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General and Mrs. Washington: The Untold Story of a Marriage and a Revolution

General and Mrs. Washington: The Untold Story of a Marriage and a Revolution

4.4 15
by Bruce Chadwick

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Here is the story of the fateful marriage of the richest woman in Virginia and the man who could have been king. In telling their story, Chadwick explains not only their remarkable devotion to each other, but why the wealthiest couple in Virginia became revolutionaries who risked the loss of their vast estates and their very lives.

"One of George Washington's


Here is the story of the fateful marriage of the richest woman in Virginia and the man who could have been king. In telling their story, Chadwick explains not only their remarkable devotion to each other, but why the wealthiest couple in Virginia became revolutionaries who risked the loss of their vast estates and their very lives.

"One of George Washington's secret weapons in his rise to power and immortality was the extraordinary woman he married. The story of the half-century-long married love affair of George and Martha Washington is truly inspiring."
-Willard Sterne Randall, author of George Washington, A Life

"Chadwick puts a more human face on Washington by creating a very detailed portrait of how he and the outgoing Martha lived: their food, their slaves and servants, their health, their furniture, their daily life together."-USA Today

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Martha Custis married George Washington in 1759, according to Chadwick, she was a fat and amiable widow seeking a loving companion, a father for her children and a manager for her sizable plantations. Their union also met the needs of the dashing, social-climbing and rotten-toothed military hero: he became one of the wealthiest men in Virginia, inherited a ready-made family and quashed a fruitless infatuation with his best friend's wife. As Chadwick (George Washington's War) explains in this lackluster dual biography, Martha was a traditional, dutiful wife whose life in a patriarchal society revolved around her husband and children as she supervised a staff of slaves who prepared meals, tended gardens and produced clothing. As the Revolution approached, Martha saw her role as supportive wife of a political figure. She joined George at Valley Forge during the cruel winter of 1777-1778, and her simple helpfulness, such as organizing sewing circles to clothe soldiers, made her a beloved role model. As the president's wife, Martha befriended all and sundry and had Washington's ear. Although competently researched, Chadwick's latest effort is amateurishly written and lacking in provocative insights. Readers will do better with Patricia Brady's splendid recent bio of the first First Lady. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Former journalist Chadwick, the author of other books on Washington and the Revolutionary period (e.g., George Washington's War), here turns his attention to the domestic life of the first couple of the new United States. Drawing extensively on letters and journals from contemporaries, the author offers a picture of the Washingtons at home at Mount Vernon, in winter camp with the army during the Revolutionary War, and in their rented residences during Washington's presidency. Although less has been written on Washington as husband and householder than as general and statesman, Washington scholars will find little new here; this is a popular treatment for general readers. George and Martha are revealed to be surprisingly typical of their class and era. They cope with the everyday business of married life; George was a devoted father to Martha's children from her first marriage, and the book charts their grief over the loss of a daughter and a son. With their behavior as the first first couple-George's reserve, Martha's open-heartedness, their shared generosity-they set precedents for a new American way of life. Recommended for public libraries, but Patricia Brady's Martha Washington: An American Life is an excellent choice for informed readers and undergraduates.-Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
At home with George and Martha, America's first First Family. Shortly before her death, Martha Washington (1731-1802) extinguished any hope of a definitive assessment of her marriage and family life by burning the decades-long correspondence between her and her husband. This historians' tragedy forces Chadwick (The First American Army, 2005, etc.) to draw mainly from the observations of contemporaries to examine the dynamic between a husband and wife who together dominated the 18th-century American stage. Having already achieved a small measure of military fame, the land-poor Colonel Washington (1732-99) married the wealthy widow Martha Custis in 1759, taking custody of her two surviving children, Patsy and Jack, and eventually her grandchildren, Nelly and Wash. While it briefly charts the troubled lives of the Custis offspring, the story focuses on the principals. George was tall and muscular; Martha was short and plump. He was ferociously ambitious; she was content to be the wife of a Virginia planter. He was a clothes horse; she favored the plain and simple. He was famously aloof; she was delightfully gregarious. He was strict with the kids; she was hopelessly indulgent. Both had a deep appreciation and admiration for the other, an abiding sense of duty and a keen understanding of their official roles, carefully attending to the details of their domestic and public lives. Intended for the general reader, Chadwick's brisk narrative comes as close as we are likely to get to an understanding of the Washington union, but the book works best when assessing the impressive impact of the First Couple on an ever-widening audience. Washington used the word "family" variously to includehis slaves at Mt. Vernon, his staff in the army, his presidential cabinet and, eventually, all his fellow citizens. No special need to recount the legacy of the father of our country, but Martha, too, played an important, underappreciated role in ministering to these extended families, a contribution well recognized here. A deft portrait of the Washington team, building a life together and, eventually, a new nation.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 2
Colonel Washington
The ceremony was conducted by the pastor of St. Peter's, the Rev. David Mossom. Martha arrived in an elegant horse-drawn carriage, and George rode the handsome horse given him by General Braddock. The wedding took place on a cold day, and the countryside around White House was stark; guests arrived dressed in winter coats and gloves, and most shivered a bit as they stepped down from their horses or carriages.
The reception at White House was elegant. Martha Custis's parlor was filled with tables overladen with meats and desserts. Servants brought in wines and ales. Later, in the parlor, guests danced until late in the evening. The reception reportedly continued for three days.
Guests filled every bedroom of White House; others slept in hastily arranged guest quarters in the outbuildings of the plantation. The invited comprised a "Who's Who" of Virginia politics and high society. They included the royal governor, William Fauquier, in scarlet robes, a shoulder-length wig, and a ceremonial sword at his side, and his wife; several members of the state legislature, all dressed in their finest coats; the brothers and sisters of George and Martha; and friends and neighbors from both the Potomac and Pamunkey River regions. It is not known whether George's feisty mother, Mary Ball Washington, was in attendance.

