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1754. Port at the Fork of the Ohio taken by the French. 63 sink,-sixty batteaux and three hundred canoes, filled with men, and laden deep with cannon and stores. The fort was called on to surrender; by the advice of the Half-king, Ward tried to evade the act, but it would not do; Contrecæur, with a thousand men about him, said “Evacuate,” and the ensign dared not refuse. That evening he supped with his captor, and the next day was bowed off by the Frenchman, and, with his men and tools, marched up the Monongahela. From that day began the war. *
Sparks" Washington, vol. ii. The number of French troops was probably overstated, but to the captives there seemed a round thousand. Burk, in his history of Virginia, speaks of the taking of Logstown by the French; but Logstown was never a post of the Ohio Company as he represents it, as is plain from all contemporary letters and accounts. Burk’s ignorance of Western matters is clear in this, that he says the French dropped down from Fort Du Quesne to Presqu'ile and Venango; they, or part of them, did drop down the Ohio, but surely not to posts, one of which was on Lake Erie, and the other far up the Alleghany! In a letter from Captain Stobo, written in July, 1754, at fort Da Quesne, where he was then confined as hostage under the capitulation of Great Meadows, he says there were but two hundred men in and about the fort at that time. (American Pioneer, i. 236.-For plan of Forts Du Quesne and Pitt, see article in Pioneer; also, Day's Historical Collections of Pennsylvania, 77.)
WAR OF 1754 TO 1763.
Washington was at Will's Creek, (Cumberland,) when the news of the surrender of the Fork reached him. He was on his way across the mountains, preparing roads for the King's cannon, and aiming for the mouth of Red Stone Creek, (Brownsville,) where a store-house had been already built by the Ohio Company; by the 9th of May, he had reached Little Meadows, on the head waters of a branch of the Youghiogany, toiling slowly, painfully forward, four, three, sometimes only two miles a day! - All the while from traders and others he heard of forces coming up the Ohio to reinforce the French at the Fork, and of spies out examining the valley of the Monongahela, flattering and bribing the Indians. On the 27th of May he was at Great Meadows, west of the Youghiogany, near the Fort of Laurel Hill, close by the spot now known as Braddock's Grave. He had heard of a body of French somewhere in the neighborhood, and on the 27th, his former guide, Gist, came from his residence beyond Laurel Hill, near the head of Red Stone Creek, and gave information of a body of French who had been at his plantation the day before. That evening from his old friend the Half-king, he heard again of enemies in the vicinity. Fearing a surprise Washington at once started, and early the next morning attacked the party referred to by the Chief of the Iroquois. In the contest ten of the French were killed, including M. de Jumonville their Commander; of the Americans but one was lost. This skirmish France saw fit to regard as the commencement of the war, and in consequence of a report made by M. de Contrecæur, to the Marquis Du Quesne, founded upon the tales told by certain of Jumonville's men who had run away at the first onset, it has been usual with French writers to represent the attack by Washington as unauthorized, and the party assailed by him as a party sent with peaceable intentions; and this impression was confirmed by the term “assassination of M. de Jumonville,” used in the capitulation of Great Meadows in the following July;— this having been accepted by
65 Washington (to whom the term wus falsely translated,) it was naturally regarded as an acknowledgment by him of the improper character of the attack of May 28th. Mr. Sparks, in his appendix to Washington's papers, vol. ii. pp. 447, 459, has discussed this matter at length, and fully answered the aspersions of the European writers; to his work we refer our readers.
From the last of May until the 1st of July, preparations were made to meet the French who were understood to be gathering their forces in the West. On the 28th of June, Washington was at Gist's house, and new reports coming in that the enemy was approaching in force, a council of war was held, and it was thought best, in consequence of the scarcity of provisions, to retreat to Great Meadows, and even farther if possible. When, however, the retiring body of Provincials reached that post, it was deemed impossible to go farther in the exhausted state of the troops, who had been eight days without bread. Measures were therefore taken to strengthen the fort, which, from the circumstances, was named Fort Necessity. On the 1st of July, the Americans reached their position; on the 3d the alarm was given of an approaching enemy; at eleven o'clock, A. M., nine hundred in number, they commenced the attack in the midst of a hard rain; and from that time till eight in the evening, the assailants ceased not to pour their fire upon the little fortress. About eight the French requested some officer to be sent to treat with them; Captain Vanbraam, the only person who pretended to understand the language of the enemy, was ordered to go to the camp of the attacking party, whence he returned bringing terms of capitulation, which, by a flickering candle, in the dripping quarters of his commander, he translated to Washington, and as it proved, from intention or ignorance, mistranslated. By this capitulation the garrison of Fort Necessity were to have leave to retire with everything but their artillery; the prisoners taken May 28th were to be returned; and the party yielding were to labor on no works west of the Mountains for one year: for the observance of these conditions Captain Vanbraam, the negotiator, and Captain Stobo, were to be retained by the French as sureties.* The above provisions having been agreed to, Washington and his men, hard pressed by famine, hastened to the nearest depot which was at Will's Creek. At this point, immediately afterwards, Fort
* This fact would seem to show that Vanbraam's mistranslation must have been from ignorance or accident.
