Martha Washington Slept Here: Rockingham #history #Princeton #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

The last of the war-time headquarters was in Princeton, New Jersey, or more precisely Rocky Hill, at a house known as Rockingham. According to the Rockingham site, the house was built around 1710 with two rooms and a lean-to. Judge John Berrien added on to the house in the 1760s, making the house first known as the Berrien Mansion. The original location of the house had it on a hill overlooking a river, but it has been moved several times to its current location.

George managed the final tasks of the army over several month in 1783. In fact he wrote to his nephew George Augustine Washington the following on August 18, 1783 from Newburgh: “I shall set off for Princeton tomorrow… I carry my baggage with me, it being the desire of the Congress that I should remain till the arrival of the Definitive Treaty…which…is every day expected.” He had no idea just how long he’d be cooling his heals upon his arrival, but from reading his correspondence during this period of time he became evermore antsy for the treaty to arrive so he could finally put finish to the war and go home to his beloved Mount Vernon. He had rarely visited his home over the duration of the hostilities beginning in June 1775 when he left for the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

Remember from last week’s post that he had to move on to this location even though Martha was still laid up with a fever back in Newburgh, NY, until she recovered in late August 1783. When she arrived at Rockingham, she found a two-story clapboard house overlooking a river. My hubby and I were fortunate to be able to tour the home with the caretaker and ask questions. Martha’s bedchamber, he said, was upstairs while George slept downstairs. I’m not sure I believe that, though, since the couple was very close and loved each other. The stairs leading to the second floor were rather narrow and steep, so I find it unlikely she’d want to have to traverse them frequently. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, but the house is furnished with reproductions of furniture and furnishings of Washington’s time spent there.

On October 31, 1783, George Washington and Congress were informed of the signing of the final treaty declaring that the American States were now independent from Britain. Can you imagine the huge sigh of relief he must have let it out at such wonderful news? He could finally go home! Only not just yet. There were a couple more details that had to be handled. It was at Rockingham that George wrote the Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States, which were delivered to the Continental Army at West Point, and probably his farewell speech he gave on his way home to Virginia.

Martha left for Mount Vernon early in November while George stayed behind. On December 4, 1783, he officially bid farewell from his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York City. Then he headed south, first stopping for a time in Philadelphia to wrap up personal and public affairs. But while he longed to be home, he understood his role in the new country’s future. In a letter to John Ewing dated December 13, 1783, from Philadelphia he wrote: “Tho the military Scene is now closed, and I am hastening with unspeakable delight to the still and placid walks of domestic Life; yet even there will my Country’s happiness be ever nearest to my heart—and, while I cherish the fond idea, I shall retain a pleasing remembrance of the able support the Public has often received from the learned Professions; whose prosperity is so essential to the preservation of the Liberties, as well as the augmentation of the happiness & glory of this extensive Empire.” Keep in mind Martha was probably anxiously awaiting him at Mount Vernon by this time.

I find it very interesting that there are no letters from Martha during this entire period. I would think she corresponded with her family and friends at least occasionally, but none are included in the compiled collection of her papers I have on hand. Was she busy with household concerns or ill? I don’t know. It’s only my speculation. I would hope that George had written to her as well, though if you recall one of the things Martha did before she died was to burn all but a few letters between her and George.

He wrote at least a dozen letters while in Philadelphia before telling George Clinton on December 15, 1783, “I am within a few Minutes of setting off for Virginia—passing thro’ Annapolis—where I shall stay two or three days only…”

He passed through Wilmington, then Baltimore, and finally stopped in Annapolis, Maryland, by the 20th of December to officially resign his commission to quash any rumors that he wanted to reign as king. One of my sources claims that Martha went to Annapolis to hear the speech. She might have as her son’s wife’s family lived in that area and she may have wanted to visit with them. But after being on the road so long, I have my doubts that she’d want to travel during December.

In George’s correspondence online his official resignation is dated December 23, 1783 in which he opens with, “The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulations to Congress & of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country.” In a subsequent letter he noted that the resignation went into effect at twelve that day. You can read his Address to Congress on the day of his resignation, too.

His satisfaction and relief are so apparent in every letter of his that I read it’s obvious to me he wanted nothing more than to retire to private life again. He and Martha looked forward to spending quiet days at Mount Vernon entertaining their friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Out of the public eye and safe from any further hostilities or vitriol.

And yet we all know how well that worked out, right?

In case you’ve missed the other posts, I’ve covered these sites:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

Next at Morristown, NJ from 1779-1780. 

Next in New Windsor, NY from 1780-1781.

Back to Pennsylvania and the John Penn House in Philadelphia from 1781-1782.

Next to last war-time HQ was at Newburgh, NY during 1782-1783.

That wraps up my Martha Washington Slept Here series of the American Revolution headquarters sites.

