tv Lectures in History The Continental Army CSPAN October 31, 2021 12:11pm-1:19pm EDT
military operations in the northern colonies. >> welcome everyone to another exciting adventure in the history of war. we've gotten to the continental army and welcome to you in a new students watching from who knows where. so today we will focus on the continental army and were situation this in a broad history of war and the continental army is different from other armies that have preceded it and largely because it is one very much based on ideals and certain concepts and beliefs rather than the sort of traditional army. so, what is the continental army and where is it for small, anyone read america, okay.
it will become the first united states army, but before it is the u.s. army, it is the army of america yes. what element of america and certainly part of the american revolution, the united colonies. so when does the continental army began, not necessarily part of the revolution but were going to see the story. so a couple of classes ago we were talking about the french and indian war and the french and indian war was a world war that fundamentally altered several different nations primarily france, from the north american continent, britain and the british colonies. many americans fought alongside the british soldiers and officers in the war. what were some of the things
that transpired. okay so a lot of ways the british are looking down on the colonists for a number of reasons and that was or had to do with a lack of former military training and some of it had to do with how they dressed. wilson others a lot of resistance and a large over who holds a higher ranks of the colonial officer outbreak a british officer and as you recall the british officers are lower ranked freighted payout rate any colonial officer in this outraged washington. so back to the french indian war and started the american revolution so the wants to give the standard answer, what caused the american revolution. [inaudible]. give me the phrase and okay,
representation. and tyranny that is perfect so, from there, it's also more than that is about life and it is about being treated. the there full british subject and openly is the violence and this starts after the tea party. there's the bill and how the blacks are going to shut down local governments and is going to bring in the martial law over boston, measured two dishes. in the british actually start and to engage and seizing powder and weapons and needing to increase tension. in this will openly be able to seize the gunpowder and maybe even arrest and read revolutionary thinkers could be
adams or john hancock in one result, is this. the shots heard around the world maybe. how did that happen but anyway we know that one of the first shots and american revolution is fired when the british regulars meet up with colonial militia from massachusetts on lexington green and shot the fire. who fired that first shot, nobody knows exactly rated but what in the british say, the colonists. and the colonists say they fired. yes, the british. it's remiss that the war begins in this militia union so refreshing and militia union was basically anyone in 1660, they would meet up roughly once a month and they would drill and they would train traditionally
like the national guard. most american colonists do have some experience with a gun, with a musket more so than your average british soldier. partially they were fighting these americans but they're not formal military fighting and they are finding in lines. shots are fired, not only the do the colonists lose the british when here but this is a profound moment that is going to begin the war. thomas jefferson is going to refer to this very specifically, unprovoked murderers, open violation of honor and defied the sacred obligation of treaty which leads savage nation so what is jefferson getting at here. >> like it was just straight up
slaughter we did not really provoke them and that like human savages could come in. >> there is no ethics behind this and fundamentally immoral and that the british with a have done is something that is so barbaric to use that term. at this cannot be looked over and this is beyond and this is a justification for war. it and we talked about briefly for the justice for war principal and what makes a war just in almost every circumstance. yeah, so the americans are presenting themselves as an agreed party so they are finding the defense of which means what, they or that the war is just. largely based on everyone's serious in class, swiss
philosopher who the nation is very much going to cast the correctness or the honor of a war and who starts this. the british start the work, justifies american. meanwhile, we get another battle at cocker bridge named that because it's a bridge so the americans are successfully at the bridge even against skilled british someone you think this is. you may remember this from william wallace. [inaudible]. >> so you have a joke point meeting the numbers final and and this is where you get the traditional shot if you've heard around the world if you believe this and this is where americans under orders fire, wears election on both sides under the orders not to fire.
