Life of George Washington

Washington had for a companion in this expedition his friend and neighbor,
Dr. Craik, and it was with strong community of feeling they looked forward
peaceably to revisit the scenes of their military experience. They set out
on the 5th of October with three negro attendants, two belonging to
Washington, and one to the doctor. The whole party was mounted, and there
was a led horse for the baggage.

After twelve days’ travelling they arrived at Fort Pitt (late Fort
Duquesne). It was garrisoned by two companies of royal Irish, commanded by
a Captain Edmonson. A hamlet of about twenty log-houses, inhabited by
Indian traders, had sprung up within three hundred yards of the fort, and
was called “the town.” It was the embryo city of Pittsburg, now so
populous. At one of the houses, a tolerable frontier inn, they took up
their quarters; but during their brief sojourn, they were entertained with
great hospitality at the fort.

Here at dinner Washington met his old acquaintance, George Croghan, who had
figured in so many capacities and experienced so many vicissitudes on the
frontier. He was now Colonel Croghan, deputy-agent to Sir William Johnson,
and had his residence–or seat, as Washington terms it–on the banks of the
Allegany River, about four miles from the fort.

Croghan had experienced troubles and dangers during the Pontiac war, both
from white man and savage. At one time, while he was convoying presents
from Sir William to the Delawares and Shawnees, his caravan was set upon
and plundered by a band of backwoodsmen of Pennsylvania–men resembling
Indians in garb and habits, and fully as lawless. At another time, when
encamped at the mouth of the Wabash with some of his Indian allies, a band
of Kickapoos, supposing the latter to be Cherokees, their deadly enemies,
rushed forth from the woods with horrid yells, shot down several of his
companions, and wounded himself. It must be added, that no white men could
have made more ample apologies than did the Kickapoos, when they discovered
that they had fired upon friends.

Another of Croghan’s perils was from the redoubtable Pontiac himself. That
chieftain had heard of his being on a mission to win off, by dint of
presents, the other sachems of the conspiracy, and declared, significantly,
that he had a large kettle boiling in which he intended to seethe the
ambassador. It was fortunate for Croghan that he did not meet with the
formidable chieftain while in this exasperated mood. He subsequently
encountered him when Pontiac’s spirits were broken by reverses. They smoked
the pipe of peace together, and the colonel claimed the credit of having,
by his diplomacy, persuaded the sachem to bury the hatchet.

On the day following the repast at the fort, Washington visited Croghan at
his abode on the Allegany River, where he found several of the chiefs of
the Six Nations assembled. One of them, the White Mingo by name, made him a
speech, accompanied, as usual, by a belt of wampum. Some of his companions,
he said, remembered to have seen him in 1753, when he came on his embassy
to the French commander; most of them had heard of him. They had now come
to welcome him to their country. They wished the people of Virginia to
consider them as friends and brothers, linked together in one chain, and
requested him to inform the governor of their desire to live in peace and
harmony with the white men. As to certain unhappy differences which had
taken place between them on the frontiers, they were all made up, and, they
hoped, forgotten.

Washington accepted the “speech-belt,” and made a suitable reply, assuring
the chiefs that nothing was more desired by the people of Virginia than to
live with them on terms of the strictest friendship.

At Pittsburg the travellers left their horses, and embarked in a large
canoe, to make a voyage down the Ohio as far as the Great Kanawha. Colonel
Croghan engaged two Indians for their service, and an interpreter named
John Nicholson. The colonel and some of the officers of the garrison
accompanied them as far as Logstown, the scene of Washington’s early
diplomacy, and his first interview with the half-king. Here they
breakfasted together; after which they separated, the colonel and his
companions cheering the voyagers from the shore, as the canoe was borne off
by the current of the beautiful Ohio.

It was now the hunting season, when the Indians leave their towns, set off
with their families, and lead a roving life in cabins and hunting-camps
along the river; shifting from place to place, as game abounds or
decreases, and often extending their migrations two or three hundred miles
down the stream. The women were as dexterous as the men in the management
of the canoe, but were generally engaged in the domestic labors of the
lodge while their husbands were abroad hunting.

