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CURIOSITIES OF CANADIAN LITERATURE.
WASHINGTON AND JUMONVILLE.
BY W. J. ANDERSON, LL. D., QUEBEC.
N his second series of Maple Leaves, pub- | objects of the Ohio Company and resolved lished in 1864, M. Lemoine gives a very interesting paper under this heading, taken from the New York Historical Magazine, which may be looked upon as a review of de Gaspé's account of the same affair, as given in his Les Anciens Canadiens. M. Lemoine also has given under the title, "Defeat of Washington at Fort Necessity," Bell's translation of Garneau's account of that affair, preceding it by his view of the Jumonville rencontre also.
As M. de Gaspé has concluded his statement by asking the reader to judge, whether he has not succeeded in rescuing his grandfather's memory from the accusation of being a spy, we shall, by and by, return to his interesting and generous attempt.
We shall then be in a better position to decide "whether there is a discrepancy, easily explained," between the tradition of his family "and the truth of history." In the meantime, to be in a position really to understand the question at issue, which is not, was Jumonville a spy, but was Washington guilty of guet à pens, a cold blooded murder, we will state the actual position of affairs, before this first act in what has been called the Seven Years' War.
In 1753 the Ohio Company opened a road from Virginia into the Ohio Valley, and established a plantation at Shurtie's Creek. France and England were then at peace. There was no friendly feeling between the colonists of the two nations, but a jealousy of each other's encroachments, particularly on the Ohio, which was claimed by both. Duquesne, then Governor General of New France, was aware of the
to defeat them. Early in the spring, he sent a strong body of troops and Indians from Montreal, to reinforce the western posts and establish forts in the Valley of the Ohio. These were met at Niagara by an envoy from the Six Nations, who warned them not to proceed. On the other hand, the aid of Sir Wm. Johnston was solicited to assist in repelling the French encroachment. The French commander disregarded the warning, and established fortified posts at Erie, Waterford, and Uenango. On this, Dinwiddie, Governor of Virginia, selected George Washington, then just of age, to proceed to Uenango, and demand the reasons for the invasion of the British territories in a time of peace. Washington was accompanied by Christopher Gist, agent of the Ohio Company, an interpreter and four attendants, making a company of seven. On his way he attended a council of Delawares and Shawnees, when it was resolved that a deputation should accompany Washington, and again require the French to quit the territory. On arriving at Uenango the message was delivered, and the French made no secret of their intention to take possession of the whole valley. Washington from thence proceeded to Waterford, and St. Pierre, the commander, at once replied to his summons, "I am here by orders to which I shall strictly conform. I am ordered to seize every Englishman in the valley of the Ohio; and I shall certainly do it." Washington turned his face homewards, and leaving all but Gist at Uenango, steered by aid of his compass across the country. They suffered much hardship, and Washington made a
narrow escape for his life, having been fired at by a lurking Indian at only fifteen paces. Luckily the Indian missed and was captured by Washington, who, strange to say, notwithstanding the protestation of Gist, spared and released him. They arrived safely at Shurtie's Creek, and the Ohio Company at once commenced the building of a Fort at the Fork, and Washington proceeded to Alexandria to recrnit. He received from Dinwiddie a Lieut.-Colonelcy of a regiment of one hundred and fifty men "self-willed and ungovernable," and was instructed to join him at the Fork, and "to make prisoners, kill or destroy all who interrupted the English settlements." Washington proceeded with due despatch, but before he could reach Mill's Creek, the French, under Contrecœur, had compelled the English at the Fork, thirty-three in number, to capitulate and withdraw. Contrecœur occupied and fortified the post, which he called Fort Duquesne in honour of the Governor-General.
An Indian Chief, known as Half King, sent word to Washington to hasten to his assistance, with this warning, "Be on your guard, the French intend to strike the first English whom they shall see." The next day Washington was informed that the French were only eighteen miles distant, at the crossing of the Youghiogeny. He hastened to the Big Meadows, where he hurriedly threw up an intrenchment, forming what he called "a charming field for an encounter." He then sent out scouts, and on the morning of the 28th of May, Gist brought in information that he had seen the trail of the French within five miles of the post. About 9 a.m. of the same day, Half King also sent a messenger to say that the French were lurking in the neighbourhood. Bancroft, the American historian, says, "that by the rules of wilderness warfare, a party skulking or riding, is an enemy." Washington, who, though young, well understood this warfare, marched in the darkness
of night and in rain, single file, through the woods and joined Half King, when it was decided to go together and at once attack the invaders. Two Indians discovered their lodgment away from the path, and concealed among the rocks. This was at 7 a.m., and arrangements were immediately made with the Indian chiefs to fall upon them by surprise. Seeing the English approach, the French flew to arms, when Washington gave the word "Fire"; at the same time discharging his own musket. An action of about a quarter of an hour ensued: ten of the French with Jumonville were killed, and twenty-one were made prisoners. This is the substance of the story of this tragedy as related by Bancroft and McMullen. According to the horrid practice then prevalent in American warfare, the dead were all scalped by the Indians, and a scalp sent to each of the tribes urging them to rise.