when we think of american colonial militia men fighting, we probably think and of the romanticized minute man so what is a minute man. [inaudible]. >> okay, they jump out of bed fully clothed and the grandmother musket and they run out, ready to fight. the average musket at the time takes a minute and a half to load so the idea is the notion is fighting the regular style and what we call today the style very much copying the native american style. why did they develop the style as opposed to the british which very much and an open land formation as it would in europe rated. >> they would have to deepen and to defend themselves against native people living in america when they got there so they had to use those tacky so they learn from those people. and also the british were
equipped to write in that style work there so they have been marching in rank. >> exactly so we sing the specifically that they came back to the french and indian war, that where a british army was defeated by the french and the native allies using the same tactics. >> the british and the higher number so they were justified to that. >> so they would have to accommodate and adapt. so the popular perception is there was a certain tack from the trees lines and you see the fall from hidden tradition on the exposed side of the british army. what is interesting though in this long march back, now think about this. the british armies marching back and they have been doing immediate march at night from boston, to the outskirts and then marching back and loading
their ammunition so they can be just ticked off most of the little explosion marks and every time you see that, it's actually moment where there was a pitched battle so despite the element of their hitting and writing and confronting and hiding behind trees. there are battles, basically they can force the british to retreat to boston and defend themselves. ultimately the british could attempt to take the fortified colonial positions at bunker hill. and that was actually fought on, british ale. hill. the british lose and they have heavy heavy casualties and these are colonial militia forces. they have been pretty good ratio and conquered the retreats to boston, sort of the victory.
the idea that the british when. and the heavy losses and the ammunition and is the event this fighting in massachusetts that ultimately is going to force a unified response. so is this americans wars the question. as the continental army can be formed by putting gas. and george washington as commander-in-chief, you could say that he is serving either by the country or bike character which is very different than we talked about in his early 20s where he actually resigned his commission and he said, and his country will be so it's a fundamental reversal of his role for the duty to the nation. and he said i take my orders
from congress, i don't function in a military dictator and meanwhile, he's opposition. in his name is charles lee, you may remember him from a 22nd reference and he is a general, lee. [laughter] so he actually had been all around europe and he wanted to assimilate rank and he thought he was the person that would be named commander-in-chief and there are others as well. and he does not think the americans could when fighting in a traditional big style honey think the americans should be using this guerrilla militia style in fact, they even retreat west and the british chase them. so think of washington as being fundamentally opposed to this in washington uses multiple styles and is very much trying to hide from the war on the traditional european-style.
there are a few reasons why and one of them is he's concerned with reputation and how this revolution went internationally and if they are fighting, the fighting in a civilized way and they will be respected. it and they are not, they may not gain alliances or support from this. and so there's this difference of opinion that these two will clash many times throughout the revolution. ultimately, washington proves successful but that is a story that comes anyway, washington is going to be in command and he is going to meet the now continental army in boston. late spring of 1775, right after the fine on bunker hill and at first the two sides not getting long particularly the militia men of massachusetts. if you think back and we think
about early colonial warfare, massachusetts warfare particular alex their officers and in virginia, the washington, they were appointed. so what the problem with elected officers versus appointed officers in any sort of fight. so popularity contest. and so people were often going to order their friends into combat rated. >> so when you're voting on it was going and i feel like many more people don't go in as much because it's like i will do this because of my friend pretty. >> and like the most views or whatever happened reduce the washington though, he is going to stack his army. and he is looking for a certain type of individualism officer
because nowadays you heard about this, nowadays, every incident general but in it the 18th century, that was a man of honor and a man of bravery and washington said that if you're a gentleman and a man of honor in civilian life, we translate that to military because america doesn't have a military academy. so who are your officers and soldiers. you'll have formalized training. some have thought of the war some have dealt with the very sort of limited overall though so here are the british, in boston and the british forever retreated. in any of these elevated positions, you have american colonial, or continental armies and they forced the british out
in certain areas in the british are going to evacuate often. and that was actually two days ago on march 17th so here is the big over arching campaign so could go from 1735 - 1783 technically - one and the british, what are your tactics here and how are you going to be the americans. it. >> numbers. >> yes hands down. >> they cut them off from the rest of the world. >> yes there you go, they are blocking the coast and then the british are making tactical decisions and they believe that since the war has begun in massachusetts, you cut off massachusetts, they can be stopped the war, cut off
massachusetts freighted. >> like create a border cut them off from the ocean. and blockaded them in. >> you take the new york and you go up the hudson and now this one of the worst kept military secrets in washington say the british know we will attack their so why attack their printed. >> is everything they can do or the only thing they can do rated. >> what they have a good shot, the harbor, they can use the navy and washington is wanting to defend but the continental congress thought they would lost because what is the basics of the government. [inaudible]. and there you go, they don't do it in their failing just as the british had. they were newly elected into congress. the declaration of independence is right right before the battle of the brooklyn battle of long island. in these of the reasons and
there are chief reasons that they are breaking away from britain. they had advocated by declaring out of the protection and waging war against us. ... ... particularly the british are going to hire mercenaries from a german 8, the popular belief is they are mercenaries, but they are rented out, fighting for the regular wages. just the prince is cashing in on this. so the battle of new york does
not go well. in fact, numerous retreats from long island to manhattan island, difficult moving across any body of water that washington was successful. the british easily overtake new york and the continental army is forced to retreat across the bluffs of the palisades. traditionally a major defeat like this would be crushing to a war, to a commander but it is how washington interprets this and uses this to change the way we look at the military and warfare and how did he do that? he studies. washington would complain about his defective education his whole life so how did most
american officers learn to become officers, those trained by the british, most learned. they read about. two of your most successful generals, henry knox and benedict donald, american hero up until a certain time both sold books. may be a little simplistic. henry knox becomes head of artillery. they are in many ways self-taught so they go to these military texts to learn how to be officers and soldiers. it is an ethical basis, honor consists of the constant practice of virtue and the duty of a soldier, honorable and honest properly performed. the idea that if you act well in a battle or campaign you are doing your duty.
