1772 Portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale 1741-1827
Journey to the French Commandant: Narrative
On Wednesday the 31st. of October 1753 I was Commission’d & appointed by the Honble. Robert Dinwiddie Esqr. Governor &ca. of Virginia
To visit & deliver a Letter to the Commandant of the French Forces on the Ohio, & set out on the intended Journey the same Day. The next I arriv’d at Fredericksburg, & engag’d Mr. Jacob Vanbraam, Interpreter, & proceeded with him to Alexandria where we provided Necessaries. From thence we went to Winchester & got Baggage Horses &ca. & from there we pursued the new Road to Wills Creek, where we arriv’d the 14th: of November.
Here I engag’d Mr. Gist to Pilot us out, & also hired four others as Servitors (vizt.) Barnaby Currin, & John McGuier (Indian Traders) Henry Steward, & William Jenkins; & in Company with those Persons I left the Inhabitants the Day following. The excessive Rains & vast Quantity of Snow that had fallen prevented our reaching Mr. Frazer’s, an Indian Trader at the Mouth of Turtle Creek, on Monongehela, ’til Thursday.
22d: We were inform’d here, that Expresses were sent a few Day’s ago to the Traders down the River to acquaint them with the General’s Death, & return of Major Part of the French Army into Winter Quarters. The Waters were quite impassable, without Swimming our Horses, which oblig’d us to get the loan of a Canoe from Mr. Frazer, & to send Barnaby Currin & Henry Steward down Monongehela, with our Baggage to meet us at the Forks of Ohio, about 10 Miles to cross Allegany.
As I got down before the Canoe, I spent some Time in viewing the Rivers, & the Land in the Fork, which I think extreamly well situated for a Fort; as it has the absolute Command of both Rivers. The Land at the Point is 20 or 25 Feet above the common Surface of the Water; & a considerable Bottom of flat well timber’d Land all around it, very convenient for Building. The Rivers are each a quarter of a Mile, or more, across, & run here very nigh at Right Angles; Allegany bearing N: E: & Monongehela S: E: The former of these two is a very rapid swift running Water the other deep & still, with scarce any perceptable Fall. About two Miles from this, on the S: E: Side of the River, at the Place where the Ohio Company intended to erect a Fort; lives Singess, King of the Delawars; We call’d upon him to invite him to Council at the Logstown.
As I had taken a good deal of Notice Yesterday of the Situation at the Forks; my Curiosity led me to examine this more particularly; & my Judgement [is] to think it greatly inferior, either for Defence or Advantages, especially the latter; For a Fort at the Forks wou’d be equally well situated on Ohio, & have the entire Command of Monongehela, which runs up to our Settlements & is extreamly well design’d for Water Carriage, as it is of a deep still Nature; besides a Fort at the Fork might be built at a much less Expence, than at the other Place. Nature has well contriv’d the lower Place for Water Defence, but the Hill whereon it must stand, being a quarter of a Mile in Length, & then descending gradually on the Land Side, will render it difficult & very expensive making a sufficient Fortification there. The whole Flat upon the Hill must be taken in, or the Side next the Descent made extreamly high; or else the Hill cut away: otherwise the Enemy will raise Batteries within that Distance, without being expos’d to a single Shot from the Fort.
Singess attended us to Logstown, where we arriv’d between Sunsetting & Dark, the 25th: Day after I left Williamsburg. We travel’d over some extream good & bad Land to get to this Place. As soon as I came into Town, I went to Monacatoocha (as the Half King was out at his hunting Cabbin on little Bever Creek, about 15 Miles off) & inform’d him, by John Davison Interpreter that I was sent a Messenger to the French General, & was ordered to call upon the Sachems of the Six Nations, to acquaint them with it. I gave him a String of Wampum, & a twist of Tobacco, & desir’d him to send for the Half King; which he promis’d to do by a Runner in the Morning, & for other Sachems. I invited him & the other Great Men present to my Tent, where they stay’d an Hour & return’d.
According to the best Observations I cou’d make, Mr. Gist’s new Settlement (which we pass’d by) bears about W: N: W: 70 Miles from Wills Creek, Shanapins, or the Forks N: B[y]: W: or N: N: W: about 50 Miles from that; & from thence to the Logstown, the Course is nearly West, about 18 or 20 Miles; so that the whole Distance, as we went & computed it, is at least 135 or 40 Miles from our back Settlements.
