tv The Civil War Little Round Top Union Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain CSPAN December 15, 2020 2:43pm-3:46pm EST
provider. during the week on c-span3, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend. tonight, we look at the constitution and slavery. a law professor and actors who portray free and enslaved african-americans at colonial willamsburg discuss how compromises over slavery played a role in drafting the u.s. constitutional. watch tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span3 and enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend. next on american history tv, a conversation on the strategic importance of little round top during the battle of gettysburg and the role of union colonel joshua lawrence chamberlain. the gettysburg college civil war institute hosted this event which was held by video conference.
>> we have a really great topic tonight because it's a topic that a lot of people visit gettysburg to talk about, to see, to experience, and that is interpretation at little round top and joshua lawrence chamberlain and we -- why did we choose this topic, chris? why did you like this topic? >> why did we choose this topic? i don't know. i think i sort of pushed it. >> oh, did you? >> i did. last fall, chris took my civil war class and he did an incredible job. not just telling us about what happened at little round top, but he also did a really insightful job of helping my students understand the construction of historical narratives and focusing on the differently accounts from joshua
chamb chamberlain. it opened it a different way for my students to understand. and before chris gets going here, i want to do a quick plug for chris. he's a gettysburg college alum. 2004, is that correct? >> i graduated '06. >> '06, 2006. and i believe it was when you started to do some volunteer work for the park? >> my first year at the college i worked at the civil war institute. and then i got a internship at the park working with john and scott. that was my first national park experience. and i fell in love with it. and i've been fortunate to make a career out of it. i wish i was a student now.
the program does amazing things across the parks. the public history minor at the college. so many things that i wish i had at my disposal when i was a student. >> and, i should add, we just hired another civil war historian, jim downs. he's currently at connecticut college. you might have read his book "sick from freedom." and it looks at -- what i would call refugee camps or contraband camps. it's an important, impressive piece of scholarships. the students at gettysburg college will have jim downs to take classes from. >> fantastic. >> yeah. >> see an official announcement? >> yeah, i hope i haven't jumped the gun there. >> breaking news. >> it is kind of breaking. last week, i believe, is when everything was finally settled and he signed on the dotted line, so to speak, he will be
here in the fall. >> awesome. >> that's fantastic. >> fantastic, fantastic. that's great. >> chris, you know, i'll get us started here. you gave us a little bit of background about your early experiences at the park. i just would like to have a sense how visitors came to little round top, who came to the 20th monument, can you tell us what informed their thinking, what were their expectations when they came for one of your tours? >> yes. that's a tough question to be able to answer. when of the things i find fascinating about little round top is you have all of these layers of history kind of stacked up on top of one another. you of course have the prebattle history which is fascinating. you have the battle itself. and then you have kind of the development of the battlefield at little round top. the different organizations and
entities that manage that landscape and that's all fascinating. and then you have this additional layer of kind of popular culture on top of it. so you ask me -- i started with the park in 2003. and if you were to ask me what the kind of general visitor experience was at little round top in 2003, a lot of it was driven by popular culture. the movie "gettysburg," the novel "killer angels." and something about those pieces of work brought the joshua chamberlain to life. early on in my career, "gettysburg" was a touchstone for people. they saw the 17-hour director cut. there's this sense that i've
always had for a lot of visitors who come to little round top, they're trying to commune with the story and the battle with joshua chamberlain, the fight of the 20th main, because it's become a fixture of our american fabric. i want to go to a place like little round top and feel as though they're communing with the authenticity of the hill. you look at little round top, if you were to go to the 20th main monument in 1982, you would barely find a trail out there. it was overgrown. there was no signage. there was no panels. it's evolved so much. now you go and the -- a portion of -- it was once called chamberlain avenue has been repaved. the site gets incredible visitation. it's the single most visited
