BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Joseph E. Stevens, author of "1863: The Rebirth of a Nation." Why the subtitle?
Mr. JOSEPH E. STEVENS, AUTHOR, "1863: THE REBIRTH OF A NATION": Well, I think 1863 was the pivotal year in American history. And it was a year in which the country, basically, reinvented itself.
LAMB: What happened in that year?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, tremendous military conflict, but also a great deal of political change and social change. And I think one of the biggest changes was the federal government becoming much more powerful and--and intrusive and state governments enjoying less power.
LAMB: How'd you get interested in this year?
Mr. STEVENS: Oh, I've had a long-term interest in the Civil War and--going back to when I was a kid. But it was the PBS documentary series 10 years ago that really sort of re-sparked my interest and got me looking real closely at it again. And realizing that the--the Civil War is the--sort of the key central event in American history. And I really wanted to write something about it.
LAMB: Which character of all those that you write about--and you've got lots of generals and Abe Lincoln and all--but which character may be new to you did you find for the book?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, there were several. One was a--a young woman named Kate Stone who lived on a cotton plantation in Louisiana and kept a really wonderful journal, recording her experiences. And she and her family were driven out of their home and became refugees, and moved from Louisiana to Texas. And I found her story and her experience really fascinating.
LAMB: Where'd you find the diary?
Mr. STEVENS: It's actually a published diary. I think it was published in the 1950s at some point, and it's called "Brokenburn," which was the name of their plantation.
LAMB: Who was Kate Stone?
Mr. STEVENS: She was the daughter of a--a wealthy--a wealthy cotton planter. And her brothers were serving in the Confederate army. And she started as a very pro-Confederate individual. But as she had these experiences of being thrown out of her home and sent into exile in Texas, her attitudes changed. And that--this is really interesting, to see this change in attitude.
LAMB: Who threw her out of her home?
Mr. STEVENS: Union troops from Sherman's army that were marauding through the countryside, and also slaves that were breaking free from their masters and engaging in looting and burning and so forth.
LAMB: How did her attitude change?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, I think she started out with a very sort of romanticized view of the war. And as it became more personal to her, and she saw the actual consequences of it, she realized that it was not worth it, in her opinion. Her family lost everything. They were very wealthy. They lost their home. They lost their money. They ended up living in a shack in--in north central Texas. And I think she felt that the Confederacy just wasn't worth it.
LAMB: What happened to her?
Mr. STEVENS: She eventually moved back to that area of Louisiana, but never regained that social status that she had enjoyed before the war.
LAMB: What'd you learn about Abraham Lincoln?
Mr. STEVENS: A wonderful--oh, an extraordinary individual. Fabulous sense of humor, terrific politician, extremely savvy military leader. Just extremely impressive.
LAMB: Near the end, you talk about the sister of Mary Todd...
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...who had what?
Mr. STEVENS: Had been--she had been married to a Confederate general who was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. And she came to live with the Lincolns in the White House for a time, but eventually had leave because politically, it was just not acceptable for the wife of a rebel general to be living in the White House with the first family.
LAMB: How did they know that? What--what kind of reaction did they get?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, they just had--they had people saying, `How can you have that rebel in your house?'
LAMB: They write about it in the papers?
Mr. STEVENS: I'm not sure it was in the papers, but Lincoln was getting visitors, generals and politicians, who were just appalled that he would do this. And he--he did not ask her to leave. I think she realized that she was causing trouble for him, and she had left voluntarily.
LAMB: Who was winning the war in 1863?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, at the start, the Confederacy was this close to winning, or extremely close to winning. In December of 1862, u--Union forces had attacked the army of northern Virginia at Fredricksburg, and suffered just a disastrous, terrible defeat. And the army was demoralized. The people on the home front were demoralized. And politicians from both parties were pretty much ready to give up and saying, `The Confederacy has won. We can't go on with this. We need to negotiate a boundary.' So it was very close, I think, to the Confederacy achieving victory.
LAMB: Fredricksburg is only 50 miles south of where we're sitting.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And y--y--you--you allude to the times when people would literally go out and watch the battles.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: It--did Mrs. Lincoln ever go to a battle?
Mr. STEVENS: Not to my knowledge, no.
LAMB: Who did? I--you--you also point out U--U.S. Grant's wife was with him from time to time?
