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tv   The Civil War Union General Ambrose Burnside  CSPAN  December 2, 2017 6:00pm-7:28pm EST

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it proved beyond a shadow of a was a role forre news and public affairs on of ic broadcasting because those hearings and after that came the news hour and everything else. > you can watch this and other american history programs on our ebsite where all our video is archived. that's historiane civil war, wilson green describes union life and rn side's career and argues that his reputation is undeserved. that his s contemporaries used him as a scapegoat. 90-minute talk is part of a symposium called generals we at some ofe, looking he more controversial military leaders of the civil war.
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and , wilson green, former founding executive director of pamplin historical park. before s historian, becoming the first president of the association for the preservation of civil war sites. author of "the final battles of the petersburg backbone breaking the of the rebellion" and "confederate city." highs currently working on a new book, you must be getting pretty close. >> june 1. >> next year, it will be out, to off his three volumes of "the petersburg campaign." probably if there is anybody who standing ovation at be will , it would green. mra [applause]
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>> if the congregation would be seated. >> thank you. you very much. >> all right. mbrose burnside was probably the most incompetent of all the army ls serving with the potomac. burnside was an honest and a man.e he was a good subordinate general but he did not have the to command a large army. t.said my old mentor at lsu, harry williams. urnside developed an almost unfailing knack for bringing on defeat whenever he went into action. to the legendary bruce -- and he repeatedly been a ated it had military tragedy to give him a than
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francisfri, who was an early campaigns, the believed that two men had risen so high on so small a foundation. so these assessments and others burnside make ambrose a worthy subject of our theme for this weekend. we love to hate. burnside's civil war career spanned more than three years successful performances, at first manassas eastern north carolina and in east tennessee. among others. we hate burnside from three events. a place where he's blamed for criminally tardy and unimaginable tactics in trying that ss a bridge, a span now carries a finley veiled ronic name of burnside's bridge. fredericksburg, where as
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commander, he led the army of to its most lopsided defeat of the war, and the petersburg, at corps, where h they suffered a defeat that civil erminate burnside war career. at first, let's take a look who this man was and how he managed to reach the highest united states army, only to join the ranks of discredited generals of the north. burnside irst burn -- arrived from scotland in the 1750s. who is burnside's father developed in south carolina an abhorrence for slavery and he little s family to a town called liberty, indiana, a minor became official, and developed enough
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of an income to give his family class status. burnside was the in th of nine children born 1824 and was named after the who sed son of the doctor delivered him. e attended a local quaker school but economic circumstances required him to tailor, e trade of a but by then his father had been lected to the indiana state legislature, and as a result, he contacted the governor asking to gratefully his son's wishes to get an education at the united academy, and y that wish was granted. gregarious and exuberant cadet accumulated almost enough merits o be dispelled his academic record was pretty good and he
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of 38.ed 18 out now, an administrative error west point altered his middle name to everett from eberts and that's how he would for the rest of his life. he was posted to the third u.s. stationed in mexico but he arrived too late to be involved in any of the there, so his ng star was not embellished by service in the mexican war. posted to fort adams in rhode island. think craig knows something about fort adams back there and vegas, new mexico, burnside furlough, woulded a woman named charlotte moon who agreed to marry him but minister's to the inquiry at the alter regarding er taking burnside as her lawfully wedded husband, she sir, i won't."
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church.n fled the now, as just a little footnote, she did marry a lawyer. engaged to a lawyer from hawaii, who pulled out a pistol wedding ceremony, declaring, "there will either be funeral tonight or a tomorrow." a trip n thereafter, on back east, he wound up marrying richmond med mary bishop called molly, a woman he posted to le he was rhode island. ow, burnside was falsely accused of some financial irregularities in the army and although his accusers were from the army as a result of this, burnside, it was that he sant for him resigned his commission and factory, which he had developed a breech oading rifle establishing his company in bristol, rhode
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island, which he called the works.l rifle at first sales were slow although secretary of war jefferson davis did order hundred of the weapons for the calvary. expanded his business exponentially on the promise of war, john cretary of b. floyd. that floyd would army the entire burnside ary with carvings, and although at the testing in washington of the models of these new weapons, burnside weapon came rating, floyd gave the contract to a crony, result, the bristol rifle works failed. out of work and financially burnside went look for a job with the expanded railroads in the midwest and met up with his old west point friend george mcclellan who agreed to hire him of the land r department at mcclellan's
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illinois central railroad. wife poly de and his lived with the mcclellans in money, in order to save and they paid off all of their debts and eventually burnside promoted to be the treasurer of the company with offices in ew york and he had gotten completely out of debt by 1860. developed endship between mcclellan and burnside. mccelllan wrote to his future wife, for example, honest, true, brave, old burnside, said cclellan, is worth a legion. of all the men i have ever friendship ue his and respect the most. and i'm proud to know that i possess both. ever a man goes to heaven, he will surely go there. george mcclellan on ambrose burnside. at the outbreak of the war, burnside responded to requests from the governor of rhode command of a
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regiment of volunteers as burnside had been a general in militia. island state he looked every inch a soldier. impressively tall. a little stout, and wearing what was probably the most set tic and awe inspiring of whiskers in that beleaguered hiskered the army although bruce, who was obviously no fan of burnside thought that the usual dress "a high bell crown felt hat with the double ned down and a breasted knee length flock coat belted at the waste gave him the appearance of a beefy city cop of the 1880s." burnside reported to providence and took command of what became infantry.rhode island 2 first rhode island reported for duty in washington on may 2, 1861 and entered federal service for 90 days. garnered the respect of is brother officers in the new army such as porter who wrote
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as youan, "that such men and sherman and burnside, are the red to counterbalance influence of davis, --"port on burnside. burnside's personality as well for military affairs contributed to his popularity. future f his subordinates wrote, his large fine eyes, winning smile and manner spoke nly honorablesincere, and character. by june of 1861, burnside found brigade n charge of a in david hunter's army, commanded by irvan mcdowell moving against the confederates at manassas junction. to go into allng of these tactics. let's see, here's old burnside most of you as erode -- his be
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brigade was given the key role attack against the confederates. fought long and well at first manassas but as we all know, it retreated along with the rest of 90-day , and his regiments -- 90-day regiment xpired and burnside found himself once again a civilian. but on august 6, 1861, he he had been appointed a brigadier general of volunteers and was ordered to mcclellan, the new army commander. bombarding an mcclellan with the suggestion of division amphibious for service along the north carolina coast. liked army commander that idea. soon the war department sent begin e to new york to recruiting troops, and obtaining ships. january, 1862, urnside's new army styled the coast division was ready to
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liberate coastal north carolina, reputedly a region brimming with latent unionists from to be freed confederate control. what followed proved to be one most successful union campaigns of the war. insight into burnside's personality, many of these new saw this makeshift transportation fleet that was going to take them from northern down to north carolina along the atlantic coast and they didn't like what they saw, the seaworthiness of these ships, and so burnside decided, well, i'll give up the -- ship that was designed staff and e and my rigid tub in most fleet, inspiring troops.
