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Here they learned from a war party of Indians that a band of Ottawas, a tribe in the interest of the French, had massacred a whole family of whites on the banks of the great Kanawha Eiver.
At Frazier's they were detained two or three days endeavouring to procure horses. In this interval Washington had again occasion to exercise Indian diplomacy. About three miles distant, at the mouth of the Youhiogany Eiver, dwelt a female sachem, Queen Aliquippa, as the English called her, whose sovereign dignity had been aggrieved, that the party on their way to the Ohio had passed near her royal wigwam without paying their respects to her.
Aware of the importance, at this critical juncture, of securing the friendship of the Indians, Washington availed himself of the interruption of his journey, to pay a visit of ceremony to this native princess. Whatever anger she may have felt at past neglect, it was readily appeased by a present of his old watch-coat; and her good graces were completely secured by a bottle of rum, which, he intimates, appeared to be peculiarly acceptable to her majesty.
Leaving Frazier's on the 1st of January, they arrived on the 2nd at the residence of Mr. Gist, on the Monongahela. Here they separated, and Washington, having purchased a horse, continued his homeward course, passing horses laden with materials and stores for the fort at the fork of the Ohio, and families going out to settle there.
Having crossed the Blue Eidge and stopped one day at Belvoir to rest, he reached Williamsburg on the 16th of January, where he delivered to Governor Dinwiddie the letter of the French commandant, and made him a full report of the events of his mission.
We have been minute in our account of this expedition as it was an early test and development of the various talents and characteristics of Washington.
The prudence, sagacity, resolution, firmness, and selfdevotion manifested by him throughout; his admirable tact and self-possession in treating with fickle savages and crafty white men; the soldier's eye with which he had noticed the commanding and defensible points of the country, and everything that would bear upon military operations; and the hardihood with which he had acquitted himself during a wintry tramp through the wilderness through constant storms of rain and snow; often sleeping on the ground, without a tent, in the open air, and in danger from treacherous foes—all pointed him out, not merely to the governor, but to the public at large, as one eminently fitted, notwithstanding his youth, for important trusts involving civil as well as military duties. It is an expedition that may be considered the foundation of his fortunes. From that moment he was the rising hope of Virginia.
Iteply of the Chevalier de St. Pierre—Trent's Mission to the Frontier— Washington recruits Troops — Dinwiddie and the House of Bur
. gesses—Independent Conduct of the Virginians—Expedients to gain Recruits—Jacob Van Braam in Service—Toilful March to Wills' Creek—Contrecceur at the Fork of the Ohio — Trent's refractory Troops.
The reply of the Chevalier de St. Pierre was such as might have been expected from that courteous but wary commander. He should transmit, he said, the letter of Governor Dinwiddie to his general, the Marquis du Quesne, "to whom," observed he, "it better belongs than to me to set forth the evidence and reality of the rights of the king, my master, upon the lands situate along the Eiver Ohio, and to contest the pretensions of the King of Great Britain thereto. His answer shall be law to me. ***** As to the summons you send me to retire, I do not think myself obliged to obey it. W hatever may be your instructions, I am here by virtue of the orders of my general; and I entreat you, sir, not to doubt one moment but that I am determined to conform myself to them with all tho exactness and resolution which can be expected from the best officer. *****
"I made it my particular care," adds he, "to receive Mr. Washington with a distinction suitable to your dignity, as well as his own quality and great merit. I flatter myself that he will do me this justice before you, sir, and
that he will signify to you, in the manner I do myself, the profound respect with which I am, sir, &c."1
This soldier like and punctilious letter of the chevalier was considered evasive, and only intended to gain time. The information given by Washington of what he had observed on the frontier, convinced Governor Dinwiddie and his council that the French were preparing to descend the Ohio in the spring, and take military possession of the country. Washington's journal was printed, and widely promulgated throughout the colonies and England, and awakened the nation to a sense of the impending danger, and the necessity of prompt measures to anticipate the French movements.
