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The Life of George Washington, Volume I by Washington Irving

Part 2 out of 7

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sachems that Captain Joncaire had called a meeting at Venango, of the
Mingoes, Delawares, and other tribes, and made them a speech, informing
them that the French, for the present, had gone into winter quarters, but
intended to descend the river in great force, and fight the English in the
spring. He had advised them, therefore, to stand aloof, for should they
interfere, the French and English would join, cut them all off, and divide
their land between them.

With these rumors preying on their minds, the half-king and three other
chiefs waited on Washington in his tent in the evening, and after
representing that they had complied with all the requisitions of the
Governor of Virginia, endeavored to draw from the youthful ambassador the
true purport of his mission to the French commandant. Washington had
anticipated an inquiry of the kind, knowing how natural it was that these
poor people should regard, with anxiety and distrust, every movement of two
formidable powers thus pressing upon them from opposite sides, he managed,
however, to answer them in such a manner as to allay their solicitude
without transcending the bounds of diplomatic secrecy.

After a day or two more of delay and further consultations in the council
house, the chiefs determined that but three of their number should
accompany the mission, as a greater number might awaken the suspicions of
the French. Accordingly, on the 30th of November, Washington set out for
the French post, having his usual party augmented by an Indian hunter, and
being accompanied by the half-king, an old Shannoah sachem named Jeskakake,
and another chief, sometimes called Belt of Wampum, from being the keeper
of the speech-belts, but generally bearing the sounding appellation of
White Thunder.



Although the distance to Venango, by the route taken, was not above seventy
miles, yet such was the inclemency of the weather and the difficulty of
travelling, that Washington and his party did not arrive there until the
4th of December. The French colors were flying at a house whence John
Frazier, the English trader, had been driven. Washington repaired thither,
and inquired of three French officers whom he saw there where the
commandant resided. One of them promptly replied that he "had the command
of the Ohio." It was, in fact, the redoubtable Captain Joncaire, the
veteran intriguer of the frontier. On being apprised, however, of the
nature of Washington's errand, he informed him that there was a general
officer at the next fort, where he advised him to apply for an answer to
the letter of which he was the bearer.

In the mean time, he invited Washington and his party to a supper at head
quarters. It proved a jovial one, for Joncaire appears to have been
somewhat of a boon companion, and there is always ready though rough
hospitality in the wilderness. It is true, Washington, for so young a man,
may not have had the most convivial air, but there may have been a moist
look of promise in the old soldier Van Braam.

Joncaire and his brother officers pushed the bottle briskly. "The wine,"
says Washington, "as they dosed themselves pretty plentifully with it, soon
banished the restraint which at first appeared in their conversation, and
gave a license to their tongues to reveal their sentiments more freely.
They told me that it was their absolute design to take possession of the
Ohio, and by G-- they would do it; for that although they were sensible the
English could raise two men for their one, yet they knew their motions were
too slow and dilatory to prevent any undertaking. They pretend to have an
undoubted right to the river from a discovery made by one La Salle sixty
years ago, and the rise of this expedition is to prevent our settling on
the river or the waters of it, as they heard of some families moving out in
order thereto."

Washington retained his sobriety and his composure throughout all the
rodomontade and bacchanalian outbreak of the mercurial Frenchmen; leaving
the task of pledging them to his master of fence, Van Braam, who was not a
man to flinch from potations. He took careful note, however, of all their
revelations, and collected a variety of information concerning the French
forces; how and where they were distributed; the situations and distances
of their forts, and their means and mode of obtaining supplies. If the
veteran diplomatist of the wilderness had intended this revel for a snare,
he was completely foiled by his youthful competitor.

On the following day there was no travelling on account of excessive rain.
Joncaire, in the mean time, having discovered that the half-king was with
the mission, expressed his surprise that he had not accompanied it to his
quarters on the preceding day. Washington, in truth, had feared to trust
the sachem within the reach of the politic Frenchman. Nothing would do now
but Joncaire must have the sachems at head-quarters. Here his diplomacy was
triumphant. He received them with open arms. He was enraptured to see them.
His Indian brothers! How could they be so near without coming to visit him?
He made them presents; but, above all, plied them so potently with liquor,
that the poor half-king, Jeskakake, and White Thunder forgot all about
their wrongs, their speeches, their speech-belts, and all the business they
had come upon; paid no heed to the repeated cautions of their English
friends, and were soon in a complete state of frantic extravagance or
drunken oblivion.

The next day the half-king made his appearance at Washington's tent,
perfectly sober and very much crestfallen. He declared, however, that he
still intended to make his speech to the French, and offered to rehearse it
on the spot; but Washington advised him not to waste his ammunition on
inferior game like Joncaire and his comrades, but to reserve it for the
commandant. The sachem was not to be persuaded. Here, he said, was the
place of the council fire, where they were accustomed to transact their
business with the French; and as to Joncaire, he had all the management of
French affairs with the Indians.

Washington was fain to attend the council fire and listen to the speech. It
was much the same in purport as that which he had made to the French
general, and he ended by offering to return the French speech-belt; but
this Joncaire refused to receive, telling him to carry it to the commander
at the fort.

All that day and the next was the party kept at Venango by the stratagems
of Joncaire and his emissaries to detain and seduce the sachems. It was not
until 12 o'clock on the 7th of December, that Washington was able to
extricate them out of their clutches and commence his journey.

A French commissary by the name of La Force, and three soldiers, set off in
company with him. La Force went as if on ordinary business, but he proved
one of the most active, daring, and mischief-making of those anomalous
agents employed by the French among the Indian tribes. It is probable that
he was at the bottom of many of the perplexities experienced by Washington
at Venango, and now travelled with him for the prosecution of his wiles. He
will be found, hereafter, acting a more prominent part, and ultimately
reaping the fruit of his evil doings.

After four days of weary travel through snow and rain, and mire and swamp,
the party reached the fort. It was situated on a kind of island on the west
fork of French Creek, about fifteen miles south of Lake Erie, and consisted
of four houses, forming a hollow square, defended by bastions made of
pallisades twelve feet high, picketed, and pierced for cannon and small
arms. Within the bastions were a guard-house, chapel, and other buildings,
and outside were stables, a smith's forge, and log-houses covered with
bark, for the soldiers.

On the death of the late general, the fort had remained in charge of one
Captain Reparti until within a week past, when the Chevalier Legardeur de
St. Pierre had arrived, and taken command.

The reception of Washington at the fort was very different from the
unceremonious one experienced at the outpost of Joncaire and his convivial
messmates. When he presented himself at the gate, accompanied by his
interpreter, Van Braam, he was met by the officer second in command and
conducted in due military form to his superior; an ancient and
silver-haired chevalier of the military order of St. Louis, courteous but
ceremonious, mingling the polish of the French gentleman of the old school
with the precision of the soldier.

Having announced his errand through his interpreter, Van Braam, Washington
offered his credentials and the letter of Governor Dinwiddie, and was
disposed to proceed at once to business with the prompt frankness of a
young man unhackneyed in diplomacy. The chevalier, however, politely
requested him to retain the documents in his possession until his
predecessor, Captain Reparti, should arrive, who was hourly expected from
the next post.

At two o'clock the captain arrived. The letter and its accompanying
documents were then offered again, and received in due form, and the
chevalier and his officers retired with them into a private apartment,
where the captain, who understood a little English, officiated as
translator. The translation being finished, Washington was requested to
walk in and bring his translator Van Braam, with him, to peruse and correct
it, which he did.

In this letter, Dinwiddie complained of the intrusion of French forces into
the Ohio country, erecting forts and making settlements in the western
parts of the colony of Virginia, so notoriously known to be the property of
the crown of Great Britain. He inquired by whose authority and instructions
the French Commander-general had marched this force from Canada, and made
this invasion; intimating that his own action would be regulated by the
answer he should receive, and the tenor of the commission with which he was
honored. At the same time he required of the commandant his peaceable
departure, and that he would forbear to prosecute a purpose "so
interruptive of the harmony and good understanding which his majesty was
desirous to continue and cultivate with the most catholic king."

The latter part of the letter related to the youthful envoy. "I persuade
myself you will receive and entertain Major Washington with the candor and
politeness natural to your nation, and it will give me the greatest
satisfaction if you can return him with an answer suitable to my wishes for
a long and lasting peace between us."

The two following days were consumed in councils of the chevalier and his
officers over the letter and the necessary reply. Washington occupied
himself in the mean time in observing and taking notes of the plan,
dimensions, and strength of the fort, and of every thing about it. He gave
orders to his people, also, to take an exact account of the canoes in
readiness, and others in the process of construction, for the conveyance of
troops down the river in the ensuing spring.

As the weather continued stormy, with much snow, and the horses were daily
losing strength, he sent them down, unladen, to Venango, to await his
return by water. In the mean time, he discovered that busy intrigues were
going on to induce the half-king and the other sachems to abandon him, and
renounce all friendship with the English. Upon learning this, he urged the
chiefs to deliver up their "speech-belts" immediately, as they had
promised, thereby shaking off all dependence upon the French. They
accordingly pressed for an audience that very evening. A private one was at
length granted them by the commander, in presence of one or two of his
officers. The half-king reported the result of it to Washington. The
venerable but astute chevalier cautiously evaded the acceptance of the
proffered wampum; made many professions of love and friendship, and said he
wished to live in peace and trade amicably with the tribes of the Ohio, in
proof of which he would send down some goods immediately for them to

As Washington understood, privately, that an officer was to accompany the
man employed to convey these goods, he suspected that the real design was
to arrest and bring off all straggling English traders they might meet
with. What strengthened this opinion was a frank avowal which had been made
to him by the chevalier, that he had orders to capture every British
subject who should attempt to trade upon the Ohio or its waters.

Captain Reparti, also, in reply to his inquiry as to what had been done
with two Pennsylvania traders, who had been taken with all their goods,
informed him that they had been sent to Canada, but had since returned
home. He had stated, furthermore, that during the time he held command, a
white boy had been carried captive past the fort by a party of Indians, who
had with them, also, two or three white men's scalps.

All these circumstances showed him the mischief that was brewing in these
parts, and the treachery and violence that pervaded the frontier, and made
him the more solicitous to accomplish his mission successfully, and conduct
his little band in safety out of a wily neighborhood.

On the evening of the 14th, the Chevalier de St. Pierre delivered to
Washington his sealed reply to the letter of Governor Dinwiddie. The
purport of previous conversations with the chevalier, and the whole
complexion of affairs on the frontier, left no doubt of the nature of that

The business of his mission being accomplished, Washington prepared on the
15th to return by water to Venango; but a secret influence was at work
which retarded every movement.

"The commandant," writes he, "ordered a plentiful store of liquor and
provisions to be put on board our canoes, and appeared to be extremely
complaisant, though he was exerting every artifice which he could invent to
set our Indians at variance with us, to prevent their going until after our
departure; presents, rewards, and every thing which could be suggested by
him or his officers. I cannot say that ever in my life I suffered so much
anxiety as I did in this affair. I saw that every stratagem which the most
fruitful brain could invent was practised to win the half-king to their
interests, and that leaving him there was giving them the opportunity they
aimed at. I went to the half-king, and pressed him in the strongest terms
to go; he told me that the commandant would not discharge him until the
morning. I then went to the commandant and desired him to do their
business, and complained to him of ill treatment; for, keeping them, as
they were a part of my company, was detaining me. This he promised not to
do, but to forward my journey as much as he could. He protested he did not
keep them, but was ignorant of the cause of their stay; though I soon found
it out. He had promised them a present of guns if they would wait until the
morning. As I was very much pressed by the Indians to wait this day for
them, I consented, on the promise that nothing should hinder them in the

The next morning (16th) the French, in fulfilment of their promise, had to
give the present of guns. They then endeavored to detain the sachems with
liquor, which at any other time might have prevailed, but Washington
reminded the half-king that his royal word was pledged to depart, and urged
it upon him so closely that exerting unwonted resolution and self-denial,
he turned his back upon the liquor and embarked.

