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that this Virginian colonel was destined to be one of the principal figures in the great revolutionary drama to which the war then beginning was but the prologue.
Washington, well satisfied with bis exploit, retraced his steps, and having sent his prisoners back to Virginia, proceeded to consider his situation. It was not a very cheerful prospect. Contrecæur, with the main body of the French and Indians, was moving down from the Monongahela a thousand strong. This of course was to have been anticipated, and it does not seem to bave in the least damped Washington's spirits. His blood was up, his fighting temper thoroughly roused, and he prepared to push on. Colonel Fry had died meanwhile, leaving Washington in command; but his troops came forward, and also not long after a useless “independent " company from South Carolina. Thus reinforced Washington advanced painfully some thirteen miles, and then receiving sure intelligence of the approach of the French in great force fell back with difficulty to the Great Meadows, where he was obliged by the exhausted condition of his men to stop. He at once resumed work on Fort Necessity, and made ready for a desperate defence, for the French were on his heels, and on July 3d appeared at the Meadows. Washington offered battle outside the fort, and this being declined withdrew to his trenches, and skirm. hing went on all day. When night fell it was apparent that the end had
The men were starved and worn-out. Their
muskets in many cases were rendered useless by the rain, and their ammunition was spent. The Indians had deserted, and the foe outnumbered them four to one. When the French therefore of. fered a parley, Washington was forced reluctantly to accept. The French had no stomach for the fight, apparently, and allowed the English to go with their arms, exacting nothing but a pledge that for a year they would not come to the Ohio.
So ended Washington's first campaign. His friend the Half-King, the celebrated Seneca chief, Thanacarishon, who prudently departed on the arrival of the French, has left us a candid opinion of Washington and his opponents. “ The colonel," he said, “was a good-natured man, but had no experience; he took upon him to command the Indians as his slaves, and would have them every day upon the scout and to attack the enemy by themselves, but would by no means take advice from the Indians. He lay in one place from one full moon to the other, without making any fortifications, except that little thing on the meadow; whereas, had he taken advice, and built such fortifications as I advised him, he might easily have beat off the French. But the French in the engagement acted like cowards, and the English like fools.” 1
There is a deal of truth in this opinion. The
Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawanese Indians, etc. London, 1759. By Charles Thomson, afterwards Secretary of Congress.
whole expedition was rash in the extreme. When Washington left Will's Creek he was aware that he was going to meet a force of a thousand men with only a hundred and fifty raw recruits at his back. In the same spirit he pushed on; and after the Jumonville affair, although he knew that the wilderness about him was swarming with enemies, he still struggled forward. When forced to retreat he made a stand at the Meadows and offered bat tle in the open to his more numerous and more prudent foes, for he was one of those men who by nature regard courage as a substitute for everything, and who have a contempt for hostile odds. He was ready to meet any number of French and Indians with cheerful confidence and with real pleasure. He wrote, in a letter which soon became famous, that he loved to hear bullets whistle, a sage obser vation which he set down in later years as a folly of youth. Yet this boyish outburst, foolish as it was, has a meaning to us, for it was essentially true. Washington had the fierce fighting temper of the Northmen. He loved battle and danger, and he never ceased to love them and to give way to their excitement, although he did not again set down such sentiments in boastful phrase that made the world laugh. Men of such temper, moreover, are naturally imperious and have a fine disregard of consequences, with the result that their allies, Indian or otherwise, often become impatient and finally useless. The campaign was perfectly wild from the outset, and if it had not been for the utter
indifference to danger displayed by Washington, and the consequent timidity of the French, that particular body of Virginians would have been permanently lost to the British Empire.
But we learn from all this many things. It appears that Washington was not merely a brave man, but one who loved fighting for its own sake. The whole expedition shows an arbitrary temper and the most reckless courage, valuable qualities, but here unrestrained, and mixed with very little prudence. Some important lessons were learned by Washington from the rough teachings of inexorable and unconquerable facts. He received in this campaign the first taste of that severe experience which by its training developed the self-control and mastery of temper for which he became so remarkable. He did not spring into life a perfect and impossible man, as is so often represented. On the contrary, he was educated by circumstances; but the metal came out of the furnace of experience finely tempered, because it was by nature of the best and with but little dross to be purged away. In addition to all this he acquired for the moment what would now be called a European reputation. He was known in Paris as an assassin, and in England, thanks to the bullet letter, as a “fanfaron and brave braggart. With these results he wended his way home much depressed in spirits, but not in the least discouraged, and fonder of fighting than
Virginia, however, took a kinder view of the
campaign than did her defeated soldier. She
арpreciated the gallantry of the offer to fight in the open and the general conduct of the troops, and her House of Burgesses passed a vote of thanks to Washington and his officers, and gave money to his men.
In August he rejoined his regiment, and renewed the vain struggle against incompetence and extravagance, and as if this were not enough, his sense of honor was wounded and his temper much irritated by the governor's playing false to the prisoners taken in the Jumonville fight. While thus engaged, news came that the French were off their guard at Fort Duquesne, and Dinwiddie was for having the regiment of undisciplined troops march again into the wilderness. Washington, however, had learned something, if not a great deal, and he demonstrated the folly of such an attempt in a manner too clear to be confuted.
Meantime the Burgesses came together, and more money being voted, Dinwiddie hit on a notable plan for quieting dissensions between regulars and provincials by dividing all the troops into independent companies, with no officer higher than a captain. Washington, the only officer who had seen fighting and led the regiment, resented this senseless policy, and resigning his commission withdrew to Mount Vernon to manage the estate and attend to his own affairs. He was driven to this course still more strongly by the original cause of Dinwiddie's ar. rangement. The English government had issued an order that officers holding the king's commis