« ZurückWeiter »
interiour places. Orders to call the militia into the field were unavailing; the solicitude and exertion of each individual were directed to the immediate preservation of his family and property. The sufferings of his countrymen deeply wounded the heart of Colo. nel Washington. Every measure was adopted, that an enterprising spirit could suggest ; and all the means he possessed were judiciously and strenuously exerted for their protection; but all were ineffectual. He was compelled to be the witness of the calamity of friends, whom he could not relieve ; and of the carnage and ravages of a ferocious enemy, whom he could not chastise. Before a force from below could be collected, the invading foe, having glutted their appetite for blood, and loaded themselves with spoil, recrossed the mountain.
Three years service affords little else, than a repe tition of scenes of a similar nature; scenes, which occasioned these settlements the utmost horrour and distress, and brought the fortitude and military resources of the Commander to a severe test; but which, in recital, would swell this work beyond the designed bounds. The regiment never consisted of more than one thousand effective men. Colonel WASHINGTON, in addition to the appropriate duty of his commission, was obliged to superintend the operations of each subor. dinate department, and to attend to the wants of the impoverished inhabitants.
During this period, he unremittingly urged upon the Executive and Legislature of his Province, the insufficiency of the mode adopted to prosecute the war. He earnestly recommended offensive operations, as the only measure which would effectually relieve the Colony from the heavy loss of inhabitants, and from the expense of money yearly sustained ; and prevent the total depopulation of the fertile plains beyond the Blue Ridge. If the necessary co-operation of Great Britain, to enable the culny to drive the enemy from
the Ohio, were unattainable, which would prove a radical cure of the evil, he strongly recommended, that a regular force of two thousand men should be raised. By this measure he thought the militia, whose services were attended with incalculable expense, and were seldom productive of good, might be relieved from temporary draughts. The feelings and views of Col. Washington on these subjects, will fully appear by the following extracts from letters which he wrote at the time. In a despatch to the Lieutenant Governour, he thus paints the situation of the inhabitants and the troops. "I sce their situation, I know their dan. ger, and participate their sufferings, without having it in my power to give them further relief than uncertain promises. In short, I see inevitable destruction in so clear a light, that, unless vigorous measures are taken by the Assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below, the poor inhabitants, now in forts, must unavoidably fall, while the remainder are flying before the barbarous foe. In fine, the melancholy situation of the people, the little prospect of assistance, the gross and scandalous abuses cast upon the officers in general, which is reflecting on me in particular, for suffering misconduct of such extraordinary kind, and the distant prospect, if any, of gaining reputation in the service, cause me to lament the hour that gave me a commission, and would induce me at any other time than this of imminent danger, to resign, without one hesitating moment, a command, from which I never expect to reap either honour or benefit ; but, on the contrary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below, while the murder of helpless families may be laid to my account here.
« The supplicating tears of the women, and moving petitions of the men, melt me with such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myseif a willing sacrifice to the butchering ene my, provided that would conduce to the people's ease.'
The inefficiency of the militia he thus portrayed. “ T'he inhabitants are so sensible of their danger if left to the protection of these people, (militia) that not a man will stay at his place. This I have from their own mouths, and the principal inhabitants of Augusta county. The militia are under such bad order and discipline, that they will come and go when and where they please, without regarding time, their officers, or the safety of the inhabitants. There should be, according to your honour's orders, one third of the militia of these parts on duty, at a time; instead of that, scarce one thirtieth is out. They are to be relieved every month, and they are a great part of that time marching to and from their stations; and they will not wait one day longer than the limited time, whether relieved or not, however urgent the necessity for their continuance may be.”
" I met with Col. Buchanan, with about thirty men, chiefly officers, to conduct me up Jackson's river, along the range of forts. With this small company of irregulars, with whom order, regularity, circumspection, and vigilance were matters of derision and contempt, we set out, and by the protection of providence, reached Augusta court-house in seven days, without meeting the enemy; otherwise we must have been sacrificed by the indiscretion of these whooping, hallooing, gentleman soldiers.—This jaunt afforded me great opportunity of seeing the bad regulation of the militia, the disorderly proceedings of the garrisons, and the unhappy circumstances of the inhabitants.
" We are either insensible of danger until it breaks upon our heads, or else through mistaken notions of economy, evade the expense until the blow is struck, and then run into an extreme of raising the militia. These, after an age, as it were, is spent in assembling them, come up, make a noise for a time, oppress the inhabitants, and then return, leaving the frontiers un. guarded as before. This is still our reliance, not with. standing former experience convinces us, if reason did not, that the French and Indians are watching the opportunity when we shall be lulled into fatal security, and unprepared to resist an attack, to invade the country, and by ravaging one part, terrify another; that they retreat when our militia assemble, and repeat the stroke as soon as they are dispersed ; that they send down parties in the intermediate time, to discover our motions, procure intelligence, and sometimes to divert tho troops."
The expediency of an offensive war, he supported by the following observations.
“ The certainty of advantage by an offensive scheme of action, renders it beyond any doubt, much preferable to our defensive measures. To prove this to you, Sir, requires, I presume, no arguments. Our scattered force, so separated and dispersed in weak parties, avails little to stop the secret incursions of the savages. We can only put them to flight, or frighten them to somo 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 then should 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 na. ture, and to petition his Excellency Lord Loudoun for a cmall train of artillery, with some engineers, we should then be able, in all human probability, to subdue the terrour of Fort du Quesne, retrieve our character with the Indians, and restore peace to our unhappy fron tiers.”
On supposition that the assembly should persist in the scheme of defensive warfare, he presented to the
Governour a plan for his opinion. This was to establish twenty-two forts, reaching from the river Mayo lo the Potonack, in a line of three hundred and sixty miles ; and which were to be garrisoned by a regular force, consisting of two thousand men.
The pride of Governour Dinwiddie was offended by these frank communications of a gallant and inde. pendent oficer. In uncourtly language he censured advice, which he could not comprehend, and reproach ed this officer with officiousness and neglect of duty Colonel Washin iton felt the reprimand as a patriot, the welfare of whose country ever dwelt on his heart; and, like a soldier, who had an invaluable prize in his own reputation. In the consciousness of having made the highest efforts faithfully to execute the trust reposed in him, he thus with spirit replied to the charge, in a letter to a friend. “ Whence it arises, or why, I am 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 condemned ; left to act and proceed at hazard; accountable for the conscquences, 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 entartain 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 bet. ter regulations under Lord Loudoun, to whom I lock for the future fate of Virginia."
To the Governour himself, in answer to a communi. cation from him, which conveyed a censure, he wrote, " I must beg leave, before I conclude, to observe, in justification of my own conduct, that it is with pleasure