Episode 146: Robert Middlekauff, George Washington’s Revolution

What drove George Washington to become a Patriot during the American Revolution?

How did he overcome the ill-trained and inexperienced troops, inadequate pay, and supply problems that plagued the Continental Army to win the War for American Independence?

Robert Middlekauff, professor emeritus of colonial and early United States history at the University of California, Berkeley, reveals the answers to these questions as we explore details from his book Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader.

This episode originally posted as Episode 026.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Robert Middlekauff, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader leads us on an exploration of George Washington the man and leader.

During our conversation, Bob reveals how Washington’s will and judgement played a vital role during the War for American Independence; What drove George Washington to become a Patriot; And, How Washington’s experiences, mistakes, and successes during the War for Independence provided him with the knowledge and skills he needed to lead the Patriots to victory in 1781.

What You’ll Discover

  • How Washington came by two powerful characteristics: will and judgement
  • Brief overview of Washington’s origins and place in the Virginia elite
  • Overview of Washington’s experiences during the French and Indian War
  • Whether George Washington started the French and Indian War
  • George Washington’s participation in General Edward Braddock’s expedition in 1775
  • Why George Washington decided to become a Patriot during the American Revolution
  • Why the British Parliament taxed the colonists
  • How Washington felt about the Boston Tea Party
  • What Washington learned from his experiences in Boston, New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania that allowed him and his troops to be successful at the Battles of Princeton, Trenton, and much improved at Brandywine
  • How Washington overcame the many problems that plagued the Continental Army such as inadequate supply, ill-trained troops, inadequate pay
  • The effect short enlistments for Continental and state militia troops had on the Patriots’ war effort
  • Washington’s respect for Congress and civilian authority
  • Washington’s reaction to French entry into the War for Independence in 1778
  • Whether Washington worried that Congress might try to replace him with a more experienced French officer
  • Why French officers such as Rochambeau respected George Washington and his military service
  • How Washington reacted at the Franco-American victory at Yorktown in 1781


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Time Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if Washington had ignored the advice of his officers and attacked the British Army while it occupied Boston in 1775 and early 1776? Do you think Washington and the Continentals would have defeated the British? How would this action have changed the course of the war?

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