Presenting documents for scholarly and public use is the primary purpose of The Papers of George Washington. Reviews further this purpose, and project members have found 169 such assessments published in traditional print as well as digital outlets between 1977 and 2018. Happily, the overwhelming consensus among reviewers is that the edition admirably serves its large intended audience.
In a proposal dated Oct. 18, 1966, Van Shreeven called for the publication of a comprehensive edition of the papers of George Washington. Not only was there a need for this sort of project (previous editions contained only Washington’s outgoing correspondence or selected incoming letters), but the American Revolutionary War Bicentennial promised interest and a favorable funding environment.
Washington first met Lieutenant General Rochambeau, whose French soldiers were stationed near Rear Admiral Ternay’s French fleet at Rhode Island, to plan strategy during a nadir of the American Revolution. Aspiring to take New York City from the British in 1780 before the onset of winter, Washington expected during the first two weeks of September that French reinforcements from Europe or the West Indies would soon arrive. He learned instead on September 16 that a British fleet from the West Indies had recently reached the vicinity of New York City.
The first thing people tend to comment on when hearing of my new position is that I am a woman. Now, the scholarly editing field is fairly advanced in terms of gender parity; there are many projects headed by and staffed by women. But for some reason, a female editor in chief of George Washington’s papers surprises people. I take pleasure in telling them that I am not the first. I was preceded by the very fine scholar and editor, Dorothy Twohig, who, as managing editor, was with the Papers beginning in 1969, first under Donald Jackson and then Bill Abbot.
By Caitlin Conley and Mary Wigge Martha Washington’s contemporaries admired her as a conversationalist and hostess–not as a correspondent. Nevertheless, her letters center on significant events: the Revolutionary War and the first presidential terms. As documentary editors, we search for her letters, transcribe them, and explain their historical context. Sounds […]
William Fairfax was the superintendent of Lord Fairfax’s estates in Virginia and a powerful landowner in his own right. He resided at Belvoir, only a few miles from Mount Vernon. Teenage George Washington frequented the house and found a patron and mentor in Fairfax. Why the invalid Lawrence decided to sail to Barbados in the fall of 1751, and George decided to accompany him, had much to do with the influence of William Fairfax. Fairfax was related by marriage to the eminent Clarke family on the island, with whom the Washington brothers would spend most of their time. It was Fairfax’s connection with Carlyle, however, that likely prompted when and how the Washingtons got to Barbados. He owned a ship, and she was about to set sail.
Having looked at George Washington’s Revolutionary War diaries in my previous blog posts, I now turn to his Revolutionary War correspondence. In this and future posts, I will be offering my perspective on pivotal letters in Washington’s war career. To start, I focus on his letter to his friend Burwell Bassett, written on the eve of Washington’s departure to take command of the Continental Army.
Review of The Papers of George Washington: Retirement Series, volumes 1 – 4 The Journal of Southern History Reviewed by Charles Royster These four volumes of The Papers of George Washington cover the two years and nine months of Washington’s retirement. Soon after leaving the presidency, Washington said that he did not expect […]
Review of The Papers of George Washington: Colonial Series, Volumes 7 – 10 The Journal of Southern History Reviewed by Charles Royster These four volume bring to a close the Colonial Series of The Papers of George Washington. Ten meticulously edited and annotated volumes in twelve years would be an impressive achievement […]
Review of The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, Volumes 2 – 3 The Journal of Southern History Reviewed by Charles Royster These two volumes, edited by Philander D. Chase and others under the general editorship of W.W. Abbot, take George Washington’s service as commander in chief of the Continental […]