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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  August 22, 2014 1:00am-1:47am EDT

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after logistical concerns. he had authority over the railroads, this had been a controversial matter in the months leading up to the campaign. he had banned all civilian traffic on the main railroads leading south out of nashville. he had planned for the confederates to try to break the railroad railroads by stockpiling rails and ties at various locations. he had crews as civilians, african-americans who were employed as civilian laborers, engineering that could very quickly rebuild railroads, particularly bridges. as the confederates retreated. they retreated across several rivers. they would always burn these bridges, and it was truly remarkable how quickly sherman's engineers and laborers could
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rebuild these huge wooden spans. so that's where the real mastery logistics comes into play. one more question over here. general hood has been undergoing a bit of a re-evaluation recently. it seemed to me that his plans. once he took over as commander of the army of tennessee were fairly good plans on paper, it's just that his army couldn't execute them for one reason or another. could you comment briefly on hood's generalship as the commander of the army of tennessee? >> sure. hood is -- doesn't -- certainly doesn't have the mastery of logistics that sherman does. that becomes painfully evident during the tennessee campaign in 1864. but hood's operating under some pretty severe handicaps.
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not only his own physical handicaps, he also has the command structure with a lot of generals who are woefully inexperienced at their division and core level of command. they just -- they don't execute hood's orders, and don't carry out his plans the way he had envisioned them. i think the other important factor is that hood's plans are just unrealistic given the time constraints that he's working under and the physical conditions of his men. and the hardy's flank march is a prime example of that. hood was asking too much of men that were totally exhausted. that's kind of a short answer, but the renaissance you're talking about -- that's not the right word to use. the re-evaluation of hood's generalship is one that is take ing place -- thank you.
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>> friday night, american history tv, slavery and the cinema, a look at the depiction of slavery and films since the 1930s. and then the movie lincoln and it's passage of the 13th amendment. and a discussion of gone with the wind and it's depiction of southern society. all friday night beginning at 8:00 eastern here on c-span 3. >> this weekend on american history tv. we take a look back 200 years ago this week. when british military force s st the capitol on fire. we'll hear how george coburn used washington's waterways to invade and burn the city. >> coburn's idea is to make use of several different waterways in an attack on washington.
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if the british forces simply sailed up the potomac, everybody would know that washington was the ultimate party. coburn recommends that the force be split up, one squadron sail up the potomac river and threaten the capitol and the city of alexandria, the main force is going to go up the pawtuxet river into southern maryland. the advantage was that it would shield the ultimate british intention it might mean an attack on washington, it could also mean the british were simply chasing after commodore joshua barney who was the american commander of the chess peak flotilla, who had a
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flotilla of barges and the rivers flowing into it. he had been trapped in the pawtuxet river, he was further up river than the british, and the british could use barney's presence. >> it's what the british commanders, general ross and admiral alexander dock run agree to do. >> this weekend a panel of historians as they discuss the bu
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burning of washington. that's sunday at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. eastern, all right here on c-span 3. >> next, joseph e. johnston, his command of the army in tennessee and spring and summer of 1864. at the civil war center at kennesaw state university in georgia. this is about 45 minutes. >> thank you. it's always good to get down here -- my mother was born in a house that's about three or four mile miles.
