tv John Ferling Winning Independence CSPAN September 10, 2021 12:08pm-1:13pm EDT
of mariners who came to the rescue of thousands. >> the maritime evacuation delivered nearly half-million people to safety, it's an incredible example of the good goodness of people that when you're given the opportunity to help you have the tools, you have fixed skill set, you have the availability that people over and over again made the choice to put themselves in harm's way for the sake of fellow humans and that is there instructive and something we really need to continue to remember. >> jessica delong sunday night at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. you can also find q&a interviews where ever you get your podcasts. >> good evening, everyone. welcome to our book talk this evening with john ferling off of
"winning independence." i'm tina panik from avon free public library and enjoyed with terri wilson cosponsor the program tonight. where in webinar military have questions at any point throughout our discussion pop into q&a box for the chat box and we will read them all at the end. alternate over to my colleague to introduce john. >> thank you, tina. we have -- we are pleased to cosponsor this conversation with a dedicated story who died due to enlighten us with new information and may be new theories especially that of the southern strategy. we love that because as local stories especially here inth connecticut where many important figures of the american revolution came from as well as a few battles fought and many connecticut farmers fed the continental army we always want more.rn john ferling is professor emeritus atom the university of west georgia where he enjoyed a long career teaching courses on the revolution, america's founders and u.s. military history.
he's written 13 books and many journal articles on the politics and tactics of the american revolution in our early republic. he's a blogger for george washington and john adams. while i can't read the names of his books and t awards i prefero tell you t more about john the man. although his parents were from west virginia he grew up in galveston, texas. according toda his biography his mother was college educated in the 1920s, top school for 11 11 years until she was banned by west virginia law for marrying. his father also attended college on a baseball scholarship in the 1920s but the depression indicates academics. he took a job with union carbide in texas and they had one son john in 1940. john is is a bachelors in his -- sent using university and a master from baylor university. although he is retired it hasn't stopped him from attending and speaking at seminars, these kind of events, and lecturing on podcast and spending time writing which is his biggest
passion picky and his wife and their four cats near live atlanta but there's one more thing john likes to share, his love of baseball. the first major league game esau in 1947 between pittsburgh and the brooklyn dodgers when jackie robinson scored the winning run. john was hooked for life. so like any good historian he timed his research trip around games you wantee to see especiay to boston to see the red sox. for those of us here in new england we like to hear that. we know our audience is looking forward for caring more about your most recent book "winning independence" so let's begin. as ane historian your focus is been on the air of the american revolution. what do you love most about this chapter in our history? . the focus has been on the era of the revolution. what do you love most about this chapter in our history? >> thank you for having me in
the library and historical society for inviting me tonight. i've been looking forward to doing this. i was drawn to the revolution because that is where everything starts for the united states. the social ideas were formed during the course of the revolution. if you think about it, lincoln when he talked about it seven years ago was referring to 1776 and the ideas of equality and god-given rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all people. and when martin luther king talked about having a dream, his dream was that african-americans would be cut in on the ideas that really begin with the american revolution so i was drawn to that and i think in
addition because the revolution consisted of two things. on the one hand, there's the revolution itself which i think came as a surprise to most of the participants a dozen years before 1776 no one foresaw the revolution coming but there are walls and so the question comes above why did it occur and what was the revolution about and was it a case of trying to gain independence or was it as said in 1776 was it a struggle that would bring about the birthday of a new world so there's plenty to study on with regards to the american revolution, but in addition, kind of a double dip
because you've got a war most of the congressmen knew certainly when they declared independence in july of 1776 that they really were not independent it had a dark and uncertain times in 1776 and then like a roller coaster when france allied with the united states 1778 and many people felt including george washington for that matter felt that this then things went south after that.