spot in gettysburg national military parks. we get a little over a million visitors a years and almost all of rocks were here and that -- that sense of again, communing with the spirit of the pass on the hill. today, though, i don't think chamberlain is the -- let me rephrase that, i don't think the movie gettysburg is as significant to our visitors today as it was ten years ago or as it was 15 years ago. in a certain sense, though, joshua chamberlain has kind of -- at least joshua chamberlain, 20th and 21st century has kind of outlived the movie. he's significant now in kind of his own right in terms of all americans who visit little round top in thinking about the past. you can buy t-shirts with joshua
chamberlain's face and go to the chamberlain tavern. you needed joshua chamberlain action figure. he's outlived the popularity of the movie. >> step back a little bit. what do you think about the movie "gettysburg" and focus on its depiction of camber lan and you talk about the combat and you talk about jeff daniels. >> it's tough for me to be able to look at that movie objectively because in a certain sense i'm so emotionally attached to it, right? when did it come out, '92? '93? i'm ten years old and the movie just captivated me. it was amazing. it captivated me. i fell in love with joshua chamberlain with that depiction of the battle. and you know, i dislike -- i dislike it when individuals look
at a movie like gettysburg or the novel of the keller angels and try to pick it apart and try to critique it as a work in history. stephanie -- >> stephanie walters and she was talking about the movie "the patriot" and that movie took incredible liberties with the story of the american revolution and the carolinas. same thing with the hamilton broadway play and it's a wok of art. it draws from the past, but it very much is its kind of its open thing, and the value of those things, qwe"gettysburg," "hamilton" and it's not this forensic analysis of the past and people interested and they ignite some sort of spark that then hopefully and at least
certainly in my case encourages you to want to learn more, to visit places like gettysburg, and the park saw a huge surge from their mid-90s after the movie gettysburg came out and the social trail to the 20th main monument became the joshua chamberlain highway. >> it's like a highway. >> yeah. it's an old road, but it leads you straight down to the spur of the 20th main monument is. >> just as joshua would have wanted it. no doubt. no doubt. >> we can talk about that. but the value of -- of popular culture is that it provides people with that entry point. they're interested, and so i find far more value in those works, those mediums than -- than things i can pick apart and
kind of detract from the film or the play. "hamilton," for example, after that broadway play opened the hamilton national historic site in new york saw an increase in visitation that was 174% higher than what it had been the year before. >> and i'm sure they weren't prepared for it. >> oh, no, no, no. >> right. >> i say this with a great deal of respect for the agency that i work for, but a lot of times the park service is reactionary. >> right. that happened with ken burn, as well. >> that's what i was thinking. with ken burns. >> it was overwhelming. also because that was back in the day when the fall was not particularly busy, right? your season was mostly the summer and burns was written in the fall so they didn't have seasonal staff to absorb the visitation which is always a good problem to have, but yeah,
like you said, it's difficult. >> what i would say, too, to that point is what we're seeing at parks like gettysburg is this kind of evolution in visitation where visitation is on a somewhat downward trajectory. it's not as precipitous as some people make it out to be. it's not as calamitous as some people make it out to be, but what i think is most interesting is patterns of visitation are changing. on a normal day in the summer, it is busy. on a normal day in october, little round top is incredibly busy, incredibly busy. so that idea of the summertime visitation is when people go to parks and we get a ton of people in the fall now. >> yes. yes. yes. >> i mean, they were all over the place, but yeah. that's impressive. >> and they still are. we can talk about that, too, but
the effect that that has had on little round top is increase visitation. people want to go to the hill and they want to go and touch the 20th main monument and they want to climb up on the same boulders that vincent was climbing up on. in terms of the battlefield parks management, little roundtop is what i would call the most fragile park ecosystems for lack of a better word, cultural landscape for lack of a better word. we have erosion, soil compaction, the top line of breast works that had been built initially during the battle and restacked over the years. so it's a very, again, fragile place, but it receives incredible amounts of visitation. >> go right ahead. >> i was just going to say, 2 points, really that my father took me to gettysburg for the first time in 1988.
