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tv   Fall of Richmond and Appomattox  CSPAN  September 26, 2015 10:00pm-10:52pm EDT

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christopher kolakowski talks the fall of richmond. and the decision by confederate leaders that led to the surrender at appomattox. he draws comparisons between appomattox and a battle in world war ii, to show how general grant and lee influence later military leaders. american emerging civil war blog hosted the event. it is about 50 minutes. in norfolk, virginia, he saidthis spring, that the only thing that is equitable to the event he is overseeing would be a presidential library. he said that is a really significant kind of thing, but when you think about what douglas macarthur did during
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world war ii and the years pacificd, he shaped the in a way that no one else has. documentspository of and artifacts is a significant component. quite a remarkable shift for me as i understood what chris is up to down there. that is his day job and by night, he is still in love with the american civil war. on to since gone perryville where he was in charge of the battlefield out there. he has gone on to the george patton museum which landed him at the mccarthy memorial. he still goes to bed at night and dreams about the civil war. [laughter]
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it is my great delight to introduce to you my great polish .rethren, chris chris: good morning everybody. i have been introduced many ways over many years and consistently , the most interesting -- the most chuckle-inducing introductions come from my polish brother over there. thank you for that advertisement of the macarthur memorial. i encourage all of you to come down and visit at some point or another. if that professor gig doesn't work out for you, with that advertisement i can probably find you a spot on the staff. [laughter] i think you are doing ok in new
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york. first on the day it is a bit of a responsibility because i set the pace for everybody else. because i'm going first, you are still waking up. it means that hopefully you will not notice hesitations. pacese i am setting the for the rest of my historian colleagues they hope i do not set too rigorous of a pace. if there are questions i will be happy to take them at the end. we will have a far ranging discussion here to set the stage. when we talk about the civil war , it ended in 1865. in a lot of places, 150 years to surrender. yet
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technically, we are still in the sesquicentennial of the civil war until november of this year. it really started in appomattox when robert e. lee surrendered to u.s. grant. what i want to do is, i don't want to focus on appomattox, so much, but i want to pull the lens back. more, end of the war, any , 40ths the civil war anniversary of the amend of american involvement with the fall of saigon in vietnam. the end of the second world war.
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the end of any war is the beginning of peace. reverberates can for a long time. so what i want to do is unpack that statement. the ways that the war ended but also the reverberations up to the present day. start not with appomattox but the other great ending of april 1865. the following richmond. robert e lee's army, 65,000 men, holding the siege lines. they face 100,000 federal forces. the army of the potomac, and an army level headquarters of the shenandoah under philip sheridan. richmond, for four years, has
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had a target on its back. it has been a primary, or a secondary, objective of u.s. forces in the eastern theater since the war's beginning in 1861. it has had more military resources devoted to its capture than any objective the american forces have her try to capture up to this point in history of of the country. the largest army the u.s. has ever fielded, the army of the potomac, has its objective at richmond. the people of richmond know they have been living with a target on the back. richmond also is a symbol. i want to talk about that more as we get going. richmond is a symbol of the confederacy, also one of the most important industrial cities in the confederacy. as april 1865 begins, the battle of five forks outside of
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petersburg, virginia. 50 miles from the confederate white house. that breaks the siege lines. the next day, as grant launches a centrifical offensive, he cuts off rail lines except one small tendon that runs southeast of the city. he has basically cut off the confederacy -- richmond for the -- from the rest of the confederacy. lee realizes he can't hold for very much longer. it's sunday, april 2, 1865, and he realizes he has to get the
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president, jeff davis, out of church and tell them he has to go. this decision by general lee sets off a chain of events over the next 36 hours that affects the city to this day. this sets a breakpoint in the history of richmond. richmond is a symbol. let me give you a couple of comparison cases over the last 150 years to give you context about the fall of richmond. what it means to the people there, to the story, their stories and the overall war and overall perspective. madrid 1939, when franco takes takes it. paris, 1940, when germans destroyed the french the republic. warsaw 1939. manila, 1941. saigon, 1975. the best analogy i can give you for what is happening, with going to happen in richmond, is a shipwreck. the city, its population, and its garrison will go through every single human emotion possible in the next 36 hours. april 3, 1865.
