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tv   Lectures in History The Civil War in Virginia  CSPAN  March 26, 2022 8:00am-8:56am EDT

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and now it's history and books explore our nation's past with american history tv and watch television for serious readers with book tv. today on the presidency our series that highlights the politics policies and legacies of the us presidents we hear from nancy reagan on the role of the first lady and her time in the white house. that's just one of many programs. you'll see today on american history tv find a full schedule on your program guide or visit now, it's time for lectures in history an opportunity for you to join students in college classrooms on topics ranging from the american revolution to 9/11 today evergreen state
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college professor bradley proctor looks at the impact of the end of the cold war on american youth culture in the 1990s. well today we're going to begin talking about your 1864 and we're going to start with the action in virginia in 1864. focusing specially now today on the action in may in june. and the famous duel between ulysses s grant and robert e lee. the big showdown between in each case the best general that each side had i think this campaign has been more misunderstood and misinterpreted than maybe any other campaign in the civil war. i think the reason reason is because of expectations. you know today in politics you would see say there's a presidential campaign. the primary campaign is going on
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and several candidates are seeking the nomination of one of the parties and they're coming up on one of the nominating the primers the state primary and you'll typically you'll hear some politicians say oh if i finish in the top three, that will be a win that if i to finish in the top three, i'll be very happy or something like that. and of course, he's trying to manage expectations. because if he does that successfully and if people and the press and so forth buy it, yeah top three finishes a win for him and he finishes number two, you know. oh wow, that's great. you know he exceeded expectations. but on the other hand if he doesn't bother to manage expectations or if he's not successful at it doesn't get people to buy it then you know, he finished his second. oh, wow. what a loser. what a defeat for him. he finished second the thing with this campaign right here. what's called the overlyan campaign grands campaign up to the point that he gets to petersburg. is that promoting there.
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yeah the thing with this is that the guy who finishes first winds up being looked at as a loser because of expectations. now grant we've already met grant before and we've seen some of the reasons why expectations are high for him. so we saw his brilliant success at the battle of fort donaldson which catapulted him to national recognition fame and promotion to major general and then we saw him stand off a very determined confederate counter-attack at shiloh in 1863. he conducted a brilliant campaign of maneuver in the interior of mississippi. which enabled him that was in may of 63, which enabled him to besiege vicksburg?
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which then six weeks later surrendered to him. not only the town of vicksburg confederate bastion in the mississippi, but the confederacy's main army in mississippi, which was trapped in vicksburg as a result of grants campaign and the victory at vicksburg ultimate winds up within a few days giving the union complete control of the mississippi river. it's a huge success not a turning point, but certainly another nail in the confederacy's coffin and then in the fall of 1863 grant is brought into remedy a situation that has risen from a disaster that happened to william s rosecrans. rosecrans was defeated at the september 1920 19 to 20th 1863 battle of chickamauga rosecrans, then allowed himself to be sort of quasiabassiged inside chattanooga and they bring in grant and grant.
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straightens things out defeats confederates at the in the november battle of chattanooga wins a big victory and at this point grant's reputation has become huge nationwide and there's virtually a really a consensus among the northern people not unanimity, but heavy majority the northern people are very eager to see grant promoted given command of all the union armies and there's really a feeling that as commander of all the union armies grant ought to at least a company the army of the potomac if not actually outright commanded. in virginia and take on lee and finally beat lee and accomplish what the union's been trying to do futally that that union futility and virginia now for three years that grant should do that that should happen. northern politicians are for it. actually. it's a bipartisan thing. it's not just republicans who
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want to see that happen. it helps that grants political background is unclear grant by this time really is a republican but his and it seems for more democrat and he's never been very political. anyway, so both parties are eager to see a main general. in fact the democrats kind of would like to recruit him to run for president in 64, which he's hearing nothing of that won't have that at all. but he gets that promotion lincoln is is eager to promote him. he gets the promotion to lieutenant general. the only lieutenant general three-star general in the union army at that time the only person to hold the rank of full three-star lieutenant general since george washington kind of a select company there. winfield scott we saw before was a brevet lieutenant general three stars. will honorary lieutenant general grant is a regular full lieutenant general outranks every officer in the union army
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and officially is given the position of commanding general of all the union armies. and yeah, it's like here you go grant here are the keys take it away win the war for us. and i don't think there was anything grant could have done. to have managed expectations after all that the expectations were that grant was going to come to virginia. he was going to win. quickly cheaply and easily that within a matter of weeks grant would of course when the war and certainly by the end of the summer. yeah. grant will have won the war lee will be defeated in everything will be fine. and of course that is radically unrealistic. the generals that grant had defeated in, mississippi and at chattanooga were good generals confederate generals, john, pemberton and mississippi braxton bragg in chattanooga.
