Skip to main content

tv   Nathaniel Philbrick In the Hurricanes Eye  CSPAN  December 15, 2018 2:01pm-2:52pm EST

2:01 pm
donna killed, this is the mindset that j edgar hoover had when he started. i really believed that kidnapping of the germans and the japanese has connection to today which is i think the original extraordinary rendition. that we use in the cherub war. nothing is old. nothing is old. i look around the room and i see so many wonderful faces that are so glad to see.i really thank you for being here tonight. davidb [applause] you are watching booktv on c-span2, every weekend we bring you author talks and interviews from around the country.
2:02 pm
for a complete television schedule visit good evening everyone. my name is ãba member of event staff and i want to welcome you all tonight to politics ãbif you have not already done so, please take a moment to silence your cell phones to my given mind we would love to see pictures, tweets, snaps, whatever you like to do. just make sure you do it silently. for a couple reasons, one we do audio recordings of all our events for our archive purposes and we also have c-span booktv with us tonight so you want to
2:03 pm
be the person whose phone goes off on national television. we do want to hear your questions though, when we get to the question and answer portion there's an audience q&a microphone set up here in the middle.if you have a question, which we highly encourage, please step up to the mic and to make sure everyone here hears it and it gets picked up around all our recordings. if you are here tonight that probably means you like interesting books about fascinating history and perhaps in particular american history. we have generally over the course of the year close to a thousand and coming up on probably over a thousand next year events at politics and prose across the three locations and a lot of them are history theme. a couple that might peak your interest in the coming weeks october 21 at our connecticut avenue store we have been mcintyre for his book the spy and the traitor. then november 14 here at the wharf we have hw brands coming in for his book heirs of the founders. both of those are really stellar american history books that might be worth a return trip. that's not why we are here tonight. tonight we are here for
2:04 pm
nathaniel philbrick for his new book "in the hurricane's eye, the genius of george washington and the victory at yorktown" the battle of chesapeake took place on such number fifth 1781. it assured american victory at yorktown. while it's considered one of the most important naval engagements in world history. it's also been one of the most misunderstood battles of the revolutionary war. standard accounts leave out the fact that no americans took part in this ãbrather thanks to washington foresight months earlier french warships had been mobilized to fight against the british. and a new analysis nathaniel philbrick author of award-winning books including in the heart of the sea and mayflower, followed washington from his realization in the fall of 1780 that he needed the french navy's help and details the general subsequent negotiations and logistics that made his plan such tramp it reality. please help me in welcoming nathaniel philbrick. [applause] >> thank you. it is great to be here.
2:05 pm
i was just settling in that i have been writing about the revolution now since 2010, which means i have been working on the revolution writing and researching books for as long as the revolution occurred. so eight years. it began with bunker hill. i live on nantucket island, an island of about 15,000 people year-round. and i realize that boston and the revolutionary period was an island 1.1 square mile island connected by a thin neck of land to roxbury with a population of 15,000. a lot of my books are about groups of people under enormous stress whether it's a crew of a whaleship just been rammed by a whale, hundred two pilgrims bound for a coast they know nothing about. i was interested in what was going to happen to the citizens of boston as they endured the enormous stresses of a revolution. the bunker hill battle bunker
2:06 pm
hill was the obvious climax of that book but i found myself unexpectedly fascinated with the man who appeared a few weeks later to take over command of the army. this was not the george washington who had stared at me at the one dollar bill for all my life. this was a guy in his early 40s, redhaired fiery and aggressive in a way that pries me. he realized i just got to keep following the story. i would then write valiant ambition that pairs washington with benedict arnold. where we watch over the course of four years as washington emerges as a leader who's really trying to figure things out into what he would ultimately become, the leader that realizes the only way we are going to hang in here is if we avoid that conflict that might destroy the armand.
2:07 pm
we have to play a defensive war which is completely against he was aggressive by temperament but he knew this was best for his country. with benedict arnold who decides he's the one man whose job it is to tear this country apart. and that book ends with arnold's unsuccessful attempt to turn over west point to the british. in the late summer and fall of 1780. it was after writing that book that i realized now i really have to find out what happens to washington. i'm a water guy and it's great to be here on the wharf because i live on an island, i grew up in that maritime center of the universe pittsburgh pennsylvania but we have rivers. i realize from an early age that before there were multilane highways, before there were railroads it was water by which things are transported whether an army or
2:08 pm
provisions and rivers were essential and valiant ambition it's the hudson river which is the great strategic point that's being fought over. i have to say, not even i was my maritime bias appreciated the extent to which the ocean, the atlantic ocean, would determine the ultimate fate of the american revolution. i grew up thinking of the revolution as kind of a linear progression, each battle as a stepping stone to ultimate victory. what i have learned through this eight years of researching and writing it wasn't that at all. we lost our way by the fall of 1780. we had launched into this revolution because we didn't want to pay taxes to the british. turned out we did not want to pay taxes required to fund washington's army. his army was withering on the vine recruitment levels were embarrassingly low.and washington realized that the
2:09 pm
only hope he had for winning this conflict was with their ally, the french. the french had entered the war in 1778, soon after the great victory at saratoga. and what washington realized from the very beginning of that alliance was that it was the french navy is what he needed. the british navy, the most powerful navy in the world had so far had a stranglehold on the american coast. and that meant that any victory washington might have on land would be quickly negated by the fact that there were these fleets of powerful warships and i think it's hard for us to understand what a ship of the line is known as. a typical ship of the line was a 74, which meant it had 74 cans, took 2000 oak trees to construct a 74. 57 acres of forest.
2:10 pm
500 ã750 men. they didn't use any fossil fuels, they used feed to transport themselves and of just one of these showed up they had more artillery fire power then just about all of washington's army. so these were very powerful sophisticated technological entities. and if washington could use the french navy to negate the stranglehold that the british had on the coast and create naval superiority just for a moment, that would create the window by which he might deliver the blow at by land that would win this war. as early as 1778 is desperately trying to get the french navy to cooperate. admiral disdain arrives at summer. unfortunately it was a very long crossing across the atlantic and british slip out of philadelphia and make the wake of the british navy makes his way to new york, the
2:11 pm
staying can't get over the sandbar at the entrance to the new york harbor and gives up an attempt to get the navy that's trapped in the harbor and then a few weeks later off of newport rhode island it's looking like there's going to be the battle. that cataclysmic encounter. when a storm, perhaps a hurricane, destroys both fleets and it's on. that's in the summer of 1778 in the summer of 1779 and throughout 1780 there is nothing from the french. what made this complicated is this colonial rebellion had turned into a world war. france was in the war, there are allies of spain was in it as well. this being a world war it's hard for us to understand but in the 1780 the caribbean was where the real money was. they were worth much more to
2:12 pm
the european powers then united states. so the french and british navies along with some spanish ships spent those years battling out for the sugar islands, the caribbean, and washington despaired that he would ever see the french navy sale up from the caribbean, at one point he says it's like chasm has sprung up between us and the french navy. it's looking really bad in the fall of 1780. and if nothing happens in this year the french have made it clear they are going to pull the plug and we have to negotiate. then in october 1780 something happens to begin a sequence of events that would change everything. within just a year would come the naval battle. we all know about the victory of yorktown, we think of that as the victory that won us our
2:13 pm
independence but what is less depreciated is that was preceded by a naval battle between the british and the french that made that siege at yorktown a favor complete call the battle of the chesapeake fought between admiral degraw's and admiral graves.just off the entrance of the chesapeake. between a fleet of almost 30 ships in line on each side and for the first and last time a little bit of an exaggeration the french would defeat the british. this would mean that the british fleet that sailed down from new york was unable to rescue lord cornwallis who dug into yorktown at the end of the peninsula formed by the york and james rivers. washington and rochambeau with general rochambeau whose army was stationed in newport teamed up with washington new york and marched down as berg and then
2:14 pm
surrounded cornwallis at yorktown. this meant that that siege was fait accompli. the popular narrative of the revolution ignored that battle. because no americans participated in this book i want to put the see where it properly belongs when it comes to the victory at yorktown. centerstage in the story. the sequence of events that lead to this begin in october 1780 when a hurricane, one of the biggest that had ever been seen, strikes the waters between jamaica and spanish occupied cuba. talk about what happens to the british break at phoenix gets driven onto the shore at cuba and destroyed. then a few days later comes a second hurricane.
2:15 pm
i like to read a short passage from the first chapter of the hurricane's eye that talks about what happens next. on october 10 what came to be called the great storm of 1780 hit the island of barbados. but following day virtually every house including those built of stone had been leveled to the ground and 6000 inhabitants were dead. many of the cannons at fort james, which the young george washington had visited almost 30 years earlier, were hurled more than 100 feet in the air. the extraordinary surge of water and wind carried a ship so far onto sure that it landed on top of the island's hospital. the hurricane whipped rain, stripped the trees of bark indicating the wind and barbados must've exceeded 200 miles an hour. a similar scene of destruction
2:16 pm
occurred at st. lucia, st. vincent, and martinique, where convoy carrying several thousand french troops was blown out to sea. one estimate puts the total death count of the great storm of 1780 at 22,000. making it the deadliest hurricane in recorded history. then on october 18 two days after a spanish fleet of 74 ships bearing 4000 soldiers under the command of general don bernardo do galvez departed from havana to attack pensacola. the third hurricane struck. known today as solon owes hurricane for the admiral in charge of the fleet the storm ravaged the gulf of mexico for three days and ultimately drove the remains of the spanish fleet back to cuba.with thousands of vessels sunk and this masted and hundreds of soldiers and sailors ground, solano and galvez reluctantly decided to postpone the attack until the following year. would take the english, french, and spanish, months if not years to recover from three hurricanes october 1780.
2:17 pm
when british admiral george rodney, who spent the late summer and fall in new york arrived in barbados early december, he was astounded by what he saw. had i not been an eyewitness, he wrote to his wife, nothing could have induced me to believe it. more than 6000 persons perished in all the inhabitants ruined, the hurricane brewed fatal to six ships of my squad. the lesson was impossible to ignore. given seasonal dangers of the storm battered string of islands the best place for navy or fall with nowhere in the caribbean. ãbbut hardly a priority. after that horrendous october a different attitude prevailed. thus begins the string of events. it's not a linear string of events. i think the hurricane is kind of the perfect metaphor for the year of yorktown. a swirling series of forces out of anyone's control random events that seem to have nothing to do with each other all of which had to occur for the victory at yorktown to
2:18 pm
happen and they are in the center is washington. doing his best to hold steady amid these forces that are threatening to blow the revolution apart and his country along with it. washington is someone i think most of us think of as permanently attached to a horse. but the fact of the matter is, he knew the water and he knew it well. the book begins with a vignette describing washington in a vessel picking up the french emissary in fishkill new york. boarding on a boat and sailing down to west point where he was going to give him a tour of the american fortress. much to their surprise washington is the one at the helm. if you've ever been on the hudson river, the highlands are these mountains on either side and kalos will shriek out of those mountains. sure enough a squall comes out
2:19 pm
of the mountains and threatens to capsize the book. washington insists on holding the teller and steers them through it and the secretary of the french emissary says clearly washington had skills that we were not aware of. he grew up in the tidewater and is all you know there are rivers here as a young man he accompanied his stepbrother lawrence on a trip to barbados. was not necessarily a fun voyage for him he came down with smallpox. but that would inoculate him effectively to the disease which would add to his indestructibility when it came to the future events. but he understood the sea. that also meant that the sea is a wilderness and a wilderness that is uncontrollable. which meant that when it came
2:20 pm
to trying to organize incarnate in army and a navy, the chances of it all working particularly when there are thousands of miles separating it, given the lack of communication. meant it was a very difficult thing to have happen. in december 1780 soon after these hurricanes make it clear to the powers enchants that sending their fleet north the next fall, the next hurricane season will be a wise idea the british decided to send a new brigadier general, general benedict arnold, the trader who is now a british general, they decide to send him from new york to the chesapeake. arnold quickly shows that he's probably one of the best generals on both sides. he works his way up the james river at lightning speed. attacks and burns the work capital of richmond sending governor thomas jefferson fleeing and in desperation.
