How 22-Year-Old George Washington Inadvertently Sparked a World WarBreaking News
tags: George Washington, French and Indian War
George Washington first saw armed conflict in 1754, when he was 22 years old and still had all his teeth. Although he’s most famous for his success as the commanding general of the American Revolution, it was during the French and Indian War that he cut those teeth as a military leader, making lots of mistakes and inciting hostilities that sparked a global conflict. But along the way, he learned many valuable lessons that he would apply in the Revolution.
The French and Indian War (1754-1763) was a nine-year conflict over whether Great Britain or France, both of which had colonies in North America, would control the fertile frontier country of the Ohio River valley, a region that includes parts of modern-day Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (then part of Washington’s home colony of Virginia). Ultimately, the battle escalated into the larger Seven Years’ War, a global conflict that drew in the two nations’ European allies and extended into their colonies in Africa and Asia. In the American theater of this war, Native nations chose to remain neutral or ally themselves with France or Britain, depending on what they thought would serve their interests and ensure their survival.
The conflict began in southwestern Pennsylvania on May 28, 1754, when a group of British soldiers and Mingo warriors approached the encampment of French Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. The man leading the British forces was 22-year-old Washington—who, despite being lieutenant colonel of the Virginia Regiment, had never seen combat. In contrast, the leader of the Mingo (also known as “Ohio Iroquois” or “Ohio Seneca”) was Tanacharison, the “Half King,” an experienced warrior and statesman in his mid 50s.
To say that the seasoned Tanacharison provided guidance to the novice Washington “would be an understatement,” says Colin Gordon Calloway, a history professor at Dartmouth College and author of The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation.
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