Young George Washington's Adventures: The Return Journey

American Indians loading packs into a dugout canoe, and Washington and Gist paddling another dugout canoe.
The horses had become very weak on the trip to the fort. The French loan Washington canoes to travel to Venango, sparing the horses from carrying all the baggage. December 16, 1753. Washington and his group, including the Indians, left Fort LeBoeuf to return home. Some of his men and his horses were sent ahead to wait for the rest of the group and baggage in Venango.
Washington pulling a dugout canoe through shallow water, Gist and Washington walking the horses, and a map of the route from Ft LeBoeuf
Several times the canoe almost smashed against rocks. At times the low water forced the passengers to walk in the creek, pulling the canoe. After many days, Washington met up with the rest of his group and horses in Venango where they returned the French canoes. December 23-25, 1753. When they left Venango it was very cold. The horses were still very weak so the group had to walk instead of ride.
Washington wearing a knit hat, knit mittens, leg gaiters and a blanket as a coat.
Activity: Washington in Indian Dress. Sometime after leaving Fort LeBoeuf Washington changed into Indian Walking clothes. It is unknown exactly what he wore but he could have looked like this. Can you for what he added? Did you see the hat, the blanket coat, the mittens and th leg gaiters?
Washington and Gist walking, the two men meeting an Indian, and an Indian beckoning them to follow him.
December 26-27, 1753. Washington was in a hurry to get back to Williamsburg. He and Gist set off on their own, knowing they could walk faster than the rest. After a while, Washington decided to leave the path and take a shortcut though the woods to the Allegheny River. They met an Indian who called Gist by name and greeted him as an old friend. Gist did not know him, but thought he might have seen him at Venango. He Indian says, " I will guide you to the Allegheny River."
close up of the Indian wearing a fur hat and with tattoos on his face
American Indian Warrior. Niether Washington's nor Gist's journal mention this warrior's name or nation.
An Indian looking on as Washington and Gist talk a short distance away.
Washington was not used to walking long distances so the Indian carried his pack. After many miles of travel, Gist became certain the Indian was leading them in the wrong direction. Washington asked if they could stop for the night. The Indian became upset and asked them to keep walking. They agreed to go a little further.
An Indian firing a musket directly at the viewer, Washington and Gist running to capture the Indian, and the Indian making a fire while the two men talk.
Suddenly the Indian turned around and shot at them.... and missed! Guns at this time had to be reloaded after each shot, giving Washington and Gist time to capture him and get his gun. Washington says, "He can make a fire while we decide what to do with him."
Gist holding a compass and Washington and Gist walking through the snow.
December 27, 1753. No one really knows why the Indian shot at them. Washington and Gist knew it would be difficult to travel with the Indian as a prisoner, so they let him go free. With only a compass to guide them the men began to walk. They walked all night and all the next day.
Washington and Gist on the banks of an icy river, Washington chopping a tree with a small ax, and the two men on a raft in the middle of the river.
December 29, 1753. The men reached the Allegheny River. They expected to walk across on the ice, but the river wasn't frozen solid. They built a raft with the only tool they had, a hatchet. Then they set out to cross the river.
Washing and Gist on their raft in the icy river, and Washington pulling himself back onto the raft after falling in.
Large chunks of ice raced down the Allegheny River. The force of water and ice jerked Washington's pole and threw him into the cold, deep water. Luckly, he was strong enough to grab the raft and pull himself back on board. It certainly was a close call!
Washington and Gist huddled under a blanket sitting in the snow, and the two men walking across the frozen river.
Because the river was too dangerous they could not get the raft to either shore, They spent the night on a small island in the middle of the river. Washington and Gist were in a bad situation. That night the island was extremely cold and their wet clothes froze. Gist says, "I think my fingers are frostbitten!" But good news came in the morning. Overnight the river had frozen enough that they could walk to the other side!
Washington and Gist walking towards a cabin, the two men riding horses and a map of their route.
December 30, 1753. They made it to Frazer's cabin, a friendly British trader. They left on New Year's day with burrowed horses and headed for Gist's home at Will's Creek. January 6, 1754. Gist was home safe and sound, but Washington still had a long way to go.
Washington walking up to the governor’s palace, and Washington handing Governor Dinwiddie the letter that he carried back from the French.
January 16, 1754. Washington finally reached Williamsburg again, almost three months after he left. He delivered the letter from the French to Governor Dinwiddie. His mission was complete!
Washington’s adventure continues. Click here to go to: What's Next?

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Last updated: May 15, 2020