tv Book TV After Words CSPAN November 25, 2010 4:00pm-5:00pm EST
best? >> guest: well, i think i said it was a tour of force as a text, and i think it's because it's so multilayered in its ideas, and the ideas are intreg grated on -- integrated on every page. there's a construction so she's not making a linnier argument or laying out categories and explaning a topic within the category. she was criticized for this in her time, but if you relax that model and see what she is doing, you see she's layering up her argument in the most delightfully fascinating way. you have to learn to read the book, and when you do see that, you grasp her argument profoundly. >> host: i want to thank you for layering her life and allowing us some access to it. it really is a remarkable, a
lincoln and davis. the journey of lincoln and davis, one a great hero and one a lost man in american history influenced about race, politics, meaning of the civil war. that's what captured me about telling the rest of the story. >> host: why the title, "bloody crimes"? you indicate that it's the prophesy, a promise, and allergy. >> guest: yeah, the time comes from john brown in the bible. he launched the raid at harpers ferry in 1869. he leafed through his bible, folded over pages, underlined words and sentences. one particular sentence that we underlined from ezekiel, make a
change. the city is full of bloody crimes. the city of full of violence. he handed a note that said the crimes of the bloody land can only be purged by blood. after the lincoln assassination, people came out with flags that people would wear bearing lincoln's portrait. one photographer came out with a woman dressed at liberty, guarding a portrait of lincoln. that was an eagle perched on top to pursue lincoln's enemies. and it was captioned make a chain for the last is full of bloody crimes. that inspired the title. people of the north and south believed it was the climax of an era of bloody crimes. the north believes that southerners had tortured prisoners, murdered people, the
union had lost over 300,000 men. the prison camps were horrendous. the climax of the murder of the president himself. the north thought the south was guilty of countless crimes. the south thought lincoln and his invading army were the criminals. destroying plantations, killing 24,000 southern men, and so each side could agree on one thing. that april and may 1865 was a great climax in the era of bloody crimes. it struck me the prophesy of john brown resonated throughout the civil war. that's how i came to title the book. >> host: great. now because of all of those things, the southerns looked at the war differently. we know that the image at jefferson davis in the north was tarnished. so even though his image has been softened a bit over the years, he certainly does not
guarder the attention that have abraham lincoln does. not in the north, certainly he does in the south. we tend to look at the differences more than the similarities. but you said something quite extraordinary, you have to be able to point out the obvious similarities and not to obvious similarities. get you give us information? >> guest: yes, when i began the book, i knew more about lincoln. i was a lincoln man. but i was intrigued by davis. it began in a cemetery in washington, d.c. in georgetown at oak hill. willie lincoln died in the white house, he was buried temporarily in a tomb, a space loaned to lincoln for his presidency. one day when i was visiting willie lincoln's old tomb,
jefferson davis that buried a son of his too. we all know the differences between them. what did they have in common? it's fascinating. both born in kentucky. a year apart. a hundred miles apart. born not under grand wealthy circumstances, as young men, they were funny, pranksters, jokesters both were wrestlers. jefferson davis learned to wrestle with slaves, lincoln was a famous wrestler in illinois. both suffered great tragedies. we know the story of abraham lincoln and ann rutledge. for years some historians, not you, have argued there was no romance. it's all been made up. the evidence said in the great lincoln scholars, michael and others have now concluded, there was love between lincoln and ann rutledge. and he died suddenly of illness.
it devastated him. he became a different man. some of his friends thought he might commit suicide. jefferson davis fell in love with 16-year-old, sarah knox taylor. he got out of the army. her parents weren't thrilled. they married. he took her home to the mississippi river to his sister's plantation. there they are both struck down by a terrible form of malaria. both near death. he recovered. he staggered to her death bed, and she died in his arms. they had been married for 12 weeks. davis said there was the time he went to his great seclusion. he was a lost man. one thing that abraham and
davis, they became different men. davis emerged as a harder more mysterious unusual, lincoln, the death of his family and ann rutledge, he had a different view of the meaning of life. both broaded on this. this was just one of the similarities. they had a similar physical appearance. tall and lean. they had the look about them. they both loved books, learning. they weren't men who sought the luxuries of the world. neither one cared about expensive furniture or world travel or goods, or superficial. they were both deep thinkers. when davis resigned from the u.s. senate and gave his last speech, people cried. he was known for having his beautiful, persuasive voice. lincoln had a different kind of voice. kind of a high pitch voice. both were incredible speakers.
