Friday, October 09, 2015

George Washington's Tomb

The Old Tomb

At ten at night on December 14, 1799, George Washington, fearing premature burial, requested of his doctors to be “decently buried” and to “not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead.” In his last will he expressed the desire to be buried at Mount Vernon. George Washington was entombed in the existing family vault (seen above), now known as the old Vault on December 18, 1799.  Visitors wrote that the tomb was, “A low, obscure, ice house looking brick vault,” which “testifies how well a Nation's gratitude repays the soldier's toils, the statesman's labors, the patriot's virtue, and the father's cares.”  In his last will, George Washington directed the building of a new family burial vault in the following words: "The family Vault at Mount Vernon requiring repairs, and being improperly situated besides, I desire that a new one of Brick, and upon a larger Scale, may be built at the foot of what is commonly called the Vineyard Inclosure.”  In 1831, Washington’s body was transferred to the new tomb.  A French visitor wrote that Mount Vernon had become, “like Jerusalem and Mecca, the resort of the travelers of all nations who come within its vicinity.” Visitors were filled with “veneration and respect,” leading them “to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of patriotism and public worth…” 

The New Tomb

George Washington’s nephew, Bushrod inherited Mount Vernon from his uncle. The marble obelisks in front of the Tomb were erected to the memory of Bushrod Washington and his nephew, John Augustine Washington, who in turn were the masters of Mount Vernon. Both are buried in the inner vault together with many other members of the family. Bushrod Washington was the favorite nephew of President George Washington. In 1802, upon the death of his aunt, Martha Washington, he inherited Mount Vernon.  Bushrod Washington spent thirty one years as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and died in 1829. When Bushrod Washington died he left Mount Vernon to his nephew John Augustine Washington who survived Bushrod by just three years.  In 1850, his widow Jane conveyed Mount Vernon to their son John Augustine Washington, Jr., who was the last private owner of the estate.

No comments: