« PreviousContinue »
greatest friend to Fort Pitt. The town which sprang up about it was called Pittsburg and is now one of the large manufacturing towns in North America. Two Virginia regiments were left at Fort Pitt as a garrison, and the main army returned to the borders of civilization. The great object of the war in the middle colonies was accomplished. The basin of the Ohio was secured to the English.
With the capture of Fort Du Quesne and the ending of the campaign which accomplished this achievement, ended, for a while, the military career of Washington. His great object was obtained, the restoration of quiet and security to his native province; and, having abandoned all hope of obtaining rank in the regular army (the chief desire of his heart), and his health being much impaired, he gave up his commission at the end of the year and retired from the service, followed by the applause of his fellow-soldiers and the admiration of all his countrymen.
We must return to a point in the life of General Washington just before the Fort Du Quesne cam- · paign.
He had assembled at Winchester an army of nineteen hundred provincials and about seven hundred Indians, who were ill-supplied with arms, provisions, munitions of war and camp equipage for the march against Du Quesne. After repeated
representations, by letter, of the destitute state of the Virginia troops, but without avail, Washington was ordered by Sir John St. Clair, the quartermaster-general of the forces under General Forbes, to repair to Williamsburg and lay the state of the case before the council. He set off promptly, attended by Bishop, the well-trained military servant who had served under the late General Braddock. For the domestic happiness of Washington, it proved an eventful journey. In crossing the ferry of the Pamunkey, a branch of York River, he fell in company with a Mr. Chamberlayne, who lived in the neighborhood of the ferry, and who, in the spirit of good old Virginia hospitality, insisted on Washington becoming his guest. So impatient was Washington to reach Williamsburg, that it was with great difficulty he could be prevailed on to halt for dinner.
As an inducement to win the militia general for his guest, Mr. Chamberlayne said:
“Come with me, general, and I will introduce you to one of the most lovely ladies whom you ever met. Egad! she is a charming creature, and, I vow, will make your stay pleasant."
Washington smiled faintly. He had had his love dream, and, like many another young man, had at this moment made up his mind to pass his days in bachelorhood. He consented after long
persuasion to go to dinner with Mr. Chamberlayne, though assuring his host that his haste must border on rudeness.
Among the guests at Mr. Chamberlayne's was a young and blooming widow, Mrs. Martha Custis, daughter of Mr. John Dandridge, both patrician names. She was a widow of John Park Custis, her husband having died three years before, leaying her with two young children and a large fortune.
As Washington entered the spacious parlor of Mr. Chamberlayne, he was formally presented by his host to a beautiful little woman, rather below medium size, but extremely well formed, with an agreeable countenance, dark hazel eyes and hair, and those frank, engaging manners so captivating in southern women. The heart of the great American was taken by surprise at sight of the beautiful lady, and for a moment the old confusion, which had proved so fatal in his former courtship, seemed about to overwhelm him; but the captivating widow came to his rescue. She was intelligent as well as brilliant, and knew enough of the art of conversation to discuss matters with which the frontier hero was familiar. She was very much interested in the coming campaign, the marching and manquvring of armies, and in a few moments the hero of the Monongahela found himself conversing with an ease and brilliance which surprised himself. The dinner, which in those days was an earlier meal than at present, seemed all too short. The afternoon passed away like a blissful dream, from which he regretted to awake. Bishop, who had been instructed to have the horses ready soon after dinner, was punctual to his orders, and the horses stood pawing at the gate and champing their bits in impatience; but for once Washington loitered in the path of duty. The horses were at last sent to the barn again, and it was not until next morning that he was once more in the saddle, spurring for Williamsburg. Happily, the White House, the residence of Mrs. Custis, was in New Kent County, at no great distance from that city, so that he had opportunities of visiting her in the intervals of business. His time for courtship, however, was brief. Military duties called him back almost immediately to Winchester; but he feared, should he leave the matter in suspense, some more enterprising rival might supplant him during his absence, as in the case of Miss Philipse at New York. He improved, therefore, his brief opportunity to the utmost. In a word, before they separated, they had mutually plighted their troth, and the marriage was to take place as soon as the campaign against Fort Du Quesne was at an end.
Shortly after his return from the campaign, his marriage with Mrs. Custis was celebrated, January 6th, 1759, at the White House the residence of the bride, in the good old hospitable style of Virginia, amid a joyous assemblage of relatives and friends. Thus, for a time being, the modern Cincinnatus retired from the field of public action to private life and domestic bliss, with one of the noblest wives the world has ever known.
A few more brief sentences, and the history and romance of this story will be complete. De Levi succeeded Montcalm in command of the French forces. Early in the spring of 1760, Vaudreuil sent him to recover Quebec. He defeated Murray at Sillery, three miles above Quebec, and laid siege to the town. The condition of the English was perilous, when the advance of a British squadron arrived, destroyed the French shipping and forced De Levi to raise the siege, abandoning his artillery and stores and flying with great celerity toward Montreal.
Here the French collected all their available forces for the final struggle. Amherst, though slow, was sure. He moved three armies against Montreal with so much precision that they arrived there almost simultaneously. From every direction the English came in, sweeping the French from Fort Presentation at Oswegatchie Isle aux Noix, so that, within the space of thirty hours,