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For History Class: Greatest Military Commander Faced by Brits

George Washington from Art.comBernard Goldbach in Cashel | Image from | 180 words

AS A STUDENT of American history, I decided to help the National Army Museum in London decide which five military leaders are represented at Enemy Commanders: Britain's Greatest Foes, a celebrity speaker event on Saturday 14 April 2012. I think George Washington deserves to be on the shortlist so I voted for him.

This meant setting up an account with the museum in order to get access to the plus-one button next to Washington's profile. George is running well behind Irish favourite Michael Collins, another tall commander.

As a young teen, I read a lot about Washington and told my mother he wasn't the rich, British-oriented Virginia aristocrat that she learned about in primary school. He never set foot in England and never traveled to Europe. We revered him in the Boy Scouts because he made his living as a surveyor, defining tracts of forests on the fringes of settlements. He knew the wilderness and spent five years in it fighting native American Indians.

I don't think George Washington completed elementary school. He had to work his family's impoverished land under the stern hand of his domineering mother. My books on Washington tell about his proudest possessions as a child. The Washingtons owned six good pairs of sheets, ten inferior pairs, and seventeen pillow cases. Their proudest possessions were described as "plate", one soup spoon, eighteen small spoons, seven teaspoons, a watch and a sword for a total value of £25 10s. Most of the eating utensils were carved from wood.

This modest man became America's first President, sleeping at least two nights in my hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. On those overnight stays, he kept his horse in one of the stables later owned by my grandfather. That building still stands today.

National Army Museum -- "Who was the greatest commander to face the British?" is the question raised in an online poll.

James Thomas Flexner -- Washington: The Indispensable Man, 1969.


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