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rick kitty. first captured roanoke which is right there, on he map on the seventh and eighth of february, and then, on -- in march, rather, and then on the noose river and attacked knew burn, and i'm to look at this map. i can't really see -- here we go. we go. right there. there we go. ands on the noose and attacks new burn and captures that important city on the 14th of then countermarches back to the coast and captures which, again, i'm trying to find fort macon here, right there. okay. everybody sees it, right there. and he does that in april of 1862. great campaign and
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him ide's victory earned applauds. thanks of lincoln and secretary stanton. it allowed the government to nstall a pro union governor in new bern. helped cause the evacuation of norfolk, closed the north sounds to blockade running. this is a campaign i don't think as much attention as it deserves. it was a fantastic amphibious operation. had hoped to continue ?is campaign his subsequent movement into piedmont, virginia, caused the burnsidetment to order nd his coast division old dominion. prior to his arrival, burn side washington between july
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27th, and to his surprise, they offered him command of the army. burnside declined protesting mcclellan was really the better general, and that his peninsula stemmed luck.bad for rked the general greater things in the future. burnside used his command now ninth core, and shifted his men to the fred diction area, and the war epartment charged burnside there in fredericksburg, john hennessey works in the eadquarters, the chatham
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tructure there on the north side of the river, charged with expedited troops back up to northern virginia. of course, we know that the army defeated at y second manassas and the day after the battle burnside received orders to accompany the of his troops to alexandria to reinforce his brigades with the army. for his the blame defeat on the hesitation of john burnside o had written scathing letters regarding pope's incompetence, implying he to get out of his own troubles, letters that seemed to confirm porter's treachery. burnside again reached washington, where the president him to the white ouse, repeating his july offer to take command of the army. again, burnside declined,
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saying mcclellan was better suited, the emergency being the moving across y the river into maryland that qualifiedwas uniquely to restore the army's morale. left the president little hoice but to turn to george mcclellan once again. mcclellan, interestingly enough, met with burnside shortly after this, and told burnside, he was inclined to decline being in charge of the army until his two enemies, secretary of stanton and general and chief halak resigned. of that.talked him out and mcclellan took it up. discuss the maryland campaign a little bit later. know, e would, as we cclellan,y come after m
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but he was relieved command of the army in 1863. and his staff he boarded a train for providence. as soon as he arrived the invited of rhode island burnside to address the state egislature and receive the highest honor that rhode island on one of its citizens. urnside remained on official leave until march 18, 1863, when he was ordered to take two divisions and report to as the commander of the department of the ohio. cincinnati ived in at the same time the confederate alvary was ravaging central kentucky. burnside immediately took steps confederate his morgan. under john he set his sites on east tennessee, a region that lincoln liberate from confederate control since the beginning of the war. copperhead ing the
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gitator, and seeing to the capture of morgan, whose raiders had gotten all the way up to ortheastern ohio burnside readied his campaign to east tennessee. based out of camp nelson in kentucky burnside started for knoxville on august 1863. negotiating terrible roads and oor supply system, burnside calvary approached knoxville on september 2 and entered the city the following day. confederate army under simon buckner departing the city in to join bragg's army around chattanooga. burnside received a hero's in knoxville. his presence there cut the direct rail line between and tennessee and eorgia, via chattanooga, and would force him to take the roundabout loop through the reinforce bragg's army and win the victory on through september
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20. that same long street, who joined the ranks of bragg haters in the army of tennessee achieved the command that he desired in early november with his assignment to move into east tennessee, drive burnside out of knoxville, and restore the vital irginia and tennessee railroad connection. there is a little map of -- i ad to get something about east tennessee in there, my new hometown. burnside as theh federals slowly retreated into knoxville by at november 17. longstreet conducted quasi-siege operations but he understood that his supply situation was not good must have to sustain a long, prolonged campaign, so he burnside's defenses at knoxville on november 29 targeting a strong point called sanders.
