| Builders of Our Country: Book II|
|by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth|
| A lively account of American history told through 31 biographies, beginning with Patrick Henry at the start of the Revolution and ending with Andrew Carnegie at the close of the 19th century. The biographies are so chosen as to acquaint the reader with the chief personages and events in our national life, by including many vivid pictures of each. Ages 10-12 |
GEORGE WASHINGTON, COMMANDER AND PRESIDENT
LIFE IN VIRGINIA
 JUST back from the road in New Kent County, Virginia,
stood the little church of St. Peter. It was the 6th of
January, 1759, and
the usual quiet of the
countryside was broken. One after
another great colonial
coaches rumbled along
the road and stopped
before the church to
set down the colonial
dames in their richest
London gowns. British officers in scarlet
and provincial officers
in buff and blue rode
up, dismounted, and
went into the little
church. Planters from
far and near, and even
the new Governor himself, came to do honor to Colonel
Washington and Martha Custis on their wedding day.
MARTHA CUSTIS, WASHINGTON'S BRIDE.
Washington took his wife to Mount Vernon. To the
best of his knowledge, his military duties were at an end
 and before him stretched only peaceful years of plantation
life. These years held no prospect of idleness, however;
for, with Mrs. Washington's lands added to his own,
Washington was now one of the wealthiest men in Virginia,
and it would be no small matter to manage so great a
Each morning he got up early. After breakfast he
rode out to inspect the work that was going on; and it
was no unusual sight to see him throw off his coat and
go to work with the laborers, putting up a fence or some
sort of building on the new lands he was continually
By a little after nine at night all were in bed, and the
house was still. On Sundays, regularly, a ride of seven
miles brought the family to church, excepting when the
weather was unendurable or the roads impassable.
The Virginia plantations were too far apart for
neighbors to make formal calls. When a planter wanted to see
a friend he went to his home, often taking with him his
entire family, and stayed a week if he liked. The many
friends who came to Mount Vernon always received a
Fishing in the summer months, card playing in the
winter, and hunting all the year round were the favorite
amusements for the gentlemen of the countryside. Deer
stalking and duck shooting were good sport, but not to be
compared with a ride to hounds.
The ladies of the party entertained themselves with
drives, walks in the garden, and knitting.
Late on summer afternoons tea was served to all on the
broad veranda. At the usual early hour the party broke
up for the night. Candles were lighted, and the guests
went upstairs to stow themselves away in the great
canopied four-post bedsteads. Some of these were so high
 that to get into them one had to climb the little carpeted
steps kept for the purpose.
Such was the home life of George Washington during
the years that saw the Stamp Act passed and repealed;
the duties on glass, paper, and paints imposed and
removed; and the trouble over the tea tax, which resulted
in the Boston Tea Party.
When, in 1774, England planned to punish Boston by
closing her port, it was the Virginia House of Burgesses
which proposed that a congress of all the colonies be called
to consider the plight of Massachusetts and the best course
open to her sister colonies.
While serving as a member of the House of Burgesses,
Washington was chosen one of Virginia's representatives
to this congress, which was to be known as the First
Continental Congress. It met at Philadelphia on the 5th of
Before the colonial delegates left Philadelphia, they
agreed to meet again the following spring if their petition
to the King and their declaration of rights were still
unheeded. Both petition and declaration were ignored;
so in May, 1775, the Second Continental Congress was
By the time the members reached Philadelphia, word
of Lexington and Concord had thundered throughout the
land. The effect was remarkable. Fighting with the
mother country had actually begun. Was there then no
other way for the colonies to maintain their rights than by
taking up arms in defense? It began to look so; and even
while sending one last petition to their King, begging that
their wrongs be righted, the Second Continental Congress
was voting to raise an army.
READING NEWS OF THE BATTLE OF LEXINGTON.
Already thousands of colonial soldiers had gathered
to the siege of Boston. They must be recognized as acting
 not only for New England, but for the whole thirteen
colonies. They must be organized as the Continental
Army. They must have a commander, and this at
once. George Washington was unanimously chosen for the
position. It was a great honor, but an even greater responsibility.
