tv The Presidency Washington the Fight for Philadelphia CSPAN February 19, 2018 12:00pm-1:06pm EST
the message that was being resonated. that people didn't believe leadership was doing the job properly. you can watch this and other american history programs on our website, where all our video is archived. that's c-span.org/history. next on "the presidency" historian and biographer richard brookhiser on washington and the fight for 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 gail gregory. welcome to the programs of our spectacular robert a. smith auditorium. this evening program is presented in conjunction with mapping america's road to independence and the new revolutionary war expedition which is on 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 ] 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 it 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 william 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, whether brookhiser served as his tourian curator at new york 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 cape 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 navigatable. 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 navigatable. pennsylvania doesn't a sea coast but 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 right 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 1975. 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 and 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 gentlemen to know 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 leaders, people like caesar, like cromwell, they figured with washington, we'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 ft.captured at the end of '75 and they're taken across massachusetts in the winter of '76, by henry knox, 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 frozen rivers. 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 heading them off by marching up to army hill. he takes them 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 october 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 howell 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 howell brothers have the job of trying to win this war. general howell 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 howell 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 heshams described as mercenaries which isn't quite right. these were mercenaries who served their princes. they were small german principals. they would contract to have their armies fight in wars of
other countries. if you were a hesham soldier, you signed up, you fought in the battles your prince, your sovereign, arranged 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 2 $360 million. 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 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 howell, general howell, concludes well that's it for th this year. >> now, are you referring to crossing the delaware? or we haven't done that yet? >> well, there are several crossings of the washington succeeds. i've pasted by new york, i've passed by new jersey now it's winter, we don't fight in the winter. i'll wait till spring by crossing in delaware. and 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 huerbin soldiers who are taken by surprise. you were read that they were carousing after christmas day and they were all drunk. that's not true. that's an american legend. the hesham 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 hesham commander colonel raul thought this is what i was worried about. fine, it's happened. i can go to bed my soldiers can get a normal night's sleep. >> did he not go drinking? >> no, he did not go drinking. they were 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 heshams 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, the battle of princeton. after trenton is lost, lord howell realizes this has happened and he dispatches one
of his generals lord cornwall. and 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 washington to get it printed up. and washington has these troops that he's trying to re-enlist before the battle. my other job before being a historian is a journalist. i think this is the greatest lead paragraph in journalism. 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. this is realtime. brilliant writing. so thank you for writing. we should never forget. >> you're welcome. so, even though they were cold and sick and tired and low morale, that pamphlet helped? >> that pamphlet helped, yes. and also washington personally appealed. you know, 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 will 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 hike man going to do? and a plan is developed by one of howell's junior officers. general named john bragoin. he was a general, 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 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 barrbarrymore st. ledger, he's going to go up the oswego and down the mohawk river towards albany. and mayor howell 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 lodge howell still liked his plan. take philadelphia. philadelphia's their capital, what a blow to morale did they lose that. and i'm so close, i got soy clo close, i got all the way to trenton, maybe i can find a 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. the orders were not what he thought they would have been. howell thought he had some
wiggle room. so what howell does, he does leave 7,000 new york in new york. general henry quiclinton. and clinton's orders are to find bergoin. >> i have a question -- >> sure, howell is following bergoin's plan. >> and neither is communicating? >> that's right. well, howell 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 howell is taking most of his men and he wants to get to philadelphia. let's split our attention for a moment, first at what howell
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. this is not many miles from philadelphia. it's pretty easy country. so this is howell's plan, he's going to land here and 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 respects dr. philip skyler, he's alexander hamilton's father-in-law, by the way. but he is a wealthy new york dutch an kecestryancestry,lando general. this invasion has been used in the french and indian war. you know, there had been battles here all through the french and indian war.
