SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 21: Hamilton

Rich Stephens
Minor on History, focusing on military history

[Rather than give a timeline of the entire Revolutionary War and founding of the Federal Government,
I’m focusing on those events as depicted – or influenced by or because of – Alexander Hamilton as
depicted in the play.]


Hamilton commands the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Unit. This unit still exists today and is the
oldest unit in the United States Army, and the only one remaining from the Revolution. Several characters disappear in the second act because the actors who portray them in the first act, portray different characters in the second. For example, Jasmine Cephas Jones portrays Peggy Schuyler in Act I and Maria Reynolds in Act II. This despite the fact that Alexander Hamilton remained close to her as well.

Talking Points:

The War Years: The first act is centered around the American War for Independence, Hamilton’s
relationships with his wife, her family, and close friends he fights in the war with.
The first large battle of the war depicted in the musical is the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey.
Washington, Hamilton and other leaders of the Revolution felt (correctly, from most historians’ views)
that the Continental Army was the revolution. If it were to fall, the Revolution would be over. As such,
the Army under Washington could never risk engaging in a large scale “continental style” battles that
defined most of the Napoleonic era of warfare. While Washington decided to use the Continental Army
in smaller engagements and engaging and withdrawing at will; General Charles Lee advocated for a
more decentralized warfare we would classify as “Guerilla War” now. While Monmouth was tactically a
draw, and strategically not significant, it was presented as a Victory for the United States and
Washington. During the battle, Lee’s ordered his units to retreat much to Washington’s dismay. After
the battle, Lee would attempt to slander Washington’s actions in the popular press and at his court
martial; but Washington was already seen as a hero by this point and his words fell flat.
The second major battle addressed is Yorktown, the final major battle of the war and with the British
Army’s surrender historically marks the end of fighting. A combined Continental Army under
Washington and “America’s favorite fighting Frenchman” Lafayette, and French Army troops under
Rochambeau defeated the British.

AND PEGGY, THE BAD-ASS: This is not depicted in the play, but it needs more publicity! According to
legend (there is no contemporary account, and the story doesn’t show up until the early 1800’s) during
the war a group of loyalists and native Americans attempted to break into the Schuyler mansion in
Albany, NY to abduct Philip Schuyler. Eliza and Angelica were pregnant and hid with the kids. Peggy
went to round up some of the other children and was confronted by the would-be kidnappers. When
asked where Philip was, she quickly responded (lied) that he had gone for help. The attackers fled, but
not before throwing a tomahawk at her as she ran upstairs. According to the legend the tomahawk left
a notch in the banister where it hit, and the Schuyler’s left it as a reminder. WHY ISN’T THIS IN THE

The Establishment of the Nation: The second act centers around the conflict between Jefferson and
Hamilton, and their opposing views and plans for the new nation.
Hamiltonian vs Jeffersonian: Any account of the founding of the United States which takes Jefferson or
Hamilton as their principal viewpoint, will undoubtably have the other as the primary antagonist.
Volumes of works and innumerable hours of research have been spent comparing the United States
under the tenets of Hamiltonian or Jeffersonian. In short, HAMILTONIAN referred to the idea that the
U.S. should have a strong National government with power greater than the individual states.
JEFFERSONIAN on the other hand is the idea that the U.S. should have a weak National government and
advocated for the nation to be primarily yeomen farmers and an agrarian based society.
What did I miss and Cabinet Battle #1 really undercuts Jefferson’s character. Contrary to Hamilton’s
assertions that Jefferson was “off getting high with the French,” Jefferson was a House Delegate for
Albemarle country, and then the Governor of Virginia during the early years of the war. When
Richmond, VA was attacked in 1781 he fled the capital and then his plantation, Monticello when
pursued. These actions did not endear him to the people of Virginia, and he was not reelected. He then
served on the Continental Congress from 1783 – 1784. His wife died in 1782 during childbirth (their
sixth.) He only became the minister for France in 1785 (succeeding Benjamin Franklin) two years after
the war.

Hamilton successfully creates the National Bank – a plan to consolidate and pay off State and Federal
debt from the Revolutionary War, raise funds for a new national government and establish common
currency. A source of revenue was needed to pay this debt. Hamilton proposes (and the measure
passes) an excise tax on domestically produced distilled spirits. This was the first tax levied by the
Federal Government. This “whisky tax” was deeply unpopular (particular among the frontier at the
time) and lead to violent protests and “The Whisky Rebellion” of 1791 – 1794. To the protestors, many
of whom were Revolutionary War veterans, this was the new Federal Government engaging in the same
‘taxation without representation’ they had fought to stop.
In other words, “when Britain taxed our tea, we got Frisky. Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to
tax our whisky.”

The Reynolds Affair: This six minute Drunk History piece (featuring Lin Manuel Miranda) is better than
anything I could write on the subject Alexander Hamilton’s Salacious Sex Scandal (feat. Lin-Manuel
Miranda) - Drunk History - Bing video

Works Cited:
“Timeline of the Revolution.” Timeline of the Revolution - American Revolution (U.S. National Park
Service) ( (accessed 10/26/21).
“Alexander Hamilton’s Timeline.” Alexander Hamilton's Timeline ( (accessed
Elis, J. “American Sphinx. The Character of Thomas Jefferson.” 1996
Allison, W., Grey, J., Valentine, J. “American Military History. A survey from colonial times to the
present.” 2012