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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 27, 2011 8:00am-9:00am EDT

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ronald reagan was well-intentioned, kind, good, hated evil, of small government, loved this country and that is the reason we look to him the way we do. thanks a lot. [applause] >> thank you. >> dennis prager. the one and only. dennis prager. thank you. ..
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[background sounds] >> notice the color of the bourbon, that pretty amber color that you see is all coming from the char on the inside of the barrel. this char is where bourbon get all of it color and a lot of its flavor. currently, they've discovered over 200 chemical flavors just in the oak and the char from the barrel. >> this weekend we highlight frankfurt, kentucky, on booktv and american history tv. throughout the weekend look for the history and literary life of kentucky's state capital. on booktv on c-span2, vice, violence, corruption and urban renewal, douglas boyd on
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kent masterson brown on american history tv on c-span3, a visit to buffalo trace distillery, one of only four in operation during prohibition. for medicinal purposes, of course. and the first two statehouses burned to the ground, stop by the third, the old state capitol. this weekend on c-span2 and 3. >> and now on booktv, harold holzer, james mcpherson and stephen sears recount the battle of antietam which occurred in 1862 in sharpsburg, maryland. this is a little over an hour. [applause] >> good evening, everyone, and welcome. when the year 1862 began as stephen sears writes in our new
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book, "the best of battles and leaders of the civil war," abraham lincoln was as he told a council of generals that he convened at the white house greatly disturbed by the state of affairs. the treasury was nearly exhausted, public credit was evaporating, congress was full of of jackals as he said, foreign relations were peril louse. the generals were spending more time fighting each other than fighting the confederates. general george mcclelland was sick in bed with typhoid fever, his army stalemated inspiring lincoln's famous comment: if general mcclelland did not want to use the army, maybe he could borrow it for a while. if something was not done soon, lincoln confided, the bottom would be out of the whole affair. 1862 may have been in a way the
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most dizzying year of the war. before it was over, things for the union got better, then worse, then better, then worse. and within its roller coaster of triumphs and disasters, abraham lincoln did nothing less that transform the war for union into the war for union and freedom. and that was a pretty breathtaking turn of events. we wanted to explore that year today with an emphasis on the extraordinary battle of antietam that did so much to transform america in many ways. let's go back a couple of days before the battle. september 15th, 1862 the, lincoln wired to mcclelland, destroy the rebel army if possible. two days later in a battle widely reported in the press as a major union victory, the
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commander in chief issued no congratulations that i've ever seen to to the army, but a few todays late aer he issued the emancipation proclamation, began nagging mcclelland again to go into action. and he wrote this amazing letter to a quaker leader confiding his belief that america was going through a fiery trial. which god permitted to continue, as he put it, for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown tonight. well, among james mcpherson's landmark books on the civil war is "antietam, the battle that changed america," in which he wrote the battle of antietam was the pivotal moment for the most crucial of them all. and in his unsurpassed biography george mcclelland, the young napoleon, stephen sears
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described antietam as the opportunity of a lifetime for the general and for the union alike which mcclelland squandered by losing, and i quote, his inner composure and with it the courage to command under the press of combat. strong words about an extraordinary moment, and tonight we'd like to drill down to these still unresolved questions of what was lost and what was gained in 1862. let's back up first a little bit. things were looking up for the group onin the spring. -- union in the spring. new orleans in april, disaster at manassas, but above all before antietam there was a peninsula campaign. steve, heir brained or brilliant plan that had a chance at ending the war? is. >> well, mc"closing bell" rand thought it was going to be very
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much -- he thought the war would be over. his famous letter to lincoln after the failure of the seven days, he had actually drafted before the seven days started, and he was planning to resume the role of commander in chief -- general in chief, i should say. and he expected to be writing this letter from richmond. so he was very optimistic million the seven days, until lee attacked him. >> jim, lee emerged during this campaign almost overnight, it seemed. granny lee became the successful defender of the confederacy. was he a sleeping giant that was allowed to slumber too long by jefferson davis? >> well, no, i don't think so because lee's experience in the first year of the war had been a succession of failure. after he had helped immobilize the virginia troops and then had
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joined the confederacy when virginia finally did join the confederacy, he had been sent out to deal with the problem in the western part of virginia which became west virginia where mcclelland actually had overseen successful union occupation of much of that area. then mcclelland was called to washington in july, and lee was sent out to western virginia to try to recover that area. in august of 1861. and every effort he made turned out to be a failure. he came into, came under all kinds of criticism from the richmond newspapers, he was called granny lee, as you suggest. then in november of 1861 jefferson davis sent him to the south atlantic coast to charleston just in time for lee to witness the capture of port royal by the union navy and the
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occupation of the south carolina and the georgia sea islands by union forces, another major reverse for the confederacy. and lee had to try the deal with what was going to be the consequence of that. and he gave orders to pull back out of range of the union navy all acorrect me if i am wrong the coastline -- all along the coastline which was seen as another major retreat by the confederacy. so it's not that lee was some kind of sleeping giant whose talent were not recognized. he actually had not really succeeded in doing anything. he was called back to richmond in march of 1862, became military adviser to jefferson davis and then began fashioning the confederate strategy of a counteroffensive still with stonewall jackson in the shenandoah valley and then after joe johnston was wounded at the battle of seven pines, lee was given direct command of what he renamed the army of northern
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virginia. and that's when the lee greatness really starts and the lee legend really starts. but up until that time, no, robert e. lee was kind of an also ran. >> let me ask you both a question then. um, he's the successful counteroffense i general, the defender of the capital. as we march toward the fall of 1862, why did robert e. lee change a winning formula and decide to go on the offensive and march into maryland? steve, let's start with you. >> well, he really didn't have much choice. after a second bull run, he could go four directions, literally, the four treks of the compass. -- directions of the compass. and if he went to washington, he had not the arms or the heavy artillery to besiege washington. and if he went back south, he was admitting that his plan, his offensive plan had failed. if he went west into the
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shenandoah valley, he could supply his men, but he would just be marking time, and he would lose the advantage, the initiative. so he ended up going north where there was a lot of food and a lot of -- they thought they would raise marylanders to join the confederate cause which didn't turn out to be true. but he really didn't -- he couldn't stay still, and this was his best option. >> jim? >> well, i think lee was always an avid reader of northern newspapers and a follower of northern politics. and he was well aware that congressional elections were scheduled for october and november of 1862 and even wrote to jefferson davis saying that by invading maryland and as he hoped, inflicting another defeat on the army of the potomac maybe on the scale of second manassas, that he could actually influence that election. and maybe the democrats would gain control of the house and
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force the lincoln administration to negotiate for peace. also at the same time we need to remember that the war is taking place not only in virginia, but across a front of a thousand miles. and the confederates were on the offensive in the western theater too where general edmond kirby smith was invading kentucky. also with the idea of winning that border state for the confederacy. so when lee went across the potomac river into maryland in the first week of september, 1862, confederate soldiers were on the march elsewhere with the hope of, in effect, i think, conquering peace by forcing the lincoln administration to negotiate with them. also lee's personality, his character was never satisfied with remaining static, remaining on the defense defensive.
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he always wanted to seize and hold the initiative, and that meant all going on the offensive, and we'll see that happening over and over again in lee's career as long as his armies are physically capable of doing that. >> he moves, as you both pointed out, into a state that has very divided loyalties and nearly -- well, probably would have seceded had lincoln left its legislature and secession conventions to it own devices. how did the northern press and the population along lee's route react to the arrival of the army of northern virginia? >> well, the other -- one factor you have to remember in all of this that general hallet, the general in chief, had a ban on the press, and reporters were not supposed to go to the army of the potomac, and he was very
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unhappy with the press coverage at second bull run. so that what was going on was just all based on rumor, and there was nothing passed out by the government about what was going on. and so everybody, they'd tag after every soldier they could find to see what was going on and what he thought about the situation and so on and so on. so i'm sure there was a great deal of panic in philadelphia. in harrisburg, the governor was all upset because they were sure pennsylvania was going to be the target. >> well, if be lee had been able -- if lee had been able to invade maryland south of washington and on the eastern shore, he would have met a very favorable welcome because that was a pro-confederate part of maryland. but the topography, the geography, the logistics were such that he could only cross the river up river from washington, the potomac river,
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and invade the western part of maryland which was strongly unionist. and so the reception there in frederick, in the other western part of maryland was really quite cool to the confederates. especially this contrast to the tumultuous welcome for general mcclelland and the army of the potomac when they marched into frederick on the 13th. mcclelland writes to his wife and said, you know, he was being showered by praise and flowers and so on by the local population. so, clearly, while maryland was a divided state, this was an invasion in the unionist part of the state, and the hope that by invading maryland they would liberate it from the iron heel of yankee despotism turned out to be a hollow hope and expectation. it didn't happen. >> we'll get back to
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mrs. mccorral land, to ellen later because if you read the general's letters to her which steven has so ably edited, mcclelland was forever being showered by flowers unless it was the lincoln administration undercutting him and preventing him from getting the credit he deserved. but let's talk for a moment as we did backstage, we might get this issue out in the open and talk about the background of the famous lost orders and how decisive a role they play inside the run-up to the battle. stephen, why don't you start. >> well, the last order was general lee's plan to capture harper's ferry which was 12,000 men and a good deal of armament. and so he -- this was in frederick. and on september 9th he writes out orders to divide up his army into four segments. stonewall jackson was going to go to the west and completely surround harper's ferry.
