tv The Civil War CSPAN April 3, 2016 8:00am-8:53am EDT
>> we are very pleased to welcome back to this stage dr. mark grimsley. [applause] it is a pleasure to be here this afternoon. i am looking forward to talking with you. let's get this up on the screen. we are talking today about the and about the final wars on native americans. i am neither a civil war historian or a military historian. i still know a lot about the civil war. [laughter] but i don't identify as a military historian.
and the way i actually came to the subject of my first book, which i will be talking about some today, actually was by way of the interest in moral judgment in war. the kind of moral judgments that we often make in wartime. and as an historian, the kind of judgments that we do make. and that was the genesis of the book that became interesting in the moral judgments that union officers and soldiers made towards southern civilians in the path of war during the american civil war. so that is where that came from. however, having written that book, i have formed an apparently career-long association with william t. sherman.
people seem to think i am an expert on sherman, as well. and i have come to learn a fair amount about sherman, two, mostly in self-defense. [laughter] but i can to you that times are changing regard to sherman. and as with many things. in the summer of 2014, an organization called public policy did a poll, asking for the opinions of georgians on william t. sherman. you might imagine they would have opinions on the subject, given his famous urban renewal project. [laughter] there in 1864. however, 56% had no opinion in georgia. only 26% reported disliking sherman. in comparison, 63% reported that
they disliked reality tv star honey boo-boo. [laughter] well, so apparently, the image of sherman have shifted over time. some of it that has begun to interest me over the past year or so, it is taking seriously the concepts of the american civil war as an american iliad. and by that, i mean to say, it is an episode in american history that we have certain stories that we tell ourselves that come out of the war, the -- they kind of have a mythic resonance for us. in the same way there are the
details in homer. what it tells us about being a human being, and i think the people that are interested in the american civil war often approach it as a kind of american iliad. and i will give you an example of this. i started doing a column for civil war magazine called the american illiad. one of my first was on the relationship between american lincoln and maccallum. i am sure most of you know something about this relationship. it is passed into our culture, to such an extent that during the iraq war period there were over 100 references to the lincoln and maccallum relationship, usually in the course of condemning a general that was not doing very well. or extolling a general who was doing well, and so on. well, in my column, i talked
about this relationship that they had, and i told it very much an american illiad term. lincoln is a great guy, mccollum is a jerk. what will he do when they figure that out? what i said in the final paragraph is that maccallum is not that bad a general. that is all i said. he does not deserve the excoriation that he gets. that one paragraph got many numbers of letters to the editor, and i got two myself from aggrieved readers, each of which ran several pages, singlespaced. [laughter] explaining to me how he was the worst general in the civil war. not one of the worst, but the
absolute worst. i have a new column that i will be doing explaining why we hate him that much. [laughter] we can go to my topic today, and one of the things i was thinking about, this american iliad. does it have -- it has stories in it. about grant at shiloh. the -- trays during general petraeus during the darkest moments of the surge, he told his staff on several occasions about grant's remark on the evening of the battle of shiloh, where sherman comes up to him and says we have had the devil's own day. and grant says yes, lick them tomorrow. -- general trays -- trias
petraeus used that to boost his staff. and of course the story of stonewall jackson at the first manassas. what kind of tales do we have that touch upon the things we're discussing today? reconstruction and the ugliness of it. i think those things lie largely outside of the american iliad. these are stories that we do not look at in a mythical or mythic kind of way. the exception to this would be sherman's marches. people do know about the raising of the shenandoah valley. i think ed ayers was right to quote the importance. but if people know anything about what i call the heart operations of the civil war, it is the march to the sea. and we all know that it was a desolating march, 220 miles from atlanta to savannah, 60 miles wide. in which the troops destroyed absolutely everything in their
path. and there is a thriving folklore business in georgia there to explain why, given that this occurred, why the particular town that so and so lives in, why that particular town was spared, when every other town was annihilated. and these folklore tales usually have something to do with sherman had an old girlfriend in town, maybe. he was a mason. and someone gave the masonic sign of distress. so, there is this kind of american iliad element to his march. but the idea of this theory, this is something that i talk about, largely debunking. and so, what i would like to do is to begin with two mornings,
three years apart. the first is a mild winter day in coastal south carolina, on the flat tidal plane of the savanna river. the soldiers have entered the little village of barnwell. officially, the orders are to pass through the town and seize and destroy only certain classes of public property. in brutal fact, they believe that the commanding officer wants them to destroy everything in south carolina, a state that nurtured and created the carnage of the civil war. that has consumed the lives of them in their comrades for years. and so, union soldiers as they enter barnwell, south carolina, they set fire to the town. public building, residences, then they leave. telling themselves with grim satisfaction that the town that would be properly rechristened burnwell. civilians are aghast, in shock.
