tv The Continental Army at Valley Forge CSPAN December 9, 2018 10:53pm-12:01am EST
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book "valley forge" and talk about how the defeated and demoralized continental army lasted through the harsh winter of 1777-1778. humorous sometimes stories about key leaders, anduding george washington john lawrence, who held the troops together, despite disease and desertions, while also preparing the army for about. this hour-long talk as part of a weekly series. and tom clinton -- forge."in's "valley they make the remarkable story -- of winter of 19 1777-1778 come to life.
we have incredible portraits of characters we think we know -- alexander hamilton, john lawrence, mark udall faf, and -- marquis telephony yet -- marquis lafayette. canny insecure, intensely cannily political and above politics, and above all, revealing incredible skill and, yes, some luck that enabled washington to lead the continental army out of its most difficult winter to eventually win their country's independence. with evocative language, lee was a blister of a man, unencumbered charisma, -- by
making us truly see the hessian forcedes sporting their screen, there waxed mustaches, cultivated such a density us to qualify as topiary. this is history as it should be. it --n the tail, job did rich in detail, job did in pursuit of what truly matters in dogged in pursuit of what truly matters in the story. drury welcome and tom clavin. >> we appreciate what you are
doing for us here tonight. i see a lot of people in the audience who were involved in the office of making "valley forge." our agent, and are editor -- our editor, our publicist, thank you. but most of all, thank you all for coming out tonight for listening to our bullshit. [laughter] so. this is a really good-looking crowd. younger,, sebastian for those of you who don't know, he is part owner of this place, and he said to me we get the most handsome people to come to our book readings at the half king. i wasn't sure what he was getting at. why was he telling me this?
now i see he was just making an observation. thank you again. fourwell aware that the most important words in any areic speaker's vocabulary "and so, in conclusion." tom and i promise to keep this short and sweet for you all tonight. tom and i contend in "valley forge" that the characters that inhabit this book and their shared core values was part of statesman inuctive the history of the united states. fdr's this in light of kitchen cabinet and abraham lincoln's team of rivals.
we hope to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. it is customary at events like passage from their or authors, new book. bitsps one of the favorite think it's to -- that gets to the heart of the matter. that in mind, i thought i might turn to page 199, where i know -- written a note to myself saying, "you bore the hell out of yourself when you read to yourself, don't bore these people to death." so that ends the reading portion of the evening. [laughter] instead, how about if we just tell you a couple of stories. tom, what do you think? tell them a story.
mr. clavin: i guess i am not as tall. all right. here we go. as bob alluded to, our contention from the very beginning we started working on this book, was valley forge became the most important part of the revolutionary war. it was the turning point. we found it out because we started to do our research and get deeply into it and find out more things. i am just going to refer to a couple of notes as i talk. the social studies class valley forge is guys in the snow freezing and george washington coming up in a horse and looking at guys in the snow freezing. that is the social studies portrait. we found out so much more was happening. a big part of it was george washington himself. during the valley forge
encampment which lasted from december 1777 to june 1778, and bob will come back to talk more about the climactic moment of the book. george washington was already a revered figure, but he went from that to being an american icon, a hero, an action figure. that happened during valley forge. one of the things he was having to deal with was a two-front war. there was the war itself against the british. but during the encampment of valley forge, they were conspiracies that included some senior officers and members of the continental congress who tried to get him fired and replaced. they came very close to doing that. that was something very important about valley forge. washington was surrounded -- and i think this is a very poignant part of the story. washington was surrounded by a
loyal group of young, surrogate sons. i will talk about them a little more in a bit. alexander hamilton, lafayette, and a character named john lawrence. john lawrence is sort of like the founding father you never knew. i will explain a little why in a minute. he also had with him these generals who were totally loyal to him. nathanael greene, "mad" anthony wayne. some of the heard of that from your social studies textbooks. there was another gentleman named lord stirling. he calls himself that, insisted on it because he claimed to be descended from scottish aristocracy and royalty to washington's position was keep fighting, you can call yourself whatever you want. you are a great general. keep doing it. one of the things people do not know about valley forge which we found out, and again, not what you saw in social studies it was , not the worst winter in the
