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American Heritage: A mid-winter journey

Published 10:29pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The British were concerned about the French gaining a possible advantage and control of territory thought to belong to the British within Virginia territory.

At this time, George Washington was an adjutant general for the southern district of Virginia, with the rank of major. When he heard that Dinwiddie was preparing to send men into the area to check things out he volunteered to take charge of the expedition. His desire to lead this expedition was granted.

Dinwiddie gave Washington a letter to show that he was representing Dinwiddie and acting under his authority. Washington was to get a full explanation from the French commander for what they were doing in this area.

While on this expedition, he was supposed to get as much intelligence as possible concerning the size of the French forces and where they had their main forces located.

Washington headed for the French encampments on Oct. 31, 1753. With him, he took an interpreter by the name of Jacob Vanbraam, who was Dutch, a guide named Christopher Gist and four other men.

Since waterways were very important to normal transportation and transportation of commerce, Washington was especially interested in recording everything he saw on his journey. His experience as a surveyor really came in handy. He noted information concerning areas along the rivers that would be good places to establish forts, etc. He was a man who considered maintaining a precise journal on much of what he did and it was a great asset for future references.

Washington made his journey in midwinter at age 21. It was a difficult journey. The waters were high and the snow was deep, which he mentioned in one of his journal entries, but he finally arrived at a small trading post at the mouth of Turtle Creek, 10 miles from what is now known as Pittsburgh.

We will continue in our next article.

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