In honor of President's Day (I hope you're enjoying your day off-if you have it off), I thought I'd spend some blog time discussing our much venerated first president, George Washington. Yes, we all know he was born a farmer's son, became active in government, eventually commanded the Continental Army, was the first president of the US, and that he couldn't lie when he cut down the cherry tree (okay, that didn't really happen), but how much of his bad-assery do you know about? Oh, yeah, GW was a bonafide bad-ass. You didn't know? It's true.
George Washington was a big man. He stood approximately 6'3" (some say 6'2") and weighed about 200 lbs. He was a formidable opponent on and off the battle field. Before the age of 30, he suffered from malaria, smallpox, pleurisy, and dysentery. Those are some serious diseases back before modern medicine. Did GW care? Nope, he beat them like he would eventually beat the British. BTW, the bout of smallpox may have rendered him sterile and be the reason he and Martha had no children of their own (Martha had 2 from her first marriage).
The Iroquois Indians (who came up against GW in the French and Indian War) called him "Caunotaucarius,"which roughly translates to "Devourer of Villages" for the level of destruction he reigned down on them. It has been said that he sent small pox infected blankets to Iroquois villages, but this has not been proven, either way. Since he knew enough about inoculations to sponsor the first mass inoculation in US history at Valley Fore by having a live small pox virus rubbed into small open wounds (made by surgeons on the upper arms of soldiers), it's entirely possible that he did this.
During the Battle of the Monongahela, he distinguished himself. He had 2 horses shot out from under him, and 4 bullets pierced his coat, yet he came away completely unscathed. He was like an early Superman!
His temper was apparently a fierce thing to behold. During bursts of anger, he was known to knock around aides and by standers. He was equally quick to calm down though. Perhaps he was bi-polar? His soldiers called him Leonidas. Yeah, THAT Leonidas. The one who led the 300 Spartans, and was a known serious bad ass.
He once wrote that "Discipline is the soul of an army." At Valley Forge he issued orders that threatened to court martial (and execute) any officer who was caught relieving themselves anywhere but in the Latrine. In Washington's command you could be shot for peeing in the wrong place. I have to say, men are kind of gross and some think since they CAN pee anyway, they should, so I don't disagree with GW in principle, but I'm not sure I'd have someone shot for it.
In 1781, 200 New Jersey men of the Continental Army mutinied and deserted. Washington had them quickly rounded up. The ring leaders were separated and three names were drawn by lot. Washington then ordered their execution. He further ordered that the remaining ring leaders form the firing squad and shoot their friends.
Yikes! Do not cross GW!
Speaking of crossings (nice segue there, huh?) we all know about Washington crossing the Delaware on a cold Christmas night. You've seen the heroic painting. GW is made to look noble and gentlemanly. He was anything but. GW liked to attack while his enemy was sleeping. I have to say, this is not a bad strategy, but was not considered chivalrous. During the preparations to cross the Delaware, GW stepped into a boat containing the 300 pound Col. Henry Knox. GW gave Knox a nudge with his foot and said (much to the amusement of his weary troops) "Shift that fat ass Harry. But slowly or you'll swamp the damn boat!"
After the cold crossing, the soldiers had to march 10 miles in the snow (many without shoes) and damp. It was so damp many of them couldn't fire their muskets (wet powder), so charged with their bayonets. 900 Hessians were taken prisoner. Their commander, Col. Rall was mortally wounded. When the surgeons cut away his clothes to treat his wounds, an unread note was found in his pocket warning of Washington's attack.
Seriously, GW was a bad ass! Lest you think he was all piss and vinegar though, he was an avid animal lover (especially of dogs) and showed extreme compassion in their treatment. During the Battle of Germantown (which wasn't going well for the Americans), a small terrier was seen wandering between the British and American lines. It turns out that the British commander, General Howe's little terrier had somehow gotten loose and had become lost on the battlefield. The dog was identified from its collar, and brought to GW. His officers suggested that he might want to keep the dog as a sort of trophy which might weaken the morale of the British general. Instead he took the dog into his tent, fed him and had him brushed and cleaned. Then, to the surprise of everyone, GW ordered a cease fire. The shooting stopped and soldiers on both sides watched as one of GW's aides formally returned a little dog to the British commander under a flag of truce.
So, how much of that did you know? A lot of people when asked if they could meet any American president, pick GW, but I'll bet he'd be a lot different than what they'd expect. If I were asked, I would totally want to meet GW because of his bad-assery. How awesome would that be? Sure, he did great things, but I respect that he was a real person (perhaps a slightly crazy one) rather than the perfect father of our country he's often made out to be. My other choice of presidents to meet would be Teddy Roosevelt. Why? Teddy was a bad-ass supreme. Perhaps he looked up to GW? Not only was he a cattle rancher, a deputy sheriff, an explorer, a police commissioner, the assistant Secretary of the Navy, the governor of New York, and Rough Rider, but he carried a pistol on him at all times, even in the White House, held a black belt in jujitsu and was a championship boxer. Whew! Walk softly and carry a big stick indeed! In 1912, Teddy was SHOT on the campaign trail, but instead of getting treated right away, gave his scheduled speech, with a bleeding bullet hole in his chest. Oh, GW would have been proud!