tv The Civil War Harold Holzer on Civil War Objects CSPAN August 13, 2020 8:00pm-8:49pm EDT
chief historian at the new york historical society. boy featured in their joint publication the civil war in 50 objects. in this program, they discuss a bike ordered by abolitionist john brown -- abraham lincoln's hand. due to the coronavirus pandemic this event took place virtually. the new york historical society
provided the video. >> good evening everyone. it is my absolute delight and pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with my good friend and professional colleague harold. feel free to use the question and answer button at the top of your screen and we will get to as many questions as we can towards the end. to let us turn our attention to some objects that help us describe the civil war. let's see the cover of the book. civil war and 50 objects. in the museum realm, particularly the history museum, the art, objects and documents on display have the power to stand in for a larger historical narrative and make so much more than what is structurally defining of that object in itself. harold, about this book, how
did this come about and how effective is it and conveying the narrative of the civil war in 50 objects? >> it is kind of a tactile history that brings you closer to the lived experience of the civil war. that is what made it so exciting for me, and if you are asking how it happened, it happened because of louise. louise asked me if i would be interested in doing this kind of a chronicle for publication. she said why don't you come in. i think you were there that first day of the review. she said why don't you come in and i will put some of the objects i have in mind on a few tables in the administrate of offices of the historical society, and what i saw during that first visit literally took my breath away, because we will be discussing these objects over the next four weeks or at least ten of the 50.
one of them was a relic of abraham lincoln's presidency and him in his own hand that i never knew about and i have been 40 years in the field. that is just one of the ways of paying tribute to the kind of boundless trove that the new york historical society hosts. it was a thrill to see it and i wanted to share the thrill of the actual object for more time with our readers and with members and attendees of the historical society. >> it was hard to dwindle it down to 50, as a matter of fact. there are so many things to choose from. it was so wonderful. >> it could have done 100, but the mandate was 50. it was an editing process for sure. >> it was. i enjoyed editing with you very much. it was wonderful to add it.
you are good writer. it was nice to revisit this wonderful project. so tonight we will be looking at two objects in particular. maybe we could see the images. yes. a cast of lincoln's hand. and a spear like pike. can we see the pike by itself, please? this first object looks like a spear from the middle ages. what is it, harold? >> it is a spear, all right, but it is not a severe from the middle ages. it is a weapon that the famous abolitionist, john brown ordered from a blacksmith in connecticut to supply the planned raid he had in mind against the federal arsenal at harpers ferry virginia, which is now west virginia.
why did he order this kind of a weapon? because it is kind of ironic and away. as much as john brown believed that slavery was evil, that people of color had a right to live and liberty and pursuit of happiness, he did not harbor illusions about african americans of the day and their abilities to use modern weapons, which were nonexistent, because even where african americans were free, they were generally forbidden from using arms for fear that they would mount an insurrection. as john brown planned this incredibly daring raid into western virginia, he ordered dozens of these pikes, because his idea was not only to raid the arsenal, but to arouse african americans, enslaved african americans in western
virginia at the news of his incursion, to rise up against their owners, and start a slave insurrection. these were the weapons that he thought african people would be using in the most primitive manner to secure their own freedom. they are simply six foot six inch wooden stick pikes about, by the way, the height of abraham lincoln. on the end was a buoy net and it was the simplest most ancient weapon when could think of. i do not want to get ahead of the story, but the story is whether they were used. obviously as we go into the story -- >> right. i think we have the image of john brown just so we have a sense of who this person was. this is a famous painting from the new york historical collection. it's huge. ten feet high. it is called john brown's -- let's talk a little bit about him. john brown's blessing.
