11 Little-Known Facts About George Washington

1. Washington had only a grade-school education.

The first president’s formal schooling ended when he was 11 years old, after his father died. That event cut young George off from the opportunity to be educated abroad in England, a privilege that had been afforded to his older half-brothers. Washington’s mother never remarried, forcing the adolescent to shoulder weighty burdens at a young age, as the oldest child of six from his father’s second family. She taught him how to run a tobacco farm, and at the age of 16 he took his first job as a land surveyor. For the rest of his life, Washington would be embarrassed by his stunted schooling.

READ MORE: How George Washington’s Iron-Willed Single Mother Taught Him Honor

2. At age 22, Washington led a disastrous military skirmish that sparked a world war.

As France and Britain fought for territory at the edges of the North American colonies, Virginia sided with the British. As an officer in the Virginia militia, Washington was sent to the Ohio Valley (now western Pennsylvania) with some 150 troops, to help repel any attacks by the French. Warned by local Native American allies that a small French force has set up camp within several miles of his position, he led an attack with 40 of his soldiers, along with a dozen native warriors.

Who fired the first shot remains in dispute, but at the end of the 15-minute skirmish, at least 10 French soldiers and one Virginian were dead—including, most notably, a minor French noble, Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville, who the French later said was on a diplomatic mission. Jumonville’s death enraged the French, who called Washington an assassin. The conflict between the French and the British escalated into the French and Indian War, and soon spread worldwide in what became known as the Seven Years’ War.

READ MORE: How 22-Year-Old George Washington Inadvertently Sparked a World War

3. Washington’s first love was the wife of one of his best friends.

“The world has no business to know the object of my love, declared in this manner to you when I want to conceal it,” Washington wrote weeks before his wedding. The letter wasn’t sent to his fiancée Martha Custis—but to Sally Fairfax, who was married to one of his best friends and patrons, George Fairfax, son of one of Virginia’s largest landowners. Described as an intelligent, “dark-eyed beauty,” Sally befriended Washington when he was still an awkward teen. Historians credit her with helping to smooth his rough edges socially, teaching him how to behave and converse among the wealthy and powerful, and even how to dance the minuet. It’s unclear whether romance actually blossomed between the two.

READ MORE: 11 Key People Who Shaped George Washington’s Life

4. About those teeth: No, they weren’t wooden.

Washington ruined his teeth using them to crack walnut shells. The dentures he had were made out of lots of things, but not wood. Instead, they came largely from human teeth, pulled from the mouths of the poor and his enslaved workers. They also came from ivory, cow teeth and lead. He had a little spring inside the dentures that helped them open and close.

The fake teeth caused him great discomfort, and were one of the reasons he rarely smiled. He had to have his morning hoe cakes and syrup (chosen for their softness) cut into tiny pieces to make them easier to eat.

READ MORE: 5 Myths About George Washington, Debunked

5. Washington wasn’t always a great general, but he was an excellent spymaster.

Washington struggled mightily to win the Revolutionary War with an army that was perpetually undermanned, undertrained and undersupplied. So to triumph over one of the world’s most powerful military forces, he relied increasingly on his unseen weapon: a secret intelligence network. Throughout the conflict, Washington’s spies helped him make bold, canny decisions that would turn the tide of the conflict—and in some instances, even save his life.

The story of Washington’s underground spy network, and how it helped Americans win their revolution, is replete with intrigue: There were letters written in invisible ink, a rare female agent who went by the mysterious moniker Agent 355, an African-American double agent, a patriot tailor who collected dirt while making clothes for British officers—and the gruesome execution of the spy Nathan Hale. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, “General Washington was more deeply involved in intelligence operations than any American general-in-chief until Dwight Eisenhower during World War II.”

READ MORE: How George Washington Used Spies to Win the Revolution

6. When he stepped down as commander-in-chief, he didn’t want to run the country.

Hear the future president's powerful words in the animation 'George Washington's Vision for America'

After eight years on the battlefield, Washington was more than ready to return home—to Mount Vernon, to his family, to his animals and his crops. Before he stepped back, though, he had some hard-earned wisdom he felt compelled to share with the fledgling nation. So in the summer of 1783, he drafted his “Circular Letter to the States,” in which he detailed what he believed it would take for the American experiment to succeed. In many ways, it was a precursor to his famed Farewell Address 13 years later, a prescient warning to the country of the most likely political pitfalls. In the letter, Washington establishes four things he felt would help guide America forward.

7. He had no biological children, but he was a father figure to many.

It’s never been definitively established why the Washingtons couldn’t conceive—theories range from George’s early bouts with smallpox or tuberculosis to Martha’s case of the measles. But when Washington married Martha Custis, a wealthy young widow, he became the legal guardian of her two younger children: four-year-old John Parke Custis (known as Jacky) and two-year-old Martha Parke Custis (known as Patsy). He was extremely fond of them, and was bereft when 17-year-old Patsy died of an epileptic seizure.

As a father figure, he was especially fond of dispensing advice via letters—on everything from education to romance. He nagged his stepson to have more discipline with his studies, and warned his granddaughter against marrying for the wrong reasons: "Love is a mighty pretty thing; but like all other delicious things, it is cloying,” he wrote, adding that it is “too dainty a food to live upon alone.”

