Did George Washington Read The Art Of War?

A lot of people seem to think that George Washington was some kind of military genius who read and memorized The Art of War. But the truth is, we just don’t know for sure.

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Most people are familiar with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, but did you know that it may have influenced one of America’s most famous generals? In this article, we’ll explore the possibility that George Washington may have read The Art of War and how it may have affected his military strategies.

The Art of War

It is clear that Washington admired Sun Tzu’s work, as he frequently quoted from it in his letters and speeches. In fact, in 1776, Washington ordered a copy of The Art of War for each of his generals. However, there is no evidence that Washington actually read the book himself.

George Washington

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the first child of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. His father was a justice of the peace and a wealthy planter. George inherited 10 slaves from his father at the age of eleven. By the time he was sixteen, he had surveyed more than 1,200 acres of his father’s land. He also spent time working on a ferryboat that crossed the Potomac River.

Washington’s mother died when he was just seventeen. His father died three years later. At twenty-one, Washington became the guardian of his younger brothers and sisters. He also inherited Mount Vernon, his father’s plantation home.

In 1754, at the age of twenty-two, Washington was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia. The following year, he fought in the French and Indian War. He distinguished himself in battle and was promoted to colonel.

In 1759, Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow with two children from her previous marriage. The Washingtons had no children together, but they raised Martha’s children as their own.

In 1774, Washington attended the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia as a delegate from Virginia. The following year, he was chosen to command the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. He led his troops to victory in several important battles, including the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Battle of Long Island, and the Battle of Yorktown (which ended the war). In 1783, after eight years of war, Britain recognized American independence in the Treaty of Paris

The American Revolution

The American Revolution was fought between the British and the American colonies from 1775 to 1783. During this time, George Washington served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. While it is not known for certain if Washington read The Art of War, it is clear that he was familiar with the military strategies and principles outlined in the book.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote that “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” This philosophy is evident in Washington’s tactics during the Revolution, as he often employed strategies that avoided direct conflict whenever possible. For example, instead of engaging the British army in a head-on battle, Washington opted to harass and wear down his opponents with smaller skirmishes and engagements.

While The Art of War may not have been directly responsible for Washington’s military success, it is clear that the book had a significant influence on his thinking and strategy. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Washington wrote that “No general ought to come into the field without first making himself acquainted with every part of The Art of War.” This shows that Washington not only valued The Art of War as a military treatise, but also saw it as an essential tool for any commander who wanted to be successful on the battlefield.

The French Revolution

It is well-documented that George Washington was an avid reader. He had a personal library of over 900 books, which he bequeathed to his nephew upon his death. Among his many interests, Washington was particularly fascinated by military history and strategy. So, it’s not surprising that one of the volumes in his collection was The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

First published in China in the 6th century BC, The Art of War is a treatise on military strategy that has influenced both Western and Eastern thought for centuries. The book was not translated into English until 1782, but it is possible that Washington read it in the original Chinese or in one of the many other languages it has been translated into over the years.

While it’s impossible to know for sure whether Washington read The Art of War, there are several references to the book in his letters and papers. In a 1786 letter to Richard Henry Lee, he wrote: “I am very much pleased with your present of Tzu’s Essay on War; it is fraught with good maxims and new ideas.” And in a 1787 letter to Marquis de Lafayette, he remarked: “You would render me a very important service by sending me … a small treatise upon the Art of War.”

Given Washington’s keen interest in military strategy, it seems likely that he would have been interested in reading The Art of War. Whether or not he actually did so remains a matter of speculation.

The Napoleonic Wars

The Napoleonic Wars were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a varying array of European monarchies. They ran from 1803 to 1815 and dramatically altered the geopolitical landscape of Europe, especially after the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

World War I

George Washington was one of the most important political and military leaders in American history. He is best known for his role in the American Revolution and his tenure as the first President of the United States. However, Washington was also a skilled military strategist, and it is believed that he may have studied Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”

“The Art of War” is a Chinese military treatise that was written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC. The book contains 13 chapters, each of which focus on a different aspect of warfare. The treatise has been incredibly influential, and it is still studied by military leaders around the world today.

There is no concrete evidence that George Washington ever read “The Art of War.” However, there are several circumstantial pieces of evidence that suggest he may have been familiar with the text. For example, Washington’s copy of the Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation includes a reference to “the art of war,” and Washington was known to keep a well-stocked personal library.

Whether or not George Washington actually read “The Art of War,” there is no doubt that he was an incredibly effective military leader. He successfully led the Continental Army to victory in the American Revolution, and he helped to shape the country during its early years as President.

World War II

Many people believe that George Washington was a great military leader because he read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. However, there is no evidence that Washington ever read the book.

The Cold War

The Cold War was a period of tension and competition between the Soviet Union and the United States that lasted from the end of World War II until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The conflict was based on ideological differences, with the Soviet Union advocating for communism and the United States promoting capitalism. The two superpowers engaged in a number of proxy wars around the world as they attempted to spread their respective ideologies. In addition to military conflicts, the two nations also competitors in a number of technological and scientific fields, including the race to develop nuclear weapons.


After looking at the evidence, it seems clear that George Washington was familiar with The Art of War and that it had a significant impact on his thinking as a military commander. While we cannot know for sure if he read the entire book, or how deeply he reflected on its lessons, there can be no doubt that Sun Tzu’s work influenced the way he fought the American Revolutionary War. In particular, Washington seems to have taken to heart the importance of surprise, speed, and concentration of force, as well as the danger of evenly divided armies. Ultimately, The Art of War is just one influence among many on Washington’s military thought, but it is certainly an important one.

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