tv Union General Gouverneur K. Warren CSPAN December 24, 2016 6:00pm-6:42pm EST
>> you're watching american history t.v. weekend, on every c-span 3. to join the conversation, "like" us on facebook, at c-span history. >> author robert girardi talks about the role and reputation of union general gouverneur k. warren during the civil war. he examined some of the criticisms against warren and compares rumor to evidence in primary sources. talk was hosted by pamplin historical park and is about 40 minutes. of technical issues, we join the program just after it got under way. >> he recented the youngster's to corps command. warren was the youngest corps commander in the army. warren has so puffed up in his
insolence are intolerable! disgustinghsome, power!n but others had a high regard for warren. gibbons described him as the rising star of the army. alexander webb also praised warren, stating he was always where he was supposed to be and doing what was expected of him. frank haskell wrote, warren is a man of the right sword and i am get -- a man of the right sort like himgetting to very much. men who will not hesitate to andke when a chance occurs who will hanker after a chance it.run forward to meet is this the slow, hesitating guy that questions orders? sawe are the guys who warren in action. if you look at the widely underused papers of washington staff andon warren's later became his brother-in-law, you see many aspects of warren's
personality that most historians neglect to bring forward. we do, however, have some good that we rely heavily upon. charles wainwright, the commander of the fifth lyman.and theodore these are the most -- we get most of our quotations about these two gentlemen. wainwright doesn't really like warren. as temperamental and too authoritarian. a professional respect, but he also mitigates that because he doesn't feel gives him enough freedom, that warren exercises freedom. that same freedom. he also wants more credit than cookiesives him, two instead of one. describes isman warren as the only man of inborn
the army.y in but he also is driven to distraction from warren, because is always at the front, getting shot at it in the lyman a which makes layman little uncomfortable at times. of these gentlemen exercised high command. ring hollowr gripes in this light, because of the relative importance of what their was doing and subservient role to help him do his job. but in their characterizations they never questioned his generalship, only aspects of his personality that they find troubling. although we rely heavily on sources, their longrs were published after. they already biased the record.al joshua chamberlain, who led troops under warren, wrote warren was well capable of
organizing an entire battle on a field. an admiralve been chief of the army. partsld adjust the subordinate to it. but he had a certain broughtent, although it him distinction as a it seemed to work against him. one takes the risk of losing grasp on the whole. he doesn't say that happened. risked says that warren that. he actually dedicated an entire a defense of warren when sheridan relieved him. dana, assistant sector war, and secretary of fans of general warren.
as assistant secretary of ward, dana accompanied the army and he was a camp gossip who had an he didn't like you. he would write disparaging things, stretching the truth or up, but even he had to praise warren on several occasions. wilder had no compunction at all. wrote, whomrals he i instinctively distrusted. forfeited the high estimation in which grant held him. he was egotistical. his caution was excessive. his distrust of everyone's judgment, which ran counter to own, was universal. he lacked many great qualities commander. of course, he doesn't tell you what those are. who is this guy? many faces of warren. let's look at a quick thumbnail career.f his june of 1861, the battle of big bethel. lieutenant colonel warren kept his cool under fire, organized a
successfullyd carried off the wounded from the field. his brigadesula, fought all day long and still general hood drove his fifth corps away at the end of the day, by breaking the center of his line. at the second battle of bull threw his brigade, casualties inous about 20 minutes of combat. this is the cautious general this. at the battle of fredericksburg, organized a rear guard and held off confederate probes after then, disastrous battles during the union retreat and he held the the last mantil passed the pontoon. bridge wasn over the warren. warren acted as hooker's eyes and some say brains.
he made his way over the salem church. after the decision to retreat had been made, he organized a guard and built the fortify retreat.t covered the we already heard about some of his actions at gettysburg. madewards, he was temporary corps commander. and in the aborted campaign in second he led the single-handedly. caught off the confederate army occasions. in the last campaign in the eastern theater that year, at was givenhe responsibility, combat authority with more than half the army to attack at mine run. he had found a weakness in the confederate lines. the scheduledre attack, but in the early morning fog, he and washington roebling bellied up to the confederate works to within 15 yards and saw immense forts that had been
constructed. he called off the attack. played a political price for not needlessly sacrificing his men. the reorganization of the army, in the spring of 1864, was given command of one of the three corps of the army of the potomac. troublesome subordinate -- if this guy was cautious and questioning your orders, why the hell would you give him one of the lead positions when you reorganize the army? is a custom, tailor-made him.to get the hell rid of didn't do it. warren led the corps until the battle of five forks, often exercising independent command. while many generals are adaptized for failing to to the realities, killing power civil war weaponry and forts,
heren is criticized because did. what has been regarded as caution or hesitance on his part called prudence. thends on how you look at man. what's your predisposition? ofody could accuse him ace.d he is criticized for making attacks against his better judgment, when he was ordered to do it, then he's for not doing it, against his better judgment. warren was the man called upon it.o and he performed. and he performed as well or better than many other corps commanders. he had high standards and expectations for himself. little regard for those who did not do well or perform level ofpected excellence. his commands were well-drilled, well-tutored and in the profession of arms. his men were quick to learn the
bayonet.the madeis fatigue duties were more bearable because oftentimes he was in the trenches with showing them how to do it. that made the work more tolerable. demanding but he jealously regarded the lives and well-being of his men and they for it.m according to a historian, warren was not an executive officer. of the in every sense word, a commander and a strategist. when he had the opportunity of testing his strategic ability, he was never found wanting. hise there was never in composition an element of insubordination or lack of out all that he was ordered, yet when detailed him,uctions were given they seemed to rob him of his individuality. would have warren done much better under a general did robert lee than he under the micromanager, ulysses
grant. to his wife, grant spoke kindly of my past services but thought i was too self-reliant in executing my duties and did not stoutly obey in hisand cooperate general plans closely enough. damnablein, that self-reliance. warren is often castigated for authority, fors questioning or changing his heers and for acting as if knew better than his commanders. yet if you know the history of this man, all of his commanders always came to him and conferred with him. upon warren -- and humphries, all three had a working relationship. they respected each other, bounced their ideas off each other. if you're the boss, you want to what your senior executives think before you go into the action, so at least, even if you you can act in concert. that's the way mead operated with warren. so when warren is giving his opinions to mead, he's not
preaching to him. he's doing what he has always been allowed to do. booker sought him out. mead sought him out. generals sought him out. so when he does that, he's just has always been okay. why isn't it okay today, if you cease and desist? policemen running the armies. served with the approval of all of these various commanders that he served under, left the u.s.he military academy. first commander was humphries. jefferson davis gave warren the the great to explore plains. during the civil war, william harney was appreciative of the stu efforts during expedition, warren, against the advice of commanders on the river, marched if
overland with a small crew and up with harney, just in time to get in the attacks. harney was amazed that he had been there, had no clue that warren could make it there. they depended heavily on warren's opinions and he was the de facto commander of the fifth new york. he was praised at big bethel. and dix, a commander in the district of washington, took up warren's recommendations to rebuild federal hill in baltimore. porter allsykes, battlefield conduct. burnside, hooker and mead used his ex pe expertise in maps and building.ance fort hooker wanted him as chief of staff but kept him as chief of engineers. mead mentored warren, raised him to corps command and valued his
advice even after mine run and the cancellation of that attack. when they reorganized the army, three got one of the corps left with the army. why? if he was such a troublesome subordinate? the only commanders who were not warren were ulysses and phil sheridan. these are the men who removed him and destroyed his reputation. warren had openly criticized both of them. tacticsr his bludgeon and sheridan for these negligence and misuse of calvary opening stages of the campaign. yet grant kept warren in corps end.nd until the he did try to have him removed in february of 1865 to go into the shenandoah valley after crook had a bad experience with confederates. warren was kept with the army. so being unable to move him, rid of himed to get by other means.
warren's board of inquiry, both as general and chief of the army and as chief as president of the united states. winfield scott hancock. hancock is superb. do we know that? because it's in every book we ever read that mentions hancock. he's a brigade general on the peninsula, as a corps commander only about 40 days experience as a corps commander. he didn't act in the capacity of commander at gettysburg. veers --unded, severely and removed from command. replace him was warren. why would he do that? the men of the second corps theys loved hancock but always respected and admired warren too. is colonel horace porter.
