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Title: Historic Highways of America (Vol. 3) - Washington's Road and The First Chapter of the Old French War
Author: Hulbert, Archer Butler, 1873-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [_Follows track of Washington's Road; near by, on the right,
  Washington found Jumonville's "embassy" hidden in the Ravine_]]


  Washington's Road (NEMACOLIN'S PATH)
  The First Chapter of the Old French War


  _With Maps and Illustrations_






  PREFACE                                             11
    I. WASHINGTON AND THE WEST                        15
  III. THE ARMS OF THE KING OF FRANCE                 63
   IV. THE VIRGINIAN GOVERNOR'S ENVOY                 85
    V. THE VIRGINIA REGIMENT                         120
   VI. THE CHAIN OF FEDERAL UNION                    189


        of Washington's Road)                         _Frontispiece_

   II. WASHINGTON'S ROAD                                          93

        LAKE ERIE (showing designs of the French
        for erecting forts southward of the lakes;
        from the original in the British Museum)                 109

        JUMONVILLE'S PARTY                                       145

    V. SITE OF FORT NECESSITY                                    157

        (_A_, Plan of Lewis's survey; _B_, Sparks's plan)        175

  VII. DIAGRAMS OF FORT NECESSITY                                179


The following pages are largely devoted to Washington and his times as
seen from the standpoint of the road he opened across the Alleghanies in
1754. Portions of this volume have appeared in the _Interior_, the _Ohio
State Archæological and Historical Quarterly_, and in a monograph,
_Colonel Washington_, issued by Western Reserve University. The author's
debt to Mr. Robert McCracken, Mr. Louis Fazenbaker, and Mr. James
Hadden, all of Pennsylvania, is gratefully acknowledged.

                                                              A. B. H.

MARIETTA, OHIO, November 17, 1902.

Washington's Road


The First Chapter of the Old French War



If you journey today from Cumberland, Maryland, on the Potomac, across
the Alleghanies to Pittsburg on the Ohio, you will follow the most
historic highway of America, through scenes as memorable as any on our

You may make this journey on any of the three thoroughfares: by the
Cumberland Road, with all its memorials of the gay coaching days "when
life was interwoven with white and purple," by Braddock's Road, which
was used until the Cumberland Road was opened in 1818, or by
Washington's Road, built over the famous Indian trail known during the
first half of the eighteenth century as Nemacolin's Path. In certain
parts all three courses are identical, the two latter being generally
so; and between these three "streams of human history" you may read the
record of the two old centuries now passed away.

Come and walk for a distance on the old Indian trail. We leave the
turnpike, where it swings around the mountain, and mount the ascending
ridge. The course is hard, but the path is plain before us. Small trees
are growing in the center of it, but no large ones. The track, worn a
foot into the ground by the hoofs of Indian ponies laden with peltry,
remains, still, an open aisle along the mountain crest. Now, we are
looking down--from the Indian's point of vantage. Perhaps the red man
rarely looked up, save to the sun and stars or the storm cloud, for he
lived on the heights and his paths were not only highways, they were the
highestways. As you move on, if your mind is keen toward the long ago,
the cleared hillsides become wooded again, you see the darkling valley
and hear its rivulet; far beyond, the next mountain range appears as it
did to other eyes in other days--and soon you are looking through the
eyes of the heroes of these valleys, Washington, or his comrades Stephen
or Lewis, Gladwin, hero of Detroit, or Gates, conqueror at Saratoga, or
Mercer, who was to give his life to his country at Princeton. You are
moving, now, with the thin line of scarlet uniformed Virginians; you are
standing in the hastily constructed earthen fort; if it rains, you look
up to the dim outlines of the wooded hills as the tireless young
Washington did when his ignorant interpreter betrayed him to the
intriguing French commander; you march with Braddock's thin red line to
that charnel ground beyond the bloody ford--you stand at Braddock's
grave while the army wagons hurry over it to obliterate its sight from
savage eyes.

Explain it as you will, our study of these historic routes and the
memorials which are left of them becomes, soon, a study of its hero,
that young Virginian lieutenant-colonel. Even the battles fought here
seem to have been of little real consequence, for New France fell, never
to rise, with the capture of Quebec. But it is not of little consequence
that here a brave training school was to be had for the future heroes of
the Revolution. For in what did Washington, for instance, need a
training more than in the art of maneuvering a handful of ill-equipped,
discouraged men out of the hands of a superior army? What lesson did
that youth need more than the lesson that Right becomes Might in God's
own good time? And here in these Alleghany glades we catch the most
precious pictures of the lithe, keen-eyed, sober lad, who, taking his
lessons of truth and uprightness from his widowed mother's knee, his
strength hardened by the power of the mountain rivers, his heart, now
thrilled by the songs of the mountain birds, now tempered by a St.
Pierre's hauteur, a Braddock's rebuke, or the testy suspicions of a
provincial governor, became the hero of Valley Forge and Yorktown, the
immeasurable superior of St. Pierre, Dinwiddie, Forbes, Kaunitz, or

For consider the record of the Washington of 1775, beneath the Cambridge
elm. Twenty-one years before, he had capitulated, with the first army he
ever commanded, after the first day's battle he ever fought. He marched
with Braddock's ill-starred army, in which he had no official position
whatever, until defeat and rout threw on his shoulders a large share of
the responsibility of saving the army from complete annihilation. For
the past sixteen years he had led a quiet life on his farms. Why, now,
in 1775, should he have had the unstinted confidence of all men in the
hour of his country's great crisis? Why should his march from Mount
Vernon to Cambridge have been a triumphal march? Professor McMaster
asserts that the General and the President are known to us, "but George
Washington is an unknown man." How untrue this was, at least, in 1775!
How the nation believed it knew the man! How much reputation he had
gained, while those by his side lost all of theirs! What a hero--of many
defeats! What a man to fight England to a standstill after many a wary,
difficult retreat and dearly fought battle-field! Aye--but he had been
to school with Gates and Mercer and Gladwin, Lewis and Boone, and
Stephen, on Braddock's twelve-foot swath of a road in the Alleghanies!

It was more than a century ago that George Washington died at Mount
Vernon. "I die hard," he said, "but I am not afraid to go." Motley's
true words of the death of William the Silent may be aptly quoted of
Washington: "As long as he lived, he was the guiding-star of a whole
brave nation, and when he died, the little children wept on the

If, as Professor McMaster has boldly said, "George Washington is an
unknown man," it is not, as might be inferred, because the man himself
was an enigma to his own generation, or that which immediately succeeded
him; it is because the General and the President have been remembered by
us, and the man, forgotten. If this is true, it is because our school
histories, the principal source from which the mass of the people
receive their information, are portraying only one of the fractions
which made the great man what he was. It is said: "He was as fortunate
as great and good." Do our school histories inform the youth of the land
why he was "fortunate" to the exclusion of why he was "great and good?"
If so, George Washington is, or soon will be, "an unknown man."

One hundred years ago he was not unknown as a man. "Washington is
dead," exclaimed Napoleon in the orders of the day, when he learned the
sad news; "this great man fought against tyranny; he consolidated the
liberty of his country. His memory will ever be dear to the French
people, as to all freemen in both hemispheres." Said Charles James Fox,
"A character of virtues, so happily tempered by one another and so
wholly unalloyed by any vices, is hardly to be found on the pages of
history." And these men spoke of whom--the General, the President, or
the man? If, as legend states, "the Arab of the desert talks of
Washington in his tent, and his name is familiar to the wandering
Scythian," what of other "fortunate" heroes, of William of Orange,
Gustavus Adolphus, and Cromwell, who, like Washington, consolidated the
liberties of their countries, and with an éclat far more likely to win
the admiration of an oriental?

Half a century ago, the attention of multitudes was directed to the man
Washington in the superb oratory of Edward Everett. Quoting that
memorable extract from the letter of the youthful surveyor, who boasted
of earning an honest dubloon a day, the speaker set before his
audiences "not an ideal hero, wrapped in cloudy generalities and a mist
of vague panegyric, but the real, identical man." And, again, he quoted
Washington's letter written to Governor Dinwiddie after Braddock's
defeat, that his hearers might "see it all--see the whole man." Was
Edward Everett mistaken, are these letters not extant today, or are they
unread? Surely, the last supposition must be the true one, if the man
Washington is being forgotten.

And look back to the school histories of Edward Everett's time. The
"reader" and "history" were one text-book in that day, and one of the
best known, "Porter's Rhetorical Reader," lies before me, prefaced May,
1831. From it notice two quotations which must have influenced youthful
ideas of Washington. One is the last verse of Pierpont's "Washington:"

  "God of our sires and sons,
  Let other Washingtons
        Our country bless,
  And, like the brave and wise
  Of by-gone centuries,
  Show that true greatness lies
        In righteousness."

The other, from the address "America," of the Irish orator Phillips;
having exalted Washington as general, statesman, and conqueror, he

"If he had paused there, history might have doubted what station to
assign him; whether at the head of her citizens, or her soldiers, her
heroes, or her patriots. But the last glorious act crowns his career,
and banishes the hesitation. Who, like Washington, after having
emancipated a hemisphere, resigned its crown, and preferred the
retirement of domestic life to the adoration of a land he might be
almost said to have created? Happy, proud America! The lightnings of
heaven yielded to your philosophy! The temptations of earth could not
seduce your patriotism!"

A candid review of the more popular school histories will bring out the
fact that the man Washington is almost forgotten, in so far as the
general and the statesman do not portray him. In one, "Young Folks'
History of the United States" (to name the production of an author whom
criticism cannot injure), there seems to be but one line, of five words,
which describes the character of Washington. Could we not forego, for
once, what the Indian chieftain said of the "charmed life" Washington
bore at Braddock's defeat, to make room for one little reason why
Washington was "completer in nature" and of "a nobler human type" than
any and all of the heroes of romance?

Mr. Otis Kendall Stuart has written a most interesting account of "The
Popular Opinion of Washington" as ascertained by inquiry among persons
of all ages, occupations, and conditions. He found that Washington was
held to be a "broad," "brave," "thinking," "practical," man; an
aristocrat, so far as the dignity of his position demanded, but willing
to "work with his hands," and with a credit that was "A1!" And "when he
did a thing, he did it;" and, if to the question, "Was he a great
general and statesman?" there was some hesitation, to the question, "Was
he a great man?" the answer was an unhesitating "Yes."

One may hold that such opinions as these have been gained from our
school histories, but I think they are not so much from the histories,
as from the popular legends of Washington, which, true and false, will
never be forgotten by the common people until they cease to represent
the _man_--not the patient, brave, and wary general, or the calm,
far-seeing statesman, but that "simple, stainless, and robust
character," as President Eliot has so aptly described it, "which served
with dazzling success the precious cause of human progress through
liberty, and so stands, like the sunlit peak of Matterhorn, unmatched in
all the world."

The real essence of that "simple, stainless, and robust character" is
nowhere so clearly seen as on these Alleghany trails. In the West with
Washington we may still "see it all--see the whole man."

To us of the Central West, the memory of Washington and his dearest
ambitions must be precious beyond that of any other American, whether
statesman, general, or seer. Under strange providential guidance the
mind and heart of that first American was turned toward the territories
lying between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi, and it is to be
doubted if any other portion of his country received so much of his
attention and study as this. Washington was the original
expansionist--not for expansion's sake, truly, but for country's sake
and duty's. If Washington was the father of his country, he was in a
stronger and more genuine sense the father of the West. It was begotten
of him. Others might have led the Revolutionary armies through the
valleys as deep and dark as those through which Washington passed, and
have eventually fought England to a similar standstill as did
Washington; at least Gates, Greene, and Putnam would never have
surrendered up the cause of the colonies. But of the West, who knew it
as Washington did? Who saw its possibilities, realized the advantages
which would accrue to the colonies from its possession, understood the
part it might play in the commercial development of the seaboard states?
Who else had traversed Nemacolin's little path before 1753?

If ever a finger was lifted by order of Providence it was the finger
which fired the first gun of the French and Indian war in that Alleghany
vale. And yet today what would the Washington of 1754 be
called--fighting redskins and foreigners with splendid relish in a far
distant portion of the country to gain possession of an almost pathless

Washington had, first, an extraordinary knowledge of the West which he
championed. Into Lord Fairfax's wild acres he went in his teens to earn
an honest dubloon a day. Each step of the young Washington in those
early years was fraught with the weight of destiny itself, and never has
human life showed more plainly the very hand of God directing,
preparing, guiding. These years were of incalculable value to the young
surveyor, bringing to his cheeks the brown of the forest leaves, to his
limbs the strength of the mountain rivers, and to his heart withal the
sweetness of the songs of mountain birds--for all the University of
Nature which he attended in the Alleghany mountains saw to it that her
pupil was built up in a most holy strength, as he had in him the most
holy faith--strength of limb, of mind, as well as soul.

Then the young man stepped upon the stage of history--not indirectly,
or obscurely, or undecidedly, but plain to the world and strong in his
conviction of the right of his cause and its ultimate triumph. His
mission to La Boeuf for Governor Dinwiddie marks the young Washington
conspicuously as a man fully alive to the questions of the hour and
their hidden meanings. In an unostentatious way he allowed the commander
of Fort Venango to imbibe too freely and rail with many an oath at
English presumption in hoping to oust France from the Ohio valley. Oh
that we might know in detail the young man's experience and feelings
during that one night on the Allegheny! What an example to young men is
this first public performance of Washington, to do as much more than
their mere duty as lies in their power! Washington did far more than was
expected of him, for, besides getting a clear idea of the genuineness of
French hostility, did he not report the strategic value of the point of
land at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela, the future sites
of Fort Duquesne and Pitt, and the present Pittsburg? And that point of
land has been, since Washington's attention was turned to it, the
strategic military position of the Central West.

As in the first, so in the second act of the drama of 1750-1760,
Washington was the chief figure. He signed the first treaty ever drawn
up in the Central West, with old Van Braam and Villiers, in a misty rain
at Fort Necessity. When, in quick succession, the French fortified the
spot Washington's genius had selected for a British fort, and the brave
bulldog Braddock came to his grave in the Monongahela forests,
Washington was perhaps the most conspicuous personage at the bloody ford
and battle-field.

When, then, in 1759, the young colonel took his bride, Martha Custis, to
Mount Vernon, he was well acquainted with the West, though it might seem
that thereafter its destiny and his were to be far apart. But not so.
The days that were passed in his early struggles for fame and fortune
were not forgotten. In the quiet of his farm life, and in the drowsy
halls of legislation the man could still hear the rippling of the
Alleghany streams and the soughing of those great forests, and many of
his daydreams found their setting in the rough, free land on whose
Indian trails and in whose meadow lands he had, as it were, found a new
world. Washington's seven or eight thousand acres near the Potomac were
not his only landed possessions. He counted his estates in far western
Pennsylvania, along the Ohio and the Great Kanawha. Something of his
interest in and solicitation for the future of the West must be
attributed to his interest in his own possessions. But his efforts for
the West benefited every acre of land and every insignificant squatter,
and no one can say with a shadow of reason that Washington's hope for
the West was a selfish hope. Yet his personal interest must not be
forgotten by a fair narrator. Together with his personal interest must
be mentioned the state pride which Washington had--and which every
healthy, hopeful, patriotic man should have. Washington was a Virginian
of Virginians and in view of the vast interests which his native state
had in the West (granted by ancient charter), his state pride and
ambition must have had large, appreciable influence in his contemplation
of western affairs. At times his prejudice made him a much criticized
man. Prior to the Revolution it may be said that Washington's interest
in the West was largely a personal one. He visited it at various times
in his own and in the interest of others. After the Revolution, his
interest may be said to have broadened--proportionately with the
broadening importance of the Central West to the new Republic whose best
interests were ever nearest his patriotic heart. Early in the eighties,
Washington's correspondence shows that his attention was devoted as
never before to the commercial aspect of the Central West. As we read
those letters, how strangely do the problems of transportation, for
instance, seem to us of this day! How the sight of a single fast freight
speeding from Chicago to Pittsburg would have made a laughing-stock of
the fondest theories of the great and wise men who were at the nation's
helm in those days! It is well known how the great transportation
companies struggle to get and hold certain strategic acres of land only
wide enough, it may be, for a single railway track. Who can believe
that any portion of this Central West, covered with swamps and primeval
forests, could have been so greatly prized a century and a quarter ago?
Yet this was true. It was not the river front at Cincinnati, nor the
lake shore at Cleveland or Chicago. These spots then could have been
bought for the shortest songs--and what was in that day considered of
priceless value could today be bought for $30 an acre. These were the
portages between the Cuyahoga and the Muskingum, the Scioto and the
Sandusky, the Maumee and the Wabash, etc. So all-important were these
strips of land in the eyes of Washington, that by the famous Ordinance
of 1787 they were voted by Congress "common highways and forever free."
But this was one of Washington's most determined ambitions, that the
headwaters of the Virginia rivers and the headwaters of the Ohio rivers,
both north and south, should be surveyed and made ready for the century
when the West should pour its riches toward the Atlantic seaboard. "The
navigation of the Ohio," he wrote in 1784 to General Harrison, "being
well known, they will have less to do in examination of it; but,
nevertheless, let the courses and distances be taken to the mouth of the
Muskingum and up that river to the carrying place of the Cuyahoga; down
the Cuyahoga to Lake Erie, and thence to Detroit. Let them do the same
with Big Beaver Creek and with the Scioto. In a word, let the waters
east and west of the Ohio which invite our notice by their proximity,
and by the ease with which land transportation may be had between them
and the lakes on the one side, and the rivers Potomac and James on the
other, be explored, accurately delineated, and a correct and corrected
map of the whole be presented to the public.... The object in my
estimation is of vast commercial and political importance." These words
were written little over a century ago, but were they the plans for the
canals from the Nile to the site of the pyramids they could hardly seem
more antiquated. Nevertheless they cannot but seem precious to us of the
Central West, for they portray the anxious, serious heart of the man,
and honest, high ambitions for things which seemed to many about him to
be the idlest dreaming.

Had Washington not held far different views from many of his
contemporaries, it is a moral certainty that the Central West would, at
the close of the Revolutionary War, have been divided up among European
powers, who for so long had been sending emissaries to Kentucky and the
Mississippi valley to alienate the border settlements from the
contemplated union with the colonies. England was ready at any moment to
urge Joseph Brant into Pontiac's old rôle of attempting to arouse the
old northwest, and she defiantly kept her flag floating over Sandusky
and Detroit and Fort Miami for twenty years after Cornwallis's bands
played _The World's Turned Upside Down_ at Yorktown. The world looked
for a partition of our West among the powers in 1780 as the partition of
the great hulk, China, is expected by many today. And indeed we escaped
such monstrous catastrophe by a narrower margin than is commonly known.
Spanish agents among high Kentuckians were looked upon with favor, and
their plan of joining Kentucky to Spain (who then held all the
trans-Mississippi realm) was not without advantages which the
struggling, bankrupt, jealous colonies, "one nation today, thirteen
tomorrow," could not possibly offer. The Cumberland Road, of which
Washington was the father, bound the East and West indissolubly
together, and "more than any material structure in the land, served to
harmonize and strengthen, if not to save, the Union."

With this glimpse of this man's ambitions for the commercial advancement
of the Central West, let us not omit his subsequent interest in the
military operations for its subjugation, an item which even the
far-seeing Washington had not fully anticipated. At the time of
Crawford's campaign, Washington was fully in favor of the advance toward
Sandusky, and it was through his influence or suggestion that the
command was given to his old friend of Revolutionary days, Colonel
William Crawford. True, Crawford was duly elected by the men he led, but
his presence in the expedition was due to Washington's influence. When
the immortal ordinance was under discussion, Washington's attitude was
strong in its favor, and it incorporated, as has already been shown, his
idea of the value of the portages between the rivers as the future
routes of commerce. During the long and bitter war with the western
Indians, 1790-1795, Washington had a clearer vision than most of his
advisers, and with better judgment and knowledge sought to gain the ends
best for the nation. His "search for a man" was nearly as pathetic as
was Lincoln's in another century, but, despite the intense opposition of
Kentucky with its seventy thousand inhabitants, he placed Mad Anthony
Wayne in command, who, in the tall grass and felled trees of Fallen
Timbers, justified his choice, as Appomattox justified Lincoln's. After
the campaign of 1791 under Harmar and the terrible defeat of the brave
St. Clair, Washington was the hope of the West. To him the nation looked
with that same confidence shown in the darker and more desperate days of
the Revolution. He bore the brunt of criticism and carried on his great
heart the sorrows of the bleeding frontier. No one knew better than he
the real meaning of the situation. No one saw with clearer eyes the
despicable affiliation of British interests with Indian in the last hope
of limiting the territories of the upstart colonies to the land east of
the mountains. And, while Jay was heroically working for the treaty
which at once quenched the dreams of certain British leaders in America,
Washington wrote him the whole situation as follows: "All the
difficulties we encounter with the Indians, their hostilities, the
murder of helpless women and children along all our frontiers result
from the conduct of the agents of Great Britain in this country."

Truly, Washington was in a special sense the father of the Central West.
It is impossible to tell what might have been its history had it not
been championed from the earliest day by this great, far-seeing man in
whom the people of the nation, as a people, believed and trusted as
perhaps no leader in history, with the possible exception of William the
Silent, has ever been trusted by his countrymen. Many of Washington's
plans seem strange to us, much as the times and customs of his day are
strange to our eyes. But his eye was clear; he saw greater possibilities
than his advisers; his great heart warmed toward the new West, which in
his day was sounding with axes, ringing a pioneer's welcome to a new
land. In his heart of hearts Washington was led foresee and to believe
in the dispensation of Providence which has become the wonder of our
time. And this belief appeared not in theorizing alone. What could he do
toward creating right conceptions concerning the future of the
Mississippi basin, Washington did; and if he had not so done and so
believed, it is sure that the progress of these great empires between
the Allegheny and the Mississippi, the Great Lakes and the Blue Ridge
would not have been what it is.

Has this been sufficiently realized? Have we remembered and appreciated
our debt to Washington? And when our united appreciation of the fact
influences these imperial commonwealths to put on record in lasting form
the gratitude which should be felt, let the monument rise tall and
stately from whatever site may seem appropriate, but let it show at the
summit the young man Washington, as he was when he came to know the
West best. Clothe him in the ranger's costume that he first wore on
Nemacolin's Path to the Ohio. Place in his hand the old-time musket he
bore to Fort La Boeuf, or carried in his canoe down the Ohio to the
Great Kanawha. That is the WASHINGTON OF THE WEST--the fearless,
dutiful, thoughtful youth, who came from his mother's knee to the West
that gave him a fame which he never could outgrow.



It must be next to impossible for one in this day to realize what a
tangled wilderness this West was a century and a half ago. "The thing
which puzzles us," writes W. H. H. Murray, "is not the past but the
future; not the door which has been shut, but the strange door which has
never been opened.... For who, though knocking with reddened knuckles
against it may start even an echo?" True words indeed; yet were the task
put to us, it is to be seriously doubted if we of untrained imagination
could not draw a truer picture of this land as it will appear a century
hence than we could conjure up of the land as it appeared a century ago.
Suppose the latter picture could be true to the dense growth of bush and
tree, the wallowings of the plunging buffalo, the ways of the wild
animals tunneled through the tangled maze of bush and vine--true, in
short, to the groundwork--would it faithfully picture the tangled tops
of the giant trees, where a more intricate network of Nature's handiwork
might have been seen than on the ground? Who but one acquainted with
primeval forests can picture the straggling branches of the giant trees
reaching out into the etherial battle ground to a last death grapple
with its hoary rivals, both weighed down by luxuriant masses of moss and
tangled vine? Records of early pioneers affirm that when this forest was
first invaded by the woodman's ax it was found to be one thing to cut a
tree's trunk but quite another thing to dislodge its top from the
network of forest overgrowth, from which giant trees have been known to
hang suspended in mid-air after their trunks had been severed. Felling
of trees often began at the top; boys were sent up to strip the branches
before the trunk was cut. Where are the trees the like of which
Washington found on the Ohio near the Great Kanawha with a diameter of
over fourteen feet?

What a sight the woodland rivers must have presented! Think of the
plunder of the forests which the Wabash and Kentucky at flood-tide must
have carried on their boiling bosoms. Picture the gigantic gorges of
forest trees, blocked in their wild course down the Allegheny and piled
in monstrous and grotesque confusion from bank to bank, forcing even the
river itself to find a new course through the forests. And so the vistas
seen on our rivers today could not have been so beautiful in the old
days; perhaps they were never visible on the lesser streams. For the
continuous falling of the solid walls of trees which lined both banks
must have well-nigh roofed our smaller streams completely over, and the
venturous trapper in his canoe must have found the fear of falling trees
added to his other fears. When General Moses Cleaveland attempted to
ascend the Cuyahoga in a boat from Lake Erie, the great quantity of
fallen trees compelled him to desist from the undertaking. An early
Kentucky pioneer, in giving directions to prospective voyagers down the
Ohio river, warns them against rowing at night as the noise of the oars
would prevent their hearing the "riffling" of the water about the rocks
and sunken logs which made river traveling, especially on swift streams,
difficult and dangerous.

Nor have our rivers always held the position in respect to size which
they relatively hold today. It is doubtful if one who knew the old
Monongahela would recognize the placid, turbid, faithful river which
bears that name today. As though these streams of ours recognize in some
way that they must needs conform to the state of civilization which they
see about them, and may not run wild and free as when amenable only to
the caprice of savage aborigines! Of course the greater difference would
be discoverable in such rivers as have been bound in locks and dams, and
deepened by the dredge. Such was the rapidity of the current of many of
our streams that the time now made by swift packets is more than double
the time taken by canoes before slack-water navigation was introduced.
With the damming of these streams, local history, in all our states, has
lost many landmarks well known in the earliest days of navigation. On
the Allegheny river, as on the Susquehanna on the eastern side of the
mountains, rocks, upon which the Indians inscribed their hieroglyphics,
are now under water, so that these inscriptions are visible only at low
tide, and indeed in some cases are never seen above the surface of the
water. Of all streams the majestic Ohio, alone, moves on much as of old;
and, though many islands have passed from sight, there is hardly a mile
in all her course which does not recall, in name, the days when that
river was the great highway through the hunting-ground of the Iroquois
and of the race of "men who wore hats" who came upon its tide to found
the empires which today exist along its sweeping shores. And yet the
Ohio is soon to undergo great changes which will materially alter its
aspect. Surveys for dams are being made, which, when completed, will
give a minimum depth of six feet between locks.

The animal life of the forests one can fancy, perhaps, with more
accuracy than any other characteristic, for the deer and turkey, the
wolf and buffalo of that day have their antitypes in ours. And yet here
one might fall short, for few recall the vast flocks of pigeons that
swarmed above the primeval forest, even darkening the heavens as though
a cloud were passing, and blighting the trees in which they spent a
night. Harris, an early Western traveler, has left record that from a
single hollow tree several wagon loads of feathers have been extracted.

The history of this West is a long history of war, from the earliest
days even to our own century. This territory between the Alleghanies and
the Mississippi is one of the greatest battle-fields in the world. It is
certainly the oldest and most renowned in our America. The first
European to enter it looked with wondering eyes upon the monstrous
earthen forts of a prehistoric race whom we have loosely named from the
relics they left behind, the mound-builders. Of this race of early
Indians the later red men knew nothing, save what the legends handed
down by their fathers told of a race of giants which was driven out of
the Central West, and sent flying down the Ohio and Mississippi to
reappear no more in human history. Antiquarians find that these forts
and mausoleums reveal little in addition to the bloody story told by
crude implements of war, of

  "Old, unhappy, far-off things
  And battles long ago."

In certain instances, great piles of human bones are found at strategic
revetment angles where heaviest attack was made and stoutest resistance
encountered. Here bones are sometimes found pierced by death-dealing
arrow-heads. What power hurled the flints of these warriors of
prehistoric days? The Indian legend, that they were giants in strength,
has been easily believed. Nowhere else on the continent are found such
forts as were built by these ancient defenders of the Central West.

Throughout the eighteenth century this territory was a continual
battle-ground. To it, both France and England, in turn, clung with equal
determination, and both tried the foolish experiment of attempting to
win it back, when once it was lost, by means of the Indians who made it
their lair.

When the first explorers entered the West, early in the eighteenth
century, it was found to be the princely hunting-ground of the Iroquois,
better known as the Six Nations. Of all American Indians the Iroquois
were ever preëminent, invincible. The proud races of the furthest south
had felt the weight of their tomahawks and the nations that camped about
the shores of Lake St. John "kept their sentinels pushed well southward
in dread of their fierce invasion." As conquerors of half a continent,
the choicest hunting-grounds were theirs, and so the forests, divided by
the _Oyo_, Ohio, which took its rise in the Iroquois home-land south of
Lake Ontario, was the nation's choice.

Still, during Iroquois sovereignty over the Central West, it is not
probable that they alone knew of the treasures of turkey, buffalo, and
pike which the land and its streams contained. In the Far West the
Iroquois left the Miami nation undisturbed in their old home between the
Miami and Wabash. Ottawas, "traders" from the north, who had never built
a fire beside more splendid streams than the Central West contained,
were at times vagrant, frightened visitors to the lands between the
great lakes and the _Oyo_. Other scattered remnants of Indian nations
are rumored to have built fires in the hunting-ground of the Iroquois;
if so, they hid the charred embers of their camp fires in the leaves, to
obliterate all proofs of their sly incursions.

Ever and anon, from the Iroquois home-land, came great armies into the
West in search of game. Launching their painted canoes on the headwaters
of the _Oyo_ (now the Allegheny and Ohio), they came down with the
flood-tides of the spring and fall and scattered into all the rivers of
the forest--the Kanawha, Muskingum, Scioto, Kentucky, Miami, and Wabash.
Other canoes came up Lake Ontario to Lake Erie and passed up the
Cuyahoga and down the Muskingum, or up the Sandusky and down the Scioto,
or up the Miami-of-the-Lakes and down the Wabash. Then were the forests
filled with shouting, and a hundred great fires illuminated the primeval
shadows. After the hunters came the warriors in brightly colored canoes,
their paddles sweeping in perfect unison. And woe to the arrogant
southern nation whose annual tribute had failed to come! Down to the
south the warriors sped, to return with terrible proofs of their
prowess, leaving upon the rocks in the rivers haughty symbols of their

But, at last, the supremacy of the arrogant Six Nations was challenged,
and the territory over which they were masters began to grow smaller
instead of greater. The white men came to America. Their "new" empires
were being erected on the continent. "New Spain" arose to the south;
"New Sweden" was spoken of, and "New Scotland," "New Hampshire," and
"New Amsterdam;" "New England" was heard of between the St. Lawrence and
the Atlantic Ocean, and "New France" was founded amid the Canadian
snows, with its capital on the tumbling river St. Lawrence.

Though both came from beyond the same ocean, the Iroquois found that
there was a great difference between the founders of "New England" and
the founders of "New France." The former settled down quietly, bought
land, cleared it and raised crops. They treated the Indian very
respectfully--paying little attention to him or his land. The French,
however, were different. There was no end to their running about. Their
arrival was scarcely noised abroad before they were seen hurrying up the
inland rivers on missions of various import.

And so the Iroquois came to hate the French, especially after their
first encounter with them on the shores of Lake Champlain when the white
captain, Champlain, fired a horrid arquebus which killed two chieftains
and wounded another, and liked to have scared the whole Indian army to
death. This hatred was augmented as the French made friends with the
Algonquin tribes of the lower St. Lawrence, who, having fled from before
the Iroquois warriors like dust before the wind, now, in revenge,
piloted the French up the Ottawa and showed them a way to enter the
Great Lakes of the Iroquois by the back door, Georgian Bay. Once
acquainted with the five Great Lakes, the French were even less
satisfied than before, and down into the hunting-grounds of the Iroquois
they plunged in search of a great river and a sea which would lead to
China. Already they had named the portage around one of the St.
Lawrence rapids _La Chine_, believing that the river led "to China"--a
country of which the farthest western nations, the fierce Chippewas and
Dacotahs, even, had never heard!

As the eighteenth century grew older, the Iroquois became too busy with
affairs of war and diplomacy and trade to come each year to their
western hunting-grounds and guard them with the ancient jealousy.
Situated as they were between the French and English settlements they
found a neutral rôle difficult to maintain and they became fitfully
allied now with the Albany, now with the Quebec governments, as each
struggled to gain possession of the great fur trade which was controlled
by the Six Nations who claimed to control the Ottawa, St. Lawrence, and
all the New York rivers.

But this hunting-ground was too delightful a land to remain long
unoccupied. Had Providence willed that these forests in and west of the
Appalachian mountain system should have continued to be unoccupied until
the white man came to possess it, many of the darkest pages of American
history would never have been written. But the reverse of this happened.
Not only was it filled with Indians, but there came to it from far
distant homes, as if chosen by fate, three of the most desperate Indian
nations on the continent, each having been made ready, seemingly, by
long years of oppression and tyranny, for the bloody work of holding
this West from the white man. The three nations found by the first
explorers in the abandoned hunting-grounds of the Iroquois had been
fugitives on the face of the earth for half a century, bandied about
between the stronger confederacies like outcasts, denied refuge
everywhere, pursued, persecuted, half destroyed. The story of any one of
them is the story of the other two--a sad, desperate tale.

These nations were the Shawanese, Delawares, and Wyandots. The centers
of population which they formed were on the Scioto, Muskingum, and
Sandusky rivers, respectively. And, with the fierce Miamis and the
remnants of the Iroquois, these tribes fought the longest and most
successful war ever waged by the red race in the history of the
continent. From their lairs on the Allegheny, Scioto, and Muskingum they
defied the white man for half a century, triumphing at Braddock's and
St. Clair's defeats, the greatest victories over the white man ever
achieved by the red.

The first of these nations to enter the old hunting-ground of the
Iroquois was the Wyandot. Their home was about Sandusky Bay, and along
the shores of the Sandusky river. Originally the Wyandots dwelt on the
upper St. Lawrence, and were neighbors of the Seneca tribe of the Six
Nations. As the result of a quarrel over a maiden, as legend has it, but
more likely as result of Iroquois conquest, the Wyandots were driven
from their homes, vanishing westward into the land of the Hurons, who
lived by the lake which bore their name. Here the brave Jesuit
missionaries found them, where they were known as the Tobacco Nation.
The confederation of the Iroquois as the Six Nations sounded the doom of
the Hurons, and with the Senecas at the head of the confederacy, only
ruin stared the fugitive Wyandots in the face. By the beginning of the
eighteenth century they had again fled westward, hopelessly seeking a
new refuge. Some of the nation continued journeying even beyond the
Sioux and Dacotahs to the "Back-bone of the World," as they called the
Rocky Mountains. There, tradition states, they found wanderers like
themselves, who spoke a familiar language--Wyandots who had come hither
long before to escape the revengeful Senecas! But the majority of the
nation built great rafts and set float on the Detroit river. This was a
reckless alternative to choose, but it brought the persecuted nation to
their long-sought place of refuge. As they passed the present site of
Detroit they saw with amazement an array of white tents and soldiers
dressed in white, keeping watch. The Wyandots had found the French
building a fort, and fear of the Senecas vanished. On the shores of
neighboring Sandusky Bay on Lake Erie the Wyandots built their fires,
and the relations between them and the French were most cordial. The
year of this memorable Wyandot hegira is given as 1701, which,
fortunately, corresponds with the founding of Detroit.

When Mad Anthony Wayne was waging his last campaign against the western
Indians in 1794, he once summoned to him a knowing frontiersman and
asked him if he could not capture an Indian in order to get some
information concerning the enemy.

"Can you not capture one near Sandusky?" asked the general, as the man

"No, not Sandusky," was the ready reply.

"And why not at Sandusky?"

"There are only Wyandots at Sandusky."

"Well, why will not a Wyandot do?" insisted the irrepressible Wayne.

"Because, Sir," replied the woodsman, "a Wyandot is never captured

The story is typical of the Wyandots throughout all their history for a
century--for it lacked but five years of a century when they signed the
treaty at Greenville after General Wayne's campaign. Allied, in the
beginning, as we have seen, to the French, the Wyandots fought sturdily
for their cause until New France was abandoned. Under Pontiac they
joined in the plot to drive out the English from the West and win back
the land for France. In turn they became attached to the British
interests at the breaking out of the Revolutionary War and they were as
true to the very last to them as they had formerly been to the French.
Through their aid England managed to retain forts Sandusky, Miami, and
Detroit for twenty years after the close of the Revolution, despite the
solemn pledges given in the Treaty of Paris.

The Wyandots came from the far north. The second nation to enter the
Alleghany forests were the Shawanese who came from the far south. The
Shawanese were the only American Indians who had even so much as a
tradition of having come to this continent from across the ocean. Like
that of the savage Wyandots, the history of the Shawanese before they
settled down on the swift Scioto is a cheerless tale. Too proud to join
one of the great southern confederacies, if, indeed, the opportunity was
ever extended to them, they sifted northward through the forests from
Florida until they settled between the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers.
Here the earliest geographers found them and classified them as the
connecting branch between the Algonquins of New England and the far
northwest, so different were they from their southern neighbors. They
remained but a short time by the Cumberland, for the Iroquois swept down
upon them with a fury never exceeded by the Cherokees or Mobilians, and
the fugitives scattered like leaves eastward toward the Alleghanies. By
permission of the government of Pennsylvania, seventy families, perhaps
three hundred souls, settled down upon the Susquehanna at the beginning
of the eighteenth century. By 1730 the number of Indian warriors in
Pennsylvania was placed at seven hundred, one-half of whom were said to
be Shawanese. This would indicate a total population of perhaps fifteen
hundred Shawanese. With the approaching of the settlements of the white
man and the opening of the French and Indian war, they left the
Susquehanna and pushed straight westward to the Scioto River valley
beyond the Ohio.

The Shawanese have well been called the "Bedouins of the American
Indians." The main body of the nation migrated from Florida to the
Cumberland and Susquehanna and Scioto rivers. Fragmentary portions of
the nation wandered elsewhere. Cadwallader Cobden said, in 1745, that
one tribe of the Shawanese "had gone quite down to New Spain." When La
Salle wished guides from Lake Ontario to the Gulf of Mexico in 1684,
Shawanese were supplied him, it being as remarkable that there were
Shawanese so far north (though they may have been prisoners among the
Iroquois) as it was that they were acquainted with the Gulf of Mexico.
In the Black Forest the Shawanese gained another and a well-earned
reputation--of being the fiercest and most uncompromising Indian nation
with which the white man ever dealt. They were, for the half century
during which the Black Forest of Ohio was their home and the Wyandots
their allies, ever first for war and last for peace. Under their two
well known terrible chieftains, Cornstalk and Tecumseh, they were allied
both with the French and with the British in the vain attempt to hold
back the tide of civilization from the river valleys of the Central
West. Missionary work among them proved a failure. They made treaties
but to break them. Not an acre of all the land which lay south of them,
Kentucky, but was drenched by blood they spilt. Incited by such
hellhounds as the Girty boys, there was no limit to which the Shawanese
could not be pushed, and for it all they had been trained by instinct
and tradition through numberless years of desperate ill fortune.

The Wyandots and Shawanese came from the North and South. The third
nation which made the hunting-grounds of the Iroquois its home-land came
from the eastern seaboard. The legendary history of the Lenni-Lenapes
cannot be equaled, in point of romance, in Indian history. Tradition
states that they lived at a very early period west of the Mississippi
river. Uniting with their neighbors, the Iroquois, the two nations began
an eastward conquest which ended in driving the giant Alleghans, the
mound-builders, from the alluvial valleys of the Scioto, Miami,
Muskingum, Wabash, Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Illinois, where their mounds
and ring forts were found, and dividing between them the Atlantic
seaboard, the Iroquois taking the north and the Lenni-Lenapes settling
in the valley of the Delaware, where they took the name of Delawares.
But not long after this division had been effected the spirit of
jealousy arose. The Iroquois, receiving arms from the Dutch who founded
New Amsterdam (New York), became expert in the accomplishments of war.
The Delawares adapted themselves to peaceful modes of living, and their
laden maize fields brought them rich returns for their labors. With the
confederation of the Iroquois tribes into the Six Nations the doom of
the Delawares was sealed. By treachery or by main force the upstart
"uncles" from the north fell to quarreling with their southern
"nephews." Seeing that nothing but ruin stared them in the face, the
Delawares began selling their land to the Dutch, the friends of their
"good minion," Penn. "How came you to take upon yourselves to sell
land?" was the infuriated cry of the Iroquois, who sent, by their orator
Cawassatiego, their ultimatum to the weakened Delawares; "you sell land
in the dark. Did you ever tell us you sold land to them?... We find you
are none of our blood. Therefore we charge you to remove instantly. We
assign you two places to go, either to Ugoman or Shamokin. Go!"