It was rough and laborious navigation. French Creek was swollen and
turbulent, and full of floating ice. The frail canoes were several times in
danger of being staved to pieces against rocks. Often the voyagers had to
leap out and remain in the water half an hour at a time, drawing the canoes
over shoals, and at one place to carry them a quarter of a mile across a
neck of land, the river being completely dammed by ice. It was not until
the 22d that they reached Venango.

Here Washington was obliged, most unwillingly, to part company with the
sachems. White Thunder had hurt himself and was ill and unable to walk, and
the others determined to remain at Venango for a day or two and convey him
down the river in a canoe. There was danger that the smooth-tongued and
convivial Joncaire would avail himself of the interval to ply the poor
monarchs of the woods with flattery and liquor. Washington endeavored to
put the worthy half-king on his guard, knowing that he had once before
shown himself but little proof against the seductions of the bottle. The
sachem, however, desired him not to be concerned; he knew the French too
well for any thing to engage him in their favor; nothing should shake his
faith to his English brothers; and it will be found that in these
assurances he was sincere.



On the 25th of December, Washington and his little party set out by land
from Venango on their route homeward. They had a long winter's journey
before them, through a wilderness beset with dangers and difficulties. The
packhorses, laden with tents, baggage, and provisions, were completely
jaded; it was feared they would give out. Washington dismounted, gave up
his saddle-horse to aid in transporting the baggage, and requested his
companions to do the same. None but the drivers remained in the saddle. He
now equipped himself in an Indian hunting-dress, and with Van Braam, Gist,
and John Davidson, the Indian interpreter, proceeded on foot.

The cold increased. There was deep snow that froze as it fell. The horses
grew less and less capable of travelling. For three days they toiled on
slowly and wearily. Washington was impatient to accomplish his journey, and
make his report to the governor; he determined, therefore, to hasten some
distance in advance of the party, and then strike for the Fork of the Ohio
by the nearest course directly through the woods. He accordingly put the
cavalcade under the command of Van Braam, and furnished him with money for
expenses; then disencumbering himself of all superfluous clothing, buckling
himself up in a watch-coat, strapping his pack on his shoulders, containing
his papers and provisions, and taking gun in hand, he left the horses to
flounder on, and struck manfully ahead, accompanied only by Mr. Gist, who
had equipped himself in like manner.

At night they lit a fire, and "camped" by it in the woods. At two o'clock
in the morning they were again on foot, and pressed forward until they
struck the south-east fork of Beaver Creek, at a place bearing the sinister
name of Murdering Town; probably the scene of some Indian massacre.

Here Washington, in planning his route, had intended to leave the regular
path, and strike through the woods for Shannopins Town, two or three miles
above the fork of the Ohio, where he hoped to be able to cross the Allegany
River on the ice.

At Murdering Town he found a party of Indians, who appeared to have known
of his coming, and to have been waiting for him. One of them accosted Mr.
Gist, and expressed great joy at seeing him. The wary woodsman regarded him
narrowly, and thought he had seen him at Joncaire's. If so, he and his
comrades were in the French interest, and their lying in wait boded no
good. The Indian was very curious in his inquiries as to when they had left
Venango; how they came to be travelling on foot; where they had left their
horses, and when it was probable the latter would reach this place. All
these questions increased the distrust of Gist, and rendered him extremely
cautious in reply.

The route hence to Shannopins Town lay through a trackless wild, of which
the travellers knew nothing; after some consultation, therefore, it was
deemed expedient to engage one of the Indians as a guide. He entered upon
his duties with alacrity, took Washington's pack upon his back, and led the
way by what he said was the most direct course. After travelling briskly
for eight or ten miles Washington became fatigued, and his feet were
chafed; he thought, too, they were taking a direction too much to the
north-east; he came to a halt, therefore, and determined to light a fire,
make a shelter of the bark and branches of trees, and encamp there for the
night. The Indian demurred; he offered, as Washington was fatigued, to
carry his gun, but the latter was too wary to part with his weapon. The
Indian now grew churlish. There were Ottawa Indians in the woods, he said,
who might be attracted by their fire, and surprise and scalp them; he
urged, therefore, that they should continue on: he would take them to his
cabin, where they would be safe.

Mr. Gist's suspicions increased, but he said nothing. Washington's also
were awakened. They proceeded some distance further: the guide paused and
listened. He had heard, he said, the report of a gun toward the north; it
must be from his cabin; he accordingly turned his steps in that direction.

Washington began to apprehend an ambuscade of savages. He knew the
hostility of many of them to the English, and what a desirable trophy was
the scalp of a white man. The Indian still kept on toward the north; he
pretended to hear two whoops--they were from his cabin--it could not be far

They went on two miles further, when Washington signified his determination
to encamp at the first water they should find. The guide said nothing, but
kept doggedly on. After a little while they arrived at an opening in the
woods, and emerging from the deep shadows in which they had been
travelling, found themselves in a clear meadow, rendered still more light
by the glare of the snow upon the ground. Scarcely had they emerged when
the Indian, who was about fifteen paces ahead, suddenly turned, levelled
his gun, and fired. Washington was startled for an instant, but, feeling
that he was not wounded, demanded quickly of Mr. Gist if he was shot. The
latter answered in the negative. The Indian in the mean time had run
forward, and screened himself behind a large white oak, where he was
reloading his gun. They overtook, and seized him. Gist would have put him
to death on the spot, but Washington humanely prevented him. They permitted
him to finish the loading of his gun; but, after he had put in the ball,
took the weapon from him, and let him see that he was under guard.

Arriving at a small stream they ordered the Indian to make a fire, and took
turns to watch over the guns. While he was thus occupied, Gist, a veteran
woodsman, and accustomed to hold the life of an Indian rather cheap, was
somewhat incommoded by the scruples of his youthful commander, which might
enable the savage to carry out some scheme of treachery. He observed to
Washington that, since he would not suffer the Indian to be killed, they
must manage to get him out of the way, and then decamp with all speed, and
travel all night to leave this perfidious neighborhood behind them; but
first it was necessary to blind the guide as to their intentions. He
accordingly addressed him in a friendly tone, and adverting to the late
circumstance, pretended to suppose that he had lost his way, and fired his
gun merely as a signal. The Indian, whether deceived or not, readily chimed
in with the explanation. He said he now knew the way to his cabin, which
was at no great distance. "Well then," replied Gist, "you can go home, and
as we are tired we will remain here for the night, and follow your track at
daylight. In the mean time here is a cake of bread for you, and you must
give us some meat in the morning."

Whatever might have been the original designs of the savage, he was
evidently glad to get off. Gist followed him cautiously for a distance, and
listened until the sound of his footsteps died away; returning then to
Washington, they proceeded about half a mile, made another fire, set their
compass and fixed their course by the light of it, then leaving it burning,
pushed forward, and travelled as fast as possible all night, so as to gain
a fair start should any one pursue them at daylight. Continuing on the next
day they never relaxed their speed until nightfall, when they arrived on
the banks of the Allegany River, about two miles above Shannopins Town.

Washington had expected to find the river frozen completely over; it was so
only for about fifty yards from either shore, while great quantities of
broken ice were driving down the main channel. Trusting that he had
out-travelled pursuit, he encamped on the border of the river; still it was
an anxious night, and he was up at daybreak to devise some means of
reaching the opposite bank. No other mode presented itself than by a raft,
and to construct this they had but one poor hatchet. With this they set
resolutely to work and labored all day, but the sun went down before their
raft was finished. They launched it, however, and getting on board,
endeavored to propel it across with setting poles. Before they were half
way over the raft became jammed between cakes of ice, and they were in
imminent peril. Washington planted his pole on the bottom of the stream,
and leaned against it with all his might, to stay the raft until the ice
should pass by. The rapid current forced the ice against the pole with such
violence that he was jerked into the water, where it was at least ten feet
deep, and only saved himself from being swept away and drowned by catching
hold of one of the raft logs.

It was now impossible with all their exertions to get to either shore;
abandoning the raft therefore, they got upon an island, near which they
were drifting. Here they passed the night exposed to intense cold by which
the hands and feet of Mr. Gist were frozen. In the morning they found the
drift ice wedged so closely together, that they succeeded in getting from
the island to the opposite side of the river; and before night were in
comfortable quarters at the house of Frazier, the Indian trader, at the
mouth of Turtle Creek on the Monongahela.

Here they learned from a war party of Indians that a band of Ottawas, a
tribe in the interest of the French, had massacred a whole family of whites
on the banks of the great Kanawha River.

At Frazier's they were detained two or three days endeavoring to procure
horses. In this interval Washington had again occasion to exercise Indian
diplomacy. About three miles distant, at the mouth of the Youghiogeny
River, dwelt a female sachem, Queen Aliquippa, as the English called her,
whose sovereign dignity had been aggrieved, that the party on their way to
the Ohio, had passed near her royal wigwam without paying their respects to

Aware of the importance, at this critical juncture, of securing the
friendship of the Indians, Washington availed himself of the interruption
of his journey, to pay a visit of ceremony to this native princess.
Whatever anger she may have felt at past neglect, it was readily appeased
by a present of his old watch-coat; and her good graces were completely
secured by a bottle of rum, which, he intimates, appeared to be peculiarly
acceptable to her majesty.

Leaving Frazier's on the 1st of January, they arrived on the 2d at the
residence of Mr. Gist, on the Monongahela. Here they separated, and
Washington having purchased a horse, continued his homeward course, passing
horses laden with materials and stores for the fort at the fork of the
Ohio, and families going out to settle there.

Having crossed the Blue Ridge and stopped one day at Belvoir to rest, he
reached Williamsburg on the 16th of January, where he delivered to Governor
Dinwiddie the letter of the French commandant, and made him a full report
of the events of his mission.

We have been minute in our account of this expedition as it was an early
test and development of the various talents and characteristics of

The prudence, sagacity, resolution, firmness, and self-devotion manifested
by him throughout; his admirable tact and self-possession in treating with
fickle savages and crafty white men; the soldier's eye with which he had
noticed the commanding and defensible points of the country, and every
thing that would bear upon military operations; and the hardihood with
which he had acquitted himself during a wintry tramp through the
wilderness, through constant storms of rain and snow; often sleeping on the
ground without a tent in the open air, and in danger from treacherous
foes,--all pointed him out, not merely to the governor, but to the public
at large, as one eminently fitted, notwithstanding his youth, for important
trusts involving civil as well as military duties. It is an expedition that
may be considered the foundation of his fortunes. From that moment he was
the rising hope of Virginia.



The reply of the Chevalier de St. Pierre was such as might have been
expected from that courteous, but wary commander. He should transmit, he
said, the letter of Governor Dinwiddie to his general, the Marquis du
Quesne, "to whom," observed he, "it better belongs than to me to set forth
the evidence and reality of the rights of the king, my master, upon the
lands situated along the river Ohio, and to contest the pretensions of the
King of Great Britain thereto. His answer shall be a law to me. ... As to
the summons you send me to retire, I do not think myself obliged to obey
it. Whatever may be your instructions, I am here by virtue of the orders of
my general; and I entreat you, sir, not to doubt one moment but that I am
determined to conform myself to them with all the exactness and resolution
which can be expected from the best officer." ...

"I made it my particular care," adds he, "to receive Mr. Washington with, a
distinction suitable to your dignity, as well as his own quality and great
merit. I flatter myself that he will do me this justice before you, sir,
and that he will signify to you, in the manner I do myself, the profound
respect with which I am, sir," &c. [Footnote: London Mag., June, 1754.]