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it is the end of an era. these cities are all symbols. cities change hands all throughout warfare. what makes these different? it's the symbolism. it is also the fact that they are watersheds. the fall of singapore ended the british empire in the far east. manila has never been the same since the second world war when the japanese took her in 1941 and the destruction in 1945. . for the impact on paris, just watch casablanca for the impact on paris. the global reverberations of that offense, the helicopters going off the embassy roof, that puts a very sharp. point.
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richmond, for the confederates, and for the union, is the same thing. let's talk about what happens to the city of richmond when geoff davis is pulled out of church, and told you have six hours, in the confederate government is going to leave by train. i want to look at this from a number of perspectives. the first one is that from now on, everything has a time of it. once that runs out, if you are in richmond, there is a very uncertain future coming your way. if you are jeff davis, part of the executive cabinet, what do you pack from the confederate white house?
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where do you go? what becomes the new city of government for the confederacy? all these decisions have to be made quickly. do you pack up the family? for jeff davis, the answer is yes. but if you are one of his staffers, what do you do? how do you take care of this? general lee faces this problem also because his wife and daughters live in the city of richmond. does he take them with him? does he leave them to the mercies of the union army? it's a very personal, very wrenching decision that has to be made. if he leaves them to the union army, how are they going to treat the family of robert e lee? is a very uncertain sort of thing going forward. that is just some of the leaders. imagine yourself just being an average everyday richmond to citizen on april 2, as you know that the union army -- things are not going well for your army and the union army is at the gates. you know that there are black troops in the siege and lines. what will they be like? what about these suddenly freed slaves as soon as the union army comes in? what are they going to do? are there going to be riots? what do you do with your silver,
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what do you do with your valuables? do you bury them in the garden? do you believe them and trust that nobody is going to mess with them? what we do with the family shotgun? are you going to hide it, are you going to greet the enemy? are you even going to stay? are you going to go? if you choose to go, what he going to take, who are you going to take -- what are you going to take, and how are you going to get out of here? are you going to go by wagon if you have one? by horse? are you going to try and crowd the train station and try and get a train out? the morning of april 3 -- i would recommend reading a memoir about going to the real euros on manchester side of the river -- going to the railyards on the manchester side of the river and finding thousands of people waiting for trains that will never come. because they don't know anywhere else to go. that's the only way they can possibly leave the city of
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richmond. if you've seen the movie dr. -- "dr. zhivago," there are scenes about leaving moscow during the russian revolution. that is a good visual to put to this scene. some people, to be honest, the best thing to do is to have a local watering hole and start drinking. [laughter] that is true of that is true of every single case that i have seen. a hotel before the fall of singapore, british staff officers with nothing better to do were drinking whiskey sodas.
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there's always a point in these instances where the bartenders start taking the bottles and pouring them out, because they don't want the occupiers to get their hands on it and get out of control. there are accounts from richmond and other places of the gutters and stairways literally running with alcohol. there is so much being emptied out. let's not forget all of this is being cadenced by the rhythm of explosions. yes, from the battlefront, which is drawing very close, but also from within the cities -- explosions and fire. which can't be moved, and is militarily valuable, the confederate army is blowing up. railyards, depots. that sets a finality.
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when you blow bridges, installations, that means you are not coming back. it puts a visual punctuation mark on what has happened. this is an end of an era. what was is no longer. and will not be again. that knowledge puts a real sharp cadence and edge to these decisions. it puts an urgency to these decisions that the government has to make in these hours before the fall of richmond. they go through every single human emotion. including, by the way, at least one case of love. as walter taylor asks in the middle of it, world is coming to an end, can i go get married? sure, go get married. this is something else that we know that they didn't know. they did know that the war in virginia was going to end in a week in appomattox.
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as far as everyone was concerned, they were going to leave richmond, virginia would get overrun by the union army, and they would join joe johnston and fight for however longer further they want. no one knew they were going to be back in just over a week to 10 days. keep that in mind as you think through the thought process. one of the punctuation points, and i found this in interesting congruence with manila. everybody in manila salt when the navy blew up the navy yard just across the bay. everybody saw that smoke and those explosions. everybody knew when the navy was pulling out that it was over. everybody in richmond, the early morning hours of april 3, remembers hearing the three crumps on the james river. the three ironclads, the most powerful fleet the confederate army had. everybody remember that enrichment. it had the same effect.
