General George Washington

  • Sculptor: Henry Kirke Brown
  • Pedestal: Richard Upjohn
  • Dedicated: 1856
  • Medium and size: Bronze (approximately 9 feet), granite pedestal (approximately 9 feet)
  • Location: South side of Union Square, facing 14th Street between University Place and Broadway
  • Subway: 4, 5, 6, N, R, W or L to Union Square

Washington Union Square

General Washington Returns to New York

In his biography of George Washington, Washington Irving recorded an eyewitness account of Evacuation Day, 11/25/1783:

We had been accustomed for a long time to military display in all the finish and finery of garrison life; the troops just leaving us were as if equipped for show, and with their scarlet uniforms and burnished arms, made a brilliant display; the troops that marched in, on the contrary, were ill-clad and weather beaten, and made a forlorn appearance; but then they were our troops, and as I looked at them and thought upon all they had done and suffered for us, my heart and my eyes were full, and I admired and gloried in them the more, because they were weather beaten and forlorn. -- Washington Irving, Life of George Washington(1855-1859)

Evacuation Day 
poster

Above: An engraving done in 1883, a century after Evacuation Day, depicts the scene at Battery Park as a sailor hoists the American flag. The British flag falls to the ground as British troops row to their ships. Behind the flagpole, anachronistically, is Castle Clinton, which was not constructed until 1808-1811, when fears of another British invasion impelled New Yorkers to build harbor defenses.

Evacuation 
Day parade 1883

Above: Parade down Broadway in honor of the centennial of Evacuation Day, from Valentine’s Manual of Old New York, 1922. Caption: “Parades in New York. Celebration of Evacuation Day, November 26th, 1883, as seen on Broadway looking north from Fulton Street, showing St. Paul’s Church, where Washington worshipped when president, and ‘cops’ mauling citizens.”

Early History of This Sculpture

New York’s Washington was the second equestrian statue to be erected in the United States. The first was the General Jackson near the White House, unveiled in 1853. Washington was funded mostly by New York merchants and designed by Henry Kirke Brown (see Lincoln), who completed it with the assistance of the young John Quincy Adams Ward. The work was unveiled in 1856, on the eightieth anniversary of the signing of theDeclaration of Independence.

Union Square Fort Sumter photo

Above: Rally on April 20, 1861, in Union Square, with Washington “carrying” the flag fired on by Confederates at Fort Sumter – the shots that set off the Civil War. According to Burroughs and Wellcome (Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898), the crowd of 100-250,000 was the largest public gathering up to that time in North America.

Union Square Fort Sumter flag 
drawing

Above: The same 1861 rally, in an artist’s rendition.

Cross References

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante