George Washington

The French and Indian War

Washington first gained public notice late in 1753 when he volunteered to carry a message from Gov. Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia to the French moving into the Ohio country, warning them to quit the territory, which was claimed by the British. In delivering the message Washington learned that the French were planning a further advance. He hastened back to Virginia, where he was commissioned lieutenant colonel by Dinwiddie and sent with about 400 men to reinforce the post that Dinwiddie had ordered built at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers.

The French, however, captured the post before he could reach it, and on hearing that they were approaching in force, Washington retired to the Great Meadows to build (July) an entrenched camp (Fort Necessity). Late in May he had won his first military victory (and his colonelcy) when he surprised (through the intelligence of his Native American allies) a small body of French troops. The French soon avenged this defeat, overwhelming him with a superior force at Fort Necessity on July 3, 1754. He surrendered on easy terms on July 4 and returned to Virginia with the survivors of his command. These battles marked the beginning of the last of the French and Indian Wars in America, in which Washington continued to figure.

As an aide to Edward Braddock he acquitted himself with honor in that general's disastrous expedition against Fort Duquesne in 1755. After the debacle he was appointed commander in chief of the Virginia militia to defend the frontier, and in 1758 he commanded one of the three brigades in the expedition headed by Gen. John Forbes that took an abandoned Fort Duquesne. With this episode his pre-Revolutionary military career ended.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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