Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  February 27, 2016 10:30am-11:46am EST

10:30 am
so we have a lot of groups that do a therapy group and they make leave it at the wall so it's helping their healing process. lot of thingsve a that give just a little more information about a specific soldier's life. so when you go to the wall you see all these names on the wall the collection gives a little background history to as long as somebody has left something for a specific person we can tell just a little bit more about that person's life. so, that's really i think the purpose of the collection. i think that is the purpose of the collection. historian and author william davis talks about the different upbringings of ulysses s robert e lee and how their childhoods impacted their later lives.
10:31 am
the lincoln forum hosted this one hour 15 minutes talk. >> good evening and welcome. it is my pleasure to introduce our friend, my friend, william c jack davis as our keynote speaker this evening. jack is an author of over 50 books.
10:32 am
richard mcmurray gives as well as he gets. mutual the surface is affection that is fairly well hidden. [laughter] >> he is a loyal member of our lincoln forum and a loyal friend and we are glad to have him. the dispute over the use of the confederate battle flag that still simmers, if not rages. lengthy and telling
10:33 am
essay for the july 11 wall where heurnal discussed the controversy over the use of the confederate battle flag as a symbol which must not be understood -- misunderstood or whitewashed. davis believes americans cannot afford to forget the confederacy as it teaches lessons about americans themselves, how they react crisis in the matters beyond just slavery and theifice that constitute bedrock of our national being p. the important lesson from this is jack davis's discernment without the knee-jerk reaction to something that we find unpleasant.
10:34 am
please bring your hands together for jack davis. [applause] >> rapier wit. [laughter] >> how hungry are you for that cake, frank? [laughter] >> i'm just delighted to be here tonight and see all of you hungry people who will stay another hour or two longer. it is great fun to be with the lincoln forum family again. i first joined this group when we were at the old holiday inn eons ago when god was a boy.
10:35 am
it is great to see how this happy fellowship has grown and spread in the way you continue to come together to host this fellowship every year, it is wonderful, remarkable and great to be part of it. now, the two right most popular and most influential men in america were ulysses s. grant and robert e lee. grant was more popular than anyone in the north. more popularly than lincoln while lincoln was alive. he was the one man who defeated the confederacy to whom all confederates looked for guidance in the dark and difficult days following defeat. we know a lot about them.
10:36 am
there's been a lot that we don't know about the other men and that's what i will talk about tonight. -- theolen a title generals nobody knows. ,e will talk about the origins the personalities come other lives, their experience prior to them becoming preeminent military commanders and how that came to influence the way they were as commanders. i come by my interest in grant honestly in that one of the few things i've come by honestly -- i thought i would say that for mcmurray since he is not in the room. -- we movedim from post to post and his command shifted.
10:37 am
his last command was in san francisco. toer he retired, they moved california to escondido and almost bought a home from a man who was the august surviving -- the youngest surviving grant. on a lowbeautiful home hilltop surrounded by orange groves. growing up in california, their is not a lot of civil war going around. in the 1960's. he was a charming old fellow.
10:38 am
out of which spring a friendship that landed 10 years until he died in his early 90's. he was a marvelous fellow, crusty old cavalry. he accompanied blackjack pershing. he was a pioneer herpetologist. that is not the study of herpes. which nevertheless can be very interesting, especially if you have it. [laughter] >> his specialty was reptiles. he edited a magazine on reptiles and founded a separate research station. he lived in this house filled of themorabilia grandfather he had never met. the quid pro quo that developed was poor major grant was suffering either glaucoma or
10:39 am
macular degeneration, he could no longer see berkeley in front of him. -- directly in front of him. if he was going to watch the television, he would sit like this and he could see the moving shadows. , in i visited major grant would read to him. he loved victor hugo. in return, he gave me carte to walk his house filled with grant memorabilia. we dined occasionally on white house china. on the wall was a photograph of abraham lincoln, one of the more famed side views signed by lincoln over to grant. a presentation sword given to grant hung on the wall. there was a peace pipe that had been sent to grant by sitting
10:40 am
bull, who must have done it tongue-in-cheek -- some kind of misunderstanding over something. [laughter] >> in the papers. he had some of grant's papers from his early days. if you were a teenager interested in history, especially in that great event in our national experience and you were growing up on the west coast where there weren't -- could you imagine a more heady, more powerful influence than to be able to see and touch these pieces of genuine history? i attribute a fair bit of my withr to that association grant, who was aiming this is an -- a magnificent fellow come in
10:41 am
spite of the fact that he tried to kill me. he made us lunch one day. loath cheese. in all of its manifestations. i do not understand why anybody wanted to sit and eat congealed bovine glandular excretion. it's like eating a block of cholesterol. he could not see very well, he made us lunch one day. a sandwich, cheese and tomato sandwich. the bread was something called salt risen bread. the damn bread tasted like cheese. on it was a slice of something that came out of a cow. he set this in front of me on white house stationery. the bread was ok.
