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Program 11: The Civil War/Vicksburg

Donald L. Miller with Douglas Brinkley and Louis P. Masur

Introduction

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 dissent.

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".

[Picture of Professor Miller]

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.

[Picture of Civil War casualties]

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.



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