"I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in
this room, that I this day declare with the utmost
sincerity I do not think myself equal to the command I am
honored with," said Washington.
However, he accepted on condition that he should
receive no salary, merely being repaid for his actual
expense. His commission was signed on the 19th of June,
and the 21st saw him already on the road to Boston.
THE CAMPAIGN BEFORE BOSTON AND AROUND NEW YORK
 IT was the 2nd day of July when Washington reached
Cambridge, the headquarters of the colonial army. And,
as he rode within the lines, the English shut up in Boston
knew, by the soldiers' shouts of welcome that he had come.
Next day, while the colonial troops were drawn up
on the Cambridge common, Washington rode out on
horseback under the now famous elm and took command
of the army.
There were fifteen or sixteen thousand soldiers, men
who knew little about fighting and less about military
discipline; and Washington had work ahead of him to get
them into shape and enforce the necessary obedience.
Moreover the supply of arms and powder was so small
that an attack on the English was out of the question for
months. Messengers were sent flying over the country to
beg powder from every town and village, and fifty cannon
were dragged all the way from Ticonderoga to Cambridge
on ox sleds.
At last when March, 1776, came, Washington felt that
all was ready to try what the colonial army could do. One
evening he moved troops, artillery, and all that would be
needed in building fortifications, to Dorchester Heights
FORTIFYING DORCHESTER HEIGHTS.
It was like another Bunker Hill surprise. The next
morning there were the Americans in a position to fire
right into the British camp. It was apparent that the
English General had his choice of leaving the town or of
being destroyed with it. He chose to leave, and sailed
away on March 17, 1776.
On the 18th, Washington marched into Boston in
triumph, after his bloodless victory. In their retreat the
 English had been obliged to leave behind them two hundred
cannon and more muskets, powder, and balls than
Washington's army had ever owned before.
It seemed likely that New York would be the next
place to be attacked by the English. Therefore
Washington left part of his troops in Boston and with the rest
hurried to New York. Here raw recruits joined his force
until it numbered eighteen thousand.
Let us leave the army at work building defenses for
New York and go back to the Continental Congress in
Philadelphia. You will remember that last petition which
the Continental Congress sent to England. As usual it
was received with contempt. The King would do nothing
for his disobedient colonists. And what was more, to
end their rebellion, he had hired German troops to go to
America and do this work for him in short order.
The colonists were outraged. All thoughts of peace
were at an end. Daily the break between England and her
 American colonies grew wider, until finally, on the 4th
of July, 1776, a Declaration of Independence was adopted
by Congress, and the thirteen English colonies became
the United States of America.
When this glorious news reached Washington and his
men, they had barely time to celebrate before British
ships entered New York Harbor, and a British army,
far larger than Washington's, took possession of Staten
One half of Washington's force was stationed on Long
Island, on Brooklyn Heights just opposite New York. It
seemed a simple thing to the English commander, General
Howe, to defeat these nine thousand men. And with
Brooklyn Heights once in his hands, he could take New
York from Washington as surely and as easily as
Washington had taken Boston from him.
However, it was late in August before he put his plan
to the proof. Twenty thousand trained soldiers were
landed on Long Island and began the advance on the
Americans. On the 27th, they attacked and defeated
the troops sent out from the Heights to meet them. This
force was made up of half the soldiers sent by Washington
to defend Brooklyn Heights.
If General Howe had persevered in his undertaking,
the Heights would certainly have fallen into his possession.
But after the battle his men were tired, night had come,
and it seemed easier to wait for his final victory. His
troops encamped at the foot of the Heights and took their
While the British troops rested, Washington and more
soldiers came by boat from New York, until ten thousand
Americans were ready for the attack which they expected
at any time.
But no attack came. Instead, General Howe had
 decided to lay siege to the Heights and starve out this
handful of the enemy.
