tv The Civil War CSPAN October 13, 2015 10:00pm-10:47pm EDT
inspiration to fight on no matter, no matter the circumstances. the red, white and blue banner of the united states of america. and the black and white flag that honors our p.o.w.s and mias fly strong here today side by side. as we commemorate a place and a war that changed our nation forever. these flags mark progress and change in honor of the men of andersonville and for the men and women in the audience today who have suffered the unimaginable hardships of being a prisoner of war in a foreign land. the p.o.w. experience these soldiers suffered here at andersonville, in vietnam, in korea, cambodia and in so many other places teaches the imprisoned much about themselves. teaches the army much about our enemy and teaching the world much about our nation's values. what we have undoubtably learned
from the disaster at andersonville is the human treatment of p.o.w.s defines our natural identity and reit rates our army values by ensuring dignity and respect is paid to every enemy combatant. we've also learned how precious freedom is and that freedom always, always has a cost. the cost is paid by men and women, men and women who are willing to endure torture, mall nutrition, loneliness, despair and even death in the pursuit of freedom's cause. history tends to remember the dates. it remembers the battles and the victories. it lauds the winners and it favors grand action or man mental failure. but there are some places on the battlefield where dates and battles, winners and losers are matters of inconsequence. in these places survival is the only thing of magnitude. the men of andersonville have
survived. they survived the 150 years of an indelible part of what makes our nation great, the american people. as i conclude time with you today, my hope is for the 13,000 souls lost here to rest in peace in the knowledge that their service and sacrifice, one a prosperous world and an ever evolving nation. and their legacy lives on the in the spirit they inspire in those that they continue to inspire. although tragic, their sacrifice in service paved the way for us to become a great nation. the greatest nation the world has ever known, the united states of america. it is a great day to be a soldier and i am honored and privileged that these enlisted men gave me that opportunity. god bless them, god bless their families, god bless their legacy, god bles our p.o.w.s and
and grant them rest in the land of the living, in the joy of paradise when all pain and grief have fled away, where the light of thou count innocence shine et forever and guide in peace the end of our lives oh lord when they wilt and as they wilt that we may enter the gate and dwell in that house where there shall be no darkness, but one equal right, no noise nor silence, but one equal music. no fears, nor hopes but one equal possession. no end nor beginnings but one equal eternity in the now majesty and glory. world without end. unto god's greatest mercy and protection we commit ourselves and those near and dear to us, the lord bless us and keep us,
the lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us, the lord lift up the light of his continue innocence upon us and fill us with his peace both this day and ever more. amen. rest eternal grant to them and let light perpetual shine upon them. amen. >> at this time i'd like to acknowledge one of our distinguished guests, mr. kenneth cuts from congressman sanford bishop's office. [ applause ] i would like to invite you to stand once again at this time as
>> you may be seated. throughout this service the united states flag that stands prominently at the center of the national cemetery has stood at half-staff in mournful acknowledgment of these losses. former p.o.w. retired brigadier general rhonda corn hamm has performed the duty of raising the flag to full staff. this honors the service of medical staff and echos the role that the famous nurse clara barton played in raising a flag on this spot in august of 1865. in conclusion i want to thank the military representatives for supporting this event.
i also want to thank the public for their continual support of our national parks. we are pleased to consider this our first skren tenial event. across the country our 408 sites will be celebrating all year long. we invite you to join us and find your park. we also hope that one of the parks that you find will be andersonville. thank you. [ applause ]
topic. you saw the ceremony and we continue on with our conversation to learn more about life at andersonville prison. our next guest joining us now is the university of akron history professor lesley gordon. she just spoke at the funeral for 13,000. she'll be taking your questions. if you want to ask her questions call 202-748-8900 for the eastern and central time zones. you can also tweet us at c-span history and post questions at facebook.com/c-span. joining us now is lesley gordon, with the university of akron and the author of a book. professor, thank for joining us. >> thank you. >> can we start with a little bit of what you talked about in your speech as far as sush vooifrs of andersonville, could
you give a sense of what a survivor had to go through? you hinted at it in the speech. can you expand on that? >> in the research i did on this particular regiment, i think it's representative of many of the survivors endured this -- the imprisonment here. if they made it through andersonville, it didn't mean necessarily their prison was over. they were transferred out and went on to other prisoners. they were shifting prisoner to charlestonnance florence. many might have died there. if they survived that, they could go to parole camp and that could last weeks or months. it was the experience of the bureaucracy of the army and they waited to be formally exchanged. and then the accounts of some of the men i studied in the 16th, one of them in particular, this one soldier gamd george robbins talked about the journey home on
the train un, he called that the cli max of his suffering. that that was worse than being here because he was in an overcrowded train with drunk soldiers and h was overwhelmed and exhausted. they would go through this journey of trying to get home and then many of them made it home and would die at home because their bodies were so broke frn the experience and the chronic disease. it doesn't just as though being freed from here and being exchanged was the end of the story. >> as far as the 13,000 p.o.w.s that died at andersonville, what happened to them? what does history tell us about what happened? >> well, the death here -- so there was this overcrowding and exposure and mall nutrition and that was causing men -- they were dying from sissen teary, they were dying from scurvy, severe diarrhea. these are terrible ways to die.