10:42 am
the tomato was not bad. stuck with this piece of cheese. embarrass ort to be a bad guest reform i host. -- before my host. the light came on and i realized, he's blind. [laughter] as long as i keep them looking at me, he cannot see what i do. and, he had a dog. if there's anyone from the humane society in here, please close your ears. a little terrier. i broke the cheese into quarters and while i was talking to him , i would hand a quarter of this piece of cheese
10:43 am
down to the dog. even the dog was smart enough not to eat the dam stuff. the dog would take the first quarter and gum it a little bit and then spit it out. dogs are very smart. our dog is with us. i guarantee you she will never eat cheese. and handed it up to the dog a second time, he would consume it. going through this arcane process, i eventually got all the cheese in the dog and he never knew what had happened. comes to mein grant honestly because i once had lunch with his grandson's dog. [laughter] >> when you look at the --kgrounds of these two men
10:44 am
contrasts from youth come almost into old age. robertk at the youth of ealy, you know the stories about -- his father was a gambler who could not hold on to money. he was an embarrassment to his family. he eventually abandoned his family. lee became the man of the house at age eight or nine and had to assume a tremendous amount of response ability at an early age. imagine being eight or nine years old and having responsibility to care for a become an invalid and a hypochondriac. a couple of sickly sisters who are not in good health and have
10:45 am
trouble taking care of themselves in a house that is too big for the family to maintain. and on an annual income that his mother thinks is not enough to get by. consider what that might do to you, to your worldview, your personality. you have essentially lost the chance to be a boy. he had to become a man at an early age. thanks to bequests from her motherand sister, his had an annual income from stock of about $4000 a year, which in the 1820's put her in the top 10% of families in america. they were not hard up for money, see what could theen to money, lived with
10:46 am
thoughts of not having it. as if heive and act does not have money. it made a deep impression on him. on the other end of the scale is ulysses s. grant who grew up in the wealthiest household in georgetown, ohio. his father is a very prosperous businessman, he was not just a r but was ane entrepreneur in several varieties of the leather trade. grant grew up in a house filled with books. he could read if you chose. but his favorite thing to do was to scribble his name on the flyleafs of the books. wantd not know the kind of
10:47 am
, the kind of self-induced hardship that robert e lee grew up in. of a wide beginnings divergence of personality between the two. grant always expects good things to happen. he is the incurable optimist, sometimes too optimistic. life for him was easy as a child. he did not grow up under those constraints. --haps he had something more lee has no freedom as a boy. up until the time he will leave for west point when he is 18 years old mother's no evidence to suggest he has ever traveled more than 50 miles from alexandria.
10:48 am
he is faulted for a virginias centrism. grant does not face that. his father does interstate trade. jesse grant gets his son involved in the trade at an early age. may have been a horse whisper. there's no question he had an affinity withar horses. some kind of rapport almost instantly develops between him and horses. andas a brilliant rider horses took to him. one of those accidents of nature. let ulyssesould take a horse and ride it anywhere he wanted to in the countryside. if his school work was done.
10:49 am
he would send his son out on arinze with a horse and then send him out on errands with a team of horses and a wagon. -- send his son out on errands with a horse. he could travel miles at the age of nine or 10 with the responsibility to pick up goods for the grand store or trade for goods or trade for a horse. the older he got, the further he went. by the time he was 17 years of age, by himself, he had taken the grant family carriages or wagons as far as from southern ohio to pittsburgh to louisville, kentucky to chicago as far north perhaps as st. paul. by himself at the age of 17. he had probably troubled somewhere between 1700 and 2000 miles with a horse or horses and a wagon by himself by the age of 17.
10:50 am
how many of you would trust a 17-year-old to drive 1700 miles by themselves? that did for grant was gave him a completely different worldview than what lee would develop. grant's view of the world will always be outward because his experience as a youth has been here is a hell, there is ll, there is hi something beyond it. they both get decent educations. lee is educated in a series of academies in alexandria. among the finest available. is not in academy, he will sometimes have a private tutor. the tutor that had not previously been known, james watson ripley, who would become
10:51 am
a distinguished botanist. lee's career, you will find him commonly commenting on the flora. the influence of just that one tutor gave him an appreciation for the growing things around him. as an old man, he would talk thet how much she missed snowball pushes that grew around their house in alexandria. bushes.all grant had an academy education in ohio. he does have some interesting influence. willf the academies he attend is called the ripley academy just across the ohio river in kentucky. woman had escaped
10:52 am
from kentucky with her baby in her arms. who lived not far from ripley? harriet beecher stowe. she incorporated the story of that young woman to produce "eliza." it is in that environment that grant begins to get his academy education. they go to west point. cadet.the exemplary grant is not. [laughter] , howere is mythology robert e lee is the only can it -- is the only cadet to ever graduate without a single demerit.
