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tv   Peter Stark Young Washington  CSPAN  July 9, 2018 6:46am-7:50am EDT

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>> the ship sinks, and the tobacco cart is ruined and at this point captain says to john the sailor who is 22 years old you owe me a lot of money for that tobacco and he says i don't have it. and so this ends up in a lawsuit in virginia and again this is very primitive time still in virginia, the magistrate is a wealthy plantation own for nailed hope in the case between captain and john, and the magistrate pope pays off john
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the sailor debts with pelts so that's how primitive it was and they were a medium of exchange, and pope paid off debt but introduced john the sailor to his daughter, ann. and, of course, what happens, john the sailor marries ann pope and the old man is so pleased with his -- arrangement this marriage that he gives happy young couple 7 acreses of land that establishes george washington's family in the new world. so this kind of serendipitous turn of events but the washingtons were always -- they weren't the top. they were kind of mid-land level tobacco planters like -- i say that they're more like tobacco farmers and they don't have a big great houses with a
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marble hallway and the thousands of acres and hundred of slaves. they do have some slaves they have some servants but a smaller scale. so -- george himself was born roughly 75 years after john the sailor arrived he was born in 1732 to in washington in the second wife mary washington. so the first quite a few died young and so george when he arrived had sferl older half brothers. so when george was 11 gust his father died and i always think -- that if george, you know, at this point his father hngt died when he was 11 -- a closer with his mommy and disas from his mother and older brother whom he revered had not died in 20s of tuberculosis
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and felt more anchored more settled in the world. but he really feels like this guy when he is young and so -- when gus dies he leaves plantation to jog's older half brothers this leaves george with little formal education without a way to make a living. so -- george his older half brother warren reveres suggest george go to sea as he sailed with royal navy. and mission to south america. his mother writes what do you think of this idea of george going to sea at the age of 14 and his -- her brother writes back says don't do that they'll staple him and trot him like a slave or worse like a dog so his mother says no way. so we end up with george not on
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sea but on land and in his teen he is took up father's old instruments taught himself how to survey he was really focused on it and that was one thing that mark him from an early age the now cuss and dedication and concentration which he went after things that he wanted so he taught himself to survey his older half brother, lawrence had married into the very wealthy fairfax family and you know fairfax, south korea, the county we have fairfaxs all over in virginia. and the fairfaxs were true british peers the king of england this given family, an seis an ancestors so we have a half acre lot so you think of 5 million acres, if you -- mapped it out it would be a square 90 miles by 90 miles so that's how much land the
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fairfaxs held, and they were selling off some of it at frontier lands on the edge. and they were sending out a big surveying party and george age 16 learned ho to survey in a formal way and got some experience on the frontier and kind of difficult conditions. so by the age of 18 george is going into surveying by himself. so set himself up in business surveying frontier lands making good money and he's buying his own prpb frontier lands but ambitious to climb in -- so age 21 he takes a -- job, post as a part-time officer a lower officer part-time so at this point governor din white
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needed to deliver message from app alations and george said i'm here, and he had some frontier experience, and so governor chose him for this mission. so he sent into the ohio wilderness this is 21 years old and if you remember this was not what the state of ohio is today. this is a much larger area it is the whole ohio river trainage had is what is today ohio, i didn't know, illinois, kentucky, tennessee, west virginia with a lot of virginia, pennsylvania, huge area. and you know it is basically a region of size of france a wilderness to white europeans although indian tribes hunting there for industries. so the message that governor din
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white to the french who was at a fort way back in the wilderness, in the ohio wilderness was essentially stay out all of these lands belong to king george. so i won't get into the long history of war between england and france you know, we have in europe there's 700 years or however long it was intermittent areas of peace at this point there's a few years peace between two countries. so if you think of seskly the french were up in canada with what is canada today -- was then too and the british had their colonies down in where our 13 colonies were on the atlantic seaboard. in between was that huge chunk called the ohio. a huge chunk of wilderness, and there were both laying claim to it. both france and --
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britain in october of 1773 george leaves the -- leaves the flat plantation land of virginia travels on horseback. with a wilderness guide who really knew what he was doing a frontiersman named christopher and several servants they're on horseback. they cross and go from plantation up to rolling piedmont across appalachian and hammered with snowstorms. it's, you know, a real struggle it is cold. you know if you've ever camped in a tent in winter snow you know it is not a very pleasant thing. there were -- dealing with that. george had never been in that kind of condition before. you know he'd been in the plantation country where it is much milder. so after he travel are it is hundreds and hundreds of miles with christopher -- they get become it a french post way back in the welder witness a french officer who greets george
