« ForrigeFortsett »
Of George Washington's birth, family, and education.... Of his
mission to the French commandant on the Ohio in 1753, .. His military operations as an officer of Virginia, from 1754 to 1758, and his subsequent employments to the commencement of the American Revolution.
THE ancestors of GEORGE WASHINGTON were among the first settlers of the oldest British colony in America.... He was the third in descent from John Washington, an English gentleman, who, about the middle of the 17th century, emigrated from the north of England, and settled in Westmoreland county, Virginia. In the place where he had fixed himself, his great grandson, the subject of the following history, was born on the 22d of February, 1732. His immediate ancestor was Augustine Washington, who died when his son George was only ten years old. The education of the young orphan, of course, devolved on his mother, who added one to the many examples of virtuous mațrons, who, devoting themselves to the care of their children, have trained them up to be distinguished citizens. In one instance her fears, combining with her affection, prevented a measure, which, if persevered in, would have given a direction to the talents and views of her son, very different from that which laid the foundation of his fame. George Washington, when only fifteen years old, solicited and obtained the place of a midshipman in the British navy ; but his ardent zeal to serve his country, then at war with
France and Spain, was, on the interference of his mother, for the present suspended, and for ever diverted from the sea service. She lived to see him acquire higher honours than he ever could have obtained as a naval officer; nor did she depart this life till he was elevated to the first offices, both civil and military, in the gift of his country. She was, nevertheless, from the influence of long established habits, so far from being partial to the American revolution, that she often regretted the side her son had taken in the controversy between her king and her country,
In the minority of George Washington, the means of education in America were scanty ; his was therefore very little extended beyond what is common, except in mathematics. Knowledge of this kind contributes more perhaps than any other to strengthen the mind. In his case it was doubly useful ; for, in the early part of his life, it laid the foundation of his fortune, by qualifying him for the office of a practical surveyor, at a time when good land was of easy
attainment : : and its intimate connection with the military art, enabled him at a later period to judge more correctly of the proper means of defending his country, when he was called upon to preside over its armies.
Of the first nineteen years of George Washington's life, little is known. His talents being more solid than showy, were not sufficiently developed for public notice, by the comparatively unimportant events of that early period.His cotemporaries have generally reported that in his youth he was grave, silent, and thoughtful; diligent and methodical in business, dignified in his appearance, and strictly honourable in all his deportment; but they have not been able to gratify the public curiosity with any striking anecdotes. His patrimonial estate was small, but that little was managed with prudence and increased by industry. In the gayest period of his life, he was a stranger to dissipation and riot. That he had established a solid reputa. tion, even in his juvenile years, may be fairly presumed from the following circumstances. At the age of nineteen he was appointed one of the adjutants general of Virginia, with the rank of major, When he was barely twenty-one, he was employed by the government of his native colony, in an enterprize which required the prudence of age as wellas the vigour of youth.
The French, as the first European discoverers of the ri. ver Mississippi, claimed all that immense region whose waters run into that river. In pursuance of this claim, in the year 1753, they took possession of a tract of country supposed to be within the chartered limits of Virginia, and were proceeding to erect a chain of posts from the lakes of Canada to the river Ohio, in subserviency to their grand scheme of connecting Canada with Louisiana, and limiting the English colonies to the east of the Alleghany mountains. Mr. Dinwiddie, then governor of Virginia, despatched Washington with a letter to the French commandant on the Ohio, remonstrating against the prosecution of these designs, as hostile to the rights of his Britannic majesty. The young envoy was also instructed to penetrate the designs of the French; to conciliate the affection of the native tribes; and to procure useful intelligence. In the discharge of this trust, he set out on the 15th of November, for Will's Creek, then an extreme frontier settlement, and pursued his course through a vast extent of unexplored wilderness, amidst rains and snows, and over rivers of very difficult passage, and among tribes of Indians, several of whom, from previous attentions of the French, were hostile to the English. When his horses were incompetent, he proceeded on foot with a gun in his hand and a pack on his back. He observed every thing with the eye of a soldier, and particularly designated the forks of the Monongahela and Alleghany rivers, the spot where Fort Duquesne was afterward built, and where Pittsburgh now stands, as an advantageous position for a fortress. Here he secured the affections of some neigh. bouring Indians, and engaged them to accompany him.With them he ascended the Alleghany river and French Creek, to a fort on the river le Boeuf, one of its western branches. He there found Mons. Le Gardeur de St. Pierre, the commandant on the Ohio, and delivered to hini Dinwida die's letter ; and receiving his answer, returned with it to Williamsburg on the seventy-eighth day after he had received his appointment. The patience and firmness displayed on this occasion by Washington, added to his judicious treatment of the Indians, both merited and obtained a large share of applause. A journal of the whole was published, and inspired the public with high ideas of the enere gies both of his body and mind.
