tv John Ferling Winning Independence CSPAN July 3, 2021 8:01am-9:02am EDT
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critical look at mainstream media. when full schedule information online @booktv.org or consult your program guide. now here's john with a look at the tactical decisions that secure the continental army's victory in the revolutionary war. certificate evening everyone print welcome to our talk this evening with john for a link on their winning independence but i am team on from the avon library we are in webinar modes of you have any questions at any point throughout her discussion popped them a into the q&a box or the chat box will read them at the end i'll turn it over to my calling to introduce john. to back thank you tina. the united historical society is pleased to cosponsor this conversation with a dedicated historian to enlighten us with new information and may be new theories. especially that of the southernon strategy. we love that because as local historians, especially here in
connecticut, or many important figures of the american revolution came from as well as a few battle spots, and manye connecticut farmers defended the continental army we want to learn more. john ferling is a professor emeritus at university of west georgia enjoyed a long career teaching courses on the american revolution, america's founders in u.s. history. he's written to 13 books and many journal articles on the politics and tactics ofin the american revolution in early republic. as a a biographer of george washington and john adams. i can read the name of his books and awards prefer to say more about john, the man. although john's parents were from west virginia he grew up in galveston, texas. according to his biography his mother was college educated in the 1920s, taught school for 11 years until she was banned by west virginia law from marrying. his father also attended college on a baseball scholarship in the 1920s but the depression ended his academics. he took a job with union
carbide in texas, he had one sonn john covid 1940. john has a batch as in history from sam houston university and a masters in history from baylor university. although he is retired it has not stopped him from attending and speaking94 at seminars having podcast spend times writing which iss his biggest passion. there is one more thing john likes to share, his love of baseball. the first major league game he sows in 1947 between pittsburgh and the brooklyn dodgers when jackie robinson scored the winning run. john was hooked for life. those of us here in england like to hear that when your audience is looking forward to hearing more about your most recent book a winning independence for it to let's begin.
as historian's when the era of the american revolution what you love most about this chapter my history? >> first let me thank you guys for having me in the library and historical society for inviting me tonight. i've been looking forward to doing this. while i was drawn to the american revolution, that is where everything starts. where it starts for the united states. and our political system, our social ideals were formed during the course of the revolution. if you think about it, lincoln when he talks about fourscore and seven years ago was referring to 1776. and the ideals of the equality and god-given rights of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness for all people. when martin luther king talks
about having a dream was african american. or cut in on the ideals i was drawn to that and in addition because the revolution, studying the revolution that came as a surprise to most of the participants. dozens a years the question comes up, why did it occur and what was the revolution of that? columnist trying to gain independence in 1776 was it a
struggle to bring about a birthday of a new world. there is plenty to study with regard to the american revolution. you get a double dip. you've got a war most of the congressman notes urgently when they declared independence in july of 1776 they really wanted the independence they wanted to win the independence. that led to a long war that had dark and uncertain times then, like a roller coaster things brightened when france allies with the allies in 1778, many people felt this virtually included george washington for that matter, felt this virtually assured american independence. and then things went south after that.
the war become stalemated and that becomes a subject of my book, the four years after the great victory at saratoga. 1778 to yorktown in 1781 when i think the outcome of the war that could have gone in different directions. no one knew whether america would gain independence or if it did the united states were to include all 13 states. it is a long, dramatic struggle i never get tired of looking at both the revolution and the war itself.
