Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Meeting Notes: May 20, 2020

ARRT-Richmond 5/20/20 Meeting Notes
Pre-Guest Speaker Notes

ARRT-R’s next meeting is scheduled for 7/15/20.  This is a zoom meeting!  Sign in details will be provided in the July newsletter.  Thanks again to Peggy Watson for allowing us to utilize the Osher network.

ARRT-R’s featured speaker on 7/15/20 will be Bert Dunkerly.  Bert’s topic will be “Four Winters at Morristown: Smallpox, Starvation, and Mutiny”.  Bert recently spent six months as the Acting Supervisory Ranger at Morristown National Park.

Guest Speaker – Mark Edward Lender – Cabal! The Plot Against General Washington
Mark Edward Lender holds a Ph.D in American History from Rutgers University.  He has written extensively on early American social and military history and is a recognized authority on the War for Independence.  Lender’s scholarship has won awards from the Society of Military History and the U.S. Army Historical Foundation and a fellowship  from Smith National Library at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  In 2017 he was a finalist for the prestigious George Washington Literary Prize. 

Lender considers that rather than the “classic cabal” of General’s Horatio Gates, Thomas Mifflin, and Thomas Conway in a plot to remove General  Washington quickly, the threat to 
Washington’s command was a gradual administrative attempt by the Board of War and political allies to take over the war effort.

General  Washington’s record in late 1777 was not impressive.  He has been whipped at 
Brandywine, surprised at Paoli, beaten at Germantown, and had been unable to hold the 
Delaware River forts.

The alternative to General Washington was seen as Major General Horatio Gates.   While 
General Washington was struggling in Pennsylvania Gates was defeating Burgoyne at Saratoga.

Two generals in particular where determined to replace General Washington with Gates.  The two generals where Thomas Mifflin and Thomas Conway.

General Conway was angered by his rank and considered General Washington incompetent.

“Heaven has been determined to save your country; or a weak general and bad councellors 
would have ruined it.” Conway to Gates (attributed) Late November 1777

General Mifflin has failed as Quartermaster General and was extremely jealous of General 
Washington’s relationship with General Nathaniel Greene.

“You have saved out Northern Hemisphere and in spite of our consummate & repeated 
blundering you have changed the constitution of the Southern Campaign on the part of the 
enemy from offensive to defensive…. In short this army will be totally lost unless you come 
down & collect the virtuous band, who wish to fight under your banner & with their aid save the southern hemisphere…  Congress must send for you.”  Mifflin to Gates, 17 November 1777

The Board of War was created in mid-1776 as a support organization to take care of routine administrative tasks for Congress: military records, routine correspondence,  equipment not in use, British POWs.  When created the Board was staffed by delegates.  The Board was reorganized in October 1777 to fulfill the same functions  but was  staffed with full time professional  instead of delegates.  General Gates was appointed President of the Board and became in essence General Washington’s superior.

In December 1777 the Board of War on Mifflin’s advice created the Office of Inspector General.  General Washington was not consulted red the creation of the Office.  The Inspector General was tasked with devising and implementing training and tactical drill regimen, conducting officer evaluation, and making extensive reports on virtually all army functions, with oversight of the Board of War.  On Mifflin’s advice Conway is appointed to the post.

Beginning in January 1778 through March 1778 the Board of War began implementing a “Commissary Plan” independent of Washington and the established army Commissary Department.  Three commissary operations – the army department, Board of War “superintendents”, and state agents created competition for the same supplies and mass confusion.

At the same time as the Board of War began implementing a “Commissary Plan” the Board also began issuing direct orders to the army. Orders issued included the movement of arms, 
munitions, and units without Washington’s approval.

Most egregiously to Washington and his supporters the Board began planning for another 
invasion of Canada.  Gates did not consult Washington and determined that the Board of War would run the invasion.  The Board began issuing orders directly to Lafayette and other senior officers and not through the C-in-C.

The Gates, Conway, and Mifflin  relationship was discovered through correspondence between the parties.  Conway was injured in a duel and Gates apologized to Washington.  By late spring 1778 the greatest threat to General Washington’s command was over.

--Noah Rogers

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Next Meeting: July 15, 2020

"Four Winters at Morristown: Smallpox, Starvation, and Mutiny," by Bert Dunkerly

Our next meeting will, once again, be held virtually via Zoom. Bert has graciously stepped-in to present the above topic. More information will be available in July.

Assuming that the University of Richmond is back in session in September, we should be able to return to our usual "in-person" format then.

"Cabal: The Plot Against George Washington" Presentation

At our May 20, 2020 Zoom meeting, Mark Lender gave a well-received presentation on the plot against George Washington. For those of you who missed the meeting or who just want to refresh the subject, following is a link to Mark's presentation.

It is in Power Point. Simply click on the link below and enjoy!