tv 1777 Battle of Brandywine CSPAN July 5, 2021 4:55pm-5:51pm EDT
surrounding the 1776 battle of trenton, including whether or not the german mercenary soldiers were really drunk during george washington's attack. in an hour and 50 minutes, lonny bunch, secretary of the smithsonian institution, and ken burns discuss the complex challenge of telling america's story. >> all right. it's my pleasure to introduce our last speaker, michael harris has worked for the national park service here in virginia, also in new jersey, and at brandywine battlefield. he's conducted numerous tours, which i've had the pleasure of taking a few of brandywine battlefield and germantown. his second campaign, germantown, was released in 2020. michael is a graduate of the
university of mary washington and the american military university. to close this out, welcome, michael, with general john sullivan, the battle of brandywine. now, here michael has put in the bio. i'm supposed to say, go, caps, because you're a washington phillies man. our wizards here are playing the 76ers, so we'll have an nba competition. but for those who are going to watch michael, i highly recommend both his germantown book, which we will put the link to, and brandywine, which he's speaking about this afternoon. so i appreciate you being here. and we'll let you get started. >> all right. when i agreed to do this symposium, my germantown book wasn't out. and then covid hit and everything got pushed back. otherwise i would be probably talking about germantown today. but you're going to get some brandywine stuff today. so that's why i'm doing
brandywine, and not the new book. but why did i write brandywine? yes, i did work there, but that's not the only reason. when i got hired at brandywine back in 2005, and i went down there and looked through their files, there was really no research files, and there was really only two books out on the battle of brandywine, in terms of a book that just covered brandywine. one was written for the bicentennial. it's not bad of a book, but i defy you to find a copy of it. it's hard to find and expensive if you do find it. the other was written around the year 2000, written by a local newspaper writer, and i'm going to be kind and call the book folklore, because it's basically chalkedmyths and
mispreparations of what happened there. the fact that brandywine had been so little written about. but there were more troops in the armies at long island, but most of those troops were not engaged. there's over 30,000 troops engaged at brandywine. it's also the longest single day battle of the war. first shots are 6:00 in the morning, last shots are 6:00, 6:30 at night and it took up over ten square miles. when you factor that in, and it leads to the capture of philadelphia after this battle, it's sort of shocking that more has not been written about the battle. now, i can't hope to cover the whole battle today in the 40 minutes that i have, but we're going to tell you as much of the story as i can through the eyes of john sullivan, one of the american division commanders. now, a lot of people at the time, politicians in congress, and a lot of books written about
the campaign, the battle, will like to blame john sullivan for the loss. but i'm going to hope to prove to you today through primary source analysis that it was not sullivan's fault that the americans lose that battle. so who is john sullivan? he's from new hampshire. he was in the militia before the law, he studied law before the war. becomes a brigadier general when the war starts, and right before the battle of long island, he's made a major general and given a division command. then he gets a sort of bad reputation, which is why people are quick to blame him, at least politicians are. he's one of two generals captured in the battle of long island. not his fault he gets captured there, but he gets captured. while he is a prisoner of war, william howe, the british commander in north america will use him as a pawn. he's sent by howe to tell the
americans that the british want to negotiate for peace. well, that's kind of crazy. first of all, he's an american general. he shouldn't get involved, whether on parole or whatever his current situation was. but it's also bad timing. this is august or september of '76. they had just signed the declaration of independence. it's only a couple of months after that. congress is not in any mood or form of mind to discuss peace. so the congress is going to start to look at this officer with sort of an ensconced eye. fast forward to the philadelphia campaign. for a big chunk of it, the first seven weeks of the campaign or near the beginning of the campaign, john sullivan's division is not with the rest of the army.
