It was now very plain that if the English were going to hold the Ohio Country and the vast western region which they claimed as their own, they must fight for it.
The people of Virginia were not very anxious to go to war. But their governor was not willing to be beaten by the French.
He made George Washington a lieutenant-colonel of Virginia troops, and set about raising an army to send into the Ohio Country.
Early in the spring Colonel Washington, with a hundred and fifty men, was marching across the country toward the head waters of the Ohio. It was a small army to advance against the thousands of French and Indians who now held that region.
But other officers, with stronger forces, were expected to follow close behind.
Late in May the little army reached the valley of the Monongahela, and began to build a fort at a place called Great Meadows.
By this time the French and Indians were aroused, and hundreds of them were hurrying forward to defend the Ohio Country from the English. One of their scouting parties, coming up the river, was met by Washington with forty men.
The French were not expecting any foe at this place. There were but thirty-two of them; and of these only one escaped. Ten were killed, and the rest were taken prisoners.
This was Washington's first battle, and he was more proud of it than you might suppose. He sent his prisoners to Virginia, and was ready now, with his handful of men, to meet all the French and Indians that might come against him!
And they did come, and in greater numbers than he had expected. He made haste to finish, if possible, the fort that had been begun.
But they were upon him before he was ready. They had four men to his one. They surrounded the fort and shut his little Virginian army in.
What could Colonel Washington do? His soldiers were already half-starved. There was but little food in the fort, and no way to get any more.
The French leader asked if he did not think it would be a wise thing to surrender. Washington hated the very thought of it; but nothing else could be done.
"If you will march your men straight home, and give me a pledge that they and all Virginians will stay out of the Ohio Country for the next twelve months, you may go," said the Frenchman.
It was done.
Washington, full of disappointment went back to Mount Vernon. But he felt more like fighting than ever before.
He was now twenty-two years old.