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tv   The Civil War Harold Holzer on Civil War Objects  CSPAN  August 20, 2020 9:31pm-10:18pm EDT

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hosted by thomas jefferson samantha cello. it focuses on how depictions of slavery and jefferson's life have changed over recent decades. watch friday, beginning at eight eastern. enjoy american history tv this weekend every weekend on c-span three. >> next, on the civil war, historian harold hoser and valerie paley talk about artifacts featured in their joint publication, the civil war in 50 objects. in this program they discuss objects and images related to union army general ulysses grant and benjamin butler. the conversation took place on line in the new york historical society provided the video. >> good evening. welcome to this next topic. modern meter generals. first i want to remind everyone that tonight's program, which is being recorded for the last approximately 45 minutes, this
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includes 15 minutes for questions and answers. please submit your questions in the question and answer function at any time during the top. we will do to respond to as many as possible for the final part of the program. now, modern meter major generals. some of our viewers have commented on our approach to the civil war in 50 objects. while the multi layered social and political history takes in the totality of the context of the war, it doesn't really consider the military's history or the sequence. when you think about that? >> it is a fair enough comment, of course. the objects that we are discussing are all in some way related to new york history, so it relates to the soldiers who served, the leaders who helped or hindered the war effort. the relics they brought back from battle. along the way, over the last
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seven weeks, we touched on battles, those who experienced, certainly the battle of new york city. early on we dealt with a (inaudible) lot a lot >> indeed. we are doing okay. >> that is a fair comment. >> i agree. tonight's program features to objects. the ulysses grand portrait and a coin by benjamin franklin who designed this. first up, the land in portrait of grant. it's 1864. ulysses grant arrives in washington to receive his promotion from lieutenant general. this is the first of george
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washington to achieve that. he raises eyebrows when he tries to register at the hotel. why? >> he gets to the willard hotel and he had been to washington quite seldom. he asks for room. he is with his little boy, by the way. the desk clerk gives that desk clerk kind of look. if there are any movie busts out there, and says we have no room. and they say well we have a room up in the attic. he says he will take it. he takes the letter from those days. you signed a book. he wrote u.s. grant and son. he turned it around and the desk clerk looked at it and if -- everything popped out of the size. he said mr. grant, we have a
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wonderful suite for you. i believe they gave him a sweet that lincoln state and overlooking 14th street. suddenly, he was treated like royalty, but it goes to show you what a simple he suite had and ostentatiously he presented himself on the eve of the moment when he's going to be come ranked alongside washington in the military. >> truly. he was scruffy and unkempt. he was so averse to pretension, that this is in many ways, you set a foundation evan or is this double public image. how so? >> he had been a preceded and command by general wind field -- was quite -- with swords. he was 70 years old. he has a feathered try calm
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hat. then by george mcclelland who is called a little napoleon because he also had a favorite ornate -- by contrast trust in a field uniform. he chomped down cigars. once the country found out after he became famous that he like cigars, he was bombarded with cigars. this became his cachet, kind of a reversed lori and he didn't care about himself. he was unpretentious about himself. his unpretentious-ness, we should add, helped him live down to negative. to crippling negatives. one were rumors about his excessive drinking, which were true to a degree. he did binge drink and he was a bad drinker. he was a bad drunk. when he was unoccupied he drank.
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he had a camp that watched out for his not getting hold of the bottle. he was also at this point in washington, living down and active overt, active antisemitism that any military commander had had promulgated in american history at that point. he ordered clear his entire command in the west of old cheese. essentially, triggering -- because he was annoyed by jewish traders that had begun to treat in his camp. he had to look down a bit and i think his lack of pretension get him -- helped him. >> he first catapulted to national attention in february 1862 by capturing -- how did the press characterize the man at that event?
