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ure; but when at last, on the sixteenth of January, he reached Williamsburg, alone, and delivered to Governor Dinwiddie the answer of the French commandant, all men praised him for his courage, his persistence, his firmness, his self-possession, and said: “Well done, George Washington !”.
No one had expected that he would get rid of the Frenchmen. He had not been sent with that purpose. He had simply gone as the messenger of the king to bid them begone and to bring back their reply.
Orders were at once issued to build a fort upon a point reported on by Washington as the best spot in the Ohio country from which the English could defend their rights. This spot is where the important city of Pittsburg now stands. Men were sent out to build it, and soldiers were to be raised at once in Virginia to hold the fort against the French.
The fort was built, the soldiers were enlisted and Major George Washington was appointed to drill them and get them ready to march against the French in the spring. He
had hard work; but, by spring, two companies of soldiers were ready. Joshua Fry was made colonel of the Virginia forces; George Washington was appointed lieutenant-colonel and dispatched to the Ohio country. With one hundred and fifty men, on the second day of April, 1754, he set his face westward again, and, going over the road he had travelled the year before, marched westward toward the French.
It was a poor enough showing with which to face the warlike and soldierly Frenchmen, who might object to the building of the English fort. But it was the best he could do, and he hoped when he was safely within the new fort to be a match for any force the Frenchmen might march against him. But alas ! when he came near the place, he heard strange and most unpleasant news. The men who had been sent to build the fort had been driven away by a large force of Frenchmen who had surprised them at their work. The half-finished fort had been pulled down and a new one built in its place by the Frenchmen, who were now marching eastward to meet Washington and his Virginians, and capture them or drive them away.
Thus, you see, France struck the first blow. For to take a fort from another nation in time of peace, is what is called “ an act of war.” Washington was greatly disturbed at the news, for he had only a part of the soldiers who were to be sent forward and the Frenchmen were a thousand strong. But he was not the man to turn back. He sent a messenger to Governor Dinwiddie and to the governors of
Pennsylvania and Maryland asking for more soldiers; then he marched on to a spot he had in view where he hoped to be able to build a good enough fort to hold the Frenchmen at bay until help came to him.
At a place called Great Meadows he came upon a French force led by Ensign Jumonville, and a sharp fight took place. Ju mon ville was killed, some of the Frenchmen were taken prisoners and the war had really begun. It was a war that was not to end for seven years; it was to drive France out of America and was to set France and England fighting each other, in Europe as well as America. It was to train Americans for the great conflict for liberty which they were to wage against the king and parliament of England, and to bring to renown this young Virginian surveyor who fired the first shot of the war in this little battle at Great Meadows, and who on that day, the twentyeighth of May, 1754, became a soldier and a conqueror.
AT GREAT MEADOWS.