George Washington



George Washington (February 22, 1732 [O.S. February 11, 1731] – December 14, 1799) was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and served as the first President of the United States of America (1789–1797). For h

George Washington

First Commander in Chief of the United States of America

George Washington Life Mask - Copyright Stan Klos

First President of the United States
 
under the US Constitution of 1787

11th President under the Perpetual Union of the United States

For Information on the Ten Presidents before Washington -- Click Here

George Washington was the first Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America during the American Revolution and later became the first president of the United States serving from1789 until 1797. He symbolized qualities of discipline, aristocratic duty, military orthodoxy and persistence in adversity that his contemporaries valued as marked of mature political leadership.

George Washington's Teeth © Stan Klos

Photos of the George Washington's Teeth from "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - photo1, photo2, and photo3 by: Katie, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

Born the eldest son of Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball Washington, in Westmoreland County, Va., on Feb. 22, 1732, George spent his early years on the family estate on Pope's Creek along the Potomac River. Although Washington had little or no formal schooling, his early notebooks indicate that he read in geography, military history, agriculture, deportment and composition. He showed an aptitude for surveying and simple mathematics. An early ambition to go to sea had been discouraged by George's mother. His father died in 1743, and soon thereafter George went to live with his half brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon, Lawrence's plantation on the Potomac. Lawrence became something of a substitute father for his brother. Upon the death of Lawrence in 1752, George inherited the Mount Vernon estate.

George Washington Survey © Stan Klos

Photo of the George Washington's Survey from "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Zachary, Baker Elementary School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

Washington played an important role in the struggles preceding the outbreak of the French and Indian War. He was chosen by Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia to deliver an ultimatum calling on French forces to cease their encroachment in the Ohio River valley. Washington's diary account of the dangers and difficulties of his journey published on his return helped win him his ensuing promotion to lieutenant colonel. Although only 22 years of age and lacking experience, he was ordered to lead a militia force for the protection of workers who were building a fort at the Forks of the Ohio River.

Fort Necessity © Stan Klos

 

Photos of Fort Necessity outside plaques and the re-constructed Fort by: Christopher, Fort Couch Middle School, Upper St. Clair,  Pennsylvania.

Picture  of the Battle of Fort Necessity.

Picture of uncovered Fort Necessity's log foundation.

Picture of re-constructed Fort Necessity on original foundation Circa 1954

Picture of George Washington surrendering Fort Necessity to the French.

Picture of George Washington's signature on surrender document.

 

"On the stormy night of May 27th, 1754, Washington and about 40 men began an all night march to confront the French and learn their intentions. They traveled through woods so dark the men sometimes spent nearly half and hour just trying to find the trail.

About dawn, Washington met with a friendly Seneca chief, Half King, and made plans to contact the French Camp. As the French commander had not posted sentries, Washington and his men easily surrounded the unsuspecting French.

A shot was fired, no one really knows by whom, and soon the peaceful glen was filled with the crash of musketry and the sulphurous smell of powder. The skirmish lasted about 15 minutes. When it was over, 10 Frenchmen were dead and 21 captured. One escaped and made his way back to Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio. Washington's casualties were one man killed and two or three wounded.

Washington now knew he was discovered. He sent his prisoners to Williamsburg while he returned to the Great Meadows. There he started construction of a small fortification to protect from probable attack. About five weeks later the attack came. A larger force of French and Indians attacked Washington's force of 400 at his 'Fort of Necessity.' " - - National Park Service.

A successful French assault obliged him to accept articles of surrender and he departed with the remnants of his company.

Discouraged by defeat, Washington resigned his commission in 1754. In May, 1755, he began service as a volunteer and aide-de-camp to British General Edward Braddock. Braddock was mortally wounded and Washington narrowly escaped death. He escaped injury although four bullets ripped his coat and two horses were shot from under him Braddock's troops were ambushed by a band of French soldiers and their Indian allies on the Monongahela River. At age of 23, he was promoted to colonel and appointed commander in chief of the Virginia militia. His responsibility was to defend the frontier.

Washington left the army in 1758, assured that the Virginia frontier was safe from French attack. He returned to Mount Vernon, to restore his neglected estate. With the support of an ever-growing circle of influential friends, he entered politics, serving (1759-74) in Virginia's House of Burgesses. In January 1759 he married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy and attractive young widow with two small children.

Alarmed by the repressive measures of the British crown and Parliament, Washington became a leader in Virginia's opposition to Great Britain's colonial policies. At first he hoped for reconciliation with Britain. In July, 1774 he presided over a meeting in Alexandria that adopted the Fairfax Resolves, calling for the establishment and enforcement of a stringent boycott on British imports prior to similar action by the First Continental Congress. As a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress 1774 and 1775 Washington did not participate actively in the deliberations, however, his presence was undoubtedly a stabilizing influence. In June 1775 he was Congress's unanimous choice as commander in chief of the newly created Continental Army when fighting broke out between Massachusetts and the British.

