tv The Civil War Military History and the Civil War CSPAN March 18, 2019 10:41pm-11:32pm EDT
the historical society of iowa marked the 50th anniversary of the decision. you can watch that tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on cspan three. next virginia commonwealth professor discusses the role of military history in the modern study of the civil war and analyzing different aspects of military history can help us understand the social changes that occurred during the civil war period. welcome back to the american civil war museum we are glad to have you with us. for those of you joining us glad to have you as well. now we will continue today's
journey. the first speaker up is doctor katie. as the resident civil war professor she is a familiar face to many of you. she has spoken and published widely on the subject of her 13 book, nature's civil war, common soldiers and the environment in 1862 virginia. and on the subject of her book in progress, general jubal and his role of architect and his version of the so called lost cause of the civil war. she has emerged as one of the most vigorous voices for the
importance of studying military history. she teaches not only civil war history and environmental history at vcu and early american military history and has taken on the additional title of associate director of science, technology and society at vcu and is an advocate of the familiar stem education framework. this is not surprising from someone that earned her phd from the university of virginia but it probably comes as a surprise to anyone that knew her as an aspiring opera singer in her youth or as an english major at the university of california with a concentration in poetry. she will bring the message in the form of her talk entitled upon our arms all else depends.
the importance of civil war in military history. thank you so much for that kind introduction. and thank you to the american civil war museum for having me today and lowing me to be a part of the process of constructing the flagship exhibit. it seems an obvious point that the civil war was a war, it might follow that any attempt to present it's main narrative as the american civil war museum seeks to do it's in flagship exhibit should substantial involve military history and yes given the american civil war museum aspiration to offer an inclusive and multi facetted story it is worth questioned the utility of military history to accomplishing these goals. after all the field has often
only been understood in its narrowest terms, the co called drums and bugal history. this traditional military history tends to be limited to the perspectives of general and tactical encounters of army shedding light on battle and campaign outcomes but little else. within these confines there appears scarce room to draw into engross perspective of those people such as people of color and civilians and there can be a disconnect that might attract a better audience. i will argue today that military history should remain central to an inclusive history of the civil war for the following reasons. military history is broader, deeper and more complex than
often judged to be. i will demonstrate the stories of the army and waging of the war were fundamental to the most important development of the periods especially the unfolding of emancipation and consideration of right and justice for african americans. i will argue subjects that fall under the rubric of traditional military history such as weapons and technology should not be discarded and such topics attract a steadfast audience who welcome the opportunity to interrogate discovering new and broader insight into subject matter they have studied for many years. to my first point, military history is more than drum and bugals it is important to understand this critique of military history has been leveled by the academy.
allow me to provide a few examples. military scholar john a lynn decried the field has been a quote pariah in u.s. universities. civil war historian further embellished the sentiment to explain that quote the lure of studying civil war battles remains strong, but it has acquired among my academic peers a reputation close to pornography. one of his colleagues inquired if military historians employ crayons to draft our scholarly works. a jab at our supposed inferior intellect but perhaps a reference to drawing a battle map. in a final example of
prejudice, military scholar john shy lamented how often he has been asked to provide a single guest lecture in quote all of the military stuff. an administration pronounced a military history course quote only fit for hormone driven fraternity boys, you might wonder why such hostility, critics miss the fact the best historians connect in futeeral ways to the field with which other scholars are concerned, via political and social and environmental and medical and otherwise. military history in fact investigate warfare and the
relationship between military institutions and societies from which they frame. this is expansive involving interactions between the armed forces and all manners. american historians provided numerous studies that reveal how wars and armies have transformed the country. in the conflicts leading up to the civil war u.s. army reflected and shaped constitutions. the army not only enabled the possibility of a new country but also embodies the republicans whose are values of public virtue and self sacrifice long after the civilian population respected these principals.
