E5 - Civil War
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
- The North against South. Brother against Brother. The Civil War is the bloodiest in American history.
- Victory will take far more than brute firepower of the battlefield. Technology. Communications. Logistics.
- It's what happens behind the front line ultimately decide this battle for America's future.
- We are pioneers... and trailblazers. We fight for freedom. We transform our dreams into the truth. Our struggles will become a nation.
- 1862: The Civil War is at its height…North and South locked in a bitter conflict for the future of America.
- A new kind of bullet has brought this war to a terrible deadlock, bringing death on a scale never previously seen before the war.
- Here at a metal works in Springfield, Illinois, molten lead is beginning its journey...becoming a lethal instrument of destruction. The bullet known as the "minie ball."
- This crude piece of lead is the primary reason for the unprecedented levels of slaughter in this war.
- Invented in France, it’s an ounce in weight (28 grams)…and a half-inch across.
- One person can cast 3000 minie balls an hour. Each one of these simple bullets can rip through a man's body in a fraction of a second. The minie ball is used by North and South alike.
- Demand for this killer bullet runs so high…that entire industry springs up supplying minie balls to the front line.
- In total, the North makes over half a billion minie balls…ready to be fired from the 2 million muskets supplied to its men.
- In many ways, the Civil War was the first modern war because it was the first war that took place after the industrial Revolution had begun to transform our country.
- It will take over 33 hours for a bullet in this box to travel the 800 plus miles to the battlefield…ready to find its target.
- The new musket is much faster to reload than traditional weapons. Load the gunpowder...ram down the bullet...And it's ready to fire.
- Imagine a warfare where your ability to load a musket faster than the guy with the other musket would determine if you lived or die.
- Groove on the inside of the barrel, rifling, spin the ball towards its target. Improved accuracy and range are deadly combinations. One second…everything's great. And the next second, your buddy's heads is gone, or his arm is flying off.
- You don't wanna know what soft metal musket ball does when it enters the human body.
- On impact...the bullet flattens out...bone shattered into splinters...causing further damage to muscle and tissue.
- More often than not...the result of a direct hit is death. But for all the minie ball’s technological edge, the army still uses traditional military tactics.
- What made it specifically tragic was modern technology meeting much more ancient tactics…so the death rates were truly appalling.
- The troops still faced one another openly with lines across the battlefield.But the minie ball is accurate over a range of 600 yards...easily spanning this distance…and it can be reloaded eight times faster than a traditional weapon.
- The effects are catastrophic. The kill rate increases dramatically compared to previous wars.
- Across the battlefield the results are carnage…blood and death on a previously unseen scale. They killed each other in droves in line and in piles.
- Soldier Alexander Hunter writes, "One lay on his face with his body in two parts. Another was shot just as he was taking aim. One eye was still open while the other was closed. One arm extended in the position of holding his rifle, which laid beside on the ground."
- The troops on both sides must live in the middle of this untold deafen suffering.
- Horatio Chapman records his experience in his diary: "The dead in some places were piled upon each other, and groans and moans of the wounded were truly saddening to hear.
- Some were just alive and gasping, but unconscious. Others were mortally wounded and were unconscious of the fact that they couldn't live long."
- By the time of the North's final victory, over 600,000 men on both sides are dead…some 2% of the entire US population.
- In current population terms, that's the equivalent of 6 million people.
- Almost half of the dead remain unidentified…the fear of dying forgotten on the battlefield.
- These soldiers for the first time begin painting their names and units on their uniform.
- These crude early versions of the dog tag make it possible to identify the bodies after they are killed.
- For the first time, America's growing postal service, mean soldiers can write to their loved ones from the front.
- With none of today's military censorship, it allows soldiers like Robert Stiles to relay the terrifying realities of life on the front line:
- "The sights and smells that assaulted us were simply indescribable. Corpses swollen to twice their original size—some of them actually burst asunder with the pressure of foul gases and vapors."
- Fueling this carnage lays the deep political animosity that has led to this war.
