General George Washington delivered a pivotal eighty-five-word impromptu speech on December 31, 1776, that persuaded war-weary veteran Continental Army soldiers to remain in the fight—a decisive turning point in the Revolutionary War that could have spelled disaster had Washington’s words not won the day.
“It goes to the core of the character of the man,” said Breitbart News Managing Editor and Social Media Director Wynton Hall. “To be able to summon that from within and to project that leadership, to project that vision and strength with all the consequences on the line, it reminds you of how blessed we are as a nation to have been birthed by such a great leader from our founding.”
During the Breitbart News Daily Fourth of July Special, Hall recounted to SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon the dramatic events leading up to Washington’s tide-turning oration.
“We have to understand that George Washington had never commanded an army on a large scale,” explained Hall. “We had no money, no training, and were essentially young farm boys. Our equipment was pathetic, we didn’t have proper uniforms, were in tattered rags, and had no proper footwear. John Adams once said more of our men died of dirty frying pans (dysentery) than from musket fire. The British had a phrase for our troops. They called them ‘rabble in arms,’ because we looked like homeless people.”
Against this bleak backdrop, General George Washington, not typically known as a grandiloquent orator, had to project an air of leadership and vision worthy of his men’s following. Hall says Washington used his peerless attire and sizable perceived wealth to forge a “rhetoric of leadership.”
“He looked immaculate and resplendent in his general’s uniform. George Washington was also perceived to be the nation’s richest man. He wasn’t, of course. He was wealthy, but he wasn’t even in the top 10. But that perception—the notion that he is one of the richest men in America—was a powerful rhetorical tool in persuading others to think, ‘well, if this man of tremendous wealth is willing to risk it all for the cause of freedom, so, too, should I be willing to risk it all.’”
Hall then recounted in dramatic fashion the critical events of December 31, 1776.
“This was, of course, the day when George Washington would try and persuade the Continental Army troops to stay on and fight, even though their enlistments were all up. So here are these war-weary troops who’ve been through and seen hell. And now they can all go home to be with their families—many of whom needed them financially.”
Washington assembled his men in formation beside the Delaware River.
From atop his horse, Washington told his veteran troops he would give them a $10 bonus if they stay on and fight—a sizable sum given that their typical pay was $6 a month.
Washington waited. But no one stepped forward.
The dejected general then rose away on his horse, pondered his army’s plight, decided not to take no for an answer, and rode back before speaking these historic words:
“My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstances.”
One-by-one, soldiers begin stepping forward to answer the call of duty.
“You contrast that with today and it’s heartbreaking to see the lack of leadership and lack of character in decision-making that we see today,” said Hall. “But thank God we had it then.”
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