tv Kevin Weddle The Compleat Victory CSPAN July 2, 2021 11:02pm-12:04am EDT
my name is andrew, i'm the >> thank you for joining us i and the director of the jefferson studies at monticello. is my pleasure to introduce it will be discussing his new book saratoga and the american revolution and the very useful appendices. it is often regarded as the turning point of the revolutionary war. it was a victory one it is generally believed to ally
with united states kevine has produced one of the most comprehensive accounts it is a particular interest as a for me on - - former army officer of service the graduates of west point to combat deployments and a professorship of military very and strategy of the war college in carlisle pennsylvania. his previous book weekends tragic admiral. was awarded the william colby award. he has agreed to do this program in an interview format like a conversation followed by questions from the audience. i would be grateful iff audience members can put any
questions in the q&a at the bottom of their screen. kevin thank you for joining us. >> thank you andrew i appreciate the invitation and everybody out there attending. >> i want to begin by asking you to discuss how your military background influenced your writing of the book. >> first of all it is important you don't have to have military background to have to be a historian i say the greatest military historian doesn't have the military background to have a my background but to have extensive military experience like i do maybe add different
perspectives to your research and writing but i know what it's like to go through the desert or for former battalion commanderge i can speak with firsthand knowledge about around and training and discipline and leadership and of course the famous statement but even the simplest thing is difficult. so i understand things a commander has to do commanders on the battlefield make the important decisions of when to attack or withdrawal big and small the things a commander has to think about like the
importance of logistics which you know in this campaign why is critical me can talk more but that is absolutely important and when most people think, of logistics they think of stuff like food ammunition but also transportation and maintenance and fuel which inue the 18th century was for your animals and medical support those are all encompassed in logistics. as a combat officer i understand the importance of terrain and how to describe terrain. and then i had done 25 years of those battlefield tours leading military groups and
also led battlefield tours to normandy and also through sicily so when you do that a think that as a different perspective so all of those experiences help to inform my research and writing that'sh a long winded answer. >> i thought they offered that specific insight i would like to ask your thoughts about the war in general i think this is very relevant especially in light of america's decisions decisions.
talk about why the goliath failed to defeat that david of those that are much smaller also a former military officer those most detailed accounts of the british side published in 1976. sometimes it is of scared by the amount of their detail of 500 pages and then are agreeing where in the world against trump in spain and holland that was by poorer militaryry leadership seems like those good tacticians the
micro level. >> i look at his view and assure essay could thehe british have won the war of independence and was opposed by one of the best scholars of the world from vietnam the british was fighting a counterinsurgency from the americans in afghanistan they are unsuccessful for most conflicts in the 20th century and those from malaysia because they were fightingin the ethnic minority in the chinese that had no outside or domestic support it
was still a long and brutal war i'm sorry to be long-winded. >> could the british of un-american work? >> they will disappoint you a little bit of my answer but yes they had a chance up through 1777 and after that only the americans could have beaten themselves. hererere is why. we could have destroyed washington's army in the fall of 76 and vigorously he followed up the victories in new york which he did not do so that was the first opportunity in the second opportunity was in 1777 but not with that plan personally i think the best opportunity
to win the war was the plan of go to philadelphia luer washington in this decisive battle because i think by that time by early 1777 in princeton he realizedto washington and washington's army he could destroy them both that would end the rebellion. he obviously could not accomplish that he cannot get his decisive victory he cannot get back at final decisive victory. and then to have a much more counterinsurgency conflict.
