Skip to main content

tv   The Continental Army at Valley Forge  CSPAN  December 20, 2018 8:01pm-9:05pm EST

8:01 pm
the harsh winter of 1777 and 1778 while the camp days right philadelphia. it is our long talk is part of a weekly series held at the new york city bar and grill the half king . >> when the new congress takes office in january, it will have the youngest, most diverse freshman class in recent history. new congress, new leaders. watch it live on c-span, starting january 3. bob drury and tom clavin is "valley forge" ably visits and revives what for most without full knowledge of the story, has become your shorthand for terrible suffering and struggle and with impeccable research make the remarkable story of the winter of 1777 and 78 come to life. we get revealing details and incisive portraits of characters we think we know.
8:02 pm
alexander hamilton, john lawrence, marquita lafayette and of course the towering figure of george washington who, in the course of telling the specific story of the valley forge encampment and camps around, emerges as a holy complex individual. canny and insecure and intensely private and yet trusting of those men whose skills and characters he came to appreciate. cannily political and both politics and above all revealing the incredible skill and yes, some luck that enabled washington to leave the continental army out of it smoke difficult winter potentially when their country's independence. what finally wrought finally evocative language such as describing the imperious odious and frankly traitorous charles lee by writing lee was a blister of a man unencumbered by charisma who prefer the company of his hunting dogs to human beings.
8:03 pm
human beings who came into contact with him felt similarly. are making us truly see the ocean yeager supporting their customary forest green, there under present black mustaches cultivated such a density is to qualify as topiary. this is history as it should be. rich in detail, dogged in pursuit of truth and what truly matters in a story and written in such a way as to reveal the world in which the facts of the story occurred as if we were standing there as witnesses. please join me in welcoming bob drury and tom clavin. [ applause ] >> thank you, glenn. thank you all, i am tom, he's claimant. thank you allat the half king we appreciate what you are
8:04 pm
doing for us. i see a lot of people in the audience who were involved in the process of making "valley forge" our agent, global our editor josie, thank you and one of our publicists, abigail well house thank you, but most of all, thank you all for coming out tonight to listen to our budget. so, this is a really good looking crowd. [ laughter ] years ago sebastian younger for those who don't know, he's part owner of this place and he said to be, you know we get the most and some people to come to our book readings atthe half king . and i wasn't sure what he was getting at or what he was meeting by telling me this, but
8:05 pm
now i see he was just making an observation. so thank you again. now i am well aware that the four most important words in any public speakers vocabulary are, and so, in conclusion. so tom and i, we promise to keep this short, and we hope suite for you tonight. tom and i contend in valley forge that the characters who inhabit this book and their shared core values, which we pretty much own way by generation of statesmen in the history of the united states. we say this well aware of, of fdr's kitchen cabinet and abraham lincoln's team of rivals. what we hope we have
8:06 pm
accomplished with valley forge as the anthropologists say is to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. now it's customary at events like this for an author or authors to read a short passage from their new book, his new book, their new book. perhaps one of the favorite bits that really get to the heart of the matter. with that in mind, i thought i might turn to page, it's 199 where i have written a note to myself saying, "you bore the out of yourself when you read this so don't bore these people." so that is the reading portion of our evening. [ laughter ] instead why don't i just tell you a couple of stories. tom what you think tell them a story. >> i guess i'm not as tall,
8:07 pm
quit?. as bob alluded to, our contention from the very beginning we started working on this book was "valley forge" became the most important part of the revolutionary war with the turning point. and we found that out because we started to do our research and get deeply into it and find out more things and, i'm just going to refer to a couple of notes. the social studies class portion at valley forge is guys in the snow, starving and freezing and then you had george washington on a horse looking down and watching guys in the snow starving and freezing. and that's the social studies portion. what we found out was that so much more was happening. the big part was george washington himself. during the balance board encampment which lasted from
8:08 pm
december 1777 to june 1778, and bob will come back to talk about the battle at the moment courthouse, george washington went from being a revered figure, but he went from that to being an american icon, a hero. an action figure. that happened during the course of valley forge. one of things he was having to deal with was a 2-front war. one itself was the british forces and there were conspiracies included there were some senior officers and members of the continental congress who tried to get him fired, who tried to get him replaced and the came very close to doing that so that was something that was very important about valley forge. washington was surrounded, and i think this was a very poignant part of the story. washington was surrounded by a loyal group of young surrogate
8:09 pm
sons, i'll talk about them a little bit more in a bit. but alexander hamilton, marquita lafayette, and john lawrence who bob mentioned, and john lawrence is sort of like a founding father you never knew. and i will explain a little bit bit. but he went with these generals who were totally loyal to him and nathanael greene, matt anthony wayne, some of you heard that from your textbooks. there was another general named lord sterling who he called himself that and insisted he be called lord sterling because he claimed to be the senate from scottish aristocracy and royalty. washington's position with keep writing, you can call yourself anything you want, lord sterling, whatever you are great general, keep doing it. the situation, one of the things that people don't know about valley forge which we found out and again, now that they are not teaching social
8:10 pm
studies it was not the worst winter of the revolutionary war. there were worst winters, but valley forge the winter was bad, i mean it was a terrible, but what happened was several systems had broken down in the united states. one system was the government, when the government took philadelphia the kick the continental congress out and they pretty much spread out. some of them went to york pennsylvania and some of them disappeared. there was no functioning government for the most part of the united states anymore. so george washington at valley forge was the united government. when valley forge began in december 1777, the army went in and there were 12,000 soldiers and they built hut and there were about 400-500 camp followers and women and children who follow the camp wherever they went. suddenly became the seventh largest city in the united states and became the capital of the united states area i think that's something that
8:11 pm
most people would never realize with social studies that because of the philadelphia, the capital being occupied by the british because there was no continental congress and everything else in the political systems were in complete disarray, valley forge was the capital of the united states. and george washington was the de facto leader of the united states. if he had lost for some reason if he had decided i've had enough i'm getting out of your i'm going back to mount vernon, the british government ordered a buffer to make him a duke. so he would have been the duke of mount vernon, something like that. if you just give up. so, the there was the idea politically that valley forge was at the center of the revolutions universe. the other thing that was happening is that george washington realized, he cared about two things, the cause of liberty and in independent, and his men. and the anguish he was going through was awful because every day, his men were dying, there
8:12 pm
were some who were deserting, okay they had to get out of there, but they were dying. the very first man who died at valley forge with christmas eve in washington found out about christmas morning. it was a black soldier from connecticut named jethro. he was the first one to die and he died asked basically of exposure and malnutrition. 2000 men died at valley forge during the course of the six- month period that's more by far than any battle in the revolutionary war. valley forge was a struggle for survival not just of the army, but of the revolution. because the continental army which sees to exist, which washington expected every day. he wrote a letter to congress saying i expect any day for my armies to dissolve and disperse. he expected every morning to wake up and look out and they would be gone. and if they left and there was no more continental army there was no more war for
8:13 pm
independence, it was over. washington anguished over this, he was constantly begging the governors of individual state send me some food, send me some clothes. literally, you might get it's a clichi but he literally, there was blood in the snow because of all the men who had no shoes. open source, they were dying of starvation, literally dying in washington had to try and keep them together. why did this army stay together u i don't think it was giving away that we did win the war of independence. but that is where we come to the central figure of this book, george washington. there was such admiration and such caring for him that many of the soldiers, despite the suffering, they could not abandon george washington. they saw in him the war for american independence, the ideal that america was going to be. so that's a big reason why they stay. let me get back to, washington
8:14 pm
was surrounded again i'm going to go back to being a real poignant part of this book. washington was surrounded by these circuit sons. who were very young, totally devoted to him, they would have instantly taken a bullet for him that's a big part of our story. alexander hambleton was 22 years old he was washington's right-hand man. he wrote many washington's letter. washington could tell hamilton this is what i think about and hamilton knew how to translate that into a 1000-page letter to the governor of new york or pennsylvania. there was marquis de lafayette, he was general at 20. let one of washington's bills. when he was wounded at the battle of brandywine, washington sent the surgeon to find him and to treat him as though he were my son. and jorn john lawrence, anybody ever heard of john lawrence of
8:15 pm
south carolina? you read the book? that's cheating! [ laughter ] lawrence was also 22. and became great friends with hamilton and the marquis de lafayette. and he worshiped washington, he was from south carolina and among the things he tried to do during the valley forge encampment, he tried to raise a brigade of black soldiers. he thought one of the ways that the continental army could be a more effective army could elicit some black soldiers. and indeed he did there were hundreds of soldiers part of the continental army and would be the last time that there was an integrated army until the korean war. the rest of the army with comprised of so many immigrants, russian, italian, irish. there was a turning point in
