George Washington establishes winter quarters at Morristown

George Washington establishes winter quarters at Morristown


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

General George Washington’s army settles into a second season at Morristown, New Jersey, on December 1, 1779. Washington’s personal circumstances improved dramatically as he moved into the Ford Mansion and was able to conduct his military business in the style of a proper 18th-century gentleman. However, the worst winter of the 1700s coupled with the collapse of the colonial economy ensured misery for Washington’s underfed, poorly clothed and unpaid troops as they struggled for the next two months to construct their 1,000-plus “log-house city” from 600 acres of New Jersey woodland.

CHECK OUT: George Washington: An Interactive Map of His Key Military Battles

Life was similarly bleak for the war-weary civilian population. With an economy weakened by war, household income declined 40 percent. Farmers faced raids from the British and their Indian allies. Merchants lost foreign trade. Even a great victory, such as the capture of British General John Burgoyne’s army in October 1777, led to 7,800 more mouths to feed. As in 1776, the troops were eager to go home and many did. Although enlistment papers showed 16,000 men in Washington’s ranks, only 3,600 men stood ready to accept his commands. Even those remaining were unable to sustain combat since they lacked sufficient horses to move their artillery. With their currency rendered worthless, the army relied upon requisitions from farmers to supply themselves. Military-civilian relations strained under demands on farmers and shopkeepers to sell at a loss and because of the now-professional army’s disdain for civilians. Without paper money, Congress could not pay the army. Without fair pay, farmers stopped planting. By spring, the Continental Army stood at risk of dissolution.

The British army faced a similar crisis. Civilians at home no longer shared British King George III’s determination to keep the colonies within the empire. They too suffered from lost trade and increased debt endemic to war. To fill the royal army, the crown had to tolerate Catholics, which engendered religious violence. The war of attrition was quickly becoming one of contrition for both sides.

READ MORE: George Washington's Tent: The First Oval Office


George Washington establishes winter quarters at Morristown - HISTORY


The Wick House near the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center at Morristown National Historic Park.

Associate Pages

Visitor Statistics Morristown

271,330 Visitors
#162 Most Visited National Park Unit

Source: NPS 2019 Visitor Report, Rank among 378 ranked units.

Park Size

1,706 acres (Federal) 1,711 acres (Total)

Park Fees

Ford Mansion Museum & House Tour
Adult (16 & Up) - $4.00
Other - Free
Year Pass - $15.00

Fees subject to change without notice.

Above photo: George Washington's headquarters at Morristown. Right: Log huts on the hillside at Jockey Hollow, Morristown National Historic Park.

Morristown National Historic Park

We don't know why this is the case, and perhaps alot of it stems from the fact that the America's Best History office is located not far from Valley Forge, but Morristown, the sister site to Valley Forge National Historical Park in many ways, does not get enough attention. It was the winter encampment site of George Washington's army during the winter of 1779-1780, the one two years after the more famous one at Valley Forge, as well as his winter camp in the winter of 1776-1777, and the difficulty shown at both locations in the conditions the men faced were similar. In fact, the winter at Morristown in 1779-1780 was the coldest on record in the 18th century, even worse than two years before in Pennsylvania.

Sponsor this page for $100 per year. Your banner or text ad can fill the space above.
Click here to Sponsor the page and how to reserve your ad.


Morristown Then

During the 1779-1780 winter, Washington had a nicer stay during this winter encampment than his men, or even himself, during the winter of Valley Forge where his headquarters was located in a rather small home. At Morristown, Washington resided in the Ford Mansion while his men were predominatly headquartered in the Jockey Hollow area and lands of the Wick farm from the date of their arrival at Morristown in December. They would stay in camp until June of the next year.

In 1779, much of the property where the soldiers were quartered was owned by the Wick family, whose 1,400 acre farm surrounded the Jockey Hollow area near the current visitor center and their modest home, which was used by General St. Clair as his headquarters during the winter. Six hundred acres of their trees were cut down during the six month stay for fuel and material to build the huts.

The Ford Mansion grounds were also the location where many of the soldiers set up their quarters (some did use the home) during the winter after the battles of Princeton and Trenton in early 1777.

Photo above: Washington's office while in Morristown. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: Reenactment of a weapons inspection of Washington's troops at Morristown National Historic Park. Courtesy National Park Service.


Morristown Now

Perhaps it gets less attention because it wasn't the one where the Prussian General Von Steuben created an effective fighting force that took Washington toward more victories than defeats in the years in between and after. Maybe Morristown gets overlooked with all the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and New York City attractions not far from its doorstep. No matter the reason, it does get overlooked by too many and should not. Morristown gains only 20% of the visitors as does Valley Forge. The men who wintered there and would go on to victory in Yorktown down that Revolutionary road, deserve just as much attention. Morristown National Historic Site is located in New Jersey, twenty-two miles west of Newark and thirty-one miles west of New York City. It's an easy haul for heritage tourists once you've visited the sites of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, both of which you can get to from the New Jersey side as well as the Manhattan side, BTW. It contains over 1,700 acres of land dedicated to the memory and hardships that Washington's men endured during those two hard and long winters. There are four separate parts of the park with the two main areas, Jockey Hollow, where the majority of the men were camped, and the Washington Headquarters area where Washington stayed. It's not far in between, about three miles, but they are two of the four separate parts. Ford Mansion - Located in the Washington Headquarters area of the park in Morristown, the Ford Mansion served as the home of George and Martha Washington for six months during the winter of 1779-1780. You can take a guided tour by a park ranger of this home and see both the main and bedroom floors of the mansion.

Interior - The interior of the Ford Mansion, which was built in the early 1770's by iron manufacturer, Jacob Ford, Jr., contained two stories, including the kitchen, circa 1905 below. At the time of the second encampment, it would hold the Ford family, George Washington, Martha Washington, plus twenty-three aides and servants of the Washington's.


Washington's Encampment at Morristown, New Jersey and the "Hard Winter" of 1779-1780

While the Continental Army’s encampment at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778 is one of the most well-remembered events in American history, Washington’s encampment in Morristown, New Jersey in the winter of 1779-1780 marked another major milestone of the Revolutionary War. The Continental Army camped at Morristown for a roughly six-month span from December 1, 1779 to June 22, 1780. Patriot reinforcements under a French commander, the Count d’Estaing, failed to recapture the city of Savannah, Georgia, or make significant progress along the eastern coast in the summer of 1778. In the north, British forces had remained close to New York in the wake of their evacuation from Philadelphia in the same year, creating a stalemate between the Redcoats and the main body of the Continental Army. By 1779, the tide of war began to shift to the southern colonies. The bulk of Washington’s Army, however, remained in the North, and in the winter of 1779-1780, Washington selected Morristown, New Jersey as the location for his troops’ winter encampment.

Located between New York and Philadelphia, Morristown, New Jersey provided a strategic location for Washington's Army to make camp. The town was a center for local farming mining, and timber, which would later provide Washington’s Army with necessary resources to build winter shelters. As Washington wrote to Congress, a camp near Morristown provided a location “compatible with our security which could also supply water and wood for covering and fuel.” This was not the first time Washington and his men camped in the Morristown area. Washington had selected Morristown for the Continental Army’s camp in the winter of 1776-1777, following the Patriot victories at Trenton and Princeton. During that winter, Washington went to work inoculating the army and many of the civilians living in and around the town in order to combat the threat of a smallpox epidemic.

After marching into Morristown in December of 1779, Washington’s troops settled in a mountainous region nearby called Jockey Hollow. The Continental soldiers cut down thousands of acres of timber to construct a “log house city” of more than a thousand wooden structures which accommodated about twelve men each. The site also included parade grounds and officers’ quarters. An estimated 10-12,000 soldiers camped at Morristown, although desertions and deaths reduced the number to only about 8,000, and Washington claimed that as many as one third of these troops were unfit for duty. In spite of the factors working in the site’s favor, the conditions at Morristown would ultimately prove even harsher and more difficult to endure than those at Valley Forge several years before.

While camped at Morristown, Washington had his headquarters in the home of Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. and his wife, Theodosia. During his time at the Ford Mansion, Washington chronicled the intense cold to which he and his troops were exposed, describing the winter as “intensely cold and freezing.” Martha Washington joined her husband at Morristown in early spring. While the residence was larger than the Potts House in which Washington had his headquarters at Valley Forge several years before, the Washingtons shared the home with Mrs. Ford and her children, as well as both families’ servants, Washington’s aides de camp, and any visitors, making for a crowded space. It was from the Ford’s home that Washington worked to overcome the many challenges his army faced during the winter of 1779-1780.

Extreme cold proved to be one of the army’s greatest trials during the winter at Morristown. Though Valley Forge is remembered for its harsh conditions, that winter in Morristown, Washington’s troops faced even bitterer cold than they had witnessed in Pennsylvania a few years before. Known as “the hard winter,” the season bridging the end of 1779 and early 1780 proved to be one of the coldest on record. Morristown received twenty-eight snowfalls during the Continental Army’s residence there, adding to the miserable conditions the troops faced in the wake of the shortages of food and supplies. In early January, there was a blizzard that lasted for two days, leaving 4 feet of snow in its wake. The temperature often remained below freezing, and snowdrifts piled up as soldiers struggled to keep warm with their scanty clothes and blankets. The challenges the freezing temperatures presented were only aggravated by the army’s serious lack of food and supplies. Shoes, shirts, and blankets were scarce, making conditions even more bleak as soldiers sought to fend off hunger and cold.

Shortages of food and other provisions also posed a constant challenge for the army at Morristown. Fresh meat was usually unavailable, and shortages of flour often made bread scarce. Washington noted that the soldiers sometimes went “5 or Six days together without bread, at other times as many days without meat, and once or twice two or three days without either.” According to some sources, soldiers were so desperate for food that they ate tree bark, leather from old shoes, or even dogs, a situation made worse by the fact that Morristown was located amidst numerous local farms. Despite their proximity to the farmland, however, drought had created shortages in the harvest seasons before, and farmers were often unwilling to give up their crops to feed soldiers. Many farmers had cut back the number of acres they were cultivating as the war progressed. This was due to the poor prices the Continentals offered for goods. The inclement weather added to the difficulty in transporting available supplies to the army. Community members’ reticence to offer their support to the Continental Army provided a constant source of frustration for the Commander-In-Chief. Though Washington was loathe to anger locals by allowing his troops to pillage their farms and fields, he eventually permitted the confiscation of grain and cattle from nearby properties to keep his troops from starving.

During the Revolution, the Continental Congress delegated the responsibility of supplying the army with materials and provisions to the thirteen colonies, which oftentimes resulted in empty commissaries. In a Circular Letter to the States, written on December 16, 1779, Washington recounted that “The situation of the Army with respect to supplies is beyond description alarming, it has been five or six Weeks past on half allowance, and we have not three days Bread or a third allowance on hand nor any where within reach.” Washington voiced his concerns regarding the shortages of food, supplies, and pay for the army, detailing the absence of adequate rations and funds for acquiring necessary provisions. According to Washington, the Army had “never experienced a like extremity at any period of the War,” signifying his distress over the conditions his troops faced. He expressed his fears that without relief, “the Army will infallibly disband in a fortnight.” Some historians suggest that this experience with the thirteen colonies during the Revolution influenced Washington’s advocacy for a more centralized Federal government during the Constitutional Conventions of the late 1780s.

Financial problems presented another source of difficulty for the Continental Army during the winter encampment at Morristown. Following a significant depreciation of colonial currency, the Continental Army struggled to find the funds to transport supplies, send messages, or even buy local provisions, whose sellers were hesitant to accept the colonial currency that frequently fluctuated in value. Many soldiers had not been paid for months, adding to their frustrations and increasing the risk that they would desert or choose not to continue supporting the war effort. Soldiers’ wages were often five to six months late, making it difficult to attract new recruits, secure reenlistments, or retain officers who were unable to support their families at home on minimal pay. This only added to Washington’s concerns about the fate of his army.

Worries about mutinies, desertion, and a British attack against the vulnerable Continental Army plagued Washington throughout the encampment at Morristown. In the spring, regiments from the Connecticut Line staged a mutiny in the camp, retaliating against the delayed wages and shortages of basic supplies. Though the small insurrection was quickly put down, it provided a stark reminder of the army’s dissatisfaction and demoralized state.

The Continental Army also saw several important personal and political developments while encamped at Morristown. On December 23, 1779, Benedict Arnold, who would later become the most notorious traitor of the Revolution, was court-martialed in Morristown, where he was tried for abusing his power as an army officer for financial gain. In May of 1780, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States and reunited with Washington at the Morristown encampment. After spending the previous year persuading France’s king to support the Revolution, the Marquis rejoined the Continental Army bearing good news – the French would send a second fleet of ships across the Atlantic to assist the Patriot forces. The encampment at Morristown also proved significant for Washington’s right-hand man, Alexander Hamilton, who met Elizabeth Schuyler, his future wife, that winter.

Much like Valley Forge, the winter encampment at Morristown, New Jersey became an important symbol of patriotism and persistence in the American Revolution. In perhaps the most severe winter encampment of the war, Patriot forces held together, in spite of conditions that threatened to tear the army apart. In the winter of 1779-1780, the Continental Army’s perseverance and determination to overcome the challenges they faced prepared them for the campaigns that would eventually secure American Independence.


Morristown Winter Encampment

W hile the Continental Army’s encampment at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778 is one of the most well-remembered events in American history, Washington’s winter encampment in Morristown, New Jersey in the winter of 1779-1780 marked another major milestone of the Revolutionary War.

The Continental Army camped at Morristown for a roughly six-month span from December 1, 1779, to June 8, 1780, though some troops and baggage remained behind until late in the month.

Located between New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Morristown, New Jersey provided a strategic location for Washington's army to make camp. Astride a network of roads, Morristown was the center for local farming to provide available foodstuffs and timber, which would later provide Washington’s army with necessary resources for a winter encampment. The Watchung Mountains also provided cover between the Americans and the British in New York City.

As Washington wrote to Congress, a camp near Morristown provided a location “compatible with our security which could also supply water and wood for covering and fuel.” This was not the first time Washington and his men camped in the Morristown area. Washington had selected Morristown for the Continental Army’s camp in the winter of 1776-1777, following the Patriot victories at Trenton and Princeton. During that winter, Washington went to work inoculating the army and many of the civilians living in and around the town in order to combat the threat of a smallpox epidemic.

Etching of Washington's Morristown headquarters

While encamped at Morristown in 1779, Washington had his headquarters in the home of the late Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. and his wife, Theodosia. During his time at the Ford Mansion, Washington chronicled the intense cold to which he and his troops were exposed, describing the winter as “intensely cold and freezing.” Martha Washington joined her husband at Morristown on New Year’s Eve. While the residence was larger than the Potts House in which Washington had his headquarters at Valley Forge several years before, the Washingtons’ shared the home with Mrs. Ford and her children, as well as both families’ servants, Washington’s aides de camp, and any visitors, making for a crowded space. It was from the Ford’s home that Washington worked to overcome the many challenges his army faced during the winter of 1779-1780.

After marching into Morristown in December of 1779, Washington’s troops settled in a few miles from town in an area called Jockey Hollow and the mostly wooded 1,400-acre farm that belonged to the Wick Family. Approximately 600 acres of wood from the Wick property would be utilized by the army that winter. The army also used land belonging to Peter Kemble, Joshua Gurein, and Dr. Leddel. Altogether, Washington’s men cut down over 2,000 acres of timber to construct a “log house city” of more than a thousand wooden log huts which accommodated about twelve men each. The site also included parade grounds and officers’ quarters, storehouses, and guardhouses. An estimated 10-12,000 soldiers camped at Morristown, although desertions and deaths reduced the number to only about 8,000. In total 96 men died, 1,062 deserted, 140 were captured, and 2,735 were discharged, whereas others were sent out on outpost duty. The end of three-year enlistments caused the greatest losses in the army. Lastly, the number at Morristown was reduced further in April, when the Maryland Line was ordered south and the New York Brigade left for the Mohawk Valley. and Washington claimed that as many as one-third of these troops were unfit for duty. With the harsh winter and the In spite of the factors working in the site’s favor, the conditions at Morristown, the harsh winter and shortages of food and clothing, would make the winter encampment of 1779-1780 the harshest winter of the war.

