- Monday, October 25, 2004
The French and Indian War: Account of a British Officer
July 9, 1755
The American Indian chief looked scornfully at the soldiers on the field before him. How foolish it was to fight as they did, forming their perfect battle lines out in the open, standing shoulder to shoulder in their bright red uniforms. The British soldiers — trained for European war — did not break rank, even when braves fired at them from under the safe cover of the forest. The slaughter continued for two hours. By then 1,000 of 1,459 British soldiers were killed or wounded, while only 30 of the French and Indian warriors firing at them were injured.
Not only were the soldiers foolish, but their officers were just as bad. Riding on horseback, fully exposed above the men on the ground, they made perfect targets. One by one, the chief’s marksmen shot the mounted British officers until only one remained.
"Quick, let your aim be certain and he dies," the chief commanded. The warriors leveled their rifles at the last officer on horseback. Round after round was aimed at this one man. Twice the officer’s horse was shot out from under him. Twice he grabbed a horse left idle when a fellow officer had been shot down. Ten, twelve, thirteen rounds were fired by the sharpshooters. Still, the officer remained unhurt.
The native warriors stared at him in disbelief. Their rifles seldom missed their mark. The chief suddenly realized that a mighty power must be shielding this man. "Stop firing!" he commanded. "This one is under the special protection of the Great Spirit." A brave standing nearby added, "I had seventeen clear shots at him…and after all could not bring him to the ground. This man was not born to be killed by a bullet."
As the firing slowed, the lieutenant colonel gathered the remaining troops and led the retreat to safety. That evening, as the last of the wounded were being cared for, the officer noticed an odd tear in his coat. It was a bullet hole! He rolled up his sleeve and looked at his arm directly under the hole. There was no mark on his skin. Amazed, he took off his coat and found three more holes where bullets had passed through his coat but stopped before they reached his body.
Nine days after the battle, having heard a rumor of his own death, the young lieutenant colonel wrote his brother to confirm that he was still very much alive.
As I have heard since my arrival at this place, a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting the first and of assuring you that I have not as yet composed the latter. But by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me!
This battle, part of the French and Indian War, was fought on July 9, 1755, near Fort Duquesne, now the city of Pittsburgh. The twenty-three-year-old officer went on to become the commander in chief of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States. In all the years that followed in his long career, this man, George Washington, was never once wounded in battle.
Fifteen years later, in 1770, George Washington returned to the same Pennsylvania woods. A respected Indian chief, having heard that Washington was in the area, traveled a long way to meet with him.
He sat down with Washington, and face-to-face over a council fire, the chief told Washington the following:
I am a chief and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forests that I first beheld this chief [Washington].
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