tv Four Influential Civil War Military Wives CSPAN December 21, 2016 10:45pm-11:44pm EST
the greatest enemies may be slow. this was the finest, the land 4 linden johnson on the first of december, 1966. >> the film the presidentç 196 documents the final month of the year of president linden b johnson. his meeting with mexico's president at cooperative d8 project. awarding medal of honor for marine and celebrating the holidays with his family at his texas ranch. at 8:00 on theç presidency, william hazel, arthuthor of madç president. and she buffered access to the president as he recovered from a massive strokep in 1919. for complete schedule, go to cspan.org. >> join us on tuesday, january 3zvrd for live coverage of the
opening day of the new congress. watch the official swearing in of the new and re-elected members of the house and senate. members he election of the sena all day live coverage of today's coverage of capital hill begins with 7:00 a.m. eastern onzv csp or you can listen to it on the cspan radio app. >> up next on americanko histor tv, a conversation with candace shy hooper about her book lincoln's generals lives, four women who influenced they%y%1 war for better and for worse. the women profiled in the book are jessie fremont, nelly mcclellan, andç julia grant. president lincoln's cottage in washington, d.c. hosted this hour long çevent. >> joining us tonight is president lincoln's cottage board member shy cooper and cspan to discussym candy's new book, lincoln's general lives,
four women who influence the course of the civil war, for better and for worst. candacezv shy cooper served as press secretary and legislative assistant charlie wilson before becoming vice president of in national energy company. she then joined a major new york law firm as legislative temple. with her husband, ms.ç cooper, later founded the longing from cooper, cooper and owen. she holds a journalism degree from university of illinois. law degree from georgetown and master of arts degree in history from george washington university. her writing has been published " she has lectured at the united states naval academy and at conferences, southern historical association andç the film in t history association. in addition to serving on the soundingboard of directors at president lincoln's cottage, she serve on the advisory board and historical homes in detroit
michigan.u! cspan's ceo. she integrates without on camera interviewer sitting down with president andu! first ladies, members of congress, supreme court justices, historians and political journalists. first lay fir[t!ladies. presidential historians. this was the ninth book susan had led working with public affairs,ç supreme court and abraham lincoln. each book is special collection of cspan interviews and retain perspective of other feature suspects. hundreds and hundreds of volumes on lincolns in the civil war and his relationship with the militaryç leadership and linco file. candy's new book, lincoln's
general slide, gives voice to the other half of soetd andç provides valuable addition by looking at how the wives of john looking at how the wives of john c. fremont theya in the union of effort. providing a look at their complete lives, including mapping their movementsd8 durin the civil war, candy had jessie fremont and mcclellan butting heads with lincoln, while ellen sherman encouraged their )(páion to lincoln. it's a fascinating detail of how noncombative neither elected or important played a keyç role. please join me candace cooper and susan flames.ko [ applause ] good evening everyone. nice to see you. i'll tell you a personal note. candy and ip knew each other since washington 30 years ago and we haven't seen each other
since, so when the cottage book called and asked if iç would d this tonight, first of all, she sent us to a number of events here and so happy to support the cottage and then a chance to se% candy in then to see candy in this capacity and spend time with all of you, i couldn't possibly say no. because, now you know, a little bit of a personal thing. i want to make sure this is a very personal event tonight. we really emphasize the conversation part of. this i'm going to be talking with candy for about 25 minutes or so and then we really want to hear your questions. these are four very interesting women. and i will be able to only skim the surface and we want to hear what you hear about them. let's get at it, candy. i know from the many biographer that's i've had a chance to meet over the years, but when you take on a project like this, you and your family live with these people. for the time that you're doing
the research and writing. so having lived with these four women, which one did you most enjoy living with and which one did you want to divorce? >> as you said, we lived with them. my husband and i lived with them, my husband says he lived with five women for eight years. and is pretty clear that jesse fremont seemed to be the one that was most irritating personality. i think the one i enjoyed the most though was julia graham. they she was a much more complex biographer than i think they give credit for.
if you read the memoirs, she was the first lady to write memoirs. they were set aside for many years. but if you read her memoirs closely, she gets back at every one of the people who didn't think that her list was going to be successful in life. she jabs at them. she is funny as can be. she makes the funniest comments. and she is just really a delightful person but with a sense of dignity, too.
