« ZurückWeiter »
COLONEL WASHINGTON OF MOUNT VERNON.
THE brave man — like the boy who is really brave - does
1 not rush blindly into danger; but, if he is brought face to face with it, he acts boldly and quickly. This was Washington's way. He had been victorious in the little fight which he had been forced to make, but he knew that, if more fighting were to follow, as he felt sure it would, he must stand his ground firmly and try to hold his own.
"I will not be surprised,” he wrote to the Governor of Virginia, begging for the soldiers that had been promised him; “ and you may hear that I am beaten. But you will hear at the same time that we have done our duty, in fighting as long as there was a shadow of hope.” These were brave words for a young leader in the strait in which he found himself, but it was George Washington's way of doing things all through his life.
A few more soldiers were sent to him and with these troops and his Indian helpers he marched on to meet the French. With the new men came the news that Colonel Fry who was to lead them on, was dead. Washington was therefore in chief command of his little army. He was Colonel Washington now.
After he had marched through the mountains, he heard that the Frenchmen, a thousand strong, were moving towards him. He was in no safe place to give them battle, so he fell back to Great Meadows and finished a hastilymade fort of logs and dirt, which he well named Fort Necessity. Here on the third of July, 1754, the French found him.
At once the dauntless courage of Washington asserted itself. If they wish a battle, let them have it now, he said ; and, throwing open the door of his flimsy little fort, he marched with his men out into the open meadow, daring the Frenchmen to a fight.
But they did not accept his “double dare.” Instead, they staid in the woods and fired at the Americans, not showing themselves where they could be sought openly. So Washington marched back into the fort again, and for nine hours the Frenchmen battered and besieged it.
Then they sent word to Washington that it was of no use for him to hope to whip them, as they had four times as many men as he had and everything was in their favor. “Give us up the fort,” they said; “ return the prisoners you have taken ; promise not to build any more forts around here for a year, and we'll call it square and let you go home without any more fighting.”
Washington hated to agree to this; but when he came to look things over and see how useless it was for him to try to beat the French, with his men half-starved, his powder gone and his Indian helpers running away, he remembered the old proverb that says, “the better part of valor is discretion.” So he agreed to the French terms and, on the
fourth of July, gave up his crazy little fort and marched back to ward home. He had been defeated,
but he was by no means conquered.
Still, he felt very badly over the way things had turned out If the help that had been promised him had only been given, he would perhaps have told quite another story. But when he got back to Williamsburg he found that people looked upon him as a hero and praised his brave and gallant attempt; he was publicly thanked for what he had done and told to fill up his regiment and march once more against the French.
But he knew that such a plan was foolish. “We must not try to fight the French until we are all ready,” he said. “When enough men have been raised to make such an expedition wise, you can depend upon me; but there is no sense in marching to certain defeat. And that is what an attempt now would mean.”
So the Virginians set about raising a thousand men; but when the English officer who was to have charge of the troops said that Washington, not being a regular soldier in the British army, but only an American militiaman; could not be a colonel but only a captain, Washington refused to accept such a command. It was no way, he declared, to treat a man who had been asked to lead; and rather than be so used, he said, he would give up his commission. And he did, retiring to Mount Vernon, which had been given to him by Lawrence Washington when he died.
The next year things were different. The King of England and his advisers determined to make a stand in America against the French. So they sent over two regiments of British troops, under command of a brave soldier whose name was Major General Braddock, and told him to get what help he could in Virginia and drive out the French at once.
General Braddock came to Virginia with his splendidlooking fighting men. When he had studied the situation there, one of the first things he did was to ask Colonel George Washington of Mount Vernon to come with him as one of his chief assistants, called an aid-de-camp.
Washington at once accepted. He saw that, now, the King of England “meant business,” and that, if General Braddock were as wise as he was brave, the trouble in the Ohio country might be speedily ended and the French driven out. But when he had joined General Braddock he discovered
that that brave but obstinate leader thought that battles were to be fought in America just the same as in Europe, and that soldiers could be marched against such forest-fighters as the French and Indians as if they were going on a parade. This made Washington feel very badly and he did all he could to advise caution.
It was no use however. General Braddock said he was a soldier and knew how to fight, and he didn't wish for any advice from these Americans who had never seen a real battle.
At last everything was ready, and in July, 1755, the army, led by General Braddock, marched off to attack the fort which the French had built at Pittsburg and had named Fort Duquesne.
Washington had worked so hard to get things ready that he was sick in bed with fever when the soldiers started; but, without waiting to get well, he hurried after them and caught up with them on the ninth of July, at a ford on the Monongahela, fifteen miles from Fort Duquesne.
The British troops, in full uniform, and in regular order