Skip to main content

tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  August 20, 2014 4:24am-4:55am EDT

4:24 am
story. he was from indiana, he was from a prominent family. he did serve in the mexican war as a 19-year-old lieutenant, but he had no military experience other than that when the war started. he did have a unit in indiana before the war. those were those drill teams that dressed up in these colorful uniforms. they became the 11th indiana when the war started, he was their leader and he scored an early victory at romney, west virginia, right after first manassas when the union was looking for heros. and the union press played him up really big and he became a general and that was sort of his high point. his low point happened at the battle of shiloh when his regiment got lost the first night. probably not his fault. it was rough terrain, bad weather, et cetera, dark, kind of a fog of war situation, but grant and hallock were very, very upset with wallace after shiloh. he did fight the second day, but they sort of shoved him to the side after that and his job was
4:25 am
at this point in the war, he was the commander of the union's middle atlantic department, which was basically his job was he was military governor of baltimore. it wasn't a very plum assignment. well, reading the same intelligence that the union high command got and didn't do anything about, wallace did something. the other thing that helped him here was that the head of the b.n.o. railroad, a man named john garrett, he had his network of intelligence who were the station masters all along the b. & o. railroad. they are heading your way. so wallace picked up on this and on his own, don't forget he was in hot water with grant and halllock, no orders, he gathered up 2800 men, about all he could get, and came down to the western most point of his jurisdiction, which was right here, and he set up on the eastern bank on the monacacy
4:26 am
river. lou wallace, after the war, became a novelist and he wrote the second most popular novel of the 19th century, which was "ben-hur" and also wrote an 800-page memoir, which was really a god send for a historian, after reading these sort of dry memoirs and lots of them and letters and so on, journals, and orders, here you get lew wallace who writes his memoir, you know, 40 years after the fact, writes it in a flowery 19th century novelist style. and when wallace says that they arrived here in the morning and lit their campfires, he'll say something like, you know, the steely sky gave way to a brilliant orange sun as we made our way down to the junction and the campfire smoke curled up, which was great. of course, you have to balance what wallace says in his memoir with his telegrams from the
4:27 am
battlefield, his after-action report the day after, his after-action report two weeks later, because wallace had a way of making himself sound really good, and, you know s he did a very brave thing here, can't get away from that, and as i say in the book, i believe and i think the judgment of history is that what wallace did here, did save washington, d.c. so this battle took place on july 9th, 1864. right now it's november 2nd of 2007 and it's a beautiful fall day, but one thing to keep in mind about this battle was that it was very, very hot. they didn't have thermometers or no one referred to a thermometer in their memoirs or at the time, but had to be in the mid to upper 90s and very humid. wallace set up headquarters in a very good tactical spot and that was on the east bank of the monacacy river on high ground, so he could overlook the entire battlefield and he was on the other side of the river, which
4:28 am
made it difficult for -- to be attacked. it was a good defensive position. who were these 2,800 men? well, they were 100 days men. they joined just for 100 days, no one had fired a weapon in anger before. pretty gutsy thing, if you think about it. here was intelligence, a corps of troops, maybe as many as 35,000 are headed your way and he sets up right here with 2,800 unexperienced troops. that's what finally happened when grant sent up the troops. those troops got here at 1:00 in the morning on july 9th and now wallace had about 6,500 troops, including experienced 6th corps men and he knew what to do with them. he arrayed them along the bank of the monacacy river and i think we're going to go down there now and we'll talk about what happened when the battle started. we're at the very edge of the monacacy national battlefield and this monument was dedicated
4:29 am
at the 50th anniversary of the battle to honor the confederates who died here. there are about 800 confederate causalities at the battle, dead and wounded. route 355 today runs through the battlefield, as it did back then. it was known as the georgetown pike, but what didn't go through the battlefield back then, of course, was interstate 270, which is, i think you can see it right over there on the edge of the horizon, but this is where the confederate artillery was arrayed during the battle, and it's just an unfortunate thing that interstate highway runs through this entire battlefield. i think they've done a terrific job interpreting it. they have a lot of the farmfields that the battle took place, but it's sort of a difficult battle to envision, one reason being it took place in several different places at the same time and another reason being an interstate highway goes right through it. this is the actual junction itself. you can see it down there, and
4:30 am
the bridge on route 355 was the old covered bridge over the junction. this is where some of the most brutal fighting of the battle took place. later on in the day, when a group of vermont soldiers took a stand against early's -- some of early's top troops and they were at a very good strategic point down there. i don't know if it's that easy to see, but the confederates came this way and the vermont soldiers, there weren't very many of them, there was like a company of them, and they held off a regiment of early's troops for hours before they finally had to flee, and they were -- they had to flee back up the railroad track and then over the old railroad bridges, you can't see from here. the railroad bridge did not have a bed. it had just railroad ties, and
4:31 am
these vermont soldiers while they were being fired upon by this confederates, had to run across the railroad ties, over the river, with the water 40 feet below, sort of a dramatic point of the battle. two vermont soldiers received the medal of honor for their actions that day. right where we're standing now is where the overmanned vermont men took up their stand against the confederate troops, who came straight down that way from where the tracks are, and this is where they held them. this is the actual junction. it says frederick junction, but it's known as the monacacy junction then. the old train station was right behind us over here. and, in fact, these are the tracks that the troops came down from baltimore. anyway, after their vermonters finally couldn't take it anymore, they fled down the tracks, around the bentd, and
4:32 am
the old railroad bridge over there, the ones they had to flee for their lives over while they were being shot at by the confederates. what you see in the back behind me, which has been restored by the national park service to the way it looked the day of the battle in 1864, this was the portion of the battle of monacacy, and what you're hearing is interstate 270 in the background, but what was here then was cornfields and wheatfields and they were crisscrossed by farm fences. it was not an ideal place to have a battle, especially if you were attacking, which the southerners were. so behind me, general john mccausland from louisiana, they were part of john brown gordon's
4:33 am
brigade, they came right behind me and they got off their horses because i guess of the conditions in the field here. so there was a dismounted calvary and they charged the union through the farm fields over here. they didn't know it was 6th corps men. the 6th corps men were waiting for them and it was carnage. the southerners got chopped down and they had to retreat and went back there again. most of gordon's brigade was way back at the farm where we first started here where the artillery was. now, here's an important thing you have to keep in mind, jubal early did not want to fight a battle here at monacacy, he wanted to go invade washington. he's only 40 miles away from it right now, but wallace forced him. he blocked him along the river. early held as many troops back as he could. in fact, early wasn't here when the battle started, he was in
4:34 am
the city of frederick extorting money of the city fathers to the tune of $200,000, which he got. but anyway, mccausland's charge does not work, they flee back here, they charge again, get repulsed again, then gordon brings all of his troops here and this is where the most fighting of the battle took place. gordon called it the sharpest fight he was in in the civil war. he was in the wilderness. the river ran red with blood and when it was over, there were about 1,300 union causalities killed, wounded, and captured, and about 800 confederates killed and wounded, and most of it took place here and the thomas farm, which is the next farm over. a young -- the family hid in the basement during the fight, and a young 6-year-old boy named glen worthington saw everything that happened, as did his father and his family, and he wrote a book
4:35 am
about it later. it's one of our best descriptions of what happened on this battle. and actually later in life, glenn worthington was one of the people who influenced congress to set aside this land to be a national battlefield. and so back to the battle itself, of course, early prevailed. he outnumbered 14,650. retreated, went up towards baltimore, wound up at elkin mills. it was very, very hot. early let his men rest on the battlefield that night, buried their dead, took care of their wounded, took prisoners to frederick and the next morning on july 10th, 1864, they started their march towards washington, d.c.. only took us about an hour to get here, but i'll pick up the
4:36 am
story. early, they spent that night on the battlefield. the next day they maarten, 15 miles, 20 at the most. don't forget, it was really very hot and they were tired and had been marching since june 13th, so they camped in rockville and gaithersburg, which are busy suburbs of washington, d.c. now, but it was farmland there. early started to get money from the city fathers of rockville. there was calvary skirmish from there. units from washington came out to do some skirmishing. the next morning, july 11th, early, who's one of those generals out on the horse leading the men, made it right out here, right to the outskirts of fort stevens. if you can picture washington, d.c. as shaped like a diamond, we are right at the very top of the diamond, in the northwest portion of washington, d.c.
