J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

The Washingtons and George Muse

George Muse (1720-1790) was born in England and moved to Virginia sometime in his youth. He took part in the 1741 British expedition against Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, led by Adm. Edward Vernon.

Another participant in that campaign was Lawrence Washington, who went home to Virginia and named his slave-labor plantation “Mount Vernon” after the admiral. In 1743 the royal governor appointed Washington adjutant general, or chief administrator, of the Virginia militia, and George Muse became one of his deputies.

When Lawrence Washington died in 1752, his little half-brother George applied to succeed him as adjutant general. The fact that George wasn’t yet even of legal age didn’t discourage him, but it was surely a factor for Gov. Robert Dinwiddie. He found a solution that meant more men would owe him favors: he broke up Virginia into districts and appointed adjutants for each. Among the new district adjutants were George Washington and George Muse.

In the spring of 1754, Dinwiddie made young Washington a lieutenant colonel and sent him out to the west to protect Virginia claims against French and Native forces. Another of the top officers on this expedition was Muse, ranked as a major—an interesting dynamic since Muse was more than a decade older.

That campaign ended at Fort Necessity. Lt. Col. Washington made a lot of strategic mistakes, but Maj. Muse hurt his reputation even more. A soldier on the expedition named James Wood wrote:
Wed. morn. 3 July about 9 oClock, an Indian arrived informed them the French and Indians were within 4 miles. in the greatest Confusion fell to diging Trenches[.] abt 11. We drew up on the parade saw the French and Indians coming down a hill We marched to take possession of a Point of Woods

Muse called to halt the French would take possession of Our Fort and Trenches ran back in the utmost Confusion happy he that could get into the Fort first
Landon Carter later recorded in his diary that Muse
instead of bringing up the 2d division to make the Attack with the first, he marched them or rather frightened them back into the trenches, so that the Colo. [Washington] at the head of the Carolina Independent Company was greatly exposed to the French Fire and were forced to retire to the same trenches, where they were galled on All sides by 1,100 French and Indians who never came to an Open ground but fired from behind trees
Muse’s comrades accused him of cowardice. Dinwiddie soon learned that Muse was “not very agreeable to the other Officers.” On 3 August the governor told Washington, “Muse wrote me, & I answer’d he was welcome to resign.” Which he did.

TOMORROW: But that wasn’t the end of the story.

1 comment:

haleyc said...

So Interesting! My family now owes a farm that was given to George Muse by George Washington!!!