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tv   Alexander Hamiltons Military Career  CSPAN  September 28, 2019 8:40am-9:50am EDT

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announcer: next, on american history tv, historian damien talks about alexander hamilton's military career and his relationship with george damien cregeau talks about alexander hamilton's military career and his relationship with george washington. >> 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
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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. the restrooms are over there. our staff today, we have ken in the back there, we have kelly, who i'm no -- where i'm not sure where he is hiding, and then you have myself. i am the director of the department of 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
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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 features in magazines, the u.s. marine corps journal, financial history, and the journal of the american revolution. he has given presentations on to such groups as the north -- 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 fraunces tavern museum in the fbi's new and york office, 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 the other belonged to three brothers who became generals and owners of the house
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in succession. without further ado, damien cregeau. thank you. [applause] mr. cregeau: wonderful to have all of you here today. i was joking earlier, we have our flanking maneuvers, left and right flank, in our adjoining rooms, much like the battle of monmouth. wonderful to have everybody packed into the room that meets the 18th-century converging with the 20th century. we can be high-tech about this. same does as my wife, i have been a longtime reenactor. you can see me there dressed as an officer, a captain with the -- captain in the u.s. army 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. -- noise and traffic. [laughter]
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mr. cregeau: i wanted to briefly say, a nice connection by coincidence because i wrote an article about the six degrees of alexander hamilton and the huntingtons 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 by johnature painting trumbull. he married faith trumbull, the daughter of the governor of connecticut, and her famous brother was the painter. his epaulet on the right, which went to auction. we got blown out of the water at an auction for that. $26,000 for a pair of epaulets. ok. 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.
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for the infamous duel, where we know how it ends, he will be killed 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 revolution. 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, which ironically 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 incredible accomplishments of
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alexander hamilton and his buried roles as military commander, not just as an aide 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 the new york artillery. that's by alonzo chapel. there is one problem, he is not dressed as an artillery officer. that is the hat of a light infantry officer at yorktown late in the war. but 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, raise your hands, and know that hamilton toward the end of his life was a major general in the u.s. army? i wouldn't expect many hands. about four. it is by william weaver, circa 1800. here he is. and, we will get to that story
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and a little bit, towards the end. there is someone else like hamilton who comes from humble beginnings, grows up on a remote island, and then comes to the mainland, starts out as an artillery officer and becomes a famous military leader. that, of course, is napoleon bonaparte. there is an interesting comparison you can make between those two. which, i like to do 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? not a whole lot in terms of illustration. on the left, we have something in black and white that is hard to find in color. it is hamilton, we think. it is attributed to him, but there is little to support.
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we don't know who the painter is. it is attributed to hamilton as the subject as a teenager. born and raised, working for a merchant in st. croix, a charming island. his mother rachel, by the way, was a wonderful woman, a wonderful role model. rachel was a bright woman who, in her day, was quite rare and had a large collection of books. she was an inspiration to him. and his learning. he became a bookworm like her. on the right is a much more documented painting by charles wilson peel at my wife and i have held, that is now at the columbia library. they no longer show it because of the popularity of the musical. it was wonderful to get to see 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 might show up today. some friends of mine who run an organization called the hearts of oak. this was hamilton's first military organization.
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started out as the corsicans, a 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 grange, hamilton's estate in upper manhattan. where did hamilton train his hearts of oak new york 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 made of stone and wood in the 1770's. but that is where they trained. if you haven't been there, i -- irage you to do
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encourage you do. it is the site of the first memorial to a fallen general, brigadier general richard 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. so what 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. ok? but, this is possible, so 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.
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we lost our hills and dales substantially, so you wouldn't know where bayard's hill is now. i will show you to -- i will show it to you in a minute. documented that hamilton's artillery unit does onto -- on two british ships, the hms phoenix and the hms rose. this is a week after the 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 -- it is not proven, but 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.