james wolf, a british general who died in québec will say the character of your army, he doesn't want a drunken vicious irregular army. with virtue, current and obedience of the troops, will guard all assaults to execute their honor. why do you want a drunken, vicious army raping, pillaging, brutalizing. >> you can't organize them and they can't maintain order. >> it fundamentally breaks down the military and the revolution is about ideas so who do you want on your side? the gentlemen but who else, you are fighting for america. >> americans. >> you don't want to upset the balance between patriots and
neutrals. frederick the great, you've read about him, prussian, we focused on him before. numbers are an essential point, he will always take extreme care to conserve and recruit his troops, the idea that they are taking his concern with the well-being of the average soldier. what is shocking about that if you think about war and the common soldier prior to this, the british army or any european army, he was the lower-class, you join the military because you had no other choice. they reviewed as expendable was what is frederick the great doing it is different? >> talking about how the numbers of your army is important because each individual man can be the tipping point.
a single person could make you win or lose. >> depend on the conduct of your soldiers. for washington, what happens if the army is defeated and loses too many men the revolution, the war is over. this is what he had. there is an understanding that soldiers are something different. another british general, he publishes a book the continental army take seriously. provided he has done his duty and acted like a soldier. at some point and officer will lose and it shouldn't be an officer chasing the potential of victory so long as they put in a valid effort, let the odds make sense. they can be honorable, they are performing their duties, washington is going to relay
this to the marquis they lafayette when he says no rational person will continue for not fighting when the odds are against you, so much of depending on it but it is not intended with success. what is washington getting at? >> it is okay if you decide not -- of the other against you don't do it but if you have a small chance that the odds are with you and you just brush it. >> you have an obligation to preserve the army and the revolution will stay alive, so that is protecting the men, not the complete rank difference where you aristocracy. there is less difference between your gentleman officer in your soldier. so washington is going to -- going back to this, fabian
tactics, general fabius, in the classical era against carthage, fabian which we talked about long ago involves a war, a defensive war implies fighting when it makes sense for you, forcing the enemy to act so washington is only going to fight, otherwise retreat and he's going to retreat from new york through new jersey, the british chasing him, general charles cornwallis who might your member from films like the patriot, he plays ben franklin in the john adams miniseries. he refers to washington as the fox and treated but this is a hunt and he's literally hunting
washington, washington is running and hiding. he's using the fabian tactics because he wants to maintain the army and when the situation is in his favor such as hear where he's able to spring these very elaborate difficult silent night crossings of rivers, the delaware, attacking the hessians, giving americans this big moral booster time when favor of the war is waning and commissions are running out and from fighting this war in defense of ways rather than just being ultra aggressive, the idea of the older model of attack attack attack, washington will view the army very differently. he will say i hope every post is deemed honorable which gave them an opportunity to serve his country and by this means
soldiers, officers, anyone can serve, he also expands it to anyone in the military and that could be civilians providing food or clothing, women taking collections to feed the army, african-americans joining the army to serve in a variety of capacities and expanded definition of who is a gentleman, he said gentleman is a hierarchical term but as early as 1775 at the start of the war we have a new term, the gentleman soldier. it is being done in sermons, being used for the militias which are fundamentally different, still set of national guard units of local men in the 16 to 60 range, the gentleman soldier, of good conduct and noble character. in the service of their country.
