Topic: Barbados

Visualizing George Washington’s Voyage to Barbados

by Erica Cavanaugh, Research Editor
August 3, 2017

In anticipation of the upcoming edition of the diary George Washington kept during his trip to Barbados, I worked with editors Lynn A. Price and Alicia K. Anderson to create an interactive map of Washington’s voyage. The map not only illustrates the ship’s progress and landing but also describes the weather encountered and the food eaten during the journey. Such details are revealed by selecting from the various elements included on the map. Users can customize the display by toggling the selection of these elements on the legend or by zooming in and out on the map.

Washington’s voyage began prior to September 28, 1751, in the Chesapeake Bay (indicated by a red circle on the map). From there, a green line maps the latitude and longitude as recorded in Washington’s ship log from September 28 to October 30. At the end of the journey’s first leg, 19-year-old George Washington’s calculations placed the ship to the east of Barbados by about 450 nautical miles, as illustrated on the map, but the ship was actually about 10 miles west of the island. An icon in the shape of a pineapple marks his final destination. When selected, a map of the island is displayed, indicating where Washington’s ship landed.

Along the green line are four ship icons that reference notable points of Washington’s passage. When clicked, each ship icon displays an excerpt from the diary, highlighting common themes of his voyage. For example, the entry from October 6, 1751, discusses the food consumed on the journey. Throughout the diary, Washington was interested in the various types of fish he saw, at times detailing how they were caught, brought aboard the ship, and dressed. Another entry, dated October 19, 1751, discusses the stormy weather and a nearby hurricane.

The map also includes illustrations of the Bermuda Triangle and the North Equatorial Current. While it is unlikely that Washington’s voyage took him through the Bermuda Triangle, his brother Lawrence probably sailed through it when he traveled from Barbados to Bermuda, searching for relief from his illness. It is likely, however, that the North Equatorial Current and trade winds (not illustrated) would have impacted the brothers’ journeys to and from Barbados.

Developed with help from the Center for Digital Editing, this interactive map was created using Leaflet, an open-source JavaScript library for mobile-friendly interactive maps, and MapBox, an open-source mapping tool for creating custom-designed maps. To plot the points from George Washington’s ship log, the latitude and longitude were converted from degrees, minutes, and seconds to decimal points. A map from the Department of Geography at Hunter College was referenced to plot the North Equatorial Current. Public domain images were used for the ship and pineapple icons. The map of Barbados is courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library, Map Collection.

You can view and explore the interactive map of Barbados here.

 

 

Success!: Why the Supposed Ship on Which George Washington Sailed to Barbados Is Probably the Right One After All

By Alicia K. Anderson, Research Editor
December 8, 2016

Paul Sandby, View of Carlisle Bay, Barbados, with Ships and Boat, c.1820. Pen and ink drawing. Yale Center for British Art.

Paul Sandby, View of Carlisle Bay, Barbados, with Ships and Boat, c.1820. Pen and ink drawing. Image courtesy of Yale Center for British Art.

William Fairfax, first cousin of Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax, had a son-in-law in the Barbados trade. John Carlyle, a Scottish-born Alexandria merchant, married his daughter Sarah Fairfax in 1747. George Washington was related. Lawrence Washington, his elder half-brother, married Sarah’s sister Ann in 1743. She and her husband resided at Mount Vernon, where George often stayed.

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.1 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.

Continue reading

“Strongly Attacked”: George Washington Encounters Smallpox

By Lynn Price, Assistant Editor
December 2, 2016

It may have started with a headache and a fever, or just a general feeling of malaise. It could have struck after a night’s rest, when his morning routine of rising from bed was painfully curtailed by a severe backache unlike any he’d experienced before. A chill running throughout his body—abnormal in the extreme heat of the tropical climate of Barbados—could have been the first signal that something wasn’t right. However the illness chose to first present itself, within a few days a rash appeared on his skin. Less than two days from their emergence, the eruptions grew and spread, covering his entire body.1 George Washington was only 19 years old. He was on an adventure in the West Indies, and he had smallpox.

