special thanks to were presenting sponsor of the tribune foundation along with their individual and program sponsors an associate members for helping make this presentation possible. for over 30 years john ferling has dedicated screw to early american history. he is the author of nine books and numerous articles on the american revolution and early american wars and has appeared in several television documentaries. devoted to revolution and the war of independence. his book has struggled to make the american public won the francis book award. he is with us to discuss the almost america, the american victory in the war of independence. please join me in welcoming to the pritzker military library, john ferling. [applause] >> thank you.
it is a delight to be in chicago and to be at this fine institution. i wanted to begin by telling you that i had wanted to write this book for a long time. i taught a course on u.s. military history, taught a course on the american revolution and spent about half of that course dealing with the war, and taught a couple of seminars on the war of independence but i had to wait until my editor finally gave me clearance to write the book. i also wanted to write it because it book that i wrote in 2,003, a leap in the dark, was a political history of the revolutionary era and i wanted to write a book that would deal with the military aspects of the revolutionary era. and i took the title almost a miracle, from a line in washington's farewell address to
the continental army. he said goodbye to his continental army in november of 1783, about a month before he resigned his commission. he rode along address and as was rather typical of washington he did not dwell on the past. he looked toward the future in that address, but in one very small portion of the address to the army he reflected on the outcome of the war and he said that american victory was a little short of a standing miracle, so from that i came up with almost a miracle. in every book that i have written, i have learned a great deal. i have gone in knowing something about what i wanted to do, but it was a learning experience for me. and that was true with this book as well.
one of the things i think that i came away really impressed with the about the revolutionary war was just out of a war it was, much tougher than i think many people realized today. it was in fact america's longest declared war and lasted for eight one-half years and the toll on both sides was the appalling. there was a book published here in chicago as a matter of fact around the time of the bicentennial in the 1970's called, the toll of independence, which estimated that the american losses totaled about 25,000 men. that is just servicemen who died during the war. and most scholars, including myself, regard that 25,000
figure as probably being a very conservative estimate, pretty much deals only with those in the continental army and not with militiamen who perished in the war. so that, in my book i estimated that probably at least 30,000 americans, who fought, who bore arms in this war died and that includes soldiers, sailors, the militiamen, the partisans, crewmen aboard private tears and whatever and even there i think probably the 30,000 figure is somewhat low. to try to put that in some perspective, let me talk just a bit in a comparative way about the number, which served in this war and contrast it with other wars. in the revolutionary war, about
one american male of military age in 16, one in 16 served during the war. in the civil war about one american male of military age in ten sir and in world war ii, it was about one in 75 american men of military age. those who fought and died, on the american side, about one in four, who bore arms at least in the continental army, about 100,000 men served in the continental army and we are pretty certain that 25,000 of those 100,000 perich, so about one in four regular soldiers died during the revolutionary war. in the civil war if you combine
union and confederate casualties and just looked at the regular soldiers, it is about one in five which pairs and in world war ii about one in 40 american servicemen died. the greatest single cause of death for american servicemen in the revolutionary war was disease. this was a time period before anesthesia had been developed, before modern antibiotics had been developed. it was a time period in fact when most people hardly traveled from their place of birth. probably not more than 40 or 50 miles if they went that far from their place of birth then suddenly they were thrown into the army camps with men from all round the country and oftentimes they were malnourished and ill housed and ill clad and it was a formula for disaster.
so that the greatest single cause of mortality was disease. but, in addition to that, the mortality among american soldiers who were taken prisoner was absolutely catastrophic as well. 47% of the american soldiers who were taken prisoner by the british perished in captivity. to put that in some context, at the infamous andersonville prison their camp in georgia in the civil war, about 37% of the prisoners perich. the 47% from the revolutionary war is just about the same percentage as was true of the americans who were held captive by the japanese during world war
ii. life was tough for american soldiers, even when they were not on the battlefield or for those who warned taken captive. oftentimes, as i think everybody remembers, there were shortages of food, lack of clothing, only rudimentary housing existed for those soldiers. we usually think of the valley forge winter. that is the one that is the most famous as being a bad winter, but the soldiers themselves spoke of the winter two years later in the morristown new jersey, where the winter quarters were as being what they called the hard winter, even worse than that valley forge, but adds valley forge, one
soldier in seven who marched into that encampment with washington did not come out of that encampment. to try to put that the year again, in some context, in the battle of the bolt and in world war ii, perhaps the most horrific engagement that the united states encountered in the european theater, about one in 30 american soldiers in an engagement terrorist, and that was fighting an enemy that was trying to kill them in doing a pretty good job of its as well, but one in seven perished at valley forge. another thing that i think that i discovered in writing this book was that while we know of the suffering of the american troops, i found that our
enemies, those who fought for the british during this war, also suffered at times. and, in fact, about-- the death rate for those who soldiered for great britain was just about the same proportionately as it was for the americans, about one in four who fought under the british flag died. that includes british soldiers, german soldiers, the has pontians, and also americans who fought for the british. a great many loyalists or tories soldiered for great britain and died fighting for great britain during this war. in fact, that we don't tend to remember it much today, there was a point in 1780 winter rag actually more americans fighting with the british army then were
members of the continental army under general washington. if you add together the number of americans who died and the number who died on the british side, during this war, and let's get it on a proportional basis in terms of the population of those two countries at the time, then the death toll, which would have been about 80,000 actually, would be roughly the equivalent of losing some 2 million people from the american population. it would be almost as if my, the place that i live, atlanta, georgia, simply was wiped out completely. and it wasn't just soldiers who suffered during this war, but
civilians paid a heavy price as well. diseases were brought home by soldiers on furlough. armies, which were near civilian areas, spread diseases, so that for example, during the first year of the war abigail adams, the wife of john adams who was serving in congress, abigail rode to john and said to him, our house is a hospital, as she put it and her next letter to her husband revealed to him that john's brother's wife and one of his children had died of the disease. that was not the typical. civilians living on the frontier died in indian attacks.
