"EACH DISCOVERY REVEALS A NEW DIMENSION TO YOUR LEGACY"

THE UNFOLDING JOURNEY is a new blog written in association with Legacy Genealogy.

This blog is a blend of disciplines that reveal the rich texture of culture and history that surrounded your ancestors' lives, as well as your own. We will take you beyond just the names, dates, and places to give you the "back story" for the reasons your ancestors thought what they thought and did what they did. We invite you to also visit us at the Legacy Genealogy facebook page at http://facebook.com/legacygenealogy

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#17)

Winter and Spring Encampment 1863 :
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
On the fifth, the troops received two months’ wages, at which time all those present had their accounts with the government settled to the 1st of March preceding. On the 20th of April, Wilder’s brigade of mounted men, Starkweathers’s Brigade, of Rousseau’s division, and our brigade, all under the command of Gen. Reynolds, started on a scout to McMinnville, Liberty, and Alexandria. Being so long confined to our camp, it was a treat to be out once more among the rich vegetation, which everywhere surrounded us as we passed along.

The army had now commenced the use of the “shelter-tent,” which was nothing more than a piece of light canvas, six or seven feet square, with a row of buttons and button holes on three sides by which different pieces could be joined together, and two pieces of rope about four feet in length, to stretch them with. At first they were received with a good deal of ill favor by the soldiers, but their subsequent use has made them one of the most popular items with which the government provided the army. When a soldier is provided with a good shelter-tent and oil cloth, he always has a house with him. One protects him from the rain or sun overhead, and the other from the dampness underfoot.

Preparations were now made for the construction of a place of religious worship. This was situated in the rear of the line of officers’ tents. It is a circular tent built of poles and cedar bushes. A stand was erected inside, which was very neatly trimmed with evergreen, and a suitable inscription placed on the front. Comfortable seats of plank were arranged to fill all the remaining space. Ours was the most beautiful place of worship in that part of the army. Services were held regularly every Sabbath by our own chaplain, or by other ministers who happen to be present. During the week, nightly prayer meetings were held.
The army has now settled down to the monotony of constant and thorough discipline. Rations were plenty; and men not on picket duty were subject to six or eight hours’ drill each day. Besides the time allotted for drill and other duties, there was still much unoccupied time in camp. Card playing was, with the majority, the favorite pastime and there were few who did not engage in it for amusement or gambling. Orders still existed preventing men from gambling though they were executed with no sense of duty or moral obligation. Card playing for amusement was no more prohibited than the eating of rations, and was engaged in by both officers and men. Men who persisted in gambling usually assembled in small groups in the woods, at some distance from the camp, where they might enjoy the exciting game unmolested. On one occasion, a party of considerable size from various regiments had assembled in the woods in front of our camp; and were enjoying the fun hugely. Guards on duty were instructed to arrest all such men when discovered; but the cunning gamblers always had someone inform them of the approach of the guard, and invariably made their escape. On the occasion referred to above, the guards were formed into a company and, as if going on drill moved out to where the gamblers were assembled. Unnoticed by them, the guards deployed as skirmishers and completely surrounded them, then facing inward; they charged and captured the entire party, who were forthwith marched off to headquarters.

Our camps were flooded with a class of miserable, worthless literature in the shape of novels, which were sold by the thousand, for the sole purpose of making money. The men were offered the chance of paying one dollar for three worthless novelettes, which contained a love story or some daring adventure by sea or land. Thousands of these light and chaffy publications were sent to our troops through the news agents, and the minds of the men were so poisoned that they almost corned the idea of reading a book or journal which contained matter that would benefit their minds. To offset this enormous and rapidly increasing evil, the Christian Commission furnished their reading-rooms with the best reading matter that could be procured. Any soldier could enter their rooms and read such books and papers as were found on their tables. In this manner, men who were desirous of evading the currents of immorality could find the proper means by which their spare time might be improved.

But time wore on. Winter and spring passed away.

The enemy now occupied Tullahoma and Shelbyville, and the march of our corps was intended as a flank movement, which would have placed us on the right flank of the rebel army had not the weather and the impassable state of the roads caused a delay in our march. We were not yet beyond the camps at Murfreesboro when it commenced raining and continued for several days and nights. We had been so long in camp and become so accustomed to putting on style by wearing polished shoes and paper collars, that the mud and rain was quite a contrast to the manner in which we had lived for some time.

