tv Panel Discussion on the Civil War CSPAN April 18, 2016 6:00am-7:23am EDT
west was open for settlement. you have to point a strong finger of guilt towards philip sherman. a great gentleman and the civil war but a man notorious for having said the only good indian is a dead indian. i devote a chapter to "wild bill" hickok simply to show the absurdity of american mythmaking. these gunslingers so to speak were anything but gunslingers out in the west. they were mostly criminals who themselves had shot this year for something. they become share of a down and they are the judge, jury and executioner. they might catch or speak in the morning, and him that afternoon. that justice was swift. these guys were quick with guns because they were creating civilization out of a wild frontier. they were not very good shots. i grew up a great fan of
gunsmoke and i would love to see matt dillon in the middle of the street going for his gun any other tablet for his. it was terrible doing research on this book. these guys couldn't hit the side of a barn. secondly, you never had a face off. somebody's going to get hurt if you have a face off. they relied on ambushed, shot you from behind. they hid behind other orphans and shot you when you're walking down the street. "wild bill" hickok was shot while he was playing poker. so just get this gunslinger myth out of your mind. these guys were the necessary intermediary between civilization and anarchy from which they came. i then have a chapter on the generals who try to do things and just didn't work out. men like poker, need, thomas kuhn all famous names but they just didn't seem to go anywhere. then there were the politicians,
the old saying, every general is a good politician, which is absolutely absurd. george mcclellan went from a man failing in command of the army of the potomac to a presidential nominee in 1864. he failed at that as well. there was some like burnside and lawrence chamberlain made successful career and then there were those like dance circles and kilpatrick and benjamin franklin butler who were embarrassing in american politics, writing their wartime reputations any highly negatively. but for change political parties i think, no, nathaniel banks who changed parties seven times. is age showed how flexible he was in dealing with politics. then five of these men who were officers become president of the united states, five of them. two of them are assassinated.
you and i know a whole lot about kennedy and lincoln but i suspect we know very little about garfield and mckinley. indeed, bill mckinley, william mckinley was probably the most popular president of his day of any later effect in the white house. everybody loves a big bill mckinley. he was a loving father, a wonderful husband. his wife suffered from epilepsy, and at state dinners he had her sitting next to them so if she went through a grand maul seizure, making we would kindly leaned over and placed a napkin over her face and continued conversation and once the siege was over he would quietly pulled a handkerchief back and go about his way. you don't find a political leader like that anymore. there was no reason -- [laughter] impd i just went with the light touch at the moment. there was no reason to kill them.
the man who shot him was an anarchist who believed there were too many rich people, too many poor people and too many rich people were exploiting them if he killed the leader of the rich people. it would be a blow. the reaction to mckinley's assassination was tremendous. mobs tried to kill the man twice before he went on trial, and once he was convicted and condemned to die, they decided to use a brand-new experiment, and i suspect the authorities hoped it would not work, but he was put to death by the novel form of electrocution. after he was taken from the electric chair and his body was placed in the coffin, the prison warden poured acid into the coffin to accelerate decomposition so you would disappear from the world altogether. just kind of a crazy, crazy system going on there in political leadership. we don't get the great presidents.
mckinley is about the only one in that 65, 1900 showed demonstration of credibility garfield only served four months. of course, the last chapter has to be the rising of a martyr as we know it. we were just a struggling nation in 1860. the industrial revolution had just taken root entity that will be a powerful factor in union victory in the civil war. in this postwar period we will go from, about 1900 with the most powerful international nation on earth. you have to look at men like andrew carnegie, john d. rockefeller and all, carnegie and steel, jay gould in railroads, jpmorgan in thanking. all of these fellows building out their empires. philip armour for example, ended up not only did he produce a lot
of pig meat, he found much invested in it was useful. to use to post, i get money out of everything but the squeal as farce that pig was concerned. they all turned america into an industrial empire. these postwar leaders and what they did, they sound a bit and consequential but you must remember the america you live in, the america we know, was born in 1865, not 1787. you live in a land that was carved and fashioned by what took place on the battlefield. as i told the panel yesterday, that will affect you so much you can't escape it. you cannot escape with the civil war does. it opened up, quick example every piece of clothing you have on was maybe we got into a. that was a nrda.
