George Washington gave a final goodbye to his soldiers at the close of the Revolutionary War on this day in history, Dec. 4, 1783.
Washington, then-commanding general of the Continental Army, rallied his military officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York City, according to History.com.
He then informed his troops that he would be stepping down from his commission to return to civilian life.
The future first president of the United States led his army through six years of warfare against the British ahead of the triumphant Battle of Yorktown in 1781, where British General Lord Charles Cornwallis formally surrendered.
This victory became known as the end of the Revolutionary War.
Most of the Continental Army was disbanded in 1783 after the Treaty of Paris was signed, according to the Fraunces Tavern Museum.
Once Washington was notified that the last of the British troops had sailed from Long Island and Staten Island, it was time for the war leader to bid his soldiers farewell.
Although Washington had described his troops privately as undisciplined and unhealthy, his gratitude on the day of his departure was genuine, History.com reports.
Observers described Washington as “suffused in tears” during the scene at the iconic Lower Manhattan tavern.
One complete account of the event comes from Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, recorded by the Fraunces Tavern Museum website.
Tallmadge’s account reads: “We had been assembled but a few moments when his excellency entered the room. After partaking of a slight refreshment in an almost breathless silence the General filled his glass with wine and turning to the officers said, ‘With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.'”
The account continues: “After the officers had taken a glass of wine General Washington said, ‘I cannot come to each of you but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand.’ General Knox, the closest officer to Washington, walked up to the General and the two hugged and kissed with tears running down their faces.”
“In the same affectionate manner every officer in the room marched up and parted with the general in chief. Such a scene of sorrow and weeping I had never before witnessed and fondly hope I may never be called to witness again.”
Washington embraced about 30 of his soldiers one by one — and then left for Annapolis, Maryland.
After nearly eight years of war and strife, this would be the last time many of these men would see each other again, according to the museum.
The general officially resigned his commission on Dec. 23 in front of the Continental Congress, delivering an emotional address.
He remarked that “having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action, and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”
Washington then returned to Mount Vernon, Virginia, with the expectation of retiring as a gentleman farmer.
But in 1789, Washington was persuaded back into politics — and was elected as America’s first-ever commander-in-chief.
He would remain president until 1797.