both were men who sought to master their passions. they were both opposed to succession. jefferson davis was not an avid successionist. he once said our great agriculture and your great industry can conquer this continent. they were men of reason, not passion. they both suffered terribly. lincoln's son willie died in 1862. in 1864, one of davis' son's fell to his death. they suffered the deaths of friends, family members, people they knew. there was one great difference. this must not be over looked. lincoln said if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. now there's been controversy about what did lincoln believe about slavery and race at different points. what does he say in northern illinois during the lincoln
lincoln-douglas debates. we known one thing. he always thought that slavery was a great moral wrong. if nothing was wrong -- and so davis did not agree. davis believed in white racial superiority. throughout his life. davis believed that slavery was good. it actually helped the slave people become civilized after they were brought here in africa. so that was the great difference between them. i wondered what would have happened if abraham lincoln and jefferson davis met. we know now they never met. i think they would have gotten along in many ways talking about books and ideas and the country, the greatness of america, america exceptionalism. lincoln and davis were nationalist and believed in american exceptionalism. they could have never agreed about the nature of men. lincoln believed that all men deserved to be free. he believed the declaration of independence and the
constitution guaranteed that. davis believed the opposite. the founders had slavery. why not us? that was the great one that separated them. they could have been friends. they could have avoided a civil war. but the great gulf between them on the nature of man divided them forever. >> host: i guess that's my basic question. how is it that one could become a slave holder anded other could become an advocate for the freedom of all people if not for the equality of all people, certainly the freedom of all people. they were so similar in terms of background. what's davis' background, is it that similar to lincoln? or was there just a bit more wealth? >> guest: there was. there was more wealth. lincoln grew up under circumstances poor. we have the myth of the log
cabin. we think it's quaint and delightful. he had a hard childhood. his father worked him the way a slave would have worked. at the age of 9, he had an ax put in his hand. he split rails, did labor. lincoln worked hard. davis got privilege early on. lincoln had a year and a half of schooling. essentially, lincoln is a graduate of first grade or second grade. davis went to private academies, college, he was appointed to the united states military academy at west point. his older brother sponsored him, took care of him, gave him land. his brother gave him his first slaves. so the gulf began early in the terms of the experiences of wealth and privilege. davis made use of the skills. he became a senator, congressman, one the greatest secretaries of history. but the difference began early in life.
>> host: uh-huh. okay. you point out in the book as well that despite all of that the north had suffered during the four years of war, lincoln was not inclined to punish the southern people or their leaders for that matter. and so he tells some of his generals to let them up easy. >> guest: yes. >> host: there's the indication there that he really was more than willing to let davis escape. in fact, he seemed to have preferred that that happened. and i assume that's because he didn't want the country thrown into even more chaos because you are putting the man on trial. >> guest: yes. >> host: but given what the northern people had suffered, was he being a tad naive, or wishful thinking or what was going on in lincoln's head? >> guest: i think a few things. first, he was an incredibly generous person. he was a kind person.
he was not vindictive. lincoln once said, i shall do nothing with malice. what i deal with is too vast. he believed it was best for the country if the wounds would be healed at quickly as possible. there would not be punishments. he was opposed to putting any of the confederate leaders on trial. he wanted to let the generals go home. lincoln thought first if davis is tried and executed, the south might revolt again. they might fight a guerrilla war, or resist reconstruction. there was a practical reason to not punish davis to put him in trial. the constitution says that treason trials take place at the site. he would have been put on trial in richmond virginia. in jefferson davis had been
tried and found not guilty, the court would have validated succession. the south was not wrong to leave. then if davis was found guilty and executed, lincoln feared there would be an upheaval. it would cause bitterness for a century. in fact, some northern newspaper editorial said do not execute jefferson davis. there was a newspaper in springfield, massachusetts that said let him live. if he hang them, 1 million southern woman will dip the hander chiefs in his blood and hold a grudge. one, it would be bad for the country to execute davis or other high confederate leaders. it would cause a riff that would last more than a century. what if we did try him and he was found not guilty? succession will be justified under the holding of the davis court. it's difficult to over estimate lincoln's greatness.