they become these gentlemen by serving their nation, duty to the nation rather than to a king or a lord as we talked about. every soldier should be a gentleman. how do they advance? merit. if you recall back to the french and indian war, the army under washington based on merit and status. soldiers had regarded duty to become honorable. they don't have to be victorious. this is carried on to other officers like general anthony wayne, another officer in maryland, john howard, the honor is for soldiers, for officers and not just for the individual. are person acts reflect their officers, how you behave and the nation.
meanwhile we have african-american soldiers, both free and enslaved. does anyone know the first battle african-americans fought in in the american revolution, trivia question? there are african-americans at bunker hill. lexington. lexington, concorde, and bunker hill. massachusetts ranks were not segregated. and african americans who had fought, initially washington, the continental army and other counselor generals and he initially for bids and list meant of either not just enslaved but free african-americans. he's on going to move back, allow free african-americans and enslaved african americans and the question is why the change? two schools of thought, what is
the pragmatic, the british under lord dunmore, the royal governor of virginia will issue a proclamation providing freedom for any slave who fights against the colonists. washington is shocked, responding to the same officers, is this about men combating this? the other possibility is he has a change of heart. when he starts getting reports like these. talking about a veteran of the campaigns in and around boston, so brave man who behaved like an experienced officer as well as an excellent soldier, not just any soldier but experienced officer elevating african-american soldier. general john thomas saying they are equally serviceable with other men and looking at the
conduct, there's roughly 5000 african-americans or so are going to serve in some capacity with the continental army offering freedom for service. meanwhile things don't go so well for washington's army. battles in and around philadelphia washington is going to lose. the fred fiumano - the capital is occupied by the army. it will force washington to go on the defensive and retreat again. meanwhile further north the british have a plan that involves this man. gentleman johnny burgoyne. he gets name gentlemanly johnny because he loves champagne, fine clothes.
he is said to be a ladies man and a playwright. the mission is for burgoyne to marched out from canada and another british forced to march north from new york city and go along the hudson and cut off new england problems with this are it is a long march through treacherous terrain, mountains, forests and he has an exceptionally long baggage train. he's lugging a lot of stuff. that may sound ridiculous. why are you dragging champagne to the woods of upstate new york? it is not as ridiculous in the period because british officers particularly generals of high rank were expected to entertain their other officers and the officers wives. they would stop and requisition a house and have a party and if
you can't through these parties it calls into question your character. he is moving along with native allies and the native allies are terrified that this is not good tactically. we have to be aware of an. oh, nonsense and march further along and ultimately the american continental army led by horatio gates fought with washington in the french and indian war are going to cut off burgoyne's army. gates will say he single-handedly won the victory but there's another man who single-handedly does it and that is benedict arnold, american hero. despite defying orders horatio gates and arnold have had this
ongoing feud about command. arnold had been loyal to general philip schuyler. your member his daughters from the musical. he's really resistant to gates. arnold is ordered to leave the battlefield but he defies orders, single-handedly charges in and stops potential retreat, ultimately there is a victory in saratoga. arnold is shot in the leg and his horse falls on top of him and his men rush to him and carry him off the field as if he was a spartan soldier and he is asked, general, how are you? you are wounded in the leg, and he says i would rather than my heart. he's looking for a glorious
end, a romantic classical death. had he died right there, he is one of the greatest american heroes ever. now because of saratoga, a statue of his leg where he was shot. the rest of it is the problem. so there is a surrender, burgoyne surrenders his army and it is a major turning point as negotiations are going on with france and approves to the french the americans could potentially win, the french are willing to get into this war sometimes for no other reason than they don't like the british. of the reasons are they hope to gain back some of the land they lost in the french and indian war. the french come and form the treaty of 1778, an alliance between the americans and the french. the french send money, supplies, ultimately an army.
more importantly, what is france's most important contribution to the american revolution? >> louisiana. >> that is later. the navy. the american navy cannot stand up to the british navy. the french navy is comparable and this will cut off a lot of the british advantage. as news of saratoga spreads, washington is at the darkest period of the war, at valley forge, in snow, short of supplies, clothing. meanwhile horatio gates has won a victory and gates is the hero of the north and he starts potentially conspiring. washington is just lost. washington allowed the capital to fall. maybe washington isn't right for the army, some say.
