- If you’re within driving distance of Nashville, don’t forget about the special exhibition of the original Emancipation Proclamation at the Tennessee State Museum, Feb. 12-18. Viewing hours are limited and lines may be long, so click here to learn how to make advance reservations. Some time slots are already full.
- Hey, speaking of Lincoln, did you know that in addition to leading a Marxist war effort, he was also an “unscrupulous fascist“? A sneaky devil, that Lincoln.
- Here’s an interesting history of the sites associated with Lincoln’s early life.
- Thoughts from East Tennessee on the importance of family heirlooms.
- There’s another proposed state law to prevent people from fiddling with or renaming monuments. This one is right here in Tennessee.
- Some info on the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Chattanooga Campaign.
- Mt. Vernon has acquired an original painting by Benjamin Latrobe.
Tag Archives: George Washington
Video game developers are giving the Revolution’s hero the dictatorship he never had. My question: If George Washington makes a grab for absolute power, doesn’t he sort of cease to be George Washington?
A few days ago Tom Clemens stuck up for George McClellan during a Department of Defense lecture. Little Mac’s reputation, he argued, has suffered unfairly due to contemporary political meddling, unclear orders, and the towering stature of the men he opposed. The 150th anniversary of Antietam seems like a good opportunity for public historians and popular writers to offer people a more positive portrait of McClellan than they’ve been accustomed to, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
On a much weightier note, online forum users are discussing the only presidential ranking method that really counts: Which chief executive would prevail in a mass free-for-all knife fight? Jackson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt are the obvious odds-on favorites. On the other hand, Washington was 6’2″, ripped, and long-limbed. I think he’d hold his own with the best of ‘em.
Changes in technology over the centuries, as well as differences in geography and resources, make comparisons seem apples and oranges. However, it is feasible to measure how well a general did with what he had to work with and considering the opponents he faced. In that regard, Washington was an absolutely superb strategist, the best the United States has produced, ever.
Personally, I wouldn’t go that far; in fact, I think one of Washington’s own subordinates, Nathanael Greene, was a superior strategist. But I would agree that Washington was a gifted strategical thinker, able to balance purely military factors with larger political considerations.
Palmer makes his case in a book published last month.
The sun was still trying to punch its way through a thick fog Friday morning when 22 U.S. Army infantrymen climbed board two inflatable Zodiac assault boats and started paddling across the Delaware River at Washington Crossing Historic Park in Upper Makefield.
It was the same spot where George Washington and his men made their famous crossing more than 200 years ago — and that was the point. Friday’s trip across the river by members of the 4th Battalion, 3rd United States Infantry Regiment was part of an informal exercise called a “staff ride,” during which service members simulate famous battles or campaigns in American military history at the sites where they happened.
American revolutionary leader George Washington has been voted the greatest enemy commander to face Britain, lauded for his spirit of endurance against the odds and the enormous impact of his victory.
In a contest organised by Britain’s National Army Museum, the first President of the U.S triumphed over Irish independence hero Michael Collins, France’s Napoleon Bonaparte, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Making the case for Washington, historian Stephen Brumwell said the American War of Independence (1775-83) was ‘the worst defeat for the British Empire ever.’
More formidable than Napoleon! Not bad for a guy who spent the latter months of ’76 retreating across New York and New Jersey.
Washington Crossing Historic Park is getting a new visitor center, and I think it’ll be money well spent.
So William Thornton, the guy who designed the U.S. Capitol, wanted to bring George Washington’s corpse back to life. Good to know.
Here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth:
I proposed to attempt his restoration, in the following manner. First to thaw him in cold water, then to lay him in blankets, and by degrees and by friction to give him warmth, and to put into activity the minute blood vessels, at the same time to open a passage to the lungs by the trachæa, and to inflate them with air, to produce an artificial respiration, and to transfuse blood into him from a lamb. If these means had been resorted to and had failed all that could be done would have been done, but I was not seconded in this proposal; for it was deemed unavailing. I reasoned thus. He died by the loss of blood and the want of air. Restore these with the heat that had subsequently been deducted, and as the organization was in every respect perfect, there was no doubt in my mind that his restoration was possible. It was doubted by some whether if it were possible it would be right to attempt to recall to life one who had departed full of honor and renown; free from the frailties of age, in the full enjoyment of every faculty, and prepared for eternity.