part of the political revolution part of the war. that's what i would into it and that is why i stayed back for your new book tumor featuring tonight, this is what hooked me as i read comic challenges the the assumption that america won the war. instead, great britain lost a war it could have one, which i take directly from 545. can you elaborate on how you selected for this volume? it's a very different way to look at the independence. >> , 1775, six and seven to have won the war. general was the commander at
the time the run down to the war was coming on told london that winning the first engagement of the war is crucial. if we can have enough troops that we can score a dramatic victory over the colonists, then probably their fervor for war will disappear. and instead of that happening, lexington and concorde occurred. particularly the disaster and then had a chance to score a dramatic victory at bunker hill inhe boston. and really they could not score a bloodless victory. third in command at the time advised general gage, look just send forces around to the
backside will pan the american rebels up on top of the hill. we can score a bloodless victory. they did not do that and they marched up the hill and into a disaster. there were two instances in the campaign for new york and 76. think if the british and acted resolutely and they had half of washington's army trapped. when washington really foolishly kept his army on manhattan and did not get off that the british could have annihilated the entire continental army at that point. any of those victories would have won the war i think for the british. this another chance in 1777 the plan that london devised
was for led by canada north to rhonda view culture washington's army. and instead of doing that and how it went on after philadelphia. the chance to win the war that is not to say britain's defeat after that was guaranteed because, as i said earlier it is a long desperate war, lots of things go wrong for the americans after 1778 as it stalemated the economy collapsed american morale, was
sagging and george washington in august of 1780 wrote a letter to the chief executive of pennsylvania in which he said i have almost ceased to hope. at the same time washington was writing that letter, arthur lee had been an american diplomat since the beginning of the war overseas in europe we turn to america for the first time since before the war began. he landed in boston, boston of all places now. is there for a few days in talks with a number of boston officials of massachusetts officials. he wrote most of those by august of 1780 concluded that the warff would end in a negotiated settlement short of
independence. things are really up in the air. of course at yorktown, america doesn't win and gains is victory, gains independence. so america did come out of the war victorious, they celebrate about five more years of 250th anniversary of 1776. so, i also argued that america could not have won the war without french assistance. the french were providing clandestine assistance starting in 1775 provides munitions weaponry clothing, blankets anddi what ever then
it's open help for the americans they could provide even more help. they sent over a navy they eventually drowned up costing the french king his head in the 1790s because the economic woes, the fallout from all of those contributed to france's problem that brought on the french revolution after 1789. with french help which is extremely important to remember. strict thank you. could we step back such a something you mentioned earlier. something we probably don't know toot much about that's a general store henry clinton. you put is part of your thesis you thought he deserves corrected treatment from historians. what aspects of his career has
historians really misunderstood? why doesn't he receive for the capture of south carolina georgia and possibly north carolina a move that would change the outcome and redrawn the map of america? >> okay, let me go to my powerpoint here. that is washington is everyone knows, and here is another one of washington. but here is her henry clinton. he became unlearned of his appointments in may of 1778. he was the third british commander during the war. gage had been there for many years before the revolution, before the war. and was recalled aftersh the disasters along concorde road and at bunker hill.
and general william howe succeeded him. how was commander and 76 and 77 and resigned after saratoga. so clinton, who was then named the commander. he will be the commander of the british army from may 78 through and a little bit beyond yorktown. i found clinton and interesting figure. he's from an aristocratic family in england, his father was a career naval officer who became the royal governor of new york and young henry was still growing up spent some of his formative years in new york city he joined the british army as a teenager and fought into wars before the revolutionary war.
and he earned a reputation as a brave, courageous, risk-taking soldier who was seriously wounded. in fact in an engagement and germany in the seven years war in the early 1760s. he wasn't intellectually curious individual. he read widely, especially deeply on military history and military strategy. in the year before the revolutionary war broke out, so out of his own pocket he paid to makery a trip deep into eastern europe to observe a war between the wilson's and the turks hoping to learn more about military strategies and tactics. and then he came over as theen third in command and that
british army landing just three or four weeks after lexington and concorde just in time to see some action at bunker hill. he served with some distinction the commander of reputation in some circles as the best strategy after britain's high-ranking officers in america during that time at the time of his appointment, 48 years old two years older than washington but more than 30 years of experience. i think he did a good job as a commander. he had the admissible fortune of becoming commander at the same moment france entered the
war. and now that britain had define both the french and the americans they had to withdrawal some of their troops and send them to the caribbean to meet the new threat posed by the french. so when clinton read his orders he discovered that he had to immediately relinquish 8000 of his troops and he had already lost all of his troops that had surrendered at saratoga. he did have an army that was considerably smaller than the army the british had had in america the year before. but despite that his orders were to bring washington to battle, hold onto new york,
hold on to rhode island and implement this new southern strategy we will talk about it t a little bit later on. he really faced an enormous task and from the very beginning clinton knew he was up against it. my fate is hard as he put it in a letter he wrote almost immediately after being named commander he thought it was inevitable that brinson to be scapegoated after yorktown many people in england did scapegoat clinton. and they blamed clinton arguing he had been too passive, he was not a risk taker he was not dynamic enough, he just had not done
enough they argued to have one a war that britain could have one. i think most of those arguments were picked up by historians i tried to argue in the book many of this allegations just are not true. they are far more active than his foes suggested. he did take risks he was far more active than washington was during the four years between saratoga and yorktown for instance, thomas paine after the war of the 1790s wrote a blistering pamphlet attacking washington and i
don't agree with pain on this. pain argued that washington slept in the field as he put it in the real winners of the war were generals horatio gage and nathaniel grain. i think clinton was far more active. i think the most devastating thing, the most devastating attack or appraisal of clinton came about almost 75 years ago still read by scholars today and accepted principle biographeris in conjunction with a clinical psychiatrist. they argued clinton sought
power but he had deep subliminal psychological problems that prevented him from acting on the power that he had. i frankly think the argument isim malarkey. not that i am a particular foe of psychohistory but in this case could not put clinton on the couch and talk to him and addition clinton left behind virtually no private correspondencet that would have opened a window to his inner self. i think clinton's reputation suffered from that, as your kitty pizza >> this is joey joining us now. [laughter] that's all right i have closed the door semi- can't get in the room.
[laughter] anyway i think that study on clinton should be filed away in the circular file. he certainly made mistakes i recognize that in the book. i think he was a good general and a seemingly good strategist who did not have too awfully much to work with. i hope that my appraisal will convince some people to take another look at certainly clinton. >> i did not know anything about them before reading this. i did in the terms of scopes and depth of his ability. your going to stay with him for little bit. i just realized action with the chronology or next questions are out of order. i may take yours you take minor out of order. afterit britain's catastrophe in 1777, adopted a new strategy
called the sovereign strategy. what was it and what does brittany select again in this war of 1778 onward? subject sure. after saratoga the british, in fact many people in england after saratoga wanted to drop out of the war. it had gone on for three years they'd achieved virtually nothing. when news came at saratoga it triggered a lengthy debate. when onto the winter of 1778. it was a debate for one thing whether to remain in a war. the decision was made to remain in the war what kind of
strategy would they pursue? down to this point the strategy has been to try to destroy the washington continental army and win control of several northern provinces. they really had not succeeded on either score. at the end of the debate the notion of remaining in a war prevailed. largely because they insisted the war continued. let me go back to my powerpoint here. the person who really led the fight to remain in the war was lord george jermaine. he was secretary of state for the american colonies. and jermaine began in that position, jermaine was in
essence the minister of war and he also had responsibilities for britain's army in america jermaine understood a new strategy, it became a southern strategy. it was essentially who in essence write off these northern colonies. was : stone south georgia, south carolina and possibly north carolina as well. but the plausible strategy. may be generally correct in the score that a greater percentage on the southern
colonies had to remain loyal then was the case in the northern colonies, they were tied to england economically and through the anglican church and other factors. many of the loyalists went willingly for their king. many of the troops exit 8000 troops had to be relinquished by clinton, they could be replaced hopefully by loyalists. some of whom would come into the regular british army and then our work became as provincial regiments. others would go into a newly structured militia units. the idea was the british army
would drive the rebels out of an area and then the loyalist militia would come behind the army and take possession of that area and pacify the area. this is what the united states assuming it got its independence might have looked like the area in red is the area that would be the united states. and everything else on their in white would be possessed by the british. so if jermaine's plan southern strategy panned out and georgia, south kelowna, north carolina and virginia were retaken the british already had east and west of florida. they had gained that at a war that ended in 1763. they were still in control of
the abolition west. they were still in control of canada. so the united states would have small, weak, surrounded by the great european power. and it would face very uncertain future. in fact the many and england who thought if this played out in this fashion, not very long many and thee united states would seek to return to the british empire. they would just have very little capability of expanding and whatever. so that was the southern strategy. who's cobbled together in the winter of 1778 in london. and as i mentioned a little bit earlier when clinton receives his orders it
includes implement the southern strategy. which she gets around too pretty fast. he sent a 3000 men expedition to georgia in december of 1778. and na one day battled the british retook savannah. then in 1780, clinton comes and leads a huge x condition that retakes charleston in may of 1780. so then clinton appoints one more slide right here quickly. after charleston clinton appoints, he appoints general
clinton meanwhile comes back until after yorktown. the state where it's trying to accomplish. try to argue in the book and we can talk about a little later on this evening. clinton was far more confident than washington was. clinton later said that he began 1781 more confident that any of the other four years he was commander.
