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Hess: Washington makes another tough call

Published 3:53pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

American Heritage: Did You Know?

By Bob Hess

We now see things looking a bit brighter for Lieutenant Colonel Washington.

Reinforcements are arriving along with weapons and supplies. But with the supplies and weapons came a Capt. James Mackay who had a royal commission.

He was the commander of an independent company of British regulars from South Carolina.

Capt. Mackay did not feel that he should submit himself to a man who had only been “appointed” as a lieutenant colonel.

Relations were strained, but Colonel Washington continued with the mission of finishing the road through the wilderness to make things a bit easier for the reinforcements that he expected to arrive.

The project was costly. Horses died because of how hot it was and the heavy burden of the work that was being required of them. Men had to do the work of the dead horses.

Equipment breakdowns added to the problems that Washington faced on this mission. But, their efforts soon paid off.

They finally arrived at Washington’s friend, Gist’s, location, which was about 12 miles from his fort, Fort Necessity. The problem that the Colonel faced, however, was that he was low on supplies and had no idea of when, or even if, more supplies would arrive.

Besides this, Washington only had an army of 400 less-than-qualified and equipped men for the task that was not too far in his future.

Now the news came. The French and their Indian friends were on their way, 1,000 in number. Colonel Washington had to make a decision.

Should he stay where he was, or should he return to Fort Necessity?

He decided to make the three-day journey back to the Fort. He was short on supplies of food and no reinforcements had arrived. It was now July 1. Washington’s troops were worn out. Should he retreat? Or, should he stay and fight?

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