Washington the Warrior

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Special Presentation
Washington the Warrior

He is perhaps the most iconic figure in American history—the nation’s first President,
George Washington is considered by many to be the “father” of the United States. Yet in
many ways Washington remains an icon shrouded in myth, his actual life overshadowed
by his image. In this special two-hour presentation, a fuller vision of this great leader and
statesman emerges. Washington the Warrior reveals fresh insights into George
Washington’s life through a fascinating examination of his military career. Though many
think of Washington as an invincible force, large both in stature and in influence, this
program humanizes him by exploring his mishaps and failures along the road to eventual
victory in the American Revolution.
Starting with Washington’s first military endeavor at the young age of 21, Washington
the Warrior
follows his career from his brave missions as a loyal English subject through
his tumultuous six- years as Commander- in-Chief of the Continental Army in the struggle
to overthrow British authority in the colonies. Rather than steadily victorious in his
military pursuits, Washington was nearly rendered to obscurity by his early military
mistakes against French and Indian forces in the West. The lessons he learned from these
travails, and his perseverance in the face of tremendous uncertainty and peril, were
fundamental in forming Washington’s triumphant leadership during the final stages of the
War for Independence.
Compelling historical excerpts, gripping reenactments, and surprising stories about
Washington’s life will introduce students to the nation’s first President in new ways.
Covering Washington’s role in the French and Indian War, his life at Mount Vernon, and
his years in the Continental Congress, this program traces the pivotal turning points in his
early life and military career. Educators and parents will find that Washington the


Warrior extends beyond a traditional biography, peering inside Washington’s life and
capturing the characteristics and motivations that made him a leader worthy of his
nation’s trust. This documentary would be an excellent supplement to lesson plans on the
life of George Washington, the formation of the colonies, and the Revolutionary era.
Curriculum Links
Washington the Warrior
would be an excellent addition to high school courses in
American History, Politics, World History, American Studies, or Civics. It fulfills the
following standards as outlined by the National Council for History Education: (1)
Civilization, cultural diffusion and innovation, (2) Human interaction with the
environment, (3) Values, beliefs, political ideas, and institutions, and (4) Patterns of
social and political interaction.


Discussion Questions
1. How would you describe George Washington’s upbringing and social status?
How do you think his social background influenced his desire to pursue a military

2. At the time George Washington first entered the military, how would you describe
the political situation in North America? Which nations or groups held the most

3. Why do you think George Washington was chosen to bring a message to the
French on behalf of the British crown? Why do you think authorities trusted him
with this duty?

4. What were some of Washington’s biggest mistakes in his early confrontations
with the French in the Ohio territory? Do you think he could have avoided these
mistakes? Discuss.

5. Why was the death of French Commander Jumovel a turning point in
Washington’s life? How did he deal with the aftermath of this murder?
6. After his early military mishaps, what decisions did Washington make with
regards to his military career? What do you think this proves about his leadership


7. At what point in his life did George Washington break loyalty with the British
crown? Why?
8. Why do you think Washington was chosen to lead the Continental Army in the
fight against the British? How did he convince his compatriots that he was up to
this task despite his early military failures?

9. What was the focus of Washington’s life at Mount Vernon? How do you think life
at Mount Vernon prepared Washington for the Presidency?
10. If you were a Patriot at the time of the American Revolution, would you have
wanted him to be Commander-in-Chief of the Army? Why or why not?
11. How do you think Washington inspired troops to keep fighting through the very
difficult years of the American Revolution? Do you think his personality played a
role in the decision by troops to keep fighting? Discuss.

12. Based on this documentary, how would you describe George Washington? How
does it change your previous impression of him?

Extended Activities
1. Dispatch from the West- Imagine that you were a scout sent on behalf of a neutral
newspaper to assess the situation on the Ohio territory at the time of
Washington’s excursion there in 1754-1755. Write a report to readers describing
the political situation in this territory, noting the nations and groups interacting in
this territory and their stakes in protecting their lands. You can supplement these
reports by locating maps online or at the library which show the geography of the
Ohio territory during this time period. Then, share your findings with the larger
class or group, and discuss the status of the colonies before the American
2. Portrait of a Leader- This documentary discusses Washington’s decision to dress
in military costume for his first formal portrait. On your own, create a portrait or
other artistic representation of Washington’s first self-portrait. These projects can
be creative and imaginative, but should reflect your own interpretation of
Washington’s personality, history, and leadership style.
3. Commander-in-Chief- This documentary discusses the decision- making process
of the Continental Congress in appointing Washington Commander-in-Chief of
the Army. Imagine that your role is to compose an official letter as a
representative of the Continental Congress requesting that Washington take this
position. Using what you have learned from viewing this documentary, write a
short letter inviting Washington to take this role. Then, compose a response letter
from Washington explaining his rationale for accepting the role.
4. A Farewell to Arms- Upon his retirement after securing victory in the American
Revolution, Washington wrote an extensive farewell address to troops in 1783. In
small groups, locate a copy of Washington’s farewell address using either the
internet or the library and analyze what became one of Washington’s most
eloquent and famous speeches. Then, select the sentence you feel is the most
important or compelling in the address. Create a poster-board or PowerPoint
emphasizing your selected sentence and choose a representative from your group
to share your choice with the class in a short oral presentation.


Additional Resources

Ellis, Joseph. His Excellency: George Washington. (Knopf, 2004).
Garrett, Wendell (ed). George Washington’s Mount Vernon. (Monacelli, 1991).
Heilbroner, Joan. Meet George Washington. (Random House Books for Young Readers,
Washington, George and Dorothy Twohig. George Washington’s Diaries: An
(University of Virginia Press, 1999).
Web sites
Official Mount Vernon website:
The History Channel’s tour of George Washington’s home:
The Gilder Lehrman Institution of American History

Fun Facts

DID YOU KNOW that clothing was always important to George Washington?
Washington’s earliest known fashion statement was a set of instructions he wrote to his
tailor as a teenager for altering a coat—a note which ran more than 150 words in length!

IT IS TRUE that during the French and Indian War, Washington emerged from one fierce
battle without a scratch despite his clothing being pierced by several bullets. Native
Americans, who had fought against him, regarded Washington as a warrior who was
protected against death by “The Great Spirit.”

IT IS SAID that after rumors circulated of Washington’s death in battle, he wrote to his
brother with a touch of humor, “…As I have heard…a circumstantial account of my
death and dying Speech, I take this…opportunity of contradic ting the first, and assuring
you that I have not, as yet, composed the latter.”

TO HIS CREDIT, in order to alleviate the suffering of his starving, frost-bitten army at
Valley Forge, Washington engineered a monumental cattle drive that reportedly moved
more head of beef than any other operation up until the railroad era of the 1870s.