The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

George Washington’s War Tent

Museum of the American Revolution - Joy of Museums 1

One of the most iconic artefacts from the American Revolutionary War is the field tent used as General George Washington’s wartime headquarters. It was used by George Washington from 1778 – 1783 and witnessed many historic moments during the War of Independence.

General George Washington used a pair of campaign tents or marquees throughout the American Revolutionary War. In warm weather, he used one for dining with his officers and aides, and the other as his military office and sleeping quarters. This tent was used by Washington’s as his military office and sleeping tent.

The office tent was the workplace of Washington’s headquarters staff, where they managed the commander-in-chief’s correspondence and made copies of his orders. A divided section of the tent was where Washington slept. Washington’s enslaved valet William Lee also slept there.

“… the smaller, or sleeping tent, had an inner-chamber, where, on a hard cot-bed, the chief reposed. Within its venerable folds, Washington was in the habit of seeking privacy and seclusion, where he could commune with himself, and where he wrote the most memorable of his despatches in the Revolutionary war.”

Washington's Marquee Burk 1920 p.172

Washington’s office and sleeping tent in 1911

The tents were inherited by Martha Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. He passed them on to his daughter and her husband, Robert E. Lee. Their enslaved housekeeper, Selina Norris Gray, kept the tent safe when Union Army soldiers ransacked Arlington House during the American Civil War. The tent was amongst the Washington artefacts seized by the federal government in 1862 when the grounds of Arlington House were converted into Arlington National Cemetery.

Other Historical Items from the American Revolution include:

Essential Facts:

  • Name:                   George Washington’s War Tent
  • Made:                    1776
  • Museum:              Museum of the American Revolution

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“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”
George Washington

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Photo Credit: 1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Rev. W. Herbert Burk (1867-1933) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons