The Library has released online a major portion of its George Washington Papers, which are among the papers of 23 presidents held by the Library of Congress. They can be viewed as part of the American Memory Collections of the National Digital Library Program.
The complete George Washington Papers from the Manuscript Division consists of approximately 65,000 items (176,000 pages). This first release includes 41 letterbooks -- about 8,000 pages of correspondence, letterbooks, commonplace books, diaries, journals, financial account books, military records, reports and notes, accumulated by Washington from 1741 through 1799.
Included among his youthful commonplace books is the copy he made of the manual for polite behavior, "Rules of Civility." Correspondence, letterbooks and travel journals cover Washington's life as a Virginia county surveyor and as colonel of the militia during the French and Indian War. His election as delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses, and his command of the American army during the Revolutionary War are well documented. Notes, correspondence and a journal of proceedings record his two presidential administrations from 1789 through 1797. Because of the wide range of Washington's interests, activities and correspondents, which included ordinary citizens as well as celebrated figures, his papers are a rich source for almost every aspect of Colonial and early American history. The collection is organized into eight parts that will be published successively through 1999. This project is funded by Reuters America Inc. and the Reuter Foundation.
Among the highlights of the letters are one that Washington wrote to his mother, Mary Ball Washington, on July 18, 1755 (right). In it, he describes a battle with the French and Indians at Fort Duquesne, Pa.:
"I luckily escaped without a wound, tho' I had four bullets through my Coat, and two Horses shot under me. ... I was not half recovered from a violent illness that confined me to my Bed, and a Waggon [sic], for above ten Days. "
American Memory is a project of the National Digital Library Program of the Library of Congress, which is aiming to make available over the Internet millions of the Library's unique American history collections. Already, more than two dozen collections are available, ranging from Civil War photographs of Mathew Brady and short films of Thomas Edison to documents relating to slavery and the civil rights movement and women's suffrage.