Had a Talk with George

Denise Valentine, Stoyteller w/General George Washington @ Cliveden

Denise Valentine, Stoyteller w/General George Washington @ Cliveden

Denise Valentine, Storyteller w/ General George Washington @

Re-enactment of the historic Battle of Germantown at Cliveden, the Estate of Benjamin Chew, Photo taken Oct 4, 2011 by Denise Valentine | http://www.denisevalentine.com

I had a talk with General George Washington @ the reenactment of the historic Battle of Germantown. While all the other soldiers were fighting, and dying, there he was, just standing there looking, well, like a general. I thought to myself, if I’d had the chance to talk to George, face-to-face, what would I say? What would he say? Well, here was my chance. I asked him what he thought about his enslaved man Harry Washington running away to Join Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment? With a stunned look, he said, “You don’t say.” I went on to tell him all that I knew about Harry: that he had evacuated with the British to New York (1783), then Nova Scotia, and finally to Sierra Leone. To all of this the General replied, “You don’t say.” Now, I’m sure this response was just his way of being polite. And, since historical performers make it a point not to break character, he couldn’t possibly acknowledge anything that took place after the battle or after his own passing. He didn’t even know he’d be president one day. In fact, George had expended a great deal of time and expense securing the return of his “stolen” property. As for Harry, he faced a British military tribunal, charged with rebellion against the colonial government in Sierra Leone.

Washington’s Revolution (Harry that is, not George)

I came across the story of Harry Washington while reading a book by Cassandra Pybus, “Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty.

Lord Dunmore, the colonial governor of Virginia at the outbreak of the American Revolution, issued a Proclamation (1775) that freed “all indented Servants, Negroes, or others… willing to bear arms for the Crown.”

Harry Washington was one of “three of General Washington’s servants” offering their services to the British.


An amendment to the Treaty of Paris prohibited the British from carrying off “negroes or other property belonging to the inhabitants of the United States of America.” Nevertheless, the “Book of Negroes” lists Harry amongst the 3,000 Black Americans who were evacuated to Nova Scotia at the end of the American War of Independence.

Harry is also listed in the Birchtown muster. Harry, Jenny and their two small children relocated to the British colony of Sierra Leone in 1791. In 1800 he was one of the leaders of a failed rebellion in Sierra Leone.

Further Reading:

Book of Negroes

(Image) http://www.fold3.com/image/#6602543

Jacob Bummel, 35, stout fellow. Formerly the property of Benjamin Chew of Cecil County, Virginia; left him 4 years ago.

Harry Washington, 43, fine fellow. Formerly the property of General Washington; left him 7 years ago.

Daniel Payne, 22 years, ordinary fellow, (Maurice Salt). Formerly slave to Gen. Washington, Virginia; left him about 4 years ago. GMC.

Harry Squash, 22, stout middle sized, (Mr. Lynch). Property of Mr. Lynch, purchased from Captain Huddleston, Royal Artillery.

Deborah his wife, 20, stout wench, thick lips, pock marked, (Mr. Lynch). Formerly slave to General Washington, came away about 4 years ago. GBC

Hill, Lawrence The Book of Negroes / Someone Knows My Name –  www.lawrencehill.com/the_book_of_negroes.html

Canadian author Lawrence Hill’s novel is published as Someone Knows My Name in the USA, Australia and New Zealand and appears in Canada as The Book of Negroes

Martin, Zena. Blog post. Feb 21 – Harry Washington: Freed Slave, Black Loyalist and Fighter for Freedom. THROUGH ZENA’S EYES – BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2011. http://zmblackhistorymonth2011.blogspot.com/2011/02/feb-21-harry-washington-freed-slave.html

Nell, William C. The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, With Sketches of Several Distinguished Colored Persons: To Which Is Added a Brief Survey of the Condition And Prospects of Colored Americans: Electronic Edition. WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY HARRIET BEECHER STOWE. BOSTON: PUBLISHED BY ROBERT F. WALLCUT. 1855. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/nell/nell.html#nell166

Pybus, Cassandra. “Washington’s Revolution, Harry that is not George” Journal of Atlantic Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2006, 183-198.

Seitz, Phillip. Slave resistance: Will joins the British – September 30, 2011.  

“For Will and thousands of other men of African descent the choice was clear.  In January of 1778 he quietly walked away from the Chew home into occupied Philadelphia and was never heard from again.” http://thehistoryteller.com/2011/resistance/will-joins-the-british/


  • Food for Thought Notable Residents of Historic Germantown/(storymama01.wordpress.com)
  • Battle of Germantown (2011 Reenactment) by delonlott (Oct 19, 2011) Produced by Cliveden & Teamwork Video


About Storymama01

Professional Storyteller, Blogger, Teaching Folk Artist, Cultural Curator, Consultant, History Lover, Humanist
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3 Responses to Had a Talk with George

  1. Pingback: FOOD FOR THOUGHT | storymama01

  2. Pingback: Liberty Bound | storymama01

  3. Pingback: President’s House and Slavery Memorial – Second Anniversary | storymama01

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