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they were good generals, but they were decidedly second cheer. albertsoni johnston was viewed as a first-year general. we really don't know how good or bad. he was grant beat him too quickly. and then he died at shiloh. but lee is obviously the best that confederacy has lee's stature and reputation are towering dominating. the his soldiers had very high morale. they really don't believe he can be defeated. they don't believe they can be defeated. this is going to be stand them in good stead and they are quite good and lee has put together quite a bit of a winning team one advantage that lee has had and putting together a winning team with the army of northern virginia. is that lean knows how to handle jefferson davis and when lee once an officer transferred out of my army, this guy's not getting the job done. davis will let him do it now
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lee. lee has to do it right lee has to use some tact and some finesse, but he knows how to do that and he can get it done and so lee has the team that he wants there in virginia. well, he doesn't have stonewall jackson because he's dead. he would have liked to have had him. but otherwise lee gets to get the officers he wants there in virginia and he's got a good team. he's very good his men are good. his army's good. so it is totally unrealistic to expect grant to win within a matter of weeks. or to win very cheaply and easy and another another unrealistic aspect of expectations about what we're going to be seeing here. was that that somehow? not that picture. let's look at this one somehow. with an officer like grant people expect that he's going to call his shots. he's gonna be like babe ruth the famous time that he points to the center field stands and then hits the ball there. i think ruth probably got lucky.
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but you really have to get lucky to be able to do that. so here's a plan. i'm going to do this and this and actually to some degree grant actually did that is we'll see but you know grant really is an opportunistic general. he will look for you to make mistakes if you're as opposing general he will look for you to make mistakes. he will take advantage of them. and so he can't necessarily tell you everything that's going to happen in the campaign before it does. so anyway, grant does we're gonna see is grant does pretty well, but because he doesn't meet the expectations that unreasonable expectations that people had going into the campaign. both then that summer of 64 and since then there's been a tendency to look at this campaign as a failure for grant as a success for lee. i'm an argue that it was not that at all.
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all right, so grant. all right, go over there. great experience plans for this campaign now. i'm going to briefly just tell you really quick. in addition to a campaign through virginia, you can see this old map of the interior, virginia. label this railroads to richmond. you've we've we've discussed this topic already review it in a minute. before i discuss that grant does have a couple of peripheral campaigns planned in virginia. it's not just the grants going to take the army of the potomac and he's not going to be the army of the potomac commander. he's gonna we'll get to that in a minute. but he is going to be supervising the army the potomac directly, but from a distance he's going to be supervising a couple of other other small armies and peripheral campaigns. that he hopes will pay off for him. one of those is going to be in the shenandoah valley now. we've seen the shenandoah valley
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before we saw jackson was out there and made a real headache. for the union in the spring of 62. well grant's going to send an army into the shenandoah valley. small army, which he hopes will keep the confederates from using the shannon to a valley to distract from his main campaign. and hopefully will distract some confederate troops out there himself. he's also going to send another small army on a campaign somewhat similar to what we saw mcclellan do back in 62. that is approach richmond from the rivers going to off the map here. but the rivers well, yeah right here. james river right there now mcclellan, you know went up the york river and then followed the richmond new york river railroad for various reasons. this little peripheral campaign that grants planning the smaller army is going to go along the james river. and we'll be able to strike either for richmond.
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or for the smaller town of petersburg so what about petersburg well? in order for the confederates to feed lee's army. and the people of richmond they need supplies. supplies, come on. four railroads the confederates would have to keep at least two of those railroads. at least two in order to keep richmond fed to keep lee's army fed to maintain their position in virginia. okay, so they've got to keep two out of the four. three out of the four come together at petersburg. so if the union that union forced that subsidiary arm is smaller army. i'm going to tell you about little more in a minute were to go to petersburg and take petersburg now and the commander has an option go for richmond go for petersburg. if the confederates cover richmond leave petersburg uncovered and that smaller union army takes petersburg.
