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Major Washington was appointed Lieutenant Colonel. Anxious to be engaged in active service, he obtained permission, about the beginning of April, to advance with two companies to the Great Meadows in the Alleghany mountains. By this movement he hoped to cover that frontier, to make himself more perfectly acquainted with the country, to gain some information respecting the situation and designs of the French, and to preserve the friendship of the savages. Soon after his arrival at that place, he was visited by some friendly Indians, who informed him that the French, having dispersed a party of workmen employed by the Ohio company to erect a fort on the south-eastern branch of the Ohio, were themselves engaged in completing a fortification at the confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers: a detachment from which place was then on its march towards his camp. Open hostilities had not yet commenced; but the country was considered as invaded : and several circumstances were related, confirming the opinion that this party was approaching with hostile views. Among others, it had withdrawn itself some distance from the path, and had encamped for the night in a bottom, as if to ensure concealment. Entertaining no doubt of the unfriendly designs with which these troops were advancing, Licutenant Colonel Washington resolved to anticipate them. Availing himself of the offer made by the Indians to serve him as guides, he proceeded through a dark and rainy night to the French encampment, which he completely surrounded. At daybreak, his troops fired and rushed upon the party, which immediately surrendered. One man only escaped capture; and M. Jumonville alone, the commanding officer, was killed.
While the regiment was on its march to join the detachment advanced in front, the command devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Washington by the death of Colonel Fry. Soon after its arrival, it was reinforced by two independent companies of regulars. After erecting a small stockade at the Great Meadows, Colonel Washington commenced his march towards fort Du Quesne, with the intention of dislodging the French from that place. He had proceeded about thirteen miles, when he was met by
and would favour me so far as to mention it at the appointment of officers, I could not but entertain a true sense of the kindness,
I fatter myself that under a skilful commander, or man of sense, (which I most sincerely wish to serve under,) with my own application and diligent study of my duty, 1 shall be able to conduct my steps without censure, and in time, render myself worthy of the promotion that I shall be favoured with now."
The commission he solicited was transmitted to him by Mr. Corbin, in the following laconic letter: “Dear George -I inclose you your commission. God prosper you with it.
Your friend, RICHARD CORBIN.”
some friendly Indians, who informed him that the French and their savage allies, “as numerous as the pigeons in the woods,” were advancing rapidly to meet him. Among those who brought this information, was a trusty chief, only two days from the fort on the Ohio, who had observed the arrival of a considerable reinforcement at that place, and had heard their intention of marching immediately to attack the English, with a corps composed of eight hundred French and four hundred In. dians. This intelligence was corroborated by information previously received from deserters, who had reported that a reinforcement was expected.
The troops commanded by Colonel Washington were almost destitute of provisions; and the ground he occupied was not adapted to military purposes. A road at some distance, leading through other defiles in the mountains, would enable the French to pass into his rear, intercept his supplies, and starve him into a surrender, or fight him with a superiority of three to one.
In this hazardous situation, a council of war unanimously advised a retreat to the fort at the Great Meadows, now termed fort Necessity; where the two roads united, and where the face of the country was such as not to permit an enemy to pass unperceived. At that place, it was intended to remain, until reinforcements of men, and supplies of provi. sions, should arrive.
In pursuance of this advice, Colonel Washington returned to fort Necessity, and began a ditch around the stockade. Before it
July 2. was completed, the French, amounting to about fifteen hundred men, commanded by Monsieur de Villier, appeared be
July 3. fore the fort, and immediately commenced a furious attack upon it. They were received with great intrepidity by the Americans, who fought partly within the stockade, and partly in the surrounding ditch, which was nearly filled with mud and water. Colonel Washington continued the whole day on the outside of the fort, encouraging the soldiers by his countenance and example. The assailants fought under cover of the trees and high grass, with which the country abounds. The engagement was continued with great resolution from ten in the morning until dark; when Monsieur de Villier demanded a parley, and offered terms of capitulation. The proposals first made were rejected; but, in the course of the night, articles were signed, by which the fort was surrendered, on condition that its garrison should be allowed the honours of war-should be permitted to retain their arms and bag. gage, and be suffered to march without molestation into the inhabited parts of Virginia. The capitulation being in French-a language not under
stood by any person in the garrison, and being drawn up hastily in the night, contains an expression which was inaccurately translated at the time, and of which advantage has been since taken, by the enemies of Mr. Washington, to imply an admission on his part, that Monsieur lumonville was assassinated. An account of the transaction was published by Monsieur de Villier, which drew from Colonel Washington, a letter to a friend, completely disproving the calumny. Though entirely d'scredited at the time, it was revived at a subsequent period, when circumstances, well understood at the date of the transaction, were supposed to be forgotten.*
The loss of the Americans in this affair is not ascertainel. From a return made on the 9th of July, at Wills' Creek, it appears that the killed and wounded, of the Virginia regiment, amounted to fifty-eight; but the loss sustained by the two independent companies is not stated. That of the assailants was supposed to be more considerable.
