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tv   Alexander Hamiltons Military Career  CSPAN  September 22, 2019 4:50pm-6:01pm EDT

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hamilton's military career and his relationship with george washington. dimension in new jersey, the site of washington post 1780 headquarters -- washington's 1780 headquarters hosted this event. >> welcome. i am so happy all of you are here and joining us today for this program. if you have not been here before, definitely after the lecture today, please stay and take a tour with our staff. before i introduce our guest speaker today, just a few rules or bits of information. we do have light refreshments for you in the kitchen. there is coffee, tea, cheese, crackers, cookies. please feel free to get up and take what you like. restrooms are in this building. you do not need to go to the visitor center. they are also in the kitchen.
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our staff today, we have ken in the back, i'm not sure where kelly is hiding at the moment, then you have myself. i am the director of the department of cultural land -- cultural and historic affairs for the county of passaic. by de facto, i am the director of the site. we are fortunate enough to have a guest speaker and historian to share his knowledge and expertise on alexander hamilton and his rise to military fame and glory. he graduated from hillsdale college with a bachelors degree in history and from colorado state university with a masters degree in history. he has been an independent historian researching, writing, and giving presentations throughout the northeast since 2007. he is a scholar of the american revolution with research interests that include espionage in the war. he has published historical
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features in magazines, the u.s. marine corps journal, financial history, and the journal of the american revolution. he has given presentations on espionage in the revolution. to such groups as the north jersey revolutionary war roundtable. he has been here before in 2017 with another wonderful presentation. the fbi's new york office, as well. he is a longtime resident of summit, new jersey. he and his wife are long time reenactors. they own two houses in connecticut dating from 1765. one belonged to a private in the war and another belonged to three brothers who became general's. without further ado, damien cregeau. thank you. [applause] mr. cregeau: wonderful to have all of you here today.
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i was joking earlier, we have our flanking maneuvers in our like the rooms, much battle of monmouth. wonderful to have everybody packed into the room that meets the 18th-century converting -- converging with the 20th century. i feel, as does my wife, i have been a longtime reenactor. you can see me there dressed as an officer. a captain with the epaulet on my shoulder. i have reenacted the battle of monmouth three times in sweltering heat. there i am speaking for the alexander hamilton awareness society, of which i am a member. i have spoken twice at hamilton's grave, which is at trinity church in downtown manhattan. a very challenging place to speak when you're dealing with construction noises. i wanted to briefly say, a nice
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connection by coincidence because i wrote an article about the six degrees of alexander hamilton and the huntington's of norwich. my wife and i own the huntington house in norwich. the house is pictured on the left. there is his portrait based on his miniature by john trumbull. he married faith trumbull, the daughter of the governor of connecticut, and her famous brett -- brother was the painter. left, we gotn the blown out of the water at an auction for that. $26,000 for a pair of epaulets. the hamilton we know, there is so little that we know. there is so much in which we focus on his accomplishments as treasury secretary. is the infamous duel, it
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like the titanic. we know how the story ends, he will be killed by erin burke -- by aaron burr. there are scandals and so forth, and a little bit about his military experiences. that is what we tend to not know. it was a portrait by john trumbull. like alexander hamilton, he also at one point served as an aide to general george washington during the revolutionary war. he serves the shortest. he was there about three weeks. he was a very talented artist, during the siege of boston. this is the portrait that was used for the $10 bill. there is more to him than just that head. there is the entire full-length portrait. it sits in new york's city hall. my wife and i had permission to reproduce this to hang in our house. i hope you take away an appreciation of the accomplishments of hamilton in his buried roles as military commander, not just as an aide
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to washington. that is a portion of it but you will see more than that. he starts out as a captain. later he is a lieutenant colonel. this is probably one of the best-known portraits of him in uniform. alexander hamilton in uniform of .he new york world -- artillery there is one problem, he is not dressed as an alert -- an artillery officer. that is the hat of a light infantry officer in yorktown late in the war. certainly, his uniform is similar to the one he is wearing when he was in the artillery. this is the portrait you probably have not seen. how many of you know that he was a major general in the u.s. army? i wouldn't expect many hands. circaby william weaver, 1800. we will get to that story in a little bit. there is someone else like hamilton who comes from humble
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beginnings, grows up on a remote island then comes to the mainland, starts out as an artillery officer and becomes a famous military leader. that is of course napoleon bonaparte. there is an interesting comparison you can make between those two. i like to do that as a military historian. it was the quickest way that you could rise in the military ranks. if you were a baseball fan, if you want to get to the majors quickly, do it like mike piazza did, get drafted as a catcher and you will make it to the majors. what do we know about young hamilton? in terms oflot illustration. on the left we have something in black and white that is hard to find in color. it is hamilton, we think, isributed to him but there little promenade's. we don't know who the painter is. it is attributed to hamilton as the subject as a teenager. and raised, working for a
