At the age of twenty-one Washington was selected by Gov. Dinwiddie to visit the hostile French and Indians and endeavor to induce them to withdraw from the frontiers and smoke the pipe of peace. The mission was one of great peril. His path lay through a dense wilderness for four hundred miles infested by wild savages and beasts more wild than them. He arrived at Fort Du Quesne in safety. Whilst the French commandant was writing an answer to the governor, Washington took the dimensions of the fortress unobserved by any one. He then returned home unmolested and unharmed by any accident. Peace was not desired by the red men. It was necessary to raise a regiment of troops to repel the murderous invaders. Washington was invested with the commission of Colonel and took the command. He marched, in April 1754, upon the track he had pursued when he visited the fort previously. On his way he surprised and captured a number of the enemy. When he arrived at the Great Meadows he erected a small stockade fort and appropriately named it Fort Necessity. Here he was reinforced swelling his little army to four hundred men. He then contemplated an attack upon Fort Du Quesne, situated at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers forming the Ohio and the present site of the iron city of Pittsburgh. He now learned that the French and Indians, to the number of fifteen hundred, were advancing upon him. The attack was commenced with great fury and continued for several hours when the French commander offered liberal terms of capitulation and gladly permitted the young champion and his brave Virginians to march away unmolested. This brilliant achievement placed Washington high on the scale of eminence, as a bold, skilful and prudent military officer. It occurred on the 4th of July--a happy prelude to the glorious 4th of July 1776.
The ensuing year another expedition was sent against Fort Du Quesne of about two thousand troops under command of the unfortunate Braddock who had more courage than prudence--more self-conceit than wisdom. He spurned the advice of the "beardless boy" and rushed into an ambush where he and near one-half of his men met the cold embrace of the king of terrors. The enemy consisted of only five hundred French and Indians secreted in three ravines forming a triangle. In this triangle of death Braddock formed his men and remained until he had five horses killed under him and was mortally wounded. During all this time not one of the enemy could be seen. One hundred native Virginians with fixed bayonets and led by Washington would have routed them in ten minutes. I speak from the record as I have examined every rod of the ground. After the fall of Braddock Washington saved the survivors under Col. Dunbar by a judicious retreat. He had warned the British General of his danger who spurned the "beardless boy." At a subsequent period he negotiated a peace with the Indians on the frontiers and was voted the thanks of mother Britain.
Unwilling to again witness such a waste of human life Washington resigned his military command and retired to his peaceful home. Shortly after this he was elected to the legislature and was highly esteemed as a wise, discriminating legislator--exhibiting a mind imbued with philanthropy and liberal principles guided by a sound discretion and cultivated intellect adorned with a retiring modesty too rare in men of talent at the present day. From this field of labor he entered one of greater magnitude, of vaster importance--one big with events involving consequences of the most thrilling interest to his country and himself. He was elected to the Congress of 1774. The solemnity that pervaded the opening ceremony of that august assembly has been before portrayed. During the opening prayer, Washington only was upon his knees, imitating the attitude of his pious mother in her earnest appeals to the throne of Grace. On all occasions his mind seems to have reached from earth to Heaven. He seemed to dwell in the bosom of his God. Devoted, unsophisticated, humble, relying piety marked his whole course of life--a piety sincere in its motives, consistent in its exhibitions and illumined by the refulgent sunbeams of living charity. He was returned to the next Congress and took his seat little anticipating the mighty work in reserve for him. On the memorable 19th of April 1775, American blood was again made to leap from its fountain by order of Major Pitcairn on the heights of Lexington. Justice looked at the purple current as it flowed and sighed. Mercy carried the tragic news to the ethereal skies--the eagle of LIBERTY heard the mournful story--descended in a stream of liquid fire--planted the torch of freedom in the serum of the murdered patriots and bid eternal defiance to the British lion. The alarm spread with lightning rapidity. It was sounded from church bells and signal guns--echo carried it from hills to dales, from sire to son. Vengeance was roused from its lair--the hardy yoemanry left their ploughs in the furrow--the merchant rushed from his counting house, the professional man from his office, the minister from his glebe, shouldered their rusty muskets and with powder horn and slug hastened to the scene of action determined to avenge the blood of slaughtered brethren, maintain their chartered rights or perish in the attempt.