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port in the form of a journal, which was sent to
England and much read at the time as part of
the news of the day, and which has an equal
although different interest now. It is a succinct,
clear, and sober narrative. The little party was
formed at Will's Creek, and thence through woods
and over swollen rivers made its way to Logs-
town. Here they spent some days among the In-
dians, whose leaders Washington got within his
grasp after much speech-making ; and here, too,



ON THE FRONTIER. 65

he met some French deserters from the South, and
drew from them all the knowledge they possessed
of New Orleans and the military expeditions from
that region. From Logstown he pushed on, ac-
companied by his Indian chiefs, to Venango, on
the Ohio, the first French outpost. The French
officers asked him to sup with them. The wine
flowed freely, the tongues of the hosts were loos-
ened, and the young Virginian, temperate and
hard-headed, listened to all the conversation, and
noted down mentally much that was interesting
and valuable. The next morning the Indian chiefs,
prudently kept in the background, appeared, and
a struggle ensued between the talkative, clever
Frenchmen and the quiet, persistent Virginian,
over the possession of these important savages.
Finally Washington got off, carrying his chiefs
with him, and made his way seventy miles fur-
ther to the fort on French Creek. Here he deliv-
ered the governor's letter, and while M. de St.
Pierre wrote a vague and polite answer, he sketched
the fort and informed himself in regard to the mil-
itary condition of the post. Then came another
struggle over the Indians, and finally Washington
got off with them once more, and worked his way
back to Venango. Another struggle for the sav-
ages followed, rum being always the principal fac-
tor in the negotiation, and at last the chiefs deter-
mined to stay behind. Nevertheless, the work had
been well done, and the important Half-King re-
mained true to the English cause.



66 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

Leaving his liorses, Washington and Gist then
took to the woods on foot. The French Indians
lay in wait for them and tried to murder them, and
Gist, like a true frontiersman, was for shooting the
scoundrel whom they captured. But Washington
stayed his hand, and they gave the savage the slip
and pressed on. It was the middle of December
and cold and stormy. In crossing a river, Wash-
ington fell from the raft into deep water, amid the
floating ice, but fought his way out, and he and his
companion passed the night on an island, with
their clothes frozen upon them. So through peril
and privation, and various dangers, stopping in the
midst of it all to win another savage potentate,
they reached the edge of the settlements and thence
went on to Williamsburg, where great praise and
glory were awarded to the youthful envoy, the hero
of the hour in the little Virginia capital.

It is worth while to pause over this expedition a
moment and to consider attentively this journal
which recounts it, for there are very few incidents
or documents which tell us more of Washington.
He was not yet twenty-two when he faced this first
grave responsibility, and he did his work absolutely
well. Cool courage, of course, he showed, but also
patience and wisdom in handling the Indians, a
clear sense that the crafty and well-trained French-
men could not blind, and a strong faculty for deal-
ing with men, always a rare and precious gift. As
in the little Barbadoes diary, so also in this journal,
we see, and far more strongly, the penetration and



ON THE FRONTIER. 67

perception that nothing could escape, and which set
down all things essential and let the '' huddling
silver, little worth," go by. The clearness, terse-
ness, and entire sufficiency of the narrative are
obvious and lie on the surface ; but we find also
another quality of the man which is one of the most
marked features in his character, and one which
we must dwell upon again and again, as we follow
the story of his life. Here it is that we learn di-
rectly for the first time that Washington was a
profoundly silent man. The gospel of silence has
been preached in these latter days by Carlyle, with
the fervor of a seer and prophet, and the world
owes him a debt for the historical discredit which
he has brought upon the man of words as com-
pared with the man of deeds. Carlyle brushed
Washington aside as " a bloodless Cromwell," a
phrase to which we must revert later on other
grounds, and, as has already been said, failed ut-
terly to see that he was the most supremely silent
of the great men of action that the world can
show. Like Cromwell and Frederic, Washington
wrote countless letters, made many speeches, and
was agreeable in conversation. But this was all
in the way of business, and a man may be pro-
foundly silent and yet talk a great deal. Silence
in the fine and true sense is neither mere holding
of the tongue nor an incapacity of expression. The
greatly silent man is he who is not given to words
for their own sake, and who never talks about him-
self. Both Cromwell, greatest of Englishmen, and