as most of the army is moving south, crossing the delaware river, moving into delaware to confront the british eventual landing in northeast maryland by ship, he had been left behind to keep an eye on the lower hudson river and northern new jersey. while he is separated, he decides to launch an attack against staten island. when william howe left new york on the philadelphia campaign, he left a pretty sizable force behind under the command of william clinton, who is in the picture at the bottom here. sullivan decides to attack a british outpost on staten island. yes, he has some initial success pushing them back, but he ultimately gets pushed back as clinton rushed reenforcements over to the island, and they drive him back. sullivan is going to lose about 200 guys in this operation. in the grand scheme of things, this is not that big a deal, but it's just another case of bad timing for sullivan, because at the same time that congress gets the news of his failure on
staten island, congress also found out about the fall of fort ticonderoga on the lower end of lake champlain. keep in mind at the same time the philadelphia campaign is rolling along, the saratoga campaign is happening at the same time. as part of that campaign, they capture ft. ticonderoga. congress wanted answers. they actually wanted a court of inquiry into his operation. but they need almost every senior officer in the army to stop what they're doing to hold this investigation. well, washington can't do that. they're in the middle of a major campaign. so at least for now, washington is going to be able to put that on hold. now, sullivan will eventually rejoin the main army in northern delaware behind the red clay creek defenses, and the british
are going to be coming at them from the southwest here. eventually with the rest of the army, sullivan will cross the pennsylvania state line where washington starts to form his defenses behind chadds ford along the brandywine river. this is september 9th, two days before the battle of brandywine. who does he command? he's got about 1,800 men broken down into two brigades. it's mostly maryland troops. the only delaware regiment with the army is with this division. there's sort of an odd unit out of canada which i'll go into in a second. again, mostly maryland troops, and there are some delaware and canadian troops. many were new to the army. keep in mind that one of the reasons mark was talking earlier today about the princeton campaign, why that's such a big deal, the army was disintegrating.
the army had one-year enlistments in 1776 and the enlistments were expiring, and they were bleeding troops the whole tail end of '76. so when they go into winter quarters in morristown in northern new jersey, there wasn't much of the army left. so they have to spend the entire winter spring, and i would argue right through the summer months of 1777 bringing in new recruits, forming new regiments, new brigades, new divisions. they're almost building the army all over again. yes, some of the senior ncos and officers do reenlist, but a lot of the rank and file had not even served in '76. so very little combat experience for many of these units going into the battle of brandywine. two commands the two brigades. one should have been commanded
by general william smallwood. he had been detached earlier in the campaign to help raise the maryland militia. he's not at brandywine. i think the senior colonel of the brigade, colonel john stone is likely commanding the brigade. i can't 100% prove that, but this is my best guess. if you're into these details, these are the regiments of the brigade. the other is commanded by a french officer, commander brood home de borre. two sort of odd units in this brigade, the german regiment was made up of german settlers from pennsylvania and maryland. the idea behind this regiment was to counteract the use of german troops by the british army. it's kind of stupid because this is one regiment and the british had dozens of german regiments helping them. that was the idea behind the recruitment effort. the other regiment is made up of
french canadians. during the failed canadian campaign earlier in the war, a lot of french canadians, french catholics that were anti british rule, british government, they were disgruntled after the end of the french and indian war were recruited to served the american cause. because they're not from one of the original 13 states, they're known as congress's own regiment. that's the origin of these canadian troops. a little more on de borre. he's going to play a big part of our story. there's no image of him, that's why i'm using this medal to represent him. a french officer with 35 years of experience in europe. like many other officers like lafayette, polasky, he volunteers to come and help the americans. the key here is, of the two brigade commanders, him and stone or who i think is stone,
he's the senior brigade commander which means, if anything happens to sullivan, if sullivan gets killed, if sullivan gets wounded, if sullivan is given a different command for some reason, that will leave de borre in command of this division. why does that matter? he barely speaks english. the letter he writes to washington after the battle which is basically his report of the battle -- more on that later -- is basically a mixture of broken english and french. keep in mind washington couldn't speak or read french. the fact he's writing to the commander-in-chief in a mixture of a language that washington can't speak says a lot about this guy and he probably can't communicate with the troops under his command. keep that in mind. so where is sullivan the morning of the battle? here is our brandywine battlefield, or at least a big chunk of it. you can see the brandywine river here snaking through the middle
of the battlefield. also notice there's an east branch and a west branch because the brandywine is actually formed from that two branches. that's important because of the way the british will get around the american flank. sullivan is the right flank of the army on the morning of the battle. the bulk of his division, all but two regiments, they're responsible for watching this crossing of the brandywine. this is about a mile north of chadds ford where almost the rest of the army is basically stacked up around chadds ford. he's also got, though, responsibility for the three forts farther to the north or the right of the american line. this is colonel david hall, the colonel of the delaware regiment, about 200, maybe 250 troops detached from sullivan watching jones' ford. they're a good mile, maybe mile
