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wilderness and on the frontier, far from female society, had left little mood or leisure for the indulgence of the tender sentiment, but made him more sensible, in the present brief interval of gay and social life, to the attractions of an elegant woman, brought up in the polite circle of New York.
That he was an open admirer of Miss Philipse is an historical fact; that he sought her hand, but was refused, is traditional, and not very probable. His military rank, his early laurels and distinguished presence, were all calculated to win favour in female eyes; but his spjourn in New York was brief; he may have been diffident in urging his suit with a lady accustomed to the homage of society and surrounded by admirers. The most probable version of the story is, that he was called away by his public duties before he had made sufficient approaches in his siege of the lady's heart to warrant a summons to surrender. In the latter part of March we find him at Williamsburg, attending the opening of the legislature of Virginia, eager to promote measures for the protection of the frontier and the capture of Fort Duquesne, the leading object of his ambition. Maryland and Pennsylvania were erecting forts for the defence of their own borders, but showed no disposition to co-operate with Virginia in the field, and artillery, artillerymen, and engineers, were wanting for an attack on fortified places. Washington urged, therefore, an augmentation of the provincial forces, and various improvements in the militia laws.
While thus engaged, he received a letter from a friend and confidant in New York, warning him to hasten back to that city before it was too late, as Captain Morris, who had been his fellow aide-de-camp under Braddock, was laying close siege to Miss Philipse. Sterner alarms, however, summoned him in another direction. Expresses from Winchester brought word that the French had made another sortie from Fort Duquesne, accompanied by bands of savages, and were spreading terror and desolation through the country. In this moment of exigency all softer claims were forgotten; Washington repaired in all haste to his post at Winchester, and Captain Morris wae left to urge his suit unrivalled and carry off the prize.
Troubles in the Shenandoah Valley—Greenway Court and Lord Fairfax in danger—Alarms at Winchester—Washington appealed to for protection—Attacked by the Virginia Press—Honoured by the Public— Projects for Defence—Suggestions of Washington—The Gentlemen Associate's—Retreat of the Savages—Expedition against Kittanning —Captain Hugh Mercer—Second Struggle through the Wilderness.
Eeport had not exaggerated the troubles of the frontier. It was marauded by merciless bands of savages, led, in some instances, by Frenchmen. Travellers were murdered, farmhouses burnt down, families butchered, and even stockaded forts, or houses of refuge, attacked in open day. The marauders had crossed the mountains and penetrated the valley of the Shenandoah, and several persons had fallen beneath the tomahawk in the neighbourhood of Winchester.
Washington's old friend, Lord Fairfax, found himself no longer safe in his rural abode. Greenway Court was in the midst of a woodland region, affording a covert approach for the stealthy savage. His lordship was considered a great chief, whose scalp would be an inestimable trophy for an Indian warrior. Fears were entertained, therefore, by his friends, that an attempt would be made to surprise him in his green-wood castle. His nephew, Colonel Martin, of the militia, who resided with him, suggested the expediency of a removal to the lower settlements beyond the Blue Ridge. The high-spirited old nobleman demurred; his heart cleaved to the home which he had formed for himself in the wilderness. "I am an old man," said he, "and it is of little importance whether I fall by the tomahawk or die of disease and old age; but you are young, and, it is to be hoped, have many years before you, therefore decide for us both; my only fear is, that, if we retire, the whole district will break up and take to flight; and this fine country, which I have been at such cost and trouble to improve, will again become a wilderness."
Colonel Martin took but a short time to deliberate. He knew the fearless character of his uncle, and perceived what was his inclination. He considered that his.lordship had numerous retainers, white and black, with hardy huntsmen and foresters to rally round him, and that Greenway Court was at no great distance from Winchester; he decided, therefore, that they should remain and abide the course of events.
Washington, on his arrival at Winchester, found the inhabitants in great dismay. He resolved immediately to organize a force, composed partly of troops from Fort Cumberland, partly of militia from Winchester and its vicinity, to put himself at its head, and "scour the woods and sus pected places in all the mountains and valleys of this part of the frontier, in quest of the Indians and their more cruel associates."
He accordingly despatched an express to Fort Cumberland with orders for a detachment from the garrison; "but how," said he, "are men to be raised at Winchester, since orders are no longer regarded in the county?"
Lord Fairfax, and other militia officers with whom he consulted, advised that each captain should call a private muster of his men, and read before them an address, or "exhortation" as it was called, being an appeal to their patriotism and fears, and a summons to assemble on the 15th of April to enrol themselves for the projected mountain foray.
This measure was adopted; the private musterings occurred; the exhortation was read; the time and place of assemblage appointed; but, when the day of enrolment arrived, not more than fifteen men appeared upon the ground. In the mean time the express returned with sad accounts from Fort Cumberland. No troops could be furnished from that quarter. The garrison was scarcely strong enough for self-defence, having sent out detachments in different directions. The express had narrowly escaped with his life, having been fired upon repeatedly, his horse shot under him, and his clothes riddled with bullets. The roads, he said, were infested with savages; none but hunters, who knew how to thread the forests at night, could travel with safety.
Horrors accumulated at Winchester. Every hour brou ght its tale of terror, true or false, of houses burnt, families
massacred, or beleaguered and famishing in stockaded forts. The danger approached. A scouting party had been attacked in the Warm Spring Mountain, about twenty miles distant, by a large body of French and Indians, mostly on horseback. The captain of the scouting party and several of his men had been slain, and the rest put to flight.
An attack on Winchester was apprehended, and the terrors of the people rose to agony. They now turned to Washington as their main hope. The women surrounded him, holding up their children, and imploring him, with tears and cries, to save them from the savages. The youthful commander looked round on the suppliant crowd with a countenance beaming with pity, and a heart wrung with 'anguish. A letter to Governor Dinwiddie shows the conflict of his feelings. "I am too little acquainted with pathetic language to attempt a description of these people's distresses. But what can I do? I see their situation; I know their danger, and participate their sufferings, without having it in my power to give them further relief than uncertain promises." "The supplicating tears of the women, and moving petitions of the men, melt me into such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people's ease."
The unstudied eloquence of this letter drew from the governor an instant order for a militia force from the upper counties to his assistance; but the Virginia newspapers, in descanting on the frontier troubles, threw discredit on the army and its officers, and attached blame to its commander. Stung to the quick by this injustice, Washington publicly declared that nothing but the imminent danger of the times prevented him from instantly resigning a command from which he could never reap either honour or benefit. His sensitiveness called forth strong letters from his friends, assuring him of the high sense entertained at the seat of government, and elsewhere, of his merits and services. "Your good health and fortune are the toast of every table," wrote his early friend, Colonel Fairfax, at that time a member of the governor's council. "Your endeavours in the service and defence of your country must redound to your honour."
"Our hopes, dear George," wrote Mr. Kobinson, the speaker of the House of Burgesses, "are all fixed on you for bringing our affairs to a happy issue. Consider what fatal consequences to your country your resigning the command at this time may be, especially as there is no doubt most of the officers will follow your example."
In fact, the situation and services of the youthful commander, shut up in a frontier town, destitute of forces, surrounded by savage foes, gallantly, though despairingly, devoting himself to the safety of a suffering people, were properly understood throughout the country, and excited a glow of enthusiasm in his favour. The legislature, too, began at length to act, but timidly and inefficiently. "The country knows her danger," writes one of the members, "but such is her parsimony, that she is willing to wait for the rains to wet the powder, and the rats to eat the bowstrings of the enemy, rather than attempt to drive them from her frontiers."
The measure of relief voted by the Assembly was an additional appropriation of twenty thousand pounds, and an increase of the provincial force to fifteen hundred men. With this it was proposed to erect and garrison a chain of frontier forts, extending through the ranges of the Allegany Mountains, from the Potomac to the borders of North Carolina, a distance of between three and four hundred miles. This was one of the inconsiderate projects devised by Governor Dinwiddie.
Washington, in letters to the governor and to the speaker of the House of Burgesses, urged the impolicy of such a plan, with their actual force and means. The forts, he observed, ought to be within fifteen or eighteen miles of each other, that their spies might be able to keep watch over the intervening country, otherwise the Indians would pass between them unpereeived, effect their ravages, and escape to the mountains, swamps, and ravines before the troops from the forts could be assembled to pursue them. They ought each to be garrisoned with eighty or a hundred
without leaving the garrison too weak; for the Indians
men, so as to afford