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everybody were members that in richmond. it had the same effect. when the navy that has kept us safe for four years is pulling out, it's over. suddenly a very unknown future. this is a break, a psychological wrench for the city of richmond that defines it to this day. you see it in some of the different arguments from time to time about the monuments in the city, the different basement of the monuments. when arthur ash was placed on one unit avenue. when they placed the lincoln statue commemorating lincoln's visit. where was that going to go? you saw that psychological wrench of the after effects coming back. here when the richmond battlefield did the 150th, about the battles of civil wars, do you know the one of the most attended programs were?
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it wasn't anything out of the battlefield. it was the april 2 and april 3 stuff related to the fall of the city of richmond. if you have seen some of the photographs, it's amazing the number of people there. i'm not sure how many richmonders can tell you exactly why they felt the connection to be there. but the people down there understand that this is an important moment in their history. they may not be able to articulate in words, but they feel in their bones of this psychological breakpoint in their city's history. it continues to define their city to this day. one thought about the psychological impact on the fall of richmond. and anonymous war clerk said, "i didn't think we lost the war until i saw my government on wheels." he said that at the depot watching jeff davis' train leave on april 2, 1865. a u.s. army clerk echoed that
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watching the fall of manila. he said it was like leaving an old friend. a similar sentiment people felt leaving the city of richmond in 1865. that is an ending point that continues to reverberate to this day. but of course it is not the end of the war. lee's army flees west trying to get to north carolina. grants sets off on what i would argue the best campaign the potomac ever wages. they catch part of them april 6 at singles creek, catching quite a few of them. morning of april 9, they surround the army of northern
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virginia around appomattox courthouse. lee tries to break out and counterattack to open the way to north carolina. as they are making headway against union cavalry, union infantry from the potomac shows up, among them african-american troops. as one general said, the battlefield looks like a checkerboard. and lee realizes the jig is up. he said, i cannot advance further. unless supported by longstreet's corp. longstreet is holding up a the entire army of the potomac. lee realizes that morning of april, 1855 that the jig is up. he told his staff, "there is nothing for it then to go see general grant, and i would rather die 1000 deaths." we will come back to that line further. it's important to note, and it always thought this was
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interesting -- i will is the question to you why and let you come up with your own decision. robert e. lee, leaving richmond, saved one pristine uniform and a presentation at sword. for something. [laughter] he's going to put it on to go meet general grant. the question i would post to you, as far as i'm willing to get into someone's head, did he know when he left richmond at petersburg, did he know what was going to happen? i leave -- that question rhetorically for you to decide. grant, for his part, has been on campaign. he is muddy, riding around sheridan's forces opposite gordon. gets a message from lee, "find a place in appomattox. i will meet you there." "send it on this road, i will be there." after some searching, being palm sunday, april 9, the courthouse is locked. after some searching the end of
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-- end up in the parlour of one wilmer mcclane. his house outside of the nasa july agency one was general beauregard's headquarters. he says "the war started in my front yard and ended in my parlor.' lee goes in. grant, when he shows up in the early afternoon, has brought a retinue of staff officers, generals along to witness. they step in. it's a very sharp contrast. a lot of people have made much of the contrast between lee dressed sharply, and grant coming in muddy with only some of his stars on his shoulders.
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the contrast of those two personalities and what that symbolizes. i think there is something to that. i want to talk about something i think is important. is not so much how they look but what they bring into the room with them. both men bring a lot of things into the room with them. i want to spend a lot of time developing that fought. both men are exemplars for what they stand for. the end of the war is the beginning of the peace. the actions of the leaders at the end of the war sets the tone for the beginning of the peace. grant understood that he sat at the intersection of politics, economics, and the military by virtue of his position as commander in chief.
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robert e. lee also understood they were the personification of the confederacy, more so than jefferson davis. as the army of northern virginia would go, so with the confederacy. the analogy had been drawn, contemporarily as it has today, between lee and the army of the confederacy between washington and the continental army to the colonies during our war for independence. that is apt. it's because lee is related to george washington. both men, by virtue of being exemplars of their respective sides, bring that with them. they bring the outside forces into the room beyond themselves. they bring in what they represent. to understand appomattox and how it reverberates going forward. i want to talk and introduce an underappreciated quote, one that i think sums up the causes of the war better than any other. it is in 1956.
