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The French and Indian War
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George Washington started in the British Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in a Virginia militia company. As was customary at the time among the families of the several-generation- in-Virginia set, his family probably purchased his commission and helped raise his troop. Since he started life as a surveyor, his family had probably come up in life, socially.
The British Army at the time had the reputation as a killing machine, so it was not too much of a stretch to suppose the Brits were fairly open (and merciless) about their contempt for the colonials, and the colonials were probably fairly sullen about it. In any event, when Robert Dinwiddie the Governor of Virginia dispatched Washington's troops to Ohio to tell the French to stay clear of Virginia's land claims (with private instructions to kill them if you must), Washington undoubtedly saw this as an opportunity to advance his military career. Then, or possibly when he watched the Virginia troops stand while British under Braddock ran for their lives, he developed a new view of their relative merits, perhaps a new view of the advantages of guerrilla warfare fighting against regular troops, trained to a different sort of war. Or a little of both. Washington was tall, well-dressed and aristocratic, but was not a deep thinker. There is, of course, an alternative story. It blames the death of the French Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville on the Iroquis leader Tanaghrison, or his two chief warriors, Kankusky or Tar Heels. According to this version, these Indians were traitors to the French who had stolen Indian lands in Ohio. This story has it these two got away with it, in the heat of battle.
In any event, a decade later the tall Virginia gentleman presented himself as an aristocratic rebel soldier from by far the largest colony, who badly wanted the job. John Adams grabbed him when the choice for defending Boston was his. It perhaps proved to be a good choice for the wrong reasons.
Originally published: Friday, June 12, 2020; most-recently modified: Wednesday, September 30, 2020