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tv   The Civil War Former Friends - Union General Hancock Confederate General...  CSPAN  November 10, 2021 6:54pm-7:41pm EST

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that leez may have other plans, but upon that, pope is lee's primary objective. we're going to wipe the army off the map and get this out of virginia and then we'll deal with the army back on the peninsula. >> thank you. washington unfiltered. c-span in your pocket, download c-span now today. >> our next speaker is tom mcmillen. he's a lifelong student of history and the civil war. up until this year, he had previously published two books. flight 93 and "gettysburg rebels", who came home for the
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awards. it's our newest release, behind the legend of two friends at the turning point of the civil war. and this will be the foundation for his presentation today i will let you know this book is the hot off the press. it's not officially released until july 15th. so you can get it here first now. >> he's also served on the board of trustees with the history center. and previously on the board of directors of the national memorial. and recently retired two days ago, from a 43-year career in
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communications and media. i'd like to present tom mcmillan. >> thank you to the heritage center. this is a great place it's my favorite civil war bookstore in the country. it's good to be with this group of pretty distinguished speakers. >> but to start, you can probably guess where this book is going a little bit. i want to start by saying i love the movie "gettisbur." it's what got me into studying the battle assen adult. i drove here and have had the illness ever since. the movie before i read the
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novel it's based on killer angels. key words being for fiction. it's based on history, but there's a lot of fiction woven in, especially with the conversations. the novel did it so well that you can't often separate the fact from fiction. there were so many great stories. the one that always stood out for me was what a story that was. two frepds, almost brothers. out in l.a. and in 1861 and then two years later, meet here in the most famous attack where the men attacked the men and both fall wounded.
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i want there wasn't much out there. that's why there's one now. i said is i'll read about it. there has to be a lot written about the confederate general who achieved the teepest penetration. 158 years and one book. 64 pages done in 1994. you know it's well researched and well done, but that's really it. a few years ago, they did a book on the charge. but there's not much in book form. there's a lot written about hancock. he's a hero of the battle and lived for 20 years after the war. he runs for president in 1880. lots of books. but most of them barely mention
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arm stead. sol don't mention him at all. so what's going on here? starting to did the research, i talked to some of my friends who are serious of the battle. and i said what do you know? and almost to a person what they knew was based on one scene of a movie where he's having an emotional conversation. and he's talking about california back in '61. and he quotes himself. this is one of the great scenes of the movie. he says, when so hp me if i ever raise my hand against you, may god strike me dead. may god strike me dead. that's how close these guys were. he couldn't bring himself to think about fighting against hancock, even though they had agreed to fight against each other in the civil war.
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but that's the movie version. there's only one person wofs there that wrote about it and that's his wife. she does quote him as using the phrase, may god, but in slightly different context. he says he god will strike me dead if i ever leave my native soil, should worst come to worst. and the show that to people, and they say, that's not true, that's not what i heard. it's not compelling. he was there so what happens? novelist and movie makers are storytellers. they are enhancing and making an impression. so these the tools. so on top of that, you have to invent the story sometime. the movies already for hours. so it is part of the tour. and by the way, those conversations, between armistead and longstreet, there is no evidence they happened. that's another tool of what we
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have. so moving on from there, then we go to west point -- did they go to west point together? no. they came up together, but armistead was ahead by seven. years hancock was born 1824. serving in the army in the second lieutenant in a war in florida, before they even got hancock and rolled. even later, they meet on the frontier. are there letters, personal letters between these two? they do not exist. there are no letters from hancock that even manchin armistead. sorry, -- there is no letters from armistead that even mentioned hancock. there are two letters from hancock dimension armistead, but they are after he died. and he is inquiring about the circumstances of armistead's wounding. so what gives here? if you are researching a book on armistead and hancock in the friendship you better
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[interpreter] -- that they are friends. [laughs] so i hope you can blew this up here, conclude that they are friends. i'm confident saying they were good friends. they were not almost brothers. they weren't even best friends in the modern sense in that i spent a lot of time away from each other. but they serve together on a frontier and served together in the mexican war. they built a bond of soldiers and that bomb continued for 19 years. so to me it is a compelling and unique story, reflective of what the civil war did to the country. it is just not the same story you heard in the novel and movie. so who were these guys? lewis armistead was from a distinguished military family from virginia. armistead may have been serving in the military since the year 16 80, when lewis's third great grandfather was a lieutenant colonel of the -- loss to county virginia. they fought in all the american wars and lewis's father and the
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-- were officers who fought in the war of 1812. four brothers from the same family in generations ahead of his. captain lewis, j.a. armistead. aim for the 17th century swedish warrior. he is killed and runs a rifle unit and is killed in the battle of 1814. he commands others in south carolina he dies of disease in 1813. lewis and addison. what is our civil war guys name? louis addison armistead. he is military almost from the time that he comes out of the war womb. but the most famous is george armistead, who commanded in the battle of baltimore when francis got here at the national anthem. they took the flag, the original star-spangled banner, he took it off the flagpole and
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took it home and it remains in the private possession of the armistead family for 90 years. the grandson gave it to the smithsonian and if you go tomorrow to the national museum of american history, that 200 year old flag, that came directly out of the armistead family. but george does a few years after, probably have a heart attack. so the longest-living and highest ranking is lewis's father. walker chief armistead, not well known today. third man ever to graduate from west point in 1818 when lewis is one year old. he becomes chief engineer of the u.s. army. walker is later named the brigadier general one of the highest ranking harvesters. it is no coincidence that armistead is a soldier. it is no coincidence that his three younger brothers were confederate soldiers. it's no coincidence that his
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son also, named walker keith, was a confederate soldier and also on staff here as a teenager and witnessed pickets charge. military service was part of the army stud dna now lewis did try to follow his father's footsteps. it is the most storied career of anyone who never graduated. three years on campus, never got out of a freshman class. [laughs] hard to do we have some college professors here, that's hard to do. he was sick a little bit and obviously was not a very good student and he got into a fair amount of trouble but in his third year on campus, he was taking the same classes for the third time, and move all the way up to the middle of the class. there are some entry in the records of january of 1836. charged with the rest, disorderly conduct in the muscle. and the details of what happened are long gone from
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west point. it was destroyed in a fire in -- but luis brought in a mess hall and -- over the head with the plate. which we kind of laugh at today because it was something serious back then but lewis knows that he is in trouble and he knows that in order to avoid a car court-martial he must resign but the west point superintendent goats to army headquarters and says he will be re-accepted as a courtesy to armistead. and so lewis was not thrown out there is about a three year gap in the story of his life. but the -- as the second lieutenant was his last class at west point graduated july 1st and the commission dates up to that date.
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lewis's commission is july 10th. although shenanigans not even on campus. just nine days. your dad is a brigadier general, -- so off he goes to the war zone. he is down in florida almost immediately, second or third day he is in hot combat. but not long into his tenure there is a change to the command structure. the commander of all u.s. troops in the florida theater is, you guessed it, brigadier general walker chief armistead. he does get an up close and personal view of how a general runs an army and he serves out his term and he is sent to the frontier to a place called fort townsend, now in oklahoma. and that's where he meets hancock. now what is hancocks? background. he does not have the military pedigree but his father
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benjamin has historic names, this thing for historic names. that would be benjamin franklin hancock. they have twin boys in 1824 named winfield scott after the soldier and name the other hillary. they are from southeastern pennsylvania. -- six years later, they named him, simply john. scott hancock. and john hancock is with winfield. hancock said he's an impressive young man. he gets an appointment to west point and his father doesn't get a good idea. he is young, 16 is the under stage you can get in but he is also small. -- he's a big guy. and we consider hancock a pet.
