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Expedition to Fort Du Quesne.-His defeat.-.
but the letter from that officer which he carried back to Governor Dinwiddie was not at all satisfactory.* But so well did Washington perform his duty, that he received the public thanks of the Virginia assembly.†
The authorities of Virginia at once determined to raise a regiment of three hundred men, and send them into the disputed territory, to maintain the rights of the English government. Colonel Fry was appointed to the chief command, and Major Washington was made lieutenantcolonel. Early in May the troops prepared to march. Washington was permitted to go on in advance with two companies, and on the 27th of May he reached the Great Meadows. On the night of the 28th (it was very dark and stormy) he surrounded a party of sixty Frenchmen who were near, under De Jumonville, and killed or captured the whole, except one man.
Colonel Fry having died suddenly, Washington was appointed to the command of the regiment. He immediately erected a fort (which he called Necessity) at the Great Meadows, expecting an attack from the enemy as soon as the defeat of De Jumonville should be known. Being joined by some troops from New York and Carolina, he pushed forward toward Du Quesne; but learning that the enemy, fifteen hundred strong, were marching to oppose him, he returned to Fort Necessity, where he was attacked, and after a resistance of ten hours, he was a July 3, obliged to capitulate." The terms were honorable to m, he 1754. and his men being allowed to return to Virginia unmole ted. In the spring of 1755, an expedition under General Braddoc. was sent against the French and Ir dians. At the earnest solicitation of braddock, Washington consented to serve as a volunteer in the character of aid-de-camp. After a toilso ne march they reached the vinity of Fort Du Quesne, and were suddenly attacked by an ambush. Faddock fell, mortally wounded,|| and the cther superior officers having been kill or wounded, the troops fled in dismay. By great efforts, Washington “allied them and made good their retreat, in perfect order, to Fort Cumberland. The protecting hand of Providence was visible on this day. Washington r de in every direction during the engagement, distributing
The journ? which he kept during this expedition was published by authority, and made him very favo ably known throughout the colonies.
+ Washing on happening to enter the gallery of the assembly-chamber, was seen by the speaker, who immediately proposed a vote of thanks. Every member arose and saluted the young hero with a bow. He attempted to reply to the resolution of thanks, but his voice faltered. The speaker saw it, and thus complimented him: "Sit down, Major Washington, your modesty is alone equal to your merit."
Washington had left the army on account of a regulation by which the colonial officers were made to take rank lower than those of the regular army.
Washington, who well understood the Indian mode of warfare, attempted to advise Braddock in his movements, but the haughty commander refused his proffered knowledge, and disdainfully said, "What! a young American buskin teach a British general how to fight!"
Appointed commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces.- Marries Mrs. Custis.
the general's orders, and constantly exposed to the sharp-shooters of the enemy; yet, although two horses were killed under him, and four bullets passed through his coat, he escaped unhurt.* On returning to Virginia, debilitated with sickness and fatigue, he left the service and returned to Mount Vernon, where his mother now resided, followed by the sincere blessings of the colonies.†
The following year, the little colonial army of Virginia was newly organized, and Colonel Washington appointed to the chief command. A dispute concerning precedence having arisen between him and a Maryland officer, who held a royal commission, he was sent to Boston to lay the matter, in person, before General Shirley, then commander-inchief of the British forces in America. Washington's pretensions, based upon right, were sustained, and he returned to his field of duty, where jealousy with busy tongue soon attempted to disparage his services, and rob him of the unbounded confidence of his countrymen, which he possessed. The effort proved fruitless, and his enemies found that they were "biting a file !" For two years he performed the duties of commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces, under every discouragement, until, toward the close of 1757, he was seized with a fever which confined him four months at Mount Vernon. During the year following, he was actively engaged, both in Virginia and on the borders, in operations against the French and Indians in that quarter, and at the close of the campaign he resigned his commission and retired to private life. The military scenes he had participated in gave him many advantages during his subsequent exalted career.
