Front Page Titles (by Subject) JOURNAL TO THE OHIO, 1753. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. I (1748-1757)
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JOURNAL TO THE OHIO, 1753. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. I (1748-1757) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889-1893). Vol. I (1748-1757).
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JOURNAL TO THE OHIO, 1753.
For some years trouble had been brewing between the French and English on the Ohio frontiers of the colonies, each nation laying claim to a possession of the soil, and seeking by every means to monopolize the important fur trade with the Indians. English governors were granting lands and English traders and settlers were pushing over the mountains, establishing stations and seeking the aid of the Indians,—steps that were regarded by the French as encroachments, and that urged them to take counter measures to establish and maintain their claims. In 1749, Céleron de Bienville passed from La Chine to the Ohio, and down as far as the Great Miami, conciliating the Indians with gifts or gaining their assent to his acts by threats, and, warning off English traders, formally took possession of the country in the name of his master, Louis XV. While these events were taking place the Ohio Company was formed in Virginia, to found a colony in the region in dispute, and under a crown grant prepared to take possession, sending a trader, Christopher Gist, to select and locate the land. On their side the French constructed several forts. From England the colonial governors received notice of these encroachments, and were instructed to require the subjects of any foreign powers trespassing or building forts on the territory claimed, to desist from “any such unlawful undertakings,” and if this requisition should not be obeyed, to employ force.1 It was in response to these orders that Governor Dinwiddie sent Washington to the Ohio, and thus forestalled the action of Pennsylvania. “The matter of the requisition enjoined by Lord Holdernesse’s letter was again taken into consideration and a form agreed upon; but several persons who came to town from Virginia reporting that Governor Dinwiddie had sent an officer to the French camp on that errand; and it being uncertain what part the Assembly of this Province would take in this affair, it was agreed to postpone it till it should be known what Governor Dinwiddie had done or proposed to do.”—Penn. Col. Rec., V., 709. Dinwiddie wrote to Governor Hamilton on November 24th, that he had sent “a person of distinction” to the commander of the French. Upon the publication of the following journal copies were sent to all the colonial governors.
As it was thought adviseable by his Honour the Governor to have the following Account of my Proceedings to and from theFrenchonOhio,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 inWilliamsburg,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, nor 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.1
Wednesday, October 31, 1753.
I was commissioned and appointed by the Honourable Robert Dinwiddie, Esq; Governor, &c., of Virginia, to visit and deliver a letter to the Commandant of the French forces on the Ohio, and set out on the intended Journey the same day: The next, I arrived at Fredericksburg, and engaged Mr. Jacob Vanbraam,2 to be my French interpreter; and proceeded with him to Alexandria, where we provided Necessaries. From thence we went to Winchester, and got Baggage, Horses, &c; and from thence we pursued the new Road to Wills-Creek,3 where we arrived the 14th of November.
Here I engaged Mr. Gist4 to pilot us out, and also hired four others as Servitors, Barnaby Currin and John Mac-Quire, Indian Traders, Henry Steward, and William Jenkins; and in company with those persons, left the Inhabitants the Day following.1
The excessive Rains and vast Quantity of Snow which had fallen, prevented our reaching Mr. Frazier’s, an Indian Trader, at the Mouth of Turtle Creek, on Monongahela [River], till Thursday, the 22d. We were informed here, that Expresses had been sent a few Days before to the Traders down the River, to acquaint them with the French General’s2 death, and the Return of the major Part of the French Army into Winter Quarters.
The Waters were quite impassable, without swimming our Horses; which obliged us to get the Loan of a Canoe from Frazier, and to send Barnaby Currin and Henry Steward down the Monongahela, with our Baggage, to meet us at the Forks of Ohio, about 10 miles, there to cross the Aligany.3
As I got down before the Canoe, I spent some time in viewing the Rivers, and the Land in the Fork; which I think extremely 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; and a considerable Bottom of flat, well-timbered land all around it, very convenient for Building: The Rivers are each a Quarter of a Mile, or more, across, and run here very near at right Angles: Aligany bearing N. E. and Monongahela S. E. The former of these two is a very rapid and swift running Water; the other deep and still, without any perceptible Fall.
About two Miles from this, on the South East Side of the river, at the Place where the Ohio Company intended to erect a Fort, lives Shingiss,1 king of the Delawares: We called upon him, to invite him to Council at the Loggs-Town.2
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, and I think it greatly inferior, either for Defence or Advantages; especially the latter: For a Fort at the Forks would be equally well situated on the Ohio, and have the entire Command of the Monongahela; which runs up to our Settlements and is extremely well designed 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 contrived this lower Place, for Water Defence; but the Hill whereon it must stand being about a Quarter of a Mile in Length, and then descending gradually on the Land Side, will render it difficult and very expensive, to make a sufficient Fortification there.—The whole Flat upon the Hill must be taken-in, the Side next the Descent made extremely high, or else the Hill itself cut away: Otherwise, the Enemy may raise Batteries within that Distance without being exposed to a single Shot from the Fort.
