Monday, January 22, 2024

Podcast Episode 65 - Valley Forge - Almost A Trainwreck - Part II


On our last episode, we left George Washington’s ragtag Continental Army without any shoes in the snow, marching their bloody way to Valley Forge in December, 1777.

The year 1777 had been a lousy one for the American cause—Washington couldn’t seem to decisively win a battle against the British (who held the American capital of Philadelphia), other generals were actively conspiring to have Washington removed and replaced by themselves (most notably Horatio Gates, who actually had won a decisive battle against the British at Saratoga), Congress was in exile, unable to raise the money needed to keep the army fed and supplied, and it was winter.

The good news about winter was that armies tended to avoid campaigning when it was cold. The bad news was that it was cold (see the part above about no shoes).

So the situation was dire. The whole thing left me thinking that the army’s prospects were not good at all. The safe bet was on the British to win.

Since I don't know much about military history or strategy, I've brought in a special guest to help out.

Cullen Farrell is a co-host of the Drinks With Great Minds In History Podcast, a world history teacher, and a poet. Check out the links below for all the places you can find him:

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Podcast Episode 64 - Valley Forge - Almost A Trainwreck - Part I

You know how I love a good trainwreck, with all the self-inflicted calamity thereupon, but I found an episode of American history that could have been a massive fireball of a trainwreck, but then wasn’t.

It's an inspiring story, one that should definitely not be lost on modern-day Americans. The enemy held the high ground, American unity was at a low point, and winter was coming. The cause of the United States hung in the balance, and everything was at stake.

There’s a contest in the middle of the episode, an easy question perhaps for you devoted listeners, and we look forward to a special guest on our next episode who knows stuff about history and isn’t obsessed with grumpy historical curmudgeons.

Thank you for your support, and for spreading the word about our little history nerdfest.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Podcast Episode 63 - Another Secretary of the Navy!

If you’re a fan of the Presidencies of the United States podcast, you’re familiar with the special series host Jerry Landry does called Seat At The Table, in which he and a special guest cover the life of a Cabinet secretary.

Most of whom you’ve never heard of.

Jerry does this because no president accomplishes anything alone. The President of the United States is at the top, but he needs someone to run foreign policy, handle the money, and keep an eye on the army as well as all the ships at sea.

This was never more true than in the early days of the American Republic, before presidents figured out how things worked and relied on these early Cabinet secretaries to define the departments of the Executive Branch and figure out how they were supposed to work, and what they were supposed to be doing. All the while dealing with things like economic calamities and wars, both declared and undeclared.

We know about some of these early Cabinet secretaries, like Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, who went on to be President themselves, and Alexander Hamilton, because of a certain Broadway play. But Jerry digs into the lesser-known ones, in many cases those who have never really been studied by historians.

Why? Because without them, America would have been in trouble.

Jerry seems to like talking about Navy Secretaries with me, despite my penchant for seasickness and me having no idea about how boats work. This is my second time as a guest on Seat at the Table, and it is our second Secretary of the Navy—William Jones, who served during the War of 1812.

Jerry also likes to keep the identity of the Cabinet member a secret from his guest, which adds to the suspense, but doesn’t make me look in the least bit knowledgeable. So I have to make things up as I go.

This is something you long-time listeners of History’s Trainwrecks may be acquainted with.

Take a listen to the story of one of the early Navy Secretaries and why they mattered so much to the early American Republic.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Podcast Episode 62 - In The Shadow Of The Dam

Building Hoover Dam was difficult and deadly work. But there was a Great Depression going on and dam work paid real money. If it could be said that there was a choice between your family starving to death or you risking your life on building the engineering marvel of the age, you chose the dam.

Author Kelly Stone Gamble’s historical novel Ragtown tells the story of the dam and the desperate people who lived in its shadow. It’s a great story and great history.

Ragtown is available for preorder now and releases on September 12, 2023.

Check out the links below to get your copy of Ragtown and check out Kelly’s other books.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Podcast Episode 61 - I'll Trade You A General - Part II

On our last episode, we left our favorite oppositionally-defiant crank, American Major General Charles Lee, in a precarious situation.

Good news, though. Someone was actively trying to save him.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Podcast Episode 60 - I'll Trade You A General, Part I

American Major General Charles Lee had picked a great place to hide.

Like big-city mobsters two centuries later, George Washington’s second in command had discovered that New Jersey was a great place to lay low if someone was after you.

Charles had a lot of people after him in December 1776. First and foremost was the British Army, commanded in that area by Lord Charles Cornwallis. After a string of British successes against the Continentals in New York, it wasn’t George Washington the English high command was afraid of.

It was Charles Lee.

So the British send some dragoons to nab the general and take him prisoner. Which they do. Which makes quite a lot of Americans sad. And it inspires one American in particular to find a British officer of high enough rank to trade for General Lee. 

As luck would have it, he finds one.


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Podcast Episode 59 - Remember The Ladies

There's an awful lot of testosterone on History's Trainwrecks. 

I tend to think it's because men are far more likely than women to self-sabotage in a big way. But as Abigail Adams told her husband John, we should always "remember the ladies." 

Samantha Wilcoxson, author of the phenomenal Women of the American Revolution, joins me to talk about her book and see how the stories we've always been told about the women of the founding generation are really just the beginning.