revolutionary war. there were worse winters. valley forge, the winter was bad, but what happened was several systems had broken down in the united states. one system was the government. when the british took philadelphia, the kicked the continental congress out. they pretty much spread out there somewhat to york, pennsylvania, some went home some disappeared. , there was no functioning government for the most part of the united states anymore. so, george washington at valley forge was the united states government. when valley forge began in december 1777, the army went in with 12,000 soldiers and they built huts. there were about 500 camp followers, women and children who followed the army wherever they went. suddenly valley forge became the seventh largest city in the u.s. and it became the capital of the united states. i think something most people
would never realize in social studies is that because of the capital of the united states being occupied by the british, because there was no continental congress, because everything else was in complete disarray, valley forge was the capital of the united states and george washington was the de facto leader of the united states. if he had suddenly been lost for whatever reason, if he decided i have had enough, i'm going back to mount vernon, the british government as a persuasion even offered to make him a duke. he would have been the duke of mount vernon. something like that. if you just give up. so, the idea politically that valley forge was at the center of the revolution's universe. the other thing happening is george washington -- he cared about two things. the cause of liberty and independence, and his men. and the anguish he was going through was absolutely awful
because every day his men were dying. there were some who were deserting. they had to get out of there. but they were dying. the very first man who died at valley forge was christmas eve. washington found out about it christmas morning. it was a black soldier from connecticut named jethro. he was the first one to die. he died basically of exposure and malnutrition. 2000 men died at valley forge during the course of those six months. that is more by far than any battle in the revolutionary war. valley forge was a struggle for survival. not just of the army, but of the revolution. because if the continental army had ceased to exist, which washington expected almost every day -- december 23, he wrote a letter to what was left of congress saying i expect my army to dissolve and disperse. he expected every morning to wake up and look out and they would be gone. if they left, if there was no more continental army, there was no more war for independence.
it was over. washington anguished over this. he was constantly begging the governors of the states send me , some food, sending some clothing. literally, you might think it is a cliche, but literally there was blood in the snow because of all the men who had no shoes. open sores. they were dying of -- literally dying of starvation. washington had to try to keep them together. why did this army stay together? because it ultimately did. i don't think i'm giving away too much in that we won the war. but that is where we come to the central figure of this book george washington. , there was such admiration and caring for him that the soldiers, despite the suffering, they could not abandon george washington. they saw in him the war for american independence the ideal , that america was going to be. so that is a big reason why they
stayed. let me get back to this. washington was surrounded -- again, i go back to the poignant part of this book. washington was surrounded by these surrogate sons who were totally devoted to him. they would have instantly taken a bullet for him. alexander hamilton was 22 years old, he was washington's right-hand man. he wrote many of washington's letters. washington would finish his thoughts. washington would tell hamilton this is what i think about and hamilton knew how to translate that into a 1000 page letter to a governor of new york or pennsylvania. marquis de lafayette, 20. he was a major general at 20. he lead one of washington's divisions. when he was wounded washington sent a surgeon to find him. he said to the surgeon, treat him as if he was my son. totally devoted to him. then john lawrence. anybody in this room ever to john lawrence of south carolina?
ok, you have, a couple people. well, you read the book. that is cheating. [laughter] lawrence was also 22 and became great friends with hamilton and the marquis lafayette. he worshiped washington. he was from south carolina. among the things he tried to do during the valley forge encampment, he kept trying to raise a brigade of black soldiers. he thought one of the ways to -- the continental army would be a better fighting force was to be more integrated. in a fact he did in that there were hundreds of black soldiers part of the continental army. it will be the last time they -- america had a fighting force that was integrated until the korean war. the rest of the army is made up so much of immigrants. irish, german, italians, poland. so, there was a turning point in february. it was probably the lowest point for washington. there is a famous painting about