10:53 am
the root five other graduates who also had no demerits. , thereacademy that year were 26 who had no demerits that year. yours possible to work off demerits or offer a good excuse to explain why you got the demerit and they would be taken from your record. there is no question he was the model soldier from the very beginning. the academy in those days cap a demerit book. there was a page for each cadet. it would hold for years -- four years worth of space for demerits. after two years come on the lee page, not a single have been entered. the administration decided he is not going to get any and we cannot waste this page. his name was crossed out and another normal cadet bus name
10:54 am
has been written in. every soldierdier wanted to be. grant was just average. he had a good time. he got the merits when he was , he was to be reading often reading humorous novels. one of his favorites was the so-called autobiography of davy crockett. an early milestone in american humor. grant liked novels. lee did not like novels. recommended against his children reading novels because he thought they presented a view of life as it was not. it gave people a false hopes and false expectations to read fiction. they should read nonfiction. , both of them are
10:55 am
very similar. neither of them show any interest whatsoever in religion. 's were a episcopalian. hel into young manhood, showed no interest in religion whatsoever. and after heurting is married, mary nags him and f to letter, you should go to church and be more pious. his response is, "woman, you are irritating me." [laughter] >> he said i shall remain the same bad old robert i have ever been. do not try to convert me.
10:56 am
perhaps something happened in the war with mexico were immediately afterward. lee will have an epiphany of sorts and he will come back from mexico in 1848 with a different view and more and more, references to the bible. maybe it was the horrors he saw, the loss of friends. it may have been the death of a particularly close uncle. he was constantly finding father figures and uncles because his father was always a stranger to him. these expressions will start to appear in these letters. by the early 1850's, he is a full-fledged providential list
10:57 am
and he had an epiphany and he goes radically off toward a fundamentalist viewpoint in which man is helpless, man has , we are the tools of the almighty and it is our duty withr lives to put up unending disappointment and misery. god does not want you to have that cake. [laughter] eventually, you have good fortune to die and you will go to heaven and things will be better. a pretty depressing outlook but this will be his religious touchstone for the rest of his life. to the point that when he learns that an infant, a child has died , he will write to his wife saying what a blessing. because now that i will not have to go through life and in under
10:58 am
--endure its miseries. when a young man dies three weeks after being married, lee has write how fortunate he that he does not have to go through life to see his marriage deteriorate through all the disappointments and the hurts and miseries. he wrote this to his own wife. [laughter] >> you can see he does not have a happy expectation for life. grant is the same happy-go-lucky sort of fellow -- he's completely silent about the matter of religion. he said nothing about it. we know his mother had been a quicker. they were methodists back at home. he went to a methodist academy but he is virtually silent. after he wins a battle, he does
10:59 am
not say god has given us a victory. nothing. to the end of his days, he's something of a cipher about his religion. it doesn't enter his mind, apparently. or have very different views experiences when it comes to friendships. perhaps again because of that stunted childhood that was forced upon him, robert e lee will form very few friendships. his closest friends will be his cousins like caches lead. sius lee. his closest friend was jack, a fellow officer. he will die in his 30's and lee never finds another one to replace him. he will write to one of his young son saying how sorry he was that he had made so few friends because he had no one with whom to share his joys and
11:00 am
his sorrows. he advises his sons, meet more places, make yourself a and a congenial family in the world that he never had. other hand has friends all over the place. this is one of the things that grant will be faulted for. sometimes he was not a good judge of his friends. he is happy-go-lucky, affable. life seems to be easier for grant. girls. grant love for goingl known miles to go to a dance. too.ure lee did, but there's no evidence of any teenage romances or infatuations. when we finally decides to get serious about it, he identifies
11:01 am
his distant cousin and courts until they arene married. when grand finally meets a woman he falls in love with, he does the same thing. a long courtship through letters , which was the custom of the time in which the young women would play hard to get. keep writing to me and, by the way, get religion. case, he will beat julia dent. grant falls in love head over heels immediately. they have extremely different marital experiences. lee's wife is a brilliant young
11:02 am
woman. houseme is arlington across the potomac from washington. grand well-to-do, the daughter of martha washington, she has the right blood, has everything. including, possibly, bipolar disease. it's always dangerous to put dead on the couch and psycho them because they cannot answer back. them becauseyze they cannot answer back. it is apparent she was at least willful, idiosyncratic, impulsive. she got up one morning and apparently had a bad hair day so she got all of her hair off. -- cut all of her hair off. lee had a bald wife. she would be habitually late for an engagement. lee is impeccably dressed as an officer. he is punctual to a fault. when he attends a fair, she
11:03 am
bedt show up dressed in her clothes. she had no sense of what was appropriate. she is a spendthrift, and iparty i already told you how he felt about money. they spent their lives together trying to get her not to be a spendthrift. she exhibits other things that sounds like something that is erratic at best. perhaps more than that as well, the bloom is off the rose. you can see it after a couple of years of marriage. the dynamic between them changes. dramatically and stays changed in which he in his letters was constantly admonishing her about her behavior. about what you spends. -- she spends. officer's wife off
11:04 am
ught to act. that will continue throughout the entire nearly 40 years of their marriage. i think it is a marriage after a few years in which they are accustomed to each other but you see very little sign of passion, of romance. they are just kind of used to each other. lee will have a big hole in his life because of the loss of that aspect of the life he expected to have. grant is completely different. he is nuts about julia. that is the way it is until he dies. this man had to be in love when you see a photo of julia grant. [laughter] jack: she is very intelligent, very well educated. she apparently has a vivacious personality. she is extremely popular in the social orbit around st. louis in which the dent family lived. she is in many ways almost a 20 century woman.
