George Washington- the man, the myth, the President
Who was George Washington?
I am not going to lie to you friends, my knowledge of George Washington is limited too only a few things:
1. He had wooden teeth
2. He was President
3. He cut down a cherry tree and told on himself
4. He was a General
5. His wife had a very annoying parrot that no one liked
6. He is on the one-dollar bill
However, his birthday was not too long ago! Happy birth day George! So, I thought it would be fun to look up some fun facts about the man who is the centerfold for our great nation. When you start looking into the lives of our fore-fathers you realize two great things: 1. They were human and made human mistakes. 2. They had bad days just like us. It is with these thoughts in mind that I decided I wanted to talk about the ‘man’ George Washington and not the ‘President’, ‘War Hero’, ‘General’, ‘Land Owner’, etc…
1) George was in love with another women. George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis on January 6, 1759 at her home in New Kent County. Let’s talk about this marriage really quick. Martha was 26 years old and was worth more than 40,000 pounds because her husband, Daniel Parke Custis, had died without a will which left her as executor of his estate. This is big news because technically Martha had the same legal rights as a man, which was unheard of during that time period. But Martha didn’t like this life. She didn’t want to run the estates herself; she wanted a family. Lucky for her, that amount of wealth and power meant that she didn’t have to marry for security- she was able to marry for love.
In swoops George. Standing 6 foot 2, a military man who was fighting in the French and Indian War, the recent owner of Mount Vernon, and a man of some means- George was an attractive suitor! He had heard about Martha’s status as a wealthy widow when he traveled to Williamsburg during a brief interlude in the fighting, and he quickly decides that this would be a respectable marriage for himself and goes to visit Martha on March 16, 1758. It is love at first site for Martha, I gather, because after the second visit on March 25, 1758- she is ordering wedding finery from London and a wedding dress that was to be “grave but not Extravagant nor to be morning.”
But wait! I got gossip. George was going to marry Martha, but he was at the same writing love letters to Sally Fairfax! I will give you a moment to get over the shock. Good? Okay, lets go. George and Sally meet when he was just 18 years old because his older brother Lawrence Washington had married Sally’s sister-in-law Anne Fairfax. Now Sally was two years older than George and so she took him under her wings and taught him things like history, philosophy, and literature. This would have been a whole new world, because George had to quit school when he was only 11 years old, when his father died, and had had no formal education. I don’t think that anyone really knew the depths of George’s feelings until a little less than 6 months after his engagement to Martha when he wrote to Sally:
"You have drawn me my dear Madam, or rather have I drawn myself, into an honest confession of a Simple Fact—misconstrue not my meaning—’tis obvious—doubt it not, nor expose it,—the World has no business to know the object of my Love, declard in this manner to—you when I want to conceal it—One thing, above all things in this World I wish to know, and only one person of your Acquaintance can solve me that, or guess my meaning"
Ohhhhh…. that sly fox! That is definitely a very hard to understand love letter, but very sweet! But don’t worry! It all works out. Sally is a very faithful wife to her husband and George marries Martha and they do grow to love each other deeply. Sally does keep the letter from George until her tragic death all alone in Europe, so it does make you wonder…. did she love George?
2) George was a step-father. Martha had already had two children from her marriage with Daniel Custis, and took the job of fatherhood very seriously. However, as with many of the stories of children in that time period- it did not end with a happy ending.
John Parke Custis, also known as Jacky or Jack, was 4 years old when George and Martha got married. George was anxious for John to receive the education that he never had the opportunity to get, but John was not a very studious type. George penned once that he considered John to be a ‘promising boy’ and that he would be coming into a large fortune and he wanted the boy ‘fit for more useful purposes, than a horse Racer.’ When John was 19, he fell in love with Eleanor Calvert, a 15-year-old daughter of another prominent Maryland family. George convinced John to continue his education so that he could support her, but less than a year later John and Eleanor were wedded. John and Elanor had 7 children over the next 7 years, only 4 of whom would live. At the end of the Revolutionary War, John decides to ride out to join his step-father at Yorktown to help with the celebration of the victory…but soon after Cornwallis’ surrender John dies along with hundreds of other men from camp fever that was spreading through both the American and British troops.
Martha Parke Custis, also known as Patsy, was a baby when the marriage occurred, but by the time she was about 12 years old- she was inundated with seizers. While the Washington’s tried everything in the book and consulted all the best doctors in the area- nothing was helping. During the summer of 1770, George kept track of the number of seizers she had and it is noted that during the season she suffered as many as two a day over 26 different days. One afternoon, while Patsy and Eleanor (John’s fiancée at the time) where talking, Patsy went to her room to get a letter that she had received from John while he was at college in New York. Eleanor, hearing a strange noise from Patsy’s room, went to investigate and found Patsy in the middle of a life-threatening seizure. Martha screamed for help, George knelt by his daughter’s side crying in sorrow and praying for a recovery, family and friends watched as within two minutes- Patsy died at the age of 17.
3) George was a hard man to kill. Did you know that George suffered through diphtheria (a sheet of thick, gray matter covers the back of the throat, making breathing hard), tuberculosis, smallpox, malaria, dysentery, Quinsy (a peritonsillar abscess occurs when a collection of pus forms and infection spreads beyond the tonsils into the neck and chest. Swollen tissues can block the airway), carbuncle (a group of pus-filled bumps forming a connected area of infection under the skin), and pneumonia? He also almost drowned in an ice-clogged river, survived the burning and massacre of Fort Necessity. In one battle, two horses were shot from underneath him and he was shot at 4 times, close enough to pierce his clothing. And the guy still lived on! Go George!
But……the cold got to him. It was a cold, snowy, sleeting, rainy day on December 12, 1799. George, being a man of routines went out to oversee his daily projects. He was a little late coming home, but his dinner guests were already sitting in the house waiting to eat, so he chooses to not change into warm clothes and entertained as normal. The next day, more heavy snow was falling, but George did not let that hamper him in his goals- off he went. That evening, he starts to feel sick and by the early morning hours he wakes up Martha because he is having a hard time breathing. Dr. James Craik, George’s doctor for over 40 years, comes flying in and decides that bleeding was the right treatment plan. Over the day, two more doctors were called in and poor George was literally tortured with having over 40% of his blood being taking out, herbal teas, enema’s, and then he almost chocks to death when they make him a drink f molasses butter and vinegar- yum, yum. Dr. Craik then applies a toxic tonic to Georges’ neck that caused it to blister. Poor George! Around 11p.m. that night- George died.
The war hero, President, father, husband, land owner was deathly afraid of being buried alive and requested on his deathbed that he not be put into the family vault for three days. On December 18, 1799, at the young age of 67, George Washington was laid to rest at Mount Vernon.
The 6th Congress commissioned Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee to write the former President’s eulogy, where the famous words still right true today
“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”
Happy birth day George Washington!