i had visitation on friday with my father. he took me there and it happened to be the 121st anniversary and he was never in the history. he said i'll take my son to the battlefield and he took me to little round top. that was where we went and that was just the thing. my picture on little round top in 1988. and this little kid standing next to where we fell and it was there, and i'm also wondering, also going to say that we have double the amount of people watching this live than we've ever had and this shows you what little round top is to a lot of people. the name recognition coming around. what about people go up there to see the scope of the battlefield because you can see most of the battlefield other than cobb's hill area, and you can see the scope and you can see clear light up to it on the north end of the field. do you see people doing that just to show case how broad? >> certainly. certainly. >> you know, we're fortunate in
gettysburg that we have this cohort of licensed battlefield guides. so these are essentially contractors or they're self-employed. we've personalized tours of the battlefield and virtually all of them get out of little roundtop. virtually all of them. because there's so much that appeals and it's unique and it's this hillside covered with rocks and boulders. it's just very iconic terrain. >> you can see almost the entirety of the battlefield in there, and you see the value in that and giving people the spas spatial understanding of the battle of the park. it's gorgeous on little round top. watch the sunset over the distant hills and it's such a
pull little round top has on people. >> it's like the gettysburg bucket list and one of those things you've got to do. you have to park your car and walk out to the summit and take that whole expanse in. so we see a lot of that. when you go to little round top at sunset and places. >> we have our childhood memories and a powerful reminder that often that first connection to the past is an imaginative one. it's magical and not necessarily historical, and public historians don't cite that very often and it goes back to the movie itself reminded me of what steven spielberg said when he gave his november 19th address, spielberg did at the national
cemetery in which he made an obvious, but important point. what he does is quite different than what we do with historians and we have different purposes and connect with our audiences in different ways and that visceral linkage and that connection is so vital and that's why it is always so reaffirming in the spring to be driving around the battlefield and seriously, there's just -- wherever you turn there's another school bus ask even if those kids aren't paying the best attention to the guy, and when i see them climbing all over those rocks hoping to god that they don't fall or break an arm and a leg, as they're doing that stuff i'm thinking, you know what? they'll never forget that. hopefully one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, they'll pick up a book and they'll read or think more seriously about the civil war? >> i absolutely agree. and barb sanders who is the education specialist will often tell our young interns or
seasonals, about that very thing and oftentimes we ask them about what propelled you to work at gettysburg and what propelled you to get this internship and more often than not it comes from a shared experience as a child and that mieght be visitig a case like gettysburg and talking about your grandfather and his experience in world war irk i and any host of things and for most visitors to little round top, you alluded to this, pete. for most of us it's not an intellectual exercise. it's an emotional exercise and that's what's pulling them there, but again, the value of that is? -- provides an entry point into the study of the past and hopefully this is something the park service cares deeply about. it's -- it transitions people from not caring about parks of
the past to becoming stewards of the park in the past and a job that the national park service takes very, very seriously and instilling this idea of stewardship and we want to pass this legacy on to our kids. >>. >> so in talking about childhood experiences on the battlefield, i'll bring it back to chamberlain. i was fortunate to get to know alice trulock and her husband jim trulock and alice trulock wrote what i think is the biography of joshua chamberlain that is still exceptional, and she didn't find much fault with joshua chamberlain and she did a lot of research as did her husband. the book is called "the hands of providence" and she told me during the research they met chamberlain's daughter, not
great-granddaughter and she shared with jim trulock some mementos and a range of stories including the story of chamberlain taking his grandchildren to little round top, to the 20th main monument and had her picture taken there, as well and i would love to know what chamberlain said to his grandchildren, but i do recall this that the grandchildren called chamberlain genny for general. so i think that might be a good point here. chris, help us understand how chamberlain made sense and depicted what happened at little round top in the immediate wake of the battle and then we might have some questions or maub our audience might have should questions and take us into the post-war period, if you could, but i think starting right at
the end of the battle, chamberlain writes a series of accounts and how we try to understand how he understood the fighting. >> the first thing, i think, we need to do, pete is we need to recognize that civil war combat is inherently confusing and chaotic and any one individual has a very limited scope and understanding of what they went through and in the case of the battle of gettysburg it's 90 minutes and it's relatively brief and it's confusing. it was chaotic and it was an assault on the senses. it was this -- this crucible of fire and confusion and chamberlain is a brilliant guy. a brilliant, brilliant man. he was -- what i would still call a novice in terms of commanding men in battle.