At the age of twenty-seven years he married Mrs. Martha Custis, widow of John Parke Custis, a lady about three months his junior, every way worthy of him, and distinguished alike for her beauty, accomplishments, and wealth. She had two children, over whom Washington exercised all the care and solicitude of a father. The estate of Mount Vernon had been bequeathed to him by his brother Lawrence, and the fortune of his wife, added thereto, gave him the possession of ample means; and from the stirring scenes of military life, where he had won much glory, he turned his attention to the peaceful pursuits of husbandry, and the enjoyment of domestic life. For fifteen.
a Jan. 6,
* It is related that an Indian said that he had fifteen fair shots at him on that day, but could not hit him.
The Rev. Mr. Davis, in a sermon preached soon after Braddock's defeat, uttered the following prophetic sentiment: "I can not but hope that Providence has preserved this youth to be the savior of his country."
While in New York, on his return from Boston, he was kindly entertained at the house of Beverly Robinson (at whose country mansion, near West Point, was the scene of Arnold's treason), and was there deeply smitten by the charms and rare accomplishments of Miss Phillips. But a rival-a companion-in-arms at Braddock's defeat-Captain Morris, wooed and won her.
Appointed a deputy in the first Continental Congress.-Appointed commander-in-chief of the Army. years he was thus employed, except when occasionally called to be a representative in the provincial assembly, or to the performance of some temporary public duty.* During the storm which the stamp-act aroused," although he was not very actively engaged in public opposition, yet all that private influence, connected with some public acts, could do to roll back the tide of oppression, was done by him.
When the tyrannical acts of Parliament (among which was the odious Boston port bill) reached America, and produced a fever of patriotic resistance, out of which emanated the first GENERAL CONGRESS in 1774, Washington was appointed one of the deputies from Virginia. So eminent were his military abilities considered, that he was put upon every committee in that body whose services appertained to military affairs; and he was exceedingly useful in arranging matters for future action. And when, the following year, the patriot army that sprang into powerful existence at the call of freedom, and invested Boston, the seat of executive oppression in America, was adopted by the Congress' and called the CONTINENTAL ARMY, Washington was, by unanimous vote, called to the chief command. He accepted the appointment, but with much diffidence,† and declined all compensation for his services, asking only to have his necessary expenses paid.
Immediately after his appointment, he proceeded to Cambridge, in Massachusetts, and took command of the continental army. Already c April 19. the blood of patriots had been spilled at Lexington, and the d June 17. tragedy of Bunker Hill" had been enacted; and he found the troops (about fourteen thousand in number) eager to vindicate and maintain the honor and freedom of their country. But he wisely deemed perfect organization and discipline more essential to the success of the cause than impetuous offensive warfare, and it was several months before he attacked the British troops, in their supposed stronghold, in Boston.
b June 14, 1775.
It would be impossible to trace in detail the career of Washington *He officiated as justice of the peace for a number of years.
†The speech of Washington on this occasion, considering every circumstance, is one of the most remarkable on record. He said, "Though I am truly sensible of the high honor done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress, from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust. However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess, in this service, and for the support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their approbation. But lest some unlucky event should happen, unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by gentlemen in this room that I this day declare, with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with. As to pay, sir, I beg leave to assure Congress that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept the arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those, I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire."
Congress voted a salary of five hundred dollars a month for the commander-in-chief.
Evacuation of Boston.-Battle of Long Island.-Capture of Fort Washington.
through the eventful scenes of the Revolution, within the very narrow limits prescribed for this sketch, and we shall be obliged therefore to take a mere bird's-eye view of it, referring our readers to the more voluminous biographies of the immortal chief with which our literature abounds.
Washington found himself at the head of an undisciplined army, scantily clothed, provisioned, and armed; yet with all these discouragements, he attempted to expel the British from Boston, and fully succeeded. They evacuated the town on the 17th of March, 1776. General Howe, who commanded the British forces, sailed with them and about fifteen hundred loyalists, or tories, for Halifax, Nova Scotia, leaving behind him considerable arms and provisions.