4:37 am
early about noontime was out of the gates of fort stevens right out here. he had the capitol dome in his sight at noontime, and what did he see? he saw this very impressive series of forts. he saw this fort and it was connected to several other forts around here. it looks impregnable and he saw troops here. early did not know these were 100 days men and the call went out for civilians to come out and help man the barricades, so you had clerks from the state department, men from the quarter master corps, people who have never fired a weapon in their life. the word motley comes up more than once, but early did not know this. his men were strung out way along back on the georgetown pike. sorry, not the georgetown pike, the 7th street pike, they cut off the georgetown pike in what is now wheaton, maryland, and
4:38 am
cut out to the 7th street pike, georgia avenue, so early, uncharacteristically for him decided not to invade, but there was fighting that went on with artillery and skirmishing that day, july 11th, and that night. this is all, we are now in the city of washington, d.c. it's not urban washington, d.c., but it's definitely city, and -- but back then, this was all farms out here. this is hardly considered part of washington, d.c., because washington was down there where the white house is and downtown and georgetown and so on. now they had cleared tries out for firing outside fort stevens, but this was all farmland, and people from washington came out to see what all of the excitement was about, including president lincoln. fort stevens was one of -- might
4:39 am
have been the most extensive of the defenses of washington. there were 67 of them, not all of them were as extensive as this one. there was a magazine, looks like barracks, it was enclosed on all four sides. some of them weren't even enclosed. some of them were just pointing out towards the defenses. they were kind of rudimentary, but they were built up very heavily and they were all connected, so -- but fort stevens is sort of at the gate of washington, d.c. at the very tip of the northern diamond, if you think of washington shaped like a diamond. and it was heavily defended or heavily fortified, rather, wasn't heavily defended until the 6th corps got up here late in the afternoon on july 11th. this is more or less been reconstructed, but it's more or less what it looked like on july 11th, 1864, with early's artillery out there, the union
4:40 am
artillery here, and skirmishing going on and the citizens from washington coming up to see what it was all about. and that included president lincoln. and the plaque that you see says "lincoln under fire at fort stevens." now it also happened on july 11th. july 11th lincoln was here and this represents the only time in american history when a sitting u.s. president came under fire in a shooting war. right here on this very shot. the confederate sharp shooters who were out there, don't forget this was all farmland, it was cleared, and back there, trust me, is walter reid army medical center. and on the grounds at walter reid, there's a tree with a plaque on it that supposedly says that this is where a confederate sharp shooter shot
4:41 am
at lincoln. the same thing happened on the second day, on july 12th, and that's what that plaque represents, a union surgeon by the name of crawford was standing next to lincoln, probably right here, and was shot in the leg. and that's when lincoln was ordered down at fort stevens. lincoln, you know, 6'4" and a stove pipe hat made a pretty tempting target. now the legend has grown up it was oliver wendell holmes that yelled at lincoln, get down you fool, or get down you damn fool, and instantly regretted saying it. i have a whole chapter in the book about that incident, and basically, well, i came to the conclusion that's a hi pockriful story, didn't come out until 1928, it was published in "atlantic monthly" in 1928. supposedly holmes had been telling it privately. i looked into it, i have a whole
4:42 am
chapter in the book and going back to letters at the time, memoirs written shortly after the war, and, yes, lincoln did stand here, and, yes, someone yelled at him to come down. more than likely, it was general horacio wright, who said this in 1866, didn't say get down you fool or say that he said that, but i go over that in the book. it's an interesting story, and it's not true. early is at the gates over here outside fort stevens with the capitol dome in his sight. at that moment, grant the day before finally seceded and sent the rest of the 6th corps, along with the 19th corps, down in new orleans, they were going to go to the outskirts of richmond. instead, they just stayed on the train, went up to city point with the rest of the 6th corps, got on ships, went out the james river, up the potomac river this
4:43 am
time and got off at the old wharf down in washington down at 6th street. citizens were there to greet them, including president lincoln. gave them ice water, they gave them sandwiches. they cheered, because people were panicking when they heard the confederates were out at the gates, so the 6th corps then marched up the old 7th street pike, which is georgia avenue, went by places we know, smithsonian, government buildings downtown, and got out here in the mid afternoon of july 11th and took part in the fighting that happened july 11th. and that fighting went into the night. after that, early held a council of war out in silver spring, which is just a couple of miles from here at the mansion of blair -- not the blair mansion, it was actually called silver spring, it was the blair mansion, the blair family. the blairs, prominent family, own blair house down by the