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale 1778-1860. The son of portraitist Charles Willson Peale, the young artist's natural talents guided by his father & honed through hours of copying portraits in his father's museum. Born on February 22, 1778, Rembrandt Peale shared his birthday with George Washington. His first encounter with George Washington took place on July of 1787.
25th: Came to Town four of ten French Men that Deserted from a Company at the Cuscusas, which lies at the Mouth of this River; I got the following Account from them. They were sent from New Orlians with 100 Men, & 8 Canoe load of Provisions, to this Place; where they expected to have met the same Number of Men, from the Forts this Side Lake Erie to convoy them, & the Horses up, but were not arriv’d when they ran off. I enquir’d into the Situation of the French on the Mississippi, their Number, & what Forts they had Built: They inform’d me that there were four small Forts between New Orlians, & the Black Islands, Garrison’d with about 30 or 40 Men, & a few small Pieces of Cannon in each. That at New Orlians, which is near the Mouth of the Mississippi, there is 35 Companies of 40 Men each, with a pretty strong Fort, mounting 8 large Carriage Guns; & at the Black Islands there is several Companies, & a Fort with 6 Guns. The Black Islands is about 130 Leagues above the Mouth of the Ohio, which is 150 above New Orlians: They also acquainted me, that there was a small Palisadoed Fort on the Ohio, at the Mouth of the Obaish, about 60 Leagues from the Mississippi: the Obaish heads near the West End of Lake Erie, & affords the Communication between the French on Mississippi, & those on the Lakes. These Deserters came up from the lower Shawnesse Town, with one Brown an Indian Trader, & were going to Philadelphia.
About 3 o’Clock this Evening the Half King came to Town; I went up & invited him & Davison privately to my Tent, & desir’d him to relate some of the Particulars of his Journey to the FrenchCommandant, & reception there, & to give me an Account of the Way & Distance. He told me that the nearest & levelest Way was now impassable, by reason of the many large miry Savannas; that we must be oblig’d to go by Venango, & shou’d not get to the near Fort under 5 or 6 Nights Sleep, good Traveling. When he went to the Fort he said he was receiv’d in a very stern Manner by the late Commander, who ask’d him very abruptly, what he had come about, & to declare his Business; which he says he did in the following Speech.
Fathers I am come to tell you your own Speeches, what your own Mouths have declar’d.fathers You in former Days set a Silver Bason before us wherein there was the Leg of a Beaver, and desir’d of all Nations to come & eat of it; to eat in Peace & Plenty, & not to be Churlish to one another; & that if any such Person shou’d be found to be a Disturber; I here lay down by the Edge of the Dish a rod, which you must Scourge them with; & if Me your Father shou’d get Foolish in my old Days, I desire you may use it upon me as well as others.
Now Fathers it is you that is the Disturber in this Land, by coming & building your Towns, and taking it away unknown to us & by Force. fathers We kindled a Fire a long Time ago at a Place call’d Morail, where we desir’d you to stay, & not to come & intrude upon our Land. I now desire you may dispatch to that Place; for be it known to you Fathers, this is our Land, & not yours. fathers I desire you may hear me in Civilness; if not, We must handle that rod which was laid down for the Use of the obstropulous. If you had come in a peaceable Manner like our Brothers the English, We shou’d not have been against your trading with us as they do, but to come Fathers, & build great Houses upon our Land, & to take it by Force, is what we cannot submit to.
Fathers Both you & the English are White. We live in a Country between, therefore the Land does not belong either to one or the other; but the great being above allow’d it to be a Place of residence for us; so Fathers, I desire you to withdraw, as I have done our Brothers the English, for I will keep you at Arm’s length. I lay this down as a Tryal for both, to see which will have the greatest regard to it, & that Side we will stand by, & make equal Sharers with us: Our Brothers the English have heard this, & I come now to tell it to you, for I am not affraid to discharge you off this Land. This, he said, was the Substance of what he said to the General, who made this Reply.
Now My Child I have heard your Speech. You spoke first, but it is my Time to speak now. Where is my Wampum that you took away, with the Marks of Towns in it? This Wampum I do not know, which you have discharg’d me off the Land with; but you need not put yourself to the Trouble of Speaking for I will not hear you: I am not affraid of Flies or Musquito’s; for Indians are such as those; I tell you down that River I will go, & will build upon it according to my Command: If the River was ever so block’d up, I have Forces sufficient to burst it open, & tread under my Feet all that stand in Opposition together with their Alliances; for my Force is as the Sand upon the Sea Shoar: therefore here is your Wampum, I fling it at you. Child, you talk foolish; you say this Land belongs to you, but there is not the Black of my Nail yours, I saw that Land sooner than you did, before the Shawnesse & you were at War: Lead was the Man that went down, & took Possession of that River; it is my Land, & I will have it let who will stand up for, or say against it. I’ll buy & sell with the English (mockingly). If People will be rul’d by me they may expect Kindness but not else.
