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New Exhibit at Historic Mount Vernon to Reveal General Washington, The Military Leader

Tue, 01/13/2009

"George Washington & His Generals" Opens on February 21

For Immediate Release
January 13, 2009
Digital images available  

Media Contact:
Melissa Wood (703) 799-5203

New Exhibit at Historic Mount Vernon to Reveal General Washington, The Military Leader

MOUNT VERNON, Va. – On February 21, Historic Mount Vernon opens “George Washington & His Generals,” a new temporary exhibition co-sponsored by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and The Society of the Cincinnati. Over 120 paintings, prints, personal artifacts, and manuscripts associated with the generals of the Continental and French armies will be featured. These objects—drawn from the collections of Mount Vernon, the Society, and almost 40 of the nation’s foremost fine arts museums, historical societies, and private collections—offer an unprecedented look at Washington’s leadership and character as commander-in-chief by bringing to life the relationships that formed between him and his generals as they fought for our nation’s freedom. The exhibition will remain on view through January 10, 2010.

“We are thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to bring this diverse assemblage of objects related to George Washington’s generals together for the first time,” said Carol Borchert Cadou, Associate Director for Collections and Robert H. Smith Senior Curator of Fine and Decorative Arts. “Many of these objects have not been exhibited widely outside their institutions or regions of the country. Other pieces, such as Artemas Ward’s red cloak, Henry Knox’s orders of march for crossing the Delaware on Christmas night of 1776, and Benjamin Tallmadge’s account of Washington’s farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern, are one-of-a-kind, fragile works that are only occasionally placed on exhibit.”

Additional highlights of the show include what is believed to be the only intact surviving cannon from the 60 tons of artillery Henry Knox transported some 300 miles from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston during the winter of 1775-1776, and used at the Siege of Boston that March in the first American victory of the war.  Emanuel Leutze’s monumental painting of Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth dramatically captures the contentious relationship between the commander-in-chief and Charles Lee, one of his most outspoken critics.

The exhibition features nearly a quarter of the 81 major and brigadier generals who served under Washington during the Revolution. This diverse group of men came from all 13 colonies and 10 foreign lands, and represent over a dozen professions, ranging from the Quaker ironmaster Nathanael Greene, to the patrician New Yorker Philip Schuyler, to the Polish military engineer Tadeusz Kosciuzsko. About the only thing they had in common was their commander-in-chief. Drawing on his innate sense of leadership, Washington skillfully commanded these individuals—some who were imposed upon him, some whom he chose, and others fresh from Europe—to victory against the British, whose military forces ranked among the most disciplined in the world. His ability to place the greatest responsibility in the hands of those with the most talent proved to be one of his most important leadership skills. However, Washington was not infallible in his judgment of character—he was initially a great admirer and supporter of Benedict Arnold, the most infamous traitor in American history and whose commission as major general will be on display.

At the war’s end the majority of American generals, like their commander-in-chief, returned to their prewar occupations. Most had sacrificed their private interests to serve the republic and would later devote themselves to rebuilding neglected homes, careers, and lands. Some generals became prominent in politics, although they never dominated political life like many popular generals of later American wars.

To perpetuate the bonds of friendship and preserve the memory of the Revolution,

American and French officers founded The Society of the Cincinnati in May 1783. Titled after the legendary ancient Roman citizen-soldier Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus, who left his plow to defend Rome and returned home following the conflict, the Society’s 2,200 original members were officers of the Continental Army and Navy and their foreign counterparts. George Washington proudly served as its first president general. The exhibit concludes with a spectacular display of Society of the Cincinnati eagles—the organization’s insignia—worn by Washington and his officers as Society members, including the Diamond Eagle commissioned by French naval officers as a gift to Washington in May 1784. The symbol of the office of the president general, the Diamond Eagle has been worn by each of the 34 men who have followed Washington in that role and has not been on public display for several decades.


About The Society of Cincinnati

The Society of the Cincinnati was founded on May 13, 1783, at the close of the Revolutionary War by officers of the Continental Army and Navy to preserve the ideals and fellowship for which they had fought. Now in its third century, the Society has been perpetuated by descendants of these Revolutionary War soldiers as a nonprofit historical and educational organization that promotes public interest in the American Revolution through its library and museum collections, exhibitions, programs, research and publications, and other activities. The Society’s headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., at Anderson House, a 1905 Beaux Arts mansion and National Historic Landmark that houses the Society’s museum and library. Anderson House, originally the winter residence of American diplomat and Society member Larz Anderson, has been open to the public since 1939 as a historic house museum where visitors can see the Andersons’ collections and the Society’s changing exhibitions.

Planning your visit: Anderson House is located at 2118 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C.’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free. The Society’s research library is open, by appointment, Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Public Information: 202-785-2040;

About Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
Since 1860, over 80 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens the most popular historic home in America.  Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the Estate and in classrooms across the nation, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.”  Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853.  A picturesque drive to the southern end of the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway, Mount Vernon is located just 16 miles from the nation’s capital.

Hours of operation: April-August, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; March, September, October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November – February, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Regular admission rates: adults, $15.00; senior citizens, $14.00; children age 6-11, when accompanied by an adult, $7.00; and children under age 5, FREE.  Admission fees, restaurant and retail proceeds, along with private donations, support the operation and restoration of Mount Vernon.

Public Information: 703-780-2000; 703-799-8697 (TDD);