i had stumbled on a number of these stories. most notably, of course, jesse fremont who had a disastrous meeting with lincoln. one of the most famous meetings in the white house during the civil war and famously bad. and then i learned that sherman had gone to washington to try to get help for her husband when he was declared insane by all the newspapers. and her meeting went very well. and at that time, even as i was still in -- as i had gone back to graduate school, i was still working as a lobbyist. i said these are two different lobbying styles. so let me look and see what they did. and i know there were other women, wives of military officers. but what really brought this
book together was when i tried to find then a general -- another general whose career path matched free momentmontfre started out as a major general in may of 1861. by the end of 1862, lincoln relieved him of command. so i'm looking for another general and, boom, there is george mcclellan, almost exactly the same career trajectory. i said what other general had the same career path as william sherman? he could hardly get back into the army. he sort of didn't want. to even when he did, he couldn't get a command. he said he was going to look at
the others' wives. when i looked at mcclellan's wife, maryellen, marsy or nelly and then i looked at grant's wife, julia grant, and they seemed to have some very similar characteristics. there were coincidences of the two wives that really rose to greatness in four years. >> well, so the thesis, of course, is that the great men are supported by the wives. but we have to talk about victorian women in society. because influence in victorian women seem like opposing concepts. because at that period of time, women were basically domestic. they were to stay in the domestic sphere. so how did the four women wield
influence? >> one of the ways -- also as part of that thesis is the relationships or the opinions that these women had about lincoln. >> she was this quiet person and the husband was in the public sphere. but women who wanted to certainly had many ways of making their opinions known and in getting their husbands to begin to think their way. in some cases, it might be like julia grant, things as simple as when mary lincoln invited them to the theater on april 14th,
1865. julia refused to go. now her husband had pretty much already told lincoln that they would go. julia said no. she had what she called a freak. this is where i think the book becomes the most interesting. you see the women who encouraged their husband's every thought and even their every poor judgement as opposed to the women who question their husband onz things that they were doing. they said to move the jews out of the military camps because they were selling cotton and she said that was odious and he never should have done.
that you can see, too, that women have -- have a means of reinforcing either the best in their husbands or the worst. and that's what this study is. >> as a little aside, i asked aaron, the museum director, which room was the lincoln bedroom. we're sitting in it. you talk about influence being wielded. i can just see the conversation that's may have happened in this room 150 years ago. so interesting. whether we mention lincoln, of course, lincoln is the son lincoln was so heavily involved in choosing officers in command.
it's a world we have not seen maybe the last president that intervened in the choosing of senior commanders, the hiring and firing. and in most of those cases, he knew something about the general. and he either knew them from their reputations in the earlier war, the mexican war, where they did make the reputations. or he knew them through their relationships and their families or their family ties or their politics as in general mcclellan and frank blare who were members of congress. whom he appointed. 'pointed political generals and then he raised meritorious generals. so this was washington was a very small world then.
and when generals or captains or majors or even first lieutenants felt that they should be promoted and they weren't getting the athengs they wanted, sometimes they sent their very pretty wives in to see lincoln. and he enjoyed that very much. he actually wrote about at least two of the wives how his pretty wife says i should make him major. or about another wife that she wants her husband to be a brigadier general and i may just have to do it or that saucy woman will torment me forever. it was a very personal relationship with the generals. >> mary lincoln kept her eye on how he corresponded with some of these women. i'll jump ahead. you tell storty that is one of
the real devisive things between julia grant and mary lincoln. she may have been paying too much attention tolt preside the. >> yes, mary lincoln, the dress maker, many of you know of her, but she once observed if a woman wanted to get into great disfavor with mary lincoln should pay president lincoln a compliment. and julia did that on one occasion at city point late in the war. mary was unhappy about. that and it sort of set the tone for their whole experience together at city point in those last days of the war. >> so before i leave, my sun and planet metaphor, you used a metaphor from the solar system from the generals and i liblgke and i want to share.
the two general that's had the difficult careers were meteors and the two sherman and grant with the successful were stars. what did they mean to you? >> what i tried to say is fremont and mcclellan burst on the scene in the war as meteors. they climb high in the public sight. they created huge light and chaos and then they pretty much disappears from sight in just a very short time. where sherman and grant were more like stars that you know, in twilight you don't see them as much but when things get darker and darker, they get brighter and brighter and they essentially have to lead the path home. >> so we're going to spend a little more time with these four women.
