GEORGE WASHINGTON’S FIRST WAR – His Early Military Adventures
Roseburg, OR –-(Ammoland.com)- Thick, stinking gunsmoke spreading through a dark forest.
The thump of cannons, the rattle of musketry. Shouts of officers, war whoops of Indians, screams of injured men and horses.
Blood pooling on the ground. Men stampeding to the rear in panic, leaving behind hundreds of their fellows dead or dying, awaiting the scalping knives and tomahawks. Then quiet, except for the whine of blowflies and the growls of hungry wolves. One officer still upright, his coat shredded, on his third horse of the day, riding into the darkness to bring relief to the shattered corps, and to organize a retreat.
That officer was George Washington, twenty-three years old, more boy than man. He emerged from disgrace to become the “Hero of the Monongahela,” Braddock’s Defeat, one of the worst disasters ever to befall British arms.
It is one of the dramatic incidents recounted in vivid detail by David A. Clary in GEORGE WASHINGTON’S FIRST WAR: His Early Military Adventures (January 11, 2011; $27.00).
Washington, says military historian Clary, was “not born a great man. He became one during a long life of learning from trial and error—especially error.” Washington spent his adolescence in military service, starting as a colonel in command at the age of twenty-two. He came from a society without a military tradition, and had neither training nor battle-wise sergeants to keep him out of trouble. He was a young glory hound thrust into circumstances he was not prepared to handle, by elders who should have known better. Accordingly, Clary observes, “Washington survived a five-year ordeal unlike that endured by any other Founding Father. He emerged from it not yet the steady supreme commander of the Revolution, but he had started on the road that led him to become the great soldier and statesman of his age.”
Neither Honor nor Glory
Washington’s adventures began with an epic trek into a howling wilderness late in 1753, when he was twenty-one years old. He carried a message from the governor of Virginia to the French commandant in the Ohio Country, ordering him to leave the territory, although he was not trained as a diplomat. The next year, having no military training either, he received command of Virginia’s troops aiming to enforce the province’s claim to Ohio. This ended in disaster. Washington’s party attacked a French diplomatic mission and massacred the wounded. Vengeful French and Indians ran his little corps down and nearly wiped it out before he surrendered. So began the French and Indian War (in Europe, the Seven Years War), a global conflict that Washington is blamed for starting.
Facing demotion in the aftermath, Washington resigned his commission, then in 1755 attached himself as a volunteer to General Edward Braddock, leading a new expedition against the French on the Ohio. This ended with the Battle of the Monongahela. Washington emerged from that disaster as a hero, earning him command of all Virginia forces. He spent the next two and one-half years dreaming of winning honor and glory at the head of an army, but confined to life as that army’s chief bureaucrat, begging for material support from his government while his starving men deserted in mobs. He at last took the field in 1758 in a new campaign commanded by a British general, but earned neither honor nor glory.
Struggling to Become a Man
Washington’s early military adventures occurred while he struggled through his long adjustment from boyhood to manhood. He was self-focused, uneasy about his responsibilities, anxious about what others thought of him, and inclined to shade the truth—hardly the qualities of a good leader. Feeling isolated and frustrated, he lashed out against his superiors, both civilian and military. But Washington’s behavior was understandable for someone at his stage of life, Clary maintains. “He was not incompetent, just young, a boy struggling to become a man, carrying responsibilities that should not have been placed on someone so young.”
Based on thorough research, and told in vivid language, with harrowing accounts of battles and bitter personal conflicts, George Washington’s First War is a revealing portrait of Washington during a crucial, formative period of his life. It is the indispensable back story to the making of a great man.
“A sharp, warts-and-all portrait of the soldier as a young man.” – Kirkus Reviews
“David Clary has written a wonderful book on George Washington before he became an American icon. In lucid and gripping prose, Clary chronicles Colonel Washington in the French and Indian War, showing his glory-seeking imprudence and numerous—and sometimes monumental—errors. But Clary also demonstrates how young Colonel Washington learned from his mistakes, so that he was better prepared for the challenges he faced during the Revolutionary War. This not only is one of the better books on the French and Indian War, it is perhaps the best book on George Washington during that war.” – John Ferling, author of The Ascent of George Washington
“In the 1750s the Ohio Valley was as strange as Afghanistan. George Washington’s First War shows the confusion and cross-purposes of a world war waged on the frontier, and the steep learning curve of a twenty-something who would become (but was not yet) our first great warrior.” – Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father
“Clary’s portrait of the young George Washington is a revelation, offering incredible insights into the great Virginian as military thinker. A marvelous historical accomplishment. Highly recommended!” – Douglas Brinkley, author of TheWilderness Warrior
“With drama and insight, David Clary lays out the suspenseful coming-of-age tale of George Washington’s determined march from callow youth to eventual glory.” – A. J. Langguth, author of Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution
“David A. Clary has produced a well-written and well-informed portrait of a young and untried George Washington struggling against enormous challenges to come of age both as a soldier and a man. Washington emerges from his first war not yet the leader he will become, but watching him mature during these early years helps us understand and appreciate him all the more. Clary brings great insight and perspective to this frequently overlooked but formative period of Washington’s life.” – Walter R. Borneman, author of The French and Indian War
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
David A. Clary is the author of ten previous books, including Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship That Saved the Revolution, and Eagles and Empire: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle for a Continent. The former chief historian of the U. S. Forest Service, he lives in New Mexico.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
GEORGE WASHINGTON’S FIRST WAR: His Early Military Adventures
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