Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man. — John Cardinal Newman

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Washington's First Battle

When the Virginians learned that the French had driven their men away from the forks of the Ohio, and had taken possession of the fort they had just begun, they were naturally very angry. Seeing that they would lose all claim to the land unless they drove the French away, they now determined to raise enough men and money to equip an army. Before long, therefore, Washington was sent out with about three hundred men, and he was busy erecting a small breastwork (called Fort Necessity) at Great Meadows, when he heard that the French were near there.

Setting out immediately, he surprised and defeated this force; but learning that more troops were coming, he prudently retreated to Fort Necessity, at Great Meadows, which he once described as "a charming field for an encounter." Here the French and Indians soon attacked him in such numbers that, in spite of his valor, he was forced to surrender, on July 4, 1754. Washington's men had behaved so bravely that the French allowed them to march out with the honors of war; that is, taking their flag and their arms with them.

In describing this battle, Washington is reported to have said: "I heard the bullets whistle, and believe me, there is something charming in the sound." But later on, when he had seen what a sad thing war really is, and some one asked if he had ever said this, he quietly answered: "If I said so, it was when I was young!"

When Washington and his troops came back to Virginia after the battle at Great Meadows, the colonies saw that the French were fully determined to leave them no land west of the Alleghanies. They had felt so sure of this that a few weeks before the battle they sent men to Albany to discuss how they could best resist their enemies, and keep what they claimed as their own.

Still, in one sense, neither French nor English had any right to this land, for as a bewildered Indian chief remarked when he first heard of the dispute: "If the French claim all the land north of the river, and the English all the land south of it, where is the land of the Indians?"


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell