tv [untitled] June 16, 2012 10:00pm-10:30pm EDT
every sunday at 8:00 a.m., 7:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. eastern, on cspan 3. you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on cspan 3. for more information, follow us on twitter@cspanhistory. this week on the civil war, two historians talk about the shenandoah campaigns of 1862 and 1864, which involved some of the fiercest fighting of the war. this is the fourth in a series of sessions we're airing from a conference organized by the virginia civil war sesquicentennial commission. the theme of this year's gathering was leadership and generalship in the civil war. the virginia military institute in lexington virginia hosted the conference, and this portion is about an hour.
i have the opportunity now to do double duty, not only to call you to order, but also to introduce to you the fourth panel of today's program. i would just like to say a word to you about how we designed this whole thing, and how we wound up on this note. nobody has really questioned the idea that most of what we talked about have been battles in virginia, more than half all the activity of the civil war was in virginia, and a good deal of it
in that 100 miles between the fall line on the potomac and fall line at richmond. it started here and ended here. for those of you that wished we did more around the western theater, next year perhaps. but we also, my program committee and i discussed how we were going to wind this program up, and we thought it would be wise to do two things. we are in the valley, actually, we're in one of two valleys. i'll explain that in a minute, and that has a geographical significance for us, but also did for the civil war in '62, what happened was supposed to relieve the pressure on richmond caused by the peninsula campaign. in '64, to protect the flank of grant as he started on the campaign that bud robertson so clearly enunciated in the last
hour. we also realize in both cases, '62 and '64, there was an opportunity to study and comment on independent command. and the campaigns that resulted in so many reputations being made and so many lost. and great examples occurred in '62 and '64. today, we have two people that have written about those campaigns, distinguished scholars. i told them both i would let you read their lengthy publication list in the conference program, but i would like to say peter cows ins has written a book on stonewall jackson. i reminded him there are several stores in town that have that for people to look at. shenandoah, '62, stonewall jackson's shenandoah valley
campaign. jeffrey work has a book upstairs on the glorious army, captures the story of how lee came into command and what he did in one year's time. perfectly phenomenal. he also is a great student of what happened in winchester and cedar creek, fishers hill and so forth. so they're going to talk about some of those things. but i must say they have picked up the theme of this conference even further because they're going to talk not so much about tactics as they are about relationships between the supreme commanders and these independent commanders in the field, and we'll have much to learn from them. so i'm going to sit down and let them come up one by one. peter. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. colonel cornicker says the
session after lunch is perhaps the deadliest. i would argue perhaps the last one is deadliest. i will try to keep my remarks brief and pointed. the shenandoah valley campaign of 1862, thomas j. jackson, stonewall jackson's valley campaign. no civil war campaign has been more closely identified with the victorious commander, i would argue, than this campaign. but today our focus is going to be a bit unconventional. our remarks look at the campaign not from the perspective of victorious general, what he accomplished, so much as from that of the losers, or more pointedly, loser, as you'll see from the title of my talk, president abraham lincoln and union defeat.
dr. robertson in his presentation so eloquently spoke of lincoln's intuitive understanding of grant's abilities and the way lincoln over the course of the first three years of the war had learned to allow generals of great talent to pretty much run things at an operational level. the lincoln in early 1862 was a far different lincoln. he was inexperienced at the art of command, role of commander in chief. i want to rest a moment, not taking you through the troop movements in the valley campaign, i just want you to bear in mind four towns. harpers ferry in the north,
winchester, harrisonburg, and strausburg. a word of preamble, we have to address stonewall jackson obviously, say that bear in mind his overreaching, overarching mission in the valley was to tie down as many union troops as possible, with the command that fluctuated from no more than 3500 men to 16,000 men. that was his principal objective. now let's travel 75 miles east of the valley to washington, d.c. and the white house and the war department in late june 1862. the campaign is over. as i'm sure you all know, the secretary of war, he did win m. stanton was not widely known
for his sense of humor, but major general john pope got a rare taste of it when stanton summoned him east to washington, d.c. in june, 1862. pope was to take command of the scattered and demoralized forces that stonewall jackson had defeated just a few short weeks earlier in the shenandoah valley campaign. pope was as ike robertson said, not the finest of generals in the eastern theater, but he was a very perceptive observer. he recalled that pope, stanton told him, rather in pope's worlds, stanton regailed him at the first meeting that spared neither himself more president lincoln. stanton's remarks made it clear
to pope that the shenandoah valley debacle was, quoting pope, really a campaign conducted from washington by the president and the secretary of war in which the generals played no part except to obey orders. the generals, pope concluded, were entirely innocent of any responsibility for those operations, unquote. stanton never publicly confessed his or president lincoln's role in the union defeat, and history really has chosen to blame rather than them, to blame the three generals who in a sense dangled from strings that were pulled in washington. major generals nathaniel p. banks, john c. free month, irwin mcdowell. but while all of these generals