i'm mentioning jesse free monlt because she daughter of a famous legislature. >> she was the father of thomas hart benton, first senators from missouri. he was a man that is so respected for his integrity, particularly his anti-slavery stance which first cost him his seat in the senate and then cost him a seat in the house. that both theodore roosevelt wrote a biography of thomas hart benton and john kennedy included him in his profiles in courage. he was a giant of a man who came from a slave holding family. and then went in completely the opposite direction. he was sure his first child was going to be a boy and he was going to name the boy after his father jesse.
well, things happened. and she was named jesse and just spelled a little bit differently. and he educated her like a man. he had one of the best libraries in washington. it rivalled the library of congress at that time at their home in st. louis. he certainly had the best library west of the -- west -- in the west. and he, as i said, he raised her with an education as a man and taught her politics and by the time she was a teenager, she spoke french and spanish and she read latin and greek. and she was just totally unfit to be a victorian wife. she was so interested in politics. her mother who was obviously somebody that she was very close to but was a woman who had been raised on a plantation.
she hated slavery. but she also did not feel comfortable either in this sort of rough and tumble st. louis or in washington politics and she pretty much withdrew from society. so jesse really grew up as her father's daughter. >> did she share her father's passion for abolition? >> yes, she did. she wrote against slavery. she said she would rather have her children brought up in the midst of small pox than the midst of slavery. >> so how did she and john charles free monlt mamomont makd how did the senator feel about it? >> john charles fremont was one of the great explorers or leaders of expeditions and map makers in our history. but he was -- he had been born out of wedlock. did he not go to west point.
he got? very good skills there which he turned into map making and he became part of what was called the army topographical service. and went on many expeditions and went across the country on five different expeditions and the first one as he came back, thomas hart benton was always there in st. louis to grab everyone coming from the west. he had such a strong belief in the potential of the west for the united states. and so he would grab fremont and then when fremont came to washington to write up his reports and actually make his maps from his field notes, benton would meet him and was just enchanted by this dashing young lieutenant. and at one point when jesse was 15 years old, he -- in school in washington thomas hart benton took john fremont to a concert.
it was at his daughter's boreding school in washington and jesse fell immediately in love at the state of 15. >> and stayed in love? >> and stayed in lochlt it was a passionate one. in fact -- but as soon as senator benton and his wife realized that this daughter that they have raised and groomed to be the toast of washington society was in love with a man of no pedigree and no real future, they shipped them to have another expedition in nebraska or something. but in fact when he did come back and when she was 17, they got married. the bentons were not happy about it. but when he said leave the house. she said where you go, i go. and at that point thomas hart benton said then you're both
staying here because he couldn't give up jesse. >> because of time, i'm going to you have get to the crux of thifr story and what it was that put them at odds with president lincoln and doomed his career? >> the most important thing is the thing we celebrate in this room which is calls the emancipation room. where lincoln helped her write the preliminary emancipation proclamation that was issued in september of 1862. but in august of 1861 at the very beginning of the war, before anybody was fighting to end slavery, when they were fighting to keep the union together, john charles free monlt issued his own emancipation proclamation n st. louis for the missouri territory and kentucky which he had under his command. and lincoln had to read about it in the newspapers. he didn't even send him an
advance copy. or tweet or anything. and what started happening was that men in missouri would sign up to fight to save the union and decide they were not going to fight for slavery at that time. it was too early. so at that point, lincoln asked him to revoke his emancipation order and jesse gets on a train to washington. and he goes to the white house, insists on a meeting late at night at 9:00 and goes in and they end up having sort of a verbal fistfight. he insists that fremonts were to be revoked and she's not happy about it for several days afterwards. and in, fact, free monlt distributes the order afterwards. and then fremont is out zbluchlt
tell us that over time jesse fremont's view of lincoln evolved from naive to irrelevant. irrelevant so disdain. where was she in that progression by the time that meeting happened? >> when that meeting happened, she was still thinking he was irrelevant. that really fremont didn't need to let him know because he told fremont to take care of things in missouri and that's what free monlt was doing. it was after that meeting when he soon afterwards took fremont's command away from him that she moved to disdain. and then that became her pattern. and she never, ever said a nice thing about lincoln again. >> it takes us off the arc of the lincoln story. these people lived big lives. and the arc of the life after
the military is just fascinating to me. they made a fortune and then lost it. and she died penniless. how did all that happen? >> well, i was all pretty much of a piece with fremont's poor management skills which were very much on display in his management of the military department of the west in st. louis which is something that he had been investigated for. she gave a man $3,000 and told him to invest it in an area that is now san francisco. well the man screwed up and invested it in the yosemite valley and at that point, fremont is too busy doing other things to undo that error. but pretty soon they find gold. and they find lots of gold.