his efforts were peculiar. how so? >> he said that in new york city. he said it two months after jon brown was executed. i will talk a little bit about brown and then i'll explain a little bit about why he said what he said. john brown was a former leather tan or, like ulysses grant, cattle ranch or who had an epiphany in 1837 when a mob and alternate, illinois, destroyed the printing press of a journalist named ally subtle of joy and then killed him in the warehouse where he had hidden his printing press. he was not abolitionist that event had an interesting impact on the two people we are going to be speaking about tonight. for abraham lincoln, it inspired his very first major public address. it is all --
in his home in springfield, illinois, where he said this act of violence should inspire reverence for the laws. john brown interpreted it -- he believed it should inspire reverence for insurrection. he became an abolitionist overnight, and he believed in armed resistance to the struggle, and he devoted the next 22 years of his life to ending slavery with violence if necessary. in the 18 fifties, he and his sons led a band of anti slavery gorillas into kansas, a disputed state which was either going to enter the union as a slave or free state, to frighten pro slavery residents and those coming into add to the pro slavery voting bloc. and conducted battles, burned peoples towns. meanwhile, the pro slavery people were burning
abolitionist towns and destroying newspapers and court houses. he killed so many people in kansas it's sort of became bloody kansas on his watch and his initiative. osawatomie brown named after one of the battles that his armed men fought. then he retreated back to new york where he was funded by a lot of donors to mount this next insurrection into virginia. so well abraham lincoln is debating for the senate, he is part of the political system for sure, and he believes in gradualism to destroy slavery. brown is still at his armed insurrection crusade, and many famous people donate to the fund-raising for this cause. >> others? douglas? >> we don't know for sure about douglas. we know he was frightened up when the rate came up, he fled
to europe to escape prosecution. william lloyd garrison donated 25,000 dollars. the future governor massachusetts, john andrew, donated money. he marched to maryland with his sons and a band of 18 people with his spears. and in october 1859, a surprise attack against the old arsenal in harpers ferry which is still there, overpowered the guard, took over the arsenal, and from there everything went wrong. plantation owners surrounded him on the hills around the arsenal which sits on the confluence of several rivers. it is pretty vulnerable and a crazy place to build an arsenal. but there were 100,000 weapons. there it was an inviting target. eventually, as history tells us, he was taken prisoner.
>> there was a fascinating cast of characters, and i was reading this essay again, that participated in the raid of harpers ferry. robert e. lee, jeb stewart, they showed up in the story. how did it unfold with them and ultimately what happened to brown? >> it was considered an act of treason by the governor of virginia even though it was federal property, so he immediately called out the marines, and the commander of the marine regiment that marched on harpers ferry to get john brown out of their, and arrest or kill him, was colonel robert easily. not the lee we know about who had the luxury and beard that john brown had, but a very handsome -- he was supposed to be the handsomest officer in the army with the luxury and black mustache, and he, at one point
dispatched one of his officers to walk up to the arsenal and a demand that john brown surrender or be taken dead or alive, and the person he dispatched to do that was jeb stewart who would be one of his generals and the confederate army in just two or three years from that. point brown refused to surrender. the marines stormed the arsenal. another of brown sons was killed in the raid. brown was nearly killed. he was struck with a sword but he lived. he was put on trial very quickly. by december, he had been convicted and he was hanged in charleston, virginia, just a few miles away from harpers ferry. diane the painting that we looked at a minute ago by noble, who grew up on a plantation, by the way, was radicalizing against slavery himself. it shows a moment and a legend
that has some truth and it, and that is that brown, as he was marching down the courthouse steps toward the gallows with a jeering mob, and some sympathetic african americans outside, saw a woman with a baby, and the woman held her child up for a blessing, and brown put his hand on the babies head as if to bless the child, and this moment of kind of nobility and courage became instantaneously a legend, and was quickly immortalized by this former slave owning painter who would also become very, very anti slavery. by the way, talking about the continuing coincidences. abraham lincoln was in kansas the side of john brown's original rates when the news came that he was executed. lincoln gave a speech and live in north and which he said john
brown was executed, he committed treason and there is no other recourse, that let this be a lesson to any southern state that contemplates treason against the union in the future. they will be dealt with exactly in the same way. then when he comes to new york, just a few months later in february, to give the cooper union address, his harpers ferry, it would thrust him international fame. he says what val, you said earlier, was that john brown's case was a peculiar one. what he wanted to convey by that, and by peculiar he means unique, not strange. he wants people to understand that anti slavery men are not all violent. they are not all willing to start an armed rebellion. he wants people to know that there is a way of putting slavery, as he puts it that night, on the course of ultimate extinction without violence. as we know, that was not what
