Architect Of The Nation: George Washington?Find Out!
The second American Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia in the year 1775 after the battles of Lexington and Concord hardly hesitated in picking the man to command the American Army. The man was none other than George Washington, a man with a horseman?s muscular thighs, penetrating blue eyes and an impressive air of command. He was a Virginian and was politically eligible. The delegates of congress were also impressed by his quite good sense and his ability to bide his time to make important decisions. The delegates did not know at that time how well they had chosen a leader for the American Army because George Washington became the revolution. He had a towering will and his extraordinary patience was often all that kept the revolution alive.
George Washington at the age of 16 went off as a surveyor?s assistant on wild western lands owned by Lord Fairfax. He went through the wilderness on a military mission to warn the French not to encroach on Crown claims in the Ohio Valley. The French in the meanwhile scoured the countryside of Ohio for fur and were heavily into fur trade with New France (Canada) supporting them. The French refused to back down and George Washington became Virginia?s foremost soldier. A British expeditionary force led by General Edward Braddock was already there to combat the French invasion. Unfortunately, the force was no match to the treacherous French power. The British force was wiped out in an ambush in the Monongahela Forest.
At that time, George Washington was down with high fever and when he heard of this dreadful news, he got up weak and reeling from the raging fever, mounted his horse and rode for 13 hours to reach the scene of battle. He was thrown out of his horse twice. Two were killed and 4 bullets tore through his clothes but not once did he falter in his duty. He marched on unmindful of the fever and the blood pouring out of his body.
Divine Providence protected him from certain death. After surviving the attack, he impressed one and all with his bravery and was given command of all Virginia troops and the responsibility for putting every scattered settler on the state?s borders.
George Washington had to learn quite a lot to manage the troops. Those days it was so difficult to recruit Americans for Military Service and it was very essential to instil discipline in them. Although he was elected to Virginia?s House of Burgesses, he gave up this Commission in disillusionment.
Sixteen years later, the fever of rebellion swept the Colonies of America and it was the right time for George Washington to re-enter politics.
The British Generals felt the rebellion was merely an exhibition of rashness by excited Colonials. Though the Colonies were vaguely united in their cause, there were serious shortcomings. For example, there were hardly any industries in the American Continent, no military tradition to speak of, almost no military stores, no fleet, and no allies and by European standards no army worthy of the name. The only thing they had was the will and the courage to fight and face the trained troops of a great military power backed by the world?s greatest navy ? Great Britain.
George Washington?s talented group of American soldiers could withstand a British assault and the group?s marksmanship and ability to fight from cover took the British by surprise.
But the siege of Boston weighed heavily on George Washington and he recognized his enormous responsibility of managing the growing number of American soldiers. 15,000 American soldiers who camped in a great semicircle had to be fed, disciplined and taught some rudiments of military manoeuvring. Most of these soldiers had no uniforms and sometimes no gunpowder to defend or attack in emergencies. To make matters worse, these American soldiers lacked discipline. They got drunk frequently and created trouble in their neighbourhood and quarrelled among themselves. An even more horrifying problem presented itself; some of these soldiers absconded midway leaving the rest to follow suit. The problem was, they enlisted only for few months and ran away to their places when their time was up sometimes pilfering whatever they could with them. One thing George Washington noticed was these fellows lacked the passionate patriotic fervour which is required in every soldier who fights for his motherland. So it became all the more necessary for him to instil discipline with the remaining soldiers.
In such a scenario, George Washington marched his remaining rag-tag long-suffering soldiers to drag heavy cannons over the snow all the way from Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. When the cannons were mounted on Dorchester Heights, the British got scared by the imposing cannons and sailed away and thus George Washington was saved from committing his untrained dwindling force to an assault. His travails were far from over. The following summer in Southern New York, his army was beaten on Long Island and they somehow escaped across the East River to Manhattan. The American army fought and retreated to White Plains alternatively across the Hudson River and sometimes across New Jersey. They also fought and retreated across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.
As winter deepened, only 2400 ragged ill-fed American soldiers were left. On December 20, 1776, George Washington wrote to the Congress thus ?Ten days more will put an end to the existence of our army.? The irrepressible George Washington never gave up his quest for freedom. Then he gambled with his force. Five nights later on Christmas night, he took his little rag-tag force across the ice-clogged Delaware. It was freezing cold. The soldiers became wet and half frozen and the army was pounded by driving sleet. Unmindful of these conditions, these courageous men marched on for 9 miles to Trenton and surprised the town and its defenders. The American soldiers attacked the unsuspecting defenders and triumphed in less than 2 hours of fighting and that too without the loss of a single man. A great beginning by all means! Encouraged and buoyed by this small victory; a week later they audaciously invaded New Jersey again at Princeton.
George Washington rallied his troops brilliantly and rode unscathed within 30 paces of brazing enemy muskets. What a brave man! The British were humbled at last. The whole country was electrified by this news and thus the revolution was saved by this electrifying man George Washington who led a mighty rag-tag army. So this set the tone to establish a pattern of war which was months of defeat, discouragement and disaster. Then a set pattern was broken and when all seemed lost, a new pattern was established by a daring stroke of courage and ultimately the taste of triumph. So in this way, the army alternated between defeat and victory as it was a big war ? the war of American Revolution.
Battles were fought from Georgia to Quebec, from New York to Mississippi. In the end it involved the fleets of both England and France. The war progressed slowly; months often passed without major incidents. On the face of it, the war was polite in tone with flags of truce honoured. But the simmering revolt and the continuous fighting was often bitter even by modern standards.
Many volunteer squads were killed and wounded while breeching the British defences at Stony Point on the Hudson River. The flint locks became useless from rain and thus there were more casualties than expected at Cowpens, Brandywine, Germantown, all turned bloody. With all that bloodshed George Washington?s burdens grew manifold. Congressmen hotly accused him of attempting to saddle the country with a military tyranny worse than that of England. He was also saddened by the fact that he was always left with inadequate money to pay the troops. There was severe shortage of money and he stood helpless at the face of such trying circumstances. Undaunted, he tried again with the Congressmen to sanction him with more resources. It was 18 months before he was authorized to recruit another bunch of young soldiers who pledged their duty to the cause. That was of course on a temporary basis.
But George Washington never lost his hope, he took what he got. His doggedness ultimately won him several supporters including those deserters who briefly deserted the army.
George Washington forgave them as he felt soldiers might desert, but they often return to fight again, because once a soldier always a soldier. They might crumble before British bayonets. But they had the courage and tenacity to regroup and fight the next day. If properly led, these soldiers could endure incredible hardships often going without pay, without proper clothing and without proper food. In the end perseverance is always rewarded, so did with these men. In the autumn of 1777, the tide of war began to change in their favour at Saratoga. The British General John Burgoyne with 8000 British troops came from Canada almost unopposed to capture the Hudson River Valley. But an American army under General Horatio Gates blocked Burgoyne on high ground on the west bank of the Hudson. The British were trapped between a horde of fast-arriving American soldiers and the Northern wilderness. Burgoyne had no other choice but surrender and America took its first giant step towards freedom.
It was a great victory and that prompted France, Britain?s arch rival to contribute money, men and sea power and it also enlisted the active sympathy of Spain and Holland to the American cause. But still 4 years of intense fighting remained to achieve freedom from the British.
The Americans endured Valley Forge but were stalemated in the North and they were almost deprived of the South by Cornwallis? campaigns in the Carolinas. Cornwallis? Army was badly worn out by endless American harassment. So they moved into Virginia and took up quarters at York Town.
In the meanwhile, the French had given 5000 soldiers to help him win the American cause. While Cornwallis was establishing himself in Virginia, George Washington was in New England contemplating an attack on New York. A French fleet was preparing to sail from the West Indies for the aid of George Washington.
Upon hearing the news of Cornwallis? camp in Virginia, George Washington decided almost overnight to move against Cornwallis instead of New York. The French war vessels also moved to Virginia. After 5 weeks of fast marching, George Washington laid siege to York Town (Virginia) with 16,000 French and Continental soldiers. That was a strategic move by George Washington in getting one step closer to freedom.
Getting wind of this move, Cornwallis moved his naval power through a narrow peninsula between the York and James Rivers. This was a normal move for a British commander confident of his sea power. Alas, that was not to be!
De Grasse?s French fleet controlled Chesapeake Bay. Cornwallis and his soldiers were cut off and hammered night and day by artillery. Though he was a fine soldier, he could not find a way out of this Bay.
On October 19, 1781, the British troops were royally defeated. The world had turned upside down for the British and the Americans won the war for all practical purposes and I dare say the rebels had won.
Though the war was over, the American Nation was no yet born and the system of policy was not yet constructed. Very soon George Washington prepared to leave the army with dignity and grace. His job was done. He wanted no reward for himself. He just wanted to see his country adopt a system of policy which ensures its future reputation, tranquillity, happiness and glory of this extensive empire.
His concern was not wasted; his influence was foremost among those that prompted the constitutional convention which he served as chairman.
There was but one choice for the first President of the United States. George Washington defined the office of Presidency by stepping into it. He imparted to the Chair the dignity of his own character. He remained in office for 8 years and always thought of himself as the most obedient honourable servant of the people of The United States of America. He lived only 2 years after his second term had ended.
In his last moments of consciousness he said, ?I DIE HARD? and so he has.