E Cecil.

Life of George Washington : written for children online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryE CecilLife of George Washington : written for children → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook





X *^!l,,

v^f;" ??.'?

/ //X^r,




Washington drawing his sword at Cambridge as Commander in Chief.

Ptiffe 6fi.




' ,








Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.


THIS little book has been written with the
hope of giving American children some knowl-
edge of "Washington's character.

Great pains have been taken to make it ac-
curate, and to avoid the use of long words ; but
it is not possible to render all the complica-
tions and responsibilities of Washington's pub-
lic career perfectly plain to children.

Enough, however, is accomplished, if they
can enter into the spirit of his life, and gain
something of that loyalty to his memory which
every American should feel.


GEORGE WASHINGTON was born the 22d of
February, 1732, in a house which had belonged to
his great-grandfather, on Bridge's Creek, near the
Potomac River, in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
His father's name was Augustine Washington; his
mother's, before her marriage, Mary Ball. She was
the second wife of Mr. Washington, and a beauti-
ful woman. She seems also to have had a strong,
upright character ; and brought up her children
exceedingly well.

Soon after George's birth, his father left the old
family estate, and went to live in Stafford County,
near Fredericksburg. Both these houses have since
gone to ruin.

In those days, good schools were very rare, and
even the rich planters did not find it easy to have


their children well educated. A man named Hobby
kept the school to which George Washington was
first sent, and taught him to read and write, and
perhaps to cipher ; but Mr. Washington also gave
him lessons at home, and seems to have been a
wise, good father.

When George was about seven years old, his half-
brother Laurence * came home from England, where
he had been educated. He was about twenty-two
years old ; had served in the British army, and
talked much about war. George's head was soon
full of fighting. He used to arrange his school-
mates in companies, and have parades, reviews, and
battles. He was often the captain ; but the boys
showed still more respect for him, by making him
the judge in their disputes.

In 1743, when George was eleven years old, his
father died ; and he was sent away from his mother
to live with his elder brother Augustine,f in order to
go to school. His education was very simple: no
one expected him to be a great scholar. Some very
neat books in his handwriting have been kept.
They contain first lessons in geometry, and copies of

* The eldest son of Augustine Washington's first wife,
t The second son.


all sorts of forms of business papers, such as mer-
chants and lawyers use in conveying land, goods, or
other things. Then come some extracts in verse.
One book has some queer birds drawn with a pen,
and profiles of faces, perhaps meant for likenesses of
the school-boys.

He was very fond of active sports ; he used to
run, to leap, to wrestle, to toss bars, and to pitch
quoits.* He could mount and manage any horse,
however fiery. He was very tall, and all this exer-
cise made him strong.

About this time he wrote out * A Hundred and
Ten Rules for Behavior in Company and Conversa-
tion." As Washington's manners were remarkably
composed and dignified when he became a man, let
us look at some of these rules which he obeyed of
his own accord while he was yet a school-boy. One
is, "When a man does all he can, though it suc-
ceeds not, blame not him that did it." Another is,
" Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about
you to see if you be well-decked, if your shoes fit, if
your stockings set neatly and clothes handsomely."
And another, " Think before you speak ; pronounce

* Iron rings, or plates, which are thrown at a mark.


not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too has-
tily, but orderly and distinctly." " Be not curious
to know the affairs of others." " Speak not evil of
the absent ; for it is unjust." " Make no show of
taking great delight in your victuals ; feed not with
greediness ; lean not on the table ; neither find fault
with what you eat." " Be not angry at table, what-
ever happens ; and, if you have reason to be so,
show it not. Put on a cheerful countenance, espe-
cially if there be strangers ; for good-humor makes
one dish of meat a feast." " Let your recreations
be manful, not sinful."

These specimens show that George Washington
had resolved to avoid doing whatever is unpleasant
to others. To think much of other people, and little
of ourselves, is the surest indication of good man-
ners. From the example of his brother Laurence,
and from the company of the Fairfax 'family,
neighbors whom he saw often, he could form a
good idea of the behavior o"f a gentleman.