Washington took command of the troops surrounding British-occupied Boston on July 3, devoting the next few months to training the undisciplined 14,000 man army and trying to secure urgently needed powder and other supplies. Early in March 1776, he took command of the makeshift force and moved his army to New York. Defeated there by the combined land and sea forces of General William Howe, he withdrew from Manhattan to establish a new defensive line north of New York City. In November he retreated across the Hudson River into New Jersey. In the last months of 1776, desperately short of men and supplies, Washington almost despaired. He had lost New York City to the British; enlistment was almost up for a number of the troops, and others were deserting in droves; civilian morale was falling rapidly; and Congress, faced with the possibility of a British attack on Philadelphia, had withdrawn from the city.

Mary Washington Sketch   © Stan Klos

Colonial morale was briefly revived by the capture of Trenton, New Jersey, a brilliantly conceived attack in which Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 and surprised the predominantly Hessian garrison. Advancing to Princeton, New Jersey, he routed the British thereon January 3, 1777. These two engagements restored patriot morale and by spring Washington had 8,000 new recruits. In September and October 1777 he suffered serious reverses in Pennsylvania at Brandywine and Germantown. The major success of that year, the defeat of the British at Saratoga, New York in October, belonged not to Washington but to Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates. The contrast between Washington's record and Gates's brilliant victory was one factor that led to the some members of Congress and army officers to replace Washington with a more successful commander, probably Gates. Washington acted quickly, and the plan eventually collapsed due to lack of public support as well as to Washington's overall superiority to his rivals.

After holding his bedraggled and dispirited army together during the difficult winter at Valley Forge, Washington learned that France had recognized American independence. With the aid of the Prussian Baron von Steuben and the French Marquis de Lafayette, he concentrated on turning the army into a viable fighting force. By spring he was ready to take the field again.

 

In 1780 the main theater of the war shifted to the south. Although other generals conducted the campaigns in Virginia and the Carolinas, Washington was still responsible for the overall direction of the war. After the arrival of the French army in 1780 he concentrated on coordinating allied efforts and in 1781 launched the brilliantly planned and executed Yorktown Campaign against Charles Cornwallis, securing the American victory.

After the war Washington returned to Mount Vernon, which had once again declined in his absence. Although he became president of the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of former Revolutionary War officers, he avoided involvement in Virginia politics, preferring to concentrate on restoring Mount Vernon. His diary notes a steady stream of visitors, native and foreign; Mount Vernon, like its owner, had already become a national institution.

  George Washington Sketch  - © Stan Klos George Washington Sketch  - © Stan Klos George Washington Birthplace  - © Stan Klos George Washington Bust  - © Stan Klos George Washington Sketch  - © Stan Klos George Washington Tomb  - © Stan Klos George Washington Profile  - © Stan Klos George Washington Monument Sketch  - © Stan Klos Martha Washington Sketch  - © Stan Klos George Washington's Mt. Vernon  - © Stan Klos William Washington Sketch  - © Stan Klos George Washington Engraving  - © Stan Klos
Click on an image to view full-sized

 

Shays' Rebellion, an armed revolt in Massachusetts, 1786 through 1787, convinced many Americans of the need for a stronger government. Washington and other Virginia nationalists were instrumental in bringing about the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to promote that end. In May 1787, Washington headed the Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and was unanimously elected presiding officer. His presence lent prestige to the proceedings, and although he made few direct contributions, he generally supported the advocates of a strong central government. Washington's attendance at the Constitutional Convention and his support for ratification of the Constitution were critically important for its success in the state conventions. After the new Constitution became legally operative, he was unanimously elected president in 1789.

Standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City, Washington took his oath of office as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789. Washington acted carefully and deliberately, aware of the need to build an executive structure that could accommodate future presidents. Hoping to prevent sectionalism from dividing the new nation, he toured the New England states in 1789 and the South in 1791. By appointing Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury and Thomas Jefferson Secretary of State, he brought the two ablest and most principled figures of the revolutionary generation into central positions of responsibility. An able administrator, he nevertheless failed to heal the widening breach between factions led by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Because he supported many of Hamilton's controversial fiscal policies, the assumption of state debts, the Bank of the United States, and the excise tax, Washington became the target of attacks by Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans.

Washington letter as President  © Stan Klos
Washington letter as President
Click image to enlarge
Courtesy of the Skibo Center

On August 30th George Washington writes to Samuel Huntington, Governor of Connecticut, transmitting two acts of Congress including the approval of the Treaty of Hamar and an order to begin a survey of Ohio. Washington writes in full:

New York August 30th 1789

Sir,

I have the honor to transmit to your Excellency a Resolution of Congress for carrying into effect a Survey directed to be made by an Act of the late Congress -- and requesting the President of the United Sates to appoint a proper person to compleat[sic] the same. -- Also the duplicate of an Act relative to negotiations and Treaties with the Indian Tribes. –

I have the honor to be
With due consideration
Your Excellency's Most Obt.
and Most Humble Sevt.