The French were too intent on their favourite project of extending their empire in America, to be diverted from it by the remonstrances of a colonial governor. The answer brought by Washington was such as induced the Assembly of Virginia, to raise a regiment of three hundred men, to defend their frontiers and maintain the right claimed in behalf of Great Britain over the disputed territory. Of this Mr. Fry was appointed colonel, and George Washington, lieutenant colonel. The latter advanced with two companies of this regiment early in April, as far as the Great Meadows, where he was informed by some friendly Indians, that the French were erecting fortifications in the fork. between the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers ; and also, that a detachment was on its march from that place toward the Great Meadows. War had not been yet formally declared between France and England, but as neither was disposed to recede from their claims to the lands on the Ohio, it was deemed inevitable, and on the point of com. mencing. Several circumstances were supposed to indicate, an hostile intention on the part of the advancing French detachment. Washington, under the guidance of some friendly Indians, in a dark rainy night surprised their encampment, and, after firing once, rushed in and surrounded them..... The commanding officer, Mr. Jumonville, was killed, one person escaped, and all the rest immediately surrendered. Soon after this affair, Col. Fry died, and the cominand of the regiment devolved on Washington, who speedily collected the whole at the Great Meadows. Two independent companies of regulars, one from New York, and one froin South Carolina, shortly after arrived at the same place. Col. Washington was now at the head of nearly fourhundred men. A stockade, afterward called Fort Necessity, was erected at the Great Meadows, in which a small force was left, and the main body advanced with a view of dislodging the French from Fort Duquesne, which they had recently erected, at the confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers. They had not proceeded more than thirteen miles, when they were informed by friendly Indians, " That the French, as numerous as pigeons in the woods, were advancing in an hostile manner towards the English settlements, and also, that Fort Duquesne had been recently and strongly reinforced.” In this critical situation, a council of war
unanimously recommended a retreat to the Great Meadows, which was effected without delay, and every exertion made to render Fort Necessity tenable. Before the works intended for that purpose were completed, Mons. de Villier, with a considerable force, attacked the fort. The assailants were covered by trees and high grass. The Americans received them with great resolution, and fought some within the stockade, and others in the surrounding ditch. Washington continued the whole day on the outside of the fort, and conducted the defence with the greatest coolness and intrepidity. The engagement lasted from ten in the morning till night, when the French commander demanded a parley, and offered terms of capitulation. His first and second proposals were rejected, and Washington would accept of none short of the following honourable ones, which were mutually agreed upon in the course of the night.« The fort to be surrendered on condition that the garrison should march out with the honours of war, and be permitted to retain their arms and baggage, and to march unmoLested into the inhabited parts of Virginia.” The legislature of Virginia, impressed with a high sense of the bravery and good conduct of their troops, though compelled to surrender the fort, voted their thanks to Col. Washington, and the officers under his command, and they also gave three hundred pistoles to be distributed among the soldiers engaged in this action, but made no arrangements for renewing offensive operations in the remainder of the year 1754. When the season for action was over, the regiment was reduced to independent companies, and Washington resigned his command.
The controversy about the Ohio lands, which began irt Virginia, was taken up very seriously by Great Britain, and two British regiments were sent to America to support the claims of his Britannic majesty. They arrived early in 1755, and were commanded by Gen. Braddock. That of ficer, being informed of the talents of George Washington, invited him to serve the campaign as a volunteer aid-decamp. The invitation was cheerfully accepted, and Washington joined Gen. Braddock near Alexandria, and proceeded with him to Will's Creek, afterward called Fort. Cumberland. Here the army was detained till the 12th of June, waiting for waggons, horses, and provisions. Wash -