Read ND 2008; An Evening With James McPherson

Uploaded by PrairiePublicBcast on 28.03.2012


(male narrator) Award-winning author and historian Dr. James McPherson
was born in Valley City, North Dakota,
in October of 1936.
His ancestors were homesteaders
and had a farm in Page, North Dakota.
Both of his parents attended Jamestown College.
He received a B.A.
from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota,
and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1963.
He is the George Henry Davis Professor Emeritus
of United States history at Princeton University.
Dr. McPherson is an author
and a leading scholar on the American Civil War.
His Pulitzer Prize winning book about the Civil War era,
"Battle Cry of Freedom," was published in 1989.
His most recent book, "Tried by War:
Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief,"
was published early in October of this year.
Dr. McPherson lives with his wife in Princeton, New Jersey.
His favorite ways to relax are
playing tennis and bicycling.
"Read North Dakota" proudly presents
"An evening with James McPherson."

Well, thank you so much for your warm welcome this evenin.
It's a great pleasure to e back here in North Dakota.
I've been back several times since I lived here
from the date of my birth,
which you've just heard about, until
my family moved to Minnesota when I was 6 years old.
I went to first grade in Washburn, North Dakota,
and I've had the great pleasue this evening of meeting
2 people who knew my parents and knew me
when I was a little 5 and 6-year-old boy
in Washburn, North Dakota.
So that's a special dimension, an extra dimension,
to my appearance this evening.
When the American Civil War began
with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April 186,
the United States Presidet Abraham Lincoln
was far less prepared for the task of commander in chief
than was his southern adversary.
Jefferson Davis had graduatd from West Point.
He had commanded a regiment
that fought courageously in the Mexican war,
and he had served
as an outstanding secretary of war
in the Franklin Pierce administration in the 1850s.
While Lincoln's only military experience
had come back in 1832
when he was captain of a militia unit
that saw no action in the Black Hawk War.
During Lincoln's one term in Congress, he made a speeh
in 1848 mocking his own military career.
"Did you know I am a military hero?"
he said on the floor of the House of Representative.
"I fought, bled, and came away
after charges upon the wild onions
and a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes."
So when President Lincoln called
state militia into federal service on April 15, 1861
to put down what he called
"combinations too powerful to be suppressed
by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings,"
he faced a steep learning cure as commander in chief.
He worked hard at that task.
His experience as a largey self-taught lawyer
with a keen analytical mind,
who had once mastered Euclidean geometry
just for mental exercise,
enabled him to learn on the job.
He read and absorbed works on military history and strategy.
He observed the successes and failures of his own
and the enemy's military commanders
and drew apt conclusions.
He made mistakes and learned from them.
He applied his large quotiet of common sense
to slice through the obfuscations
and excuses of military subordinates.
By 1862, his grasp of strategy and operations was firm enough
almost to justify the overstated,
but not entirely wrong conclusion
of historian T. Harry Williams,
who more than half a century ago wrote
a classic work called "Lincoln and his Generals"
Williams wrote, "Lincoln stans out as a great war president,
probably the greatest in our history,
and a great natural strategis,
a better one than any of his generals."
The one part of that statement that I would quarrel with is
the reference to Lincoln as a great "natural" strategis.
I don't think that was true.
I think he had to work very hard at it,
and he finally did master i.
As commander in chief in tie of war, a president performs
or oversees 3 and possibly 4 functions
in diminishing order of direct activity.
First, policy;
2nd, national strategy;
3rd, military strategy;
and finally operations, military operations.
Neither Lincoln nor anyone ele defined these functions
in a systematic way during the Civil War.
If they had, their definitions
might have sounded something like this.
Policy refers to war aims,
the political goals of the nation in time of war.
National strategy refers to mobilization of the political,
economic, diplomatic, and psychological,
as well as military resources of the nation
to achieve those war aims.
Military strategy is fairly obvious, I think.
It refers to plans for the employment of armed forces
to win victories that will
further the political goas that will win the war.
Operations refers to the actul organization, logistics,
and movements of armies in particular campaigns
to carry out the purposes of military strategy.
As president of the nation and leader of his party,
as well as commander in chief,
Lincoln was principally responsible
for shaping and defining national policy.
From first to last, that policy was preservation
of the United States as one nation, indivisibl,
and as a republic based on majority rule,
the same majority rule tht had put Lincoln in office.
In May 1861, he explained that, "The central idea
pervading the struggle is the necessity that is upon us,
of proving that popular government is not an absurdit.
We must settle this question now,
whether in a free governmen, the minority have the right
to break up the government whenever they choose."
