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tv   Rick Atkinson The British Are Coming  CSPAN  August 10, 2019 3:32am-4:24am EDT

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[inaudible conversations] >> good evening everybody i am broadly the co-owner along with my wife. in behalf of everybody here welcome, thank you free much for coming. it has been six years since the publication in a volume of the deliberation a trilogy. i wrote it that way earlier today and said i will not make that mistake again. his liberation about the l.a. tramps and europe during world war ii, six years turned his attention away from the great work of the 20th century and started focusing on the great work of the 18th century that gave birth to this country. for those of you who have been wondering whether rick could do
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it again, whether he could bring the extensive research team attention to detail, narrative elegance to another green conflict, the evidence is now in, and yes indeed he has done it again. the british are coming which is volume one of what rick is calling the revolution a trilogy was released today. it is another magnificent history. weaving together the perspectives of many characters of high lot along with meaningful assessments of the action. this initial volume recounts a 21 months of americans were independence starting in the spring of 1775 with the battles of lexington and concorde and through the complex of princeton into early 1777. as the son of the u.s. army officer rick grew up a military
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post and after graduating from university and becoming a journalist, he was hardly surprising that his reporting first for a couple of kansas papers and then over 25 years for the washington post often took a back to the u.s. armed forces. eventually those stories built into books including the long green line and the last point class of 1966, crusade the history of the persian gulf war in the company of soldiers in the rick's two month during the invasion of iraq in 2003. the world war ii trilogy was clearly the most vicious and established him as one of the most talented and popular historians. his second individual, he won for national reporting with the kansas city times, and his third
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poet, if you got the one in 1999 for public service for series edited by rick on shootings by the d.c. police department. volume two, the day of battle was the best seller in volume three, the butte at number one on the new york times bestseller list the longtime editor john sterling said in the wake of such success, another writer would've dubbed himself mr. world war ii and spent the rest of his career furnishing that brand. but not rick. he decided to take on an entirely different work, yes my tenderly been written about the american revolution but no one had done a start to finish battle history or sometime in the actual experience of the work had been made real to readers for many, many years until now. rick and i have known each other for 30 years, since our days
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together at the washington post, although he has spent much of his working life with wars and warriors, he has never seen the tire of the subject. i remember a moment hearing it when he had just returned from a month in england. he had been granted access in windsor castle where the papers of george the third reside. the vast majority of member published in only recently opened scholars. rick was so excited to have gone to read them for insight into why the british monarch against his own subject for eight years across 3000 miles of ocean. and you will see, he starts this book with georgia third and this is the real king george, not the hamilton version. we have a particularly soft spot for rick. he's a regular and in fact in
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2012 authored a lovely brief history for collection of profiles in my bookstore. if you have not read it i urge you to bring now we expected a few people this evening would show up and you will have, and we could've hosted rick in a larger venue but i know he prefers speaking in the store which has a special significance to him. please join me in welcoming ri rick. [applause] >> well thank you for that brad. when i brag about our town, one of the things and proudest of is a live only a mile from politics and prose. this is the seventh consecutive time dating back 30 years to 1989 that a marked publication day of the new book by appearing
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here at my neighborhood bookstore. each time has been an honor and i'm grateful to you for you and your team for letting me come back and am grateful for you neighbors for your encouragement over the years. the last time i was here as you mentioned six years ago was may 14, 2013 when we rolled out the guns, the final volume of a trilogy on the liberation of europe. a project that take me 15 years. in 2013 i was pondering what to do next and they said the obvious thing would be the pacific and try to do for the pacific campaign what i did for the mediterranean and western european campaigns. that would've required to start the war over again. [laughter] at pearl harbor or even earlier, i cannot shake the personal fascination since i had since i was a kid. i'm now completed in a trilogy,
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in june 1773, and he takes to south coast of england where there was a four-day review of the national and world navy, it's a national holiday, it's ten years after the creation of the british in prayer the phrase, the sun never sets with quaint in 1773. this book goes through the two battles of trenton and princeton in early 1777 in american hopes which seems extinguished at that point. let me concede that there's for american independence. starting the search to all men
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are created equal, nor was it valid for immediate americans, women or immigrants. for the eight years duration of the market revolution, those who remain loyal and even stragglers were not completely committed to the idea of armed interaction, often were subjected at dreadful treatments. public shaming, disenfranchisement compensation, beatings, torture, et cetera, somewhere in prison on hudson river scouts, anchor below an old connecticut coppermine where they were lowered 70 feet below ground into rockwall cells known as hell. john adams later admitted, i would hang my own brother had he
