Before he was America’s first president, George Washington was a spy and a soldier, serving on America’s frontier. His spying activities in advance of the French and Indian War brought him a national reputation and helped precipitate that great war. The reputation he built then secured a military command for him in that war which would eventually lead to international acclaim as America’s first commander-in-chief.
In the year of 1753, French soldiers marched south from Canada into an area where claims of sovereignty between France and England were in dispute. This area is roughly where Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is now located at the forks of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers. The French soldiers brought with them Native American warriors and together they harassed, captured and killed English, Dutch and German settlers in order to scare them into leaving the area in order to claim the land for France.
The governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, chose 21 year-old George Washington to trek 400 miles into the frontier to deliver to the French a demand to leave the disputed area or face the prospect of war with colonial America and England. Washington also went to gather intelligence on the way, as there was little doubt that England and America hoped to pick a fight as much as the French did.
We know quite a lot about what happened on this expedition because Washington kept a diary that was later published.