by Brian Zylstra | February 22nd, 2011
Even though we no longer officially observe it due to the creation of Presidents Day, today, February 22, is George Washington’s birthday.
In honor of the birthday of our nation’s first president, and the namesake of our great state, our State Archives will put an original letter by Washington on public display in the Secretary of State’s executive office this Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Our executive office is located in the northwest corner of the second floor of the Legislative Building on Olympia’s Capitol Campus.
Washington wrote the letter on November 8, 1777, to General Nelson during the American Revolution, shortly after British General Howe took over the capital city of Philadelphia.
Washington was located just 12 miles outside of Philadelphia at White Marsh preparing for an assault that he hoped would flush Howe out of the city. A few days later, Howe launched a surprise attack on Washington’s camp and forced him to retreat to Valley Forge where he made his famous stand through a very rough winter.
Washington believed that the colonial victory at Saratoga just a few weeks earlier made “…a new plan, and winter Campaigns (if we can get our poor ragged and half naked Soldiers cloaked) indispensably necessary as I think General Howe may be forced out of Phil[adelphia], or greatly distressed in his quarters there, if we could draw a large body of Troops round the City.”
Washington served two consecutive terms as president, from 1789 to 1797. Our state was named after our first president in 1889, when it was admitted into the union as the 42nd state. It is the only state named after a U.S. President.
The letter is from the collections of the Washington State Archives, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State. It is on permanent loan from the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of Washington.