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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Two Common Misconceptions about Bushrod Washington

With my biography of Washington coming out next year sometime, I wanted to mention that I've identified two common errors about his basic life story. (My next visit will be to his Wikipedia entry to offer corrections.)

First, people often say that Bushrod attended William and Mary as an undergraduate and received a degree.  This is incorrect. There is no such record at William & Mary. But there is an autobiographical letter from the Justice held by Tulane University in which he explained that he was privately tutored until he was 16. The first time he mentioned William and Mary was for his attendance there in 1780 at George Wythe's law lectures (along with John Marshall) and some other classes in French and philosophy. That part of education was interrupted by the invasion of Virginia, and Washington never finished his studies there.

Second, people often say that Bushrod fought at Yorktown. This is also wrong. He did serve in a cavalry regiment during the Virginia campaign of 1781. And that regiment later fought at Yorktown. But he left the regiment before that point, as he makes clear in his autobiographical letter. During his lifetime, he never said that he was at Yorktown and neither did anyone else. 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on August 29, 2021 at 07:41 AM | Permalink


I'm interested in the final product here.

Seriatim: The Supreme Court Before John Marshall, for instance, was a collection of biographical chapters. One covered Bushrod Washington.

Most of the effort, reasonably, has been applied to a short list of "names." It is helpful to learn about others.

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