Topic: Military

George Washington by Charles Willson Peale

George Washington Takes Command

by Benjamin L. Huggins, Associate Editor
October 21, 2016

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. The letter, dated June 19, 1775, reads in part:

Dear Sir, I am now Imbarkd on a tempestuous Ocean from whence, perhaps, no friendly harbour is to be found. I have been called upon by the unanimous Voice of the Colonies to the Command of the Continental Army—It is an honour I by no means aspired to—It is an honour I wished to avoid, as well from an unwillingness to quit the peaceful enjoyment of my Family as from a thorough conviction of my own Incapacity & want of experience in the conduct of so momentous a concern—but the partiallity of the Congress added to some political motives, left me without a choice—May God grant therefore that my acceptance of it may be attended with some good to the common cause & without Injury (from want of knowledge) to my own reputation—I can answer but for three things, a firm belief of the justice of our Cause—close attention in the prosecution of it—and the strictest Integrety—If these cannot supply the places of Ability & Experience, the cause will suffer, & more than probable my character along with it, as reputation derives it principal support from success—but it will be remembered I hope that no desire, or insinuation of mine, placed me in this situation. I shall not be deprivd therefore of a comfort in the worst event if I retain a consciousness of having acted to the best of my judgment. … P.S. I must Intreat you & Mrs Bassett, if possible, to visit at Mt Vernon as also my Wife’s other friends—I could wish you to take her down, as I have no expectations of returning till Winter & feel great uneasiness at her lonesome Situation—I have sent my Chariot & Horses back.1

Continue reading

George Washington’s War Diary

By Benjamin Huggins, Associate Editor
June 23, 2016

Washington's first entry. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Washington’s first entry. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Click on image to enlarge.

In my most recent blog post, I mentioned that General Washington kept two diaries during the Revolutionary War: his weather diary (which he maintained from January to June 1780) and his journal kept from May to early November 1781. In this post, I want to discuss the latter diary.

Written entirely in Washington’s own hand, the journal shows almost no corrections, suggesting that Washington may have copied the entries into the diary after writing a draft. The journal consists of two volumes: the first covering May to August 14, 1781, and the second spanning from August 14 to November 5, 1781 (the entry for August 14 is split between the two volumes). Washington opened his war diary with a statement of regret:

Continue reading

A Lesson About Duty from General George Washington

By Katie Lebert, Communications Specialist
June 4, 2016

Recently, someone contacted the Washington Papers for help with locating a specific document. They were looking for a letter in which George Washington explained why patriotism was not enough to win the Revolutionary War. Fair payment for the men who fought was also needed:

Continue reading

Elementary, kids, it was just bloody good sense: Why, when the dye was cast, the British wore red

"Battle of Bunker Hill" by Percy Moran. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

“Battle of Bunker Hill” by Percy Moran. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By Thomas Dulan, Assistant Editor
April 19, 2016

“Why did the British soldiers wear red? That doesn’t seem very smart.”

It might have been Matt, sitting at the very back of the classroom, who asked the question; or it might have been Caleb, a couple of desks away. But it definitely was Sonia who immediately shot her hand in the air with a ready answer.

“It was so the blood wouldn’t show on their uniforms,” she responded knowingly.

So knowingly, in fact, that I was surprised when she couldn’t recall her source of information, other than to indicate it was outside the classroom. It just didn’t seem like the sort of tidbit a fifth-grader would pick up in the course of her everyday reading or conversation. So I tucked away Sonia’s response as another in a pocketful of amusements gathered during my two days of speaking to Mr. Hicks’s social studies class at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School. The more I tried to entertain the fifth-graders, the more they turned the tables on me.

Continue reading

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton

Civil War?: The American Revolution through Multiple Lenses

March 23, 2016

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton New Jersey, 1777.

Over the weekend, several of our editors and staff attended the fifth annual Conference of the American Revolution, hosted by America’s History, LLC in Williamsburg, where Director Edward G. Lengel gave a presentation on the Battle of Germantown.

Other leading historians lectured on topics ranging from Washington to Benedict Arnold, Concord to Pensacola, and local preservation to global context. Interestingly, a number of scholars of the American Civil War, drawn to the colonial conflict and its aftermath, were in attendance.

For another account of how the Civil War inspired perceptions of the American Revolution, see Research Editor Kim Curtis’s recent article on D. W. Griffith’s film America in light of his better-known Birth of a Nation.

George Washington in D.W. Griffith’s America: Or Love and Sacrifice (1924)

Photo of D.W. Griffith in 1919. PD-US.

Photo of D.W. Griffith in 1919. PD-US.

By Kim Curtis, Research Editor
March 18, 2016

Silent film director D.W. Griffith may be best known for his narratively and technologically groundbreaking but controversial 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. However, his filmography also includes a little-seen movie called America: Or Love and Sacrifice (1924) that is worth looking at as well.

Based on the novel The Reckoning by Robert W. Chambers, America tells the story of the American Revolution through a romance between Nathan Holden, an express rider and minuteman, and Nancy Montague, the daughter of a wealthy Tory.

Continue reading

George Washington Tells a Lie

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton by Charles Willson Peale (1781) | Wikimedia Commons | US Public Domain

By Benjamin L. Huggins, Associate Editor
January 22, 2016

In June 1780, General George Washington told a lie. In fact, he planned a major deception. But as it was intended to deceive the British high command during the Revolutionary War, most Americans would likely forgive him. Washington, with the aid of Major General Lafayette, wanted the British to believe that the French army under the command of Lieutenant General Rochambeau was soon expected to arrive in North America to help the Americans liberate Canada from the British yoke.

Continue reading