Captain Trent was despatched to the frontier, commissioned to raise a company of one hundred men, march with all speed to the fork of the Ohio, and finish as soon as possible the fort commenced there by the Ohio Company. He was enjoined to act only on the defensive, but to capture or destroy whoever should oppose the construction of the works, or disturb the settlements. The choice of Captain Trent for this service, notwithstanding his late inefficient expedition, was probably owing to hie being brother-in-law to George Croghan, who had grown to be quite a personage of consequence on the frontier, where he had an establishment or trading-house, and was supposed to have great influence among the western tribes, so as to be able at any time to persuade many of them to take up the hatchet.
Washington was empowered to raise a company of like force at Alexandria; to procure and forward munitions and supplies for the projected fort at the Fork, and ultimately to have command of both companies. When on the frontier, he was to take council of George Croghan and Andrew Montour, the interpreter, in all matters relating to the Indians, they being esteemed perfect oracles in that department.
Governor Dinwiddie in the mean time called upon the governors of the other provinces to make common cause against the foe; he endeavoured, also, to effect alliances with the Indian tribes of the south, the Catawbas and
1 Loudon Mag., June, 1754.
Cherokees, by way of counterbalancing the Chippewas and Ottawas, who were devoted to the French.
The colonies, however, felt as yet too much like isolated territories; the spirit of union was wanting. Some pleaded a want of military funds; some questioned the justice of the cause; some declined taking any hostile step that might involve them in a war, unless they should have direct orders from the crown.
Dinwiddie convened the House of Burgesses to devise measures for the public security. Here his high idea of prerogative and of gubernatorial dignity met with a grievous countercheck from the dawning spirit of independence. High as were the powers vested in the colonial government of Virginia, of which, though but lieutenantgovernor, he had the actual control, they were counterbalanced by the power inherent in the people, growing out of their situation and circumstances, and acting through their representatives.
There was no turbulent factious opposition to government in Virginia; no " fierce democracy;" the rank growth of crowded cities, and a fermenting populace; but there was the independence of men, living apart in patriarchal style on their own rural domains; surrounded by their families, dependants, and slaves, among whom their will was law—and there was the individuality in character and action of men prone to nurture peculiar notions and habits of thinking, in the thoughtful solitariness of country life.
When Dinwiddie propounded his scheme of operations on the Ohio, some of the burgesses had the hardihood to doubt the claims of the king to the disputed territory; a doubt which the governor reprobated as savoring strongly of a most disloyal French spirit; he fired, as he says, at the thought "that an English legislature should presume to doubt the right of his majesty to the interior parts of this continent, the back part of his dominions!"
Others demurred to any grant of means for military purposes which might be construed into an act of hostility. To meet this scruple it was suggested that the grant might be made for the purpose of encouraging and protecting all settlers on the waters of the Mississippi. And under this specious plea ten thousand pounds were grudgingly voted;
but even this moderate sum was not put at the absolute disposition of the governor. A committee was appointed with whom he was to confer as to its appropriation.
This precaution Dinwiddie considered an insulting invasion of the right he possessed as governor to control the purse as well as the sword; and he complained bitterly of the assembly, as deeply tinctured with a republican way of thinking, and disposed to encroach on the prerogative of the crown, "which he feared would render them more and more difficult to be brought to order."
Ways and means being provided, Governor Dinwiddie augmented the number of troops to be enlisted to three hundred, divided into six companies. The command of the whole, as before, was offered to Washington, but he shrank from it, as a charge too great for his youth and inexperience. It was given, therefore, to Colonel Joshua Fry, an English gentleman of worth and education, and Washington was made second in command, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
The recruiting, at first, went on slowly. Those who offered to enlist, says Washington, were for the most part loose idle persons without house or home, some without shoes or stockings, some shirtless, and many without coat or waistcoat.
He was young in the recruiting service, or he would have known that such is generally the stuff of which armies are made. In this country especially it has always been difficult to enlist the active yeomanry by holding out merely the pay of a soldier. The means of subsistence are too easily obtained by the industrious, for them to give up home and personal independence for a mere daily support. Some may be tempted by a love of adventure; but in general, they require some prospect of ultimate advantage that may "better their condition."
Governor Dinwiddie became sensible of this, and resorted to an expedient rising out of the natural resources of the country, which has since been frequently adopted, and always with efficacy. He proclaimed a bounty of two hundred thousand acres of land on the Ohio Eiver, to be divided among the officers and soldiers who should engage in this expedition; one thousand to bo laid off contiguous