Life of George Washington

On the 2d of June, the fleet arrived at the Bay of Gabarus, about seven
miles to the west of Louisburg. The latter place was garrisoned by two
thousand five hundred regulars, and three hundred militia, and subsequently
reinforced by upwards of four hundred Canadians and Indians. In the harbor
were six ships-of-the-line, and five frigates; three of which were sunk
across the mouth. For several days the troops were prevented from landing
by boisterous weather, and a heavy surf. The French improved that time to
strengthen a chain of forts along the shore, deepening trenches, and
constructing batteries.

On the 8th of June, preparations for landing were made before daybreak. The
troops were embarked in boats in three divisions, under Brigadiers Wolfe,
Whetmore, and Laurens. The landing was to be attempted west of the harbor,
at a place feebly secured. Several frigates and sloops previously scoured
the beach with their shot, after which Wolfe pulled for shore with his
divisions; the other two divisions distracting the attention of the enemy,
by making a show of landing in other parts. The surf still ran high, the
enemy opened a fire of cannon and musketry from their batteries, many boats
were upset, many men slain, but Wolfe pushed forward, sprang into the water
when the boats grounded, dashed through the surf with his men, stormed the
enemy’s breastworks and batteries, and drove them from the shore. Among the
subalterns who stood by Wolfe on this occasion, was an Irish youth,
twenty-one years of age, named Richard Montgomery, whom, for his gallantry,
Wolfe promoted to a lieutenancy, and who was destined, in after years, to
gain an imperishable renown. The other divisions effected a landing after a
severe conflict; artillery and stores were brought on shore, and Louisburg
was formally invested.

The weather continued boisterous; the heavy cannon, and the various
munitions necessary for a siege, were landed with difficulty. Amherst,
moreover, was a cautious man, and made his approaches slowly, securing his
camp by redoubts and epaulements. The Chevalier Drucour, who commanded at
Louisburg, called in his outposts, and prepared for a desperate defence;
keeping up a heavy fire from his batteries, and from the ships in the

Wolfe, with a strong detachment, surprised at night, and took possession of
Light House Point, on the north-east side of the entrance to the harbor.
Here he threw up batteries in addition to those already there, from which
he was enabled greatly to annoy both town and shipping, as well as to aid
Amherst in his slow, but regular and sure approaches.

On the 21st of July, the three largest of the enemy’s ships were set on
fire by a bombshell. On the night of the 25th two other of the ships were
boarded, sword in hand, from boats of the squadron; one being aground, was
burnt, the other was towed out of the harbor in triumph. The brave Drucour
kept up the defence until all the ships were either taken or destroyed;
forty, out of fifty-two pieces of cannon dismounted, and his works mere
heaps of ruins. When driven to capitulate, he refused the terms proposed,
as being too severe, and, when threatened with a general assault, by sea
and land, determined to abide it, rather than submit to what he considered
a humiliation. The prayers and petitions of the inhabitants, however,
overcame his obstinacy. The place was surrendered, and he and his garrison
became prisoners of war. Captain Amherst, brother to the general, carried
home the news to England, with eleven pair of colors, taken at Louisburg.
There were rejoicings throughout the kingdom. The colors were borne in
triumph through the streets of London, with a parade of horse and foot,
kettle drums and trumpets, and the thunder of artillery, and were put up as
trophies in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Boscawen, who was a member of Parliament, received a unanimous vote of
praise from the House of Commons, and the youthful Wolfe, who returned
shortly after the victory to England, was hailed as the hero of the

We have disposed of one of the three great expeditions contemplated in the
plan of the year’s campaign. The second was that against the French forts
on Lakes George and Champlain. At the beginning of July, Abercrombie was
encamped on the borders of Lake George, with between six and seven thousand
regulars, and upwards of nine thousand provincials, from New England, New
York, and New Jersey. Major Israel Putnam, of Connecticut, who had served
on this lake, under Sir William Johnson, in the campaign in which Dieskau
was defeated and slain, had been detached with a scouting party to
reconnoitre the neighborhood. After his return and report, Abercrombie
prepared to proceed against Ticonderoga, situated on a tongue of land in
Lake Champlain, at the mouth of the strait communicating with Lake George.

On the 5th of July, the forces were embarked in one hundred and twenty-five
whale-boats, and nine hundred batteaux, with the artillery on rafts. The
vast flotilla proceeded slowly down the lake, with banners and pennons
fluttering in the summer breeze; arms glittering in the sunshine, and
martial music echoing along the wood-clad mountains. With Abercrombie went
Lord Howe, a young nobleman brave and enterprising, full of martial
enthusiasm, and endeared to the soldiery by the generosity of his
disposition, and the sweetness of his manners.

On the first night they bivouacked for some hours at Sabbath-day Point, but
re-embarked before midnight. The next day they landed on a point on the
western shore, just at the entrance of the strait leading to Lake
Champlain. Here they were formed into three columns, and pushed forward.

They soon came upon the enemy’s advanced guard, a battalion encamped behind
a log breastwork. The French set fire to their camp, and retreated. The
columns kept their form, and pressed forward, but, through ignorance of
their guides, became bewildered in a dense forest, fell into confusion, and
blundered upon each other.

Lord Howe urged on with the van of the right centre column. Putnam, who was
with him, and more experienced in forest warfare, endeavored in vain to
inspire him with caution. After a time they came upon a detachment of the
retreating foe, who, like themselves, had lost their way. A severe conflict
ensued. Lord Howe, who gallantly led the van, was killed at the onset. His
fall gave new ardor to his troops. The enemy were routed, some slain, some
drowned, about one hundred and fifty taken prisoners, including five
officers. Nothing further was done that day. The death of Lord Howe more
than counterbalanced the defeat of the enemy. His loss was bewailed not
merely by the army, but by the American people; for it is singular how much
this young nobleman, in a short time, had made himself beloved. The point
near which the troops had landed still bears his name; the place where he
fell is still pointed out; and Massachusetts voted him a monument in
Westminster Abbey.

With Lord Howe expired the master spirit of the enterprise. Abercrombie
fell back to the landing-place. The next day he sent out a strong
detachment of regulars, royal provincials, and batteaux men, under
Lieutenant-colonel Bradstreet, of New York, to secure a saw-mill, which the
enemy had abandoned. This done, he followed on the same evening with the
main forces, and took post at the mill, within two miles of the fort. Here
he was joined by Sir William Johnson, with between four and five hundred
savage warriors from the Mohawk River.

Montcalm had called in all his forces, between three and four thousand men,
and was strongly posted behind deep intrenchments and breastworks eight
feet high; with an abatis, or felled trees, in front of his lines,
presenting a horrid barrier, with their jagged boughs pointing outward.
Abercrombie was deceived as to the strength of the French works; his
engineers persuaded him they were formidable only in appearance, but really
weak and flimsy. Without waiting for the arrival of his cannon, and against
the opinion of his most judicious officers, he gave orders to storm the
works. Never were rash orders more gallantly obeyed. The men rushed forward
with fixed bayonets, and attempted to force their way through, or scramble
over the abatis, under a sheeted fire of swivels and musketry. In the
desperation of the moment, the officers even tried to cut their way through
with their swords. Some even reached the parapet, where they were shot
down. The breastwork was too high to be surmounted, and gave a secure
covert to the enemy. Repeated assaults were made, and as often repelled,
with dreadful havoc. The Iroquois warriors, who had arrived with Sir
William Johnson, took no part, it is said, in this fierce conflict, but
stood aloof as unconcerned spectators of the bloody strife of white men.

After four hours of desperate and fruitless fighting, Abercrombie, who had
all the time remained aloof at the saw-mills gave up the ill-judged
attempt, and withdrew once more to the landing-place, with the loss of
nearly two thousand in killed and wounded. Had not the vastly inferior
force of Montcalm prevented him from sallying beyond his trenches, the
retreat of the British might have been pushed to a headlong and disastrous

Abercrombie had still nearly four times the number of the enemy, with
cannon, and all the means of carrying on a siege, with every prospect of
success; but the failure of this rash assault seems completely to have
dismayed him. The next day he re-embarked all his troops, and returned
across that lake where his disgraced banners had recently waved so proudly.

While the general was planning fortifications on Lake George, Colonel
Bradstreet obtained permission to carry into effect an expedition which he
had for some time meditated, and which had been a favored project with the
lamented Howe. This was to reduce Fort Frontenac, the stronghold of the
French on the north side of the entrance of Lake Ontario, commanding the
mouth of the St. Lawrence. This post was a central point of Indian trade,
where the tribes resorted from all parts of a vast interior; sometimes a
distance of a thousand miles, to traffic away their peltries with the
fur-traders. It was, moreover, a magazine for the more southern posts,
among which was Fort Duquesne on the Ohio.

