tv The Civil War CSPAN July 12, 2015 10:30pm-11:53pm EDT
the young nation which the soldier had won with his blood flourished. a bedrock of political morality gave it a base on which its hard bought freedom could grow. >> up next on american history tv, the best-selling historical novelist discusses the latter half of the civil war focusing on general sherman's involvement in the burning of atlanta georgia. he argues against the popular depiction of sherman as a villain and talks about how slaves reacted to his military victory. the smithsonian
associates hosted this 90-minute event. >> good evening, everyone. can everyone hear me well? good. i am mary maclachlan, you -- the program coordinator with the smithsonian associates and i would like to welcome all of you tonight to what promises to be a stimulating program on the union general, william t sherman's marched to the city. march to the sea. before we begin and i announce our speaker, would like to remind everyone to check their cell phones and make sure they are turned off. and also remind everyone that photos are prohibited during these programs. lastly, we are delighted to have c-span history channel filming tonight's program. jeff shaara will take questions at the end of the program and we
have microphones so we can capture your questions. when you raise your hand, we will have event reps in the aisles of the auditorium and in the balcony and we will wait until you have a microphone in your hands. it is a pleasure to welcome our speaker, jeff shaara, back to the smithsonian. he was last here in 2013 when he presented an outstanding program on the battle of vicksburg. prior to that, he was here in 2012 and presented a program on the battle of shiloh. his trajectory as one of the primary writers on the civil war and war the less world war i and world war ii is a remarkable story. he grew up in tallahassee, florida, and holds a degree in criminology from florida state university. from age 16, he operated a rare
coin business, first out of his home and then in a retail store. in 1974, he moved to tampa florida, and eventually became one of the most widely known coin and precious metal dealers in florida. but in 1988, things changed. his father who was also a writer died. jeff made the decision to sell his business and take over management of his father's estate. after the critical and commercial success of the film "gettysburg," he was approached about the possibility of continuing the story and finding someone to write a prequel and sequel to "the killer angels." jeff, though he had no experience as a writer, decided to take on the challenge of the project himself. in 1996, his first novel, " gods and generals," the prequel to his father's great work was
published to critical acclaim. in 1998, the sequel "the last full measure," was published and received universal praise from critics and fans alike. since that time, jeff has gone on to write 15 additional books, only one of which is the work of nonfiction and all of which have been national bestsellers. in 2003, the major motion picture, "gods and generals," based on his first book was released by warner bros.. in 2007, jeff was named to serve on the board of trustees for the civil war preservation trust. tonight, we have his newest book , "the fateful lightning," on which tonight's program is based available through the smithsonian museum shop out why -- by the entrance to this auditorium.
it is the final installment in his 4-book civil war series and he will be happy to sign copies at the end of the program. with that said, please join in giving a very warm welcome to jeff shaara. [applause] jeff shaara: what people watching in a few weeks with no is the weather outside is as bad as it can get. the fact that many of you came here tonight is an extra ordinary complement and i take that very seriously, thank you. you could be home where it is dry. this is an interesting time for me. this book just came out two days ago. it is a farewell to me. it's the end of an era -- i hate to say that -- it's the end of a series and is the end of my
relationship with some characters who i have really come to love. that is not too strong a word. it's the ingredient that allows me to do this, to get into the heads of these people and feel as though i love them. at the end, you have to say farewell and sometimes you safe the bash say -- at the end, you have to say farewell. and sometimes you have to say farewell during the story if something happens to somebody. that can be tough as well but the characters i want to talk about make it to the end. that has been quite a ride. it has been quite a ride for them and is in quite a ride for me. every time i have a book come out, i start a tour stop through the month of june. you got me while i am still perky. [laughter] that will change, i promise you by the 20th of june. whenever i start a tour of a
brand-new book, there is a challenge because i have absolutely no idea what i will talk about. one thing i have done in the past and my wife has said not to do that is i will go here and stand up here on the stage i will tell you what the book is about , which some of you are here to hear that what if i tell you too much of what the book is about, there is no reason for you to buy the book. [laughter] my publisher also sort of chimes in, don't do that. i cannot help it because i need to talk about these characters. if you know what i do, you know that what i do not write our -- are history books. i don't write the stuff you read in high school. it's not names and dates and facts and figures. i am a storyteller. i am not an historian. that's an important distinction. a lot of historians say you
don't have the phd. they are right. i never pretend to. my job is to tell you a good story. that's the lesson i learned from my father sitting around the dinner table with the kids hearing michael talk about joshua chamberlain and little round top. the little 10-year-old at the table was listening to the old man tell his stories. boy, that made an impression on me and i realized if i'm going to do this, it's not about facts and figures. it's about getting you involved in the story with me, taking you with me back to the time. i had done the civil war and said goodbye to robert e. lee and stonewall. i went and did a bunch of other things like the american revolution and the mexican war. and then world war i and world war ii.
