Skip to main content

tv   Battles of Robert E. Lee  CSPAN  June 10, 2017 4:00pm-5:17pm EDT

4:00 pm
for our final afternoon talk barton myers. barton is an associate professor of history at washington and lee university where he teaches courses on the american civil war, war and society, the u.s. south and public history. his main research emphasis is on a regular warfare, soldiers in atrocities, and political dissent. he has earned his phd at the university of georgia where he studied under john ensco. he published his master's thesis, which is unheard of, entitled "executing daniel bright: grace, loyalty and guerrilla violence and coastal carolina." in receipt the 2009 jewels and francis landry award for the best book in seven studies.
4:01 pm
university published his dissertation, a book entitled "rebel against the confederacy, north carolina's unionist." he is the next rotondaro aware fair. he has an edited warfare with brian mcknight and daniel sutherland entitled "the guerrilla hunters: irregular conflicts during the civil war." 2017, you are not going to speak on guerrilla warfare. after all this, he does more than that and i asked him to speak about robert e. lee. robert e. lee on the front lines of battle. let us welcome barton myers. [applause] mr. myers: i want to thank dr.
4:02 pm
carmichael for letting me speak about one of the greatest battlefield commanders and one of her most controversial american historical figures, robert edward lee of virginia. for the last five years i have been a professor at washington and lee university where robert e lee is very. has become a bit of a cottage industry over the last years for folks. i have dealt with a lot of issues related to lee an historical memory over the last few years. career intarted my the academy i was at the national park service ranger. i live in chancellorsville on the battlefield. i spent a lot of time thinking about robert e. lee. today i want to talk a little bit about lee, one slice of his military career. the moments when he was in the greatest personal danger on the
4:03 pm
battlefield. had beenobert e. lee commander of the confederate army of northern virginia for precisely 1041 41 days when he of a onehe staff confederate battle flag in his own hands to rally the fleeing remnants of his army at the battle of sailor's creek. lee was personally placing himself in the line of battle to lead his soldiers. on reaching the south crest of the high ground at the crossing of the river overlooking sailor's creek, the disaster that it overtaken our army was in full view. general mahone troops arrived to provide a rearguard at precisely the moment of greatest aspiration and struggled to set the harrowing scene.
4:04 pm
harrowing teamsters, no wagons, retreating infantry without guns. many without hats. massive columns of the enemy moving orderly. lee duringained to the critical moment of the army. general lee straightened himself in the saddle. he exclaimed, as if talking to himself, my god, has the army dissolved? general,plied, no, curators ready to do their duty. lee said, yes general, there are some true men left. will you please keep those people back. as i was placing my division to keep those people back, the retiring herd crowded around general lee as he sat on his horse with a confederate battle flag in his hand. i requested him to give me the flag, which he did.
4:05 pm
this final scene became one of the most endearing memories for many soldiers from the entire appomattox campaign. it was one of the final moments where lee, the battlefield commander, connected with his soldiers. on three battlefields during the final year of the american civil war, general robert e. lee intentionally placed himself in harms way attempting to rally his men from near catastrophe. positioning himself in the line of battle with the intent of personal meeting his soldiers. at wilderness, spotsylvania three times, and sailor's creek in the final days of the war, the man and his army stopped lee . on the front lee lines of the battle moments for the commanding general personally rallied and attempted to fight on the field leaves behind evidence of something of his character, is generalship, and his overall inking about the art of command on a 19th-century
4:06 pm
command on a 19th-century battlefield. the historical moments of's personal --lee's personal battlefield leadership provide an opportunity to evaluate him through his physical actions at the tactical level, as opposed to an interpretation of his strategic thinking where historians have spilled much ink investigating his thoughts on generalship during the civil war. pute moments where lee himself a great personal risk also wrote a moment to review discerned his army was an exceptional danger. robert edward lee was no stranger to the perils of combat put himself a great personalposts. his service during the war with mexico, is harrowing personal reconnaissance prior to the battle of cerro gordo in 1847 the provided winfield scott with critical intelligence on the enemy's flank position was vital to the planning of a crushing flank attack executed by scott's
4:07 pm
armie. -- army. he was in danger consistently throughout his time as commanding general. at fredericksburg in december of 18 you to, he and lieutenant general james long street were standing on telegraph hill, known as lee's phil near a 30 pound rifle, a heavy field artillery piece rarely used by the army in the field. it exploded and fragments flew all about. at chancellorsville, where lee commanded only a fraction of the overall army on may 2, 18 c three as stonewall jackson took roughly 30,000 soldiers of the second core on a flag attack march, he again was in mortal danger. lee was conspicuous along the mact lines of general law's division. at two different point to was under long-range union artillery
4:08 pm
fire. during one moment a 10 pound shell cut the tree square off just about a yard above the heads of lee and maclaws. --oldier described, bur have a shell burst immediately front of the man. lee's then urged him to go back under the health or safety. only a little while later he was calmly watching from the front yards a few hundred yards away -- frontlines a few hundred yards away. on the morning of may 30, 1863 when the house is on fire in the confederate army desperately pressed its two corps back together made it a dangerous moment for the entire army. alexanderward porter who commanded artillery barrage that preceded tickets charging ginsburg encountered -- recounted another incident
4:09 pm
following the failure where lee prepared to place himself directly in harm's way for a possible defense. undefe up entirely nded. staffing carriers would have surely followed in a few minutes . i had no doubt whatever the object of his visit, general lee expected meade to follow the fugitives of picket's division and he would have a hand in rallying them. ashad a combative instincts strongly developed as any man living. no soldier could've looked on and listen to the fight we had just been making without a mighty staring of every fiber of his frame, a yearning to have some share in it, alexander believed. the general had cannot determined. if there was any more, he would be in the thick of it. i sometimes felt sorry there was
4:10 pm
not. i would like to have seen him in it. presence the physical of robert e. lee on the field or in camp can be striking. countless soldiers and civilians comment on his soldierly bearing. and his magisterial the parents. even for the carefully comported, an encounter with lee the awe-inspiring. freemantle, ael battle tested that are another crimean war who spent three months for the confederacy and watched the army of northern virginia's campaign and the summer of 1863 commented on lee 's cingular billed. lee is 56 years old, tall, broad shouldered, very well made and set up. a thorough soldier appearance.
4:11 pm
is manners are most courteous and full of dignity. he is a perfect gentleman in every respect. i imagine gnome has fewer enemies or is more esteemed. he never wore a side arm with the army of northern virginia. he was photographed in richmond during the latter half of the war carrying an impressive custom-made parisian import officers sort gifted to him from hearyland admirer in 1863, seems to have really want a weapon during the course of campaigning. his weapon was his mind and his physical charisma. he was the campaign strategist. it was his duty to devise the battle plan by watching, directing the units to the most awareness andonal observational skills were
4:12 pm
finally attend and noted by colonel freemantle. general lee was self-aware, realizing his personal presence at the proper moment could inspire his men to impressive battlefield performance. inh the attrition rate the officer corps reaching dangerous levels by the summer of 1864, his personal attendance would be critical. many confederacy senior commanders have been severely injured or killed while leading armies in the field. lee was presented with his opportunity when general joseph johnson was grievously wounded in the shoulder and chest by both the bullet and shell fragment at seven pines on may 30 1, 18 62. april, thet highest-ranking commander in the western theater and lee's own former commanding officer in the second calorie, albert sidney johnston, fell mortally wounded
4:13 pm
at the battle of shiloh, bleeding to death from a blue one and the leg probably fired by zone attacking soldiers. on may2, 1863, in the wilderness of spotsylvania commander of the second corp, stonewall jackson, was killed while engaging in a dangerous night 10 reconnaissance of the bottle chancellorsville -- battle of chancellorsville. after a successful flight attack of the battle of the wilderness, james long street would be wounded in a confusing friendly fire incident at the hands of the 12th virginia infantry, nearly choking to death on his own blood. not to similar from the same from the fire incident that mortally wounded stonewall jackson in the same woods, that same wilderness nearly a year before.
4:14 pm
the armies of the confederacy sustained grievous losses. lee's on loans of personal bravery would place him at some of the greatest physical danger of his life. to lead in a different battle meant to risk one's life on the 19th century battlefield, even for the commander of the entire army. of the several moments where lee place himself in tactical combat situation, perhaps the most well-known is the lead to their incident at the battle of the wilderness that occurred on may 6, 1864 and widow catherine tap's field that dominated the virginia countryside of spotsylvania county. just one day before the same field, lee and ap hill and jeb stuart had almost all been captured at the confederate
4:15 pm
infantry coprps left a wide gap that union soldiers found. only the reticence of the union soldiers on the edge of the field prevented them from all walking up to the 200 yards and making all three confederate generals prisoners or debt. -- dead. 1864, morning of may 6, delete element of long street's corp arrived. brigade. for gay -- direct interaction with these guards of the confederate army was well preserved by texas officers and historians and soldiers. the state of texas placed one of its ubiquitous markers at the tapp field to commemorate this moment and his subsequent assault, a charge that stemmed
4:16 pm
the forward progress of winfield andt's union second corp led a vicious fighting in the woods around the plank road intersection, the road never crucial for the union army's southward movement. chronologically, this is also the first moment where lee attempted to lead men personally in the battle as commander of the army of northern virginia. as such there remain many months to both reflective record this moment before the death of the army in april of 1865. as the texans started, general lee rode up. the old man with a lot of battle in his eyes and the joy of seeing him arrive rode up behind her lines. at once the men began to shout, lee, go back. lee to the rear. when he stood still, a major took his horse by the bridle.