and a half above britain's ford. the next two 40s of the north are being watched by the french canadians. there's about 300 of these guys and they're split with 150 of them at wister's ford. sullivan also has a two-gun artillery battery with him at britain's fort. look at the position he's responsible for. he's the right flank of the army, spread out over, between five and six miles from where moses hazen's guys are at buffington's ford. it's a very large front he's watching. remember he only has 1,800 troops total and only a little over 500 are on the right flank. spread out over like five miles. he has two questionable brigade
commanders. he's exceptionally vulnerable to a flank attack. so what happens now the morning of the battle? most of the morning sullivan is not involved. for those of you that aren't familiar with the battle of brandywine, william howe splits his army into two columns, about 9,600 of them will make a 17-mile flank march to come around sullivan and washington's right rear. you'll see that develop as we move forward. while another roughly 6,800 under another officer will come straight up the main road here, basically as a diversion, to put on a big show and make washington think the whole army is coming up this road, when in reality this is meant to be a distraction to give time for the flanking column to make this march. sullivan is not involved with the morning fighting out west of
brandywine. he doesn't get involved until between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning when some artillery and forth regiment approach britain's ford and some skirmish and artillery fire develops with sullivan's troops. a series of conflicting intelligence reports will start rolling into sullivan's headquarters throughout the morning hours and midday hours that sullivan is going to have to start to interpret. before i read you the quote, let me explain my choice of the image of washington. people love to portray this man at an age he never achieved. washington is only 45 at the time of valley forge, which is not long after this. he still had red hair. he never wore a wig a day in his life. when he's older and has white hair as president, that's his hair pulled back. people love to portray this man as an 80-year-old leading men into battle drive me insane. this is a more accurate representation of him.
this is the wax figure of him at mt. vernon in their exhibit. all right. so the first piece of intelligence, major jameson came to me at 9:00 and said he had come from the right of the army and there is no enemy there. he gets a report that's written this report, it comes in about 9:30. so about a half hour after it's written. remember all the dispatches have to be delivered by horseback, so nothing is fast. he says he doesn't find anybody. yeah. at 9:00 in the morning, the british aren't up there yet. more on that in a second. in is charles pick knee who is hanging around with washington's stand. he has no official purpose with the army because his regiment is not here. he confirms what sullivan says, when they returned they brought information that there was no appearance of the enemy in that
quarter. so what these guys are saying is they sent dragoons up here between the two branches o of the brandywine and didn't find anybody. yeah. they didn't get that far yet. the british left kennett square about 5:00 in the morning. they're not going to get to the first crossing -- they have to cross both branches, until around 11:00 in the morning. they're nowhere near where this calvary patrol is yet. that's why they're not seeing them. a half hour goes by and sullivan gets a report from moses hazen just as a reminder, hazen commands the regiment watching the two upper-most fords, at least the uppermost fords that americans are keeping an eye on. hazen reports that the british were making a flank movement. who is in the best position to know that? hazen, i know for sure, has sent
patrols out onto the other side of the river and they're watching these roads and they see the british column moving north. hazen is also a former british army officer. i can't remember off the top of my head which regiment, but he served in the french and indian wars as a british army officer. this is not an unintelligent man that doesn't know what he's talking about. sullivan reports this information. sullivan is starting to worry based upon hazen's report. i had no orders or even hints to look at other places but those mentioned, nor had i light troops or light horsemen furnished for the purpose. i had but four light horseman, two of which i kept at the upper fords to bring me intelligence. process this for a minute. this is something from his report after the battle. he's saying that during the battle, other than like himself
and his senior staff and senior officers, nobody is on horseback in his entire division except four dragoonsmen assigned them, two of which he put at the upper fords and two with him, four guys to watch a six-mile front. i can tell you because i've done a lot of research on this, there's about 600 calvarymen, where are they? the logical place is out in front of the army screening for the approach of the enemy. that ain't where they are. they're all stacked up back here in the rear areas of the army a good mile from chadds ford, nowhere near the franks. -- near the flanks. if you're familiar with the battlefield or if you ever visited the park, this is roughly where the entrance to the modern battlefield park is. if you're familiar with it, there's a creek that runs through like a swale there where
the entrance of the park is. my guess is they're camped along that creek. sullivan goes on the right. it was ever my opinion that the enemy would come around on our right flank. this opinion i often gave the general. i wrote him that morning that it was clearly my opinion. but nobody listens to him. washington decides to not listen to hazen. as i mentioned earlier, he was a veteran officer that should have been listened to. instead, washington is going to send theodore bland to confirm the report from hazen. who is theodore bland? first of all, he's a doctor by profession serving in the dragoons. i don't know how much training he had at this point, but he's also from virginia, not a local pennsylvanian that knows this terrain or these roads. washington could not have picked a worse person to send on this mission. this guy doesn't know where he's going.