READ MORE: George Washington Raised Martha’s Children and Grandchildren as His Own

8. Washington was really into his animals.

WATCH: George Washington's Dogs

Washington wasn’t just America’s first president, he was also its first mule breeder. (Mules=a mix of horse and donkey.) Recognizing the value of the mule for farmers, Washington is believed responsible for creating the mule stock that powered American agriculture in the South for generations.

And mules weren’t the only animals he bred. In addition to many varieties of birds, Washington kept many canine breeds at Mount Vernon, including Dalmatians, English foxhounds, French hounds, Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, mastiffs, Newfoundlands, pointers, spaniels and terriers. A huge dog lover, he selectively bred hunting dogs for speed over the years and gave them endearing names like Sweet Lips, Venus, Trulove, Taster, Tippler, Drunkard and Madame Moose.

READ MORE: George Washington: Founding Father—and Passionate Dog Breeder

9. Washington was pretty cagey when it came to his religious beliefs.

When it comes to his personal religious beliefs, Washington was tough to read. With so few accounts to draw from, historians are mostly limited to analyzing what Washington did, to try to understand what he may have believed.

The trouble is, even his most straightforward actions can, at times, appear contradictory. The first president encouraged his fellow Americans to show up for worship, for instance, but sometimes struggled to attend church himself for weeks at a time. For many years, he served as a dedicated vestryman and church warden, but left services instead of taking communion. And while he peppered his writings with references to Providence, there’s comparatively little mention of God or Jesus Christ.

READ MORE: Did George Washington Believe in God?

10. He had a complicated relationship with slavery.

Washington’s contradictory attitudes toward slavery are one of the great mysteries of his life and legacy. Like nearly all wealthy Virginia landowners, he owned enslaved people who worked his land. He received the first enslaved people of his own when his father died in 1743. Washington, just 11 years old at the time, was willed 10 enslaved people. By the time he married Martha Custis in 1759 (who came to the marriage with her own enslaved people), he had purchased at least eight more.

Over the years, Washington’s thinking on slavery evolved. During the Revolutionary War, he became more uncomfortable with the thought of purchasing and owning other human beings. While he supported abolition in theory, he never tried it in practice. His plantation, his wealth and his position in society depended on enslaved people to work as laborers. When one of Martha’s enslaved people fled to freedom in 1796, Washington spent the last three years of his life trying to force her to return. But when it came time to make his will, it contained an order to free his slaves—with the stipulation that they remain with Martha for the rest of her life.

READ MORE: Did Washington Really Free Mount Vernon’s Slaves?

11. Washington was a tough man to kill.

A tall and robust man, Washington survived multiple life-threatening situations. At various points, Washington had diptheria, tuberculosis, smallpox, malaria, dysentery, Quinsy, carbuncle and pneumonia. He survived near drowning in an ice-clogged river. He survived the burning and massacre of Fort Necessity. He survived two horses being shot out from under him and four bullets passing close enough to pierce his clothing—all in one battle.

Ironically, it was a cold that did him in. Technically, it was epiglottitis, an infection of the back of the throat that would be curable with antibiotics today. While he lay dying, his doctors effectively tortured him—burning him to remove the sickness and draining him of a full 40 percent of his blood. Washington was fearful of being buried alive, as he was convinced others in history had been. He directed that his body not be buried for three days after his death, just in case.

READ MORE: George Washington's Final Years—and Sudden, Agonizing Death

LIttle Known Black History Fact: George Washington Henderson

George Washington Henderson was born into slavery in Clarke County, Va. on November 11, 1850, and he went on to become a respected scholar and minister. He was the first Black person inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s top honors society.

Not much is known about Henderson’s early life, but as a teenager, he found himself in Vermont after the Civil War. Some accounts state that he was the servant of a Vermont soldier and accompanied him to the state, arriving unable to read.


With some proper instruction over the course of eight years, Henderson entered the University of Vermont. While there, Henderson worked as a farm hand and as a school principal. He graduated from the university in the top of his class and was then initiated into Phi Beta Kappa.

Henderson went on to earn a Master’s of Arts degree from the University of Vermont, a bachelor’s degree in Divinity from Yale University, and then became a minister while also teaching theology, Latin, Greek, and ancient literature.

While Henderson is the first inductee of Phi Beta Kappa, Yale graduate Edward Alexander Bouchet was actually the first person elected but his school’s chapter was inactive at the time, delaying his induction.

Henderson passed in 1936 at the age of 86, in Ohio. The University of Vermont established two fellowships in his name for students of color.

Here are 5 Facts About George Washington&rsquos Horse, Nelson:

Nelson Was Given To George Washington as a Gift

George Washington received Nelson as a gift from fellow Virginian, Thomas Nelson. Nelson had heard George Washington was having trouble finding a replacement horse, so he sent the chestnut over as a gift.

In return, he named the horse Nelson after his generous friend. Nelson the horse was born around 1763, making him 15 years old when the general received him.

Nelson Was a Very Calm Horse

Nelson was George Washington&rsquos preferred mount during the war because he was so bombproof. Unlike his other horse at the time, Blueskin, Nelson was less skittish to cannon fire during the battle.

