tv [untitled] April 28, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
commissioned them to travel to china for more than a year and they came back with this design which was later built. it was really just an expression of fun. she used to host parties centered around the chinese tea house and certainly it was a great focal point standing on the terrace of marble house looking out to the sea overlooking this tremendous silhouette, the wonderful chinese red color, and i think a great, great addition to the entire property of marble house. each week american history tv sits in oi a lecture with one of the nation's college professors. you can watch classing here every saturday at 1 p.m. and midnight eastern and sundays at 1 p.m.
this week u.s. naval ankd history professor wayne hsieh looks at the generalship of robert e. lee, part of a course called the american way of war. it is 50 minutes. >> as you know, the topic of a class is robert e. lee and not just to talk about lee's life and career but to sort of assess his generalship, assess his command. the first thing obviously when you needed to do something like this and we'll do this with grant on friday. the reason i have the class structured this way is because as we'll probably talk about later in this class, if you criticize or defend a lot of times it ends up being in comparison to grant and you probably notice that for example especially in the widely reading. before we get to grant, why don't we start with lee and a lot of this comes down to if we're going to talk about how we assess the general and a
commander's abilities, if i can come in, the question then becomes what is the criteria one uses for that. now, does anyone in your readings think that lee has no merit as a journal whatsoever? does anyone say lee is terrible to everything? it is a retore call question. okay. what is the question and many your readings who is the critic? butch guy, historian, i have you read it for monday, remember? is gallagher a critic of lee. >> no. >> he gives you all the critics and then what does he say about them? he says they're wrong, right? he goes through all of them and says they're all wrong. russell widely criticizes lee. even weigly says what good things about lee? what do you mean by that? >> very aggressive, typical west
pointish general. >> okay. all right. so everyone agrees that lee positive strai positive traits aggressiveness. so what are some examples of that being a good thing? >> going across the river instead of sitting back to face it, he moved forward and attacked or moved on. >> and what happens? who wins? is he successful, right? aggressiveness obviously can be a negative aspect, right? so lee is successfully aggressive. so that would be the seven days, the example you give there. what are other -- what's usually we think of lee's best, most important battle? second bull run, all right.
what else? these are two great victories. everyone, not this idea of a few -- we talked about strategy, operations, tactics, all right? so everyone at the operational level usually acknowledges, very rarely will any historian say lee is not a good campaign general, all right? there you just look at his record and the victories he wins. second to onassis he routes pope and at chancellorville the same thing to hooker and at the seven day the federals are how close to richmond? close enough to hear the church bells, literally on the outskirts of richmond and if richmond had fallen at that point in the summer of 1862,
potentially probably would have happened to the con federacy, of course that's all henry and donaldson and after new orleans and actually also not talked about in your readings but also important. lee turns the tide. he wins those very large and very important victories. now, why is lee also criticized for his aggressiveness, though? >> he lost early. >> yes. >> wasn't the type of war they could afford to fight. >> exactly. so, okay. all right. explain. >> a lot of the stories i think shelby foote was saying he theorizes that the con fed raes should have fought a gorilla war campaign similar to america in
the american revolution. >> not necessarily foote but there are a lot of arguments lee should have engaged in something more like partisan operations, and it is not just gorilla operations. everyone acknowledging that a con fed raes would have needed a conventional army. what relative of robert e. lee is a lot of times compared to lee as something that should have been done from the revolution? or which very famous important relative of lee admittedly at some level removed -- >> washington. >> yes, washington. does washington act like lee during the revolution? >> no. >> what is washington's one crucial priority? to maintain the army, to keep the army in tact. that means and how does that then -- so that's washington's strategy is the army must survive, so how does that then affect his operational stance?