the problem it is takes a lot of none get a lot of gold out of the ground. fremont was not good at matching the input and output side of those ee wagss vequations very . but he finally did. so that property after the war sold for $4 million which at that time was real money. and they were fabulously wealthy. and then he invested it in a railroad scheme which went completely bust. and so in the end, he went back to washington to try to get a pension for himself. he was given a pension and on the way back home he died of a heart attack. and so jesse was left with nothing, no pension, no money, no nothing. >> i will say this briefly. i was fascinated by the fact that that disdain lasted the
rest of her life for lincoln. she published memoirs of famous people she met. she omitted lincoln. and people would ask her, publishers would ask her to write about her husband's emancipation proclamation or write about lincoln and she refused. she said his cruel debt silenced much truth. saying, basically, if he wasn't assassinated, she would have been willing to say some bad things about him. but she held her tongue. >> talk about missing the lead. >> really. >> so let's quickly jump into knelly mcclellan. she also had a famous father. who is her father and how did she meet john mcclellan? >> one thing i beloved this book and i go into more detail in the conclusion is how important these women's fathers were in their husband's careers. because they really were. and i hadn't really thought about that before. but randolph barnes marsy was a
famous explorer. did he much of the early expeditions into the great plains. and actually his books were used by many pioneers as guides to go into the great plains. there are a number of animals named after him, including a frog. but he was a jivenlt a man. he was very well respected in the army. and when -- and he was actually in minnesota in indian territory in wisconsin with his wife who was very adventurous at that time when knelly was born and one of her first nannies was an indian squaw who had her in a papous. but marsy then later became mcclellan's chief of staff. and he had it, as i said, he had a distinguished military career.
>> i think that -- i think that it was. she was a beautiful young woman. she had eight offers of marriage including two from mcclellan before she took his but she became engaged to a.p. hill who became a famous confederate general. but her parents did not like a.p. hill because he was a line officer. and so she wouldn't have the life that they wanted her to have. it would be a hard life. but she -- her -- her life was more trying than it may seem on the surface. i do think that there was this
sense of ambivalence by the time she finally married mcclellan, she was pretty much out of options. she was 26 years old and her father was taking her and her mother to his new posting which was in the minnesota territory which was indian territory. so they stop in chicago. mcclellan was famous in the mexican war is now president of the illinois central railroad. has a beautiful home. >> in the case of mcclellan, you said general mcclellan had mental issues. he thought he was devinely ordained for higher purpose and that's what got him into trouble as a general. >> it d and he married nelly.
he did two things that flew in the face of his own upbringing. her family was big in home open pi. his father was a distinguished doctor who began the jefferson medical college, one of the first medical schools in the united states. sow goes to homeopathy. but then he also takes her religion. he becomes a presbyterian. now not to say anything against presbyterians. i'm sure some of you all know that from sample stonewall jackson was a fapous presbyterian. the fact that you had a devine or a predestined, whether your going to be victorious or you were going to lose on the field of battle, didn't make stonewall jackson sit around and wait for it to happen. what filtered through
mcclellan's mind made him feel that whatever happened was devinely ordained. >> how would he know? >> i think he was waiting for a sign. >> lincoln finally got frustrated and fired him. >> yes. >> and again to fast forward through this, the amazing thing is that they challenged him for the presidency. and she encouraged that? >> yes. yes. in fact, both free monlt and mcclellan ran against lincoln in the 1864 campaign. now jesse actually maneuvered her husband out of that campaign. but mcclellan was the democratic candidate for president against lincoln in the 1864 campaign.