i'm getting off track but one thing i say to the audiences when people ask me -- what will you do next? the answer was korea. i wanted to do korea. all those veterans keep writing me and saying we are getting older, too. [laughter] i get excited area i've got a tremendous research library already on korea and i'm ready to go. then this thing happened in 2011. the sesquicentennial of the civil war. i realized there is an opportunity to look at some things that nobody looks at very often, not even a lot of real civil war buffs. part of this came from those letters i got from people in tennessee and mississippi who said we are awfully tired of hearing about robert e. lee and virginia. [laughter] there is a whole lot of stuff that happened west of the
appalachian mountains that nobody ever talks about. and they are right i started looking at this and i may have said to this audience before, publishers like trilogies. vampires and all kinds of trilogies. [laughter] i guess you can put them in a box. we decided to do a trilogy on the war in the west . we started to look at the topics and it played out really well because we wanted to do one per year around an event and the first one was very clear to me. it was certainly the bloodiest battle of the war up to it's time which was shiloh. you say shiloh and you have heard of it. most people really don't know that what happened at shiloh changed history, changed the
rest of the war, certainly. one reason was the death of one man, albert sidney johnston. he is the confederate commander and many people have never heard of him and that's a shame. he is an interesting guy but he dies on april 6, 1862. he is in the middle of his own attack. at the time of his death, he is winning the day, the south is winning the battle of shiloh. m the union army is aess and -- the union army is in a mess. there are people running like crazy and hiding along the riverbank. they are under the bluffs, hundreds of soldiers have given up the fight and they are done. the south is trying to cut off the union army from the tennessee river and if they can succeed in doing that, the army has nowhere to go, it's over. it will be a crushing defeat for the federal forces. this is what's happening when johnston goes down. the reason that changes history -- first of all, he was extremely close friends with jefferson davis, president of the confederacy.
in the confederacy, if you are friends with jefferson davis you were going to do big things. if you were not friends with him, it did not matter how good a general you were, he would find a way to get rid of you. that's not a good way to run a war. more about jefferson davis later. johnston also in the hierarchy of the confederacy, he outranked robert e. lee. in the summer of 1862, robert e. loo is appointed command of the army of northern virginia and the rest, as they say, is history. i suggest that had johnston not been killed at shiloh, there is a good chance he would have gotten that appointment because he was so close to jefferson davis. he would have taken command and we never would've heard of robert e. lee and all those
people i have met who claim heritage to robert e. lee. i'm sure some of them are. i'm sure some of them are not but they might now claim to be descendents of albert sidney johnston. the other part of that equation is that the federal commander at shiloh is ulysses grant. he is losing when johnston is killed. he turns it around the next day. he wins the battle. had grant lost that battle, that was the end of his career. likely would have never have heard of ulysses s. grant, 18th president of the united states. that so history change that shiloh. also, the first battle in the east that drew attention in the newspapers and with the politicians, manassas, bull run, the summer of 1851. that is the first battle where there is actual fighting.
there are 5000 casualties. that is a horrible number. people were upset by that. the newspapers were upset and people were shocked that this little rebellion is killing people. 5000 casualties at shiloh and eight months later, there are 24,000 casualties. because of where shiloh is south-central tennessee, in the middle of nowhere, very few people were aware how horrible that fight is. it was obvious that would be the first book of the series. the second book, if you look at what my father did with the "killer angels," he focuses just on the battle of gettysburg. gettysburg is not the final, penultimate battle that decides the war. it's in the middle. that works out well for me writing the prequel and the sequel. i actually have something to write about. at the same time that gettysburg is happening in pennsylvania something else is happening along the mississippi river and that is vicksburg. it made perfect sense to me that vicksburg would be the centerpiece of my trilogy.
gotten in arguments with the number of historians. i live in gettysburg now and the people there don't care to hear me say that i think what happened at vicksburg is more important than what happened in gettysburg. when the union army and ulysses s. grant received the surrender of 30,000 confederate troops the confederacy has just lost the entire mississippi river. it is now in the hands of the federals all the way up north to wisconsin and minnesota and so forth all the way down to the gulf of mexico. it is in union control. they can move people and arms and food up and down all the way from the gulf with impunity. the confederacy loses texas, arkansas, most of louisiana and that's important because men, food, supplies, all of that is
cut off. those people were on their own now. it divided the confederacy and that's a big deal. that was an easy second choice. the third choice was always going to be this book, fateful lightning. it was always going to be sherman marching from atlanta to the end of the war. i realized if i jumped from vicksburg to atlanta, i skipped a whole bunch of history. i had to go back to new york and convince random house to allow me to do a four-book trilogy. [laughter] they said yes. i cannot just skip over a bunch of really important stuff and important people. one of those people all the way through this, the string ties this together is sherman. the other string that there for most of it is ulysses grant. i love the character grant but
grant goes east. in early 18 city four, abraham -- in early 1864, abraham lincoln figures it out that we need the right guy and he find s the right guy in grant and put him in charge of the entire union army. when grant leaves, he puts in charge behind him, sherman. sherman is now in command of the army of the west. that is a huge piece of history right there. i skipped over the battle of chickamauga and chattanooga. there are reasons they are important and i will not go into the history of it. chickamauga happens in late 1853. it is a tremendous victory for the confederates. william rosenkranz was the union general who fell flat on his face and it was a disaster. there is no town of chickamauga, it's in northern georgia. the union army is in chaos and i -- they run scrambling retreating from
the field and went back to their stronghold of chattanooga, tennessee across the border. , it is bad. all of the confederate generals realized that this is an opportunity. think about what has just happened that summer -- gettysburg, vicksburg, the morale in the north is sky high and morale in the south is in the pits. all of a sudden at chickamauga it turns around. we have defeated a major union army. all the confederate generals go to their commander, braxton bragg, a real piece of work, and they say we've got them let's go. let's follow this up. bragg does not believe it. bragg does not believe his army has been that successful so he is cautious and delays. he has people underneath him who are going crazy that he has delayed. instead, he sees the union army in chattanooga. you've got high mountains on two
sides and the tennessee river is there, missionary ridge, and chattanooga is down there. bragg looks down and says this is perfect, we will make a siege. they sieged us in vicksburg. we will get them right back. he puts together a siege but the problem is, there are not enough confederates to close the circle. the union folks in chattanooga were in dire straits for a while with starvation going on but grant arrives and rides over the mountains and comes in and breaks the siege and supplies begin to come into chattanooga. all the generals looking at bragg realized that we lost an opportunity here. in fact, bragg is so despised by his own generals that they sign a petition to have him removed from command. that never happens in the army.
that petition is sent to richmond to jefferson davis. jefferson davis likes braxton bragg so he goes there. he goes to the headquarters to calm everyone down and soothe everyone's feelings and convince them that everything will be fine. then he goes back to richmond. what davis has just done is handed bragg carte blanche to do whatever he wants. what do you think bragg does with all the people who signed the petition? he purges quite a few of them from his army. these are good commanders and he finds a way to get rid of them because they are his enemies. not a good way to run a war. as the union army get stronger in chattanooga, they finally break out. you've got grant and sherman and george thomas you got joe hooker who lost the battle of chancellorsville and he is there fighting under
grant. they succeed in blowing bragg's troops off of lookout mountain. it is a catastrophe for the confederates and one shining light for the confederate army during the entire campaign is a man who is a principal character in that story. the man's name is patrick cleburne. there is a book written by craig simon, "the stone wall of the west." that's the kind of reputation he had but for the confederates he's only one man and he is only a division commander and he cannot control what is happening over the rest of the field. i love this character. the defeat for the confederates at chattanooga is absolute. the result is even jefferson davis cannot hide from the fact that braxton bragg has got to go. davis brings him to
richmond as an advisor. nobody would serve under bragg but now he is jefferson davis' advisor. by the defeat of the confederates at chattanooga, the door is wide open to atlanta. as sherman takes command of the army there, he knows what his job is. it is to go to atlanta. atlanta is enormously important as a rail hub and supply hub and the grant armies in virginia fighting robert e lee. they are getting their supplies through atlanta. the rail lines were critically important so sherman figures that's where we have to go next. assuming command after bryant is gone -- assuming command after bragg is gone is joe johnston. he was one of the highest ranking generals and the confederacy. here is another guy who hates jefferson davis and the feeling is mutual. a few -- they feareeud all the time
but davis realizes that we need somebody to take up this defeated army and put them back together again and try to stop sherman from taking atlanta. it does not really work because johnston is first of all a master of retreat. [laughter] sometimes that is important. you can retreat when you need to when you can preserve your army and fight another day but johnston is good at. that it really makes people feel going army but it does not do anything for the people in richmond and it does not do anything for the newspapers in richmond who begin to pass a joke around that johnston is so good at retreating that eventually, his army will end up in bermuda. [laughter] after a while, as the fight pushes closer to atlanta, there are some minor victories for the confederates and a couple of major but for the most ones. part, sherman has the numbers and the forces and the guns. he's got the technical ability
and they get closer and closer to atlanta. jefferson davis has seen enough of that, so he gets rid of joe johnston. he brings in a fighter. that's what we need, a fighter. you he brings in john bell hood. he has already lost at least two limbs by that point. there is a weirdly sick story. at the battle of chickamauga john bell hood loses his leg. he is a texan. he wants the leg preserved and taken back to texas to be buried. they pick some poor lieutenant and put on a horse with the leg and sends him off to texas. the leg never makes it. i can only imagine and nobody knows what happened to this guy or the leg but think about after three days, what that ride must've been like.
i'm guessing the lieutenant said enough of this and took the thing and threw it in a ditch and then went home. we don't know where the leg ended up. that john bell hood recognizes he is being put in this command because of what joe johnston did not do. johnston did not fight effectively against sherman so put understands his responsibility and all eyes in richmond are on him. he says he will fight and he does. in three separate engagements around the city of atlanta, he takes his army and throws it away into sherman's guns. he marches these valiant attacks that are absolutely disastrous. he is so whipped that he moves into retreat and withdraws his army into alabama. atlanta now belongs to sherman. sherman marches into atlanta and here is where the problems begin when you are dealing with sherman and his reputation.
first of all, he is not -- he does not go in and butcher the city of atlanta. he tells the citizens to go away. there is no reason for you to be here. he says bad stuff will happen and there is no reason for you to be here and you can get out if you want to. he tells the mayor and the townspeople that there's no reason for you to be here. we will burn some things. sherman never just decides to burn a bunch of homes. no, he is burning every factory, every millwork, every storage facility, he tears up all the railroads, anything that can help the confederate army, anything that gives aid to the confederates he destroys. unfortunately, when the wind blows and you are burning this factory and next to it is a bunch of wooden houses, oh well it happens.
john bell hood is being besieged by richmond to do something about this. he comes up with a new plan. we will march this army out of alabama and go north. we will go into tennessee and attack nashville. sherman is in atlanta and he will follow. he has to protect nashville. what they don't realize is that sherman has already sent george thomas to nashville with a bunch of people and he could care less about nashville and could care less about what john bell hood is doing. he's got his eyes on something else entirely. and he does not tell his own army. he tells a couple of key generals, and he tells grant because he has to get his permission and washington's permission to go the opposite direction. instead of following john bell hood to tennessee, we will burn all those railroads and ridges -- and bridges behind us. we are going the other
direction. in georgia, you have three cities in a range like this. the one in the north is augustine on the south carolina border. milledgeville is in the middle and that is the capital of georgia. today, atlanta is the capital. not then. south of milledgeville is macon. these are all important places. the confederates have exactly 4000 cavalry in georgia to oppose sherman. sherman has 60,000 troops with about cavalry of his own. 5000all sherman has to do is confuse the confederates as to where he is going and they will not be able to unite everyone together to make an attack on his army. he fooled them.
he convinces them that he could be going to augusa or macon or to milledgeville and they have no clue which way he is going. he divides his army and sends them like fingers on these roads. 60,000 infantry. he sends them on all these different roads. the confederate cavalry is watching. they have no idea where he is going, so they can never unite. they have to scatter all over the place. i'm doing exactly what i am not supposed to be doing, telling you what is in the book. but there is a point to this. i'm going to stop now because the history is what it is. you know, presumably most of you know, sherman ends up at savannah. that was his intention all along. in savanna eventually is the
confederate commander, william hardee. he is in the "shiloh book"" book. he is the commandant. he writes the tactic book they are using. eroded in the 1850's. now he he figures out before anyone else where sherman is going and realizes, there is not much point in sitting here waiting. that is a part of the story. the character of hardy, i really like this man. again, he is a good soldier. he knows his duty, what he is doing on the battlefield. knows that their cause is hopeless. this is a big theme in the story. the good confederate commanders, no matter what is coming out of
richmond, the orders coming out of richmond, either jefferson davis is delusional, or the newspapers backing their cause they are saying sherman has cut himself off atlanta. he will get thrown in the ocean. we have him where we want him. all this ridiculousness out of richmond. these papers in charleston and augusta. sherman is laughing at all about. hardy reads that with a great deal of sadness. he realizes none of it is true. he knows exactly what will happen, but he has to keep going. that is a tough story for a man who values what he does and has honor and a sense of excellence about what he does. he is faced with the impossible.
sherman, the thing about sherman , depending on when this airs, i may have already been through with a tour. i kind of hope so. i am going next week to atlanta, jackson, mississippi, and birmingham. atlanta and jackson were burned by sherman. i have to stand in front of audiences and tell them about the book. the reception may not be as kind as the reception i am getting from you. but history is what it is. at the least, my job is to tell the truth. here is what happened. he burned atlanta. it is a mess. i start the book with that scene in gone in the wind, when
scarlett o'hara is going through the wounded, and in the background is the conflagration of atlanta. special effects in 1939 were pretty amazing. that is what i imagine sherman is seeing leaving atlanta. that is where the book begins. i did not steal margaret mitchell's idea, but it is history. that is where the story begins. with all due respect to people in atlanta who have been sending me all this stuff about the battle of peachtree creek, lots of stuff about the battles in atlanta, that is not what the book is about. that is another book. i could not convince random house to do a five book trilogy [laughter] jeff shaara: it was too much.
every book, i agonize over what to leave out. i start with sherman on november 16, 1864, as he leaves atlanta and begins the march. the march itself is only half the story. when sherman gets to savannah, it is not over. lee and grant are going at it in petersburg. the goal all along is not to capture savannah. it is fine, not really useful to the confederacy because of the blockades. it is a nice place to be, but sherman realizes as nice as that is, his military mission is not capturing towns. he wants to marched his army up to grant, linking them together in an overwhelming force. that is his goal. he begins the march northward. here, he does the same thing he
did in georgia. hardy is in charleston logically assuming that he will hit charleston. write up the coast, big city. so they are preparing. but sherman fakes him out. instead of going up the coast, he goes inland and right up the middle of south carolina. what is in the middle of south carolina? columbia. the state capital. that is the most controversial thing that sherman is involved with. notice i did not say "did." columbia burns.
way worse than atlanta. it is a mess. columbia burns because of cotton. i am going to get grief for this. on this tour, i am not going to columbia. [laughter] jeff shaara: not a conscious decision. the publisher arranges the tours. i wanted to go to columbia. but in columbia, there are people who are still angry because sherman burned columbia. no, he did not. the fire was started by confederate cavalry because they did not want the cotton to fall into the hands of union soldiers. this is money. they started a fire. as sherman rides into columbia there is a wind storm brewing. the wind is winning like crazy. there is almost snow in the air. it is flecks of cotton. that is where the fire begins.