Shingiss attended us to the Loggs-Town, where we arrived between Sun-setting and Dark, the 25th Day after I left Williamsburg. We travelled over some extreme good and bad Land, to get to this Place.—
As soon as I came into Town, I went to Monakatoocha1 (as the Half-king was out at his hunting-Cabbin on little Beaver-Creek, about 15 Miles off) and informed him by John Davison, my Indian Interpreter, that I was sent a Messenger to the French General; and was ordered to call upon the Sachems of the Six Nations, to acquaint them with it.—I gave him a String of Wampum,2 and a Twist of Tobacco, and desired him to send for the Half-King; which he promised to do by a Runner in the Morning, and for other Sachems.—I invited him and the other great Men present to my Tent, where they stay’d about an Hour and return’d.
According to the best Observations I could 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. by W. or N. N. W. about 50 Miles from that; and from thence to the Loggs-Town, the course is nearly West about 18 or 20 Miles: so that the whole Distance, as we went and computed it, is at least 135 or 140 Miles from our back Inhabitants.
25th. Came to Town four or ten Frenchmen who had deserted from a Company at the Kuskuskas,1 which lies at the Mouth of this River. I got the following Account from them. They were sent from New-Orleans with 100 men, and 8 Canoe-Loads of Provisions to this Place; where they expected to have met the same Number of Men, from the Forts on this Side Lake Erie, to convey them and the Stores up, who were not arrived when they ran-off.
I enquired into the Situation of the French, on the Mississippi, their Number, and what Forts they had built. They inform’d me, That there were four small Forts between New Orleans and the Black-Islands,2 garrison’d with about 30 or 40 Men, and a few small Pieces in each. That at New Orleans, which is near the Mouth of the Mississippi, there are 35 Companies, of 40 Men each, with a pretty strong Fort mounting 8 Carriage Guns; and at the Black-Islands there are several Companies, and a Fort with 6 Guns. The Black-Islands are about 130 Leagues above the Mouth of the Ohio, which is about 350 above New-Orleans. They also acquainted me that there was a small pallisado’d Fort1 on the Ohio, at the Mouth of the Obaish2 about 60 Leagues from the Mississippi. The Obaish heads near the West End of Lake Erie, and affords the Communication between the French on Mississippi and those on the Lakes. These Deserters came up from the lower Shanoah Town4 with one Brown, an Indian Trader, and were going to Philadelphia.
3 About 3 o’Clock this Evening the Half-King came to Town. I went up and invited him with Davison, privately, to my Tent; and desir’d him to relate some of the Particulars of his Journey to the French Commandant, and Reception there: Also to give me an account of the Ways and Distance. He told me that the nearest and levellest Way was now impassable, by Reason of many large mirey Savannas; that we must be obliged to go by Venango,1 and should not get to the near Fort under 5 or 6 Nights Sleep, good Travelling. When he went to the Fort, he said he was received in a very stern Manner by the late Commander; who ask’d him very abruptly, what he had come about, and to declare his Business: Which he said he did in the following Speech:—
Fathers, I am come to tell you your own Speeches; what your own Mouths have declared. Fathers, You in former Days, set a silver Bason before us, wherein there was the Leg of a Beaver, and desir’d all the Nations to come and eat of it; to eat in Peace and Plenty, and not to be churlish to one another: and that if any such Person should be found to be a Disturber, I here lay down by the Edge of the Dish a Rod, which you must scourge them with; and if I your Father, should get foolish, in my old Days, I desire you may use it upon me as well as others.
Now Fathers, it is you who are the Disturbers in this Land, by coming and building your Towns; and taking it away unknown to us, and by Force.
Fathers, We kindled a fire a long Time ago, at a Place called Montreal, where we desired you to stay, and not to come and intrude upon our Land. I now desire you may dispatch to that Place; for be it known to you, Fathers, that this is our Land, and 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 abstreperous. If you had come in a peaceable Manner, like our Brothers the English, we should not have been against your trading with us, as they do; but to come, Fathers, and build Houses upon our Land, and to take it by Force, is what we cannot submit to.
Fathers, Both you and the English are white, we live in a Country between; therefore the Land belongs to neither one nor t’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 Trial for both, to see which will have the greatest Regard to it, and that Side we will stand by and make equal shares with us. Our Brothers, the English, have heard this, and I come now to tell it to you; for I am not afraid to discharge you off this Land.
This he said was the substance of what he spoke 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 discharged 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 afraid of Flies, or Musquitos, for Indians are such as those. I tell you, down that River I will go, and will build upon it, according to my command. If the River was block’d up, I have Forces sufficient to burst it open and tread under my Feet all that Stand in Opposition, together with their Alliances; for my Force is as the Sand upon the Sea Shore: 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 Shannoahs and you were at War: Lead was the Man who went down and took Possession of that River: It is my Land, and I will have it, let who will stand-up for, or say-against it. I’ll buy and 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 enquired of the General after two Englishmen who were made Prisoners, and received 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 and carried them to Canada, to get Intelligence of what the English were doing in Virginia.