68 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

the great Frederic, Carlyle's especial heroes, were
fond of talking of themselves. So in still larger
measure was Napoleon, and many others of less im-
portance. But Washington differs from them all.
He had abundant power of words, and could use
them with much force and point when he was so
minded, but he never used them needlessly or to
hide his meaning, and he never talked about him-
self. Hence the inestimable difficulty of knowing
him. A brief sentence here and there, a rare
gleam of light across the page of a letter, is all
that we can find. The rest is silence. He did as
great work as has fallen to the lot of man, he wrote
volumes of correspondence, he talked with innumer-
able men and women, and of himself he said noth-
ing. Here in this youthful journal we have a
narrative of wild adventure, wily diplomacy, and
personal peril, impossible of condensation, and yet
not a word of the writer's thoughts or feelings.
All that was done or said important to the business
in hand was set down, and nothing was overlooked,
but that is all. The work was done, and we know
how it was done, but the man is silent as to all
else. Here, indeed, is the man of action and of real
silence, a character to be much admired and won-
dered at in these or any other days.

Washington's report looked like war, and its au-
thor was shortly afterwards appointed lieutenant-
colonel of a Virginian regiment. Colonel Fry com-
manding. Now began that long experience of
human stupidity and inefficiency with which Wash-



ON THE FRONTIER. 69

ington was destined to struggle through all the
years of his military career, suffering from them,
and triumphing in spite of them to a degree un-
equalled by any other great commander. Din-
widdle, the Scotch governor, was eager enough to
fight, and full of energy and good intentions, but
he was hasty and not overwise, and was filled with
an excessive idea of his prerogatives. The as-
sembly, on its side, was sufficiently patriotic, but its
members came from a community which for more
than Half a century had had no fighting, and they
knew nothing of war or its necessities. Unaccus-
tomed to the large affairs into which they were
suddenly plunged, they displayed a narrow and
provincial spirit. Keenly alive to their own rights
and privileges, they were more occupied in quar-
relling with Dinwiddle than in prosecuting the war.
In the weak proprietary governments of Maryland
and Pennsylvania there was the same condition of
affairs, with every evil exaggerated tenfold. The
fighting spirit was dominant in Virginia, but in
Quaker-ridden Pennsylvania it seems to have been
almost extinct. These three were not very prom-
ising communities to look to for support in a diffi-
cult and costly war.

With all this inertia and stupidity Washington
was called to cope, and he rebelled against it in
vigorous fashion. Leaving Colonel Fry to follow
with the main body of troops, Washington set out
on April 2, 1754, with two companies from Alex-
andria, where he had been recruiting amidst most



70 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

irritating difficulties. He reached WilFs Creek
three weeks later ; and then his real troubles began.
Captain Trent, the timid and halting envoy, who
had failed to reach the French, had been sent out
by the wise authorities to build a fort at the junc-
tion of the Alleghany and Monongahela, on the
admirable site selected by the keen eye of Wash-
ington. There Trent left his men and returned to
Will's Creek, where Washington found him, but
without the pack-horses that he had promised to
provide. Presently news came that the French
in overwhelming numbers had swept down upon
Trent's little party, captured their fort, and sent
them packing back to Virginia. Washington took
this to be war, and determined at once to march
against the enemy. Having impressed from the
inhabitants, who were not bubbling over with pa-
triotism, some horses and wagons, he set out on his
toilsome march across the mountains.