what does washington do then as a consequence of that? >> washington follows a strategy and preserves hypotheses i army and lee should have pre terveed and knew he could win the battles he fought so kept on fighting. >> exactly. you see the different -- now, i know i have you read the wiegly on monday. who does do the fabian strategy. >> johnston. >> during what campaign. >> atlanta. okay. all right. >> he was criticized. >> who? >> the confederates, the people. >> do you remember who makes that argument? it is in rebuttal to this idea. let me step back and recap. johnston, sherman is marching on johnston in 1864. sherman is trying to take atlanta. johnston fights a delaying action and even wiegly acknowledges that what in the end even if you accept wiegl's
account and it is also dispute, but if we tomb johnson did fade a masterful fabian campaign, what still happens to atlanta at the end of the day. >> it falls. >> judge does he say it falls? not because of johnston's lack of skill. >> refusal to get troops to the west. >> that's the larger strategic problem, right. for that reason by the time the effective strategy is chosen, johnston doesn't have -- if you're trading space for time, johnston doesn't have enough space to trade at that point. it is too late in the war to do that effectively. what should have happened then? this is called a counter-factual, right? the more -- it is the what if. it is tightly related to the
issue of lee. if you say lee's strategy is wrong, you must then give an alternati alternative, and the alternative should give you a higher likelihood of success. you need to give a plausible alternative. have any of you heard of the novel guns of the south? what happens in guns of the south. >> i heard of it. i haven't read it. >> what's crazy thing happens? it? >> they go back. >> yes, south africans invent a time machine. they see the civil war as a big headache for them because this is when a part tied still existed what what issue giving them ak-47s and guess who wins t war? i think i read piece of it just for grins. he hope he isn't watching this.
he may be insulted. if you look at the front piece of the book it has the rifle mus ket and a-k in the infantry symbol so that space aliens invade, those are off the table. more plausible counter-factuals are something like taking actual things used during the war, right, in this case the plausible counter factual is johnston during the atlanta campaign and saying this is what robert e. lee should have done. or the con fed raes as a whole should have donor washington. >> it is a smaller army.
if the confederates looked to the american revolution, they would be able to realize that the smaller forces could still gain independence, would still be able to gain independence. >> yes. >> with the smaller force, it is possible. >> you have to husband your forces in the correct manner. you have to -- you can't -- does washington go around willy illinois n il l yes attacking. >> it is just to exhaust them, to ruin public opinion and for that you don't necessarily need to completely crush the armed forces. you just need to frustrate them which is what washington did. washington never really with the exception of york town focused on one strong point. he took out detachments. he won moral victories which is probably what lee should have done is hit small points as
opposed to focusing on the large army where you risk your army in exchange. >> to break down the enemy as well. >> okay. now, here is a question. in defense of lee, does lee actually disagree except for the means, does he disagree with the ends of breaking will. >> no. >> what's lee's sort of argument on this? >> he thinks the big battle, that's why he goes to gettysburg. he thinks it is the decisive battle of anile asian will get them the victory they want and break northern will. it is against southern culture to do what all the historians say that he should have done. they would never have done that. they want the classic conventional battles. >> who makes that argument. >> gallagher. >> and also in the conventional battle was south was also vying for recognition great britain and france and probably wouldn't have ahappened at all if this he
adopted a gorilla strategy. >> but washington's southerner and he managed to pull this off. it is not just constant avoidance of battle. it is constant of avoidance of battle with small victory that is you can hold up and make big victories, a press war. >> and that's a fair point. that's probably the widely criticism, probably the most powerful criticism. i think gallagher quite ably goes through the problems with gorilla wore for the confederacy and i would say there is recently a big book about gorilla war recently came out by a guy named dan sutherland and he actually thinks gorillas are more important than other historians think but he acknowledges in the end it is important because it is so self defeating, right, that gorillas cause so many problems that make southern civilians angry with their own government because they become prone to a lack of control and we don't cover it
much in this class. you probably have heard of missouri and the craziness that occurs in missouri and from the perspective of southern white civilians, it is gorilla war is not a great option. what crucial very important institution, confederate social institution is very vulnerable to gorilla -- >> slavery. >> slavery requires stability above all else. i know some of you -- have any of you taken professor camoy's class? i know she offers unwith. it requires legal sanction. what makes slavery different than other forms of property is they're also human beings and they have wills and the ability to run and the ability to leave, and unless you have a legal apparatus to catch them, force them, confine them, the institution was going to have a very hard time to survive. so i think gallagher in this