11:05 am
she is not anxious to give up her bachelorhood because she is having a heck of a good time as a free young woman in st. louis. everyone seems to like her. she has strabismus, an eye not focused with the other. when you're talking to her you never knew which eye to talk to. [laughter] jack: it's possible during that era for surgery to do something about that. grant did not want her to. he liked her just the way she was and decently adores her. if she spends too much, fine. spend all you want. be happy. he wants her out with her friend and have a good time.
11:06 am
when they are together he is as happy -- he is never happier in his life than when he is in his home in galena, illinois in 1860 with his children around him, his newspaper, despite that hi -- his pipe, and julia with them and they can discuss the events of the day. it's been argued that there may have been the happiest marriage that has ever inhabited the white house. they just adored each other. once again, grant is fortunate and poor lee is not. grant is an entrepreneur by nature. you have heard about what a failure he was out on the west coast after the war with mexico. he gets into things that fail. what you see is a man -- a typical westerner. when he gets off the boat when he goes out there with his regiment in 1851 or something like that, his first letter back to his wife and he is looking at what is now southern california. back then it's pretty much
11:07 am
nothing. he writes a letter saying i think a man can make something out here. he will have one entrepreneurial idea after the other. first he thinks he will plant something he can market because officers were allowed to make money on the side as long as it did not take away from their duties. he then gets transferred before he can make anything of it to oregon. he sees western oregon and says there's an opportunity here. the oregon trail ends here. by the time the are here their animals are worn out and any provisions. -- they need provisions. their wagons are in bad shape. i will start planting potatoes and other crops to sell to them for this last rush they will have to get to the western oregon. i will raise horses and cattle here. i can then build up those horses and sell them again.
11:08 am
he creates a vertical corporation. once again he makes a fair bit of money briefly, but then it fails because he is transferred again. it's a story of failure but what's important about grant is he always expects the next venture to win. he has apparently the notion that a man makes his own luck and grant is going to be lucky someday, somehow. neither of them have any vices, which made them tough to deal with. at least a little dull. you heard about ulysses s. grant and drink. it takes too long to get into that. he was not an alcoholic. he did not metabolize out all -- alcohol well so if he had two or three drinks he could get drunk very quickly. but the next day he would wake
11:09 am
up and no hangover in you back to work. he would go for months at a time without a drink. he was never the sort of man who had to have another drink. and prior to 1862 we have only one contemporary reference and that is secondhand to grant drinking too much. the stories about grant the drinker really cannot of that come out of inter-army jealousies in the officer corps in 1862. that is really. where the things originate he does smoke. he smoked a pipe, not cigars. he only takes up a cigar after the battle of shiloh when his pipe is not at hand is somebody gives him a cigar and he is seen riding around the battlefield. a journalist saw it like the image. when that made it into the press in the east americans in the hundreds started sending him cigars. he is a frugal man.
11:10 am
he started smoking cigars. which is why the battle of shiloh killed him. he is the last casualty of shiloh. there is never a hint of infidelity on the part of either of them that i can find. lee likes to flirt with young women but you can see why. he could no longer flirt with his wife. if he tries to be flippant or fun with her, she will not approve. he will go into the dining room and go "do you know what it he a tea you know what a cozy is? he puts it on his head. he came to the dinner table to
11:11 am
amuse his children. his wife got very angry. it was not funny at all. this is not the dignified way to behave. that is the lecture he had been giving her at that point for more than 30 years. naturally, lee flirted with young girls very innocently because he cannot at home. they both have senses of humor. lee's is a little edgy, a little sarcasm in it. he's given to irony but not of that none of it is hurtful. he can be very him using if his wife is not around to bring him down. grant had a different kind of humor. it is self-deprecating. it is understated. his humor is much closer to the kind of humor you would find in those crockett almanacs which he read as a child and perhaps that is why mark twain was drawn to grant. his humor is like that of sam clemens. their worldviews -- where do
11:12 am
they see themselves in the world? in the universe? grant stays very well performed. -- informed. his travel has opened the idea of the big outer world to him. he loves to read newspapers. he ingests newspapers like food. because of what he can learn about the rest of the world. lee reads as well but he seems less curious about the outer world. lee is not interested in travel. lee will never go anywhere for a vacation. his only travel other than business will be to take mary to the hot springs because he is -- has essentially married his mother. she will become increasingly invalid and it will get to sulfur springs or the yellow sulfur springs to take the baths year after year because he gives her the sense of an improvement of how she feels. grant is fascinated with the rest of the world. he loved mexico and the war with mexico, he thought it was fascinating.
11:13 am
he took every opportunity he could to be a tourist and travel off to climb a mountain, climbed pyramids in mexico city. he was not l -- lee was not interested at all. grant is the first american president to leave the country. he will spend two years traveling around the world. he will bankrupt himself traveling and sucking up all these new experiences and sites. -- sights. other nations and other peoples interested him. he liked mexico. he felt they got a raw deal, as lee did not like mexicans. grant likes the indians. when he is president he will try to inform the interior department and the bureau of indian affairs, not with
11:14 am
complete success. lee does not care about indian s and does not like catholics much. grant kind of likes everybody, almost. their politics, they are wigs, which means they are left of center. the military is the biggest single expenditure of federal dollars. the army is very interested in which will spend money to keep the army up-to-date. they both have a strong union attachment. i think lee is more politically aware than grant, certainly in the early days. perhaps later as well. though interestingly neither ever voted. with one exception. in that era to vote in a presidential election you had a vote in your home county. army officers were always off on post somewhere else. lee was never in his home county to vote. grant was not, either. the only voted once i know of
11:15 am
and that was after he left the army in the election of 1856 in which he voted for the democrat james buchanan because he was not sure. he thought this the republican party might be too radical and it might be to disruption in the union if john c fremont were elected instead. he did not vote in 1860 because he just moved to ohio and not yet established residents. -- residence. he had no option to vote for anyone. how do they feel about slavery? grant grows up in pretty much abolitionist surroundings. his father had grown up and spent a number of his youthful years in the home of john brown. john brown's father, i think it was david, took jesse grant in as a hired stepson. young jesse grant knew john brown. he is opposed to slavery and
11:16 am
something of an abolitionist. his wife is certainly opposed to slavery as were the quakers in that era. you will find that grant, like religion, is perfectly silent on the issue of slavery. it is something that does not touch him. it doesn't matter to him. lee is also difficult to figure out on slavery. he will say in a famous letter written in 1856 that slavery is an evil but he will also say it is an evil man can do nothing about. only god can do something about slavery. if man can't do anything about it and god's agents on earth are men, have been anything ever be done about slavery? he will say he thinks slavery is worse for white than it is for the slaves because the whites have to take care of them. have to feed and clothe them.
11:17 am
he is pretty much terrified of the social upheaval of what would happen if slaves were freed and we were suddenly living amongst southern whites looking for jobs. perhaps leading to some kind of social upheaval or turmoil. he is far less opposed to slavery than the common myth would suggest. lee was a slave owner. he never bought one but he inherited six from his mother when she died. he is an army officer, moving about from post to post. he has no use for slaves so it -- he does what many owners do. he hires them out and makes about $300 a year from the hiring of the slaves. in his will in 1846 he provided that they should be freed if he should die in mexico. but at a time convenient to all parties.
11:18 am
meaning at a time convenient to his wife or to his sons. it's an extremely fluid kind of determination of when they should be free. apparently they are free or they buy their freedom or he may be -- might have traded them. we have no documentation. he considered buying a slave in 1860 in texas to act as a body servant because he thought he could not hire a white person locally to perform that function for him. but he did not do it. u.s. grant did own a slave. there is no record of how he got it. he was a young man named william jones. he was probably a gift from his wife's father, frederick dent. he also gave them the farm , thatas hard scrabble
11:19 am
grant farmed for a while in the 1850's. but he failed as a farmer, moved to st. louis and took a desk job. and he does not need a slight -- a slave, either. what does he do? the emancipate william jones. does that make grant is an abolitionist like his parents? that one act might suggest it but he's absolutely silent until about 1862. he is silent about slavery. we don't know how he feels about it. we just know some of the influences were that acted upon him. how do they feel about themselves at the dawn of the civil war? grant has been a failure at many things. in 1860, he is working for his younger brother as a clerk in one of the family's stores in galena, ohio. the younger brother was forced to take them on by the father.
