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EXTERIOR WILLIAMSBURG STREET - AUTUMN DAY
WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA 1753
Twenty-one-year-old GEORGE WASHINGTON, dressed in a military uniform, rides into town and stops at a tavern and dismounts.
INTERIOR WILLIAMSBURG TAVERN - DAY
The tavern is crowded with Burgesses, Virginia's colonial representatives, discussing news and rumors about the French in the Ohio territory and Britain's plans. Washington, though young, is tall and confident as he enters and strides over to the bar to order lunch from the TAVERN KEEPER.
I'll have the daily fare and beer, please.
Comin' right up.
Standing by the bar, Washington listens to a nearby conversation by some well-to-do gentlemen.
It's unusual to call the General Assembly so suddenly.
Why should we meet on November first?
I heard on trustworthy authority
that the warship that arrived last week
had a special message for Governor Dinwiddie.
To wit: if the French don't stay out
of our Ohio River territory---
hostilities may break out!
I'll tell you the key to this whole situation---
and that's the Indians.
If we can keep the Indians on our side,
we won't have any problems with the French.
But if the savages side with the French,
then we've got trouble on our hands---bad trouble!
TAVERN KEEPER (to Washington)
Here's your dinner, sir.
Washington places a couple of coins on the bar, picks up his plate and mug, and steps over to the table of the nearby gentlemen.
May I join you, gentlemen?
Have a seat.
Those Indians are hard to deal with.
Trade is about the only way---
especially rum; they like that rum.
Trading for pelts is fine,
but last year the Miami tribe
went over to the French;
and now I hear the French
are building forts by Lake Erie.
It appears they're moving south
from Canada into our land,
which is English by the Treaty of Lancaster.
They already claim the Mississippi.
If we're not careful,
they might consolidate the western regions
from Canada to Louisiana and hem us in on the coast.
We'll never give up that Ohio territory.
May I ask who is speaking?
Major George Washington,
Adjutant of the southern district of Virginia.
Oh, Washington, I'm glad to meet you!
You took over the position
from your late older brother, didn't you?
Yes, sir, and now I've come to offer my services
to the Governor as a messenger to the French.
An adventuresome lad!
May I give you some advice?
Our friendship with the Six Nations
is very important to maintain.
If you go on this mission,
be sure to take some Indians with you.
I'm much obliged to you.
EXT. GOVERNOR'S PALACE, WILLIAMSBURG - DAY
Washington walks up the stairs and knocks on the door. A BUTLER opens it.
Major Washington to see Governor Dinwiddie.
Please come in, sir.
INT. GOVERNOR'S PALACE - DAY
His Excellency will see you now, sir.
Washington walks into the room and greets GOVERNOR DINWIDDIE, who is 60 years of age and wears a wig.
Major Washington, it's good to see you again.
How is our youngest Adjutant?
Very well, sir.
I've heard you are looking for
a messenger to the French,
and I've come to offer you my services.
do you have any experience in the wilderness?
for the last five years I have been surveying
the western lands in the Shenandoah Valley.
I heard about your trip
to the Barbados Islands with your brother.
How old are you, Washington?
Well, you are an Adjutant of the colony.
I think you're the perfect man for the job,
and time is of the essence,
what with winter coming on.
When could you leave?
Very well, Major.
These are your orders:
You are to proceed without delay to Logstown
and call on the friendly Indian sachems
to attend you as a guard as far as you think proper
en route to your destination,
which is the French commanding officer.
You are to present to the French Commandant
this letter, and demand a reply,
for which you must not wait more than a week.
Having gained a written answer,
I suggest you request
a French escort back to Virginia settlements,
and return the answer to me as quickly as possible.
Also keep your eyes and ears open as to their strength
in numbers, arms, defenses, communications, and plans.
I recommend you make notes on these.
All of these orders will be put in writing
and given to you within the hour.
Very good, sir. Anything else?
I'll also draft a written request to Christopher Gist
that he act as your guide,
since he knows the Indians and the territory.
You'll find him at Wills Creek.
By the way, you might ask the French
why they made prisoners of British subjects
who were trading with the Indians,
and why they drove John Frazier from the house
where he'd lived for twelve years.
And remember, return straight back.
I will, sir.
EXT. VAN BRAAM'S CABIN - MORNING
Washington rides up, dismounts, pounds on the door, and pulls out his sword. As JACOB VAN BRAAM opens the door, Washington strikes a fencing pose.
Why, George, you young rascal!
Van Braam ducks into his cabin and returns fencing, driving Washington twenty or thirty feet back, as George gamely tries to defend himself. Van Braam speaks with a Dutch accent.
VAN BRAAM (Cont'd.)
Eah, you're out of practice.
You're still the master with the sword, van Braam.
What brings you to dese parts?
I'm carrying a letter
from the Governor of Virginia to the French.
How's your French tongue?
Equal to your sword---a little out of practice,
but I can get by.
Will you accompany me as interpreter
on this post-haste journey to Ohio?
They walk toward the cabin.
First stop is Wills Creek
where we'll ask Christopher Gist to be our guide.
Good man, Gist---couldn't find a better.
We'll pick up supplies and men
for servitors along the way.
EXT. GIST'S CABIN - DAY
Washington and van Braam, leading a couple more horses packed with supplies, ride along a river and approach the cabin.
INT. GIST'S CABIN - DAY
CHRISTOPHER GIST, who is in his forties, Washington, and van Braam are sitting around a table. Gist has just read the letter from the Governor requesting his services.
If it's important enough for the Governor to write,
I'll be glad to go with you.
It's fortunate I wasn't at my new settlement
seventy miles from here.
I don't know what your experience is, young man,
but you appear to be determined on this expedition.
Let me warn ya,
we'll be traveling through raw wilderness,
surrounded by Indians,
and half of 'em ya can't trust,
and ya don't know which ones either.
They'd as soon take your scalp as look at ya.
Then there's your French
who lately have treated English colonists as enemies,
takin' some prisoner and haulin' 'em off to Canada.
Worst of all, winter's comin' on,
and there'll be rain, snow and ice.
We've seen rain already.
Well, December'll be a hell of a lot colder
than early November, believe me.
And traveling in January's practically impossible.
In regards to the Indians and French,
I intend to be as diplomatic as possible,
and as for the elements,
we'll just have to move as quickly as we can,
and try to get back before January.
Fine by me.
If you'll recommend some men to attend us,
who are experienced in dealing with the Indians,
then we'll get started.
EXT. WILDERNESS BY A CREEK - LATE AFTERNOON
The party, consisting of Washington, Gist, van Braam, and four ATTENDANTS, all on horseback, plus a couple of horses packed with arms, ammunition, tent, provisions, corn for the horses, presents for the Indians, medicine, tobacco, wampum, and extra clothes, pauses after crossing the creek, as Washington examines his compass.
How many miles have we made today?
Only about eight, but this is rough country.
Would this be a good spot to camp?
I'd say so.
As they start to unload, a MESSENGER comes riding across the creek, rushes up to Gist, and hands him a paper.
Chris! I've been trailin' ya all day.
This is from your son.
Gist reads the paper and looks worried.
GIST (to Washington)
Major, my son is ill in Cherokee country
and needs my medicine.
I'd like to take it to him.
I understand, Chris,
but I need you and your guidance on this mission.
Do you think you could
send him the medicine with this man?
(To Messenger) Sir,
I'll give you medicine and instructions for my son.
I'm much obliged for your help.
EXT. LAUREL HILL RIDGE - DAY
The party overlooks Great Meadows after making a steep climb up the ridge.
What a magnificent clearing!
It's called Great Meadows.
EXT. WILDERNESS "LEAN-TO" TENT - RAINY NIGHT
The men are eating broiled venison cooked over the fire.
Vell, the rain don't stop Gist---
at least not in deer hunting.
I always say if one thing goes bad,
find something good.
Look at this lean-to these men put up---
keeps the rain out.
More venison anyone?
I'm full to burstin'.
A coupla winters ago
I kicked a panther out of his lair
under an overhanging rock
and slept like a lamb all night.
EXT. FRAZIER'S TRADING POST - GLOOMY AFTERNOON
The party, wet from a river crossing, is greeted by JOHN FRAZIER.
Come on in and dry off.
INT. FRAZIER'S TRADING POST - EVENING
Frazier relates the news as he works absent-mindedly at his business of repairing and cleaning rifles, while Washington handles a string of wampum.
Our Indian friend Half King and some other sachems
presented me with that wampum
with a message for the Governor of Virginia.
He said three nations of French Indians
have taken up the hatchet against the English.
we depend on the six nations for our defense.
French troops have advanced
toward the Ohio from Lake Erie,
but fortunately some expresses have brought word
that the French General, Sieur de Marin, has died;
so most of them have withdrawn
to Canada for the winter.
At least that's good news.
It might give England the best shot at Ohio.
Yeah, but it also means
we'll probably have to travel a lot further
to deliver your message to the French commander.
EXT. MONONGAHELA RIVER - MORNING
Most of the baggage has been loaded into a canoe manned by Barney Currin and Henry Steward, two of the attendants. Washington, John Frazier, Gist, and van Braam stand on the bank, while the other two attendants hold the horses.
Thanks for the use of the canoe, John.
Barney, we'll meet you and Henry
at the forks of the Ohio.
Unload the baggage on the far bank of the Allegheny.
You sure you two can handle that thing?
Shove off, then, and we'll see you this afternoon.
Good luck, George.
They shake hands. As the canoes start downstream, all the others except Frazier take off on their horses.
EXT. MONONGAHELA AND ALLEGHENY RIVERS - AFTERNOON
Washington and Gist are examining the land on foot.
I'd say this is a perfect spot to build a British fort.
They were going to put it two miles downstream.
But here you have the protection
and command of both rivers,
flat land, and timber for building.
I believe you're right.
I hope the French don't beat us to it.
As Gist is speaking, Barney and Henry arrive down the deep and slow-moving Monongahela and head across the rapid Allegheny. This three-way fork is to become the site of Fort Duquesne, and then Fort Pitt, and finally Pittsburgh. Washington runs to the shore and shouts to the men in the canoe, pointing across the Allegheny.
Unload the baggage over there,
and then come back for us.
Gist addresses the two attendants on shore.
Let's get the horses to swim across now.
Barney and Henry maneuver the canoe across as the others lead the horses into the water. The horses swim across the river. Then Barney ferries the other men across in the canoe.
EXT. SHINGISS' VILLAGE ON THE OHIO - MORNING
The party approaches a small Indian village.
This is where the Ohio Company wants the fort.
I think it's greatly inferior---either for defense
or for the advantages of the other spot.
I'll introduce you to Shingiss
and then Lowmolach.
We'll need the help of these chiefs.
The party is observed casually by the Indian villagers. Gist leads them up to the main teepee. Gist and Washington dismount and walk toward it.
Shingiss, chief of the Delaware!
SHINGISS steps out of his teepee and greets Gist whom he knows; he invites Gist and Washington into his teepee with a wave of the hand.
EXT. RIDGE OVERLOOKING LOGSTOWN - DAY
Shingiss and LOWMALOCH have joined the party on horseback.
home of Half King, chief of the chiefs.
Shall we pay him a visit?
First we'll need a better interpreter
of Indian tongues than I am,
but that'll be easy to find down there.
EXT. LOGSTOWN - DAY
Washington, Gist, and JOHN DAVISON are conferring. Davison speaks with an Irish accent.
Sure, I can translate for you;
I am Half King's translator.
Good. Davison, can you take us to Half King?
He's fifteen miles from here.
Right now I suggest we talk to Chief Monakatoocha,
whose second only to Half King.
You men start pitching the tent by that meadow there.