Mr. STEVENS: Yeah, she would be brought from Illinois when his aides became concerned that his drinking problem was getting out of hand. And, apparently, she was the one who could crack the whip and--and keep him on the straight and narrow.
LAMB: Where would she stay?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, I guess she stayed at his headquarters. During the Vicksburg campaign, they were living on board a steamboat. And I think I--I believe he had several of his children with him, too.
LAMB: You mention the drinking. That comes up several times in the book. How much of it did you find?
Mr. STEVENS: There was really just one rather spectacular incident where apparently he--and this was during the siege of Vicksburg--and Grant was a very active person. And he--I think he got bored, believe it or not, during the siege, and he went on a just a tremendous bender for a couple of days. Fortunately, his aides and the newspaper reporters who were accompanying him managed to cover it up because if it--I think if it had got back to Washington that he had this episode, he might--might well have been relieved of command.
LAMB: What was the story about him with the cases of champagne that were sitting there?
Mr. STEVENS: Oh, yeah. His--he--he had an aide who was the son of an alcoholic and who was teetotaler and who was also a sort of a--a minder for Grant. And he came to Grant's tent one day and found cases of champagne, empty bottles I presume, in the tent and outside the tent, and--and confronted the general who denied that--that he had partaken of this champagne. But I suspect that he had sampled it a little bit.
LAMB: How did you do this book? How did you get ready to write it?
Mr. STEVENS: I just read and read and read. And you could fill whole libraries with books about the Civil War. There is just a tremendous volume of material.
LAMB: Where'd you find it? Where'd you do it? Where'd you read it?
Mr. STEVENS: The university libraries. I purchased a lot of books.
LAMB: Where do you live?
Mr. STEVENS: I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. So the closest university library for me is in Albuquerque at University of New Mexico. And they have a surprisingly good Civil War collection. I also went and spent some time in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, some time here in Washington, various places.
LAMB: What do you do normally for a living?
Mr. STEVENS: I write books.
LAMB: When did you start that?
Mr. STEVENS: Oh, gosh, it's probably about 15 years ago. This is my third book.
LAMB: How--what was your first?
Mr. STEVENS: It was a book called "Hoover Dam: An American Adventure." And it's the story of the construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.
LAMB: What got you interested in that?
Mr. STEVENS: A--a--a visit. I was living in Arizona at the time and was driving up to Las Vegas. And when you drive to Las Vegas you--you--you have to cross the dam. And any--anybody who's ever seen it knows that it's just the most incredible, spectacular structure in an unbelievable setting. And I was fascinated. `How did this thing get here? Who built it?' And it was built right at the heart of the Great Depression, during the worst part of the Depression. And I was surprised that nobody had written a book about it and discovered it's just a fabulous story.
LAMB: How did it get the name Hoover?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, Hoover's--it--it began during the Hoover administration. And Hoover's secretary of the Interior, a man named Ray Lyman Wilbur, unilaterally named it for his boss.
LAMB: And did--did it ever--it seemed like I--I remember it having another name at some point.
Mr. STEVENS: When Hoover was defeated in the 1932 election, Harold Ickes became the Secretary of the Interior. And he hated Hoover, and he changed the name to Boulder Dam. And it was Boulder Dam until, I believe, 1947 when the Republicans regained control of Congress and changed the name back to Hoover. So it was kind of a political football. But it's been Hoover Dam since--since the late '40s.
LAMB: How long have you lived in Santa Fe?
Mr. STEVENS: About 15 years.
LAMB: What took you there?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, the scenery, the climate. It's just a--a beautiful place, a wonderful place to live.
LAMB: Where'd you grow up?
Mr. STEVENS: In upstate New York.
LAMB: And where'd you study?
Mr. STEVENS: At Princeton University.
LAMB: What de--what course of study?
Mr. STEVENS: American history. In fact, I took a Civil War course that was taught by James McPherson, who's a well-known scholar and author dealing with the Civil War.
LAMB: Your second book was about what?
Mr. STEVENS: America's national battlefield parks, most of which are Civil War parks. So that--that sort of helped pave the way for "1863." And that was a great experience. I--I--I have a thing about battlefield parks. And to be paid to go around and visit them all was just a--a dream come true.
LAMB: How many of them are there?
Mr. STEVENS: Oh, gee, I'm--I'm not sure of the exact number. I'd say approximately 40.
