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George Washington's First Military Loss

 The Battle of Great Meadows and Capitulation of Fort Necessity

Article Compares Favorable View of Expedition In Virginia Gazette to the Formal Articles of Capitulation

Embarrassing Account Provided Strong Incentive for Washington to Recoup Military Reputation 22 Years Later

This is a very interesting and historic issue which may explain George Washington's later ambitious quest for military honor and vindication.  George Washington was a subscriber to Gentleman's Magazine and was likely humiliated by what was said in this issue. Twenty Two years later he appeared in full military uniform at the Continental Congress and was appointed Commander in Chief of the newly created Continental Army. The Washington article in this issue starts by explaining that Colonel Washington "defeated a party of French that had been dispatched to intercept some provisions" and then gives the account of the Battle of Great Meadows that appeared in the Virginia Gazette, which characterized the end of the battle as a mutual withdrawal of forces.  But the article then goes on to state that the Gazette account "does not at all agree with the following articles of capitulation" which it provides in full text.  And then in words that must have been seared into Washington's mind for the rest of his life, the article states:

"By the title of this capitulation, and the general tenor of the articles it appears that Washington was not in trenches, but in a fort, which is called Fort Necessity; his men are called the garrison, and the French forces a blockade.  It appears too, that what he terms calling a parley, was offering a capitulation; and that the French consider the defeat of their party upon pretence that it was about to intercept some provisions going to our camp, as an act of unjustifiable violence against the bearer of a citation, the Sieur Jumonville, whose death they term an assassination."  (emphasis in original)

Washington in these articles of capitulation thus admits that he assassinated a diplomat!  Washington later stated there was a problem with translation and he did not know he was signing a document that made any such admission, which is undoubtedly true. One historical account, Robert Leckie in "George Washington's War" states that "George Washington did not return to a hero's welcome in Virginia. Although his friends among the burgesses stood by him, it was widely bruited about, both in the province and in the Mother Country, that he had admitted murder to save his life. Washington indignantly denied the charge, trying to explain that he spoke no French and had relied on va Braam's supposed skill in that language." It was surely an episode that Washington remembered the rest of his life and reading the Gentleman's Magazine account in his library at Mount Vernon must have greatly upset him. Below are some pictures of portions of the article.

Below is the table of contents for this issue with a diverse selection of articles.

Below is a picture of a full page copper plate showing a heart, some coins  and a plant and the title page of this issue.

This issue contains an important historical account of George Washington's first major military encounter, which ended in failure and humiliation. Washington was denied an appropriate commission in the British regular army during the French and Indian War that followed, probably in part as a result of this incident and despite his great bravery and leadership demonstrated during General Braddock's defeat before Fort Duquesne a year later. Thus he returned to Mount Vernon in disgust before the end of the war. He did not fully restore his military honor until he decisively defeated the British at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. In his defeat at Fort Necessity were probably the seeds of his victory in the American Revolutionary War.

Price: $250

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