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merchant in st. croix, a charming island. his mother rachel was a wonderful woman, a wonderful role model. who,l was a bright woman in her day, was quite rare and had a large collection of books. she was an inspiration to him. he became a bookworm like her. on the right is a much more documented painting. it is by charles wilson peel -- peale, that is at the columbia library. been a longer show it because of the public -- the popularity of the musical. to get to seeul that and hold their wedding rings and other items, but just so you know, that is where the personal items are located. they are precious. i thought maybe some of these guys would show up. these friends of mine who run an organization called the hearts of oak. this was hamilton's first military organization. , arted out as the corsican's
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link to napoleon, gets renamed the hearts of oak and on the red heart it says liberty or death. beautiful, unusual bright green uniforms. as you notice from the photo on the right, they have been here. this is from their facebook page. they have also been at the innge, hamilton's estate upper manhattan. where did the -- where did hamilton train his hearts of oak militia unit? in the churchyard of st. paul's chapel on broadway. i don't know how you do that without multiple tripping hazards. with headstones, the church has been there quite a long time. there were plenty of headstones already in the 1770's. but that is where they trained. i you haven't been there, encourage you go. it is the site of the first memorial to a fallen general, brigadier general richard
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montgomery, in u.s. history. he was killed ahead of his time in the attack on quebec city, and ben franklin felt so guilty about that he wanted to have this elaborate memorial put up for him there. you can see that in front of the church. was this the first meeting of george washington and alexander hamilton? i am talking about the story that they met at bunker hill, bayard's hill in lower manhattan , april of 1776. we don't know. maybe they met there, maybe they didn't. it is more likely that they met later in 1776 during washington's organized retreat through the state of new jersey. this is possible. there have been a couple of illustrations of that. bayard's hill, i will point it out on a map momentarily, is the highest point at that point in lower manhattan. unfortunately, manhattan's contours have changed over time. we lost our hills and dales
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substantially, so you wouldn't know her bayard's help is now. -- where bayard's hill is now. it is documented that hamilton's artillery unit does fire unto british ships, the hms phoenix and they hms rose -- and the hms rose. the is a week after declaration of independence had been read by washington to the troops in lower manhattan. the hms rose was a fascinating ship that was later used as a reproduction in the filming of "master and commander." hamilton and burr, it is likely they covered george washington and general israel putnam's retreat through manhattan from the left side, the dark red represents all of what new york city was as of 1776. greenwich village was actually a separate village. bloomingdale was a separate
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residential area. manhattan was that little tip. new york city, rather. we don't have substantial proof of it. this wonderful high-resolution map shows the location of the hill. it is right there. that was the fort that was used by hamilton and his artillery. another question comes up, was hamilton at the battle of white plains? probably not. thanks to the scholarship of a friend of mine who is also speaking today at another location, he is a scholar of alexander hamilton and has written not one but two books on hamilton. what michael has been able to demonstrate with primary source evidence is that 9/10 of the artillery were not at the battle of white plains. there is a nine out of 10 chance that hamilton was not there, and
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furthermore, neither henry knox, his commander, nor george washington mentioned hamilton or his unit by name. this we know for sure, hamilton's first full-fledged combat, not just shooting at two ships in the river, this is full combat. as the grandson of an artillery officer at wattle canal, my nal,dfather -- at guadalca my grandfather was a marine, i can appreciate how traumatic this must've been. this is rutgers. it was known as queens college. just like columbia was known as king's college. hamilton attended there for a few years and would have graduated had war not broken out. my wife graduated from rutgers. it was during one of the reunions that i saw one of these beautiful plaques. it says on the campus, from the class of 1899, early december, 1776, alexander hamilton had a
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battery of horse artillery and crossed the ford of the raritan. delaying the advance of the the river while washington withdrew through princeton to trenton. that is indeed true. there are eyewitness reports saying hamilton's artillery unit delivered withering fire that dramatically slowed down the advance of the british forces. right where my wife rowed for rutgers crew. hamilton, helping found american industry, we are just west of patterson falls, where he worked. washington crossing the delaware, famous scene on christmas night, december 25 into the morning of 26th. it is a large life-size painting. here is a realistic one. ands more recent, 2011,
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debuted at the historical society. it is at nighttime, it is a different kind of craft, there is a cannon, maybe it is hamilton's. not good weather. painting by a connecticut painter, amazingly talented, who is now retired. this is one of his last paintings, called victory or death. it is hamilton, washington, the future president james monroe, also an artillery officer for the battle of trenton. there they are in the early morning light, trudging through the ice and snow. you can imagine how cold it must've felt. hamilton's artillery was at both battles of trenton. what do i mean? we hear of the battle of trenton. what do i mean battles with a s? just like there are two battles of saratoga, there were two battles of trenton. the second one was not as famous. i am showing this in a sketch, not a color drawing, which
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couldn't be found. it is well documented that hamilton, like he did at runs brunswick, uses cannon fire to deliver withering fire on the british. this is a well-documented battle that gets overshadowed by the surprise attack at trenton a few days later, as well as the second surprise attack, which is the u.s. army at princeton. the problem is, hamilton's artillery is somewhere at the battle of princeton, we don't know where and there is no evidence for a lofty legend, but it is a great story, that he fires a cannon with multiple shots at nassau hall and to cap dictates -- decapitates king george the third, whose portrait in the oil is hanging on the wall inside. makes for a great story, but there is no evidence according to scholars. but it is a good story. this is true. there were offers not from one or two but three very well-known generals in the american revolution.
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the one on the left is one you may not have heard of. many of you are from new jersey so hopefully you have. it is general william alexander. a.k.a. lord stirling. he is buried 75 feet from alexander hamilton at trinity church. he was an -- wasn't even marked. my friend john followed up my suggestions to put u.s. flags there, so i thank john for doing that because it is important that we mark him. an incredibly brave general in multiple battles, including the battle of new york and the battle of monmouth. estate, one reason we don't remember him is that his house burned down but we have a beautiful state park there. hamilton received offers from and the fighting quaker, nathaniel greene, come hamilton says, thanks but no thanks. what does he yearn for? battlefield command.
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he is worried if he takes a desk job, he doesn't rise as quickly, doesn't achieve the prestige as quickly as he would if he were on the battlefield. weh like the titanic story, know it is going to end at yorktown and he will achieve the heroism he urines for on the battlefield. in the meantime, someone named george washington comes along. that is an offer he can't refuse. he takes a month to think it over. he is like a good attorney. he becomes an attorney later. he says let's wait for a few weeks and think it over. he finally says yes. washington made the offer in 1777, and i0's -- think hamilton was convinced, this is going to be well worth it. our first proof of this agreement is washington's orders of march 1, 70 and 77. -- it reads, headquarters, 1777. morristown. alexander hamilton is appointed aid to camp. to the commander-in-chief and is to be respected and obeyed as such.
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extract of general orders, alexander scammell. we will talk about him later during the siege of yorktown. you can find transcriptions like this letter on the library of congress website. they are in the collection of the washington papers. transcriptions are at founders a lot of authors will say this is all happening when hamilton is 22 years old. he is actually 20. michael knew it meant other scholars have proved that he was not born in 1755, he was born in 1757. he is 20 years old. think about your children and your grandchildren and yourselves and where were you at 20? were you helping washington at his chief of staff? could you have risen in battle as many times as he did? he is his youngest aide to camp so far. most are in their early 30's. to cap so far,
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there was a lot of turnover. there is a great book by a local author about washington's 32 aides. he serves as an aid to washington from 1777 to 1781. that is four years. quite a stretch. very colorful stretch. filled with frustration and all kinds of peaks and valleys. so washington in winter of 77 has headquarters not far from here, at jacob arnolds tavern on the green. that is in morristown. there is a sign for it. tavernnately, arnolds burned down in 1918, due to a fire. washington typically had five aides or secretaries. secretaries were doing most of the writing, aides did some writing and there is no proof of this but my a sum should would be when washington is distinguishing between a secretary and an aide, they aide
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would have more varied activities whereas the secretary would stay at headquarters. that is probably how the labor was split up. the most at any time was seven. can you imagine seven of them sleeping in the same room or even sitting in the same room during a hot day like today? or the cold times, most of it an incredible challenge. the typical task is writing and copying letters for washington. copious is an understatement. copious amounts of writing letters. they were often dictated by washington to his aides, including hamilton. you have some aides he was particularly fond of. and someone who basically became , and thery stepson three would be alexander hamilton david humphreys of
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connecticut in the center, and on the right, a composite of george washington, marquis the lafayette and tench tilman, the third of the three aides he was close with. tilman is the one you probably haven't heard of. he was a talented man and 1786,unately, he died in died quite young and that is unfortunate. here is the blowup of that painting by charles wilson peale of washington, lafayette and tilman. it hangs in the maryland state house. another interesting thing are the three officers standing on morristown green. we are talking of course about the statue put up not long ago on the green. it represents lofty yet on the left,-- lafayette on the hamilton in the middle, who was
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5'7", and george washington on the right. was he 6'3'? probably not. he was probably more like 6'1" like myself. there has been new scholarship on his height. one thing that gets overlooked is hamilton's provisions mission into philadelphia. this is interesting and gets overshadowed by battlefield actions. this is important. if the army is going to go anywhere, it needs to march on it -- on its stomach. late september 1777 and hamilton is sent by washington with other officers to go on horseback and go into downtown philadelphia and gather as many horses, general supplies, you can think of food basically, clothing and blankets in the city of philadelphia. are goingey know they to lose the city to the british. they decided they are not going to put up a fight at the city, defend the city itself as the british come down with a larger force. they will stay out towards
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whitemarsh and eventually valley forge, and receive the supplies there. what is key in hamilton's handling of the special operation is his discretion as to who he will take the supplies from. he does not just take them from everyone. if you are poor and you rely on your horse for your transportation, he does not take the horse. if you are one of those families who is a strong patriot and you are planning on evacuating what little you can put on a horse before the british come in, he also doesn't take from those people. that discretion is quite telling. there are so many times in which we get overshadowed with later life scandals. many of which were refuted. and we don't realize how kindhearted a man, a gentleman hamilton was. his mission really helped the state of the continental army , particularlyter the blankets. another mission that gets overshadowed, the emissary trip.