LAMB: In this book, "1863," something had to spark it, though, along the way, where--where--you know, Bantam published it.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: When did they--when were they convinced that this would sell?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, I wrote what they call a proposal, a book proposal. And I think that's what convinced them. And it--it--just as I looked into it, it--it became obvious to me that the--the Civil War is the central event in American history. And 1863 is, sort of, the essence of the Civil War. It definitely was the most important year, and to my knowledge, nobody had written a book that focused specifically on that one year. And not just the military and politics, but what was going on on the home fronts and touching on writers and artists and--and life--life in America in that year.
LAMB: Who were the big writers?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, the popular writers were people like Artemus Ward and some others that I think we've more or less forgotten today, but featured in the book. Walt Whitman was here in Washington working in the hospitals and writing. And Louisa May Alcott was also working in the hospitals here in Washington.
LAMB: Tell the story about Walt Whitman and the fact that they--you know, when he visited the wounded, and there were some strong anti-Whitman feelings about--from people at the hospitals.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm. Well, Whitman was a homosexual. And I think the head nurses at the hospitals were perhaps picking up on that a little bit, that he would go around kissing the patients and--and hugging them and holding their hands. And I guess this was--this was frowned on by some of the more prudish nurses.
LAMB: Where'd you find that material? Was it written about back then?
Mr. STEVENS: There's a quote in there from a--a--a nurse called Holly, and she did--she did write that back then. And I'm trying to remember where I found that. It was probably in a biography of Whitman. But she said something to the effect of, `Oh, here comes that terrible Walt Whitman to talk evil to my boys,' and that was her attitude toward him.
LAMB: And Louisa May Alcott got involved in the nursing business, too.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm, very briefly, yes.
LAMB: Yeah, well what happened?
Mr. STEVENS: She caught typhoid fever after working, I think, for just a couple of weeks, and she was terribly sick and--and near death. And the treatment for typhoid at that point was a--a mercury compound, believe it or not. And she was given huge doses of this mercury compound, which made her--well, it poisoned her. She had mercury poisoning; her hair fell out and her--her tongue was swollen and she was shaky. And they finally called her father, Bronson Alcott, to come down from Concord and get her and take her home, which probably saved her life. If she had stayed in the hospital here and continued to be--be dosed with this mercury compound, I don't think she would have made it.
LAMB: How old was she then?
Mr. STEVENS: She was a teen-ager. I believe she was 19 years old.
LAMB: Had she written anything at that age?
Mr. STEVENS: I don't think she'd had anything published. She was writing stories and--and trying to get them published. But the stories that she wrote about her experience in the hospitals here were sort of her first big breakthrough as far as publication goes.
LAMB: You start off with the Emancipation Proclamation--what?--January 1, 1863?
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: When was the Battle of Gettysburg fought?
Mr. STEVENS: In early July.
LAMB: And when was the Gettysburg Address given?
Mr. STEVENS: Late November.
LAMB: What other things happened in 1863?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, you had the Battle of Stone's River, which a lot of people know as Murfreesboro, and that's one of those Northern-Southern things. The Southerners call it Stone's River, and the Northerners call it Murfreesboro.
Mr. STEVENS: In Tennessee, in middle Tennessee. And that was at--right at the beginning of January. The Battle of Chancellorsville in May.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm, in Virginia. The long-running siege of Vicksburg, which extended from the spring--March, April--again, through July; the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia in September and then Chattanooga on the Tennessee-Georgia border in November. And those are the big--big battles. Of course, there are all kinds of political battles going on all through that period, which in a lot of ways are as interesting as the military battles.
Mr. STEVENS: Because there was this constant drumbeat, especially from the Democratic Party, to negotiate a peace. And it's interesting to see Lincoln sort of deflecting this and--and parrying this and--and keeping the war going.
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LAMB: Who ran the Congress then?
Mr. STEVENS: The Republicans did, the radical--so-called radical Republicans, who were--also tended to be very critical of Lincoln, feeling that he was not prosecuting the war harshly enough, strongly enough. So Lincoln was in the middle, and was kind of catching it from both sides.
LAMB: Where was Jefferson Davis?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, he was in Richmond for most of this period. He--he made several trips. He made a trip at the beginning of the year in which he went through Tennessee and out to Mississippi. And he made another trip to Georgia and Alabama later in the year.
LAMB: How sick was he?
Mr. STEVENS: I think he was very sick. One of the interesting things for me as I researched this book was the--the effect that physical debility and sickness played and influenced leadership for--for the worst. Davis suffered from neuralgia.
