Childhood: 1732-1746 |
George Washington was born at his father's plantation on Pope's Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on February 22, 1732. His father, Augustine Washington, was a leading planter in the area and also served as a justice of the county court. When George was eleven years old, Augustine died, leaving most of hisproperty to George's older half brothers. The income from what remained was just sufficient to maintain Mary Washington and her children. As the oldest child remaining at home, George undoubtedly helped his mother manage the Rappahannock River plantation where they lived. There he learned the importance of hard work and efficiency. |
The death of his father, however, made schooling abroad animpossibility for George Washington. He may have attended a school near his home for the first few years. Later he went to another school, either in Fredericksburg, Stafford County, or Westmoreland County. He excelled in mathematics and learned the rudiments of surveying. But he was not taught Latin or Greek like many gentlemen's sons, and he never learned a foreign language. Nor did he attend college.His formal education ended around the age of 15. After the death of their father, George began to spend a great deal of time with his older half brother, Lawrence, at his home, Mount Vernon. Lawrence became a mentor to his younger brother, tutoring him in his studies, teaching him social graces, and helping to introduce him into society. Throughout his life, Washington regarded his education asdefective. He consciously made up for some of what he did not learn in school through reading and study on his own. Over the years he amassed a large and diverse library, and in his later years he subscribed to several newspapers. He became a skilled and prolific writer. Perhaps as a result of his lack of formal education he strongly believed in the value of a good education and left money in hiswill for establishing a school in Alexandria, Virginia, as well as for establishing a national university.Young Manhood: 1746-1759In 1748 he joined a surveying expedition to western Virginia at the invitation of Lawrence's neighbors, . By the age of 17 he was well on his way to a successful and profitable career. In an effort to establish himself as a member of the gentry class, he worked hard,saved his money, and bought unclaimed land.In 1751 he accompanied Lawrence, who was suffering from tuberculosis, on a voyage to the British island colony of Barbados. While in Barbados, Washington saw some of the most extensive fortifications in British America and socialized with military men, experiences that probably stimulated his interest in military service.Lawrence died in 1752, and shortlythereafter George inherited Mount Vernon. He also obtained Lawrence's place in the Virginia militia and received a major's commission -- the first step in his military career. |
in the fall of 1753 Dinwiddie sent 21-year-old Major Washington to deliver a message to the French, demanding they leave the area. With the help of a frontier guide and local Indians, Washington reached the Frenchfort, Dusquesne, with Dinwiddie's message. The return trip tested Washington's endurance. He hiked for days through snowy woods, fell off a raft into the ice-choked Allegheny River, nearly drowned, and was forced to spend a freezing night on an island without shelter. His guide, an experienced backwoodsman, suffered frostbite; but Washington suffered no ill effects. Washington's account of thearduous 900-mile journey was published by Governor Dinwiddie in both Williamsburg and London, establishing an international reputation for George Washington by the time he was 22.A few months later Dinwiddie dispatched Washington, now a lieutentant colonel, and some 150 men to assert Virginia's claims. As they advanced, Washington's men skirmished with French soldiers, killing 10 men, including the...