(February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was
the main military and political leader of
the new United States of America from 1775
Leading the American
victory over Great Britain as leader of the
Continental Army in the American Revolution.
He presided over the
writing of the Constitution in 1787, and he
was unanimously elected as the first
President of the United States from
As President he created
forms of government that have stood the test
of time. Two examples are the cabinet system
and the inaugural address.
Acclaimed as "Father of
his country", Washington with Abraham
Lincoln are icons of republican values.
These include self sacrifice for the nation,
American nationalism and the ideal of civic
and military leadership working together.
Washington was born in 1732 in Virginia,
Westmoreland County. He became a senior
officer of the colonial forces, 1754–58, at
the start of the French-Indian War at very
Washington gained much military
experience along with leadership of the
Patriot cause in Virginia developing a
political base. This enabled him to become
the commander-in-chief of the Continental
Army to fight the British in the American
Revolution in 1775.
In 1776 he forced the British out of
Boston but lost New York City being himself
nearly captured. Crossing the Delaware River
he won two battles against the British
regaining New Jersey.
Because of his leadership Revolutionary
forces captured British armies at Saratoga
in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781. After victory
in 1783, Washington resigned and returned to
his plantation at Mount Vernon.
In 1787 Washington oversaw the
Constitutional Convention that drafted the
United States Constitution because of his
frustration with the Articles of
Confederation that had impeded the war
Washington was elected first President of
the United States in 1789. As first
President he set the foundations for the way
the office is run today. In 1797 after his
second term Washington chose not to run
again and passed away two years later.
At his death Washington was acclaimed as
"first in war, first in peace, and first in
the hearts of his countrymen". Historians
invariably rank him as one of the top three
George Washington, the first child of
Augustine Washington (1694–1743) and his
second wife, Mary Ball Washington
(1708–1789), was born on their Pope's Creek
Estate near present-day Colonial Beach in
Westmoreland County, Virginia.
Washington was born on February 22, 1732.
Washington's ancestors were from Sulgrave,
England; his great-grandfather, John
Washington, immigrated to Virginia in 1657.
George's father Augustine was a slave-owner
tobacco planter who later tried his hand in
In George's youth, the Washington's were
relatively well off members of the middle
Washington was the eldest from his father's second marriage to Mary Ball
Six of his siblings survived childhood including two older half-brothers from
his father's first marriage to Jane Butler Washington and four full-siblings,
Samuel, Elizabeth(Betty), John Augustine and Charles.
George's father died when he was 11 years old, after this George's
half-brother Lawrence became his surrogate father and mentor.
William Fairfax, Lawrence's father-in-law and cousin of Virginia's largest
landowner, Lord Fairfax, was also a important character.
Washington spent much of his boyhood at Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg in
Stafford County. Lawrence Washington inherited another family property from his
father, a plantation on the Potomac River which he later called Mount Vernon.
George inherited Ferry Farm upon his father's death and eventually gained Mount
Vernon after Lawrence's death.
Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia, where Washington spent much of his childhood
Washington was to be educated
in England at Appleby school but this did not
happen because of his father dying. His older
brothers previously had done so. From the age of
15 he went to school in Fredericksburg
There was a suggestion he go into the Royal Navy
but his mother was concerned about its harsh
regime. Washington would always be embarrassed
in later life due to his lack of a college
Washington's older brother had connections to
the influential Fairfax family and at 17 George
was appointed official surveyor for Culpeper
County in 1749. This was well paid and
Washington was able to buy land in the
Shenandoah Valley, the first of his many land
purchases in Virginia.
Also thanks to Lawrence, George came to the
notice of the new lieutenant governor of
Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie.
Washington travelled to Barbados with
Lawrence in 1751. Lawrence contracted
tuberculosis and hoped the climate would give
him some relief from the illness.
Washington developed smallpox during the trip
which gave him slight scarring on the the face.
Lawrence's health got worse and after
returning to Mount Vernon he died in 1752.
Lawrence's position as Adjutant General of
Virginia was divided into four offices after he
Washington became one of the four district
adjutants in 1753 after being appointed by
Governor Dinwiddie. He was given rank of major
in the Virginia militia. Washington became a
member of the Freemasons in Fredericksburg at
the same time.
