Page images


the fort.


belong to him to discuss treaties, that such a message CHAPTER should have been sent to the Marquis Duquesne, Governor of Canada, by whose instructions he acted, and whose or- 175 3. ders he should be careful to obey, and that the summons to retire could not be complied with. The tone was respectful, but uncomplying and determined.

While the French officers were holding consultations, Examines and getting the despatch ready, Major Washington took an opportunity to look around and examine the fort. His attendants were instructed to do the same. He was thus enabled to bring away an accurate description of its form, size, construction, cannon, and barracks. His men counted the canoes in the river, and such as were partly finished. The fort was situate on a branch of French Creek, about fifteen miles south of Lake Erie. A plan of it, drawn by Major Washington, was sent to the British government.

The snow was falling so fast, that he ordered back his Politely horses to Venango, resolved to go down himself by water, a canoe having been offered to him for that purpose. He had been entertained with great politeness; nor did the complaisance of M. de St. Pierre exhaust itself in mere forms of civility. The canoe, by his order, was plentifully stocked with provisions, liquors, and every other supply that could be wanted.

But the same artifices were practised and expedients Artifices to tried, as at Venango, to lure away the Indians, and keep Indians. them behind. Many temptations were held out, presents given, and others promised. The Half-King was of consequence, whose friendship was not to be lost, if it could possibly be retained. He persisted in his reserve, however, and now offered a second time to the French commandant the speech-belt, or wampum, as indicating that the alliance between them was broken off. The latter refused to accept it, and soothed the savage with soft words and fair professions, saying it was his wish to live in amity and peace with the Indians, and to trade with them, and that he would immediately send goods to their

a man

water to


CHAPTER towns. These attempts to inveigle the Half-King and his II.

companions were discovered by Major Washington, who 1753.

complained of the delay, and insinuated the cause. M. de St. Pierre was urbane, as usual, seemed ignorant of all that passed, could not tell why the Indians stayed, and declared nothing should be wanting on his part to fulfil Major Washington's desires. Finally, after much perplexi

ty and trouble, the whole party embarked in a canoe. Passage by The passage down was fatiguing, slow, and perilous. Venango. Rocks, shallows, drifting trees, and currents, kept them in

constant alarm. “Many times," says Major Washington in his journal, “all hands were obliged to get out, and remain in the water half an hour or more in getting over the shoals. At one place the ice had lodged, and made it impassable by water ; and we were obliged to carry our canoe across a neck of land a quarter of a mile over.' In six days they landed at Venango, a distance of one hundred and thirty miles by the winding of the stream.

The horses were found here, but in so emaciated and the journey

pitiable a condition, that it was doubtful whether they could perform the journey. The baggage and provisions were all to be transported on their backs. To lighten their burden, as much as possible, Major Washington, clad in an Indian walking-dress, determined to proceed on foot, with Mr. Gist and Mr. Vanbraam, putting the horses under the direction of the drivers. After three days' travel, the horses becoming more feeble, and the cold and snow hourly increasing, this mode of journeying proved so tardy and discouraging, that another was resorted to. Mr. Vanbraam took charge of the horses, with orders to go on as fast as he could. Major Washington, with a knapsack on his back, containing his papers and food, and with a gun in his hand, left the party, accompanied only by Mr. Gist, equipped in the same manner. They turned out of the path, and directed their course through the woods so as to strike the Allegany River, and cross it near Shannopins Town, two or three miles above the Fork of the

The next day an adventure occurred, which is

on foot.




designs are

Dec. 27.

well narrated by Mr. Gist in a diary written by him at CHAPTER the time. “ We rose early in the morning, and set out about two

1753. o'clock, and got to the Murdering Town on the southeast Joined by an fork of Beaver Creek. Here we met with an Indian, whose whom I thought I had seen at Joncaire's, at Venango, suspected. when on our journey up to the French fort. This fellow called me by my Indian name, and pretended to be glad to see me. He asked us several questions, as, how we came to travel on foot, when we left Venango, where we parted with our horses, and when they would be there. Major Washington insisted on travelling by the nearest way to the Forks of the Allegany. We asked the Indian if he could go with us, and show us the nearest way. The Indian seemed very glad, and ready to go with us; upon which we set out, and the Indian took the Major's pack. We travelled very brisk for eight or ten miles, when the Major's feet grew very sore, and he very weary, and the Indian steered too much northeastwardly. The Major desired to encamp; upon which the Indian asked to carry his gun, but he refused; and then the Indian grew churlish, and pressed us to keep on, telling us there were Ottawa Indians in those woods, and they would scalp us if we lay out; but go to his cabin, and we should be safe.

