MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington desperately wanted to be a British officer

Yes, the same George Washington that handed some of England's top officers their worst defeats had previously traveled hundreds of miles just to beg to be a member of their party.

American Gen. George Washington, the hero of the Revolution and the country's first president, spent much of his early career wishing he was a British officer, working as an unpaid aide, and then traveling approximately 450 miles just to earn his "Lobsterback" coat.


Before he was a hero to the American people, he was a hero to Royal Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie was the lieutenant governor when he ordered Washington on one of his first major missions, a diplomatic undertaking to tell French forces in the Ohio Valley of Virginia to please, "GTFO. K, thanks. Byeeee!" on behalf of the governor.

The French, secure in their fort and coveting the rich farmland for themselves, invited Washington in for dinner and then told him that these fine cuts of meat were all he was ever going to get from the Valley. It's unknown if they even let him take his leftovers with him in a simple brown bag.

Washington reported back to Virginia and then published a pamphlet about the mission. (Pamphlets were the tweets of their day, but the maximum number of characters was crazy high. For example, Washington's title alone was 63 characters above the limit of a newer tweet.)

Fort Necessity, where Washington was forced to surrender to a larger French force.

(Photo by Ikcerog)

The pamphlet went super viral and was a hit in the U.S. and Britain, where a number of distinguished men were known to drop monocles and women suffered the vapors when they read it. The French threat in the valleys had apparently been allowed to grow much too large, and something needed to be done about it.

Washington was sent back, this time at the head of a 160-man force. They snuck up on a French encampment in the night but were spotted in the half-light of dawn, May 28, 1754. Someone fired a shot and a battle quickly raged. Washington was successful in the initial engagement, but was forced to surrender to a larger body of French forces on July 3.

There were about to be Redcoats for days, man.

(Photo by Lee Wright)

Washington bounced back from this setback, even without the benefit of a montage, which had not yet been invented. The battles in the Virginia wilderness triggered a war between the French and British that raged across the world. For the colonies, this fight would center on alliances with the Native Americans and control of valuable territory.

And Washington, recently promoted, ambitious, and knowledgeable of the area, was perfectly positioned to aid a British victory. He applied for a commission in His Royal Majesty's Army, ready to lead loyal subjects of the crown to their destined glory!

The Brits didn't want 'im. He was a dirty colonial, after all, and there were some questions about whether Washington's success on May 28 had been a valid engagement or a war crime amid French claims that they tried to surrender.

Colonel of Militia George Washington, just a few years before he became a general and showed all his Lobsterback detractors what was really up.

(Charles Willson Peale)

At the time, officers in the British Army were often placed above their colonial counterparts, regardless of rank. Rather than suffer the indignity of reporting to officers he outranked, he became an unpaid aide to the British commander, Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock.

Washington's advice to Braddock was often timely, accurate, and ignored until the Battle of Monongahela. On the Monongahela River, Washington was suffering from dysentery but took command after Braddock was shot. While the British lost the battle, Washington's actions were credited with saving hundreds of soldiers from capture and death, and he once again became a hero. Braddock, who later died of his wounds, even gifted Washington his commander's sash, a red length of fabric signifying command.

Woodcut of Braddock's death. He actually died a little after the battle, but never let the facts get in the way of a good woodcut, guys.

Washington, once again a hero and now wearing a pimp red sash, traveled to Boston to meet with Governor William Shirley, the new acting commander-in-chief now that Braddock was dead, to ask for a commission in the Royal Army. Shirley thanked Washington for his service but turned him down. He did decree that militia officers outranked royal officer of lower ranks, so that was something.

Washington eventually left the governor's service to concentrate on farming. Did some things, and ended up being on the $1 bill after some trials and tribulations that probably helped him grow as a person or something.