George Washington Biography
French and Indian War
As a young man, George Washington had been impressive enough to come to the attention of the royal governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie. Through Governor Dinwiddie, Washington became a major in the Virginia militia in charge of the Northern Neck district of Virginia. Around the time Washington joined the militia, the British and the French began to have issues over the ownership of land in the Ohio Valley. The Ohio Valley was a vast area of land to the west of the Appalachian Mountains. These arguments were the beginning of a war that would later become known as the French and Indian War in the Americas and the Seven Years' War throughout the world.
The First Mission
In 1753, the French began building forts throughout the Ohio Valley. This alarmed the British, especially the many wealthy British colonists who had invested in land in the Ohio Valley. Governor Dinwiddie decided that he needed to demand that the French leave the Ohio Valley as it belonged to the British. He also wanted to get information on the French fortifications and troops in the region.
Dinwiddie appointed young George Washington to lead the expedition into the Ohio Valley. Washington would present the French leaders with a letter ordering them to abandon their forts and leave the area. Washington was also tasked with discovering the size of the French forces and to begin talks for potential alliances against the French with local Native American tribes. Washington was to be both an emissary and a spy. Although he was a young and inexperienced soldier, Washington's previous experience surveying the land of the Ohio Valley would help him with his travels and in his discussions with the Native Americans.
Washington put together a small team of six men for his expedition. He brought along translators as well as experienced woodsmen and trackers. During his journey west, Washington met with a Seneca tribe chief named "half-king" and discussed allying with the British. After weeks of hiking through the wilderness, the expedition reached the French at Fort Le Boeuf. He presented them with the letter from Governor Dinwiddie and received a letter in response in which the French laid claim to the Ohio Valley.
Washington was treated well by the French during his visit. He accomplished his goal and returned to Dinwiddie with information on the French forts, outposts, and troops. He also gained minor fame when he published his memoir of the journey in a pamphlet titled The Journal of Major George Washington.
Ambush and Surrender
Washington's second expedition into the Ohio Valley wasn't nearly as successful as his first and is probably the low point of his military career. In the Spring of 1754, Washington gathered around 160 men and traveled back to the Ohio Valley to begin building a British fort. When the French got news of Washington's arrival, they sent a small contingent of soldiers led by Joseph Jumonville to order Washington out of French territory. Washington took some of his men and, together with his ally Half-king snuck up on the French. He ordered his men to fire. Many of the French were killed, along with Jumonville. The French claimed that Jumonville and his men were emissaries, not an attack force, and should have been treated as such. Washington claimed otherwise, but still his character came into question over the incident.
After defeating the small French force, Washington knew that the French would retaliate. He immediately began the construction of a small fort he named Fort Necessity. Unfortunately, he chose poor ground for the fort and when the French arrived his men were easy target practice for French muskets. After losing around 40 men, Washington agreed to surrender. Even though the French and British would not officially declare war until 1756, historians often cite Washington's skirmishes in the Ohio Valley as the start of the French and Indian War.
George Washington Biography Contents
- Overview and Interesting Facts
- Growing Up George Washington
- French and Indian War
- Fort Duquesne
- Married Life and Mount Vernon
- The American Revolution Begins
- Commander in Chief
- Crossing the Delaware
- 1777 and Valley Forge
- Victory in the American Revolution
- End of the War, King Washington, and the Constitutional Convention
- First President of the United States
- The Presidency
- Leaving the Presidency, Retirement, and Death
- George Washington Quotes and Bibliography