Dismayed and disgraced, the Delawares retired from the green maize
fields which they loved, and fell back, a crowd of disordered fugitives,
into the Alleghany forests. Sifting through the forests, crowding the
Shawanese before them, they at last crossed the Allegheny and settled
down on the upper Muskingum, about 1740. Here they lived for half a
century, fighting with Villiers and Pontiac and Little Turtle. Here they
were visited by armies, and by missionaries who did noble work among
them. The Delawares, later, fought against the armies of Harmar, St.
Clair, and Wayne, after they abandoned the valley which was first their
home, and then sank hopelessly into the general rout of the broken
tribes moving westward after the battles of Fallen Timbers and
Tippecanoe. On the Kansas river and its tributaries the remnant of the
once powerful Lenni-Lenape range today over a territory of a million
acres, still dreaming, it is said, of a time when they will again assume
their historic position at the head of the Indian family. A great mass
of tradition lives with them of their eastward conquest, the homes on
the Delaware, Allegheny, and Muskingum, where the poet had Evangeline
visit them in her search of Gabriel. And still the massacre of
Gnadenhutten is told to wondering children in Delaware wigwams which dot
the Ozark mountains as they once dotted the Alleghany valleys.

The total number of Indians in the hunting-ground of the Iroquois would
be difficult to estimate. During the Revolutionary War, when the Central
West was filled with a hundred fugitive tribes, a United States
commissioner reported the number of Indians affiliated with the Iroquois
as 3,100, divided as follows: Wyandots, 300, Mingoes, 600, Senecas, 650,
Mohawks, 100, Cuyahogas, 220, Onondagas, 230, Oneidas and Tuscarawas,
400, Ottawas, 600; the other nations were given as follows: Chippewas,
5,000, Pottawatomies, 400; scattering, 800. Considering the Indian
family as consisting of four persons, the total Indian population east
of the Mississippi would be 40,000, probably a very liberal estimate.



In the year fifteen hundred and forty, Jacques Cartier raised a white
cross crowned with the _fleur-de-lis_ of France upon an improvised altar
of crossed canoe paddles at Quebec, bearing the inscription "_Franciscus
Primus, Dei gratia, Francorum Rex Regnat_," and formally took possession
of a new continent. Two centuries later, in the dawn of early morning,
British soldiers wrested from the betrayed Montcalm the mist-enshrouded
height where that emblazoned cross had stood, and New France fell--"amid
the proudest monuments of its own glory, and on the very spot of its

All the American Indians soon found, as the Iroquois had, that nothing
would do but these newly come Frenchmen must run about over all the
country. Each river must be ascended, the portages traversed, and lakes
crossed. Every hint of further rivers and lakes resulted forthwith in a
thousand questions, if not in the immediate formation of an exploring

And yet there was method in the madness of this running about. In the
first place log forts were founded at various points, and when the world
came to know even a fraction as much as the French did about the West,
it found that these forts were situated at the most strategic points on
the continent. For instance, there was Fort Frontenac near the narrowing
of Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence. This fort commanded that river.
Then there was Fort Niagara, which commanded the route to Lake Erie.
There was Fort Detroit which commanded all access from Lake Erie to
lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior. There were forts La Boeuf,
Venango, and Duquesne to hold the Ohio, Fort Sandusky to hold the
Sandusky river, Fort Miami at the head of the rapids on the
Miami-of-the-Lakes, to hold that river, and the portage to the Wabash,
and Vincennes and Kaskaskia and other posts in the Illinois country.

The Indians did not object to these forts because they found that they
were really no forts at all, but rather depots and warehouses for the
great fur trade, where their heavy stacks of otter and sable and beaver
skins could be exchanged for such splendid colored ribbons and tinkling
bells, and powder, lead, and whiskey. Each fort became a trading post
where the Indians gathered frequently for entertainments--of various

Fancy if you can the emparadizing dreams which must have filled the head
of many a governor of New France, as he surveyed with heaving breast the
vast domains of the Mississippi valley, comprising four million square
miles of delectable land, and pictured the mighty empire it would some
day sustain--outrivaling the dreams of a Grand Monarque. Fancy, if you
can, the great hopes of the builder of Quebec who could see the infant
city holding in fee all the great system of lakes beside whose
sea-outlet it stood--the Gibraltar of the new continent. Fancy the
assemblies of notables which met when a returned Jesuit or forgotten
coureur-de-bois came hurrying down the Ottawa in his canoe and reported
the finding of a mighty river, yet unchronicled, filled with beaver and
otter; a new, bright gem for the Bourbon crown!

And so, we may suppose, such assemblies referred mockingly to the stolid
Englishmen living along the Atlantic seaboard to the south. How the
French must have scorned England's conception of America. Long after the
French had passed from Quebec to the Lakes and down the Mississippi to
the Gulf of Mexico, the English had a boat built at home which could be
taken apart on the upper waters of the James river, carried across the
mountains on wagons, to be put together on the shores of the Pacific
Sea. How the French must have laughed when they heard of this; can you
not see them drinking hilariously to the portable boat stranded in the
Alleghany forests three thousand miles from its destination?

And so it was that the wily emissaries of the Bourbon throne
incorporated the fast filling hunting-ground of the Iroquois, with New
France. It was an easily acquired country since they brought nothing
into it that was not wanted, and took nothing away--but furs! Though of
these they were particular respecting the number and the quality, and
especially that traders from the English settlements over the mountains
should not come and get them.

But it turned out that the English not only came, but even claimed for
themselves the Ohio country which lay beyond the Alleghany mountains! If
Cabot and Drake discovered the continent, did they not discover its
interior as truly as its seaboard? Moreover, the English had by treaty
acquired certain rights from the Iroquois which held good, they
maintained, wherever the Iroquois had carried their irresistible
conquests from Labrador to the everglades of Florida. And who could then
say that this did not hold good beyond the Alleghanies, where the
Iroquois for so long had been the acknowledged masters?

Thus it was, slowly, naturally, and with the certainty of doom itself,
there drew on the terrible war which decided whether the destiny of the
new continent should be placed in the hands of a Teutonic or a Gaelic
civilization--whether Providence should hold the descendants of the
founders of Jamestown or of Quebec responsible for its mighty part in
the history of human affairs. This war has received the vague name of
the "French and Indian" war. By this is meant the war England and her
colonists in America fought against the French and Indians.

It is remarkable enough that this war, which was to settle so much,
began from a spark struck in the West. The explanation of this is found
in the fact that a great expanse of forest separated the English
settlements on the Atlantic seaboard and the great line of French
settlements, three thousand leagues in length, which stretched from the
mouth of the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. The nearest points of
contact were in Virginia and Pennsylvania, for here the rivalry of
French and English traders had been most intense.

Virginians found it a very acceptable part to play--this trying the test
case with France to decide who was the real master of the land over the
mountains. In 1749, a company of Virginian gentlemen received from the
King of England a royal charter granting them possession of two hundred
thousand acres of the Black Forest between the Monongahela and Kanawha

The astonishment and anger of the French on the St. Lawrence knew no
bounds. Immediately the French governor Galissonière set on foot plans
which would result in the withdrawal of the English colonists.

Looking back through the years, it may seem very strange that the
governors of New France never anticipated a clash with England on the
Ohio and prepared for it, but it appears, that, of all the West, _Lake
Erie and the Ohio river were the least known to the French_. This can be
understood by following the romantic story of French exploration:

On a wild October day, Cartier, who raised the altar at Quebec and
claimed the new continent, stood on Mt. Royal, looking wistfully
westward. Behind him lay the old world throbbing with an intuition of a
northwest passage to China and India. Before him shimmered in the sun
two water-ways. As we know them now, the southern was the St. Lawrence,
the western the Ottawa.

It was a strange providence which compelled Cartier to set the tide of
French trade and exploration over the Ottawa rather than up the St.
Lawrence. By this France lost, we are told, the Hudson valley--the key
to the eastern half of the continent--but gained the Great Lakes. This
tide of trappers, merchants, Jesuits, and adventurers went up the
western river, across into Georgian Bay, through the lakes, down the
Allegheny, Wabash, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Mississippi. Some few braved
the dangers of traveling in the domains of the Iroquois and went up the
St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario, then across to Lake Simcoe and Georgian
Bay. The important result was that Lake Erie was the last of all the
Great Lakes to be discovered and the country south of it was the last to
be explored and claimed by the French. Lakes Ontario and Huron were
discovered in 1615, Lake Superior in 1629, Lake Michigan in 1634. Lake
Erie was not discovered until 1669--half a century after the two lakes
which it joins; and then for a hundred years it was a mystery. Champlain
drew it on his map as a widened river; other maps of the day make it a
brook, river, strait, or lake, as their authors fancied. One drew it as
a river, and, in perplexity over its outlet, ran it into the Susquehanna
and down into Chesapeake Bay. And as late as 1750, in the map of
Céloron, is written along the southern shore of Lake Erie, "This shore
is almost unknown."

It is a custom peculiar to the French to declare possession of a land by
burying leaden plates, upon which their professions of sovereignty are
incised, at the mouths of its rivers. This has been an immemorial
custom, and has been done in recent times in the Pacific sea. La Salle
buried a leaden plate at the mouth of the Mississippi in 1682, claiming
possession of that river and all streams emptying into it and all lands
drained by them. But, now, more plates were needed. And so Céloron de
Bienville, a gallant Chevalier of St. Louis, departed from Quebec in the
fall of the same year with a detachment of eight subaltern officers, six
cadets, an armorer, twenty soldiers, one hundred and eighty Canadians,
thirty friendly Iroquois, and twenty-five Abnakis, with a load of
leaden plates to be buried at the mouths of all the rivers in the
Central West. Two plates were buried in what we now call the Allegheny
river and one at the mouths of Wheeling creek, the Muskingum, Great
Kanawha, and Miami rivers. At the burial of each plate a given formality
was observed. The detachment was drawn up in battle array. The leader
cried in a loud voice "_Vive le Roi_," and proclaimed that possession
was taken in the name of the king. In each instance, the _Arms of the
King_, stamped upon a sheet of tin, were affixed to the nearest tree,
and a _Procès Verbal_ was drawn up and signed by the officers. Each
plate bore the following inscription:

"In the year 1749, of the reign of Louis XV., King of France, We,
Céloron, commander of a detachment sent by Monsieur the Marquis de la
Galissonière, Governor General of New France, to reëstablish
tranquillity in some Indian villages of these cantons, have buried
[_here a space was left for the date and place of burial_] this plate of
lead near the river Ohio otherwise _Belle Rivière_, as a monument of the
renewal of possession we have taken of the said river Ohio, and of all
those which empty into it, and of all lands on both sides as far as the
sources of said rivers, as enjoyed by the Kings of France preceding, and
as they have there maintained themselves by arms and treaties,
especially those of Ryswick, Utrecht, and Aix-la-Chapelle."

Ah! but leaden bullets were more needed in the West than leaden plates!
This Céloron found out before he had gone a dozen leagues. Suspicious
savages dug up his first plate and hurried with it to the English at
Albany. Is it strange that the Indians soon came to the conclusion that
there was ever some fatal connection between the art of writing and
their home-lands? At Logstown, near the present city of Pittsburg, he
found some detested English traders, and a strong anti-French influence.
He drove off the intruders with a sharp letter to their governor, but
here his Iroquois and Abenaki Indians deserted him, and, on their way
north, tore from the trees those sheets which contained yet more of that
horrid writing. Céloron hurried homeward by the shortest route--up the
Miami river and down the Maumee and through the lakes--and rendered his
alarming report. It was decided immediately to fortify Céloron's route.
The enterprising successor of Galissonière--Governor Duquesne--sent a
detachment from Quebec with orders to proceed to Lake Erie and begin the
building of a line of forts down the Ohio frontier, from Lake Erie to
the Ohio river. This party, under the command of M. Marin, landed near
the present site of Erie, Pennsylvania, and raised a fort.

The ruins of this fort in the West are still perceptible within the
limits of the city of Erie. It was a strong work built of chestnut logs,
fifteen feet high and one hundred and twenty feet square, with a
blockhouse on each side. It had a gate to the south and one to the
north, but no portholes. It was first called Fort Duquesne, but later
was named Fort Presque Isle from the promontory which juts out into the
lake. From Fort Presque Isle M. Marin hewed a road southward, a distance
of thirteen miles, twenty-one feet in width, to the Rivière aux
Boeufs--river of Buffaloes--later named French creek by Washington.
This was the first white man's road--military or otherwise--ever made in
the Central West. It was built in 1753, and though it has not been used
over its entire length since that day, it marks, in a general way, the
important route from the lakes to the Allegheny and Ohio, which became
early in the century the great thoroughfare for freight to and from the
Ohio valley and the east. For a distance of seven miles out of the city
of Erie the old French road of a century and a half ago is the main road
south. At that distance from the city the new highway leaves it, but the
old route can be followed without difficulty until it meets the
Erie-Watertown plank road, the new Shun pike. This plank road follows
the road cut by the French general one hundred and forty-nine years ago.
Those that traveled over the same road in 1795, speak of the trees which
were growing up and blocking the thoroughfare. It seems to have been the
first intention of the French to make this road a military road in the
European sense, leveling hills and filling the valleys. And for half
the distance between Erie and French creek the road had been grubbed by
hauling out the stumps of the trees. Travelers refer to the great
cavities which were left open, for the road was never completed on the
lines originally laid out. It was built with some care and served for
the hauling of cannon to the forts along the Allegheny and Ohio. Cannon
balls, accoutrements, and pieces of harness were found along the route
as late as 1825. In the day of the pioneer, the route was lessened from
Erie to French creek to thirteen miles. This Watertown turnpike was a
principal thoroughfare for the great salt trade between the east and
Pittsburg and Louisville. In return, iron, glass, and flour were
freighted over it eastward from the Monongahela, and bacon from
Kentucky. The tradition prevails in Erie that, when the French abandoned
Fort Presque Isle, at the close of the French and Indian war, treasures
were buried either on the site of the fort or on the old road. Spanish
silver coins to the value of sixty dollars were found while plowing the
site of the old fort within twenty-five years, but these may not have
been left by the French. Old walls have been excavated again and again
but without extraordinary results. Pottery of singular kinds, knives,
bullets, and human bones have been found. Thus, something of the air of
romance of the old French days still lingers over this first pathway of
the French in the Central West.

At the end of this road was erected Fort La Boeuf on the north bank of
the west fork of Rivière aux Boeufs, at the intersection of High and
Water streets in what is now the city of Watertown, Pennsylvania. Being
an inland fort, it was not ranked or fortified as a first-class one;
yet, as a trading fort, it was of much importance in the chain from
Quebec to the Ohio. Of it Washington said, "The bastions were made of
piles driven into the ground, standing more than twelve feet above it,
and sharp at the top, with portholes cut for the cannon, and loopholes
for the small arms to fire through. There are eight six-pound pieces
mounted in each bastion, and one piece of four pounds before the gate.
In the bastions are a guardhouse, chapel, doctor's lodging, and the
commander's private stores, round which are laid platforms for the
cannon and the men to stand on. There are several barracks without the
fort, for the soldiers' dwellings, covered, some with bark, and some
with boards, made chiefly of logs. There are also several other houses,
such as stables, smith's shop, etc."

Late in the summer of 1753, M. Marin sent fifty men to erect a third
fort in the chain from Lake Erie, at Venango, just below the junction of
French creek and the Allegheny river, on the present site of Franklin,
Pennsylvania. Possession was taken of the site by Captain Chabert de
Joncaire, who spent the winter in the trader Frazier's hut, having been
opposed by the Delaware chieftain Half King who said "that the land was
theirs, and that they would not have them build upon it." In the spring,
however, machinery for a sawmill was brought from Canada, and oak and
chestnut trees were cut down and sawn into timbers for a new fort which
was completed in April. It was not an elaborate work but answered its
purpose as an entrepôt for goods going down to Fort Duquesne. It was
named Fort Machault, from Jean Baptiste Machault, a celebrated French
financier and politician and favorite of La Pompadour. The fort was a
parallelogram about seventy-five by one hundred and five feet with
bastions in the form of polygons at the four angles. The gate fronted
the river. It contained a magazine protected by three feet of earth, and
five barracks two stories high furnished with stone chimneys. The
soldiers' barracks consisted of forty-four buildings erected around the
fort on the north and east sides.

Thus, strong in her resources of military and civil centralization,
France at last moved swiftly into the West. In this, her superiority
over the English colonies was as marked as her success in winning her
way into the good graces of the Indians. French and English character
nowhere show more plainly than in the nature of their contact with the
Indians as each met them along the St. Lawrence, Allegheny, and the
Great Lakes. The French came to conciliate the Indians, with no scruples
as to how they might accomplish their task. The coureur-de-bois threw
himself into the spirit of Indian life and very nearly adopted the
Indian's ideals. The stolid English trader, keen for a bargain, justly
suspicious of his white rival, invariably distant, seldom tried to
ingratiate himself into the friendship of the red man. The voyageur
flattered, cajoled, entertained in his wild way, regaled at tables,
mingled without stint in Indian customs. Sir Guy Carleton wrote, "France
did not depend on the number of her troops, but on the discretion of her
officers who learned the language of the natives ... distributed the
king's presents, excited no jealousy and gained the affections of an
ignorant, credulous but brave people, whose ruling passions are
independence, gratitude, and revenge." The Englishman little affected
the conceits of the red man, seldom opened his heart and was less
commonly familiar. He ignored as much as possible Indian habits; the
Frenchman feigned all reverence for them, with a care never to rupture
their stolid complacency. The English trader clad like a ranger or
trapper, made no more use of Indian dress than was necessary. The
voyageur adopted Indian dress commonly, ornamented himself with
vermilion and ochre, and danced with the aborigines before the fires; he
wore his hair long, crowned with a coronet of feathers; his hunting
frock was trimmed with horse-hair fringe and he carried a charmed
rattlesnake's tail. "They were the most romantic and poetic characters
ever known in American frontier life. Their every movement attracts the
rosiest coloring of imagination. We see them gliding along the streams
in their long canoes, shapely and serviceable as any water craft that
man has ever designed, yet buoyant and fragile as the wind-whirled
autumn leaf. We catch afar off the thrilling cadences of their choruses
floating over the prairie and marsh, echoing from forest and hill,
startling the buffalo from his haunt in the reeds, telling the drowsy
denizens of the posts of the approach of revelry and whispering to the
Indian village of gaudy fabrics, of trinkets and of fire water." This
was not alone true of the French voyageur, it was more or less true of
French soldier and officer. Such deportment was not unknown among
English traders but it must have been comparatively rare. Few men of
his race had such a lasting and honorable hold upon the Indian as Sir
William Johnson and we cannot be wrong in attributing much of his power
(of such momentous value to England through so many years) to the spirit
of comradeship and familiarity which underlay his studied deportment.

"Are you ignorant," said the French governor Duquesne to a deputation of
Indians, "of the difference between the king of France and the English?
Look at the forts which the king had built: you will find that under
their very walls, the beasts of the forests are hunted and slain; that
they are, in fact, fixed in places most frequented by you merely to
gratify more conveniently your necessities. The English, on the
contrary, no sooner occupy a post, than the woods fall before their
hand--the earth is subjected to cultivation--the game disappears--and
your people are speedily reduced to combat with starvation." M. Garneau,
the French historian, frankly acknowledges that the marquis here
accurately described the chief difference between the two
civilizations. In 1757, M. Chauvignevie, Jr., a seventeen-year-old
French prisoner among the English, said that at Fort La Boeuf the
French plant corn around the fort for the Indians, "whose wives and
children come to the fort for it, and get furnished also with clothes at
the king's expense."

Horace Walpole, speaking of the French and English ways of seating
themselves in America, said: "They enslaved, or assisted the wretched
nations to butcher one another, instructed them in the use of firearms,
brandy, and the New Testament, and at last, by scattered extension of
forts and colonies, they have met to quarrel for the boundaries of
empires, of which they can neither use nor occupy a twentieth part of
the included territory." "But," he sneers elsewhere, "_we_ do not
massacre; we are such good Christians as only to cheat."

But, while the French moved down the lakes and the Allegheny, and the
English came across the mountains, what of the _poor_ Indian for whose
_rich_ lands both were so anxious?

An old Delaware sachem did not miss the mark widely when he asked the
question: "The French claim all the lands on one side of the Ohio, and
the English on the other: now, where does the Indian's land lie?" Truly,
"between their father the French and their brothers the English, they
were in a fair way of being lovingly shared out of the whole country."

In 1744, the English paid four hundred pounds to the representatives of
the Six Nations for assuming to cede to them the land between the
Alleghany Mountains. But, as we have seen, the Six Nations had
practically given up their Alleghany hunting-grounds to the other
nations who had swarmed in, the Delawares (known to the French as the
_Loups_, "wolves"), and the Shawanese. So, in a loose way, the
confederacy of the Six Nations was friendly to the English, while the
actual inhabitants of the land which the Six Nations had "sold" were
hostile to the English and usually friendly to the French. Besides these
(the Delaware and Shawanese nations), many fugitives from the Six
Nations, especially Senecas, were found aiding the French as the
momentous struggle drew on.



