tv Woody Holton Liberty is Sweet CSPAN December 17, 2021 10:02am-11:04am EST
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january 20, 2022. for competition rules, constitute torls or how to get started, visit our website at studentcam.org.tutorials or how to get started, visit our website at studentcam.org. ? study of history explores why and how things happened. in his new book "liberty is sweet" holton seeks out to construct history. freely available online to read for yourselves, the original words of leading figures of the revolution may be found on founders online, a website hosted by the national archives through the national historical publications and records commission. children learn of the declaration of independence and the battles led by george washington. looking back nearly 250 years t american revolution and its
outcome can appear inevitable. but engaging in teefting a military power such as great britain required the involvement of many people from many walks of life. "liberty is sweet" uncovers the roles played by women, native americans, enslaved africans and african americans and religious dissenters. holton also focuses on often overlooked factors such as weather, geography and disease. too often we jump from july 4, 1776 to washington's first presidency, ignoring over seven years of warfare. liberty is suite gives us a fresh look at the american revolution and the many people up and down the social spectrum who influenced it. woody holton is mccos lin professor of history at university of south carolina where he teaches and researches early american history, especially the american revolution. he's author of several books.
joining him in conversation is nicole maskiell. now let's hear from woody holton and nicole maskiell. thank you for joining us today. welcome, and thank you so much for being here. i'm here with woody holton and i'm really excited to talk about his new book, "liberty is sweet," the hidden history of the american revolution. i really want to talk about some
of this and really want too start out first here talking about the different groups that you highlight in this narrative, this incredibly engrossing narrative about, as you term, this "hidden history." so let's jump into it. what are -- what are some of these major groups and these hidden influences? and why have they come to shape your research so heavily? >> well first, nicole i want to thank you for doing this all university of south carolina program with me. i have a lot of reasons to be proud of our history program at usc, but the fact that we have two early americanists who can have a conversation like this is really cool. and i appreciate your -- i know you have a class right after this i really appreciate your taking the time. some of the goods that i am talking about are native americans, who of course still occupied most of the continent in 1776.
the guys who declared independence called themselves the continental congress, but they occupied about a sixth of it. and native americans about 5/6, and they are of course significant in their own light but also really helped get the revolution started. and i'd actually argue there is a sense which they won the war in the west. indigenous people. one in five colonies that rebelled were african american and they too both hugely influenced the revolution. i'd argue if it hadn't been some of the things they were to up the revolution might not have come to the south which is where the great wealth of america was and i think african americans had a huge impact on revolution and it in turn hugely influenced them as you know from your own work both positively and
negatively. so that is another group, african americans. and people will probably be least surprised when i say that women of all ranks and races had a huge impact because they always do in war. but, you know, and i share a graduate student and former undergrad now. grad student of ours who's done amazing work on women's role in the continental army. so maybe we'll be able to talk a little bit about riley's work on that. but i also have followed through something that your dissertation advisor mary beth norton wrote about a few years before you were with her there at cornell about esther reed who formed a group in pennsylvania of women to -- to help the soldier. but she ended up getting into some rouse with george washington that are worth talking about. the big three groups are native american, african americans and women that i've mentioned. >> yes. and i wanted to -- i definitely
want to get to talking about esther reed. but i really want to start with this compelling view, the way that you open the book. this compelling view of this map that shows -- that shows -- that shows the continent as being a place, indigenous place. and i think that umm, i'm really -- i really compelled by how why you chose this image as a way to kind of come into this and also how you set your book in this -- this history of the revolution. you're starting it in what is known in the united states as this -- as the french indian war but is, you know, known internationally as the seven years war which as you point out is also a misnomer. tell us a little about why you chose to highlight or centralize the -- this -- the continent as
an indigenous place first. and why you so focus on -- as starting this kind of history of the revolution with the conflict of the forks of ohio. >> okay great. thanks. and brian, why don't we go ahead and put up that map that nicole is talking about of america in 1776. oh yes, there is parliament. and i do want to make a quick point about that since the slide is there. there is a real sense that when we ask why do the american revolution happen, we're asking the wrong question. sorry, when we and why did the colonists rebel, we're asking the wrong question. because there is a sense that parliament rebelled. white colonists, the people in power. john adam, and john hancock and massachusetts and virginia, they were pretty satisfied with their role in the british empire as of the year 1762. and it is these guy, the house
of commons in their old meeting chamber here who were dissatisfied and said we want to make changes. and so i want -- i put that in the list just to frame the discussion that we're really talking about the british grievances against the colonies and things they wanted to change. and parliament did try to change, and the colonists' resentment of those changes that would ultimately lead to revolution. so we'll get those. but brian, if you will go on to the next one, next slide s the image that nicole was talking about which is, this is just north america east of the mississippi river. but as nicole pointed out, and i did too, most of that territory, even east of the mississippi is still occupied by native americans at this time. and i base this map primarily on an atlas done by a scholar named helen hornbeck tanner.
