1st President of the United States
Served: April 30, 1789 - March 3, 1797
Born: February 22, 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died: December 14, 1799 at Mount Vernon, Virginia
Buried: in the family crypt on the grounds of Mount Vernon in Fairfax County, Virginia
I picked up the Father of our Country on a weekend trip to Washington D.C. with my wife back on Labor Day weekend in August and September of 1996. He was the 3rd DPOTUS we saw that weekend (we saw 5 in all). As we usually do during our vacations, we did as much as we could. In our three days, there we visited a number of museums and monuments. We also took a day trip down to Richmond, Virginia. On Sunday (Sept. 1), we drove down from our hotel in Arlington, Virginia south along the George Washington Parkway to Mount Vernon. It was a beautiful day. We took the tour of Mount Vernon, which was very impressive. You could easily see why anyone would want to live there. The view of the Potomac River and the hills of Maryland from his back porch is phenomenal. After touring the main house, we walked around the grounds. Here is Debbie on the grounds of Mount Vernon which overlooks the Potomac River.
George Washington is among our more popular presidents. He is, without a doubt, my favorite. Everyone knew when the Constitution was ratified that Washington would be chosen to be our first president. He was the most popular person in the new country. Washington was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army that defeated the British and won our independence. Every Elector in the new Electoral College selected him. Washington traveled to New York City (our capital at the time) to be sworn in. He served two terms (setting a tradition that would be unbroken until 1941). Most of his eight years in office was in our second capitol of Philadelphia. There were ups and downs during his administration, but overall, he is considered a success.
After leaving the presidency, he returned to Mount Vernon. He enjoyed his retirement for less than three years. He rode his horse inspecting the grounds of Mount Vernon on Thursday, December 12, 1799. The weather turned bad as a winter storm came in, but Washington continued on his inspection. The next day, he felt a sore throat come on and had some trouble speaking. After going to bed that night, he awoke in the middle of the night with a fever, but did not want to bother anyone until morning. On Saturday morning, his wife Martha sent Washington's secretary, Tobias Lear, to get his doctor. While waiting for his doctor to arrive, Washington had his overseer, George Rawlins, bleed him. By mid-morning, his friend and physician Dr. James Craik arrived. The doctor bleed him two more times. That afternoon, two more doctors arrived. The Doctors worked on Washington to no avail. That night in the master bedroom on the second floor of the mansion, at about 10 O'clock, Washington spoke to Lear. Fearful of being buried alive, Washington ordered that his body not to be buried for three days. After asking if Lear understood him and with Martha by his side, Washington spoke his final words, "Tis well." As he checked his own pulse, he died.
Washington wanted a simple funeral and to be buried on the grounds of Mount Vernon. However, many people in the America felt that the "Father of our Country" should have a special burial place. They wanted Washington to be buried beneath the Capitol rotunda in Washington D.C. A tomb was constructed for the purpose, but remains empty to this day. The Crypt is still there. It houses exhibits in the Capitol. When they wanted to inter Washington here, his wife Martha objected. They even got special permission to let Martha be buried there too. In the end, he was buried at Mount Vernon as he wished. Martha, who could not even sleep in the same bedroom that she shared with her husband, died three years later and was buried next to him. In the picture of the tomb – George Washington is on the right and his wife Martha is on the left. There are other family members who are in the wall niches behind them.
Washington wanted a new tomb to replace the one that they had which was falling apart. In 1831, the new vault was completed. George and Martha Washington, along with other family members, were moved to the new vault. All of them, except Washington himself, were placed in vaults in the back wall. Washington is in a white marble crypt in front. Apparently, being over 6 feet tall, he wouldn't fit in the back wall. Above the entrance to the vaults is the word; "General."
Now why was Washington my favorite? Well, to be honest, it had nothing to do with his presidency. It was when he was general. After his defeat at Long Island and the loss of Fort Washington in 1776, the Continental Army was forced to retreat across New Jersey towards Pennsylvania, with the British army in pursuit. Things were very bleak for the General. His generals were second-guessing him, Congress was second-guessing him and his army was falling apart. People were signing loyalty oaths to Great Britain. The cause of Independence was at an all-time low. The feeling of despair and loneliness must have been almost unbearable for him. Despite this, when everyone else thought it was impossible, he pulled out victories at Trenton and Princeton and saved the dream of independence.
After visiting George, make sure you visit Alexandria, Virginia. There are some great restaurants that serve some excellent crab cakes. Debbie's all-time favorite crab cake restaurant is the Warehouse Bar & Grill.
Here are some webpages of interest:
White House Biography of George Washington
The Internet Public Library Biography
The American President Biography
Washington's Birthplace (NPS)
The Washington Monument (NPS)