that is the first point. the second morning is a chill, autumn dawn in the former indian territory of oklahoma. blue-coated soldiers have surrounded a nameless village on the river. officially, the orders are to surround and capture a party of indian raiders that have been believed to have attacked white settlements in the region. and also, to wreck everything in their path. they open fire, the blue coats open fire. unlike barnwell, this is defended. the inhabitants have been taken by surprise. and within minutes, it is overrun. while a covering force screens against a possible counterattack by other vicinity indians, they systematically level the lodges, shooting 900 ponies in the village, and giving most of the possessions to the flames.
afterward, there are no indians left behind in the village to bemoan the attack. all have been made prisoners and escorted into captivity. and over 100 of them, mostly old men, women, and children, are dead. now, it is commonly agreed that 19th century america had two experiences with total war. the first against the southern confederacy, the second against the western plains indians. a number of historians have noticed similarities in the methods employed, particular ly the emphasis on the destruction of supplies and attacks on noncombatants. such commonalities imply that however potent racial views may have been in white america 's overall stance towards native americans, the final conquest was not central with race.
even francis jennings, a distinguished historian highly critical of white americans to make this point. he wrote on sherman that a photograph in atlanta will reveal his style of war. why should anyone expect them to be more merciful to alien indians than the people of his own kind? yet, in fact, sherman and his counterparts in the union army did behave with considerably more mercy towards southern whites than white america showed with the final wars with native americans. what happened in barnwell in february 1865, laid at the extreme end. what happened along the river in november 1868, on the other hand, was fairly typical of the u.s. army conduct towards native americans. the difference reflects the salience of race and culture in the latter struggles.
the contrast between the wars against the confederacy and the native americans are compelling. and they begin with the basic legal principles by which the two struggles were conducted. the laws and customs of european warfare contain two main strands of thought. one, applicable to wars against another nation, international wars. and one, applicable to insurgency and insurrection, internal wars. legally, the american civil war was an insurrection. it was an insurgency. but the way in which the united states conducted that war, de facto, treated the confederate states of america as if it were a foreign nation. and that meant that the conventions of laws and customs,
prisoners of war were taken, surrenders were given and accepted, and so on. had the united states chosen to adopt the insurgency or the insurrectionary principle instead, everybody who was taken in arms would have been shot. they were traitors, guilty of treason. they had no rights anyone you to respect. so, the american civil war than was treated as a de facto contest between nations. and those principles were followed. with regard to the wars against native americans, though, the insurrectionary principle was followed. and what this meant was that it opened up a great deal more for lethal treatment of people who would ordinarily be classified as noncombatants.
now, during the clashes with western indians, u.s. forces quickly discovered it was almost impossible to destroy a native american war party in open combat. since they normally avoided battle except under favorable conditions. their small numbers and high mobility made them are to locate, amid the vastness of the west. accordingly, one of the favorite tactics was to swoop down upon a hostile party, while ensconced in a village. ideally, at dawn. this tactic practically guaranteed casualties among native american women, children, and the elderly. two well-known examples were the battle already discussed and in january 1870, in which general -- major baker and the calvary
killed 173 indians, including 53 women and children. many of them ill with smallpox. they defended the attack against criticism by humanitarians, noting that it was no different than what was practiced in the american civil war. during the war, he said, did anyone hesitate to attack a village because women and children were within the limits? did we cease to throw shells into vicksburg or atlanta because women and children were there? this is disingenuous. hardly any southern civilians were killed in this kind of fashion. the bombardment of vicksburg and atlanta produced few civilian casualties. many of us could name the lone civilians deaths that occurred during the battle of gettysburg. we also know the one woman who died in the battle of the first manassas.