Before many hours Washington learned of this
decision. Here indeed was danger. If once the British
ships got between New York and the Heights, all hope of
escape would be at an end. Soon trusted messengers
were on their way to New York to collect all the boats,
large or small, which were to be found.
The night of the 29th was foggy, and under cover of
the darkness the boats were brought to the Brooklyn
shore. There they were quickly and quietly filled with
men, small arms, ammunition, supplies, and even cannon,
all of which were safely landed in New York. Washington
himself was the last to leave the now deserted fortifications.
Can you imagine General Howe's amazement the next
morning? Washington was proving himself a veritable
will-o'-the-wisp to the British. Where they least
expected him, there he was; and when they counted him in
their grasp, he faded away.
THE RETREAT ACROSS NEW JERSEY
WITH English troops on Brooklyn Heights and English
vessels in New York Harbor, Washington felt that it would
be asking the impossible to expect his small force to keep
the English out of New York City. However, he did not
mean to give up more ground than was absolutely
necessary. Although obliged to retreat, he yielded each step
only when forced on by the British, who were constantly
at his heels.
He crossed to the west bank of the Hudson, and was
gradually crowded back into New Jersey. His men,
disheartened, discouraged, poorly fed, and worn out, deserted
by the score.
 And all the while the English relentlessly kept up their
hot pursuit. By breaking down bridges, when once his army
had crossed them, Washington did what he could to delay
his enemy. All to no avail. Before their superior
numbers he had no choice but retreat. At last he reached the
Here he saw a chance of stopping the English for a
while at least. Seizing every boat for miles up and down
the river, the Americans crossed the Delaware to the
Pennsylvania side. The English would have followed;
but there was no means of doing so, and they were obliged
to camp along the shore until the December weather should
freeze the river hard and fast.
WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE.
While they were waiting, Christmas day came and
Christmas night. And on Christmas night something
happened of which the English had not dreamed.
During that December night of 1776, Washington, at
 great peril, recrossed the Delaware. The next morning
he fell upon the British encampment at Trenton and
captured a thousand of the King's hired soldiers.
Such was the battle of Trenton, and great was the
rejoicing it caused.
But though the discouraged soldiers now took heart,
Washington was sorely troubled. The year was nearly
over; and with the first days of 1777, the term of
enlistment of many of his men would end. They had suffered
much during their service, and so had their wives and
children at home with no one to earn their living. Money
was necessary to buy what they needed, and money
Washington must have if he hoped to induce his soldiers
Where was he to get it? That he could not tell, unless
his friend Robert Morris would come to his aid.
This Robert Morris was a wealthy merchant and
banker in Philadelphia. In an imploring letter Washington
begged him to send $50,000 in cash as soon as possible,
as case was all that would now hold his army together.
Robert Morris had already given large sums to aid the
Revolution, and it was out of the question for him to
produce $50,000 more at a moment's notice. Still he
could not fail Washington now; the sum must be raised.
And it was raised. Going from house to house, Morris laid
the case before man after man and got from each all that
he could or would give. Nor did he stop until the entire
amount was collected and ready to send to Washington.
A SOLDIER OF CONGRESS.
Meanwhile in New York the English general, Cornwallis,
was celebrating Christmas and preparing to sail
back to England. In his opinion, the revolt was about
over. With the British troops so closely pursuing, this
upstart American commander must surely give up in a
very short time.
 Then came news of the battle of Trenton
with its thousand prisoners taken. Cornwallis was
amazed. Perhaps after all it
did need a master hand to end
this war once and for all. So,
putting off his sailing,
Cornwallis himself hurried to
Trenton with eight thousand soldiers
to conquer Washington.
It was late in the day when
he reached Trenton. By that
time, Washington had
withdrawn his army across a small
river, along whose banks he had
placed his batteries.
Tired out from their day's
march, the British put off their
attack overnight. Cornwallis,
sure of success, was in the best
of spirits. "At last we have
run down the old fox and will
bag him in the morning," was
his confident assertion.
But, foxlike, Washington
was not to be run to earth quite
so easily. All through the night
the English sentries pacing back
and forth watched the gleam
of Washington's camp fires and
listened to the thud, thud of
falling earth as the Americans
worked on their intrenchments.
Little did they suppose that
only a few men were making all
 that noise and tending all those fires. Such was the case,
nevertheless. While the camp fires blazed and the digging
went on, Washington and his army were slipping away
Washington had reasoned that in Princeton he would
find so small an English force left to guard the stores that
his army could defeat it and capture the supplies.
About sunrise Princeton was reached, and the battle
was on. In less than half an hour it was over, and
Washington had once more come off victorious. This was on
January 3, 1777.
From Princeton, Washington took his soldiers to the
Heights of Morristown, where the English dared not attack
him. Here he spent the rest of the winter, raising new
troops and doing what he could to strengthen his army.
As for Cornwallis, he returned empty-handed to New York.
IN PENNSYLVANIA; ARNOLD'S TREASON
DURING the early summer of 1777, General Howe made
an attempt to reach Philadelphia by an overland march
from New York. Washington's force was still too small
to risk meeting the English thousands in open battle.
However, he so annoyed and worried their commander by
keeping just out of reach and yet in the way, that General
Howe gave up and went back.
Next, General Howe put his troops aboard ship, sailed
them up Chesapeake Bay to its head, and set out for
Philadelphia from that point. At Brandywine Creek
there was Washington again. He had marched south in the
hope of once more turning the English away from
Philadelphia. On September 11th, the armies met in battle,
and Washington was defeated.
Soon after, the English entered Philadelphia and took
 possession of the capital of the United States. Nothing
daunted, Washington decided to try another attack; and
on the morning of October 4th he appeared at
Germantown, where part of the English were encamped. At first,
success seemed sure. But a heavy mist soon caused
confusion and misunderstanding, and the Americans were
once more repulsed.
Another winter was at hand. It was evident that
General Howe meant to spend it in Philadelphia.
Therefore Washington went into camp at Valley Forge, where
he could keep an eye on his foe.
This winter at Valley Forge was terrible for both the
American army and its General. The cold was intense
and persistent. The men were poorly clothed and half
starved. Shoes were a luxury. The soldiers walking
barefoot over the ice left bloody tracks behind. Money
was scarce, and the army unpaid. All night men sat
 huddled around the camp fires. They had even no
blankets in which to roll themselves.
WASHINGTON AND LAFAYETTE AT VALLEY FORGE.
Washington did all he could to provide for his troops
and earned their loyal love and devotion by his constant
sympathy and his willingness to share in their privations.
His courage encouraged them.
In his turn Washington found help and comfort in the
companionship of certain of his brave officers. His
friend and right hand man, General Nathanael Greene, was
with him through all this long, hard winter. And there
were two other men at Valley Forge who earned not only
Washington's thanks, but the thanks of all Americans.
These were the Marquis de Lafayette and Baron von
Steuben. Lafayette was a young Frenchman; Steuben,
a Prussian. Lafayette not only gave his services to our
country, but generously used his private fortune to supply
with clothes and arms the soldiers under his command.
Steuben, trained soldier that he was, drilled Washington's
troops and taught even their commander the meaning of
true military discipline.
At last the winter broke; and the spring of 1778 came,
bringing good news to America. France had recognized
the United States of America as a nation, and had agreed
to send us aid in our fight against her old enemy.
The English general, Clinton, now succeeding General
Howe, decided to abandon Philadelphia and unite his
forces in New York.
Hardly had the British march begun when
Washington, too, took the road. He fully believed that if a battle
were now to take place, his army could and would defeat
Clinton's troops. Accordingly, he ordered a detachment
to push on and attack the English, while he followed
Now this detachment was under the command of
 General Charles Lee; and, but for him, Washington's plan
would probably have succeeded. Already Lee had nearly
brought ruin upon Washington's forces by direct
disobedience; already he had played false to America by
secretly giving information to her foe; and now, once more
he was to show his treachery.
