George Washington answers interview questions
An Imaginary Interview of Gen. George Washington, the supreme commander of the Continental Army shortly after the Treaty of Paris in 1783 by Michael M. Nakade
(When the Second Continental Congress was convened in May 1775 in Philadelphia, George Washington was unanimously chosen as the supreme commander of the Continental Army to lead the way in America’s quest for independence.)
Press: General, thank you for your time today. It is an honor to have this opportunity to ask you about the war that ended with America’s gaining independence from the U.K. First of all, what’s your immediate plan?
GW: At the moment, I’m content to be back in my beloved Mount Vernon in Virginia. My wife, Martha, had to run our plantation there without me for the last 8 years or so. I owe it to her to be around for the rest of our lives together.
Press: General, what prompted you to become the general of the Continental Army back in 1775?
GW: I was a delegate from Virginia when the Second Continental Congress was convened. The battle had already begun in Massachusetts, and the need to raise an American army was urgent. Since I had military experience from the French and Indian War and represented the Old Dominion, I was chosen to command the Continental Army, which was yet to be organized. It was kind of like being named the manager of the new expansion baseball team. I had to build the army from scratch.
Press: General, you fought for the British Empire during the French and Indian War for seven long years, but you were willing to fight for American independence. What was the reason?
GW: During the French and Indian War, I experienced the haughty British attitude toward me as an American. The British soldiers in general did not think much of the American colonists. Furthermore, they were not willing to listen to what I had to say about the combat on American soil. My first job was a land surveyor. I know how to get around the valleys, woods, plains, and rivers, but the British didn’t want to hear what I could offer them. So, I resigned my military rank and settled at Mount Vernon as a planter with my wife, Martha. Later, I was involved in the Virginia Colonial politics and realized that we Americans would be better of breaking away from the British Empire. I was against the taxation policies during those turbulent years in the 1760s and the 1770s.
Press: At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, not many military experts gave America a chance to win the war. Many thought that you were crazy to accept the role of the commander. What was your thought at in May of 1775?
GW: Oh, those military experts. They evaluate things based on conventional military wisdom. They really don’t know what they’re talking about. First of all, I did not command my army to win every single battle against the Red Coats. All I had to do was to convince them that they couldn’t conquer all 13 colonies in North America. In other words, I had to make sure that we didn’t lose. Future historians may say that George Washington lost more battles than he won. Of course, that’s true. But that’s not the point. The point was that I did not let my army surrender to the British. Losing battles was okay as long as I did not lose the war.
Press: I see. But, there was a time that you felt like surrendering, right? Did it come close?
GW: Certainly. My army was not well trained. Not well equipped. Not well paid. It seemed that I spent more time pleading my soldiers to stay in the army and pleading to the Continental Congress to give us more supplies than actual fighting in the battle fields. At times, it was very trying. The winter spent in Valley Forge was one of the most difficult.
Press: What kept you going when things looked very bleak for the Americans in 1776 and 1777?
GW: First of all, I loved America and wanted America to be an independent Republic. We as people knew how to run our own affairs. We are fiercely independent and determined. Being American is to be free and independent. I truly believed in this cause. Secondly, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel even when things looked bleak. My soldiers improved in discipline and in the art of warfare. At Valley Forge, the Prussian officer named Von Steuben drilled my boys all winter long. With each passing year, our soldiers began to hold their own against the Red Coats. It was fun to see them grow.
Press: Militarily speaking, which battles were significant for the eventual American victory?
GW: Well, I don’t want to pick one battle over others since there were casualty in every battle, and we must remember our fallen comrades. Each battle was treated as a matter of life and death. But, if I have to pick one battle, I’d choose the one at Trenton, New Jersey on the day after Christmas in 1776. We did a surprise attack against the British Army comprised of soldiers from Germany. They were partying all night on Christmas night. When we showed up on the morning of December 26, they were still sleeping and weren’t ready to fight. We captured about 1,000 of them. The victory was very sweet. It was America’s first decisive victory, and it helped the morale very much. Some of our soldiers choose to stay in the army longer as a result, and more volunteers signed up after this victory.
Press: How was working with other American generals?
GW: You known, some military men have huge ego. After Gen. Horatio Gates won the victory over Gen. John Burgoyne’s British Army in Saratoga, New York in October 1777, Gates got big-headed. Some people in America started saying that Gates should replace me. I learned later that he didn’t really do much at Saratoga. It was due to the brilliance of Gen. Benedict Arnold. Yeah, that traitor Arnold. But Gates got all the credit, and it made Arnold quit on America and went over to the British side. Later on, Gates got the assignment in the South, and he was really jacked up. But he and his troops were routed by the British Army led by Gen. Cornwallis in Camden, South Carolina in 1780. That pretty much ended his ambition to replace me. In the end, I remained the supreme commander of the Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War and got to see Cornwallis’ army surrender at Yorktown in October1781.
Press: General Washington, what was it like working with the French?
GW: Very good. After America’s victory over the British in Saratoga, the French became convinced that the Americans could actually win this thing. Thanks to the hard work by Ben Franklin in Paris, the formal alliance treaty between us and the French was signed in 1778. Then, the French General by the name of Rochambeau (Roh-shon-bow) came to America, and we met to discuss our strategy in 1780. You see, I was chased out of New York at the beginning of the war, and I really wanted to take back New York. I thought that our improved Continental Army together with Rochambeau’s French army would re-take New York in the summer of 1781. But, the reality was that the southern parts of American colonies were controlled by Gen. Cornwallis’ British troops. Rochambeau and I agreed that it would be better to get those Red Coats out of the South. It worked out well, didn’t it?
Press: It sure did. The British gave up after the surrender at Yorktown. What was it like for you when the war ended?
GW: I was very proud of my men in the Army. Those stuck with me through thick and thin. We proved that the less trained and less equipped army could win the war against the better trained and better equipped army. Like I said earlier, Americans lost more battles than won. But, we still won the war. The British found it difficult to control all of North America’s 13 colonies with the resources they had. They had to get supplies from Britain, which was 3,000 miles away for all these years. In the end, we won the war because we convinced them that they couldn’t win. I credit our people’s indomitable spirit for victory.
Press: You’re always such a class act. Historians give credit to you for being the glue that held America together. Your character and integrity were the reason for your soldiers not giving up.
GW: Thank you for your kind words. I am going to enjoy the peacetime with my wife, Martha. We will be at Mount Vernon for the rest of our lives.
(Little did he know that he would come out of retirement in 1787 to unite America again at the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia, PA. He would lead the new United States of America as the first president in April 1789 and served for 8 more years.)
(Information indicated in the work came mainly from two sources: 1) The Teaching Company’s Lecture Series on The History of the United States, 1st edition, Lecture 19, “The Revolutionary War” by Darren Staloff, Ph.D. and 2) “The Revolution,” a 13-PART DVD series showcasing the Personal Stories behind America’s fight for independence by the History Channel, 2004.)
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