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tv   The Civil War Harold Holzer on Civil War Objects  CSPAN  August 1, 2020 6:00pm-6:46pm EDT

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-- ok, -- >> keep talking, please. i don't know where he is today. but i hope he is still alive. >> thank you very much. >> next on the civil war, historian harold holzer and valerie paley of the new york historical society talk about artifacts featured in their joint publication, "the civil with a focusects," on soldiers' uniforms and accoutrements. in 45 minutes, activists kate tello talks about her involvement with the civil rights movement, starting with her participation in the 1963 desegregation sit in atlanta,
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georgia and her work to later organize unions. history," a in georgetown history professor talks about culture and society in the 1920's. >> so now, civil war fashion. investigating the power of objects to be emblematic of historic events and to help us understand the past. as a historian at new york historical, i work alongside these treasures every day, and it's my great privilege to use them in exhibitions as well. the inspiration for our program, " -- civil war in 50 objects how do only 50 objects tell such a sweeping story? as the cover shows, we managed tactile objects and
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images. the hardest thing to preserve "the civil war in 50 objects -- the hardest thing to preserve are textiles. the objects we discussed today, some are extraordinary in terms of how they survived. absolutely, and without further ado, let's get to our four things. we have some military buttons, a footlocker, a drum, and a uniform. .ery interesting in aggregate, they do tell the story of uniform, outfitting a civil war soldier. surviving uniforms or textiles, for that matter, as you say, in
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fine condition from the civil war are very rare. this one is impeccably preserved, and it is unique. it is, you have to admit, a pretty kooky looking costume to wear into combat. can you tell us about this? mr. holzer: believe it or not, the soldiers who wore these duds were considered the toughest dudes in the union or confederate army. they wore these baggy pantaloons, sash, short jacket. you see the leggings. what we don't see is that they also wore a phase with a tassel on top -- they also wore a fez with a tassel on top. pay became kind of a french foreign legion look.
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-- it became kind of a french foreign legion look. regiments and 75 union regiments started the war in this costume until somebody kind of figured out that they were pretty easy targets in this outfit. through the war they were worn as impractical as they look. ms. paley: the strange incongruity between the combat fierceness of the soldiers and .he way they were dressed you said in the book that they looked like harem dancers. it's curious. who popularized this style? mr. holzer: really, we can give yorker.o a new we have a picture of him coming up. his name was elmer ellsworth.
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he was a drill master. maybe we should do the next slide so people can take a look. there he is. he did not wear it, but his cadets did. thatganized the brigade was shown on stages across the country. very celebrated show in chicago, they ran doubletime around the stage in circles and broke off sort of like cheerleaders or at footballs march stadiums where they break off and jump up. his guys had rivals. they would toss the rifles, put it on their shoulders, and he was pretty well received, and he became something of a celebrity at a very young age. he also was a law student of abraham lincoln's and was his bodyguard when he traveled to washington from springfield to become president. they were acquaintances.
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and then organized a unit when the war started and got into the fray, really before it actually started for most people. at the beginning of the war, ellsworth turns out to be a war hero, actually kind of a martyr. would you tell our audience why? in fact, he was the first war hero from the north. when the war started, when four sumter fell -- when fort sumter wantedederal authorities to secure the virginia side of the river opposite washington, d.c., and that meant alexandria to start. ellsworth was a frequent guest and playing house with the lincoln boys on the roof of the white house, he noticed a huge confederate flag flying in alexandria.
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he could see it with a telescope . it was big. his soldiers march across the bridge to the other unionf the potomac as the forces captured alexandria. he went to this hotel, marched up the stairs to the roof, tour the flag down and put it over his shoulder and descended the staircase. as he got midway, the proprietor of this hotel, who was named -- , a name was james jackson relative of the man who would become stonewall jackson a couple months later. ellsworth dead and .llsworth shot jackson dead there were two martyrs created in the same day. lincoln was devastated. he gave ellsworth a funeral at the white house. his family attended.
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he wrote a very famous letter of condolence to ellsworth's parents, and it was a great tragedy for the family, and as you say, i think we can see in , there aremage paintings of ellsworth, maybe not the most accurate depictions, but they elevated this guy into martyrdom overnight. ms. paley: we noticed one of the soldiers is wearing his wild costume, but he is not himself. mr. holzer: i don't think he did. i think he always wore the hislar uniform, but soldiers were the other uniforms. ms. paley: our own collection was owned by one david t davis. we know he must have been in service at fort schuyler in the bronx and served for two years. where did he see action?
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do we have a sense of that? in aolzer: yes, he was unit, by the way, that was called the red hike up in legate -- the red-legged devils. he did see a lot of action. he was on the virginia peninsula thatthe mcclellan army sailed to capture richmond in 1862. he was in the battle of second bull run, and on and on, he was at antietam in september 1960 2 1862. service ined his virginia in may 1863, so almost up until the battle of .ettysburg as we see, uniform intact, no holes, no tearing. that is why we were able to get
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it at the historical society. ms. paley: it's a phenomenal object. somethingve different. these are military buttons on aain on -- mounted card. soldiers were avid collectors of souvenirs of their service. these were easy to acquire, mementos from the battlefield, but reputedly, they also took them by stealing personal property from helpless civilians or prisoners or even corpses. tell us about the fellow who collected these buttons. mr. holzer: sorry about choking up. i'm not choking up with emotion but with allergies. amazing.ns were really
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each state had its own. each unit has its own. these are union collected buttons find an enterprising in the seventh new york, which was a pretty elite regiment, and we know that he an extraordinary member at actions including spotsylvania, which was bloody. we have evidence that some may have taken them from shallow graves. there was such an interest in getting them. also, you mentioned prisoners. it was considered one of the worst insults you could render to a prisoner of war, to rip a
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button off the uniform, so that -- partial humiliation partially he really asian and partially this mania for collectibles -- partially humiliation and partially this mania for collectibles. at paley: let's take a look this photograph, the kinds of scenes that a collector would have taken these buttons off of these jackets. mr. holzer: he would have been totally uninhibited about walking up and down this line of corpses. they took guns, shoes, whatever they could grab. we have another collection, to, which sort of supplements the first collection of buttons. here are some other confederate buttons from a variety of sources, which are quite
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beautiful. it is interesting. we notice that these are from 1860, so before the war presumably because it was created for the uniform. lincoln himself received some gifts of war, souvenirs such as these and others, but what sorts of relics did he receive? came -- a: he got a old made from the whole of ironsides. he got another relic from the hull ofe -- burned the merrimack, the ship we discussed last week. he got some faded, translucent leaves from the battle of gettysburg that had been allegedly bloodied from the battle in july. he got them in the fall when the leaves were falling off the tree and turning. he got so.
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.eynes -- he got soap he got keynes, walking sticks, anything you can imagine. , "if there'ss wife one thing we are going to get out of this, it's new clothes." toortunately, she took that heart and thought that meant she should run up the credit card. ms. paley: which she did. mr. holzer: which she did. ms. paley: the next part of the collection is a footlocker. there's nothing glamorous about living in the field, but the experience of generals is different than that of privates. want to talk about that a little bit? mr. holzer: generals had their andtents and servers
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chairs. our friend was a mapmaker, very important in battle in terms of quickly sketching out terrain. he got this kind of -- it looks rustic, but it is really an utilitarian footlocker. carry-onthe very best that you could take on an airplane, if anyone can remember doing that. this is a civil war era equivalent of a great carry-on. because this has been beautifully photographed with a lot of its contents, you can see on epaulets it's got flags. it's got his own souvenirs. it's got metals, and it has his tools of the trade. you see a mapmaking tool there, and i forgot what it's called and i should know because i use it in school once. it makes a circle. dals.'s got met
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this is what he would use, strap it on to a horse when he's ready to move on, and he did use it. again, amazingly intact relic. discovering, the historical society has this just extraordinary range of artifacts the arttify to not only of war but the everyday life of war. in addition, in this particular footlocker, he has an interesting -- i think it might be in the footlocker -- he held a patent or a tool that we still field tapeiled slat measure. he won a contest for his invention. mr. holzer: yes, that's the
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retractable one. we absolutely still use it. it is a much smaller model, but i had forgotten that detail. he was an inventor, too. as you pointed out, he used this in his engineering career, and we have some evidence that he was helpful in the construction thehe brooklyn bridge in 1870's and 1880's, and got a from the chief engineer, which he also just threw into the footlocker. back in this footlocker for just a second, i think he saw some serious action and recorded it, being a surveyor and the kind of guy who did that sort of thing. where did he see action? where did this footlocker see
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action? mr. holzer: the most notable thing he saw and recorded in his diary is what we call the high watermark of the confederacy. it is arguable in terms of military history, but he was on the scene of pickett's charge on the third day of the battle of gettysburg, july 3, 1863, so he saw waves and waves of unprotected confederates massing and marching and running toward these union lines and really being mowed down by artillery and then by gunfire. witness to the last stand of the confederacy in terms of invading the north. that never happened again after this epic. the footlocker was as well. is there evidence that he used the footlocker after the war? i mean, presumably so. there are little
