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Young George Washington's Adventures: The Beginning

A young George Washington in a red uniform with a tricorn hat.
This is a story about the beginning of George Washington's journey to being the famous man we know him as today. In 1753 when Washington was a young man...
Two men fighting with swords.  A map of the French, British and disputed area of North America in 1753
France and England had been fighting for power and land for hundreds of years. This time they were fighting over power and land in America, the Ohio River Valley in particular. Each side explored and claimed this disputed land, but had not settled it or built forts there.
A map of the Ohio River Valley showing the location of the Seneca, Shawnee and Delaware. An American Indian man and woman.  An inset map of eastern North American showing the location of the Ohio River Valley.
Yet there were lots of people living the in the area: American Indians, mostly from the Seneca, Delaware and Shawnee nations.
Map of the Ohio River Valley showing the location of three French forts.  British King George the second saying “An official message must be sent to the French in the Ohio River Valley asking them to leave peacefully.”
The French began building forts in the disputed area, which really upset the British. King George the second of England says, “An official message must be sent to the French in the Ohio River Valley asking them to leave peacefully.”
Virginia Governor Dinwiddie thinking about the difficult terrain and weather the messenger will encounter.
Virginia governor Robert Dinwiddie was in charge of the mission and he would need to find the right person for the job. The messenger would need to travel wilderness paths during the winter, and negotiate with the American Indians and with the French. It would be a very difficult and hazardous journey.
George Washington riding a horse in the colonial capitol of Williamsburg.  The governor handing Washington a letter.
A 21-year-old major in the Virginia militia volunteered to be the messenger. His name was George Washington - a young man who wanted to make a name for himself. He thought that volunteering for such an important mission would be a good way to get noticed. The governor says, "Deliver this to the French and bring back their response. It is urgent and you must return as quickly as possible." Little did he know how dangerous an adventure lay ahead of him.
A map showing Washington route from Williamsburg, Virginia to the French forts.  A close up of the serious looking George Washington.
Governor Dinwiddie accepted Washington as the messenger. His task was to deliver the letter to the French and bring back their response. The governor stressed that the mission was urgent and that Washington should return as quickly as possible. What kind of people and supplies do you think he needed to take with him on this journey?
George Washington’s trunk waiting to be packed.
Activity: What to Take. What kinds of things do you think young George Washington would take along with him on his trip. Check the next page to see what Washington took with him.
Camping gear, an ax, a razor, Indian trade goods, a journal and a compass waiting to go in George Washington’s trunk.
Activity: What to Take. Some of the things Washington took: Camping gear, an ax, a razor, Indian trade goods, a journal and a compass.
Washington walking in Williamsburg Virginia and riding a horse away.  A map of his route out of Williamsburg.
October 31, 1753. Washington left immediately after the governor gave him the letter he was to deliver. He headed for Wills Creek gathering people and supplies along the way.
A front image and back image of George Washington in his military uniform including his gear.
Activity: Clothing of the 1750s. As a major in the Virginia militia George Washington most likely wore the uniform and carried the items common for a British soldier of his time. Can you find his hat, canteen, musket, sword belt, shot bag and leg gaiters?
Washington’s adventure continues. Click here to go to: Meeting the French.

Last updated: April 2, 2020