LAMB: What's that?
Mr. STEVENS: My understanding is it's a--a--a nerve condition, sort of here in the face, that is extremely painful. And I also believe he had migraine headaches, pretty severe ones.
LAMB: He lived in Richmond.
Mr. STEVENS: Lived in Richmond, uh-huh.
LAMB: Vice President Stevens. You know anything about him?
Mr. STEVENS: He stayed in Georgia. He--he did not agree with a lot of things that Jefferson Davis was doing, and he just stayed at home in Georgia.
LAMB: You point out one statistic I wanted to ask you about: the 22,000 miles of railroad in the North...
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...and only 9,000 miles of railroad in the South, and that they were different gauges even within the South.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What role did that play in 1863?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, it meant that--that the Confederacy just had a terrible time, logistically, shipping supplies and--and food. It was a very cumbersome process. And not only did those railroads have different gauges, but they were in terrible shape. And the trains typically could only go about 10 miles an hour, which is pretty slow. And they would come to a city and--where the railroad changed, and there was a different gauge. And they would have to get everything off the cars and load into horse-drawn wagons and--and take it through the city, and reload it onto the next train, and--and keep doing this every step of the way. And it was just a very cumbersome, very slow, inefficient system. And it was breaking down.
LAMB: What was the difference between the North and the South in population?
Mr. STEVENS: I don't know the exact figures, but the North was much larger in population and industrial infrastructure and in wealth.
LAMB: Mm-hmm. Back to your second book, 40 or so battlefield parks.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Who maintains them?
Mr. STEVENS: The National Park Service.
LAMB: How many of them, do you think, on a percentage basis, are Civil War?
Mr. STEVENS: More than half, I think. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Which one do you remember the most?
Mr. STEVENS: My personal favorite is Shiloh.
LAMB: Where is it located?
Mr. STEVENS: It's located in Tennessee, just across from the northeastern corner of Mississippi, on the Tennessee River. And I like it because of all the ones I visited, it seemed the--the least changed, to me. It's a remote area. There really hasn't been any commercial development to speak of. And it's very easy when you're there to sort of put yourself back to the time that that battle was fought. If--if, for example, you go to Gettysburg, there are towers and there are s--honky-tonk type stores all around. And it's hard to get the feel for what it was like in 1863. But at--at Shiloh, it just doesn't seem it's changed.
LAMB: How much do the American people go to places like this?
Mr. STEVENS: Quite a bit, probably not as much as they should. But the attendance at these parks is--is good. And I think again, going back to that Ken Burns PBS series, that that sort of reintroduced a whole new generation of people to the Civil War, and--and generated a--a lot more interest.
LAMB: Who's--in--in 1863, who's the most successful general?
Mr. STEVENS: Grant.
LAMB: What's he been doing for the first couple years of the war at that point?
Mr. STEVENS: Twiddling his thumbs, mostly, waiting to get the chance.
LAMB: Living where?
Mr. STEVENS: He was in the army. He started out fairly low, I believe. He was commissioned as a colonel, worked his way up, gained a big success at Dover, Tennessee. And I'm--I'm groping for the name of the--of the battlefield, and it's not coming to me. But that victory was what really sort of put him into the public eye, and that was where he become known as "Unconditional Surrender" Grant, because he demanded that the Confederates surrender unconditionally. And this was sort of boffo in the press, you know: U.S. Grant, "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. And that sort of brought him to the attention of--of Lincoln and the people at the War Department.
LAMB: Who is the biggest loser?
Mr. STEVENS: That's--that's hard to--hard to say because there were a fair number of big losers and big bumblers. I guess I would have to say Braxton Bragg. And I feel sorry for--for Braxton Bragg. I think this is another example of health conditions just ruining a person.
LAMB: Where was he in the country at that time?
Mr. STEVENS: He was commanding the Army of Tennessee, so he was in Tennessee, and then Georgia.
LAMB: For the South or the North?
Mr. STEVENS: For the South. He, too, suffered from migraine headaches. He had what they call dyspepsia, which I--I guess means an upset stomach and heartburn, constantly sleep deprived, constipated. He had piles. I mean, he was just in misery all the time and...
LAMB: Is that, by the way, where we get Ft. Bragg, North Carolina?
Mr. STEVENS: Yes, it is. Uh-huh.
LAMB: What did he do wrong? What battles did he lose?
Mr. STEVENS: He--the big battle he lost was Chattanooga, but I think probably his greatest failing was after the battle of Chickamauga. The--the Confederates won an outstanding victory at Chickamauga. And if he had had the wherewithal to follow up on that victory quickly and pursue the retreating army that was--the--the Union Army that was retreating back to Chattanooga, I think he could have scored a--a very decisive victory.
LAMB: Give us a sense of where Chattanooga and Atlanta and Chickamauga are, so we can...
Mr. STEVENS: Well, Atlanta is roughly in sort of north central Georgia. And if you went on a line heading northwest, you would come to Chickamauga, which is sort of in the extreme northwest corner of Georgia. Then you keep going across the Tennessee River, and Chattanooga is there on the Tennessee River. So they're sort of in a line. And the reason the fighting was going along in--in that area was that railroad lines ran in that direction from Chattanooga to Atlanta and from Atlanta out to the seaboard. So that's what gave it the strategic significance that it had.
LAMB: Go back to the big events of the year. The Emancipation Proclamation had what impact in January of 1863? And how was it put out?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, Lincoln had signed the preliminary Edmanc--Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, after the Battle of Antietam, and he made it conditional. He said if the South would agree to certain terms that--that it could be withdrawn, but the deadline was January 1st and the South rejected, you know, any sort of negotiations or anything. So he followed through and signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
And I think his objective was twofold. One was to hurt the South militarily. There were four million slaves. They were producing crops. They were being used to dig fortifications and do all sorts of work that freed up the white Southerners to--to go to the Army. So it hurt them militarily. More importantly, he wanted to change the political dynamic of the war. Davis and the Confederates claimed that they were fighting for liberty; that what they were doing was a second American Revolution. And Lincoln felt that he was losing the war of ideas, and by making emancipation a stated war aim, he could then say the Union is fighting not just for Union but for freedom. So I think that was an important part of it also.
LAMB: Gettysburg Battle, July ni--1863. How important was that in the year?
Mr. STEVENS: It was important. I don't think it's an--as important as some people think. I--I personally believe that Vicksburg--the capture of Vicksburg was the key military...
Mr. STEVENS: ...event of the year. Because by capturing Vicksburg, the Union forces open the Mississippi River to unimpeded river traffic, and they also divided the Confederacy in half. It meant that Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas were cut off from the rest of the South. And the South was drawing a lot of its food stuffs and horses for remounts from those areas. So f--strictly from a--a military strategic standpoint, I think Vicksburg was probably the most important battle.
LAMB: You talk about George Pickett back then--General George Pickett, Pickett's Charge. How old was he then?
Mr. STEVENS: Believe he was in his 30s. I don't know his exact age,
but probably in his early 30s, I'm guessing.
LAMB: It--when it got to the Gettysburg Address, that happened when in 1863?
Mr. STEVENS: In late November.
LAMB: How did it come about?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, after the Battle of Gettysburg, the battlefield, as--as you might imagine, was just a ghastly scene, just thousands of--of bodies and--o--of soldiers and horses...
LAMB: Any idea of how many people were killed there?
Mr. STEVENS: I believe total casualties, killed and wounded, were probably 40,000-plus. So I wouldn't--I don't know the exact number killed, but I'm--I would say 10,000, 12,000 perhaps. I'm--I'm just...
LAMB: And there were--What?--600,000-some killed in the whole war?
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm. So it became obvious that something had to be done, or there was going to be a--just a terrible health situation with all these bodies lying around. So it was decided that a national cemetery would be built there, and this was done and a dedication ceremony was arranged. And President Lincoln was invited to make a few appropriate remarks. He was not the featured speaker at the dedication. That honor went to a--a man named Edward Everett, who was the foremost orator of the time. Everett gave a speech that went on for two hours that he had memorized--completely from memory. And imp--from all reports, the crowd--there were 10,000 spectators there--was just entranced with Everett's speech. And then Lincoln got up and read his 10 sentences and sat down and...
LAMB: Two hundred and seventy-two words?
Mr. STEVENS: Two hundred and seventy-two words.
LAMB: Ten sentences, you said.
Mr. STEVENS: Ten sentences.
LAMB: That's all.
Mr. STEVENS: That's it. And yet, those words ring down the years, and Edw--Edward Everett is long forgotten.
LAMB: Wh--why do you think those 10 sentences--what--what--have you done much study on that?
