October 17 2011
The eldest of six children from his father's second marriage, George Washington was
born into the landed gentry in 1732 at Wakefield Plantation, VA. Until reaching 16 years of age,
he lived there and at other plantations along the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, including
the one that later became known as Mount Vernon. His education was rudimentary, probably
being obtained from tutors but possibly also from private schools, and he learned surveying.
After he lost his father when he was 11 years old, his half-brother Lawrence, who had served in
the Royal Navy, acted as his mentor. As a result, the youth acquired an interest in pursuing a
naval career, but his mother discouraged him from doing so.
At the age of 16, in 1748, Washington joined a surveying party sent out to the
Shenandoah Valley by Lord Fairfax, a land baron. For the next few years, Washington conducted
surveys in Virginia and presents West Virginia and gained a lifetime interest in the West. In 1751-
52 he also accompanied Lawrence on a visit he made to Barbados, West Indies, for health
reasons just before his death.
The next year, Washington began his military career when the royal governor appointed
him to an adjutant ship in the militia, as a major. That same year, as a gubernatorial emissary,
accompanied by a guide, he traveled to Fort Le Boeuf, PA, in the Ohio River Valley, and
delivered to French authorities an ultimatum to cease fortification and settlement in English
territory. During the trip, he tried to better British relations with various Indian tribes.
In 1754, winning the rank of lieutenant colonel and then colonel in the militia,
Washington led a force that sought to challenge French control of the Ohio River Valley, but met
defeat at Fort Necessity, PA - an event that helped trigger the French and Indian War (1754-63).