tv [untitled] CSPAN June 20, 2009 2:30pm-3:00pm EDT
fantastic, you know, sparc, sparkling with all sorts of things? >> i paid her to say that. [laughter] >> oh, shucks. i to you, what your name? what your telephone number? [laughter] >> i'm joking. i'm joking. i always come you know, i always loved art. i wrote art reviews when my friend john gro started to introduce nonbook reviews and he knew i was doing all of this kind of weird analysis. it seemed to me that when i wanted to write this book about what daily life was like in holland, the strange thing of this tiny, tiny culture being the richest in the most mighty place in the world for a couple
of generations. i thought how pretentious to do it. this is the kind of cultural that's absolutely engorged on images, on piles, on engraved glasses, on wallpaper. you cannot do it without actually understanding the purchase and power of images of all kind, not just high art images. and then as the years went down and i mentioned that, i am very happily and gratefully toured in harvard. i came to think on the one hand, art history couldn't really be taught or consumed altogether without understanding the rest of the world that china produced a. i'm not somebody who believes you simply, picasso, rembrandt, leonardo altogether. they are what they are, but it is very important to understand the kind of humanist as it were, the kind of soil bed from which
produced this particular work in that particular language. equally, it is impossible to history, especially history of the 20th and 21st history. any history from the printed image or maybe any history since the time bibles began to be eliminated without seeing images and aztecs images are sent as text images. that is how we are. we are late which animals but we are visual animals also. the two things and married each other and what they give birth to is our culture. [applause] >> thank you very much for coming. >> thank you. thank you. >> simon schama is an art history and history professor at columbia university. he is the author of numerous
>> in almost america, john ferling present a 700 page single point account of the american revolution. next he argues that washington was correct in his statement that an american victory was a little short of a standing miracle. mr. ferling will be our guest on in depth. his talk from the military library in chicago is one half hours.
>> with the birth of the cottonelle army in 1775, local militias were organized under the leadership of george washington. that began in eight years engagement that would be known as the american revolutionary war. despite the outcome it was not by all historical accounts a model of tactical brilliance, in superior court nation. in fact, as you will subvert it was quite the contrary. if not for significant heroic actions of a coming inept leadership decisions and a fair amount of good old fashioned luck, the result of the war and the future of our nation could have been very different. our program has come to you from the pritzker military library in downtown chicago. about halfway through we will be taking questions from our audience and from those of you joining us on the internet. special thanks to our presenting sponsor, along with our individual and program sponsored and associate members for helping to make this presentation possible. for over 40 years john ferling has dedicated his career to early american history.
he is the author of nine books and numerous articles on the american revolution and early american wars and has appeared in several television documentaries. devoted to revolution and the war of independence. is both believe in the dark, when the french's tavern book award as the years best book on the american revolution. he is with us to discuss almost a miracle, the american victory and the war of independence. please join me in welcoming john ferling. [applause] >> thank you. it's a delight to be in chicago and to be at this fine institution. i want to begin by telling you that i had wanted to write this book for a long time. i taught a course on u.s. military history, taught a course on the american revolution and spent about half of that course dealing with the
war. and taught a couple of seminars on the war of independence, but i had to wait until my editor finally gave me clarence to write the book. i also wanted to write it because a book i wrote in 2003, a leap in the dark, was a political history of the revolutionary era, and i wanted to write a book that would deal with the military aspects of the revolutionary era. and i took the title "almost a miracle" from a line in washington's farewell address to the continental army. he said goodbye to his continental army in november of 1783, about a month before he resigned his commission. he wrote a long address, and this is rather typical of washington. he didn't dwell on the past. he looked towards the future in
that address, but have one very small portion of the address to the army, he reflected on the outcome of the war. and he said that the outcome, the american victory was a little short of a standing miracle your cell phone that i came up with "almost a miracle." in every book that i've written, i learned a great deal of your i go in knowing something about what i wanted to do, but it was a learning experience for me. and that was true with this book as well. one ofhihe t tngs i think that i came away really impressed with about the revolutionary warp was just how tough they war it was. much tougher than i think many people realize today. it was, in fact, america's
longest declared war. it lasted for eight and a half years, and the toll on both sides was appalling. there was a book published here in chicago, as a matter of fact, around the time of the bicentennial in the 1970s called the toll of independence which estimated that the american losses totaled about 25000 men. that's just servicemen who died during the war. and most scholars, including myself, regard that 25000 figure as probably being a very conservative estimate. pretty much deals with only those in the continental army and not with militiamen who perished in the war. so that in my book, i estimated that probably at least 30000
americans who fought, who bore arms in this war died. and that includes soldiers the soldiers, sailors, militiamen, partisans, crewmen aboard privateers, and whatever. and even there, i think probably the 30000 figure is somewhat low. to try to put that in some perspective, let me talk just a bit in a comparative way about the numbers which served in this war and contrast it with other wars. in the revolutionary war, about one american male of military age in 16, about one in 16 served during the war. in the civil war, about one american male of military age in 10 served.