Great credit was given to Colonel Washington by his countrymen, for the courage displayed on this occasion. The legislature evinced its satisfaction with the conduct of the whole party, by passing a vote of thankst to him, and the officers under his command; and by giving three hundred pistoles, to be distributed among the soldiers engaged in the action.
The regiment returned to Winchester, to be recruited; soon after which it was joined by a few companies from North Carolina and Maryland. On the arrival of this reinforcement, the Lieutenant Governor, with the advice of council, regardless of the condition or number of the forces, ordered them immediately to march over the Alleghany mountains, and to expel the French from fort Du Quesne, or to build one in its vicinity.
The little army in Virginia, which was placed under the comAugust. mand' of Colonel Innes, from North Carolina, did not, as * See note, No. II, at the end of the volume. + To the vote of thanks, the officers made the following reply:
“We, the officers of the Virginia regiment, are highly sensible of the particular mark of distinction with which you have honoured us, in returning your thanks for our behaviour in the late action; and can not help testifying our grateful acknowledgments, for your "high sense" of what we shall always esteem a duty to our country and the best of kings.
“Favoured with your regard, we shall zealously endeavour to deserve your applause, and, by our future actions, strive to convince the worshipful house burgesses, how much we esteem their approbation, and, as it ought to be, regard it as the voice of our country.
Signed for the whole corps,
now reinforced, exceed half the number of the enemy, and was neither provided with the means of moving, nor with supplies for a winter campaign. With as little consideration, directions had been given for the immediate completion of the regiment, without furnishing a single shilling for the recruiting service. Although a long peace may account for many errors at the commencement of war, some surprise will be felt at such ill-considered and ill-judged measures. Colonel Wash
September. ington remonstrated strongly against these orders, but prepared to execute them. The assembly, however, having risen without making any provision for the farther prosecution of the war, this wild expedition was laid aside, and the Virginia regiment was reduced to independent companies.
In the course of the winter, orders were received “for settling the rank of the officers of his majesty's forces when serving with the provincials in North America." These orders directed that all officers commissioned by the King, or by his General in North America, should take rank of all officers commissioned by the Governors of the respective provinces: and farther, 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 senior commissions."
Strong as was his attachment to a military life, Colonel Washington possessed in too eminent a degree the proud and punctilious feelings of a soldier, to submit to a degradation so humiliating as was produced by his loss of rank. Professing his unabated inclination to continue in the service, if permitted to do so without a sacrifice too great to be made, he retired indignantly from the station assigned him, and answered the various letters which he received, pressing him still to hold his commission, with assurances that he would serve with pleasure, when he should be enabled to do so without dishonour.
His eldest brother had lately died, and left him a considerable estate on the Potowmac. This gentleman had served in the expedition against Carthagena; and, in compliment to the admiral who commanded the fleet engaged in that enterprise, had named his seat Mount Vernon. To this delightful spot Colonel Washington withdrew, resolving to devote his future attention to the avocations of private life. This resolution was not long maintained.
General Braddock, being informed of his merit, his knowledge of the country which was to be the theatre of action, and his 1755. motives for retiring from the service, gratified his desire to make March.
one campaign under a person supposed to possess some knowledge of war, by inviting him to enter his family as a volunteer aid-de-camp.
Having determined to accept this invitation, he joined the commanderin-chief, immediately after his departure from Alexandria, and proceeded
with him to Wills' Creek. The army, consisting of two European June.
regiments and a few corps of provincials, was detained at that place until the 12th of June, by the difficulty of procuring wagons, horses, and provisions. Colonel Washington, impatient under these delays, suggested the propriety of using pack horses instead of wagons, for conveying the baggage. The commander-in-chief, although solicitous to hasten the expedition, was so attached to the usages of regular war, that this salutary advice was at first rejected; but, soon after the commencement of the march, its propriety became too obvious to be longer neglected. On the third day after the army had moved from its ground, Colonel
Washington was seized with a violent fever, which disabled June 15.
him from riding on horseback, and was conveyed in a covered wagon. General Braddock, who found the difficulties of the march greater than had been expected, continuing to consult him privately, he strenuously urged that officer to leave his heavy artillery and baggage with the rear division of the army; and with a chosen body of troops and some pieces of light artillery, to press forward with the utmost expedition to fort Du Quesne. In support of this advice, he stated that the French were then weak on the Ohio, but hourly expected reinforcements. During the excessive drought which prevailed at that time, these could not arrive; because the river Le Bæuf, on which their supplies must be brought to Venango, did not then afford a sufficient quantity of water for the purpose. A rapid movement therefore might enable him to carry the fort, before the arrival of the expected aid; but if this measure should not be adopted, such were the delays attendant on the march of the whole army, that rains sufficient to raise the waters might reasonably be expected, and the whole force of the French would probably be collected for their reception; a circumstance which would render the success of the expedition doubtful.
This advice according well with the temper of the commander in chief, it was determined in a council of war, held at the Little Meadows, that twelve hundred select men, to be commanded by General Braddock in
person, should advance with the utmost expedition against fort Du Quesne. Colonel Dunbar was to remain with the residue of the two regiments, and all the heavy baggage.