tv Historians Discuss Leadership of General George G. Meade CSPAN August 21, 2017 8:02am-9:29am EDT
gettysburg. and i'm not sure what the main spring was in bringing him into alignment, but lincoln's thinking on military matters often came into alignment on grinding policies the government had put in place at a prior time. so you see after the gettysburg campaign, you see meade with an abo abo aboretive advance into central virginia that doesn't succeed in its end and will push lee back. of course meade forced lee back. you see meade launch an assault that succeeds on a very limited level but doesn't change the course of the war.
and then you see meade launch a campaign that ends in nothing at mine run. and suddenly, all of these things are acceptable -- what some acceptable to meade. now, true admittedly i think he's also deeply affected by the fact there aren't a lot of other choices for him to make for the army of potomac. he was not inclined -- one of the most important impacts of john pope's presence in virginia in 1862 was that it discouraged if not eliminated any possibility that lincoln would bring in a westerner to command the army of the potomac itself. that had not gone well. in fact the army of the potomac to a remarkable degree is a closed shot, namely the western based or train commander that has a significant impact on the army of potomac. there's only two or three the
entire war. it's a closed shop. but in any event, i think this coming into alignment with policy is an important thing we see. it happens after gettysburg. and also it is worth noting that lincoln didn't have a lot of options when it came to getting a new guy if meade wasn't willing to do it. >> one more question. so brooks wrote a fantastic piece. i believe it's entitled great expectations. it's about the press on the cusp of the overland campaign published in gary gallagher's collection of ez say essays on the wilderness. just on things on things coming into alignment, your argument and great expectations, how does
that begin when we reflect upon the world in which meade inhabited. when he came to what he was aspiring to, what he envisioned, how does the press figure into that again? >> well, the press figures in the argument of the piece is that great things were expected of grant coming east. and those expectations fall short during the yoef land campaign. he's not going to defeat lee in a single blow, et cetera. but what happens during that campaign is meade starts a war with the press, some of his subordinate commanders. but he becomes childish about what he sees in the press. warren is off having a pout because he will never have such a nice monument as he has at little roundtop ever again. that's his moment.
if he'd gotten shot at that point, we would remember warren as the man who saved round top and not some obscure college professor. college professor and obscure, that's redundant anyway. but meade can't win on this. and meade understands this. if the army wins, the credit will go to grant. he tells his wife. if he army loses, then they will blame me. meade is not good at structuring that politics of image, which i would argue is essential. for all the talk about actual performance. this is a people's war in which people's perception of leadership is crucial to what's going on. and lincoln who himself has a rather naive and unformed notion
of leadership, he buys into. from the beginning all the way to the end of the war. there's a comment he makes, general, when i heard you want a calvary commander, i thought he should be 6'4", but 5'4" will do in a pinch. it's a popular image of what a general should look like. that's negated by this rather business-like war management style that grant and meade engage in in 1864. and we don't see that partnership as we do the lee-jackson partnership. there's no talk about removing grant and meade statues from some park in charlottesville. but the fact of the matter that partnership wins the war in the east. but we tend to focus on the grant-sherman partnership.
so once again meade falls by the wayside. even this panel, shows the ability of four scholars committed to meade and peter to go ahead and go in a different direction and concentrate on other things other than meade pfts role in the war and his contributions to eventually a union victory. >> so i'd like to open it up to the audience. you all know the routine by now. you need to come to one of the mics. >> before coming here i did some reading. i read some professor gelzo seers and fans. and i want to address the pipe creek circular. so these three guys treated it as a forgone conclusion that was the plan.
i look at the pipe creek circular and the time falling back can only developed by circumstances or whether circumstances arise as would seem to indicate necessity for falling back. so the question is, pipe creek circular, the plan or contingency plan? >> pipe creek circular is a plan. i'm not going to say it's a contingency plan. it was a plan meade would have liked to implement if he could have because pipe creek was an exceptionally plan position. and he wanted to fight a defensive battle. and that would have been the battle he wanted. the only way he could have gotten that battle is if he could have drawn lee out of pennsylvania down into maryland to attack in that position.