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"the origins of the civil war lay in the growing tension between two completely different types of society bound together under one government. the issue of slavery sharpened hatreds." two societies, one government, and slavery is an aggravating factor in all of this. what does that mean? i want to give you a couple of statistics as we develop this. in 1860, one in four northerners lived in cities. only one in 10 southerners did. in the south, 84% farmed. southern investment in factories halved. in 1851, only two confederate cities had a population over
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40,000, whereas the north had 19 cities that could claim to cross that threshold. largest city in the confedarcy, april 1, 1865, was the army of northern virginia. a secessionist from texas spoke for many southerners when he said "we want no manufacturing, mechanical or manufacturing classes.' northerners also tended to be more literate and better read than their southern counterparts. the proportion of seven children went to school with half that of northern children.
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1860 per capita -- newspaper in the north was triple that of the south. the of illiteracy among whites in the south ran triple that of white northerners. if blacks and slaves were added, the south was eight times more illiterate than at the north. in the free states, there was a commitment to education for economic prosperity and freedom. if you think about the careers of abraham lincoln and grant, they exemplify that last statement. i want to address the elephant in the room, both in 1865 and today. i will turn to mcpherson for a cogent discussion. 95% of the country's black people lived in the slave states. the implications of this, for the economy and social institutions, are obvious. this is what montgomery is talking about sharpening hatreds. white supremacy in the south is so much greater as to constitute a different order of magnitude to contribute any more factor to differences between the north and south. the fear that slavery was being hemmed in and threatened with
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distruction added to an aggressive style of behavior before the civil war. that is not to venerate one side and demonize the other. that is not the point. the point is that the civil war, two different visions of what the united states is and can be have met on the battlefield. they are symbolized by grant and lee. what are these visions? i will put them physically -- i will put them so simply -- lee, harking back to the postcolonial period, patrician, agrarian, insular. don't get involved in a foreign alliances. washington's dictum to the new country. grant's and lincoln's?
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the manifesto for this was issued at lincoln's second inaugural. "with malice towards none, peace between ourselves and elevation of the world." read the second inaugural because that's the new manifesto for the new world that lincoln is building. this country may have been founded in 1775, but it was refounded in 1865. the manifesto was the second inaugural, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th ammendments put pave to lincoln's visions.
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international, hemispheric. if you read grant's memoirs, the ending is great. people overlook the last chapter when he talks about the u.s. and makes productions. he is writing it before his death in 1855. "the civil war has made us a nation of great power and intelligence.' he predicts a major role for the u.s. in the world going forward. that is the vision of that grant brings in to the parlor. he and lincoln are the exemplars of this, having risen from nothing, self-made men, although grant had done a good job of losing fortunes he had made. self-made men. they had risen from the poor and modest beginnings to the statures that they now hold. this is the new america they are building on the ashes of the civil war. that is what both sides bring wilmer mcclane parlor.
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this is what grant and lee are exemplars of. grant, as he puts it, "let them up easy." that is what lincoln told him to do. i am still unpacking what this means. a lot of people gloss over the points of discussion between grant and lee. grants realizes this is the end of the war. we will not march the army of northern virginia off to prison camp. we will send them home, healing starts here. one thing he didn't realize is that in the confederate army, soldiers had to bring their own horses. the u.s. army provides everything a soldier needs to move and fight. but in the southern army, you had to bring your own horses. people have glossed over that point of discussion. i think that says a great deal of the mentality of both sides and have a structured their army. organization can be an interesting determinant of the values of an organization. i want to commend it to you for
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some food for thought. i already see a few wheels turning. grant and lee consummate the surrender at appomattox. this is the first domino in the chain that will cause the confederacy to fall over the next month, and certainly the rest of the year. robert e. lee has one more thing he wants to do, one more message he wants to send coming out of appomattox. he has conducted the surrender with a stoicism and grace and dignity that sense the message -- that sends a message about him and who use and what he stands for. he writes a letter on the morning of april 10 to his army. i want to read the first sentence. it is often quoted, but i don't think the first sentence has gotten to you. "after four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed rich and fortitude, the army of
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northern virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources." what historical philosophy of the civil war does that sound like? that is the foundational document of the lost cause. that is where it comes from. "we weren't wrong." we were beaten because there were too many of them and not enough of us. i contrast that sharply with the japanese 70 years ago next month when they surrendered. they said they were not just beaten by superior resources, as one of the emperor's aides told him, he said we were beaten by a superior idea. the japanese understood two visions had met on the battlefield, and one had been defeated. robert e. lee did not share that perspective, 80 years before.