He informed me that they had built two Forts, one on Lake Erie,1 and another on French-Creek2 near a small Lake about 15 Miles asunder, and 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 enquired very particularly after their Brothers in Carolina Goal.
They also asked what sort of Boy it was who was taken from the South-Branch; for they were told by some Indians, that a Party of French Indians had carried a white Boy by the Kuskuska 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 called 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, and deliver a Letter to the French Commandant, of very great Importance to your Brothers, the English; and I dare say, to you their Friends and allies.
I was desired, Brothers, by your Brother the Governor, to call upon you, the Sachems of the Nations, to inform you of it, and to ask your Advice and Assistance to proceed the nearest and best Road to the French. You see, Brothers, I have gotten thus far on my Journey.
His Honour likewise desired me to apply to you for some of your young Men, to conduct and provide Provisions for us on our Way; and be a safe-guard against those French Indians who have taken up the hatchet against us. I have spoke this particularly to you Brothers, because his Honour our Governor treats you as good Friends and Allies; and holds you in great Esteem. To confirm what I have said, I give you this String of Wampum.
After they had considered for some Time on the above Discourse, the Half-King got up and spoke:—
Now, my Brothers, in regard to what my Brother the Governor has desired me, I return you this answer.
I rely upon you as a Brother ought to do, as you say we are Brothers and one People: We shall put Heart in Hand and speak to our Fathers the French concerning the Speech they made to me; and you may depend that we will endeavour to be your Guard.
Brother, as you have asked my Advice, I hope you will be ruled by it and stay till 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 whom I have ordered in, are not yet come, nor cannot till the third Night from this: till which Time, brother, I must beg you to stay.
As I had Orders to make all possible Dispatch, and waiting here was very contrary to my Inclinations, I thanked him in the most suitable Manner I could; and told him, that my Business required the greatest Expedition, and would not admit of that Delay. He was not well pleased that I should offer to go before the Time he had appointed, and told me, that he could not consent to our going without a Guard, for Fear some Accident should befal us and draw a Reflection upon him. Besides, says he, this is a Matter of no small Moment, and must not be entered into without due Consideration: For now I intend to deliver up the French-Speech-Belt, and make the Shanoahs and Delawares do the same. And accordingly he gave orders to King Shingiss, who was present, to attend on Wednesday Night with the Wampum; and two Men of their Nation to be in Readiness to set-out with us next Morning. As I found it was impossible to get-off without affronting them in the most egregious Manner, I consented to stay.
I gave them back a String of Wampum which I met with at Mr. Frazier’s, and which they had sent with a Speech to his Honour the Governor, to inform him, that three Nations of French Indians, viz: Chippoways, Ottoways, and Orundaks1 had taken-up the Hatchet against the English; and desired them to repeat it over again: But this they postponed doing till they met in full Council with the Shannoahs and Delaware Chiefs.
27th. Runners were now dispatched very early for the Shannoah Chiefs. The Half-King set out himself to fetch the French-Speech-Belt from his hunting Cabbin.
28th. He returned this Evening, and came with Monokatoocha, and two other Sachems to my Tent, and begged (as they had complied with his Honour the Governor’s Request, in providing Men, &c.) to know on what Business we were going to the French? this was a Question I all along expected, and had provided as satisfactory Answers to, as I could; which allayed their Curiosity a little.
Monokatoocha informed me, that an Indian from Venango brought News, a few Days ago, that the French had called all the Mingo’s, Delawares, &c., together at that Place; and told them, that they intended to have been down the River this Fall, but the Waters were growing cold, and the Winter advancing, which obliged them to go into Quarters: But that they might assuredly expect them in the Spring, with a far greater Number; and desired that they might be quite passive, and not to 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 supposed there would be some Attempts made to stop them), in which Time they should conquer: But that if they should prove equally Strong, they and the English would join to cut them all off, and divide the Land between them: That though they had lost their General, and some few of their Soldiers, yet there were Men enough to reinforce them, and make them masters of the Ohio.
This Speech, he said, was delivered to them by one Captain Joncaire,1 their Interpreter in Chief, living at Venango, and a Man of Note in the Army.
29th. The Half-King and Monokatoocha came very early, and begged me to stay one Day more: For notwithstanding they had used all the Diligence in their Power, the Shanoah Chiefs had not brought the Wampum they ordered, but would certainly be in To-night; if not, they would delay me no longer, but would send it after us as soon as they arrived.—When I found them so pressing in their Request, and knew that returning of Wampum was the abolishing of Agreements; and giving this up, was shaking-off all Dependance upon the French, I consented to stay, as I believed an Offence offered at this Crisis, might be attended with greater ill Consequence, than another Day’s Delay. They also informed me, that Shingiss could not get-in his Men; and 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 lodged with Kustaloga one of their Chiefs at Venango.
In the Evening late they came again and acquainted me that the Shannoahs were not yet arrived, but that it should not retard the Prosecution of our Journey. He delivered 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 asked for, and repeating near the same Speech he himself had done before.
He also delivered a String of Wampum to this Chief, which was sent by King Shingiss, to be given to Kustaloga, with orders to repair to the French, and deliver up the Wampum.
He likewise gave a very large String of black and white Wampum, which was to be sent up immediately to the Six Nations, if the French refused to quit the Land at this Warning; which was the third and last Time, and 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, and who were to go: The Result of which was, that only three of their Chiefs, with one of their best Hunters, should be our Convoy. The Reason they gave for not sending more, after what had been proposed at Council the 26th, was, that a greater Number might give the French Suspicions of some bad Design, and cause them to be treated rudely: But I rather think they could not get their Hunters in.1
We set out about 9 o’Clock with the Half-King Jeskakake, White Thunder, and the Hunter; and travelled on the Road to Venango, where we arrived the 4th of December, without any Thing remarkable happening but a continued Series of bad Weather.
This is an old Indian Town, situated at the Mouth of French Creek on Ohio; and lies near N. about 60 Miles from the Loggs-Town, but more than 70 the Way we were obliged to go.
We found the French Colours hoisted at a House from which they had driven Mr. John Frazier, an English Subject. I immediately repaired to it, to know where the Commander resided. There were three Officers, one of whom, Capt. Joncaire, informed me, that he had the Command of the Ohio: But that there was a General Officer at the near Fort, where he advised me to apply for an Answer. He invited us to sup with them; and treated us with the greatest Complaisance.
The Wine, as they dosed themselves pretty plentifully with it, soon banished the Restraint which at first appeared in their Conversation; and gave a Licence to their Tongues to reveal their Sentiments more freely.
They told me, That it was their absolute Design to take Possession of the Ohio, and by G— they would do it: For that altho’ they were sensible the English could raise two Men for their one; yet they knew their Motions were too slow and dilatory to prevent any Undertaking of theirs. They pretend to have an undoubted Right to the River, from a Discovery made by one La Salle 60 Years ago; and the Rise of this Expedition is, to prevent our settling on the River or Waters of it, as they had heard of some Families moving-out in Order thereto. From the best Intelligence I could get, there have been 1500 Men on their Side Ontario Lake: But upon the Death of the General all were recalled to about 6 or 700, who were left to garrison four Forts, 150 or there abouts in each. The first of them 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 greater Part of their Stores are kept, about 15 Miles from the other. From this it is 120 Miles to the carrying Place at the Falls of Lake Erie where there is a small Fort1 ; which they lodge their Goods at, in bringing them from Montreal, the Place whence all their Stores come from. The next Fort lies about 20 Miles from this, on Ontario-Lake.2 Between this Fort and Montreal there are three others, the first3 of which is near opposite to the English Fort Oswego. From the Fort on Lake Erie to Montreal is about 600 Miles, which they say requires no more, if good Weather, than four Weeks Voyage, if they go in Barks or large Vessels, so that they may cross the Lake: But if they come in Canoes it will require 5 or 6 Weeks, for they are obliged to keep under the Shore.
5th. Rain’d excessively all Day, which prevented our Travelling. Capt. Joncaire sent for the Half-King, as he had but just heard that he came with me: He affected to be much concerned that I did not make free to bring them in before. I excused it in the best Manner I was capable, and 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 me from bringing them into his Company: I knew he was Interpreter, and a Person of very great Influence among the Indians, and had lately used all possible Means to draw them over to their Interest; therefore I was desirous of giving no Opportunity that could be avoided.
When they came in, there was great Pleasure expressed at seeing them. He wondered how they could be so near without coming to visit him; made several trifling Presents; and applied Liquor so fast, that they were soon rendered incapable of the Business they came about, notwithstanding the Caution which was given.1
6th. The Half-King came to my Tent, quite sober, and insisted very much that I should stay and hear what he had to say to the French. I fain would have prevented his speaking any Thing till he came to the Commandant, but could not prevail. He told me that at this Place a Council Fire was kindled, where all their Business with these People was to be transacted; and 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 and encamp; which I knew would make it near Night.
About 10 o’Clock they met in Council. The King spoke much the same as he had before done to the General; and offered the French Speech-Belt which had before been demanded, with the Marks of four Towns on 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, and three other Soldiers came over to accompany us up. We found it extremely difficult to get 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 whom I brought with me from Town), and strictly charged him not to be out of their Company, as I could not get them over to my Tent; for they had some Business with Kustaloga, and chiefly to know the Reason why he did not deliver up the French Belt which he had in Keeping: But I was obliged to send Mr. Gist over To-day to fetch them; which he did with great Persuasion.1
At 11 o’Clock we set out for the Fort, and were prevented from arriving there till the 11th by excessive Rains, Snows, and bad Travelling, through many Mires and Swamps. These we were obliged to pass, to avoid crossing the Creek, which was impossible, either by fording or rafting, the Water was so high and rapid.
