George C Marshall was a model soldier & civil servant. Winston Churchill called him the organizer of victory in World War II and FDR relied on him. He took his duty very seriously and was uniformly excellent the things he did. He was crucial both to winning the war and securing the peace after the fighting was over. The Marshall Plan is probably the greatest act by a victor in any conflict in world history. But he was a fantastically modest man. He never pushed himself forward and unlike most other great men of the time refused to keep a journal or write memoirs. Winston Churchill quipped, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Marshall refused to make is easy even for others to sing his praises.
Alex and I visited his house in Leesburg today. It is a modest place considering the greatness of the man, but houses were generally smaller back then. Marshall was attracted to the garden. Gardening was his hobby and preferred method of recreation. He also rode horses.
The house is modestly furnished, but the furnishings are interesting as they reflect Marshall’s career and many of the great people he knew. He spent a lot of time in China and has furniture and art from there. Madame Chiang stayed at the house her gifts are still there. There was a painting by Winston Churchill. A copy still hangs there depicting a scene in Morocco, but the original was worth too much and was sold at auction. There are two portraits of Robert E. Lee, one as a young man and the other the more familiar one when he was older. Marshall admired Lee and tried to model his own behavior on Lee’s.
This was the first house Marshall really owned, having lived in U.S. Army quarters most of the rest of his life. He and his wife shopped estate sales for most of the other furniture.
The house is complicated because parts of it accreted onto older structures. There is an original house literally swallowed by a newer one. You can see this in one of the halls, as the internal wall has windows that used to face outward.
This part of Loudon County is very pleasant, rolling hills and lots of green. It is full of historical sites, mostly well-maintained. We also went to a place called the Oatlands, not far from George C Marshall’s place. It was a big estate that grew mostly grains. Later it became mostly a residence. There is a wonderful garden in that traditional Virginia style.
The house at Oatlands had lots of interesting stories. We met a delightful old lady who seemed to know all of them. She told us the about the family, related to “King” Carter, once the richest man in the colonies and about the Corcoron side of the family that endowed the famous galleries. Behind a door was maybe the most interesting thing, if small. It was a lock of George Washington’s hair. One of the extended family members, Robert Livingston, was the one who administered the presidential oath to Washington and got this as a gift. The family had quite a network.