he'd been in the united states army for less than a year by that point in time. he's in his mid-30s. he fights this 90-minute battle commanding better part of 350 men, and then when all is said and done and all is over, chamberlain as does virtually every other regimental officer in both armies has to write a report that is submitted to his superiors that basically outlines his role in the fighting on little ground. and that's written by chamberlain, i want to say on the 6th of july, 1863 in that battle and in that official report he tries to make sense of what is inherently confusing. and that's kind of chamberlain's first attempt to put into words what he and the surviving men of the 20th main went through b you
what we'll see from joshua chamberlain and it's to get to your point about chamberlain bringing his grandkids to the hill, i think that is something many, many veterans did, and it's a testament to how for joshua chamberlain the battle of gettysburg and more specifically those 90 minutes on little round top would come to define and dominate his life. that's how he understood himself. so everything before is his sterile, academic career. his time at bowden and everything after, the governor of maine, the president of bowden college and all of that is kind of important and it fades in its periphery for joshua chamberlain. chamberlain's life is built on those 90 minutes at little round top and what we see with chamberlain is as time passes, chamberlain's understanding of
what he survived and what he did on the hill kind of evolves, too. it changes. chamberlain write in his life time, depending on how you write, seven accounts of the battle of gettysburg and the fighting of little round top and the first one is july 6, 1863 is his official report. the last one is a magazine article and called through blood and fire of gettysburg and you have all of these other accounts and none of those other accounts agree 100% with the other. they're all departure points. they're all -- they're all slightly different in how chamberlain understands what he did in the hill and what he ordered and what he said and didn't say and his wroel in it. what i would say is throughout this -- this post-war period and this post battle period, chamberlain understands how important that moment was in his
life and he will guard the story of the important of little round top and he will guard it very, very jealously. >> john here, and then you can all respond, as well. chris, your point that there is an evolution in how chamberlain remembered and wrote about the battle, and that his depictions of the battle, there are certain contradictions and tensions among these accounts, so i'm asking you, john, does that make, in your mind, does that make joshua chamberlain unreliable as a historical witness to what happened at little round top? >> that's a great question, because we talked about that the other night with cameron about diaries, memoirs and written well after the fact and when you have these different narratives and they're starting to kind of not jive and starting not to talk to each other, it makes you question some of the legitimacy
of what he is saying, and i know that there are people out there who have questioned that before or there are people like we have in our discussion area online here who are big fans who think that he's a bigger star than chamberlain, but i think that it really makes you, you have to take that into consideration when you look through all of this, right? he says this in the 1860s and 1863 on july 6th and he's saying this in the 1870s and 1880s, and the historical memory of the veteran and show casing what he believes that did himself and what he didn't do himself, and i think that's a timeless thing with some veterans and i really think that we have to take all
six or so of those and put them into perspective. key features or not. >> do you believe the account chamberlain wrote were closer to the event itself. do you believe that those accounts by the very fact that they were closer, and they're trustworthy and should we not be asking that question. >> one, i think everyone wants to be the hero in their own story and that's crew for joshua chamberlain. in terms of this idea that the fact that he writes that initial report after the battle, does that give it a greater degree of authenticity and do you believe that account more? i don't know that that's always the case, pete? i don't know that that's always the case.
i don't know if that's the case with john bachelor and it is the official historian of the battle of gettysburg and the remainder of his life to the battle of gettysburg and he battled little round top by the end of his life, and so, i don't know if that's the truth, pete, and with chamberlain, how his story evolves and morphs. it's -- i don't think it's something he's necessarily doing intentionally to -- to blow his own horn. i think it might be a little bit of that, but what i think he's doing is -- he is hearing all of these other perspectives on the same moment and he's getting combatible with his own understanding of what he had gone through on the hill and the
role that he had played on it, and he alludes to this in his speech after the dedication of the 20th maine monument in the 1880s that men who were there saw things differently. doesn't necessarily mean that they were wrong. they might both be right, and so i think chamberlain ages his understanding of the scope and context of the war and it changes and evolves his understanding of what he did specifically evolves, as well. police interrogators and i say this not from experience, they say that if a person gives them a story and then you call this person back in a day or two later and the person gives the same exact story, nothing changes. nothing. they are suspicious of that individual and the point being that the idea, as i think you've alluded to, chris, and john, as