We passed over much good Land since we left Venango, and through several extensive and very rich Meadows; one of which I believe was near four Miles in Length, and considerably wide in some Places.
12th. I prepared early to wait upon the Commander, and was received and conducted to him by the second Officer in Command. I acquainted him with my Business, and offered my Commission and Letter: Both of which he desired me to keep till the Arrival of Monsieur Riparti Captain, at the next Fort, who was sent for and expected every Hour.
This Commander is a Knight of the military Order of St. Lewis, and named Legardeur de St. Pierre.1 He is an elderly Gentleman, and has much the Air of a Soldier. He was sent over to take the Command immediately upon the Death of the late General, and arrived here about seven Days before me.
At 2 o’Clock the Gentleman who was sent for arrived, when I offered the Letter, &c, again; which they received, and adjourned into a private Apartment for the Captain to translate, who understood a little English. After he had done it, the Commander desired I would walk-in, and bring my Interpreter to peruse and correct it; which I did.
13th. The chief Officers retired, to hold a Council of War; which gave me an Opportunity of taking the Dimensions of the Fort, and making what Observations I could.
It is situated on the South or West Fork of French Creek, near the Water; and is almost surrounded by the Creek, and a small Branch of it which forms a Kind of Island. Four Houses compose the Sides. The Bastions are made of Piles driven into the Ground, standing more than 12 Feet above it, and sharp at Top: With Port-Holes cut for Cannon, and Loop-Holes for the small Arms to fire through. There are eight 6 lb. Pieces mounted, in each Bastion; and one Piece of four Pound before the Gate. In the Bastions are a Guard-House, Chapel, Doctor’s Lodging, and the Commander’s private Store: Round which are laid Plat-Forms for the Cannon and Men to stand on. There are several Barracks without the Fort, for the Soldiers Dwelling; covered, some with Bark and some with Boards, made chiefly of Loggs. There are also several other Houses, such as Stables, Smiths Shop, &c.
I could get no certain Account of the Number of Men here: But according to the best Judgment I could form, there are an Hundred exclusive of Officers, of which there are many. I also gave Orders to the People who were with me, to take an exact Account of the Canoes which were hauled-up to convey their Forces down in the Spring. This they did, and told 50 of Birch Bark, and 170 of Pine; besides many others which were blocked-out, in Readiness to make.
14th. As the Snow encreased very fast, and our Horses daily became weaker, I sent them off unloaded; under the Care of Barnaby Currin, and two others, to make all convenient Dispatch to Venango, and 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, and there to wait till we came to cross Aliganey; intending myself 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, and prevent their returning with me; I endeavor’d all that lay in my Power to frustrate their Schemes, and 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 and one or two other officers. The Half-King told me, that he offer’d the Wampum to the Commander, who evaded taking it, and made many fair Promises of Love and Friendship; said he wanted to live in Peace, and trade amicably with them, as a Proof of which he would send some Goods immediately down to the Logg’s-Town for them. But I rather think the Design of that is, to bring away all our straggling Traders they meet with, as I privately understood they intended to carry an Officer, &c, with them. And what rather confirms this Opinion, I was enquiring of the Commander, by what Authority he had made Prisoners of several of our English Subjects. He told me that the Country belong’d to them; that no Englishman had a Right to trade upon those Waters; and that he had Orders to make every Person Prisoner who attempted it on the Ohio, or the Waters of it.
I enquir’d of Capt. Riparti about the Boy who was carried by this Place, as it was done while the Command devolved on him, between the Death of the late General, and the Arrival of the present. He acknowledged, that a Boy had been carried past; and that the Indians had two or three white Men’s Scalps (I was told by some of the Indians at Venango Eight) but pretended to have forgotten the Name of the Place which the Boy came from, and all the Particular Facts, though he had question’d him for some Hours, as they were carrying him past. I likewise enquired what they had done with John Trotter and James MacClocklan, two Pensylvania Traders, whom they had taken, with all their Goods. They told me, that they had been sent to Canada, but were now returned Home.
This Evening I received an Answer to his Honour the Governor’s Letter from the Commandant.
