Monday, July 28, 2008

American Revolution

A recent US News and World Report had a series of articles on the American Revolution. They are all interesting, but here I am going to focus on the two that pertain to George Washington.
How Washington’s Savvy Won the Day
This article points out again, as all of us here already know, what a disservice has been done to Washington because much of the writing on him amounts to hagiography. Washington wasn’t a great tactician, but he knew how to adapt and was able to overcome that:
Realism, strategic imagination, adaptability, and political savvy are all aspects of Washington's generalship that more than made up for his tactical deficiencies, as a new batch of political and military histories of the Revolutionary era show. All of those qualities emerged forcefully after the demoralizing defeats in and around New York in the summer of 1776, when the Americans were repeatedly crushed by the forces of Adm. Lord Richard Howe and his brother Gen. William Howe. "In twelve weeks," writes Brandeis University historian David Hackett Fischer in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington's Crossing, "George Washington lost large parts of three states, and 90 percent of the army under his command."

Yet Washington took cool stock of the situation. Seeing that pitched battles against the larger, better-trained British and Hessian troops were a formula for defeat, Washington wrote to the Continental Congress in September to advocate a defensive war that "should on all occasions avoid a General Action or put anything to the risque unless compelled by a necessity into which we ought never to be drawn." In addition to formulating his doctrine of a "war of posts"—with smaller forces hitting quickly wherever the enemy set up its bases—Washington stood up to republican idealists like John Adams, who believed that a largely volunteer militia, motivated by the ideals of liberty, should form the core of the war effort. Early defeats had only added to Washington's conviction that militias were inadequate; a disciplined army that would not melt away in the face of artillery and the well-drilled ranks of red-coated soldiers was, in his view, the necessary backbone of a protracted struggle.

‘Town Destroyer’ Versus the Iroquois
While most of us think of “Father of our Country,” when Washington is mentioned, the Iroquois had a different name for him – “Town Destroyer:”
This lesser-known title also had its origins in 1779, when General Washington ordered what at the time was the largest-ever campaign against the Indians in North America. After suffering for nearly two years from Iroquois raids on the Colonies' northern frontier, Washington and Congress decided to strike back. From his headquarters in Middlebrook, N.J., Washington authorized the "total destruction and devastation" of the Iroquois settlements across upstate New York so "that country may not merely be overrun but destroyed."

According to this article, that term is still used as an Iroquois name for the President of the United States.

So go read these articles as well as the other interesting ones!

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