The True George Washington: Friends: The Generals

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The Generals

Knox was the earliest army friend of those who rose to the rank of general, and was honored by Washington with absolute trust. After the war the two corresponded, and Knox expressed "unalterable affection" for the "thousand evidences of your friendship." He was appointed Secretary of War in the first administration, and in taking command of the provisional army Washington secured his appointment as a major-general, and at this time asserted that, "with respect to General Knox I can say with truth there is no man in the United States with whom I have been in habits of greater intimacy, no one whom I have loved more sincerely nor any for whom I have had a greater friendship."

Greene was perhaps the closest to Washington of all the generals, and their relations might be dwelt upon at much length. But the best evidence of friendship is in Washington's treatment of a story involving his financial honesty, of which he said, "persuaded as I always have been of Genl Greene's integrity and worth, I spurned those reports which tended to calumniate his conduct ... being perfectly convinced that whenever the matter should be investigated, his motives ... would appear pure and unimpeachable." When on Greene's death Washington heard that his family was left in embarrassed circumstances, he offered, if Mrs. Greene would "entrust my namesake G. Washington Greene to my care, I will give him as good an education as this country (I mean the United States) will afford, and will bring him up to either of the genteel professions that his frds. may chuse, or his own inclination shall lead him to pursue, at my own cost & expence."

For "Light-horse Harry" Lee an affection more like that given to the youngsters of the staff was felt Long after the war was over, Lee began a letter to him "Dear General," and then continued,?

"Although the exalted station, which your love of us and our love of you has placed you in, calls for change in mode of address, yet I cannot so quickly relinquish the old manner. Your military rank holds its place in my mind, notwithstanding your civic glory; and, whenever I do abandon the title which used to distinguish you, I shall do it with awkwardness.... My reluctance to trespass a moment on your time would have operated to a further procrastination of my wishes, had I not been roused above every feeling of ceremony by the heart rending intelligence, received yesterday, that your life was despaired of. Had I had wings in the moment, I should have wafted myself to your bedside, only again to see the first of men; but alas! despairing as I was, from the account received, after the affliction of one day and night, I was made most happy by receiving a letter, now before me from New York, announcing the restoration of your health. May heaven preserve it!"

It was Lee who first warned Washington that Jefferson was slandering him in secret, and who kept him closely informed as to the political manuvres in Virginia. Washington intrusted to him the command of the army in the Whiskey Insurrection, and gave him an appointment in the provisional army. Lee was in Congress when the death of the great American was announced to that body, and it was he who coined the famous "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

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