him kneeling in the snow and praying. we discussed that in the book. it probably did not happen. the painting happened, but he probably did not kneel in the snow. but he was at his lowest point. a couple of things started to turn the tide. one thing is on a personal level was martha washington showed up. you might think, so what? george and martha washington were totally devoted to each other. when she came from the comfort of mount vernon to go in the snow and freezing cold with her husband, for george personally, that was a big turning point. the other turning point was one of our favorite characters, baren von steuben. -- baron von steuben. some of you have heard of him. what you probably do not know is the real story of baron von steuben. you mostly think he was a prussian general who came and trained the troops. that is true of to a point. -- up to a point. he was not a prussian general. he was a captain. he was a con man and a spy. he met ben franklin in paris and franklin had completely given
him a new resume. made him a major general in the prussian army. there and seer how bad things are and report back to me. he gets over there, he has this resume that is totally doctored. washington buys it, so he thinks ok, great i am going to get a , lot of money to be a spy. he falls in love with the continental army. he says, my god, for the first time i believe in something. he spends the next two to three months training the continental army. i'm going to turn this over to bob in a minute. there are so many other characters who are in this book, their stories that people might not even know about. james monroe as a young officer, who becomes the fifth president of the united states. john quincy adams was the sixth. the howell brothers, british general and an admiral who are running this thing. this corrupts they have. there are sidebar stories about
captain john andre, the british debonair theatrical officer. , he is romancing peggy shifrin. that's not a big deal, but she is going to marry benedict arnold, and with her lover, convince him to turn over west point. this is all happening at the same time. so, what happens is that the army at the end of valley forge, it is going to be time for the british, who have been relaxing and partying and having a great time in philadelphia, it is going to be time as soon as spring comes to wipe out the american army. that is what they expected. they saw an army back in the fall that had barely staggered into a winter encampment and probably starve to death. they expected it would either be no army left, or whatever army was left with the low hanging fruit and easy pickings. and so the two armies met at the battle of monmouth courthouse. what the british discovered is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
[applause] mr. drury: i am backing up. i paid clavin $100 to let me talk about the baron free lick -- frederick von steuben. the baron von steuben arrives at valley forge at the end of february as ostentatiously as he could. he was in a sleigh adorned with 24 jingle bells. pulled by a team of horses he had purchased in france to make a good entrance into valley forge. he had borrowed the money
to purchase the horses because he was dead flat broke. guy, as tom mentioned john lawrence, the founding father you never heard of. because he died too young. there is 'mad' anthony wayne. i have so many favorite characters in this book. but the baron von steuben is my favorite. when he arrived at valley forge not only in a sleigh with the horses and jingle bells, he had his pocket greyhound in his lap. he was decked out in a silk uniform with two big horse pistols. in his wake was a retineu of aides and servants and assistance and even a french chef, who by the way, quit after 48 hours after eyeballing the conditions that valley forge. he said no way am i staying here. as tom alluded to, this guy
arrived in valley forge with a resume more doctored up than the mayo clinic. he was a soldier of fortune. the one thing that is true is that he had fought in frederick that he had fought in frederick the great's prussian army. frederick the great and his army -- in fact, his army was known as an army with a country, as opposed to a country with an army. frederick the great was renowned throughout the western world as the most feared military leader in the world. and von steuben had risen to captain in his army. but when the european war stopped he wandered around as a soldier of fortune. he eventually ended up in paris. the french foreign minister, who was a big american supporter and eventually worked and worked and worked louis xvi so much that that is what made the french
come into the war. but he saw something in von steuben and he introduced him to franklin and franklin's associates. these two guys, oh man, washington has written so many letters to us. do not send us any more of these deadbeats, these soldiers of fortune -- and this is a quote. i read over 2000 of george washington's memos, private correspondence, official proclamations. i personally read the general orders, the correspondence between congress. this was my favorite word. he said, send me no more poppinjays. we don't use that word anymore but i will start using it in my everyday language. look at him. he is a poppinjay. but von steuben, within three interviews with franklin, they
realize he is the real deal. because frederick the great had one rule in his army that no other western army had. and this was every officer would get down and work and live with the enlisted men. everyone else thought this was beneath them, including the continental army. every other army bequeathed this job to noncommissioned officers. sergeants and corporals. when von steuben started telling franklin this is how i will drill them, this is what i will do, they realized washington, as strong as his will was in keeping this army together as tom elucidated, it was really a collection of disparate militias. shoemakers, farmers, sailors, miners, shop keepers, they had no idea how to fight as one well oiled machine.
