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tv   The Civil War Wilson Greene Civil War Petersburg  CSPAN  December 22, 2021 11:04pm-12:25am EST

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american history tv continues now with more from the recent pamplin historical park civil war symposium. >> i am very privileged to introduce a wilson green. he says he's retired. i don't believe that. from a 44 year career in public history, most notably as former founding and executive director of some place. will previously served as manager with the national park service before becoming the
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first president of the association for civil war studies. in turn, we have work on his last two volumes of his trilogy, which we are desperately waiting for, what is going on. >> [laughs] >> they are coming, great. i am very happy to introduce a. wilson green. >> [applause] >> boy, is it good to look out on these faces. i've got to say. it is just wonderful to be with you all and especially to be with such great colleagues. we are really fortunate that i was able to make it. because there is a two-week engagement at the boom boom room at the holiday inn and marriott. and he took time off to join us. so thank you. [laughs]
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>> if your flight is on time you can get back to the 10:00 show at the holiday. in >> [laughs] >> what a great -- i am a little surprised, though, that he would take a shot at my sartorial habits. because this is a fellow who wears scarfs in the middle of july. -- >> [laughs] >> and shows up at symposiums without socks on. >> [laughs] >> be that as it may, thank you for those kind words. and thank you for coming out. i must not have gotten the memo about how talks should go. because we have all this great humor, and i was going to just do a straight panel talk. so i hope that you still have some energy and some brain cells left. because this talk on the first petersburg offensive is pretty complicated. everybody has been to
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petersburg battlefields and battery five. and you think you've understood the first petersburg offensive. but it involves four armies, it involves four days of combat. plus a major logistical movement in order to get there and so we will try to get through this and hopefully we will have a better understanding of what i think is a very complex -- is my microphone cutting in and out? am i doing something wrong? no? okay. edward porter alexander, the famous artillery just, thought that, quote, the initial struggle for petersburg was the most interesting point in the whole military history of the confederacy. you may not agree with alexander but the events between june 15th and 1864, if they had gone differently, at petersburg, would have alter the trajectory of the civil war
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tremendously, perhaps shortening it by months. my talk is going to address the movements to petersburg at that time and the conduct of combat not as a micro tactic but all of those -- [inaudible] the petersburg campaign is -- an appointment of ulysses s -- and all union armies -- now grant brought to strategic -- [inaudible] first to apply across all of the various -- it looks like we will get some technical help here. you don't want to miss any of my words, i am sure. >> we [laughs]
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>> [inaudible] >> right now. >> if i was brian wills i would tell a joke right now. >> but [laughs] >> i will just keep going. and the second thing, of course, is that he decided not to make his headquarters in washington. and instead -- i don't think this -- works make his headquarters with -- a need -- and pursue relentless operations against the confederate opponents. grant would of course implement his plan in early may. sending his protegee, sherman, on a campaign in georgia to concentrate on his opponents with johnston and the railroad hub if atlanta. and in virginia, need would focus, laser, like on the army in northern virginia, of robert
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e. lee, while to subordinate officers would take place up the shenandoah valley. and up the river toward the south side of richmond. and both of those auxiliary -- with funds eagle being defeated at the valley in newmarket. and -- at bermuda hundred south of richmond. well, the army of the potomac, of course, crossed the -- river at the same time, fought a series of engagements in the wilderness, spot sauvignon courthouse, cold harbor, losing some 60,000 men in the process, inflicting sufficient numbers of casualties to eliminate it as a offensive weapon and it was primarily now only potent on the defense. a new threat in the valley posed by -- told general -- to release about -- under juvenile early with that
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threat as well. but with butler's access to richmond blocked by confederate forces under peers, stop, beauregard at bermuda and lee, seemingly immovable in front of the confederate capital enrichment, grant made a bold decision. he would shift his entire army south of the james river, capture petersburg, 23 miles below the confederate capital. which was -- richmond was logistical -- and at the -- nexus petersburg, as many of you know, was a much more important city than it is today. it was the seventh largest city in the confederacy. the second largest city in virginia. no fewer than five railroads led him to what was know as the concave city as that time. and three of them, the
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southside railroad, in petersburg, it's real name was the petersburg railroad. but that's where it ended 60 miles south north of north carolina. all of this remained crucial to confederate supply stations. in fact with -- [inaudible] the richmond, fredericksburg and potomac railroad, the virginia central railroad all into dictated by union forces, the capture of petersburg and military railroads would have rendered richmond more abundant. and so, i don't think that [inaudible] . . .
