Abbildungen der Seite



rick, Hampshire, or Augusta, in a little time. They petitioned me in the most earnest manner for companies of the regiment; but, alas ! it is not in my power to furnish them with any, without leaving this dangerous quarter more-exposed than they are. I promised, at their particular request, to address your Honour and the Assembly on their behalf, and to solicit that a regular force may be established in lieu of the militia and ranging companies, which are of much less service, and infinitely more expensive to the country.”

Colonel Washington had become so sensible of the absolute impracticability of defending such an extensive frontier, as to be extremely anxious to be enabled to act on the offensive. His opinions now were decided, that the people of Virginia could only be protected by entering the country of the enemy, by giving him employment at home, and removing, if possible, the source of all their calamities, by driving the French from Fort du Quesne. While they held that post, the great Indian force they were enabled by their ascendancy over these people to bring into action, would always put it in their power to annoy. and infinitely to distress the frontiers ; perhaps indeed to acquire the possession of the whole country to the Blue Ridge. It was now, therefore, the object nearest his heart, to stimulate the Assembly to such exertions as would, with some aid from the commander in chief of all His Majesty's troops in America, bring into the field a sufficient force to warrant an expedition against Fort du Quesne.

“As defensive measures,” he observed in a letter to the Lieutenant-governor, are evidently insufficient for the security and safety of the country, I hope no arguments are necessary






to evince the necessity of altering them to a vigorous offensive war, in order to remove the cause. But in the event that the Assembly should still indulge that favourite scheme of protecting the inhabitants by forts along the frontiers, he presented to the Governor a plan, which he recommended for his approbation, and which in its execution required two thousand men. These were to be distributed in twenty-two forts, extending from the river Mayo to the Potowmack, in a line of three hundred and sixty miles.

In a letter written about the same time to the Speaker of the Assembly, he urged with great force the objections to a reliance on the militia, even if the present defensive system should be persevered in; but he gave his unequivocal preference to more vigorous measures. “ The certainty of advantage,” said he, by an offensive scheme of action, renders it beyond any doubt much preferable to our defensive mea

this to you, sir, requires, I presume, no arguOur scattered force, so separated and dispersed in weak parties, avails little to stop the secret incursions of the savages. We can only, perhaps, put them to flight, or frighten them to some other part of the country; which answers not the end proposed. Whereas, had we strength enough to invade their lands, and assault their towns, we should restrain them from coming abroad, and leaving their families exposed. We should then remove the principal cause, and have stronger probability of success; we should be free from the many alarms, mischiefs, and murders, that now attend us ; we should inspirit the hearts of our few Indian friends, and gain more esteem with them. In short, could Pennsylvania and Maryland be induced to join us in an expedition of this nature, and to petition his excellency Lord Loudoun for a small train of artillery, with some engi



To prove



neers, we should then be able, in all human probability, to subdue the terror of Fort du Quesne, retrieve our character with the Indians, and restore peace to our unhappy frontiers.”


In the apprehension, however, that this favourite scheme would not be adopted, he recommended, by a variety of arguments and observations manifesting its propriety, the same plan of defence which had been submitted to the Lieutenantgovernor.

The total inability of Colonel Washington to act offensively against the enemy, or even to afford protection to the frontiers of Virginia, was not the only distressing and vexatious circumstance attending his situation. The Lieutenant-governor, to whose commands he was in every minute circumstance subjected, and who seems to have been a weak, obstinate, and rude man, without just conceptions of the situation or real interests of the colony, frequently deranged his systems by orders which could not be executed without considerable hazard and inconvenience.

He could not always restrain his chagrin at such occasions; and on one of them he observed, in a letter to an intimate friend, and a person of great influence—“ Whence it arises, or why, I am truly ignorant, but my strongest representations of matters relative to the peace of the frontiers are disregarded as idle and frivolous ; my propositions and measures as partial and selfish ; and all my sincerest endeavours' for the service of

my country perverted to the worst purposes. My orders are dark, doubtful, and uncertain. To-day approved, to-morrow con


[ocr errors]



demned ; left to act and proceed at hazard ; accountable for the consequences, and blamed without the benefit of defence. If you can think my situation capable of exciting the smallest degree of

envy, or of affording the least satisfaction, the truth is yet hid from

you, and you entertain notions very different from the reality of the case. However, I am determined to bear

up under all these embarrassments some time longer, in the hope of better regulations under Lord Loudoun, to whom I look for the future fate of Virginia.”


Not long after this letter was written, Lord Loudoun arrived in Virginia ; and in addition to his character as commander in chief, he was clothed with the highest civil authority, having been appointed governor of the colony. A complimentary address from the regiment, stating their pleasure at his arrival and appointment, and the readiness with which they would execute his commands, was presented to him; and a very comprehensive statement of the situation of the colony in a military point of view, and of the regiment in particular, was drawn up

and submitted to him by colonel Washington. In this he enumerated the errors which had prevented the completion of his regiment; showed the insufficiency of the militia, and demonstrated the superiority of an offensive over the defensive system which had been pursued. After stating the particular situation of the forts, he proceeded". It will evidently appear from the whole tenor of my conduct, but more especially from my

reiterated representations, how strongly I have urged the Governor and Assembly to pursue different measures, and laboured to convince them, by all the reasoning I was capable of offering, of the impossibility of covering so extensive a frontier from Indian




excursions, without more force than Virginia can maintain. I have endeavoured to demonstrate that it would require fewer men to remove the cause, than to prevent the effects while the cause exists."

Proceeding then to state the services of his regiment, he added, that under the disadvantageous restraints which had been enumerated, he must be permitted to observe, that the regiment had not been inactive. “ On the contrary,” he said, “ it has performed a vast deal of work, and has been very alert in defending the people ; which will appear by observing that, notwithstanding we are more contiguous to the French and their Indian allies, and more exposed to their frequent incursions than

any of the neighbouring colonies, we have not lost half the inhabitants which others have done, but considerably more soldiers in their defence. For in the course of this campaignsince March I mean, as we have had but one constant campaign, one continued scene of action, since we first entered the service,,our troops have been engaged in upwards of twenty skirmishes, and we have had near one hundred men killed and wounded.”

After condemning the ill-judged economy shown in raising men, he proceeded thus to describe the prevailing temper of the day—a temper by no means peculiar to that particular æra. “ We are either insensible of danger till it breaks upon our heads, or else, through mistaken notions of economy, evade the expense till the blow is struck, and then run into an extreme of raising militia. These, after an age, as it were, is spent in


« ZurückWeiter »