By the time Washington was twenty-one he had grown to be over six feet in height. He was straight as an arrow and tough as a whip-lash. He had keen blue eyes that seemed to look into the very heart of things, and his fist was like a blacksmith's sledgehammer. He knew all about the woods, all about Indians, and he could take care of himself anywhere.
At this time the English settlers held the country along the seashore as far back as the Alleghany Mountains. West of those mountains the French from Canada were trying to get possession of the land. They had made friends with many of the Indians, and they hoped, with their help, to be able to drive out the English and get the whole country for themselves.
In order to hold this land in the west, the French had built several forts south of Lake Erie, and they were getting ready to build some on the Ohio River. The governor of Virginia was determined to put a stop to this. He had given young Washington the military title of major; he now sent Major Washington to see the French commander at one of the forts near Lake Erie. Washington was to tell the Frenchman that he had built his forts on land belonging to the English, and that he and his men must either leave or fight.
Major Washington dressed himself like an Indian, and attended by several friendly Indians and by a white man named Gist, who knew the country well, he set out on his journey through what was called the Great Woods.
The entire distance to the farthest fort and back was about a thousand miles. Washington could go on horseback part of the way, but there were no regular roads, and he had to climb mountains and swim rivers. After several weeks' travel he reached the fort, but the French commander refused to give up the land. He said that he and his men had come to stay, and that if the English did not like it, they must fight.
On the way back, Washington had to leave his horses and come on foot with Gist and an Indian guide sent from the fort. This Indian guide was in the pay of the French, and he intended to murder Washington in the woods. One day he shot at him from behind a tree, but luckily did not hit him. Then Washington and Gist managed to get away from him, and set out to go back to Virginia by themselves. There were no paths through the thick forest; but Washington had his compass with him, and with that he could find his way just as the captain of a ship finds his at sea. When they reached the Alleghany River they found it full of floating ice. They worked all day and made a raft of logs. As they were pushing their way across with poles, Washington's pole was struck by a big piece of ice which he says jerked him out into water ten feet deep. At length the two men managed to get to a little island, but as there was no wood on it, they could not make a fire. The weather was bitterly cold, and Washington, who was soaked to the skin, had to take his choice between walking about all night, or trying to sleep on the frozen ground in his wet clothes.
When Major Washington got back to Virginia, the governor made him colonel. With a hundred and fifty men, Colonel Washington was ordered to set out for the west. He was to "make prisoners, kill or destroy," all Frenchmen who should try to get possession of land on the Ohio River. He built a small log fort, which he named Fort Necessity. Here the French attacked him. They had five men to his one. Colonel Washington fought like a man who liked to hear the bullets whistle past his ears,—as he said he did,—but in the end he had to give up the fort.
Then General Braddock, a noted English soldier, was sent over to Virginia by the king to drive the French out of the country. He started with a fine army, and Washington went with him. He told General Braddock that the French and the Indians would hide in the woods and fire at his men from behind trees. But Braddock paid no attention to the warning. On his way through the forest, the brave English general was suddenly struck down by the enemy, half of his army were killed or wounded, and the rest put to flight. Washington had two horses shot under him, and four bullets went through his coat. It was a narrow escape for the young man. One of those who fought in the battle said, "I expected every moment to see him fall"—but he was to live for greater work.
The war with the French lasted a number of years. It ended by the English getting possession of the whole of America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. All this part of America was ruled by George the Third, king of England. The king now determined to send over more soldiers, and keep them here to prevent the French in Canada from trying to get back the country they had lost. He wanted the people here in the thirteen colonies to pay the cost of keeping these soldiers. But this the people were not willing to do, because they felt that they were able to protect themselves without help of any kind. Then the king said, If the Americans will not give the money, I will take it from them by force,—for pay it they must and shall. This was more than the king would have dared say about England; for there, if he wanted money to spend on his army, he had to ask the people for it, and they could give it or not as they thought best. The Americans said, We have the same rights as our brothers in England, and the king cannot force us to give a single copper against our will. If he tries to take it from us, we will fight. Some of the greatest men in England agreed with us, and said that they would fight, too, if they were in our place.
Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper: