George Lewis was born on March 14, 1757, the fourth son of Fielding Lewis and George Washington’s only sister, Elizabeth.  He attended the College of New Jersey in Princeton between 1770 and 1773, but did not graduate.  With the threat of war looming, he instead returned to his home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, eager to participate.  That opportunity came in November of 1775 when he escorted his Aunt Martha Washington from Mount Vernon to the Continental Army encampment in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Once there, George Lewis was swiftly employed at Headquarters.   Months later, in the spring of 1776, he was rewarded with an appointment as the subaltern officer of the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard.  Proving himself a worthy asset throughout the New York campaign, George Lewis received a promotion to the rank of Captain at the end of the year and successfully raised a troop of horsemen.  The unit was assigned to the 3rd Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons in 1777 but would often be detached to serve “on command” as the mounted arm for the overhauled Life Guards.  Captain George Lewis would serve in this capacity for the next two years of the conflict until he resigned in the spring of 1779. 

Chief among George Lewis’ reasons for resigning was a young lady, Catherine Daingerfield.  The couple married on October 15, 1779 and moved to Frederick County, Virginia.  In addition to settling down to the life of a planter, George Lewis also began surveying and trading in the lands of the vast Kentucky country on the Virginia frontier.  He renewed the confidence of his prominent uncle enough to be requested to act on Washington’s behalf with some of his western land holdings in later years. 

When efforts to enforce an excise tax on alcohol met with strong resistance in Pittsburgh, President George Washington led a militia force into Western Pennsylvania in September of 1794.  George Lewis joined in the expedition at the head of the troop of volunteer cavalry from Fredericksburg, Virginia.  As the army grew, Virginia Governor Henry Lee - also in the field – appointed Lewis to the rank of Major, to command the corps of cavalry for the state.  Heartened by his promotion, George Lewis personally led a small force to capture a notorious insurgent in a successful foray days later.  During the Quasi-War crisis in 1799, George Washington made an exception to his tenet against nepotism.  In recommending George Lewis to the Secretary of War, the Commander-in-Chief of the Provisional Army stated that his nephew would be “a valuable Officer” and believed “that he had a predeliction for the service…”  George Washington would also remember his nephew in his will that year by bequeathing him a share of his estate and his choice of one of his swords.  George Lewis spent the rest of his life at his home “Marmion,” in King George County, Virginia, dying on November 13, 1821.   

  

Samuel K. Fore

Harlan Crow Library

 

Further Reading:

Felder, Paula S.  Fielding Lewis and the Washington Family: A Chronicle of Eighteenth Century Fredericksburg. [Fredericksburg, Va.]: American History Company, 1998.

Godfrey, Carlos E. The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C.: Stevenson-Smith Co., 1904.

Lefkowitz, Arthur S.  George Washington’s Indispensable Men: The 32 Aides-de-Camp Who Helped Win American Independence.  Mechanicsburg, Pa.:  Stackpole Books, 2003.

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