Skip to comments.War in the Wilderness [Book Review of George Washington's First War]
Posted on 01/20/2011 5:29:35 AM PST by Pharmboy
A callow youngster's thirst for honor triggered the Seven Years' War.
Unlike many of his fellow Founding Fathers, George Washington never wrote an autobiography...His sole effort at memoir emerged from notes he wrote clarifying points for a proposed biography by a former aide and trusted friend, David Humphreys. These "Remarks" were written in 1787-88, when Washington was in his mid-50s and pondering the daunting prospect of becoming the first president....Washington chose to reminisce about the five years when he had labored as a loyal subject of the British Empire to thwart French designs on the Ohio Valley.
In late 1753, the 21-year-old Washington had volunteered for a diplomatic mission deep within the hostile wilderness....Washington's mission was a failure, but it demonstrated his courage, determination and stamina. He would shortly need such qualities when his thirst for honor and distinction helped ignite a global war. Sent, in 1754, with a small force to secure the Forks of the Ohio (present-day Pittsburgh), Washington ambushed a French party intending to warn him off under the command of Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville. That sharp encounter triggered the French and Indian War, which itself spurred much wider hostilities between Britain and France known as the Seven Years' War.
David A. Clary's "George Washington's First War" presents a detailed narrative of the "Jumonville Massacre" and the rest of Washington's service...
Mr. Clary shows how these episodes constituted crucial training for the ambitious but callow Washington, allowing him to test his abilitiesand make mistakes. The blunders came thick and fast. Washington, Mr. Clary argues, lacked the maturity to balance the heavy responsibilities heaped on him by superiors who should have known better. Mr. Clary's treatment of Washington's early military career is unsympathetic and his verdicts harsher than those reached in Ron Chernow's new biography.
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
It seems that it's too hard for the left to criticize Washington once he reaches about 30 years of age, so they now go after the 21 year old...and even his teenage years.
He was--at the age of 21--one of the few Virginians who had ever ventured over the mountains into what is now Western MD, West VA and the Pittsburgh area. He did this as a 16 year old seeking to survey parts of this land (accompanied by a guide).
That he was chosen to lead the VA militia alone may not have been the wisest move, but to attack him from here for some questionable decisions is just mean spirited.
Hey...was it JFK's fault he lost the PT-109?
If I were to recommend one book on George Washington it would be “The Real George Washington” by Andrew Allison. It’s a huge book, but an easy and very interesting read. Glenn Beck holds it up allot on his show.
Wow. That's what I call BAD HISTORY.
Besides, the real cause of the French and Indian War was slavery. And George Bush.
Hardly a hatchet job....I’ve read this many times. He just wasn’t ready for the job. Virginia politics...
I working on Sacred Fire right now. I say working on because I have a rapidly advancing cataract in my left eye and floaters in my right so reading is not too easy. Hopefully will be better in a few months. But good book on his faith.
Some speculate that it was...
Yes, it was.
For example, I believe in the 7-volume Freeman biography, there is evidence presented that when the colonials came upon the French (it was not an "ambush") in the glen, they watched and waited, but a musket went off (it could very well have been by accident...not an unheard of event with a cocked Brown Bess) and the stuff hit the fan. Also, it was a vengeful Indian guide who applied the killing blow to the French ambassador, something Washington was powerless to stop.
This appears to be a one-sided account who's scholarship is even called into question by the reviewer (you can click and read the whole review if you have not).
I was trying for irony and I hit truth? Hmmm...even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes.
On my Dont Bother list.
Wow...many times? It's been out only a week, hasn't it?
It sure seems like a hatchet job to me, using poor sourcing. As the reviewer points out, he was very political and inexperienced in the early days. I think everyone agrees he made many mistakes then.
But to rely on edited letters that were never sent? Poor scholarship.
As for being a hatchet job, did you find commentary like the "getting it on with slaves rather than a married woman" to be important for reminding the reader of the context of the times instead of just being snarky? Was this an isolated example, or does the book have such little jabs throughout?
