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character and his reputation rose by every public 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 military service of his country without an impeachment of his honour, and with alacrity he accepted the appointment.
1755. A scene now opened to Colonel Wash, ington, 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 frontier 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 terror and desolation in their course; and having completed 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 Dinwiddie was not himself a soldier, nor did he possess a mind to comprehend the nature of this mode of war. Jealous of his prerogative, and obstinate in his temper, his orders were often inade
quate to their object, or impracticable in their na· ture. The military code of the colony was insuf
ficient, which rendered it impossible to bring the militia into the field with the dispatch necessary
to repel an Indian invasion; and her martial laws did not possess vigor to prevent 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 influential characters in the 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 mutual safety, fell back, and communicated their fears to more interior places. Orders to call the militia into the field were unavailing ; the solicitude aud 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 sugo gest; 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 cbastise. Before a force from below could be collected, the invading foe, having glutted their appetite for blood and loaded themselves withi spoil, recrossed the mountain.
Three years service affords little else than a repetition of scenes of a similar nature; scenes, which occasioned to these settlements the utmost horror and distress, and fully tested the fortitude and military resources of the commander ; 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 io 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 unremittingly urged upon the executive and legislature of his province, the insufficiency of the mode adopted to prosecute the war. He earnestly advised to offensive operations, as the only measure which would essectually
relieve the colony from the heavy loss of inbabitants, and from the expence 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 Colonel Washington on these subjects will fully appear by the following extracts from letters which he wrote at the time. In a dispatch to the lieutenant-governor, he thus paints the situation of the inhabitants and the troops. “ I see 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 expect to reap either honour or benefit; but, on the contrary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below, while the murder of helpless families may be laid to my account here.
• The supplicating 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 myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would conduce to the people's ease.”
The inefficiency of the militia he thus pourtrays.
“ 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 inbabitants of Augusta county. The militia are under such bad order and discipline, 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.”