tv The Presidency Washington the Fight for Philadelphia CSPAN February 19, 2018 8:00pm-9:03pm EST
>> next on the presidency, historian and biographer richard brookhiser addresses the question before george washington in 1777. could the british subdue the american rebels by capturing their capital, philadelphia? it was washington's actions in moments like this that forged his reputation and ultimately led to his unanimous selection as the first president. the new york historical society hosted this hour-long event. good evening, everyone and welcome to the new york historical society. i'm dale gregory. vice president for public programs. we're always thrilled to welcome you to our spectacular robert a. smith auditorium. this evening program is presented in conjunction with mapping america's road to
unless, our new revolutionary war exhibition, which is on view here until march 11th. tonight's program, washington and the nation's battle for the nation's capital. and the distinguished speaker series at the heart of our programs, as always, i'd like to thank mr. schwartz for his wonderful support. let's give mr. schwartz a great hand. [ applause ] i'd also like to recognize our trustee executive committee chair and all the councilmembers with us for all of their support as well. let's give them a big hand. [ applause ] thank you. so, tonight, the program will last an hour. it will include a question and answer session. has everyone received a card to write their questions? no? well, we have staff coming
through. this is -- we will conduct the q&a with written questions on cards. and you should receive a note card and pencil, as they come up and down the aisles, just raise your hand if you want a card. and they will collect them a little later on in the program. and there will be a formal book signing following the program in our ny history store on the 77th street side of our building. and copies of mr. brookhiser's books will be available for sale. and he will be signing them there. and, so, we are thrilled to welcome richard brookhiser back to new york historical society. he's a senior fellow at the national review institute and a senior editor of the national review. mr. brookhiser is the author of 12 books on american history, including alexander hamilton, american, founding father rediscovering george washington,
and gentlemen revolutionary morris, who wrote the constitution. in 2004, mr. brookhiser served as historian curator at ny historical for the exhibition alexander hamilton. and in 2008 he was awarded the national humanities medal by president george w. bush. before we begin, i'd just like to ask if you have a cell phone or electronic device that you would please turn it off. now, please join me in welcoming richard brookhiser. thank you. [ applause ] >> so, let's start with the big question, can the british win the war by taking the nation's capital? >> right. this is the question of 1777. which is the third year of the revolution.
the revolution is the longest war we will fight until vietnam. it's eight years. it's longer than the civil war and world war ii put together. but this is the third year. and the question for the british is, can they win it by capturing the capital? and the question for the americans is, can they defend their capital or survive the loss of it? but before we begin, i just want to direct your attention to this very cool map. and you can see there are lines, red and blue lines. the red lines are the british. the blue lines are the americans. but i want you to begin by ignoring the lines. because the men who were fighting didn't have these lines. they had maps. but the lines, they're making the lines. they have plans. they have hopes. but the lines are the results. the lines are what happens in the course of the war.
so, i want you to, first of all, focus on four places. this is new york. this is where we are right now. it's the best harbor in eastern north america. a very valuable place to have headquarters, if you can hold it. it's the second largest city in the 13 colonies, about 20,000 people. it has recently passed boston for the second place. this is philadelphia. this is where the continental congress sits. it first met there in 1774. met for the second time in 1775. and it sits there continuously after that. philadelphia is the largest city in british -- in the united states, in the 13 colonies. about 30,000 people. it's the second largest city in the english-speaking world. london is very much bigger. it's almost 1 million people. but there's no other city in
british north america or in the british isles that is bigger than philadelphia. this is boston. that is now the third largest city. that's where the revolutionary war begins in the spring of 1775 with the battles of lexington and concord in april and bunker hill in may. and here is albany. this is actually an older city than new york. the dutch founded both cities in the 17th century. albany was first. they were founded as fur trading posts. and albany is at this time, as it is now, much smaller than new york city. but it's very centrally located. and i'll explain the importance of that now, when i talk about rivers. that's the next thing i want to show you on this map. rivers are important because there are hardly any roads. settlement is along the coast.