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taken part with their enemy in the contest. infirmity, censorship, zealotry, forced into defensive war for liberty and secure basic rights, they improperly invaded canada an attempt to win force of arms which cannot be won by negotiation in them linda schmidt. a 14th colony. this is the first for hardly the last of another land on the pretext of bettering life of the invaded. the enduring image of a farmer leaving his plow to grab a musket on behalf of freedom is mostly mythical, during the revolution general george washington rarely had more than 20000 soldiers and sometimes as few as 3000 in a country of two and half million. particularly after the initial partial enthusiasm throughout lexington, invaded in 1775
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relatively few american men volunteered for military service especially if it involved listing for the duration for the badly fed, clothed and badly led continental army. and yet, who would deny the creation story of our founding remain valid, vivid and thrilling. even in 2019, at a moment for national immunity is elusive and a rinker's seem ever more toxic in the simple concept of truth is disputed, that story seems -- that creation story informs who we are where we came from and what they believed in perhaps the most profound question any people can ask themselves, what
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they're willing to die for. indeed at least 25000 americans died for that because in perhaps many more. so what can we learn. from the ancient coral, that the nation was board bickering, it is international genome, second their own foundational truths that are not only true but also as a declaration of independence says self-evident. third, leaders worthy of our enduring admiration rise to the occasion of grit, wisdom, grace and forth, whatever trails santos today we have overcome greater perils before. we are the beneficiaries of an
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enlightened political heritage headed down from the revolutionary after many subsequent struggles, it includes tricksters on how to divide power in from the hands who think primarily them cells. we cannot let letting heritage slip away. we cannot permit it to be taken away. we cannot be oblivious to this priceless gift or the hundreds of thousands who have given their lives over the last few hundred 40 years to affirm and sustain it. now the american resolution was not a war between regimes or dynasties, fought for territory or the usual commercial advantages, but an improvised struggle between a common heritage which are been gradually standard by divergent
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values and conflicting visions over the world to come. the americans, one by embracing fewer strategic conceptions than the british did. certainly the rebels, us could be wrongheaded. and greater economic leverage over the country than they did for example or character train king george the third who sat on his throne for 60 years and was more complex than the overbearing who dominates our imagination and emmons is across the stage in hamilton. george and his ministers made three critical miscalculations. one that most colonists remain loyal to the crown notwithstanding troublemakers capable of inciting arrival. two, the firmness including
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military firepower is necessary and would intimidate and restore harmony. and three, failure to reassert london's authority would eventually unstick the newly created british empire encouraging insurrections in ireland, canada, sugar islands and caribbean, india it's an 18th century version of the domino theory that would propel america into vietnam two centuries later. britain also underestimated the difficulty of waging war across 3000 miles of open ocean in the age of sale. for eight years as it turned out. expeditionary warfare wasn't waged in 18th century and is among the most difficult martial thieves. the british army in the revolution are unable to gather food and forge from the american
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countryside without being ambushed relied largely on provision ship from english and irish ports. dispatched across the atlantic in the winter of 1775, 76 only eight reached the king's forces indirectly. the rest were blown back to britain or to the west indies were intercepted by rebel remodelers. of 550 lincolnshire sheep aboard ships that made it to boston with the fittest to undergo 40 of the 550 arrived alive. of 290, 274 arrived alive. when the british move to new york in the summer of 1776 and requested 990 horses to pull the artillery and supply wagons, 412 of the 950 horses died at sea
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during the voyage. scores more were ruined beyond use. similar difficulty leg the british for years. the district is always hard and were, i personally seen just a hard and somalia, bosnia, iraq, afghanistan and elsewhere. even with the american rebels are fighting on their home turf, they faced enormous difficulties of 75 official letters to general washington wrote in january and february, 1776 have mentioned munitions shortages often pleading fretful terms especially gum powder which washington called the thing. it's difficult to make musket balls without lead. by the summer of 1776, the americans were desperately short of the stuff. in new york where the 100 tons of lead were collected from fishing nets, cloths, windows,
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to make bullets. along with lead of downspouts and window glass canes and pewter dishes. without salt, armies and navies could not stockpile the meat and fish needed to move anywhere, 2 bushels of salt, more than 10e 1000 pounds of pork. beef required even more. before the war american imported 50 million bushels annually half from the west indies and half from britain and southern europe. the british trade strangled two thirds of those imports. profiteers in hoarders drove up the price of 2 bushels to 14 by late summer 1776 and 75 a year later to encourage saltworks along the coast, pamphlets were printed with recipes in congress authorized hansen bounty for
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every bushel produce. john adams wrote, all the old women and children were going down to the jersey shore to make salt. 400 gallons of seawater was needed to boil off a bushel of salt which required stacks of forward. it's pretty hard. virginia spent more than 6000 pounds to build evaporation along the chesapeake but collected only 50 bushels probably the most expensive salt in the world. those problems substantial as it were, hardly matched britain's problems. the thousand tons of bread required each month to feed british shoulders in new york often arrived boldly and infested with irish rats. soon infested in staten island. for the winter of 1776 and 1777, then 16000 cords of firewood.