service could provide. in addition to missing the richness some academics particularly since the vietnam war have proclaimed the military historian who exalts war by studying it. in the view of this type of credit, only the victim ologies are studies that critique the military avoid the state of romanticizing war. thus, a military historian could say tell the story of atrocities, massacres and treachery but not conventional mainstream experiences in which soldiers accomplished goals. this approach not only
sidelines the majority experiences but also overlooks the american military's leading role in promoting social change such as racial integration, social welfare, and higher education. at the same time that military history has suffered colony in the academies, it has remained in the public sphere with public people and laypeople producing numerous biographies each year. some academics also perceive this as a threat. popular history need not adhere to certain norms of the discipline, and yet in many cases it is more readable. a museum such as the american civil war museum is where academic scholarship and public interest co-mingle. within the museum, military history can be more than drums and vehicles and draw the audience the academy fears to
forfeit. to my second point, the story of the war and its conventional armies should remain at the center of any attempt to present the main narrative of the period. as lincoln explained in his second inaugural address, the progress of our arms upon which all else chiefly depends is as well known to the public as to myself. americans at the time were not confused about the fact that there are mary's where a primary responsibility for achieving respective for aims for the united states this meant accomplishing reunions. by 1863 it included emancipation. for the confederacy this meant. the americans on both sides voraciously consume news about the progress of their armies and the generals who commanded their armies.
the front pages of 80% of harper's weekly a premier illustrated newspaper featured a military topic or leader. generals were the celebrities and the villains of the time. their successes and failures affected army and civilian morale and commitment to the war effort. the chief example of this was robert e lee and his army of northern virginia. together they became the locus of nationalism for a country to basically only existed in more time. 's gallagher argues the slaveowners of lee's army proved most nationalistic of most confederates using battlefield victories and reenlistment to quotes propel loyalty among citizens and soldiers throughout the confederacy. based on scholar joseph t careful portrait of lee's army when in northern virginia in
1861. when you count those who lived with his family members, soldiers of the army of northern virginia were 42% more likely than the average confederate to live in a household with enslaved people. more than half of lee's officers owned slaves. in other words, just as george washington's army represented the ideals of the revolution, so to did lee's army have those hopes for a republic. confederate nationalism proved tremendously robust as citizens accommodated an increasingly status federal government that instituted construction of martial law impose an income tax, and impress slaves and farm produce among other infringements on state, local, and individual rights.
as long as lee and his army remained in the field most confederates continue to believe in their ability to win. long after food and supply shortages plagued their nation, long after gettysburg. for example, confederates reasonably hoped the democratic party might advance before ending negotiations which could result in confederate independence. of a public and lots would have spelled the doom of emancipation in the united states which was near military measure and not law in 1864. indeed, in 1864 the presidential election provides us with an example of how battlefield events profoundly shaped politics. lincoln himself was convinced by the bloody stalemates in virginia and georgia in the
summer of 64 he would not be reelected and wrote a blind memorandum to that effect on august 23, 1864 stating, this morning as for some days past it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be reelected. the president then sealed the memo and had his cabinet sign in. and yet, just as he brought despair so did william t sherman's win in atlanta in september and sheridan's victory in october turning the tide of public opinion. lincoln credited his generals accomplishments with his successful reelections. they secured permanent emancipation. without knowing civil war history, one could not fully understand one of the most important election outcomes in american history. while lincoln's analysis makes
it easy to spot the importance of military history to his reelection, easier to miss is a decisive role that military forces played in the struggle for emancipation and social progress. development at the very heart of award that erupted over slavery. >> in may, 1861 enslaved southerners working on fortifications fled to nearby u.s. forces under benjamin f butler's command advancing not only the possibility of their own freedom, but a wider wartime emancipation. from the first month of the civil war to it's last, the physical presence of the u.s. army is what enabled enslaved people and their children to make a dash for freedom with some hope of protection. as robertshaw who would command the 54th massachusetts infantry
