National Geographic : 1964 Nov
THE MOUNTVERNONLADIES' ASSOCIATION First First Lady. Martha Washington paid $28 to Charles Willson Peale to paint this miniature in 1776 when she was 45. Later she described herself as an "old-fashioned Virginia house-keeper, steady as a clock, busy as a bee, and cheerful as a cricket." Mount Vernon yearly receives more than a million visitors, who respond to Washing ton's own invitation: "I have no objection to any sober or orderly person's gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, Gar dens, &ca. about Mount Vernon." He felt "No estate in United America is more pleas antly situated" than his Potomac-side home. have wondered when he found time to sleep, he somehow managed to build and maintain an army. He realized early that the best strat egy for his weak, inexperienced troops was to harass the British rather than risk an all-out assault. He reported to Congress that "we should on all Occasions avoid a general Ac tion, or put anything to the Risque, unless compelled by a necessity, into which we ought never to be drawn." In ensuing years, from time to time he fell back slowly before superior British forces, then struck unexpectedly. It was sound strat egy, and while Washington has seldom been ranked among the most skillful generals, he was an able commander. 650 Above all, he demonstrated his singular organizing talents and his unparalleled forti tude in the face of adversity. It was this for titude that carried him through the bleak winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge, its log huts now restored.* It also carried him through later discouragements, even after-with the aid of French allies-he had forced in 1781 the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, where earthworks still bristle with cannon. Yorktown ended the active fighting, but the Continental Army remained unpaid and restless. To Washington's acute dismay, one of the colonels proposed making him king. *See "Washington Lives Again at Valley Forge," by Howell Walker, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February, 1954.