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which is gone unfortunately today. process, 813 men, while inflicting 13 casualties burnside's army. longstreet gave up the fight and ould move into upper east tennessee and eventually return to lee's army in virginia. would also leave east tennessee returning with his staff to cincinnati on december the holidays ding at home in providence, orders came to recruit the ninth corps strength, to assignment special which was not defined" by those orders. e went immediately about the task of rebuilding his command and by mid-april he had accumulated four divisions one of black troops, all headquartered in annapolis, maryland new general and chief, ordered him to march south and join as an independent at the potomac reporting
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directly to grant. burnside caught up with the army potomac as it was about to engage in the first battle of overland become the campaign. burnside's performance between mid-june of 1864, proved to be something of a mixed bag. accuracy, h some although probably it's been exaggerated in the literature, of being as accused tardy on may 6th at the battle f the wilderness, the ninth corps would hold the left end of spotsylvania, at and engaged in attacks and ofenses with the same degree success and failure as the army's other corps. at the north -- river, burnside's corps drew the unfortunate assignment to cross lee's ver in the face of famous inverted v formation, and many of you have been to
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the battlefield and you've seen terrain at oxford. inability to do so for reasons which are evident to all of us who have visited that garnered criticism at the time until grant and meade finally understood the of lee's brilliant deployment. it was here that burnside agreed wave his seniority over meade. remember, meade had been a army on commander in the that burnside had commanded, at gesture that , a was only too rare in an army where egos animated most officers. to get the order of the g the honor potomac, wrote burnside, because i think good will result from it. ninth corps played a supporting role in the actions cole ide the creek and at harbor. once the army reached petersburg achaefg a ucceeded in significant gain against the
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confederate defenses on june 17 june 18, including securing a position on the west side of norfolk and petersburg rebel fort er a known as elliott's, a place that weeks later would mark the burnside's nd of military career. now, the path that led to removal in august of 1864 started two years earlier 1862 maryland campaign. struggles to s cross the creek against no more han 500 confederate soldiers became symbolic of his alleged by mpetence made tangible the iconic stonebridge at the of the action. most recent scholarship, however, has demonstrated that burnside's failure to seize the
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on the ove the bridge morning of september 17 was not early as egregious as traditionally portrayed and is basis for ch of the the accusations rest with a fabricated report by george deflect , designed to the blame for the army's failures from his own shoulders burnside's. now, a little background. debacle at second manassas in late august, president lincoln turned, as we reluctantly to george mcclellan to revitalize the emoralized troops and then to counter confederate invasion of maryland. with his s popularity men and his organizational in the prompt restoration of the army's morale and fitness for the field. part of that organization was to into wings.rmy for reasons really that
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mcclellan never adequately explained. as the army left the washington lee, ses in pursuit of mcclellan assigned burnside ommand of the right wing, consisting of his own ninth corps and the first corps under hooker. on september 14, burnside's wing at cked the confederates south mountain. the ninth corps driving the and s away from fox's gap the first corps all but with the turner's gap loss of ninth corps commander in the despite the success, evolved battle plan designed and xecuted by burnside, mcclellan suddenly dismantled burnside's winged command and his plan for the confederates placed burnside's two corps at pposite ends of the battlefield.
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burnside never really understood this new organizational scheme, and historians still debate motivation for estroying the army's unity of command. although personal considerations little t the root of max' decisions and maybe george will be able to tell us more about this later in the weekend. eing the outstanding military historian that he is. > the outstanding hooker, and we'll hear more about joe hooker's personality could be esponsible for carving out an independent command, but porter likely the source of
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mcclellan's change of attitude toward burnside. caught up with the army on september 13, and as ost of us know, he was mcclellan's favorite subordinate, but was then, being nvestigated as we mentioned earlier for intentionally withholding support for john pope at second manassas. although these charges would eventually prove untrue, to er's scathing letters burnside about pope played into narrative that porter wanted pope to fail. these e had forwarded orders to the war department, and to president lincoln, not toward porter, but in the dutiful belief that the war should be apprised of this. about that. out and no doubt planted the idea burnside wasn that an administration tody who could trusted.
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this seems to be the best explanation for mcclellan's man he oldness toward a had considered a close personal friend and one of the officers had delegated the most authority. scott essentially dismantling the right wing was perhaps the punishment mcclellan chose to meet out for the rhode island are's role in the charges against john porter. and mcclellan's world, or inside had proven himself to be untrustworthy. there could be no performance reasons behind the decision. by stephenendorsed spears and -- in his recent survey.
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burnside said -- lincoln had suggested bernstein take command of the army from mcclellan and undermining burnside's authority and ensuring he would not receive credit for any victory in maryland, explains his demotion. i think ay, combination of poker's ambition and jealousy resulted in the reduction of burnside's authority and his role in the coming battle. mcclellan's battle plan called for hooker, supported by the 12 court and the second core to attack the confederate left while burnside, with the ninth core demonstrated against the confederate right to prevent lead from using interior lines to respond to the threat to his land.
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never crafted written orders for his attack plan. after the battle, there were several explanations offered for it. but, the gist of his intention seemed to be that of burnside's demonstration was able to be converted into an attack, he was to do so. and, should either burnside or hooker's assaults prove unsuccessful, mcclellan would commit his reserves and calvary to an attack against the center of the confederate line. burnside's mission of assaulting the confederate right was, by any measure, a very difficult one. here is a little map of antietam the acting corps commander, jacob cox, considers the attack a recipe for butchery.