explained after lincoln issued the preliminary emancipation proclamation, i cannot see what practical good the proclamation can do now. were ever our army has been, there remain no slaves. the proclamation will not set them free where we do not go. if enslaved people attempted to secure their freedom without the aid of the u.s. army, they face the same dangers and consequences they had before the war. death, recapture, replete with punishments like within, mutilation or social death from the sale of themselves and their family members. the enslaved and remote locations often did not learn of the government's unfolding emancipation proclamation or policy until federal troops arrived to explain the news in some cases will after
confederates had laid down their arms. as black refugees were taken in and they realized that freedom often proved incomplete and almost always under supported. because the u.s. government never manifested a consistent policy toward lack refugees, generals often took the lead in assigning work. some work for meeker are no wages or merely room and board. others were forced to labor on their former plantations with their new master being uncle sam. many face deprivation and insufficient medical care suffering a mortality rate higher than the accompanying white soldiers by 5% to 10%. three people with valued works girls like blacksmiths tended to receive the highest pay and enjoyed somewhat better conditions. others made some wages laboring
as pioneers, cooks, or launderers. whatever the compensation, black civilian labor was below army logistics. just as in slave labor did in the confederacy. each refugee who fled to union lines the pride the confederacy of vital support of work with 80% of the white male military aged southern population mobilized in the army's. the u.s. armies for better and for worse became the site of transformative social processes. as white soldiers representing every northern region economic class and ideological stands interacted with african- americans often for the first time. the number of black americans living in the free states was a mere 1% to 2% of the overall population in the best of circumstances, white soldiers allowed new experiences to
disrupt preconceived racial stereotypes like in numerous examples provided by black refugees, and their susie king taylor. she recalled that while under the care of the u.s. navy near saint simons island georgia the captain of her ship quote asked if i could read. i said, yes. can you write he next asked? yes, i can do that also, i've applied. and as if he had sent out he handed me a book in pencil it told me to write my name and where i was from. i did this and he was surprised that my accomplishments. he said he did not know there were any in the south able to read or write . the next thinking taylor knew the contour of the fleet asked her to take charge of a school which he obliged once he furnished her with adequate
books. such wartime experiences gave way to postwar developments. as the story underscores during the construction it would be newly freed people who call for the creation of public education systems for all families regardless of race. it was african-americans who first framed education as a civil right that individuals could claim and that the government could enforce. wartime interactions however often teems with white northern racism. as many federal soldiers could see the value of depriving the enemy of enslaved labor, it did not recognize the humanity and dignity of black people. a position typical in the republican party. northeastern union soldiers in particular infested effort into producing and performing
blackface minstrel shows in their army camp. they stooped to kidnapping, coercion, and violence. to provide one example of extravagance the 40th infantry erected a stage and i'm not exaggerating here, 15 foot walls , benches and balconies. they even printed leaflets for the performance. and they also provided after dark illumination by quote, gas made on the ground by your manufacturing appliance from the refuse, fat and bone gathered at the cookhouse is. it was quite the production. union soldiers similarly delighted in visiting the contraband cams to observe black refugees music and dancing which some x out of sized as impressive and other saying debased and inferior.
these practices revealed northern soldiers, great anxieties at the social transformation taking place as well as the comfort they found. in an ironic twist, some of the brightest refugee stories emerge from the leadership decision of william t sherman. he cared very little for the welfare of black people. but also made possible deliberation of tens of thousands of enslaved people during his marches through georgia and the carolinas. i january 12, 1865 in between campaigns, sherman and stanton met with 20 black leaders in savannah, georgia to inquire after what their communities needed. to sherman's mind he was simply eager to jettison the refugees
encumbering his military progress. this also proved one of the rare wartime instances where they consulted black southern leaders on how best to address the refugee crisis. one of them insisted, we want to be placed on land until we can purchase it and make it our own. four days later, sherman issued special field order 15 was provided for the confiscation of 400,000 acres of land along the atlantic coast in georgia, south carolina and florida to be divided into 40 acre parcels for distribution. they later offered the accompanying mules. by 1865, some 40,000 black families were living and successfully farming and the area. sadly there occupancy would be revoked under andrew johnson.