A thousand vague rumors came over the mountains to Governor Dinwiddie of
Virginia in 1753, of French aggressions on the upper Ohio, the more
alarming because vague and uncertain.

Orders were now at hand from London, authorizing the erection of a fort
on the Ohio to hold that river for England and conciliate the Indians to
English rule. But the governor was too much in the dark as to the
operations of the French to warrant any decisive step, and he
immediately looked about him for a person whom he could trust to find
out what was really happening in the Ohio valley.

Who was to be this envoy? The mission called for a person of unusual
capacity: a diplomat, a soldier, and a frontiersman. There were five
hundred miles to be threaded on Indian trails in the dead of winter.
This was woodsman's work. There were cunning Indian chieftains and
French officers, trained in intrigue, to be met, conciliated,
influenced. This, truly, demanded a diplomat. There were forts to be
marked and mapped, highways of approach to be considered and compared,
vantage sites on river and mountain to be noted and valued. This was
work for a soldier and strategist.

After failing to induce one or two gentlemen to undertake this perilous
but intrinsically important task, a youthful Major, George Washington,
one of the four adjutant-generals of Virginia, offered his services, and
the despairing Scotch governor, whose zeal always approached rashness,
accepted them.

But there was something more to the credit of this ambitious youth than
his temerity. The best of Virginian blood ran in his veins and he had
already shown a taste for adventurous service quite in line with such a
hazardous business. Acquiring, when a mere lad, a knowledge of
mathematics, he had gone surveying in Lord Fairfax's lands on the south
branch of the Potomac. There he spent the best of three years, far
beyond the settled limits of Virginia, fortifying his splendid physique
against days of stress to come. In other ways this life on his country's
frontier was of advantage. Here he met the Indian--that race over which
no man ever wielded a greater influence than Washington. Here he came to
know frontier life, its charms, its deprivations, its fears, and its
toils--a life for which he was ever to entertain so much sympathy and so
much consideration. Here he studied the Indian traders, a class of men
of much more importance, in peace or war, than any or all others in the
border land--men whose motives of action were as hard to read as an
Indian's, and whose flagrant and oft practiced deceptions on their
fellow white men were fraught with disaster. It was of utmost fortune
for his country that this youth went into the West in his teens, for he
was to be, under Providence, a champion of that West worthy of its
influence on human affairs. Thus he came to it early and loved it; he
learned to know its value, to foresee something of its future, to think
for and with its pioneer developers, to study its roads and rivers and
portages; thus he was fortified against narrow purposes, and made as
broad in his sympathies and ambitions as the great West was broad
itself. No statesman of his day knew and believed in the West as
Washington did; and it is not difficult to think that had he not so
known and loved it, the territory west of the Alleghany Mountains would
never have become a portion of the United States of America. There were
far too many serious men like Thomas Jefferson who knew little about the
West and boasted that they cared less. Yet today the seaboard states are
more dependent commercially and politically on the states between the
Alleghanies and Mississippi than these central commonwealths are on

The same divine Providence which directed this youth's steps into the
Alleghanies had brought him speedily to his next post of duty, for
family influence secured him an appointment as adjutant-general (with
rank of major) over one of the four military districts into which
Virginia was now divided for purposes of defense, a position for which
he was as fitted by inclination as by frontier experience.

This lad now received Dinwiddie's appointment. As a practical surveyor
in the wilderness he possessed frontiersman's qualifications; as an apt
and diligent student of military science, with a brother--trained under
Admiral Vernon--as a practical tutor, he had in a degree a soldier's
qualifications; if not a diplomat he was as shrewd a lad as chivalrous
old Virginia had within her borders, still, at twenty-one, that boy of
the sixty maxims, but hardened, steadied and made exceeding thoughtful
by his life on Virginia's great black forest-bound horizon. All in all,
he was far better fitted for this mission than any one could have known
or guessed. His keen eye, quick perception, and daring spirit were now
to be turned to something of more moment than links and chains or a
shabby line of Virginian militia.

It is not to be doubted that George Washington knew the danger he
courted, at least very much better than we can appreciate it today. He
had not lived three years on the frontier for nothing. He had heard of
these French--of their bold invasion of the West, their growing trade,
their cunning conciliation of the Indian, their sudden passion for fort
building when they heard of the grant of land to the Ohio Company, to
which his brothers belonged. Let who can doubt that he looked with
envious eyes upon those fearless fleets of coureurs-de-bois and their
woodland pilgrimaging. Who can doubt that the few stolid English traders
who went over the mountains on poor Indian ponies made a sorry showing
beside these roistering, picturesque, irrepressible Frenchmen who knew
and sailed the sweet rivers of the great West? But the forests were
filled with their sly, red-skinned proselytes. One swift rifle ball
might easily be sent from a hidden covert to meet the stripling envoy
from the English who was come to spy out the land and report both its
giants and its grapes. Yet, after one day's preparation, he was ready to
leave a home, rich in comfort and culture, a host of warm friends, and
bury himself five hundred miles deep in the western forests, to sleep
on the ground in the dead of winter, wade in rivers running with ice,
and face a hundred known and a thousand unknown risks.

"Faith, you're a brave lad," broke out the old Scotch governor, "and, if
you play your cards well, you shall have no cause to repent your
bargain," and Major Washington departed from Williamsburg on the last
day of October but one, 1753. The first sentence in the _Journal_ he now
began suggests his zeal and promptness: "I was commissioned and
appointed by the Honourable _Robert Dinnwiddie_, Esq; Governor, _&c_ of
_Virginia_, to visit and deliver a Letter to the Commandant of the
_French_ Forces on the _Ohio_, and set out on the intended Journey the
same Day." At Fredericksburg he employed his old fencing tutor Jacob van
Braam as his interpreter and pushed on westward over the trail used by
the Ohio Company to Wills Creek (Cumberland, Maryland) on the upper
Potomac, where he arrived November 14.

Wills Creek was the last Virginian outpost, where Fort Cumberland was
soon erected. Already the Ohio Company had located a storehouse at this
point. Onward the Indian trail wound in and out through the Alleghanies,
over the successive ranges known as Wills, Savage, and Meadow Mountains.
From the latter it dropped down into Little Meadows. Here in the open
ground, covered with rank grasses, the first of the western water was
crossed, a branch of the Youghiogheny river. From "Little Crossings," as
the ford was called, the narrow trail vaulted Negro Mountain and came
down upon the upper Youghiogheny, this ford here being named "Big
Crossings." Another climb over Briery Mountain brought the traveler down
into Great Meadows, the largest tract of open land in the Alleghanies.
By a zigzag climb of five miles the summit of the last of the Alleghany
ranges--Laurel Hill--was reached, where the path turned northward and
followed the line of hills, by Christopher Gist's clearing on what is
known as Mount Braddock, toward the lower Youghiogheny, and forded at
"Stewart's Crossing." Thence the trail ran down the point of land where
Pittsburg now lies between the "Forks of the Ohio."

[Illustration: WASHINGTON'S ROAD]

Christopher Gist, whom Washington engaged as guide, knew well this "Road
of Iron" through the mountain, and perhaps was the first white man to
travel it who left record of it. On July 16, 1751, he had been
commissioned by the committee of the Ohio Company to visit their grant
of land in the West, and, among other things, "to look out & observe the
nearest & most convenient Road you can find from the Company's Store at
Will's Creek to a Landing at Mohongeyela."[1] The path started from the
buildings Hugh Parker had erected for the Ohio Company in 1750 on land
purchased from Lord Fairfax.[2] It followed the course outlined to
Laurel Hill; here it left what was perhaps the main trail to the Ohio,
and bore westward to the Monongahela river which it touched at Redstone
Old Fort (Brownsville, Pa.) It was the course of the shortest portage
between the Potomac and Monongahela.

It was the main trail to the Ohio over which Gist now guided the young
envoy. This path had no name until it took that of a Delaware Indian,
Nemacolin, who blazed its course, under the direction of Captain Thomas
Cresap, for the Ohio Company. To those who love to look back to
beginnings, and read great things in small, this Indian path, with its
border of wounded trees, leading across the first great divide into the
Central West, is worthy of contemplation. Each tree starred white by the
Indian's ax spoke of Saxon conquest and commerce, one and inseparable.
In every act of the great world-drama now on the boards, this little
trail with its blazed trees lies in the foreground.

And the rise of the curtain shows the lad Washington and his party of
seven horsemen, led by the bold guide Christopher Gist, setting out from
Wills Creek on the 15th of November, 1753. The character of the journey
is nowhere better described than in Washington's words when he engaged
Gist's services: "I engaged Mr _Gist_ to pilot us out."

It proved a rough voyage! A fierce, early winter came out of the north,
as though in league with the French to intimidate, if not drive back,
these spies of French aggression. It rained and snowed, and the little
pathway became well-nigh impassable. The brown mountain ranges, which
until recently had been burnished with the glory of a mountain autumn,
were wet and black. Scarce eighteen miles were covered a day, a whole
week being exhausted in reaching the Monongahela. But this was not
altogether unfortunate. A week was not too long for the future Father of
the West to study the hills and valleys which were to bear forever the
precious favor of his devoted and untiring zeal. And in this week this
youth conceived a dream and a purpose, the dearest, if not the most
dominant, of his life--the union, commercial as well as political, of
the East and the West. Yet he passed Great Meadows without seeing Fort
Necessity, Braddock's Run without seeing Braddock's unmarked grave, and
Laurel Hill without a premonition of the covert in the valley below,
where shortly he should shape the stones above a Frenchman's grave. But
could he have seen it all--the wasted labor, nights spent in agony of
suspense, humiliation, defeat, and the dead and dying--would it have
turned him back?

The first roof to offer Washington hospitable shelter was the cabin of
the trader Frazier at the mouth of Turtle creek, on the Monongahela,
near the death-trap where soon that desperate handful of French and
Indians should put to flight an army of five times its own number. Here
information was at hand, for it was none other than this Frazier who had
been driven from Venango but a few weeks before by the French force sent
there to build a fort. Joncaire was spending the winter in Frazier's old
cabin, and no doubt the young Virginian heard this irrepressible French
officer's title read clear in strong English oaths. Here too was a
"Speech," with a string of wampum accompanying, on its way from a few
anti-French Indians on the Ohio to Governor Dinwiddie, bringing the
ominous news that the Chippewas, Ottawas, and Wyandots had taken up the
hatchet against the English.

Washington took the Speech and the wampum--and pushed on undismayed.
Sending the baggage down the Monongahela by boat, he traveled on
overland to the "Forks," where he chose a site for a fort, the future
site, first, of Fort Duquesne, and later, Fort Pitt. But his immediate
destination was the Indian village of Logstown, fifteen miles down the
Ohio. On his way thither he stopped at the lodge of Shingiss, a Delaware
king, and secured the promise of his attendance upon the council of
anti-French (though not necessarily pro-English) Indians. For this was
the Virginian envoy's first task--to make a strong bid for the
allegiance of the red men; it was not more than suggested in his
instructions, but was none the less imperative, as he well knew whether
his superiors did or not.

It is extremely difficult to construct anything like a clear statement
of Indian affiliations at this crisis. This territory west of the
Alleghanies, nominally purchased from the Six Nations, was claimed by
the Shawanese and Delawares who, as we have seen, had come into it, and
also by many fugitives from the Six Nations, known generally as
Mingoes, who had come to make their hunting ground their home. Though
the Delaware king was only a "Half King" (because subject to the Council
of the Six Nations) yet they claimed the land and had even resisted
French encroachment. "Half King" and his Delawares believed the English
only desired commercial intercourse and favored them as compared with
the French who had already built forts in the West. The northern nations
who were nearer the French soon surrendered to their blandishments; and
soon the Delawares and the Shawanese were overcome by French allurements
and were generally found about the French forts and forces. In the
spring of the year Half King had gone to Presque Isle and spoken firmly
though vainly to the French.

In so far as the English were more backward than the French in occupying
the land, the unprejudiced Delawares and Mingoes were inclined to
further English plans. When, a few years later, it became clear that the
English cared not a whit for the rights of the red men, the latter hated
and fought them as they never had the French. Washington was well
fitted for handling this delicate matter of sharpening Indian hatred of
the French and of keeping very still about English plans--his past
experiences were now of utmost value to him.

Here at Logstown unexpected information was had. Certain French
deserters from the Mississippi gave the English envoy a description of
French operations on that river between New Orleans and Illinois. The
latter word "Illinois" was taken by Washington's old Dutch interpreter
to be the French words _Isle Noire_, and Washington speaks of Illinois
as the "Black Islands" in his _Journal_. But this was not to be old Van
Braam's only blunder in the rôle of interpreter!

Half King was ready with the story of his recent journey to Presque
Isle, which he affirmed Washington could not reach "in less than five or
six nights' sleep, good traveling." Little wonder, at such a season, a
journey was measured by the number of nights to be spent in the frozen
forests. Marin's answer to Half King had been no less spirited because
of his own dying condition. The Frenchman had frankly stated that two
English traders had been taken to Canada _to get intelligence of what
the English were doing in Virginia_. So far as Indian possession of the
land was concerned, Marin was quickly to the point: "_You say this Land
belongs to you, but there is not the Black of my Nail yours. I saw that
Land sooner than you did, before the Shannoahs and you were at War:_
Lead _was the Man who went down, and took Possession of that River: It
is my Land, and I will have it, let who will stand-up for, or
say-against, it. I'll buy and sell with the English_, [mockingly]. _If
People will be ruled by me, they may expect Kindness, but not else._" La
Salle had gone down the Ohio and claimed possession of it long before
Delaware or Shawanese, Ottawa or Wyandot had built a single fire in the
valley. The claim of the Six Nations only, antedated that of the
French--but the Six Nations had sold their claim to the English for 400
pounds at Lancaster in 1744. This, however, did not settle the question.

At the council on the following day (26th) Washington delivered an
address, asking for guides and guards on his trip up the Allegheny and
Rivière aux Boeufs, adroitly implying, in word and gesture, that his
audience were the warmest allies of the English and equally desirous to
oppose French aggression. The council was for granting each request, but
the absence of the hunters necessitated a detention; undoubtedly, fear
of the French also provoked delay and counseling. Little wonder:
Washington would soon be across the mountains again and the rough
Frenchman who claimed even the earth beneath his finger-nails, and had
won over the Ottawas, Chippewas, and fierce Wyandots, would make short
work with all who had housed and counseled with the English envoy!
And--perhaps most ominous of all--Washington had not announced his
business in the West, undoubtedly fearing the Indians would not aid him
did they know it. When at last they asked the nature of his mission, he
answered just the best an honest-hearted lad could; "this was a Question
I had all along expected," he wrote in his _Journal_, "and had provided
as satisfactory Answers to, as I could; which allayed their Curiosity a
little." This youthful diplomat would have allayed the burning
curiosity of hundreds of others had he mentioned the reason he gave
those suspicious chieftains for this five-hundred-mile journey in the
wintry season to a miserable little French fort on Rivière aux Boeufs!
It is safe to assume that, could he have given the real reasons, he
would have been saved the difficulty of providing "satisfactory" ones.

For four days Washington remained, but on the 30th he set out northward,
accompanied only by the faithful Half King and three other Indians, and
on the 4th of December (after four "nights' sleep") the party arrived at
the mouth of Rivière aux Boeufs, where Joncaire was wintering in
Frazier's cabin. The seventy miles from Logstown were traversed at about
the same poor rate as the 125 from Wills Creek. To Joncaire's cabin,
over which floated the French flag, the Virginian envoy immediately
repaired. He was received with much courtesy, though, as he well knew,
Legardeur de St. Pierre at Fort La Boeuf, the successor of the dead
Marin, was the French commandant to whom his letter from Dinwiddie must

However, Washington was treated "with the greatest Complaisance" by
Joncaire. During the evening the Frenchmen "dosed themselves pretty
plentifully," wrote the sober, keen-eyed Virginian, "and gave a License
to their Tongues. They told me, That it was their absolute Design to
take Possession of the _Ohio_, and by G-- they would do it: For that
although they were sensible the _English_ could raise two Men for their
one; yet they knew, their Motions were too slow and dilatory to prevent
any Undertaking of theirs." For a true picture of this Washington (who
is said to be forgotten) what one would be chosen before this: a youth
from Virginia sitting before the log fire in a German's cabin from which
the French had driven its owner, on the Allegheny river; about him are
sitting leering, tipsy Gauls, bragging with oaths of a conquest they
were never to make: he is dressed for a five-hundred-mile ride through a
wilderness in winter, and his sober eyes rest thoughtfully upon the
crackling logs while the oaths and boasts and smell of foreign liquor
fill the hot and heavy air. No picture could show better the three
commanding traits of this youth who was father of the man: hearty
daring, significant homespun shrewdness, dogged, resourceful patience.
Basic traits of character are often displayed involuntarily in the
effervescence of youthful zest. These this lad had shown and was showing
in this brave ride into a dense wilderness and a braver inspection of
his country's enemies, their works, their temper, and their boasts. Let
this picture hang on the walls of every home where the lad in the
foreground before the blazing logs is unknown save in the rôle of the
general or statesman he became in later life.

How these French officers looked this tall, stern boy up and down! How
they enjoyed sneering to his face at English backwardness in crossing
the Alleghanies into the great West which their own explorers had
honeycombed with a hundred swift canoes! As they even plotted his
assassination, how, in turn, that young heart must have burned to stop
their mouths with a clenched hand. Little wonder that when the time
came, his voice first ordered "Fire!" and his finger first pulled the
trigger in the great war which won the West from France!

But with the boasts came no little information concerning the French
operations on the Great Lakes, the number of their forts and men. But
Washington did not get off for Fort La Boeuf the next day, as the
weather was exceedingly rough. This gave the wily Joncaire a chance to
tamper with his Indians, and the opportunity was not neglected. Upon
learning that Half King was in the envoy's retinue, he professed great
regret that Washington had not "made free to bring him in before." The
Virginian was quick with a stinging retort: since he had heard Joncaire
"say a good deal in dispraise of the _Indians_ in general" he did not
"think their company agreeable." But Joncaire had his way and "applied
the Liquor so fast" that, lo! the poor Indians "were soon rendered
incapable of the Business they came about."

In the morning Half King came to Washington's tent hopefully sober but
urging that another day be spent at Venango, since "the Management of
the Indian Affairs was left solely to Monsieur _Joncaire_." To this the
envoy reluctantly acquiesced. But on the day after, the embassy got on
its way, thanks to Christopher Gist's influence over the Indians. When
Joncaire found them going, he forwarded their plans "in the heartiest
way in the world" and detailed Monsieur La Force (with whom this
Virginian was to meet in different circumstances within half a year) to
accompany them. Four days were spent in floundering over the last sixty
miles of this journey, the party being driven into "Mires and Swamps" to
avoid crossing the swollen Rivière aux Boeufs. On the 11th of
December, Washington reached his destination, having traveled over 500
miles in forty-two days.


[_Showing the designs of the French for erecting forts southward of the
lake; drawn, before the erection of Fort Duquesne, evidently on the
basis of Washington's information secured in 1753. From the original in
the British Museum_]]

Legardeur de St. Pierre, the one-eyed commander at Fort La Boeuf, had
arrived but one week before Washington. To him the Virginian envoy
delivered Governor Dinwiddie's letter the day after his arrival. Its
contents read:


    "The lands upon the River _Ohio_, in the Western Parts of the
    Colony of _Virginia_, are so notoriously known to be the Property
    of the Crown of _Great-Britain_; that it is a Matter of equal
    Concern and Surprize to me, to hear that a Body of _French_ Forces
    are erecting Fortresses, and making Settlements upon that River,
    within his Majesty's Dominions.

    "The many and repeated Complaints I have received of these Acts of
    Hostility, lay me under the Necessity, of sending, in the Name of
    the King my Master, the Bearer hereof, _George Washington_, Esq;
    one of the Adjutants-General of the Forces of this Dominion; to
    complain to you of the Encroachments thus made, and of the Injuries
    done to the Subjects of _Great-Britain_, in open Violation of the
    Law of Nations, and the Treaties now subsisting between the two

    "If these Facts are true, and you shall think fit to justify your
    Proceedings, I must desire you to acquaint me, by whose Authority
    and Instructions you have lately marched from _Canada_, with an
    armed Force; and invaded the King of _Great-Britain's_ Territories,
    in the Manner complained of? that according to the Purport and
    Resolution of your Answer, I may act agreeably to the Commission
    I am honoured with, from the King my Master.

    "However, Sir, in Obedience to my Instructions, it becomes my Duty
    to require your peaceable Departure; and that you would forbear
    prosecuting a Purpose so interruptive of the Harmony and good
    Understanding, which his Majesty is desirous to continue and
    cultivate with the most Christian King.