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and you know very -- formal french officer who has a lot of training remembered george 21-year-old -- and george says i have -- a message from governor and french officer says -- oh you have the wrong guy. you need to show it to my commander he's a weeks ride that way. and so off george and christopher go through swamps on and on. they get to larger fort into the main head french -- and he's a very distinguished elderly gentleman a real formal professional soldier with great experience. of course he's only in his george calls him elderly in early 50s and standard of age in those days and french receives george for formally and very graciously with -- formal dinner and with french
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wine and imported from france and finest meats and you know candle light and it was very gracious time and he reads the letter -- and over the course of the next couple of days he writes a response. so george takes that letter and immediately sets out as quickly to get it back to ho is told him to travel with all possible haste. and so he gifts servants set out and they just get slammed by winter with the again. really cold really snowy. it gets so cold and ?oap by horses not find forge. and they can't streams are frozen so they can't find water to drink and so george and christopher finally leave the horses behind. leave the -- servants behind and set off on their own george suggest to take a short cut through the woods no
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that's not a great idea george said let's do it they get in a mess that way and go on and on and at one point thng they're chased by indians they go for -- 36 48 hours straight running from -- this pursuit by indians they think are tracking them through the snow and in the course of this they come to a big river what we know now as anegni river but when they get there, there's ice rism ice along the shores but the center is open. and running very swiftly. big ice flows running down it. so christopher wilderness guide who knows what he's doing says we have to get to the other side. we have to build a raft -- about and -- because they've left their horses behind they have left their good equipment behind and
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they have only one dull hatchet they spent all day chopping down trees with this one dull hatchet e see these guy you know chopping away. and -- they build a raft and they finally finish the raft right at dusk. so that's where the second passage picks up. >> after laboring on the raft the entire day, they finished at just after sunset. they slung their backpacks onbackwards and slid it off ice shelf and into the river and jumped onboard grabbing setting poles they have crafted. long wooden poles which standing on raft they could push against bottom of the river going forward through the water. they pushed into the broad
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algani twilight and cease raft jerking down stream. thick flows of ice swirling in the river thrust against them. the raft wedged between moving flows. it jostled and bumped and through the force of the current and ice threatening to capsize. we expected every moment the raft sink and orses to perish washington recorded in his journal. determined to save himself and in the important mission, washington shoved his pole to river bottom and leaned on it with all of his powerful 6 foot plus frame to steady the raft. youthful strength that distinguished him meant nothing here. the rivers powerful current shoved raft into the pole while washington clung to it certainly snapping pole forward like the arm of a catapult.
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the force phlegm washington into deep swill swirling water he hads gasp as immersed in a splash among the ice e flows, arms reaching out. the human body can survive only a few minutes in water just above the freezing point. before succumbing to hype thermal ya dangerously low body temperatures. one hype vengt late and heart rate jumps as it chill sensors buried deep in the skin. the body preserves its vital functions by closing capillaries in fingers and limbs sending blood to the core to warm brain, heart, and lungs fingers stiffen and arm and legs responding to commands. thinking becomes confused as core temperature drops below 95 degrees and brain enzymes slow
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the a core temperature of 86, the hypothermia victim in frigid water becomes uncon she is and drowns. or long before then, the current could sweep him down stream pulling him beneath the flows. trapping him underwater, bumping along under griengding ice trying to surface for air head hitting underside of the flows franticty seeking an opening. until finally his breath expires. tossed overboard washington turned his feet sinking to bottom. the water ran too deep for him to touch the river bed. he reached with his hands ceasing hold of one log of the raft. he pulled himself up -- tripping with the frigid water on to wobbling platform and dim and white he took up poles again and tried to shove heavy clumsy raft towards far shore. the force of the current swepght