The extreme cold proved to be one of the army’s greatest trials during the winter at Morristown. Though Valley Forge is remembered for its harsh conditions, that winter in Morristown, Washington’s troops faced even bitterer cold than they had witnessed in Pennsylvania a few years before. Known as “the hard winter,” the season bridging the end of 1779 and early 1780 proved to be one of the coldest on record. Morristown received over 2o snowfalls during the Continental Army’s residence there, adding to the miserable conditions the troops faced in the wake of the shortages of food and supplies. In early January, there was a blizzard that lasted for two days, leaving 4 feet of snow in its wake. The temperature often remained below freezing, and snowdrifts piled up as soldiers struggled to keep warm with their scanty clothes and blankets. The challenges the freezing temperatures presented were only aggravated by the army’s serious lack of food and supplies. Shoes, shirts, and blankets were scarce, making conditions even more bleak as soldiers sought to fend off hunger and cold.

Shortages of food and other provisions also posed a constant challenge for the army at Morristown. Fresh meat was usually unavailable, and shortages of flour often made bread scarce. Washington noted that the soldiers sometimes went “5 or Six days together without bread, at other times as many days without meat, and once or twice two or three days without either.” According to some sources, soldiers were so desperate for food that they ate tree bark, leather from old shoes, or even dogs, a situation made worse by the fact that Morristown was located amidst numerous local farms. Despite their proximity to the farmland, however, drought had created shortages in the harvest seasons before, and farmers were often unwilling to give up their crops to feed soldiers. Farmers produced what they needed and if there was a surplus, traded to obtain other goods needed, thus making any excess crops valuable for the survival of the farmstead as well. The poor prices the Continentals offered for goods did not help either. The inclement weather added to the difficulty in transporting available supplies to the army. Community members’ reticence to offer their support to the Continental Army provided a constant source of frustration for the Commander-In-Chief. Though Washington was loathe to anger locals by allowing his troops to pillage their farms and fields, but in January 1780 he put a quota on every county in New Jersey to provide flour and meat. For all of February and early March, the army was well fed. But then food ran low again and New Jersey did not have any more food to spare. Food had to come from other states.

During the Revolution, the Continental Congress delegated the responsibility of supplying the army with materials and provisions to the thirteen states, which oftentimes resulted in empty commissaries. In a Circular Letter to the States, written on December 16, 1779, Washington recounted that “The situation of the Army with respect to supplies is beyond description alarming, it has been five or six Weeks past on half allowance, and we have not three days Bread or a third allowance on hand nor anywhere within reach.” Washington voiced his concerns regarding the shortages of food, supplies, and pay for the army, detailing the absence of adequate rations and funds for acquiring necessary provisions. According to Washington, the Army had “never experienced a like extremity at any period of the War,” signifying his distress over the conditions his troops faced. He expressed his fears that without relief, “the Army will infallibly disband in a fortnight.” Some historians suggest that this experience with the thirteen states during the Revolution influenced Washington’s as well as many other former soldiers, officers, and politicians to advocate for a more centralized Federal government during the Constitutional Conventions of the late 1780s.

Financial problems presented another source of difficulty for the Continental Army during the winter encampment at Morristown. Following a significant depreciation of Continental currency, the Continental Army struggled to find the funds to transport supplies, send messages, or even buy local provisions, whose sellers were hesitant to accept the Continental currency that frequently fluctuated in value. Many soldiers had not been paid for months, adding to their frustrations and increasing the risk that they would desert or choose not to continue supporting the war effort. Soldiers’ wages were often five to six months late, making it difficult to attract new recruits, secure reenlistments, or retain officers who were unable to support their families at home on minimal pay. This only added to Washington’s concerns about the fate of his army.

Worries about mutinies, desertion, and a British attack against the vulnerable Continental Army plagued Washington throughout the encampment at Morristown. In the spring, regiments from the Connecticut Line staged a mutiny in the camp, retaliating against the delayed wages and shortages of basic supplies, with the chief complaint being the shortage of beef. Though the small insurrection was quickly put down, it provided a stark reminder of the army’s dissatisfaction and demoralized state.

Washington, Hamilton, and Lafayette statues located in Morristown, New Jersey.

The Continental Army also saw several important personal and political developments while encamped at Morristown. On December 23, 1779, Benedict Arnold, who would later become the most notorious traitor of the American Revolution, was court-martialed in Morristown, where he was tried for abusing his power as an army officer for financial gain. In May of 1780, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States and was reunited with Washington at the Morristown encampment. After spending the previous year persuading France’s king to support the American Revolution, the Marquis rejoined the Continental army bearing good news – the French would send a third fleet of ships the first being sent to Newport, Rhode Island in 1778 and the second to Savannah, Georgia in 1779—across the Atlantic to assist the Patriot forces. The encampment at Morristown also proved significant for Washington’s right-hand man, Alexander Hamilton, who met Elizabeth Schuyler, his future wife, that winter. Besides finding love, Hamilton also wrote a paper suggesting improvements to the financial system of the United States, including the idea of a National Bank. Although not implemented at the time, these suggestions of 1780 became portions of the reforms he advocated for as Secretary of the Treasury in the 1790s.

Much like Valley Forge, the winter encampment at Morristown, New Jersey became an important symbol of patriotism and persistence in the American Revolution. In the most severe winter encampment of the war, weather-wise at least, Patriot forces held together, despite all the conditions that threatened to tear the army apart. In the winter of 1779-1780, the Continental Army’s perseverance and determination to overcome the challenges they faced prepared them for the campaigns that would eventually secure American Independence.


George Washington establishes winter quarters at Morristown - HISTORY

Soldiers at Jockey Hollow

Morristown has long been known as the “Military Capital of the Revolution.” Not once, but twice, General George Washington and the Continental Army set up winter camp in and around Morristown. This month marks the 240th anniversary of the second winter encampment, which lasted from December 1, 1779 until June 23, 1780.

General Washington, his staff and guards billeted at the mansion of Militia Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. where his host was Theodosia Ford, widow of the Colonel who had died in 1777. Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton stayed at the mansion he was the youngest of Washington’s five aide-de-camps.

Visitors to Washington Headquarters that winter included Martha Washington, the French Ambassador, the Marquis de Lafayette, and a three-member committee from the Continental Congress. Most notably, with the arrival of Lafayette on May 10, Washington received the news that support would be coming from the French in the form of ships, arms, soldiers and money. It was an important turning point for Washington and the army.

The Ford Mansion at Morristown

Accompanying Washington to Morristown were 10,000 Continental Army soldiers from Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Canada. At Jockey Hollow, south of Morristown, they built a “log house city.” They cleared 2,000 acres of trees and built 1,200 log huts, replicas of which can be seen today at Morristown National Historical Park at Jockey Hollow.

This winter is believed to have been the worst of the century, and perhaps of all time. It’s known in the history books as “the hard winter.” Supply lines could not break through to support the troops and 100 soldiers perished. Food and clothing were in short supply. Officers looked the other way as soldiers left the camp to forage on their own for food.

“At one time it snowed the greater part of four days successively, and there fell nearly as many feet deep of snow, and here was the keystone of the arch of starvation. We were absolutely, literally starved. I do solemnly declare that I did not put a single morsel of victuals into my mouth for four days and as many nights, except a little black birch bark which I gnawed off a stick of wood, if that can be called victuals. I saw several of the men roast their old shoes and eat them”. (Private Joseph Plumb Martin-age 19)

With appropriate winter clothing and boots, and a full belly, we suggest a winter visit to Jockey Hollow. As you hike the trails or up to the soldiers’ huts, or just stand quietly in the forest, imagine what it must have been like for the men camped there during the “hard winter” of 1779-80.

Discover History Center at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum is closed


Continental Army winters at Morristown, New Jersey

On this day in history, December 1, 1779, the Continental Army establishes winter headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey. George Washington’s army had suffered some serious defeats in the month’s leading up to what would turn out to be the harshest winter of the 18th century, even worse than the winter at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. In June, the disastrous Penobscot Expedition in Maine had resulted in the loss of 43 American ships and nearly 500 men killed, wounded or captured. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere, who was an officer in the Massachusetts militia, lost his appointment over his role in the failed mission. In October, the Americans had failed to retake the city of Savannah. Washington’s army had failed to make any serious headway against the British since the victory at Saratoga in 1777.

George Washington made his headquarters at the home of Theodosia Ford, a wealthy widow with four children. Theodosia’s husband, Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. had died shortly after contracting pneumonia at the Battle of Princeton. Jacob and his father owned extensive iron mines and foundries and other businesses. George Washington, with his wife Martha, and several aides and servants stayed at the home. Visitors to the house included the Marquis de Lafayette, Benedict Arnold, French Ambassador the Chevalier de la Lucerne and Generals John Stark, Henry Knox, Israel Putnam and Anthony Wayne. The Ford home is still standing today and is part of the National Park Service’s Morristown National Historical Park.

The Continental Army troops stayed in Jockey Hollow nearby the Ford mansion. The encampment sat on a high point, 31 miles west of New York City, where the British army was located. The elevation made it easy to detect any movements of the redcoats. Abundant forests provided logs with which 1,000 log cabins were built for 10,000-13,000 soldiers. As many as twelve soldiers were crowded in each cabin, which had dirt floors. Soldiers made their own beds, chairs and tables. Nearly 600 acres of timber were cut down to make the cabins and provide wood for furniture.

The winter turned out to be the worst of the century. George Washington wrote that, "The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a Winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word, the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before." Snow began falling in October, but the bitter cold was the worst part. It was so cold that countless animals froze to death. Indians and soldiers alike avoided the area in the spring because of the smell of rotting flesh everywhere. Disease and food shortages were rampant. Many soldiers deserted.

George Washington’s true genius is shown in circumstances like these. Many leaders would not have been able to hold the army together, but Washington encouraged the troops to stay on and fight for freedom. The revealing part… is that they followed him. The war would rage on for another two years.

Historian General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition."
Thomas Jefferson, 1785


Contents

During the winter of 1776–77, Washington initially encamped the Continental Army at Morristown, New Jersey. After his outpost garrison at Bound Brook was surprised and routed during the Battle of Bound Brook on April 13, 1777, Washington moved the encampment closer to Bound Brook to the Middlebrook encampment on May 28 and stayed there until July 2. A total of 8,298 soldiers were housed in the encampment, but 2,660 of them were sick or disabled, unable to fight. In contrast, the British maintained a force of about 17,000 near New Brunswick, New Jersey. From the heights of the Watchung mountains, Washington could monitor and counteract British movements. When General Howe decided to move against Philadelphia, concern over the threat by the Continental Army made him choose the safer sea route instead of the faster land route. This led to a significant delay in operations for the British and disrupted plans to help General Burgoyne in northern New York. On June 30, Howe moved his troops to Staten Island in preparation for his Philadelphia campaign, and two days later Washington left Middlebrook and moved the army to Pompton Plains.

It is largely conceded that it was at the Middlebrook encampment that the first official flag of the United States was unfurled, after a law to adopt a national flag had been passed by Congress on June 14, 1777. This event is commemorated annually since 1889 on July 4 with a changing of the flag, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and the delivery of an historical address at the Washington Camp Ground. Also, by special order of Congress, a Thirteen Star Flag is flown 24 hours a day at the Washington Camp Ground.

Washington used the area around Middlebrook as a cantonment site, known as the Middlebrook Cantonment, during the winter of 1778–79. He brought about 8,000–10,000 troops to the camp site by November 30, 1778. Soldiers constructed cabins from logs covered with clay similar as they had done at Morristown. Washington himself rented the Wallace House (now converted to a museum) in Somerville for four months and paid Wallace $1,000. General von Steuben lived at the Staats House in South Bound Brook. General Henry Knox lived at the Jacobus Vanderveer House near Pluckemin with the Continental Artillery camped at the Pluckemin Continental Artillery Cantonment Site. Nathanael Greene lived at the Van Veghten House in Finderne. [6] The main body of the much larger British army was at New York. The camp was closed on June 3, 1779 when Washington led his army to Highlands, New York.

The Washington Camp Ground, on Middlebrook Road in Bridgewater Township, just north of Route 22, was deemed a historic site by local citizens in 1889, and entered the National Register of Historic Places July 3, 1975. The site is owned and preserved by the Washington Camp Ground Association, which also organizes the annual July 4 program at the site. The program includes a public reading of the complete Declaration of Independence, which has been read at the site each July 4 for about 120 years. [7]

Various other sites related to the encampment, in Bridgewater and surrounding towns, are accessible to the public. These include Washington Rock State Park, an observation site on top of the Watchung mountain ridge, in Green Brook, Washington Valley Park in Bridgewater (nearby, but separate from, the Washington Camp Ground), the Wallace House in Somerville, the Van Veghten House near Manville, the Jacobus Vanderveer House near Pluckemin, and the Staats House in South Bound Brook. A sign commemorating the encampment also stands in a now-developed area, at the corner of Chimney Rock and Gilbride Roads in Bridgewater.


To Major General Nathanael Greene

Yours of the 27th reached me this day at Noon at Sufferans. From a consideration of all circumstances I am led to decide upon the position back of Mr Kembles, and more especially, as I think there will be an immediate necessity of sending a further reinforcement to South Carolina—I mean, besides the North Carolinians.1 This, with the diminution of force which will be occasioned by the expiration of inlistments will oblige us to seek a more remote position than we would otherwise have done. You will therefore proceed to laying off the Ground.2

I shall be at Morris town tomorrow and shall be obliged by your ordering me a late dinner.3 I understand my quarters are to be at Mrs Fords.4 If I am mistaken be pleased to send a person to meet me and set me right. I am Dear Sir Your most obt Servt

P.S. say nothing of the further reinforcement to the southward.

1 . For GW’s decision to send the Virginia line to the southern department, see his letter to Samuel Huntington, 29 Nov., and the source note to that document.

2 . Greene explained GW’s choice of the winter encampment just southwest of Morristown, N.J., in a letter to Col. Daniel Brodhead written at that place on 18 Dec.: “The Enemys whole force is now collected at New York. This circumstance and the divided state the General [Washington] is obligd to canton the American Army in on both sides of the North River and the diminution of our strength from the expiring enlistments obligd the General to take an interior position for the greater security of his Army” ( Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:181–82). To procure a map of the winter encampment, GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote Robert Erskine from Morristown on 9 Dec.: “His Excellency is extremily anxious to have the Roads in front and rear of the Camp accurately surveyed as speedily as possible—He therefore wishes to see you immediately at Head Quarters that he may give you particular directions as to the Business which he wants executed” (DLC:GW ). For the process leading to the selection of this winter encampment, see Greene to GW, 14 Nov., and n.1 to that document.

Upon learning the winter encampment’s location, Greene promptly issued orders from Morristown to prepare the site. He wrote Sidney Berry, assistant deputy quartermaster for New Jersey, on 1 Dec.: “The Army is to hut directly back of Mr [Peter] Kembles. I wish you therefore to forward the Boards to that place as fast as possible. Set the whole world in motion upon the occasion as there will be a Universal cry for them the moment the Troops get upon the ground. I beg of you not to lose a moments time in forwarding Stores of all kinds as soon as may be” ( Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:135). Greene wrote Moore Furman, deputy quartermaster for New Jersey, on the same date: “The General [Washington] has fix’d upon a place for hutting the Army near Mr Kimball’s [Peter Kemble’s], within about 4 Miles of this Town. His reasons for this choice are unnecessary to be explained but whatever they were, they will prove very distressing to the Quarter Master’s Department. You will direct all the Boards and other supplies to that place as fast as possible. Your utmost exertions will be necessary to forward the Boards, Forage and Provisions:—all of which will be wanted in great abundance and very speedily. I beg you to set every Wheel in motion that will give dispatch to the business. I have written to Mr Berry to do all he can but you must write to him also, to stir him up on the occasion” ( Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:135). Furman replied to Greene from Pittstown, N.J., on 2 Dec.: “I am advised by your favour of yesterday of the Position of the army and shall do all in my Power to hurry Every thing to Mr. Kembles House where I suppose they will receive orders what further is to be done. shall give immediate notice to every person engagd in any part of Business in Q.M. & Forage Department that every thing may move to that Spot—I feel for the Army this Cold storm” ( Furman Letters, description begins Historical Research Committee of the New Jersey Society of the Colonial Dames of America, ed. The Letters of Moore Furman: Deputy Quarter-Master General of New Jersey in the Revolution. New York, 1912. description ends 44–45, and Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:139 see also Furman to Berry and three other assistant deputy quartermasters, 2 Dec., in Furman Letters, description begins Historical Research Committee of the New Jersey Society of the Colonial Dames of America, ed. The Letters of Moore Furman: Deputy Quarter-Master General of New Jersey in the Revolution. New York, 1912. description ends 43–44, and John Cox, Jr., to Greene, in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:150–52).

