Archive | January 2013

Washington’s Providence Part 2

In Part 1, we talked about George Washington’s near miss with a point-blank shot fired at him by an Indian guide.

In 1754, Virginia Governor Dinwiddie again sent Washington to confront the French and tell them to leave, this time with orders to “restrain all such Offenders, & in Case of resistance to make Prisoners of or kill & destroy them.” Washington led his men through the wilderness toward present-day Pittsburgh where the French had begun construction of Fort Duquesne. Washington’s scouts reported locating a French advance party and Washington decided to attack. Washington’s men surprised the French camp and slaughtered the French––inadvertently sparking the French and Indian War.

The following spring, Washington was invited to be a member of British General Edward Braddock’s military “family” as an aide de camp. This meant he was an officer on Braddock’s staff, but had very limited power and no command. Washington accepted the post because he felt it would pave the way for his earning a regular commission in the British army––his dream job. Braddock’s mission was to lead his army back through the same wilderness Washington had navigated the previous year and force the French out of Fort Duquesne. The English underestimated the French and Indian forces and were routed at the Battle of the Monongahela––just a few miles from Fort Duquesne.

During the battle, George Washington had two horses shot out from under him. He had four musket-ball holes tear through his jacket. Another musket-ball hole pierced his hat. Musket-ball fragments were scattered through his hair.

And he never had a scratch.

Out of the 86 officers in the British army, 63 were either killed or wounded during the battle.

Fifteen years later, an Indian chief told Washington he specifically ordered his warriors to target him during the battle, but to no avail. The chief concluded Washington was being protected by a spirit so he could do something important in the future.

Washington as Captain in the French and Indian War by Junius Brutus Stearns

Washington as Captain in the French and Indian War by Junius Brutus Stearns

Maybe Indians just weren’t good shots when it came to shooting Washington.

But what about the British?

Over twenty years later, during the American Revolution, a British marksman, Captain Patrick Ferguson, hid in the woods along the Brandywine Creek. The British were making a push toward the American capital of Philadelphia and Ferguson and his men were scouting ahead for American forces. In the clearing, two officers appeared––one wearing the uniform of a European cavalry officer–– the other, the uniform of a senior American officer. Ferguson was about to pull the trigger, but decided it was bad form to shoot unsuspecting victims in the back. He called out to the men in an effort to warn them. The American glanced his way and then casually rode off. Ferguson held his fire feeling it was not “pleasant to fire at the back of an unoffending individual, who was acquitting himself very coolly of his duty…”

The next day, Ferguson learned that the American officer was most likely General George Washington. The European was probably Polish Count Casimir Pulaski. Ferguson lamented he was “sorry that I did not know at the time who it was.”

Interestingly, the seemingly noble Ferguson became infamous to the Americans as the war turned to the southern theater. Ferguson was transferred south and rode with Banastre Tarleton (made famous as the bad guy in the movie The Patriot). You can read more here.

Next time, we will take a look at the possibilities of what might have happened if George Washington was not alive to lead the American Revolution or if he had been killed during the Revolution.

As always, your comments and questions are encouraged.