the free slaves gathered to meet him at the dock. that was the height of lincoln's presidency. he was deeply moved. when the former slaves began to bow to him, he said don't bow to me. kneel only to god. when he sad down at jefferson davis' first floor study, he didn't exalt. lincoln sat there, didn't speak, and said may i have a glass of water. imagine that, he's beaten the confederacy. it's taken four years and 21,000 lives to end the civil war. lincoln would have entered. he walked with his son tad with 12 guards through the enemy capital. that's the most volatile and dangerous situation that the american president has ever placed himself in. lincoln didn't go in triumph.
he went with humidity. he could have never ordered executions and hangings and punishments. it wasn't in his nature. he transcended. which is why he is one the greatest of all americans. not many presidents would have handled that. >> at the same time, he was willing to accept his general thing. what's known as the hard hand war. so how do you reconcile those two lincoln's? >> guest: it's unusual. because he was this kind man. but he also knew that he had to preserve the union. he was that -- lincoln had two great public political passions. one slavery was a terrible wrong and could never be justified. his other great passion was the union. it must not be destroyed. and he felt for the greater good of the nation even if he had to fight the civil war, it was
worth paying the price to make america better, to preserve the union, ultimately to end slavery. so there were two lincolns. there was a lincoln who once said i couldn't kill a chicken. isn't it i who couldn't kill an animal, has a boy had elected and shed so much blood. lincoln took on the more mysterious view. the define hand was intervening. he was but an actor or agent of the define hand. it's interesting. because lincoln was surrounded by death throughout the civil war. friends were killed, colonel baker was killed. he wrote beautiful condolence letters, and he tells the girl, i more than many, know this. then the terrible episode in 1864 when the poor young girls are blown to bits when the washington arsenal explode. 10 dead girls as young as 13.
lincoln has to preside over their funeral. it's an odd thing to think of lincoln sitting in the white house dealing with death, knowing he is sending men to die. knows that friends are dying. family is dying. but he was willing to do it. lincoln and i don't mean this majortively, he's one the greatest killers in that american history, in that because of his question significance, because of his will, hundreds of thousands of americans died. but he thought the price of the civil war was worth paying to preserve america as a great institute, to preserve liberty, ultimately to free the slaves, to fulfill the promise of the declaration. there were two lincolns. lincoln was a tortured soul. he was not an unfeeling man. he was stricken by the deaths and suffering that went on.
ultimately, he thought that price was worth paying. >> host: okay. if we can go back to the richmond visit. i agree that was an extraordinary thing to rate the former capital of the confederacy so soon after it fell. but lincoln seemed not to be aware of the danger that he was in. or he was indifferent to the danger really. you see a similar kind of thing with jefferson davis. he's not anxious to leave richmond, even though he's been told by lee there's no way that the army can protect richmond any longer. when he does, he goes to danville and stays a while. then he moves on. but he doesn't seem to be in any great hurry to get out of harm's way. you got both of the men who seem to be very indifferent to the danger to their own lives. so what's happening there? is that just a characteristic of great men?
or are they simply out of their minds? >> guest: well, lincoln did not believe in prompt circumstances. he believed he was a plain man, citizen temporary elevated to the great and high office. he didn't like having an entourage of guards. he didn't like that kind of protection. he thought it seemed kingly. unfortunately, that's the way that lincoln thought. during the civil war, washington, d.c. was a cesspool of disloyalty, agents, spies, at that point in time, anyone could have gone to the white house and said that i want to see the president, what's your business? i want to see him about this. you are told to wait on the bench for a few years. it's a miracle that during the civil war, someone else didn't make an appointment to see lincoln and shoot him at his desk. there was a city of violence. a time of violence. i think it's a miracle that no one tried to assassinate abraham
lincoln, that night john booth did. he was essentially unprotected. he owed it to the nation to protect himself better. i hate to criticize lincoln in that way. because he was the great martyr. he should have been more careful. he should have thought about the consequences of his death. lincoln would have been the south's best friend at the end of the civil war. the south, the nation, the freed slaves, everyone could have been better off if abraham lincoln had lived. that's the great tragedy. in the case of davis, davis had been wounded in battle in the mexican war. he had led troops forward, he defeated the charge by mexican answers closing in on the troops. he helped conquer mexico in the mixen -- mexican war.
