1st United States President, Revolutionary War Continental General, known as the "Father of His Country." Before the Revolutionary War, there had been thirteen separate colonies, each with its own government. A convention in Philadelphia with representatives from each formed a new independent nation. Washington commanded the Continental army and was later elected America's first President. George Washington was born at Wakefield, the family plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia to Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. His father was a tobacco farmer and died when George was eleven. He then lived with his half brother, who owned Mt. Vernon, inheriting the property upon his death. He had no formal education but became a self-taught surveyor at an early age. During the French and Indian (or Seven Years) War, Washington served Britain in the Virginia militia. He gained valuable lessons in warfare. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses when there was growing American resentment against British taxation. Elected as a delegate to both the First and Second Continental Congresses and favoring severing ties with Great Britain, he undertook command of the American military in 1775 at Cambridge, Massachusetts. The war lasted six grueling years, and Washington favored a strategy of hit and run. Successful at driving the British from Boston, he was badly defeated in New York but led his army through New Jersey across the Delaware River to safety in Pennsylvania. His troops were discouraged and many deserted. On December 26, 1776, he crossed the Delaware River near Trenton, capturing a thousand Hessian mercenaries serving in the British army. However, the British were soon victorious again, driving the Americans from Philadelphia. A winter camp at Valley Forge was the defining period in the struggle for independence. The men suffered: food was in short supply; improper clothing led to frozen feet and death. Martha was there beside her husband giving soldiers soup, medicine, and clothes she had obtained from her personal relief efforts. The battle of Saratoga in 1777, under the leadership of Benedict Arnold, was the turning point. France decided to send ships, men, and money, which led to the 1781 victory at Yorktown, Virginia where British troops commanded by General Cornwallis were surrounded by the French and Americans and forced to surrender. The war was over, independence achieved, a peace treaty signed and Washington said farewell to his soldiers and returned to Mount Vernon. However, he was a delegate to the convention which formed the new nation with a new constitution, and Washington elected as the first president. He took the oath of office in 1789 in New York City. The first order of business was to appoint the ablest men to serve with him. The first cabinet was born: Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury; Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State; Henry Knox as Secretary of War; and Samuel Osgood as Postmaster General. He appointed the first ten Justices to the Supreme Court. In 1791, a federal territory was established as the site of the new nation's permanent capital and Pierre Charles L'Enfant was named architect in charge of plans for the new federal city. President Washington laid the cornerstone in 1793 for the Capitol building. The city was named Washington in his honor in 1800. He served two terms, turning down a third, and returning home to Mount Vernon. Washington enjoyed less than three years of retirement. After spending a day riding on his farms in very cold weather, he got sick. His throat became inflamed. The condition was acute inflammatory edema. The first President was dead at age 67. His body was brought downstairs from his bedroom and kept for three days to ensure that he was indeed dead. Washington was interred as he wished at Mt Vernon in a hastily constructed brick crypt. Prior to interment, an elaborate funeral service was conducted. Martha sat beside a second-floor window and watched the funeral on the lawn below. The service included cavalry, infantry, cannons, a riderless horse, solemn music ,and hundreds of mourners. A passage was read from the Episcopal prayer book and his body was placed in the crypt. Within two years, Martha was also dead. A new mausoleum was constructed some thirty years later and both bodies were moved there. A third design involved moving the bodies to the anteroom of the tomb, where a white marble sarcophagus contains Washington's remains. On his left, is Martha in a more simple sarcophagus. After his death, legends, paintings, and books elevated him to a quasi-deity However, more meaningful monuments remain today. Towns, cities, schools, and streets honor his name across America. The 555-foot-tall marble obelisk which dominates the Washington skyline honors him. Construction of the Washington Monument began in 1848, stopped during the Civil War, and was finished in 1884. Mt Vernon fell into disrepair until the Mount Vernon Ladies Association was formed to restore and preserve the site. The residence was designed by Washington and contains original furnishings and many artifacts owned by the couple. The President owned over 300 slaves. He realized that slavery contradicted American ideals, and he was the only founder to free his slaves in his will. It bothered him as leader of the revolution that had yielded the country liberty, that many Americans remained in bondage. In 1983, the Ladies Association began the task of refurbishing the large neglected slave cemetery at the rear of the estate. No markers were ever placed at the slaves; graves. the slaves died. The Mt. Vernon association has made efforts to tell the story of slavery at this plantation.
Bio by: Keith Fitzgerald
Within this Enclosure
the remains of
Genl. GEORGE WASHINGTON.
I am the resurrection
and the life, saith the Lord,
he that believeth in me, though
he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and
believeth in me shall never die
St. John, XI.25.26
Buried at his home, Mount Vernon.
Martha Dandridge Washington
1731–1802 (m. 1759)
Elizabeth Washington Lewis
John Augustine Washington
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