Wednesday, November 25, 2009 11/25/09 - washington's blunders

In today's excerpt - early in the American
Revolution, General George Washington's
blunders and misjudgments led to terrible
battlefield losses in New York and in the
Brandywine river valley, and put his job in
jeopardy to General Horatio Gates, whose
stirring victory at Saratoga had been crucial
to American prospects:

"Washington's string of blunders [in New
York] was certain to lead to recriminations,
perhaps even to calls for his removal.
Already aware of the displeasure
among some in Congress, he discovered on the
last day of November that
even some in the army had lost confidence in
him. On that day, a letter
from General Charles Lee arrived for Joseph
Reed, Washington's former secretary,
now the army's adjutant general. As Reed was
away from headquarters on
a mission, Washington, who was desperate for
information, tore open
Lee's letter. What he read was lacerating.
Washington's 'fatal indecision,'
Lee had said in his customarily caustic
manner, would doom the American

"From things that Lee said, it was also clear
that Reed, heretofore
Washington's closest confidant in the army,
shared Lee's views. (Reed,
with pitiless honesty, had told Lee that
Washington's 'indecisive Mind'
had been among the army's 'greatest
Misfortunes,' and he added that had
it not been for Lee, Washington's army would
never have escaped Manhattan.) One of the few
men with the backbone to criticize Washington
to his face, Lee had already told the
commander that he was foolish to act
on the advice of his generals, most of whom
were 'Men of inferior judgment.' Though
Washington was unaware of it, Lee had also
urged General Horatio Gates to hurry to
Washington's side to 'save your army,' as
'a certain great Man is most damnably
deficient.' ...

"[The next year after his loss at the Battle
of the Brandywine], Washington was besieged
with rumors that a
'Strong Faction' within Congress wished to
remove him and name Gates
as the new commander of the Continental army.
Washington did not
know precisely what was occurring behind the
curtain in Congress, but he
probably knew that some congressmen believed
- as Pennsylvania's Dr.
Benjamin Push, a signer of the Declaration of
Independence, put it - that
the army 'under General Gates [was] a well
regulated family,' while
'Washington's [was but an] imitation of an
Army' that bore the look of
'an unformed mob.' Some proclaimed that Gates
had 'executed with vigor
and bravery,' attaining 'the pinnacle of
military glory.' Washington's command,
according to the whispers, was characterized
by such 'negligence'
that it was hardly surprising he had been
'outwitted,' 'outgeneraled and
twice beated [sic].' It was unsettling enough
to have congressmen complain about his
leadership, but atop that Washington soon
learned that some
of his officers had lost confidence in

"Washington did not know the full extent of
the disaffection with his
leadership. But he knew enough to become
convinced that he was in the
maw of a great crisis."

John Ferling, The Ascent of George
Washington, Bloomsbury Press, Copyright
2009 by John Ferling, pp. 119, 139.


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