but she was mostly focussed on the mid west, so many people have helped me fill in other native nations. and one thing that i'd want to point out is that there are boundaries between these native nations. the old maps used to have the word cherokee out there somewhere and the word iroquois out there somewhere north of the word cherokee. but it is only the words are on the map and not the boundaries, as though native americans didn't have boundaries. they did. now those boundaries were contested just as they were in africa and europe and most of the rest of the world. but i think it is important to see that -- that they -- these were nations in the sense of having boundaries and also --. but to put some of the native towns in there because so many of the maps that accompanied books on the revolution have boston, new york, philadelphia, williamsburg, maybe charlestown
south carolina, which is now charleston. and zero native towns, as if they didn't live in towns. and the vast majority of them east of the mississippi did. so just they're presence is really important. but i want to make the case that even if you were, and this is i hope an imaginary person, but if you were some imaginary person who didn't really care about native american history at all but you did care about why the american revolution happened, then you have got to still go look at native americans because of the huge role they played. and to answer your question about that, nicole, one role they played was resisting encroachments on their land. and that leads the british to draw a line along the crest of the appalachian mountains. you can see it in this map. the shaded area is west of the mountains. and as of 1763, the british government said if you are a
white settler or land spectators like benjamin franklin or thomas jeffries or george washington, if you are a land speculator or settler, you can't go into the shaded area. you got to stay in the white area, basically the white area although it is also an african area. and that, you can understand why the british did that, because this goes to the other part of your question, nicole. the british had just finished this nine year war that we call the seven years war or the french and indian war against the french and spanish and their many native allies. so almost all of the natives that you see on here t cherokees were one big exception but most of the other native nations you see on here, if they took a side in that war, it was the french side. and of course the british eventually won. and the french almost entirely left north america except for two tiny islands off of
newfoundland. so the british are thrilled to have won that war. but it was a long expensive war that nearly doubled their debt. and so they -- british officials and parliament understood something that people forget sometimes today which is the most expensive thing a nation ever does is go to war. and they doubled their debt. they didn't want to do that again. and they said how can we make sure or decrease at least the possibility of going to war against native americans? one, is by not stealing their land. so we get the proclamation line of 1763. there is also a lot of people have heard of the proclamation line but there is something else people haven't heard so much of and that is to enforce the proclamation line, to keep colonists away from indians and indians away from colonists. the british government made a really pivotalal decision in december of 1762.