4:17 pm
, someone pointed out general long street to him who had not seen. the texans caught the worst of it. they lost nearly half their men in a little while. street'set's -- long edward porter alexander recalled it was but a little after 6:00 when a terrific crash of musketry began to burst in the front over the general roar of the morning. e andld hancock and mead grant that long street arrived. he sent reinforcements. another officer wrote that he was among the sick, flying balls and encouraging the men. potential foreral nations for by the wilderness battlefield lee to the rear
4:18 pm
incident was the most carefully documented that tested his personal leadership style. one was the army organization was relatively intact at the beginning of the overland campaign. it was larger than it would be a sailor's creek. soldiers had time to leave battlefield accounts of the incident. the second was that he was -- one that had strong unit identity after the war. finally, the topography of the land made it possible for many men to have seen him. the openness of the field and area densely covered with trees drew meant to the clearing and large numbers. what separates these battlefield is the proximity to the enemy. clearly under union army counter battery fire from
4:19 pm
across the field in pennsylvania and it chancellorsville and fredericksburg, he is in far greater danger and closer proximity to forward moving union infantry in the later engagements. the desperation at wilderness where the third corp was driven nearly completed from the field was different. the positioning of the army had loosely arrayed along to keep roads. the flight of the corp on may 6 through lee two in your disaster. less than a week after his attempt to lead the texans, he was hurt himself again at the battle of spotsylvania courthouse. the infantry assault that led to his actions came as a result of the placement of the second co rp on a protruding eminence of high ground that led to a significant component of the army and a bulging line
4:20 pm
precariously positioned for the relation to the remainder of the army of northern virginia's defensive line. they stuck out like a big song that can be -- thumb that could be smashed like a hammer blow. it nearly succeeded in doing it. lee the removal of confederate artillery from --by lee was critical to the poorly executed defense. on may 10, 1864, the second incident occurred as colonel emory upton's brilliant plan, 12 handpicking and army regiments stormed to the west face. ride to thered to sound of heaviest fighting, his staff officers, including colonel walter taylor and colonel charles venable stopped him. he told the menu must see to it the ground is recovered. taylor mounted his horse,
4:21 pm
grabbed a battle flag, an unusual move for a staff officer, and along with other officers led reinforcements to the embattled sections of the works. gradually, confederates were able to push forces from the position as the union reinforcements never can to support the successful initial attack. the confederate suffered 650 casualties in the one action, ,nd the union second corp 20,000 men would follow with a larger assault on the border o -- morning of may 12. boardnant colonel horse -- later commented that that'll give the angle was probably the most desperate engagement in modern warfare. general john brown gordon, elevated the command of jubal early's division, described the desperate scene in the cool l on the morning
4:22 pm
of may 12. lee looked very god of war. he wrote to a point to the center of my line and turned his forces to the front, evidently leading a desperate charge to drive hancock or perish in the effort. to arrest him in the effort and say the confederacy the life of its great peter. -- great leader. he was at the center of the line when general lee rode with uncovered head. force across the travelers front, and i checked him. a hope a voice that might reach the years my men and command retention, for dramatically called out, lee general lee you shall not leave my man and a charge. no man can do that sir. these men are georgians, virginians and carolinians.
4:23 pm
they have never failed you on any field and will not fail you here. will you, boys? i shouted you must go to the rear. the echo of general lee to the rear. general lee to the rear rollback with tremendous emphasis. they gathered around him, turned his horse in the opposite direction. some clutching his bridle, some history ups -- his stirrups. i believe had it been necessary or possible they would have carried on their shoulders both the horse and rider to a place of safety. douglas freeman, the biographer of lee identify the general's position between the 13th brigade andordon's the 52nd virginia under jonas hoffman. is a powerful factor in the army. of lee's
4:24 pm
he lifted the soldiers to the highest plane of martial enthusiasm. gordon remembered the presence of a revitalized commander-in-chief, his magnetic and majestic presence and the spontaneous pledges they had just made to him all conspired to fill them with intensity of emotion such as really possess the body of troops in any war. george's bull document are believed. i ordered forward and with a fury of a cyclone and almost with its listless power, to rest upon hancock's advancing column. in lasted only a few minutes. toward, one of the capable remaining battlefield commanders assessed the counterattack when the last bitter trial at appomattox came. recurredrburden spirit
4:25 pm
to that momentous hour and he lamented he had not been prevented to charge in that or a subsequent battle. fromirect action came isaac bradwell who remembered the general countenance showed he had despaired and was ready to die rather than see the defeat of his army. another strikingly similar incident occurred the same morning. confirmedf officer this lee to the rear battlefield moment that occurred. we soon came under the fire of the enemies artillery. this excited general lee's
4:26 pm
horse. in the active rearing, a shot past under his belly year the general's stirrup. the man cried out, go back, general. forgot say, go back. some made a motion to seize his bridle. a witness later wrote, general lee said if you promise to drive those people from our works, i will go back. the men shouted to promise. general lee then gave me orders to guide the army to general rhodes. a few lines are held by our exhausted troops. as the column of mississippians came up, lee's staff officer or member anita can't came of the message from general stephen ramser that he could hold that only a few more minutes.