he was brave. he endured across the country. when he was a little boy, he rode 700 miles on a pony. then he went to school. he was used to the hardships of live. he had many illnesses. he'd almost died a few times. but also this, he didn't view the civil war was ending when richmond fell. that's really one the core stories of the book, davis did not want to give up. so he didn't view fleeing richmond as an escape to save his life or save his family. he wasn't trying to escape to a foreign land or flee justice. he believed he was carrying on the federal clause. his escape was more of an ordered retreat with other cabinet members with a body of arms troops with documents and papers and wagons to keep the federal government going.
he stayed in danville, and he was trying to communicate with lee. because lee hadn't surrendered yet. he thought he could link up in north carolina. he wanted to go deeper south, then west, across the mississippi river, link up with forces there and form a new western confederacy. during the escape, he said i cannot feel like a beaten man. he wasn't trying to save himself. he was trying to save the war. he believed historical lessons suggested that he could make the retreat and reestablish the heart to the confederacy elsewhere. secondly, he didn't really care about himself. he said that he was willing to die to save his people. and he believed that after he was captured. he said that if it will make the life of the people of the south better after the war, i'm happy to be the sacrifice. if the north wants to pour it's
hatred into me and kill me? so be it. put me on trial. i can help my people. when he went on the grand tour of the south at the end of his life and became a hero, davis had never been number one hero. it was robert e. lee, stonewall jackson. davis was more popular at the end of his life than at the height. true for lincoln. for both men, after the fall, they became greater heros. here the end of his life, he went on the speaking tour. he was shocked. tens of thousands of people, woman, -- women passed out at his feet. veterans would become trembling. his wife on one occasion said you cannot meet more veterans. thousands of men touching you.
and davis said i can think of no greater honor than to die in the presence of my men of the confederate army. this was not cowardly. in fact, i think i would say i don't think he ever really wanted to escape. i think he wanted to be on stage at the end. for the final curtain. he could have escaped. he could have fled the country. other members of the cabinet fled to foreign lands. davis could have been done the same. his view was as long as my soldiers are fighting, i can't abandon them. i can't abandon the country. so like abraham lincoln, he really didn't care in the end what happened to him. >> host: but he does not give up until he's captured. even though his generals are telling him that the game is up. that there's no way they are going to prevail. even if they make it west of the mississippi, they are not going
to be successful. just simply not enough troops there. >> guest: right. >> host: but he continues. so one wonders is this a flaw of leadership, a character flaw or what? you would think that if he cares so much about his soldiers, then he would have given up so they would have an opportunity to live. that's why lee does. lee understands that there's nothing else he can do. so instead of sack -- sacrificing the rest of his men, the best thing is to surrender. davis does not do that. >> guest: it's true. lee didn't want to surrender. he felt he had to save his men and save what was left. davis a certain point, you are right, was told by almost everyone that it was over. well, let's give it a try. maybe we are not going to lose. yes, at a certain point, the
military leaders were with him said we have to give up. there's nothing more we can do. lee surrendered. he has joe johnston left. joe johnston surrendered. now he's lost the two principals armies least of the mississippi river. what it he going to do? now he has to go from virginia to north carolina to south carolina to georgia. some saying go to florida and take a vote and run away. go to mexico. at one point davis said if you think the cause is lost why are you still with me? they say not to fight but to safe you. that's the only reason we're still here. because we cannot allow you to fall into union hands. we will die to save you, your person, your family, but we're not going to die to save the confederacy. the confederacy is lost. it's interesting psychological. he was the reluctant successionist. he was not one of the leaders.