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70 tons of candles, the daily allowance of a jill of rome, that is 5 ounces, that's about a gallon a month. it took an enormous amount of shipping space. the british navy board needed 400 transport and ships to move the supply in july. it was triple the tonnage at the peak of the war. let's talk for a moment about george, our last king. he is an intriguing adversary. queen elizabeth the second as brad mentioned opened up to outside scrutiny that george and papers which she owned, as part of a project to catalog and digitize from offer george's who became king in the 19th century. there were 350,000 pages, most from the rain of george the third period most previously unpublished. i was allowed to take a look for
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april 2016, the month the queen turned 90. at windsor castle where the papers are store. every morning i would show my badge and then climb 100 into steps and stairs to the round tower in their other papers. a gorgeous oversized red binders. george's own secretary when he began to go blind. he wrote not only most of his own correspondence, he made the copies and as you pull through these pages you don't need to wear gloves, they are very nice about it. there's a tactical sense of being in his presence. among other things he's a great list maker. list of british garrisons abroad between 1764 and 1785. the broil navy vessels under construction and various
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shipyards. if all the regiments in america the number of officers, musicians and rank-and-file troops each tabulated with his arithmetic scratching in the margins. george copied out his own recipes for cough syrup. write this down, rosemary, rice, vinegar, brown sugar boiled in silver. he was a theatergoers. he kept critical notes under dramatic actors. had a formal gravity on his knee and appear senile. he married and obscured german prince's charlotte, who is in charlotte, north carolina who learned to play god save the king during the voyage to england from germany. they married six hours after they met, he had the marriage
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bedroom decorated with 700 yards and large pieces of goldfish strategically placed around the bedroom. the happy union proved fertile, she produced children as lunar regularity. [laughter] eventually to number 15 and we see in his personal correspondence that george is a caring father, invested in the rearing of his kids. through all of this he is trying to figure out the proper course for the british empire for the monarchy and for his people. he is easy enough to dislike but impossible i find to just test or dismiss as a reactionary autocrat. the war he chooses to wage is brutal, bloodied and often savage unlike modern war killing in 18th century is usually intimate, usually face-to-face,
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and often with a bayonet. that is partly because 18th century muskets were mostly inaccurate beyond 50 yards and almost hopeless beyond 100 yards. scholars have calculated within the fights lexington concord and the british retreat to boston on the first day of the war april lippard 70000 rounds but only one bullet in 300 actually hit a red coat. the shot heard around the world probably missed. [laughter] battlefield admitted it to commands weight and bullets to kill him in the 18th century and never knew sherry were combat that that was not far wrong. on the other hand, mask musket fire, clusters of men firing in volleys sent swarms of one-out
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slugs flying downrange at perhaps 1000 feet a second and that could be devastating. a man 5 feet, 8 inches to hide an exterior surface of 200550 square inches of which 1000 were exposed to gunfire when he was facing an enemy at close range. and given the inadequacy, the imprudent inadequacy, if you're hitting the torso you have more than 50% chance of dying. by the way later studies by the british army demonstrated that soldiers were inconspicuous red uniform were twice as likely to be shot in combat as those in blues and grays. american marksmen, especially those few with rifles which were more accurate than muskets learned to target the brightest of the redcoats, those that were
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almost 1 million in queue because they're usually worn by officers who could afford the more expensive dies that made the coat pop. in the battle of bunker hill, june 17, 1775 the british captured roughly square mile of territory at a cost of over 1000 casualties including 226 british dead. it was a massacre. those are some of the nuts and bolts of 18th century worker, what are the emotional guts of the revolution? that is what still moves us, makes us feel the men and women of more than one doesn't generations ago have something to say to us. why is that? certainly not revolutionary generation can seem so distant as to be almost foreign people. if the irony of skepticism of the twin lenses o.
