[…] [Washington] was one of those rare few who, under fire, were without fear.
In 1759, […] [Washington] married Martha Dandridge Custis of Williamsburg, an attractive, extremely wealthy widow with two children, to whom he gave full devotion. The children, John Parke Custis and Patsy, were treated quite as though they were his own. Indeed, one of the worst tragedies of Washington’s life had been the death of seventeen-year-old Patsy of an epileptic fit in 1773.
That Washington was known to hunt up to seven hours straight, riding as close to the hounds as possible, “leaping fences and going extremely quick,” and always to the end, to be in on the kill, was considered not only a measure of his love of the chase and his exceptional physical stamina, but also of his uncommon, unrelenting determination.
The Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale, who had been a guest at Mount Vernon in 1772 while painting Washington’s portrait, described how he and several other young men were on the lawn throwing an iron bar for sport, when Washington appeared and, without bothering to remove his coat, took a turn, throwing it “far, far beyond our utmost limit.”
[Washington] was a builder by nature. He had a passion for architecture and landscape design, and Mount Vernon was his creation, everything done to his own ideas and plans. How extremely important all this was to him and the pleasure he drew from it, few people ever understood.
That [Washington] was also serving without pay [for his post as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army] was widely taken as further evidence of the genuineness of his commitment [to the revolution].
— Excerpts from David McCullough’s 1776
But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I [am] honored with.
— Washington, upon being named Commander-in-Chief by Congress
I admit, it’s a weird time to be patriotic given the hullabaloo that was raised over the recent Snowden incident. But with July 4th coming up in a matter of weeks, I thought now is a good a time as any to brush up on some American history à la 1776 by David McCullough. So this is me being anti-mainstream, I guess. The rest of y’all can read your 1984. I’ll be another 200 years back.
I’m only on the second chapter, but I’m really enjoying this book. Particularly the bits about George Washington, whom I will admit to having something of a crush on. However, the fact that he was a plantation owner and did own slaves during his lifetime still makes me feel incredibly confused, so I dunno.
The fact that I had the original of this Instagram as my cellphone background for weeks last year doesn’t really help either.
Taken at the Donald W. Reynolds Museum at Mount Vernon.
Readers — What have you been reading lately?