A great and good man, but bringing him to life in a debunking age is a hard row to hoe
“I not being so good a woodsman as the rest of my Company striped my self very orderly and went in to the Bed as they call’d it when to my Surprize I found it to be nothing but a Little Straw—Matted together [and] one Thread Bear blanket with double its Weight in Vermin such as Lice and Fleas etc.”
Thus George Washington, at age 16, confided to his diary. The year was 1748. He was largely self-taught, far from home, trying to learn the surveyor’s trade.
Eventually the father of his country would sleep in a very great number of beds, so that one of them seems suitable enough as an object at hand. All through the 1750s he traveled the Western wilderness, first as a surveyor, then as a colonial officer. He had two horses shot from under him in battle, helping England fight France for possession of the continent. After some years building up Mount Vernon as a farm, in May 1775 he was off to Philadelphia as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He would be back soon, he wrote Martha after he left Mount Vernon, but it was eight and a half years before he got home for good.
Instead, he had to go straight to Cambridge, Massachusetts, as Commander in Chief of the new Continental Army in what was fast becoming the American Revolution. Thereafter he was on the move, fighting and retreating hither and yon, skillfully keeping his ragtag army in being. “If I were to wish the bitterest curse to an enemy,” Washington wrote his cousin, “I should put him in my stead.” As the plight of the colonies seemed more and more hopeless, Washington was offered dictatorial powers. He declined to use them. He threatened to resign his impossible task; he and the feckless Congress faced the fact that there was no one else to take up such a burden.
Credit : Timothy Foote for www.smithsonianmag.com