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 Be Washington is a GREAT interactive created by the Mt. Vernon website. Students assume the role of George Washington and make decisions based on the information Washington received. There is closed caption so students can read along with actors and actresses. 

As always, a teacher should preview the activity prior to using with students. I am confident many U.S. History teachers will find this activity extremely useful. Students are completely engaged and there are many other activities that teachers can create based on Be Washington. 

The interactive has two different game modes, Host or Single Player option. I have found the host mode works best with a freshman history class. Teachers can adapt the activity to best fit the students needs. 

Step #1: Select A Game Mode

Single Player Game: “The single player game includes the complete scenario, advisors, and all-time results.”  This is a great option to assign the students the activity outside of class. 

Host Game: “The hosted game requires a main (host) screen and individual devices to play. The host can control the pace of the game by playing and pausing the scenario. Each individual device will have access to advisors and the ability to vote on the final decision. Votes for each specific session are compiled and displayed on the host screen, in addition to all-time results.” 

When hosting a game, there is a class code the students will used to join the game.

Join a Game: This is the option the students will use when a teacher hosts a game. Be sure to display the class code so all the students can join. Be sure all students have joined before starting the activity. The website has a great tool that shows the number of students who have registered. 

Step #2: Pick a Scenario to Play I selected the The Newburgh Conspiracy. I hope to use some of the other activities later in the year. 

[Christopher Jackson] Welcome to the Be Washington Theater. Soon it will be you turn to test your leadership and decision making skills in a crisis General Washington faced during the Revolutionary War.

Here is the situation.

It is the fall of 1782. We have been at war with the British for over seven years. Peace negotiations are underway after our decisive victory in Yorktown, Virginia the year before, but all is not well among the officers of the Continental Army. Throughout the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army has suffered shortages of food and supplies. Congress has struggled repeatedly to pay the men. Some are owed years of back pay. There’s not much General Washington can do other than write letters on behalf of his soldiers. 

[George Washington] “General Lincoln, I will inform you candidly of the discontents which at this moment prevail universally throughout the army. The complaint of evils are the total want of money, the heavy debts they have already incurred, the distress of their families at home, and the prospect of poverty and misery before them. The patience and long suffance of the army are almost exhausted. There never was so great a spirit of discontent as at this instant. [Music] 

[Jackson] In March of 1783, the Continental Army is camped 60 miles north of New York City, which is still under British occupation. Although peace negotiations are underway, the Army is still needed to defend against potential British attack. But within the officer’s ranks, discontent is growing. Some fear that if the war is to end before Congress can settle its debts, they will return home impoverished. Some officers decide to take matters into their own hands. 

[Adjutant 1 a military officer who acts as an administrative assistant to a senior officer.] Gentleman, What’s this about?

[Adjutant 2] It’s an anonymous address to the officers of the Continental Army

[Adjutant 1] Gentleman, a fellow Soldier whose future may be as desperate as yours, would beg leave to address you. Have you not, more than once, suggested your wishes and made known your wants to Congress? How have you been answered? If this be your treatment, while you wear the swords necessary for the defense of America, what then can you expect when peace arrives? 

[Adjutant 2] But if your spirit should revolt at this, to oppose tyranny on the whatever garb it may assume, then awake; attend to your situation. 

[Adjutant 2 and Colonel Humphreys] In any political event, [Humphreys] the army has an alternative. The author proposes that the Army threaten to refuse to lay down its weapons in news of peace, or refuse to defend the country from attack. He has called for meeting tomorrow at 11 o’clock to discuss his proposal. [Music] 

[Jackson] The authors of the anonymous letter have called the meeting, without General Washington’s approval, to discuss threatening the government into repaying the soldiers. 

You are about to step into the boots of General Washington. As Commander in Chief of the Continental Army will you:

  1. Arrest the authors of the anonymous letter for treason?
  2. Will you try to convince the officers to ignore the inflammatory letter and continue to remain patient?
  3. Or, will you use your influence as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army to pressure Congress to act

Just like General Washington, you will have to make your decision under pressure as the situation continues to evolve. You’ll be able to seek advice from various advisors who will represent people and sources General Washington would have consulted. But, be aware, they will offer contradictory opinions and you will not have time to hear from everyone. It will be up to you, alone, to decide how strongly you agree or disagree with their advice and whether they will impact your decision as the commander of the Continental Army. 

Now is your chance to “Be Washington.” It’s your turn to lead. (3:53)

Alexander Hamilton (Congressman) “Pressure Congress” 

Joseph Jones (Congressman) “Convince the Officers”

Julius Caesar (Roman Emperor) “Pressure Congress”  

Henry Knox (Major General) “Convince the Officers” 


Dispatch #1 

New has reached Philadelpia that the preliminary articles of peace. A peace treaty could not be too far off. 

[Adjutant 2] If Congress does not settle its debts to the officers before the treaty is signed we may be on the verge oa a mutiny. 

[Jackson] News of peace could inflame the officers to act on the threat  in the anonymous letter before the Army is disbanded and they are sent home penniless. Will this affect your decision? You now have three new advisors to hear from.

Catherine Martin “Pressure Congress” 

“Cato” (phamphleteer) “Arrest the conspirators” 

John Armstrong  “Pressure Congress” 

Dispatch #2 

[Adjutant 1] A second anonymous was discovered with the general orders this morning. Claims General Washington supports the claims to Congress.

[Adjutant 2] How is that so? 

If he did not condone the demands, why does he want us to meet?

[General Gates] Gentleman, I think you all know why we are here. [music] 

[Officer] “General Washington!” [music] 

Clearance the situation 

[General Washington] “Gentleman I apologize for my appearance, but the situation has rendered it is necessary that I give my sentiments to the army directly. [music]

Times up! Your advisors have spoken. This is a reflection of how much you agreed or disagreed with their advice. 

As commander of the Continental Army, it is up to you alone to make the decision. Will you arrest the conspirators for treason? Will you convince the officers to remain patient? Or will you use your influence and pressure Congress to act? You have 10 seconds to cast your vote, starting now.

These are the results are in…

Now let’s find out what General Washington decided to do.

This dreadful of either deserting our country in extremist hour of her distress, or turning our army against it, which is the aparent object, has something so shocking in it that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! What could this write have in view, by recommending such measures? Can that he be a friend to this army? Can he be a friend to this country? Or rather is he not an insidious foe? Let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, to express show utmost horror and detestation of the man, who wishes, under any specious pretense, to overturn the liver until you reach our Rising Empire and plot. I would like to read to you and let her from the Virginia Congressman Joseph Jones who hwas become a fast friend gentlemen I beg your Indulgence I’ve grown gray and your service and I find myself going blind those acquainted with the deliberations of public bodies and especially assume it’s the body as that of Congress will understand that allowances must be made for slow determination 

I am pleased to report that 7 states have voted for 5 years whole page for the Army and we hope to get the last two votes soon.  [music] 

[Jackson] Shortly after Washington left the meeting, the officers passed a resolution Dowling to ignore the threats in the anonymous letter and to remain patient. Washington speech would become known as the Newburgh Address. Six months later, the Treaty of Paris was signed and the Revolution was officially over. America’s first Army peacefully disbanded and Congress ultimately passed legislation for payment to the soldiers and officers. Before the year ended, General Washington resigned as commander in chief of the army and return to Mount Vernon as a civilian. Through his words and actions, General Washington set the precedent that America’s Army is and always will be under the control of our civilian government.