so, franklin and silas dean say, well, we have to send von steuben, but only as a captain. so suddenly those captain bars disappeared and he had stars on his shoulder. suddenly he was not only an inspector general of the prussian army, but an aid to frederick the great himself. this is how he arrived in valley forge. george washington has no clue. he knows frederick the great. one of his inspector general's ok, let's go. , on von steuben's first day he decides to take an unofficial inspection tour. here is a guy showing up in his fancy pants european uniform with all the metals and he is walking into these filthy, dirty huts. and he starts interviewing continental soldiers about their sanitary habits, about -- do you know what the difference is between an ordinary march and a
quick march? within a week, he had issued a series of memos to washington. this is where you must dig the latrines. no wonder you have so much disease in this camp. you have to put them on a downhill slope on the other side away from the ovens baking bread. grade these paths with roots to make this army feel more professional. washington is all into this. so he gives von steuben 100 men, his own personal guard of 50 and 50 other men taken from his -- the states equally any says you are going to be von steuben's sub trainers. von steuben takes them out on the parade ground of valley forge. the very first day there is 100 men, thousands of other continental soldiers, they have nothing else to do but starve and freeze to death. they are all watching. von steuben spends the very
first morning, the entire morning, teaching them the correct way to stand at attention. he goes on. he teaches them how to wheel. one of the great myths of the american revolution is the minuteman slinking through the trees or hiding behind a boulder and picking off the square british redcoats in their battle formation. and yes, there were times when this indian fighting technique that the american had worked. but for the most part these people needed how to learn, how to quickstep into battle, how to march wheel, how to stand when a cannonball took off the head of the guy next to you. how to not fire until you were orders to fire. von steuben starts teaching the continental army how to do this. how to become a professional army. and my favorite thing about von
steuben, if i could go back -- they said he would go back and meet one person it would not be , washington. although he is the protagonist and hero of our book. it would be von steuben. because he is this falstaffian character. he had no english. washington is signed john lawrence and alexander hamilton. von steuben spoke french and german. hamilton and lawrence both spoke french. they were his translators. and von steuben was such a stickler for detail. he had one word in english. goddamn! when someone would make a mistake during the training, his face would turn -- and he was a portly man with a double chin in his mid-40's, younger than most of the generals in the american continental army. his face was red. he would flail his arms, spittle out of his mouth, and he would yell over, get over here and swear for me. alexander hamilton would scurry
up as von steuben is unleashing a string of curses. by the time hamilton translated them into english, the continental troops were doubled over in laughter at this guy. but they understood he was not afraid, like frederick the great, his mentor to get down on , his knees and his belly in the muck. this is the way. this is the way you put a bayonet -- it is not for cooking. it is for stabbing an enemy in the gut. von steuben also knew sooner or later the charade of his resume, the jig would be up. by the time the jig was up, von steuben had a lot of oomph in kind of putting it up himself. he had become so enamored of not only the infantrymen, but the junior officers. he would invite captains, the lieutenants majors to his hut.
, actually he lives in a farmhouse. i have a little more food than you. you are all in such ragged uniforms, no one is allowed into my dinners who either has pants on or non-ragged pants. sanscoulottes suppers. and even when he was quite often invited over to washington's headquarters for dinner, he would charm. martha washington did not speak french with many of the wives did. he would charm them with ribald tales of salons of europe. and so, i don't know, let me skip ahead because i know we are getting late here. that june of 1778 -- first, let me say one thing. it is really skipping ahead, but the very last letter george washington wrote before resigning his commission as commander-in-chief of the
continental army in 1783 was to the baron von steuben, thanking him for turning his disparate militias into a professional army. so, that june of 1778, five years earlier as the continental army is marching out of valley forge to meet the british on the sandy plains of new jersey near the small village of monmouth courthouse. it was what tom and i like to call a butch and sundance moment for the british. they looked at this army, who are these guys? these are not the guys we brushed off at the battle of brandywine. at the battle germantown before christmas. at the massacre before christmas. these guys look like they know what they are doing. as it turned out that day,
washington made the initial mistake of putting another general in charge of the attack on the british. he was bringing up the rear. when he got to the front lines, he saw his continental army retreating. retreating orderly, thanks to baron von steuben, but still retreating. and for the first time in front of his aides, he lost his temper. he went galloping up and down the front lines until he found the general he had put in charge and he dressed him down. it was a blistering hot june day. a heat wave with over 100 degrees. washington up and down, miles and miles, spurring the troops to turn around. so much so that the horse he was riding collapsed beneath him and dropped dead of heat exhaustion. he was handed the reins of another horse. finally he stood on a ridge and
about 1.5 miles away the entire continental army could see a sea of red. 10,000 redcoats. t doing a slows bayonet charge. by this time the british artillery had moved into range. as washington was pointing his sword and saying to his troops, who will fight with me, who will stand with me? shots are flying by his head. a cannonball lands from his horse, splatters mud all over him. he is looking at the british and saying, who will stand with me? who will fight with me? if you want to know the answer to that, you have to read the damn book. thank you for coming out. [applause] >> we would take any questions you have, i guess. if we can answer them.