Go: Washington

His Excellency
Samuel Huntington

For More on the Treaty of Hamar Click Here

Washington was reelected president in 1792, and the following year the most divisive crisis arising out of the personal and political conflicts within his cabinet occurred over the issue of American neutrality during the war between England and France. Washington, whose policy of neutrality angered the pro-French Jeffersonians, was horrified by the excesses of the French Revolution and enraged by the tactics of Edmond Genet, the French minister in the United States, which amounted to foreign interference in American politics. Further, with an eye toward developing closer commercial ties with the British, the president agreed with the Hamiltonians on the need for peace with Great Britain. His acceptance of the 1794 Jay's Treaty, which settled outstanding differences between the United States and Britain but which Democratic-Republicans viewed as an abject surrender to British demands, revived condemnation against the president, as did his vigorous upholding of the excise law during the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.

By March 1797, when Washington left office, the country's financial system was well established; the Indian threat east of the Mississippi had been largely eliminated; and Jay's Treaty and Pinckney's Treaty (1795) with Spain had enlarged U.S. territory and removed serious diplomatic difficulties. In spite of the animosities and conflicting opinions between Democratic-Republicans and members of the Hamiltonian Federalist party, the two groups were at least united in acceptance of the new federal government. Washington refused to run for a third term and, after a masterly Farewell Address in which he warned the United States against permanent alliances abroad, he went home to Mount Vernon. His vice-president, Federalist John Adams, succeeded him.

Although Washington reluctantly accepted command of the army in 1798 when war with France seemed imminent, he did not assume an active role. He preferred to spend his last years in happy retirement at Mount Vernon. In early December, Washington contracted what was probably quinsy or acute laryngitis; he declined rapidly and died at his estate on Dec. 14, 1799.

 

 

 

George Washington
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Washington (February 22, 1732 [O.S. February 11, 1731] – December 14, 1799) was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and served as the first President of the United States of America (1789–1797). For his central role in the formation of the United States, he is often referred to as the father of his country.

The Continental Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, lost New York City, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey, defeating the surprised enemy units later that year. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, King George III asked what Washington would do next and was told of rumors that he'd return to his farm; this prompted the king to state, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." Washington did, in fact, return to private life and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon.

He presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of general dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government's executive department. He sought to create a nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His unilateral Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and began a decade of peace with Britain via the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington's farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.

Washington was awarded the very first Congressional Gold Medal with the Thanks of Congress.

Washington died in 1799, and the funeral oration delivered by Henry Lee stated that of all Americans, he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen". Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

 

Autograph letter signed "Go: Washington" to his nephew Robert Lewis © Stan Klos

Autograph letter signed "Go: Washington" to his nephew Robert Lewis, dated from Mount Vernon, February 12, 1798. Faced with monetary woes after personally financing the office of President, Washington was forced to sell and/or lease many of his land investments. This was his only hope for maintaining and keeping Mount Vernon. The letter refers to a particular parcel of land in Virginia that contained a valuable walnut grove. Washington encouraged his nephew, who handled his financial affairs, to use the walnut grove as an added incentive to sell or lease the property. Washington suggested that his potential:

"…tenant is permitted to kill the Walnuts by girdling the trees, I do not believe that the Crops would sustain much injury by their standing. They would season in this manner, and a few years hence, when the navigation of the River is in a more improved state might be brought down with more ease & safety. Perhaps, upon the whole, this may be found the most eligible plan." - Virtualology Collection.

This letter is notable for two reasons, First, the story about Washington cutting down a cherry is a myth created by Parson Mason Locke Weems. Second, Virtualology has a 2 page George Washington letter on how to girdle and cut down a grove of Walnut trees.

 

 Mason Locke Weems' "Life of George Washington" © Stan Klos

Photo of the Mason Locke Weems' "Life of George Washington" from "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Mariesha, Baker Elementary School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

Letter signed page 1 - page 2: ("G. Washington") as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army to Captain [Samuel] Carr, Head-Quarters [Verplancks Point, New York], 16 September 1782. 2 pages, folio, 308 x 195 mm., text in hand of Tench Tilghman (an aide-de-camp), light browning of paper.

