Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

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decisive measures, in order to expel the French ; an


order was therefore issued by the governor and coun-
cil, for the building of two forts upon the Ohio, and
the raising of two hundred men for the purpose of
accomplishing the object. The command of these
troops was given to Washington. Further measures
were also adopted; other troops were raised, and
Washington received the appointment of lieutenant-
colonel. At last, with three small companies, he
proceeded to Will's Creek, Avhcre he learned that the
French had captured a small fort on the Ohio, already
begun by the English, under Captain Trent. This was
an open act of hostility, which seemed to render his
position critical ; he therefore sent expresses to the gov-
ernors of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, beg-
ging for reinforcements. At the same time, he pushed
boldly forward into the wilderness, occupying his men
in clearing and preparing the road as they advanced.

The news soon arrived that a party of French
troops was advancing upon the Virginians. Not
knowing their number, Washington hastened to a
position called the Great Meadows, cleared away the
bushes, threw up entrenchments, and prepared for the
event. After a short time, however, he put himself
at the head of forty men, and set off to join some
friendly Indians, who Avere at the distance of six
miles, and commanded by a chief called the Half-
king. The night was dark, and the rain fell in
torrents. The party, however, pushed on, gToping
their Avay through the intricacies of the forest, and
clambering over rocks and fallen trees.

At length they reached the Indian camp, and, being
joined by the Avarriors under the Half-king, they


marched in concert against the enemy, whom they
found in an obscure retreat, surrounded by rocks.
Washington's men immediately commenced an attack,
and, after a smart skirmish, the French ceased to
.resist. Their commander, M. de Joumonvillc, and
ten of his men were killed, and twenty-two were
taken prisoners. This event occurred on the 2Sth of
May, 1754. The prisoners were conducted to the
Great Meadows, and thence, under a guard, to Gov-
ernor Dinwiddie. This act, being one of the first in
the long and bloody war tliat followed, was severely
scrutinized and loudlj'- condemned by the French.
Yet it appears to have been fully justified by the
circumstances of the time.

The western army was soon increased to four hun-
dred men, and Washington, foreseeing that, as soon as
the French at Fort Duquesne received information of
the capture of Joumonville's party, they would send a
force against him, took the most active measures to
enlarge and strengthen the entrenchments at the
Great Meadows. To the structure thus hastily
erected, he gave the name of Fort Necessity. News
soon came that the French were reinforced by troops
from Canada, and a strong detachment would shortly
be despatched against the English. Alarmed by the
prospect of coming hostilities, the Indians gathered to
the fort from all quarters. Among them was the
Half-king and his warriors, Alaquippa, a sable queen
of the forest, and other persons of distinction, with
numerous attendants. These made a heavy demand
upon the stores of Fort Necessity, and embarrassed,
rather than aided, the Encrlish cause. The Indians,


throughout the war, being ever greedy of presents,
making large requisitions for supphes. and agitated
by constant jealousies, were eVer a source of anxiety
and vexation. They were sometimes useful as scouts,
but never effective in battle. They hung around the
army to be fed and feasted, yet were always ready
to sell their allegiance to the highest bidder. Encum-
bered by these allies, and contending with jealousies
and divisions among his troops ; far removed from aid.
and threatened with the appearance of a powerful
enemy, Washington's position demanded the highest
exercise of a soldier's courage, prudence and decision
— and happily these were at his command.

He had advanced some miles toward the Monon-
gahela river, but he now determined to retreat and
make a stand at Fort Necessity. This position, lying
near the foot of Laurel Hill, and a few yards from the
great Cumberland road, was now strengthened, and
the most active exertions were made to prepare for
the enemy. On the morning of the 3d of July, a
Vv^ounded sentinel came in, giving information that
the enemy, nine hundred strong, were at hand. At
eleven o'clock, they approached the fort, and the
action began. The rain fell heavily, but the French
and Indians, sheltered by the trees around, poured
their shot upon the little army within the garrison.
This was bravely returned, and though the trenches
of the fort were filled with water, and many of the
guns of the English incapable of being discharged,
the little band, with Spartan valor, fought on till night
closed the scene. The action had continued for nine
hours, when the French requested a parley. Nego-


tiation followed, and Washington agreed to surrende*
the fort, taking, however, his men, arms and baggag*-
with him. Agreeably to these stipulations, he marche/
the next morning for the station at "Will's Crock
Leaving his men at this place, he proceeded to Vir
ginia, and had the satisfaction of receiving the thank"
of the legislature of the colony, as well as the applause
of the c(jj.mtr3'.

The zeal of Governor Dinwiddic was greater tha»
his discretion. He therefore proceeded to adop'
impracticable schemes, and finally established »■
system which placed the officers of the Virginian troopr
below those of the same rank holding commissionr
fram the king. Such was its operation, that Colone>
Washington had but the rank of a captain, and wa>
placed beneath officers whom he had before com
manded. To such a degradation he could not submit .
he therefore resignT.d his commission, left the army,
and spent the winter in retirement.

In the spring. General Braddock arrived from Grea;
Britain Avith two fine regiments, and invited Wash
ington to take part in the coming campaign againsf
the French at the Avest, holding his former rank, an^
making part of the general's military family. To thi»
he acceded, and thus, as a volunteer, he participat'ea
in one of the most memorable and disastrous events
of our early historA^ Braddock was brave, but self-
willed and rash. He marched into the western Avilds
with a powerful and well-appointed army, confident
himself of victory, and exciting throughout the country
the liveliest expectations of success.

Early in July he approached Fort Duquesne, now


Pittsburg, the object of his expedition. On the 9th
of the month, the troops had crossed the river Monon-
gahela, and now moved along its southern margin.
It was a brave spectacle. Their arms glittered in the
sun, and their prospects were bright as their wea-
pons. Washington often said, in after years, that he
had never seen so imposing a scene as was exhibited
by that gallant army, pouring in their proud array,
tJirough the stately forests, upon that lovely summer
morning. Alas, how soon was their pride humbled ;
their joy turned to sorrow and mourning!

The English army now amounted to near fifteen
hundred men. About one o'clock, their advanced
parties were suddenly startled with musketry, dis-
charged from amid the rocks and bushes around.
They were filled Avith instant consternation, for no
enemy was in sight. They fired in turn, but at
random and without effect. They soon gave way,
and fell back upon the artillery and other portions of
the army, striking into the whole mass a fatal panic.
The general behaved with the utmost courage, and
the officers strove to rally their men. But all was
confusion. They continued for nearly three hours
in this fearful condition, the troops huddling together
in confused groups, sometimes firing at random, and
shooting down their own troops. The Virginians
adopted the Indian mode of fighting, taking shelter
behind trees and rocks, and did much execution; but
Braddock, with strange infatuation, forbade this, and
sought to rally his soldiers in platoons, as if they were
fighting upon the smooth, level plains of Flanders.
The enemy continued their deadly fire, and though


unseen, the English soldiers fell like helpless deer
before them. More than half the gallant army that
had crossed the river that morning, so high in hope,
so full of bright expectation, were either killed or
wounded. Braddock himself received a mortal
wound, and many of his best oflicers fell by his

Washington had forewarned the general of the
dangers he had to meet and the peculiar m.ode of
warfare that would be adopted. But his counsel was
rejected with disdain. Still, in the battle, he behav^ed
with the greatest courage and resolution. The other
aids were killed, and the general's orders devolved
on him alone. He rode fearlessly in every direction,
and thus became a mark to the sharp-shooters that
lay ambushed around him. His companions were
swept away, but he moved unhurt amid the shower
of death. Two horses were shot under him ; four
bullets passed through his coat, and every other
officer, on horseback, was either killed or wounded, —
but he was saved ! Surely, there was a Providence
watching over him that day, preserving and fitting
him for the great events over which he was afterwards
to preside.