those are some of the things i was referring to. the men would say they would rather die in battle, shot and killed in the heat of combat rather than die in this slow suffering that seemed dehumanizing. it is a terrible way to die. and that's how the majority of those 13,000 died, from disease and malnutrition. >> we're seeing pictures of the grave sites there. and just recently there was another type of memorial service there in which it was illuminated and kind of give you a sense of what's happening. you attended that. what was it like to attend that ceremony and see the illuminations? >> it's very powerful. i was with eric leonard who you spoke to earlier today and another historian, stacy reeves, and we drove around and were taken aback by the sight of seeing the lights of the 13,000.
it really brought home a sense of just how many men were here. that's a portion, the 13,000 that were 45 thoux here that endure andersonville. so it brought a visual sense of the numbers. it's hard to contemplate that many deaths, i think. it's true for the civil war in general, so many deaths. but in a place like here at andersonville and the way they died, i think that visual image was very, very powerful. >> lesley gordon is the author of a "broken regiment" also a history professor at the university of akron. susan from stillwater, new york is our first caller. go ahead. >> caller: i have a great great cousin who died at andersonville 1864. his death was listed as dynasty. i later read a book that said a
lot of the people that they listed dying from dynasty really died from gangrene. is that possible? >> well, you know, i think more of the deaths were from dysentery which was this -- which was related again to malnutrition. but it could have -- i mean the gangrene that was usually related to open wounds. it certainly could happen from something like scurvy which would lead to sores. i don't know that -- my sense thinks it was more often to this sort of mall nutrition that led to this kind of a breakdown in the, you know, the digestive system. but i don't the -- gangrene was certainly a concern here. i can't say that it was one thing or another. gangrene was a serious problem if you were wounded in bat.
that as often what happened. it wasn't the wound itself, but from the infrex later. >> this is david, go ahead. >> caller: it's an honor to speak with you. i read william marvel's book on andersonville. do you consider that the best book or do you reck any other history books on andersonville? and also have you read the novel "andersonville" by mckinley cantor and if so, do you recommend it? >> thank you. the book still stands as one of the best comprehensive book. there are some others. lonnie spears book is good as an overview of prisons. but there are some good books that look at the memory of the prison and effects of p.o.w.s. brian jordon did a great book about veterans in general and he has a chapter in there about ex-prisoners and what happened to them when they came home.
marvel is dismissive of the post-war writings of the prisone prisoners. and i'm not as questioning of them. in particular one member of the 16th, robert kellogg, he's dismissive of. i don't agree with everything that marvel has to say but it's a very good book, a good place to start and then move from there. there's much that we need to learn and explore about the very topic of civil war prisons. it's really been neglect as a top topic. i read mckinley kanter's book. he was an important author to me as a teenager. haven't read it many probably more than 30 years. it's significant in reminding us of the everyday soldiers. but i would go back to some of these other historians for more of the factual information. but i think, you know, reading
those together do give you a sense of the reality of the suffering here and the magnitude of it. >> so what do we learn about prison life especially at andersonville by your study of the 16th connecticut? what kind of specifics did you glean from that? >> well, what was so interesting and important, i think, about the experience of the 16th, they began their service at ante dumb and they're green troops and panic and run off of the field and that's the beginning of their civil war service but they never get a chance to redeem themselves because of circumstance. they're transferred out of active service. and they're captured at the battle of plymouth and they end up here. those are the two back ends of their civil war service. panicking and fleeing at the battle and then imprisonment here at andersonville. for them as civil war soldiers, the story here is hugely
significant. i argue that this becomes a redemption nair tiff frrative f. they want it to be as good as fighting at gettysburg. yes they're union veterans and yes they're on the winning side. they want to be counted as victors. and it's difficult because e-p.o.w.s really weren't seen and perceived the same as other veterans. and this is true again for not just the 16th connecticut. in my book i'm really exploring how they coped with the experience here and how they wanted the memory to be crafted. and this was, this was a lingering issue for them. and they came back here, the veterans, the survivors, many of them in the 1800s to commemorate the monument to their state. this is really a monument to
their regiment. they spear headed the effort, they led the state commission. and one of their members, robert kellogg was very influential in the -- also in the effort. this was so important to them that people remember what happened here. and not for get it. >> and proguess tore gordon, there was a casket during the ceremony. as we understand it, there were paper stars in there to the tune of 13,000. >> yes, that was really remarkable. yes. i didn't get to see the actual stars. i saw some photographs online of the stars. i understand they were from children all over that sent them in and then of course seeing them in the casket was quite moving with the military honors here today. >> we're looking at the video of the stars. lesley gordon is our guest to talk about anderson. this is david from friendswood, texas. go ahead.
