How did George Washington die?

1,062 Views Updated: 08 Jan 2018
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How did George Washington die?

The United States (US) has had a great number of Presidents over the years including the famous personality George Washington (1731-1799) who was the first President of the United States after the establishment of the proper US Constitution. The ‘Founding Fathers of The United States’ was considered for his major contributions towards the development of the country. However, the honorable man died in the year 1799 at his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, leaving everyone with a question to ponder upon, 'How did he die'?

In the year 1799 on December 14, a group of three doctors was asked to report to Mount Vernon in the Fairfax country to monitor the first man of the US who was critically ill.


(Image Courtesy: The Daily Beast)

It all began on December 13 the same year. The President experienced an uncomfortable feeling and complained of a terrible running nose, cough and voice hoarseness. It was reported that the whole day he was riding on his horse in the bitter rain and snow to oversee the activities of his estate. Even after he returned indoors, President Washington was determined to stay in his drenched clothes, so he didn’t skip the dinner time, according to Tobias Lear who was his secretary.

On the same night, around 2 am, his wife named Martha became perturbed by her husband's worsened situation and growing sickness as he could barely breathe. Acting upon the same, she sent for medical help to relieve the President of the pain and discomfort. His overseer, Albin Rawlins, was asked to bleed him to remove the obstruction that causing him to become breathless. Soon, a team of trained medical practitioners visited the President and bled him four more times in the next 8 hours which resulted in gross blood loss of 40%

Apart from the procedure, the President was even asked to do some gargling with a concoction of molasses, vinegar, and butter. Not just that, he was made to breathe a steam of vinegar and water to provide relief to a sore throat. The medical practitioners then cleaned his throat using a salve and a formatting of dried beetles, but none provided ease to the ailing President. Later, the doctors used an enema to save the President's life, but the President knew his end was near and demanded to review his will before he breathed his last.

Recalling the events of the day, his secretary said that around 10 pm on December 14, the Leading man pronounced his last words. He said, ’I am just going! Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put into the vault less than three days after I am dead.” Then, “Do you understand? Tis well!’


(Image Courtesy: Ranker)

Various doctors have tried finding out the exact reason of the former President’s death. Around that time, the doctors of Washington thought about four reasons for his death, and the most plausible result was cynanche trachealis, also called as croup, an inflammation of the glottis, larynx or upper part of the trachea that clogged Washington’s respiratory tract.

Though, the above diagnoses do not suit the information of the former President’s terminal illness. But surprisingly, acute epiglottitis somehow dictates all his symptoms and death. His illness is a classic ‘textbook’ case of acute epiglottitis,” wrote Dr. White McKenzie Wallenborn, for the University of Virginia back in 1997.

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