Fraunces Tavern, New York City

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Fraunces Tavern, New York City

FRAUNCES TAVERN, NEW YORK CITY. Site of Washington's farewell to his officers, 4 December 1783. In 1762 Samuel Fraunces purchased this private residence, built in 1719, and opened a popular tavern. Preserved in the restored Fraunces Tavern at Pearl and Broad Streets is the historic Long Room that was the scene of Washington's farewell to his officers on Thursday, 4 December 1783, the day the British fleet sailed from New York Harbor.

Soon after noon Washington arrived to find the small group of officers who had entered the city on 25 November and all others who had been assembled on short notice for the occasion. Washington took a wine glass, as if to toast his fellow officers. "With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you," Washington said. "I most devotedly wish that your later days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable." Gripped with an emotion that threatened to overwhelm the small assemblage, they mumbled a confused answer and drank their wine before Washington, blind with tears, continued: "I cannot come to each of you, but shall be obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand." Henry Knox stepped forward as the senior officer present. Impulsively, Washington put his arms around his chief of artillery and, now weeping openly, kissed him. This description comes from a letter by Benjamin Tallmadge, who reported that "tears of deep sensibility filled every eye" as "every officer in the room marched up, kissed, and parted with his general in chief." For Tallmadge, the notion "that we should see this face no more in this world seemed to me utterly insupportable." After he had embraced the last officer, Washington raised his arm in silent farewell and left the tavern. Joined by New York governor George Clinton and the city council, Washington, in his finest blue and buff uniform, passed through ranks of light infantry and walked to Whitehall. The wharf was crowded as Washington approached, climbed into a barge, and headed for Paulus Hook, accompanied by General Friedrich von Steuben. From there he proceeded by way of Philadelphia to Annapolis to surrender his commission to Congress (23 December 1783).

When Washington was president, the government rented the tavern to house the offices of the Departments of War, Treasury, and Foreign Affairs. In 1904 the Sons of the Revolution in the state of New York bought and restored the tavern, which is now a museum.

SEE ALSO Tallmadge, Benjamin, Jr.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Tallmadge, Benjamin. Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge. New York: New York Times, 1968.

                            revised by Michael Bellesiles