Washington’s propensities as a sportsman had here full play. Deer were
continually to be seen coming down to the water’s edge to drink, or
browsing along the shore; there were innumerable flocks of wild turkeys,
and streaming flights of ducks and geese; so that as the voyagers floated
along, they were enabled to load their canoe with game. At night they
encamped on the river bank, lit their fire and made a sumptuous hunter’s
repast. Washington always relished this wild-wood life; and the present had
that spice of danger in it, which has a peculiar charm for adventurous
minds. The great object of his expedition, however, is evinced in his
constant notes on the features and character of the country; the quality of
the soil as indicated by the nature of the trees, and the level tracts
fitted for settlements.

About seventy-five miles below Pittsburg the voyagers landed at a Mingo
town, which they found in a stir of warlike preparation–sixty of the
warriors being about to set off on a foray into the Cherokee country
against the Catawbas.

Here the voyagers were brought to a pause by a report that two white men,
traders, had been murdered about thirty-eight miles further down the river.
Reports of the kind were not to be treated lightly. Indian faith was
uncertain along the frontier, and white men were often shot down in the
wilderness for plunder or revenge. On the following day the report
moderated. Only one man was said to have been killed, and that not by
Indians; so Washington determined to continue forward until he could obtain
correct information in the matter.

On the 24th, about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the voyagers arrived at
Captema Creek, at the mouth of which the trader was said to have been
killed. As all was quiet and no one to be seen, they agreed to encamp,
while Nicholson the interpreter, and one of the Indians, repaired to a
village a few miles up the creek to inquire about the murder. They found
but two old women at the village. The men were all absent, hunting. The
interpreter returned to camp in the evening, bringing the truth of the
murderous tale. A trader had fallen a victim to his temerity, having been
drowned in attempting, in company with another, to swim his horse across
the Ohio.

Two days more of voyaging brought them to an Indian hunting camp, near the
mouth of the Muskingum. Here it was necessary to land and make a
ceremonious visit, for the chief of the hunting party was Kiashuta, a
Seneca sachem, the head of the river tribes. He was noted to have been
among the first to raise the hatchet in Pontiac’s conspiracy, and almost
equally vindictive with that potent warrior. As Washington approached the
chieftain, he recognized him for one of the Indians who had accompanied him
on his mission to the French in 1753.

Kiashuta retained a perfect recollection of the youthful ambassador, though
seventeen years had matured him into thoughtful manhood. With hunter’s
hospitality he gave him a quarter of a fine buffalo just slain, but
insisted that they should encamp together for the night; and in order not
to retard him, moved with his own party to a good camping place some
distance down the river. Here they had long talks and council-fires over
night and in the morning, with all the “tedious ceremony,” says Washington,
“which the Indians observe in their counsellings and speeches.” Kiashuta
had heard of what had passed between Washington and the “White Mingo,” and
other sachems, at Colonel Croghan’s, and was eager to express his own
desire for peace and friendship with Virginia, and fair dealings with her
traders; all which Washington promised to report faithfully to the
governor. It was not until a late hour in the morning that he was enabled
to bring these conferences to a close, and pursue his voyage.

At the mouth of the Great Kanawha the voyagers encamped for a day or two to
examine the lands in the neighborhood, and Washington set up his mark upon
such as he intended to claim on behalf of the soldiers’ grant. It was a
fine sporting country, having small lakes or grassy ponds abounding with
water-fowl, such as ducks, geese, and swans. Flocks of turkeys, as usual;
and, for larger game, deer and buffalo; so that their camp abounded with

Here Washington was visited by an old sachem, who approached him with great
reverence, at the head of several of his tribe, and addressed him through
Nicholson, the interpreter. He had heard, he said, of his being in that
part of the country, and had come from a great distance to see him. On
further discourse, the sachem made known that he was one of the warriors in
the service of the French, who lay in ambush on the banks of the
Monongahela and wrought such havoc in Braddock’s army. He declared that he
and his young men had singled out Washington, as he made himself
conspicuous riding about the field of battle with the general’s orders, and
had fired at him repeatedly, but without success; whence they had concluded
that he was under the protection of the Great Spirit, had a charmed life,
and could not be slain in battle.

