Part 3 out of 7
A volunteer situation on the staff of General Braddock offered no emolument
nor command, and would be attended with considerable expense, beside a
sacrifice of his private interests, having no person in whom he had
confidence, to take charge of his affairs in his absence; still he did not
hesitate a moment to accept the invitation. In the position offered to him,
all the questions of military rank which had hitherto annoyed him, would be
obviated. He could indulge his passion for arms without any sacrifice of
dignity, and he looked forward with high anticipation to an opportunity of
acquiring military experience in a corps well organized, and thoroughly
disciplined, and in the family of a commander of acknowledged skill as a
His mother heard with concern of another projected expedition into the
wilderness. Hurrying to Mount Vernon, she entreated him not again to expose
himself to the hardships and perils of these frontier campaigns. She
doubtless felt the value of his presence at home, to manage and protect the
complicated interests of the domestic connection, and had watched with
solicitude over his adventurous campaigning, where so much family welfare
was at hazard. However much a mother's pride may have been gratified by his
early advancement and renown, she had rejoiced on his return to the safer
walks of peaceful life. She was thoroughly practical and prosaic in her
notions; and not to be dazzled by military glory. The passion for arms
which mingled with the more sober elements of Washington's character, would
seem to have been inherited from his father's side of the house; it was, in
fact, the old chivalrous spirit of the De Wessyngtons.
His mother had once prevented him from entering the navy, when a gallant
frigate was at hand, anchored in the waters of the Potomac; with all his
deference for her, which he retained through life, he could not resist the
appeal to his martial sympathies, which called him to the head-quarters of
General Braddock at Alexandria.
His arrival was hailed by his young associates, Captains Orme and Morris,
the general's aides-de-camp, who at once received him into frank
companionship, and a cordial intimacy commenced between them, that
continued throughout the campaign.
He experienced a courteous reception from the general, who expressed in
flattering terms the impression he had received of his merits. Washington
soon appreciated the character of the general. He found him stately and
somewhat haughty, exact in matters of military etiquette and discipline,
positive in giving an opinion, and obstinate in maintaining it; but of an
honorable and generous, though somewhat irritable nature.
There were at that time four governors, beside Dinwiddie, assembled at
Alexandria, at Braddock's request, to concert a plan of military
operations; Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts; Lieutenant-governor
Delancey, of New York; Lieutenant-governor Sharpe, of Maryland;
Lieutenant-governor Morris, of Pennsylvania. Washington was presented to
them in a manner that showed how well his merits were already appreciated.
Shirley seems particularly to have struck him as the model of a gentleman
and statesman. He was originally a lawyer, and had risen not more by his
talents, than by his implicit devotion to the crown. His son William was
military secretary to Braddock.
A grand council was held on the 14th of April, composed of General
Braddock, Commodore Keppel, and the governors, at which the general's
commission was read, as were his instructions from the king, relating to a
common fund, to be established by the several colonies, toward defraying
the expenses of the campaign.
The governors were prepared to answer on this head, letters to the same
purport having been addressed to them by Sir Thomas Robinson, one of the
king's secretaries of state, in the preceding month of October. They
informed Braddock that they had applied to their respective Assemblies for
the establishment of such a fund, but in vain, and gave it as their
unanimous opinion, that such a fund could never be established in the
colonies without the aid of Parliament. They had found it impracticable,
also, to obtain from their respective governments the proportions expected
from them by the crown, toward military expenses in America; and suggested
that ministers should find out some mode of compelling them to do it; and
that, in the mean time, the general should make use of his credit upon
government, for current expenses, lest the expedition should come to a
stand. [Footnote: Colonial Records, vol vi., p. 366.]
In discussing the campaign, the governors were of opinion that New York
should be made the centre of operations, as it afforded easy access by
water to the heart of the French possessions in Canada. Braddock, however,
did not feel at liberty to depart from his instructions, which specified
the recent establishments of the French on the Ohio as the objects of his
Niagara and Crown Point were to be attacked about the same time with Fort
Duquesne, the former by Governor Shirley, with his own and Sir William
Pepperell's regiments, and some New York companies; the latter by Colonel
William Johnson, sole manager and director of Indian affairs; a personage
worthy of especial note.
He was a native of Ireland, and had come out to this country in 1734, to
manage the landed estates owned by his uncle, Commodore Sir Peter Warren,
in the Mohawk country. He had resided ever since in the vicinity of the
Mohawk River, in the province of New York. By his agency, and his dealings
with the native tribes, he had acquired great wealth, and become a kind of
potentate in the Indian country. His influence over the Six Nations was
said to be unbounded; and it was principally with the aid of a large force
of their warriors that it was expected he would accomplish his part of the
campaign. The end of June, "nearly in July," was fixed upon as the time
when the several attacks upon Forts Duquesne, Niagara, and Crown Point,
should be carried into execution, and Braddock anticipated an easy
accomplishment of his plans.
The expulsion of the French from the lands wrongfully held by them in Nova
Scotia, was to be assigned to Colonel Lawrence, Lieutenant-governor of that
province; we will briefly add, in anticipation, that it was effected by
him, with the aid of troops from Massachusetts and elsewhere, led by
The business of the Congress being finished, General Braddock would have
set out for Fredericktown, in Maryland, but few waggons or teams had yet
come to remove the artillery. Washington had looked with wonder and dismay
at the huge paraphernalia of war, and the world of superfluities to be
transported across the mountains, recollecting the difficulties he had
experienced in getting over them with his nine swivels and scanty supplies.
"If our march is to be regulated by the slow movements of the train," said
he, "it will be tedious, very tedious, indeed." His predictions excited a
sarcastic smile in Braddock, as betraying the limited notions of a young
provincial officer, little acquainted with the march of armies.
In the mean while, Sir John St. Clair, who had returned to the frontier,
was storming at the camp at Fort Cumberland. The road required of the
Pennsylvania government had not been commenced. George Croghan and the
other commissioners were but just arrived in camp. Sir John, according to
Croghan, received them in a very disagreeable manner; would not look at
their draughts, nor suffer any representations to be made to him in regard
to the province, "but stormed like a lion rampant;" declaring that the want
of the road and of the provisions promised by Pennsylvania had retarded the
expedition, and might cost them, their lives from the fresh numbers of
French that might be poured into the country.--"That instead of marching to
the Ohio, he would in nine days march his army into Cumberland County to
cut the roads, press horses, waggons, &c.--That he would not suffer a
soldier to handle an axe, but by fire and sword oblige the inhabitants to
do it. ... That he would kill all kinds of cattle, and carry away the
horses, burn the houses, &c.; and that if the French defeated them, by the
delays of Pennsylvania, he would, with his sword drawn, pass through the
province and treat the inhabitants as a parcel of traitors to his master.
That he would write to England by a man-of-war; shake Mr. Penn's
proprietaryship, and represent Pennsylvania as a disaffected province. ...
He told us to go to the general, if we pleased, who would give us _ten
bad words for one that he had given_."
The explosive wrath of Sir John, which was not to be appeased, shook the
souls of the commissioners, and they wrote to Governor Morris, urging that
people might be set at work upon the road, if the Assembly had made
provision for opening it; and that flour might be sent without delay to the
mouth of Canococheague River, "as being the only remedy left to prevent
these threatened mischiefs." [Footnote: Colonial Records, vol. vi., p.
In reply, Mr. Richard Peters, Governor Morris's secretary, wrote in his
name: "Get a number of hands immediately, and further the work by all
possible methods. Your expenses will be paid at the next sitting of
Assembly. Do your duty, and oblige the general and quartermaster if
possible. Finish the road that will be wanted first, and then proceed to
any other that may be thought necessary."
An additional commission, of a different kind, was intrusted to George
Croghan. Governor Morris by letter requested him to convene at Aughquick,
in Pennsylvania, as many warriors as possible of the mixed tribes of the
Ohio, distribute among them wampum belts sent for the purpose, and engage
them to meet General Braddock when on the march, and render him all the
assistance in their power.
In reply, Croghan engaged to enlist a strong body of Indians, being sure of
the influence of Scarooyadi, successor to the half-king, and of his
adjunct, White Thunder, keeper of the speech-belts. [Footnote: Colonial
Records, vol. vi., p, 375.] At the instance of Governor Morris, Croghan
secured the services of another kind of force. This was a band of hunters,
resolute men, well acquainted with the country, and inured to hardships.
They were under the command of Captain Jack, one of the most remarkable
characters of Pennsylvania; a complete hero of the wilderness. He had been
for many years a captive among the Indians; and, having learnt their ways,
had formed this association for the protection of the settlements,
receiving a commission of captain from the Governor of Pennsylvania. The
band had become famous for its exploits, and was a terror to the Indians.
Captain Jack was at present protecting the settlements on the
Canococheague; but promised to march by a circuitous route and join
Braddock with his hunters. "They require no shelter for the night," writes
Croghan; "they ask no pay. If the whole army was composed of such men there
would be no cause of apprehension. I shall be with them in time for duty."
[Footnote: Hazard's Register of Penn., vol. iv., p. 416.]
The following extract of a letter, dated August, 1750, gives one of the
stories relative to this individual:
"The 'Black Hunter,' the 'Black Rifle,' the 'Wild Hunter of Juniata,' is a
white man; his history is this: He entered the woods with a few
enterprising companions; built his cabin; cleared a little land, and amused
himself with the pleasures of fishing and hunting. He felt happy, for then
he had not a care. But on an evening, when he returned from a day of sport,
he found his cabin burnt, his wife and children murdered. From that moment
he forsakes civilized man; hunts out caves, in which he lives; protects the
frontier inhabitants from the Indians; and seizes every opportunity of
revenge that offers. He lives the terror of the Indians and the consolation
of the whites. On one occasion, near Juniata, in the middle of a dark
night, a family were suddenly awaked from sleep by the report of a gun;
they jump from their huts, and by the glimmering light from the chimney saw
an Indian fall to rise no more. The open door exposed to view the wild
hunter. 'I have saved your lives,' he cried, then turned and was buried in
the gloom of night."--_Hazard's Register of Penn_., vol. iv., 389.
WASHINGTON PROCLAIMED AIDE-DE-CAMP--DISAPPOINTMENTS AT FREDERICKTOWN--
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND BRADDOCK--CONTRACTS--DEPARTURE FOR WILLS' CREEK--
ROUGH ROADS--THE GENERAL IN HIS CHARIOT--CAMP AT FORT CUMBERLAND--HUGH
MERCER--DR. CRAIK--MILITARY TACTICS--CAMP RULES--SECRETARY PETERS--INDIANS
IN CAMP--INDIAN BEAUTIES--THE PRINCESS BRIGHT LIGHTNING--ERRAND TO
WILLIAMSBURG--BRADDOCK'S OPINION OF CONTRACTORS AND INDIANS--ARRIVAL OF
General Braddock set out from Alexandria on the 20th of April. Washington
remained behind a few days to arrange his affairs, and then rejoined him at
Fredericktown, in Maryland, where, on the 10th of May, he was proclaimed
one of the general's aides-de-camp. The troubles of Braddock had already
commenced. The Virginian contractors failed to fulfil their engagements; of
all the immense means of transportation so confidently promised, but
fifteen waggons and a hundred draft-horses had arrived, and there was no
prospect of more. There was equal disappointment in provisions, both as to
quantity and quality; and he had to send round the country to buy cattle
for the subsistence of the troops.
