George Washington was born in Virginia on February 22, 1732. When he was eleven, his father died and his half-brother Lawrence became his surrogate father. Following Lawrence's death in 1752, he inherited Mount Vernon. Washington served ably on the frontier during the French and Indian War. He was on Braddock's expedition along with Thomas Gage, Horatio Gates and Charles Lee. He also met Daniel Morgan, who was a civilian wagoneer. In late 1758, Washington turned his attention to his estate and married Martha Dandridge Custis in January 1759.
Washington then served in the Virginia House of Burgesses for fifteen years where he became one of the leaders of the most radical patriots. He served as a Virginia deligate to the First Continental Congress, but was not active. When attending the Second Continental Congress, Washington attended daily in full military uniform and in June, 1775, he was selected as Commander in Chief of the newly formed Continental Army.
Washington immediately left for Boston and assumed command there in July 1775. He began to build an army and after securing outlying positions, the British evacuated Boston in March 1776. He immediately left for New York City. The British arrived in July and began a drive toward occupation of the area in August. Maj. General William Howe steadily drove Washington back, defeating him at Long Island, Kip's Bay and White Plains, as well as capturing Fort Washington and Fort Lee. Washington was then forced to retreat to New Jersey in November 1776.
Lt. General Charles Cornwallis then chased Washington across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. Washington knew he needed to secure a victory before the new year when many of his enlistments ran out. He scored surprise victories at Trenton on December 26, 1776 and at Princeton on January 6, 1777, before entering winter quarters. In May, he resumed campaigning and maneuvering against General Howe in Pennsylvania. Howe defeated him at Brandywine and then outmanuevered him and captured Philadelphia in September and then against defeated him at Germantown in October 1777. He then entered winter quarters at Valley Forge.
Washington's army left Valley Forge a tougher unit, thanks to the harsh conditions and military drilling. Lt. General Henry Clinton had retreated General Howe and decided to retreat to New York City. Washington trailed him across New Jersey and attacked his rear at Monmouth Courthouse, New Jersey in June 1777. What was a sure American victory was reduced to a draw when General Lee disregarded Washington's orders to advance and instead retreated. The two had a heated exchange and Lee was removed from active duty.
Washington remained outside New York until 1781. With the long-awaited arrival of the French Navy, he coordinated the Yorktown campaign with the French, which led to the surrender of General Cornwallis and a virtual end to the war. He remained on duty until 1783 and then he returned to Mount Vernon and private life until 1787. He returned to public life by participating in the structuring of the U.S. Constitution then reluctantly became the first President of the United States. He retired after his second term, refusing to become king or dictator and setting a precedent for future presidents. During his presidency, the Democrats and Federalists emerged as the two dominant political parties.
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