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. . , -- he was going to be approaching richmond in the same way that -- had done in 1862. and even this this had all been planned -- negotiated ridiculous -- river -- [inaudible] river which was as much as 80 feet deep. and as wide as 4000 feet. the army of the potomac was spread out. and vulnerable. never more so than in the process of crossing the james
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river. the movement also put butlers army in jeopardy as grant would be much farther away from the army of the james then would be the army of northern virginia. lastly, -- was contrary to what the administration expected grants -- it always, the lincoln administration, nurtured a constant change of microphones. >> [laughs] and beyond that, a fear of losing washington, exposing washington, to confederate forces. let's face it. by the second week of june of 1864, grant has resulted in virginia that were not exactly historic. and had this operation, failed i suspect that even lincoln's
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indulgence of his new general -in-chief wouldn't have been compromised and i don't know that lincoln would have played for that long of a leash. that is a very complicated map and probably more complicated than you need to try to inculcate their. but it shows you the planning that grant went into in order to get this movement to the james. the first thing he did had nothing to do with going south. and two thirds of the cavalry to make a raid north against the virginia central railroad. ultimately, he hoped that they would link up with the forces coming east, but more importantly for our purposes, it would naturally compel lee to detach some of his own cavalry in order to counter sheridan's movement. and absent laws of cavalry that
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would make the opportunity for grant to make it still feet movement, much easier. he also arranged for a motley fleet of ferryboats to be assembled at fort minh row and move up the james river to provide transportation for his army, he then authorized butler to destroy the bridge connecting petersburg with chester field county on the north side of the river, in order to prevent lead from detaching troops to the north and coming to petersburg's rescue. that operation did not succeed, on june 9th the so-called battle of old men and young boys prevented that railroad bridge from being destroyed. grant began his movement to the -- on the 12th. there were army corpse involved
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in this movement. -- which had joined meads army prior to the harbor. each core disengaged from north to south following carefully selected routes in order to expedite the movement to the james river while the 18th court would march to white house landing on the potomac river and take water transportation to get to the area north of the up modest river. they pose the first obstacle to the movement and described by one union officer as a wide ditch choked with rotten -- described as a wide ditch with rotten logs, and full of brown, tepid, sickly looking water whose slow current would scarcely kerr carry a straw along. the plan called for the army to move across the chickamauga at three different places, by
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building bridges there. the union cavalry arrived on the morning of the 13th, scattered the thin confederate resistance at crossing points, and by dawn of the 13th, meads army was south of the chickamauga, or poised to cross it. now, in order to follow that other precept of convincing lee he was moving towards -- north of the james river the way that michael and had approached him in 1962, mead sent two divisions, and a brigade of cavalry towards an important crossroad known as glendale or on this map, redell's shop which is, i am finding it someplace, you can see it better than i can. there it, is right there. that is the glendale intersection where that big battle took place in 1862. now, a sharp fight on june 13th,
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left ma dissed casualties, in glendale in confederate hands, but reinforced the notion in leads mind that this thrust might actually represent grants next attempt to capture richmond. this is not to say that lee wasn't sensible to the possibility of grand going across the james. but, the confederate commander's primary responsibility was wet? richmond. to protect richmond. unless he could be sure that grant would not threaten the confederate capital, lee would maintain his position on the north side, counting on beauregard's army to provide timely intelligence regarding any operations on the south side. now, because all of mead's pontoons required to cross the chickamauga river, he put general butler in charge of the
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pontoon bridge. he would turn to his engineer to select the crossing point and attempt the construction. he would recommend a position on the lion oak peninsula, where the river measured a little less than 2000 feet across. the banks on both sides required significant modifications. so 150 men immediately went into the forest, cut down giant cypress trees, created avenues of approach, corduroy approaches especially on the north bank of the river where it was very swampy, and then build better approaches on the south side of the river as well. and, by working around the clock, by the night of june 14th and 15th, they had built a pontoon bridge consisting of 101 boats, 2000 feet across, and as one confederate said, the greatest bridge which the world has seen since the days
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of xerxes. in the meantime, the union inventory began gathering on the north bank of the james. on june 14th, winfield scott hancock, writes six core, burnside's ninth corps, and most of warren's fifth core were on the north bank of the river in position to cross, having negotiated without any problems. meanwhile, smith's 18th tour moved up the james river, and prepared to disembark at bermuda hotter and. only the supply wagons that were guarded by the black division of the ninth corps encountered problems discovering that they're designated crossing point down there on the chickahominy was
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intractable, and they have to move back to a place called winds are shapes in order to get across. so, they would be delayed. everybody else, achieved a spectacular logistical achievement. grant had no doubt -- and now he simply had to approach petersburg, overwhelm a line of then defenders about were supposed to be in the works around the city, and reap the benefits of forcing lee either to fight for his communications, except a siege of richmond, or brendan the confederate capital. there is the union set up for this. what about the confederate perspective? as i mentioned, lee was perfectly cognizant of the potential of grant crossing sooner or later, and getting to the south side of the james.