8:16 pm
february and was probably the lowest point for washington. there's a famous painting and story about him kneeling in the snow and praying and in the book it probably didn't happen. the painting happened but he probably didn't kneel in the snow. but he was at its lowest point. and a couple of things started to turn the tide. one thing at a personal level is martha washington showed up. and you might well, so what? george and martha washington were totally devoted to each other and when she came from the comfort of mount vernon to go in the snow in the freezing cold with her husband, fort george personally that was a big turning point. the other big turning point was one of our favorite characters in the book, baron von steuben, what you don't know is the story of baron von steuben. most of you think of him oh, yeah he was a prussian general who came over and trained the troops. that was true, up to a point he was in a prussian general he was a captain. he was a con man and a spy. he met ben franklin in paris
8:17 pm
and franklin had completely given him a new resume. made him a major general in the prussian army. he wrote his background in everything and said go over there and when it see how things are over there and report back to me. he gets over there, and he's got this resume that's totally doctored. and washington buys it. so he thinks great, i paid a lot of money to be a spy to the french. he falls in love with with the continental army. and he said my god, for the first time a believe in something. and he spent the last 2-3 months training the continental army. i'm gonna turn this over to bob in a minute. there are so many other characters in this book that their stories are in there that people might not even know about. there's james monroe as a young officer who becomes the sixth president of the united states or fit. there is the howell brothers who were british generals and running this thing. there are even sidebar stories about captain john andre, the
8:18 pm
british debonair theatrical officer and he is romancing peggy shimp and was might not seem like a big deal but she is going to marry benedict arnold and with her lover condensed dose convince him to turn over west point. this is all happening at the same time. what happened is that the army at the end of elledge forge, it's going to be time for the british who have been relaxing and partying and having a great time in philadelphia. it's going be time as soon as the spring comes to wipe out the american army. that's what they expected. they saw an army back in the fall that had barely staggered into winter encampment and probably starved to death. they expected when the winter was over that either there would be no army left or whatever was left would be low hanging fruit, easy pickings. and so the two armies met at the battle of armies courthouse and what the british discovered is that what doesn't kill you
8:19 pm
makes you stronger. [ applause ] >> you are so good-looking. but i am backing up, because i paid clayton 100 bucks to let me talk about the baron von steuben the baron von steuben arrived in valley forge at the end of february. as ostentatiously as he could. he was in a sleigh, adorned with 24 jingle bells, pulled by a team up personal rom horses he had purchased in france coal black to make a good interest into valley forge. and he had borrowed the money to purchase the horses because he was dead flat broke.
8:20 pm
this guy he's my favorite, tom mentioned john lawrence the founding father you never heard of. because he died too young. there's mad anthony wayne i have so many favorite character in this book but the baron von steuben is my favorite. when he arrived at valley ford not only this sleigh with the horses and the sleigh, had this pocket greyhound. he was decked out in a silk uniform with these two big horse pistols and in his wake was a retinue of aides and servants and assistance and even a fresh chef who by the way quit 48 hours after eyeballing the image. and he said there's no way of staying here. and as tom alluded to, this guy arrived in valley forge with a
8:21 pm
resume were doctored up than the mayo clinic. he was a soldier of fortune, the one thing that is true is that he had fought in frederick the great prussian army. now frederick the great and his army in fact his army was known as an army with a country as opposed to a country with an army. frederick the great was renowned throughout the western world as the most feared military leader in the world. and von steuben had risen to captain in his army. but when the european wars stopped, he kind of wandered around looking for a job as a soldier of fortune. eventually he ended up in paris and the french foreign minister, who was a big american supporter and eventually worked and worked and worked louis xvi so much that that is what made the french come into the war. but deeper john he saw
8:22 pm
something in steuben and introduced him to franklin and franklins diplomat. but these guys, man, washington has written so many letters to us. don't send me any more of these deadbeats, these soldiers of fortune, and this is a quote, i read over 2000 of george washington's memos, private correspondence, official proclamations, i personally read his general orders and correspondence between congress and this is my favorite one, he said send me no more hopping jays. we don't use that word anymore but i'm going to start using it in my everyday language. look at him, he is a popping j. but von steuben, he sat down for three interviews with franklin and style o'steen.
