tv [untitled] April 29, 2012 1:00pm-1:30pm EDT
find out where c-span's local content vehicles are going next. online at c-span.org/localcontent. you're watching american history tv. all weekend every weekend on c-span 3. this is c-span 3 with politics and public affairs programming throughout the week and every weekend 48 hours of people and events telling the american story on american history tv. get our schedules and see past programs at our websites. join in the conversation on social media sites. >> each week american history tv sits in on a lecture with one of the nation's pledge professors. you can watch the classes here at 8:00 p.m. and sundays at 1:00 p.m. this week u.s. naval academy history professor wayne hsieh looks at the generalship of robert e. lee. it is part of "the american way of war."
it's 50 minutes. >> as you know, the topic of the class is robert e. lee. not just to talk about his life and career but to assess his generalship, assess his command. so the first thing obviously when you need to do something like this and we will do this with grant on friday, and, remember, the reason i have the class structured this way is because as we will probably talk about later in this class, if you criticize or defend lee, a lot of times it ends up being in comparison to grant. all right. you probably noticed that, for example, in the weigly reading. but before we get to grant, let me start with lee. a lot of this comes down to, if we're going to assess the commander's abilities, mr. wayne, come in. the question then becomes what's the criteria one uses for that. now, does anyone in your readings think that lee has no merits as a general whatsoever?
does anyone say lee is terrible to everything? it's a rhetorical question. no. so what is the consensus even -- and in your readings who is the critic? which guy? historian. the one -- i had you read it for monday, remember? is gallagher a critic of lee? no. he gives you all the critics then what does he say about them? he says they're wrong, right? he goes through them. russell wiegly criticizes him but what good things does he say about lee? what do you mean by that? >> very aggressive. typical west pointish general. >> okay. all right. so everyone agrees that lee's sort of positive
traits, aggressiveness. so what are some examples of that being a good thing? >> that would be instead of like sitting back to face it, he moved forward and attacked or moved on -- >> all right. and what happens? who wins? is he successful? all right, because aggressiveness obviously can be a negative aspect, right? so lee is successfully aggressive, all right, so that would be the seven days, the example you give there. what is usually his best, most important battle? second bull run, all right. what else? these are two great victories so everyone -- this idea -- remember, remember 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. and there you just look at his record and the victories he wins. at second manassas he essentially routes pope. at chancellorsville he does the same thing to hooker. at the seven days, the federals are how close are they to richmond? close enough to hear the church bells. they are literally on the outskirts of richmond. and if richmond had fallen at that point in the summer of 1862, what, potentially probably would have happened to the confederacy, remember, that comes after ft. henry and donaldson. it's not talked about in your
readings but is also important. lee turns the tide. and he wins those very large and important victories, all right. now, why is lee also criticized for his aggressiveness though? mr. rau? >> he lost very early. >> yes, mr. mcdaniels. >> wasn't really the type of war that they could afford to fight. >> exactly. you want to get in there? >> no, sir. >> all right. explain. >> a lot of the historians -- was it shelby foote was saying he theorizes they should have fought a guerrilla war campaign similar to the american revolution. >> not necessarily foote but there are a lot of arguments that lee should have engaged in partisan operations. it's not just guerrilla operations.
everyone acknowledges they needed a conventional army but 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 who -- which very famous important relative of lee admittedly some level removed -- >> washington. >> yes, washington. does washington act like lee during the revolution? >> all: no. >> what is washington's one crucial priority? >> to maintain the army. >> yes, to maintain the army, okay. to keep the army intact. and that means -- how does that -- so that's washington's strategy is the army must survive so how does that then affect his operational stance? i mean what does washington do then as a consequence of that? >> washington follows a fabian strategy and preserves his army whereas lee should have preserved his army. he knew he could win whatever battles he fought so he just
kept on fighting. >> exactly. so you see -- the different -- i know i had you read the wiegly on monday. who does do a fabian strategy? >> johnson. >> during what campaign? >> he's criticized. >> yes, do you remember who makes that argument? sort of rebuttaled. let me step back. johnston, sherman is marching on johnston in 1864. sherman is trying to take atlanta and what johnston does is essentially delays action. but even wiegly acknowledges that what in the end, even if you accept wiegly -- if we assume that, yes, johnston did fight a masterful fabian campaign, what happens to atlanta at the end of the day?