Mr. STEVENS: Some. S--I think what Lincoln did was explain what all this sacrifice was for, and certainly that was something that needed doing--just the outpouring of blood, horrifying. And there needed to be an exalted reason for this kind of a sacrifice. And I think that's what--what he was stating.
LAMB: Whose side was God on in the Civil War?
Mr. STEVENS: Oh, I wouldn't want to...
LAMB: Well, let me ask it differently...
Mr. STEVENS: OK.
LAMB: I--I didn't expect you to have an answer. What did they think back then? And how much of an issue was God, either for the North or South?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, both s--both sides felt that God was on their side, I think.
LAMB: If you're in the South, why would you think you were right?
Mr. STEVENS: Because you're fighting for liberty, and that's in the American tradition. They felt that the--the North was seeking to dominate them, and they were fighting for their freedom.
LAMB: Was it an issue much that you saw in the books that you read and the research you did?
Mr. STEVENS: God?
Mr. STEVENS: No, not--not overwhelmingly. There's a nice passage from Lincoln, where he kind of speculates. He's--you know, God wills that there be this war, but it's not clear yet, you know, what outcome he wants or--or hopes to see.
LAMB: You d--you do, though, say that General Rosecrans was...
Mr. STEVENS: Mm, a devout Catholic.
LAMB: ...a devout Catholic, and that got in his way.
Mr. STEVENS: Sometimes, yeah.
Mr. STEVENS: Well, it seemed like at key moments, he was off receiving Mass when perhaps he might have been better served to be at headquarters directing the action.
LAMB: Who was he?
Mr. STEVENS: He was a West Pointer, a--a pretty good general. And I--after his defeat at Chickamauga, he seemed to become even more religious and he became quite fatalistic, s--just seemed to have the attitude that, `Well, whatever is going to happen is God's will, and I--I am not really able to influence events that much.' And...
LAMB: How much did President Lincoln have to say about what generals were in what area?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, not as much I th--he selected the generals, but as far as controlling their actions on the battlefield, it's rather remarkable how--how little control he exerted. I mean, we think now that the president picks up the phone and--and says, `Drop a bomb down this chimney in Yugoslavia,' and presumably an hour later, it happens. And this just was not the case in 1863.
Lincoln was constantly cajoling these generals to be more aggressive, to move faster, to do this and do that. And many of the generals were downright insubordinate. They would ignore his messages. They would not do what he wanted them to do. So it was really quite astonishing to me that these West Point-trained generals just would treat the commander in chief that way. But this was a different time, I guess, and attitudes were different.
LAMB: You dedicate your book to Anastasia and Aaron. Who are they?
Mr. STEVENS: Anastasia is my wife, and Aaron--Aaron is my three-year-old son.
LAMB: Where'd you meet your wife?
Mr. STEVENS: At Princeton.
LAMB: Where were you born?
Mr. STEVENS: Little town called Cambridge, New York, and it's northeast of Albany. It's almost in Vermont--close to Manchester, Vermont.
LAMB: What was growing up there like?
Mr. STEVENS: Very nice, a very small town, rural town.
LAMB: What'd your parents do?
Mr. STEVENS: My father was a doctor and my mother raised us kids until we were teen-agers, and then she went back to medical school and became a doctor also.
LAMB: Are they still living?
Mr. STEVENS: Oh, yes. Yeah.
LAMB: Still practicing?
Mr. STEVENS: No, they've both retired.
LAMB: Now how does someone get from a small town of Cambridge, New York, to Princeton?
Mr. STEVENS: Study hard.
LAMB: Was it hard to get in?
Mr. STEVENS: I don't know. Possibly.
LAMB: What year did you graduate?
Mr. STEVENS: 1979.
LAMB: And then what'd you do?
Mr. STEVENS: I worked for a couple of years as an editor of all kinds of things: free-lance editor, books, magazines. We moved to Tucson, Arizona. I did archaeological reports. But all this time, I was writing for myself, mostly articles at that point. And wh--when Hoover--I--Hoover Dam idea got into my head, that's when I got really serious about writing books. And after that was published and--and did fairly well, I was able to go to writing full time.
LAMB: So it's possible to write three books in 15 years and survive financially?
Mr. STEVENS: It is if you have a wife that makes a good living.
LAMB: What does she do?
Mr. STEVENS: She's a lawyer. And, you know, my--I thank her and--and love her for all the support and help that she's given me through the years, because there--when you're a writer, there are dry periods as far as income goes. So...