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the confederates are done in richmond. they will not be able to hold richmond. they will not be able to maintain lee's army nor the richmond and they're gonna lose northern virginia most of the state really so this is very this is a very sensitive target. the grant is poking out with a smaller army. it could be grant's entirely open to the possibility that while he is up here in northern virginia directly supervising the army of the potomac. these guys will win the war. well, it might happen. and so any hopes without by stretching lee and all those directions he will be able to gain an advantage over him. well that leads to another problem though. another thing that grants going to have to deal with is here. so he's got good things going for him and there's some things against him. going against grant is the problem that this is 1864. this is an election year. and there's going to be a presidential election lincoln is up for reelection.
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now there were actually some republicans. who said and suggested to lincoln we ought to postpone the election. let's not hold this election in the midst of a civil war. it's a huge civil war going on. the major faction of the democratic party at this time. believes that the wars of failure they've been saying for years the wars of failure we on a negotiate and kind of the subtext of that is and accept confederate independence. so if the if the democrats were to win this election, there's a chance historian still argue about how much of a chance there's a chance. the confederacy could become independent. and there's almost a certainty that emancipation would be revoked. that slavery would survive. so people had said to lincoln you ought to cancel this election and lincoln said no. we're fighting. to preserve self-government.
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we're fighting against the idea that if you lose the election you get to start a war and see if it can win it with the war when you couldn't win it in an election and we're fighting against that kind of idea. and if we were to postpone the election because of the war. we've already lost the cause we were fighting for. yeah, we postpone the election so we say in power. but we were fighting to maintain the id of self-government so we can't do that. we're going to hold the election exactly a scheduled we're going to do exactly what the constitution says. right but politics is tricky and how's that going to affect grants campaign? well for one thing it means there's going to be a lot of scrutiny. it's going to be important. but another thing and i've already told you about the idea of political generals. that these are generals. who are actually politicians because we can't trust the experts. i'm not saying that but i mean the people kind of there's a belief among the people. i know this sounds incredible
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today, but we can't trust experts they've been educated in this they've studied this so in their naturally bad at it we need to we need to trust guys. you don't know anything about it. i and so that i yeah that idea was around back there too specifically with to the military. and so they've got political generals and so why do you why are these guys generals because it will gain political support. and grant has been very respectful of lincoln's need to have some political generals now and then guys like mclaren and grant tolerated him for quite a while. grant knows that in this year of 1864 lincoln's going to need to have some some of these political generals guys. these guys have been in the army for a while and they haven't necessarily done well. but they're going to need to have important roles because they garner important political support for lincoln and unfortunately, but probably unavoidably both of these two
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subsidiary campaigns wind up being under political generals. the campaign out in the shenandoah valley. actually, there's the shenandoah river that's right out there. the campaign out in the shenandoah valley is entrusted to a german-born general in france eagle. now i think 20th century history. well actually 18 19th century history too is showed us that german-born generals can be very good indeed. but francisco was not. he was not very good, but he has this command. you just hope that maybe this time he'll perform better and he'll do something good, hopefully. and then the command of this smaller expedition along the james river this goes to a real american-born guy named benjamin butler. he's a massachusetts politician a democrat. and he's important so the lincoln needs these guys.
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he needs siegel because having siegel in uniform helps link and win the german-american vote. there's a lot of german-american voted that time. having been butler an important command helps secure lincoln the support of new england democrats or former democrats who might vote for lincoln. so ben butler's important, too. and this leads to where i can dismiss these subsidiary campaigns and say they're not going to do anything much because both guys performed at the level we've come to expect from political generals. thus both subsidiary campaigns were complete failures. butler didn't take richmond didn't take petersburg. got his command a bottled up in the end of a peninsula between the james and appomattox rivers and that was that the confederates were able to contain him with minimal force and detach the rest of their
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troops to lee ziegel also failed in the shenandoah valley. so these two subserior campaigns that had the potential to help grant a lot. you know, they're out. so now it's going to be all on grant. and the army of the potomac which he is not commanding, but he is supervising. more in that in a moment. well, yeah, it's time for that not right now. let's talk about the because this is a problem that grant has what would really work best we can say this with the benefit of hindsight is that would work best if as if there were two of ulysses grant and one of them commanded the army of the potomac and the other one commanded all the armies of the union, but unfortunately, there aren't two and of course the confederacy would like to clone robert e lee too so they can't do that. you can't clone grant. you could potentially and maybe this would have been better. it's hard to say. you could just give grant say all right, grant you're going to
