« AnteriorContinuar »
snow for a bed, their blankets for a covering. When dawn appeared the same dubious prospect confronted them. The current of the river still swept past, loaded with broken ice.
“There is nothing for it but a raft,” said Washington, “And we have but one hatchet to aid us in making it. Let us to work.”
To work they fell, but it was sunset before the raft was completed. Not caring to spend another night where they were, they launched the raft and pushed from shore. It proved a perilous journey. Before the stream was half crossed they were so jammed in the floating ice that it seemed every moment as if their frail support would sink, and they perish in the swift current. Washington tried with his setting-pole to stop the raft and let the ice run by. His effort ended unfortunately. Such was the strength of the current that the ice was driven against the pole with a violence that swept him from his feet and hurled him into water ten feet deep. Only that chance which seems the work of destiny saved him. He fell near enough to the raft to seize one of its logs, and after a sharp scramble was up again, though dripping with icy water. They continued their efforts, but failed to reach either shore, and in the end they were obliged to spring from their weak support to an island, past which the current was sweeping the raft.
The escape was almost like the proverbial one “from the frying-pan to the fire.” The island was destitute of shelter. As the night advanced the air grew colder, and the adventurers suffered severely.
Mr. Gist had his hands and feet frozen,-a disaster which Washington, despite his wetting, fortunately escaped. The morning dawned at length. Hope returned to their hearts. The cold of the night had done one service, it had frozen the water between the island and the eastern bank of the stream. The ice bore their weight. They crossed in safety, and the same day reached a trading-post, recently formed, near the ground subsequently to be celebrated as that of Braddock's defeat.
Here they rested two or three days, Gist recovering from the effects of his freezing, Washington improving the opportunity to pay a visit to Queen Aliquippa, an Indian princess, whose palace—if we may venture to call it so—was near by. The royal lady had been angry that he had neglected her on his way out. This visit, an apology, and a present healed her wounded feelings, and disposed her to a gracious reception.
Nothing could be learned of Vanbraam and the remainder of the party. Washington could not wait for them. He hurried forward with Gist, crossed the Alleghanies to Will's Creek, and, leaving his companion there, hastened onward to Williamsburg, anxious to put his despatches in Governor Dinwiddie's hands. He reached there on January 16, having been absent eleven weeks, during which he had traversed a distance of eleven hundred miles.
What followed is matter of common history. Din widdie was incensed at St. Pierre's letter. The French had come to stay; that was plain. If the English wanted a footing in the land they must be on the alert. A party was quickly sent to the Ohio forks to build a fort, Washington having suggested this as a suitable plan. But hardly was this fort begun before it was captured by the French, who hastened to erect one for themselves on the spot..
Washington, advancing with a supporting force, met a French detachment in the woods, which he attacked and defeated. It was the opening contest of the French and Indian War.
As for Fort Duquesne, which the French had built, it gave rise to the most disastrous event of the war, the defeat of General Braddock and his army, on their march to capture it. It continued in French hands till near the end of the war, its final capture by Washington being nearly the closing event in the contest which wrested from the hands of the French all their possessions on the American continent.
SOME ADVENTURES OF MAJOR
The vicinity of the mountain-girdled, island-dotted, tourist-inviting Lake George has perhaps been the scene of more of the romance of war than any other locality that could be named. Fort Ticonderoga, on the ridge between that beautiful sheet of water and Lake Champlain, is a point vital with stirring memories, among which the striking exploit of Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain boys is of imperishable interest. Fort William Henry, at the lower end of Lake George, is memorable as the locality of one of the most nerve-shaking examples of Indian treachery and barbarity, a scene which Cooper's fruitful pen has brought well within the kingdom of romance. The history of the whole vicinity, in short, is laden with picturesque incident, and the details of fact never approached those of romantic fiction more closely than in the annals of this interesting region.
Israel Putnam, best known to us as one of the most daring heroes of the Revolution, began here his career, in the French and Indian War, as scout and ranger, and of no American frontiersman can a more exciting series of adventures be told. Some of these adventures it is our purpose here to give.
After the Fort William Henry massacre, the American forces were concentrated in Fort Edward, on the head-waters of the Hudson ; Putnam, with his corps of Rangers, occupying an outpost station, on a small island near the fort. Fearing a hostile visit from the victorious French, the commander, General Lyman, made all baste to strengthen bis defences, sending a party of a hundred and fifty men into the neighboring forest to cut timber for that purpose Captain Little, with fifty British regulars, was deputized to protect these men at their labors. This supporting party was posted on a narrow ridge leading to the fort, with a morass on one side, a creek on the other, and the forest in front.
One morning, at daybreak, a sentinel who stood on the edge of the morass, overlooking the dense thicket which filled its depths, was surprised at what seemed to him, in the hazy light, a flight of strange birds coming from the leafy hollow. One after another of these winged objects passed over his head. After he had observed them a moment or two, he saw one of them strike a neighboring tree, and cling quivering to its trunk. A glance was enough for the drowsy sentinel. He was suddenly wide awake, and his musket and voice rang instant alarm, for the bird which he had seen was a winged Indian arrow. He had been made a target for ambushed savages, eager to pick him off without alarming the party which he guarded.
A large force of Indians had crept into the morass during the night, with the hope of cutting off the laborers and the party of support. The sentinel's