4:27 pm
immediately with the column formed into a line under a tremendous fire and on a very difficult piece of ground. never did a brigade going to a fiercer battle under greater trials. never did a brigade do its duty more nobly. it was not recaptured, but the progress of the enemy was checked. they were driven into a narrow space. reflecting on the moment after the war, colonel venerable asserted, i believe few battle incidents reported in history rising grandeur over those two occasions when general lee went into the charge with the texans and money with the mississippians to battle at spotsylvania. questions lee's promotion to the command of this same army in 1862. granny lee, the king of spades were often attached to have a
4:28 pm
newspaper editors after his failure at the battle of teeth -- chief -- chief mountain. other soldiers who knew him personally predicted forcible action from the former superintendent of west point. descriptions of lee's aggressiveness and predictions of his assertiveness and command style predate his civil war battlefield successes at the head of the army of northern virginia. one prophecy came from the explorer joseph christmas ives in 1861. ives graduated from west point in 1852 and worked briefly as a principal engineer and architect on the washington monument, served closely as robert e. lee 's chief engineer when they work
4:29 pm
to fortify the confederate coast in georgia and south carolina. eves'association with lee was relatively brief, but when lee assumed command of the army of northern virginia, edward porter alexander inquired of him about his thoughts on lee as a battlefield commander. when queried about whether lee at the boldness of fighting general necessary for overall command, at a desperate moment when joe johnston's army faced general mcclellan's on the peninsula, ives was very direct. after rather dramatically stopping his horse in the road, he turned to alexander and responded. alexander, if there is one man in either army, federal or confederate who is head and , inlders far above either
4:30 pm
either army, and audacity, that man is general lee mr. meyers: i think critics will rank general lee audacious commander since napoleon. by the spring of 1865, the army was a shadow of its warmer size. -- former size. its officer corps was withered from thousands of losses in
4:31 pm
1864. in the final days of the war, willing to place himself in danger, knowing the gravity of his armies situation better than anyone else. creek --ware at savers creek.creek -- sailor's a climactic set piece battle against the flow, a napoleonic crescendo moment like napoleon's great victory, a masterpiece of command that could in the the war. his entire 34 months as general of the army, assertiveness, campaign strategy come audacity can be seen through this lens. he had tasted the sweetness of
4:32 pm
the lopsided victory, the euphoria of snatching success from the jaws of defeat, the agonizing defeat of his second raid into the north, then near destruction of the core in spotsylvania, but in sailor's creek he saw the prosperity of the army coming completely apart. his ranks fromf desertion, disease, combat had severed his living, breathing army. the unions army to apply mass massive pressure had brought devastating results for lee and union battlefield success. now it created a coup de grace moment. creek, and the army
4:33 pm
would hold on and lee understood the time was close about the very real death of his army and where his own personal leadership factored into that army's demise. from what can be gleaned, lee had long made the determination that if his army was threatened with a final climactic tactical moment, he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice with his army. was quite more told. a number of artists beginning as early as 1866 had attempted to capture the gravity of these moments between lee and his soldiers. in theve detected lee wilderness. sidney king depicted him in spotsylvania.
4:34 pm
and the sailor's creek moment. lee since the collapse of the extension the confederacy, and he was willing to place himself personally in the gap, like warrior, spartan king, willing to sacrifice himself for his people, army, the cause, and though lee would not be called to make the ultimate sacrifice, his men, officers, and enlisted who shared a strong connection to their commander would offer themselves as a shield for him , texans,ve occasions georgians, mississippians, and virginians again at sailor's
4:35 pm
, a cross-section of the confetti's server would answer the call. would not return from these desperate battlefield actions, but on each occasion the army was saved from the media destruction. on these reflection incidents written in december 1865 at the request of a , andand judge was brief even conflated the events in his own memory, identifying only the moment with general gordon at spotsylvania specifically. orlecting on lee's modest confused response, one general preferred the contrast to napoleon bonaparte's order to his troops prior to the battle of austerlitz. i will keep myself at
4:36 pm
a distance from the fire. if it is your custom valor, but if victory appear uncertain, you will see your emperor expose himself in the front of battle." the venerable saw his actions don't of theater and a simple devotion to the christian patriot thoughtless, fighting for all men held dear in contrast with the spirit of the soldier of an fortune. the aggressive military john billlee, davis, clinton, led consistently to large-scale battles and bled the confederate armies and the cause and reflected the desire of the confederate population for overefield victories that a more conservative strategy that would not have drain the resources as fast. lacked adequate war planning to see this outcome in
4:37 pm
advance. they did have a fine campaign artist in robert e lee and a fighter in that commander, but in the and, that aggressive strategy which saw victory was the key reason for confederate defeat in the field as a killed and wounded man at a furious pace. these tactical moments on these field with lee reflected the overall strategy taken to its most dangerous degree. there was clear purpose and meaning behind lee's decisions to ride in front of his men and place himself danger. after the army of northern virginia surrendered, lee was not a suicidal, diehard secessionist come up that a personally brave for your general in an arrow when this remained in indispensable characteristic of a great military battlefield commander.
4:38 pm
the men and his army recognize this. survival was the opportunity at success. the essence of his leadership was a connection to the men in the army, but also representation that lee represented the physical embodiment of their cause. was still a, there chance of confederate victory. contingencyhts the of these moments, the soldiers who sacrificed themselves for the larger armor and lee personally because they believed lee's personal survival represent the survival of their ideas. army, the destiny of the confederacy were inextricably intertwined, his actions demonstrate an awareness of the power of his own presence on a critical piece of land in a desperate battlefield situation in an era where the personal presence of the senior commander
4:39 pm
was part of the successful execution of the art of command. lee became the admired symbol of his soldiers, and these three forlefield divided pillars the direction of the pristine image of robert e. lee and the lost cause mythology written after the war. former confederates, it was in these out all field moments where lee became the marble man, his personal understanding of honor, and command responsibility dictated to him that he was literally the last line of defense for virginia and for the confederacy. here lee presented the final measure of a general officer, personal sacrifice to save the army, to save virginia, to say the confederate cause combat even if he could not do that, to do everything in his power to try. thank you very much. [applause]
4:40 pm
mr. meyers: i will take a few .uestions if you have any please come to the mic if you have any questions. don't be shy. the very first image i put up -- there were several images created from, and they notice the blockade images and they were sent to one of the german states to edward valentine who was then in the process of creating a bust of lee.
4:41 pm
yes, sir? opinion, wasan , his personality, his character, who he was as a person and as a general -- thank you very much -- hello? in your opinion was lee by personality, character come would he have been capable of having executed the defenses
4:42 pm
the early partn of the war had been a matter of different among confederate officials and generals and all we have to do war, a doctor a strategy that washington embraced -- that is exactly right. given the option an opportunity to execute a plan like that, lee could have executed the plan. you see this at fredericksburg, no doubt. the idea about strategy mirror that auto consistently. that is the kind of battle that long street wants to fight over and over again because it gives him the conventional chance of winning. a perfect working in world. he has a lot of political pressure to fight this
4:43 pm
conventional strategy and go for is aictory, but also, lee thene person and wants war to end quickly. there is a logic going for the battlefield victory. he has read about napoleon, the great victories and defeats. he knows what a prolonged war will look like in terms of casualties. questions in terms of efficiency that if that strategy was chosen, it could executed, but the confederacy lacks the war planning or foresight in the battlefield to contemplate what the rapid casualty count is going to look like for that. one doesn't need to go far to read the senses and know how many military age white men were available.
4:44 pm
a supplementary senses. all they would have to do is do calculations on how mccafferty's would drain a finite pool. those calculations were never made. they were not thinking that far ahead. jefferson davis factors into this calculation enormously. is that potentially a contributing factor to pickett's charge in gettysburg, that willingness to make that ground assault, napoleonic assault, because it did not fit lee's style of war or his own personal character. mr. meyers: i think it into this fits equation of going for the quick end to the war. lee i think of as a humane person in trying to alleviate the number of casualties during this conflict.
4:45 pm
he sees the accounting. i think that factors into the equation. >> thank you. mr. meyers: thank you. great question. >> i have a question about sailor's creek. general's were supposed to do it and didn't do what they were supposed to do, consequently have this big defeat, so is there anything must have been in the enormous shock and had already proceeded several miles ahead of the army and he went to find out what happened and discovered what had happened, so how did that affect him from there until his surrender? the things one of you have to consider about this final year of the war is how fast of the competent commanders
4:46 pm
underneath lee, the subordinate cantors, are being killed, wounded, mortally wounded, and how much of a strain that pursley placed on robert e. lee to be the one who monitored .verything at every moment if the attrition rate is enormous at this point and some brigadier generals filling the caps on are falling left and right. into lee's factors shock on the battlefield that he has to get out and do this personally, but he is willing to do it. interestinge statistics at appomattox is the army of virginia had surrendered 0, but the time they
4:47 pm
started to retreat from richmond and petersburg, they had lost 26,000ng like 25,000 to soldiers through desertion or they were marching through places close to where the soldiers lived so they would ask their officers if it was ok to and after the surrender, i think the number was 26,000 came back from parole. ,r. meyers: different estimates 26,000 to 28,000 are the common numbers. thatrmy is melting away at point. a lot of people consider writing on the wall after petersburg falls. you are right. thank you very much. yes, sir? this is the question, 1861,
4:48 pm
colonel robert e. lee was offered command of all union forces. what would have happened if he said yes? a veryers: this is speculative question. this is the kind of questions my students ask, what you really think, dr. myers, about what would have happened? i will say this, and winfield scott made an assessment much the way jefferson davis did when second united states calvary and assess the officer corps and what he had, as robert e. lee was seen the most proficient by winfield scott, but on the other hand, jefferson davis did not feel that way. he felt colonel albert sidney johnston was the best. if you look down that officer a pretty good officer list.
4:49 pm
the captains and the commander some of the best guys you will see during the war. you have a kernel and lieutenant colonel, there are different perspectives on this, and jefferson davis set that unit up. opinion. differing that does not answer the question, but i hope it gives you my thoughts on it. on lee'su comment relation with some of his subordinates after the war? mr. meyers: it is not uniform. you see the bitterness of a guy like pickett after the war, his conversations with people. i read john singleton mosby's correspondence and interaction with pickett, those kinds of comments. but very quickly after lee's
4:50 pm
death in 1870, you see less and lessopportunity, less and moments for criticism, and more and more perspective on lee's value and eventually you see the creation of the infallible lee, the image of lee, the man and the myth begin to separate and it becomes difficult to people after that point. you see people coming to the defense of lee and doing so in very self-serving manners, architects of the lost cause mythology, so people are using fors image in history different reasons, but ultimately you see this myth creation after that, and in many ways it is very telling that robert e. lee never wrote his own memoir of the war and
4:51 pm
cleared up a lot of the controversies. in some way, it probably helped robert e. lee in terms of his esteem among the overall officer corps because he did not clear up that stuff. the infighting about what happened and what actually transpired. excellent question. >> you are doing a great job about talking about the power of lee and the army of north virginia. the gallagher says lee and army are like washington and the continental army in terms of importance. how paul for was that impact in the west? mr. meyers: what do you mean by the impact of that in the west? >> you talk about his leadership, his inspiration, his bravery, his motivation for the almost and there are idolizing of him, and i'm
4:52 pm
wondering what the western ,roops felt or did they feel that charisma, i guess? mr. meyers: the instability makes it very difficult for those armies, even if they had had an equivalent commander, and equipment bow to a robert e. lee, it made it difficult to have that relationship that lee develops over 1040 days that lee commands the army of northern virginia. there is a close bond there. you see this happen through history, not just washington, but napoleon as well, that relationship where there is almost like another gear that whenever a desperate moment arrives that they can feel they can take it to that next level thatthe army and trust will be there, and the consistently did that -- and lee
4:53 pm
consistently did that. was he judge that gear going to be the one he has to go to, and it is a strange car metaphor for robert e. lee's decision-making process, but i think he could almost feel when the army was in greatest danger, and i think these moments are wise decisions on his part where he assessed it well. so, he knows c has to be a personal presence on the front line. these other moments are an assessment that he is making very, very quickly. thank you. my name is jim. i am from virginia. mr. meyers: close to where i grew up. >> good company.
4:54 pm
my question is this, you are a lee man could i'm not saying that in a derogatory sense. you are. you worked at washington lee university, so as you see that national news story and see that statue of lee lifted off that pedestal, how does that make you feel personally and had you explain that to your students or how does that inter-into the dollop of how you address lee in the classroom setting? mr. meyers: excellent question. i will try to be brief. to engage this question pretty consistently over the last half decade or so. the question of monument removal or the question of confederate 2014,emoval, and in washington and lee removed its
4:55 pm
,onfederate flags in lee chapel the part of the story i have been closest to. on the working groups to research the chapel and placement of the flags, and what we discovered is the original confederate flags were placed there in the late 1920's by the late daughters of the after taking control of interpretation of the chapel by this go at a time when there was a good possibility chapel might have ceased to exist, or at least in its current form. the chapel has undergone renovation, and in the 1960's, the ford foundation gave money to put in a new hvac system. it was not a stable site in terms of how it looked originally when a recumbent lee
4:56 pm
was added to the site, but those flags that were placed there were placed 50 years on. the original site actually 1915, youh like this, see the portrait collection, that is what the site looks like. that collection is still housed at washington and lee. there are two famous portraits on the back wall to the day, one imagesof the most famous of george washington in his seven years war uniform and the image of robert e. lee in his confederate uniform. i will make it brief in terms of response to the confederate monument controversy. i want my students to engage robert e lee as a teachable moment and person, one that we have to be critical of from every angle, his successes, theures, moral failures, injustice of his cause, all of
4:57 pm
these things have to be considered in light of the decisions of a man who was her a much mortal and very much a fallible figure, a figure that it great flaws, but when comes to monuments themselves, i favor contextualization by professionals and a strong involvement by the historical community in the contextualization of those monuments and a historical rebalancing of the landscape, including more perspective from lots of different minority groups that also deserve to have their history told, so that is the long and short of my view on that. thank you very much for your questions. [applause] >> all right. we have some time before dinner. a little adjustment to our plans this evening. for those of you going to the
4:58 pm
dining hall, they were open early force at 5:00, which is lovely. for those of you doing the dine in, you are going to the attic. it is down west lincoln. they will not open until 5:30, as planned. that is in your schedule. that youd recommend take a very leisurely stroll. [laughter] 5:00. that concludes
4:59 pm
today's live coverage of the gettysburg college civil war institute conference in pennsylvania. we will be live again tomorrow starting at 9:00 am eastern. ,ext on american history tv james monroe's life and legacy. later tonight at 6:00 p.m., a reairing of today's live coverage, which includes all six speakers. you can also watch all of our civil war institute conference coverage any time by visiting our website, , you can find our tv schedule and view all our programs in their entirety. to share your thoughts, connect with us on twitter at c-span history, and on facebook at history. this is american history tv only on c-span3.
