An architectural engineer discovers letters during his Mount Vernon inspections from Martha and George Washington, believed to be destroyed, that span the entire seven years of the Revolutionary War. And he’s the only one who knows where all twelve boxes of them are hidden.
Martha Washington’s letters have been found, more than 700 of them.
Martha’s Letters tells the story of John Mason, an architectural engineer and historical preservationist, during his structural inspections at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate and park. He encounters a series of cryptic objects that lead him to a tin box buried in the coach house in the stable. John digs up the box and opens it at his home and discovers more than fifty letters written by George and Martha Washington during the early months of the Revolutionary War, letters long claimed to have been destroyed by Martha. The box contains a note from Martha stating: “there are twelve more such boxes secreted on the grounds.”
John has to make a decision: Turn in what he’s found to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, the overseers of the landmark, or hold, record, and publish the letters in a book to preserve them for the world to see. His recollection of the past mishandling and destruction of historical documents by supposed experts gives him pause, especially since there are so many boxes of the letters to consider. Mount Vernon could become dug up like a gold rush site and the letters would be wide open to abuse, loss, and theft.
John opts to protect the letters himself, which embroils him in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game to retrieve all the letters while under the intense scrutiny of the park’s security force, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, the police, and the FBI. He further decides to transcribe certain of the quill-penned letters from each box for easy readability. These samples demonstrate the love affair between Martha and George and provide a first-hand chronology of the bloody seven-year war.
John’s arrest for grand theft of the priceless documents and the ensuing trial brings us to the last act of the story, an intense courtroom battle ending in a shocking conclusion. A note from Martha in the first box makes the finder of her letters heir to their ownership. But the jury is left to decide John Mason’s fate.