the future held, that he wanted to separate the republican party from john brown foreshore. >> let us see the pike one last time again. and before we move on to our foreign object. just looking at this life again, explain how these weapons were used. this little life at the end of a stick. how the handful of african americans joined the raid, they weren't really instructed on how to use them, would you explain? >> i am assuming the you hold it javelin style and you throw it or you use it on your hand to thrust against your enemies. the fact is as you point out, they were never used and irony piles upon irony when the african americans who are part of the john brown raiding party saw these weapons, they had no
clue. they had never been to the movies, they've never seen racist interpretations of native people using spears. so they had no. close by that time, brown had changed them in the east of rifles. the capable of african americans were not capable of using modern weaponry would be dispelled within four years when africans joined the union army and fought for their own freedom. they had no clue. and neither do i when it comes right down to it. >> it is a fascinating object. it's a thrill to see it. >> by the way, 1000 of these made. the new york historical society, and they're all numbered, we have number 1:01 which is pretty good in the limited
edition scheme of things. >> you conclude your essay in the book saying john brown had not managed to launch a modern revolution misfire spears. let's move on to our next object this evening. this is a cast,. here is the gargantuan head of the rail splitter champion wrestler and debater who didn't use his hands while he was just trying because look like he was swatting bees as he said. course if you also want to romanticize that hand clutch deep gettysburg addressed in the second inaugural. tell us a bit about how these cats were made. harold. >> starts with the sculpture
not to well-known today. let mueller wills volker who is interestingly a cousin by marriage of stephen a douglas, lincoln's lifelong rival in politics. vogue was a nonpartisan artist and after seeing abraham lincoln conduct a trial in chicago in 1860. you've actually seen in the lincoln douglas debates wall when he was a douglas ruder. lincoln came to his studio in chicago in march of 1860 to have a light mask made. this was a tool sculptures of the period made if they weren't going to enjoy repeated seedings. lincoln was a trial lawyer at the time on a case so he submitted to this very difficult life mask process. hardening on his face wall had straws in his nose to breathe.
and when it came time to take it off, vogue couldn't get it off and lincoln took those massive hands and tugged and vogue remembered it brought tears to lincoln's eyes because it pulled the hears out of the temples. he did not remember it with amusement. he did come back and then paul came back and posed for the bust a bit. he would come from court, he would take off his jacket, he would take off his shirt and would vote to pull down his union suit. i guess he was wearing a long underwear. so he took off as long underwear topping tighter in front of him and he was pretty embarrassed about it because when the sitting was over. he dressed very quickly in hurry down the stairs. someone stopped him on the street and said, excuse me sir, excuse me tall sir, but your sleeves of your underwear seem to be dragging behind you. so we had to go back up to the
studio. vogue told the story. he completed this bus just neck up. i have a little copy of, it i hope people can see it, it's over my shoulder. that white plaster was a copy the original boss. lincoln liked it. there is the animal himself, he said when he saw. then a couple of months later lincoln was nominated for president. will vote realized he had something going on here. he just didn't have to do a small boss to put in the store window in chicago with his other work. so he got on a train the day that lincoln was nominated in chicago. lincoln was not there he was home tradition of the day. yet he got to like and sometime of springfield a day after the nomination. he said now i'd like to cast your hands as well because you are a national figure now i'd
like to make a full length statue of you as i have done of my cousin stephen douglas who you just defeated. he financed my rti education in rome but you're the man. >> let's just look at a picture of lincoln. can we just throw that up on the screen? so photograph of the animal himself. >> by the way, whatever the caption says, it's 1864, it's not 1865. >> that's from our collection. (laughs) you say in your essay that lincoln realized that in order to be taken seriously as a statesman, he needed to subject himself to make himself more readily available to painter, sculptures an artist. why is? that >> he had been photographed from time to time. obviously when that picture was taken he was already one of the
most photographed men in the country. what a great choice because it shows those hands that they look when he was in repose. photographs were fine, they were becoming popular, because they could be reproduced by 1860 and 61 and be circulated to increase a persons recognition caution. we have paintings and statues were for famous people. lincoln had been a congressman, he got into washington. it's seen a statue of george washington outside of the capital. even though it was something of a national joke and was later relegated to the smithsonian, he had seen the statue of jefferson at receptions. that's also gone. that's what famous men inspired. i think folk was the first but there were other sculptures who followed an artists who is available for sittings even though he never sat still the way george washington did for
gilbert stewart. he made himself, never said no, i've only feel a few examples over the next few five years. by the way, when vocal arrived on may 19 1860, lincoln was not in the best condition to have that kind of thing done. >> let's to see the hand again. see that image again? please? >> he had hosted a reception at his home after winning the nomination and he had shaken thousands of hands to the point where his hand had swelled up. you can see that there are no veins on the back of the hand because the hand was puffy. volker said to lincoln, this casting was done at his home in springfield. volker said to mr. lincoln do have an object you can. hold like an excuse themselves
and the next thing he heard was song coming from lincoln's privy and shed. when lincoln came back, he was holding the end of a stick. he had cut the handle off a broom he explained and now he was wiggling it and volker said, mr. lincoln you don't have to do that because i'm not gonna use the stick in the final sculpture. lincoln said all i wanted to have it nice and that's the cast of the right hand it is shaken so many hands that it swollen. apparently, that was something that happened to lincoln because we know at just three years later, his hand was so swollen from handshaking at a new year's reception at the white housefp
richard nixon grew a moustached during a debate, abraham lincoln's hand swelled. >> we have a couple more minutes just between ourselves before we open up to cuban a. i just wanted to ask you one more thing. if we can see the slide of the seeded lincoln image? this is daniel chester french. we have the mall cat of the head, the life seismic out of the head for the lincoln memorial. the very famous sculpture of
lincoln. i'd like to do you to tell our audience about the reach of these casts, and about how subsequent generations of sculptures owe a great dad of data to divot for what he did. >> so obviously, in the absence of a living model after 1865, sculptures relied on evil. of all went on to create his statue, there's one in rochester and one in springfield. not enormously successful as public works of bork art but he did produce bust, non draped passed, the hands. and he did very well manufacturing these reproductions. so that sculptures eventually bought copies of their own, augusta st. gardens used a mask and a hands for his great standing lincoln in chicago and daniel chester french of course
used the mask and the hands which are preserved in chester would in stop ridge massachusetts to model the great lincoln memorial sculpture. no they don't say, a l and silent which. it's about those hands in the lincoln memorial. i wrote a book about french so i get a lot of questions about the. he had done the statue of gallaudet so there was suspicion that it was his tribute to the deaths debt of students and teachers he come to known during that commission. but i digress. later, the hands become great items, and gordon's own copy of bronze was the one that the new york historical society owns. by the way, in an accident of geography, the left hand from this st. gotten set is across the park and my all all mater
the museum of art match bomb museum of art. it's a people run across the park to see the complete. said it's interesting that how did it come to, how did augusta st. gardens get his copy. multi editor of the century magazine owned the original copy at one point. he had blocked bronze replicas made. it was the most fitting irony of the day. his name is richard watts and gilder and of course the new york historical society and essential city and central park and all of the other objects of his life of generosity just lost our richard gilder. sort of brings the story full cycle or circle. >> we are about to ready to open it up for questions. i see that our first one is. this harold why were george
washington and jet jefferson's statue as we move considers jokes and removed? >> i only said that the washington was a joke. >> because it kind of. is >> it is. the jefferson was removed because they re-model the fountain area in front of the white house where he stood. the washington was a racial greater i think was a sculpture. it showed washington in a toga bare-chested and although it was visible. >> it's huge. >> it's gigantic. it's visible and nearly photographs of president potential inaugurations. like in move to the back of it when he was inaugurated in 1861. an 1865. he was being called georgie
porridge-y in his bat. eventually it was taking away at one of the capitol plaza renovations and i think it sits today in the national museum of not american history where it's at eye level and you can't really tell much from it. it's banished to a corner. there it was, it was warns once one of the most prominent sculptures in the country. the >> let's see. we have another question. where is the stephen douglas statue? now >> with the stephen douglas statue which is teeny like stephen douglas is on the top of the stairway at the old state capital in springfield, illinois. it was purchased for the state. it sits just outside ironically
other room or neighbor cam abraham lincoln divided is has dividing address in 1858 warning against divisiveness in the country over the slave reissue. >> stephen douglas was a full foot shorter than lincoln was a? not >> he was about five four and lincoln was six. for a must have made quite a contrast on the debate stage. >> next question. is there any memorial to john graham and if so, when did it become acceptable to have a memorial to him? >> john brown his reputation has gone up and down. most people condemned him, the african community never did incidentally. for generations, he was dismissed as a mad man.
you can go up to the 1940s, i think the movie was called santa fe trail which showed the raid on harpers ferry. i hope i'm not wrong about the movie. my daughter who is a film historian will be very angry. he was portrayed interestingly by raymond massie who also portrayed abraham lincoln in a famous film. he definitely portrayed as a demonic man. i would say that the most famous memorial tribute to john brown and i'm going to get the dates wrong is a mural in the topeka state house. this shows brown as sort of an angel of god with his hands upraised and fire war breaking out in back of him. makes him sort of like an
apostle violence that leads to freedom. and it's appropriate that's in a topeka and away because it's the town where the brown v. board of education case was hatched. >> it's also very pointed to see his grave and his sons are with them in lake placid. just very simple the beautiful memorial and itself. here's another question about john brown. why did he why did he why did not he use the baskets heavily armor instead of the spear? >> he just didn't think is african americans followers will be able to use the muskets once they were liberated or liberated themselves. there was rifle fire at the armory. he broke out a few windows and fired back at least marine
contingent. there was a lot of exchange of gunfire when the marines led the charge that broke down the thick rounded door to the armory. they used rifles for sure. >> here's another question also. a lot of interest in john brown this evening. we're trying to keep liken away. it's interesting how a smear allied look so peculiar like that can develop this type of obsession and that topic of john brown. here's a question. was his anti anti slavery passion function of his religious audacity. were signs were his sons is dedicated to the causes? in >> the answers are yes and yes. it was definitely bound in relive yazidi and in his
interpretation of gods well, gods hatred of slavery. so is a messy attic approach. the, youj know that the overwhelming amount of questions or about the pike. i don't know if you remember how worried we were about putting that objects at the beginning of the book? it doesn't really photograph all that well. it is what it is. how do you convey the size of it because it's six foot nine inches? you came up with the idea of running it diagonally across two pages which at least added some half to it. that was a good decision. i'm glad people get it because it's not a picturesque object. >> there's one about the yield
costs. how many were distributed during lincoln's life? >> their cast of the hands, cast of the face, can't of the bust. there is no good count of how many of these were created and it's also extremely hard. a takes expert eyes that are more export than mine to tell what generation of mask they were. the mask reproduction generally started in the 18 eighties. pro pony and company in new york firm was one of the early manufactures of them. you can see the little brass nameplate in the plaster of some of them. the bronze is we're much more exclusive and much more expensive. there are no record. they are valuable and they are desirable and are in private collections. i do see there they were common but they were ubiquitous.
>> you can still buy them in our store. >> lincoln had a second life mask taken couple of months before his death. a much easier to bear process but it never achieve the popularity of the first one. the first mask of hansen's inspired poetry, again the perpetuation of a patronage of other artists. >> there's a certain immediacy to the hands. make a nice paperweight (laughs). >> is actually question i think we can get every week. maybe the answer will be different every. week what item of the 50 objects as your favorite and the most significant? >> my favorite is probably one
that we will get to towards the end of the program at the end of the series so i shouldn't say too much about it. it is very much like a 19th century version of ten timorous are's famous oak tack tabulation of election -- if you remember the latest feuded election, he wrote down the votes here is all virginia will do this, florida will do that. bush will get to 70, here is how gore can get to 70. that book tag is in the smithsonian. well the new york historical society has a miniature version of the vote tag. abraham lincoln calculating how on earth as unpopular has he is in 1964 how he's gonna get to the number of electoral votes to get reelected. that's my favorite. >> extraordinary little
document? right >> to do ask about the most significant? to >> yes. >> so we will get to this one too. let's say it is an original relic of the draft riots in new york of 1863. these consumes the whole's almost the whole city, but certainly scented into much fear and destruction and death as well. we have a living relic of that episode in american history. >> and you described so beautifully in the book i must say. it's one of my favorite chapters of the book. we won't give it away the huawei? you have to come back in here next time. >> i get a chance to speak my mind. >> i think you might. one more question i think we have time for one or two more. which was lincoln's favorite bust or portrait of him? was at the one that you
