A close examination of some of Washington’s writings provides many clues as to why Washington joined the Revolutionary War.
French and Indian War
While serving in the British Army during the French and Indian War, Washington grew frustrated. He did not understand why Virginians with the same rank were paid less those with royal commissions.
I would rather prefer the great toil of a daily laborer, and dig for a maintenance, provided I were reduced to the necessity, than serve upon such ignoble terms; for I really do not see why the lives of his Majesty’s subjects in Virginia should be of less value, than of those in other parts of his American dominions; especially when it is well known, that we must undergo double their hardship.
I could enumerate a thousand difficulties that we have met with, and must expect to meet with, more than other officers who have almost double our pay; but as I know you reflect on these things, and are sensible of the hardships we must necessarily encounter, it would be needless to enlarge.GEORGE WASHINGTON TO ROBERT DINWIDDIE, MAY 18, 1754
Only a few months later, the army restructured and Washington was demoted. Instead of serving as lieutenant colonel he would become a captain of one of ten Virginia regiments. Furthermore, anyone with a royal commission who held the same rank would outrank him. Despite wanting to remain in the army, Washington decides he must quit.
I think, the disparity between the present offer of a Company, and my former Rank, too great to expect any real satisfaction or enjoyment in a Corps, where I once did, or thought I had a right to, command
In short, every Captain, bearing the King’s Commission; every half-pay Officer, or other, appearing with such commission, would rank before me
My inclinations are strongly bent to arms.GEORGE WASHINGTON TO WILLIAM FITZHUGH, NOVEMBER 15, 1754
In March 1755, Washington rejoined the British Army, this time as an unpaid aide-de-camp to General Edward Braddock. However, he was still seen as a second-rate aide and Braddock did not listen to colonists despite their experiences. The result was a disaster.
In short the dastardly behaviour of the Regular Troops exposd all those who were inclin’d to do their duty, to almost certai⟨n⟩ Death; and at length, in despight of every effort to the contrary, broke & run as Sheep before Hounds, leavg the Artillery, Ammunition, Provisions Baggage & in short every thing a prey to the Enemy; and when we endeavourd to rally them in hopes of regaining the ground and what we had left upon it it was with as little success as if we had attempted to have stopd the wild Bears of the Mountains. or rivulets with our feet, for they wd break by in spite of every effort that could be made to prevent it.GEORGE WASHINGTON TO ROBERT DINWIDDIE, JULY 18, 1755
Commander-in-Chief of All Virginia Forces
After his service with Braddock, Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of all Virginia forces. However, the promotion did little to ease his frustrations with the British Army. Washington did not understand why his service in battle was considered less valuable than a British officer who had trained at St. James’s and never seen battle.
We cant conceive, that being Americans shoud deprive us of the benefits of British Subjects; nor lessen our claim to preferment: and we are very certain, that no Body of regular Troops ever before Servd 3 Bloody Campaigns without attracting Royal Notice.
As to those Idle Arguments which are often times us’d—namely, You are Defending your own properties; I look upon to be whimsical & absurd; We are Defending the Kings Dominions, and althô the Inhabitants of Gt Britain are removd from (this) Danger, they are yet, equally with Us, concernd and Interested in the Fate of the Country, and there can be no Sufficient reason given why we, who spend our blood and Treasure in Defence of the Country are not entitled to equal prefermt.
Some boast of long Service as a claim to Promotion—meaning I suppose, the length of time they have pocketed a Commission—I apprehend it is the service done, not the Service engag’d in, that merits reward; and that their is, as equitable a right to expect something for three years hard & bloody Service, as for 10 spent at St James’s &ca where real Service, or a field of Battle never was seen.GEORGE WASHINGTON TO ROBERT DINWIDDIE, MARCH 10, 1757
After years of frustration, Washington resigned from the British Army for good. Continuing to serve with his men was clearly his preference, but he could no longer do so.
Permit me then to conclude with the following acknowledgments: first, that I always thought it, as it really was, the greatest honor of my life to command Gentlemen, who made me happy in their company & easy by their conduct: secondly, that had every thing contributed as fully as your obliging endeavours did to render me satisfied, I never should have been otherwise, or have had cause to know the pangs I have felt at parting with a Regiment, that has shared my toils, and experienced every hardship & danger, which I have encountered. But this brings on reflections that fill me with grief & I must strive to forget them; in thanking you, Gentlemen, with uncommon sincerity & true affection for the honor you have done me—for if I have acquired any reputation, it is from you I derive it.GEORGE WASHINGTON TO THE OFFICERS OF THE VIRGINIA REGIMENT, JANUARY 10, 1759