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yes, greenwich village was actually a separate village. bloomingdale was a separate residential area. so, manhattan was that little tip. new york city, rather. we don't have substantial proof of it. this wonderful high-resolution map, which i had time -- which i wish i had time to blow up, 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, michael newton, 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. hamilton the formative years and discovering hamilton. what michael has been able to demonstrate with primary source -- evidencethat .9
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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 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 guadalcanal, my grandfather was a marine, i can appreciate how traumatic this must've been. he was at rutgers. this was brunswick, new jersey. it was known as queens college. just like columbia was known as king's college. that is where hamilton was attending for a few years, and would have graduated from if war had not broken out. my wife graduated from rutgers. it was a nice link to have. it was during one of the reunions that i saw one of these beautiful plaques here, which says on the campus, from the
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class of 1899, early december, 1776, alexander hamilton had a battery of horse artillery and crossed the ford of the raritan. -- raritan, delaying the advance of the british across 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. on the river. i love to make references to the local stuff. you can also say hamilton, helping found american industry, 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. this came out more recently in
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2011, and debuted at the new york historical society. it was at nighttime. this is a different kind of craft. there is a cannon. maybe it is hamilton's. not good weather. another painting by a connecticut painter, amazingly talented painter 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 they 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 meann battles with an s? just like there are two battles of saratoga, there were two battles of trenton. the second one was not as famous. a few days later, it is known as creek.tle of assunpink
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i am showing this in a sketch, not a color drawing, which couldn't be found. it is well documented that hamilton, like he did at 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 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 michael newton and other scholars for such a tail. but it is a good story. this is true. there were offers not from one
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or two but three very well-known generals in the american revolution at the time. 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 wasn't even marked. he has the family stone there, but it is my friend john resto who 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. he lived not far from here. he had a huge 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 lord stirling, come be my aid. then, the fighting quaker, nathaniel greene, come be my
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aide. hamilton says, thanks but no thanks. what does he yearn for? battlefield command. 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. of course we know, much like the titanic story, which will end with yorktown, he will achieve the hero is him on the battle, but 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. 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 1770 seven, invited him for dinner, and i 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, 1777. it reads, headquarters, morristown, alexander hamilton
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is appointed aide to camp to the commander-in-chief and is to be respected and obeyed as such. 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. the transcriptions are at a lot of authors will say this is all happening when hamilton is 22 years old. he is actually 20. michael newton and others have been able to prove that he was not born in 1755, he was born in 1757. so, 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. the 19th aide to camp, 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. i recommend it. hamilton serves as an aid to washington from 1777 to 1781. that is four years. quite a stretch. a very colorful stretch, filled with frustrations and all kinds of peaks and valleys. so washington at that point, in winter of 1777, has headquarters set up not far from here, at jacob arnold's tavern on the green. not the famous tavern on the green, but arnold's tavern on the green. that is in morristown. there is a sign for it. unfortunately, arnold's tavern burned down in 1918, due to a fire. washington typically had five aides or secretaries. secretaries were probably doing most of the writing, aides did some of the writing and there is no proof of this, but my assumption would be when washington is distinguishing between a secretary and an aide,
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the aide would have more varied activities, reconnaissance and so forth, whereas the secretary would stay at headquarters. including the mansion, we will talk about, and 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, must have been 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. , for a little refresher, you have some aides he was particularly fond of. and someone who basically became an honorary stepson, and the three aides would be alexander
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hamilton, david humphreys of derby, connecticut there in the center, later in life. and on the right, a composite of george washington, marquis the lafayette and tench tilman, the third of the three aides he was very close with. tilman is the one you probably haven't heard of. the was an incredibly talented -- he was an incredibly talented man and unfortunately, he died in 1786, died quite young and that is unfortunate. here is the blowup of that painting by charles wilson peale that hangs at the maryland state house in annapolis. washington, lafayette and tilman. now, another interesting thing, speaking of trip takes -- tript ychs, 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 laffey at, who is standing there on the left, the hamilton in the middle, and
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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 alexander hamilton's provisions mission into philadelphia. this is quite interesting and gets overshadowed by battlefield actions. but this is very important. if the army is going to go anywhere, it needs to march on its stomach. so you must feed it, especially because they are about to go into winter and cam and -- winter encampment at valley forge. it is 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. why? because they know they are going 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. so they will stay out towards
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whitemarsh and eventually valley forge, and receive the supplies there. and 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 into the city, 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 suppose it scandals -- suppose it -- supposed scandals -- by the way, 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 during the winter encampment, particularly those blankets.
