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Encounters 13, Weary Years

March 2, 2017

Yorktown — the last major battle. The French fleet had arrived, and both American and French troops mounted the attack on Yorktown, where Cornwallis and his 8,000 soldiers were trapped without supplies. They surrendered.

Sometime during the siege Jack Custis contracted a camp fever, probably typhus. Martha and Nelly rushed to be with him, but Jack died three weeks before his 27th birthday. He was a loving son and husband, and a proud father of four children.  Martha had outlived all four of her children, suffering a horrible loss.

Washington returned to Philadelphia to report to Congress, and Martha accompanied him. Congress approved keeping the army together, for the British still occupied New York and Charleston.Washington made headquarters in Newburgh, New York in a comfortable Dutch farmhouse with a beautiful view of the Hudson River. That summer Martha went home to Mount Vernon to assuage her grief by looking after Nelly and the grandchildren.

During 1782 and 1783 negotiations for peace dragged on in Paris. Washington could not abandon his post until a treaty had been signed. The French troops went home, and nearly all the aides resigned to attend to their own affairs, but Martha returned to Newburgh in the frost and snow of winter to accompany her husband in this stressful time of waiting.

In the summer of 1784 Congress moved from Philadelphia to Princeton to avoid the unpaid troops that were marching in the streets. Washington was summoned, but Martha was ill, and he waited until she was well enough to travel. In early October she returned to Mount Vernon to prepare for their homecoming before the weather got too bad.

Congress adjourned in November, but reconvened in Annapolis. At long last the treaty had arrived, and Washington returned to New York City which the British had left a shambles after seven years of occupation. There he dismissed his remaining army, and then traveled to Annapolis to surrender his commission. Anticipating a retirement at Mount Vernon, he wended his way homeward like an ordinary pilgrim.

to be contd.


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