LAMB: Are you on to your next book already?
Mr. STEVENS: Not yet, no.
LAMB: Do you have an idea?
Mr. STEVENS: Yeah, I do. I'd like to do a book about the first six months of World War II, from Pearl Harbor to Midway. World War II seems to be kind of a hot subject now, but it seems that most of the books that have come out have dealt with the war in Europe, '44, '45. And I think it would be interesting to take a look at those first six months, when America was really losing the war and in a very serious crisis. And it would be a book s--similar in--in style to "1863."
LAMB: Go back to this book and try to remember about--first of all, what year'd you start this?
Mr. STEVENS: I believe it was 1992.
LAMB: What surprised you after you spent a lot of time looking at the year?
Mr. STEVENS: How important it was to American history. I mean, it was obvious that this was the pivotal year of the Civil War, but the more I got into it, the more I realized that this--this was really a--a turning point for the whole country, I th--I think particularly in the growth and strength of the federal government, industrialization, business practices, social mores. And a year is not that long a period, really, and yet, these incredible changes took place in just this 365-day period.
LAMB: What changed?
Mr. STEVENS: What changed was that the federal government really, I think, assumed a position that it has had since then and then has sort of increasingly had in sort of directing the tone and tenor of national life at the expense of the states.
LAMB: How did that happen? Give us some examples.
Mr. STEVENS: Well, there was a passage of a national banking law. Interestingly enough, before 1863, states chartered banks and each bank issued its own currency. So you would have hundreds of different kinds of bills and coins and currency floating around from banks of who knows what quality, which really impeded interstate commerce. And the national banking law allowed for a national currency, which was a big change in the economy.
And another big thing was conscription. Prior to 1863, the individual states had recruited soldiers and organized them into regiments, picked the commanders, done a lot of the equipping and then sent them off. When the Conscription Act was passed, the federal government was saying, `We're going to take charge of this now.' The states had a quota--you know, `Recruit so many soldiers, but if you fall below that quota, we're going to send provost marshals in and we're going to draft people and--and take them.'
LAMB: Three men who got rich in this country, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller Sr., you write about. What did they do when it came to fighting in the Civil War? And were they of the age to fight?
Mr. STEVENS: They were of the age to fight. There was a provision in the conscription law, a very unpopular one, that permitted individuals of means to pay $300 and hire a substitute. And all three of these gentlemen hired substitutes to go in their place.
LAMB: How did it work?
Mr. STEVENS: There were brokers, people who would find--I think--I believe that usually, these substitutes were immigrants, you know, right off the boat from Ireland or somewhere. And if you were a well-to-do individual, you would go to the broker and--and pay a certain fee, and he would find a--a person for you that would go in your place.
LAMB: Then they had no obligation?
Mr. STEVENS: That was the end of their obligation.
LAMB: A--and you--you point out that they all liked to make money so they went right on and made their money while the war was going on.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: It was no--was it a--was it a moral issue back then at all?
Mr. STEVENS: I don't believe so. It certainly was unpopular in some quarters.
LAMB: What would $300 be like, do you think?
Mr. STEVENS: In today's money?
LAMB: How many thousands?
Mr. STEVENS: Oh, gosh. I--I'd hesitate to--to guess, but I would think several thousand, not that much really for people like Rockefeller or Carnegie and Morgan.
LAMB: Did many people do this?
Mr. STEVENS: Yes, they did. In fact, I'm somewhat ashamed to say my own great-grandfather did this. And supposedly, I'm told, he regretted it for the rest of his life, but he did do that.
LAMB: How did you find that out?
Mr. STEVENS: My grandmother told me. My great-grandfather ran a paper mill in Springfield, Massachusetts, and I assume it was a--a thriving business and he did not want to leave it.
LAMB: What was your reaction when you found that out?
Mr. STEVENS: A little disappointed perhaps, but also understanding. You know, you ask yourself if you were in that position and you--you had the choice, you could pay several thousand dollars and stay home or go to these killing fields, how many of us would choose to go to the killing fields? I'm not sure.
LAMB: Stonewall Jackson--what happened to him in 1863? And who was he?
Mr. STEVENS: Well, he was one of Lee's most trusted subordinates. Jackson led the famous flanking march at Chancellorsville, smashed Hooker's army at Chancellorsville, rode into some woods in the dark the evening of that battle and was mistaken by some North Carolina troops, who thought he was a Union cavalryman, and was shot and mortally wounded. And it was a great loss for the--for the Confederacy.
