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CHAP. VIII. Europe; and proper persons were appointed to 1776. solicit their friendship to the new formed states.
These dispatches fell into the hands of the British, and by them were published; a cir. cumstance by no means unwished for by congress, who were persuaded that an apprehension of their making up all differences with Great Britain was a principal objection to the inter. ference of foreign courts, in what was represented to be no more than a domestic quarrel. A resolution adopted in the deepest distress, and in the worst of times, that congress would listen to no terms of re-union with their parent state, would, it was believed, convince those who wished for the dismemberment of the British empire, that it was sound policy to interfere, so far as would prevent the conquest of the United States.
It will not be unacceptable to the reader to peruse this first report of a young gentleman who afterwards performed so distinguished a part in the revolution of his country, it is therefore inserted at large.
I was commissioned and appointed by the hon. Robert Dinwiddie, esq. governor, &c. of Virginia, to visit and deliver a letter to the commandant of the French forces on the Ohio, and set out on the intended journey on the same day: the next, I arrived at Fredericksburg, and engaged mr. Jacob Vanbraam to be my French interpreter, and proceeded with him to Alexandria, where we provided necessaries. From thence we went to Winchester, and got baggage, horses, &c. and from thence we pursued the new road to Wills'creek, where we arrived the 14th November.
Here I engaged mr. Gist to pilot us out, and also hired four others as servitors, Barnaby Currin, and John MʻQuire, Indian traders, Henry Steward, and William Jenkins; and in company with those persons left the inhabitants the next day.
The excessive rains and vast quantity of snow which had fallen, "prevented our reaching mr. Frazier's, an Indian trader, at the mouth of Turtle creek, on Monongahela river, till thursday the 22d. We were informed here, that expresses had been sent a few days before to the traders down the river, to acquaint them with the French general's death, and the return of the major part of the French army into winter quarters.
The waters were quite impassable without swimming our horses, which obliged us to get the loan of a canoe from Frazier, and to send Barnaby Currin and Henry Steward down the Monongahela, with our baggage, to VOL. II.
meet us at the forks of Ohio, about ten miles; there, to cross the Alleghany.
As I got down before the canoe, I spent some time in viewing the rivers, and the land in the fork, which I think extremely well situated for a fort, as it has the absolute command of both rivers. The land at the point is twenty, or twenty-five feet above the common surface of the water; and a considerable bottom of flat, well timbered land all around it very convenient for building. The rivers are each a quarter of a mile, or more across, and run here very nearly at right angles; Alleghany, bearing northeast; and Monongahela, southeast. The former of these two is a very rapid and swift running water, the other deep and still, without any perceptible fall.
About two miles from this, on the southeast side of the river, at the place where the Ohio company intended to erect a fort, lives Shingiss, king of the Delawares. We called upon him, to invite him to council at the Loggstown.
As I had taken a good deal of notice yesterday of the situation at the fork, my curiosity led me to examine this more particularly, and I think it greatly inferior, either for defence or advantages; especially the latter. For a fort at the fork would be equally well situated on the Ohio, and have the entire command of the Monongahela, which runs up our settlement, and is extremely well designed for water carriage, as it is of a deep, still nature. Besides, a fort at the fork, might be built at much less expense, than at the other places.
Nature has well contrived this lower place for water defence; but the hill whereon it must stand being about a quarter of a mile in length, and then descending gradually on the land side, will render it difficult and very expensive to make a sufficient fortification there. The whole flat upon the hill must be taken in, the side next the descent made extremely high, or else the hill itself cut away: otherwise, the enemy may raise batteries within that distance without being exposed to a single shot from the fort.
Shingiss attended us to the Loggstown, where we arrived between sun-setting and dark, the twenty-fifth day after I left Williamsburg. We travelled over some extremely good and bad land to get to this place.
As soon as I came into town, I went to Monakatoocha (as the half king was out at his hunting cabin on Little Beaver creek, about fifteen miles off) and informed him by John Davidson, my Indian interpreter, that I was sent a messenger to the French general ; and was ordered to call upon the sachems of the Six Nations to acquaint them with it. I gave him a string of wampum and a twist of tobacco, and desired him to send for the half king, which he promised to do by a runner in the morning, and for other sachems. I invited him and the other great men present, to my tent, where they stayed about an hour and returned.
According to the best observations I could make, mr. Giff's new settlement (which we passed by) bears abour west northwest seventy miles from Wills' creek; Shanapins, or the forks, north by west or north northwest about fifty miles from that; and from thence to the Loggstown, the course is nearly west about eighteen or twenty miles: so that the whole distance, as we went and computed it is, at least, one hundred and thirty-five or one hundred and forty miles from our back inhabitants.
25th. Came to town, four of ten Frenchmen, who had deserted from a company at the Kuskuskas, which lies at the mouth of this river. I got the following account from them. They were sent from New Orleans with a hundred men, and eight canoe loads of provisions, to this place, where they expected to have met the same number of men, from the forts on this side of lake Erie, to convoy them and the stores up, who were not arrived when they ran off.
I inquired into the situation of the French on the Mississippi, their numbers, and what forts they had built. They informed me, that there were four small forts between New Orleans and the Black Islands, garrisoned
with about thirty or forty men, and a few small pieces in each. That at New Orleans, which is near the mouth of the Mississippi, there are thirty-five companies of forty men each, with a pretty strong fort mounting eight carriage guns; and at the Black Islands there are several companies and a fort with six guns. The Black Islands are about a hundred and thirty leagues above the mouth of the Ohio, which is about three hundred and fifty above New Orleans. They also acquainted me, that there was a small pallisadoed fort on the Ohio, at the mouth of the Obaish, about sixty leagues from the Mississippi. The Obaish heads near the west end of lake Erie, and affords the communication between the French on the Mississippi and those on the lakes. These deserters came up from the lower Shannoah town with one Brown, an Indian trader, and were going to Philadelphia.
About three o'clock this evening the half king came to town. I went up and invited him with Davidson, privately, to my tent; and desired him to relate some of the particulars of his journey to the French commandant, and of his reception there; also, to give me an account of the ways and distance. He told me, that the nearest and levellest way was now impassable, by reason of many large miry savannas; that we must be obliged to go by Venango, and should not get to the near fort in less than five or six nights sleep, good travelling. When he went to the fort, he said he was received in a very stern manner by the late commander, who asked him very abruptly, what he had come about, and to declare his business : which he said he did in the following speech : .
« Fathers, I am come to tell you your own speeches; what your own mouths have declared. Fathers, you, in former days, set a silver bason before us, wherein there was the leg of a beaver, and desired all the nations to come and eat of it, to eat in peace and plenty, and not to be churlish to one another: and that if any such person should be found to be a disturber, I here lay down by the edge of the dish a rod, which you must scourge them with; and if your