George Washington was born in Virginia on February 22, 1732. As a boy, he excelled in field sports, and though his formal education was limited, he exhibited skill in mathematics and surveying.
In the French and Indian War, though only 23, Colonel Washington demonstrated unflinching courage and extraordinary leadership while under fire.
During the Revolutionary War, General Washington commanded the Continental Army against superior forces. He devised the strategy of marching on the British in Virginia while the French fleet prevented an escape by sea. Washington trapped General Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781, capturing 7,000 troops and winning American independence.
As a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Washington, serving as the assembly's president, provided the moral authority and quiet leadership needed to facilitate compromises. Even at this time, he was known as a "Founding Father." Following ratification of the Constitution, he was unanimously elected the first president and inaugurated in New York on April 30, 1789.
President Washington toured the southern states in 1791. His enormous personal popularity served as a significant force in binding the former thirteen colonies into a single nation. On May 2, he landed at Prioleau's Wharf, one block south of the Exchange and Customs House. While in Charleston, President Washington met with numerous officials, planners and merchants, worshipped at St. Michael's and St. Philips's churches, spoke to various gatherings of citizens and attended several balls held in his honor.
He also enjoyed the hospitality of two fraternal groups of which he was a member - the Masons and the Society of the Cincinnati. In his diary, he made several complimentary notes about Charlestonians. Referring to a concert held at the Exchange, Washington remarked that "there were at least 400 ladies - the Number and appearance of which exceeded anything of the kind I had ever seen."
Washington was unanimously reelected in 1792. Confronted with the competing philosophies of northern businessmen and southern planters, President Washington had a unique ability to recognize and promote the best of each. Leaving office after two terms, he established the tradition of peaceful transition of power. Retiring to Mount Vernon, he managed his plantation, entertained many visitors and remained a valued political and military advisor until his death on December 14, 1799.
Of his many achievements, he is most loved for his honesty. George Washington's reputation for integrity is of such mythic proportions that school children continue to be taught that even as a boy, George Washington could not tell a lie.
George Washington Returns to Charleston
In 1881, on the 100-year anniversary of General Cornwallis' surrender to General Washington at Yorktown, the city of Charleston renamed its first public park Washington Square in honor of George Washington. More than 100 years later, and at the request of Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., General William C. Westmoreland chaired a committee of fellow Charlestonians to raise the funds to erect a statue of George Washington in the park that bears his name.
A native South Carolinian, General Westmoreland was one of America's most highly decorated and distinguished soldiers. His duty assignments included Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Commander of United States ground forces in the Republic of South Vietnam and Chief of Staff of the United States Army. General Westmoreland led troops in 17 battle campaigns in three wars. Sixteen countries decorated him for his extraordinary military service and five institutions of higher learning conferred various honorary degrees upon him. General Westmoreland's sincere commitment to duty and service to his soldiers, state and country are the essence of this outstanding South Carolina soldier's life and career.
On the afternoon of December 14, 1999, numerous Charlestonians gathered to unveil the statue created by nationally acclaimed sculpter John N. Michel. The citizens of Charleston are grateful to the following who helped erect the statue:
The Society of the Cincinnati of the State of South Carolina, the Washington Light Infantry, the South Carolina Legacy Trust Fund, the City of Charleston, Charleston County, the Society of the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge, Sons of the American Revolution, Wachovia Corporation, and a list of 66 names.