Many of you who’ve traveled the Atlantic Seaboard of our great country have more than likely figured out something about the Father of Our Country on your East coast road trip stops – George Washington certainly got around. Indeed, you’ll find remnants of our first POTUS from an equestrian statue in Boston where he first took command of the Continental Army all the way down to the George Washington House in Barbados – a historic house where the 19-year-old future U.S. President stayed in 1751 with his tuberculosis-stricken half-brother, Lawrence.
With that in mind, and with today actually being George Washington’s real birthday, Stuckey’s would like to take this time to honor our nation’s first President by doing it the only way we know how – by taking a road trip through all the places Washington slept, however briefly, and reliving his colorful and momentous life.
You might think that it just makes sense to start off our road trip itinerary in Washington, D.C., but George Washington never actually stayed in our nation’s capital. Oh, he had a few things to say about the site they selected for what he called “”the seat of Empire”, but other than stopping by the construction site of the White House (where he received much fanfare) on his way home after leaving the presidency in 1797, he never actually stayed long in the District of Columbia.
And by “on his way home”, of course we mean his home called Mount Vernon that sits on a bluff overlooking the Potomac about 17 miles south of the White House via the George Washington Memorial Parkway. From 1752, when George’s aforementioned brother Lawrence died of the also aforementioned tuberculosis and willed Mount Vernon to him, to his own death in 1799, George Washington slept here.
And he sleeps here, still, in eternal slumber. His tomb is also on the property.
George also often slept in nearby Alexandria, much to Martha’s dismay because it usually meant the he’d been drinking at Gadsby`s Tavern on Royal Street. Up the street about a mile and a half from Gadsby’s is the humongous Washington Masonic National Memorial. Unfortunately, the animatronic Washington, as loveable and kitschy as he was, is no longer there.
Let’s head over to Belvoir Mansion Historical Area at Fort Belvoir Army installation next, where Lord Fairfax’s plantation used to be located before it fell into disrepair and was eventually razed. George loved to sleep here, not because of Lord Fairfax or his beautiful mansion, but because of Lord Fairfax’s daughter-in-law Sally Fairfax whom young George saw as the quintessential woman and was quite smitten with. It is said that she was his muse that motivated him to pursue such lofty positions in life. Alas, it would never be, as George would marry Martha, though the couples remained close all their lives, the Fairfaxes visiting the Washingtons at Mount Vernon quite often.
Now it’s up the road to where George Washington Parke Custis, Washington’s foster son (and Martha’s grandson) lived in a mansion he called Arlington House. Custis’ daughter, Mary, inherited the place and lived there until the Civil War came along. That’s when Union army turned it into a burial ground for their soldiers so that Mary’s husband, Robert E. Lee, could never return home again. Today we know the area as Arlington National Cemetery.
Let’s now travel about 50 miles south of Washington, DC along Interstate 95 to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Though the city is probably best known for the Civil War battle that took place there where the Confederates, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, decimated the Union Army causing 12,653 Union casualties and losses.
However, Fredericksburg is also where George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, lived the final years of her life. George hated to sleep there, especially while his mother alive because apparently she nagged her son to tears. You can still visit Mary Washington’s home at 1200 Charles Street, as well as the Rising Sun Tavern over on 1306 Caroline Street, significant to George because it was built by his brother, Charles. George is said to have “visited” his brother there often.
Though he may have grown up in Fredericksburg, Washington’s birthplace, like so many places in his life, overlooks the Potomac. Washington slept like a baby (if only because he was one) at a place just down Virginia Highway 3 around 38 miles southeast of Fredericksburg at Colonial Beach, Virginia. Though the original house caught fire and burned to the ground in 1779, a replica of a typical house of that time has been built in the elaborate and expansive national park there.
Traveling some 75 miles south of the Rappahannock down Highway 17 is a place where Washington probably didn’t get much sleep at all. It’s the site of the Battle of Yorktown, the 1781 clash that ended the Revolutionary War. It was also Washington’s biggest victory, though our French allies had a lot to do with it as well. Tour Washington’s headquarters as well as the Moore House where the Articles of Capitulation were drafted.
Heading west out of Yorktown about 14 miles, we come to the colonial village of Williamsburg, Virginia. Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia until 1780 and Washington use to spend quite a bit of time there as a young militia officer. It is also there where he first met Sally Fairfax, known back then as a belle of the many balls thrown throughout Williamsburg’s high society.
Continuing west along US Route 60 for 200 miles to the Natural Bridge near Lexington, Virginia, where as young surveyor of 16, George carved his initials in the side of the bridge while surveying it in 1748. Nearby Lexington also plays a role in the story of Washington.
In 1796, Lexington’s Liberty Hall Academy was in financial turmoil. However, thanks to donation of 100 shares of James River Canal Company by George Washington – up to that point, the largest donation to any educational institution – they academy was able to carry on. To express their thanks, the trustees changed the school’s name to Washington Academy, prompting Washington to respond: “To promote Literature in this rising Empire, and to encourage the Arts, have ever been among the warmest wishes of my heart.”
Years later, George Washington and Robert E. Lee’s paths would cross again. After the Civil War, Washington College would ask Lee to be the school’s President, a position he held until his death on October 12, 1870. For his commitment, the school changed their name again. Today you may know it as Washington and Lee University.
Now we head up north to the town of Berkeley Springs in West Virginia, a town that George Washington also surveyed for Lord Fairfax in 1748. Today, the spot where he took advantage of one of the Appalachians most popular hot springs mineral spas is labeled with a sign that reads: “George Washington’s Bath Tub (1748)”.