so, that is how rare those occasions are. so he is being disingenuous when he says this. by contrast, the success of the western village attacks depended on native americans not knowing the enemy's approach. and they smirk and atlanta were incidental to operations against the confederate armies defending those cities. the presence was of central importance. because the greatest opportunities for victory would occur when warriors were forced into the position of having to protect the elderly, women, and children. and finally, while the union army could readily discriminate between military and civilian targets in vicksburg and atlanta during a village attack, , combatants and noncombatants were hopelessly intermingle.
the result, predictably, was a level of noncombatant casualties far higher than anything seen during civil war military operations. in short, sherman was not drawing an appropriate comparison. rather, he was quoting a morally dubious attack in the mantle of one more easily defensible. this is michael walzer. he is a professor emeritus at princeton university and the author of any number of books. there is one i will recommend to you. it is called "just and unjust wars," published in 1977. i read it as a college freshman. it has been through five editions since then. and it is the single most lucid and intelligent study of the ethical aspects of war that i can recommend to you.
michael walzer talks in his book about the principle of double effect. this is a concept that really goes back before him, back to the scholastics of the middle ages. but he offers a good modern formulation that is relevant to what i am talking about today. double effect, he writes, is a way of reconciling the absolute prohibition against attacking noncombatants with the legitimate conduct of military activity. which may unavoidably exposed noncombatants to harm. its chief condition is that the intention of the actor is good. that is to say, that the actor, the person responsible for making a specific attack, is aiming narrowly at the acceptable affect -- the death of the combatant.
the evil effect, the injury to noncombatants, nor is it a means to his ends. aware of the evil involved, he seeks to minimize the evil involved, accepting cost to himself. now, one may complain that during the atlanta bombardment, sherman failed to minimize the risk of causing harm to civilians. the causing harm to them was neither his objective nor a means to his objective. by contrast, while injury to native american women and children was plausibly not the example of custer or baker, the presence of women and children was an important means to ensure the vulnerability of the otherwise elusive native american warriors. according to the principle of double effect, this is morally unacceptable. a soldier must take careful aim at his target, away from nonmilitary targets, he explains.
he can shoot only if he has a reasonably clear shot. he can attack only if a direct attack is possible. he can risk incidental death, but he cannot kill civilians simply because he finds them in between. ethically then, the u.s. army could have resorted to attacks only if it were prepared to take significant steps to avoid noncombatant casualties. for example, by using forces to surround the village, offering them an opportunity to surrender, and permitting noncombatants to leave the area. and although this conclusion it is perhapssay , only fair to point out that the army, which felt chronically shorthanded during the campaign, and that even the surprise attacks were fought with considerable risk. at the battle of the big hull in
montana on august 9, 1877, they failed to prevent the escape of most warriors, who found cover and shot down fully a third of the men. but as usual, many of the nez perce were women and children killed in the attack. as many as two thirds were noncombatants. now, when i began working on what became the hard hand of war, and i look at the way in which union military conduct toward southern civilians eve , youvolved -- evolved begin with a limited war. an army against an army.