On another occasion, Lincoln described succession
as "the essence of anarchy,"
because if one state may secede, it will,
so may any other,
until there is no government and no nation.
In the Gettysburg address, Lincoln offered
his most eloquent statemet of policy.
"The war was a test whether the nation conceived in 177,
might live or would perish from the earth."
This issue of national sovereignty
over a union of all the states
was for Lincoln, nonnegotiable.
No compromise between a sovereign United States
and a separately sovereign Confederate States
was possible.
"This issue," Lincoln said in 1864,
"is distinctive, simple, and inflexible.
It is an issue, which can only be tried by war,"
that's where I got the title for the book,
"and decided by victory."
The next level of Lincolns duty as commander in chief
was to mobilize the means to achieve that policy
by winning the war.
The president, of course, shared with Congress
and key Cabinet members the tasks of raising, organizin,
and sustaining an Army and Navy;
preventing foreign interventin in the conflict;
and maintaining public support for the war.
But no matter how much these functions of national strategy
required maximum effort at all levels
of government and society, the ultimate responsibiliy
was the president's in his dual roles
as head of government and commander in chief.
And this responsibility ws
as much a political as a military one,
especially in a civil war, whose origins lay
in an internal political conflict
and had been precipitated by political decisions.
Although Lincoln never red Carl von Clausewitz's
famous treatus "Vom Kriege," or in English, "On War,"
his actions were a consummate expression
of Clausewitz's central argument.
"The political objective is the goal,
war is the means of reaching it,
and means can never be considered
in isolation from their purpose.
Therefore it is clear that war
should never be thought of as something autonomous,
but always as an instrument of policy."
Some professional military men
tended to think of war as something autonomous
and deplored the intrusion
of political consideratios into military matters.
Take the notable example
of what were called "political generals,"
prominent politicians whom both Jefferson Davis
and Abraham Lincoln appointed as brigadier or major general,
but these people were more prominent and more frequent,
more numerous, in the North.
Lincoln appointed several prominent politicians
with little or no military training or experience
to the rank of brigadier or major general.
Some of them received these appointments
so early in the war that by seniority, they subsequently
outranked professional West Point educated officer.
Lincoln also commissioned important ethnic leaders
as generals with little regard to their military merits.
Some of these political and ethnic generals
proved to be incompetent on the battlefield.
As one of the consummate professionals,
Henry W. Halleck who was general in chief
from 1862 to 1864
put it in a letter to Generl William Tecumseh Sherman,
another consummate professional who had
little use for politician,
as Halleck wrote to Sherman in early 1864,
"It seems but little better than murder
to give important commands
to such men as Nathaniel Bank, Benjamin Butler,
John McClernand, and Lew Wallace,"
all prominent politicians,
"but it seems impossible to prevent it."
Historians who likewise deplore
the abundance of political generals sometimes cite
an anecdote to mock the whole process.
One day in 1862, so the story goes,
Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton
were going over a list of colonels
for promotion to brigadier general.
Coming to the name of Alexander Schimmelfennig,
the president said, there hs got to be something done
unquestionably in interest of the Dutch--
Deutsch, Germans, German Americans,
and to that end, I want Schimmelfennig appointed.
Stanton protested that there were
better qualified German Americans.
"No matter about that," Lincoln said.
His name will make up for any difference there may be.
As some of you may be aware,
General Schimmelfennig is remembered today
mainly for hiding 3 days in the woodshed next to a pigpn
to escape capture by the Confederates at Gettysbur.
Other political generals are remembered more
for their military defeat,
and supposed blunders, than for any positive achievements.
Nathaniel Banks for the Red River Campaign
and other defeats, John C. Fremont for the mess he made
of affairs in Missouri and Western Virginia,
Daniel Sickles for endangering the Army of the Potomac
and losing his leg by moving out
to the peach orchard at Gettysburg,
Benjamin Butler for alleged corruption in New Orleans ad
for botching the first attak on Fort Fisher, and so on.
Often forgotten in this litany
of criticism of political generals are
the excellent military records of several of them.
Such men as John A. Logan of Illinois
and Francis P. Blair of Missouri,
both of whom became corp commanders under Sherman,
among a good many others.
And some West Pointers, notably Ulysses S. Grant
and William Tecumseh Sherman might have languished
in obscurity if it had not ben for the initial sponsorship
of Grant by Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois,
and of Sherman by his brother John,
a United States senator from Ohio.
Even if all political generals, or generals
in whose appointments politics played a part,
had turned out to have medioce military records however,
the process would have
had a positive impact on national strategy.