meade clearly understood that might not happen. if you look at meade's action on june 30th, what he does on june 30th, very important. he empowers john reynolds to command the left wing of the army. he makes him a wing commander. and he also empowers reynolds with tremendous authority. reynolds is essentially given the authority to fight the battle in pennsylvania to precipitate the battle if he feels in his opinion it is to the advantage of the army. it's a really smart move by meade i think because he delegates his authority to someone who he has trust in because meade knows he can't be everywhere at the same time. once reynolds does precipitate that battle at gettysburg, what does meade do? he is not wedded to the pipe creek circular. he doesn't tell everybody we need to fall back to pipe creek. he scraps the plan. the contingency would be if this doesn't happen, then we're going
to fall back. he wants to do pipe creek. to meade's credit, when the circumstances change, he scraps the plan, orders the concentration at gettysburg. and fights the battle on a battlefield picked by his subordinate commander. and i think what reflects upon meade is a flexibility. >> real quickly we've been talking about the committee, and edded by edited by hyde. union general speaks, excuse me. it has all the transcripts of the court. hyde -- william hyde, it's a fantastic book. >> i'd like to understand a
little bit about the effect of meade's personal politics on how he was perceived and how he was evaluated and also the army politics. and he was a mcclellanan. how was that combined to how he was viewed? >> so meade was a democrat. he seems to have been sympathetic to the more cautious limited war policies of 1862. but he also shows signs clearly that he knows ultimately the determination of policy as it relates to confederate civilians and the abolition of slavery in the areas the army goes is not really his business in that he is not part of the process of making that policy. mcclellan very much saw himself
as the part of the process in making that policy. pope saw himself as a process of making that policy. meade did not. and by the time he assumes command, he has managed to dodge the political pitfalls of engaging in that battle of the debate which sunk men like mcclellan, sunk men like franklin and many others. but by the time he assumes command, the union's debate over the nature of war, over the aims of the war is largely resolved. the emancipation proclamation, although very controversial and it stimulates months of acrimony and debate within the army and beyond, by the time meade takes command, you don't see public debates certainly not
exercised by the army about the wisdom of emancipation. but they all accepted emancipation was in their interest and all ultimately fought for the abolition of slavery. and meade understood that. he exercised the policies as it related to civilians in the same way that his predecessors had. gradually over time, more severely. but really the army of the potomac never wavered from the approach towards civilians that it assumed in late 1862 after pope's arrival. even under mcclellan when he resumed command of the army and took it back to virginia, the army related itself to civilians in the same way that largely pope's army had. pope had had a period of about three weeks where he lost control of his army. and the objection of the high
command to hard world policies as it related to civilians was not so much rooted in an objection to suffering civilians but rooted in concerns about the impact of that policy on the discipline of the army itself. and by 1863 that was pretty well set. so meade had the wisdom or fortune to avoid the debate in a public way. once he assumed command, the debate as it related to the army was largely resolved, in my view. >> thank you. >> it's kind of well understood that a truism that the civil war was a transformative process. in listening to today's debate and last night's, it seems to me that the civil war is kind of like a portal for these different 19th century
personalities to transform themselves into some aspect of madernity. and some do it well and others may do it better in terms of managing the press and their public image, the kind of things we accept kind of routinely right now. but overall, most of these characters seem to be conflicted. they don't completely step into this modern world that we conceive. many of them are locked into where they would be into the 19th century. i'd like to ask the panel on that. >> aren't we all stuck between what we want to know and what we want to learn? i mean look at the internet. how many of you have flip phones? probably all of you. some of you may not have phones at all. we're all stuck in that. and that applies to the military world as well.
>> after gettysburg, there was a significant reorganization of the army and conservative officers removed. as a conservative himself as what role or input did meade get into that reorganization of the army? what input did meade get into the input of the reorganization? >> he had a huge role in the reorganization. he was the primary proponent of the reorganization of the army. it wasn't grant. grant just approved the reorganization when he arrived. meade felt the reorganization was necessary. he thought the first and third corps who had both suffered about 5,000 casualties apiece in the battle of gettysburg, that they never really recovered. recruiting hasn't been able to recover them. they didn't have enough new
units coming in. and he didn't have enough corps commanders. he felt redrusing the number of -- he looked at lee's army and saw how maneuverable it was with a larger corps. i think he thought that was a better model. he'd never admit that, that the organization might be better than the one they had. even though later on andrew hump humphries, he felt having more army corps worked better because it gave you mormon you'ver elements. he was a big part of that reorganization. >> all right, back mic, please. >> during the retreat from
williamsport doe fences were built by engineers. if you've ever seen pictures of them, you wouldn't want to attack them. as a frontal assault, and the confederates are hoping there would be a frontal assault. >> this is an excellent summery of what we've talked about. you need to get to the question now. so your question is? >> also one more thing, meade did not have the slows. when he can decide to move, he moved -- part of his army moved 32 miles in one day. i didn't really have a question. i just want to bring this up. everybody is talking -- >> thank you very much. you know what, you've done a very nice job of summarizing. so we appreciate your good listening and summarizing for everyone. >> we should have had you up here. go the back, please.
