George Washington's early military career (1754-1758)—during the Seven Years' War—was not uniformly successful. In his first battle, he and his men were ambushed and forced to surrender Fort Necessity on the Pennsylvania frontier. Washington's reputation for leadership and courage was based on his actions in another defeat at the hands of the French. In that battle, at Fort Duquesne (1755, often called the "Battle of the Wilderness" or "Braddock's Defeat"), Washington had two horses shot from under him and eventually had to assume command from the mortally wounded General Edward Braddock. Washington led the surviving British and Colonial soldiers on a successful retreat.
His “movements and gestures are graceful, his walk majestic, and he is a splendid horseman.”
Delegates to the Continental Congress who appointed Washington were impressed by his commanding presence, military experience, and political savvy. So were the officers and troops he led during the war. Washington won their confidence and admiration by combining “affability & Courtesie, without Arrogancy” with “the strictest
discipline” and “the strictest justice” (he did not hesitate to whip, drum out of the army, or even execute those who failed to obey orders). He believed that maintaining the respect of his men was necessary “to support a proper command.” He did not fraternize with his men, but he asked nothing of them that he was not willing to do himself and often joined them in battle.
Washington also took special care to outfit himself in a fashion suitable to a commanding general. He wore a fine uniform with epaulets on the shoulders, and sometimes a blue ribbon across his waistcoat to distinguish himself. And he outfitted himself with accoutrements suitable to a general: tents, a collapsible bed, folding tables, camp stools, and bags and trunks filled with equipment and staples, including a set of silver camp cups engraved with the Washington family crest.