To guide troops coming to the encampment, Greene issued directions to the commanding major and brigadier generals. His letter to Brig. Gen. William Woodford, written on 1 Dec., reads: “The position is fixed upon for hutting the army a little back of Mr [Peter] Kembles. The Genl [Washington] has made choice of this ground in preference to any other from its interior situation. The ground is mountainous and uneven and therefore is not so agreeable as I could wish. …

“It may be well to send a small detachment from each Regt to take possession of their ground. You will also order your brigade quarter masters to draw the tools for each brigade and to get a plan for hutting, which they will find made out at my Quarters” ( Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:136–38). For construction of the huts, see Edward Hand to Greene, 8 Dec., and Greene to Furman, 9 Dec., in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:155, 157.

Despite logistical challenges, the soldiers apparently worked hard to prepare their camp. The Connecticut Journal (New Haven) for 29 Dec. printed an extract from an unidentified officer’s letter written at Morristown on 11 Dec.: “The ground for our troops to hut upon is laid out in a thicket of woods four miles west of this town, and in a line with the rest of the army, who are now almost now compleatly hutted, and make a very respectable appearance and I must say for myself that notwithstanding the trouble and fatigue which we shall have in hutting at this late season, there is a satisfaction in being under the immediate command of his Excellency (where every part of the army is conducted with so much regularity and order) in preference to any other station.” A portion of a letter written at Basking Ridge, N.J., on 18 Dec. and printed under the heading “TRENTON, December 22” in The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia) for 25 Dec. reads: “I rode out to day on purpose to take a view of our encampments. I found it excessively cold but was glad to see most of our poor soldiers were under good roofs. The encampments are exceeding neat, the huts are all of a size, and placed in more exact order than Philadelphia: You will be surprized to see how well they are built without nails. Head Quarters is at Morristown, and the army extends from thence a long the hills nearly to this place.” For details on how soldiers built their huts, see Martin, Private Yankee Doodle, description begins Joseph Plumb Martin. Private Yankee Doodle: Being a Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier . Edited by George F. Scheer. 1962. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends 167–69.

The worsening weather undoubtedly pushed GW into making a decision without further delay and explained, at least in part, the feverish tone of Greene’s correspondence. Writing in his journal, Dr. James Thacher, who arrived at Jockey Hollow on 14 Dec., described his brigade’s encampment location as a “wilderness, about three miles from Morristown, where we are to build log-huts for winter-quarters. Our baggage is left in the rear, for want of wagons to transport it. The snow on the ground is about two feet deep, and the weather extremely cold the soldiers are destitute of both tents and blankets, and some of them are actually barefooted and almost naked. Our only defence against the inclemency of the weather, consists of brush-wood thrown together. … The ground is marked out, and the soldiers have commenced cutting down the timber of oak and walnut, of which we have a great abundance. Our baggage has at length arrived, the men find it very difficult to pitch their tents on the frozen ground, and notwithstanding large fires, we can scarcely keep from freezing” ( Thacher, Military Journal, description begins James Thacher. Military Journal of the American Revolution, From the commencement to the disbanding of the American Army Comprising a detailed account of the principal events and Battles of the Revolution, with their exact dates, And a Biographical Sketch of the most Prominent Generals . Hartford, 1862. description ends 180–81). Writing from “Camp near Morristown” on 22 Dec., paymaster Erkuries Beatty informed his brother Reading, a surgeon’s mate in the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment, that “I think if you saw my Situation and way of living you would really Pity me, for colder weather I never saw in this time of year, and we are yet in our cold tents, we have just got the men in their Hutts, and it is so cold we cant get ours built, and what is worse than all we scarcely got anything to Eat” ( “Beatty Brothers,” description begins Joseph M. Beatty, Jr., ed., “Letters of the Four Beatty Brothers of the Continental Army, 1774–1794.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 44 (1920): 193–263. description ends 205).

In a similar vein, Lt. Col. Ebenezer Huntington wrote Col. Samuel Blachley Webb from “ Camp in Morristown ” on 24 Dec.: “The severity of the weather hath been such that the men have suffered much without shoes and stockings, and working half leg deep in snow. Poor fellows, my heart bleeds for them, while I Damn my country as void of gratitude” ( Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb . 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:231–32). Huntington elaborated in a letter to his brother Andrew written from camp near Morristown on 8 Jan. 1780: “the Snow is very deep & the Coldest weather I ever experienced for three Weeks together. Men almost naked & what is still worse almost Starved. for Eight days Past the Army have not received as much as three days full Allowance. and in a part of the World Called a Land of Plenty. Money is good for nothing. Corn is 15 dollars p Bushel. Oats 30. Hay 300 Dollars P Ton, & every thing else as high, & higher. I could never have believd that the Money would have been so low & passed as a Currency. … Hardships, every one on Entering the Army, expects to Endure, but to Sacrafice the Army to Aggrandize a few D——d dirty Rascals, is below the Character of those who Pretend that they hath the Blood of a Freeman flowing in their Veins. …

“I beg your Pardon for the Spirit & the Length of this Letter. I cant help it. Empty belly’s will push a Man to What, at other times he would avoid” ( Huntington Papers, description begins Huntington Papers: Correspondence of the Brothers Joshua and Jedediah Huntington during the Period of the American Revolution . Hartford, 1923. In Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society , vol. 20. description ends 436–38 see also Ebenezer Huntington to Webb, 6 Jan., in Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blachley Webb . 3 vols. New York, 1893–94. description ends 2:240–41).

Selections from Maryland division commander Maj. Gen. Johann Kalb’s letters to his wife and European friends written at the Morristown encampment in December 1779 read: “We are here going into winter-quarters in the woods, as usual. Since the beginning of this month we have been busy putting up our shanties. But the severe frost greatly retards our work, and does not even permit us to complete our chimneys. Winter has set in fiercely ever since the end of November. In any other country our repose at this place would bear the name of an arduous campaign it is really worse. It may truly be said that a foreign officer, who has served in America as long as I have, under such adversities, must be either inspired with boundless enthusiasm for the liberties of the country, or possessed by the demons of fame and ambition, or impelled by an extraordinary zeal for the common cause of the king and his confederates. I knew, before I came, that I should have to put up with more than usual toils and privations, but I had no idea of their true extent” ( Kapp, Life of Kalb, description begins Friedrich Kapp. The Life of John Kalb: Major-General in the Revolutionary Army . New York, 1884. description ends 182).

Finding appropriate quarters for officers near their troops presented additional difficulties. Greene wrote Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons, presumably from Morristown on 7 Dec.: “Mr [John] Story marked your quarters, I have not seen them but he was instructed to mark none but such as wood [would] accomodate the Officers as well as the common run of dwelling Houses would admit of in this Country.

“It was His Excellencys [Washington’s] desire that the officers should be posted as near the respective brigades as possible. If Officers of inferior rank have got into dwelling houses more convenient than those alloted for General Officers, it must be an act of their own, as no quarters have been marked for such Officers neither is it the Generals intention they should quarter from their Troops. I will see you in the morning, and if any thing further can be done to accomodate you better, it shall be done” ( Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:153–54). Parsons replied to Greene on 8 Dec.: “I beg you to order me a large Markee and a Stove as the last Resort I have to cover me I cannot stay, in this Tophet [i.e., hell] a Day longer nor can I find a House without going four Miles from Camp into which I can put my Head. The Room I now have is not more than Eight feet Square for Six of Us and the family worse than the Devil and the Justices threatning you and me if I continue to occupy this Hutt” ( Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:154) GW solved this particular problem when he detached Parsons to gather intelligence, but finding quarters for officers remained awkward (see GW to Parsons, 13 Dec., and Greene to GW, 21 Dec. see also Greene to Furman, 9 Dec., and William Maxwell to Greene, 24 Dec., in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:157, 206–7, and GW to Greene, 22 Dec.).

In the main, officers who arrived earlier secured more suitable quarters. Greene lodged his wife, Catharine, then very pregnant, at Jacob Arnold’s tavern bordering the Morristown green in later November while he evaluated potential encampment locations (see Greene to James Abeel, 15 and 23 [two letters] Nov., and Abeel to Greene, 17 Nov., in Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:77–78, 91–92, 109). Arnold’s tavern subsequently became Greene’s winter quarters after GW chose Jockey Hollow for the army’s winter encampment. For a misunderstanding over accommodations that prompted a forceful letter from Greene to Arnold on 16 Dec., see Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:179–80.

All division and brigade commanders overcame the scant selection and eventually found places. Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair, who led the Pennsylvania division, maintained his quarters at the Wick house in the western portion of the encampment. Brig. Gen. William Smallwood, who oversaw a Maryland brigade, landed in Peter Kemble’s substantial house south of the principal hutting grounds. Brig. Gen. John Stark, who arrived late to the encampment with his New England regiments, ended up in Jacob Larzelaer’s tavern. Several officers cannot be placed in exact quarters because of insufficient records. Some officers, however, apparently settled at the O’Hara Tavern in Morristown.

The encampment included an artillery park under the immediate supervision of Brig. Gen. Henry Knox (see General Orders, 4 Dec.). Lt. Robert Parker, previously in a temporary camp, recorded his arrival in his journal entry for 6 Dec.: “Marched this morning to Morristown & joined the Grand Park, which lay about a mile west of that place—encamped there, the snow knee deep & the weather very cold” ( “Parker Journal,” description begins “Journal of Lieutenant Robert Parker, of the Second Continental Artillery, 1779.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 27 (1903): 404–20 28 (1904): 12–25. description ends 28:23). The artillery park’s precise location has not been ascertained, but it is known to have been situated about one mile northwest of Morristown. Knox established his quarters in a nearby private home (see Smith, Morristown, description begins Samuel Stelle Smith. Winter at Morristown, 1779–1780: The Darkest Hour. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1979. description ends 16–17).

Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister favorably characterized the Continental army’s main winter encampment in a dispatch written at New York City on 13 Dec.: “Washington, who is always resourceful, went into cantonments in Jersey with five thousand Continentals early this month between Morristown and Mendham, where his rear and wings are covered by mountains and his front is so posted that he cannot be attacked easily, especially during the winter” ( Baurmeister, Revolution in America, description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces . Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends 326).

For specifics on the Continental army’s experience during this winter encampment, see S. Sydney Bradford, “Discipline in the Morristown Winter Encampments,” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 80 (1962): 1–30 Bradford, “Hunger Menaces the Revolution, December, 1779–January, 1780,” Maryland Historical Magazine 61 (1966): 1–23 Fred Bartenstein, Jr., “N.J. Brigade Encampment In The Winter of 1779–1780,” New Jersey History 86 (1968): 135–57 George J. Svejda, Quartering, Disciplining, and Supplying the Army at Morristown, 1779–1780 (Washington, D.C., 1970) Ricardo Torres-Reyes, Morristown National Historical Park, 1779–80 Encampment: A Study of Medical Services (Washington, D.C., 1971) Edward S. Rutsch and Kim M. Peters, “Forty Years of Archaeological Research at Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, New Jersey,” Historical Archaeology 11 (1977): 15–38 see also the Morristown encampment map in this volume and John T. Cunningham, The Uncertain Revolution: Washington & the Continental Army at Morristown (West Creek, N.J., 2007).

3 . While GW reached Morristown on 1 Dec., he is not known to have written any letters from his new headquarters until the next day (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 2 Dec., and n.1 to that document see also General Orders, 27 Nov., source note, and GW to Anthony Wayne, 3 Dec.).

4 . Theodosia Johnes Ford (1741–1824), the daughter of Presbyterian minister Timothy Johnes, married Jacob Ford, Jr., a prosperous landowner and manufacturer, in January 1762. After her husband died in 1777, she continued to occupy the family’s eight-room mansion in Morristown with her daughter and three sons. Although completed about 1774 and commodious for its time and place, the mansion proved inadequate for GW’s needs (see Greene to GW, 21 Jan. 1780, DLC:GW , and GW to Greene, 22 Jan., PWacD : Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit at PPAmP ). In a letter to Brig. Gen. George Weedon written from Morristown on 25 Dec. 1779, Greene described GW’s headquarters as “in this Town, at the Widow Fords, at the great white House at the North end of the place” ( Greene Papers, description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene . 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends 5:209). According to a nineteenth-century commentator, the mansion was “situated nearly three fourths of a mile east of the village green … The general and his suite occupied the whole of the large building, except two rooms on the eastern side of the main passage, which were reserved for Mrs. Ford and her family. The lower front room, on the left of the door, was his dining-room, and the apartment immediately over it was his sleeping-room while Mrs. Washington was at head-quarters. He had two log additions made to the house, one for a kitchen, on the east end, and the other, on the west end, was used as the offices of Washington, Hamilton, and Tilghman. In the meadow, a few rods southeast of the dwelling, about fifty log huts were erected for the accommodation of the life-guard, which consisted of two hundred and fifty men” ( Lossing, Pictorial Field-Book, description begins Benson J. Lossing. The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence . 2 vols. New York, 1851–52. description ends 1:310 see also Smith, Morristown, description begins Samuel Stelle Smith. Winter at Morristown, 1779–1780: The Darkest Hour. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1979. description ends 20–22, and New Jersey Women, description begins The Women’s Project of New Jersey, Inc. Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women. Metuchen, N.J., 1990. description ends 18–19).

GW’s decision to establish quarters at the Ford mansion troubled its owner. Attempting to allay concerns, New Jersey governor William Livingston wrote her father, Timothy Johnes, from Mount Holly on 10 Dec. that he “could have wished that General Washington had been as well accommodated without taking up his Quarters at Mrs Fords’ but his amiable disposition & the pleasure he takes in making everybody about him happy will I am persuaded induce him to make it as easy to her as possible & perhaps in the final Result, she will not resent that her house has entertained such a General nor the Neighbourhood regret that a disproportionate quantity of their wood was sacrificed in such a Cause” ( Prince, Livingston Papers, description begins Carl E. Prince et al., eds. The Papers of William Livingston . 5 vols. Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., 1979–88. description ends 3:256–58).


