George Washington’s skills as a wartime leader during the American Revolution shaped the man who would one day lead the country as its first president.
Washington stands as one of the great figures in American history, “as a soldier, as a statesman, as a president, as an economist, as the father of the country,” Gen. Colin Powell said on a Mount Vernon video.
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Although Washington counted many victories under his leadership during the American Revolution, he also counted many failures, Powell said. Those failures occurred throughout his life as a soldier and a leader — unsuccessful skirmishes during the French and Indian wars when Washington was in his early 20s, for instance.
“He stepped on the stage of world history when he took command of the American army to fight the British for independence,” Powell said. “Here was a man who learned from failure, and how to keep a group of people together to achieve a purpose. He was able to infuse the Continental Army with a sense of purpose; we’re here to create a country. We’re here to create a country that’s unlike any other country the world has ever seen.”
Washington’s leadership and perseverance — through the terrible losses and challenges of the American Revolution — created what Powell called a “person of substance.” Victories like the one Washington claimed crossing the Delaware River to attack Hessian forces at Trenton or the tragic loss of one-third of his Army during the winter at Valley Forge shaped the man who would lead the Continental Congress and eventually the country.
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“While he lost more battles than he won, George Washington employed a winning strategy that included signal victories at the Battle of Trenton in 1776 and Yorktown in 1781,” the Mount Vernon website said of Washington’s wartime leadership
. “Washington’s greatest wartime legacy was his decision to surrender his commission to Congress, affirming the principle of civilian control of the military in the new United States.”
For Powell, it wasn’t the tally of wins or losses, but the leadership that Washington showed that impacts soldiers today. “His address at Fraunce’s Tavern in New York will always be seen by those of us who are in arms as a clear signal of what it means to be an officer and the responsibility you have to the nation,” he said.
Powell referred to early December 1783 when Washington said farewell to his commanders. Numerous accounts of the evening report that the man who would one day be president was “suffused with tears,” the History Channel said
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