- In a bitter conflict that has pitted as "brother against brother,” the South has determined to defend its independence and the system of slavery.
- But the North will not allow it to leave the United States. We fought and lost hundreds of thousands of men on both sides fighting for what they believed is right.
- The unholy alliance of new weapons and outdated battle tactics means body counts on an industrial scale.
- The war is locked in a bloody stalemate. Neither side can land a decisive blow. In this bitter war of attrition...victory will come to the last man standing.
- August 1862: Over a year into the war, General Robert E. Lee's Confederate army is readying to launch a wide ranging assault against the Union forces in Virginia.
- Highly motivated, these men are fighting on their home turf and are ready to die for Southern independence, its traditions, and its rural way of life.
- Its prosperity is built around a simple crop: Cotton. Known as "White Gold", the South accounts for 2/3 of the world's supply of cotton. And it brings extraordinary wealth to the Southern states.
- But this wealth is built on the backs of slaves.
- Now Lincoln's victory at the ballot box threatens this traditional way of life that slavery is built on.
- Rather than submit to Northern rule, the South decides to fight. They want a separate nation.
- General Robert E. Lee takes command at the head of the newly formed army of Northern Virginia.
- Lee, a brilliant graduate of the elite West Point Academy is already a veteran of the Mexican War…highly regarded for his effectiveness on the battlefield. Lee could intuit the battlefield in a way that almost resembles Rommel in the World War II, or Patton. And as a result, he could sort of almost sense where the place would be to take the gamble and where to hit.
- Manassas, Virginia, 1862: Confederate troops gather ahead of the Second battle of Bull Run.
- Lee's forces are heavily outnumbered.
- But this Virginia woodland is home territory for these volunteer troops—known like the back of their hand…rigid training and strict discipline have turned them into a formidable fighting force.
- If you've been a betting man back then, you would have bet the South would have won. The South only had to hold its territory.
- The North had to come and take it away. The North had to be the occupying force, which is far harder to do.
- Fire! At Bull Run, Lee easily demonstrates his forces superiority. In one engagement lasting just ten minutes, the Yankee 5th New York regiment loses more men than any other regiment during the entire Civil War.
- All told, Lee's men killed over 1,700 Union soldiers. Determination and local knowledge give the South their greatest victory in the war to date.
- But Lee and his commanders have underestimated the nature of this conflict…and of their opponent, President Abraham Lincoln...because Lincoln is fighting a totally new kind of war, and the Southern adversaries just don't get it.
- A packed train speeds on its way South, ready to replenish the Union army with fresh troops and supplies.
- Lieutenant George Benedict writes home: "We were stowed away in freight cars and started out of the city. The train took 600 other troops beside our regiment and numbered 34 heavily loaded cars."
- The railway road, one of Lincoln's hidden weapons of this war. In one key operation ordered directly by the President...25,000 fresh troops were sent 1200-mile journey to the South.
- By road, it would take over two months. By rail, it will take these men just seven days.
- Following its introduction in the 1830's, America's rail infrastructure has gradually spread its tentacles across the country. Lincoln realizes it can revolutionize the speed of troop deployments.
- He strikes a deal with the rail owners to put the North railroad network under government control.
- It turns the railroad into a weapon of war. Instead of armies being limited to the speed at which they can march, all of a sudden you had armies being able to move up to the front by rail.
- And more importantly, supplies. Supplies and troops pour out of the North towards the battlefront.
- Some busy lines carry 800 tons of supplies a day; the equivalent of 80 railroad cars.
- In Lincoln's hands, the 24,000 miles of railroad tracks in the North become an arm of his war machines.
- But the South has a far smaller network—just 9,000 miles at the start of the war. And it remains under private control.In the four years the war lasts, the North adds 4,000 miles of new track to its network, against just 400 miles in the South.
- This inability to coordinate rail supplies will prove disastrous for the South. Even though they're just 30 miles from the capitol in Richmond…the winter of 1863…poor rail links mean Southern troops in Virginia starve.