until the very last moment unknown it could have gone in different directions. no one knew until yorktown whether or not america would gain independence or if it did. it is a long dramatic struggle i never get tired of looking at both the revolution and the war itself and fascinating cast of characters that were part of the political revolution so that's why i stayed with the revolution
throughout my career. >> for your new book which is the one we feature tonight, and this is what got me as i read, it challenges the assumption that america won the war. instead, great britain lost a war and could have one that i think could you elaborate on the nuance of this and how you selected it as a different way to look at the independence. >> sure. i think that the british had several opportunities at the outside of the war to have won the war. general gage who was the commander of the british army at the time the run down to the war was coming on told london that winning the first engagement is crucial. if we could have enough troops
over here to score a dramatic victory over the colonists, then probably the fervor for the war would disappear and particularly the disaster that faced the british when they marched back from concord to boston. then they had the chance to score a victory two months leader at bunker hill in boston and they could have scored above those victories. sir henry clinton who was the third in command at the time advised general gage to send forces to the backside and would pin the american rebels up on top and we could score a bottle but they didn't do that and they marched up the hill and down into a disaster.
there were two instances where i think if the british had acted resolutely when they had about half of washington's army trapped and again in the september of 76 when washington really foolishly kept his army on manhattan and didn't at all they still had a chance the plan that london devised was for an army to come down from canada led by john while general howell moved north to rendezvous and
catch washington's army how the devices went after philadelphia and missed the last major chance that the british had to win the war. but that's not to say that the defeat after that was guaranteed because as i said earlier, it is a long desperate war and a lot of things go wrong after 1778 as the war stalemated the american economy, collapsed the american morale and george washington wrote a letter to the chief
executive of pennsylvania which he said i have almost ceased hope and at the same home washington was writing that letter, arthur lee who had been an american diplomat since the beginning of the war overseas in europe returned to america for the first time since the war began and he landed in boston of all places and he's there for a few days and talks with a number of officials and he wrote to tht most of those had concluded the war would end in a negotiated settlement short of independence so things are really up in the
air. america did come out of the war victorious as they would celebrate in about five more years for the 250th anniversary of 1776. but i also argued that america could not have won the war without french assistance. they were providing clandestine assistance starting in 1775 that provided emissions and weaponry and whatever for the americans and then they allied. then they loaned a great deal of money which wound up costing the
french king his head in the 1790s because the economic woes and fallout contributed to the problems and brought along the french revolution after 1789 so the americans knew that it would help which i think was important to remember. >> could we step back to somebody that you mentioned earlier that is general sir henry clinton. what aspects have historians misunderstood and why doesn't he receive credit for strategizing the capture of the move that would have changed the outcome and redrawn the map of america.
>> let me go to my powerpoint. that's how they know the painting and there's another one of washington. but here is sir henry clinton. he became the commander of the british army and learned of his appointment in may of 1778. he was the third british commander during the war. gage had been there for many years before the revolution and was recalled after the disasters along concord road and bunker hill and general william howe succeeded and when he was commander in 76 and 77 and resigned after saratoga so then
he was named the commander he was from an aristocratic family. his father was a career naval officer who became the royal governor of new york and spent some of his formative years and new york city. he fought in two wars before the revolutionary war and earned a reputation as a brave, courageous, risk-taking soldier who was seriously wounded in an
engagement in germany in the seven year war in the early 1760s. he was an intellectually curious individual. he read especially deeply on military history and strategy and in the year before the war broke out out of his own pocket he paid to make the trip deep into eastern europe between the russians and the turks hoping to learn more about the military strategy and tactics and then he came over as the third in command of the british army landing just three or four weeks after lexington and concord and just in time to see some action at bunker hill.
to withdraw some of the troops when clinton read the orders he discovered that he had to immediately relinquish 8,000 of he was going to have an army, he did have an army that was considerably smaller than the army that the british had had in america a year before but despite that, his orders were to bring washington toll battle, hd on to new york, hold on to rhode island and implement this new southern strategy that will talk about a little later on. he really faced an enormous task, and from the very beginning clinton knew that he was up against it. my fate is hard, as he put it.