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we weren't wrong, there were too many of them and not enough of us. this is the foundation of the lost cause. i would add, it is no coincidence that the army of northern virginia are the biggest proponents of the lost cause after the civil war. another reverberation of appomattox. i should point out as well, since imd director of the macarthur memorial, you will notice how both men's have staged the end of the war. to begin the peace and said messages of how that, how their side should regard the other side going forward. the emperor did the same thing in tokyo. dwight eisenhower in europe didn't. that's another talk. if you contrast that, it's interesting between the two sides. i want to examine -- we talk about how appomattox echoes the end of the war. we have examined some pieces of this.
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i want to tell a story that illustrates the enduring power appamattox. it is one that is often overlooked. and there are many different ways i can go with this and probably many different examples we can think of. this one is often overlooked because it has a congruent to date, april 9, 1942. i want to introduce you to a man from georgia. he is frome atlanta. he is a major general in the united states army. his uncle had fought for the confederacy. he knew general gordon. he had been inspired to become a soldier by the example of the confederates and the example of the confederate army, the confederate veterans he knew. in 1941, he had been sent to the philippines to be chief of artillery for general macarthur. in the philippines his first
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wife was lafayette mclaw's daughter. he actually has the silver in a bank vault in the bank of manila, where it survives the war. it is still part of the family to this day. an interesting footnote for you. general came in late march and early april of 1942 is commander of the forces, 76,000 americans and filipinos holding the peninsula at the mouth of manila bay. they are down to rations. they have 25% combat effective at this point. that is somebody who can get out of a foxhole, 125 yards, and fire.
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combat effective being somebody who can get out of a foxhole, walk 125 yards, and fire. that's the definition of combate effective. it is early april. japanese launch their last attack. after several days of fighting on april 6, the last american lines have been broken. all reserves are in. the japanese advance down the eastern coast. they have about 10 miles to go. king is committing all reinforcements. but they can't hold. unlike lee, king is not a complete reactor at this moment.
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lee has an independence of action. jonathan wainwright served on the mississippi river during the running of new orleans and died in 1863. his maternal grandfather was the chief of the staff of the army the james at appamattox, and was the guy who designed the swamp angel outside of charleston. wainwright's boss was general macarthur. the fight is on. he has three uncles. another talk for a whole other time is about how these guys in world war ii, the civil war was only yesterday. it was only 77 years in the past. wainwright is forced to pass a message on.
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if food fails, you will prepare and execute an attack against the enemy." but king realizes his men are in absolutely no condition to do this. his staff tells him, "sir, within 36 hours the battle lines will be among our hospitals." the king realizes what he has to do. he tells his staff, i go to meet the japanese commander and i would rather die a thousand deaths. he later admitted he consciously invoked the example of robert e. lee to sustain and inspire and guide him through some of the most agonizing moments of his life. the next morning, he meets the japanese after sending a parlay truce forward. he comes forward and meets with them. he conducts himself with the same stoicism, the same grace,
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the same dignity. one of his aides that was with him said, "i have never seen the general act more like a soldier. the japanese, unlike grant, who did not ask for lee's sword, the japanese did ask for a side arm. the king took his pistol out and put it on the table. and thus handed over the garrison and baton. why do i tell you the story? i tell you that store because of its connection beyond the congruent dates of april 9 1865 and 1942. you can see right there the reverberation of appamattox.
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and at go, and how it inspired, guided, and sustains an american major general 77 years in the huger has he made a decision that no officer had to make before or since. that example of robert e lee and grandchild -- and grant guided general king.
