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next evening, and was soon followed by the remnant of the
Colonel Washington was greatly disappointed and disgusted with the conduct of the regular troops on this occasion. In his letter to Lieutenant-governor Dinwiddie, giving an account of the action, he says, They were struck with such an inconceivable panic, that nothing but confusion and disobedience of orders prevailed among them. The officers in general behaved with incomparable bravery; for which they greatly suffered, there being upwards of sixty killed and wounded,—a large proportion out of what we had.
"The Virginia companies behaved like men, and died like soldiers; for I believe, out of three companies on the ground that day, scarcely thirty men were left alive. Captain Peronny and all his officers, down to a corporal, were killed. Captain Poulson had almost as hard a fate, for only one of his escaped.
"In short, the dastardly behaviour of the regular troops, so called, exposed those who were inclined to do their duty to almost certain death; and at length, in spite of every effort to the contrary, they broke, and ran as sheep before hounds, leaving the artillery, ammunition, provisions, baggage, and, in short, every thing, a prey to the enemy; and when we endeavoured to rally them, in hopes of regaining the ground, and what we had
left upon it, it was with as little success as if we had attempted to have stopped the wild bears of the mountains, or the rivulets with our feet; for they would break by in spite of every effort to prevent it*."
Colonel Washington had for some time been considered as the pride and ornament of Virginia in the military line, and his reputation grew with every occasion for exertion which presented itself. His conduct in this battle was universally extolled; and the common opinion of his countrymen was, that, had his advice been pursued, the destruction of the day had been avoided. The Assembly, which was in session when the intelligence of this defeat, and of the abandonment of the colony by Colonel Dunbar, was received, felt the necessity of levying troops for their defence; and it was determined to raise a regiment, to consist of sixteen companies. The command of this regiment was offered to Colonel Washington, who was also designated in his commission as the commander in chief of all the forces raised, and to be raised, in the colony of Virginia; and had the uncommon privilege of naming his own field officers.
Retaining still his prepossessions in favour of a military life, and believing that he might now re-enter the service without
* In another letter he says, "We have been beaten-shamefully beatenshamefully beaten by a handful of men, who only intended to molest and disturb our march! Victory was their smallest expectation. But see the wondrous works of Providence-the uncertainty of human things! We, but a few moments before, believed our numbers almost equal to the force of Canada;-they only expected to annoy us. Yet, contrary to all expectation and human probability, and even to the common course of things, we were totally defeated, and have sustained the loss of every thing!"
CHAP. I. disgrace, he cheerfully accepted the appointment offered him by his country.
Having made all the necessary arrangements for the recruiting service, he set out himself to visit the posts, and organize the remaining troops of Virginia, who were dispersed in small parties over an extensive frontier. These posts were put in the best state of defence they would admit of, particularly by cutting down and removing the trees which might cover an enemy attacking them. Having performed this duty, he set out for Williamsburg, in order to arrange with the Lieutenant-governor the future plan of operations; and to impress, as well on him as on the leading men of the colony, the vast importance of devising proper means to retain the few Indians not yet detached from the interest of the English by the French; the necessity of a more effectual militia law; and of an act to establish a complete system of martial law among the troops in the regular Extreme dis- service. While on the way, he was overtaken below Fredericksburg by an express, with the intelligence that a large number of French and Indians, divided, as was their custom, into several parties, had broken up the back settlements; were murdering and capturing men, women, and children; burning their houses, and destroying their crops. The troops stationed among them for their protection were unequal to that duty; and, instead of being able to afford the aid expected from them, were themselves blocked up in their forts. Colonel Washington hastened back to Winchester, where he found the utmost confusion and alarm prevailing. He endeavoured to raise the militia, and to lead them immediately against the enemy: but more attentive to their particular situation than the general danger, they 5 could
tress of the frontiers.
could not be prevailed on to leave their families. The back inhabitants, instead of assembling in arms, and obtaining safety by meeting the enemy, fled into the lower country, and increased the general terror. In this state of things he endeavoured to collect and arm the men who had abandoned their houses, and removed their wives and children to a distance from the scene of desolation and carnage exhibited on the frontiers: he gave too the most pressing orders to the newly appointed officers, of whose inattention to duty he greatly complained, to hasten their recruits; and directed the county-lieutenants below the Blue Ridge to order their militia immediately to Winchester; but before these orders could be executed, the party which had done so much mischief, and excited such alarm, recrossed the Aleghany mountains with impunity. The commander in chief, who was under the necessity of attending personally to every department, was for some time incessantly employed in making the most judicious disposition of the recruits for the protection of the country, in obtaining for them the necessary supplies, and in establishing the general principles of discipline,-especially the necessity of an exact obedience of orders.
Early in the ensuing spring the enemy, invited by the success of the preceding year, made another irruption into the inhabited country, and did great mischief. and did great mischief. The number of troops on the regular establishment was totally insufficient for the protection of the frontier, and it was found impracticable to obtain effective service from the militia. The Indians, divided into small parties, concealed themselves with so much dexterity as seldom to be perceived till the blow was struck. Their murders were frequently committed in the very neighbourhood
bourhood of the forts; and the detachments from the garrisons, which were employed in scouring the country, were generally eluded, or attacked to advantage. In one of these skir mishes immediately in the neighbourhood of a stockade, the Americans were totally routed, and Captain Mercer killed. Such was the confidence of the enemy, that the smaller forts were very frequently assaulted, and they had repeated skirmishes* with such scouting parties as they fell in with. The people either abandoned the country, or attempted to secure themselves in small stockade forts where they were in great distress for provisions, arms, and ammunition; were often surrounded, and sometimes cut off. With this state of things Colonel Washington was deeply affected. "I see their situation," said he in a letter to the Lieutenant-governor, "know their danger, and participate in 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 reflect
* In one of these skirmishes Mr. Donville, an ensign in the French service, was killed, and in his pocket were found the orders given him by Dumas, the commandant on the Ohio, in which he was directed to pass Fort Cumberland, to harass the convoys; and, if possible, to burn the magazines at Conogagee.—To the honour of Dumas, particular instructions were given, to restrain the Indians, as far as should be in his power, from murdering those who should fall into their hands. Unfortunately, obedience to such orders could seldom be enforced.