tv Fall of Richmond and Appomattox CSPAN February 20, 2016 9:05pm-10:01pm EST
comes to us from the macarthur fund in norfolk virginia. the only thing that is really equitable in the cap thing he is overseeing would be a presidential library. that is a really significant thing. think about what douglas macarthur did during world war ii during the years afterwards. he really shaped the face of the pacific in a way that no one else has. and so that repository of documents and memorabilia and artifacts is really a significant component of the 20th century. that is his day job. by 19 is still in love with the american civil war.
he has since gone on to perryville he's got onto the led them inn museum norfolk at the macarthur he still goes to bed at night in dreams about the civil war. delight toeat introduce to you my great brethren chris kolakowski. i have been introduced many many ways and many many years and consistently the most i encourage you all
to come down to norfork and visit the macarthur memorial. it's a fantastic place and i am proud to be leader of the team that preserves the life and times of macarthur memorial. if that gig doesn't work with you, i can probably find you a spot on the staff. i think you are doing ok up in new york. [laughter] when you go first in the day, it's a bit of a responsibility. i set the pace for everybody else. it also presents a challenge for me. because i'm going first, you are still waking up. it means hopefully you won't notice any hesitations or "uhhs" or anything like that. but my history and colleagues are hoping i don't set too rigorous of a pace as well. we are going to have a far ranging discussion and i will take questions at the end. it will set the stage for the rest of the topics of the day. we talk about the civil war. the civil war ended in 1855. it ended at appomattox.
the last confederate forces hundred 50 years ago today have yet to surrender. the shenandoah will hold down the last like in 1865. what i want to do, the truism is that the war ended at appomattox, april 9, 1865 when robert e lee surrendered to u.s. grant. that's a good starting point. what i want to do is not focus on appomattox so much, although we will talk about it. but i want to pull the lens back and look at appomattox in context. the end of the war, any war, not just the civil war, but we are passing several anniversaries of the end of the war of 1812, the end of american involvement in vietnam with the fall of saigon, the end of the second world war, both in may of this year and in august, coming up in just a few weeks. the end of the war, any war, is the beginning of the peace. how that ending goes can reverberate for a long time.
richmond, for four years, has 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 ever tried to capture up to this point in history of the country. the largest army the u.s. has ever fielded, the army of the potomac, has its objective at richmond.
as april 1865 begins, the battle of five forks outside of 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 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 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 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, what's going to happen in richmond, is a shipwreck.
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 of 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.
richmond, for the confederates, and for the union, is the same thing. let's talk about what happens to the city of richmond when jeff davis is pulled out of church and told you have six hours. 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 limit. once that runs out, if you are in richmond, there is a very uncertain future coming your way.
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? what do you do with your valuables? do you bury them in the garden? do you leave 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 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 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 richmond. a hotel before the fall of singapore, british staff officers with nothing better to do were drinking whiskey sodas. 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. everything which can't be moved, and is militarily valuable, the confederate army is blowing up. railyards, depots. that sets a finality.
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 didn't know that the war in virginia was going to end in a week in appomattox. 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 saw 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
here when the richmond battlefield did the 150th, about the battles of civil wars, do you know one of the most attended programs were that they did? 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 that picture tells me that they feel in their bones the 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.
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 watching the fall of manila. he said it was like leaving an old friend. a similar sentiment people felt as they left 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 was the best campaign the potomac army ever wages. they catch part of them april 6 at sailor's creek, catching quite a few of them. morning of april 9, they surround the army of northern 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 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 than 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 interesting -- i will ask 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 pose 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 up in the parlour of one wilmer mclean. 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. 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 little bit of time developing that thought even more. 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. 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.