and, you know, whatever he wanted to do, that was fine with nelly. and he lost disastrously. he wasn't prepared for it. as i say, that was the first time that he ever underestimated the number of men opposed to him. he always on the battlefield said now there are many more enemies, many more enemies. i need more men. but -- >> and the worst thing it sounds like nelly did for her husband about whom i think she was ambivalent was publishing his letters. >> yes. mcclellan wrote -- mcclellan got them to agree they would write each day they were apart. and so they d and no matter what, he wrote a letter to her every night. and they were filled with the most amazing language when it came to lincoln who is a gorilla or stanton. he is a judist, halic is the devil. and he asked her to keep them
private. but after he difd a heart attack at the age of 58, his literary executor published a set of memoir that's they put together and then put the letters in. now i don't believe -- i don't believe that nelly said, yes, i want these letters to be published. but i do think that she just had enough and when they said i'm going to handle this for you. your husband is just died. it was the same year that grant died and his memoirs were being sold. so famously and we're going to get you more money and if we put the letters in, it's going to be a good thing. it was a disaster. so eleanor sherman also had a famous father. also notable she was a catholic. that is an important part of her biography. and fascinating that three of her brothers plus her husband
were generals in the civil war. totally immersed in this war effort. now you talked about the crux of her story is that her husband was accused after setbacks on the battlefield of being insane. and eleanor goes into motion at this point. how does she help to restore her husband's reputation? >> in the very early part of the war in the fall of 1861, sherman is in kentucky and he's second in command to robert anderson and robert anderson's health fails. so he is forced to take command. he had specifically asked lincoln three weeks before that he into the be given command. but now he's placed in command. and he just thinks that there is an overwhelming force against him. and he begins to show signs of a
nervous breakdown. he asks to be relieved. when he is relieved, then the newspaper carry this headline, william t. sherman insane. and he wants to hide. he is almost near committing suicide in some people's opinion. that will be his legacy. but ellen wants to fight. and she gets her brothers and her father to begin to write letters, deal with the editors. she writes general and then she goes to see president lincoln. >> that's such an interesting meeting. because, of course, as we all noi, lincoln suffered from melancolia early in his life. i really do believe that lincoln realized that sherman was probably going through the same
thing. i think he emphasized with what was going on. he said have general sherman keep on doing what he's doing and it will all get better. because that's what happened to him. and they went away. they didn't -- as jesse did, ask for more. they went away and did he get better. and kept on going. >> so on to your favorite. >> julia dent grant who also from st. louis area and she was a child of the slavery system and plantation life. and here she grew up married to the commanding general of the union army. >> she brought her slaves with her during most of the war.
she travelled with her slaves. h her slave was also julia. legend she was born at the same time. also named julia. she took her with her. to the various military camps. now how did u ulises and julia, their lives were very different. they didn't want to be entertained in the home of slave owners. they didn't even attend their wedding. but he loved julia. and he dealt with it. because that was her life. and so that is a hard thing it seems to reconcile. but we know that he did not like slavery. he ended up having his own slave probably through julia's father. but he gave him his freedom at a
time that the grants needed the money. that they could have gotten by selling that slave. when julia's slave finally left her because she was going to be taking her back into missouri where she would be enslaved again, grant didn't raise a finger to try to go find that slave for julia. it was obviously a very difficult -- well, it's complicated situation. it wasn't difficult because julia never said a word against her husband or lincoln's fight against slavery or all the changes that it brought in the life she grew up. >> the interesting thing about grant's career is that it was in two parts. he had an early military career and he left. and then had a very unsuccessful time trying to find his way in business. and then went back for the second part which ended up being tremendously successful for lincoln, for the union, for the
country. but julia was part of the reason why he left. and it's because -- he loved her so much he was desperate to hear from her and she wouldn't write him on the battlefield. he became a very, very sad and lonely and didn't have that support. why didn't she write to him on the battlefield? >> i think that she did not write to him as often as she needed it because she had an eye defect that impairs your vision, makes your regular vision poor. you have no 3-d, you have no depth perception and you don't see things in 3-d. everything looks like painting. so she had eye difficulties and as a child instead of being disciplined to try to overcome that problem as robert todd lincoln was, as benjamin butler was, her parents just pampered her. they just said oh, you know, if you stumble on your way to will school, well, her brothers would
carry her in a chair on her way to school. and if she didn't write, she didn't read, the teachers were fine with that. and i think that she just grew up thinking that everything was going to be fine even if she slacked off in certain areas. that ran into grant's need and hunger to be reassured of her love for him. >> the way she compensate ford that in part two of his military career is illustrated right here and i'm going to shoeld it up. maybe can you get a sense for it. candy can tell this story. she went -- as she researched the four general's wives and the amount of time they spent on the road traveling to see their husbands and battle fields during the war, 10,000 miles on the part of julia grant. so she made up for not writing letters by actually being with him in camp. >> yes. >> she must have been a prime target for the con fed rats.