Jxi this fatal battle, the English lost nearly seven hun-
dred and fifty men in killed and wounded; of whom
nearly sixty were officers. On the other hand, the
enemy's loss was small. Their force amouated to
eight hundred, of whom six hundred were Indians
According to their returns, not more than forty were
killed. AVashington took command of the remnant of
the army, and conducted the retreat with the greates'
VI.— 3


ability. The wounded general was borne alont,, but
he expired on the fourth day, and was buried near
Fort Necessity. The troops at length reached Fort
Cumberland, and Washington, no longer connected
with the service, retired to Mount Vernon.

Though the heaviest denunciations fell upon Brad-
dock, Washington's character, as a gallant and able
soldier, was established by these events. His wisdom,
courage and resources had shone conspicuously, and
were applauded by the whole country. His mer-
its were acknowledged by the Virginia legislature,
and the sum of three hundred pounds was grant-
ed for his services. He was strongly pressed to
continue in public life, and, August 14, 1755, he
was appointed to the command of the Virginia troops.
Being now established in a command of high respon-
sibility, he applied himself to the discharge of its
duties with that union of energ)'' and circumspection
which marked his character. For several years he
continued to devote himself to the service of his coun-
try, and at last, in 1758, he resigned his commission
and retired to private life. Though the actions he
had performed were not splendid, they were arduous
and useful, and extorted, as well from the country as
the officers and soldiers, the most decided marks of
respect and approbation.

On the 6th January, 1759, he was married to Mrs.
]\Iartha Custis, widow of John Parke Custis, and dis-
tinguished alike for her beauty, accomplishments and
wealth. By this marriage he received a large acces-
sion of property, which, added to the estate at Mount
Vernon, and the fortune hp had otherwise in posses-


sion, constituted an ample fortune. To the duties and
pleasures of private life, Washington now devoted
himself. He was happy in his marriage; the union
subsisted for forty years. The character of his amia-
ble lady has ever been a theme of praise. She was
courteous, yet dignified ; remarkable for her deeds of
charity and her unaffected piety, and for discharging,
in an exemplary manner, alike the duties of every
private as well as every public station.

Fifteen years now passed, during which Washing-
ton was constantly a member of the Virginia House
of Burgesses, being returned by a large majority of
votes at every election. With his accustomed punc-
tuality, and while his own mind was expanding and
ripening by means of study and reflection, he was
exercising a powerful influence in the legislature by
his sound judgment, his quick perception and his
straight-forward sincerity.

In April, 1764, he took up his residence perma-
nently at Mount Vernon, with no higher aim than to
cultivate the social virtues, fulfll his duties as a citizen,
and sustain the dignity of a country gentleman. For
these simple, yet happy pursuits, he was admirably
fitted, and, even when his fame was highest, he seems
to have yearned for the comfort and content of his
country home.

It is pleasant to pause a moment and contemplate
a great man, while engaged in the common, yet
peaceful pursuits of life. Washington was now a
planter, and it appears that he was as industrious
and systematic here, as in the more responsible
stations he had occupied. He was addicted to hospi-


tality, and the most distinguished men in Virginia
were his frequent guests. He was fond of amuse-
ments, and pursued tlie sports of fishing and the
chase, with avidity. He was, at the same time, ready
to make himself useful to all around him ; he took
upon himself various trusts, acted as an arbitrator in
settling disputes, took part in parish affairs, and was
a vestryman in the church, — in all which stations he
displayed a disinterestedness, candor, and good faith,
which secured the affection and respect of his neigh-

As the war of the revolution approached, Washing-
ton watched public events with a scrutinizing eye.
He sympathized with the people of the country in
their opposition to British encroachments on our
rights, and participated in the various measures of the
Virginia legislature, to resist them. He was also a
member of the first congress, which assembled at Phil-
adelphia September 5, 1774. When Patrick Henry,
who was a member of this body, was asked who he
thought the greatest man in it, — he replied, " If you
speak of eloquence, Mr. Eutledge, of South Carolina,
is by far the greatest orator ; but if you speak of solid
information and sound judgment. Colonel Washington
is unquestionably the greatest man on that floor."

