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tv   Christopher Wren Those Turbulent Sons of Freedom  CSPAN  June 23, 2018 5:00pm-5:51pm EDT

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class families struggling to meet ends meet and offers potential solutions to their problems. also being published this week, sociologist tartton gillespie looks at how social media companies promote in custodians of the internet. and helen thompson explores the lives of nine people with rare brain disorders in unthinkable. look for these titles in bookstores this coming week and watch for many of the authors in the near future on booktv on c-span2. .. >> it's 7:00 so i'm going to get started. my name is liza and i'm going to try to do this without
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moving the mic, but it might not be possible. i'll just do that. okay. so, come on in. penny and i are pleased to have you here. and i want to welcome you -- going to remind people to shut off their phones and we have an incredibly full house, i'm going to do a brief intro and then our guest has the floor and then when he's done talking, and when there's question and answer, if you could wait for c-span to bring you the microphone, it helps with their process. so if you have a question they'll have a microphone and it's a little crowded. when the speech is done, i'll
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ask you to kick back your chairs and the cookies is going to stay here and author is here. >> no cookie? >> somebody will bring you a cookie. [laughter]. >> guest: that's the format for tonight. if you don't understand what i mean about the chairs, i've got pros to show you. we've got lots of events coming up. tuesday, june 12th, we have an unusual kind of event. two of our incredibly wonderful, favorite sales reps and from random house and anthem harbor will be here to talk about books and suggest books for your reading and also your reading group's reading so they'll be choosing books that have a lot to talk about and think about. and then on june 20th, we have another evening of poetry with mary flannigan from the college and sarah dickenson snyder who has family in the area. and then we sort of wind down for the summer here at the store, but we bring books to the canen meeting house series and stratford and they both
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have incredible lineups and not going through the whole list, but lauren will be here, peter manzo, joan silver who just won a big award and also, there will be the osher summer lecture series, they have got six summer lectures and they've got heavy hitters and it will be interesting. so if you sign up for our newsletter, and check the website, you won't miss any of the great things. but tonight, our guest is christopher wren and the first question that he was asked when we asked him to do a three-question interview for the book jam blog which some of you may know, it's a blog by local-- two local women, the question was, what three books have helped shape you into the writer you are today and why. and his answer was, it was actually 40 years as a journalist on deadline that shaped me as a writer. christopher wren began his career as a journalist covering
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the civil rights movement and vietnam war before moving to news week. he retired from the new york times after nearly 29 years as a reporter front correspondent and editor. he headed the times news bureau in moscow, beijing, ottawa and it reported from the former soviet union, balkans, middle east, southeast asia, south america, canada, basically, you name it. chris graduated from dartmouth and after serving in the army did a masters from columbia university, taught at princeton before returning to dartmouth, a visiting professor in the program. he's published three previous books some with john sheppard and one on johnny cash, which is news to me. and we've had him here, and
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walking vermont and another, both were back in our history, too. and those turbulent -- those turbulent sons of freedom. christopher examined documents on ethan allen and joseph put it best, ethan allen ledger talks about the highest peak in the green mountains. if you want to know the human foibles, here is chris wren waiting at the base of the mountain waiting to tell you. please help me welcome. [applause]. >> thank you. i have to be careful what i say because i have two colleagues from the new york times who are here, who wrote a lot more-- better stories than i did, but, and you're in luck tonight because i had a whole program what i was going to talk about
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and i left it at home. so i'm going to wing it here. what i want to do is talk a bit about the book, how i managed to write it, and it was ten years ago this month that i signed a contract on it, and it took a long-- and suddenly it changed and i found more stuff and things took me in directions i just had no idea was there. so, as i said, i became a foreign correspondent and actually i came to work, you know, to work for the new york times to satisfy my curiosity, and it's a great, you know, you get to go out and do interesting things on expense account. so i know that there's somebody who checked my expense account. [laughter] >> so, i want to talk a bit -- what i want to do is talk about ethan allen only slightly because he is surrounded by such interesting people that,
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in limited time ethan allen's story will tell itself. so what i want to do is go through and talk about some of the people who i really got to know while writing this. there's an elky hardy came out in a statement which i like, the past is a foreign country. they do differently there. well, william faulkner said, the past is never past. [laughter] >> but in this case, i think it's what hartley had to say that sort of-- and i became a foreign correspondent, i began covering this material and i began to think, as i looked at what was happening around here and i thought, and i think i began digging into this before i introduce you to the-- some of my favorite characters
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in the book that are not named ethan allen. where was i? one thing i want to say is that you have to remember when writing, and i'm quoting antonio fraser who i quite admired as a biographer, to-- i lost my place again. he talked about two problems when you write. and i think they're going to certainly fit into this, and one was the peril of anachronistic judgments and i'll talk about this, for instance, the african-americans who were here or who were freed by the nature of the constitution of 1777.
