"To each of my nephews, William Augustine Washington, George Lewis, George Steptoe Washington, Bushrod Washington, and Samuel Washington, I give one of the swords or cutteaux of which I may die possessed, and they are to choose in the order they are named. These swords are accompanied with an injunction not to unsheath them for the purpose of shedding blood except it be for self-defense, or in defense of their Country and its rights, and in the latter case to keep them unsheathed, and prefer falling with them in their hands to the relinquishment thereof." - George Washington, Last Will & Testament

This rather conventional sword was one of seven swords inventoried in George Washington's Study after his death, and the fourth chosen according to his Will by Bushrod Washington, who also inherited the bulk of the Mount Vernon estate.

Although family tradition maintained it was George Washington's "mourning" sword because he purportedly wore it to funerals, recent scholarship has shown that it was more than likely a c.1780 gift from the Marquis de Lafayette. Thus, it is certainly not the "Genteel Mourng. Sword, with Belt Swivels &ca." he received from London following the death of Martha Washington's daughter Patsy in June 1773.


c. 1770-1779



Steel, iron (blade); gilt or lacquered brass (hilt), silver, leather


Overall (Overall length): 41 7/8 in. (106.36 cm)
Overall (Blade Length): 35 in. (88.9 cm)


Gift of W. F. Havemeyer, 1892
Conservation courtesy of the Life Guard Society of Historic Mount Vernon


Engraved inscriptions on blade are obscured and obliterated by corrosion. They were recorded by Benjamin Lossing in 1859 as follows (both in Latin): on one side, "RECTI FACE ICE" ("Do what is right") and on the other "NEMINE TIMEAS" ("Fear no man.").

Object Number



Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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