one he agreed to become president, even on that day, he said he looked like he'd heard news of a death or he was going to be executed, once he became president of the confederacy, he gave it his all. total commitment. i think he did not want history to say he quit, he gave up, i think he wanted history to say he did every last thing that he could before he gave up. i think that's why. yes, if he was concerned more about the lives of the soldiers, the remaining soldiers, perhaps he could have been given up earlier. not waited for capture. perhaps he could have surrendered. but i know the reason he didn't was not merely to save his life. it was because he honestly believed there was a chance. one could say he was diluted at the end and had too much confidence in his own ability to inspire the people west of the mississippi. if you read his letters, one the
great things is the wonderful exchange of love letters and urgent letters between davis and his wife. he didn't travel with him for most of the escape. they were on parallels paths heading south. because he thought it was safer for the family to be separated from him. their correspondence, and later correspondence when he was in prison reminds me of the correspondence of john adams. the lifelong love and support for each other, one could do a book about the correspondence of jefferson and marina davis. >> host: we're going to take a brief break. when we come back, i'd like us to talk about how davis' image changes over time. he was not very popular at the end of the war with certain segments of his own country. both people in the confederacy at least. and i'd like to talk also in great detail about what you call the death pageant, which you write to eloquently about. we'll be back shortly.
>> afterwords and several other are available for download as podcast. more with james swanson and edna greene medford in a moment. >> every weekend, book tv brings you history, biography, and public affairs. here's a portion of one of our programs. >> hi, who do you think would be the best choice for our next republican candidate for president? with a real chance to win, and even though i think john mccain is a good american, would make the best candidate. [inaudible conversations] >> i really -- you know, i have this thing on my show called the
duck of the day. i know my producers are rolling on c-span. they are going to get me with the duck of the day. i don't know who the best person is. here's my answer, i'm not worried about that. i know everyone wants the next reagan to walk in the room, the next figure who's going to lead us, you know, out of the darkness. i'm not worried about it. i truly believe, and i've been in how many city, 15 cities now and just a little over a week and a half. i am thrilled about what i'm seeing from the ground. it's going to happen the way it's supposed to happen. i have great faith. i have this cross on. everybody knows i wear. [applause] >> i have great faith. [applause] that, you know, we are not an accident, this country. this whole thing didn't happen because of some theories of consequences that we had these brilliant men that came together at the constitutional convention and, you know, did this magic.
it's not magic. we have a destiny to fulfill. and i believe again if the citizens are engaged, and it means more than going to speeches, i mean i'm glad you all came believe me. it would have been embarrassing just raymond and randy and a few other people. but i'm excited you are here. but what you do when you leave here is what matters. what i'm saying to you is it's happening. people are organizing in ways they haven't. let me just say, mr. president, i'm high fiving you on the community organizing thing. because we're doing it now. [applause] >> to watch this program in it's entirety, go to booktv.org. simply type the title or the author's name at the top left of the screen and click search. >> "after words" with james
swanson and edna greene medford tonight. >> host: you talk about the death pageant. you talk about lincoln's funeral, you talk about the train trip back to springfield. , not directly, of course, but through many northern cities. we understand that there had to be something extraordinary for many man, because he had just saved the union. he had just won the war. but it seemed that it was very much over the top it was an extremely expensive funeral and rather than home. and there was some rituals that were acted out, i think that gave me pause and if you could explain a little bit about what's happening in terms of mortuary practices, how would
lincoln's funeral have reflected some of those practices? >> yes, it was certainly the most majestic and biggest funeral. perhaps rivaled only by the funeral for john f. kennedy. perhaps not, because it was miss ing passenger -- passengerren tri. george washington didn't. the other presidents that had died in office didn't. this was going to be special. the pageant began when lincoln's body was taken from peterson house to the white house. that was one the most dramatic moments in the history of the white house. when on morning of saturday april 15th, several hours had the president had died, an army escort took him home into the white house, took him into the guest room or the prince of