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i've been coming up here all my life. this is the 150th anniversary of the sesquicentennial of the year 1864. crucial year in the civil war, and we're in the process of commemorating what in the 1860s was probably the most crucial military campaign of the civil war. and it is to coin a phrase all together fitting and proper we should do this. it is especially fitting and proper that those others who are georgians would do this either by birth or by option. i want to give a little background of why it's so important and then get around to offering ideas of the campaign when you think about what happened during the american civil war you've got to remember
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during the civil war there were three great areas where military operations took place. way over here. the appalachian mountains, and the area right in the middle. during the course of the civil war from 1861 to 1864 this area in virginia had turned into a bloody stalemate. neither side could win the war, neither side could lose the war in virginia. the army's fought and they essentially remain where they had been. the federal army was too strong to lose. but the federal generals were not smart enough to win. the federal army was not strong enough to win. the war in virginia went into the circular stalemate, i tell my friends from the north, if
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the war had been limited to virginia it would still be going on. they would be ready to fight the 87th battle of manassas. in the 64th battle of winchester. and the people from north of the mason dixon line would be saying, golly, i hope we can meet lee this summer that old man has been beating up on us for 152 years. i don't know how he got out of that one. but the war was not limited to virginia more important parts of the war took place in the central railroad area, from the mississippi river to the appalachian mountains. in that area, the first three
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areas of the war -- they regained control of the mississippi river from the source to the mouth, thus splitting the confederacy in half. if you take confederate definition of what constituted the confederacy, which included missouri, oklahoma, and parts of mexico and arizona. almost in half. they also cut the confederates east of the mississippi off from any serious quantities of food and supplies from west of the mississippi risker. the second great strategic objective they achieved was to move the northern frontier of the confederacy from up in kentucky somewhere essentially the ohio river which cuts off most of tennessee from the rest of the confederacy. while the war in virginia was a stalemate, the union armies were moving from victory to victory
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to success. the area that was known in the jargon of the day. by 1864, the union armies appeared ready to take the next several steps to snuffing out the life of the confederacy and to ensure this happened, president lincoln had taken ulysses s. grant, the man who had opened the mississippi river, who had gained control or secured control of most of tennessee and moved him to command all union armies. grant planned in 1864 five great military operations to wipe out what was left of the confederacy. one of these would be along the gulf coast, from new orleans moving east against mobile. which was the last significant
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confederate port on the gulf of mexico. absolutely crucial more for the railroads that ran north through mobile and connected the great bread basket of the confederacy which was not the shenandoah valley, it was the tom big by river valley. no less a person than jefferson davis said so. he will be our main source for supplies this year. but mobile, the railroads through mobile with a connection between the confederacy in georgia and the carolinas in virginia and the tom bigby valley. one of these campaigns grant planted in mobile. a second would take place.
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they went up the shenandoah v valley. a third campaign would take place in southeastern virginia, benjamin, the favorite union general would come up there and command a union army moving up the peninsula against the confederate capitol in richmond. those three campaigns were really sort of satellite or auxiliary campaigns, that would support the main efforts. grant himself, lee and the other campaign would march from chattanooga under william t. sherman, every atlanta citizen's favorite union general.
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grant's plans came early in the spring and summer of 1864. that is why the campaign is so important. the effort against mobile had to be abandoned, very early because confederates won victories on the red river in louisiana. threatened to attack new orleans. maybe even regain possession or regain control of the mississippi river. union troops that were scheduled to go against mobile, had to be held to protect the federal holdings in louisiana. that was abandoned, the campaign up the shenandoah valley, ran into the union market. they were defeated by the core of cadets from the virginia military institute.
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with a little help from some confederate army units that happened to be in the area. the third campaign under benning lynn butler came to grief, because as he started up confederate reinforcements rushed up and that left only the two big campaigns grants himself as i said, led the main union army in virginia, against robert e. lee, and they fought a titanic series of battles against virginia. grant constantly living around the circumference of a circle. you can't get to richmond
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because lee's army was there between his army and richmond grant's army suffered enormous casualties. the exact number is somewhat in dispute. reasonable estimates put the minimum of 65,000 men. some other estimates, but the number of grant's casualties is as high as 75 or 80,000 no large american army has ever been beaten up like grant's army was beaten up in 1864. grant replaced the bodies with new draftees. but the grand old army of the potomac that fought at malvern hill, antietam was gone. shallow graves in virginia in washington, annapolis, that army
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was gone. and grant was bogged down in a stalemate at richmond and petersburg. there are historians who maintain that the federal government falsified reports of grant's casualties because they were so horrific. lee was so secure, that he sent off about 25 or 30% of his army to the shenandoah valley to march north they crossed the potomac. they were in the suburbs of washington, d.c., they burned chambers berg, pennsylvania. this does not sound like a union military success, and it was not. it was so depressing, that everybody was anticipating that lincoln would lose the election of 1864. lincoln himself predicted as late as august that he was going to be defeated in the election that year. if he had lost.
