In the interests of authenticity - one of the prime moving forces that motivates Archiving Early America - we decided to use the actual spelling, punctuation, and capitalization used by Washington in writing his Journal. During the actual transcription (and deciphering!) process, we have on occasion had to resort to biographical sourcebooks for corroboration. While helpful, it became all too apparent that the mere passage of 50 or 60 years from authorship had already taken its grammatical toll on the various places and personalities that activate Washington's expedition. Nonetheless, we believe this text version is as close to a mirror version of the original as possible.
The first paragraph that follows is the editor's preface to the March 21, 1754, issue of the Maryland Gazette. We thought we would include it, along with Washington's "advertisement," so-called, as they both set the stage for the Journal itself.
Major George Washington's Journal to the River Ohio
The following text was taken from Archiving Early America, George Washington's journal as transcribed from The Maryland Gazette. This was the first appearance of the complete text of George Washington's journal describing his journey to the Ohio. The text was transcribed directly from two issues of the Maryland Gazette (March 21 and March 28, 1754), the first American printing of the journal in a newspaper.
The Storm arising in the West, being the present Topic of Conversation, we think that we can not oblige our Readers, at this Juncture, with anything more entertaining than Major Washington's Journal to Ohio, who was sent last Fall, by the Governor of Virginia, to the Commandant of the French Forces there. (Major Washington introduces his Journal with an Advertisement, with which we likewise present our Readers). From a Copy just Printed in Williamsburg.
As it was thought adviseable by his Honour the Governor to have the following Account of my Proceedings to and from the French on Ohio, committed to Print, I think I can do no less than apologize, in some Measure, for the numberless Imperfections of it. There interspersed but one Day between my Arrival in Williamsburg 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 emply 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, or 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.
Wednesday, October 31, 1753
I was commissioned and appointed by the Honourable Robert Dinwiddie, Esq, Governor, Etc. 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 Fredericksburg, and engaged Mr. Jacob Van Braam, to be my French Interpreter; and proceeded with him to Alexandria, where we provided Necessaries; from whence we went to Winchester, and got luggage, Horse, Etc. and from thence we pursued the new Road to Wills Creek, where we arrived the 14th of November.
Here I engaged Mr. Gist to pilot us out, and also hired four others as Servitors, Barnaby Currin, and John MacQuire, Indian Traders, Henry Steward, and William Jenkins, and in Company with those Persons, left the Inhabitants the Day following. The excessive Rains and vast Quantity of Snow that had fallen, prevented our reaching Mr. Frazier's, an Indian Trader, at the Mouth of Turtle rock, on Monongahela, till Thursday, the 22nd, we were informed here, that Expresses were sent a few days ago to the Traders down the River, to acquaint them with the French General's 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 Monongahela with our Baggage, to meet us at the Forks at Ohio, about 10 miles, to cross Allegany. As I got down before the Canoe, I spent some time in viewing the Rivers, and the Land in this Fork, 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; Allegany 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 Obis Company intended to erect a Fort, lives Shingiss, King of the Delawares; we call'd upon him, to invite him to Council at the Loggs Town. As I had taken a good deal of Notice Yesterday of the Situation of 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 Ohio, and have the entire command of 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 Expense, than at the other Places.------
Nature has well contrived the 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, making a sufficient Fortification there.--- The whole Flat upon the Hill must be taken in, or the Side next the Descent made extremely high; or else the Hill cut away; Otherwise, the Enemy may raise Batteries within that Distance without being expos'd 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 Monacatoocha (as the Half King was out at his hunting Cabbin on little Beaver Creek, about 15 miles off) who inform'd 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, and a Twill 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 Well 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 of ten Frenchmen that deserted from a Company at the Cuscuscus, which lies at the Mouth of this River; I got the following Account from them. They were sent from New Orleans with 100, and 8 Canoe Loads of Provisions to this Place; where they expected to have met the same Number of Men, from the Forts this Side Lake Erie, to convoy them and the Stores up, who were not arrived when they ran off. I enquired into the Situation of the French, on the Misssissippi, 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, 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 Fort on the Ohio, at the Mouth of the Obaish, 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 Shawnee-Town with one Brown, an Indian Trader, and were going to Philadelphia.
