George Washington Foundation Logo

The French and Indian War

For years, French soldiers had been making their way down the Ohio River from Canada, building forts and making allies among the Native Americans. Between the French and the Indians, the English backwoodsman and settlers were being pushed back toward the larger settlements. In 1753, the governor selected Major Washington for a mission to deliver a message to the French commander. Washington was to return with an answer from the French commander and with a report of the situation such as the location of forts and the strength of the French armies. The letter asked the French to leave the settlers of Virginia in peace. Taking only a few men, Washington set off into the wilderness on October 3, 1753. On his way, Washington met an Indian chieftain named Halfking and they became friends. Along with some of his friends, Halfking led George Washington and his men to a French fortress on some of their hidden paths. During his journey, Washington had faced many dangers including hostile natives and almost drowning in an icy river. On January 16, 1754, Washington returned to Governor Dinwiddie the important reply and a very thorough report which included a map of the areas over which Washington had traveled. over. When he returned Washington was promoted to lieutenant colonel. The reply from the French was not good news. The French wanted to take part of Virginia. The governor gave Lieutenant Colonel Washington command over several hundreds of soldiers and sent him back to keep the French out of their colony. Washington fought the French and the Indians for four years. During the four years, Washington distinguished himself as a solider and an officer .

Washington fought in the first battle of the French and Indian war. In the summer of 1754, the Governor of Virginia sent 21-year-old Major Washington to the region near Fort Duquesne with another message. This time the message was for the French to leave. The French refused and Washington returned with a small militia. Washington met with defeat and built a fort a few miles away. The fort, Fort Necessity, was not yet completed and did not have enough supplies when it was attacked by the French on July 3rd. Major Washington's men were cold and hungry and not able to fight very well. By the end of the day, a third of the Virginians were killed or wounded. Washington was forced to surrender. One of the greatest advantages the French had over the English soldiers was the way they fought. The English soldiers wore bright red coats and marched in straight lines through the wilderness. The French and the Indians on the other hand fought guerilla style, hiding behind trees and bushes, never coming into the open. Although Washington advised his superiors that they should stop wearing the red coats and hide behind the trees as their enemies were doing, they refused to listen.

The Battle of Monongahela

In 1755, England sent Major General Edward Braddock along with 2,000 British Regulars to help the British colonial forces. Washington was put under the command of General Braddock and together they marched back toward Fort Duquesne where Washington had lost the first battle of the war. When they started their march, Washington advised General Braddock that they should leave behind the heavy equipment, such as cannons, so that they could travel faster. Braddock disagreed and thought that the British army would need the fire power to defeat the enemy. Colonel Washington was proven right, however, when the slow-moving British army led by Braddock were ambushed. A battle ensued and Braddock was wounded leaving Washington the commanding officer. As an officer, Washington was targeted by the Indians and the French and was fired on repeatedly. After having two horses shot out from underneath him, Washington chose to command the army from the ground. It soon became obvious that the English could not win the battle and Washington led the remaining men in a retreat. He brought the wounded Braddock back to Monongahela where Braddock died four days after the battle. After the battle, Washington found that there were four separate bullet holes in his clothes, yet not one of them had touched him. After the battle, George wrote a letter to his brother Jack, where he explained, "By the all-powerful dispensation of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, and escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me." Because of his bravery and level-headed command of the English force during the battle, the governor promoted Washington to Colonel.

Fifteen years after the battle of Monongahela, Washington met the Native chief that commanded the Indians at that battle. The chief had commanded that Washington be shot and had observed that he was never hurt. Washington was exploring the wilderness with a friend and found a group of Indians and the chief who were searching for Washington because the chief wanted to talk to him. Through an interpreter, the chief spoke these words about George Washington:

"I am a chief and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes, and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path, that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man's blood mixed with the streams of our forest, that I first beheld this chief. I called to my young men and said, "Mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe - he hath an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do - himself alone is exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies." Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss ... ‘Twas all in vain; a power mightier far than we shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. I am old, and soon shall be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shades, but ere I go, there is something that bid me speak in the voice of prophecy: Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies - he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as founder of a mighty empire."

The chief was right. Washington did not die in battle, even though he fought in many of them. He also became the chief of the nation when he became the first president and people today still consider George Washington as the founder of the mighty country, the United States of America.