We marched early, passed through Bradyville, a small village containing about a half dozen rickety buildings, a few ugly women, and several dirty-faced children, who stared at us as we waded through the muddy streets in the pelting rain. The wet weather impeded our progress so much that the enemy gained information of our movements, and made good their escape from Tullahoma and Shelbyville.

Exhausted by continuous and, to us, fruitless marches on the same road, the men indulged in expressing their dissatisfaction at so much marching and counter-marching, which availed nothing, and might all have been prevented by a little understanding and forethought among commanders. On July 5th, glorious news was received from our army in the east. Our battery fired salutes upon the reception of the news that Grant had taken Vicksburg. Loud and prolonged cheering resounded throughout our camps; and the drooping spirits of our army were revived by the cheering intelligence. The next day, being a day of thanksgiving, set apart by the President, to commemorate the recent victories of the Federal arms, services were held in the grove and were attended by the entire command.

We were now once more on the eve of an important campaign.

(Tennessee, February to July, 1863)

Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.

Monday, January 28, 2013



HERE’S A STORY THAT STRETCHES CREDIBILITY,
BUT IS COMPLETELY TRUE.
 

Andrew Jackson fought many fights; against the Indians, the British, and his political foes. He participated in barroom brawls and engaged in pistol duels. The life and career of “Old Hickory” was controversial and combative. But no story about this military hero and President is stranger than this one.

On January 30, 1835, the 68 year-old President Jackson was attending a memorial for a late congressman which was being held in the East Portico of the Capital. He left the ceremony and walked into the Rotunda followed by several associates. Jackson wore a heavy coat draped on his shoulders and carried his customary walking stick in his hand. A younger man approached the President from the front pulling a pistol from his coat. The man fired a shot from about eight feet away but in spite of the huge explosion the gun had misfired.

Witnesses were shocked and frozen but Jackson reacted as he had done so many times before. He strode toward his assailant, swinging his cane. The man then pulled out a second pistol and aimed point blank at the President, now within arm’s length. He pulled the trigger and a second explosion thundered, but amazingly this gun also misfired. Jackson was still standing.

The President repeatedly clubbed his young attacker. Others finally rushed forward to tackle the man. Accounts say that it was Congressman Davy Crockett who wrestled the man to the floor. Crockett and Jackson were political enemies but the future hero of the Alamo stepped in to save his President. It was the first attempted assassination of a U.S. President.

The would-be assassin was a young Englishman named Richard Lawrence. He was an unemployed housepainter. Lawrence was questioned and examined by physicians who concluded that he was mentally unsound. He claimed to be the reincarnation of Richard III, King of England in the 15th Century, and that Andrew Jackson was the reincarnation of Richard’s clerk. Lawrence contended that if he killed Jackson he would be returned to the throne. He was promptly institutionalized.

Lawrence went on trial in Washington shortly after the incident. The prosecutor, and Attorney General of the District of Columbia, was the veteran lawyer Francis Scott Key; the man who wrote the “Star Spangled Banner” twenty years earlier. His contention was that an attack upon the President was an attack upon America. He argued his case with great determination.

In a shocking verdict, the jury found that Lawrence was not responsible for his actions by reason of insanity. Key was profoundly disappointed. A national controversy ensued. Many people believed that insanity should not excuse a person from punishment for their crime. Just as many people contended that it was not justice to hang a man who was obviously mad. Legal clashes and appeals continued for years. The court’s verdict helped to establish the precedence of the insanity defense in American courtrooms, over 170 years ago.

So that’s the story. It included three famous Americans - President Andrew Jackson, the frontier hero Davy Crockett, and Francis Scott Key who wrote our national anthem. The assailant claimed to be the reincarnation of King Richard III. It also initiated a landmark legal case resulting in the establishment of the insanity defense. But most amazingly, how did Jackson survive two close range assassination attempts? Over the years since, Lawrence’s two pistols were examined many times and even test fired often. They were always found to be in perfect working order and properly loaded by Lawrence. Very strange indeed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


THE SLICED BREAD SCARE OF 1943

In 1943, the United States government banned the sale of sliced bread. But we’ll get to that story in a minute.

When pre-sliced bread was first made available to the public on July 7, 1928 (84 years ago today), the event was called “the greatest forward step in the baking industry”; and ever since, we have been saying that this thing or that was “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” But the history of automated bread slicing goes back to 1912, a century ago.