This soldier-like and punctilious letter of the chevalier was considered
evasive, and only intended to gain time. The information given by
Washington of what he had observed on the frontier convinced Governor
Dinwiddie and his council that the French were preparing to descend the
Ohio in the spring, and take military possession of the country.
Washington's journal was printed, and widely promulgated throughout the
colonies and England, and awakened the nation to a sense of the impending
danger, and the necessity of prompt measures to anticipate the French

Captain Trent was despatched to the frontier, commissioned to raise a
company of one hundred men, march with all speed to the Fork of the Ohio,
and finish as soon as possible the fort commenced there by the Ohio
Company. He was enjoined to act only on the defensive, but to capture or
destroy whoever should oppose the construction of the works, or disturb the
settlements. The choice of Captain Trent for this service, notwithstanding
his late inefficient expedition, was probably owing to his being
brother-in-law to George Croghan, who had grown to be quite a personage of
consequence on the frontier, where he had an establishment or
trading-house, and was supposed to have great influence among the western
tribes, so as to be able at any time to persuade many of them to take up
the hatchet.

Washington was empowered to raise a company of like force at Alexandria; to
procure and forward munitions and supplies for the projected fort at the
Fork, and ultimately to have command of both companies. When on the
frontier he was to take council of George Croghan and Andrew Montour the
interpreter, in all matters relating to the Indians, they being esteemed
perfect oracles in that department.

Governor Dinwiddie in the mean time called upon the governors of the other
provinces to make common cause against the foe; he endeavored, also, to
effect alliances with the Indian tribes of the south, the Catawbas and
Cherokees, by way of counterbalancing the Chippewas and Ottawas, who were
devoted to the French.

The colonies, however, felt as yet too much like isolated territories; the
spirit of union was wanting. Some pleaded a want of military funds; some
questioned the justice of the cause; some declined taking any hostile step
that might involve them in a war, unless they should have direct orders
from the crown.

Dinwiddie convened the House of Burgesses to devise measures for the public
security. Here his high idea of prerogative and of gubernatorial dignity
met with a grievous countercheck from the dawning spirit of independence.
High as were the powers vested in the colonial government of Virginia, of
which, though but lieutenant-governor, he had the actual control; they were
counterbalanced by the power inherent in the people, growing out of their
situation and circumstances, and acting through their representatives.

There was no turbulent factious opposition to government in Virginia; no
"fierce democracy," the rank growth of crowded cities, and a fermenting
populace; but there was the independence of men, living apart in
patriarchal style on their own rural domains; surrounded by their families,
dependants and slaves, among whom their will was law,--and there was the
individuality in character and action of men prone to nurture peculiar
notions and habits of thinking, in the thoughtful solitariness of country

When Dinwiddie propounded his scheme of operations on the Ohio, some of the
burgesses had the hardihood to doubt the claims of the king to the disputed
territory; a doubt which the governor reprobated as savoring strongly of a
most disloyal French spirit; he fired, as he says, at the thought "that an
English legislature should presume to doubt the right of his majesty to the
interior parts of this continent, the back part of his dominions!"

Others demurred to any grant of means for military purposes which might be
construed into an act of hostility. To meet this scruple it was suggested
that the grant might be made for the purpose of encouraging and protecting
all settlers on the waters of the Mississippi. And under this specious plea
ten thousand pounds were grudgingly voted; but even this moderate sum was
not put at the absolute disposition of the governor. A committee was
appointed with whom he was to confer as to its appropriation.

This precaution Dinwiddie considered an insulting invasion of the right he
possessed as governor to control the purse as well as the sword; and he
complained bitterly of the assembly, as deeply tinctured with a republican
way of thinking, and disposed to encroach on the prerogative of the crown,
"which he feared would render them more and more difficult to be _brought
to order_."

Ways and means being provided, Governor Dinwiddie augmented the number of
troops to be enlisted to three hundred, divided into six companies. The
command of the whole, as before, was offered to Washington, but he shrank
from it, as a charge too great for his youth and inexperience. It was
given, therefore, to Colonel Joshua Fry, an English gentleman of worth and
education, and Washington was made second in command, with the rank of

The recruiting, at first, went on slowly. Those who offered to enlist, says
Washington, were for the most part loose idle persons without house or
home, some without shoes or stockings, some shirtless, and many without
coat or waistcoat.

He was young in the recruiting service, or he would have known that such is
generally the stuff of which armies are made. In this country especially it
has always been difficult to enlist the active yeomanry by holding out
merely the pay of a soldier. The means of subsistence are too easily
obtained by the industrious, for them to give up home and personal
independence for a mere daily support. Some may be tempted by a love of
adventure; but in general, they require some prospect of ultimate advantage
that may "better their condition."

Governor Dinwiddie became sensible of this, and resorted to an expedient
rising out of the natural resources of the country, which has since been
frequently adopted, and always with efficacy. He proclaimed a bounty of two
hundred thousand acres of land on the Ohio River, to be divided among the
officers and soldiers who should engage in this expedition; one thousand to
be laid off contiguous to the fort at the fork, for the use of the
garrison. This was a tempting bait to the sons of farmers, who readily
enlisted in the hope of having, at the end of a short campaign, a snug farm
of their own in this land of promise.

It was a more difficult matter to get officers than soldiers. Very few of
those appointed made their appearance; one of the captains had been
promoted; two declined; Washington found himself left, almost alone, to
manage a number of self-willed, undisciplined recruits. Happily he had with
him, in the rank of lieutenant, that soldier of fortune, Jacob Van Braam,
his old "master of fence," and travelling interpreter.

In his emergency he forthwith nominated him captain, and wrote to the
governor to confirm the appointment, representing him as the oldest
lieutenant, and an experienced officer.

On the 2d of April Washington set off from Alexandria for the new fort, at
the fork of the Ohio. He had but two companies with him, amounting to about
one hundred and fifty men; the remainder of the regiment was to follow
under Colonel Fry with the artillery, which was to be conveyed up the
Potomac. While on the march he was joined by a detachment under Captain
Adam Stephen, an officer destined to serve with him at distant periods of
his military career.

At Winchester he found it impossible to obtain conveyances by gentle means,
and was obliged reluctantly to avail himself of the militia law of
Virginia, and impress horses and waggons for service; giving the owners
orders on government for their appraised value. Even then, out of a great
number impressed, he obtained but ten, after waiting a week; these, too,
were grudgingly furnished by farmers with their worst horses, so that in
steep and difficult passes they were incompetent to the draught, and the
soldiers had continually to put their shoulders to the wheels.

Thus slenderly fitted out, Washington and his little force made their way
toilfully across the mountains, having to prepare the roads as they went
for the transportation of the cannon, which were to follow on with the
other division under Colonel Fry. They cheered themselves with the thoughts
that this hard work would cease when they should arrive at the company's
trading-post and store-house at Wills' Creek, where Captain Trent was to
have packhorses in readiness, with which they might make the rest of the
way by light stages. Before arriving there they were startled by a rumor
that Trent and all his men had been captured by the French. With regard to
Trent, the news soon proved to be false, for they found him at Wills' Creek
on the 20th of April. With regard to his men there was still an
uncertainty. He had recently left them at the fork of the Ohio, busily at
work on the fort, under the command of his lieutenant, Frazier, late Indian
trader and gunsmith, but now a provincial officer. If the men had been
captured, it must have been since the captain's departure. Washington was
eager to press forward and ascertain the truth, but it was impossible.
Trent, inefficient as usual, had failed to provide packhorses. It was
necessary to send to Winchester, forty miles distant, for baggage waggons,
and await their arrival. All uncertainty as to the fate of the men,
however, was brought to a close by their arrival, on the 25th, conducted by
an ensign, and bringing with them their working implements. The French
might well boast that they had again been too quick for the English.
Captain Contrecoeur, an alert officer, had embarked about a thousand men
with field-pieces, in a fleet of sixty bateaux and three hundred canoes,
dropped down the river from Venango, and suddenly made his appearance
before the fort, on which the men were working, and which was not half
completed. Landing, drawing up his men, and planting his artillery, he
summoned the fort to surrender, allowing one hour for a written reply.

What was to be done! the whole garrison did not exceed fifty men. Captain
Trent was absent at Wills' Creek; Frazier, his lieutenant, was at his own
residence at Turtle Creek, ten miles distant. There was no officer to reply
but a young ensign of the name of Ward. In his perplexity he turned for
counsel to Tanacharisson, the half-king, who was present in the fort. The
chief advised the ensign to plead insufficiency of rank and powers, and
crave delay until the arrival of his superior officer. The ensign repaired
to the French camp to offer this excuse in person, and was accompanied by
the half-king. They were courteously received, but Contrecoeur was
inflexible. There must be instant surrender, or he would take forcible
possession. All that the ensign could obtain was permission to depart with
his men, taking with them their working tools. The capitulation ended.
Contrecoeur, with true French gayety, invited the ensign to sup with him;
treated him with the utmost politeness, and wished him a pleasant journey,
as he set off the next morning with his men laden with their working tools.

Such was the ensign's story. He was accompanied by two Indian warriors,
sent by the half-king to ascertain where the detachment was, what was its
strength, and when it might be expected at the Ohio. They bore a speech
from that sachem to Washington, and another, with a belt of wampum for the
Governor of Virginia. In these he plighted his steadfast faith to the
English, and claimed assistance from his brothers of Virginia and

One of these warriors Washington forwarded on with the speech and wampum to
Governor Dinwiddie. The other he prevailed on to return to the half-king,
bearing a speech from him, addressed to the "Sachems, warriors of the Six
United Nations, Shannoahs and Delawares, our friends and brethren." In this
he informed them that he was on the advance with a part of the army, to
clear the road for a greater force coming with guns, ammunition, and
provisions; and he invited the half-king and another sachem, to meet him on
the road as soon as possible to hold a council.

In fact, his situation was arduous in the extreme. Regarding the conduct of
the French in the recent occurrence an overt act of war, he found himself
thrown with a handful of raw recruits far on a hostile frontier, in the
midst of a wilderness, with an enemy at hand greatly superior in number and
discipline; provided with artillery, and all the munitions of war, and
within reach of constant supplies and reinforcements. Beside the French
that had come from Venango, he had received credible accounts of another
party ascending the Ohio; and of six hundred Chippewas and Ottawas marching
down Scioto Creek to join the hostile camp. Still, notwithstanding the
accumulating danger, it would not do to fall back, nor show signs of
apprehension. His Indian allies in such case might desert him. The
soldiery, too, might grow restless and dissatisfied. He was already annoyed
by Captain Trent's men, who, having enlisted as volunteers, considered
themselves exempt from the rigor of martial law; and by their example of
loose and refractory conduct, threatened to destroy the subordination of
his own troops.

In this dilemma he called a council of war, in which it was determined to
proceed to the Ohio Company store-houses, at the mouth of Redstone Creek;
fortify themselves there, and wait for reinforcements. Here they might keep
up a vigilant watch upon the enemy, and get notice of any hostile movement
in time for defence, or retreat; and should they be reinforced sufficiently
to enable them to attack the fort, they could easily drop down the river
with their artillery.

With these alternatives in view, Washington detached sixty men in advance
to make a road; and at the same time wrote to Governor Dinwiddie for
mortars and grenadoes, and cannon of heavy metal.

Aware that the Assembly of Pennsylvania was in session, and that the
Maryland Assembly would also meet in the course of a few days, he wrote
directly to the governors of those provinces, acquainting them with the
hostile acts of the French, and with his perilous situation; and
endeavoring to rouse them to cooperation in the common cause. We will here
note in advance that his letter was laid before the Legislature of
Pennsylvania, and a bill was about to be passed making appropriations for
the service of the king; but it fell through, in consequence of a
disagreement between the Assembly and the governor as to the mode in which
the money should be raised; and so no assistance was furnished to
Washington from that quarter. The youthful commander had here a foretaste,
in these his incipient campaigns, of the perils and perplexities which
awaited him from enemies in the field, and lax friends in legislative
councils in the grander operations of his future years. Before setting off
for Redstone Creek, he discharged Trent's refractory men from his
detachment, ordering them to await Colonel Fry's commands; they however, in
the true spirit of volunteers from the backwoods, dispersed to their
several homes.

It may be as well to observe, in this place, that both Captain Trent and
Lieutenant Frazier were severely censured for being absent from their post
at the time of the French summons. "Trent's behavior," said Washington, in
a letter to Governor Dinwiddie, "has been very tardy, and has convinced the
world of what they before suspected--his great timidity. Lieutenant
Frazier, though not altogether blameless, is much more excusable, for he
would not accept of the commission until he had a promise from his captain
that he should not reside at the fort, nor visit it above once a week, or
as he saw necessity." In fact, Washington, subsequently recommended Frazier
for the office of adjutant.



On the 29th of April Washington set out from Wills' Creek at the head of
one hundred and sixty men. He soon overtook those sent in advance to work
the road; they had made but little progress. It was a difficult task to
break a road through the wilderness sufficient for the artillery coming on
with Colonel Fry's division. All hands were now set to work, but with all
their labor they could not accomplish more than four miles a day. They were
toiling through Savage Mountain and that dreary forest region beyond it,
since bearing the sinister name of "The Shades of Death." On the 9th of May
they were not further than twenty miles from Wills' Creek, at a place
called the Little Meadows.

Every day came gloomy accounts from the Ohio; brought chiefly by traders,
who, with packhorses bearing their effects, were retreating to the more
settled parts of the country. Some exaggerated the number of the French, as
if strongly reinforced. All represented them as diligently at work
constructing a fort. By their account Washington perceived the French had
chosen the very place which he had noted in his journal as best fitted for
the purpose.

One of the traders gave information concerning La Force the French
emissary, who had beset Washington when on his mission to the frontier, and
acted, as he thought, the part of a spy. He had been at Gist's new
settlement beyond Laurel Hill, and was prowling about the country with four
soldiers at his heels on a pretended hunt after deserters. Washington
suspected him to be on a reconnoitering expedition.

It was reported, moreover, that the French were lavishing presents on the
Indians about the lower part of the river, to draw them to their standard.
Among all these flying reports and alarms Washington was gratified to learn
that the half-king was on his way to meet him at the head of fifty

After infinite toil through swamps and forests, and over rugged mountains,
the detachment arrived at the Youghiogeny River, where they were detained
some days constructing a bridge to cross it.

This gave Washington leisure to correspond with Governor Dinwiddie,
concerning matters which had deeply annoyed him. By an ill-judged economy
of the Virginia government at this critical juncture, its provincial
officers received less pay than that allowed in the regular army. It is
true the regular officers were obliged to furnish their own table, but
their superior pay enabled them to do it luxuriously; whereas the
provincials were obliged to do hard duty on salt provisions and water. The
provincial officers resented this inferiority of pay as an indignity, and
declared that nothing prevented them from throwing up their commissions but
unwillingness to recede before approaching danger.

Washington shared deeply this feeling. "Let him serve voluntarily, and he
would with the greatest pleasure in life devote his services to the
expedition--but to be slaving through woods, rocks, and mountains, for the
shadow of pay--" writes he, "I would rather toil like a day laborer for a
maintenance, if reduced to the necessity, than serve on such ignoble
terms." Parity of pay was indispensable to the dignity of the service.

Other instances of false economy were pointed out by him, forming so many
drags upon the expedition, that he quite despaired of success. "Be the
consequence what it will, however," adds he, "I am determined not to leave
the regiment, but to be among the last men that leave the Ohio; even if I
serve as a private volunteer, which I greatly prefer to the establishment
we are upon. ... I have a constitution hardy enough to encounter and
undergo the most severe trials, and I flatter myself resolution to face
what any man dares, as shall be proved when it comes to the test."

And in a letter to his friend Colonel Fairfax--"For my own part," writes
he, "it is a matter almost indifferent whether I serve for full pay or as a
generous volunteer; indeed, did my circumstances correspond with my
inclinations, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter; _for
the motives that have led me here are pure and noble. I had no view of
acquisition but that of honor, by serving faithfully my king and

Such were the noble impulses of Washington at the age of twenty-two, and
such continued to actuate him throughout life. We have put the latter part
of the quotation in italics, as applicable to the motives which in after
life carried him into the Revolution.

While the bridge over the Youghiogeny was in the course of construction,
the Indians assured Washington he would never be able to open a waggon-road
across the mountains to Redstone Creek; he embarked therefore in a canoe
with a lieutenant, three soldiers, and an Indian guide, to try whether it
was possible to descend the river. They had not descended above ten miles
before the Indian refused to go further. Washington soon ascertained the
reason. "Indians," said he, "expect presents--nothing can be done without
them. The French take this method. If you want one or more to conduct a
party, to discover the country, to hunt, or for any particular purpose,
they must be bought; their friendship is not so warm as to prompt them to
these services gratis." The Indian guide in the present instance, was
propitiated by the promise of one of Washington's ruffled shirts, and a

The river was bordered by mountains and obstructed by rocks and rapids.
Indians might thread such a labyrinth in their light canoes, but it would
never admit the transportation of troops and military stores. Washington
kept on for thirty miles, until he came to a place where the river fell
nearly forty feet in the space of fifty yards. There he ceased to explore,
and returned to camp, resolving to continue forward by land.

On the 23d Indian scouts brought word that the French were not above eight
hundred strong, and that about half their number had been detached at night
on a secret expedition. Close upon this report came a message from the
half-king, addressed "to the first of his majesty's officers whom it may

"It is reported," said he, "that the French army is coming to meet Major
Washington. Be on your guard against them, my brethren, for they intend to
strike the first English they shall see. They have been on their march two
days. I know not their number. The half-king and the rest of the chiefs
will be with you in five days to hold a council."

In the evening Washington was told that the French were crossing the ford
of the Youghiogeny about eighteen miles distant. He now hastened to take a
position in a place called the Great Meadows, where he caused the bushes to
be cleared away, made an intrenchment and prepared what he termed "a
charming field for an encounter."

A party of scouts were mounted on waggon horses, and sent out to
reconnoitre. They returned without having seen an enemy. A sensitiveness
prevailed in the camp. They were surrounded by forests, threatened by
unseen foes, and hourly in danger of surprise. There was an alarm about two
o'clock in the night. The sentries fired upon what they took to be prowling
foes. The troops sprang to arms, and remained on the alert until daybreak.
Not an enemy was to be seen. The roll was called. Six men were missing, who
had deserted.

On the 25th. Mr. Gist arrived from his place, about fifteen miles distant.
La Force had been there at noon on the previous day, with a detachment of
fifty men, and Gist had since come upon their track within five miles of
the camp. Washington considered La Force a bold, enterprising man, subtle
and dangerous; one to be particularly guarded against. He detached
seventy-five men in pursuit of him and his prowling band.

About nine o'clock at night came an Indian messenger from the half-king,
who was encamped with several of his people about six miles off. The chief
had seen tracks of two Frenchmen, and was convinced their whole body must
be in ambush near by.

Washington considered this the force which had been hovering about him for
several days, and determined to forestall their hostile designs. Leaving a
guard with the baggage and ammunition, he set out before ten o'clock, with
forty men, to join his Indian ally. They groped their way in single file,
by footpaths through the woods, in a heavy rain and murky darkness,
tripping occasionally and stumbling over each other, sometimes losing the
track for fifteen or twenty minutes, so that it was near sunrise when they
reached the camp of the half-king.

That chieftain received the youthful commander with, great demonstrations
of friendship, and engaged to go hand in hand with him against the lurking
enemy. He set out accordingly, accompanied by a few of his warriors and his
associate sachem Scarooyadi or Monacatoocha, and conducted Washington to
the tracks which he had discovered. Upon these he put two of his Indians.
They followed them up like hounds, and brought back word that they had
traced them to a low bottom surrounded by rocks and trees, where the French
were encamped, having built a few cabins for shelter from the rain.

A plan was now concerted to come upon them by surprise; Washington with,
his men on the right; the half-king with his warriors on the left; all as
silently as possible. Washington was the first upon the ground. As he
advanced from among the rocks and trees at the head of his men, the French
caught sight of him and ran to their arms. A sharp firing instantly took
place, and was kept up on both sides for about fifteen minutes. Washington
and his party were most exposed and received all the enemy's fire. The
balls whistled around him; one man was killed close by him, and three
others wounded. The French at length, having lost several of their number,
gave way and ran. They were soon overtaken; twenty-one were captured, and
but one escaped, a Canadian, who carried the tidings of the affair to the
fort on the Ohio. The Indians would have massacred the prisoners had not
Washington prevented them. Ten of the French had fallen in the skirmish,
and one been wounded. Washington's loss was the one killed and three
wounded which we have mentioned. He had been in the hottest fire, and
having for the first time heard balls whistle about him, considered his
escape miraculous. Jumonville, the French leader, had been shot through the
head at the first fire. He was a young officer of merit, and his fate was
made the subject of lamentation in prose and verse--chiefly through
political motives.

Of the twenty-one prisoners the two most important were an officer of some
consequence named Drouillon, and the subtle and redoubtable La Force. As
Washington considered the latter an arch mischief-maker, he was rejoiced to
have him in his power. La Force and his companion would fain have assumed
the sacred character of ambassadors, pretending they were coming with a
summons to him to depart from the territories belonging to the crown of

Unluckily for their pretensions, a letter of instructions, found on
Jumonville, betrayed their real errand, which was to inform themselves of
the roads, rivers, and other features of the country as far as the Potomac;
to send back from time to time, by fleet messengers, all the information
they could collect, and to give word of the day on which they intended to
serve the summons.

Their conduct had been conformable. Instead of coming in a direct and open
manner to his encampment, when they had ascertained where it was, and
delivering their summons, as they would have done had their designs been
frank and loyal, they had moved back two miles, to one of the most secret
retirements, better for a deserter than an ambassador to encamp in, and
staid there, within five miles of his camp, sending spies to reconnoitre
it, and despatching messengers to Contrecoeur to inform him of its position
and numerical strength, to the end, no doubt, that he might send a
sufficient detachment to enforce the summons as soon as it should be given.
In fact, the footprints which had first led to the discovery of the French
lurking-place, were those of two "runners" or swift messengers, sent by
Jumonville to the fort on the Ohio.

It would seem that La Force, after all, was but an instrument in the hands
of his commanding officers, and not in their full confidence; for when the
commission and instructions found on Jumonville were read before him, he
professed not to have seen them before, and acknowledged, with somewhat of
an air of ingenuousness, that he believed they had a hostile tendency.
[Footnote: Washington's letter to Dinwiddie, 29th May, 1754.]

Upon the whole, it was the opinion of Washington and his officers that the
summons, on which so much stress was laid, was a mere specious pretext to
mask their real designs and be used as occasion might require. "That they
were spies rather than any thing else," and were to be treated as prisoners
of war.

The half-king joined heartily in this opinion; indeed, had the fate of the
prisoners been in his hands, neither diplomacy nor any thing else would
have been of avail. "They came with hostile intentions," he said; "they had
bad hearts, and if his English brothers were so foolish as to let them go,
he would never aid in taking another Frenchman."

