May 28, 2008

Gratuitous Seven Years' War Posting

Washington Militia.jpg

Today is the anniversary of the Jumonville Affair in 1754, in which young Lt. Col. George Washington of the Virginia Militia led an attack of about 40 men against a party of 35 Frenchmen under the command of Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville, at what became known as Jumonville Glen near present-day Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The clash was the first (and perhaps inevitable) shot of the struggle between the French and British for control of the Ohio Valley, which spread not only into a contest for domination of North American, but provoked worldwide war as well.

Depending on who you believe, either the French fired first or else Washington and his men ambushed them as they slept. Either way, the battle was over in 15 minutes, with an utter defeat of the French. Jumonville was wounded in the battle and taken prisoner, but was later murdered by a Seneca ally of Washington. The French blamed Washington himself for Jumonville's death, and sent a retaliatory force under his half-brother to attack the British force. They encircled and trapped the Brits at Fort Necessity and on July 4, 1754, forced Washington to surrender the garrison there. Washington himself was made to sign a "confession" in French (which he didn't understand) that he had "assassinated" Jumonville.

Horace Walpole, British diplomat, was to describe the battle as "a volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America [that] set the world on fire." Washington himself was to say of it, "I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me there is something charming in the sound."

Regular readers will know that I've long been fascinated by American Colonial history and have maintained that it is absolutely impossible to comprehend the Revolution without knowing something about that history. (Sample rants can be found here, here, here, here, here and here.) Unfortunately, it is a branch of knowledge almost entirely ignored these days - especially in schools - and the complexity of issues and attitudes that led to that fateful day on Lexington Green twenty-one years after the opening shots at Jumonville (a complexity, I would add, that goes back even further than 1754) is virtually unknown. This inevitably leads to the casting of the Revolution itself in comic-book terms (Colonies: Good. King: Bad.) In my crankier moments, I think this dumbing down is quite deliberate.

UPDATE: Our pal GroovyVic sends along this pic of a statue of Washington in British uniform, apparently the only one of its kind:


Posted by Robert at May 28, 2008 10:02 AM | TrackBack

Me thinks you are correct.
Perhaps our educators wish to conceal from their youthful charges that the founders of this great nation were almost exclusively WHITE MALES.
Sometimes ANGRY white male.
White males who bitterly clung to their guns and their religion.

P.S. They also used tobacco, drank a lot, and only hugged a tree when they drank TOO much.

Posted by: Tbird at May 28, 2008 02:20 PM

Somewhere, the teaching of History is neglected.

Most people would be rendered speechless if the were told a certain prominent American had

* Commanded Colonial troops in support of Britain's North American campaigns during the Seven Years War

* Was Upset when he and his fellow Colonial Officers were denied the King's Commission as Regular Army Officers

* Was a Warden in his Anglican Parish

And some would argue, the match that lit the flame of the Revolution was the conclusion they were being denied the Rights of Englishmen (as evidenced by Taxation without Representation).

Posted by: kmr at May 28, 2008 06:32 PM

I thought this was typically called "The French and Indian War" in the States.

Posted by: Son of a Pig and a Monkey at May 29, 2008 12:00 PM

Have you ever been to Jumonville, Pa?? I've been there several times. Pretty part of the Keystone state and definitly worth seeing. Ft. Necessity is down the road from Jumonville (RT 40).

Ok, enough PA homerism.

Posted by: stillers at June 1, 2008 03:43 AM