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them straight down the river channel surrounded by the hissing e flows. trapped in the current and floating ice, they could not propel themselves to the safety of either shore. an island appeared in the twilight. the river swept the raft toward it. grabbing their backpacks they abandoned the raft and clambered on to the island. the cold pushed in as night began to fall therm not saved. without a fire, they could easily perish overnight of hypothermia especially washington whose clothes soaked through his body already badly chilled. but starting a fire at night on a snow covered island striking flint and steel request fingers almost unbendable with cold about was a daunting, painful impacting task. washington was probably too
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chilled, slow, and clumsy to perform it and perhaps did not possess as much fire starting skill as his partner. a task that would fall chold suffer for it -- squatting bear handed the in snow to pig night tinder and feed tiny sticks into the weak flame the cold so extremely severe that mr. gist had all of his fingers and some of his toes frozen recorded washington. washington had again, overestimated his strength in attempting to shove the raft against the current and moving ice. and had underestimated the power of nature. so i'm going to skip ahead quite a lot but this -- third passage -- although for that from that one it always when i really think about it. having spent quite a lot of time
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in among ice flows and canoes on rivers and lakes just how close we came to learn -- losing who would be the pawrp of our krpght right in that mommy. that was -- a very narrow escape and had many narrow escapes but that was quite profound one. so -- washington gets all the way back over the appalachians to the virginia colonies capitol at williamsburg which some of you probably have been to even know it is this great living museum. and -- where there's a governor's palace and reads the letter from a french come and the letter politely saying i would like to maintain peace between our two crowns and the french -- but as to your request to leave, i don't think so. so governor din white scottish
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merchant this -- shaking with wage and washington is jot outraged too and this is where the real trouble begins. the indignant governor dispatches washington back into the wilderness at the head of a small military party. with a firmer message to the french to leave. govern say do not be depressor and be cautious and washington does exactly the opposite. so -- in essence he ambushed a small party of french in a wooded glen in the wilderness while it turns out they were having breakfast. and they claimed later to be a french diplomatic party trying to deliver a message to governor din white.
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washington most recent evidence from document recently uncovered in french archives -- that testimony of an eyewitness, a warrior indicates washington fired first shot and events are hazy in that distinct but that's the latest evidence. and his men open fire with falllies on french down below in the glen some are sleeping some are having breakfast some ran to their guns the result was disaster, the french got slaughtered and they were taken prisoner. the french -- commanding officer -- [inaudible conversations] was wounded as he was wounded in this glenn there was an indian with one indian chief with washington known as the half king who went up behind the wounded jamanville and half king
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took his hatchet and smashed it down on jamanville skull and pulled out brains squished them through his fingers and -- basically killed him murdered the guy. and -- you can imagine this did not sit well with the french and you could imagine a prudent lead ever would have hesitated and said okay maybe i should regroup this didn't go exactly as planned. and -- think what to do next. but not judge george washington. and his eagerness and ambition also brazennous he keeps going forward and he -- is almost cocky in his attitude after this battle this squirmish
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and he writes his e brother right after the battle this and says -- i heard bullets whistling and believe me there's something charming in the sound. and some time later that was -- printed and published in england in the king of england responded. well to you heard many he wouldn't say so, and -- [laughter] and washington writes to governor after the squirmish, the french put up no more resistance than this i'll drive them back to damn montreal. well, soon thereafter, turns out the french have unleashed a party from their fort of many hundreds of french soldiers and indian war with yours coming towards washington and small group and washington has built this kind of ramshackle fort which he's very proud of into governor to withstand attack of 500 men this this little
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claptrap fort, and you know kind of like bring it on, and -- well french and indians did bring it on and they washington is expecting them to come across the open field as a -- on the battle fields of europe and cleared the brush arntiond around the fort creating charming field for an encounter, and -- the indians didn't come marches across the open fields and battle formation the way washington had hoped. but they went scream aring across the pasture with fierce indian yells -- but george built a fort in big open meadow almost like a swamp near a wooded hill because wepted timber to build fort and indians ran on to this wooded hill and they were, had easy
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musket shot at the hill from there. complete disaster for washington. his men get slaughtered. they're lying in reigning and lying in muddy trenches that are filled with rain water with and blood. and you know these guys he knows are lying dead he ends up having to surrender it is a huge humiliation and these were events that would ignite the french and indian war. but still he was kept on as officer and which is, you know, given the circumstances surprising. but one reason are was his amazing bravery that he showed he was utterly fearless and no one questions his bravery and willing to take on huge responsibility at a young age. by the time he was 23 he had nearly 1,000 men he was leading nearly 1,000 men of the -- virginia regime in this war that had started that he had a big
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part in starting called french and indian war. and washington's job in this war was basically to protect virginia's frontier and the families then from tier families living along this frontier so this was 350 miles long. and i compare it to what today is the afghanistan, pakistan frontier. very rugged -- heavily wooded in parts, a trillion plays to hide and with indigenous people who are very good warriors and know their way around. and so it was a really difficult task hopeless task in a lot of ways. but initially washington seemed foxed largely on himself on his honor, his reputation, his personal pride. and during this period he quit or threatened to quit seven
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times it was too little pay jealousy to other officers who ranked higher than he was who he didn't think should be ranked higher over criticism that appeared in virginia newspaper of criticism of his troops and his civilian friends and williamsburg warned him if you quit now you're -- you'll truely sell your reputation. so he didn't quit or he didn't several times but he came back. he went back and forth over this whole period. one of the problems was he deeply coveted a british royal officer's commission. it's a prestigious kings commission compared to colonial cometion that washington held a commission given by the the -- british by governor the governor of virginia as opposed to one given by king george himself. informs a real problem for
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george, and one day he was at his post in -- on the virginia frontier, and guy rides up with a man named captain dagworthy he's a captain which is ranking lower technically than a colonel and, however, he has a ten-year-old kings commission from the king himself. and so e he thinks he's above washington. and washington think he's above captain and it drives captain crazy that he can't -- he can't command dag worthy so he's going through great lengths long journeys to try to resolve this so third pane final passage is -- about this particular period and --
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one of his journeys. >> washington remained in a kind of restless exile in wynn chester in the shenandoah valley so 34-year-old captain at fort cumberland and winchester ran a few days ride apart each presumedly dedicating to frontier settlers but as winter deep and stall mate ate away at washington confined to cabin off the lone street all slush and muted under dreary gray skies where was captain when washington stretched through to deliver the message to the french. and when me and his men suffered under bullet and reign at fort necessity he was comfortably
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back in maryland tending had his various businesses yet he as a mere captain claim seniority finally inseparable he wrote to the governor, i determined to resign a commission rather than submit to the command of a person who you think has not such superlative merit to balance the inequality of rank so here's washington' very convoluted writing and a lot has to do with i'm feeling underappreciated. instead of quitting, however -- washington priewngtly suggested a solution that would complees quell his restlessness to take action and ride north to boston to meet with general shirley of governor of massachusetts who plon don placed in charge of all british forces in the north american colonies. in boston, washington would
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petition govan shirley to rank him above captain dagworthy governor granted permission in washington set out in early february accompanied by two servants and two of subordinate us officers on horseback of over 1,000 miles. with a so he determined his fate and left behind what command he did have and with it his responsibility for guarding the frontier. ...
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susanna phillips, and she was the daughter of the lord of the manor of phillipsburg. so the phillips had been granted sometime earlier, another one of these huge chunks of oil land grants in the hudson valley. so susanna was part of that family and it happened that susanna had a younger sister pauli who was 26 and she was an eligible arras to 51,000 acres. something about george washington is that he always had an eye for land and for the
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ladies. so george washington in new york riding on his way to boston takes polly and susanna out of the town. of course in this day there's no broadway plays as we know them. there is broadway, however. if the dirt street up the middle of manhattan island. the thing that's happening in new york is called, the big attraction is called the microcosm or world in miniature. it's a model of a roman temple, and there are all sorts of figures, dancing figures in musicians and flute players and gods and goddesses. if you turn certain pranks there are gears that turned in these figures danced around and moved. remember, this is like the beginning of that age and so people were impressed with the
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technology. polly and susanna liked it so much that washington took them back to times. took them there twice. however, it appears no spark was struck between paul in washington. so he went on to boston, and the governor kept in their cooling his heels for a while. washington really loud fine close, and so he bought some finery in boston as he did in most towns he went through. nice new hats, some fancy gloves. he bought more silver lace. a peculiar thing about washington, he had this weakness for silver lace. always buying silver lace. he also gambled, and he lost a bunch of money playing cards.