and eventually, you see this war expand to something approximating a total war, in which southern civilian property, private and public property, was also fair game. and as i traced the trajectory, the arc of this, i found out that what really drove it was partly political. in the early stages, a consolatory policy was applied because it was thought that this would bring white southern civilians back into their former allegiance more easily than other means. and that as matters became more harsh, it was driven by the fact that union armies found it difficult to destroy rebel armies in the field. and historically, what happens when you are unable to achieve direct military effect, you tend to go after civilians instead. this is just -- there is a book out there that you should all is
-- buy a copy of. and that book has a moral to it. when you cannot effectively defeat an enemy by purely military means, you go for the civilians. now, although it is common to locate the germ of this horrible policy with general sherman, the real source was the logistical imperative under which civil war armies sometimes found it necessary to take supplies from the countryside. and by extension, to deny them to the enemy. a number of union commanders did the same thing as sherman did. such methods were obvious solutions to obvious military problems. so, it requires little imagination to realize that if the civil war had never taken place, the military problems of war against the indians would have suggested their own solutions in much the same way. so i think that the idea that
the united states officers, you know, learned techniques during the civil war and then apply them to the indians in the post-civil war period, they just is a dog that will not hunt. soldiers are practical people. they still would have the same problem with the civil war, and they would assault the problems with the indians and the way they did. now, the destruction of native american property follows a considerably different pattern from that of the civil war. although southern barnes and outbuildings might be destroyed, it was relatively uncommon for union soldiers to burn private dwellings. but they repeatedly burned entire native american villages. the emphasis in both official orders and actual practice was to leave enough provisions to get by. in the west, the norm was to
destroy provisions so thoroughly as to force the native americans to choose between reservation life and starvation. the pattern during the civil war was to distinguish between union secessionist and neutral or passive civilians. in the west, distinctions between the peace and more -- war factions of the tribe were seldom made. and often gave white soldiers receipts, and afterwards, gave compensations to those who could demonstrate loyalty. no such niceties applied in the contest against the native americans. this is a mural, works progress association mural. a post office in creston, idaho, near the site of the bear river massacre. that occurred in january of 1863.
a lot of us have heard of the sand creek massacre, that is in november of 1864. the bear river massacre is on a much larger scale actually. we're talking about an incident in which 250 northwestern indians were slaughtered, and women were raped in the snow as they lay dying of their wounds. what is going on here? what is going on at sand creek? what is going on for that matter at fort pillow? what we are looking at here is racism, yes. calling it racism does not get us very far. what is going on beneath the surface, what is the significance of this? i think that what is going on here that is of significance is
and the american military experience, atrocities tend to overwhelmingly in the context of interracial struggles. there is a distinction is the bear river massacre was carried out not by regular u.s. army troops but rather by first california, a volunteer regiment. the sand creek massacre in november of 1864 was carried out, again, not by regular troops but by the third colorado cavalry, which was enlisted for 100 days
only, attacked the black kettle settlement at sand creek in its first and only engagement, slaughtered men, women, elderly, children, and mutilated women, came back to denver festooned with the genitalia of men and women on their uniforms to receive a hero's welcome. that's the contrast between the civil war, which was a hard war and the hard war out in the west with native americans. i'll take whatever questions you have. yes? [applause] >> how much do you think
religious beliefs played into this in terms of how the soldiers viewed beliefs of the southern religious beliefs vs. the western native american beliefs? >> i think that -- i see what you mean, what you're getting at. i think that it wasn't so much the spiritual practices that whites noticed and objected to. the sense of the indians being savages is what they, you know, picked up on the most. there's a funny dualism in the ways in which white americans have regarded native americans historically.
one of them is to look at native americans as savages and -- but there is another way, that kind of romanticizes native rosyicans and has kind of a view of spiritual practices of native americans. so you get this kind of dualism alongside. so i would say actually to the extent that the whites paid attention to the spiritual practices of native americans, that they saw that in a kind of favorable sort of way. this is kind of strange, two attitudes so order of exist side by side. yeah? >> did your research on the native americans involve any of the
way that the native american tribes treated each other in their type of warfare? was that looked at or considered? >> yes. i can talk a little bit about that. you know, it's not as though native americans were, you know, just nice people who were just sort of blameless, misunderstood kids. you know, their warfare against one another could be pretty unpleasant. one of the things, for example, that the western indians did was they practiced mutilation as a matter of course. and within native americans' culture, this kind of mutilation, it wasn't like -- this kind of mutilation had a cultural
significance and understanding that white soldiers did not pick up on or appreciate and i don't think they really needed to appreciate it but when native , americans used the same kind of practices, mutilations they did against one another on white soldiers. this was the kind of thing that just drove white soldiers into a fury. so does that address your question? okay. all right. yes? >> in the civil war, was there -- >> what you're talking about is a code named for francis leiber, a german american jurrist who was named head of a committee that put together the world's first official
guidelines for the ethical conduct of an army in the field. officially this was under general orders 100, published by the department on april 24, 1863, and, honestly, as far as i can tell, nobody read it, referred to it, anything like that. [laughter] >> i'm serious. i mean, nowadays, you know, back in the day i had to go through the official book by book and now you can go through the cd-rom and do a key word search. i haven't found anything like that. i can tell you where "general orders 100" really did come into play on a consistent basis and that was in the philippine war, 1899-1902. i tell you something. if you followed the letter of what was allowed in leiber's code, what you were allowed to do legally, you know, was some pretty scary stuff.