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he was the official representative of washington in late fall 1777. he will serve as washington's the philadelphia region, go all the way up, it will take him weeks but washington needs his three brigades back. he lent three brigades to horatio gates to fight in the saratoga campaign in new york. washington needs them back and he would like to have among them daniel morgan's rifleman. this will take a while. it takes most of november into december. hamilton meets gates in albany. the battle is over, he is glowing in the aftermath of the victory. and one of the challenges hamilton will encounter is, he is a 20-year-old aides born on an island. he is dealing with someone who in the-established aristocracy, who is very
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powerful, old enough to be his dad and is a two star general. do you think he wants to hear from a 20-year-old colonel that washington would like three brigades back? does gates have any respect for george washington, for that matter? no. not at all. much like some of the politics or participate in in modern times, there is politics in that time around military. alexander hamilton's first attempts are fruitless. they are futile. he finally decides he has been duped. gates says ok fine, you can have patterson's brigade. he looks at patterson's brigade and says, it is understrength. he does some detective work and find it within days that patterson's brigade has already been wiped out at the saratoga campaign. there has been huge attrition numbers. that's not even a full strength brigade. he is conning me. -- anduts in writing as heatedon, face-to-face,
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exchanges to gates, who finally relents after weeks. he says fine, i will relent to washington's demands. it shows how much trust hamilton received from washington to go on this mission. similarly, after he meets with gates, he has to meet with an equally incorrigible general, old-time, --, and an old timer, the hero of bunker hill. he does not want to listen to alexander hamilton either. putnam is old enough to be his grandfather. putnam is in his 60's. he says, i'm not giving up my soldiers. will eventually relented to hamilton's demands. hamilton knows when he has to turn the screws a little bit and forcibly speak on behalf of george washington. it is for that reason that we can have this quote here. this is from michael knew who writes, "by granting hamilton discretion in his mission, left the entire course of the war and possibly
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its outcome in the hands of his youngest aid. hamilton had already earned washington's complete trust." so of course, george washington at saratoga. he lost that germantown and brandywine earlier that fall, the same timeframe. at that point, gates is getting all of the raves and success, which he didn't deserve, by the way. it should be arnold, morgan. but gates will take the fame. the rivals and critics for washington include the famous dr. outside philadelphia dr. benjamin rush and many other powerful people like john adams. these three individuals are seen as the three who have the ear of washington. rush says come i think they are actually ruled by generals green, knox, and colonel hamilton. why do i want to mention the three of them? look at how hamilton is only a 20-year-old aide and he is seen
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as influential as two senior generals in the revolution. that says a lot about hamilton's leadership ability. and the confidence washington placed upon him. we all know the story of valley forge. here is washington's headquarters. it is the isaac potts, he was a wealthy quaker who lived in philadelphia, this is his summerhouse. it only has one working fireplace in the main part of the house. washington and his family, they were his secretaries and aides, not his biological family, but those living with him day in and day out from sunrise to sundown working together, they will live at isaac potts' house for quite some time. ofember 1777 until june 1778. but it classy interior is cozy. you can see the marble fireplace and the beautiful wood paneling.
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it is a cozy interior, 16 feet long. everyone has to pack in there. there are some events that are quite influential where lots of people are packed in there, much like we are today. hamilton's blueprint for re-organizing the army is often overlooked. he has this beautiful blueprint that he drafts in the bleak , january 29, 1778, he composes a massive document of 16,000 words. that is quite a lot of writing. hamilton was verbose in speech as well as with his written word. necessary steps required by congress to completely reorganize the army. congress was in shambles. the army was in shambles. we have seen that in recent military and political history. we have plenty of historic precedent to draw on for inspiration.
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there were ideas contributed by many of the various generals, including nathanael greene, to create this blueprint. the wording is mostly by alexander hamilton. it is a harbinger of all the work he will pour into other documents, most fave -- most famously the federalist papers. there are a variety of tasks for hamilton as an aide. a little time out here. with generals, of course taking up most of the volume. we have all of these one and two star generals that arm a lish and continental army that washington is receiving and sending letters to. correspondence with congress. you are talking about all of the presidents of congress, starting with john hancock and then samuel huntington of connecticut and everyone else, john adams, john jay. there were negotiations for prisoner exchange. that often gets overlooked. hamilton was very skilled at the nuances of prisoner exchanges with the british. at one point, some 600 soldiers
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were exchanged from the british back to the americans, i believe it was at elizabeth in the middle of the war. hamilton handled all of that. there were diplomatic measures for hamilton to handle with france. both alexander hamilton and his good friend john lawrence were fluent in french. for that reason, they could be sent by washington and the -- in the middle of the war to meet with an admiral when his fleet harbored off, or anchored off the coast of new jersey. there was my favorite topic, the intelligence in the american war. hamilton had to help george washington, who is a spymaster. he helped with handling all of the different generals in case -- and case officers and independent agents who were feeding him all kinds of intelligence. some good, some not so good. of course, constantly suspicions of double agents or moles.
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just like a tv show or novel. two spy rings were important. most of us have heard of the thatmin-kolber spy ring operated from new york city and connecticut. there was another one that was just as effective. that was right out of here in new jersey and the staten island -- into staten island, in elizabethtown and staten island. at the same time, they were trying to cull the same intelligence about new york city . washington figured out, you have to have redundancy. what if one of the rings is compromised? what if one of the rings can send the information out punctually? great quote here by hamilton's former college roommate. "the pen for our army was held by hamilton. indeed, that is why we know some much of hamilton and washington's inner thoughts during the revolution, because of the pen of hamilton.
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washington is quoted in regards of hamilton as saying, "hamilton was his principal and most confidential aide." that says it all. continuing the theme of spies, hamilton is not only buried near lord stirling at trinity church but also the famous spy hercules mulligan. he helped with the culture ring -- culper ring. they knew each other from their manhattan days when hamilton was at king's college. mulligan was a tailor and it happened that as a tailor, he would be improving or providing new uniforms for british leadership. that is a great eavesdropping opportunity to pick up information. he is housing, quartering troops, one of the things we were rebelling against on july 4 , 1776, quartering troops.