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souvenirs from his prosaic and exalted career. the bridge was one, but he also worked on the flushing railroad. it sounds very unglamorous compared to pickett's charge, portableding to his work desk, he was an engineer in the field, and i guess he must have thought after the battle of gettysburg, all of this is gravy. survived, my baggage survived, and i'm just going to thank my lucky stars i can have a civilian career in engineering." lastaley: finally, our object this evening is a snare drum. it is beautiful, highly decorative, and aesthetically pleasing, but it serves quite a utilitarian purpose in battle. what drums were used
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for. wantolzer: first of all, i to endorse what you said about what a great object. look at the painted eagle and stars, and the eagle clutching .n its claws an american flag .t is an amazing example drums were not just for military bands. they were used in all aspects of camp life in the civil war and, probably more importantly, in battle. first of all, the sound of the rat a tat tat of the drum would be the first thing that a soldier heard every morning, the reveille. it would start with a drum roll, and then the bugler. the drum was used in camp life,
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and also at the moments when soldiers did have leisure, there ine bands that performed camp, and the drum was, of course, the rhythmic staple of the military band as well, but if they wereoops, marching forward, marched off to the tapping of the drums, and they followed the drums. when the battlefield became smoke-filled and bullet riddled, and, really, scenes of confusion and mayhem, soldiers in precarious positions listen for the sounds of the drums. only a signal of a place where they could coalesce again and regroup, but also, the drums were used for issuing orders. you write that they are almost in the category of
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weapons, and it has the power to inspire precision because it's the vet a tat tat, as you say. theyolzer: right, and marched in rhythm, absolutely. ms. paley: who owns this drum? mr. holzer: although we do not know who made it, we know that it was owned by a drummer boy, as they were called, named charles mosby. although we do not have a picture of little charlie, we do have a drummer boy photographed that shows slide just how young and innocent, at first, these drummer boys were -- or this actually is mosby. ok.
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[crosstalk] philip correll, 14 years old, but this is a typical drummer boy. looks petrified. as seven as young think is, which i quite an extraordinary thing. they were: extraordinarily young, and there was a lot of criticism of that by reform groups. they thought that these youngsters, aside from being exposed to great physical damage, that their souls were being subjected to the evils of camp life like cardplaying and drinking. i think it's fair to say that this was a generation that came of age too quickly. from unhappycame
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home lives. some of them came because of the romance of the military service, which they soon found out was not quite so romantic. some went with fathers. some went with older brothers. by the way, when there was not a a musical celebration, their life was pretty dismal because they were expected to be camp, shiningin shoes and fetching things for soldiers. although the wealthier officers would often give them tips to supplement their little salaries, the older soldiers -- i'm sorry, the poorer soldiers, were prettyguys obtrusive. slap them around. they teased them. it was a very difficult life, and some of them came out of the war or at least the genre of the
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as another came out celebrated kind of volunteer. ms. paley: there were 3800 soldiers that were aged 16 or younger. quite something. happened to the owner of our drum, mr. philip correll? mr. holzer: we know that he lived a long, long time. think about a drummer boy of the civil war who survived two years into the presidency of franklin d roosevelt, and he survived to depression,r i, the automobiles, airplanes, and the new deal. .e lived until 1935 he had served in the 99th new and served with a general
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named winfield scott hancock. nothing demonstrates a transition from old-fashioned -- thenodern war that at the beginning of the war winfield someone named scott and at the end of the war someone named after him. we don't know much about his life, but we do know that he fredericksburg, lived on to age 88. i'm sure he told stories about the war for the rest of his life werese the drummer boys sort of inured to the real fear. ms. paley: sure, but they were also romanticized and
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memorialized later in many artistic expressions. mr. holzer: yeah. artists did famous renderings of them. the most famous is probably by william morris hunt, who heard about an episode at the battle of antietam where a drummer boy had been hit by a bullet and looked up to one of his older comrades and said, "if you lift me up, i will drum us through." actually, portrait -- hunt did another drummer boy. this was eastman johnson. he did a print of a drummer boy perched on a soldier's shoulders . anatomically, it's probably impossible, but there he is sitting on the shoulders and drumming away in the midst of battle. they were lionized in poetry and song. maybe in a way, society made some excuses for the fact that
