Self-Portrait, c. 1780
Perhaps the most important element in Washington’s military education during the French and Indian War was his development of a strategic sense. The struggle for the Forks of the Ohio had started as a Virginia affair, but it quickly took on an international prominence. Washington became one of the men at the center of the conflict. Although he had a limited understanding of the European politics and diplomacy that helped to fuel the war, he nevertheless sensed the crucial importance of Indian affairs. He also perceived the strategic value of the different regions of North America — such as the Middle Atlantic, the Ohio, and the Hudson Valley — and learned how British ministers thought of conquering or defending a continent. Most of all, he learned how war could become a battleground for the competing ambitions and interests of the various colonies.