it falls. and why does wiegly say it falls? it's not because of his lack of skill. >> refusal of troops to -- >> that's the larger strategic problem, right, and for that reason, by the time the effective strategy is chosen, johnston doesn't have, if you're trading space, if you're trading space for time, johnston doesn't have enough space to trade at that point. it's too late in the war to do that effectively. so what should have happened then? and this is called a counterfactual, right. all right, the more -- it's the what if. all right. and it's tightly related to the issue of lee because if you say lee's strategy is wrong, you must then give an alternative. and the alternative should give you a higher likelihood of success, all right, and you need
to give a plausible all tern i have. have you heard of the novel "guns of the south"? yes, what happens in "guns of the south"? >> i've heard of it but -- >> okay. what crazy thing happens in it? >> they go back in time and -- >> yes, the south africans invent a time machine, and they see the civil war as a big headache for them because this is when apartheid still exists and what better way than solving the problem than by giving the army of virginia ak-47s. guess who wins the war? the confederacy wins the war and it's kind of a silly book. it turtle doves -- i read pieces of it just for grins. i hope he isn't watching this. he might be insulted. it's kind of nifty -- on the front, it's got sort of a rifle musket and an ak-47. so that kind of counterfactual space
aliens invade, those are off the table. more possible counterfactuals are something like taking actual things used during the war. in this case, the plausible counterfactual is johnston during the atlanta campaign and saying this is what robert e. lee should have done or the confederacy as a whole should have done or washington during the revolution because you see here at least similar circumstances. all right. what are the similar circumstances between the american revolution and the confederacy's bid for independence? >> it's a smaller army, however, like if the confederates looked to the american revolution, they would be able to realize that the smaller forces could still gain
independent si -- would still be able to gain independeterdepeni. with the smaller force, it's possible. >> you have to husband your forces in the correct manner. you have to, you can't, does watching go around willy-nilly attacking. mr. conner. >> the goal is not to defeat your enemies, just to exhaust them. to ruin public opinion and for that, you don't necessarily need to completely trust your armed forces. you just need to frustrate them, which is what washington did. washington never really focused on one strong point, he took out you know, detachments. >> yeah. >> he won moral victories, which is probably what lee should have done is, you know, hit small points as opposed to focusing on the large army where you risk your army in change. >> okay. that's what i was trying to get at. break down the enemy's will. >> now, here's a question, in defense of lee, does lee
actually disagree except for the mean, does he disagree with the ends of breaking northern will? >> all: no. >> no. but what's lee's sort of argument? >> he thinks the battle is going to get them the victory that they want and break northern will. he doesn't -- it's against southern culture to do what all the historians say he should have done. they would have never done that. they want the classic conventional battles -- >> who makes that argument? that's exactly -- gallagher, right. >> also, in defense of the conventional battle the south was vying for recognition by great britain and france and that probably wouldn't have happened quickly if at all if they adopted a guerrilla strategy, which some people have advocated. >> but washington's, you know, a southerner and he managed to pull this off. you don't -- it's not just constant avoidance of battle. it's constant avoidance of
battle with small victories that you can hold up and make big victories. suppress war. >> yeah, okay. and that's a fair point and that's probably -- that's the wiegly criticism and that's probably the most powerful criticism. i think gallagher quite ably goes through the problems with guerrilla war with confederacy and i would say first, there's recently a big book about guerrilla war recently came out by a guy named -- he finds -- he thinks guerrillas are more important than other wars. he acknowledges it's probably more important because it's so self-defeating, that guerrillas probably cause so many problems, it makes southern civilians angry with -- because they become prone to a lack of control and we don't really 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 rights civilians, go
guerrilla war is not a great option. also, what crucial and important institution, confederate social institution is very vulnerable to gouerrilla -- >> slavery. >> slavery. slavery requires stability of the laws and i know some of you -- have you taken professor camoy's class on slavery? i know she offers one. one of the things that makes slavery different from other forms of property is slaves are also human beings and they have wills and they have the ability to run and the ability to leave. and unless you have a legal apparatus to catch them, force them, confine them, they're -- the institution was going to have a hard time to survive. so i think -- and gallagher in this reading i think that you have i think spends pages basically demolishing the guerrilla option. and arguably what's another reason people will get obsessed about the guerrilla option after the 1960s.
