American Hero of the Week: George “Destroyer of Villages” Washington

We are a nation founded by badasses. When our ancestors felt the Tea Act of 10 May, 1773, was unfair, the Sons of Liberty simply marched to the Boston Harbor and dumped an entire shipment of East India Company tea overboard. But the Boston Tea Party wasn’t our nation’s only rebellious moment, not by a long shot. And there’s more to our history of tenacious fighters than the big, bold acts most commonly splashed across the pages of textbooks.

For centuries, Americans have been known not only as citizens of the one truly free country in the world but as the biggest, baddest, brashest kids on the international playground. If you’re at war, you don’t want to be the one opposing us, and in the heat of battle, you certainly don’t want to be the terrorist coming face-to-face with a bearded, teeth-baring badass. When it comes to kicking ass and taking names, well, Americans have that down to a science.

800px-Peale_George_WashingtonWith that in mind, it’s time to honor a few of the greatest American badasses of all time. From our founding fathers to World War II heroes to our modern-day warriors, there is a never-ending stream of red, white, and blue badass-ness to choose from. Join us as we honor some of the coolest men in our history, past and present, starting with, of course, George Washington.

[quote_simple]“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” Heraclitus[/quote_simple]Yes, he was our first president, but he was also The Original Badass. Thomas Jefferson described him as an irritable man, saying once his temper “broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath.” The Iroquois Indians gave him the title of “Caunotaucarius” which roughly translates as “destroyer of villages.” He was definitely known for his rages, but at least he calmed down once the storm passed. And perhaps if not for his irrepressible temper, he would not have been such a seemingly invincible figure.

George Washington on horseback, fighting during the battle of the Monongahela, 1755. CREDIT: R駮ier, imp. Lemercier, Paris. "Life of George Washington--The soldier." 1854. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
George Washington on horseback, fighting during the battle of the Monongahela, 1755. CREDIT: R駮ier, imp. Lemercier, Paris. “Life of George Washington–The soldier.” 1854. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Back in 1755, Washington was in the military serving as aide-de-camp for General Edward Braddock. As the assistant for the highest-ranking officer, he was supposed to run errands and do basic, safe things for General Braddock. But one day a battle went horribly awry (a little skirmish known today as the Battle of Monongahela), and Braddock was shot right off his horse. They were losing, and no one seemed to know what to do. Nobody, that is, except for the assistant, George Washington. Young George hopped on a horse and began riding among the ranks giving commands, and it was working. And then his horse was shot out from under him. Not one to be dissuaded, he got up, grabbed another horse, and kept going. Then that horse was shot out from under him. But George Washington wasn’t a quitter, and he immediately mounted a third horse. Lucky for that one, the enemy was apparently done executing horses for the day.

Finally, under his guidance, the men were able to make a safe retreat, which was a huge improvement over their previously-surrounded state. And years later, his invincibility was proven when an Indian chief who had been there that day – shooting at him – traveled to meet the great man. The chief said “Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss. I am come to pay homage to the man…who can never die in battle.” Still not convinced? After that battle, Washington had four bullet holes in his coat but was also the only officer not to be shot that day.

Then there was the time in the dead of winter, in 1775, when then-General George Washington was approached by a guy named Henry Knox. Washington wanted to get the British out of Boston, which they were presently occupying, and Knox had an idea – not a great idea, but an idea, nonetheless. It involved trekking to Fort Ticonderoga and gathering up a massive store of weaponry, bringing it back, and blowing the crud out of the British. Sounds good, right? Well, not really, because the fort was 300 miles away and the plan required a massive amount of manpower to lug the weapons – including cannons – all the way back. All the way back across a river that was frozen and would need to miraculously thaw for passage and across miles that needed fresh snow for sleds to haul everything, and there was no fresh snow, just nasty, cold weather. Basically, it would take an act of God to pull off Knox’s plan, but Washington was all for it, so he mustered some men and off they went for Fort Ticonderoga.

Knox successfully gathered up the weapons and the men began the return trip. They loaded everything onto the flotilla and, facing freezing weather, were given a stroke of luck when it warmed up just enough for the ships to make it to their destination. No sooner had they arrived than the water promptly froze back over. Then, Knox had to get sleds – 40 of them – and a bunch of oxen to drag everything the rest of the way. No sooner had he managed that than, you guessed it, fresh snow began to fall, and the men simply slid the guns and cannons back to Boston. Once they had what they needed, Washington set them all up at Dorchester Heights (take a look at the Fortification of Dorchester Heights) which effectively halted the British ability to bring in life-saving supplies. Although the British General briefly considered fighting back, a heavy snowstorm – probably brought on by George Washington’s apparently direct line to God – changed his mind, and the British ran away from Boston with their tails between their legs.

Of course, that’s not all, but it should give you a pretty good idea why George Washington is the model upon which all other badasses have built themselves. His power in that one battle was replicated time and again, and sometimes it seemed he was also the luckiest man alive. If you ever want to read an account of one of the most mind-blowing men in our nation’s history, read about George Washington. What other man could lead a successful surprise attack against the British on Christmas Day by crossing a freezing river? Only The Original Badass.

“I heard the bullets whistle and, believe me, there is something charming to the sound of bullets.” George Washington, describing a battle to his brother.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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