George Washington, first President of the United States of America, was born on February 22, 1732, in what is now Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
He served two terms as president from 1789 to 1797. Turning down the chance to serve a third time, he established the customary policy of a maximum of two terms as president, later becoming law with the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.
Prior to becoming the nation's first President, Washington served as the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783.
Fighting broke out in April of 1775, and Congress created the Continental Army on June 14. The next day on June 13, Congress selected Washington as commander-in-chief. He appeared before the Second Continental Congress in military uniform, signaling his preparation to go to for war.
George Washington's involvement in the American Revolution began two months after his appointment as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
Washington's overall strategy proved to be successful. He kept control of 90% of the population at all times. He kept the army intact, and avoided decisive battles except to exploit the enemy's mistakes. Washington was a military conservative.
In 1776, Washington forced the British out of Boston, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey. He surprised the enemy units and defeated them later that year. Because of Washington's strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown.
George Washington's army encamped at Valley Forge in December 1777, and stayed for the next six months. Over the winter, 2,500 men out of 10,000, died from disease and exposure to the elements.
However, the following spring, the army emerged from Valley Forge in good shape. Washington delivered the final blow to the British in 1781, and trapped a British army in Virginia. The surrender at Yorktown on October 17, 1781, marked the end of most fighting.
In September of 1783, in the Treaty of Paris Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States.
George Washington disbanded his army and, on November 2, 1783, gave an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers.
Portrait of George Washington in military uniform, painted by Rembrandt Peale
On December 23, 1783, Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief to the Congress of the Confederation.
After serving two terms as President, George Washington said in his farewell address, "Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
He also warned against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. His farewell address set American values regarding religion and foreign affairs.
Because of the important role George Washington played in the revolution and in the formation of the United States, many refer to him as the "Father of our Country".
On December 12, 1799, after working on his farm in snow and freezing rain, he sat down to dinner without changing out of his wet clothes. The next morning, he had developed a bad cold, a fever, and a throat infection that turned into acute laryngitis and pneumonia.
George Washington died on December 14, 1799, at his home at the age of 67. Washington's personal secretary recorded the account of his death in his journal. In it he wrote that George Washington's last words were 'Tis well."
On December 18, 1799, George Washington's was interred in a tomb on his Mt. Vernon estate.
Colonel Henry Lee delivered the eulogy, declaring George Washington "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Historical scholars rank him as one of the greatest United States presidents.
Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Washington heroically crossing the Delaware, by Emanuel Leutze, 1851, Metropolitan Museum
John Trumbull's painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence