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American Heritage: Washington documents fort

Published 11:01pm Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Having arrived at Fort Le Boeuf and having given Dinwiddie’s letter to the commander, Washington was allowed to visit throughout the fort at will. The French officers went with the commander and reviewed the letter.

As had been the case along his journey, he decided to make some sketches of the fort and also noted significant placement of weapons. He also noted the size and location of the main buildings of the compound.

According to his journal, he was unable to ascertain the exact number of the personnel in the fort, but he estimated the number at 100-plus officers. He also noted the count of 220 canoes available to move the troops in the spring.

On Dec. 14, Washington received the answer to Dinwiddie’s letter. But, again, his journey would be put on hold. Half-King decided he wanted to stay with the French, probably persuaded by the free-flow of alcohol available to him, along with guns.

Finally, George had enough, and on the 16th, they were on their way home. They took a canoe trip down a narrow, rock-filled river. The ice cover and ice flows also presented a hazard.

After a treacherous six-day trip, they arrived back at Venango. At that point, they took a day to rest. Washington got ready to leave for home. But, Half-King said he was sick and needed a couple days to get over his illness. But Washington would not buy that and, on the next day, he was on his way.

This time, the travel conditions were so bad that horses were no longer usable. George and Christopher Gist went on and left Vanbraam, the baggage and the horses behind.

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