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effects, were retreating to the more settled parts of the country. Some exaggerated the number of the French, as if strongly reinforced. All represented them as diligently at work constructing a fort. By their account Washington perceived the French had chosen the very place which he had noted in his journal as best fitted for the purpose.
One of the traders gave information concerning La Force, the French emissary, who had beset Washington when on his mission to the frontier, and acted, as he thought, the part of a spy. He had been at Gist's new settlement beyond Laurel Hill, and was prowling about the country with four soldiers at his heels on a pretended hunt after deserters. Washington suspected him to be on a rcconnoitering expedition.
It was reported, moreover, that the French were lavishing presents on the Indians about the lower part of the river, to draw them to their standard. Among all these flying reports and alarms Washington was gratified to learn that the half-king was on his way to meet him at the head of fifty warriors.
After infinite toil through swamps and forests, and over rugged mountains, the detachment arrived at the Youhiogany River, where they were detained some days constructing a bridge to cross it.
This gave Washington leisure to correspond with Governor Dinwiddie, concerning matters which had deeply annoyed him. By an ill-judged economy of the Virginia government at this critical juncture, its provincial officers received less pay than that allowed in the regular army. It is true the regular officers were obliged to furnish their own table, but their superior pay enabled them to do it luxuriously; whereas the provincials were obliged to do hard duty on salt provisions and water. The provincial officers resented this inferiority of pay as an indignity, and declared that nothing prevented them from throwing up their commissions but unwillingness to recede before approaching danger.
Washington shared deeply this feeling, "Let him serve voluntarily, and he would, with the greatest pleasure in life, devote his services to the expedition; but to bo slaving through woods, rocks, and mountains, for the shadow of pay," writes he, "I would rather toil lite a daylabourer for a maintenance, if reduced to the necessity, than serve on such ignoble terms." Parity of pay was indispensable to the dignity of the service.
Other instances of false economy were pointed out by him, forming so many drags upon the expedition, that he quite despaired of success. "Be the consequence what it will, however," adds he, "I am determined not to leave the regiment, but to be among the last men that leave the Ohio, even if I serve as a private volunteer, which I greatly prefer to the establishment we are upon. * * * * 1 have a constitution hardy enough to encounter and undergo the most severe trials, and, I flatter myself, resolution to face what any man dares, as shall be proved when it comes to the test."
And in a letter to his friend Colonel Fairfax—"For my own part," writes he, "it is a matter almost indifferent whether I serve for full pay or as a generous volunteer; indeed, did my circumstances correspond with my inclinations, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter; for the motives that have led me here are pure and noble. I had no view of acquisition but that of honour, by serving faithfully my king and country."
Such were the noble impulses of Washington at the age of twenty-two, and such continued to actuate him throughout life. We have put the latter part of the quotation in italics, as applicable to the motives which in after-life carried him into the Eevolution.
While the bridge over the Youhiogany was in the course of construction, the Indians assured Washington he would never be able to open a waggon-road across the mountains to Bedstone Creek; he embarked, therefore, in a canoe with a lieutenant, three soldiers, and an Indian guide, to try whether it was possible to descend the river. They had not descended above ten miles before the Indian refused to go further. Washington soon ascertained the reason. "Indians," said he, "expect presents—nothing can be done without them. The French take this method. If you want one or more to conduct a party, to discover the country, to hunt, or for any particular purpose, they must be bought; their friendship is not so warm as to
prompt them to these services gratis." The Indian guide, in the present instance, was propitiated by the promise of one of Washington's ruffled shirts and a watch-coat.
The river was bordered by mountains and obstructed by rocks and rapids. Indians might thread such a labyrinth in their light canoes, but it would never admit the transportation of troops and military stores. Washington kept on for thirty miles, until he came to a place where the river fell nearly forty feet in the space of fifty yards. There he ceased to explore, and returned to camp resolving to continue forward by land.
On the 23rd Indian scouts brought word that the French were not above eight hundred strong, and that about half their number had been detached at night on a secret expedition. Close upon this report came a message from the half-king, addressed "to the first of his majesty's officers whom it may concern."
"It is reported," said he, "that the French army is coming to meet Major Washington. Be on your guard against them, my brethren, for they intend to striko the first English they shall see. They have been on their march two days. I know not their number. The halfking and the rest of the chiefs will be with you in five days to hold a council."
In the evening Washington was told that the French were crossing the ford of the Youhiogany, about eighteen miles distant. He now hastened to take a position in a place called the Great Meadows, where he caused the bushes to be cleared away, made an intrenchment, and prepared what he termed "a charming field for an encounter."
A party of scouts were mounted on waggon-horses and Bent out to reconnoitre. They returned without having seen an enemy. A sensitiveness prevailed in the camp. They were surrounded by forests, threatened by unseen foes. and hourly in danger of surprise. There was an alarm about two o'clock in the morning. The sentries fired upon what they took to be prowling foes. The troops spi ang to aims, and remained on the alert until daybreak. Not an enemy was to be seen. The roll was called. Six men wove missing, who had deserted.
On the 25th Mr. Gist arrived from his place about fifteen miles distant. La Force had been there at noon on the previous day with a detachment of fifty men, and Gist had since come npon their track within five miles of the camp. Washington considered La Force a bold, enterprising man, subtle and dangerous; one to be particularly guarded against. He detached seventy-five men in pursuit of him and his prowling band.
About nine o'clock at night came an Indian messenger from the half-king, who was encamped with several of his people about six miles off. The chief had seen tracks of two Frenchmen, and was convinced their whole body must be in ambush near by.
Washington considered this the force which had been hovering about him for several days, and determined to forestall their hostile designs. Leaving a guard with the baggage and ammunition, he set out before ten o'clock, with forty men, to join his Indian ally. They groped their way, in single file, by footpaths through the woods, in a heavy rain and murky darkness, tripping occasionally and stumbling over each other, sometimes losing the track for fifteen or twenty minutes; so that it was near sunrise when they reached the camp of the half-king.
That chieftain received the youthful commander with great demonstrations of friendship, and engaged to go hand in hand with him against the lurking enemy. He set out accordingly, accompanied by a few of his warriors and his associate sachem Scarooyadi or Monacatoocha, and conducted Washington to the tracks which he had discovered. Upon these he put two of his Indians. They followed them up like hounds, and brought back word that they had traced them to a low bottom surrounded by rocks and trees, where the French were encamped, having built a few cabins for shelter from the rain.
A plan was now concerted to come upon them by surprise; Washington with his men on the right, the halfking with his warriors on the left—all as silently as possible. Washington was the first upon the ground. As he advanced from among the rocks and trees, at the head of his men, the French caught sight of him and ran to their arms. A sharp firing instantly took place, and was kept
up on both sides for about fifteen minutes. Washington and his party were most exposed, and received all the enemy's fire. The balls whistled around him; one man was killed close by him and three others wounded. The French at length, having lost several of their number, gave way and ran. They were soon overtaken; twenty-one were captured, and but one escaped, a Canadian, who carried the tidings of the affair to the fort on the Ohio. The Indians would have massacred the prisoners had not Washington prevented them. Ten of the French had fallen in the skirmish, and one been wounded. Washington's loss was the one killed and three wounded which we have mentioned. He had been in the hottest fire, and, having for the first time heard balls whistle about him, considered his escape miraculous. Jumonville, the French leader, had been shot through the head at the first fire. He was a young officer of merit, and his fate was made the subject of lamentation in prose and verse—chiefly through political motives.
Of the twenty-one prisoners, the two most important were an officer of some consequence, named Drouillon, and the subtle and redoubtable La Force. As Washington considered the latter an arch mischief-maker, he was rejoiced to have him in his power. La Force and his companion would fain have assumed the sacred character of ambassadors, pretending they were coming with a summons to him to depart from the territories belonging to the crown of France.
Unluckily for their pretensions, a letter of instructions, found on Jumonville, betrayed their real errand, which was to inform themselves of the roads, rivers, and other features of the country as far as the Potomac; to send back, from time to time, by fleet messengers, all the information they could collect, and to give word of the day on which they intended to serve the summons.
Their conduct had been conformable. Instead of coming in a direct and open manner to his encampment, when they had ascertained where it was, and delivering their summons, as they would have done had their designs been frank and loyal, they had moved back two miles, to one of the most secret retirements, better for a deserter