Until next time, may your reading take you many places!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Hasbrouck House in Newburgh #history #NewYork #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

The next stop on the Martha Washington Slept Here tour is in Newburgh, New York, the headquarters from March 1782 through around July 1783. The Hasbrouck House had a good view of the Hudson River and was conveniently located near town. George and Martha left Philadelphia in late March 1782 to move the HQ to this location, which was apparently a very tight fit for George’s household and “family”—the military aides supporting him.

In July 1782 Martha left New York to go home to Mount Vernon. On the way through Pennsylvania, the Assembly presented her with a coach and when she arrived back in Virginia, the city of Williamsburg gave her gold medals and the freedom of the city. Keep in mind that at this point in the American Revolution the war was practically over, though skirmishes continued in various places and Charleston was still besieged by the British. (The British left Charleston mid-December 1782, an event depicted in my A More Perfect Union historical romance series at the end of Samantha’s Secret (#3). The lavish gifts bestowed on Martha showed the people’s great esteem of her and her husband in the effort to win freedom for the country.

George stayed in Newburgh, eventually realizing he wasn’t going to be able to go home as he’d hoped. In October, he wrote to Martha asking her to return to the camp. So in November, she got in her coach and headed north. Little did she realize just how long she’d be away from home! Naturally, upon her return to camp she slipped into familiar routines of socializing, sewing, and she reportedly even planted a garden.

In February 1783, they marked the fifth anniversary of alliance with France by George pardoning all military prisoners. I suspect Martha attended the release or at least was in the room when the freed prisoners came to thank George. I think she’d want to celebrate along with her husband in every way possible on such an auspicious day.

It wasn’t until April 18 that the day’s General Orders announced the cessation of hostilities between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain. Only then could George begin the work involved in ending the army’s engagement and sending the enlisted men and officers home. That effort would take several months and include another change of the headquarters location.

But that summer of 1783 Martha became very ill with a fever. While she suffered and slowly recovered, George was forced to move the headquarters to New Jersey. From what I’ve read of her illness, she seemed to suffer a great deal over the hot summer months. As soon as she was well enough in late August, Martha also moved to New Jersey, the topic of next week’s post.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

Next at Morristown, NJ from 1779-1780. 

Next in New Windsor, NY from 1780-1781.

Back to Pennsylvania and the John Penn House in Philadelphia from 1781-1782.

I often find myself thinking about the life Martha led and how different it must have wound up being from what she’d imagined as a girl growing up on a middling plantation. She went from obscurity to renowned and reverenced by a nation. What a concept, eh?

Until next time, may your reading take you many places!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: John Penn House in Philadelphia #history #Pennsylvania #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Let’s continue with the series on Martha Washington Slept Here by visiting Philadelphia. Following the pivotal capture of Lt. General Earl Cornwallis at Yorktown in September 1781, George Washington became concerned about a “relaxation” of intensity in pursuit of winning the American Revolution. He wrote many letters to officials and officers encouraging diligence and actively pursuing the enemy until a cessation of fighting could be treated. He didn’t want the country, least not the army, to let their guard down and reverse the tide.

One personal casualty of Yorktown was young John Parke Custis, 26 years old, who died in early November 1781. Jacky, as he was nicknamed, was Martha Washington’s youngest child from her previous marriage. He left behind a wife and four children after dying from camp fever.

After burying her son, Martha did not want to stay at Mount Vernon while George headed north to Philadelphia for the winter at Congress’ request. When they arrived on November 27, 1781, in that city, they set up housekeeping at 242 South 3rd Street. This red brick home had been built by John Penn, the last Colonial governor of the state in 1766. Another important figure followed who lived in the house, Benjamin Chew, the final Colonial Chief Justice. When the Washingtons stayed in the house, it had been lent to them by the Spanish diplomat, Francisco Rondon. The original house has long since been torn down, but another lovely home has taken its place. As a result, I don’t really know much about what the house featured when Martha stayed in it. It was apparently a three-story house which may have had a kind of turret to one side. You can see a picture of it here, the one in the background to the right, which was taken from The City of Philadelphia as it appeared in the Year 1800.

It is interesting to me that in the compilation of Martha Washington’s papers, there are no letters from or to her during the period of October 1781 to October 1782. The last letter is one in October 1781 from her son, writing to her from the encampment outside of Yorktown. Without any first hand account of her experience it is a matter of conjecture that she likely did similar things during her stay in the by then familiar city. They had friends who lived there as well as army colleagues because they had been there before. How much they attended parties or balls while in mourning for Jacky is also a matter of conjecture. Perhaps George felt an obligation to attend but Martha did not? Or maybe she did accompany him.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

Next at Morristown, NJ from 1779-1780. 

Next in New Windsor, NY from 1780-1781.

I can only try imagine how sad Martha and George must have felt that winter. Despite the very wonderful news of the success at Yorktown, Martha had buried all four of her children and her first husband. Jacky’s wife was faced with raising four children on her own. However, George and Martha essentially adopted two of them to help out with raising them.