>> grab one of these. >> thank you guys very much. >> i am done. drink. once again i'm going to start , with a few questions. as you guys have questions, just raise your hand and let me come to you. i will do the phil donahue thing. i will try not to knock over any beer. my first question is, as obvious students of history, why this book? why valley forge? mr. drury: and first of all, thank you all again for coming out tonight. it is a really good book. better than we talked about tonight, let me put it that way. this is close to my heart. this book was a literal family affair.
my son, his mother is french, he is dual citizen. he is bilingual. he has been bilingual since he first started speaking. now he speaks four different languages. he is in university right now in england. this was six or seven years ago, he was about 14. we were at my lovely wife's mother's house for christmas. the entire family was over. all of a sudden i hear a commotion from the tv room. i saw my son storm out. his face was red. very atypical for a frenchman. i said what is going on? turns out one of denise's brothers had made some crack. it was innocuous, he didn't mean anything. but he made a crack about the united states bailing out france in two world wars. he shot back at him.
yeah, if it wasn't for the french army, he wouldn't be a country. they would not be a united states. so not only was i proud of my 14-year-old son for standing up to a 40 something-year-old, more important, a lightbulb went off in my head. oh my god. lafayette during the revolution, what a great book that would make. i told tom about it and we agreed. we were just finishing up our red cloud book. we had committed to our next project, a world war ii project. lafayette was in the queue, so to speak. as we were working on "lucky 666 ," sarah vowel came out with her book "lafayette and the somewhat united states." ah, damn, beat us to it. then tom, as is his wont, he
said, you know, what do you know about valley forge? and i basically repeated what he said to you before. a bunch of ragtag soldiers and half naked, starving to death. i remember the pictures. washington sitting on a horse watching them starve to death. and he said there is more to it than you think. we should look into it. what i did was three february's ago i did some research and i knew that february was the hardest month of that winter of 1777, 1778. three february's ago in 2015, we were still winding up, working on "lucky 666." i made arrangements to meet the chief historian of valley forge. i took a drive down there and spent the day with him on a walking jeep tour. and everything i did not know about valley forge, everything tom did not know about valley forge, and everything all of you
did not know about valley forge until you read this book, came to the fore. that is how the book came about. >> obviously anyone can notice looking up at the three of us that there are two authors on stage. i am sure there are some writers here in the audience. i can just tell by looking out. what was your process of writing the book together, separately? how did you make it work? were there challenges that came up? mr. drury: all right, i will admit it. i have pictures of tom. all six of our books he reported them, research them. he wrote them. i told him i would release these incriminating pictures unless he put my name on the book. that is have it happened. mr. clavin: i wish the truth was that interesting. we have to go back to our first book together which came out in
2007, if our member correctly. it was a decision made that you can't have four hands on a keyboard. we had to divide our responsibilities. i felt from the beginning that bob's writing style was more well-suited than mine would be for these kinds of stories, much of which has been devoted to military history. i am much more the nerd who likes to go into a library and spend days there. we divided things up where i would be the principal researcher and bob would be the writer and then come back to me for some editing and revising. that was not just this book, but how every book was done. "valley forge" is our sixth book together. i always felt it was like a double-play combination. thankfully it seems to work well. >> washington had it particularly fractious group of subordinates.
what were his strengths and weaknesses in dealing with them? mr. drury: sure. i am the one that read -- i think 1982 of these memos, proclamations personal letters. ,washington kept himself in check. he was an aggressive, emotional man who never let anyone see it except for, at times martha his wife. we discovered one of the main themes of valley forge was washington was fighting a two -front war at valley forge. one was a war militarily against the british, and the second was a political war against a faction of congress who had been displaced in philadelphia when
the british captured it. they had taken over the york, pennsylvania courthouse. and especially the new englanders, who never really wanted washington to lead the continental army anyway. they figured if we are going to fight the great british empire, we need virginia in the full so -- in the fold so that is how he got the job. after he lost york, after the stuttering pennsylvania campaign where he was beaten at brandywine creek, he was beaten paoli, he was beaten at germantown. there were more than whispers to usurp this man. let's replace them with horatio gates, who won the great battle of saratoga. but washington had this inner steely quality. not only his officers, but is in and enlisted men recognized it. as shoddily as they were shorn -- i tell you, just one silly example.
when foreign officers would come to volunteer to fight for the americans or to observe they , were shocked to see americans sentries at valley forge in tattered blankets, naked underneath with no shoes, standing on their hats to keep their feet as warm as possible. washington is the reason that these men remained at valley forge. and i think he emanated that kind of steely will. when he walked into a room, first of all, john adams who was a washington antagonist, he was one of those people who wanted to replace washington, but he said washington got the job because he was always the tallest man in the room. and washington just, as i say, emanated this resolve that filtered down, this perseverance that filtered down. he was wounded.
he was wounded by these attempts to usurp his position, but he never let it show. >> on the other hand, the private washington, this is something i did not recognize about his character, you write about his insecurity. what was the root of that? mr. clavin: i think one thing about the insecurity was that washington had gotten his first experience as a leader of men in battle in the french and indian war. he never rose above the rank of colonel. he had hoped to be made an officer in the british army. they would not have him. between that war and the revolutionary war he was back on his farm. even as the british derisively referred to him, he was a virginia planter. he was a farmer. there was no formal training. there was that insecurity. and also i think you have to
look at washington, especially during valley forge, was at such a difficult position as he was very much alone. he was alone emotionally in a lot of ways. it helped when martha showed up. it helped he had these young men who worship him around him. but everything was on a shoulders. i have mentioned before and we have mentioned before, whatever it was, the united states government at that time collapsed. it was gone. and what was left of it, half of them wanted him out, they want to fire him and replace him with somebody else. i think, to me, if i was in that position, not to compare myself in any way to george washington -- mr. drury: you're more of an alexander hamilton. i am more of a von steuben type. goddamn! mr. clavin: i think with washington, there was so much on his shoulders.
and i think when you are given that much responsibility, a part of him had to know that if he did not fulfill his responsibilities day after day after day and keep up his own morale and morale of his troops, the entire war of independence would collapse. imagine what it is like to wake up every day and know that is what your daily schedule is. i am at the center of this hurricane, and if i do not hold, everything falls apart. >> was he taking a chance with the december 17, 1777 letter or did he hold the cards at that point? you talked about how washington was of politics and above politics. but that seemed a very canny letter he sent to the continental congress in exile. mr. drury: washington basically threw his cards and said to congress if you do not get us
food, arms, clothes, shoes, medicine, this army is about to dissolve or disperse. by this time, washington had become -- he was a canny politician by this time. there was no doubt the continental army was in dire straits. washington also recognized that he was throwing the gauntlet to the continental congress. ok? i hear the whispers, i see the anonymous screeds against me. i know of horatio gates's transit saratoga and you want to replace me. go ahead and try. and if you do try it -- he did not come out and say this, but the undertone was if you do try this, this army will dissolve and disperse. and one thing you have to remember, to the politicians in
york some 80 miles inland, an army dissolving or dispersing, this was 8000 to to 13,000 men. 12,000 it is funny, they say victors write to the history. we never have an exact amount of soldiers who were at valley forge. but all they could envision was, holy shit, we're going to have soldiers just scavenging the countryside, taking our own farms and taking our own cattle. so yes, washington was being a bit of a cynic, but on the other hand was being perfectly truthful. because if they did not get food, if they did not get shoes, if they did not get medicine, the army would have fallen apart. >> i want to open up to questions out here. again please wait for the , microphone. i will do the phil donahue thing and come to you. just give me a hand and i will give you the microphone. questions please. >> i think you mentioned you started this three months ago. -- three years ago. considering your work and moving towards our presidential
election, did you ever consider the timing of this story and the story of a hero. and the heroes that followed washington with the outcome of where we are today? mr. clavin: bob might have a different answer but i think it was just that we had become fascinated with this subject and were going to do it no matter what. but as we were working on it and contemporary events unfolded, we did not -- as far as i am concerned, there's nothing overtly political in the book. there is no attempt to make any comparisons between 1778 and 2018. but i do think that people who read the book will bring some of their own perspectives to it. i think it is inevitable that good or bad, comparisons are going to be made between george washington as a leader and leadership today in our country. we have no control over that.
we did not build that into the book. we just wanted to tell the stories honestly and as thoroughly as possible. what people bring into or out of that story is completely up to them. mr. drury: i will add just one thing to that. just an anecdote. i am trying to pull the date. it was sometime in the 1790's during washington's presidency. he had said goodbye to his troops and von steuben at a farewell dinner in lower manhattan. and years later when he was president, he showed up, he was passing through new york -- he wanted a glass of madeira wine. everybody knew who washington was. ade owner placed a plate of ch
in front of him. he said what is this? , he said it is a dinner of chad, your highness. they still called him 'your highness.' it is on the house. in washington said, take that back. how dare you impugn the presidency of the united states by offering me a free plate? can you imagine any politician -- i'm not taking sides. whether nancy pelosi or donald trump, democrat, republican can , you imagine any politician today saying that? i can't. >> so, what did the troops due to eat and survive? what did they eat, how did they get the food? mr. drury: i will let tom answer that, but who was our diarist? tell me his name.
