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Program 11: The Civil War/Vicksburg
Donald L. Miller with Douglas Brinkley and Louis P. Masur
Narrator: War. The American Revolution. The Civil War. World War I.
World War II. The Korean War. Vietnam. Can war trigger social change?
Miller: Happening to have my own predilection that every battle counts
towards social policy.
Brinkley: One thing that's clear after studying all these wars: you've
got to have a kind of unity of spirit and effort. You're always going to have
Miller: In countries at war, all the stresses and strains will come
out, you know, and you only see the national character. Can it hold together?
Masur: It's absolutely indistinguishable with the Civil War. You start
with this limited war, and by the end it becomes total war. The first
large-scale modern war in American history. More casualties, more deaths in
the Civil War than all others combined.
Narrator: Today, on A Biography of America, "The Civil War".
Miller: When William Tecumseh Sherman heard that South Carolina had
seceded, he knew it meant war. At the time, he was retired from the army and
was running a military academy in Louisiana. Sherman was a native of Ohio but
he loved the south and had no quarrel with slavery, believing, in his words,
that the black man should "be subject to the white man."
But secession was another matter. He considered South Carolina's break with the
union an act of treason and reckless insanity. As he told an instructor at the
academy, "You Southerners underestimate the people of the North. You are
rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical and
determined people on earth--right at your doors. You are bound to fail."
But because of the intensity of secessionist sentiment, Sherman knew this would
be a long, brutal war. Sherman left Louisiana before the attack on Fort
Sumter. He returned two years later with Ulysses Grant to crush secession.
And, because the war had changed by then, slavery itself.
In l861, most Northerners believed, as Sherman did, that this must be a war to
restore the union, not to end slavery. But unlike Sherman, they anticipated a
quick Union victory with little bloodshed. No one could have imagined how
horrible this war would be. By the time it was over, three million men had
fought and there were one million casualties; one million men killed, wounded,
or missing in action.
620,000 men died. Think of it. 680,000 have died in all the other American wars
combined. In a single, one-day battle at Antietam Creek, Maryland, 23,000 men
fell. That's nearly four times the number of American causalities on the
beaches of Normandy on D-Day.