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they are far less ironic and skeptical in the worldview than the 21st century descendent. they speak english but have their own argo in their own slang. for example counterfeit money widely practiced in the 18th century, was known as shoving the queer. someone who died to kevin by the way, british soldiers in boston sometimes referred to americans as jonathan's. but those are minor differences, we admire those americans for their endurance, sacrifice, not only displayed by men serving in the ranks but others swept up in the events of those times. lois peters, of connecticut had not seen her husband captain nathan peters in months when she
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wrote him, please come home as soon as possible, a visit from you anytime would be agreeable and meanwhile she harvest the corn, sell their hawks and to try to keep the family resolve it. so the short and take great pleasure knowing them. and take faith with the future. and your loving wife until that. nathaniel green, one of the great figures and a milliken history, he makes one of the worst operational decisions of the war by leaving 3000 american soldiers exposed and formable at fort washington. we are in the space of eight hours, those 3000 are trapped and killed and captured.
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this is often characterized by miscalculation, misfortune, imprudent and efficient military skills. but green picks himself up, takes a deep breath and writes to his wife, the virtue of the americans is put to a trap. i am hearty and well, i missed all of the pigs and hardships. be a big courage, dopey distress. all things will turn out for the best. be a good courage, he is speaking to us, to you and to you. he is certainly speaking to me. are we listening? the sheer drama of the revolution, it is a compelling and often thrilling, from the bloodletting of bunker hill, where one of every eight british officer killed during the long war would die in four hours. to the skin of the teeth escape by washington and his army in
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the fog across the east river, after a terrible drugging on long island. beyond the battlefield the theatrical pieces and power of the conflict surely out runs any dramatist imagination. the abrupt arrival of benjamin franklin to woo the france into an alliance with radical republicans. the 100,000 smallpox deaths from 1775 - to 1782. the white men sitting in philadelphia in the summer of 1776/eight with their handkerchiefs while carving up thomas jefferson draft declaration to make it shorter and much better. the many american families, franklin's among them ripped apart by irreconcilable political differences.
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but the central figures in her creation story remain involved in reverence, nonetheless remain beguiling. or perpetual scrutiny and often in manually and. washington is a case in point. yes he owned or than 300 slaves when he died at mount vernon in 1799. there is no square in that circle. he demonstrated shortcomings of the tactical commander at long island, fort washington and other battlefield. the man who could never tell a lie sure could prevaricate. [laughter] in washington's carping about his troops, his officers and his life, i just trust everything he grumbled in 1776, transforms the demagogue into a petulant mortal. yet great responsibility and largest him. he rightly embodied the
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sacrifice of personal interest to a greater good. as well as all the republican virtues. probity, dignity, moral stamina, encrypt ability, traits that she remain true north for every citizen today. affliction is a good man shining time, out of bill adams said. some use ago the distinguished john shop wrote that the civil war like every other major event in american history including the second world war has a tragic human two-sided quality that the revolution seems to lock. the whole complex of revolutionary events takes on a smooth self-contained character that makes getting the right emotional grip on the subject very difficult. my premise, is that tragedy is the bedrock of every war because every work is about young men and young women dying young.