Contents

The Washington family was a wealthy Virginia planter family that had made its fortune through land speculation and the cultivation of tobacco. [12] Washington's great-grandfather John Washington immigrated in 1656 from Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, England, to the English colony of Virginia where he accumulated 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) of land, including Little Hunting Creek on the Potomac River. George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, at Popes Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia, [13] and was the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. [14] His father was a justice of the peace and a prominent public figure who had four additional children from his first marriage to Jane Butler. [15] The family moved to Little Hunting Creek in 1735. Three years later in 1738, they moved to Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia on the Rappahannock River. When Augustine died in 1743, Washington inherited Ferry Farm and ten slaves his older half-brother Lawrence inherited Little Hunting Creek and renamed it Mount Vernon. [16]

Washington did not have the formal education his elder brothers received at Appleby Grammar School in England, but he did learn mathematics, trigonometry, and land surveying. He was a talented draftsman and map-maker. By early adulthood he was writing with "considerable force" and "precision" [17] however, his writing displayed little wit or humor. In pursuit of admiration, status, and power, he tended to attribute his shortcomings and failures to someone else's ineffectuality. [18]

Washington often visited Mount Vernon and Belvoir, the plantation that belonged to Lawrence's father-in-law William Fairfax. Fairfax became Washington's patron and surrogate father, and Washington spent a month in 1748 with a team surveying Fairfax's Shenandoah Valley property. [19] He received a surveyor's license the following year from the College of William & Mary. [c] Even though Washington had not served the customary apprenticeship, Fairfax appointed him surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia, and he appeared in Culpeper County to take his oath of office July 20, 1749. [20] He subsequently familiarized himself with the frontier region, and though he resigned from the job in 1750, he continued to do surveys west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. [21] By 1752 he had bought almost 1,500 acres (600 ha) in the Valley and owned 2,315 acres (937 ha). [22]

In 1751, Washington made his only trip abroad when he accompanied Lawrence to Barbados, hoping the climate would cure his brother's tuberculosis. [23] Washington contracted smallpox during that trip, which immunized him but left his face slightly scarred. [24] Lawrence died in 1752, and Washington leased Mount Vernon from his widow he inherited it outright after her death in 1761. [25]

Lawrence Washington's service as adjutant general of the Virginia militia inspired his half-brother George to seek a commission. Virginia's lieutenant governor, Robert Dinwiddie, appointed George Washington as a major and commander of one of the four militia districts. The British and French were competing for control of the Ohio Valley. While the British were constructing forts along the Ohio River, the French were doing the same—constructing forts between the Ohio river and Lake Erie. [26]

In October 1753, Dinwiddie appointed Washington as a special envoy. He had sent George to demand French forces to vacate land that was being claimed by the British. [d] Washington was also appointed to make peace with the Iroquois Confederacy, and to gather further intelligence about the French forces. [28] Washington met with Half-King Tanacharison, and other Iroquois chiefs, at Logstown in order to secure their promise of support against the French. His party reached the Ohio River in November and were intercepted by a French patrol. The party was escorted to Fort Le Boeuf, where Washington was received in a friendly manner. He delivered the British demand to vacate to the French commander Saint-Pierre, but the French refused to leave. Saint-Pierre gave Washington his official answer in a sealed envelope after a few days' delay, as well as food and extra winter clothing for his party's journey back to Virginia. [29] Washington completed the precarious mission in 77 days, in difficult winter conditions, achieving a measure of distinction when his report was published in Virginia and in London. [30]

French and Indian War

In February 1754, Dinwiddie promoted Washington to lieutenant colonel and second-in-command of the 300-strong Virginia Regiment, with orders to confront French forces at the Forks of the Ohio. [31] Washington set out for the Forks with half the regiment in April but soon learned a French force of 1,000 had begun construction of Fort Duquesne there. In May, having set up a defensive position at Great Meadows, he learned that the French had made camp seven miles (11 km) away he decided to take the offensive. [32]

The French detachment proved to be only about fifty men, so Washington advanced on May 28 with a small force of Virginians and Indian allies to ambush them. [33] [e] What took place, known as the Battle of Jumonville Glen or the "Jumonville affair", was disputed, but French forces were killed outright with muskets and hatchets. French commander Joseph Coulon de Jumonville, who carried a diplomatic message for the British to evacuate, was killed. French forces found Jumonville and some of his men dead and scalped and assumed Washington was responsible. [35] Washington blamed his translator for not communicating the French intentions. [36] Dinwiddie congratulated Washington for his victory over the French. [37] This incident ignited the French and Indian War, which later became part of the larger Seven Years' War. [38]

The full Virginia Regiment joined Washington at Fort Necessity the following month with news that he had been promoted to command of the regiment and colonel upon the regimental commander's death. The regiment was reinforced by an independent company of a hundred South Carolinians led by Captain James Mackay, whose royal commission outranked that of Washington, and a conflict of command ensued. On July 3, a French force attacked with 900 men, and the ensuing battle ended in Washington's surrender. [39] In the aftermath, Colonel James Innes took command of intercolonial forces, the Virginia Regiment was divided, and Washington was offered a captaincy which he refused, with the resignation of his commission. [40]

In 1755, Washington served voluntarily as an aide to General Edward Braddock, who led a British expedition to expel the French from Fort Duquesne and the Ohio Country. [41] On Washington's recommendation, Braddock split the army into one main column and a lightly equipped "flying column". [42] Suffering from a severe case of dysentery, Washington was left behind, and when he rejoined Braddock at Monongahela the French and their Indian allies ambushed the divided army. Two-thirds of the British force became casualties, including the mortally wounded Braddock. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage, Washington, still very ill, rallied the survivors and formed a rear guard, allowing the remnants of the force to disengage and retreat. [43] During the engagement, he had two horses shot from under him, and his hat and coat were bullet-pierced. [44] His conduct under fire redeemed his reputation among critics of his command in the Battle of Fort Necessity, [45] but he was not included by the succeeding commander (Colonel Thomas Dunbar) in planning subsequent operations. [46]

The Virginia Regiment was reconstituted in August 1755, and Dinwiddie appointed Washington its commander, again with the rank of colonel. Washington clashed over seniority almost immediately, this time with John Dagworthy, another captain of superior royal rank, who commanded a detachment of Marylanders at the regiment's headquarters in Fort Cumberland. [47] Washington, impatient for an offensive against Fort Duquesne, was convinced Braddock would have granted him a royal commission and pressed his case in February 1756 with Braddock's successor, William Shirley, and again in January 1757 with Shirley's successor, Lord Loudoun. Shirley ruled in Washington's favor only in the matter of Dagworthy Loudoun humiliated Washington, refused him a royal commission, and agreed only to relieve him of the responsibility of manning Fort Cumberland. [48]

In 1758, the Virginia Regiment was assigned to the British Forbes Expedition to capture Fort Duquesne. [49] [f] Washington disagreed with General John Forbes' tactics and chosen route. [51] Forbes nevertheless made Washington a brevet brigadier general and gave him command of one of the three brigades that would assault the fort. The French abandoned the fort and the valley before the assault was launched Washington saw only a friendly-fire incident which left 14 dead and 26 injured. The war lasted another four years, but Washington resigned his commission and returned to Mount Vernon. [52]

Under Washington, the Virginia Regiment had defended 300 miles (480 km) of frontier against twenty Indian attacks in ten months. [53] He increased the professionalism of the regiment as it increased from 300 to 1,000 men, and Virginia's frontier population suffered less than other colonies. Some historians have said this was Washington's "only unqualified success" during the war. [54] Though he failed to realize a royal commission, he did gain self-confidence, leadership skills, and invaluable knowledge of British military tactics. The destructive competition Washington witnessed among colonial politicians fostered his later support of a strong central government. [55]

On January 6, 1759, Washington, at age 26, married Martha Dandridge Custis, the 27-year-old widow of wealthy plantation owner Daniel Parke Custis. The marriage took place at Martha's estate she was intelligent, gracious, and experienced in managing a planter's estate, and the couple created a happy marriage. [56] They raised John Parke Custis (Jacky) and Martha Parke (Patsy) Custis, children from her previous marriage, and later Jacky's children Eleanor Parke Custis (Nelly) and George Washington Parke Custis (Washy). Washington's 1751 bout with smallpox is thought to have rendered him sterile, though it is equally likely that "Martha may have sustained injury during the birth of Patsy, her final child, making additional births impossible." [57] The couple lamented not having any children together. [58] They moved to Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, where he took up life as a planter of tobacco and wheat and emerged as a political figure. [59]

The marriage gave Washington control over Martha's one-third dower interest in the 18,000-acre (7,300 ha) Custis estate, and he managed the remaining two-thirds for Martha's children the estate also included 84 slaves. He became one of Virginia's wealthiest men, which increased his social standing. [60]

At Washington's urging, Governor Lord Botetourt fulfilled Dinwiddie's 1754 promise of land bounties to all-volunteer militia during the French and Indian War. [61] In late 1770, Washington inspected the lands in the Ohio and Great Kanawha regions, and he engaged surveyor William Crawford to subdivide it. Crawford allotted 23,200 acres (9,400 ha) to Washington Washington told the veterans that their land was hilly and unsuitable for farming, and he agreed to purchase 20,147 acres (8,153 ha), leaving some feeling they had been duped. [62] He also doubled the size of Mount Vernon to 6,500 acres (2,600 ha) and increased its slave population to more than a hundred by 1775. [63]

Washington's political activities included supporting the candidacy of his friend George William Fairfax in his 1755 bid to represent the region in the Virginia House of Burgess. This support led to a dispute which resulted in a physical altercation between Washington and another Virginia planter, William Payne. Washington defused the situation, including ordering officers from the Virginia Regiment to stand down. Washington apologized to Payne the following day at a tavern. Payne had been expecting to be challenged to a duel. [64] [65] [66]

As a respected military hero and large landowner, Washington held local offices and was elected to the Virginia provincial legislature, representing Frederick County in the House of Burgesses for seven years beginning in 1758. [63] He plied the voters with beer, brandy, and other beverages, although he was absent while serving on the Forbes Expedition. [67] He won the election with roughly 40 percent of the vote, defeating three other candidates with the help of several local supporters. He rarely spoke in his early legislative career, but he became a prominent critic of Britain's taxation policy and mercantilist policies towards the American colonies starting in the 1760s. [68]

By occupation, Washington was a planter, and he imported luxuries and other goods from England, paying for them by exporting tobacco. [69] His profligate spending combined with low tobacco prices left him £1,800 in debt by 1764, prompting him to diversify his holdings. [70] In 1765, because of erosion and other soil problems, he changed Mount Vernon's primary cash crop from tobacco to wheat and expanded operations to include corn flour milling and fishing. [71] Washington also took time for leisure with fox hunting, fishing, dances, theater, cards, backgammon, and billiards. [72]

Washington soon was counted among the political and social elite in Virginia. From 1768 to 1775, he invited some 2,000 guests to his Mount Vernon estate, mostly those whom he considered "people of rank". He became more politically active in 1769, presenting legislation in the Virginia Assembly to establish an embargo on goods from Great Britain. [73]

Washington's step-daughter Patsy Custis suffered from epileptic attacks from age 12, and she died in his arms in 1773. The following day, he wrote to Burwell Bassett: "It is easier to conceive, than to describe, the distress of this Family". [74] He canceled all business activity and remained with Martha every night for three months. [75]

Opposition to British Parliament

Washington played a central role before and during the American Revolution. His disdain for the British military had begun when he was passed over for promotion into the Regular Army. Opposed to taxes imposed by the British Parliament on the Colonies without proper representation, [76] he and other colonists were also angered by the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which banned American settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains and protected the British fur trade. [77]

Washington believed the Stamp Act of 1765 was an "Act of Oppression", and he celebrated its repeal the following year. [g] In March 1766, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act asserting that Parliamentary law superseded colonial law. [79] Washington helped lead widespread protests against the Townshend Acts passed by Parliament in 1767, and he introduced a proposal in May 1769 drafted by George Mason which called Virginians to boycott British goods the Acts were mostly repealed in 1770. [80]

Parliament sought to punish Massachusetts colonists for their role in the Boston Tea Party in 1774 by passing the Coercive Acts, which Washington referred to as "an invasion of our rights and privileges". [81] He said Americans must not submit to acts of tyranny since "custom and use shall make us as tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway". [82] That July, he and George Mason drafted a list of resolutions for the Fairfax County committee which Washington chaired, and the committee adopted the Fairfax Resolves calling for a Continental Congress. [83] On August 1, Washington attended the First Virginia Convention, where he was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress, September 5 to October 26, 1774, which he also attended. [84] As tensions rose in 1774, he helped train county militias in Virginia and organized enforcement of the Continental Association boycott of British goods instituted by the Congress. [85]

The American Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Siege of Boston. [86] The colonists were divided over breaking away from British rule and split into two factions: Patriots who rejected British rule, and Loyalists who desired to remain subject to the King. [87] General Thomas Gage was commander of British forces in America at the beginning of the war. [88] Upon hearing the shocking news of the onset of war, Washington was "sobered and dismayed", [89] and he hastily departed Mount Vernon on May 4, 1775, to join the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. [90]

Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775, and Samuel and John Adams nominated Washington to become its commander-in-chief. Washington was chosen over John Hancock because of his military experience and the belief that a Virginian would better unite the colonies. He was considered an incisive leader who kept his "ambition in check". [91] He was unanimously elected commander in chief by Congress the next day. [92]

Washington appeared before Congress in uniform and gave an acceptance speech on June 16, declining a salary—though he was later reimbursed expenses. He was commissioned on June 19 and was roundly praised by Congressional delegates, including John Adams, who proclaimed that he was the man best suited to lead and unite the colonies. [93] [94] Congress appointed Washington "General & Commander in chief of the army of the United Colonies and of all the forces raised or to be raised by them", and instructed him to take charge of the siege of Boston on June 22, 1775. [95]

Congress chose his primary staff officers, including Major General Artemas Ward, Adjutant General Horatio Gates, Major General Charles Lee, Major General Philip Schuyler, Major General Nathanael Greene, Colonel Henry Knox, and Colonel Alexander Hamilton. [96] Washington was impressed by Colonel Benedict Arnold and gave him responsibility for launching an invasion of Canada. He also engaged French and Indian War compatriot Brigadier General Daniel Morgan. Henry Knox impressed Adams with ordnance knowledge, and Washington promoted him to colonel and chief of artillery. [97]

Washington initially opposed the enlistment of slaves into the Continental Army. Nevertheless, he later relented when the British issued proclamations such as Dunmore's Proclamation, which promised freedom to slaves of Patriot masters if they joined the British. [98] On January 16, 1776, Congress allowed free blacks to serve in the militia. By the end of the war, one-tenth of Washington's army were blacks. [99]

Siege of Boston

Early in 1775, in response to the growing rebellious movement, London sent British troops, commanded by General Thomas Gage, to occupy Boston. They set up fortifications about the city, making it impervious to attack. Various local militias surrounded the city and effectively trapped the British, resulting in a standoff. [100]

As Washington headed for Boston, word of his march preceded him, and he was greeted everywhere gradually, he became a symbol of the Patriot cause. [101] [h] Upon arrival on July 2, 1775, two weeks after the Patriot defeat at nearby Bunker Hill, he set up his Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters and inspected the new army there, only to find an undisciplined and badly outfitted militia. [102] After consultation, he initiated Benjamin Franklin's suggested reforms—drilling the soldiers and imposing strict discipline, floggings, and incarceration. [103] Washington ordered his officers to identify the skills of recruits to ensure military effectiveness, while removing incompetent officers. [104] He petitioned Gage, his former superior, to release captured Patriot officers from prison and treat them humanely. [105] In October 1775, King George III declared that the colonies were in open rebellion and relieved General Gage of command for incompetence, replacing him with General William Howe. [106]

In June 1775, Congress ordered an invasion of Canada. It was led by Benedict Arnold, who, despite Washington's strong objection, drew volunteers from the latter's force during the Siege of Boston. The move on Quebec failed, with the American forces being reduced to less than half and forced to retreat. [107]

The Continental Army, further diminished by expiring short-term enlistments, and by January 1776 reduced by half to 9,600 men, had to be supplemented with militia, and was joined by Knox with heavy artillery captured from Fort Ticonderoga. [108] When the Charles River froze over, Washington was eager to cross and storm Boston, but General Gates and others were opposed to untrained militia striking well-garrisoned fortifications. Washington reluctantly agreed to secure the Dorchester Heights, 100 feet above Boston, in an attempt to force the British out of the city. [109] On March 9, under cover of darkness, Washington's troops brought up Knox's big guns and bombarded British ships in Boston harbor. On March 17, 9,000 British troops and Loyalists began a chaotic ten-day evacuation of Boston aboard 120 ships. Soon after, Washington entered the city with 500 men, with explicit orders not to plunder the city. He ordered vaccinations against smallpox to great effect, as he did later in Morristown, New Jersey. [110] He refrained from exerting military authority in Boston, leaving civilian matters in the hands of local authorities. [111] [i]