Reminds me of that joke about a zombie protest. ”What do we want? BRAINS! When do we want it? BRAINS!“
A post at American Creation directs our attention to some remarks on George Washington by the late Murray Rothbard, who lambasted the commander of the Continental Army for his attempts to “crush the individualistic and democratic spirit of the American forces.”
Rothbard was correct in noting that when Washington arrived to take command of the Continental Army, it was a relatively undisciplined and egalitarian organization, at least by the standards of most eighteenth-century armies. He was also correct that Washington wanted to conform the army more closely to contemporary European models. Rothbard argued that these measures were unwarranted and imperious:
To introduce a hierarchy of ruling caste, Washington insisted on distinctive decorations of dress in accordance with minute gradations of rank. As one observer phrased it: “New lords, new laws. … The strictest government is taking place, and great distinction is made between officers and soldier. Everyone is made to know his place and keep it.” Despite the great expense involved, he also tried to stamp out individuality in the army by forcing uniforms upon them; but the scarcity of cloth made this plan unfeasible.
At least as important as distinctions in decoration was the introduction of extensive inequality in pay. Led by Washington and the other aristocratic southern delegates, and over the objections of Massachusetts, the Congress insisted on fixing a pay scale for generals and other officers considerably higher than that of the rank and file.
In addition to imposing a web of hierarchy on the Continental Army, Washington crushed liberty within by replacing individual responsibility by iron despotism and coercion. Severe and brutal punishments were imposed upon those soldiers whose sense of altruism failed to override their instinct for self-preservation. Furloughs were curtailed and girlfriends of soldiers were expelled from camp; above all, lengthy floggings were introduced for all practices that Washington considered esthetically or morally offensive. He even had the temerity to urge Congress to raise the maximum number of strikes of the lash from 39 to the enormous number of 500; fortunately, Congress refused.
Distinctions of rank, uniformity of appearance, differentials in pay, the employment of coercion. I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds like…an army.
The “yeah, so?” factor seems to be a recurring issue in libertarian-oriented historical polemics. I’m reminded of Thomas DiLorenzo’s work on Lincoln. There’s nothing really new or useful added to the mix in terms of what we know about the past. The only original ingredient is the author’s opinion that the developments in question were for the worst. It’s a sort of inverse Whig interpretation of history, a narrative of regression away from freedom and toward authoritarianism.
Rothbard was of the opinion that Washington should have left well enough alone and allowed the Americans to fight a people’s partisan war, since “they were not professional soldiers, and they were needed at their homes and jobs and on their farms. Had they been a frankly guerrilla army, there would have been no conflict between these roles.” And yet there was a conflict between the roles of partisan warrior and civilian farmer. We know this because the militia who fought without joining the regular Continental Army tried to balance these roles, and their inability to be in two places at once—embodied in the field and back at their homes—was one of the most important limitations on their effectiveness.
Could a people’s partisan army have won the war on its own? Some contemporaries thought so, at least at first; Gen. Charles Lee, one of the army’s most controversial officers, advocated something like this approach. But as time passed, it became increasingly apparent to many observers that a regular, embodied force was the critical component of the American war effort. Undisciplined militiamen were indeed capable of achieving remarkable victories, but only under the proper conditions, when factors like terrain, the tactical situation, and timing coalesced in their favor (i.e., the retreat from Concord and King’s Mountain). Irregular partisans also made critical contributions outside the bounds of large-scale engagements, especially in the South, where they cut up small enemy detachments and suppressed the Tories on whom the British depended for support. But as Gen. Nathanael Greene pointed out, “the salvation of this Country don’t depend upon little strokes…Partizan strokes in war are like the garnish of a table, they give splendor to the Army…but they afford no substantial national security.”
Rothbard, I think, made the same mistake which contemporary advocates of a home-grown American genius for partisan warfare made. The hardy frontier riflemen who could pick off British soldiers from a vast distance and then vanish into the woods played an indispensable part in the American victory, but they didn’t do so alone. More importantly, they weren’t typical of the American population. Revolutionary America needed a regular army to win the war, and that army had to be molded into a force capable of going multiple rounds with the British, something Washington and the other Continental commanders came to realize. The measures they took to bring this about may have been restrictive and authoritarian, but if you value individualism above all else, then it’s unlikely that any hardened fighting force is going to be congenial to you.