Washington and the Athlete
F. Blaisdell and Francis R. Ball
Many stories are told of the mighty
Washington's right arm. It is said that he once
threw a stone from the bed of the stream to the
top of the Natural Bridge, in Virginia.
Again, we are told that once
upon a time he rounded a piece of slate to the size of
a silver dollar, and threw it across the Rappahannock
at Fredericksburg, the slate falling at least thirty
feet on the other side. Many strong men have
since tried the same feat, but have never cleared
Peale, who was called the soldier-artist,
was once visiting Washington at Mount Vernon. One
day, he tells us, some athletic young men were
pitching the iron bar in the presence of their host.
Suddenly, without taking off his coat, Washington
grasped the bar and hurled it, with little effort,
much farther than any of them had done.
"We were, indeed, amazed,'' said
one of the young men, "as we stood round, all stripped
to the buff, and having thought ourselves very
clever fellows, while the Colonel, on retiring,
"When you beat my pitch, young
gentlemen, I'll try again."
At another time, Washington witnessed
a wrestling-match. The champion of the day
challenged him, in sport, to wrestle. Washington did
not stop to take off his coat, but grasped the "strong
man of Virginia.'' It was all over in a
moment, for, said the wrestler, "In Washington's
lionlike grasp I became powerless, and was hurled
to the ground with a force that seemed to jar the
very marrow in my bones.''
In the days of the Revolution,
some of the riflemen and the backwoodsmen were men of
gigantic strength, but it was generally believed by good
judges that their commander-in-chief was the strongest
man in the Army .