montgomery meigs, general of the union army invented small, medium, large and extra-large. post offices became so overwhelming because women were getting the inevitable letter to loved one with a couple. the post office got the reputation as a wailing wall and the departments of us got to do something to get out of this so they came up with something new, home delivery of new. that mailbox sitting by your door, that mailbox on that post by your group is not just a mailbox. it's a memorial to a civil war soldier who didn't come home. the civil war is your war, it's our war, it's a war we literally simply cannot forget. thank you. [applause]
>> we would love to take some questions. yes. >> since we're in the middle of our second civil war and especially the envelope a little bit, but it's a cold war, but we are in, we have some civil issue. two what do you attribute the interest in the civil war 150 years afterwards? >> a number of things. we are not england. we have no stake family, no state church. we have no -- really don't think you and i have and how basically is our history. here in virginia, we have history like nobody else. i realize, i talk too much about history perhaps but as i tell
people, we've got more of it than you do. i need to talk about it. we were celebrating thanksgiving while the pilgrims was trying to get courage to get on the boat and come over to new englander our history goes back so far. it's the history that binds us together. it's our war. it's not us against england. it's us against us. if you look at what we got out of that war you should take common pride and courage and patriotism and whatever happens, whether we be federal soldiers were confederate soldiers dying, they were us. they were dying for us to create a nation which politicians couldn't do. the civil war comes because politics failed. the soldiers had to take command. it is a classic example of what happens when this nation was the only thing they have the gold -- to hold it together, namely the spirit of compromise. when we can't agree verbally,
democracy is in crisis. i think we are in crisis now. [applause] >> we would like to take a more cautious the i got a bunch if y'all don't have any questions. mark, tell us why tyler was called is accidentcy. >> by the virtue of the death of his predecessor, william henry harrison, who died very early in his term and had been the oldest man elected to the presidency. interestingly john tyler supposedly got the news of harrison's death and took the oath of office in brown's hotel on pennsylvania avenue which became his favorite hotel we also stayed during the washington peace conference. >> and he and harrison were from the same county in virginia. >> win without ever happen
again? >> that's right. they were neighbors from the berkeley plantation and sherwood forest. >> joe, aside from the obvious things, the lack of finding supplies when robert e. lee and the army were marching through, and is-getting surrounded on three sides at appomattox, is say discreet in your estimation the biggest disaster, the main reason for this winter? >> i think so. that was the major defeat on that long retreat, the weeklong retreat. the army was cut in half. in fact, lead saw them coming, the survivors come at the hill toward him and he said has the army been dissolved? and it looked like it was going to be the end fairly soon after that and it was about three days
later. so that was a key battle and that was filled shared and with his cavalry getting ahead, writing ahead -- shared and -- tried to cut off the army. what happened was longstreet, his core had gotten too far ahead of the rest of the army and created this gap, and it was george custer's cavalry unit that filled that gap, and other cavalry units came in, and then the six army corps came up behind them, and they captured a lot of confederate that day. >> we talked about this earlier at breakfast to even include one of my favorite people of all time, christopher spencer. tell us more about christopher spencer. >> he was just a gunmaker. he got this idea that surely there had to be a better way than the shoulder arm, the
process for loading the powder, bullets, the cabin every things we designed this seven shot repeater, repeating at which the boat were stored in the prayer and fit in and i had to do was fire and and fire and got the the confederates called it a weak gun claiming that damn yankees would file on a sunday and keep firing for a full week. i think you see most effective use of the spencer on july 1, 1863, when john buford's cavalry held back an entire, two divisions of confederates, a handful of union cavalry and they were using spencer's. from that if you're not familiar with the spencer, it said would be the old winchester carbine and henry all come after it. in the development of armament, always infatuated lincoln. he was always looking for new things in new ways and spencer put onto demonstrations for
lincoln and it was lincoln who came up with a stamp for the first production with the old fogey's in the war department said it's too new, it won't work. lincoln of course is much more farsighted than in. i think richard gatling really made the case. he wanted to invent something so awesome that images wouldn't want to go to war because of it. he invented the gatling done. it listed a. many know one of the most potent airplanes we have is the warthog and he carries a gatling done and try to imagine this if you will, that gun can fire 2900 rounds a minute. i mean, it will level everything with that rotating conveyor it is. so gatling did invent the very awesome weapon but if just was not effective at the time of the war. >> now we've got some questions.
>> here comes the microphone for you. >> someone spoke of robert e. lee being a peacemaker after the war. i heard lee was in a church service in -- at black men walked in at the communion ceremony and the congregation was aghast. lee stood up, walked up and not down next to me. is that -- >> that's true. at st. paul's the blacks sat in the galley and they took communion less. white folks took communion first. but when a black man asked the faithful to come -- when they asked the faithful to come forward, this well-dressed black then came sliding down the aisle and the whole congregation froze but lee stepped out of his. and would have been no decided
and that was just one of many, many ask the lee would do. wanwhat he gave to washington gf is just unbelievable. lee is the father of elective courses in american higher education. he is the father of the honor system followed by most colleges and universities. in 1868, horace greeley, editor of the new tribune, largest newspaper in the north, dominated lee for president. he endorsed robert e. lee to be president of the united states, 1860. the irony had lee had one company could not assert. is citizenship of been taken away. amnesty was lost and it came to light in a sum of 1965, and those gerald ford who finally signed the amnesty and lee received citizenship posthumously. i like to think of it as a purple heart rather than a piece of paper.
>> so he almost became the father of noncitizens running for president of the united states. [laughter] >> i would like to know what you think the average citizen can do to make a difference. >> the average citizen, meaning voting speakers i'm not sure voting is making a difference. >> i can give you a simple thing to do. i tell audiences typically this or you don't realize how powerful your vote is. you don't realize how powerful your vote is. let's start with a simple statement. in a presidential election, 40% of the people vote. but they put it another way. in a presidential election, three out of five americans don't count. they don't bother to vote. three out of five. if you just got one of those
three, maybe two, you can change the country. you voted those folks income you can vote them out. it's as simple as that. you just have to vote. we don't exercise it and things are going to as long as you sit watching fox news and say this is awful, this is awful. you got to get up and do something about and about is your thing think you have. is the most powerful instrument in this country. 40%, 40%. [applause] >> one more. >> i was educated into virginia school system, and so my assessment of reconstruction is about what you were talking about. although lately it was a book, redemption, by nicholas lehman, and i've heard some other historians talking, reassessing reconstruction as maybe there
were some positive aspects to it that there was enfranchisement and educating the three men and women that there were some positive aims to think, to those reassessments hold any water with you speak with i think you can always find qualitative and quantitative differences but a source will always argue reconstruction. southern historians have the worst of it because we are coming from behind. in a what the winners are the ones who like to push history and then you play catchup with the losers. again you have to remember, winners of a wart easily forget. losers of the war never do. that explains much of the ongoing and perhaps resentment of the fast. i've long felt that bitterness came more from reconstruction. the confederacy was a miracle, if not merely on the battlefield
but especially when you look behind the lines, and jones points out in his diaries, forget the moonlight magnolia vision of the southern confederacy. it was born in chaos and a diet and absolute confusion out of control. jones himself, the author of this direct them died of tuberculosis contracted in the filth and the hunger and the shoddiness of richmond, which in 1860 had 38,000 people. in 1863 had 300,000 there's no more food for the 300,000 then there was for the 38,000 in 1860. people are starving to death. the government of the confederacy gets a lot of study because it's a shining example of incompetence. from top to bottom. nobody trust anybody else. jefferson davis greatness, as of the greatness everything there is to a degree, lies in the fact is a great dreamer. he was like john candy. he had great visions of the
future. but its loss to really. it's jones diary gets more and more bitter because he sees the government falling apart and he is helpless to do anything about it. i do recommend that diary to you. if you're a serious student it's the biggest diary in american history, certainly in the civil war history. this guy was in his 50s. he was a journalist by trade. he saw everything. he heard everything. he wrote everything down. he had to be a supervisor in the war department. he didn't have enough time to do work, he was working for much on his diary. speaking of books, finally, the university bookstore goofed. they sent the wrong book over. the untold civil war is what i did four years ago for national geographic. some of you think have already bought that, i'm sorry it's not -- i hope you will get it.
i think you'll find some of those features fascinating. i certainly did. >> i want to cut it short because these gentlemen have books to sell and even though you don't have your cookbook, this is a great book. let's give him a hand, everybody. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> in your new book going red who were the $2 million that you talk about in this book speak with the 2 million voters voters referred to voters in seven key counties in seven swing states that republicans won in 2004 but