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Chap.i. abuses cast upon the officers in general, which 1T56. is reflecting on me in particular, for suffering misconduct of such extraordinary kind, and the distant prospect, if any, of gaining reputation in the service; cause me to lament the hour that gave me a commission, and would induce me, at any other time than this of imminent danger, to resign, without one hesitating moment, a command, from which I never expect to reap either honour or benefit: but on the contrary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below, while the murder of helpless families may be laid to my account here.
"The supplicating tears of the women, and moving petitions of the men, melt me with such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people's ease."
Colonel Washington had been prevented from, taking post at fort Cumberland, (the extreme position towards the enemy held by the Americans, where the largest number of troops were stationed,) by an unfortunate and extraordinary difficulty, growing out of an obscurity in the royal orders, respecting the relative rank of officers commissioned by the king, and those commissioned by his governor. A captain Dagu orthy, who was at that place, and of the former description, insisted on taking the command, although it had been committed to lieutenant colonel Stevens, and, on the same prin- Chap. I. ciple contested the rank of colonel Washington 1756. also. He was at this distressing time at Winchester, where there were public stores to a considerable amount, with only about fifty men to guard them. A council of war was called to determine, whether he should, at the head of this small body, march to some of the nearest forts, and uniting with their petty garrisons, risk an action with the enemy; or wait until the militia could be raised. It was unanimously advised to continue at Winchester, to protect the public stores, and the inhabitants of that place. Lord Fairfax, who commanded the militia of that and the adjacent counties, had ordered them to his assistance; but they were slow in turning out; and he complained that three days unremitting exertion in Frederick could only produce twenty men.
The incompetency of the military force to the defence of the country had become so obvious, that the assembly determined to augment the regiment to fifteen hundred men, by adding to the number of privates in each company: and as it had become apparently impracticable to complete it by voluntary enlistment, orders were given to draft the men required, out of the militia, and that the drafts should serve until the following December.
Colonel Washington urged strongly on the house of burgesses, in a letter addressed to
Chap, i. their speaker, the necessity of increasing the 1756. regiment still further to two thousand men, a less number than which, could not possibly, in his opinion, be sufficient to cover the very, extensive frontier of Virginia, if the present defensive system should be adhered to; and he expressed his apprehensions, that without artillery and engineers, or assistance from Britain, or the neighbouring colonies, they would be unable to act offensively, and to drive the French from fort du Quesne, which was said to be regularly fortified. To demonstrate the truth of the proposition, that less than two thousand men could afford no real protection to the country, he drew a picture of their actual situation, and stated the number of men which would be necessary to garrison the chain of forts, which must be indispensably kept up, so long as the French maintained their position on the Ohio. In making this statement, he observed that, with the exception of a few inhabitants, forted in on the south branch of Potowmack, the north mountain near Winchester, had become the frontier; and that without effectual aid, the inhabitants would even pass the Blue Ridge. He also recommended a fort at Winchester, and that the regiment should be organized into two battalions, to consist of ten companies of one hundred men each. His propositions, except that for increasing the regiment to two thousand men, were generally acceded to. In this letter, he observed, that Chap.i. the woods seemed "alive with French and 1756. Indians," and again described so feelingly the situation of the inhabitants, that the assembly requested the governor, to order out half the militia of the adjoining counties to their relief: and the attorney general, (mr. Peyton Randolph) formed a company of one hundred gentlemen, who engaged as volunteers to make the campaign. Ten well trained woodsmen, or Indians, would have rendered more service.
The distress of the country increased. Winchester, as had been foreseen, became almost the only settlement on the northern frontier beyond the Blue Ridge; and fears were entertained that the enemy would soon pass even those mountains, and ravage the country below them. Express after express was sent to hasten the militia, but sent in vain. At length, laden with plunder, prisoners, and scalps, the French and their savage allies returned, about the last of April, to fort du Quesne.'
Some short time after the retreat of the enemy, the militia appeared and strengthened the different posts. The country was now searched, and the best dispositions made to repel another invasion. The fort at Winchester was commenced which, in honour of the general, who was ordered to take command of the British troops in America, was called fort Loudoun; and the perpetual remonstrances of colonel
Chap, h Washington to the assembly, were at length so
1756. far successful, that the laws for the government
of its forces were rendered rather more efficient.
Instead of adopting in the first instance, that military code which experience had matured, occasional acts were made to remedy particular evils as they occurred, in consequence of which a state of insubordination was greatly protracted, and the difficulties of the commanding officer increased. Slight penalties were at first annexed to very serious military offences, and when at length an act was obtained to punish mutiny and desertion with death, such crimes, as cowardice in action, and sleeping on a post, were pretermitted. It was left impossible to hold a general court martial without an order from the governor; and the commanding officer was not at liberty to make those arrangements which his own observations suggested, but was shackled by the control of those, who could neither judge as correctly, nor be as well informed as himself.
These errors of a government totally unused to war, were gradually, but not entirely corrected.
The militia were retained in service until harvest, and then discharged. Successive incursions into the country were made by small predatory parties of French and Indians, who murdered the defenceless wherever found, and kept up a continual alarm. In Pennsylvania,