11:20 am
the younger brother does not want to employ him. he thinks he is worthless. he is a lousy storekeeper. he will sell people some goods and forget to put it down on their charge account. he would much rather set up on the counter and tell stories to his old friends about the days in mexico and how exciting it was to see the land of the montezumas. he is not cut out to be a clerk or a storekeeper. his younger brother really wanted to get rid of him. he is a failure. but he has a nice small house. he has julia and his children, his newspapers, his pipe and he is happier than he is ever been. lee would appear to be the opposite. he is a lieutenant colonel and soon to be promoted to full colonel. the advancement in the old prewar army went at a glacial pace.
11:21 am
you had to go through two or three life expectancies ever to hope to go from second lieutenant to colonel. essentially it has to wait for someone at a higher rank to resign or die to open up a slot for you. lee has made it really to that rarefied fraternity of full colonels. they're probably not more than 20 in the entire army. he is the protege of winfield scott, who commands the entire united states army. there is a chance that lee may rise more from being a colonel. yet, lee feels he has been a failure. it took too long to become a colonel. his marriage is not good. when he comes home from service on the frontier he freely confesses afterward he felt like a stranger in his home. he felt like he was in the way.
11:22 am
his wife and even his children, which is mainly his daughter at this point, just one of stumbled -- sort of stumbled over him. he did not feel like he belonged. he is a professional failure, a failure as an officer, something less of what is desirable as a husband or father. lee is not at all easy with himself and within himself in 1860. he is also pretty nearly broke. robert e. lee will never have money or own property. he's an army officer. he has lived off the army most of his career. the plantation, the great house in arlington, the cusses point custus plantations belong to his wife's father who will leave it to his other sons. when his father-in-law died the arlington plantation was run down. the slaves were working when
11:23 am
they felt like it. they were running away and it cost a lot of money to send it -- send slave catchers to get them to bring them back. the other plantations were also run down. lee had to spend with precious -- what precious savings he had from his inheritance from his mother to bring this plantations backup to par so they can be profitable enough to leave his sons good homes. lee used of what money he had by 1860 trying to provide his children inheritance from the grandfather. those are the men on the eve of the war that will change them and allow them to change america. they will come to that war with radically different backgrounds and experiences. different personalities with divergent views of themselves and other places in the world. -- of their places in the world. yet, as commanders, they will
11:24 am
exhibit skills and attitudes and decision-making processes that can make them seem almost identical. i could do another talk sometime on how these things play out during the war, but one thing you find is they are both risktakers. grant, taking risks as an entrepreneur. lee taking risks and order to lift himself out of that whatever state of mild depression he might've been in much of his life. many were surprised from time to time, but how do they react? not like other commanders of the era who will fall back and go back to washington or richmond, regroup, rebuild, give a few months, have some cake. [laughter] jack: and then go forward again. every general, every commander is surprised. my late grandfather told me to -- there are two kinds of
11:25 am
generals. there are the ones that are surprised and the ones that lie. grant and lee are both surprised and the reaction is identical. you cannot see a glimmer of light of difference between them. taken by surprise they ask out how do i turn this to my advantage. that is granted for donaldson -- grant at fort donaldson and lee at chancellorsville. over and over again. what is it in the backgrounds that forms that? consider this providentialism of lee's that man is helpless. everything is from divine will. we are tools of the almighty. think how liberating that could be if you were a military commander who want to consider taking a big risk. if it fails, it is not the your responsibility. god intended it to fail. that can be liberating indeed.
11:26 am
after the war, they go their divergent ways. they look back. both of them are agreed that it they don't want to keep the wounds of the war alive. their way of dealing with the war and remembrance is somewhat the same as well. grant will write his memoirs. which is still regarded as perhaps the greatest autobiography ever written by an american. lee will talk until his death about writing his memoirs. [laughter] jack: that is not a criticism. he begins to collect the materials but he will die before he can ever get it done. he even has meetings with a couple of publishers and there is a report get a contract with a publisher. there is no way to confirm if that is true. they deal with this past in rather different ways.
