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tv   The Civil War Socialite Secessionist Spy  CSPAN  November 14, 2021 5:00am-5:46am EST

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cspan talk about organ c-span's online store restaurant latest correction of cspan products. .org. well hello, welcome to on rose o'neill, socialite, secessionist and spy. i am kelly hancock the public programs manager at the american civil war museum in richmond, virginia. and as i start out this talk, i want to begin with just a few questions. what motivates someone to risk everything for a cause? is it strong passions a reckless nature, a longing for
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adventure or desire for notoriety? i think when we look at rosa, all of these may have been at motivating factors in her life. now this is the earliest known picture of rose. here she is in her 30s. when she first came to washington d.c. though, she was about 15 this was in 1828. process a widowed mother sent her and her sister alan to live with her aunt, mariah hill who was elisha's sister. mariah ran a boardinghouse and it was located in the old brick capitol building. this is the building u.s. congress had used after the british burned the u.s.
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capitol in 1814. and then they acquired it became a boardinghouse. they primarily catered to southern politicians. one of those was john c calhoun from south carolina. rose formed a lifelong friendship with calhoun. and as she did with many politicians in washington d.c. but calhoun was among the closest. rose stood out for her beauty. she had thick dark long hair, chestnut eyes, of pale olive complexion, a good figure so she was a little curvaceous she was also flirtatious which attracted many men to her including married men. their wives were not too happy about that. we do not know really anything about rose's education. presumably she had acquired
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one before she came to d.c. i will mention she came from montgomery county, maryland for her family owned a small plantation. roosevelt's sister, susanna had married a man from a prestigious family in georgetown. so when rose and ellen come to d.c., susanna provides entrée into upper level deceit society. of course in the boardinghouse rose is immersed in a world of politics. within five years, rose's sister alan mary's james mattis huff who was the nephew of dolly madison. this is another avenue into d.c. high society. rose herself did not marry until may of 1835 when she was
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22 years old. she married doctor robert green house. i do not have a picture of robert but i can show the church in which they were married, st. patrick's catholic church. no robert was not a catholic he was an episcopalian. robert has an interesting connection, at least to me because he was a richmond her. he was born in richmond and in fact his mother was killed in the tragic theater fire. robert was educated at william and mary and they went to medical school in new york. but his true passion was culture and language he spent seven years in europe he spoke spanish, french, german and italian. so when he came back to the states he got a job working as a translator and librarian in
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the state department in washington d.c. robert was 13 years older than rose, but they do seem to have had this very close marriage. really kind of a partnership. rose is very often the one who is pushing them forward in society. they had a total of eight children but tragically five of them died quite young. there are only three girls that survived rose. they were social climbers, a lot of this is due to rose and her personality. they were invited by martin van buren to visit him in the white house. they had tea with dolly madison. they threw a party to honor the supreme court justice and of course maintained this friendship as i mentioned earlier with john c calhoun.
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robert became quite close to him as well. rose was a very much a staunch southerner and someone who believed in slavery. she unashamedly voiced opinions about the inferiority of the negros. she had no problems believing she was a far superior as a white person. she was very much a product of her culture and could be her father's death had also influenced her. because her father, who was a man who liked to drink and carouse, one night was coming home very, very late. was thrown from his horse and his enslaved body servant was accused of finishing him off. of striking a blow to his head with iraq even though jacob protested, declared his innocence he had gone for help
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he had not fled. but he was executed nonetheless. rose herself gave credit for her views to john c calhoun. this is what she wrote. she said i am a southern woman born with a revolutionary blood in my veins and my first crude ideas of the state and federal matters received consistency from the best and wisest man of the century, john c calhoun. and even before the war, rose was involved to aid the expansion of slavery. in the summer of 1849, general lopez was a venezuelan revolutionary came to robert and talk to him about this plan to invade cuba, capture it and give it to the united states so it could be admitted as a slave state.