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and some people point out, well, they really weren't-- they really weren't free because it was-- there was, it was only for adult slaves and so we can get at this, but you have to remember the time and what the situation was. and i'm going to talk about one of my favorite people who had a role in the emancipation. and the other is the question about perils of hindsight. we all know that the-- that the patriots won the revolutionary war, but they didn't know it then. it was just constant losing and losing and losing, until they finally began winning. and i think to look at that and see the problems they had to do that, i just thought was fascinating when i wrote the book. so, i went out and i was really
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lucky. i began doing research in england, well, in england, actually, and there were some documents over there in the british library, and then i came here and i found there was more interesting, dartmouth has a whole floor, a basement nothing, but books about the american revolution and they're always happy to tell you take them out because they don't have any room to store them so i had 50 books at home. felt good about that. [laughter] >> and then i began doing -- went over to the newbury l library in chicago and found i had a larger book than i thought i was going to write. i want to mention characters that are fascinating here as i get into it that i sort of got intrigued by. the book is about three mountain boys.
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anybody who doesn't know who the green mountains boys were? they're basically a bunch of thugs. they went around-- ethan allen hated new york and so, they were his wars, really against new york and then he also set up the onion river company, oh, it was -- found it right here. to get land. and the onion river land company which leveraged property they didn't have to buy land that they could not afford and to which new york said they were not entitled. so, as we get into this, now, i'm going to tell you just a couple of things that people, that i really like here, and no particular order, but got
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fascinated. justice sherwood who became one of the characters in the books because there were these guys who were initially in the green mountain boys. when the time came to declare for the patriot cause, justice sherwood refused. he was -- his family had come to america in 1634, 1635, he'd had a background, he was about as american as you can get, but he would not break with the king because -- partly because he was church of england because i think he didn't see any point in it and you have to think about vermont as being basically two places. on the hudson river here people who-- people moved up the river, they were generally quite content with where they were. over on bennington, where i was a week behalf last and
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manchester, this was areas where they were separated by the green mountains and where they really didn't like-- didn't or really wanted to make the changes. i'm going to mention a couple of people that i did like in the book as i mentioned. and -- ethan allen got pushed aside by the commander of the green mountain boys because they didn't trust him. he'd gone up to capture fort ticonderoga. and fort ticonderoga was something that congress did not want and he had then not only taken-- the problem he took fort ticonderoga which belonged to new york. and massachusetts sent a man
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named benedict arnold up here. and benedict arnold and ethan allen actually loathed each other. i think one of them kicked the other for disrespecting or something. and so, as i get into this, the -- sorry, i'll get right with it. bear with me. i'm going to-- as i talk about some of the other characters who i looked who were fascinating here. oh, boy. one was ebenezer allen, who i find fascinating. he was ethan allen's cousin. they were all up here, cousins, and he was a stone killer. he had rangers and headed a ranger company and he didn't like what ethan allen was
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doing, but he got into this -- sorry. he got into -- he was heading rangers and he -- sorry. and he organized, they were going after the british troops who were retreating and they hit a convoy of them and grabbed two people who were-- they took the convoy and these guys were-- they carried scalping knives and they used them. and they grabbed two slaves named dinah mattis, a british
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slave, and her daughter and got together with his thugs, with his rangers and he said what do we do? he side it's against the sight of god to hold hostages, to hold slaves. and so he wrote out the first emancipation proclamation in what i think was in america, to free them. and that's -- that's still down, i think, in bennington. the original thing. so he was a good character. another one i liked was -- sorry. sorry. was lord jermaine and i don't know if you know who--