Meet the Author

Bruce Chadwick is a former journalist and author of seven works of history including 1858, The First American Army, George Washington's War, The General and Mrs. Washington, Brother Against Brother, Two American Presidents, Traveling the Underground Railroad, and The Reel Civil War. He lectures in American history at Rutgers University and also teaches writing at New Jersey City University.

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General and Mrs. Washington: The Untold Story of a Marriage and a Revolution 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book provided excellent personal portraits of both George and Martha Washington as well as an interesting view of their marriage. The writing was very clear and engaging and the author did a good job of balancing his attention between his subjects. Although some reviewers have described it as a popular rather than academic treatment, it is a worthwhile read. The point of the book is less about citing obscure historical facts and more about creating a view of what their lives and relationship were like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In reading this book I became immersed in the life of both historical figures. The author gives attention to both George and Martha in describing the difficulties they overcame during this great American moment. His description as to what it was like for George to be fighting the Revolutionary War was very enlightening. He describes both George and Martha in their home life as well their public life. His characterizations gave me a great respect for the hardship and sacrifice they endured. I felt that it was intelligently written and presented more historical information than embellishment. This is the first book that I have read on George Washington, and through this book I have come to admire and revere a great man and a great woman.
bkwrm01 More than 1 year ago
A very entertaining and informative book about George and Martha Washington that gave a detailed account of what life was like for the rich and powerful plantation owners of that period. It also documented what the Washington's, and men and women like them, were willing to sacrifice in order to secure the freedom of he colonies from England. They could have lost it all if the revolution had failed and yet they pushed on. I thoroughly enjoyed this book will definitely seek out others by Mr. Chadwick.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a book to read about the true life of George and Martha Washington, this is the book for you. It has so many facts and information about their life and how they made it as a family through the Revolution. I have learned so much from reading this book and I have already studied a lot about Washington. It is also an easy read and doesn't loose you from dullness. I highly recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
High school and college history were my most hated classes in the late 40's and early 50's. We learned dates, names, and places. If stories like this had been told, the classes would have been interesting. I now love reading books like this. An easy read. I have a new respect for the Gen. Washington, Martha, and Colonial life. This book brings them tp life.
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See above.
CigarGuy More than 1 year ago
Very informative book. Comfortable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent historical view from their lives as a married couple and the historic events and how it involved them both. I would recommend it!
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