2:21 pm
soon he is down in newport virginia creating a naval base for the british. he was a traitor not only in the eyes of the americans and this infuriated the virginia militia who came out in droves but he was also regarded as a traitor by his own officers and it was a very uneasy alliance. washington is infuriated, he sends down lafayette to deal with with benedict arnold. then there's other stuff happening to the self. lord cornwallis is running a rampaging through the carolinas, washington has sent nathaniel greene down to try to deal with the remains of the american army after a great defeat under horatio gates at camden. nathaniel greene is one of the great unheralded generals of the revolution. he was raised a quaker in rhode
2:22 pm
island, not much formal education. but he was a voracious reader and he taught himself military tactics and he would play it's a fascinating cat and mouse game with cornwallis would be the race across the breadth of north carolina to the dan river at the virginia border where cornwallis burned his luggage wagons in an attempt to catch up to green, green made it and then had the time he needed to rebuild his army and finally face the british at the guilford courthouse on a wooded hillside. it's one of the great battles and it's really a bloody draw but the english can claim victory because they still have possession of the field at the end but green had delivered a devastating blow to cornwallis. he retires to wilmington north
2:23 pm
carolina to pull himself together but goes on the offensive once again into virginia, takes over the army that arnold had brought into virginia and another cat and mouse game with lafayette until finally he's at yorktown. and it's no forces are beginning to swirl in the caribbean. this is a very frustrating time for washington. i was surprised in writing this book the emotional mood swings that washington has in this year the intentions were a mess as he was attempting to work with the french to get the fleet there and the french feared the american war effort would fall apart. if that happened they had plans to evacuate rochambeau's 5000 men army from newport and just abandon north america. can you imagine if that had happened. the government told rochambeau to not share with washington the location of the french fleet and the caribbean.
2:24 pm
this drove washington crazy. finally he read about the crosses fleet activities in the caribbean and the newspaper. he confronts rochambeau with what's going on. washington was hopeful that the french navy would attack new york. more than 10,000 man british army would was stationed. what he needed was a big enough victory that would force the british to the negotiating table. and and this. only in new york were there that many men, gradually, however, cornwallis with an army of 7000 british troops would end up in yorktown giving them another target. by this time the french have decided we are not going to new york, we are going to the chesapeake. when washington hears of this 2014 he's irate because ãbhe
2:25 pm
had a very good understanding of the use of naval superiority but they have to merge 500 miles to yorktown. washington completely shift gears and heads down. not sure of where the cross is they just know he's headed to the chesapeake. they made it out of the hudson and through new york and new jersey add henry clinton the british commander in new york has just realized all my gosh they are not attacking me, they are going after cornwallis and it's too late, washington and rochambeau are on their way but they've had no word from the cross. washington is on his horse near chester pennsylvania when he hears that doug ross has arrived in chesapeake. he turns his horse around goes back to the waterfront just has rochambeau has been going down the delaware river by boat with his his retinue, sees a man on
2:26 pm
the waterfront jumping up and down waving his hat and handkerchief. washington has been a very state unemotional man who could this be? it's washington? he had to express the elation. on they go they continue southeast upset mount vernon for the first time in six years. he has a group of grandchildren he has never met. in just a few days they spread out the maps and plan the assault they are in mount vernon and head down and it's just after leaving mount vernon but washington here's the british fleet has arrived and degrass has assailed out of the chesapeake. and no one knows what happened. washington is all my goodness, because in the history of naval
2:27 pm
warfare the british always seem to win. he gets there and learns that yes, the french have one and i'm not going to the details of the battle of the chesapeake that's where you got to get the book but what i will say is, it's quite a battle. it goes back and forth each way, it's been said and i think it's right, given the consequences this is the most important naval battle in the age of sale and in history of the world. everything wrote on this battle. the french are victorious. washington and rochambeau arrived, they move out of williamsburg and thus begins the siege that forces cornwallis to surrender. i was hoping throughout this that finally washington would have a high five moment. after six years we've done it it would be another two years before the war would be officially over with the evacuation of the british. but within soon after the
2:28 pm
battle of the siege of yorktown, washington's stepson jackie custis comes down with camp fever and washington is at his bedside when he dies. for two more years the negotiations are going on washington is fearful he is going to lose his officers, they haven't been paid, the continental congress did not have the ability to tax the american people. the states are showing no interest. they are stationed on the hudson river at newburgh and washington is forced to put down what's known as the newburgh conspiracy which is officers threatened to march on philadelphia and forced congress to pay them by gunpoint. this would have been the military ku that destroyed this revolution. you get to that his army is
2:29 pm
dispersed as the british evacuation approaches, most of his officers are irate at him for selling them out without getting some kind of deal. he has a farewell with the officers that have remained loyal to him at francis tavern in new york.very emotional farewell gets on a barge and goes across to jersey and makes his way to annapolis where the congresses relocated because they are afraid to remain in philadelphia, the continental army might come after them. they are holed up in annapolis and it's there that washington will surrender his commission. i like to and by reading a short few paragraphs from the end of in the hurricane's eye.
