The General and the General

Another highlight from Chernow:

from Washington: A Life
Ron Chernow

If Mary Ball Washington comes across as an unbending, even shrewish, disciplinarian, one can only imagine the unspoken dread that she, too, experienced, at being widowed at thirty-five. She had to manage Ferry Farm, tend five children ranging in age from six to eleven, and oversee dozens of slaves. Gus's death forced Mary to eliminate any frills of family life, and her spartan style as a businesswoman, frugal and demanding, had a discernible impact on her son. "In her dealings with servants, she was strict," writes Douglas Southall Freeman. "They must follow a definite round of work. Her bidding must be their law." With more than a touch of the martinet in her forbidding nature, Mary Washington displayed a powerful capacity to command, and one is tempted to say that the first formidable general George Washington ever encountered was his own mother.


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