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George Washington Was Nearly Impossible to Kill

Diseases, brutal weather, and enemy fire all failed to take him down.

Despite having two horses shot out from under him, history would have been much different if George Washington was born a 90-pound weakling. As it was, he was an abnormally large man, especially for the American Colonies. At 6'2" and weighing more than 200 pounds, he was literally and figuratively a giant of a man. This might be why freezing temperatures, multiple diseases, and a volley of bullets all failed to take the big man down.

It's not just that the man was fearless in battle (even though he really was). Washington suffered from a number of otherwise debilitating, painful ailments and diseases throughout his life that would have taken a lesser man down.

He should have died at the Battle of the Monongahela

george washington
  • 19th-century engraving of Major-General Braddock's death in the Battle of the Monongahela

  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On July, 9 1755, near what we today call Pittsburgh, a British force under General Edward Braddock was soundly defeated by a force of French Canadians and American Indians during the French and Indian War. Braddock died of wounds sustained in the fighting, but Washington, who accompanied Braddock on the march, survived despite having two horses shot out from under him. When all was said and done, he also found four musket-ball holes in his coat.

Related: "Villainous Perfidy": Benedict Arnold's Betrayal of George Washington 

He had dysentery the whole time

george washington
  • Washington at Valley Forge

  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

During much of the French and Indian War, Washington reported bouts of dysentery, an infection that causes (among other things) persistent diarrhea. He suffered from this while dodging bullets at the Monongahela River. The discomfort from it actually made him sit taller on his horse.

He trotted 30 yards from enemy lines

george washington
  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

During the 1777 Battle of Princeton, Washington rode on his horse as bullets fired from British rifles 30 yards away whizzed around him. When troops worried about their leader getting shot, he simply said, "parade with me my fine fellows, we will have them soon!"

Related: 14 Little-Known Facts About America's Founding Fathers 

The Delaware was dangerously cold

george washington
  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Crossing the Delaware was actually much more dangerous than the stories would have you believe. Giant chunks of ice were in the dark water that night and each threatened to overturn the longboats. Washington set out with three boats to make the crossing, and only his made it. Falling into the water likely meant a slow, freezing death for any Continental, even if they managed to swim to safety.

Two Continental soldiers who survived the crossing stopped to rest by the side of the road and were frozen by morning.

He had six of the most lethal diseases of his time

george washington
  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the end, Washington was felled by what modern doctors think was a case of epiglottitis, an acute bacterial inflammation of the little flap at the base of the tongue that covers the trachea.

Like the Rebel Alliance finding an exhaust port in the Death Star plans, life found a way to take down one of history's greatest. It took 67 years and whole lot of trial and error.

Related: 9 Fascinating Books About the Founding Fathers of America 

Published on 07 Jun 2018

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