- For all their brilliance and determination in battle, the South simply lacked the logistics to deliver a decisive blow. And it isn't simply rail.
- Lincoln realizes that victory depends on mobilizing the entire industrial might of the North behind the war effort.
- Production of clothing in the North doubles during the conflict.
- Pitchfork manufacturers start making swords, while the number of patents doubles in the course of the war.
- Manufacturing. Technolog. Infrastructure. It will change the face of America.
- For the first time in history, industry is put behind the war effort...An approach to conflict that America will exploit in the First and Second World Wars.
- It is the beginning of a new integrated economy; it will be the hallmark of the modern age.
- In a building just across the road from the White House is a small room.
- It will become Lincoln's nerve center in this war. At its heart…a simple device that will transform how this war is fought and won.
- The telegraph: the invention of Morse code in 1844 turns the telegraph into America's first tool of mass communication.
- Quickly encoded, the basic system of dots and dashes is ideal for brief messages.
- Like Twitter today, it needs just seconds to send them and transcribe them…where messengers previously took days on horseback over hundreds of miles and across every kind of terrain.
- Now the country's 50,000-mile telegraph network means communications is almost instantaneous.
- As telegraph poles snake out alongside the railroad line, this vast country begins to shrink.
- It will transform the nature of this war, as information and decisions can flow backwards and forwards at lightning speed. It became kind of the early version of e-mail.
- Suddenly it was possible to get a message to somebody from St. Louis, you know, to get a message to New York in a shockingly short amount time.
- Lincoln immediately realizes the telegraph's potential as a weapon of war.
- He insists on the installation of telegraph lines directly into the War Department. And he quickly asks to place all telegraph facilities in the Union under military control.
- The telegraph office becomes the central hub of Lincoln's war operation—his command and control center.
- He even takes to sleeping here at busy times. The Telegraph Office Manager, David Homer Bates, describes how Lincoln obsesses over every scrap of news from the front:
- “Sometimes reading dispatches word by word as they are deciphered, Lincoln's habit was to go immediately to the drawer, each time he came into our room. And read over telegraphs beginning at the top until he came to the one he had seen on his previous visit.”
- The North’s telegraph network spreads far and wide—sucking information back to Lincoln and his commanders in Washington.
- It gives him a vast strategic overview, providing him an unrivaled insight into his commanders' tactical thinking.
- Lincoln himself was able to stay on top of literally, hour-by-hour developments in the course of individual battles.
- That never happened before.
- To the irritation of his generals, it even allows him to issue his own direct orders, telling them how to fight.
- In one campaign, with General Lee's forces threatening Washington, Lincoln responds by telegraphing direct orders to his generals:
- "The exposed position of General Banks makes his immediate relief a point of paramount importance. You are therefore directed by the President to move against Jackson at Harrisonburg.
- This movement must be made immediately.” In the course of the war, Lincoln sends almost 1,000 telegrams from the small office.
- But the South never grasps the potential of the telegraph in creating a centralized command and control system.
- It means southern generals like Lee must plan their battles without that kind of strategic overview.
- As the war continues, Lincoln brings down the hammer of his war machine. Industry, lines of communications and supplies, manpower and firepower, are all marshaled to deliver a blow after blow to the Confederate army.
- But the South, bolstered by the belief in the rightness of its cause doggedly refuses to give in.
- As a result, the death toll just keeps rising. At Antietam in 1862, 6,000 are killed—17,000 wounded—over four times as many as during World War II's D-day landings.
- The carnage will trigger a revolution in battlefield medicine.
- 3/4 of all operations conducted by army surgeons during the Civil War are amputations.
- Letters from surgeon William Watson record what these battlefield ERs were like:
- "Day before yesterday I performed 14 amputations without leaving the table. I do not exaggerate when I say I have performed at the least calculation, 50 amputations. There's so many severely wounded to the joints. There are so many operations yet to be performed.”
- Sergeant Theodore Dimon describes the hideous wounds left by the weapons like the minie ball:
- "The shuddering, splintering, and splitting of a long bone by the impact of a minie ball is both remarkable and frightening.”