8:23 pm
and they said this guy is the real deal because frederick the great had one rule in his army that no other western army had. and that was that every officer would get down and work and live with the enlisted men. everyone else thought this was beneath him, including the continental army. every other army bequeathed this job to noncommissioned officers, sergeants and corporals. and when von steuben started telling franklin this is how i will drill them this is what i'll do, they realized, washington, as strong as his will was in keeping this army together as tom elucidated, it was really a collection of desperate militias, shoemakers, farmers, miners, shopkeepers, they had no idea how to fight as one well oiled machine.
8:24 pm
so franklin and silas deane, said okay we got to send ben's tubing over. but he's only a captain. so suddenly those captain bars disappeared and he had stars on his shoulders. and suddenly he was not only an inspector general of the prussian army, the vaunted prussian army but an aide to frederick the great himself. this is how he arrived in valley forge. now george washington has no clue. he knows okay this is one of the inspector general's. on von steuben's first day and he decides to take an unofficial inspection tour. here's this guy showing up in his fancy pants european uniform with all the metals and he is walking into these filthy, dirty huts. and he starts interviewing continental soldiers about their sanitary habits. about, you know what the difference is between an ordinary march and a quick march? within a week, he had issued a
8:25 pm
series of memos to washington. this is where we must dig the latrines, no wonder there's so much disease in this camp you have got to put them on the downhill slope on the other side, away from the ovens that are baking bread. you know what? let's grade these little paths in front of the hut and let's make them regimental routes and make this army feel more professional. so, washington is all into this. and so he gives von steuben 100 been his only personal guard of 50 and equally and he said you are going to be von steuben's sub trainers. von steuben takes them out on the parade ground of valley forge the very first day there are 100 men, there are thousands of other continental soldiers. they have nothing else to do but as tom said starve and freeze to death. von steuben spins the very first morning, the entire
8:26 pm
morning teaching them the correct way to stand at attention. he goes on, he teaches them how to wheel. you know one of the great myths of the american revolution is that the minuteman, you know slinking be tree or hiding behind a boulder and picking up the square british redcoats in their battle formation. and yes, there were times when this indian fighting technique that the americans had worked, but for the most part, these people needed how to march quickstep into battle. how to wheel, how to stand when a cannonball or grapeshot was taking up the head of the guy next to you. how to not fire until you are ordered to fire. von steuben starts teaching the continental army how to do this, how to become a professional army. in my favorite thing about von steuben, if i could go back ,
8:27 pm
they say if you could go back to von steuben and meet one person it would be washington. although he is the protagonist and hero of this book. it will be von steuben. because he is this all staff in character, he had no english, the washington assigned john lawrence and alexander hamilton, von steuben spoke french and german, hamilton lawrence both spoke french and they were his translators. and von steuben was such a stickler for detail, he had one word in english . goddam. and when someone would make a mistake in training, and he was a portly man with a double trend, and his space, he would flail his arms, spittle coming out of his mouth over alexander hamilton, get over here and swear for me! and alexander hamilton was scurrying over as von steuben
8:28 pm
is releasing a history of oath and curses. and by the time hamilton translated them in to english, the continental troops were doubled over in laughter by this time. but they understood that he was not afraid like richard the great's mentor, he was not afraid to get down on his belly on his knees in the mud and said this is the way you use your bandit. it's not for cooking, it's for stabbing the enemy in the gut. so von steuben knew that sooner or labor the gig was going to be up about his resume. but by then he had kind of like a lot offive . he would invite captains, majors to his hut,
8:29 pm
actually he didn't have a hut he lived in a farmhouse. he said come in i have a little more than you. but you are all in such ragged uniforms, no one is allowed into my dinners who either has pants on or non-ragged pants. so he would call them his khulood suppers. and so even though he was quite often invited over to washington's headquarters for dinner and he would charm washington wife washington who would not speak french but he would charm the with details of your. and so, i don't know, let me skip ahead because i know we are getting laid here. but that june 1777, first let me say one thing, it's kind of really skipping ahead. but the very last letter george washington wrote before resigning his commission as commander in chief of the
8:30 pm
continental army in 1783 was to the baron von steuben , thanking him for turning his militias into a professional army. so that june 1778, five years earlier as the continental army is marching out of valley forge to meet the british on the sandy plains of new jersey, near the small village, amish courthouse, it's what tom and i like to call a butch and sundance moment for the british. they look at this army wheeling and marching and said who are these guys? these are not the guys that we brushed off like lint at the battle of brandywine. before christmas at the battle of german time, these guys look like they know what they are doing. as it turned out that d, washington made the initial
8:31 pm
mistake of putting in another general in charge of the attack on the british. he was bringing up the rear corner. when he got to the front lines, he saw his continental army retreating. retreating orderly, thanks to baron von steuben, but still retreating and for the first time in front of his aides and in front of his entire army he lost his temper. he went galloping up and down the front lines and found the general he had put in charge and he dressed him down. and it was a blistering hot june day. a heat wave with over 100 degrees. washington up and down, miles and miles, spurring the troops to turn around. so much so that the horse he was writing collapsed beneath him and dropped dead of heat exhaustion. he was head of the reigns of another horse and he got up area finally, he stood on her
8:32 pm
ridge and about a mile and a half away, the entire continental army could see a sea of red, 10,000 redcoats, cornwallis is best. they were doing a slow bayonet charge. by this time, the british artillery had moved into range, as washington is pointing his sword and saying to his troops, who will fight with me? who will stand with me? grapeshot is whizzing by his head. a cannonball lent speech from his horse splatters mud all over him and he is looking at the british and saying who will stand with me? who will fight with me? and if you want to know the answer, you got to read the book, thank you very much for coming in. [ applause ] "we will take any questions you have it we can answer them.
8:33 pm
>> i think that has some life in it. grab one of these. >> inc. you guys very much. i'm done. drink! so once again i'm going to start up with just a few questions and as you guys have questions just raise your hand and let me come to you. i will do the phil donahue thing i will try not to knock over any beer. so my first question is, as obviously students of history, why this book? why "valley forge" for both of you? >> and i take that? and first of all thank you all for coming out tonight. it's a really good book. better than we talked about it. let me put it that way. this is close to my heart. this book was a family affair, a literal family affair.
8:34 pm
my son, his mother is french, he is a dual citizen, he is bilingual, where he has been bilingual since he first started speaking now he speaks four different languages he is in university right now. but this was six-7 years ago when he was about 14. and we were down at my lovely wife denise's, we were down at her mother's house for christmas and the entire family was over. and all of a sudden i hear this commotion in the tv room. and i saw matt storm out. and his face was red, very atypical for a frenchman. and i said what is going on? and it turns out that one of denise's brothers had made some crack, it was innocuous, he didn't mean anything by it. but he made some crack about the united states bailing out france in two world wars. and the answer he shot back to him, well what about the
8:35 pm
marquis de lafayette in the french army? there would be no united states. so, not only was i proud of my 14-year-old son for standing up to a 40 something-year-old [ laughter ] more importantly, a light bulb went off in my head. and i thought oh my god, lafayette during the revolution, what a great that would make! i told tom about it and we both agreed, now we were just vanishing of our red cloud book and we had already committed to our next project which was a world war ii book. but lafayette was in the queue, so to speak. and in the interim as we were working on lucky 666, sarah bell, a great writer, she came out with her book lafayette, beat us to it. but then tom, as is his wont, he is the brains of the out
8:36 pm
there. he said you know let's not give up on this too soon. what do you know about valley forge? and i basically repeated what he said the year before, you know a bunch of ragtag soldiers and half naked, starving to death and you know i remember pictures correctly as washington sitting on a horse watching them to starve to death. and he said there's more to valley forge than you think we should look into it. so it what i did three february's ago, i did some research and i knew that february was the hardest month of that winter of 1777, 1778. so three february's ago, we were still winding up and working on lucky 666 i had planned to meet with the chief historian of valley forge and i took a drive down there and i spent the day with him on a walking jeep tour. and everything i didn't know about valley forge, everything tom did know about valley forge
8:37 pm
and everything all of you didn't know about valley forge until you read this book, came to before. so that's how the book came about. >> and obviously anyone can know looking at the three of us that there are actually two authors on the stage and i'm sure there are some authors in the audience. i can tell by looking up there. what was your process of writing the book together, separately? how did you make it work, were there challenges that came up just -- >> all right i will admit it. i have pictures of tom he reported the thing, all six of our books he researched he wrote them and i told him i would release these incriminating pictures unless he put my name on the book. that's how it happened. >> i wish the truth was that interesting. we have to go back to our very first book together, halsey's tycoon which came out in 97 if
8:38 pm
i remember correctly that there was a decision made early on that you can have four hands on the keyboard. we had to divide our responsibilities. i felt right at the beginning that bob's writing style was well-suited, more well-suited than mine would be. these kind of stories much of which have been devoted to military history. so, and i am much more the nerd who likes to go into a library and spend days there. so we started to divide things that were i would be the principal researcher and bob would be the writer and as batches were written come back to me for some editing and revising. and that was how every, not just the book but that's how every book was done, and i always felt that it was kind of being like a double-play combination. and thankfully, it seems to work well. >> washington had a particularly fractious group of
8:39 pm