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wear two hats your commander the army of the potomac. you're also commander of all union armies mcfolin actually had that job briefly in spring of 62. it didn't work out well. and it probably you can't expect that to work. that's too big a job for one man. something's going to get neglected. so grant is traveling. what grant does he makes his headquarters with the army of the potomac headquarters, actually grant and the headquarters of grant and the headquarters of the army of the potomac's commander general george, gordon meade. are kind of co-located they're literally adjacent to each other most of the time during the campaign. we're going to talk about and but grant grant tells me, you know, i want you to be as independent as you would be if you were commanding the army of the potomac and i was in washington. but that can't be that's not realistic. that's not going to happen. so in that grant really is
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trying to do something you can't do. because grant is present with the army so grants responsible for what the army does if grant were in, washington. and me decided to do something dumb with the army. i grant would be responsible in the sense that he was in command of me, but he wouldn't have known what happened in so grand can see me. what did you do, you know? whereas when grants present with the army, he's responsible to a greater degree. he almost has to intervene and tell need no don't send those guys over there. send them over here now don't send that core around there. send it around here. he's got to do that. and so this sets up a constant tension through the whole campaign really through the rest of the war. between grant trying to supervise mead and yet trying to give me some degree of independence to let him command of the army of potomac. probably again, what might might be better would have would be if need recognized himself as almost a sort of a chief of
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staff in the army of the potomac and i like the idea that what i think would have been better. there would have been problems with it. but for grant to bring his friend james b mcpherson out from the west and i think mcpherson and grant would have worked well together with mcpherson being sort of army of the potomac commander kind of glorified. chief of staff and just sort of run the army walk grant tells it what to do. as it was mead was constantly feeling resentful of grant. he's always telling me what to do and grant it, you know, it reminds me of a parent teaching their child to ride a bicycle. you know, it's all right. now you get in the bicycle and you've got your hands on them, you know, and all right that's needs on the bicycle right and grants the dad and okay, okay and take your hands away and oh, they start wobbling and grab again, you know and i it was kind of like that. grant keeps trying to take his hands away from mead mead keeps making mistakes, which that has to intervene.
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you've got the problem that means upset because grant has intervened meanwhile meat has made several mistakes, which across the army a lot. and that's a problem. they have throughout this campaign. okay. anyway, so grant's going to command the army potomac the potomac now. we've already been. several times over the idea that there are a limited number of ways. you can take an army to richmond and supply it. and so there is the origin alexandria railroad going from alexandria, virginia down to gordonsville. you catch the virginia central and ride that down to richmond. it's the longest way. but and another problem with it is in this upper reaches of the orange and alexandria. it's vulnerable to confederate guerrillas. confederates can raid and potentially disrupt your supplies. but that's at least one way you can go. okay. another way is the richmond in
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fredericksburg railroad from the mouth of aquia creek on the potomac there straight down to richmond. it's short it's direct it's got problems too in 18 late. 1862, december 62 ambrose burnside tried this at the army the potomac and found that although you can force your way across across the rappahannock at fredericksburg. it's almost impossible to force your way up out of the bottom lens of the rappahannock river onto the bluffs beyond it. and lost a battle that way. and in the spring of 63 joseph hooker with the army of the potomac tried going around fredericksburg that way and that didn't work all that. well, either it maybe could have but it failed. so there are real problems getting past the rappahannock river on the orange and alexandria railroad. oh and in other problem by the way back here with the excuse me
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that richmond and fredericksburg with the richmond frederick on the origin alexandria. there's a problem that robert e. lee has his army deployed and heavily dug in. yeah, just south of the rapidan around orange courthouse. so that's a problem. you're gonna have to do something about that. if you're grant, if you say well we're gonna follow the line of the origin alexandria. you're really what you're gonna have to do is you're gonna have to turn loose of the railroad cut your supply line maneuver away from your supply line for a while, which is very dangerous. usually grant would do that. in fact if granted had the army that he had with him out in in mississippi. he would have done that. he knew them knew the officers knew they how they worked but. not being familiar with the army of the potomac didn't want to do something that risky. so that's not an option. of course you could go. up the peninsula the way mclellan did following these these large rivers here these estuaries. and we've seen that grant is sending a minor expedition to a
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to futility here that he didn't want them to go to futility, but they did. but there are problems with this and in fact lincoln almost would not tolerate the main union force in virginia the army the potomac going down there again, the thing with mclaughlin who worked out so badly the confederated left, northern, virginia, so wide open lincoln doesn't like that and really is just not going to let that happen. so that's not that's a non-starter for grant. now what grant is going to do? he's going to use a combination of all three plants. his army is on the orange and alexandria railroad near culpeper. when he starts out. so and leah's eltham, so grant is going to angle so i'll get oriented here. there we go. it's going to angle across the rapidan river there. angling to the southeast like that towards the little courthouse town of spotsylvania. and if you can get to
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spotsylvania before lee does leah's is blocking his root over here. grant's going to go that way if lee if grant can get down there before lee dies grant's going to get a head start and if he can get there before lee does he will actually be in the enviable situation of being closer to richmond than lee is and lee will be in a lot of trouble at that point lee is almost checkmated if grant can do that. grant and grant would be willing to accept the quick victory, you know all those expectations for victory in two weeks leads to army destroyed in a month or whatever. grand wouldn't mind he'll give it a shot if you can't. but he's also. realistic enough to know probably he's going to have to play out the whole campaign. what he plans to do is basically and he's got this in mind not the details of it, of course, but in broad and broad terms is to keep moving to the southeast
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and circle around richmond. to the east if you can get straight into richmond sure take it. but on the other hand. he thinks probably and he tells a staff officer before the campaign starts. so they're still up here for the armies have left their camps. tells the staff officer. actually several of his staff officers. when we get here, and he points to petersburg when we get here. the world will be over. and it's pretty close to being true. so anyway, the campaign begins in may of 64 so you can see there. grant starts out north of the rapid end crosses the rapid end early in may. and lee meets him. we as and i don't think grant really thought lee was going to let him. you know steal a march all the way to spotsylvania, which is
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there. yeah. lee meets him over here. and this is an area that is favorable to lee. it's unfortunate. the grain has to go through it, but there's no other way to get there. it's called the wilderness of spotsylvania. it's an area of i don't know 30 or 40 square miles of area where during colonial times in the 1700s. there were large iron order but no small iron ore deposits found there. they were large but the standards of colonial virginia. they were small by the standards of anything else. they found iron ore there. the iron ore played out it by the mid-1700s. but by that time they had cut down most of the forests around there to burn them to smelt the iron ore. so with the forest cut down what came back was a second growth. not a climax forest but a second growth and you've got low scrubby woods with a lot of
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thickets. it's very thick for us. now today our forests tend to go into thickets anyway for various reasons. one thing is we don't grades catalan hogs in their woods like they tend in the woods like they tend to graze catalan hogs in the woods, which kept the understory of the woods grazed out, but they're especially because the woods have been cleared out the soil apparently wasn't that great and what you've got is an area of maybe like i say 30, maybe 40 square miles of thickets mostly very thick very dense artillery is useless in that terrain. advantages in numbers are almost useless now that lee really wants to fight there if you can and they do fight a battle there now, it's not the greatest place for grant to fight but grant is eager to fight lee any place he can get to him. and so they fight a battle here on the sixth and seven. well, they say fifth to 7th. yeah 57th of may. 1864 it's the first battle
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between lee and grant it is very intense at times. very unpleasant. it's a lot of its thought it close range because visibility is short within those trees. there's a lot of confusion again because of the thickets and the terrain so grant is not able to make that sort of that free dash to spotsylvania. he fights lee first, but even at that grant almost wins it all right here in the wilderness. and because grant had you know, he thought if he could get a shot at lee if he could. bring me into battle. he might be able to beat him and he almost did. and there's a famous episode on the second day of the battle and with one of the few large clearings. there are amongst the wilderness grants. grant had launched a big attack and it broke through and it had broken through lee's lines and were about to get to lee's supply wagons, and it was pretty much going to terrilies army in
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half take out his supply wagons and be the end. and how close this was to the absolute and utter dumen end of the army of northern virginia can be seen in the reaction of robert e lee and if anybody knows if the army of northern virginia is in big trouble would be the man. and he was and he knew that it was and what lee does is to react in utter desperation as the only reinforcements he can find start coming what happens to be the texas brigade arrives lee actually places himself in front of this brigade and starts to lead them in. an infantry attack lee is going to lead on horseback and infantry. haven't we seen a high ranking confederate general do that before? yes, we have. and that was the end of albertsoni johnston and now lee's going to do that. and i think what that tells me is that lee recognized that this is it this he's practically