Continue reading

The “Epitome of Navigation”: How Lawrence Washington Steered His Brother George

By Alicia K. Anderson, Research Editor
May 27, 2016

Composite image created with Microsoft PowerPoint templates by Alicia K. Anderson. The original portraits of Lawrence (left) and George Washington (right) are courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

Composite image created with Microsoft PowerPoint templates by Alicia K. Anderson. The original portraits of Lawrence (left) and George Washington (right) are courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

Lawrence, George Washington’s elder half-brother by their father’s first marriage, stayed in Barbados that December of 1751. His condition, presumably tuberculosis, was none improved from their seven-week stay on the island, and he was determined to get better—if not in Barbados, then in Bermuda.1 George, his travel companion, had to get home. A new year’s surveying season was about to begin.2 He also had an important acquaintance to meet: the newly arrived governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, who, within the year (just months following Lawrence’s death in July 1752), would appoint George adjutant for the colony’s southern district with the rank of major.3

Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of a Barbados Merchant

By Lynn Price, Assistant Editor
May 19, 2016

For me, history is the study of people, and I have “met” quite a few interesting folks while working on George Washington’s Barbados diary. Due to a lack of sources, most of these people will become vague acquaintances at best. However, one of those individuals has captured my imagination—Gedney Clarke. Because of his status of power in Barbados and elsewhere, he hasn’t quite faded into the shadows of an unknown past. Many aspects of his life, nevertheless, still remain a mystery.

Continue reading

“To Set the Captives Free”: Christianity and Slavery in George Washington’s Youth

Alicia K. Anderson, Research Editor
March 11, 2016

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”1

"Sanctuary at Sea's Edge." St. Joseph's Parish Church, Barbados. Photo by Kaspar Coward, used with permission.

“Sanctuary at Sea’s Edge.” St. Joseph’s Parish Church, Barbados. Photo by Kaspar Coward, used with permission. Link to source.

Perhaps the two most controversial aspects of modern Washington scholarship are the question of his Christian faith and the undeniable fact of his ownership of human beings. The first has been the object of heated argument for a century (when it is not overlooked entirely or de-emphasized by modern studies), though historians of the 19th century rarely questioned its centrality in George Washington’s life.2 Slavery, on the other hand, is the skeleton in the closet: a matter of fact that is difficult to accept and understand.3 I would argue that these dilemmas are a double-edged sword, forged by the paradoxical relationship between the two institutions of religion and slavery (and specifically between Christian doctrine and the practice of 18th-century Anglicanism). Moreover, their foundation in the spiritual realm—the salvation and liberty of souls, not just of bodies—further marginalizes their dynamic relationship as a topic of academic scrutiny.

Continue reading

Beef, Liberty, and All Things Barbados

By Lynn Price, Assistant Editor
March 4, 2016

With George Washington’s Barbados Diary transcription complete, the next phase to accomplish is the all-important task of annotation. Placing the document into proper historical context is the backbone of documentary editing—a document on its own is only part of the story. Annotation is time-consuming, detail-oriented work that can require hours of research to compose one or two sentences. But perhaps more importantly, for this historian, it is incredibly entertaining.

Continue reading

The Flight of the Navigator: Charting the Course of George Washington’s Voyage to Barbados

By Alicia K. Anderson, Research Editor
December 11, 2015

Weathervane atop the house at Mount Vernon. Photograph by author, November 2015.

Weathervane atop the house at Mount Vernon. Photograph by author, November 2015.

“…hard gales of Wind at SSE and wavering with clear & pleasant Weather….handed the Sprit Sail & flying Jib” 1

Perhaps it’s not too much to say that editors live for those moments when all the pieces come together and the proverbial mental light bulb goes off.

Not long ago when I was examining digital images of the Barbados diary one more time from my laptop at home (this intriguing diary exerts its pull even beyond office hours), I experienced just such an “aha!” moment. A detail long overlooked in the manuscript, so tiny it hardly merited notice, suddenly spoke volumes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Georges

By Lynn Price, Assistant Editor
December 3, 2015

“I cannot tell a lie.” A young George Washington allegedly spoke these words to his father after being caught cutting down a cherry tree, confessing his transgression. As we now know, this tale was concocted by Washington biographer Mason Locke Weems in the early 19th century. While it was meant to illustrate young George’s virtues as a worthy hero, it has also been used throughout the years as a moral lesson to American youth. If George Washington could tell the truth in such intimidating circumstances – shouldn’t you?

Continue reading