15th. The Commandant ordered a plentiful Store of Liquor, Provision, &c., to be put on Board our Canoe; and appeared to be extremely complaisant, though he was exerting every Artifice which he could invent to set our own Indians at Variance with us, to prevent their going ’till after our Departure. Presents, Rewards, and every Thing which could be suggested by him or his Officers.—I can’t say that ever in my Life I suffered so much Anxiety as I did in this Affair: I saw that every Stratagem which the most fruitful Brain could invent, was practised, to win the Half-King to their Interest; and that leaving 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 Commandant would not discharge him ’till the Morning. I then went to the Commandant, and desired him to do their Business; and complain’d of ill Treatment: For keeping them, as they were Part of my Company, was detaining me. This he promised not to do, but to forward my Journey as much as he could. He protested he did not keep them, but was ignorant of the Cause of their Stay; though I soon found it out:—He had promised them a present of Guns, &c, if they would 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 should 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 endeavoured to try the Power of Liquor; which I doubt not would have prevailed at any other Time than this; But I urged and insisted with the King so closely upon his Word, that he refrained, and set off with us as he had engaged.
We had a tedious and very fatiguing Passage down the Creek. Several Times we had like to have been staved against Rocks; and many Times were obliged all Hands to get out and remain in the Water Half an Hour or more, getting over the Shoals. At one Place the Ice had lodged and made it impassable by Water; therefore we were obliged to carry our Canoe across a Neck of Land, a quarter of a Mile over. We did not reach Venango, till the 22d, where we met with our Horses.
This Creek is extremely crooked, I dare say the Distance between the Fort and Venango can’t be less than 130 Miles, to follow the Meanders.1
23d. When I got Things ready to set-off, I sent for the Half King, to know whether he intended to go with us, or by Water. He told me that White-Thunder had hurt himself much, and was sick and unable to walk; therefore he was obliged to carry him down in a Canoe. As I found he intended to stay here a Day or two, and knew that Monsieur Joncaire would employ every Scheme to set him against the English as he had before done; I told him I hoped he would guard against his Flattery, and let no fine Speeches influence him in their Favour. He desired I might not be concerned, for he knew the French too well, for any Thing to engage him in their Behalf; and that though he could not go down with us, he yet would 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 would order the young Hunter to attend us, and get Provision, &c. if wanted.
Our Horses were now so weak and feeble, and the Baggage so heavy (as we were obliged to provide all the Necessaries which the Journey would require) that we doubted much their performing it; therefore myself and others (except the Drivers, who were obliged to ride) gave up our Horses for Packs, to assist along with the Baggage. I put myself in an Indian walking Dress, and continued with them three Days, till I found there was no Probability of their getting home in any reasonable Time. The Horses grew less able to travel every Day; the Cold increased very fast; and the Roads were becoming much worse by a deep Snow, continually freezing: Therefore as I was uneasy to get back, to make Report of my Proceedings to his Honour, the Governor, I determined 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 and Horses, and to make the most convenient Dispatch in Travelling.
I took my necessary Papers; pulled off my Cloaths; and tied myself up in a Match Coat. Then with Gun in Hand and Pack at my Back, in which were my Papers and Provisions, I set-out with Mr. Gist, fitted in the same Manner, on Wednesday the 26th.
The Day following, just after we had passed a Place called the Murdering-Town (where we intended to quit the Path, and steer across the Country for Shannapins Town) we fell in with a Party of French Indians, who had lain in Wait for us. One of them fired at Mr. Gist or me, not 15 steps off, but fortunately missed. We took this Fellow into Custody, and kept him till about 9 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 Tract as soon as it was light. The next Day we continued travelling till quite dark, and got to the River about two Miles above Shannapins. We expected to have found the River frozen, but it was not, only about 50 Yards from each Shore; The Ice I suppose had broken up above, for it was driving in vast Quantities.1
There was no Way for getting over but on a Raft; Which we set about with but one poor Hatchet, and finished just after Sun-setting. This was a whole Day’s Work. 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 to sink, and ourselves to perish. I put-out my setting Pole 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.
The Cold was so extremely severe, that Mr. Gist had all his Fingers, and some of his Toes frozen; but the water was shut up so hard, that we found no Difficulty in getting-off the Island, on the Ice, in the Morning, and went to Mr. Frazier’s. We met here with 20 Warriors who were going to the Southward to War, but coming to a Place upon the Head of the great Kunnaway, where they found seven People killed and scalped (all but one Woman with very light Hair) they turned about and ran back for fear the Inhabitants should rise and take them as the Authors of the Murder. They report that the Bodies were lying about the House, and some of them much torn and eaten by Hogs. By the Marks which were left, they say they were French Indians of the Ottaway Nation, &c., who did it.
As we intended to take Horses here, and it required some Time to find them, I went-up about three Miles to the Mouth of Yaughyaughane to visit Queen Aliquippa, who had expressed great Concern that we passed her in going to the Fort. I made her a Present of a Matchcoat and a Bottle of Rum; which latter was thought much the best Present of the Two.
Tuesday the 1st Day of January, we left Mr. Frazier’s House,1 and arrived at Mr. Gist’s at Monongahela the 2d, where I bought a Horse, Saddle, etc: the 6th we met 17 Horses loaded with Materials and Stores, for a Fort at the Forks of Ohio, and the Day after some Families going out to settle: This Day we arrived 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 to the 15th, there was but one Day on which it did not rain or snow incessantly: and throughout the whole Journey we met with nothing but one continued Series of cold wet Weather, which occasioned very uncomfortable Lodgings: especially after we had quitted our Tent, which was some Screen from the Inclemency of it.