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doomed at this point. and so this is an act of utter desperation. what happens is the texans the soldiers of texas brigade? force lead to turn back is they they're shouting lead to the rear lead to the rear and it's the first of a couple of lead to the rear incidents that occur during this campaign. they actually take grab the reins of lee's horse and turn traveler his famous horse and they turn travelers head and make lee go to the rear and they wouldn't go forward until he turned back to the river. he reluctantly did. and the counterattack by the texas brigade and other troops of fields division were able to plug that hole. and hold the line. and the day was saved for the army of northern virginia, but it almost wasn't it's very close. after two really hard days of
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fighting there at the wilderness and a day of really standoff grant. was able to go around the flank of lee's army. he just was able to move off and that direction got some pictures here. i want to show you these are actually done by artists who went along with the army potomac and were sketching. so these are the closest thing we would get to an action picture here. there are crossing the rapper the rapidan river. and here's actually a scene the sketch artist made from position behind the union line of battle as they were engaged with the confederates whom you can almost not see over there. they're very hard to see. and there again another shot of union line of battle engaged and this is again a guy sketching it with a pad in paper from position behind the lines. this is a sketch of made again by an artist who's on the scene. the reaction when grant of his staff and mead with his staff is
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their riding along the road leading to the south. they passed by the positions of some of the troops the army of potomac and this is the first that the troops the army potomac realized. we wanted to battle against lee. we advanced into virginia. we fought a battle. and we're advancing. first time that's happened that has not happened before not under mclellan. pope burnside hooker every time the army the potomac advances in virginia and they fight a battle. and they go back and they retreat this time. they fought a battle against the army of northern virginia and their advancing. it was a hard battle casualties were high. i was i'm very unpleasant experience, but we won this battle. we're advancing now. how do you decide who wins the battle soldiers by the way, they're cheering here. i don't know if you can see they're waving their hats and cheering there was quite a cheer a grant was eager to get them to be quiet because we don't want lee to know where we're moving any place.
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how do you know who won a battle is it is the side that one the side that suffers fewer casualties you know, we haven't gotten to world war two yet, but if the side that takes the fewest casualties is the winner. then irwin rommel won d-day. right and the united states lost and currently bradley was thrown back into the sea and we'd all be speaking german today. well known not exactly but no that it's not how you figure out who wanted that it's who gets more of what he wants of the situation that he wants afterwards and the person who gets what he wants after the battle is grant. he's colliding with lee and then he is just slid off. you want to use a sporting analog just like a running back who hits a linebacker and bounces off and goes around him and tearing down the field and that's exactly what happened. so grant. has hitly here and he moves down here. again, if grant can get the
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spotsylvania before lee does leah's virtually checkmated and he almost does it is very close. perhaps a matter of less than an hour the confederate troops getting into position and the circumstances that led to that were complicated. the woods were on fire one of the things that made that battle of the wilderness. so unpleasant the woods can't fire. but because the woods were on fire the confederates did not stop for rests along that march. they just kept marching which worked out for them while he was very tireing, but they marched through the night in very dense smoky woods, very unpleasant circumstances, but they got there with maybe 30 minutes to spare. also there was a controversy about the union cavalry the cavalry of the army of the potomac. the commander of the calvary of the army potomac was one of few officers that grant brought with him from the western theater to command to command something in the east this is general philip
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sheridan. sheridan has not commanded calvary in the western theater his commanded an infantry division. but there was a saying in the civil war whoever saw a dead calvaryman and there was a belief that calvary don't really fight. so grant wanted sheridan, you know, i want you to come in. i want you to make the cavalry fight like infantry. and sheridan he doesn't invent this idea. he just advances this idea. we're going to use cavalry like like mounted infantry like you know a sort of a mobile in a modern battlefield a motorized infantry unit. but maybe because sheridan wasn't familiar with calvary operations, maybe. he didn't do a good job of getting his cavalry out in front where they were supposed to be and getting them to spotsylvania first when they needed to be there. is controversial because some
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people defend sheridan and some people agree with mead that not sheridan did a bad job. in fact, there was a huge row between sheridan the calvary commander of the army of the potomac and george meade the overall command of the army of the potomac undergrad. both men were known to have terrible tempers. and their tempers were in true form on this day. and they had a just a shouting match. probably we didn't get recorded word for word, which is probably just as well. but it was was pretty pointed. and mead was furious and he went over to grant. he says grant, you know, sheridan says if i just turn him loose he could go and whip the confederate cavalry under jeb stuart. and grant says insurance say that it says yes, he did. grants as well. sheridan usually knows what he's talking about. go ahead and let him. so he turned sheridan loose.
