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George Washington in Barbados: A Remarkable Journey

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, July 31, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1D0019
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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George Washington at 19 (Mount Vernon)

How did a young man’s visit to a remote Caribbean island alter the course of American history? George Washington left the mainland only once, when he sailed to Barbados in 1751. He accompanied his half-brother Lawrence, who had contracted tuberculosis and hoped that the island's warm climate would ameliorate the disease. Despite its important consequences, the journey remains one of the lesser-known episodes of Washington’s early life.

The four-month voyage proved to be significant for the then-19-year-old Washington. He spent time with British soldiers and viewed their fortifications and arms, which fascinated him enough to shift his career goals from being a surveyor to a military career path. Visiting sugar plantations and sugar mills gave him a first-hand view of the production of rum, a beverage that had major economic, political, and social implications at the time. 

Washington also contracted smallpox while in Barbados. After recovery, he gained a lifelong immunity and an understanding of the benefits of inoculation. Although immunization was not popular among some soldiers, Washington insisted that his troops be inoculated. 

Historian Ralph Nurnberger details this remarkable trip and highlights the impact it had on Washington, his career, and the outcome of the American Revolution.

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