2:30 pm
not until december 23 by which time congress had managed to assemble a form of just 20 legislatures did washington stride into the statehouse in annapolis. the galleries were packed with people.when washington stood to make his speech, his right hand trembled so badly that he had to hold it with his left. having now finished the work assigned i retire from the great theater of action and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body under whose orders i have so long acted here offer my commission and make my leave of all the employments of public life. by the end of 1783 united states is a facade of the country, a collection of squabbling states to the barracks window dressing up federal government. washington might have looked at the assembly of mostly second and third rate politicians now in control of the country contract, convinced himself he must do something about it but he had had enough. he wanted to go home. when told by the american born painter benjamin west that washington plan retired his
2:31 pm
farm after the war king george iii said if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world. washington had long since learned that greatness was obtained not by insisting on what was right for oneself but by doing what was right for others. as he had written to admiral degrass a great mind knows how to make personal sacrifices to secure an important general good. he also understood that this required a leader to attend to the countless, largely unappreciated details that made something as complicated as an army or nation work. i have undergone more than most men are aware of, he wrote to richard henry lee in 1777 to harmonize summary discordant parts. washington could be bidding remote but there is also a surprising gentleness about him that instilled a remarkable sense of loyalty to just about everyone who had the privilege to serve under him.perhaps abigail adams put it best, he possesses a dignity that forbids familiarity mixed with an easy affability that creates
2:32 pm
love and reverence. greatness washington realized was ultimately determined by the sternest and cruelest of judges. insisting that it is our duty to make the best of our misfortunes and not to suffer passion to interfere with our interest in the public good. he was acting on what he called in the summer of 1781 the great scale. now two years later it was time for him as military commander to step aside to this republican experiment to succeed the young countries next hesitant steps must be made without him. it was an approximately 15 mile ride from annapolis to mount vernon over the course of the last years washington has selected 280 different houses but this time he was heading home. accompanying him were enslaved manservant billy lee and his
2:33 pm
two aides, david humphreys and benjamin walker. by the evening of the following day christmas eve they had mount vernon insight. washington had spent the revolution trying to convince an army and a nation that despite all evidence to the contrary the future was theirs. now that the future had finally arrived, there was no place he'd rather be dead here and his beloved mount vernon on a hill overlooking a river almost 200 miles from the open sea. thank you very much. [applause] if you have questions i'd be happy to try to answer them. when the spanish were sailing from cuba in the storm of 1780 to go to pensacola, who were they fighting? >> the spaniards had joined the alliance with the french because they also had ãbwe think of france in this to help
2:34 pm
us, their main motivation was to take it to spain, to britain because they had been humiliated during the seven years war in the previous decade. they wanted to win back, they had a program known as revenge. they had purposely retooled their navy and with hope of getting back to the status they had been and their navy was large but it was not as large as the british so they needed the spanish to help. so based they are in the caribbean, the spaniards had their own agenda and what they wanted with possessions they had lost, which was merely florida. the british were pensacola. so before admiral degrass could sail north to north america, the spanish he had to help the spanish get pensacola. they would do it in may 1781
2:35 pm
and this would allow ultimately the french to sail north but there would be other competitions as well. particularly financial. this is before wire transfers and atms and the french navy needed money. they needed gold coins to pay for this war effort. the cross tried to get the money he needed to with the plan planters what's now haiti but they refused to come up with it. one of the unheralded heroes of this year is a spanish envoy named francisco saavedra. he suggested to degrass who at this point was saying i can't go with this.i'm going to have to give up on this attempt so baker said no if you go to cuba the spanish golden silver mines kept that island stocked with gold, if you go there he
2:36 pm
can probably get the loan you need. sure enough before they sailed north they sail to havana. they secure 500,000 spanish pesos from the citizens of cuba. a loan from the people of cuba was absolutely essential to winning our independence. this shows you the international nature of this conflict. >> around the turn of the 20th century there was a book by admiral flayer about the importance of seapower, this became a very influential book. i think my timeline is right. just wondering if he was there himself with the influence by any of washington's ideas of the power that washington put on seapower? >> washington's understanding of seapower has been appreciated by others. one of the things i wanted to get at in this research was, and washington's ability ãb