committed errors, and i could spend the next hour talking about errors they committed, the larger responsibility for the union defeat rests with lincoln and stanton. let's look at the mistakes that lincoln made. his first mistake occurred before the valley campaign began in march, 1862, and it stemmed from his frustration with major general george b. mcclellan. lincoln gave him permission to move the water bourne movement in spring of 1862, on the explicit condition that mcclellan protect washington. so in order to ease lincoln's preoccupation with the capitol, mcclellan promised to augment the city's 18,000 men garrison
with 55,000 troops from the army of the potomac which he said would be deployed in and about washington, in and about washington. what mcclellan did not tell lincoln was that he had assigned his covering force role so to speak to nathaniel banks fifth score, which was then in the shenandoah valley at winchester. hardly in and about washington, d.c. mcclellan really expected no trouble from stonewall jackson's small army in the valley, so before he embarked for the peninsula, he ordered banks out of the valley and into this covering force blocking position near men as is junction in and around washington, d.c. so all seemed well and good until jackson attacked the only
division of banks that was still in the valley on march 23rd, 1862 at the battle of kernstown. just as this division is remaining division of banks was preparing to leave and move east to washington. as we know, jackson, we all know jackson lost kernstown, a terrible tactical defeat, but it was a strategic victory, because the audacity of his attack suggested the confederates were in greater strength than mcclellan had supposed. so mcclellan was in a bind now. he promised to leave a huge number of troops in and about washington, suddenly they were in the valley and weren't going to be able to go anywhere. and he had to prevent really the worse case scenario, given the audacity of jackson's attack,
the worst case scenario of the confederates crossing the river at harpers ferry and descending on washington from the rear, much as happened in 1864 with jubal early. so mcclellan directed banks to re-assemble the corp into the valley, drive jackson back, and then assume a position that will enable you, quote, to prevent his return. well, after kernstown, lincoln was also concerned about the safety of washington, so he examined that closer than when he got that promise. lincoln realized mcclellan had hoodwinked him. not only was banks now 75 miles west of washington, but also to make matters worse, when mcclellan was calculating the strength of this covering force,
he double counted one of banks' brigades. when the president became aware of this situation, he was justly indig nant. on the 3rd, he clipped mcclellan's wings. counter manned that order for mcdowell's 32,000 man corp at frederiksberg to embark for the peninsula and join mcclellan, and instead, he elevated mcdowell to command a new department, with headquarters at frederiksberg. mcdowell would be answerable only to the president as secretary of war, and would assume the role in protecting washington that mcclellan had intended for banks. lincoln also made banks independent of mcclellan, and
created for him the department general in chief. he scolded mcclellan, quote, i do not forget that i was satisfied with your arrangement to leave banks at men as is junction, but when that arrangement was broken up and nothing substituted for it, of course i was not satisfied. i was constrained to substitute something forward myself. this actually was lincoln's second foray into the command structure in the eastern theater. he had taken things in the western valley to play indicate radical republicans in congress, march 11th, he appointed their idol, famed explorer general john c. fremont for a mounted department. as an aside, you can only
imagine what would have happened had jackson fought against rose grens and not fremont. we had three independent commands between the alleghenies and the potomac, where previously you had mcclellan commanding everything. each of these departments reported directly to washington. mcclellan now exercised authority only over that portion of the army of the potomac operating on the peninsula. the president and secretary of war had taken on the mighty challenge of directing the specific movements of three widely separated forces. the test of their ability to meet this challenge came in mid may. general banks who commanded the only union force then in the valley was guarding the union supply depot at strausburg, under positive orders from secretary stanton. banks had received intelligence.
banks is shortchanged in this campaign and criticized for having stayed in strausburg and not retire when he learned of banks' approach. you know, banks knew jackson was heading up the valley in strength, and because strausburg could be easily outflanked, banks requested permission to retreat north to winchester, which was a far more defensible position. stanton with no real knowledge of the situation on the ground not only denied banks' request but orred him to detach part of his command to garrison front royal, which had been vacated when stanton summoned its garrison east of rich berg mountains. against his better judgment, he sent 900 men to front royal, which left him with fewer than 6,000 at strausburg to oppose
jackson's 16,000. well, banks' fears were vindicated when jackson captured front royal easily. he got no pleasure being right, for winchester. may 4th, 1862, jackson at front royal. many historians concluded lincoln and stanton panicked out of concern for the safety of washington, d.c. stanton reacted to jackson's offensive like the bullying, but supremely efficient bureaucrat that he was, and president lincoln behaved as a captain of
calculated risk, ever with the master politician's eye for opportunity in adversity. but lincoln made the wrong decision. in fact, he made what was arguably his greatest strategic error of the civil war. the crisis in the valley was genuine. in the event banks was defeated at winchester which seemed highly probable, harpers ferry and railroad communications with the west would be imperilled. a complicating but generally overlooked factor when considering the reaffects lincoln and stanton were troubling telegrams from john geary who commanded a small force between front royal and men as is. geary essentially became
unhinged for no good reason, on the basis of tales told by run away slaves, he reported a huge confederate command was bearing down on him east of blue ridge, not jackson in the valley, but a huge command, unknowing command east of the blue ridge. well, until jackson's strength could be ascertained and the confederate threat east of the valley confirmed or not, lincoln could not rule out a southern dash on the nation's capital. the timing couldn't have been worse for the union. mcclellan at long last had gotten over the slows, concluded his plans for a final push against richmond, and general joe johnston's army of northern virginia, plan was quite simple, mcdowell at fredericksburg
was -- received permission, lincoln gave permission to take bank to mcdowell, use bank to mcdowell to move south for fredericksburg with 40,000 men, while mcclellan who was only ten miles east of the capital attacked from that direction. also generally not known, fremont was preparing to carry out orders from stanton to disrupt the tennessee railroad and then march against richmond from the west. so you would have three forces converging on joe johnston's 55 to 60,000 man army all at once. mcclellan would have nearly
three-to-one numerical superiority over the army in northern virginia, and while there was no guarantee of victory in the peninsula, this advantage would have been considerable for mcclellan and very difficult for johnston to have defended against, three directions perhaps simultaneously. okay. we have jackson's victory at winchester. everything changed in the valley. the question now, jackson's at harpers ferry now. the question before lincoln was clear, what should he now do with fremont and mcdowell. should he permit them to join mcclellan or should he employ them against the unknowing force supposedly confronting geary? there was no panic in lincoln's decision, again, they were simply the wrong ones. on the afternoon of may 24th, he
telegraphed his decision. in consequence of general banks' critical position, i am compelled to suspend general mcdowell's movements to you. the enemy is making a desperate push on harpers ferry and we are trying to throw fremonts force in the rear, behind jackson to intercept him as he retreated up the valley. lincoln's orders to fremont reflected a poor understanding of logistical problems the field commanders faced. on may 24th, he directed him to move against jackson at harrisonburg, and operate against the enemy in such way to relieve banks, unquote. unbeknownst to lincoln, they were in near starvation, a move toward harrisonburg would take
fremont away from his base of supply in the mountains. lincoln reacted to a rational explanation from him of logistical problems with a rare burst of anger. was he so flustered, he referred to himself in the third person as he banged desk and dictated his response to fremont. he said you were directed by td president to move against jackson in harrisburg and operate in a way to relieve banks. this movement must be made immediately. acknowledge receipt of this order and specify the hour it is received by you. unquote. can you imagine lincoln dictating an order to rant like that. lincoln didn't dictate one har
are shaller. lincoln exceeded to fremont's request to strausburg, farther north. simultaneous with unrealistic orders to fremont, he directed mcdowell to start for shenandoah valley along the line of the menassis railway. your object will be to capture the forces of jackson, lincoln said, either in cooperation with general fremont, or in case a want of supplies or transportation interferes with his movement, it is believed the force you have will be sufficient to accomplish either object alone. mcdowell when he got these orders was absolutely devastated. he considered lincoln's orders a
crushing blow that would rob mcclellan of any chance of capturing richmond and destroying the army of northern virginia and bring an end to the civil war. jackson's defeat of winchester, may 25th, as was expected, jackson defeated banks at winchester may 25th, advanced subsequently to harpers ferry. that only strengthened lincoln's resolve to destroy jackson's army, not act out of fear for washington, but destroy jackson's army. the situation was good for lincoln's plan. banks saved his small command, crossed the potomac with the command intact. geary's reports were false, and he seemed too tired to hustle
towards harpers ferry. you have free month about to enter west of strausburg, mcdowell with james shields' division in the lead to enter the valley from the east. lincoln hoped to ensnare jackson between fremont and mcdowell before jackson could withdraw south on the valley pike. lincoln said to mcdowell it is for you a question of legs. put in all the speed you can. i told fremont as much and directed him to drive them as fast as possible. but there's one serious problem. fremont and mcdowell weren't able to talk to one another, did not have communication and both were overly cautious. so with both shields and fremont within a couple of miles of strausburg, they both hesitated,
and jackson slipped between their commands and retreated safely up the shenandoah valley. subsequent battles in cross keys and where greatest victories were in a sense anti-clie maxed. the outcome was secondary to lincoln's greater strategic error. i would argue that simply put, when he ordered mcdowell's 40,000 men to the shenandoah valley, rather than assist mcclellan and richmond, he took his eye off the strategic ball, so to speak. the entire union objective should have been the destruction of joe johnson's army and the capture of richmond with as many troops as were possibly available.
had johnson's principal army in the east been destroyed, jackson's relatively small force in the shenandoah valley would have withered on the vine. it would have been inconsequential, irrelevant. we can't be definitively saying mcclellan would have captured richmond and destroyed or crippled johnson's army, even with mcdowell's large corp at his disposal, prospect of fremont from the west, but absence of mcdowell made mcclellan more cautious than ever. even with this caution, with this habit of inflating enemy numbers, he would have hard pressed to lose, i would argue. the confederates had only 55 to 60,000 men in and around richmond to oppose mcclellan's 105,000 man army. when