On February 11, 1732, George Washington was born. He had five younger brothers and sisters. He grew up in Virginia. He loved to fish, swim, and ride horses. There were no schools near George's home. A tutor taught him. George wasn't very good at spelling, but great at math.
George had a half brother named Lawrence. Lawrence was fourteen years older than he was. Lawrence ran his own plantation called Mount Vernon. George went to live with Lawrence and his wife when he was fifteen. George learned military strategies from him.
George learned how to fence well.
When he was sixteen, George was hired to survey a rich farmer's land. He made friends with the Indians there. At age seventeen, George became surveyor of Culpepper County, Virginia. George bought land with the money he earned. Soon, George and Lawrence took a trip to Barbados. Lawrence wasn't feeling good and the trip didn't help. George caught smallpox there. Smallpox is a deadly disease and didn't have a cure back then, but luckily George didn't die. Lawrence died soon after George returned to Virginia. George Washington, then at age twenty, became owner of Mount Vernon.
George decided he wanted to be more than an owner of Mount Vernon, so he took a career in the Virginia Army. In 1753, the governor sent George on a dangerous mission. George had to take a letter to Fort Le Beouf, a French fort in Ohio. The letter demanded that France leave it's forts in the Ohio Valley. Both England and France wanted America. The French claimed a lot of land in North America. They built in an attempt to claim all the land to the west.
George Washington and his men made their way through wilderness filled with hostile Indians. Some tribes liked the French, some tribes liked the English, and lots hated all white intruders. But many Seneca warriors decided to help George reach Fort Le Beouf.
When the French leader read the governors letter, he said NO! Both the French and the Indians wouldn't give up America without a fight. George Washington's mission started the French and Indian War. Eventually, the French and Indians joined forces and battled against the English.
In 1755, the English sent Major General Braddock to America to protect the British Colonies. George wanted to learn from such a great leader, but Braddock only fought English. Braddock fought differently than the Americans, and died because of it.
For George Washington's brave deeds, he was assigned commander of Virginia Militia. On a rare break from battle, George dined at a friend's house. There he met Martha Custis and her two children. George said she made him feel right at home. The next day, George Washington asked Martha to marry him as soon as he got back from battle and she did. George nicknamed Martha's two kids Patsy and Jackie. They lived at Mount Vernon. After research and experiments, Mount Vernon was one of the best plantations in the colony!
George soon became part of the Virginia State Legislatures. George quickly realized America had problems. To pay for the French and Indian War, the English put high taxes on important goods. George proposed that Americans refuse to buy things from England. This protest sent a clear message to England that the colonies wouldn't put up with unfair taxes. And since Americans bought American products, colonial industries grew! However, the situation in the colonies got worse. England came up with new taxes, and when Americans protested, England sent troops. The Americans got together to decide what to do. Leaders and thinkers from each colony formed the Continental Congress. They decided America needed an army to fight the English. They voted for George to be Commander-In-Chief of the new Continental Army. George agreed, but refused any pay. He only wanted to do his duty.
On July 3, 1775, George Washington took command. He was very disappointed. The men of the Continental Army were not professional soldiers. They weren't use to following orders or marching. They didn't have enough uniforms, weapons, or food.
Fall, 1775, smallpox swept through the Continental Army. Many men became ill. George was familiar with the disease because he had had it when he was nineteen. Instead of going home to see Martha that winter, George stayed to encourage his army.
Meanwhile, the American colonies were gradually becoming a nation. In January 1776, America got it's first flag: thirteen red and white stripes representing the thirteen colonies.
On July 4, 1776, the colonies became an official country when the Continental Congresssigned the Declaration of Independence. George Washington read the document to his army. It said America was no longer colonies under English rule. The United States could now freely rule themselves. However, declaring independence wasn't enough. England still wanted to rule America. England had a fleet of war ships, many experienced troops, and supplies. England also hired professional soldiers from Germany to fight for them. As a result, Washington suffered a series of defeats. The best he could do is get his troops to safe grounds before too many soldiers were killed. In the winter of 1776, the English troops stopped fighting in America due to the harsh winter conditions. English war ships left America with most of the English Army. About 1500 German soldiers were camped at Trenton, New Jersey, with the American Army just across the Delaware River.
