George Washington never does chop down a cherry tree only to proclaim to his father he could not tell a lie nor throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River. In fact, he was a mortal man serving as an officer and a statesmen, during the creation of an historic new nation unlike any other the world had ever seen where the ideal of liberty and freedom for all is a radical concept in a world of dictatorial monarchies. Born the second son, therefore without inheritance, of Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball outside Fredericksburg, Virginia on February 22, 1732. Washington was big for his day, athletic for someone of his size, and was a skilled horseman. He ended his formal education after primary school, not attending college but instead opting for a military career. Washington begins his apprenticeship as a surveyor of unsettled lands west of the Allegheny Mountains before he petitions Governor Dinwiddie to serve under British General Edward Braddock who has been sent to put down the insurrection of French military streaming south from Canada. The colonists were mostly loyal to the English crown and sought protection from French and Indian hostilities.
Washington is present for the opening salvos in what would be termed the French and Indian Wars leading to the British effectively defeating France and the Indian alliance known as the Six Nations.
Washington finds time to further his financial prospects by marrying wealthy, widowed Martha Custis. He inherits the family homestead called Mount Vernon on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia. The 13 colonies continue to grow but are irritated by the increase in tariffs placed on imported and exported good as well as interference in colonial matters by Britain. Matters get out of hand as a citizens and militia in Massachusetts dump British tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of the recently enacted tea tax in 1775. Events are set in motion, independence is declared and Washington is called upon as the colonies most experienced military officer to lead 16,000 colonial militia and newly formed troops against superior trained British regulars outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
“His Excellency,” is the name Washington is addressed as by his officers and men. He is unsuccessful in his initial strategy for the War of Independence, losing almost every engagement fought against the British and their Prussian allies. Washington's courage and valor are never in question as he sits atop his horse in the face of musket balls and grapeshot from enemy fire. He serves throughout the entire war unharmed by bullet, blade, or bomb, seemingly lucky or perhaps protected by divine providence. The colonists are joined by France and win a critical battle at Saratoga, New York. Overall 8 long years would pass and the Continental Army would suffer from disease (smallpox), lack of supplies, low morale, and no pay before finally striking the winning blow at Yorktown, Virginia against General Cornwallis. Washington, weary and much aged from the years of battles and deprivation, “retired” to his landholdings and slave labor estates. He grapples with the concept of slavery in a nation that has fought for freedom for all men. Washington would have to put his feelings aside as he is called out of his role of gentleman farmer to preside over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Despite his previous withdrawal from public life Washington accepts the Presidency when elected and cements his legacy as the “father of our country.”
This report prepared by David Fletcher