and i think maybe work clinton ultimately thought was if the allies the french and americans could be prevented in 171 that the war would end in a negotiated settlement. and clinton was not alone in that party think washington felt that, lafayette says that in his letters, john adams in europe is writing to congress and telling congress pretty much the same thing. adams is telling congress the french have been in this war for three years they have not gained anything out of e it. got to gain something in 1781 it's a face-saving measure to get out.
but would have happened at that peace conference is anybody's guess. maybe it would have recognizes eight independent united states that was smaller, something along the lines of that map that i showed or maybe it would not agree to the independence of the unitedd states. this would have been a conference primarily of european monarchs who were not very friendly toward republican governments. that is what the united states had at that point. >> i think you t just answer the next question. [laughter] sorry about that. >> come up with a couple different. tenet going to take one that you wrote. when comparing and contrasting clinton and washington, which you have during this whole half hour, it emerges parallel leadership effectiveness.
what is it about washington that beguiled the americans independent of size, which would you prefer to serve under and why? >> let me first on the comparison of clinton and washington only say a couple of things about that. and a set section that runs maybe a dozen pages right try to look at the two there worsened similarities between the two. neither man was gregarious, outgoing individual. in washington's case that may have been that washington had insecurities and he did not want people to get too close to him to discover what he feared for his week, which may simply have been washington as
a leader felt he could not let anybody get very close to him. he had to make difficult personnel decisions he did not say this but it kind of remindsea me of what john f. kennedy said at one point, great leaders have to be both loved and feared. and washington may have felt that way. in the case of clinton, clinton acknowledged she was very shy and not outgoing. he made one of the strangest comments ever made by any historical figure, i am a shy he said. [laughter] neither of them were really made friends more easily that were in a sense may never have had a close sense throughout his life. both clinton and washington
were brave, courageous men undere fire, i'm always amazed at the battle of princeton washington was riding on horseback, writing right into british soldiers who were firing at him. that picture is from a batter on a baseball diamond. it's pretty close not to flinch. as i said clinton before this and again during the revolution someone that was courageous under fire. both of them face lack of
money, lack of troops for whatever. the criticism during the war. i'm not sure how many people remember today but there's a great deal of criticism of washington after he made several mistakes in the new york campaign and 76 and after the campaign of 77 even more and more open criticism of washington. at one point the president of congress, around 1778 said went washington communicate with congress it was a net repeals of laughter. but congress cut off, congress could have ditched washington as some of his critics wanted. but congress unfortunately did not take that step and knew it would bring on just the
political chaos and were probably ruin the war effort. after that, congress cuts off the open criticism of washington and really launches a campaign to make washington an iconic figure from valley forge on the end of the war. to elevate him so he would be above criticisms and they began celebrating washington's birthday annually, and that sort ofhe thing. clinton ran into a lot of criticism two. i think in the case of both of these guys it's sort of like my experience when i was a student, all the students complain about theiri professors. moen i became a professor all of the professors were complaining about the administrators and whatever. the same sort of thing went on in the british army issues
over promotion and people got left out were unhappy about that. so both of them ran into a great deal of criticism. there were plenty of differences between them. you mentioned when you're talking about why washington was a leader, one of the differences is washington was a better leader than clinton washington just exuded it, leadership he was a big man. this is a time. when the study of muster rolls have demonstrated the average full grown american mail was 5 feet 7 inches tall. he was only 5 feet 8 inches of world war ii so it had not changed much in the period after the revolution. but washington was almost