what's more confounding about this, there are several officers including a brigadier general and at least one lieutenant colonel and captains and lieutenants that live either on this battlefield or within a couple miles of this battlefield that would have been much more logical choices to send out on a scouting mission to confirm the report. that's not what washington does. so about noon a report comes directly to washington. this one doesn't come through sullivan, that a body of troops under lieutenant colonel james ross has skirmished with the flanking column out here west of the brandywine. washington decides he can trust james ross. james ross is a pennsylvania officer likely serving with maxwell's brigade and was out here on a routine patrol and ran into the flanking column. his father is also a signer of the declaration of independence, so washington feels he can trust this report. he says, well, i guess that report from hazen was right.
he still hasn't heard anything from bland, by the way. i base on this report, confirming what hazen has told him, washington decides to attack across the brandywine against the force on the other side of the brandywine. i don't know honestly know if this is a wise decision, but this is the orders he gets. so elements of both john sullivan's division and nathanael greene's division are going to start to cross the brandywine and engage elements of the british army. it's just starting to escalate. skirmish fire, increased artillery fire, but it's never really going to blow up into a major fight. sullivan says i was ordered to cross the brandywine with my division and attack the enemy's left while the army down here crossed below me to attack their right.
timothy pickering, the army's adjutant general will confirm this. it was satisfactory concluded that only a part of the enemy's army was on the other side of chadds ford. again, elements of the army do cross the river and start to engage, and just as that is starting to heat up and potentially escalate into a major engagement, another report comes in to sullivan. this time from a major joseph spears of the militia who came from a tavern called martins in the forks of the brandywine. he came from thence the welch's tavern and heard nothing. spears claims he left particular tin's tavern. he claims he left here, road to welch's tavern which is where the entrance to the garden is at a dupont estate and back to
sullivan's headquarters, but he didn't find anybody. stop and think about that for a second. look at the route this guy took. he says he just missed 9,600 guys with artillery, calvary, wagons, kicking up dust on a late summer, hot, humid day. there are reports later of dust clouds being picked up. he just missed all of that. i have trouble believing this report, but this is what was reported to sullivan. sullivan doesn't believe him either, but sullivan feels like he has to tell washington what this guy said. and this is his justification for telling washington. had the general crossed over the brandywine and found the whole british army well posted in his front and his army put to the
route having a river unfordable in rear and he had afterwards found out i received and withheld that intelligence, which might have prevented this misfortune and demanded my reasons, i believe i never should have been able to give one which would have been satisfactory to him, the congress or the world. this is cya. sullivan doesn't buy what spears is telling him, but he feels like he has to tell washington what this guy says. he does. he sends the information to washington but it doesn't change sullivan's opinion. this intelligence does not alter my opinion, which any good officer in a situation would have done. of course, that's what howe is doing. this is not the first time howe does this to washington. this is at least the fifth, maybe sixth time that howe used a flanking maneuver to beat washington to a better position or to achieve victory in a battle. this is not a new maneuver. washington should have been looking for it and he wasn't. so he panics.
