the confederate army struck. and the army struck at what is known as the seven days campaign. actually, we like turning points in wars, in any war. civil war is famous for being a diplomatic turning point. and ms. burt and vicksburg in the military turning point. folks come in some ways a critical turning point was the seven days. the war changed. the war took a new course because of the seven days. lee and his army are going to change everything in the east and are going to change it for the next year. when he drove the army of the potomac with i think george mcclellan said help in the sense of mcclellan want to retreat and get away from them, but when they achieved that, the
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war in the east is going to change. that's because lee willing to do this. now, this is an army that will be not the army that you think about later your just a couple things that struck me as i was doing this. one of the standards things, terrible miscommunication. jackson had a bad campaign, given over to fatigue and illness. we're not sure but he doesn't do very well. lee had serious questions about stonewall jackson's conduct in that campaign. but one other thing that struck the amount of straggling. my goodness, there were a lot of good old southern boys who were not interested in fighting. when they came close to the battlefield they work around. this is going to be a problem throughout 62. will talk more about this later but this is clearly a problem at that time. just for example, how they were not a machine by any means, and
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that's malvern hill. the question has been argued and still remains argued, i just saw a recent article i think in the civil war times illustrated or america's civil war, comparing lee and grant and casualty's. i think the premise is wrong innocent if you look at the western campaigns, there are a lot more movement -- you know, put together a string of bloody battles in the west, you don't put a string of bloody battles in the west and compare them to the east. if you're being compared you will lose more men. but my point is malvern hill it is all lined there. dh hill said it was not about it was murder. they were slaughtered. the important thing to remember, that's an example of lee's aggressiveness. transfers on the left wing of
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the army late afternoon. he was with james long street and they were discussing this and lee had decided to cancel the attack. if they're going to make an attack. tranforty cited he was going to cancel and then two things happen. two messages came. once said the federal army was in retreat. lee had been trying to capture them for a week. secondly, the most arms brigade famous for gettysburg, his brigade had made an advance. so these two messages came to lee which seems we have an opportunity here, and the federals are against carrying away, and as lee would say he wants to destroy their army. well unfortunately both pieces of information were wrong. and instead of lee ordering a mass of salt of malvern hill he was drawn into the by false
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information. and the result was murder as hill said. the next campaign, i say in my book, because james longstreet said, i'm not saying it because longstreet, bull run or second manassas come in fact it is really second manassas. if you go to the park it's the manassas battlefield, was lee's masterpiece. what he did was combine a strategic or offensive, march around john pope and once they got in the battlefield they assumed the tactical defensive until august the 30th, and then went to counterattack. and came very, very close to destroying the union army of virginia. if any of you go down there and go to henry house bill, down below it there's a stone house with the war -- across the road, the intersection. if they would've capture that pokes army would have been scattered.
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many would've been forced to surrender but they came close but they never did. from the seven days, the beginning of july and till the end of august, somehow this army, parts of the came together. this was a different army then marched in seven days. communications was much better. jackson had gotten down, whatever cost and have a subpar performance during the seven days, he was the one that executed the march around. longstreet is clearly becoming a solid wing commander at the time, both he and jackson would have wings. and in that sense it is in many ways lee's masterpiece even though chancellorsville is considered his greatest battle, but if you want to look at lee and what lee -- see, we have this image of lee, a lot of minds. i know why we have it, because i
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imagine all of you have been to gettysburg and you walk out there, the virginia monument and you stand there where alexander's guns are there, you look across that line angel across those fields and there's cemetery ridge and you say how could you do this? how could he ordered his army across this ground? you know, is lee that combative? and so we have this image, but actually if you look more closely at these campaigns and the second manassas, lee's folks preferred maneuvering to give him a situation that was very favorable tactically on a battlefield to his army. flanking maneuvers he used in seven days. he will use it at second manassas again. but after that he sitting in northern virginia, and is looking around and he feels he has to take the war across the potomac into maryland.
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the difficulty with that is he's looking at an army that the men are physically just worn out. they have gone many miles, but they are going to fall. and what is interesting we know from research of others is that probably his army at the time outnumbered in the neighborhood of 70-75,000, and the fact they are just of the potomac river at the beginning of december. he acted -- well, he wrote to davis and asked him if it was okay, but he wrote to davis to ask permission when had already started to army forward. and davis of course is going to grant it is because, you know, davis even in that year earlier, there was discussions within the administration, how can we take the war, not into maryland but into pennsylvania.