Until next time, when we’ll venture back to Newburgh, NY, happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Martha Washington Slept Here: New Windsor #history #NewYork #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Martha Washington had not traveled much if at all before she married George Washington. Her move from southern Virginia to northern Virginia, to Mount Vernon, was the farthest she’d journeyed. Until the American Revolution started and George was appointed as Commander of the Continental Army. The next location for the Continental Army’s winter camp and George Washington’s headquarters was in New Windsor, New York, in 1780-1781.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

Next at Morristown, NJ from 1779-1780. 

I don’t know much about this winter camp in New Windsor, to be honest. In fact, although I strive to be as accurate as I possibly can, when I wrote Becoming Lady Washington I made an error as to its location, confusing it with a later encampment in the same area in 1782-83. I’ll get to that in a minute.

What I have found in doing the research for this post is that while George Washington wrote many letters from “New Windsor” in December 1780, he didn’t specify where his headquarters was actually situated. Could he have used tents instead of residing in a house? It’s possible but wouldn’t be ideal to winter in New York in tents. I would think he would be in a house. I don’t know that for certain. I did find one mention related to his headquarters in a December 14, 1780 letter to the Marquis de Lafayette:

“I am in very confined Quarters—little better than those at Valley Forge—but such as they are I shall welcome into them your friends on their return to Rhode Island.”

This implies he may have been in a house since he was in a stone house at Valley Forge. I suspect he didn’t specify the location of the headquarters to protect everyone from the British surprising them. However, I also know that during this encampment the British intercepted letters from George and Martha and as a result a gift was sent under a flag of truce to Martha, who had been ill, so they (the British?) already knew the location.

Martha arrived at the camp by December 15, 1780. George was fretting about the mail route because his letters kept being “taken” by the enemy and the army didn’t have the money to replace the horses for Express riders to carry the mail. As I mentioned above, a lady, Mrs. Martha Mortier, the widow of a British army paymaster, sent quite an extensive amount of foods to Martha because she learned Martha suffered from an illness, which was a gall-bladder attack.

I can’t help but be amazed at the array and quantities of these items! According to the editors of “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington, the gift consisted of “a box of lemons, a box of oranges, four boxes of sweetmeats, one keg of tarmarinds (medicinal seed from tamarindus indica), 200 limes, two dozen capillaire (to prepare a syrup from maiden hair fern), two dozen orgeat (used to prepare a syrup made from barley, almonds, or orange flower water), two dozen pineapples, and two pounds of Hyson tea.” George ordered for nothing to be landed but the detachment offering the gift under a flag of truce be sent away immediately. The editors go on to say that if George had permitted the gift to even have landed on shore he would have been subjected to “criticism in the tory and patriot press for having accepted favors from the enemy.”

These were tense times in the winter headquarters. Not only was the enemy trying to trick him into missteps, the supplies and clothing for the troops were nearly nonexistent.

As to my gaffe, which I apologize for again, this headquarters was not located in the William Ellison House as noted in the following excerpt. I have not identified the actual house or place where the camp was located. Please forgive me for confusing these two winter camps. I obviously made an assumption that, since the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the National Park Service only referred to the Ellison and Hasbrouck houses, both winter camps occurred in the same locations. Lesson learned! However, my description of the house being “tiny” apparently was accurate.

The following takes place in June 1781. From Becoming Lady Washington:


I laid in my bed, a light cover keeping me warm enough, wondering whether the bilious fever and jaundice I suffered would end me. The tiny William Ellison House where headquarters had been established provided little comfort in its cramped interior. Not a place where I’d ever thought I’d die. Yet, at that moment, it seemed a distinct possibility. I didn’t want to die, of course. Not really. But I’d been ill for weeks and didn’t know how much longer I could tolerate the illness. I had intended to leave camp for home in May, but I fell ill around the twenty-first while George was away in Connecticut.

The doctor told me the abdominal pain searing through me was likely caused by a stone in my gall bladder. The biliousness and yellowing of my skin did nothing to make the strain and discomfort more bearable. Five long weeks dragged past with me fearing for my life.

George had agonized about acquiring the proper medications to ease my suffering, writing the last day of May to both Jacky and Lund to see what they could do to assist. Unfortunately, those letters along with a few others from George were intercepted. How did I know? Because a letter arrived on the twenty-first of June, dated the fifteenth, from Mrs. Martha Mortier.

She not only baldly stated that his letter had been intercepted. She had the audacity to send a gift of lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples, sweetmeats, tarmarind seeds, capillaire to make a medicinal syrup from maiden hair fern, orgeat to make another syrup, and two pounds of Hyson green tea from China. A bribe or war prize. Either way, we could not accept it. Fortunately, I had recovered my health by then so could with all honesty refuse it as no longer needed. Or wanted, but that was another matter.

“The vast amount of delicacies must have cost a small fortune, what with the outrageous inflation for even common articles.” I could see George’s concern in the set of his jaw and the anger in his eyes.

