GW: Life & Times

Slide 3 — Man on a Mission: Diary of the Journey to a French Fort

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This image depicts Washington rowing across the Allegheny River in front of the title page and frontispiece map of The Journal of George Washington, published 1754.

Just as the demand for surveying western lands was falling, Washington found another pursuit–the royal governor of Virginia appointed him in charge of part of the militia in 1753.

That fall, Major Washington volunteered to lead an expedition to the Ohio River Valley. He was to deliver a message to the French that troops who had moved down from Canada were encroaching on British territory. According to the charter the King had granted the colony in 1609, "Virginia" extended as far as the Pacific Ocean. Tensions grew as both the British colonists and the French, eager to trade with the Indians who lived in the area, set up trading posts and the French constructed forts.

Washington's 2½-month journey was obstacle-ridden. After several delays, a group of Indians led him to the French commander of a fort near Lake Erie. The trip went downhill from there, however. The French simply dismissed the orders to stop advancing. They would eventually fight the British over rights to the region in the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

On the return trip, GW and his guide were shot at by Indians and Washington fell off a log raft into an icy river. Soon after he finally arrived in Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia, his diary was published as The Journal of Major George Washington and read widely in the colonies and in England. The twenty-one year old had established a name for himself and the beginning of his military career.

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