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they wanted to expand the borders of the confederacy. but when lee crossed that river he's going to risk a great do. the straggling becomes epidemic. they probably lost, it's hard to estimate again, we know thousands of that number could not cross the river because they were just physically exhausted or ill. but more than likely come anywhere from 25,000-30,000 confederates during a campaign that is going to last two weeks, are going to abandon the ranks. they're going to head back into virginia. i know the second virginia which is a stonewall brigade, they will go with jackson's command to capture harpers ferry. and then they were ordered back across the potomac to go to sharpsburg -- they decided into maryland, they've seen enough of maryland and they're not going back. a don't go back.
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then they're basically doing duties south of the river. but when you look at numbers, it's hard to get -- we all want to have them come and get we studied this and studied this. how many confederates were on the field on september 17, 18 '62? the consensus is probably about 40,000. but i'm going to some of the records and the other fellows have come here there were regimens before the battle, not after the battle, before the battle, mustard 15 men. 25 men. these are regimens that it thousand in the ranks in 61. so when you look -- 50 men, you know, members of, not a full regiment of italians, eight. idly south carolina union, look at these numbers. what happens of course is lee is
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going to be criticized, why did you fight there? and his explanation was it was better to fight a battle in maryland than to leave without a battle. but if you go to sharpsburg and you visit that battlefield, it's a wonderful place in the sense it is not -- i think gettysburg is a great place to go, too, but sharpsburg is a wonderful jewel out there. you know, there's not a motel in town. there's not a mcdonald's. it has hardly changed. if you want to stay overnight you have to go back up to hagerstown. it's a small battlefield in a sense, but it stands, the potomac river is three miles. had he lost, his army faced possible destruction. okay, what if he won? if you want he was going to hurt the army of the potomac that much. he can't pursue them. is not going to tear into the
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rear of the army of the potomac as he crosses the south. so what lee asked his men to do, as one confederate officer said probably his greatest testament, i think it's the greatest day in history of the army for its rank. sacrifice, folks, measured in hours and minutes. at sharpsburg for the confederates. there's a north carolina soldier who somehow had time to jot in his diary, my god, when will the sun go down? the sun seemed to hang in the sky. i mean, from the opening attacks, and we know the place, east and west woods, dunford church, when not fighting was over there were 8000 men on the ground in a square mile. and then it will shift to what we call bloody lane. the yankees will break through bloody lane, and who's in their front? james long streets staff, and d.
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h. lee, a major general run at 200 that he could find summer. they are going to counterattack with 200, or so. this is how close it came. then you have the collapse of the right wing, the only thing that saves lee's army is the arrival of hills division. what he asked his men to do is simply remarkable. and they did it. and what is also interesting about it as the battle was shifted from the north and through the center at the bloody lane, midafternoon, and jackson has been there, what's left of them are hanging on in the west woods and round the dunford church and so forth, lee since and i request to jackson that jeb stuart conduct
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reconnaissance around the flank of the army of the potomac to see if he could counterattacked. they are hanging on by a thread and lee is looking to see whether or not they could counterattacked and collapse the army of the potomac. the very idea of that is really astonishing. and, of course, as we know it's the bloody sunday in american history. and lee would say later, he would admit himself that what he asked his army to do was probably the greatest moment. and i would almost agree with that. and they saved him. of course, lee was all over the field. jackson was superb, so as long streets and subordinate commanders, there's no question. just as a phrase many may remember, frederick's division of the union, many of them came from pennsylvania, they're going to charge into the west woods. they will is 2200 in 20 minutes.
