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tv   The Civil War Harold Holzer on Civil War Objects  CSPAN  August 15, 2020 6:00pm-6:45pm EDT

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from several institutions including the national park service, national archives and library of congress talk about their plans for commemorating the 19th amendment centennial and teaching the public about the legacy of women's suffrage. at 8:00 p.m. in lectures in history, alcohol use in the early american republic. good evening, and welcome. tonight topic is modern major general's. first i want to remind everyone that tonight's program, which is being recorded, will last approximately 45 minutes. this includes 15 minutes for questions and answers. please submit your questions using the q&a function. we will respond to as many as possible in the final part of the program. generals. major some of you have commented on our approach to the civil war that while the multilayered
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social and political history of objects takes into totality of the context of the war, it doesn't really consider the military history or the sequence of battle. what do you think about that? harold: it is a fair enough comment. the objects that we are discussing are all in some way related to new york history. it relates to the soldiers who serve, the leaders who are helped or hindered the union effort, the relics brought back from battle. last the way, over the seven weeks, we have touched on battles. those who experience them and the battle for new york city. early on, we dealt with the draft riots which [indiscernible] >> indeed. we are doing ok i think. [laughter]
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tonight's program features to object. great -- portrait -- great portrait.-- grant first up is the portrait of ulysses s grant. grant arriveses s in washington to receive his promotion from lieutenant first, and this is the he is the first since george washington to achieve that rank. he raises eyebrows when he tries to register at the willard hotel . why? willardhe gets to the having been to washington quite seldom and he asks for a room. the desk clerk gives him the
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and says we have no room. he sort of implores them and they say we have a room in the attic. he says he will take it. he takes the ledger, in those days you signed a book, and he wrote u.s. grant and son and he twirled around. it andhe clerk looked at if he had had a monocle, it would have popped out of his eye. [laughter] he says we have a wonderful you. for you --suite for i believe it was the same one where lincoln stayed. it goes to show you what a simple [indiscernible] un-ostentatiously he presented himself. even on the people of when he was going to become rank alongside washington.
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and unkempt.uffy pretensiondverse to that this is, in many ways, the foundation of an irresistible public image. how so? harold: he had been preceded in who wasby general scott quite -- with epaulets and swords. he was 70 years old and he looked ridiculous with feathered hats. mcclellan who was called the little napoleon because he also favored a uniform. general grant dressed in a field uniform. he chomped on cigars. once the country found out that he liked cigars, he was bombarded with cigars and he never had to buy another one.
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this became his cachet. kind of a reverse glory that he didn't care about himself, he was unpretentious. it added to his celebrity. himunpretentious helped live down to negatives. -- two negatives. one was rumors about his excessive drinking which was true. he did binge drink and was a bad drinker. apparently, a bad drunk. when he was unoccupied, he drank. he -- for not getting a bottle. then, he was living down an active overt act of anti-semitism that any military commander had promulgated in american history to that point. that is issue an order to clear
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his entire command in the west of the old juice. because he was. anointed by jewish traders who had begun to trade in his camp. of pretension helped him get through that. catapulted torst national attention in february, 1860 two, by capturing fort henry and donaldson tennessee. grant, suddenly, u.s. which was as fortuitously late in life, graham became unconditional surrender because he demanded unconditional surrender of those for her did the union was starving for victory. quitesual media could not keep up with his celebrity.
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here we see an early image of grant. it is an image of grant that happens to not be ulysses grant. someone found an image of a guy named william grant. .e was a contractor in illinois since he had a longer beard, they got this out to the weekly newspapers and this was the image the people first saw. notice he is wearing a feathered hat and epaulets. [laughter] secure --e was so up harold: it was soon replaced by the real grant. valerie: here is the real grant. he had a camp artist in his midst. tell us a little bit about the famous portrait. this is a very casual
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one in the field. photographed more than anyone in his time. grant always had photographers around and he posed for markedly candid photographs which were hard to accomplish in the field. also had aming man camp artist following him in the manner of artists who followed george washington. one was a very well-trained painter who followed him to chattanooga, did a painting of him, a very well received painting. general grant liked it and it was shipped back to washington where it was displayed in the u.s. capitol.
