In the early morning the fort was abandoned and the retreat began. The Indians had killed all the horses and cattle, and Washington’s men were so burdened with the sick and wounded, whom they were obliged to carry on their backs, that most of the baggage was perforce left behind. Even then they could march but a few miles, and then encamped to wait for wagons. The Indians increased the confusion by plundering, and threatening an attack. They knocked to pieces the medicine-chest, thus causing great distress to the wounded, two of whom they murdered and scalped. For a time there was danger of panic; but order was restored, and the wretched march began along the forest road that led over the Alleghanies, fifty-two miles to the station at Wills Creek. Whatever may have been the feelings of Washington, he has left no record of them. His immense fortitude was doomed to severer trials in the future; yet perhaps this miserable morning was the darkest of his life. He was deeply moved by sights of suffering; and all around him were wounded men borne along in torture, and weary men staggering under the living load. His pride was humbled, and his young ambition seemed blasted in the bud. It was the fourth of July. He could not foresee that he was to make that day forever glorious to a new-born nation hailing him as its father.
The defeat at Fort Necessity was doubly disastrous to the English, since it was a new step and a long one towards the ruin of their interest with the Indians; and when, in the next year, the smouldering war broke into flame, nearly all the western tribes drew their scalping-knives for France.
Villiers went back exultant to Fort Duquesne, burning on his way the buildings of Gist’s settlement and the storehouse at Redstone Creek. Not an English flag now waved beyond the Alleghanies.
[Footnote 160: See Appendix C.]
The Signal of Battle
The defeat of Washington was a heavy blow to the Governor, and he angrily ascribed it to the delay of the expected reinforcements. The King’s companies from New York had reached Alexandria, and crawled towards the scene of action with thin ranks, bad discipline, thirty women and children, no tents, no blankets, no knapsacks, and for munitions one barrel of spoiled gunpowder. The case was still worse with the regiment from North Carolina. It was commanded by Colonel Innes, a countryman and friend of Dinwiddie, who wrote to him: “Dear James, I now wish that we had none from your colony but yourself, for I foresee nothing but confusion among them.” The men were, in fact, utterly unmanageable. They had been promised three shillings a day, while the Virginians had only eightpence; and when they heard on the march that their pay was to be reduced, they mutinied, disbanded, and went home.
[Footnote 161: Dinwiddie to the Lords of Trade, 24 July, 1754. Ibid. to Delancey, 20 June, 1754.]