and that was. >> war is over. they wouldn't sign a treaty until a few months but basically the war was over 1762. usually you bring the troops home after fighting a war. but the british government decided to leave 10,000 soldiers in north america as basically peacekeeping troops. and brian the next slide. this was a contemporary map by the amazing map maker jeff ward. but this one was at the time. and those red rectangles, as home you can download this as i did from the library of congress. and there are other versions of it in otherplaces. but the red rectangles represent the can on thement, that is where the troops were
and you had some in new york, just conquered canada. lot in canada so nova scotia. and the bulk -- and they had some in the caribbean. but the bulk of them are what i could call peacekeeping troops, as sort of a human wall to keep the indians and colonists apart. and then the question came up, how do you pay for that. and that's what led the british parliament to adopt the stamp act in 1765. and the sugar act the year before that, laying taxes on those in order to come up with the money to fund these 10,000 troops. a lot of the textbooks that you and i learned on, nicole, told us that oh yeah, the reason for the stamp act was to pay off the big debt that the british government had paid, had run up during the french and indian war. but that is not true. if you read the act it says very clearly, this isn't for paying off old expenses. this is paying off future
expenses. that is, the expense of maintaining these troops that are there to maintain peace between the colonists and the indians. and so i can't resist the line borrowing from modern political rhetoric that the british had decided to build this human wall on the western border and to make the colonists pay for it. and that is why we get the stamp act and the sugar act. so there is a real sense in which these things that we all did learn about, no taxation without representation, might not have happened if the indians hadn't been there, or if they had been completely passive or irrelevant as we used to be taught. so i think those are a couple of ways that native americans are having a huge impact and why you have got to start with the french and indian war. because during the french and indian war american colonists were making the indians mad and
american colonists were smuggling, trading whered the enemy in the french islands in haiti, and cuba and puerto rico and so forth. and the white colonists were doing all sort of things that infuriated the british parliament during the french and indian war. during the war the french -- the -- french and indian war, the british government couldn't do anything about these things because britain knew they couldn't win the war without the british americans on the ground to do most of the fighting. and so there is just real tension in london where they are just getting -- it is almost like balloon blowing up as they are getting madder and madder at the colonists but -- and now can we can tell the colonists what
we're mad at them about. and we're going to draw a line and enforce with it soldiers paid for by you in the form of the stamp act and the sugar act. so i would maybe go as far as even to say no indians, no stamp act. so something you have heard of is powerfully influenced by a group that you may have heard the different context but not in the context of helping cause the american revolution. >> i had this really evocative moment and there are many in your book, but where you said that if all of the sugar islands had sank into the sea like atlantis, to to the continent. and i really think that that, you know, seeing that connection, that -- that these actions of smuggling during this war was so hugely important and these of course is a reaction to the colonists also they were fighting, as you said for, they
thought they were going to get something out of this. they thought they were going to be able to get -- so they felt this kind of -- this -- this umm -- they felt betrayed to a certain extent. but they were being curtailed. and i really loved that part of it. and i do think that in some ways, and you use kind of modern language, it really does resonate for what we're going through -- it really does read in a way that doesn't feel like its been so long. that some of these same issues, some of these same political maneuvers, that you see happening, umm, within, umm, 18th century america doesn't -- doesn't read so -- as so distant in the past. and thinking of that and thinking of, umm, of the place of this -- of this hidden history that you bring up, i want to talk a little bit, too,
about the place of -- of african americans within this, umm -- within this world. there's been a lot of kind of discussion on the place, obviously, of black history, of the history of enslavement and the founding of america and of course not just -- a giant bomb into this discussion, you can't avoid, umm, this. and you don't. you don't avoid it it at all. and i want you to elaborate on this other front of the war, the black americans, the african americans' presence within the -- the colonial orbit. as you point out, and others have, that this is -- we're not talking about 13 colonist. we're talking about 26 and this kind of presence of black people, of slave rebellion is so
incredibly important. so please tell us more about how you -- >> well let's start with that, about the 26. because i think some of the people watching us on youtube will say, wait a minute, these guys are college professors and they think they were 26 colonies. don't they know there were 13? there were 13 that rebelled. but as nicole mentioned. britain alone had 26 colonies in america in 1776. several in canada, counting nova scotia and prince edward island and quebec. bahamas. two floridas at the time. bermuda. but the real jewels in the british crowne were the ones nicole's already mentioned and those were the sugar islands in the caribbean. especially barbados and jamaica. and as much as i as a virginian want to talk about tobacco because that was the number one crop grown in north america and of course that was grown mostly by enslaved people in north america. tobacco was not the number 1