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cox wrote, no point of attack on the whole field was so unpromising as this. the assumption that the ninth core could cross the antietam alone, as the only place on the field where the confederates had their line immediately on the stream, which must be crossed under fire by two narrow heads of column and could turn it to the right, along the hostile army before that army had been broken or seriously shaken elsewhere is one which would hardly be made until time had dimmed the remembrance of the actual position of the luby's divisions on the field. the outline of burnside's attacks on september 17 are well known. he launched no fewer the m3 assault unsuccessfully across antietam creek until early in the afternoon, he bowled his way across the lower bridge. taking too long to bring up his reserve division, he advanced towards the main confederate
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line along the harpers ferry road and had reached the road in a couple of places one elements arrivedll's's division and drove into burnside's left flank, halting the union process and saving wii's army from defeat with a river to the rear. clearly, had burnside crossed antietam creek sooner, he could have reached the confederate line before hill's corps arrived and security victory that would have associated his name with a signal triumph rather than suffering decades of blame for losing the chance to win the battle. there are several relevant factors to keep in mind regarding burnside's performance. first, the nature of the confederate defense defied the seemingly overwhelming odds of the entire nicor, facing off
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against to georgia regiments and an artillery battery. antietam creek, though not wide nor deep was practical for 40 only at specific points. quotedrast to the widely but demonstrably inaccurate comment from jackson's aid, henry kidd douglas hughes said that with a hop, skip and jump burnside could have landed on the other side. it's a good toward their and we actually went into antietam creek to see how easy it was to cross. and people were ready surprised at how difficult it would be and that was with a couple of people. if you can imagine an entire core trying to go across it, absolutely impossible. as we know, usable forwards did exist, but the columns's engineer whose responsibility it
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was to locate -- locate the point failed to do so. suggested, the terrain in the area strongly favors the defense. most of you have been to or inside's bridge and did on that bluff and seen that terrain. it virtually neutralized his advantage of numbers. having to rely on the narrow expanse of the robot rage in the absence of acrid and knowledge about tactical forge all guaranteed rough going for any attacking force until the defenders could be degraded. which is exactly what happened after three hours of combat. ofn the mcclellan partisan, -- an excellent six -- historian admits there is a good reason to question whether any method of attacking the bridge could have
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succeeded. until union artillery and infantry fire diminished the strength of defenders. in response to critics who attributed burnside's problems to a lethargy born of pouting of his demotion from when command, matthews writes the difficulty encountered during the morning by the ninth core were attributable to the difficult tactical problem they faced rather than to a commander brooding over his relationship with mcclellan. error so that he could exploit a stream crossing expeditiously. once the ninth core crossed, they got rolling as quickly as could be expected. we should look, not burns -- burnside said so much as mcclellan. mcclellan sent burnside orders
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at 7:00 to move his core into creekon to cross antietam when so instructed, orders that burnside promptly obeyed. within an hour, burnside had assembled his troops to storm the bridge and dissent and infantry division, and infantry division. as the battle raged to the north, or inside awaited the promised orders to attack, which finally arrived at 10:00, when a staff officer delivered mcclellan's instructions to move forward, promising to support the ninth core with street in the center and the covering once he was across the creek. having heard nothing from the foot soldiers searching the elusive or, burnside had no choice but to assault into the teeth of the confederate defense. what followed in prompt succession was burnside's determined attacks, which finally succeeded at 1:00.
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mcclellan had delayed ordering burnside forward once the warning attacks by cooker, mansfield and sumner had failed. now, the young napoleon worried about a confederate counterattack that could thrive him from the field. not until franklin's six core begin to arrive did mcclellan order burnside to attack. but burnside's mission in mcclellan's mind had it now changed. no longer what it inside's attack be in support of the assignment, but, his became a sort of forlorn hope to keep me from following up his advantages. wonder, then that mcclellan withheld the authority from his infantry reserves and his calvary from burnside's afternoon advance. the ninth core had become a sacrificial lamb to prevent lee
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from launching a massive counterattack elsewhere. had mcclellan given burnside infantry support or size, ray, to protect burnside's frank -- flank, this would not have been the game changer. mcclellan would write to reports after the battle of antietam. in his after action report, written october 15, 1862, he wrote, "burnside core was interested with a difficult task of carrying the bridge and assaulting the enemy's right. the order, having been communicated at 10:00 a.m.. but, on august 4, 1863, mcclellan's summary report of his tenure falsified narrative stating the orders to attack arrived at 8:00 and only by repeated and orders had he reduced his reluctant subordinate to obey his
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attackers. a favorite -- fable that mcclellan would repeat in his much-publicized memoirs. culpabilityf unjustly thrust upon burnside by mcclellan held sway for .enerations though far from flawless, they were creditable and not the cause of the lost opportunity for a decisive union victory that would have changed the course of the war. as william marvel concludes, or's performance at antietam was superior to that of mcclellan and equal to that of any of the leaders --or wing commanders. perhaps the most tangible endorsement of burnside's was his promotion to army commander six weeks later.