- An experienced surgeon can hack off a limb in just ten minutes.
- Ether and chloroform are used as anesthetics. If the bullet doesn't kill you, an infection can.
- Gangrene is the greatest killer.
- Deprived of oxygen, wounds become an ideal breeding ground for clostridium…a bacteria that releases a poisonous toxin destroying tissue.
- Death can follow quickly.
- Approximately 60,000 amputations are performed during the Civil War…more than in any other war American has fought in. Twice as many soldiers died from infected wounds and disease as on the battlefield. This unprecedented carnage forces a complete rethink of traditional battlefield medicine.
- Looking after the well being of soldiers becomes as central to the war effort as the supply of guns and ammunition. Large numbers of women sign up as battlefields nurses.
- One of them is Clara Barton. “Help me, please.” Clara Barton is untrained and unpaid. When she starts, most nurses are men. It's a menial occupation. The remedies she proposes for the care of the wounded are simple, but revolutionary in their effect.
- "They want food, clothing, shelter, medicines…and a few calm, practical persons to administer them." She insists the injured have a ready supply of clean bandages.
- First aid, the sorting of the wounded with the most serious cases first. The Civil War brings in a series of innovations that form the basis of battlefield medicine to this day.
- 20,000 women sign on as nurses during the war. Clara Barton herself goes on to found the American Red Cross. Standard of hygiene begin to dramatically improve with the discovery of bromine. This caustic chemical is effective against the bacteria that cause gangrene.
- As a result, nearly 3/4 of amputees survive surgery. Gangrene becomes rare by the war's end.
- With the war dragging on without a clear end in sight, Lincoln is increasingly forced to fight on a very different front—the war for public opinion.
- The spread of portable cameras means for the first time gory images of the battlefield can now reach every home. While these simple cameras ruled out dramatic action scenes, they're ideal for capturing the gruesome aftermath of battle.
- As many as 1,500 photographers flood the battlefield…their images are sold widely to members of the public for as little as 25 cents.
- It was war photography coming back from the Civil War that captured it in a way that made it real and made people recognize the really extraordinary, unprecedented violence.
- America's growing newspaper mass media reproduces simple woodcuts of the images.
- More than 200 correspondents cover the war, filing over 100 million words of copy.
- This deluge of information about the war ensures the grim reality of the conflict is seared into the public consciousness.
- Never again will politicians be able to fight wars without public support.
- The war means a soldier is five times more likely to die than a civilian.
- Where families used to grieve for the dead at home, now men die on the battlefield.
- It forces a fundamental shift in the ritual surrounding death.
- Matt Botage dies on the battlefield in Virginia.
- Yet his family in Boston can still say goodbye to their son killed 500 miles away…even though it has taken a week for his body to travel from the battlefield.
- His father describes how it is free from signs of decomposition:
- "So the marks of closely contested battle was still upon the face. The features were placid, as if he were sleeping." That's because of the new technique known as embalming.
- Chemicals like arsenic and zinc chloride are injected in the corpse to hold the natural process of decay.
- The business of death, the preservation of bodies turns undertakers into overnight millionaires.
- One undertaker boasts: "I would be glad to prepare private soldiers. They are worth a 5 dollar bill a piece. But Lord bless you, Colonel pays 100…and a Brigadier General, 200."
- If you got the money, all sorts of new techniques are available. Airtight coffins and embalming are most popular and for the wealthiest, even elaborated refrigerated coffins packed with ice.
- The war drags on. Lincoln is determined to end it, and abolish slavery.
- In September 1862, he gives the South an ultimatum: Rejoin the Union. He threatens to forcibly liberate their slaves if they refuse.
- But the South, having tasted independence, does not want to rejoin a Union where slavery would be at risk. They reject the ultimatum.
- Lincoln is in no mood to negotiate. If the South won't free their slaves, he will do it himself.
- For white Southerners, it was a confirmation that their thoughts about Lincoln all along that he was, in fact, somebody who was bent on destroying what they thought was the Southern way of life.