the wind. sherman's own people are out at night trying to put the fires out. a whole division of union soldiers is brought into town to help with the fires out. they cannot. is sherman culpable? of course he is. is he blamed for it? of course he is. did he actually do it the way a lot of people say? no, he did not. you can decide how you want to judge it. i just tell you what happened. that is as far as i'm going. i do not want to tell you the rest. the war ends. [laughter] jeff shaara: there are two other characters to tell you about. one introduced in shiloh, a
lieutenant named james healey from memphis, under nathan forest. and joe wheeler, confederate cavalry general, who serves as a major general in the spanish-american war. he commands teddy roosevelt and the rough riders. a confederate cavalry commander fighting joe wheeler. healey is on the front lines and looks around him and sees what we have left to hold them back. not enough. he is deeply in despair. but again, another one of these people that understands you have to fight. the opportunities and chances are part of the story. i was happy to bring seeley back
another character that was unique, and many people do not do it because you do not find accounts, as sherman's army marches through georgia, they march past a plantation. the plantation owners and overseers, people keeping slaves, are gone. the slaves are sitting at the plantation watching the army march by. they begin to realize we do not have to stay here. and they begin to follow the army. tens of thousands of them walk off the farms and plantations and begin to follow sherman's army. the problem is, they have to feed them. we are talking old, young, women, girls. a complete cross-section of
humanity following sherman's army. one of those people is a 19-year-old man named franklin. he is born and raised on howard cop's plantation. former governor of georgia. he is now a confederate major general. so he is off fighting the war. he is a political general and is worthless. hardy has to deal with that. he leaves the plantation. this young man born and raised and the only thing he knows is life on the plantation, his father lost part of his leg to one of the dogs, the father is terrified of leaving. the father thinks once the army is gone, all these people are coming back. we had better work in the field.
franklin leaves his father and follows the army. franklin is an interesting character because he is ultimately ignorant. he can barely read. think about what they taught slaves. they taught them how to read the bible. they want to them to be good christians. preachers would teach them how to read the bible. that is how he learns to read. they teach him a little ciphering. he can add and subtract. he does it with kernels of corn. he is now out in the street, surrounded by black faces. he realizes it is more people he has ever counted kernels of corn. he didn't know there were that many black faces in the world. he does not know what a city is until he has seen savannah. what happens with franklin, the
other part of this, and it is hard for us to put ourselves in that mind, and i worked on this. think about a smart man, a man with intellect and no education. he walks out and everything he sees his brand-new. the artillery men bragging about the guns. all this is a new sensory experience to franklin. several things happen. there is an example where union cavalry is tossing confederate money to the crowd. the negroes are grabbing it and a sense of euphoria. franklin snatches a note out of
the air. i was in the precious metal business. i handle paper money. i know what a confederate dollar bill looks like. he is looking at this hundred dollar bill. there is a picture of slaves in a cotton field, working the land. he realizes he is looking at himself and cannot, for the life of him, understand why someone would put that on a piece of money. what is there about that that is appealing to anyone? he also realizes even though he is not sure what the money is for, and the fact the cavalry is throwing it out probably tells him it is not worth -- and he gives it to a guy stuffing his pockets full. frank when also asks the
question, people around him are in jubilation. mr. lincoln's boys. you hear that a lot. mr. lincoln's boys. they have come to save us. that is a refrain. an old woman tells franklin, we have been delivered. franklin is walking along with this parade of joy and begins to wonder what will happen when the army goes home. where are we going? we are following the army. to where? he does not know. when he gets to savannah, people start talking about south carolina. he does not know what that is. that level of unawareness and intuition is a real interesting combination. i love the character of franklin. i have never done this before. i do not know how it will be received. first of all, i never use the term "african-american."
this is 1864. there are other terms i also do not use, even though they are in sherman's memoir. i do not cross that line. but the story of what it is like for the slaves when they realize they do not have to go back to the plantation and have a different realization entirely at ebenezer creek georgia, a horrible thing happened. i will not reveal it. it is in the book. they find out the hard way that all the guys in blue are not necessarily their friends. just because the union army has delivered them and given them freedom does not mean all the soldiers like them. there are a couple things that
happen. some of the slaves decide, i would rather go home. they turn around and go back rather than keep going and taking their chances. again, this is three-dimensional history. this is how it happened. it is one thing to read it in a textbook. so many slaves followed sherman's army. you read that all the time. but if there are 50,000 slaves following the army, that is 50,000 minds seeing things in a different way than we would see it. that is the fun part of telling the story. at the end, one of the things about sherman, i sort of joke that i will be at atlanta next week, i do not think i will get that much grief. i explore the character of sherman and his frailties. by modern standards, he is manic-depressive. bipolar. and he suffers.
his army is full of vim and vigor. a lot of people in the union army have never lost a battle. that is a confidence builder. they are ready to fight. sherman wants to fight to end this thing. yet he himself suffers from fear, doubt, anxiety. i am not making apologies for him at all. for people in atlanta may think i'm doing it. but it is just who he is. that is my job. the research. sherman's memoir is wonderful. i have a book this thick of letters. to his wife. ellen sherman is a devout catholic.
