During the Winter of 1753, a young George Washington laid eyes
on what is now Western Pensylvania for the first time. He was
21 years old and had recently attained the rank of Major in the
Virginia Militia. This was to be his first military adventure
-- a seemingly routine mission as envoy. Governor Dinwiddie of
Virginia had appointed Washington to deliver a message to the
French Commander in the wild disputed lands of the Ohio Country
and return with a French response.
Washinton gathered six men for the expedition, with Christopher
Gist as its guide and Jacob Vanraam as French interpreter. Snow
and bad weather hindered travel. On November 22nd, they arrived
at the mouth of Turtle Creek on the Monongahela River. There,
an English Trader loaned them a canoe to transport their baggage
to the forks of the Ohio, a 10 mile distance, where they might
be able to swim unladen horses across the Allegheny River.
Quotes from Washington's journal:
"As I got down before the canoe, I spent some time in viewing
the Rivers, and the land in the fork, which I think extremely
well situated for a fort, as it has absolute command of both Rivers.The
land at the Point is 20 or 25 feet above the common surface of
the water, and a considerable bottom of flat well-timbered land
all around it, very convenient for building."
This trip would prove to be a difficult 900 mile venture. Twice
Washington escaped death, traveling through territory that he
would soon visit again -- and again confront the French and their
allied Natives. Although shot by at indian and surviving a frigid
night on an island, after falling into the icy Allegheny River,
the young Major completed his mission.