Martha Washington surprised me in many ways as I learned about her life in order to write Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel. One way is that despite the lack of traveling she did in her youth, she more than made up for it once she married George. In fact, she went to him every winter when the army went to their winter camp. The location of George Washington’s Headquarters are mostly in the northeast of America if not solely in that quadrant of the original 13 colonies which became states. I have visited most of those headquarters, by the way, walking the same floors and halls and gripping the same hand rails as Martha and George must have.
The first winter headquarters she traveled to was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775. The house is known as the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House, which is now run as a historic site managed by the National Park Service. For more on the history of the building and the people who occupied it, click here or here. The house is a Georgian-style mansion built in 1759 by John Vassall, Jr., a loyalist during the American Revolution who eventually moved first to Halifax and then to London in 1776. It is located at 105 Brattle Street. I wish I had been able to visit this beautiful structure while I was touring the others, but I simply couldn’t fit it into my already packed trip to Maine and back.
Keep in mind just how very far Martha had to travel in the winter to be with her beloved husband. Back when the journey took weeks not days. During her various trips she made use of a coach-and-six, a sleigh, and even boats and ferries. All because George wanted her at his side and that’s where she knew she belonged.
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Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.
Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.
But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.
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