The Saddest Day in American History – 1783


George Washington Leaves the Army

One of the saddest events in the early history of the United States took place on December 4, 1783. On that day, General George Washington met with 44 of his officers at Fraunces Tavern, New York City. There, he bid his loyal men good-bye.  (Click the photo if you’re interested in the new book, George Washington: The Wonder of the Age)

Fraunces Tavern New York
Plaque located at Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl Street, Manhattan, New York. Photograph taken July 22, 2010.

Washington said, “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable . . . I . . . shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand..”

According to Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, General Henry Knox, commander of artillery, stood closest to Washington. After Washington’s remarks, the two men turned to each other and “suffused in tears . . . embraced each other in silence.”

Following this farewell to his officers, Washington took a barge across the Hudson River, on his way to Annapolis to resign his commission.Click To Tweet

On December 6, the New-York Gazette wrote “Last Thursday noon, the principal Officers of the army in town, assembled at Fraunces Tavern, to take a final leave of their illustrious, gracious, and much loved Commander, General Washington. The passions of human nature were never more tenderly agitated, than in this interesting and distressful scene.”

This is an event I truly wish I could have witnessed. Did any of your ancestors serve with Washington?

Would you like to know more about Washington, the General?

I’ve read several of the books listed below the image; I think my favorite is General and Mrs. Washington. It paints such a personal picture of George and Martha – things about their wonderful relationship that I’d never read before. There’s also a fascinating story about his ride from Mount Vernon to Philadelphia in 1798, on his way to his first inauguration. (I particularly liked the part where he entered Trenton).

George and Martha Washington
“Washington’s Family” by Edward Savage, painted between 1789 and 1796, shows (from left to right): George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington, Eleanor Parke Custis, Martha, and an enslaved servant: probably William Lee or Christopher Sheels
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