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and he sent these out by courier to all the general involved. and the copy that went to stonewall jackson, jackson read it and then copied it again for d.h. hill who had been under his orders. one of the couriers was also taking the same message to d.h. hill and, of course, it never arrived, and it was drop inside a clover field south of frederick. and when -- we don't know why this happened or how it could have been prevented or at least discovered because the courier was supposed to deliver the envelope in which the message came with the signature that went back to the headquarters, but it did not go. my own theory is that it was a careless courier, and then he discovered he'd lost it, went to d.h. hill's headquarters and asked around and said, oh, yes,
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we have the orders. so he felt much relieved, presumably, and went back to headquarters, and nobody seems to have pursued the case of getting the proof of delivery. so in any case, on the 13th of september a corporal barton mitchell of an indiana regiment, they were bivouacked in this clover field, found the envelope. he picked it up, read the message -- it also had three cigars with it -- and he was smart enough to realize that this was pretty important. so he kicked it upstairs, went to his regimental and went up to -- i think it went to brigade, and then they skipped a few levels because each person who saw it realized how important it was. and it went up to 12th corps headquarters. and from there general williams was in charge of the corps, he
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sent a covering note along with this to general mcclelland saying this looks important, and we believes it is authentic. and he describes very briefly how it was found. so by noon on the 13th -- is that right? yes. 13th, mcclelland had this order. and to take the next step, if i may, while he was -- he had several people from the city of frederick discussing the occupation and is -- so on, and he was handed this dispatch. and he looked at it and supposedly he threw up his hands and said, now i know what to do. we're not sure, this may be apocryphal. but in any case, he was obviously very much excited by all of this, and he dismissed all his guests, and off they went. one of them turned out to be, um, a confederate sympathizer. as we were discussing earlier, i
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think he was a confederate spy. jed stewart had paid him to be in the meeting. in any case, stewart ran off -- i mean, the marylander ran off and found stewart and gave him this, and then it finally made it way to general lee. stewart's announcement of all of this. but the question is, how much did general lee know and when he knew it. and as far as i can determine, the only thing he learned from this marylander was that something was going on, that general lee -- general mcchel land was excited about something or other. and that's, i'll leave the story there, and maybe jim can pick it up. >> well, the big question, i suppose, and the great debate that continueses is whether this was, as you put it -- and think you're pretty decisive on this subject -- whether it was, in fact a sloppy courier mistake or whether it was the most
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brilliant counterespionage action of the war which was supposed to throw off mcclelland into falsely comprehending lee's intentions. of course, with all of that information, you'd think that mcclelland would have been more aggressive and successful. jim, what do you think? counterespionage or mistake that wasn't taken advantage of? >> i'm convinced the a sloppy courier and that the orders were, um, genuinely orders, that they had been lost by the courier. there are two other dimensions of it, one of them serious and the oh one not so's, and the serious one is why did mcclelland delay so long before giving orders to different generals, especially general franklin. those orders went out to franklin at 6:00 that evening, and mcclelland did actually express a certain amount of urgency in his orders to
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franklin. because it was franklin's task to rescue the garyson at harper's ferry which was under siege by 25,000 confederates under the overall command of jackson. franklin was to force his way through frampton's gap and come to the aid of the garrison by driving away at least some of the confederate procedures. but he didn't actually get started until 6:00 the next morning which was actually 18 hours after mcclelland had this information in hand. so mcclelland right away, or maybe it was franklin who was one of mcclelland's closest confidants and supporters, did not really take advantage as they could have of this lost order, of this intelligence windfall that they had. the other question i have is, why was, were these orders wrapped around three cigars, and
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who got the cigars? [laughter] nobody knows. [laughter] >> so they were headed to headquarters, so i think one of the generals probably smoked them. >> it's interesting, grant is nowhere to be seen -- >> why would you have these orders initially? i've never understood that. why were they wrapped around three cigars? that makes no sense at all. >> not if they in an envelope md "secret orders." it's an extra step. [laughter] well, with this information in hand with the sense that the cat is out of the bag, that lee's plan has been exposed and the knowledge has been gained by the union commander, the forces meet. it's the bloodiest single day of the war, and, um, it's portrayed in different ways at the time. certainly, lincoln needs to declare it a triumph. but did lee lose, or did
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mcclelland barely win? what's your sense of how you conclude who gets responsibility and who gets blame for what happened on september 17th? >> mcclelland was convinced that he -- he was afraid to win, which was the essential part of the thing. can i read something about this? because there's a letter that mcclelland wrote, and i made a copy of it. this is to his wife, and this is one day after the battle, september 18th. and at 8 a.m. they've had this terrible battle, and they don't know -- at dawn lee is still this. he's not left the battlefield, so everyone at least on the union side and on the confederate side, too s expecting the battle to be renewed. and mcclelland writes to his wife: we fought yesterday a