About 3 o'Clock this evening the Half King came to Town; I went up and I invited him and Davisan, privately, to my Tent, and desir'd him to relate some of the Particulars of his Journey to the French Commandant, and Reception there; and 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 miry Savannas, that we must be obliged to go by Venango, and should not get to the near Fort under 5 or 6 Night's 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 of all 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 that 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 Obstreperous. 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 great 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 to 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 Arms 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 Sharers 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 said 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 Mosquitos, 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 backed 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 Back of my Nail yours; I saw that Land sooner than you did, before the Shannoahs and you were at War; Lead was the Man that 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 Englaish (mocking). If People will be ruled by me, they may expect Kindness, but not else.
The Half King told me he enquired of the General after two Englishmen that 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, and another on French Creek, near a small Lake about 15 Miles asunder, and a large Wagogon 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 a Boy it was that was taken from the South Branch; for they had, by some Indians, heard that a Party of French Indians had carried a white Boy by the Caseusea Town, Towards the Lakes.
26th, We met in Council at the Long-House about 9 o'Clock, where I spoke to them as fellows:
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 destined, 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 this far on my Journey.
His Honor 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 safeguard against those French Indians who have taken up the hatchet against us. I have spoken thus particularly to you, brothers, because his Honor, 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 brother, in regard to what my brother, the governor, had desired of 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 endeavor to be your guard.
'Brother, as you have asked my advice, I hope you will be ruled by it, and stay until I can provide a company to go with you. The French speech-belt is not here; I have to go for it to my Hunting-Cabin. Likewise, the people whom I have ordered in are not yet come, and cannot until the third night from this; until which time, brother, I must beg you to stay.
'I intend to send a Guard of Mingoes, Shannoahs, and Delawares, that our brothers may see the love and loyalty we bear them.'
As I had orders to make all possible Dispatch, and waiting here was very contrary to my inclination, 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 befall us, and draw a Relexion 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 Shannoahs 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 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 that I met with at Frazier's, which they had sent with a Speech to his Honour the Governour, to inform him, that three Nations of French Indians , viz. Chippeways, Ottoways, and Orundacks, had taken up the Hatchet against the English, and desired them to repeat it over again, which they postponed doing till they met in full Council with the Shannoahs and Delaware Chiefs.
27th, Runners were 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 Monacatoocha, and two other Sachems to my Tent; and begged (as they had complied with his Honour the Governor's Request, in> providing Men, Etc.) 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, and which allayed their Curiosity a little. Monacatoocha informed me, that an Indian from Venango brought News, a few Days ago, that the French had called all the Mingos, Delawares 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 they might assuredly expect them in the Spring, with a far greater Number; and desired that they might be quite passive, and apt to intermeddle, unless they has 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 if they should prove equally strong, that they and the English would join to cut them all off, and divide the land between them; that tho' 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 their Interpreter in Chief, living at Venango, and a Man of Note in the Army.
29th, The Half-King and Monacatoocha came very early, and begged me to stay one Day more, for notwithstanding they had used all the Diligence in their Power, the Shannoah Chiefs had not brought the Wampum they ordered, but would certainly be in Tonight; if not, they would delay me no longer, but would send it after us as soon 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 Dependence upon the French, I consented to stay, as I believe 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 Custaloga, one of their Chiefs at Venango. In the Evening late they came again and acquainted me that the Shannoahs were not yet come, but it should not retard the Prosecution of our Journey. He delivered in my Hearing the Speeched 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 Casalega, 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 Jeskakuke 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 which 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.
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 Logg-Town, but more than 70 the Way we were obliged to go. We found the French colours hoisted at a House which they drove Mr. John Frazier, an English Subject, from; 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 ther Ohio, but that there was a General Officer at the near Fort, which he advised me to 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 appear'd 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 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 LaSalle 60 Years ago; and the Rise of this expedition is, to prevent our Settling on the River or Waters of it, as they have heard of some Families moving out in Order thereto. From the best Intelligence I could get, there have been 1500 Men on this 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 thereabouts in each, the first of which 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 greatest part of their Stores are kept, about 15 Miles from the other; from that it is 120 Miles to the carrying Place, at the Falls of Lake Erie, where there is a small Fort which they lodge their goods at, in bringing them in from Montreal, the Place that all their Stores come from: The next Fort lies about 20 Miles from this, on Ontario Lake; between this Fort and Montreal there are three others, the first 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, that they can cross the Lake; but if they come in Canoes it will require 5 or 6 Weeks, for they are oblig'd to keep under the Shore.