The business of congress being over, Washington
returned to the occupations of his farm ; but the next
year he was a member of the second continental
congress, and, in June, he was appointed to the
chief command of the army that had assembled at
Boston. Washington, who had by no means solicited
this elevated, but fearful trust, received it with modest


(liflideiice, at the same time pledging himself to exert
his utmost efforts in behalf of his country dunng the
impending struggle.

His commission was dated June 19th. He made
immediate preparations for his departure, and arrived
at Cambridge July 2d. He took command of the
army on the next day. It is not easy to conceive of
a situation more perplexing than that in which he
was now placed. The battles of Lexington and
Bunker Hill had been fought, and the people had
flocked from all quarters to the rescue. They came,
bringing such weapons as they possessed. They had
collected to the amount of several thousands, but they
were without discipline, and almost entirely destitute
of efficient arms ; they were poorly provided with mu-
nitions of war and the means of support. At the same
time, the British forces held possession of Boston,
where they were well fed, and amply supplied with
military stores and equipments.

Unappalled, however, by the difficulties of his situa-
tion, Washington applied himself, with sleepless vigi-
lance and zeal, to his duties. Under the magic
influence of these efforts, order seemed to grow out of
confusion, strength spring from weakness, and confi-
dence to take the place of distrust.

When Washington took the command of the army,
it was his expectation that he should be able to visit
his home during the winter. But this he found
impracticable. Accordingly, he A\Tote to his wife,
and she joined him at head quarters in December,
where she remained till spring ; and it appears that
this was her practice during the war. She passed


the "winters with him in camp, and returned, at the
opening of the campaign, to Mount Vernon. For
eight years and a half he never visited ]\Iount Vernon
but once, and then casually, on his way to YorktoAvn.

As he was unable to visit his estates, he gave them
in charge to his relative, Lund Washington, who
appears to have executed the trust with diligence and
fidelity. He was accustomed to write to the general,
two or three times a month, giving him an account
of everything that happened. In reply, Washington,
on one occasion, wrote him as follows : " Let the hos-
pitality of the house, with respect to the poor, be kept
up. Let no one go hungry away. If any of this
kind of people be in want of corn, supply their neces-
sities, provided it does not encourage them in idleness ;
and I have no objection to your giving my money in
charity, to the amount of forty or fifty pounds a year,
when you think it well bestowed. What I mean by
having no objection, is, that it is my desire that it
should be done. You are to consider that neither
my wife nor myself, is in the way to do these good
offices. In all other respects, I recommend it to you,
and have no doubt of your observing the greatest
economy and frugality; as I suppose you know, that
I do not get a farthing for my services here more than
my expenses. It becomes necessary, therefore, for
me to be saving at home."

We shall not follow Washington through the
minuter details of the war. It will be sufficient to
state a few of the leading events. In March, 1776
having gained Dorchester heights, and thus obtained a
position to annoy the British in Boston, the latter were


compelled to evacuate the place, and the American
army entered it in triumph.

"Washington now proceeded to New York, which
it was apparent was to be the object of attack. Here
lie devoted himself to the strengthening of the
defences. On the 27th of August, the two armies
met upon Long Island, near the city, and the Americans
were defeated with great loss. With consummate skill,
Washington withdrew his forces, by night, saving
his military stores and artillery. For two days and
two nights he Avas on horseback superintending the

In September, he was compelled to evacuate New
York, and move northward, making a stand at White
Plains. Here an engagement took place, and a por-
tion of the American forces were driven back. He
was now obliged to retreat into New Jersey. His
situation was gloomy in the extreme. The militia
had proved ineffective in battle, and the army was
dwindled to a shadow. But that steadfast firmness
which constituted one of the prominent features of his
character, never for a moment forsook him. Undis-
mayed by the perils which threatened him, — when
other hearts wavered, — ^^vhen congress was shaken, —
he did not for a moment despair, nor relax his exer-
tions, nor omit anything that could obstruct the progi-ess
of the enemy or improve his own condition. Conscious
of the rectitude of our cause, he never seemed to
doubt of final success. Whenever he appeared before
his harassed and enfeebled army, his countenance
was serene, his demeanor unembarrassed. He be-


trayed no fear himself, and his perfect self-posses-
sion inspired confidence in the hosoms of others.

