Life of George Washington

In the mean time the panic and confusion increased. On Sunday an express
hurried into town, breathless with haste and terror. The Indians, he said,
were but twelve miles off; they had attacked the house of Isaac Julian; the
inhabitants were flying for their lives. Washington immediately ordered the
town guards to be strengthened; armed some recruits who had just arrived,
and sent out two scouts to reconnoitre the enemy. It was a sleepless night
in Winchester. Horror increased with the dawn; before the men could be
paraded a second express arrived, ten times more terrified than the former.
The Indians were within four miles of the town, killing and destroying all
before them. He had heard the constant firing of the savages and the
shrieks of their victims.

The terror of Winchester now passed all bounds. Washington put himself at
the head of about forty men, militia and recruits, and pushed for the scene
of carnage.

The result is almost too ludicrous for record. The whole cause of the alarm
proved to be three drunken troopers, carousing, hallooing, uttering the
most unheard of imprecations, and ever and anon firing off their pistols.
Washington interrupted them in the midst of their revel and blasphemy, and
conducted them prisoners to town.

The reported attack on the house of Isaac Julian proved equally an absurd
exaggeration. The ferocious party of Indians turned out to be a mulatto and
a negro in quest of cattle. They had been seen by a child of Julian, who
alarmed his father, who alarmed the neighborhood.

“These circumstances,” says Washington, “show what a panic prevails among
the people; how much they are all alarmed at the most usual and customary
cries; and yet how impossible it is to get them to act in any respect for
their common safety.”

They certainly present a lively picture of the feverish state of a frontier
community, hourly in danger of Indian ravage and butchery; than which no
kind of warfare is more fraught with real and imaginary horrors.

The alarm thus originating had spread throughout the country. A captain,
who arrived with recruits from Alexandria, reported that he had found the
road across the Blue Ridge obstructed by crowds of people flying for their
lives, whom he endeavored in vain to stop. They declared that Winchester
was in flames!

At length the band of Indians, whose ravages had produced this
consternation throughout the land, and whose numbers did not exceed one
hundred and fifty, being satiated with carnage, conflagration, and plunder,
retreated, bearing off spoils and captives. Intelligent scouts sent out by
Washington, followed their traces, and brought back certain intelligence
that they had recrossed the Allegany Mountains and returned to their homes
on the Ohio. This report allayed the public panic and restored temporary
quiet to the harassed frontier.

Most of the Indians engaged in these ravages were Delawares and Shawnees,
who, since Braddock’s defeat, had been gained over by the French. A
principal instigator was said to be Washington’s old acquaintance, Shengis,
and a reward was offered for his head.

Scarooyadi, successor to the half-king, remained true to the English, and
vindicated his people to the Governor and Council of Pennsylvania from the
charge of having had any share in the late massacres. As to the defeat at
the Monongahela, “it was owing,” he said, “to the pride and ignorance of
that great general (Braddock) that came from England. He is now dead; but
he was a bad man when he was alive. He looked upon us as dogs, and would
never hear any thing that was said to him. We often endeavored to advise
him, and tell him of the danger he was in with his soldiers; but he never
appeared pleased with us, and that was the reason that a great many of our
warriors left him.” [Footnote: Hazard’s Register of Penn., v., p. 252,

Scarooyadi was ready with his warriors to take up the hatchet again with
their English brothers against the French. “Let us unite our strength,”
said he; “you are numerous, and all the English governors along your
sea-shore can raise men enough; but don’t let those that come from over the
great seas be concerned any more. _They art unfit to fight in the woods.
Let us go ourselves–we that came out of this ground._”

No one felt more strongly than Washington the importance, at this trying
juncture, of securing the assistance of these forest warriors. “It is in
their power,” said he, “to be of infinite use to us; and without Indians,
we shall never be able to cope with these cruel foes to our country.”
[Footnote: Letter to Dinwiddie.]

Washington had now time to inform himself of the fate of the other
enterprises included in this year’s plan of military operations. We shall
briefly dispose of them, for the sake of carrying on the general course of
events. The history of Washington is linked with the history of the
colonies. The defeat of Braddock paralyzed the expedition against Niagara.
Many of General Shirley’s troops, which were assembled at Albany, struck
with the consternation which it caused throughout the country, deserted.
Most of the batteau men, who were to transport stores by various streams,
returned home. It was near the end of August before Shirley was in force at
Oswego. Time was lost in building boats for the lake. Storms and head winds
ensued; then sickness: military incapacity in the general completed the
list of impediments. Deferring the completion of the enterprise until the
following year, Shirley returned to Albany with the main part of his forces
in October, leaving about seven hundred men to garrison the fortifications
he had commenced at Oswego.

To General William Johnson, it will be recollected, had been confided the
expedition against Crown Point, on Lake Champlain. Preparations were made
for it in Albany, whence the troops were to march, and the artillery,
ammunition, and stores to be conveyed up the Hudson to the carrying-place
between that river and Lake St. Sacrament, as it was termed by the French,
but Lake George, as Johnson named it, in honor of his sovereign. At the
carrying-place a fort was commenced, subsequently called Fort Edward. Part
of the troops remained under General Lyman, to complete and garrison it;
the main force proceeded under General Johnson to Lake George, the plan
being to descend that lake to its outlet at Ticonderoga, in Lake Champlain.
Having to attend the arrival of batteaux forwarded for the purpose from
Albany by the carrying-place, Johnson encamped at the south end of the
lake. He had with him between five and six thousand troops of New York and
New England, and a host of Mohawk warriors, loyally devoted to him.

It so happened that a French force of upwards of three thousand men, under
the Baron de Dieskau, an old general of high reputation, had recently
arrived at Quebec, destined against Oswego. The baron had proceeded to
Montreal, and sent forward thence seven hundred of his troops, when news
arrived of the army gathering on Lake George for the attack on Crown Point,
perhaps for an inroad into Canada. The public were in consternation;
yielding to their importunities, the baron took post at Crown Point for its
defence. Beside his regular troops, he had with him eight hundred
Canadians, and seven hundred Indians of different tribes. The latter were
under the general command of the Chevalier Legardeur de St. Pierre, the
veteran officer to whom Washington had delivered the despatches of Governor
Dinwiddie on his diplomatic mission to the frontier. The chevalier was a
man of great influence among the Indians.

In the mean time Johnson remained encamped at the south end of Lake George,
awaiting the arrival of his batteaux. The camp was protected in the rear by
the lake, in front by a bulwark of felled trees; and was flanked by thickly
wooded swamps.

On the 7th of September, the Indian scouts brought word that they had
discovered three large roads made through the forests toward Fort Edward.
An attack on that post was apprehended. Adams, a hardy waggoner, rode
express with orders to the commander to draw all the troops within the
works. About midnight came other scouts. They had seen the French within
four miles of the carrying-place. They had heard the report of a musket,
and the voice of a man crying for mercy, supposed to be the unfortunate
Adams. In the morning Colonel Williams was detached with one thousand men,
and two hundred Indians, to intercept the enemy in their retreat.

Within two hours after their departure a heavy fire of musketry, in the
midst of the forest, about three or four miles off, told of a warm
encounter. The drums beat to arms; all were at their posts. The firing grew
sharper and sharper, and nearer and nearer. The detachment under Williams
was evidently retreating. Colonel Cole was sent with three hundred men to
cover their retreat. The breastwork of trees was manned. Some heavy cannon
were dragged up to strengthen the front. A number of men were stationed
with a field-piece on an eminence on the left flank.

In a short time fugitives made their appearance; first singly, then in
masses, flying in confusion, with a rattling fire behind them, and the
horrible Indian war-whoop. Consternation seized upon the camp, especially
when the French emerged from the forest in battle array, led by the Baron
Dieskau, the gallant commander of Crown Point. Had all his troops been as
daring as himself, the camp might have been carried by assault; but the
Canadians and Indians held back, posted themselves behind trees, and took
to bush-fighting.

The baron was left with his regulars (two hundred grenadiers) in front of
the camp. He kept up a fire by platoons, but at too great a distance to do
much mischief; the Canadians and Indians fired from their coverts. The
artillery played on them in return. The camp, having recovered from its
panic, opened a fire of musketry. The engagement became general. The French
grenadiers stood their ground bravely for a long time, but were dreadfully
cut up by the artillery and small arms. The action slackened on the part of
the French, until, after a long contest, they gave way. Johnson’s men and
the Indians then leaped over the breastwork, and a chance medley fight
ensued, that ended in the slaughter, rout, or capture of the enemy.

