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A Highlander and his Books
Blooding at Great Meadows

Young George Washington and the Battle that Shaped the Man
By Alan Axelrod

Reviewed by Frank R. Shaw, FSA SCOT, Atlanta, GA, USA, email: 

Blooding at Great MeadowsAuthor Alan Axelrod has written an interesting and compelling book which gives us a new, insightful look into young George Washington! Any student of history or Washington will find Blooding at Great Meadows a wonderful and stimulating read, beginning with the title itself. This book is simply as good a book on Washington’s early years as one can find.

The section dealing with Washington’s defeat at Fort Necessity (a/k/a Great Meadows) in the western part of what is now Pennsylvania is material worthy of being made into a movie. “Why?” you ask. Because Axelrod’s chapter titled “Anatomy of Surrender” deals with the first of Washington’s many defeats during his military career, and his only battlefield surrender! Leading his first major command, Washington, having been given the honors of war, marched out of Fort Necessity with drums beating and colors raised high. He picked a fight with a superior force and lost. To put it mildly, he simply got thrashed! Although humiliated, young George Washington marched out of Fort Necessity “a soldier, a leader of soldiers - and more”. The French and Indian War had begun and would last seven years. And in a staccato sentence, the author reveals, “The day was July 4, 1754.” But Washington would experience another July 4, this one in 1776, and it would have a different ending.

The 22-year-old Washington returned from his humiliation at Great Meadows, Axelrod writes, neither shocked, cowed, or chastened. He returned bloodied, now a mature soldier, and could recall something charming in the sound of bullets whistling by his head. Axelrod says of Washington that he “fought, led, watched, and learned. Washington survived. More than that, he prevailed.” And, history was to record George Washington as a great leader of men but not a great tactician. Choosing to build Fort Necessity on the site he did was the first of many errors in judgment that Washington would make over a long, distinguished career. After the surrender, it took Washington and his men nearly two weeks to reach Williamsburg where he was generally greeted as a hero since most of his critics were silent. But, that was not the end of the matter.  

Horace Walpole said it better than anyone else when he wrote in his Memoirs of the Reign of King George II, “The volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire”. The book’s subtitle, “Young George Washington and the Battle that Shaped the Man” could just as easily have been “Young George Washington Who As a Man Would One Day Shape the World”.

Ask for Blooding at Great Meadows (Running Press Book Publishers) at your local book store - ISBN-13: 978-0-7624-2769-7 or ISBN-10: 0-7624-2769-8.  This publication lists for $22.95, and you’ll be glad you added it to your library. (FRS: 8-06-07)

Now, What Has This Got To Do With Scottishness?

With all due apologies to Alan Axelrod, I will venture into another area of interest to our Scottish readers that has nothing to do with his book. It was Light Horse Henry Lee (father of General Robert E. Lee) in his eulogy of Washington who described him as “First in peace, first in war, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” He has often been referred to as an Englishman throughout history. One author and Scottish scholar, Duncan Bruce (The Mark of the Scots and The Scottish 100), notes that Washington was of “solid English stock”.  

However, Bruce goes on to say in The Mark of the Scots that an unusual discovery was made in 1964 by George S. H. L. Washington, himself an Englishman, who found that our George Washington had a Scottish connection to Malcolm II, King of Scotland from 1005-1034.  Listen up, this information has been verified and accepted by the Garter King of Arms, the official arbiter of English genealogy. Bruce supports this discovery, as did Nigel Tranter, “Scotland’s Story Teller”. I certainly have found no reason not to! And that, dear reader, is why I’ve reviewed this excellent book by Alan Axelrod on the young George Washington! (FRS: 8-06-07)

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