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In this dilemma he called a council of war, in which it was determined to proceed to the Ohio Company store-house, at the mouth of Redstone Creek; fortify themselves there, and wait for re-enforcements. 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 re-enforced 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 co-operation 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.
MARCH TO THE LITTLE MEADOWS -RUMORS
FROM THE OHIO
CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE BANKS OF THE YOUGHIOGENY ATTEMPT TO DESCEND THAT RIVER- ALARMING REPORTS SCOUTING PARTIES PERILOUS SITUATION OF THE CAMP
GIST AND LA FORCE
MESSAGE FROM THE HALF-KING — JUMONVILLE SKIRMISH -TREATMENT
OF LA FORCE POSITION AT THE GREAT MEADOWS- BELLIGERENT FEELINGS OF A YOUNG SOLDIER.
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 pack-horses bearing their effects, were retreating to the more settled parts of the country. Some exaggerated the number of the French, as if strongly re-enforced. 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 reconnoitring 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 country.”
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 wagon-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, " pect 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 watch-coat.
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 concern."
"It is reported,” said be, 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 wagon 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. 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