As the war had dragged on, his health had become more my concern. He brushed aside my worries, but I have eyes and could see the subtle changes. While we both wanted to be safely at home on our beloved plantation, his duty was to his role as commander of the army. Mine was to be by his side to support him and care for him through good and bad, sickness and health.

“I cannot tolerate this blatant attempt to trick me or any one on my staff to accept favors from the enemy.” George paced the office, rage pouring from him in waves. He stopped suddenly and glared at his staff member, standing rigidly at attention awaiting orders. “Major General Robert Howe, you will thwart any thing and any one from landing under such a flag of truce. I shall reject the items as politely as I can. I shall send a note thanking Mrs. Mortier but telling her you, my dear Patsy, have recovered and thus no longer need such assistance.”

“That is a wise plan.” In truth, while the whisper of temptation to enjoy the fruit existed for two heart beats, I’d never have succumbed.

The reason for George’s tirade stemmed from learning Lund, back home at Mount Vernon, had given refreshments to the enemy in April. Lund’s desperate measures proved misguided. The British had sailed up the Potomac, threatening to burn our beloved home to the ground. In order to save it, he’d offered food and drink on board the ship. He’d dared to ask for the surrender of some of our Negroes, asking a favor from the enemy! I had rarely seen my old man so livid and embarrassed in the twenty-two years we’d been married. He sent a reprimand to Lund, telling him of his displeasure with Lund’s ill-judged actions. We both feared that unhappy consequences and animadversion of the General would result. I hoped no one would criticize him, not after all our sacrifices in the cause, but we’d experienced naysayers already. Then to add to that outrage his concern for my welfare, and he proved troubled indeed.


I’ve checked my sources and they do not mention a site for the 1780-81 headquarters either. George only puts “New Windsor” or “Hd Qtr New Windsor” on his letters. I won’t make excuses for my error, only say that I will strive to avoid further errors in the future.

Until next time, when I’ll talk about Philadelphia, happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Cover of Becoming Lady Washington depicting the marriage of George and Martha.

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.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Martha Washington Slept Here: Ford’s Mansion in Morristown #history #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

I’m continuing my series of locations where Martha traveled to be with George during the American Revolution. On a side note, some of you may remember that there used to be signs posted declaring “George Washington Slept Here” at various hotels and houses and such, which is why I decided to also share where Martha slept as well. At least during the war years. So this week we travel back to Morristown where she stayed at Ford’s Mansion on this trip.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

During November 1779, Martha began gathering items and preparing to leave to join George at his winter headquarters. Sometime around the end of November, he sent for her and she headed to Morristown, New Jersey. This time the widow Theodosia Ford invited George to stay at her house. Her husband, Jacob Ford, Jr., had died a few years earlier. Theodosia and her children occupied two rooms in the house while George, Martha, his aides, and their servants occupied the remainder. You can find out more about Ford’s Mansion here.

Note: The above images are all taken from the archives of the Library of Congress. They were taken by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1901.

In my notes, I estimate she left around December 1 and arrived around the 28th. Apparently it was one of the coldest winters ever, too, which could have only made traveling even more stressful and exhausting. All the layers of clothing to help keep warm would have weighed a good bit. Shivering would also wear on a person. I imagine they used hot bricks or stones to help keep the coach warm inside, perhaps placing them under the ladies’ skirts?

While Martha was in Morristown, several remarkable events happened. Nathaniel Greene’s wife, Kitty, gave birth to a son in January. In April, foreign emissaries from France and Spain visited, calling for a review of the troops and a ball. Apparently, Don Juan de Mirailles of Cuba fell ill that month and Martha helped to nurse him but by the end of the month the man had died. George had to break the news to the governor of Cuba. In May, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived with the news that his son was named George Washington Lafayette and that a fleet of six thousand men were on their way. This was a good thing as two of George’s regiments were near to mutinying due to the lack of supplies. Also in May, George was informed that Lord General Cornwallis had seized Charleston, South Carolina.

Martha finally headed for Mount Vernon in June 1780. After she arrived home, she wrote to her brother-in-law Burwell Bassett on July 18, 1780. In her words:

Dear Sir

            When yours and my dear Fannys letters came to my hands – I was in expectation of leving Camp every week – I left the General about the Middle of June – the last I heard from him he was going up the North river – I got home on Fryday and find myself so much fatigue with my ride that I shall not be able to come down to see you this summer and must request you to bring Fanny up – as soon as you can – I suffered so much last winter by going late that I have determined to go early in the fall before the Frost set in – if Fanny does not come soon she will have but a short time to stay with me – we were sorry that we did not see you at the Camp – there was not much pleasure thar the distress of the army and other difficultys th’o I did not know the cause, the pore General was so unhappy that it distressed me exceedingly

            I shall hope to see you soon after the assembly rises, with Fanny – please to give my love to her and the Boys who I should be very glad to see with you… I am dr Sir your affectionate friend & hmble sert

                                                                        Martha Washington

The Fanny she refers to is the daughter of Burwell and Anna Marie “Nancy” Bassett. Nancy was Martha’s sister who had died on December 17, 1777. Burwell was a lawyer and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Martha is asking him to visit after the current session ends.