The Half King told me, he enquir’d of the General after two English Men that were made Prisoners, & receiv’d this Answer.
child You think it is a very great Hardship that I made Prisoners of those two People at Venango, don’t you concern yourself with it we took & carried them to Canada to get Intelligence of what the English were doing in Virginia.
He inform’d me that they had built two Forts, one on Lake Erie, & another on French Creek, near a small Lake about 15 Miles asunder, & a large Waggon Road between; they are both built after the same Model, but different in the Size; that on the Lake the largest; he gave me a Plan of them of his own drawing. The Indians enquir’d very particularly after their Brothers in Carolina Goal. They also ask’d what sort of a Boy it was that was taken from the South Branch; for they had, by some Indians heard, that a Party of French Indians had carried a White Boy by the Cuscusa Town, towards the Lakes.
26th: We met in council at the Long House, about 9 o’Clock, where I spoke to them as follows,
Brothers I have call’d you together in Council, by Order of your Brother the Governor of Virginia, to acquaint you that I am sent with all possible Dispatch to visit & deliver a Letter to the French Commandant of very great Importance to your Brothers the English: & I dare say to your their Friends & Allies. I was desir’d Brothers, by your Brother the Governor, to call upon you, the Sachems of the Six Nations, to inform you of it, & to ask your Advice & Assistance to proceed the nearest & best Road to the French. You see Brothers I have got thus far on my Journey. His Honour likewise desir’d me to apply to you for some of your young Men to conduct and provide Provisions for us on our Way: & to be a Safeguard against those French Indians, that have taken up the Hatchet against us. I have spoke this particularly to you Brothers, because His Hon. our Governor, treats you as good Friends & allies, & holds you in great Esteem. To confirm what I have said I give you this String of Wampum.
After they had considered some Time on the above, the Half King got up & spoke.
Now My Brothers. In Regard to what my Brother the Governor has desir’d of me, I return you this Answer. I rely upon you as a Brother ought to do, as you say we are Brothers, & one People. We shall put Heart in Hand, & speak to our Fathers the French, concerning the Speech they made to me, & you may depend that we will endeavour to be your Guard.
Brother, as you have ask’d my Advice, I hope you will be ruled by it, & stay ’til I can provide a Company to go with you. The French Speech Belt is not here, I have it to go for to my hunting Cabbin likewise the People I have order’d are not yet come, nor can ’til the third Night from this, ’till which Time Brother I must beg you to stay. I intend to send a Guard of Mingoes, Shawnesse, & Delawar’s, that our Brothers may see the Love and Loyalty We bear them.
As I had Orders to make all possible Dispatch, & waiting here very contrary to my Inclinations; I thank’d him in the most suitable Manner I cou’d, & told that my Business requir’d the greatest Expedition, & wou’d not admit of that Delay: He was not well pleas’d that I shou’d offer to go before the Time he had appointed, & told me that he cou’d not consent to our going without a Guard, for fear some Accident shou’d befall us, & draw a reflection upon him—besides says he, this is a Matter of no small Moment, & must not be enter’d into without due Consideration, for I now intend to deliver up the French Speech Belt, & make the Shawnesse & Delawars do the same, & accordingly gave Orders to King Singess, who was present, to attend on Wednesday Night with the Wampum, & two Men to their Nation to be in readiness to set off with us next Morning. As I found it impossible to get off without affronting them in the most egregious Manner, I consented to stay.
I gave them back a String of Wampum that I met with at Mr. Frazer’s, which they had sent with a Speech to his Honour the Governor, to inform him, that three Nations of French Indians, (vizt.) Chippaway’s, Ottaway’s, & Arundacks, had taken up the Hatchet against the English, & desired them to repeat it over again; which they postpon’d doing ’til they met in full Council with the Shawnesse, & Delawar Chiefs.
27th: Runners were dispatch’d very early for the Shawness Chiefs, the Half King set out himself to fetch the French Speech Belt from his hunting Cabbin.