subordinates. what were the strength and weaknesses in dealing with them? >> you want to tackle that went u >> sure, sure, sure. i am the one that read i think it was 1900, 1982 of his proclamations, personal letters. washington was, he kept himself in check. he was an aggressive emotional man who never let anyone see it, except for at times, martha his wife. and when we discovered one of the main themes of valley forge is washington was finding a to- front war. one was a war militarily against the british and the second was a political war against the faction of congress who had been displaced from philadelphia when the british captured it. and they had taken over york
8:40 pm
pennsylvania courthouse and especially the new englanders who never really wanted washington to leave the continental army anyway. but they figured if we are going to fight the great empire we need a virginian in the fold, so that's how he got the job. after he lost new york, after the stuttering pennsylvania campaign where he was beaten at brandywine creek he was beaten at po he was beaten at germantown, there was more than whispers to usurp this man. they said let's replace this man, horatio gates said washington had this inner steely quality. and not only his officers, but his ncos and his enlisted men, they recognized it. they would not, as shoddily as they were shorn, i'll tell you, just one silly example, when foreign officers would come
8:41 pm
over to volunteer to fight for the american or observed, they were shocked. shocked to see the american centuries at valley forge in these tattered blankets, naked underneath, not ripped uniforms, naked underneath with no shoes standing on their hats to keep their feet as warm as possible in the snow. washington is the reason that these men remained at valley forge. and i think he emanated that kind of steely will. when he walked into a room, first of all, john adams who was a washington antagonist. he was one of those people that wanted to replace washington, but he did say washington got the job because he was always the tallest man in the room. and washington just, as i say, emanated this resolve that altered down, this perseverance that filtered down. he was wounded, he was wounded by these attempts to usurp his
8:42 pm
position but he never let it show. >> on the other hand, the private washington, you are right extensively in the book and this is something i didn't realize about his character. you write about his insecurity. what was the root of that? >> i think one thing about the insecurity was that, washington have gotten his experience as a leader of men in battle in the french indian war. he never rose above the rank of colonel. he hoped to be brought into an made an officer in the british army they would have them. but between that were in the revolutionary war he was back on his farm. even as the british derisively referred to him as a virginia slander. he was a farmer. there was no really, i would say very formal training. there was that insecurity and i think you also have to look at
8:43 pm
washington, especially during valley forge was at such a difficult position, because he was very much alone. i mean, he was alone emotionally and a lot of planet help when martha showed up. it help when he had these young men around him who worship their. and whatever it was, the united states government at the time it collapsed. it was gone. and what was left of it after wanted him out, wanted to fire him and replace them with somebody else. so i think to me, if i was in that position, not to compare myself to george washington -- >> more than alexander hamilton. >> i would say i'm not a baron von steuben type , >> but i think with washington, there was so much on his shoulders and i think when
8:44 pm
you're given that much responsibility that if he didn't fulfill his responsibilities day after day after day and keep up his own morale and the morale of the troops around him, the entire war of independence would collapse. and imagine what it's like every day and know that is what your daily schedule is. i am at the center of this hurricane and if i don't hold everything falls apart. >> was he taking a chance with a december 17, 1777 letter or did he hold the cards at that point? you talk about how washington was both of politics and about politics and that seemed to me a very canny letter that he sent to the continental congress in exile. >> the letter in question is a resolved letter. and washington through his
8:45 pm