crop exported by the colonies. sugar cane was. you know partly for candy bars, but really because that's where you get molasses and ma lasis makes rum. and we were talk about this today. what's the big early industry in north america, you know, before you have steel and even before the textile mills. the big industry is distillery, turning of molasses in to rum and that's from sugar cane raised by slaves in the caribbean. and it is a rereminder. as a virginian, i come from a state built on slavery. people know that. but massachusetts was built on slavery as well. and new york, which you have written about in your book, bound by bondage which is going to be out on my birthday, june 15 of 2022 is -- shows just how dependent new york was on slavery and all of these places really from virginia on up are
dependent not only on the labor of enslaved people that they claimed to own but on the labor of the enslaved people in the caribbean who are producing that molesis. and also they are the marketass. and also they are the market, half the crop in england was fish. half the colonies goes to new england because they are not allowed to eat meat on saints days. and economically we can start there. you can't name a colony where enslaved people were not significant. even a place like vermont which is going 14th state. there were enslaved people. not at lot but. so economically they are significant. i think they become hugely
significant, african americans do, late in the process of the origins of the revolution. but it is a reminder to me we've got to talk about when we talk about the origin of the revolution, it is not a decision that somebody made one day. i said in the beginning, you can't ask the question. if you start asking why do the colonists decide to rebel, you are already going down the wrong wrote because britains first rebelled against the relationship and tried to change things i talk about the territory aspect of that and taxes aspect of that. it is convenient for me with my students because they are all ts, taxes, territory, trade, talk about smuggling molasses from the islands, and taxes, territory, trade and we don't need to get into today because it gets boring quick, pain money or treasury notes. the four t's. but in all cases parliament wants change and all the white colonists want is no change. or they want to go back to the
way things were. and so to me one of the great questions is what happens around 1774, 1775 and again mary beth norton. he's always the first on the scene because she wrote a great book called "1774" about the massive change that happened in that year. and during that year and she agreed she went into 1775, lot of this going into 1775 as well. what turned the colonists from just wanting to go back to, forgive the barbara stiesened, "the way we were" ♪ from nostalgia really, to wanting to separate from britain. those are totally different things. and what makes them want to jump the cliff into independence? and i'd say in the north the biggest battle was lexington and concord. which we correctly think of as the first battle of the revolutionary war. but it is also the final argument for independence monk
new englanders because yes, the boston massacre had happened but that was kind of a oneoff and only five people were killed. but at lexington ten people were killed. and more in concord and many more as the british made their way home. so many new englanders, what turned them from this rational calculation of oh no we don't want to pay the sugar tax we don't want to tay the stamp tax and they got rid of the stamp -- and all that. those are kind of rational calculations about how we can get back the good times we had in 1762. what drove those people from what noting to get back to the good old days to wanting to be a separate nation, many, many, many factors of course. but the biggest factor in new england new england is battle at lexington and concord. so that raises the question what's the south's version of the battle of lexington and concord. and i would say the answer to that is dunmore's emancipation
proclamation. lord dunmore was the last royal governor of virginia. and in 1775 he was massively out numbered. that is, there were a few whites in virginia who were loyal to the crown. but very few. the vast majority of free people in virginia were supporting the revolution. they weren't ready for independence yet. but they were mad about all these changes parliament was try to impose. so he's out numbered among whites, but he doesn't have to be out numbered. because 40% of virginians were enslaved. it is important to remember this demography. 40% of southerners in general were enslaved. our state, south carolina, as you know, nicole had a black majority at this time. so demographically we know, as well as economically, which we've already talked about, african americans are important. but also politically. because here is what happened. dunmore in november 1775, and i
do think it is ironic that it was four score and seven years before abraham lincoln issued his emancipation proclamation in 1863. november of 1775 dunmore is so out numbered, he's so desperate for soldiers for his side that he issued an emancipation proclamation telling black men, i'm kind of hesitating on that because he didn't say men. he said able and willing to bear arms. in the 18th century that implied men. although it is interesting to see that the majority of the african americans who joined governor dunmore, a slight majority, were women and children. but also a lot of men who were ready to hold muskets. and something like 800 joined him in the first few months. and there are a lot of differences but there is a lot of similarities too between dunmore's emancipation proclamation and lincoln's. in that, both were only
targeting the rebel area, that is dunmore himself, it is not like he issued this emancipation proclamation because he suddenly read a book and discovered slavery was horrible. he had slaves himself, and he kept them. so this was not a humanitarian gesture on his part. it was a war measure. but of course so was lincoln's emancipation proclamation. that's how he got to do it. he wanted to do it all along but a he got do it because there was a war on. and likewise when dunmore issued his emancipation proclamation, it was because he needed labor. but the big thing i would qualify about that. it is mentioned in the declaration of independence, euphemismistically.