28th: He return’d this Evening, & came with Monacatoocha & two other Sachems to my Tent, & beg’d (as they had comply’d with his Honour the Governor’s Request in providing Men, &ca.) to know what Business we were going to the French about? This was a Question I all along expected, & had provided as satisfactory Answers as I cou’d, which allay’d their Curiosity a little. Monacatoocha Informed me, that an Indian from Venango brought News a few Days ago; that the French had call’d all the Mingo’s, Delawar’s &ca. together at that Place, & told them that they intended to have been down the River this Fall, but the Waters were geting Cold, & the Winter advancing, which obliged them to go into Quarters; but they might assuredly expect them in the Spring, with a far greater Number; & desired that they might be quite Passive, & not intermeddle, unless they had a mind to draw all their Force upon them; for that they expected to fight the English three Years, (as they suppos’d there would be some Attempts made to stop them) in which Time they shou’d Conquer, but if they shou’d prove equally strong, that they & the English wou’d join to cut them off, & divide the Land between them: that though they had lost their General, & some few of their Soldiers, yet there was Men enough to reinforce, & make them Masters of the Ohio. This Speech, he said, was deliver’d to them by an Captn. Joncaire, their Interpreter in Chief, living at Venango, & a Man of Note in the Army.
29th: The Half King and Monacatoocha came very early & beg’d me to stay one Day more, for notwithstanding they had used all the Diligence in their Power, the Shawnesse Chiefs had not brought the Wampum they order’d, but wou’d certainly be in to Night, if not they wou’d delay me no longer, but send it after us as soon as they arriv’d: When I found them so pressing in their request; & knew that returning of Wampum, was the abolishing of Agreements; & giving this up was shaking of all Dependence upon the French, I consented to stay, as I believ’d an Offence offer’d at this Crisis, might have been attended with greater ill Consequence than another Day’s Delay.
They also inform’d me that Singess cou’d not get in his Men, & was prevented from coming himself by His Wife’s Sickness, (I believe by fear of the French) but that the Wampum of that Nation was lodg’d with Custaloga, one of their Chiefs at Venango. In the Evening they came again, & acquainted me that the Shawnesse were not yet come, but it shou’d not retard the Prosecution of our Journey. He deliver’d in my Hearing the Speeches that were to be made to the French by Jeskakake, one of their old Chiefs, which was giving up the Belt the late Commandant had ask’d for, & repeating near the same Speech he himself had done before. He also deliver’d a String of Wampum to this Chief, which was sent by King Singess to be given to Custaloga, with Orders to repair to, & deliver up the French Wampum. He likewise gave a very large String of black & white Wampum, which was to be sent immediately up to the Six Nations, if the French refus’d to quit the Land at this Warning, which was the third & last Time, & was the right of this Jeskakake to deliver.
30th: Last Night the great Men assembled to their Council House to consult further about this Journey, & who were to go; the result of which was, that only three of their Chiefs, with one of their best Hunters shou’d be our Convoy: the reason they gave for not sending more, after what had been propos’d in Council the 26th. was, that a greater Number might give the French Suspicion of some bad Design, & cause them to be treated rudely; but I rather think they cou’d not get their Hunters in.
We set out about 9 o’Clock, with the Half King, Jeskakake, White Thunder, & the Hunter; & travel’d on the road to Venango, where we arriv’d the 4th: of December, without any Thing remarkably happening, but a continued Series of bad Weather. This is an old Indian Town, situated on the Mouth of French Creek on Ohio, & lies near No. about 60 Miles from the Logstown, but more than 70 the Way we were oblig’d to come. We found the French Colours hoisted at a House where they drove Mr. John Frazer an English Subject from: I immediately repair’d to it, to know where the Commander resided: There was three Officers, one of which, Capt. Joncaire, inform’d me, that he had the Command of the Ohio, but that there was a General Officer at the next Fort, which he advis’d me to for an Answer.
He invited us to Sup with them, & treated with the greatest Complaisance. The Wine, as they dos’d themselves pretty plentifully with it, soon banish’d the restraint which at first appear’d in their Conversation, & gave license to their Tongues to reveal their Sentiments more freely. They told me it was their absolute Design to take Possession of the Ohio, & by G—— they wou’d do it, for tho’ they were sensible, that the English cou’d raise two Men for their one; yet they knew their Motions were too slow & dilatory to prevent any Undertaking of theirs. They pretended to have an undoubted right to the river from a Discovery made by one La Sol 60 Years ago, & the use of this Expedition is to prevent our Settling on the River or Waters of it, as they have heard of some Families moving out in order thereto.
