Patterico's Pontifications


George Washington Rallies the Troops

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:49 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Today, the two-hundred-eighty-eighth anniversary of the birth of George Washington, we celebrate the life of the Indispensable Man, first among our Founding Fathers. This has become a site tradition since I began guest blogging here. Here is a brief archive of past Washington’s Birthday posts:

2015 – George Washington’s Birthday
2016 – George Washington Quiets the Rebellion
2017 – George Washington Fears for His Country’s Future
2018 – George Washington Agrees to Serve Another Term
2019 – George Washington Goes Back to His Farm

By the spring of 1778, the American War for Independence was into its third year, and participants could be forgiven for believing that the conflict was thus far largely a stalemate. True, the Continental Army had two Christmases ago made a bold crossing of the Delaware River and attacked and routed mercenary Hessian armies and British regulars at both Trenton and Princeton, and then during the previous summer the ragtag group perpetually on the brink of disbanding had rallied to win a decisive victory at Bemis Heights near Saratoga, killing roughly seven percent of the British forces and capturing the rest. But His Majesty’s troops still held New York and Philadelphia, the two largest cities in America, and the Continental Army was recovering from a brutal winter in Valley Forge, perpetually underfunded and continually subject to desertion.

But the Americans would receive two breaks in the first four months of 1778: in early February a treaty of alliance between the United States and France was signed in Paris (word of the alliance would reach North America by May), and in April General William Howe received word that His Majesty George III had granted his request that he be relieved of command and replaced by Henry Clinton. Believing that the French Navy would target New York City, General Clinton was instructed by Whitehall to send British troops from Philadelphia to reinforce New York as well as to evacuate Loyalist families. This would set the stage for a summer battle which — though not decisive — would do much to enhance the legend of General George Washington.

In June of that year, General Washington sent General Charles Lee and his men to engage and harass the rear guard of Clinton’s army as it made its way along Monmouth Road through New Jersey. The Redcoats camped near the Monmouth Courthouse in present-day Freehold Borough (the future hometown of Bruce Springsteen). On the morning of the sweltering hot summer day of June 28, the order was dispatched to Lee’s army, camped in Englishtown about four miles away from Clinton’s troops, to move southeast and attack, while Washington made plans to move his larger army towards Monmouth for support. But Lee, who was opposed to shadowing Clinton’s army from the beginning and who by and large felt that his Commander-in-Chief was incompetent, complained of conflicting intelligence reports and refused to engage the enemy, choosing instead to fallback in the direction of Washington’s advancing army once the British began aiming cannon-fire in his direction. Confused as to why he was not hearing the sound of troop skirmishes ahead, General Washington became furious when he began to cross paths with retreating men under Lee’s command. Encountering Lee and his staff a short time later, Washington lit into his subordinate with language that few before had ever heard from the great man’s lips.

At the same moment Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, sensing the disorganization and confusion among the rebel enemy, had ordered the rear-guard troops under his command to attack the fleeing Continentals. After dressing down Lee, Washington had precious few moments to rally the dispirited troops, exhausted after marching on a day when the temperature reached one hundred degrees. He ordered Lee to remain in that location and form his men in a defensive position, then rode into the fray to rally his troops to repel the attack. As Alexander Hamilton would later write of his mentor, “His coolness and firmness were admirable. He instantly took measures for checking the enemy’s advance, and giving time for the Army, which was very near, to form and make proper disposition.” During this key moment it was later reported that Washington rode within thirty yards of the British troops, calmly giving orders as bullets and artillery flew all about him. Due to the exertion and the stifling heat, Washington would have his horse fall over dead as he rode about the lines. Fortunately for the Americans, the heat was oppressing the British and Hessian soldiers too, and they soon departed the field. Though the British would continue on their way to New York, their armies had lost 245 men (60 of them dead from heat stroke) with 170 wounded while the Americans lost fewer than half that number (including 37 dead from heat stroke) with 130 wounded.

In a chaotic environment, George Washington’s bravery and fortitude had delivered his men a military draw but a psychological victory, continuing the momentum that had begun at Saratoga the previous summer. At the same time he managed to rid himself of a rival — Charles Lee was soon to be court-martialed — who had been undermining the Commander-in-Chief since the start of the war. Washington had, in the words of the Marquise de Lafayette, “arrest[ed] fortune with but one glance.” Hamilton would later declare, “I never saw the General to such advantage.” Writing to his brother John Augustine Washington on the second anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Great Man described the previous week’s battle as “a glorious and happy day.”


Reports On Nevada Caucus: It’s Bernie

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:38 pm

[guest post by Dana]

This isn’t surprising:

Bernie Sanders scored a resounding victory in Nevada’s presidential caucuses on Saturday, cementing his status as the Democrats’ national front-runner amid escalating tensions over whether he’s too liberal to defeat President Donald Trump.


The win built on Sanders’ win earlier this month in the New Hampshire primary. He essentially tied for first place in the Iowa caucuses with Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has sought to position himself as an ideological counter to Sanders’ unabashed progressive politics, but was fighting for a distant second place in Nevada.

(*Candidate totals are county convention delegates won, which are derived from caucus vote tallies and determine the number of pledged delegates each candidate receives.)

This seems about right:

Also, there’s some chatter about Bernie Sanders selecting Stacy Abrams to be his running mate if he takes the nomination. But there is also chatter about Elizabeth Warren. Somehow, though, it doesn’t seem likely that a female candidate who accused Sanders of saying that a woman couldn’t win a presidential election would want to play second-fiddle to him…

I’m wondering whether the remaining Democratic candidates are kicking themselves for having gone full-throttle after Michael Bloomberg at the last debate instead of pounding frontrunner Bernie Sanders? After all, Bloomberg wasn’t even on the Nevada ballot.


Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:00 am

[guest post by Dana]

Feel free to talk about anything you think is newsworthy or might interest readers.

I’ll start.

First news item:

Harry Reid meh about a brokered convention:

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday said it was possible the crowded Democratic primary race was headed toward a contentious convention fight and downplayed the political dangers of a scenario many party leaders are dreading.

“I don’t think we’ll have one, but we could have one,” Reid told The Associated Press in an interview days before the Democratic caucuses in his home state of Nevada. “We’ve had brokered conventions before, and we’ve always come up with good candidates. It’s not the end of the world. It just slows the process down.”

More here, including thoughts on Bernie Sanders:

“Let’s say that he has 35 percent. Well, 65 percent he doesn’t have, or that person doesn’t have. I think that we have to let the system work its way out. I do not believe anyone should get the nomination unless they have 50-[percent]-plus-one… A lot people in the race still, but they’ll be dropping off quick, because the money is running out. So I think you’re going to have the field winnowing fairly quickly. And you have most of the people who are not Bernie Sanders, are people who are moderates, and maybe they’ll work something out to get together and try to find that one person who can come up with the number of delegates… I just don’t think you can give the nomination to somebody who has 65 percent of the people that made a different decision.”

Second news item:

No wonder a woman can’t get elected to the presidency: Elizabeth Warren, who has railed against Big Money in politics, now blames men for accepting Big Money donations to her campaign. :

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) changed her tune on the nefarious influence of super PACs just days after receiving the backing of a newly formed PAC, telling reporters on Thursday that because “all of the men” in the race refused to rely entirely on individual donors, she shouldn’t be expected to either.

“It can’t be the case that a bunch of people keep them and only one or two don’t,” she said.

Warren, speaking to reporters in Nevada, tried to square her past disavowals of super PAC funding with her refusal to disavow a new PAC that made a $1 million television ad buy on her behalf this week. She argued that because she failed to convince other candidates to commit to her proposal of no PAC funding, she was forced to accept PAC support.

“The first day I got in this race, over a year ago, I said ‘I hope every presidential candidate who comes in will agree — no Super PACs for any of us,” Warren explained. “I renewed that call dozens of times, and I couldn’t get a single Democrat to go along with me.

Third news item:

An indictment against public education? An endorsement of Sporcle?

Fourth news item:

USC begins to waive tuition costs for some students:

USC announced Thursday that it will be waiving all tuition fees for any student who comes from a family that makes less than $80,000.

Starting with students entering their first year this fall, not only will students from households with an annual income below $80,000 be able to attend tuition-free but also owning a home will not be counted when determining a student’s financial need.

“We’re opening the door wider to make a USC education possible for talented students from all walks of life,” University President Carol Folt said in a statement. Folt was brought in in March on the heels of the “Varsity Blues” scandal, where dozens of wealthy parents were charged with illegally influencing undergraduate admissions decisions at top American universities including, most famously, at the University of Southern California.

Fifth news item:

No brainer:

Spurred by a police chief, Minnesota lawmakers launched a drive Thursday to remove from the state constitution a clause allowing slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for crimes.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, who had been bothered by the language for some time, made it his new year’s resolution to get it deleted. He found a sympathetic ear in St. Paul Democratic Rep. John Lesch, who will get a hearing Tuesday on his proposal asking voters in November to remove the offending language from the constitution.

The bill of rights in the 1857 Minnesota Constitution says “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted.” The amendment would strike the punishment exception, leaving a total ban in place.

“It’s inappropriate that language mentioning slavery still exists in our constitution, even if’s narrowly constructed and, some would say, obsolete,” Lesch said at a news conference…

What, was there no Republican “sympathetic ear” to be found? Oh, wait, let’s read the last two paragraphs:

The proposal seems likely to win support in the Democratic-controlled House. It’s being sponsored in the Republican-controlled Senate by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, an African American from Minneapolis, who is hopeful he can persuade Senate leaders to take it up. No organized opposition has emerged.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said at a separate news conference Thursday that he’s “certainly willing to take a look at it.”

Have a great weekend.


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