this is going to be during this period of victory in the north and defeat in and around philadelphia will lead to an attempt to unseat washington. before we come to this, the winter in valley forge is crucial in one reason it is crucial his armies in the 18th-century don't fight in the wintertime. you have campaigning seasons, you fight in spring or fall or summer but not winter so it is during the winter that the army is able to actually train itself. they had a hard fight since the war began. and who helps train the army? washington is performing plays in their off time but something i should correct, this man,
responsible for bringing in european drill masters concept. the problem is he doesn't speak any english. most americans don't speak german so he would create one model unit and basically yell at them and berate them in german and show them what to do and one model unit would then show the other units what they need to do and in unit by unit basis the army was trained to fight the european army and there's actually the creation of this regulation which is a code of conduct for the continental army. they had learned they are creating the basis of forming this european style army. here are some images of him drilling. back to conspiracy, comes to be known as the conway cobol.
this is joe conway. he was irish, you have an accent. here's a commission. many europeans could embellish the military record and rise very quickly in the war. is gates, gates and conway, their questions what actually transpired but potential attempts to put gates in command based on his record and it is largely with nothing but washington believed it to be true but he still trusted this supremacy. this is found out and gates is shamed to back away. meanwhile, charles we comes back? where was charles we? he had been captured, a prisoner of the british army where he may or may not have committed treason.
in the late nineteenth century a document was found that we had drawn up a plan to tell the british how they could defeat the americans. was this done for false information was he trying to betray the americans? i leave it to you to judge but no one knew at the time. we returned. he has been a captain for two years, the war passed him by but he has been a constant adversary of washington. he has fought throughout europe and it all comes to a head again at the battle of monmouth in new jersey and lee is given command of the vanguard initially which is as prestigious position leaving the army at the front with orders to attack and turns it down. i shall not day into accept that so washington appoints lafayette, lafayette accepts.
read is upset a junior officer has been placed in a man and demand the position so he marches out and he is facing british grenadier years and the question is is it direct orders or implied orders but the sense is he is supposed to attack in washington catches wind of this, actually a drummer who's running back and washington grabs hold of him. what are you doing? retreating. washington rushes forward and he says to lee, what are you doing? he says your excellency, calls him you damn patroon. what's that mean? you damn coward, publicly. there is also to of mythical
language, the trees shoot up at the sound of washington swearing. washington relieved him of command and personally charges in, this stops and he challenges washington, lee is going to demand a court-martial saying that his honor has been infringed on. he's been insulted by washington but the court-martial find it washington's favor and against lisa only starts publishing pamphlets how he's been runs, he challenges a woman to a duel and just, since she got the color of his pants wrong in her account so what else did she get wrong, there's ultimately going to be a real duel to defend washington. it is the end of charles lee and a push against washington.
the admiral the grosse, this is going to aid the continental army immensely, equivalent, training. meanwhile, philadelphia, the british are going to evacuate philadelphia. the question is who's going to be placed in command? perhaps a recovering battlefield known for his gallantry, benedict arnold. benedict arnold's recovery, he's given this prestigious command, arnold doesn't want it. he's a battlefield kind of guy, he wants to fight but is not ready. the problem is arnold is full of himself and talks a lot and talks too much and runs his mouth.
congress does not like him. he feels he is constantly passed over by other, lesser officers, inferior officers that have been promoted over him and using government property, pillaging, other charges no one cares about in the last of the war and he's placed in charge but congress demands he swear an oath of loyalty to them first and arnold is disgusted, how dare you. look what i did, so to another officer, henry knox, set up his military governor and what is his first act? he throws himself a party, invites no members of the continental army and he ends up marrying peggy shipin who is from a loyalist family and through her he may or may not
make the acquaintance of a british major named john andre, historic correspondence that lead to treason. arnold gives himself the codename gustavus after who we read earlier, gustavus adolphus, swedish king. the british have a new plan, go south, young man. i'm co-opting. anyway. the british turned their attention to the south, constantly chasing loyalists. they feel that they could link up with loyalists in america it will turn the tide of the war. they have faulty intelligence, some dating back to 1774 from massachusetts governor thomas hutchinson, the most of the colonies aren't for this so this -- who will send this to
charles cornwallace? he will push through in south carolina the idea to march to war. first in command immediately days particularly the battle of camden is going to be a ratio gates, the great northern hero, this crushing defeat at the battle of camden the gates is going to retreat. some reports say 180 miles further than his army. how does he do that? he literally runs away, runs from the british but it is actually 70 miles but this is basically the end of horatio gates because the defeat is viewed as cowardly, ineffective, proving everything that was sort of in some ways duplicitous about the conway
cobol and alexander hamilton, washington's aid will famously joke he's not shocked the gates did this but that he was physically capable of riding so far and so fast. that is the end of horatio gates has put in charge instead, this is cornwallis is general nathanael greene and he is from rhode island and what we call a fighting quaker. he is a quaker, quakers are usually pacifists against war but he was in favor of fighting the defensive war and he is achieved general in the southern campaign and the south is on the frontier, very much dictated bipartisan fighting, loyalist versus patriots so not necessarily traditional continental army or british regular army but this is where you get in and the patriot or
movies like the swamp fox, fighting in these guerrilla styles and it makes it difficult to know who is who and leads to heightened degrees of atrocities in cases where you have brutal reprisals against loyalists, patriots, and in one case one commander, griffith rutherford is in this carolina frontier area, news reaches nathanael greene of potential violations of harm coming to loyalists women and children, homes and property and he is announcing this, this is not the war we are fighting, we are been fighting a war based on principle. a war of ideology, that shows we are better, if, proper treatment of prisoners, proper treatment of civilians. this is something washington
invented. it comes to be known, highlighted by this individual, bannister told and, he was in the patriot and harry potter. jason isaacs. whoever that is. that guy. who also gets his start to show how widespread this fighting is is a young teenager, go on to become president will literally refuses to clean his officers boots, and get a favor to the side of his head, vows to fight the british for the rest of his life, andrew jackson. you have all sorts of different ages fighting and engaged in combat.
further north, whispers, plotting. after philadelphia arnold is ready to return to command, brought up on court-martial charges in philadelphia and found guilty and his reprimand was relatively light, a public censure from washington that boils down to armed conduct not having included this and will change future. a little light tap. arnold is furious. his last protector, washington, has betrayed him, america has offended his honor, he's lost to all. so he's going to plot, daring change, defect to the british, placed at west point. west point, the military academy, was a fort and
washington is shocked by this because he knows arnold wants to fight in battle. why does he want an outpost but he agrees, west point is crucial for this right here. it is along the hudson and what that is is literally a big thick chain this back that stretches across the hudson river. what do you think it is meant to do? keep out ships. would it work? what do you think? >> i say no. anyone say yes? bottom line no one knows because it was never tested. batteries on either side, the british never tested it but west point falls in the chain and the garrisons and batteries are removed, what can the british do? take the hudson, and therefore
divide the colonies which they have been trying to do so andre, this is his self-portrait, very fashionable general a is going to arrange to meet with donald in secret. the thing is andre is a british major, aid to general clinton. on wants to meet with him on past american lines. of a british officer in his red coat is meeting with benedict donald, the commander at west point that looks a little suspicious so he tells andre to take off his uniform. what happens the moment he takes off the red coat? he is a spy. ultimately his correspondence, andre is caught by a roving
band of militiamen, questions on are they loyal, are they questionable loyalty, some argue they are brigands but they become celebrated initiatives as great heroes and andre identifies himself as major john andre of his king gaps forces, sort of shocking display that they are not british loyalists. arnold is discovered, andre is ultimately hanged as a spy but washington and the continental army have this great moment. there been difficulties between the continental army and the civilian population at this point where the army had been complaining the civilian population isn't supplying the army properly. where is the food? the clothing, or if it was he was being sent at exponentially high prices, war profiting. meanwhile the civilians were saying how come you haven't won
this war? you let the capital fall, you haven't been winning. this moment that shocks all of america together, a moment like 9/11 or pearl harbor, brings everyone back in the question is why, it is this galvanizing moment. if we have not virtue enough among ourselves to check mister arnold without losing sight of the grand object we got to suffer. meaning the we need to rise above this. if we cannot we will lose and we should lose. washington says this is a great thing. how is this a great thing? because it never happened before. how dedicated are americans that this is the first instance of its kind, this proves the value of the army, of devotion
to the cause. within a year, the march on yorktown which is a final battle and cornwallis will move north into virginia on the peninsula. why do you not want to put yourself on a peninsula? >> way out. how does he do it? he thinks the navy canadian and he can retreat from the navy but through a quick march, a late march of french and americans jointly they surround cornwallis on the peninsula and the french navy will cut it off so we have a siege of yorktown and cornwallis doesn't have a way out and will be forced to surrender. the british band plays the song, the world turned upside down. this is the last major battle
