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.
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.
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.
On Feb. 22, 1800, a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Church, then the pro-Cathedral in Baltimore. They had come to hear Bishop John Carroll’s eulogy of George Washington. When Carroll spoke, he mourned the loss of a wise leader but reminded the crowd of the hope of resurrection. “To be allied with wisdom,” the bishop declared, “is immortality.”
The best way to describe the Washington biographies by Elizabeth Eggleston Seelye (December 12, 1858 – November 11, 1923) and Lucy Ellen Guernsey (August 12, 1826 – November 3, 1899) would be as family affairs. The Story of Washington was written by Elizabeth, illustrated by her sister Allegra, and edited by her father, Edward. Meanwhile, Washington and Seventy-Six was written by Lucy and her sister Clara. A distinctly feminine voice permeates the pages of the two books. Both authors focused on Washington’s public life and placed a strong emphasis on the female connections that shaped the man.
Over the summer I was invited to appear on a Smithsonian Channel television show called America’s Hidden Stories. The subject? Whether or not young George Washington had a romantic affair with Mary Philipse (later Mary Philipse Morris), a New York heiress whose family owned an incredible amount of property on the Hudson river. I happily accepted.
Isaac and Kitty were a married couple who were enslaved at Mount Vernon. Unfortunately, as a result of being enslaved by the Washington and Custis families, there are not many records that document the lives of Isaac and Kitty. In reviewing and visualizing George Washington’s correspondence and financial papers, we can recover some information about them—from the family and community they cultivated to the independent labor they pursued.
Bringing order to sources is the essence of bibliography, and it cannot be stressed enough how much editors appreciate any person who achieves that end. In the world of documentary scholarship on George Washington, a genuine star in this regard is Appleton Prentiss Clark Griffin (1852‒1926), who compiled A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum (Cambridge, Mass., 1897).
Unlike George Washington, Francis Hopkinson seems to have craved attention, enjoying both the public eye—and ear. From his days as a student at the College of Philadelphia through an impressive career as lawyer, statesman, judge, scientist, and inventor, Hopkinson often spoke publicly and wrote extensively. What few realize about him, though, is that he was intimately involved in shaping Americans’ opinions before, during and after the Revolutionary War—through song lyrics.
Information on George Washington and slavery rose to a new level with the publication of Mary V. Thompson’s “The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret”: George Washington, Slavery, and the Enslaved Community at Mount Vernon (University of Virginia Press: Charlottesville, Va., 2019). Unsurprisingly, Thompson frequently refers to William “Billy” Lee, arguably the most famous slave whom Washington owned because of Lee’s service as the general’s valet during the full course of the Revolutionary War. Lee also was the only slave whom Washington freed outright in his will at the time of his death. Research on the discovery and aftermath of Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s treachery for volume 28 in The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, revealed an overlooked observation about Billy Lee.