cards on the table and said to congress if you don't get us food, if you don't get his arms, if you don't get us clothes, shoes, medicine, this army is about to dissolve or disperse. by this time, washington had to become, he didn't start out this way but he was a politician by this time. but there was no doubt that the continental army was in dire straits. washington also recognized that he was throwing the gauntlet to the continental army. okay? i hear the whispers, i see the anonymous agrees against me. i know you want to replace me with saratoga. well, i tell you what, go ahead and try it. and if you do try it, he didn't come out and say this, but the underlying, the undertone was if you do try this, this army will dissolve and disperse. and, one thing you have to remember is that the politicians in york some 80 miles inland, and army dissolving and dispersing, this
8:46 pm
was, 8-12,000 men, they say history, we never have an exact amount of soldiers who were in valley forge. but all they could envision was well, we are going to have surgeries -- soldiers scavenging the countryside taking our own farm and cattle. so yes, washington was being a bit of a cynic but on the other hand he was being perfectly truthful. because if they didn't get food, if they didn't get shoes and they didn't get medicine, the army would have fallen apart. >> got some questions out here again and please remember i'm going to the school donna head -- bill donahue thing. >> i think you mentioned that you started this about three years ago. considering your work and moving toward our presidential election, did you ever consider
8:47 pm
the timing of the story and the story of a hero and the heroes that followed washington? and the outcome of where we are today? >> bob might have a different answer but i think it was just that we had become fascinated with the subject and were going to do it no matter what. but as we were working on it and events, contemporary events unfolded, we didn't, as far as i'm concerned there was nothing overtly political in the book. there is no attempt to make any comparisons between 1778 and 2018. but i do think that people who read the book will bring some of their own perspectives to it. i think it's inevitable that good or bad, comparisons are going to be made between george washington at a leader and the leadership today in our
8:48 pm
country. we have no control over that, we did not build that into the book we just wanted to tell the book as honestly and thoroughly as possible. what people bring into the book or bring out of that story is completely up to them. >> i will add one thing to that, just an anecdote. i am trying to pull the day, it was sometime in the 1790s during washington's presidency. he had said goodbye to his troops and von steuben had a farewell dinner at frost tavern in lower manhattan. and years later when he was president, he showed up, he was passing through new york and he wanted a glass of madeira wine. and he ordered his madeira and the owner of frost tavern, will everybody remembered and they knew who he was, placed a plate of shad in front of him and
8:49 pm
washington looked down and said what is this? and he said it's a dinner of shad, your diners, they still called him your highness. it's a dinner of shad your highness, it's on the house. and washington looked up at this man and said take that back, how dare you impugn the presidency of the united states by offering me a free plate of shad. [ laughter ] can you imagine any politician, and whether it's nancy pelosi or donald trump, a democrat, republican can you remember any politician today saying that? i can't. >> what did the troops do to eat to survive, how did they get the food to them? >> who is either dire u not the connecticut surgeon.
8:50 pm
joseph plumb martin i remember on christmas day, we had lamb and a side of potatoes and carrots with onions and
8:51 pm
8:52 pm
bacteria and germs. somebody would die in one of these hospitals and they would dump the next guy on the same straw in the same vermin. infested straw. finally the soldiers, of course not knowing the science of it, they would just not tell anyone they were sick and they would die in their heart. >> about 20 miles away even that was a different set of challenges the british were having a challenging winter. what were the british undergoing in philadelphia while the continental army was at valley forge? >> general how , there were two brothers richard and william howell. with the two commanders in the british forces in north america. they were mostly enjoying the
8:53 pm
pleasures of philadelphia in the winter. they would send out some foraging parties. there is one event we talk about in the book. one of them was personally leading a british per grade brigade to collect supplies. they can't do this, they are coming right in our faces. let's get a force together and attack them. we teach them a lesson. he cannot get a man enough men fit for duty. they were starving and too weak to get up off of their cots. the british went about their business and took some of the food around the area and came back. they were having parties and putting on plays. captain andre was romancing benedict arnold's future wife. one of the how brothers had a mistress.