It was a wild and desolate region, and progress
was extremely slow. By May 9th he was at the
Little Meadows, twenty miles from his starting-
place ; by the 18th at the Youghiogany Kiver, which
he explored and found unnavigable. He was there-
fore forced to take up his weary march again for the
Monongahela, and by the 27th he was at the Great
Meadows, a few miles further on. The extreme
danger of his position does not seem to have oc-
curred to him, but he was harassed and angered by
the conduct of the assembly. He wrote to Governor
Dinwiddle that he had no idea of giving up his



ON THE FRONTIER. 71

commission. " But," he continued, " let me serve
voluntarily ; then I will, with the greatest pleasure
in life, devote my services to the expedition, with-
out any other reward than the satisfaction of serv-
ing my country ; but to be slaving dangerously for
the shadow of pay, through woods, rocks, moun-
tains, вАФ I would rather prefer the great toil of a
daily laborer, and dig for a maintenance, provided
I were reduced to the necessity, than serve upon
such ignoble terms ; for I really do not see why
the lives of his Majesty's subjects in Virginia should
be of less value than those in other parts of his
American dominions, especially when it is well
known that we must undergo double their hard-
ship." Here we have a high-spirited, high-tem-
pered young gentleman, with a contempt for shams
that it is pleasant to see, and evidently endowed
also with a fine taste for fighting and not too much
patience.

Indignant letters written in vigorous language
were, however, of little avail, and Washington
prepared to shift for himself as best he might. His
Indian allies brought him news that the French
were on the march and had thrown out scouting
parties. Picking out a place in the Great Meadows
for a fort, " a charming field for an encounter," he
in his turn sent out a scouting party, and then on
fresh intelligence from the Indians set forth him-
self with forty men to find the enemy. After a
toilsome march they discovered their foes in camp.
The French, surprised and surrounded, sprang to



72 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

arms, the Virginians fired, there was a sharp ex-
change of shots, and all was over. Ten of the
French were killed and twenty-one were taken pris-
oners, only one of the party escaping to carry back
the news.

This little skirmish made a prodigious noise in
its day, and was much heralded in France. The
French declared that Jumonville, the leader, who
fell at the first fire, was foully assassinated, and
that he and his party were ambassadors and sacred
characters. Paris rang with this fresh instance of
British perfidy, and a M. Thomas celebrated the
luckless Jumonville in a solemn epic poem in four
books. French historians, relying on the account
of the Canadian who escaped, adopted the same
tone, and at a later day mourned over this black
spot on Washington's character. The French view
was simple nonsense. Jumonville and his party,
as the papers found on eJumonville showed, were
out on a spying and scouting expedition. They
were seeking to surprise the English when the Eng-
lish surprised them, with the usual backwoods re-
sult. The affair has a dramatic interest because
it was the first blood shed in a great struggle, and
was the beginning of a series of world-wide wars
and social and political convulsions, which termi-
nated more than half a century later on the plains
of Waterloo. It gave immortality to an obscure
French officer by linking his name with that of his
opponent, and brought Washington for the moment
before the eyes of the world, which little dreamed



ON THE FRONTIER. 73

that this Virginian colonel was destined to be one
of the principal figures in the great revolutionary
drama to which the war then beginning was but
the prologue.

Washington, well satisfied with his exploit, re-
traced his steps, and having sent his prisoners back
to Virginia, proceeded to consider his situation.
It was not a very cheerful prospect. Contrecoeur,
with the main body of the French and Indians, was
moving down from the Monongahela a thousand
strong. This of course was to have been anticij)ated,
and it does not seem to have in the least damped
Washington's spirits. His blood was up, his fight-
ing temper thoroughly roused, and he prepared to
push on. Colonel Fry had died meanwhile, leav-
ing Washington in command ; but his troops came
forward, and also not long after a useless " inde-
pendent " company from South Carolina. Thus re-
inforced Washington advanced painfully some thir-
teen miles, and then receiving sure intelligence of
the approach of the French in great force fell back
with difficulty to the Great Meadows, where he was
obliged by the exhausted condition of his men to
stop. He at once resumed work on Fort Necessity,
and made ready for a desperate defence, for the
French were on his heels, and on July 3d appeared
at the Meadows. Washington offered battle out-
side the fort, and this being declined withdrew to
his trenches, and skirmishing went on all day.
When night fell it was apparent that the end had
come. The men were starved and worn-out. Their



74 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

muskets in many cases were rendered useless by
the rain, and their ammunition was spent. The
Indians had deserted, and the foe outnumbered
them four to one. When the French therefore of-
fered a parley, Washington was forced reluctantly
to accept. The French had no stomach for the
fight, apparently, and allowed the English to go
with their arms, exacting nothing but a pledge that
for a year they would not come to the Ohio.

