Year
1783
Month Day
December 04

George Washington bids farewell to his officers

On December 4, 1783, future President George Washington, then commanding general of the Continental Army, summons his military officers to Fraunces Tavern in New York City to inform them that he will be resigning his commission and returning to civilian life.

Washington had led the army through six long years of war against the British before the American forces finally prevailed at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. There, Washington received the formal surrender of British General Lord Charles Cornwallis, effectively ending the Revolutionary War, although it took almost two more years to conclude a peace treaty and slightly longer for all British troops to leave New York.

Although Washington had often during the war privately lamented the sorry state of his largely undisciplined and unhealthy troops and the ineffectiveness of most of his officer corps, he expressed genuine appreciation for his brotherhood of soldiers on this day in 1783. Observers of the intimate scene at Fraunces Tavern described Washington as “suffused in tears,” embracing his officers one by one after issuing his farewell. Washington left the tavern for Annapolis, Maryland, where he officially resigned his commission on December 23. He then returned to his beloved estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia, where he planned to live out his days as a gentleman farmer.

Washington was not out of the public spotlight for long, however. In 1789, he was coaxed out of retirement and elected as the first president of the United States, a position he held until 1797.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Hostage Terry Anderson freed in Lebanon

On December 4, 1991, Islamic militants in Lebanon release kidnapped American journalist Terry Anderson after 2,454 days in captivity. As chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, Anderson covered the long-running civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990). On March 16, ...read more

“Irish Godfather” killed by car bomb in St. Paul

“Dapper Dan” Hogan, a St. Paul, Minnesota saloonkeeper and mob boss, is killed on December 4, 1928 when someone plants a car bomb under the floorboards of his new Paige coupe. Doctors worked all day to save him–according to the Morning Tribune, “racketeers, police characters, and ...read more

Typhoon "Pablo" kills over 1,000 people in the Philippines

On December 4, 2012, Bopha, a Category 5 typhoon nicknamed “Pablo,” struck the Philippines. Rushing flood waters destroyed entire villages and killed over one thousand people, in what was the strongest typhoon ever to strike the Southeast Asian islands. "Entire families may have ...read more

Amanda Knox convicted of murder in Italy

On December 4, 2009, 22-year-old American exchange student Amanda Knox is convicted of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in 2007 in Perugia, Italy. Knox received a 26-year prison sentence, while her 25-year-old Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaelle Sollecito, who also ...read more

President Bush orders U.S. troops to Somalia

President George H.W. Bush orders 28,000 U.S. troops to Somalia, a war-torn East African nation where rival warlords were preventing the distribution of humanitarian aid to thousands of starving Somalis. In a military mission he described as “God’s work,” Bush said that America ...read more

Polish Christians come to the aid of Polish Jews

In Warsaw, a group of Polish Christians put their own lives at risk when they set up the Council for the Assistance of the Jews. The group was led by two women, Zofia Kossak and Wanda Filipowicz. Since the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Jewish population had been either ...read more

NBA suspends Latrell Sprewell for attacking coach

On December 4, 1997, the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspends Latrell Sprewell, three-time All Star point guard for the Golden State Warriors, for one year after he attacked Warriors’ coach P.J. Carlesimo. During practice on December 1, Sprewell had a verbal ...read more

Oliver Kelley organizes the Grange

Former Minnesota farmer Oliver Hudson Kelley founds the Grange, which became a powerful political force among western farmers. Though he grew up in Boston, Kelley decided in his early twenties that he wanted to become a farmer. In 1849, he booked passage on a steamboat for St. ...read more

Smog kills thousands in England

Heavy smog begins to hover over London, England, on December 4, 1952. It persists for five days, leading to the deaths of at least 4,000 people. It was a Thursday afternoon when a high-pressure air mass stalled over the Thames River Valley. When cold air arrived suddenly from the ...read more

Police kill two members of the Black Panther Party

Black Panthers Fred Hampton, 21, and Mark Clark, 22, are gunned down by 14 police officers as they lie sleeping in their Chicago, Illinois, apartment. About a hundred bullets had been fired in what police described as a fierce gun battle with members of the Black Panther Party. ...read more

George Washington’s cousin tricks Loyalists

A force of Continental dragoons commanded by Colonel William Washington–General George Washington’s second cousin once removed–corners Loyalist Colonel Rowland Rugeley and his followers in Rugeley’s house and barn near Camden, South Carolina, on December 4, 1780. After nearly a ...read more

Psychiatrist reports on the phenomenon of shell shock

Well-known psychiatrist W.H. Rivers presents his report The Repression of War Experience, based on his work at the Craiglockhart War Hospital for Neurasthenic Officers, to the Royal School of Medicine, on this day in 1917. Craiglockhart, near Edinburgh, was one of the most famous ...read more