Nelson was known to be a brave and loyal horse during the war. George Washington even rode the trusty chestnut when the British army surrendered under the direction of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.

Though in paintings Washington is often depicted riding Blueskin into battle, he more often rode Nelson.

After the War Nelson Was Retired to Mount Vernon Estate

After serving as George Washington&rsquos primary mount during the war, Nelson, along with Blueskin, were retired to Mount Vernon Estate. He lived out his days at the stable and paddock at Mansion House Farm at Mount Vernon Estate.

It was said that after the war, Nelson was no longer ridden and was treated like a pampered celebrity.

According to a foreign visitor who stopped by the estate two years after the war, Nelson and Blueskin were &ldquofeed away at their ease for their past services&rdquo.

As the pasture the horses were kept in was close to the house, they often received carrots, apples, and sugar cubes from visitors. The two horses had a wonderful retirement in thanks for their service.

Nelson Had a Strong Bond With Washington

According to those close to the two, George Washington and Nelson had a close bond. After the war, Nelson would excitingly greet the president every time he saw him.

It was said that George Washington would walk around his estate, stopping at Nelson&rsquos paddock &ldquowhen the old war-horse would run, neighing, to the fence, proud to be caressed by the great master&rsquos hands.&rdquo The two clearly cared for each other after all their years together.

Nelson Lived to an Old Age, Especially For the Time

Nelson passed away at the age of 27 at the beautiful Mount Vernon Estate. This is considered especially old for the time, as they didn&rsquot have close to the veterinarian care and knowledge we have available today.

The news of Nelson&rsquos passing was given to George Washington during the Christmas season of 1790.


Interesting Facts About George Washington

Everyone knows that George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was the first president of the United States of America (1789-1797). During the American Revolutionary War, he was also the Commander-in-Chief for the Continental Army. He is also known as one of the founding fathers of the US. Washington was involved in the convention that was responsible for the present constitution of the nation.

Check out some facts about the latest president Donald Trump

Little Known Black History Fact: George Washington and Slavery

This past President’s Day, which granted many in America time off, honors the nation’s first president, George Washington. Washington’s political legacy is well-known, but not the fact that he used his office to keep slaves in bondage despite laws prohibiting it.

In an 2017 piece in the New York Times, University of Delaware associate professor of Black Studies and History and author Erica Armstrong Dunbar found that the Washington family owned slaves throughout their lifetime.

She wrote about one of them Ona Judge, who escaped the Washington household in a book “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.” Although many states in the North were slowly distancing themselves from slave ownership, the Washingtons continued to use it as a means to maintain wealth and power.

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Dr. Dunbar revealed that even after Washington ascended to the presidency in 1789, he continued to own slaves. Though Washington attempted to distance himself from the horrendous practice in his later years, at the end of his life, he still owned 300 slaves at his Virginia estate. During his presidency, Washington lived between New York, Mt. Vernon, Va. and Philadelphia, Pa.

In 1780, a Pennsylvania law partly did away with slavery. Washington argued that as a resident of the state of Virginia, the law didn’t apply to him as he only resided in Philadelphia because of the presidency. Every six months, Washington’s wife, Martha, would travel to Mount Vernon, Va. with their human property to avoid the law. Although that was also illegal, the law was not enforced. In 1793, Washington signed a fugitive slave act into law that offered protection to slave owners and targeted those who would harbor and help slaves go free.

Judge ran away from the Washington estate because she learned that Mrs. Washington intended to give her away as a wedding gift to her granddaughter, a common practice of the time. Helped by free blacks in Philadelphia, Judge made it to Portsmouth, N.H. and married a free man.

The couple had three children, though their freedom remained at risk because Judge was still a wanted woman. For three years, Washington’s men attempted to track her down to no avail. Three months before Washington’s death in December 1799, the pursuit for Judge was still on.

Washington’s famed chef, Hercules Posey, also escaped to New York City. Washington was reportedly distressed over his departure because of Posey’s renowned cooking skills. He also felt that Posey was privileged, citing the example, according to historical records, that Posey had been gifted three bottles of rum after his wife’s death.

Though Washington tried to find him as well, Posey is believed to have lived as a free man in New York. In 2019, The Philadelphia Inquirer uncovered some records that seem to indicate that Posey died of consumption at the age of 64.

When Washington died, over 300 slaves lived on the Mount Vernon estate, half of them belonging to the late president. Though the slaves were supposed to be freed after his death. Washington’s wife inherited them. When she later died, they remained in bondage, including Posey’s three children, as the inheritance of Martha’s grandchildren.

Washington Facts

Separate fact from fiction and learn more about the real George Washington.

First American president, commander of the Continental Army, president of the Constitutional Convention, and gentleman planter. learn more about the many varied roles that George Washington excelled in and tremendous legacy that he left for America and the World.

Washington Said What?

Even in his own time, George Washington was frequently misquoted.


Washington owned hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children. He depended on their labor to build and maintain his household and plantation.


There are many misconceptions surrounding Washington's religious beliefs.

Brother Washington, the Freemason

Freemasonry played a role in George Washington's life from the age of 20 when he first became an Entered Apprentice in the Fredericksburg Lodge until the day he died, when a brother in his Alexandria lodge was one of three doctors at his bedside.


