tv [untitled] June 17, 2012 11:30am-12:00pm EDT
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 55,000 to 60,000 men in and around richmond to oppose mcclellan's 105,000 man army. when ordered to contest, a simultaneous approach of mcdowell with 40,000 more men from the north, almost as many as johnson had, he would have had to extend what were already severely attenuated lines, defensive lines, to the breaking point. and i would argue that a simple tactical tap at the door, at the gates of richmond, would have sufficed to collapse confederate defenses. and when stanton spoke john pope at the end of 1862, he
acknowledged the folly of the administration's decision to manage the shenandoah valley campaign from washington and to have diverted mcdowell from the operation at richmond. it was recognition that came three weeks too late. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> good afternoon. we're going to keep the map up there, so you can see the same area obviously. again, you can ignore shields, fremont and others, they don't matter in this, but we'll keep the map up for you. at dr. robertson alluded, when
the army of the potomac crossed the river in 1864, the conflict of virginia changed. the use of extensive field works altered, you know, the fighting, altered the tactics, it brought with it horrific casualties. the 40 days of the overlying campaign, if you go into the soldiers' letters and diaries on both sides, it is like they were through an extended nightmare. i was struck when i was reading numbers of them. i was struck by the number of those that you read, how many men would start the letter off by saying simply i am alive. because death was pervasive in those 40 days. and to affirm life, to let the people at home know when they're reading lists of dead and wounded in this campaign, so the very nature of that and what it consumed these armies in those
40 days, but in a broader sense, again, dr. robertson alluded to it, when grant brought that army across the river, he sees the strategic and operational initiative in virginia. grant now will will where the two armies will go. he will determine where the movement is. in other words, he is going to force lee and the army of northern virginia to fight in a defensive. and if you go back two years, it is what lee did. when he took command in june of 1862, for the most part for the next two years, wasn't lee the one that shaped the contours of campaigns? he is the one on the battlefield or in a theater, he would be the one who would do the movements and force upon his opponents what he wanted to do to them. but now grant has come, and grant has put lee's army if you will possibly in a death grip. and not only the army of potomac
against the army of northern virginia, but here it was mentioned about benjamin butler. i won't say anything about butler, there's not much worth saying about. he was as they said bottled up. in the shenandoah valley, seigal's troops march up the valley may 14th, breckenridge and patch work confederate army, including the core of cadets stopped them at new market. seigal was force today retreat north. in about two weeks, the war department in washington had reorganized the command, appointed a new commander, and that man was david hunter. hunter would come south, not with 9,000 men, he would march south with roughly 20,000 men. we know he reached lexington. we know he destroyed the barracks at vmi, and he finally
got to the point, june 5th, he defeated a confederate army at piedmont, continued on, started to threaten lynchburg, and when news of hunter's penetration towards lynchburg, and the three railroads that intersected there, he asked lee if he could detach troops to save lynchburg. lynchburg could not fall to hunter's army. lee said he could, but you realize as he wrote to them it is going to limit my operations. lee called in jubal early. he was recently replaced the commander of the second corp. he was a very capable officer, deserving of corp command at the time. you could almost argue that long street's wounded not with the
army, ap hill has not been stellar, jubal hadn't been. that's why he was given it. he was supposed to be the only man that dared cuss in the presence of lee. there were better cussers earlier, men were gifted in that department, but early was a very capable man and of course he t earlier, men were gifted in that department, but early was a very capable man and of course hha earlier, men were gifted in that department, but early was a very capable man and of course hn earlier, men were gifted in that department, but early was a very capable man and of course he yi that department, but early was a very capable man and of course her, t department, but early was a very capable man and of course hr, m department, but early was a very capable man and of course h, me department, but early was a very capable man and of course he headed the second corp, old jack's foot cavalry. lee decided to detach the foot cavalry, second corp, and two battalions. they were going to go west and save lynchburg. then we have lee again. lee looked at it, and somehow he had to break the grip of grant. somehow if he could, could he force grant to dispatch troops to weaken his army who is opposing lee? see, lee understood from the time he took command that yes,
he had an opponent across a river, or on a battlefield, but the real enemy, the enemy the confederacy had to defeat was a civilian population of the north. he had to break their will to continue the war. if he broke their will to continue the war and to support the administration, the confederacy can only keep the attendants. keep in mind lee said it will only come with negotiations. the confederacy is not going to militarily conquer the north. to achieve independence, it has to be a negotiating table. if you read his comments, why he went into pennsylvania 1863, to achieve battlefield victory and free soil. writes about the political climate at the north, and looks at the political climate in '64, sees what everybody sees in a sense looming over all the major campaigns in 1864 was the northern presidential election that fall.