everything from here out, this is all trees. indians, bison. the roads that exist, there are a fair number in here, but they're not very good. if you want to get anywhere, the easiest way to do it is by river, if you can, or by the ocean. so, here's the hudson. it is tidal all the way to albany and even beyond. in other words, the tide rises and falls. the hudson is actually a fjord, it's a drowned riverbed. and it's broad. it's navigable. here, it's not on the map, but there's a river that runs west-east called the mohawk. that joins the hudson at albany and it allows to you sail in this direction, into the interior of new york. here is the delaware river. and hard to see because of the
big star and all of the lines. but the delaware comes in from the atlantic, up to philadelphia. and it's navigable. pennsylvania doesn't have a sea coast, but ocean-going ships can sail into philadelphia up the delaware river. and the last thing is chesapeake bay. here it is, if washington, d.c. existed, it would be like here, but it's not there yet. baltimore isn't even really in existence. but the chesapeake, if you sail in here, the entrance of it, you can go to the west. and you can sail all the way up to the north. almost to pennsylvania. you're here still in maryland. but it allows you a nice shot up in this direction. okay. so that is the area that we're talking about. let me quickly do 1775 and 1776, because we want to set up this third year of the revolution.
the war begins here in boston, lexington and concord are outside. bunker hill is right outside the city. these happen in the spring of 1775. the continental congress is meeting in philadelphia while this is occurring. and while these battles are happening, they pick one of their delegates, george washington, of virginia, to be the commander of their forces. they pick him because he's a virginian, and they want the south to be part of this war, along with the north. they also pick him because he fought in the french and indian war. he rose to the rank of colonel. he fought in a number of battles. he fought in several losing battles. but he came out with a good reputation. a reputation for courage. >> now, rick? >> yes. >> wasn't he also one of the most reserved gentlemen in the group? >> one of the delegates said he
was no ranting harem scarem fellow. [ laughter ] >> and this impressed the fellow delegates. they thought this is a man who is not a blow hard, not a showoff. he seems he knows what he's doing and we can entrust this important task to him. he's also modest. when they voted to pick him, he left the room. and when he came back, he said i want every gentleman to know that i don't believe myself capable of the honor that i have been given. i will, of course, do it. but, you know, i have this reservation. so, they weren't picking someone who was grabbing for the job. and that's important. because there's a fear of military leaders, all of these guys had read their history, roman history, their english history. they knew there was a danger of
military dictators, people like caesar, like cromwell, and they figured with washington, they're not going to run into that problem. so, washington goes up from philadelphia to boston. he takes command of the troops surrounding it who are first off from new england, but troops from elsewhere join them. and he conducts a siege of boston from the spring of 1775 to march of 1776. and why is this taking so long? it's because the british don't feel capable of breaking out of the city. and the americans know they are certainly not capable of attacking it. so, they are sitting. what washington is waiting for is cannon. these are cannon from ft. ticonderoga here, and french and indian war fort. these are captured at the end of '75 and they're taking across
massachusetts in the winter of '76 by henry knox, his artillery commander. he's a bookstore owner in boston. he's never fought in his life, but he's read a lot of military history, and he turns out to be a genius. he figures out how to get them across the river in the winter. when he's taking them across the frozen rivers, he has to go across the ice. to make the ice thicker he cuts holes in the ice so the water will well up and freeze. then he cuts more holes so it gets thicker and thicker, and that's how he gets them there. washington gets them to dorchester heights. the british realize they'll be pounded into submission, so they take off. that's in the spring of '76. they go to their naval base halifax and nova scotia. but then they come back in the summer of '76 here to new york. washington knew that that would probably be their next strike.
so, he's already come with his army from boston to new york. and then in the late summer of '76, in the early fall of '76, there's a series of battles around our city. the first one is the battle of long island. sometimes called the battle of brooklyn. a lot of it was fought in what's now prospect park. there's a path in there called battle path, where there was one of the engagements. it's a crushing american defeat. washington takes the survivors from brooklyn over to manhattan. the british land above him at kipps bay. and try to cut them off by trying to march across to murray hill. he takes his army up to harlem. there's a skirmish there which we actually win but the british
outflank him again and he has to retreat to white plains. he's going up here. there's a battle in white plains in october sven 1776, another defeat. he goes across the hudson, down into new jersey. and then at the end of this year, he is retreating across new jersey, central new jersey, towards philadelphia, being pursued by the british. now, should i say something about the british commanders here at this point? >> absolutely. >> okay. the two main ones, there are two brothers, the howe brothers. richard is the admiral. william is the general. and these men, they were in parliament. they've been pro-american. they had voted against all of the acts that we hated. they stuck up for the colonies but when the war came, they served. they served the british cause. they were also, incidentally, cousins of george iii,