1754. Cumberland was erected under the charge of Colonel Innes, of North Carolina, who, since the death of Colonel Fry, had been Commander-in-Chief. At that time there were in service, 1st, the Virginia militia; 2d, the Independent Companies of Virginia, South Carolina, and New York, all of whom were paid by the King; 3d, troops raised in North Carolina and paid by the Colony; and, 4th, recruits from Maryland; of these the Virginia and South Carolina troops alone had been beyond the mountains.
From August to October little appears to have been done, but in the latter month the Governor of Virginia, (Dinwiddie,) so changed the military organization of the Colony, as to leave no one in the army with a rank above that of Captain; this was done in order to avoid all contests as to precedence among the American officers, it being clear that troops from various Provinces would have to be called into the field, and that the different Commissions from the Crown, and the Colonies, would give large openings for rivalry and conflict; but among the results of the measure was the resignation of Washington, who for a time, retired to Mount Vernon.*
It was now the fall of 1754. In Pennsylvania, Morris, who had succeeded Hamilton, was busily occupied with making speeches to the Assembly and listening to their stubborn replies; † while in the north the Kennebec was fortified, and' a plan talked over for attacking Crown Point on Lake Champlain the next spring;+ and in the south things went on much as if there were no war coming. All the colonies united in one thing, however, in calling loudly on the mother country for help. During this same autumn the pleasant Frenchmen were securing the West, step by step; settling the valley of the Wabash, gallanting with the Delawares, and coquetting with the Iroquois, who still balanced between them and the English. The forests of the Ohio shed their leaves, and the prairies filled the sky with the smoke of their burning; and along the great rivers, and on the lakes, and amid the pathless woods of the West, no European was seen, whose tongue spoke other language than that of France. So closed 1754.
The next year opened with professions, on both sides, of the most peaceful intentions, and preparations on both sides to push
* Sparks' Washington, ii. 64, 67, and generally, the whole volume, as to this war. + Sparks' Franklin, vol. iii. p. 282.
Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. vii. p. 88.
Proposed compromise by the French.
the war vigorously. France, in January, proposed to restore every thing to the state it was in before the last war, and to refer all claims to commissioners at Paris; to which Britain, upon the 22d, replied that, the west of North America must be left as it was at the treaty of Utrecht. On the 6th of February, France made answer, that the old English claims in America were untenable; and offered a new ground of compromise, namely, that the English should retire east of the Alleghanies, and the French west of the Ohio. This offer was long considered, and at length was agreed to by England on the 7th of March, provided the French would destroy all their forts on the Ohio and its branches; to which, after twenty days had passed, France said, “No."* While all this negotiation was going on, other things also had been in motion. General Braddock, with his gallant troops, had crossed the Atlantic, and, upon the 20th of February, had landed in Virginia, commander-in-chief of all the land forces in America; and in the north all this while there was whispering of, and enlisting for, the proposed attack on C.own Point; and even Niagara, far off by the Falls, was to be taken, in case nothing prevented. In France, too, other work had been done than negotiation; for at Brest and Rochelle ships were fitting out, and troops gathering, and stores crowding in. Even old England herself had not been all asleep, and Boscawen had been busy at Plymouth, hurrying on the slow workmen, and gathering the unready sailors.f In March the two European neighbors were smiling and doing their best to quiet all troubles; in April they still smiled, but the fleets of both were crowding sail across the Atlantic; and, in Alexandria, Braddock, Shirley, and their fellow officers were taking counsel as to the summer's campaign.
In America four points were to be attacked; Fort Du Quesne, Crown Point, Niagara, and the French posts in Nova Scotia. On the 20th of April, Braddock left Alexandria to march upon Du Quesne, whither he was expressly ordered, though the officers in America looked upon it as a mistaken movement, as they thought New York should be the main point for regular operations. The expedition for Nova Scotia, consisting of three thousand Massachusetts men, left Boston on the 20th of May; while the troops which General Shirley was to lead against Niagara, and the
* Plain Facts, pp. 51, 52.-Secret Journals, vol. iv. p. 74.
+ Sparks Washinglon, vol. ii. p. 68.—Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. vii. p. 89.-Smollett. George II. chapter s.