the prettyish made coastal waves, particularly in the middle states and in new england and in virginia. destroying property, killing people. in the first two years, of the conflict, when men were asked to analysts' for a period of just one year, the army was a pretty good cross-section of the free population. most free men at the time for farmers or artisans and most of the men who soldiered in the continental army were farmers or artisans, so a great many families had to struggle along in 1775 and 1776 with their husbands away. somehow they had to find the money to pay the tax collector, who came knocking at their door
or to grow crops and sell crops and whatever are. and they had to pay extraordinarily high taxes during this conflict. so, civilians suffered. it and we think of-- we are all familiar i think with the images of the thread-- threadbare american soldiers and sometimes we don't realize that those who fought for the british suffered as well. during the first winter of the war, when boston was the siege by washington's army, the revolutionary war, the revolutionary army got along very well. they were well fed and well housed and it was the british who suffered the most during that harsh boston winter. the british to get here had to make an atlantic crossing and
one of the british soldiers rode-- wrote in his journal of the crossing, which sounds like accord crossing that he experienced, there was continued destruction and the pox, above board, the play, held in the forecastle, the devil at the helm. and a british soldier who was sent to south carolina to campaign, to take charleston in 1780 was landed with the british army about 20 miles below charleston and had to move through swamps and marshy areas and you could almost feel this grim, white faced british soldier as he writes in his journal about seeing crocodiles 16 feet long as he put it, will this and several species of venomous snakes.
the revolutionary war was not just a revolutionary war but it was also a civil war within, a civil war. and what i mean by that is that it was a war waged by anglo-american colonists against the british mother country, but within that conflict there was a struggle between colonists who supported the revolution and colonists who continued to remain loyal to great britain. john adams, following the revolutionary war, made the remark about one-third of the americans supported the war, supported the revolution and one-third supported great britain and one-third did not give a but in that they think most scholars feel that a better evaluation is that among those
who played an active role probably about 80%, supported the revolution and 20% were tories or remained loyal to great britain. and there was a struggle, particularly in states like new jersey and pennsylvania and even more so in the south. we think of this self being caught up in a civil war in the middle of the 19th century but the stealth's first civil war took place in the revolutionary war. and especially when the british changed their strategy beginning in 1778 to what became known as simply a southern strategy. after the battles at saratoga and the surrender of. in's army to the americans in october of 1778, the british broke off the northern colonies
or as they would call them the northern states, thinking that they simply could not be conquered. but, they thought they might be able to comcare at least four southern colonies, georgia, south mag carolina, north carolina and virginia. those were the most important colonies economically to great britain because that is where the cash crops like tobacco and rice and indigo work around. and the british thought that if they could subdue those colonies, they could come out of the war with a large american empire. they could perhaps hold candidate, they could perhaps hold everything west of the appalachian mountains. they could hold those for southern colonies, virginia, did to carolinas and georgia.
they already held florida, which they had acquired in the french and indian war and they held several sugar islands in the caribbean so they would not only have a large american empire, but there american empire what this around the united states and the united states might consist of no more than nine or ten states. in fact, if it was that small and that vulnerable and that hamdan, the chances of the united states remaining an independent country for very long worst flem to say the least. so the british turn towards conquering the self in 1778 and it is that the point that they have really began to raise an arm provincial units, or units
composed of loyalists. the idea in fact was that the british regulars would come in and conquered the continental army, flush the continental army out of the southern states, with the help of the loyalists and then the loyalists would be loved to pacify that area. and a actually succeeded in doing that in georgia. georgia was the first colony or state to be invaded by britain. just after christmas of 1778, said than that was taken and the british reinstated the royal governor of virginia and a loyalists legislature was elected that repeal of the legislation that had been passed by the revolutionaries state assembly since 1776. it was the only state in which
something like that happened. and, 18 months later, the british invaded south carolina and, curd charleston in may of 1780. and this is the point following the collapse of charleston that the civil war really begins in the south and in fact, i argued in the buck that i think the revolutionary war was actually one in the the south in 17 abn 1781. it is one in two ways. once the british take charleston, they moved out into the interior of south carolina and established a about a dozen's and the back country of that colony or state. but, starting in the middle of
the summer of 1780, south carolinians began to resist the british and-- invasion, as they call that. most of the people who lived in the back country of south carolina or of scotch irish background. they didn't have much love for great britain. their ancestors and that had fled the homeland to escape great britain. many of them, most of them perhaps, were presbyterian and they had little interest in britain's established church, the anglican church and certainly didn't want to pay taxes to that church. so, they looked on the british as invaders. they believe in the idea of the american revolution and an idea of change that would be brought about by gaining independence. they believed in what thomas
paine had written in common sense, payne spoke of the american revolution as the birthday of a new world. it is pretty radical when you think about it. this was a revolution to bring about change. not every revolutionary agreed with that but i think most of those people in the back country in the south did, so a partisan war or what we might today called guerilla warfare began. bans of guerillas began to form, to sally out of forests and swamps and to ambush british patrols, to attack british supply lines and whatever, and a great partisan war began to develop in the summer of 1788.