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>>'s u.s. grant, which was his fortuitously, late in life monogram, became unconditional surrender graham, because he demanded unconditional surrender. the union was starting for victory. he became a celebrity overnight. the visual media could not quite keep up with the celebrity. here we see an early image of grant. it is an image of grant. it just happens not to be ulysses grunt. someone found an image of a guy named william grant. he was a contractor in illinois. since grant -- they just got this out to the weekly newspapers, and this was the image of grant people first saw. notice he's wearing a feathered hat. very long beard. >> he was so obscure they didn't even know -- >> they did not know it was not
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grant. >> here is the real grant with an image of him in the field. the next slide. it's interesting. he had a camp artist in his midst. tell us a little bit about this famous portrait? >> this is a very casual photograph of grant. i will add that this is a pretty rare one in the collection. grant was photographed more than any american in his time. i'm convinced of it. frederick douglass maybe a close competitor. but grant always had the title. posts a remarkably candid photograph. the southern man also had a camp artist following george washington as we say, the
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previous lieutenant general. sean was very well trained painter who followed him to chat a new guy and was very well received. grant liked it and it was shipped back to washington where was displayed in the u.s. capital. it obliged abraham lincoln to look at it because grant had become so popular. . it would be a disrespect for lincoln ought to look at. it he had protests -- he had photographers. managed to maintain a homespun image, very much like abraham lincoln. >> these depictions also served a purpose as far as grant supporters were concerned, not only to elevate him in terms of military rank, but perhaps to
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put him in the public eye politically. did images really have that sort of power to do such a thing? >> yes. i think how successful abraham lincoln was as a presidential candidate when images of him began circulating in 1860. i think they had a huge effect. images were not as promiscuous as they are now. you could not find them on the internet because there was no electricity. you cannot find them in magazines or newspapers. they were sought after. we were hung on walls. in family albums. yes, the grant victories early in the war and lincoln's seeming inability to maintain control of the civil government in the wake of emancipation proclamation encouraged a lot of grant admirers to propose that he either replace grant, the republican ticket, an 1864, or to be the democratic nominee,
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since grant was not known to have any politics, and issue politics generally. he did not even vote. he was put forth as a potential candidate, and by the way, lincoln would not entertain the idea of promoting him to it lieutenant general until he had backdoor insurances that grant had no such plans. despite all the brouhaha, he wrote to the chairman of the dnc and said i have no political ambitions in either party. that satisfied lincoln. but the image is almost -- advanced him as a candidate will before grant was ready. >> interesting. back to grant who makes it to washington to receive his third start. lincoln at the white house -- the torrents of guests had trouble finding him in the
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crowd. he was a slightly build hero. he did not know he was slightly built. what did he do at this party? >> first of all him at abraham lincoln who is easy to see in a crowd. he was six feet four. average men were about five foot four or five. grant simply climbed up with lincoln's encouragement on a set tee so he can be seen it above the crowd. this was not calculated to please the first lady where they spend a fortune in money -- she took an immediate dislike to grant and his wife. her dislike extended to julia. but this crushing scene was immortalized by peter's painting called the republican court at the white house. by the way, this was the first time that abraham lincoln never
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met ulysses us grant, and later the retreated to the cabin room in a more private scene. lincoln conferred his promotion. >> in the painting, grant is standing on a pedestal as opposed to a sofa. >> yes. >> more and more images proliferated of grant in the final year of the war. he found time to post photographs in the field and sometimes in the studio. sometimes we saw him in softer domestic scenes later on, like this one with his family. a rare portrait collection from the historical. it makes him look a lot softer. a home body, i guess. more typically, you see portraits of him in uniforms like this.
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after the war, every northern hospital union league club, veterans organization commissioned a grant portrait painting for its walls. one of the best you say, as our first object this evening, which is the james read landon portrait of grant. what is so special about this painting? >> i hope everyone sees that there is some relationship to the photograph we just had. landon was a veteran portrait painter. he had done shawn marshall, other celebrities, thomas sully. he had done webster, lincoln. where he was about to do lincoln. yes, like many capable painters, he flourished in the postwar, raged to have grant portraits for clubs and halls.