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2200 men in 20 minutes. because he didn't -- they just plunged into. this is the level of fighting you will see there. in the aftermath of that, lee would establish, congress would approve, longstreet and jackson became the two corps commanders. it is lee he will promote, -- so if lee would have fallen in battle, long string would've assumed temporary command of the army, not not stonewall jackson. there are two different men and charlie. jackson, i've always been amazed at how men could impose his will, not only on his men, but upon his enemy. and jackson did that. i remember in april '62 he wrote to his wife that he wanted to create an army of the living
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god. i believe that. jackson was very devout. the only probably the jackson was hit whole bunch of sinners following that living god idea and a lot of them left the ranks and so forth. but this jackson who do this. he told vmi cadets as they are living, when virginia seceded, he said in the civil war, when you take the sword you achieve the sort. and from the moment stonewall jackson became a confederate officer, he had achieved the sword and he would throughout. james longstreet is a different man in that sense. james longstreet was probably the best tactician in the army. longstreet was much more careful in expenditure of things because longstreet had done 1862 valley campaign? i don't think so. jackson knew the region but secondly what it took him as jackson would push men and push men and push men, lee sent
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jackson around both flank, not longstreet. lee understood. when you wanted to defend a position, or you wanted to launch a counterattack, you didn't give it to old jack, you gave it to old pete. that's where longstreet excelled and so forth. i'm not going to talk much about -- that was these is battle we ever had. yes, it was. it's a terrible, terrible day for the army of the potomac. you think about it, you know, these regiment and these brigades after brigades are going to charge up towards that stonewall, and they can inspire and gunfire is so heavy, so heavy that dead men are moving. because bullets are striking them in such frequency that they're actually making their bodies move as more and more union soldiers are going up that
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slope. if there's ever a place where the army of the potomac proved the courage of itself it's in front of the stonewall outsiders byrd. during the winter of 1863, lee would be plagued with what argument would be a worsening condition that goes on and that's the shortages of food and so forth. and armaments and everything you need. he had to scatter his calvary, had to scatter his units. it's only going to get worse in 64, but 63 is a precursor of the difficulties. ..
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. >> nevertheless hooker had lee caught if you will between two wings of his enemy and what does lee do? he has to calculate which one is the real thing and one is the fake. and he decides the real thing is up the river and he divides his
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army which was divided 2 to 1 and he will send jackson to hooker and the critical day there in some ways is may 1st. as hooker is coming out of the wilderness, they're going to run into jackson and hooker is going to order them back into the wilderness. that negated their artillery. he didn't have calvary with them the best thing of the army potomac relative to the confederates was their artillery. there was well manned under a superb officer henry hunt. but that was negated with this battleground that they chose and with jeb stewart being able to shut of the avenues meaning the roads in that area they were able to execute the famous -- jackson's famous flank march around the army of the potomic and, of course, in the afternoon of the may 2nd they will assault down the road and collapse the 11 corps. and the whole battle has changed
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there. may 3rd, again, if you look at may 3rd, it was a bloody, bloody slugfest for brass works in these woods. jeb stewart is a good friend in the army. and lee had to unite the wings of his army so he had to attack there. again, circumstances tell lee he has to attack. he has to unite the wings of his army because if hook figures out or there's a big gap there he can plow through and possibly crush some segments of lee's army and they will do it. and that is the day that really sealed in more or less who's going to win a chance. ultimately, joe hooker will order retirement and retreat across the area and as many say this is lee's greatest victory. it was unexpected. when a texan, a civilian and
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texan heard about the news he wrote, oh, what a glorious army so i stole his words for the title. i had some poor choices in titles. and a glorious was from a texas civilian saying. and it's critical and understanding what will tran spire, he does not know that he had defeated the commander of the army of the potomic meaning joe hooker. he had not defeated the rank-and-file and many of the corps commanders. george mead and george reynolds were on the verge of discussing the fact if they would disobey hooker's order and not retreat in the order. hooker had to send the order saying you will cross the river.
