Correcting History

Americans are taught that George Washington is the Father of the United States. He is not - Benjamin Franklin is.

There are three points wherein the pivotal moments in time fell to Franklin. He got the colonies into the Revolution, He is responsible for teaching Washington 'how' to general a war and he single-handedly reduced the size of the British Army in the colonies by a third thus enabling Washington to eventually surround Cornwalis.

This is how the true story plays 'and' all of these facts are known.

Ben Franklin went to England to lobby for better treatment for the colonies never having given a thought to rebellion. He was there for some time when he was summoned before the House of Lords. Once there, he was dressed down viciously in the most humiliating fashion possible. He stood there and took it. When they finished, he left, packed his things and returned to the colonies with a new recommendation - rebellion! As a noted author and publisher, Franklin enjoyed an excellent reputation and people listened when he spoke. The seeds of revolt grew under Franklin's direction.

Once rebellion was declared, George Washington wanted to be the commander of the army and lobbied the Continental Congress tirelessly until he finally won the appointment. The problem was that while Washington had been in the British army, he had no significant battlefield experience. It would soon become apparent that he was a better politician than a military commander. During the first two years of the war, Washington's men called him 'advance in reverse George'. He won no engagement with the Brits and he could not even do a retreat well.

Franklin was in France attempting to enlist the help of the French - blood enemies to the British. He received regular reports of Washington's failures and arrived at a solution. He knew that, politically, it was ill advised to try and get rid of Washington. The only solution was to teach him how to be a general. To this end, he enlisted the aid of a experienced Prussian officer, Frederick Von Steuben.

The Prussian Army was the big deal military force of the time and wars in Europe provided ample real time experience. Von Steuben had two personal liabilities. As an officer, he had limited opportunities for advancement in as much as those above him would hold their positions until death. Also, he was not a first son and had no right to inherit from his family. An opportunity to build a life based solely on his own merits was attractive.

Franklin explained the problem of Washington to Von Steuben and suggested he needed to tactfully guide him into a knowledge of how to general a war. Von Steuben was given a letter of introduction to Washington and sent on his way.

Washington was desperate for any help he could get and, with Franklin's letter, received Von Steuben. Steuben didn't speak English and they spoke through an interpreter. Washington asked Von Steuben to review the troops. Frederick's report was grim. They couldn't march as an army, couldn't deploy as an army and didn't have even the most basic skills. The Euro reload time for a musket was 30 seconds. The American time was 1 minute. The British could get off two shots to each single shot from the American side. As there were no victories under Washington's belt, the men had no faith in their leadership or their officers. They would nearly always break ranks and run in the face of the British lobsterbacks.

Washington gave Von Steuben a hundred men to be trained under his direction. Frederick had the no nonsense intolerant attitudes common to many Germans when they feel they are dealing with incompetence or stupidity. He also had a pretty foul mouth when he got into one of these moods. The men didn't need to translator to know what was being said to them. The Steuben hundred were dispersed to other units and they trained other men and so on until the mob of  men had been converted into a viable army.

The Continental Congress was, with Washington's history of failure, loathe to continue provide money and support for what they viewed as a lost cause. George's most desperate hour came at Valley Forge. His men were sick or dying from the lack of decent food and in the dead of winter. History records his successful attack on a Hessian base (German mercenaries). It does not give note to the fact that Von Steuben's fingerprints are all over the battleplan. The strike was bold, well thought and well supported. Granted, Washington led it but if he had these strategic abilities - they'd have shown themselves in the previous two years.
The Hessians were well supplied and captured materials served well to support the American Army. Also, the victory perked up Congress' ears and gave them hope Washington could pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Franklin, still in Paris, worked to bring the French into the fight. John Adams was with him. As a Massachusetts person with a Puritanical background he was viewed as joyless and constipated. The French didn't like him. Franklin, on the other hand, was the toast of the royal court. His wit and humor made him one of the most requested persons for formal affairs.
Franklin, wisely decided against trying to fit in with court styles but, instead, promoted an American countenance. On one occasion he showed up to an affair wearing a coon skin cap. He had also ordered a few cases of these to hand out to the French nobility who couldn't wait to try them on. For a time, raccoon tails were dangling down people's necks.

Late into the American revolution, the French did enter the war. Almost immediately, the British pulled a third of their forces out of the colonies and redeployed them to the Caribbean to protect their coveted sugar monopoly.

So.........Benjamin Franklin got us into the war and ultimately was responsible for winning it. Franklin was not known for being a braggart and many of his actions did not surface until after his death via correspondence with various people. This writing is not intended to serve as a denigration of Washington but, instead, to bring perspective. There is one lesson here for the House of Lords and one that I'm sure was missed. There are some people it just doesn't pay to aggravate.

Caligastia
1/9/2008