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but, lee was uncertain of grants intentions. he declined to consider butlers june 9th effort us anything more than a reconnaissance. no troops have left the general grants army, lee assured a nervous but regard, and none could have cost, crossed james river without being perceived. lee's confidence was derived from his intelligence gathering abilities, and on beauregard's line of scouts that were allegedly a raid down the banks of the james river for many, many miles. but still, lee would order robert hoax division, which had been loan to the army of northern virginia by beauregard's army prior to cool harbor to move to the pontoon
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bridge that the confederate's maintained, just in case, just in case those federals should appear on the south side of the river. now, by june 14th, as grant arranged his petersburg offensive, lee and beauregard speculated about the location and intentions of their enemy. we responded to an inquiry from president davis early that afternoon by speculating, quote, that i think the enemy must be preparing to move south of the james. now, lee of course knew at this time that a large body of federals have moved south, and about another large body of federals had boarded boats. but, this could mean that grant was changing his base to harrison's landing just like mccullough and had two years earlier where he could be re-supplied for another movement against richmond south of the river, north of the river rather, and that all of
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those federals importing boats might be some of those regiments that had their terms of enlistment expire, and we're heading home, of which thousands were doing that. we ought to be extremely watchful and guarded, lee advised, but alertness did not equate changing focus yet from richmond to petersburg. now, beauregard was less ambivalent about grants intentions. he beseeched the department -- warning that if some combination of butlers and meads army attacked him, i cannot be responsible for consequences. when this appeal listed no response, beauregard took matters into his own hands and on 10 pm on june 14th, send orders to move immediately across the james. he also sent stop officers to lee, to justify the shift. but, the absence of any hard
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evidence, and beauregard's pension for the fantastic, convinced almost no one in richmond, and certainly general lee, of any imminent disaster. so, while beauregard breaded and lee remained cautious, grant and meade proceeded on -- for their offensive plans. now, smith's 18 core how boarded the transports on june 13th, and by the next day had begun a staggered arrival at various points and bring in 100 and of the op but mattis river and point of rocks, and broadway landing. this disembarkation began in the middle of the afternoon of the 14th, and would continue until after dark. meanwhile, scott hancock's second core, at 8:30 am received orders from need to
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cross the river, utilizing that makeshift fleet that grant had assembled, while the engineers were putting the final touches on the pontoon bridge. before noon, the first of hancock score boarded their boats, and by 1 pm on the 14th, they were ashore on the right bank. the -- such as the new jersey shoulder who had grown disenchanted with the virginia landscape. as we steamed across the beautiful river, he said our hearts were filled with new hope. four we had bid farewell to the swamp, of the chickahominy, of a long line of graves that stretch not only behind the portland sala, but across the hills and valleys, and streams, and fertile feels, and tangled -- a virginia up to the rapid and. we were bidding farewell, he said, to the old battlefields. and entering upon a new field of operations.
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no, it would take hancock until about dawn, on the morning of june 15th to vary his three divisions across the river. but by 5 am, the second core was comfortably in camp on the south side, many of the men cleansing the 40 days of constant campaigning by taking swims and the james. hancock remained on the north side, communicating by signal side to the far bank. this is an important point, as an most military operations but do not succeed, there is a series of mistakes and misunderstandings. this is an important point that i don't think too many people have called attention to, but it was critical. hancock confirmed to meet that his core, contrary to other reports had three days of russian on hand, and would not be out of food that night. so, while the engineers finished their bridge, and
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hancocks men buried across the river, grant boarded a steamer and met with butler at bermuda hundred to outline the plans for the attack. grant told butler that he would be solely responsible for the attack, because hancock would require re-provisioning before marching towards petersburg. with meads wagons, like i said, stalled on the north side of the chickahominy river, butler would be responsible for providing those russians. 60,000 of them. grant says to butler, without this precaution, the services of this court, meaning hancock, can not be had for an emergency tomorrow. now, this message not only implied that grand considered hancock's purse to supposition in the june 15th offensive as
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necessary -- but that he was unaware of his actual supply situation. grant returned to the north side about sunset on the 14th, and informed meade of butler's supply mission, and meade beautifully provided those orders to hancock telling him not to advance until butler supply ships had arrived to give him these russians. hancock would obey those orders of course, it decision he was unlikely to have made hockey known that his presence was expected. ultimately, the supply ships failed to arrive, and so at 10:30 in the morning on june 15th, he released hancock to begin his truck towards petersburg. nearly six hours were wasted at the time of the second core arriving on the south bank and the departure for the front. six hours that might have
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changed history. as for the 18th corps, grants orders to butler were to begin the march that night and to launches attack as soon as he could after daylight. grant assumed that butler would capture petersburg that morning and that hancock would then be available later in the day to help smith told the city, should li try to regain the situation. smith would ask the two white divisions that arrived from cold harbor, two brigades from bermuda hundred, 2500 cavalry, and 3700 african american soldiers from city point under general edward hanks. a total of about 14,000 men. but smith would claim, and i think justifiably, that he had learned nothing of these plans until late on the 14th as his
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troops began to disembark from cold harbor. who obviously it would take time to organize. they had landed at three different points. and without any divisional integrity. so they had to get every one together and get all the brigades in the proper divisions. smith within have across the appomattox river, march file of miles towards petersburg, and deploy his attack. in short, grants expectation of a dawn offensive was fantasy. an echo of the landing that had plagued hancock's departure. five men who -- grant, butler, meade, it's myth and hancock -- all needed to be on the same page in order for this plan to work. but grant failed to communicate
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his battle plans to all of his subordinates. and thus like the university of georgia, which dries down the field, to the three yard line and then fumbles -- [laughs] the general-in-chief jeopardized the potential payoff. what about the confederates? what are they up to? well, of course, this got up until beauregard got to be the head of the department, something called, the head of north carolina at southeastern virginia. -- all the way to the south bank of the james river. the virginia portion of his domain was called the first military district. and it was under the command of henry wise, who had authority only over the garrison troops in his district, while bush rod johnson's infantry destruction division was his responsibility
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for maintaining at bermuda hundred. and then at the how lip line, a four line defensive line with the james river on the right. because the portion of -- ways on detached duty, beauregard deployed about 3300 men along the hotline. at petersburg and elaborate defensive position known as the dock line, featuring 55 artillery batteries connected by -- that extended underlined both flags on the appomattox river was defended by about 4000 men, including a large contingent of local militia, which of course would be less than one third of smith's troops approaching petersburg. no wonder beauregard was very anxious to return hoax 6600 men
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to his army. but despite the louisiana on orders, hoke would not start across the games until nearly noon on the 15th, leaving beauregard on his own. now once informed of his assignment, vali smith quickly organized his advancing infantry as well as he could. many of them had to join after getting a little rest and start their march across frontier bridges of the appomattox river. the plan called for cavalry to disperse resistance between their approach and the dimmock line, allowing the infantry to mark directly against the works. and -- was defended only by a skeleton force. the confederates began their march between 2 and 3 am on the 15th. but -- was delayed and crossing the
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bridges and not until about 5:00, a half an hour after, don was smith's two white divisions joining the troops on the south side of the appomattox river. now the union cavalry road ahead and encountered a stubborn confederate resistance at a place called baylor's farm, several miles east of the dimmock line and just east of the interchange with highway 36 and highway 95. declaring the resistance to powerful for cavalry, smith called on hanks to shove the rebels aside. the black troops lurched forward, with significant casualties. supported by one battery of artillery but eventually the four or 500 breakers for that gave the black troops a hard-earned victory, accompanied by a sinister
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buyout. the intimidation of all the smith. and the most unexpected place i have been called upon to develop my force and make an assault and this fact caused me at once, he said, to cease taking anything for granted that had been asserted. grants don attack is already a moot point and would now face further delay. smith resumed his approach with extreme caution, advancing the skirmish line and halting it every intervening ridge between baylor's farm and the dimmock line. not until afternoon to the federals approach the confederate position. smith would deploy his three divisions from the appomattox river on his right, southward, with what hinks further to the left. the cannon belched forth at their targets, inflicting minor casualties.
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and contrary to butler's assurances, beauregard's defenses were substantial. smith opted to conduct a thorough reconnaissance to identify the -- of his assault, taking almost all afternoon on a place called battery farm. while all of this is going on on the 15th, what is our friend of general hancock doing? he had left the south bank of the james, remember, at about 10:30 am that morning, but he was traveling in an ambulance, he was not mobile. his gettysburg wind was festering. he was unable to mount a horse hincks. his men were marching under unrelenting heat, it was over 95 degrees that day, they were traversing roads and had such faulty maps that one of his divisions, -- , which you see wandering off
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in the wrong direction, got completely lost. and it was not until about 5:30 pm in the afternoon that david bernese division began to approach the confederate position. at that point, breathless couriers arrived from grant and smith, urging hancock to support smith's impending attack. hancock is surprised by the urgency of these orders and he is under no illusion at this point that he's expected to participate. and it was almost impossible to find out where smith wanted him to go. there was poor staff were, there was no maps, and so wartime is elapsed before this. smith will finally be successful. he had identified a ravine that provided some -- between battery six and seven. that is near local highway 36
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that is under a park tore road. and his plan was to send a reinforced skirmish line in order to make the attack. he said that my best chance of success was to trust to a very heavy skirmish line which would not in itself attract much artillery fire and which would yet be sufficient to do the work of the enemy, as it was not very strong in infantry. this would trigger responses by martin dale, ahead of his black division on his left. his further thought would be that it would be best to degrade the artillery defenses. he gave orders to his artillery commander to bring it up immediately but unbeknownst to him the artillery commander had taken ahold of battery forces. so he would take time for them to get back. he briefly comes into position.
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the artillery opens, up there is a 20-minute -- and then smith launches his attack. about 7:00 at night. etweenso make a long story shor, they penetrated through that ravine, between batteries six and seven, and the entire compliment of confederate artillery and those batteries and the adjacent batteries on the other side are in there. on brooks is right, martin dale scattered the offenses of batteries three and four while the black troops accomplished even more, capturing batteries six, seven, eight, nine and finally ten. by the time the darkness enveloped the bloodstained landscape, smith had conquered two miles of the confederate line and captured at least 13 -- and inflicted hundreds of casualties. now the question remains, what would the federals do with this turning but decisive victory?
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with borrowers division lost, only bernese and gibbon's divisions of the second corps where available to respond to those urgent messages to assist smith. but as i said, poor communications, confusing geography, conspired to delay their arrival until after most of the fighting had already been concluded. hancock met with smith about 9:00, who had explained to hancock what transpired and pointed out the extent of his achievement. hancock confirmed that bernie and gibbon were available to continue the offensive. though hancock outranked smith, he deferred to his junior's judgment, saying i desire not to interfere with his honor, as he was directed to take the place. smith declined to continue the attack, requesting only that hancocks two divisions relieve
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books and hincks at the front and prepare for any confederate counterattack. a second corps and units stumble forth between 11 and three in the morning and occupy the captured line. one of the enduring questions of the petersburg story is the wisdom of smith's and hancock's decision that night. they were certainly bitter voices who decried the decision to press ahead and try to capture petersburg. a private, for example, remembered that, gradually, the fact that we were not to fight that night impressed itself upon us. the raid of the enlisted men were's devilish. the most blood curdling blasphemy i heard that night, uttered by men who knew they would be sacrificed in the morning. many blamed smith, believing that petersburg would be gone by a rotten branch, that smith
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will exercise sufficient courage. others cited the bright moonlight that would have guided the federalists into what was presumed to be a nearly defenseless city. it is easy to condemn all the smith, rather unlikable character. whose postwar appalachia wreaked with postwar verification. though hancock is certainly blameless for his corps slow approach, he certainly could have insisted on a coordinated advance after 9:00, if in his judgment, such an attack was warranted. he did not. neither of the army commanders who -- butler or meade -- set foot anywhere near the scene of action, nor did grant, who sent orders at city point barely an hour's right from the front. all three of these men could
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have ordered an assault and had the authority to do so if they wished. smith would cite a plethora of reasons why he didn't continue the assault. chief among them, a darkness and disorganization of his troops, particularly that blacks. smith also believe that by capturing batteries three through ten, he could capture bombardment close enough to petersburg to render it indefensible. perhaps most of all, smith expressed concern that the confederates had been reinforced. and to plunge troops into the darkness against an enemy of unknown strength would have been, as he said, simple madness. and would have almost inevitably resulted in disaster and the loss of all we had gained. although in hindsight we should conclude that hancock and smith should have pressed on that night, i think they acted reasonably and that the confederates were in fact gathering strength. general beauregard has arrived
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in petersburg at 6 pm that night, traveling from his headquarters north of town. the attack that quickly followed didn't particularly surprise him in predicting this disaster for days. but now the question for him was simple. should he defend petersburg by stripping the defenses at bermuda hundred? or forsake the concave city and defend the how lip line? he appealed throughout the day as to which option he should exercise but never received an answer. so he was on his own. not long after that federal breakthrough, the leading elements of hoke's division begin to arrive in the form of johnson hay goods south carolinians, much to the delay of panic stricken citizens. hey good initially received
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instructions to extend the armies right flank. but when there was an eastern collapse of the dimmock released -- orders, sent haygood to establish a defensive perimeter. haygood almost stumbled into the defensive lines. and they were at stop for in harrison's creek. with the aid of beauregard's chief engineer or, one of the best engineers, harris, haygood helped draw a new line. it connected the intact dimmock line between batteries two and 15. during the night, alfred -- and then the north carolinians of james -- and thomas claimants brigade extend the, line digging furiously, creating another barrier. in the meantime, beauregard
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made the decision to abandon the how lip line and bring johnson's division to petersburg and bring 11,000 men to the forces of smith and hancock who still outnumber others. beauregard warned of his decision and replaced johnson's troop before butler discovered that the how lip line was evacuated and moved west to the railroad connections between petersburg. lee ordered george pickets division, of richard anderson's first corps, about 4500 men, to cross the james for this purpose. how would the federal high command react on june 16th to this developing operation situation? li put pickets men on the road to river crest at three in the morning.
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a few hours later, he sent charles fields first divisions on the forward southside as well. but alert federal officers at bermuda hundred detected suspicious sounds during the night. and at early daylight, they pressed forward and found that the few alabamans after charles graces brigade had quickly scattered. and it was only a fraction of butler's men that began ripping up the tracks that were left of petersburg railroad. meanwhile, two additional union corps, burnside's ninth and warren's fifth, began the completed pontoon bridge and the ferry boats to extend hancocks lift. at the same time, johnson's gray coats past the appomattox and extended the new
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confederate parameter, dubbed the haygood line. throughout the day, the second and 18th corps crept forward slowly and constantly and discovered new rebel defenses. grant nearly ordered burnside and warren to provide flank protection, while the second and 18th corps identified points for a post-evening attack. as the federalist probe, the confederates dug, so that late on the afternoon of june 16, beauregard had fashioned the haygood line into a defensive position. meanwhile, at bermuda hundred, butler only committed a relative handful of his troops to the occupation and destruction of the vital link that connected richmond and petersburg. when he pickets troops charged, the federal forces quick quickly withdrew. i think he failed to hold his
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position as an agree just mistake and then was that of hancock and smith. when fields division arrive later in the day, any on opportunity to block additional troops coming from richmond to petersburg had evaporated. meanwhile, south of the appomattox, mead launched his attack on june 16th about 6 pm. all three corps than president, those on the left advanced. burnside demonstrated, never seriously challenging the confederacy, and hancock's attack was a bit more's period, resulting in the capture of batteries 13 and 14, but ran out of steam without seriously damaging beauregard's perimeter. the confederate commander, however, recognize that the haygood line was vulnerable and ordered harris to lay out new defenses even closer to
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petersburg. during the day on june 16th, lee continued to press beauregard no fewer than four times. to find out information on needs whereabouts. and at 9:30 am that morning, beauregard notified lee of hancocks presents. but here is another communications problem. he sent that message to lease headquarters in order to get to james. but lee had moved his headquarters south of the river and that message never got to generally. not until 7 pm did beauregard again mission mentioned the presence of the second core. and the army of the potomac was at petersburg. here is something i just don't understand. first of all, beauregard never recognized the presence of the ninth corps or the fist core, despite the fact that he had skirmish of them. and how in the world did those
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scouts along the james river miss a 2000 put foot long pontoon bridge? i do not have an answer for that. but they didn't. relee contented himself with shifting the last of the first core divisions, joseph kerr shot, closer to the pontoon bridge, but keeping hills core in position to defend richmond against what was now a phantom force. after the fighting had died out on june 16th, grant informed me that butler had as many as 15,000 confederate troops spotted near deep bottom on the north side of the james. grant, however, admitted that not knowing who is in front of, you i cannot give positive directions how far or how hard you should push in the morning. i will leave this to your judgment, knowing that you will push the advantage that may be gained. thus, the general-in-chief continue to delegate
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operational decisions to meet. first, the petersburg offensive was george mead gain, completely. now to grants. the pennsylvania didn't hesitate. he passed the information on to hancock and burnside, encouraging them to make an attack, encouraging them to exploit the possible advantage over beauregard. hancocks force was somewhat bloodied on the 16th. a primary offensive responsibility would belong to burnside. burnside's black division had not yet crossed the river. so he would have the services of his three white divisions. during the course of the day, each of those divisions would venture separate assaults, never achieving coordination with each other or with the second and fifth corps on the second and fifth flanks. the morning assault conducted by robert potter's division turned to the southern flank of
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beauregard's defenses, centering on a high knoll on something called the shand house and the shand house is just on the south side near fort lee. the civil war trust is in the process of acquiring it. grant admitted that he wasn't sure what was going to happen but potter had moved his main up to the base of the hill during the night and at dawn charged up the slope, sending virginians and north carolinians fleeing and decimating fulton's tennessee brigade, with men on the's hill. he expected reinforcements from james lead leads division on his left and rear but this unit did not advance, nor did a second.