>> i'm from howard county, maryland. something was mentioned on the panel about civil war armies being, well, indestructible that made me realize if i heard correctly the northern army of virginia was indestructible. i heard the typical civil war battle is where both armies come together, bang the heck out of each other, don't actually destroy each other, and then live to fight another day. my question is, if civil war armies couldn't destroy each other, why is that? or really even what did it mean to destroy the enemy in a civil war context? of course, why couldn't they destroy each other? >> i heard the same thing you heard, and as soon as i heard civil war armies were indestructible i started thinking of vicksburg, port donaldson, they were destroyed. they surrendered.
so civil war armies could be defeated, could be captured. lee's army of northern virginia was defeated. johnson's army of tennessee was defeated and surrendered. so they could. i think really what we meant up here was that because of the abilities -- what's the difference between waterloo and gettysburg? the difference is there's no railroads and no sort of supply system like you had in mid-19th century america to sustain an army in the field. so after the battle of waterloo, which is different kind of battle. sometimes people make a comparison. it's a silly comparison. it's much different from them to reconstitute their army after their defeat. and the panic spreads they can't reconstitute it well. civil war armies were better
supplied and in some respects were more resilient because of the sort of weaponry they had, the logistical system they had that enabled them to. >> referee: cover from damaging battles -- think about the battle where lee's army loses and these armies can continue to function. well how can they continue to function? they can continue to function because the system that sustains them is very well-developed. >> that was kind of a good point. real quick, battles of annihilation are really hard to achieve in civil war. the soldiers come from the same citizen soldier tradition. they have the same kind of tactics and same sort of training that makes it harder to achieve an edge over another. they work with parody in terms of tactics, which we will talk about tonight on the panel and the citizen soldier tradition. >> and i would turn toward i think is the single best military history of the war,
how the north won, herman had a way and archer jones, their argument is that a policy of exhaustion. what ultimately brings the confederacy to its knees, how the north won, a brilliant book. we have time for two quick questions. and we need some efficient answers as well. >> just a quick comment about meade's strat tu. >> we need a question. >> i just wanted to point out where that statue is. it's 3rd and pennsylvania across from the national gallery of art. the building in the background is the main federal courthouse in washington. if you're accused of any major governmental malfeasance that's where you're going to be. so my feeling is you may see that statue in the future on national tv. [ applause ] >> all right, our final question.
>> i was just wondering if you could talk about just briefly meade's post-war career and whether he had any role in reconstruction of the army after the war? >> yes, he does. in fact he is sent down in 1867 to handle george and several other states. actually, for all his earlier reserve about his issues of race, much more aggressive in protecting african-americans especially in georgia. there's a lot of violence. however, he feels once again over swamped when grant becomes president and engages in promotions, meade finds he's not going to get a long coveted third star, which in fact goes to his long time rival, philip sheridan. so meade spends those last
several years unhappy, feeling unappreciated. just after election day in 1872 with grant winning re-election, meade dies. >> and on that note we'll -- let me thank the panelists for our lively conversation. thank you all. [ applause ] >> more from the annual civil war institute constitute at gettysburg college in a moment. coming up tonight, we will look at the debate over slavery that took place in the 1790s as well as the legacy of knute gingrich. that will be at 8:00 p.m. eastern this each. american history tv is in prime time every night this month while congress is away for their summer recession.
you are watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span 3. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule to keep up with the latest history news. next, a look at jesse james and his civil war experiences fighting for confederate causes in missouri. this was part of the annual civil war institute conference at getty sgettysburg college. it's a little over an hour. >> good afternoon. i am peter carmichael. i am the director of the civil war institute. it's my pleasure to welcome back tj styles to cwi. he spoke yesterday as you know. he spoke on george armstrong
custer, based upon a book that he received the pulitzer for. as you all know, the winner of two pulitzers. he is going to speak on another misunderstood character in jesse james. jesse james, the study of him by tj styles, is at the point of a new wave of scholarship that's focusing on gorilla warfare. you heard bart meyers yesterday. they have all been doing work on what many have considered to be the periphery of the civil war. thanks to these scholars and thanks to tj styles, we now have a more expansive view of civil war military history. jesse james, unfortunately, is sometimes perceived as a robin hood figure of the old west. we often see jesse james as being apolitical. that he is part of those bandits
like bloody bill anderson. i think what is so impressive about what tj styles has done is that he has taken this man and he has enabled us to see a man who we should note has left very few written records but a man who was during the civil war, who was deeply political. so it is my pleasure to bring back to the stage tj styles. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. my grandfather did public speaking. once before he was going to talk, some came up to him in the lobby and said, i really want to go to the ball game. is this guy any good? he said, i've heard him a few times. sometimes he's pretty good. sometimes find him rather disappointing. so anyway, if you are disappointed, i apologize. i hope i don't. jesse james was my first subject as a