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ofre he is, in november 1862. this is an honor that hardly had been given to a man who was responsible for losing a battle. general orders number 182 announced the removal of general mcclellan and the appointment of ambrose burnside of commander of on nation's premier army november 7, 1862. particularly, burnside objected, protesting his incapacity to manage 120,000 men and renewing his confident in his old friend mcclellan, whose treachery had not been exposed. the courier delivering the orders, anticipated such a reaction and told burnside that mcclellan was out and, if burnside did not accept, it would go to someone else, probably joel hooker. --nside dislikes fuel people but fighting joe was one of them so he reluctantly ascended. contrary to the conventional
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wisdom that the entire army blanched at his ascension, there were many and the army, such as the cap in the iron brigade who declared we are well pleased with burnside. our soldiers will fight as well under p/e as mixi. this is -- the mcclellan fan club regretted the dismissal of their hero. william franklin wrote this. "the feeling of the army is excessive in indignation. but, everyone likes burnside. i think he is the only one who could have been chosen with whom things went on so quietly". earlyrrespondent and chronicler of the army of the potomac, william swinton considered burnside's logical source -- choice to replace mcclellan. he was beloved by his own court and respected by the army general. known that he had energy,
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perseverance and, above all, a high degree of patriotic deal. -- seal. i think the troops of the army of the potomac, loyal to mcclellan, viewed burnside as mcclellan's friend and a legitimate successor. not, a usurper. now, the explicit premise behind mcclellan's stacking -- sacking with a young napoleon's failure to be aggressive and bring lead to battle. burnside realized that despite the lateness of the campaign season, it was mandatory he conduct offensive operations and quickly. inadequacy ofthe the orange and alexandria railroad, to which could only supply half of the army's 1500 tons of daily supply needs, the army -- she decided to move the army to fredericksburg, utilizing the potomac river and
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the richmond-frederick railroad as his line of communications. he would arrange for it on tunes to arrive with his army to facilitate a crossing of the unaffordable and now bridge meehan: experience and moved south towards richmond, engaging way and the 50 miles between fredericksburg and the confederate capital. generalhenry halleck, in chief's reservations against the plan he and the president had preferred that the army attacked lee around culpeper, the president approved burnside's plan, advising him to move quickly to achieve success. and move quickly, he did. burnside had divided his army into grand division of two cores each, similar to mcclellan's arrangements on the march toward antietam, to improve the efficiency of his command. the lead grand division under edwin v sumner, departed
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warmington on november the 15th two days later, sumner's right randy division was approaching found with, the colonial port across the river from fredericksburg. everything seems to be working well, wrote a new york soldier. as all have faith in burnside, nothing is any longer said of the removal of little mac. but there, burnside was stymieing. as the rest of the army assembled on the left bank of the river, because there were no pontoons. the original order to ship the pontoon trains to washington and on to fredericksburg want by telegraph to washington, where halleck, afraid the telegraph lines were not secure, decided incredibly to forward the orders via the slow ascent of a canal boat drawn by mules. it took several days. burnside had repeatedly telegraphed the war department
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for status report on the pontoon equipment and received no reply. the army had arrived by the time and up they arrived from washington and the news was not good. the pontoons had appeared in washington on november 14 and 15th and another couple of days would be required to out for a wagon train and drag them to found with, once the material reached the quiet landing. bad weather and worst roads would delay the delivery even longer, so that by the time the bridging material arrived, long street's core of wii's army was in position and jackson's core was expected shortly. the bottom line was that the entire premise of burnside's offensive plan, a rapid and uncontested crossing -- crossing of the rappahannock, was moved. the movedent said that must be made quickly and i thought the same, wrote burnside. the medically explaining that
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his approved plan was obsolete. as the cold wind of december into blow, burnside had to create a new strategy. the only option off the table was to go into winter camp and await for spring campaign season. burnside new, and he was closely reminded, that the government expected him to take offensive action immediately, before the certain arrival of one or rendered the roads incapable of sustaining army were maneuvers -- army maneuvers. burnside had three options. upstream, across its confluence and sleep -- sweep down on wii's left. bywas made impracticable several days of rain that rose the reverse. -- he could attempt a
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froming downriver fredericks, a plan he endorsed until jackson's troops on the south bank made a crossing there and -- and practical -- there impractical. this left a direct a cell at fredericksburg and that is the one he adopted. most of his subordinates lacked confidence in this plan but sumner endorsed it. believing that, by using the element of surprise, he could slice between the two wings of wii's army, which, unsure of where burnside would cross, had to protect more than 20 miles of riverfront. as we know, despite some delays in building the monsoon -- pontoon bridges, they crossed the river without serious loss on december 11, leaving most of jackson's core a day's march to the south. if they moved immediately, they would confront only some 35,000
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men of long street's core, distributed along the front of five miles, presenting every possibility of a successful assault. rather the and expert eight the crossing, the rest of the army and to attack formation overnight, burnside delayed until the following day, setting december 13 as the attack, allowing jackson to appear and place his divisions and position to counter the key portion of burnside's plan. that plan depended on his left grand division under william e franklin. franklin controlled about 60,000 men that morning, fully half of burnside's strength. he would be responsible for turning the right flank of wii's army, found here at the bottom of the map, turning the right flank of wii's army, held by
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jackson and then turning to the north and rolling up the confederate flag -- flank. once this envelopment was underway, burnside was launched an attack against the center of wii's army behind the city, targeting the lowest and most advanced portion of long street's defenses. a great deal of controversy swirls around mcclellan's orders that morning. burnside had intended a meeting of the left grand division's brain trust on the 12th, at which the plan to turn the confederate right was developed. burnside's written orders were transported the next morning and they were poorly worded. the general commanding directs you, it said to franklin, to keep your command in position. and you will send out a division
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, at least, to pass below smithfield to seize, if possible, their height near captain hamilton's to keep it well supported in its line of retreat open. outlinedof the order the supporting role to be played by sumner in attacking behind fredericksburg with the ultimate outcome being wii's evacuation of his position and a retreat toward the confederate capital. franklin camele, under scrutiny for his failures in fredericksburg and he would it testify disingenuously that he considered the orders to call for only reconnaissance. i never dreamed this was to be considered a strong attack a suppose it was an armed observation to ascertain where the enemy was. he was subsequently that subsequently suspended from his command.