one of the most important experiences to u.s. army offered to black men beginning and localized areas in 1862 and more broadly and 1863 was a renewed opportunity to become soldiers. technically, black men had been barred from army surface since the 1792 militia act. they found the occasional loophole such as new orleans under andrew jackson in 1812. luckman had been allowed access under porter restrictions to the u.s. navy throughout the antebellum period. with renewed service, it was more than a job. that was certainly welcomed by many recently enslaved men who made up the majority of the ranks and urgently needed food, hay, and work. it also offered access to education. black soldiers taught each other literacy leading to better jobs, less poverty, and
longer lifespans. black men understood as did most 19th century americans that military service pave the way to citizenship. access to which it had been explicitly denied. in addition, black men the dollars the potential military service allowed for eroding white supremacy and encouraging access to new social rights like jury participation and inclusion of public squares. moreover, sacrificing life and limb for one's country would make it difficult for republicans such as abraham lincoln to continue to allow their fears of biracial society to fuel there in there as he has them for colonization or the idea of repatriating african americans who had been
almost exclusively born in america to places like africa, the caribbean, and other locations. frederick douglass, this is a golden opportunity. led us accepted and for ever white out the dark reproaches, and sterically hurled against us by our enemies. led as end for ourselves the gratitude of our country and the best blessing of our prosperity throughout all time. indeed, they later mightily. they overcame inferior wages. they were pay $10 a month instead of 13 dollars afforded white wrote. the u.s. pressured
congress to correct the discrepancy an issue back pay. black soldiers impressed on white officers the benefits of allowing them to serve in combat rather than performing labor rolls behind the lines. they displayed feats of tremendous bravery such as at the september 1864 battle of newmarket heights for which 14 black soldiers received medals of honor. they suffered mass casualties such as the 54th massachusetts at the july 1863 assault on fort wagner on which nearly half the regiment became casualties. they also took particular hits for their blackness. soldiers at the second and sixth colored artillery regiments. 65 to 70% of whom were executed upon surrendering to nathan bedford forrest. u.s. also served as eloquent
newspaper correspondence. such as james henry gooding of the 54th massachusetts will have to erode deeply embedded by cultural myths about black laziness or cowardly nests. in april 1863 he poignantly wrote, these noble men of the u.s. ct are practically refuting the assertions by traders that the black race are incapable of patriotism, valor or ambition. in short, the u.s. army made emancipation possible and served as a platform from which black men could fight for social justice. to summarize the larger points, the u.s. military served as a major site of emancipation and social confrontation as a civil war progress.
these are stories that require expertise in soldiers and military history. my final point today is that subjects a fall under the rubric of traditional military history such as weapons technology, tactics and combat should remain part of the story the museum tells. the opportunity to glimpse an artillery shell does attract patrons. the story we belay about weapons technology can challenge their assumptions and expose them to greater historical context. recent academic works have done painstaking labor to disprove long-held miss which would often fail to filter down to public knowledge and to provide one example, many civil war and there is a guess continue to mistakenly believe the rifle musket in combination with a
mini ball greatly altered the way that battles were fought. so the old argument goes, soldiers fully utilize the longer range and greater accuracy of the new shoulder weapon prolonging the war and contributing to the deadliness and indecisiveness of civil war combat. as military historians have proven in several volumes, most notably the rifle musket in civil war combat in civil war infantry tactics, the vast majority of infantrymen say sharpshooters and skirmishes use the rifle musket exactly as they had this smooth bore engaging the enemy at 100 yards or less. this was in part because of cultural preference. but also because of the difficulties in disability at greater distance. and because of parabolic trajectory of the bullet.
has explains, the comparison of casualty rates between smooth bore battles of the 18 century and those of the rifle battles of the civil war clearly show that this smooth bore musket produced as many, often more casualties than the new weapon. moreover, hess countered the myth that traditional european- based system of linear tactics or shoulder to shoulder lines, was outdated and poorly matched to the new technology of the rifle musket. he argued that with the best available tactical system to command-and-control massive armies of citizen shoulders which could sprawl to 120,000 men. many volunteers in their junior officers had never held a musket before 1861.