While not formally educated like many of his contemporaries, Washington loved to read. By his death, he had more than 1,200 books in his library at Mount Vernon.

House of Burgesses

The first time George Washington ran for public office, he lost. However, he won his second race and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1758 until 1776.

Map: Washington's World

See all the many places that George Washington visited during his lifetime in our Washington's World Interactive Map.

The Rules of Civility

Before the age of sixteen, George Washington copied out the 110 rules covered in The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour.

This exercise, now regarded as a formative influence in the development of his character, included guidelines for behavior and general courtesies.


What he lacked in formal schooling, George Washington made up for in physical strength, skill, and ambition. He took part in almost every sport of his day – archery, foxhunting, swimming, wrestling, dancing - and he was also something of a pool shark.

Dog Lover

General Washington loved dogs! Learn more about canines on the Mount Vernon estate, yesterday and today.

The Master Equestrian

Prowess on horseback offered young George Washington his clearest path to fame. His long rides as a surveyor, through the forest on foxhunts, and his bayonet drills in the heat of the summer sun prepared him well for his eventual martial feats.


Digital Encyclopedia

Mount Vernon&rsquos digital encyclopedia includes entries and primary sources on Washington&rsquos life, world and experiences, while also covering the Mount Vernon estate, its history, and preservation.

11 Little-Known Facts About George Washington - HISTORY

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The French and Indian War, also called the Seven Years War, was unwittingly started by a 21-year-old George Washington.

In 1754, Washington led an attack on French forces and subsequently had to surrender to the French at Fort Necessity— which sparked the French and Indian War. One British writer noted:

"The volley-fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire." Wikimedia Commons

Although George Washington's birthday is celebrated on Feb. 22, he was actually born on Feb. 11, 1731.

His birth was originally recorded using the Julian calendar. But in 1752, Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which moved his birthday to Feb. 22, 1732 — one year and 11 days later. Wikimedia Commons

One of the prevailing myths about George Washington concerns his teeth. While it's true that Washington suffered from dental problems, he did not use wood in his dentures (pictured).

The truth is actually much worse. Washington's "teeth" were made of ivory from hippos, walruses, elephants, cows, horses — and teeth from other humans. Washington paid his slaves (not much) for their teeth. YouTube

There's a reason for the line from Hamilton that says, "Next to Washington, they all look small."

At 6'2", George Washington is one of the tallest presidents in American history. He's surpassed only by Thomas Jefferson, Donald Trump, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Abraham Lincoln. Library of Congress

As president, George Washington presided over the country from private houses in New York City. He never lived in the White House — it wasn't yet complete when he was president.

His successor, John Adams, would move into the White House in November 1800. Wikimedia Commons

Although Jefferson and Washington were initially on good terms, their friendship soured after Washington's presidency. Jefferson said this about Washington:

"His colloquial talents were not above mediocrity, possessing neither copiousness of ideas, nor fluency of words. In public when called on for a sudden opinion, he was unready, short, and embarrassed." Wikimedia Commons

George Washington was a major general in the Revolutionary War. After his presidency, he was promoted to lieutenant general, which awarded him three stars.

But in 1976, it was decided that Washington should outrank even the four and five-star generals of today. So, he was promoted to "general of the armies"

President Gerald Ford, who approved the rank, said: "No officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington.” Library of Congress

George Washington contracted smallpox while in Barbados in 1751 — and it may have saved his life during the Revolutionary War.

By 1776, 20 percent of Washington's army had gotten sick or died from smallpox. Washington called smallpox "the most dangerous enemy." He ordered mass inoculations of his troops, which caused smallpox rates to drop. Metropolitan Museum of Art

George Washington named one of his dogs Cornwallis, after the British General Charles Cornwallis — whom Washington had defeated during the Revolutionary War.

Washington loved dogs, and they often had unusual names. Others were called were "Madam Moose" and "Sweetlips." Mount Vernon

George Washington never had any biological children. This is possibly because he was infertile. His wife, Martha, had two children of her own during her previous marriage.

But Washington happily raised Martha's children and considered some of the young men he met, like the Marquis de Lafayette, as surrogate sons. Public Domain

In retirement, George Washington was convinced by his Scottish plantation manager to start making whiskey.

His distillery became one of the biggest in the country. Today, Mount Vernon distills whiskey using Washington's 18th-century techniques. Wikimedia Commons

The British, pictured here surrendering to American and French troops at the Battle of Yorktown (1781), consider George Washington one of their most formidable foes.

In a 2012 poll, Washington beat out Napoleon Bonaparte as Britain's "greatest enemy commander." U.S. Capitol

When George Washington started feeling sick in December 1799, he thought it was just a cold. But he got worse and worse — to the point that doctors turned to bloodletting. They bled nearly a third of his blood — five pints — in their attempt to save him.

George Washington died on Dec. 14, 1799. His last words were likely, "Tis well." Wikimedia Commons

As George Washington neared death he instructed those around him to make sure that he was actually dead. "Do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead."

He was eventually laid to rest in a tomb at Mount Vernon — although Congress tried for a while to move his body to the US Capitol. Flickr

By the time George Washington died in 1799, he had over 300 slaves at Mount Vernon. He promised them freedom — but with two big caveats.

