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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.

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A plan was now concerted to come upon them by surprise Washington with his men on the right; the halfking 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,

1754.]

SKIRMISH WITH JUMONVILLE.

119

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 mischiefmaker, 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 France.

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 Contrecœur 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.*

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."

* Washington's letter to Dinwiddie, 29th May, 1754. ·

1754.]

TREATMENT OF PRISONERS.

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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."

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The situation of Washington was now extremely perilous. Contrecœur, it was said, had nearly a thou

sand 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."

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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. 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

* Letter from Virginia.-London Mag., 1754.

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