One of the Revolutionary War's Bravest Generals
Originally scheduled for an in-person lecture to the Roundtable in August, historian John Beakes's talk was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Subsequently, John has since delivered an outstanding presentation on his latest book, De Kalb: One of the Revolutionary War's Bravest Generals via Zoom. WYARRT Members who have paid 2020 Member dues will be sent a YouTube link to Johns's presentation on the WYARRT YouTube channel!
The author knows in detail the history of that turbulent period in the life of our America. He is also an extremely talented researcher with tons of footnotes to prove it. This is Beakes' fourth book that has focused on our heroes in the Revolutionary War. The other three are on: John Eager Howard, "Light Horse Harry" Lee (father of General Robert E. Lee), and Otto Holland Williams. Both Williams and Howard were patriots from Maryland.
De Kalb had played a significant role in training the troops of the Maryland Line to prepare for such conflicts. Even as a young man, de Kalb could speak three languages fluently; German, French and English. He was also a big fan of the popular French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Along the way, he developed "writing skills of a very high order," Beakes wrote.
Beakes traces de Kalb's military service from his salad days in the French Army's elite "Fisher Corps of Partisans," beginning at age 19. That conflict was all part of the "War of Austrian Succession" (1740-1748.) De Kalb quickly rose, in 1743, to the "rank of lieutenant" in that regiment. The author tells us he was "only twenty-two" at the time.
In between his next major conflict, "The Seven Years Wars" (1756-1763), de Kalb was promoted to Major on June 10, 1756. The most important battle he saw action in during that conflict is known as the "Battle of Rossback." Either in peace or war, the ambitious de Kalb continued to learn his craft, Beakes underscored. His family life, with a happy marriage, and children, is also covered in the book.
Along his military path to glory, de Kalb also met a Frenchman, the Duke de Broglie, who would greatly influence his future career. It was the Duke who eventually opened up for him an opportunity to support the American Revolution, along with another famous Frenchman, the then-youthful and ambitious – Marquis de Lafayette.
Beakes covers plenty of intrigue in his book, too, including de Kalb's "undercover mission to America in 1767-68." As a faithful member of the Masonic Order, he was seen as an ally by many of the important governing officials in pre-revolutionary America. Many, like General Washington, were also fervent Masons.
It's the historic "Battle of Camden, South Carolina," however, which is the centerpiece of Beakes' first-rate book. He covers it to such an extent that the reader will feel like he or she is on the bloody battlefield on that fateful day alongside the gallant de Kalb.
John Beakes graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1966 and served in nuclear submarines until 1974, when he began a business career of executive leadership in technology service companies. His lifelong passion for military history began in his youth, sparked by his father, who loved Civil War history and took the family on several trips to nearby Gettysburg. When John discovered that there was no published biography of the superb Revolutionary War combat leader from Maryland, John Eager Howard, he vowed to try to bring this story to life, and it is now available in "Cool Deliberate Courage; John Eager Howard in the American Revolution," co-authored by John with Dr. Jim Piecuch. With his growing interest in forgotten combat leaders of the Revolution, John co-authored "Light Horse Harry Lee in the War for Independence" with Dr. Piecuch, and then completed a military biography of another superb Revolutionary War soldier, Otho Holland Williams in the Fall of 2015 in the book "Otho Holland Williams in the American Revolution." The purpose of these projects is to help convey the largely untold story of George Washington's success in building a team of outstanding military leaders from the young clerks, shopkeepers, farmers, and sons of the landed gentry who fought in the Continental Army.