8:54 pm
they were having a good time. the reason why they could do that, there was no sick insecurity on the part of the british. there would be no american army left, or b what was left could be wiped off the map. go ahead and enjoy it. have a good time. >> former cop. >> did you detect anything in washington's early days that would indicate he would become this fabulous leader? >> yes. when he was fighting with in a long alongside the british and the french and indian war, he as tom said chased as the fact he was looked down upon as a colonial colonel. lieutenants and sergeants were
8:55 pm
below his rank could order him around. he was nothing but a colonial. on several missions that he ran for the british during the french and indian war, the word got out that this guy washington knows what he is doing. he knows how to lead men. he knows now to a, secure a victory, and in one ugly case put together an ordinary retreat. i think his renowned, at one point, i won't get into it here because it is a long story, but a great story. we are winding up here. at one point he was renowned. he was 22 years old and his
8:56 pm
name was and all the london newspapers and all the paris newspapers for the accomplishments he had done during the french and indian war. that is one of the reasons the new england fire bands wanted to appoint one of their own. we have to bring in virginia. if we bring in virginia let's put this guy washington in charge. >> on the back cover of the book, the pulitzer prize- winning story, not only calls valley forge in the war for independence but a story as a savior as we navigate our own moments today. how do you expect that to resonate today? >> you skipped over joseph ellis there a little too quick. when tom and i were writing this book we had friendly arguments with historians. that was the key to the revolutionary war. other historians would tell us,
8:57 pm
it was when the french got into the war. others would say no of course not. it was yorktown that was the key. tom and i were huddling when this book came out. how are we going to answer these not so much criticisms but these pointed questions? when the pulitzer prize-winning for his washington biography joseph ellis, in his national book award winning for his book on thomas jefferson came out and said valley forge was the extra essential moment in the war for independence. i said yes, go argue with joe ellis. don't argue with us. >> let's take one more question. who will ask the final great question?
8:58 pm
it has to be a great question. >> considering that martha and george did not have children together, do you think there was something about george washington's benevolence and respect for these young men made him look at them as family, as sons, there was something about that. >> a couple of quick answers to that. when he and martha got married he adopted her children. by all accounts he was a very good father and caring father to her children. it's almost like throughout the book there are always clip notes in it about tidbits which we found out during research. it was during the valley forge encampment that the term father
8:59 pm
of his country was first used. it was in a german magazine that george washington was the father of his country. i think yes, i think washington had probably some paternal instincts already from helping to raise martha's children. then he found himself, which is a central part of the >>. with these relationships with the marquis of lafayette. with a john lawrence and with alexander hamilton. one of the reasons why he could stand the tremendous burden he was under, these men were unabashedly supporting of him and adoring of him. they believed in him. it had to make him feel like we have to stay the course. to borrow something from george h.w. bush. we have to persevere, they supported him enormously.
9:00 pm
there's a point in the part of the book that he had these feelings towards these young men. and might be too much to say they thought of him as their father. i don't think that's true. it's interesting alexander hamilton as john adams called him was a pastor son of a scott lewis scottish paddler. the marquis to lafayette, his father died when he was three and battle. two of the three surrogate sons were bottomless people. they probably saw george washington that way. i think that the emotional part of the book, a number emotional
9:01 pm
parts to this book. george washington had this very human and very open in a lot of ways relationship with these young men who in turn saw him not just as the father of this country but the father of the entire army and the father of the revolution. >> how washington, he is on this pedestal. >> george washington is often times not pretrade in films in a lot of ways. always like mohammed. you never see a representation of him. a big goal of ours, i think and hope we have realized is a very human george washington in this book. >> i don't think there's any question you guys accomplish that. we could talk for hours about this book. remember new york's two book minimum over there in the corner. please feel free to stay in the room and talk to the officers. bob and tom thank you so much for being here.
9:02 pm
please feel free to buy your books and have your drinks and authors will be happy to sign them for you. american history tv continues friday in prime time. we will feature programs from our american artifacts series which takes viewers to museums and historic sites around the country. one of our stops includes the americans exhibit. at the national museum of the american indian in washington d.c. where curators show us how indian names and images are used on products, military insignia and state and city fields. it will also learn the history of pocahontas and how she has been used as a symbol of america's founding.
9:03 pm
that is friday night on american history tv, starting at 8 pm eastern here on c-span three. next week join washington journal for authors week. featuring live one hour segments each morning with a new author. beginning at 8:30 am eastern and starting sunday with author krystal fleming with her book how to be less stupid about race. monday author oren can with his book the one in future worker. on tuesday author juan williams discusses his book what the do you have to lose? trump's war on civil rights. then on wednesday author alan dershowitz talks about his book the case against impeaching trump. thursday author alyssa court with squeezed. why aren't families can afford america. on friday author lona taran with her book sex matters. how modern feminism lost touch
9:04 pm
with science, love and common sense. saturday author -- author sarah kinsey, and on sunday, december 30 author chris mcgrail with american overdose. join us for authors week starting sunday on washington journal. during the american revolution, colonel james delancey was a loyalist military leader. of infantry and cavalry units who fought against patriot forces in the long island and new york city area. next, a look at his life and career from the society of the cincinnati. which recently acquired a rare oil painting of the colonel and his british uniform. this is 45 minutes. >> good afternoon and


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on