    "I persuade myself you will receive and entertain Major
    _Washington_ with the Candour and Politeness natural to your
    Nation; and it will give me the greatest Satisfaction, if you
    return him with an Answer suitable to my Wishes for a very long and
    lasting Peace between us. I have the Honour to subscribe myself,

                                          Your most obedient,
                                              Humble Servant,
                                                  ROBERT DINWIDDIE."

While an answer was being prepared, the envoy had an opportunity to take
careful note of the fort and its hundred defenders. The fortress which
Washington carefully described in his _Journal_ was not so significant
as the great host of canoes along the river shore. It was French canoes
the English feared more than French forts. The number at Fort La Boeuf
at this time was over two hundred, and others were being made. And every
stream flowed south to the land "notoriously known" to belong to the
British crown.

On the 14th, Washington was planning his homeward trip. His horses,
lacking proper nourishment and exhausted by the hard trip northward,
were totally unfit for service, and were at once set on the road to
Venango, since canoes had been offered the little embassy for the return
trip. Anxious as Washington was to be off, neither his business nor that
of Half King's had been despatched with any celerity until now; but this
day Half King secured an audience with St. Pierre and offered him the
wampum which was promptly refused, though with many protestations of
friendship and an offer to send a load of goods to Logstown. Every
effort possible was being put forth to alienate Half King, and the
Virginian lad frankly wrote: "I can't say that ever in my Life I
suffered so much Anxiety as I did in this Affair." This day and the
next, the French officers outdid themselves in hastening Washington's
departure and retarding Half King's. At last Washington complained
frankly to St. Pierre, who denied his duplicity--and doubled his bribes.
But on the day following Half King was gotten away, Venango being
reached in six long days, a large part of the time being spent dragging
the canoes over icy shoals.

Four days were spent with Joncaire, when, abandoning both horses and
Indians, Washington and Gist set out alone and afoot by the shortest
course to the Forks of the Ohio. It was a daring alternative but
altogether the preferable one. At Murdering Town, a fit place for
Joncaire's assassin to lie in wait, some French Indians were come up
with, one of whom offered to guide the travelers across to the Forks. At
the first good chance he fired upon them and was disarmed and sent away.
The two, building a raft, reached an island in the Allegheny after
heroic suffering, but were unable to cross to the eastern shore until
the following morning. They then passed over on the ice which had
formed and went directly to Frazier's cabin. There they arrived December
29th. On the first day of the new year, 1754, Washington set out for
Virginia on the little path over which he had come out. On the sixth he
met seventeen horses loaded with materials and stores "for a fort at the
Fork of the _Ohio_." Governor Dinwiddie, indefatigable if nothing else,
had commissioned Captain Trent to raise a company of a hundred men to
erect a fort on the Ohio for the protection of the Ohio Company.

On the 16th of January the youthful envoy rode again into Williamsburg,
one month from the day he left Fort La Boeuf. St. Pierre's reply to
Governor Dinwiddie's letter read as follows:


    "As I have the Honour of commanding here in Chief, Mr. _Washington_
    delivered me the Letter which you wrote to the Commandant of the
    _French_ Troops.

    "I should have been glad that you had given him Orders, or that he
    had been inclined to proceed to _Canada_ to see our General; to
    whom it better belongs than to me to set-forth the Evidence and
    Reality of the Rights of the King, my Master, upon the Lands
    situated along the River _Ohio_, and to contest the Pretensions of
    the King of _Great-Britain_ thereto.

    "I shall transmit your Letter to the Marquis _Duguisne_. His Answer
    will be a Law to me; and if he shall order me to communicate it to
    you, Sir, you may be assured I shall not fail to dispatch it to you

    "As to the Summons you send me to retire, I do not think myself
    obliged to obey it. What-ever may be your Instructions, I am here
    by Virtue of the Orders of my General; and I intreat you, Sir, not
    to doubt one Moment, but that I am determin'd to conform myself to
    them with all the Exactness and Resolution which can be expected
    from the best Officer.

    "I don't know that in the Progress of this Campaign any Thing
    passed which can be reputed an Act of Hostility, or that is
    contrary to the Treaties, which subsist between the two Crowns; the
    Continuation whereof as much interests, and is as pleasing to us,
    as the _English_. Had you been pleased, Sir, to have descended to
    particularize the Facts which occasioned your Complaint, I should
    have had the Honour of answering you in the fullest, and, I am
    persuaded, most satisfactory Manner.

    "I made it my particular Care to receive Mr _Washington_, with a
    Distinction suitable to your Dignity, as well as his own Quality
    and great Merit. I flatter myself that he will do me this Justice
    before you, Sir; and that he will signify to you in the Manner I do
    myself, the profound Respect with which I am,

                                          Your most humble, and
                                            most obedient Servant,
                                              LEGARDEUR DE ST. PIERRE."

Washington found the Governor's council was to meet the day following
and that his report was desired. Accordingly he rewrote his _Journal_
from the "rough minutes" he had made. From any point of view this
document of ten thousand words, hastily written by this lad of
twenty-one, who had long since left his school desk, is far more
creditable and remarkable than any of the feats of physical endurance
for which the lad is idolized by the youthful readers of our school
histories. It is safe to say that many a college bred man today could
not prepare from rough notes such a succinct and polite document as did
this young surveyor, who had read few books, and, it can almost be said,
had studied neither his own nor any foreign language. The author did not
"in the least conceive ... that it would ever be published." Speaking
afterward of its "numberless imperfections," he said all that could
recommend it to the public was its truthfulness of fact. Certain
features of this first public service of Washington's are worthy of
remark: his frankness, as in criticizing Shingiss's village as a site
for a fort, as proposed by the Ohio Company; his exactness in giving
details (where he could obtain them) of forts, men, and guns; his
estimates of distances; his wise conforming to Indian custom; his
careful note of the time of day of important events; his frequent
observations of the character of the lands through which he passed; his
knowledge of Indian character.

This mission prosecuted with such rare tact and skill was an utter
failure, considered from the standpoint of its nominal purpose. St.
Pierre's letter was firm, if not defiant. Yet Dinwiddie, despairing of
French withdrawal, had secured the information he desired. Already Trent
had reached the Forks of the Ohio where an English fort was being
erected. Peaceful measures were exhausted with the failure of
Washington's embassy. England's one hope was--war!



No literary production of a youth of twenty-one ever electrified the
world as did the publication of the _Journal_ of this dauntless envoy of
the Virginian governor. No young man more instantly sprang into the
notice of the world than George Washington. The journal was copied far
and wide in the newspapers of the other colonies. It sped across the
sea, and was printed in London by the British government. In a manly,
artless way it told the exact situation on the Ohio frontier and
announced the first positive proof the world had had of hostile French
aggression into the great river valley of the West. Despite certain
youthful expressions, the prudence, tact, capacity, and modesty of the
author were recognized by a nation and by a world.

Without waiting for the House of Burgesses to convene, Governor
Dinwiddie's council immediately advised the enlistment of two hundred
men to be sent to build forts on the Monongahela and Ohio rivers. The
task of recruiting two companies of one hundred men each was given to
the tried though youthful Major Washington, since they were to be
recruited from the northern district over which he had been
adjutant-general. His instructions read as follows:

"_Instruct's to be observ'd by Maj'r Geo. Washington, on the Expedit'n
to the Ohio._

    "MAJ'R GEO. WASHINGTON: You are forthwith to repair to the Co'ty of
    Frederick and there to take under Y'r Com'd 50 Men of the Militia
    who will be deliver'd to You by the Comd'r of the s'd Co'ty
    pursuant to my Orders. You are to send Y'r Lieut. at the same Time
    to the Co'ty of Augusta, to receive 50 Men from the Comd'r of that
    Co'ty as I have order'd, and with them he is to join You at
    Alexandria, to which Place You are to proceed as soon as You have
    rec'd the Men in Frederick. Having rec'd the Detachm't, You are to
    train and discipline them in the best Manner You can, and for all
    Necessaries You are to apply Y'rself to Mr. Jno. Carlisle at Alex'a
    who has my Orders to supply You. Having all Things in readiness You
    are to use all Expedition in proceeding to the Fork of Ohio with
    the Men under Com'd and there you are to finish and compleat in the
    best Manner and as soon as You possibly can, the Fort w'ch I expect
    is there already begun by the Ohio Comp'a. You are to act on the
    Defensive, but in Case any Attempts are made to obstruct the Works
    or interrupt our Settlem'ts by any Persons whatsoever You are to
    restrain all such Offenders, and in Case of resistance to make
    Prisoners of or kill and destroy them. For the rest You are to
    conduct Y'self as the Circumst's of the Service shall require and
    to act as You shall find best for the Furtherance of His M'y's
    Service and the Good of His Dom'n. Wishing You Health and Success I
    bid you Farewell."[3]

The general command of the expedition was given to Colonel Joshua Fry,
formerly professor of mathematics in William and Mary College and a
geographer and Indian commissioner of note. His instructions were as

"_Instruction's to Joshua Fry, Esqr., Colo. and Com'r-in-Chief of the
Virg'a Regiment._

                                                        March, 1754.

    "SIR: The Forces under Y'r Com'd are rais'd to protect our frontier
    Settlements from the incursions of the French and the Ind's in
    F'dship with them. I therefore desire You will with all possible
    Expedition repair to Alexandria on the Head of the Poto. River, and
    there take upon You the com'd of the Forces accordingly; w'ch I
    Expect will be at that Town the Middle of next Mo. You are to march
    them to will's Creek, above the Falls of Poto. from thence with the
    Great Guns, Amunit'n and Provisions. You are to proceed to
    Monongahela, when ariv'd there, You are to make Choice of the best
    Place to erect a Fort for mounting y'r Cannon and ascertain'g His
    M'y the King of G. B's undoubt'd right to those Lands. My Orders to
    You is to be on the Defensive and if any foreign Force sh'd come
    to annoy You or interrupt Y'r quiet Settlem't, and building the
    Fort as afores'd, You are in that Case to represent to them the
    Powers and Orders You have from me, and I desire they w'd
    imediately retire and not to prevent You in the discharge of your
    Duty. If they sh'd continue to be obstinate after your desire to
    retire, you are then to repell Force by Force. I expect a Number of
    the Southern Indians will join you on this expedit'n, w'ch with the
    Indians on the Ohio, I desire You will cultivate a good
    Understanding and Correspondence with, supplying them with what
    Provisions and other Necessaries You can spare; and write to Maj'r
    Carlyle w'n You want Provisions, who has my Orders to purchase and
    Keep a proper Magazine for Your dem'ds. Keep up a good Com'd and
    regular Discipline, inculcate morality and Courage in Y'r Soldiers
    that they may answer the Views on w'ch they are rais'd. You are to
    constitute a Court Martial of the Chief of Your Officers, with whom
    You are to advise and consult on all Affairs of Consequence; and as
    the Fate of this Expedition greatly depends on You, from the
    Opinion I have of Your good Sense and Conduct, I refer the
    Management of the whole to You with the Advice of the Court
    Martial. Sincerely recommending You to the Protection of God,
    wishing Success to our just Designs, I heartily wish You

Dinwiddie's expedition was in no sense the result of general agitation
against French encroachment. And, as in Virginia, so it was in other
colonies to which Governor Dinwiddie appealed; the governors said they
had received no instructions; the validity of English title to the lands
upon which the French were alleged to have encroached was doubted; not
one of them wished to precipitate a war through rash zeal.

Before the bill voting ten thousand pounds "for the encouragement and
protection of the settlers on the Mississippi," as it was called, passed
the House of Burgesses, Governor Dinwiddie had his patience well-nigh
exhausted, but he overlooked both the doubts raised as to England's
rights in the West and personal slights, and signed the bill which
provided for the expenses of the expedition of the Virginia Regiment.

Major Washington was located at Alexandria on the upper Potomac in
February, where he superintended the rendezvous of his men, and the
transportation of supplies and cannon. It was found necessary to resort
to impressments to raise the required quota of men. As early as February
19th, so slow were the drafts and enlistments, Governor Dinwiddie issued
a proclamation granting two hundred thousand acres of land on the Ohio,
to be divided among the officers and men who would serve in the
expedition. This had its effect.

By April 20th, Washington arrived at Wills Creek (Cumberland, Maryland)
with three companies, one under Captain Stephen who had joined him on
the way. The day previous, however, he met a messenger sent from Captain
Trent on the Ohio announcing that the arrival of a French army was
hourly expected. And on the day following, at Wills Creek, he was
informed of the arrival of the French and the withdrawal of the
Virginian force under Trent from the junction of the Allegheny and
Monongahela, where they had been sent to build a fort for the protection
of the Ohio Company. Without any delay, he forwarded this information to
the governors of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Fancy the state of mind of this vanguard of the Virginian army at the
receipt of this news. They were then at the last frontier fort with
eleven companies of troops. Their orders were to push on to the Ohio,
drive off the French army (which was then reported to number a thousand
men), and build a fort there. Before them the only road was the Indian
path, which was hardly wide enough to admit the passage of a packhorse.

A ballot was cast among Washington's captains--the youngest of whom was
old enough to have been his father--and the decision reached was to
advance. The Indian path could at least be widened, and bridges built,
as far as the Monongahela. There they determined to erect a fort and
await orders and reinforcements. The reasons for this decision are
given as follows in Washington's _Journal_ of 1754:[5]

"_1st._ That the mouth of _Red-Stone_ is the first convenient place on
the River Monongahela.

"_2nd._ The stores are already built at that place for the provisions of
the Company, wherein the Ammunition may be laid up, our great guns may
be also sent by water whenever we shall think it convenient to attack
the Fort.

"_3rd._ We may easily (having all these conveniences) preserve our men
from the ill consequences of inaction, and encourage the _Indians_ our
Allies, to remain in our interests."[6]

Thus Washington's march must be looked upon as the advance of a vanguard
opening the road, bridging the streams, preparing the way for the
commanding officer and his army. Nor was there, now, need for haste--had
it been possible or advisable to hasten. The landing of the French at
the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela already thwarted Governor
Dinwiddie's object in sending out the expedition, "to prevent their
[French] building any Forts or making any Settlem'ts on that river,
[Ohio] and more particularly so nigh us as that of the Logstown [fifteen
miles below the forks of the Ohio]." Now that a fort was building, with
an army of a thousand men (as Washington had been erroneously informed)
encamped about it, nothing more was to be thought of than a cautious

And so Washington gave the order on the 29th of April, three score men
having been sent ahead to widen the Indian trail. The march was
difficult and exceedingly slow. In the first ten days they covered but
twenty miles. Yet each mile must have been anticipated seriously by the
young commander. He knew not whether his colonel with reinforcements or
the enemy were nearest. Governor Dinwiddie wrote him (May 4) concerning
reinforcements, as follows:

"The Independ't Compa from So. Car. arriv'd two days ago; is compleat;
100 Men besides Officers, and will re-embark for Alex^a next Week,
thence proceed imediately to join Col^o. Fry and You. The two Independ't
Compa's from N. York may be Expected in ab'^t ten days. The N. Car. Men,
under the Com'^d of Col^o. Innes, are imagin'd to be on their March, and
will probably be at the Randezvous ab'^t the 15^{th}. Inst."...

"I hope Capt. McKay who Com'ds the Independ't Compa., will soon be with
You And as he appears to be an Officer of some Experience and
Importance, You will, with Col^o. Fry and Col^o. Innes, so well agree as
not to let some Punctillios ab'^t Com'd render the Service You are all
engag'd in, perplex'd or obstructed."[7]

Relying implicitly on Dinwiddie, Washington pushed on and on into the
wilderness, opening a road and building bridges for a colonel and an
army that was never to come. As he advanced into the Alleghanies he
found the difficulty of hauling wagons very serious, and long before he
reached the Youghiogheny he determined to test the possibility of
transportation down that stream and the Monongahela to his destination
at the mouth of Redstone creek.

May 11th, he sent a reconnoitering force forward to Gist's, on Laurel
Hill, the last spur of the Alleghanies, to locate a French party, which,
the Indians reported, had left Fort Duquesne, and to find if there was
possibility of water transportation to the month of Redstone creek,
where a favorable site for a fort was to be sought.

Slowly the vanguard of the army felt its way to Little Meadows and
across the smaller branch of the Youghiogheny, which it bridged at
Little Crossings. On the 16th, according to the French version of
Washington's _Journal_, he met traders who informed him of the
appearance of French near Gist's and expressed doubts as to the
possibility of building a wagon road from Gist's to the mouth of
Redstone creek. This made it imperatively necessary for the young
lieutenant-colonel to attempt to find a water passage down the

The day following, much information was received both from the front and
the rear, perhaps most vividly stated in the _Journal_ as follows:

"The Governor informs me that Capt. McKay, with an independent company
of 100 men, excluding the officers, had arrived, and that we might
expect them daily; and that the men from New-York would join us within
ten days.

"This night also came two _Indians_ from the _Ohio_ who left the French
fort five days ago; They relate that the French forces are all employed
in building their Fort, that it is already breast-high, and of the
thickness of twelve feet, and filled with Earth, stones, &c. They have
cut down and burnt up all the trees which were about it and sown grain
instead thereof. The _Indians_ believe they were only 600 in number,
although they say themselves they are 800: They expect a greater number
in a few days, which may amount to 1,600. Then they say they can defy
the _English_."[8]

Arriving on the eastern bank of the Youghiogheny the next day, the river
being too wide to bridge and too high to ford, Washington put himself
"in a position of defence against any immediate attack from the Enemy,"
and went straightway to work on the problem of water transportation.

By the 20th, a canoe having been provided, Washington set out on the
Youghiogheny with four men and an Indian. By nightfall they reached
"Turkey Foot" (Confluence, Pennsylvania), which Washington mapped for
the site of a fort. Below "Turkey Foot" the stream was found too rapid
and rocky to admit of any sort of navigation and Washington returned to
camp on the 24th, with the herculean hardships of an entire overland
march staring him in the face. Information was now at hand from Half
King concerning alleged movements of the French; thus the letter read:

    "To any of his Majesty's officers whom this May Concern.

    "As 'tis reported that the French army is set out to meet M. George
    Washington I exhort you my brethren, to guard against them, for
    they intend to fall on the first _English_ they meet; They have
    been on their march these two days, the Half King and the other
    chiefs will join you within five days, to hold a council, though we
    know not the number we shall be. I shall say no more; but remember
    me to my brethren the English.

                                             Signed, The Half King."

At two o'clock of that same May day (24th) the little vanguard came
down the eastern wooded hills that surround Great Meadows, and looked
across the waving grasses and low bushes which covered the field they
were soon to make classic ground. Immediately upon arriving at the
future battle-field, information was secured from a trader confirming
Half King's alarming letter. Below the roadway, which passed the meadow
on the hillside, the lieutenant-colonel found two natural intrenchments
near a branch of Great Meadows Run, perhaps old courses of the brook
through the swampy land. Here the troops and wagons were placed.

Great Meadows may be described as two large basins, the smaller lying
directly westward of the larger and connected with it by a narrow neck
of swampy ground. Each is a quarter of a mile wide, and the two a mile
and a half in length.

The old roadway descends from the southern hills, coming out upon the
meadows at the eastern extremity of the western basin. It traverses the
hillside south of the western meadow. The natural intrenchments or
depressions behind which Washington huddled his army on this May
afternoon were at the eastern edge of the western basin. Back of him was
the narrow neck of lowland which soon opened into the eastern basin.
Behind him to his left on the hillside his newly made road crept
eastward into the hills. The Indian trail followed the edge of the
forest westward to Laurel Hill, five miles distant, and on to Fort

On this faint opening into the western forest the little band and its
youthful commander kept their eyes as the sun dropped behind the hills,
closing an anxious day and bringing a dreaded night. How large the body
of French might have been, not one of the one hundred and fifty men
knew. How far away they might be, no one could guess. Here in this
forest meadow the little vanguard slept on their arms, surrounded by
watchful sentinels, with fifty-one miles of forest and mountain between
them and the nearest settlement at Wills Creek. The darkling forests
crept down the hills on either side as though to hint by their
portentous shadows of the dead and dying that were to be.

But the night waned and morning came. With increasing energy, as though
nerved to duty by the dangers which surrounded him, the
twenty-two-year-old commander Washington gave his orders promptly. A
scouting party was sent on the Indian trail in search of the coming
French. Squads were set to threshing the forests for spies. Horsemen
were ordered to scour the country and keep look-out for French from
neighboring points of vantage.

At night all returned, none the wiser for their vigilance and labor. The
French force had disappeared from the face of the earth. It may be
believed that this lack of information did not tend to ease the intense
strain of the hour. It must have been plain to the dullest that serious
things were ahead. Two flags, silken emblems of an immemorial hatred,
were being brought together in the Alleghanies. It was a moment of
utmost importance to Europe and America. Quebec and Jamestown were met
on Laurel Hill; and a spark struck here and now was to "set the world on

However clearly this may have been seen, Washington was not the man to
withdraw. Indeed, the celerity with which he precipitated England and
France into war made him the most criticized man on both continents.

Another day passed--and the French could not be found. On the following
day Christopher Gist arrived at Great Meadows with the information that
M. la Force with fifty men (whose tracks he had seen within five miles
of Great Meadows) had been at his house on "Mount Braddock," fifteen
miles distant. Acting on this reliable information, Washington at once
dispatched a scouting party in pursuit.

The day passed and no word came to the anxious men in their trenches in
the meadows. Another night, silent and cheerless, came over the
mountains upon the valley, and with the night came rain. Fresh fears of
strategy and surprise must have arisen as the cheerless sun went down.

Suddenly, at eight in the evening, a runner brought word that the French
were run to cover. Half King, while coming to join Washington, had found
La Force's party in "a low, obscure place."

It was now time for a daring man to show himself. Such was the young
commander at Great Meadows.

"That very moment," wrote Washington in his _Journal_, "I sent out forty
men and ordered my ammunition to be put in a place of safety, fearing it
to be a stratagem of the French to attack our camp; I left a guard to
defend it, and with the rest of my men set out in a heavy rain, and in a
night as dark as pitch."

Perhaps a war was never precipitated under stranger circumstances.
Contrecoeur, commanding at Fort Duquesne, was made aware by his Indian
scouts of Washington's progress all the way from the Potomac. The day
before Washington arrived at Great Meadows, Contrecoeur ordered M. de
Jumonville to leave Fort Duquesne with a detachment of thirty-four men,
commanded by La Force, and go toward the advancing English. To the
English (when he met them) he was to explain he had come to order them
to retire. To the Indians he was to pretend he was "traveling about to
see what is transacting in the King's Territories, and to take notice
of the different roads." In the eyes of the English the party was to be
an embassy. In the eyes of the Indians, a party of scouts
reconnoitering. This is clear from the orders given by Contrecoeur to

Three days later, on the 26th, this "embassy" was at Gist's plantation,
where, according to Gist's report to Washington, they "would have killed
a cow and broken everything in the house, if two _Indians_, whom he
[Gist] had left in charge of the home, had not prevented them."

From Gist's, La Force had advanced within five miles of Great Meadows,
as Gist ascertained by their tracks on the Indian trail. Then--although
the English commander was within an hour's march--the French retraced
their steps to the summit of Laurel Hill, and, descending deep into the
obscure valley on the east, built a hut under the lee of the precipice
and rested from their labors! Here they remained throughout the 27th,
while Washington's scouts were running their legs off in the attempt to
locate them, and the young lieutenant-colonel was in a fever of anxiety
at their sudden, ominous disappearance. Now they were found.

What a march was that! The darkness was intense. The path, Washington
wrote, was "scarce broad enough for one man." Now and then it was lost
completely and a quarter of an hour was wasted in finding it. Stones and
roots impeded the way, and were made trebly treacherous by the torrents
of rain which fell. The men struck the trees. They fell over each other.
They slipped from the narrow track and slid downward through the
soaking, leafy carpet of the forest.

Enthusiastic tourists make the journey today from Great Meadows to the
summit of Laurel Hill on the track over which Washington and his hundred
men floundered and stumbled that wet May night a century and a half ago.
It is a hard walk but exceedingly fruitful to one of imaginative vision.
From Great Meadows the trail holds fast to the height of ground until
Braddock's Run is crossed near "Braddock's Grave." Picture that little
group of men floundering down into this mountain stream, swollen by the
heavy rain, in the utter darkness of that night! From Braddock's Run
the trail begins its long climb on the sides of the foothills, by
picturesque Peddler's Rocks, to the top of Laurel Hill, two thousand
feet above.

Washington left Great Meadows about eight o'clock. It was not until
sunrise that Half King's sentries at "Washington's Spring" saw the
vanguard file out on the narrow ridge, which, dividing headwaters of
Great Meadow Run and Cheat river, makes an easy ascent to the summit of
the mountain. The march of five miles had been accomplished, with great
difficulty, in a little less than ten hours--at the rate of _one mile in
two hours_!

Forgetting all else for the moment, consider the young leader of the
floundering, stumbling army. There is not another episode in all
Washington's long, eventful life that shows more clearly his strength of
personal determination and daring. Beside this all-night march from
Great Meadows to Washington's Spring, Wolfe's ascent to the Plains of
Abraham at Quebec was a pastime. A man in full daylight today can walk
over Washington's five-mile course to Laurel Hill in one-fifth of the
time that little army needed on that black night. If a more difficult
ten-hour night march has been made in the history of warfare in America,
who led it and where was it made? No feature of the campaign shows more
clearly the unmatched, irresistible energy of this twenty-two-year-old
boy. For those to whom Washington, the man, is "unknown," there are
lessons in this little path today, of value far beyond their cost.

Whether Washington intended to attack the French before he reached Half
King, is not known; at the spring a conference was held and it was
immediately decided to attack. Washington did not know and could not
have known that Jumonville was an ambassador. The action of the French
in approaching Great Meadows and then withdrawing and hiding was not the
behavior of an embassy. Half King and his Indians were of opinion that
the French party entertained evil designs, and, as Washington afterwards
wrote, "if we had been such fools as to let them [the French] go, they
would never have helped us to take any other Frenchmen."

Two scouts were sent out in advance; then, in Indian file, Washington
and his men with Half King and a few Indians followed and "prepared to
surround them."

Laurel Hill, the most westerly range of the Alleghanies, trends north
and south through western Pennsylvania. In Fayette county, about one
mile on the summit northward from the Cumberland Road, lies Washington's
Spring where Half King encamped. The Indian trail coursed along the
summit northward fifteen miles to Gist's. On the eastern side, Laurel
Hill descends into a valley varying from a hundred to five hundred feet
deep. Nearly two miles from the spring, in the bottom of a valley four
hundred feet deep, lay Jumonville's "embassy." The attacking party,
guided by Indians, who had previously wriggled down the hillside on
their bellies and found the French, advanced along the Indian trail and
then turned off and began stealthily creeping down the mountainside.


Washington's plan was, clearly, to surround and capture the French. It
is plain he did not understand the ground. They were encamped in the
bottom of a valley two hundred yards wide and more than a mile long.
Moreover, the hillside on which the English were descending abruptly
ended on a narrow ledge of perpendicular rocks thirty feet high and a
hundred yards long.

Coming suddenly out on the rocks, Washington leading the right division
of the party and Half King the left, it was plain in the twinkling of an
eye that it would be impossible to achieve a bloodless victory.
Washington therefore gave and received first fire. It was fifteen
minutes before the astonished but doughty French, probably now
surrounded by Half King's Indians, were compelled to surrender. Ten of
their number, including the "ambassador" Jumonville, were killed
outright and one wounded. Twenty-one were taken prisoners. One Frenchman
escaped, running half clothed through the forests to Fort Duquesne with
the evil tidings.

"We killed," writes Washington, "Mr. de Jumonville, the Commander of
that party, as also nine others; we wounded one and made twenty-one
prisoners, among whom were _M. La Force, M. Drouillon_ and two cadets.
The Indians scalped the dead and took away the greater part of their
arms, after which we marched on with the prisoners under guard to the
_Indian_ camp.... I marched on with the prisoners. _They informed me
that they had been sent with a summons to order me to retire._ A
plausible pretence to discover our camp and to obtain knowledge of our
forces and our situation! It was so clear that they were come to
reconnoiter what we were, that I admired their assurance, when they told
me they were come as an Embassy; their instructions were to get what
knowledge they could of the roads, rivers, and all the country as far as
the Potomac; and instead of coming as an Embassador, publicly and in an
open manner, they came secretly, and sought the most hidden retreats
more suitable for deserters than for Embassadors; they encamped there
and remained hidden for whole days together, at a distance of not more
than five miles from us; they sent spies to reconnoiter our camp; the
whole body turned back 2 miles; they sent the two messengers mentioned
in the instruction, to inform M. de Contrecoeur of the place where we
were, and of our disposition, that he might send his detachments to
enforce the summons as soon as it should be given. Besides, an
Embassador has princely attendants, whereas this was only a simple petty
_French_ officer, an Embassador has no need of spies, his person being
always sacred: and seeing their intention was so good, why did they
tarry two days at five miles' distance from us without acquainting me
with the summons, or at least, with something that related to the
Embassy? That alone would be sufficient to excite the strongest
suspicions, and we must do them the justice to say, that, as they wanted
to hide themselves, they could not have picked out better places than
they had done. The summons was so insolent, and savored of so much
Gasconade, that if it had been brought openly by two men it would have
been an excessive Indulgence to have suffered them to return.... They
say they called to us as soon as they had discovered us; which is an
absolute falsehood, for I was then marching at the head of the company
going towards them, and can positively affirm, that, when they first saw
us, they ran to their arms, without calling, as I must have heard them
had they so done."[9]

In a letter to his brother, Washington wrote: "I fortunately 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
in the _London Magazine_. It is said George II. read it and commented
dryly: "He would not say so if he had been used to hear many." In later
years Washington heard too much of the fatal music, and once, when asked
if he had written such rodomontade is said to have answered gravely, "If
I said so, it was when I was young." Aye, but it is memorials of that
daring young Virginian, to whom whistling bullets were charming, that we
seek in the Alleghanies today. We catch a similar glimpse of his
ardent, boyish spirit in a letter written from Fort Necessity later.
Speaking of strengthening the fortifications, Washington writes: "We
have, with nature's assistance, made a good intrenchment, and by
clearing the bushes out of these meadows, prepared a charming field for
an encounter." Over and above the anxieties with which he was ever
beset, there shines out clearly the exuberance of boyish zest and
valor--soon to be hardened and quenched by innumerable cares and heavy

Thus the first blow in the long bloody seven years' war was struck by
the red-uniformed Virginians under Washington at the bottom of that
Alleghany valley. He immediately returned to Great Meadows, sent
eastward to the belated Fry for reinforcements, and westward a scouting
party to keep watch of the enemy. On the 30th, the French prisoners were
sent eastward to Virginia and the construction of a fort was begun at
Great Meadows, by erecting "small palisades." This was completed by the
following day, June 1st. Washington, in his _Journal_ under the date of
June 25th, speaks of this fort as "Fort-Necessity."[10] The name
suggests the exigencies which led to its erection: lack of troops and
provisions. On June 2nd, Washington wrote in his _Journal_: "We had
prayers in the Fort;"[11] the name Necessity may not have been used at

On the 6th, Gist arrived from Wills Creek, bringing the news of Colonel
Fry's death by injuries sustained from being thrown from his horse. Thus
the command now devolved upon Washington who had been in actual command
from the beginning. On the 9th, the remainder of the Virginian regiment
arrived from Wills Creek, with the swivels, under Colonel Muse. On the
day following, Captain Mackaye arrived with the Independent Company of
South Carolinians.

The reinforcements put a new face on affairs and it is clear that the
new colonel commanding secretly hoped to capture Fort Duquesne
forthwith. Washington's road was finished to Great Meadows. For two
weeks, now, the work went on, completing it as far as Gist's, on Mount
Braddock. In the mountains a sharp lookout for the French was
maintained, and spies were continually sent to Fort Duquesne to report
all that was happening there. Among all else that taxed the energies of
the young colonel was the management of the Indian question. At one time
he received and answered a deputation of Delawares and Shawanese which
he knew was sent by the French as spies. Yet the answer of this youth to
the "treacherous devils," as he calls them in his private record of the
day, was as bland and diplomatic as that of Indian chieftain bred to
hypocrisy and deceit. He put little faith in the redskins but made good
use of those he had as spies, did all in his power to restrain the
nations from joining the French, and offered to all who came or would
come to him a hospitality he could ill afford.

On the 28th, his road was completed to Gist's and eight of the sixteen
miles from Gist's to the mouth of Redstone creek. On this day the scouts
brought word of reinforcements at Fort Duquesne and of preparations for
sending out an army. Immediately Washington summoned Mackaye's company
from Fort Necessity and the building of a fort was begun by throwing up
entrenchments on Mount Braddock. All outlying squads were called in. But
on the 30th, fresher information being at hand, it was decided at a
council of war to retreat to Virginia rather than oppose the strong
force which was advancing up the Monongahela.

The consternation at Fort Duquesne upon the arrival of the single,
barefoot fugitive from Jumonville's company can be imagined. Relying on
the pompous pretenses of the embassadorship and desiring to avoid an
indefensible violation of the Treaty of Utrecht--though the spirit and
letter were "already infringed by his very presence on the
ground"--Contrecoeur, one of the best representatives of his proud
king that ever came to America, assembled a council of war and ordered
each opinion to be put in writing. Mercier gave moderate advice;
Coulon-Villiers, half-brother of Jumonville, burning with rage, urged
violent recrimination. Mercier prevailed, and an army of five hundred
French and as many, or more, Indians, among whom were many Delawares,
formerly friendly to the English, was raised to march and meet
Washington. At his request the command was given to Coulon-Villiers--_Le
Grand Villiers_, so-called from his prowess among the Indians. Mercier
was second in command. This was the army before which Washington was now
slowly, painfully, retreating from Mount Braddock toward Virginia.

It was a sad hour--that in which the Virginian retreat was ordered by
the daring colonel, eager for a fight. But, even if he secretly wished
to stay and defend the splendid site on Mount Braddock where he had
entrenched his army, the counsel of older heads prevailed. It would have
been better had the army stuck to those breastworks--but the suffering
and humiliation to come was not foreseen.

Backward over the rough, new road the little army plodded, the
Virginians hauling their swivels by hand. Two teams and a few packhorses
were all that remained of horse-flesh equal to the occasion. Even
Washington and his officers walked. For a week there had been no bread.
In two days Fort Necessity was reached, where, quite exhausted, the
little army went into camp. There were only a few bags of flour here. It
was plain, now, that the retreat was ill-advised. Human strength could
not endure it. So there was nothing to do but send post-haste to Wills
Creek for help. But, if strength were lacking--there was courage, and to
spare! For after a "full and free" conference of the officers it was
determined to enlarge the stockade, strengthen the fortifications, and
await the enemy whatever his number and power.


The day following was spent in this work and famed Fort Necessity was
completed. It was the shape of an irregular square situated upon a small
height of land near the center of the swampy meadow. "The natural
entrenchments" of which Washington speaks in his _Journal_ may have been
merely this height of ground, or old courses of the two brooks which
flow by it on the north and on the east. At any rate the fort was built
on an "island," so to speak, in the wet lowland. A narrow neck of solid
land connected it with the southern hillside, along which the road
ran. A shallow ditch surrounded the earthen palisaded sides of the fort.
Parallel with the southeastern and southwestern palisades rifle-pits
were dug. Bastion gateways offered entrance and exit. The works embraced
less than a third of an acre of land. All day long skirmishers and
double picket lines were kept out and the steady advance of the French
force, three times the size of the army fearlessly awaiting it, was
reported by hurrying scouts.

No army ever lay on its arms of a night surer of a battle on the morrow
than did this first English army that ever came into the West. _Le Grand
Villiers_, thirsting for revenge, lay not five miles off, with a
thousand followers who had caught his spirit. And yet time was to show
that this fiery temper was held in admirable control!

By earliest morning light on Wednesday, July 3, an English sentry was
brought in wounded. The French were then descending Laurel Hill four
miles distant. They had attacked the entrenchments on Mount Braddock the
morning before, only to find their bird had flown, and now were
pressing after the retreating redcoats and their "buckskin colonel."
Little is known of the story of this day within the earthen triangle,
save as it is told in the meager details of the general battle. There
was great lack of food, but, to compensate for this, as the soldiers no
doubt thought, there was much to drink. By eleven o'clock the French and
Indians, spreading throughout the forests on the northwest, began firing
at six hundred yards' distance. Finally they circled to the southeast
where the forests approached nearer to the English trenches. Washington
at once drew his little army out of the fort and boldly challenged
assault on the narrow neck of solid land on the south which formed the
only approach to the fort.

But the crafty Villiers, not to be tempted, kept well within the forest
shadows to the south and east--cutting off all retreat to Virginia.
Realizing at last that the French would not give battle, Washington
withdrew again behind his entrenchments, Mackaye's South Carolinians
occupying the rifle-pits which paralleled two sides of the

Here the all-day's battle was fought between the Virginians behind their
breastworks and in their trenches, and the French and Indians on the
ascending wooded hillsides. The rain which began to fall soon flooded
Mackaye's men out of their trenches. But no other change of position was
made all day. And, so far as the battle went, the English doggedly held
their own. In the contest with hunger and rain, however, they were
fighting a losing battle. The horses and cattle escaped and were
slaughtered by the enemy. The provisions were nearly exhausted and the
ammunition was far spent. As the afternoon waned, though there was some
cessation in musketry fire, many guns being rendered useless by the
rain, the smoking little swivels were made to do double duty. They
bellowed their fierce defiance with unwonted zest as night came on,
giving to the English an appearance of strength which they were far from
possessing. The hungry soldiers made up for the lack of food from the
abundance of liquor, which, in their exhausted state had more than its
usual effect. By nightfall half the little doomed army, surrounded by
the French and Indians, fifty miles from any succor, was in a pitiable
condition! No doubt, had Villiers dared to rush the entrenchments, the
English could have been annihilated. Their hopeless condition could not
have been realized by the foe on the hills.

But it all was realized by the sober young colonel commanding. And as he
looked about him in the wet twilight of that July day, what a dismal
ending of his first campaign it must have seemed. Fifty-four of his
three hundred and four men were killed or wounded. The loss among the
ninety Carolinians is not known. At the same rate there were, in all,
perhaps seventy-five killed or wounded in that little palisaded
enclosure. Provisions and ammunition were about gone. Horses and cattle
were lost. Many of the small arms were useless. The army was surrounded
by _Le Grand Villiers_, watchfully abiding his time. And half the
tired men were intoxicated by the only stimulant that could be spared.
What mercy could be hoped for from the brother of the dead Jumonville?
For these four hundred Spartans, a fight to the death, or at
least a captivity at Duquesne or Quebec was all that could be
expected--Jumonville's party having already been sent into Virginia as

But at eight in the evening the French requested a parley. Washington
refused to consider the suggestion. Why should a parley be desired with
an enemy in such a hopeless strait as they? It was clear that Villiers
had resorted to this strategy to gain better information of their
condition. But the request was soon repeated, and this time for a parley
between the lines. To this Washington readily acceded, and Captain van
Braam went to meet Le Mercier, who brought a verbal proposition from
Villiers for the capitulation of Fort Necessity. To this proposition
Washington and his officers listened. Twice the commissioners were sent
to Villiers to submit modifications demanded by Washington. They
returned a third time with the articles reduced to writing--but in
French. Washington depended upon Van Braam's poor knowledge of French
and mongrel English for a verbal translation. Jumonville's death was
referred to as an assassination though Van Braam Englished the word
"death"--perhaps thinking there was no other translation for the French
_l'assassinat_. And by the light of a flickering candle, which the
mountain wind frequently extinguished, the rain falling upon the
company, George Washington signed this, his _first_ and his _last_,
capitulation. It read as follows:

   "ARTICLE 1^{st}. We permit the English Commander to withdraw with
   all the garrison, in order that he may return peaceably to his
   country, and to shield him from all insult at the hands of our
   French, and to restrain the savages who are with us as much as may
   be in our power.

   "ART. 2^{nd}. He shall be permitted to withdraw and to take with
   him whatever belongs to his troops, _except the artillery, which we
   reserve for ourselves_.

   "ART. 3^{rd}. We grant them the honors of war; they shall withdraw
   with beating drums, and with a small piece of cannon, wishing by
   this means to show that we consider them friends.

   "ART. 4^{th}. As soon as these articles shall be signed by both
   parties, they shall take down the English flag.

   "ART. 5^{th}. Tomorrow at daybreak a detachment of French shall
   lead forth the garrison and take possession of the aforesaid fort.

   "ART. 6^{th}. Since the English have scarcely any horses or oxen
   left, they shall be allowed to hide their property, in order that
   they may return to seek for it after they shall have recovered
   their horses; for this purpose they shall be permitted to leave
   such number of troops as guards as they may think proper, _under
   this condition, that they give their word of honor that they will
   work on no establishment either in the surrounding country or
   beyond the Highlands during one year beginning from this day_.

