( A personal note to my readers: I’m beginning to sense that I’m approaching an end to my ongoing research concerning our first President, at least for now.. Maybe one or two more posts, though. It might be time to switch gears soon.)
Today we’re going to re-visit some of the events leading up to George Washington’s involvement in the French & Indian War, and his ultimate leadership of our nation. From our vantage point in a forest in the Ohio wilderness, where young Washington and his men were triumphantly ambushing French troops, we can look back down the timeline and see that, by degrees, George was brought to that place deliberately, and he had, as well, been prepared for it.
As a young boy, George taught himself the science of surveying, using equipment he found in a chest at their Ferry Farm home. The skills he acquired came to the attention of his half-brother’s father-in-law, William Fairfax. Fairfax served as land agent over a vast royal land grant. He realized he could put George’s surveying abilities to good use. Thus, George Washington’s first adventure in the Ohio wilderness. And adventure it was, at one point trekking through the snowy woods on foot for a week, his raft capsizing into brutal, icy waters, and coming face-to-face with Indian warriors carrying FRESH scalps! (Minus the Indians, don’t you find this incident reminiscent of Valley Forge, by the way?) This surveying venture provided Washington with several years of experience in charting and traversing this part of the country.
His second wilderness experience presented itself in the form of an ambassadorial mission, in which Washington attempted to mediate the Ohio Valley land dispute between Britain and France. (See previous post.) About a half million acres had already been claimed by Britain’s Ohio Company, and George II ordered the construction of a fort to provide a means of patrolling and protecting the area from French occupation. Washington was to scout out a favorable location for the fort, as well as try to persuade the French army to leave. (The location chosen by Washington for this fort, incidentally, is present-day Pittsburgh.) [Washington’s God, Michael Novak and Jana Novak]
During this excursion, Washington had to continue to develop, hone, and exercise diplomatic skills (with the Indians as well as the French!) and intelligence-gathering acumen. He and his Indian interpreter, Christopher Gist, narrowly avoided a possible fatality in a skirmish with an ill-chosen Indian guide on the return trip to Virginia. Another raft-capsizing incident into icy waters and finally, back home to Williamsburg!
(So, is anybody getting the’Escalation’ part of my title here? Yet? Please?)
The final Ohio Valley wilderness situation falls under the heading ‘Last but not Least!’ Here George Washington got his first taste of battle. Could he ever have imagined what this foreshadowed? (Possibly you cannot even begin to know what God has for your future, either. And while I’m certainly hoping it does not involve battle and bloodshed, should there be difficult times ahead for you, there may be great reward as well.)
Just a few short months after he returned home, in April 1754 George was ‘back on the road again’. His report of French activity in the area had prompted England to take action. Washington was appointed lieutenant colonel. Having recruited about 150 men, he and they headed back to the location he’d chosen as a base, which by now had been fortified to some degree. En route to their destination, Washington and his men were met by the retreating troops from the fort. The French had arrived, and taken over.
Now it was war.
Against orders, (I repeat, against orders! ) Washington went on the offensive. He created a makeshift ‘base’, rendezvoused with the Indians, then ambushed and attacked French forces nearby, in the surrounding forest. (This is the ‘Bull-Headed Defiance’ part, in case you’re not getting it…) Though it was an easy victory, future historians would label these actions as the first blood drawn in the French & Indian War [James Thomas Flexner, Forge of Experience], and the result of Washington’s maverick decision was the alienation of most of his Indian allies and fierce French retaliation, later forcing Washington’s surrender.
My personal observation, regarding the ‘against orders’ behavior, is that a leader needs to be able to make ultimate, executive decisions at times. At times, the buck stops with him. He needs to be able to think on his feet, and take action. So…while not exactly advocating anarchy or insubordination, I have to cast my vote in favor of Washington’s flaunting of authority. Sometimes ya have to go against the grain. And, again, could he have had any idea at all what his going against established rule foreshadowed? He could not have possibly known that one day, he, General George Washington, would be commanding the forces of an entire country in revolutionary war against this very same established rule.
So we see an escalation of preparatory experiences leading Washington along the path to his destiny.
Please return for the “Throwing in the Towel” conclusion, coming soon. As always, thank you for stopping by.