Battle of Long Island

Washington then proceeded to New York City, arriving on April 13, 1776, and began constructing fortifications to thwart the expected British attack. He ordered his occupying forces to treat civilians and their property with respect, to avoid the abuses which Bostonian citizens suffered at the hands of British troops during their occupation. [113] A plot to assassinate or capture him was discovered but thwarted, resulting in the arrest of 98 people involved or complicit (56 of which were from Long Island (Kings (Brooklyn) and Queens counties), including the Loyalist Mayor of New York David Mathews. [114] Washington's bodyguard, Thomas Hickey, was hanged for mutiny and sedition. [115] General Howe transported his resupplied army, with the British fleet, from Halifax to New York, knowing the city was key to securing the continent. George Germain, who ran the British war effort in England, believed it could be won with one "decisive blow". [116] The British forces, including more than a hundred ships and thousands of troops, began arriving on Staten Island on July 2 to lay siege to the city. [117] After the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, Washington informed his troops in his general orders of July 9 that Congress had declared the united colonies to be "free and independent states". [118]

Howe's troop strength totaled 32,000 regulars and Hessians auxiliaries, and Washington's consisted of 23,000, mostly raw recruits and militia. [119] In August, Howe landed 20,000 troops at Gravesend, Brooklyn, and approached Washington's fortifications, as George III proclaimed the rebellious American colonists to be traitors. [120] Washington, opposing his generals, chose to fight, based upon inaccurate information that Howe's army had only 8,000-plus troops. [121] In the Battle of Long Island, Howe assaulted Washington's flank and inflicted 1,500 Patriot casualties, the British suffering 400. [122] Washington retreated, instructing General William Heath to acquisition river craft in the area. On August 30, General William Alexander held off the British and gave cover while the army crossed the East River under darkness to Manhattan Island without loss of life or materiel, although Alexander was captured. [123]

Howe, emboldened by his Long Island victory, dispatched Washington as "George Washington, Esq." in futility to negotiate peace. Washington declined, demanding to be addressed with diplomatic protocol, as general and fellow belligerent, not as a "rebel", lest his men be hanged as such if captured. [124] The Royal Navy bombarded the unstable earthworks on lower Manhattan Island. [125] Washington, with misgivings, heeded the advice of Generals Greene and Putnam to defend Fort Washington. They were unable to hold it, and Washington abandoned it despite General Lee's objections, as his army retired north to the White Plains. [126] Howe's pursuit forced Washington to retreat across the Hudson River to Fort Lee to avoid encirclement. Howe landed his troops on Manhattan in November and captured Fort Washington, inflicting high casualties on the Americans. Washington was responsible for delaying the retreat, though he blamed Congress and General Greene. Loyalists in New York considered Howe a liberator and spread a rumor that Washington had set fire to the city. [127] Patriot morale reached its lowest when Lee was captured. [128] Now reduced to 5,400 troops, Washington's army retreated through New Jersey, and Howe broke off pursuit, delaying his advance on Philadelphia, and set up winter quarters in New York. [129]

Crossing the Delaware, Trenton, and Princeton

Washington crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, where Lee's replacement John Sullivan joined him with 2,000 more troops. [131] The future of the Continental Army was in doubt for lack of supplies, a harsh winter, expiring enlistments, and desertions. Washington was disappointed that many New Jersey residents were Loyalists or skeptical about the prospect of independence. [132]

Howe split up his British Army and posted a Hessian garrison at Trenton to hold western New Jersey and the east shore of the Delaware, [133] but the army appeared complacent, and Washington and his generals devised a surprise attack on the Hessians at Trenton, which he codenamed "Victory or Death". [134] The army was to cross the Delaware River to Trenton in three divisions: one led by Washington (2,400 troops), another by General James Ewing (700), and the third by Colonel John Cadwalader (1,500). The force was to then split, with Washington taking the Pennington Road and General Sullivan traveling south on the river's edge. [135]

Washington first ordered a 60-mile search for Durham boats to transport his army, and he ordered the destruction of vessels that could be used by the British. [136] He crossed the Delaware River on the night of December 25–26, 1776, and risked capture staking out the Jersey shoreline. His men followed across the ice-obstructed river in sleet and snow from McConkey's Ferry, with 40 men per vessel. The wind churned up the waters, and they were pelted with hail, but by 3:00 a.m. on December 26, they made it across with no losses. [137] Henry Knox was delayed, managing frightened horses and about 18 field guns on flat-bottomed ferries. Cadwalader and Ewing failed to cross due to the ice and heavy currents, and a waiting Washington doubted his planned attack on Trenton. Once Knox arrived, Washington proceeded to Trenton to take only his troops against the Hessians, rather than risk being spotted returning his army to Pennsylvania. [138]

The troops spotted Hessian positions a mile from Trenton, so Washington split his force into two columns, rallying his men: "Soldiers keep by your officers. For God's sake, keep by your officers." The two columns were separated at the Birmingham crossroads. General Nathanael Greene's column took the upper Ferry Road, led by Washington, and General John Sullivan's column advanced on River Road. (See map.) [139] The Americans marched in sleet and snowfall. Many were shoeless with bloodied feet, and two died of exposure. At sunrise, Washington led them in a surprise attack on the Hessians, aided by Major General Knox and artillery. The Hessians had 22 killed (including Colonel Johann Rall), 83 wounded, and 850 captured with supplies. [140]

Washington retreated across the Delaware to Pennsylvania but returned to New Jersey on January 3, launching an attack on British regulars at Princeton, with 40 Americans killed or wounded and 273 British killed or captured. [141] American Generals Hugh Mercer and John Cadwalader were being driven back by the British when Mercer was mortally wounded, then Washington arrived and led the men in a counterattack which advanced to within 30 yards (27 m) of the British line. [142]

Some British troops retreated after a brief stand, while others took refuge in Nassau Hall, which became the target of Colonel Alexander Hamilton's cannons. Washington's troops charged, the British surrendered in less than an hour, and 194 soldiers laid down their arms. [143] Howe retreated to New York City where his army remained inactive until early the next year. [144] Washington's depleted Continental Army took up winter headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey while disrupting British supply lines and expelling them from parts of New Jersey. Washington later said the British could have successfully counterattacked his encampment before his troops were dug in. [145]

The British still controlled New York, and many Patriot soldiers did not re-enlist or deserted after the harsh winter campaign. Congress instituted greater rewards for re-enlisting and punishments for desertion to effect greater troop numbers. [146] Strategically, Washington's victories were pivotal for the Revolution and quashed the British strategy of showing overwhelming force followed by offering generous terms. [147] In February 1777, word reached London of the American victories at Trenton and Princeton, and the British realized the Patriots were in a position to demand unconditional independence. [148]

Brandywine, Germantown, and Saratoga

In July 1777, British General John Burgoyne led the Saratoga campaign south from Quebec through Lake Champlain and recaptured Fort Ticonderoga intending to divide New England, including control of the Hudson River. However, General Howe in British-occupied New York blundered, taking his army south to Philadelphia rather than up the Hudson River to join Burgoyne near Albany. [149] Meanwhile, Washington and Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette rushed to Philadelphia to engage Howe and were shocked to learn of Burgoyne's progress in upstate New York, where the Patriots were led by General Philip Schuyler and successor Horatio Gates. Washington's army of less experienced men were defeated in the pitched battles at Philadelphia. [150]

Howe outmaneuvered Washington at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, and marched unopposed into the nation's capital at Philadelphia. A Patriot attack failed against the British at Germantown in October. Major General Thomas Conway prompted some members of Congress (referred to as the Conway Cabal) to consider removing Washington from command because of the losses incurred at Philadelphia. Washington's supporters resisted, and the matter was finally dropped after much deliberation. [151] Once the plot was exposed, Conway wrote an apology to Washington, resigned, and returned to France. [152]

Washington was concerned with Howe's movements during the Saratoga campaign to the north, and he was also aware that Burgoyne was moving south toward Saratoga from Quebec. Washington took some risks to support Gates' army, sending reinforcements north with Generals Benedict Arnold, his most aggressive field commander, and Benjamin Lincoln. On October 7, 1777, Burgoyne tried to take Bemis Heights but was isolated from support by Howe. He was forced to retreat to Saratoga and ultimately surrendered after the Battles of Saratoga. As Washington suspected, Gates' victory emboldened his critics. [153] Biographer John Alden maintains, "It was inevitable that the defeats of Washington's forces and the concurrent victory of the forces in upper New York should be compared." The admiration for Washington was waning, including little credit from John Adams. [154] British commander Howe resigned in May 1778, left America forever, and was replaced by Sir Henry Clinton. [155]

Valley Forge and Monmouth

Washington's army of 11,000 went into winter quarters at Valley Forge north of Philadelphia in December 1777. They suffered between 2,000 and 3,000 deaths in the extreme cold over six months, mostly from disease and lack of food, clothing, and shelter. [156] Meanwhile, the British were comfortably quartered in Philadelphia, paying for supplies in pounds sterling, while Washington struggled with a devalued American paper currency. The woodlands were soon exhausted of game, and by February, lowered morale and increased desertions ensued. [157]

Washington made repeated petitions to the Continental Congress for provisions. He received a congressional delegation to check the Army's conditions and expressed the urgency of the situation, proclaiming: "Something must be done. Important alterations must be made." He recommended that Congress expedite supplies, and Congress agreed to strengthen and fund the army's supply lines by reorganizing the commissary department. By late February, supplies began arriving. [112]

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben's incessant drilling soon transformed Washington's recruits into a disciplined fighting force, [158] and the revitalized army emerged from Valley Forge early the following year. [159] Washington promoted Von Steuben to Major General and made him chief of staff. [160]

In early 1778, the French responded to Burgoyne's defeat and entered into a Treaty of Alliance with the Americans. The Continental Congress ratified the treaty in May, which amounted to a French declaration of war against Britain. [161]

The British evacuated Philadelphia for New York that June, and Washington summoned a war council of American and French Generals. He chose a partial attack on the retreating British at the Battle of Monmouth the British were commanded by Howe's successor General Henry Clinton. Generals Charles Lee and Lafayette moved with 4,000 men, without Washington's knowledge, and bungled their first attack on June 28. Washington relieved Lee and achieved a draw after an expansive battle. At nightfall, the British continued their retreat to New York, and Washington moved his army outside the city. [162] Monmouth was Washington's last battle in the North he valued the safety of his army more than towns with little value to the British. [163]

West Point espionage

Washington became "America's first spymaster" by designing an espionage system against the British. [164] In 1778, Major Benjamin Tallmadge formed the Culper Ring at Washington's direction to covertly collect information about the British in New York. [165] Washington had disregarded incidents of disloyalty by Benedict Arnold, who had distinguished himself in many battles. [166]

During mid-1780, Arnold began supplying British spymaster John André with sensitive information intended to compromise Washington and capture West Point, a key American defensive position on the Hudson River. [167] Historians [ who? ] have noted as possible reasons for Arnold's treachery his anger at losing promotions to junior officers, or repeated slights [ clarification needed ] from Congress. He was also deeply in debt, profiteering from the war, and disappointed by Washington's lack of support during his eventual court-martial. [168]

Arnold repeatedly asked for command of West Point, and Washington finally agreed in August. [169] Arnold met André on September 21, giving him plans to take over the garrison. [170] Militia forces captured André and discovered the plans, but Arnold escaped to New York. [171] Washington recalled the commanders positioned under Arnold at key points around the fort to prevent any complicity, but he did not suspect Arnold's wife Peggy. Washington assumed personal command at West Point and reorganized its defenses. [172] André's trial for espionage ended in a death sentence, and Washington offered to return him to the British in exchange for Arnold, but Clinton refused. André was hanged on October 2, 1780, despite his last request being to face a firing squad, to deter other spies. [173]

Southern theater and Yorktown

In late 1778, General Clinton shipped 3,000 troops from New York to Georgia and launched a Southern invasion against Savannah, reinforced by 2,000 British and Loyalist troops. They repelled an attack by Patriots and French naval forces, which bolstered the British war effort. [174]

In mid-1779, Washington attacked Iroquois warriors of the Six Nations to force Britain's Indian allies out of New York, from which they had assaulted New England towns. [175] The Indian warriors joined with Loyalist rangers led by Walter Butler and viciously slew more than 200 frontiersmen in June, laying waste to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania. [176] In response, Washington ordered General John Sullivan to lead an expedition to effect "the total destruction and devastation" of Iroquois villages and take their women and children hostage. Those who managed to escape fled to Canada. [177]

Washington's troops went into quarters at Morristown, New Jersey during the winter of 1779–1780 and suffered their worst winter of the war, with temperatures well below freezing. New York Harbor was frozen over, snow and ice covered the ground for weeks, and the troops again lacked provisions. [178]

Clinton assembled 12,500 troops and attacked Charlestown, South Carolina in January 1780, defeating General Benjamin Lincoln who had only 5,100 Continental troops. [179] The British went on to occupy the South Carolina Piedmont in June, with no Patriot resistance. Clinton returned to New York and left 8,000 troops commanded by General Charles Cornwallis. [180] Congress replaced Lincoln with Horatio Gates he failed in South Carolina and was replaced by Washington's choice of Nathaniel Greene, but the British already had the South in their grasp. Washington was reinvigorated, however, when Lafayette returned from France with more ships, men, and supplies, [181] and 5,000 veteran French troops led by Marshal Rochambeau arrived at Newport, Rhode Island in July 1780. [182] French naval forces then landed, led by Admiral Grasse, and Washington encouraged Rochambeau to move his fleet south to launch a joint land and naval attack on Arnold's troops. [183]

Washington's army went into winter quarters at New Windsor, New York in December 1780, and Washington urged Congress and state officials to expedite provisions in hopes that the army would not "continue to struggle under the same difficulties they have hitherto endured". [184] On March 1, 1781, Congress ratified the Articles of Confederation, but the government that took effect on March 2 did not have the power to levy taxes, and it loosely held the states together. [185]

General Clinton sent Benedict Arnold, now a British Brigadier General with 1,700 troops, to Virginia to capture Portsmouth and conduct raids on Patriot forces from there Washington responded by sending Lafayette south to counter Arnold's efforts. [186] Washington initially hoped to bring the fight to New York, drawing off British forces from Virginia and ending the war there, but Rochambeau advised Grasse that Cornwallis in Virginia was the better target. Grasse's fleet arrived off the Virginia coast, and Washington saw the advantage. He made a feint towards Clinton in New York, then headed south to Virginia. [187]

The Siege of Yorktown was a decisive allied victory by the combined forces of the Continental Army commanded by General Washington, the French Army commanded by the General Comte de Rochambeau, and the French Navy commanded by Admiral de Grasse, in the defeat of Cornwallis' British forces. On August 19, the march to Yorktown led by Washington and Rochambeau began, which is known now as the "celebrated march". [188] Washington was in command of an army of 7,800 Frenchmen, 3,100 militia, and 8,000 Continentals. Not well experienced in siege warfare, Washington often deferred to the judgment of General Rochambeau and used his advice about how to proceed however, Rochambeau never challenged Washington's authority as the battle's commanding officer. [189]

By late September, Patriot-French forces surrounded Yorktown, trapped the British army, and prevented British reinforcements from Clinton in the North, while the French navy emerged victorious at the Battle of the Chesapeake. The final American offensive was begun with a shot fired by Washington. [190] The siege ended with a British surrender on October 19, 1781 over 7,000 British soldiers were made prisoners of war, in the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary War. [191] Washington negotiated the terms of surrender for two days, and the official signing ceremony took place on October 19 Cornwallis claimed illness and was absent, sending General Charles O'Hara as his proxy. [192] As a gesture of goodwill, Washington held a dinner for the American, French, and British generals, all of whom fraternized on friendly terms and identified with one another as members of the same professional military caste. [193]

After the surrender at Yorktown, a situation developed that threatened relations between the newly independent America and Britain. [194] Following a series of retributive executions between Patriots and Loyalists, Washington, on May 18, 1782, wrote in a letter to General Moses Hazen [195] that a British captain would be executed in retaliation for the execution of Joshua Huddy, a popular Patriot leader, who was hanged at the direction of the Loyalist Richard Lippincott. Washington wanted Lippincott himself to be executed but was rebuffed. [196] Subsequently, Charles Asgill was chosen instead, by a drawing of lots from a hat. This was a violation of the 14th article of the Yorktown Articles of Capitulation, which protected prisoners of war from acts of retaliation. [195] [197] Later, Washington's feelings on matters changed and in a letter of November 13, 1782, to Asgill, he acknowledged Asgill's letter and situation, expressing his desire not to see any harm come to him. [198] After much consideration between the Continental Congress, Alexander Hamilton, Washington, and appeals from the French Crown, Asgill was finally released, [199] where Washington issued Asgill a pass that allowed his passage to New York. [200] [195]