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another mission that gets overshadowed, the emissary trip. he was sent as the official representative of george washington in late fall 1777. he will serve as washington's proxy, leave the philadelphia region, go all the way up, it is going to take him weeks but washington needs his three brigades back. he had 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 mission will take a while. it takes most of november into december. when hamilton meets gates, it is in albany. gates is not in saratoga at that point because the battle is over, he is glowing in the aftermath of the victory. and one of the challenges hamilton, of course, will encounter is, he is a 20-year-old aides born on an island. he is dealing with someone in gates who is well-established in
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the northern and northeastern aristocracy, who is very 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. so much like some of the politics that we all witness or participate in in modern times, there is politics in that time around the military. alexander hamilton's first attempts are fruitless. they are futile. he even finally decides he has -- he then 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 finds out 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 duping me, he is conning me. so he puts in writing and in person, face-to-face, heated
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exchanges to gates, who finally relents after weeks. he says fine, ok, i will finally relent to washington's demands. and it shows how much trust hamilton received from washington to go on this mission. similarly, after he meets with gates, he then has to meet with an equally incorrigible general, israel putnam, an old timer, the hero of the french and indian war and the battle of bumper hill -- bunker hill. he does not want to listen to alexander hamilton either. at this point, putnam is old enough to be his grandfather. putnam is in his 60's. he says no, i am not giving up my soldiers. relent tol eventually 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 from my friend michael newton, who writes, "by granting hamilton discretion in his mission, washington left the entire course of the war and possibly its outcome in the hands of his
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youngest aide. hamilton had already earned washington's complete trust." that is page 220 from "the formative years. " so of course, george washington hadn't won at saratoga. he lost that germantown and brandywine earlier that fall, the same time period. at that point, gates is getting all of the raves and success, which he didn't deserve, by the way. skyler's be morgan's. but gates will take the fame. the rivals and critics for washington include the famous doctor 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
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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 as influential as two senior generals in the american revolution. that says a lot about hamilton's leadership ability and the confidence washington placed upon him. we all know the general story of valley forge. here is washington's headquarters at valley forge. it is the isaac potts, he was a wealthy quaker who lived in philadelphia most of the time, this is his summerhouse. it only has one working fireplace in the main part of the house. built in 1773. and washington and his so-called family -- his family were his aides and his secretaries, 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. the longest of anywhere, december 1777 until june of 1778. aside from the house birdhouse -- the habsburg house in new
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york, at the end. it is a classy interior but it is cozy. you can see the marble fireplace and the beautiful wood paneling. but it is a cozy interior, 16 feet long. everyone has to pack in there. and 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 midwinter, if you can think of that christmas song, that carol, january 29, 1778, he composes a massive document of 16,000 words. that is quite a lot of writing. hamilton was verbose both with his speech as well as his written word. it detailed the 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
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precedent to draw from for that inspiration. there were ideas contributed by many of the various generals, including nathanael greene, to create this blueprint. and the wording is mostly by alexander hamilton. it is kind of a harbinger of all the work he will pour into other documents you can think of, most famously the federalist papers. there are a variety of tasks for hamilton as an aide. a mini time out here. correspondence with generals, of course taking up most of the volume. we have all of these one and two star general's that are both militia 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.