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winfield scott hancock was the pet. about six feet. but he is small a fair amount of the time. and one time he gets -- that classmate is alexander hayes, who ends up commanding a division. hayes beats up the bully, in hancocks honor. hancock never forgets this. years later, in the flower language of the 19th century, he writes, when i was a boy, i once had difficulty and alexander hays was the first to assist me. and then expecting me for my troubles he became involved himself. i never forgot his generous actions, amazing connections. hancock is not a very good skill either, and like armistead he graduates in 1844. he is sent to the front here to fort townsend, what is now oklahoma. and that's where in october of
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1844 we have the first record of louis armistead and hancock being together. they are in a small group of 15 officers. working together and developing their friendship. they served for 16 months on the frontier. in 1845, -- they are members of a -- here is a record from 1845. six officers, and hancock is listed sixth. it's also the first time that we have a record of hancock and armistead being together that is not an army. record i was able to get a copy of a letter, and it's one that
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he writes to a fellow soldier. but look how signs the p.s.. armistead, w. hancock. pretty cool piece of evidence. doesn't mean much. 1846, mexican war happens. they want to go to some different times in places. but they end up fighting in the same unit. they are both -- almost it was always known for his bravery. off his right about him having the final attack. they also served together in postwar occupation. before the time that the fighting and then the peace treaty was signed, u.s. army occupied mexico. armistead commanded a small company. and the lieutenants were hancock and another young man who arrived from west point,
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henry heegan. he gives confirmation, saying that the three were mess mates. these guys were hanging out years before the civil war. now heath in hancock are single, armistead is married. they are trying to meet girls, heegan and heath, and he loves it because heath he says that hancock is a magnet for the ladies. next night, a second one, i love you. the third one, i love you. why do you tell these different women you love them, and he says, we are still at war, and all is fair in love and war. true story. they are transferred together after the war. jefferson barracks in st. louis and i go out. and heath he's actually where
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-- you can make a case that hancock is closer to heat than he is to armistead. but the book is heated hancock not armistead in hancock. so getting back to the story. ancock meeone of the family liv? wind field hancock you has the most stable life that you could have. but he and elmyra had two children, the families almost always together. maybe sometime by himself. but they are in florida together and california together. they are married until 1886. and armistead by contrast has a very tragic personal life and between 1850 in 1855, he loses two wives. including three children as well. five years. what would that have done to you? he's already a hard nosed guy. he has a level of bitterness, become salon, that's understandable. so the character you see
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portrayed in gettysburg, that's probably not what happened. it's understandable, he was dealt a tough deck of cards in life. in the 13-year period, before the mexican civil war, these guys are almost never together. there is one time in the late 18 sixties, when there is a massive and they are together there. to begin at west there split up again. and towards arizona, they are dealing with the mojave indians who are harassing settlers. and there is the town of los angeles, california, population barely 4000, where he is the quartermaster. and one of his jobs to supply almost its troops. in research you can find a lot about these guys. and it is painstaking research, i have no patience. and frankly my wife has a lot
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of patience. emerson hancock. 20 minutes later, says how about this. how about this my wife has -- so i will say something like armistead and hancock what can you find it 20 minutes later how about this? how about this? [inaudible] a pretty cool piece of evidence. they are hundreds of miles apart but they are working together. armistead does a good job and he earns a leave of absence and turns it into year-long leave of absence. he is listed in the census in
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the summer of 1860 as though he lived there. his mother and young son walker chief who goes by chief and reconnects with some of his friends back home one of whom was a future confederate cavalier -- cavalier turner ashby. he had commanded a militia unit here -- these men were there. ashby is telling this to armistead and armistead is ben away so long he can get his arms around him. he thinks ashley is being overly negative so he says turner did not talk so. let me sing you a song and with that louis armistead started to sing the "star spangled banner." ashby then joined in so there you have nine months of the civil war these confute future confederate officer singing the "star spangled banner." he gets past -- back to his
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post. by the time he gets herself carolina seceded and other states are lining up at my were hancock writes during this period a lot of southern board -- born seniors went to hancock for advice. he didn't have much advice for him. what he said was i can give you no advice as i shall not fight upon the principle that state rights. i cannot sympathize with you you must be guided by your convictions and i hope you will make no mistakes. this was an easy decision for him. he was 100% a union man and he was going to fight. armistead has a top decision. he's a native southerner and he comes from a long line of slaveholders in he grew up with 19 that his father owned. he owned one may be to himself briefly. his whole life and his family's history is tied up in this
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history in the "star spangled banner." the army has become his family. these are his brothers in arms. as we know he does make the tough decision and fights for the confederacy. we have this reasoning in a letter that appears in the sun's military service records in the national archives but armistead is writing a letter trying to get his son in the cadet ship. armistead had beautiful handwriting but here are the key phrases. i've been a soldier on my life but i was an officer in the army of the u.s. which service i love to fight grant country and ford with my own people and because they were right in the press. for my own country and with my own people. that's what lummis -- louis armistead joined the confederacy which leads us to famous farewell get-together in california. lots of questions about this.
