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Chap. L solicitous to be engaged as early as possible in 175*. active service, and to be usefully employed, he obtained permission, about the beginning of April, to march with two companies in advance of the other troops, to the Great Meadows. By this measure he expected to protect the country, to make himself more perfectly acquainted with it, as well as with the situations and designs of the enemy; and to preserve the friendship of the savages. Immediately after his arrival at that place, he was visited by some friendly Indians, who informed him that the French had dispossessed a party of workmen employed by the Ohio company to erect a fort on the south eastern branch of the Ohio, and were themselves then engaged in completing a fortification at the confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers; and that a detachment from that place was then on its march towards the Great Meadows. Open hostilities had not yet commenced, but the country was considered as invaded, and several circumstances were related contributing to the opinion that this party was approaching with hostile views. Among others it was stated that they had left the path some distance, and had encamped for the night in a bottom, in a secret, retired situation, as if to secure concealment. The Indians offering themselves as guides, colonel Washington set out in a dark rainy
night, in the course of which he surrounded Chap, I. and completely surprised the French encamp- 1754. ment, which was but a few miles west of the snrpri«s
Great Meadows. About day break his troops jumonviU«: fired, and rushed upon the French, who immediately surrendered. One man only escaped, and a mr. Jumonville the commanding officer of the party, was the only person killed.
The residue of the regiment was now on its way to join the detachment advanced in their front. On the march, colonel Fry died at Patterson's creek, and the command devolved on colonel Washington. Their junction was effected at the Great Meadows, soon after which two independent companies of regulars arrived at the same place, the one from South Carolina, and the other from New York, making in the whole, (for the Virginia regiment was not complete) somewhat less than four hundred effective men. The regular captains objected to being commanded by a provincial officer, but, under existing circumstances, the dispute about rank was waved for the moment, and the command rested with colonel Washington. A small stockade afterwards called fort Necessity, was erected at the Great Meadows, for the purpose of securing the provisions and horses, after which the troops commenced their march towards fort du Quesne, with the intention of dislodging the French from that place. They had proceeded to the westernmost foot of
Chap. i. the Laurel hill, about thirteen miles from 1754. fort Necessity, when intelligence was received which terminated their march. They were there met by some friendly Indians who informed them that the enemy was rapidly advancing as numerous as the pigeons in the woods. Among those who brought this information, was a very trusty chief, who had left the fort on the Ohio, only two days before, where he had seen a considerable re-enforcement arrive, and had heard the intention declared of marching immediately to attack the English, with a corps composed of eight hundred French, and four hundred Indians. This intelligence was corroborated, by the information already received from deserters, who had come in a few days before, and had assured them that a re-enforcement was expected. The troops had been without bread for six days, and had but a very small supply of meat. The enemy could approach within five miles of their position by water, and might either pass them by a road leading through the country some distance from them, so as to cut oft' all supplies, and starve them into a surrender; or fight them with a
superiority of three to one.
iune M, In this hazardous situation, a council of war was called, and the officers unanimously advised that they should retire to the fort at the Great Meadows, where the two roads united, and the country would not easily admit the pas
sage of an enemy without being perceived, Chap.i. At that place it was intended to remain until re- 1754. enforcements of men, and supplies of provisions should arrive.
In pursuance of this advice, colonel Wash- w *• ington retreated to fort Necessity, and began a ditch around the stockade. Before it was completed, the enemy, supposed to amount to fifteen hundred men, under the command of
monsieur de Villier, appeared and immedi- Third. ately commenced a furious attack upon the fort, where they were received with great intrepidity. The Americans fought partly within the stockade, and partly in the surrounding ditch which was nearly filled with mud and water. Colonel Washington in person continued the whole day on the outside of the fort, encouraging the soldiers by his countenance and example. The enemy 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, escalation demanded a parley, and offered terms of capitu- NKCMity,
lation. The proposals first made were rejected;
but in the course of the night, articles were Fourlh, 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 baggage; and to march without molestation into the inhabited parts of Vol. 11. c
Chap. i. Virginia. The capitulation being in French, 1754. a language not understood by colonel Washington, or any of his party, and drawn up in the night under circumstances not admitting delay; contains an expression which was at the time untruly translated by the interpreter, advantage of which has been since taken by the enemies of that gentleman, to imply an admission on his part, that the officer killed in the action preceding the attack on the fort, 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 a calumny which, though entirely discredited at the time, was revived at a subsequent period, when circumstances, well understood, at the date of the transaction, might be supposed to be forgotten.*
The whole loss sustained by the Americans in this affair, is not ascertained. From a return made on the ninth of July at Wills' creek, it appears that the killed and wounded of the Virginia regiment amounted to fifty-eight; but the loss of the two independent companies is not stated. It was conjectured that, on the part of the enemy, about two hundred were killed and wounded, and it is probable that this conjecture does not greatly err.
• See jYo1e, JVb. II. at the end of the volume.