So ended Washington's first campaign. His
friend the Half-King, the celebrated Seneca chief,
Thanacarishon, who prudently departed on the ar-
rival of the French, has left us a candid opinion
of Washington and his opponents. " The colonel,"
he said, " was a good-natured man, but had no
experience ; he took upon him to command the
Indians as his slaves, and would have them every
day upon the scout and to attack the enemy by
themselves, but would by no means take advice
from the Indians. He lay in one place from one
full moon to the other, without making any forti-
fications, except that little thing on the meadow ;
whereas, had he taken advice, and built such forti-
fications as I advised him, he might easily have
beat off the French. But the French in the en-
gagement acted like cowards, and the English like
fools." 1

There is a deal of truth in this opinion. The

^ Enquiry into the Causes and Alienations of the Delaware and
Shawanee Indians, etc. London, 1759. By Charles Thomson,
afterwards Secretary of Congress.



ON THE FRONTIER. 75

whole expedition was rash in the extreme. When
Washington left Will's Creek he was aware that
he was Sfoing: to meet a force of a thousand men
with only a hundred and fifty raw recruits at his
back. In the same spirit he pushed on ; and after
the Jumonville affair, although he knew that the
wilderness about him was swarming with enemies,
he still struo:o:led forward. When forced to retreat
he made a stand at the Meadows and offered bat-
tle in the open to his more numerous and more
prudent foes, for he was one of those men who by
nature regard courage as a substitute for everything,
and who have a contempt for hostile odds. He was
ready to meet any number of French and Indians
with cheerful confidence and with real pleasure.
He wrote, in a letter which soon became famous,
that he loved to hear bullets whistle, a sage obser-
vation which he set down in later years as a folly
of youth. Yet this boyish outburst, foolish as it
was, has a meaning to us, for it was essentially
true. Washington had the fierce fighting temper
of the Northmen. He loved battle and danger, and
he never ceased to love them and to give way to
their excitement, although he did not again set
down such sentiments in boastful phrase that made
the world laugh. Men of such temper, moreover,
are naturally imperious and have a fine disregard
of consequences, with the result that their allies,
Indian or otherwise, often become impatient and
finally useless. The campaign was perfectly wild
from the outset, and if it had not been for the utter



76 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

indifference to danger displayed by Washington,
and the consequent timidity of the French, that
particular body of Virginians would have been per-
manently lost to the British Empire.

But we learn from all this many things. It ap-
pears that Washington was not merely a brave man,
but one who loved fighting for its own sake. The
whole expedition shows an arbitrary temper and
the most reckless courage, valuable qualities, but
here unrestrained, and mixed with very little pru-
dence. Some important lessons were learned by
Washington from the rough teachings of inexora-
ble and unconquerable facts. He received in this
campaign the first taste of that severe experience
which by its training developed the self-control and
mastery of temper for which he became so remark-
able. He did not spring into life a perfect and
impossible man, as is so often represented. On the
contrary, he was educated by circumstances ; but the
metal came out of the furnace of experience finely
tempered, because it was by nature of the best and
with but little dross to be purged away. In addi-
tion to all this he acquired for the moment what
would now be called a European reputation. He
was known in Paris as an assassin, and in Eng-
land, thanks to the bullet letter, as a " fanfaron "
and brave braggart. With these results he wended
his way home much depressed in spirits, but not in
the least discouraged, and fonder of fighting than
ever.

Virginia, however, took a kinder view of the



ON THE FRONTIER. 77

campaign than did her defeated soldier. She ap-
preciated the gaUantry of the offer to fight in the
open and the general conduct of the troops, and
her House of Burgesses passed a vote of thanks to
Washington and his officers, and gave money to
his men. In August he rejoined his regiment, and
renewed the vain struggle against incompetence and
extravagance, and as if this were not enough, his
sense of honor was wounded and his temper much
irritated by the governor's playing false to the
prisoners taken in the Jumonville fight. While
thus engaged, news came that the French were off
their guard at Fort Duquesne, and Dinwiddie was
for having the regiment of undisciplined troops
march again into the wilderness. Washington,
however, had learned something, if not a great deal,
and he demonstrated the folly of such an attempt
in a manner too clear to be confuted.