Otto Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa, invented the very first bread slicing machine. It sliced an entire loaf at one time. Sadly, his prototype and all his blue prints were destroyed in a fire. It took him another fifteen years to procure funding and build a second prototype machine. The idea of pre-sliced bread was not popular among bakers though. They felt that the resulting short shelf life would accelerate the staleness, which might turn away customers. After several attempts to get around the shelf life problem, Rohwedder modified his machine to wrap sliced bread in wax paper immediately after slicing.

The first ever pre-sliced loaf of bread was offered for sale at the Chillicothe Baking Company in Missouri on that Saturday morning of July 7th. It was labeled “Sliced Kleen Maid Bread,” and sales skyrocketed. Thanks to Holsum Bread and Wonder Bread, pre-sliced bread became a national sensation.

Fast forward to 1943. Claude R. Wickard was the Secretary of Agriculture and head of the War Foods Administration under FDR. He got the idea to ban pre-sliced bread across America, which he did on January 18th. Although the reasons were unclear, people assumed that it had to do with the conservation of resources during World War II. His rationale was indeed conservation. Wickard had selected wax paper, wheat, and steel as commodities to be held in reserve. All three were involved with sliced bread.

By FDA regulations, pre-sliced bread (which goes stale faster) was to be wrapped in thicker wax paper than loaves which were sold uncut. Oddly, there was no shortage of wax paper at the time and none was expected. Bakeries had wax paper supplies on hand to last several months, even if no more were ordered. It was hard for people to connect wax paper with the war effort, but OK.

Secondly, the government had earlier authorized a price increase of 10% on flour, and the price of flour-based foods rose accordingly. Pre-sliced bread was in such high demand that bread prices increased dramatically. Wickard believed that by banning pre-sliced bread, less would be sold. This would reduce the demand for wheat and increase the national stockpile. At the time, wheat was so abundant that it was difficult to find places to store it all. One billion bushels of wheat were in storage, enough to last two years, even if no more was harvested.

Bread-making machines were made of steel and if the demand for sliced bread dropped, Wickard reasoned that new bread making machines would not be needed. The steel used to construct them would thus be conserved. But by 1943, bread manufacturers had already invested in new machinery to satisfy the nation’s growing desire for sliced bread.

Reaction to the ban on sliced bread was strong and immediate. On January 24th, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia gave a radio address forcefully urging that bakeries that already owned their slicing machines should be allowed to continue to use them. Two days later a letter to the editor from an upset housewife appeared in the New York Times stating: “I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household. My husband and four children are all in a rush during and after breakfast. Without ready-sliced bread, I must do the slicing for toast - two pieces for each one - that’s ten. For their lunches, I must cut by hand at least twenty slices, for two sandwiches each. Afterward, I make my own toast. Twenty-two slices of bread to be cut in a hurry!”

Shortly after, John Conaboy, the New York Area Supervisor of the Food Distribution Administration, replied to public complaints. He warned bakeries and other stores that continued to slice bread to stop immediately. He stated that, “to protect the cooperating bakeries against the unfair competition of those who continue to slice their own bread, we are prepared to take stern measures if necessary.” The government was taking a hard line on the sliced bread ban.

Six weeks later, the furor began to quiet down; and on March 8, 1943, the sliced bread ban was rescinded. Claude Wickard’s only comment was that, “Our experience with the order (ban) leads us to believe that the savings are not as much as we expected and the War Production Board tells us that sufficient wax paper to wrap sliced bread is on hand.”

Governments never seem to change - whether it’s 1943 or 2013.

Friday, January 25, 2013


“IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING, I STILL BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE ARE REALLY GOOD AT HEART” (Anne Frank)

On August 4, 1944, Anne Frank was arrested in Amsterdam by German Security Police following a tip from an informer who was never identified.

Most of what we know about Anne Frank is from her diary that was published in 1947. It provides readers with a narrative of the events that this young girl witnessed; but more significantly, it reflected her personal feelings, desires, and beliefs. Her diary contained the intimate thoughts that she could not easily discuss with anyone else.

Few of us, however, are familiar with her real life story. She was the younger of two daughters born to Otto and Edith Frank. Her sister, Margot, was three years older. Anne was born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany, and the family members were all German citizens. Edith was an attentive mother and Otto a fine provider. Both parents strongly encouraged the girls to read. The Franks were liberal Jews who did not closely follow the ancient traditions of Judaism.

In March of 1933, the National Socialist Party (NAZI Party) won elections in Frankfurt and other cities, and anti-Semitic demonstrations began shortly after. Otto and Edith Frank feared what could happen to them if they remained in Germany. Edith and the children left Frankfurt for Aachen, Germany, while Otto remained. He soon had a business opportunity with a company in Amsterdam and moved there to begin work. By February of 1934, the family was reunited in the Netherlands. They were part of the 300,000 Jews who left Germany during the 1930’s.

They found an apartment on Merwede Square and had both girls enrolled in school (Margot in public school, four year old Anne in a Montessori school). Anne was energetic and outspoken; Margot was more reserved and quiet. Anne displayed a real aptitude for writing but hid her work and was reluctant to share the content with anyone.

In 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and established an occupation government. Restrictive laws, mandatory registration, and segregation for the Jews soon followed. Although the Frank girls did extremely well in school, Jewish children were henceforth only allowed to attend Jewish schools. Anne loved watching movies but Jews were forbidden from attending movie theatres beginning in 1941. On her 13th birthday in 1942, Anne Frank received a book that she had pointed out to her father at a local shop. It was an autograph book with a tiny lock on the front. Anne decided to make it her diary. Writing in it immediately, she commented on the events and changes in their lives that resulted from the German occupation.

That same year, her sister Margot received a notice ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. Otto Frank decided that the family would go into hiding. He believed that the safest place would be in some rooms located behind the offices of his company. The building backed up to a canal and there was no access from that side. Margot’s orders caused the family to make hasty preparations. They left their apartment in a state of disarray as well as leaving a note saying they had gone to Switzerland - all in an effort to convince authorities that they were gone.

Wearing several layers of clothing (they wanted to carry no luggage), they walked to their new home which they called the “Achterhuis,” translated into English as the secret annex. It was a three-story abode with five smallish rooms and an attic. The entrance door was covered on the outside by a large bookcase. Only four of Otto’s employees knew about the Frank family in hiding. They were called “the helpers” and kept the Franks supplied with food, apprised them of political developments, and ensured their safety. Anne Frank’s closest friend was Bep Voskuijl, one of the “helpers,” who was a young typist. Later, the Franks were joined by the van Pels family and one of their friends. The confined quarters made adjustments to the new people difficult. Anne spent her time reading and studying, and regularly writing in her diary for the next two years. Her last entry was just three days before her arrest.

On the morning of August 4, 1944, their Achterhuis was invaded by German uniformed police led by Karl Silberbauer. The Franks and van Pels were arrested and taken to Gestapo headquarters to be interrogated. The next day they were transferred to an overcrowded prison. Since they had been arrested while in hiding, the Franks were considered criminals; and put into hard labor. The “helpers” were also arrested, but most were not detained.

One month later, the family was placed on a train headed for the Auschwitz concentration camp. After arriving, the men were separated from their families, and all 549 children younger than 15 were marched directly to the gas chambers. Anne had turned 15 three months earlier so she was placed with the women. She believed her father had been killed. Anne was disinfected, had her head shaved, and was given an ID number tattooed on her arm. She was forced to haul rocks and dig up sod during the day; and was confined to overcrowded barracks at night.

Later, witnesses said that Anne had become withdrawn by seeing the many children being sent to the gas chamber. Others said that she often showed strength and courage. Unhealthy conditions caused disease to spread in the camp. Both Anne and Margot became infected with scabies and were moved to an infirmary where they were kept in continuous darkness. 

In late October of 1944, Anne and Margot were relocated to the Bergen-Belsen camp along with 8,000 other women. Their mother Edit was left behind and died of starvation. Survivors from Bergen-Belsen described Anne Frank as emaciated, bald, and shivering. She told them that she no longer had any reason to live. After six months at this camp, a typhus epidemic spread killing 17,000 prisoners. Margot was critically ill and died when she fell out of her bunk. Anne died a few days later. It was only a few weeks before the camp was liberated by British soldiers.

Anne’s father Otto survived Auschwitz and returned to Amsterdam attempting to locate his family. While he knew that Edith had died, he was hopeful that Margot and Anne had survived. A few weeks later he learned the truth; they were buried in an unmarked mass grave.

One of his original “helpers” had saved Anne’s diary and returned it to Otto who began the painful ordeal of reading it for the first time. After it was published, some groups denied its authenticity saying that a child could not have written it and that Anne Frank never existed. In 1963, Karl Silberbauer admitted his role in the arrest of Anne Frank and indentified her picture. He provided a complete account of the events that corroborated the stories of other witnesses.