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and if the civil war had not ended in union victory, the preservation of the union, just think of what a difference that would have made. not just in the united states but how different would the world have been in the 20th century if the united states had not been there in 1917, let alone the 1940s. it would have been quite different. by mid summer of 1864, there was only one hope left for the union government, and that was what went on here in north georgia, on the very ground where this university is located. that's why it's so important that we get an understanding of what happened here in 1864. i'm not going to go into the details of the atlanta campaign, there's a very good book on that
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which everybody should buy and re read. truth be told, i don't care if you read it. but i do want to give you the sort of outline of what happened and some ideas of the man who was the most crucial in that campaign. joseph p. johnston was the most important military figure in the history of the southern confederacy, at least as far as the outcome of the war is concerned. to be sure, robert e. lee has a greater role in confederate military history as it has been written. but as it happened, i think joseph p. johnston was the most important of confederate
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generals. he won the first major battle of the war in 1861 at a time when robert e. lee was a desk officer in richmond. johnston commanded a confederate army that was active in the field for two and a half weeks after lee surrendered in 1865. johnston commanded confederate armies in virginia, tennessee, mississippi, georgia, south carolina, and north carolina. in addition, confederate forces in florida, alabama and east louisiana were subject to his orders at one time or another. he commanded the confederate army in the two most important military campaigns in the war vehicles burg and atlanta. his quarrel with jefferson davis
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is a story in and of itself. i thought this was a war for southern independence, but it's just a quarrel between jeff and j joe. that quarrel runs like an angry scar through the history of the confederacy and is arguably one of the key reasons for a confederate defeat in the war. johnston is crucial to confederate military history. i've been puzzling around trying to understand this man for longer than i want to think about. when you were there, just barely for the centennial of the civil war, and this is the sesquicentennial. and i'm worried now because i see the bicentennial looming out there in the difference. i'll leave that up to brian to worry about. johnston is a man i've been trying to understand, and i want to offer a few thoughts about
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his most important military command which was here in georgia. he was appointed to command the confederate army that would defend atlanta in 1863. president davis did not want to appoint him. by that time he and johnston thoroughly loathed each other. johnston convinced himself that davis was trying to destroy his military reputation davis had convinced himself that dajohnst was not competent but he had no choice because there was no one else he could appoint to that post. all the other high ranking generals were either failures or unable to exercise command in the field or in the case of
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robert e. lee, couldn't be moved from we was. davis had no choice. much against his wishes, in december 1863. he picked joe johnston from obscuri obscurity. he was command of the bayous of mississippi, he had no choice, johnston was in command. the union army that was opposing johnston was based in chattanooga, and when sherman moved into north georgia in 1864, he confronted johnston in his fortifications. and the campaign began and followed a pattern johnston's idea of a perfect battle was to take up a strong position, fortify it, and sit in it.