well that, of course, over time when people write in the account there are things that jar their memory, things that they remember this time or a point that they put more emphasis on and the account that is written and the immediate aftermath is a more truthful account and i don't think it's a very good question and they're not revealing at all. the big question and we'll get back to this at the end because it's a big question that chris raised from our students, and i'm sorry that chris couldn't be in our class the following thursday because many of them said i don't know if there's such thing as truth, and they hadn't quite gone to the post-modernism camp. >> they were -- and i want to be very specific here. now, chris, and john, you can -- if you want to jump in. >> yeah. >> and that is -- was there a
bayonet charge and chamberlain ordered it? first thing i'll say is most of us are familiar with the charge of the 20th maine because of the way it is depicted and the novel of the killer angels and the film gettysburg and what that does is it portrays this moment and the heat of the moment in little round top when the 20th maine is on the verge of collapse. they're out of ammunition. confederates are getting ready to renew their assault and this would be the 14th and 47th alabama, and in a moment of divine inspiration, joshua chamberlain as portrayed by jeff daniels brings all of his company commanders together and brings all of his lieutenants together and there's a lull in the fighting so we can hear everything he's saying and the crescendo dies down and chamberlain gives this very well
choreographed, and orchestrated maneuver that the 20th maine, and the left wing will come into alignment with the right and drive the confederates back and the film gettysburg is portrayed as this well-orchestrated thing. when you read the accounts of the men that were there, the men of the 20th maine, there's not one single individual who remembers that moment in the same way. even joshua chamberlain, when i talked about how chamberlain's narrative changes and evolves over time this bayonet charge and this climactic moment of little roundtop is the perfect example of this and chamberlain in its initial report said i ordered the charge. i ordered the charge, fast forward a few years later, it is now the early 1880s and the
united states government is creating what we call the official records of the war of the rebellion. primary sources on the battle, dispatchers, sources, it's a massive collection and i have some of them over there and they're compiling these reports from the battle of gettysburg and they find out that chamberlain is missing and they make him rewrite it from memory and that's the portion published in the official record and it's not july 6, 1863, report and it's joshua chamberlain in the 1880s trying to remember what he wrote in that initial report and you'll notice differences. so in the original report joshua chamberlain says i ordered the charge. i ordered the charge, and in that original report he has no idea the name of the hill he fought on. he calls it rocky spur or little rocky hill. in the 1880s report that he redid by memory, he says that he
ordered the bayonet. he doesn't say he order the charge. of course, he refer to the hill as little round top. the second in command of the 20th maine, a man by the name of majorelis spear. he's commanding the left wing of the regimen and spear is in many ways the anti-joshua chamberlain mean had a very different understanding of the war and his role in it, and he didn't find anything terrible about the conflict. it was something he was compelled to do, andelis spear wrote, i have no order from chamberlain, and i didn't see anything and the first thing he knows, he sees to his right and sees the letter and he says i guess that's what we'll do, too and that's what happens. >> so the idea that it was this well-orchestrated thing -- no.
it happened, did the men of the 20th main hurl themselves into the round top on to the 15th? yes, it happened. nearly everyone agrees the regimen advanced and they charged down the hill, but no one remembered that moment the same way. >> but now look at the confederate perspective now. what did oats say about the charge and its impact if it had an impact at all? >> william sea oats is the colonel of the 15th alabama and the primary regimen and the 20th maine is facing with little round top, and they will remember the battle for a v variety of reasons and one his brother is killed on the hill and mortally wounded. oats would say that at the time the 20th had advanced he had already made the decision to retreat. he was getting ready to pull back and go up the slopes and he knew he wasn't make anything headway and he said i was ready to fall back anyway and he would
later say of the impact of the charge of the 20th main that they ran like a herd of wild cattle and oats is physically, mentally and emotionally spent. he actually passes out on the summit of big round top. oats would say the charge happened and it was certainly nothing good for the men of the 15th alabama, but that wasn't the pivot point in the story. >> one of the people watching gilbert john asked when was the original 63 report discovered if it was missing for the o.r.s. >> i will say a copy of this was found in the maine state archives up in new england and then actually a supplement to the official report or the official records and i believe his original report may have been re-published and don't
quote me on that either. a cope was forwarded to the governor of maine in 1863 and it was filed away in the maine state ar kiefrs and that is how we got the original report. >> pete usually does, but i'll try this time, but so we have all of this focus on chamberlain and always that he's in our title. who do you think is forgotten about on little round top the most for what their actions were? >> who was forgotten about them the most? that's a tough question. . for a lot of the gettysburg battle buffs we always try to pick out the real hero of little round top. was it tom vincent and was it governor warren and was it joshua chamberlain and was it patrick o'rourke who was killed on the hill and was it charles hazlett whose guns are dragged up the slope and in a certain sense it's a reduction and it's