I do not know specifically what was distressing George, but if his troops were threatening to mutiny because they didn’t have the supplies they needed, that would be a huge concern. I do know he wrote to Congress frequently requesting and demanding food, uniforms, ammunition and guns, etc. The other possibility is that he’d become aware of Benedict Arnold’s dissatisfaction with how he was being treated, leading up to his defection to the British in November of 1780. That would have worried him as well in the first half of the year. In fact, he tried to placate him by acknowledging Arnold’s contribution to the American cause, but it ended up not being enough for Arnold’s ego.

This stay in Morristown is the last time Martha goes to that lovely city. Next week, I’ll share some pictures I took when I got to visit New Windsor, New York where the headquarters and the cantonment were located in 1780.

Until then, I hope you find a good story to read by the pool or lake! Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Cover image of Becoming Lady Washington depicting the marriage of George and Martha Washington.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Middlebrook #history #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

In honor of America’s Independence Day, Samantha’s Secret (A More Perfect Union historical romance series Book 3) is on sale for only $.99 through July 8. This series is set in Charleston, SC, mainly during the occupation by the British in 1782.

Healer Samantha McAlester faces the occupation of Charles Town by the British and the town’s new sexy doctor, Dr. Trenton Cunningham, who wants a hospital staffed with educated doctors. When a friend develops an infection, Trent is stumped. The only treatment will expose Samantha’s secret, risking all she’s come to hold dear… including Trent.

Amazon

I hope you give that series a try. It was one of my first set of linked stories, originally a planned trilogy of Emily’s Vow, Amy’s Choice, and Samantha’s Secret. Later I added Evelyn’s Promise at my publisher’s request. Elizabeth’s Hope was the last installment, a prequel novella. I hope you enjoy their stories!

Every fall, Martha waited for George to summon her to the winter encampment of the Continental Army. Again, I was surprised to learn that she ultimately went to him every winter. But once I understood her better I was no longer surprised. It was who she was.

So far I’ve covered three camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

The third at Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Today let’s explore Middlebrook, NJ, during the winter of 1778-79. This camp was located at what is now the north edge of Bound Brook on Mountain Avenue in Somerset County. According to Revolutionary NJ the army “encamped from the vicinities of Bound Brook and Somerville northward to Pluckemin.” You can learn more about the importance of the location at that previous site as well.

On November 2, 1778, Martha wrote to her brother Bartholomew Dandridge about her concerns. In her words:

“I received your kind favor by Mr. Posey and should have wrote to you long before this but have everyday expected everyday Jack would be ready to set out, I am very sorry to hear that my mamma has been so unwell and thank god that she has recovered again – I wish I was near enough to come to see you and her. I am very uneasy at this time – I have some reason to expect that I shall take another trip to the northward. The pore General is not likely to come to see us from what I can hear – I expect to hear seertainly by the next post – if I doe I shall write to you to inform you and my friends.”

Martha was leery of the trip north due to memories of the bad roads and bad weather she’d encountered before. It didn’t help that her mother had been ill and she was worried about her health. But of course she did go, meeting George in Philadelphia the middle of December 1778. They stayed in that city until February 2 to go to Middlebrook, arriving on the 5th.

I’m sure she fell right back into the routines of camp life, forming the sewing circle with the other wives and socializing in the evenings. She even reportedly had her own regiment, Lady Washington’s Dragoons, to accompany her and keep her safe. But this time was different because she didn’t receive letters from her family as often as she might like. Indeed, she wrote to her son Jack and his wife Eleanor on March 9, 1779:

“My Dear Children,
            Not having received any letter from you, the two last posts – I have only to tell you, that the general & my self are well, all is quiet in this quarters; It is from the south ward that we expect to hear news. – we are very anxious to know how our affairs are going in that quarters Colo [Robert Hanson] Harrison is not yet arrived at camp we have heard that he is in Philad several days ago –
            I hear so very seldom from you, that I don’t know where you are or weather you intend to come to Alexandria to live this spring or when – The last letter from Nelly she now says Boath the children have been very ill, there were she hoped getting better – if you doe not write to me – I will not write to you again or till I get letters from you – Let me know how all friends below are they have for got to write me I believe.”

Martha was concerned about Eleanor because she was with child. In fact, Jack and Eleanor had a daughter on March 21, Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis. Her concerns proved well founded, because when she left Middlebrook and went to see Eleanor at her home Abingdon in Virginia the mother was ill and unable to feed the baby. Martha took Nelly to Mount Vernon to care for her while Eleanor recovered. But that reunion didn’t occur until around September.