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some people believe it didn't happen at all and i believe something did happen. when you look at exactly what she wrote she only identifies three people. she said more were there but she'll only i'd been advised armistead and hancock. could they have all been in the same place? the answer is yes. hancock and armistead were friends. we have newspaper counts twice in may he went through l.a. at least briefly in a letter in june that he's in l.a.. the circumstances assume this happen. this is the foundation of the legend. she wrote the most crust of the harty was major armistead whose with tears which were contagious streaming down his face and
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hands upon mr. hancock shoulders while looking at him steadily in the ice that hancock had by you can never know what this is cost me and i god will strike me dead if i am ever to leave my native soil. she said armistead brought his u.s. army major's uniform to give to hancock in case he might sometime need it. she also said armistead gave our smalls stature and that quote here requesting it should not be opened except in the instance of this death with the exception of a little prayer book intended for me and which i still possess should be sent to his family. on the flyleaf of this book is following louis a armistead justin god and fear nothing. it was 1861 before he left. there's one other account obscure account of armistead in
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hancock before they left. it's in 1880 biography of hancock by reverend d x. junkin who is a reverend in the u.s. navy at friend of the hancock family. he does some of his work in the hancock home on this biography. he attributes the following passage to hancock himself. he doesn't quote him but he says an interesting incident in connection with general armistice defection from the united states army is related by general hancock. occurred in los angeles early in 1861. on leaving los angeles to present hancock with his uniform. he also placed in his hands for safekeeping valuable papers. armistead also presented hancock a little prayer book which is still the letters -- in the latter's possession.
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they are telling the same story and this is seven years before al myra's book. he says he got the prayer book and she says she got the prayer book. so that is to say i think they did come together. they are both at seven days and they don't license of the third day of gettysburg. do they know they were fighting each other? the answer is probably and the third day of the battle army intelligence would have been pretty good but the point is they were talking about fighting each other. they weren't longing for one another. i'm not even sure low was armistead snacktime --
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nick-name. there's scant evidence of that. i deal with it in the appendix of the book. the appendix is entitled lo and behold. armistead leaves about 100 men and we are all familiar with this unique marker put up in the late 1880s there are multiple accounts that he charged past the wall to the second line where he was hit and
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fell. the most credible is from the union commander at the wall. he writes a letter to his wife after the battle and he writes simply general armistead an old army officer came over my fence and past me with for this man. i believe armistead did get into the act. this group knows there are two stories to legends armistead being assisted and carried off the field. they have masonic applications and come it was a proud member of the masons. the union soldiers rushed forward. it's probably true and of course there's no way the union army would let the general lay there in the field.
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he would be. the second one is his encounter is a staff officer. armistead is a mason and hancock is a mason. as a result we have different different masonic memorial. the proposal was that would would be the figure of armistead hancock shaking hands in the park rejected that because it did not happen. i could find no evidence that it was because they were masons. that's affirmed no evidence. the only two who knew would be armistead --.