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terrible battle. the battle continued 14 hours and was terrific. the fighting on both sides was superb. the general result was in our favor, that is to say we gained a great deal of ground and held it. it was a success, but whether a decided victory depends on what occurs today. i hope that god has given us a great success. it is all in his hands where i am content to leave it. and then he adds this interesting sentence. those in whose judgment i rely tell me that i fought the battle splendidly and that the a masterpiece of art. this is the most revealing letter that i think mcclelland ever wrote. he, obviously, is not going to follow up what he had accomplished or what his men had accomplished the day before, and he thinks he has done a wonderful thing, largely because he has prevented this superior force of lee's to -- they've
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even gained ground this superior force. and as it happened, he was counting three soldiers for every one that existed in lee's army. >> which was his habit. >> his habit, indeed. yes. >> at the same time that lee -- that mcclelland was sending this letter to his wife, he was also sending a telegram to general hallet in which he said i expect the battle to be renewed today. >> god would renew the attack, as he put it. >> yes. it's quite true this mcclelland says over and over again and member of his staff and some of his generals like john porter think that the confederates have 110,000 men at antietam. lee fought that battle with 37 ,000. mcclelland had 85,000 men there which is also a two to one
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advantage over the confederates, yet mcclelland never took advantage of that superiority. he sent in the attacks one corpses, one division, sometimes only one brigade at a time. piecemeal attacks. and on two separate occasions there was a real opportunity to break through the confederate line, and mcclelland had only used his reserves, 20,000 of whom never fired a shot in anger during the battle at all. because he feared that lee had these tens of thousands of reserves, he never committed his own for fear that they would be ambushed by those phantom reserves of lee's. so there was an extraordinary number of missed opportunities on the union side because of mcclelland's psychology, i think, that could have made this a really decisive victory rather than a qualified union victory. >> and yet both of you have
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written, and i think we're at the stage now when we should address this, that in many ways this the most important battle of the civil war. um, i'm not going to add any hints. tell me why you each think that. steve, why don't you start. >> at the time they didn't know that, and the confederates did not think that antietam was a defeat by any means. they'd captured the harper's ferry garrison, 12,000 men, and in the campaign as a whole they'd inflicted twice as many casualtieses as the, as the union had suffered. so it only, we only know now, i guess, is my point we only know now how important it was. once the emancipation proclamation came out, this had all kinds of ripple effects including overseas which jim can certainly talk about better than
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i can. there's all kinds of beliefs, i think, that mcclelland really needed to follow this up even when he got his men, his horses reshod and his new shoes for his men and all this other stuff that he was waiting for, all he had to do was to cross the to toe mack and pursue lee and, of course, he was exceedingly reluctant. he had to be ordered again and again and again to do it. >> well, jim, you've written clearly what makes antietam important and fascinating, stephen, the point that antietam may be more important looking back from now at the access question seven sesquicentennial than it was in the 1862, but jim, you've written it changes the rationale for the war. >> not only that, but i think it was recognized at the time by a
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lot of people in the north as a transformative victory. northern newspapers had huge headlines saying great victory and so on, even "the new york times" says one of the greatest victories in the history of warfare and so on. i think that's because up until the battle of antietam the confederates were on a roll. and union morale was at rock bottom. both among the northern people and, i think, in the army of the potomac. one thing that mcclelland should be given credit for is reviving the morale of that army so quickly and reorganizing it, getting that army off its, off the mat at the count of nine and putting it in shape to win at least this qualified victory at antietam. but because expectations in the south, even in the north and abroad, were that lee would
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win -- that the third time would be the charm, he had won the peninsula campaign, he had won the second battle of bull run, and now he was invading the north, and this was going to be the coup de grace, the crushing blow. when that didn't happen, i think there was a great sigh of relief in the north. if it had happened, if confederates had won another victory, i think that the chances are quite strong that the democrats would have won control of the house of representatives -- >> and european recognition. >> and european recognition because we know that the french and the british were seriously considering intervening by offering their good offices to mediate a peace on the basis of confederate independence. and if lincoln administration refused to accept that offer, which they probably would have done, the french and the british would have recognized the confederacy, most other european nations would have followed suit, and that could have made a