and in a letter he wrote almost immediately after being named commander he said he thought it was inevitable that britain would lose the war, and he feared that he would be scapegoated for the loss. e thout was inevitable britain would lose the war and he feared he would be scapegoated for the law and it turned out that he was pressing and because. he wasn't dynamic enough and he hadn't done enough they argued to have won the war that britain could have one and i think most of those arguments were picked
up by historians down the road so that clinton's reputation and the literature and i try to argue in the book that many of those allegations are not true. they are far more active than his foes suggested. he did take risk and was more active than washington was during the four years between saratoga and yorktown for instance. thomas paine after the war in the 1790s wrote a pamphlet attacking washington but argued that washington slept in the field as he put it and the real winners of the war were generals horatio gates and nathaniel
green. washington was generally enacted during much of that time in the clinton was far more active and i think that the most devastating thing, the most devastating attack or appraisal came about almost 75 years ago but was still read by scholars today and many still accepted that it was a study made by clinton's biographer in conjunction with a clinical psychologist. but that they had a deep subliminal psychological problems that prevented him from acting on the power that he had and frankly i think the argument
is malarkey not that i am a particular photo of the history but they were obviously unable to put clinton on the couch it would have opened up a window to so i think clinton's reputation suffered from that. [inaudible] i closed the door so mine can to get in the room but anyway, i think that study should be filed away. he certainly made mistakes.
i recognized that in the book when i think that he was a good general and exceedingly good strategist that didn't have often much to work with and faced enormous challenges. >> i didn't know anything about him before this. we are going to stay with him for a little bit and i realized on the chronology the questions are out of order. so, after the catastrophe at saratoga in 1777 it adopted thestrategies of the so-called southern strategy. what were they attempting from 1777 and onward? >> the british in fact many
people in england after saratoga wanted to drop out of the war. it was going on for three years. they had achieved virtually nothing and now had lost and the entire army at saratoga so when the news came in, there was a lengthy debate in the lower north ministry. it went on to the end of 1778 and it was a debate over for one thing whether to remain in the war and if the decision was to remain in the war what kind of strategy would they pursue. again at this point it had been to try to destroy washington's continental army and also when control of the northern
provinces and they hadn't succeeded on either score so at the end of the debate. let me go back to my powerpoint here. the person who led the fight to remain in the war was the american secretary for the colonies and jermaine was in essence the minister of war and he also had responsibilities for britain's army in america and
jermaine understood that a new strategy had been developed and came up with what became known as a southern strategy and that was in essence to virtually write off the northern colonies and attempt to regain control of two or possibly three colonies down south. georgia, south carolina and possibly north carolina as well and jermaine thought that was a plausible strategy. he was correct in this score that a greater percentage of colonists in the southern colonies had remained loyal to england than was the case.
england that if this played out in this fashion, not very long many in the united states would seek to return to the british empire because they just would have very little capability of expanding and whatever. so that was the southern strategy and its cobbled together in the winter of 1778 in london, and doesn't mention earlier when clinton receives his orders, it includes implement then southern strategy which he gets around to pretty fast. he sent 3000 men expedition to georgia in december of 1778 and a one-day battle the british retook savannah.
and then in 1780 clinton comes south, leads a huge expedition down that retakes charleston in sc operation in april and may of 1780. and then clinton voice -- let me show you one more slide here real quickly. after charleston falls, clinton appoints -- there we go. he appoints general cornwallis, charles cornwallis, to be in charge of the pacification of south carolina and georgia. and from day one cornwallis orders were to focus on south carolina and georgia.
he could go into north carolina if he thought it would help him with subduing the rebellion in south carolina and georgia. cornwallis is going to be the major player in the war in the south from the time he takes command in june of 1780 down into the late spring, well, 1781 and on until he arrives at yorktown in the summer of 1781. clinton, meanwhile, comes back to new york and he never saw cornwallis again until after yorktown. so that was the southern strategy and that's what they were trying to accomplish.
and i tried to argue in the book that they came reasonably close. some things went wrong that we can maybe talk about a little bit later on this evening, but at the beginning of 1781, clinton was far more confident than washington was, what was going to happen that year. clinton later said that he began 1781 more confident of british success than in any of the other four years that he was commander. and i think what clinton ultimately thought was that if the allies, the french and americans could be prevented from scoring a decisive victory in 1781, that the war would end in a negotiated settlement.
and clinton wasn't alone in that. i think washington felt that. lafayette says that. in his letters john adams in europe is writing to congress and telling congress pretty much then same thing. that, john adas and europe is telling congress pretty much the same thing, adams is telling congress they've been in this for three years and haven't gained anything out of it so you've got to gain something or they will accept an invitation from neutral nations in europe to come to a peace conference and what would have happened is anybody's guess. maybe it would have recognized an independent united states that was smaller or maybe it
would not agree to the independence of the united states. this would have been a conference primarily of european monarchs and friendly to republican government. >> i think you answered the next three questions. it emerges in parallel leadership what is it that big aisles independent of size which would you prefer to serve under and why?
>> let me say a couple things about that even in a section with a dozen pages where i tried to look at the two to see what i can find about both of them. it may have been that washington had insecurities and he didn't want people to get too close to him to discover what he feared for his weak points or it may have been simply that washington as a leader felt he couldn't let anybody get very close to him. he had to make personnel decisions and he didn't say this but it kind of reminds me of
what john f. kennedy said that they have to be feared and he acknowledged he was very shy and made one of the strangest comments ever made by a historical figure. i am a shy he said. neither of them were really outgoing, but clinton i think made friends more easily than washington who in a sense may never have had a close friend in the sense of the world throughout his life but both clinton and washington were brave, courageous man under fire and i'm always amazed at the
battle of princeton and washington was riding on horseback riding to the british soldiers firing at him and they were no further away from him within a picture is from a batter on the baseball diamond and that is pretty close. as i said clinton earned a reputation of the war before this and during the revolution as somebody that was courageous under fire but both of them i think they stay somewhat similar problem during the war in that both had problems with supply and lack of money and troops. both clinton and washington endured considerable criticism during the war.
i'm not sure how many people remember today but there was a great deal of criticism on washington after he made several mistakes in the campaign and 76 and then after the campaign even more and open criticism congress cut off or could have ditched washington but fortunately didn't take that step and new that it would bring on political chaos and would probably ruin the war effort and after that, congress cuts off the open criticism of washington and
launches the campaign to make washington and an iconic figure from valley forge on towards the end of the war to elevate him so that he would be above the criticisms that began celebrating washington's birthday annually and that is when clinton ran into a lot of criticism. i think in the case of both of these guys it's sort of like all the students complained about their professors and all of the professors complained about the administrators there were issues over promotion and people were unhappy about that so both of them ran into a great deal of
criticism but there were plenty of differences between them and you mentioned when you talked about one of the differences that i think was a better leader this was a time period when they demonstrated that the average full grown american male was 5 feet 7 inches tall. it hadn't changed much about washington was almost 64 inches tall he is about the same size
as the cornerback of ohio state or university of alabama or something today and he did have a reputation of athleticism he seemed to walk gracefully and clinton on the other hand was about 5 feet seven, pretty average in many ways so there were differences in that respect. clinton was from an aristocratic family and one other difference was people today often forget
that washington had been about politics clinton acknowledged openly although he held a seat in the house of commons, he acknowledged that he was not a very good politician. there were some similarities and differences. >> the question who would you serve under. >> that is a tough question. it would depend on your rank but
i think i would have served under either. he was a good general and neither were bloodthirsty or sent their men into battle and hopeless situations and squandered troops both of them were trying to preserve life because both i think had humanitarian qualities about them but also both had faced so many shortages that they couldn't afford to lose troops, so they both were good commanders and i probably would have been willing to serve under
either one. although i have to say i don't know that i would have wanted to be a soldier in the revolutionary war on either side. it was a really tough go. these guys, the higher ranking officers were on the move a lot and the higher ranking officers could travel on horseback. many of them marched thousands of miles and many of them even in the british army, we know all about the suffering at valley forge and norristown but even the british army in many cases the men were ill provisioned and ill equipped. it was a tough go.