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hancocks men claimed with dubious voracity that they had tried to attack. it was the same story again. a sinthe most spirited attack without gallant supports, said a massachusetts man. not a single corps on the ground in position already to advance. the fearful of -- orlando wilcox's division had spent the night behind the second core and at about 7:10 am on the 17th, they moved into the deep ravines behind the shand house ridge. burnside assigned his chief engineer james st. claire morton to identify the most likely ground for an attack. morton selected the terrain north of the hand house ridge, where the confederates who had been defeated that morning were desperately preparing new works
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a very limited utility. wilcox's men bolted out of their ravine at about 2:00, hampered by a faulty technical alignment. nevertheless, the federals punched this makeshift line and almost we're in a position to capture the works when major morton directed the men to execute a half wheel to the right. you see this represented on the map. morton paid for this ill-conceived tactic with his life, as all that confederate fire hit their left flank and wilcox's men fled for safety. it seems that the blue coats were thick as grain and a harvest field, wrote a wisconsin soldier. the final attack of the day came from the division commanded by james led lee.
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and he would become infamous about six weeks later in the role of the battle of crater. his previous experience at the north hannah river feature the drunken an unauthorized attack. and by the time ledley's division was ready to execute its assault, ledley was to inebriated to assume command. a supply of artificial courage which he had taken carried him beyond the proper counter poise and rendered him unable to head into combat, explain to massachusetts captain. one of ledley's commanders had to lead the assault and federal's struck the regiment. they collapse the confederate defenses. by 10:00 pm the federals ran out of steam, however. and the confederates regained
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lost ground. the fight petered out around midnight. all during that day, colonel harris worked diligently to identify a third line of defense closer to petersburg. once the combat was decided, beauregard's exhausted warriors quietly slipped out of the haygood and fell back to harris's designated position 800 to 1000 yards to the rear. the weary rebels spent what was left of the evening furiously digging the earthworks along the line that harris had made out. meanwhile, up at bermuda hundred, pickett had were stored all that his team had lost before. and butler seemed content to stay on the defensive, despite being reinforced. as frustrating as the federal performance in june 17th must have been to grant, lee suffered his own anxiety that day. at daybreak he again pressed beauregard.
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the creole crime under replied that he faced two corps of federals. still, failing to acknowledge the presence of warren. ikely abandon the petersburg area and is headed for the piedmont to confront early only suggesting that we send them reinforcements so he could crush the yankee line but not long after beauregard changed his tune telling lee a local citizen had reported a 30,000 have crossed the river and peeled to lee to help you hold this position. one can only imagine lee's reaction to this conflicting intelligence. at 4:30 that afternoon so they told beauregard that no information about grant crossing the james river but ordered hill and kershaw to approach the pontoon bridges. then at last beauregard provided
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lee with unambiguous and preparation of the night core was on the ground in front of the men were the fifth and sixth for you did bearer andrew to petersburg. lee finally had information he needed to ship the rest of his armies out. he ordered kershaw to cross the river immediately and told hill to march to the pontoon bridges and deep prepared to cross at the southside. it was now a race. would need an grant succeeded overwhelming beauregard's exhausted men before the army of northern virginia would arrive? kershaw's division began its march to petersburg at 3:00 in the morning in a few hours later hill's men started tramping across the pontoon bridges at schaefer's bluff oilfields brigade left their trenches and followed and kershaw's footsteps. union forces were also on a move that morning reacting to these
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nighttime orders to convince support needed to advance. for course the 18th of seven benefit from north to south lurched forward prepared to engage in some places they met little resistance but most of the would-be attackers uncovered the abandon lines of the subsix line. lee told his corps commander to prepare a new attack on the harris line. the 18th and second core press forward but soon discovered that the rebel works on their front were well purported -- well-prepared and adequately manned in there'll efforts came to not. further south "the fifth quarter" never dance at all and they were stymied by a of line protection and profess that they had never received a mandatory effort -- orders to a cell. this infuriated me and snapped in order, i find it useless to a point and power demanding all
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four cores advance without reference to the disposition of any of the other cores. at this time and they are going to church, god love you. this time kershaw had extended the confederate right and field was moving into position while hill was in the south to get to petersburg. the federalists responded to meets frustrated preemptory attack quarters in an uneven and universally unsuccessful passion. on the far left of the line warren ran into johnson's men of kershaw's division. the brigade commanded by a former college professor remained joshua lawrence anderson charge yelling like a pack of infuriated devils reaching the confederate works before the fatal fire from the confederate line stop them cold.
