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CHAP. I, suit of regimentals was allowed, without deducting its price
from the daily pay of the soldier.
This campaign furnished no event which can interest the reader, or adorn the page of history: yet the duties of the officer, though minute, were arduous; and the sufferings of the people beyond measure afflicting. It adds one to the many evidences which have been afforded of the miseries to be suffered by those who defer preparing the means of defence till the moment when they ought to be efficiently used; and, then, rely almost entirely on a force neither adequate to the danger nor of equal continuance with it.
It is also an interesting fact to those who know the present situation of Virginia, and the active force she could now employ, that so lately as in the year 1756 the Blue Ridge had become her frontier, and that she found immense difficulty in completing a single regiment to protect the inhabitants from the horrors of the scalping-knife, and the still greater horrors of being led into captivity by Indians, who too often inflicted death by torture.
So soon as the main body of the enemy had withdrawn from the settlements, a tour was made by Colonel Washington to the south-western frontier, in order to examine, in person, the state of things in that quarter. There, as well as to the north, continual incursions were made, and murders committed ; and there, too, the principal defence of the country was intrusted to an ill-regulated militia. The fatal consequences of this system
are thus stated by him in a letter to the Lieutenant-governor: “ The inhabitants are so sensible of their danger, if left to the protection of these people, that not a man will stay at his place. This I have from their own mouths, and the principal inhabitants of Augusta county. The militia are under such bad order and discipline, that they will come and go when and where they please, without regarding time, their officers, or the safety of the inhabitants ; but consulting solely their own inclinations. There should be, according to your honour's orders, one third of the militia of these parts on duty at a time. Instead of that, scarce one-thirtieth is out. They are to be relieved every month, and they are a great part of that time marching to and from their stations; and they will not wait one day longer than the limited time, whether relieved or not, however urgent the necessity for their continuance may be.” Some instances of this, and of gross misbehaviour, were then enumerated; after which he pressed the necessity of increasing the number of regulars to two thousand men.
After returning from this tour to Winchester, he gave the Lieutenant-governor a statement of the situation in which he found the country, which ought not to be omitted." From Fort Trial,” said he,“ on Smith's River, I returned to Fort William on the Catawba, where I met Colonel Buchannan with about thirty men, chiefly officers, to conduct me up Jackson's River along the range of forts. With this small company of irregulars, with whom order, regularity, circumspection, and vigilance, were matters of derision and contempt, we set out, and, by the protection of Providence, reached Augusta courthouse in seven days, without meeting the enemy; otherwise we
must have been sacrificed by the indiscretion of these hooping, hallooing, gentlemen soldiers. This jaunt afforded me great opportunity of seeing the bad regulation of the militia, the disorderly proceedings of the garrisons, and the unhappy circumstances of the inhabitants.
“ First, of the militia.--The difficulty of collecting them on any emergency whatever, I have spoken of as grievous; and appeal to sad experience, both in this and other countries, to attest how great a disadvantage it is ; the enemy having every opportunity to plunder, kill, and escape, before they can afford any assistance. And, not to mention the general expensiveness of their service, I can instance several cases where a captain, lieutenant, and, I may add, an ensign, with two or three sergeants, have gone upon duty with only six or eight men. The proportion of expense in this case is so unjust and obvious, that your honour cannot want it to be proved. Then, these men, when raised, are to be continued only one month on duty, half of which time is lost in marching out and returning. Those from the adjacent counties especially, must be on duty some time before they reach their stations. By these means double sets of men are in pay at the same time, and for the same service.
“ Again :--the waste of provisions they make is unaccountable. No method or order is observed in serving it out to them, or in purchasing it at the best rates; but quite the reverse. Allowance to each man, as to other soldiers, they look upon as the highest indignity; and would sooner starve than carry a few days provisions on their backs for convenience: but upon
their march, when breakfast is wanted, they knock down the CHAP. I. first ox, or other animal they meet with, and, after regaling upon it, march on till dinner, when they take the same method, and so for supper likewise, to the great oppression of the people. Or, if they chance to impress cattle for provision, the valuation is left to neighbours, who have themselves suffered by these practices, and, despairing of their pay, exact high prices. Thus the public is imposed upon at all events.
“ I might add, I believe, that for the want of proper laws to govern the militia, for I cannot ascribe it to any other cause, they are obstinate, self-willed, perverse, of little or no service to the people, and very burthensome to the country. Every mean individual has his own crude notion of things, and must undertake to direct. If his advice be neglected, he thinks himself slighted, abased, and injured, and, to redress his wrongs, will depart for his home.
“ These, sir, are literally matters of fact, partly from persons of undoubted veracity, but chiefly from my own observations.
“ Secondly, concerning the garrisons. I found them very weak from want of men, but more so from indolence and irregularity. I saw none in a posture of defence, and few that might not be surprised with the greatest ease. An instance of this appeared at Dickenson's Fort, where the Indians ran down, caught several children that were playing under the walls, and had got to the gate before they were discovered. Was not Vass's Fort surprised, and a good many souls lost in the same manner? They keep no guards but just when the enemy is
CHAP. I. about, and they are under fearful apprehensions of them; nor
ever stir out of the forts, from the time they reach them, till relieved at the expiration of their month ; at which time they march off, be the consequence what it may. So that the enemy may ravage the country, and they not the wiser. Of the ammunition they are as careless as of the provisions, firing it away frequently at targets for wagers. On our journey, as we approached one of the forts, we heard a quick fire for several minutes; and, concluding certainly that they were attacked, we marched in the best manner to their relief: but when we came up we found them diverting themselves at marks. These men afford no assistance to the unhappy settlers driven from their plantations, either in securing their harvests or gathering their corn. Of the many forts I passed by, there was but one or two where the captain was at his post. They were generally absent on their own business, and had given leave to several of their men to be absent likewise: yet these persons, I will venture to say, will charge the country their full month's pay.
“ Thirdly, the wretched and unhappy situation of the inhabitants needs but few words, after a slight reflection on the preceding circumstances, which, without speedy redress, must necessarily draw after them very melancholy consequences. They are truly sensible of their misery. They feel their insecurity whilst depending upon militia, who are slow in coming to their assistance, indifferent about their preservation, unwilling to continue, and regardless of every thing but their own ease. In short, they are so affected by approaching ruin, that the whole back country is in a general motion towards the southern colonies ; and I expect that scarcely a family will inhabit Frede