A Peek Into George Washington’s Mind: A Letter to Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, April 18, 1781

An unfortunate understanding persists that George Washington achieved greatness through his magnificent character despite a marginal intellect. Contemporaries, such as Timothy Pickering, spread this notion by pointing to how Washington relied on aides and secretaries to write so many of his letters, particularly during the Revolutionary War, and plenty of subsequent biographers and commentators have picked up on the idea. It is ridiculous to demean Washington for requiring assistance while acting as commanding general of the Continental army because that position often demanded multiple letters a day, with many involving complex or highly sensitive matters. Moreover, Papers of George Washington editors have discovered documentary evidence that Washington involved himself directly in the drafting of all correspondence and confirmed their final form with his signature. Further supporting this evidence are the innumerable textual notes in the Revolutionary War Series where Washington in his own handwriting modified words, phrases, or sentences in drafts prepared initially by aides or secretaries.

George Washington’s Revolutionary-War Diplomacy

TOPICS: Franco-American Relations, George Washington, Revolutionary War by Ben Huggins, Associate Editor February 11, 2022 When Gen. George Washington learned in August 1779 that the French minister who recently had arrived in America, Ann-César chevalier de La Luzerne, would be traveling from Boston to Philadelphia, Washington made plans to receive […]

Benjamin Montanye and General George Washington’s Mail

Benjamin Montanye (1745–1825) is one of the more colorful characters introduced in vol. 31 of The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series. A blacksmith who became a Patriot postrider in 1776, Montanye carried letters between Gen. George Washington at New Windsor, N.Y., and Philadelphia during the spring of 1781. On March 29, Montanye was waylaid in the mountains near Haverstraw, N.Y., by British lieutenant James Moody, a Loyalist raider who brought Montanye along with several Washington letters to British-controlled New York City. Montanye endured a stint in prison there, and in the years following, it appears he grossly exaggerated or perhaps even purposely misrepresented the importance of his capture.

Bushrod Washington Papers and the Challenges of Transcription

One of the most important skills for a transcriber to master is how generously to read misspellings. For example, if an 18th-century writer did not differentiate between their “i’s” and “e’s” very well, then the question of spelling must be decided by the transcriber. Do you transcribe every letter without a dot above it as an “e,” even if that results in a misspelled word? Or do you trust that the author meant to spell the word correctly and just didn’t dot the “i”?

Washington Slept Here—A Lot: Christiana Campbell’s Williamsburg Taverns

Between military service, business activities, and political obligations, George Washington traveled extensively and slept away from home many nights. In fact, he slept in so many places, and those locations so loudly publicized these visits, that the claim “George Washington Slept Here” became humorous.

George Washington: Winter Soldier

George Washington (porthole portrait), Rembrandt Peale.

At the height of the Revolutionary War in 1779, a large part of Gen. George Washington’s responsibilities, which he shared with the Continental Congress, consisted in clothing and supplying the Continental army, providing transportation to move the supplies, and maintaining manpower. Without these his army could not fight, and his indefatigable effort to supply these things for his soldiers was impressive. His perseverance in this area was a key facet of his generalship. At the same time that he had to deal with these issues, however, Washington detected among his countrymen an apparent decline in patriotic zeal, which he held responsible for the lack of effort by some states in providing manpower and provisions for the army.

George Washington and Charity

TOPICS: Eighteenth-Century Life, Financial Papers, George Washington, Washington or Custis Family by Adrina Garbooshian-Huggins, Associate Editor September 3, 2021 George Washington was a lifelong supporter of charitable causes, as evidenced by the hundreds of expenditures recorded in his ledgers for “Charity.”1 Even at the outset of the Revolutionary War, when […]

A Documentary Lens Benefits Mary Ball Washington: Her Son’s Correspondence on March 21, 1781

Very few documents survive with direct information on Mary Ball Washington. That reality has allowed latitude for analysis and conclusions. Arguably, the most important letter prompting a negative view of his mother was one George Washington wrote his friend and Virginia legislator Benjamin Harrison on March 21, 1781.

French Officers’ First Impressions of Washington and the Continental Soldiers

On July 6, 1781, the French army under the command of Lt. Gen. Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, after having marched from Providence, R.I., to Westchester County, N.Y., joined the Continental army commanded by Gen. George Washington at White Plains, New York. The rendezvous marked the first time the armies had operated together since the French had arrived at Newport, R.I., a year earlier. The rendezvous gave several young French officers in Rochambeau’s army their first look at the soldiers in Washington’s army and, for some, their first look at Washington.

Identifying George Greive

Where possible, the editors at The Papers of George Washington write an “ID” (short biography) for each individual mentioned in Washington’s correspondence. Any ID made appears in the annotation for the document in which the individual is first mentioned. One of the most compelling IDs in volume 31 of the Revolutionary War Series is that for George Greive. Like many IDs in The Papers of George Washington, Greive’s is perforce truncated. However, a fairly expanded version of his career will be presented here simply because he was a rather important, somewhat shadowy, and highly intriguing figure in American and European history whose life briefly but interestingly intersected Washington’s.