On October 31, 1753, Major George Washington and his guide, Christopher Gist, set out from Williamsburg to the nearest French outpost, at Fort Le Boeuf, in Waterford, Pennsylvania. Washington carried Virginia Governor Dinwiddie's warning to the French army, which had invaded the Allegheny River Valley.
On the return trip, progress on horseback was so slow that Washington and Gist struck out on foot by the most direct route home. The painting shows them poling their hastily constructed log raft across the Allegheny River on December 29, 1753. Their ability to light a camp fire on Herr's Island saved them from disaster after Washington fell into icy river waters.
They arrived back in Williamsburg on January 16, carrying back to Dinwiddie the French commander's refusal to heed the ultimatum.