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veteran organizations. this is one of those portraits. i love it, because it really reflects grand's casual self confidence. hand and pocket. wearing a uniform. calmly and command as all of the portraits showed him. by the way, speaking of politics, you mentioned 1868 as the date has painting was completed, and there is a political story as well. three years after lincoln's death with andrew johnson -- to run for a term in his own right. -- impeachment, barely. grant is the obvious choice. he is a candidate. these are the paintings that services posters. note that these campaign posters do not take a matter of military uniform. they are there to remind people
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that he is the hero of the war. he won the contest in the union. by the way, why is he successful? i think in a way, there is a pattern to the way americans deal politically with war heroes. scott grant was the hero of the mexican war but he did not win. exact retailer who grant really modeled himself after, won the presidential election. grant won the presidential election. look at 1952. dwight eisenhower. again, another general who had gone to peacetime but remember it is a horror war hero, was recruited by democrats -- not douglas mcarthur. but dwight eisenhower. there is a pattern here.
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grant wrote right into the storyline. >> interesting. the storyline, obviously continues and we remember grant as one who saved the union and in fact, but today with monuments and statues, we recently have seen a grand statue topple, which is somewhat unfortunate. you want to comment on that? >> i have been writing a lot and speaking a lot on statues. this is a sight of it we should only look for a moment. it was toppled and defaced and golden gate park along with the statue of -- i understand the rationale but i don't agree with vandalism. grant is a mystery. the explanation we heard is that he was the last american president to own a human being. he was given the gift of an
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enslaved person by his father in law. granted use him and did not pay him, but he did also liberate him and gave him his freedom. no president -- in the 19th century than ulysses grant. he fought for constitutional amendments, voting rights. he battled the ku klux klan to a standstill before he gave up presidency. i think it's tragic, really, and one hopes that the pent up rage about monumental lies-ing american heroes without really understanding of the nuances and the stories calms down a bit so we can look at this on a case by case basis. >> absolutely. our next object. it's a coin. designed by major general benjamin franklin butler.
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we see a coin designer or major general? >> on he is a complicated, bizarre, controversial figure. he was a democrat in politics and massachusetts. he was a businessman. he owned a middle. very successful. he was a white supremacist in as late as 1860. he supported jefferson davis, the president of the united states at the democratic convention of 1860. even supported stephen douglas, the southern democrat john -- 1860. he ran for governor and lost. when the more breaks out, he is such a staunch unionist that he raises a militia brigade in massachusetts, and immediately touches on controversy, because
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he has the army by his units and uniforms from his own unit. not a cool move. there is a little bit of corruption and his story as well. >> why does lincoln appoint a major general in the union army? >> because lincoln did not want the war to be a professional war -- west point soldiers. he did not just wanted to be a war of republican generals. he made a big effort to recruit democratic generals. unfortunately, they appointed butler so quickly, that he had high rank in the military, which turned out to be a problem. >> he was a real character, though. he was very grotesque. we have an image of him. he has a rags to riches kind of
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life. he supported conservative democrats. needless to say, he was a provocative figure as you say. what things did he do exactly to stir up controversy? >> as you say, he was not the most easy on the eyes, as the saying goes. so he goes into the service and he winds up at fortress monroe and virginia. one day, an african american rose up to in a row boat and is taken to his headquarters and says, i have escaped from slavery and i want protection from the union army. this is a year and a half before emancipation. benjamin butler thinks about it. he is a lawyer. skilled lawyer. he says you are the contraband of war. i take you. i accept you.
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then more african americans enslaved people liberated themselves, and that is where the term contraband comes from. that is the term for people who escaped slavery on their own but were not -- their freedom was not guaranteed by executive order or legislation. butler becomes a hero in the early movement for freedom and recognition of the earning of enslaved people for their own liberation. he is transferred to new orleans where he makes his greatest mark, i suppose, in a negative way. he takes his army all the way to new orleans. you orleans -- butler marches in, declares himself the concord of new orleans anyway. he establishes a command there, which is more controversial in terms of anything he has done in his career.
