CASE 1—GETTING TO KNOW THE MAN BEHIND THE IMAGE

CASE 2—VIRGINIA ENVIRONMENT,PART I

CASE 3—VIRGINIA ENVIRONMENT, PART II

CASE 4—THE NORTHERN NECK

CASE 5—FAMILY BACKGROUND, PART I

CASE 6—FAMILY BACKGROUND, PART II

CASE 7—THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR, PART I

CASE 8—THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR, PART II

CASE 9—PLANTER, POLITICIAN, AND PATRIOT

CASE 10—THE MAN, PART I

CASE 11—THE MAN, PART II

CASE 12—THE MAN, PART III

CASE 13—THE MAN, PART IV

CASE 14—THE MAN, PART V

CASE 15—DEATH AND APOTHEOSIS

CASE 16—PRESERVING THE MEMORY

CLEMENTS LIBRARY

George Washington: getting to know the man behind the image

This website is a record of the exhibit, as it appeared in the display cases of the William L. Clements Library. Each page features an image of a single display case and its contents, with details of the artifacts and the accompanying text below. Please click on the images to view enlargements and use the "back" button on your browser to return.

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Case 8 —French and Indian War—Part II

 

Despite the inauspicious nature of Washington's first military actions in the French and Indian War, surrendering his party to the French, he returned to Virginia with a high reputation for leadership and bravery. He became an obvious choice to command future military campaigns.

To counteract French designs in the Ohio Valley, the British decided to launch a decisive military campaign in 1755. A career officer with little battlefield experience, Gen. Edward Braddock and two regular British regiments were sent from England, to be joined by provincial troops from Virginia and Maryland. The army assembled at Fort Cumberland and began marching at a very deliberate pace, cutting a road before them toward Ft. Duquesne. George Washington, useful because of his familiarity with the country and the Indians, accompanied the expedition as a special aide to the commander. Just short of Fort Duquesne, at a particularly narrow and well-wooded part of the trail, the army was ambushed by a party of French and Indians. There were severe casualties, including Braddock. The remnants of the force retreated back to Ft. Cumberland. The campaign was a disaster to the British. In the long run, the embarrassment of the defeat probably helped to strengthen British resolve to commit whatever resources were necessary in the Seven Years War to secure victory in the American theater of operations.

 

 

 

This contemporary map of Braddock's defeat, probably drawn by a participant, gives a sense of the way difficult terrain and surprise conspired to defeat an army far superior in numbers to the force that attacked it. It is not drawn to scale.

 

Holding no formal military commission during the Braddock Expedition, Washington shared none of the blame for its failure. He was praised, even in the British press, for his competence in helping to manage the retreat from the battlefield.

In August 1755 he was commissioned Colonel and Commander-in-Chief of the Virginia forces raised to defend the frontiers, although it would be almost three years before he assumed command in the field. In June 1758 the Virginia troops, under his command, began their march from Ft. Loudoun (Winchester) to join the army of Gen. Forbes. The signed return was made at Ft. Ligonier, shown in the map displayed here.

 

 

Gen. Forbes decided to cut a new road through the wilderness rather than use Braddock's path. It made for a slow campaign, but it achieved success on November 25, 1758, when the army took possession of Fort Duquesne. In the letter displayed here, Gen. Forbes writes to Lord Hillsboro, informing him that the former French post has been renamed Pittsburgh.