we are coming through a pandemic now and these guys faced disease and at least in the american army most of the soldiers who died wound up dying of disease, not from combat. so it was a risky, difficult, harsh environment that they faced. while i might have been willing to serve under both the generals, i'm glad i didn't have to serve the war on either side. >> i know that she is dying to ask this question because it has to do with one of the other characters. >> and it has to do with being on both sides. benedict arnold, is he a truth reader or just someone that wanted a steady paycheck?
property in new england and if america wound up winning the war, he was going to lose all that property so it was a kind of trade-off. he would lose valuable property but gain the money that the british were going to pay and he could have done probably just as well financially and he remained on the american side. one of the things that's alwayss intrigued me about arnold is that he negotiates with the british through the intermediaries that were important to sir henry clinton and for a long time, clinton didn't know who it was that the intermediaries were talking to. he just knew that it was an important american who might be willing to commit treason. it's not until august and what happens in august 1780,
in august of 1780 cornwallis scored a huge victory over an american army at camden in south carolina, and army commanded by horatio gates. it was the fourth american army in 20 months that had been destroyed in the southern theater. and more than 8000 american troops had been killed, wounded, or captured in those four engagements. that's the same month that washington writes that letter saying i am almost ceased to hope. and it's the same month that arthur lee in boston is saying that many of the leaders in massachusetts now believe the war is going to end in a negotiated settlement, short of independence. so i think you can argue that
when arnold finally makes his final decision to turn coat in august of 1780, he may very well have believed that the americans goose was cooked, and at the british were going to win the war and he was trying to get on the winning side. but having said all of that, it's all speculative. nobody really knows what was going on in arnold's mind. >> i do like to put them in the context of all the time in english and the decision, not an impetuous move for him to suddenly switched sides. it really could have been anyone any silver position in terms of rank and opportunity. i did appreciate that putting in a new context and i couldn't resist asking ify he really -- >> sure. >> or was he just a guy after paycheck, so thank you.
i think we need to get questions from the obvious because i think this is been a critic overview of this book and your history is wonderful how it flows from you. so thank you very much. are we ready for that? >> while the audience is tightly questions and i do want to get to the last one that we put together. i think it brings the historic story to the modern era and i'll give the audience time to type anything they want to ask. .. era what do you want them to understand about the consequences of the war and that visceral
i wanted people to understand just how long this struggle to win independence >>was. i think because saratoga occurs in october 1777 and a huge british army surrenders there , and textbooks always pick saratoga as the turning point of the revolutionary war, that there has been a tendency on the part of many people to think well, everything that followed saratoga was anti-climactic in the end the american victory was guaranteed . so i wanted to, i wanted readers to come away from my book understanding that along ground war had to be fought after saratoga. the victory wasn't guaranteed. it was elusive.
as i said, clanton thought their friend could still win the war in1781 . i also wanted people to be aware of just how grim this war was. that about 15 percent of those who fought on the british side died in this war. pretty heavy attrition. and as best i've been able to determine, roughly the same percentage of people who fought on the american side died in this war. to try to put that in some sort of meaningful terms, the united states lost about 350,000 men in world war ii but if the united states had lost 15 percent of its soldiery at sailors in world
war ii, more than 2 million americans would have died in that war. so it's a war that is really i think a much bloodier war than many hapeople are aware. and also as i've mentioned, i wanted people to understand that the outcome of the war is determined after saratoga. they had a four year struggle and during that 4 years after saratoga most americans died during the 30 months of war before saratoga. roughly about 65 percent of all americans who fought on america's side died after saratoga. there's another 4000 americans who died fighting for great britain during this war and in fact in 1780 there
are more americans fighting for great britain than are fighting in the continental army. those were the things i wanted readers to come away with and i tried to do in the book was look at the crises that washington face, the crisis that clanton face and then the decisions that they made during those crises. and what they knew and what they didn't know when they made those decisions. often times i think people sort of re-history backwards. they know how it came out but the actors obviously didn't know that when they made their decision. they didn't know whether it would be a good decision or a bad decision and i had to just take the decision based