11:27 am
grant is pretty honest. no autobiography is completely honest and grant covers his behind from time to time. he will not admit he is taken by -- was taken by surprise at shiloh. his associate sherman is far more honest. he will say surprised, hell, we were astonished. [laughter] jack: grant is human. he cannot admit that. lee is much the same. lee, in the little bit we have from him about his failures, he is reluctant to say he made a mistake or that he was taken by surprise in a very few interviews with trusted associates at washington college, he will loosen up a bit and talk about some what hentment with called those young men it would
11:28 am
-- that would not follow my orders. so lee is human, too. he will consider maybe sharing a bit of what might have been his failures. they have fairly similar views towards how americans of the postwar generation ought to look back on that war. lee was firmly opposed to erecting monuments on battlefields. he thought they should do nothing that would perpetuate the memory and the painful feelings between north and south. if lee were alive today, he would be on the side of those who maintain the battle flag should not be shown on federal property. though he believes in memorializing in words the sacrifice. it's interesting. the take lee was going to have demonstrater was to
11:29 am
how in all of his battles he was outnumbered. a little out for himself. grant is the same. he is a fan of the growth of the veterans organizations, but he is not real keen on memorializing battlefields. how do they feel about man and the universe, about themselves and the great cosmos? both of them continue to think that man may be perfectible, that democracy is the best form of government if man will treat it well and observe the limits of the constitution. the biggest difference is that lee believed if man were perfected, he would be god's doing. grant believed if man was perfected it would be the doing of man.
11:30 am
and how do they feel, finally, about each other? they are almost stone silent. all we have from lee are a couple of expressions that are probably genuine in which he is -- has told close associates that he thought the general he with georgie mcclellan -- george b. mcclellan, a cheese eater if ever there was one. [laughter] jack: he is on record twice as saying this. but think. i love this in lee because it is so human. what is the one general he beat every time he saw him? george mcclellan. if mcclellan was the best they had, then i was better. and grant -- and lee on grant was during the latter part of
11:31 am
the war that grant was lucky, that he was shifty. he will try to surprise you which in war is not fair. [laughter] jack: but he always has superior numbers. and grant is pretty silent on lee as a general but he has one of the most beautiful expressions that comes from this man who really has a tremendous gift with words. after writing this book i still don't know what he means. he will say lee was a good man, a righteous man, good leader. maybe a little unimaginative but that he was the man that needed sunshine. it's a wonderful expression of what the hell doesn't mean -- does it mean? [laughter] jack: who did grant thing was the best general? he never said. healy confederate he ever was
11:32 am
uneasy about was joseph e johnston. sorry, the confederate mcclellan. [laughter] jack: if you want to damage -- demonstrate the humanity of these two men, consider just that. each could not admit that the other had been his preeminent foe in the war that made them both. thank you all for listening. [applause] >> perfect talk.
11:33 am
we can either let them eat cake or take some questions. we will take some questions. please come to the mike if you have one. >> thank you very much. just when we think we know all about lee and grant, you have given us so much more. i appreciate that your loaded question, you are president of the united states, 1861. do you want grant or lee leading your army? >> did everybody here the question? if you are president in 1860 or 1861, who do you want to eat your army? if we were actually in the moment, lee is the only one to consider. grant is an unknown leather worker in ohio. indeed, lincoln will actually offer command of the eastern army, not of all armies, but of the army to be built in washington to lead with yet another promotion to brigadier
11:34 am
general. lee has hit the big time. the pinnacle of his career. of course, he couldn't accept it. if you are asking who is the happily, andl, almost a year since my book came out, no one has yet asked me that question. [laughter] it had to happen here. basis for making a fair or valid errors in the between and because their experiences are not the same. you can take a car and measure it against another car at certain speeds and you can determine with experience -- repeated experiments which one is better. there is never a moment in which grant and we face the same circumstances with the same resources at hand. even if there were, you would have to repeat that several times to come up with any kind of meaningful conclusion. from hindsight, i will tell you if the republic were ever in such dire straits that it turned to me to determine who to put in command of the army's, i would
11:35 am
probably select a grant. but, not because i think he is the better general. because grant is 15 years younger, he is in the best health of his life. lee feels his health and strength and his abilities failing. his vision is not good. he feels bad much of the time. grant has the emotional support of a magnificent marriage. lee does not. grant is by nature an optimist. lee is not. all of those factors would argue the things all of being equal, would probably have the better chance of bringing you victories. that is no guarantee. collects you said that when he came to his religion, grant was silent. in your opinion, was grant an agnostic? >> the question was grant an agnostic?