5:00 pm
>> next on american history tv, scott harrison talks about james monroe's life. will hear about the fifth president's revolutionary war service, work as a lawyer, path to the presidency, and the monroe doctrine that carries his name. he is the director of the james monroe museum and memorial library grid the mosby area heritage association hosted this 45 minute event as part of a monroe,m entitled james presidential inauguration, a bicentennial commemoration and reflection. >> our first speaker is scott harris, the director of the james monroe museum and memorial library.
5:01 pm
he has been as such since 2011. the museum is operated by the university of mary washington in fredericksburg. it is the largest repository in the country for artifacts and documents related to the fifth president of the united states. previously scott was the director of the new market battlefield state historical park owned by vmi. previous to that he was historic director of historical resurfaces in manassas. he holds a masters degree from the college of william and mary. mr. harris? [applause] scott: i'm not going to drop the microphone, but i will lower it gently to the ground. thank you very much and good morning. >> good morning. scott: good morning. >> good morning.
5:02 pm
scott: you will turn in your hymnals to number 61. oh, sorry that is tomorrow. i couldn't resist. i was talking about that earlier. it is a pleasure to be here. if i may take the chance in a house of worship to spread the gospel of james monroe, that is what my colleagues said we would be doing today. anytime we have the opportunity to help raise awareness of the the man i like to call the hardest working presidents in show business, we would like to do so, so it is a real treat to be here today to do that. one of the iconic images of the revolutionary war is in 1851 the 1851 painting washington crossing the delaware. it is the night of december 25, 1776. the continental army is being transported across the delaware river to attack a garrison at trenton, new jersey. in the foreground, anonymous men and possibly one woman of
5:03 pm
varying nationalities and raises races row one overloaded boat across the river. two of the boats occupants are not anonymous, george washington and lieutenant james monroe holding the stars and stripes. the painting is glorious and wrong and almost every detail. [laughter] scott: the river resembles the rhine more than the delaware. the boat is too small and of an inaccurate design. there's too much light for a night crossing. washington did not cross standing up. the stars and stripes had not yet been adopted by the continental congress. james monroe was not holding the flag, not in the boat, not even present with the army. he was already across the river and he was busy. washington's plan for a surprise attack was a risky attempt to
5:04 pm
reverse the sagging fortunes of the patriot cause during the summer of 1776. british forces including mercenaries had driven the continental army from new york across to new jersey and into pennsylvania. expired in lisman's and outright desertions had thinned -- enlistments and outright desertions had thinned the american ranks, and many who remained were despondent. washington's success in the attack would boost the armies around and stiffen the result of the people. three regiments of 1400 men were stationed at trenton. washington planned to bring 2400 continental soldiers across the river overnight. they would march to trenton and attack before dawn. other elements of the army were also part of the plan, but they did not make it into the operation. the bad weather that occurred
5:05 pm
stop both of those deployments, meaning that everything depended on the army of washington. the army's password for the evening was victory or death. washington wanted to send a small group of troops over the delaware first to secure the army's route of march. james monroe was with this contingent. in his autobiography which he wrote in the third person late in life and did not complete before his death, monroe described the mission. the command of the vanguard consisting of 50 men was given to captain william washington of the third virginia regiment. lieutenant monroe offered his services to act under him which was accepted. on december 25, 1776 they passed the delaware in front of the army in the dusk of the evening at mcconkey's fairy 10 miles above trenton. to 1.5 miles from
5:06 pm
it in which the road at which they descended intersected that which led from trenton to princeton. the purpose and orders of cutting off all communication between them and the country to trenton. mr. monroe can be guilty of a run-on sentence every now and then. noted that the night was tempestuous and snow was falling. while manning their post, he was accosted by a local resident who thought that the continentals were british troops. describing the incident later, monroe recalled that the man was "determined in his manner and very profane." upon learning that the soldiers were americans, he brought food from his house and said tomorrow, i know something is to be done and i'm going with you. i'm a doctor and i may help some poor fellow. dr. riker proved remarkably prescient. the armies river crossing took longer than planned, meaning the attack would occur well after sonsun up.
5:07 pm
washington divided his force. the division commanded by a major general to attack from the north. the other led by john s sullivan attacked from the south. at 8:00 a.m., the assault began. here we return to the autobiographical account. captain washington then moves forward and attacks the enemies pickett, shot the commanding officer, and then a general alarm took place in town. the drums were be to arms. two cannons were placed in the main street. captain washington rushed forward, attacked, and put the troops around the cannons and took possession of them. moving on afterwards, he received a severe wound and was taken from the field. the command then devolved to lieutenant monroe who attacked in like manner. he was shot down by a musket ball, which passed through his breast and shoulder. he was also carried from the field.