First, Washington's will stated that his slaves would not be freed until his wife Martha died. Secondly, it said nothing about the slaves that belonged to her (more than half of them).

Martha Washington freed her late husband's slaves a year later — more because she was worried that they'd kill her than out of the goodness of her heart. But her slaves remained at Mount Vernon and were divided among her grandchildren when she died. Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Every American knows George Washington was the first president, and many likely have heard that he "could not tell a lie." They have heard about a cherry tree, and likely his battlefield prowess. What many may not know, however, is that Washington was also a slave owner — and not a particularly repentant one.

These 27 George Washington facts give an astounding inside look into good, the bad, and the ugly truths behind the Founding Father.

Ten fun facts about George Washington

Fact 1:
George Washington was the only president who did not live in Washington D.C.

Fact 2:
George Washington was the only president who was unanimously elected.

Fact 3:
George Washingtons favorite foods were pineapples and Brazil Nuts.

Fact 4:
George Washingtons father was a Planter and was part owner and director of an iron mine

Fact 5:
When at age 57, George Washington had all his teeth pulled out.

Fact 6:
George Washington was educated by his father and brother.

Fact 7:
George Washington loved horses and was an excellent rider.

Fact 8:
George Washington never wore a powdered wig, as was the custom for men at the time.

Fact 9:
George Washington never shook hands with people.

Fact 10:
George Washington joined the British Royal Navy at age 14.

Ten Facts About George Washington

From the $1 Bill to the capital of America, George Washington’s name appears more often than probably any other name in American history. Being the most prominent Founding Father, everyone learns how Washington led the Continental Army against the British during the War for Independence and eventually became the first President of the United States. But there are plenty of stories and facts that are rarely taught in schools today. Watch the video and then read below about ten facts you probably do not know about George Washington.

1. George Washington did not chop down a cherry tree.

“I cannot tell a lie,” a young George Washington is reported to have said—but his biographers sure can! The famous story originates from the 5 th edition of the popular biography The Life of Washington the Great by Mason Weems.[i] Published in 1806, seven years after Washington’s death, there are no primary sources attesting to its truthfulness. All things considered, its late appearance and the complete lack of evidence has led most to consider it apocryphal

2. He was most embarrassed about his lack of education and his bad teeth.

The most persistent enemy to Washington were not his political or military opponents, but his teeth. By the time he was sworn in as the first President of the United States he only had a single original tooth left.[ii] Over the course of his life he had a number of dentures made from a wide variety of materials.[iii] The dentures of the time were large, bulky, and burdensome which worked together to make Washington quite self-conscience about them leading him to be more introverted than perhaps he might have been.[iv]

On top of this, George Washington did not have the same high level of education his older brothers received due to the death of their father when he was only eleven years old. This tragedy led Washington to become a surveyor (which incidentally provided the exact education he needed to do the amazing things God had planned for him). When standing next to the genius level intellects of Jefferson, Adams, and others it was easy for Washington to feel at an embarrassing disadvantage to his more educated peers.[v] That said, Washington was still incredibly intelligent on account of his extensive reading throughout his life in order to make up for his perceived lack of formal education.

3. He was nominated to be commander of the colonial army by John Adams.

“I do not think myself equal to the Command I am honored with.”[vi] It was with these words that the ever-humble George Washington accepted the unanimous appointment to command the soon-to-be-created Continental Army. The official vote happened on June 15, 1775, with John Adams credited as being the one who recommended and nominated Washington to the position.[vii] On the occasion, Adams wrote to his wife explaining how Congress elected the, “modest and virtuous, the amiable, generous and brave George Washington,” and solemnly proclaimed that, “the Liberties of America, depend upon him.”[viii]

4. George Washington was described as being taller than the average man.

Noted early biographer Jared Sparks clocked Washington in at an impressive 6 feet, 3 inches.[ix] John Adams, later in life, wrote to fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, Dr. Benjamin Rush, that Washington had, “a tall Stature, like the Hebrew Sovereign chosen because he was taller by the Head than the other Jews.”[x]

A military observer repeatedly called attention to the vast stature of Washington, explaining, “it is not difficult to distinguish him from all others his personal appearance is truly noble and majestic being tall and well proportioned.”[xi] He continues to write that Washington, “is remarkably tall, full six feet, erect and well proportioned…This is the illustrious chief, whom a kind Providence has decreed as the instrument to conduct our country to peace and to Independence.”[xii] George Washington was a tall man with an even bigger purpose.