so, he know what is he has has to do to defend upstate new york and he proceeds to do it. did she 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 landowner, he's impurous, and the landowners don't get along with him. he's replaced by general gates. served in british. a captain in the british army. but he served 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 howell clearly
is coming for him this way. so, washington decides he has some troops harassing howell, as he lands. and there are a few little tiny engagements in north delaware. as howell is approaching. and now, let's go to other map. so, here we are. here's philadelphia. here is the delaware. here's head of elk. this is where howell comes. so, howell is going to come -- howell 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 howell's army is coming this way. you see this name niphousen is a
hesham 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 corn wallace has come this way, he's crossed here to not defend it 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 niphousen is pressing this way. so, it's not a good situation and in fact the right retreats. general green here, nathaniel
green, he's the son of a couple in rhode island who own an iron foundry. he's just henry knox, he's never fought before in his life. but he turns out to really have a knack for it. green covers the retreat. these men with the troops they're in disarray. green opens his rank which is means he 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. he was right here at chats ford. and in 1901, justice holmes gauge a speech commemorating the 100 an vers o00 anniversary of becoming chief justice. he gave a little knotty speecsn he said, of course, the battles 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 than 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? >> 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 cabinet. >> it was a small town, they were all jammed into the only building in town, the courthouse. they were not very happy. they were also not very happy
because washington has lost. and here's the man in whowhom tt their trust he has won trenton and philadelphia, that's very nice but 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.
>> october 4th. >> so, less than a month. washington attacked brandywine. if you google this, there's a 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 nerves. at the nerve americans. >> and so the americans thought,
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 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 dismisses of these skirmishes. so the attack begins to bog down because people they're not focusing where they're going. they're focusing on this chu house. probably what they should have
done is get around it. go far enough around it, let them sit there and you'll deal with it 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, nathaniel green 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 he's troops at whitemarsh.
and we have a description of it, again, by john marshall who is 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 talk. but he's trying to rally them to defend. and then what happens is is that howe didn'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. >> let me get to the big map. >> but 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 brittain to fail. they'd been wanting that for years. 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. so lord howe is not coming up here, it's only sir henry clinton. general bergo in is having you trouble picking his way through obstacles that general skyler has put in his bath. and lieutenant colonel barrymoore st. ledger 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 of battle. but it was a bloody battle. but the british and allies were stopped by the americans and our indian ally. and here is bergoin all by himself. and the militia of new england happy now because skyler is not commanding them. they rally, they fight two battles around saratoga. and bergoin surrenders and this also impresses the french. >> and bergoin, was he a decisionmaker in the french? was he influential?
>> yoshoh, yeah, he's the man i charge. >> he with his treaty said things are not going to work with the british. 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 anytime? 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 capturedcaptured captured by the british, sort in a gentlemanly fashion, he's injured and they're mortal wounds he said i'm dying. and there are frenchmen who took that beauty lafayette is another one. 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 bergoin in saratoga? >> i don't think so. you know, howe's plan work. bergoin's plan didn't work. you know, it's sort of confirmation by us. he wanted to take philadelphia and he did. and benjamin franklin who is in france at this time trying to get the french to arrive with us he makes a joke of it and says
lord howe conquered philadelphia. but he conquered him enjoying his life which he does. but franklin is trying to put a spin on a bad thing. >> how did women such as martha washington contribute to the war effort? >> well, m shg, martha washingtt 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 he'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 assistant and said you do this errand. and this boy managed to buy this uniform. and washington says, you seem very young for such a position. and the kid says, yes, but i'm going 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 who traveled with the army. women 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 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. there's even the story that, you know, a cannonball rolled under her skirt between her legs and she said, oh, if it would have 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 make some -- they will make some offers, which if they had made them in 1774 there might not have been a war, or there might not have been certainly 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 capitol? well, they have taken the capitol, 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 so now it becomes a world war. you know, all the naval forces they have here have to split their attention because there are islands in the west indys
that they own and that the french own and 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 howell likes the high life. i have a friend that used to be the editor of new york times books, tom lipscomb and he belongs to the society and his ancestor was a lieutenant from virginia. he was at valley forge and tom
lipscomb has told me, well, every chance he got, he would slip into philadelphia to go to these parties because that's where the action was. and also the british army is well organized. you know, they have their quartermasters, 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 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, a man responsible for uniforms, the problem with this man was he was color blind. and so some of the uniforms he made for the americans were red,
which when you're fighting the red coats is an error. and so that's so out there, that's like a joke. but, you know, there was incompetence. you know, lack of supplies, lack of food. i mean it was just a chronic thing. and 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 brandywine and then again at germantown, there are people in congress who are now cooped up in 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? >> take his place, exactly. there's general gates, a hero, given a gold medal by congress. he would like washington's job. there is a french volunteer by the name of conway. now that's an irish ganame, bute had an irish family, catholic family to came to france and he's a frenchman. but 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. 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? >> now we're jumping ahead a little because lafayette has not yet -- he comes in at valley forge. but 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, you know, 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. 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 got a last-minute plug someone in, the person you would call in all of those situations would be 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. >> well, richard brookhiser, thank you so much for this evening. >> thank you.