11:36 am
probably not. my guess is he might have been a social christian. i don't know. after the war, when he is in illinois, 1860, and 1851 until he goes off to work, he forms a close friendship with the local methodist minister. i have forgotten the man's name. they will remain friends for years through the war and afterward. grant, as president, will occasionally attend methodist services in washington. fromd, on his way back attending church, grant gets pulled over with his carriage and given a speeding ticket. grant likes speed. he likes fast horses. he does attend a methodist service thereafter. whether that was to keep julia -- heor he really had felt some spiritual investment in it, again, he is silent. we can only surmise. thank you. grantsyou comment on issue of general order number
11:37 am
11? >> can i comment on grant any so cold you order? -- can i comment on grant and the jew order? there is an excellent book. is that grant commanded mississippi. he has a large command at this point. traders, merchants are tried to get into the south to get southern goods, cotton, etc., they can take back north to sell. unfortunately, grants own father is trying to bring people into capitalize on his son's power which really irritates him. grant is a gigantic horses asked. -- horse's ass. he is a thorn in his waterslide threat his life. it is unusual relationship and was not a good one for grant. some of these were jews. most were not. grant also is somewhat subject to the influence of his greatest
11:38 am
associate, william d sherman who is validly anti-semitic. somehow or other, grant comes to this point where he decides he is going to clear all of the traders out. of his department. the issues order number 11 which says all of the jews and other kinds of traders must get out of this -- department immediately. he was angry. he was angry at his father who was try to get around him. he is being fed in these notions by sherman. i don't know if he is instantly regretful, but he will spend much of the rest of his life apologizing for it repeatedly. when he, in fact, is president, he will try to introduce jews into his and ministration. he will visit the holy land. it is kind of a symbolic apology for that. whether grant was really anymore anti-semitic than the average midwesterner of his time was, i don't know.
11:39 am
he was always sorry. that is one of the few things grant apologized for. corrects -- >> you said that we didn't have very many friends other than cousins. you -- he referred to jackson as his right-hand man and was distraught after his death. what about -- not only jackson but james long street? >> what was the last part? >> what about james long street after jackson's death? e -- the question is about stonewall jackson and james long street. i'm talking about intimate friends. the kind you share your hopes and fears, your experiences, your feelings of insecurity, everything else. there is no question. there was no relationship like that with jackson.
11:40 am
lee, i think, admired jackson. i am not sure if he understood him. he knew that jackson brought him victories. the two were almost diametrically opposed in most other things. i think there was great respect and i see no real sign of deep friendship. long street, he is a mystery. lee will complain about long street after the war. long street will complain about lee during the war and after the war, as well. long street headquarters were always supposedly closest to lee's. some people maintain that solely can keep an eye on him. i don't know if that is true or not. i think there was some kind of personal regard there, but again, i don't think there was any sort of intimate friendship. >> since we are here at gettysburg, i think we should
11:41 am
say that one general that generally did have respect for, apparently, was george gordon where he said he will commit no error or mistake in my friend. did he not say that? >> yes. i forgot who he says that too, but they had known each other in the old army before the war. i think he had a fair regard for him. i am sure you all know the great andy when he comes to visit says good lord, lee, you have a lot of gray hair and lee says you have to account. maybe it is the other way around, i forget. he didn't have any hair at all that point probably. >> i was when you ask you about this. it was the mason brothers, jesse grant showed up with in tennessee, not mississippi. >> i misspoke a >> west-west tennessee. >> cincinnati. >> lee had -- they were professional acquaintances. i don't think any of them are necessarily intimate friends.
11:42 am
i think the loss of jack mackey who was practically lee's alter ego, in a way. they were deeply close. i think the loss of jack mackey may have emotionally closed lee up toward friendship. that really hurt deeply. >> this is out of curiosity. based on what you shared with us tonight about mary lee and her personality, did she have a lot in common with a lincoln's wife? >> the question is did mary lee have a lot in common with mary lincoln? outwardly, you can see some of it. -- explosive is too little a word. a volatile temper and temperament. certainly, a want of frugality. , a nice way to put it. that, i don't pretend to understand what mary lincoln's psychosis was, if you could call
11:43 am
it that. there is no question they were both difficult for their husbands. they both caused their husbands and there's. worst, they cause their bit -- husbands embarrassment in front of the professional peers and colleagues. they were not have been good political wives as mary was not. >> thank you. >> thank you all, again, very much. [applause] >> interested in american history tv? visit our website, see our upcoming schedule or watch a recent program. american artifacts, wrote to the white house rewind, lectures in history and more at >> our goal here is to get our
11:44 am
candidates to talk about social security and how they are planning on saving us, and if they are, what are they going to do to save us? thism participating in election because i feel like it is important to get out and vote. it is the only way beside local elections that we can voice our opinion. >> up next on the presidency, kermit roosevelt, theodore roosevelt great-great-grandson talks about the presidents of evolving vision of the constitution and the national debate about how he defined american democracy. he discusses moments when the debates have shaved and national policy as they did during the world war ii japanese-american internment under president franklin roosevelt. the commonwealth club of california posted this event. it is about an hour.
11:45 am
roy: good evening, everybody. it is my pleasure to be the moderator tonight for professor kermit roosevelt. as you probably know, he is the great-great-grandson of theodore roosevelt. we discussed beforehand whether there is a shorter word than great-great-grandson in english, but apparently there is not. so, that is so we are stuck with. the honor of having him here though, is much more founded in his skill in both his legal backgrounds and in his writing ability, he has produced several books on constitutional law, having served as a clerk to u.s. supreme court under justice david souter.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on