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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  December 24, 2014 9:02am-9:35am EST

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michelle obama and the lighting of the capitol machine, and celebrity activists talk about their causes. and samuel alita, and former florida governor jeb bush on the bill of rights and the founding fathers. on c-span2 at 10:00 a.m. eastern venture into the art of good writing, and at 12:306789 so the feminist side of a superhero. 7:00 p.m. all thor pamela paul and others talk about their reading hands. on american history tv on c-span3, the fall of the berlin wall with c-span footage of president george bush and bob dole with speeches from presidents john kennedy and ronald reagan. at noon fashion experts on first lady fashion choices and how they represented the styles of the times in which they lived at 10:00 tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world events.
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that's this christmas day on the c-span networks. for a complete schedule, go to cspan.org. each week "american artifacts" visits museums and historic places. 200 years ago on september 11th, 1814, british and american naval forces clashed for 2 1/2 hours in cumberland bay near plaths'burgh. david fitz-enz, author of "the final" takes us on a tour of key locations to tell the story. >> pilot, joseph baron, ship "saratoga" september 11th, 1814, battle of plattsburgh in cumberland bay. this battle is lost to american history.
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at the first 100th anniversary, it was known by everyone. this was a human celebration. people knew how important the ballots was, but in the meantime things have changed. that poem became the national anthem, baltimore is in the center of a pop you lated area, and people have been taught what took place there, and what took place there was very important, but it was a diversion. the real battle was up here. you see, if the british can take plattsburgh, there's no troops between here and d.c. the cavalry is not coming. they could sweep down the lake, go on to lake george, go on to the hudson and can split the united states in half. in the meantime, the treaty of gent it talks are on.
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this is a bargaining chip. if you with redraw the boscher of the northern united states while these negotiations are going on, that's going to be the new northern border. what they had in mind, they didn't plan to take the united states again. it was not another revolution. what they planned was they wanted a new northern border for the united states, not the 45th parallel, but the 43rd. they wanted the northern border of massachusetts to be the border of the northern united states. if you take that line and run it across the country, you take that parallel, you end up in buffalo. that means that the united states would have lost maine, vermont, new hampshire, and all of northern new york. that way the british would have had control of the southern shore of the great lakes. that's what they were after, but plattsburgh put a stop to that. the british army is not in the united states. the british army is back in
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canada. so when the treaty is signed on christmas eve in 1814, the statue quo is what we see today. we're five miles north of plattsburgh, new york. it was here this whole battle began. but let me give you a bit of background first. when the war with napoleon ended in the spring of 1814, the british had a problem, we wellington wanted to keep this victorious army in attack, but no one saw this vision. when the army returned to england, it would probably be disbanded. when the ogre goes away, there's no need for a democratic society to fund a very expensive army, and they would just simply go
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away. so in order to keep them, he went to lord bathhurst, the secretary of war. he said i've got this other problem, i have this american war of 1812. i would like to put it to an end. we need to trade with those people. they're vital to us, but let's put a stop to it to our advantage. and so he said, give me your troops, and wellington gave him about 30,000 total of his army that was sitting in france drinking in the cellars all the wine that they could find. they put them on ships, and a special order was written and sent to general provost, the general of canada, who had been fighting the war of 1812 for the past two years, defending all that now. now he had a chance to go on the offensive. this new order said we're going to do two things to end this war
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in our favor. we're going to use a part of the wellington's forces to raid along the eastern seaboard of the united states and down into the gulf of mexico, and keep american government and the people and the military's attention focused to the south. but in the north we're going to make you the main attack. we're going to give you the numbers in order to bring this whole conflict to an end. so the order said that he would be given 15,000 troops, and he could add to the 4,000 that he already had in country. they had been fighting for the last two years. they also the canadian fenceable regiments, citizens who agreed to fight long the british but only in canada. that's why they were called fenceables. so the voltappear jiers along
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with the carbon aires, and now prevost had an arm. he was going to plan a 1777 -- he was going to go straight south down lake champlain to new york. you know, that's a waterline, because there were no roads to speak of in these days. if going down past saratoga on into new york harbor, split the united states for the industrial north, and the agrarian south. that's his intention. he has to get past the american force here at plattsburgh. it has 6,000 american soldiers here. he sends some of these troops west for a little while, gets the attention of the american