wales and laid him out on two boards. there was an autopsy. people don't remember that abraham lincoln's poddy -- body was autopsied on the white house. here was the president of the united states laying naked when the army surgeon came and cut open lincoln's head, removed his brain. the bullet full from the brain into a ceramic container and echoed. locks of hair for taken. then after the autopsy, the em boll myrrhs came. they didn't know at that moment, there was going to be the great funeral pageant. lincoln was embalmed by the same embalmers of his son willie. for the next few days, lincoln's
body was in seclusion. there was decided there'd be a viewing in the east room. he was carried down the stairs on april 18th. then there was decided it would have been a funeral. it was the coveted ticket. 600 people would fit into the east room to attend the lincoln funeral. then a presession, then people viewed him there. then his final presession took him from the dome to the railroad station. by then, the nation was getting calls to send lincoln back to the people. secretary of war stanton was in charge of all things related to the lincoln funeral and other things. telegrams started coming in. send him to philadelphia. we must see him in new york. the president, of course, was lincoln's great train journey east in february 1861 after he'd
been elected president. so essentially, the few variouses, the lincoln funeral train was his triumphant inaugural journey in reverse. baltimore, philadelphia, new york city, to albany, buffalo, then the great turn west to ohio, indiana, cleveland, columbus, indianapolis, chicago, and then south to springfield. and mary lincoln gave permission for this. it wasn't known whether he would allow it to happen or this plan, an open coffin all the way. one million people viewed the corporation of abraham lincoln. more than 100,000 children filed past his coffin. several million people saw the train. and there were exotic rituals along the way. thousands of flowers. women would come aboard and
bring flowers, weep at the tomb, leave notes. in one town, children sent a wreath for willie lincoln. his body was removed and laid beside his father. lincoln had planned to take willie home at the end of the second term in 1869. they traveled together back to springfield. in new york city, a photographer captured photographs of lincoln dead in his coffin. and it caused the national sensation. secretary of war staten was outraged. he ordered they were sieged and smalled. they were expect for one print that ended up in the papers and was discovered. in philadelphia, lincoln was laid at the foot of the liberty bell. and in 1861 in philadelphia when he came east with the president-elect. he said rather than give up on the promises of the declaration of independence, he said i would
rather be assassinated on the spot. and there he was four years later dead in front of the liberty bell. which then had great symbolic power. in the 19th century, the liberty bell was much more of an iconic object than today. incredible. 36 girls dressed in white. symbolizing the 36 stars on the flag. they would lead parades. all along the way people would stand with torchlights in the rain and darkness, torches, bonn -- bonfires, and it was that journey that transformed abram ha lincoln. it wasn't only lincoln coming home on that train. i'm convinced the american people viewed that train as something that was bringing home every husband, every brother, every lover, every father, who
had been killed in that war. they were all coming home on the train. all 340,000 of them. that was the great emotional precedence. what whitman had said, not for you, for you alone. and so his poem was not just about lincoln. the sprig of lie -- lilac was not just for lincoln. just as the poem was for all of the fallen man. that was the funerals along the way where millions viewed the train and over a million viewed the corporation. people stood in lines for hours, five or six hours, thousands of people an hour silently passing by the lincoln coffin. they weren't just mourning lincoln. of course, they weren't. they were mourning everyone lost in the war. it's the most powerful resident journey that i think has ever occurred in american history. ofin fact, a century later after the day in dallas in 1963 when
president kennedy's body was formed. his funeral was pattern after lincoln. jacqueline kennedy said make this the funeral. the archives are open. it was researched. the jfk was very much modeled on abraham lincoln. it influenced how we think of lincoln today. certainly, the 20th century belongs to abraham lincoln, not jefferson davis. that funeral journey affected how we remember lincoln today and how people mourned him at the time of civil war. i think it's the most underrated, forgetten, important journey in american history. those days from april 21st to may 4 from washington to springfield. it is simply an incredible journey. >> host: so who's making decisions to institute this pageant? because mary is really not in any shape?
