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58 Washington sent West.
1753. Twigtwees was talked over, the plans of the French discussed, and a treaty concluded. The Indians had sent three messages to the French, warning them away; the reply was, that they were coming to build forts at “Wenengo,” (Venango,) Mohongialo forks, (Pittsburgh,): Logtown, and Beaver Creek. The red men complained of the traders as too scattered, and as killing them with rum; they wished only three trading stations, viz. mouth of “Mohongely,” (Pittsburgh,) Logtown, and mouth of “Canawa.”
Soon after this, no satisfaction being obtained from the Ohio, either as to the force, position, or purposes of the French, Robert Dinwiddie, then Governor of Virginia, determined to send to them another messenger, and selected a young surveyor, who, at the age of nineteen, had received the rank of major, and whose previous life had inured him to hardship and woodland ways, while his courage, cool judgment, and firm will, all fitted him for such a mission. This young man, as all know, was George Washington, who was twenty-one years and eight months old, at the time of the appointment. With Gist as his guide, Washington left Will's Creek, where Cumberland now is, on the 15th of November, and, on the 22d, reached the Monongahela about ten miles above the Fork. Thence he went to Logstown, where he had long conferences with the chiefs of the Six Nations living in that neighbourhood.[ Here he learned the position of the French upon the
Minutes of Treaty at Carlisle in Oct. 1753, pp. 5 to 8. + Sparks Washington, vol. ii. pp. 328-447.
# A passage of Washington's Diary is worth extracting as showing the condition of the French, in the Far West at that time.
6. 25th.-Came to town four of ten Frenchmen, who had deserted from a company at the Kuskuskus, which lies at the mouth of this river. I got the following account from them :- They were sent from New Orleans with a hundred men and eight canoe-loads of provisions to this place, where they expected to have met the same number of men, from the forts on this side of Lake Erie, to convoy them and the stores up, who were not arrived when they ran off.
“ I inquired into the situation of the French on the Mississippi, their numbers and what forts they had built. They informed me, that there were four small forts between New Orleans and the Black Islands, garrisoned with about thirty or forty men, and a few small pieces in each. That at New Orleans, which is near the mouth of the Mississippi, there are thirty-five companies of forty men each, with a pretty strong fort mounting eight carriage-guns; and at the Black Islands there are several companies and a fort with sis guns. The Black Islands are about a hundred and thirty leagues above the mouth of the Ohio, which is about three hundred and fifty above New Orleans. They also acquainted me, that there was a small palisadoed fort on the Ohio, at the mouth of the Obaish, about sixty leagues from the Mississippi. The Obaish heads near the west end of Lake Erie, and affords the communication between the French on the Mississippi and those on the lakes. These deserters came up from the lower Shannoahtown with one Brown, an Indian trader, and were going to Philadelphia."
Washington on French Creek.
Riviere aur Bæufs, and the condition of their forts. He heard also that they had determined not to come down the river till the following spring, but had warned all the Indians, that, if they did not keep still, the whole French force would be turned upon them; and that, if they and the English were equally strong, they would divide the land between them, and cut off all the natives. These threats, and the mingled kindness and severity of the French, had produced the desired effect. Shingiss, king of the Delawares, feared to meet Washington, and the Shannoah (Shawanee) chiefs would not come either. *
The truth was, these Indians were in a very awkward position. They could not resist the Europeans, and knew not which to side with; so that a non-committal policy was much the safest, and they were wise not to return by Washington (as he desired they should) the wampum received from the French, as that would have been equivalent to breaking with them.
Finding that nothing could be done with these people, Washington left Logstown on the 30th of November, and, travelling amid cold and rain, reached Venango,f an old Indian town at the mouth of French Creek, on the 4th of the next month. Here he found the French; and here, through the rum, and the flattery, and the persuasions of his enemies, he very nearly lost all his Indians, even his old friend, the Half-king. Patience and good faith conquered, however, and, after another pull through mires and creeks, snow, rain, and cold, upon the 11th he reached the fort at the head of French Creek. Here he delivered Governor Dinwiddie's letter, took his observations, received his answer, aud upon the 16th set out upon his return journey, having had to combat every art and trick, "which the most fruitful bra could suggest,” in order to get his Indians away with him. Flattery, and liquor, and guns, and provision were showered upon the Halfking and his comrades, while Washington himself received bows, and smirks, and compliments, and a plentiful store of creaturecomforts also.
From Venango, Washington and Gist went on foot, leaving their Indian friends to the tender mercies of the French. Of their hardships and dangers on this journey out and back we need only
Shingiss, or Shingask, was the great Delaware warrior of that day, and did the British much mischief.–See Heckewelder's Narrative, p. 64.
* A corruption of Innungah; (Day’s Hist. Collections of Pa. 636, note.) The French fort there was called Fort Machault. (Memoires sur la Derniere Guerre, iii. 181.)