“I thought very ill of the fellow, but did not care to let the Major know I mistrusted him. But he soon mistrusted him as much as I did. The Indian said he could hear a gun from his cabin, and steered us more northwardly. We grew uneasy, and then he said two whoops might be heard from his cabin. We went two miles further. Then the Major said he would stay at the next water, and we desired the Indian to stop at the next water; but before we came to water, we came to a clear meadow. It was very light, and snow was on the ground. The Indian made a stop, and turned about. The Major saw him point his gun towards us, and he fired. Said the Major, ' Are you shot ?' 'No,' said I ; upon which


CHAPTER the Indian ran forward to a big standing white oak, and

began loading his gun, but we were soon with him. I 1753.

would have killed him, but the Major would not suffer me. We let him charge his gun. We found he put in a ball; then we took care of him. Either the Major or I always stood by the guns.

We made him make a fire for us by a little run, as if we intended to sleep there. I said to the Major, “As you will not have him killed, we must get him away, and then we must travel all night'; upon which I said to the Indian, “I suppose you were lost, and fired your gun.' He said he knew the way to his cabin, and it was but a little way. 'Well,' said I, do you go home; and, as we are tired, we will follow your track in the morning, and here is a cake of bread for you, and you must give us meat in the morning. He was glad to get away. I followed him, and listened, until he was fairly out of the way; and then we went about half a mile, when we made a fire, set our compass, fixed our course, and travelled all night. In the morning we were on the head of Piny Creek.”

Whether it was the intention of the Indian to kill either of them can only be conjectured. The circumstances were extremely suspicious. Major Washington hints at this incident in his journal. 66 We fell in with a party of French Indians," says he, “who had lain in wait for us. One of them fired at Mr. Gist or me, not fifteen steps off, but fortunately missed. We took the fellow in custody, and kept him till nine o'clock at night; then let him go, and walked all the remaining part of the night without making any stop, that we might get the start so far as to be out of the reach of their

pursuit the next day, since we were well assured they would follow our track as soon as it was light.” No more was

or heard of them. The next night, at dusk, the the Allegany

travellers came to the Allegany River, a little above Shannopins, where they expected to cross over on the ice; but in this they were disappointed, the river being frozen only a few yards on each side, and a great body of broken ice driving rapidly down the current.

Arrives at





crossing the

Weary and exhausted they were compelled to pass the CHAPTER night on the bank of the river, exposed to the rigor of the weather, making their beds on the snow, with no other covering than their blankets. When the morning came, their invention was the only resource for providing the means of gaining the opposite shore.

“ There was no way of getting over,” says Major Wash- Perils in ington, “but on a raft; which we set about with but one river. poor hatchet, and finished just after sunsetting. This was a whole day's work. We next got it launched, and went on board of it; then set off. But before we were half way over, we were jammed in the ice in such a manner, that we expected every moment our raft would sink, and ourselves perish. I put out my settingpole to try to stop the raft, that the ice might pass by; when the rapidity of the stream threw it with so much violence against the pole, that it jerked me out into ten feet water. But I fortunately saved myself by catching hold of one of the raft logs. Notwithstanding all our efforts we could not get the raft to either shore, but were obliged, as we were near an island, to quit our raft, and make to it."

This providential escape from most imminent danger, was not the end of their calamities. They were thrown upon a desert island; the weather was intensely cold; Mr. Gist's hands and feet were frozen; and their sufferings through the night were extreme. A gleam of hope appeared with the dawn of morning. Between the island and the eastern bank of the river, the ice had congealed so hard as to bear their weight. They crossed over with- Renches a out accident, and the same day reached a trading post recently established by Mr. Frazier, near the spot where eighteen months afterwards was fought the memorable battle of the Monongahela.

Here they rested two or three days, both to recruit themselves and to procure horses. Meantime Major Wash- Interview ington paid a complimentary visit to Queen Aliquippa, an Aliquippa. Indian princess, who resided at the confluence of the Monongahela and Youghiogany Rivers. She had expressed

truding post.

with Queen

Dec. 31.

« PreviousContinue »