INT. MONAKATOOCHA'S TEEPEE - DAY
MONAKATOOCHA, Davison, Washington, Gist, Shingiss, and Lowmalach sit ceremoniously in a circle.
Tell the honorable chief
that I am a messenger to the French commander,
and was directed by the Governor of Virginia
to inform the Indian sachems.
As a token of good will
we present the Chief with this wampum and tobacco.
Chief Monakatoocha receives the gifts and says something in reply.
Your gifts are gratefully accepted.
Can Half King be sent for as soon as possible?
After hearing Davison's translation, Monakatoocha nods his head.
A runner will be dispatched in the morning.
Thank the Chief,
and invite him and the other great men of his tribe
to visit us in our tent.
EXT. WASHINGTON'S TENT AT LOGSTOWN - DAY
BROWN, a British fur trader conducts four FRENCH DESERTERS up to Washington.
I'm Major Washington,
an Adjutant of Virginia on the Governor's business.
Who are you and these men?
My name is Brown, and I trade fur.
They are deserters from the French Army,
and I'm taking them to Philadelphia.
Washington ducks his head in the tent and calls van Braam.
Van Braam, we need some French out here.
Van Braam steps out.
Find out where they came from,
and where the French forts and troops are,
and how many.
After conversing with them, van Braam turns to Washington.
They and one hundred men
were sent up the Mississippi
with eight canoes of provisions to meet
a like group coming down from Lake Erie.
How many forts do they have?
Four small forts between New Orleans and---
I'm not sure of this word---Isle Noires?
It sounds like "Black Islands."
Half King has just got back from Little Beaver Creek.
Thanks for telling us.
INT. WASHINGTON'S TENT - AFTERNOON
Washington and HALF KING, a man of 53, are sitting in conference with Davison as interpreter.
Ask the noble Half King
the way and distance to the French Commandant
and the particulars of his journey
and reception there.
After translating and hearing Half King's reply, Davison gives Washington Half King's answer.
The near and level way is
now impassable due to swamps.
We must go by Venango,
taking five or six nights sleep.
Half King says that the late commander
sternly and abruptly asked him
to declare his business,
which Half King did
in the following speech to the French:
As we see Half King gesturing and speaking we hear Davison's translation in voice over.
DAVISON (v. o.)
"Fathers, I am come to tell you your own speeches,
what your own mouths have declared.
Fathers, you, in former days,
set a silver basin before us,
wherein there was the leg of a beaver,
and desired all the nations to come and eat of it,
to eat in peace and plenty,
and not to be churlish to one another:
And if any such person
should be found to be a disturber,
I here lay down by the edge of the dish a rod,
which you must scourge them with;
and if I your father
should get foolish in my old days,
I desire you may use it upon me as well as others.
Now fathers, it is you
who are the disturbers in this land,
by coming and building your towns,
and taking it away unknown to us, and by force.
Fathers, we kindled a fire a long time ago
at a place called Montreal,
where we desired you to stay
and not to come and intrude upon our land.
I now desire you may dispatch to that place;
for be it known to you, fathers,
that this is our land, and not yours.
Fathers, I desire you may hear me in civilness;
if not, we must handle that rod
which was laid down for the use of the obstreperous.
If you had come in a peaceable manner,
like our brothers the English,
we should not have been
against your trading with us,
as they do;
but to come, fathers,
and build houses upon our land,
and to take it by force,
is what we cannot submit to.
Fathers, both you and the English are white;
we live in a country between;
therefore the land belongs to neither one nor t'other:
but the Great Being above allowed it
to be a place of residence for us;
so fathers, I desire you to withdraw,
as I have desired of our brothers the English:
for I will keep you at arms length.
I lay this down as a trial for both,
to see which will have the greatest regard to it,
and that side we will stand by,
and make equal sharers with us.
Our brothers the English have heard this,
and I come now to tell it to you;
for I am not afraid to discharge you off this land."
Davison speaks to Washington.
This was Half King's speech
to General Sieur de Marin,
as he returned to him the wampum.
Then the General made this reply:
Dissolve to SIEUR DE MARIN's speech shown as we hear Davison's translation of Half King's account.
DAVISON (v. o.)
"Now my child, I have heard your speech:
you spoke first, but it is my time to speak now.
Where is my wampum that you took away,
with the marks of the towns in it?
This wampum I do not know,
which you have discharged me off the land with:
but you need not put yourself
to the trouble of speaking,
for I will not hear you.
I am not afraid of flies or mosquitoes,
for Indians are such as those.
I tell you, down that river I will go,
and will build upon it, according to my command.
If the river was blocked up,
I have forces sufficient to burst it open,
and tread under my feet all that stand in opposition,
together with their alliances;
for my force is as the sand upon the sea shore:
therefore, here is your wampum, I fling it at you.
Child, you talk foolish;
you say this land belongs to you,
but there is not the black of my nail yours.
I saw that land sooner than you did,
before the Shawnees and you were at war:
La Salle was the man
who went down and took possession of that river:
It is my land, and I will have it,
let who will stand-up for or say-against it.
I'll buy and sell with the English,
(this he said mockingly).
If people will be ruled by me,
they may expect kindness, but not else."
Dissolve back to Davison, Half King and Washington. Half King says something more.
Half King also found out that
the two Englishmen taken prisoner at Venango
were carried to Canada to get intelligence
of what the English were doing in Virginia.
Hmm. What about their forts?
After questioning Half King, Davison responds as Half King hands Washington diagrams of two forts drawn on parchment.
They have built two forts,
a large one on Lake Erie
and a smaller on French Creek.
Here are the plans of them.
Tomorrow he says we meet in the Long House
with all the leaders of the tribe.
INT. LONG HOUSE AT LOGSTOWN - MORNING
Washington, Davison, Half King, and Monakatoocha sit in front of the assembled braves, as Gist, Shingiss, and Lowmolach watch from the side. Washington stands to address the group.
Brothers, I have called you together in council,
the sachems of the nations,
by order of your brother the Governor of Virginia,
to inform you that
I am sent with all possible dispatch
to visit and deliver to the French Commandant
a letter of great importance
to your brothers the English,
and I daresay, to you our friends and allies.
Also we ask your advice and assistance
to proceed by the nearest and best road to the French.
You see, brothers,
I have gotten thus far on my journey.
His Honor likewise desired me
to apply to you for some of your young men,
to conduct and provide provisions for us on the way,
and be a safeguard against those French Indians
who have taken up the hatchet against us.
I have spoken this particularly to you, brothers,
because his Honor our Governor
treats you as good friends and allies,
and holds you in great esteem.
To confirm what I have said,
I give you this string of wampum.
After the Indians have discussed for a while, Half King gets up and speaks, as we hear Davison's translation.
DAVISON (v. o.)
"Now, my brothers, in regard to
what my brother the Governor has desired me,
I return you this answer.
I rely upon you as a brother ought to do,
as you say we are brothers and one people:
we shall put heart in hand,
and speak to our fathers the French
concerning the speech they made to me;
and you may depend that
we will endeavor to be your guard.
Brothers, as you have asked my advice,
I hope you will be ruled by it,
and stay till I can provide a company to go with you.
The French speech-belt is not here;
I have to go for it to my hunting-cabin;
likewise the people whom I have ordered in,
are not yet come,
nor cannot till the third night from this;
till which time, brother, I must beg you to stay.
I intend to send a guard of Mingos,
Shawnee, and Delawares,
so our brothers may see
the love and loyalty we bear them."
Washington speaks to Davison.
Thank the Chief for his generous offer,
but tell him our business
requires the greatest expediency without delay,
and ask if we can leave sooner.
When Half King hears this translated, he is not well pleased, and responds firmly.
DAVISON (v. o.)
"Half King cannot consent to our going early
or without a guard
for fear some accident should befall
and draw a reflection on him.
Besides, this is a matter of no small moment,
and must not be entered into without due consideration,
for I now intend to deliver up the French speech-belt
and make the Shawnee and Delawares do the same."
Half King turns to Shingiss.
DAVISON (v. o. Cont'd.)
"Chief Shingiss, attend us on the third night
with the wampum and have two men of your nation
ready to set out with us the next morning."
I present this wampum obtained from John Frazier
and the speech you sent with it
to his Honor the Governor informing him
that three nations of French Indians,
the Chippoways, Ottoways, and Orundaks,
had taken up the hatchet against the English.
I desire that you repeat this speech now.
Half King receives them, but there is some controversy concerning the speech.
They prefer to postpone the speech
until they have met in full council
with the Shawnee and Delaware chiefs.
Oh, all right.
INT. WASHINGTON'S TENT AT LOGSTOWN - AFTERNOON
Davison steps in on Washington who is writing in a journal.
Sir, Half King has returned from his cabin.
He, Monakatoocha, and two other sachems
would like a word with you.
Bring them in.
They enter and sit in a circle.
The chiefs feel that as they have complied
with his Honor the Governor's request
in providing men and supplies,
they want to know on what business
we are going to the French.
This is a proper question.
The main reason is to request that
the French do not settle on land that is not theirs.
This translated, Monakatoocha speaks, as Davison's translation is heard.
DAVISON (v. o.)
"Monakatoocha has received news
by an Indian from Venango
that the French had called all the Mingos,
Delawares, and other tribes together at that place,
and told them they had intended
to have been down the river this fall,
but the waters were growing cold,
and the winter advancing,
which obliged them to go into quarters.
But that they might assuredly expect them in the spring
with a far greater number,
and the French desired that
the Indians might be quite passive and not meddle
unless they had a mind
to draw all their force upon them:
for the French expected to fight the English three years
(as they supposed there would be
some attempts made to stop them)
in which time they should conquer.
But if they should prove equally strong,
then they and the English would join
to cut all the Indians off,
and divide the land between them.
Though they had lost their General and a few soldiers,
yet there were men enough to reinforce them,
and make them masters of the Ohio.
This speech was delivered to them by Captain Joncaire,
their chief Indian interpreter
and a man of note in the army
who lives at Venango."
Thank you for the information, Monakatoocha.
Tomorrow we set out for Venango.
INT. WASHINGTON'S TENT AT LOGSTOWN - DAWN
Washington, Davison, Half King, and Monakatoocha stand as Davison presents the chiefs' request to Washington.
The chiefs beg for one day more.
Though they used all the diligence in their power,
the Shawnee chiefs have not brought
the wampum they ordered,
but certainly it will be here tonight.
If not, there will be no more delay,
but it will be sent as soon as it arrives.
Washington confers with Davison.
Davison, the return of this wampum is symbolic
of the breaking of ties with the French, isn't it?
I believe so.
Then tell them we will set out tomorrow morning.
The chiefs are a little relieved and respond with this information translated by Davison.
DAVISON (v. o.)
Chief Shingiss could not get in his men,
and has been prevented from coming himself
by his wife's sickness,
but the wampum of that nation
is lodged with Chief Kustaloga at Venango.
INT. WASHINGTON'S TENT - EVENING
Davison enters with Half King, JESKAKAKE, WHITE THUNDER, and the INDIAN HUNTER. They sit with Washington and Gist. Half King speaks first.
DAVISON (v. o.)
"Our great men have met in the council house
and elected these men and myself to accompany you.
This is Jeskakake, our eldest chief,
whose right it is to deliver the wampum.
This is White Thunder,
and this young man is our best hunter.
The Shawnee have not arrived,
but Shingiss sent that wampum to be given to Kustaloga
with orders to return it to the French."
Jeskakake indicates the wampum mentioned. Then he displays a very large string of black and white wampum, as Half King declares its meaning.
DAVISON (v. o.)
Jeskakake also holds this wampum
which is to be sent to all the six nations immediately
if the French refuse to quit the land at this warning,
which is the third and last time.
Why are you sending only four men?
Half King responds to Davison's translation.
DAVISON (v. o.)