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and sheridan let it raid. there's judge stewart the confederate calvary med commander. we've met him before. he's a legend by now. and so while grants and lee face off at spotsylvania their respective cavalry course go galloping off across the country and actually collide all the way down here just outside of richmond at yellow tavern. the fight was inconclusive sheridan got back to union lines. joint butler and then eventually rejoined grant. but significance of yellow tavern was jeb stuart was morally wounded died the next day turned out the confederates had a decent bench in the area of calvary leader, and they got they had another good leader after that but at least sharon or at least stuart was out of the fight. back though to this situation so
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grant almost grant's forces almost got this spotsylvania before lee but not quite lee takes it. there's a standoff for several days. grant season opportunity to launch a major assault by this time yeah by this time here's another sketch by someone who's there, i don't know if you can tell what's going on but there's a trench all the way along here they're starting to dig trenches. they're starting to build log breastworks. they're starting to build a lot more in the way of field fortifications and entrenchments. troops have tended to do that in this war consistently after they've had a heavy fight. what's happening in this campaign? is they have a heavy fight and then they stay in contact and keep fighting at spotsylvania both sides built strong login trenchments and log breast works and entrenchments and you can go to spotsylvania today to the battlefield. and the trenches have slumped in a lot and there's grass growing over them, but you can still
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distinctly follow the lines you can walk the lines because of these the ditches that they had. sometimes it's a trench. sometimes it's the ditch in front of the long breastworks. well grant saw a vulnerability in the confederate line and launched a major assault. and it almost succeeded this led to the second lead to the rear incident just as we saw at the battle of the wilderness. so at spotsylvania lee apparently is desperate enough to try to lead an infantry counter-attack to plug this gap in his line several thousand of his troops had been captured. a division commander been captured confederate division community captured many confederate guns and battle flags have been captured. and we in desperation is about to lead an infantry assault. when the men forced him to go to the rear not the texas brigade this time, but in other units forcedly to go through the rear. in the end the confederates were
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just barely able actually after 24 hours of close range fighting by various units. the confederates were able to hold their line there. and avoid disaster, but if you're keeping square at home, i think this is maybe the third time at least that it came very close to being an early grant victory that would pretty much fulfill those unrealistic expectations, but but didn't happen. after the unsuccessful attack the almost but not quite successful attack. it's spotsylvania grant again goes around. lee's flank again hits him and slides off now. again result of the battle. we don't do it by counting bodies on the battlefield, you know, famously the united states and the earlier is the vietnam war tried to gauge how well it was doing us forces tried to
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gauge how much they were doing by counting bodies the body counts not the way to do it and we're not going to do body counts here casualties were about proportional to the size of the true the forces engaged. grant goes down here. he's shooting for hanover junction. where the virginia central railroad crosses over the richmond in fredericksburg grand is already he started with the virginia central railroad as his supply line. he's picked up the richmond in fredericksburg. lee blocks in it hanover junction. we takes a very good position lee is a very good general and i don't know if you can see that little upside down red v right there. that's the position that lee takes in order to get at that position grants troops will have to cross on either side cross the north anna river on either side of the apex of lee's v. and by doing that they'll be much separated from each other. so lee has essentially put a wedge into the union army. it's got a lot of potential but
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lee can't follow up on it because lee's army is getting worn out lee is getting worn out. he's suffering from heart disease and he may have had a heart attack in late 63. he's not in the greatest of health by this time. he's on his back in a cot in a tent and he's trying to command the army from there. his top subordinates have been went out to his his best support his first core commander james longstreet badly wounded in a friendly fire incident at wilderness his second core commander you will becomes basically a psychological casualty after spotsylvania. by the time they get to north anna his third core commander ambrose p hill has succumbed to bad health. stress i think probably added to it so. all of these three the three cores of leaves army are being commanded by division commanders who have moved up to that
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position within the last few weeks. they don't have a lot of experience. we can't go out and provide that experience for them personally by riding around on horseback as he did say in the seven days battles. he's on his back. he can't make anything happen out of this grant pulls back. and oh, yeah, here's a shot of the north anna river and a union pontoon bridge across it. that's actually a photograph taken at the time. so anyway, that's a more zoomed in picture. there's the confederate fee on the north anna again grant slides around them as lee land is tent on his --. he said we cannot let those people go around us again, or we can't let those people pass us again. but they did he can't stop them grant is going around him again. and again, i don't know we just say like a running back that. i used to love the way we're all through payton, you know, he's hall of famer, you know, he'd get back to read hit a defensive back. he'd slide off and go on and