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lord jermaine was a lord who ran the british troops in america and he was roundly loathed because he had been a cavalryman and he was on an operation leading the cavalry and againsted french. and he didn't like the german commanders and refused to release them and as a result the french got away. the king wanted him taken out and shot. and they finally drummed him out of the army as a disgrace. and he worked his way back up, but he inherited-- he changed his name to jermaine and he worked his way back up and he ended up running with the next king, who didn't like the old king, ended running the
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whole-- all the british troops in north america. and he was very lucky because he was so loathed by everybody that nobody wanted to do anything-- have anything to do with him and also, he would do this all long distance. he wouldn't come over here, but he'd put out orders to get people. he would debate who among his troops deserved to have mittens in the winter was one of the things i remember. and he was just so awful. if they'd had a really-- they had a good carlton, who was a terrific commander, the former governor general of canada, who got pushed aside 'cause jermaine did a hatchet job on him. so, anyway, it goes on like this. let me get another one here. the other thing is the scalping of gene mcrae. this is a case where the british were, oh, where the
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were brought in and they grabbed a woman who was going off to meet her fiance who was a loyalist sharpshooter. and she got captured-- she didn't make it back to the headquarters, but her scalp did and it was being flouted by somebody who was on a pole. and so, the rumor is that-- i mean, so there's -- the presumption was that she had been scalped. but i went back and i looked at some of the documents, and it turns out that it was some continental scouts who were chasing her when she was chased by the iroquois. but they shot high and hit her and not the indians, but they used that as a rallying cry for the scalping of little jenny
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mccray. before i-- i have one other to mention which i liked which was -- i think it's here. they also talked about there was a lot of espionage that went up and down and they were off-- all spying on each other and justice sherwood ran most of this. he had been pushed out and he was, oh, when he -- he refused to give -- to pledge loyalty to the patriots and as a result he was taken out and beaten. his house was trashed. everything he had was trashed. he was sent off to be locked up in a mine in hartford, connecticut where they put the enemies of the revolution 80 feet underground and he got away and worked his way across and he ended up being one of
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the-- doing a lot of the fighting and he was one of the leads for burgoin when he came south on th this, but -- one thing i found when talking about who was in the force, who was in the american army or the army up here, and you think of-- they couldn't fill out the ranks with enough people so they have a lot of african-americans and indians who were in the ranks. and i remember looking to see if there's in i-- any proof of that, what was happening and i found a quote in one of the documents i read that identified him as negro. of course, in this -- and quoted what happened, that he was artillery man in one of the 40 african-americans were actually in the regiment at
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fort ticonderoga when they had to retreat and he said, he was told by his colonel who immediately obeyed and he ordered our tents to be struck and carried to the battery. on doing the order was to pick up our packs and march, which we also did. and so he has an account here. and i don't know that everybody picks that up. one thing i, oh, did do. i checked the weather, there's a national observatory, they can tell you what the weather was in 1776 and 1777. and i found when there was a retreat from fort ticonderoga. there was an account of it doing it by moonlight and one of the the doctors, surgeons, and they broke up the wine and drank it and toasted each other. if you go back and look at the weather, there was no moon at
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that time. so that was made up. and when i checked some of this stuff, it made it more interesting to go after. one of the people i like, one of the people i liked was johnnie stark. if you know john stark, he was the commander of the new hampshire militia. and when burgoin was pushing the south-- when he was pushing the vermont people back and they were fleeing. really, 'cause they were afraid they'd just everything and began running because burgoin's people had the american indians with them and who would terrify them.
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and so as johnnie stark came over from -- and he'd raised this force that came in and basically saved the remoderates because they said where the border is is where the -- is where we end up fighting because the border had just completely disappeared. i did want to mention one thing before i change the subject. i've gotten off on the wrong foot here. that there's an afterward in this book and this is the book that i got for $75. i found it on the sale. and i bought it in an auction. and my wife taped it up to keep it together.