"The council feels that a greater number
might give the French suspicions of some bad design,
and cause us to be treated rudely."
EXT. SETTLEMENT OF MURDERING TOWN - LATE AFTERNOON
The party of Washington, Gist, van Braam, Davison, Half King, Jeskakake, White Thunder, the hunter, and the four attendants approaches the small town.
What is this place?
Murdering Town---a rather unpleasant name.
I hope they have some good food we can buy.
EXT. WILDERNESS FOREST - DAY
The party moves slowly through a wet and dripping forest. Washington speaks to Gist.
At least the rain let up enough
so we can travel today.
EXT. VENANGO TRADING POST - DAY
The party has reached the log structure which flies the flag of the fleur-de-lis.
This used to be John Frazier's trading post
till the French drove him out last spring.
Men, pitch the tents here.
Chris, you and van Braam come with me.
The three of them walk over to the building, as the others begin to unpack off to the side. At the entrance JONCAIRE appears with COMMISSARY LA FORCE, and another FRENCH OFFICER, and welcomes the three men inside.
INT. VENANGO TRADING POST - AFTERNOON
The six men sit at a table.
Captain Joncaire says he has command of the Ohio.
Then as French commander, may I present him
with a letter from the Governor of Virginia?
Joncaire checks himself, and then passes the buck.
He indicates there is a general officer
at Fort Le Boeuf up the creek close to Lake Erie.
He says you should take your letter to him.
He would like to know though, what the message is.
Tell him I must only give it out
to the French commander.
How far is it to this fort?
Joncaire responds and extends an invitation.
It's about forty of fifty miles up the creek.
However, Captain Joncaire invites you
to relax while you are here and sup with them.
INT. VENANGO TRADING POST - EVENING
The six men have enjoyed a plentiful supper and are involved in heavy drinking, except Washington who has maintained sobriety. Joncaire is bragging as we hear van Braam translating from the French.
VAN BRAAM (v. o.)
"It is our absolute design
to take possession of the Ohio,
and by God we will do it.
For even though you English
can raise two men for our one,
yet we know your motions are too slow and dilatory
to prevent any undertaking of ours.
Besides we have undoubted right to the river
from the discovery by La Salle sixty years ago.
The rise of our expedition is to prevent
your settling on the river or the waters of it.
Already some of your families are moving out.
How many men at each fort do you have?
Joncaire continues to expound freely as the liquor has loosened his tongue. Washington listens carefully, taking mental notes.
INT. VENANGO TRADING POST - RAINY DAY
Davison is talking to Washington.
Half King has met in solemn council
with the Delawares, their allies.
He gave the wampum from Shingiss to Chief Kustaloga
in order for him to return it to the French.
However, the Delaware Chief refused,
saying that Chief Shingiss is a great man,
but he has sent no speech;
Kustaloga could not pretend
to make a speech for a chief.
So to return the wampum
Half King must take it himself.
There is other news too.
A party of French Indians has recently gone north
with a captured boy and eight white men's scalps.
Joncaire has said something to van Braam who now translates.
Joncaire has just discovered
that you have Half King here
and wants to know why
you haven't brought the Chief
to the headquarters here.
Tell him I thought
he wouldn't find their company agreeable,
as I heard him say much
in dispraise of Indians in general.
Hearing this translated, Joncaire is pleasantly indignant, responding with an offer of invitation to the Indians. One of his officers goes out to get them.
The French welcome the Chiefs
and are sending for them now.
As the four Indians enter they are greeted warmly by Joncaire and given brandy by Commissary La Force. Joncaire gives them some presents. Soon the Indians are all drunk, and Washington becomes disgusted, saying to his men:
This isn't getting us anywhere.
I'm going to my tent.
He leaves, followed by Gist, van Braam, and Davison. Half King notices this, but the Indians' celebration with the French continues.
INT. WASHINGTON'S TENT AT VENANGO - SUNNY MORNING
Half King comes in with Davison to speak to Washington, who is
Half King wishes to apologize
for his drunkenness yesterday.
Today he is to make a speech to the French
and desires you to hear it.
Ask him to save it for the Commandant.
DAVISON (v. o.)
He says this is the place of the council fire,
and one is being kindled here this morning.
"The business of our people is transacted here,
and the management of Indian affairs
is left solely to Captain Joncaire."
Tell him I will stay for the speech,
but I am sending the horses a little way up French Creek
to raft over and encamp.
EXT. COUNCIL FIRE AT VENANGO - DAY
Half King is making a speech and presenting the French speech-belt, but Joncaire is refusing to receive it, indicating it must be carried to the commander at the fort.
EXT. VENANGO AT WASHINGTON'S CAMP - MORNING
Washington's tent is struck and just about everything is packed for the journey. Commissary La Force and three FRENCH OFFICERS approach Washington on horses. La Force speaks, as van Braam translates.
VAN BRAAM (v. o.)
"Major Washington, we have come
to accompany you to Fort Le Boeuf for your safety
and also as I know the best trail.
With snow coming on and the streams swollen,
it will be a rough journey, taking about four days."
We are grateful for the escort.
As van Braam translates, Washington turns to Gist.
I asked Davison to get those Indians ready to go.
Chris, you'd better go over
and persuade them to come,
as we are leaving now.
EXT. WILDERNESS CAMP BY A RIVER - LATE AFTERNOON
The party of French, Indians, and Washington's group arrive at the advance camp sent ahead the day before.
EXT. CREEK OPPOSITE FORT LE BOEUF - DUSK
The party of eight Englishmen, four French, and four Indians finally arrives at the fort, deciding to camp for the night next to the river.
INT. FORT LE BOEUF HEADQUARTERS - DAY
Washington, Gist, and van Braam meet the French Commandant ST. PIERRE, an elderly soldier with a patch over one eye.
Sieur Legardeur de St. Pierre de Repentigny,
Knight of St. Louis.
They shake hands. Washington presents his credentials and the letter.
These papers explain my mission.
I understand English some.
I translate; then you read it, d'accord?
St. Pierre steps into another room. Washington and the others sit and wait. When St. Pierre returns, van Braam checks the translation.
It's all right.
I request an answer as soon as possible.
We must call a council.
We will tell you when we are ready.
Thank you, sir.
EXT. INSIDE FORT LE BOEUF - DAY
Washington examines the fort and its battlements in detail, taking notes in his journal. He counts eight six-pound cannons in the bastions and a four-pounder at the gate.
INT. FORT LE BOEUF HEADQUARTERS - DAY
Washington, van Braam, and Gist have joined St. Pierre and some other FRENCH OFFICERS for lunch and casual talk.
By what authority have you made
British subjects prisoners of war?
This country belongs to us.
No Englishman has a right
to trade upon these waters.
I have orders to make every person prisoner
who trades on the Ohio or its waters.
Where did you seize that boy you took
and questioned for several hours?
I don't remember,
but the Indians with him
had two or three white scalps.
I'm sorry to trouble you,
but I must ask what became of
the two Pennsylvania traders,
Trotter and MacClocklan.
They were sent to Canada
and later returned to their homes.
If you want more information,
I suggest you proceed to Quebec
and present to the Governor of Canada
the communication from His Excellency of Virginia.
I will lend you a canoe or two.
No, my orders are
to deliver the letter to the commander
on the frontier you occupy, which is here.
I have no authority to go farther.
However, I will accept your offer of two canoes
to return south, if that is acceptable to you.
EXT. WASHINGTON'S CAMP AT FORT LE BOEUF - DAY
Washington is instructing his attendants as the Indians stand by.
Barney, you and Henry and MacQuire
take the horses without packs back to Venango.
If the animals survive the journey,
and if you think there is a good chance
the river will freeze hard enough
to bear the weight of the creatures and their loads,
then wait for us at Venango.
If the rivers don't freeze,
push on to the forks of the Ohio
and stay there till we arrive.
St. Pierre is lending us two canoes.
Washington walks over to Davison and the Indians.
Has Half King got his interview with St. Pierre yet?
No, he keeps delaying us.
We must insist on a meeting tonight.
Present the speech-belt,
and tomorrow we'll set out
with the Indians in one canoe
and us in the other.
As Davison tells Half King, Washington speaks to Gist.
Look at all their canoes.
My men counted two hundred and twenty,
and more are being blocked out.
They're obviously preparing to move south.
We must get back to Virginia as soon as we can.
INT. FORT LE BOEUF HEADQUARTERS - EVENING
St. Pierre presents Washington with a letter.
Sir, here is our answer to Governor Dinwiddie,
and I assure you there will be two canoes
ready for you in the morning.
Thank you, sir.
Now I insist that you hear Half King
who has come with us
in order to deliver to you a speech.
Any more delay of him,
delays us also, for we are together.
He is waiting outside.
I will tell him you will see him,
and then retire to my tent
so as not to interfere in your business.
Washington goes out, and Half King, Davison, and the other Indians enter. They are warmly greeted by the French and presented with gifts. St. Pierre refuses to accept the return of the speech-belt.
EXT. WASHINGTON'S CAMP AT FORT LE BOEUF - MORNING
The French have two canoes ready for Washington and are placing in them some provisions and liquor. Meanwhile the French are entertaining the Indians with gifts and drink. Washington approaches Half King with Davison who informs him of the previous night's activity.
St. Pierre refused to accept the speech-belt
and made many gifts and promises to the Indians.
Half King, it is time to leave.
Are you ready to go?
Half King appears to be making excuses.
DAVISON (v. o.)
The Commandant will not let the chiefs go
Washington walks over to St. Pierre.
Sir, would you please
complete your business with Half King
and permit them to leave?
Any further delay of the Indians
hampers our own departure
and will be considered as ill treatment of an emissary.
Major, I am not detaining you or the Indians,
and I do not know the cause of their delay.
Washington confers with Gist and Davison.
Chris, what's going on here?
John just told me that
the French promised the Indians
a present of guns
and some other of their favorite items
to be delivered tomorrow morning.
All right, we'll wait till tomorrow.
If the presents are given we can leave together.
If not, we'll accuse the French of breaking promises.
Very good, sir.
Washington walks over to Half King with Davison and Gist.
Will you be ready to leave tomorrow morning?
Davison translates, and Half King nods yes.
EXT. WASHINGTON'S CAMP AT FORT LE BOEUF - MORNING
St. Pierre, La Force, and some French officers are presenting Half King and the other three Indians with guns and gifts with all due ceremony. Washington who has been overseeing the packing of equipment for the journey, observes a bottle of brandy being offered to the Indians to drink. He rushes over with Davison.
Tell Half King we are ready to leave immediately
and have no time for drinking.
Will he fulfill his promise
and get ready to leave with us right away?
After hearing the translation, Half King looks hard at the determined Washington, and turns his back on the brandy, motioning to the other Indians to get their stuff together. Washington looks at St. Pierre who frowns and heads back to the fort. Washington smiles.
EXT. RIVER AT FORT LE BOEUF - MORNING
The Englishmen in one canoe and the Indians in another set out down the river. The Indians soon pass them and disappear from sight around a bend in the river.
EXT. FRENCH CREEK - AFTERNOON
Washington's canoe approaches an empty camp with a parked canoe.
Look, this must be the Indians' camp.
Well, after a day and a half,
we finally caught up with them.
Pull over to shore.
Washington and Gist walk through the camp.
It appears they went hunting.
Let's wait for them.
(To the other men:) We'll camp here.
EXT. CAMP ON FRENCH CREEK - LATE AFTERNOON
Half King, Jeskakake, and the hunter enter the camp carrying the meat and skins of three bears. They are greeted by Washington, Davison, and Gist in a friendly manner.
Glad to see you.
Where is White Thunder?
The Indians shrug their shoulders; they don't know.