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at his home on queen street in manhattan, he had officers from a regiment and he was able to receive some information from that time, as well. he talks about this in his narrative later in life. it is the reason why we know his younger brother was involved in gathering intelligence. he was a merchant at a nearby marketplace. he could gather information from the british. the mulligan brothers did a through hamilton to washington to provide timely intelligence in addition to the core of the ring and the after mentioned dayton ring. it is possible we don't have strong proof but we have circumstantial proof that didn't saveligan washington's life once, but twice. there is circumstantial evidence that you can read about. washington also has hamilton
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assigned to help another major general. that is because he can speak german but his second language is french. so john lawrence and alexander hamilton, being french speakers, fluent, are able to help him with this rather shoddy continental army interprofessional shape, famously so at valley forge. he is doing the drills in prussian, interspersed with french curse words. hamilton has to be judicious and -- in how he translates. he was a bit of a hothead. had he done all the things he claimed he did back in prussia before the war, probably not. he was probably not a baron. he was a major in the prussian army but he wasn't a two star general or a baron. hamilton as a translator and editor of the --ous baron von store than drill book.
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there is a painting of him by ralph earl after the american revolution. hamilton is also a translator for the marquee the lafayette -- lafayette, who was a charming young aristocrat. 19-year-old boy general, washington took him under his wing. he will help out hamilton that ,s with a lesser-known general louis duporte, who worked at monmouth and valley forge. -- byf these are charo charles wilson peale. i am writing an article about this, warington's councils of during the revolution and there are two in particular that i find fascinating because of who is there. let's read through the list and imagine them crammed into isaac potts' living room. george washington, charles lee,
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nathanael greene, benedict arnold who is the military governor of philadelphia at the time. ded stirling, marquis lafayette, baron von steuben. ,edediah dunnington, henry knox and we mentioned duporte. who is taking notes? alexander hamilton, who himself will become a major general later in life. it is a who's who. that is the moment i would pick if i had to go back in time in the revolution, i wouldn't pick a battlefield. i would pick that room at that time, to think of who is in there. figure outeding to the strategy for the summer of 1778. it becomes what we know in new jersey as the battle of monmouth courthouse. hamilton is not well-known.
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he rides out in advance of the battle and is doing reconnaissance, doing advance intelligence operations on horseback for several days for both washington and lafayette. this is before any encounters with charles lee on the battlefield. several days, and it is helpful in order to set up a placement of lee, laugh i washington. in the famous confrontation between lee and washington, it was just prior to that, the altercation between hamilton and lee and hamilton handled it well. he is incredulous. would bebelieve lee retreating in a disorganized fashion when he should be attacking the rearguard with the british the account of bravery is accounted by lee and his trial weeks later. the quote from hamilton was, "i will stay here with you, my dear general, and die with you,
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rather than retreat." it is a testament to hamilton's bravery and thinking on his feet, as well as he is rallying the forces, which was largely successful just as washington comes onto the scene. similarly, we have another aide to washington, future secretary of war james mchenry, writing, "i am happy to have it in my power to mention colonel hamilton. he was incessant in his endeavors." there are typos here. "in the rallying and cheering. but whether he deserves our commendations is somewhat doubtful. both had their horses shot out from under them. both exhibited similar proofs of bravery." this is another testament to hamilton's bravery in battle. here are two scenes fairly well-known from the battle.
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the one on the left more famous than the one on the right. the one on the right showing the altercation between lee and washington. something that is largely overlooked, and it could have been incredibly impactful, and hamilton and laurens' progressive idea for african-american soldiers in the continental army. how progressive. lafayette was also an advocate for this. hamilton and laurens will ask congress in writing several times, will you allow blacks to enlist in southern regiments in the army? there was a manpower shortage. they would help fill the numbers shortage. they both believe, hamilton and laurens, as well as lafayette, that african-americans were both very bright and very brave in battle.
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unfortunately, it fell on deaf years. so many of the congressmen were in fact slave owning plantation owners from the south, like john laurens' own father. now we can get into dayton's ring. this is colonel dayton who will become one of the last colonels promoted to brigadier general during wartime. his communications to hamilton. there is a key one on july 21, 1780. on that date, he informs washington of a british fleet leaving to newport. there is one problem. george washington is out on an errand of some sort. lafayette receives the letter, realizes, i must dispatch this news to connecticut. to get it to him is enough of a challenge. lafayette has to get it from there over to rhode island. it's a complicated operation but , it works quickly enough, and
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they were able to warn the french. by the way, the british do not wind up attacking newport. they decide to call it off. maybe they had been tipped off that the americans knew. often, they are given credit for warning the british. that is not the case because their intelligence came in two days later. the same intelligence that the british were leaving, it just was not as punctual in its announcement as dayton. now, the infamous blackest treason, as hamilton called it, of benedict arnold. major general benedict arnold is of course from connecticut, born in norwich, lives as a wealthy merchant in new haven. he is beginning his communication -- one of the common misunderstandings is that his traitor activities are confined to 1780. that is not the case.
