George Washington:
Revolutionary War General, President, And Father Of Our Nation

George Washington holds a legendary position in the creation of our country. As the first president of the United States, he is one of the most celebrated leaders in our nation's history. Everything, from his reported inability to tell a lie to his desire to transfer the power of the presidency to John Adams, is a part of American's heritage. The adoration of the man known as the "Father of our Country" is much deserved.

From Gentleman Farmer To Military Fighter
George Washington was born in 1732 to a prosperous family in the colony of Virginia. As a young man, he studied surveying and the military arts, as did many gentlemen of his day. Throughout much of the French and Indian War he served as commander of the Virginia Militia. Washington was frequently in the thick of the fight. In one battle four bullets ripped through his coat and two horses were shot out from under him. After his retirement from the militia, he married and began management of his Mount Vernon Plantation.

Leader In The War For Independence
Washington played a pivotal role in the major events in Virginia that led up to the Revolutionary War. For 16 years Washington served in the House of Burgesses, the governing body in the Virginia. In 1774, he was elected to serve as a Virginia delegate to the First Continental Congress and later to the Second Continental Congress, both held in Philadelphia. When a compromise with the British could not be reached, the colonists moved to fight for their independence. Washington was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and on July 3, 1775, he took control of an ill-trained, ragtag group of soldiers at Cambridge, MA. The young nation struggled for its Independence in a grueling 8-1/2 year war.

Washington's commanding presence throughout the Revolutionary War is legendary. He led his outnumbered troops across the icy Delaware River in a surprise attack on the Hessians, mercenaries hired by British, at Trenton, New Jersey. This kept the cause of freedom alive at its lowest point. A pivotal time for the Continental Army was the winter of 1777-1778, when Washington and his troops encamped at Valley Forge, PA. During this six-month encampment, the soldiers lived in a city of log huts, which they built themselves. During that winter and spring, after much hard work, the soldiers became a revitalized, better-trained fighting force. On June 19, 1778, General Washington and his Army marched out of Valley Forge - with a renewed spirit and determination to defeat the British and eventually win the War for Independence.

America's First President
It was Washington's superior leadership throughout the Revolutionary War that earned him the admiration of the people. While some wanted to make Washington king of the new nation, he refused. Washington pushed for a free and united republic. To reach this goal, he agreed to serve as presiding officer at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. In the following year, the new Constitution was ratified and the Electoral College unanimously elected George Washington the first President of the United States.

Washington took the oath of office on April 30, 1789 in New York City. His two terms in office - from 1789 to 1797 - laid the foundation for a strong republic. He strongly favored a federal system of government and the separation of powers guaranteed by the Constitution. He appointed wise and able men to the first cabinet and the first ten justices of the Supreme Court.

Despite the pleadings of the American people that he run for a third term, Washington retired and spent the last two years of his life with his wife, Martha, at his beloved Mount Vernon. He died of a throat infection on December 14, 1799 and was greatly mourned by his countrymen. Years later, in 1814, Thomas Jefferson said of Washington, "And may it be truly said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great."

Contacts
Dona McDermott, Valley Forge National Historical Park, 610-783-1034 (dona_mcdermott@nps.gov)
Jen Larson, National Park Foundation, 202-530-1487 (jlarson@goparks.org)
Sue Waldron, National Park Service, 202-208-5477 (sue_waldron@nps.gov)
Jill Sharp or Kim Scher, Lord, Sullivan & Yoder, 614-846-7777 (jsharp@lsy.com; kscher@lsy.com)