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it is another backup and further illustration and somehow ties together everything we have been talking about about the ongoing residence of the events of april 1865 and the end of the civil war. at the end what does all this show? 1865 was an end. it was a beginning. and a very significant one. i would submit to you and i would return to what i said about the nation being refounded in 1865, which makes april 1865 a major milepost, and one that remains crystal clear visible to this very day. folks, i would like to thank you for your attention. if you have any questions i would be happy to answer them. thank you very much. >> we have a few moments for a couple of questions. >> when you were talking about lee's farewell and you said the first line of the addresses the foundation of the lost cause and all the generals of the army of northern virginia are going to
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follow, what do you do about general longstreet? >> i didn't say all. >> what is your take on the general? i have to imagine there are a few other guys that say give up the fight at the time, it's over. christopher: i want to address specifically what you are looking at, because that is a whole talk for itself. >> his -- not eagerness, but the fact that he is pretty much -- i imagine he inspired the mothers. -- i imagine he inspired some others to say, "it's over." he joins the republican party, he becomes a pariah for a while. what is your take on his resolution?
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christopher: james longstreet -- his focus the civil war on the army of northern virginia. because longstreet has a controversial nature of various aspects of his role in the war in virginia, longstreet is not an easy fit. some of that command come up in the post-war writings. gettysburg being the longest pole in the tent, if you will. it also frames the district that frames the discussion in this way. we were not wrong, we were just beaten by too many men. the fact to was personal friends
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-- the fact that longstreet was personal friends with grant put him further outside the pale. longstreet was always a bit of an outsider anyway. just focused on lee, focused on army and virginia. it just sharpens the discussion even further. as for longstreet's counsel to lee, for his counsel to -- i think that is morally courageous and i think the man did his duty. this is true in a corporate setting. there are times when you have to save the boss from himself or herself. there are times when you owe it to your boss to give him or her your wisest counsel. they may not listen to it. it is your duty in a situation like that when you are facing a life and death situation for an organization and you have information or perspective, it is your responsibility to present that information.
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it is exactly what you would expect from a second ranking officer. it is a complex question you ask and a complex answer i give. that would be my response. >> i know everyone likes to what if the civil war. let's go back to the surrender house. what if it hadn't had been grant? what if it would've been sherman in there? lincoln was running out of generals at that time. what if it would have been sherman or sheridan or whatever? would things have been different
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in there with lee and the terms that were agreed upon? since it was grant, who did grant go to to bounce these ideas off of? lee didn't have anybody to go to, really. it seems like it was all lee's makeup. did grant talk with lincoln? christopher: 31st of march, 1865. they met on a steamer. general grant and abraham lincoln met on a steamer. off of the city point. they discuss these questions. lincoln issued his guidance, because they knew the end of the war was not far away. they knew that grants final offensive was happening area they have been getting close to the end.
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what grant is doing is using lincoln's guidance. he is following the famous telegram from sheridan. "if the thing is pressed, i think we can finish it here." lincoln telegraphs back immediately, "let the thing be pressed." that is guiding grant. we have an example of what sherman would have been like because he was more lenient with joe johnson band grant was. sherman basically concluded a peace treaty. he basically concluded to general peace at bennett place. you have confederate cabinet officers involved in discussions. andrew johnson, who was the new president, johnson said that is my prerogative, go back and give them the same as appomattox.
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there's no question in my mind that sherman and grant understood they needed to end the war and there were going to follow the president's guidance and let him up easy and find a way to get this done and start on the road to reconstruction. >> charity for all and malice toward none. that was the blueprint he gave his generals to follow. customer: lincoln defied the war, what it was about, in eddie's berg.
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-- customer: lincoln defined the war -- in gettysburg. he defined the end of the war in the second inaugural in march 1865. i think it is no coincidence that it is two speeches on the wall in the lincoln memorial in washington, dc. he talks about td >> you are watching " american history tv," all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. next, historian john robert greene chronicles the 1952 presidential election between dwight eisenhower and adlai stevenson. talks about the
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introduction of political tv ads and how they changed presidential campaigns. hour.a little over an theood evening, welcome to kansas city public library. the former -- i am henry, the former director of public affairs. perhaps befitting my new part-time status as a visiting fellow, maybe i should say, director of public affairs and emeritus.- affairs [laughter] whatever you want to call me, i am off the payroll, but i cannot stay away from this place. i am addicted to it. as one of my colleagues said, i cannot go cold turkey.

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