theaigning with grant, first book, if you bought the collector's library, you remember reading that in high school and being enthralled by this firsthand vivid characterizations of the campaign. in his book, he writes that fort had a high regard warren, at the beginning of the campaign, and stated that if happened to me, warren was the man to replace me as apparently ofhe the potomac. hogwash, with deference to the ladies. was the least senior of the corps command. exercisedad independent command, so he was senior. hancock had sedgwick, and last on the list, warren. there is no way on god's green earth that warren would have the first to replace. you have to go by seniority, if by law, by custom, because you risk losing the other corps by overstepping them. and nobody was gonna overstep
hancock. have played ball. that's a myth that gets and reiterated. and there's just not a shred of it.h, no sense to it just didn't feasible. during the battle of the fifth corpswarren's led the way into the woods. because of negligible coverage by the calvary under harrison, grant's protege from the west, confederates appeared where no confederates ought to have been in the early morning hours of 5, when warren's pickets found them. mead anddered by don't to -- that means look both ways before you cross the straight. just charge blindly ahead and about they consequences. well, every single one of division commanders protested this order. until hented to wait could get a battle line formed
so that at least the units could andn with mutual support maybe on their flanks, the sixth corps could make their way up in of the attack. sound reasonable? no. go forward! forward! so warren, against the advice of yielded someicers, important ground, that's going later, heividends orders the attack to go forward. this is saunders' field, a painting. and the model for those various figures is standing before you. it took several hours to shake out this battle line to go forward. charles griffin's troops attack but warren's divisions broke each other as they advance across the field. the confederates in those far under general yule, had fortified their position and they had a shooting gallery effect on griffin's men. bloodied up with no good result.
criticism for making these attacks. the sixth corps doesn't get any noticism for being late or even getting onto the field until this slaughter had ended. day, when a second attack is ordered, it gets called off. the preeminent historian of the overland campaign writes that the fifth corps stayed -- never left the safety of its trenches to go forward to obey the order. in the next paragraph, he writes after conferring with general warren, mead cancelled the attack. so maybe he didn't leave the safety of your trenches, because you didn't have to. criticized both ways. on may 6, one of warren's divisions was diverted to support hancock. the division, commander, was killed. warren gets criticism for not immediately on the
first day. was dangerous. he might succeeds of his own allowed.f he was after the stalemate at the wilderness, grant decides to sidestep. he's going to march through the next road juncture. historians, warren lost the esteem of grant and lacklusters lac performance in the wilderness, his attacks bogged down -- his fault. not theirs, for giving the right? and they give him the most important job. lead the advance. doewarren does that, marches bd the army. forced march until to todd's cavern. by the time the fifth corps is march, confederates have tot barely beaten warren
spotsylvania. if he has lost their confidence, mosts he given the important job? warren's infantry took the place of the calvary, as they get warren thinking he's fighting against time and fighting against confederate that isonly because what he has been told by the federal calvary, is pushing his into combat, upon their arrival on the field. winded, tired. but time is of the essence. so uncharacteristically, warren them into combat without overcautiously waiting until inry piece was perfectly place, which he's castigated for, and goes forward and makes these piecemeal attacks and just barely doesn't break the confederate line. criticizedhe gets for not learning the lesson that he had in the wilderness of in piecemeal attacks,
so shame on him for doing that. he was only doing this because to regain the glory of his star, which had in thetarnished wilderness. that's hogwash again. there's nothing in the written that. to substantiate at no time in his career did warren act for motives like that. it would appear somewhere. it never does, except in characterizing him, because we have to characterize him some way, that fits into the acceptable mold. while we're at it, let's talk about warren myth at spotsylvania. james harrison wilson was a of warren in the 1850 class of west point. never friends ever. during the opening stages of the wilderness campaign, wilson's failure to get the roads confederatesthe sneak in and brought about the battle. in his memoirs, he states that opening stages of the fighting at spotsylvania, mead
order toren an cooperate with general sedgwick. explodes with anger. i'll be damned if i'll cooperate or anybody else! you're the commander of this army and can give your orders you can obey them or put sedgwick in command and he can give the orders and i'll obey him. or you can give me the command, i'll be damned if i'll cooperate with sedgwick or else!y the park rangers will tell you this story. of course, it's a fiction. there.wasn't even he was with the calvary, going to kill jeb stewart. and he wrote about it after everybody else involved was dead. that's convenient. waye's no -- absolutely no to rebut his statements that way. people whoout the were there?
andpeople's whose judgments writings we do rely on? george mead, humphries? spent a whole day in the archives of pennsylvania, looking through humphries' and meads' papers, trying to find something that would show their assessment of warren or anything mentioning something like this. exist, because it didn't happen. mischaracterization of warren occurs at spotsylvania tore he supposedly refuses attack on the day of the attack by hancock. is nows fifth corps covering a two corps front. make is ordering him to yet another attack. mead writes that he doesn't think warren wants to fight. doesn't fight,e we relieve him from command. dispatch hashat been sent, warren was attacked four times. less thanast, lasted two minutes, because the men
to and to go forward attack position they failed to gain any ground on, in the days' worth of multiple assaults. warren writes to mead, if i go the way you're ordering me, my flanks are going to be exposed. me to suppress the fire on my flanks and i'll go forward. engineering french terms for which he's castigated. imagine mead getting this where warren is once again questioning his orders and no less doing it in french! well, those were the engineering terms. they were all engineers. you two words in french and you'd understand immediately the point i was trying to make instead of me taking two pages to tell you. if warren hadn't used the french, mead probably would have said, why the hell didn't he dupuis? point there's another mischaracterization and at beus faulty -- attribution of
faulty motives where it doesn't exist. actions, warren is leaving the fifth corps at petersburg. he is supposed to make a raid and break the railroad. permanente makes a lodging there. historian, wrote in his book that warren never received the for hise deserved success on the wheldon railroad. he went outd what to do. he said, hey, i got this, i can hold this. and he did. lot of bad fighting going on there, a couple of disasters averted. but don't we reward success and failure?out i just called you out and you weren't even here for it. ha ha! but it was all good, trust me. ha ha! warren wrote home, the enemy yesterday within heavy force but i had everything well arranged and whipped them easily. yet the only word i have
received in acknowledgment of my having maintained myself here note from general grant to general mead saying it seemed to to have done more. all through the petersburg campaign we'll see this. is given independent commands and he does as well or poorly as anybody else. nobody does as well as warren does better than many of his peers. an engineeringg direct a battle, has an effect tactical outcomes maybe. there's two other points about warren which are commonly made and wrongly made. fist is that he -- first is that he suffered from depression. to be thised manic-depressive. fighting against strong entrenched positions is well-documented. to throw hiswant men up against defenses that he building?celled at
if anyone new the strength of defenses, it was him, because he buildings.f there's no doubt that he was disgusted and demoralized at as his letters indicate. washington roebling writes to fiancee that the general has today.isgust on i fancy some of you might be a lot ofre under stress. although it's not evident today. [laughter] lyman writes of his aversion at the sacrifices at slaughter,, and the that warren doesn't debilitated by depression. sometimes overtired from working long hours with little sleep. doesn't makethat you the most pleasant person to be around sometimes, especially don't have good coffee. no starbucks stations at coal harbor. warren had fun! he held full military funerals
for the unexploded shells that landed in his headquarters. and even one of the reporters embedded with the army took part .n the funeral fo did one over here by the avery house. hunted,is staff fished, made up little games in their headquarters billing. a fly trap that every general in the army came by to play with, here at petersburg. he also had a guy that said he had the horn that blew down the walls at jericho. thetayed up late until early morning hours, looking at microscopic organisms with and in debating engineering techniques like the of the river. if the rate of the river is this, and we're crossing the the boat, at what point are we going to reach the opposite shore? depressed, you don't
do this kind of stuff. you sit around and go, woe is me, happiness is not my companion. [laughter] regarded that warren died of a broken heart. afterdied of a broken heart. is me so devastated, woe and he does not do anything else. andesigned his commission those that -- goes back to vicksburg. island,to chicago, rock organizes a scientific prize that is still awarded to students in the sciences. then he dies, not from a broken heart, he knows he has been he died bythe court,
the complication of diabetes, which he contracted probably during the war under the stress of poor sleep and diet situations. perhaps some of the best judgments of income from those who fought against him. a confederate captain said, when we had the honor to meet the recognized and we whenever we tackle the court we had our work cut out for us. that does leader was a stubborn protagonist. cautious, heas the did not know he was in a fight. warren had embarrassed these generals when he encountered them. this guy, robert b lee, renowned for his patients and coolheadedness, there are only a few instances where he lost his
temper and he was mad at the performance of his subordinates. in many of these instances, the underlying cause of this displeasure was general warren, when he bloodied his nose, when he pushed across and held his ground and he admonished, why did he put in all his men? he had foreseen the fight at that location. at the james river when warren allowed them to get the whole and heross the james or was furious. where are they? he didn't know because they cannot get information because gouverneur k. warren had done such a good job. the railroad, where he had and had supply route broken the railroad and held it. and the following spring, at the battle of the five forks.