5. He encouraged his troops to go to church.

As General, Washington would issue orders throughout the army instructing them as to what the day would hold. On June 23, 1777, he issued the following order:

“All chaplains are to perform divine service tomorrow, and on every other succeeding Sunday, with their respective brigades and regiments, when their situations will admit of it, and the commanding officers of the corps are to see that they attend. The Commander-in-Chief expects an exact compliance with this order, and that it be observed in future as an invariable rule of practice, and every neglect will not only be considered a breach of orders, but a disregard to decency, virtue, and religion.”[xiii]

Being a man of great piety and sincere religion, it is no surprise that Washington placed such an extraordinary emphasis on his men going to church. In fact, when Washington felt like the chaplains were not doing a good enough job of providing opportunities for his soldiers to go to church, he made all the chaplains come to a meeting to fix the issue.[xiv]

Washington’s devotion to Christ was so apparent in the camp that the Rev. Henry Muhlenberg, father of Major General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, remarked:

“His Excellency General Washington rode around among his army yesterday and admonished each and every one to fear God, to put away the wickedness that has set in and become so general, and to practice the Christian virtues. From all appearances this gentleman does not belong to the so-called world of society, for he respects God’s word, believes in the atonement through Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness. Therefore the Lord God has also singularly, yea, marvelously, preserved him form harm in the midst of countless perils, ambuscades [ambushes], fatigues, etc. and has hitherto graciously held him in His hand as a [chosen] vessel. II Chronicles 15:1-3.”[xv]

6. He forbade his officers to swear.

Along the same lines as the previous fact, Washington focused on making the American military not only righteous but also respectable. To this end, on July 4, 1775, he issued the following order:

“The General most earnestly requires, and expects, a due observance of those articles of war, established for the Government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing and drunkenness And in like manner requires and expects, of all Officers, and Soldiers, not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance on divine Service, to implore the blessings of heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.”[xvi]

7. He was the only President elected unanimously.

After the ratification of the Constitution, the first order of business was to fill the newly created positions of government. The most important question was, “who will be our President?” For the Americans of 1789, that was apparently an easy answer. “George Washington of course!” With that resolution, Washington, “by no effort of his own, in a manner against his wishes, by the unanimous vote of a grateful country.”[xvii] This incredible feat was only ever one other time—by Washington again for his second term.[xviii]

8. George Washington added “So help me God” to the Presidential Oath of Office.

Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution states that when the President is sworn into office, he is to say the following oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”[xix]

With his hand laid upon the open Bible, Washington said the oath. Washington sealed the oath by with a solemn, “so help me God,” and then reverently bowed down and kissed the Bible.[xx] One eyewitness to the event recalled that, “it seemed, from the number of witnesses, to be a solemn appeal to Heaven and earth at once.”[xxi]

9. He was elected to be a vestryman at local churches.

In early American Episcopalian churches, vestrymen were, “a select number of principal persons of every parish, who choose parish officers and take care of its concerns.”[xxii] This included making sure the poor, widows, and orphans were taken care of, and even extended to major decisions about the church as a whole.

George Washington was elected (perhaps his first election) to be a vestryman in two different parishes. In March of 1765, he was chosen in Fairfax Parish with 274 votes, and then four months later he was again chosen in Truro Parish with 259 votes.[xxiii] Washington was extremely active as a vestryman.[xxiv]

On one occasion, Washington even went toe-to-toe with George Mason (fellow future delegate to the Constitution Convention) about relocating the church to a new site. After an impassioned speech by Mason which seemingly settled the question, Washington unassumingly rose and used a surveying map to show where the new site would be and how it would be better for each parishioner. This sudden recourse to sound reason and just sensibilities restored the council to their senses and they voted with Washington to move the church to the new site.[xxv]

10. George Washington was killed by his doctors.

This characterization might be a little uncharitable—the doctors were doing the best they could with the knowledge they had—but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. The old General fell sick after riding out on Mount Vernon during the cold rain. Soon, he was struggling to breathe. The following is taken from the journal of George Washington’s lifelong friend and physician, James Craik:

“The disease commenced with a violent ague, accompanied with some pain in the upper and fore part of throat, a sense of stricture in the same part, a cough, and a difficult rather than paint deglutition, which were soon succeeded by fever and a quick and laborious respiration. The necessity of blood-letting suggesting itself to the General, he procured a bleeder in the neighborhood, who took from his arm, in the night, twelve or fourteen ounces of blood.”[xxvi]

Medical science at the time thought that a number of sicknesses were caused because of some issue with the person’s blood itself. To fix the disease, therefore, a common “solution” would be to bleed a patient out in order to get rid of the bad blood.

Once more doctors had been called to the scene, Craik continues:

“In the interim were employed two copious bleedings a blister was applied to the part affected, two moderate doses of calomel were given, and an injection was administered, which operated on the lower intestines—but all without any perceptible advantage the respiration becoming still more difficult and distressing.”[xxvii]

Even more blood was taken, and now the doctors applied hot irons to his throat because they thought that an accumulation of blood in Washington’s throat was what caused the difficulty breathing. Calomel is a kind of mercury chloride, which, if you aren’t aware, is quite toxic! This, along with the bleedings and the injections were a long way off from helping Washington get better. But the doctors weren’t done yet:

“Upon the arrival of the first of the consulting physicians, it was agreed…To try the result of another bleeding, when about thirty-two ounces of blood were drawn, without the smallest apparent alleviation of the disease…ten grains of calomel were given, succeeded by repeated doses of emetic tartar, amounting, in all, to five or six grains, with no other effect than a copious discharge of the bowels. The powers of life seemed now manifestly yielding to the force of the disorder. Blisters were applied to the extremities.”[xxviii]

More blood-letting, more toxic calomel, more blisters. The biggest variation in this round of treatments is that they gave Washington another poisonous substance—emetic tartar. Altogether, it served only to give the dying President diarrhea.