>> yes. in fact, she came within just hours of being kidnapped by them in december of 1862 and holly springs, mississippi. she gotten telegram from her husband. she was. there he was in oxford to come on to oxford, that railroad was open then. and instead of waiting for the weekend as he thought she was going, to she got on the train right then with her son and her slave and they got right up to oxford and the confederates came in under colonel van dorn, the cavalry. and they went to the very house that julia had been staying in and asked for her. so they knew she was there. >> now what was the important role she played in the success of his sucked foray into the military? >> her determination to overcome
the fact she couldn't write to him and keep him reassured in that way, meant she had to find other ways to do it. the first way she tried to do it is sending their son fred, sending their 11-year-old son off to him when he got the first command. they were going to war. and so fred came back. and then it was after that that she decided that if she wasn't going to write to him, and they knew she wouldn't, she would travel to be with him. and 10,000 mile, trains, ferries, boats, bad eyesight, i think that's another reason why her slave was so important to her. oftentimes with all four of their children, always at least with one child. it was a real testament to their devotion. >> and her major contribution to the war effort. >> yes. >> i'll say from my learning about first ladies when she made it to the white house, she was one of the women who loved being first lady more than any other first lady. and when he decided not to run
for his third term, he didn't tell her until after he had already told the party. and she apparently was devastated by that decision. she just loved being in the white house. so her life from all the time she spent on the battlefield made up for it in the days in the white house together. i told you i was only going to skim the surface. there is so much more. but it's time for your questions. my dear colleague is back here with a microphone. so anybody that has one, wait a second until he can get to you. the folks watching this on c-span can also hear it. so who has a question for candy? right up here in the front. >> so i'm struck by the families these women come from. strong fathers. obviously encouraged to be strong women. as opposed to jackson's wife who is quite shy and almost
embarrassed to show herself in public. how much in your opinion does that family background count in how these women developed? >> i think it's tremendously important. because, first of all, these men, you know, these women were attracting men who were singularly ambitious and for most part, you no, with all appearance of having successful future ahead of them. and the women, i think, had to be extraordinary in order to attract those men and literally to live the lives that they did. and the family upbringing, again, their mothers get shorted in this story to a certain extent because there is not much available about those mothers.
but can you see where ellen's mother and her catholic upbringing and what a great influence that had on her. you can see and jesse's case with her mother withdrawing seemed to only make her to want to be more actively a partner in a marriage. but i think it's all very important. >> who else? >> so i know that emancipation that lincoln wrote only freed slaves that were in confederate states and not the other states because he wanted to keep them on the side of the union. what was not month piece of that one? >> missouri was a border state and so that's why her slaves -- the slaves she had and that her father had could remain slaves during the war. but when she went to travel with president grant with her slave,
she was literally in union territory whenever he was there in his camps. and so -- but they still counted her as a slave. but then at the -- near the end of that time and in early 1863, their son fred is back in missouri. they're now in memphis. their son fred is in missouri. and he's ill. and they need to go back. so she's going to go back to missouri with her slave. and jewel, that was the slave's name, just was not going to go back and run the risk of being enslaved again. and so off she goes. the thing that is so great about this story is in julia's memoir, she writes but soon after we learn that she got married. so we know there was a happy ending. and then in a book of letters by jesse grant, every year on his birthday he would get a letter from jewel asking him for a
present. so she kept in touch with him for a long time. >> were you also asking about fremont's early emancipation? >> i'm sorry. i was thinking -- free monlt's order in missouri, did he that as a way of trying to tamp down the gorilla violence that was going on in that state at the time. he thought if he issued an order, again, this is very early in the war that said if you're fighting against the union, your slaves will be free. that the gorillas would come home to save their slaves. but that wasn't the way it was going to work. he saw it as part of marshal law, just trying to keep order within the state and not thinking of the big picture.
wasn't thinking of what it could do in term of the union side of the war effort. he was only thinking about trying to get the gorillas to stop fighting. >> i appreciate your comments. as a member of the association, i really appreciation the emphasis on julia. i agree, she underappreciated. can you speak to the, you know sh these women weren't brought up to be independent and, you know, financially -- they weren't taught financial manage ment skills and all. and, yet, you know, especially in the case of grant and sherman's wives, i mean they were left for very long periods to manage the household, many children, the finances.