illegitimate cousins. their grandmother had to be then the mistress of george ii, george iii's grandmother. so, this is the way things work in a small society like england. so, the howe brothers have the job of trying to win this war. general howe supported by his brother has won the battles around new york. he's captured this excellent harbor. he's driven washington out. so, it looks like new york, or at least this part of new york, is now out of the game. now, general howe is proceeding to roll out new jersey. >> now, just a quick question. what were their troops, the differences between how many troops and how well off they were? >> right, right. well, during the battles of new york, washington has 19,000 troops, most of them are militia. most of them have never fought
before. the british have 32,000. british and also hessians described as mercenaries which isn't quite right. they weren't individual mercenaries. these were sole soldiers who se their princes. they were small german principalities who would contract to have their armies fight in wars of other countries. if you were a hessian soldier, you signed up, you were a lifer, soldiering was your life, you fought in the battles that your prince, your sovereign, raempged for you to fight. over the course of the war, the british paid 7,000 pounds for the service of these soldiers. i did the math and it was like $360 million. was what they paid. now, the federal government
loses $360 million in the cracks of sofa. but the state was much smaller in the 18th century, so $360 million was quite a lot of money. so, this is the force that is pursuing, i mean, not every single one of them, but these are the troops coming at washington's heels across new jersey, as 1776 ends. the delaware river which starts down there, winds up here, washington crosses over it by the end of the year, middle of december. and lord howe, general howe, concludes well that's it for this year. >> now, are you referring to crossing the delaware? or we haven't done that yet? >> well, there are several crossings of the delaware. this is the first one. washington is trying to get away
from the british. he succeeds. but howe figures, okay, i have passed by new york, i have passed by new jersey. now it's winter. we don't fight in the winter. i'll wait until spring and i'll wrap up this war by crossing the delaware to philadelphia. and i'm going to beat this colonial rebel. not a crazy notion. not an unrealistic notion. washington surprises him, however, by the famous crossing of the delaware, where he attacks trenton on the day after christmas. and trenton has a garrison of 900 hessian soldiers who are taken by surprise. jow will read that they were carousing after christmas day, and they were all drunk. that's not true. that's an american legend. the hessian soldiers were very good. they were very professional. they had a warning that washington might be trying something.
and what had happened was that an american militia company on its own did a little action. there was a little skirmish in the early part of the evening. and the hessian commander colonel raul thought this is what i was warned about. so okay, fine. it's happened. i can go to bed. my soldiers can get a normal night's sleep. >> he did not go drinking? >> no, he did not go drinking. he waw sleeping, they were all sleeping. there were guards but it was light because they figured the threat has past. we were warned about some it's already happened, it's all over, fine. but they were mistaken because the real operation was washington was going to bring his whole army across the delaware and try to surprise them before dawn. it took longer than that. dawn had actually broken by the
time they get to trenton. but they do take the hessians by surprise. they take 900 prisoners. almost the entire garrison. >> now, where do they put them? >> they took them to philadelphia. they took them back across the delaware. marched them through the streets of philadelphia, shows everybody here the enemy prisoners after the revolution. then there's a second battle, in new jersey, the battle of princeton. because after trenton is lost, lord howe realizes this has happened, and he dispatches one of his generals to take trenton back. washington is able to maneuver around cornwallace to get in his rear and to attack princeton, which he captures. and then this is the last engagement of that fighting season. >> okay can we just -- >> i'll just tell you where washington ends up which is morristown. morristown in north new jersey, and that's where he spends the rest of the winter, of now,
we're in january/february 1777. >> and just stepping back to before the crossing, we were talking about how thomas payne's crisis pamphlet -- >> oh, right, yes. >> -- and the state of the troops was that they were just -- >> well, the troops, they had lost all of these battles in new york. >> yes. >> their enlistments were ending. you know, they'd enlisted for six months. they were losing, so morale was low, they were losing and retreating. thomas payne, english immigrant takes the patriot side. he's with washington's army. he writes a pamphlet called the american crisis and heads to philadelphia to get it printed up. and then washington has this read to his troops when he's trying to urge them to re-enlist before the battle of trenton.
my other job besides being a historian is a journalist. i think this is the greatest lead paragraph in journalism. i can't imagine how it will ever be topped. the pamphlet begins "these are the times that try men's souls." and it speaks of the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will not serve his country now, but who does will deserve the loving facts of men and women. it's just inspired writing. i compare it to henry v's speech before the battle of adjunct court in shakespeare. the difference is that was a play. this was reality. this was realtime. it's brilliant, inspiring writing. so thank you for mentioning it. we should never forget. >> even though they were cold and sick and tired and low morale, that pamphlet helped? >> and also washington personally appealed.
