tv [untitled] April 15, 2012 8:30pm-9:00pm EDT
>> right, right, getting the dog. >> just summing up, and, gosh, i wish we had more time, but, clearly, things have changed, some things haven't changed. people still occasionally try to change place cards to get closer to the president. people go to outlandish lengths to try to get into dinners, including claiming fatal illnesses, when none exist, and they smoke less and they drink a lot less, which brings us to joan crawford. >> i bet the same is true for you all, but every time when i was seating a white house dinner, there would be one table that i would think, gosh, if i were a guest at the dinner tonight, that's where i would
like to sit, and this dinner, i thought, gosh, i would like to be at this table with joan crawford and don hewitt and joe califano and cathy douglas, who was the brand-new, young bride of a supreme court justice bill douglas, and did i say joan crawford? >> yep. >> well, joan crawford had arrived with her own flask of vodka. i mean, we did pass a lot of drinks, but she didn't there there was going to be enough, so she had her own flask. anyway, the dinner was served, and then the -- in joan crawford's defense, i would say, we weren't smart enough to know we also invited her ex-husband, douglas --
>> fairbanks? >> no, some other one. >> well, i think there was more than one. >> yeah, and they were passing notes back and forth during the dinner, but then the dessert plates came, and cathy douglas is now a very grown-up, very sophisticated lady, but she was very new on the scene then, and so joan crawford, who was seated across the table from mrs. douglas, and joan crawford knew that you're supposed to put the fork and the spoon here and take the finger bowl and the doily here so you can serve your dessert on the clean plate. well, cathy didn't know that. she would have figured it out, but ms. crawford wasn't going to wait for that, so she stood up, this is what you're supposed to do, and so she moved her bowl
and silverware and said, you'll learn how to do that. >> aren't you glad you didn't have the job in the 24/7 news cycle period? ladies and gentlemen, would you please join me in thanks bess abell, laurie firestone, and cathy fenton? >> thank you all. thank you all. richard, thank you, very much. this year is the there's a new website for american history tv where you can find our schedules and preview our upcoming program. watch featured video as well as access ahtv's history tweets, history in the news and social media from facebook, youtube, twitter and four square.
follow american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 3 and online at c-span.org/history. this year is the bicentennial of the start of the war of 1812. up next, we hear from donald hickey, author of "don't give up the ship: myths of the war of 1812." mr. hickey attempts to dispel the many myths intertwined with the history of 1812. this event took place at the detroit historical museum. >> good evening. my name is toby voight, and i am the director of education and interpretation here at the detroit historical society, and on behalf of the society, i
would like to welcome you to tonight's very special presentation. since 1921, the mission of the detroit historical society has been to educate and inspire members of our community by preserving and portraying our region's shared history. we do this on a daily basis with our dynamic visits at our museum and at the dawson great lakes museum on belisle. we also do this through program experiences, like tonight's lecture series. lastly, we're also the stewards of over 250,000 artifacts related to the history of detroit and the region, so thank you for joining us tonight, and, again, welcome. now, it's my pleasure to introduce you the person that made today's presentation possible, dr. jim mcconnell and his wife have been active in history education for several
years now, i'll say. they are dedicated volunteers here at the detroit historical society, and jim serves on the bicentennial commission, so welcome, dr. mcconnell. >> it truly is a pleasure to be in this auditorium and have all of you here tonight to hear this program. i'm very thankful to the detroit historical society for their support. toby has been wonderful to work with. we've also worked with some of the other staff, rebecca mcdonald, who handles the program, and bob brewery, who is the executive director of the society. this is a wonderful institution, and i need to tell you, if you have not yet picked up their newsletter, it describes the
other lectures they have here, the behind the scenes tours, and the church tours where annette and i do a lot of our volunteering. it's a wonderful program, we encourage you to been involved. i want to tell you a little bit about the michigan commission on the commemoration of the war of 1812. it was appointed by governor jennifer granholm, we met first in march of 2008, so we met this afternoon out in ann arbor, they are opening a nice, new exhibit on the clemmons collection of artifacts and objects from the war of 1812, it was cue rated by brian dunnigan. the author of the beautiful book on detroit history. the commission has many projects ongoing. i would love to tell you about all 75 of them, but i think i'd also like to introduce don hickey, so let me tell you about only one. next june, june 18, 2012, is the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the declaration of
war and its signing by president james madison. we are looking for people all across michigan to organize an event in their community, which calls for the reading of the declaration of war, excuse me, i'm back into 1976, the declaration of war, which might have some high school students involved, maybe a school band, the mayor, civic leaders, a local historian to talk about the war of 1812. if you want more information, we gave you the press release that describes it. all of this information is now being posted on our website, a copy of declaration of war, a copy of the sample ceremony. where do you order a 15-star flag, and what an amazing trivia story that is about the 15-star flag, and the writing of "the star-spangled banner."
there's so much we want you to learn by the time of the bicentennial, so, please, visit the website, learn about it, and i know that each of you can individually organize a program in your local community through your local historical society, through a civic organization, or through the mayor and the city council. we already have 20 people -- 20 organizations signed up, i'm working with the state d.i.r., exchange clubs, and other groups of that kind. the major reason i'm here tonight is to have a chance to introduce don hickey. don is a scholar of the war of 1812. he has written some wonderful books on the war of 1812, including the 1989 book, "war of 1812: forgotten conflict," which he just rewrote and updated, and we'll have that available for you to purchase for $20 at the
conclusion of the program, and don will be autographing the books out in the back. he also has done a book called "don't give up the ship," and that's kind of the basis of his talk this evening, the myths of the war of 1812, it's a wonderful, fascinating story, you'll learn tonight more trivia than i thought i could learn about the war of 1812, so it's a great experience. he began studying the war of 1812 when he was beginning working on his graduate degrees in the late 1960s, and in 1972, and then he eventually got a teaching position at wayne state college. now, wayne state college is not to be confused with the people across the street here, wayne state university. wayne state college is in the town of wayne, nebraska, so don
and his wife have driven from nebraska to be here with us tonight. last night they spoke at the honstine center in grand rapids. tomorrow night, he speaks in lansing at the michigan historical center, so we have a three-evening, three-topic presentation. last night's topic will be posted on the website, and as toby mentioned, tonight's topic should eventually appear on c-span3, the american history channel, i encourage you to watch, google it, you'll get the programming and know when this will be broadcast. so, again, i'm very pleased to introduce to you this evening for our talk, don hickey. thank you. [ applause ]
>> thanks, jim. i appreciate that. i want to thank jim especially for making it possible for me to be here tonight. he's already known as mr. bicentennial in michigan, and i reckon we're going to hear a lot from jim over the next two or three years. i'd also like to thank the detroit historical society for agreeing to host this particular lecture. i'm calling this lecture "what we know that ain't so: myths of the war of 1812." that quote is attributed to mark twain and will rogers in the 19th century, and the longer version goes something like this, it's not what we know that hurts us or causes problems, it's what we know that ain't so. what we're so sure of, and i'm going to focus on those things that we think we know about the war of 1812 that i don't think we know. now, i understand this is a forgotten conflict, so the way i want to introduce this lecture is really present an overview of the war, just to make sure we all have a clear grasp of what
this war was all about, and i have that in your handout, it's that paragraph there, and i'll read it for you and you can follow along. the u.s. declared war on great britain in 1812 to conquer canada in the second war of independence, america militia played a central role, but they could not overcome the militia of canada who were aided by british regulators and indians, et leading native of the period. the u.s. navy, relying on pit crews that were heavily british, employed large frigots and, thus, defeated the british in the war at sea. in the last great battle of the war, kentucky and tennessee riflemen defeated the british at new orleans, although this battle was actually fought after the war was over. if the british had prevailed at new orleans, they planned to sack the city and retain
louisiana, which would have changed the course of american history. federalists bitterly opposed the war, which encouraged the enemy and prolonged the conflict. the real problem, however, was that the united states needed a more focussed military strategy, which would have enabled it to conquer canada. even without canada, the new nation enjoyed so much success on land and sea that it could still claim victory in this war. now, that's your overview on the war. if you're a little concerned about anything i've said, good for you. the only thing that is correct in that paragraph is the first phrase, "the u.s. declared war on great britain in 1812." by my count, there are 17 myths incorporated into this paragraph, and yet most of the things i've said here probably would not be questioned by most people. and what i want to do is talk
about those myths, but in order to set up that discussion of the individual myths, i want to make some general comments about mythology. first question we have to ask is what is a myth. it seems to me, it is something that is essentially wrong, an idea or a fact that is perceived to be true that is simply not true. it seems to me that myths range across the spectrum. there are some really big ideas that deal with what caused the war, the role of the militia, or who won the conflict, that are myths. typically, the big ideas have a grain of truth, some element of truth, but by and large, they are false, and then at the other end of the spectrum, you have small misconceptions that are plain factual errors. the notion, for example, andrew jackson fought in new orleans or the scottish 93rd regimen at new orleans wore kilts, or that the great flag at fort mchenry,
which is now at the smithsonian actually flew over the north, none of those things are true. those are the smaller misconceptions that are widely believed about this war. where do the myths come from? well, a lot of them come from participants. they either misremember or mistell the war. there's a tremendous amount of tension, especially in the 18th and early 19th century when black powder was used. very quickly, the battlefield was covered with smoke, so often people engaged in the battle had little idea of what was going on. it is sometimes said even today that if you asked people who were in a battle to describe what they saw, what they heard, what they experienced, it will sound like they were in two different battles, and i would add to that and say if you ask them 20 years after the event,
it will probably sound like they were in two wars, because we have a way of shaping our stories over time to fit our preconceptions as well as the expectations of our audience, so a story that might be told about a battle in 1812 that was retold 30 years later might sound very different. in the 19th century, we had assorted regional and national boosters and patriots who either repeated these myths that were propagated by the participants or they embellished on them, or they simply invented new myths, whole cloth. a lot of that happened in the 19th century, because often myth and legend pass for verifiable history. and too, you had serious historians who propagated some of these myths. william james repeated most of the tales he picked up from the
british navy, which misrepresented the strength of the opposing ships and some of the ship duels that the royal navy lost, or the 19th century american benjamin j. losse who traveled 10,000 miles looking at battlefields, other sites, sketched them, interviewed veterans and others who had been around during the war, and repeated uncritically what he heard from them, and that served, i think, to propagate some of the myths, and finally, the great henry adams, arguably, the first historian of the war who examined sources to try to piece together what had happened, and about half, more than half of his nine-volume history of the united states during the administrations of jefferson and madison really deals with the run up to and the war and the war itself.
adams was a very unhappy man, and he also was determined to make everybody except his own ancestors look bad, and this combination led to a lot of misconceptions, and adams was very, very clever. he often portrayed facts, or i should say, misconceptions, as facts or commonly held opinions that no one would disagree with, so you'll read through his history and see statements like this, no one would now disagree with this or that fact, or everyone today would agree today with "a" or "b," when, in fact, i don't agree with a lot of those things. myths are remarkably durable. they have a real staying power. i told my buddy, don greys, a
canadian military historian, the top historian of the war, seven or eight years ago, that i was writing a book on the myths of the war. drive a stake deep through the heart because they have a way of popping up no matter how much you beat them down. he was certainly right. many that i thought i punctured in a book i see in books that are published today. why are they so durable? who would not like to picture andrew jackson behind a cotton bail and who would not like to see the flag flying over the fort when those rockets are exploding overhead or the explosive shells are bursting? in other words, these exciting stories, we like to believe them and we like to repeat them.