   "ART. 7^{th}. Since the English have in their power an officer and
   two cadets, and, in general, all the prisoners whom they took _when
   they murdered Lord Jumonville_, they now promise to send them, with
   an escort to Fort Duquesne, situated on Belle River, and to secure
   the safe performance of this treaty article, _as well as of the
   treaty_, Messrs. Jacob van Braam and Robert Stobo, both Captains,
   shall be delivered to us as hostages until the arrival of our
   French and Canadians herein before mentioned.

   "We on our part declare that we shall give an escort to send back
   in safety the two officers who promise us our French in two months
   and a half at the latest.

   "Copied on one of the posts of our block-house the same day and
   year as before.

                               (Signed.) MESSRS. JAMES MACKAYE, G^c.
                                                 G^o. WASHINGTON,
                                                 COULON VILLIER."[12]

The parts in italics were those misrepresented by Van Braam. The words
_pendant une année à compter de ce jour_ are not found in the articles
printed by the French government, as though it repudiated Villier's
intimation that the English should ever return. But within sixty-three
hours of a year, an English army, eight times as great as the party now
capitulating, marched across this battle-field. The nice courtesy shown
by the young colonel, in allowing Captain Mackaye's name to take
precedence over his own, is significant, as Mackaye, a king's officer,
had never considered himself amenable to Washington's orders, and his
troops had steadily refused to bear the brunt of the campaign--working
on the road or transporting guns and baggage. In the trenches, however,
the Carolinians did their duty.

And so, on the morning of July 4th, 1753, the red-uniformed Virginians
and king's troops marched out from Fort Necessity between the files of
French, with all the honors of war and _tambour battant_. Much baggage
had to be destroyed to save it from the Indians whom the French could
not restrain. Such was the condition of the men--the wounded being
carried on stretchers--that only three miles could be made on the
homeward march the first day. However glorious later July Fourths may
have seemed to Washington, memories of the distress and gloom and
humiliation of this day ever served to temper his joys. The report of
the officers of the Virginia regiment made at Wills Creek, where they
arrived July 9th, shows thirteen killed, fifty-three wounded, thirteen
left lame on the road, twenty-seven absent, twenty-one sick, and one
hundred and sixty-five fit for duty.

On August 30th, the Virginian House of Burgesses passed a vote of thanks
to "Colonel George Washington, Captain Mackaye of his Majesty's
Independent Company, and the officers under his command," for their
"gallant and brave Behaviour in Defense of their Country." The sting of
defeat was softened by the public realization of the odds of the contest
and the failure of Dinwiddie to forward reinforcements and provisions. A
characteristic scene was enacted in the House when, Colonel Washington
having entered the gallery, the burgesses rose to express their respect
for the young officer who had led the first English army across the
Alleghanies. The colonel attempted to return thanks for the conspicuous
recognition, but, though he had faced unflinchingly the French and the
Indians, he was overcome with embarrassment at this involuntary, warm
tribute of his friends. But the young hero was deeply chagrined at his
being duped to recognize Jumonville's death as an assassination. Captain
van Braam, being held in disrepute for what was probably nothing more
culpable than carelessness, was not named in the vote of thanks tendered
Washington's officers.

But this chagrin was no more cutting than the obstinacy of Dinwiddie in
refusing to fulfill the article of the treaty concerning the return of
the French prisoners. For this there was little or no valid excuse, and
Dinwiddie's action in thus playing fast and loose with Washington's
reputation was as galling to the young colonel as it was heedless of his
country's honor and the laws of war.

Washington's first visit to the Ohio had proven French occupation of
that great valley. This, his second mission, had proven their power.
With this campaign began his military career. "Although as yet a youth,"
writes Sparks, "with small experience, unskilled in war, and relying on
his own resources, he had behaved with the prudence, address, courage,
and firmness of a veteran commander. Rigid in discipline, but sharing
the hardships and solicitous for the welfare of his soldiers, he had
secured their obedience and won their esteem amidst privations,
sufferings and perils that have seldom been surpassed."

The few memorials of this little campaign are of great interest and
value since it marked the beginning of the struggle of our national
independence, and because of Washington's prominence in it. Of the
beginning of Washington's fort on Mount Braddock nothing whatever
remains save the record of it, which should be enough--though it is
not--to silence all who, with gross ignorance of the facts, have imputed
to the young commander a lack of military skill in choosing the site in
Great Meadows for Fort Necessity. Criticisms of Washington on this score
are ridiculous misrepresentations. The fact that Washington chose Mount
Braddock for his fort and battle-ground has, unfortunately, never been
emphasized by historians.

The Great Meadows, sunny and fair, lie quietly between their hills
dreaming even yet of the young hero whose name is indissolubly linked
with their own. The gently sloping hills are now quite cleared of
forests--save on the southeast, where, as in the old days, the forests
still approach nearest the bottom land. For half a century after
Washington capitulated, his roadway from the Potomac was the great
highway across the mountains, and thousands of weary pilgrims to the
great West camped near the spot where the Father of the West fought his
first battle for it. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the
Cumberland Road, the historic highway of America, was built through
Great Meadows, and the northern hill--on which the French opened the
first battle of the French and Indian War on that July morning--over
which the great road was built is named Mount Washington.

On a plateau surrounded by low ground at the western extremity of
classic Great Meadows, Fort Necessity was built, and there may be seen
today the remains of its palisades.

The site was not chosen because of its strategic location, but because,
late in that May day, a century and a half ago, a little army hurrying
forward to find any spot where it could defend itself, selected it
because of the supply of water afforded by the brooks.

From the hill to the east the young commander no doubt looked with
anxious eyes upon this well-watered meadow, and perhaps he decided
quickly to make his resistance here. As he neared the spot his hopes
rose, for he found that the plateau was surrounded by wet ground and
accessible only from the southern side. Moreover the plateau contained
"natural fortifications," as Washington termed them, possibly gullies
torn through it, sometime when the brooks were out of banks.

Here Washington quickly ensconced his men. From their trenches, as they
looked westward for the French, lay the western extremity of Great
Meadows covered with bushes and rank grasses. To their right--the
north--the meadow marsh stretched more than a hundred yards to the
gently ascending wooded hillside. Behind them lay the eastern sweep of
meadows, and to their left, seventy yards distant, the wooded hillside
to the south. The high ground on which they lay contained about forty
square rods, and was bounded on the north by Great Meadows brook and on
the east by a brooklet which descended from the valley between the
southern hills.

When, in the days following, Fort Necessity was raised, the palisades,
it is said, were made by erecting logs on one end, side by side, and
throwing dirt against them from both sides. As there were no trees in
the meadow, the logs were brought from the southern hillside over the
narrow neck of solid ground to their place. On the north the palisade
was made to touch the waters of the brook. Without its embankments on
the south and west sides, two trenches were dug parallel with the
embankments, to serve as rifle-pits. Bastion gateways, three in number,
were made in the western palisade.

The first recorded survey of Fort Necessity was made by Mr. Freeman
Lewis, senior author, with Mr. James Veech, of _The Monongahela of Old_,
in 1816. This survey was first reproduced in Lowdermilk's _History of
Cumberland_;[13] it is described by Mr. Veech in _The Monongahela of
Old_,[14] and has been reproduced as authoritative, by the authors of
_Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania_, published in 1895 by the state of
Pennsylvania.[15] The embankments are described thus by Mr. Veech on the
basis of his collaborator's survey: "It [Fort Necessity] was in the form
of an obtuse-angled triangle of 105 degrees, having its base or
hypothenuse upon the run. The line of the base was about midway, sected
or broken, and about two perches of it thrown across the run, connecting
with the base by lines of the triangle. One line of the angle was six,
the other seven perches; the base line eleven perches long, including
the section thrown across the run. The lines embraced in all about fifty
square perches of land on [or?] nearly one third of an acre."

This amusing statement has been seriously quoted by the authorities
mentioned, and a map is made according to it and published in the
_Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania_ without a word as to its
inconsistencies. How could a triangle, the sides of which measure six,
seven, and eleven rods, contain fifty square rods or one-third of an
acre? It could not contain half that amount.

[_A, Plan of Lewis's Survey; B, Sparks's Plan_]]

The present writer went to Fort Necessity armed with this two-page map
of Fort Necessity in the _Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania_ which he
trusted as authoritative. The present owner of the land, Mr. Lewis
Fazenbaker, objected to the map, and it was only in trying to prove its
correctness that its inconsistencies were discovered.

The mounds now standing on the ground are drawn on the appended chart
_Diagrams of Fort Necessity_ as lines C A B E. By a careful survey of
them by Mr. Robert McCracken C.E., sides C A and A B are found to be the
identical mounds surveyed by Mr. Lewis, the variation in direction being
exceedingly slight and easily accounted for by erosion. The direction of
Mr. Lewis's sides were N. 25 W. and S. 80 W.: their direction by Mr.
McCracken's survey are N. 22 W. and S. 80.30 W. This proves beyond a
shadow of a doubt that the embankments surveyed in 1816 and 1901 are

But the third mound B E runs utterly at variance with Mr. Lewis's
figure. By him its direction was S. 59-1/4 E.; its present direction is
S. 76 E. The question then arises: Is this mound the one that Mr. Lewis
surveyed? Nothing could be better evidence that it is than the very
egregious error Mr. Lewis made concerning the area contained within his
triangular embankment. He affirms that the area of Fort Necessity was
fifty square rods. Now take the line of B E for the third side of the
triangle and extend it to F where it would meet the continuation of side
A C. _That triangle contains almost exactly 50 square rods or one-third
of an acre!_ The natural supposition must be that some one had surveyed
the triangle A F B and computed its area correctly as about fifty square
rods. The mere recording of this area is sufficient evidence that the
triangle A F B had been surveyed in 1816, and this is sufficient proof
that mound B E stood just as it stands today and was considered in Mr.
Lewis's day as one of the embankments of Fort Necessity.

[_Scale 80 feet to the inch._]]

Now, why did Mr. Lewis ignore the embankment B E and the triangle A F B
which contained these fifty square rods he gave as the area of Fort
Necessity? For the very obvious reason that that triangle crossed the
brook and ran far into the marsh beyond. By every account the palisades
of Fort Necessity were made to extend on the north to touch the brook,
therefore it would be quite ridiculous to suppose the palisades crossed
the brook again on the east. Mr. Lewis, prepossessed with the idea that
the embankments must have been triangular in shape, drew the line B C as
the base of his triangle, bisecting it at M and N, and making the loop M
S N touch the brook. This design (triangle A B C) of Fort Necessity is
improbable for the following reasons:

1. It has not one-half the area Mr. Lewis gives it.

2. It would not include much more than one-half of the high ground of
the plateau, which was none too large for a fort.

3. There is no semblance of a mound B C nor any shred of testimony nor
any legend of its existence.

4. The mound B E is entirely ignored though there is the best of
evidence that it stood in Mr. Lewis's day where it stands today and was
considered an embankment of Fort Necessity. Mr. Lewis gives exactly the
area of a triangle with it as a part of the base line.

5. Loop M S N would not come near the course of the brook without
extending it far beyond Mr. Lewis's estimate of the length of its sides.

6. Its area is only about 5200 square feet which would make Fort
Necessity unconscionably small in face of the fact that more high ground
was available.

In 1759 Colonel Burd visited the site of Fort Necessity. This was only
five years after it was built. He described its remains as circular in
shape. If it was originally a triangle it is improbable that it could
have appeared round five years later. If, however, it was originally an
irregular square, it is not improbable that the rains and frosts of five
winters, combined with the demolition of the fort by the French, would
have given the mounds a circular appearance. Was Fort Necessity, then,
built in the form of an irregular square? There is the best of evidence
that it was.

In 1830--fourteen years after Mr. Lewis's "survey"--Mr. Jared Sparks, a
careful historian and author of the standard work on Washington, visited
Fort Necessity. According to him its remains occupied "an irregular
square, the dimensions of which were about one hundred feet on each
side."[16] Mr. Sparks drew a map of the embankments which is
incorporated in his _Writings of Washington_ (see plate on page 175).
This drawing has not been reproduced in any later work, the authors of
both _History of Cumberland_ and _Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania_
preferring to reproduce Mr. Lewis's inconsistent survey and speculation
rather than Mr. Sparks's more accurate drawing.

It is plain that Mr. Sparks found the embankment B E running in the
direction it does today and not at all in the direction of the line B C,
as Mr. Lewis drew it. By giving the approximate length of the sides as
one hundred feet, Mr. Sparks gives about the exact length of the line B
E in whatever direction it is extended to the brook. The fact that such
an exact scholar as Mr. Sparks does not mention a sign or tradition of
an embankment at B C, only fourteen years after Mr. Lewis "surveyed"
it, is evidence that it never existed, which cannot come far from
convicting the latter of a positive intention to speculate. However, it
is well known how loosely early surveying was done.

Mr. Sparks gives us four sides for Fort Necessity. Three of these have
been described as C A, A B and the broken line B E D. Is there any
evidence of the fourth side such as indicated by the line C D?

There is!

When Mr. Fazenbaker first questioned the accuracy of the map of Fort
Necessity in _Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania_, he believed the fort was
a four-sided construction and pointed to a small mound, indicated at O,
as the remains of the fourth embankment. The mound would not be noticed
in a hasty view of the field, but, on examination proves to be an
artificial, not a natural, mound. It is in lower ground and nearer the
old course of the brook than the remains of Fort Necessity. A mound here
would suffer most when the brook was out of banks, which would account
for its disappearance.

Excavations in the other mounds had been unsuccessful; nothing had been
discovered of the palisades, though every mound gave certain proof of
having been artificially made. But excavations at mound O gave a
different result. At about four and one-half feet below the surface of
the ground, at the water line, a considerable amount of bark was found,
fresh and red as new bark. It was water-soaked and the strings lay
parallel with the mound above and were not found at a greater distance
than two feet from its center. It was the rough bark of a tree's
trunk--not the skin bark such as grows on roots. Large flakes, the size
of a man's hand, could be removed from it. At a distance of ten feet
away a second trench was sunk, in line with the mound but quite beyond
its northwestern extremity. Bark was found here entirely similar in
color, position, and condition. There is little doubt that the bark came
from the logs of the palisades of Fort Necessity, though nothing is to
be gained by exaggerating the possibility. Bark, here in the low ground,
would last indefinitely, and water was reached under this mound sooner
than at any other point. No wood was found. It is probable that the
French threw down the palisades, but bark would naturally have been left
in the ground. If wood had been left, it would not withstand decay so
long as bark. Competent judges declare the bark to be that of oak. An
authority of great reputation expresses the opinion that the bark found
was probably from the logs of the palisades erected in 1754.

If anything is needed to prove that this slight mound O was an
embankment of Fort Necessity, it is to be found in the result of Mr.
McCracken's survey. The mound lies in _exact line_ with the eastern
extremity of embankment C A, the point C being located seven rods from
the obtuse angle A, in line with the mound C A, which is broken by Mr.
Fazenbaker's lane. Also, the distance from C to D (in line with the
mound O) measures ninety-nine feet and four inches--almost exactly Mr.
Sparks's estimate of one hundred feet. Thus Fort Necessity was in the
shape of the figure represented by lines K C, C A, A B, and B E, and the
projection of the palisades to the brook is represented by E D K, E H K,
or L W K (line B E being prolonged to L). Mr. Sparks's drawing of the
fort is thus proven approximately correct, although Mr. Veech boldly
asserts that it is "inaccurate"[17] (the quotation being copied in the
_Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania_),[18] and despite the fact that two
volumes treating of the fort, _History of Cumberland_, and _Frontier
Forts of Pennsylvania_, refuse to give Mr. Sparks's map a place in their
pages. It is of little practical moment what the form of the fort may
have been, but it is all out of order that a palpably false description
should be given by those who should be authorities, in preference to Mr.
Sparks's description which is easily proven to be approximately correct.

Relics from Fort Necessity are rare and valuable, for the reason that no
other action save the one battle of Fort Necessity ever took place here.
The barrel of an old flint-lock musket, a few grape shot, a bullet mould
and ladle, leaden and iron musket balls, comprise the few silent
memorials of the first battle in which Saxon blood was shed west of the
Alleghany Mountains. The swivels, it is said, were taken to Kentucky to
do brave duty there in redeeming the "dark and bloody ground" to

On the one hundredth anniversary of the battle of Fort Necessity a
corner-stone for a monument was laid, but that has been displaced and
rifled by vandals. Will the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary pass
without suitable action? Is not the site of the first battle of the
American Revolution worthy of a monument?



It is probable that, as early as 1753, after his return from his mission
to the French forts, George Washington first introduced the subject of
uniting the East and West by means of public highways. If England was to
hold the West she must have a passageway to it.

The project involved very great expense and Governor Dinwiddie paid
little heed to it. Had Virginia acted on the young Washington's
suggestion, how much life and treasure would have been saved! Braddock
could not but have been successful, and that would have made Forbes's
expedition needless, and perhaps Bouquet's also.

As it was, Braddock's twelve-foot road was almost her only communication
with the West. But Washington held to his boyhood dream of a highway
over the mountains. As the years passed, his plans matured gradually
with the unparalleled growth of the West. Being a broad-minded Virginian
of Virginians, he early conceived a picture of commercial grandeur, for
the Old Dominion, the colony holding a golden West in fee. This was to
be attained by building a highway over the mountains and connecting its
eastern and western termini with navigable water-ways, natural or, if
necessary, artificial. The building of the canals upon which the
commerce from and to both east and west was to be brought to the great
portage highway across the Alleghanies was the important _coup_ of his
plan, and to this he gave the best of his time and strength for many

When he first became a member of the House of Burgesses, in 1759, the
subject of a highway connection between the East and the West was not
formally introduced. But to the members Washington recommended the
project as worthy of their consideration; he determined, before it
should be formally brought before the legislature of the colony for
definite action, to supply himself with all facts concerning the
practicability of the undertaking, the expense of the construction and
the advantages to accrue. His plan contemplated the improvement of the
navigation of the Potomac from tide-water to Fort Cumberland at the
mouth of Wills Creek, or, to the highest practical point of the Potomac,
and the building of a highway across the mountains to the nearest
navigable western rivers, Cheat, Youghiogheny, Monongahela, or Ohio.

The selection of the best route was of primary importance, and
Washington during his tours in the West studied carefully this question.
Maps plotted by surveying parties were examined and materially aided in
selecting the most advantageous communication. The colonies on the
Potomac, Virginia and Maryland, would especially profit by the
navigation of this river and the extension of the communication with the
West. Certain of Washington's letters to friends residing in Virginia
and Maryland with extracts of his journal, including descriptions of the
West, were published in the colonial _Gazettes_. The project was
received with curiosity and interest. When Washington made his western
tour in 1774, he was surprised to find the change that had taken place
in the valley of the Ohio. People, he affirmed, were immigrating "in

Believing now the time had come, Washington brought his plan of a grand
system of communication before the House of Burgesses at its session in
1774. It met with much opposition on the grounds of impracticability and
expense. Accordingly, Washington was forced to depart from his original
intention. He introduced and moved the adoption of a bill which
empowered individuals to subscribe toward such an enterprise and
construct a communication at their own expense. Even this met with
opposition, and, to appease the delegates from central Virginia, it was
found necessary to introduce an amendment to include the improvement of
the navigation of the James river.

In its amended form, the bill would probably have passed the House of
Burgesses. A similar bill was brought before the Assembly of Maryland,
though with discouraging prospects. Jealousies regarding western trade
already existed between the merchants of Baltimore and Georgetown, and
efforts made in favor of the bill by one party were opposed by the

With matters in this doubtful condition, the Revolutionary War broke out
and as commander-in-chief of the army, Washington was called to
Cambridge. But he never forgot the dream of his youth and early manhood
and at the close of the war, again took up the enterprise. The dream of
the youth became the firm conviction of the man, and, next to his desire
for the independence of his country, the chief ambition of his life.
For, now, the project was of national importance--to bind the East and
the West with the iron bands of commercial intercourse and sympathy. A
new nation had been born, but it was divided by mountains, which, to
European eyes, seemed imperative boundaries of empire.

On the first day of September, 1784, Washington left his home for
another western tour. His purpose in making a western tour at this time
was, chiefly, to look after his land, but a secondary consideration was
to make a critical study of the summit range which intervened between
the headwaters of the Ohio and Potomac rivers.

Upon his return to Mt. Vernon he prepared an account of his
investigations, setting forth his arguments in behalf of this momentous
project. This report, together with a transcript of his journal, he
forwarded to the governor of Virginia. These words were added to the
report: "If you concur with me in the proposition I have suggested, and
it is adopted by the legislature, it will signalize your administration
as an important era in the history of this country."

A new, yet old, consideration made the building of a highway to the West
of utmost moment at this time. Now, as England found, in 1763, the trade
of the Central West was slipping away down the Mississippi into the
hands of Spaniards, and Washington was anticipating already a matter
which was to prove a perplexing problem to the nation before it was
solved. It is best treated in one of his letters to David Humphreys,
written July 25th, 1785: "I may be singular in my ideas, but they are
these: that, to open a door to, and make easy the way for, those
settlers to the westward (who ought to advance regularly and compactly)
before we make any stir about the navigation of the Mississippi, and
before our settlements are far advanced towards that river, would be our
true line of policy. It can, I think, be demonstrated that the produce
of the western territory (if the navigations which are in hand succeed,
of which I have no doubt), as low down the Ohio as the Great Kanawha,
and I believe to the Falls, and between the ports above the lakes, may
be brought either to the highest shipping port on the Potomac or James
rivers at a less expense, with more ease, including the return, and in a
much shorter time, than it can be carried to New Orleans, if the
Spaniards, instead of restrictions, were to throw open their ports and
invite our trade. But if the commerce of that country should embrace
this channel, and connections be formed, experience has taught us, and
there is a very recent proof with Great Britain, how next to
impracticable it is to divert it; and, if that should be the case, the
Atlantic States, especially as those to the westward, will in a great
degree be filled with foreigners, will be no more to the present Union,
except to excite perhaps very justly our fears, than the country of
California is, which is still more to the westward, and belonging to
another power."

To Henry Lee he wrote: "Open _all_ the communications which nature has
afforded, between the Atlantic States and the western territory, and
encourage the use of them to the utmost. In my judgment, it is a matter
of very serious concern to the well-being of the former, to make it the
interest of the latter to trade with them; without which the ties of
consanguinity, which are weakening every day, will soon be no bond, and
we shall be no more a few years hence, to the inhabitants of that
country, than the British and Spaniards are at this day; not so much,
indeed, because commercial connections, it is well known, lead to
others, and united are difficult to be broken." This view of the
dependence of the seaboard states on those of the Central West, held by
Washington, is as interesting as it was novel.

The bill authorizing the formation of a company to open the navigation
of the Potomac and James rivers passed the legislatures of Virginia and
Maryland. It is difficult for us to realize how canals were viewed a
century ago; how commercial prosperity seemed to depend upon their
building. Already Washington, in fancy, had covered the West with a
network of canals. As early as 1784, he wrote to Governor Harrison
urging a survey of the Ohio; he added: "Let the courses and distances be
taken to the mouth of the Muskingum and up that river to the carrying
place of the Cuyahoga; down the Cuyahoga to Lake Erie, and thence to
Detroit. Let them do the same with Big Beaver Creek and with the Scioto.
In a word, let the waters east and west of the Ohio which invite our
notice by their proximity, and by the ease with which land
transportation may be had between them and the lakes on the one side,
and the rivers Potomac and James on the other, be explored, accurately
delineated, and a correct and connected map of the whole be presented to
the public.... The object in my estimation is of vast commercial and
political importance."

Washington's laborious method of securing necessary information
concerning the West, and his earnestness in not omitting any phase of
the project are exemplified in a letter to Richard Butler, newly
appointed superintendent of Indian affairs, written in 1786: "As I am
anxious to learn the nature of the navigation of Beaver Creek, the
distance, and what kind of a portage there is between it and Cayahoga,
or any other nearer navigable water of Lake Erie, and the nature of the
navigation of the latter; and also the navigation of the Muskingum, the
distance and sort of portage across to the navigable waters of Cayahoga
or Sandusky, and the kind of navigation therein; you would do me an
acceptable favor to convey them to me, with the computed distances from
the River Ohio by each of these routes to the lake itself."

In a letter to Henry Lee Washington, again, he writes: "Till you get low
down the Ohio, I conceive, that, considering the length of the voyage to
New Orleans, the difficulty of the current, and the time necessary to
perform it in, it would be the interest of the inhabitants to bring
their produce to our ports; and sure I am there is no other tie by
which they will long form a link in the chain of federal union."

Washington's eagerness to gain every possible item of information
concerning methods of internal improvement is displayed in a letter to
Thomas Jefferson: "I was very much gratified ... by the receipt of your
letter ... for the satisfactory account of the canal of Languedoc. It
gives me great pleasure to be made acquainted with the particulars of
that stupendous work, though I do not expect to derive any but
speculative advantages from it." To the Marquis of Chastellux he wrote:
"I have lately made a tour through the Lakes George and Champlain as far
as Crown Point, then returning to Schenectady, I proceeded up the Mohawk
River to Fort Schuyler, crossed over the Wood Creek, which empties into
the Oneida Lake, and affords the water communication with Ontario. I
then traversed the country to the head of the eastern branch of the
Susquehannah, and viewed the lake Otsego, and the portage between that
lake and the Mohawk River at Canajoharie. Prompted by these actual
observations, I could not help taking a more contemplative and extensive
view of the vast inland navigation of the United States.... Would to God
we may have wisdom enough to improve them! I shall not rest contented
until I have explored the western country, and traversed those lines (or
a great part of them) which have given bounds to a new empire."

To William Irvine, Washington wrote in 1788: "The letter with which you
favored me ... inclosing a sketch of the waters near the line which
separates your State from that of New York, came duly to hand.... The
extensive inland navigation with which this country abounds and the easy
communications which many of the rivers afford with the amazing
territory to the west of us, will certainly be productive of infinite
advantage to the Atlantic States.... For my part, I wish sincerely that
every door to that country may be set wide open, that the commercial
intercourse may be rendered as free and as easy as possible. This, in my
judgment, is the best, if not the only cement that can bind those
people to us for any length of time; and we shall, I think, be deficient
in forethought and wisdom if we neglect the means to effect it.... If
the Chautauqua Lake, at the head of Conewango River, approximates Lake
Erie as nearly as is laid down in the draft you sent me, it presents a
very short portage indeed between the two, and an access to all those
above the latter."

"I need not remark to you, sir," Washington writes to Harrison, in
perhaps the most powerful appeal he ever made, "that the flanks and rear
of the United States are possessed by other powers, and formidable ones
too; nor how necessary it is to apply the cement of interest to bind all
parts of the Union together by indissoluble bonds, especially that part
of it which lies immediately west of us, with the Middle States. For
what ties, let me ask, should we have upon those people? How entirely
unconnected with them shall we be, and what troubles may we not
apprehend, if the Spaniards on their right, and Great Britain on their
left, instead of throwing stumbling blocks in their way, as they now do,
should hold out lures for their trade and alliance? What, when they get
strength, which will be sooner than most people conceive (from the
immigration of foreigners, who will have no particular predilection
towards us, as well as from the removal of our own citizens), will be
the consequence of their having formed close connections with both or
either of those powers in a commercial way, it needs not, in my opinion,
the gift of prophesy to foretell. The Western States (I speak now from
my own observation) stand as it were upon a pivot. The touch of a
feather would turn them any way. They have looked down the Mississippi
until the Spaniards, very impolitically, I think, for themselves, throw
difficulties in their way; and they looked that way for no other reason
than because they could glide gently down the stream, without
considering, perhaps, the difficulties of the voyage back again, and the
time necessary to perform it in; and because they have no other means of
coming to us but by long land transportations, and unimproved roads.
These causes have hitherto checked the industry of the present settlers;
for except the demand for provisions, occasioned by the increase of
population, and a little flour, which the necessities of the Spaniards
compel them to buy, they have no incitements to labor. But smooth the
road and make easy the way for them, and then see what an influx of
articles will be poured upon us; how amazingly our exports will be
increased by them, and how amply we shall be compensated for any trouble
and expense we may encounter to effect it.... It wants only a beginning.
The western inhabitants would do their part toward the execution. Weak
as they are, they would meet us at least half way, rather than be driven
into the arms of foreigners, or be dependent upon them."

The navigation of the Potomac was not easily secured and the Potomac
Company relinquished its charter in 1823 when the Chesapeake and Ohio
Canal Company was formed. Yet in only one generation after Washington's
death the important features of his great plan of internal
communications were realized. The Chesapeake and Ohio, Erie and Ohio
canals made the exact connections desired by Washington half a century
before, and with the very results he prophesied. To crown all, within
two years of Washington's death, the great highway across the mountains
for which he had pleaded for many years was assured, and for the next
half-century the first National Road in the United States fulfilled to
the letter Washington's fondest dream of welding more firmly "the chain
of federal union."

True to his declared conviction, that "the western inhabitants would do
their part," the creation of the first state beyond the Ohio, was
responsible for the building of this great road; and, also, true to
Washington's conviction, the commissioners appointed by President
Jefferson to determine the best course for the road, decided in favor of
Washington's old roadway from Fort Cumberland through Great Meadows to
the Monongahela and the Ohio, the course Washington always held to be
the one practical route to the West and which he had had surveyed at his
own expense.

For three score years Washington's and Braddock's roads answered all the
imperative needs of modern travel, though the journey over it, at most
seasons, was a rough experience. During the winter the road was
practically impassable. Colonel Brodhead, commanding at Fort Pitt during
the Revolutionary War, wrote Richard Peters: "The great Depth of Snow
upon the Alleghany and Laurel Hills have prevented our getting every
kind of Stores, nor do I expect to get any now until the latter End of

But with the growing importance of Pittsburg, the subject of roads
received more and more attention. As early as 1769, a warrant was issued
for the survey of the Manor of Pittsburg, which embraced 5,766 acres. In
this warrant an allowance of six per cent was made for roads.[19] Six
years later, or the first year of the Revolutionary War, court met at
Pittsburg, and viewers were appointed to report on a large number of
roads, in the construction of which all males between the ages of
sixteen and forty-five, living within three miles of the road, were
required to work under the supervision of the commissioners. One of
these roads became, nearly half a century later, incorporated in the
Cumberland Road.

The licensing of taverns by Youghiogheny county in 1778, and of ferries
about the same time, indicate the opening and use of roads. Within ten
years, the post from New York to Pittsburg was established over the
treacherous mountain road. In 1794, the Pittsburg post-office was
established, with mails from Philadelphia once in two weeks.[20]

Through all these years a stream of pioneers had been flowing westward,
the current dividing at Fort Cumberland. Hundreds had wended their
tedious way over Braddock's Road to the Youghiogheny and passed down by
water to Kentucky, but thousands had journeyed south over Boone's
Wilderness Road, which had been blazed through Cumberland Gap in 1775.
All that was needed to turn the whole current toward the Ohio was a good

The thousands of people who had gone, by one way or another, into the
trans-Ohio country, soon demanded statehood. The creation of the state
of Ohio is directly responsible for the building of the Cumberland Road.
In an act passed by Congress April 30, 1802, to enable the people of
Ohio to form a state government and for admission into the Union,
section 7 contained this provision:

"That one-twentieth of the net proceeds of the lands lying within said
State sold by Congress shall be applied to the laying out and making
public roads leading from the navigable waters emptying into the
Atlantic, to the Ohio, to the said state, and through the same, such
roads to be laid out under the authority of Congress, with the consent
of the several states through which the roads shall pass."[21]

Another law, passed March 3rd of the following year, appropriated three
per cent of the five to laying out roads within the state of Ohio, and
the remaining two per cent for laying out and making roads from the
navigable waters, emptying into the Atlantic, to the river Ohio to the
said state.[22]

A committee, appointed to review the question, reported to the Senate
December 19, 1805. At that time, the sale of land from July, 1802, to
September 30, 1805, had amounted to $632,604.27, of which two per cent,
$12,652, was available for a road to Ohio. This sum was rapidly
increasing. Of the routes across the mountains, the committee studied
none of those north of Philadelphia, or south of Richmond. Between these
points five courses were considered:

  1. Philadelphia--Ohio river
  (between Steubenville and mouth of Grave creek)     314 miles.

  2. Baltimore--Ohio river
  (between Steubenville and mouth of Grave creek)     275 miles.

  3. Washington--Ohio river
  (between Steubenville and mouth of Grave creek)     275 miles.

  4. Richmond                                         317 miles.

  5. Baltimore--Brownsville                           218 miles.

There were really but two courses to consider: Boone's Road and
Braddock's Road. The former led through a thinly populated part of the
country and did not answer the prescribed condition, that of striking
the Ohio at a point contiguous to the state of Ohio. Consequently, in
the report submitted by the committee we read as follows:

"Therefore the committee have thought it expedient to recommend the
laying out and making a road from Cumberland, on the northerly bank of
the Potomac, and within the state of Maryland, to the Ohio river, at the
most convenient place on the easterly bank of said river, opposite to
Steubenville, and the mouth of Grave Creek, which empties into said
river, Ohio, a little below Wheeling in Virginia. This route will meet
and accommodate roads from Baltimore and the District of Columbia; it
will cross the Monongahela at or near Brownsville, sometimes called
Redstone, where the advantages of boating can be taken, and from the
point where it will probably intersect the river Ohio, there are now
roads, or they can easily be made over feasible and proper ground, to
and through the principal population of the state of Ohio."[23]

Immediately the following act of Congress was passed:

    _To Regulate the Laying out and Making a Road from Cumberland in
    the State of Maryland, to the State of Ohio._

In the execution of this act President Jefferson appointed Thomas Moore
of Maryland, Joseph Kerr of Ohio, and Eli Williams of Maryland
commissioners to lay out the Cumberland Road. Their first report was
presented December 30, 1806. It is a document of great importance,
throwing, as it does, many interesting side lights on the great task
which confronted the builders of our first national highway.

Permission to build the road was gained of each of the states through
which it passed, Pennsylvania making the condition that the route of the
road should pass through the towns of Washington and Uniontown. On the
fifteenth of January, 1808, the commissioners rendered a second report
in which it appears that timber and brush had already been cleared from
the proposed route and that contracts were already let for the first ten
miles west of Cumberland. This indicates that the Cumberland Road was
not built on the bed of the old military routes. Though the two crossed
each other frequently, the commissioners reported that the two roadbeds
were not identical in the aggregate for more than one mile in the entire

Braddock's Road and the Cumberland Road were originally one as they left
Cumberland. The course met again at Little Meadows near Tomlinson's
Tavern and again at eastern foot of Negro Mountain. The courses were
identical at the Old Flenniken tavern, two miles west of Smithfield (Big
Crossing), and on summit of Laurel Hill, at which point Braddock's Road
swung off northwesterly toward Pittsburg, following the old buffalo
trail toward the junction of the Ohio and Allegheny, and the Cumberland
Road continued westward along the course of the old portage path toward
Wheeling on the Ohio.

Contracts for the first ten miles west of Cumberland were signed April
16 and May 11, 1811. They were completed in the following year.
Contracts were let in 1812, 1813, 1815. In 1817, contracts brought the
road to Uniontown. In the same year a contract was let from a point near
Washington to the Virginia line. In the following year United States
mail coaches were running from Washington, D. C., to Wheeling, and 1818
is considered the year of the opening of the road to the Ohio river.

The cost of the eastern division of the road was enormous. The
commissioners in their report to Congress estimated the cost at $6,000
per mile, not including bridges. The cost of the road from Cumberland to
Uniontown was $9,745 per mile. The cost of the entire division east of
the Ohio river was about $13,000 per mile. Too liberal contracts was
given as the reason for this greater proportional expense.

As early as the year 1822, it is recorded that a single one of the five
commission houses at Wheeling unloaded 1,081 wagons, averaging 3,500
pounds each, and paid for freightage of goods the sum of $90,000.

The subsequent history of this highway and all the vicissitudes through
which it has passed, has, in a measure, perhaps, dimmed the luster of
its early pride. The subject of transportation has undergone such
marvelous changes in these eighty years since the Cumberland Road was
opened, that we are apt to forget the strength of the patriotism which
made that road a reality. But compare it with the roadways built before
it to accomplish similar ends, and the greatness of the undertaking can
be appreciated.

Over the beginnings of great historical movements there often hangs a
cloud of obscurity. Over the heroic and persistent efforts of George
Washington, to make a feeble republic strong through unity, there is no
obscurity. America won the West from England as England had won it from
France--by conquest. Brave men were found who did what neither England
nor France did do, settle the wilderness and begin the transformation of
it. Large colonies of hardy men and women had gone into the Ohio valley,
carrying in their hands the blessed Ordinance and guided by the very
star of empire. Virginia had given the best of her sons and daughters to
the meadow land of _Ken-ta-kee_, who were destined to clinch the
republic's title to the Mississippi river. The Old Bay State had given
her best blood to found the Old Northwest, at historic Marietta. New
Jersey and Connecticut had sent their sons through vast wildernesses to
found Cincinnati and Cleveland, names which today suggest the best there
is in our American state. Without exaggeration, the building of the
binding highway, which, through so many years, Washington championed,
was the crowning act of all that had gone before. It embodied the prime
idea in the Ordinance of 1787, and proved, finally, that a republic of
loyal people could scorn the old European theory that mountains are
imperative boundaries of empire.

It was a question whether the expansion of the United States was to
conduce to national strength or national weakness. France and Germany
and Italy have expanded to the injury of national vitality, England and
the United States to its strengthening. The building of the Cumberland
Road was a means of securing the West to the United States as it was
never secured to France or England. The era of canals and national roads
and steam navigation brought the farthest West into living touch with
the East, and each contributed to the other's power and both were welded
into one nation. The population of the three states west of the Ohio
through which the Cumberland Road ran increased from 783,635 to
3,620,314 in the generation the road was in active use. The average
increase of percentage of permanent population for the first five
decades in these states was over 182 per decade. In the second decade of
the century Indiana's population increased over 500 per cent. This has
been equaled but three times in all the phenomenal "rushes" of recent
years into the western states. In all this making of "the young empire
of the West" the Cumberland Road had a preponderating influence.

This "Chain of Federal Union," forged, under God, by the hand of that
first American in the hot fires of revolution, strengthened wisely by
the same timely hand in those critical afterhours, has thrown its
imperial links, one by one, across a continent. Historic Washington's
Road, with all the wealth of history and tradition which attaches to it,
was the first and most important link.


[1] Darlington's _Christopher Gist's Journals_, p. 67.

[2] A very curious, and possibly the only, view of these buildings in
existence will be found in an old "Map of Fort Cumberland," _Historic
Highways of America_, vol. iv.

[3] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754_, p. 16.

[4] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754_, p. 13.

[5] The private _Journal_ kept by Washington on the expedition of the
Virginia Regiment in 1754 was composed of rough notes only. It was lost
with other papers at the battle of Fort Necessity and was captured by
the French and sent to Paris. Two years later it was published by the
French government, after being thoroughly "edited" by a French censor.
It was titled "MEMOIRE _contenant le Precis des Faits, avec leurs Pieces
Justificatives, pour servir de Reponse aux_ OBSERVATIONS _envoyées, par
les Ministres d'Angleterre, dans les Cours de l'Europe. A Paris; de
l'Imprimerie Royale, 1756._"

In this MEMOIRE, together with portions of Washington's _Journal_ appear
papers, instructions, etc., captured at Braddock's defeat in 1755. Of
the portion of Washington's _Journal_ published, Washington himself
said: "I kept no regular one (Journal) during the Expedition; rough
notes of occurrences I certainly took, and find them as certainly and
strangely metamorphised, some parts left out which I remember were
entered, and many things added that never were thought of, the names of
men and things egregiously miscalled, and the whole of what I saw
Englished is very incorrect and nonsensical." The last entry on the
_Journal_ is on June 27th, six days previous to the battle of Fort

[6] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754,_ pp. 43, 44.

[7] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754,_ p. 65.

[8] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754_, p. 63.

[9] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754_, pp. 90-97.

[10] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754_, p. 127.

[11] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754_, p. 101.

[12] Toner's _Journal of Colonel George Washington, 1754_, pp. 157-158.

[13] _History of Cumberland_, p. 76.

[14] _The Monongahela of Old_, p. 53.

[15] _Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania_, vol. ii., p. 32.

[16] _Writings of Washington_ (1837), vol. i., p. 54.

[17] _Monongahela of Old_, pp. 52-53.

[18] _Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania_, vol. ii., p. 31.

[19] Craig's _History of Pittsburg_, p. 104.

[20] Craig's _History of Pittsburgh_, p. 226. It is interesting to note
that Pittsburg was on the direct mail route to Kentucky--Boone's old
route through Cumberland Gap not being a mail route.

[21] _United States Statutes at Large_, vol. ii., p. 173.

[22] _United States Statutes at Large_, vol. ii., p. 226.

[23] _Senate Reports_, 9th Cong., Sess., Rep., No. 195.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

1. Passages in italics are surrounded by _underscores_.

2. Obvious errors in spelling and punctuation have been corrected.

3. Footnotes have been moved to the end of the main text body.

4. Images have been moved from the middle of a paragraph to the closest
paragraph break.

5. Certain words use an oe ligature in the original.

6. Carat character (^) followed by a single letter or a set of letters
in curly brackets is indicative of subscript in the original book.

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