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burnside's language was unfortunate, using fees rather languagey in the timid regarding the lines of retreat would exacerbate franklin's it seriously quashes generalship. however, if a franklin, as he claimed, the orders different so drastic from the plan articulated the previous month, why did he not fire off an inquiry to the army commander? in the event, as we know, after a long delay, franklin would advance to divisions on december 13, achieving the only success that the union arms would see that day. a suggestive of what might have been accomplished had he committed a greater portion of his available troops. growing anxious about the situation on his left, burnside set in aid to franklin's said there to obtain a report. returned, where
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it arrived the be a lot officer tot burnside had replied franklin, saying lee was shifting to his right and that franklin was making headway against the rebels. at that time, neither of these assertions was true, but burnside accepted them and ordered someone to go forward with his supporting attack. the result of those attacks created one of the most tragic slaughters in the history of the army of the potomac. 15 brigades attacked the confederate line and, although some of them reached to within 25 yards of the stonewall and the sunken road at the base of marie's heights, none of the attacks succeeded. in assessing burnside's generalship, a few facts need to be admitted. the location of the attack,
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contrary to most people's popular conception, was the best it could have been. marie's heights presented a substantially less imposing obstacle than the high ground on either of its flanks. being both lower in elevation and because of its proximity to the union jumpoff point, requiring shorter explosion for his attacking troops. ,ttacking the confederate left on fall hill would've required a difficult crossing over a wide can now, swampy ground of a very imposing height of practical impossibility that burnside grasped. attacking to the left of marie's heights, against telegraph hill, where lee had his command post would have subjected his soldiers to fire from both flanks and a longer slog through the valley of hazel run. believed if burnside
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the confederates were reeling from franklin's assault and a strong push against wii's center would seal the deal, then, targeting marie's heights presented burnside the best of the collection of rather bad options. burnside made serious mistakes at fredericksburg. none more damaging than his failure to explain the successful river crossing on december 11. giving the confederate 36 hours to respond to his ensuing attack. his ambiguous and poorly worded orders to franklin paralyzed that overcautious commander and led to the squandered opportunity that was approximate -- the proximate cause of federal failure. that is where the emptiness attacks on marie's height, where robert eva lee spent with he and five hours camera away at the elevated and entrenched lines on gain's no is the 8000 men in the process. he is deemed old and ferocious.
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when burnside does the same in fredericksburg, he is called stubborn and stupid. the difference was, when hooded told his brigade to rush at the enemy without firing, they succeeded. thosea humphreys dave instructions to his militia, they failed. dismissal from the command of the army of the potomac did not result from the battle of vicksburg. his failures perceived real there. but rather as a result of a failed offensive five weeks later the history has called the mud march. initially considering renewing his attacks in fredericksburg on september 14, or inside conducted a flawless retreat in stafford county under lee's knows the following night. president lincoln reassured the army that the reverse at fredericksburg was not an error nor a failure other the indian accident.
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many in the army and the press blamed the administration for insisting there watching an attack under unfavorable circumstances. general burnside, in keeping with his character, publicly accepted blame for the defeat. in a letter published in the new york times on december 23, manfully absolving the government of any culpability. morale and the army unquestionably suffered following the battle but not as much as general lee described. rhode island soldiered, daniel blue said the army hopelessly demoralized, wrapped in doom and dejection existed in the prejudiced imaginations of disaffected subordinates. no subordinates fit that description better the end john newton and john cochran. encouraged by their superiors, newton and cochran traveled to washington and, to the secretary
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of state, died interview with president lincoln. there formed him the army was in deplorable position and run side's plan was doomed to fail. lincoln responded to this by ordering burnside to cancel any plans for his attack and the general complied, offering his resignation to the president. lincoln retained burnside, of course. wouldrnside's dismissal result from the failure of his next gambit, a turning movement upstream from fredericksburg that was spoiled by a terrible nor'easter. the various options that burnside had in january of 1863. but the plan that he eventually seized upon was nearly identical to the one that hooker would employ too much historical approbation following spring.
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by weather conditions, or inside's plan proved to be an abject failure. aware of the constant efforts by hooker to undermine his superior officer and discuss the by the lack of cooperation offered by others in the army, burnside asked the president to dismiss hooker and three other general and transfer for others, adding that, if the president did not see fit to authorize this, he would tender his resignation. ultimately, of course, lincoln refused to implement burnside's recommendations or accept his resignation. instead, signing the general to the command of the department of the ohio, as we discussed. as burnside'sker successor in the army of the potomac. burnside's association with the army would not be renewed until
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, the overland campaign. his corps crossed the james river on june 15, 1860 four and took position on the left of the army's lined the next day. burnside's three white division were involved in the successful attack on june 17. there is a book coming out that goes into some detail about this . on june 18, elements of robert potter's division with orlando b the deepestged penetration achieved by any federal forces that day, establishing an advanced position across norfolk and petersburg were wrote, just below that confederate strong point of peak grams or elliotts. this achievement set the stage for the best-known episode of the entire petersburg campaign, the battle of the crater. most of us in petersburg are familiar with the story of the
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commanderting brigade , studied the terrain for his old regimen following the june 18 attacks. he thought, at the federals could run a mine shaft under the can for, they could blow it to hell. he ran the idea of the chain of command, gaining the approval of potter and burnside. army headquarters was a little more skeptical, thanks to the doubts cast upon the proposal by needs chief engineer, james duane, who was the author of a manual for such engineering and a longtime critic of general burnside, who declared the eye dia -- the idea nonsense. need and grant allowed burnside to pursue the digging although pleasance would write that the army headquarters intentionally forwarded his work.
