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tv   [untitled]    March 17, 2012 6:00pm-6:30pm EDT

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like corn over here, and living in fairly modest homes. the home behind me is on the smaller end. it's one of the few we actually built here. >> that's about 600 square feet, which represents about a quarter or so of the housing stock of rural new england. so america was not only a younger nation but a poorer nation than it is now. most of our buildings, though, are antiques we've moved here from the six new england states. we opened to the public in 1946, been open ever since as a private not for profit educational corporation. we try to show people bits and pieces of everyday life from the deblg a decade of the 1830s. >> you can watch american artifacts every sunday 8:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. on c-span3's american history tv. for schedule information and to view programs, visit there's a new web site for american history tv where you
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can find our schedules and preview our upcoming programs. watch featured video from our regular weekly serieses as well as access ahtv history tweets, history it in the news and social media from facebook, youtube, twitter and foursquare. follow american history tv all weekend on c-span3 and online at this week on the civil war, author william dobak discusses his board "freedom by the sword" the u.s. colored troops from 1862 to 1867. it examined how african-american troops were used in the civil war. this is 40 minutes. >> good afternoon, everyone. my name is lopez matthews. i am secretary of the national
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archives afro-american history society. i'm here to welcome you to hear william a.dobak to discuss u.s. colored troops during the civil war era. and i am here today just to let you know that the african-american history society atnar produces programs similar to this, not this program but ma'am programs similar to this promoting the study of african-american history through records at the national archives. and we have a number of programs coming up which you may have seen our flyer on the table outside discussing african-americans in the civil war, since that is the theme for african-american history month this year. celebrating the success kwi sen t10 -- success kwi centennial o the civil war. if you have time, we have one i will be presenting on february 16th on black soldiers from
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maryland in the civil war. if you have time, come back and join us. now i would like to also introduce mr. michael knight who is archives specialist and holdi holdings specialist here. he's going to introduce mr mr. dobak. >> i'd like to echo what lopez said and welcome you to the national archives and records administration. we have a very special speaker today, dr. william a. dobak, zug discussing his newest work, colored troops from 1862 to 1867. he received his phd from the university of kansas in american studies in 1995. his published zertation ft. riley and its neighbors military money and military growth 1853 to 1895 won the ode ward a. tee han award in 1999.
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willie worked at the national archives beginning in the mid-90s and began working on his next study called "the black regulars" 1866 to 1898. this book was published in 2001. in 2003 the superb work received the western history association's robert m. utley award as the finest book on the military history of the north american western frontier. in 2002, willie joined the staff at the u.s. army center of military history and in 2003 he began research on "freedom by the sword." i'd like to introduce dr. dobak by noting that all of his military studies have drawn extensively on the records housed here at the national archives. [ applause ]
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>> thank you. let's see. i guess the microphones are on so i trust that everyone can hear me. good. in march 2003, my branch chief at the u.s. army center of military history called me into his office, invited me to sit down, and toll me that my next project would be to write an operational history of the u.s. colored troops. that is a purely military history. i responded "why." it seemed to me at the time that there were already two perfectly good histories available, dudley cornish's "the sable arm" and joseph's "forged in battle." true, cornish's book appeared in
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1956 and glauter's in 1990, but i pointed out that the history of the colored troops was a growth industry. new books were appearing every year. in fact, during the year that i worked on "freedom by the sword" i rerued six of them. the boss, in effect, told me, never mind. just do it. he explained to me i would have to write a proposal like the whole thing had been my idea. they would approve it or ask for revisions, the entire process would take a year, that is before i ever get properly started on producing a set to work to wr proposal. the first step obviously was to reread cornish's book and glatar's. dudley cornish taught at a state teacher's college in kansas and
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because of the lack of travel funds when he wrote the book, "the sable arm" was researched and written before sputnik even. records, the "new iance was on york times" on microfilm and trips to the kansas state historical society. he visited the national archives enough to consul troops bureau material the office but that's about it. i discovered a couple of years later when i was in the middle of the manuscript the answer to my question why. at thatt th raising of black regiments in the north and had come to the presentation of regimental colors to the 20th u.s. colored infantry in new
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york city. and that regiment taking ship for louisiana. cornish uses this incident and a long quote from the "new york times" that appeared the next day in the "times." only eight months after the new york draft riots the "times" wrote, a regiment of black soldiers fully armed was headed for the theater of war. it is only by such occasions that we can at all realize the prodigious revolution which the public mind everywhere is experiencing. such developments are infallible tokens of a new epic. but cornish ignored the fact that black recruiting in new york had to be under taken by a private organization because the democratic governor of the state was reluctant to have anything to do with it. the city's white militia
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regiment would not turn out for the occasion. and the leading democratic newspaper "the herald" began its news story "there was an enthusiastic time yesterday among the colored people of the city." you know, if more sources had been available to cornish, he might have drawn a somewhat different conclusion. gladhar writing a generation later had more opportunity to travel and amass a fine bibliography of manuscript collections. if fact, i used his biblly okay raphy and several others to it decide which libraries and archives to visit for my own book. but gladhar seemed concerned with the recruitment of black soldiers, their white officers' opinion of them, and what happened to them in the army and afterwards. in other words, what was done to
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them. cornish, writing mostly from the published record, was interested in the political process behind the formation of the union's black regiments. this left me considerable room to concentrate on the black soldier as active participants to tell the story of what they did rather than what was done to them. well, having read these two epical works i then began on the official records which was available in the library at the center of military history. now, i'd spent the previous year drafting two chapters for one of the center's vietnam combat volumes, and when i came across a union officer in arkansas complaining that confederate agent were running around the
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state collecting taxes and recruiting soldiers, i said, aha, viet-kong infrastructure. right. the term that was used in the 1960s for the parallel system of authority exercised by the in r insurgents in vietnam. at the time, i didn't know that the historian daniel e. sutherland had the subject well in hand with an artd keicle in journal of civil war history and an entire volume savage conflict, the decisive roll of gri guerillas in the civil war. but the guerilla warfare that raged through the south during the larger war gave new meaning to the service of many regiments of u.s. colored troops whom congress had originally releg e relegated to constructing
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entrenchments, performing camp sefrm service or any military or naval service for which they were found competent in the words of an act of congress passed in july 1862. the fact is that, whatever sort of duty the colored troops were performing, most of them were doing it in the midst of an overwhelmingly hostile white population and in places that were subject to confederate raids led by generals like forest wheeler and others like them. confederate raid others could penetrate as far north as paducah, kentucky, or even ride into a union stronghold like memphis to kidnap or kill union generals. this attempt in august 1864 failed. the west point atlas of american
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wars shows for the region west of the appalachians tight little circles around major southern cities with legends like helena 5,000 or chattanooga 20,000, indicating the strength of the union garrison. whatever today's historians may imagine, there was no secure rear area in the occupied south. the official records for the war of the rebellion, the official records of the union and confederate armies, to give the series its full title, consists of 128 volumes published between 1880 and 1900. it is arranged by year first, then by region. and regional organization seemed to suit my book fifrrst. the first union offensive that
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captured confederate territory and held it until the end of the war was in south carolina, and the first black regiments were raised there. sout south carolina, then i moved to the gulf coast, then the mississippi valley, and finally north carolina and virginia. it aims -- the book ends with a chac chapter on the colored troops' post-war service on the rio grande which had to do with the french occupation of mexico and was an entirely different matter from reconstruction. and a final chapter on their service in the rest of the south
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enforcing reconstruction policies. it's just as well that virginia was the last theater of operations considered in the book because it was the least typical. remember that when winfield scott conceived his so-called anaconda plan to defeat the confederacy in the early spring of 1861, the capital of the rebellion was in montgomery, alabama. when the confederate congress voted to move to richmond in may 1861, it changed the whole pattern of the war. union and confederate armies struggled back and forth over roughly 200 miles of country if you allow for confederate raids into maryland and the union campaign on virginia's peninsula in 1862. well, elsewhere union armies were capturing nashville, new
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orleans, memphis, vicksburg, port hudson, chattanooga, for the purposes of our story, the colored troops in virginia were overwhelmingly recruited in the northern states and were no more use at first than an equal number of new white regiments. this is an important point because, as i found out while researching the book, escaped slaves were a source of expert local knowledge to union armies, going at least back to the landing in south carolina in the fall of 1861 when an escaped slave known to us only as brutus advised captain quincy adams gilmore, an officer of engineers, gilmore called brutus the most intelligent slave i have met here, quite familiar with the rivers and creeks
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between savannah city and tiebee island. he made his escape last week in a canoe. two years later, when the commander of a union raid up the yazoo river in mississippi wanted to send a message to his headquarters in vicksburg, two sergeants of the third mississippi colored cavalry dressed as slaves, which they had been until recently, and delivered the message. in march 1865, seven civilians parentheses colored end quote guided a party of the third u.s. colored infantry up the st. johns river in northern florida to burn a sugar mill and free 91 slaves. gilmore, who by this time was a general, mentioned the raid in
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one of his orders. this expedition planned and executed by colored men under the command of a colored noncommissioned officer reflects great credit on the brave participants and their leader. the major general commanding thanks these courageous soldiers and scouts and holds up their conduct to their comrades in arms as an example worthy of emulati emulation. local knowledge was important to the union army through the end of the war, besides, as one federal stationed in northern alabama wrote, the negroes are our only friends. the question of former slaves aiding the union advance brings
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us an amusing argument in academic circles a few years ago. did the slaves become free as a result of white action? abraham lincoln or the union army? or were they self-emancipated? james mcpherson, the author of "battle cry of freedom," writing in 1995, noted a tendency in the previous 15 years to sleight the role played by abraham lincoln in the end of slavery and to say, in effect, the slaves freed themselves. mcpherson disagreed, emphasizing the importance of lincoln's insistence on prosecuting the war successfully. excuse me.
