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Things You Didn't Know About George Washington

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George Washington, America's first president and a legendary war hero, has a very interesting life story that is also riddled with lies. Many of us have heard fabled tales of him chopping down the cherry tree or going through life with wooden teeth, but these facts are just not true. The real George Washington is far more interesting than you might assume. These fun facts are a mini biography of the life of George. 

A lot of letters documenting his private life were lost when his wife, Martha, burned them. But what we have learned form historians proves that he lived a very lively and fascinating life. Washington is an American icon who somehow managed to live through many wars and some diseases unscathed in order to build the foundations of the United Sates. Check out this list George Washington facts and trivia, and expand what you know about the first President of the United States. 

  • Photo: Junius Brutus Stearns, 1810-1885/Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons / No known restrictions

    Bloodletting May Have Spelled Out His End

    George Washington happily settled into retirement in 1797. But he wasn't able to enjoy it for very long - just two years later, he unexpectedly passed.

    On December 13, 1797, Washington fell ill a day after riding in the cold rain. Doctors examined the feverish Washington and determined that he needed bloodletting, or the purposeful bleeding of a person as a medical cure. The doctors ended up taking out a lot of Washington's blood - upwards of 40% of it. Washington soon passed.

    The excessive bloodletting likely contributed to Washington's demise.

  • Photo: Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    He Built A Spy Ring That Helped Determine The Outcome Of The Revolutionary War

    George Washington understood that knowledge was power. So in 1778, Washington commissioned Benjamin Tallmadge to build a network of spies.

    Talmadge's so-called Culper Ring included a range of men and women he knew - including farmers and sailors - in the greater New York City area. They clandestinely circulated information through secret inks and ciphers. Culper Ring spies may have helped unmask Benedict Arnold and John Andre's treason.

  • He Launched A Smallpox Inoculation Program That Helped The Continental Army

    As tight-knit communities where thousands of men live in close, unhygienic quarters, 18th-century armies were hotbeds of diseases. The last thing that George Washington, head of the Continental Army, wanted was an outbreak to debilitate his troops. He considered a smallpox epidemic in particular to be worse "than... the Sword of the Enemy." 

    Getting inoculated against smallpox became increasingly popular in the 18th century. Inoculation was an early form of vaccination; it involved introducing a limited amount of infection to people so that they would develop a milder form of smallpox and develop immunity. 

    To protect his troops from such an outbreak, Washington launched what historians call "the first mass military inoculation" program: his troops were inoculated against smallpox. Washington's foresight prevented a medical disaster and arguably enabled American victory

  • He Obsessively Pursued Enslaved Workers That Fled Slavery

    George Washington first became a slave-owner when he was 11 and inherited 10 enslaved workers. By the time he passed, he and his wife Martha oversaw no less than 317 human beings. 

    Though Washington is celebrated for being the only Founding Father to will his slaves freedom, he also spent some of his life committed to the institution of slavery. For example, he purposefully pursued enslaved workers who attempted to escape to freedom. Ona Judge, for example, escaped to New Hampshire. Despite Washington's repeated attempts to track her down, she evaded capture until her passing in 1848. Another enslaved worker by the name of Harry actually fled Mount Vernon to enlist in a loyalist regiment and gain his freedom, first in Nova Scotia and finally in Sierra Leone.