and that was intentional on francis leiber's part. you know, he felt like -- he said, sharp wars are brief. you know. so it was not -- it was not a gentle kind of document at all. in terms of the civil war, no, it does not seem to have been applied very much. that comes later. >> a few years ago, s.c. green brought out a really fascinating book, i thought, empire of summer moon by kwana parker, indian war chief, indian father, white mother. the very, very difficult time that the rebels in texas had in dealing with indian tribes,
apache, comanche, and so forth, during the civil war, because so many texas units were called east to fight, in your look at this whole issue of rebels and redskins, was it a sort of an interest of maybe self-interest that people like stan waite were commissioned by the government in richmond to raise, you know, indian confederate troops and did they do this because they thought they might get a better deal from the great white father in richmond than the great white father in washington? it's kind of a complex question certainly and maybe -- what did you find about the indians' approach to whites, our great american soldiers? >> i think there are two pieces
to this. one is that certain native american communities as you might imagine took advantage of the situation to revolt, to rebel. because they knew that so many american forces were distracted by the american civil war. that's why you get the sioux uprising in minnesota in 1862. but in terms of stan waite and the cherokees, the cherokee out in indian territory, they were slave holders. and they were -- and quite a number had a kind of mixture of caucasian blood. and so when confederate agents went to the indian territory to try to enlist native americans, you know, on the confederate side, one of the reports they sent, these people are like us.
they're our kind of people. you know? you know, they dress like us. they arm like us. they farm like us. they hold slaves like us. you know, and that particular score the confederates were surprisingly cosmopolitan about dealing with the native americans. of course, as i imagine you know, a portion of the cherokee nation did go with the confederacy and a portion went with the union. this happened with other indian tribes, too. so you wound please having that within the tribes as well as without. >> i was just wondering the way the army fought the war with native americans was that mostly driven by politicians or the army officers or business interests or just a combination of all that? >> what drives the train on these? >> yes.
before the 1860's, there was a sense that -- the 1830's when the indian removal act was, the policy then becomes remove the native americans west of the mississippi. there is a sense of -- what is west of the mississippi? the great american desert. you know. solid grass land. nobody's ever farmed that. we'll -- nobody is going to want to have it so native americans can have it in perpetuity. we don't care. it turned out white america did want that land and so the policy changed and to put it
briefly, the policy became one of placing native americans on reservations. it also became one of setting them into sort of cultural extinction by trying to break up sort of the glue that kept indian communities together. a major project was a humanitarian project under pratt, who create the industrial school at carlyle barracks and he believed the terms of killing the indian to save the man. and so the reason i mention him is because many regular army officers had a certain ambivalence about the commission that they were being asked to carry out. because the policy of their country, of their nation was to place indians on reservations and punish those who tried to get off reservations and so forth. at the same time this was a duty that many of them disliked having to carry out.