EXT. CAMP IN FRENCH CREEK - MORNING
After enjoying the meat, Washington and his men start to pack, but the Indians stay where they are.
Half King and his friends
will wait for White Thunder.
Yesterday was the first day in two weeks
without rain or snow;
that means the creek will fall.
If we wait any longer,
the stream may get too low to float the canoes.
The Indians are skilled and can catch us.
Then we'll leave now and meet them downstream.
Davison informs the Indians.
EXT. FRENCH CREEK WITH MUCH ICE - SNOWY DAY
Washington and his crew are using poles to push their way through the numerous icebergs. Van Braam sees four canoes approaching them, one with the four Indians and three with French soldiers.
Hey, look who's behind us.
In their jubilance at having reached the English, one of the French canoes capsizes. Bottles of brandy and wine are seen floating by the icebergs. Now it's the Englishmen's turn to laugh.
Major, this ice is getting impenetrable.
I suggest we carry the canoe over that land
until we get it around the bend.
All right, everybody out; let's do it.
Washington and the men carry the canoe across the land.
EXT. VENANGO CAMP - SNOWY MORNING
Washington confers with Gist, Davison, and Half King.
The horses are in bad shape.
They won't get any stronger waiting here.
Half King, we're going overland with the horses.
You're welcome to come with us.
Half King replies to the translation.
DAVISON (v. o.)
White Thunder's foot is very bad.
Therefore, we must go to Logstown by canoe.
Be careful of Captain Joncaire here.
He is tricky.
Half King reassures Washington.
DAVISON (v. o.)
We know the French too well to be deceived by them.
I will try to get the English trader Joseph Campbell
to meet you at the forks of the Ohio
to deliver my speech to the Governor of Virginia.
Farewell, brother Half King.
We will meet again.
Half King is cheerful.
DAVISON (v. o.)
Farewell, Caunotaucarius, brother of the six nations.
Whatever you need, we will try to help.
As they depart, Gist asks Washington:
What was that name he called you?
Caunotaucarius. It means Towntaker.
It's what the Indians called my great grandfather.
EXT. WILDERNESS - SNOWY TWILIGHT
The horses can barely make it through the snow.
We'll have to stop here, sir.
The horses are exhausted.
The eight Englishmen begin to camp for the night.
EXT. WILDERNESS - SNOWY MORNING
Washington has changed his clothes for the Indian-style deerskin jacket. The horses are being packed.
We'll have to give up our horses and walk,
except you men who are driving the pack horses.
Spread the load evenly among them.
EXT. WILDERNESS - HEAVY SNOW
The party is trudging through the snow at a snail's pace. Barney approaches Washington.
Sir, can we make a shelter?
I have frostbite and so does John and Henry.
Of course. Why didn't you tell me sooner?
We know you have to get back to Virginia,
and we didn't want to slow you down.
EXT. WILDERNESS SHELTER BY A FIRE - EVENING
The men are huddled together in a circle around the fire.
Well, gentlemen, this isn't much of a Christmas.
Here, have some more brandy.
Washington speaks privately to Gist.
Chris, I haven't the heart to ask these men
to try to go on in the morning.
Here's what I think we ought to do:
You and I can strike out on foot tomorrow.
When the men are ready,
they can go with the horses to Frazier's.
Sir, I don't favor this plan.
Are you used to hiking in this snow?
This message cannot be delayed.
But it's over a hundred miles in heavy snow!
If the snow doesn't freeze us,
some Indians are liable to take our scalps.
I'm ready to risk it if you are.
I'll prepare our packs.
EXT. WILDERNESS SHELTER - SNOWY MORNING
Washington has stripped to his long underwear and is tying around him a fur coat that covers almost all of his body. He then instructs van Braam.
Jacob, you're in charge
of the men and the horses.
When the men have recovered,
follow the trail to Frazier's.
Here are the directions
and some money for supplies.
Gist is dressed in the same manner as Washington. They set out through the forest.
The men say goodby and wave.
EXT. WILDERNESS SMALL CREEK FROZEN - DAY
Gist and Washington stop to get drinking water, but the creek is so frozen they have difficulty breaking through the ice to reach some running water.
With all this snow,
you'd think we could get some water to drink.
He kicks at the ice with his foot. Gist finally jams his rifle barrel through, and they fill a canteen.
EXT. WILDERNESS INDIAN CABIN - EVENING
Gist and Washington approach a small cabin.
It's an Indian's cabin.
He pounds on the door with his gun ready, then opens the door.
INT. INDIAN CABIN - EVENING
Gist walks in.
No one here now.
Come on in; we'll rest inside tonight.
Washington wearily enters and sits down.
INT. INDIAN CABIN - NIGHT
Gist and Washington sleep by the fire. Washington opens his eyes, gets up and looks out the door to see that starlight is shining on the snow. He wakes up Gist.
Chris. Let's move on now.
We can see by the starlight reflected on the snow.
Tarnation, you're in a hurry!
The future of the English colonies in the western lands
may depend on us getting quickly back to Virginia.
EXT. MURDERING TOWN SETTLEMENT - DAY
As Washington and Gist approach, some INDIANS come out to greet them. One of them speaks English and appears to know Gist.
We have hot food.
Good to see friend again.
As they are led in, Washington and Gist confer privately.
Do you know this Indian?
He seems to know me;
he calls me by my Indian name.
I think I might have seen him at Joncaire's.
INT. MURDERING TOWN CABIN - DAY
Washington and Gist enjoy cooked meat.
What path do you travel?
Toward Shannopins Town to cross the Allegheny.
There is no straight trail.
We will go off the trail to find the shortest way.
Could you guide us there
straight through the forest?
Yes, I do it, in happiness.
Good; then let's go.
They stand up to leave.
I carry your pack for you.
Then we can make better time.
He gives the Indian the pack, and they set out.
EXT. WILDERNESS - SNOWY AFTERNOON
Washington is tired.
We must camp soon.
My feet are very sore.
I carry gun for you.
No, I'll manage that.