When he was fourteen years old, he had a great
desire to go to sea. Ships of war sometimes an-
chored in the Potomac River. The officers prob-
ably visited Laurence Washington at his estate of
Mount Vernon ; and George, no doubt, listened


eagerly to their stories of battles, sieges, and storms.
All his friends approved of the plan, except his
mother, who at last gave an unwilling consent; and
it is said that his luggage had been put on board a
ship lying just below Mount Vernon, when Mrs.
Washington's heart failed her, and she said she
could not part in that way with her eldest boy. He
was so thoughtful and manly, that his mother must
have depended upon him very much; though he
usually lived at a little distance from her, with one
or other of his elder brothers. He was particularly
fond of Laurence.

At school he now studied surveying* with great
care, and such mathematics as might be useful either
in time of war or in time of peace. Every survey
is put down in a book with as much care as if the
land were his own estate. He never in his life left
things half done. Even as a boy, he was thorough.
"He had acquired the magic of method, which of
itself works wonders."

But in these books, mixed up with business writ-
ings, are found some very sentimental verses about

* Measuring land carefully by means of instruments. The
measures are then put down on a map, with woods, rivers,
houses, roads, &c. also marked.


a young lady. Washington calls her a "lowland
beauty," and says he was very unhappy, and that
he never dared to tell her his admiration. It was
rather the fashion in those days for gentlemen to
address to ladies what we now think very poor po-
etry ; but they seldom began at the age of fifteen.
However, rhyming must have been put completely
out of his head by the active life he led soon after
this time.

In the winter of 1747, AVashington was making a
visit at Belvoir, the home of his friends the Fair-
faxes, when he first met Lord Fairfax, the owner
of a large tract of land lying between the Rappa-
hannock and Shenandoah Rivers. The old lord was
a great fox-hunter, and, being pleased with Wash-
ington's bold riding, taught him the " noble art " of
hunting. They became well acquainted, and Lord
Fairfax saw that he was a hardy, active young man,
of good judgment, and proposed to him to survey
and examine his large estate. The land was beau-
tiful and fertile, but had been seized upon by squat-
ters.* It was now to be divided. The Avork would
no doubt be hard; but Washington was well pre-

* People who build houses or huts, and live on land which
they never purchased.


pared for it ; and in March, 1748, he set out upon
his first journey into the wilderness, in company with
George William Fairfax,* of the Belvoir family.

It was not much like a journey now-a-days. They
rode on horseback. The few houses they stopped at
were dirty and uncomfortable. For instance, in
Washington's Diary, he writes, "Travelled up to
Solomon Hedge's, Esq., one of his majesty's justices
of the peace, where we encamped. When we came
to supper, there was neither a knife on the table nor
a fork to eat with ; but, as good luck would have it,
we had knives of our own." He seems to have
enjoyed the nights spent in the woods much more
than those passed in untidy houses.

In the same journal, Washington speaks of the
beautiful sugar-maples on the banks of the Shenan-
doah, of the different kinds of soil, and of the value
of the land for building. Lord Fairfax had chosen
well: George Washington was a careful, faithful

During this trip, he saw the Indians in their
homes for the first time. Some of them danced a
war-dance one night, savagely indeed. The life he
led for several weeks was rough ; but he was weH

* Lord Fairfax was a distant relation of Mr. Fairfax of Belvoir.


fitted to enjoy its pleasures, and to make light of a
wetting or a long ride. His work, and his account
of the country, pleased Lord Fairfax so much, that
he crossed the Blue Ridge, and built a house called
Greenway Court. It was a solitary dwelling, and
open to all travellers, Indian or white. Here Wash-
ington was always a welcome guest, and had many
a fox-hunt with the singular old nobleman. Lord
Fairfax knew much of men and books, and had seen
a great deal of life that was not dreamt of in the
woods of Virginia.