At the Great Kanawha Washington’s expedition down the Ohio terminated;
having visited all the points he wished to examine. His return to Fort
Pitt, and thence homeward, affords no incident worthy of note. The whole
expedition, however, was one of that hardy and adventurous kind, mingled
with practical purposes, in which he delighted. This winter voyage down the
Ohio in a canoe, with the doctor for a companion and two Indians for crew,
through regions yet insecure from the capricious hostility of prowling
savages, is not one of the least striking of his frontier “experiences.”
The hazardous nature of it was made apparent shortly afterwards by another
outbreak of the Ohio tribes; one of its bloodiest actions took place on the
very banks of the Great Kanawha, in which Colonel Lewis and a number of
brave Virginians lost their lives.


In the final adjustment of claims under Governor Dinwiddie’s proclamation,
Washington, acting on behalf of the officers and soldiers, obtained grants
for the lands he had marked out in the course of his visit to the Ohio.
Fifteen thousand acres were awarded to a field-officer, nine thousand to a
captain, six thousand to a subaltern, and so on. Among the claims which he
entered were those of Stobo and Van Braam, the hostages in the capitulation
at the Great Meadows. After many vicissitudes they were now in London, and
nine thousand acres were awarded to each of them. Their domains were
ultimately purchased by Washington through his London agent.

Another claimant was Colonel George Muse, Washington’s early instructor in
military science. His claim was admitted with difficulty, for he stood
accused of having acted the part of a poltroon in the campaign, and
Washington seems to have considered the charge well founded. Still he
appears to have been dissatisfied with the share of land assigned him, and
to have written to Washington somewhat rudely on the subject. His letter is
not extant, but we subjoin Washington’s reply almost entire, as a specimen
of the caustic pen he could wield under a mingled emotion of scorn and

“Sir,–Your impertinent letter was delivered to me yesterday. As I am not
accustomed to receive such from any man, nor would have taken the same
language from you personally, without letting you feel some marks of my
resentment, I advise you to be cautious in writing me a second of the same
tenor; for though I understand you were drunk when you did it, yet give me
leave to tell you that drunkenness is no excuse for rudeness. But for your
stupidity and sottishness you might have known, by attending to the public
gazette, that you had your full quantity of ten thousand acres of land
allowed you; that is, nine thousand and seventy-three acres in the great
tract, and the remainder in the small tract.

“But suppose you had really fallen short, do you think your superlative
merit entitles you to greater indulgence than others? Or, if it did, that I
was to make it good to you, when it was at the option of the governor and
council to allow but five hundred acres in the whole, if they had been so
inclined? If either of these should happen to be your opinion, I am very
well convinced that you will be singular in it; and all my concern is that
I ever engaged myself in behalf of so ungrateful and dirty a fellow as you

N.B.–The above is from the letter as it exists in the archives of the
Department of State at Washington. It differs in two or three particulars
from that published among Washington’s writings.



The discontents of Virginia, which had been partially soothed by the
amiable administration of Lord Botetourt, were irritated anew under his
successor, the Earl of Dunmore. This nobleman had for a short time held the
government of New York. When appointed to that of Virginia, he lingered for
several months at his former post. In the mean time, he sent his military
secretary, Captain Foy, to attend to the despatch of business until his
arrival; awarding to him a salary and fees to be paid by the colony.

The pride of the Virginians was piqued at his lingering at New York, as if
he preferred its gayety and luxury to the comparative quiet and simplicity
of Williamsburg. Their pride was still more piqued on his arrival, by what
they considered haughtiness on his part. The spirit of the “Ancient
Dominion” was roused, and his lordship experienced opposition at his very

The first measure of the Assembly, at its opening, was to demand by what
right he had awarded a salary and fees to his secretary without consulting
it; and to question whether it was authorized by the crown.

His lordship had the good policy to rescind the unauthorized act, and in so
doing mitigated the ire of the Assembly; but he lost no time in proroguing
a body, which, from various symptoms, appeared to be too independent, and
disposed to be untractable.

He continued to prorogue it from time to time, seeking in the interim to
conciliate the Virginians, and soothe their irritated pride. At length,
after repeated prorogations, he was compelled by circumstances to convene
it on the 1st of March, 1773.

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