only the americans could have be in themselves at that point that is my personal assessment of that and and how the campaign is played out with of that options they do present in that manner is would be to use the navy in load up the troops up in canada and sale back to new york now we have this immense army in that could have been big enough to track down and destroy washington but i think that was the best opportunity. >> so it does go back to strategize at strategy failed
them in that respect and i argue that in the book. >> that leads nicely to my next question that your book is one of the most comprehensive studies of saratoga. i wish i had it with the tendencies and the timelines it is very well written and constructed but you conclude with that view that the british lost because of poor planning and thein failure of coordination and the chief architect through sir william howell and you have a slide of those three. >> i do. >> you might like to show your
sliding give some background without getting into the actual battle so which commanders do you blame? >> can you see my side there? >> yes. >> i will not talk about strategy that these two gentlemen of course you talk about these folks in your wonderful book on the left is sir william howell commander-in-chief in america minus canada and on the left is his brother admiral richard howell from the royal navy
commander in chief of north america and george washington the american commander-in-chief these are the key folks who worked out the in 1777 so clockwise from the talking george the third and then on the right general sir william howell and on the left is laura george jermaine now secretary of state for the colonies and responsible for managing the war in north america. so early 1777 those who at this time is in london they
both present plans for 1777 and argue that these will be award-winning plans so that is a very complex that imaginative plan and in some ways it is a repeat of the first british invasion of the fall 1776 commanded by the commander-in-chief and canada. basically this plan calls for three columns to advance to albany new york it is the larger call in from canada going down the famous white champlain invasion court order to albany and a secondary, of
efforts more of a diversionary effort goes down to st. lawrence and lake ontario down the mohawk river to albany and then the final column would be the main british army, the hudson river and then found their a really don't explain what they want to do but the bottom line is they think they will split the more rebellious new colony with a hardware the less rebel yes colonies and then conduct follow-on operation into connecticut and massachusetts and so on. they really liked this plan
frankly i think they are almost obsessed with the lake champlain core door. by this time had recognized washington as the primary center of gravity how is the commander-in-chief in newie york city and he argues i want to go to philadelphia which is the seat of congress and if i do that washington will be forcedph to defend philadelphia then they can destroy the american army in the rebellion so at first he considers marching overland to philadelphia but if he does that it could have all sorts of problems and of course he
was burned late 76 early 77 but the trenton princeton campaign that washington conducted against him so he decides use the mobility of the royal navy and loads his troops on ships and his plan is to load on ships and take the army by see and ultimately they will go up the chesapeake bay to philadelphia. that is the plan. again fairly straightforward so those are two very different plans. and it is up to jermaine to coordinate these plans jermaine is in the center and
then he has how off to the left we go off to the right the problem of course is there is the tyranny of distance 3000 miles between london and new york in the commander-in-chief sitting in new york 3000 miles away and the king is sitting there in london. when you have messages that can take two or three months to go back and forth across the atlantic it makes it very difficult to coordinate a campaign. especially with decision-makers in london and new york city. so that is what leads to the major problem to coordinate these two plans and of course ultimately what happens, we can't get into the details
here but ultimately what happens is orders cost and communications muddled misunderstanding and confusion will take place and basically what happens is they approve the campaign with the understanding once he finishes it he will turn around and move the army up the hudson river and then also approves the campaign so it is very uncoordinated and confusing that it also shows a think of what it takes to conduct operations in north america and especially what it takes in the wilderness of new york. and it can be done very
quickly to to another location. >> is not happening in north america. i'm sorry that the long answer to your question. >> . >> that you play devils advocate this is not the perceived viewpoint and it was just missed understood by the commanders because the plan of 1777 was the same plan from 1776 and then to link up with how in albany as hard to
believe when his deputy is fresh from talks he begged him to go north and not to philadelphia but he spoke as if he needed the help so my question is where that have changed the outcome? and if this is so important than even if the two armies had met with are the lines between new york and canada?e' >> there's a lot in those questions. >> i will take the last one
first. why didn't they just sail around? when we submit to a detailed plan to the king i cannot remember the exact date that febres 1777 that rights along the mouth for conducting war on the side of canada. and about 95 percent how he conducts the invasion from canada. >> three lines of thates talk about oh another thing we can do is sail around and reinforce how in new york. that was meant as a throwaway and not even consider it but even after he said that in his memo he said that the waiting get the good payoff are the
strategic impact of that would not be as great as coming down from canada so he is very clear that but don't think about it so he considered and rejected in my mind so jermaine and the king probably never thought about it coming up from lake champlain since it drains north that heading south so that is what was part of the discussion oddly enough afterwords after it was all said and done one of the criticisms against jermaine was i told you we could have sailed around to reinforce how