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labor,hree weeks of pleasance completed his shaft more than 510 feet long and a few days later, excavated to lateral galleries, in which 8000 house of lack harder were positioned to need the confederate fort. despite this achievement, i think it is important to remember that run side's mind in not play a central role what historians have come to know as grants third petersburg offensive. the general in chief based his efforts to capture the confederate cap -- capital. only after this effort failed, in effort we know as the first deep bottom operation, it failed but it did draw many of lee's
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divisions to the north of the river. grant and need considered burnside's mind a tactical priority. nevertheless, burnside had chosen his course to make the attack. choosing his untested but eager division of united states colored troops to lead an attack . although, the degree of special training provided these troops has been much exaggerated in literature. at the 11th hour, general meade used -- ordered burnside to one of his three quite divisions. both, because the army commander lacked the confidence in these untried black troops but because possible failure in this unorthodox operation would open the government to accusations of callously sending the african-americans to an inevitable slaughter. up to this point, burnside had
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done everything right. personality led him to a fatal error. all three of his white divisions had been heavily engaged since the first week of may and their numbers had been diminished by severe casualties. there are more row was similarly well, at least in the opinion of their commanders. none of home volunteered to lead the assault. on july 20 nine, burnside held a council of war to concoct a new , 24 hours before the mine was scheduled to explode. selecting potters or wilcox's divisions, both led by competent if on spectacular men, burnside left the decision up to chance. he placed three lots, probably
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in a half and allowed division commanders to pick the man with the short stick would receive the assignment to leave. -- lead. that man turned out to be james a chill leslie. he had obtained a line command in the ninth core during the overland campaign and had led one disastrous and unauthorized attack at north and a in a drunken condition. beverly's staff largely hid their commander in incompetent -- although his shameful performance on june 17 had marked him as clearly the weakest link in the ninth core. why lindley had not been removed is something of a mystery. he had tried to resign in early did -- in early july, citing poor health, but burnside did not act on his -- request.
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probably fearing that a new competent, would take his place. in any event, the worst division commander in the army of the potomac would now be responsible for leading one of the trickiest offensive operations ever attempted by the eastern army. to make matters worse, fast confusion resulting from field and line officers getting no fewer than four tactical plans to conduct the attack on the eve of the assault. corrupted at 4:44 a.m. on july 30 and grant would consider what ensued the saddest affair witness in the war. the blast killed more the end 300 confederate and opened a gap in the rubble line 500 yards wide as troops on either side recoiled in shock. while beverly sought shelter in air bottle.
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he was confused -- his confused troops failed to go around the had four cemetery hills, which was supposed to be the target of their attack is that, they help extricate the half buried confederate and, as enemy mortar, canon and rifle fire began to rub, they sought shelter in the exploded depression. reinforcements merely exacerbated the chaos. grant made one visit to the front while need remained in the rear, bombarding burnside with of thes can gravitation situation and urging his subordinate to commit all troops at his disposal. ctnside advanced the u.s. division last and the african-americans had suffered more than any other unit. many of them were victims of one of the most gruesome massacres in american military history. by midmorning, grant and need
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had given up hope of achieving anything at the crater and told her inside to extricate his troops. no easy task, giving the unions were in a tight knot in and around the crater. the union line was saturated by enemy fire. run side's pleas for help fell on deaf ears. the ninth core commander had a testy exchange with meade, who accused him of not being truthful regarding the fate of his attacks. although need eventually allowed burnside to use his own timetable for withdrawal, he, along with grant, washed their hands of the entire affair. by midafternoon, the fighting had ended, leaving nearly 4000 union casualties in their wake. such an outcome requires the head of some prominent leader and burnside's cranium provided sacrifice.
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general meade preferred charges of insubordination against burnside, stemming from their unpleasant correspondence on the morning of the 30th and called a court of inquiry to examine the causes behind the failure. he appointed for officers, friendly to him, and having been on record as being opposed to burnside. the court convened between august 8 and september 8 and reached the predictable conclusion that burnside was largely to blame for the fiasco at the crater. for thisonale conclusion is either controversy over or untrue. a few of burnside's officers received lesser censures and let the was allowed to resign, never to return to a field command. is important to mention, as a side note, that when the joint committee on the investigation of the crater in december and january, they concluded that me's interference
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was her inside's explosion primary to blame for the defeat. but this body had just as much of a political agenda. completed his three days of testimony to the court in august and embarq on an improved 20 day leave and grabbed orders. the general in chief told him to wait at home and orders to return to the army never came. burnside offered to resign his commission in january, but lincoln would not accept it. although burnside remained willing to serve wherever he was needed, no assignment would come. even though the ever humble burnside road secretary of war edward stand as late as march 23, 1865, quote "if i can be of any service to general grant or sherman as a subordinate commander or in aid to camp, or the bearer of dispatchers from
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you to either of them, i am quite ready". the war ended without a response from stephen and burnside filed his resignation last afternoon of lincoln's life. burnside returned to providence, where he embarked on a political career that would span a generation. less than one year after he resigned his commission, he was elected governor of rhode island by a threefold majority. he was reelected twice, with no yes then two thirds of the vote. in 1875, the ri legislature elected him to the united states senate. he had experienced a political metaphor offices -- metamorphosis from his prewar days. but he was not of a radical stripe. he championed his party's causes to elevate african-americans but refused to turn his back on former confederates. a winningd to be formula with was reelected to a second term.
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in 1876, when his beloved wife died at age 47 and general burnside followed mali to the great beyond in 1881, following a sudden illness. the u.s. senate afforded their deceased colleague every honor that could be bestowed. tributes most eloquent was that of senator charles w "ins of florida, who wrote, all of the best qualities of manhood in heart and generous feeling, or and unsullied integrity and gentleness and courage and conscientious devotion to duty, is true patriotism. in contempt of everything low and on a noble and appreciation of all that was high and honorable and charity and love for his species and all of the boundless resources of a great, manly heart, senator burnside had no. ".
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burnside spent only nine of his 40 months in the civil war service. but it was that on me's nearing generals who crafted the enemies of burnside that largely exists today as a genial, bumbling, incompetent. burnside believed in the inherent goodness of man. and that history would vindicate him. thus, he never defended himself against his critics. i have simply to do my duty, he wrote. claim safely leave any that i have to the judgment of future years and the justice of my fellow country". sadly, the image we have of burnside today, lays largely unjust and, as framed by history tractors, biased and self-serving remarks and often unsubstantiated recollections,
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almost none of which were published until the man was dead. today, that image places her inside along the most derided of also war generals, reputation aided by his own honest, humble and trusting manner and the one that, in my opinion, is largely undeserved. thank you very much. i knew you would set aside standard for the other speakers for the rest of the week. we do have time for questions. my lovely assistant in the back, colin and jerry, have microphones to help c-span. if you have a question for well, raise your hand and they will give you a microphone.
