George Washington, Excellent Horseman and Sportsman.
I have been working on an article on the first three Presidents of the United States, Washington, Adams and Jefferson, and their bird-hunting endeavors. I’ve found some great information that I’m excited to share. The article is entitled, “A Presidential Pursuit.” I will keep you posted if, when and where it gets accepted for publication.
As our second official installment of the Historian’s Corner, I wanted to share a little known story about George Washington that I learned from my research for the article. Most history buffs know that Washington was a diehard fox hunter who bred his own hounds for the pursuit, but many do not know that Washington also did some wingshooting. In particular, Washington wrote often in his journal about duck hunting which he called “a ducking.”
This painting depicts Washington and hounds in pursuit of the wily Reynard.
With that brief introduction, the following passage comes from the book, White House Sportsmen, by Edmund Lindop and Joseph Jares:
Washington liked to go “a ducking” in the creeks and coves of his plantation. But he gave strict orders that others were not to hunt ducks on his property without his permission. One morning when the Mount Vernon proprietor was riding, his eye caught the flutter of wings above one of the coves. Suddenly the crack of a rifle shot sounded through the bushes, and a bird fell from the sky. Whirling his horse around, Washington headed at full speed toward the cove.
The poacher, who was shoving off in a canoe, heard the horse approaching and raised the gun. “Stop or I will shoot!” he commanded as Washington rode into sight. But the angry plantation owner kept galloping toward the man. Dashing his horse headlong into the water, he swiftly lunged for the gun and tossed it aside. Then he caught the frightened poacher by the scruff of the neck, pulled him out of the boat, and beat him until he promised never to set foot again on his property.
When I read this, I couldn’t help but remember Gandalf’s line from the movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, “Sauron’s wrath will be terrible, his retribution swift.” So it was with Washington and poachers. Heaven help them if Washington got a hold of them!
The obvious moral to the story is to respect private property and to seek permission before you hunt another’s land. Otherwise, you might get the Washington Once-Over.