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obliging abraham lincoln to have a look at it because grant had become so popular that it was that lincoln would be disrespecting not to look at it. yes, he had photographers and camp artists and he managed to maintain the homespun image very much like abraham lincoln, his commander-in-chief. depictions also served a purpose as reporters were concerned not only to elevate him but also to put him in the public eye politically. did images really have that power to do such a thing? harold: yes. think how successful abraham lincoln was as a presidential candidate when images of him as a rail splitter began circulating 1860.
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the grant victories early in the war and lincoln's inability to obtain control of the civil government in the emancipation proclamation encouraged his admirers to propose that he either replaced grant on the republican ticket or to be the democratic nominee since grant was not known to have any politics. he did not even vote in the 1860 presidential election. he was put forth as a potential candidate. lincoln would not entertain the idea of promoting him to lieutenant general until he had
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assurances that grant had no such plans. grant wrote to the chairman of the dnc and said i have no political ambitions in either party. almost -- it almost advanced him for he was ready. to grant makes it to washington to receive his third start. lincoln for him a party at the white house. the torrent of guest had trouble finding him in the crowd. they didn't know he was slightly built. what did he do at the party? met abrahamt, he lincoln, who was easy to see in a crowd at 6'4". simply -- grant simply climbed up then he could be seen
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by the crowd and everyone rushed forward. this was not calculated to please the first lady who had spent a fortune to redecorate the white house. she took immediate dislike to him. scene wasing immortalized by another painting . the firsttion was time that abraham lincoln had met ulysses s grant. in a private scene, lincoln conferred his promotion on him. in the painting he is sitting on a pedestal not a sofa. found time to pose for
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photographs in the fields and in the studio. sometimes, we saw him in softer domestic scenes like this one with his family. a rare portrait. it makes him look a lot softer and more like a homebody. typically, we see portraits like this one.rm after the war, every northern veteransclub, commissioned paintings for its walls. the best is our first object this evening which is this portrait of u.s. grant. what is so special about this painting? harold: i hope everyone sees
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that it bears relationship to the photograph we had up. was a veteran portrait painter. he had done other celebrities. he had done webster and was about to do lincoln. he flourished in the postwar raids to have grant portraits for clones and homes and veterans organizations. this is one of those portraits. i love it because it really reflects his casual -- calmly in command as all of the portraits showed him. speaking of politics, you
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mentioned the 1868 as the date the painting was completed. there is a political story, because that is the year that grant himself after lincoln's death with andrew johnson no longer viable to run for a term in his own right, grant is the obvious choice. so he is a candidate. these are the paintings served as his posters. .hese campaign posters they are there to remind people that he is the war hero. the contest for the union. why is this successful? in a way, there is a pattern to the way americans deal politically with war heroes. the epaulets, the feathered hats
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don't go over well and campaigns. who grant model himself after one of the presidential election. and grant one a presidential election. look at 1952. dwight eisenhower again, another general who had gone to peacetime but is remembered as a war hero was recruited by both the democrats and the republicans. there's a pattern there. valerie: interesting. the storyline continues and we remember grant as one who saved the union. with the selling of monuments and statues, we recently saw a great statue toppled which is somewhat unfortunate.
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do you want to comment on that? harold: i have been writing and speaking a lot on statues. was is the side of it, it toppled and effaced in cold and get park along with a statue of jennifer sarah -- i don't agree with vandalism of public statues. grant is a mystery. the explanation we heard is that he was the last american president to own a human being. ofwas -- he was given a gift an enslaved person by his father-in-law. grant did use him and did not pay him that he also liberated him and him his freedom. no president did more from civil rights in the 19th century that ulysses s grant. he fought for constitutional amendments. he battled the kkk to a standstill before he gave up presidency.
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tragic and one hopes that the understandable pent up rage of monumental lysing american heroes without understanding their stories comes down a bit so we can look at these on a case-by-case basis. valerie: absolutely. that brings us to our next object. designed by major general benjamin franklin butler. was he a coin designer or a major general? the verification is a little off the mark. complicated, bizarre, controversial figure. democrat and politics in massachusetts. he was a businessman. he owned a mill.
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he was a white supremacist in as late as 1860. he supported jefferson davis for president of united states as -- at the democratic convention of 1860. then, he didn't support stephen douglas. he supported breckenridge. he ran for governor on the breckenridge ticket and lost. when the war broke out, he was such a staunch unionist that he raised a militia brigade in massachusetts and immediately touches on controversy because you have the army purchase his units uniforms from his own mill. not a cool move. there's a little bit of corruption and his story. valerie: why does lincoln appoint him major general of the union army? harold: lincoln did not want the war to just be a war of professional west point trained soldiers.
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he did not want to be a war of only republican generals. he made a big effort to recruit democratic generals. unfortunately, they imported butler so quickly that he had a high rank in the hierarchy of the military which turned out to be a problem. valerie: he was a real character. very homely, practically grotesque. we have an image of him. notas an interesting hard rise to riches life. was ass to say, he provocative figure. tot things exactly did he do stir up controversy? harold: as you say, he was not the most, not easy on the eyes. he goes into the service and he gets a commission and he winds
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up at fortress monroe and virginia. african-american in a rowboat is taken to his headquarters and he says i have escaped from slavery and i want protection in the union army. this is a year and a half before emancipation. benjamin butler thinks about it. he is a skilled lawyer and he says you are contraband of war. i accept you. then more african-americans liberated themselves and that's where the term contraband comes from. their freedom is not guaranteed by executive order or legislation. butler becomes a hero for freedom and recognition of the
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yearning of enslaved people for their own liberation. orleansferred to new where he makes his greatest mark in a negative way. was really conquered for the union early in the war. and declaress and himself the conqueror of new orleans and he establishes a command there which is more controversial in terms of anything else he has done in his career. when his soldiers are spat upon by the enraged pro-southern or southern women of new orleans, the fancy ladies, he issues an infamous order. i think we have it on the screen. in which he says that if any women, we should go to the next slide. women are caught treating
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union soldiers with disrespect, they will be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman trying her vocation. that is to say she will be arrested for prostitution. the spitting stopped. force was an occupying all to himself. he is alleged to have made corrupt bargains and stolen his piece of the action. he allegedly confiscated spoons plantation owners. he became known as spoons butler. he was relieved of his command and sent away to his next controversial assignment. that is when the story picks up and explains the metal. -- medal.
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the sanitary conditions improved. the yellow fever abated. he left the city wealthier than when he arrived. that is an interesting silverlining. harold: he was a good organizer parted he definitely whipped the town into shape. a person who was caught dragging an american flag throughout the streets was hanged. forceng order with brute has its limits. occupier willan remain in dispute. to late this brings us september, 18 64, as he observes an all-black regiment fighting near the confederate capital of richmond. what happens? harold: he is not only observing them, he is commanding them. 1/5 of his force is made up of
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african-american troops and half of them died in this assault. butler had done very badly. he didn't do well that day. he went on to do terribly at the battle of wilmington, north carolina. he was finally relieved by grant, who couldn't stand him. on this day, butler recognized the heroics of african-american troops and he decided to commemorate them by having this struck. medal wasas not uncommon, but it a rarity for african american troops and it may be the only one of its kind struck as a presentation piece for african-american soldiers. valerie: we have a slide after the war of african-american
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musicians if we can see the next slide please. just for a little sense of dignity and decorum. back to the butler metal. it marked a specific battle and celebrated a specific regiment. tell us a little bit more about this extremely rare object and your historical copy of it. viewd: there were struck a in silver and the rest in bronze. and others.officers we have one of the sore copies. it is beautifully designed, ornate, and it has a hole of the top so it can be fastened to the uniform like any other medal. the hierarchy of the military