“I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death . . . I think peace and tranquility will return again” (Anne Frank)

Thursday, January 24, 2013


“ALL THAT WE SEE IS BUT A DREAM
WITHIN A DREAM.” (Edgar Allan Poe)


Edgar Allan Poe is the iconic American author and poet best known for his stories of mystery and macabre. He is credited with creating the written form we know as the short story and in inventing the genre of detective fiction. He had just turned forty years old at the time of his death in 1849. Poe died under mysterious circumstances.

His life had been traumatized by the death of almost every person he cared for including his mother and wife. This may have accounted for the dark nature of his writings. Poe is buried in Baltimore. While he was originally interred toward the rear of a cemetery at a local churchyard, because of the demands of his devotees, Poe was reburied in 1875 closer to the front of the church.

Many people living around the country have never heard the story of the peculiar tradition surrounding Poe’s grave. This strange tradition, which has existed for over 70 years, takes place every year on Poe’s birthday, January 19th, when a mysterious stranger visits Poe’s grave.

In the early hours of the morning, a shadowy man dressed all in black except for a white scarf and a broad-billed hat, enters the cemetery and approaches the grave. He carries a silver-tipped cane. He stops to pour a glass of Martell Cognac with which he toasts the iconic author. He leaves three fresh red roses in a specific arrangement on the headstone; along with the unfinished cognac bottle. He then turns and leaves. The visitor has become known as the “Poe Toaster.”

No one, and we mean no one, has ever seen his face. His identity has been hidden since the tradition began in the 1930’s. Sometimes a note is left behind, such as, “Edgar, I haven’t forgotten you.” In 1993, a message was left announcing that “the torch will be passed” indicating that a second person might be taking over, possibly a son. Six years later a note said that the original Toaster had died the previous year.

The Poe Toaster does not attempt to hide from onlookers. Every year, reporters and groups of Poe lovers (as many as 150) observe the tradition. Out of respect the watchers do not interfere with the ritual. There has been no serious effort to identify the Poe Toaster.

In 2009, the last visit of the Poe Toaster was witnessed. It was the bicentennial of Poe’s birth and some thought that it might be the logical point at which the ceremony ended. The next year people were gathered around the cemetery to see if the visitor would make another appearance, but he never came. Jeff Jerome, the curator of the Poe Museum in Baltimore, said, “We had several suspects (in mind) but they had all passed away. The mystery will never be solved unless someone confesses on their deathbed.”

On January 19, 2012, one final vigil was held for the Poe Toaster. Again he didn’t arrive. Jerome declared the tradition now dead. “It’s sad, he said, “But we will continue to celebrate. Life goes on.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


“NOTHING SO NEEDS REFORMING
AS OTHER PEOPLE’S HABITS.” (Mark Twain)

The force of habit; we all have behavior that can be termed “habitual.” Humans develop hundreds if not thousands of them and they are mostly benign. Habits can be as innocent as washing your hands after flushing the toilet, locking the front door when you leave home, or petting your dog on the head.

People say that they have a “habit” of doing this or that, but what they frequently mean is that they have a practice or tendency to do something. Their action occurred because they had a conscious thought to make it happen, even if the thought was very brief. If you say that you have a habit of visiting The Statue of Liberty when you are in New York, you probably mean that you have a “practice” of doing it. It is likely a conscious decision.

A “habit” is defined as a relatively simple, routine behavior that is subconsciously repeated on a regular basis. Usually a person is not aware of the behavior at all. It occurs without thinking because the pattern of its use has long since been learned and internalized in the brain.

When behaviors are often repeated and associated with a specific context (such as a place or time of day), they are triggered in your brain. The more often the behavior is repeated, in conjunction with the context, the stronger the habit. Subconscious habits are cued by context. In experiments, animals in a strange setting seem to forget their habits. People who smoke are triggered to light up at the completion of a meal or when entering the room where they keep their cigarettes (both are contexts). Typical habits include overeating, nose-picking, procrastination, or obsessive/compulsive thoughts and actions. Smoking is in between a habit and an addiction. The desire for a cigarette, the pleasant feeling and the chemical high, is more related to an addiction; but the time and place a person smokes is likely to be more of a habit.

A habit itself is neither good nor bad; it is just a behavioral process developing in your brain. What makes them advantageous or not is their affect on your physical or psychological well being. Oddly, old habits are very hard to break and new habits form with difficulty over a long period of time.