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huge difference in the course of the war. but when the news reached london that lee had retreated back to virginia, prime minister palmerston in particular whose power here was decisive, backed off. napoleon of france wanted to go ahead, some members of the british cabinet still wants to go ahead, but palmerston and other key members of the british cabinet said, no, no, let's back off and see what develops next. if lee's invasion had been successful, if he had won some kind of a victory at antietam and not have been forced to retreat -- which by the way lee hated the idea and even gave thought after he had recrossed into virginia of crossing again and continuing the campaign, but his army was in no shape to do it, and he finally recognized that. but if he had won the kind of victory expected when he moved into maryland, i think there
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would have been some kind of european intervention. so you've got a revival of northern morale, you've got the republicans retaining control of congress in the congressional election, you've got the british backing off from intervention, and you've got abraham lincoln seizing upon this battle, unhappy as he was with mcclelland's failure to make it even more decisive and to follow it up vigorously by moving into, moving again into virginia, lincoln does take it as the sign he had been waiting for, the victory he had been waiting for to issue the emancipation problem ha mission which does transform the nature of this war and make it now a war for freedom as well as union. so for all of these reasons, i think antietam stands as the most important turning point of the war. >> i'm going, i'm going to take issue with one thing you said,
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but i don't want to get too far ahead of the story and that is how well lincoln did in the election. control, yes, but obviously huge losses for the republicans, probably more attributable to emancipation as a game changer -- >> well, yes. the democrats gained 33 seatses in the house -- >> 34, i think. >> 34, all right. [laughter] however, in the last 20 years before 1862 every midterm congressional election had resulted in the victory by the opposition party. this was the first midterm election in 20 years in which the opposition party did not gain control of the house. >> but, remember, southern democrats were not participating. >> even so. >> the other thing about that -- >> you win on a technicality on that one. [laughter] >> but the other point about the election is that lincoln did not fire mcclelland until the day
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after the last midterm elections were held. if he had fired him before that, then i think you're absolutely right, there would have been a democratic perhaps sweep. >> let's talk about emancipation as a result. lincoln, of course, jim is right, the verb is apt in one way, but it's a little bit open to question in another, seizing the moment. he actually waits quite a bit. he waits five days for a fellow who says that god decided this question in favor of the slaves, as he tells his cabinet when he calls them into session to say he's going to use antietam as the lever to pull the trigger on emancipation. i'm mixing metaphor here, but i you get the idea. but he takes his time. let's talk about the decision. he's got the emancipation rib written, he's waiting for the
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moment. i've always been curious about why he waits. >> well, we know that the battle was over on the 17th, but they didn't know whether it might not be renewed. lee's still in position on the 18th, he doesn't retreat until the night of the 18th/19th. mcclelland sends a feeble pursuit. they get involved in a battle on the 19th and 20th, the rear guard action, and so there's still fighting going on until the 20th. so i think that it's probably more accurate to say that lincoln, that he isn't really sure that this campaign is over until the 20th, so it's only two days that he waits. >> but he also waits for a scheduled cabinet meeting, does he not? >> he does, and he also waits for a scheduled cabinet meeting. but he'd been waiting since july 22nd to issue this, so -- >> and, of course, i've recently done some work on the notion of how many people in washington knew that a proclamation was
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imminent, and i think that my conclusion is plenty. the newspapers were full of it, he had shown it or shared the story with enough blabber mouth politicians and the white house office that it, i think, you know, after years of wondering why william sapphire in his novel "freedom "concluded that it was the worst kept secret in washington, i've come to the conclusion that he was probably right. and, boy, lincoln needed that trigger, and antietam provided it. let's talk about -- you made a great point, both of you, about lincoln's keeping mcclelland on with that election looming and now the political, the political landscape changes enormously by the proclamation which is as much as we look back retrospectively on it and say what took him so long and why department he free more slaves and the other thing we hear from modern commentator, it, of course, agitated huge numbers of people and disturbed huge
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numbers of people. at the same time, lincoln loses patient with mcclelland, and he began hectoring him, making fun of him, what have your horses done since the battle of antietam that could possibly fatigue anything, his famous telegram. he was running out of patience, and mcclelland was furious at the tone lincoln was taking. >> well, lincoln had visited mcclelland on the battlefield the first of october, i think, for three or four days. and the two men seem to have come up with -- we only have -- we don't have anyone's -- no one was there listening to what they were discussing, unfortunately. but the two of them came off with totally different views of what was even discussed. and lincoln goes back to washington, and he expects mcclelland to start across the potomac the next day. two or three days pass, and he telled general hallet to order him across.
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still nothing happens. mcclelland says lincoln is mad at me, and i'm afraid i'm going to be sent off to the west or something else, and he has no conception of -- i can't believe that lincoln was so unclear as to what he wanted done. but apparently, lincoln could talk to mcclelland until he was blue in the face, and nothing seems to register. it never had. >> and, jim, mcclelland also is rather peremptory about what he's willing to fight for in this new landscape that involves fighting for emancipation, isn't he? >> well, mcclelland when he reads the emancipation proclamation is really upset, and then two days later comes the suspension of habeas corpus and the declaration of martial law, and mcchel land actually toys with the idea of expressing opposition to this. but his advisers tell him, some of his political friends tell him that he should remain silent
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about this. civilian supremacy over the military, t the -- it's the government that makes policy, and the army carries it out. and so he backs off. but privately he makes it very clear that he's unhappy with the emancipation proclamation. he had earlier written the famous harrison's landing letter that steve referred to a while ago saying that a declaration about the slavery will dissolve our present armies. this should not be a war for conquest or for the overthrow of southern institutions, but merely a war for the restoration of the union. and the union as it was before 1861. and i don't think mcclelland ever really changed his mind about that. when he runs for president in 1864, he run on the platform that avoids any commitment at all to the abolition of slavery and runs on the platform of a
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party that pledges the constitution as it is and the union as it was. so mcclelland clearly did not like the direction that the war was beginning to take. yet he does not openly protest against it in september and october of 1862. >> if he does write -- he does write a letter to, he really issues kind of a little address to his troops explaining all this, the civilian is superior to the military and so on. but he takes the one remark for any -- i can't remember just the exact quote, but something to the effect that if there's any objections to this, the polls are always open, and this is how you can solve this problem. of course, the midterm election were, indeed, coming up, so it's a rather thinly veiled threat. >> yes. >> as we con contemplate the enormous sacrifice of that day, still the bloodiest day in american warfare, we want to
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open the room up to questions from you with a reminder that we have staff with microphones, and we need you to raise your hand and then wait for a microphone. all right. we have the first question. right here. >> as you probably know, general lee's last words before he died or as he was dying were tell hill to come up. you must tell hill to come up. would you, please, comment? >> well, that does actually probably refer to the battle of antietam. hill's division had been left behind at harper's ferry after the confederates had captured it on september. 14th to arrange for the paroling of the soldiers and the captured union soldiers and
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securing the role of armaments and uniforms and shoes and ammunition that the confederates had captured, a real boom to them. and on the morning of september 17th, lee had actually sent orders -- the evening of september 16th, actually -- sent orders down to harper's ferry to hill to get up to sharpsburg as early as he could on the 17th. lee knew that the battle was impending. so hill's division makes a force march of about 17 miles and gets to the battlefield around #-bg in #-bg -- 4:00 in the afternoon. i think only about half of his division gets there and crashes into the flank of burnside's attack after burnside had crossed the stream. and was actually threatening to
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cave in the confederates right flank, a very thin flank, when hill crashes into burnside's left flank. and lee expressed a great sigh of relief when the word reached him that hill had arrived. and it saved the day for the confederates. so i think when lee's last words were tell a.p. hill to come up, that's what he's referring to. >> there's a question here in the back. >> all right. >> yeah. i think you successfully addressed mcclelland's weaknesseses, but i think lee deserves some blame because after the seven days and ma manassas, he had taken enormous losses, and his army was in very frayed condition. and i understand his men wouldn't cross the potomac into maryland because they wanted to fly to the south to virginia. he went across with about 40,000 men, is that true? >> blame for lee? >> well, again, i don't think --
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lee's whole determination was to get this over with as soon as possible. he recognized, i think, that the south could not maintain itself very long against the industrial might of the north and so on. so right from the time he takes command on june 1st of 1862, he takes the offensive in order to try to end this war as soon as he could. and i think this carries over, and be it happened certainly on, during the peninsula campaign when he comes very close to defeating mcclelland. and he immediately goes north again. he has no choice. hes has to do something because general pope is to the north of him, and general mcclelland is to the south of him, and he's got to do one or the other, and he goes after pope first. and then as i said before, at that point he is faced with the decision either to keep going or to retreat and give up all that he's gained. so i don't think he's really --
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i don't see him to be blamed for this. >> it is quite true, though, that his army was in terrible shape. many of the men did not have shoes, the supply system for the army of northern virginia was shambles. lee probably had about 50,000 men when he began this campaign, and he has only 37,000. of course, there'd been about 3,000 casualtieses at the battle of south mountain on september 14th, but something like 10,000 of his men had straggled, they just hadn't made it to the battlefield because they were exhausted, they were sick, they didn't have shoes and so on. and lee, lee actually, he's quite condemn that story towards these men, these stragglers. he said that they lack conviction, they lack courage, they're gold bricking, they're
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slackers to use the later language. but, in fact, i think that they were just physically incapable of keeping up with the army, and i think that probably lee was not as cognizant of that as he should have been. >> it's interesting, you have one general who is so aggressive with so little and another who is so timid with so much. >> right. >> in a way. >> where is the next question? >> hi. professor mcpherson, i believe you said that the trigger for the issuance of the emancipation proclamation was the victory at antietam, but mcclelland had lost how many men the first day? >> well, the union casualtieses were just under 13,000 at antietam. >> i believe douglass had written to lincoln that black men could not be expected to serve in the union army as long as slavery existed in the south, so it's been suggested that one
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of lincoln's motivations was to pave for the way for the -- pave the way for the enlistment of black troops. what would you say to that? >> well, lincoln was quite hesitant and even at this stage was still quite hesitant to enlist blacks, especially former slaves, in the union army. in august of 1862, just a month before the battle, he had actually rejected the offer of a couple of regiments of black troops from indiana, said that if they were enlisted 50,000 bayonets from the border states would have met 50,000 -- would be turned against us that are now for us. he was still very much worried about the response both to emancipation, but even more volatile, i think, was the issue of putting arms in the hands of black men. so basically, lincoln is edging toward emancipation, and a
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couple, three months after that he's edging toward enlistment of black soldiers. there's no public commitment by the president until the final emancipation problem proclamatif january 1, 1863 for black soldiers. so it's emancipation first, then black troops. >> i agree with jim on that. i think he's extremely nervous about black recruitment and almost has to be -- is kicking and screaming on january 1st. the big motivation is the home front in the south and depriving the home front and the political advantage and the diplomatic advantage. but i don't think he's there yet on recruitment by any means. >> okay, right here in the front. >> um, my name's alice, and i wanted to know, were there any women on the battlefield during that? >> any women in the battlefield? >> on that battlefield? >> not that they were obvious.
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there were a good many of those who dressed as women -- dressed as men, excuse me, but i don't know anything, i hadn't run across that at antietam. >> well, a number of years ago there was a woman named lauren burgess who was very much interested in reenacting. she's from north carolina. and she was at a reenactment of the battle of antietam. this is back in the late 1980s. and was, was caught dressed up -- she was dressed as a union soldier, and she was caught coming out of the ladies' room -- [laughter] and dishonorably discharged. [laughter] and she seized upon this and did a lot of research and found evidence for several hundred women who passed as men dressed
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up as soldiers, some of them wives or lovers of soldiers, and so they were protected. and that she found evidence of four women who actually fought at antietam, so she claimed. one of whom was killed. so if she's right -- >> right. >> -- there were some at antietam. she actually sued the park service on the grounds of gender discrimination and won her suit. [laughter] after she had been not allowed to participate in this living history demonstration there. >> speaking of women, i think there's a woman here who i think you would all enjoy meeting, a surprise guest to me. an hitorian in her own right. she's also the defendant on both sides of her family, a defendant of interesting people. on one side her ancestor is samuel al schuler, a german
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jewish photographer who took two photographs of abraham lincoln, one of the first of him wearing a beard in 1860 in chicago. she's also descended on the other side of her family from colonel marcus spiegel, and she's here from florida, and i just thought you'd enjoy meeting her. jean solomon. stand up, please. [applause] she's not a veteran as far as i know. [laughter] we have time for one more question, i think. yes. >> everybody has a point of view, and yet it seems one of the frustrations of this period is that mcclelland is so darn hard to like. what's your interpretation of the famous evening where president lincoln was waiting in general mc"closing bell" land's parlor for him to come home, and the general came home and went straight to bed without even acknowledging him? people have suggested perhaps he was embarrassed because he was
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drunk. do you think that was it, or was it just rudeness? >> oh, i think there is no lo lost between abraham lincoln and george mcclelland. i think they are, they just despise each other in many ways. mcclelland was contemptibly rude that night. i don't think it was a matter of his being drunk. i think he had been -- was it at a wedding? [inaudible conversations] >> the wedding of one of his officers. >> and he came home and found the president of the united states lounging in his parlor, and he didn't want to talk to him. it wasn't business hours, you know? [laughter] the fact that abraham lincoln did not have him dismissed that evening as his secretary tells him on the way back, is sort of egging him on, this is outrageous. and lincoln says, listen, i'll -- whatever it takes to get him to win victories. do you have a different view of that? was he drunk? that would add something to the story. >> i don't think he drank at all. that was not the first time he'd done that very thing.
