In June 1775, when George Washington accepted the daunting assignment of commanding Congress’ forces in the fight for American independence from Britain, he was already a seasoned veteran. During the 1750s, while in his 20s, as colonel of the Virginia Regiment, he’d learned hard lessons in leadership fighting the French and their Indian allies in savage frontier skirmishes.
That experience was crucial during the Revolutionary War, when Washington faced the far greater challenge of maintaining the armed struggle against the British Empire with an army that was typically understrength, underfunded, and all too often unappreciated by the politicians and civilians it was fighting for.
For eight long years of punishing campaigning, Washington inspired the officers and men of the Continental Army through his personal example of courage, determination and integrity, always sharing their hardships and dangers.
The worst situations brought out the best in Washington’s character. Most famously, despite a discouraging series of defeats around New York in 1776, before that year was over he re-crossed the Delaware River in a devastating counterattack, scoring victories at Trenton, and soon after at Princeton, that revived the patriot cause.
As first president, George Washington remains celebrated as the father of his country. By forging the Continental Army into a tough, well-trained force of professionals, he deserves equal recognition as the true father of the U.S. Army.