|Colonial American History Stories - 1753 - 1763|
Dinwiddie Becomes Concerned
The French had established colonies along the St. Lawrence River in Canada and at the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. They desired the Ohio River Valley region so they could connect the two regions by water. In 1749, the French had sent Pierre-Joseph Celeron de Blainville on the Lead Plate Expedition. Blainville had buried lead or copper plates at the mouths of all the major rivers they encountered on their route down the Allegheny, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. By the early 1750, the French began building a string of forts in the region to establish control. The forts were, in order of their establishment, Fort Presque Isle, Fort Leboef and Fort Machault along the Allegheny River. Their actions created friction with the British. Royal charters granted to Virginia and other colonies had extended their claims from the eastern seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie had extensive real estate holdings in the Ohio River Valley region. French and British fur traders quarreled over trading rights with the natives. The Ohio Company, to which George Washington had ties, had also begun exploring the area. The conflicting claims led to increasing tensions between the two powerful nations.
Washington Given an Important Mission
Dinwiddie had sent one mission to the region that fell 150 miles short of reaching their goal of Fort Le Boeuf in northwest Pennsylvania. He had heard of George Washington and suspected he might be up to the task of completing the arduous mission. He contacted Washington and instructed him to go to Willis Creek (Maryland), where the Ohio Company maintained a supply warehouse. He was to hire Christopher Gist to use as a guide and then procure porters to carry the goods. Dinwiddie had written a letter to the French commander of Fort Le Boeuf, demanding that the French halt their incursions into the area. Washington's orders further stated that, after he had acquired supplies and porters, he was to proceed to Logstown, an Amerindian settlement along the Ohio River to hold council with the natives living there.
Washington traveled to Willis Creek as instructed and gathered his men and supplies. On October 31, 1753, George Washington set off on his first important military mission.
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