On the 11th I got to Belvoir: where I stopped one Day to take necessary Rest; and then set out and arrived in Williamsburgh the 16th; when I waited upon his Honour the Governor with the Letter I had brought from the French Commandant; and to give an Account of the Success of my Proceedings. This I beg leave to do by offering the foregoing Narrative as it contains the most remarkable Occurrences which happened in my Journey.
I hope what has been said will be sufficient to make your Honour satisfied with my Conduct; for that was my Aim in undertaking the Journey, and chief Study throughout the Prosecution of it.1
[1 ]Holdernesse to Governors, August 28, 1753.
[1 ]The original edition of this Journal, printed in 1754 by William Hunter at Williamsburg, is extremely rare, “so rare (according to Mr. Field) that but two copies are known to exist.” Mr. Brinley, of Hartford, possessed a copy that originally belonged to Mr. Rich. Peters, and it was sold in 1880, at the dispersion of his library, for $560. An English edition was published by T. Jefferys in London in 1754, and it is from that edition that the following reprint has been made.
[2 ]Van Braam was a Hollander, and had served under Laurence Washington in the Carthagena expedition. He had been fencing-master to Washington.
[3 ]Now Cumberland, Md.
[4 ]Christopher Gist. His journal will be found in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Series 3, vol. v., p. 102.
[1 ]Thursday, 15th.—We set out, and at night encamped at George’s Creek, about eight miles, where a messenger came with letters from my son, who was first returned from his people at the Cherokees, and lay sick at the mouth of Conogocheague. But as I found myself entered again on public business, and Major Washington and all the company unwilling I should return, I wrote and sent medicines to my son, and so continued my journey, and encamped at a big hill on the forks of Youghiogany, about eighteen miles.
[2 ]Pierre Paul, Sieur de Marin, who commanded the Duquesne expedition.
[3 ]The Ohio and Aligany are the same River.—Note in Original.
[1 ]Shingiss, or Shingas, was a Delaware chief, who at first favored the English, but afterwards joined the French and became the terror of the back settlements. In 1756 Pennsylvania offered a reward of $350 for his head.—Pennsylvania Gazette, January 15, 1756.
[2 ]The French name of this place was Chiningué. The exact location is a matter of doubt. Croghan places it on the south side of the river, or left hand in descending. It is represented on the map in Father Abraham’s Almanac, 1761. There was another Chiningué (the Shenango of the English) on the Allegheny.
[1 ]Monacatootha was an Oneida chief living near the Ohio. The Half-King, also known as Thanacrishon, was a Seneca chief, owing allegiance to the Six Nations.
[2 ]A kind of Indian money; also given as a Present or Mark of Friendship.—Note in the Original.
[1 ]Shea places Kuskuskas on Big Beaver Creek, and the map in Father Abraham’s Almanac does the same. It was the chief town of the Six Nations.
[2 ]“Washington was here evidently misled by the sound, and mistook Illinois for Isles Noires, that is Black Islands. There was no French post called Black Islands, but the name Illinois, now so familiar to us, was then unheard in the British colonies. The Miamies and Illinois were known as Chicktaghicks and Twightwies, and both together frequently under the last, the more common term.”—J. G. Shea.
[1 ]Probably Vincennes. It was founded before 1750.
[2 ]The name Ouabache was originally given by the French explorers to the Ohio, but eventually was applied to the branch.
[4 ]“Shawanoe, or as now written, Shawnee. They were called by the French Chawanon. They were the most restless of the Algonquin tribes, having been for a longer or shorter period in almost all the Atlantic colonies from Florida to New York.”—J. G. Shea.
[3 ]Or Wabash, written by the French Ouabash.—Note in the Original.
[1 ]Venango was at the meeting of French Creek and the Alleghany River.
[1 ]Fort Presque Isle, within the present limits of Erie.
[2 ]Fort le Boêuf. It stood near the present town of Waterford, Pa.
[1 ]“The Mengwi, Minguas, or Mingoes, were properly the Andastes or Gandastogues, the Indians of Conestoga, on the Susquehannah, known by the former name to the Algonquins, and their allies, the Dutch and Swedes, and by the latter to the five nations and the English of New York. The Marylanders knew them as the Susquehannas. Upon their reduction by the five nations in 1672 after a long war, the Andastes were to a great extent mingled with their conquerors, and a party removing to the Ohio, commonly called Mingoes, was thus made up, of Iroquois and Mingoes.”—J. G. Shea.
[2 ]An Algonquin nation (Lenni Lenape). Shea conjectures that they were a branch of the Illinois migrating to the East.
