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99 M. de Villiers adds another incident intended to degrade his enemy.
“One of my Indians took ten Englishmen, whom he brought to me, and whom I sent back by another." These, doubtless, were the men detached by Washington in quest of the wounded loiterers; and who, understanding neither French nor Indian, found a difficulty in explaining their peaceful errand. That they were captured by the Indian seems too much of a gasconade.
The public opinion at the time was that Van Braam had been suborned by De Villiers to soften the offensive articles of the capitulation in translating them, so that they should not wound the pride nor awaken the scruples of Washington and his officers, yet should stand on record against them. It is not probable that a French officer of De Villiers' rank would practise such a base perfidy, nor does the subsequent treatment experienced by Van Braam from the French corroborate the charge. It is more than probable the inaccuracy of translation originated in his ignorance of the precise weight and value of words in the two languages, neither of which was native to him, and between which he was the blundering agent of exchange.
Founding of Fort Cumberland-Secret Letter of Stobo— The Indian Messenger-Project of Dinwiddie-His Perplexities--A Taint of Republicanism in the Colonial Assemblies-Dinwiddie's Military Measures - Washington quits the Service-Overtures of Governor Sharpe of Maryland, Washington's dignified Reply-Questions of Rank between Royal and Provincial Troops—Treatment of the French Prisoners-Fate of La Force-Anecdotes of Stobo and Van
Braam. EARLY in August Washington rejoined his regiment, which had arrived at Alexandria by the way of Winchester. Letters from Governor Dinwiddie urged him to recruit it to the former number of three hundred men, and join Colonel Innes at Wills' Creek, where that officer was stationed with Mackay's independent company of South Carolineans, and two independent companies from New York; and had been employed in erecting a work to serve as a frontier post and rallying point; which work received the name of Fort Cumberland, in honour of the Duke of Cumberland, captain-general of the British army.
In the mean time the French, elated by their recent triumph, and thinking no danger at hand, relaxed their vigilance at Fort Duquesne. Stobo, who was a kind of prisoner at large there, found means to send a letter secretly by an Indian, dated July 28, and direeted to the commander of the English troops. It was accompanied by a plan of the fort. “ There are two hundred men here," writes he, “and two hundred expected; the rest have gone off in detachments to the amount of one thousand, besides Indians. None lodge in the fort but contrecour and the guard, consisting of forty men and five officers; the rest lodge in bark cabins around the fort. The Indians have access day and night, and come and go when they please. If one hundred trusty Shawnees, Mingoes, and Delawares were picked out, they might surprise the fort, lodging themselves under the palisades by day, and at night secure the guard with their tomahawks, shut the sally-gate, and the fort is ours.”
One part of Stobo's letter shows that he was not the coward that some had considered him. Alluding to the danger
in which he and Van Braam, his fellow-hostage, might be involved, he says, “ Consider the good of the expedition without regard to us. When we engaged to serve the country it was expected we were to do it with our lives. For my part, I would die a hundred deaths to have the pleasure of possessing this fort but one day. They are so vain of their success at the Meadows, it is worse than death to hear them. Haste to strike.”!
The Indian messenger carried the letter to Aughquick, and delivered it into the hands of George Croghan. The Indian chiefs who were with him insisted upon his opening it. He did so, but on finding the tenor of it, transmitted it to the Governor of Pennsylvania. The secret information communicated by Stobo, may have been the cause of a project suddenly conceived by Governor Dinwiddie, of a detachment which, by a forced march across the mountains, might descend upon the French and take Fort Duquesne at a single blow; or, failing that, might build a rival fort in its vicinity. He accordingly wrote to Washington to march forthwith for Wills' Creek, with such 1754.] REPUBLICANISM IN THE ASSEMBLIES. 101 companies as were complete, leaving orders with the officers to follow as soon as they should have enlisted men sufficient to make
1 Hazard's Register of Penn., vol. iv., p. 329.
their companies. · The season of the year," added he, calls for despatch. I depend upon your usual diligence and spirit to encourage your people to be active on this occasion."
The ignorance of Dinwiddie in military affairs, and his want of forecast, led him perpetually into blunders. Washington saw the rashness of an attempt to dispossess the French with a force so inferior that it could be harassed and driven from place to place at their pleasure. Before the troops could be collected, and munitions of war provided, the season would be too far advanced. There would be no forage for the horses; the streams would be swollen and unfordable; the mountains rendered impassable by snow, and frost, and slippery roads. The men, too, unused to campaigning on the frontier, would not be able to endure a winter in the wilderness, with no better shelter than a tent: especially in their present condition, destitute of almost everything. Such are a few of the cogent reasons urged by Washington in a letter to his friend William Fairfax, then in the House of Burgesses, which, no doubt, was shown to Governor Dinwiddie, and probably had an effect in causing the rash project to be abandoned.
The governor, in truth, was sorely perplexed about this time, by contradictions and cross-purposes, both in military and civil affairs. A body of three hundred and fifty North Carolina troops had been enlisted at high pay, and were to form the chief reinforcement of Colonel Innes at Wills' Creek. By the time they reached Winchester, however, the provincial military chest was exhausted, and future pay seemed uncertain ; whereupon they refused to serve any longer, disbanded themselves tumultuously, and set off for their homes without taking leave.
The governor found the House of Burgesses equally unmanageable. His demands for supplies were resisted on what he considered presumptuous pretexts; or granted sparingly, under mortifying restrictions. His high Tory notions were outraged by such republican conduct. " There appears to me,” said he, an infatuation in all
the assemblies in this part of the world.” In a letter to the Board of Trade, he declared that the only way effectually to check the progress of the French, would be an act of parliament requiring the colonies to contribute to the common cause, independently of assemblies; and in another, to the Secretary of State, he urged the policy of compelling the colonies to their duty to the king by a general polltax of two and sixpence a head. The worthy governor would have made a fitting counsellor for the Stuart dynasty. Subsequent events have shown how little his policy was suited to compete with the dawning republicanism of America.
In the month of October the House of Burgesses made a grant of twenty thousand pounds for the public service; and ten thousand more were sent out from England, besides a supply of firearms. The governor now applied himself to military matters with renewed spirit; increased the actual force to ten companies ; and, as there had been difficulties among the different kinds of troops with regard to precedence, he reduced them all to independent companies, so that there would be no officer in a Virginia regiment above the rank of captain.
This shrewd measure, upon which Dinwiddie secretly prided himself as calculated to put an end to the difficulties in question, immediately drove Washington out of the service, considering it derogatory to his character to accept a lower commission than that under which his conduct had gained him a vote of thanks from the legislature.
Governor Sharpe, of Maryland, appointed by the king commander-in-chief of all the forces engaged against the French, sought to secure his valuable services, and authorized Colonel Fitzhugh, whom he had placed in temporary command of the army, to write to him to that effect. The reply of Washington (15 Nov.) is full of dignity and spirit, and shows how deeply he felt his military degradation.
“ You make mention,” says he," of my continuing in the service and retaining my colonel's commission. This idea has filled me with surprise ; for if you think me capable of holding a commission that has neither rank nor emolument annexed to it, you must maintain a very contemptible opinion of my weakness, and believe me more
103 empty than the commission itself.” After intimating a suspicion that the project of reducing the regiment into independent companies, and thereby throwing out the higher officers, was generated and hatched at Wills' Creek,”—in other words, was an expedient of Governor Dinwiddie, instead of being a peremptory order from England, he adds, “ Ingenuous treatment and plain dealing I at least expected. It is to be hoped the project will answer; it shall meet with my acquiescence in everything except personal services. I here with inclose Governor Sharpe's letter, which I beg you will return to him with my acknowledgments for the favour he intended me. Assure him, sir, as you truly may, of my reluctance to quit the service, and of the pleasure I should have received in attending his fortunes. Inform him, also, that it was to obey the call of honour and the advice of my friends that I declined it, and not to gratify any desire I had to leave the military line. My feelings are strongly bent to arms.”
Even had Washington hesitated to take this step, it would have been forced upon him by a further regulation of government, in the course of the ensuing winter, settling the rank of officers of his Majesty's forces when joined or serving with the provincial forces in North America, "s which directed that all such as were commissioned by the king, or by his general commander in-chief in North Ame
should take rank of all officers commissioned by the governors of the respective provinces. And further, that the general and field officers of the provincial troops should have no rank when serving with the general and field officers commissioned by the Crown; but that all captains and other inferior officers of the royal troops should take rank over provincial officers of the same grade, having older commissions."
These regulations, originating in that supercilious assumption of superiority which sometimes overruns and degrades true British pride, would have been spurned by Washington, as insulting to the character and conduct of his high-minded brethren of the colonies. How much did this open disparagement of colonial honour and understanding, contribute to wean from England the affection