George Washington: Global Provocateur

“Oh crap! That’s due tomorrow?!” – Thomas Jefferson, July 3, 1776 (probably)

Happy 3rd of July!

That imaginary quote always makes me laugh. In part because I’m a writer who knows a thing or two about deadlines sneaking up on you, but also because I like to think about the humanness of historical figures. 

One of the things that history books get so wrong is that they present history as just a jumble of names and dates without giving kids any reason to care about the things they’re learning. They feel no attachment to the people or events, and often forget things the second they’re done taking the test. 

You guys really seemed to like the story about John Adams writing to his wife, Abigail, and, as I suspected, many of you didn’t know that independence was actually declared on the 2nd of July; not the 4th!

(I didn’t know it either until I started doing research for our America’s History books!)

So here’s another story that you may not have heard—a little known tale of the Big Guy himself: George Washington.

Most people’s knowledge of Washington starts with him as the heroic general who led the Continental Army to victory and became the first President of the United States.

Of course that’s true, but his early career as a British soldier is full of important stories and events that shaped not only his life, but also the geopolitical landscape of his time.

In the early 1750s, young George Washington was a lieutenant colonel in the British colonial militia. His mission was to help the British secure the Ohio Valley, a region both the British and the French coveted.

Washington was tasked with driving the French out of the area. However, he faced a significant problem: he didn’t have enough soldiers to confront the French forces.

To bolster his ranks, Washington enlisted the help of the Mingo tribe, led by Chief Tanacharison. The Natives was eager to support Washington because they had their own grievances against the French, who were encroaching on their lands and disrupting their way of life.

In May 1754, Washington and his allies managed to surprise a small French detachment. The French, led by Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, quickly surrendered. However, the story took a dark turn.

The Mingos, still seething with anger towards the French, began killing the captured soldiers. Despite Washington’s attempts to stop the violence, the massacre continued, and only one French soldier managed to escape.

That soldier returned to his superiors and reported the attack, placing the blame squarely on George Washington and obviously infuriating the French. 

This event, sometimes called the Jumonville Affair, escalated tensions between the French and British, leading to a buildup of troops and eventually igniting the larger conflict known as the French and Indian War.

This war was not just a regional skirmish; it was part of a global struggle between the British and French empires. It was a proxy war. 

The outcomes of these battles had far-reaching consequences, shaping the political landscape in North America and setting the stage for future conflicts—including the American Revolution!

This story of George Washington is just one of many overlooked episodes in American history. Context matters. The “why” of things matters.

Understanding the historical events that led up to the American Revolution helps us understand and appreciate the complexity of our nation’s founding.

It also helps us see how things happening today have the potential to impact the future.

Knowing history isn’t just about memorizing dates and names; it’s about understanding the human experiences and decisions that have shaped our world. It’s about learning from the past to make informed decisions today and build a better future tomorrow.

Our Tuttle Twins U.S. History curriculum and books start all the way back at the Silk Road because we believe that in order to really appreciate the founding of the United States, we need to understand the rich tapestry of events that led to it.

We teach true history that most adults don’t even know, and we do it in a way that helps kids (and their parents!) understand why history matters

By teaching the “whys” of history, we empower kids to think critically, understand the world around them, and become better informed adults who will have the skills and knowledge to shape a brighter future.

And that’s something worth celebrating!

— Connor

Want More?

The Tuttle Twins children’s book series is read by hundreds of thousands of families across the country, and nearly a million books (in a dozen languages!) are teaching children like yours about the ideas of a free society.

Textbooks don’t teach this; schools don’t mention it.

It’s up to you—and our books can help. Check out the Tuttle Twins books to see if they’re a fit for your family!