2:37 pm
the name of his home mount vernon is named for british admiral. there's an element of the sea that's underappreciated when it comes to washington's ability. but yes it has been a part obviously of naval historians. one of the things i wanted to get out as many histories tend to rely largely on the british accounts because they are in english. the french accounts, the logbooks exist in archives in france and many of them early in the 20th century were copied of them at the archives of congress but i can read french but not at the deal that i can deal with an 18th-century french log so i enlisted a wonderful translator from qucbec together we learned french naval terminology and every book has aha moments but
2:38 pm
in reading the translations of these ships logs of the letters from the various captains that really gave me a new appreciation for this battle. when admiral degrass is, when this battle begins his fleet is anchored at the entrance of the chesapeake bay. they see this great big british fleet sailing down on them. the tide is coming in, which means degrass suite cannot sail out against the tide and rushing the british fleet toward them, this does not look good even though admiral degrass has a larger fleet. luckily in two hours time around noon the tide shifts and finally degrass is able to unleash his ships and for only the second time in the history of the french navy he orders
2:39 pm
his men to lead in what's known as a ãba line of speed. usually they would create a line of battle that was the arrangement of which was understood prior to that and the admiral would put each ship in its proper place in each ship knew where to go but this meant that your line of battle would be in the order of how the ships got out. the first one i would leave vanguard so it became this race to get out there. i'm an old sunfish racer and in 1973 when i was 17 years old i sailed in the sunfish north americans portland row virginia write about 20 miles from yorktown. i wasn't into the battle of chesapeake when i was 17 but i had sailed in those waters and
2:40 pm
as a sailor it was remarkable to read the logbooks of these are ships of the line, these are massive vessels. they are heading out of the anchorage and it's a race just like i would participate in the sunfish so you have these captains describing how they are tacking back and forth as they struggle to get out and ramming into each other as they jockeyed to be as far in the lead as possible. so those french sources really gave me a fun perspective on the battle. >>. >> it seems like it's kind of surprising there's all this new body of work coming out about the revolutionary war but you've done two books, david
2:41 pm
fisher has done two excellent books. some of thomas levin's books is really good. maybe you've answered it because of the archival availability but i'm curious is it just because it's such a fascinating time that authors keep looking back at it? >> i write my books, they just organically evolved from each book. i'd never seen myself launching into the american revolution, particularly for as deep a dive as i'm done but this is the genesis of our country. this is where it all began. and what i found fascinating is watching the progression of evolution. as a rebellion to a war and ultimately as you see as this in the final two years after yorktown and before the evacuation of the british you begin to see where is it going to go? how is it going to become a country. i think this is the beginning of our nation. this country was born in a
2:42 pm
revolution every generation experiences its own revolution as the ideals and the constitution get reinterpreted for that generation. what becomes clear is we have a sense when you look back that it was a different time. these are people who understood where they were going, they had a plan, stuck to it, and created the democracy we have. but no one had a plan. they were making it up as they went along.they had all sorts of motivations, some altruistic, some very selfish. the more you look at it, the more it is a truly a miracle that it also together and that the ideals that inspired it were not completely blown away by the end. that's where i find washington is so important to all of this. it's so clear by that that year
2:43 pm
of yorktown without him there cajoling the french, going to temper tantrum always calming down, always okay, i've expressed myself, now i will continue in a professional manner. so we need to accomplish the goal here. without him it would've all fallen apart. there's no one of his stature. for me it's been an amazing eight years, but i've also enjoyed about it is i live on nantucket i began by writing a local book in the hurricane ãb in the heart of the sea and away offshore which is my first history book about nantucket. i'm in the process of chronicling america but not necessarily in any kind of order, what i really enjoy is
2:44 pm
going to different regions. i went west with the battle of big horn, although it does begin with the riverboat. webb enjoyed about this process is going from new england to the middle states and now the south. and watching those very insular areas gradually becoming less so as this army from people from all over the country is creating in microcosm with the union will ultimately become so it's a war where you see the beginnings of america but you also see how tenuous it was all the way through. >> how did you like the movie ron howard made? >> in the heart of the sea, it was such a pleasure to work with ron howard.
