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March 2, 2024

20 Amazing Military Equipments of General Washington

George Washington may be best known as the nation’s first President, but he earned the trust and admiration of his country through his military service in the Revolutionary War.

Presented here is a small selection of the most notable weapons, accoutrements, and gear that he used over the course of his long and distinguished career — from a colonial militia commander in the 1750s all the way to commander in chief of the American army during the Quasi-War with France in 1798-1799.

1. Braddock Sword

Family history maintains George Washington wore this sword while an aide to Major General Edward Braddock during the French and Indian War. With the primary objective of driving the French out of the Ohio country, the campaign was a military disaster for the British, culminating in Braddock’s defeat at the Battle of Monongahela on July 9, 1755, and his death four days later. Washington never forgot this humiliating and demoralizing rout at the hands of a smaller combined French and Indian force, and it proved to be a turning point in his career.

2. Military Uniform, ca. 1789

Throughout his life, Washington believed that in order to command effectively, an officer must convey character and leadership through appearance as well as action. 

None of Washington’s uniforms from the Revolutionary War are known to survive, but this blue and buff wool coat is believed to be part of a suit of regimentals made for President Washington. In his newly-defined role as President, Washington was also commander in chief of the nation’s military forces. In 1794, Washington took the field, becoming the first and only president to do so, in the short campaign to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. Washington also occasionally wore his military uniform when sitting for portraits during this period.

3. Flintlock Pistols

Washington’s correspondence includes dozens of references to pistols purchased, lost, captured, and received as gifts. This brace of pistols, made in London ca. 1780, may have been captured during the Revolution or acquired after the War.

4. Braddock Pistol

Washington’s highly prized this English pistol, one of a pair originally given to him by General Braddock in 1755.

5. Spyglass

Washington depended on spyglasses or telescopes to monitor British and American troop movements during the Revolution. In his will, Washington identified this handsome, three-draw, mahogany and brass spyglass as one “which constituted part of my equipage during the late War.”

6. Field Bed

In October 1775, shortly after assuming command of the Continental Army in Boston, Washington acquired “a Field Bedstead & Curtains, Mattresses, Blankets etc. etc.” Designed for portability and durability, this bedstead's tapering posts, turned legs, and rails are ingeniously hinged so it can be folded into a compact bundle for easy transport.

7. Canteens

In the eighteenth century, canteens were large leather cases created to carry food, liquor, and utensils. Typically purchased in pairs, they were designed to attach to a pack saddle. Washington owned several sets during the course of his career, but only three are known to survive.

8. Camp Cup

Silver camp cups, compact and easily portable, were a traditional part of an officer’s military equipage. Washington had several sets in a variety of sizes made, and used them at official dinners during the Revolution. On one memorable occasion in 1782, an ill visitor to Washington’s camp recalled receiving a restorative drink of wine from one of these camp cups.

9. Smallsword

George Washington owned several of these jewel-like, lightweight weapons. This particular one, with an ornately engraved three-sided hollow blade, is distinguished by being depicted in Charles Willson Peale’s 1772 portrait of Washington as a Virginia Colonel, as well as several of Charles Willson Peale’s Revolutionary War portraits of Washington. Washington is also believed to have worn it when he resigned his commission as commander in chief in Annapolis in 1783 and when inaugurated as our nation's first president on April 30, 1789.

10. The Lafayette Epee

This Model 1767 French officer’s epée was one of seven swords inventoried in George Washington’s Study after his death. Although family tradition once 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 ca. 1780 gift from the Marquis de Lafayette.

11. Battle Sword

George Washington wore this American-made, ivory-hilted hanger or cuttoe as his battle sword during the Revolutionary War. It appears in several portraits of the commander in chief by Charles Wilson Peale.

12. Washington’s Headquarters Tent

The headquarters tent was Washington’s sleeping and office quarters through most of the Revolutionary War, and formed part of a complex that included a dining tent and a baggage tent. It served as a place to plan military campaigns, meet with allies, and author correspondence. It can be seen at the Museum of the American Revolution.

13. Camp Chest

George Washington’s well-appointed camp chest or “mess kit” included a wide variety of tin dishes and glass containers for condiments.

14. Gorget

George Washington wore this gorget, a symbolic remnant of a suit of armor, around his throat as part of the militia uniform he wore to the Continental Congress in 1775. The gorget is engraved with the coat of arms of the colony of Virginia.

15. Braddock Sash

At the Battle of the Monongahela on July 9, 1755, every officer on Major General Edward Braddock's staff was injured or killed, with the exception of his aide-de-camp, George Washington. Braddock also sustained a fatal wound and is said to have been carried from the field in this, his officer's sash. Washington alone brought order to the fray, forming a rear guard to enable retreat. Family tradition maintains that Braddock presented the sash to Washington prior to his death four days later.

16. Camp Stool

In 1776, upholsterer Plunket Fleeson of Philadelphia provided General Washington “18 walnut camp stools” for his Revolutionary War campaign headquarters. The stools originally had seats made of a worsted wool fabric, but Washington later had them refurbished with leather seats.

17. Trunk

Throughout the Revolutionary War, the security of his official correspondence and orders was a perpetual concern for General George Washington. In the intervening weeks between the British evacuation of Boston and his departure to defend Manhattan, Washington obtained this  traveling trunk to contain the increasing number of official papers in his possession.

A copper plate engraved “Genl Washington” is nailed to the lid over the initials of the trunk’s original owner, John Head, the Boston merchant from whom it was purchased on April 4, 1776.

18. Spurs

During the Continental Army's grueling winter encampment at Valley Forge, Washington inspired his men through simple gestures. These included giving the spurs on his boots to Lieutenant Thomas Lamb, who volunteered to ride to Boston to request supplies.

19. Shaving Case

George Washington’s purchases while he was attending the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia anticipated his return to military duty. They may have included this shaving case, complete with a mirror and compartments for several razors.

20. Eagle Cockade, 1799

In 1798, rising tensions with France and concern over his own inadequacy in military matters led President John Adams to appoint Washington as lieutenant general and commander in chief of a new American army. The army remained on paper only, but during the initial preparations, Washington designed a new insignia for commissioned officers.

(This original was published on George Washington’s Mount Vernon)


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