Washington's Birthday eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 265 pages of information about Washington's Birthday.

As a soldier he fought against distinguished British officers four pitched battles—­Long Island, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth; in the first three of which he was defeated, and the last was a draw.  He conducted two sieges—­Boston and Yorktown—­in both of which he was successful; and he destroyed two outposts—­Trenton and Princeton—­in a manner generally regarded as so brilliant and effective that he saved the patriot cause from its first period of depression.  His characteristics as a soldier were farseeing judgment and circumspection, a certain long-headedness, as it might be called, and astonishing ability to recover from and ignore a defeat.  In his pitched battles, like Long Island and Brandywine, he knew that defeat was probable, and he prepared for it.[9]

He was compelled to act so much on the defensive, and the British methods were so slow, that his activities in the field were not numerous when we consider that he was in command for seven years.  The greater part of his time and energy was employed in building up the cause by mild, balanced, but wonderfully effective arguments; reconciling animosities by tactful precautions; and by the confidence his personality inspired preventing the army from disbanding.  A large part of this labor was put forth in writing letters of wonderful beauty and perfection in the literary art, when we consider the end they were to accomplish.  Complete editions of his writings of this sort usually fill a dozen or more large volumes; and there have been few if any great generals of the world who have accomplished so much by writing, or who have been such consummate masters of language.

Sufficient care has not always been taken to distinguish between the different periods of his life.  He aged rapidly at the close of the Revolution; his reserved manner and a certain “asperity of temper,” as Hamilton called it, greatly increased; and some years afterwards, when President, he had become a very silent and stiffly formal man, far different from the young soldier who, in the prime of life, drew his sword beneath the old elm at Cambridge to take command of the patriot army.

The Virginians of his time appear to have had occupations and social intercourse which educated them in a way we are unable to imitate.  Washington in his prime was a social and convivial man, fond of cards, fine horses, and fox-hunting.  Although not usually credited with book learning, his letters and conduct in the Revolution show that he was quite familiar with the politics of foreign countries and the general information of his time.  We have not yet learned to appreciate the full force of his intellect and culture.


[8] From “The Struggle for American Independence,” by Sydney George Fisher.  Copyright by J.B.  Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.

[9] Limiting by his foresight the extent of his loss, guarding by his disposition security of retreat, and repairing with celerity the injury sustained, his relative condition was often ameliorated, although victory adorned the brow of his adversary.—­LEE, Memoirs, Vol.  I, p. 237.

Project Gutenberg
Washington's Birthday from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook