Washington Didn’t Only Sleep Here

George Washington at Wethersfield’s Webb House

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A Display of the United States. Engraving by Amos Doolittle, 1796
This print in which symbols of the states circle a portrait of Washington was made while he was President. The Connecticut Historical Society, 2010.192.0
Washington at the Webb House. Drawing by H. H. Art Studios, 1947
The drawing was part of series made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of G. Fox & Co. The Connecticut Historical Society, Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Richard Koopman and Mr. & Mrs. Bernard Schiro, 1980.93.45
The Webb Mansion, Wethersfield. Color lithograph by Edwin Whitefield, 1882
There was renewed interest in Washington during the Colonial Revival in the late 19th century. The Connecticut Historical Society, 2009.281.2

The first time George Washington traveled through Connecticut, in 1756, he was an ambitious young Virginia colonel headed for Boston on a mission he hoped would advance his career in the British military. When he last visited Connecticut in1789, he was the first president of the new United States, a nation that existed in large part thanks to Washington’s leadership of American troops to victory over that same British military in the war for independence.

All of the trips Washington made to or through Connecticut during the intervening years were in his role as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.  In 1775 he passed through Connecticut on his trip from Philadelphia to assume leadership of patriot troops gathered outside Boston to resist British tyranny. In 1780 he made a secret journey from his headquarters in New Jersey to Hartford to meet with the patriots’ new allies, the French. It was upon returning from that trip that Washington learned of Benedict Arnold’s treason.

Although “George Washington slept here” has become a cliché, it is known for a fact that he did spend the night in a number of Connecticut towns, including Norwich, New London, Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, New Haven, Ashford, and Westport. In which inn or house he lodged has often been much more difficult to determine.

One location in which it is indisputably documented that George Washington slept, and that still stands, is the home of Joseph Webb in Wethersfield, today part of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum. Here Washington spent five nights in May of 1781, participating in a conference with the patriots’ French allies on a plan that would lead to the surrender five months later in Yorktown, Virginia, of a British army commanded by General Cornwallis—a victory that would ensure the success of the American Revolution.