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Mount Vernon. There he made George acquainted with his sons and daughters, and soon became his friend and adviser. Hearing him one day express a wish to get employment as a surveyor, Mr. Fairfax introduced and recommended him to his relative, Lord Fairfax, the inheritor of a vast tract of country lying between the Potomac and Rappahannoc Rivers, and stretching across the Alleghany Mountains.
This immense tract of land had never been surveyed; and the important and responsible office of surveying it was now intrusted to Washington, who entered on his first expedition for this purpose at the age of sixteen. He was accompanied by George Fairfax, a son of William Fairfax. (1748.) The duty, as usual, in a wild country, was extremely arduous, exposing the young surveyors to all the inclemencies of the weather, and bringing them into frequent contact with the Indians. It was performed, however, to the entire satisfaction of the proprietor; and it undoubtedly led to Washington's subsequent appointment as public surveyor, an office which kept him actively and laboriously employed for three years.
The business of practical surveying undoubtedly formed a very important part of Washington's preparation for the office of military commander. It not only hardened and invigorated his already robust frame, but it educated his eye, and accustomed him to judge respecting distances and advantages of position. By making him an able civil engineer, it laid the foundation of his future eminence in a military capacity. It was more immediately advantageous to him by procuring for him the acquaintance of the principal landholders of the state, and by making known to them his remarkable judgment, good sense, and ability in the conduct of affairs. The effect of this last circumstance was seen in his appointment, at the age of nineteen, to the office of adjutantgeneral with the rank of major. This gave him the charge of a district, with the duty of exercising the militia, inspecting their arms, and superintending their discipline.
Soon after entering upon the duties of this office, Washington's fraternal affection induced him to accompany his brother Lawrence in a voyage to Barbadoes, whither he had been ordered by the physicians, in consequence of a pulmonary attack which threatened his life. The brothers were strongly attached to each other, and the office of cheering and nursing the invalid could not have been confided to better hands. The voyage, however, was made too late. The disease had already made such progress that the
change of air and scene was insufficient to effect a cure. After remaining some time in Barbadoes, Lawrence determined to proceed to Bermuda after sending his brother back to Virginia with instructions to accompany his wife, who was to join her husband at Bermuda. While in Barbadoes, George had the small-pox, with which he was slightly marked during the rest of his life.
Finding, soon after his arrival at Bermuda, that his health was not essentially benefited, Lawrence Washington returned to Virginia without waiting for his relations to meet him at that island; and soon after his return he sunk rapidly to the grave. «Few men," says Mr. Sparks, have been more beloved for their amiable qualities, or admired for those higher traits of character which give dignity to virtue, and a charm to accomplishments of mind and manners."
In his will, Lawrence appointed George one of his executors, and the estate of Mount Vernon, bequeathed to his daughter, was to pass to George in case of her demise without issue. The new responsibilities thus devolved upon him, together with his public duties, afforded ample employment for all his active energies.
The Northern military division of Virginia, which was now assigned to Major Washington, included several counties, each of which, in the discharge of his duties as adjutant-general, he visited at stated times. Here it was that he first tried, and learned
to place confidence in those military manœuvres in which he afterwards became so skilful. Nor was his vigilance useless to the officers under his command, at this early period. Animated and encouraged by the example of one, younger than most of them, they learned to love him, to place unlimited confidence in his knowledge and abilities, and to render that strict and active obedience to superiors in command, whatever may be their
age, which is absolutely necessary to success in all military enterprises. It was by the courage, the perseverance, and the obedience of some of these very officers, that Washington was, some time afterwards, enabled to save the remnant of the army of the unfortunate Braddock.