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1755.J MEASURES FOR PUBLIC SAFETY. 149
with. the army, it is true, had ceased at the death of Braddock, but his military duties continued as adjutantgeneral of the northern division of the province, and he immediately issued orders for the county lieutenants to hold the militia in readiness for parade and exercise, foreseeing that, in the present defenceless state of the frontier, there would be need of their services.
Tidings of the rout and retreat of the army had circulated far and near, and spread consternation throughout the country. Immediate incursions both of French and Indians were apprehended, and volunteer companies began to form, for the purpose of marching across the mountains to the scene of danger. It was intimated to Washington that his services would again be wanted on the frontier. He declared instantly that he was ready to serve his country to the extent of his powers, but never on the same terms as heretofore.
On the 4th of August, Governor Dinwiddie convened the Assembly to devise measures for the public safety. The sense of danger had quickened the slow patriotism of the burgesses; they no longer held back supplies; forty thousand pounds were promptly voted, and orders issued for the raising of a regiment of one thousand men.
Washington's friends urged him to present himself at Williamsburg as a candidate for the command; they were confident of his success, notwithstanding that strong interest was making for the governor's favourite, Colonel Innes.
With mingled modesty and pride, Washington declined to be a solicitor. The only terms, he said, on which he would accept a command, were a certainty as to rank and emoluments, a right to appoint his field officers, and the supply of a sufficient military chest; but to solicit the command, and, at the same time, to make stipulations, would be a little incongruous, and carry with it the face of self-sufficiency. "If," added he, "the command should be offered to me, the case will then be altered, as I should be at liberty to make such objections as reason, and my small experience, have pointed out."
While this was in agitation, he received letters from his mother, again imploring him not to risk himself in these frontier wars. His answer was characteristic, blending the filial deference with which he was accustomed from childhood to treat her with a calm patriotism of the Eoman stamp.
"Honoured Madam: If it is in my power to avoid going to the Ohio again, I shall; but if the command is pressed upon me by the general voice of. the country, and offered upon such terms as cannot be objected against, it would reflect dishonour on me to refuse it; and that, I am sure, must, and ought, to give you greater uneasiness than my going in an honourable command. Upon no other terms will I accept it. At present I have no proposals made to me, nor have I any advice of such an intention, except from private hands."
On the very day that this letter was despatched, August 14, he received intelligence of his appointment to the command on the terms specified in his letters to his friends. His commission nominated him commander-in-chief of all the forces raised, or to be raised in the colony. The Assembly also voted three hundred pounds to him, and proportionate sums to the other officers, and to the privates of the Virginia companies, in consideration of their gallant conduct, and their losses in the late battle.
The officers next in command under him were LieutenantColonel Adam Stephens and Major Andrew Lewis. The former, it will be recollected, had been with him in the unfortunate affair at the Great Meadows; his advance in rank shows that his conduct had been meritorious.
The appointment of Washington to his present station was the more gratifying and honourable from being a popular one, made in deference to public sentiment; to which Governor Dinwiddie was obliged to sacrifice his strong inclination in favour of Colonel Innes. It is thought that the governor never afterwards regarded Washington with a friendly eye. His conduct towards him subsequently was on various occasions cold and ungracious.1
It is worthy of note that the early popularity of Washington was not the result of brilliant achievements or signal success; on the contrary, it rose among trials and reverses, and may almost be said to have been the fruit of defeats.
1 Sparks' Writings of Washington, vol. ii., p. 161, note.
It remains an honourable testimony of Virginian intelligence, that the sterling, enduring, but undazzling qualities of Washington were thus early discerned and appreciated, though only heralded by misfortunes. The admirable manner in which he had conducted himself under these misfortunes, and the sagacity and practical wisdom he had displayed on all occasions, were universally acknowledged; and it was observed that, had his modest counsels been adopted by the unfortunate Braddock, a totally different result might have attended the late campaign.
An instance of this high appreciation of his merits occurs in a sermon preached on the 17th of August by the Eev. Samuel Davis, wherein he cites him as "that heroic youth, Colonel Washington, whom I cannot but hope Providence has hitherto preserved in so signal a manner for some important service to his country." The expressions of the worthy clergyman may have been deemed enthusiastic at the time; viewed in connection with subsequent events they appear almost prophetic.