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and it's the account of what's happened here all through this area. and if you'd like to take a look at it later, it's not for sale, but it has a lot of the details on it. and i read this, but in the end, they had a statement that i think is worth reading right n now. and it appears in the afterward of what this book was, it was written in 1794 which you're free to check. and it was written by the author of this 416-page history of vermont, it was hand printed and published in 1794 and it's no less relevant today. and it talks, ye people of the united states of america. behold here the precarious foundation upon which you hold your liberties. they rest not upon things written upon paper, nor upon
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the virtues, the vices or the designs of other men, but they depend upon yourselves, upon your maintaining your property, your knowledge and your virtue. it goes on, you're now in possession of your natural and civil rights. in this state of society, everything is adapted to promote the prosperity, importance, improvement of the body of the people, but nothing is so established among men, but that it may change and vary. if you should lose that spirit of industry, of economy, of knowledge, and of virtue, which led you to independence and to empire, then, but not until then will you lose your freedom. preserve your virtues and your freedom will be perpetual. and i think that really comes and talks about what we are confronting in this country today. i'm sorry, i got on such an awkward start, but if you have
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any questions, i'll switch out and answer any questions that you have. [applaus [applause] >> yeah. >> well, the more i learn about ethan allen, the more d disreputable he seems and more remarkable he's a famous figure in history. and it's how he emerged as the sort of icon ic historic figure in vermont history. >> and that's an interesting question. and ethan allen didn't leave us much. some remarkable statements and he said he could do no wrong in the popular administration, but he's more complex than history gives him credit for. he was a loud mouthed opportunistic and an inept
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battlefield technician and a propagandist who encouraged other settlers to join him. and his courage surfaced after ethan allen tried to capture montreal against orders. and ended up being put on a-- captured and put on a ship and shipped off to england to be hanged, an area called tyburn. they had invented a new hanging device, gallows and they were very popular in england and huge crowds to come and watch this new gadget and he was headed for there, but he did manage to talk himself out of that and the king's cabinet discussed what to do with ethan allen and they decided that they probably buy him off, that the king panelist, enemies by
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giving them money they couldn't-- enough they couldn't turn away from so they tried to buy him off. and it kind of backfired on them. but he did-- went into secret negotiations after he was held up for two years and eight months under terrible conditions. he came back and was kept in a british frigate and then sailed on to madeira and then got caught in a storm and sailed back up here and went to halifax, nova scotia and he was all over the place. but when he came out of the military, out of prison, they finally exchanged him. he then went into negotiations with the british, even after the way they treated him to try to make vermont an independent state in waiting.
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basically, it wasn't a formal republic, but to get him involved and he-- the other thing, and so anyway to answer your question, in time, after a while, we don't know where he was buried. we don't know, there's no portraits of him. he married twice, he had a pretty young second wife, but the first wife, he just drove to despair and he thought she was kind of a pious and he had great contempt for religion, but when he finally got -- when he finally got to pulling this together, there was a need for somebody like ethan allen to come in and this happened not just -- this happened after he
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died and where the people-- the people in vermont who had got here, they had exhausted the soil and they were pushing out west and they needed a figure who could -- who they could look to as a model to hold the vermont together and these people were immigrating and so, he took on a life of his own and grew up. he was interesting because he was-- he was tough, but he just did stupid things and he was an inept -- the green mountain boys or the-- voted for his cousin seth warner who turned out to be the real hero of the american revolution and developed a strategic withdrawal technique to save the army from annihilation, when they were
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trying to grab canada and retreati retreating. so i think at one point, the rest of the family, ivor allen, because he was six feet one, his brother ira was the smart one and he was able to pull, to get it going with the negotiations with the british and handle it all because ethan couldn't be trusted to keep his mouth shut about what he was doing and that's kind of a rounding response to your question. anything else? the other thing i would mention, i didn't realize that in vermont, that patriotism takes many forms, that we think of ethan allen as a patriot. they were called patriots, but the -- there was enough people here who really wanted to
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remain loyal with england, they didn't see any point of doing -- their natural links for trade and economics here were up, went through montreal and up the st. lawrence river. so, there was a strong loyalist element up here. i know that where i lived up in stratford up here, the p penknock, the family, tried to go down through to split new england, trying to go through vermont. the family up stratford had eight sons and seven of them turned out to enlist to fight for burgoin and a lot of them were killed down in saratoga and the other area. so you think that -- and i followed one person who was a