But we must go.
Ottawa in these woods.
We stop and sleep, Indians attack and scalp.
We go to my cabin; safe there.
GIST (Becoming suspicious)
How far to your cabin?
Sound of gun.
All right, go ahead.
EXT. WILDERNESS - SNOWY EVENING
They are trudging through the snow.
How far to cabin?
They march on.
EXT. WILDERNESS - SNOWY NIGHT
They are walking in a snow-covered meadow.
We stop at the next water.
The Indian is about fifteen paces ahead of Gist and Washington, when suddenly he turns and fires his rifle at them.
Are you shot?
The Indian runs ahead and stands behind a big white oak tree reloading his rifle. Gist and Washington run after him. Gist aims his rifle to shoot the Indian, but Washington restrains him. As the Indian starts to put the ball in his rifle, the other two grab him and take his rifle. They push the Indian in front of them and march downhill a ways where Washington orders the Indian to make a fire; then he confers with Gist.
Make a fire.
As you will not have him killed,
we must get him away,
and then we must travel all night.
All right, you handle it.
Gist speaks to the Indian.
I suppose you were lost and fired your gun.
I know the way; cabin is near.
Well, you go home, and as we are much tired,
we will follow your track in the morning.
Here is a cake of bread for you,
and you must give us meat in the morning.
The fire going, the Indian is glad to get away alive.
I'll follow him a little out of sight
to be sure he's out of the way.
When I come back we'll move to another site.
EXT. WILDERNESS - NIGHT
Gist and Washington stop as Gist lights a fire in order to see his compass.
That Indian was taking us too far north.
Now we must travel all night
toward the Allegheny for our own safety.
Can you make it?
I'll have to.
He wearily picks up his pack, and they set off in the night.
EXT. WILDERNESS - EVENING
Washington and Gist come upon some tracks in the snow.
Indians have been hunting here.
I know we've traveled all night
and most of the day,
but these savages might return this way.
We must separate now and meet after dark.
You see that rocky ledge up ahead?
I'll meet you there when its dark.
I think it'll be safe to sleep there.
EXT. BY ROCKY LEDGE - DAWN
Gist and Washington are just waking up.
It's not far from here to the Allegheny River.
Good. We might as well get started.
Let's hope the river is frozen,
so we can walk across.
EXT. ALLEGHENY RIVER - MORNING
Gist and Washington, disheartened, look at the rushing current of the river between only about fifty yards of ice adjoining each bank.
How can we cross?
Our only choice is to build a raft.
At least we have a hatchet.
Gist pulls out a small hatchet from one of the packs they had set down, and starts to chop a branch off a young tree nearby.
Until we've got enough logs to tie,
One works while the other rests.
EXT. ALLEGHENY RIVER - NOON
Washington chops, as Gist rests.
EXT. ALLEGHENY RIVER - SUNSET
After working all day, they are tying up the logs securely with rope.
All right. This should hold.
We'll use these poles to push across.
They get everything ready and slide the raft across the ice and launch it in the water which is full of icebergs. As they push across, half the battle is pushing away the icebergs. In midstream they become lodged in an ice jam.
I can't get us clear of this ice.
Maybe I can stop the raft,
so the ice will run past.
Washington pushes his pole downstream into about ten feet of water and tries to hold it, but the force of the current rams the raft into the pole violently, launching Washington pole-vaulting into the river. He barely is able to reach out and grab a log on the raft to save his life. He pulls himself to it and climbs back on the raft. He tries to help Gist handle the raft but has no pole.
I don't think we can get to either shore!
Washington spots a little island in the middle of the river.
Look, an island!
I'll push for it.
Since the raft is still jammed in icebergs, they leave the raft and carry their packs and rifles, as they wade through the ice to the ten-foot piece of land. Washington's clothes are covered with a sheet of ice.
Nothing to do but lay down
and try to keep from freezing.
My fingers are already frozen.
God help us!
They lay down back to back and cuddle up their knees.
EXT. ALLEGHENY RIVER ISLAND - DAWN
Washington opens his eyes and looks at the river which is now frozen over. He is exhilarated.
The river's frozen.
Well, I'll be.
They get up and are able to easily walk across over the ice to the shore.
Thanks be to God!
INT. FRAZIER'S TRADING POST - DAY
Washington and Gist enjoy a warm meal with Frazier.
In the camp of Indian braves outside
they said they found seven people killed and scalped,
except for one woman with very light hair.
They turned and ran back for fear
the inhabitants would rise up against them,
taking them as the authors of the murder.
The bodies were lying about the house,
some of them much torn and eaten by hogs.
By the marks which were left, they say
they were French Indians
of the Ottoway nations who did it.
I wonder what the Indian was who shot at us?
How long before we can get horses for our journey?
You might visit Queen Aliquippa
three miles from here.
She felt neglected you passed her by
on the way to the fort.
INT. ALIQUIPPA'S RESIDENCE - DAY
Washington presents gifts of a heavy fur coat and a bottle of rum, the latter being most warmly received by the Chief.
EXT. WILDERNESS TRAIL - DAY
Washington and Gist on horseback meet a pack train of seventeen horses going west under an ENGLISH OFFICER.
Hello. Where are you headed?
We are carrying materials and supplies for the fort
William Trent is to build on the Ohio.
That's good news.
We'll need it against the French---and soon.
INT. GOVERNOR'S PALACE IN WILLIAMSBURG - DAY
Washington stands as Governor Dinwiddie reads the letter from the French commander.
It's clear they claim the land as well.
What is your conclusion based on your observations?
They are definitely preparing
to move south in the spring.
I'd like you to make a full report
on this entire business
before the King's Council tomorrow.
I am at your service.
-- end of the first episode in a series on GEORGE WASHINGTON --
This screenplay has been published in the book GEORGE WASHINGTON: A Dramatic Series. For ordering information, please click here.
A War Breaks Out
General Braddock's Defeat
Fight for Independence
Maintaining an Army
On to Victory