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ieber berlin of the university of maryland wrote a rejoinder in which he said, in effect, that the slaves did, too, free themselves. i find this exchange very reassuring because it shows that you can become an eminent historian even though you slept through the high school biology lecture where the teacher explained symbiosis. two beings that live in a mutually beneficial relationship. ira berlin came close whenwrotes arose slaves risked all for freedom by abandoning their owners, coming
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union lines, and offering their lives and labor in the federal cause. slaves forced federal soldiers at the lowest level to recognize their importance to the union's success. that understanding traveled quickly up the chain of command. that's it in a nutshell. the union army afforded the slaves a place of refuge without the labor of the escaped slaves, the union advance in the mississippi valley would have stalled somewhere just south of louisville and st. louis. another subject that hasn't been discussed much is what we can call the learning curve. regiments of colored troops recruited in the south may have d specialized local knowledge that proved invaluable, but no one is born a soldier.
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that takes experience. the most notorious incidence is that of the 54th massachusetts which suffered more than 250 casualties in the assault on ft. wagner in july 1863. soon after the regiment arrived in the south. in fact, a few days after that. there had been no preliminary reconnaissance, which menant tht the troops were attacking on a five-company front over a sandspit that would only accommodate three companies abreast. and the resulting confusion, the attack failed. the northern press, of course, put a favorable a spin on it as possible. contrast this with the same regiment's performance at the battle of olusty seven months later. the same general who had ordered the disastrous attack on
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ft. wagner led an expedition to florida in february 1864. his advancing column met a force of confederate defenders and was badly beaten, but the 54th massachusetts, along with several white regiments, covered the retreat and, in effect, saved the little army. the 54th had learned a lot in the previous seven months. the eighth u.s. colored infantry had a similar learning curve. it went into battle at olusty in florida with many of the men having never fired their rifles. it lost 343 officers and men killed wounded and missing. but that august in an attack near richmond, virginia, the general who commanded their brigade thought they behaved handsomely. on the gulf coast, the 73rd u.s.
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colored infantry failed to reach the confederate trenches in their charge at port hudson in may 1863, but in april 1865 the regiment was part of the black division that helped take the last confederate fort outside mobile. it was all a question of training and experience. i might add a few words in favor of william sherman before closing. he is notorious for not wanting anything to do with black troops in his atlantic campaign and only taking one-half of one regiment with him on his march through georgia and the carolinas. these five companies of the 110th u.s. colored infantry were it the only black regiment
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represented at the grand review in washington at the end of the war. but sherman was the only -- sherman was a bigot, and he did not mince words about it. but he was the only union official i came across, military or civilian, who recognized that black people might have some ideas of their own about the future. he wrote, sherman, if negroes are to be taken as soldiers by undue influence or force and compelled to leave their women and young with uncertainty of their new condition, freedom, that is, they cannot be relied on. but if they can put their families in some safe place and then earn money as soldiers or laborers, the transition will be more easy and the effect more
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permanent. the first step in the liberation of the negro from bondage will be to get him and his family to a place of safety, then to afford him the means of providing for his family. in a way, sherman showed greater insight than the new england abolitionists who came to the south carolina sea islands in 1862 to teach the former slaves to read and write and incidentally to organize them as a labor force. of the former slaves wanted to be left alone to tend it their vegetable gardens, the northerners wanted them to pick cotton, to help pay for the war. sherman was right to an extent about former slaves' disinclination to military service was shown in the
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widespread use of press gangs to round up recruits. it occurred not only in south carolina but in new orleans and along the mississippi forth upstream. unfortunately we don't know how many of the reluctant soldiers were family men or whether their numbers were greater than those of the volunteers or, for that matter, how many of the volunteers truly understood what they were getting into. one black regiment of arkansas who worked as a teamster signed up for the army after army quartermasters confiscated his two mules and deprived him of his livelihood. then, as now, the army was the employer of last resort. what in was in it for these black soldiers?
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freedom certainly. as sergeant henry maxwell told a gathering in nashville in 1865, we want two more boxes besides the cartridge box. we want the ballot box and the jury box. military service was an obligation of citizenship and for the not-yet-citizen it conferred citizenship. abraham lincoln recognized it in september 1864 when he said, we cannot spare the 140,000 or 150,000 now serving. this is not a question of sentiment or taste but one of physical force. nor is it possible for any administration to retain the service of these people with the understanding that, upon the first convenient occasion, they are to be reenslaved. it cannot be, and it ought not to be.
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yet according to union officers in the south, hundreds of former slave holders believed that emancipation was a temporary wartime measure only. and, after lincoln's assassination, the next president bent every effort to make it so. his efforts were stymied briefly by congress, but that same congress refused to provide an army of sufficient size to enforce its own laws in the south. but the few years of congressional reconstruction and nearly a century of jim crowe that followed it are outside the purview of this book. still, it must have been a bitter pill for a group of veterans whose ranks included nearly three times as many men named george washington as were named john smith. a group that


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