America’s “pugnacious fighting man,” as dashingly portrayed by English historian Brumwell (Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe, 2008, etc.).
The author concentrates on Washington’s martial experience during the 1750s alongside Gen. Edward Braddock and other British fighting the French. During this time, he honed his noble reputation as a patriot leader. Denied a gentleman’s education by the untimely death of his Virginia planter father in 1743, young George applied his mathematical talents to learning the trade of land surveying for a lucrative career, as well as a chance to apply his fascination with the wilds of the North American interior. With the French encroaching into Virginia territory in the 1750s, Washington volunteered his services as emissary in the “escalating imperial rivalry,” publishing a journal of his arduous journey into Ohio Country in 1754, bringing him fame at age 22. From colonel of the Virginia Regiment to aide-de-camp for Braddock, Washington cut his military teeth on the British military hierarchy, adopting an exemplary code of order and discipline that he would later apply to his ragged American recruits. Enduring French and Indian “terror tactics” and debilitating dysentery, he made a name as an intrepid and adaptive leader (for example, he clothed his men “after the Indian fashion” for one campaign), while revealing already by 1757 in his letters a sense of resentment against what he perceived as “a deliberate policy of discrimination against colonials.” The hard reality of fighting in frontier warfare dispelled notions of old-world gallantry and created the hardened soldier Washington became rather more characteristically than the gentleman farmer he fashioned himself (and was often portrayed) later on. Brumwell’s subsequent tracking of Washington through the battles of the Revolutionary War seem almost anticlimactic in comparison to the dynamic early annals of this heroic man.
The First Father waves from his high horse with this felicitous new assessment of his derring-do.