- In the North, in a sense, it gave people a different understanding of what the war was about.
- On January 1st, 1863, Lincoln issues a proclamation abolishing slavery in the rebellious Southern states. Thanks to the telegraph, the news quickly spreads.
- "On the 4th day of January, in the year of our Lord, 1863."
- Lincoln had totally grown to where he said not only should blacks not be slaves, they should be treated as equal citizens with full enfranchisement, right to vote and right to participate.
- "All persons held as slaves shall be then, henceforth and forever free."
- In the wake of Lincoln's emancipation of the slaves, black American soldiers rushed to enlist for the Union. Almost 200,000 signed up by the end of the war.
- General James Blunt describes their skills as fighters: "I never saw such fighting as was done by the Negro regiment. They make better soldiers in every respect than any other troops I have ever had under my command."
- The Emancipation Proclamation changes the dynamics of the war. The Union army becomes a force for liberation now fighting to end slavery.
- “They understood that saving the Union would give them some sense of freedom, some sense of dignity. It was the dignity that I am a soldier; I am not a servant, I have a uniform. I have stripes. I am somebody."Lincoln follows the Proclamation with his masterstroke.
- His address in 1863: Dedicating America's first National Cemetery for soldiers at Gettysburg is perhaps the single most famous piece of political rhetoric in history.
- "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. That we here highly resolve that these deaths shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom And that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from this earth."
- It's an emotional thing to think about people sacrificing, giving their lives for an ideal.
- And it's Lincoln at his absolute best. The genius—the simplicity that conveys a great amount. It's spiritual in a way. It's a hymn to America. It's the hymn to the possibilities of the great sacrifices of this country.
- But in 1864, the war remains deadlocked. With an election looming and a challenge coming from those who want to negotiate a peace with the South, Lincoln knows he needs to land a decisive blow.
- “At some point somebody gets tired. Somebody blinks. Someone makes a mistake. And when you're talking about war, that mistake—it’s everything.” Lincoln puts the North's entire industrial might behind one final push.
- The man who will lead the charge from Chattanooga to Atlanta: William Sherman. His Orders: to stop for nothing.
- "I would make this war as severe as possible. And show no symptoms of tiring until the South begs for mercy."
- Advancing under the cover of night, Sherman's march is sustained by one of the greatest logistical operations yet seen in this conflict.
- Sherman knows he needs to throw everything he's got at the Confederate army.
- While he uses his own supply lines to maximum effect, he destroys those of the South…ripping up their railroad and bending it beyond use.
- In one day, the North's supply lines replace 200,000 bullets…while the South is left scavenging on the battlefield for spent rounds, food, or even old boots. Sherman calls it Total War.
- A scorched earth approach becomes the trademark of modern warfare.
- Finally, with Atlanta under siege, Confederate forces set fire to their own munitions’ stores…before abandoning their city to the Union soldiers.
- Sherman's tactics of total war have won out. His victory helps secure Lincoln's election in the fall. With Atlanta in ruins, he just keeps going…now launching what will be his final assault: "The March to the Sea."
- In a 19th century equivalent of "shock and awe,” 62,000 Union soldiers wreak a 60-miles-wide path of destruction across Georgia, from Atlanta to the coast of Savannah. Supply lines are cut. Villages are sacked and crops torched. Anything of military value is destroyed.
- Within 6 months, General Lee has tendered the Confederate Army's surrender. The rebellion is over.
- The South will have to submit to the Union, and bring an end to slavery. By the act of winning, the North both validated freedom and validated the industrial model.
- And so you have American confidence, an American sense of achievement…an American willingness to go out around the world.
- For all the Confederacy's commitment, its inferior logistical infrastructure has been no match for the North's unstoppable war machine.
- It's industrial heartland, its growing network of railroad, its telegraph network all bring victory to the North.
- Within a week, Lincoln lies dead from an assassin's bullet, but America has pulled back from the brink.
- The nation is once again united. And out of that unity, now grows a modern, industrialized economy that will reach right across this great continent.