GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS ONE OF THE BEST STATESMAN IN AMERICAN HISTORYWAS BORN ON FEBRUARY 11-UNDER GREGORY CALENDAR HIS BIRTH DAY FELL DOWN FEB22,1731
The first child of Augustine Washington (1694–1743) and hissecond wife, Mary Ball Washington (1708–1789), George Washington was born on their Pope’s Creek Estate near present-day Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. According to the Julian calendar and Annunciation Style of enumerating years, then in use in the British Empire, Washington was born on February 11, 1731; according to the Gregorian calendar, implemented in the British Empire in 1752, according to the provisions of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, the date was February 22, 1732 Washington’s ancestors were from Sulgrave, England; his great-grandfather, John Washington, had immigrated to Virginia in 1657. George’s father Augustine was a slave-owning tobacco planter who later tried his hand in iron-mining ventures. In George’s youth, the Washingtons were moderately prosperous members of the Virginia gentry, of “middling rank” rather than one of the leading families.
Six of George’s siblings reached maturity, including two older half-brothers, Lawrence and Augustine, from his father’s first marriage to Jane Butler Washington and four full siblings, Samuel, Elizabeth (Betty), John Augustine and Charles. Three siblings died before becoming adults: his full sister Mildred died when she was about one, his half-brother Butler died while an infant, and his half-sister Jane died at the age of 12, when George was about 2. George’s father died when George was 11 years old, after which George’s half-brother Lawrence became a surrogate father and role model. William Fairfax, Lawrence’s father-in-law and cousin of Virginia’s largest landowner, Thomas, Lord Fairfax, was also a formative influence.
Washington spent much of his boyhood at Ferry Farm in Stafford County near Fredericksburg. Lawrence Washington inherited another family property from his father, a plantation on the Potomac River which he later named Mount Vernon. George inherited Ferry Farm upon his father’s death, and eventually acquired Mount Vernon after Lawrence’s death.
The death of his father prevented Washington from crossing the Atlantic to receive the rest of his education at England’s Appleby School, as his older brothers had done. He received the equivalent of an elementary school education from a variety of tutors, and also a school run by an Anglican clergyman in or near Fredericksburg. Talk of securing an appointment in the Royal Navy for him when he was 15 was dropped when his mother learned how hard that would be on him. Thanks to Lawrence’s connection to the powerful Fairfax family, at age 17 in 1749, Washington was appointed official surveyor for Culpeper County, a well-paid position which enabled him to purchase land in the Shenandoah Valley, the first of his many land acquisitions in western Virginia. Thanks also to Lawrence’s involvement in the Ohio Company, a land investment company funded by Virginia investors, and Lawrence’s position as commander of the Virginia militia, Washington came to the notice of the new lieutenant governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie. Washington was hard to miss: At exactly six feet, he towered over most of his contemporaries.
In 1751, Washington travelled to Barbados with Lawrence, who was suffering from tuberculosis, with the hope that the climate would be beneficial to Lawrence’s health. Washington contracted smallpox during the trip, which left his face slightly scarred, but immunized him against future exposures to the dreaded disease.Lawrence’s health did not improve; he returned to Mount Vernon, where he died in 1752. Lawrence’s position as Adjutant General (militia leader) of Virginia was divided into four offices after his death. Washington was appointed by Governor Dinwiddie as one of the four district adjutants in February 1753, with the rank of major in the Virginia militia. Washington also joined the Freemasons in Fredericksburg at this time.
French and Indian War (or ‘Seven Years War’, 1754–1758)
Main article: George Washington in the French and Indian War
See also: Military career of George Washington, Battle of Jumonville Glen, Battle of Fort Necessity, and Forbes Expedition
Washington’s map, accompanying his Journal to the Ohio (1753–1754)
In 1753, the French began expanding their military control into the “Ohio Country”, a territory also claimed by the British colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania. These competing claims led to a war in the colonies called the French and Indian War (1754–62), and contributed to the start of the global Seven Years’ War (1756–63). Washington was at the center of its beginning. The Ohio Company was one vehicle through which British investors planned to expand into the territory, opening new settlements and building trading posts for the Indian trade. Governor Dinwiddie received orders from the British government to warn the French of British claims, and sent Major Washington in late 1753 to deliver a letter informing the French of those claims and asking them to leave. Washington also met with Tanacharison (also called “Half-King”) and other Iroquois leaders allied to Virginia at Logstown to secure their support in case of conflict with the French; Washington and Tanacharison became friends and allies. Washington delivered the letter to the local French commander, who politely refused to leave.