Finally, Dr. Craik relates the end to his friend’s suffering:

“Speaking, which was painful from the beginning, now became almost impracticable respiration grew more and more contracted and imperfect, till…when retaining the full possession of his intellect, he expired without a struggle.”[xxix]

A contemporary doctor estimated the total amount of blood drawn to be, “the enormous quantity of eighty-two ounces, or above two quarts and a half of blood in about thirteen hours.”[xxx] The same doctor goes on to accurately explain that:

“Very few of the most robust young men in the world could survive such a loss of blood but the body of an aged person must be so exhausted, and all his power so weakened by it as to make his death speedy and inevitable.”[xxxi]

The average amount of blood that someone of Washington’s size and stature is around 210 ounces. If, as the doctor estimates, somewhere around 82 ounces were taken, then Washington lost nearly 40% of his blood. This amount is nearly tantamount to exsanguination (death by bleeding out), and when combined with the blisters, calomel, emetic tartars, and the various vapors, it appears to be the unfortunate conclusion that the doctors killed George Washington.[xxxii]

[i] Mason Locke Weems, The Life of Washington the Great (Augusta, GA: George P. Randolph, 1806), 8-9.

[ii] “Washington Tooth Troubles,” Mount Vernon (accessed March 29, 2019), here

[iii] “A History of Dental Troubles,” Mount Vernon (accessed March 29, 2019), here

[iv] “Washington Tooth Troubles,” Mount Vernon (accessed March 29, 2019), here

[v] “Education,” Mount Vernon (accessed March 29, 2019), here

[vi] “June 16, 1775,” Journal of the Continental Congress (accessed March 29, 2019), here

[vii] Washington Irving, Life of George Washington (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1855) Vol. 1, p. 316, here “Washington’s Revolutionary War Battles,’ Mount Vernon (accessed March 29, 2019), here “Washington,” The Land We Love, Vol. I, No V (Charlette, North Carolina: June 1866), p. 97, here Sean Lawler, “John Adams and the Revolutionary War,” Boston Tea Party Museum (August 21, 2014), here “Role in Congress,” John Adams Historical Society (accessed March 29, 2019), here

[viii] John Adams, “To Abigail Adams, June 17, 1775” Letters of the Delegates to Congress (accessed March 29, 2019), here

[ix] Jared Sparks, The Life of George Washington (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1853), 102, here

[x] John Adams, “To Benjamin Rush, November 11, 1807,” Founders Online (accessed March 29, 2019), here

[xi] James Thacher, A Military Journal During the American Revolutionary War (Boston Richardson and Lord, 1823), p. 37, here.

[xii] James Thacher, A Military Journal During the American Revolutionary War (Boston Richardson and Lord, 1823), p. 182-183, here.

[xiii] George Washington,“General Order, June 28, 1777,” Records of the Revolutionary War (New York: Pudney & Russell, 1858), p. 330, here.

[xiv] George Washington, “General Order, October 7, 1777,” Records of the Revolutionary War (New York: Pudney & Russell, 1858), p. 345, here.

[xv] Henry Muhlenberg, The Journals of Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg (Philadelphia: The Muhlenberg Press, 1958), Vol. III, p. 149, journal entry for May 7, 1778.

[xvi] George Washington, “General Orders, July 4, 1775,” Library of Congress (accessed March 30, 2019), here

[xvii] Washington Irving, Life of George Washington (New York: G. P. Putman, 1865) Vol. IV, p. 476, here

[xviii] Jared Sparks, The Life of George Washington (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1853), 445, here

[xix] Article II, Section 1, Constitution of the United States, here

[xx] Washington Irving, Life of George Washington (New York: G. P. Putman, 1865) Vol. IV, p. 475, here

[xxi] “Philadelphia, May 8. Extract of a Letter from New York, May 3,” Gazette of the United States (May 9 to May 13, 1789), here

[xxii] Noah Webster, “Vestry-man,” American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), here

[xxiii] Jared Sparks, The Life of George Washington (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1853), 520, here

[xxiv] “Churchwarden and Vestryman,” Mount Vernon (accessed April 1, 2019), here

[xxv] Jared Sparks, The Life of George Washington (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1853), 106, here

[xxvi] James Craik, “From The Times, A Newspaper printed in Alexandria (Virginia), dated December, 1799,” The Medical Repository (New York: T. & J. Swords, 1805), Vol. III, p. 311, here

[xxvii] James Craik, “From The Times, A Newspaper printed in Alexandria (Virginia), dated December, 1799,” The Medical Repository (New York: T. & J. Swords, 1805), Vol. III, p. 311-312, here

[xxviii] James Craik, “From The Times, A Newspaper printed in Alexandria (Virginia), dated December, 1799,” The Medical Repository (New York: T. & J. Swords, 1805), Vol. III, p. 312, here

[xxix] James Craik, “From The Times, A Newspaper printed in Alexandria (Virginia), dated December, 1799,” The Medical Repository (New York: T. & J. Swords, 1805), Vol. III, p. 312, here

[xxx] John Brickell, “Medical Treatment of General Washington,” Transactions of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Printed for the College, 1903), Vol. 25, p. 93, here

[xxxi] John Brickell, “Medical Treatment of General Washington,” Transactions of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Printed for the College, 1903), Vol. 25, p. 93, here

[xxxii] For a more technical examination of the medical circumstances surrounding Washington’s death see, Dr. Wallenborn’s, “George Washington’s Terminal Illness: A Modern Medical Analysis of the Last Illness and Death of George Washington,” The Washington Papers (November 5, 1997), here

11 Little-Known Facts About George Washington - HISTORY

George Washington was an American statesman and soldier who served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797 and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and later presided over the 1787 convention that drafted the United States Constitution. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and awesome facts about George Washington.