[1 ]Of these tribes Shea writes: “The Chippeways were first known to the French as Otchiboués, answering to the modern form Ojibway or Otchipwe. They are an Algonquin tribe, whose residence was at Sault Ste Marie. . . . The Ottawas were another Algonquin tribe found on Lake Ontario. They formed, when first known, two branches, the Riskakous and Sinagoes, and were remarkably errant. The Orundaks are evidently the Adirondacks of New York writers, the Algonquin of the French.”
[1 ]Chabert de Joncaire, a half-breed officer, son of a French officer and a Seneca squaw, was one of the most useful instruments in the service of the French for gaining the aid of the Indians.
[1 ]“Friday, 30th.—At night we encamped at the murthering town, about fifteen miles, on a branch of Great Beaver Creek. Got some corn and dried meat. Saturday, December 1st.—Set out, and at night encamped at the crossing of Beaver Creek from the Kaskuskies to Venango, about thirty miles. The next day rain; our Indians went out a hunting; they killed two bucks. Had rain all day. Monday, 3d.—We set out and travelled all day. Encamped at night on one of the head branches of Great Beaver Creek, about twenty two miles. Tuesday, 4th.—Set out, about fifteen miles to the town of Venango.”—Gist.
[1 ]Fort Niagara.
[2 ]Fort Toronto.
[3 ]Fort Frontenac.
[1 ]Gist says that on this day “our Indians were in council with the Delawares, who lived under the French colors, and ordered them to deliver up to the French the belt, with the mark of the four towns, according to desire of King Shingiss. But the chief of these Delawares said, ‘it was true King Shingiss is a great man, but he had sent no speech and,’ said he, ‘I cannot pretend to make a speech for a king.’ So our Indians could not prevail with them to deliver their belt.”
[1 ]“Friday, 7th.—All encamped at Sugar Creek, five miles from Venango. The creek being very high, we were obliged to carry all our baggage over on trees, and swim our horses. The Major and I went first over, with our boots on. Saturday, 8th.—We set out and travelled twenty-five miles to Cussewago, an old Indian town. Sunday, 9th.—We set out, left one of our horses here that could travel no further. This day we travelled to the big crossing, about fifteen miles, and encamped. Our Indians went out to look out logs to make a raft, but as the water was high and there were other creeks to cross, we concluded to keep up this side the creek. Monday, 10th.—Set out, travelled about eight miles and encamped. Our Indians killed a bear. Here we had a creek to cross, very deep; we got over on a tree, and got our goods over. Tuesday, 11th.—We set out, travelled about fifteen miles to the French fort, the sun being set.”—Gist.
[1 ]Legardeur de St. Pierre had just returned from an expedition towards the Rocky Mountains when he was sent to succeed the dying Marin. He afterwards served under Dieskau, and was killed in the “bloody morning scout” just before the battle of Lake George, 1755. His full name was Legardeur de St. Pierre de Repentigny, the last probably being, as Mr. Shea suggests, the Riparti just mentioned.
[1 ]“Friday 21st.—The ice was so hard we could not break our way through, but were obliged to haul our vessels across a point of land and put them in the creek again. The Indians and three French canoes overtook us here, and the people of one French canoe that was lost, with her cargo of powder and lead. That night we encamped about twenty miles above Venango. Saturday 22nd.—Set out. The creek began to be very low, and we were forced to get out to keep our canoe from oversetting, several times; the water freezing to our clothes; and we had the pleasure of seeing the French overset, and the brandy and wine floating in the creek, and run by them, and left them to shift for themselves.”—Gist.
[1 ]“Wednesday, 26th.—The Major desired me to set out on foot and leave our company, as the creeks were frozen, and our horses could make but little way. Indeed, I was unwilling he should undertake such a travel, who had never been used to walking before this time. But as he insisted on it, I set out with our packs, like Indians, and travelled eighteen miles. That night we lodged at an Indian cabin, and the Major was much fatigued. It was very cold; all the small runs were frozen, that we could hardly get water to drink.
[1 ]“And at night encamped at Jacob’s cabins.”—Gist.
[1 ]The intentions of the French being thus announced by the results of Washington’s mission to the Ohio, Dinwiddie, with the advice of his Council, determined to send at once 2 companies of 100 men each to protect the frontier from French encroachments. The command of one company to be raised among the traders on the frontier was given to Captain William Trent, an Indian trader, and friend and business partner of Benjamin Franklin, while the other—raised in Frederick and Augusta counties—was given to Washington. “Having all things in readiness,” the instructions to Washington read, “you are to use all expedition in proceeding to the Fork of Ohio with the men under command, and there you are to finish and complete in the best manner and as soon as you possibly can, the Fort which I expect is there already begun by the Ohio Company. You are to act on the defensive, but in case any attempts are made to obstruct the works or interrupt our settlements by any persons whatsoever, you are to restrain all such offenders and in case of resistance to make prisoners of, or kill and destroy them.”