Emphatic orders from Washington regarding a curious dilemma of considerable importance, since it involved the crucial alliance with France. Similar letters were addressed by Washington to Lt. Col. John Popkin and to Capt. Seth Bannister. The Marquis de Vaudreuil had arrived at Boston Harbor in August with a fleet of thirteen warships to aid the American cause, but some French soldiers and sailors had jumped ship and attempted to join the American forces. Washington writes:

"Complaint having been made to me by the Marquis de Vaudreuil commanding the Fleet of His Most Christian Majesty in the Harbor of Boston, that numbers of his Seamen and Soldiers have deserted, and that he has reason to believe many of them are engaged in the Continental Service…[M]ake immediate Enquiry among the Recruits which may be assembled at your Place of Rendezvous, and if you discover any, either Soldiers or Sailors, belonging to the Service of France, you are to send them immediately under proper guard to Monsieur de la Tombe Counsul of France at Boston. And you are in future, on no Account whatever, to pass any Foreigner, except he can produce full and satisfactory Proof that he does not belong to the Army or Navy of France." - Virtualology Collection

Gorget  Worn by George Washington © Stan Klos

Gorget, Worn by George Washington to differentiate officers from their troops - Unidentified Philadelphia silversmith, 1774, Gilded copper or brass, Massachusetts Historical Society -- Photo taken at "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Louis, Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

George Washington Life Mask Photo taken at "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Louis, Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown by John Trumbull, 1787, Oil on canvas, sketch - Detroit Institute of Arts -- Photo taken at "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Louis, Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

George Washington by Joseph Wright, 1784, oil on canvas -- Historical Society of Pennsylvania -- Photo taken at "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Louis, Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

George Washington, Vaughan Type by Gilbert Stuart, 1795, oil on canvas, University of Virginia -- Photo taken at "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Louis, Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

The Washington Family by Edward Savage, 1789-98  © Stan Klos

 

The Washington Family by Edward Savage, 1789-98, oil on canvas, National trust Collection Woodlawn Plantation -- Photo taken at "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Louis, Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

Martha Washington Charles Wilson Peale, 1795, oil on canvas, Virginia Historical Society -- Photo taken at "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths Exhibit" at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center - October 7, 2000 - by: Louis, Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania.

essage of President John Adams nominating George Washington to be Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief

 

Message of President John Adams nominating George Washington to be Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of the Armies raised or to be raised in the United States. (NWL-46-MCCOOK-1(8) -- Courtesy of: National Archives and Records Administration

Presidents of the Continental Congress
United Colonies of The United States

Peyton Randolph
September 5, 1774 to October 22, 1774
and May 20 to May 24, 1775

Henry Middleton
October 22, 1774 to October 26, 1774

John Hancock
October 27, 1775 to July 1, 1776

Presidents of the Continental Congress
United States of America

John Hancock
July 2, 1776 to October 29, 1777

Henry Laurens
November 1, 1777 to December 9, 1778

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December 10, 1778 to September 28, 1779

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September 28, 1779 to February 28, 1781


Presidents of the United States
in Congress Assembled

Samuel Huntington
1st President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to July 6, 1781

Thomas McKean
2nd President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
July 10, 1781 to November 5, 1781

John Hanson
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in Congress Assembled
November 5, 1781 to November 4, 1782

Elias Boudinot
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in Congress Assembled
November 4, 1782 to November 3, 1783

Thomas Mifflin
5th President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
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6th President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
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7th President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
November 23, 1785 to June 6, 1786

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8th President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
June 1786 - November 13, 1786

Arthur St. Clair
9th President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
February 2, 1787 to October 29, 1787

Cyrus Griffin
10th President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
January 22, 1788 to March 4, 1789


Presidents of the United States
under the
United States Constitution

George Washington (F)

John Adams (F)

Thomas Jefferson (D-R)

James Madison (D-R)

James Monroe (D-R)

John Quincy Adams (D-R)

Andrew Jackson (D)

Martin Van Buren (D)

William H. Harrison (W)

John Tyler (W)

James K. Polk (D)

David Atchison (D)*

Zachary Taylor (W)

Millard Fillmore (W)

Franklin Pierce (D)

James Buchanan (D)

Abraham Lincoln (R)

Jefferson Davis (D)**

Andrew Johnson (R)

Ulysses S. Grant (R)

Rutherford B. Hayes (R)

James A. Garfield (R)

Chester Arthur (R)

Grover Cleveland (D)

Benjamin Harrison (R)

Grover Cleveland (D)

William McKinley (R)

Theodore Roosevelt (R)

William H. Taft (R)

Wilson Woodrow (D)

Warren G. Harding (R)

Calvin Coolidge (R)

Herbert C. Hoover (R)

Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)

Harry S. Truman (D)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)

John F. Kennedy (D)

Lyndon B. Johnson (D)

Richard M. Nixon (R)

Gerald R. Ford (R)

James Earl Carter, Jr. (D)

Ronald Wilson Reagan (R)

George H. W. Bush (R)

William Jefferson Clinton (D)

George W. Bush (R)


*President for One Day

**President Confederate States of America

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President pro tempore of the Senate
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Attorney General
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