Fortunately, while the general was venting his spleen in anathemas against
army contractors, Benjamin Franklin arrived at Fredericktown. That eminent
man, then about forty-nine years of age, had been for many years member of
the Pennsylvania Assembly, and was now postmaster-general for America. The
Assembly understood that Braddock was incensed against them, supposing them
adverse to the service of the war. They had procured Franklin to wait upon
him, not as if sent by them, but as if he came in his capacity of
postmaster-general, to arrange for the sure and speedy transmission of
despatches between the commander-in-chief and the governors of the
He was well received, and became a daily guest at the general's table. In
his autobiography, he gives us an instance of the blind confidence and
fatal prejudices by which Braddock was deluded throughout this expedition.
"In conversation with him one day," writes Franklin, "he was giving me some
account of his intended progress. 'After taking Fort Duquesne,' said he, 'I
am to proceed to Niagara; and, having taken that, to Frontenac, if the
season will allow time; and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly
detain me above three or four days: and then I can see nothing that can
obstruct my march to Niagara.'
"Having before revolved in my mind," continues Franklin, "the long line his
army must make in their march by a very narrow road, to be cut for them
through the woods and bushes, and also what I had heard of a former defeat
of fifteen hundred French, who invaded the Illinois country, I had
conceived some doubts and some fears for the event of the campaign; but I
ventured only to say, 'To be sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne
with these fine troops, so well provided with artillery, the fort, though
completely fortified, and assisted with a very strong garrison, can
probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I apprehend of
obstruction to your march, is from the ambuscades of the Indians, who, by
constant practice, are dexterous in laying and executing them; and the
slender line, nearly four miles long, which your army must make, may expose
it to be attacked by surprise on its flanks, and to be cut like thread into
several pieces, which, from their distance, cannot come up in time to
support one another.'
"He smiled at my ignorance, and replied: 'These savages may indeed be a
formidable enemy to raw American militia, but upon the king's regular and
disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible they should make an impression.'
I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in
matters of his profession, and said no more." [Footnote: Autobiography of
Franklin. Sparks' Edition, p. 190.]
As the whole delay of the army was caused by the want of conveyances,
Franklin observed one day to the general that it was a pity the troops had
not been landed in Pennsylvania, where almost every farmer had his waggon.
"Then, sir," replied Braddock, "you who are a man of interest there can
probably procure them for me, and I beg you will." Franklin consented. An
instrument in writing was drawn up, empowering him to contract for one
hundred and fifty waggons, with four horses to each waggon, and fifteen
hundred saddle or packhorses for the service of his majesty's forces, to be
at Wills' Creek on or before the 20th of May, and he promptly departed for
Lancaster to execute the commission.
After his departure, Braddock, attended by his staff, and his guard of
light horse, set off for Wills' Creek by the way of Winchester, the road
along the north side of the Potomac not being yet made. "This gave him,"
writes Washington, "a good opportunity to see the absurdity of the route,
and of damning it very heartily." [Footnote: Draft of a letter, among
Washington's papers, addressed to Major John Carlyle.]
Three of Washington's horses were knocked up before they reached
Winchester, and he had to purchase others. This was a severe drain of his
campaigning purse; fortunately he was in the neighborhood of Greenway
Court, and was enabled to replenish it by a loan from his old friend Lord
The discomforts of the rough road were increased with the general, by his
travelling with some degree of state in a chariot which he had purchased of
Governor Sharpe. In this he dashed by Dunbar's division of the troops,
which he overtook near Wills' Creek; his body guard of light horse
galloping on each side of his chariot, and his staff accompanying him; the
drums beating the Grenadier's march as he passed. In this style, too, he
arrived at Fort Cumberland, amid a thundering salute of seventeen guns.
[Footnote: Journal of the Seamen's detachment.]
By this time the general discovered that he was not in a region fitted for
such display, and his travelling chariot was abandoned at Fort Cumberland;
otherwise it would soon have become a wreck among the mountains beyond.
By the 19th of May, the forces were assembled at Fort Cumberland. The two
royal regiments, originally one thousand strong, now increased to fourteen
hundred, by men chosen from the Maryland and Virginia levies. Two
provincial companies of carpenters, or pioneers, thirty men each, with
subalterns and captains. A company of guides, composed of a captain, two
aids, and ten men. The troop of Virginia light horse, commanded by Captain
Stewart; the detachment of thirty sailors with their officers, and the
remnants of two independent companies from New York, one of which was
commanded by Captain Horatio Gates, of whom, we shall have to speak much
hereafter, in the course of this biography.
Another person in camp, of subsequent notoriety, and who became a warm
friend of Washington, was Dr. Hugh Mercer, a Scotchman, about thirty-three
years of age. About ten years previously he had served as assistant surgeon
in the forces of Charles Edward, and followed his standard to the
disastrous field of Culloden. After the defeat of the "chevalier," Mercer
had escaped by the way of Inverness to America, and taken up his residence
in Virginia. He was now with the Virginia troops, rallying under the
standard of the House of Hanover, in an expedition led by a general who had
aided to drive the chevalier from Scotland. [Footnote: Braddock had been an
officer under the Duke of Cumberland, in his campaign against Charles
Another young Scotchman in the camp was Dr. James Craik, who had become
strongly attached to Washington, being about the same age, and having been
with him in the affair of the Great Meadows, serving as surgeon in the
Virginia regiment, to which he still belonged.
At Fort Cumberland, Washington had an opportunity of seeing a force
encamped according to the plan approved of by the council of war; and
military tactics, enforced with all the precision of a martinet.
The roll of each company was called over morning, noon, and night. There
was strict examination of arms and accoutrements; the commanding officer of
each company being answerable for their being kept in good order.
The general was very particular in regard to the appearance and drill of
the Virginia recruits and companies, whom he had put under the rigorous
discipline of Ensign Allen. "They performed their evolutions and firings,
as well as could be expected," writes Captain Orme, "but their languid,
spiritless, and unsoldier-like appearance, considered with the lowness and
ignorance of most of their officers, gave little hopes of their future good
behavior." [Footnote: Orme's Journal.] He doubtless echoed the opinion of
the general; how completely were both to be undeceived as to their estimate
of these troops!
The general held a levee in his tent every morning, from ten to eleven. He
was strict as to the morals of the camp. Drunkenness was severely punished.
A soldier convicted of theft was sentenced to receive one thousand lashes,
and to be drummed out of his regiment. Part of the first part of the
sentence was remitted. Divine service was performed every Sunday, at the
head of the colors of each regiment, by the chaplain. There was the funeral
of a captain who died at this encampment. A captain's guard marched before
the corpse, the captain of it in the rear, the firelocks reversed, the
drums beating the dead march. When near the grave, the guard formed two
lines, facing each other; rested on their arms, muzzles downwards, and
leaned their faces on the butts. The corpse was carried between them, the
sword and sash on the coffin, and the officers following two and two. After
the chaplain of the regiment had read the service, the guard fired three
volleys over the grave, and returned. [Footnote: Orme's Journal. Journal of
the Seamen's detachment.]
Braddock's camp, in a word, was a complete study for Washington, during the
halt at Fort Cumberland, where he had an opportunity of seeing military
routine in its strictest forms. He had a specimen, too, of convivial life
in the camp, which the general endeavored to maintain, even in the
wilderness, keeping a hospitable table; for he is said to have been
somewhat of a _bon vivant_, and to have had with him "two good cooks,
who could make an excellent ragout out of a pair of boots, had they but
materials to toss them up with." [Footnote: Preface to Winthrop Sargent's
There was great detention at the fort, caused by the want of forage and
supplies, the road not having been finished from Philadelphia. Mr. Richard
Peters, the secretary of Governor Morris, was in camp, to attend to the
matter. He had to bear the brunt of Braddock's complaints. The general
declared he would not stir from Wills' Creek until he had the governor's
assurance that the road would be opened in time. Mr. Peters requested
guards to protect the men while at work, from attacks by the Indians.
Braddock swore he would not furnish guards for the woodcutters,--"let
Pennsylvania do it!" He scoffed at the talk about danger from Indians.
Peters endeavored to make him sensible of the peril which threatened him in
this respect. Should an army of them, led by French officers, beset him in
his march, he would not be able, with all his strength and military skill,
to reach Fort Duquesne without a body of rangers, as well on foot as
horseback. The general, however, "despised his observations." [Footnote:
Colonial Records, vi. 396.] Still, guards had ultimately to be provided, or
the work on the road would have been abandoned.
Braddock, in fact, was completely chagrined and disappointed about the
Indians. The Cherokees and Catawbas, whom Dinwiddie had given him reason to
expect in such numbers, never arrived.
George Croghan reached the camp with but about fifty warriors, whom he had
brought from Aughquick. At the general's request he sent a messenger to
invite the Delawares and Shawnees from the Ohio, who returned with two
chiefs of the former tribe. Among the sachems thus assembled were some of
Washington's former allies; Scarooyadi, alias, Monacatoocha, successor to
the half-king; White Thunder, the keeper of the speech-belts, and Silver
Heels, so called, probably, from being swift of foot.
Notwithstanding his secret contempt for the Indians, Braddock, agreeably to
his instructions, treated them with great ceremony. A grand council was
held in his tent, where all his officers attended. The chiefs, and all the
warriors, came painted and decorated for war. They were received with
military honors, the guards resting on their fire-arms. The general made
them a speech through his interpreter, expressing the grief of their
father, the great king of England, at the death of the half-king, and made
them presents to console them. They in return promised their aid as guides
and scouts, and declared eternal enmity to the French, following the
declaration with the war song, "making a terrible noise."
The general, to regale and astonish them, ordered all the artillery to be
fired, "the drums and fifes playing and beating the point of war;" the fête
ended by their feasting, in their own camp, on a bullock which the general
had given them, following up their repast by dancing the war dance round a
fire, to the sound of their uncouth drums and rattles, "making night
hideous," by howls and yellings.
"I have engaged between forty and fifty Indians from the frontiers of your
province to go over the mountains with me," writes Braddock to Governor
Morris, "and shall take Croghan and Montour into service." Croghan was, in
effect, put in command of the Indians, and a warrant given to him of
For a time all went well. The Indians had their separate camp, where they
passed half the night singing, dancing, and howling. The British were
amused by their strange ceremonies, their savage antics, and savage
decorations. The Indians, on the other hand, loitered by day about the
English camp, fiercely painted and arrayed, gazing with silent admiration
at the parade of the troops, their marchings and evolutions; and delighted
with the horse-races, with which the young officers recreated themselves.
Unluckily the warriors had brought their families with them to Wills'
Creek, and the women were even fonder than the men of loitering about the
British camp. They were not destitute of attractions; for the young squaws
resemble the gypsies, having seductive forms, small hands and feet, and
soft voices. Among those who visited the camp was one who no doubt passed
for an Indian princess. She was the daughter of the sachem, White Thunder,
and bore the dazzling name of Bright Lightning. [Footnote: Seamen's
Journal.] The charms of these wild-wood beauties were soon acknowledged.