he addressed one of the units and said, you know, you have done all that could be asked but if you would re-enlist now, you would never be able to do more for your country. so enough soldiers did it so he had some troops. >> so, now they're in morristown. >> now, they're in morristown. okay. well, morristown is very cold. morristown is cold. at least they're safe, the british are not going to do anything in the winter. so, they ride out that winter. now we're in 1777. so howell's notion was, you know, i've already taken new york. i thought i would have all of new jersey, i can just go across the delaware and get philadelphia and wrap this whole thing up. however, he didn't have all of new jersey now. he's back in new york with most of his army. so what is the british high command going to do? and a plan is developed by one
of howe's junior officers. general named john burgoyne. he was a good general. he had fought in portugal. he was a playwright. a popular playwright. and he came up with a plan to split the 13 colonies. he would come down from quebec. this was the main british base in this part of canada. he would go up the st. lawrence. and then he would come down -- here is lake champlain, it's not on the map unfortunately, but you can sail down lake champlain, but this looks very tempting on the map, you know, because you've got a waterway that can take you all this way down to new york. but the problem is, once you get out of lake champlain, there you are, in upstate new york. and he would discover problems with the plan.
the other parts of the plan, a lieutenant named barrimore st. leger, he's going to go up to lake ontario, he was going to land here at ft. oswego, and come up, down the mohawk. down the mohawk river towards albany. and lord howe, here in new york, would go up the hudson. so, you'd have a three-way convergence on albany. and new england would be here and the rest of the rebellious colonies would be here. and britain would have split them in half. it's a great plan. but problems ensued. one problem was lord howe still liked his plan. take philadelphia. philadelphia's their capital, what a blow to morale if they lose that.
and i'm so close. i got so close, all the way to trenton. maybe i can find some way to get to philadelphia. so, you know, this is the 18th century. the orders are coming from london. it takes a long time to get across the atlantic. it's the age of sail. the orders were not as definite as they might have been. howe felt he had some wiggle room. so what howe does is he leaves. he does leave 7,000 men in new york under general henry clinton. one of his junior officers. and clinton's orders are to find burgoyne in any way clinton finds necessary. >> may i just interject here? >> sure. >> i understood that burgoyne had no idea what was going on and he expected howe. >> of course. >> so no one told him -- >> he's following burgoyne's
plan. howe is following howe's plan, and the only problem is the plans are somewhat different. >> neither is communicating. >> that's right. well, howe sort of it, because he is leaving some 7,000 men here which is not chopped liver. and they do have the orders to, you know, to assist. but howe is taking most of his men and he wants to get to philadelphia. let's split our attention for a moment, first at what howe does. now, if he's not going over land, then he has to use the water. one thing he could do is come up the delaware river. but what he does instead, he sets forth from new york. and of course, we lose touch with him. no drones. you know, he's off at sea, where's he going? we only realize where he's going when he's spotted here. when he's spotted coming in
here. then it's obvious where he's going. he must be going here which is in fact what he does. he sails all the way up chesapeake bay. and there's a little spot here called head of elk. because there's a tiny river that runs in the elk river. called head of elk. this is not many miles from philadelphia. it's pretty easy country. not that far. so this is howe's plan. he's going to land here and he's going to attack philadelphia from the south. not this way, but he's going to come up this way. >> now, who is in philadelphia now? >> the continental congress and george washington. george washington and most of his army. now, there are american troops here in upstate new york. a lot of them are new england militia. the commander, in this theater, is a man that washington likes
and respect, general philip skylar. he's alexander hammiltonhamilto father-in-law, by the way. but he is a wealthy new york dutch ancestry,landowner, and patriot, good general. he's made preparations for a british invasion because this invasion route had been used in the french and indian war. you know, there had been battles here all through the french and indian war. so he go knows what he has to do to defend upstate new york, and he proceeds to do it. he dams streams so the water backs up and floods. he chops down trees across paths. he makes havoc in the woods so it's very hard to move. but at the last minute, he's yanked from his job. because the new englanders don't like him. he's not small "d" democratic. he's a big deal new york
lando landowner, kind of imperious, and the militia men from new england don't get along with him. he's replaced at the last minute bine horatio gates, an american general, born in britain. served in the british army. was a captain in the british army. he settled in america before the revolution began and he took the patriots' side. so gates is now in charge of this theater. but washington is here in philadelphia, and howe clearly is coming for him this way. so, washington decides he has some troops harassing howe, as he lands. and there are a few little tiny engagements in northern delaware as howe is approaching. but now let's go to our other map. so, here we are. here's philadelphia. here is the delaware. here's head of elk.