taking something complex and trying to boil it down to it was this guy, this is the man. >> yeah. >> more often than not, what i find most compelling are the individual soldiers that make up the ranks of the 20th main or the 83rd pennsylvania, and i think for a lot of our interpretive efforts on the hill you spend a lot of time talking about chamberlain and o'rourke and vincent and it's often at the detriment of the rank and file individuals who go to the hill for 90 minutes under inconceivable stress, inconceivable moment, and so i think the rank and file and how they remembered the battle. >> how do you like that answer, pete. i've always been somewhat distressed when people want to
come to any battle and they want to extract a moment from that ballot, and all of what's hinged upon and as chris said it's an incredible reduction and you ask chris something that i've sensed from even my students, but certainly as someone who has gone and given talks and that's the backlash against chamberlain. so can you talk to us a little bit and hopefully you perceive the same thing or i'll have to explain it. what is this backlash. why is it happening? >> here's what i'll say to that. i think there are two backlashes. one happens at the end of chamberlain's life in the 1900s and more recently following the movie gettysburg and kind of the renaissance of chamberlain because he was a relatively --
call him an unknown figure and he wasn't the joshua chamberlain and he receded into the past and became a bit of a footnote and i don't know if this is something that is peculiar -- particularly an american thing to do, whenever anyone gets it too high, we want to drag them down a little bit or maybe we've become a bit skeptical of our heros and so he wants to find some dirt on them and make them human, maybe. i will say there is this kind of backlash against chamberlain, and i think that has nothing to do with joshua chamberlain. i think it has more to do with people in maybe my position or your position who see this focus on this one guy or this one moment in the battle and all of
this intellectual energy is spent talking about joshua chamberlain and the 20th main. there are moments of courage, cowardice and desperation, bravery, ignorance and stupidity all around the battlefield that are just as compelling and that are just as significant as what joshua chamberlain and the 20th maine did. sometimes i think we had this habit of trying to course correct and one individual monopolizes the story too much, and so we pull away from them and sometimes we pull too far away and we become objective when we talk about them. i think that's where we're at right now. >> after this, i think that it's a little bit -- i think it has a lot to do with the lost cause. no one has any issues in focusing on richard-year-old's
mistakes and to say that everything hinged upon nah and no one has reservation as the person that only lee had listened to him things would have turned out differently, but you do this for again, granted you commanded the regimen, but i think what boths those of the lost cause ilk is that they see in chamberlain, a man who had held high ideas about the union call. there was really no abolitionist and certainly he came to understand as others did in the army of the potomac that the union and emancipation were inseparable. what strikes me is the resistance to chamberlain now is much of what you have said and it speaks to what persists and as an interpretive challenge that you, your colleagues, that john and i face and that's -- but the battle of gettysburg is not the battle that we lost. it's the battle that george
boardon meade and the army of the potomac won and it's the battle that they were able to redeem themselves as the army and for the union and emancipation, men died for that and they knew what they were dying for, and i'm not trying to make this war of saints and sinners on the other side, but i'm still shocked by the struggle and the challenge that we all had in getting people to understand that my ideas didn't matter to men on both sides. to both sides, but the cause for union, joshua chamberlain was a believe earn in that, and he was such an eloquent spokesperson for that cause. i just want to say, very quickly. i love gettysburg, and i did my work in the battlefields of virginia, and i just have a little disagreement with chris. joshua chamberlain, he would
probably have argued, i believe, that it was what he did during the last two weeks of the war that were the most important things he ever did. he wrote a book about it. he didn't write a book about little round top. he wrote a book of the passing reca of the armies and he wrote about the little house, and chamberlain is at the center of those battles and he was truly remarkable and he saved the fifth corps at the battle of wide oak road and not to mention his role in the surrender in appomattox. gettysburg was something that chamberlain drew immense pride from. he was very territorial in terms of this is my site. this is my battle, and i want people to understand it my way. we should not forget what joshua chamberlain did during those last few weeks of the war and the passing of the armies is a brilliant book. >> what about, chris, with