in new york city but you didn't take that option. no. of course he didn't because we didn't place any emphasis on that at all. so he was being very disingenuous about that after-the-fact so now the other part of the question so what if how sailed up the hubs hudson and met in albany? i'm not sure if he wouldn't have made it to albany no matter what but let's say they had and how was able to get up to albany as well? maybe they could have done not but i don't think they ever put a fully garrisoned support
up and down the hudson river corridor no matter how much support they had and hamilton wrote this great letter in the spring of 1777 i'm thinking he was repeating what washington was thinking and basically it was the connecticut assemblye telling them don't worry even if they do this they cannot hold onto that territory it would take an immense army to hold onto that territory. i think is exactly right and don't think there's any way the british had the combat power to link up there armies in albany conduct follow-on
military operations to the east to new england and hold onto that hudson river portal to maintain supplies to keep the new england states separated from the middle and southern states so i think the entire plan was based on false assumptions number one linking up the army's good things would happen after that i think that was an assumption that they made. of course the other assumption being there are so many loyalist in upstate new york that was a bad assumption another about native americans that would flock if that did not happen so that was based on sad assumptions. >> and he didn't get the
french canadian support. >> no he didn't. and the final piece of your question when you said how had to understand he was meant to go up the hudson. i think that was true but remember his plan had also been approved. by the king and jermaine. i got that in the appendix very explicit orders saying yes thinking and i have approved your plan to go to philadelphia and then after that once you do that then you have to go back and help so how was the commander in chief? he rise reads it as the commander in chief will s the boss approved my plan. the secondary part is that i
will help when i am done who knows when i am done. so he reads that is any commander-in-chief would. so let's go to philadelphia. >> hold that thought of those this assumptions that undermine the campaign into introduce the audience questions and then move on to the battle itself and of course the very name of the battle of saratoga always confuses me. it is a misnomer it was a series of locations. >> yes and when i think saratoga i think of the saratoga campaign the have to
go back to july of 77 of ticonderoga the follow-up battle. and in the siege of fort stanwyck and then of course and then the first battle of saratoga and the second battle that was two and half weeks later so a series of military operations and that always bothers me when i hear people say that the battle sarah toga there was no battle of saratoga there were a series of battles and engagements into sieges and many complex military population on —-dash river crossings and ulcers of things. >> i don't think i ever told
you i went to my first visit to saratoga to see military history fellowship of course it was marvelously done and you have been influenced by your teaching were college because they have the best overhead and ability for that campaign but that purpose of the fellowship to take a lot of this but it is stunning scenery and the interpreters are stunning in the acknowledgments so i certainly encourage anyone interested to go visit that area from west point north is spectacular.
>> i could not agree more and i would say not just saratoga but his team is just tremendous but the tidyfi - - the trainee battlefield you really have to want to go there.nt but even that tiny little battlefield the staff is tremendous and the scenery is spectacular. so if nothing else the scenery should draw you to it and the history is a bonus i cannot agree with you more. >> so how much credit do we give to benedict arnold? with the american victory in
saratoga? >> sometimes we forget what a hero he was and then the british regarded him the best commander to suggest that the british would make himak commander-in-chief of course he did become a general in the british army to occupy richmond. >> he obviously plays a central role in the 17761st invasion of canada but then in the saratoga campaign once ticonderoga falls and general skyler the commander of the northern department of the northern army, he is really at
his wits and when ticonderoga falls one of the first things washington does as commander-in-chief aside from trying to prove his morale was a little bit is he sends key leaders to help them out and those that he sends up there are benedict arnold and benjamin lincoln and both of them are critical for the success of saratoga. benedictne arnold because of the outstanding leadership and benjamin lincoln because of
his unique ability to work with a militia both of those are things that skyler doesn't have and his subordinates don't have. washingtonr recognizes that in almost from the moment benedict arnold gets there, he is everywhere. you see this guy right at the forefront and is giving skyler advice and write in the lead. and is at the head of the column that is set to relieve fort stanwyck so he is the right guy too send up there
that benjamin lincoln also g doesn't get as much but he is critical to americans success. although he is wounded the first day of the last battle seriously wounded but that was not his major role it was to get thehe militia out with the northern department for skyler and then as the militia he does a brilliant job at that so the two key commanders with other key leaders of course daniel morgan and is famous that washington sends up there those are all critical cogs in the embedded on - - american
machine that will when the saratoga campaign but when it comes to the t final two battles benedict arnold plays a critical role in both. in the first one, he can manage the flow of troops into the battle. he is not actually in the front reading the attacks if he feeds them into battle and does a great job they are. and in the second battle he is critical because he leads the final attack on the british fortification that ends up outflanking to ultimately fly back the exhausted army. so benedict arnold is crucial for americans success.