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that's how much dissension was in the army but the rank-and-file was a different story but there's no way lee could know that. and after chancellorville if you start to read all these things that the confederates are writing, they essentially say, okay, wherever the army potomic we'll go meet them and that was the way they looked at it and by the time they're going to reach gettysburg and free mantle the british gold stream observers with the army besides of the words of their own men they believed they were invincible and on the battlefield they believed they could win. why did lee go to pennsylvania? well, charles marshall again quoting him post-war writings and so forth, marshall would say that from a time lee took command and you link all these
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campaigns together, they all went together. in other words, this idea of carrying a war north and whatever it was part of lee's ultimate plan if you will. i told you that davis was looking in '62 and talking about the possibility they may go into pennsylvania. and so to leave, here was an opportunity to finally do this. also, i think you can in some ways argue that this is the best army he commanded at a given point. now, jackson's dead. i understand that. i mean, you can't replace jackson. and that's going to show. but don't ask me, please, if jackson had been in gettysburg what would happen, i don't know. of the commanders he could not replace. i understand that but if you look at armaments and all the things that go into it, there is -- from when you read their
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records and their diaries very little straggling in pennsylvania which was -- which had been a curse as -- that's what lee called it in '62, the curse of the army was a straying. you're not going to see that in the army. are they going to leave the leave the cumberland valley farm and yes, they're going to do that and that's the difference. if you go out and raid a farmhouse and most often a smoke house, raid that and grab some chickens and come back to camp again you're with the army you're not straggling you're having a good time and they had a very good time in pennsylvania. but as lee would march north he would write to davis, and they had sense that the time had come. it looks like we have a chance because vicksburg had not been settled yet. this is may. june and granted tried an
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assault there and a bloody repulse and this is our chance to maybe hit them again on free soil, win a victory that will bring the lincoln administration to the negotiating table. davis was so taken by the idea in the sense, probably is too strong but he formed a three-man commission that he would negotiate with the lincoln government upon a confederate victory in pennsylvania. so when lee went north, he went north to settle it. now, if you read his report, you will get a different interpretation of that. it's almost like i'm taking the boys into pennsylvania. we're planning to spend a few times there on a holiday and then come home. we're not going to fight a general battle. you know, i don't want to fight the general. he didn't on july 1st. but, folks, he was looking for the army of the potomic in
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pennsylvania because he was hoping that they would to have march after him and be strung out and he could hit him. he did not want that fight on july 1st. and part of the reason and i know when i was here jeb stewart failed him in this campaign. some argued, no, stewart had orders -- he certainly had orders to do what he did. what i mean where he failed was in the misjudgment, serious misjudgment. but blind to what was in his front and so when lee on the morning of july the 1st and when jackson crosses that and hears the artillery, he was upset. he received orders not to bring in a fight. he knew fraz were in the area. they didn't know who they were and how many but then, of course, on that day -- it's one of the rare moments in the history of the army they were
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able to bring together more men on the battlefield than the yankees had. i think at one point you could argue it was 28,000, 22. and they september the first and the eleventh corps off the field and south of town. so lee had won another signal victory. everything he had asked his men to do, they did it again. james longstreet will ride there -- arrive on the battlefield and turn his horse around seminary ridge and will ride near the present day seminary and he said that he saw that lee was engaged so he took some time, got his fill glasses out and looked across the open day but you can't see today but back then you could see the cemetery hill and to the rear and he concluded that's pretty -- that's pretty good ground if you're going to fight in the defensive. so when lee -- he met lee maybe
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15, 20 minutes later. said general and i'm paraphrasing we have them where we want them. all we need to do is just move south. what longstreet moved south 5, 10 miles, fight on the ground and make the yankees attack them and we'll beat them and there's probably -- and you can argue that he was right about that. because if you just jump ahead, the first time in the history of the army northern virginia where they held a battlefield and were driven from it would be april 2nd, 1865, one week before appomattox. so they're going to defend the ground, chances are pretty good that the yankees are not going to drive them from that ground. lee looked at him and said, no, no. again i'm paraphrasing it. if they're there tomorrow, i'm going to attack them and longstreet said if they're there tomorrow there's a good reason we should not attack them and
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that's arguably the most serious controversy of gettysburg. longstreet at this point in war we're weight too many men's lives and we have to fight on the defensive. he had a sound argument in that sense, folks. we have no way of knowing what you would assume and again, this is, you know, just based on some kind of guess or whatever you want to say, if the confederates had helped seminary ridge and waited for the yankees and see what mead was going to do you have to think mead was going to attack him. can you imagine in the white house if george mead sent a telegram to president lincoln saying the enemy is a mile away and i'm watching them. [laughter] >> in fact, mead was -- if lee doesn't attack on july 3rd that he may have to assume the offensive on july 4th. i can't give you a definitive
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answer on picket's charge on that sense. i can do what lee said and tell you what he did. he said i probably asked more of the men than they could deliver. i think that's right. he had to believe that they could take that position, right? because if he did not believe if they could same cemetery ridge on july 3rd after what they'd done on july 2nd and they came very close on july 2nd, you know, but it's a different army at the potomic as they're fighting as one surgeon would say later, we're an army of lines commanded by jack asses. this were fewer jack asses than there were prior. it's this sense of invisibility. it's the sense of whatever i've asked these men to do they have done for me. one thing you can't calculate --
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you know, when you write about the army of northern virginia, maybe it's just me or whatever, how do you calculate the fighting spirit of these men. you can't measure it, but it's there. there were something about the confederate infantry and others -- longstreet would rye i dorm them having good soldiers but we needed better organization. others were different they have this land, this spirit that just -- you look at what they do in this period of time and you see, where is it? it comes from within them and what they were fighting for. on the other hand, we look at the potamic oh, they don't measure up. oh, those boys measure up.