The main purpose of commissioning
prominent political and ethnic leaders was to
mobilize their constituencis for the war effort.
The United States Army on the eve of the war consisted
of approximately 16,000 mn in a nation of 32 million,
and most of them were
scattered on the frontier policing that frontier.
By April 1862 when the war was a year old,
the volunteer Union Army,
and they were all volunteers from civilian life,
consisted of 637,000 men.
From 16,000 to 637,000 in a year, all volunteers.
This mass mobilization could not have taken place without
an enormous effort by locl and state politicians
as well as by prominent ethnic leaders.
In New York City, for example, the Tammany democrat
Daniel Sickles raised a brigae
and earned a commission as brigadier general.
The Irish born Thomas Meaghr
helped raise the famous Irish Brigade.
And the German American leade, the famous 48er Carl Schurz,
helped raise several German regiments
and eventually became a major general.
Northern State governors, nearly all Republicans,
played an essential part in raising and organizing
volunteer regiments and claimd brigadier generalships
for their political allies in return.
At the same time, Lincoln needed the allegiance
of prominent Democrats like John McClernand and John Loga,
whom I mentioned earlier, in southern Illinois
where support for the war was initially questionabl.
As even the staunchly Republican newspaper,
which rarely had anything good to say about any Democrat,
the "Chicago Tribune" put it in September 1861,
"These 2 prominent Democrats have labored night and day
to instruct their fellow citizens
in the true nature of the contest
and to organize their aroused feelings
into effective military strength.
They have succeeded nobly"
Then both eventually became major generals.
And, of course, prominent Republicans
could not be ignored.
Lincoln's party supplied mot of the energy and manpower
for this mass mobilization for the war effort.
John C. Fremont, who had been
the first Republican presidential candidate in 185,
and Nathaniel Banks, former Speaker of the Houe
and governor of Massachusetts, were made
major generals early in the war.
By the 2nd year of the war though,
after this mass mobilization had been accomplished
and after the sifting process
had weeded out some of the less able generals,
political generals and ethnic generals and otherwise,
performance in action became
the principal determinant for promotion.
Though, of course, politis
could never be completely absent from the process.
The national strategy of mobilizing
political support for the wr through military patronage
had served its purpose.
As the leading historian of that process concluded,
"The political general's reputation
for battlefield defeats is certainly accurate
for many in this group,
but this Orthodox caricature neglects
their vital contribution in rallying support for the war
and convincing the people
to join the mass citizen ary as volunteers."
And Lincoln certainly would've agreed.
Some of those high-ranking political generals helped shae
military strategy and thus straddled the boundary
between national and military strategy.
And I'll be taking a look
at military strategy a little later.
But first, another important issue that began as a question
of national strategy eventualy crossed the boundary
in the other direction to become policy as well.
That was the issue of slavey and emancipation.
During the war's first year, one of Lincoln's top prioritis
was to keep border state Unionists,
that is supporters of the Union
from the 4 boarder slave stats that had not succeeded,
to keep those border state Unionists and northern
antiabolitionist Democrats in his war coalition.
The issue of Union,
of preserving the Union, united these groups.
The issue of slavery
or emancipation badly divided them.
Lincoln feared with good reasn
that the balance in 3 importat border slave states
might tip to the Confederacy if his administration took
premature steps toward emancipation,
which he was being urged to do
by the radical wing of his own party.
When General Fremont issud a military order freeing
the slaves of Confederate supporters in Missouri,
he issued this order at the ed of August 1861,
Lincoln revoked it in order to quell an outcy
from the border states and northern Democrats.
Lincoln feared that to sustain Fremont's order
as many in his own party urged him to do
would, as he explained to one of them,
"alarm our Southern Union friends,
and turn them against us--
perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky.
I think that to lose Kentucy is nearly the same
as to lose the whole game.
Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri,
nor as I think, Maryland.
These all against us and the job in our hands
is too large for us.
We would as well consent to separation at once,
including the surrender of this capitol."
But during the next 9 months or so,
the thrust of national stratey
step-by-step gradually, fitfully,
shifted away from conciliating
the border states in antiemancipation Democrats.
The antislavery Republican constituency
grew louder and more demandin.
The argument that the slave power had brought on the war
and that reunion with slavey still in the Union would ony
sow the seeds of another war in the future.
That argument became more insistent.
The evidence that slave labr
sustained the Confederate economy and
the logistics of Confederate armies grew stronger.
Counteroffensives by Southen armies in the summer of 1862
wiped out many of the Union gains of the winter and sprin.
Many northerners including Lincoln
became convinced that bolder steps were necessary.
To win the war over an enemy fighting for
and sustained by slavery,
the North must strike against slavery.
