On January 6th, 1759, Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a charming and vivacious young woman from the Tidewater area of Virginia. Martha brought enormous wealth, along with two small children, “Jacky” and “Patsy,” to the marriage. It was her second marriage, his first.
About two weeks after the battle at Yorktown, Washington’s stepson, John Parke Custis (“Jacky”), died of camp fever at the age of 27. Ironically, the spoiled and indolent young man had not fought in the war but had, at its end, traveled to Yorktown to serve as a civilian aide to his stepfather. He was the last of Martha’s remaining children. His sister Patsy had died as a teenager eight years earlier following an epileptic seizure. Martha was devastated by Jacky’s death.
Martha Washington joined her husband in his winter quarters every year of the war. Together they entertained his officers and guests. A patriot in her own right, Mrs. Washington made it her war too, nursing sick and wounded soldiers and raising money for the troops. Needlework helped her to pass the time through the long, cold winters. In all, she would spend about half the war in camp.
Two of Martha Washington’s grandchildren, Eleanor (“Nelly”) Parke Custis (b. 1779) and George Washington (“Washy”) Parke Custis (b. 1781) came to live with their grandparents after their father died following the Battle of Yorktown. Washington loved his step-grandchildren as his very own.