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point fact, at one some 600 soldiers were exchanged from the british back to the americans, i believe it was at elizabeth sometime in the middle of the war. hamilton handled all of that. there was diplomatic measures for hamilton to handle with france. both alexander hamilton and his good friend john lawrence were both fluent in french. for that reason, they could be sent by washington in the middle of the war to meet with an admiral when his fleet harbored off, or anchored off the coast of new jersey. then there was my favorite topic, the intelligence in the american war, in which hamilton had to help george washington, who was indeed a spymaster, with handling all of the different generals and case officers and independent agents who were feeding him all kinds of intelligence. some good, some not so good. and of course, constantly suspicions of double agents or
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moles. just like a tv show or novel. two spy rings were particularly important. most of us have heard of the benjamin-kolber spy ring that operated from new york city and through long island into fairfield, connecticut. but there was another one that was just as effective and interesting that was right out of here in new jersey into staten island, in elizabethtown -- the modern-day city of elizabeth -- into staten island. at the same time, they were trying to cull the same intelligence about new york city. what washington figured out, you have to have redundancy. what if one of the rings is compromised? what if one of the rings just can't send the information out punctually? great quote here by hamilton's former college roommate. "the pen for our army was held by hamilton. -- by hamilton." indeed, that is why we know some much of hamilton and
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washington's inner thoughts during the revolution, because of the pen of hamilton. washington is quoted in regards to hamilton as saying, "hamilton was his principal and most confidential aide." that says it all. continuing the theme of spies, alexander hamilton is also not only buried near lord stirling and major general william alexander at trinity church, but also the famous spy hercules mulligan. he not be as famous as the but hering, helped with the culper ring. they knew each other from their manhattan days when hamilton was at king's college. mulligan was a tailor and it just so happens that of course, as a tailor he would be improving or providing new uniforms for british leadership. so that is a great eavesdropping opportunity to pick up information. and he is also housing, the quartering of troops -- one
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of the things we were rebelling against on july 4, 1776, quartering of troops. 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 so-called narrative later in life. reason why we the know his younger brother hugh was involved in gathering intelligence. he was a merchant at a nearby marketplace, so he could gather information from the british. the mulligan brothers did a great job through hamilton to washington to provide timely intelligence in addition to the ring and theolber after mentioned -- after edntioned -- aforemention dayton ring. it is possible we don't have strong proof but we have circumstantial proof that hercules mulligan didn't save washington's life once, but twice. there is circumstantial evidence
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that you can read about. washington also has hamilton assigned to help another major general. why? of course, the general 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 -- with thisrather shoddy -- whip rather shoddy army, 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 in how he translates. yes, von steuben 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 indeed was documented as a major in the prussian army but he wasn't a two star general or a baron. hamilton serves as translator and editor of the famous
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baron von steuben drill book. there is a painting of him by ralph earl after the american revolution. hamilton is also a translator for the famous marquis de lafayette, who was a charming earliers i said briefly was like a son to george washington. lafayette was such a charming young aristocrat that the 19-year-old boy general, washington took him under his wing. he will help out hamilton that is with a lesser-known general, an army engineer. that is louis duporte, who worked at valley forge and other places such as monmouth. both of these are by charles wilson peale. a very talented artist. something i like to study, and i am writing a scholarly article about this, washington's councils of war during the american 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 all crammed into isaac potts' living room.
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a 16 foot room. here we go. we have george washington, charles lee, nathanael greene, benedict arnold's -- remember, he is living in because he is the military governor of philadelphia at the time. lord stirling, marquis de lafayette, baron von steuben. a host of brigadier general's, including henry knox, matt anthony wayne, jedediah dunnington, and we mentioned duporte. that is quite a list. and to top it off, who is taking notes and making suggestions off the record? 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 american revolution. i wouldn't pick a battlefield. i would pick being in that room at that time, to think of who is in there. so they are meeting to figure out the strategy for the summer of 1778. it eventually becomes what we know in new jersey as the battle of monmouth, or monmouth courthouse.
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alexander hamilton, not well-known. he rides out in advance of the battle and is doing reconnaissance, doing advance d intelligence operations on horseback for several days for both washington and lafayette. this is long before any encounters with charles lee on the battlefield. several days, and it is very helpful in order to set up a placement of lee, lafayette, and 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 pretty well, as you are going to see here. he is incredulous. he cannot believe lee would be retreating in some kind of disorganized fashion when he should be attacking the rearguard of the british force with its baggage train, moving slowly, crawling through the middle of nowhere in new jersey at the time. and hamilton's bravery is recounted by charles lee himself during his trial, weeks later.
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the quote from hamilton was "i will stay here with you, my dear general, and die with you. let us all die here 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 age to washington, future secretary james mchenry rewriting "i am happy to have it in my power to mention the merit of colonel hamilton. he was incessant in his " --there's typos whether he or general lawrence deserve our accommodations is somewhat doubtful. oath had their horses shot from under them, both exhibited similar proofs of bravery. c -- bravery."