this is where howe comes. so, howe is going to come -- howe is going this way. the first battle that they have, this is a creek. brandywine creek. and here it is again. and washington places his army here. these little like cones and mustaches. those are washington's troops. and howe's army is coming this way. you see this name knyphausen is a hessian commander. he's leading a force this way. and his job is to make the americans think that he's the main attack. but what washington failed to think of is that up the river here is a fjord. and this is lord cornwallis has
come this way, he's crossed here not defended, and he swings down here. so washington's right wing, this is the left end of his position. this is the right. all of a sudden, here are the british on the right behind, behind the american right. and knyphausen is pressing this way. so, it's not a good situation and in fact the right retreats. general greene here, nathaniel green, he's the son of a couple in rhode island who own an iron foundry. he's just like henry knox, he's never fought before in his life. but he turns out to really have a knack for it. greene covers the retreat. these men, sullivan's troops, they are in disarray. greene opens his ranks, which
means he lets his soldiers -- orders his soldiers to stand aside, to let their fellow americans just pass through them. then they close their ranks again to fight and resist the british who are coming on. just to slow them down. but this is a defeat. this is september 11th, as you pointed out, it's 9/11/1777. this is a defeat. we lose 150 killed -- excuse me, 300 killed. and that sounds like little numbers. and i have to interject something here. i just finished biography of john marshall who fought in this battle. when john marshall was like a young lieutenant, he was right here at chad's ford. and in 1901, justice holmes gave a speech commemorating the 100th anniversary of marshall becoming chief justice. and holmes fought in the civil
war. and he gave a kind of snotty speech. there's a little paragraph in there where he says, well, of course, the battles marshall fought in, the battles in the revolution were just skirmishes compared to the civil war. you know, i read that and i thought, yeah, well, gettysburg was a skirmish next to stalingrad, does that mean your battle was unimportant? you know, if you're dead, you're dead. even if 300 are dead, 3,000 or 30,000. you know, being killed in the revolution was no more fun than being killed in the civil war or any other war. so, that's something to remember when we see, you know, we look at the scale of these battles. and it can look relatively small. but lives were being lost and people were putting their lives on the line. >> and wasn't brandywine the longest battle and the largest battle of the revolutionary war?
the battle of brandywine. >> well, certainly, the battles for new york, there were probably more troops in the area maybe not engaged in the actual fighting. yeah, but, you know, this was a several-mile whole front here. so, having lost this battle and here we are in the big map, howe is able, he outmaneuvers washington and he marches into philadelphia. so, philadelphia has fallen. congress takes off. congress flees. and the british have taken the capital. >> do you know where they went? >> they went to a town which is not on here, it's called york. >> oh, i know york. >> do you know york? have you been to york? >> york, pennsylvania, yes. >> york's not very big, is it? >> no, but it's an interesting place. >> well, the people who had to be there didn't think it was so
interesting. there were a lot of complaints from the congressmen. my idol governor morris who was in congress at this time, he writes a letter from new york, and it's like oh, my god. >> well, it must have been a small town. >> it was a small town, they were all jammed into the only building in town, the courthouse. here they were all crammed into that. they were not very happy. they were also not very happy because washington has lost. and here's the man whom they put their trust. he wins trenton and princeton, that's very nice, but first he lost new york, now he's lost philadelphia. and doubts begin to arise. now, washington is not simply biding his time. he wants to attack howe. and the point of this attack will be germantown. this is a little town north of philadelphia. if you go there now,
philadelphia is this big metropolitan area. but germantown was a distinct town. and this was where many of howe's troops were. he moved some to try and clear the delaware river down here. so, washington thought, ah, these guys are isolated, let me attack here. and if i prevail, you know, maybe i can retake philadelphia. so, in october, and what is the exact date, do you have that? >> of germantown? >> germantown. >> october 4th. >> so, less than a month. less than a month after brandywine, washington attacks germantown. and if you google this, there's a famous, famous illustration of part of this battle. you see it in textbooks. you see it reproduced a lot. as the americans attacked and they have the advantage of
surprise, and the attack was going very well, but there was a large stone house owned by a man named benjamin chu, he'd been the chief justice of the colony. he was a loyalist. and the british troops, some of them, retired to this house. and it was stone. thick stone walls. and they just -- they were in there. they turned it into a fort. and they were firing at the americans. and so the americans thought, well, we have to clean this out. we have to clean them out of here. but they couldn't. they only had light artillery pieces. they weren't big enough to bombard the walls. so then they thought, let's try and set fire to the basement. but they couldn't get in to do that. and there's this famous illustration, i forgot the name of the artist. but it's of the americans trying to batter the door down. and there's an officer ordering the men.