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government, and armstrong said they're not going to go down lane champlain. they're going to continue to fight in northern new york along lake erie and the niagara. so armstrong shifts the american army. he pulls of the 6,000 troops that are here, he pulls 4500 out, and he pulls them out in the last week of august, sends them um the mohawk valley, and then they're going to go by ship to the niagara. all that leaves here is 1500 regulars. these regulars are the people who couldn't make the march. they were the sick, the lame, the lazy, the prisoners in the stock ade, the band is here. so that's what's left behind and that would be what's defending on this road. so when prevost finds out that the american army has left, he
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starts his attack. he moves those soldiers, fewer than 15,000, to the canadian border, and he crosses the border on the 1st of september, and begins to march south. is the column actually is ten miles long. the artillery doesn't cross the border under the 4th of september. it took four days before they could even move south at all. down this radioed them come. here the few new york state militia are standing by at this little bridge. when they see them coming, they start to fire their muskets in their direction. but the british just sweep them aside. they don't even drop that you are packs. the first regiments rush this bridge and the american mill willisha retire quickly about 1,000 yards up the road to
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culver hill. the british is advancing on the regular army. this memorial commemorates that event. here, several thousand british soldiers, the first of the regiments, in fact it was the iii rentment, the buffs from canterbury confronted john wool, a imagine in the united states army had brought 200 of his troops and attempted to stop the british advance while also gaining information as to what in the world we were facing at this point. the battle broke out here, and quite a bit of fighting took place. a number of casualties here, but the british were not halted at all. they just charged the americans here at the top of the rise at culver hill. the americans had to withdraw, and withdraw, and withdraw, and for the rest of the day of the 6th of september, they would withdraw steadily back into the
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city. as the british column came down this road, the farmers here along the road were surprised to see at the end of the column at the end of the day the women and children of the british infantry regimen regiments. before the british regiment left to go to com pat bat the night before. there was a lottery held. at wives put their naps in a hat. one out of ten was selected to travel, and they brought their children with them, and they embarked on board the ships, and they traveled across the oceans, and they came to canada, and they walked down this road. you know what their job was. they were the support troops. they're the ones that at night set up the tents, got the firewood, build the fire, cooked the food, took care of the children, cleaned the uniforms with brushes, and of course they
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were the medical corps. there were doctors, british drps and a few corpsmen, but they needed hundreds to take care of the casualties. it was the women, the family of the soldiers of the regiment d ten years ago it was a field, but a field, that were interested in trying to preserves the history here. and the lady who lived in that white farmhouse was very interested in the story, so we talked to her about it. she put it into her will that when she died, this parcel of land would be given to the battle of plattsburgh, and the town built this so that we could all see exactly what happened here on that momentous day at culver hill.
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is. after they run the american troops off, they continue down this edge of the lake. here they'll have to split their force in two, because the road just will not sustain traffic, and this brigade will travel along the edge of the bay and into plattsburgh. we're here on the edge of cumberland bay. on the far side where you see those trees is a road, and that road is what enabled the british to bring all these troops into town. about 4,300 troops came along that line over there. the american navy was out here in the bay waiting for them, as they saw the column marching along, they began to bombard them. the british column was broken up and stopped. but then the british royal
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artillery came up behind them. they set up their guns, and those six-pounders decimated the fleet that was sitting out here. the fleet was force to do withdraw and go deeper out into the lake. this will reduce the american navy's ability to support the army, because now they're going to be too far away from the shoreline. then the british could freely enter. they came down around this road around the corner, and the officers will take over conte - kent-delord house as their bill let. the british army relentlessly drove the americans back down the road into the city. some of the british troops came lune this line here. they were swiss, swiss