the -- there was a book several years ago the that talked about the myth of little round top and saying how important it was and we had a question from tom shea that said i would love to see what the rebels would have done and it seems like a small artillery platform and the 6th corps would be able to retake it. was it an area of significance? we have been led to believe or is that more something that came along later through the eyes of the veterans? >> you know, i'm not a tactician. i'm not a strategist. the hill was important. george meade says it. governor warren says it and there isn't anything getting around that and the hill is significant. if the confederates are able on july t july 2nd to take the main union line and they're able to gain little round top and they're able to gain cemetery hill or
cemetery ridge and union troops can't drive them off, the union army and its position on gettysburg is untenable. so i think there is danger of blowing the story out of little round top out of reasonable proportion and it was one part of a -- much larger battle. if the confederates had taken the hill, i have no idea what happened, i have no idea. it is full of contingency, right? where one thing is dependent on the other and one event is hinged upon this other event, and i think the artillery platform on little roundtop, we make too much of that. if confederates take little round top and if they can hold it, the wheatfield road is off-limits to the union army and the tawny town road becomes untenable so the union army and that's an incredible significant roadway, and it's retreat communication, you name it, and
if confederates take the hill, the union army will have to respond, whether they would be able to draw it, i have no idea. >> whether or not after the confederates have fought for 90 minutes for any rugged terrain for any duration. >> i think a more interesting question is why did certain participants feel the way that they did about it? >> what was it that chamberlain thought about little round top or was it governor warren thought about little round top in its for the, to me, that's a much more interesting question than just trying to divine had the confederates taking the hill. if they get any stretch of the union battle line and they'll hold it? a dire situation for the army at the potomac. >> chris, you just said how we
remember the battlefield. i find it an interesting story that you told me and little round top and it involves the rock wall and joshua chamberlain's more than frustration about the rock wall. can you tell us how that historic landscape and how he wanted it to be reconstructed? it's fascinating. >> this gets back to little round top as the defining moment if chamberlain's life, and i agree with you, pete. the last few weeks of the war for chamberlain are incredibly important. obviously, he writes this massive tone about the last months of the army of the potomac following them from five forks all of the way to the grand butte view. it's little round top that he petitions to get for. it's little round top that he
visits time and time again and it's little round top that he again, guards very jealously, and chamberlain understood, i think, as well as anyone the power of place and he has this off-quoted line about gettysburg being this vision place of souls and men and women from afar and generations that know that we know not of to see where great things were done for them and i butchered that quote, as well. and i think that's how he understands little round top and that's where his story will be told and his life more than anything else, and the hill speaks for him and for what he did on july 2nd. so if you go to little round top today the monument to the 20th main will be this rocky shelf that juts southeast.
they're on the hill maybe five minutes before confederates attack. they don't have time to pile up rock. they don't have time to entrench or fell trees and they'll use whatever natural protection they can find on the hillside. the undulations in the ground, the boulders and the trees. that's their only protection. they fight for 90 minutes. they drive the confederates back. the war goes on and gettysburg soon becomes a preserved landscape first by the gettysburg battlefield memorial association and then by the war department of the united states government, and the agencies that manage the battlefield park held an enormous amount of challenges and the story of the rock walls on little round tops are a great example of this. as i mentioned, chamberlain and his men had no protection, no walls. they are sensed in the night of big round top to take that summit, and then reinforcements moved basically in behind them
a and occupied that stretch of little round top and they have no idea there will not be more fighting on the hill and they do what soldiers do. they stack up. they build defensive works and that's the rock walls that we see there today. those rock walls were a source of incredible consternation to joshua chamberlain because he didn't want americans in the 1890s or 1990s, he didn't want americans going to that spur and thinking his men had time to build rocks that they had any kind of protection to hide behind. he wanted to convey the idea that for the men of the 20th main this was a stand-up fight between two opposing battle lines and so he would petition the park and he would petition them time and again to have those walls removed from the hill, to have them taken off the spur. again, to convey this impression to visitors that his men didn't
have anything like that, and the head of the war department commission, was a man by the name of john nickelon and he was getting letters from chamberlain up until the last year of his life try tock use whatever he had to get them to move the rock walls. how do you say no to joshua chamberlain was one of the great trials of his life. whaended up happening is the war department created a little tablet no bigger than my laptop, maybe a little bit bigger that today along 6th avenue right beneath one of the walls that he loathed and it said these were built for defense in 1836 and it is the only memorial, macker or tablet they know in the park whose sole function is to correct a misconception.
