From: Dictionary of American Fighting Ships

George Washington

George Washington wee born 22 February 1732 in Westmoreland County, Va. He was commissioned in the Virginia Militia in 1753, rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel the next year, and fought brilliantly in the French and Indian War. Entering the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1759, Washington was an early advocate of independence. In 1775 he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, and demonstrated a profound appreciation of sea power as well as great military genius. After years of hardship and arduous struggle, he finally won a decisive victory at Yorktown. In directing Allied movements during this campaign, one of the great strategic operations of our history, Washington brilliantly employed the French Navy to cut off Lord Cornwallis from help by sea. He had sought a decisive combined operation like this for years, for he wrote "In any operations, and under all circumstances a decisive Naval superiority is to be considered as a fundamental principle and the focus upon which every hope of success must ultimately depend."

The Treaty of Paris recognized American independence 20 January 1783. After attending the Annapolis Convention of 1786 and presiding over the Continental Convention of 1787, Washington was unanimously elected first President under the new Constitution and inaugurated 30 April 1789. His two terms in office laid the foundations for strong government under the Constitution. Returning to his home at Mount Vernon in 1797, Washington was recalled briefly to command the American army when war with France threatened in 1798. He died at Mount Vernon 14 December 1799.

(Slp: t. 624; l. 108'; b. 32'6"; dph. 14'; cpl. 220; a. 24 9-pdrs.; 8 6-pdrs.)

The first George Washington was built as a merchant vessel at Providence, R.I., in 1793; purchased by the Congress at Providence 12 October 1798 from John Brown and John Francis for use in the developing undeclared war with France; and converted to a warship under the supervision of Captain Silas Talbot, Captain Patrick Fletcher in command.

George Washington proceeded in early December to Dominica, West Indies, to join Commodore Barry's squadron for the protection of American commercial interests in the area. She rendezvoused with Barry in United States at sea 29 December and arrived Dominica next day. For the next months she convoyed American ships in the West Indies, sailing from St. Christopher's Island to Tobago. During this time, in company with revenue cutter Pickering, she recaptured two American ships from the French - brig Fair American 29 April 1799, and schooner Francis 1 May 1799.

The ship departed the Caribbean in mid-1799, arriving Newport, R.I., 12 June 1799, and after a short stay sailed again 2 July. On this cruise she searched the coast for French privateers as far south as Charleston, and then took station off Santo Domingo protecting American commerce. George Washington returned to the United States in October 1799 for extensive repairs.

George Washington was taken to Philadelphia in April 1800 and there prepared for sea under the command of Captain William Bainbridge. Lacking a strong Navy, the United States accepted the questionable alternative of trying to protect its commerce from the Barbary pirates with tribute. Bainbridge sailed with a load of stores and timber for the Dey of Algiers 8 August. George Washington arrived safely in September, the first American warship to enter the Mediterranean. Unhappily Bainbridge had to accede to threats and carry the Dey's presents to the Sultan at Constantinople. He protested vigorously; but, in the face of concentrated guns ashore and the threat of retaliation on American shipping he departed 20 October. George Washington returned to Algiers 21 January 1801, and after a visit to Alicant, France [sic], arrived back in the United States 19 April 1801.

The ship underwent repairs and was again fitted to carry stores and timber to Algiers. Manned with only a partial crew, she sailed 20 July 1801 and arrived Algiers via Malaga, Spain, 5 October 1801. After calling at Italian and French ports she returned to Philadelphia about 15 April 1802. George Washington was sold in May 1802 by the Philadelphia Navy Agent, George Harrison.


Transcribed by Yves HUBERT (