1. As a driving force behind the establishment of the United States, he came to be known as the “father of the country,” both during his lifetime and to this day.

2. Washington was born into the provincial gentry of Colonial Virginia to a family of wealthy planters who owned tobacco plantations and slaves, which he inherited.

3. In his teens, he attended various schools and learned mathematics and surveying, which he soon put to practice.

4. He became a senior officer in the colonial militia during the first stages of the French and Indian War.

5. He gradually grew indifferent to British rule with its lack of colonial representation in British Parliament and excessive taxation on the colonies.

6. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress commissioned him as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution.

7. As Commander-in-Chief, Washington drove the British out of Boston in 1776, but was defeated and nearly captured later that year when he lost New York City.

8. After crossing the Delaware River in the middle of winter, he defeated the British in two battles, retook New Jersey, and restored momentum to the Patriot cause.

9. Washington’s strategy enabled Continental forces to ultimately defeat the British.

10. He began school at the age of 6. When he was 15 years old, he left school to become a surveyor. His father died when he was 11, consequently, his mother wanted to send him to Appleby School in England, where his brothers were educated, but didn’t have enough money to do so.

11. Washington was appointed as a district adjutants in Virginia in February 1753, with the rank of major.

12. When he was 26 years old, he married Martha Dandrige Custis, a wealthy widow. Custis already had two children. Washington never had any children of his own.

13. Washington took part in the French and Indian War. He served as an aide to the British General, Edward Braddock. When Braddock was ambushed and killed by French forces during a battle, Washington rallied his troops, kept the unit together, and led them in an organized retreat.

14. He started losing his teeth in his twenties. Consequently, he ate a fairly soft and mushy diet. Some of his favorite dishes are said to include cream of peanut soup, mashed sweet potatoes with coconut and string beans with mushrooms.

15. In 1755, he was made Colonel of the Virginia Regiment and charged with defending its frontiers. With 1,000 men under his command, Washington was known as a disciplinarian who believed strongly in training.

16. From 1759 until the outbreak of the American Revolution, Washington managed his lands in the Mount Vernon area and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses. As a planter, Washington felt that he was treated unfairly by British merchants and restricted by British regulations. He voiced his objects to British policies and took a leading role in the growing colonial resistance protests.

17. Washington’s tactics against the British were to harass them when possible and avoid direct confrontations. He would get his troops to gradually retreat and then suddenly attack.

18. Although the British army was superior in military terms and more experienced, and Washington lost many of his battles, he never surrendered his army during the war. He relentlessly fought the British right through until the war was over.

19. After the war was won, Washington resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief, stunning many European aristocrats who expected him to declare himself monarch.

20. Washington’s desire was to retire back to Mount Vermont, but problems were developing with the Articles of Confederation. In 1787, he was persuaded to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

21. He was unanimously elected president of the Convention and oversaw the writing of the new constitution, which was ratified by all thirteen states.

22. The Electoral College elected Washington as the first President of the United States in 1789. He is the only President in the history of America to be voted into office unanimously, and he achieved it again for his second term in office.

23. In 1793, following the French Revolution, a war broke out between Britain and France. Washington decided to be neutral and allow the U.S. to grow stronger.

24. In 1796, Washington issues his Farewell Address, which is seen as one of the most important statements of republicanism. In it, he urged Americans against bitter political partisanship and geographical distinctions. In foreign affairs, he warned against involvement in European wars and long term “entangling” alliances.

25. Washington expanded his family estate, Mount Vernon, from 2,000 acres to 8,000 acres. The property included five separate farms, which grew a variety of crops, including wheat and corn. Managers bred mules, and maintained fruit orchards and a fishery.

26. in 1797, one of Washington’s estate managers suggested that he open a whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon. Washington agreed, and by the time of his death in 1799, the distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons of whiskey per year, making it the largest producer in America at the time. The distillery still churns out a limited number of bottles each year using its original recipe.

27. Although the wooden teeth myth prevails, forensic anthropologists found that Washington’s denture were made from a combination of horse, donkey and even human teeth.

28. Washington loved dogs and fox hunting, so it was only natural for him to breed the perfect foxhound. Because of his work, he’s occasionally called the father of the American Foxhound.

29. Washington met Sally Fairfax, the woman he’s rumored to have loved first, when he was 16 years old. According to researchers at Mount Vernon, she taught him the best manners for moving in Virginia’s highest social circles, and even how to dance the minuet.

30. During the French and Indian War, Washington was lauded as a hero after emerging unscathed from an ambush attack near Fort Duquesne in Pennsylvania. According to several accounts, Washington had two horses shot out from under him, and four pullets pierced his coat.

Watch the video: George Washington Facts! (January 2022).