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Collection George Washington Papers

The Colonial Period

A timeline from George Washington's birth through his marriage and early career, 1731/32-1773.


  1. 1731/32*

    February 22, George Washington is born to Augustine and Mary (Ball) Washington at Wakefield Farm, Westmoreland County, Virginia. George Washington to Isaac Heard, May 2, 1792, on the Washington family genealogy

    *1731 by the Old (Julian) Calendar, 1732 by the New (Gregorian) Calendar. The New Calendar was adopted by Great Britain and the colonies in 1752. To bring the calendar in line with the solar year, it added 11 days and began the new year in January rather than March. Tobias Lear, secretary to Washington, to Clement Biddle, February 14, 1790, on the new calendar and Washington's birthday

  2. March 1748

    Begins career as surveyor in a venture to the Shenandoah Valley on behalf of prominent Virginia landowner, Lord Thomas Fairfax. Accompanies James Genn, surveyor for Prince William county, and George William Fairfax, the son of Lord Fairfax.

  3. July 1752

    Inherits rights to Mount Vernon plantation upon the death of brother Lawrence Washington.

    George Washington's home at Mount Vernon. Aquatint by Francis Jukes from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. London: Pub'd by F. Jukes, 1800. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-1237
  4. November 1753

    Leads Virginia expedition to challenge French claims to the Allegheny River Valley.

  5. April-May 1754

    Leads Virginia forces against French at Fort Duquesne in the upper Ohio River Valley. Builds Fort Necessity at Great Meadows, Pennsylvania.

  6. May 27, 1754

    Defeats French scouting party but is subsequently forced to surrender Fort Necessity after brief battle.

  7. October 1754

    Washington resigns commission when Virginia colonial forces are reduced to separate autonomous companies.

  8. April 1755

    Appointed volunteer aide de camp to British General Edward Braddock and marches with him and British regulars against the French at Fort Duquesne. In pursuit of formal military education, Washington copies many of Braddock's general orders into one of his letterbooks. Letterbook

    George Washington. Engraved by John Rogers after C.W. Peale, from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. [ca. 1860]. Reproduction#: (b&w) LC-USZ62-112547
  9. July 9, 1755

    British defeated by French at Monongahela River and Braddock killed. Despite defeat, Washington achieves recognition in official circles for bravery under fire. George Washington to his mother, Mary Ball Washington, [July 18], 1755

  10. August 1755

    Appointed, with rank of colonel, commander of reorganized Virginia colonial forces. Is responsible for defending a 350-mile frontier.

  11. September 1, 1758

    Frustrated by inadequate supplies and support from colonial assembly and royal governor, Robert Dinwiddie, Washington writes Speaker of the House, John Robinson, with his complaints. George Washington to John Robinson, September 1, 1758.

  12. November 1758

    Commands 700 men from four colonies as part of force that defeats the French and finally captures Fort Duquesne. The British force is led by General John Forbes.

    Shortly thereafter, resigns commission as commander of Virginia colonial forces to attend to Mount Vernon and private affairs.

    Elected to a term in House of Burgesses from Frederick County in the Shenandoah Valley.

  13. January 6, 1759

    Marries Martha Dandridge Custis, widow of Daniel Parke Custis. Washington assumes parental care of her children, Martha ("Patsy") and John Parke ("Jacky").

    Wedding of George Washington and Martha Custis. Lithograph from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Paris: Lemercier, c1853. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-3914
  14. 1759-mid - '70s

    Acquires additional lands near Mount Vernon and in the Ohio Valley. Diversifies agricultural production to include wheat as well as tobacco and reduces debts to British tobacco merchants. Expands and remodels house at Mount Vernon.

    Begins fifteen years service in Virginia House of Burgesses from Frederick County in the Shenandoah Valley; in 1765 and thereafter from Fairfax County.

  15. June 19, 1773

    Martha ("Patsy") Custis, Washington's stepdaughter, dies of epilepsy.