« ZurückWeiter »
perilous journey, and, after an absence of seven weeks, Major Washington again stood in the presence of Governor Dinwiddie, his mission fulfilled to the satisfaction of all. Two days afterward he returned, first to his mother's home, near Fredericksburg, then to Belvoir, and finally to Mount Vernon, where he spent a greater portion of the winter and spring of 1754.
But Major Washington was not allowed to remain long in seclusion. In the late expedition he had exhibited qualities too great and useful to be suffered to repose. War with the French appeared inevitable. The latter continued their hostile preparations in the Ohio region, and a colonial military force, to be sent thither, was organized in the spring of 1754. Colonel Joshua Fry was appointed its commander, and Major Washington his lieutenant.
For a while Mount Vernon appeared like a recruiting station. At length all preparations were completed, and on the 2d of April, Major Washington, with the advanced corps, marched from Alexandria toward the Ohio. After a toilsome journey of eighteen days, over the Blue Ridge, they reached the mouth of Wills' Creek (now Cumberland), where Washington, for the first time, occupied a house for his headquarters as a military commander. It was the dwelling of a pioneer. It has long since passed away, but the pencil has preserved its features, and now, at the distance of time of more than a hundred years, we may look upon the portrait of WASHINGTON'S FIRST HEAD-QUARTERS.
It is not our purpose to trace the events of Washington's life in their consecutive order. We propose to give delineations of only such as held intimate relations with his beautiful
home on the Potomac, which, for more than forty years, was to him the dearest spot on the earth.
During the war between the French and English, that commenced in earnest in 1755, when Braddock came to America as commander-in-chief of the British forces, until the close of the campaign of 1758, when the French and their dusky allies were driven from the forks of the Ohio, Washington was almost continually in the public service, and spent but little time at Mount Vernon. He had been promoted to Colonel in 1754, but, on account of new military arrangements by the blundering, wrong-headed, narrow-minded Governor Dinwiddie, he had left the service with disgust, and retired to the quiet of private life at Mount Vernon, with a determination to spend his life there in the pursuits of agriculture-pursuits which he always passionately loved, and longed for most earnestly when away from them.
General Braddock, an Irish officer of forty years' experience
in the army, came to America with two regiments early in 1755, and called a council of royal governors at Alexandria, to arrange a regular campaign against the French. Braddock soon heard, from every lip, encomiums of the character of Colonel Washington, and he invited him to Alexandria. Mount Vernon was only a little more than an hour's ride distant, and Washington, whose military ardor was again aroused by preparations for conflict, was swift to obey the summons. From Mount Vernon he had looked upon the ships-of-war and transports upon the bosom of the Potomac
that bore Braddock and his
troops, and the thought that only a few miles from his dwelling, preparations were in progress for a brilliant campaign, under the command of one of the most experienced generals of the British army, stirred the very depths of his soul, and made him yearn to go again to the field.
At the residence of Jonathan Carey, where Braddock made his head-quarters, the young provincial colonel and the veteran general first met, at the close of March. Carey's was then the finest house in Alexandria, surrounded by a noble lawn that
was shaded by lofty forest trees, and its gardens extending
down a gentle slope to the shore of the Potomac. Now it
stands within the city, hemmed in by buildings and paved streets, and forms a part of Newton's Hotel. The convention of governors met in it in April, and there the ensuing campaign was planned.
Braddock invited Washington to join his military family, as aid, with the rank he had lately borne. The mother of the young colonel hastened to Mount Vernon to persuade him not to accept it. She urged the claims of his and her own affairs upon his attention, as strong reasons for him not to enter the army again, and for two days she held his decision in abeyance, for filial obedience was one of the strongest sentiments of Washington's nature. But it was not strong enough to restrain him on this occasion-or, rather, God's will must be obeyed—and he left Mount Vernon for Alexandria, after her departure for the Rappahannock, and was welcomed into Braddock's family with joy by Captains Orme and Morris.
On the 9th of July following we behold him upon the bloody field of the Monongahela, shielded by God's providence, untouched by ball or bayonet, arrow or javelin, while carnage was laying its scores of victims around him, and his commander was borne mortally wounded from the field-we behold him riding from point to point, bringing order out of confusion, and leading away from that aceldama the shattered battalions of the proud army of the morning to a place of safety and repose. Then he returned to Mount Vernon, weak from recent sickness and exposure in the field. In his little library there he wrote to his brother, then a member of the House of Burgesses at Williamsburg, and thus summed up his military career:
"I was employed to go a journey in the winter, when I
believe few or none would have undertaken it, and what did I get by it? My expenses borne! I was then appointed, with trifling pay, to conduct a handful of men to the Ohio. What did I get by that? Why, after putting myself to a considerable expense in equipping and providing necessaries for the campaign, I went out, was soundly beaten, and lost all! Came in, and had my commission taken from me; or, in other words, my command reduced, under pretence of an order from home. I then went out a volunteer with General Braddock, and lost all my horses, and many other things. But this being a voluntary act, I ought not to have mentioned it; nor should I have done it, were it not to show that I have been on the losing order ever since I entered the service, which is now nearly two years.'
But what wonderful and necessary lessons for the future had Washington learned during that time!
Mount Vernon saw but little of its master during the next four years; for the flame of war lighted up the land from Acadia, and along the St. Lawrence, away down to the beautiful Cherokee country, in Western Georgia and Carolina, and Washington was most of the time in camp, except from December, 1757, until March, 1758, when he was an invalid at home.
In February, 1756, we find him, accompanied by two aides, journeying to Boston, to confer with General Shirley concerning military rank in Virginia. Little did he then think that twenty years later he would again be there directing a siege against the New England capital, in command of rebels against the crown he was then serving!
We find him lingering in New York, on his return. The