At age 22, George Washington led a disastrous military skirmish that sparked a world war.
As France and Britain fought for territory at the edges of the North American colonies, Virginia sided with the British. As an officer in the Virginia militia, Washington was sent to the Ohio Valley (now western Pennsylvania) with some 150 troops, to help repel any attacks by the French. Warned by local Native American allies that a small French force has set up camp within several miles of his position, he led an attack with 40 of his soldiers, along with a dozen native warriors.
Who fired the first shot remains in dispute, but at the end of the 15-minute skirmish, at least 10 French soldiers and one Virginian were dead—including, most notably, a minor French noble, Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville, who the French later said was on a diplomatic mission. Jumonville's death enraged the French, who called Washington an assassin. The conflict between the French and the British escalated into the French and Indian War, and soon spread worldwide in what became known as the Seven Years' War.