So in July 1862, Lincoln mae an historic decision
to undertake a major chane in national strategy
with respect to slavery.
Instead of deferring to the border states
and northern Democrats, he would
activate the dynamism of the northern antislavery majoriy
that had elected him and mobilize
the potential of black manpowr on the Union side
by issuing a proclamation of freedom
for slaves in rebellious states.
"Decisive and extreme measures must be adopted,"
Lincoln told his cabinet
in an historic meeting on July 22, 1862.
"Emancipation," he went o,
"is a military necessity absolutely necessary
to the preservation of the Union.
We must free the slaves or be ourselves, subdued.
The slaves are undeniably an element of strength
to those who have their service, and we must decie
whether that element should be with us or against us.
We want the Army to strike more vigorous blows.
The administration must set the army an example and strike
at the heart of the rebellion...slavery."
After a 2-month wait recommended
by Secretary of State William H. Seward,
2-month wait for a Union military victory to give
such an emancipation edict credibility
as a positive war measure instead of
a desperate appeal for a slave insurrection,
Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation
5 days after the Union victory in the battle of Antietam
on September 17, 1862.
This preliminary proclamatin of September 22nd warned
that on January 1st, 1863, the president would invoke
his war powers as commander in chief to seize enemy property,
slaves, by proclaiming emancipation in all states
or parts of states then in rebellion.
January 1st came, the rebellion, of course,
still raged, and Lincoln issud his historic proclamation.
Emancipation thus became a crucial part of
the North's national stratey by attempting to convert
a Confederate resource, slave labor,
to Union advantage, free black manpower.
But this step opened up a potential inconsistency
between national strategy and policy.
The Emancipation Proclamatin might free many slaves
if northern armies could conquer the states to which it applied,
but what about slaves in the states
to which it did not apply?
Four states were exempted and parts of 2 others becaue
they were deemed not to be at war with the United Stats
and therefore this emergency war measure did not apply.
And what would happen once the war was over and emancipation
as a product of the war powers no longer would apply?
Could the North fight a war using
a strategy of emancipation to restore a union
in which slavery still existed
and to uphold a constitution that still sanctioned bondage?
During the last 2 years of the war, that contradictin
was resolved, and the abolition of slavery
evolved from a means of winnig the war to a war aim.
That is, from national stratey to national policy.
Lincoln was reelected in 184 on a platform calling for
unconditional surrender of the Confederacy
and the 13th Amendment
to abolish slavery everywhere and forever.
And a year later, that was accomplished.
Lincoln also shifted from a national strategy
of opposing the recruitmet of black soldiers
to fight for the Union
to one of vigorous support for that action.
Although he lagged a few months behind
a similar shift on emancipation.
The idea of putting arms in the hands of black men provokd
even greater hostility among northern Democrats
and border state Unionists than did emancipation itsel.
In August 1862, this is nw
a month after Lincoln had made a decision,
although had not yet announced it,
to issue an emancipation proclamation,
Lincoln told delegates from Indiana
who had offered to raise 2 black regiments, that
"The nation cannot afford to lose Kentucky at this crisis."
He's still concerned about Kentucky,
and that "To arm the Negroes
would turn 50,000 bayonets frm the loyal border states..."
by that he meant 50,000 whie soldiers from those states,
"against us that were for us."
But only 3 weeks later,
Lincoln quietly authorized the war department
to begin organizing black regiments
on the South Carolina
and Georgia sea islands that had been occupied
since early in the war by Union forces.
Then the Emancipation Proclamation
of January 1st, 1863 openly endorsed
the recruitment of black soldiers and sailors.
And by March 1863, Lincoln told his military governor
of occupied Tennessee that
"The colored population is the great available
and yet unavailed of force for restoring the Union.
The mere sight of 50,000 armed and drilled black soldiers
on the banks of the Mississippi"--
now instead of worrying about 50,000 white bayonets,
he's talking about recruitig 50,000 black soldiers--
"would end the rebellion at once.
And who doubts that we can present that sight
if we but take hold in earnest?"
And they did take hold in earnest.
The prediction that recruiting that many black soldiers
would end the rebellion at one proved overoptimistic,
but in August 1863 after black regiments had proved
their worth at Fort Wagner and elsewhere, the subject
of the movie "Glory" for those of you who have seen it,
Lincoln told opponents of their employment,
and there still were a lot of opponents in the North,
that "in the future, there will be some black men
who can remember that with silent tongue,
and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet,
they have helped mankind n to this great consummatio;
while I fear, there will e some white ones,
unable to forget that, with malignant heart,
and deceitful speech, they hae strove to hinder it."
