If George Washington helped to shape America, what shaped George Washington? Historian Edward Lengel explores Washington’s early history: the events that defined him and ultimately made him America’s “indispensable man.”
#georgewashington #ushistory #foundingfathers
SUBSCRIBE 👉 https://www.prageru.com/join
When the American colonies went to war in 1775 against Great Britain, the greatest military power on earth, they did it without an army.
There were local militias here and there, but no army in any organized sense.
But… the Americans did have a general.
His name, of course, was George Washington.
What possessed this man, a prosperous Virginia farmer, to take on such a dangerous, seemingly hopeless mission?
Washington fervently believed in the cause of independence.
He was willing to risk everything to make this ambition a reality.
And, he believed there was a chance America could win.
He believed it because, ironically, he had fought for the British. He knew their strengths — certainly—but he also knew their weaknesses.
Washington’s “education” began in 1753 at the tender age of 21.
Ambitious for a military life, Washington volunteered to deliver an ultimatum from the royal governor of Virginia to the commander of the French forces in the Ohio River Valley. The ultimatum said this to the French: This is our colonial territory not yours. Vacate or face the consequences.
Although military command was completely new to him, Washington already displayed the intangibles of leadership: decisiveness, the ability to stay calm under pressure, and physical courage. What he lacked in sound judgment—he was 21—he made up in sheer determination. He endured extreme hardships without complaint; facing near-death experiences without flinching. Almost freezing to death and nearly drowning in an icy river were only two examples. That the French commander scoffed at the Virginia governor’s demands was disappointing, but that wasn’t Washington’s fault.
The following year, 1754, Washington was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Virginia Regiment and was once again sent to the frontier to engage the French.
When Washington, near what is now Pittsburgh, became convinced that the French were preparing to ambush him, he decided to make a preemptive attack.
In the ensuing battle a French officer, Ensign Jumonville, and nine of his men were killed.
The French didn’t take it well. They sent a force to track Washington down. Washington decided to make his stand at a small, hastily built enclosure he dubbed Fort Necessity. It should have been his last stand. In a driving rain, the French surrounded the fort and opened fire. One hundred of Washington’s men were either killed or wounded before he finally surrendered. The terms of surrender were written, of course, in French which Washington didn’t understand. To his great dismay, he later learned that in signing the document he had admitted to ordering the “assassination” of Jumonville.
The French later used this “admission” to justify their claim that it was the British who started what became known as the Seven Years War in Europe, or the French and Indian War in the colonies. In the words of English writer and politician Sir Horace Walpole, “The volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire.”
This was the first time Washington’s name was heard in the courts of Europe. It would not, of course, be the last.
In 1755, Washington was attached to British forces led by General Edward Braddock. The British were determined to drive the French out of North America. Washington supported this ambition but was appalled by the execution.
Braddock’s plan failed to account for the fighting prowess of the French and especially the Indians and especially in dense forest wilderness. When the French and Indians attacked in what became known as the Battle of the Monongahela, the British literally didn’t know what hit them. The enemy seemed to be firing from behind every tree. The bloodshed was appalling. Braddock paid the ultimate price. He was killed, along with 456 of his men.
Washington, who had two horses shot out from under him and had four bullets pierce his clothes and hat, took charge of the remnants of the British army. His ability to stay cool under fire became the stuff of instant legend.
Washington was now a combat veteran. The Braddock disaster seared into his mind the gravity of war. He would forever carry this with him. It shaped his military strategy. He would never sacrifice his men needlessly.
For the full script, visit: https://www.prageru.com/video/george-washington-a-general-without-an-army