From Berkeley Springs travel northwest to western Pennsylvania, where George Washington would face some of his more tumultuous times. In 1753, Virginia Gov. Robert Dinwiddie sent 21-year-old George to west to basically tell the French to stop polluting the countryside with their stupid forts. The French commander’s pretty much said, “You’re not my boss. We ain’t going nowhere!”
As a result, Washington tried to rile up the Native Americans and get them to fight the French. The Native Americans said, “Look, dude, we don’t want to shoot any French, so stop trying to start some problems before we shoot you” and took a shot at Washington. Fortunately, the gun misfired and Washington was like, “Okay, I’m out!” As he was beating feet across the Allegheny River near what we know today as Pittsburgh, Washington and his men fell into the icy water and only completed their crossing thanks to some logs in the water.
The next year, Dinwiddie sent George back to, but this time, he wanted George to build a fort. However, when he arrived, Washington saw that the French had already erected a fort there that they called Fort Duquesne on the exact spot that George had his eyes on. Making his way back south, Washington stumbled upon some Frenchmen who were bivouacked in the area. Washington then attacked and killed them all –nine French soldiers and their commander, thus starting the French-Indian or Seven Years’ War.
Afterwards, he would hastily build Fort Necessity, but eventually the French came and easily defeated Washington, obtaining both his surrender and his murder confession. However, Washington only signed it because he didn’t understand French.
After the French released him, he would come back year later as part of British Gen. Edward Braddock and 1,300 troops. Once again, Washington would be defeated by the French – 877 men were wounded or killed including Braddock, and Washington would retreat back to Virginia with the rest of survivors. Once he returned, Washington would be promoted to colonel and put in charge of the militia.
Now let’s head back east and all the way across Pennsylvania to just outside of Philadelphia to where Washington became a legend – Valley Forge. It’s a pretty good bet that Washington didn’t sleep much at all during the bitterly cold winter of 1777-1778. It was only through his grim determination, strength of character, courageous example and devotion to his men that General Washington was able to keep this Continental Army together despite that 1/3 of his 6,000 soldiers would die of suffering and disease.
Even though the British occupied the city for much of the war, George Washington slept a lot in nearby Philadelphia. It was here in 1787 at 6th and Chestnut Streets in Independence Hall that Washington presided over the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. It is also here at the adjoining Congress Hall where the House and Senate met during the presidency of the Father of Our Country.
Walk four minutes over to Walnut and 7th Streets in Washington Square and you’ll find Washington’s statue. Buried at the statue’s feet is the unknown soldier of the Revolutionary War.
Along the Delaware River, there are two parks commemorating General Washington’s crossing of the Delaware – one on the Pennsylvania side of the river where Washington and his army departed and another on the New Jersey side where they landed. It was on Christmas night in 1776 when he and his army would stealthily row across the ice-choked river. On the other side, they would make their way to Trenton where they came upon the barracks of the Redcoats. This time it wouldn’t be George who was sleeping, but rather a drunken Hessian army who had been celebrating the holiday.
Despite how Emanuel Leutze portrayed the general in his painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, Washington did not stand at the bow of his boat, but was sensibly seated, huddled in his cloak. ”Shift your arse, Knox,” were the only words Washington reportedly spoke which were directed at the plump Henry Knox, one of his generals and later our first Secretary of War under our first president.
The old song about New York says that if you “can make it there, (you’ll) make it anywhere”, but the fact is, Washington never made it there. He lost every battle he ever fought in and around the city. As a result, it’s probably just as well that not too much survives of Washington`s wartime years there. With that being said, Fraunces Tavern and Museum at 54 Pearl Street is probably the best memorial. When he was Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, it was here at the tavern that he gave his famous farewell speech to his officers at the end of the Revolutionary War. As President Washington, it’s said he frequented the tavern quite often when New York was the nation’s capital.
In his lifetime, George Washington made his way through the many cities, small towns and hamlets of colonial America and may well have slept in a few of the many houses there that claim him as a past guest. And on your journey following the life of the Father of Our Country, you, will likely stay in some of the same towns, cities and hamlets where Washington once laid his head, too.
Oh, and one more thing. Did you know that George Washington loved pecans? Whether traveling as a young surveyor or returning to Mount Vernon after serving eight years as our nation’s first president, it’s said he was never without a few pecans in his pockets.
Too bad there weren’t any Stuckey’s locations along George’s way back then. Though all that chewy deliciousness of a Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll may have been a little much for his false teeth, he may have enjoyed our Pecan Pralines or any of our other fine pecan candies.
No doubt that he and his men could have used some Stuckey’s Wool Hats and a few of our super soft and comfy “Since 1937” hoodies to change into after falling into the freezing waters of the Allegheny River.
Anyway, thank goodness we have Stuckey’s around today where every stop’s a pleasure stop. Plan to visit one of our locations today as part of your road trip itinerary or go to stuckeys.com for all of the Stuckey’s merchandise that’s fit for president and citizen alike!
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!
Whether your next road trip is by car or by rail, it’s not really a road trip without taking Stuckey’s along. From our world famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls to our mouthwatering Hunkey Dorey, Stuckey’s has all the road trips snacks you’ll need to get you where you’re going.
For all of the pecany good treats and cool merch you’ll need for your next big road adventure, browse our online store now!
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!