reading i think that you have i think spends pages basically demolishing the gorilla option and also what arguably is another reason people will get obsessed about the gorilla option after the 1960s. >> vietnam. >> vietnam, the confederates should have been doing what mou did, a problematic comparison for obvious reasons. the more credible alternative is what mr. conners just argued that you have what part of the revolution is very partisan oriented? >> the southern. >> the southern part. even there, remember, green, and green commanding partisans really? no. green is commanding regulars and he is aided and knows how to work with them. then you have washington with a continental army and you gave the example of york town. it is a point of opportunity really. he happens to have a british
army bottled up there and chooses to exploit that opportunity. that's the more effective criticism of lee, that what he should have done is fought this fabian strategy and kept his army in one piece and used the confederacy's vast size to his advantage, its massive strategic depth. so have other military historical examples. what helps napoleon? what big country does he invade? russia. it is the same issue. too big. your lines of supply are further and further expend tended. you get warn down and it is potentially a problem it use again the federals. professor love will talk about this a lot. who repeats the french error in russia? the nazis. >> do you think it was actually disadvantage of the confederates they picked washington as the captain dash not washington, british and not something
farther south. >> that is problematic, but i will point out and it is not -- richmond is chosen probably because virginia is so important. virginia is the home state of so many american presidents including washington. virginia is very large in terms of population. richmond has the iron works, one of the few centers of confederate and it is seal the deal to some degree, they move the capital to richmond. in retrospect was it really a good idea, no, but everyone early on thought the war would be short and they weren't thinking these things through. >> going back to the whole size issue, i am sure that the russians were very aware that the country is huge and the winter would bog the invading army down. is there any evidence that southerners think we have a
large piece of real estate and we can survive? >> yes. i think some of the new ler scholars show there is more talk of a gorilla strategy by some people and some confederates early in the war and there is nor criticism than i think we used to think of people like lee for being too -- well, what school does he come from? your favorite institution on the hudson, the place you love to hate, so -- well, that's too strong a term. we're joint. we're purple. the confederate high command all comes from that same institution, west point. that's one of the reasons it will be off the table for them. that's not the way west pointers fight. i think gallagher has a quote, the same quote i used at the beginning of my book, and i will repeat the story to you. alexander after the confederate army clearly lost -- yes? >> you mentioned that it was not
the way the south wanted to fight because they were all like part of them were from west point, but wouldn't it have been an advantage since the northern generals were also from west point and just had to make the decision to split between their state loyalties, so i don't see where the argument comes, not the way they wanted to fight if they have basically inside knowledge of how the north would be fighting strategically as well. >> it is the west point is the significance because it is the only way -- using organized armys for both sides, the only way they can imagine how to fight a war. because they think it is upethical to some degree to use a gorilla strategy and for both sides no matter which section you go with, you go to west point, yes, have you a sectional loyalty, but you end up in a military institution that says this is the way soldiers appropriately fight and it is a different issue than the political allegiance, so that to
some gee i am prisons them and part of the reason is gorilla warfare is more problematic than has all sorts of problems and complications that would probably have made it not a have i viable solution anyways, even if these guys did do that and even though some confederates talked about it. >> i believe there is a quite a definitive book on that exact subject right there called west pointers in the civil war. >> yeah. it does talk about some of those things, right. >> is there an honor or integrity question with gorilla warfare. >> precisely. it is not that the regular army folks are not have no experience with it. they do. who do they fight before the war? the indiana indians, and they
think this is completely inappropriate and on the receiving end of a lot of this and they don't see this is fighting dirty for them, of course for the sioux it is the way you fight so you have a culture clash, but that's part of it. yes? >> would gorilla warfare and richmond being close to the union line wouldn't it mean they had to sacrifice that? >> that would have been a problem, the capital is still a great political importance, all right? it is also related to this issue of what do the confederates want? they want to be recognized as a nation state and losing your capitol did not help your cause. >> philadelphia fell. >> fair enough. >> for what war. >> the revolution. >> united states loses capitol and new york and the americans still win. that's a fair reprise. >> that's different because they
were trying, the confederates were trying to keep their capital so great britain would support their cause and recognize them also as a sovereign state so i think it is different because you have in one line in the revolution we're trying to become free of like oppression, and though the north sees the south as like a rebel group, the south sees themselves as breaking free of an oppression and they want to be recognized as a sovereign state, so it is just different mindsets, the south wants to hold their capital because like i said they want to be recognized so if they let their capital fall like the revolution did with the americans and philadelphia, they feel like they're not going to have the support of great britain. america wasn't trying to have the support of anyone else. they just wanted to get out of their land. >> yes. >> i don't think it is all that different. i think in the american revolution the americans were looking for support from the french and i think that was a vital aspect of holding onto showing the french that they could beat the british and i think like was nathaniel green
at saratoga. >> saratoga is a crucial battle, right. saratoga is the crucial battle that invites that. >> wasn't it like partisan battle. >> it wasn't fought -- >> yes, you're right. >> able to garner support. >> in a partisan battle from the french. i think it is not a strong argument. >> if you have partisans working with regulars, right, that's the pattern that works. >> i think to contradict that, i mean, back in the american revolution the french were itching to get at the british and so i think the united states or america at that point really didn't need decisive victories as much as the confederates did because the french and gish needed their support but weren't as dedicated towards defeating another power. >> i have to move. >> one thing working against them, the history of europe, the fact in 1776 that the british and the french are fresh off a
war against each other and french indian war and hate each other but in 1861 the concert of europe is in full effect and in the middle that far century and the europeans want to do everything to not go to war with each other and don't want to pick a battle with north america when they're trying to avoid battles at all costs. >> and also fundamentally the british and the french and it is really the french who follow the british lead on this. the french have ambitions in mexico and things like that. partly because of the re approach you talk about the 19th century. really, the british will make the decision to come in when it teams to them that the decision has already been made. the british are really -- what does britain have as a problem always? where has it been exposed? canada. so which is hard to defend, far away, so recognition is an important thing, but the thought
is really the confederates will have to win enough victories to prove that, either win enough victories or prolong it long enough, whatever that means and also what's not mentioned in your readings i should tell you there is also a big problem to the british which is slavery. slavery is an issue for them. the british abolished slavery and through not violently but through a program of grad kwal emancipation and at tremendous cost because of the incredibly important humanitarian. i think there was a moving, amazing grace, about william will berforce and they don't like slavery for the most part and this is going to be a big problem for them, a big hurdle for them to advance in terms of recognizing confederacy. there is another group of people that we haven't talked about and that's gallagher's arguments, one of gallagher's arguments that -- actually it has been mentioned. gallagher says that lee dhuzing
a traeg to attack northern public opinion and break its will and what does it feed into. >> the southern desire for large victories. >> what's the problem with a fabian strategy? he has -- we'll talk about some of the operational issues. it also doesn't recognize -- mr. roth. >> johnson he got fired becauses he didn't win battles against sherman. if lee would have done the same thing he would have been sacked too probably. >> why is this important? >> it is culture. mr. conners. >> that's why you like spoiling battles. that's why you like washington, too, is dependent on public opinion which is why he did raids and he attacked small detachments when he could pick up and win and say look at all of these guys i beat. >> that's a good point. this is something -- >> has to do with their relationship with davis because to say that he would have been sacked just because he wasn't
doing anything is kind of a far stretch. for example, north lincoln didn't fire half of his generals simply because of political reasons who were not doing as well. >> wait awhile. sometimes he did. mcclel land is a good example of that. lincoln doesn't like mcclellan early on and eventually gets rid of him and takes him awhile. what's different about american political culture between the confederacy? now i am expecting you to remember a little bit about american history and jackson period. do you remember that jacksonian, what is the other word. >> democracy. >> and washington public pnt is not as important. in the early american republic you had to have property to vote. by the time of the civil war it is well established only white men vote but that the franchise has extended. have you things like newspapers. you have a lot more public opinion, it is not that public
opinion didn't matter in the american revolution but the reply i think to mr. conners strong argument is that confederate public opinion matters more, the ability and that perhaps spoiling fights wouldn't be enough. i will point out sherman, for example, remember that poem i had you read, right, that's during the atlanta campaign. that's where sherman attempts a big charge, fails, suffers casualties and johnston in theory can point to local successes like that and then what happens to johnston? you already said. he gets fired. partly because he is perceived as being too passive and therefore insufficiently aggressive. the broad spectrum of confederate public opinion of which davis is by necessity responding to wants a more aggressive strategy and lee gives it to them.
mr. conners. >> at the same time the gallagher reading is full of this talk about how the confederacy was willing to fight all the way until after dramatics and onwards and you can't say, okay, we're going to be willing to fight all the way like this if we're not willing to take a strategy that is a little more cautious. >> and this is a good example where strategies can collide with public opinion. this is why sometimes we call t it -- that's why there is a division, right, purely military. that has to serve larger political goals which are sometimes really rooted not so much in what's more militarily effective but what is values for