Demobilization and resignation

As peace negotiations started, the British gradually evacuated troops from Savannah, Charlestown, and New York by 1783, and the French army and navy likewise departed. [201] The American treasury was empty, unpaid and mutinous soldiers forced the adjournment of Congress, and Washington dispelled unrest by suppressing the Newburgh Conspiracy in March 1783 Congress promised officers a five-year bonus. [202] Washington submitted an account of $450,000 in expenses which he had advanced to the army. The account was settled, though it was allegedly vague about large sums and included expenses his wife had incurred through visits to his headquarters. [203]

Washington resigned as commander-in-chief once the Treaty of Paris was signed, and he planned to retire to Mount Vernon. The treaty was ratified in April 1783, and Hamilton's Congressional committee adapted the army for peacetime. Washington gave the Army's perspective to the committee in his Sentiments on a Peace Establishment. [204] The Treaty was signed on September 3, 1783, and Great Britain officially recognized the independence of the United States. Washington then disbanded his army, giving an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers on November 2. [205] On November 25, the British evacuated New York City, and Washington and Governor George Clinton took possession. [206]

Washington advised Congress in August 1783 to keep a standing army, create a "national militia" of separate state units, and establish a navy and a national military academy. He circulated his "Farewell" orders that discharged his troops, whom he called "one patriotic band of brothers". Before his return to Mount Vernon, he oversaw the evacuation of British forces in New York and was greeted by parades and celebrations, where he announced that Colonel Henry Knox had been promoted commander-in-chief. [207]

After leading the Continental Army for 8½ years, Washington bade farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in December 1783 and resigned his commission days later, refuting Loyalist predictions that he would not relinquish his military command. [208] In a final appearance in uniform, he gave a statement to the Congress: "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping." [209] Washington's resignation was acclaimed at home and abroad and showed a skeptical world that the new republic would not degenerate into chaos. [210] [k] The same month, Washington was appointed president-general of the Society of the Cincinnati, a hereditary fraternity, and he served for the remainder of his life. [212] [l]

Return to Mount Vernon

George Washington
Letter to Lafayette
February 1, 1784 [214]

Washington was longing to return home after spending just ten days at Mount Vernon out of 8 + 1 ⁄ 2 years of war. He arrived on Christmas Eve, delighted to be "free of the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life". [215] He was a celebrity and was fêted during a visit to his mother at Fredericksburg in February 1784, and he received a constant stream of visitors wishing to pay their respects to him at Mount Vernon. [216]

Washington reactivated his interests in the Great Dismal Swamp and Potomac canal projects begun before the war, though neither paid him any dividends, and he undertook a 34-day, 680-mile (1090 km) trip to check on his land holdings in the Ohio Country. [217] He oversaw the completion of the remodeling work at Mount Vernon, which transformed his residence into the mansion that survives to this day—although his financial situation was not strong. Creditors paid him in depreciated wartime currency, and he owed significant amounts in taxes and wages. Mount Vernon had made no profit during his absence, and he saw persistently poor crop yields due to pestilence and poor weather. His estate recorded its eleventh year running at a deficit in 1787, and there was little prospect of improvement. [218] Washington undertook a new landscaping plan and succeeded in cultivating a range of fast-growing trees and shrubs that were native to North America. [219]

Constitutional Convention of 1787

Before returning to private life in June 1783, Washington called for a strong union. Though he was concerned that he might be criticized for meddling in civil matters, he sent a circular letter to all the states, maintaining that the Articles of Confederation was no more than "a rope of sand" linking the states. He believed the nation was on the verge of "anarchy and confusion", was vulnerable to foreign intervention, and that a national constitution would unify the states under a strong central government. [220] When Shays' Rebellion erupted in Massachusetts on August 29, 1786, over taxation, Washington was further convinced that a national constitution was needed. [221] Some nationalists feared that the new republic had descended into lawlessness, and they met together on September 11, 1786, at Annapolis to ask Congress to revise the Articles of Confederation. One of their biggest efforts, however, was getting Washington to attend. [222] Congress agreed to a Constitutional Convention to be held in Philadelphia in Spring 1787, and each state was to send delegates. [223]

On December 4, 1786, Washington was chosen to lead the Virginia delegation, but he declined on December 21. He had concerns about the legality of the convention and consulted James Madison, Henry Knox, and others. They persuaded him to attend it, however, as his presence might induce reluctant states to send delegates and smooth the way for the ratification process. [224] On March 28, Washington told Governor Edmund Randolph that he would attend the convention but made it clear that he was urged to attend. [225]

Washington arrived in Philadelphia on May 9, 1787, though a quorum was not attained until Friday, May 25. Benjamin Franklin nominated Washington to preside over the convention, and he was unanimously elected to serve as president general. [226] The convention's state-mandated purpose was to revise the Articles of Confederation with "all such alterations and further provisions" required to improve them, and the new government would be established when the resulting document was "duly confirmed by the several states". [227] Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia introduced Madison's Virginia Plan on May 27, the third day of the convention. It called for an entirely new constitution and a sovereign national government, which Washington highly recommended. [228]

Washington wrote Alexander Hamilton on July 10: "I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of our convention and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business." [229] Nevertheless, he lent his prestige to the goodwill and work of the other delegates. He unsuccessfully lobbied many to support ratification of the Constitution, such as anti-federalist Patrick Henry Washington told him "the adoption of it under the present circumstances of the Union is in my opinion desirable" and declared the alternative would be anarchy. [230] Washington and Madison then spent four days at Mount Vernon evaluating the new government's transition. [231]

Chancellor of William & Mary

In 1788, the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary decided to re-establish the position of Chancellor, and elected Washington to the office on January 18. [232] The College Rector Samuel Griffin wrote to Washington inviting him to the post, and in a letter dated April 30, 1788, Washington accepted the position of the 14th Chancellor of the College of William & Mary. [232] [233] He continued to serve in the post through his presidency until his death on December 14, 1799. [232]

First presidential election

The delegates to the Convention anticipated a Washington presidency and left it to him to define the office once elected. [234] [m] The state electors under the Constitution voted for the president on February 4, 1789, and Washington suspected that most republicans had not voted for him. [236] The mandated March 4 date passed without a Congressional quorum to count the votes, but a quorum was reached on April 5. The votes were tallied the next day, [237] and Congressional Secretary Charles Thomson was sent to Mount Vernon to tell Washington he had been elected president. Washington won the majority of every state's electoral votes John Adams received the next highest number of votes and therefore became vice president. [238] Washington had "anxious and painful sensations" about leaving the "domestic felicity" of Mount Vernon, but departed for New York City on April 16 to be inaugurated. [239]

Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789, taking the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City. [240] [n] His coach was led by militia and a marching band and followed by statesmen and foreign dignitaries in an inaugural parade, with a crowd of 10,000. [242] Chancellor Robert R. Livingston administered the oath, using a Bible provided by the Masons, after which the militia fired a 13-gun salute. [243] Washington read a speech in the Senate Chamber, asking "that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations—and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, consecrate the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States". [244] Though he wished to serve without a salary, Congress insisted adamantly that he accept it, later providing Washington $25,000 per year to defray costs of the presidency. [245]

Washington wrote to James Madison: "As the first of everything in our situation will serve to establish a precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part that these precedents be fixed on true principles." [246] To that end, he preferred the title "Mr. President" over more majestic names proposed by the Senate, including "His Excellency" and "His Highness the President". [247] His executive precedents included the inaugural address, messages to Congress, and the cabinet form of the executive branch. [248]

Washington had planned to resign after his first term, but the political strife in the nation convinced him he should remain in office. [249] He was an able administrator and a judge of talent and character, and he regularly talked with department heads to get their advice. [250] He tolerated opposing views, despite fears that a democratic system would lead to political violence, and he conducted a smooth transition of power to his successor. [251] He remained non-partisan throughout his presidency and opposed the divisiveness of political parties, but he favored a strong central government, was sympathetic to a Federalist form of government, and leery of the Republican opposition. [252]

Washington dealt with major problems. The old Confederation lacked the powers to handle its workload and had weak leadership, no executive, a small bureaucracy of clerks, a large debt, worthless paper money, and no power to establish taxes. [253] He had the task of assembling an executive department and relied on Tobias Lear for advice selecting its officers. [254] Great Britain refused to relinquish its forts in the American West, [253] and Barbary pirates preyed on American merchant ships in the Mediterranean at a time when the United States did not even have a navy. [255]

Cabinet and executive departments

The Washington Cabinet
OfficeNameTerm
PresidentGeorge Washington1789–1797
Vice PresidentJohn Adams1789–1797
Secretary of StateJohn Jay (acting)1789–1790
Thomas Jefferson1790–1793
Edmund Randolph1794–1795
Timothy Pickering1795–1797
Secretary of the TreasuryAlexander Hamilton1789–1795
Oliver Wolcott Jr.1795–1797
Secretary of WarHenry Knox1789–1794
Timothy Pickering1795
James McHenry1796–1797
Attorney GeneralEdmund Randolph1789–1794
William Bradford1794–1795
Charles Lee1795–1797

Congress created executive departments in 1789, including the State Department in July, the Department of War in August, and the Treasury Department in September. Washington appointed fellow Virginian Edmund Randolph as Attorney General, Samuel Osgood as Postmaster General, Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, and Henry Knox as Secretary of War. Finally, he appointed Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. Washington's cabinet became a consulting and advisory body, not mandated by the Constitution. [256]

Washington's cabinet members formed rival parties with sharply opposing views, most fiercely illustrated between Hamilton and Jefferson. [257] Washington restricted cabinet discussions to topics of his choosing, without participating in the debate. He occasionally requested cabinet opinions in writing and expected department heads to agreeably carry out his decisions. [253]

Domestic issues

Washington was apolitical and opposed the formation of parties, suspecting that conflict would undermine republicanism. [258] His closest advisors formed two factions, portending the First Party System. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton formed the Federalist Party to promote the national credit and a financially powerful nation. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson opposed Hamilton's agenda and founded the Jeffersonian Republicans. Washington favored Hamilton's agenda, however, and it ultimately went into effect—resulting in bitter controversy. [259]

Washington proclaimed November 26 as a day of Thanksgiving to encourage national unity. "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor." He spent that day fasting and visiting debtors in prison to provide them with food and beer. [260]

In response to two antislavery petitions, Georgia and South Carolina objected and were threatening to "blow the trumpet of civil war". Washington and Congress responded with a series of pro-slavery measures: citizenship was denied to black immigrants slaves were barred from serving in state militias two more slave states (Kentucky in 1792, Tennessee in 1796) were admitted and the continuation of slavery in federal territories south of the Ohio River was guaranteed. On February 12, 1793, Washington signed into law the Fugitive Slave Act, which overrode state laws and courts, allowing agents to cross state lines to capture and return escaped slaves. [261] Many in the north decried the law believing the act allowed bounty hunting and the kidnappings of blacks. [262] The Slave Trade Act of 1794, sharply limiting American involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, was also enacted. [263]

National Bank

Washington's first term was largely devoted to economic concerns, in which Hamilton had devised various plans to address matters. [264] The establishment of public credit became a primary challenge for the federal government. [265] Hamilton submitted a report to a deadlocked Congress, and he, Madison, and Jefferson reached the Compromise of 1790 in which Jefferson agreed to Hamilton's debt proposals in exchange for moving the nation's capital temporarily to Philadelphia and then south near Georgetown on the Potomac River. [259] The terms were legislated in the Funding Act of 1790 and the Residence Act, both of which Washington signed into law. Congress authorized the assumption and payment of the nation's debts, with funding provided by customs duties and excise taxes. [266]

Hamilton created controversy among Cabinet members by advocating establishing the First Bank of the United States. Madison and Jefferson objected, but the bank easily passed Congress. Jefferson and Randolph insisted that the new bank was beyond the authority granted by the constitution, as Hamilton believed. Washington sided with Hamilton and signed the legislation on February 25, and the rift became openly hostile between Hamilton and Jefferson. [267]

The nation's first financial crisis occurred in March 1792. Hamilton's Federalists exploited large loans to gain control of U.S. debt securities, causing a run on the national bank [268] the markets returned to normal by mid-April. [269] Jefferson believed Hamilton was part of the scheme, despite Hamilton's efforts to ameliorate, and Washington again found himself in the middle of a feud. [270]

Jefferson–Hamilton feud

Jefferson and Hamilton adopted diametrically opposed political principles. Hamilton believed in a strong national government requiring a national bank and foreign loans to function, while Jefferson believed the states and the farm element should primarily direct the government he also resented the idea of banks and foreign loans. To Washington's dismay, the two men persistently entered into disputes and infighting. [271] Hamilton demanded that Jefferson resign if he could not support Washington, and Jefferson told Washington that Hamilton's fiscal system would lead to the overthrow of the Republic. [272] Washington urged them to call a truce for the nation's sake, but they ignored him. [273]

Washington reversed his decision to retire after his first term to minimize party strife, but the feud continued after his re-election. [272] Jefferson's political actions, his support of Freneau's National Gazette, [274] and his attempt to undermine Hamilton nearly led Washington to dismiss him from the cabinet Jefferson ultimately resigned his position in December 1793, and Washington forsook him from that time on. [275]

The feud led to the well-defined Federalist and Republican parties, and party affiliation became necessary for election to Congress by 1794. [276] Washington remained aloof from congressional attacks on Hamilton, but he did not publicly protect him, either. The Hamilton–Reynolds sex scandal opened Hamilton to disgrace, but Washington continued to hold him in "very high esteem" as the dominant force in establishing federal law and government. [277]

Whiskey Rebellion

In March 1791, at Hamilton's urging, with support from Madison, Congress imposed an excise tax on distilled spirits to help curtail the national debt, which took effect in July. [278] Grain farmers strongly protested in Pennsylvania's frontier districts they argued that they were unrepresented and were shouldering too much of the debt, comparing their situation to excessive British taxation before the Revolutionary War. On August 2, Washington assembled his cabinet to discuss how to deal with the situation. Unlike Washington, who had reservations about using force, Hamilton had long waited for such a situation and was eager to suppress the rebellion by using federal authority and force. [279] Not wanting to involve the federal government if possible, Washington called on Pennsylvania state officials to take the initiative, but they declined to take military action. On August 7, Washington issued his first proclamation for calling up state militias. After appealing for peace, he reminded the protestors that, unlike the rule of the British crown, the Federal law was issued by state-elected representatives. [280]

Threats and violence against tax collectors, however, escalated into defiance against federal authority in 1794 and gave rise to the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington issued a final proclamation on September 25, threatening the use of military force to no avail. [280] The federal army was not up to the task, so Washington invoked the Militia Act of 1792 to summon state militias. [281] Governors sent troops, initially commanded by Washington, who gave the command to Light-Horse Harry Lee to lead them into the rebellious districts. They took 150 prisoners, and the remaining rebels dispersed without further fighting. Two of the prisoners were condemned to death, but Washington exercised his Constitutional authority for the first time and pardoned them. [282]

Washington's forceful action demonstrated that the new government could protect itself and its tax collectors. This represented the first use of federal military force against the states and citizens, [283] and remains the only time an incumbent president has commanded troops in the field. Washington justified his action against "certain self-created societies", which he regarded as "subversive organizations" that threatened the national union. He did not dispute their right to protest, but he insisted that their dissent must not violate federal law. Congress agreed and extended their congratulations to him only Madison and Jefferson expressed indifference. [284]