in fact, soon after charleston fell, the british headquarters in the south mack announced that the war was for-- the american resistance was for all practical purposes broken, but this was a mission accomplished statement that was premature, and in fact, the general cornwallis, who was left to finally said to the rebellion in the south by september of 1780 said just the opposite. the mission had been accomplished but in fact, there were rebels everywhere. and so, cornwallis finds himself fighting a grim, partisan or guerilla warfare in the south. the other aspect of the war in the south was a more conventional war as congress
would send southern continental armies into contest the british. they didn't always do very well. in fact, the first three continental armies that were sent to the self mack were defeated, including a defeat that i think very few americans really remember any longer, the surrender of charleston were more than 7,000 americans were killed, wounded or captured during that, during that siege. but, finally, at the very end of 1780, general nathanael greene was named the commander of the continental army in the south. in fact, at that point, after the battle of camden and the
defeated horacio gates, congress went to general washington and asked washington if he would select the commander of the continental army in the south and washington has always, through the war, declined to do that, naming commanders was to get into a political minefield and he wanted to stay out of that. but the situation was desperate in late 1780, and washington at that point did name somebody, and he named general green. washington early on in the war had seen qualities in greene who ironically had not soldiered before the war. he had never been in a military unit until a few weeks in fact before the war broke out, but he was a bright guy.
he was an extraordinary leader, and washington, who was i think almost unequaled in his ability to judge other people and to judge them very quickly, i came to see greene as perhaps his best general and in fact as early as 1776, washington had indicated that, if something happened to him, if he should die of they can't disease or be killed in action, he hoped that congress with named greene as his successor. so, washington in october of 1780 suggested to congress that green be named the commander, and greene waged a brilliant campaign over a period of about
100 days in january, february and march of 1781. in fact i think it was the most brilliant campaign, sustained campaign waged by any american commander during a war. it was modeled somewhat on washington's campaign at trenton and princeton. greene had been part of that, and so he was familiar with that, but this was a long campaign. trenton and princeton had been a campaign that lasted less than ten days. greene's campaign lasted more than 100 days and actually went on beyond that. and, by march of 1781, greene
had succeeded in causing just enormous attrition in general cornwallis' army. in fact, cornwallis lost about 40% of his men between january and march and at that point, cornwallis, in late march of 1781, made a crucial decision. his orders from the commander of the british army in the american sir henry clinton, cornwallis' orders were not to leave south carolina or the carolinas until he had succeeded in the pacifying those two states, but cornwallis decided that he could not pass-- could not subdue the rebellion in the carolinas and
in georgia unless he could shut down the supply routes through virginia. food was funneling into those guerillas, those partisans from the north, through virginia and that was what was sustaining them, so cornwallis violated clinton's orders and there was a small army, about 2500 british soldiers in virginia, cornwallis took his army into virginia in the spring of 1781, to link up with that british army and he thought that, with that larger british army in virginia and with the british navy, and his ability to use the rivers through virginia and use their speed, that they could just
simply out raised the continentals and that they would be, they would be successful in shutting down those supply routes. but, as we know, something else happened when cornwallis went to virginia. it opened the possibility of yorktown. that was something that washington did not envisage so much as the french did. in fact, washington met twice with the french commander in america, met with him at hartford and september of 1780 and in wethersfield, connecticut in may of 1781. at both of those meetings, rocha mboh asked washington, what do you want to do? in both instances, washington
said i want to campaign to take new york city. he argued with washington, we can't succeed there. we cannot succeed in an attack on new york city. the british have held the too long. they have had six years to prepare their defense is. we cannot win. but he had been ordered by lilly t-16, his washington show, defer to washington, do what he wants to do so after the wethersfield conference-- at the wethersfield conference, he agreed, okay we will attack new york and washington wrote back to west point, thinking that would be the next item on the agenda. but, as soon as washington wrote-- rhoda way, he went to his desk and he wrote to the
admiral of the french fleet in the caribbean asking him to bring his sleek north, not to new york as washington expected, but to the chesapeake, because roshambeau saw the british army in virginia and he saw the possibility of trapping it, and that was exactly what happened. one last thing very quickly, and that is there has been a debate really sends the moment of the peace settlement ending the war over whether britain could have won this war. for a great many people in england, the idea that britain could not have won the war was attractive for the navy, for the british army, even for opposition politicians who had opposed the war all along by
saying it was an on winnable war that presented them in a better light. but, i don't think that is true. i think the british could have won the war in 1776 and should have won the war in 1776. i think the british, have the british had a more resolute, more active commander then sir william howe, they would have defeated washington's army on long island, or on manhattan island, and could probably have ended the war then. even in 1777, i think the british might have won the war. the basic british idea was for an army to come in 1777 was for an army ender.
in to invade new york from candidate while general powell took his army with the royal navy off the hudson river and joined with. in and alben. at dominik last minnick howe change plans. howe went after washington at philadelphia and it turned out to be an egregious blunder on howe's part. most people think that the british could not have won the war after 1777, but what i tried to argue in almost a miracle, win 1781, the last year of the war began, america was very close to defeat. james lovell, a congressman from massachusetts wrote a letter on the second day of 1781 to john adams and he began that letter
by saying, we are bankrupt with a muteness army. washington thought america had to score a decisive victory in 1781 or there would be no other chance. john adams, who was in europe was writing that the french would not remain in the war beyond 1781. they have accomplished nothing to this point. they were looking for an honorable exit, so had there not been a decisive victory in 1781, i think what probably would have happened would have been a european peace conference and the european powers, all maniacal powers to have no sympathy for an american republic, would have devised some sort of solution for the war and it would not have been a
very rosy solution for the americans, and the americans would have had to accept a bad solution for fight on by themselves, which would have been on thinkable. and so, cornwallis' decision to go north into virginia and rochambeau's brilliance at seeing the opportunity to ensnare cornwallis in the summer and fall of 1781 turned everything around and made a war that come in january of 1781 had seen hopeless, a winable war. i think washington understood that, and that was why, in his farewell to the continental army, he was saying that the american victory what is a
little short of a standing miracle. thank you very much. [applause] >> we have some time for questions and i would like to take the first one john. i would like to ask you a little bit about the balance of the navy. obviously we didn't have the navy when this all started out in the brits game, an overpowering force. could you talk about that force and what was the decisive turning point? was it when the french came up or was it before that? >> well, actually, you mentioned earlier that james mcpherson is coming soon, and mcpherson's wonderful book, the battle cry of freedom on the civil war, mcpherson's argues that in a war, as long as the civil war, there was not a turning point but there were several turning
points. it and i think that is true in the revolutionary war as well. i think there were five or six turning points in that war. bunker hill, the first pitched battle of the conflict in june of 75 was absolutely crucial, because it demonstrated to the americans that they could stand up against british regulars. i think the naval engagement on lake champlain, when benedict arnold built n.a.b. for america, and slow down the british, so that when the british tried to invade new york at ticonderoga in the fall of 1776, they had been slowed to the point that winter was setting in and so they had to postpone the invasion until 1777 in that year
gave the americans time to get ready for that invasion. washington's campaign at trenton and princeton, between christmas of 76 and early january of '77 was absolutely crucial. not only saved washington as commander of the continental army, but it was a victory that enabled another army to be recruited for 1777. to that point who would have wanted to go into a continental army that was losing almost every battle that it was fighting? the defeat of burgoin when he invaded new york and the surrender of burgoin's army at saratoga in october of 1777 was crucial. congress's decision made at the beginning of 17-- actually in late 76 but implemented in early
1977 to move from an army of one year enlistees to a regular army was absolutely crucial because it gave washington an army of hardened veterans at a time and they developed into a pretty good soldiers. then of course yorktown in october of 1781 and the surrender of cornwallis' army of more than 8,000 men was the final decisive turning point that led to the collapse of lord north's government and ushered in a british government that was committed to a peace settlement. >> in a leap in the dark you frequently dam washington with faint praise and you are openly critical of him. there is a couple-- that is also critical and my question to you is if jamestown what was one of
washington's biker friends called him the indispensable man as has dave mccullough and many others, do you think washington was dispensable? thank you. >> i am rather critical of washington in this book although i tried to temper its by pointing out that washington was an amateur. he certainly was not a professional soldier. he had not attended a military academy. if you add up what washington did during his adult years, he only soldiers about 15% of the time. he is a former ended businessmen and the land speculator and whatever. he may think a great many blunders, particularly in the new york campaign in 1776. kent, i think during the valley forge winter, i don't think that
there was a kobo, a conaway kabal as washington thought of it and as many historians have called it, to remove washington. i don't think congress was close to removing washington at that point but a great many people in congress were extraordinarily critical of washington and these were people who were close to washington. people like joseph freed, who had been washington's first secretary during the war and was made be washington's closest confidant during the first year or so of the war, said a couple of years into the war that he thought washington was maybe fit to command a regiment but nothing beyond that. thomas mifflin, who was the quartermaster, washington's first aid to camp, and quartermaster general for the first couple of years of the
war, was even more critical. he said he thought washington was suit it may be to be a clerk in the counting house, but not as a general. i think they probably went too far, but the point is a great many people were extraordinarily critical of washington, who were very close to washington or who saw washington up close. but, having said all of that, i can't think of anybody else that i would have rather had as commander. i think, toward, the nathaniel green of 1780 might have been able to have done a job as well as washington did or perhaps even better, but greene was not prepared for that kind of position in 1775 and people like charles lee or horatio gates, they were just out of the
picture altogether because they have been professional the british officers and congress wasn't going to go there. congress wanted a native-born american to be the commander. and you look at who is around, people like john sullivan hugh had been a lawyer in new hampshire and, i just don't see anyone who would it fit the bill. i think too, you have to look to the total picture of washington. he is a pretty good minister of the army. the officer corps was blindly loyal by and large to washington. he worked extraordinarily well with state governors and with congress, so that, i think made up for some of his deficiencies from lack of experience as a