From the best Intelligence I cou’d get, there has been 1,500 Men this Side Oswago Lake, but upon the Death of the General, all were recall’d to about 6 or 7 Hundred, which were left to Garrison four Forts, 150 or thereabouts in each, the first of which is on French Creek, near a small Lake, about 60 Miles from Venango near N: N: W: the next lies on Lake Erie, where the greatest Part of their Stores are kept about 15 Miles from the other; from that it is 120 Miles from the Carrying Place, at the Fall of Lake Erie, where there is a small Fort, which they lodge their Goods at, in bringing them from Morail, the Place that all their Stores come from; the next Fort lies about 20 Miles from this, on Oswago Lake; between this Fort & Morail there are three others; the first of which is near the English Fort Oswago. From the Fort on Lake Erie to Morail is about 600 Miles, which they say if good Weather, requires no more than 4 Weeks Voyage, if they go in Barks or large Vessells that they can cross the Lake; but if they come in Canoes, it will require five or six Weeks for they are oblig’d to keep under the Shoar.
5th: Rain’d successively all Day, which prevented our traveling. Capt. Joncaire sent for the half King, as he had but just heard that he came with me: He affected to be much Concern’d that I did not make free to bring him in before; I excused it in the best Manner I was capable, & told him I did not think their Company agreeable, as I had heard him say a good deal in dispraise of Indians in General. But another Motive prevented my bringing them into his Company: I knew that he was Interpreter, & a Person of very great Influence among the Indians, & had lately used all possible means to draw them over to their Interest; therefore I was desirous of giving no more Opportunity than cou’d be avoided. When they came in there was great Pleasure express’d at seeing them, he wonder’d how they cou’d be so near without coming to visit him, made several trifling Presents, & applied Liquors so fast, that they were soon render’d incapable of the Business they came about notwithstanding the Caution that was given.
6th: The Half King came to my Tent quite Sober, & insisted very much that I shou’d stay & hear what he had to say to the French. I fain wou’d have prevented his speaking any Thing ’til he came to the Commandant, but cou’d not prevail. He told me that at this Place Council Fire was kindled, where all their Business with these People were to be transacted, & that the Management of the Indian Affairs was left solely to Monsieur Joncaire. As I was desirous of knowing the Issue of this, I agreed to stay, but sent our Horses a little Way up French Creek, to raft over & Camp, which I knew wou’d make it near Night.
About 10 oClock they met in Council, the King spoke much the same as he had done to the General, & offer’d the French Speech Belt which had before been demanded, with the Marks of four Towns in it, which Monsieur Joncaire refused to receive; but desired him to carry it to the Fort to the Commander.
7th: Monsieur La Force, Commissary of the French Stores, & three other Soldiers came over to accompany us up. We found it extreamly difficult getting the Indians off to Day; as every Stratagem had been used to prevent their going up with me. I had last Night left John Davison (the Indian Interpreter that I brought from Logstown with me) strictly charg’d not to be out of their Company, as I cou’d not get them over to my Tent (they having some Business with Custaloga, to know the reason why he did not deliver up the French Belt, which he had in keeping,) but was oblig’d to send Mr. Gist over to Day to fetch them, which he did with great Perswasion.
At 11 o’Clock we set out for the Fort, & was prevented from arriving there ’till the 11th: by excessive rains, Snows, & bad traveling, through many Mires & Swamps, which we were oblig’d to pass to avoid crossing the Creek, which was impassible either by Fording or Rafting, the Water was so high & rapid. We pass’d over much good Land since we left Venango, & through several extensive & very rich Meadows, one of which was near 4 Miles in length, & considerably wide in some Places.
12th: I prepar’d early to wait upon the Commander, & was receiv’d & conducted to him by the 2d. Officer in Command; I acquainted him with my Business, & offer’d my Commission & Letter, both of which he desir’d me to keep ’til the Arrival of Monsieur Riparti, Capt. at the next Fort, who was sent for & expected every Hour.
This Commander is a Knight of the Military Order of St: Lewis, & named Legadieur St. Piere, he is an elderly Gentleman, & has much the Air of a Soldier; he was sent over to take the Command immediately upon the Death of the late General, & arriv’d here about 7 Days before me. At 2 o’Clock the Gentleman that was sent for arriv’d, when I offer’d the Letters &ca. again, which they receiv’d, & adjourn’d into a private Appartment for the Captain to translate, who understood a little English, after he had done it, the Captain desir’d I wou’d walk in & bring my Interpreter to peruse & correct it, which I did.
