Renowned historian David A. Clary studies George Washington’s early military career as a young colonel during the French and Indian War, and how those campaigns influenced his leadership and strategy as a general during the Revolutionary War and as the first president of the newly formed United States of America.
The searing, formative military adventures of the inexperienced boy colonel of the French and Indian War who grew up to become one of the great soldier-statesmen of his age.
George Washington wasn’t born a military leader. He became one the hard way—through trial and error and perseverance at a very early age and in the most trying circumstances imaginable. From the massacre of a French diplomatic party by soldiers under his command (thereby starting a world war), to his surrendering of Fort Necessity to the French, to his leading a harrowing retreat of British troops under fire, we see Washington learn the lessons of command.
George Washington’s First War is a story told in vivid language, combining dramatic depictions of battle with the anxieties and frustrations of an adolescent who’s not yet a great man. Readers learn of harrowing ordeals in the wilderness, the hitherto little explored role played by the Indian nations whose continent this was, and the epic clash of empires that all combined to turn the young Washington into the great commander and president of his age.
What Washington, who secured his first military appointment at 21, lacked in experience he made up for in ambition. Governed from afar by colonial elites, mid-18th-century Virginia was "no more ready to conduct military campaigns" than Washington himself. Yet one of the untested officer's first assignments was to confront French traders over their claim to Ohio River Valley land. Some deemed it "extraordinary," he would reflect, "that so young and inexperienced a person should have been employed on a negotiation with which subjects of the greatest importance were involved." In well over his head, Washington got his diplomatic party into a messy military skirmish that fueled the start of the Seven Year's War. Despite this, an appetite for adventure won Washington an opportunity to return to the wilderness (where on his second assignment he and his men surrendered to the French after becoming trapped). Clary expertly chronicles how Washington navigated command layers and adapted or failed to adapt to the wild American terrain, revealing that these early military failures shaped Washington to become a versatile commander, capable of leading not only a revolution, but a country.