they quickly and successfully learned linear tactics and field manuals and drills. some of their accomplishments included increasing the rate of movement toward and in combat. deploying some of the most effective examples of skirmishing in western military history, and completing complicated field maneuvers like the oblique movement. the length of the civil war fostered significant improvement over time. has finds that most armies continue to struggle with articulation at the division level and the love the regiment remaining the primary tactical movement. hess argues for an exception in the u.s. army of the potomac whose high level improved. virginia assumed the defensive in the last year of the war relying on small counterattacks. there is another assumption to
be tested. the belief that the army of northern virginia was superior in tactics to its opponent. not so suggests hess. >> a final traditional topic that frequently requires and receives updating in the scholarship that often fails to reach the masses is the subject of casualties. j david hacker has up the traditional count from 620,000 to at least 750,000 with improved methods of navigating the u.s. census. individual battle casualties need dates too and not only because we want to fully and accurately acknowledge those who suffered or perished. take for instance the iconic june 3, 1864 assault ordered by grant on troops at cold harbor.
this historians painstaking work in the last decade has brought to light the extent to which these casualties have been overstated including by grant himself who confessed in deeply regretting the assault. estimates of junior casualties in that attack range from 7000 to 12,000, sometimes just in minutes. greatly contributing to the myth that grant was a butcher while d and contrast was flawless. the grant charger cold harbor generated more like 3500 union casualties. total union casualties for the entire day across all of the lines approximated perhaps 6000. underlying the numbers is the challenge to us to rethink why civil war students have clung to the idea that he cast away
his soldiers especially wins lee's army was unquestionably the bloodiest of which to be a part. three out of every four soldiers in northern virginia were killed, would do, died of disease, captured or discharged for a disability. that rises to 80% when desertion is factored in. why do we fixate on cold harbor instead of lee's assault or dare i say gettysburg. the cultural and regional mythology surrounding the generals inhibits our reading of the data or perhaps even inhibits our resolve to seek out the evidence in the first place. because so many modern- day americans received their first introduction to the conflict through battles, generals and soldiers, just as civil war military history can
attract a large audience. it can offer much more than anticipated. it can challenge us to reengage with our long-held beliefs i wonder at the war social revolution with all of its promise, progress, and failure. to conclude, we might turn to the words of the common soldier , a regular man and the ranks who happen to be black and formally enslaved. he did a mighty job of summing up the importance of the military. out of respect i will let him have the last word. first, he reflected in his 1922 memoirs, i wore the uniform of those men in blue who through four years of suffering wiped away with their blood the stain of slavery and purge the republic of its sin. my honorable discharge from the service, although it is worn
and not very legible now, is one of my most prized possessions. thank you. >> [ applause ] >> and now it is time for chats. >> thank you so much for that. it was great. i love the focus that you have given. one of the things that i've always been interested in, especially lately doing a lot of reconstruction reading, colfax, hamburg, other massacres that occurred in the state of u.s. troops in the occupied south. has anyone done any comprehensive military history on the forces of occupation and
the decisions to move west and in that whole complex military? >> that is a fabulous question. for many decades the reconstruction period was ignored, the scholarship had reached a point of just being static. it hadn't changed in a while. the military scholarship really needed updating. it has been done recently with two works in particular that come to my mind. greg downs has a book that talks about the research is really well done and shows how over time the size of the u.s. occupying force and reconstruction dwindled and trundled. it was so small and in adequate to its task. the u.s. forces could really not do a good job of protecting
african-americans who were suffering terrorism in the south as they were trying to transition to new jobs and new lives. that is one book i recommend. and then, in addition, andrew laying, i love this piece of scholarship. it is fantastic. i appreciate that laying looked at the different ways that the occupying forces in reconstruction viewed their roles. white troops and black troops were heavily involved in occupation. white troops drew upon the citizen soldier tradition they have known from way back in the colonial era which says that peacetime armies are a bad thing. they erode democracy and their scary. white troops tended to not want to be involved in occupation. they looked at their roles and assisting in elections and
protecting citizens and helping to navigate the birth of new rights as something that they should not be doing. this was for the political realm and not the military realm. black soldiers according to laying val jude and embrace this role in helping their brethren and women and children to transition to freedom protecting them from violence and helping them to embrace new rights. so a very different experience for white soldiers and black soldiers. he has a fabulous monograph on the topic. thank you for the question. >> thank you for your presentation. scholars have taken the necessity of military history
and part of that is because military history has been really heavily done. but you can't in my opinion understand the north after the civil war or the south after the civil war unless you understand the well to battle as john keegan said. and you cannot understand the well to battle unless you understand the methods of battle and the tactics of battle. how do you interest people in the necessity of looking at this as far as the civil war is concerned? >> the way i'm interpreting
this question is how can i draw and folks in were not convinced of the importance of understanding the importance of military history in the civil war period. i will say one thing. i teach military history and the civil war on a regular rotation at vcu. those classes are always full. there's no challenge in attracting students. many have served. many of them have not. they are people of all backgrounds and all possible diverse races and ethnicities and genders. i think that, this is my personal opinion, but i feel as americans it is our responsibility to understand this valuable and dangerous democratic institution. again i think it's our responsibility to care for our service people
and i think others feel that way as well. for those who were not as convinced, i hope you talk like this helps them to understand that military history is broadened for everyone. that can almost be a misconception that military history is only for white men or something along those lines. i hope my presence counters not just by my being. it is not just for white people either. what i have chosen to highlight today is the military has been one of the frontier sites throughout history of social interaction, social change and social progress for people of all colors. some of that history is ugly and some of that history is inspiring. that is the way all history is. and so i will have that stand is my answer to you.