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my ambition is to find the emotional grip to revive the tragic human multisided quality that saturates the american saga from 1775 to 1783. so we see lieutenant edward, a young scottish officer in the 43rd regiment of foot, scottish northridge and concord in april 19, 1775 and shot again during the british retreat toward boston, captured by the americans in agony from three bullet wounds. he lingers for nearly two weeks in a twilight of pain and rumors before he to take seven by the way. or we see mary peters the widow of a private killed a bunker hill, while fighting the
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massachusetts militia as she petitions the commonwealth precisely 5 pounds and 12 shillings in compensation for her husband lost, trousers, stockings, shoes and so concurs in tobacco box. a richard montgomery from montgomery county and the assault on qu├ębec. hihit and dies mortally through the face, his effects were shoot off a couple days after his death item by an impaired two volumes of polybius. johnson's dictionary of the english language, a buffalo skin and close brush bought by captain ehrenberg and a wardrobe with ruffled shirts, coats all bought by benedict arnold. or we see eleanor the island of
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nuts. a couple hundred acres in the river just above the near quarter with thousands of american soldiers retreating from canada in june 1776 jammed among malarial hell suffering from smallpox, or god awful melody infested with lice and maggots, one dr. wrote, we had nothing to give them. it broke my heart and i wept until i had not more power to sweep. and we see matthew patton, of bedford new hampshire whose son john survived the gunshot wound but did not survive. he wrote simple in his diary, i got an account of the death of the smallpox in canada. he was 24 years and 31 days old. the historian considered the american civil war a redemptive
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tragedy, surely the same can be said of the american revolution, and embodied the aspirations of an idealistic people and brought forth a nation abounding with a sense of destiny no wonder the world was god. the cause of america is the cause of all mankind. and even now were for independence offers clues to our national temperament. it remains a bright near him in which we see traits to fashion and working character from ingenuity and resilience to brutality and hug nasty. we have come far and almost two and half centuries in power, diversity, tolerance and sheer scale but those ancestors remain near the window.
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the proper limits on executive power. the obligations of citizenship. in the elusive quest for more equitable society. but the question of 1776 persist and put 2019. who do we want to be. democracy is never a thing done the poet in the library, democracy is always something that a nation must be doing even the declaration secular scripture we hold these truths to be self-evident. in dynamic never a thing done. something in nation must be doing. the great yell historian edmund morgan wrote the creed of equality did not give man equality much less women but it invited them not to know the
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place and keep it but to seek and demand about a place. the american revolution went to 3089 days and the result was apical and enduring in the creation of the mark in public. among mankind's most remarkable achievements. and nearly 90000 days have elapsed since the horse flies swatting a human birthright of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. keeping faith with those who fought, suffered and died in the principles we prepress to church requires more than acquaintance, more than the knowledge meant of the struggles. for better and for worse, their story is our story. their fight remains our fight. thank you so much for coming out. [applause] thank you.
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>> thank you very much. we will take questions and we only have one microphone because at the way c-span does it. if you can come to the microphone and we will go from there. >> i wanted to say i appreciate the way you answered the question already. war is still hell with her hundreds of three shots a minute. it is still hell. >> i agree. there are things about work that are familiar and entirely familiar to intervene men in the marine corps and afghanistan today. >> hi, i had a question regarding your research process for the book. presumably a battlefield research that you have to do,
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did you find one site in particular has been preserved while compared to others? i know compared to the civil war the effort for that hasn't been a strong. if so, do you have a favorite while doing the research ? >> it is true, american revolutionary war battlefield is very uneven. if you go to new york which is the epicenter of much of the struggle in 1776, 77, they occupied until 1783, you really have to use your imagination to understand what happened. and the biggest battle of war which was at long island was august 1776. there are some markings, is not gettysburg and it's not like normandy in the european battlefields. there are others national battlefield like saratoga that is well preserved. one of my favorite is not
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well-preserved at all but you can see it because the land has not changed much. that is to live in island which is an island at the mouth of terse and they in 1776, they decided they would try to capture charleston and they sent a navy squadron and there was a fort built and commanded mostly by south carolina militia. and they blistered the royal navy. it was a terrible defeat for the navy. in the court is not there anymore, in the markings historically are minimal, you can really understand the layout of the battlefield in the way the approaches to the harbor candlelight the navy ships that were trying to get to charleston. so it is an issue. the civil war trust which is
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done very fine work on behalf of all of us to preserve civil war battlefields has now turned his attention to revolutionary war battlefield and they are putting money into buying lots of lean and try to prevent what is battlegrounds as much as vicksburg and is important for all of us to be part of the preservation. thank you. >> i have a question related to the nerve times. recommend it to everyone. you have a story you returned to tell over the three volumes before you start the research? i know you guys are doing the work. tell me what you came up with.
