MILITARY SERVICE: Washington served in the Virginia militia (1752-1754, 1755-1758), rising from major to colonel, and as commander in chief of the Continental army (1775-1783), with the rank of general. See "Career before the Presidency."
CAREER BEFORE THE PRESIDENCY: In 1749 Washington accepted his first appointment, that of surveyor of Culpepper County, Virginia, having gained much experience in that trade the previous year during an expedition across the Blue Ridge Mountains on behalf of Lord Fairfax. Two years later he accompanied his half brother Lawrence to Barbados. Lawrence, dying of tuberculosis, had hoped to find a cure in the mild climate. Instead, George came down with a near-fatal dose of smallpox. With the deaths of Lawrence and Lawrence's daughter in 1752, George inherited Mount Vernon, an estate that prospered under his management and one that throughout his life served as welcome refuge from the pressures of public life.
French and Indian War, 1754-1763. In 1752 Washington received his first military appointment as a major in the Virginia militia. On a mission for Governor Robert Dinwiddie during October 1753-January 1754, he delivered an ultimatum to the French at Fort Le Boeuf, demanding their withdrawal from territory claimed by Britain. The French refused. The French and the Ohio Company, a group of Virginians anxious to acquire western lands, were competing for control of the site of present-day Pittsburgh. The French drove the Ohio Company from the area and at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers constructed Fort Duquesne. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1754, Washington oversaw construction of Fort Necessity in what is now Fayette County, Pennsylvania. However, he was forced to surrender that outpost to superior French and Indian forces in July 1754, a humiliating defeat that temporarily gave France control of the entire region. Later that year, Washington, disgusted with officers beneath his rank who claimed superiority because they were British regulars, resigned his commission. He returned to service, however, in 1755 as an aide-de-camp to General Edward Braddock. In the disastrous engagement at which Braddock was mortally wounded in July 1755, Washington managed to herd what was left of the force to orderly retreat, as twice his horse was shot out from under him. The next month he was promoted to colonel and regimental commander. He resigned from the militia in December 1758 following his election to the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Member of House of Burgesses, 1759-1774. In July 1758 Colonel Washington was elected one of Frederick County's two representatives in the House of Burgesses. He joined those protesting Britain's colonial policy and in 1769 emerged a leader of the Association, created at an informal session of the House of Burgesses, after it had been dissolved by the royal governor, to consider the most effective means of boycotting British imports. Washington favored cutting trade sharply but opposed a suspension of all commerce with Britain. He also did not approve of the Boston Tea Party of December 1773. But soon thereafter he came to realize that reconciliation with the mother country was no longer possible. Meanwhile, in 1770, Washington undertook a nine-week expedition to the Ohio country where, as compensation for his service in the French and Indian War, he was to inspect and claim more than 20,000 acres of land for himself and tens of thousands more for the men who had served under him. He had taken the lead in pressing the Virginia veterans' claim. "I might add, without much arrogance," he later wrote, "that if it had not been for my unremitted attention to every favorable circumstance, not a single acre of land would ever have been obtained".
Delegate to Continental Congress, 1774-1775. A member of the Virginia delegation to the First and Second Continental Congresses, Washington served on various military preparedness committees and was chairman of the committee to consider ways to raise arms and ammunition for the impending Revolution. He voted for measures designed to reconcile differences with Britain peacefully but realized that such efforts now were futile. John Adams of Massachusetts, in a speech so effusive in its praise that Washington rushed in embarrassment from the chamber, urged that Washington be named commander in chief of the newly authorized Continental army. In June 1775, delegates unanimously approved the choice of Washington, both for his military experience and, more pragmatically, to enlist a prominent Virginian to lead a struggle that heretofore had been spearheaded largely by northern revolutionaries.
Commander in chief of Continental Army during Revolution, 1775-1783. With a poorly trained, undisciplined force comprised of short-term militia, General Washington took to the field against crack British regulars and Hessian mercenaries. In March 1776 he thrilled New Englanders by flushing the redcoats from Boston, but his loss of New York City and other setbacks later that year dispelled any hope of a quick American victory. Sagging American morale got a boost when Washington slipped across the Delaware River to New Jersey and defeated superior enemy forces at Trenton (December 1776) and Princeton (January 1777). But humiliating defeats at Brandywine (September 1777) and Germantown (October 1777) and the subsequent loss of Philadelphia undermined Washington's prestige in Congress. Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Rush, and others conspired to remove