joseph plum martin. on christmas day, he said we had lamb and a side of potatoes with carrots and onions and wine, without the lamb, onions, wine. [laughter] instead we were issued a deal of vinegar to keep off scurvy. mr. clavin: in some cases they ate vinegar. if there was a cow that had died warhorse that it died, they would eat the hide. whatever they could find. there were stories. there is something called fire cakes they would make. ashes from the fire. >> they had no leavening agent or yeast. goopie thingt this together and throw it on a rock in the camp fire.
it would be filled with the maggots and ashes, and that is where it got the name fire cake. and it was this hard teeth-breaking biscuit. this connecticut surgeon, he kept a wonderful diary. you could write a book about him. he said, oh, fire cakes. oh, a violin is playing in the next hut. oh, fire cakes. i want to die. the obvious question is if this is what they had to eat, how did they survive? i can only point to again the estimated 12,000 men who went into valley forge in december 1777, 2000 died. literally on a daily basis they were dying of starvation, exposure to the elements, disease. so, it really was as horrific as we are making it seem with their daily existence. mr. drury: early on these
soldiers figured, ok, washington ordered these flying hospitals set up around the countryside. but they had no idea of modern medicine. they did not know. bacteria, germs. someone would die in one of these hospitals, and they were just dump the next guy on the same straw, the same vermin-infested straw. and finally the soldiers, of course not knowing the science of it, saying these are abattoirs. they would not tell anyone they would sick and would die. >> about 20 miles away, the british were also having a pretty challenging winter. what were the british under howe going through in philadelphia while the continental army was at valley forge? mr. clavin: there were two brothers. richard and william howe were the two commanders of the british forces in america. and they were mostly enjoying
the pleasures of philadelphia in the winter. they would send out some foraging parties. there is one event we talk about in the book that one of them was personally leading a british brigade or regiment out into the field to collect supplies. washington was enraged by this because he said they cannot do this. they are coming right into our faces to let's get a force together and go attack them. so we teach them a lesson. he could not get enough men fit for duty. they either were naked or starving, too weak to get off their cots. the british just went about their business, took food around the area and went back. they were having parties, putting on plays. captain andre was romancing benedict arnold's future wife.
british officers had numerous mistresses. they were just having a really good time. there was no insecurity on the part of the british because he -- they ascend as soon as spring came in fighting began, a, there would be no american army left, or b, what was left would be easily wiped off the map. why not enjoy it? have a good time. >> more questions, please. former cop. >> i will keep it historical. did you detect anything in washington's early days that would indicate he would become this fabulous leader? mr. drury: yes. when he was fighting alongside the british in the seven years war, the french and indian war, as tom said, he chafed at the fact he was looked down upon as a colonial colonel. lieutenants and even sergeants
in the regular british army who were below his rank could order him around because he was nothing but a colonial. but on the several missions that he ran for the british during the french and indian war, the word got out that this guy washington knows what he is doing. he knows how to lead men. he knows how to, a, security -- secure a victory, and in one ugly case, put together an ordinary retreat. i think his renown -- at one point, and i will not get into it here because it is a long, and i think great story, but we are winding up here. at one point he was renowned. he was 22 years old, and his name was and all the london and paris newspapers for the accomplishments he had done during the french and indian war. i think that is one of the reasons doing when firebrands,
who of course wanted to appoint one of their own as the head of the army, said we have to bring in virginia. let's put this guy washington in charge. >> on the back cover of the book, the pulitzer prize winner joseph ellis -- -- >> i want to answer this question. >> he not only calls valley forge the existential moment for the war and independence, but as we navigate our own existential moment today. how do you expect the book to resonate today? mr. drury: you skipped over joseph ellis a little too quick there. when tom and i were writing this book we had from the arguments with historians. trenton, the battle of trenton. the surprise attack on trenton, and the subsequent victory at princeton. that was the key to the revolutionary war. other historians would tell us,
no, no, it is when the french got into the war. others would say no, of course it was yorktown that was the key. that was the turning point. others say it was horatio gates's victory at saratoga. that was the key. so, tom and i were huddling before this book came out. how are we going to answer, not so much the criticisms, but these pointed questions? and when the pulitzer prize-winning for his washington biography joseph ellis, and his national book award-winning for his book on thomas jefferson came out and said valley forge was the existential moment in the war for independence, i said, yes, go argue with joe ellis. don't argue with us, all right. [applause] >> who is going to ask the final
great question? ,it has got to be a great question. >> in that case, answers it. >> considering that martha and george did not have children -- >> martha did. >> previously, but together. do you think there was something about george washington's benevolence and respect for these young men that made him look at them as family, as sons, as -- there was something about that? mr. clavin: a couple of quick answers to that. one was he and martha got married he adopted her children. by all accounts he was a very good father to her children. one of the little -- it's almost like -- throughout the book there are all these footnotes about tidbits we found out during research. during the valley forge encampment the term 'father of his country' was first used. it was actually in a german
magazine referring to are the -- referring to the american revolution. >> pennsylvania german. >> but yes, i think washington had probably some paternal instincts already from helping to raise martha's children. and then he found himself, which is a really central part of this book, he found himself with these relationships with the marquee de lafayette with john , lawrence, with alexander hamilton, that i think one of the reasons why he could stand the tremendous burden he was under because these member unabashedly supporting and adoring of him, and they believed in him. and it had to make him feel like we have to stay the course, to borrow something from george h.w. bush. we have to say what we're doing and persevere, and they supported him enormously.