and in world war ii, it was about one in 75 american men of military age. of those who fought and died, on the american side, about one in four who bore arms, at least in the continental army. about 100,000 men serve in the cottonelle army. and we are pretty certain that 25000 of those 100,000 perished. about one in four regular soldiers died during the revolutionary war. in a civil war if you combined union and confederate casualties and look at the regular soldiers gets about one and five which perished. and in world war ii, about one in 40 american 40 american serv. at greatest single cause for
death of american servicemen in the revolutionary war was a disease. this was a time period before anesthesia have been developed, before modern antibiotics have been developed. it was a time period, in fact, when most people hardly traveled from their place of birth, probably not more than 40 or 50 miles if they went that far from their place of birth, and suddenly they were thrown into army camps with men from all around the country. and oftentimes they were malnourished and ill housed and ill clad. it was a formula for disaster. so the greatest single cause of mortality was disease. but in addition to that, the mortality among american soldiers who were taken prisoners was absolutely
catastrophic as well. 47% of the american soldiers who were taken prisoner by the british perished in captivity. to put that into some context, at the infamous andersonville prisoner camp in georgia in the civil war, about 37% of the prisoners perished. but 47% from the revolutionary war is just about the same percentage as was true of americans who were held captive by the japanese during world war ii. and life was tough for american soldiers, even when they weren't on the battlefield or for those who weren't taken captive. oftentimes, as i think everybody
remembers, there were shortages of food, lack of clothing, only rudimentary housing existed for those soldiers. we usually think of the valley forge winter. that's the one that's the most famous as being a bad winner, but the soldiers themselves spoke of a winter two years later in moorestown, new jersey, where the winter quarters were as they called the hard winter, even worse than that valley forge. but that valley forge, one soldier and seven who marched into that encampment with washington did not come out of that encampment. and to try to put that figure, again, in some context, in the battle of the bulge in world war ii, perhaps the most horrific
engagement that the united states encountered in the european theater, about one in 30 american soldiers in that engagement perished. and that was fighting an enemy that was trying to kill them and doing a pretty good job of it as well. but one in seven perished at valley forge. another thing that i think i discovered in writing this book was that while we know of the suffering of american troops, i found that our enemies, those who fought for the british during this war also suffered at times. and, in fact, about the death rate for those who soldiered for great britain was just about the same proportionately as it was for the americans.
about one in four who fought under the british flag died. that includes a british soldiers, german soldiers, the hession's, and also americans who fought for the british. a great many loyal is or tories soldiers for great britain and died fighting for great britain during this war. in fact, though we don't tend to remember it, much today, there was a point in 1780 when there were actually more americans fighting with the british army men were members of the continental army under general washington. if you add together the number of americans who died and the number who died on the british side during this war, and look
at it on a proportional basis in terms of the population of those two countries at the time, then the death toll which would have been about 80000 actually, would be roughly the equivalent of losing some 2 million people from the american population today. it would be almost as if the place i live, atlanta, georgia, simply was wiped out completely. and it wasn't just soldiers who suffered during this war, but civilians paid a heavy price as well. diseases were brought on by soldiers on furlough. armies which were near civilian areas spread diseases are so
that, for example, during the first year of the war at abigail adams, who was the wife of john adams, abigail wrote to john that set our house is an hospital, as she put it. and her next letter to her husband revealed to him that john's brother's wife and one of his children had died of the disease. and that wasn't untypical your civilians died on the frontier in indian attacks. the british made coastal raids, particularly in the middle states and in new england and in virginia, destroying property, killing people. in the first two years of the conflict, when men were asked to
enlist for a period of just one year, the army was a pretty good cross-section of the free population. most freemen at the time were farmers who were artisans and most of the men who soldiered in the continental army were farmers or artisans. so a great many families had to struggle along in 1775 and 1776 with their husbands away. somehow, they had to find the money to pay the tax collector who came knocking at their door, or to grow crops and sell crops and whatever. and they had to pay extraordinarily high taxes during this conflict. so civilians suffered. and we think of, we are all familiar i think with the images
of the threadbare, ragged american soldiers. and sometimes we don't realize that those who fought for the british suffered as well. during the first winter of the war when boston was a deceased by washington's army, the revolutionary war, revolutionary army, continental army got along very well. they were well fed and well housed, and it was the british who suffered the most during that harsh boston winter. the british to get here had to make an atlantic crossing, and one of the british soldiers wrote in his journal of the crossing which sounds like a horrid crossing, that he experienced it was continued distraction in the four tops, the pox above board, the plague below deck, the hell at the fore