>> i have two questions. in your research did you find any connection between the folks from the burning, sheridan, sherman, grant, any connection to those policies transferring to west of the mississippi river? that these policies in the shenandoah valley and georgia, proven to be successful, maybe in total war, were carried west of the mississippi river? a second question is this idea of coming together, that if there is no sense of coming together say between the races, could you translate that theory to the confederate treatment of u.s. colored troops? >> sure. the idea that union generals and officers consciously took their experiences from the civil war and transferred it to the west is not something that i found evidence for any more than
i found evidence for them taking the experience of the colonial feed fights or the war toward the seminole indians or the wars of the 1830's and transferred that into the american, to the war. so as i said before, and i think this is pretty much on target, the way that military people are practical people, and they tend to sort of, you know, solve the practical problem that's sitting in front of them. and they might be gratified to discover that, you know, hey, the tactic you're applying is the same one tried back in -- they might be gratified to know that was the case. but that's not how their minds work. with regard to your second question, which is to say about the way the confederate troops dealt with the u.s. colored troops, yeah. what you're dealing with there
is the denial of any kind of political community, full stop in the story, absolutely. there's also a problem, too, that the confederates dealt with this. the official confederate policy was to reenslave captured usct's on the assumption they had all been slaves. but if you follow the official policy, you know, and re-enslave them, then what the union would do would be to retaliate in kind against confederate soldiers. so you couldn't hold -- you couldn't hold african-american soldiers as prisoners. that wasn't policy. you couldn't re-enslave them. that was policy. so the best solution was to just not have any prisoners. you know. and that is one of the reasons why you get, you know, the massacres, the most famous one at fort pillow but there are others, too. another thing, too, about these
episodes with confederate troops and u.s. colored troops. most atrocities were called crimes of obedience. like. meli massacre in march, 1968. william calley's platoon carried out that massacre under orders from the lieutenant who carried it out under orders from the captain. that is usually what it takes to get that degree of lethalty. what is interesting about the way u.s. confederate soldiers treated u.s. colored troops is they slaughtered u.s. colored troops without any goading from higher authority. they did it spontaneously. and, to me, somebody who is a sort of historian of these kinds of things, that's striking to me that that was, in fact, the case. >> are there any episodes of u.s. colored troops encountering
native americans in warfare and anything striking about their behavior and those encounters? >> that is not something that i explored. and it really -- i really -- if i take another look at this at some point, that's something i will look at. what i can touch on though and whey was hoping you would ask me, because i can answer this question -- [laughter] -- is when u.s. colored troops had the opportunity to slaughter confederates, did they? and that seems not to be the case. the only instance in which this may have occurred was fort blakely outside of mobile, alabama in the closing days of the civil war. and that is the only instance in which i've been able to find even a hint of that occurring. >> let me ask one more --. talking about political community and the new book on "damn yankees" makes a very persuasive case about the degree of
hatred of southerns toward northern in particular, both ways but more southerners toward northerners. and you have to hate the enemy in order to fight a war. and that there is much more hatred than we today appreciate and that they ceased feeling any kind of political community, southerners toward northerners, and with that in mind, what's going on is -- can we then conclude race is really the only or the primary factor in all of this? george is right that there is sort of a loss of feeling in political communities as a result of fighting the war and even before the war. do we lay it there and just race alone accounts for these differences? >> you know, race -- the united states in that period, maybe throughout its entire history -- has tended to organize things in terms of race and it's interesting that nowadays we
think of there being a caucasian race. there was a time, though, when what we now think of as caucasian would have been sub divided into nordic, tutonic, mediterranean, this kind of a thing. and so the reason you can do this is because race is a social concept. it doesn't really exist. we invent it. we can uninvent it. well, what seems to have been going on during the civil war, something that i noticed and george has probably noticed it more than i did, which is that you -- when the confederates talk about how much they dislike the damn yankees or whatever, the language that they use is a racialized language. you know, and i think in an article i did some years ago i suggested if the civil war had gone on long enough, you might have had a kind of a wholesale racializing of the north as an enemy.
you begin to see some steps in that direction during the civil war, by the end of the civil war it -- the end of the civil war cuts that off. >> okay. [applause] >> you're watching american weekend onevery c-span3. follow us on twitter to keep up with the latest history news and the schedule. >> coming up next on american history tv, author ron chernow talks about his book "alexander hamilton," which has been adapted into a broadway musical. he talks about the success of the show written by and starring lynn miranda and about his experience as the show's historical consultant. roosevelt house at hunter college hosted this hour and 10 minute event. >> good evening. i'm jennifer ravin i have the great privilege of being
president of this extraordinary institution, hunter college. it's a great pleasure for all of us to welcome you tonight to a conversation between ron chernow and harold holder the director of roosevelt house on the transformation of ron's biography of alexander hamilton into a broadway sensation. normally, roosevelt house programs are held in our historic homes but the excitement over this event was so great we had to move tonight's event to the playhouse. the fact that a discussion about a musical that is standing room only has drawn an audience tonight that is standing room only is a perfect illustration of hamilton's phenomenal impact. and it is living proof of how this fabulous show has turned a mild-mannerewr