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young piper, a piper in the american army, who got captured in the battle, the epic battle here and ended up having to -- as a prisoner and he went out and his account of trying to escape and get home to new hampshire was riveting because he was always chased by loyalists who wanted to kill him. so there was a strong loyalist element in vermont that they don't address, that people don't realize. >> was it your -- living here in vermont, was that the spark that drew you in to the inspiration to study this book? was it being in stratford or could you tell us some more about the birth of this book? >> well, you know, i had -- i
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had moved up here when i left new york and i actually walked up here from the new york times. really, it's the dumbest thing to have done. [laughter] >> and so, your question was? >> my question was, was it living here that-- >> oh, yeah. >> that knowing the penknocks and being involved in the history of stratford that first got you interested in ethan allen as your career-- >> you know, i'd become a foreign correspondent or a reporter from the new york times to satisfy my curiosity and i'd been assigned to cover conflicts in a number of places around the world, across multiple time zones and i thought, well, if you could cover them across time zones, can you cover them across centuries. where i looked back at what
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happened in the battle of bennington and or what was happening in the development and say, what would i look for if i were-- if i were living here, if i had the opportunity to cover that. what would i want to look, and it game me quite a different perspective from a lot of historians who say, well, you know, this is what we know about ethan allen and they trot out the same evidence and so who are the characters. so i looked to see who would tell the story best and then there was also a set that my son gave me of letters in addition to-- there's a lot of material about this. frank moore was in 1860, made a copy of all the employable documents and everything he could find about the american revolution and he wrote this book in 1860 and 1861 and i got
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into that and there are some accounts. so i was looking for the informal accounts. one of the problems of the early historians here because they steal from one another. so you see one account and you say, checks out. here is another document, but first, if the other documents comes up it doesn't mean it's a better one that what you had, that you dug out later, but also, i think this whole idea of, i wanted to just who who $what were they talking about at that point. so i got into that and i'd like to think that i was using new york times techniques to what i -- which you kind of -- and i think i, i think as a result of that, i got into it and into this whole notion of covering worlds over centuries and not across time zones and the more i got into that, i began, what
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would i look for if i were in the battle, who would be logically -- because when you go out and work the story you get your sources, nail it down and then look for your-- you need a couple of other sources to nail it down and i tried to use those techniques here. it's one reason the book took me ten years to finish. [laughter] >> but the techniques work and you know, new york times, they taught me well. but and so i think i was using the new york times, my colleagues may differ, but this is what i was trying to do. >> in new hampshire, named stark, is that related? >> there is. >> starksboro, vermont, also. >> stark, he had fought in the battle of bunker hill and he was very good and then he got
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into a fight with the-- because they wouldn't promote him to general, i think, or something, so he said to hell with you and he went back to his farm in new hampshire and then they needed somebody to call out the -- to the militias and he agreed to do it on condition he had nothing to do with congress because he loathed congress and he turned them down for a-- he turned them down for promotion to colonel or brigadier general. and so he always hated congress in a way that i guess some people do today. and, but he's the one who turned the troops out. one of the interesting -- and so he got them all to come up and they came across the border, and they came down and they just pushed down and basically saved the-- saved vermont from being overrun. so, and he was remarkable
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thing. so when i got into that and went through his stuff. what's interesting, the congress is so cheap, it never paid him. so he had to try to borrow money from george washington who says i can't lend any money to lend you, and he was broke because never paid him. and the epic battle of bennington which was actually fought on the new york side, in the middle of the battle, somebody stole his horse, and he had a favorite horse and he came back and the horse was gone. and he was how can anybody be so dreadful to steal your horse while fighting a battle. and i anyway i was looking at little anecdotes to try and tie it together. >> oh, yeah, good, colleague. >> chris, what kind of materials did you get out of
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the british library? i'm wondering, what was collected there that was relevant? >> a lot of the documents that were sent over there and there's a book of -- there's two volumes series of various that i used-- that was put up by the historical society in 1869, 1860 i wanted to see what the documents were and i found that they had those documents actually stored in the manuscripts through at the british library in london. and you look at them and you went in and you sat there and you made your notes and everything, took a lot of notes. i was fascinated. first of all, the f's are s's, you work through that, but i got into these things and the original copies that they-- somebody had saved and they'd sent over there of the documents i was working with so
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i could go back and check them. and justice sherwood had a beautiful handwriting, so all of his stuff-- the book focuses on him. he became a master spy in the american revolution on the northern front. and this is basically about the northern front of the american revolution. so to be able to look at his documents and see who he was talking to, it's about as good a source as you can get, i think, so, that was very encouraging. and i went back, and my wife jacqueline had her oxford school had a reunion, i think, and i went up for that and what can i do, and i went down and began checking this stuff. oh, my gosh, look what's here. i could not believe what it was. so that really helped a lot. >> okay.
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[inaudible] >> yes, i was going to read a passage which i'd rather like, if i can. this is what i found, i really liked this in the battle of bennington where they had-- they were caught in heavy rain and they had people just-- they were showing up to fight, but they didn't know what to do and the commander of the military, of the force that they have, they had, that was sent in, was a man, a lt. colonel in the brunswickers, fighting up here, we'd call them mercenaries, but they were fighting and they came in and this is an account of when they came in to fight. so they had a storm and warner
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had set the world to bring in the green mountain boys from manchester because they were thought that they were going to get overrun and the storms started. every militia man was expected to bring his-- more volunteers, training and unarmed arrived to join his growing army. everyone was expected to bring his musket plus a banner or sword. and patriot ranks grew to 2000 volunteers without enough ammunition or guns. some carried pieces and others old muskets from the french and indian war. the officers carried heavy swords forged from farm tools. several hundred massachusetts men arrived from the helly burhelly --
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hilly berkshires from the south and among them they were eager to go out and patrol. the reverend thomas allen, classic scholar in harvard's 1762 trotted up in a black sulkey which he made pastoral rounds of his congregation, stark, we had been frequently called up and never led against the enemy, the preacher said. if you'll not resolve, not to let us fight and they ever turn out again. you'll not mark in you know the dark and rain. >> no, par son allen replied, not just this minute. when the lord gives us sunshine, i do not give you a chance to fight. stark promised i'll never ask again. the next day they -- that stark surrounded the whole -- the
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brunswickers and sort of trapped them and picking them off and went right over them. so, it was really one of the really good battles and that's the one where stark had his horse stolen. so-- one other thing that i found that i looked at some letters, some papers at the -- you always hear about the generals who get killed in battle or, but you never hear about the common soldiers, so i found-- went out to the newbury library in chicago and found the letters of a-- did i talk about ebenezer fletcher? he was a.
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he was a piper, a continental piper and he went out to the battle, which is where the americans turned and fought for the first time and bloodied the british and hit them so badly that they had to-- they had to deploy and lick their wound and the rest of the american got away. he talked, he was captured and he was lying there and they took everything he had. and then they said-- he had been shot in the back so he had a wound, a musket ball had gone in and they were going to -- they were taking -- they took everything he had, clothes and everything to sell them off. and then a couple of british regulars lookly teenagers, too, took pity on fletcher whose fair hair and small stature made him look younger than 16
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years. he was only five feet tall. they made up his pallet from hemlock bark coated with coats from the dead and wounded, under a shelter to keep him dry from the rain. a british soldier frenched spring water and brought fletcher tidbits of pork and liver, apologizing it was all he could find. the next day the soldier was ordered to march on and pumping fletcher's hand, wished him well. the difference in mankind never struck me more sensibly than while a prisoner, fletcher reflected. some would do everything in their power to make me comfortable and cheerful, while others abused me in the vilist of language, telling me that prisoners would all be hanged. he took off and went into the woods and hiked three and was chased by wolves as he told it. it's quite a story that he had
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and that's when he was running into armed lawless and got away and finally got home to new hampshire, still wounded, where a local continental officer had him arrested for desertion. his gunshot wound had not healed went he went off to serve two years in the enlistment in the campaign that washington had launched to destroy villages and crops of iroquo iroquois, with the british. so, that's basically what i had here. okay. [applaus [applause]. >> you know what to do with the chairs and watch the other
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people. okay. i just need one chair for-- to sit down. >> book tv is on twitter and facebook and we want to hear from you. tweet us, post a comment on our facebook page. >> simon & schuster, what are some of the books that you all are publishing this summer and fall? >> we have a really strong list beginning this summer. we have a book coming out in july on indianapolis by lynn and sarah. this summer a reunion of the remaining survivors. the indianapolis is the worst naval disaster in history. and the captain was court martialed and exonerated. this is the first instance of


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