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hoping that sherman would attack it, in that case, johnston's fortified men would be able to repulse the attack and win the victory sherman however had made up his mind based on earlier experience, that attacks in the civil war were not likely to work, and it was better to do something else. the pattern of the campaign was set, one general didn't want to fight at all, the other general didn't want to fight unless it was perfect conditions, which never exist. so sherman -- johnston would take up his position, fortified it, sherman would march up in front of it, they would skirmish for a few days, she weren would say, this is too strong, his army would march out, usually to the west, around johnston, and come in behind him, south of him, to threaten the railroad because the railroad from atlanta to dalton or to
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johnston's army was the lifeline of that army. when johnston discovered this, he would retreat 10 or 15 miles, take up a strong position, fortify it, sit in it and the whole process would repeat itself. dallas, kennesaw mountain to someone in a, to the chattahoochee river. the confederate government was going bonkers with this because the area into which johnston was retreating was the -- by that time, by 1864, the industrial and agricultural heartland of
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the confederacy, johnston's retreat exposed all of that area. remember what i said earlier about the tom bigby valley in alabama? jefferson davis was alarmed that sherman would stock his advance at the chattahoochee river, wouldn't try to go beyond but would turn instead and go southwest and then south along the chattahoochee river, down to apalachicola, florida. that would cut every railroad between the tom bigby valley and the confederate army in virginia, and it was a very real possibility. as far as i know sherman never seriously considered it, but the federal government did not know that, and johnston, without telling his government much about what he was doing, had retreated into the heartland of the confederacy, opening up this
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possibility that his retreat would enable sherman to cut off the supplies from the tom bigby valley, enable him to cut off selma, alabama. which they had turned into a great munitions complex. johnston's retreat threatened the loss of all of that. therefore in mid july july 17th, davis is thinking about removing johnston, he's sent him a telegram, i wish to hear from you so specifically as will enable me to anticipate events, what you are planning to do and johnston sent back a response that was so vague, that it was meaningless. the enemy outnumbers me, my flans depend on the actions of the enemy, we're trying to put
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atlanta into condition to be held for a few days by the georgia militia, johnston had earlier represented that the confederate government move the prisoners at andersonville, about 120 miles south of atlanta. did that mean that johnston was about to abandon atlanta and retreat back into south georgia? that would be even worse. davis, therefore, on july 17th, sent a telegram removing joe johnston from command of the army. over the next 10 days, hood fought three battles with sherman outside atlanta peach tree creek, atlanta and every one of them the confederates attacked, they did not achieve great victories, but they brought sherman's advance to a halt. in late july and august, hood's
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calvary wrecked sherman's calvary in several battles south of atlanta. it appeared as mid-august came that sherman had been bogged down outside atlanta just like grant was bogged down outside richmond and petersburg. if that remained the case without the victory, faced with all the enormous casualties. that grant had interred in virginia, lincoln might well be doomed in the november election. but at the very end of august, sherman took most of his army, and marched out on a wide circle around atlanta, came in 15 or 20 miles south of atlanta. cut the railroad to macon and hood was forced to evacuate atlanta. that was when scarlett and rhett
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had to get in that wagon and atlanta was aburning and they had to flee the city. hood had failed, lincoln had the great victory he needed. lincoln's re-election was assured there would be no compromise with slavery, there would be no compromise with is a significance. that was the atlanta campaign. what did it mean? why did it turn out like it did? almost immediately, confederates who had been involved in the atlanta campaign began casting blame on each other. johnston was the first to strike. when he was removed from command, he had gone south to macon, and he was in macon for several months working on his official report of his campaign. which he finished and sent off to richmond, and in that report he set forth and interpretation
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of his campaign that he had never waivered from for the rest of his life. he could do only what he did. his strategy had been to fight on the defensive inflict casualties, punish sherman, weaken sherman. and then as sherman's army got near atlanta. that army weakened by these casualties would fall prey to johnston's successful counterattack. johnston believed his strategy had worked. he also believed that jefferson davis had deliberately withheld resources, so that johnston would fail. davis didn't care anything about the confederacy. all he cared about was embarrassing joe johnston. this was johnston's basic approach. it wasn't long after that, early the next year, when hood submitted his report, which was a total reverse of johnston. johnston had not been heavily
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outnumbered. he had chosen to retreat, to abandon these strong positions in north georgia. he had lost some 22,000 men. johnston claimed he had lost only about 10,000. johnston's army had been demoralized. johnston had passed up many opportunities to strike at the enemy, and the army was so weakened in numbers and moral that not even hood could win success when he replaced johnston. these two views of the campaign which for simplicity sake will call the johnston interpretation and the hood interpretation echoed from that point down to this. but for most of that time, joseph e. johnston's view of the campaign had prevailed. it became the popularly accepted view of how the campaign in
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georgia had unfolded that year. johnston owed this success or his interpretation owed this success to hood was in command. they had not lost atlanta when johnston was in command. kind of hard to disguise that fact. hood was reduced to arguing but i held it longer than johnston would have. you know, this is sort of like but i did not inhale. [ laughter ] >> for another reason, johnston had a great reputation as a soldier when the war began. one he deserved after three decades of distinguished service in the u.s. army. he was experienced. he had been in no less than five branches of the army.