A year later in August 184
with more than 100,000 black men then under arms,
Lincoln considered their contribution essential to victory.
"Without those soldiers," he said,
"we cannot longer maintain the contest.
Abandoned all the posts nw possessed by black men,
and we would be compelled to abandon the war in 3 weeks."
Lincoln's dominant role in determining policy
and national strategy is scarcely surprising,
but he also took a more active hands-on pat
in shaping military strategy
than presidents have done in most other wars.
That was not necessarily by choice.
Lincoln's lack of military training inclined him at first
to defer to General in Chief Winfield Scott, America's
most celebrated soldier since George Washington.
But Scott's age, his poor health, his lack of energy
placed a greater burden on the president than he had expecte.
And Lincoln also had grown somewhat disillusioned
with Scott for his advice back in March 1861 to yied
both Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens to the Confederates,
and by the seemingly passive strategy of what was called
"Scott's Anaconda Plan" once the war began.
That is, imposing a blockade on the South, sealing it off
from the outside world and jut waiting for it to collapse.
Scott's successors as generals in chief
after he resigned in Novembr 1861 because of ill health
and age, General George B. McClellan
and then General Henry W. Halleck
proved to be even greater disappointments to Lincol.
Nor did some of his field commanders, Don Carlos Buel,
John Pope, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker,
and William S. Rosecrans
measure up to his initial expectations.
When Ulysses S. Grant
became general in chief in March 1864,
Lincoln told him, according to Grant's memoir,
that, and Grant is here paraphrasing Lincoln,
he had never professed to be a military man
or to know how campaigns should be conducted
and never wanted to interfere in them,
but that procrastination on the part of commanders
had compelled him to take an active part.
Grant's account here written 20 years later
does not ring entirely true.
By that time, Lincoln had some pretty definite ideas
on how campaigns should be conducted.
But it is certain that procrastination,
as Grant quoted Lincoln, especially by McClellan
and Buell, caused Lincoln to become,
in effect, his own general in chief
as well as commander in chif during key campaigns.
We don't have time to discus all of those campaigns.
Instead, what I would like to do is to focus on
a few key facets of Lincolns military strategy.
The first was his emphasis on what military analysts
call concentration in time o counteract the Confederacy's
ability to use interior lins to concentrate in space.
Now, what does that mean?
To invade and conquer the Confederacy,
Union forces were compelled by circumstances
to operate mainly on exterior lines.
That is, lines from outside the perimeter
of the Confederate States of America,
which was surrounded on 2 sides,
the North and the West, by the United States.
On the other 2 sides by the Gulf of Mexico
and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Confederacy defending that territory
could use interior lines
to shift forces from one or more less threatened points
to the most threatened on.
To illustrate, in January 186, Generals Henry W. Halleck
and Don Carlos Buell commanded 2 Union armies
in Kentucky and Missouri
that Lincoln wanted to cooperate in a joint campain
against Confederate defenses in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Both generals stalled and made excuses
for their inability to cooperate,
and Halleck lectured Lincoln by letter.
"To operate on exterior lins against an enemy occupying
a central position will fail," he wrote to Lincoln.
"It is condemned by every military authority
I have ever read."
But Lincoln by this time had been reading
his own military authorities in a kind of cram course
to learn more about military strategy,
and his response to Hallek
showed how well he had learned a key lesson.
"I state my general idea of this war," Lincoln wrote,
this is in January 1862, "that we have the greater numbers,
and the enemy has the greater facility
of concentrating forces upon points of collision.
That we must fail unless we can find some wy
of making our advantage an overmatch for his,
and that this can only be done
by menacing him with superior forces
at different points at the same time,
so that we can safely attack one or both,
if he makes no change,
and if he weakens one to strengthen the other
forbear to attack the strengthened one,
but seize and hold the weakend one, gaining so much."
This is one of the clearet expressions
of the strategy of concentration in time
that I've read.
By advancing on 2 or more fronts simultaneously,
Union forces could neutralize
the Confederacy's use of interior lines
to shift troops to an endangered front because 2 or more fronts
would be simultaneously under attack.
The proof of Lincoln's point came quite soon
after this exchange of correspondence with Hallek
in February 1862, when Halleck's
and Buell's 2 armies advance more or less simultaneously
after Grant, who was under Halleck, had captured
Forts Henry and Donelson and forced the enemy
out of Kentucky and most of Tennessee.
When Grant became general in chief,
he put Lincoln's strategy of simultaneous advances
against several enemy points into effect
on the major fronts of the war
by coordinating or trying to coordinate the invasios
of key parts of Confederate territory
by several armies simultaneously.
Lincoln was pleased by this and told his private secretary
John Hay in April 1864 that Grant's plans reminded him of,
as Hay quoted Lincoln, "his own suggestion,
so constantly made and as constantly neglected,
to Buell and Halleck et al to move at once
upon the enemy's whole line, so as to bring into action
to our advantage our great superiority in numbers."
A 2nd key aspect of Lincoln's strategy,
and Grant's, was to go after enemy armies
and attack them where they were
rather than maneuver to try to capture places,
most prominently, of course, Richmond,
but other key rail junctions or river ports.
This was one reason why Lincoln opposed McClellan's strategy
to take the Army of the Potomc
all the way down the Chesapeake Bay
to the Virginia Peninsula in 1862
to begin a campaign againt Richmond from there
instead of attacking the enemy
where he was in northern Virginia
only 25 miles from Washington protecting Manassas Junction.
When Lincoln reluctantly approved McClellan's plan
despite his continuing skepticism about it,
and when McClellan then hesitated to attack
a small Confederate blocking force at Yorktown
despite overwhelming numerical superiority,
Lincoln wrote to him,
"It is indispensable to yu that you strike a blow.
You will do me the justice to remember I always insisted tht
going down the bay," Chesapeae Bay, "in search of a field
instead of fighting at or near Manassas was only shifting
and not surmounting the difficulty, that we would find
the same or equal entrenchmens at either place.
The country will not fail to note, is now noting,
that the present hesitation to move upon an entrenched enemy
is but the story of Manassas repeated."
Lincoln then went on to write a couple of sentences about hw
he would continue to support McClellan.
He was not chastising him as preparation for firing him.
But then concluded with something that McClellan
should've paid more attention to,
4 words that he underlined for emphasis.
"But you must act."
However, the general who acquired the nickname
of "Tardy George" never learned that lesson.
Lincoln finally gave up, as he put it,
trying to "bore with an augr to dull to take hold,"
his description of McClella, and removed him from comman.
But the President had similar problems
with some of McClellan's successors.
When the Army of Northern Virginia began to move north
in the campaign that led to Gettysburg,
Union General Joseph Hooker proposed
to cut in behind them and attack Richmond.
Lincoln rejected that ide.
"Lee's army and not Richmond is your true objective point,"
he wired Hooker on June 10th, 1863.
If he comes toward the upper Potomac, follow on his flank
and on the inside track, shortening your supply line,
whilst he lengthens his.
Fight him when opportunity offers."
A week later as the army was entering Pennsylvania,
Lincoln told Hooker that "This invasion gives you bak
the chance I thought McClellan lost last fall
to cripple Lee's army far from its home base."
Hooker's complaints and bickering
with General in Chief Hallek
finally caused Lincoln to replace Hooker on June 28h
with General George Gordon Meade
as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
Meade and the army punished Le and his army at Gettysburg,
but did not destroy them.
When the rising Potomac Rivr trapped Lee in Maryland,
Lincoln urged Meade to close in for the kill.
"If Meade," he wrote, "could complete his work
so gloriously prosecuted thus far
by the literal or substantil destruction of Lee's army,
the rebellion will be over."
Lincoln was distressed by Meade's congratulatory order
to his army on July 7th,
4 days after the end of the battle of Gettysburg,
which closed with the wors that the country now
"looks to the army for greater efforts to drive from our soil
every vestige of the presene of the invader."
When Lincoln read these words,
his shoulders slumped, and he cried out, "Great Go!
Will our generals never get that idea out of their head?
The whole country is our soil."
That, of course, was the point of the war.
The war could never be won
merely by driving the eney back to Virginia,
but only as Lincoln put i, "by the literal
or substantial destruction of enemy armies."
When word came on July 14h
that Lee had escaped across the Potomac
without further significat damage,
Lincoln was both angry and dejected.
He sat down to write a lettr of congratulations to Meade
for his great victory at Gettysburg,
but after a sentence or two,
that letter took on quite a different tone.
"My Dear General, I do not believe you appreciate
the magnitude of the misfortue involved in Lee's escape.
He was within your easy grap and to have closed upon him
would, in connection with our other late successes,"
the capture of 30,000 Confederates
and the river bastion of Vicksburg,
the capture of 7000 more
at Fort Hudson downriver from Vicksburg,
victories in Tennessee driving that army,
the Confederate Army of Tennessee into northern Georgia,
"would, in connection with our other late successes,"
all of them happening in July, 1863,
"in connection with our other late successes
have ended the war.
As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely.
Your golden opportunity is gone,
and I am distressed immeasurably because of it."
Well, as he read over this letter and blotted the in,
Lincoln realized that he could not send it
unless he was ready to provoke Meade's resignation
at a time when Meade was still basking in the praie
for his victory at Gettysburg.
So having gotten these feelings off his ches,
Lincoln filed that letter away unsent.
But he never changed his mind.
And 2 months later when the Army of the Potomac ws
maneuvering and skirmishing again over the devastated land
between Washington and Richmond, the president declared
that "To attempt to fight the enemy back
to his entrenchments in Richmond is an idea
I've been trying to repudiae for a quite a year.
I have constantly desired the Army of the Potomac
to make Lee's army and not Richmond its objective poin.
If our army cannot fall upon the enemy
and hurt him where it is,
it is plain to me it can gain nothing by attempting
to follow him over a successin of entrenched lines
into a fortified city."
Five times in the war, Lincoln tried
to get his field commandes to trap enemy armies
that were raiding or invading northward
by cutting in south of thm
and blocking their routes of retreat
and forcing them to fight at disadvantage.
Lincoln saw every one of these raids or invasions, including
the invasion of Pennsylvania that led to Gettysburg,
as more of an opportunity than a threat.
These 5 occasions were Stonewall Jackson's drive norh
through the Shenandoah Vally in May 1862;
Lee's invasion of Maryland in September 1862,
which led to Antietam;
General Braxton Bragg's and General Edmund Kirby Smith's
Confederate invasion of Kentucky
in that same month of September 1862;
Lee's invasion, of course, of Pennsylvania
and the Gettysburg campaign; and finally Jubal Early's raid
to the outskirts of Washington in July 1864.
Each time, his generals failed him, and in most cases,
they soon found themselves relieved of command.
John C. Fremont and James Shields
after failing to intercept Jackson,
McClellan after letting Lee get away following Antietam,
Buell after Bragg and Kiry Smith got safely back
to Tennessee after their aborted invasion of Kentuck,
and General David Hunter after Jubal Early's raid
to the outskirts of Washingto.
Meade was the only one to retain his command despie
Lincoln's disappointment wih his failure to do more damae
after Gettysburg, but Meade then played
second fiddle to Grant in the last year of the war.
In all of these cases, the slowness of Union armies
trying to intercept or pursue the enemy
played a key part in their failures.
Lincoln expressed repeated frustration with the inability
of his armies to march as ligt and fast as Confederate armie.
Union armies were much bettr supplied than the enemy.
In fact, Union armies were
the best supplied armies in history to that time.
But they were actually slowed down
by the abundance of their logistics.
Most Union commanders never learned the lesson pronouncd
by Confederate General Richard Ewell that
"The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage."
Lincoln's efforts to get his commanders
to move faster with fewer supplies
brought him into active participation
at the operational level of his armies.
In May 1862, he sat in the War Department telegraph office
hour after hour sending telegrams to various generas
directing them to put
all possible energy and sped into the effort
to trap Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.
"It is for you a question of legs.
Put in all the speed you ca.
I have told Fremont as much and directed him
to drive at them as fast as possible."
But Jackson's troops marched twice as fast
as those of Fremont and of the lead division
coming the other way
to try to trap Jackson under James Shields,
and the Confederates slipped through that trap
with just hours to spare.
Lincoln was disgusted with the excuses offered by Fremont
for not moving faster.
His men were tired, the roads were muddy,
they were hungry, and so on.
The same pattern of excuses from Buell
during his pursuit of Bragg after the Battle of Perryville
and from McClellan after Antietam deepened his disgust.
Lincoln told Buell that he could not understand "why
we cannot march as the enemy marches, live as he lives,
and fight as he fights, unless
we admit the inferiority of our troops and our generals"
Now, it may be true that Lincoln
did not fully appreciate the logistical difficultis
of moving large bodies of troops,
especially in enemy territory,
although many of these operations
were actually in friendly territory.
On the other hand,
the president did comprehend the reality
expressed by the Army of the Potomac's quartermastr
in response to McClellan's incessant requests
for more supplies, more of everything,
before he could advance after Antietam.
The quartermaster wrote in some frustration,
"An army will never move
if it waits until all the different commanders
report that they are ready and want no more supplies"
Lincoln told another general in November 1862 that
"this expanding and piling p of impedimenta
has been so far almost our ruin
and will be our final ruin if it is not abandoned.
You would be better off for not having 1000 wagons
doing nothing but hauling forage
to feed the animals that draw them
and taking at least 2000 men o care for the wagons and animas
who otherwise might be 2000 good soldiers."