The prisoners were accordingly conducted to the camp at the Great Meadows,
and sent on the following day (29th), under a strong escort to Governor
Dinwiddie, then at Winchester. Washington had treated them with great
courtesy; had furnished Drouillon and La Force with clothing from his own
scanty stock, and, at their request, given them letters to the governor,
bespeaking for them "the respect and favor due to their character and
personal merit."

A sense of duty, however, obliged him, in his general despatch, to put the
governor on his guard against La Force. "I really think, if released, he
would do more to our disservice than fifty other men, as he is a person
whose active spirit leads him into all parties, and has brought him
acquainted with all parts of the country. Add to this a perfect knowledge
of the Indian tongue, and great influence with the Indians."

After the departure of the prisoners, he wrote again respecting them: "I
have still stronger presumption, indeed almost confirmation, that they were
sent as spies, and were ordered to wait near us till they were fully
informed of our intentions, situation, and strength, and were to have
acquainted their commander therewith, and to have been lurking here for
reinforcements before they served the summons, if served at all.

"I doubt not but they will endeavor to amuse you with many smooth stories,
as they did me; but they were confuted in them all, and, by circumstances
too plain to be denied, almost made ashamed of their assertions.

"I have heard since they went away, they should say they called on us not
to fire; but that I know to be false, for I was the first man that
approached them, and the first whom they saw, and immediately they ran to
their arms, and fired briskly till they were defeated." ... "I fancy they
will have the assurance of asking the privileges due to an embassy, when in
strict justice they ought to be hanged as spies of the worst sort."

The situation of Washington was now extremely perilous. Contrecoeur, it was
said, had nearly a thousand men with him at the fort, beside Indian allies;
and reinforcements were on the way to join him. The messengers sent by
Jumonville, previous to the late affair, must have apprised him of the
weakness of the encampment on the Great Meadows, Washington hastened to
strengthen it. He wrote by express also to Colonel Fry, who lay ill at
Wills' Creek, urging instant reinforcements; but declaring his resolution
to "fight with very unequal numbers rather than give up one inch of what he
had gained."

The half-king was full of fight. He sent the scalps of the Frenchmen slain
in the late skirmish, accompanied by black wampum and hatchets, to all his
allies, summoning them to take up arms and join him at Redstone Creek, "for
their brothers, the English, had now begun in earnest." It is said he would
even have sent the scalps of the prisoners had not Washington interfered.
[Footnote: Letter from Virginia.--London Mag., 1754.] He went off for his
home, promising to send down the river for all the Mingoes and Shawnees,
and to be back at the camp on the 30th, with thirty or forty warriors,
accompanied by their wives and children. To assist him in the
transportation of his people and their effects thirty men were detached,
and twenty horses.

"I shall expect every hour to be attacked," writes Washington to Governor
Dinwiddie, on the 29th, "and by unequal numbers, which I must withstand, if
there are five to one, for I fear the consequence will be that we shall
lose the Indians if we suffer ourselves to be driven back. Your honor may
depend I will not be surprised, let them come at what hour they will, and
this is as much as I can promise; but my best endeavors shall not be
wanting to effect more. I doubt not, if you hear I am beaten, but you will
hear at the same time that we have done our duty in fighting as long as
there is a shadow of hope."

The fact is, that Washington was in a high state of military excitement. He
was a young soldier; had been for the first time in action, and been
successful. The letters we have already quoted show, in some degree, the
fervor of his mind, and his readiness to brave the worst; but a short
letter, written to one of his brothers, on the 31st, lays open the recesses
of his heart.

"We expect every hour to be attacked by superior force; but if they forbear
but one day longer we shall be prepared for them. ... We have already got
intrenchments, and are about a palisade, which, I hope, will be finished
to-day. The Mingoes have struck the French, and, I hope, will give a good
blow before they have done. I expect forty odd of them here to-night,
which, with our fort, and some reinforcements from Colonel Fry, will enable
us to exert our noble courage with spirit."

Alluding in a postscript to the late affair, he adds: "I fortunately
escaped without any wound; for the right wing, where I stood, was exposed
to, and received, all the enemy's fire; and it was the part where the man
was killed and the rest wounded. _I heard the bullets whistle, and,
believe me, there is something charming in the sound._"

This rodomontade, as Horace Walpole terms it, reached the ears of George
II. "He would not say so," observed the king, dryly, "if he had been used
to hear many." [Footnote: This anecdote has hitherto rested on the
authority of Horace Walpole, who gives it in his memoirs of George II., and
in his correspondence. He cites the rodomontade as contained in the express
despatched by Washington, whom he pronounces a "brave braggart." As no
despatch of Washington contains any rodomontade of the kind; as it is quite
at variance with the general tenor of his character; and as Horace Walpole
is well known to have been a "great gossip dealer," apt to catch up any
idle rumor that would give piquancy to a paragraph, the story has been held
in great distrust. We met with the letter recently, however, in a column of
the London Magazine for 1754, page 370, into which it must have found its
way not long after it was written.]

Washington himself thought so when more experienced in warfare. Being
asked, many years afterwards, whether he really had made such a speech
about the whistling of bullets, "If I said so," replied he quietly, "it was
when I was young." [Footnote: Gordon, Hist. Am. War, vol. ii., p. 203.] He
was, indeed, but twenty-two years old when he said it; it was just after
his first battle; he was flushed with success, and was writing to a



Scarcity began to prevail in the camp. Contracts had been made with George
Croghan for flour, of which he had large quantities at his frontier
establishment; for he was now trading with the army as well as with the
Indians. None, however, made its appearance. There was mismanagement in the
commissariat. At one time the troops were six days without flour; and even
then had only a casual supply from an Ohio trader. In this time of scarcity
the half-king, his fellow sachem, Scarooyadi, and thirty or forty warriors,
arrived, bringing with them their wives and children--so many more hungry
mouths to be supplied. Washington wrote urgently to Croghan to send forward
all the flour he could furnish.

News came of the death of Colonel Fry at Wills' Creek, and that he was to
be succeeded in the command of the expedition by Colonel Innes of North
Carolina, who was actually at Winchester with three hundred and fifty North
Carolina troops. Washington, who felt the increasing responsibilities and
difficulties of his situation, rejoiced at the prospect of being under the
command of an experienced officer, who had served in company with his
brother Lawrence at the siege of Carthagena. The colonel, however, never
came to the camp, nor did the North Carolina troops render any service in
the campaign--the fortunes of which might otherwise have been very

By the death of Fry, the command of the regiment devolved on Washington.
Finding a blank major's commission among Fry's papers, he gave it to
Captain Adam Stephen, who had conducted himself with spirit. As there would
necessarily be other changes, he wrote to Governor Dinwiddie in behalf of
Jacob Van Braam. "He has acted as captain ever since we left Alexandria. He
is an experienced officer, and worthy of the command he has enjoyed."

The palisaded fort was now completed, and was named Fort Necessity, from
the pinching famine that had prevailed during its construction. The scanty
force in camp was augmented to three hundred, by the arrival from Wills'
Creek of the men who had been under Colonel Fry. With them came the surgeon
of the regiment, Dr. James Craik, a Scotchman by birth, and one destined to
become a faithful and confidential friend of Washington for the remainder
of his life.

A letter from Governor Dinwiddie announced, however, that Captain Mackay
would soon arrive with an independent company of one hundred men, from
South Carolina.

The title of independent company had a sound ominous of trouble. Troops of
the kind, raised in the colonies, under direction of the governors, were
paid by the Crown, and the officers had king's commissions; such,
doubtless, had Captain Mackay. "I should have been particularly obliged,"
writes Washington to Governor Dinwiddie, "if you had declared whether he
was under my command, or independent of it. I hope he will have more sense
than to insist upon any unreasonable distinction, because he and his
officers have commissions from his majesty. Let him consider, though we are
greatly inferior in respect to advantages of profit, yet we have the same
spirit to serve our gracious king as they have, and are as ready and
willing to sacrifice our lives for our country's good. And here, once more,
and for the last time, I must say, that it will be a circumstance which
will act upon some officers of this regiment, above all measure, to be
obliged to serve upon such different terms, when their lives, their
fortunes, and their operations are equally, and, I dare say, as effectually
exposed as those of others, who are happy enough to have the king's

On the 9th arrived Washington's early instructor in military tactics,
Adjutant Muse, recently appointed a major in the regiment. He was
accompanied by Montour, the Indian interpreter, now a provincial captain,
and brought with him nine swivels, and a small supply of powder and ball.
Fifty or sixty horses were forthwith sent to Wills' Creek, to bring on
further supplies, and Mr. Gist was urged to hasten forward the artillery.

Major Muse was likewise the bearer of a belt of wampum and a speech, from
Governor Dinwiddie to the half-king; with medals for the chiefs, and goods
for presents among the friendly Indians, a measure which had been suggested
by Washington. They were distributed with that grand ceremonial so dear to
the red man. The chiefs assembled, painted and decorated in all their
savage finery; Washington wore a medal sent to him by the governor for such
occasions. The wampum and speech having been delivered, he advanced, and
with all due solemnity, decorated the chiefs and warriors with the medals,
which they were to wear in remembrance of their father the King of England.

Among the warriors thus decorated was a son of Queen Aliquippa, the savage
princess whose good graces Washington had secured in the preceding year, by
the present of an old watchcoat, and whose friendship was important, her
town being at no great distance from the French fort. She had requested
that her son might be admitted into the war councils of the camp, and
receive an English name. The name of Fairfax was accordingly given to him,
in the customary Indian form; the half-king being desirous of like
distinction, received the name of Dinwiddie. The sachems returned the
compliment in kind, by giving Washington the name of Connotaucarius; the
meaning of which is not explained.

William Fairfax, Washington's paternal adviser, had recently counselled him
by letter, to have public prayers in his camp; especially when there were
Indian families there; this was accordingly done at the encampment in the
Great Meadows, and it certainly was not one of the least striking pictures
presented in this wild campaign--the youthful commander, presiding with
calm seriousness over a motley assemblage of half-equipped soldiery,
leathern-clad hunters and woodsmen, and painted savages with their wives
and children, and uniting them all in solemn devotion by his own example
and demeanor.

On the 10th there was agitation in the camp. Scouts hurried in with word,
as Washington understood them, that a party of ninety Frenchmen were
approaching. He instantly ordered out a hundred and fifty of his best men;
put himself at their head, and leaving Major Muse with the rest, to man the
fort and mount the swivels, sallied forth "in the full hope" as he
afterwards wrote to Governor Dinwiddie, "of procuring him another present
of French prisoners."

It was another effervescence of his youthful military ardor, and doomed to
disappointment. The report of the scouts had been either exaggerated or
misunderstood. The ninety Frenchmen in military array dwindled down into
nine French deserters.

According to their account, the fort at the fork was completed, and named
Duquesne, in honor of the Governor of Canada, It was proof against all
attack, excepting with bombs, on the land side. The garrison did not exceed
five hundred, but two hundred more were hourly expected, and nine hundred
in the course of a fortnight.

Washington's suspicions with respect to La Force's party were justified by
the report of these deserters; they had been sent out as spies, and were to
show the summons if discovered or overpowered. The French commander, they
added, had been blamed for sending out so small a party.

On the same day Captain Mackay arrived, with his independent company of
South Carolinians. The cross-purposes which Washington had apprehended,
soon manifested themselves. The captain was civil and well disposed, but
full of formalities and points of etiquette. Holding a commission direct
from the king, he could not bring himself to acknowledge a provincial
officer as his superior. He encamped separately, kept separate guards,
would not agree that Washington should assign any rallying place for his
men in case of alarm, and objected to receive from him the parole and
countersign, though necessary for their common safety.

Washington conducted himself with circumspection, avoiding every thing that
might call up a question of command, and reasoning calmly whenever such
question occurred; but he urged the governor by letter, to prescribe their
relative rank and authority. "He thinks you have not a power to give
commissions that will command him. If so, I can very confidently say that
his absence would tend to the public advantage."

On the 11th of June, Washington resumed the laborious march for Redstone
Creek. As Captain Mackay could not oblige his men to work on the road
unless they were allowed a shilling sterling a day; and as Washington did
not choose to pay this, nor to suffer them to march at their ease while his
own faithful soldiers were laboriously employed; he left the captain and
his Independent company as a guard at Fort Necessity, and undertook to
complete the military road with his own men.

Accordingly, he and his Virginia troops toiled forward through the narrow
defiles of the mountains, working on the road as they went. Scouts were
sent out in all directions, to prevent surprise. While on the march he was
continually beset by sachems, with their tedious ceremonials and speeches,
all to very little purpose. Some of these chiefs were secretly in the
French interest; few rendered any real assistance, and all expected

At Gist's establishment, about thirteen miles from Fort Necessity,
Washington received certain intelligence that ample reinforcements had
arrived at Fort Duquesne, and a large force would instantly be detached
against him. Coming to a halt, he began to throw up intrenchments, calling
in two foraging parties, and sending word to Captain Mackay to join him
with all speed. The captain and his company arrived in the evening; the
foraging parties the next morning. A council of war was held, in which the
idea of awaiting the enemy at this place was unanimously abandoned.

A rapid and toilsome retreat ensued. There was a deficiency of horses.
Washington gave up his own to aid in transporting the military munitions,
leaving his baggage to be brought on by soldiers, whom he paid liberally.
The other officers followed his example. The weather was sultry; the roads
were rough; provisions were scanty, and the men dispirited by hunger. The
Virginian soldiers took turns to drag the swivels, but felt almost insulted
by the conduct of the South Carolinians, who, piquing themselves upon their
assumed privileges as "king's soldiers," sauntered along at their ease;
refusing to act as pioneers, or participate in the extra labors incident to
a hurried retreat.

On the 1st of July they reached the Great Meadows. Here the Virginians,
exhausted by fatigue, hunger, and vexation, declared they would carry the
baggage and drag the swivels no further. Contrary to his original
intentions, therefore, Washington determined to halt here for the present,
and fortify, sending off expresses to hasten supplies and reinforcements
from Wills' Creek, where he had reason to believe that two independent
companies from New York, were by this time arrived.

The retreat to the Great Meadows had not been in the least too precipitate.
Captain de Villiers, a brother-in-law of Jumonville, had actually sallied
forth from Fort Duquesne at the head of upwards of five hundred French, and
several hundred Indians, eager to avenge the death of his relative.
Arriving about dawn of day at Gist's plantation, he surrounded the works
which Washington had hastily thrown up there, and fired into them. Finding
them deserted, he concluded that those of whom he came in search had made
good their retreat to the settlements, and it was too late to pursue them.
He was on the point of returning to Fort Duquesne, when a deserter arrived,
who gave word that Washington had come to a halt in the Great Meadows,
where his troops were in a starving condition; for his own part, he added,
hearing that the French were coming, he had deserted to them to escape

De Villiers ordered the fellow into confinement; to be rewarded if his
words proved true, otherwise to be hanged. He then pushed forward for the
Great Meadows. [Footnote: Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania, vol. iv., p.

In the mean time Washington had exerted himself to enlarge and strengthen
Fort Necessity, nothing of which had been done by Captain Mackay and his
men, while encamped there. The fort was about a hundred feet square,
protected by trenches and palisades. It stood on the margin of a small
stream, nearly in the centre of the Great Meadows, which is a grassy plain,
perfectly level, surrounded by wooded hills of a moderate height, and at
that place about two hundred and fifty yards wide. Washington asked no
assistance from the South Carolina troops, but set to work with his
Virginians, animating them by word and example; sharing in the labor of
felling trees, hewing off the branches, and rolling up the trunks to form a

At this critical juncture he was deserted by his Indian allies. They were
disheartened at the scanty preparations for defence against a superior
force, and offended at being subjected to military command. The half-king
thought he had not been sufficiently consulted, and that his advice had not
been sufficiently followed; such, at least, were some of the reasons which
he subsequently gave for abandoning the youthful commander on the approach
of danger. The true reason was a desire to put his wife and children in a
place of safety. Most of his warriors followed his example; very few, and
those probably who had no families at risk, remained in the camp.

Early in the morning of the 3d, while Washington and his men were working
on the fort, a sentinel came in wounded and bleeding, having been fired
upon. Scouts brought word shortly afterwards that the French were in force,
about four miles off. Washington drew up his men on level ground outside of
the works, to await their attack. About 11 o'clock there was a firing of
musketry from among trees on rising ground, but so distant as to do no
harm; suspecting this to be a stratagem designed to draw his men into the
woods, he ordered them to keep quiet, and refrain from firing until the foe
should show themselves, and draw near.

The firing was kept up, but still under cover. He now fell back with his
men into the trenches, ordering them to fire whenever they could get sight
of an enemy. In this way there was skirmishing throughout the day; the
French and Indians advancing as near as the covert of the woods would
permit, which in the nearest place was sixty yards, but never into open
sight. In the meanwhile the rain fell in torrents; the harassed and jaded
troops were half drowned in their trenches, and many of their muskets were
rendered unfit for use.

About eight at night the French requested a parley. Washington hesitated.
It might be a stratagem to gain admittance for a spy into the fort. The
request was repeated, with the addition that an officer might be sent to
treat with them, under their parole for his safety. Unfortunately the
Chevalier de Peyrouney, engineer of the regiment, and the only one who
could speak French correctly, was wounded and disabled. Washington had to
send, therefore, his ancient swordsman and interpreter, Jacob Van Braam.
The captain returned twice with separate terms, in which the garrison was
required to surrender; both were rejected. He returned a third time, with
written articles of capitulation. They were in French. As no implements for
writing were at hand, Van Braam undertook to translate them by word of
mouth. A candle was brought, and held close to the paper while he read.
The rain fell in torrents; it was difficult to keep the light from being
extinguished. The captain rendered the capitulation, article by article, in
mongrel English, while Washington and his officers stood listening,
endeavoring to disentangle the meaning. One article stipulated that on
surrendering the fort they should leave all their military stores,
munitions, and artillery in possession of the French. This was objected to,
and was readily modified.

The main articles, as Washington and his officers understood them, were,
that they should be allowed to return to the settlements without
molestation from French or Indians. That they should march out of the fort
with the honors of war, drums beating and colors flying, and with all their
effects and military stores excepting the artillery, which should be
destroyed. That they should be allowed to deposit their effects in some
secret place, and leave a guard to protect them until they could send
horses to bring them away; their horses having been nearly all killed or
lost during the action. That they should give their word of honor not to
attempt any buildings or improvements on the lands of his most Christian
Majesty, for the space of a year. That the prisoners taken in the skirmish
of Jumonville should be restored, and until their delivery Captain Van
Braam and Captain Stobo should remain with the French as hostages.
[Footnote: Horace Walpole, in a flippant notice of this capitulation, says:
"The French have tied up the hands of an excellent _fanfaron_, a Major
Washington, whom they took and engaged not to serve for one year."
(Correspondence, vol. iii., p. 73.) Walpole, at this early date, seems to
have considered Washington a perfect fire-eater.]

The next morning accordingly, Washington and his men marched out of their
forlorn fortress with the honors of war, bearing with them their regimental
colors, but leaving behind a large flag, too cumbrous to be transported.
Scarcely had they begun their march, however, when, in defiance of the
terms of capitulation, they were beset by a large body of Indians, allies
of the French, who began plundering the baggage, and committing other
irregularities. Seeing that the French did not, or could not, prevent them,
and that all the baggage which could not be transported on the shoulders of
his troops would fall into the hands of these savages, Washington ordered
it to be destroyed, as well as the artillery, gunpowder, and other military
stores. All this detained him until ten o'clock, when he set out on his
melancholy march. He had not proceeded above a mile when two or three of
the wounded men were reported to be missing. He immediately detached a few
men back in quest of them, and continued on until three miles from Fort
Necessity, where he encamped for the night, and was rejoined by the

In this affair, out of the Virginia regiment, consisting of three hundred
and five men, officers included, twelve had been killed, and forty-three
wounded. The number killed and wounded in Captain Mackay's company is not
known. The loss of the French and Indians is supposed to have been much

In the following days' march the troops seemed jaded and disheartened; they
were encumbered and delayed by the wounded; provisions were scanty, and
they had seventy weary miles to accomplish before they could meet with
supplies. Washington, however, encouraged them by his own steadfast and
cheerful demeanor, and by sharing all their toils and privations; and at
length conducted them in safety to Wills' Creek, where they found ample
provisions in the military magazines. Leaving them here to recover their
strength, he proceeded with Captain Mackay to Williamsburg, to make his
military report to the governor.

A copy of the capitulation was subsequently laid before the Virginia House
of Burgesses, with explanations. Notwithstanding the unfortunate result of
the campaign, the conduct of Washington and his officers was properly
appreciated, and they received a vote of thanks for their bravery, and
gallant defence of their country. Three hundred pistoles (nearly eleven
hundred dollars) also were voted to be distributed among the privates who
had been in action.

From the vote of thanks, two officers were excepted; Major Stobo, who was
charged with cowardice, and Washington's unfortunate master of fence and
blundering interpreter, Jacob Van Braam, who was accused of treachery, in
purposely misinterpreting the articles of capitulation.

In concluding this chapter, we will anticipate dates to record the fortunes
of the half-king after his withdrawal from the camp. He and several of his
warriors, with their wives and children, retreated to Aughquick, in the
back part of Pennsylvania, where George Croghan had an agency, and was
allowed money from time to time for the maintenance Of Indian allies. By
the by, Washington, in his letter to William Fairfax, expressed himself
much disappointed in Croghan and Montour, who proved, he said, to be great
pretenders, and by vainly boasting of their interest with the Indians,
involved the country in great calamity, causing dependence to be placed
where there was none. [Footnote: Letter to W. Fairfax, Aug. 11th, 1754.]
For, with all their boast, they never could induce above thirty fighting
men to join the camp, and not more than half of those rendered any service.

As to the half-king, he expressed himself perfectly disgusted with the
white man's mode of warfare. The French, he said, were cowards; the
English, fools. Washington was a good man, but wanted experience: he would
not take advice of the Indians and was always driving them to fight
according to his own notions. For this reason he (the half-king) had
carried off his wife and children to a place of safety.

After a time the chieftain fell dangerously ill, and a conjurer or
"medicine man" was summoned to inquire into the cause or nature of his
malady. He gave it as his opinion that the French had bewitched him, in
revenge for the great blow he had struck them in the affair of Jumonville;
for the Indians gave him the whole credit of that success, he having sent
round the French scalps as trophies. In the opinion of the conjurer all the
friends of the chieftain concurred, and on his death, which took place
shortly afterwards, there was great lamentation, mingled with threats of
immediate vengeance. The foregoing particulars are gathered from a letter
written by John Harris, an Indian trader, to the Governor of Pennsylvania,
at the request of the half-king's friend and fellow sachem, Monacatoocha,
otherwise called Scarooyadi. "I humbly presume," concludes John Harris,
"that his death is a very great loss, especially at this critical time."
[Footnote: Pennsylvania Archives, vol. ii., p. 178.]