and lincoln embodied the will of the northern people to sustain the war. if there's a chance for the confederacy to defeat and win independence, they have to do something that will break that will or convince the northern people that this war is endless, you might as well change presidents. and by that he also saw an opportunity, if you will, to retake the strategic initiative in the theater. when he dispatched early west, he met with early, said save richmond, deal with hunter, but if the opportunity arises, march north, cross the potomac river, and threaten washington and baltimore. >> it has political implications, lee understood that. early in the second corp, raced west, chased hunter into the
alleghenys. he found out who worked around lynchburg, they weren't the home guard, and hunter is out of the campaign the next two weeks. his troops essentially disappear, have a very difficult time in rugged terrain out there. early turns north as you're well aware, marches down the valley, crosses the potomac, wins the battle, but a combination of all of those mouths, very hot summer, a long month-long drought that year just simply wore his men out. yes, they got to the outskirts of washington, the defenses
threatened them, but then turned around and came back into virginia. they fought two rear guard actions, and then on july the 24th, they whipped george crook's command at the second battle of kernstct routed them. from there, stayed in the lower valley. he saw an opportunity. he wanted to avenge. they burned over 400 residences and buildings in the chambersburg, pennsylvania. abraham lincoln had watched all this, and lincoln realized something had to be done. in fact, reading "the new york times," editorialized, said it is the same story, the back door to shenandoah valley has been left open. and indeed, it was.
keep in mind at this point, peter pointed out in a sense, too, this is -- the valley is a place of southern wings. not in vince blt. like they hunted the wood lots here. to northern people they looked upon us. once again as lee had done in '63, we have another rebel army uses the shenandoah valley, and threatens the nation's capital. "the new york times" said there's a back door, that maybe it has to be closed. lincoln thought it had to be closed for a number of reasons. he wired grant, they agreed to meet monroe.
what they found out in early's campaign was that four departments overlapped, they loved bureaucracy, none of them worked well. like early went through all four departments and got to the outskirts of washington. so they're going to consolidate four departments into one command. the issue was who to command it. they couldn't resolve it. interestingly, grant offered mead. george mead was willing to go, you're subordinate to grant. lincoln said no. i have been under pressure to get rid of mead for some period of time, not going to do it now. grant on the other hand really liked william franklin. why would you ask that. that's because franklin was number one in grant's west point class. he thought franklin was about as bright a man as you can get. in that sense he was, but as a general, we pretty well know the difference. when lincoln heard that, he said no no, i don't think he said, but knew in his manned, he smells of mcclellan. they left it at that. next day, grant wired washington
and said he is sending his cavalry commander sheridan to assume temporary command of the new department, if hunter does not want to stay in command. if hunter wants to stay in command, he can be. i will tell you in washington they were surprised by this appointment. i'm not sure because of his age at 33 or bought i was irish. but nevertheless, they were taken aback by the fact we're going to give this to philip sheridan. he is the kind of man grant wanted there. talk about it, phil sheridan is aggressive. grant wanted aggressiveness, wanted somebody to take command of an army and he wanted to make war in that army. phil sheridan wanted to make war on his enemies, he was willing to do that, and he is like many of these men we forget about, we think of lincoln, but sheridan was small, too.