discussed? >> well, he told a sculptor in 1864 that he had created his favorite mud head. i was his description of another boss but if that so i don't really think his taste was that terrific because it's not as good as the as the sanctions. he was very practical. he liked the next work that was being done. he liked to photograph from a pre-presidency in 1857 but his wife didn't like him he admitted because of the disordered condition of his hair. we rely on what he said to a print maker who sent him a copy of an engraved portrait. lincoln roll back and said it seems to me and excellent
likeness bluetooth to say i'm a very indifferent judge. >> fair enough. it looked pretty good in matthew brady iconic matt through brady photo. >> yes in question about that the. his hair was parted on the wrong side for that day. his barber. i think the look think that they looked a little peculiar although those sittings have inspired the five dollar bill. >> another question about john brown in the pike. why were they numbered? >> i think it was just a habit of the metalworker and the forms where they were made. or, and we don't know, maybe the person who made in the supply them to john brown and he was paid of course, maybe he thought that these were going to go down in history as important a relic for freedom as the muskets we used in
lexington and concord. >>, again we're excited to have our one-on-one numbered. another question here. to lincoln express any opinion with respect to brown and his ash actions either publicly or privately? >> i think of related all of his accounts and that he is, he regarded as a traitor. that was just dangerous for a mainstream politician, even a liberal politician, 1860 to identify with armed revolt and armed insurrection against the south. if lincoln and had the hindsight we have in 2020 he would look back no doubt on john brown as a hero of the second american revolution but he could not afford that kind
of casual dismissal of the violence at that time. >> i absolutely. last question. large hands can be a manifestation of -- disease. delay can have this malady and it have any fluids on his presidency? >> while. that's a tough one to answer really quickly. but i see we're almost out of times we'll try. ma fans syndrome as a disorder, a genetic disorder has been attributed to lincoln. and manifest by causing its victims to be tall and loose jointed, to have i issues, and lincoln did have a roving i. suffer from depression which arguably lincoln did at times. >> in his voice to write? . >> clans voice at times. maher fans patients seldom live
to the age lincoln lived. he was cut down at the age of 56. they are also weak, they don't have power in their hands. lincoln was a rail splitter of course it is youth and in the weeks before he died, he was on a boat back from the front in virginia, back towards the white house and was riding on the deck of the ship. he saw one of those axes in the corn of the ship. those were old enough to remember these to be these axes and our public schools in case of firebreak lost with this acts. you get a hose in put out the fire i guess. it was an ax and lincoln said to his young guests on board, i'd like to see show you a fetus strength. i wonder if and if you could do this. this is something we have witnesses of testing to he did periodically. if he saw an ax and a
government building or office. you like to show off. i'm gonna do a poor imitation of an ax. i have a pen. he took a between his thumb and his forefinger and extended it as far and held parallel and then for a fact let it thud, let it drop to the deck and said. anybody want to? try guess what no one could do it. so he enjoyed showing that off and every physician i've ever spoken to insists that amara fan could not accomplish that at age 56 so i don't think he had more fans syndrome but it it is a tough mid to destroy. it's a lot of >> lot of information to tuck into 45 minutes. thank you so much harold for being such a terrific partner in today's program and a series which i really look forward to doing with you. >> i do too.
it's a great first zone and val thank you for being such a great partner in the civil war objects and so louise for making it all possible the civil war at 50. objects >> one affect my audience for watching this evening. your attention, your questions, most importantly for your membership support. we look forward to seeing you back here a week from tonight. when we move to the prewar's turns to the war itself looking at a trio connected to. abolition until then, thank you and goodnight all. >> you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span three explore our nations past. c-span 3 created by americas cable television companies as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv
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saturday at 10 am eastern on american artifacts. library of congress curator beverley rabbit on life in the 19 thirties and forties through color photographs. and sunday at 4 pm eastern on real america. three films from the knife 1976 elections produced by the u.s. information industry for an international. audience than 8 pm eastern on the presidency. acceptance speeches from five presidential nominees, harry truman, adelaide stevenson, dwight eisenhower, john kennedy and richard nixon. exploring the american story. watch american history tv. this weekend on c-span three. we continue now with the story of harold holstering viral or a paisley of the new york historical society looking at artifacts and enjoyed publication of the civil war in 50 objects.