« PreviousContinue »
vented their acceptance. To his inexpressible joy, the project attained in the year 1758 the 1758. complete approbation of general Forbes, who was charged with the defence of the middle and southern colonies. This being resolved upon, the movements of the army were directed to that point. Part of the force destined for this expedition was at Philadelphia, part at Raystown, and part dispersed on the frontiers of Virginia. To bring all together, was a work of time and difficulty. Washington urged the necessity of an early campaign ; but such delays took place, that he did not receive orders to assemble his regiment at Winchester till the 24th of May, nor to proceed from thence to fort Cumberland till the 24th of June, nor to proceed to Raystown till the 21st of September. The main body did not commence their march from Raystown till the ad of October, and it was as late as the 25th of November when they reached fort Duquesne. These delays threatened to render the campaign abortive, and were extremely mortifying to Washington. He urged the necessity of expedition, and most pointedly remonstrated against one of the principal causes of delay. This was a resolution adopted by his superiors for opening a new road for the army
in preference to that which was commonly known by the name of general Braddock's. Being orerruled, he quietly submitted. Instead of embarrassing measures he thought injudicious, the whole energies of himself and his regiment were exerted to make the most of those which his commanding officer preferred. The progress
army was so slow, that it did not reach Loyal Hannah till the 5th of November. Here it was determined, in a council of war, “ to be unadvisable to proceed any
farther that campaign." If this resolution had been adhered to, the only alternative would have been to winter an army of 8,000 men in a cold inhospitable wilderness, remote from all friendly settlements, or to tread back their steps, and wait for a more favorable season. In either case, they would have suffered immensely. The propriety of the remonstrances made by Washington against the many delays which had taken place, now became obviously striking. The hopes of restoring peace to the frontier settlements, by reducing fort Duquesne, began to vanish. But, contrary to all human apo pearances, success was now offered to their grasp at the very moment they had given up every hope of obtaining it.
So:ne prisoners were taken, who gave such information of the state of the garrison, as induced a reversal of the late determinations, and encouraged the general to proceed. Washington was in front, superintending the opening of the road, for the accommodation of the troops. They advanced with slow and cautious steps until they reached fort Duquesne. To their great surprise, they found the post evacuated, and that the garrison had retreated down the Ohio. The reasons for the abandonment of so advantageous a position must be looked for elsewhere. The British had urged the war with so much vigor and success against the French, to the northward of the Ohio, that no reinforcements could be spared to fort Duquesne. The British fleet had captured a considerable part of the reinforcements destined by Trance for her colonies. The tide of fortune had begun to turn against the French in favor of the English. This weakened the influence of the former over the Indians, and caused them to withdraw from the support of the garrison. Under different circumstances, the success of. the campaign would have been doubtful, perhaps impracticable.
The benefits which resulted from the acquisition of fort Duquesne proved the soundness of Washington's judgment, in so warmly urging for three years an expedition for its
reduction. These were not confined to Virginia, but extended to Pennsylvania and Maryland. While the French were in possession of that post, the Indians near the Ohio were entirely at their beck. This was their place of rendezvous, and from it they made frequent and ruinous incursions into these three colonies. They neither spared age nor sex, but killed or captivated indiscriminately all who came in their way. Fire and devastation, the scalping knife, and tomahawk, marked their route. A complete revolution in the disposition of the Indians resulted from the expulsion of the French. Always prone to take part with the strongest, the Indians deserted their ancient friends, and paid court to those who by recent conquest were now in possession of the country. A treaty of peace was soon after concluded with all the Indian tribes, between the Lakes and the Ohio. Fort Buquesne henceforward assumed the name of fort Pitt, received considerable repairs, and was garrisoned by 200 men from Washington's regiment. It became as useful in future to the English settlements as it had been injurious while in the occupation of the French.
The campaign of 1758 ended the military career of colonel Washington as a provincial
officer. The great object on which his heart was set, the reduction of fort Duquesne, being accomplished, he resigned his commission. During the three preceding years, in which he was charged with the defence of Virginia, none of those great events occurred which enliven and adorn the page of history; yet the duties he performed were extremely arduous. He established exact discipline in his regi. ment, though unaccustomed to restraint, and infused into them such a spirit as made them when in action fight like men and die like soldiers.
The difficulties of defending such an exe tensive frontier with so inadequate a force, would have chagrined almost any
other man into a resignation of the command, but only excited in him greater importunity with the ruling powers for the correction of errors. The plans he proposed, the systems he recommended for conducting the war, displayed an uncommon vigor of mind. He retired from the army with the thanks of his regiment, and the esteem not only of his countrymen, but of the officers of the British army; and, what is particularly remarkable, with the undiminished confidence of the frontier settlers, to whom he was unable to extend that protection they expected from his hands. C4