"The squaws," writes Secretary Peters, "bring in money plenty; the officers
are scandalously fond of them." [Footnote: Letter of Peters to Governor
The jealousy of the warriors was aroused some of them became furious. To
prevent discord, the squaws were forbidden to come into the British, camp.
This did not prevent their being sought elsewhere. It was ultimately found
necessary, for the sake of quiet, to send Bright Lightning, with all the
other women and children, back to Aughquick. White Thunder, and several of
the warriors, accompanied them for their protection.
As to, the three Delaware chiefs, they returned to the Ohio, promising the
general they would collect their warriors together, and meet him on his
march. They never kept their word. "These people are villains, and always
side with the strongest," says a shrewd journalist of the expedition.
During the halt of the troops at Wills' Creek, Washington had been sent to
Williamsburg to bring on four thousand pounds for the military chest. He
returned, after a fortnight's absence, escorted from Winchester by eight
men, "which eight men," writes he, "were two days assembling, but I believe
would not have been more than as many seconds dispersing if I had been
He found the general out of all patience and temper at the delays and
disappointments in regard to horses, waggons, and forage, making no
allowances for the difficulties incident to a new country, and to the novel
and great demands upon its scanty and scattered resources. He accused the
army contractors of want of faith, honor, and honesty; and in his moments
of passion, which were many, extended the stigma to the whole country.
This stung the patriotic sensibility of Washington, and overcame his usual
self-command, and the proud and passionate commander was occasionally
surprised by a well-merited rebuke from his aide-de-camp. "We have frequent
disputes on this head," writes Washington, "which are maintained with
warmth on both sides, especially on his, as he is incapable of arguing
without it, or of giving up any point he asserts, be it ever so
incompatible with reason or common sense."
The same pertinacity was maintained with respect to the Indians. George
Croghan informed Washington that the sachems considered themselves treated
with slight, in never being consulted in war matters. That he himself had
repeatedly offered the services of the warriors under his command as scouts
and outguards, but his offers had been rejected. Washington ventured to
interfere, and to urge their importance for such purposes, especially now
when they were approaching the stronghold of the enemy. As usual, the
general remained bigoted in his belief of the all-sufficiency of
Either from disgust thus caused, or from being actually dismissed, the
warriors began to disappear from the camp. It is said that Colonel Innes,
who was to remain in command at Fort Cumberland, advised the dismissal of
all but a few to serve as guides; certain it is, before Braddock
recommenced his march, none remained to accompany him but Scarooyadi, and
eight of his warriors. [Footnote: Braddock's own secretary, William
Shirley, was disaffected to him. Writing about him to Governor Morris, he
satirically observes: "We have a general most judiciously chosen for being
disqualified for the service he is employed in, in almost every respect."
And of the secondary officers: "As to them, I don't think we have much to
boast. Some are insolent and ignorant; others capable, but rather aiming at
showing their own abilities than making a proper use of them."--_Colonial
Records_, vi., 405.]
Seeing the general's impatience at the non-arrival of conveyances,
Washington again represented to him the difficulties he would encounter in
attempting to traverse the mountains with such a train of wheel-carriages,
assuring him it would be the most arduous part of the campaign; and
recommended, from his own experience, the substitution, as much as
possible, of packhorses. Braddock, however, had not been sufficiently
harassed by frontier campaigning to depart from his European modes, or to
be swayed in his military operations by so green a counsellor.
At length the general was relieved from present perplexities by the arrival
of the horses and waggons which Franklin had undertaken to procure. That
eminent man, with his characteristic promptness and unwearied exertions,
and by his great personal popularity, had obtained them from the reluctant
Pennsylvania farmers, being obliged to pledge his own responsibility for
their being fully remunerated. He performed this laborious task out of pure
zeal for the public service, neither expecting nor receiving emolument;
and, in fact, experiencing subsequently great delay and embarrassment
before he was relieved from the pecuniary responsibilities thus
The arrival of the conveyances put Braddock in good humor with
Pennsylvania. In a letter to Governor Morris, he alludes to the threat of
Sir John St. Clair to go through that province with a drawn sword in his
hand. "He is ashamed of his having talked to you in the manner he did."
Still the general made Franklin's contract for waggons the sole instance in
which he had not experienced deceit and villany. "I hope, however, in spite
of all this," adds he, "that we shall pass a merry Christmas together."
MARCH FROM FORT CUMBERLAND--THE GREAT SAVAGE MOUNTAIN--CAMP AT THE LITTLE
MEADOWS--DIVISION OF THE FORCES--CAPTAIN JACK AND HIS BAND--SCAROOYADI IN
DANGER--ILLNESS OF WASHINGTON--HIS HALT AT THE YOUGHIOGENY--MARCH OF
BRADDOCK--THE GREAT MEADOWS--LURKING ENEMIES--THEIR TRACKS--PRECAUTIONS--
THICKETTY RUN--SCOUTS--INDIAN MURDERS--FUNERAL OF AN INDIAN WARRIOR--CAMP
ON THE MONONGAHELA--WASHINGTON'S ARRIVAL THERE--MARCH FOR FORT DUQUESNE--
THE FORDING OF THE MONONGAHELA--THE BATTLE--THE RETREAT--DEATH OF BRADDOCK.
On the 10th of June, Braddock set off from Fort Cumberland with his
aides-de-camp, and others of his staff, and his body guard of light horse.
Sir Peter Halket, with his brigade, had marched three days previously; and
a detachment of six hundred men, under the command of Colonel Chapman, and
the supervision of Sir John St. Clair, had been employed upwards of ten
days in cutting down trees, removing rocks, and opening a road.