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missionaries, working for the british government, along the with canadian volter jaires. americans fought their way all the way to the bridge. once on the bridge, they picked up the plank to the british, the french couldn't follow them and said them up on the far side. there the americans will sit with their infantry from the 6th to the 11th waiting for the british main attack. >> pinches the museum is on the old army post. there's been an army post here ever since the war of 1812. this is what the land looked like. it's a very complex battle, because the battle is both army and navy, and occurred simultaneously without an
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amphibious assault, very unusual. here is what the city of plattsburgh looked like. the british were spread out from the point through the bridge all of this looked like world war i, in that they were ahn entrenched. the american soldiering couldn't fight in the field, they fought from trenches. they used the require in order to defend themselves. it worked for some five days. as the trenches flowed to the south along this wild river. we come to the second bridge here at catherine street today, that's where the british line stopped and the americans defended the bridge for some
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five days. in the middle is ft. brown. ft. brown is the artillery position that was heavily cannoned, and was able to keep the british away by firing into the city. on the in the bay on the right flank is where the american navy ships will be moored, waiting for the british to come into attack the army's flank. their mission is to keep them away, and here you see them all like sitting ducks, moored waiting for the royal navy to attack. >> this is the rotunda of the city hall of the town of plattsburgh. to get back to the history, wellington said if he was 234 command here, and he was offered the command but turned it down, he said the only chance for victory in north america was to
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control the waterways, so everything is keyed to the navy here. even though the american troops are here waiting and the british troops have fought their way into the city and are waiting on the edge of the air aknack river they're waiting for the navy. this is a bit of a long story, but this is how we get here. the royal navy was everybody to the british. they used it throughout the caribbean and the united states and in canada. that's what controlled their commerce. they lived on commerce. here on the lake, that commerce had been disrupted. nothing was going up and down the lake to benefit canada or anywhere else. the people here who liter on the lake created a new industry, and this now was a smugglers haven. the british knew to control the
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water ways they had to take lake champlain. but the lake does end in canada, and up there on the rich lieu river, they build a bot yard that created the largestship that has been on lake champlain. she was a frigate called "the confiance" they had butt a sleep called the lynnant, but now they needed the confiance. there was an american fleet here. it was commanded by lieutenant then master commander then com ocode thomas mcdonough. mcdonough had to build his fleet here on, and down on otter creek, they put together the
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americans. the american navy then would try to control the lake and keep the british north. it meant that there was a clash coming. you know they're really sitting ducks finally the navy is coming. they couldn't come south, because the south wind kept them from sailing south. there's no other power. that's what the army and the navier waiting for. mcdonough doesn't have that problem. he's already in the bay, he's moor and waiting. finally the night of the 10th they come south towards plattsburg. four ships and a dozens gun boats in a road that has 70 men and a gun boat and one cannon. they're supposed to be in close to the american fleet underneath the guns and put holes in the
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sides of the american fleet and sink them. when the british come into the bay and this whole thing starts, the british guns can fire a mile and a half, where the american guns are carrying aids for the most part. they can only shoot 500 yards. if the british royal navy is kept away, if they can sail outside the 5 hundreds yards, they can reduty the flart fleet has "confiance" comes into the bay, the wind shifts. now it's a westerly wind. in the bay, the winds are fitful. that confiance and needs a
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strong wind. as she comes into the bay, this is confiance outer anchor. it's shot off the front and sinks into the bay. we found it in 1996, in 40 feet of silt. there she is. ten feet long, ten feet wide. you can still see the gold paint on the side that says quebec. when that anchor is shot off, and commodore dowdy, the captain of the ship, trying to stay away from the american lines, he can't. he's drawn directly into the american fear. no matter what he does to try to turn the ship, the wind will not allow it. he's brought directly to the american fire. finally he has to anchor another 300 yards. well one the americans' line of fire. now for the next 2 1/2 hours, a
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horrid rend onnous battle of cannon will take place. four major ships of the americans. four british royal navy. 12 gun boats on other side, and will slug it out. here on the bluff at clinton community college, you can look out on lake champlain, and directly in front of you is cumberland head, where the british royal navy attacked on september the 11th. they came around that corner, and between there and the island you see on the right, crab island, which is where the american his a hospital for the army, they attacked the american fleet at anchor which would have been right between those two small trees. >> there are women on board, officers ease wives, one of which catches a cannonball in
