National Geographic : 1953 Jun
George Washington's Travels, Traced on the Arrowsmith Map T HAT so many cities and towns can say "George Washington slept here" is not surprising, for the Father of his Coun try was the most widely traveled American official of his age. The real wonder is that he survived the perils of his many journeys. If Washington in his declining years had traced his trips on paper, he might have used the Aaron Arrowsmith map of 1795, the best picture of the United States at that time. Here the National Geographic Society's car tographers have redrawn the Arrowsmith map to improve its legibility and added the routes of Washington's most important travels. Slept on "Fodder or Bairskin" Sixteen-year-old George began his travels in 1748 with the first of several surveying trips along the Potomac and its tributaries. Eating in frontier homes, the young sur veyor observed that "there was neither a Cloth upon ye Table nor a knife to eat with." Often he slept "before the fire upon a Little Hay Straw Fodder or bairskin." One night his straw bed caught fire. Later, when Virginia's Governor Dinwiddie needed an agent to deliver the royal colony's demand that the French quit encroaching on its claims in the Ohio Basin (pages 758-759), he selected 21-year-old Washington as the ablest diplomat and frontiersman for the job. Nearly 500 miles of trackless forests and un predictable Indians lay between the young man and his goal. Little could Washington guess that the mes sage he carried would touch off war between England and France and lead to his own coun try's fight for freedom. At Logs Town, a French trading post (the present Legionville, Pennsylvania), Washing ton met the Oneida chief, Half King, so called because he could be overruled by the Six Na tions. The Virginian persuaded Half King to desert his French allies for the British. Joined by Half King and a few warriors, Washington marched to French headquarters at Fort Le Boeuf, now Waterford. There he delivered the Governor's demand that the French depart and received their firm refusal. While Washington eyed the future enemy's war materiel, the courteous but crafty French commander wooed Half King. As Washing ton noted, the Frenchman exerted "every artifice which he could invent to set our own Indians at Variance with us." When Virginians and Indians rode out of the fort, some Frenchmen followed in canoes, offering firewater; but, as Christopher Gist, Washington's guide, observed, "we had the pleasure of seeing the French overset, and the brandy and wine floating in the creek." Washington had another narrow escape when an Indian guide treacherously fired at him from 15 paces. Rather than slay the man, the Virginian got rid of him by a ruse and, though fatigued, marched all night to throw the assassin off the trail. To cross the "Allegeny" River, which they expected to find frozen, the Colonials were forced to build a raft. "We were Half Wax over," their leader wrote, [when] "we were jammed in the Ice ... we expected every Mo ment our Raft to sink, and ourselves to perish. Jerked... into ten Feet [of] Water ... I for tunately saved myself by catching hold of one of the Raft Logs." Washington next became a lieutenant colo nel in the Virginia militia and headed into wilderness and battle. Building Fort Neces sity as a counter to France's new Fort Du quesne (now Pittsburgh), Washington and 400 green troops stood siege by 900 French regulars and Indians. They surrendered fort and cannon on July 3, 1754, but marched out the next morning as free men. Washington made his next campaign as aide-de-camp to General Braddock, who in 1755 set out on his disastrous expedition against Fort Duquesne. On the march north the Virginian caught such a violent fever that he abandoned horse for covered wagon. "I)r. James's Powders," which Braddock prescribed and Washington praised as "the most excellent medicine in the World," left him recovered in two weeks. Four Bullet Holes in His Tunic "Very low and weak," Washington joined Braddock the day before the British rout near Fort Duquesne. There, he wrote, "We have been beaten, most shamefully beaten, by a handful of Men." Although death was level ing his companions on every side, Washington escaped with four bullet holes in his coat. Brilliant in defeat, Washington led the survivors out of the French trap. He buried Braddock, who succumbed to wounds, be neath an open road to conceal the grave. Named Commander in Chief of the Revo lutionary forces in 1775, General Washington traveled with his army for the next eight years (map insets, pages 758-759). Victory achieved, he went home to become a private citizen and "move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my Fathers." But soon he pushed west again to tend to his properties and to look for easy links between navigable waters of the Atlantic and Ohio River slopes. Elected President, Washington in 1789 made a triumphal swing as far north as Kittery, Maine. Two years later he toured the South to Savannah, Georgia. Death, which he eluded so often, ended his travels in 1799.