Governor Dinwiddie sent Washington back to the Ohio Country to protect an Ohio Company group building a fort at present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but before he reached the area, a French force drove out the company’s crew and began construction of Fort Duquesne. A small detachment of French troops led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville, was discovered by Tanacharison and a few warriors east of present-day Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Along with their Mingo allies, Washington and some of his militia unit then ambushed the French. What exactly happened during and after the battle is a matter of some controversy, but the immediate outcome was that Jumonville was injured in the initial attack and then was killed – whether tomahawked by Tanacharison in cold blood or somehow shot by another onlooker with a musket as the injured man sat with Washington is not completely clear. The French responded by attacking and capturing Washington at Fort Necessity in July 1754. However, he was allowed to return with his troops to Virginia. Historian Joseph Ellis concludes that the episode demonstrated Washington’s bravery, initiative, inexperience and impetuosity. These events had international consequences; the French accused Washington of assassinating Jumonville, who they claimed was on a diplomatic mission. Both France and Great Britain were ready to fight for control of the region and both sent troops to North America in 1755; war was formally declared in 1756.
Braddock disaster 1755
In 1755, Washington was the senior American aide to British General Edward Braddock on the ill-fated Braddock expedition. This was the largest British expedition to the colonies, and was intended to expel the French from the Ohio Country. The French and their Indian allies ambushed Braddock, who was mortally wounded in the Battle of the Monongahela. After suffering devastating casualties, the British retreated in disarray; however, Washington rode back and forth across the battlefield, rallying the remnants of the British and Virginian forces to an organized retreat.
Commander of Virginia Regiment
Governor Dinwiddie rewarded 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” and gave him the task of defending Virginia’s frontier. The Virginia Regiment was the first full-time American military unit in the colonies (as opposed to part-time militias and the British regular units). Washington was ordered to “act defensively or offensively” as he thought best. In command of a thousand soldiers, Washington was a disciplinarian who emphasized training. He led his men in brutal campaigns against theIndians in the west; in 10 months units of his regiment fought 20 battles, and lost a third of its men. Washington’s strenuous efforts meant that Virginia’s frontier population suffered less than that of other colonies; Ellis concludes “it was his only unqualified success” in the war.
In 1758, Washington participated in the Forbes Expedition to capture Fort Duquesne. He was embarrassed by a friendly fire episode in which his unit and another British unit thought the other was the French enemy and opened fire, with 14 dead and 26 wounded in the mishap. Washington was not involved in any other major fighting on the expedition, and the British scored a major strategic victory, gaining control of the Ohio Valley, when the French abandoned the fort. Following the expedition, Washington retired from his Virginia Regiment commission in December 1758. He did not return to military life until the outbreak of the revolution in 1775.
On Thursday December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his farms on horseback, in snow, hail and freezing rain—later that evening eating his supper without changing from his wet clothes. Friday morning, he awoke with a severe sore throat (either quinsy or acute epiglottitis) and became increasingly hoarse as the day progressed. Sometime around 3 am that Saturday morning, he awoke his wife and said he felt ill. Following common medical practice at the time, he was bled; initially by an employee and later again by physicians. “A vein was opened, but no relief afforded. Couriers were dispatched to Dr. Craik, the family, and Drs. Dick and Brown, the consulting physicians, all of whom came with speed. The proper remedies were administered, but without producing their healing effects; while the patient, yielding to the anxious looks of all around him, waived his usual objections to medicines, and took those which were prescribed without hesitation or remark.” Washington died at home around 10 pm on Saturday December 14, 1799, aged 67. The last words in his diary were “‘Tis well.”
Throughout the world, men and women were saddened by Washington’s death. Napoleon ordered ten days of mourning throughout France; in the United States, thousands wore mourning clothes for months. To protect their privacy, Martha Washington burned the correspondence between her husband and herself following his death. Only a total of five letters between the couple are known to have survived, two letters from Martha to George and three from George to Martha.
On December 18, 1799, a funeral was held at Mount Vernon, where his body was interred. Congress passed a joint resolution to construct a marble monument in the United States Capitol for his body, supported by Martha. In December 1800, the United States House passed an appropriations bill for $200,000 to build the mausoleum, which was to be a pyramid that had a base 100 feet (30 m) square. Southern opposition to the plan defeated the measure because they felt it was best to have his body remain at Mount Vernon.
In 1831, for the centennial of his birth, a new tomb was constructed to receive his remains. That year, an attempt was made to steal the body of Washington, but proved to be unsuccessful. Despite this, a joint Congressional committee in early 1832 debated the removal of Washington’s body from Mount Vernon to a crypt in the Capitol, built by Charles Bulfinch in the 1820s. Yet again, Southern opposition proved very intense, antagonized by an ever-growing rift between North and South. Congressman Wiley Thompson of Georgia expressed the fear of Southerners when he said:
Remove the remains of our venerated Washington from their association with the remains of his consort and his ancestors, from Mount Vernon and from his native State, and deposit them in this capitol, and then let a severance of the Union occur, and behold the remains of Washington on a shore foreign to his native soil.