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the artillery, the engineers, the infantry, the quartermaster. he was a brave man as his wounds inflicted by mexicans, indians and yankees all showed. hood did not have the experience and reputation and the respect that johnston had at the beginning of the war. hood, as i said, had lost atlanta -- johnston had not suffered a visible battlefield defeat, so you are reduced the argument well he was going to be defeated, if he had remained in command. johnston also prevailed because his critics were in disrepute immediately after the war. jefferson davis was just reviled in the last years of the confederacy.
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he was the failed leader of the lost cause. and had the federal authorities not arrested him, put him in a cell at for the monroe and clamped him in irons and made a martyr out of him, he would have been denounced through much of southern history. they turned him into the man who was persecuted for the white south but made him a hero. even so post war confederates did not like to air their dirty linen in pub and most them did not do so. johnston was also praised in the writings of his federal opponents. william t. sherman had good things to say about johnston in his memoirs published in 1875. grant said i worried more when joe johnston was in command in front of my army than when robert e. lee was.
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i don't know if grant actually said that or not, but if he did, that alone should take his reputation down many notches. because among other things, johnston almost never commanded troops in front of grant's army. only for a few weeks in january and february 1864 did johnston command troops in front of grant and those troops that time sat in their winter quarters and had snowball battles with each other. i don't know why grant was so worried. johnston's men are attacking with snowballs. we have to worry about that. johnston benefited from a lot of the early writing about the war. one of the early prolific historians was edward a. pollard, a richmond journalist who absolutely hated jefferson davis and pollard was writing books almost by the month -- i mean almost as furiously as brian does here. just books vomiting out of
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edward a. pollard. in which he denounced jefferson davis in very harsh terms especially for his treatment of joe johnston and it's interesting to sit down with pollard's books because a lot of it sounds an awful like joe johnston. i had some pretty good indications that he and johnston spent good time talking to him. he wrote vile things about jefferson davis in his treatment about joe johnston. even some of the northern writers wrote stuff about it. and his main source for writing about the atlanta campaign was edward a. pollard. and greeley said he got his
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information from johnston, so he knows it must be correct. this would not be the critical thinking one would like among historical writers. johnston also benefited by his early biographers. johnston died in 1891. he had two quick biographies. one of them by badly t., who a dear good friend of his and military subordinate, who confessed in his induction that i love joe johnston and the other ones by his kinsman robert hughes and for 50 or 60 years those were the only two biographies of joe johnston that were available. hood didn't have a biography at all until the middle of the 20th century. johnston benefits from all of these things. he also benefited from trends in civil war writing.