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one thing, when his soldiers are bat 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. he says if any women -- let's go to the next slide. if any women are caught treating union soldiers with disrespect, they will be regarded and held liable to be treated as the women of the town -- that's a nice way of saying you will be arrested for prostitution. the spinning stopped. butler was kind of a brutal occupying force all to himself. he was alleged to have made corrupt bargains with consulate officers. he stole the piece of the
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action. he was allegedly confiscating spoons from plantation owners so he became known as the spoons butler. eventually he was relieved of his command and sent away to his next controversial assignment. that is when the story picks up and it explains the metal. >> before we leave new orleans, along with all the stuff he did. the sanitary conditions. the yellow fever. he left the city wealthier than when he arrived. that covers an interesting silver lining. >> he was a good organizer. he whipped the town into shape. he was a person -- any person caught dragging an american flag through the streets was hanged. i think his occupying record
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will remain undisputed for generations. >> this brings us to late september 1864 as he observes an all-black regiment fighting at new market heights near the confederate capital of richmond. what happens? >> he is not only observing. he is commanding. one fifth of his force is occupying american troops. u.s. calling troops. half of them die in this assault. butler dug really badly. all of his campaigns -- he did not do well that they. he would go on to do terrible at the ballot and north carolina. he would finally be relieved by grant. he couldn't stand him. but on this day, butler recognized this heroic african american troops and decided to commemorate them by having this medal struck to presented them
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in a kind of a kingly gesture. it was not uncommon, but it was 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. >> we have a slight after the war with south african -- south american -- african american musicians. if we could see the next slide, please. the butler metal -- it marked a specific battle and celebrated a specific regiment. tell us a little bit more about this extremely rare object in the historical's.
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>> if you were in silver and the rest and bronze, four officers and grunts. we have one of the silver copies. you see it. it's beautifully designed, ornate, it's got a hole at the top so it could be fastened to the uniform like any other metal, but of course, the hierarchy of the military did not like them. so they judged this metal to be an official. it was never designated as an official token of esteem for these brave soldiers. they always wore it on the other side of their lapel and kind of flashed to each other. they flashed to each other when they met at the unions. in sympathy, butler always word in the inside of his lapel as
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well. it's really beautiful. if you look at the other side. >> 200 soldiers received these medals. what a pity that they could not actually wear them on their uniforms proudly. >> i love the slogan. it means freedom will be there is by the sword. it's in latin. it's an early acknowledgment of african americans contributions in the effort to create their own freedom. yes, the emancipation proclamation created a legal framework for freedom, but the u.s. call and troops had been to fight for a model against those who would remain their oppressors. -- i just want to read something that butler wrote about this. have the full of three made to me,.
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so they shared it almost like a secret code. >> what a fascinating story and the fascinating man. wouldn't -- that takes us to our question and answer portion of the evening. we have a question. was general butler and
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abolitionists before entering the army and we see a political appointee? >> he was not an abolitionist before entering the army. he was sort of pro buchanan, pro pierce. -- the nation's divisions in 1860 was to make jefferson davis, averaging a slave holder president of the united states, not abraham lincoln. but he clearly grew by leaps and bounds. i think we said in the book that he went from a white supremacist to a white supremacists word worst nightmare. like many, his evolution was dictated by what he observed and african americans and what they did on the battlefield. ultimately, an abolitionist would put his own life on the line and help african americans procure freedom for themselves.
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>> -- >> he was an elected official. he had a political career. it was even talk about him running for president after the war. of course that's what those campaign posters would have looked light. really strange. he was definitely commission by abraham lincoln to serve in the armed forces. he had an electoral career of his own. >> next question. possibly a stump or. who is the person who took the first real circulating photo of grant? how did the false picture get exposed? >> it's definitely going to remain a stump or. the person who took the first photograph of grant.
