« PreviousContinue »
Birth of mr. Washington....His mission to the French on
the Ohio....Appointed lieutenant colonel of a regiment of regular troops....Surprises, monsieur Jumonville.... Capitulation of fort Necessity... Is appointed aid-du-camp to general Braddock....Defeat and death of that general.... Is appointed to the command of a regiment....Extreme distress of the frontiers, and exertions of colonel Washington to augment the regular forces of the colony....General Forbes undertakes the expedition against fort du Quesne....Defeat of major Grant....Fort du Quesne evacuated by the French, and taken possession of by the English....Resignation and marriage of colonel Washington.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, the third son of Augustine Washington, was born in Virginia, Birth of mr. at Bridges creek, in the county of Westmoreland, on the 22d of February 1732. He was the great grandson of John Washington, a gentle. man of a very respectable family in the north of England, who had emigrated about the year 1657, and settled on the place where young mr. Washington was born.
Very early in life, the cast of his genius dis1732. closed itself. The war in which his country
was then engaged against France and Spain, first kindled those latent sparks, which afterwards blazed with equal splendour and advantage, and at the age of fifteen, he urged so pressingly to be permitted to enter into the British navy, that the place of a midshipman was obtained for him. The interference of a r timid and affectionate mother, suspended for a : time the commencement of his military course.
He lost his father at the age of ten years, and received what was denominated an English education, a term which excludes the acquisi. tion of other languages than our own. As his patrimonial estate was by no means considerable, his youth was employed in useful industry; and in the practice of his profession as a surveyor, he had an opportunity of acquiring that information respecting vacant lands, and of forming those opinions concerning their future value, which afterwards greatly contributed to the increase of his private fortune.
It is strong evidence of the opinion entertained of his capacity that, when not more than nineteen years of age, and at a time when the militia were to be trained for actual service, he was appointed one of the adjutants general of Virginia, with the rank of major. The duties annexed to this office were performed by him for a very short time.
The plan formed by France for connecting CHAP. I. her extensive dominions in America by uniting 1753. Canada with Louisiana, now began to develop itself. Possession was taken of a tract of country then deemed to be within the province of Virginia, and a line of posts was commenced from the lakes to the Ohio. The attention of mr. Dinwiddie, the lieutenant governor of that province, was attracted by these supposed encroachments, and he deemed it his duty to demand, in the name of the king his master, that they should desist from the prosecution of designs which violated, as he thought, the treaties between the two crowns. person was to be selected for the performance of this duty, which, at that time, was very properly believed to be a very arduous one. A great part of the country through which the envoy was to pass, was almost entirely unexplored, and inhabited only by Indians, many of whom were hostile to the English, and others of doubtful attachment. While the dangers and fatigues of the journey deterred from undertaking it those, who did not extend their views to the future scenes to be exhibited in that country, or who did not wish to be actors in them ; they seem to have furnished motives to mr. Washington for desiring to be employed in this hazardous service, and he engaged in it with the utmost alacrity.
on the Ohio.
He commenced his journey from Williams1753. burg, the day on which he was commissioned,
and arrived on the 14th of November at Wills'
creek, then the extreme frontier settlement of to the French the English. Guides were there engaged to
conduct him over the Alleghany mountains, the passage of which, at that season of the year, began to be extremely difficult.
After surmounting considerable impediments from the snow and high waters, he reached the mouth of Turtle creek, on the Monongahela, on the 22d, where he learned from an Indian trader, that the French general was dead, and that the major part of the army had retired into winter quarters. Pursuing his route, he examined the country with a military eye, and selected the forks of the Monongahela and Alleghany rivers, the place where fort du Quesne, now Fort Pitt, was afterwards erected by the French, as an advantageous and commanding position, which it would be advisable to take possession of immediately, and to fortify.
After employing a few days among the Indians in that neighbourhood, and procuring some of their chiefs, whose fidelity he took the most judicious means for securing, to accompany him; he ascended the Alleghany river; and at the mouth of French creek, found the first fort occupied by the troops of France. Proceeding further up the creek to another fort, he was received by monsieur le Gardeur de St. Pierre,
the commanding officer on the Ohio, to whom CHAP. I. he delivered the letter of mr. Dinwiddie, and 1754. having received an answer from him, returned with infinite fatigue, and much danger from the hostile Indians, to Williamsburg. The exer- January 16. tions made by mr. Washington on this occasion, the perseverance with which he surmounted the difficulties of the journey, and the judgment displayed in his conduct towards the Indians, raised him very much in the public opinion, as well as in that of the lieutenant governor. His journal, * drawn up for the inspection of mr. Dinwiddie, was published, and generally considered as strongly evidencing the solidity of his judgment, and the fortitude of his mind.
As the answer from the commandant of the French forces on the Ohio, indicated no disposition to withdraw from that country, deemed necessary to make some preparations to maintain the right asserted over it by the British crown, and the assembly of Virginia determined to authorize the governor, with the advice of council, to raise a regiment for that purpose, to consist of three hundred men. The command of this regiment was given to a mr. Fry, a gentleman supposed to be well acquainted with Appointed the western country, and major Washington Celoned of a was appointed lieutenant colonel. Extremely wrong
* See Note, No. I. at the end of the volume.