George Washington and the Nasty People

"I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with ... From the day I enter upon the command of the American armies, I date my fall and the ruin of my reputation."

—George Washington

When the head of the Continental Army made those self-deprecating statements at the time of his selection last year, he was acknowledging that Congress's choice had not been inevitable—and perhaps not even right. Among the others who had been considered: Artemas Ward, then 47, ailing commander of the Massachusetts troops, and Charles Lee, 44, who now...