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colonel chamberlain as we heard this morning was among the casualties and he would defy medical opinion and survive his went solidifying his place in history at the appomattox. at the the other in the line hancock's men poised for another efforts to breach focusing on high ground nor and as -- the assault commenced between 4:00 and 4:30 but in the face of serious confederate fire most of the took a few steps and then hit the ground having experienced enough of attacking to recognize an assault when i saw one. a large regiment of relatively green heavier to risk now serving as infantry were not so naïve as to underestimate their peril. nevertheless they poured out along the french courthouse road into the open field in front of the -- the merging 200 yards of
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the rebel line can do that. for unexplained reasons they have never directed people to do this but you can walk with your footsteps on the first main artillery. that field became a seething. they came in from the front the right and the left and as many of you know in less than 10 minutes, 632 of the 900 men who began the charge were killed or wounded the largest loss suffered in one battle by any regimen during the war. the final union of the day came from burnside's elements of whom managed north of the petersburg award in front of it considers strong point known as elliott and mike them in on the other side failed to penetrate the confederate works. these men dug and exploited the cover provided by the valiant
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creek setting the stage vi weeks later for the battle. lee had a right to petersburg shortly before noon and that was beauregard at the customs house downtown and observed the situation was beauregard near the high ground. mercurial creole urged him to take an offensive against expose federal left flank and lee declined and remained on the defensive in that decision of course led to the successful repulse of the many uncoordinated union attacks and ended the first petersburg offensive. the tramp that last holding the invaders at bay and saving the city of the rule of the beast. the yankees have a large force but if they keep on charging we will have them all killed in a few days. ulysses s. grant for the time being had seen enough killing although estimates vary provide
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best guess is 13,000 federal soldiers became casualties between june 15 and 18th. confederate casualty figures are even more murky but my guess is about 2500 to 3000 became casualties as well. about 10:00 that evening george meade sent a summary of today's actions to grant including expressing great or get i'm not able to report adding i believe every effort in my command has been made. grant immediately replied with condemnation i'm perfectly satisfied he wrote that all that has been done could be done. of course that was far from the truth. until the rival the first troops from lee's army in the morning of june 18 grants army grew as much as 5-1 despite confederate earthworks.
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a few weeks later so they confessed to his trusted staff officer that i should have taken petersburg that had reason to calculate the success but he didn't, but he didn't. why? i think the primary cause was a federal failure and the condition of the troops particularly needs army on the potomac. the 49 days of contingent marching and firing absolutely requires rest. he added he cannot replace officers with experience men because there's no time for rear cassation or careful selection. there could be no doubt that horrendous casualties and consequential attrition at the line and fill command level reduce the efficiency and the esprit de corps of the army potomac. with many of the best leaders and brave as fighting men lying
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in shallow graves are languishing in hospitals these offensive capabilities were greatly diminished. that's not to say the soldiers were too demoralized to fight for the long line of killed and wounded during the first offensive stances new testimony. but their willingness and ability to press an attack at all but then damage. there were mistakes made at the higher command levels. grant's failure to communicate its battle plan or principles involved spiritually compromised success on june 15. smith timidity in executing his assault that they allowed reinforcements to bolster beauregard beauregard and it should be undertaken in the darker risks they were not willing to undertake for the conservative mindset affected via the corps commanders who only rarely felt sufficiently comfortable about the flanks to
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advancing concert one another leading to the peace deal assaults that characterize the federal authorization -- operations during the succeeding three days. butler as i said fumbled the major opportunities to set road and river connections to st. petersburg and so easily surrendered his position allowing lee to funnel troops in to petersburg without interference. and at least part of the overall explanation lies with the general and chief whose fingerprints were all but in visible in these four days although delegating operational decisions was typical of grants generalship. the confederates had a great deal to do with the outcome. beauregard and is where roe army performed as well as any force during the entire war and as one put it were such fearful of incredible odds against them general beauregard with the feed
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of four almost without precipice. that might be overstating the case just a tad. beauregard does deserve high praise for selecting his two lines of defense timing the factors that field lines flawlessly and allocating hopes in johnson's brigade properly but there's little evidence that beauregard had any influence on the combat and credit for that resided with the officers to a limited degree the tactical improvisation when fighting on the defensive is relevant. on the negative side of beauregard's ledger his remarkable poor intelligence that was inconsistent in a situation in the front contributing to lee's indecision and hesitation to enforce his beleaguered comrade and as for lee the story often cites his failure to reinforce petersburg more as one of the worst blemishes on his record.