i don't call him the victor of saratoga. some people do. i think gates c can be truly even i'm not a fan of gates but that benedict arnold is critical for america's success. >> i wondered if you would mention horatio gates. and suspected of the commander-in-chief and then defeated himself lord cornwallis and then famously took off on his horse on the
battlefield i felt that was very cruel when he estimated the pace. a pace for a man of his age. hamilton at the time with some men but with the liability to the british with the blame and the failure of the saratoga campaign? >> my assessment of the german troops, i think they did a solid job. the german commander was a solid commander. i think a lot of that is the ex post facto blame game
immediately even before his surrender he places a lot of the blame on the german troops i think he is just grasping at straws at that point and then finding out about that months later he is incensed because he never found out about his troops performing poorly. they were solid contingent of troops but i think they are used badly. for in the battle of bennington they call it the campaign because there areon several pieces but they are the wrong troops to send on that expedition. simon fraser, the commander of the british advanced core said that and argue that and i
think he was exactly right. the wrong troops to send on an independent operation like bennington. the perfect troops to send would be fraser they would've been the right ones to send. so using them in the inappropriate way and soldiers in the lineup battle they were great and that's how they should have been used. sending them off on the independent operations like bennington is on this use of their capabilities. >> that's why bennington is so important what that demoralizing campaign to reduce the troop numbers i would have thought with the
southern campaign that cornwallis march is germane to overwriting the commander in new york and then to play the same role as bennington to upset the campaign. >> that's a great point. >> we are getting close for me introducing questions to the audience. the first of want toom come back to theca real failure and miscalculations. so what united all of these british commanders the errors we continue to make is to miss calculate the revolution and
that opposition from ticonderogade to take philadelphia and return to new york was always optimistic about the support he has an army twice the size that was heavily outnumbered it was four / one reaching saratoga and it is amusing because he said people were appearing from nowhere. and then to be settling in modern day new hampshire and also couldn't leave the training of the continental army with those british troops. >> yes.
all of these assumptions that everyone is making, i don't criticize the fact they made those assumptions. when you are planning today one of the things we teach at work colleges military planning. when you are planning you never have 100 percent of information so to fill the gaps you have to make assumptions that is understandable so that is not bad in andre of itself but if you're going to make an assumption look at what if my assumption is not true? what if loyalists don't come out in droves in new york if i say ticonderoga to help fill up the logistical shortfalls and things like that? what happens if they don't?
think through that. none of these key leaders did that. they did not think through what if my assumptions are wrong? how do i do that then? how do i plan for that? how do i consider, if it doesn't hold true then, maybe i need to stay at ticonderoga until i change the dynamic somehow with better logistics or with whatever i can recruit more loyalist whatever the case may be but they did not do the sorts of things. those are important for a military leader to do. >> and encourage people watching to start writing in questions and jane says if
albany was the focus and to be captured and defeated but ironically germane was much more concerned how being attacked by washington that yet i have done it a very real possibility ability that washington could have gone north. >> during that period when how loads the troops onto ships, but hasn't left yet
, washington really doesn't know what he's going to d do and washington assumes he will go and meet up and then once they fail washington still doesn't know where they are going. they could be going to newport rhode island down to charlestonsl and go up to delaware to head up to philadelphia or the hudson. washington is trying to figure out what is happening during that period. when you read his letters , it's very frustrating. he says on more than one occasion, if only we had something like the royal navy. because that provides the britishg with mobility. in fact washington thought about moving up the hudson.
he was counting on skyler. and washington was much more focused with the army with how is doing and going up the hudson washington would have been compelled to follow. it would have been very interesting to see what w the military results would have been with something like that. great question. >> so this is a complement from a member of the audience i your book is excellent i will use it on a trip this summer as a a guide to follow the campaign as a hobbyist account your book to be the finest i haveve read. thank you. >> thank you very much.
