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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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

“Several ask me if it was true that he had Challang’d you to fight”

Yesterday I described how the battle at Fort Necessity on 3 July 1754 didn’t reflect well on Lt. Col. George Washington, but really didn’t reflect well on Maj. George Muse. Other officers accused Muse of cowardice, and he resigned in a huff.

Another officer on that expedition was William La Péronie, an immigrant to Virginia from France. On 3 September, he made sure Washington knew what Muse and others were saying in Williamsburg:
Many enquired to me about Muses Braveries; poor Body I had pity him ha’nt he had the weakness to Confes his Coardise him Self, & the inpudence to taxe all the reste of the oficiers withoud exeption of the same imperfection. for he said to many of the Cousulars and Burgeses that he was Bad But th’ the reste was as Bad as he.

To speak francly had I been in town at the time I Cou’nt help’d to make use of my horse’s wheup for to vindicate the injury of that villain.

he Contrived his Business so that several ask me if it was true that he had Challang’d you to fight: my answer was no other But that he Should rather chuse to go to hell than doing of it. for had he had such thing declar’d: that was his Sure Road—I have made my particular Business to tray if any had some Bad intention against you here Below: But thank God I meet allowais with a goad wish for you from evry mouth each one entertining such Caracter of you as I have the honnour to do my Self
La Péronie was sucking up especially hard since Washington was helping him win a higher commission in the Virginia forces. He got the promotion, but died the following year while serving under Gen. Edward Braddock.

In addition to giving La Péronie that commission in 1754, the Virginia legislature issued a resolution thanking all the officers at Fort Necessity by name—except for George Muse and one other man.

Nonetheless, Muse was entitled to some of the western land claims granted to all the officers on the expedition. That meant he and Washington continued to share an economic interest in western settlement for decades. They met with other landowners, lobbied government officials, and in 1770 agreed to trade land back and forth.

Then in December 1773 Muse sent Washington a letter complaining about some aspect of those grants and how Washington was handling them.

TOMORROW: Washington angrier than I’ve ever read him.

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