soldier with other qualities, and salote in the event, i think the country was fortunate to have had him. in fact, i sometimes say that i think the country was fortunate to have had washington and lucky to have survived him. >> i read that hundreds of american prisoners died in the halls of ships in new york harbor. what prevented the british and americans from working on a system of a prisoner exchange or paral like we have had in other wars? >> that is a good point. actually there was something of a conflict between washington and congress regarding prisoners, the prisoner exchanges, and the problem was that common once the prisoners were exchanged, the american prisoners would go home and
wouldn't serve again but the british prisoners would serve again or they would be rotated down to the caribbean and replaced by soldiers who were rotated up from the caribbean or from europe, and so that became an obstacle to prisoner exchanges, and the result was that there really are no significant prisoner exchanges until after yorktown. then they come pretty quickly in 1782 and most of the prisoners are in fact exchange. you have a few here and there who are swapped out but no really large exchanges before them. >> how important do you judge the battle in south carolina in january of 1778 that charleston
loss bavly? >> right, yeah, well, charlton is active after the fall of charleston in the south carolina in the spring of 1780, and in fact he sent after a collection of continental soldiers from virginia. is essentially what had happened was the american army was defending charleston against eight british basij-- siege and congress ordered troops from the north down to the south to augment general benjamin lincoln's army in charleston and those troops set out for charleston around the end of march and by the time the
american army surrendered in may they were just entering south carolina. so, charlton went after those virginia soldiers who were trying to retreat and get out of south carolina, and he overtook them in the country up near the south carolina and north carolina border, toward the end of may of 1780. i attacked them, and routed them and after the americans surrendered, massacred about 75% of those. and it is following that that the war in the south really becomes a grim civil war. the americans time after time exacted revenge for charlton's massacre. in fact at kings mountain in october, after charleston's
massacre in may when the americans defeated a loyalists force at king's mountain they not only killed a great many who come after they had surrendered, but then they forced them on alon march, about a 50-mile forced march that there's something of a resemblance to the bataan death march in so many british soldiers, loyalists, were killed during that march. let me read you the order from the american commander to his men. he issued an order and i am quoting, to restrain the disorderly manner of slaughtering the prisoners. and that was just one instance of exacting revenge for charlton's mass pursuit. it really becomes a very grim war in the south as civil wars tend to be. >> we have time for one more
quick question before the break. >> you stated that the beginning that, if the seven campaign had gone better the british were hoping to hold the seven colonies and less interested at this point in holding the middle counties of new england. do you really think it was politically possible for a piece to be a arrived at under which british quebec consented to king george and consented to the independents of a large part of the colony's if they had in fact secured the whole southern area, do you think on the other hand that the middle and northern counties would have let the southern counties fall including possibly virginia which i think would have been very difficult for many of the revolutionary leaders that were from virginia. >> well, i think there was,
there is a tendency in stalemate in wars, when a war is still make it and there is a negotiated settlement to simply leave the belligerence in control of what they possess at the time of the armistice, so that i think had there been a european mediation conference, in 1781, assuming there had been a decisive victory that year, and had the war been settled in that fashion, then i think, south carolina and georgia certainly and possibly north carolina as well would have gone to the british. lord north's majority was dwindling and there certainly, the opposition was growing more powerful everyday and wanting to get this war over at that point
so i think there is a realistic possibility that it could have ended that way had it not been for yorktown. >> john ferling. [applause] our thanks to john ferling for joining us. the book is "almost a miracle" the american victory in the war of independence published by university press. you can learn more about the library by downloading the poti it-- podcast or a visiting the set pritzker military library doug oar. for all the staff, i am ed tracy. thanks for joining us. [applause] and we are back for the webcast for the program. john, step back up there. i have one question to follow-up and we will get to a couple of others as we go but you said georgia was the first falling state in the revolutionary war. is there any repercussions today
from, because you are from atlanta khanna and is there any repercussions of georgia today for that? do you see anything different in georgia the you see and other southern states? >> actually, most georgians are aware that there was a revolutionary war. the revolutionary war is assumed by the civil war in the south mad and it is really ironic. there were two major battles fought in savannah during the revolutionary war, some smaller but important engagements were fought there, but georgia was the newest colony at the time of the revolution and the settlement was just along the coast and along the savannah river that divides south carolina and georgia, so that most of what we think of as georgia was settled later on and in fact in the town that i live
in, it is very typical of towns in georgia in front of the courthouse there is a statue of a soldier-- it is not a revolutionary war soldier, it is a confederate soldier and he is facing north to protect itself mac against what some old-line southerners always referred to as the war of northern aggression, and in fact about three weeks or so ago i was at the citadel in charleston, and came by francis marion park, a huge park in downtown charleston and i saw a statue in they went over to see the statue of francis marion and if with the statue of john c. kelton and not francis marion. [laughter] >> there is a story, i don't
know whether it is true or if it is mythology, but george washington having a lucid dreamer prophecy that he shared with lafayette, being that the united states was going to win the war of the revolution and see the borders of the united states extend all the way to the pacific ocean. it is that true or is that just mythology? >> i think that is just mythology. washington certainly look to the west. he owns about 60,000 acres. he had fought to win the west in the french and indian war, fighting in what was called the ohio country at that time, but it generally, kind of the midwest, what would later be ohio, indiana, illinois, michigan and wisconsin, and so
washington i think certainly hoped that the united states would gain that area. even after yorktown, washington proposed to rochambeau a joint invasion of canada, and he writes to congress, and in his letter he talks about all that great land in canada and also securing the frontiers of america and securing the american national security by keeping great britain out of candidate in the post-war years. and most southerners i think fought, they were quite interested in what they called the southwest at that time, what we think of as the southeast today, alabama, mississippi and was never but i don't think many people thought, at least anytime
soon, of going beyond the mississippi river. they hoped to get to the mississippi river. i think the loyalists, many of the loyalists argue that one of the great reasons for remaining ties with great britain would be, with the combined power of america and great britain, that much more rapidly the anglo-american is could sweep to the mississippi river and then beyond the mississippi river to the pacific and they didn't stop there. they thought in terms of central america and south america so that the whole western hemisphere, north and south america, would be anglo-american in the end. >> you mentioned a name that i would like you to expand on that he would. francis marion, the swamp fox.
over the years i have been told, i have read that he was largely a diversion, that he was not a significant figure. would you expand on that please? >> i think historians debate that point. there is not a uniform interpretation of marion, and i think it grows out of the fact that marion was sort of a cantankerous, independence sort who didn't always work particularly well with the continental army. ..
saving the american revolution. >> returning to the question of quote the british have won the war, but would the effect to do you think have been if arnold had been able to surrender west point? >> i think if arnold had pulled off his treasonous act it would have been just devastating. from a psychological standpoint it was almost devastating as it was that a general who that was
this important and esteemed, he had fought heroically at lake champlain and at saratoga to do something like this this late in the war and just as the french army was arriving, that act in itself was almost devastating. and i can't tell you how much washington wanted to get his hands on our old. he captured major andre and tried to change andres for arnold. the british wouldn't have that and then the americans sent a volunteer from virginia who was to try to capture or kill arnold and he actually succeeded in enlisting in a tutorial
provincial unit that arnold commanded, and of all things, that provincial unit under arnold van boies part of the invasion of virginia. and that poor soldier was in a situation where if he had been taken prisoner, he could have been executed as a deserter from the american army. fortunately once he got into virginia he managed to east cape and made his way to friendly places and his real identity and mission work revealed. but if the british had gotten their hands on a west point, then they would have accomplished -- and that is what arnold was trying to do, give west point to the british -- had the british built in west point, they would have accomplished what they hoped to accomplish in 1776, and abbas they would control the hudson river.
and if they controlled the hudson river, in new york and the four new england states would be decided from all of the states on the other side of the hudson river, and would probably have been unthinkable for the americans to have continued the war in this situation. >> you mentioned earlier the disagreement rush limbaugh had with washington about a northern campaign and went on to describe how russian balsam and across the only as four s chesapeake. do i take from that that he essentially maneuvered washington however wisely and to falling on and taking on the yorktown campaign? >> i'm glad you raised that point because i didn't have time to develop it earlier. when washington met with roche
jimbo at the wethersfield conference and he wrote the letter to degrase to come to the chesapeake bay and new at that point or is a fairly small british army, relatively small, about 2500 men in virginia. washington thought that was pretty small potatoes and he wanted to go after the bigger force and bigger prize in new york. what they didn't know was that cornwallis at that very moment was actually marching from north carolina into virginia. but given the lag in communications weeks went by before they understood that. and by eight june they did know that cornwallis was in virginia and they knew that clinton, the british commander in new york
was sending reinforcements to cornwallis so that cornwallis's army was growing and eventually came up to almost 8,000 men. and at that point, and june rochambo revealed to degrase that washington was coming but not where he was going to and he said to washington what do you prefer and at that point washington said well, let's let degrase make the decision where he goes but i am okay with going after cornwallis' in virginia. so i think eventually washington came to see that possibility. but everything had been put in motion and really originally by
rochambeau. let me read this quote to you because it goes back to washington being an indispensable man, and the quote is from a volunteer in the french force who came over to america to fight with the americans in 1777. general johan, in fact one of the counties in atlanta's county named for the general, and he had been a soldier for about a quarter of a sentry and he was one of those soldiers who didn't think very much of washington. in fact he said he was the weakest general under whom he had served. but in 1777, general called said this, if washington ever does anything sensational, he will await more to his good luck or his adversaries mistakes than his own ability. he may be bent a little too far
but he was somewhat pressured by thinking that because had it not been for cornwallis's mistake, he violated his order by taking his army into virginia. have cornwallis' stayed in the carolina, georgetown could have never taken place. and i don't think the americans could have defeated the british in new york. there were three generals involved in 1781. general clinton, the commander of the army, rochambeau, commander of the french army and general washington. two of those generals, clinton and rochambeau were professional soldiers. and neither of them thought of offering the american army could defeat the british and new york. they just couldn't -- it would take a siege of two years. they couldn't get enough men to hold the army together for that length of time.
