06/24/05 - washington

In today's excerpt - George Washington was different from the pallid stiff president of a Gilbert Stuart painting. Here he arrives in Boston to try and take command of the Continental Army in the pivotal first year of the Revolution, and finds the British troops well-entrenched, his army in chaos, and a full-scale riot in progress between two regiments of his army:

"Washington acted quickly. A soldier from Massachusetts named Israel Trask watched him go about it. As the fighting spread through the camp, Washington ... rode straight into the middle of the riot. Trask watched Washington with awe as, 'with the spring of a deer he leaped from his saddle, threw the reins of his bridle into the hands of his servant, and rushed into the thickest of the melees, with an iron grip seized two tall, brawny, athletic, savage-looking riflemen by the throat, keeping them at arm's length, alternately shaking and talking to them.'

"Talking was probably not the right word. The rioters stopped fighting, turned in amazement to watch Washington in action, then fled at 'the top of their speed in all directions.' The trouble ended without courts, irons, or whips that were more terrible than death to a proud backsettler. In a few moments George Washington ... had restored order in the army. Trask remarked that 'hostile feelings between two of its best regiments' were 'extinguished by one man.' "


David Hackett Fischer


Washington's Crossing, as cited in the New York Review of Books March 10, 2005


Oxford University Press


Copyright 2004 by David Hackett Fischer


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