4:44 am
white house, they were out of town. they had gone fishing in pennsylvania. now early held a council of war that night with his generals, who were steven dodson, robert emirate roades, john c. breckenridge, the former vice president of the united states under james buchanan, he was from kentucky, a confederate general. he had been in that house before and knew where the wine cellar was, so early and his men drank up the blair wine, had a nice dinner and decided the next morning, july 12th, they'd come here bright and early and decide whether or not to attack. they did that and this time early could see that the 6th corps was here. they had a distinctive patch, it was a white cross. so he did not, again, did not invade. however, there was more fighting. there was skirmishing, there was artillery exchanges. men were killed. there were 300 union causalities and we're going to go to the
4:45 am
union cemetery later. 300 dead and wounded, we don't know officially how many confederates were wounded, never made the records, but had to be that many or many. that fighting went all of july 12th, or most of the night. july 13th, they looked out here and early's army was gone. they retraced their steps, went back through montgomery county, poolsville and crossed the potomac at whites ford and if anybody has been to whites ford, there's a ferry boat that goes across the potomac and the name of the ferry boat is the jubal early and that's where my story ends on july 13th, 1864, a month after early, june 13th, had left richmond to go on this four-part mission. this is georgia avenue that you just looked at, which used to be known as the 7th street pike, which is the route that early came down, and two years after
4:46 am
the war, the cemetery was built. it's the second smallest national cemetery. 40 union soldiers are buried in graves behind me there in the circle, and these are monuments to some of the units that served at the battle of fort stevens, but it's a place that i would easyliest mate that hundreds of thousands of people drive by every year and do not know it is here. just off georgia avenue, there's only a small sign, and it's the final resting place for 40 union soldiers killed at fighting here in washington, d.c. and a battle that people just don't know about. if you're stuck at the traffic light at 16th street, it's georgia and you're in the right-hand lane and you turn to your right, you can read the inscription on this monument to the confederate soldiers who were killed. it's a monument to a mass grave
4:47 am
of confederate soldiers who were killed outside at fort stevens. it was moved there when the church was moved in the early 20th century, i believe, and it also stands right off of georgia avenue, which is a heavily traveled commuter road in and out of washington, d.c.. i'm considering what could have happened with an entire corps of troops left loose in washington, d.c., lean and hungry troops. the treasury was there for the looting, the treasury department. they could have burned the capitol. the navy department, which lincoln did not know had a ship waiting for him in the potomac to take him out of town. think about what could have happened to the union cause had there been confederates running loose in the streets of washington, d.c.. don't forget, lincoln was fighting for his political life at this time. this was the presidential election of 1864 was just a few
4:48 am
months away. lincoln barely got the republican nomination. he had to choose a democrat for his running mate, andrew johnson of tennessee, and no one -- lincoln's popularity was so low, no one thought he'd win that election. this would have killed any chances that lincoln could have gotten re-elected. and think about this, too, the confederate -- the english and the french were sort of looking for an excuse to come in on the side of the confederacy. they didn't have cnn or c-span back then, but they had newspapers and this got covered. just wouldn't have been very good for the union cause had headlines been splashed around the country and around the world that confederate troops were loose in the streets of washington, d.c., so number one, i do believe that what lew wallace did at monacacy did save this from happening. wallace was relieved of his command after he lost that battle, but within two weeks, grant had reinstated him and grant writes in his memoirs and
4:49 am
just about everyone else who knows about this agrees, had wallace not on his own blocked early for an entire day, early very well, very well could have caused havoc in washington, d.c., so this is the battle that saved washington and changed the course of american history. you know, think about it. lee's fourth objective and probably his most important in his mind was to try to force grant to take troops out from around richmond and petersburg. grant didn't want to do it. he wait the until the last minute and finally did it. the number of troops went down drastically from like 137,000 at the end of june to like almost 70,000 two months later. it did work but it didn't work until april '65. if lee had not forced grant to do this, i really believe that the war could have ended sooner. maybe much sooner.
