Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The patrimonial estate of Mr. Washington was small. After the completion of his course with his tutor, he was engaged in useful industry; and for several years of his minority, employed as a county surveyor. In this employment he distinguished himself by his diligence, and by the neatness and accuracy of his plans. His experience in this business made him well acquainted with the worth of new lands, and aided him afterwards in their selection.

'The military bias of his mind was early discovered. The war between England and France in 1747, kindled in his young breast that spark, which at a subsequent period burst into a flame; and at his own importunity, the birth of a midshipman, at the age of fifteen, was obtained in the British navy. His views in this instance were defeated by the anxiety of an affectionate mother.

At a time when the militia was to be trained for actual service, at nineteen he was appointed one of the adjutant generals of Virginia, with the rank of major; from the execution of the duties of this commis sion, honourable to his age, he was soon called to higher employments.

France at this period unfolded her ambitious design of connecting Canada with Louisiana, and in this way of enclosing the British colonies in North America. Her officers were directed to establish a line of posts from the lakes to the Ohio. This tract of country, the English held to be within the boundaries of Virginia. Mr. Dinwiddie, then the Lieutenant Governor of the province, alarmed by encroachments, which involved the important interests of the British crown, conceived it proper officially to warn the French to desist from the prosecution of a scheme, deemed a violation of existing treaties between the two countries.

It was difficult to select a proper agent to execute this perilous mission. He must pass through ar. unexplored wilderness, filled by tribes of Indians; some

of which were doubtful friends, and many the decided enemies of the English. The fatigues and dangers which induced other Virginians to decline the com mission of envoy on this occasion, led Mr. WASHING TON with ardour to seek the appointment.

1753

The very day on which he received his OCT. 31. commission he commenced his journey from Williamsburg. At Winchester he procured the necessary provisions, baggage, and horses. On the fourteenth of November he reached Will's Creek, the frontier of inhabited Virginia; here he hired a guide and four other attendants, to accompany him over the Alleghany mountains; the passage of which was now attended with difficulty and hazard. The weather became incessantly stormy, and the snow deep; and he was unable to arrive at Turtle Creek, on the mouth of the Monongahela, before the 22d. Here he was informed of the death of the French General, and found that his troops had retired to winter quarters. With extreme fatigue he pursued his journey; surveyed the country with the judgment of a soldier, and selected the forks of the Monongahela and Alleghany rivers, as a place highly expedient for the English to possess and fortify. On this site the French soon after erected Fort du Quesne, which, when the British General Forbes gained the possession, he called Fort Pitt.

In this place he spent a few days to conciliate the affections of the Indians of the vicinity. Some of their chiefs, whose fidelity he took the wisest measures to secure, he engaged as guides, with them, ascended the Alleghany river, and at the mouth of French Creek found the first French post. Proceeding up the creek to another fort, he met Monsieur le Gardeur de St. Pierre, the commanding officer on the Ohio, and to him he delivered Governor Dinwiddie's letter. With n three or four day's he received an official answer to his cominunication, and immediately left the place on nis return; but the snow being excessively deep, and

his horses growing weak from fatigue, he became im patient at the slowness of his progress. Leaving there fore his horses with necessary directions, in the care of his attendants, he and his guide wrapped themselves in watch coats, took his important papers, and the necessary provisions in their packs, and with their guns in their hands, prosecuted the journey on foot the nearest way through the woods. The next day, December 26, as he passed a place called the Murdering town, he fell in with a party of French Indians, which lay in wait for him; one of them not fifteen steps distant fired, but without effect. This Indian the Major took into custody and detained him till nine o'clock in the evening, then dismissed him, and continued his march through the night, that he might be beyond the reach of pursuit, should the Indians in the morning follow his track. The second day he reached the river two miles above the Shannapis, expecting to find it frozen over; but the ice extended only fifty yards from the shore; though quantities of it were driving in the channel. A raft was their only means of passing, and they had but one poor hatchet with which to make it. It cost them a hard day's work to form the raft; the next day they launched it, went on board, and attempted the passage; but before they were half way over they were enclosed by masses of ice, and threatened with immediate destruction. Mr. WASHINGTON put down his setting pole to stop the raft, that the ice might pass by, but the rapidity of the current crowded the ice with such force against the pole, that it threw him out in ten feet water. But fortunately he saved himself by seizing one of the raft logs. With their utmost efforts they were unable to reacn either shore, but with difficulty they landed on an island. The cold was so severe, that Mr. Gist the guide had his hands and feet frozen. The next morning, without hazard they passed the river on the ice, and were received into the odgings of Mr. Frazier, an Indian trader. Here Ma

jor WASHINGTON took a horse, and on the 16th of January, 1754, reached Williamsburg, and made report of his proceedings.

The fatigue and danger of this embassy are not easily conceived by persons in the bosom of civilized life. "From the 1st to the 15th of December," sa s Major WASHINGTON, "there was but one day in which it did not rain or snow incessantly, and through the whole journey there was but one continued series of cold, wet weather." The journal composed for the perusal of Governor Dinwiddie, was published, and the enterprise, judgment, and perseverance displayed in the execution of this service, exalted Mr. WASHING TON in publick opinion; and gave his country an earnest of his future services.

The embassy to the Ohio, not having induced the French to withdraw from that country, the assembly of Virginia adopted measures to maintain the claims of the British crown. They empowered the executive of the colony to raise a regiment to consist of three hundred men. Mr. Fry, a gentleman acquainted with the western country, was appointed to command it, and the commission of Lieut. Colonel was given to Major WASHINGTON. Enterprising and patriotick, Col. WASHINGTON requested and obtained permission to march first, early in April, 1754, with two companies to the Great Meadows. The reasons which led him to this measure, were to be early in active service, to learn the designs of the enemy, to afford protection to the English settlements, to cultivate the friendship of the Indians, and to acquire a knowledge of the country, which promised to be the scene of military opera tions. Scarcely had he taken possession of his ground, when some friendly Indians informed him that the French had driven away a working party, sent by the Ohio company to erect a fort on the southeastern branch of the Ohio, and were themselves building a fortress on the very ground, which he had recommend

ed to the Governor for a military post. They also gave the intelligence, that a force was then marching from that place to the Great Meadows. Although hos tilities had not commenced, yet it was considered that the French had invaded the English territory; and many circumstances rendered it probable, that a force was approaching with hostile views. It appeared that the party had left the direct road, and had encamped in a valley, a few miles to the west of the Great Meadows, as a place of concealment. Colonel WASHINGTON, under the guidance of the Indians, set out in a dark, rainy night, and surrounded the encampment. At day break. his men fired, and rushed upon the French, who, being completely surprised, surrendered One man only made his escape, and Mr. Jumonville, the commander, alone was killed.

Two

The other companies of the regiment were, at this time, in march to join those in advance; before these reached the camp Colonel Fry died, and the command devolved on Lieutenant Colonel WASHINGTON. companies of British troops, one from South-Carolina, and the other from New-York, also joined the regiment at the Great Meadows, making a force of four hundred effective men. The regular captains reluctantly placed themselves under the command of a provincial officer; but pressing circumstances induced them for the time, to wave dispute about rank, and to act under the orders of Colonel WASHINGTON.

For the security of their stores he erected a small stockade, and then marched towards Fort du Quesne, to dislodge the French. At the foot of Laurel Hill, thirteen miles on the way, he was met by a number of friendly Indians, who informed him, that the enemy were hastily approaching with a strong detachment. A confidential chief assured him, that he had seen a reinforcement arrive at du Quesne, which place he left two days before, and had learned that a body con ng of eight hundred French and four hundred In

« AnteriorContinuar »