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having warned his men not to gamble. but eventually governor shirley said okay, you can be above captain integrity. so washington rides back. he has all his finery and his commission, and i should say one of the other particular things but washington is silver lace,, is whenever he gets a new command, almost the first thing he does is sit down and he designs and officers uniform. and he really likes fancy officers uniforms. this is where silver lace comes in. anyway, he's collecting silver lace along the way. so now he writes back from boston back to the virginia frontier. for far more serious problems had just begun, now that he returns attention to the frontier, the responsibility
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that had been his all along to protect the front your settlers from massacre landed suddenly and crushingly upon him. he rode fast over the blue ridge to winchester, the shenandoah valley. he found the indians threatened front your settlers up and down the valley formally safe from indian attacks. they had abandoned their homestead and fled to small forts for the town of winchester itself. no one knew if the indians would attack winchester washington desperately tried to recruit more men. he had only 40 amendment under his command at winchester. the remainder were at fort cumberland, the layer of his rifle dagworthy, or spread among the small forts on the virginia frontier. washington sent out a plea through surrounding frederick county for malicious to rendezvous at winchester. they would then force the french indian raiders out of the
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shenandoah. only 15 men showed up. almost ideal hopes of raising a number of men to scour the adjacent mountains have vanished into nothing, complained washington. the inhabitants of this county is to be equaled by nothing but their perverseness. while supremely frustrated by the raiding indians, washington would learn much from them, about patients, about waiting for opportunities, about avoiding major battles if possible that would come to fruition in the distant future when he served as commander in chief of a far larger body of troops. things only got worse along the frontier. panic spread, the residence at winchester anticipated a full-scale attack at any moment. townspeople assisted by soldiers
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at washington's orders chop down trees and bushes near the main street to prevent indian ambushers from hiding. so at this point washington does not know whether to keep all his, the community has been winchester at the main fort, or scattered throughout the month of various small forts in the area. and he does a very smart thing right here, that he calls his subordinate officers into the meeting, , he calls a council of war and went around and he solicited every officers opinion about what to do and you listen very carefully. and he deliberated. this was one of the very first instances of washington doing this, overly consulting his subordinates and really listening and deliberating and making a very considered decision after going through that process. this would serve him very well
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in the years ahead when you did become commander in chief become president. it's something he really became known for. it started right here. likewise, this post he had on the virginia frontier, it really talking about logistics, of organization, administration. he was very conscientious. he was a very conscientious administrator at organizer, so he learned a lot. still, the frontier deteriorated. after two and half years of hard work, high danger and political maneuvering, he had attained clear command of a virginia regiment. but within a mere two weeks of achieving this, he found himself in an impossible situation. hopelessly under equipped an unseen foe, surrounded by mass panic and awash in a bloody and gruesome reign of terror. scalped bodies lay outside
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burning pharmacist, the corpses stuffed full of arrows, the men's brains beaten out with her own rifle barrels. the barrels left sticking out of the hollow schools. the farmsteads axes and size embedded in mutilated torsos. in these moments of crises, surrounded by pleading front your families, settlers begging him to protect them, young washington began to move beyond his self absorption, and obsession with rank and reputation. in his empathy for the people suffering, he made a first step towards the selflessness and sacrifice for which one day he would become legendary. thank you. [applause]
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>> are we going to question for answers, or all of your? whatever you want to do. >> i found like the theme way of describing the perils of being in the almost freezing water and like kind of washington, like physiological response to that, indicative of your other book, and i was wondering what was your other work, influence your approach to this novel? >> yes, that's a good question. and very relevant in this situation. because i came at this, writing about young washington, d.c. five years of his early life, not from the point of view of a presidential biographer or a colonial historian. i came at a private wilderness ankle because a a different willingness at adventure and how wilderness is really, affects the human psyche. and so i stumbled across the
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story of washington as a young man in the wilderness of the ohio valley, and i became fascinated with how he responded to this wilderness situation. so as you say my earlier books have been a lot about wilderness and about it ventures, adventures i've had, adventures i've written about of the people, the physiology of these difficult witness situations and the psychology. so that's what i will try to bring to bear on the story and that's where my deep research was the research of what it's like to be in the wilderness. i've been there a lot myself. i've been canoeing down rivers and been in mountains in winter and have been through a lot of these experiences. i really wanted to bring that to the book, and so that's what, i wanted people to understand how difficult this was and what he went through as a young man, and really how remarkably he did despite all these mistakes.