there are dead men lying on the steps. they have a battering ram. there are wounded men. it's a very disturbing and vivid image of what combat is like. in a way, it's sort of an answer to justice holmes and his dismissal of these skirmishes. so the attack begins to bog down because people, you know, they're not thinking of where they're going. they're focusing on this chu house. probably what they should have done is gone around it. get far enough away from it, go around it, let them sit there. you'll deal with them later. but this isn't, in fact, what they do. also, there's a fog this morning, so it's tough to coordinate. and the attack bogs down. once again, nathanael greene saves the retreat. so, it looks like washington now has a second defeat around philadelphia.
first it was brandywine. then germantown. now, third, you see here, north of germantown says whitemarsh. and whitemarsh wasn't really a town, but it was a place. it was an elevation. you could dig in there. and after this defeat, this is where washington takes his troops. and improvises fortification. and in december, it looks like there's going to be a third battle. lord howe marches out of philadelphia towards these troops at whitemarsh, and we have a description of it, again by john marshall, who was there. and he described how washington rallied his troops. he rode among them. he gave them directions. he said use your bayonets. and these guys by this time, they lost two battles in two months. they're hungry. they're out of uniforms. they're low on ammunition.
they certainly can't attack, but he's trying to rally them to defend. and then what happens is that howe doesn't attack. you know, he looks at the position. he figures, this is risky, i'll spend the winter in philadelphia. and marshall says that it was a tribute, you know, to washington and to his troops that howe decided not to pick another fight with them. so, this is the end of the fighting around philadelphia. and washington will spend the winter in a place whose name we all know which is valley forge, okay? >> yes. >> all right. do we have any time to do -- >> we have questions. we can do the north. >> let me get the big map. >> i want to mention one little thing. >> sure. >> the battle of germantown did impress the french? >> yes, it did. >> so, now the french were considering, were strongly
thinking about being allies? >> well, the french, the french want britain to fail. they'd been wanting that for years. and have fought a number of wars about this. and to what degree do they want to help us out? this is their question. they do this secret help. do they want to declare war? that's the big thing, and that will be bigger than america. you know, if they declare war, that will be in the west indies. possibly europe. you know, that's a very big step. and one thing they want to think about is, how good are these americans, what kind of a fight can they put up? and the fact that washington can do two battles in two months, even though he lost both of them that impressed the french foreign minister bergoin. the other thing is we got two spectacular victories at saratoga.
because lord howe is not coming up here. it's only sir henry clinton. general burgoyne is having a lot of trouble picking his way through all the obstacles that general schuyler has put in his path. and lieutenant colonel barrimore st. leger was to fight the battle right here and it's one of the bloodiest battles in the revolution. the american general is killed. i was telling you when we were planning this, i had a cousin who just passed away a couple years ago. a state trooper upstate. and he had an ancestor in the battle. that's my personal connection to it. but it was a bloody battle. but the british were stopped. the british and their allies were stopped by the americans and our indian allies.
and here is burgoyne all by himself. and the militia of new england happy now because schuyler is not commanding them. they rally, they fight two battles around saratoga. and burgoyne surrenders and this also impresses the french. >> and bergoin, was he a decisionmaker in the french -- was he influential? >> oh, yeah, he's the man in charge. >> because he had commented on the treaty of paris at the end of the french and indian war saying this treaty, things are not going to work for the british with this treaty, and the americans are going to want to be independent at that point. >> right. >> so he in a way was with the americans way back when? >> well, he thought we might be useful. you know, some of the french are
forced for politics reasons how to screw britain. that's the only reason. there are french who are for us because they embraced the cause. they think that there's something -- that this is a fight for freedom which they identify with. i'll just mention one french officer baron dekalb. he had a german name but he spent his whole life in the service of the king of france. he was actually sent over to america in the late 1760s as a secret agent. and his job is to assess are the americans going to revolt at any time. and he reports back, well, you know, maybe some time, not now. but there's certainly a possibility. and baron dekalb becomes one of the french officers who fights with us. and he's killed in a battle in the south. and as he's dying, he's captured
by the british, sort in a gentlemanly fashion, he's an officer, and they offer to tend his wounds, but he's mortally wounded. and he says, i'm happy because i'm dying in a struggle for liberty. so there were frenchmen who took that view. lafayette was another one. and the others were power politicians, and we were a piece on their chessboard. we were looking like a pretty good piece because we won saratoga and washington has shown some gumption here. >> and so, now, washington is at valley forge. and that will be our next program together, washington -- hamilton's best friend at valley forge. >> and hamilton, also, and marshall. they're all there together. >> so, there are still seats left. if you want to get tickets for that program. we hope to see you there. then there will be another one following that. but how about questions?