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it has always been my hope is that i speak long enough to exhaust all of the questions so the superficiality of my knowledge will not be exposed. i can see it is working. yes. no. maybe. body.y good gecko\/\ [indiscernible] [indiscernible] do you have anybody in mind other than leslie? d have anybody in mind? [indiscernible]
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>> i am not sure that i would agree with the premise of your question. the second tier commanders in the northern army that do not get the attention from the stories. we have a biography of every good year general in the army of nothern virginia but we do have treatments on some of the higher ranking officers in the army of the potomac. so, men like orlando wilcox, who is memoirs have been published, cox.t potter and jacob these are not first rate commanders. but i would not say that people who were dumped on burnside. inhink there is some truth the concept that the ninth core was kind of an outsider in the army of the potomac. you think about its history. burnside was not the peninsula. it was not really involved as a
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unit second manassas. and it went out to the west in 1863. was not part of the army of the potomac at the beginning of the overland campaign. i think, consequently that the ninth core was something of a redheaded stepchild to the army of the potomac. some ofthat influenced the opinion of the ninth core. but, burnside's subordinate commanders were average commanders, with the exception of someone like leslie. -- leadly.- [indiscernible] >> i think what i tried to point was that burnside's
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bad reputation was based on those three campaigns, antietam, fredericksburg, and the crater. also, the things we associated with burnside. we forget about his other performances. think, in all of those cases, i tried to mention and the time i had available, that there were mistakes that he made it that each of those instances. at antietam, he should've confirmed where those crossing point where. most of you are very knowledgeable about the war. you know about these battles. you know that rodman's division at antietam crossed and gotten on the flank. that was one of the approximate causes of the confederate's treating from the bank. it took them a long time to find that ford and, had borne -- burnside been honorable and not trusted james the wayne and the engineers to identify those
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crossing point, ms. identified them, he could have succeeded. he waited too long for wilcox to bring up. it took almost an hour for wilcox to get up and lead the advance after the bridge had been captured. that was a mistake. he should have moved forward. ordersricksburg, his were very poorly worded, confused franklin. i think his biggest error, i said, was not expediting the attack. to bring up jackson half of the confederate army to oppose him. he made mistakes there and at the crater.'s big mistake was interesting leslie with leading this attack. if potter or wilcox had led the attack, who knows? was the plan potentially successful? absolutely. the crater operation could have succeeded, had it been managed better. no division commander, wilcox,
7:21 pm, le none of those commanders look made it to the front. ande troops were leaderless there were four different attack plans that had been propagated that were not cleared up. burnside gave written orders but those orders were not conveyed correctly. burnside made mistakes in each of these battles. i guess my argument is that, was burnside -- should be included with grant and sherman and sheridan? absolutely not. should he be rated near the bottom? i do not think so. if you take his military career in its entirety. >> with what happened with the ninth core, was their impact on
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the morale of the soldiers in -- units based on how average soldiers see how their leader is being treated by the other leaders. >> burnside was actually treated pretty well. he was removed from command after the mud march and his ninth core guys were loyal to them. but that was something that was generally accepted in the army. of course, he is dismissed after the crater. those are the two times that the soldiers can have risen up in protest of their commander being treated badly. he was very popular with his nicor men. he was much beloved -- ninth core men. he was loved by his troops. on august fourth 1964, was not the ninth core of may 6, 1864. there had been so may casualties thato many new troops
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continuity of feeling towards burnside had been eliminated. as it had been in the second core and the fifth or, as well, by the horrendous subtleties they had sustained. burnside remained popular until the day he died with his veterans. tot is the thing i tried miss at the end. all of this hate and mess about burnside appears after he is dead. at the time, but his career and ryland. it is a disgrace command? he is given the highest honors the state can give -- can bestow on somebody. and it isl thought of only later that he becomes the bumbling, incompetent. bruce -- i like bruce can, wonderful contributors to our study. i would never want to denigrate their contributions.
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i think a lot of us of a certain age grew up on bruce ken, guys interested. but they had their biases. they had their biases and that is what people read and that is an image that is hard to break. unless you start digging down a little deeper and looking at the questions that we would look at at a conference like this. >> and burnside wasn't the worst commander in the army [indiscernible] >> george mcclellan. i am not a mcclellan fan. gotten something of a little rehabilitation. joe harsh, the duly departed joe harsh, he and i had really fun debates where he would defend mcclellan and i would attack and we did this in little forums.
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he was very sympathetic and ethan refuse, is a great historian. ethan has spoken at symposiums. and some of you know him. a fine historian, he is sympathetic to mcclellan. convinced for variety of reasons. i think: was the worst. i think, mcclellan was the worst. it seems like president lincoln gave him many chances. you talk about how he was really treated badly after the war, not during the war. were there any [indiscernible] -- how did president johnson treat him? johnson is above my pay grade. i am not sure what kind of commerce that johnson and
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burnside had after the war. burnside was a governor. so i do not know that he had -- maybe there is someone -- george are you or anybody -- i do not think they would have had a lot of commerce with one another, because burnside was not operating as a senator. he was operating as a governor. he does not have a lot of -- politically, burnside was a moderate republican. he was on board with a lot of the republican programs after the war. political programs. but he was not a waiver of the bloody shirt. strip xot wanting to confederates of the rights and so forth. andi do not know if he johnson ever talked about that. they might have seen a lot in common, though. we just do not know. well. has been a long night. i thank you for your attention and everything that you have done.
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