this kind of history is attractive and affirmative. who would not like to believe that the militia saved the united states from the brit skpish their nasty indian allies. we want to believe that they were fully capable of matching the british on the battlefield. finally, they have a way of persisting because accepting them does not require any work. you just repeat the myth and move on to whatever else you are writing about. as a scholar, if you are going to write about something and you feel you have to explore what may be a myth, that is going to be a lot more work than repeating the myth. okay? all right. let's take a look at what i call the leading myths of the war of 1812. we listed them under ten headings and i think we have 17 or possibly even more myths here. number one, the united states
went to war to conquer canada. not so. we gave up maritime practices and that restricted the trade with the continent of europe and an impressment which was the removal. we couldn't challenge the british on the high seas and we targeted the north american provinces, hoping to invade and conquer canada and use it to win concessions on the maritime issues. that made very easy for people to conclude afterwards that the maritime issues were really a pretext. this was really nothing more than a land grout. it's a lot easier to understand that than the maritime issues anyway. henry clay made it clear at the time that targeting canada was the means to secure concessions on the maritime issues.
to this day people think the conquest was a purpose of the war. it's a tough sell getting them to believe we were trying to get the british to give up certain maritime issues. number two, the conflict was a second war of american information. not so. the british in no way threatened our independence. it was never at risk from anything the british did in this period. they were trying to win a war in europe against napoleonic france. every policy that encroached upon our rights, once the war was over, the policies end. as i see it, our independence was never at risk. now, ironically the independence of every other belligerent was at risk. british independence was at risk not from us, but france. if napoleon succeeded in
invading and occupying, that would have been the end of independence. if we conquered canada, that would have been the end. it would be part of the us today rather than an independent nation. and the indian tripes fighting on both sides also were fighting for their independence and really didn't matter the size they were on, they lost their independence. the united states was the only belligerent in the war whose independence was not at risk. number three, the militia in the united states and canada played a central in the war. this is the great myth. it has been at least traditionally very popular in canada and in the united states. canadians want to believe it was their own that defended against the american invasions and they didn't need to depend on british regulars or their indian allies. as a myth it was useful when
canada became independent because they felt they didn't have to spent money if they got in trouble. they had to whip us again. this myth was also very popular south of the border. we too wanted to believe that the great battles were won not by regulars, but rather by militia. they came out of kentucky and ohio and tennessee and won the war for us. now, our militia did play a fairly significant role, but all the major battles at least the land battles were fought principally by regulars and to a lesser extent the indian allies. number four, kentucky rifles were the game changers that won the war. there was not any such thing as a kentucky rifle in those days. there were 4,000 federal weapons manufactured at the federal arsenal at harper's ferry that
were rifles. those were distributed to some regular units. most of the rifles were manufactured by private companies working in pennsylvania to many specifications. this was in fact the pennsylvania rifle. now, there were some militia, particularly in the west who brought their rifles. the vast majority came unarmed the. most of the firepower in the war was artillery or muskets. rifles played a decidedly minor role. the reason we think they played a major role was because of a popular song called the hunters of kentucky which enjoyed a great deal of popularity in the 20s and 30s and that talks about how kentucky rifle men won the
battle. that made the pennsylvania and kentucky rifally and the victory at new orleans a victory of the kentucky militia. he built the confederacy about the time of tip canoe and fought these tribes and they were lied to the british during the war and he had the battle when the confederacy collapsed. his brother was the more important. his brother beginning in 1805 forged a religious mutualment that only around 1811 builds an alliance on top of that.
without that, he couldn't afford it. up until 1811, he was referred to as the profit's brother. he was considered a secondary character. his brother was deemed the dominant indian in the old northwest. we burned brightly for very long. he e merged after tip canoe and by october, less than two years later he was dead on the battlefield of the towns. i think the great john norton who served with the british was more important. he made sure that they remained loyal and he thought it was the battle on the niagara front. that was a more important and
the front further east in the old northwest. it looks to me like they may not have been the second most important indian leader in the war. number six, american frig ets were ships in the line of disguise by pit crews that relied on british subjects and the success of these ships helped the u.s. win the war at sea. this sentence has three british myths and one murn. the first were that they were not frig ets, but the ships of the line in disguise. they were battleships rather than cruisers. they were because we they were more heavily armed and the super frig ets of the day and it was no disgrace for them to lose to the more powerful, but they were not ships of the