General George Weedon

General Weedon
General Weedon

Little is known of General George Weedon, who fought with the Continental Army during the early campaigns of the American Revolution. Most of the county records were destroyed during the Civil War. He was, for a time, Acting Adjunct General and commanded a brigade of Pennsylvania and Virginia troops at Valley Forge. He was popular in his community of Fredricksburg, Virginia, and rubbed shoulders with, and befriended all the important men of Virginia, as well as revolutionaries throughout the colonies. After the battle of Yorktown, he hosted the Great Peace Ball at his spacious tavern in Fredericksburg on November 11th, 1781. The event was a veritable “who’s who” of American and French officers, politicians, future presidents, wealthy planters, domestic and foreign dignitaries, and, of course, their sons and daughters: the next generation who would inherit the task of expanding the new experiment in democracy worldwide. His descendents include General George Weedon Patten of World War II fame and Johnny Mercer, popular singer and entertainer.

A yeoman’s son, it was through luck and persistence that he rose above his station, marrying into a family that owned one of the finest taverns in Virginia that catered to gentlemen. Three years younger than George Washington, he was a boyhood associate of the astute planter and followed Colonel Washington to war against the French and Indians as his ensign. It was a lifelong friendship that grew through many long hours when Washington would show up at the Weedon Tavern with friends. He would dine and gamble with cards until the early hours, complaining that, as usual, he lost because the ‘fellas of Fredricksburg’ were too smart or their fingers too quick for the eye.

Weedon was born in 1734 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His exact date of birth has been lost, but is assumed to be mid-summer. Records indicate his father composed his last will on his death bed in early May and Weedon was born three months later. His father was George Weedon, the great-grandson of Founder of the Weedon family in Virginia George Weedon, who emigrated from England and died in 1681. His mother was Sarah Gray. Though considered of good blood and steeped in Virginia’s Plantation tradition, the Weedons did not have vast land holdings and subsisted through farming.

A few months after her husband’s death and after George was born, Sarah married William Strother. They farmed the Weedon lands, but some years later while George was still a small boy, the family moved to a small farm in Stafford County, Virginia. Not much is known of these years. At fifteen, his stepfather died and it is assumed that George took on a larger role in supporting the family; he was Sarah & William’s only son (William had daughters by a previous marriage).  It is known he associated with George Washington and his brothers, eventually selling meat in partnership with Washington’s brother Charles. Weedon was of firm body and sturdy limbs with a mixture of aristocratic tendencies tendered with back woods vernacular.  Easy going in temperament but strong willed and stubborn, this obstinacy would later cause him to resign his commission while on furlough from Valley Forge and return to tending his tavern.

He never saw combat in the French and Indian War, serving as ensign to George Washington while posted along the frontier. Through diligent service, he rose up the ranks to become a Captain in the first Virginia regiment, and later as Captain in  Colonel Adam Stephen’s regiment. At war’s end, he received bounty lands under the King’s Proclamation and returned to Fredricksburg.

In 1764, a year after arriving home, he married Catherine Gordon. Her father was John Gordon who operated a tavern in Fredricksburg that also served as a Post Office. Her sister, Isabella Gordon, was married to Hugh Mercer, who would rise to Major General and die from wounds at the Battle of Princeton. Prior to the marriage, Catherine’s father died. His wife ran the tavern as Mrs. Gordon’s tavern. Shortly after his marriage to Catherine, George took over managing the inn and later renamed it Weedon’s Tavern.

During this time George became a prominent citizen of Fredricksburg and, like most Virginia gentry who had fought in the previous war or recruited their own militia in order to become entitled, became known as Captain Weedon. The tavern was well known throughout Virginia and a favorite watering hole for the gentlemanly elite, both locally and for those who passed through on business. It was not uncommon to see several post chases waiting outside with the slaves whiling away the hours while their masters were entertained with good food, spirits, and games. George, an ardent sportsman, boarded many of the regions’ pure-bred horses in stables behind the tavern offering them for the amusement of visiting gentlemen. He became secretary of the Jockey Club and sponsored the Fredricksburg Fair that featured horse racing.