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it had been going on for 16 months, beginning in may of 1779. it goes on for 16 months. this portrait to the right is the only known proven portrait of benedict arnold from life. all the other portraits you have seen are based on this one, or just simply fakes. they are not actually of benedict arnold. this was done by a french portrait painter in philadelphia. washington is with lafayette, hamilton, and henry knox and others at the hartford conference in downtown hartford conferring for three days with french general rochambeau. this is september 1780. it is the same stretch of time, the three days, the 21st, 22nd, 23rd, the same 22nd is when alexander hamilton -- benedict arnold, rather, is meeting with john andre, a.k.a. john anderson, and they are meeting
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south of west point on the same day. uncanny timing. after that conference in hartford, washington is returning with hamilton and lafayette and others back to west point to meet with them to go over the fortifications at west point. arnold is absent, he is gone. washington is trying to figure out, why isn't he here? something is amiss. it is very clear that arnold has decided he is going to escape on the hms vulture. that is a great one for a traitor. hamilton decides very quickly, the quick thinking officer he is, washington decides he must prepare the army for a counter attack. first, he attempts to capture arnold himself. he jumps on horseback with the aforementioned james mchenry. they galloped down the east bank for 12 miles along the hudson to verplanck's ferry.
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after this, he writes of this attempt to his boss and says he is planning on riding to general greene and colonel meigs. he does that, he rides to general greene. and also to colonel meigs, which is the light infantry regiment. they both quickly respond to the area that will save not only west point, but george washington and the rest of headquarters. here is hamilton's letter to greene. "it has been unfolded at this place a scene of the blackest treason. arnold has fled to the enemy. andre, the british general, is in our possession as a spy. i came here in pursuit of arnold, but was too late. i advise you putting the army under marching orders and dispatching a brigade immediately this way." quite dramatic. hamilton and the fetching peggy shipman and john andre, a charming man and charming woman. peggy shipman was the kardashian
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of her day. she had her own crush on john andre, a man of many talents. he could sing, dance, write poetry, spy for the british, and yes, he drew her. and as the kiddies would say, a selfie the night he is hung. she will keep a lock of his hair the rest of her life in a drawer. it is found when she dies. what is the point of this? both benjamin tallmadge and alexander hamilton are tasked with having to keep an eye on john andre. they are impressed by the amazing personality of john andre. he pleads, will you please shoot me with a volley of execution fire rather than hang me as a spy? of course, that attempt fails, and he is indeed hung.
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you can tell by the writings that they were touched by their time with andre. and he happened to be hung, which was payback for the hanging of nathan hale years earlier. when washington and hamilton were here, it was two long visits of about a month each, july 1780. i mention it now so you can think about how washington and hamilton were responding still to the aftershocks from arnold's treason when they were here the second time. if these walls could talk. here is july 1781. it is the final turning point. alexander hamilton had got married december 14 to the fetching elizabeth a.k.a. betsy skyler in albany at her dad's beautiful mansion, a beautiful brick mansion like this one. seven months later, hamilton finally gets what he always wanted, a field command. washington's orders.
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" the light companies of the first and second regiments of new york will form a battalion under command of lieutenant colonel hamilton. after the formation, lieutenant colonel hamilton will join the corps under the orders of colonel scammell." he is so happy. there will be four light infantry commanders we need to acquaint ourselves with. we know what alexander hamilton looks like. he works with the aforementioned john laurens in this beautiful bejeweled frame in the left. in the center is an illustration of colonel scammell, and on the right is ebenezer huntington, of connecticut, whose house we own. the complication here is that alexander scammell, in the middle, is the highest ranking officer killed during the siege. -- siege of yorktown. he is unfortunately killed in a surprise attack. he is shot in the back, winds up dying in williamsburg, and writes to ebenezer huntington to
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take over the light infantry or regiment. the three of them knew each other well, and the unfortunate twist of fate for heroism is ebenezer huntington decided he instead would like to serve the narcoleptic major general benjamin lincoln, the second ranking general, as his acting aide to camp. alexander hamilton will be tasked with helping to lead -- he is going to lead, but he is helping the general assault. readout nine will be taken by the french. redoubt 10 will be taken by the americans. they are adjacent to each other of about 500 yards apart. we have been on that original ground as reenactors. the french will take theirs. doubtou is tasked with
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10. alexander hamilton decides, we are not going to wait for the miners to clear the space safely for us to stream through as light infantry with our bayonets and sabers. no shots fired, bayonets and sabers. it is a nighttime attack. here is one painting on the right. this is how he would have been dressed this evening on the left. here is another alternate view, which shows the energy of what it would be like. it is interesting, i have stormed a redoubt. it is interesting to do, even when you are doing it fake without real gunfire. then we have the famous painting by john trouble of lord cornwall at the surrender. there are three versions of this painting, one at yale which i am showing, one at hartford, and another at the capitol rotunda. they get bigger as they get re-created. in that particular painting, i would show on the right, are ebenezer huntington on horseback, scammell cannot be portrayed because he had already been killed, and john laurens and alexander hamilton. i will briefly point them out here on the right.
