The “father of his country,” George Washington was born in rural Virginia. From an early age, he yearned to distinguish him¬ self in the British military service.
His older half-brother, Lawrence Washington, served with the British-American expedition against Cartagena (1742) and named the family plan¬ tation Mount Vernon in honor of British admiral Edward Vernon.
George Washington became the adjutant of the Virginia colonial militia in 1752. He led Virginian troops in the ambush of the French ensign Jumonville that touched off the French and Indian War of 1754.
The ambitious young British-American served as aide- de-camp to Britain’s General Braddock (1755) and then worked to guard the Virginia frontier against Indian raids .^tl(1755-1758).
The start of the Revolutionary War altered his life forev¬ er. Washington was named commander- in-chief of the IP Continental Army in 1775 because he had more military experience than anyone in the colonies.
The former British subject became a true American and went to Boston to assume command of the new army in July of that year. He would return to Mount Vernon only once during the entire course of the war.
Washington sent Colonel Henry Knox on a mission to take cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Massachusetts. Using this artillery, Washington forced the British to evacuate Boston in March 1776.
In December 1776, Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the Hessians (German mercenaries paid by the British) at Trenton. He proceeded to win again at Princeton in 1777, saving the colo¬ nial cause. He trained the amateur colonial forces well and shaped them into a disciplined army.
Washington endured notable losses at Brandywine and Germantown (both in 1777) and a frustrating draw Battle at Monmouth in 1778. During the latter, Washington’s presence prevented a rout.
Seeing the manner in which Washington con¬ ducted himself on the field that day, his French ally Marquis de Lafayette declared he had never beheld so splendid a man.
Washington’s tenacity and firmness of purpose enabled the Continental Army to weather the harsh win¬ ters at Valley Forge and Morristown, and even to survive the defec¬ tion of Commander Benedict Arnold to the British in 1780. The American com- mander-in-chief expe¬ rienced great satisfac¬ tion when the American and French armies, supported by the French navy, boxed in General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown and com¬ pelled him to surrender.
Washington resigned as commander-in- chief in 1783. He retired briefly to Mount Vernon, but was soon elected the first presi¬ dent of the United States. He served two terms, from 1789 to 1797. At the time of his death in 1799, he was perhaps the man most admired in Europe and America. He pos¬ sessed a rare combination of personal self-con¬ trol, military audacity, and diplomatic finesse.