i think it is a poignant part of the book that he had these feelings towards these young men, and they -- it might be too much to say they thought of him as their father. i do not think that is true. it is interesting. alexander hamilton as john adams son --em was a bastard mr. drury: the bastard son of a scottish peddler. mr. clavin: john lawrence had a good relationship with his father. two of the three surrogate sons were fatherless people. they probably saw george washington that way. i think the emotional part of the book, and there are a number of emotional parts of this book. but one of the emotional parts of this book is george washington had this very open -- human, very open and a lot of
of relationship with these young men who saw him as the father of the entire army and father of the revolution. >> washington, we think of them is not human, but on this pedestal. mr. drury: oftentimes he is portrayed in films almost like mohammed. you are not supposed to see representation of him. a big goal of ours, which i think we realized, is there is a very, very human george washington in this book. >> i don't think there is any question you guys accomplish that. we were joking before, we could talk for hours. remember new york's two book minimum. please feel free to stay in the room. bob, tom, thank you so much. [applause]
please feel free to buy your books, have your drinks, and the authors will be happy to sign them for you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] crowd talking] >> interested in american history tv? visit our website, c-span.org /history. you can view our tv schedule, preview of coming programs, and watch college lectures, archival films and more. american history tv at c-span.org/history. this week on the communicators, christina chaplin 's report says the pentagon's weapons systems cyber security is vulnerable. >> they don't even test this stuff for the kinds of threats
you might see from russia and china and north korea. they are not allowed to in terms of testing. they don't want to potentially disrupt the system. communicators," monday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2. films can watch archival on public affairs each week on our series "reel america." that's on american history tv. here's a quick look at one of our recent programs. they are not our kind. they are a different sort of people entirely. my hair is longer than yours. should i cut it off? >> that will be enough out of you, young lady. >> are the wild animals or something? >> laura has heard her father, for many years. but she has done to -- learned
to do her own thinking. she has confidence in herself, what she believes. she does not need to step all over people in order to build herself up. as jeffregory does, found out. he wants to get ahead, have people look up to him. he always wanted praise, even as a child. instead he got disciplined and punishment. in his job he is standing still. others always seem to get the prizes he wants. 15 years at the same desk. the bookkeeper for a steel company. quiet, unobtrusive, fairly confident. a few small raises but no promotions. fine. politics -- 30 politics -- dirty politics.
gregory has his own answer. it is because they are so aggressive. they are so tricky and unscrupulous. some of them down at the mill make almost as much as he does. how come? fine way to treat an american. if it first you don't succeed, blame somebody else. ks, the foreigners. they are stupid and 30, but they are smart and tricky. they are lazy, but they are too ambitious. they are anything he wants them to be. a handy target for his own feelings of inadequacies. >> given watch archival films on public affairs in their entirety ln a weekly series "ree america" on american history tv. >> 50 years ago, congress
created the wilson center in washington, d.c. as the nation's memorial to president woodrow wilson. next on "the presidency," the center hosts foreign-policy experts to consider how the 28th presidents global relations after world war i has fared over the last century. it is just over an hour. >> good afternoon. i am the senior vice president of the wilson center. i would like to welcome those in attendance here at the center in washington, d.c., also a warm welcome to this watching on c-span. 50 years ago this month, congress passed legislation creating the wilson center as the nation's official memorial to our 28th president. rather than erect a statue on the mall, congress created the wilson center as a living memorial whose mission is to serve as a bridge between