TW Viewpoint | George Washington: The Battle of MonongahelaMay 30, 2018 | Jonathan Riley
George Washington was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Without his efforts both on and off the battlefield, America would not be the country it is today. Yet this was very nearly the case as Washington faced almost certain death at the Battle of Monongahela.
In July of 1755 at the beginning of the French and Indian war, British forces, led by General Edward Braddock, were attacked ten miles east of the present day city of Pittsburgh. The largely outnumbered French and Indian soldiers still managed to deal a crushing defeat to the British in the favoured terrain of the wooded Indian hunting grounds. Among the 1,300 British soldiers was a rear guard of Virginians led by a young Colonel George Washington. Washington helped co-ordinate a retreat of the surviving British soldiers. Commissioned officers were the primary targets for gunfire and two of Washington's horses were shot out from under him as he remained exposed to almost continuous gunfire. Just over a week later Washington wrote a letter to his brother John where he recounted that "...by the All-powerful Dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four Bullets through my Coat, and two Horses shot under me; yet escaped unhurt, altho Death was leveling my Companions on every side of me!"
Almost sixteen years later, in October 1770, Washington was travelling to the Ohio River Valley. His personal physician Dr. James Craik was present and attested to an encounter between Washington and a local Indian leader, Chief Red Hawk. An interpreter stepped forward and informed Washington that "...the chief was a very great man among the northwestern tribes, and the same who commanded the Indians on the fall of Braddock, sixteen years before." Through his interpreter Red Hawk went on to tell Washington how his warriors were ordered to target him directly but upon witnessing that none of their shots had any effect and believing that a great spirit was protecting him, they reportedly ceased fire. Red Hawk himself claimed to have shot at Washington 11 times, without success. He then said of Washington, that "he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn, will hail him as the father of a mighty empire!"
Was Washington miraculously protected? Had he died that July day in 1755, would the world we live in today be a different place? Would the United States of America still have risen to prominence without this founding father?
When General Edward Braddock died of his wounds a few days after the battle, he uttered some of his last words in Washington's ear, rhetorically asking "Who would have thought?" Indeed, who would have thought, that a young Colonel in the British forces would be miraculously preserved during the defeat suffered at Monongahela, to then later lead the way in bringing about the most powerful nation the world has ever seen?