At Greenway Court, Washington read the " His-
tory of England " and the " Spectator," a much-
admired English paper. After his surveying expe-
dition for Lord Fairfax, he was appointed, probably
through his Lordship's influence, public surveyor.
He continued in this occupation for three years ; and
his surveys are so correct, that to this day they are
used. Think of that! In all these hundred and
seven years, nobody has been found to do the work
better than that young man of eighteen or nineteen
years ! Washington always did his best : this is the
secret of his success in life. When he was young,
he thought nothing which he had once undertaken
too small to be worth doing faithfully.


In 1751, Laurence "Washington became very ill,
and George went with him to Barbadoes. He was
a kind brother, and the affection between them was
strong and warm. He had exercised a very impor-
tant influence over "Washington, at an age when a
boy is easily guided by a brother so much older;
and, all through his illness, he seems to have relied
entirely on George's strong character. At his death,
in 1752, he gave another proof of confidence in him
by leaving in his hands the management of large
estates,* though such cares are not usually intrusted
to men only twenty years old.

In 1751, Washington was appointed a major in
the service of Virginia. The country was divided
into districts, and it was the duty of every major to
drill the militia of one district. Laurence "Washing-
ton probably obtained the appointment for his brother
George, who immediately began to study military
matters with great zeal.

"War was now expected between the English and
French. Each nation claimed the rich lands border-
ing on the Ohio River and the Valley of the Missis-

* At the death of Laurence Washington's child, Washington,
by his brother's will, became the owner of his beautiful estate of
Mount Vernon.


sippi ; and each tried to secure the friendship of the
Indians,* who were to be driven from their hunting-
grounds at any cost.

At this time there were no United States. The
settled part of the country was divided into Colonies.
People called England " home." If there were any
fighting, the Colonies would send out their troops
against the French, either with the regular British
army, or under " Provincial officers," f as they were

The military spirit was strong in Virginia. The
Ohio River was carefully watched ; and, in 1753, the
governor decided to send a special messenger to the
nearest French officer, to find out what his intentions
were, and, on the way, to visit various Indian chiefs,
and keep them in friendly humor. It -vyas by no
means an easy service ; yet the governor intrusted it
to young Major Washington.

Indians are childish ; always tempted by presents,

* Sachem Gachradodow said to the commissioner of Virginia:
" The great king might send you over to conquer the Indians, but
it looks to us that God did not approve it : if he had, he would
not have placed the great sea where it is, as the limit between us
and you."

t A Colony was often called a Province ; as the Province of
Massachusetts Bay.


which the French gave them freely. They made
many promises to "Washington ; but he knew well
that he could not depend upon them. They are very
sloAV, too, in making any agreement; and delayed
Washington day after day. But he was patient ;
and, at last, three chiefs went with him to the French

The journey was toilsome, " through snow and
rain, mire and swamp." Fifty-one days had passed
from the time Major Washington had left Williams-
burg with Gov. Dinwiddie's letter, when he presented
it to the commandant at French Creek, about fifteen
miles south of Lake Erie. He was very politely re-
ceived ; and, during the two days which the French
officer required for writing his answer, he examined
the fort, counted the men and the canoes there, and
collected all the information he could for the gov-

When he was ready to return, it was almost im-
possible to start the Indians. By presents and prom-
ises, the French delayed them until Major Washing-
ton became very anxious. The party at last set out
in canoes ; * but French Creek was full of ice, and

* Indian boats, made of the trunks of trees, or sometimes of


it was very hard to manage them. When they
began to ride, matters became still worse. The
horses were soon worn out with travelling in deep
snow. There were neither houses nor barns. The
men slept in tents, and the animals fared hardly.
Washington gave up his own horse to carry the
baggage, and all the men walked.