Foreign affairs

In April 1792, the French Revolutionary Wars began between Great Britain and France, and Washington declared America's neutrality. The revolutionary government of France sent diplomat Citizen Genêt to America, and he was welcomed with great enthusiasm. He created a network of new Democratic-Republican Societies promoting France's interests, but Washington denounced them and demanded that the French recall Genêt. [285] The National Assembly of France granted Washington honorary French citizenship on August 26, 1792, during the early stages of the French Revolution. [286] Hamilton formulated the Jay Treaty to normalize trade relations with Great Britain while removing them from western forts, and also to resolve financial debts remaining from the Revolution. [287] Chief Justice John Jay acted as Washington's negotiator and signed the treaty on November 19, 1794 critical Jeffersonians, however, supported France. Washington deliberated, then supported the treaty because it avoided war with Britain, [288] but was disappointed that its provisions favored Britain. [289] He mobilized public opinion and secured ratification in the Senate [290] but faced frequent public criticism. [291]

The British agreed to abandon their forts around the Great Lakes, and the United States modified the boundary with Canada. The government liquidated numerous pre-Revolutionary debts, and the British opened the British West Indies to American trade. The treaty secured peace with Britain and a decade of prosperous trade. Jefferson claimed that it angered France and "invited rather than avoided" war. [292] Relations with France deteriorated afterward, leaving succeeding president John Adams with prospective war. [293] James Monroe was the American Minister to France, but Washington recalled him for his opposition to the Treaty. The French refused to accept his replacement Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and the French Directory declared the authority to seize American ships two days before Washington's term ended. [294]

Native American affairs

Ron Chernow describes Washington as always trying to be even-handed in dealing with the Natives. He states that Washington hoped they would abandon their itinerant hunting life and adapt to fixed agricultural communities in the manner of white settlers. He also maintains that Washington never advocated outright confiscation of tribal land or the forcible removal of tribes and that he berated American settlers who abused natives, admitting that he held out no hope for pacific relations with the natives as long as "frontier settlers entertain the opinion that there is not the same crime (or indeed no crime at all) in killing a native as in killing a white man." [295]

By contrast, Colin G. Calloway writes that "Washington had a lifelong obsession with getting Indian land, either for himself or for his nation, and initiated policies and campaigns that had devastating effects in Indian country." [296] "The growth of the nation," Galloway has stated, "demanded the dispossession of Indian people. Washington hoped the process could be bloodless and that Indian people would give up their lands for a "fair" price and move away. But if Indians refused and resisted, as they often did, he felt he had no choice but to "extirpate" them and that the expeditions he sent to destroy Indian towns were therefore entirely justified." [297]

During the Fall of 1789, Washington had to contend with the British refusing to evacuate their forts in the Northwest frontier and their concerted efforts to incite hostile Indian tribes to attack American settlers. [298] [o] The Northwest tribes under Miami chief Little Turtle allied with the British Army to resist American expansion, and killed 1,500 settlers between 1783 and 1790. [299]

Washington decided that "The Government of the United States are determined that their Administration of Indian Affairs shall be directed entirely by the great principles of Justice and humanity", [300] and provided that treaties should negotiate their land interests. [300] The administration regarded powerful tribes as foreign nations, and Washington even smoked a peace pipe and drank wine with them at the Philadelphia presidential house. [301] He made numerous attempts to conciliate them [302] he equated killing indigenous peoples with killing whites and sought to integrate them into European-American culture. [303] Secretary of War Henry Knox also attempted to encourage agriculture among the tribes. [302]

In the Southwest, negotiations failed between federal commissioners and raiding Indian tribes seeking retribution. Washington invited Creek Chief Alexander McGillivray and 24 leading chiefs to New York to negotiate a treaty and treated them like foreign dignitaries. Knox and McGillivray concluded the Treaty of New York on August 7, 1790, in Federal Hall, which provided the tribes with agricultural supplies and McGillivray with a rank of Brigadier General Army and a salary of $1,500. [304]

In 1790, Washington sent Brigadier General Josiah Harmar to pacify the Northwest tribes, but Little Turtle routed him twice and forced him to withdraw. [305] The Western Confederacy of tribes used guerrilla tactics and were an effective force against the sparsely manned American Army. Washington sent Major General Arthur St. Clair from Fort Washington on an expedition to restore peace in the territory in 1791. On November 4, St. Clair's forces were ambushed and soundly defeated by tribal forces with few survivors, despite Washington's warning of surprise attacks. Washington was outraged over what he viewed to be excessive Native American brutality and execution of captives, including women and children. [306]

St. Clair resigned his commission, and Washington replaced him with the Revolutionary War hero General Anthony Wayne. From 1792 to 1793, Wayne instructed his troops on Native American warfare tactics and instilled discipline which was lacking under St. Clair. [307] In August 1794, Washington sent Wayne into tribal territory with authority to drive them out by burning their villages and crops in the Maumee Valley. [308] On August 24, the American army under Wayne's leadership defeated the western confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and the Treaty of Greenville in August 1795 opened up two-thirds of the Ohio Country for American settlement. [309]

Second term

Originally Washington had planned to retire after his first term, while many Americans could not imagine anyone else taking his place. [310] After nearly four years as president, and dealing with the infighting in his own cabinet and with partisan critics, Washington showed little enthusiasm in running for a second term, while Martha also wanted him not to run. [311] James Madison urged him not to retire, that his absence would only allow the dangerous political rift in his cabinet and the House, to worsen. Jefferson also pleaded with him not to retire and agreed to drop his attacks on Hamilton, or he would also retire if Washington did. [312] Hamilton maintained that Washington's absence would be "deplored as the greatest evil" to the country at this time. [313] Washington's close nephew George Augustine Washington, his manager at Mount Vernon, was critically ill and had to be replaced, further increasing Washington's desire to retire and return to Mount Vernon. [314]

When the election of 1792 neared, Washington did not publicly announce his presidential candidacy. Still, he silently consented to run to prevent a further political-personal rift in his cabinet. The Electoral College unanimously elected him president on February 13, 1793, and John Adams as vice president by a vote of 77 to 50. [303] Washington, with nominal fanfare, arrived alone at his inauguration in his carriage. Sworn into office by Associate Justice William Cushing on March 4, 1793, in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Washington gave a brief address and then immediately retired to his Philadelphia presidential house, weary of office and in poor health. [315]

On April 22, 1793, during the French Revolution, Washington issued his famous Neutrality Proclamation and was resolved to pursue "a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent Powers" while he warned Americans not to intervene in the international conflict. [316] Although Washington recognized France's revolutionary government, he would eventually ask French minister to America Citizen Genêt be recalled over the Citizen Genêt Affair. [317] Genêt was a diplomatic troublemaker who was openly hostile toward Washington's neutrality policy. He procured four American ships as privateers to strike at Spanish forces (British allies) in Florida while organizing militias to strike at other British possessions. However, his efforts failed to draw America into the foreign campaigns during Washington's presidency. [318] On July 31, 1793 Jefferson submitted his resignation from Washington's cabinet. [319] Washington signed the Naval Act of 1794 and commissioned the first six federal frigates to combat Barbary pirates. [320]

In January 1795, Hamilton, who desired more income for his family, resigned office and was replaced by Washington appointment Oliver Wolcott, Jr.. Washington and Hamilton remained friends. However, Washington's relationship with his Secretary of War Henry Knox deteriorated. Knox resigned office on the rumor he profited from construction contracts on U.S. Frigates. [321]

In the final months of his presidency, Washington was assailed by his political foes and a partisan press who accused him of being ambitious and greedy, while he argued that he had taken no salary during the war and had risked his life in battle. He regarded the press as a disuniting, "diabolical" force of falsehoods, sentiments that he expressed in his Farewell Address. [322] At the end of his second term, Washington retired for personal and political reasons, dismayed with personal attacks, and to ensure that a truly contested presidential election could be held. He did not feel bound to a two-term limit, but his retirement set a significant precedent. Washington is often credited with setting the principle of a two-term presidency, but it was Thomas Jefferson who first refused to run for a third term on political grounds. [323]

Farewell Address

In 1796, Washington declined to run for a third term of office, believing his death in office would create an image of a lifetime appointment. The precedent of a two-term limit was created by his retirement from office. [324] In May 1792, in anticipation of his retirement, Washington instructed James Madison to prepare a "valedictory address", an initial draft of which was entitled the "Farewell Address". [325] In May 1796, Washington sent the manuscript to his Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton who did an extensive rewrite, while Washington provided final edits. [326] On September 19, 1796, David Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser published the final version of the address. [327]

Washington stressed that national identity was paramount, while a united America would safeguard freedom and prosperity. He warned the nation of three eminent dangers: regionalism, partisanship, and foreign entanglements, and said the "name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations." [328] Washington called for men to move beyond partisanship for the common good, stressing that the United States must concentrate on its own interests. He warned against foreign alliances and their influence in domestic affairs, and bitter partisanship and the dangers of political parties. [329] He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but advised against involvement in European wars. [330] He stressed the importance of religion, asserting that "religion and morality are indispensable supports" in a republic. [331] Washington's address favored Hamilton's Federalist ideology and economic policies. [332]

Washington closed the address by reflecting on his legacy:

Though in reviewing the incidents of my Administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence, and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest. [333]

After initial publication, many Republicans, including Madison, criticized the Address and believed it was an anti-French campaign document. Madison believed Washington was strongly pro-British. Madison also was suspicious of who authored the Address. [334]

In 1839, Washington biographer Jared Sparks maintained that Washington's ". Farewell Address was printed and published with the laws, by order of the legislatures, as an evidence of the value they attached to its political precepts, and of their affection for its author." [335] In 1972, Washington scholar James Flexner referred to the Farewell Address as receiving as much acclaim as Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. [336] In 2010, historian Ron Chernow reported the Farewell Address proved to be one of the most influential statements on Republicanism. [337]

Washington retired to Mount Vernon in March 1797 and devoted time to his plantations and other business interests, including his distillery. [338] His plantation operations were only minimally profitable, [41] and his lands in the west (Piedmont) were under Indian attacks and yielded little income, with the squatters there refusing to pay rent. He attempted to sell these but without success. [339] He became an even more committed Federalist. He vocally supported the Alien and Sedition Acts and convinced Federalist John Marshall to run for Congress to weaken the Jeffersonian hold on Virginia. [340]

Washington grew restless in retirement, prompted by tensions with France, and he wrote to Secretary of War James McHenry offering to organize President Adams' army. [341] In a continuation of the French Revolutionary Wars, French privateers began seizing American ships in 1798, and relations deteriorated with France and led to the "Quasi-War". Without consulting Washington, Adams nominated him for a lieutenant general commission on July 4, 1798, and the position of commander-in-chief of the armies. [342] Washington chose to accept, replacing James Wilkinson, [343] and he served as the commanding general from July 13, 1798 until his death 17 months later. He participated in planning for a provisional army, but he avoided involvement in details. In advising McHenry of potential officers for the army, he appeared to make a complete break with Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans: "you could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a profest Democrat and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the government of this country." [344] Washington delegated the active leadership of the army to Hamilton, a major general. No army invaded the United States during this period, and Washington did not assume a field command. [345]

Washington was thought to be rich because of the well-known "glorified façade of wealth and grandeur" at Mount Vernon, [346] but nearly all his wealth was in the form of land and slaves rather than ready cash. To supplement his income, he erected a distillery for substantial whiskey production. [347] Historians estimate that the estate was worth about $1 million in 1799 dollars, [348] equivalent to $15,249,000 in 2020. He bought land parcels to spur development around the new Federal City named in his honor, and he sold individual lots to middle-income investors rather than multiple lots to large investors, believing they would more likely commit to making improvements. [349]

Final days and death

On December 12, 1799, Washington inspected his farms on horseback. The weather was snowing with sleet. He returned home late for dinner. Washington kept his wet clothes on, not wanting to keep his guests waiting. He had a sore throat the next day. The weather was freezing and snowy. Washington marked trees for cutting. That evening, he complained of chest congestion but was still cheerful. [350] On Saturday, he awoke to an inflamed throat and difficulty breathing, so he ordered estate overseer George Rawlins to remove nearly a pint of his blood, bloodletting being a common practice of the time. His family summoned Doctors James Craik, Gustavus Richard Brown, and Elisha C. Dick. [351] (Dr. William Thornton arrived some hours after Washington died.) [352]

Dr. Brown thought Washington had quinsy Dr. Dick thought the condition was a more serious "violent inflammation of the throat". [353] They continued the process of bloodletting to approximately five pints, and Washington's condition deteriorated further. Dr. Dick proposed a tracheotomy, but the others were not familiar with that procedure and therefore disapproved. [354] Washington instructed Brown and Dick to leave the room, while he assured Craik, "Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go." [355]

Washington's death came more swiftly than expected. [356] On his deathbed, he instructed his private secretary Tobias Lear to wait three days before his burial, out of fear of being entombed alive. [357] According to Lear, he died peacefully between 10 and 11 p.m. on December 14, 1799, with Martha seated at the foot of his bed. His last words were "'Tis well", from his conversation with Lear about his burial. He was 67. [358]

Congress immediately adjourned for the day upon news of Washington's death, and the Speaker's chair was shrouded in black the next morning. [359] The funeral was held four days after his death on December 18, 1799, at Mount Vernon, where his body was interred. Cavalry and foot soldiers led the procession, and six colonels served as the pallbearers. The Mount Vernon funeral service was restricted mostly to family and friends. [360] Reverend Thomas Davis read the funeral service by the vault with a brief address, followed by a ceremony performed by various members of Washington's Masonic lodge in Alexandria, Virginia. [361] Congress chose Light-Horse Harry Lee to deliver the eulogy. Word of his death traveled slowly church bells rang in the cities, and many places of business closed. [362] People worldwide admired Washington and were saddened by his death, and memorial processions were held in major cities of the United States. Martha wore a black mourning cape for one year, and she burned their correspondence to protect their privacy. Only five letters between the couple are known to have survived: two from Martha to George and three from him to her. [363]

The diagnosis of Washington's illness and the immediate cause of his death have been subjects of debate since the day he died. The published account of Drs. Craik and Brown [p] stated that his symptoms had been consistent with cynanche trachealis (tracheal inflammation), a term of that period used to describe severe inflammation of the upper windpipe, including quinsy. Accusations have persisted since Washington's death concerning medical malpractice, with some believing he had been bled to death. [354] Various modern medical authors have speculated that he died from a severe case of epiglottitis complicated by the given treatments, most notably the massive blood loss which almost certainly caused hypovolemic shock. [365] [q]

Washington was buried in the old Washington family vault at Mount Vernon, situated on a grassy slope overspread with willow, juniper, cypress, and chestnut trees. It contained the remains of his brother Lawrence and other family members, but the decrepit brick vault needed repair, prompting Washington to leave instructions in his will for the construction of a new vault. [362] Washington's estate at the time of his death was worth an estimated $780,000 in 1799, approximately equivalent to $14.3 million in 2010. [369] Washington's peak net worth was $587.0 million, including his 300 slaves. [370]

In 1830, a disgruntled ex-employee of the estate attempted to steal what he thought was Washington's skull, prompting the construction of a more secure vault. [371] The next year, the new vault was constructed at Mount Vernon to receive the remains of George and Martha and other relatives. [372] In 1832, a joint Congressional committee debated moving his body from Mount Vernon to a crypt in the Capitol. The crypt had been built by architect Charles Bulfinch in the 1820s during the reconstruction of the burned-out capital, after the Burning of Washington by the British during the War of 1812. Southern opposition was intense, antagonized by an ever-growing rift between North and South many were concerned that Washington's remains could end up on "a shore foreign to his native soil" if the country became divided, and Washington's remains stayed in Mount Vernon. [373]

On October 7, 1837, Washington's remains were placed, still in the original lead coffin, within a marble sarcophagus designed by William Strickland and constructed by John Struthers earlier that year. [374] The sarcophagus was sealed and encased with planks, and an outer vault was constructed around it. [375] The outer vault has the sarcophagi of both George and Martha Washington the inner vault has the remains of other Washington family members and relatives. [372]

Washington was somewhat reserved in personality, but he generally had a strong presence among others. He made speeches and announcements when required, but he was not a noted orator or debater. [377] He was taller than most of his contemporaries [378] accounts of his height vary from 6 ft (1.83 m) to 6 ft 3.5 in (1.92 m) tall, [379] [380] he weighed between 210–220 pounds (95–100 kg) as an adult, [381] [382] and he was known for his great strength. [383] He had grey-blue eyes and reddish-brown hair which he wore powdered in the fashion of the day. [384] He had a rugged and dominating presence, which garnered respect from his peers.

