William M. Fowler, a man synonymous with Massachusetts history, loves visiting the Mohawk Valley.
A retired history professor at Northeastern University in Boston and a former director of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Fowler will be in Johnstown Saturday as one of five guest speakers for the inaugural George Washington Symposium at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Fort Plain Museum, begins at 8:15 a.m. and concludes at 3:30 p.m.
"I was up there a couple of years ago and I had a delightful time," said Fowler, referring to his appearance at the museum's American Revolutionary War Conference in 2017. "The Mohawk Valley is a great place with wonderful history. It's a very historical part of the world, and it's such a joy to see people interested and enthusiastic about recognizing that history and preserving it. When I got the invitation to speak again I readily accepted."
In 2017, Fowler spoke about his 2011 book, "An American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years After Yorktown, 1781-1783." On Saturday, he'll talk about a particular event in those two years, the Newburgh Conspiracy. Disappointed by their lack of pay, several of Washington's officers were discussing whether or not to march on Philadelphia and the newly-formed Congress to demand compensation. Washington put out the spark of that rebellion just by his presence and a few well-chosen words while taking out a pair of eye glasses from his shirt pocket.
"Gentlemen, you must pardon me, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in service to my country," Washington told the assembled group.
"Was it calculated?" asked Fowler, rhetorically. "Absolutely. The men had never seen him wear glasses before. They were stunned. It was one of the more important moments in our history. The men realized they had to stand down and pledge their allegiance to Congress. Not only did Washington save our republic in that moment, he also established civilian authority over the military. Who knows what our history would look like if not for Washington's actions."
Also a graduate of Northeastern, Fowler has recently retired as a full-time professor. He has published numerous books on the American Revolution and the Civil War, and has lectured at the Mystic Seaport Museum, the U.S. Naval War College and the Smithsonian Institution.
He is just one of five George Washington authorities scheduled to speak during Saturday's symposium. Edward C. Lengel will talk about "Setting the Example: George Washington's Military Leadership," Bruce Chadwick will discuss "George & Martha," William Larry Kidder will address "George Washington's Ten Crucial Days: Trenton and Princeton," and Norm Bollen, president of the Fort Plain Museum, will talk about his new book, "George Washington and the Mohawk Frontier."
Lengel, a historian and storyteller, is a Virginia native currently serving as Historian in Residence at Colonial Williamsburg. The former Chief Historian of the White House Historical Association, he writes a history blog and has also authored several books on the American Revolution, including "This Glorious Struggle: George Washington's Revolutionary War Letters."
A former reporter with the New York Daily News, Chadwick is the author of several books, including "George Washington's War: The Forging of a Revolutionary Leader and the American Presidency," and "The General and Mrs. Washington." He has also written books on the Civil War and the history of baseball, and has taught history at both Rutgers and New Jersey City University.
Kidder is a retired high school history teacher and a long-time volunteer at the Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell, New Jersey. His most recent book, "Crossroads of the Revolution: Trenton 1774-1783," was published in 2017.
Bollen, whose book about George Washington in the Mohawk Valley during the American Revolution came out just two months ago, is an Amsterdam native.
'George Washington Symposium'
WHAT: A series of presentations about George Washington, the event is a fundraiser for the Fort Plain Museum
WHEN: 8:15 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Fulton-Montgomery Community College, 2805 Route 67, Johnstown
HOW MUCH: $35 in advance, $40 at the door, $20 for students (includes lunch buffet and refreshments)
MORE INFO: Call (518) 774-5669 or visit www.fortplainmuseum.com