George Washington

Regarded as the Father of the United States of America, George Washington was the first U.S. President and played a critical role in the American Revolutionary War and their victory against the British. Washington was born in 1732 and became the commander-in-chief of American revolutionary forces in 1775. His most famous victories include the battles of Saratoga and Yorktown, but his legacy includes his distinguished role as President whereby he laid many important precedents for the newly created office. Scholars consider him one of the nation’s greatest Presidents.

Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the first child of his father’s second marriage to Mary Ball. Washington had two older half brothers from his father’s first marriage. Washington was educated at home by his father and oldest brother. During his youth Washington became a surveyor and later embarked on a career as a planter. In 1752 Washington became a district adjutant general in Virginia’s militia, with little to qualify him for the post beside his willingness and zeal. A year later he joined the Freemasons which notably influenced him for the rest of his life.

In the subsequent French and Indian War, Washington distinguished himself during the battle of Monongahela where he was serving as an aide to General Braddock. His heroic behavior earned him promotion to the rank of colonel. After the war Washington returned to his plantation for the next sixteen years where he engaged in Virginia politics. In 1759 Washington married the widow Martha Custis and he acted as stepfather to her two children. Though the pair did not have children together, their union, according to scholars, was a happy one.

Washington did not take an active role in revolutionary politics until after the Townshend Acts had been enacted in 1767. Afterward, Washington proposed boycotting English goods until the controversial acts were repealed. Although Britain did repeal the acts, their enactment of the Intolerable Acts of 1774 resulted in the convening of the Continental Congress whereby Washington was elected to this assembly as a Virginia delegate. When fighting broke out in 1775, Washington traveled to the Second Continental Congress in military uniform well-prepared for the pending war.

After the Continental Army was created in 1775, Washington was appointed its Major General and then elected its Commander-in-Chief. Although Washington suffered some defeats such as the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 and loss of Philadelphia the same year, he was an inspirational leader famously camping with his men at Valley Forge, crossing the Potomac River with his troops, and leading his army to eventual victory at Yorktown in 1781. Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College in both 1789 and 1792—no other President in U.S. history has obtained 100% of these votes. Washington died at his Mount Vernon home in 1799 at the age of sixty-seven.