Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – Let’s go to the Dude Maker Hotline and talk to my buddy Stephen Klugewicz, who is here to help present the Franklin’s Opus Real American History Quiz #4. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Let’s go to the Dude Maker Hotline and talk to my buddy Stephen Klugewicz, who is here to help present the Franklin’s Opus Real American History Quiz #4. I did prep for the Valley Forge portion of the quiz, which I’m glad that I did because I hadn’t read a lot of that stuff in quite a while. What I find really interesting about the entire winter campaign of 1777 and 1778 at Valley Forge — I exploited this in Times That Try Men’s Souls: Washington’s Crossing, which will come out in a couple weeks on CD and digital download, but we aired it on Christmas Day and on December the 23rd — was just how close George Washington and that army came to being disbanded over and over again. Stephen, the most amazing part about that is that it at least in a few key incidents, there was sabotage. There was collusion to have Washington fail so that someone else’s favorite general, or as Washington Irving called it, the cabal, as the cabal in Congress — this is what shocked me the most as I’m reading Washington Irving’s version of this. There were members of Congress that were conspiring for this, weren’t there?
Stephen Klugewicz: Yes. The whole story of Valley Forge, about the American Revolution itself, of course, shows how important Washington was as a personality. The great men of history theory, right? Like you’re saying, history is not so sweet and simple as the good guys versus the bad guys. You have all these personalities. As an historian, you’ve got to sort out who was influencing what. You’re right. The army was in desperate straits. There was this cabal to replace Washington. Looking back, we think everything is written in stone and this is the way it had to turn out and everyone revered Washington the way we do today. That was obviously not the case. Some were very skeptical of him, of his talents. There was no guarantee he was going to be the victorious general, much less president after the war.
Mike: Folks, it really is quite an amazing story. As a matter of fact, those of you who have copies or have read Moses Coit Tyler’s Patrick Henry American Statesmen, you already know some of this because you’ve read that chapter where Henry was alerted that someone was trying to sabotage Washington in Congress. He found out who it was and it was Dr. Benjamin Rush. Rush was one of the members of Congress that was conspiring — I won’t name the general here, because that will give the answer to the quiz away. Rush was conspiring with another member of Congress from New York to basically, as I said, perpetrate sabotage.
Then there was the other part of the campaign at Valley Forge that I bet a lot of you don’t know, and Stephen can help me flesh this out. Right before the winter campaign — when you get into winter and you’re in the colonial times, the armies back off. They retrench because they fear if they try any sort of an assault or extended effort, that the weather could get involved or curtail it or get in the way, or that they should be mildly successful and they should jeopardize the scarce amount of supplies they currently have. It’s better to just hibernate for the winter and wait for the spring thaw to begin so you can go out and begin to acquire new stores and supplies as you need them. One of the things that was happening right before this campaign begins at Valley Forge, or Washington’s encampment there, is that General Howe tries to end the war. Because of Washington’s patience, he’s unsuccessful, right, Professor?
Klugewicz: I think that’s right. Now you’re testing my knowledge of the military history of the revolution. I think you’re right there.
Mike: I just read it yesterday so it’s fresh in my mind. Howe tried three times. On three successive occasions, because Washington had the high ground, he tried to get him to move. He knew the only way he could unseat him from where he was without costing himself thousands of men was to get Washington to change his positions, which is ironic because the guy that was trying to sabotage Washington’s command was criticizing Washington because he wasn’t decisive. He was decisive, but he was decisive in the negative in saying: I don’t think I should move. If I move and cause an opening here, Howe will have an advantage. If he breaks our lines, then he would have access to the entire army and then Philadelphia and the war is over, campaign done. It’s because of Washington’s patience and his temperance in saying: I’m not going to be kneejerk. I’m going to be contemplative about this and hold my high ground and not do anything stupid.
Klugewicz: Right. Washington had lost to Howe at Germantown in October. Then the Battle of White Marsh was the last battle before the Continental Army went into Valley Forge. We think of the harsh winter, but to what you just said, it was kind of a dark time in general for the American cause.
Mike: It most certainly was. Stephen Klugewicz from FranklinsOpus.org is on the Dude Maker Hotline with us. We’ve asked you guys and gals to take the Real American History Quiz #4 at Franklin’s Opus. Can you elaborate — I don’t have much knowledge on this even though I just familiarized myself with the material. What do we know about this Von Steuben character that shows up in early 1778? What do you know? All I know is his name and that he was some sort of a drill sergeant.
Klugewicz: Yes. The title of baron was apparently one that he gave himself. He came over and presented himself to the Americans as this Prussian baron. I guess he was a Prussian military officer. He apparently was not a baron. He sort of lied on his résumé and exaggerated his credentials. Despite all that, he did a bang-up job of training American troops at Valley Forge. He probably deserves a good part of the credit for really winning the Revolution and making that army an effective fighting force.
Mike: We also learn around the time of December or late November 1777, going into the winter of 1778, another event that we probably could not fathom occurring today happens. The Marquis de Motier de Rochambeau de La Marquis de La Fayette — I know he’s got like six names, Lafayette does. Washington begs Congress saying: This guy is the real deal. You need to make him a commander in this army. Congress actually gives him a commission. He’s French. He’s not an American. They nominate and then second and then Washington assigns Marquis de Lafayette to command an entire regiment of American forces. Can you imagine this happening today, Stephen? People over here throw conniption fits when we’re told that some of our troops have been placed under NATO command.
Klugewicz: Right. Between Von Steuben the Prussian, who writes the drill book for the army — he informs us in this drill manual used until the War of 1812. Then, of course, the French intervention in the war on our side, and, of course, Lafayette as you said embedded within the army. He’s more than just an ally. He’s actually appointed to an American command.
Mike: Congress had told him no, if I counted correctly, twice before. Then Washington says: Look, you now have it on the authority of General Arnold — it’s before the disgrace of Benedict Arnold but it’s coming — that Marquis is one of us. He fought bravely and valiantly at the Battle of Saratoga and has earned a command in this army, and I strongly suggest you give it. They ultimately capitulated and they did. This is one of the events here that will forever alter the course of history. If Lafayette doesn’t take that command, and if the French don’t have an imbed, they are probably a little less likely to send that navy over, which ultimately corners Cornwallis.
Klugewicz: You can certainly make that case. Lafayette, like Alexander Hamilton, became a sort of son to Washington, who, of course, himself was childless. Personally, Lafayette and Hamilton meant a lot to Washington also.
End Mike Church Show Transcript