December 18, 1799 — George Washington’s body was interred at Mount Vernon today.
According to historians: He died in his bedchamber on the premises four days earlier. His last will outlined his desire to be buried at home. Washington additionally made provisions for a new brick tomb to be constructed after his death, which would replace the original yet quickly deteriorating family burial vault. In 1831, Washington’s body was transferred to the new tomb, along with the remains of Martha Washington and other family members.
On December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his plantation on horseback, in snow, hail, and freezing rain, then reportedly ate his supper without changing from his wet clothes. The next day, he awoke with a severe sore throat and became increasingly hoarse as the day progressed, yet still rode out in the heavy snow. Around 3 a.m. that Saturday, he is said to have awoken with severe difficulty breathing and almost completely unable to speak or swallow.
Three physicians were sent for, including Washington’s personal physician, Dr. James Craik, along with Dr. Gustavus Brown and Dr. Elisha Dick. They began the common practice of the day, bloodletting, and removed half or more of his total blood content in just a few hours. Recognizing that the bloodletting and other treatments were failing, Dr. Dick proposed performing an emergency tracheotomy, but the other two doctors disapproved.
Washington died at home around 10 p.m. on Saturday, December 14, 1799. He was 67. In his journal, Lear recorded Washington’s last words as being “‘Tis well.”
Words of Wisdom
First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.