dr. robertson pointed out he was about, 5'6", 5'7", weighed about 115. what is odd about sheridan's shape, he had a big torso, short legs. sort of like taking an oak stump, put it on a foot stool, you get an idea what sheridan sort of looked like, okay? and he liked to ride a big horse. very quickly in the army he will take command of, the joke was he had to shimmy up his sword to get to his horse. by the way, his head was oddly shaped. i know when he was writing about that, how do you describe it. it was somewhat like a flattened mini ball, but he had bumps on his head. and he said for lack of knowledge, it was the science of the day. those bumps indicated his aggressiveness. so he had an odd head. he was the man grant wanted there. sheridan will travel to washington, and then meet his army at harpers ferry. the army that he is going to
meet is going to be an amalgam of commands. he sent the sixth corp. he rerouted two, did he say he rerouted two divisions of the 19th corp that had come out of louisia louisiana. they would be added to this army. hunters old command and he relinquished command, had no idea where the rebels were, that pretty well sealed it. called the army of west virginia. often times eighth core. well, it was, but now the army . well, it was, but now the army . well, it was, but now the army of west virginia. he gets an amalgam, and he gets two from the potomac. around harpers ferry, he is going to have about 50,000 men. going to have somewhere around 40,000 or slightly fewer ready to go in the field and be combat effective. however, when he passed through
washington, either stanton or halek or both told sheridan you must act with caution. the president can ill afford another defeat in the valley so close to election. so while you conduct your campaign, you do it as i said with caution. well, sheridan headed south early august. he came to command there august 6th and 7th, started i think august 10th. he reached right below strausburg, where fishers hill was and that's where early was. he had at this time somewhere around 15,000 troops. sheridan halted there. then interestingly, sheridan heard news a new confederate force was coming to the valley through front royal. this confederate force was from petersburg. lee decided to up the ante in
the valley, that he is going to raise the stakes here. here is where he saw opportunity to inflict a blow and there and in turn continue to weaken the army against him at petersburg. he sent lee's cavalry division, and kershaw's infantry division. well over 4,000 troops. that gives early, it is difficult particularly in this period of time to know exactly how many confederate troops are because of records, but let's say somewhere in the neighborhood of 18, 19,000 troops.0 19,000 troop0 19,000 troop0 19,000 troops., 19,000 troop 19,000 troops. when sheridan heard that, he withdrew back to harpers ferry. as he withdrew, his cavalry, and they're unmatched in this -- and they're unmatched in this campaign, they simply are, may be the best combat troops in the army, northern army, they're going to start the burnings.
they're going to burn barns, going to torch some houses, burn crops. grant had ordered this, as you well know, famous order he had given that, you know, destroy the valley so that when a crow flies over it, he has to carry his own rations. it begins here. i will tell you in turn, john mosby will start increasing raids, if you go outside berriville at the morgan farm, there's a stone says mosby's rangers attacked barn burners, took no prisoners. that's essentially true, they didn't. they executed them. the ones they didn't shoot in initial attack, they executed. this war is really hard now, folks. nothing romantic at all about this war, and it is going to come to the valley in this campaign and it's going to get very hard. sheridan falls back. they will conduct operations, skirmish, move around.
hall town/berryville area. august 23rd, abraham lincoln called a cabinet meeting, asks all members of cabinet to sign on a letter. in that letter, lincoln said you will support the next administration as i expect at this point not to be reelected. he said, and i paraphrase, what. he said, and i paraphrase, what he said was you will help to save the country, the union, between the election and the inauguration because he, meaning his opponent, will not be able to save the union after the election, after the inauguration. in other words, lincoln expected not only to suffer electoral defeat, more than likely knew it would pretty well be george mcclellan, that mcclellan by negotiations, the union is in peril. then things change within the next ten days for lincoln.