LAMB: Th--this is not in your book, but somewhere, his arm is buried.
Mr. STEVENS: His--yes, his arm is buried.
LAMB: Have you--did you look...
Mr. STEVENS: Yes, I've been there.
LAMB: Did you investigate that?
Mr. STEVENS: Yeah, his arm...
Mr. STEVENS: ...is buried at a place called Guiney Station in Virginia, and there's a little--there's a little stone monument.
LAMB: Have you been there?
Mr. STEVENS: Yes.
LAMB: And what about the rest of him? Where is the rest of him buried?
Mr. STEVENS: The rest of him is buried at Virginia Military Institute. And I forget what town.
LAMB: Lexington, Virginia.
Mr. STEVENS: Lexington, mm-hmm.
LAMB: In--in looking back at 1863 and looking at Abraham Lincoln, what--what--what were his talents that--you--you basically say he was a great president.
Mr. STEVENS: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: I mean, it's--not many people would argue with that one today.
Mr. STEVENS: Yeah.
LAMB: But--but what do you think his real talent was?
Mr. STEVENS: I--he had a number of remarkable talents, and I think as a politician, he was just extremely skillful at sort of tacking a little bit this way toward the radical Republicans and then perhaps tacking back a little bit this way toward the anti-war Democrats.
LAMB: What made them radical Republicans?
Mr. STEVENS: They were called radical Republicans because they were steadfastly opposed to slavery, and they had just a very extreme attitude.
LAMB: Who were the leaders?
Mr. STEVENS: Ben Wade. I think his nickname was Bluff Ben Wade in Congress. And a number of senators, Fessenden and...
LAMB: From Maine?
Mr. STEVENS: Of Maine, uh-huh. And there were others.
LAMB: You end the book talking about the statue of Freedom and talking about the Capitol.
Mr. STEVENS: Uh-huh.
Mr. STEVENS: Well, I think it's just a nice metaphor. All during this year, the Capitol dome was under construction. It was not complete. And the imagery of it being completed and the statue of Freedom being hoisted to the top suggests to me that the Union is going to be made whole again and the federal government and the Lincoln administration have--have triumphed.
LAMB: When you researched it, did--did you read newspapers back then?
Mr. STEVENS: Yeah. Yes.
LAMB: Did they think they were winning or going to win it at the end of 1863?
Mr. STEVENS: Yes, I believe they did.
LAMB: Well, the war was over the next year, basically, I mean, early eight--'65.
Mr. STEVENS: Basically. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What happened in '64? Did you peek into the next year?
Mr. STEVENS: A little bit. I--there were some more terrible battles, but the South was just kind of shrinking in on itself. And I--I don't think in 1864 that there was any k--question anymore that--that the Union might lose. That's really one of the extraordinary things about 1863. I think as we look back at history, we sort of feel that whatever happened was inevitable, and it's not true. The Confederacy could have won. I really believe that. And if it had won, we would be living in a very different country. So that's really one of the amazing things about 1863 and what makes it such an important year.
LAMB: Can people still buy your book on Hoover Dam?
Mr. STEVENS: Oh, yes.
LAMB: And can they still buy your book on national battlefields?
Mr. STEVENS: Yes. Uh-huh. They can.
LAMB: And you named Shiloh. What are some of the other favorites of yours in the battlefield book?
Mr. STEVENS: Gettysburg, even for all the development. My wife, who's very understanding, went with me for a three-day trip--four-day trip to Gettysburg, and we equipped ourselves with some very detailed maps and--and s--read up on the battle before we went. And we followed the movements of the troops for each day--you know, the first day, the second day, the third day: getting off the highway, getting away from the Park Service markers.
And that was an extraordinary experience, and I gained a--just a whole new perspective and appreciation for the difficulty--difficulties that the soldiers faced and their commanders. This was in June that we made our trip. I remember walking through the Devil's Den and--and going up one of the Round Tops and just being soaked with sweat and out of breath, and I was not carrying a musket or ammunition and I did not have people shooting at me. And I just found myself i--in awe of the people that did this and went through it.
LAMB: The book is "1863: The Rebirth of a Nation" by Joseph Stevens of Cambridge, New York, and Princeton University and...
Mr. STEVENS: Santa Fe, New Mexico.
LAMB: ...and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. STEVENS: Thank you.
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