13th: The chief Officer retired to hold a Council of War, which gave me an Opportunity of taking the Dimensions of the Fort, & making what Observations I cou’d. It is situated on the South or West Fork of French Creek, near the Water, & is almost surrounded by the Creek, & a small Branch of it which forms a Kind of an Island, as may be seen by a Plan I have here annexed, it is built exactly in that Manner & of that Dimensions. 4 Houses compose the Sides; the Bastions are made of Piles drove into the Ground, & about 12 Feet above sharpe at Top, with Port Holes cut for Cannon & Small Arms to fire through; there are Eight 6 lb. Pieces Mounted, two in each Bastion, & one of 4 lb. before the Gate: In the Bastions are a Guard House, Chapel, Doctor’s Lodgings, & the Commander’s private Store, round which is laid Platforms for the Cannon & Men to stand on: there is several Barracks without the Fort for the Soldiers dwelling, cover’d some with Bark, & some with Boards, & made chiefly of Logs, there is also several other Houses such as Stables, Smiths Shop &ca: all of which I have laid down exactly as they stand, & shall refer to the Plan for Explanation.
I cou’d get no certain Account of the Number of Men here; but according to the best Judgement I cou’d form, there is an Hundred exclusive of Officers, which are pretty many. I also gave Orders to the People that were with me, to take an exact Account of the Canoes that were haled up, to convey their Forces down in the Spring, which they did, and told 50 of Birch Bark, & 170 of Pine; besides many others that were block’d out, in Readiness to make.
14th: As the Snow increased very fast, & our Horses daily got weaker, I sent them off unloaded, under the Care of Barnaby Currin & two others, to make all convenient Dispatch to Venango, & there wait our Arrival, if there was a Prospect of the Rivers Freezing, if not, then to continue down to Shanapin’s Town at the Forks of Ohio, & there wait ’till we came to cross Allegany; intending my Self to go down by Water, as I had the Offer of a Canoe or two.
As I found many Plots concerted to retard the Indians Business, & prevent their returning with me, I endeavour’d all in my Power to frustrate their Schemes, & hurry them on to execute their intended Design. They accordingly pressed for admittance this Evening, which at length was granted them privately with the Commander, & one or two other Officers. The Half King told me that he offer’d the Wampum to the Commander, who evaded taking it, & made many fair Promises of Love & Friendship; said he wanted to live in Peace & trade amicably with them; as a Proof of which, he wou’d send some Goods immediately down to the Logstown for them, but I rather think the Design of that is to bring away all of our stragling traders that they may meet with; as I privately understood they intended to carry an Officer, &ca. with them; & what rather confirms this Opinion, I was enquiring of the Commander by what Authority he had taken & made Prisoners of several of our English Subjects. He told me the Country belong’d to them, that no English Man had a right to trade upon them Waters; & that he had Orders to make every Person Prisoner that attempted it on the Ohio or the Waters of it.
I enquir’d of Capt. Riparti about the Boy that was carried by, as it was done while the Command devolved upon him, between the Death of the late General & the Arrival of the Present. He acknowledg’d that a Boy had been carried past, & that the Indians had two or three white Scalps, (I was told by some of the Indians at Venango 8) but pretended to have forgot the Name of the Place that the Boy came from, & all the Particulars, tho’ he Question’d him for some Hours as they were carrying him past. I likewise enquired where & what they had done with John Trotter, & James McClocklan, two Pensylvania Traders, which they had taken with all their Goods: they told me that they had been sent to Canada, but were now return’d Home.
This Evening I receiv’d an Answer to His Honour the Governor’s Letter from the Commandant.
15th: The Commander order’d a plentiful Store of Liquor, Provisions & ca. to be put on board our Canoe, & appear’d to be extreamly complaisant, though he was ploting every Scheme that the Devil & Man cou’d invent, to set our Indians at Variance with us, to prevent their going ’till after our Departure. Presents, rewards, & every Thing that cou’d be suggested by him or his Officers was not neglected to do. I can’t say that ever in my Life I suffer’d so much Anxiety as I did in this affair: I saw that every Stratagem that the most fruitful Brain cou’d invent: was practis’d to get the Half King won to their Interest, & that leaving of him here, was giving them the Opportunity they aimed at: I went to the Half King and press’d him in the strongest Terms to go. He told me the Commander wou’d not discharge him ’till the Morning; I then went to the Commander & desired him to do their Business, & complain’d of ill Treatment; for keeping them, as they were Part of my Company was detaining me, which he promis’d not to do, but to forward my Journey as much as he cou’d: He protested he did not keep them but was innocent of the Cause of their Stay; though I soon found it out. He had promis’d them a Present of Guns, &ca. if they wou’d wait ’till the Morning. As I was very much press’d by the Indians to wait this Day for them; I consented on a Promise that Nothing shou’d hinder them in the Morning.