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huntington is up there, hamilton and laurens are there. i don't want to go to the bejeweled laurens. i pale in comparison. alexander hamilton does not get enough credit. we all know how the war ends, the patriots win. the british are defeated. yorktown is not the actual end of the war. but that is how it turned out to be in terms of major battles. now let's turn to 1790. we know that hamilton is already been working as treasury secretary. he also founded the u.s. revenue cutter services. he is considered the father of the coast guard. i go there every graduation to give an award at that spot right there. i was there for the unveiling of this beautiful sculpture by benjamin victor, donated by the
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class of 1963 last fall. it is the appropriately named hamilton hall, the main administered hall at the coast guard academy in new london, connecticut. there is a painting inside hamilton hall, and that is of him at the revenue cutter service. you can see an early u.s. flag in the background, a full sail, and a lighthouse. that is by this chinese painter. some illustrations of the cutter service at the time, there was one named after colonel alexander scammell. you can see in the painting i have shown on the right, and what we can consider the seal for the cutter service. "semper paratus," "always ready," is the motto for the coast guard. tied in with that is the u.s. customs. the collecting of taxes and import duties, along with the revenue cutter service intercepting privateers, and so
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forth. around this time, 1789, washington had just become president. he asked his old friend, who had been at the battle with him hamilton, and others, to serve as port of customs collectors at new london, which included not just the river in a southeastern connecticut, but the connecticut river itself. that is a lot of commerce. here is a lighthouse that still stands from that era. it was built around 1800. there are many letters between jedediah huntington and alexander hamilton dealing with whale oil for the lighthouse lamps and so forth. then there is this quasi-war with france. many of you have not heard of it. it takes place in 1798 to 1799. it begins in 1798 when a french privateer captures several american vessels. that is embarrassing. hamilton is ever offering his opinions and is quoted, "this is
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too much humiliation." he says this in a letter to his friend and former secretary of war james mchenry. there is a major problem. john adams realizes he has a potential military crisis on his hands. there are shots fired in open ocean on the atlantic. he needs a military commander. he goes to george washington by letter. would you please return to military service? george washington was the only one who had ever done this. commander in chief, then president, then back to running the u.s. military. that had never happened before. washington says yes, but on one condition. alexander hamilton must be my second in command. i'm not taking field command, he will. john adams is incredulous. he says, how dare you make such an imposition on me? that is preposterous! it takes many weeks for adams to eventually calm down and realize, if i am going to get
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washington, i have to put my personal agenda aside and my personal feelings about hamilton aside and recognize that i must put up with major general alexander hamilton as part of the deal. here is a quote from john adams as to hamilton's influence at this time, late 1790's. "such was the influence of mr. hamilton in congress that without any recommendation for the president, they passed a bill to raise an army." that is from page 553 of chernow's seminal engrossing biography of hamilton. i have to say, chernow does the best job of going through hamilton's later military service. adams is just incredulous. you have to keep in mind, hamilton had served as a congressman from the state of new york at that point before becoming treasury secretary.
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here is the letter to george washington from hamilton, in which he is negotiating about how he will take this role on. "if you command, the place in which i" -- hamilton -- "should hope to be most useful is that of inspector general." he wants the field command. washington was done with doing field command at 66 years old. he wanted it to go to hamilton. "this i would accept." the other generals who were going to serve in the war were incredulous. they were as in shock as john adams. i have to serve under alexander hamilton? i am henry knox, i was already a general in the revolution. i have to serve under hamilton? again, a testament to how high hamilton had climbed, and deservedly so, in the eyes of former president george washington. here is hamilton's letter around that same time. we are talking late 1798.
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hamilton says to walcott, while you are preparing for war, take out a large loan. finally, establish an academy for naval and military instruction. wow, that's a lot. ok. walcott has his hands full. around the same time, speaking of people who were jockeying for position, aaron burr. aaron burr wanted to be a brigadier general. he is playing footsy with the federalists. maybe i don't like those jeffersonians anymore. he had already been so critical of george washington that that effort did peter out. there is a portrait of major general hamilton that is not well known. we don't know who the artist was, we don't know when it was painted, even what decade. he does have a federal era uniform on with the high collar. it is a u.s. army. we don't know what the medal is on his lapel.
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it was donated around 1960 by john laurens hamilton, and it hangs in washington, d.c., otherwise known as anderson house. one general who was not mentioned nearly as much as jockeying for position is the second owner of our house, brigadier general ebenezer huntington, who writes to his friend alexander hamilton and successfully receives an appointment from john adams to serve as a brigadier general in the war. this is a painting again by john trumbull. there are two of these, one at princeton art museum here in new jersey, and also one down at anderson house in d.c. there are five key weeks in philadelphia, probably spent at the famous city tavern. i would imagine alcohol may have been involved. november and december of 1778. generals washington and hamilton will meet with general charles pickney. they need a good federalist who
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had military experience from the south because they were afraid the french might attack the south, whether it be savannah or charleston. he will come up from charleston for this meeting, along with secretary of war james mchenry. they will converse there for five weeks, and hamilton breaks out detailed charts for regiments. he has organized out how everything will work with regiments and battalions. it is very organized it shows how obssessive compulsive hamilton was with detail, including designs for uniforms and the soldiers' huts. he was an amateur architect, perhaps. after the five weeks are over in philadelphia, hamilton will return to his office at 36 granite street in manhattan. he is trying to operate the u.s. army from that office space. there is an encampment not far from here, the only one that we are aware of, and that is in new jersey. it is a site picked by new
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jersey's own, an officer from elizabeth, just like all the others i have mentioned, like elias boudinot, and that is aaron ogden. he served as a colonel. he has picked this site probably because of the strategic heights with the mountains. about 2000 soldiers were in camps there. hamilton does review the troops sometime in the fall of 1799. as we begin to wrap it up, one other thing that gets overlooked is alexander hamilton's membership in the so-called society of cincinnati. this was the so-called diamond eagle. this was a gift to general washington. it was presented from officers of the navy in 1784. it was part of that tavern in philadelphia. it was the first meeting every three years. it was owned by george washington until his death on december 14, 1799, at mount vernon.
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it has some 2000 diamonds and other jewels that make it up. upon his death, betsy skyler, the widow -- i'm sorry, martha washington, the widow, will send the medal to alexander hamilton for his safekeeping because he is the second at that point president general of the society. for many, many decades, it has been owned by the society of cincinnati. it is housed very safely at anderson house in d.c.. beautiful piece. i end on a very poignant note, which is the last letters between george washington and alexander hamilton. george washington does not know he is about to die. my father-in-law was a graduate in 1956, and i give the sword award every graduation. this is poignant, these letters. they involve the creation of a military academy that washington
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-- hamilton is suggesting. washington, "sir, enclosed is a copy of the letter i've written to the secretary of war on the subject of a military academy." washington will then reply on december 12. he will die two days later. this is one of his last letters. he writes to hamilton, "sir, i have duly received your letter of the 28th enclosing a copy of what you had written to the secretary of war on the subject of military academy. the establishment of an institution of its kind on an extensive basis has been considered an object of importance to this country. while i was in the chair of government" -- meaning president -- "i omitted no opportunity of recommending it in public speeches to the attention of the legislature, but i never undertook to go into detail of the organization of such an academy, leaving this task to others whose pursuits in science and attention to the arrangements of institutions better qualified them to the
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execution of it." washington closes, "i sincerely hope the subject will meet with due attention as to the reasons for its establishment, which you have so clearly pointed out, and your letter to the secretary will prevail upon the legislature to place it upon a permanent and respectable footing. with very great esteem and regard, i am your servant, george washington." that is the end. thank you, everyone. [applause] >> we are going to do a q&a, but i wanted to announce -- all the equipment, we do have c-span taping this event. if you want to have a question, we will have a mic brought to you so they can capture what you are saying. >> thank you. >> questions?
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anybody? damien: including from the flanks. i did not pay to ask the first question. >> i am just curious, i believe one of your slides depicted a private home that was used as military headquarters at one point. you are well familiar with the ford mansion. did general washington solicit homeowners to use these facilities, or did he walk in and say, i am taking over? i am just curious how that worked. damien: kind of a blend of the two. i am not an expert of that dynamic, but depending on the nature of the time of the year and who owned it, sometimes he was acquainted with the owner, sometimes it was a pretty quick convincing. i really don't know the details to answer it. >> we have a question on the side. damien: ok, from the right flank. >> thank you for a terrific
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lecture. did they give any consideration to the whiskey rebellion, when washington leaves office and hamilton goes as well? is there any evidence what they were doing? damien: it crossed my mind briefly that i should mention it. it is a great question. we are talking about the whiskey rebellion, which was them brewing -- or i should say, distilling whiskey in the iowa -- the ohio territory. america has always had a very independent spirit, haven't they? they were rebelling that they would have to pay some kind of tax. hamilton had no problem putting taxes on people because he felt it was the only way we could build ourselves as a country the financial foundation to ensure our independence and standing in the united states. on the military side of things, we do have an illustration of this, a beautiful painting that hangs in the metropolitan museum of art which shows george washington going out at a later age, and it is washington
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inspecting the troops at fort cumberland. i believe alexander hamilton is also in uniform in tow with perhaps james mchenry. i was not sure how i would have the time to incorporate it, so i left it out. you can read about it in newton and chernow and others. but it is part of the theme of the federal government using the military to back up the strength they are trying to exert with its citizens. it is a federalization model, something that someone like jefferson would have abhorred. as a political opponent. other questions? there must be more, it's alexander hamilton. >> was hamilton related -- hamilton a naval commander in the great lakes? damien: i have no idea, i have never looked into that. i know there are several
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descendents of alexander hamilton who took on great leadership roles in the military. it is incredible when you read about it. but that particular leader, you would have to look it up or ask a descendent. yes, sir? >> i may be dense, but what did washington die from? damien: he had gone out on his horse that day in virginia, and it was a cold, rainy day, and he got sick from the wet clothing. and, of course, what do you do in 1799 when you get sick and have a doctor? they bring in leeches and do bloodletting. that is not going to make you better, it is going to make you worse. it had exacerbated what would have probably been a preventable cold with something simple in its day. tragic. and yet, so symbolic that he died at the very end of that century. i have a patriot ancestor named private justin hitchcock who was
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a pfeiffer and he wrote in his memoirs the day that the news arrived of washington's death. he said, my goodness. what shock we are all in. we loved our beloved founder of this country. it brings tears to my eyes. historians will do justice, which i cannot. it is wonderful as a descendent 200 years later to be able to try to do that as a historian. thank you, everyone, for your rapt attention. [applause] it is wonderful to be here. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> this is american history tv, were each weekend we feature 48 hours of programs exploring our nations past.
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>> on american history tv, the congressional black caucus hosts the ceremony marking the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved africans to arrive in british north america. participants include house speaker nancy pelosi, house minority leader kevin mccarthy and historian and gordon-read. this was held in emancipation hall in the capitol visitor center. >> forward, march.


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