>> vietnam. >> vietnam. its attempts to compare that, you know, confederates should have been doing what mao did. this is a problematic comparison for obvious reasons. the more, the more credible alternative is what mr. conners considered, which is what wigely argued which is that you have -- what part of the revolution is very partisan orientated? the southern part. even there, remember, it was green. is green commanding partisans really? no. he's aided -- and he knows how to work with them and then you've got washington with a continental army and you gave example of yorktown. even yorktown is a point of opportunity. he happens to have a british army bottled up there and he choices to exploit that opportunity at times. 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 master strategic depth so this is -- and we have other military historical examplesle what helps with napoleon? what big country does he invade? >> russia. >> russia and it's the same issue. it's too big. your lines of supply become further and further extended. you get more and more worn down and logistics become harder and harder and that's a problem that can be used against the federals. who repeats professor love will talk about this a lot. who repeats the french error in russia? >> the nazis. >> the nazis. don't invade -- right. >> sir, do you think it was the disadvantage to the confederates that they picked washington as their capital -- not washington, richmond as their capital and not something further south. >> that is problematic, but i'll point out -- and your readings don't have, 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 ironworks, which is one of the few centers of confederate industries, so richmond is of extraordinary political importance and that's one of the reasons why it sort of seals the deal. they moved the capital to richmond. in retrospect was it really such a good idea? no. but everyone early on thought the war would be short and weren't thinking these things through. mr. manly? >> going back to the whole size issue, i mean, i'm sure that the russians were very aware that their country was huge, is there any evidence that southerners were aware, like, hey, we have a pretty large piece of real estate here if we can just survive? >> yes, and i think that some of the newer scholars show that there's more talk of a guerrillapartisan strategy by some people, by some confederates early in the war and there's more criticism
than we used to think of people like lee for being too, well, what school does he come from? your favorite institution on the hudson, right? the place you love to hate, right? well, that's too strong a term, right. we're joined. we're purple. so -- and but what the confederate high command all comes from that same institution. west point. and that's one of the reasons that's going to be off the table for them. that's not the way west pointers fight. i think gallagher has a quote. it's the same quote i use at the beginning of my book. and i'll repeat the story to you. alexander after the confederate armies -- yes. >> sir, you mentioned it was not the way the south wanted to fight because they were -- part of them were from west point but wouldn't it have just been an advantage since the northern generals were also from west point and they would have had to make the decision to split
between their state loyalties so i don't see where the argument comes that it's not the way they wanted to fight if they have like basically inside knowledge of how the north would be fighting strategically, as well. >> the west point significance is that it is the only way, using organized armies for both sides, it's the only way they can imagine how to fight a war. so bash because they think it's unethical to some degree to use a guerrilla strategy for both sides. for both sides, it's -- no matter which section you go with, you go to west point, yes, you have a sectional loyalty but you end up in a military institution that says this is the way soldiers appropriately fight and that's a different issue than what your political allegiance will be. so that to some degree imprisons them. that's part of the reason is that guerrilla warfare is a lot more problematic and has all
sorts of problems and complications that probably would not have made it a viable solution anyways even though some confederates talked about it. that doesn't mean it would have worked. >> sir, i believe there's actually quite a definitive book on that exact subject right there called "west pointers in the civil war." which discusses that same -- >> >> yeah. it does talk about some of those things. >> is there an honor or integrity question with guerrilla warfare? >> yes, precisely. it's not that the regular army folks have no experience with it. they do because who do they fight before the war? >> the indians. >> the indian, all right. they're all veterans of the indian wars and dealt with guerrillas in mexico so they think it's completely inappropriate. they're on the receiving end. they don't see this is fighting dirty for this em. all right, for the sioux it's
the way you fight. >> with it being so close to the union line wouldn't it mean they had to sacrifice that? >> that would have been a problem. is that the capital -- the capital is still of great political importance. it is related to the issue of what do the confederates want. all right. they want to be recognized and as a lipped nation state and losing your capital does not help your cause. mr. kov mr. conners. >> philadelphia fell. >> fair enough. during what war? the united states loses the capital. they lose new york and it's -- and the mers still win. that's a fair reprice. all right. >> that's different. they were trying, the confederates were trying to keep their capital so that great britain would support them also. and recognize them as their own sovereign state. i think it's different because
in one mind 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 oppressions and want to be recognized as sovereign states. it's just different mind-sets much the south wants to hole their capital because like i said they want to be recognized so about 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 great britain to get out of their land. >> yes. >> i don't think it's all that different. i think in the american revolution the americans were looking for support from the french. i think that was a vital aspect was holding on to showing the french that they could beat the british. was it nathaniel green at ft. saratogo? >> saratoga is the crucial battle. >> wasn't it sort of kind of like a partisan battle?