Having held a conference with Governor Dinwiddie at Williamsburg, and received his instructions, Washington repaired, on the 14th of September, to Winchester, where he fixed his head quarters. It was a place as yet of trifling magnitude, but important from its position; being a central point where the main roads met, leading from north to south, and east to west, and commanding the channels of traffic and communication between some of the most important colonies and a great extent of frontier.
Here he was brought into frequent and cordial communication with his old friend Lord Fairfax. The stir of war had revived a spark of that military fire which animated the veteran nobleman in the days of his youth, when an officer in the cavalry regiment of the Blues. He was lordlieutenant of the county. Greenway Court was his headquarters. He had organized a troop of horse, which occasionally was exercised about the lawn of his domain, and he was now as prompt to mount his steed for a cavalry parade as he ever was for a fox chase. The arrival of Washington frequently brought the old nobleman to Winchester to aid the young commander with his counsels or his sword.
His services were soon put in requisition. Washington, having visited the frontier posts, established recruiting places, and taken other measures of security, had set off for Williamsburg on military business, when an express arrived at Winchester from Colonel Stephens, who commanded ati Fort Cumberland, giving the alarm that a body of Indians were ravaging the country, burning the houses, and slaughtering the inhabitants. The express was instantly forwarded after Washington: in the mean time, Lord Fairfax sent out orders for the militia of Fairfax and Prince William counties to arm and hasten to the defence of Winchester, where all was confusion and affright. One fearful account followed another. The whole country beyond it was said to be at the mercy of the savages. They had blockaded the rangers in the little fortresses or outposts provided for the protection of neighbourhoods. They were advancing upon Winchester with fire, tomahawk, and scalping-knife. The country people were flocking into the town for safety—the townspeople were moving off to the settlements beyond the Blue Eidge. The beautiful valley of the Shenandoah was likely to become a scene of savage desolation.
In the height of the confusion Washington rode into the town. He had been overtaken by Colonel Stephens' express. His presence inspired some degree of confidence, and he succeeded in stopping most of the fugitives. He would have taken the field at once against the savages, believing their numbers to be few: but not more than twentyfive of the militia could be mustered for the service. The rest refused to stir—they would rather die with their wives and children.
Expresses were sent off to hurry up the militia ordered out by Lord Fairfax. Scouts were ordered out to discover the number of the foe, and convey assurances of succour to the rangers said to be blocked up in the fortresses, though Washington suspected the latter to be " more encompassed by fear than by the enemy." Smiths were set to work to furbish up and repair such fire-arms as were in the placo, and waggons were sent off for musket balls, flints, and provisions.
Instead, however, of animated co-operation, Washington
was encountered by difficulties at every step. The wagg )ns in question had to be impressed, and the waggoners compelled by force to assist. "No orders," writes he, "are obeyed, but such as a party of soldiers or my own drawn sword enforces. Without this, not a single horse, for the most earnest occasion, can be had—to such a pitch has the insolence of these people arrived, by having every point hitherto submitted to them. However, I have given up none, where his majesty's service requires the contrary, and where my proceedings are justified by my instructions; nor will I, unless they execute what they threaten—that is, blow out our brains."
One is tempted to smile at this tirade about the "insolence of the people," and this zeal for "his majesty's service," on the part of Washington; but he was as yet a young man and a young officer; loyal to his sovereign, and with high notions of military authority, which he had acquired in the camp of Braddock.
What he thus terms insolence was the dawning spirit of independence, which he was afterwards the foremost to cherish and promote; and which, in the present instance, had been provoked by the rough treatment from the military, which the waggoners and others of the yeomanry had experienced when employed in Braddock's campaign, and by the neglect to pay them for their services. Much of Washington's difficulties also arose, doubtlessly, from the inefficiency of the military laws, for an amendment of which he had in vain made repeated applications to Governor Dinwiddie.
In the mean time the panic and confusion increased. On Sunday an express hurried into town, breathless with haste and terror. The Indians, he said, were but twelve miles off; they had attacked the house of Isaac Julian; the inhabitants were flying for their lives. Washington immediately ordered the town guards to be strengthened; armed some recruits who had just arrived, and sent out two scouts to reconnoitre the enemy. It was a sleepless night in Winchester. Horror increased with the dawn; before the men could be paraded a second express arrived, ten times more terrified than the former. The Indians were within four miles of the town, killing and destroying all before