Bradstreet was an officer of spirit. Pushing his way along the valley of
the Mohawk and by the Oneida, where he was joined by several warriors of
the Six Nations, he arrived at Oswego in August, with nearly three thousand
men; the greater part of them provincial troops of New York and
Massachusetts. Embarking at Oswego in open boats, he crossed Lake Ontario,
and landed within a mile of Frontenac. The fort mounted sixty guns, and
several mortars, yet though a place of such importance, the garrison
consisted of merely one hundred and ten men, and a few Indians. These
either fled, or surrendered at discretion. In the fort was an immense
amount of merchandise and military stores; part of the latter intended for
the supply of Fort Duquesne. In the harbor were nine armed vessels, some of
them carrying eighteen guns; the whole of the enemy’s shipping on the lake.
Two of these Colonel Bradstreet freighted with part of the spoils of the
fort, the others he destroyed; then having dismantled the fortifications,
and laid waste every thing which he could not carry away, he recrossed the
lake to Oswego, and returned with his troops to the army on Lake George.



Operations went on slowly in that part of the year’s campaign in which
Washington was immediately engaged–the expedition against Fort Duquesne.
Brigadier-general Forbes, who was commander-in-chief, was detained at
Philadelphia by those delays and cross-purposes incident to military
affairs in a new country. Colonel Bouquet, who was to command the advanced
division, took his station, with a corps of regulars, at Raystown, in the
centre of Pennsylvania. There slowly assembled troops from various parts.
Three thousand Pennsylvanians, twelve hundred and fifty South Carolinians,
and a few hundred men from elsewhere.

Washington, in the mean time, gathered together his scattered regiment at
Winchester, some from a distance of two hundred miles, and diligently
disciplined his recruits. He had two Virginia regiments under him,
amounting, when complete, to about nineteen hundred men. Seven hundred
Indian warriors, also, came lagging into his camp, lured by the prospect of
a successful campaign.

The president of the council had given Washington a discretionary power in
the present juncture to order out militia for the purpose of garrisoning
the fort in the absence of the regular troops. Washington exercised the
power with extreme reluctance. He considered it, he said, an affair of too
important and delicate a nature for him to manage, and apprehended the
discontent it might occasion. In fact, his sympathies were always with the
husbandmen and the laborers of the soil, and he deplored the evils imposed
upon them by arbitrary drafts for military service; a scruple not often
indulged by youthful commanders.

The force thus assembling was in want of arms, tents, field-equipage, and
almost every requisite. Washington had made repeated representations, by
letter, of the destitute state of the Virginia troops, but without avail;
he was now ordered by Sir John St. Clair, the quartermaster-general of the
forces, under General Forbes, to repair to Williamsburg, and lay the state
of the case before the council. He set off promptly on horseback, attended
by Bishop, the well-trained military servant, who had served the late
General Braddock. It proved an eventful journey, though not in a military
point of view. In crossing a ferry of the Pamunkey, a branch of York River,
he fell in company with a Mr. Chamberlayne, who lived in the neighborhood,
and who, in the spirit of Virginian hospitality, claimed him as a guest. It
was with difficulty Washington could be prevailed on to halt for dinner, so
impatient was he to arrive at Williamsburg, and accomplish his mission.

Among the guests at Mr. Chamberlayne’s was a young and blooming widow, Mrs.
Martha Custis, daughter of Mr. John Dandridge, both patrician names in the
province. Her husband, John Parke Custis, had been dead about three years,
leaving her with two young children, and a large fortune. She is
represented as being rather below the middle size, but extremely well
shaped, with an agreeable countenance, dark hazel eyes and hair, and those
frank, engaging manners, so captivating in Southern women. We are not
informed whether Washington had met with her before; probably not during
her widowhood, as during that time he had been almost continually on the
frontier. We have shown that, with all his gravity and reserve, he was
quickly susceptible to female charms; and they may have had a greater
effect upon him when thus casually encountered in fleeting moments snatched
from the cares and perplexities and rude scenes of frontier warfare. At any
rate, his heart appears to have been taken by surprise.

The dinner, which in those days was an earlier meal than at present, seemed
all too short. The afternoon passed away like a dream. Bishop was punctual
to the orders he had received on halting; the horses pawed at the door; but
for once Washington loitered in the path of duty. The horses were
countermanded, and it was not until the next morning that he was again in
the saddle, spurring for Williamsburg. Happily the White House, the
residence of Mrs. Custis, was in New Kent County, at no great distance from
that city, so that he had opportunities of visiting her in the intervals of
business. His time for courtship, however, was brief. Military duties
called him back almost immediately to Winchester; but he feared, should he
leave the matter in suspense, some more enterprising rival might supplant
him during his absence, as in the case of Miss Philipse, at New York. He
improved, therefore, his brief opportunity to the utmost. The blooming
widow had many suitors, but Washington was graced with that renown so
ennobling in the eyes of woman. In a word, before they separated, they had
mutually plighted their faith, and the marriage was to take place as soon
as the campaign against Fort Duquesne was at an end.

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