I handed over a couple of one dollar bills to pay for my coffee. The image of George Washington caught my eye, and I smiled. It would be nice to relax for a moment and pick-up Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick, the Revolutionary War history book I was reading. Settling into a comfortable chair, I soon immersed myself in the drama of the Battle of Princeton. Guided by the book’s text, my imagination created a vivid image of the unfolding conflict. George Washington – looking splendid on a large horse – galloped along, leading his men and shouting “It’s a fine fox-chase, my boys.”[i]
Startled, I closed the book. It seemed too difficult to accept that the “Father of His Country”, the dignified George Washington, and the reserved and diplomatic leader of the 1790’s could be riding recklessly, shouting in a full, commanding voice, and – on other occasions – struggling to keep his temper controlled when dealing with difficult subordinates. Then I felt foolish. My image of George Washington was based on the Gilbert Stuart presidential painting from 1797 that we’d studied in high-school art class!