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>> that is a good question. i have not thought of it in those terms. a story driven by character for me. i am always looking for character that can help engage my interest and enthusiasm and hopefully as readers. in the story that can help propel characters and propel the narrative. the narrative is a narrative, we know what happened on april 19, 7075 at least in general terms and we know where the story ends up in 1781. but it's a nuances, the brush strokes of detail, the flux of gold the eyes of researcher are looking for in countless archives the helps to bring to life that narrative. and help to bring to life those characters. so i fasten uncertain people
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that i will have with me for the most part for three volumes, some of them are inevitable, dwight eisenhower, george patton, thank god. in the revolutionary war and children, you have george washington, and the man was absolutely indispensable, commanding the institution which is indispensable of the united states army, the continental army. these characters, i'm looking for ways to walk them onto the stage or have them gallop on the stage. in ways that help to advance the generative and also the scene and grow. so a character like benedict arnold, he is the best battle
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captain on either side for the first two years of the war. he is born to lead other men. not only his terrific fighting on the end, absolutely proficient fighting admiral at sea because he commands the market squadron in october 1776. he loses his quadrant but delays the british invasion for the british to be stalled in their attempt to take new york. one of the crackle moments in our history. he is the guy who does it. he is enormous capacity for infuriating people around her. he is just one of those people who makes people angry and he is got resentment. which will lead to certain things as you all know. so benedict arnold for me as a character that i can watch evolve over time, he is critical to the event that i'm describing in this book and would to be
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critical later because we will see him switch sides. so i'm looking for characters to help take the narrative rather than thinking of larger story theme i'm advancing. sorry for the long-winded answer. >> in i'm from massachusetts, and for 30 or 40 years my parents lived on barrick which is right down our street from the bridge and all that. it is a beautiful place. my question is, in the early 1980s there was a special public broadcasting about the revolution by a british guy who walks into different battlefields and told it from his point of view. and it sounded very much like vietnam. except of course we were over
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that. was it like that? in the british did not know who the enemy was in people picking them off behind trees and the british did not expect it, as you know -- we were outgunned. >> particularly during the vietnam war there were a lot of parallels grown by scholars in ordinary readers between what we were facing in vietnam in the insurgency that was being waged in america in the 1770s an early 1780s. and on thursday night i'll be at the new york historical society would david who wrote the manual on counterinsurgency and sent me his list of questions yesterday and about 90% are insurgency. and there are certainly terminal
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ladies about insurgencies and tried to suppress and insurgency. so i think you can see that there are parallels between the redcoats fighting an enemy that seems to melt into the countryside, that has difficulty eating food as a mention, has difficulty knowing who is a friend of the crown and who is not a friend. and make gross errors of judgment. these are all insurgency issues, all part of the questions that are raising insurgencies. one issue, could the british have done anything differently that would've been successful in their encounter insurgency. incidentally, general henry clinton who served longer than any british general during the american revolution in america,
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his father had been the governor of new york so he spent his childhood in new york, he knows the country well and will be the commander-in-chief of british forces for for years during the revolution, he says in order to tramp we need to win hearts and minds. [laughter] it is not a new concept. it's almost exactly a direct quote from him. he recognizes it's about hearts and minds. we recognize in afghanistan, we recognize in iraq, we recognize that in vietnam, easy to say hard to do. so could the british have come up with any better insurgency.than they did, counterfactual's are tough. historians because you can never be proved wrong. but my feeling is, there is probably a losing proposition. that it is rooted deeply and
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broadly and they don't have the force ratios that they need. they can go a two new york and they can clear west chester county but they cannot hold it. they do not have enough men. and almost half of the royal navy, it's a greatest navy they have seen. almost half of it is here in america fighting and they don't have nearly enough ships to do all the things that are required of the navy against the insurgency even though we don't really have any b. so yes, you don't want to over stress the linkages between them but certainly you can hear rams. [applause] thank you,.
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>> you can buy the book at the checkout desk. please form a line. and please fold up your tears. .

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