i want to correct the declaration of independence on this one point. because it was not the british who stirred up the slaves. it was if we look at the chronology, the slaves who stirred up the british. because dunmore issued that emancipation proclamation in november of 1775. in november of 1774 is when my fellow virginians, black virginians started to notice this gap opening up between the white loyalist minority and the white patriot majority. and black virginians said in that gap between these two factions of whites, there is opportunity for us. and they, the first record we have comes from james madison. the future author of the constitution and president. he noticed this meeting in the fall of 1774. and then there were more meetings. there was a week in april of
1775 when there were reports all up and down the james river water shed from williamsburg to norfolk and up to petersburg today of enslaved people organizing and being ready for the british. and long story short, governor dunmore in april of 1775 made white colonists mad at him. so they started threatening him. and so he played the race card. he said, if you touch a hair on my head, i will declare freedom to the slaves and reduce the town of williamsburg to ashes. so here he is, not actually freeing slaves. this is april 1775, not november. but he's threatening to do it and so some enslaved people literally came and knocked on the door of the governor's palace and said, okay, man, put us to work. you promise us freedom, we'll fight like demons on your side because we want to be free. and what did he do?
he turned them away. and he said if you come back i'll whip you. but enslaved people kept coming. just as blacks were turned away by the union army in the early months of the civil war, and they also kept coming. and eventually after they proved their usefulness to governor dunmore, then and only then did he issue his emancipation proclamation. so it was really the slaves who put him up to it rather than he had put the slaves up to it. but of course whites interpreted this as the british are supposed to be protecting us from our slaves, not having our slave rebel against as one white virginian said they are aiming a dagger at our throat for the hands of our slaves. and they were furious. and there he is as the sort of cap stung grievance in the deg largs of independence. not o only reason of course that the colonists went from wanting
to restore the british empire to where it had been in 1762 but a major reason it went from that to jumping off the cliff and declaring independent. >> yeah and getting back into the declaration of independence and some more eye opening things you talk about in terms of the declaration and thinking about how the way we remember the declaration today, the things that resonate us with us, may or may not, as historians have said, been i what we'll were really focussed on during the time but this idea of life, liberty, right, and the pursuit of happiness, that being pulled out. obviously it was written by thomas jefferson, but it became popularized by black thinkers and veteran -- veterans of the war, specifically lemuel haines. and i wanted to get your thoughts about -- >> yeah let's talk about him.
we go to the next slide brian. i think that is lemuel haines. oh, that we don't have time to talk about. have to talk too much. so let's go lemuel haines. this is after he'd become the first african american minister of the congregational faith. but before that in 1776 lemuel haines was a free black soldier of mixed racial heritage. but people referred to him as a free black soldier. serving in the continental army in 1776 when congress issued the declaration of independence. and there is a real sense which the declaration of independence failed. it failed at its initial goal, which was to get a french navy and french army in american waters by the end of the summer of 1776. that's the real reason that
congress finally got its act together and was receiving a lot of instructions from other places as well. but the reasons, they had put it off. they had been fighting a war for more than a year, they finally declared independence in july '76. the record is clear they did that to get france to come into the war on their side. because they had no navy. they had an army but didn't have much equipment. especially not much gun powder. and i just recently discovered that these conversations that delegates were having in june of 1776 saying if we can declare independence fast enough, we will have a french navy in american waters fighting our battles for us by the end of the summer of 1776. so let's declare independence and get the french here. so they declared inland pence on july 2nd, 1776 and issued the press release july 4th and we rightly celebrate that because
the act of independence, of declaring independence on july 2nd, that's significant. but it didn't achieve its goal. it did not get a french navy in american waters by the summer of 1776. in fact the french didn't come in the fall or the -- 1777 or until february 1778 and those troops actually didn't make it to the summer of 1778. so towards its immediate goal, it was a failure. but it also had a phrase "we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal" -- that most who created the declaration in the early years passed over that because they were focused on its justification of one nation's right to secede from another or break off an alliance with another. so i think your question is really perfect in that it meant something completely different to white americans at the time from what it means today.
it was then a strategic move justifying secession, so that we could get french aid. but lemuel haines of course he was interested in that. he was in the continental army. he was glad to have french aid too. but he did something nobody else had done before and that was quote that phrase "all men are created equal." and eric -- at university of chicago says the majority of people who quoted the declaration of independence, the majority of people who quoted that between 1776 when jefferson wrote it and 1799 the first quarter century, the majority people who quoted it were abolitionists, black as well as white. and so they really made the declaration of independence what it is today. it is no longer thought of -- of course it just, the name is independence so it is no longer mostly thought of as something of the moment to get french aid.
it is thought of as a universal declaration of human rights. and turned it into the freedom document that it is now. >> i really kind of intrigued by another one of your claims in the book and i don't want to jump over too many, i'm hoping i'm not going to get us off in terms of the order of the slides. but i do want to know because we're talking about and you open the book so evocatively, you know, general washington is in cambridge and he's just -- he's sure that gauge is going to attack him. and then you kind of drop this knowledge bomb on us that they had been, they fought on the same side. and that is the way you began. i want to know. what kind of general was george washington? what would you say?
>> well having set my path on this provocation, for being provocative i'm going to not turn back and say that in the first year of the war, george washington, he was a great manager because he was experienced managing large numbers of people. he was a large scale, beyond hundreds or claimed to own, enslaved hundreds of people. so he was a great manager in terms of getting the few supply they had out. but as a general, as a strategist washington in my opinion and other historians, not all, agree, terrible. because he was stuck in fifth gear. that is, he was all about taking the initiative, being aggressive, going on offense. and the british had figured out. actually i do have a slide for this we can show briefly, i think the very next one. both the british and colonists other than washington figured out at bunker hill -- browne hit
the -- oh. that's lemuel where he quoted. that's the very first use of the phrase "all men are created equal" by anyone, anywhere is by this formally enslaved person, freed black guy, lemuel hanes. but let's mauve on to the next one. there they are. this is a modern depiction of battle of bunker hill. after -- you know, the british technically won the battle because they captured the hill actually. breedsville. and that is how they defined victory those days but it cost them 50% casualties. and the man who'd commanded the trooups on the british side of bunker hill said afterwards, basically crap. because yes we won but what did the americans do? they ran away to the next hill. and that one cost us 50% casuals. the next is going to cost 50% casualties and so so on.
so in in 1775 the very beginning of the war the guy who was going to be commander in chief for most of the war said the war is unwinnable. and so various others as they became commander in chief after how henry clinton arrived at the same conclusion. they understood all the americans had to do was hide behind those dirt -- they were going to win the war with dirt basically more than gun powder. they had a lot more dirt than gun powder. and the other is you are much more vulnerable if you are out in open field attacking a wooden fort or redoubt like this one, so the americans did not have 50% casualties. here is my larger point, which is almost everybody understood that the americans could win the revolutionary war if they basically just fall on the foot fall. that is, if they don't become aggressive. and washington just couldn't
stand that. he was restless in rest. he had to be doing something. and you can take us to the next slide, if you will, please, brian. this is a map of the boston area. and many people watching have heard of the battle of -- or the american occupation of dorchser heights. so there is boston in the pink part over the leftdorchester he. so there is boston in the pink part over the left and reminded on the map boston at the time was pretty much an island, just barely connected to the mainland at the bottom of the map. and there is another peninsula to the south soffit, to the right on our map, dorchester heights.of it, to the right on our map, dorchester heights. washington did a great job sneaking men up there to occupy dorchester heights march 4, 1776. and that's famous for chasing the british out and seen as washington's first victory
chasing the british out of boston. but guess what word washington used to describe the battle of -- his occupying of dorchester heights. he talked about his disappointment. his disappointment. because he didn't want them to walk away from a fight. he wanted to fight'em. and so what he was hoping -- i ask you and others to follow me on the map here. okay we'll put our guys on dorchester heights. that threatens boston. so the british troops are going to come try to take dorchester heights back from the american troops. and while they are doing that, the american troops who are across the river. you see charleston here more to our left is cambridge where you want to undergraduate school, he had thousands of american troops over there ready to row across the river in an amphibians attack. basically this would have been washington's d day. this launch big and amphibious,
and after the british left toured boston, saw just how impregnable the british defenses were. how much they built it up and made barricades in every street for house to house street fighting that even he pretty much admitted had he carried out his aggressive plan then it would have been disaster for his side. and the fascinating thing for me is he kept making aggressive plans. brian take us to new york city on this next map. it will take people a while to get oriented. but if you see the red stuff, you are seeing the one part of manhattan island that was actually new york city in 1776. the british capture that city on september 15, 1776 and held it for the rest of the war. and they really turned it into fortress new york. >> yeah. >> and washington was outside new york for most of the rest of
the war. spent a winter in valley forge as we know but he's outside new york jonesing to attack new york. but he never did. he never tried the amphibious result because he realized how disastrous it it would have been. so he would make plans and always cancel them and we as americans can be glad he did. had he done the assault it would have really hurt the american cause. so i start off by the section by saying that washington started off the war as a bad general. he became a great general because he learned sometimes that most effective thing for a general to do is nothing. and his big contribution was his self restraint. >> now, and i think that this is so compelling, to think about a
lot of times too, i think that the american revolution is portrayed, you know, as -- as this revolution that people are surprised that the americans win. but you make it seem like in your book that this is -- that it's nearly unwinnable for the british. in that, you know, all the americans had to do basically is get out of their own way. and the revolution would be won. >> yes, and that was so hard to learn. because i'm really sympathetic with washington. he had what he called "chimney corner heroes" we would refer to as monday morning quarterbacks. everyone was saying oh come on. you can get this over with quickly. and he's a very very proud guide and that is part of the enslavery mentality is to think of yourself as one of the patriarchs, to quote another slave holder, and he's very sensitive about his reputation. and nobody likes to be called a coward. but that guy least of all.
but that to me was his real strength, because that he didn't allow people to gull him into doing something that may have made glory for him or may have been -- but more likely to have led to disaster for the -- and again, dorchester heights, he was ready to go into boston and it was only because the british disappointed him by leaving that he didn't do it. but he learned his lesson to his great credit. >> one question i want to add. i do want to get back to the place of the incredible contributions of women during the american revolution, of course as -- as student os mary beth norton, i would be remiss not to talk more about it. >> yeah. >> and you have got some really -- you kind of have -- of course there is the usual people we talk about in the american revolution, but you really talk about during this revolutionary time, starting with -- starting
with this conflict, umm, that begins, you know, in what is we know as the french indian war, seven years war, that there are troops, right, there are groups of women going into battle and actually being going into battle and actually being killed. i want you to talk more about that and the place of women in this narrative, in this military history narrative as well. >> yes. and as you know, our shared student has educated me, unfortunately not in time for my books so you have to look out for an article of hers under consideration out there called "industrious women" about the women of the army and the amazing contributions they made. i'll just mention one thing to start off with, because it was so stunning to me, what an
laundress does for an army. if you think logically, a laundress is low in your hierarchy if you're that kind of on their, but she persuaded me that laundresses saved lives in the revolutionary we're. the number of guys who got shot and died was 3,000, fewer than the number who died in three days at gettysburg. until world war ii, the big numbers are from disease. after george washington famously had the men, as riley qualifies, because not the women, but the men of his army inoculated against smallpox in 1777, the way my friend elizabeth fenn talks about, after smallpox the
big killer is typhus, which is spread by lice in people's shirts. if you start with seemingly meaningless tasks, it's significant. now is a great time to talk about it because we're looking at this map of new york. i said the british captured new york city in 1776 but they didn't capture the rest of new york island until the following november, the last fort they captured was fort washington and it's right where the george washington bridge crosses over into new york. today there was an american fort there and one of the defenders was a guy named corbin working a cannon and he was cut down by enemy fire. and so his wife anna took over and ran that battery for him. and she was also injured but not
killed. she ended up staying in the army and she was in the invalid corps, as they called it, because of her injuries. she got a pension. and riley and others, including mary beth norton, have found pensions by other women. of course there were lots of women who would file for revolutionary war pensions as widows but there were a lot also who filed for pensions for their own service. there were women who would file a widow's pension application but when you read the narrative where they're describing why they deserve this application, they would talk about the heroic things they did, technically i'm asking for this because my husband serve, the way people get widow's benefits now, but then they were bragging about the amazing things they did as well. >> this is such compelling stuff. i think that the narratives that come out, the lives, the everyday lives that come out and
are woven within this sort of broad and sprawling, really, history of this moment that we think we know, is really compelling. and i know we've only got about seven minutes left now, but we do have an audience request. we have a request to talk about the quebec act. can you give us some insight on that? >> yes. and actually, brian, if you're still able to do images, you can take us back to the second image, the big map of narrative americans, because on the one hand it's important to say there was no march to independence in the sense that a marches -- a good army marches in lockstep, because different colonies got mad at different things the british were doing at different times, so they're sort of
straggled out along the road. new york didn't even come along -- thanks, brian -- new york didn't come along to vote for independence, it wasn't a unanimous vote. the state you wrote about wasn't ready to be a state quite yet. they did come along in time to sign in august. >> eventually. >> yeah. on the one hand we want to notice what stragglers there were, there were people way out in front and people behind. on the other hand, there are things that the british did that were truly unifying acts. and the quebec act was one of those because it affected just about all of the free colonists. it was seen as establishing the catholic faith in quebec. and i have to say from our modern perspective, we really have to admire the british government for being willing to allow catholics in quebec to continue worshipping as
