Peter Stark’s new book Young Washington: How Wilderness and War Forged America’s Founding Father (Ecco, 2018) recounts the wilderness trials, controversial battles, and emotional entanglements that transformed George Washington from a temperamental striver into a mature leader.
Two decades before he helped lead the colonies to independence, George Washington was a flailing young soldier serving the British Empire in the Ohio Valley. The author portrays him as a naïve and self-absorbed twenty-two-year-old officer, when he accidentally ignited the French and Indian War — a conflict that helped open colonists to the possibility of an American Revolution.
Stark argues that enduring terrifying summer storms and subzero winters imparted resilience, self-reliance and leadership qualities he would draw on through the Revolution. Negotiating military strategy with British and colonial allies honed his diplomatic skills, Stark says. And thwarted in his obsessive, youthful love for one woman, he grew to cultivate deeper, enduring relationships.
By weaving together Washington’s harrowing Ohio Valley adventures and a broader historical context, Young Washington offers insights into the years that shaped the man who shaped a nation.
Peter Stark studied English and anthropology at Dartmouth College. He has a master’s in journalism from the University of Wisconsin.
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