sherman is not. that is kind of a problem between them. it actually becomes a problem later in their life. thomas wants to become a priest. sherman will have none of it. there are a lot of things about these people that goes beyond what they do with a sword in their hand on the battlefield. my job is to introduce these characters to you as human beings, as us. they are not that different from us. that is part of the fun. that is the lesson i learned from my father. i want to wrap this up. i very much want to hear from you. we are limited on time. you are very patient. i could just keep going, talking about exactly what i'm talking about. you would not want me to do that. five years ago, i was at one of the suburbs. people always ask me, what are you working on next?
i told him what i wanted to do korea. i mentioned korea before. one of the reasons is not because of the old veterans writing me, but because what do most americans who were not there know about korea? m.a.s.h. with all respect to alan alda, it is about vietnam. it is a vietnam story. what about the chelsea reservoir? i have a memoir of a chinese p.o.w., a memoir of a north korean soldier. i am so excited about that. i was really bummed to find out that cho sin is in the north. i will not go to cho sin. someone suggested, sneak in.
[laughter] jeff shaara: there is a good idea. [laughter] jeff shaara: but that is the next story. i have been on a book or your schedule. it takes a lot out of me. i'm getting too old. i have been looking at 18 months plus to get the story done. that is what i'm working on. talk about a change of pace and a different perspective.
that is good for me. it is helpful for me because i do not get burned out. after that, i want to do a vietnam story. that is my generation. i have received so many letters from people, guys who sent me stuff. they want their story put together. there is another example of what i leave out. what i am not going to do is the nixon-lbj story. i want to be out there. i want to go to somebody out there against charlie in the bush. that is the story i want to tell. that is on the table as well. i have a pretty full plate. i am hoping to do this for a long time. i just have to say that for you to come out tonight in miserable weather and sit here, listening to me ramble on about characters , this is where i get my energy. this is where i get my enthusiasm in my office, writing these stories.
jeff shaara: there are no really good sources. if you think about it, who is an escape slave? most of them did not write accounts. i hate to say it this way. it is a novel. i had to create this character and put as much accuracy into him based on what i could find out about plantation life, slave life. the orders sherman gives to his army in response to what he sees. with franklin's father, he says, shoot every dog you see. they do. they shoot dogs that probably did not need to be shot, but they take them out so the hounds could never tracked down a runaway slave.
that is one of the bones that sherman throws to franklin's father. that piece, knowing that sherman did that, sort of going backwards from that, imagining what inspired him to think that way. sherman did not have indoor miss affection for escaped slaves. he saw them as an encumbrance. he has no bones about making that plane. by the end, he changes his mind. he knows that lincoln wants this and he is doing his job. he is not involved emotionally with the plight of the slaves. that helped me see him as well put me on the ground. i really do not have a good answer to your question. it is here. people ask me, how do you write the dialogue? all i am doing is, i get to the point where i am there.
i'm telling you what i see and what i hear. i am not mystical. i'm not searching for ghosts. but that is what it feels like when i am writing. i'm in the room and hearing a conversation. i am just telling you what i hear. that is how franklin evolved. i am telling you what he is thinking because i am there. there is not a good word for that. there is a lousy word, "magic." when i am working and i am there, to me it is magic. that is what makes me a writer. i am sorry that is not a better answer to your question. yes? >> when sherman was going south, was he in contact with d.c.? telegraphs?
how did he communicate? jeff shaara: he did not. when sherman left atlanta, one thing he made clear to grant an entire army, david cunningham, a character in the book and a real guy makes it plain, we are cutting off everything. there is a quote from lincoln -- i know what hole he went into. we will see which he comes out of. when sherman reaches the coast of savannah, the union navy is there. those people are wondering if they will ever see the guy. he finally shows up. that is a great scene. you have admiral dalgrin in command. terrific character. the navy is the first line of communication. they are sitting out there wondering what is going to
happen. suddenly, there is a fight and here is the union army. it is a wonderful scene. but no. sherman tells the newspaper meant, i hope you sent your last telegram out of atlanta. there is no more until we get somewhere else. the newspaper men had to accept it. that is why grant was awfully nervous about giving authorization. people like stanton in washington were beside themselves, afraid this would be an absolute catastrophe. >> appreciate your talk. i am from atlanta. [laughter] >> i moved there from columbia. [laughter]
i have been to chickamauga. we were taught that johnson was criticized for retreating. i wonder, did he actually moved to defensive positions? the few times they fought, there was some confederate success. had he remained in control of the army until after the election, do you think that would have had any effect? jeff shaara: that is a good what if. atlanta in the late summer of
1864, it basically hands the election to lincoln. atlanta is already in sherman's possession. again, a huge morale boost to the north, cementing lincoln's chances. that is a real good what if. what was going on, what the confederate realized, not jefferson davis. all due respect. he was a smart man and a delusional man. but the people who understood strategy and logistics and understood the confederacy cannot win, their best hope was you wear the north out. you drag it on for so long that people in the north get sick of it. we are tired of the boys coming home in boxes. that was the best hope the confederacy had. had sherman not take in atlanta,
it is possible that general mcclellan, he cannot win the war himself, so we make sure no one else wins it, he may have played up on that. that is a real good what if. the only hope the south had was victory over the hearts and minds in the north. that may have worked. yes? >> i am from columbia. i would like to think if you went there, they would welcome you with open arms. just recently, in the last six months, they have discovered a huge cache of military materials in a river. it has provoked renewed debate about sherman and what took place.
