When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
March 15, 1783 Newburgh Address
General George Washington, having learned that his officers planned to meet to discuss a fiery petition to mutiny if Congress failed to provide them back pay and pensions, ordered his men to meet four days later instead at noon on March 15. His officers, crowded into the Temple of Virtue, failed to see Washington as he entered through a side door and suddenly stood before them. Washington read a passionate nine-page speech, sympathizing with their demands but denouncing the methods they now contemplated to achieve them. He admitted that the petition made several excellent points. It was true that the army had suffered much, but Washington reminded them that he had been with them through it all. Washington asked the assembled group if they were actually willing to leave their wives, their children, and their property unprotected and defenseless in the face of the British army. Even more terribly, could they “sully the glory” they had won on the battlefield by marching on Congress as a mob to demand their back pay and pensions? Promising that he would continue his strenuous efforts on their behalf, he urged his audience to uphold their young republic and give the elected representatives time to solve the problem rather than opening the “floodgates of civil discontent.”
After finishing his speech, Washington tried to read a letter from Congressman Joseph Jones of Virginia that clearly supported the officers’ demands. Stumbling over the opening words, he put on a new pair of spectacles, saying, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.” The incident was so moving that many of his officers wept, remembering how much Washington had endured alongside them. On the next day, they passed a unanimous resolution commending General Washington for his devotion to them. The mutiny of the officers was over. Washington kept his promise, writing one letter after another to Congress, and finally winning his officers five years of full pay for their service in the war.
Want to Buy Beer from the Colonial Brewmeister?
Want the Regimental Brewmeister at your Site or Event?