>> guest: no, mary lincoln is remaining in seclusion in the white house. she does not go on the railroad journey. the death of her husband affected her mind. mary lincoln is a curious figure before the lincoln assassination. i think she made abraham lincoln's life very difficult. i'd like to say that mary lincoln was no marina davis. she was a wonderful woman, support to her husband, great figure in her own right. mary lincoln was so troubled. several of her children had tied. he was material, temperamental, jealous, the commissioner of public buildings in washington who's a great figure that i discovered, his diary is one the great american journals. so much about jefferson davis and all of the events, it's really the person who i might have wanted to be the at time observing all of the events. because he preserves these
things wonderfully. he accused her of theft of stealing public property and funds. he wrote there are things that i know about her that i dare not mention here. and so mary lincoln was in no shape to go. she wouldn't let willie lincoln -- tad lincoln. he would have enjoyed it. she kept him locked up in her chamber. it wasn't good for his mental health either. it was secretary stanton that made the decisions. in each stay, they build structures. there was no building big enough to have the viewing of lincoln's body and the thousands of people. they built a chinese type type e
pagoda. how the viewing and displays and lights and flags and bunting. each city along the way tried to out do the other. so, of course, new york city, tried to and did out do washington, d.c. in terms of the extravagance and magnificent. new yorkers wanted to do outdo every city. chicago wanted to outdo new york. springfield was not a major city then as it is now. the state capital, not an important city. they thought if not with the display, they'd build a special hearse. others build so big, they were bigger than the log cabin that lincoln was born in. they looked like traveling houses being drawn by 16 horses, plumed horses. lincoln elevated on a platform
so that all of the passers by could see the coffin. the coffin was e -- elaborate. no one that saw that lincoln funeral train ever forget it. one thing i try to do, give the flavor of who was it was like to be in the city. the newspapers were so obsess i have with describing what things looked like. who the hearses looked like, who rode in which carriage, and the ceremonies simply based on verbal newspapers descriptions, you could reconstruct the whole thing. many photographs remained. every dignitary, every type of flower, the sayings on the wreaths are described, it's one of the most well and over described events in american history. but also very dramatic.
not just people who saw lincoln, but one thing i found to be quite interesting is beyond the major eats in -- events in the city, along the entire route, millions of people turned out just to watch the train go by. even when the train didn't stop. people held up infants so one day they could tell the children you saw father abraham's coffin. it was the most profound event in, i think, 19th century america. >> host: it wasn't that stanton had an image. but it got out of hand because each city had the opportunity to do it the way they wished. >> guest: yes, the funeral train really took on a life of it's own. no one knew what would happen. it wasn't planned. no one ordered people to turn out by the millions at the track side and light torches or build huge bonfires. the people did it. people hand painted signs and
nailed them to their barns or houses. it was really a spontaneous commemoration. the train resonated. it was like a tuning fork of american emotion. then emotion jolt -- got more and more intense as the journey progressed. the major parts were planned. people stopping in the city. the leaders of philadelphia will have his body on display. you can go see it. all of the other things were spontaneous. that's one the great things about it. that's why i think it's the american people remembering not only lincoln, but remembers what they lost. remembering who they knew who was lost in the war. it was kind of mass katharsis. >> if we could go back to mary for a moment. >> guest: okay. >> host: she does not -- she doesn't look great between the covers of your book. you do indicate that she's --
that marina is everything that mary is not. and mary is everything that marina is not. both lay it iser were southern. they were women of privilege. they had grown up with great wealth. surrounded by enslaved laborers. both married well, as it turned out. they were different generations. marina was younger than her husband. while the president lincoln and mary were closer in age. i've always been instruct by how strong willed he was, but also the fact that she was, i think, part of the problem might have been that she recognize her own ability and understand that the convince of the day prevented her from being all that she could be. she was a woman who was not surprised with just being the
lady. >> guest: yes. >> host: while marina was. so could the difference not be not just madness on the part of mary, although we know that there must have been something going on. there was certainly something going on with the president as well. he was no picnic, okay. he had his owners. but could it be just a generational difference and an understanding on the part of mary that she was never going to be able to be the person that she knew she could be because that was not allowed during that era? >> very much could be part of it. because especially in abraham lincoln's early career, i do think that mary was almost indispensable. lincoln was rough beyond rough when he was a young man. he didn't know how to dress, comb his hair, clean his clothe. lincoln was a mess. if you look at some of the photographs, you see unruly his
hair is, collars don't fit, the clothes are wrinkled. lincoln did not know how to present himself. mary was a highly sought after woman. she saw something in abraham lincoln that perhaps others didn't see. she was ambitious. she wanted to marry someone who was going to go places. she looked at the rough character, she thought there's something about him. and i choose him. he was very intelligent. well educated, a great reader. loved to talk about politics. loved to be part of the political mix in springfield. and she was very capable person. certainly strong willed. at that time, there was no role for a woman in public life who had those interests. she channeled that into supporting lincoln, taking care
of the family. beyond that though, there was something wrong with her. some people there's a history of madness in her family. some people think she had become a little unstable because of her family situation in kentucky where stepmother came in. but if you look at all of the things that mary lincoln did, if you look at the vicious, cruel, monstrous letters that she wrote to her son, robert. >> host: who had her locked up. [laughter] >> guest: well, if someone had written the letters to you that mary lincoln wrote to robert, you would have had them locked up. i don't think we can just say or explain her away as someone who didn't have the opportunities that woman had, or she was ahead of her time and couldn't express herself fully. many -- that was the case with marina davis. she was a very literary woman.