At last he grew very tired of this slow method of
travelling, and determined to leave the party, and
strike through the woods for the nearest branch of
the Ohio River. A Mr. Gist went with him ; and
the first day they met an Indian, whom they took as
guide. Gist knew the Indians well, and both he and
Washington soon began to suspect this man. From
his behavior, they thought he was trying to lead
them to a place where they might be surrounded
and killed. What could two white men do against
a party of Indians ? Towards evening, the Indian,
who was a little in front of them, turned, and fired
his gun at Mr. Gist. He was not hurt ; and the two
secured the Indian before he could fire again. Gist
was for putting him immediately to death; but
Washington would not consent to that. They were
obliged to watch him very minutely ; and at last, in
order to get rid of him, they gave him leave to go

Major Washington preventing Gistfrom killing the Indian.

lizge- /2


to his cabin. Gist followed him, and listened to his
steps to be sure that he was out of the way; and
then the travellers took up their march again,
though they had encamped for the night because
Major Washington was weary.

They went on anxiously, all that night and all the
next day, till they reached the Alleghany River.
There was no boat to be seen : they must make a
raft, and they had only one poor hatchet. They
worked at the raft a whole day ; launched it at dusk,
and tried to cross the river : but the raft got jammed
between cakes of ice. Washington put his pole on
the bottom of the river, and leaned against it ; but
the ice came down with such force that he was
thrown off the raft into deep water. He and Gist
then succeeded in getting upon an island, where
they passed the night. Mr. Gist's hands and feet
were frozen. The next day, they crossed on the ice
to a house where they were made comfortable.

The dangers of the journey were over; but all
the rest of the way was as uncomfortable as very
bad weather could make it. While Major Wash-
ington was waiting for horses, he paid a visit to an
Indian queen. What do you think he gave her?
" A watch-coat," he says, " and a bottle of rum ;


which latter was thought much the better present
of the two."

On the 16th of January, 1754, he was again at
Williamsburg, and gave Gov. Dinwiddie the letter
of the French commandant.

His journal of this trip was published, a com-
pliment much more marked at that time than it
would be now ; for rough journeys through unset-
tled country were not unusual then, while print-
ing was far less common than it is among us.

The next spring, the Virginia soldiers were early
in the field. Washington might have commanded
the whole body ; but he preferred to be the second
officer, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.* With
a small force, he worked his way over the mountains
towards the Ohio River, preparing the roads for
heavy cannon.

He found it very difficult to get men to enlist.
Provisions were to be collected, and carried along ;
and the farmers were very slow to furnish horses
and wagons. The officers, also, were dissatisfied
because Virginia gave them much smaller pay than

* A colonel commands a regiment. A lieutenant-colonel is
the next officer below him; and a major the next.


the king's troops received from England. They
considered their work very hard ; and Col. Wash-
ington agreed with them that they deserved equal

The Indians, also, were a great care. Sometimes
they brought their families to the camp and lived
there. They were to be fed, and kept in good-
humor. The French always gave them presents ;
but Gov. Dinwiddie did not always supply Col.
Washington with such articles as pleased their

Washington wrote constantly to the governor to
tell what he had done; to ask the Colony to be
more liberal ; to mention the soldiers' wants, which
were very pressing; and to beg the governor to
settle difficulties which arose with troops from
South Carolina. Yet, through all these cares, he
kept a watchful eye on the French.

During this summer he fought his first battle. It
was rather a skirmish than a battle ; for there were
very few soldiers on either side. One day in May
he received from the Half-king (an Indian friend of
the year before) a message, saying that the French
were on their march to meet him. Their tracks
were seen by the Indians, and there was an alarm


at camp. It was necessary to be on the alert ; for
the French had a great many more men, and might
shut the troops in on all sides, so as to prevent a
retreat. But no enemy came in sight for two days ;
and, at the end of that time, "Washington, with forty
men and a few Indians, went at night to find them.
A party of French troops was encamped on low
ground, surrounded by rocks and trees. "Washing-
ton was the first on the spot. His men were much
exposed ; but the French retreated, and several
prisoners were taken.