>> sure. >> okay. did howe regret not having supported burgoyne in saratoga? >> i don't think so. you know, howe's plan worked. burgoyne's plan didn't work. you know, it's sort of confirmation bias. he wanted to take philadelphia and he did. and benjamin franklin who is in france at this time trying to get the french to align with us, he makes a joke of it and says lord howe has conquered philadelphia, but he will find philadelphia will conquer him, meaning howe will enjoy the high life and his mistress and parties and that kind of thing, which he does, but franklin was trying to put a spin on a bad thing. >> how did women such as martha washington contribute to the war effort? >> well, martha washington spent every winter with her husband
wherever he was camped. and there are some anecdotes about her interacting with the troops. there's one very charming one, early in the war. when washington is outside boston. and she's come up there to join him. and so this kid comes in to report from his unit. you know, washington asks every unit to send regularly reports on their status and what's going on. so, this kid shows up, and he's got this uniform, you know, it's like covered with braid. and he's like 18 or something. and washington says what rank are you? and he says, i'm the adjunctive assistant. there's no such thing. an adjunctive is an assistant, right? but the adjunctive found this
kid and said you do this errand, and this boy, like, managed to buy this uniform. and washington says, you seem very young for such a position. and the kid says, yes, but i'm growing older every day. and washington and martha smile at each other. that's just a nice little window into an interaction. >> now, were there other women who wintered with the soldiers? >> well, there were women of the army who were not camp followers. you know, camp followers are like prostitutes, basically. women of the army were people who traveled with the army. women who traveled with the army to cook, to do, you know, first aid, care for wounded. that was an actual, official thing. they were supposed to be there. their presence was accepted and
welcomed. >> was that year-round? or just winters? >> well, yeah, you need them. you need them all the time. the most famous one, and she gets her fame the following year in in 1778, a woman named molly pitcher who is the husband of an artilleryman, and is reputed to have taken over his gun when he was injured. and there's even the story that, you know, a cannon ball rolled under her skirt between her legs and she said, oh, if it had been a little higher, that wouldn't have been so good. this is probably fiction. but that is the story that's told of her. but, you know, she's like a symbol, a face that has been put on these women who did play a role. >> did the british and/or continental forces ever consider a compromise in which part of the 13 colonies would remain
under british control and the rest would be permitted to self-govern? >> well, this will come a little later. the british will send a peace commission in 1778. and they will, you know, make some -- may will make some offers. which if they had made them in 1774, there might not have been a war, or that might not have been a war so soon, you know, offering more independence to the colonies, you know, maybe even a colonial parliament that would somehow work in tandem with the mother of parliaments. but by that time it's too late. blood has been shed. people have been fighting for two years, three years. they're not going to pay any attention to it. and the british only do it when they see that this war is really
dragging on. i mean, you know, we didn't win it right away in 1777. and then, you know, in valley forge we'll get to this. but can they win it by taking the capital? well, they have taken the capital, but -- and yet france has now entered the war. so this is a whole different thing. it's not britain just dealing with their colonies. their ancient enemy is now in the field. now it becomes a world war. all the naval forces they have here have to now split their attention because there are islands on the west indees that they own and islands the french own and french want some of the british islands back. it's a whole different ball game now. >> now, we know, and we will talk about this at the next program, the condition of washington's troops in valley forge that winter were just dire. >> right. >> what were the -- were the british troops okay and doing
great in philadelphia? >> well, yes. i mean, philadelphia is, you know, second largest city in the english-speaking world. and how, you know -- how likes the high life. they do have lots of parties and festivities. i have a friend, he used to be the editor of "new york times" books, tom lipscomb. he's a descendant of a revolutionary officer. he's at valley forge, and tom lipscomb told me every chance he got he would slip into philadelphia to go to these parties, because, you know, that's where the action was. and also the british army is well organized. you know, they have their quarter masters, their medical
operations. this is all up and running. it all works, more or less. one of washington's tasks during the revolution, and it takes, you know, much more time than the actual battles, but it's creating all this, you know, creating this mechanism of how you support and supply troops. and this is a constant worry for him. one of his first clothiers, he was color blind. some of the uniforms he made for the americans were red, which when you're fighting for the red coats is an error. that's so out there. that's like a joke. but, you know, there was incompetence, lack of supplies, lack of food and it's just a
chronic thing. they are able to improve, but it's a slow process and a constant process. >> so france was now thinking more strongly about supporting -- >> yes, yes. >> what about washington's own government? >> well, yes. washington, in addition to the british, he's also fighting some attacks in his own rear because as he has lost at brandy wine and then again at germantown, there are people in congress who are now cooped up in new york, and they're having doubts. you know, they're having doubts about this man. there are also some officers who would like to displace him? >> replace him also? >> take his place, exactly. there's general gates up here, hero, given a gold medal, you know, by congress. he would sort of -- he would like washington's job.