We have been thus particular in tracing the affair of the Great Meadows,
step by step, guided by the statements of Washington himself and of one of
his officers, present in the engagement, because it is another of the
events in the early stage of his military career, before the justice and
magnanimity of his character were sufficiently established which have been
subject to misrepresentation. When the articles of capitulation came to be
correctly translated and published, there were passages in them derogatory
to the honor of Washington and his troops, and, which, it would seem, had
purposely been inserted for their humiliation by the French commander; but
which, they protested, had never been rightly translated by Van Braam. For
instance, in the written articles, they were made to stipulate that for the
space of a year, they would not work on any establishment beyond the
mountains; whereas it had been translated by Van Braam "on any
establishment _on the lands of the King of France_" which was quite
another thing, as most of the land beyond the mountains was considered by
them as belonging to the British crown. There were other points, of minor
importance, relative to the disposition of the artillery; but the most
startling and objectionable one was that concerning the previous skirmish
in the Great Meadows. This was mentioned in the written articles as
_l'assassinat du Sieur de Jumonville_, that is to say, the
_murder_ of De Jumonville; an expression from which Washington and his
officers would have revolted with scorn and indignation; and which, if
truly translated, would in all probability have caused the capitulation to
be sent back instantly to the French commander. On the contrary, they
declared it had been translated to them by Van Braam the _death_ of De

M. de Villiers, in his account of this transaction to the French
government, avails himself of these passages in the capitulation to cast a
slur on the conduct of Washington. He says, "We made the English consent to
sign that they had assassinated my brother in his camp."--"We caused them
to abandon the lands belonging to the king.--We obliged them to leave their
cannon, which consisted of nine pieces, &c." He further adds: "The English,
struck with panic, took to flight, and left their flag and one of their
colors." We have shown that the flag left was the unwieldy one belonging to
the fort; too cumbrous to be transported by troops who could not carry
their own necessary baggage. The regimental colors, as honorable symbols,
were scrupulously carried off by Washington, and retained by him in after

M. de Villiers adds another incident intended to degrade his enemy. He
says, "One of my Indians took ten Englishmen, whom he brought to me, and
whom I sent back by another." These, doubtless, were the men detached by
Washington in quest of the wounded loiterers; and who, understanding
neither French nor Indian, found a difficulty in explaining their peaceful
errand. That they were captured by the Indian seems too much of a

The public opinion at the time was that Van Braam had been suborned by De
Villiers to soften the offensive articles of the capitulation in
translating them, so that they should not wound the pride nor awaken the
scruples of Washington and his officers, yet should stand on record against
them. It is not probable that a French officer of De Villiers' rank would
practise such a base perfidy, nor does the subsequent treatment experienced
by Van Braam from the French corroborate the charge. It is more than
probable the inaccuracy of translation originated in his ignorance of the
precise weight and value of words in the two languages, neither of which
was native to him, and between which he was the blundering agent of



Early in August Washington rejoined his regiment, which had arrived at
Alexandria by the way of Winchester. Letters from Governor Dinwiddie urged
him to recruit it to the former number of three hundred men, and join
Colonel Innes at Wills' Creek, where that officer was stationed with
Mackay's independent company of South Carolinians, and two independent
companies from New York; and had been employed in erecting a work to serve
as a frontier post and rallying point; which work received the name of Fort
Cumberland, in honor of the Duke of Cumberland, captain-general of the
British army.

In the mean time the French, elated by their recent triumph, and thinking
no danger at hand, relaxed their vigilance at Fort Duquesne. Stobo, who was
a kind of prisoner at large there, found means to send a letter secretly by
an Indian, dated July 28, and directed to the commander of the English
troops. It was accompanied by a plan of the fort. "There are two hundred
men here," writes he, "and two hundred expected; the rest have gone off in
detachments to the amount of one thousand, besides Indians. None lodge in
the fort but Contrecoeur and the guard, consisting of forty men and five
officers; the rest lodge in bark cabins around the fort. The Indians have
access day and night, and come and go when they please. If one hundred
trusty Shawnees, Mingoes, and Delawares were picked out, they might
surprise the fort, lodging themselves under the palisades by day, and at
night secure the guard with their tomahawks, shut the sally-gate, and the
fort is ours."

One part of Stobo's letter breathes a loyal and generous spirit of
self-devotion. Alluding to the danger in which he and Van Braam, his
fellow-hostage, might be involved, he says, "Consider the good of the
expedition without regard to us. When we engaged to serve the country it
was expected we were to do it with our lives. For my part, I would die a
hundred deaths to have the pleasure of possessing this fort but one day.
They are so vain of their success at the Meadows it is worse than death to
hear them. Haste to strike." [Footnote: Hazard's Register of Penn., iv.,

The Indian messenger carried the letter to Aughquick and delivered it into
the hands of George Croghan. The Indian chiefs who were with him insisted
upon his opening it. He did so, but on finding the tenor of it, transmitted
it to the Governor of Pennsylvania. The secret information communicated by
Stobo, may have been the cause of a project suddenly conceived by Governor
Dinwiddie, of a detachment which, by a forced march across the mountains,
might descend upon the French and take Fort Duquesne at a single blow; or,
failing that, might build a rival fort in its vicinity. He accordingly
wrote to Washington to march forthwith for Wills' Creek, with such
companies as were complete, leaving orders with the officers to follow as
soon as they should have enlisted men sufficient to make up their
companies. "The season of the year," added he, "calls for despatch. I
depend upon your usual diligence and spirit to encourage your people to be
active on this occasion."

The ignorance of Dinwiddie in military affairs, and his want of forecast,
led him perpetually into blunders. Washington saw the rashness of an
attempt to dispossess the French with a force so inferior that it could be
harassed and driven from place to place at their pleasure. Before the
troops could be collected, and munitions of war provided, the season would
be too far advanced. There would be no forage for the horses; the streams
would be swollen and unfordable; the mountains rendered impassable by snow,
and frost, and slippery roads. The men, too, unused to campaigning on the
frontier, would not be able to endure a winter in the wilderness, with no
better shelter than a tent; especially in their present condition,
destitute of almost every thing. Such are a few of the cogent reasons urged
by Washington in a letter to his friend William Fairfax, then in the House
of Burgesses, which no doubt was shown to Governor Dinwiddie, and probably
had an effect in causing the rash project to be abandoned.

The governor, in truth, was sorely perplexed about this time by
contradictions and cross-purposes, both in military and civil affairs. A
body of three hundred and fifty North Carolinian troops had been enlisted
at high pay, and were to form the chief reinforcement of Colonel Innes at
Wills' Creek. By the time they reached Winchester, however, the provincial
military chest was exhausted, and future pay seemed uncertain; whereupon
they refused to serve any longer, disbanded themselves tumultuously, and
set off for their homes without taking leave.

The governor found the House of Burgesses equally unmanageable. His demands
for supplies were resisted on what he considered presumptuous pretexts; or
granted sparingly, under mortifying restrictions. His high Tory notions
were outraged by such republican conduct. "There appears to me," said he,
"an infatuation in all the assemblies in this part of the world." In a
letter to the Board of Trade he declared that the only way effectually to
check the progress of the French, would be an act of parliament requiring
the colonies to contribute to the common cause, _independently of
assemblies_; and in another, to the Secretary of State, he urged the
policy of compelling the colonies to their duty to the king by a general
poll-tax of two and sixpence a head. The worthy governor would have made a
fitting counsellor for the Stuart dynasty. Subsequent events have shown how
little his policy was suited to compete with the dawning republicanism of

In the month of October the House of Burgesses made a grant of twenty
thousand pounds for the public service; and ten thousand more were sent out
from England, beside a supply of firearms. The governor now applied himself
to military matters with renewed spirit; increased the actual force to ten
companies; and, as there had been difficulties among the different kinds of
troops with regard to precedence, he reduced them all to independent
companies; so that there would be no officer in a Virginia regiment above
the rank of captain.

This shrewd measure, upon which Dinwiddie secretly prided himself as
calculated to put an end to the difficulties in question, immediately drove
Washington out of the service; considering it derogatory to his character
to accept a lower commission than that under which his conduct had gained
him a vote of thanks from the Legislature.

Governor Sharpe, of Maryland, appointed by the king commander-in-chief of
all the forces engaged against the French, sought to secure his valuable
services, and authorized Colonel Fitzhugh, whom he had placed in temporary
command of the army, to write to him to that effect. The reply of
Washington (15th Nov.) is full of dignity and spirit, and shows how deeply
he felt his military degradation.

"You make mention," says he, "of my continuing in the service and retaining
my colonel's commission. This idea has filled me with surprise; for if you
think me capable of holding a commission that has neither rank nor
emolument annexed to it, you must maintain a very contemptible opinion of
my weakness, and believe me more empty than the commission itself." After
intimating a suspicion that the project of reducing the regiment into
independent companies, and thereby throwing out the higher officers, was
"generated and hatched at Wills' Creek,"--in other words, was an expedient
of Governor Dinwiddie, instead of being a peremptory order from England, he
adds, "Ingenuous treatment and plain dealing I at least expected. It is to
be hoped the project will answer; it shall meet with my acquiescence in
every thing except personal services. I herewith inclose Governor Sharpe's
letter, which I beg you will return to him with my acknowledgments for the
favor he intended me. Assure him, sir, as you truly may, of my reluctance
to quit the service, and the pleasure I should have received in attending
his fortunes. Inform him, also, that it was to obey the call of honor and
the advice of my friends that I declined it, and not to gratify any desire
I had to leave the military line. My feelings are strongly bent to arms."

Even had Washington hesitated to take this step, it would have been forced
upon him by a further regulation of government, in the course of the
ensuing winter, settling the rank of officers of his majesty's forces when
joined or serving with the provincial forces in North America, "which
directed that all such as were commissioned by the king, or by his general
commander-in-chief in North America, should take rank of all officers
commissioned by the governors of the respective provinces. And further,
that the general and field officers of the provincial troops should have no
rank when serving with the general and field officers commissioned by the
crown; but that all captains and other inferior officers of the royal
troops should take rank over provincial officers of the same grade, having
older commissions."

These regulations, originating in that supercilious assumption of
superiority which sometimes overruns and degrades true British pride, would
have been spurned by Washington, as insulting to the character and conduct
of his high-minded brethren of the colonies. How much did this open
disparagement of colonial honor and understanding, contribute to wean from
England the affection of her American subjects, and prepare the way for
their ultimate assertion of independence.

Another cause of vexation to Washington was the refusal of Governor
Dinwiddie to give up the French prisoners, taken in the affair of De
Jumonville, in fulfilment of the articles of capitulation. His plea was,
that since the capitulation, the French had taken several British subjects,
and sent them prisoners to Canada he considered himself justifiable in
detaining those Frenchmen which he had in his custody. He sent a flag of
truce, however, offering to return the officer Drouillon, and the two
cadets, in exchange for Captains Stobo and Van Braam, whom the French held
as hostages; but his offer was treated with merited disregard. Washington
felt deeply mortified by this obtuseness of the governor on a point of
military punctilio and honorable faith, but his remonstrances were

The French prisoners were clothed and maintained at the public expense, and
Drouillon and the cadets were allowed to go at large; the private soldiers
were kept in confinement. La Force, also, not having acted in a military
capacity, and having offended against the peace and security of the
frontier, by his intrigues among the Indians, was kept in close durance.
Washington, who knew nothing of this, was shocked on visiting Williamsburg,
to learn that La Force was in prison. He expostulated with the governor on
the subject, but without effect; Dinwiddie was at all times pertinacious,
but particularly so when he felt himself to be a little in the wrong.