on what they knew at that time. so i tried throughout the book when i look at the decisions that aclanton and washington and never annual grain and others made, why they made the decision that they did and what theyknew when they made those decisions . >> what was the allegiance of the british to allow for a ad negotiated peace, what would have been in it for them ? >> there were many people in england that just wanted to get out of the war. and it had gone on for a long time .they weren't winning the war. there was a fear that they were going to lose. all the trade with america thatfrance would gobble up postwar commerce . with america, and the british economy might be ruined. the longer the war continued. so e there were some in england
to work pushing for a negotiated settlement. and the immediately after saratoga one lord north, the head of the war ministry prime minister went to saratoga. he proposes a negotiated settlement. he's immediately referred to as the north east plan of 1778 and the actually sends a commission of diplomats, they were known as the eacarlisle commission that came over to american 1778 and they were authorized to negotiate a settlement. and what clanton was well, what lord north was willing to accept was essentially everything that the first continental congress had asked for on the eve of war with one exception. that was independence. would not recognize
independence. but he was willing to let a continental congress remain. he was going to give the americans greater autonomy and on and on. that the first continental congress had asked for . so certainly even right up to the pinnacle of power in england there were people who were willing to accept the negotiated settlement. >> thank you, your answers have been thoughtful.the book is extensively researched. it's absolutely enlightening. and i really do encourage our audiences to pick it up and read it because it tells a completely different perspective and a refreshing one of the american revolution so thank you for spending your evening with the historical society and hopefully we will see you in person.
>> i will forward to that as well. i thank you once again for having me. >> this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks saturday at nine: 10 am eastern on american history tvs american artifacts. we'll tour the flight 93 national memorial near shanksville pennsylvania hearing the story behind the hijacking and passengers attempted to take control of the plane from terrace heading to washington dc and at 2 pm eastern on the presidency president bush's oval office address to the nation on the night of september 11 and at 5:30 p.m. eastern former white house chief usher gary walters recalls events within the white house walls after the terrorists crashed into the twin towers and pentagon . the tv features authors
discussing their books on sunday at 2:55 we will continue our look back on 9/11 story and garrett graph in his book the only plane in the sky: an oral history of 9/11 and at 4:15 p.m. eastern pulitzer prize-winning author lawrence wright and his book the looming tower : al qaeda and the road to 9/11. watch tv every weekend on c-span2 and find a full schedule on your program guide or visit c-span.org.
>> stephen gooding, former undersecretary for science at the department of energy during the obama administration argued that climate science is notsettled . here's a portion of that conversation . >> about 2005 when up until the time i left the government 2012 i was working to develop and demonstrate in mission side technologies of various kinds. but in 2013, i was asked by the american physical society which is a professional society that represents 50,000 physicists to do a refresh of their statement on climate change. in 2007 they issued a statement to great controversy among the membership because it uses the word incontrovertible and if you're a physicist youknow that is a red flag .
and so in 2015 i was told to look again at the statement and i thought rather than like many professional societies issue climate statements just rubberstamping what the un ipcc says i bought we are physicists, we should have a deeper look at the issue so i convened a workshop and it was five physicists who were not climate experts sat and listened to consensus scientists, some of them i think all of them ipcc in one way or another and who then showed skepticalscientists their presentations and we talked for a day or so. and i came away again with the sense that gosh, there's a lot here we don't understand . and some of it very important to know that we didn't know. i was also surprised by how i had not heard about those shortfalls in the time i had been studying the matter. so it was both a revelation
about the substance of the science but also how poorly it had been vindicated to even the literate public. >> wants the rest of this program book dv.org. use the search box at the top of the page to look for the title of his book unsettled. >> we are delighted to have you with us, welcome to booktalktuesday. my name is jim and rusty at the washington library . the new year to you all, glad to see you back in this new year and delighted that you joined and decided to spend your evening with us . tonight i'm excited because were going to have an opportunity to explore the challenges, the stresses, the opportunities early americans face while living under british military role in the american revolution. before we get to that and our distinguished guests, just a programming note. i want to encourage you all to