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it had forced these young men into adulthood and danger well before their time. about readye are for our q&a. maybe we can see the image of the four objects once again. our first question is do many of these buttons we showed survive? are hardr: the buttons to destroy. that's one of the advantages of metallic objects. people still find the remnants ofbullets and even artillery civil war battles. you searchnding because it's against park service rules that you dig and forage and use metal detectors and all that. but what makes them unique is
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presume fellow who we such aem personally did great job handling them. he mounted them, numbered them, wrote a beautiful headline. and then for each number, he listed the origin of the design of the button. maybe museums have done that , but ih for themselves have never seen a collection of these relics catalogued at the time by the person who found them or seized them, so i think that makes this pretty unique. absolutely. we also have collections of revolutionary war buttons from the revolutionary era because they are very durable objects. the next question is -- are there comparable collections of union army buttons? mr. holzer: yeah, the civil war
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museum in harrisburg, pennsylvania, has a good collection. the new civil war museum in richmond, which is on the site of an old confederate musicians has a collection. i hear of them more in the south. i think the west point museum has a pretty good collection as well. ms. paley: maybe in gettysburg, two, at the museum there? mr. holzer: yeah, they do have a wonderful visitor's center. they have a good collection as well. was there standardization of union and confederate uniforms? did that apply to the fancier uniforms? milan --r: this was a may launch -- melange. the uniforms were a very local
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affair at first. emblemuttons where the .f local units, local regiments they paid tribute to states more than the national a third -- authority that had called up the .ilitia the uniforms were not uniform. at the beginning of the civil war, at the battle of bull run, there were enough confederates wearing bluish uniforms to confuse a lot of people, including other confederates and other union men who did not quite know if they were shooting at friends or enemies. later, some confederates were kind of a butternut color. the union army eventually was well-funded enough to approach a kind of uniform look, no pun intended -- or pun intended, i guess.
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it was probably always confusing, standing out. they were lucky if there was a little cluster -- fire over there. but there was uniformity to the custom -- to the costume, and you could not tell if they were confederate for union. there is a question for me and that is how or when can we see the objects in the program. soon after the book was published, we did have a mini exit vision of the objects, but many of them remain on view on the fourth floor of new york historical, and sooner than you know it, we will be back in the museum and be able to see them. we should probably put a little label on the ones we featured on this program.
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mr. holzer: and there's much more. i know we have a little time, and we don't have a special , butnt devoted to flags along the lines of beautifully conserved textiles, the historical society has some amazing flags in both north and south including a little palmetto flag from fort sumter. one i'm going to talk a little bit about, even though we don't have a picture of it -- just think of a little american flag. we don't need too much imagination to conjure up that image. this is the period in which we are witnessing or participating in demonstrations all over the city and all over the country. after the battle of fort sumter, ,hich we talked about last week it was reported an american flag had been trailed in the mud by the confederates and then returned to major robert
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anderson, who took it back to wasyork, and that flag shown at union square at a demonstration of 100 thousand people. the historical society has one of the little flags that a lady put on her window -- maybe on broadway or fifth avenue avenue in lower manhattan -- to demonstrate her loyalty. if you look into the research for historical society, which i did on -- which i did for this book on several occasions, you find out that flag merchants up the prices of flags and sold out really quickly, just as a soul for lincoln'srepe funeral. of preservation
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efforts have to be made to keep a uniform like this intact and not just falling into pieces? it's quite almost scientific. we have great technicians and conservators on staff who monitor the deterioration of textiles, which is one reason be viewed fort longer than three months, tops, and then we put them aside and several years before we can show them again. but the conservation efforts with the proper kind of boxes, proper kind of temperature control. but the colorsd, on this particular costume are testamentvid, it is a to our conservators on staff. also, the:
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conservators that dealt with it its first 50 years before these modern chemical refrigeration and preservation techniques were invented. that is amazing. how did lincoln feel about these uniforms? mr. holzer: he loved the displays. he loved the drills. again, we are looking at them theseughing at them, but guys were the proudest and most uninhibited and fearless -- you have to be very fearless to wherewhite boonies -- to white wear -- to wear boties. ms. paley: and the hat. mr. holzer: and the fez. ofcoln was a great fan watching military parades. he was always on hand watching the troops go by.