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robert told rose about this she was so intrigued she had one on one breakfast with lopez. and then she reported all this to john c calhoun who is very enthusiastic about this endeavor. president taylor though, whilst the expedition he felt like it violated neutrality. that shows you a little bit about rose and how she was a very much involved in what her husband was doing. very much involved in trying to expand slavery. rose, by the time of the civil war, was a widow. her marriage ended rather tragically and rather suddenly. robert was off working as a law agent for the newly created land commission in san francisco, california coming home one day he fell off a plank rope it was a drop of about 6 feet. he injured his leg and hip in
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1854, did not really think a lot about this. it did not seemed like it was a life-threatening injury. but within six weeks he was dead from infection he died on march 27. how rose discovered this news is unknown. this is seven years before the telegram, seven years before western union. she certainly did not get the news instantly. it either came by letter or perhaps she sought in the newspaper, here is an account from the nevada journal march 31 talking about robert's death. rose, upon learning of her husband's death, made a trip out to san francisco and she actually ended up suing the city and being awarded 10,000 dollars in damages. additionally the u.s. congress gave her $42000 as compensation for robert's salaries and incidental
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expenses. now, despite these large settlements, and a state of $52000 which should have been sufficient for her to live on for some time, but within three years rose was in dire financial straits. she did like to spend a lot. she loved to entertain on a grand scale that may have had something to do with it. she also may have made some very bad investments speculating on stocks she was forced to rely on her son-in-law for support, her eldest daughter florence had married more who had gone out west to become a prosperous minor. he assisted her financially and rose essentially moved into a house on west 16th street near the white house. now, one of rose's closest friends was james buchanan. so her husband's death really did not change her activity in
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society. she used her influence to promote buchanan's run for the presidency. she was delighted by his victory in 1856. this allowed her access to the highest levels of d.c. society levels. despite the fact rose is an adamant supporter of slavery, she entertained with northerners and southerners and a number of prominent northerners frequented her home. colonel darwin keyes was the secretary to wendell scott. secretary steward whose new york senator and abolitionist, joe lane of oregon, and senator henry wilson of massachusetts wasn't abolitionist as well. he was also a president of the military affairs committee in the senate.
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he was in a powerful place. not a handsome man he was described as having a larger pot she was also a married man it was rumored he and rose did have an affair. in the national archives there are over a dozen letters from what is supposed to have been or what is thought to have been henry signed him with the h. and these letter he expresses his love. he expresses his desire to be with her. he apologizes when he is not able to come to her home. he does not reveal any national secrets in these letters. now, i do not think it is a mystery that rose becomes a spy. i'm getting a little head of the story but i will mention there's some question why wilson, did she actually get information out of him that she then relayed to confederates?
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did she use his name to simply make her information sound more reliable? or is anna blackman, rose is a biographer argues was she trying to trap him because of his abolitionist views? i will mention two, there were some historians that don't believe these letters were written by henry wilson at all and they attribute them to horace white who was a clerk in the war department. there is a bit of a mystery there. now, as the election of 1860 approach, it looked like rose was going to be in this prime position. she was going to be a good friend of the next president it seemed. she was close to joe lane has been considered she was friendly with breckenridge who became the candidate for the southern democrats and who was buchanan's bp. and rose was also the ants of
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roads dell who had married steven douglas and steven douglas is a candidate for the northern democrats. of course none of that happens. abraham lincoln is elected and in 30 years of democrat rule in d.c., rose despises lincoln she refers to him as the bean pole. was certainly unhappy about lincoln's election. not only did abraham lincoln's election cause or lead to the breakup of the union and the deep south states succeed after he wins, but the election divided rose's family. her niece, eddie cuts and her husband steven douglas befriended lincoln even though prior to lincoln's election
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douglas was one of his rivals. her son-in-law is treadwell moore becomes a captain in the u.s. army. it's interesting more asked rose to help them. he wanted to be sent to ohio to raise a regiment. he asked rose to use her influence and she didn't. she wrote to the secretary of treasury and more was able to do as he hoped. now rose was recruited as a spy in the spring of 1861 by captain thomas jordan. he was a west point is a quartermaster in the u.s. army and he was planning to leave the army inside with the confederates. he acts upon general beauregard staff. he wanted to create a spy ring. he recruited rose to do that. then taught her decipher.
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here's the size and the national archives. he coordinate with her for her messages to be sent to his alias. so rose's home became a meeting place for secessionists. one of them that i will mention is eugenia phillips just because i find this intriguing. she was the wife of a former alabama senator and lawyer. he decided to stay in d.c. also the sister of phoebe yates who was one of the matrons during the war. one other member of the spy ring was a 16-year-old girl named betty. it is betty who is the one to deliver rose's fateful message. now uncial 99th rose sends a message to general beauregard
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via betty devol telling him that the union army and northeastern virginia was about to move. beauregard sent general to confirm this. and then on july 16, rose gave that confirmation. she said the march was scheduled for tonight. so beauregard automatically wired jefferson davis with this news. jefferson davis then was able to send joseph johnson from the valley to reinforce beauregard. rose was not in the city when the battle of manassas of bull run was fought. she was actually in new york city. she had gone to take her daughter lelah to board a
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steamer. she decided to send lelah, her middle surviving daughter out west to join florence. and she kept it with her only her youngest child, little rose. when rose returned to the city , she saw this as a confederate victory. in a victory the women had helped to achieve it. she said the southern women of washington are the cause of the defeat of the grand army. they are entitled to the laurels one by the brave defenders of our soil and institution. they have told beauregard when to strike. so that really reveals how proud rose was of what she had done. she continued to send messages to beauregard. she sent to nine messages in all one was a map of the defenses around d.c. rose also was outspoken and
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her hatred of lincoln and the union cause. she was obviously pro- confederate. in this sense she did nothing to keep her identity hidden she was not like elizabeth van lu who kind of play the game. and because of that her neighbors became very suspicious. they watch comings and goings from her home. so they reported her to the assistant secretary of war, thomas scott. scott then called in allan pinkerton who is kind of the head of security for mcclellan's army and had run a diff detective agency. august 23 pinkerton arrested rose as she returned home from a walker. rose and other members of the spy ring were jailed in their home. what was eugenia phillips, there were some other women jailed thereto. of course little rose is there with her.
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they are all under this house arrest. throughout this, rose continued to send out messages. sometimes she would bribe guard to get this done. sometimes she is an invisible. she said she wrote tapestries with the yarn that had color-coded meanings. i am not sure if that is absolutely accurate or not. she did manage to keep getting messages out. in the official records rose's charge of being a spy and furnishing the generals with important information relative to the movement of the union forces. another thing she did was to make use of the press. in november she had written a letter to secretary of state william steward, remember they were friends. in this letter she complained better poor treatment she compares her child to marie antoinette. talk about how she is not even allowed to change her linens
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without there being a guard to watch her. rose wrote that her situation was even worse. there was a detective that set sentinel at her open door at all times for seven days i with my little child was placed absolutely at the mercy of men without character or responsibility. rose was able to smuggle a copy of this letter. steward did not respond to it rose smote a copy of this letter out, friends were able to get it in the richmond newspaper the richmond wig. the wig had a lot of fun making jabs at stewart and talk about his reaction to this letter. the papers reported on rose and the fact she was continuing to get out information.
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which really made pinkerton even more frustrated. he had the windows of her house boarded up, he went in and make sure there's not a scrap of paper so she would not have anything to write on. the papers are reporting all of this and here's harper's weekly gender 18, 1862. they report that, she's been carrying on the secret correspondence with the enemy and she was going to be sent to fort lafayette. that was a bit uncorrected. instead rose was sent to old capitol prison and here's a photograph of rose with her daughter there. no old capitol prison had been her aunt's boardinghouse it. it's interesting to think about this old capitol prison was rose's first home in d.c. and it becomes her last home. by the time she is placed in the prison, this place is run down, it is dirty.
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initially it had been used to house confederate soldiers. now it's a place for disloyal citizens, for spies, blockade runners, deserters. rose was placed in a room on the upper floor at the back that overlooks a courtyard. bars were placed over her windows. and throughout this, rose response in a very hostile, and periods theatrical manner. she treats the guards as if they are servants. she looks down on the other prisoners. she does everything to aggravate them. so, as a result of that the u.s. officers who are overseeing the prison, don't take kindly to this. they do give out passes to people who want to come see the famous spy. matthew brady or one of his photographers was allowed to come in and take pictures of her. so this photograph and this
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other went right here are very similar. so this kind of thing happens. not lincoln really wants to eliminate the crowding in the southern prisons. his desire is to exile a lot of these people especially women to xl them to this house. he had to create a u.s. commission relating to state prisoners johnny dicks was one of those on the commission. he was a good friend of rose so he came to visit her on march 17. and told her basically should refrain from theatrics and insults he would see she was quietly released. that is not what rose wanted. rose wanted justice and she demanded that. she ended up coming before the commission for hearing. the other member of the commission was edwards a new york superior court judge. they had been releasing a
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stream of prisoners on the condition they take the oath of allegiance for a parole of honor to keep out of the fight on refrain from providing aid or comfort to the enemy. made it clear to rose that was what lincoln wanted he said it's been proposed to make the suggestion to you is if you like to accept it. you would think after being imprisoned for seven months, rose to be ready to take this offer. but no she was not ready to back down. she said in other words you mean to tell me that if i do not accept this i'll be forcibly exiled? that is what she wanted to make the lincoln government do to forcibly send herself. it's exiling me too use any force to semi's after my home. so in the commissioners proceeded to question her. but after about the cipher that men found in her home.
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she said she never used it. they asked her about letters when she reported troop numbers. she said she did not recall them. she would not swear it but thought they were false. she said she was not accountable for her guests. and then she gives a very intriguing statement. she said if mr. lincoln's friends shall pour into my ears such important information to my to be held responsible for all that? could be presumed i cannot use that which was given to me by others? if i do not i would be unjust to myself and my friends. it is said a woman cannot keep a secret. i am a woman and a woman usually tells all she knows of. well, after a wild the commission decided okay, we will send her back to old capitol prison. so she went back to the prison and then on april 3 rose
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received word the commission would exile her. she wrote to the governor, the military governor and said okay i will accept banishment under protest. but i won't promise i will stay gone for the entire war. i might come back before that. then she asked for clemency time and freedom to make the necessary arrangements adding, of course of this is granted me i shall find myself to the period of time allotted not to blow up the presidents house, break open the treasury or do any other small act which you may suppose comes with the might limits of power to perform it. while that certainly did not please the military governor. so he just ignored it. and then finally, rose got tired of waiting. on april 14 she said sir i'm ready to leave the prison to go south according to the
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decree of the commissioners to that effect. so she acquiesced. by this point i think the government was tired of dealing with her. they said we'll let it leave it there for a while. she was not freed until may 31 at 2:00 p.m. so, by that point she was just sent via a flag of truce vote to ignore folk and actually then onto city point and by rail she came from petersburg up to richmond. it was rose, little roast and another prisoner who was released with her. she had been in prison for ten months, five at her house and then over for an old capitol prison. went rose arrived in richmond, it was on june 4 it was right after the battle of southern pine. the battle right outside of
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richmond as mcclellan had got almost to the gates of the city bringing his massive army at the peninsula the city was filling up with the wounded. it's in this environment that rosa rice jefferson davis did come to visit her but for you there would have been no battle of bull run. he certainly did give her credit. to from a secret service of fun to the valuable and patriotic service rendered to you by our cause.
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about rose, the way she acquired information through affairs and sexual favors looks down upon. the women in richmond it does not appear greeted her with open arms. it's thought rose spent most of the time that she was in richmond, shaping the journal she had kept as a prisoner. shaping that into a book. and then jefferson davis as a last ditch effort and an attempt to get recognition decided that rose might make a
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pretty good emissary. if he sent her over too europe, maybe she could do something the confederate commissioners had not been able to accomplish. so rose left for europe on august 5, 1863 on the blockade runner she wrote 540 bales of cotton, this from the confederate government. this cotton was to be used as white gold to pay for her expenses while she was in europe. she spent about a year in europe. a lot of time spent in london but time in paris as well. during this she signs a contract publisher to her majesty and had her book my imprisonment the first year of abolition rule out washington
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printed. it took about three months. rose, while she was in england arrange the release of a naval officer who had been taken from alabama. she worked with charles francis adams was a u.s. minister to the court of st. james to get that accomplished. she decided to put little rose in a convent. in paris, which is now the museum. if you have been there to look at the masterpieces you have been where little rose spent some time. one thing rose was able to arrange was a meeting with napoleon the third period this is a probably, and whiteman makes a big point of this inner book this is probably the first time the french
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apple were agreed to see an american born a woman for a policy talk. this is an unusual role for a moment at the time. here she is meeting with the emperor. she definitely used flattery on him. she tried to persuade him to recognize the confederacy. but napoleon questioned the military strategy and also did not want to act unilaterally. he would not act unless great britain did. rose did not have any success in convincing palmer son who was the prime minister and head of a liberal government that approved of slavery. she did not have any success in convincing palmer center do that. she thought about going to rome and try to get recognition and finally decided against that. so, on july 30 she went to paris one last time to talk to
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a little rose and say goodbye to her because she had decided to return to the confederacy. she wrote the desperate struggle in which my people are engaged is ever present i long to be near to share in the triumph or to be buried under the ruins without home without nationality. so on august 10 rose boarded the condor which was a sleek runner that left of the scottish port and went to bermuda, then halifax and the goal was to make it back to wilmington. the ship was captained by william nathan white cute who is a british naval officer on furlough. the shift on saturday october 1, 1864, about 3:00 a.m. the condor encountered blockade runners off cape fisher.
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fired a broadside at the condor but missed and the condor thinking it was another blockade or swerved to miss it when captain wright ran the ship aground. the ship had seen was the wreck of another blockade runner. the ship is in the position it's stuck on the shoal. but it was protected by the guns of fort fisher. so captain wright was not altogether worried. he felt like he would be able once the tide came in and went raise he would be able to get the condor into port into wilmington. but rose was panicked. she was terrified she was going to be captured again. she'd already spent almost ten months in prison she did not want that to happen. and of course she was a persuasive woman she was a
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woman who typically got her way. in this instance it did not work well for her. the captain agreed to lower a boat. he sent a pilot in a couple of crewmen with a boat in addition to lieutenant wilson who was the officer that rose had negotiated for his release. and then judge holcomb was a confederate commissioner to canada. they were all lowered into the sea. about the time, almost instantly when the boat hit the ocean there is a big swell that came up and capsized it. everyone except rose was able to make it back to the boat. rose wasn't. think if you look at this picture of her you get one idea. part of the problem was her clothing. she's wearing a very heavy, heavy dress.
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so that waited her down. and in addition to this she had a pouch with dispatches from the commissioners and also in that pouch she had 400 gold sovereigns that was the equivalent of $2000 at the time. these coins probably weighed around 6 pounds. the pouch is attached to rose's neck by a chain. so she is a weighted down with that gold. and because of that was unable to make it back to the ship. now her body was discovered a few hours later by eight fedor century. he said to be the shortest mount the glottis on trent name in the confederate armory. evidently found the body, saw this pouch, looked inside it,
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so all the gold and buried it because that is what usually find a treasure he had planned to go back later and get it for himself. there are two stories about why he didn't. one says he got afraid that he would be discovered solely unburied it and reported to his commanding officer. the other story is when he found out who the body was, who the woman was she was a part of the confederacy in bringing the money he decided to turn that in. but regardless of that, the money does end up being turned in. it is thomas taylor who is supervising the salvage of the nighthawk that is the other
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rose's body was taken to hospital number four. there is an honor guard station at the door. people came by to view or pay their respects to rose. there is a mass held for her at st. thomas the apostle roman catholic church. then she was buried at oakdale cemetery. in 1888, the ladies memorial association erected a marble cross at her grave. so, there we have it. if we think about rose as a spy, she did that great service before the battle of manassas bull run. beauregard when he wrote about this in years later mentioned had that same information from other sources.
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so she was not the only source of information. she did help to confirm when this movement was going to take place. that was valuable information. but as far as a spy she was very open about her beliefs and what she did. she was not as effective as she could've been. but where she was effective was in the pr department. she was able to generate a lot of sympathy, a lot of support. even in great britain and france there were people who truly admired her. she did not succeed in getting recognition for the confederacy, probably could not have. this was at least a possibility for the confederates with her. so there you have it. i did have a few questions that came in.
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one is about rose and the jackal whether that was accurate. i would have to say have never seen it. there's a question about little rose and what happened to her. she did end up coming back to the states after the war ended. she went on to marry a man who is a west point graduate and officer in the u.s. army even though they did eventually get divorced. i believe she had one child. there is a question about what happened to the men who had provided rose with information. as far as wilson went, henry wilson, there were no repercussions for him even though they did find all of those love letters in rose's house and knew that he was connected to rose. wilson continued to serve on the military as chair of military affairs committee.
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and in 1872 he becomes president grant vice president. so nothing really happened to him. when pinkerton was spying on rose there was a military officer that pinkerton ended up following. the officer had pinkerton arrested. pinkerton was able to smuggle out a note and in the end this officer who is not named was arrested. there were some people involved who were arrested. a lot of women in the spy ring ended up being exiled like rose or taking those pearls of honor. on thank you for listening for this hour. as always if you are interested in our other programs that we have coming
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up, please visit our website a cwm.org. thank you for watching. ♪ ♪ >> weekends on the seat pan and cspan2 are an intellectual feast american history tv documents america's stories and on sunday at book tvs review the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding for cspan2 comes from these television companies and more including buckeye broadband. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ buckeye broadband along with these television companies support cspan2 as a public service. >> this week we are looking back to the state in history. >> you are looking at a live
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picture of the berlin wall shortly before the dawn of the new day. a day that will see this felt by the communists open to freedom for all and easter. what you are seeing now is taking place at 5:30 a.m. in the morning in berlin, berlin time. these crowds mostly young people been here all night celebrating the opening of the wall, welcoming the tens of thousands from coming across to the west. night both sides of the wall could not wait to test their new freedom. these were unthinkable only a few hours ago young westerns have passed the concrete barrier reaching out to east germans helping them up the wall. despite a barrage of police water cannons. jubilance and graffiti. for 28 years the wall has been a part a given, something that was just there. tonight it symbolizes something else, the failure of an east german government to
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resist the wave of change rolling over soviet bloc nations. the sound of new freedom the chipping away of the wall itself. and at the system that built it. >> follow us on social media at c-span history for more of the state in history posts. flex good evening everyone and welcome to the new york historical society. i am police and historical president and ceo for anyone who does not already know me. i am really over the moon to see so many of you this evening and our beautiful robert h smith auditorium. many of you for the first times in a long time so welcome back. tonight's program, the chinese question global politics is part of our bernard and irene schwartz speakers series which is the heart of our public programs.

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