2:45 pm
he really is just terrific and it's a movie. it's exciting i have to say as a sailor the on the water stuff is some of the best on the water i've ever seen. it's totally emotionally involving a very accurate and when it comes to the specifics of whaling, those scenes are amazing.they really have a documentary of usefulness and how they show the brutality, the excitement. and just the bloodiest of whaling. it was a fun process and i'm actually in it very briefly. you won't recognize me, i'm a quaker. [laughter] no glasses on. awake i look like my mother. dressed like a pilgrim. but it was a wonderful experience.
2:46 pm
>> is there also kind of an evolving sense with all the scholarship of recent scholarship about hamilton and john adams and thomas jefferson, all of which who were educated and brilliant that washington was less well educated but had more humility and common sense than any of them and was sort of the indispensable man, not just during the revolution but in the formation of the government? >> in the subtitle i referred to the genius of george washington. i think he really was a genius but he was a very different kind of genius from someone like hamilton. hamilton had that jittery intelligence. he was just off the charts, could dive into things and learn tremendous amounts, incredibly articulate, washing tunes had that ability to sort through the static of life and figure out what was the most important thing to do. in the early years of the
2:47 pm
revolution it was really hard for him but he came to the understanding with the help of nathaniel green, who would write a letter that laid it all out that in the interest of this country he would have to put his aggressive tendencies of aside and fight the defense of war. the rope a dope kind of thing. he had to hang in there. this was tough for him but he did that. the french alliance comes and he realizes its naval superiority. it's the only way we can win this thing. particularly when it came to the chesapeake versus new york but it was that strategic understanding that would ultimately be realized in a situation in which no one had control. the french would look back and say poor washington he didn't
2:48 pm
understand we have it all figured out. when they decided to go to the chesapeake, cornwallis wasn't yet yorktown. hawaii cornwallis remade that yorktown is still a mystery. if he had decided with the arrival of degrass to then retreat into the carolinas, he would have escaped and there would have been no great american victory but he remained there and that's what made it all work. there was no way to anticipate all of this. so yes the strategy was his, the french washington followed the french, it all worked. this is one of those things everything had to happen from that loan from the spaniards to the spanish victory at pensacola. all of these isolated things had to happen the victory to fall into place. looking at washington's career after the revolution he would
2:49 pm
in the years after his so-called retirement, which was not much of her retirement, he would come to realize that the union was everything. this is what he needed to do. the book i'm working on now is about a road trip book. i'm changing it up. it's a travel log. when washington became president he decided he need to visit all 13 states to instill a sense of nationhood. he knew he was governing 13 independent states that really worked all that hot about subjecting themselves to federal government.he went on a road trip visiting all 13 states going into little towns and through the sheer force of his charismatic personality creating a sense of nationhood. my wife and i and our dog are following george and he knew it was the union and follow that through and that's the great
2:50 pm
message of his farewell address at the end of his presidency and by then he's begin to realize the greatest threat to the union is slavery. and yes he was a slave owner. he's also land barren, he was by no means perfect. but he's the one founding father who was grappling with this in a very personal way and the only slaveholding founding father who would free the slaves he owns. and thereby providing example he's a fascinating individual. he's overheard at one point during his second term saying if he could see that the slavery issue that ultimately divide this country, which by his second term was fracturing into two parties. the federalist and republican. and almost north and south and he was overheard to say at one point if it comes down to this i would go with the northern
2:51 pm
part, which is very interesting. this is someone who was willing to turn his back on his own state for the union. for my money washington is a founding father that whose example is important and well worthy of continued study. >> thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you so much everyone for coming out. if you have not purchased the book yet they are available at the register and he will be right over here at this table happy design. the line will go back to the register. >> you are watching booktv, did you know that you can also listen on the go? download the c-span radio app fromr


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on