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here are two scenes that are fairly well known from the battle of monmouth. 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, hamilton and lawrence progressed the idea that we could have african-american soldiers in the continental army. how progressive. an advocates also of this. hamilton and lawrence will ask congress in writing several times, would you please allow blacks to enlist in southern regiments in the u.s. army? there was a manpower shortage, of the population south was largely loyalist. it would help fill the number shortage. they both believed that , hamilton, lawrence, as well as lafayette, that african-americans were bright
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and capable in battle, but unfortunately it fell on deaf ears. congress would not do it. many of them were slave owners from the south, much like -- father, john henry. this is colonel elias dayton, who will become one of the last kernels promoted to brigadier general in wartime, and his munication's to hamilton. on july 1,key one 1780. that informs washington of a british fleet leaving new york city and heading towards newport via long island sound. georges one problem -- washington is absent. he is out on an errand of some sort. lafayette receives the letter, realizes, i must immediately dispatch this news to lafayette, who is in connecticut. to get it to him is enough of a challenge. lafayette has to get it from there over to rhode island.
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it is a complicated operation, but it works quickly enough and they were able to warn the french. by the way, the british do not windup actually attacking newport. they decide to call it off. maybe they had been tipped off that the americans knew -- we just don't know. 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 wasn't as punctual in its announcement as dayton's. 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 traitorous activities are all confined to some timbre of -- to september of 1780. that is not the case. it had been going on for 16 months, beginning in may of
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1779, which is one month after benedict arnold had fallen in love and married peggy shipton. 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 while he was military governor in philadelphia. and washington is with lafayette, hamilton, and henry knox and others at the hartford wadsworth in jeremiah of the house -- jeremiah wadsworth's house in downtown hartford conferring for three days with french general rochambeau. 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
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anderson, and they are meeting south of west point. it is on the same day. so 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 -- to meet with arnold 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? -- here inspecting this with me? something is amiss. now, it is very clear that arnold has decided he is going to escape on the aptly named hms vulture. that is a great one for a traitor. and hamilton decides, 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. obviously, that is a hitless .ission -- hapless mission
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they do not capture arnold. after this, he writes of this attempt to george washington, his boss, and says he is planning on writing momentarily to general greene and colonel meigs. he does just that. he writes to general greene, who is in connecticut, south of west point, 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. "there has just 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 your 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
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charming man and a charming woman. peggy shipman was the kardashian of her day. she was quite the dashing figure. crush oner own 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. he is a very bright man. she will keep a lock of his hair , john andre's hair, the rest of her life in a drawer. it is found when she dies. well, what is the point of this as it relates? both benjamin tallmadge and alexander hamilton are tasked with having to keep an eye on john andre. and they are both very impressed. they are charmed by the amazing personality of john andre. through them to washington, would you please shoot me with a volley of execution fire rather than hang me as a spy? and of course, that attempt fails, and he is indeed hung.
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but you can tell in the writings of both hamilton and tal lmadge, 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 of 1780 and october of 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 of 1781. it is the final turning point. alexander hamilton had gotten married december 14 to the fetching elizabeth a.k.a. betsy schuyler in albany at her dad's beautiful mansion, a beautiful brick mansion like this one. and seven months later, july 31, hamilton finally gets what he always wanted, a field command.