but this is the nader, if you will, of lincoln. he heard the reports that we're not going to win certain states, the way things are going. the democrats meet in chicago. they do nominate george b. mcclellan, who is essentially a war man, but put him on a peace platform. politicians have a way of doing that. that immediately helps the cause of the republicans. far more importantly, september 2nd, william t. sherman wires, atlanta is ours and fairly won. it is as though sherman had disappeared in georgia since early may. and they had been fighting outside, of course, of the capital for -- or over atlanta for over a month. and finally, once he cut the railroads, john hood had to retreat. this is critical and turning. at the same time, when this news
comes, grant decides, all right, we have to do something finally with sheridan in the valley. we're going to unleash sheridan, if you will. so grant travels to the valley. he arrives there. they meet in charlestown. the house where they met was standing a few years ago near the casino. they met in the house and then out in the yard. grant came with the ideas, well, he let sheridan talk outlined an offensive campaign and told sheridan, go in. and they designated september 19th, 1864. up until that point, he operated with great ability. he's outnumbered, but he had acted aggressively in the sense he tried to cover the number of troops he had by, you know, putting pressure on the federal
skirmishing with him, engaging them. it was well done. early, it was very very well. however, at the same time, early concluded that his opponent was a cautious, nonaggressive if even a timid general. of course, he had to way of knowing what restrictions had been placed in sheridan. and so what happens is -- and early hated his cavalry. he always had bad words for his calvary. it's unfair to him. but, believe me, they simply were no match for what sheridan would bring. this is the cavalry that's going to include wesley jared and george custer and the men who served on that. they're good. they're not the only ones, but they're good. well, early learned that federals were rebuilding the baltimore and ohio railroad in martinsburg.
what do you do when you see that? you send the calvary. early sends two of his four infantry divisions north. early rides along. and he always like, i think, odd things in history. early is in the telegraph office in martinsburg where he reads and learns that grant had visited with sheridan. if grant's here in the valley, something is afoot. so he orders gordon and groves to head back towards winchester. but this is september the 18th. so by the night of september 19th, in the words of a confederate officer, early's infantry divisions were like beads on a string with knots in between. they're strung out. he only had one real division east of winchester and that was steven's division. skbl i'm not going to refight these battles.
he shouldn't have fought at winchester. he should have fought at fisher's hill. confederates called it their gibralter. federals call it the bug bear of the valley. it was a great defensive position if you have enough money. men. but he's caught. by the way, kershaw had been sent, ordered back to petersburg, because it looked like early had not done anything. so when sheridan moves against him, his odds are probably only about 2.5 to 1. his one confederate called it a regular stand-up fight. please keep in mind, the battles in '62, in some ways when you get into the numbers are skirmishes compared to '64.
there's nothing compared to that in '62. early's reports retreat to fishers hill. the problem is, his lines are too thin now. he puts his cavalry in the lower part of the ground of fisher's hill. sheridan, on the advice of his west point ram mate, richard crooks -- of course, share done is going to take credit for everything and ignore crook -- they are going to do a frank attack and roll him off of a little north mountain and crush early's lines and it's on the route. that night as the confederates are ree treating south of the valley, there's a federal soldier sitting with some of the comrades commenting that they heard him say old jim bowen is going up the spout and old jim burly is about played out. and indeed, he was.
the victory opened up the valley, upper valley. the federals came. very interestingly, when they are at harrisonburg in stanton -- i know, yankee mistake. i'm sorry. i regret that many years ago and still fall into that. no. grant sees something right away. here he is, all he has to do is cross the mountain and take charlottesville, the railroad and move into the back door of richmond. and he wires sheridan and he tells him, look at this. here is where you should go. and share doon dan writes back a line of excuses and why he can't do it. one of them, interestingly, says he has a hard time feeting his army. then he subsequently lists all the animals that he captured, the cows and pigs and so forth.
he said, john mosby is a pain. in other words, sheridan, when you talk about great generals, here's where grant saw that strategic opportunity. sheridan didn't. in fact, sheridan said i'll march north and give you the army back. how many so they retreated. civil war generals were willing to give up their army? so they retreated. but as he retreated, beginning in october 6th, it began the three days of what local residents would call the burning. from mountain to mountain, they slaughtered, they burned, they blew up, they destroyed anything that they wanted to. some cases, there's a wonderful book on it called "the burning." that devastates the parch into his pillars of smoke.
and they will reach south of middleston which is just north of strausberg and he will camp at cedar creek. sheridan will head towards washington to decide how we're going to divide up our army. early will follow. in fact, he sends his calvary in after him and they get whipped. it's called the woodstock races because the confederal cavalry were so badly whipped, they had to run away. lee writes to him. lee sends kershaw's division around and turns them back. lee says, i expect you to act boldly. i expect you to inflict defeat on sheridan. from petersburg, lee didn't understand. he had a hard time realizing that there were so many yankees in the valley. you know, he's doing his calculations and intelligence. early is basically telling him, you know, there's a lot of them here.