christopher: 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. he said, "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 in the 1850's." think about that. two societies, one government, and slavery is an aggravating factor in all of this. what does that mean? let me give you a couple of statistics as we develop this. in 1860, one in four northerners
lived in cities. where's only one in 10 southerners did. only 40% of northerners work in agriculture. in the south, 84% farmed. southern investment in factories halved. in only two confederate cities 1861, had a population over 40,000, whereas the north had 19 cities that could claim to cross that threshold. largest city in the confedarcy, april 1, 1865, was in 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 southern children who went to school were
half that of northern children. 1860 per capita, 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. most crucial demographic difference resulted from slavery. 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, about the issue of slavery sharpening hatreds. white supremacy in the south is so much greater as to constitute a different order of magnitude to contribute more than any more factor to differences between the north and south. the fear that slavery was being hemmed in and threatened with destruction contributed 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? let me put them very's essentially can simply for you.
-- let me put them very's simply and succinctly for you. 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? the manifesto for this was issued at lincoln's second inaugural. "with malice towards none and charity to all. peace between ourselves and all nations of the world." christopher: 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. 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 predictions for where the united states is going. he is writing it before his death in 1855. one of the things he says is, "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 that grant brings into wilmer mclean's 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 very poor
and modest beginnings to the statures and places 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 into wilmer mclean's parlor. 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. so he writes the terms, and i always found this to be an interesting thing. i am still unpacking what this means. i want to pose this to you because 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 parole them 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, fight, and live. but in the southern army, you had to bring your own horses. people have glossed over that little point of discussion. i think that says a great deal of the mentality of both sides and how they structured their army. organization can be an interesting determinant of the values of a particular organization. i am still unpacking this. i want to commend it to you for some food for thought. i already see a few wheels turning. grant and lee consummate the surrender at appomattox. april 9, 1865. this is the first domino in the chain that will cause the confederacy to fall over the and certainly the , rest of the year. but 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 a grace and a dignity that sends a message about him and who he is and what he stands for. but then he writes a letter on the morning of april 10 to his army.
i want to read the first sentence. this is general order number nine. it is often quoted, but i don't think the first sentence has gotten to you. here is what it says "after four , years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed rich and courage and fortitude, the army of 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 surrender to macarthur. 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. we weren't wrong, but 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 in the time after the civil war. another reverberation of appomattox going forward. i should point out as well, since i am the director of the macarthur memorial, you will notice how both men have stage managed 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. macarthur did the same thing on the deck of the missouri.
the emperor did the same thing in tokyo. but dwight eisenhower in europe didn't. that is a talk for a whole other time. if you contrast that, it's interesting between the two sides. i want to spend the remaining again, we talk about how appomattox echoes the end of the war. we have examined some pieces of this. i want to tell a story that i think illustrates more than any other the enduring power of appomattox, lee's example at appomattox. 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 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 wife was lafayette mclaw's youngest daughter. the family silver is in the philippines, by the way. when manila is evacuated, he hides the silver in a bank vault in the bank of manila, where it
survives the war and is still part of the family to this day. an interesting footnote for you. general king in late march and early april of 1942 is commander of the 76,000 americans and filipinos holding the peninsula at the mouth of manila bay. they have been enduring a siege under half rations. they have 25% combat effective at this point. combat effective being somebody who can get out of a foxhole, walk 125 yards, and fire a shot. five aimed shots. that is the definition of combat effective. it is early april. japanese launch their last attack. good friday, april 3, 1942, and after several days of fighting on april 6, the last american lines have been broken. the last counterattacks have failed. all reserves are in. the japanese advance down the eastern coast of batan.
