Book of the Week
This week’s book of the week is Discover America’s National Parks: George Washington.
As the “father” of the United States, George Washington would be revered for generations to come. His friend and neighbor, General “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, eulogized: “He was first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” But before he was any of these things, he was a boy from Virginia who longed for adventure and liked to swim and ride and read. How did he become the man who helped create the United States of America? This is the story of the remarkable life of George Washington.
The Life of George Washington
Everyone has heard about George Washington, about the cherry tree, about crossing the Delaware River, and about the first president. But what shaped a young boy from rural Virginia into one of the greatest generals of his time? The Book of the Week, George Washington, part of our Discover America’s National Park series, goes into the early life and history of what made the most famous founding father.
George Washington was born in Pope’s Creek Virginia, to Augustine and Mary Ball. His father died when George was eleven, and his two older half-brothers inherited the main estates, including what would eventually become Mount Vernon. The death of his father crushed any hopes George had of going abroad for a formal education like his half-brothers, but George never stopped learning. When he was sixteen, he joined a surveyor’s expedition to chart wilderness of the Ohio Valley, which gained him experience and paid enough money to expand his holdings. Take a tour of Pope’s Creek here.
Did you know George Washington was originally a redcoat? After his older brother Lawrence died, George inherited Lawrence’s military officer position, a rank of Major, in the Virginia militia. George won his first major battle against the French that instigated the French and Indian War, but later was forced to surrender at Fort Necessity. His experience fighting in the rough wilderness became a key component to his success in the Revolutionary War. Follow his early military career in this stunning graphic novel.
George married a young, attractive, and wealthy widow named Martha Dandridge on January 7, 1759. She brought along with her four children, which George treated as his own. George and Martha never had children of their own, but they were devoted to each other. Martha spent most of the Revolutionary War at George’s side on the front, including the terrible winter at Valley Forge. She did this all while managing Mount Vernon and George’s businesses. As the first First Lady, Martha set the precedent for how a First Lady should act. She held open weekly dinners where foreign dignitaries, Congressmen, and members of the local community could come and rub elbows together. Learn more about the amazing Martha Washington in this video!
Although George is primarily known as a politician and military figurehead, he was also a farmer and businessman. During his lifetime, George expanded Mount Vernon from 2,000 acres to 8,000 acres. He experimented with different plants and refined the most sustainable practices, which led him to stop growing tobacco and start growing wheat. He added a commercial fishing enterprise, a flour grist mill, and a distillery to his holdings. At its peak, George Washington’s distillery produced over 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey in a year, making it one of the largest distilleries in America at the time.
George took up the position as General of the Continental Army in June 1775 and traveled to the Longfellow House, where he spent nine months training the new Continental Army. Although he had a military background, he had no practical experience with large formations, artillery, or maintaining supply lines. But he learned on the job. One of his more daring strategies was to attack the garrison in Trenton on Christmas night in 1776. This victory marked a turning point in the war. It’s been immortalized by the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although beautiful, Leutze’s painting is not all that accurate. Check out how the night raid really went down in this video.
After the Revolutionary War, George retired back to Mount Vernon. He hoped to live his life peacefully, but as the new republic floundered, he left retirement in 1785 to lead the Constitutional Convention and worked to ratify the Constitution. When the first presidential election was held, George received every vote. He is the only president unanimously elected by the voice of the people. He wrote, “In our progress toward political happiness my station is new…there is scarcely any action that may not be subject to a double interpretation.” George served two terms as president and was regarded upon his death as one of the greatest men of the age. You can see more of George’s thoughts and fears by exploring his writing via the Founder’s Papers in the National Archives.
Passport Virtual Cancellation
Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters NHS
Discover the site where, during the Siege of Boston, General George Washington first took command of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, and which served as his headquarters for the duration of the siege. Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site preserves a home that has seen many layers of historical events – peel back the layers and collect your virtual cancellation!
Shop The Experience
Did you know that, according to the US Census Bureau, there are more places in the United States named after George Washington than any other person? Put a commemorative “pin” on your George Washington map with the some of the products below.
Support The Experience
Support Your Parks
If you are passionate about education and your national parks, consider a gift today. Your gift of $10 or more will make more books available online for free and allow us to reach new audiences with the stories of our history, culture, and environment that your national parks preserve.