The American troops advanced on the English forces
at Monmouth, and at first everything seemed in their
favor. The battle was begun, and the patriots were
fighting like tigers, when suddenly Lee ordered a retreat.
Naturally his men obeyed. All would have been lost, had
not Washington just then ridden up. Dashing straight to
Lee, he fiercely demanded "What is the meaning of all
this, sir?" Lee began some excuse. To Washington there
was no excuse for such cowardly behavior. He ordered
Lee to the rear while he himself rallied the soldiers, led
them back, and saved the day. Lee was later dismissed
from the service in disgrace.
One other of Washington's officers proved himself a
traitor. This was Benedict Arnold. During the early
part of the Revolution, Arnold gave America brave and
valiant service. But later he was made bitter by lack of
promotion; and when his conduct raised enemies for him,
their attacks so stirred up his anger that he betrayed both
his country and his honor, and offered his services to the
At the time General Clinton was in New York, he was
very anxious to get possession of the Hudson River; but
strong fortifications at West Point held him in check.
Now, Arnold's offer opened up a possibility. The plan
was for Arnold to ask Washington for the command of
West Point, and then allow the English to capture it.
Suspecting nothing, Washington gave Arnold the
coveted command. The very next month Arnold and
 Andre, General Clinton's young adjutant general, met one
dark night in a thicket on the river's eastern shore. Here
Arnold gave Andre maps of the fort, and papers telling
just what steps the English should take.
With these papers in his stockings, Andre started back
to New York on horseback. But half-way back to the city
he was captured, and finally he was hanged as a spy.
As soon as Arnold heard of Andre's capture, he fled
down the river and joined the English army. This was in
September, 1780. Years after, he died in England,
praying God to forgive him for deserting his country.
Nothing came of the plot but soreness of heart to
Arnold's betrayed commander, and disgrace to the traitor
DURING the two years following the battle of
Monmouth, the war for the most part was carried on in the
South, where such men as Daniel Morgan and Francis
Marion, "the swamp fox," won lasting fame by their brave
and daring deeds.
Although Washington himself stayed in the North,
where he could have a watchful eye on the English in
New York, he still kept in touch with conditions in the
Back and forth through the southern states went
Cornwallis and the English troops, until, in the summer of
1781, he followed Lafayette up into Virginia. Then he
betook himself and his troops to Yorktown, where he and
Clinton could be in communication by sea.
Yorktown is on a cape, three sides of which are
surrounded by Chesapeake Bay. At the first word of his
enemy's move, Washington was on the alert. Carefully
 going over in his mind the position of his forces, he realized
that the fleet sent us by France could be placed so as to
prevent Cornwallis from
escaping by sea. And if his
own New York troops could
possibly be mustered with
the French soldiers, and
those under Lafayette, so
as to shut Cornwallis into
this land pocket, a deadly
blow could be aimed at
It must be done and
done at once. Misleading
Clinton by seeiningly preparing an attack on New York.
Washington slipped away south.
After a long forced march the soldiers reached
Chesapeake Bay and went by ship to Yorktown. There was
the French fleet, and there was Cornwallis ready to be
shut in exactly as Washington had foreseen. For days
the English held out against Washington's attack. But
no help came to them; and at last, on October 19, 1781,
Cornwallis was obliged to surrender. To the tune of
"The World Turned Upside Down" the British marched
out of Yorktown between the two long lines of
Washington's victorious army. And the American Revolution
was practically at an end.
WHERE THE REVOLUTION ENDED.
A few years later the United States adopted their
Constitution and set up their government. Then through
loving gratitude and just appreciation of his value, they
chose as their first President, the loyal commander of the
army which had won their independence.
Washington was President of the United States for
two terms. At the close of this service, he went back to
 Virginia to the happy home life awaiting him. For a
little while he gathered up the reins of control on his
plantations, but they soon slipped from his fingers forever.
December 14, 1799, was a day of grief for the entire
country—grief which spread in every direction with the
news that, at Mount Vernon, George Washington lay dead.
PRESIDENT AND MRS. WASHINGTON.
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