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1754)

CATASTROPHE AT THE FORT.

drawing up his men, and planting his artillery, he summoned the fort to surrender, allowing one hour for a written reply.

What was to be done! the whole garrison did not exceed fifty men. Captain Trent was absent at Wills' Creek; Frazier, his lieutenant, was at his own residence at Turtle Creek, ten miles distant. There was no officer to reply but a young ensign of the name of Ward. In his perplexity he turned for counsel to Tanacharisson, the half-king, who was present in the fort. The chief advised the ensign to plead insufficiency of rank and powers, and crave delay until the arrival of his superior officer. The ensign repaired to the French camp to offer this excuse in person, and was accompanied by the half-king. They were courteously received, but Contrecoeur was inflexible. There must be instant surrender, or he would take forcible possession. All that tho ensign could obtain was permission to depart with his men, taking with them their working tools. The capitulation ended. Contreceur, with true French gayety, invited the ensign to sup with him; treated him with the utmost politeness, and wished him a pleasant journey, as he set off the next morning with his men laden with their working tools.

Such was the ensign's story. He was accompanied by two Indian warriors, sent by the half-king to ascertain where the detachment was, what was its strength, and when it might be expected at the Ohio. They bore a speech from that sachem to Washington, and another, with a belt of wampum for the Governor of Virginia. In these he plighted his steadfast faith to the English, and claimed assistance from his brothers of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

One of these warriors Washington forwarded on with the speech and wampum to Governor Dinwiddie. The other he pre

Vol. I.-5

Failed on to return to the half-king, bearing a speech from him, addressed to the “Sachems, warriors of the Six United Nations, Shannoahs and Delawares, our friends and brethren.” In this he informed them that he was on the advance with a part of the army, to clear the road for a greater force coming with guns, ammunition, and provisions; and he invited the half-king and another sachem to meet him on the road as soon as possible to hold a council.

In fact, his situation was arduous in the extreme. Regarding the conduct of the French in the recent occurrence an overt act of war, he found himself thrown with a handful of raw recruits far on a hostile frontier, in the midst of a wilderness, with an enemy at hand greatly superior in number and discipline; provided with artillery, and all the munitions of war, and within reach of constant supplies and reinforcements. Beside the French that had come from Venango, he had received credible accounts of another party ascending the Ohio; and of six hundred Chippewas and

Ottawas marching down Scioto Creek to join the hostile camp. · Still, notwithstanding the accumulating danger, it would not do to fall back, nor show signs of apprehension. His Indian allies in such case might desert him. The soldiery, too, might grow restless and dissatisfied. He was already annoyed by Captain Trent's men, who, having enlisted as volunteers, considered themselves exempt from the rigor of martial law; and by their example of loose and refractory conduct, threatened to destroy the subordination of his own troops.

In this dilemma he called a council of war, in which it was determined to proceed to the Ohio Company store-house, at the mouth of Redstone Creek; fortify themselves there, and wait for reinforcements. Here they might keep up a vigilant watch

1754.]

LEGISLATIVE CROSS-PURPOSES.

99

upon the enemy, and get notice of any hostile movement in time for defence, or retreat ; and should they be reinforced sufficiently to enable them to attack the fort, they could easily drop down the river with their artillery.

With these alternatives in view, Washington detached sixty men in advance to make a road; and at the same time wrote to Governor Dinwiddie for mortars and grenadoes, and cannon of heavy metal.

Aware that the Assembly of Pennsylvania was in session, and that the Maryland Assembly would also meet in the course of a few days, he wrote directly to the governors of those provinces, acquainting them with the hostile acts of the French, and with his perilous situation; and endeavoring to rouse them to co. operation in the common cause. We will here note in advance that his letter was laid before the Legislature of Pennsylvania, and a bill was about to be passed making appropriations for the service of the king; but it fell through, in consequence of a disagreement between the Assembly and the governor as to the mode in which the money should be raised; and so no assistance was furnished to Washington from that quarter. The youthful commander had here a foretaste, in these his incipient campaigns, of the perils and perplexities which awaited him from enemies in the field, and lax friends in legislative councils in the grander operations of his future years. Before setting off for Redstone Creek, he discharged Trent's refractory men from his detachment, ordering them to await Colonel Fry's commands; they, however, in the true spirit of volunteers from the backwoods, dispersed to their several homes.

It may be as well to observe, in this place, that both Captain Trent and Lieutenant Frazier were severely censured for being absent from their post at the time of the French summons. “ Trent's behavior,” said Washington, in a letter to Governor Dinwiddie," has been very tardy, and has convinced the world of what they before suspected-his great timidity. Lieutenant Frazier, though not altogether blameless, is much more excusable, for he would not accept of the commission until he had a promise from his captain that he should not reside at the fort, nor visit it above once a week, or as he saw necessity." In fact, Washington subsequently recommended Frazier for the office of adju. tant.

CHAPTER XI.

MABCE TO THE LITTLE MEADOWS-RUMORS FROM THE OHIO-CORRESPONDENCE

FROM THE BANKS OF THE YOUGHIOGENY--ATTEMPT TO DESCEND THAT RIVER ALARMING REPORTS-SCOUTING PARTIES-PERILOUS SITUATION OF THE CAMPGIST AND LA FORCE-MESSAGE FROM THE HALF-KING--FRENCH TRACKS-TUS JUMONVILLE SKIRMISH-TREATMENT OF LA FORCE-POSITION AT TIIE GREAT MEADOWS-BELLIGERENT FEELINGS OF A YOUNG SOLDIER.

On the 29th of April Washington set out from Wills' Creek at the head of one hundred and sixty men. He soon overtook those sent in advance to work the road; they had made but little progress. It was a difficult task to break a road through the wil. derness sufficient for the artillery coming on with Colonel Fry's division. All hands were now set to work, but with all their labor they could not accomplish more than four miles a day. They were toiling through Savage Mountain and that dreary forest region beyond it, since bearing the sinister name of “The Shades of Death.” On the 9th of May they were not further than twenty miles from Wills' Creek, at a place called the Little Meadows.

Every day came gloomy accounts from the Ohio; brought chiefly by traders, who, with packhorses bearing their effects, were retreating to the more settled parts of the country. Some

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