he gets this information from spears, washington overreacts and panics. he calls off the assault across the brandywine. again, it never really escalated into a full-scale fight. just as those guys are pulling back, our friend theodore bland, our virginian who was sent up north, finally sends a report at 1:15. i have discovered a party of the enemy on the heights just on the ray of the two widow davises who live close together on a road called the fork road about a half mile to the right of the meeting house. so i believe bland is somewhere on a straight road looking west. here is the meeting house that he says he's to the right of. the two widow davises own the farms on the other side of these intersections and the british at this point were just starting to come to the end of their flank march and come to a rest, to take a break literally.
they literally were taking tea, some of the officers here, on osborne's hill, well behind the right flank of washington's army. you can see they're behind hazen's regiment at this point. about 2:00 sullivan reports this information. colonel bland has add this moment sent word that the enemy are at the rear of my right about two miles coming down. there are about two brigades of them. there's actually a lot more than that. he also said he saw dust back in the country for about an hour. there's a reference to the dust being kicked up by the marching column. the intelligence i received coming that way i instantly communicated to washington. again, i don't see what sullivan has done wrong up to this point that everyone is going to blame him for. he's sent forward every bit of information that has come to him, whether he agreed with it or disagreed with it.
it's washington's job to interpret what's accurate. so washington panics. he rushes three divisions to the north, adam stephen's division, lord sterling's division. they're going to take a round-about route to come up on the hill there. john sullivan's own division is going to cut cross-country to try to link up with the other two divisions. they are facing william howe, an overall commander of the british army. this division specifically is commanded by charles cornwallis. several things are going to happen pretty rapidly. moses hazen's guys have to sneak back to link back up with sullivan's main division, but most important -- and i kind of alluded to this being a problem earlier -- when sullivan was ordered north by washington, he was told to take overall command of this new wing, meaning all three of these divisions which
means sullivan was going to have to leave command of his own division in command of our french friend brood home de borre whom we talked about earlier. we're setting ourselves up for disaster here in case you're not picking up on it. so initially when sullivan comes up here, he doesn't go to the other two divisions yet. he does initially ride with de borre and the other division all the way up the street road. if you notice on the map, they are well forward and to the left of the other two divisions. he will later write, i then found it necessary to turn to the right to form and get nearer to the other two divisions which i had at that moment discovered drawn up on an eminence both to the rear and to the right of the place i was then at. he's literally looking over his right rear shoulder and sees these two divisions up on the
hill and says, ooh, that's where we need to be. he's going to turn to de borre and order him to move his division in line with the other two, then he's going to leave to go consult with stirling and stephens. and he rides off. when he gets up here he realizes the two divisions need to shift a little bit to the right so they're not outflanked by this british war. that takes place without any problem at all. the problem is his own division. you can see he had this very complicated maneuver they're going to attempt to execute. let me check on my timing so i'm not going too crazy over. the intelligent thing to do -- remember, this is pre-valley forge for a lot of troops that have not been in combat yet.
what the intelligent thing would have been to do is just do an aboutface, march straight south and do another about face to get in line. de borre doesn't do that. he puts them back in a marching column like they're going to march down the road. they then marched over the top of birmingham hill. they're going to swing east and try to wheel back up onto birmingham hill. they're basically doing a giant u-turn. super complicated for veteran troops. overly complicated for these guys. they're literally in the middle of that maneuver when the british assault starts. under brigadier edward matthew, they'll slam into sullivan's division before they can get into position to fight.
they're literally wheeling up on the hill when this takes place. a couple quotes on this. this is sir george osborne, the grenadier officer of the brigade of guards, we attacked the left flank of the rebel army and raining upon the brigades of sullivan where it would have been scarcery possible for them to resist. we saved much loss we might otherwise have sustained and certainly made the enemy first give way. this is colonel john stone that i think is commanding one of the brigades. he said i wheeled off but had not reached the ground before we were attacked on all quarters, and by wheeling to the left it doubled our division on the brig grade immediately in the rear of the other. thus, we were in confusion. if you can imagine two brigades trying to wheel up on this hill and the front brigade gets smashed by the guards, they'll
retreat through the other brigade, utterly disrupting their formation, pushing two brigades off the battlefield before they even really got into the fight. this is what it looked like. this is a watercolor painted inside the back cover of lord cantelupe's diary which is over in england. the original of this is only about the size of a postcard. it's very small. i can't take the credit for this. tom mcguire found this while he was doing research. it's an amazing image. what are we looking at here? we are looking south. you have birmingham hill at the top. this is what sullivan's division is trying to get into position on. you have street road running along the bottom of the painting here. you've got the british brigade of guards, or at least one battalion of them. if you notice there's little tiny red brush strokes. that's the troops lined up along the fence. and then these little black clouds, it's them firing up the hill. the other really cool thing, i know it's hard to see, but here and here you have horses pulling artillery and you've got little tiny blue brush strokes because royal artillery men wore blue coats, not red.