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it's also leadership but on that jay on july 24ird as that confederate infantry and that great land and lee must have believed that they could do it 'cause they always had, you know, when they step out there and up there in that ridge the guys who went in the west woods, you know, i told you about sedgwick's division, and one of them yield fredrickberg, fredericksburg, come on, to come death and they were waiting on them and they held because they were lions and lee had underestimated that. he had misjudged his opponent and so had many in the confederate army 'cause these boys, gettysburg -- the boys in blue, gettysburg becomes a redemption fork. if you look at gettysburg, gettysburg is a combination what lee planned to do first time he took command and when he took
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command and they will move out in the seven days as i told you, the war in the east changed. they actually redirected the war. i think they gave the confederacy and lee's strategy the only chance of winning the war. so if you will, i think figuratively and literally the army of northern virginia was reborn on the sabbath day in june 1862. thank you. [applause] >> well, mr. wert is going to take some questions. so anyone who would like to ask a question, should step up to the microphone. don't be bashful. i know it starts -- we have a young lady -- oh, we have a gentleman here, okay, sir. >> this has been perhaps the
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most dramatic and interesting and comprehensive discussion of the civil war. thank you. and i also want to make a suggestion that in the future, that we have a screen showing the geographic relationship of all the towns you mentioned. it would really complete our vision of what you're saying. you said a great message. thank you. >> well, thank you. that's very kind. the reason it's not there is i'm probably a computer idiot. [laughter] >> everybody asks me you know powerpoint and i'm thinking, powerpoint? no. actually, just as a confessional, i write my books on legal pads from note cards from cheap pens because i have a wife who's a wonderful secretary and she types everything into the computer for me and then says, you know, jeff, this is
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stupid which i think she enjoys. [laughter] >> but your point is well-taken. i agree with you. it's just -- i'm too old and too orny to change but i'll think about it. thank you. those are very kind words and i'll think about it. >> hi, i'm jill assistant director at the lehigh valley heritage museum. first i want to thank you for being here. it was really interesting. and i have a question, what do you say people about scholars and lay people who consider lee a traitor? and, you know, have thought that the best thing would be to execute him? what are your thought on that? >> that's a very difficult question. very interestingly i think about a week ago i saw online in the
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"washington post" one of the columnists wrote that argument. he could not understand why lee was so praised in america because he was a traitor. i think -- every confederate arguably, i guess, if you will fully understanding what they did were traitors. but the finer moments in our history are moments i think in a sense of forgiveness. and lincoln saw that. johnson would do it for different reasons. remember harry truman does it after world war ii and stuff. and in that -- yes, they were in the sense if you want to look at it in the narrow confines of the constitution. but you know, we were a country created by traitors. they were in a line of traitors. and they looked -- and to them they weren't.
