George Washington served in the military for over forty years, from 1752 to 1799. He served in three different armed forces during the French and Indian War, the American Revolutionary War, and the Quasi-War with France under the British provincial militia, the Continental Army, and the United States Army. But did you know that he lost as many battles as he won?
George Washington lost as many battles as he won. Still, he was a master of the tactical retreat, accepting tactical defeats while working toward the strategic victory of defeating the British armies in the Thirteen Colonies.
George Washington and the American Revolution
By the late 1760s, Washington had seen firsthand the effects of rising British taxes on American colonists and had come to believe that declaring independence from England was in the colonists’ best interests.
In 1774, Washington was a delegate to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The American Revolution had begun in earnest by the time the Second Continental Congress convened a year later, and Washington was named commander in chief of the Continental Army.
Washington was a better general than a military strategist. His strength was not in his battlefield prowess but in his ability to keep the struggling colonial army together. His troops were poorly trained and were short on food, ammunition, and other supplies. Soldiers sometimes even went without shoes in winter.
Washington, on the other hand, was able to provide them with direction and motivation. His leadership at Valley Forge from the winter of 1777 to 1778 was a testament to his ability to inspire his men to keep going.
The colonial forces won few battles but consistently held their own against the British during the eight-year war. The Continental forces captured British troops under General Charles Cornwallis in the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, thanks to the assistance of the French, who sided with the colonists over their rivals, the British. The Revolutionary War ended effectively due to this action, and Washington was hailed as a national hero. (Source: History)
The Farmer President
With the signing of the Treaty of Paris between the United Kingdom and the United States in 1783, Washington relinquished command of the army. They returned to Mount Vernon, intent on resuming his life as a gentleman farmer and family man.
However, in 1787, he was asked to attend the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention and head the committee tasked with drafting the new constitution. His commanding presence there convinced the delegates that he was the best candidate to become the nation’s first president.
Washington resisted at first. He yearned to return to a quiet life at home and delegate authority over the new nation to others. But public opinion was so powerful that he eventually caved. On January 7, 1789, the first presidential election was held, and Washington easily won. John Adams, who received the second-most votes, was elected as the country’s first vice president.
On April 30, 1789, Washington, then 57, was inaugurated in New York City. He lived in New York and Philadelphia because Washington, DC, America’s future capital city, had not yet been built. During his presidency, he signed legislation establishing a future, permanent US capital along the Potomac River, later renamed Washington, DC, in his honor. (Source: History)
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