if wasn't fought -- >> yes, you're right. >> they were able to garner support in a partisan battle from the french so i think that's not a strong argument. >> yeah. if you have partisans working with regular, right. that's the pattern that works. >> i think to contradict that, back in the american revolution, the french were, in slang, they were kind of itching to get at the british so they didn't need decisive victories as much as the confederates did because the french and english needed their support but weren't as dedicated towards defeating another power as the french were in 1776. >> then i got to move. >> they have one thing working against them, the fact in 1776, 83 that the british and the french were fresh off a war with each other and they really hated each other but in 1861 the concert of europe is in full effect. in the middle of that century and the europeans want to do everything to not go to war with each other so they don't want to
pick a battle with north america had they're trying to avoid battles at all costs. >> and also fundamentally, the british and the french and it's really the french who follow the british lead on this. the french have ambitions in mexico and things like that. partly because of the rapprochement you talk about the in 19th century. really the british will come -- make the decision to come in when it seems to them that the decision has already been made. all right, because the british are really -- because what does britain have as a problem always? where has it been exposed? north. canada. so it's hard to defend far away. so recognition is an important thing. but the thought was really the confederates are going win enough victories to prove that. either win enough victories or prolong it enough, whatever that means. also what is not mentioned in your readings, i should tell you
too, there is a big problem for the british which is slavery. slavery is an issue for them. the british abolished slavery. through not violently but through a program of gradual emancipation but at tremendous cost because of this incredibly important humanitarian -- i think there was a movie made about this "amazing grace." and the british, they are a little bit on the fence about some of the issues. the british don't like slavery for the most part and this did going to be a big problem for them, a big hurdle for them to advance beyond in terms of recognizing the confederacy. there is another group of people that we have not talked about and that's one of gallagher's arguments. one argument is that -- it has been mentioned. one of you said that. gallagher says that lee chooses a strategy partly to attack northern public opinion and break its will. but what does it also feed into which is very important. >> southern desire for larger victories. >> yes. what's the problem with the fabian strategy in gallagher's
view? we'll talk about maybe some of the operational issues. but it also doesn't recognize -- mr. roth. >> he didn't win battles so if lee would have done the same thing lee would have been sacked too probably. >> yes. and why is this important? >> he wanted to win it. >> yes, it's cultural -- mr mr. conners. >> that's why you fight spoiling battles. that's why you -- like washington too was dependent on public opinion which is why he did raids and he attacked small detachments when he could pick up a win and say look at all of these guys i beat. >> that's a good point. this is something -- >> it has to do with their relationship with davis. to say that he would have been sacked just because he wasn't doing anything is kind of a far stretch. up north lincoln didn't fire half of his generals simply because of political reasons who were not doing as well. >> he had to wait a while.
mccullin is a good example. lincoln doesn't like mcclelland early on but eventually -- takes a while. between the confederacy -- now i expect you to remember a little about the jacksonnian -- in washington's era, public opinion is not as important. you had to have property to vote. by the time of the civil war, it's well established. only white men vote, but the franchise has extended. all right. you have things like newspapers. you have a lot more -- public opinion -- it's not that public opinion didn't matter in the american revolution but the reply to mr. conners' strong argument is that confederate public opinion matters more. and that perhaps spoiling fights
wouldn't be enough, all right? and i'll point out that sherman, for example, remember that poem i had you guys read? right. that's that one during the -- he attempts a big charge, fails. suffers a lot of casualties. johnston in theory can point to local successes like that and what happens to johnston? you guys have already said. he gets fired, right? partly because he's perceived as being too passive, insufficie insufficiently aggressive in that 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. all right. 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 and
onwards. 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. >> okay, and this is a good example where strategies can collide with public opinion. right? this is why sometimes we call t it -- sometimes that's why there's a division. this is purely military. right, but 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 lack of a better term. ideals, right? and are the two -- is the most militarily effective goal always in perfect concert and completely compatible with values and ideals?