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ASU Civil War Lecture Series to Focus on Generals Lee, Grant

October 04, 2011

The Angelo State University lecture series commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War will examine the contrasting careers and battlefield records of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, on the ASU campus.

Dr. Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai of the ASU history faculty will speak on Grant, and Dr. Bill Taylor of the security studies faculty will talk on Lee in the panel presentation “Civil War Commanders: Ulysses S. Grant vs. Robert E. Lee” in the C.J. Davidson Conference Center in the Houston Harte University Center at 1910 Rosemont Drive. Dr. Robert Ehlers, director of ASU’s Center for Security Studies, will moderate the panel.

The lecture is the second in a series of seven public presentations that will address various aspects of the Civil War. All programs in the 2011-12 speaker series are open free to the public.

The Civil War speaker series is jointly sponsored by multiple ASU departments, including the History Department, Center for Security Studies, West Texas Collection, Multicultural Center and Air Force ROTC, as well as Fort Concho and the Concho Valley Civil War Roundtable, to commemorate the watershed even in American history.

ASU History Department Head Dr. Kenneth J. Heineman said Angelo State’s “Civil War 150th Commemoration Discussion Series” will continue through April with ASU and local historians addressing various topics related to Civil War personalities, events and ramifications. All programs are scheduled at either ASU’s Davidson Center or in the Fort Concho Commissary.

“Even as the Civil War raged,” said Heineman, “Robert E. Lee had achieved mythic proportions. Army of the Potomac commanders feared and respected Lee to the point where they lost battle after battle in which they outnumbered the Confederates 2 to 1. Only Ulysses Grant, reviled during the Civil War as a drunk and a ‘butcher’ of the battlefield, knew how to defeat Lee. After the war, Grant’s reputation soared, until the massive corruption that took place during his presidency brought his reputation to a low from which it has only recovered in recent decades.”

“What made Grant the superb commander that he was, in part, stemmed from one insight that, from today’s vantage point, appears so obvious: coordinate offensives in both the eastern and western theaters,” Heineman continued. “Lee had been able to transfer troops between the theaters, thereby decreasing his disadvantage in having fewer numbers.”

“Grant and William T. Sherman, in the spring of 1864, launched virtually simultaneous campaigns,” he said. “Not only could Lee not redeploy troops to meet the Union threats, Grant wisely changed one key objective in the eastern theater by realizing the target for destruction was not necessarily the Confederate capital of Richmond, but rather Lee’s army itself.”

“For Sherman, after taking Atlanta the objective was to destroy the South economically and psychologically,” Heineman said. “Of course, if we are talking about military reputations, we should note the irony that Sherman came out of the war with a reputation that, at least in the South, never recovered, even though he killed far fewer southerners than Grant. It would seem that post-war families who had supported the Confederacy preferred that their men died with honor than to have lived with humiliation. Grant ‘honored’ the South at The Wilderness, Cold Harbor and Petersburg.”

Other presentations in the Civil War series will be:

●“Guerilla Warfare, Counter-Insurgency and the Lessons of the Civil War,” 7 p.m. Nov. 15, Davidson Center; Panelists: Dr. Ken Heineman, “General Thomas Ewing Jr. and the Missouri Borderlands” and Dr. Robert Ehlers, “Aftermath: The Truisms, Continuities and Discontinuities of Irregular Warfare;” Moderator: Col. Mike Buck.

●“Virtual Staff Ride of the Gettysburg Battlefield,” 7 p.m. Jan. 24, Davidson Center; Orientation Leader of the Staff Ride: Dr. Bill Taylor; Discussants: Dr. Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, “Day 2 – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,” and Dr. Bruce Bechtol, “Day 3 – George Pickett;” Moderator: Dr. Maurice Fortin.

●“Emancipation, 1862,” 2 p.m. Feb 12, Fort Concho Commissary; Panelists: Dr. Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, “The Abolitionist Stance,” and Dr. David Dewar, “The Moderate Republican View;” Moderator: Joe Muñoz.

●“Civil War/Total War,” 7 p.m. March 20, Fort Concho Commissary; Panelists: Cory Robinson, “Before San Angelo, Benjamin Grierson Dropped by on Mississippi,” and Dr. Ken Heineman, “William Tecumseh Sherman Demonstrated that War is Hell;” Moderator: Dr. Robert Ehlers.

●“A New Birth of Freedom: The Post-Civil War World,” 7 p.m. April 17, 2012, Davidson Center; Roundtable: Dr. John Klingemann, “Mexico, 1910,” Dr. Joe Zheng, “China, 1911” and Dr. Rob Nalbandov, “Georgia, 1989;” Moderator: Dr. Ken Heineman.

Heineman said the goal of the lecture series is to engage the community in reflection on the Civil War and its impact, even on contemporary society. He said the lecture series would also be a learning experience for secondary school teachers and their students.