The march over the mountains proved, as Washington had foretold, a
"tremendous undertaking." It was with difficulty the heavily laden waggons
could be dragged up the steep and rugged roads, newly made, or imperfectly
repaired. Often they extended for three or four miles in a straggling and
broken line, with the soldiers so dispersed, in guarding them, that an
attack on any side would have thrown the whole in confusion. It was the
dreary region of the great Savage Mountain, and the "Shades of Death" that
was again made to echo with the din of arms.
What outraged Washington's notions of the abstemious frugality suitable to
campaigning in the "backwoods," was the great number of horses and waggons
required by the officers for the transportation of their baggage, camp
equipage, and a thousand articles of artificial necessity. Simple himself
in his tastes and habits, and manfully indifferent to personal indulgences,
he almost doubted whether such sybarites in the camp could be efficient in
By the time the advanced corps had struggled over two mountains, and
through the intervening forest, and reached (16th June) the Little Meadows,
where Sir John St. Clair had made a temporary camp, General Braddock had
become aware of the difference between campaigning in a new country, or on
the old well beaten battle-grounds of Europe. He now, of his own accord,
turned to Washington for advice, though it must have been a sore trial to
his pride to seek it of so young a man; but he had by this time sufficient
proof of his sagacity, and his knowledge of the frontier.
Thus unexpectedly called on, Washington gave his counsel with becoming
modesty, but with his accustomed clearness. There was just now an
opportunity to strike an effective blow at Fort Duquesne, but it might be
lost by delay. The garrison, according to credible reports, was weak; large
reinforcements and supplies, which were on their way, would be detained by
the drought, which rendered the river by which they must come low and
unnavigable. The blow must be struck before they could arrive. He advised
the general, therefore, to divide his forces; leave one part to come on
with the stores and baggage, and all the cumbrous appurtenances of an army,
and to throw himself in the advance with the other part, composed of his
choicest troops, lightened of every thing superfluous that might impede a
His advice was adopted. Twelve hundred men, selected out of all the
companies, and furnished with ten field-pieces, were to form the first
division, their provisions, and other necessaries, to be carried on
packhorses. The second division, with all the stores, munitions, and heavy
baggage, was to be brought on by Colonel Dunbar.
The least practicable part of the arrangement was with regard to the
officers of the advance. Washington had urged a retrenchment of their
baggage and camp equipage, that as many of their horses as possible might
be used as packhorses. Here was the difficulty. Brought up, many of them,
in fashionable and luxurious life, or the loitering indulgence of country
quarters, they were so encumbered with what they considered indispensable
necessaries, that out of two hundred and twelve horses generally
appropriated to their use, not more than a dozen could be spared by them
for the public service. Washington, in his own case, acted up to the advice
he had given. He retained no more clothing and effects with him than would
about half fill a portmanteau, and gave up his best steed as a
packhorse,--which he never heard of afterwards. [Footnote: Letter to J.
Augustine Washington. Sparks, ii., 81.]
During the halt at the Little Meadows, Captain Jack and his band of forest
rangers, whom Croghan had engaged at Governor Morris's suggestion, made
their appearance in the camp; armed and equipped with rifle, knife,
hunting-shirts, leggings and moccasins, and looking almost like a band of
Indians as they issued from the woods.
The captain asked an interview with the general, by whom, it would seem, he
was not expected. Braddock received him in his tent, in his usual stiff and
stately manner. The "Black Rifle" spoke of himself and his followers as men
inured to hardships, and accustomed to deal with Indians, who preferred
stealth and stratagem to open warfare. He requested his company should be
employed as a reconnoitering party, to beat up the Indians in their
lurking-places and ambuscades.
Braddock, who had a sovereign contempt for the chivalry of the woods, and
despised their boasted strategy, replied to the hero of the Pennsylvania
settlements in a manner to which he had not been accustomed. "There was
time enough," he said, "for making arrangements; and he had experienced
troops, on whom he could completely rely for all purposes."
Captain Jack withdrew, indignant at so haughty a reception, and informed
his leathern-clad followers of his rebuff. They forthwith shouldered their
rifles, turned their backs upon the camp, and, headed by the captain,
departed in Indian file through the woods, for the usual scenes of their
exploits, where men knew their value, the banks of the Juniata or the
Conococheague. [Footnote: On the Conococheague and Juniata is left the
history of their exploits. At one time you may hear of the band near Fort
Augusta, next at Fort Franklin, then at Loudon, then at Juniata,--rapid
were the movements of this hardy band.--_Hazard's Reg. Penn._, iv.,
390; also, v., 194.]
On the 19th of June Braddock's first division set out, with less than
thirty carriages, including those that transported ammunition for the
artillery, all strongly horsed. The Indians marched with the advanced
party. In the course of the day, Scarooyadi and his son being at a small
distance from the line of march, was surrounded and taken by some French
and Indians. His son escaped, and brought intelligence to his warriors;
they hastened to rescue or revenge him, but found him tied to a tree. The
French had been disposed to shoot him, but their savage allies declared
they would abandon them should they do so; having some tie of friendship or
kindred with the chieftain, who thus rejoined the troops unharmed.
Washington was disappointed in his anticipations of a rapid march. The
general, though he had adopted his advice in the main, could not carry it
out in detail. His military education was in the way; bigoted to the
regular and elaborate tactics of Europe, he could not stoop to the
make-shift expedients of a new country, where every difficulty is
encountered and mastered in a rough-and-ready style. "I found," said
Washington, "that instead of pushing on with vigor, without regarding a
little rough road, they were halting to level every mole hill, and to erect
bridges over every brook, by which means we were four days in getting
For several days Washington had suffered from fever, accompanied by intense
headache, and his illness increased in violence to such a degree that he
was unable to ride, and had to be conveyed for a part of the time in a
covered waggon. His illness continued without intermission until the 23d,
"when I was relieved," says he, "by the general's absolutely ordering the
physician, to give me Dr. James's powders; one of the most excellent
medicines in the world. It gave me immediate relief, and removed my fever
and other complaints in four days' time."
He was still unable to bear the jolting of the waggon, but it needed
another interposition of the kindly-intended authority of General Braddock,
to bring him to a halt at the great crossings of the Youghiogeny. There the
general assigned him a guard, provided him with necessaries, and requested
him to remain, under care of his physician, Dr. Craik, until the arrival of
Colonel Dunbar's detachment, which was two days' march in the rear; giving
him his word of honor that he should, at all events, be enabled to rejoin
the main division before it reached the French fort. [Footnote: Letter to
John Augustine Washington. Sparks, ii., 80.]
This kind solicitude on the part of Braddock, shows the real estimation in
which he was held by that officer. Doctor Craik backed the general's
orders, by declaring that should Washington persevere in his attempts to go
on in the condition he then was, his life would be in danger. Orme also
joined his entreaties, and promised, if he would remain, he would keep him
informed by letter of every occurrence of moment.
Notwithstanding all the kind assurances of Braddock and his aide-de-camp
Orme, it was with gloomy feelings that Washington saw the troops depart;
fearful he might not be able to rejoin them in time for the attack upon the
fort, which, he assured his brother aide-de-camp, he would not miss for
five hundred pounds.
Leaving Washington at the Youghiogeny, we will follow the march of
Braddock. In the course of the first day (June 24th), he came to a deserted
Indian camp; judging from the number of wigwams, there must have been about
one hundred and seventy warriors. Some of the trees about it had been
stripped, and painted with threats, and bravadoes, and scurrilous taunts
written on them in the French language, showing that there were white men
with the savages.
The next morning at daybreak, three men venturing beyond the sentinels were
shot and scalped; parties were immediately sent out to scour the woods, and
drive in the stray horses.
The day's march, passed by the Great Meadows and Fort Necessity, the scene
of Washington's capitulation. Several Indians were seen hovering in the
woods, and the light horse and Indian allies were sent out to surround
them, but did not succeed. In crossing a mountain beyond the Great Meadows,
the carriages had to be lowered with the assistance of the sailors, by
means of tackle. The camp for the night was about two miles beyond Fort
Necessity. Several French and Indians endeavored to reconnoitre it, but
were fired upon by the advanced sentinels.
The following day (26th) there was a laborious march of but four miles,
owing to the difficulties of the road. The evening halt was at another
deserted Indian camp, strongly posted on a high rock, with a steep and
narrow ascent; it had a spring in the middle, and stood at the termination
of the Indian path to the Monongahela. By this pass the party had come
which attacked Washington the year before, in the Great Meadows. The
Indians and French too, who were hovering about the army, had just left
this camp. The fires they had left were yet burning. The French had
inscribed their names on some of the trees with insulting bravadoes, and
the Indians had designated in triumph the scalps they had taken two days
previously. A party was sent out with guides, to follow their tracks and
fall on them in the night, but again without success. In fact, it was the
Indian boast, that throughout this march of Braddock, they saw him every
day from the mountains, and expected to be able to shoot down his soldiers
The march continued to be toilful and difficult; on one day it did not
exceed two miles, having to cut a passage over a mountain. In cleaning
their guns the men were ordered to draw the charge, instead of firing it
off. No fire was to be lighted in front of the pickets. At night the men
were to take their arms into the tents with them.
Further on the precautions became still greater. On the advanced pickets
the men were in two divisions, relieving each other every two hours. Half
remained on guard with fixed bayonets, the other half lay down by their
arms. The picket sentinels were doubled.
On the 4th of July they encamped at Thicketty Run. The country was less
mountainous and rocky, and the woods, consisting chiefly of white pine,
were more open. The general now supposed himself to be within thirty miles
of Fort Duquesne. Ever since his halt at the deserted camp on the rock
beyond the Great Meadows, he had endeavored to prevail upon the Croghan
Indians to scout in the direction of the fort, and bring him intelligence,
but never could succeed. They had probably been deterred by the number of
French and Indian tracks, and by the recent capture of Scarooyadi. This
day, however, two consented to reconnoitre; and shortly after their
departure, Christopher Gist, the resolute pioneer, who acted as guide to
the general, likewise set off as a scout.
The Indians returned on the 6th. They had been close to Fort Duquesne.
There were no additional works there; they saw a few boats under the fort,
and one with a white flag coming down the Ohio; but there were few men to
be seen, and few tracks of any. They came upon an unfortunate officer,
shooting within half a mile of the fort, and brought a scalp as a trophy of
his fate. None of the passes between the camp and fort were occupied; they
believed there were few men abroad reconnoitering.
Gist returned soon after them. His account corroborated theirs; but he had
seen a smoke in a valley between the camp and the fort, made probably by
some scouting party. He had intended to prowl about the fort at night, but
had been discovered and pursued by two Indians and narrowly escaped with
On the same day, during the march, three or four men loitering in the rear
of the grenadiers were killed and scalped. Several of the grenadiers set
off to take revenge. They came upon a party of Indians, who held up boughs
and grounded their arms, the concerted sign of amity. Not perceiving or
understanding it, the grenadiers fired upon them, and one fell. It proved
to be the son of Scarooyadi. Aware too late of their error, the grenadiers
brought the body to the camp. The conduct of Braddock was admirable on the
occasion. He sent for the father and the other Indians, and condoled with
them on the lamentable occurrence; making them the customary presents of
expiation. But what was more to the point, he caused the youth to be buried
with the honors of war; at his request the officers attended the funeral,
and a volley was fired over the grave.