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and at the same time i wanted it to be very accurate, and i read lots of his letters, lots and lots and lots of his letters, kind of absorbed myself in his life from that era. so that's the research i feel i brought to bear on it. >> sort of in that same vein, some of your past work has talked about leadership, like this idea of how, what makes a good leader and a strong leader. it feels like this is a continuation in some ways of that. >> exactly. my previous book the story which i i know some of you had read, deals a lot with this early expedition across the country right after lewis and clark across the continent. various leaders, different
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personalities of leaders in very difficult witness situations facing the unknown and how the responded differently. so i was trying to build on that in this washington book as well to see, to really examine how he responded to these very difficult wilderness situations, and these very difficult military situations with his men dying around in an indians all around and really harrowing spots. >> so getting back to, we able to read enough letters and journals to see how is character changed to dispose of his ego ambitions and how they mutated with fixed-rate and eight. >> us to some degree. of course it doesn't happen all at once, but you can see the changes. you can see certain moments he expresses himself and his
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letters. he takes, for example, tremendous empathy towards these frontier settlers who are getting slaughtered and they are literally begging him for help. he was much less guarded in those days in his letters. he became guarded at the cup holder and much more conscious of this image. here he is still relatively unguarded, so you see these flashes. and then there are certain moments like the frontier settlers begging him, and another moment that seems one of these pivotal moments that i think you're getting at that help him move him along that continuum towards more expansive worldview beyond himself. at one point he survives this incredible battle, famous battle called radix defeat when the british did finally send in like 2000 redcoats along with lots of others equipment and people.
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interview i wilderness to take the french fort way back in the wilderness. and, of course, general braddock, the british general and the redcoats utterly slaughtered by the indians who they can't even see. hiding pantries. the redcoats retinue of the road and wrote they just chopped. go into mass panic basically and most of them died. in washington is in the last instant among these officers in this group. he's very brave and heroic and he helps drag general braddock was wounded off the battlefield. after this incredible massacre come washington discovers he has four bullet holes through his coat and his hat, and he writes to his brother soon after that that he felt providence was protecting him. you can see that washington starts feeling that he has a larger role in the world than
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just making a name for himself. he's been so fixed in making a name for himself, then another key moment is when the british finally do drive the french out of the wilderness here this is 1757. and -- 58. but washington immediately leaves the wilderness, and he marries martha as soon as he leaves the wilderness. just within weeks. and then immediately brings him to the top of the virginia aristocracy, and it gives him a lot of financial security. she has 17,000 acres and lots of slaves. which was of course so strange for us to think of that was paid form of wealth, how many slaves
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you had. so she brought a lot of slaves to the marriage. so the key "washington post" financial security and establish them socially as top rank. and i think that caused him to relax a little bit about making a a name for himself, but even more importantly, and this is speculation on my part, because he doesn't talk about it directly, but i think martha gave him this sense of emotional security, this emotional reassurance that he didn't have previously. when he spent his early 20s crashing through the wilderness trying to make a name for itself, it just feels like martha settled him down. they had a very, even though he had been in love with this best friends wife, platonically, eventually he did mary martha and had a very warm and close relationship and she was a very warm and supportive person by
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all accounts. but we will never really know what the relationship was. martha burned all their correspondence after he died. so it's really like detective work, kind of peace these things together. >> well, thank you all so much. i really enjoyed this evening with you all. [applause] >> booktv risa visited capital to ask members of congress what they are reading this summer. >> i just finished reading this incredible book, pulitzer prize-winning book called the
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sympathizer by vietnamese refugee and it's a perfect day, perfect book to talk about for world refugee day. i'm not reading his second book called the refugees. they are just remarkable, you know, remarkable books to capture the complexity of a refugees life but also refugees that in the pin the united states as well as ones who go back. he does a really good job of capturing both pieces of that. those of two books that are front and center for me right now. >> booktv wants to know what you reading. send us your summer reading list @booktv on twitter, instagram or on facebook. booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. >> host: you are watching booktv on c-span2. it's television for serious readers. we're here in new york city and one of the things we like to do is read to some of the books that are coming out this fall.


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