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he rode up and down the lines inspecting, so he would have seen these, and they were always pointed out to him, again, as the roughest and toughest guys, and, of course, having known ellsworth, having seen him with his command around the white .ouse, he was used to him and all of this work -- was before the draft, so these were guys who volunteered not only to serve, but to where this kind of an outfit. anothery: we have question about the uniform, and that is the did mcclellan help introduce it to the union army, and how did grant feel about it? mr. holzer: that's a very good question. they were embedded in the service before mcclellan became commander.
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by the way, i would point out, winslow omer we must said -- once said these guys must be crazy. although he did some beautiful paintings that are at the , but it's a museum good supposition to say that mcclellan was on board with this. he was pretty flamboyant in his own way, but they were in service before. grand -- i don't know the answer, but one would assume that the soldiers who were marching south relentlessly in thatthe wilderness awful spring and summer of 1864 and were in the trenches before petersburg in early 1865, i would guess, by this time there
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were not many in the regiment. another question about the buttons. where they collected for bragging rights or for their market value? it's another really good question. i would say bragging rights in terms of intimidating enemy prisoners. not so much monetary value, but souvenir value. you know, in the same way that american soldiers of world war ii collected detritus, including enemy weapons, german and japanese weapons and sabers that they were told they could not bring back they somehow managed to bring back. the "i've been to the war" mentality, that's
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very powerful. next question -- did lincoln have a point of view regarding looting? mr. holzer: yes. remember, there is a fine line between foraging and looting. there was a code of conduct in the service that was pretty rigidly enforced at that time. eventually, the union and could note armies supply themselves sufficiently, so they had to live off the land, and that meant, particularly when lee marched into maryland in 1862 with a very thin supply line, that meant taking whatever they wanted. involved chickens and cows and apples.
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marched into maryland at apple harvesting time, so he practically took every apple off every tree in maryland. by the way -- let's say one thing else about robert he lee who is in the news again because of the statue controversy, but robert ely also took as hideous men ands free black pulled them back into slavery -- robert e lee. he captured free people and enslaved them. that was the most hideous of all souvenirs. of course, we go to sherman in , who forages his way through georgia. there are two points of view on that. one is that he burned georgia. the other is that he spared georgia in some ways by not .ngaging i'm going to do a teaser. when we talk about appomattox in
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a future program, i'm going to ofk about another famous bit souvenir hunting. we have a few minutes left in a couple more questions -- who made these uniforms and how expensive where they? were any made in new york city? mr. holzer: i would say these were expensive. some soldiers paid themselves. allotmentarmy gave an to soldiers to buy uniforms, but i'm sure that these were funded by philanthropic groups in the states, but again, there was a certain pride in wearing the uniform. let me .1 thing out -- we talked about systemic racism and how long this existed. back in the civil war, even when
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african-american troops were hardly allowed to volunteer to risk their lives to save their and end slavery, white soldiers were given an allowance to buy uniforms. black soldiers had the cost deducted from their salary for the first months of their service. frederick douglass came to lincoln to protest not only that the soldiers were getting a lower pay grade but that they had to pay for their own uniforms, unlike the white soldiers. lincoln said he was sorry, but we had to do it this way in the beginning to just get the white soldiers passed this revolution of an integrated army, so that is sort of a sad aspect. the government did not have the courage to treat all uniforms and their soldiers equal. ms. paley: indeed.
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oh, let's see -- we have one minute left. one more question -- was there any martial etiquette against killing drummer boys? know, i don'tu know. i would think that bullets go where they go and drummer boys were wounded. that's a great question. we will ask people to write into us and tell us if they know. i hate ending on a question i don't know the answer to, but there we go. it's inevitable. ms. paley: but uniform courage is our theme, and certainly drummer boys were symbols of that. i am afraid we are out of time. harold, thank you again. >> learn more about the people and events that shaped the civil
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war and reconstruction every saturday at 6:00 p.m. eastern only on american history tv here 3. c-span up next on american history tv, an oral history interview with k to low, who talks about her involvement with the civil rights movement, beginning with her participation in the 1963 desegregation sit ins in atlanta georgia and her later work to organized health care worker unions. this is part of an oral history project on the civil rights movement initiated by congress in 2009, conducted by the smithsonian national museum of african-american history and culture. the american folklife center at the library of congress and the southern oral history program at the university of north carolina chapel hill. my name is kay tillow, and i was born in paducah, ktu


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