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CHAP. I. "I might add, I believe, that for the want 1756. of proper laws to govern the militia, (for I can
not ascribe it to any other cause) they are obstinate, self-willed, perverse, of little or no service to the people, and very burdensome to the country. Every mean individual has his own crude notion of things, and must undertake to direct. If his advice is neglected, he thinks himself slighted, abased, and injured, and to redress his wrongs, will depart for his home.
“ These, sir, are literally matters of fact, partly from persons of undoubted veracity, but chiefly from my own observations.
“ Secondly, concerning the garrisons. I found them very weak from want of men, but more so from indolence, and irregularity. I saw none in a posture of defence, and few that might not be surprised with the greatest ease. An instance of this appeared at Dickenson's fort, where the Indians ran down, caught several children that were playing under the walls, and had got to the gate before they were discovered. Was not Vass's fort surprised, and a good many souls lost in the same manner? they keep no guards but just when the enemy is about, and they are under fearful apprehensions of them ; nor ever stir out of the forts, from the time they reach them, until relieved at the expiration of their month, at which time they march off, be the consequence what it may. So that the
enemy may ravage the country and they not CHAP. I. the wiser. Of the ammunition, they are as 1756 careless as of the provisions, firing it away frequently at targets for wagers. On our journey, as we approached one of the forts, we heard a quick fire for several minutes; and, concluding certainly that they were attacked, we marched in the best manner to their relief; but when we came up we found them diverting themselves at marks. These men afford no assistance to the unhappy settlers, driven from their plantations, either in securing their harvests, or gathering their corn. Of the many forts I passed by there was but one or two where the captain was at his post. They were generally absent on their own business, and had given leave to several of their men to be absent likewise; yet these persons, I will venture to say, will charge the country their full month's pay.
“Thirdly. The wretched and unhappy situation of the inhabitants needs but a few words, after a slight reflection on the preceding circumstances, which, without speedy redress, must necessarily draw after them very melancholy consequences. They are truly sensible of their misery. They feel their insecurity while depending upon militia, who are slow in coming to their assistance, indifferent about their preservation, unwilling to continue, and regardless of every thing but their own ease. In short, they are so affected by approaching ruin, that the
CHAP. I. whole back country is in a general motion 1756. towards the southern colonies, and I expect that
scarce a family will inhabit Frederick, Hamp. shire, or Augusta, in a little time. They peti. tioned me in the most earnest manner for com. panies of the regiment; but, alas, it is not in my power to furnish them with any, without leaving this dangerous quarter more exposed than they are. I promised, at their particular request, to address your honour and the assembly on their behalf, and to solicit that a regular force may be established in lieu of the militia and ranging companies, which are of much less service, and infinitely more expensive to the country.”
Colonel Washington had become so sensible of the absolute impracticability of defending such an extensive frontier, as to be extremely anxious to be enabled to act on the offensive. His opinions now were decided, that the people of Virginia could only be protected by entering the country of the enemy, by giving him em. ployment at home, and removing, if possible, the source of all their calamities, by driving the French from fort du Quesne. While they held that post, the great Indian force they were enabled by their ascendancy over those people to bring into action, would always put it in their power to annoy, and infinitely to distress the frontiers; perhaps indeed to acquire the possession of the whole country to the Blue Ridge. It was now therefore the object nearest
his heart, to stimulate the assembly to such CHAP. I. exertions, as would, with some aid from the 1756. commander in chief of all his majesty's troops in America, bring into the field a sufficient force, to warrant an expedition against du Quesne.
“ As defensive measures,” he observed in a letter to the lieutenant governor, “ are evidently insufficient for the security and safety of the country, I hope no arguments are necessary to evince the necessity of altering them to a vigorous offensive war, in order to remove the cause.” But in the event that the assembly should still indulge that favourite scheme of protecting the inhabitants by forts along the frontiers, he presented to the governor a plan which he recommended for his approbation, and which in its execution required two thousand men. These were to be distributed in twenty-two forts, extending from the river Mayo to the Potowmack, in a line of three hundred and sixty miles. In a letter written about the same time to the speaker of the assembly, he urged with great force the objections to a reliance on the militia, even if the present defensive system should be persevered in ; but he gave his unequivocal preference to more vigorous measures. “The certainty of advantage,” said he, “by an offensive scheme of action, renders it, beyond any doubt, much preferable to our defensive mea. sures. To prove this to you, sir, requires, I presume, no arguments. Our scattered force,
CHAP. I. so separated and dispersed in weak parties, avails 1756. little to stop the secret incursions of the savages.
We can only perhaps put them to flight, or frighten them to some other part of the country, which answers not the end proposed. Whereas, had we strength enough to invade their lands, and assault their towns, we should restrain them from coming abroad, and leaving their families exposed. We should then remove the principal cause, and have stronger probability of success; we should be free from the many alarms, mischiefs, and murders, that now attend us; we should inspirit the hearts of our few Indian friends, and gain more esteem with them. In short, could Pennsylvania and Maryland be induced to join us in an expedition of this nature, and to petition his excellency lord Loudoun for a small train of artillery with some engineers, we should then be able, in all human probability, to subdue the terror of fort du Quesne, retrieve our character with the Indians, and restore peace to our unhappy frontiers.”
In the apprehension, however, that this favourite scheme would not be adopted, he recommended by a variety of arguments and observations, manifesting its propriety, the same plan of defence which had been submitted to the lieutenant governor.
The total inability of colonel Washington to act offensively against the enemy, or even to