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washington's orders. "the light companies of the first and second regiments of new york will form a battalion under command of lieutenant colonel hamilton and major fish. after the formation of the battalion, lieutenant colonel hamilton and major fish will join the corps under the orders of colonel scammell." hamilton is so happy. there will be four light infantry commanders we need to acquaint ourselves with. we already know what alexander hamilton looks like. he works with the aforementioned john lawrence in this beautiful jeweled frame in the left. in the center is an illustration of colonel scammell of new hampshire, and on the right is ofonel ebenezer huntington norwich, 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
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-- back, mortally wounded, winds up dying in williamsburg, and writes in his dying words to ebenezer huntington to take over the light infantry battalion or regiment. the three of them knew each other well, and the unfortunate twist of fate for heroism is ebenezer huntington decides 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 then 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 for the 225th anniversary as reenactors. the french will take theirs. hamilton is tasked with redoubt 10. it is going to take a little while, that is the plan. alexander hamilton decides, we are not going to wait for the miners to clear the space safely for us to stream through as
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light infantry with our bayonets and sabers. no shots fired, bayonets and sabers. it is a nighttime attack. just after sunset. here is one painting on the right. that is actually 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, as a reenactor 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 trouble of lord cornwallis' surrender at yorktown. there are three versions of this painting, one at yale which i am showing, one at hartford, and another at the capitol rotunda. they just get bigger and bigger as they get re-created. and in that particular painting, i would show on the right, are ebenezer huntington, who is on horseback. scammell cannot be portrayed because he had already been
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killed, and john lawrence and alexander hamilton. i will briefly point them out here on the right. right here. huntington is up there, hamilton and lawrence are there. i don't want to go to the lawrence, john with diamonds. i pale in comparison. so 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. we could not have anticipated that, 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 working as treasury secretary. well, he also founded the u.s. revenue cutter services. so he is considered the father of the u.s. coast guard. and i go there every graduation to give an award right there on that spot, right there, and i was there for the unveiling of this beautiful sculpture by
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benjamin victor, donated by the class of 1963 last fall. it is the appropriately named hamilton hall, the main administration hall at the coast guard academy in new london, connecticut. there is a painting inside hamilton hall, and that is of cuttersing the revenue service. you can see an early u.s. flag in the background, a cutter, 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. that is on the left. you can see in the painting i have blown up and showing you 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
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intercepting privateers, and so forth. and around this time, 1789, washington had just become president. he asks his old friend who had been at the battle of monmouth with him and hamilton and jedediah huntington, 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 a little over a year, 1798 to 1799. it all begins in may of 1798 when a french privateer off the coast of new york harbor captures several american vessels. that is embarrassing, so
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hamilton is ever offering his opinions and is quoted, "this is too much humiliation after all that has passed." 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 actually 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? you know, george washington was really one who ever did this, the only president. commander in chief, then president, then back to running the u.s. military. that had never happened before. and washington says yes, but on one condition. alexander hamilton must be my second in command. i am not taking field command, he will. john adams is incredulous. he says, how dare you make such an imposition on me? that is preposterous! and it takes many weeks for adams to eventually calm down
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and realize ok, if i'm going to get washington out of this deal, 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 -- meaningnt" himself, adams -- "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. and adams is just incredulous. you have to keep in mind, served as as congressman from the state of new york at that point before becoming treasury secretary.
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here is a letter from george washington to hamilton, in which he is negotiating about how he will take this role on. "if you command" -- washington in which i 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." it included the rank and pay of a major general. the other generals who were going to serve in the war were incredulous. they were just as in shock as john adams. i am going to be a general, but i have to serve under alexander hamilton? i am henry knox, i was already a general in the american 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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this is to all of her will cut, junior of connecticut, who has exceeded hamilton as treasury secretary. 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 politicking for position. he is playing footsy with the federalists. he is like, maybe i do not like those jeffersonian republicans so much after all. i want to be a brigadier general. problem is, 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. we don't know what the medal is on his lapel. it was donated around 1960 by
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john lawrence hamilton -- john laurens hamilton, who went by aurie, 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, jedediah huntington's half-brother 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 1798. generals washington and hamilton will meet with charles pickney.
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they need a good federalist who had military experience from the south because they were afraid the french might attack the south, whether it be savannah or charleston. so 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 these detailed charts for regiments. he has organized out how everything is going to work with platoons and companies and regiments and battalions. it is very organized. it shows how obssessive compulsive hamilton was with detail, including designs for uniforms and even the soldiers' huts. ok? he was a little bit of 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 basically 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 that has been
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documented, and that is got planes, new jersey. plains, new it is a site picked by new jersey's own, an officer from elizabeth, just like all the others i have mentioned, like elias boudinot and eli a stayton, and that is -- elias deighton, and that is ogden. he has picked this site probably because of the strategic heights with the mountains. about 2000 soldiers were in camps there. and hamilton does review the troops sometime in the fall of 1799. as we begin to wrap it up, one of the other things that gets overlooked is alexander hamilton's membership in the society of cincinnati. this is the so-called diamond eagle that was a gift to general washington. it was presented from officers in the french navy in march of 1784 at the beautiful city tavern in philadelphia, which was their first meeting, their first triannual, every three years.
