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colonies, together with his dying speech, which, he dryly wrote to his brother, he had not yet composed. When the troops broke it was Washington who gathered the fugitives and brought off the dying general. It was he who rode on to meet Dunbar, and rallying the fugitives enabled the wretched remnants to take up their march for the settlements. He it was who laid Braddock in the grave four days after the defeat, and read over the dead the solemn words of the English service. Wise, sensible, and active in the advance, splendidly reckless on the day of battle, cool and collected on the retreat, Washington alone emerged from that history of disaster with added glory. Again he comes before us as, above all things, the fighting man, hot-blooded and fierce in action, and utterly indifferent to the danger which excited and delighted him. But the earlier lesson had not been useless. He showed a prudence and wisdom in counsel which were not apparent in the first of his campaigns, and he no longer thought that courage was all-sufficient, or that any enemy could be despised. He was plainly one of those who could learn. His first experience had borne good fruit, and now he had been taught a series of fresh and valuable lessons. Before his eyes had been displayed the most brilliant European discipline, both in camp and on the march. He had studied and absorbed it all, talking with veterans and hearing from them many things that he could have acquired nowhere else. Once more had he been taught, in a way not to be forgotten, that it is never well to underrate one's opponent. He had looked deeper, too, and had seen what the whole continent soon understood, that English troops were not invincible, that they could be beaten by Indians, and that they were after all much like other men. This was the knowledge, fatal to British supremacy, which Braddock's defeat brought to Washington and to the colonists, and which was never forgotten. Could he have looked into the future, he would bave seen also in this ill-fated expedition an epitome of much future history. The expedition began with stupid contempt toward America and all things American, and ended in ruin and defeat. It was a bitter experience, much heeded by the colonists, but disregarded by England, whose indifference was paid for at a heavy cost.
After the hasty retreat, Colonel Dunbar, stricken with panic, fled onward to Philadelphia, abandoning everything, and Virginia was left naturally in a state of great alarm. The assembly came together, and at last, thoroughly frightened, voted abundant money, and ordered a regiment of a thousand men to be raised. Washington, who had returned to Mount Vernon ill and worn-out, was urged to solicit the command, but it was not his way to solicit, and he declined to do so now. August 14th, he wrote to his mother: “ If it is in my power to avoid going to the Ohio again, I shall ; but if the command is pressed upon me by the
general voice of the country, and offered. upon such terms as cannot be objected against, it would reflect dishonor on me to refuse it.” The same day he was offered the command of all the Virginian forces on his own terms, and accepted. Virginia believed in Washington, and he was ready to obey her call.
He at once assumed command and betook himself to Winchester, a general without an army, but still able to check by his presence the existing panic, and ready to enter upon the trying, dreary, and fruitless work that lay before him. In April, 1757, he wrote: “I have been posted then, for more than twenty months past, upon our cold and barren frontiers, to perform, I think I may say, impossibilities; that is, to protect from the cruel incursions of a crafty, savage enemy a line of inhabitants, of more than three hundred and fifty miles in extent, with a force inadequate to the task.” This terse statement covers all that can be said of the next three years. It was a long. struggle against a savage foe in front, and narrowness, jealousy, and stupidity behind; apparently without any chance of effecting anything, or gaining any glory or reward. Troops were voted, but were raised with difficulty, and when raised were neglected and ill-treated by the wrangling governor and assembly, which caused much ill-suppressed wrath in the breast of the commander-inchief who labored day and night to bring about better discipline in camp, and who wrote long let
ters to Williamsburg recounting existing evils and praying for a new militia law.
The troops, in fact, were got out with vast difficulty even under the most stinging necessity, and were almost worthless when they came. Of one “ noble captain ” who refused to come, Washington wrote: “ With coolness and moderation this great captain answered that his wife, family, and corn were all at stake ; so were those of his soldiers; therefore it was impossible for him to come. Such is the example of the officers; such the behavior of the men; and upon such circumstances depends the safety of our country!” But while the soldiers were neglected, and the assembly faltered, and the militia disobeyed, the French and Indians kept at work on the long, exposed frontier. There panic reigned, farmhouses and villages went up in smoke, and the fields were reddened with slaughter at each fresh incursion. Gentlemen in Williamsburg bore these misfortunes with reasonable fortitude, but Washington raged against the abuses and the inaction, and vowed that nothing but the imminent danger prevented his resignation. “ The supplicating tears of the women,” he wrote, “ 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.” This is one of the rare flashes of personal feeling which disclose the real man, warm of heart and temper, full of human sympathy, and giving vent to hot indignation in words which still ring clear and strong across the century that has come and gone.
Serious troubles, moreover, were complicated by petty annoyances. A Maryland captain, at the head of thirty men, undertook to claim rank over the Virginian commander-in-chief because he had held a king's commission; and Washington was obliged to travel to Boston in order to have the miserable thing set right by Governor Shirley.
This affair settled, he returned to take up again the old disheartening struggle, and his outspoken condemnation of Dinwiddie's foolish schemes and of the shortcomings of the government began to raise up backbiters and malcontents at Williamsburg. “My orders,” he said, “ are dark, doubtful, and uncertain; to-day approved, to-morrow condemned. Left to act and proceed at hazard, accountable for the consequences, and blamed without the benefit of defence.” He determined nevertheless to bear with his trials until the arrival of Lord Loudon, the new commander-in-chief, from whom he expected vigor and improvement. Unfortunately he was destined to have only fresh disappointment from the new general, for Lord Loudon was merely one more incompetent man added to the existing confusion. He paid no heed to the South, matters continued to go badly in the North, and Virginia was left helpless. So Washington toiled on with much discouragement, and the disagreeable attacks upon him increased. That it