George Washington, the young man

Adam Griffin
   Staff Writer

George Washington was born on Feb. 22, 1732 at Pope’s Creek, Va. He was born to a middle-class Virginia planter family with older brothers who were educated in England.

Washington lost his father when he was only 12 years old, and the financial strain it placed on his family prevented him from going to college. His stunted education plagued him with feelings of inferiority throughout his adult life because of the superior education of those he associated with.

He was raised and educated by his strict and orderly mother, Mary Ball Washington. Washington’s first job was as a surveyor and he owed much of his first successes to the wealthy Virginia benefactor, William Fairfax.

When Washington’s older brother Lawrence died in 1752, he lost his best friend and father figure, but he inherited his future home on the Potomac, Mount Vernon, and with the winds of destiny in his sails, he set his course for the distant shore where he believed his father and brother to be waiting.

Surveying and aristocratic family connections brought Washington into circles of men who moved at the heights of Virginia society. It is from these connections that Washington embarked on the expeditions and adventures that first left his name on the pages of history.

Virginia’s Governor, Robert Dinwiddie, commissioned Washington to travel to the Ohio Valley with a letter to the French in the region, expressing England’s position on land claim disputes that had been erupting between the two nations in the colonies.

The expedition was treacherous, taking Washington and his companion, Christopher Gist, over dangerous terrain in tumultuous weather guided by Native Americans that teetered between friend and foe.

The diplomacy placed Washington in more than one sticky situation, and he engaged in discourse with both the French and Native Americans.

The diplomacy often involved liquor and gifts from the French attempting to sway the Native Americans, which angered Washington because it stalled his return to the Governor. The French had returned an unfavorable reply to Washington’s message, leaving him eager to return with the news as quickly as he could.

The return trip was even more hazardous than the journey into the Ohio Valley due to the excessive precipitation that included ice and snow.

Halfway back from the journey, the Native guide, who had been leading Washington and Gist, turned on them and made an attempt on Washington’s life at point blank range.

Miraculously he missed and was taken to the ground by Gist, who nearly took his life, before Washington stepped in and spared the life of his would-be assassin.

This incident showed a distinguishing trait of generosity and mercy in Washington’s character that would garner him great affection and popularity from the men over whom he would command.

Fearing that the Native American would return to follow after them with reinforcements, Washington and Gist traveled through the night for Williamsburg, Va. Arriving at a river that had been frozen over just so that it could not be sailed over or walked across, they were forced to venture on a raft through the icy waters.

During the struggle, Washington was thrown into the freezing river and nearly lost his life beneath the ice had Gist not pulled him from it and aided him in traveling the final distance into Williamsburg to deliver the message to the governor.

The incident that would follow was to be the event that would light the fuse of the French and Indian War as well as ignite the illustrious future of George Washington.

That incident saw Washington and a force of 150 colonials marching into the Ohio territory with a number of Native American allies. On their march, they encountered a French force and, expecting a fight, they chose to attack the French.

During the battle, the French were massacred and, in the confusion, they were trying to surrender and their leader was butchered and scalped by a Native American. The leader was the brother of the overall commander of French forces in the Ohio, and the brutal murder sparked a retaliation of vengeance that would light the French and Indian War.

Washington took his men and retreated to a makeshift fort that he had built and named Fort Necessity. The fortifications were weak, and the assault force of the French and their Native allies was overwhelming compared to their numbers.

The ultimate first battle of the French and Indian War ended in Washington’s surrender and his resignation of his commission.

It was a mixed start for the career of America’s Father, but as with most great men, they learn from their failures and come back stronger from their defeats.

The lesson of Washington’s life, or at least one of many, is to always learn from your mistakes.

As a general, president and leader, Washington rarely if ever made the same mistake twice, which made him an unpredictable factor for his enemies and able to survive in a time when survival for his cause looked nearly impossible.

Washington was only 21 years old during the events of this story. The early life of this man was distinguishing and foreshadowed the consequence that his existence would have on the course of history.

For most of us, as college students, we are the around the same age as Washington during the events of this story. Pondering the achievements of great men as young people should inspire in us a fire to pursue similar achievements in our own times. Washington was 21 when he made his name from this adventure.

Alexander the Great was 33 years old when he died, having conquered the known world. Jesus of Nazareth was 33 years old at his crucifixion after having spread his morality to enough people that his teachings would spread across the world and embrace more people than any other religion ever has. Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he penned the Declaration of Independence.

What will you or have you done in 21 years of living? What will you do for the world by the time you are 33 years old?

Categories: Columns, Opinions, Uncategorized

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