tv Dont Hurry Me Down to Hades CSPAN August 24, 2017 3:11am-3:27am EDT
during the recent visit to mississippi, we spoke with suzanne on the codirector of the center for the study of the war and society at the university of southern mississippi about letters and entries from soldiers and their families during the civil war. i really had always wanted to write this kind of sweeping saga of the civil war and for me as a military historian over the years what i've noticed is that as much as we are fascinated by what happens on the battlefield and the sweeping changes that take place because of this campaign or that campaign the soldiers want to know how soon they can make it home, did you get the crops income is the horse still lame, that's what they want to know about, and so i really come to the side in all of my writing that you have to
look at those. you have to look at the soldiers and their families, the battlefront and homefront if you are going to understand the war. so, when i started the book, the primary goal was to leave the latest arguments, the latest historical theories and stories. so, that for example, one of the standard arguments for a long time in the field was one of the reasons the confederacy was defeated as they lost the will to fight, the confederate widow was broken and in part it was broken because so many women were writing to demand that the saying i don't know exactly what you're fighting for me to come home because we have about one fifth of the crop that we normally do. i just. our youngest in the back and we are not going to have anything left. you need to come home. well, there had been a recent book out and we talked about this on the confederate nationalism, amy taylor talked about this, the latest book that
really addressed in detail was by stephanie mccurry called reckoning and what they were able to show is that the women were not all saying you need to come home, they were saying to the county representatives, to the state governments, president jefferson davis. you either take care of the deal in the bargain or are sent home and what is fascinating is we found this happening over the united states it's about one fifth of georgia's budget fight eating 64 was going to provide the soldiers families and the poor, realizing again if you are not taking care of the homefront, it doesn'homefront, t you do vice versa. it is this combined effort.
i also wanted to point out it is not just southerners who were wearing down. and so, rather than assume and on the southern family where the weather was kind of freaking out, i did to show those examples of the women writing to the county officials and state officials but i decided to zoom in on the northern family that was getting exhausted and that was from minnesota and he is very, very dedicated to the war and motivated. they still hadn't come home and you promised me you wanted, what do you mean you reenlisted. so i was able to leave in the latest arguments and then use the stories to do that so it is not just this discussion as much as it is people i'm hoping are just kind of absorbing this.
she and her husband owned the stage in a. when the civil war begins, her brother goes off to the war but it's not for another years until the spring of 1862 that her husband is a member of young children at home including a newborn and they often just recently lost a child who just walked into the river and drowned. and so, i really want to talk about her story. ..
>> it talk about finding a deadt with the pitch of his child. she we get a letter from him in the late fall of 1862. telling her that i'm so sorry, don't even know how to write this. but, your brother has been killed at the battle of bull run in august of 62. the very next letter that she will receive this letter from his brother telling her, i don't know how to tell you this but your husband was just killed.
i can tell you he died peacefully which may or may not beach. she is going to be on her own, she has lost her brother in 1862, she loses her husband the same year, she lost a child earlier that year. her father-in-law died on a cattle drive, just the normal tragedies of life that continued that we don't think about times of war. so, all of her children were under the age of eight or nine at this point. she's going to have to run the family business what i was able to do is the family head shared some of these letters that hadn't been used anywhere before. so is fun knowing that people hadn't heard a voice but also in the census record she never remarried. she does all of this on her own and does very well. so got me thinking. i need to incorporate more the stories about these women who we
think somehow they just kept it together. probably don't realize how did they do that and then we think about when men come home and life was like it was before. what happens if he comes home and he lost a like? what happens if he comes home sick and dies within the year two is a number of them too. those women have to find a way to provide for the families and move on. the be a certain amount of local support and then later there'll be confederate pensions. but i wanted to get into the stories about talking about how these women do it. it's hard to tell a story because they don't always leave diaries or detailed accounts. in the census record you can track them this is where she was widowed in 1870, this is where she was when she is in a pension in 1900. i can tell the stories that way, but you can get at the stories
and i think you have to include them. i want to include better-known people. when people pick up a general history of the civil war they want pick up and listen to abraham lincoln. i would tell it from the perspective of someone they didn't always think about. so i talk about mary todd lincoln and her brother and he gets horribly winded at the battle of shiloh. just the awful tension that you're the first lady of the united states but the media is very happy to talk in an ugly way about the fact that you also have brothers serving in the confederacy. and how she dealt with that. i wanted to talk about the death of their son, willie who dies in the spring of 1862, to make people realize that both presidents lose a child during this war. it wasn't like their elite families who remain untouched. there suffering as well.
when i talked about jefferson davis i did the same thing. those just me being spoiled. but that way you get these people in the stories come i can't talk about the american civil war without talking about the lincoln assassination. it's fascinating to me and readers but again i decided to tell it with claire harris whose with the presidential box and whose husband she engaged in at the time. whose husband is so later traumatized in part by the experience and apart from the mental illness that he will wind up killing her after the war with their children and talking about again i couldn't protect her. somebody came in and attack my
family. i couldn't protect my family later he said he killed him himself. but he still trying to save the president. he almost dies about the assassination. they're trying to save the president. but they said major it's amazing tragic story. when i was talking about slavery which runs through the war, you cannot understand the word without understanding slavery and americans, white and black wrestling with the killing institution. i wanted to weave in some figures were fairly well-known, make sure frederick douglass was in there. but i also wanted to get people in the story who they don't always realize that it was a man
named joseph miller who is enslaved in kentucky. by 1864 even though kentucky is still union state the remained in the union, joseph miller runs away and was able to join the army. he insists on bringing the family with him. in the book i weave in some accounts of men who would often join the union army but left their families at home and getting letters from their lot live saying come back and get us. were getting horribly abuse. but joseph miller brings his family with him. he was promised in exchange for his service. his family could remain in camp and they would all have their freedom by november of 1864 union force in kentucky are building barracks for winter quarters. they realize the section of camp for african-americans are the contraband section of camp are going to have to be moved out they decide. they forcibly remove the
african-americans had been escaping slavery, coming to this camp and been told they would be provided and protected here. they forcibly put these in wagons and remove them from the camp. he talks about the fact that maybe they talked about his wife and have a horribly sick child and then he finally gets permission that night to leave camp, go down the road and try to find his family. he finds all of these men and women and children have been placed in this house, crowded into they find their way and she's cradling the body of one of their children who has died and is a horribly sick child. miller's absolutely furious. he has to go back to camp, get permission to go back the next morning to bear his child. we learn this story because he
files a formal complaint with the army. we had a deal, i would serve and you and provide for my family. this would be the understanding. number one he never gets the opportunity for his family. this happened late fall or early winter 64. by the spring of 65 his wife have died. and joseph miller has died from disease. which is part of also being forced into the section of cams that are often unhealthy with little medical care provided. the other tragedy is what i wanted the story as part of the bug including by some abolitionists see we told you you don't have to worry about all of these coming north and
taking jobs. this is because they can handle the cold. they will stay down south. don't worry, we can free slaves without anything inconveniencing our own bigotry, only. so, it was this powerful, painful story that i knew resonated with students to see how even to see out the emancipation has ugliness still wrapped up with it. i wanted to include some of the major battles in the butt, not from an angle they hadn't seen with the battle of gettysburg to talk about a union soldier his body is found in town in gettysburg but he's holding a picture of three young children
they finally tracked his family down and she became almost a celebrity and they bring her and the three children to gettysburg and they open an orphanage is the biggest battle of the civil war. so this orphanage is creating this saying she will run. i love to tell you the beautiful story from here and now. she's miserable, she ends up marrying a gentleman through town. nobody realized theye