While reconnoitering in Westmoreland County, Virginia, one of General Washington's officers chanced upon a fine team of horses driven before a plow by a burly slave. Finer animals he had never seen. When his eyes had feasted on their beauty he cried to the driver: "Hello good fellow! I must have those horses. They are just such animals as I have been looking for."
The black man grinned, rolled up the whites of his eyes, put the lash to the horses' flanks and turned up another furrow in the rich soil.
The officer waited until he had finished the row; then throwing back his cavalier cloak the ensign of the rank dazzled the slave's eyes.
"Better see missus! Better see missus!" he cried waving his hand to the south, where above the cedar growth rose the towers of a fine old Virginia mansion.
The officer turned up the carriage road and soon was rapping the great brass knocker of the front door.
Quickly the door swung upon its ponderous hinges and a grave, majestic-looking woman confronted the visitor with an air of inquiry.
"Madam," said the officer doffing his cap and overcome by her dignity, "I have come to claim your horses in the name of the Government."
"My horses?" said she, bending upon him a pair of eyes born to command. "Sir, you cannot have them. My crops are out and I need my horses in the field."
"I am sorry," said the officer, "but I must have them, madam. Such are the orders of my chief."
"Your chief? Who is your chief, pray?" she demanded with restrained warmth.
"The commander of the American army, General George Washington," replied the other, squaring his shoulders and swelling his pride.
A smile of triumph softened the sternness of the woman's features. "You go and tell General George Washington for me," said she, "that his mother says he cannot have her horses."