there is a french volunteer by the name of conway. now, that's an irish name, but he had an irish catholic family who came to france. he's a frenchman. but, you know, he thinks, this is a little later when france becomes our ally, but he thinks he ought to be running the whole war effort. so this is an ongoing thing, and it really won't end until the following year, until 1778. there are these -- you know, these little plots. and it's also hard for historians to figure them out because they were plots. you know, people weren't like writing diaries about what they were thinking of. so, you know, we have to sort of speculate and figure out. but washington himself felt very beleaguered by this. and then he has allies, he has people sticking up for him,
hamilton among them who's now -- by now he's on washington's staff. washington's own staff is very loyal. most people who serve with washington directly are very impressed. >> now, did it help that lafayette was his aide? >> well, when he -- >> with the french that -- >> now we're jumping ahead a little. lafayette is not yet -- he comes in at valley forge. >> oh, later, okay. >> yes, that will help, that will help. >> okay. we have time for, i think, one more question. >> okay. >> and i'll end it with the question that will lead into valley forge. morris, the person who wrote this, is my favorite founding father, why is he yours? >> well, he's the one i maybe would like to go to dinner with. no, i mean, of course
washington. i would want to see washington, and i just want to see him. i wouldn't learn anything because washington is very guarded. you know, washington is just a reserved, guarded man. morris is the opposite. the way i've put it in morris talks is that if you have one phone call, you only get one phone call, and it's a phone call to a founding father, and you're in four situations, you've just been thrown in jail, you've just been taken to the emergency room, you need $10,000 right away, someone cancelled at dinner and you've got to last-minute plug someone in, the person you would call in all those situations would be governor morris. he would go to jail and bail you
out. he would go to the hospital and offer very sympathetic, intelligent medical advice because he lost a leg in an accident, and he took health very seriously and empathically. he would give you the $10,000, and he might not expect it back. he did that during his life. and he'd be great at dinner. but just don't seat him next to your wife. >> and he was hamilton's best friend. >> and he was hamilton's best friend, yeah. >> well, richard brookhiser, thank you so much for this evening. >> thank you. [ applause ] >> i just want to thank you all for coming. we love having you here. and i just want to also remind you that richard brookhiser will be signing his books. we have "washington." i believe we have "gf novernor
morris," and several others there for you to take a look at. thank you again, and join richard brookhiser in our museum store. thank you. >> thank you. [ applause ] tweet us at c-span history, a tweet from madmen across the water asking about an issue that still resounds today, and this question is about the how many people were fathered by gis, u.s. gis in vietnam, how were they treated 45 years after the u.s. departure? >> you could be featured during our next live program. join the conversation on facebook at facebook.com/cspanhistory, and on twitter @cspanhistory.
>> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. american history tv is on c-span3 every weekend, featuring museum tours, archival films and programs on the presidency, the civil war, and more. here's a clip from a recent program. i've got another mission for you. so up a few guys, evacuate the vehicles you need to evacuate, continue and turn into the dmz. that's north. don't go -- don't cross the
river, obviously, which divides the north and south vietnam. there's a big huge dry rice patty there. and i want you to set your troop up in a perimeter which guards that rice patty. all the vehicles facing outward. i said, sir, what's the mission? he said, set up the perimeter. that's all i can tell you right now. so we did that, you know, and my lieutenant said, sir, what are we doing? i said stand by. this is directly from sudden death 66, we're going to do this one. we sat there for a little while. in comes a ch-46, a navy -- or the marine version of the ch-747, out comes six guys in cook's whites, carrying moonlight cans and they set up along the patty dike, they're standing there and waiting and we're waiting, and then the lieutenants call me and say, sir, what's going on? i said stand by. and out of the dmz comes a