16th: The French were not slack in their Inventions to keep the Indians this Day also; but as they were obligated, according to promise, to give the Present: they then endeavour’d to try the Power of Liquor; which I doubt not wou’d have prevail’d at any other Time than this, but I tax’d the King so close upon his Word that he refrain’d, & set off with us as he had engag’d. We had a tedious & very fatiguing Passage down the Creek, several Times we had like to have stove against Rocks, & many Times were oblig’d all Hands to get out, & remain in the Water Half an Hour or more, getting her over the Shoals: on one Place the Ice had lodg’d & made it impassable by Water; therefore we were oblig’d to carry our Canoe across a neck Land a quarter of a Mile over. We did not reach Venango ’till the 22d: where we met with our Horses. This Creek is extreamly crooked, I dare say the Distance between the Fort & Venango can’t be less than 130 Miles to follow the Meanders.
23d: When I got Things ready to set off I sent for the Half King, to know whether they intended to go with us, or by Water. He told me that the White Thunder had hurt himself much, & was Sick & unable to walk, therefore he was oblig’d to carry him down in a Canoe: As I found he intended to stay a Day or two here, & knew that Monsieur Joncaire wou’d employ every Scheme to set him against the English, as he had before done; I told him I hoped he wou’d guard against his Flattery, & let no fine Speeches Influence Him in their Favour: He desired I might not be concern’d, for he knew the French too well, for any Thing to engage him in their Behalf, & though he cou’d not go down with us, he wou’d endeavour to meet at the Forks with Joseph Campbell, to deliver a Speech for me to carry to his Honour the Governor. He told me he wou’d order the young Hunter to attend us, & get Provision &ca. if wanted. Our Horses were now so weak & feeble, & the Baggage heavy; as we were oblig’d to provide all the Necessaries the Journey wou’d require, that we doubted much their performing it; therefore my Self & others (except the Drivers which were oblig’d to ride) gave up our Horses for Packs, to assist along with the Baggage; & put my Self into an Indian walking Dress, & continue’d with them three Day’s, ’till I found there was no Probability of their getting in, in any reasonable Time; the Horses grew less able to travel every Day. The Cold increas’d very fast, & the Roads were geting much worse by a deep Snow continually Freezing; And as I was uneasy to get back to make a report of my Proceedings to his Honour the Governor; I determin’d to prosecute my Journey the nearest way through the Woods on Foot. Accordingly I left Mr. Vanbraam in Charge of our Baggage, with Money and Directions to provide Necessaries from Place to Place for themselves & Horses & to make the most convenient Dispatch in. I took my necessary Papers, pull’d off my Cloths; tied My Self up in a Match Coat; & with my Pack at my back, with my Papers & Provisions in it, & a Gun, set out with Mr. Gist, fitted in the same Manner, on Wednesday the 26th.
The Day following, just after we had pass’d a Place call’d the Murdering Town where we intended to quit the Path & steer across the Country for Shanapins Town, we fell in with a Party of French Indians, which had laid in wait for us, one of them fired at Mr. Gist or me, not 15 Steps, but fortunately missed. We took this Fellow into Custody, & kept him ’till about 9 o’Clock at Night, & then let him go, & then 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 next Day, as were well assur’d they wou’d follow upon our Tract as soon as it was Light: The next Day we continued traveling ’till it was quite Dark, & got to the River about two Miles above Shanapins; we expected to have found the River Froze, but it was not, only about 50 Yards from each Shoar; the Ice I suppose had broke up above, for it was driving in vast Quantities.
There was no way for us to get over but upon a Raft, which we set about with but one poor Hatchet, & got finish’d just after Sunsetting, after a whole days Work: We got it launch’d, & on board of it, & sett off; but before we got half over, we were jamed in the Ice in such a Manner, that we expected every Moment our Raft wou’d sink, & we Perish; I put out my seting Pole, to try to stop the Raft, that the Ice might pass by, when the Rapidity of the Stream through it with so much Violence against the Pole, that it Jirk’d me into 10 Feet Water, but I fortunately saved my Self by catching hold of one of the Raft Logs. Notwithstanding all our Efforts we cou’d not get the Raft to either Shoar, but were oblig’d, as we were pretty near an Island, to quit our Raft & wade to it. The Cold was so extream severe, that Mr. Gist got all his Fingers, & some of his Toes Froze, & the Water was shut up so hard, that We found no Difficulty in getting off the Island on the Ice in the Morning, & went to Mr. Frazers. We met here with 20 Warriors that had been going to the Southward to War, but coming to a Place upon the Head of the Great Cunnaway, where they found People kill’d & Scalpt, all but one Woman with very Light Hair, they turn’d about; & ran back, for fear of the Inhabitants rising & takeing them as the Authors of the Murder: They report that the People were lying about the House, & some of them much torn & eat by Hogs; by the Marks that were left, they say they were French Indians of the Ottaway Nation, &ca. that did it.
As we intended to take Horse here, & it requir’d some Time to hunt them; I went up about 3 Miles to the Mouth of Yaughyaughgane to visit Queen Aliquippa, who had express’d great Concern that we pass’d her in going to the Fort. I made her a Present of a Match Coat; & a Bottle of rum, which was thought much the best Present of the two.
Tuesday 1st: Day of Jany: We left Mr. Frazers House, & arriv’d at Mr. Gists at Monangahela the 2d. where I bought Horse Saddle &ca. The 6th: We met 17 Horses loaded with Materials & Stores for a Fort at the Forks; & the Day after, a Family or two going out to settle; this Day we arriv’d at Wills Creek, after as fatiguing a Journey as it is possible to conceive, rendered so by excessive bad Weather: From the first Day of December ’till the 15th. there was but one Day, but what it rain’d or snow’d incessantly & throughout the whole Journey we met with nothing but one continued Series of cold wet Weather; which occasioned very uncumfortable Lodgings, especially after we had left our Tent; which was some Screen from the Inclemency of it.
On the 11th. I got to Belvoir, where I stop’d one Day to take necessary rest; & then set out for, & arrived at Williamsburg, the 16th. & waited upon His Honour the Governor with the Letter I had brought from the French Commandant, & to give an Account of the Proceedures of my Journey. Which I beg leave to do by offering the Foregoing, as it contains the most remarkable Occurrences that happen’d to me.
I hope it will be sufficient to satisfy your Honour with my Proceedings; for that was my Aim in undertaking the Journey: & chief Study throughout the Prosecution of it.
With the Assurance, & Hope of doing it, I with infinite Pleasure subscribe my Self Yr. Honour’s most Obedt. & very Hble. Servant. Go: Washington
Almost immediately upon GW’s return to Williamsburg, Dinwiddie ordered publication of his journal. It appeared as The Journal of Major George Washington, Sent by the Hon. Robert Dinwiddie, Esq; His Majesty’s Lieutenant-Governor, and Commander in Chief of Virginia, to the Commandant of the French Forces on Ohio. To Which Are Added, the Governor’s Letter, and a Translation of the French Officer’s Answer (Williamsburg: William Hunter, 1754). GW prefaced the publication with the following “Advertisement”:
“As it was thought adviseable by his Honour the Governor to have the following Account of my Proceedings to and from the French on Ohio, committed to Print; I think I can do no less than apologize, in some Measure, for the numberless Imperfections of it.
“There intervened but one Day between my Arrival in Williamsburg, and the Time for the Council’s Meeting, for me to prepare and transcribe, from the rough Minutes I had taken in my Travels, this Journal; the writing of which only was sufficient to employ me closely the whole Time, consequently admitted of no Leisure to consult of a new and proper Form to offer it in, or to correct or amend the Diction of the old; neither was I apprised, or did in the least conceive, when I wrote this for his Honour’s Perusal, that it ever would be published, or even have more than a cursory Reading; till I was informed, at the Meeting of the present General Assembly, that it was already in the Press.
“There is nothing can recommend it to the Public, but this. Those Things which came under the Notice of my own Observation, I have been explicit and just in a Recital of:—Those which I have gathered from Report, I have been particularly cautious not to augment, but collected the Opinions of the several Intelligencers, and selected from the whole, the most probable and consistent Account.
The journal was printed in various colonial newspapers (see, The Maryland Gazette, 21 & 28 Mar. 1754; and The Boston Gazette, 16 April–21 May 1754).
“Journey to the French Commandant: Narrative,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, [Original source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 1, 11 March 1748–13 November 1765, ed. Donald Jackson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976, pp. 130–161.]