George Washington's start as the middle child in a plantation family led him to an influential military career. His talent for leadership and belief in man’s morality helped him become a highly-regarded Founding Father of the United States. Explore the life and accomplishments of the first president of the United States with an in-depth George Washington timeline.
George Washington: Timeline of Life & Accomplishments
The Timeline of George Washington's Life
George Washington had an incredible life and legacy. Not only did he fight in the Revolutionary War, but he became the first president of the United States of America (U.S.). Explore important events in George Washington’s life.
Birth of George Washington: 1732
On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born to Augustine and Mary Washington at Pope's Creek Plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His father was a tobacco planter who also was a justice on the county court. His father had three children from his first wife, who had passed away, and George was the first child of six with his father's second wife.
George Washington's Childhood: 1734-47
Not much is known about George Washington's childhood besides stories of cherry trees and honesty. Historians do know that Augustine Washington passed away in 1743 when George was eleven, leaving Mount Vernon (then the Little Hunting Creek Plantation) to George's older half brothers, Lawrence and Augustine Jr., who looked after George as he grew up. Although George had to leave school after his father's death, he continued his studies with private tutors.
Schooling and Career: 1747-50
Washington received a surveyor's license from the College of William and Mary in 1749 and was appointed surveyor of Culpeper County at the age of 17. He became a member of a surveying expedition in West Virginia. In 1750, he was appointed county surveyor of Culpeper County.
Trip to Barbados and Loss of Lawrence: 1751-52
George accompanied his ailing half-brother and caretaker, Lawrence Washington, to Barbados in 1751 in an attempt to save Lawrence's life with the temperate weather. But Lawrence's health did not improve; George grew sick on the trip as well after contracting smallpox. George returned to Virginia a short time later, and Lawrence followed him to Mount Vernon in 1752, where he died shortly after. Mount Vernon was left to Lawrence's daughter, wife and then George after their deaths.
The French and Indian War: 1753-1757
Washington used his surveyor experience to gain an appointment as a major in the Virginia militia. He served as aide-de-camp to General Braddock during the French and Indian War where he was charged with the care of the Virginia Regiment at age 21. His heroic 900-mile mission to ask the French to leave the Ohio Valley and to deliver their refusal to British troops earned Washington acclaim from England.
Entering Politics and Marriage: 1758-59
After resigning from the military in 1758, Washington started his foray into politics where he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. Then in 1759, he married Martha Dandridge Custis, the wealthy widow of a prominent Virginia landowner.
Inheriting Mount Vernon: 1761
Upon the 1761 death of his sister-in-law, Sarah Washington, Washington inherited Mount Vernon. As a plantation owner, he grew tobacco then wheat.
Washington in the Revolutionary War
George Washington’s skills, charisma and military experience found him in the right place at the right time. His role in the Revolutionary War was key to American success and independence.
Smallpox Inoculation: 1775
Washington's earlier bout with smallpox protected him during the deadly 1775 smallpox outbreak. He required that his soldiers be inoculated against the disease, drastically lowering the fatality rate of his ranks.
Valley Forge: 1777-1778
After losing significant battles and the city of Philadelphia to the British in December 1777, Washington and his troops began a six-month encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. There they wintered, regrouped and trained for the battles ahead.
Winning the Revolution: 1781-1783
Washington and his troops were victorious at the Battle of Yorktown, signaling the end of the Revolutionary War. Peace negotiations took place soon after, and the Treaty of Paris was signed by American and British officials on September 3, 1783. Washington resigned his position as commander in chief on December 23, 1783.
From War to Politics
Though he left military service in 1783, Washington found himself a notable figure in early American politics. His political prowess proved necessary — and successful — in the foundations of the U.S. government.
Constitutional Convention: 1787
In 1787, Washington attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He was elected president of the convention on May 14 and worked to find agreement and compromise between the opposing parties. The convention would eventually produce one of the founding documents of the United States: the U.S. Constitution.
America’s First President: 1789-1797
On February 4, 1789, 69 presidential electors from 10 states unanimously elected Washington as the first president of the United States. He took the oath of office as the President of the United States on April 30, 1789.
Residence Act, Travel & Reelection: 1790-92
Washington signed the Residence Act of 1790, which selected the District of Columbia as the government’s permanent location. In 1791, he traveled around the U.S. to meet the people. He was then elected for a second term in office on January 5th, 1792.
Retirement and Death: 1797-99
On September 19, 1796, Washington released his farewell address in the form of a public letter. The document is one of America's most revered documents; the U.S. Senate has read the address aloud every February 22nd since 1896. On December 14th, 1799, nearly three years after resigning the office, George Washington died of a throat infection at 67 years old.
Important Events Post-Death
George Washington’s notoriety did not end with his death. Explore some of the different events and accomplishments after George Washington’s death.
Dispute Over Washington’s Burial: 1800-1831
Congress passed a resolution to construct a mausoleum in D.C. for Washington’s remains. However, several members of Congress (and Martha Washington herself) wished for Washington’s remains to stay at Mount Vernon. After over 30 years of Congressional inaction, John A. Washington, who owned Mount Vernon in 1832, refused to move his great-uncle’s remains from the grounds. Washington’s remains are still located in a tomb constructed at Mount Vernon today.
Washington’s Birthday Holiday: 1879-85
On January 31, 1879, Congress declared a federal holiday on February 22nd in the District of Columbia to celebrate Washington's birthday. Washington's birthday is celebrated annually by the entire nation.
Presidents’ Day: 1971
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act changed the day Washington's birthday is celebrated to the third Monday in February. It’s often referred to as Presidents’ Day and combined with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12), but the official federal name for the holiday is Washington’s Birthday.
The Father of the United States
Many people know George Washington as the Founding Father of America, but he led an exciting life before becoming president. From his humble beginnings in Virginia to his portrait on the one dollar bill, Washington embodied the American dream from the very beginning. Check out other essential (and unusual) facts about the presidents who have led the U.S. after Washington’s retirement.