Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

the seat of government, and, by dint of perseverance, prevailed on the assembly to pass a bill giving power to tho commander to hold court-martials and punish mutiny, desertion and disobedience. Having accomplished this he returned to head-quarters in better spirits, and began to prepare for an early spring campaign. Sometimes at Alexandria and again at Fort Cumberland, going from post to post, and placing everything on the best possible footing that his means allowed, he passed the latter part of autumn and the first half of winter. His duties were laborious and harassing in the extreme, and he here had an admirable training in the school of patience, which enabled him afterward to bear with the meanness, dilatoriness and inefficiency of Congress.

In the mean time an event occurred, which shows to what a ruinous point the petty rivalries and jealousies of officers and the spirit of insubordination had reached in the colonies. At Fort Cumberland was stationed a Captain Dagworthy, who had been put there by Governor Sharpe of Maryland. Having held a royal commission, he considered himself superior in rank to any provincial officer, and hence refused to pay any regard to Washington's orders. This, of course, the latter would not submit to, and wrote to Governor Dinwiddie for express orders on the subject. But the wary governor, remembering that he himself had formerly sanctioned this very assumption of rank of the regular commissioned officers over the provincials of higher grade, and reflecting, too, that the fort was in the province of Maryland, whose governor he knew upheld the captain, he refused to give any orders. He did not hesitate, how ever, to intimate pretty clearly that Washington had better arrest the refractory captain. But the latter was not thus to be caught, and wrote back that his authority must be confirmed, or he should at once resign his commission. As a last resort, it was proposed to refer the matter to Gover

nr Shirley, in Boston, who at this time was commander-in chief of the British forces in the colonies. . Washington was appointed bearer of his own petition, and on the 4th of February, accompanied by his aid-de-camp Captain Mercer, and Captain Stewart, set out on horseback for Boston. That a paltry captain, commanding only thirty men, should thus arrest the military operations of a whole state, and send the commander-in-chief of its forces five hundred miles, in the dead of winter, on horseback, to settle whether he should obey orders given for mutual benefit and the common good, seems, at this day, quite incomprehensible. But this peculiar sensitiveness respecting individual rights, though often exhibiting itself in absurd forms, was nevertheless necessary to the development of that spirit of resistance to the encroachments of the mother country, which afterward secured our independence.

Accompanied by his two subordinates, the young colonel took his long, cold and dreary journey northward. The report of his chivalric and gallant character had preceded him, and he was every where received with courtesy and honor. Valuable acquaintances were formed and useful knowledge gained. Mr. Beverly Robinson, a strong loyalist, and in the Revolution afterward a Tory, received him at New York as his guest, and entertained him with rare hospitality. A sister of Mrs. Robinson was staying in the family at the time, whese beauty and winning manners soon took captive the chivalric heart of the young southern colonel. He had forgotten his lowland beauty, and when he bade adieu to the hospitable mansion of Mr. Robinson, to prosecute his journey to Boston, he felt that he had left a large portior of his happiness behind him.

Having obtained full and ample authority from Governor Shirley, he returned to New York, and was again placed under the influence of Miss Phillips' charms. Lingering here as long as duty would permit him, he at length turned his reluctant footsteps southward. Whether he gave the lady any indications of his passion, or whether he resolved to wait till more leisure would furnish him a better opportunity of renewing his suit, does not appear. At all events, he was deeply in love, and could not leave until he had confessed it to a friend, and engaged him to keep watch of her movements, so that if any rival appeared he could be informed of it at once. In a short time a young officer, one of Braddock's aids and an acquaintance of Washington, became a suitor of Miss Phillips. Washington's friend immediately wrote him of the dangerous state of affairs, and told him, if he wished to win the lady, he must come on at once. But whether the duties of his command detained him at home, or whether, having ascertained the name of his rival, he was too magnanimous to endeavor to supplant him, was never known. She, however, passed away with the “ lowland beauty," leaving the young colonel to forget his passion in the exciting scenes of the camp.