The tavern rapidly became a favorite meeting place and hotbed for those spouting passionate opinions about their ill treatment by the British Government and the steps necessary to rid the land of tyranny. Those who frequented the tavern were among the most influential men of Virginia who would later help carve a new country. Among the tavern’s regulars were Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, John Marshall, Hugh Mercer, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee, Lee’s brother ‘Lighthorse’ Harry Lee, and Gustavus Wallace, to name a few.

Once more Weedon became active in the military serving as captain in the Spotsylvania County militia.

In July 1775, the Virginia Convention met in Richmond. the Convention created two regiments under Patrick Henry and Willam Woodford and refused to recognize a third regiment formed under Colonel Hugh Mercer. Not until December 1775, after the Battle of Great Bridge, when events escalated to open warfare, did they authorize a third regiment that was destined for Continental service. In March of 1776, George Weedon leased his tavern to William Smith and joined Colonel Mercer’s regiment in the pursuit of Royal Governor Lord Dunmore’s fleet that still sought a port of operations on Virginia soil. He was present during the action at Gynn Island that sealed Dunmore’s fate, which resulted in his exit from Virginia’s shores.

On August 13th, Colonel Mercer was promoted to Brigadier and the newly promoted Colonel Weedon commanded the third. They were ordered to report to George Washington and the Continental Army stationed in New York. There, the Americans faced an enormous armada and a powerful British and Hessian force. Arriving too late to participate in the Battle of Long Island, Weedon’s Third Virginia played an important role in both the Battle of Harlem Heights and the Battle of White Plains. He accompanied Washington’s beleaguered troops across New Jersey and participated in the Battle of Trenton. After the battle, he escorted Hessian troops to Philadelphia.

In February, 1777, after the death of General Mercer, Weedon was promoted to Brigadier. During the army’s winter encampment at Morristown, NJ, General Weedon served as Adjunct General. Hostilities resumed at the onset of warm weather. At the Battle of Brandywine in September of 1777, his outnumbered troops defended the ‘ploughed field,’ helping to thwart a flanking maneuver by General Charles Cornwallis. He later led troops at the Battle of Germantown.

Weedon commanded a battalion of five regiments at Valley Forge: Stewart’s 13th Pennsylvania and Virginia regiments -2nd , 6th, 10th, and the 14th.  It was while on furlough in Fredricksburg that word reached him that a board of officers appointed William Woodford (victor of Great Bridge and once leader of the 2nd Virginia regiment) senior over him. This was a reversal because Woodford had resigned his Colonelcy for a time. This deeply insulted Weedon’s sensitive and obstinate nature. With his honor at stake, he resigned his commission and told Congress that he would remain in Fredricksburg. Congress granted his resignation with the understanding that, if needed, he could be called back to service. He remained out of the war for two years, but when General Benedict Arnold and General William Philips brought the threat of invasion to Virginia in 1780, Weedon agreed to active duty and set about recruiting and supplying a brigade of militia. When the Marquis de Lafayette arrived with an American force, he joined them. He was given command of troops in Gloucester, directly across the York River from Yorktown where Cornwallis’ men were surrounded. Along with French Light troops and cavalry under the Duc de Lauzun, they fought off Banister Tarleton’s forces and prevented any hope of escape by Cornwallis.

After the war, Weedon resumed managing his tavern and sporting events in and around Fredericksburg. He was elected Mayor of Fredericksburg in 1785 and was the first president of the Society of the Cincinnati in Virginia. He retired and built a beautiful home he called Sentry Box in lower Fredricksburg that remains standing to this day. It overlooks the Rappahannock River and was directly opposite ‘Ferry Farm,’ Washington’s boyhood home. He died in the fall of 1793 and is buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Fredericksburg. His wife died in 1797 and is laid beside him.

Read the first installment of A Black Man’s Destiny (Shades of Liberty) here.

RESOURCES:

 Fredriksen, John C.  Revolutionary War Almanac.  2006:  Facts on File Inc., New York, NY.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  George Weedon Commission, 1776:  2013   Web site:  htpp://rocklib.omeka.net/items/show/46

King, George H.S.  General George Weedon.  William and Mary Quarterly 20 (April 1940):  237-252.

Weedon, General George.  Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon of the Continental Army…Describing Battles of Brandywine…; with prefatory note by Samuel Pennypacker.  1902:  published byDodd Mead & Co., New York, NY.

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