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11 Little-Known Facts About George Washington

February 17, 2020 in History

By Editors

He’s America’s first president. The icon we all think we know. But in reality, he was a complicated human being.

1. Washington had only a grade-school education.

A young George Washington with his mother, Mary Ball Washington.

The first president’s formal schooling ended when he was 11 years old, after his father died. That event cut young George off from the opportunity to be educated abroad in England, a privilege that had been afforded to his older half-brothers. Washington’s mother never remarried, forcing the adolescent to shoulder weighty burdens at a young age, as the oldest child of six from his father’s second family. She taught him how to run a tobacco farm, and at the age of 16 he took his first job as a land surveyor. For the rest of his life, Washington would be embarrassed by his stunted schooling.

READ MORE: How George Washington’s Iron-Willed Single Mother Taught Him Honor

2. At age 22, Washington led a disastrous military skirmish that sparked a world war.

George Washington receiving a message from chief Half-King at the start of the French and Indian War.

As France and Britain fought for territory at the edges of the North American colonies, Virginia sided with the British. As an officer in the Virginia militia, Washington was sent to the Ohio Valley (now western Pennsylvania) with some 150 troops, to help repel any attacks by the French. Warned by local Native American allies that a small French force has set up camp within several miles of his position, he led an attack with 40 of his soldiers, along with a dozen native warriors.

Who fired the first shot remains in dispute, but at the end of the 15-minute skirmish, at least 10 French soldiers and one Virginian were dead—including, most notably, a minor French noble, Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville, who the French later said was on a diplomatic mission. Jumonville’s death enraged the French, who called Washington an assassin. The conflict between the French and the British escalated into the French and Indian War, and soon spread worldwide in what became known as the Seven Years’ War.

READ MORE: How 22-Year-Old George Washington Inadvertently Sparked a World War

3. Washington’s first love was the wife of one of his best friends.

George Washington dancing the minuet with Sally Fairfax at the Carlyle House, 1755.

“The world has …read more