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didn't like them. --y judge this metal to be they judged this medal to be unofficial. they always wore it on the others of their lapel. kind of flashed to each other although my jacket is too dark to show my flashing. they did that when they met at reunions. butler is said to have worn his always on the inside of his lapel as well as a token of respect. it is really beautiful. 200 soldiers received a pity that. it's they could not wear them proudly. harold: the slogan is great. will be baredom by the sword. it is an early acknowledgment of
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african-americans contribution in the effort to create their own freedom. yes, the emancipation proclamation created the legal framework for freedom. the u.s. colored troops had to fight for it in battle. .ere they are i want to read one thing that butler wrote about this medal. made toe fullest report may of the bravery of colored men. niekroone for the soldiers by my own order with the government has never done for his white soldiers. thed a medal struck of size, weight, quality, of which queen victoria gave to her distinguished private soldiers. at little boastful, but he was very very proud. i have been fully rewarded, he
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concluded. by seeing the beaming eye of many a colored comrade as he to the innermost recesses of his concealment. they share it almost like a secret code. valerie: that's lovely. it's a fascinating story and a fascinating man. how wonderful that we have this object. our q&a portion of the evening. butler and abolitionist before entering the army? was he a political appointee? he was not an abolitionist before entering the army. was pro-buchanan, pro-pierce. divisions in 1860 was to make jefferson davis, a slaveholder, president of the
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united states not abraham lincoln. he grew by leaps and bounds. some said he went from a white supremacist to a white supremacists worst nightmare. evolution was dictated by what he observed of african-americans and what they did on the battlefield. abolitionist who put his own life on the line to procure freedom and help african-americans procure freedom for themselves. --erie: political appointee, harold: he was an elected official. he had a political career after the civil war. there was even talk of his running for president after the war. know what those campaign posters would have looked like. a little strange.
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he was definitely commissioned by abraham lincoln to serve in the armed forces. he had a career of his own. question.ext who was the person who took the first real circulating photo of ulysses s grant and how to the false actor that we showed get exposed? pictureid the false that we showed get exposed? orold: that is a stump --stumper who took the first photograph. grant did have a long beard. in the early days on campaign. supposedly, his wife came to camp, saw him and said this will never do.
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it's time for the barber to trim the beard. that's when he got the rounded beard that became his trademark. we don't know who took the first picture. the false picture, how is that exposed? it was a bearded soongraph that came out thereafter the real grant. the grant of the shorter beard became the subject of artists and photographers in 62 and 63. by 64 and 65, he was photographed so constantly that it was hard to create -- there is a great story about being photographed shows his, the same flaw it must've been exactly the way he was in battle when he was unperturbed by
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bullets and tillery fire. he was posing for a photograph once under a skylight. studios had to be lit by the sun usually on the top. it was the top floor of a commercial building. suddenly, for no particular reason, the skylight shattered and fell to the floor with pieces hitting him and falling all around him. i don't know how he could have known if it was an accident or an assassination attempt. he never broke his pose. immobilizert the that he had been fastened into as was the custom of the day. he continued to pose and they took the picture. [laughter] valerie: next question. did great realize he made a bad decision on jewish soldiers and he later tried to make amends to jews when he became president? arold: he did realize it was
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mistake and his wife was rueful in his favorite memoir. grant saidir, julia it was the stupidest thing he had ever done. and did he do penance? absolutely. he was really in trouble with jewish voters in new york and his first campaign for the presidency. opposition made it a very close election in new york state. closer than it should have been. washington, grant went to a friday night sabbath at the temple in washington. he sat there, not understanding the service, and appointed jews to more government post than any
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previous president. attone and was very much accepted and celebrated by jews in washington after that. here's another question about grant and anti-semitism. was he an anti-semite earlier in his life? culturethe army and the , the civilian culture, were both rife with anti-semitism. had an almost tradition of anti-semitism. the editorials published in the north and south in the early days of the civil war, there was a lot of blame or mercenary jews activities for profiteering, for making shoddy clothing.