5:08 pm
monroe was brought to the same room were william washington lay, and the wounds were addressed by the surgeon general dr. john riker. the doctor's prediction of helping some poor fellow came true as he prepared a damaged artery in monroe's shoulder. what neither man realized is that he had saved the life of a future president. trumbull's painting of the surrender shows monroe in the background initially on the field before being taken to the dressing station. the best commentary upon james monroe's performance and his revolutionary war service generally comes no less than from the authority of the continental army's commander. writing to an acquaintance in 1779, washington noted monroe's zeal he discovered by entering the service at an early period. the character he supported and his regiment, and the manner in which he distinguished himself at trenton where he received a
5:09 pm
wound. the general concluded that james monroe had maintained the reputation of a brave, active, and sensible officer. the american revolution was a transformative experience for james monroe, one that he described in a letter written late in his life. though young at the commencement of our revolution i took part in it, and its principles had have invariably guided me since. nothing can be so deeply fixed than the judgment of heart of anyone been the principles of our free system of government. in mind. james monroe was born april 28, 1758 in westmoreland county. while not possessing the large landholdings or wealth of some of their neighbors, the monroe's lived comfortably and were able to send their eldest son to one of the best local schools. the campbelltown academy.
5:10 pm
among his schoolmates was future u.s. supreme court justice john marshall who would be monroe's lifelong friend and occasional political adversary. monroe entered the college of william and mary in june of 1774. like many of his classmates, he was caught up in revolutionary fervor. monroe was part of a group of students to seize arms from the governor's palace. in february of next year, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the third virginia infantry. the third virginia under the command of george weeden of fredericksburg joined the continental army on long island. on september 16, the regiment took part in the american victory at harlem heights. majored to captain then after recovering from his trenton woman, monroe became an
5:11 pm
aide to the american general william alexander who claimed the british title, lord stirling. the british had something to say about that. 1778, monroe signed a furlough for a pennsylvania soldier. the earliest known example of his signature on an official document. we also know who the soldier is. a gentleman who was able to leave the army for several weeks john wallace. monroe served with the young man who would figure in his later life. among them is the marquee to lafayette whose greater rank did not prevent the two soldiers only a year apart in age from becoming lifelong friends. also his childhood friend and future chief justice john marshall. aaron burr and alexander
5:12 pm
hamilton, destined to fight the most famous duel in american history. i think there was a musical or some other play -- something, i can't remember. during the autumn of 1777, monroe fonts in the battle of brandywine and germantown. leading a scouting party in june 1778, monroe sent messages to george washington to helped thwart a move against the ranks. monmouth was the last time james monroe would be under fire in the revolutionary war. he became a lieutenant colonel of virginia forces, military aid to thomas jefferson, but was unsuccessful in being able to recruit enough soldiers for a regimen of his own to command. seeing very little prospects for being able to further his military career, monroe left the army and begin to study with jefferson in waynesburg, then in richmond
5:13 pm
when the virginia capital moved to that city. 13 years older than his prot├ęge, jefferson became an rose monroe's political mentor. describing monroe to another of his disciples, james madison, jefferson turned his soul outwards and there's not a speck on it. on february 16, 1786, james monroe married a woman from new york. their union produced to daughters. , and a son, james spence monroe, who died in infancy. the monroe family was close-knit and stay together even as james embarked on a busy political career in the united states. between 1778 and 1811, monroe compiled a larger and longer public service resume than anyone who has ever been elected president of the united states. he practiced law in fredericksburg, served as a state and federal legislator, was a delegate to the virginia
5:14 pm
ratifying convention of the u.s. constitution, and was elected to four terms as governor of virginia. he was u.s. ambassador to france twice. , to great britain and to spain. he helped to negotiate the louisiana purchase coming into attempt to help with the resolution of the treaty which was only supposed to have been for the acquisition of the port of new orleans and then being presented with the opportunity to buy all of louisiana. fortunately for the country's development, there was a quick decision on that part that later would prove very important. he also, with his wife, attended the coronation of napoleon bonaparte. unfortunately at this time he was doing some shuttle diplomacy , trying to negotiate with the british over issues over the seas and tradehe
5:15 pm
rights, negotiating with the spanish about florida. this had taken them out of favor with the french. monroe said they were put in the cheap seats, not with the rest of the diplomats. monroe complained they were put in the cheap seats, weight and the back complaining about where they were. were exceedingly well dressed. they had on court outfits, and a lovely dress that is in our collection that gives some indication of the sartorial style of his diplomatic career. in january of 1811, monroe began his fourth term as governor of virginia. he resigned in april to become secretary of state in the administration of james madison. the united states was locked in a struggle with great britain over trade policies and ofressment, the seizing sailors by the navy. on june 18, 1812.
5:16 pm
hostilities began when congress declared war on june 18, 1812. over the next two years american victories at sea were offset by repeated defeats on land. as the british naval and military force enter the chesapeake region, monroe and others called for better defenses from the u.s. capitol , but little was done. british troops came ashore in on august 19,land 1814 and begi began marching to bladensburg. when monroe's suggestion of a system of couriers to report the enemy's movements was this disregarded by the secretary of war, monroe went into the field himself. using a telescope to count the number of ships and men in the british force and repeated it to president madison. at the battle of bladensburg, the british routed un-american force of regulars. monroe move some american units on the field in a manner that did little to improve an already ti


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on