tv [untitled] April 29, 2012 12:30am-1:00am EDT
something that your ethics class wants. if you go -- if what happens when they clash and one puts too much weight on the ideals? what's the cost then? you lose. you lose. on the other hand, a lot of times even military organizations don't want to do anything -- it is not anything goes. there is a sense that you have compromised what you wanted so much that you have now -- what's the point of this victory, the victory becomes hollow from a moral, political and ethical stance, and the two are frequently in collision, and the two frequently collide, and this may be an example if weigley is right and maybe a way of saying weigley and gallagher is right and gallagher is right when he talks about what confederate public opinion wants and talks about the imperatives of southern white culture. weigley may be correct from a military strategic perspective
that the more plausible military strategy is the fabian strategy. they may be both right and that's probably the biggest problem is making those two compatible. now we circle back to lee. do we think of lee as someone whose strategy -- well, here is this. do you think lee's strategy was plausible? >> no. >> say why? >> the south never had enough men or enough industry to compete with the north. the north was too big of power. i forget, i think it was in the gallagher reading quoting as saying the north fought with a hand tied behind their back. >> shelby foote. >> so the juggernaut of northern industrialization and man power would have overwhelmed the south regardless. i think one of lee's biggest
problems is he was too oriented on virginia and his home state and that close to completely neglect the west when he could have perhaps shifted troops up there and helped work some of the southern defeats there. and he did well for himself for the most part in virginia and sacrificed the west and i think that really hurt the south. >> that is an argument. >> the northern file going to be a short war. if they have the short war, all the casualties and aggressive campaign wouldn't have mattered so much down the line when and late 60s coming to the end of the war and running out of men and aggressive campaign would have paid off early in the war it wouldn't have mattered later on. >> yes. you know what, that is actually lee's reply. lee would acknowledge everything you just said about northern superiority and he would return that to support his strategy. i need to win the war early because eventually it will become a matter of time and then we'll definitely lose.
precisely for the reasons you just said. it is sort of the only chance for victory is to gamble early. he gambled and lost. that, you can still say, well, that's the only viable strategy although, okay, both of you? >> i was going to go back to the grand versus military strategy. i think it was a plausible strategy and if they had won a few more key -- if they had defeated the north and not given lincoln a platform for the emancipation proclamation and if they had won gettysburg and hindered lincoln's chances for re-election in 1864, things like that would have worn down northern will and kept out foreigners long enough to have gain so i think he could have won, it is unfortunately or fortunately things didn't go well on the battle field for them. >> my thought is my criticism of lee comes when he is finally
does switch to the defensive which he is forced to because his offensives plans before the wilderness which are kind of i would call them fever dreams almost, because he thinks he can still move with the kind of speed and achieve the depth that he did when he still had a functioning or well functioning offensive army. he makes all kinds of failures in these initial kind of defensive battles, especially at the angle at sharpsburg which is a tactical failure rather than a strategic failure. >> yeah. although i mean, i think consensus, lee does well during the over lying campaign but he does it too late and they're bled white by the time and by that point he is already wasted so many and, men, that's part of the argument against the generalship in that case. okay. how many of do you think lee was -- show of hands. >> what?
>> plausible, that the strategy was plausible. most of you think it was plausible. what did people think about the argument weigley makes this about lee's victories being hollow? >> he would suffer massive casualties to achieve them. >> they were hollow because with gettysburg he would win the battle and hold the land through the day of the battle and the next day have to leave early because logistics couldn't keep up with it. >> or a better example, gettysburg is just a loss. the big battles, again, remind us. chancellorsville, second manassas. does the second army completely dissolve? no. it is especially in the case of second manassas, it is in
terrible shape but it's not like he walks into washington on the post. he malls the federals tremendously and still, that's why he always needs to follow-on victory and why you have the campaign and the gettysburg and he wants the follow-on, that you need the three. let's say he wins at gettysburg. what does he do? so what? he wins at gettysburg. he loses a third of his men in the process. he still has the logistical problem. he still has all of these sorts of issues. this is an argument against lee and one that should be considered and part of it relates to -- part of it relates to how plausible you think that gettysburg and that whether or not he really could are have won gettysburg. >> i think the problem is i personally don't think the strategy followed. it was fine in what was needed for the south to win, but i think the problem goes back to his positive trait was also another one of his weaknesses
was aggressiveness because he became way too reckless with his men and when he saw the tide of certain battles starting to change he would throw more men into the battle and get mowed down and it would work to wear down the north. >> all right. >> i have issue with sort of the strategy going into gettysburg because the point of his campaign was obviously he wanted to win a big battle in the north as a moral victory and reduce the will but wasn't the military objective to get to harrisburg, right? there was a rail hub there and that's what he was going for, gettysburg happened to be where the army ended up meeting. >> he does not intend to fight at gettysburg. he intends to fight somewhere in the north, yeah. >> if he is going after a transportation hub like harrisburg or industrial center, so what. you make it and even if he was to take over a rail hub or factories. >> i would say his goal -- his goal is really to bring, to
force the federal army to a battle and to defeat it decisively. that by itself should crush northern public opinion. it is not completely. let me throw this out. what happens in new york city around that time? the draft riots. the north is deeply, deeply divided in some respects about the war. imagine draft riots plus the prospect of, but the reality is this is all terribly complicated. for example, you guys got the traditional explanation historians use where is sherman's atlanta campaign so important to lincoln, the capture. >> because it turns public opinion. >> we have a famous letter from lincoln where he says i am going to lose this election. who is lincoln's opponent? mcclellan of all people. mcclellan is on a platform that the democratic party platform. they have parts of the democratic party which wanted to declare an armistice and
negotiation and if you do armistice they basically won and allow the northerners, the so-called peace democrats don't realize that the confederates really want their independence and think if you do a cease-fire you can renegotiate this. the confederates sometimes talk openly about how they want to encourage the misperception and they think this but they really just want their own country at this point and if you stop you won't be able to start the machine back up again. physical be fatecompli. mcclellan's position is different. we really don't know what he may have done. yes, he was not in favor but he was a union man still and mcclellan would have been president. so that dynamic, is that counter factual is problematic and that's another -- this is related to a larger question.
that's not just -- this is not just about lee. this is about how much chance does a confederacy as a whole have at victory? if you come up with so many barriers than anything lee does perhaps is impossible if that shelby foote line is right, whether or not you buy that. and you see the questions are related. if you say confederate victory is too many things are against it, this is almost a stupid question. we shouldn't have that question in all honesty. we should have a class about i should be writing out tables of man power and industrial capacity and things like that. >> like lee's like confederate strategy, this is retrospect obviously and see how good he is with the defensive strategy and
wouldn't have made more sense to be closer and in the confederacy which is the size of europe at the time and closer to like the supply lines and had more logistics and could have given up land and maybe at the same time broken northern public opinion and will while still giving up small amounts of probably not losing the massive amount of casualties in the aggressive northern campaigns that he embarked on? >> mr. roth. >> didn't he go to the north because the south was losing all the supplies and so when they went to pennsylvania they took advantage of the fields there. >> a lot of it is just a lot of the supply system is sort of legalized theft, right, and the federals do the same thing. the confederates partly. the northern virginia is completely devastated, completely opposite of what you think of it now as being a nice prosperous way and funny street names, but that's part of the -- there is a supply imperative there. of course lee does well in the over lining campaign but what's interesting is he is doing exactly what he doesn't want to do. the interesting question then becomes you know is it just personality wise unsuited to
fighting that? also, gallagher makes this point and let me point this out, too. lee fights a masterful delaying action in the over lying campaign. johnson, if weigley is right, masterful action and what happens at the end of all of these things? you still lose. why? what happens? you're pushed back and what happens? what kind of operation occurs that plays to all the federal advantages? a siege. lee says that very early on. he says this very early on. if this becomes a siege, we're done, because he says this as early as the seven days because if mcclellan can bring up his heavy artillery, all the northern superiority and logistics and material, it is just gradually going to overwhelm the confederacy and therefore sieges happen and what happens after a siege things like donaldson, henry, vicksburg. >> you lose all of your troops.
>> you lose an entire army. that's one of gallagher's arguments. the stuff doesn't actually work because -- mr. conners. >> i will say i think definitely something to do with the opposing generals. >> explain. >> he has a really good read on people like mcclellan or bernstein. he has this problem where he will freeze up when he is given too much and burn a bridge and takes him along time to get across that bridge and burnside can be taken advantage of and exploited as mcclellan obviously and will break if pushed right and he doesn't get that good of read when it comes to grant. >> yes. also what should be added is a good read on the army of potomac.
the army potomac fights hard and rank and foul are effective, but its generals and kind of an organizational problem and partly because of mcclellan and a lot of the officers he selected and the culture he creates is a very defensive passive minded one and it is also it is like the team, the sports team that gets beaten by the same team too often, and there seems to be a sense they get the culture of losers, and what is the opposite thing in the army of northern virginia? they think they're always going to win. what's interesting about it is one, it is not just the army thinks that. who else thinks that and gallagher has a lot of it. >> the army thinks that the army of northern -- >> that's part of it. what other important group of people? the confederates, the average confederate. when you look at things like gettysburg, what's interesting is how gettysburg is a defeat
for lee and the public reaction is not that negative. well, yeah, we wish it went better and the first day went for the confederacy and where did it happen? pennsylvania. okay. so we didn't get a huge victory there. we fought the federals to a draw. we survived. the first day went better for us. vicksburg is seen as a complete disaster. no one says vicksburg is good. the same thing occurs to some degree after ankita but he stays an extra day and is able to kind of say this is a draw and mcclellan doesn't attack him. it is partly mcclellan. almost dares mcclellan to attack the day after the battle and makes the mistake and refuses and probably could have destroyed the army on the spot. this is the importance of psychological factors and if you're going to defend lee the way gallagher does, you'll put heavier premium on these things that lee is able to build a culture of winning.
he has to take risks and there are positive effects to. this as late as '64 the army of northern virginia is still going to be a very effective fighting force partly because the culture was built before. you wouldn't have built that culture of winning if you had done the fabian strategy that washington would have done because, yes, you can rationally explain it to them. mr. conners, do you want to push back on that. >> a culture of winning is as useful as it is but even the army of the potomac, i think the description of them is like a bulldog who has been whipped a lot and used to getting whipped and always is going to keep fighting and keep fighting hard. >> and will eventually win. >> will eventually win, so there is a culture of tenacity that i think develops in the army of the potomac where as the army of northern virginia, when they lose, yes, they still have a culture of always winning but that loss somehow will stick with them. i think. >> they may have a culture of winning but so many will be
killed it won't matter. >> essentially. >> and by the way, arguably, that is what happens to the army of northern virginia. i mean, at the end of the day the best troops in the world if they're half starved because their supply lines are cut, running low on ammunition and aren't that many left, and by '65 what happened to a lot of the best officers? they're all dead. or wounded or lame. this happens on the federal side, too, especially after the over lying campaign. eventually that preponderance of material and this is an argument for why confederate independence is very hard to get in the first place. the question is, is this even a good discussion to have? i just want -- i am just throwing that out there. i think most military historians and perhaps it is because we're military historians don't think the confederacy's victory or
confederate defeat is automatic. i think most of us come to the agreement that lee came close enough to changing the tide of the war by winning -- came close enough to the hat trick we have to take this seriously. all right? that being said, you can still make the argument like weigley does is, well, that was one way of getting victory but there is another way of getting victory and that would have been something more like washington or a fabian strategy and would have been operationally effective. that might be true. weigley might be right in military terms but if gallagher is right about the power of public opinion, it is still not a viable strategy. that's still not something that would have actually been a workable thing. all right. so keep a lot of this stuff in mind. we'll get to grant on friday. we'll talk more about that. >> all right. >> more from u.s. naval academy
history professor wayne hsieh as he examines of the generalship of ulysses s. grant. it is the american way of war. it is 50 minutes. >> so today we'll do grant. with lee obviously one of the ways that this class is structured is you had one historian who thought lee was an excellent battlefield general and a terrible strategist and you had another historian, my former teacher, gary gallagher, that made the argument, no, lee's strategy was plausible, didn't work out, but it wasn't because the strategy was implausible or not well executed. today is what you may have known, i didn't give you an anti-grant reading, meaning grant is terrible. the reason for that is the consensus of you amongst most modern historians is that grant
was a great general. that really is the -- not everyone's going to agree. there's always issues for debate. but the current scholarship is extraordinarily positive. you know, i more or less subscribe to that view and it's hard to get a really good grant the butcher reading that -- some of you heard this term, give you a current reading like that that's actually plausible. so i don't. but i should mention that. historiography meaning the changing interpretations about the past. grant's example is very -- very interesting about that because grant during the war, after the war, what happens to grant, you know, after the war, shows how americans like him. he becomes president.
he's incredibly important. he writes his memoirs, how many of you read pieces of grant's memoirs? a few of you. maybe even in english class. even in the history of american prose style grant is important. we call it the plain style, the type of writing we teach, the very kind of unvarnished, clear, taking out a lot of the rhetorical flourishes we associate with victorianism, with romanticism, grant has something to do with that. so grant's reputation is very high. and then you have this term where grant becomes -- people become indifferent to him and you get a powerful driven in large part by the writings of former confederates grant is portrayed as grant the butcher. what's the criticism of grant, you can also draw that out of wigley though he sees grant as a great general. what's the complaint? >> throws his men away. >> yes. grant is extraordinarily blood
thirsty. you get all sorts of stories, things like supposedly grant liked his meat well cooked partly because he worked at a tannery. the criticism, there is this blood thirsty general who can't stand the sight of blood. so you get all of this very, very negative, hostile interpretation. then really around the time of the inner war period, a few british -- important british military writers start to rehabilitate grant and who see him as a more important general and give the interpretation that wigley more or less repeats and what you got is kind of the consensus though there will be people will dispute pieces including myself.