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in the absence of available photographs and due to resemblance to the contractor, the earliest grant was this non grant. grant did have a very long beard in the early days on campaign. supposedly his wife came to camp and said, this will never do. it is time for the barber. trim. that is when he got that rounded beard that remained his trademark for the rest of his life. we don't know who took the first picture. >> that's interesting. how did the false picture -- how did it get exposed? >> there was a photograph that came out soon thereafter that was the real grand. then the grant of the shorter beard became the subject of
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artists and photographers in 1863 and 64 and five. he was photographed. a great story about greg being photographed must mean exactly where he was in battle when he was uncluttered by bullets and artillery. he was posing for photographs once under a skylight which was the norm then because studios had to be lit by some, usually on the top floor of a commercial building. on suddenly, for no particular reason the skylight is shattered and fell to the floor pieces hitting him, shards, and falling all around him. i don't know how he could've known whether was an accident or an assassination attempt but he never broke his pose, he
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never left the neck a mobilize or that had been fastened into as was the custom of the day to. it is continued to pose in a took the picture. >> next question. to grant realize he made a bad decision on jewish soldiers did he then later trying to make amends when he became president he did realize. >> he did realize it was a mistake and he was kind of rueful and his most famous memoir. and his wife's men were she pretty well set out right that is the stupidest thing he ever done. and the grandparents? absolutely. first of all he was really in trouble with jewish voters in new york in his first campaign for president. i think jewish opposition made it very close election in new york stay closer than it should
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have been. when he got to washington, grant went to a friday night sabotage service at the synagogue in washington and sat there for hours wearing a top hat and not understanding the all hebrew in part german service for. he appointed used to more government post than any previous president so he did a tone, to use the jewish vernacular. and he was very much accepted in celebrated by jews in washington after that. >> interesting. here's another question about grants and antisemitism. was he in fact an antisemite air earlier in his life? >> you know i think that the army in the culture, the civilian culture were both rife with antisemitism.
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the military had almost a tradition of antisemitism if you read the editorials published in the north and south and the early days of the civil war, there was a lot of blame attributed to jews or mercenary activities for profiteering, for making shoddy clothes. it was rampant in the culture so was he an antisemite? i guess the same way he was a slave over that later became the enemy of the ku klux klan, he was probably antisemitic. he had a father who was a character and always trying to make money off his son's faith. one of the things that triggered his notorious order expelling jews was the fact that his father turned up in
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his camp one day with his new business partner who happen to be jewish. both of them were looking for ways to exploit the situation for profit. there was money to be made and selling things to soldiers who would be rough them the things that may civilian life and durable. grant couldn't smack his father thrown into jail so he attacked the jews. it's interesting, american jewish leaders immediately went to abraham lincoln to protests this order. some very famous rabbis. lincoln receive them, and he said we've come to father abraham, we've come to abraham for relief. lincoln immediately saw the justice of the complaints and he countermand it grants order.
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but he was very careful about that initials a savvy lincoln was. he ordered general how arc his general and chief to countermand the order because he did not want to publicly review a military man a rebuke actually. the last thing he wanted to do was turn grant off and make him stop or worst take to drink and reaction to an affront. he handled it very well but he did refers the order. >> one more question and that was what was his feeling about using black troops? >> there are several schools of thought on that. i would say at the very outset, meaning march 1863 when black recruitment is authorized, other historians may agree disagree with me. i don't think he was tremendously enthusiastic about it. maybe lawson should maybe more,
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instrumentalist and lincoln. ultimately, you know again, you have a revolution and thought when you see soldiers an action and once he heard the heroics of black troops concerning battles in the mistreatment of african american traps troops by confederate generals who threatened to send black troops back into slavery and some were not flock slays to begin. with or when the confederate massacre black soldiers when they throw down their weapons and surrendered, lincoln is furious, grant was furious. and he watched black soldiers performing once he came east in 1864 and then he became their champion. >> interesting, still on the topic of black troops a question about butler. did he form the first full bore black regiment? >> no he didn't form the first.