Yes, you did....and please leave leave my ex-wife out if it.
Don't forget the heated rhetoric on the time's talk radio and Sarah Palin's crosshairs...
P.S. The cherry tree story is not true...he actually killed his mother's favorite colt horsing around with the guys.
You need to get into history books AT LEAST prior to WWII.
Sparks says in the introduction: "The importance attached to this correspondence by himself may be understood from the fact, that, many years after the letters were written, he revised the first drafts, and caused them to be carefully recorded in volumes".
And your point is?? That a statesman--indeed, a man more than a mere statesman--would want to revise the diaries and letters from a fevered youth is proof of...of...precisely what? Bad judgement? Perhaps...but knowing a bit about the character of the man, I would say that he may have acted in that way to spare others' sensibilities. To assume that he was acting selfishly seems to me intemperate.
General Washington was not a perfect person, although he came closer to the ideal than any other Earthly man that I know of, and this book will not change that opinion.
Your Humble and Obdt. Svt.,
While the Jumonville event has certainly been recounted many times over, who fired first and whether willful or accidental on the colonials’ part is still open to debate.
Of course I haven't read this book...but the Jumonville event is very well documented many times over.
Ummm...nobody is denying that. As the reviewer states, the author is supported by the evidence in those descriptions.
Your post doesn't make sense to me. The review doesn't take issue with those things; I likewise don't. What's at issue are the other aspects of the book, where he extends beyond evidence and uses edited sources rather than originals--and you tell us that it isn't a hatchet job. Okay....why? Because the evidence would support him anyway? Because it the snarky comments are helpful to understand context? I wonder why you believe what you expressed.
Then you write that you haven't read the book that you said isn't a hatchet job...?!?
Are you just going by the examples given in the review? And if so, why don't you think they are part of a hatchet job?
I'm so confused.
You need to get into history books AT LEAST prior to WWII.
Heck, you can go back to before the War of 1812 and still stumble into the ordure of distortions and revisionism. In fact, Washington's excellent Valley Forge propaganda was the source for the War of 1812 propaganda on the same topic.
And though I believe Wirt's reconstruction attempt for "Liberty or Death" was in good faith, we know it's not perfect, for example.
But despite that, later scholarship can add to understanding. Few had heard of The Battle of the Clouds when I was writing about it 15-20 years ago, and I had probably published more pieces on it than anyone. Since, there has been increased interest, further research, and better understanding. And now, there's even a municipal park named after it! Writing about it would be so much easier now, and it would be crazy to reference things I published then rather than using the expanded information available now.
See other replies above...this is certainly one thing I have learned today!
Where does that statement make any value judgement? It merely infers that GW thought they were important.
Wow. At first I was excited about this book when I saw your ping with the pix.
Now I’m disheartened. I guess it’s another revisionist beating up on Washington.
I find it curious they mention the Chernow book in the same vein - I haven’t read it yet, but my husband is. My mother and dad did (they are devout members of the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Assoc), and they listened to the author at Mt. Vernon. I’ll have to ask them just how “critical” it is.
This is laughably bad history. George Washington started the Seven Years War???
The Seven Years War was a continuation of the War of the Austrian Succession, after the parties had rested and rearmed. The first hostilities were after Washington's battle but were not remotely connected. First hostilities were between Prussia and Austria and the cause of conflict was the contest for supremacy in Germany.
I couldn't even say with a straight face Washington started the French and Indian War. Both the British and French wanted the Ohio Valley and as we now know the British wanted French Canada, too. I suppose this clown would also claim it was Washington who drove the British to fight the Battle of Plassey rather than the intense British desire to have India for themselves? And young George so deranged Whitehall that they also sent an expedition to attack the French in West Africa??
The left will do anything to make The General look like less than he is...the Constitution was laughable, and so were the Founders. Yuk yuk...Marx was a genius though...just ask Jon Stewart.
I share your high opinion of the man who was first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.
Thanks Pharmboy, I won’t waste my time or money on anything maligning a great American and a Great President and Leader.
He WAS bigger than life.