the british have held new york since the summer of 1776 and had five years to lay in supplies and prepare a defensive works and had the showdown battle been a battle for new york, and i don't think the french and the americans could have won that. so in essence, general cobb was right. washington succeeded because of cornwallis's mistake in going north. >> i'm still a little confused about the glue that held the union together. the 13 colonies that time seem like strange bedfellows and the issue before the civil war became this unions and economic industrialization slavery all of that. the pardoned so quickly during the civil war. what were the major elements of glue that held them together for
the revolution, which seems itself kind of a wonder? >> that's a good question. i think there probably are two answers to that. in the early stage of the revolution, i think there was a general -- i think the glue was with me we might call the revolutionary not everybody believed the same thing, but there was a general belief in wanting to become autonomous. the belief that opportunities would be greater for americans if they ran their own country. you could never served in parliament if he were an american. you could never become a general in a british army. if he were american, you could never hold the position in a british ministry if you were an american columnist. so, and there would be greater
opportunity for social mobility and economic mobility, and i think house i said earlier, thomas paine and common sense captured the sentiment when he talked about the revolution as the birthday of the new world. so i think doubles one thing that really sustained this war in the early going and threw out to a considerable degree. but then i think washington became something of the glue, and i think what happens is touring the valley forge winter there is a great deal of opposition to washington. gates has succeeded as saratoga. there were people in congress who wanted to get rid of washington who failed to so many times and replaced him with dates. henry laurens of south carolina
was the president of congress and wrote a letter to john lawrence, who was an aide to washington in january of 1778 and said i have just come from a meeting with several congressmen and washington's ideas were greeted with laughter. great many people in congress had lost confidence in washington. but at the same time i think there was a feeling that for better or worse they had washington and had to keep washington and dr. benjamin of rosh from philadelphia wrote that he felt there was a concerted decision made by congress in the winter of 1778 and to sort of make washington the national icon, the glue
around which people -- with only country that didn't have king and the kings in your copps work to considerable degree symbolic figures. they were the figure, the glue which people could rally the nation could be sustained. and john adams after the war said the same thing. he felt there was a decision made early in 1778 in congress to make washington the central stone as he put it in the national arch. and that's where the glorification of washington really begins and this idea of washington being indispensable develops. as datum said the congress protected washington. it held from the american people washington's mistakes.
it in polished small triumphs washington had to try to make washington appeared to be better because they realized they had to have some sort of glue of the sort. >> one observation, the business about john adams and one-third, there was an article along time ago i think in the 50's in the william and mary quarterly that discusses that and he was talking about the french revolution, not the american. >> i don't think so. i think adams did say that he thought one-third of the american people were loyalists during this war but isi said, scholars have looked at -- it's
fairly easy to study because what happened was in the peace negotiations the british wanted the americans to provide restitution for the property that the loyalists had lost. their property had been seized and sold to raise money as the country went bankrupt and whatever. and there were three american negotiators at peace settlement. john adams, john jay and benjamin franklin. and adams and j for willing to include a provision in the final peace treaty under which congress would have to provide restitution. and intriguing lead, benjamin franklin passan, william franklin, was a loyalist said absolutely not. frankland wouldn't go along with it.
and franklin -- you can look at that of two ways. did franklin hate his son that much, or did franklin think that his son had a better chance of getting restitution if it came from england and from conagra's? but any rate it didn't go into the end of the peace settlement and so, there was political pressure in england to provide restitution and the british established a commission call the will want commission after the war and everybody was a loyalist had to provide evidence of what they had possessed before the war, how much property alone, with their income had been, when they became a loyalist, but they had done to help britain during the revolution. they did it to provide great deal of information. and all of that was written out. they had to make five copies of what they wrote, and they
submitted that and from all of that evidence historians had been able to go in and come up with a pretty good idea of how many tories there actually were. and they've concluded probably among those who were active during the revolution, probably about 20% were tories. i didn't mention when i was talking about civilians, but perhaps i should have, that in the civil war for example, less than one-half of 1%, just an infinitesimal fraction of summers went into exile following the civil war, but 5% of the free population in america at the time of the revolutionary war went into
exile following this war. >> perhaps even a little bit more. when i was doing work on that in the early 70's i guess it was, of the numbers i can up with that proportionately speaking as with you, more americans went into exile than cubans after castro or the french after the french revolution or russians after the russian revolution, and we wonder if you would agree with that. >> i have seen those figures on the french revolution and that is right. i just don't know what about the cuban revolution or the russian revolution, but you are exactly right. more americans did go into exile as a result of the american revolution and went into exile as a result of the french revolution. >> most historians agree spain
hurt severely when they expelled the jews and france entered itself when they expelled the you guenons. can you speculate what america will be like if they were forced out after the revolution but in this country might this country be more rich? >> i guess historians -- historians have a hard enough time trying to figure out what did happen. maybe that's a good way to dodge the question. [laughter] what i would say is probably most of the revolutionaries shed a few tears seeing those people go into exile because their departure opened a great many doors and opportunities for other people. people were able to take positions in state legislatures
and business positions and what ever that wouldn't have existed previously. >> you mentioned something earlier rather surprising. you said that there were among the tory propagandist's independence of the time are doing for continued loyalty to britain that with british power backing them america or british america but would sweep into the interior, could clunker not only north america but central america and south america. this is a very expansive vision for the time. can you give any examples of anybody because i would like to look into this later. >> shore. i was thinking especially joseph galloway galloway is the politician who had been speaker of the house of the pennsylvania
assembly for about 20 years before the revolution. benjamin franklin's political partner. they called altogether the party they called the quaker party and dominated pennsylvania politics during the 20 years or so before the revolution. galloway was really the head of pennsylvania's delegation to the first continental congress. but the war broke out before the second continental congress and galloway the he was elected to that congress refused to serve and he wrote a pamphlet on 1774 cultic and examination at the has a long and after that. and another pamphlet that can help in the spring of 1775 and he makes that argument in both of those pamphlets that we would be better off remaining tied to
great britain than we would if we -- if we become independent. the book and elated to earlier in the introduction that cannot in 2003 a leap in the dark that phrase wasn't galloway's for days but the phrase of some one from pennsylvania taken from an article or essay in a philadelphia newspaper that was published about six weeks before independence was declared and he didn't make the argument about sweeping out to the pacific but he did make the argument that to declare independence applause as he called it a leap in the dark that there were too many uncertainties trying to become independent and we would be
better off remaining with great britain. and remember i think not very many people remember this any longer but for the first 15 months of the war our objective was and independence but reconciliation. it was to force great britain to make peace on our terms and we would remain part of the british empire. but once the account was out of the bag so to speak and the war begins and the british began killing american soldiers and american politicians hold positions that they had never held before in state government and in congress, then the idea of independence kept growing and growing and to call on a life of its own. but as i try to argue in the
book what really clinched the declaration of independence at least at the time it probably would have been declared a leader on any way but what led to the declaration in july of 1776 was the american defeat in canada the americans had sent an army in the fall of 77 b5 it was defeated the send another army in the winter and spring of 1776 and was defeated and dragged back into new york. and the scales fell from the eyes of conagra's. at that point they knew it was going to be a very long very tough war and was probably an on winnable for mac without foreign assistance. and what reason was possibly there for france to assist american if our objective was to reconcile with great britain.
but if we declared independence and britain lost 20% of its population they were sending about one-third of their exports to america. they were getting about one-third of their imports from america if america became independent france could capitalize on that and so i think it was the defeat and france that led to the timing of independence. >> talking more about clinton reenforcing cornwallis. did clinton make mistakes in reenforcing cornwallis because he said are not eckert, he could have sent to or 15,000. >> in fact he could have recalled cornwallis entirely to new york which is probably what he should have done. he knew as early as june that cornwallis was in virginia probably in fact by the first of
june he knew cornwallis was in virginia and at some point during the summer heat bits intelligence reports that indicates that degraus is bringing the french fleet from the caribbean north. he doesn't know where he's coming but he knows he's coming to the north and he guesses that degraus was coming to new york and he felt there would be a campaign that rush limbaugh and washington and degraus would try to attack new york. and he could have recalled clinton, cornwallis at that point to new york. he didn't i think in part because he expectant some reinforcement from the caribbean himself, which he got. it turned out to be useless since rochambeau and washington band didn't attack new york but he did get the reinforcements and thought they would be
adequate. but also because he was confident that the allies couldn't succeed an attack on new york. he had the capability to repulse an attack and then cornwallis' could go from there in virginia. >> few historians we now have a grasp of this time pro bowl like you do. it's been a pleasure to have you. john ferling thank you very much. [applause]
pulitzer prize-winning historian edwin burrows talks about the over 30,000 americans who were prisoners of war during the american revolution. he says 6800 american men died during battle and close to 18,000 died in prison. this program hosted by the national archives in washington, d.c. last about an hour. >> it's a pleasure to be here talking to you about this book because it's my first opportunity to speak about "forgotten patriots" al-sayyid new york city so this is the launching of my road show and i am eager to find to begin the conversation today by reading several passages from the book that will give you i hope a sense of its range and tone and then i want to speak briefly about several key issues that are likely to be on everybody's mind. and after that we can open the floor to questions.
i want to pick up the story in the winter of 1776, 77 by which time the british had taken more than 5,000 american prisoners. about 1,000 of these had been captured at the battle of brooklyn in august of 1776. several thousand more were taken prisoner when fort washington fell in november of that year and the balance taking fighting around new york city at white plains and elsewhere. these prisoners were held in a variety of public and private buildings in the city. the municipal house in jail, half a dozen dissenting churches, king's college building, a couple of sugar houses, taverns, they also held on a pair of broken down warships stripped of sales, masks and other usable equipment that were pressed into service as