catholics, because britain was very much a protestant country, at the time catholics couldn't even vote in the mother country. and they didn't give catholics in quebec the right to vote but they did give them the right to basically tax themselves to pay for their church. in most colonies there were church taxes and you had to pay for the established church, that's the anglican or episcopal church in virginia and so forth. the big church of most of the colonists in canada was the catholic church and the british government tolerated that, allowed them to have church taxes for catholics. that infuriated the puritans of new england. puritan doesn't mean sexual pure
purei -- purity, it means pure of catholics. the king, the parliament decided they would have an appointed council running things. that's a very un-democratic system. it is un-democratic but it was the only solution they could think of. but that makes everybody mad because as jefferson said, oh, they're using quebec as a fit instrument, that is, sort of a model of what they want to do for the rest of us. the thing that really unified the colonists is that it took land and gave it to quebec. you can't name anybody in virginia who was a leader of the revolution, jefferson, washington, franklin, in pennsylvania, patrick henry, you can't name anybody who was a leader of the revolution in places like pennsylvania or
virginia who wasn't also a land speculator. taking that land and making it a part of ohio -- making it part of quebec, that is now part of ohio, illinois, that really cut the legs off the land speculators and made them really mad. that was certainly a factor. >> as we are getting closer to the end, i wanted to open it up for you to say any closing thoughts. there are other things we want to talk about in terms of where he comes out on the debate, the regular army, the soldiers who won the war. >> let's go to that one. i think it's maybe the second to last slide or the last slide, it's got two images, one is -- they're the same map, one is an aerial photo. that's it. guys, this is what i think, it sort of encompasses the whole thing i was trying to do in the book. the bottom one is an aerial map of the battle of cowpens where
that was fought and the top one as a drawing that was published in a great book called "spirit of '76." they're both reflecting on something that general morgan, who was on the american side, he ended up winning that battle but he also almost lost it early on, and had he lost, and the reason he did poorly at the start was he was fighting the british in an open field. people said, damn, congratulations on winning but how dumb to fight on an open field. he said, i deliberately didn't cross the broad river, i backed my militia men across the broad river because they were cowards, and had i crossed the river, they would have all run away, so i forced my men to fight by backing them up against the broad river.
and so it's sort of a mean thing for him to say about the guys who actually helped him win the battle. >> right. >> it's also false. here is an undoctored photo from the air. do you see the green circle at the bottom? that's the cowpens battlefield. you see the north carolina/south carolina line. way north of that is the broad river, also with a green oval around it. the broad river is actually five miles away. but everybody, almost, who does maps of this battle, makes it seem like the broad river is right behind the american lines. >> right. >> because that's what general morgan said. and that's the kind of myth that we need to penetrate. this was really unfair to the militia. look, the militia screwed up at various times, we all screw up as various times, but they didn't screw up at cowpens and it was really unfair of morgan to throw them under the bus, as we would say today, and we can fix that, with aerial photos in
this case. >> oh, that is so fantastic. i love how you can see how mapping now can make these types of questions about the 18th century come alive. thank you so much. this book is a compelling read. i can't put it down. so i really wisely encourage everyone to get "liberty is sweet: the hidden history of the american revolution." it really is wonderful. thank you, woody, for your time and breaking open this moment of history in a way that is engaging and really compelling. >> i really appreciate your talking to me about it, nicole, it's been a lot of fun. thank you. >> thank you. c-span offers a variety of podcasts that have something for every listener. weekdays, "washington today" gives you the latest from the
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