So where are your habits stored? Scientists believe the center of habit formation is in the “basal ganglia,” a collection of tissues located at the base of the brain. Along with the cerebral cortex and thalamus, it directs motivational and emotional functioning, voluntary motor control, and (most importantly) procedural learning and habit development. It is life’s little instruction book for simple behavioral routines.

Ann Graybiel, a scientist associated with MIT, believes that the brain’s creation of habits is evolutionary, and that early man did not generally rely on habits. Learning habits takes a lot of brain power and that it takes up most of the brain area itself. Primitive man was not a “multi-tasker” and had to consider each action he made, even though he did the same things over and over. The development of the basal ganglia allowed some behavior to be ingrained so that modern man could function on a simple level, using habits, while consciously thinking about more complex behaviors.

Recently, basal ganglia malfunction has become a prime suspect in medical disorders of movement, habit, and mood. The feedback between the basal ganglia and the cortex may be manifested by maladies such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Habit and addiction are seen as two different phenomena though. “In the case of addiction, we get a surge of dopamine, a reward signal in the brain in the additive phase (habitual behavior creation),” says Dr. Graybiel. “This really turns the brain on. In a habit, we probably do too but after a while the behavior becomes autonomous. Then, even if the reward rush isn’t there, we do it anyway.” Habits and addictions also differ in their response to an individual’s degree of will power. If a person is still in control of their behavior, then it’s likely a habit.

And finally, can a habit (good or bad) be eliminated? No, probably not. The best a person can hope for is that the habit can be subdued to a point that it doesn’t exhibit itself - that is until the appropriate triggers and context are present.

Monday, January 14, 2013


WILL THE REAL GEORGE WASHINGTON
PLEASE STAND UP?

Being the father of our country and a national icon, we tend to minimize his image as a real person. Of course he has deserved and received our adulation, but he had his idiosyncrasies and whims just like everyone else.

There are some myths about George Washington that have never been believed. He never threw a coin across the Potomac River. The river, south of present day D.C., is anywhere from a several hundred yards to a several miles across. Many of the myths about him came from the writings of Mason Weems, author of “The Life of George Washington,” including his chopping down his father’s cherry tree. Weems later confessed that he made up parts of his book.

So what aspects of his real life are true? George Washington was a big man. He was at least six feet tall and weighed over 200 lbs. He was what we call “big-boned” with large hands. He is usually depicted wearing a white powdered wig but his hair was actually reddish-brown. His eyes were blue.

Then there is the story of his false teeth. Many believe they were made of wood. Not true. They were actually carved of ivory by dentist John Greenwood, and were implanted with several animal teeth to aid the chewing.

He had a complex personality, warm and friendly at some times and aloof and stubborn at others. We have all been there. But Washington was a social person. He enjoyed dancing and even flirting with the women who gathered around him at social events. He loved to play cards, go fox hunting, and fish. George was a social drinker, preferring wine and beer to hard liquor. He had his own whiskey still, wine cellar, and brewed his own beer. There were no quickie marts in colonial Virginia.

His birthday is February 11th of 1732, not February 22nd as usually believed because the Julian calendar was still in use at the time. He grew up on a farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of Augustus and Mary Washington. Augustus died when George was eleven years old. His mother was a demanding and contentious person. Unable to get along with her George, at sixteen, went to live with his half-brother Lawrence. He travelled with Lawrence to the Caribbean where he contracted smallpox. This left George’s face scarred for the rest of his life.

In 1752, Lawrence Washington died and left Mount Vernon to George who was only twenty years old. It was Lawrence who built Mount Vernon but George repaired and expanded it over the years. Against his mother’s wishes, he enlisted in the Virginia Militia the following year. During the French and Indian War, while heading his own command in the Ohio wilderness, George Washington was defeated and surrendered Fort Necessity in his first major battle.

After that conflict, he was obsessed with expanding his Mount Vernon holdings; eventually reaching 110,000 acres. He primarily raised tobacco (with the effort of slaves), and his stables produced the finest racehorses in Virginia.

At 29, he married Martha Dandridge Custis, a very wealthy widow. They had no children of their own, but Martha had two children from her prior marriage (she also had an illegitimate step sister who was a slave).

George was politically active in Virginia but was defeated in his attempt to win a seat in the House of Burgesses (legislature) largely because he spoke against separation with Great Britain. When the war for independence was inevitable, George fully supported the cause, of course. 

The rest is history. George Washington should be remembered as a gracious and charming person; but also firm and unyielding when the situation required it. Our many thanks go to you George.