In the postscript of a letter to his brother, Wash-
ington alludes to this affair, and adds : " I fortu-
nately escaped without any wound ; for the right
wing, where I stood, was exposed to and received
all the enemy's fire ; and it was the part where the
man was killed, and the rest wounded. I heard the
bullets whistle ; and, believe me, there is something
charming in the sound."

The letter was published, and these words hap-
pened to come to the ears of King George II.
"He would not say so," observed the king, dryly,
"if he had been used to hear many." "Washington
himself thought so when more experienced in war-
fare. Being asked, many years afterwards, if he


really had made such a speech about the whistling
of bullets, 'If I said so,' replied he, quietly, 'it was
when I was young.' He was, indeed, but twenty-
two years old when he said it. It was just after
his first battle. He was flushed with success, and
was writing to a brother."

The danger of his position was much increased
by this little action ; for he expected a large French
force immediately to avenge the defeat. He pre-
pared himself as well as possible, and the Half-king
promised more Indians.

Later in the season, Washington employed his
men in making a military road. While thus occu-
pied, he received news that the French would soon
be upon him. It was necessary that all the troops
should be united on one spot ; and all the officers
agreed that Great Meadows, near the Youghiogeny
River, in the southwest part of Pennsylvania, was
the proper place. A small fort had already been
built there. A retreat was accordingly begun ; but
the road was rough, the guns were heavy, and the
men out of spirits. The work seemed much harder
for some of them than for others, on account of the
differences of pay and rank, previously mentioned.
Washington and the other officers gave up their


horses on the march ; and when they began to
strengthen the fort, he joined with his men in cutting
down trees, and rolling up the trunks to form a breast-
work. Their movements were not at all too speedy.
The French and Indians soon made their appear-
ance, and firing was kept up on both sides for a day.
" Col. "Washington, in person, continued outside the
fort the whole day, encouraging the soldiers by his
countenance and example." At night the French
offered to treat with him; and Washington agreed
to give up the fort, on condition that he and his
troops should be free to march home without any
trouble from the enemy. They were also to carry
away all their possessions except the cannon, which
were to be destroyed ; and to send back the prison-
ers taken in May.

It was afterwards found that Washington and the
French had understood some of the articles of this
agreement quite differently. This, however, is not
strange, as they were written in French, which
Washington could not read, and were translated
into English by a Dutchman.

When Washington arrived at Williamsburg, and
made his report to the Governor, he received the
thanks of the Colony for his services. He was al-


ready a marked man in Virginia ; but in the follow*
ing autumn, he withdrew from her military service
on account of the Governor's lowering the rank of
all Virginia officers.

He had, however, no more than time to attend to
his private business before he received an invitation
which was most agreeable to him. In the spring of
1755, Gen. Braddock commanded an expedition
against Fort Duquesne.* Two regiments, each of
about five hundred men, had come from England,
with cannon, light horse, and all the appointments of
a well-equipped army. Some Provincial troops and
Indians also swelled the number. Washington had
never seen such complete preparations for war. He
longed for a share in the glory of the campaign ; t
and Gen. Braddock, hearing of his past experience
and merits, invited him to be one of his aides-de-
camp. I Gen. Braddock had seen much service,
and was extremely exact in military discipline. He

* A French fort at the meeting of the Monongahela and Al-
leghany Rivers, where the town of Pittsburg now stands.

f A single season of fighting, perhaps one summer, is called a

f Officers who deliver a general's orders on a field of battle,
write for him, and live in his family in camp.


was hasty-tempered and obstinate, but an honor-
able man.

Washington's mother dreaded the dangers of fron-
tier war so much, that she went to Mount Vernon
to beg of him not to expose himself to them again.
But not all his respect for her could induce him to
give up such an opportunity of gaining information
and distinction.

The army marched from Alexandria, in Virginia,
to Fort Cumberland, in Maryland ; thence to Little
Meadows, to Fort Necessity, and to Great Mead-
ows, in Pennsylvania, where Washington had com-

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryE CecilLife of George Washington : written for children → online text (page 1 of 13)