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mission to march first, early in April, 175t, with two companies to the Great Meadows. The motives which led him to this measure, were to be early in active service, to learn the designs of the enemy, to afford protection to the English settlements, to cultivate the friendship of the Indians, and to acquire a knowledge of the country, which promised to be the scene of military operations. Scarcely had he taken possession of his ground, when some friendly Indians informed him that the French had driven away a working party, sent by the Ohio company to erect a fort on the south eastern branch of the Ohio, and were themselves building a fortress on the very ground which he had recommended to the Governor for a military post. They also gave the intelligence, that a force was then marching from that place to the Great Meadows. Although hostilities had not yet commenced, yet it was considered that the French had invaded the English territory; and many circumstances rendered it probable, that a force was approaching with hostile views. It appeared that the party had left the direct road, and had encamped in a valley, a few miles to the west of the Great Meadows, as a place of concealmentColonel Washington, under the guidance of the Indians, set out in a dark rainy night, and surrounded the encampment. At day-break his men fired, and rushed upon the French, being completely surprised, they surrendered. One man only made his escape, and Mr. Iumonville, the commander, alone was killed.
The other companies of the regiment were, at this time, in march to join those in advance; before these reached the camp, Colonel Fry died, and the command devolved on Lieutenant-colonel Washington
Two companies of British troops, one from South Carolina, and the other from New York, also joined the regiment at the Great Meadows, making a force of four hundred effective men. The regular captains reluctantly placed themselves under the command of a provincial officer ; but pressing circumstances induced them for the time to wave dispute about rank, and to act under the orders of Colonel Washington.
For the security of their stores he erected a small stockade, and then marched towards Fort du Quesne, to dislodge the French. At the foot of Laurel Hill, thirteen miles on the way, he was met by a number of friendly Indians, who informed. him that the enemy were hastily approaching with a strong detachment. A confidential chief assured him, that he had seen a reinforcement arrive at du Quesne, which place he left two days before, and had learnt that a body consisting of eight hundred French and four hundred Indians, would immediately march to attack the English. The previous information of deserters from the enemy confirmed the Indian’s report. The troops had been already six days without bread, and had. but a small quantity of meat in store. The French might approach by water carriage, within five miles of their present encampment; and then pass, them by a different route and starve them into a
surrender, or fight them with a great superiority of numbers.
JUNE 28, 1754.] In this critical situation Colonel Washington called a council of war. The unanimous advice of which was, to return to their position at the Great Meadows ; because the two roads at that place united, and the country did not allow an enemy to pass them unperceived; and at this place they might wait the arrival of a supply of provisions, and reinforcement of men. The Colonel approved the advice of his officers, and immediately carried it into effect. (July 2) His first care was to sink a ditch round the stockade, which he now named Fort Necessity; but before it was completed, the enemy attacked him, (July 3) under the command of Monsieur de Villier, whose force consisted of fifteen hundred men. sault was spiritedly made, and bravely repelled. Part of the garrison fought within the fort, and part in the ditch, which was almost filled with mud and water. Colonel Washington, during the whole action, remained without the fort, by his presence and example animating his men.
The attack began at ten in the morning, and was continued without intermission as long as the light of day remained. Early in the evening M. de Villier demanded a parley, and mentioned the terms of capitulation which he was willing to grant. These were rejected; but in the course of the night articles were agreed upon and signed. By these, the fort was to be surrendered, the garrison alowed the bonours of war, to retain their fire-arms
and baggage, and unmolested to march to the inhabited part of Virginia, The capitulation was the work of haste, and written in the French language, with which neither Colonel Washington nor any of his officers were acquainted, and unfortunately contained an expression, which the translator, at the time, construed to Colonel Washington to imply, that Mr. Iumonville, in the first action, was killed; but which literally would bear the translation, was assassinated. In answer to a publication of M. de Villier, Colonel Washington, soon after the event, made it fully to appear that he did not understand the import of the word ; but during his presidency, an enemy had the audacity to call him, upon the strength of this capitulation, an assassin.*
The killed and wounded in the Virginia regiment, on this occasion amounted to fifty-eight. The enemy were stated to have had about two hundred killed and wounded.
The public gave to this brave band merited praise; and the assembly of Virginia expressed their sense of the resolution and judgment displayed in the above action, by a vote of thanks to Colonel Washington and his officers, and by a donation of three hundred pistoles to the soldiery.
The regiment fell back to Winchester to recruit. At this place the companies from North Carolina and Maryland joined the Virginia force; the whole commanded by Colonel Innes of North Carolina.
* In an infamous publication in the Aurora, under the signature of JASPER DWIGHT.
Governor Dinwiddie, with advice of council, ordered the troops to march over the Alleghany mountains ; either to drive the French from du Quesne, or to erect a fort in a favourable position. The forces were in number much inferior to those of the enemy, and were totally unprovided with articles of clothing and provisions, essential to a winter's campaign. Orders were also given immediately to fill up the regiment; although no money was voted for the recruiting service. Colonel Washington pointedly remonstrated against these measures; but being adopted, did all in his power to carry them into effect. The legislature soon rose, without providing effectual means for active service, and the troops did not march.
During the succeeding winter, regulations from the war office were published in America, which provided that general and field officers of provincial troops, when serving with general and field officers commissioned by the crown, should have no rank; and, consequently, that senior provincial officers should be commanded by their juniors belonging to the regular troops.
The military ambition of Colonel Washington had been excited by his experience, and by the applause of his country ; but he possessed the spirit of a soldier, and refusing submission to these degrading regulations, he indignantly resigned his commission. At the same time he declared, that with high satisfaction he would obey the commards of his country, when her service should be consistent with his honour.