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effort to the contrary, they broke and ran as sheep be. fore hounds ; leaving the artillery, ammunition, pro visions, baggage, in short every thing, a prey to the enemy; and when we endeavoured to rally them, in hopes of regaining the ground, and what we had left upon it, it was with as little success, as if we had at. tempted to stop the wild bears of the mountains, or the rivulets with our feet ; for they would break by in spite of every effort to prevent it.”
The assembly of Virginia was in session, when the gloomy intelligence was received, that General Braddock was defeated and slain, and that Colonel Durbar had left their frontiers open to the invasion of the ene my. They immediately voted to raise a regiment to consist of sixteen companies.
The important transactions in which Colonel WashINGTON had been engaged, developed his character, and his reputation rose by every publick trust with which he was invested. He now received a commission appointing him Colonel of this regiment, and Commander in Chief of all the forces raised, and to be raised, in Virginia ; with the privilege to name his field officers. He could, in the existing state of the colony, engage in the inilitary service of his country without an impeachment of his honour, and with alacrity he accepted the appointment.
1755. A scene now opened to Colonel WASHINGTon, trying indeed to a Commander of his youth and degree of experience, but proving an excellent school, in which to form the General of the revolutionary war With an incompetent force he was to defend a fron. tier of three hundred and sixty miles. The French on the Ohio, aided by the numerous Indians, attached to their interests, embraced every favourable opportunity to invade the northern and western borders of Virginia, spreading terrour and desolation in their course ; and having aompleted their work of slaughter and ruin, they retreated with their plunder over the Alleghany
mountain, before a force could be collected to attack them.-Governor Dinwiddic was not himself a soldier, nor did he possess a mind to comprehend the nature of this mode of warfare. Jealous of his prerogative, and obstinate in his temper, his orders were often in. adequate to their object, or impracticable in their nature. The military code of the colony was insufficient, which rendered it impossible to bring the militia into the field with the despatch necessary to repel an Indian invasion; and her martial laws did not possess vigour to prevont insubordination in officers, or secure discipline in the permanent troops. The colony was at that time too poor, or too improvident, seasonably to lay up magazines for the use of her little army, or to keep money in the military chest for its regular payment.
Under all these embarrassments, Colonel WASHINGTon entered on the duties of his commission. Having put the recruiting service in operation, he visited the line of posts on the frontiers, and established the best regulations their state admitted, to keep the petty garrisons vigilant and alert.
He had accomplished this necessary business, and nearly completed a journey to Williamsburg, to settle with the Governor the plan of operations; and to press upon him, and other officers of government, the importance of Legislative interference to conciliate those Indians who were not already attached to the French; and to adopt effectual means and regulations to support and discipline the troops; when information reached him of an eruption of the French and Indians on the northern border. In haste he returned to Winchester, and found the country in the utmost alarm and confusion. The small garrisons conceived themselves to be in danger in their fortresses, and were unable to protect the open country. The inhabitants on the extreme frontier, instead of uniting their force for mutua) safety, fell back and communicated their fears to more
interiour places. Orders to call the militia into the field were unavailing; the solicitude and exertion of each individual were directed to the immediate preservation of his family and property. The sufferings of his countrymen deeply wounded the heart of Colonel Washington. Every measure was adopted, that an enterprising spirit could suggest; and all the means he possessed were judiciously and strenuously exerted for their protection; but all were ineffectual. He was compelled to be the witness of the calamity of friends, whom he could not relieve ; and of the carnage and ravages of a ferocious enemy, whom he could not chastise. Before a force from below could be collected, the invading foe, having glutted their appetite for blood, and loaded themselves with spoil, recrossed the mountain.
Three years service affords little else, than a repe tition of scenes of a similar nature; scenes, which occasioned these settlements the utmost horrour and distress, and brought the fortitude and military resources of the Commander to a severe test ; but which, in recital, would swell this work beyond the designed bounds. The regiment never consisted of more than one thousand effective men. Colonel WASHINGTON, in addition to the appropriate duty of his commission, was obliged to superintend the operations of each subordinate department, and to attend to the wants of the impoverished inhabitants.
During this period, he unrernittingly urged upon the Executive and Legislature of his Province, the insufficiency of the mode adopted to prosecute the war. He earnestly recommended offensive operations, as the only measure which would effectually relieve the Colony from the heavy loss of inhabitants, and from the expense of money yearly sustained ; and prevent the total depopulation of the fertile plains beyond the Blue Ridge. If the necessary co-operation of Great Britain, to enable the colony to drive the enemy from
the Ohio, were unattainable, which would prove a radical cure of the evil, he strongly recommended, that a regular force of two thousand men should be raised. By this measure he thought the militia, whose services were attended with incalculable expense, and were seldom productive of good, might be relieved from temporary draughts. The feelings and views of Col. Washington on these subjects, will fully appear by the following extracts from letters which he wrote at the time. In a despatch to the Lieutenant Governour, he thus paints the situation of the inhabitants and the troops.
sce their situation, I know their danger, and participate their sufferings, without having it in my power to give them further relief than uncertain promises. In short, I see inevitable destruction in so clear a light, that, unless vigorous measures are taken by the Assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below, the poor inhabitants, now in forts, must unavoidably fall, while the remainder are flying before the barbarous foe. 'In fine, the melancholy situation of the people, the little prospect of assistance, the gross and scandalous abuses cast upon the officers in general, which is reflecting on me in particular, for suffering misconduct of such extraordinary kind, and the distant prospect, if any, of gaining reputation in the service, cause me to lament the hour that gave me a commission, and would induce me at any other time than this of imminent danger, to resign, without one hesitating moment, a command, from which I never oxpect to reap either honour or benefit ; but, on the contiary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below, while the murder of helplesa families may be laid to my account here.
“ The supp!icating tears of the women, and moving petitions of the men, melt me with such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myseif a willing sacrifice to the butchering ene my, provided that would conduce to the people's ease.'
The inefficiency of the militia he thus portrayed.
“ The inhabitants are so sensible of their danger if left to the protection of these people, (militia) that not a man will stay at his place. This I have from their own mouths, and the principal inhabitants of Augusta county. The militia are under such bad order and dis. cipline, that they will come and go when and where they please, without regarding time, their officers, or the safety of the inhabitants. There should be, according to your honour's orders, one third of the militia of these parts on duty, at a time; instead of that, scarce one thirtieth is out. They are to be relieved every month, and they are a great part of that time marching to and from their stations; and they will not wait one day longer than the limited time, whether relieved or not, however urgent the necessity for their continuance may be.”
“ I met with Col. Buchanan, with about thirty men, chiefly officers, to conduct me up Jackson's river, along the range of forts. With this small company of irregulars, with whom order, regularity, circumspection, and vigilance were matters of derision and contempt, we set out, and by the protection of providence, reached Augusta court-house in seven days, without meeting the enemy; otherwise we must have been sacrificed by the indiscretion of these whooping, hallooing, gentleman soldiers.—This jaunt afforded me great opportunity of seeing the bad regulation of the militia, the disorderly proceedings of the garrisons, and the unhappy circumstances of the inhabitants.
“ We are either insensible of danger until it breaks upon our heads, or else through mistaken notions of economy, evade the
expense until the blow is struck, and then run into an extreme of raising the militia. These, after an age, as it were, is spent in assembling them, come up, make a noise for a time, oppress the inhabitants, and then return, leaving the frontiers unguarded as before. This is still our reliance, notwith.