George Washington

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American Revolutionary War

George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1797, leading the American victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander in chief of the Continental Army, 1775–1783, and presiding over the writing of the Constitution in 1787. As the unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States (1789–1797), he developed the forms and rituals of government that have been used ever since, such as using a cabinet system and delivering an inaugural address. The president built a strong, well-financed national government that avoided war, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types. Acclaimed ever since as the "Father of his country", Washington, along with Abraham Lincoln, has become a central icon of republican values, self sacrifice in the name of the nation, American nationalism and the ideal union of civic and military leadership.

In Colonial Virginia Washington was born into the provincial gentry in a wealthy, well connected family that owned tobacco plantations using slave labor. Washington was home schooled by his father and older brother but both died young and Washington became attached to the powerful Fairfax clan. They promoted his career as surveyor and soldier. Strong, brave, eager for combat and a natural leader, young Washington quickly became a senior officer of the colonial forces, 1754–58, during the first stages of the French and Indian War. Indeed his rash actions helped precipitate the war.

Washington's experience, his military bearing, his leadership of the Patriot cause in Virginia, and his political base in the largest colony made him the obvious choice of the Second Continental Congress in 1775 as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army to fight the British in the American Revolution. He forced the British out of Boston in 1776, but was defeated and nearly captured later that year when he lost New York City. After crossing the Delaware River in the dead of winter he defeated the British in two battles and retook New Jersey. Because of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured two major British armies at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781. Negotiating with Congress, governors, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and invasion. Historians give the commander in chief high marks for his selection and supervision of his generals, his encouragement of morale, his coordination with the state governors and state militia units, his relations with Congress, and his attention to supplies, logistics, and training. In battle, however, Washington was repeatedly outmaneuvered by British generals with larger armies. In the New York campaign of 1776 and the Philadelphia campaign, General William Howe repeatedly flanked him, and eventually took both cities, although the British abandoned Philadelphia after France entered the war in 1778, and Washington forced a major inconclusive battle at Monmouth Court House during their march to New York. Washington is given full credit for the strategies that forced the British evacuation of Boston in 1776 and the surrender at Yorktown in 1781. After victory was finalized in 1783, Washington resigned rather than seize power, and returned to his plantation at Mount Vernon; this prompted his erstwhile enemy King George III to call him "the greatest character of the age".[1][2]

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