Monday, May 27, 2019

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The Inspiration Behind Moments That Made America by Geoff Armstrong

The Inspiration Behind Moments That Made America

By Geoff Armstrong

Many years ago, while attending teachers college in Canada, I was forced to take a class in North American history. Early in the class, the instructor began talking about the initial stages of the French and Indian Wars. So far, the course had been rather uninteresting. When he introduced the massacre of British forces near the Monongahela River, I naturally assumed it would be more interesting than the painful process we had endured up to that point. This was, after all, a class for people destined to become teachers and we assumed the instructor was a “master” teacher. It definitely ended up being interesting, but not in the way the instructor intended.
Since the earliest European settlements in North America, the English and the French had banged into each other as they battled for control of the continent. In 1755, British General, Edward Braddock mounted a major offensive against the French at Fort Duquesne in the Ohio River valley. At Braddock's request, a young American officer named George Washington joined Braddock’s offensive. That offensive was the beginning of a conflict that would forever determine the future of the group of colonies that would in a few years become the United States.
In the middle of June, with twelve hundred men, and officers, the British army began its march into the contested region. In European-style formation, their scarlet uniforms glowing in the summer sunshine, Braddock and his men moved against the French Fort. Washington tried to persuade Braddock to set up security, but Braddock, suffering from what turned out to be terminal arrogance, ignored Washington’s advice.
Their route led along two concealed ravines covered with trees. What Braddock didn’t know was that the ravines concealed 600 Native American warriors and 250 French soldiers. As soon as the British reached the ravines, the woods erupted with musket fire. Stunned by the attack, the British struggled to fight back as their legendary discipline disintegrated.
The first discharge of musket fire targeted the officers. Panic-stricken, the British regulars huddled together in small groups, firing ineffectively into the surrounding trees and bushes. Protected by the trees, the French and Indians continued to target the officers. At six-foot-four and on horseback, Washington was the most conspicuous target in the entire expedition. Witnesses describe him as riding from group to group, attempting to rally the men. Four musket balls tore through his coat and two horses were shot out from under him. Inexplicably, nothing touched him.
Finally, Braddock was shot through the lung and carried from the field. He later died of his wound.
Washington was able to enforce enough discipline to form a rear guard and allow what was left of the British expedition to retreat. According to most records, only one mounted officer survived the engagement that would become known as the “Monongahela Massacre”. That officer was George Washington.
He should have died, one more unknown, low ranking colonial officer. Had he died that day the America we know would not exist and the entire history of North America, perhaps the world, would have been different. And that college instructor completely missed the point. What surprised me was how much time he spent discussing the poor British planning. I tuned out of his lesson because I was fascinated by the incredible realization that an event 200 years ago had changed my life and the lives of everyone on the planet. What if George Washington had never been there to lead America to victory in the Revolution? What if he wasn’t there to become America’s first president? American history aside, without realizing what he had done, that instructor had given me the key to teaching history. Make it relevant. Make it obvious that even an event a thousand years earlier could have a profound impact on everyone living today. Many years later I also realized that he had given me an idea for a book that I would call “Moments That Made America”.

About the Author

Geoff Armstrong began his teaching career in 1965 after receiving a teaching diploma from McGill University’s Macdonald College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Montreal’s Concordia University in 1967 where his major field of study was history. Armstrong credits writers such as Bruce Catton, and Thomas B. Costain, as well as the encouragement of his father who had little formal education, but a deep love of reading and of history, as the inspiration for his own life-long interest.

Throughout a 25-year teaching career he taught history at several grade levels and learned quickly that to reach the hearts of his students, history had to be made immediately and deeply relevant and accessible: that some event that took place centuries before those students were born had a direct and profound influence on every aspect their lives. He also learned that talking down or writing down to his students was a recipe for defeat. It is this awareness, shaped by a quarter century of teaching and countless questions by thousands of intelligent young people that has informed and shaped his writing.

You can visit his website at

About the Book:

Author: Geoff Armstrong
Publisher: History Publishing Company
Genre: American History

From its geological birth during the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent millions of years ago, through the nation-shaping key events that led to its political independence from the British superpower, and other crucial, sometimes miraculous events that worked to create the nation, Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo explores those defining moments, both tragic and inspirational that profoundly shaped the nation and its people - crucial turning points that worked inexorably to mold and make America. These pivotal "tipping" events formed America's geographical, sociological, political and historical landscape. Part 1 culminates with the discovery of gold in California and the role it played in fulfilling America’s dream of Manifest Destiny.


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