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her chest, and is thrown overboard. mcdonough is siting his own camera shooting at the british and down the line at one of the other guns, his lieutenant is struck with a british cannonball. his head is torn off, it traffic down the side of the deck, strikes mcdonna in the face and knocks him cold. these are the kinds of things that happen when you're fighting a naval battle. this keeps up for hours, one atrocity after another, blood everywhere. tremendous casualtyingses. the men keep fighting, the only american ship fit to fight is "saratoga" the only ship that's really fit to fight can "confiance" even though the commodore was killed ten minutes
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into the battle, when mcdonough fired a kaj nonand it struck the muzzle of the gun that dowdy was fighting. it drove this 2,000 pound barrel out of the trun ons and downy caught it in his arms. the british lost their commander ten minutes into the battle. so now we've got mcdonough, who is also in a bad state, and his ship is about to sink at that point he pulls the trick of the day. these of light anchors, they were taken out on rowboats and dropped. they wound backwards around the ship. at the right moment, mcdonough
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cuts one cable, pulls in the ear f. with only a few crew members that are left. at that point, as the spring line is pulled in, the ship rotates in place on its own axis, and of course it exposes the far side of the ship, where there are 12 loaded caranades and cannons ready. an officer with a pistol goes down the line and fires into the touchhole and fires each gun one at a time into "confiance" it receives over 105 holes in the side of the ship and the count is looked at at the end. she strikes her colors, she's lost. the royal navy has been beaten. sir george prevost sitting up
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there at kent-delord sees the colors come down. when he nose the battle is lost. he knows he no longer has control of the water. he knows he doesn't have the american ships he planned to capture, to take the fleet down the lake. there's no point going on with the battle. even though the infantry can overwhelm at this point, there's no point to it at all. he's going to save his troops to fight another day. as a result, sir george withdraws from plattsburgh, pulling his troops out, his three brigades, artillery, his families. they start heading north to canada. the battle is over, the americans have won. winston churchill said that it was the most important battle of the war, the most decisive battle of the war of 1812, here.
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two days later, the british will fight the americans at baltimore. when the naval battle was over and the british withdrew, all that was left were the dead and the wounded and the american forces. out on the navy ships, the wounded were taken off an brought into town, to kent-delord and other homes and treated. the dead were put in a cure taj and brought to the shores, and in a funeral parade led by general mccom and commodore mcdonough, they slowly came here to riverside cemetery just outside of the downtown area. to muffled drums, they marched
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slowly and deliberately here to the ground. the lead cure taj led the body of commodore dowdy. he's buried here at riverside cemetery. but they were not just royal navy sailors. there were british army dead, american sailors who had died in the conflict, as well as british sailors who had died. 200 of them were taken to crab island, because it was close to where the ships were being refurbished and kept afloat. another 200 or more were brought here to riverside cemetery and buried.
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lieutenant peter gamble, united states navy, he was the officer whose head was severed, flew across the deck and struck mcdonough knocking him cold. lt. john stance bury, united states navy, he was an officer on board the "eagle" and was killed in action. there's captain burgiss, he's british, 76th regiment, british army. in my 30-year career in studies history, i never heard of this battle. so i was really intrigued. the more i read, the more it drew me in and i understood how important it was and what part it played in international history. if plattsburgh had been lost, god knows what would have happened to this country.
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you've been watching c-span's american history tv. we want to hear from you. follow us on twitter. connect with us on facebook. or you can leave comments, too. check out our upcoming programs at our website, cspan.org. /history. we'd like to tell you about some of our other american history tv programs. join us every saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern for a look at "history bookshelf" watch as the best-known history writers talk about their books. that's every saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. here's a look at some of the
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programs you'd find christmas day on the c-span networks. holiday festivities start at 10:00 a.m. eastern with the lighting of the national christmas tree, folded with the white house decoration with first lady michelle obama. just after 12:30 p.m. celebrity activists talk about their causes. then at 8:00, samuel alito and former florida governor jeb bush on the bill of rights and the founding father. venture into the art of good writing, and at 12:30 so the femme nit side of a super superhero. pamela paul and others talk about their reading habits, and on c-span3 at 8:00 a.m. eastern the fall of the berlin wall with c-span foodage with george bush and bob dole. and how t

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