Reaching Williamsburg about the time of the meeting of the assembly, he set about arranging with the governor a plan for the summer campaign. The want of artillery, means of transportation, etc., rendered offensive operations impossible, and it was resolved simply to defend the frontier already occupied by British outposts. The jealousy of the separate states preventing them from uniting in a common campaign against the French, Virginia, which was most threatened, was left alone to defend her extensive borders. A bill was therefore passed to raise the army to fifteen hundred men, and another for drafting the militia, when recruits were wanting.

CIIAPTER III.

Fresh Hostilities of the Indians-Attempts to Supersede Washington—Anonymous

Libels-Washington wishes to Resign-Prevented by his Friends-Establishes a Line of Forts-Harassing Nature of his Duties--Attends a Convention at Philadelphia-His Sickness and Retirement to Mount Vernon-Progress of the War-Frederick the Great-Washington's first Acquaintance with Mrs. Custis-Advance of the Army to Fort Du Quesne-Washington required to cut a New Road--His Forebodings likely to prove true-Capture of the Fort-Election of Washington to the House of Burgesses-His Marriage Life at Mount Vernon-Collision with a Poacher-Settles the Soldiers' Claims- Expedition to the Western Wilderness to examine the Wild Lands--Admirable Preparation for his Future Career.

WASHINGTON repaired to head-quarters at Winchester. But few troops, however, were there, the greater part being stationed in the different forts on the frontier.

The savages, emboldened by the long inaction of the whites, began to hover in dark and threatening war clouds around the settlements. The more remote ones being abandoned, the Indians pushed forward to those beyond the Blue Ridge, and swooped down around the very head-quarters of the commander-in-chief. Scouting parties were driven in—forts boldly attacked, and officers killed. The woods seemed alive with the lurking foe-men were shot down in the field, and women and children found massacred on the floors of their own dwellings. From every direction came tales of horror and thrilling accounts of suffering and torture. Spreading terror along the whole frontier, the savages penetrated to within a few miles of Winchester, killing officers and men. With but few soldiers under his command, Washington could not be omnipresent, while it would not answer to withdraw any of the garrisons, for large numbers of the settlers were gathered in every fort. Growing bolder by success, the savages seriously threatened the forts themselves, and Washington expected every day to hear of their fall and the massacre of all within. With a heart swelling with indignation and pity, he entreated the assembly to send him help. To add to his anguish, complaints continually reached him of the gross misconduct of some of his officers, and murmurs against him began to rise in various quarters. An anonymous writer published in a newspaper all the floating and exaggerated rumors respecting the officers, and though not daring to charge the blame directly on Washington, he yet plainly hinted that a leader should be held responsible for the irregularities of his subordinates. A faction of Scotchmen had been formed, whose purpose was to get rid of the present commander-inchief, and place colonel Innies in his place. Disgusted, and, for the time, depressed, by the apathy of the government, his own fettered condition, the false accusations made by anonyinous writers, and above all, by the sufferings of the inhabitants, which he had not the power to relieve, Washington wished to resign his commission. In a letter to the governor, after depicting the deplorable condition of things, he says: “I am too little acquainted, sir, with pathetic language, to attempt a description of the people's distresses, though I have a generous soul, sensible of wrongs and swelling for redress. I see their situation, know their danger, and participate in their sufferings, without having it in my power to give them further relief than uncertain promises." These things, together with the unmerited abuse heaped upon the officers, and thus, indirectly upon himself, make him regret the day he accepted his commission; while the prayers and tears of men and women, begging for that relief he cannot afford, and the increasing reports of Indian murders and cruelty, which will be laid to his charge, as commander-in-chief, fill up the cup of bitterness which he is compelled to drink, and he exclaims: “ The supplicating tears of the womer, and moving petitions of the men, melt me into such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I

« ForrigeFortsett »