what does that say about julia grant and her wherewithal to get through those tough years and manage the household and the finances? >> it says a great deal about her. frankly, it says a great deal about all of these women. but jesse and ellen and julia all had to manage what were often very complex financial transactions. i mean, sometimes my eyes would just blur trying to understand what grant was asking her to do with rents from various properties and notes they had on various properties and paying this debt and holding on to that note is very complicated. and so to me, i grew up in a military family. my dad was navy hospital
corpsman. i could always see my mom having to deal with things while he was on sea duty. and to me, it says -- what it says about military spouses even now that there is just enormous amount of complicated financial, parenting, social issues that they have to deal with all the time. who else has a question? >> was it controversial at the time that julia grant was -- had a slave? was it a public controversy? >> it was a point of -- it was used by some of grant's detractors to try to get lincoln to get rid of him. her having a slave was not an issue until she brought that slave into the military camp.
and then people who didn't like grant and at this early stage it was mostly newspaper editors who didn't like him, allowing freedom of the press and only wanted their newspapers circulated in cam thap wrote-- and wrote a letter to lincoln. he said you have a general in camp here in illinois. what are you going to do about it? and lincoln did nothing. >> anyone else? yes. >> mary todd lincoln was not the person that had friends but did she have any positive relationship withive in these women? >> not really. but in, fact, she did sort of have a girlfriend. and that was elizabeth blare lee who was on silver spring here and who was the one who built
the blair house that's in washington, and she lived in the town house next to it. and she would go back and forth and she would entertain mary and she would go over for tea. but of all of the people that i know, that's really the only one that i know of. and, frankly, if any of you ever have an opportunity to read any of elizabeth blare lee's letters, she was writing the letter to her husband on the night of the assassination and somebody knocked on her door with the news. and that is the most dramatic letter about the assassination that you will ever read. >> a little like lady bird recording events of the kennedy assassination in her diary. any other questions? so while you mention letters, as we close out here, can you tell our group here about your research? how much documentary evidence there was about these women and
how you found it. >> the research is the most fun part of doing any of this. although sometimes you're tearing your hair out. i have to turn to michelle carl who is sitting back there who is the civil war and reconstruction specialist at the library of congress. she has been just an enormous source of help and support through the eight years that it took me to write this book. and i spent many hours, many of the eight hours in the library of congress. it's very uneven. with the fremonts, she wrote a great deal and they wrote memoirs. but once they died, their daughter, once she died, their daughter lilly destroyed most of their correspondence so there is almost nothing of theirs left. but from other letters that they wrote and from their memoirs, you have a pretty full picture of their lives. with nelly mcclellan, as we said, george mcclellan wrote letters every day. nelly did, too.
only five of hers survive at the library of congress. but because they're writing every day, think of this. when you're writing to somebody, you're answering things that they asked or you're reflecting on things that they said. and so you can almost in daily basis understand what they're doing, too. i thyme the first person that ever read the mcclellan letters to understand what nelly was doing. and not understanding what george was doing. we all know what george was or wasn't doing. but it was a fascinating thing to try to read letters that way, to read them for new thing. and sherman and the others were foster step sib lings. his father died when he was nine. they were best friends. and so ellen's father went next door, offered to take in one of the 11 children that had been
left fatherless and penniless. and they gave him comp. they grew up together. they were away at boarding school a lot, but they always wrote to each other. and he saved all of her letters. he's the only one that saved all of her letters. and so they all universally came together. he would never convert to catholicism but it's amazing. they not only have the letters can you look at the originals but they have transcripts of them and they're all online. they digitized them all. koib reading them in montana or, you know, anywhere or here. i did go out to notre dame though and look through some of the artifacts in the archives. that was fascinating. of course, grant, what are they up to now? about 37 volumes or something of
grant's papers? of course the ones i'm looking at are the first dozen or so. again, another situation not only did julia not write often but the few letters she wrote mostly not saved. there is one letter that was of hers to him that was saved. and michelle actually let me go look at the real letter which is amazing. mostly you're just seeing it onhin. and it was saved because she wrote it on the back of one of his letters. she wrote on it. she said save this letter and give it back to me. she was so determined to save all of his letters that descentally one of hers got saved, too. >> so it's to the point of this gentleman in the first row's question that you describe all four of these as tough and fearless women. they were obviously in tune to politics. and the interesting thing is that you wrote that all three -- three for sure and possibly all