this is the artillery attached to the brigade of guards moving down the road. above them, you see elements of sullivan's troops trying to move up onto the hill. now, what's super cool about this image is that this house and this house still stand, and this is a modern view of it, kind of up in a modern housing development here looking back towards birmingham hill. here you have this tree line on birmingham hill and street road in our foreground. this is roughly the view that lord cantelupe had when he painted this. the british stayed on the battlefield for five days after the battle. my guess is some time during that five-day period, cantelupe sat on this slope and painted that image into the back of his diary. very cool image. very cool image. so what happens? sullivan rushes into this mayhem
and tries to rally his division. but no sooner did i form one party, that which i had before formed would run off and even at times when i, though on horseback and in front of them -- so he's unable to rally the division and he rides back to stirling's divisions to try to hold the line with those two divisions. here is the reason why. this hill commanded both the right and left of our line. if carried by the enemy, i knew would bring on route and make retreat difficult. i, therefore, determined to hold it as long as possible. he has an impossible task here. this is what he's up against. they are way outnumbered. the british forces -- they're going to hold it for a little while, but ultimately they don't have the ability to hold it. with sullivan's own division broken and gone, they're going to be able to turn the flanks of
each successive brigade. the brigaded guards, they'll keep pushing south. they end up on the flank of anthony wayne's division down at chadds ford. conway's pennsylvania brigade of stirling's division, this is also where lafayette gets wounded, they're going to peel them back. with those two brigades gone, it exposes them to virginia brigades , almost like dominos down the line. ultimately all these american retreat south and east through the village and these farm fields to where the battle is going to end. we're going to get to that in the second. when we found the right and left we were obliged to abandon the hill we had so long contended for, but not until we have covered the ground with the dead bodies of the enemy. this is where one of the myths
of the battle comes from, that there's 2,000 -- i've seen estimates of 2,200 british troops that were casualties of brandywine. no, there weren't. in the smoke and confusion of battle guys purposely laying on the ground maybe look like casualties and maybe looks like we covered the ground with the dead bodies of the enemy, and certainly some were killed and wounded in this battle, but not the 2,000 or more that they claim were killed orr wounded at this battle. this is where that myth about this battle comes from. okay. so all these americans are retreating south. they are basically mostly running for their lives, eventually to chester that night. the first division is rushing up to this area from chadds ford under nathanael green. they'll hold the roads open for
the rest of the army to retreat. sullivan gets credit for coming up with this idea. i don't know if i totally buy into it. i'll lay it out for you. you can make your own decision. charles cotesworth pinckney, that south carolina officer i mentioned earlier, this is what he claims, that sullivan proposed to the general, meaning washington, to halt green's division there and to display it and take the enemy and flank as they came down. this general washington acceded to and i was directed to carry the orders. the idea they come up with is to create this formation.
if you've ever been there and not left the state park, you've not been to this area. the state park is 50 acres off route 1. most of this fighting is off the park grounds. there's a ridge line that runs kind of right through here on the battlefield. it's private property today. greene is going to form in a hollow on the southeast slope of that ridge line. the guys sullivan was going to rally will form on either side of greene's fresh division. basically you've got henry knox who showed up. he's doing a fighting retreat.