he blunted in ambush that we had planned. and then breaking the line. biographyely, the will look at some of these things and look at gouverneur k. warren, and under the guise of looking at the credibility of some of the criticism that we know about him. in closing, let's look at the words of henry viii -- heath. i have always questioned if gouverneur k. warren was one of the best officers of the potomac. so do i. [applause] robert: we have time for questions. i did not ramble too long even though i did. [laughter] >> one of my favorite writings is rambling recollections of a civil engineer. hopefully these are my rambling opinions today. anybody, questions? yes?
theolonel wainwright, what -- what relation was you to general wainwright? wainwright related? robert: i have no clue. [laughter] robert: he did not tell me. [laughter] probablyut if so, it would have been a grandfather great-uncle. i do not know. yes? >> the criticism that gouverneur k. warren was against sheridan after the wilderness, any other bad blood between the two? robert: oh yes. happened athat wilderness, if there are any other better relationships between gouverneur k. warren and sheridan. undisputed will. .t is almost never the recorded
there are five instances during the overland campaign where gouverneur k. warren was complaining that sheridan's calvary is not doing what it should do. instead of going out and screening the army and finding the enemy, he is left to do the calvary work with his infantry and at the church, the pennsylvania reserves who are going home in a few days my going out to do calvary recall and they are taken off the field . and gouverneur k. warren is almost overrun. but with the artillery, they were able to cut off the confederates. and the disastrous attacks. but i will point gouverneur k. warren has only a little bit of calvary with him, and he says my would rather have no calvary at all, because they are not doing what they're supposed to be doing. the criticism of sheridan and his calvary are not allowed at
headquarters. -- meadeo when needed is furious that sheridan is blocking the road and cannot be found because he is at a farmhouse of the road and nobody knows where he was. and he says, get out of the road so the army can march. and sheridan comes along and says, how dare you mess with my calvary. and they have a big blowup moas is reported. he told me, let me go with stewart and i will take his butt. maybe you should let him do it. cannotmeade knows he criticize him and it creates bad blood in the campaign. so when gouverneur k. warren makes an official criticism, he does not make as many as he can, but when he does he admonished,
you have to cooperate. yes? do you have a question? microphone. i didn't see the boom. >> how would you assess gouverneur k. warren's performance at the crater? robert: how would rss that -- sess that? he has ordered, he is supposed to go forward into the attack there.rnside gets he is with him at headquarters e,d he is telegraphing mead, you need to come here. he is a few yards away and never shows up. warren doesn't do anything because burnside never tells them to and it is impractical and the debacle that unfolds as
a breakdown -- he does not do anything great mother does not do anything else that anybody else does not do. years after the war, grant will blame gouverneur k. warren for the debacle and they have a tizzy that erupts in the newspapers come along after-the-fact. but it is a complicated situation and i do not have the details. historian in is a the back has written a book about it. it has a different opinion. areen's best day. but he was not called upon to go in full force and he did not. takeeade did not come to immediate authority as he was in florida do. he was saying, come here and look at this. we need a head here and we do not have one. would it be fair to say that
hancock was inclined to think twice before sending his men against an entrenched enemy? robert: i do not think that is fair. i think a lot of these generals by this stage realized the futility if you will of attacking these strong positions. however, they also understood the necessity for making the attempt, so does gouverneur k. warren. if i know i will run my head into a brick wall, which is a good treat -- trait in grant, wouldn't it be prudent of me to find where the mortar was a little thinner, so i could do it. and in order for me to head but you from this position, i need to go through all these people. isn't it common sense to clear them out of the way first? was shy think hancock about attacking, any more than anybody else was.
the difference is, hancock never and hecriticized grant, was a contemporary of him. warren was younger. you never want to be smarter than grant. grant new it. and jealouslyral -- guarded his authority and i think that was in effect on him in the west when he was removed from command. he then did the same mean things to other people. when you look at the closing of the civil war, hancock is flirting with the attempt of being commander of the army, but he is too debilitated by his wound and he goes off. and humphrey finally get his division. he is an engineer and he does not do a lot of good in places like february of 1865 mike
1865, hatcher's run. the troops new. -- knew. they refused to go forward in spotsylvania, i do not mind putting my life at risk, but let me spend it wisely. let it means something. -- mean something. >> ok. [applause] >> thank you very much. robert: thank you. >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span/histo ry. >> in june of 1942, president roosevelt established the office of strategic services,