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alfero there can be no question that grant discretion e. uncertain of his enemies were about and i think lee acted reasonable given the information available to him between june 13 and 17th. as we said lee's first responsibility was the protection of richmond and without some assurance of federal army lurking on the north side of the james his decision to send anchor mental reinforcement himself was reasonable and prudent. once he had definitive information of the federal is present to petersburg he acted. i think the first petersburg offensive should be ranked among the major battles of the civil war. more than 125,000 soldiers battle for four days resulting in a in a combined casualties approaching 16,000 none that will correlate with the largest
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engagement of the war. grant's failure to capture petersburg would lead to eight more attempts during the next 288 days before he achieved the victory that might have been his nine months earlier. thank you very much. [applause] my mission on these talks is always to exhausted to the point where you have no embarrassing questions and expose my superficial knowledge of the subject so thank you very much and is there anything out there that anybody have? pete is going to attack me about robert e. lee eyewall bet. >> two quick questions. the first question is imagine the casualties were
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extraordinarily high. you are talking three to four days but take the two bloodiest days so i'd like for you to given all the hesitancy of the innotech ice also a quick question do you think world war i dominate to think in terms of how we imagined attacks on the western front when in fact the first days did not in fact characterize what followed that soldiers left on both sides so could you help us understand did not win a army is doing its flanking maneuvers to the south but were there raids and did wore for her -- warfare change on the front? >> first of all you are
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comparing the first petersburg offensive with the largest battle of the north american continent in the guest most battles would pale by comparison to that. i don't think 16,000 thousand casualties isn't significant to my point is who -- if you asked people in this room to list the 10 most important battles in the major battles and none would mention june 15 of 1818. my point is this is a much more consequential civil war battle than it's given credit for but relative numbers can be argued all day. secondly i take exception to your characterization of the petersburg campaign. that was not a siege. to me a siege operation implies two things. one an encirclement of one army by another where there is no escape and of course that was never true even in 1865 that was
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not true and secondly according to military protocol a siege involves a standard approach like they have it bitsberger fort hood and those are sieges. general made after the second petersburg offensive which occurred between june i 21 and june 24 less than a week after all of that was going on in this first event actually went to granted said look these things are not working. we should exercise official siege operations and grants that okay and that lasted for about 36 hours and then grant said no more digging trenches we are going to continue these operations. so in that regard i think petersburg is always understood as a siege of that are prior to petersburg of a lot of interest at the civil war students have. it's just depressing and there's no real tactic to try to understand and therefore who
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cares unless just move onto appomattox and be done with it. you said dismissing, there are nine federal offensive send so there was a lot of maneuvering at dieter spurred. was there slack time in between? absolutely and yes there were various trench raids and various calvary. send lots of actions both north and south of the james river. one thing we have to understand is the petersburg campaign in fault directly all the actions that it heard in the county so these sort of mysterious battles the first deep autumn second a bottom williamsburg road all these things that only summers has ever understood what it's all part of the petersburg store
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and there is lots of action going on north of the james. you could certainly argue i think without much of a stretch that the 1854 shenandoah valley campaign was also part of the petersburg store. that is a direct relation with what's going on the petersburg. if i understand your question is a combination of world war i tactics and civil war tactics, to some degree but i think that's really a stretch and i don't believe that petersburg was a precursor to world war i tactics. but thanks for chiming in. it's always good to hear from you. [laughter] >> i will go a little easier on you. you mentioned in your talk about the enlistments expiring. you have a rough number of how many troops that was and god bless them but.
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>> i don't have it off the top of my head but there were dozens of regiments, dozens, not scores, not several. there would be thousands of men, not tens of thousands but thousands of men. now to make an observer wonder if those ships that are leaving white house landings are heading their way eventually up the chesapeake day or up the potomac back north but there were a lot of and someone earlier mentioned i guess it was andy or someone mentioned about how many -- no, it was pete talking about the greenness of the union army at that time. he's exactly right. there were lots and lots of new soldiers whose motivation for joining the army was sometimes not as pure as the earlier volunteers were concerned and i
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don't think that's the explanation for the first offensive but i think it kicks in later in the petersburg campaign when these attacks just don't seem to really accomplish much. you are dealing with guys who are inexperienced and maybe not quite as ready to give up their life for the causes they were in 1863. >> sir could you share summary of thoughts on the condition of lee's army at the beginning of this time period and specifically even if he had had perfect intelligence, which is impossible but even if the scouts have been observing the james better what options did he really have in your opinion? just some of your thoughts. >> yes they mentioned very briefly although the overland campaign is almost eyes described as the failure on grants part because of all the losses that he made and the fact that sub eight's are made
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continue to defend richland which was grants -- grant and meet had degraded the army of northern virginia sufficiently that it was really not an offensive anymore and then you subtract a third of the infantry with jubal early going out to the shenandoah valley. the army is reduced to maybe 30,000 or 35,000 infantry. consequently lee is a potent defensive force. he is not an offensive force. he's a counterpuncher but he's not going to be able to exercise any offensive movement. he can't achieve the calculus of the war in virginia like he had done earlier in the campaign. as far as the morale of the confederate soldiers, it was very high. i have not seen any evidence of deteriorating morale in any
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significant percentage in the common soldier. they still believed in lee and as far as they were concerned they had kicked some yankee bot and they were doing darned well. richmond was still in their hands in you read all sorts of quotes about keep them coming, we are just going to kill them all and i will be home by the fall. their morale is still very high at this point. >> well to your point about the elon of the army at the potomac a lot of those veteran regiments there were going north were replaced by the defenders of washington to respect their military experiences sitting in a lot of ports practicing artillery but nothing else. grant them and that's one of the reasons why to -- jubal early than's.
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set off a lot of alarm bells in washington because they realized the defenses have been of regiments itself to petersburg. >> i agree with you and the one thing that i may be glossed over in a just want to emphasize whenever you try to dig down deeper into the story of a civil war campaign you start encountering conventional wisdom that may not be all that wise and most of you have read about this and probably read the first anti-artillery one of those units that gordon reference led him to the attack on june 18 not realizing they were going into a wheat grinder and they were inexperienced and they would charge the old veterans and the evidence to do that is nonexistent. my conclusion is the first main guys knew darned well that they were going into a very tough assignment and they did it anyway. they did it anyway and i think
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by petersburg some of those heavy artillery units had been hit badly by places like spotsylvania and the harris farm and maybe the degree of naïveté and they think they were still combat experience that i don't think they were naïve about it. they were brave guys in other words. all right i don't want to stand between you and dinner. thanks very much. it was great to see you all.


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