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i was just insures said that there was no evidence that it was and it's a great story. on top of that if you read the full account he knows someone has been went to denny's told this to james longstreet. he thinks he's coming to help longstreet who is not a mason. he gets there and they introduce each other and armistead identifies hancock as an old and valued friend. and he gives in him a quote which enumerates six years later i've done him and done you all an injury which i shall regret or it can't do longest stay i live. a lot of people think that armistead was recanting. everything i've ever read about armistead i can't imagine he was recanting. he was a proud confederate
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soldier. armistead is carried to the field hospital and if you have not been down there please go down there. it's the civil war hospital. the union doctors do not think his wounds are fatal if he dies two days later on july 5. they don't know much about germs and there were rumors about avengers they may have missed and there's a story that may have been a blood clot in his leg. yes. in a shallow grave in the dug up not long afterwards by an enterprising gettysburg doctor who thinks armistead's relative may -- pay for the body and is right. his cousin in baltimore the son of the hero at fort mchenry wants his cousin's body. the deal was done and not sober and they gave him $100 in a ship to baltimore and he takes it to st. paul's cemetery and berries
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in the family vault next to his famous uncle george armistead. i was on a tour a few years ago where he said he no he's at old st. paul's and we are sure where the that's where. i was standing there with my wife who had the presence to take photos. it's a private cemetery basically and it's locked in gated and occasionally they do tours. that's the armistead story. hancock was wanted about the same time in the thigh. he he recovers that he never fully recovers. he returns to the army in six months never quite the same. it's a pretty good day in spotsylvania but that's why he never rose to a higher command. he has an interesting post-war life in a detail it in the book he runs for president in 1880 and he almost becomes president.
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1885 he returns to gettysburg for the final time where he famously argues with the location the proposed location of the hancock wounding. hancock but it should be closer to the --. it was placed by someone nearby. hancock does take you monitor the battlefield. to walk the fields with wind field scott hancock? a few months later ever of a teenage 60 contracts and alice and he dies. he is buried in norristown pennsylvania in a fault that he built when his daughter died. both of his children preceded him in death. hancock and his daughter is. here his wife and son are buried elsewhere. the story of hancock and armistead is not well-known or talked about much. it wasn't talked about it all in
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the 19th century was until the 1950s that a great historian wrote about the friendship using elm iraq hancock's book as a source in the public one person who would not have been surprise was henry hagan, not very well read. i will conclude with this. those regimental associates never met again on earth and i'm sure they met again, hancock was wounded by armistead's command. what a commentary on the civil war. thank you very much. [applause] if we have crime for questions -- i guess we do. anyone in charge? [laughs] >> go ahead. >> -- the playbook? >> we don't. no it's one of those
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frustrating things. she said she had it by the got lost somewhere in the passing down from descendants. it would have been great to have that. that's the thing about history. we lose a lot. >> did the armistead's have swedish heritage because of the -- the king of sweden? >> i don't think they. did i think they had english and german. there may have been some swedish. but i think it was just because of his military prowess. this was a military family and a new military history and that is the only thing i can surmise. -- to your question. >> there is that part where hancock in audiobook, it's all about the california duty station, is that true? the way they may sound, it's like he was, it came, after
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quartermaster -- >> yes, he was the only u.s. army officer there. he had people working for him that -- but he was, because it's this opening up of the west and they open that post. but hancock was a quartermaster for a lot of his career. some of his people were with him later in life said that that's with a set him up, to be a great commander. he is -- when i didn't know, though, until we found the newspaper account with that one of his responsibilities, maybe one of his main responsibility, was supplying arms its troops. >> where was he? >> he is in what is now arizona, with the mojave, the army sent them in to do some battle there. so they are apart. that they are still connected to. >> hancock was still on duty when he died, wasn't he?