In 1779-80, the camp returned to Morristown, but this time they set of HQ in a different place. Thanks for reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Valley Forge #history #Pennsylvania #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

I’ve talked about the first winter headquarters Martha Washington traveled to in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775, and the second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776. But did you know that she also was at Valley Forge during the winter encampment there in 1777-78?

I was fortunate to have a close friend take me to visit this historic site several years ago. There is a good bit of history at the above link if you want to delve deeper into everything that occurred at this place. My aim is to talk about what my sources say Martha did over the months she stayed with George at Valley Forge.

Martha didn’t start out to join George until January 26, 1778 and she had much difficulty traveling due to bad weather and an overall bad trip. Her entourage was forced to stop at Brandywine Creek due to snow and then she had to hire a sleigh to travel the rest of the way. She didn’t arrive at camp until sometime between February 4th and 10th, so you can tell it was a long and difficult trip, encompassing 10-16 days of travel. (As a comparison, if you drove the 152 miles from Mount Vernon, Virginia to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, it would take a little more than 3 hours today.) Try to imagine riding in a coach and then a sleigh for that many days in the cold and snow. Hotels didn’t exist then, so they had to stop at taverns or welcoming houses along the way. All of this because she knew her place was at his side, to support and love him during the dangerous times they lived through. Keep in mind that if the Revolution failed, George faced charges of treason and would likely be hanged. In her own words:

“I had nothing but kindness everywhere on my journey. The travelling was pretty rough. I found snow in crossing Delaware, and at an inn on Brandywine Creek, at a ford, where I lodged, the snow was so deep in the roads in some places, that I had to leave the chariot with the innkeeper and hire a farm sleigh to bring me here. The General is well, but much worn with fatigue and anxiety. I never knew him to be so anxious as now, for the poor soldiers are without sufficient clothing and food, and many of them are barefooted. Oh how my heart pains for them.”

While she was in camp, she reportedly organized a sewing circle with the other wives in camp and even found some musicians to play a concert for George’s birthday on February 22, 1778. She did what she did best by starting the social life in the evenings with as much formality and gaiety as the camp conditions allowed, although she didn’t throw any balls, just dinner in the log cabin built onto the headquarters for dining. Again in her own words:

“The general’s head-quarters have been made more tolerable by the addition of a log-cabin to the house, built to dine in. The apartment for business is only about sixteen feet square, and has a large fireplace. The house is built of stone. The walls are very thick…”

(Note that there is some question as to the authenticity of the previous letter’s entire contents, but it is believed that the log cabin was built as a dining room.)

Spring not only brought warmer temperatures but mud. The thawing of the frozen camp led to a muddy mess, awash in sewage. In May George received word that the French government had recognized the independence of the American colonies, then states, and George declared a day of celebration. Shortly thereafter, it was time for Martha to go home to Mount Vernon, but at least the roads were better since they were no longer snow covered.

Next time I’ll talk about Middlebrook, NJ. Thanks for reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Arnold Tavern #history #Morristown #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books

The second winter camp that Martha Washington went to was in Morristown, New Jersey. Last week I talked about the first winter headquarters she traveled to in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775. George Washington established his winter camp headquarters in Morristown twice: the first time in January 1777 and the second in December 1779. The 1777 headquarters was in the Arnold Tavern downtown.

According to Philip Hoffman in his 1903 History of “The Arnold Tavern,” Morristown, N.J.: and many incidents connected with General Washington’s stay in this place, as his headquarters in winter of: with views of historic buildings and places of Revolutionary interest “The building stood on a commanding position, facing the ‘Green,’ on which were situated the court house and jail, on the northeast corner in front of the present U.S. Hotel. On the other side of the road, and almost directly in front of the present parsonage, stood the old Presbyterian meetinghouse, afterwards utilized as a hospital for the sick and wounded soldiers. This ‘Tavern’ building stood on the same spot for about 150 years, and until 1886 when it was bought by Mrs. Julia Keese Colles, a patriotic lady of Morristown, as a genuine Revolutionary relic, and for its preservation, it was removed to another part of the town, where it now stands as the main portion of All Souls’ Hospital, having been much changed in outward appearance and enlarged.”

Sketch of 3-story tavern, 5 windows across on top 2 stories, 2 windows and 2 doors on first floor with a covered front porch.
Sketch of the Arnold Tavern as appears in Philip Hoffman’s History of “The Arnold Tavern” (1903)

You may notice that I skipped 1776. Why didn’t she go to him that year? George was a bit busy that fall and early winter fighting and defeating the British at Trenton and Princeton. So he didn’t set up his winter camp until January 1777. That winter was brutal, too. The soldiers had little to eat and suffered from the cold and snow and mud by turns. George spent much of his time writing letters of importance with regard to the need for sustenance for his troops, for new recruits to add to and bolster his army, and other such weighty topics.