As we shall have no further occasion to mention La Force, in connection
with the subject of this work, we will anticipate a page of his fortunes.
After remaining two years in confinement he succeeded in breaking out of
prison, and escaping into the country. An alarm was given, and circulated
far and wide, for such was the opinion of his personal strength, desperate
courage, wily cunning, and great influence over the Indians, that the most
mischievous results were apprehended should he regain the frontier. In the
mean time he was wandering about the country ignorant of the roads, and
fearing to make inquiries, lest his foreign tongue should betray him. He
reached King and Queen Court House, about thirty miles from Williamsburg,
when a countryman was struck with his foreign air and aspect. La Force
ventured to put a question as to the distance and direction of Fort
Duquesne, and his broken English convinced the countryman of his being the
French prisoner, whose escape had been noised about the country. Watching
an opportunity he seized him, and regardless of offers of great bribes,
conducted him back to the prison of Williamsburg, where he was secured with
double irons, and chained to the floor of his dungeon.

The refusal of Governor Dinwiddie to fulfil the article of the capitulation
respecting the prisoners, and the rigorous treatment of La Force, operated
hardly upon the hostages, Stobo and Van Braam, who, in retaliation, were
confined in prison in Quebec, though otherwise treated with kindness. They,
also, by extraordinary efforts, succeeded in breaking prison, but found it
more difficult to evade the sentries of a fortified place. Stobo managed to
escape into the country; but the luckless Van Braam sought concealment
under an arch of a causeway leading from the fortress. Here he remained
until nearly exhausted by hunger. Seeing the Governor of Canada passing by,
and despairing of being able to effect his escape, he came forth from his
hiding place, and surrendered himself, invoking his clemency. He was
remanded to prison, but experienced no additional severity. He was
subsequently shipped by the governor from Quebec to England, and never
returned to Virginia. It is this treatment of Van Braam, more than any
thing else, which convinces us that the suspicion of his being in collusion
with the French in regard to the misinterpretation of the articles of
capitulation, was groundless. He was simply a blunderer.



Having resigned his commission, and disengaged himself from public affairs,
Washington's first care was to visit his mother, inquire into the state of
domestic concerns, and attend to the welfare of his brothers and sisters.
In these matters he was ever his mother's adjunct and counsellor,
discharging faithfully the duties of an eldest son, who should consider
himself a second father to the family.

He now took up his abode at Mount Vernon, and prepared to engage in those
agricultural pursuits, for which, even in his youthful days, he had as keen
a relish as for the profession of arms. Scarcely had he entered upon his
rural occupations, however, when the service of his country once more
called him to the field.

The disastrous affair at the Great Meadows, and the other acts of French
hostility on the Ohio, had roused the attention of the British ministry.
Their ambassador at Paris was instructed to complain of those violations of
the peace. The court of Versailles amused him with general assurances of
amity, and a strict adherence to treaties. Their ambassador at the court of
St. James, the Marquis de Mirepoix, on the faith of his instructions, gave
the same assurances. In the mean time, however, French ships were fitted
out, and troops embarked, to carry out the schemes of the government in
America. So profound was the dissimulation of the court of Versailles, that
even their own ambassador is said to have been kept in ignorance of their
real designs, and of the hostile game they were playing, while he was
exerting himself in good faith, to lull the suspicions of England, and
maintain the international peace. When his eyes, however, were opened, he
returned indignantly to France, and upbraided the cabinet with the
duplicity of which he had been made the unconscious instrument.

The British government now prepared for military operations in America;
none of them professedly aggressive, but rather to resist and counteract
aggressions. A plan of campaign was devised for 1755, having four objects.

To eject the French from lands which they held unjustly, in the province of
Nova Scotia.

To dislodge them from a fortress which they had erected at Crown Point, on
Lake Champlain, within what was claimed as British territory.

To dispossess them of the fort which they had constructed at Niagara,
between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

To drive them from the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and recover
the valley of the Ohio.

The Duke of Cumberland, captain-general of the British army, had the
organization of this campaign; and through his patronage, Major-general
Edward Braddock was intrusted with the execution of it, being appointed
generalissimo of all the forces in the colonies.

Braddock was a veteran in service, and had been upwards of forty years in
the guards, that school of exact discipline and technical punctilio.
Cumberland, who held a commission in the guards, and was bigoted to its
routine, may have considered Braddock fitted, by his skill and preciseness
as a tactician, for a command in a new country, inexperienced in military
science, to bring its raw levies into order, and to settle those questions
of rank and etiquette apt to arise where regular and provincial troops are
to act together.

The result proved the error of such an opinion. Braddock was a brave and
experienced officer but his experience was that of routine, and rendered
him pragmatical and obstinate, impatient of novel expedients "not laid down
in the books," but dictated by emergencies in a "new country," and his
military precision, which would have been brilliant on parade, was a
constant obstacle to alert action in the wilderness. [Footnote: Horace
Walpole, in his letters, relates some anecdotes of Braddock, which give a
familiar picture of him in the fashionable life in which he had mingled in
London, and are of value, as letting us into the private character of a man
whose name has become proverbial in American history. "Braddock," says
Walpole, "is a very Iroquois in disposition. He had a sister, who, having
gamed away all her little fortune at Bath, hanged herself with a truly
English deliberation, leaving a note on the table with these lines: 'To die
is landing on some silent shore,' &c. When Braddock was told of it, he only
said: 'Poor Fanny! I always thought she would play till she would be forced
to tuck herself up.'"

Braddock himself had been somewhat of a spendthrift. He was touchy also,
and punctilious. "He once had a duel," says Walpole, "with Colonel Glumley,
Lady Bath's brother, who had been his great friend. As they were going to
engage, Glumley, who had good humor and wit (Braddock had the latter) said:
'Braddock, you are a poor dog! here, take my purse, if you kill me you will
be forced to run away, and then you will not have a shilling to support
you.' Braddock refused the purse, insisted on the duel, was disarmed, and
would not even ask for his life."]

Braddock was to lead in person the grand enterprise of the campaign, that
destined for the frontiers of Virginia and Pennsylvania; it was the
enterprise in which Washington became enlisted, and, therefore, claims our
especial attention.

Prior to the arrival of Braddock, came out from England Lieutenant-colonel
Sir John St. Clair, deputy quartermaster-general, eager to make himself
acquainted with the field of operations. He made a tour of inspection, in
company with Governor Sharpe, of Maryland, and appears to have been
dismayed at sight of the impracticable wilderness, the region of
Washington's campaign. From Fort Cumberland, he wrote in February to
Governor Morris, of Pennsylvania, to have the road cut, or repaired, toward
the head of the river Youghiogeny, and another opened from Philadelphia for
the transportation of supplies. "No general," writes he, "will advance with
an army without having a communication open to the provinces in his rear,
both for the security of retreat, and to facilitate the transport of
provisions, the supplying of which must greatly depend on your province."
[Footnote: Colonial Records, vi., 300.]

Unfortunately the governor of Pennsylvania had no money at his command, and
was obliged, for expenses, to apply to his Assembly, "a set of men," writes
he, "quite unacquainted with every kind of military service, and
exceedingly unwilling to part with money on any terms." However, by dint of
exertions, he procured the appointment of commissioners to explore the
country, and survey and lay out the roads required. At the head of the
commission was George Croghan, the Indian trader, whose mission to the
Twightwees we have already spoken of. Times had gone hard with Croghan. The
French had seized great quantities of his goods. The Indians, with whom he
traded, had failed to pay their debts, and he had become a bankrupt. Being
an efficient agent on the frontier, and among the Indians, he still enjoyed
the patronage of the Pennsylvania government.

When Sir John St. Clair had finished his tour of inspection, he descended
Wills' Creek and the Potomac for two hundred miles in a canoe to
Alexandria, and repaired to Virginia to meet General Braddock. The latter
had landed on the 20th of February at Hampton, in Virginia, and proceeded
to Williamsburg to consult with Governor Dinwiddie. Shortly afterwards he
was joined there by Commodore Keppel, whose squadron of two ships-of-war,
and several transports, had anchored in the Chesapeake. On board of these
ships were two prime regiments of about five hundred men each; one
commanded by Sir Peter Halket, the other by Colonel Dunbar; together with a
train of artillery, and the necessary munitions of war. The regiments were
to be augmented to seven hundred men, each by men selected by Sir John St.
Clair from Virginia companies recently raised.

Alexandria was fixed upon as the place where the troops should disembark,
and encamp. The ships were accordingly ordered up to that place, and the
levies directed to repair thither.

The plan of the campaign included the use of Indian allies. Governor
Dinwiddie had already sent Christopher Gist, the pioneer, Washington's
guide in 1753, to engage the Cherokees and Catawbas, the bravest of the
Southern tribes, who he had no doubt would take up the hatchet for the
English, peace being first concluded, through the mediation of his
government, between them and the Six Nations; and he gave Braddock reason
to expect at least four hundred Indians to join him at Port Cumberland. He
laid before him also contracts that he had made for cattle, and promises
that the Assembly of Pennsylvania had made of flour; these, with other
supplies, and a thousand barrels of beef on board of the transports, would
furnish six months' provisions for four thousand men.

General Braddock apprehended difficulty in procuring wagons and horses
sufficient to attend him in his march. Sir John St. Clair, in the course of
his tour of inspection, had met with two Dutch settlers, at the foot of the
Blue Ridge, who engaged to furnish two hundred waggons, and fifteen hundred
carrying-horses, to be at Fort Cumberland early in May.

Governor Sharpe was to furnish above a hundred waggons for the
transportation of stores, on the Maryland side of the Potomac.

Keppel furnished four cannons from his ships, for the attack on Fort
Duquesne, and thirty picked seamen to assist in dragging them over the
mountains; for "soldiers," said he, "cannot be as well acquainted with the
nature of purchases, and making use of tackles, as seamen," They were to
aid also in passing the troops and artillery on floats or in boats, across
the rivers, and were under the command of a midshipman and lieutenant.
[Footnote: Keppel's Life of Keppel, p. 205.]

"Every thing," writes Captain Robert Orme, one of the general's
aides-de-camp, "seemed to promise so far the greatest success. The
transports were all arrived safe, and the men in health. Provisions,
Indians, carriages, and horses, were already provided; at least were to be
esteemed so, considering the authorities on which they were promised to the

Trusting to these arrangements, Braddock proceeded to Alexandria. The
troops had all been disembarked before his arrival, and the Virginia levies
selected by Sir John St. Clair, to join the regiments of regulars, were
arrived. There were beside two companies of hatchet men, or carpenters; six
of rangers; and one troop of light horse. The levies, having been clothed,
were ordered to march immediately for Winchester, to be armed, and the
general gave them in charge of an ensign of the 44th, "to make them as like
soldiers as possible." [Footnote: Orme's Journal.] The light horse were
retained by the general as his escort and body guard.

The din and stir of warlike preparation disturbed the quiet of Mount
Vernon. Washington looked down from his rural retreat upon the ships of war
and transports, as they passed up the Potomac, with the array of arms
gleaming along their decks. The booming of cannon echoed among his groves.
Alexandria was but a few miles distant. Occasionally he mounted his horse,
and rode to that place; it was like a garrisoned town, teeming with troops,
and resounding with the drum and fife. A brilliant campaign was about to
open under the auspices of an experienced general, and with all the means
and appurtenances of European warfare. How different from the starveling
expeditions he had hitherto been doomed to conduct! What an opportunity to
efface the memory of his recent disaster! All his thoughts of rural life
were put to flight. The military part of his character was again in the
ascendant; his great desire was to join the expedition as a volunteer.

It was reported to General Braddock. The latter was apprised by Governor
Dinwiddie and others, of Washington's personal merits, his knowledge of the
country, and his experience in frontier service. The consequence was, a
letter from Captain Robert Orme, one of Braddock's aides-de-camp, written
by the general's order, inviting Washington to join his staff; the letter
concluded with frank and cordial expressions of esteem on the part of Orme,
which were warmly reciprocated, and laid the foundation of a soldierlike
friendship between them.

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