French and Indian War (Seven Years War) (1754–1758)
The French began enlarging military control
over "Ohio Country" in 1753. The British
colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania also
contested this area.
This led to a world war 1756–63 (called the
French and Indian War in the colonies, the Seven
Years' War in Europe). Washington was at the
heart of its happening.
The Ohio Company was an entity that British
investors planned to expand into the area with
new settlements and trading posts for Indian
Governor Dinwiddie was told by the British to
warn the French of British claims. Major
Washington was sent in 1753 to deliver a letter
telling the French of these claims and asked
them to leave.
Washington met with Tanacharison (also called
"Half-King") and other Iroquois Indian leaders
allied to Virginia to get support in case of
hostilities. Washington and Half-King becoming
friends and allies. Washington delivered the
letter to the local French who politely refused
Governor Dinwiddie sent Washington back to the Ohio Country to
protect an Ohio Company group building a fort at present-day
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Before he reached the area, a French force
drove out the company's crew and began construction of Fort
With Mingo allies led by Tanacharison, Washington and some of his
militia unit surprised a French scouting party of some 30 men, led
by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville; Jumonville was killed. The French
responded by attacking and capturing Washington
at Fort Necessity in July 1754. He was allowed
to return with his troops to Virginia. The
episode demonstrated Washington's heroism
initiative, inexperience and impetuosity.
These events had worldwide outcomes, the French accused Washington
of assassinating Jumonville, who they asserted was on a diplomatic
mission similar to Washington's 1753 mission. Both France and
Britain reacted by sending troops to North America in 1755, although
war was not formally claimed until 1756.
Braddock disaster 1755
In 1755, Washington was the senior American
aide to British General Edward Braddock on the
ill-fated Monongahela expedition in 1755. This
was the largest British expedition to the
colonies, and was intended to expel the French
from Ohio Country.
The French and their Indian allies ambushed
Braddock, who was killed at the Battle of the
Monongahela. After suffering heavy losses the
British retreated in disarray but Washington
rallied the remnants of the British and
Virginian forces to an organized withdrawal.
Commander of Virginia Regiment
Governor Dinwiddie honoured Washington in
1755 with a commission as "Colonel of the
Virginia Regiment and Commander in Chief of all
forces now raised in the defense of His
Majesty's Colony". Putting him in charge of
securing Virginia's borders.
The Virginia Regiment was the first full-time
American army unit in the colonies (as opposed
to part-time militias and the British regular
units). Washington was ordered to "act
defensively or offensively". In command of a
thousand soldiers, he was strong on discipline
He led his men in harsh campaigns against the
Indians in the west; in 10 months, his regiment
fought 20 battles, and lost a third of his men.
Washington's vigorous efforts meant that
Virginia's frontier people suffered less than
other colonies; Ellis concludes "it was his only
unqualified success" in that war.
Washington took part in the Forbes expedition
to capture Fort Duquesne in 1758.
He was embarrassed by a friendly fire
incident in which his unit and a British unit
thought the other were the French. The death
toll was 14 dead and 26 wounded.
In the end there was no proper fighting. The
French left the fort, the British gained a major
success gaining control of the Ohio Valley.
Washington retired from his Virginia Regiment
commission in 1758, not returning to military
life until the start of the revolution in 1775.
Although Washington never gained the
commission in the British army he desired, in
these years the young man gained valuable
military, political, and leadership skills. He
closely watched British military tactics,
gaining a powerful insight into their strengths
and weaknesses that proved handy during the
Revolution. He displayed his strength and
fortitude in the most difficult situations,
including misfortunes and retreats. He developed
a command bearing his size, strength, stamina,
and bravery in combat. He appeared to soldiers
to be a natural leader, and they followed him
Washington learned to organize, train, drill,
and control his companies and regiments. From
his observations, readings and conversations
with professional officers, he learned the
basics battlefield tactics, with a good
understanding of organization and logistics. He
gained a knowledge of overall tactics,
especially in locating strategic geographical
He was frustrated with dealing with
government and began to believe in more
executive power that could act and get things
His belief in the militia also began to wane
believing it was unreliable with no proper
discipline and that a regular army would have
more substance and a better long term future.