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it was rampant in the culture. was he an anti-semite? i guess in the way he was a slaveholder, but later became the enemy of the kkk. he was probably anti-semitic. he had a father who was a character and always trying to make money off of his sons name. one of the things that triggered his notorious order expelling juice was the fact that his father -- notorious order expelling jews was that his father turned up in his camp one day with his new partner who happened to be jewish. they were both looking for ways to exploit the situation for profit. there was money to be made in selling things to soldiers who were bereft of the things that made civilian life endurable. he couldn't smack his father or throw him in jail so
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manifested the jews by his father's business partner. american jewish leaders immediately went to lincoln to protest this order. some very famous rabbis. lincoln received them and he said we comehave to abraham for relief. lincoln immediately saw the justice of their complaint and he countermanded grants order. he was very careful about it. this shows how savvy lincoln was. he ordered another general to countermand order. he did not want to publicly rebuke a general who had done so well. grant to take to drink.
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he handled it gently, but he did reverse it. valerie: one more grant question. what was his feeling about using black troops? there are several schools of thought on that. i would say, at the very outset -- 1ng march 18 233 1863 -- -- ultimately, you have a revolution and thought when you see soldiers in action. once he thought about the heroics of black troops in battery wagoner and the mistreatment of african-american troops confederate generals who threatened to send black troops into savory and some were not
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slaves to begin with or massacred african-american soldiers after they had thrown down their arms and surrendered, lincoln was furious. grant was furious. he watched black soldiers performing once he came east and then he became their champion. oferie: still on the topic black troops, a question about butler. did he form the first fully black regiment? harold: no. the first was the 54th headed by a young colonel who went to his death at fort wagoner and was buried in a mass grave with his soldiers. indiscriminatew and frightening some of the rage the greatnuments are,
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augustine singh gardens relief sculpture was defaced with paint up in massachusetts. some people object to the hierarchy of the picture as they did to the theodore roosevelt and our neighbor museum of natural history because the white kernel is shown on a horse and the black soldiers are marching on foot. that was how it was. he was the officer, he was on horseback. the soldiers were on foot. the same one grant came by his soldiers. anyway, just as an aside. no, he didn't form the first or any black regiment. he inherited it when he came -- became the general of the army. valerie: here's some foreshadowing of our final
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episode. a question about grant and lee. were they ever friends before or after the war? harold: this color once me to give away one of the big punchlines of next week, our final episode but i will do it. new -- knew lee but lee did not know grant. grant feelings were hurt. exalted figure in the war. men and commander of grant was in charge of supplies. showed off his organizational skills, but he did not become well-known to some of his [indiscernible] evidently. valerie: stay tuned for next week for the answer to the question.
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is, did generals stay out of the line of fire to avoid getting killed? if so, did some generals like seeing theirt not lives with their men? harold: our program is called the modern major generals. the modern major general did not get on a horse and lead men into battle. they stood back, they got messages from their commanders. they instructed lines of men to move this way and that way. if they got an ideal position to observe from a height, they soldiers waves of ebbing and flowing. the painting that we talked about the beginning of the show today shows him not with a gun or rifle but holding binoculars. it looks almost a little dainty.
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it does not look very tough. that is what they did. they had telescopes and an ocular's to see the action. binoculars toand see the action. grant was certainly not a coward. the most efficient use of his time and space was to be observing the whole field. we have come to the end of our time. it flew by. watchingeryone who was us will join me in thanking harold holzer for sharing his time and expertise. it is always a delight to be in conversation with you. we want to thank you for your interest and your questions and your support.
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have a good night and we will see you next week. >> learn more about the people and events that shape the civil war and reconstruction every saturday at 6 p.m. eastern only on american history tv here in c-span3. on august 18, 1920, tennessee became the 36th and last state needed to ratify the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. and c-span'sory tv washington journal will mark the 100 anniversary of women's suffrage. the vice chair of the women's suffrage than tenure commission will join us to take calls and tweets during a live program looking at the decades long fight to win the vote. works the 100th anniversary of the 19th
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amendment ratification, giving women the right to vote. next, representatives from several institutions including the national park service, national archives and library of congress talk about their plans for commemorating the centennial and teaching the public about the legacy of women's suffrage. this discussion took place in denver at the national historic preservation's annual conference. >> we will get started. before we officially start i want to acknowledge those of you who may not have heard me say we are recording for c-span. yes, just fyi. all right. thank you for coming today to making the vote count, the legacy of the 19th amendment. this is a learning lab track for celebrating


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