my question is related to what i read about the first alabama cavalry that accompanied sherman to savannah. it was an all southern cavalry. i am curious as to how that particular unit plays a role in your story. something you learned? jeff shaara: really interesting. when you first read it, you are consumed. the first alabama cavalry in the union army. i was talking to someone in alabama, told me the county they were from, the northwestern corner. they were fiercely unionist. for whatever reason, that area they were not real fans of the confederacy. a bunch of volunteers got together and volunteered for service with the union army. they served and are in the book. i mention them because they play a role in the march to sea. the cavalry is the lead.
i purposely put that in the book because it surprised me when i read the. -- that. it deserves mention. on the balcony? >> which is a more about -- would you say more about the relationship between grant and sherman? jeff shaara: they were extremely close friends. it is grant's loyalty to sherman which allows sherman to keep his job. he is a hothead sometimes. he shoots his mouth off at newspaper reporters, which is never a good idea. grant saves his bacon more than once early on. it is grant's advocacy of sherman that allows him to leave
atlanta and make the march in the first place. washington is not at all happy about the plan. grant says, let him do it. that is the mark of a true friend and strategist who understands what sherman is capable of. when grant is president, it is grant that promotes sherman to full general. four stars. sherman takes command of the expansion of the west. use an overall command of all of the. that is because of grant. these men are close for the rest of grant's life. yeah, their friendship is key. in the chattanooga story, there is a scene where sherman arrives. grant knows he is coming. when sherman shows up, there is
a moment of almost -- a childlike scene between them -- and people have questioned the propriety of sherman: grant "grant." they never refer to each other as general. it is grand and sherman. it is in the memoirs. both referred to each other by last name. almost like a term of an german. -- endearment. it is a lot of fun to read about that. there were destructive relationships that contributed to the downfall of confederate armies. so many people could not get along.
what was the effect of the -- that? >> in doing a fictional account, are you tempted to cross the line of historical fact to enhance the fiction? jeff shaara: i understand your question well. writing historical fiction, am i ever tempted to cross the line? basically play games with history? the answer to that is a resounding no. a novelist can do anything they want. i mention how frequently harry writes fiction. he wrote a book called the guns of the south. on the front, there is a picture of robert e lee holding an ak-47. aliens go back in time and give
automatic weapons. it is a seriously good book. victim weapons to the confederate army and it changes history. i do not do that. i am painstaking and trying to get it right. when i hear teachers are using my books in their classrooms what a compliment that is. but i realize, if you are using a novel to teach history, the teacher has to have confidence the facts are correct. otherwise, there is no reason to use it. that added significant responsibility to what i do to get it right. that is why i do so much research. still, i make mistakes. people catch them. we change things for paperback. i'm sure you can find something in here. i appreciate people catching mistakes. is attempting? -- it tempting? sure it is.
one way of dealing with that, i did it in the world war ii books first, is composite characters. you cannot do that with sherman and grant. but when you have a kid, the g.i. on the front lines, the calvary guy, he starts as a real person. i have a memoir or collection of letters and bring in experiences other people had. the history is accurate. but it is rare to find a character to be everywhere i need him to be to tell the story. that is what i do. i create a composite character
who reflects the experiences of several people in one person. if i am doing my job, you do not notice that. to you, it is a humorless story, i hope. to answer your question, i would never do that. in my opinion, and a lot of people would disagree, i would lose integrity if i played around with the facts. i will not do that. anyone else? over here. >> was sherman's army self-sustaining or dependent on supply lines? if so, why didn't the confederate shutter supply lines? jeff shaara: the confederates -- nathan forrest was a foreign --
thorn in sherman's side. she cut him off completely. that army was totally self-sufficient. this is a controversial thing about sherman's march. the scavengers. people called bummers. they advance in the army and get stuff through to bring it back. human nature being what it is, they steal silverware and vandalized homes. it is the bummers give sherman the worst reputation in georgia. but there job is simple. fill these wagons up and they did that. as they get closer to savannah if you know anything about georgia, the closer you get to the coast, the poorer the land
is. you get into rice country. many people do not know what rice is. they have to learn from the slaves how to cook rice. it gets dicey for the union army once they are closer to savannah. they discover in south carolina oysters. the people along the coast these are recently poor people they are eating oysters as a staple of their diet. a guy from illinois is looking at it going, really? but that is what they had to do. they were inventive. they also discover sugarcane. as a humorous thing in the book about sugarcane. it tastes great. they realize it is a confection. sherman remarks he likes it
because it stimulates your bowels. [laughter] jeff shaara: they were entirely self-sustaining. which is why there was so much fear in washington about doing this in the first place. anyone else? back here. >> you explained how he sustained the army for food and shelter. how did he ensure he had enough munitions? jeff shaara: they took munitions with them. the wagon trains were limited, but that is one thing they made sure they had -- munitions. they never had to use them. have you run into a army of 60,000 confederates? they probably would have had a problem. but there were not succeed thousand. -- 60,000. just little mosquito bites of
cavalry until he got to savannah. once he gets to the coast, the navy resupplied him with cannons, naval cannons, to use against savannah if he needs them. the navy helps. but it was never an issue. i have not seen it written how much ammunition they carried. they never had to use it. it was never an issue. there was never a major fight in the march to sea. there was not a single major engagement. that is a testament to sherman's sneakiness. >> i have read that as sherman was going south, the confederates put landmines in the way. that was unpopular.
