Founding Father George Washington

Founding Father George Washington

Founding Father: Let’s look more at our First President George Washington.

George Washington is most famously known as the first president of the United States of America – a position he held from 1789 to 1797. But before that, and maybe even more importantly, he was Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.

We say maybe more importantly because without George Washington first serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, the Thirteen Colonies would not have won their independence, and there would not have been the United States of America.

On July 4, 1776, the 13 Colonies declared they were free and independent states; the document that announced this was called the Declaration of Independence.

George Washington

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in the British colony of Virginia. His great-grandfather John Washington had left England for Virginia in 1656. His father was a judge in Virginia.

Washington studied land surveying and was a talented map-maker, receiving his surveyor’s license from the College of William and Mary when he was 17 years old. Washington’s half-brother Lawrence Washington served as a general in the Virginia colony arm, which inspired George.

He was appointed as a major and given command over one of the four districts in 1752. In October 1753, Washington was appointed as a special envoy – a messenger – to demand that French forces leave the land in Ohio that was claimed by the British.

  • Remember, Washington was on the side of the British at this time.

The French refused, and Washington returned to Virginia through difficult winter conditions. In February 1754, Washington was promoted to lieutenant colonel and second-in-command of the Virginia colony forces during the French and Indian War. He was ordered to face French forces in Ohio. On May 28, 1754, Washington attacked and killed a French force of 50 soldiers at the Battle of Jumonville Glen. Washington was promoted to commander of the Virginia forces but was defeated by a French force of 900 soldiers on July 3, 1754, at Fort Necessity.

After the defeat, a colonel took command of a Virginia and South Carolina force, offering Washington the position of captain. He refused and resigned from the Virginia forces. In 1755, Washington volunteered to serve as an aide to the general in a British force again sent to challenge the French.

This force was again defeated by the French, but Washington, under fire and very ill, saved many soldiers with a brave escape. His reputation was restored, and Washington was again appointed as commander of the Virginia forces in August 1755.

At the end of the French and Indian War, Washington left the Virginia forces with new knowledge of military tactics and leadership skills that prepared him to lead the Continental Army. After leaving the Virginia forces, Washington acquired much land and became one of the richest men in Virginia. As a military hero and large landowner, Washington was elected to represent Frederick County in Virginia’s House of Burgesses – the elected government of Virginia – in 1758. Washington argued against Britain’s taxation policies during his seven years in Virginia’s House of Burgesses.

  • He was opposed to taxation without representation – that colonies could be taxed by the British Parliament even though they were not represented in the Parliament.

Washington led protests against the Townshend Acts in 1767. In May 1769, he introduced a proposal for the people of Virginia to boycott British goods. Washington led calls for a Continental Congress – for the Thirteen Colonies to work together against the British – and was selected to represent Virginia at the First Continental Congress.

Upon hearing news of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Washington departed Virginia for the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The Continental Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775, and elected Washington as its commander-in-chief.

George Washington is most known for being the first president of the United States, but did you know that his military victories during the American Revolution helped him become president? He was a successful and well-respected military leader for the Continental Army.

Continental Army

American colonists’ army


British army

Leading the Continental Army during the American Revolution was not an easy job. The colonists were a very small army, while the Redcoats were a large and experienced group. The American colonists had a hard time staying organized and maintaining their supplies and food. It looked like the Redcoats were going to win the Revolutionary War, so George Washington thought long and hard about what they could do to turn the war around. He decided to plan an attack on a day that no one would expect – Christmas Day.

On that Christmas night in 1776, George Washington led his army by boat over the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to Trenton, New Jersey, where the Redcoats were camped. It was icy and extremely cold, but the Continental Army still sailed through the night. The Redcoats were so surprised to see them the next morning that the colonists were able to easily capture the city. George Washington’s idea was a huge success, and the Continental Army soon began to take control of the war.

The United States of America was formed when the colonists won the American Revolution in 1783. It was then that George Washington, due in part to his popularity from his military achievements, became the first president. He set up much of how the American government is still run today. The American people wanted him to serve many years as president, but George Washington knew that it was important for other people to take a turn leading the country and bringing in fresh ideas. He didn’t want one person to serve as president for too long and become just like King George III, who they’d just escaped.

Let’s Reflect

  • On what day did George Washington lead the Continental Army across the Delaware River?
  • Why did George Washington not keep serving as president, even though everyone wanted him to?