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the overemphasis on virginia meant that people writing about the war in georgia and atlanta didn't have much to work with and didn't spend a lot of time trying to describe it. they grabbed quickly available sources. people like pollard and greeley and foot and others. these sources for writing the history of johnston's army are widely scattered. you could write a history of the confederate army of virginia, robert e. lee's army and never go more than 150 miles from richmond. that would take you to raleigh, durham, chapel hill to the south and washington and baltimore to the north. and you couple that with the charlottesville and the material in richmond itself, there's no point in going elsewhere to write a history of the confederate army in
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virginia. to write a history of tennessee, you have to go all offer the map, from austin, to tallahassee, to baton rouge, to raleigh, nashville, to little rock, to new york, you have to go everywhere because that stuff was so scattered. we're getting collections now and published information on the confederate army on the west so it won't be quite as bad in the future as it has been in the past. but the result of all of this was that joe johnson's view the atlanta campaign was almost completely accepted for decades in the 20th century. the fact you grow up in atlanta as i did in the 1930s and 1940s, that's what you hear. joe johnston was the greatest thing since grits. if he had been left alone, if that idiot jefferson davis had not removed him from command, he would have defeated sherman
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outside of atlanta. he would have driven sherman back to chattanooga. he would have flanked him on to nashville. he would have forced him to retreat to louisville. pursued him across the ohio river. back up through illinois, across the great lakes. the remnants of sherman's army would have been drowned in hudson bay, after which joe johnston would have turned and marched on washington and forced lincoln to acknowledge the independence of the confederacy. joe johnston was just great. it got into books and movies and it's very difficult to get people to realize that what they see in movies and read in books is not necessarily so. i had an interesting experience along these lines one time. there was a movie made back i believe in the late '50s called
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"on the beach." one of you two look like you might be old enough to remember that. it's a movie set in australia in the after math of the world war iii, the united states, they have killed everybody on earth except the people in australia. those blokes are drinking beer and singing and awaiting the arrival of a radioactive cloud. and this became the kind of pilot movie for a whole genre of films like this on wiping out all life on earth. there was one i was teaching in north carolina state. i think it was a made for television movie if i recall collectly called "the day after." except for the same thing except they are in kansas and north dakota. i had stupids what was it like -- i had students come up and see me, what was it like growing up in the 1950s.
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>> i mean what do you mean? >> all you worried about your life being wiped out killed in some kind of atomic blast. some of you remember this, you practice getting under your desk in your home room in case the russians dropped a hydrogen bomb on the school. the students said what was it like thinking about that all the time? i said i have no earthly idea. i didn't think about that. what did you think about it? i thought about this scenario began 800 million years ago when there was a massive rupture on the cosmic continuum on the other side of the big dipper as a result of that a gigantic killer asteroid was jarred out of its normal orbit around the star alpha centuri that in 1955
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brought it back into the solar system where it bounced off the planet pluto. pluto was a planet in 1955. ricochetted over, smashed into the earth, throwing up a gigantic cloud of dirt, dust, and debris and when all of that had settled down, there were only 12 people left on earth. 12 people left on earth. only 12 people left on earth. who were they? >> who were they you ask? elizabeth taylor. natalie wood, jane russell, susan haywood. marilyn monroe. kim novak. eva gardener. a audrey hepburn, jane mansfield
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and myself. that's what i thought about when i was in high school. [ laughter ] >> but you put this into movies and television about johnston being such a great general and hood being such bad gun and people -- it's got to be true, i saw it in a movie. you know, kind of thing. you could ignore what hood wrote. i mean, after all, by that time hood was this pathetic creature in the history books. ambitious. not just normally ambitious but unscrupulously ambitious. a liar. incompetent. addicted to drugs because of his amputated leg. trying to prove himself a man because he was engaged to the beautiful sally buchanan preston, called buck preston. just a total worthless man hopping around on his one foot trying to impress her.
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you can ignore hood. the problem is i found out in decades of research, the problem with ignoring him is that the facts get in the way. facts are strange things. and when you get beyond this rather superficial stuff that people like pollard and greeley and some of the others have written and get down to looking at the facts, things begin to look quite different from what they were originally in your mind. we don't have time to get into a lot of this but let me just give you one example. at the very beginning of the campaign according to joseph e. johnston in his memoirs. his army numbered about 43,000 men. on may 1st, at and near dalton in northwestern georgia. but there's a fact that in the official records there's a


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