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>> yes. he remained a professional soldier and he would have resigned, if he had won the presidency, he said. it was really close. it was a close election. i mean, 9 million votes cast, he lost by 9000. if he had won the electoral college in new york he would have one president. he came very close to becoming president. the only time that two union officers ran against each other in a presidential election. yes sir. [inaudible] armistead from north carolina. >> yes, he was born in north carolina. his mother's family was from new bern north carolina. his father was a virginian. and the armistead family, was virginian. so i think he would consider himself a virginian. by the true, he was born in
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north carolina. >> -- north carolina. >> sorry, go ahead. >> i had a couple of family related questions. do we have any good sense of what it was that killed armistead's wife on both sides? >> they believe, cholera. cholera was ripping through the frontier. cholera both times wiped people out, ripping through the army post. so they were dealing with this -- it was really tragic time. there is one account of him coming up on his wife, the second wife who died. the first died of cholera, he got remarried, and then the second one died. >> all these general on both sides, had children dying. >> yeah, yeah. in the country as well. they dealt with a lot of that. but armistead had a lot of death in a short period of time. that had an impact. on his views of things.
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>> -- auschwitz for hancock. elmyra, we know she is beautiful. is she reliable witness? >> there's no way of showing. that she writes the memoirs. but at that point,, when you look at all that stuff, all the original accounts, everyone is -- no one ever retreats because they lost the battle. [laughs] we all do that. everyone is working in pr. certainly, there is pr in her book. but it's the -- account, seven years before her book, where a lot of that is considered, you are getting told the same story, so that's as much confirmation as we have. it's thebut bottom line, no. hopefully this gets a little
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closer to the truth. but it's not the whole truth. there is so much we will never find. other people may argue some of these points. but we can discuss it. that's why we all come back. if we knew everything, we would be on to some other battle, right? >> -- >> yes, sir. >> [inaudible] distinguish themselves in either way? >> armistead -- at least two times, maybe three. as i mentioned briefly there, throughout his military career, fellow soldiers always talked about how brave armistead was. there are several accounts of him being the first person into the ditch. again, he is seven years older than hancock, so hancock was very junior when he got there. there's a chapter on the mexican war in the book. we know a lot more about what armistead did. he also testified in a court martial of another officer. so he detailed, in that court
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martial, what he did. and describe some of these actions and battles. pretty interesting to me. yes, sir. >> in the movie, hancock, has the conversation with his general. he basically is telling on -- i don't remember who is talking. but he says that nothing is going to happen. i don't think that that would be true of what really happened. the other generals, don't they already know that, hey, it's better for them to be attacking us. we just don't know when. >> it's a broader question but obviously a lot of conversations are in the movie, they are there. but there's some question on the union side. reading the account of john gibbon, they are not sure who would attack or attack that day. you never know if there are demonstrations. i'm talking a little bit off the path of this book. but they found that very quickly. they were in position, though.
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yeah, yeah. if you remember, the original plan wasn't pickets charge. the plan was to continue the attacks on the previous day, until longstreet and lee have that argument, where pickets charge becomes pickets charge. but think it's charge, the way it came out. they did the other time. -- >> -- >> yes. >> [inaudible] was that rufus weaver? body -- ? >> no, i think his name was chamberlain. >> oh. >> you go on to research a book and then you can't remember other things. there's a lot of information about armistead from the spangler file. but there's knowledge about who examined him. when you write a book you cannot use everyone's account. but that's the challenge for
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all of it. that hancock, howard thing on the first day. there are so many -- we will never know exactly what happens. it depends on who you are reading. are you reading hancocks officers? or armistead's officers? >> [inaudible] doing the noble work of the body of the confederate soldiers. being charged like 3:25 a body. and they use an example of charity. -- >> this particular -- was with armistead, he was the star. -- and armistead's family, for a long time, couldn't figure out where he was. . you can't get into the
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cemeteries, walk into it now. you can check it out. but again, you have to navigate your way through the tangle of stories, and try to figure out which -- i admit, in the book, you can't do it any other way. there are so many conflicting accounts. like, we are armistead fought. these guys were all eyewitnesses. they all say different places. how are we supposed to know where? so i guess the markers are as close as we can. thank you very much, really appreciate it. [applause] land.


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