On the cold night of December 26, 1776, Washington decided his army needed a party of it's own; a surprise party! He got the fishermen of his troops to do what they did best. They quietly rowed back and forth all night long through the sleet and rain carrying the Americans across the icy river. The Americans would have been easy targets if the Germans had spotted them. But George's daring plan worked! At 8:00 a.m., Washington and his troops attacked. The sleepy Germans were completely surprised! In 45 minutes, George and his men had captured 900 mercenaries and lost only 4 men! After George Washington's win at Trenton, England sent more troops to New Jersey. They were sure they could defeat the rebels with all those new soldiers.
But Washington played another trick. This time his army built big campfires. The English assumed that the colonial soldiers were warming their feet. They were actually slipping silently into the woods. George showed his men how to move quietly like the Indians had taught him.
By morning, the Americans were miles away from their camp. Washington's second surprise attack post in Princeton won another victory!
Suddenly, the ragged army seemed able to defeat the powerful British Empire. To celebrate the victories and rally support for the Continental Army, George led a parade of troops through Philadelphia, the capitol of the new nation. Rows of Continental soldiers paraded in a shabby variety of tattered uniforms, work clothes, Indian shirts, and some even in enemy coats. They sang and drummed loudly to show their American spirit.
But more than hope was needed to win the Revolutionary War. The Continental Army constantly suffered defeats and retreats. In December 1777, The British marched right into Philadelphia. Congress fled and the English settled down for a cozy winter in America's capitol.
Meanwhile, George and his men made their dreary way to a neighboring place called Valley Forge. Washington and his men made log huts to shield them from the winter snow, but they still didn't have heat, enough food, medicine or doctors. 2,500 died from the condition they were in, another 2,500 went home. There were only 6,000 soldiers left fighting.
Since France liked the idea of freedom and a just government, they joined America against England. First, France sent a military expert to train the Continental Troops. The military expert, Baron Von Steuben, was shocked by the sight of the cold, starved Americans, but proud of their spirit. He drilled them from dawn 'till dusk and turned them into true soldiers.
In 1778, France sent America money and troops. George Washington was pleased with how helpful France was to the U.S.A. After three years of fighting, the British asked for peace talks. Then, in 1783, the talks finally concluded. The Americans had won their independence! George gave credit to all the people who helped America win the war, but without him, America may had never won.
From fighting for America for so long, George Washington just wanted to go home. He was very happy when he finally got back to Mount Vernon.
In May, 1787, State Representatives wanted someone to lead America and decided Washington was the guy to do it. Though old and tired, George accepted the job. He spent a long, hot summer in Philadelphia listening to delegates bicker. George Washington made sure that the powers of the new government were understanding and clear.
In June, 1788, the Constitution was approved by the majority of the states. On April 6, 1789, George was elected the first president of the United States.
America's Capitol then moved from Philadelphia to New York City. Washington had to travel to the new city to be sworn in as President. George thought his trip to New York would be short and peaceful, but to his surprise, parades and crowds greeted him throughout his journey.
At the New Jersey shore George boarded a special barge to cross the Hudson River. That night the town was filled with bonfires and bright fireworks as citizens demonstrated their patriotic spirit and saluted the first president of the United States of America.
George Washington tried to be a fair president. He worked with both political parties. George also listened to the people and tried to fix whatever problems arose. Washington supported the Bill of Rights, which made sure the government did not take away America's freedom.
In 1792, Washington was again elected president. He faced a difficult choice this term. England was now at war with France. France wanted the United States to help them, since France helped the United States in it's war against the British. George decided not to help France. America had just become a country, and he was not sure if it would be strong enough for fighting again.
Many people thought Washington would make a good third president, but George refused the job. He felt the government would be better off with a new president every four to eight years.
Interestingly, when Washington left office, he was warned that the North and South of the U.S.A. had different interests, which led to the Civil War 65 years later.
George was happy to see Martha when he got back to Mount Vernon. Though 67 years of age, he still loved to ride his horse, sometimes for many miles.
One chilly, rainy morning, George caught a terrible cold. Doctors tried to treat him with bleeding cups, which removes a person's blood. Back then, doctors thought blood was what carried a disease, but people needed the blood to survive. Two days after getting sick, George Washington died.
Not long after George Washington died, Washington D.C. was built in his honor. The people of America decided that this city should be their new capitol. On February 21, 1885, the Washington Memorial was completed. To this day, large crowds gather daily to see the memorial. George Washington was a brave soldier, a courageous hero, and the first President of the United States of America.
Fontes, Justine and Ron Fontes. George Washington, Soldier, Hero, President. New York,NY: Andrew Berkhut, 2001.
All images from "Microsoft Office Design Gallery Live" <http://dgl.microsoft.com/?CAG=1> Images free for non-profit and personal use. (December-March, 2003).
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