Explore George Washington’s 250-year-old Tent

Explore George Washington’s 250-year-old Tent

Mount Vernon’s Revolutionary War Weekend is May 4-5.

The replica of George Washington’s battlefield tent at Mount Vernon is oval shaped and approximately 24 feet long, 14 feet wide.

The replica of George Washington’s battlefield tent at Mount Vernon is oval shaped and approximately 24 feet long, 14 feet wide.

A dull white cloth tent may not sound like an attention-getter, but if you think of it as a home, a war headquarters and the first U.S. Presidential Oval Office, it takes on a certain pizzazz.

On May 4 and 5, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, people can explore a replica of the tent that General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, used from 1775 to 1783 when he led the colonies to independence. 

The actual, original, 250-year-old, flax linen tent with red scalloped edges is on display at Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution, where an introductory video intones, “The tent is like the republic. It survives.” 

The actual tent and the replica at Mount Vernon are oval shaped and approximately 24 feet long, 14 feet wide. They are 12 feet tall at the highest point. Washington was over six feet tall and probably had to duck to go in and out. It was called a marquee tent in its day, typically used by high-ranking military officers, but Washington’s tent was modest compared with the elaborate war tents of 18th-century European monarchs. Washington chose to camp among his soldiers instead of using a building, the usual practice at that time. He wanted to share in his men’s hardships and inconveniences. A French officer who entered the tent observed, “He did not display the luxury of a monarchical general. Everything announced in him the hero of a republic.”

Inside the tent Washington had a sleeping quarters with its own walls and ceiling, his private office and a combined baggage chamber and dressing room. There was also space for his enslaved aide, William Lee. Visitors to the replica tent at Mount Vernon can peek inside and see minimal, 18th-century, “camping gear.”

After the war, Washington’s tent had a multi-step, protracted journey, including time with Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee as its custodian at Arlington House, a co-owner of the tent because he married Martha Washington’s great-granddaughter Mary Custis. Washington’s step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, actually cut up pieces of the tent and gave them away as souvenirs. Some have been recovered and are displayed in the Philadelphia museum along with the original tent meticulously saved through conservators’ delicate needlework.

18th-century Drills and Camp Followers

During Mount Vernon’s Revolutionary War weekend, Continental soldiers, British redcoats and Hessians will conduct military drills in uniform and reenact battles. The Hessians were around 30,000 German mercenaries from the principality Hesse-Kassel hired by the British to help fight the war. Visitors can explore a field encampment with several other tents.

Visitors to Mount Vernon can also interact with camp followers, mostly women and children, who traveled with the army and received payment and rations for their work as nurses, seamstresses, washerwomen, as well as merchants called “petty sutlers” who sold provisions and services to the soldiers.

“Mount Vernon’s Revolutionary War Weekend happens just two days a year.” said Julie Almacy, Mount Vernon’s Vice President of Media and Communications. “It is an exciting experience that gives us a window into what it may have been like for those who fought for America’s independence. Because it was almost 250 years ago, it’s sometimes hard to remember these were real people who sacrificed for the cause.”

250th Anniversary 

In 2025, events around the nation will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War and the 250th birthday of the United States.

More information

Mount Vernon’s Revolutionary War Weekend: https://www.mountvernon.org/plan-your-visit/calendar/events/revolutionary-war-weekend/ 

Virtual tour of Washington’s field headquarters: https://www.amrevmuseum.org/virtual-tour-of-washington-s-field-headquarters 

Tent details: https://www.amrevmuseum.org/learn-and-explore/frequently-asked-questions-washington-s-war-tent