but that's more or less the general view. so but you should realize that grant's reputation has ebbed and flowed and i still want you, though, to make a valid judgment but it tends to inspire less debate than lee. i wouldn't be surprised if this class is affected by that. or maybe it isn't. so, why don't we step back after giving you that little bit of context, why don't some of you start flushing out why is grant at least in the reading you got, why is grant a great general? what makes him special? all right. okay. all right. that is a great opening line. you've kind of advanced the class in the way i wanted to get to that issue. this sounds preposterous. there is a reason why grant's reputation is going to be easier to defend than lees, because he wins the war. and lee doesn't. >> also argues that he is this long term -- sees the bigger picture. it's not this instant battle where he has to like -- his ultimate goal is to crush lee's army but he sees the bigger picture of the war.
>> at that level, what are the three levels of war again? strategy, operations, tactics. grant is the master strategist. does grant always get his way on the operational, tactical level? no. any one remember an example? one of them i remember reading. what happens at shiloh? is that grant's greatest battle? no. what happens? yes. the federal army is -- and sherman has some doing with this. the federal -- the union army is basically caught napping to some degree. but how does grant retrieve the situation? weigley refers to it as a character trait.
grant doesn't panic. so he recovers, but it doesn't mean that he's flawless operationally, doesn't mean he is flawless tactically. >> i think he's got the nerve. mcclellan breaks and burnside breaks, all of these generals break, but shiloh doesn't break, the wilderness when he gets outflanked he doesn't break, he withdraws and stabs again. >> how does that relate to having the big picture? how do those two connect? >> he loses the battle doesn't mean he's done. >> yes. >> he's able to get over the fact and go on to the next one. >> you have your -- and this is a traditional military historian's argument why you focus. weigley uses it. who is the contrasting figure on this question of character? who is the guy who gets the strategy right but due to a moral failing, that's basically the way 19th century america sees it, doesn't succeed.
it's mcclellan. if he knows what is wigley's evaluation of the strategic concept of mclellen's peninsula campaign? >> pretty positive. just he didn't have the guts to follow it up. >> exactly. that is what -- not only that, what does wigley talk about, how does he caringize mcclellan's political ideas? >> he was a lot less revolutionary than -- he would have rather had the civil war carried south there weren't any changes, slavery wasn't touched and restore how it was. >> whether or not that was a good or bad thing, is it plausible? >> it wouldn't be plausible to bring the union back together because the south was in their own mind-set like they wanted the war to end, and they wanted to stay the same the way they
were. >> wigley is kind of on the fence. if we read his other work there is a sense in wigley that battle and wars are -- there are downsides so he clearly has a fondness for mcclellan's desire to have a military strategy that leaves civilians alone and things like that. and wigley doesn't seem to care a lot, a huge amount about slavery. that's one of the reasons you can take that position. but i think you're right to say that other point wigley seems to indicate that's politically that strategy probably wouldn't have worked. there was something in it. it becomes implausible because mcclellan fails on the battlefield. his only chance to make his strategy work requires him to achieve a military victory which he does not. then you are replaced with the grant strategy, much more, well, what are the -- so grant has the better strategic conception. let's flush out, step back again. what's the -- he's got the good strategic view. what's his view?
the title of the chapter, right. the strategy of annihilation. what does that mean? >> destroy the army. >> so how are the different ways of doing that? mr. roth. >> he's going to follow the big thing is he had people follow lee's army and they keep picking off people and follow him and make lee like make the mistake. >> so -- >> not just following the army as well as johnson. he divided his forces to engage the southern army at the same time on multiple fronts. >> so you have various examples, right. you have attrition. what's that a fancy term for? what mr. roth said. in this case you can associate it with guerrilla warfare. in this case it's wearing down your opponent. that's the overland campaign with fighting. high casualty count. mr. goodwin you're probably --
did you mention vicksburg? >> not this time, sir. >> that's an example where grant doesn't wear down his opponent through a heavy casualty sort of grinding away. what does he do instead. >> figured out the siege. but originally when he started at vicksburg he launched two or three assaults and failed at that. one could argue he tried to annihilate this confederate army in vecksburg, too. >> he does. in the end he does win, right. the assaults don't work but how does the siege conclude? where else does grant achieve maneuver, decisions by siege? >> petersburg. >> that's another though it's not maneuver though he tries to get there. yes. also, what makes grant innovative about some of those -- the inner service thing, what's grant -- yes. >> he forced unconditional