of the revolution. it will carry on a couple more years but this is it. why to the british stop fighting? why do you think? they could continue the war. >> there was nobody left it was loyal to them from the country. >> you still have loyalists but you have to not only defeat the army but when the hearts and minds of americans and that is problematic. this is costly. >> there were issues in france. >> by this time the french, spanish, the dutch are financing the americans. this has become a world war in many respects or at least an expanded european war. it is not in the best interests. so yorktown as a last major battle, small skirmishes here and there and nathanael greene
in particular is getting worried about a loan sort of figured carrying on in terms of duties like arnold, exceeding what they should be doing dragging conduct of the war downward, but rumors start circulating of a piece and washington has one less battle to fight and it is with his own officers. this is in newburgh, new york, along the hudson, the british army is still in new york city and will remain until after the war and the continental army is checking them and watching over them and the problem was the officers had not been paid. why hadn't they been paid? they don't have any money. they have worthless continental
dollars. they had been promised half pay, a pension. problems, same one as before. >> that is a lot of money. >> and congress doesn't have it so there are rumblings, especially if peace comes. >> they don't have another means of getting money. or if they were injured in the war they can't work. >> congress never paid them so what comes to be known as the newburgh conspiracy or newburgh affair, officers secretly meet in two things they discuss, potentially a coup on congress, retreat behind the mountains, what mountains? those mountains. let the british march out of new york city and do what? what ever. until congress pays them.
fundamentally both of these are problematic and ideologically go against the revolution so what washington will do to show he is in charge is cancel their meeting and call his own meeting. if you're going to meet you will meet with me instead. he didn't sound like that but he might have. he will appeal to them based on the newburgh address. he will use these words was let me conjure you in the name of our common country as you value your sacred honor, to express your utmost horror of the man who wishes under any pretenses to overturn the liberties of our country. march 14th, that was only four days ago. what does washington say here? you are dishonoring not just
yourself but the country. what have we fought for? what will this become? he uses the term sacred honor. aside from babbling about honor where have we seen these two words? trivia. >> american text. >> yeah. the declaration of independence. our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. purposely using words from the declaration to link this back, civilian supremacy. the ideas of the revolution over the needs of the individual, the greater good of society, saying it is about the country. think of what we have accomplished. this is never been done before and you are going to give it up? what usually happens after a civil war or rebellion, how do they usually end?
in the classical era, english civil war, what usually happens? >> a treat your contract. >> okay and who takes control? maybe a king or from where the new rule looking come from? think about all of cromwell or julius caesar, military sort of figures seizing power. ultimately, this is going to appeal to them, washington has a letter he's going to read. he has been losing his eyesight. most people don't know this but he wore glasses but doesn't want anyone to see them because they are not cool and he didn't want to show weakness so what he does is he pulls them out and put them on and reminds
them of what he is given. he has given his site. officers start crying and embrace this as washington showing humility, this appeal to their ideals and the revolution is preserved and the army comes out as champions of liberty. the last act and probably the most important in american history in my opinion and the last major act of the continental army is this. annapolis in december of 1783, peace has been announced. washington is going to surrender his commission as commander-in-chief to the continental congress. what is so different? what is so shocking about this? >> he would be something like the king because that is
workings, from. >> the sense that this has always resulted in some sort of dictator or king, emperor or protector or whatever the cause -- call themselves, washington is literally giving up power, the man who would not be king and this is where we get the term george iii over in england actually is expecting washington to name himself king. why? because that is what he understands. he is told washington is giving up power and he is shocked. he stops and says if he does that he shall be the greatest man in the world. dramatic pause.
that is my new book among other things. the idea this seals washington's immortality. you talk about the roman cincinnatus, had briefly been granted dictatorial powers and what did he do? gave it back. washington surrenders his commission here and this preserves and maintains that the army serves the civilian governor. it would be civilian control, it would embrace the ideas of the revolution.
this proves the continental army actually help, that is profound and different, the army prior to the continental army and those after the continental army. we see ideological focus in the french revolution but we see in the french revolution the rise of napoleon. we see these failings and revolution and civil war, strong men or generals that seize power. washington, the first to do it is one of the few individuals to do it at all. thanks, everyone, for coming.
>> c-span's american history tv continues. you can find the full schedule on your program guide or c-span.org/history. >> welcome to this virtual event series. hard to believe but we have been open 50 years this year. we have some great authors to share some time with us. tonight we have giles milton, best-selling author of 11 works of narrative history. his most recent works -- work is