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lincoln would stop by his headquarters, and he was told that the general had gone to bed, and he couldn't, couldn't -- he wouldn't wake him up, he wouldn't call on him. but lincoln after that particular episode does change in his treatment of -- he's much more direct, he calls mcclelland to him from now on. so it did have an effect on him, i think. >> you know, gettysburg may have inspired lincoln's greatest speech. when he got to maryland in october, all lincoln could say was at first, if i were as i have been most of my life, i might perhaps talk amusing to you for half an hour, and it wouldn't hurt anybody. hardly gem-like words. but antietam did inspire or at least made possible lincoln's greatest act, what lincoln himself called the central act of my administration and the great act of the 19th century.
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antietam and the fall of 1862 liberates lincoln as much as it liberates enslaved people. as jim and stephen have argued so eloquently and convincingly in their work and i think as we've all agreed tonight, it transformed the war for the union as it was into a war for the union as it could be, a union that embraces freedom. thank you all very much. [applause] >> this event was hosted by the new york historical society in new york city. for more information visit >> up next, booktv talks with cebt masterson brown as part of our series examining the literary landscape of eight southeastern cities. mr. brown recounts the military career of john m. porter who
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served in the ninth kentucky cavalry during the war and penned the events of his services following the end of the war. it's about 30 minutes. >> john porter was a, um, young fellow from butler county, kentucky, which is a county down in south central part of the state. who, um, joined the confederate army in october of 1861 when the confederate armies occupied southern kentucky. and he ultimately became a lieutenant in the ninth kentucky cavalry that rode with john hunt morgan. and, um, he was probably prouder of having ridden through the war with john hunt morgan than he was almost anything he ever did in life. and he penned this memoir for
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his daughter whose name was minnie belle. he married shortly after the war was over, and his wife died after giving birth to minnie belle. and so he raised this child along with his two sisters and a brother in bowling green, kentucky, a county, warren county, it's a neighboring county to butler, and bowling green is the county seat, so a rather large community in southern kentucky. and so he raised minnie belle, and he wanted minnie belle to understand what he did during the war. and so in 1872 he set about writing these memoirs. and they were titled then "memoirs of my experience in the war for southern independence." and they were really meant, as he says in his little preface to
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these memoirs, that they were meant for her. and, um, he bemoaned repeatedly in the his memoirs how he had ancestors who were in the revolution from virginia, but we knew nothing about them. and he said, that's really sad. he says, i wish i knew more about my ancestors who served in the revolution. and he literally set about making sure that wouldn't happen to subsequent generations thinking about him. and, um, these memoirs were actually handed to me by a member of his family some years ago, and they were a type script. the handwritten memoir was reduced to typewriting in 1927. and you can imagine what a 1927 typewriter did to a page, all the os were black dots, and all the bs and ds were all black dots.
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but, and this memoir was kind of funny. when he wrote it, it was like a stream of consciousness. he, um, would go on for, like, three-quarters of a page before you'd hit a period. and then you'd have paragraphs that went for three pages. and this is all single-spaced. [laughter] and so part of the task was breaking up this memoir so you have sentences that introduce just one subject and paragraphs that do the same thing. [laughter] and then breaking this long memoir up into chapters, and there are 14 of them in the book. and what resulted, i think, is really an absolutely delightful story. it's like sitting on the front porch where this old fella and having him tell you about what life was like. because it is written in that sort of pace. and, um, what's also kind of interesting about these


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