castle, and the devil at the helm. a british soldier who was sent to south carolina to campaign, to take charleston in 1780 was landed with the british army about 20 miles below charleston, and had to move through swamps and marshes areas. and you can almost feel this grim, white faced british soldier as he writes in his journal about seeing crocodiles 16 feet long, as he put it, wools in several species of venomous snakes. the revolutionary war was not just a revolutionary war, but it was also a civil war within a civil war. and what i mean by that is that it was a war waged by anglo-american colonists against the british mother country,
within that conflict there was a struggle between colonists who supported the revolution and colonists who continued to remain loyal to great britain. john adams, following the revolutionary war, made the remark that about one third of the americans supported the war, supported the revolution, one third supported great britain, and one-third didn't give a damn. but, in fact, i think that most scholars feel that a better evaluation is that among those who played an active role, probably about 80% supported the revolution and 20% worked for is who remained loyal to great britain. and there was a struggle, particularly in states like new jersey and pennsylvania, and even more so in the south.
we think of the south being caught up in a civil war in the middle of the 19th century, but the south versus civil war took place in the revolutionary war. and especially when the british change their strategy beginning in 1778 to what became known as simply as southern strategy. after the battles at saratoga and a surrender of burgoyne's army to the americans in october of 1778, the british road off the northern colonies, or as they would call them, the northern states. thinking that they simply could not be conquered. but they thought they might be able to conquer at least for southern colonies. georgia, south carolina, north carolina and virginia.
those were the most important colonies, economically, to great britain because that's where the cash crops like tobacco, and rice and indigo were grown. and the british thought that if they could subdue those colonies, they could come out of the war with a large american empire. they could perhaps hold canada. they could perhaps hold everything west of the appalachian mountains. they could hold those for southern colonies, virginia, the two carolinas and georgia. they already held in florida, which they had acquired in the french indian war, and they held several sugar islands in the caribbean. so they would not only have a large american empire, but their american empire would surround the united states.
and the united states might consist of no more than nine or 10 states. and in fact, if it was that small and that vulnerable and that hemmed in, the chances of the united states remaining an independent country for very long were slim, to say the least. so the british turned toward conquering the south in 1778. and it's at that point that they really began to raise and arm provincial units, or units composed of loyalists. the idea, in fact, was that the british regulars would come in and conquer the continental army, flush the continental army out of those southern states with the help of the loyalist, and then the loyalist would be
left to pacify that area. and actually succeeded in doing that in georgia. torture was the first colony, or state to be invaded by britain just after christmas of 1778. savanna was taken, and the british reinstated the royal governor of virginia and a loyalist legislative was elected that would repeal all of the legislation that had been passed by the revolutionary state assembly since 1776. it was the only state in which something like that happened. and 18 months later, the british invaded south carolina and conquer charleston in may of 1780. and this is the point following the collapse of charleston that the civil war really begins in
the south. and in fact, i argued in the book that i think the revolutionary war was actually one in the south in 1780 and 1781. it is one in two ways. wants the british take charleston, they move out into the interior of south carolina and establish about a dozen posts in the backcountry of that colony or state. but starting in the middle of the summer of 1780, south carolinians began to resist the british invasion, as they called it. most of the people who live in the backcountry of south carolina were of scotch irish background. it didn't have much love for
great britain. their ancestors, in fact, had fled the homeland to escape great britain. and many of them, most of them perhaps, were presbyterian, and they had little interest in britain's established church, the anglican church. and certainly didn't want to pay taxes to that church. so they looked on the british as innovators. invaders. they believe in the american revolution, an idea of changing that would be brought about by gaining independence. they believe in what thomas to inhabit and in commonsense. he spoke of the american revolution as of the birthday of a new world. that's pretty radical when you think about it. this was a revolution to bring about change.
not every revolutionary agreed with that, but i think most of those people in the backcountry and the south did. and so a partisan war or what we might today call a guerrilla warfare began. bands of guerrillas began to form two sally out of forests and out of the swamps into ambush british patrols, to attack british supply lines and whatever. and a great partisan war began to develop in the summer of 1780. . .