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Charles Willson Peale, from life, 1781-1782

Oil on canvas. H 24, W 20 in (H 61, W 50.8 cm)
Independence NHP
INDE 14173

About the Man
About this Portrait:
Charles Willson Peale probably painted the museum portrait of Washington sometime in 1783, after the subject’s release from British captivity following the evacuation of Charleston. In the painting, Washington wears the white uniform coat of the Third Continental Light dragoons. The Lieutenant Colonel sports the fashion of only one epaulette as the style of wearing saber belts over the right shoulder (rather than from the waist) then dictated. This portrait is first recorded in the October 13, 1784 issue of the Freeman’s Journal and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser. In the early 1790s, Rembrandt Peale copied his father’s Washington portrait for use in advertising his own painterly skill during a 1795-1796 patronage trip to Charleston. This copy (now at the Maryland Historical Society) was later displayed in the Baltimore Peale Museum.

Ownership History:
Listed in the 1795 Peale Museum catalog. Purchased by Townsend Ward (librarian of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) at the 1854 Peale Museum sale. Purchased by the City of Philadelphia from Townsend Ward in 1854.

ashington was born on February 28, 1752 in Stafford County, Virginia. His parents intended him to join the ministry and sent him to study with a theologian. However, in early 1776 he accepted a captain's commission in the Continental Army commanded by his cousin, George Washington, and then fought in New York and at Trenton (where he was wounded). In 1780, he transferred to the Army's Southern Division and fought in a series of skirmishes around Charleston. The following year, he led his cavalry to victory in close combat with British regulars at Cowpens. His success there, in particular his hand-to-hand saber battle with the British commander Tarleton, earned Washington a Congressional medal. He then joined the American forces in North Carolina for battles at Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirks Hill, and Eutaw Springs, where he was wounded and captured. He remained a paroled prisoner-of-war in Charleston until the city's evacuation by the British at the end of 1782.

fter the war, Washington stayed in Charleston, where he served in the state legislature. He later refused a gubernatorial nomination, but in 1798 returned to public service as a brigadier general for service in America's undeclared naval war with France. Washington died on March 6, 1810.

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Last Modified: Thursday, October 21, 2004