If your group may have some time waiting for their mansion tour entry time, you can bring the students into the Upper Garden where they can put themselves in Martha Washington’s shoes
The students should know that during the Revolutionary War, George Washington was away from his home, leaving his wife Martha to run the plantation. Appointed Commander of the Continental Army on June 14, 1775, he wrote to his wife, Martha, that he expected to return home in the fall. The war kept him away from Mount Vernon for over 8 years; he made a brief visit in 1781 when he and the Compte de Rochambeau made their final plans for the Battle of Yorktown. (For more information, see the official Mount Vernon website -- "Biography." (www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/biography)
1. Ask the student to imagine they are Martha Washington walking in the upper garden on a fall day in 1781. Ask them to use their senses to explore the gardens.
a. What do you see?
b. What do you smell?
2. Tell the students to imagine it is 1781. The General has been gone from Mount Vernon for 6 years, although Martha Washington visited him in winter quarters when she could. As Lady Washington, what are you thinking? feeling?
3. Now you hear horses approaching.
a. Who do you think might be approaching?
b. Imagine that there may be someone Lady Washington does not want to encounter. Who might this be?
c. Why do you think she does not want to have this person bothering her?
4. You finally see who is approaching, General Washington.
a. What do you think Lady Washington is feeling as she sees him approach?
b. How have your emotions changed?
c. What would be the first thing you say to the General?
The next time the General will return to Mount Vernon will be in December 1783, after he resigns his commission in Annapolis. When he returns to Mount Vernon he has chosen to give up public service.
5. Why is Washington's decision to give up power one of the most important in United States history?