joshua chamberlain hated those walls and he was so protected of it, that even a breast of stack work is there, and it is still there today. >> can we have chris comment on the books? >> you can have him comment and we can see what we've got. >> joshua chambers' correspondent is two or three different volumes and this is the one edited by thomas de jardine who i believe used to work at the park. >> he's forgotten more than 20th of main and a couple of wonderful books and that one is a great job. you boys from main which is probably the best account of the fighting of 20th of main. >> it used to be thomas
publication, but i don't know, though. >> i think this is available, as well. dejardine did an iconic and brilliant book and it's not called the myths of gettysburg. dwroerm the exa i don't remember the exact title and i hope you can pull it out. >> hallowed ground, perhaps? >> he takes a different number of case studies. >> yes. >> it is just a wide range of things. it is really, really exceedingly well done and in essence sort of various myths and it's really, really well done -- >> it is really well done and chris, i don't know if you have any feel bings about this? >> that is a wonderful book. it's chamberlain's letters post-war and so much of what he writes goes back to the american
civil war. there's a fantastic letter in that book that chamberlain write, i want to say in 1892 and 1893 to alexander webb and webb and chamberlain has this collegial relationship in the world war, and chamberlain desperately, desperately wanted a medal of honor and so he wrote to webb asking how do i get one of these things? [ laughter ] >> that gives me an idea. i didn't know cha chamberlain had petitioned for a medal of honor. i think i'm going to petition for a pulitzer prize. >> i'll get it if i make an appeal. >> here's the thing with chamberlain about the medal of honor. he desperately wanted it. he didn't necessarily want other people ton how desperately he wanted and it he wanted to con straight impression that he felt he deserved it though he wasn't
asking for it. >> wow! >> very washingtonian, almost. >> yeah. it is. in that letter to webb he's talking about how he needs witnesses to testify of his h her -- here's the biography that i mentioned and alice trulock and she co-wrote this book with her husband and both happened to be from indianapolis, and i remember again those conversations that they had with chamberlain's grant daughter and the artifacts that she gave to the trulocks they passed on to chamberlain's home in bowden. i don't know if either ever you have been up to chamberlain's house in bowden?
what struck me was the gift he gave to his wife in part after the war and he could not stop living the war. he's like the high school football player and that's the glory days and he can't get beyond that and i'll never forget looking at the bracelet, the bracelet that he had custom made for his wife and every bracket on that bracelet was the name of one of the battles that chamberlain had fought in. he might as well have given her a bowling ball with that kind of gift. >> correct me if i'm strong the center stone is a red maltese cross, right? >> it's to fanny. it's to his wife and he's writing about strom vincent and they had pooled their money to
buy a pendant of sorts and he put a picture of strom vincent and a lock of his hair and they give it to strom vincent's widow and it was so amazing because he writes about taking that pendant and waving it in front of himself and almost put him in that hypnotized state and he felt this deep sense of melancholy and connection, but obviously, very moved by the last line in which he reminded his wife that he and his fellow officer his not succumbed to savagery. that they had still been able to retain a sense of civilized and decent and christian men. those laters, if you can piece them all together because they are published in different accounts from the private letters, it really is quite remarkable and then you get it out of the battlefield with someone like chris gwen, and i won't get into details about you
the things i got wrong out there. the coach finally has me set and chris, unfortunately, i don't want to say anything, but it is true with his current position and he is chief of interpretation. he is responsible for getting his team prepared and ready to go out to the field which mean, what? like any good officer, he is often behind the lines which is a damn shame because you all can tell he is a hefl an interpreter. so i hope, chris, you will make an appearance from time to time and out on the field where you belong. >> yeah. >> any time. any time. >> absolutely. absolutely. i do have one question and that is from our friend ron tracy and he says do you see other individuals fighting against little round top or are they
content saying they increased the profile of the location? >> yes. even people within the 20th main and later in life pushes back on chamberlain's story and oliver wilcox, norton who is the bugler of strom vincent is another example of that, and there is very interesting correspondence betweenelis sphe betweenelis ellis sphere, and he starts to refer to chamberlain's colossal egotism and it was when he was president of the college and he is a graduate and on the board of directors and something like that, but it's commencement and all of the students and faculty and they're all sitting in an auditorium and chamberlain walks in and his academic regalia and goes down the center
of the aisle and ellis spear sees two students turn and whisper to each other and they say in this hushed tone, there goes the man that took little round top and chamberlain heard this and he stopped and turned to the young students and said something to the effect of yes, i took it and held it, too, and continued walking and spear overheard this and he would write to oliver wilcox norton it seemed as though chamberlain was stealing from the dead and he said no. that title belongs to strom vincent. >> wow. wow. very neat. >> that's a great way to end. >> during the week on c-span3, we are featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend. tonight, we look at the constitution and slavery. a law professor and actors who portray free and enslaved african-americans at colonial williamsburg discusses how
compromises over slavery played a role in drafting the constitution. the colonial williamsburg foundation hosted the event. watch tonight on c-span3 and enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend. >> next, a conversation with former gettysburg national military park historian scott hartwig about his book on the battle of antietam, and he talks about the new gettysburg visitors center and how he started researching the battle of antietam. this video is provided by the gettysburg college civil war institute. >> today we're going to talk about scott's book. unfortunately not -- there we go. not published by unc, but published by johns hopkins. i'd say that not to lament the fact that this is not in the series which i wished it was and the discount code and that's why i'm telling