6 feet 4 inches tall. he literally towered over other people. he weighed in 1780 hey wait 210 pounds so is 6 feet 4 inches, 210 pounds is about the same size as the quarterback of ohio state or clemson, or university of alabama or something today. he did have a reputation of athleticism, athleticism and those days was how you rode a horse. he seemed to be majestic on a horse he seemed to walk gracefully clinton on the other hand was about 5 feet seven he was pretty average in many ways. so there were differences in that respect. one other difference was other than their background which was quite different as i
mentioned clinton was from an aristocratic family but one other difference was that people today often forget they often see washington as being above politics. but washington was a very good politicianor. was almost surpassing his political skills clinton acknowledged openly, even though he'd actually held a seat in the house of commons one point he acknowledged he was not a version politician. he was like fish out of water. there worsened similarities there were some differences. i'd forgotten what the last part of the question prince >> who would you serve under? >> well, that is a tough
question. i guess it would depend on your rank and whatever. i think i would have served under either man. really i think clinton neither of these guys sent in their men into battle and hopeless situations and squandered troops. both of of them were trying to preserve life. i think of both had humanitarian qualities about them. but also, both had so many shortages, both faced so many shortages of troops they could not afford to lose troops.
i think they both were good commanders they probably would have been willing to serve under either one. although i have to say i don't know that i would have wanted to be a soldier in the revolutionary war on either side. it was really a tough, tough gogo. these guys, the officers higher ranking officers with thehe officers were on the move and they were on the move a lot. the higher ranking officers could travel on horseback. give it in the british army will me know all about the suffering ated valley ford and morrison town and whatever and
the american army. but even the british army in many cases the men were ill provision, ill-equipped and whatever. it was really a tough go for these guys. we're coming through a pandemic now faced disease not from disease it's a risky difficult they face. while he might've been willing to serve under both generals i'm glad i did not deserve the wear on either side. >> she has h a question or she's dying to ask it hasn't one of the other characters.
at the connecticut person has to do with being on both sides of the war. benedict arnold is he a true trader or just a guy who wanted to study? [laughter] 's convicted is kind of the million dollar question looked at that and cannot get entirely in arnold's mind to know what was going on in there. but let me try to answer it this way. he has some legitimate grievances for my promotion unfairly, unjustly. and then when he became the military commander that were
regarded as tory families who was the daughter is actually prosecuted for financial speculation. had some really legitimate grievances. although many other, and only arnold is one that commits treason which thomas paine writes a pamphlet about in the wake of this i don't know whether pain really believes this when he tries to smooth over the fallout from arnold's treason. and he pointed that out to people. having said that there is a second thing hereto. many people argue that arnold was just after the money. and he did get a great deal of money from the british for
turning code. but there is the arnold owned a considerable amount of property in new england. if america wound up winning the war's going to lose all that property. is going to be kind of a trade-off. he would lose valuable property but gain the money the british were going to pay and he could have done just as well financially had he remained on the american side. but one of the things that always intrigued meo about arnold as he negotiates with the british their intermediary and foris a long time clinton did not know who the intermarried were talking to.