With Grant and Sherman,
Lincoln finally had generals in top commands
who followed Buell's dictm about the road to glory
and were willing to demand of their soldiers
and of themselves the same exertions and sacrifices
that Confederate commandes required of their men.
After the Vicksburg campaig,
Lincoln said of General Grant, whose rapid mobility
and absence of a cumbersome supply lie
was a key to the success of that campaign,
that "Grant is my man, and I am his the rest of the war."
Perhaps one of the reasons for Lincoln's praise
was a tongue and cheek report from Elihu Washburne.
Incidentally, the town where I mentioned I lived
for several years in North Dakota, Washburn
is named after one of Elihu's brothers.
Elihu Washburne, who traveled with Grant
for part of the campaign,
"I'm afraid Grant will have to be reproved for want of style"
Washburne wrote tongue and cheek
to Lincoln on May 1st, 1863.
"On this whole march for 5 days, he has had
neither a horse nor an orderly or servant,
a blanket or overcoat or clean shirt, or even a swor.
His entire baggage consiss of a toothbrush!"
To Lincoln, the contrast
with the endless wagons of supplies
and the headquarters pomp of a McClellan or Fremont
could not have been greater.
In the end, Lincoln put together
the 3 principal functions of commander in chief
in such a way as to win the wr
and give the nation a new birth of freedom,
first, by refusing to compromise his policy
of preserving the United Stats as one nation,
indivisible, and after the Emancipation Proclamation
and 13th Amendment, forever free;
second by a national strategy of mobilizing northern resources
and weakening the enemy by destroying its resourcs
as much as possible, including slavery;
and finally, 3rd,
by putting into place a team of military commanders
in the final year of the wa, most notably Grant,
Philip Sheridan, and George Thomas,
who actually did destroy enemy armies,
mostly by capturing them, and a 4th commander,
William Tecumseh Sherman, who destroyed enemy resources.
Whether the war could have been won in any other way,
with anyone other than Lincoln as commander in chief is,
of course, unknowable, but frankly, I doubt it.
Thank you.

[piano plays softly]

I think there are 2 major reasons why there is
so much interest in the American Civil War,
and then maybe some auxiliary reasons.
First, in terms of its impact on American life
in its time and ever sinc,
it had a far greater impact than
any other single experiene in American history.
For one thing, just the impact of loss of life in the war
and destruction of resource.
The United States, including the Confederate states in 1861
had a population of about 32 million,
and in the course of the wa, 620,000 of those people die.
That's exactly 2% of the American population at the time.
Today, the United States population is over 300 millio,
and if 2% of the American people
were to be killed in the war fought today,
the number of American war ded would be more than 6 million.
Well, imagine that impact on America today
if 6 million people died in the war,
and you can kind of get an ida of the impact on America
in the 1860s and especially on the Souh
where the percentage was almost twice as high.
So it had a huge impact,
and the destruction of southern resources,
the destruction of slaver,
the destruction of the planter class,
the confiscation of $3 billion worth of slave property,
which would be the equivalent of,
I don't know, a trillion dollars today
in terms of its proportion of the American economy.
So that impact was huge.
Then, I think the Civil War radically changed the course
of American history and shaped the future of American society
not only by abolishing slavery
and by putting into the Constitution
the 14th and 15th Amendment,
the 14th Amendment being
the most important single part of the Constitution ever sinc,
but changing the trajectoy of American history.
Up until 1860, there were kind of 2 competing visions of
what kind of future should dominate in the United States.
The one vision was southern agrarian society
based on slave labor
with a rigid hierarchical structure in that society,
based on semitropical production of crops
for a largely export market, and the other was
the kind of entrepreneuril democratic capitalism
rapidly urbanizing society in the North,
and those 2 societies fought it out in the Civil Wa,
and one of them triumphed, and the triumphing society
shaped the future of the United States.
So those are the reasons why
I think the Civil War is so important.
And something of auxiliary reasons is
the widespread interest in military history
and in some of the leading figures in that,
Lee and Jackson in the Sout,
Grant and Sherman in the Nort, Lincoln above all.
In some ways, these are larger-than-life figures.
There's nobody in American society today
quite like them, or so it seems.
We have a tendency to romanticize
these giant figures from the 1860s
because they were involved in such a giant conflict,
and that makes them stand ot in American history.
And they were interesting to people to read about.
They did have, in some case, colorful personalities.
In other cases, outstanding qualities
of leadership or generalshi.
They're just fascinating people to read about,
and that's why I think the History Book Club
and Military History Book Club and the Book-of-the-Month Club
finds Civil War books to e among their best sellers.