sullivan is doing a fighting retreat. and eventually what's going to happen is they stop at a fence line and shoot. they call back to the next fence line and they shoot. then they basically form this formation. i'm not really doing this from the point of view of the british. they're going to crest this ridge and be shocked to find all these troops standing down here. it's also getting dark. there's no daylight savings back then. it's very hazy, confusing. the sun is setting behind the british. this is three days after the battle. the same day, general de borre, he resigns. that letter i mentioned earlier that's half french and half english is actually his letter of resignation to washington. sullivan starts to gather testimony in his defense. washington doesn't have time for this. this is what he writes to congress. our situation at this time is critical and delicate. to derange the army by withdrawing so many general officers from it may and must be attended with many disagreeable
if not ruinous consequences. washington ain't got time for this. to hold a court of inquiry against an officer, he needs to pull several senior officers to sit on that board to try him. there's a lot going on. two days after this is the battle of the clouds, a week after that philadelphia gets captured. a week after that, the battle of germantown. there's a lot going on. there is no time for this. that's what washington said. they will get to this, but not until after the battle of germantown. that does not stop -- lost my train of thought -- sullivan from gathering testimony. i have a whole appendix on this in my book, but i'm going to give you a couple examples of things he gathered. this is thomas conway, one of the brigade commanders in sterling's division. if part of the division was not
formed completely before the engagement, the fault cannot be impugned to general sullivan. the short time left to his troops in order to form was hardly sufficient for well-disciplined troops and well exercised and by no means sufficient for the troops of this army. this is william wilcox. he was a staff officer to lord stirling. he wrote, the enemy by good luck or perhaps policy made their attack before the intended disposition of your division, could be carried into execution. it was therefore rather to be considered as unfortunate and ill-judged and not to be laid at the door of any particular officer. washington said, i spread the information principally to major spear, the militia officer we talked about, transmitted to me by you. yet i never blamed you for conveying the intelligence. on the contrary, i should have thought you culpable in concealing. the major's rank, reputation and knowledge, his intelligence was
no doubt a most unfortunate circumstance, but it was not your fault that the intelligence was eventually found to be erroneous. so washington doesn't blame him what ultimately happens? there will be a series of court marshals of army officers in the aftermath of germantown. of those four officers, sullivan, william maxwell for drunkenness at the battle of clouds and brandywine and adam steven for drunkenness at germantown. of the four, three are exonerated including sullivan and only adam steven is found guilty and cashiered for another army. that's for another day. you should read my germantown book for that one. sullivan is exonerated. the details are hazy. did washington get involved? was his gathered testimony too overwhelming, or did thomas
burke, a north carolina congressman, he was sort of the ringleader of the investigation by congress, basically decide to start to ignore the accusations. he was exonerated. so what happens? later he'll lead a division very well at germantown. they don't lose germantown because of sullivan. he has other commands later in the war, most famous is in the native american country up in pennsylvania and new york. he will help ratify the constitution of new hampshire. when washington becomes he becomes appointed to the federal bench and he dies in 1795. i know the saddest people are giving out discounts today. if you put in the promo code virtual, i'm told, you will get 20% off. but if you -- you'll get a book plate with that.
if you an actual hard back signed copy, you can email me and we'll make those arrangements. the book plates don't come from me. so that's where i'm at. questions. >> all right. if anyone has questions, please put them in a chat. as of right now, we have none, michael. we hear -- we're talking about some of the other brandywine stories. i was going to let people ask any sullivan stories. one question that mark malloy wanted me to ask you had nothing to do with sullivan, but about brandywine. so i'm going to throw it at you here. the story about ferguson and george washington, if you could tell that story briefly, and is it true or is it a myth? >> first of all, let me tell the story first and then we can talk about whether it's true or not. first of all, if you're not familiar with patrick ferguson and the ferguson rifles, prior to the start of the 1777 campaign, ferguson got approval to -- not him, but have 100
rifles manufactured. he didn't invent this ferguson rifle. it was an improvement on an earlier design that he tweaked. there's a plug that goes through the breach of the weapon that's attached to the turner guard. it unwinds, allows you to load the weapon from the rear. it's rifled so it's more accurate. you can load it lying down or kneeling. that's the basics of the rifle. he had between 90 and 95 guys armed with these at brandywine. it was british regulars. they weren't loyalists -- they were british regulars. what ferguson claims, he gets wounded late in the battle. his elbow gets shattered in the battle. that's why his arm is in a sling at the battle of king's mountain when he gets killed later in the war.