those important american who might be willing to commit treason. it is not until august of 1780 that arnold makes the decision to turn code. and what happens in august of 1780? in august of 1780, cornwallis scored a huge victory over an i american army at camden and south carolina printed army commanded by horatio gates. it was the fourthe american army in 20 months that have been destroyed in the southern theater. i'm more than 8000 american troops had been killed, wounded, or captured in those four engagements. that is the same month washington writes that letter
saying i almost ceased to hope. it's thed same month arthur lee in boston is saying that many of the leaders in massachusetts and a negotiated settlement short of independence. i think you can argue when arnold finally makes his decision to turn code in august of 1780, he may very well have believed that the americans goose was cooked. from the british were going to win the war and tried to get on the winning side but having said all that is all speculative, nobody really knows what was going on in arnold's time. >> i do like it you put them in all the time of the decision-making. it's not an impetuous move for
him to suddenly switch sides. but really could have been anyone in a similar position and opportunity predicted appreciate that put him in a new context seems just a guy after a paycheck so thank you. >> i think we need to get some questions in the audience it's been perfect overview of the book in your history is just wonderful help flows from you. so thank you very much. >> before everyone types question once the lesson put together. i think it brings the historic to the modern era all will require sacrifice for the numbers of the american revolution, or talk and the casualties the people involved , there's lots in the book. they are staggering. what you want modern leaders
to understand, john, at the impact and the consequences of war? that's really just the experience of it. >> i think there were two or three, may be more than that in my mind when i wrote the book. one of the things is that i've already mentioned was i wanted people to understand just how long the struggle to win independence was. i think because 1777 in the british army surrenders there in textbooks always depict saratoga asar the turning point of the revolutionary war, there is been a tendency on the part of many people to think everything that followed saratoga was anticlimactic and the american victory was
guaranteed. so i wanted to -- leaders to come away from my book understanding that he long grim war had to be fought after saratoga the victory was not ahe guarantee, as i said clinton but britain could still win the war and 1781. he also wanted people to be aware just how grim about 15% of those who fought on the british side died pretty heavy attrition. as best as i've been able to determine, roughly the same percentage of people who fought on the american side
died in this work to try to put in some sort of meaningful terms. the united states lost about three to 50000 men and world war ii. if the united states had lost 15% of its soldiery, sailors and world war ii, more than 2 million americans were denied in that war. it is a war that is really a much bloodier war than many people are aware. also as i mentioned, i wanted people to understand the outcome of the war is determined after saratoga during that for your struggle. and during that four years after saratoga, more americans
died than died during the 30 months of war before saratoga, roughly about 65% of all americans who fought on america's side died after saratoga. there's another 4000 americans who died fighting for great britain during this war. in fact in 1780 there more americans fighting for great britain than are fighting in the continent army. : : were more americans fighting : g >> in the decisions that they made during this crisis, and revenue and what they did not know we made those decisions.
often times i think the people sort of read history backwards, they know how it came out but the actors, obviously do not know that when they made their decision and they didn't know whether it would be a good decision or event decision and i had just make a decision based on what they knew at that time. so i tried throughout the book when i looked at the decisions that washington and nathaniel green and thatt others made. why they made the decisions they did and what they knew when they made those decisions. >> thank you pretty close reason for the british to negotiating peace. what was in it for them. akhil: while there are many people who just wanted to get out of the war. and had gone on for a long time and they were winning the war
and there was a fear that they've going to lose all the trade with him a americans in te postwar commerce would her with america and that the british economy might be ruined the longer the war continued. there was some in england who are pushing for a negotiated. immediately after saratoga, and north is ahead of the work ministry, prime minister. saratoga, he proposes a negotiated settlement. it's referred to as the northeast plan of 1778. and he actually sends a commission of diplomats those known at the carlisle commission came over to american in 1778. they were authorized to
negotiate a settlement. but lord north was willing to accept, was essentially everything the first continental congress had asked for on the eve of war with one exception. and that was independent. north would not recognize independent but he was willing to limit continental congress remaining he was going to give them americans greater autonomy and on and on and on. the first continental congress had w asked for. so certainly right up to the power pentacle power in england there were people who were willing to accept a negotiated settled. >> pljohn, thank you your answes are thoughtful in the book is extensively researched.
[inaudible]. >> i really do it encourage her audience to begin up and read it because a completely different perspective and refreshing look at the american revolution. thank you for spinning your evening with us and through the pandemic, hopefully we will see you inn person. [inaudible]. >> i think you once again for having me. ♪ ♪♪ ♪ ♪♪ ♪ ♪♪ >> book tv continues now on