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King warning him to be on his guard, as the French intended to strike the first English whom they should see.
Ignorant of the numbers of the French, Wash ington fell back to a fertile plain called the great meadows, and hastily constructed a stockade which he named Fort Necessity.
This fort was constructed near the modern national road between Cumberland and Wheeling, in the southern part of Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Gist, who had a settlement near, went on a scout and returned on the second day, saying:
“ Colonel Washington, the French are coming." “ Have you seen them?” asked Washington.
“No; but I have found their tracks within five miles of the great meadows."
Washington cast a glance eastward and said:
“I wish Colonel Fry would come; but we must not wait on him. Better complete our fort at once.
Washington and Noah Stevens were in the tent of the former, when news came that a messenger from Half-King was waiting.
“He brings important information, send him to me at once,” said. Washington.
The Indian came and, through an interpreter, Washington asked:
“What information do you bring?”.
“There is a party of Frenchmen not far away lying in ambush.'
“How far?” asked Washington. The Indian knew nothing of miles, but reiterated that it was not far, and they could soon reach them. Would he guide them to the spot? Of course, nothing would give the savage more satisfaction than to pilot the English to the hated French.
Washington turned to Noah Stevens, who still remained, and asked:
“Would you like to see the war for possession of the valley of the Ohio begun?”
I would as soon hear the first shots now, as at
“ The king has authorized our governor to hold the valley, and our governor has authorized me to hold it, and, notwithstanding it is intensely dark and raining, I believe I will set out for the camp of the friendly Mingo chief and make arrangements to surprise the common foe.”
" Permit me to accompany you.
George Washington, like all successful men, never hesitated when his plans were formed.
He set out with forty men to the Mingo camp. The night was consumed in the journey, and it was sunrise when the Virginians and Indians, each marching in parallel lines, in single file, sought the hiding-place of the foe. In a deep, rocky pass,
covered with bushes and stately trees, was the ambuscade of the French.
Washington was at the head of the file of Virginians, carrying a musket on his shoulder, and Noah was next. The rays of the early morning sun fell like slanting gleams of gold into the dark crater-like pit in which were ensconced the French. Something bright glittered in the sunlight, and the eagle eye of Washington knew it was a French bayonet.
They are still there!” he said in an undertone. “ Bend low; steady; forward !"
His line of men, at his command, wheeled on the left flank and, deploying as skirmishers, slowly and carefully advanced, occasionally encouraged by a low command of their beardless leader.
Just as they rose over the brow of the hill, or precipice, the French were seen beyond.
“Fire!” cried Washington, at the same time discharging his gun. A rattling crash of fire-arms broke the morning stillness, and two or three Frenchmen fell. The French were about fifty in number, under Jumonville, a brave officer, who fought desperately, until a bullet crashed through his brain and ended his life. The Virginians adopted the Indian style of fighting from behind trees and stones, and soon had slain ten of the enemy. The fight lasted fifteen minutes, and twenty-two Frenchmen were captured, all other survivors, only fifteen in number, cutting their way through and making their escape. The prisoners were taken to Fort Necessity and sent over the mountains to eastern Virginia. Only one of the English was killed.
Thus commenced the great French and Indian war, opened by young George Washington, who fired the first gun. That long and bitter contest for the rights of man, like an earthquake, shattered into fragments the institutions of feudal ages, which had been transplanted in our country, and shook the foundations of society in Europe.
Two days after the skirmish, Colonel Fry died, and Washington was left in command. Other troops hastened forward to join him at Fort Necessity. The young commander found himself burdened with forty families of friendly Indians, Half-King among them.
“I believe I will advance at once and attack the French,” Washington declared.
With the slender forces at his command, Washington advanced on Fort Du Quesne; but, learning that the French were advancing to attack him, he fell back to Fort Necessity and proceeded to strengthen it. His coolness, his courage, and the peculiar magnetism, which he possessed seemed to inspire all under him with hope and confidence. He was informed that De Villiers, with six hundred French soldiers and three hundred Indians was advancing to attack him and would reach the fort next day.
An hour before daylight, Noah Stevens was awakened by the well-known voice of young Washington at his side. "Have the enemy appeared, colonel ?” he asked.
No; but I feel quite sure they are not far away. I have asked Mr. Gist to go out and reconnoitre, and he has chosen you as his only coinpanion.”
“ Certainly, I will accompany him," said Noah, bounding to his feet and hurriedly dressing.
“Do you want my rifle?” Washington asked. " It is the best in the army.
“Thank you, and if I return I will bring the gun with me."
Noah found Gist waiting him. The two went past the outer guards and crept down a path made by the soldiers to a small brook bordered with forests. They plunged into the wood and had not gone a mile before they were halted by the advance of the enemy. Refusing to obey the command, they were fired on and, returning the shots, fell back.
The wild, unearthly screech of Indians was heard on every side, and the dusky denizens of the forest