>> caller: hello. great program, by the way. this is what television should be all about. i think i saw on the history channel that right when andersonville was built the north stopped the prisoner exchange program and that more than anything else contributed to the suffering, much of the suffering and death at andersonville. and i was wondering, one, if that is true, and two, if it is, did the north know about andersonville and did -- why didn't they reinstitute the prisoner exchange program? i'll hang up and listen. thank you very much. >> thank you for your question. yes. the exchange program had stopped by the time andersonville was opened. the confederacy had these overwhelming numbers of prisoners and they had nowhere to put them in their richmond
prisons so they built andersonville and it was never meant to hold as many prisoners as it did. the blame for andersonville, there's a lot of blame to go around, certainly. but the confederacy was real aware of how bad the conditions were. i think henry wirz played his role. certainly he was tried and found guilty for the conditions here. he did not have control other everything that was going on here. he had a superior, john winder who also i think could be, you know, charged with some of the responsibility. he dies though before the war ends. but the north, as far as this question of what was going on in the union side and how much did they know, there's a book by charles saunders who is very, very critical, not just of the confederate authorities and how much they knew of the conditions here but of the union authorities, of lincoln and stanton. i think it's a compelling case that the war department in
particular, they began by the summer of 1864, they knew exactly what was going on here. they were getting accounts. and sherman starts to make his way here into georgia with his campaign toward atlanta. and he is also aware. and there's some plans. he allows for one attempt to free the soldiers -- the prisoners, and that fails. but there is an acknowledgement by grant, by sherman, by lee and stanton that they want to end the war, they want to win the war and that's the best way to free the prisoners. and also the fact that the confederates refused to accept black troops as prisoners, to treat them as prisoners of war. and that of course played a huge role in the prison policy of the union. so that cannot be negated in this whole question of who is to blame here. i think that the conditions, you
know, one in three men were dying here. and it didn't -- certainly it didn't have to happen. the things that could have been done. but yes, the union made a conscious decision that they were going to fight the war and look forward to ending the war as quickly as possible. there's an argument that grant made that if he had put forces on the ground to come here and liberate the prisoners that they would have taken away from his larger strategy of winning the war. >> for lesley gordon, david from utah. go ahead. >> caller: yes. the national park website for andersonville lists 32 people, union soldiers who successfully escaped from andersonville. and my distant relative was one of them. his name is john eager. i just wondered by chance if she knew anything about him.
i in know he ended up dying in ohio at a military hospital in 1878. he got an invalid pension for leg injuries that he developed while he was at andersonville. but anyway, i know it's a long shot but i wondered if she knew anything about him. >> no, i'm sorry, i don't. but that's quite a remarkable story. and yeah, there were no that many escapes. it was very hard to get out of here. so that's something that your relative did make it out. i think it also speaks to, as you said, he still suffered from the experience of being here. there were escapes, i know from the 16th that some of the officers -- of course officers weren't kept here but some officers ended up in charleston, for example, they escaped. there's been some new work done on this question of escaped prisoners. and we need more work on this.
we don't know as much about these stories. so no, i don't know, i'm sorry, about your relative. >> were escapes low because of the structure of the building or were there other factors to consider. >> as far as how hard it was to escape? >> yes. >> i'm sorry. well, there were -- this speaks to the question of blame. wirz had this place pretty well fortified. yes, there were the men, the georgia malitia guards that were here. it was difficult to have that many -- the manpower question is a real one as far as the confederacy. who could they spare to guard a prison, prisons like this one. but nonetheless, there were trenches built, earthworks built and there were artillery pieces set up surrounding the prisoners so they could be fired. there were threats made. there were rumors that some of
the men in the 16th talk about that they were going to be fired on, the artillery was going to be unleashed on the prisoners because of behavior problems. the men were constantly looking for ways to get out. thaw were digging looking for ways to get out. there were dogs that were used. and of course there's the infamous dead line. it was not an easy place to try to escape from. and of course the conditions of the prisoners themselves, they were so weak and sick to even contemplate physically trying to break their way out. this was the middle of nowhere. you know, it with us a very isolated location and purposefully so. if you escape from a prison in charleston or richmond, it was easier to get to union lines. until sherman makes his way down here, you're going to have to travel pretty far to make your way to union lines. >> here's p.j. from staten
island, new york. >> hi, professor gordon. thank you for taking my call. we've talked a little lit before about blame. i was wondering throughout the beginning of the war there was a policy of prisoner exchange. and when grant and lincoln realized this would be a sure war of attrition that policy was sended. do you think ending that policy contributed to tin crease of prisoners at andersonville? >> that is the question. and in this point that lincoln and grant and stanton started to appreciate that if these exchanges continued that men, you know, that confederates exchange would go back into the army, right? but it also was this question of, as i said, how the confederacy -- they refused. once the emancipation proclamation was passed, became
law january 1st, 1863, the confederacy refused to treat black troops as prisoners of war. they declared black troops as fugitives, fugitive slaves. so this played a role in the policy decisions. and thus, yes, i think it's a combination of issues. again, i think you have to take into the fact that by the time you get to 1864, this war not only, you know -- this war had become a much vaster, harder war that anybody expected. so even when the war started, very few people had thought about the question of prisoners. it just really had not been carefully considered and planned. and so thus we ended up with these situations, not just here in andersonville but in these other prisons. this was obviously the worst and the deadliest. and again there were specific
reasons why it was the deadliest. >> next is dave alpharetta, georgia. go ahead. >> caller: good afternoon. i watched the ceremony this afternoon. and i was curious, unless my eyes deceived me, was the casket in front of the leg turn draped in a 48-star flag or am i in error? i'll await your comment. >> gosh, i was behind, so i don't know. i don't know if they had a flag that would have been, you know, that wasn't a 50-star flag. i'm sorry, i don't know. >> so professor, tell us a little bit about -- we hear in the modern day military how a soldier transfers to civilian life and the process there. what was it like for a transfer to civilian life for those who left andersonville and if there's examples that you can give us from the 16th connecticut that might help us understand that.
>> yes. the transition wasn't always easy. the one example i think of as a good one is robert kellogg who, you know, he joined when he was 18 years old. he's a very young man still when he comes home and survives andersonville. he comes back to his home state and he returns to his original pre-war job as a druggist. he's work in the drugstore in nor witch, connecticut. he still kept a diary for a few months in the early part of his return home. and he says that he, he feels very isolated. he's feeling like nobody understands him and that he doesn't have any friends anymore. and a local deacon died that he knew and he mentioned in his diary that death seems to have
no meaning anymore after experiencing all of the suffer and death here. somehow it doesn't matter that this man died. now, he will marry, he will have a family, he will leave connecticut. he moves to ohio and sells insurance. and by all accounts he's a successful man. he lives until 1935. he lives a long life. very active in veteran activities with the 16th connecticut. and he doesn't keep a diary. the records i have from him are mainly letters to his comrades. he did get back in contact with his friends if the regiment and i think this is what helped him find his way, you know, and sort of get back, to what felt like some sense of normalcy. another example is ira forbes who was a close friend of robert kellogg. and he originally wanted to go to jail, wanted to be a
theologian to study religion. he comes back and does go to yale and ends up deciding to go into journalism. he's done well professionally. but clearly there are demons haunting him. he becomes alienated from his comrades, so much so they don't invite him here to dedicate the monument here which is very dramatic that he's not included. i would argue he was one of the true heroes of the yount. but he became es stranged from his comrades. he was arguing with him about what really happened, not just here at andersonville but what happened at plymouth. and he had a falling out with them. he will be committed to the hard forth asylum to for the insane, declared mentally ill and he dies there when he's 68 years
old. to me that's two examples of men that in many ways, they're about the same age, 18, 19 years old and they seem to start at the same place but they veer off in different ways. i can't prove, of course, that forbes' mental illness is tied to his civil war experience and particularly his imprisonment but you have to wonder. it seems that it played a role. >> lesley gordon, those are survivors. you're sitting in front of the cemetery there are there those who died at andersonville who are unknown? >> yeah, the best estimates are there's about 500 unknown graves here. but the -- right after the prison closed and then going forward in the post-war period, there was a national effort to identify the dead here. and the prisoners were part of that. the survivors were part of that.
they were intent on ensuring that the dead here were remembered and the names were put on the graves. and dorence atwater who was here was part of that, clara barton was active as many people know. and so this became really crucial. there's a movement across the country both north and south, to bury the dead, to commemorate the dead. but here at andersonville was especially significant that the dead here, as i said, that they be identified and accounted for. and so if you think about it for the 13,000, that 500 of them aren't named. in some ways it's remarkable given the way they died and the conditions. >> our next call is greenville, south carolina. here is james. >> caller: yes. i wanted to ask about the food situation at the andersonville prison. the south had a shortage of food
at certain times, i think. and i wondered how that affected the prison and did the prisoners have any kind of shelter to live under. >> well, the food for the prisoners were particularly poor. you know, this area of georgia had been relatively untouched by the war. again before sherman came here. and this was farm land and these farms here certainly could have, you know, been able to provide food for the prisoners. there were problems with, you know, getting good quality food to the prisoners. and i think that's where the question of who's responsible were some of that, henry wirz, i think that plays at his feet. and you know, there were some things again that he could control and he could not