Washington frequently suffered from severe tooth decay and ultimately lost all his teeth but one. He had several sets of false teeth made, which he wore during his presidency—none of which was made of wood, contrary to common lore. [385] These dental problems left him in constant pain, for which he took laudanum. [386] As a public figure, he relied upon the strict confidence of his dentist. [387]

Washington was a talented equestrian early in life. He collected thoroughbreds at Mount Vernon, and his two favorite horses were Blueskin and Nelson. [388] Fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson said Washington was "the best horseman of his age and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback" [389] he also hunted foxes, deer, ducks, and other game. [390] He was an excellent dancer and attended the theater frequently. He drank in moderation but was morally opposed to excessive drinking, smoking tobacco, gambling, and profanity. [391]

Religion and Freemasonry

Washington was descended from Anglican minister Lawrence Washington (his great-great-grandfather), whose troubles with the Church of England may have prompted his heirs to emigrate to America. [392] Washington was baptized as an infant in April 1732 and became a devoted member of the Church of England (the Anglican Church). [393] He served more than 20 years as a vestryman and churchwarden for Fairfax Parish and Truro Parish, Virginia. [394] He privately prayed and read the Bible daily, and he publicly encouraged people and the nation to pray. [395] He may have taken communion on a regular basis prior to the Revolutionary War, but he did not do so following the war, for which he was admonished by Pastor James Abercrombie. [396]

Washington believed in a "wise, inscrutable, and irresistible" Creator God who was active in the Universe, contrary to deistic thought. [392] He referred to God by the Enlightenment terms Providence, the Creator, or the Almighty, and also as the Divine Author or the Supreme Being. [397] He believed in a divine power who watched over battlefields, was involved in the outcome of war, was protecting his life, and was involved in American politics—and specifically in the creation of the United States. [398] [r] Modern historian Ron Chernow has posited that Washington avoided evangelistic Christianity or hellfire-and-brimstone speech along with communion and anything inclined to "flaunt his religiosity". Chernow has also said Washington "never used his religion as a device for partisan purposes or in official undertakings". [400] No mention of Jesus Christ appears in his private correspondence, and such references are rare in his public writings. [401] He frequently quoted from the Bible or paraphrased it, and often referred to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. [402] There is debate on whether he is best classed as a Christian or a theistic rationalist—or both. [403]

Washington emphasized religious toleration in a nation with numerous denominations and religions. He publicly attended services of different Christian denominations and prohibited anti-Catholic celebrations in the Army. [404] He engaged workers at Mount Vernon without regard for religious belief or affiliation. While president, he acknowledged major religious sects and gave speeches on religious toleration. [405] He was distinctly rooted in the ideas, values, and modes of thinking of the Enlightenment, [406] but he harbored no contempt of organized Christianity and its clergy, "being no bigot myself to any mode of worship". [406] In 1793, speaking to members of the New Church in Baltimore, Washington proclaimed, "We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition." [407]

Freemasonry was a widely accepted institution in the late 18th century, known for advocating moral teachings. [408] Washington was attracted to the Masons' dedication to the Enlightenment principles of rationality, reason, and brotherhood. The American Masonic lodges did not share the anti-clerical perspective of the controversial European lodges. [409] A Masonic lodge was established in Fredericksburg in September 1752, and Washington was initiated two months later at the age of 20 as one of its first Entered Apprentices. Within a year, he progressed through its ranks to become a Master Mason. [410] Washington had high regard for the Masonic Order, but his personal lodge attendance was sporadic. In 1777, a convention of Virginia lodges asked him to be the Grand Master of the newly established Grand Lodge of Virginia, but he declined due to his commitments leading the Continental Army. After 1782, he frequently corresponded with Masonic lodges and members, [411] and he was listed as Master in the Virginia charter of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 in 1788. [412]

In Washington's lifetime, slavery was deeply ingrained in the economic and social fabric of Virginia. [413] Washington owned and worked African slaves his entire adult life. [414] He acquired them through inheritance, gained control of eighty-four dower slaves on his marriage to Martha, and purchased at least seventy-one slaves between 1752 and 1773. [415] His early views on slavery were no different from any Virginia planter of the time. [416] He demonstrated no moral qualms about the institution and referred to his slaves as "a Species of Property". [417] From the 1760s his attitudes underwent a slow evolution. The first doubts were prompted by his transition from tobacco to grain crops, which left him with a costly surplus of slaves, causing him to question the system's economic efficiency. [418] His growing disillusionment with the institution was spurred by the principles of the American Revolution and revolutionary friends such as Lafayette and Hamilton. [419] Most historians agree the Revolution was central to the evolution of Washington's attitudes on slavery [420] "After 1783", Kenneth Morgan writes, ". [Washington] began to express inner tensions about the problem of slavery more frequently, though always in private. " [421]

The many contemporary reports of slave treatment at Mount Vernon are varied and conflicting. [422] Historian Kenneth Morgan (2000) maintains that Washington was frugal on spending for clothes and bedding for his slaves, and only provided them with just enough food, and that he maintained strict control over his slaves, instructing his overseers to keep them working hard from dawn to dusk year-round. [423] However, historian Dorothy Twohig (2001) said: "Food, clothing, and housing seem to have been at least adequate". [424] Washington faced growing debts involved with the costs of supporting slaves. He held an "ingrained sense of racial superiority" over African Americans but harbored no ill feelings toward them. [425]

Some slave families worked at different locations on the plantation but were allowed to visit one another on their days off. [426] Washington's slaves received two hours off for meals during the workday, and given time off on Sundays and religious holidays. [427] Washington frequently cared for ill or injured slaves personally, and he provided physicians and midwives and had his slaves inoculated for smallpox. [428] [ failed verification – see discussion] In May 1796, Martha's personal and favorite slave Ona Judge escaped to Portsmouth. At Martha's behest, Washington attempted to capture Ona, using a Treasury agent, but this effort failed. In February 1797, Washington's personal slave Hercules escaped to Philadelphia and was never found. [429]

Some accounts report that Washington opposed flogging but at times sanctioned its use, generally as a last resort, on both men and women slaves. [430] Washington used both reward and punishment to encourage discipline and productivity in his slaves. He tried appealing to an individual's sense of pride, gave better blankets and clothing to the "most deserving", and motivated his slaves with cash rewards. He believed "watchfulness and admonition" to be often better deterrents against transgressions but would punish those who "will not do their duty by fair means". Punishment ranged in severity from demotion back to fieldwork, through whipping and beatings, to permanent separation from friends and family by sale. Historian Ron Chernow maintains that overseers were required to warn slaves before resorting to the lash and required Washington's written permission before whipping, though his extended absences did not always permit this. [431] Washington remained dependent on slave labor to work his farms and negotiated the purchase of more slaves in 1786 and 1787. [432]

In February 1786, Washington took a census of Mount Vernon and recorded 224 slaves. [433] By 1799, slaves at Mount Vernon totaled 317, including 143 children. [434] Washington owned 124 slaves, leased 40, and held 153 for his wife's dower interest. [435] Washington supported many slaves who were too young or too old to work, greatly increasing Mount Vernon's slave population and causing the plantation to operate at a loss. [436]

Abolition and emancipation

Based on his letters, diary, documents, accounts from colleagues, employees, friends, and visitors, Washington slowly developed a cautious sympathy toward abolitionism that eventually ended with the emancipation of his own slaves. [437] As president, he kept publicly silent on slavery, believing it was a nationally divisive issue that could destroy the union. [438]

In a 1778 letter to Lund Washington, he made clear his desire "to get quit of Negroes" when discussing the exchange of slaves for land he wanted to buy. [439] The next year, he stated his intention not to separate families as a result of "a change of masters". [440] During the 1780s, Washington privately expressed his support for the gradual emancipation of slaves. [441] Between 1783 and 1786, he gave moral support to a plan proposed by Lafayette to purchase land and free slaves to work on it, but declined to participate in the experiment. [424] Washington privately expressed support for emancipation to prominent Methodists Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury in 1785 but declined to sign their petition. [442] In personal correspondence the next year, he made clear his desire to see the institution of slavery ended by a gradual legislative process, a view that correlated with the mainstream antislavery literature published in the 1780s that Washington possessed. [443] He significantly reduced his purchases of slaves after the war but continued to acquire them in small numbers. [444]

In 1788, Washington declined a suggestion from a leading French abolitionist, Jacques Brissot, to establish an abolitionist society in Virginia, stating that although he supported the idea, the time was not yet right to confront the issue. [445] The historian Henry Wiencek (2003) believes, based on a remark that appears in the notebook of his biographer David Humphreys, that Washington considered making a public statement by freeing his slaves on the eve of his presidency in 1789. [446] The historian Philip D. Morgan (2005) disagrees, believing the remark was a "private expression of remorse" at his inability to free his slaves. [447] Other historians agree with Morgan that Washington was determined not to risk national unity over an issue as divisive as slavery. [448] Washington never responded to any of the antislavery petitions he received, and the subject was not mentioned in either his last address to Congress or his Farewell Address. [449]

The first clear indication that Washington seriously intended to free his slaves appears in a letter written to his secretary, Tobias Lear, in 1794. [450] Washington instructed Lear to find buyers for his land in western Virginia, explaining in a private coda that he was doing so "to liberate a certain species of property which I possess, very repugnantly to my own feelings". [451] The plan, along with others Washington considered in 1795 and 1796, could not be realized because he failed to find buyers for his land, his reluctance to break up slave families, and the refusal of the Custis heirs to help prevent such separations by freeing their dower slaves at the same time. [452]

On July 9, 1799, Washington finished making his last will the longest provision concerned slavery. All his slaves were to be freed after the death of his wife, Martha. Washington said he did not free them immediately because his slaves intermarried with his wife's dower slaves. He forbade their sale or transportation out of Virginia. His will provided that old and young freed people be taken care of indefinitely younger ones were to be taught to read and write and placed in suitable occupations. [453] Washington freed more than 160 slaves, including 25 he had acquired from his wife's brother in payment of a debt freed by graduation. [454] He was among the few large slave-holding Virginians during the Revolutionary Era who emancipated their slaves. [455]

On January 1, 1801, one year after George Washington's death, Martha Washington signed an order freeing his slaves. Many of them, having never strayed far from Mount Vernon, were naturally reluctant to try their luck elsewhere others refused to abandon spouses or children still held as dower slaves (the Custis estate) [456] and also stayed with or near Martha. Following George Washington's instructions in his will, funds were used to feed and clothe the young, aged, and sickly slaves until the early 1830s. [457]

Washington's legacy endures as one of the most influential in American history since he served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, a hero of the Revolution, and the first president of the United States. Various historians maintain that he also was a dominant factor in America's founding, the Revolutionary War, and the Constitutional Convention. [458] Revolutionary War comrade Light-Horse Harry Lee eulogized him as "First in war—first in peace—and first in the hearts of his countrymen". [459] Lee's words became the hallmark by which Washington's reputation was impressed upon the American memory, with some biographers regarding him as the great exemplar of republicanism. He set many precedents for the national government and the presidency in particular, and he was called the "Father of His Country" as early as 1778. [460] [s]

In 1885, Congress proclaimed Washington's birthday to be a federal holiday. [462] Twentieth-century biographer Douglas Southall Freeman concluded, "The great big thing stamped across that man is character." Modern historian David Hackett Fischer has expanded upon Freeman's assessment, defining Washington's character as "integrity, self-discipline, courage, absolute honesty, resolve, and decision, but also forbearance, decency, and respect for others". [463]

Washington became an international symbol for liberation and nationalism as the leader of the first successful revolution against a colonial empire. The Federalists made him the symbol of their party, but the Jeffersonians continued to distrust his influence for many years and delayed building the Washington Monument. [464] Washington was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on January 31, 1781, before he had even begun his presidency. [465] He was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States during the United States Bicentennial to ensure he would never be outranked this was accomplished by the congressional joint resolution Public Law 94-479 passed on January 19, 1976, with an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976. [466] [t] On March 13, 1978, Washington was militarily promoted to the rank of General of the Armies. [469]

Parson Weems wrote a hagiographic biography in 1809 to honor Washington. [470] Historian Ron Chernow maintains that Weems attempted to humanize Washington, making him look less stern, and to inspire "patriotism and morality" and to foster "enduring myths", such as Washington's refusal to lie about damaging his father's cherry tree. [471] Weems' accounts have never been proven or disproven. [472] Historian John Ferling, however, maintains that Washington remains the only founder and president ever to be referred to as "godlike", and points out that his character has been the most scrutinized by historians, past and present. [473] Historian Gordon S. Wood concludes that "the greatest act of his life, the one that gave him his greatest fame, was his resignation as commander-in-chief of the American forces." [474] Chernow suggests that Washington was "burdened by public life" and divided by "unacknowledged ambition mingled with self-doubt". [475] A 1993 review of presidential polls and surveys consistently ranked Washington number 4, 3, or 2 among presidents. [476] A 2018 Siena College Research Institute survey ranked him number 1 among presidents. [477]

Memorials

Jared Sparks began collecting and publishing Washington's documentary record in the 1830s in Life and Writings of George Washington (12 vols., 1834–1837). [478] The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799 (1931–1944) is a 39-volume set edited by John Clement Fitzpatrick, whom the George Washington Bicentennial Commission commissioned. It contains more than 17,000 letters and documents and is available online from the University of Virginia. [479]

Universities

Numerous universities, including George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis, were named in honor of Washington. [480] [481]


Fort Nonsense

This model is based on archaeological work done on site, and period descriptions of the Upper Redoubt, built in 1777 by George Washington's Army. Today this area of the park is known as Fort Nonsense.

After the victories at Trenton and Princeton the Continental Army under General George Washington arrived in Morristown on January 6, 1777. The site was relatively secure lying behind the Watchung Mountains and the Great Swamp, and it was here that Washington established the army’s winter camp.

Arnold's Tavern, on the western edge of the Green, became Washington’s Headquarters. Rodney’s Light Infantry was quartered upon the grounds of the Ford Mansion across town. In between, officers and men took quarters in private homes, barns, churches, and other structures throughout town and scattered in towns from Princeton to the Hudson Highlands.

Before breaking camp in late May, Washington wanted to secure Morristown as a supply base. On May 14, 1777 he ordered the construction of a fortification, called a redoubt, on a hill bordering Morristown so “…that it may serve as a retreat in case of necessity.”

Originally referred to as “the Hill” or “Kinney’s Hill,” it commanded the town. The function of the Fort was as an observation and alarm post, and a place of retreat for guards stationed in the town. The British never made an attack on Morristown, however, and the fortified hilltop was never used. It was common for a small fortification such as Fort Nonsense to be built for the protection of military encampments and strategic military depots.

Washington’s men levelled surrounding trees, dug trenches, raised breastworks, built a guardhouse for 30 men, and fortified the crown of the hill with an earthwork redoubt. As early as the 1790s the hill was called Fort Nonsense. A legend had grown that Washington had set his men to fortify the hill simply as a way of keeping troops busy. This explanation is very unlikely. In their pension claims after the war, soldiers refered to the work as 'Fort Nonsense.'

In addition to the earthworks, it is believed that the Morris County Militia was instructed to build a beacon of between 18 and 20 feet high. It was to be constructed of a loose frame of logs with smaller combustibles filling the center. Such beacons were in fact found extending from the Hudson Highlands and all through northern New Jersey. The beacon system was used on June 7, 1780 and again on June 23 when the British crossed into New Jersey. Records tell of area militia responding to the alarms in June and engaging the British at Springfield.

Fort Nonsense Hill is open to visitors from 8:00 AM until sunset. The park grounds are, however, surrounded by private property. For your safety and for the consideration of park neighbors, please be careful as you walk the grounds.


Watch the video: The Winter Patriots: A Revolutionary War Tale Full Movie