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George Washington's Training

( Originally Published 1916 )


Among the mountain passes of the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies, a youth is seen employed in the manly and invigorating occupation of a surveyor, and awakening the admiration of the backwoods-men and savage chieftains by the strength and en-durance of his frame and the resolution and energy of his character. In his stature and conformation he is a noble specimen of a man. In the various exercises of muscular power, on foot, or in the saddle, he excels all competitors. His admirable physical traits are in perfect accordance with the properties of his mind and heart; and over all, crowning all, is a beautiful, and, in one so strong, a strange dignity of manner, and of mien—a calm seriousness, a sublime self-control, which at once compels the veneration, attracts the confidence, and secures the favor of all who behold him. That youth is the Leader whom Heaven is preparing to conduct America through her approaching trial.

As we see him voluntarily relinquishing the enjoyments, luxuries, and ease of the opulent refinement in which he was born and bred, and choosing the perils and hardships of the wilderness; as we follow him fording swollen streams, climbing rugged mountains, breasting the forest storms, wading through snowdrifts, sleeping in the open air, living upon the coarse food of hunters and of Indians, we trace with devout admiration the divinely appointed education he was receiving to enable him to meet and endure the fatigues, exposures, and privations of the War of Independence.

Soon he was called to a more public sphere of action; and we again follow him in his romantic adventures as he travels the far-off wilderness, a special messenger to the French commander on the Ohio, and afterwards, when he led forth the troops of Virginia in the same direction, or accompanied the ill-starred Braddock to the blood-stained banks of the Monongahela. Everywhere we see the hand of God conducting him into danger, that he might extract from it the wisdom of an experience not otherwise to be obtained, and develop those heroic qualities by which alone danger and difficulty can be surmounted; but all the while covering him with a shield.

When we think of him, at midnight and in mid-winter, thrown from a frail raft into the deep and angry waters of a wide and rushing Western river, thus separated from his only companion through the wilderness with no aid for miles and leagues about him, buffeting the rapid current and struggling through driving cakes of ice; when we behold the stealthy savage, whose aim against all other marks is unerring, pointing his rifle deliberately at him, and firing over and over again; when we see him riding through showers of bullets on Braddock's fatal field, and reflect that never, during his whole life, was he ever wounded, or even touched by a hostile force—do we not feel that he was guarded by an unseen hand, warding off every danger? No peril by flood or field was permitted to extinguish a life consecrated to the hopes of humanity and to the purposes of Heaven.

For more than sixteen years he rested from his warfare, amid the shades of Mount Vernon; ripening his mind by reading and reflection, increasing his knowledge of practical affairs, entering into the whole experience of a citizen at home and on his farm, and as a delegate to the Colonial Assembly. When, at last, the war broke out, and the unanimous voice of the Continental Congress invested him, as the exigency required, with almost unbounded authority, as their Commander-in-Chief, he blended, although still in the prime of his life, in the mature bloom of his manhood, the attributes of a sage with those of a hero. A more perfectly fitted and furnished character has never appeared on the theater of human action than when, reining up his war-horse beneath the majestic and venerable elm, still standing at the entrance of the Watertown road to Cambridge, George Washington unsheathed his sword and assumed the command of the gathered armies of American Liberty.

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