In his retreat through New Jersey, Washington
was followed by the British army, flushed with
victory, highly disciplined, and perfectly equipped,
while his own troops were dispirited, destitute, and
daily decreasing by the expiration of their terms of
service. In December, the British general made an
attempt to get possession of a number of boats for the
transportation of his forces over the Delaware; but
having failed, he went into winter quarters.

Feeling the necessity of some eflbrt to revive the
drooping spirits of the country, and having received
some effective reinforcements, Washington resolved
upon the bold attempt to attack the British posts on
the Delaware. Being on the western side of that
river, he crossed it by night, and, coming suddenly
upon Trenton, captured a thousand Hessians, belong-
ing to the British army This occurred December

After this success, Washington remained a
while at Trenton ; but, on the 3d of January, he
attacked three British regiments at Princeton, killed
more than an hundred men, and captured three hun-
dred prisoners. Throughout the battle, he appeared
in the hottest parts of the combat, giving orders and
animating his troops. These successful operations
broke up the British posts upon the Delaware, revived
the flagging hopes of the country, and increased the
fame of the American commander. At the moment
that his army was thought to be on the verge of
annihilation, in the face of a victorious enemy, he


commenced a scries of oflcnsivc operations, which
disconcerted the plans of the foe, and seemed sud-
denly to convert disaster into triumph. Such results,
under such circumstances, afford the most conclusive
evidence of the highest order of military talent.

The campaign of 1777, imposed the most arduous
duties upon Washington. Various battles were fought,
and, on the 10th of September, the Americans were
defeated in the memorable engagement of the Brandy-
wine ; this opened the way of the British to Phila-
delphia, and they entered it on the 26th.

The following winter, Washington took up his
quarters at Valley Forge, twenty miles north of Phil-
adelphia. Here the sufferings of the army were
excessive, from the intense severity of the season, and
want of the comforts of life. Such was the despon-
dence of the country at this time, that the incessant
labors, the unyielding patriotism, the steadfast fidelity,
the consummate abilities of Washington, could not
shield him from complaint — from the imputation
of want of energy, as indicated by want of success.
Consequently, an intrigue was set on foot for super-
seding him in the command of the army, and giving
it to Gates, the victor of Saratoga. But to weaken
his hold upon the confidence and affection of the great
body of the people and the army, was found impossi-
ble, and even the troops Avho had conquered under
Gates, received the idea of the change with indigna-
tion. The machinations of his enemies were frus-
trated without any efforts on his part, and only did
injury to themselves; nor did they make any undue
irnpression upon Washington's steady mind, or serve


in any way to change his measures. His sensibilities
were for his country, and not for himself. What real
greatness of soul did he evince at this trying period !

The British evacuated Philadelphia, in June, 1778.
They retreated upon New York, through New Jersey,
followed by Washington, who brought them to action
on the 24th of the month, at Monmouth. The day
was excessively hot, and the battle was severely con-
tested. The Americans did not gain a decided vic-
tory, yet the result was favorable, as the British
retreated the ensuing night, and the spirits of the
country, and especially of the army, received a favor-
able impulse. It is said that Washington never
appeared to greater advantage than in this battle.
His calmness, his courage, his admirable dispositions
exercised the most powerful influence, and determined
the fortunate results of the day.

From this period to the siege of Yorktown no inci-
dent, calling for particular mention, occurred in Wash-
ington's career. He remained in the neighborhood
of New York, watching the enemy and taking every
measure for the welfare of the country, without being
able to perform any striking exploit. He had to con-
tend with difficulties, the mastering of which required
higher qualities than are necessary to gain a brilliant
victory. His soldiers could scarcely be kept from
perishing with cold and hunger, or from dispersing and
living on plunder. They were daily leavmg the
service ; some regiments mutinied, and others revolted
and marched home ; at the same time the most
urgent requisitions for recruits proved unavailing.
Nothing could be looser and more precarious than the

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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 2 of 21)