1754. to say that, three out of five men who went with them were too badly frost-bitten to continue the journey.* In spite of all, however, they reached Will's Creek, on the 6th of January, well and sound.f During the absence of the young messenger, steps had been taken to fortify and settle the point formed by the junction of the Monongahela and Alleghany; and, while upon his return, he met "seventeen horses, loaded with materials and stores for a fort at the Fork of the Ohio," and, soon after, “some families going out to settle.” These steps were taken by the Ohio Company; but, as soon as Washington returned with the letter of St. Pierre, the commander on French Creek, and it was perfectly clear that neither he nor his superiors meant to yield the West without a struggle, Governor Dinwiddie wrote to the Board of Trade, stating that the French were building another fort at Venango, and that in March twelve or fifteen hundred men would be ready to descend the river with their Indian allies, for which purpose three hundred canoes had been collected; and that Logstown was then to be made head-quarters, while forts were built in various other positions, and the whole country occupied. He also sent expresses to the Governors of Pennsylvania and New York, calling upon them for assistance; and, with the advice of his council, proceeded to enlist two companies, one of which was to be raised by Washington, the other by Trent, who was a frontier man. This last was to be raised upon the frontiers, and to proceed at once to the Fork of the Ohio, there to complete in the best manner, and as soon as possible, the fort begun by the Ohio Company; and in case of attack, or any attempt to resist the settlements, or obstruct the works, those resisting were to be taken, or if need were, killed. I
While Virginia was taking these strong measures, which were fully authorized by the letter of the Earl of Holdernesse, Secretary of State,|| written in the previous August, and which directed the Governors of the various provinces, after representing to those who were invading his Majesty's dominions the injustice of the act, to call out the armed force of the province, and repel force
* Sparks' Washington, ii. 55.
+ Gist's Journal of this Expedition may be found in the Massachusetts Historical Col. lections, third series, vol. v. (1836,) 101 to 108.
# Sparks' Washington, vol. ii. pp. 1, 431, 446.-Sparks' Franklin, vol. iii. p. 254. I Sparks' Franklin, vol. iii. p. 251, where the letter is given.
1754. New York conferring with the Six Nutions. 61 by force; while Virginia was thus acting, Pennsylvania was discussing the question, whether the French were really invading his Majesty's dominions,—the Governor being on one side, and the Assembly on the other,* — and New York was preparing to hold a conference with the Six Nations, in obedience to orders from the Board of Trade, written in September, 1753. These orders had been sent out in consequence of the report in England, that the natives would side with the French, because dissatisfied with the occupancy of their lands by the English; and simultaneous orders were sent to the other provinces, directing the Governors to recommend their Assemblies to send Commissioners to Albany to attend this grand treaty, which was to heal all wounds. New York, however, was more generous when called on by Virginia, than her neighbor on the south, and voted, for the assistance of the resisting colony, five thousand pounds currency. I
It was now April, 1754. The fort at Venango was finished, and all along the line of French Creek troops were gathering; and the wilderness echoed the strange sounds of a European camp, the watch word, the command, the clang of muskets, the uproar of soldiers, the cry of the sutler; and with these were mingled the shrieks of drunken Indians, won over from their old friendship by rum and soft words. Scouts were abroad, and little groups formed about the tents or huts of the officers, to learn the movements of the British. Canoes were gathering, and cannon were painfully hauled here and there. All was movement and activity among the old forests, and on hill-sides, covered already with young wild flowers, from Lake Erie to the Alleghany. In Philadelphia, meanwhile, Governor Hamilton, in no amiable mood, had summoned the Assembly, and asked them if they meant to help the King in the defence of his dominions; and had desired them, above all things, to do whatever they meant to do, quickly. The Assembly debated, and resolved to aid the King with a little money, and then debated again and voted not to aid him with any money at all, for some would not give less than ten thousand pounds, and others would not give more than five thousand pounds; and so, nothing being practicable, they adjourned upon the 10th of April until the 13th of May.||
Sparks' Franklin, vol. iii. pp. 254, 263. + Plain Facts, pp. 45, 46.-Sparks' Franklin, vol. iii. p. 253.
Massachusetts Historical Collections, first series, vol. vii. p. 73. I Sparks' Franklin, vol. iii. pp. 264, 265.
Washington appointed Lieutenant Colonel. 1754. In New York, a little, and only a little better spirit, was at work; nor was this strange, as her direct interest was much less than that of Pennsylvania. Five thousand pounds indeed was, as we have said, voted to Virginia; but the Assembly questioned the invasion of his Majesty's dominions by the French, and it was not till June that the money voted was sent forward.*
The Old Dominion, however, was all alive. As, under the provincial law, the militia could not be called forth to march more than five miles beyond the bounds of the colony, and as it was doubtful if the French were within Virginia, it was determined to rely upon volunteers. Ten thousand pounds had been voted by the Assembly; so the two companies were now increased to six, and Washington was raised to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and made second in command under Joshua Fry. Ten cannon, lately from England, were forwarded from Alexandria; wagons were got ready to carry westward provisions and stores through the heavy spring roads; and everywhere along the Potomac men were enlisting under the Governor's proclamation, which promised to those that should serve in that war, two hundred thousand acres of land on the Ohio,—or, already enlisted, were gathering into grave knots, or marching forward to the field of action, or helping on the thirty cannon and eighty barrels of gunpowder, which the King had sent out for the western forts. Along the Potomac they were gathering, as far as to Will's creek; and far beyond Will's creek, whither Trent had come for assistance, his little band of forty-one men was working away, in hunger and want, to fortify that point at the Fork of the Ohio, to which both parties were looking with deep interest. The first birds of spring filled the forests with their song; the redbud and dogwood were here and there putting forth their flowers on the steep Alleghany hill-sides, and the swift river below swept by, swollen by the melting snows and April showers; a few Indian scouts were seen, but no enemy seemed near at hand; and all was so quiet, that Frazier, an Indian trader, who had been left by Trent in command of the new fort, ventured to his home at the mouth of Turtle creek, ten miles up the Monongahela. But, though all was so quiet in that wilderness, keen eyes had seen the low entrenchment that was rising at the Fork, and swift feet bad borne the news of it up
the valley; and, upon the 17th of April, Ensign Ward, who then had charge of it, saw upon the Alleghany a sight that made his heart
* Massachusetts Hislorical Collections, first series, vol. vii. pp. 72, 73, and note.