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it was owned by george washington until his death on december 14, 1799, at mount vernon. it has some 200 diamonds and other jewels that make it up. upon his death, betsy sc huyler, 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. and for many, many decades, it has been owned by the society of cincinnati. safely in a very vault in 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. obviously, george washington does not know he is about to die. and my father-in-law was a graduate of west point, class of 1956, and i give the sword award every graduation at west point. this is quite poignant, these letters. they involve the creation of a
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military academy that washington -- that hamilton is suggesting. he writes to washington -- "sir, enclosed is a copy of the letter i've written to the secretary of -- of course, james mchenry -- "on the subject of a military academy." washington will then reply on december 12. he will die two days later. 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 a military academy. the establishment of an institution of this kind on a respectable and extensive basis has ever been considered by me as an object of primary importance to this country. while i was in the chair of government" -- meaning president -- "i omitted no opportunity of recommending it in public speeches and other ways 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 the past of science and
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attention to the arrangements of betterstitutions had qualified them for the execution of it." washington closes, "i sincerely hope the subject will meet with due attention as to the reasons of 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, sir, your most obedient servant, george washington." that is the end. thank you, everyone. [applause] >> so we are going to do a q&a, but i wanted to announce that -- ann we all announcement, as you can see from 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.
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ok? questions? anybody? damien: including from the flanks. i did not pay wade 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 in morristown, washington's headquarters. did washington solicit homeowners to use these facilities and private dwelling as a military headquarters, or did he walk in and say, i am taking over? i am just curious how that worked. damien: it was 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 already acquainted with the owner, sometimes it was an advanced solicitation, other times it was a pretty quick convincing. i really don't know the details to answer it. >> we have a question on the side.
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damien: ok, from nathanael greene's right flank. >> did they give any consideration to 1794 with the whiskey rebellion, when washington leaves office and hamilton goes as well? is there any evidence of what they were doing militarily in that action? damien: it crossed my mind briefly that i should mention it. it is a great question. we are talking about the whiskey rebellion, which of course is them brewing -- or i should say, distilling whiskey in the iowa -- ohio territory. americans always had a very independent spirit, haven't they? so they were rebelling that they would have to pay some kind of tax. you know, 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. and it shows george washington
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going out at a later age, and it is washington inspecting the troops at fort cumberland. and i believe alexander hamilton is also in uniform in tow with perhaps james mchenry. -- james mchenry or henry knox. i was not sure how i would have the time to incorporate it, so i left it out. but you can read about it in newton and chernow and others. but it is probably that whole theme of the federal government is going to use the military to back up the strength they are trying to exert with its citizens, ok? so it is a federalization model, something that someone like jefferson would have a board -- have abhor red as a political opponent. other questions? there must be more, it's alexander hamilton. towas hamilton related
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alexander hamilton, and was he a naval commander in the great lakes in the war of 1812? damien: i have no idea, i have never looked into that. i know there are several descendents of alexander hamilton who took on great leadership roles in the military. it is incredible when you read about this on some sources like wikipedia. for that particular leader in the war of 1812, you would have to look it up or ask a descendent. yes, sir? but may be just dense here, what did washington die from? damien: he had gone out on his horse, his plantation at mount vernon 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. and that is not going to make you better, it is going to make you worse. would haveted what probably been a preventable cold with something simple in its day. tragic. and yet, how symbolic, isn't it?
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he died at the very end of that century. i have a patriot ancestor named private justin hitchcock who was a fighter from deerfield, massachusetts, and he wrote in his memoirs the day that the news arrived of washington's death. he said, my goodness. i am paraphrasing here. 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. and it is wonderful as a descendent, 200 years later, to be able to try to do that as a historian. , everyone, for your rapt attention. it was wonderful to be here. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] history tvamerican on c-span3, where each weekend we feature 48 hours of programs
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exploring our nation's past. this year, more than 500,000 students competed in national history day at the local level. just three thousand students advanced to the finals at the university of maryland in june. the 2019 theme was "triumph and tragedy." we talk with three aboutts from honolulu their project on the picardy des moines decision --


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