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  • Writer's pictureJulie Mackin

George Washington Really Did Sleep Everywhere

Travels with George by Nathaniel Philbrick

2023 Frenzied Bibliophile Challenge Category: Massachusetts Center for the Book

Stars: 4 /5

Will you like this book? You might if you like:

  • George Washington

  • Doggie travel companions

  • Travelogues

  • Local history

  • Early American History

George Washington really did sleep everywhere. I love both history and travel and when an award-winning historian who I love reading decides to follow in the first president’s footsteps as a travelogue, well I am there for that every single time. No one, in my estimation, is more qualified to write about George Washington and his travels than Nathaniel Philbrick. He wrote this book in 2021, after he had finished his third book in his American Revolution trilogy. Philbrick had chronicled Washington through the war, from the first foray of fighting in Boston, through New York and Benedict Arnold, down to the Battle of Yorktown.

This work, which felt like a bit of a Blue Highways meets Travels with Charley mash-up, follows Washington’s three tours around the country between 1789 and 1791. As the leader of the new nation, he felt it was important to get out and be seen. So off he went, again, leaving behind Martha, again. He traveled through New England in the fall of 1789, Long Island in April 1790, and then finally into the South, leaving from Philadelphia in March 1791, making his way through Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and just a tiny bit of Georgia, before returning back to Philadelphia in July, 1791. This insane amount of travel certainly helps one understand all those “Washington Slept Here” signs.

It was an enlightening read. I enjoyed learning not just about Washington but also the history of all these places. So much of our travel is by plane, we are no longer getting in the car and driving from here to there with our Triptik. And I think in doing so, we have lost sight of how similar people are in different parts of the country. We have become so polarized in many ways that we see an area and assume that it is wrong/evil/bad/racist/woke and don’t take the time to appreciate people in their places. Washington was deeply concerned that this could happen and part of the reason he undertook these journeys, which were long and arduous, was so that he could meet people, talk with them, so that they would buy into the notion of America. As Philbrick writes, "America in 1789 was still a tentative endeavor" (Pg 51). It's like he felt like he needed to get out there and really sell it. And he succeeded.

Bonus: Unlike Washington, Philbrick did not leave his wife, Melissa, at home. She, and occasionally their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, join him on the journey. Philbrick gives the fascinating history of the breed and I love the book even more when Dora makes an appearance.

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