Here is the account given by Garneau:— "M. de Contrecœur received intelligence that a large corps of British were advancing against them, led by Col. Washington. He forthwith charged M. Jumonville to meet the latter, and admonish him to retire from what was French territory. Jumonville set out with an escort of thirty men; his orders were to be on his guard against a surprise, the country being in a state of commotion, and the aborigines looking forward for war; accordingly his night campaigns were attended by great precaution. On May 17th, at evening tide, he had retired into a deep and obscure valley, when some savages, prowling about, discovered his little troop, and informed Washington of its being near to his line of route. The latter marched all night in order to come unawares upon the French. At daybreak he attacked them suddenly; Jumonville was killed along with nine of his men. French reporters of what passed on the occasion declared that a trumpeter made a sign to the British that he bore a letter addressed to them by his
commandant; that the firing ceased, and it was only after he began to read the message which he bore, that the firing recommenced. "Washington affirmed on the contrary that he was at the head of his column; that at the sight of him the French ran to take up arms, and that it was false to say Jumonville announced himself to be a messenger. It is probable there may be truth in both versions of the story; for the collision being precipitate, great confusion ensued. Washington resumed his march, but tremblingly, from a besetting fear of falling into an ambuscade. The death of Jumonville did not cause the war which ensued, but only hastened it."
We do not always agree with Garneau, but we willingly accept this as a reasonable and strictly impartial statement of the case; but we must also hear what de Gaspé has to say. He tells us that many years after the conquest, and when Col. Malcolm Fraser had become an intimate friend of his family, his grandfather was discussing with him the question of the devastations in which he had borne a part, and that he had excused himself by saying, “à la guerre comme à la guerre. How could we help it, my dear friend, war is war." When his grandmother, who was present, spoke, saying "War is war, but was it fair to kill my brother Jumonville, as Washington your countryman did at Fort Necessity?" "Ah, Madam," replied Fraser, "for mercy's sake, do not for the honour of the English, ever again mention that atrocious murder." De Gaspé goes on to say, "I once slightly reproached our celebrated historian M. Garneau, with passing lightly over that horrible assassination. He replied that it was a delicate subject, and that the great shade of Washington hovered over the writer, or something of that kind." This might be, but that he felt it incumbent on him to clear the memory of his great uncle Jumonville, because the tradition in his family was, " Jumonville presented himself as the bearer of a sum
mons requiring Major Washington, commandant of Fort Necessity," to evacuate that post erected on French territory, that he raised a flag of truce, showed his despatches, and that nevertheless the English commander ordered his men to fire on him and his small escort, and that Jumonville fell dead with a part of those who accompanied him."
After admitting and endeavouring to explain the discrepancy of introducing Fort Necessity, which did not exist, till de post facto, he asserts that it had no bearing on the question of the assassination, and adds, "No one is more disposed than myself to render justice to the great qualities of the American hero," and that, in discussing it with his family, he had been in the habit of excusing Washington on account of youth, and expatiating on his virtues and humanity, and was only compelled to draw the deplorable event from oblivion, when Washington made it necessary, by seeking to clear himself, by publishing several years after the catastrophe a memoir, in which he blackened Jumonville's reputation, by asserting that he had been prowling for several days around their post, and that he had to consider him as a spy. On reading carefully M. de Gaspé's statement and reflecting that the unhappy event occurred in 1754, that Garneau first wrote in 1845, and that M. de Gaspé himself did not publish his account till nearly a century after the event, when he himself was in extreme old age, we cannot but think that his formerly clear intellect and honourable mind had begun to be clouded. We shall for the present leave M. de Gaspé, but it will be necessary to quote one more passage, because we shall have to refer to it by and by: "Washington should never have signed a capitulation where the words assassin and assassination are thrown in his face."
We could not understand the meaning of this sentence till we read the capitulation itself, which will be found in Dussieux' "Le
Canada sous la Domination Française," published in Paris, 1862. We will refer to it in due course, but wish, in the first place, to give a summary of the affair as related by Dussieux, who tells us that the authority for his statements will be found in unpublished documents in the Archives of the Marine and War Departments in Paris. His relation of the state of things in Europe and America, at the commencement of 1754, accords with the statement at the commencement of this paper. We will commence, however, at the point where Contrecœur commissioned Jumonville to carry the summons to the English to withdraw from the Ohio. He commences by assigning as the reason, why he, the simple bearer of a flag, was attended with an escort of thirty-four men, that he had to traverse, though in French territory, forests which were frequented by hostile Indians. He then states that Jumonville was surprised about 7 a. m., of the 28th, "by Washington's command; he was killed with nine others, and the rest were either taken prisoners or escaped. That this was probably the result of a system pursued by the English colonists, and that the murder of Jumonville was caused by an error or failure in taking proper precautions to ascertain the character of the party, as alleged by English writers." He admits that Governor Dinwiddie asserted "that Washington had done no more than his duty in protecting the territories of His Majesty; that Jumonville had entirely departed from the ordinary practice of the bearer of a flag of truce, and, that if Washington had committed any fault in attacking him, it could only be charged as an imprudence."
He then quotes Bancroft, but as his quotation accords with our own, we need not repeat it. He concludes the English side by citing Washington's letters, wherein he says "that he considered the English territories invaded by the French, and that active war existed, as they had attacked and taken Ensign Ward prisoner; that he was ordered
to advance and repel the invaders, who on seeing his party, rushed to their arms; that, on his giving the order to fire, a combat of a quarter of an hour ensued, in which the French had ten men killed or wounded, and twenty-one taken prisoners; that he had one man killed and three wounded; that it was utterly false that Jumonville made any attempt to make it known that he was the bearer of a flag; and that there was no murder, but that it was a surprise and skirmish, common in fair warfare."
Dussieux, having thus made known the sentiments of "the enemy," then refers to French documents, especially to Contrecœur's letter to the Governor General, to the effect that, "at seven in the morning, they were surrounded, and after two discharges of musketry by the English, Jumonville, through an interpreter, intimated that he had something to say. The firing ceased; and the Indians who were present say, that while he was reading the summons, he was shot in the head, and that unless they had rushed forward to prevent it, the English would have cut the whole party to pieces."
It is to be borne in mind that Contrecœur is writing of Indians in Washington's party; Jumonville's escort consisting solely of Canadians.
Then we have the testimony of L'Abbé de L'isle de Dieu, who wrote to the Minister of Marine that he had heard, "that, when it was known that the English were on the march, an officer, with thirty-four men, was sent to summon them to retire, and that, while he was reading the summons, he was fired upon, and himself and seven others killed and the rest made prisoners; and that it was very evident that it was a cold-blooded murder." Duquesne, writing to the Minister, says, "I have assumed a great responsibility in not sending forth fire and sword, after the unjustifiable attack on Jumonville's party." Dussieux likewise says that Berger and Parent, two of Jumonville's party who had been taken prisoners,
and were returned to France in 1755, confirmed all the circumstances of the assassination, and he sums up by giving Vaudreuil's letter to the Minister, from which we extract the four following paragraphs:
"Ist. That nine men with M. de Jumonville were assassinated by Colonel Wemcheston, and his troop of Indians and New Englanders.
“2nd. That M. Drouillon, officer, two cadets and eleven Canadians were sent to London. "3rd. That Sieur Laforce, an excellent and brave Canadian, was detained a prisoner in Virginia.
"4th. That six other Canadians were sent to Martinique; two of whom, on their return, had informed him of the cruelties which had been practised on them by the English."
Further, Dussieux mentions that the affair produced a profound sensation in France and Europe, and that, four years after, Thomas published a poem in four Cantos, entitled Jumonville, in which were given all the traditions, which he was now making known, and that even Voltaire could not restrain himself, but wrote to the Marquis de Courtivron :-" As to the English, I have heard nothing more since they assassinated our officers in America, and have become pirates at sea."
Before we make any comments we prefer to give some account of what immediately followed, and which must be looked upon as a natural sequence. After his rencontre with Jumonville, Washington, while waiting for reinforcements which he immediately sent for, employed himself in making a road. The expected aid did not arrive, but he was at length joined by an independent company from South Carolina. McKay, the Captain of this, as he held his commission direct from the King, refused to recognize the authority of the Virginian commander, and declined to serve under him. In the meantime Contrecœur, determined on vengeance, collected a force of six hundred
Canadians and one hundred Indians, whom he placed under the command of Coulon de Villiers, brother of Jumonville, and according to Dussieux, gave him orders to proceed at once to attack the English and to destroy them altogether if he could, or in part, in order to avenge the assassination which had been committed, in violation of the most sacred laws of civilized nations. That should the English have retired, he was to follow them as far as, in his judgment, the honour of the King's arms required, and in case he found them intrenched and saw that he was not able to attack them, then he was to ravage the country; but notwithstanding the unheardof crime of Washington, he on his part was recommended to be guilty of no cruelty, but that if he should be able to meet and defeat them, and take any prisoners, he was to send one of them to announce to the English commander, that, if he would retire. from the territory and surrender the prisoners he had taken, the French troops would be ordered not to regard them for the future as enemies. This order is dated Fort Duquesne, 28th June, just one month after the first rencontre.
Washington, not having received the reinforcements he had applied for, was unable to advance on Fort Duquesne as originally intended, but fell back on the stockade at the Great Meadows, which had been named Fort Necessity. Little judgment had been shown by him in the selection of this spot, for though the ground round the stockade had been cleared for the space of sixty yards, it was completely commanded by two eminences clothed with wood. All authorities, French and English, agree on this. These eminences were taken possession of by the enemy on the morning of the 3rd July, and every soldier found there shelter, from which he could in perfect safety, fire on the occupants of the Fort beneath. The assault was at once made and, according to Bancroft, was maintained for nine hours in the midst of heavy rain. Thirty of the Eng