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quent years, employed in useful and elegant studies, with a pleasing alternation of business; and in the delightful fields and groves of Mount Vernon he gradually obtained a knowledge of agriculture. Rural avocations appear to have been congenial with his disposition, even at this early period of life ; yet he afterwards convinced the world, that martial ardour often animates the breast of the husbandman.
The first proof that he gave of his propensity to arms, was in the year 1751, when the office of adjutant-general of the Virginia militia became vacant by the death of his brother, and Mount Vernon, together with a large estate, came into his possession. At this time the extensive boundaries, and increasing population of the colony, made it expedient to form the militia corps into three divisions, and Washington, in his twentieth year, was appointed major. He attended to his duty as an officer, with exemplary propriety and vigilance; was indefatigable in the discipline of the troops; and generally beloved, both by his brother officers and the private men, for his mildness and generosity.
In the year 1753, the incroachments of the French upon the western boundaries of the British colonies -excited a general alarm in Virginia, insomuch that Governor Dinwiddie deputed Washington to ascertain the truth of those rumours: he was also empowered to enter into a treaty with the Indians, and remonstrate with the French on the injustice of their proceedings. On his arrival at the back settlements he found the colonists in a very unpleasant situation from the depredations of the Indians, who were incessantly instigated by the French to the commission of new aggressions. He found that the French themselves had also committed several outrages against the defenceless settlers; nay, that they had proceeded so far as to establish posts within the boundaries of Virginia. Washington strongly remonstrated against those acts of hostility, and warned the French to desist from their incursions. On his return, his report to the governor was published, and it evinced that he performed this honorable mission with superlative prudence.
It is not improbable that Washington now began to entertain a presentiment of his future eminence; and that, as his faculties expanded, he felt himself incited to perform some patriotic atchievment, that would render him estimable in the eyes of his countrymen, and dear to posterity.
The repeated inroads of the French and
the frontiers of Virginia made it necessary to increase the military establishment; and early in the spring of 1754, a new regiment was raised, of which professor Fry, of the college, was appointed colonel, and Washington, lieutenant-colonel. - Mr. Fry died soon after the regiment was embodied, and was succeeded by our hero, who paid unremitting attention to the discipline of this new corps. He established magazines of provisions and ammunition, and opened the roads to the frontiers in order to pre-occupy an important post at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegany rivers. His regiment was to have been reinforced by a detachment of regulars from the southern colonies, and a corps of provincials from NorthCarolina and Maryland; but impelled by the urgency of the occasion, he advanced without the expected succours, in the Month of May. The troops proceeded by forced marches towards the defile, and their commander dispatched two scouts to reconnoitre; but though his rapid march was facilitated by the fine weather, yet, when he ascended the Laurel Hills, fifty miles distant from the place of destination, he was met by his scouts, who returned with intelligence, that the enemy were in possession of the post, and built a fort, and stationed a large garrison there. Washington now held a council of war with the other officers; but while they were deliberating, a detachment of the French came in sight, and obliged them to retreat to a savanna called the Great Meadows.
The fortitude of Washington was put to a severe test on this occasion : he retired with the troops to an eminence in the savanna, and about noon began to erect a small fortification. He called his temporary defence Fort Necessity, and encouraged the regiment, both by his voice and example, to raise a redoubt, on which they planted two field pieces. They surrounded the camp with an entrenchment, in which they toiled with unremitting exertions during the subsequent night. Thus fortified, they prepared to resist the meditated attack of the enemy; and about sun-rise, on the following morning, were joined by Captain M.Kay, with a company of regulars. The little army now amounted to about four hundred men. On the approach of the advanced guard of the French, the Americans sallied forth, attacked and defeated them; but the main body of the army, amounting to fifteen hundred men, compelled them to retire to the intrenchment. The camp was now closely invested, and the Anericans suffered severely from the grape-shot of the enemy, and the Indian riflemen. Washington, however, defended the works with such skill and bravery, that the besiegers were unable to force the entrenchments. At length after a conflict of ten hours, in which one hundred and fifty of the Americans were killed and wounded, they were obliged to capitulate. They were permitted to march out with the honours of war, and lay down their arms in front of the French lines; but they were afterwards plundered by the hostile Indians, during their return to Virginia.
This defeat excited a strong emotion of sorrow in the breasts of their countrymen ; and though several persons censured the precipitance of Washington in this affair, yet the general conviction of his integrity prevented those murmurs from doing him any injury. Indeed, his conduct was liable to censure; he ought to have waited for the necessary reinforcements, a junction with whom would probably have crowned his enterprize with sùccess. His inexperience and the active ardour of a youthful mind, may afford some palliation for his imprudence; but his rashness in this instance was so different from his subsequent prudence, that probably this inauspicious commencenient of his military career,