4:50 am
maybe a matter of six months sooner. maybe three months. but, you know, it's a what if and, you know, can never be proven one way or the other. but it's a what if that came pretty close to happening. and it also goes to show that nothing is inevitable in history. sn nothing is inevitable in the civil war. it didn't have to come out the way it did. lots of over things, obviously, had to do with it. this one little piece of the puzzle is very important in the timing and the end of the timing of the end of the civil war. if you want to remember it this way, can you remember that august, the one thing to remember about this whole thing is early was one day late. early was late.
4:51 am
>> american history tv and prime time continues wednesday with the civil war battle of the crater which took place during the siege of petersburg, virginia, on july 30th, 1864. the battle failed with heavy losses for union troops. at 8:00 p.m., the national park service commemorates the 150th anniversary of the battle and honored the role of color troops. and emanuel dabny discusses how the attack failed and why u.s. color troops were unjustly blamed. and at 10:15, author kevin levin discusses how color troops were remembered in the years immediately following the civil war. the battle of the crater at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. >> here's a great read to your
4:52 am
summer list, sundays at eight, a collection of stories from the most influential people over the past 25 years. >> there was a risk in the bohemian arsenal and i decided to take it because whether it's delusion or not, i don't think it is, it helped my conservation, it stopped me being bored. it stopped other people being bored to some extent. it would keep me awake. it would make me go on longer and prolong the conversation and enhance the moment. if i was asked would i do it again, the answer is probably yes. i would have quit earlier, possibly, hoping to get away with the whole thing. easy for me to say. it's not easy for my children to hear. if i would say yeah, i would do all that again to you. it would be hypothetical for me to say no i wouldn't touch that stuff. i did know. >> the soviet union and the
4:53 am
soviet system in eastern europe contained the seeds of the own destruction. many of the problems that we saw at the end begin at the very beginning. i spoke already about the attempt to control all institutions and control all parts of the economy and political life and social life. one of the problems is that when you do that, when you try to control everything, then you create opposition and potential disdense everywhere. if you tell all artist thez have to paint the same way and one artist says, no, i don't want to paint another way, you have just made him into a political dissident. >> if you want to subsidize housing in this country and talk about it and the populous agrees that it is something we should subsidize, then put it on the ballot sheet and make it clear and evident and make everybody aware of how much it's costing. but when you deliver it through the third party enterprises, fannie mae and freddie mac, when you deliver the subsidy through a public company with private
4:54 am
shareholders and executives who can extract a lot of that subsidy for themselves, that is not a very good way of subsidizing homeownership. >> those were a few of the 41 engaging stories in c-span's sundays at eight. now available at your favorite book seller. >> each week american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums and historic sites around the country. at the outbreak of the civil war in the spring of 1861, washington, d.c., was a lightly defended city and vulnerable to attack with only one fort located 12 miles south of the city and virginia was just across the river. by 186 5shgs the nation's capital arguably had become the most fortified city in the world with a ring of about 70 armed forts and batteries encircling the


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on