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the first was the celebrated 54th massachusetts headed by gold shaw, the very young colonel who went to his death at fort wagner and was buried in a mass grave along with his soldiers. and by the way, just to show how indiscriminate and frightening some of the rage is, the great against saint gardens sculpture of the 54th was defaced with some paint up in massachusetts. again, i think some people object to the hierarchy of the picture as they did to the theater roosevelt had our neighbor the museum of natural history because robert gould showed the white man on a horse and the black soldiers on foot. but that's how it was. he was the officer, he was on
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horseback, the soldiers were on foot. the same one grant came by, the soldiers. anyway, just an aside. it didn't form the first black regiment, even for many black regiment. when he became the commander of the g8 in 1864. >> there something is a foreshadowing of the final episode. question about grant and lee. where they ever friends before or after the war? >> this caller wants me to give away one of the big punchlines of next week, our final episode. but i'll do it. grant newly and lee didn't know grants. how about we leave it at that and tell the story next week when we talk about apple mattocks? lee was more exulted figure in
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the mexican war. . grant was in charge of supplies. it he didn't become well known to some of his >> stay tuned for next week for the answer that question. . to general state of the line of fire devoid getting. kill if so, did some generals like grant chief and not risking their lives with their man? >> that's a great question. our program is called a major modern major general. should be noticed that major modern generals did not get on a horse and lead men into battle. they stay back behind alliance. they got messages from their
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commanders, instructed lines of men to move this way in that they got from position of high they could see soldiers having flowing insults. but as we talked about at the beginning the show tonight, shows him not with a gun but holding binoculars that's grant. almost looks a little dainty, not very tough. that was the way grant and the modern major generals did they had telescopes and binoculars to see the action. all the grant perform some astonishing and acts of bravery during service. he was certainly not a coward. but the most efficient use of his time and space was to be observing the whole field. >> so we've come to the end of
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our time. it just flew by i know everyone who is watching us will join me in thanking harold hold serve for sharing his time and expertise. it is always a delight to be in conversation with euro. we want to thank you for your interest and your questions and your support. have a good night i'll see you next week. >> every saturday at 8 pm eastern on american history tv on c-span three, go inside a different college classroom and hear about topics ranging from the american revolution, civil rights, and u.s. presidents to 9/11. >> thanks for your patience and for logging into class. >> with most college classrooms close because the impact of the coronavirus, watch professors transfer teaching to a virtual setting to engage with her. students >> gorbachev did most of the work to change the soviet union.
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but reagan met him halfway, reagan encouraged him, reagan supported. >> freedom of the press which we'll get to later i should just imagine, madison originally called it freedom freedom of the use of the process, and it is indeed the freedom to print things and publish things, as it is not a freedom for what we call analysis to leave. the press >> lectures in history in american history tv on c-span three. when lectures in history is also available as a podcast find it wireless in about gas. american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span three. in 2015 for our american artifact series, traveled 45 minutes west of new orleans to visit whitney plantation in wallace, louisiana. to learn about the history of slavery in america. following is a conversation hosted by thomas jefferson's
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model cello it. focuses on depictions of slavery and jefferson life have changed over recent decades. watch friday beginning at eight eastern and enjoy american history tv this weekend every weekend on c-span three. up next on the civil war, a story and harold holder and valerie perry of the new york historical society talk about artifacts featured in their joint publication the civil war and 50 objects. in this program they discuss objects at the end of the war, and president likens assassination. this conversation took place on line in the new york historical society provided the video. >> good evening and welcome to the eighth and final episode of history our. tonight's topic is saving the union and ending the civil war at the battlefield and at the ballot box. as usual and i want to remind you which is being recorded will last 45 minutes.
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