thank you sir. >> dr. shively thinking for some very informative comments. would you say a few words to us about the potential danger perhaps a racing was persons research and understanding of military history of things that were written for subsequent to the action as compared with researching with contemporary resources? >> this is a great question. this is the historian's lifeblood. figuring out how to treat our sources in the manner in which they should be treated. the types of sources that i use are rates from sources written at the time like letters and diaries to memory sources that were written many many decades later. that are much more reflective of the time period in which they were written. it's 1890 and a soldier is
sitting down and reflecting back on their experiences in 1862. some things they will remember clearly like the lice or the swarms of flies. those things never leave your mind. their interpretation of their service will reflect 1890. maybe at the time this person let's say we're talking about a federal soldier. if you asked him in 1962 he would have said i hate those rebels. i can't wait to wring their next. in 1890 he might of reflected reconciliation. less led by con speak bygones. we were all soldiers and we all sacrifice. the problem happens when you look at that source and say, this means that there was brotherly love happening on both sides because this person has remembered that. well, that is not the way memory works.
there is a lot of complexity in the way that you deal with sources. military history is incredibly difficult to re-create. going back to the first part of my talk, colleagues accuse us of being down. you cannot be dumb to wade through 100 different accounts of the same instance that are entirely different from one another. everyone experiences battles different. is difficult to see and hear your experiencing a certain level of higher motion and everybody has a different experience. it is our job to wade through it all and sifted out and see were the commonalities like and try to pull in as many perspectives as possible. our job is never done. such as with casualties. we keep getting it wrong because everyone had a different so we have to keep doing the
work. the work is never over. people say to historians, why are you still working? it is the sources. we have to wait through the sources and it's very difficult. >> [ applause ] >> while congress is on break were featuring our american history giving you a glimpse of what is available every weekend. from the civil war to the great migration. a look into the lives and policies of past political leaders. this is every weekend and 48 hours of historical programs exploring our nation's past. travel to historic sites, museums and archives. lectures and history takes you to topics ranging from the american revolution to 911. journey through the 20th
century with archival films of public affairs on real america. here from presidents and first ladies and learn about their politics, policies and legacies. look at the people and events that shaped the civil war and reconstruction. listen to eyewitness accounts of key events on oral histories. american history tv each night this week and prime time while congress is in recess and c- span three every weekend. >> american history tv programs there all night this week starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern. we will lead off with the program marking the 50th anniversary of the u.s. supreme court decision the students do not lose their first amendment rights on school grounds. wednesday we will feature programs on women soldiers in the civil war and feminism in the 1960s and 70s. on thursday the western history
association looks at statues and plaques in the american west that honor missionaries, early settlers in u.s. military leaders who had a hand in forcing the removal of indian tribes. and friday night features catherine brownell teaching a class about political advertising in the 1950s and focusing on dwight eisenhower's campaign. we examine the various reasons for the outbreak of the civil war and shows artifacts from the period that represent some of the causes. he is the editor of the civil war in transition of american citizenship. >> good afternoon and welcome back to the 2019 american civil war museum symposium.