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 morris and several others there for you to take a look at. so thank you again and join richard brookhiser in our museum store. thank you. >> thank you. this is american history tv. 48 hours all weekend every weekend.
gunston hall, a national historic landmark in virginia, was home to one of the lesser known founding fathers, george mason. up next on american artifacts, we visit the property along the potomac river to learn about his political life and his time as a slave owner on the 5,000-acre plantation. he drafted the 1776 virginia declaration of rights, was a delegate to the federal convention in philadelphia, but refused to sign the constitution because it did not include a bill of rights. >> so the space that we're walking into right now is george mason's office. it was also a little bit of a multi-functional room because during george mason's lifetime, this space was also a dining room for his family when they
didn't have formal guests that they were meeting in the public side of the house, but it was also a space where his sons, who served as copyists, that was the days before copy machines, they were doing all the copying of george mason's writing by hand. one of his youngest sons, john, remembers being in this space with his father when he got lost among his work papers, being that sort of a copyist person. this is my favorite room in the house as well because while it was mason's office, this is definitely where a lot of the ideas that we see in the virginia declaration of rights and in the constitution that mason proposed, this is where they happened. we know that from john. we know that from a letter that george mason wrote in 1787. he wrote that he wanted some papers from his desk, but we know he was thinking about things that were in the constitution here in this space. now, george mason doesn't write any of those documents here. as you may know in 1776 he gets invited to go down to the
virginia convention in williamsburg. he gets there just a little bit late. he's not super excited about traveling. he finds he's been assigned to a committee to write a declaration of rights for virginia. he very quickly gets fed up with the rest of the committee and decides he's kind of done with them. so he takes himself off to raleigh tavern down the street and writes this beautiful document that states that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights. among which are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and safety. the pursuing and possessing of property. it might sound a little familiar. the first draft of this document ends up in a newspaper in philadelphia about the time thomas jefferson is drafting the declaration of independence. we don't know but we think it's possible that this might have had some influence on jefferson's writing of the declaration. we think here at gunston hall that it is really important that
george mason owned people. he also opened the door for us to continue to have the conversation 250 years later and he opened the door for us to expand to whom the virginia declaration of rights applied. in the 18th century it wouldn't have applied to me. it might not have applied to you. but today because 250 years later we have continued to have this conversation, it does apply to all of us and i think that's very special and very important and why we still talk about george mason the way that we do today. next on lectures in history, sonoma state university professor laura watt teaches a class on the evolution of a national park system and the effort to preserve pristine
wilderness. she argues this approach often obscures the ways humans have already interacted with the land. she also talks about her research on the point reyes national seashore which used to be a dairy ranch community before it was designated a national park in the 1960s. her class is about an hour and ten minutes. so today, we're going to be talking about landscapes and preservation and sort of how preservation unexpectedly changes the places that we set aside as parks and other protected areas. the intention here is really to not only understand the history of these kinds of protected spaces but then also to make the process of preservation more visible. to make it more easier to understand the history of parks and how they have changed over time, but sort of more importantly, why they have changed over time.