The Baron de Dieskau had been disabled by a wound in the leg. One of his
men, who endeavored to assist him, was shot down by his side. The baron,
left alone in the retreat, was found by the pursuers leaning against the
stump of a tree. As they approached, he felt for his watch to insure kind
treatment by delivering it up. A soldier, thinking he was drawing forth a
pistol to defend himself, shot him through the hips. He was conveyed a
prisoner to the camp, but ultimately died of his wounds.

The baron had really set off from Crown Point to surprise Fort Edward, and,
if successful, to push on to Albany and Schenectady; lay them in ashes, and
cut off all communication with Oswego. The Canadians and Indians, however,
refused to attack the fort, fearful of its cannon; he had changed his plan,
therefore, and determined to surprise the camp. In the encounter with the
detachment under Williams, the brave Chevalier Legardeur de St. Pierre lost
his life. On the part of the Americans, Hendrick, a famous old Mohawk
sachem, grand ally of General Johnson, was slain.

Johnson himself received a slight wound early in the action, and retired to
his tent. He did not follow up the victory as he should have done, alleging
that it was first necessary to build a strong fort at his encampment, by
way of keeping up a communication with Albany, and by the time this was
completed, it would be too late to advance against Crown Point. He
accordingly erected a stockaded fort, which received the name of William
Henry; and having garrisoned it, returned to Albany. His services, although
they gained him no laurel-wreath, were rewarded by government with five
thousand pounds, and a baronetcy; and he was made Superintendent of Indian
Affairs. [Footnote: Johnson’s Letter to the Colonial Governors, Sept. 9th,
1753. London Mag., 1755., p. 544. Holmes’ Am. Annals, vol. ii., p. 63. 4th
edit., 1829.]



Mortifying experience had convinced Washington of the inefficiency of the
militia laws, and he now set about effecting a reformation. Through his
great and persevering efforts, an act was passed in the Virginia
Legislature giving prompt operation to courts-martial; punishing
insubordination, mutiny and desertion with adequate severity; strengthening
the authority of a commander, so as to enable him to enforce order and
discipline among officers as well as privates; and to avail himself, in
time of emergency, and for the common safety, of the means and services of

This being effected, he proceeded to fill up his companies, and to enforce
this newly defined authority within his camp. All gaming, drinking,
quarrelling, swearing, and similar excesses, were prohibited under severe

In disciplining his men, they were instructed not merely in ordinary and
regular tactics, but in all the strategy of Indian warfare, and what is
called “bush-fighting,”–a knowledge indispensable in the wild wars of the
wilderness. Stockaded forts, too, were constructed at various points, as
places of refuge and defence, in exposed neighborhoods. Under shelter of
these, the inhabitants began to return to their deserted homes. A shorter
and better road, also, was opened by him between Winchester and Cumberland,
for the transmission of reinforcements and supplies.

His exertions, however, were impeded by one of those questions of
precedence, which had so often annoyed him, arising from the difference
between crown and provincial commissions. Maryland having by a scanty
appropriation raised a small militia force, stationed Captain Dagworthy,
with a company of thirty men, at Fort Cumberland, which stood within the
boundaries of that province. Dagworthy had served in Canada in the
preceding war, and had received a king’s commission. This he had since
commuted for half-pay, and, of course, had virtually parted with its
privileges. He was nothing more, therefore, than a Maryland provincial
captain, at the head of thirty men. He now, however, assumed to act under
his royal commission, and refused to obey the orders of any officer,
however high his rank, who merely held his commission from a governor. Nay,
when Governor, or rather Colonel Innes, who commanded at the fort, was
called away to North Carolina by his private affairs, the captain took upon
himself the command, and insisted upon it as his right.

Parties instantly arose, and quarrels ensued among the inferior officers;
grave questions were agitated between the Governors of Maryland and
Virginia, as to the fort itself; the former claiming it as within his
province, the latter insisting that, as it had been built according to
orders sent by the king, it was the king’s fort, and could not be subject
to the authority of Maryland.

Washington refrained from mingling in this dispute; but intimated that if
the commander-in-chief of the forces of Virginia must yield precedence to a
Maryland captain of thirty men, he should have to resign his commission, as
he had been compelled to do before, by a question of military rank.

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