But George developed a quinsy sore throat, “a malady to which the General was subject, and of which he finally died.” (He didn’t die in 1777, of course, but in 1797.) Still everyone feared he might die and so they sent for Martha who arrived at the Arnold Tavern on March 15, 1777. The tavern was quite a large place. Hoffman describes the building in his book:

“This large and commodious building was the principal hotel of the place…It was an imposing structure, three stories in height, divided by a wide hall running through the centre, with a front and back parlor on the south side, and barroom and dining room and kitchen on the other. A broad and winding stairway gave an easy ascent to the second floor. Washington slept in the second story, in the front room, over the bar-room; the room adjoining and back of it was used as his dressing room.

“Back of that, and over the dining room and kitchen, was a commodious ball room, in which the Assembly balls were held, and there the army Masonic lodge held its meeting during the time that Washington made his headquarters in this building, in the winter of 1777, and also again in the winter of 1780. Bed chambers filled up the rest of the house, five of which were in the third story.”

Photo of historic marker: Washington's Headquarters. Washington made his winter headquarters at the Arnold Tavern January 6, 1777 now a part of All Souls Hospital. December 1779 he established quarters at the Ford Mansion now maintained as a museum.
Image courtesy of Historic Marker Database at https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=5949

Of course, where George slept so did Martha, so we know she slept on the second story and would have probably enjoyed the view of the bustling town Green out her window. I do wish the building was still standing, but after it was relocated to become part of the All Souls Hospital, it was eventually replaced with newer structures. Today there stands an historic site marker at the original location of Arnold Tavern, though, should you want to go pay a visit.

Next time I’ll talk about Valley Forge. Thanks for reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Longfellow House #history #Cambridge #Massachusetts #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

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.

Mcloughlin Bros., Inc., Copyright Claimant. Home of Longfellow Cambridge, Mass. , ca. 1904. March 8. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2013645321/

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.

Thanks for reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Martha Washington and her daughter’s epilepsy #history #medicines #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

During this past week’s celebration of the one-year anniversary of the release of Becoming Lady Washington, I read an excerpt from the book dealing with the many treatments they tried and which failed to help Martha’s daughter with epilepsy fits. It brought to mind just how far the world of medicine has come over the last 250+ years.

I am not a medicine historian by any means but I have read a good bit about how people tried to fight off diseases in the 18th century. Here’s the excerpt I read on Wednesday, with the various kinds of treatment mentioned in bold italics:


Mount Vernon – 1768

One afternoon in September, George searched me out, finding me in the hall where I sewed in the brighter light the area afforded to my work. I set aside the stitching to attend to what he was about to convey. I braced myself when I noted his serious expression. “What is it?”

“I need to speak with you.” George placed a chair nearby and sank onto its wood seat. “I’ll be leaving in the morning to attend the assembly, but I shouldn’t be gone but a month or two. Did you wish to accompany me?”

Oh, how I’d adore to travel with him to Williamsburg, as it would give me the opportunity to visit with my mother and kinfolk. But not with Patsy ill so frequently. My heart simply was not interested in the gaiety of the balls and dinners and the whirl of society in the colony’s capitol.

Dr. Rumney was a necessary but not entirely wanted guest. Each time I sent for him, desperate to find a solution to my daughter’s increasing fits, I prayed for strength and peace. Allowing myself to lose my composure would not help any one. Better to keep calm and seek out ways to comfort and encourage my daughter.

I smiled at George, a small rueful grin as I shook my head. “I desire nothing more than to be at your side, but I cannot leave. I do not trust any one else to attend our daughter. She’s not up to traveling, either. The journey and upset might undo any strides Dr. Rumney has made.” George’s eyes held a wealth of compassion and concern, but I wouldn’t stand between him and his obligations. I could handle the household in his absence. More importantly, I trusted he’d come home if I needed him. “Go and do what you have to. Only do not stay away a moment longer than your business requires. I will be anxious for your return.”

George enclosed my hand in his. “I give you my promise to return as soon as possible.”

Two months passed while I did my utmost to remain positive. But Patsy continued to need the doctor’s ministrations. I kept one eye on her and one on the door, waiting for George’s return. He wrote to me weekly, sharing the gossip and that he’d been asked to lead the Virginia Militia. My pride for his stellar reputation and the resulting trust placed in his hands bolstered my flagging energy. I’d do nothing to give him cause to be less proud of me than I was of him. When George trotted his stallion up the lane in November, Billy at his side like an appendage, I met him at the door to guide him to where Dr. Rumney yet again administered nervous drops and musk to Patsy.

I caught a sharp appraising glance from George, but didn’t give him chance to comment on my admittedly haggard appearance. I’d attempted to correct the ravages of months of worry, but apparently had not succeeded. A fact unsurprising when I considered the keen judgment he possessed. Whether appraising the conformation of a horse or determining the trustworthiness of a servant, he missed nothing. Hurrying him to Patsy’s room, I trusted speed would blur the edges enough to avoid further commentary. No matter what else, at least George returned home to help me shoulder the burden of worry.

“How long has the doctor been here?” George asked quietly, his voice rumbling in the passage.