Washington's solicitude was now felt for the city of New York, whither he feared General Howe had sailed, and he immediately commenced his march toward that place. Early in July, the British land and naval forces, under the command of General Howe and his brother, Admiral Lord Howe, arrived off Sandy Hook. They were accompanied by a large body of German mercenaries called Hessians. They first landed upon Staten island, and Washington prepared to receive them. Perceiving it to be their intention to land upon Long island, he sent a large portion of his army thither. Upon Brooklyn heights and vicinity a severe battle was fought, and the Americans were defeated with great loss. Washington saw the hopelessness b Aug. 27. of success, and instead of waiting to renew the contest the next morning, he silently withdrew all his troops across the river at night, and placed them in an attitude of defence upon York island For more than forty-eight hours he was without sleep, and the most of the time on horseback.*
a July 2,
c Oct. 28.
d Nov. 16.
After some slight skirmishing in the vicinity of Harlem, the Americans took post at White Plains, where a partial battle was fought, which was not decisive. Washington retreated to Croton, while the British commander marched back and took possession of Fort Washington" upon York island, with nearly three thousand Americans as prisoners. On hearing of this disaster, Washington with his army crossed the Hudson into New Jersey, and for nearly three weeks he was closely pursued across that state by Cornwallis. On the 8th of December he crossed the Delaware, taking with him all the boats, to prevent the enemy following. The British army entered Trenton at the moment the last boat of the Americans left it.
• The American army had a very narrow escape from destruction. Providentially, a dense fog obscured all their movements, and their retreat was unobserved by the enemy. When the fog rose, they saw the British taking possession of the spot which they occupied only an hour before.
Battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown.—Encampment at Valley Forge.
On the night of the 25th of December, Washington in person led a large detachment of his little army across the Delaware, and about daybreak, in the face of a violent storm of snow, he attacked the British and Hessians. A squadron of British dragoons and about five hundred infantry fled down the river at the first fire; but about one thousand Hessians were taken prisoners, and before night were carried across the Delaware and secured. This glorious achievement sent a thrill of joy through the country, and fully restored and added to that confidence of the people in the abilities of the commander-in-chief, which late reverses had caused somewhat to wane.
a Jan. 2,
As soon as the prisoners were disposed of, Washington returned to Trenton," where he was met by a superior force under Corn1777. wallis. During the night he silently withdrew toward Princeton,* intending to attempt the capture of the enemy's stores at New Brunswick. Near Princeton he met a large detachment of the British army, and a severe battle ensued,' during which the brave General Mercer was mortally wounded. The Americans were successful.
c July 5.
The British commander, being in possession of New York, was anxious to have Philadelphia also. During the spring he made ineffectual attempts to draw Washington from his strong position among the New Jersey hills, and finally, in July, embarked his troops and proceeded by the way of the Chesapeake. He landed at the head of Elk river on the 25th of August, and was met by Washington at the fords of the Brandywine, where a well-contested battle was fought, in which the Americans were defeated. On the 25th, the British entered and took possession of Philadelphia, and formed, soon after, their camp at Germantown, where they were attacked by the Americans. The latter were repulsed with considerable loss, and took a strong position at Whitemarsh. Howe attempted to dislodge Washington, but failed, and finally went into winter quarters at Philadelphia. Washington, determined to defend the adjacent country and closely hem the British in the city, selected Valley Forge for winter quarters.
d Sept. 11.
e Oct. 3.
b Jan. 3.
Never did patriotism shine with a purer lustre than was exhibited in the patient sufferings of the American troops during their encampment at Valley Forge. The winter was a very severe one. The army was poorly clad, and many a bare footprint, marked with blood, was seen in
At dawn. greatly to the surprise of the British, not an American soldier was to be seen. "Where can Washington be gone?" asked Cornwallis. A cannon was heard in the direction of Princeton: "There he is," replied Erskine, "rehearsing the tragedy of Colonel Ralle" (the Hessian commander killed at Trenton). "By Jove !" cried Cornwallis, "he deserves to fight in the cause of his king."