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they were just following in the revolution father's footsteps. and that's why, you know -- to have executed lee and everybody else or leading officers, you know, they finally abandoned of bringing davis to trial after abandoning him for two years or so. but the men who fought guilt or innocence them, if you look at them, that's what they couldn't understand. they couldn't understand how can you southerners risk this country. this is like no place on earth. yeah, they bought into the american exceptionalism. they really did. when a guy from wisconsin say i'm fighting for the best country ever created for the common man, they got it. at that time. so, you know, in the sense i don't -- technically i guess it's constitutionally since i'm not a lawyer they were but what
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lincoln did would have did certainly already planning this then johnson would. the best thing to do is to heal this terrible wound and go on and let these men go away. yes, arguably, they almost destroyed the country, but we have to go from that and that's the way i look at it. >> excuse me, again, how do you compare the mentality of the confederacy as a revolution very much the same way we're seeing in the middle east? people are driving for identity and recognition. can you interpret that in the confederacy? >> i don't think so. there's a real argument to be made that this is a top-down revolution in the confederacy if you want to call it a
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revolution. this is lead by their plan of class of politicians. what you're seeing in the middle east -- i don't think there's many wealthy -- very, very wealthy and established arabs in the streets there. i think they're trying to cling to it because they owe their probably existence to people like gadhafi. again, i don't -- i wouldn't know for certain or any way. but, no, and, in fact, northerners saw it in those terms at the time. this is -- this is slave holders pulling their people into a war. you know, and they're the ones who are blamed for it these leading slave holders politicians and secessionists so i think it's a different kind and in many ways, too, just to -- the american revolution was actually led by men who had a lot to lose. it's an unusual revolution in that sense. most as you're pointing out it's
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the people who have nothing to lose and they want to gain something. our revolution was led by men who had a lot to lose. so in that sense it's a different one. >> the battle of gettysburg, was it really all lee's fault or did the commanders really let him down? for instance, i guess the attack didn't take place when it was supposed to. the artillery compartment was offschedule. nothing seemed to be scheduled right and finally longstreet agreed to the attack and it took place longer than scheduled and another point was that the calvary commander was supposed to go and around come back and some feel that he was really being equipped to come in in
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back of the union line and had men trained there to take over the canons and everything else and they really let him down by not getting through to do that. so that really they have -- between them all, they had to strip lee of his plan. is that possible? >> well, i'm going to answer that in a number of way, first of all, you know, one of the favorite sports of historians in and civil war historians is what are the 10 reasons for the confederates to have lost to gettysburg? what is always interesting to me, the number 12 is the union army, you know, they never make the top 10 and they should probably be in the top 3. but anyhow, with that said, longstreet made a critical mistake on the night of july 2nd, 3rd. lee wanted picket's division on the field at dawn. they were going to attack in the same area roughly they had
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attacked on july 2nd. lee up through peach orchard. lee comes up after the war with a very thin excuse. we all know that yes, indeed cobbled together by lee, put together because his original plan would be to attack there at dawn and renew the assault at kolb's hill at dawn so, yes, lee had to change. so during the morning he will put together what -- we know the assault and more familiar i-picket's charge. for the thing with jeb's stewart i wrote a biography of stewart. i wrote a book on the third day of gettysburg. i looked and looked like everybody else and, you know, i cannot find that piece of paper that says jeb stewart is supposed to attack the rear of the union army at getbetysburg
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when they break through. i think stewart was out there when they protect the flank. stewart said in his report upon the instructions of the commanding general. that's all he says. well, jeb, we assume you were instructed but what were they and he doesn't tell us what they were. i'm telling you that does idea stewart was supposed to knife in the rear of the army as they broke through has no paper trail to say that's the case. >> he may be trying to get to the baltimore pike at two taverns to try to cut mead's supply lines and i think part -- but see, we don't think lee met with stewart. if he met with any corps commander he met with hill. and i probably didn't meet with hill. there's no evidence that i found that he met with stewart so whatever instructions stewart received in paper, or whatever,
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are gone or they were oral. so that's all i can tell you. longstreet -- lee would say that night, he could not understand why more men were not put into assault. and longstreet had command of anderson's division. he sent two brigades forward with that. he was ready to move forward with the other three. he cancels the order and if you read their men's diary -- james kemper would call the union position at gettysburg a call a sack of death. and so they didn't go. yeah, there's a lot of reasons. but every army makes, you know -- it's a human endeavor, right. but i hope that straightens that out. picket's charge is a put-together charge, that's true because of picket not being on the field when he was supposed to be which was not george
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picket's fault. that burden rests with james longstreet. >> tell us a little bit about the end of day 1 and day 2 on the left wing of the confederate army? 'cause i think lee sort of abdicated authority there. and gave up a great opportunity, both days, but primarily on day 2 he was sort of nonexistent, don't you think? >> everybody heard that question, which is a very good question and one of the other controversies of gettysburg that we deal with, should have richard uell one leg and all and newly married which you say contributed to his problems. [laughter] >> that's what they say. he lost his fighting spirit, really. [laughter] >> my wife's here.
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[laughter] >> you know, i'm with you on this because lee sends him a note -- sends walter taylor saying, you know, if you take that high ground, take it. it's practicable. so uell rides earlier with juble, and wow, that's pretty tough ground to take. we're going to need help. johnson's division is not up. so they send a word back to lee saying, can hill help us? lee checks with hill and hill says no i don't think we can. so uell goes around and says, okay, what we'll do when johnson's division arrives we'll have him attacked. the problem with that was uell did not very clearly tell johnson that he expected them to do it in the dark. that is to take cobb's hill,


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