jeff shaara: that is putting it mildly. they were called torpedoes. the term "landmines" is not the colloquial term. sherman is outraged. there are several scenes. one in particular. they bury these things across the road with no other intention then kill the lead guy in the column. the first guy on a horse would trip one of these things. that is exactly what happens. it is murder, in sherman's mind. we can debate whether anything that happens in war is murder or not. but to sherman, it is. he gathers up confederate prisoners and has been clear landmines.
there are several examples. there is another at fort mcallister on the coast. the confederates made significant use of those. the union really did. it is a confederate thing. i do not have an explanation. another question? >> there are instances where leaders on both sides were west point graduates. what influence did that have on leaders? jeff shaara: a great deal. sherman respects west pointers. early in the war, this is a realization made by the north -- we lost a bunch of people who went south. a lot of guys went to the confederacy who were good commanders in the u.s. army. robert ely among them.
joe johnston among them. these are well-qualified officers fighting the confederacy. -- for the confederacy. that is why, early in the war, they were winning. they win most of the major fight. as things go on, and these guys fall away, it swings in the other direction. yes? >> i can understand the appeal of vietnam and korea. what is the process of curing the stories through? jeff shaara: much like with the american revolution. i wanted to go forward to the constitutional convention.
you have benjamin franklin, key figures to the revolution. there involved in the formation of the country. the same situation now. in the aftermath the book, i talk about all of her howard founding howard university. i did not knowing his name. the problem is, it is a hard sell for my publisher. they are very much -- and i do not mean to be facetious -- they are of the opinion, if it ain't broke, do not fix it. i have a genre i focus on. to suddenly change and do something a little different might not work. i have people that follow what i
write that are expecting certain things. that might be a curveball. but the story is fascinating. you have that cast of characters, ulysses s. grant right in the middle of it. it is just not what i do. time for maybe one more? >> they did not close down andersonville. i wonder if you could discuss why. jeff shaara: sherman is aware of andersonville, confederate prison in south georgia. it is off his line of march. andersonville is significantly south of macon. there is a scene, historically accurate, where half a dozen soldiers come wandering in to sherman's camp along the march. they are escapees from andersonville in rough shape. they somehow made it all the way from georgia. when they reached sherman's army , they are bawling and sherman
is touched. they run into confederate prisons. one in georgia, where they find graves of unions holders -- soldiers. pretty nasty stuff. andersonville was simply too far away for sherman to take a side route. it would have involved dealing with confederate cavalry and upset his timetable. also, the best way to shut down andersonville, end the war. anyone who critiques -- criticizes sherman as a brute, and people do, what sherman was, sherman was a master of total war. there are quotes in the book
but something happened early on in the vicksburg campaign. townsfolk, the mayor comes out to meet sherman. please, we are not involved in the war. we do not support the confederacy. please do not burn our town. sherman writes them a letter. we have the letter. he says, all you know, if all you know of the war is the occasional dead son that comes home, you have no incentive to make the war stop. the only way you, the civilians, will make the war stop, the only way the civilians will make the war stop is if they feel the pain. and so, not indiscriminate pain, but what he does, you shoot at
me from your house, i am going to burn your house. periodically, confederate cavalry will get in the courthouse of a small town, have a skirmish with the first union troops to arrive. sherman comes in, find out where the confederates were, in the courthouse, and burns the courthouse. he makes it plain -- anyone shoots at me, i will bring down the fires of hell. and it works. criticize him if you want, but he understood total war. there are people who would argue we forgot that in vietnam. we got involved in a war we were not willing to fight totally because of a variety of reasons. i am not an expert on that. but sherman understood, you want to win the war, you win the war.
you hurt people. and it worked. i will just leave it with that. love him or hate him, he understood what war is about. folks, thank you very much for coming. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> with live coverage of the house on c-span, here on c-span3 would complement that coverage by showing you the most relevant congressional hearings and public affairs events. then on weekends, c-span3 is home to american history tv with programs that tell our nation story, including six unique series.
is -- visiting battlefields and key events, american artifacts touring museums and historic sites. history bookshelf with the best non-american history writers. the presidency, looking at the policies and legacies of our nation's commanders in chief -- and our new series, real america, featuring archival governmental and educational films from the 1930's through the 1970's. c-span3, created by the cable tv industry and funded by your local cable or satellite provider. find us on facebook and follow us on twitter. >> each week, american history tv's american artifacts take you to historic places. we traveled to philadelphia to learn about the museum of the american revolution. located two blocks from independence hall, the museum is scheduled to open in early 2017.