Wednesday, August 22, 2007

George Washington Frontiersman was published in 1994, long after Zane Grey’s death, which occurred in 1939. The manuscript was resurrected by Carlton Jackson. This book is not one of Zane Grey’s typical westerns. Grey’s first books were historical novels about the frontier and specifically about the settling of the Ohio River Valley by his relatives the Zanes. His first was Betty Zane followed by Sprit of the Border and The Last Trail. George Washington Frontiersman is a continuation of his first three historical works.
The book is about Washington’s early life as a surveyor and frontiersman. He surveyed much of the Shenandoah Valley and the Ohio River Valley. The book over glamorizes Washington’s life on the frontier and his expertise as a woodsman and Indian fighter. Much fiction is mixed with fact, but it makes interesting reading.
The book was based on Washington’s Diaries and highlights his relationship with Sally Cary. Sally was his first sweetheart but she ends up marrying Washington’s best friend George Fairfax. They all remain friends through life and Sally arranges Washington’s meeting with the widow Martha Custis. Martha has two children by her previous marriage. Sally Fairfax introduces them and after a two-day courtship they fall madly in love and are married after his French and Indian campaign.
The portion of the book about the French and Indian War is the most interesting. It covers the debacle at Fort Necessity and the massacre of General Braddock’s army trying to capture Fort Duquesne. There are lessons to be learned from the arrogance and stubbornness of Braddock as he led his men into an ambush and needless slaughter against the advice of skilled frontiersmen who knew how to fight Indians. Washington emerged as a hero from the massacre and saved some of the remaining troops. He was later appointed Lt. Colonel and successfully defeated the French and Indians and took Fort Duquesne.
All this led to the beginning of the American Revolution and the book ends when Washington was appointed Commander-in-Chief.
It’s an interesting read especially about the role of Washington in the French and Indian War. The Frontiersman: A Narrative by Alan Eckert is probably a better book about the life and times of the frontiersman. I would recommend both. Both of the books make life on the porch in Salado exciting. I was right in there fighting Indians and witnessing the stupidly of General Braddock. It made me wonder if we are not doing the same thing in Iraq.


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