he will claim in a letter he writes to his brother written after the battle while he's laying in the hospital, and he's describing this incidents that happens while he's along the brandywine river skirmishing with the americans on the other side. he claims he saw two officers riding up the -- riding towards him, one wearing a hasar dress and one a remarkably high cocked had and a dark coat. he even describes the horse. the story goes in a letter to his brother, an american surgeon helping the wounded heard the story. and the surgeon goes, oh, you're describing washington. what's my take on this? the hasar dress could have been -- for those that aren't
familiar, that's like a european calvary uniform. he doesn't have a command of brandywine. he's an unattached officer. so that part of it could be true. however, the horse that they described, and i've done a lot of digging on this, since the book came out actually, more so than i did before i wrote the book. the horse they described doesn't match the horse washington had at that time. the other issue is it's a very vague description, high cocked hat and a dark coat. that could be any army officer. talking with a quorum of other historians. we kind of think it might be nathanael greene and not washington. i don't doubt that he had somebody in his sights. i don't doubt that that's possible.
he also says he was in such a range that i could have put five or six shots in him in less time than it tells the story. he goes on to say i didn't pull the trigger because the man started to ride away from me and i wouldn't shoot him in the back. american militia would have done that. that's the story. i think there's truth they had somebody in his sights. was it definitely washington? that's open for debate and interpret station. that's where the myth can slide into that story. hopefully that answers the question, mark. >> yeah, it did. i know it wasn't sullivan related, but it's definitely brandywine related. this is american history tv on c-span3. each weekend we explore our nation's past.
the u.s. house voted this week 285-120 to remove confederate statues from the u.s. capitol and to replace in the old supreme court chamber a bust of former chief justice roger tommy, and a bust of former justice thurgood marshal. there are a few minutes of that debate from the house floor. >> i rise in support of this bill. it directs the joint committee on the library to replace the bust of chief justice roger tauny, and the old supreme court chamber, and a bust of justice thurgood marshal. it directs the busts of those who served the confederacy. the united states capitol is a beacon of freedom and equality, visited by millions each year, and before covid hit, and soon, we hope, to be visited by millions of people again. what and who we choose to honor
in this building must rem present our values. chief justice tauny who, in the dread scott decision, declared that african-americans could never be citizens of the united states, and had no constitutional rights, does not immediate this standard and neither do the confederates we continue to honor with statues today. justice tauny's decision continued and permitted the expansion of slavery. those who founded, served and fought for the confederacy were willing to spill american blood in defense of it. in his corner stone speech, confederate vice president alexander stevens said that slavery were the corner stone of the confederacy. there are no shortage of figures like justice thurgood marshal, the first african-american to serve on the supreme court. more deserving of the honor of
being displayed in our capitol. there are some who argue that this action is an attempt to erase and forget our history. nothing could be further from the truth. we must never forget our nation's shameful periods of slavery, segregation. this is instead about who we choose to honor, who we choose to literally put on a pedestal and display as emblematic of our values. >> madame speaker, republicans and democrats agree that racism in any shape or form is repugnant and must be denounced. i do intend to vote for this bill as i did last summer, when congress considered a similar measure. it is interesting, however, that our colleagues across the aisle have only recently deemed the cause of removing statues worthy of immediate action. when you look at the facts, it's even more puzzling. since 1870, statues have been
present in the united states capitol, and democrats retained a majority in the house 40 times since then. they've had ample opportunities to remove these statues that members of their own party are responsible for placing in the capitol in the first place. but have done nothing. again, the timing here is rather peculiar. >> for more history and the news, follow american history tv on social media. ♪♪
national park service historian mark malloy talks about several myths surrounding the 1776 battle of including whether or not the german mercenary soldiers were really drunk during george washington's attack. the office of historic alexandria, in partnership with emerging revolutionary war, hosted this talk and provided the video. our next speaker is mark maloy. he is an historian, currently, working for the national park service in virginia. he is the author of "victory or death: the battle of trenton and princeton december 25th, 1776. january 3rd, 1777." one of the inaugural volumes in the emerging rev war book series. he holds an undergraduate degree in history from the college of william and mary