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of her American subjects, and prepare the way for their ultimate assertion of independence!
Another cause of vexation to Washington was the refusal of Governor Dinwiddie to give up the French prisoners, taken in the affair of De Jumonville, in fulfilment of the articles of capitulation. His plea was, that since the capitulation, the French had taken several British subjects, and sent them prisoners to Canada; he considered himself justifiable in detaining those Frenchmen which he had in his custody. He sent a flag of truce, however, offering to return the officer Drouillon, and the two cadets, in exchange for Captains Stobo and Van Braam, whom the French held as hostages; but his offer was treated with merited disregard. Washington felt deeply mortified by this obtuseness of the governor on a point of military punctilio and honourable faith, but his remonstrances were unavailing.
The French prisoners were clothed and maintained at the public expense, and Drouillon and the cadets were allowed to go at large; the private soldiers were kept in confinement. La Force, also, not having acted in a military capacity, and having offended against the peace and security of the frontier, by his intrigues among the Indians, was kept in close durance. Washington, who knew nothing of this, was shocked on visiting Williamsburg, to learn that La Force was in prison. He expostulated with the governor on the subject, but without effect; Dinwiddie was at all times pertinacious, but particularly so when he felt himself to be a little in the wrong.
As we shall have no further occasion to mention La Force, in connection with the subject of this work, we will anticipate a page of his fortunes. After remaining two years in confinement he succeeded in breaking out of prison, and escaping into the country. An alarm was given, and circulated far and wide, for such was the opinion of his personal strength, desperate courage, wily cunning, and great influence over the Indians, that the most mischievous results were apprehended should he regain the frontier. In the mean time he was wandering about the country, ignorant of the roads, and fearing to make inquiries, lest his foreign tongue should betray him.
He reached King and Queen Court House, about thirty miles from Williamsburg, when a countryman was struck with his foreign air and aspect. La Force ventured to put a question as to the distance and direction of Fort Duquesne, and his broken English convinced the countryman of his being the French prisoner, whose escape had been noised about the country. Watching an opportunity he seized him, and regardless of offers of great bribes, conducted him back to the prison of Williamsburg, where he was secured with double irons, and chained to the floor of his dungeon.
The refusal of Governor Dinwiddie to fulfil the article of the capitulation respecting the prisoners, and the rigorous treatment of La Force, operated hardly upon the hostages, Stobo and Van Braam, who, in retaliation, were confined in prison in Quebec, though otherwise treated with kindness. They, also, by extraordinary efforts, succeeded in breaking prison, but found it more difficult to evade the sentries of a fortified place. Stobo managed to escape into the country; but the luckless Van Braam sought concealment under an arch of a causeway leading from the fortress. Here he remained until nearly exhausted by hunger. Seeing the Governor of Canada passing by, and despairing of being able to effect his escape, he came forth from his hiding place, and surrendered himself, invoking his clemency. He was remanded to prison, but experienced no additional severity. He was subsequently shipped by the governor from Quebec to England, and never returned to Virginia. It is this treatment of Van Braam, more than anything else, which convinces us that the suspicion of his being in collusion with the French in regard to the misinterpretation of the articles of capitulation, was groundless. He was simply a blunderer.
Return to Quiet Life—French and English prepare for HostilitiesPlan uf a Campaign—General Braddock—His Character—Sir John St. Clair Quartermaster-General—His Tour of Inspection—Projected Roads—Arrival of Braddock—Military Consultations and PlansCommodore Keppel and his Seamen—Ships and Troops at Alexandria—Excitement of Washington—Invited to join the Staff of Braddock—A Mother's Objections—Washington at AlexandriaGrand Council of Governors — Military Arrangements—Colonel William Johnson—Sir John St. Clair at Fort Cumberland—His Explosions of Wrath—Their Effects—Indians to be enlisted—Captain Jack and his Band of Bush-beaters.
Hating resigned his commission, and disengaged himself from public affairs, Washington's first care was to visit his mother, inquire into the state of domestic concerns, and attend to the welfare of his brothers and sisters. In these matters he was ever his mother's adjunct and counsellor, discharging faithfully the duties of an eldest son, who should consider himself a second father to the family.
He now took up his abode at Mount Vernon, and prepared to engage in those agricultural pursuits, for which, even in his youthful days, he had as keen a relish as for the profession of arms. Scarcely had he entered upon his rural occupations, however, when the service of his country once more called him to the field.
The disastrous affair at the Great Meadows, and the other acts of French hostility on the Ohio, had roused the attention of the British ministry. Their ambassador at Paris was instructed to complain of those violations of the peace. The Court of Versailles amused him with general assurances of amity, and a strict adherence to treaties. Their ambassador at the Court of St. James, the Marquis do Mirepoix, on the faith of his instructions, gave the same assurances. In the mean time, however, French ships were fitted out, and troops embarked to carry out the schemes of the government in America. So profound was the dissimulation of the Court of Versailles, that even their own ambassador is said to have been kept in ignorance of
their real designs, and of the hostile game they were playing, while he was exerting himself in good faith, to lull the suspicions of England, and maintain the international peace. Wben his eyes, however, were opened, he returned indignantly to France, and upbraided the cabinet with the duplicity of which he had been made the unconscious instrument.
The British government now prepared for military operations in America; none of them professedly aggressive, but rather to resist and counteract aggressions. A plan of campaign was devised for 1755, having four objects.
To eject the French from lands which they held unjustly, in the province of Nova Scotia.
To dislodge them from a fortress which they had erected at Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, within what was claimed as British territory.
To dispossess them of the fort which they had constructed at Niagara, between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
To drive them from the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and recover the valley of the Ohio.
The Duke of Cumberland, captain-general of the British army, had the organization of this campaign; and through his patronage, Major-general Edward Braddock was intrusted with the execution of it, being appointed generalissimo of all the forces in the colonies.
Braddock was a veteran in service, and had been upwards of forty years in the guards, that school of exact discipline and technical punctilio. Cumberland, who beld a commission in the guards, and was bigoted to its routine, may have considered Braddock fitted, by his skill and preciseness as a tactician, for a command in a new country, inexperienced in military science, to bring its raw levies into order, and to settle those questions of rank and etiquette apt to arise where regular and provincial troops are to act together.
The result proved the error of such an opinion. Braddock was a brave and experienced officer; but his experience was that of routine, and rendered him pragmatical and obstinate, impatient of novel expedients "not laid down in the books," but dictated by emergencies in a "new country," and his military precision, which would have been brilliant on parade, was a constant obstacle to alert action in the wilderness.1
Braddock was to lead in person the grand enterprise of the campaign, that destined for the frontiers of Virginia and Pennsylvania; it was the enterprise in which Washington became enlisted, and, therefore, claims our especial attention.
Prior to the arrival of Braidock, came out from England Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John St. Glair, deputy quartermaster-general. Eager to make himself acquainted with the field of operations, he made a tour of inspection, in company with Governor Sharpe, of Maryland, and appears to have been dismayed at sight of the impracticable wilderness, the region of Washington's campaign. From Fort Cumberland, he wrote in February to Governor Morris, of Pennsylvania, to have the road cut, or repaired, toward the head of the river Youhiogany, and another opened from Philadelphia for the transportation of supplies. "No general," writes he, "will advance with an army without having a communication open to the provinces in his rear, both for the security of retreat, and to facilitate the trans
1 Horace Walpole, in his letters, relates some anecdotes of Braddock which give a familiar picture of him in the fashionable life in which he had mingled in London, and are of value, as letting us into the private character of a man whose name has become proverbial in American history. "Braddock," says Walpole, "is a very Iroquois in disposition. He had a sister, who, having gamed away all her little fortune at Bath, hanged herself with a truly English deliberation, leaving a note on the table with these lines: 'To die is lauding on some silent shore,' &c. When Braddock was told of it, he only said: * Poor Fanny! I always thought she would play till she would be forced to tuck herself up.'"
Braddock himself had been somewhat of a spendthrift. He was touchy also, and punctilious. "He once had a duel," says Walpole, "with. Colonel Glumley, Lady Bath's brother, who had been his great friend. As they were going to engage, Glumley, who had good humour and wit (Braddock had the latter) said: 'Braddock, you are a poor dog! here, take my purse, if you kill me you will be forced to run away, and then you will not have a shilling to support you.' Braddock refused the purse, insisted on the duel, was disarmed, and would not even ask for his life."