“This time? An hour or so.” I kept my voice low as we turned the corner.

“I know you’re worried, as am I. We will do all we can, Patsy.” George pulled me to a halt outside the closed chamber door and embraced me, a lazy bear hug that stole my breath for a few moments. Blissful moments snug within the protection of his arms. He eased me away from him and pecked a kiss to my lips. “How frequently has Dr. Rumney been summoned?”

“Weekly.” I clung to his hands, needing their strength and stability, and craned my neck back so I could search his expression. “He continues to use purges and bleedings. Ointments and drugs of various kinds. But it’s all guessing. He told me they do not know what causes these terrifying visitations on a person’s body.” A sigh clawed its way from me. “It’s a terrible thing, to watch your child suffer and be unable to alleviate or remove the cause.”

The last fit had been the worst I’d ever seen, and the absolute hardest event to witness. She’d started to shake uncontrollably, biting her tongue until it bled, and then dropped unconscious. I had eased her to the floor with a bump. She’d slept in my arms for nearly ten minutes before she roused. Ten long, agonizing minutes of staring at her closed eyes and willing for her to be well. I’d sent for the doctor posthaste. I shuddered at the memory. We must find an answer.

“Let’s see what he has to say today.” George opened the door and ushered me inside the sunny room.

Patsy sat in a chair by the window, dark eyes in a pale face, lips brushed with pink, brunette curls hidden under a kerchief, a colorful lap blanket warming her legs. Dr. Rumney turned from where he’d been stirring yet another dosage of nervous drops into warmed sherry. Not that it had worked previously. Surely something would cure her ailment. The tension coiled inside of me would take a miracle to release. A miracle for Patsy.

“Welcome home, Colonel.” Dr. Rumney tapped the spoon on the edge of the glass and laid it on the table. “I do believe we may be making a bit of progress in managing your daughter’s symptoms.”

George strode forward and shook the doctor’s hand. “That’s good to hear, doctor. We’re naturally very concerned about the increased frequency of the attacks.”

“It’s not my fault, Father.” Patsy frowned slightly. “I try to stop them but I cannot.”

“We know it’s outside of your control, dear.” George glanced from Patsy to me and then the doctor. “We’ll keep looking for a way, anything with any hope of success will be tried. Understood, Dr. Rumney?”

“Of course.” Dr. Rumney hurried across the room and handed Patsy the glass. “Drink this and let’s hope it will help abate the events, or at least lengthen the time between them so you can play the spinet again.”

I clasped my cold hands in front of me. After the years of increasing frequency and violence in her spasms, of doctor visits, and a slew of treatments, what more could we try? “Perhaps if we took her to take of the waters at Warm Springs?”

Dr. Rumney put various tools and bottles back into his bag and snapped it closed before addressing me. “I’ve never heard of any one recovering from the falling sickness by doing so, but if it comes down to it, we might try that as a last resort. In the meanspace, continue giving our lovely patient sips of the musk twice a day as prescribed. If you have any further concerns, send for me.”

“Thank you, doctor. I’ll walk you out.” George ushered the doctor from the room, casting a last glance back at me with an encouraging smile.

“Mama, please don’t be sad.” Patsy reached out a hand, wiggling her fingers until I wrapped them with my own. “Would you like for me to play your favorite song?”

I lifted her hand to press a kiss to the fingers. The same fingers that had reluctantly pressed the ivory keys for years. “Yes, I would like that very much.”


The treatments included in this passage were not the only ones they tried. In fact in Patricia Brady’s excellent biography Martha Washington: An American Life, she states:

“Epilepsy was untreatable by any medical knowledge of the day. The Washingtons spent much time and money consulting a variety of doctors (at least eight of them over the years), trying changes in lifestyle, mountains of medicines, and treatment with ‘simples,’ that is, herbal remedies. Dr. William Rumney, an Englishman in practice in Alexandria, treated Patsy regularly for five years, coming down to Mount Vernon every few weeks to examine his patient and bring capsules, powders, pills, and decoctions. Throughout her ordeal, antispasmodics such as valerian and musk were the primary medicines prescribed—to no avail. At one point, poisonous but often used mercury and severe purging were ordered, Martha nursing and watching her daughter throughout. Another time, a blacksmith came and put an iron ring on Patsy’s finger, based on an English folk belief that such rings prevented seizures. Later, they spent a month at Warm Springs, hoping the waters might be beneficial.”

During the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia later in the century, 1793, they resorted to firing guns in the air and lighting fires in the streets along with wearing amulets around their necks to ward off the evil disease. Lots of folk medicine ideas were based on fear and hope not science.

One last reminder. Just for a few more days, both in honor of Memorial Day and Martha’s 290th birthday on June 2, I’ve discounted the ebook of Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel from its regular $4.99 to $2.99 (I would have made it $2.90 if I could have!). This is a limited time sale so get your copy today!

Thanks for reading! I hope you have a wonderful summer of reading and relaxing ahead.

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read