very intelligent. he was a beloved host in the political salon in washington. they admired her, respected her, they found out how effective she could be later after he was in prison. she became his champion. he wouldn't give up. that was every connection that she had. soon after davis was arrested, she wrote to montgomery blair. she said helped me. she called on the men that she knew from her past to get jefferson davis freed from prison. mary lincoln, as you know, is the subject of great contention. some at one end are very much lincoln partisans and believe she's the victim, not only of abraham lincoln, but of modern historians. others, perhaps, air too far and demonize her.
i could have treated her, i think, much worse in the book. she had a great heart. she did great work for wounded union soldiers. christmas dinner that she prepared for would bed -- wounded soldiers. visiting the hospital. he was moved deeply by the cause and war. she was certainly loyal to the union. but there wassing? about her that triggered back reactions in other people. washington didn't like her. they viewed hers the western lady that's going to take over the white house. her is a tragic story. sad story. i agree with you, you can't dismiss mary lynn con -- lincoln as the mad woman. she was flex, difficult, talented, she heavenned groom abraham lincoln for greatness. she suffered great tragedy, death of her son in springfield, death of willie in the white
house, tad as a teenage, her husband murdered 18 inches from her. >> host: blood splattering all over here. >> guest: she suffered great tragedies. because the book isn't about her, i couldn't get into all of the details about her. after the assassination, she did become unhinged. he refused to leave the white house. mary lincoln is certainly one the most interesting, fascinating, complex woman in american history. >> speaking of personalities, both men surrounded themselves with very strong people in the inner circle. how did their response to those men -- what did their response to those men say about their leadership styles? did davis have a mcclellen? how did he handle him? >> guest: well, both lincoln and davis were deleaguered by
generals who didn't want to obey the orders, thought they should be president. both men were not universally popular during their administrations. look at the vicious cartoons and caricatures. lincoln was despised by millions in the north, to the loyal factions in indiana, ohio, their conspiracies. davis was besieged. lincoln wanted to preserve the union. to do that, he had to use authority to win that war. davis had to do something that was contrary to succeed. contrary to states rights. the only way the confederacy could win the civil war would be with the strong central leader who could organize the states. who could tell alabama, send the troops north. who could tell north carolina,
the uniforms have to be sent in the army. they are going to leave your state. those guns from the arsenals have to be shipped to mississippi. they are not north carolina's property. davis was constantly at war who are across purposes. davis, they thought they were the kings of their states. they resisted davis' centralizing authority. that was the great contradiction of the confederacy. it was based on states right. yet to win the war, they would have to centralize under one leader. davis had a terrible relationship with general joe johnston. he tried to undermine davis. in fact, after the war, johnston accused davis of dealing the confederate gold. he profited in any no way from the service, and did not take the gold. both men were deleaguered by certain generals who were always at odds with them.
always trying to advance their own careers and their own plans. so that's something that both leaders really had in common. now davis was perhaps less tolerance than abraham lincoln was. lincoln accepted the fallibility of nature. he wouldn't hold your opinion against you if he could use you for his higher purpose. he was very forgiving. sometimes too forgiving. on the other hand, jefferson davis had committed so much to the cause that he believed sometimes if you disagreed with him, you were being unpatriotic. or committing to the cause. davis could be more prone to anger or suspicion. some of it were justified. the generals were working against him. but davis perhaps was less tolerance. that has led to the myth of davis being the cl