How Washington Made a Name for Himself

March 28, 2020

How Washington Made a Name for Himself

George Washington’s name was known among the prominent circles in America and Great Britain, even before the Revolutionary War. But how was he so famous? It all goes back to his first solo mission that helped spark the French and Indian War. 


George Washington earned his position as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army due to his exceptional role in the French and Indian War (also called the Seven Years’ War). However, the Father of America never would have gotten to play such a pivotal role if it hadn’t been for his volunteer mission to prove French intention to invade disputed territory. 


By 1750 the British and French were already disputing over territories, most notably the Ohio Territory (or Ohio Country). As the British expanded westward, the French expanded south from Canada and both groups disputed with local Native American tribes such as the Shawnee. Full of rich resources and river access, Ohio was important for further expansion, but also as protection for existing British colonies. The disputed territory expanded all the way to the borders of what was then Virginia. In 1753, before any conflict erupted, the Governor of Virginia Robert Dinwiddie, was convinced armed conflict was inevitable and sought to convince the British and the colonists of the French threat. While the House of Burgesses refused to fund an armed expeditionary force to confront the French commander, after King George II gave the colonial governors the power to resist the French expansion, they did approve of a single emissary instead.


At that time, George Washington was a Major stationed in the South region charged with training militia. His older brother previously held the title of Major and after he died of tuberculosis, George assumed the position, as was a common practice of the era. With no military experience, the 20-year-old George jumped at the opportunity to ingratiate himself with the governor and traveled to Williamsburg, VA in October 1753 to volunteer as the emissary. From October 31, 1753 to January 16, 1754, the now 21-year-old Washington embarked on his mission to deliver a letter to the French Commandant demanding their withdrawal from the Ohio Country. After the 900-mile mission was complete, he returned to Dinwiddie with not only the Commandant’s letter of refusal, but also his full report of the mission detailing his geographical surveys, comments on military preparedness, and his experiences with Native American peoples he encountered and worked with along the way. Dinwiddie published the report immediately to prove to the colonists and the British leaders that the French armies were aiming and prepared to take the desired Ohio territory.

The Journal of Major George Washington, 1865 Limited Edition with Folding Map

Washington published journal raised the alarm and provided the colonies and Great Britain the necessary reasons to begin arming themselves to engage with French troops. George Washington was promoted to Lieutenant General and given command over troops along the western borders. This position gave George early experience with the difficulty of raising an army as well as supplying it. That very experience proved crucial to the American Revolutionary War. Thanks to the inexperienced Washington’s ambition, his courage as a young officer, and the subsequent positions in the French and Indian War, George Washington made a name for himself and was well prepared to lead the American Army against the world’s most formidable military. 






Also in Blog

Symbols of Revolution: Liberty Poles & Caps
Symbols of Revolution: Liberty Poles & Caps

April 17, 2024

The small peaked hat, known as a Liberty Cap or Phrygian Cap, became a symbol of resistance to British rule and taxation among early colonists. Liberty poles were another form of resistance, a large wooden totem erected in a town square or park, where citizens could post grievances against British rule or gather to organize rallies. Liberty poles with various banners were raised in numerous towns to protest the Stamp Act of 1765 and continued to be raised in the Early Republic era to invoke Revolutionary sentiment. Read more about these symbols or resistance on this week's blog. 

View full article →

Connecting the West with the Pony Express
Connecting the West with the Pony Express

April 04, 2024

Illustrated by American artist Kermit Oliver, “The Pony Express” silk scarf design was first issued by Hermès in 1993. Known for incorporating western themes and Native American iconography into his work, Oliver aimed to celebrate and memorialize the culture of those normally overlooked by larger fashion houses and brands. So it is no surprise that the riders and history of the Pony Express inspired Oliver to create this colorful and dynamic scarf design. Read more about this stunning scarf design and the 1860s Pony Express mail service on this week's blog. 

View full article →

American Mapmaker A.J. Johnson
American Mapmaker A.J. Johnson

March 28, 2024

Johnson maps are popularly known for their intricate detailing, delicate borders, and fine attention to detail. Read more about this famous American mapmaker.

View full article →