THE ANGER OF GEORGE WASHINGTON—THE BATTLE FOR MANHATTAN. Chernow’s story about Washington’s anger reminded me of a very good book, THE BATTLE FOR MANHATTAN by Bruce Bliven, which described the battle in September, 1776 in which George Washington preserved his army during a long retreat from the British. As I remembered it, much of the battle consisted of the British redcoats advancing in formation up Broadway with the undisciplined Americans fleeing, finding their way through woods, many guided by Aaron Burr, who knew the territory.
I had not forgotten Bliven’s description of a time in the battle when General Washington tried to rally his troops to make a stand, but without success. Then Washington lost his temper violently and had to be physically restrained by his officers to prevent him from attacking the British troops by himself. This occurred near where Bryant Park is now, and I often think of that moment when the Revolutionary War was almost lost when I go past the New York Public Library.
This wikipedia entry on the Landing at Kips Bay (around 34th Street now), confirms my memory. It says about Washington: “By some accounts, he lost control of his temper; he brandished a cocked pistol and drew his sword, threatening to run men through and shouted, “Take the walls! Take the cornfield!” When no one obeyed, he threw his hat to the ground, exclaiming in disgust, “Are these the men with which I am to defend America?” When some fleeing men refused to turn and engage a party of advancing Hessians, Washington reportedly struck some of their officers with his riding crop…..Washington, still in a rage, rode within a hundred yards of the enemy before his aides managed to get him off the field.”