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hits another defensive back slide off and me go on grant is grand is having things his way up. the wilderness was 65 miles from richmond spotsylvania about 55 miles the north end. it was 25 miles from richmond and when grant gets down here where the line they're gonna face up against each other again and a place called cold harbor not because it was cold or a harbor but because there was an inn where you could only get cold meals. they're going to be 10 miles from richmond. so grant is making progress here. as they again advance in a side long way that way. they get down here. cold harbor quickly because we don't know how much time is best known for an unsuccessful attack on may 3rd. the attack did not result in 7,000 union casualties in 45 minutes more like maybe 1,500. grant again struggles with
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getting mead and meed subordinates to attack in the ways. he wants when he wants in a coordinated manner and then another thing that grant tries to communicate in his orders and you read this again in again is and if you see that the confederates have a strong position and if you see we're not going to break through right away. stop the attack. do not keep doubling down on a failed attack. unfortunately the generals of the army of the potomac tend to double down on failed attacks. they're not as fast in getting their attacks going as grant once. but when they do get going they don't want to stop even though they're failing. so that ran casualty lists up but the two armies remained in contact at cold harbor. beyond june 3rd when the unfortunate attack happened all the way up to the 12th and in some of the movements and attacks that happened afterwards grant actually did better than lee and then final move of this
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overly in campaign was maybe the most brilliant of the side moves the grant makes? he really fakes lee out. and he takes his army down and across the james river. and they moves on petersburg. and that was another one of those moves that should have by rights of given grant what he was seeking. unfortunately fatigued bad decisions by generals various factors led and i got to say a heroic confederate defense of petersburg, which is just off the map there. led to that of the failure to take petersburg but at that point it becomes really a quasiase of confederate positions around richmond and petersburg with grant on the outside of that line constantly drawing driving to cut additional railroads. and as robert e lee had said
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about actually when the armies were up here. lee said we've got to stop grant before he gets to the james river. there's the james river. grant said if he gets to the james river, it's going to be a siege and then it will only be a matter of time. and from the time grant got to the james river. in mid-june of 18 for it was a matter of time for the confederacy although a lot more time than union voters would have wished. okay, we are out of time. so thank you for your attention and i'll see y'all on wednesday. join us next weekend for more lectures and history with taylor university professor benjamin wetzel who teaches a class on theater roosevelt's life and political career. recently on lectures and history penn state professor rachel sheldon. taught a class on the civil war
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as a constitutional crisis. here's a portion of her lecture. now those other four states or really the other eight slaveholding states are the subject of continued efforts at compromise because folks know that if for example, virginia and tennessee decide that they're not going to go with the confederacy this would change the game quite a bit and maybe there would be a possibility to bring the lower south back into the union. so in march and excuse me in february and march there are going to be continued efforts to try to bring these states along both in the confederacy and in the united states. and so one thing that happens, is that in february. there are all kinds of folks who are organizing to try to create some sort of compromise both in the north and in these upper south states one big group of these folks is businessmen in
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new york. you remember we talked last week about how important those business connections were in new york. and so they are very concerned about the possibility of secession turning into separation. so they're pushing for compromise. we've got politicians pushing for compromise and ultimately a bunch of these guys get together in washington dc in february in what was known as the washington peace conference. these are people from both the north and the south delegates from both the north and the south people that you would have been very familiar with lots of congressman and next congressman who get together to try to figure out some sort of compromise and spent several weeks doing this and ultimately they determine that the crittenden compromise is actually pretty good plan. it makes a little sense. it might actually work and so they produce a plan that looks very similar to this and they send it on to congress.
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congress not that receptive. it didn't work the first time. he wasn't accepted by the lower south men and so congress is sort of saying to itself. well, you know, i think i think this is a good idea to try to have some sort of compromise, but in general this particular approach is not going to work. all episodes of american history tvs lectures in history are available to watch online anytime at weekends on c-span 2 are an intellectual feast every saturday american history tv documents america's story and on sundays book tv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors funding for c-span 2 comes from these television companies and more including charter communications. broadband is a force for empowerment. that's why charter has invested
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billions building infrastructure upgrading technology empowering opportunity in communities big and small charter is connecting us charter communications along with these television companies support c-span, 2 as a public service. all right. so without further ado i will very happily introduce our author this evening beau. breslin is the joseph c. palom mountain junior chair in government and the former dean of the faculty vice president for academic affairs at skidmore college up in saratoga springs, new york. he holds a phd in constitutional thoughts from the university of pennsylvania. he is the author of the communitarian constitution. from words to worlds exploring constitutional functionality which was part of the john hopkins series in constitutional thought and his latest work, which is why he's here this evening a constitution for the living imagining how five generations of ameca


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