Meantime the Burgesses came together, and more
money being voted, Dinwiddie hit on a notable plan
for quieting dissensions between regulars and pro-
vincials by dividing all the troops into independent
companies, with no officer higher than a captain.
Washington, the only officer who had seen fighting
and led the regiment, resented this senseless policy,
and resigning his commission withdrew to Mount
Vernon to manage the estate and attend to his own
affairs. He was driven to this course still more
strongly by the original cause of Dinwiddie's ar-
rangement. The English government had issued
an order that officers holding the king's commis-



78 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

sion should rank provincial officers, and that pro-
vincial generals and field officers should have no
rank when a general or field officer holding a royal
commission was present. The degradation of being
ranked by every whipper-snapper who might hold
a royal commission by virtue, perhaps, of being the
bastard son of some nobleman's cast-off mistress
was more than the temper of George Washing-ton
could bear, and when Governor Sharpe, general by
the king's commission, and eager to secure the ser-
vices of the best fighter in Virginia, offered him a
company and urged his acceptance, he replied in
language that must have somewhat astonished his
excellency. " You make mention in your letter,"
he wrote to Colonel Fitzhugh, Governor Sharpe's
second in command, " of my continuing in the ser-
vice, and retaining my colonel's commission. This
idea has filled me with surprise ; for, if you think
me capable of holding a commission that has nei-
ther rank nor emolument annexed to it, you must
entertain a very contemptible opinion of my weak-
ness, aud believe me to be more empty than the
commission itself. ... In short every captain,
bearing the king's commission, every half-pay offi-
cer, or others appearing with such a commission,
would rank before me. . . . Yet my inclinations
are strongly bent to arms."

It was a bitter disappointment to withdraw from
military life, but Washington had an intense sense
of personal dignity ; not the small vanity of a petty
mind, but the quality of a proud man conscious of



ON THE FRONTIER. 79

his own strength and purpose. It was of immense
value to the American people at a later day, and
there is something very instructive in this early re-
volt against the stupid arrogance which England
has always thought it wise to display toward this
country. She has paid dearly for indulging it, but
it has seldom cost her more than when it drove
Washington from her service, and left in his mind
a sense of indignity and injustice.

Meantime this Virginian campaigning had started
a great movement. England was aroused, and it
was determined to assail France in Nova Scotia,
from New York and on the Ohio. In accordance
with this plan General Braddock arrived in Virginia
February 20, 1755, with two picked regiments, and
encamped at Alexandria. Thither Washington used
to ride and look longingly at the pomp and glitter,
and wish that he were engaged in the service.
Presently this became known, and Braddock, hear-
ing of the young Virginian's past experience, offered
him a place on his staff with the rank of colonel
where he would be subject only to the orders of the
general, and could serve as a volunteer. He there-
fore accepted at once, and threw himself into his
new duties with hearty good-will. Every step was
full of instruction. At Annapolis he met the gov-
ernors of the other colonies, and was interested and
attracted by this association with distinguished pub-
lic men. In the army to which he was attached
he studied with the deepest attention the best dis-
cipline of Europe, observing everything and forget-



80 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

ting nothing, tlius preparing himself unconsciously
to use against his teachers the knowledge he ac-
quired.

He also made warm friends with the English
officers, and was treated with consideration by his
commander. The universal practice of all English-
men was to behave contemptuously to the colonists,
but there was something about Washington which
made this impossible. They all treated him with
the utmost courtesy, vaguely conscious that beneath
the pleasant, quiet manner there was a strength of
character and ability such as is rarely found, and
that this was a man whom it was unsafe to affront.
There is no stronger instance of Washington's
power of impressing himself upon others than that
he commanded now the respect and affection of his
general, who was the last man to be easily or favor-
ably affected by a young provincial officer.

Edward Braddock was a veteran soldier, a skilled
disciplinarian, and a rigid martinet. He was nar-
row-minded, brutal, and brave. He had led a fast
life in society, indulging in coarse and violent dis-


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