they have about 10 miles to go. king is committing all reinforcements. but they can't hold. now king, unlike lee, king is not completely a free actor at this moment. lee has an independence of action. king has bosses. jonathan wainwright served on the mississippi river during the running of new orleans and died off galveston in 1863. his maternal grandfather was the chief of the staff of the army of the james at appamattox, and it was the guy who designed the swamp angel outside of charleston in 1864. wainwright's boss was general union of, son of a metal of honor recipient. the author of the song, "the
fight is on." he has three articles that served in the six virginia. 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 in 1942. macarthur sends a message to wainwright, and wainwright is forced to pass a message on. "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. on the evening of april 8, 1942, his staff tells him, "sir, within 36 hours the battle lines will be among our hospitals." and 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, 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. and king, who left his sword in manila, took his pistol out and put it on the table. and thus handed over the garrison at batan. why do i tell you that story? i tell you that story because of appomattoxion to
beyond the congruent dates of april 9, 1865 and 1942. i tell that story because you can see right there the reverberation of appomattox. the reverberation of grant and lee, and how it inspired, guided, and sustains an american major general 77 years after he made a decision that no officer had to make before or since. that example of robert e. lee and grant guided general king. it is another echo and further illustration and somehow ties together everything we have been talking about about the ongoing resonance of the events of april, 1865 and the end of the civil war. so in the end what does all this show? 1865 wasn't an end. it was a beginning. and a very significant one.
beyond all that, 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. [applause] >> [inaudible] [indiscernible]
>> 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 follow that, what do you do about general longstreet? i said many of the generals. 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: when you ask for my take, help me. i want to address specifically what you are looking at, because that is a whole talk for itself. >> -- not eagerness, but the fact that he is pretty much -- i imagine he inspired some others to say, "it's over." he joins the republican party, goes to the extreme, and becomes a pariah for a while. what is your take on his
resolution of the conflict? christopher: that is what i thought you were going for. i wanted to make sure. james longstreet -- let's focus it focuses on the army of northern virginia. street, because of the 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 discussion in
this way. we were not wrong. we were just beaten by too many men. the fact that longstreet was personal friends with grant put himself further outside the pale. so, longstreet was always a bit of an outsider anyway. , his focuscus on lee on the army and virginia. because of what he does afterward, 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. it is the duty of any -- this is true in corporate settings, to.
o. 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. that is fine. that is their prerogative. it is your duty in a situation like that, when you are facing a life and death situation for an organization, and you have informational perspective you think the boss should have, it is your responsibility to present that information. to me, he did his duty. it is exactly what you would expect from a second ranking officer in that army. it is a complex question you ask . it is complex answer i give, but that would be my response. >> i know everyone likes to "what if" the civil war. so let's go back to the surrender house. what if it would not have
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 in there with lee and the terms that they agreed upon? and 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. but did grant talk with lincoln? did he talk with other folks? christopher: 31st of march, 1865. general grant and abraham lincoln met on a steamer. the name escapes me at the moment.
river queen, thank you. off of the city point. they discussed these issues. lincoln issued his guidance, because they knew the end of the war was not far away. they sensed it. they knew that grant's final offensive was happening. they knew that they were getting close to the end. what grant is doing is using lincoln's guidance. there is that famous telegram from sheridan saying "if the , thing is pressed, i think we can finish it here." lincoln telegraphs back immediately, "let the thing be pressed." that question is guiding grant. we have an example of what sherman would have been like because he was more lenient with joe johnston than grant was. sherman basically concluded a peace treaty with the confederate government.
it was not de facto history. he basically concluded to general peace at bennett place. you have confederate cabinet officers involved in discussions. the confederate government as also present. and, andrew johnson, who was the new president, johnson said, you don't have the power to do that. you are answering too many political questions. that is my prerogative. go back and give them the same as appomattox. there's no question in my mind that sherman and grant both understood they needed to in the war and they were going to follow the president's guidance and let them up easy and find a way to get this done and start on the road to reconstruction. a very nice job of tying lincoln's template into that -- charity for all and malice toward none. that was the blueprint he gave his generals to follow. christopher: exactly.
lincoln defined the war -- in gettysburg with the gettysburg address. he defined the end of the war in the second inaugural in march 1865. i think it is no coincidence that those are the two speeches on the wall in the lincoln memorial in washington, d.c. every american should know them theyudying them because exemplify. >> -- talks about the template and the founding document. we are going to take a five-minute break. ladies and gentlemen, chris kolakowski. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, and c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history.
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