>> greetings from troy new york as a lifelong resident thank you the appreciation of our history and the interesting presentation so something that we have not covered is the rogue militia you have two schools of people that emphasize the role the militia plays in the british defeat. and essentially the army school argues a lot of military battles like yorktown
is an excellent example and is critical to bring down the british army to be effective and nathanael greene understand them better than anyone. and yet it is perpetuated by the patriot who has a conventional battle and says this is nonsense playing into the idea of the citizenry. that clearly how do you see them militia? >> i think they are absolutely critical to american success. when the big battle, the final
two battles of saratoga, the american combatants, that the militia are absolutely critical because they are the ones that man the fortification and the fortification are really important because they control the road to albanyve and the river to albany. that is one of the reasons why gates cleans to the fortification and only commits a smalld percentage to either battle. much to arnold's chagrin. they are doing things to free up the continental troops to conduct the combat operations like the logistics support and
things like that and the militia areon the ones that are the primary combat's during the bennington campaign. so they are important for a number of different reasons and at the end of the campaign is less than 6000 troops are surrounded by we don't know exactly how many but 1,718,000 americans that two thirds are militia they are important to ceiling that victory from start to finish in the entire campaign and that is why washington is so shrewd to send to skyler's aid to
understand the militia and workhe very well benedict arnold and benjamin lincoln are generals that have those traits and gates is to. the new england militia like skates as well because of his work early in the award around boston so really is a key american commander when this is all said and done the primary commander gates is commander of the army and the two major subordinates i don't think it's any surprise that all three of them work very well with the militia. >> another complement from walter he is looking forward
to reading the book after the talk that it's really a privilegee for us and i have to say that for my assignment at west point i was impressed by the american army and happen to coincide and i would have imagined they would been very happy to be back at west point and out of harms way but it was quite the opposite. and to be bored by what the fellow officers were but also by the teaching there are not
officers like you to bring in civilians and they spoke the hard lessons of vietnam but to blame that on the press to see real military lessons and it is impressive and we have another question. did any of that take place with fort william henry? it came through the area especially the logistics so with ticonderoga he also moves the army which is the southern tip of lakehe champlain and decides to move the big artillery train and the large
pieces of the logistics train down lake george where to the tip of lake george with that network is good you head south he decides to move the rest of the army south. so yes they move through that area but henry plays no role. >> we are getting close to the end of our time. i went to jump back about my thoughts of counterinsurgency and one is the extensive support for the rebellion a revolution wherever that may be and hopefully tend to talk
to those who support america or britain and to get a van exaggerated account as ms. galloway was telling people in london just before yorktown four out of five americans support the british and they always insisted on that and people are changing sides and with those modern methods for the opinion polls so even with that we still cannot get the accurate representation the second thing to me is foreign support but they were giving sanctuary to american ships and the
once they come in now you have to worry about all your possessions, not just north america. you have to worry about homeland defense depending the home of itself. all those things play into it but they didn't have to worry about before. i agree with you completely, after saratoga and work moved south, i think only americans could have beaten themselves at that time. that's possible, they could have p that, really boneheaded errors but they are just right enough to win this thing. >> sending more personnel to the caribbean b to saratoga and they
are expecting to win this with fewer troops. >> they probably are. >> saratoga is the turn of why people need to leave that. i really enjoyed this discussion. >> i have, too. it's wonderful and thank you to the thomas jefferson foundation and the whole team. thank you for participating. appreciate it. ♪♪ >> book tv on c-span2, top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. saturday 10:00 p.m. eastern on "afterwards", for xerox ceo laverne, the first black female ceo of a fortune 500 company on
american business and the corporate world interviewed by amazon senior vice president alisha fuller davis and sunday live noon eastern on in-depth during our two hour conversation with pulitzer prize-winning author and historian, gordon read as she talks about american presidents, slavery and emancipation, prize-winning books include the hemmings of monticello and latest book on juneteenth. she will take your pulse, facebook comments, e-mails and tweets. watch book tv on c-span2 this weekend. ♪♪ >> good evening, everyone. i am tina i'm joined here with wilson's historical society. if you have any questions, popular into the q&a box and we
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