These soldierlike tributes of respect to the deceased, and sympathy with
the survivors, soothed the feelings and gratified the pride of the father,
and attached him more firmly to the service. We are glad to record an
anecdote so contrary to the general contempt for the Indians with which
Braddock stands charged. It speaks well for the real kindness of his heart.
We will return now to Washington in his sick encampment on the banks of the
Youghiogeny where he was left repining at the departure of the troops
without him. To add to his annoyances, his servant, John Alton, a faithful
Welshman, was taken ill with the same malady, and unable to render him any
services. Letters from his fellow aides-de-camp showed him the kind
solicitude that was felt concerning him. At the general's desire, Captain
Morris wrote to him, informing him of their intended halts.
"It is the desire of every individual in the family," adds he, "and the
general's positive commands to you, not to stir, but by the advice of the
person [Dr. Craik] under whose care you are, till you are better, which we
all hope will be very soon."
Orme, too, according to promise, kept him informed of the incidents of the
march; the frequent night alarms, and occasional scalping parties. The
night alarms Washington considered mere feints, designed to harass the men
and retard the march; the enemy, he was sure, had not sufficient force for
a serious attack; and he was glad to learn from Orme that the men were in
high spirits and confident of success.
He now considered himself sufficiently recovered to rejoin the troops, and
his only anxiety was that he should not be able to do it in time for the
great blow. He was rejoiced, therefore, on the 3d of July, by the arrival
of an advanced party of one hundred men convoying provisions. Being still
too weak to mount his horse, he set off with the escort in a covered
waggon; and after a most fatiguing journey, over mountain and through
forest, reached Braddock's camp on the 8th of July. It was on the east side
of the Monongahela, about two miles from the river in the neighborhood of
the town of Queen Aliquippa, and about fifteen miles from Fort Duquesne.
In consequence of adhering to technical rules and military forms, General
Braddock had consumed a month in marching little more than a hundred miles.
The tardiness of his progress was regarded with surprise and impatience
even in Europe; where his patron, the Duke of Brunswick, was watching the
events of the campaign he had planned. "The Duke," writes Horace Walpole,
"is much dissatisfied at the slowness of General Braddock, _who does not
march as if he was at all impatient to be scalped._" The insinuation of
the satirical wit was unmerited. Braddock was a stranger to fear; but in
his movements he was fettered by system.
Washington was warmly received on his arrival, especially by his fellow
aides-de-camp, Morris and Orme. He was just in time, for the attack upon
Fort Duquesne was to be made on the following day. The neighboring country
had been reconnoitered to determine upon a plan of attack. The fort stood
on the same side of the Monongahela with the camp; but there was a narrow
pass between them of about two miles, with the river on the left and a very
high mountain on the right, and in its present state quite impassable for
carriages. The route determined on was to cross the Monongahela by a ford
immediately opposite to the camp; proceed along the west bank of the river,
for about five miles, then recross by another ford to the eastern side, and
push on to the fort. The river at these fords was shallow, and the banks
were not steep.
According to the plan of arrangement, Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, with the
advance, was to cross the river before daybreak, march to the second ford,
and recrossing there, take post to secure the passage of the main force.
The advance was to be composed of two companies of grenadiers, one hundred
and sixty infantry, the independent company of Captain Horatio Gates, and
two six pounders.
Washington, who had already seen enough of regular troops to doubt their
infallibility in wild bush-fighting, and who knew the dangerous nature of
the ground they were to traverse, ventured to suggest, that on the
following day the Virginia rangers, being accustomed to the country and to
Indian warfare, might be thrown in the advance. The proposition drew an
angry reply from the general, indignant, very probably, that a young
provincial officer should presume to school a veteran like himself.
Early next morning (July 9th), before daylight, Colonel Gage crossed with
the advance. He was followed, at some distance, by Sir John St. Clair,
quartermaster-general, with a working party of two hundred and fifty men,
to make roads for the artillery and baggage. They had with them their
waggons of tools, and two six pounders. A party of about thirty savages
rushed out of the woods as Colonel Gage advanced, but were put to flight
before they had done any harm.
By sunrise the main body turned out in full uniform. At the beating of the
general, their arms, which had been cleaned the night before, were charged
with fresh cartridges. The officers were perfectly equipped. All looked as
if arrayed for a fête, rather than a battle. Washington, who was still weak
and unwell, mounted his horse, and joined the staff of the general, who was
scrutinizing every thing with the eye of a martinet. As it was supposed the
enemy would be on the watch for the crossing of the troops, it had been
agreed that they should do it in the greatest order, with bayonets fixed,
colors flying, and drums and fifes beating and playing. [Footnote: Orme's
Journal.] They accordingly made a gallant appearance as they forded the
Monongahela, and wound along its banks, and through the open forests,
gleaming and glittering in morning sunshine, and stepping buoyantly to the
Washington, with his keen and youthful relish for military affairs, was
delighted with their perfect order and equipment, so different from the
rough bush-fighters, to which he had been accustomed. Roused to new life,
he forgot his recent ailments, and broke forth in expressions of enjoyment
and admiration, as he rode in company with his fellow aides-de-camp, Orme
and Morris. Often, in after life, he used to speak of the effect upon him
of the first sight of a well-disciplined European army, marching in high
confidence and bright array, on the eve of a battle.
About noon they reached the second ford. Gage, with the advance, was on the
opposite side of the Monongahela, posted according to orders; but the river
bank had not been sufficiently sloped. The artillery and baggage drew up
along the beach and halted until one, when the second crossing took place,
drums beating, fifes playing, and colors flying, as before. When all had
passed, there was again a halt close by a small stream called Frazier's
Run, until the general arranged the order of march.
First went the advance, under Gage, preceded by the engineers and guides,
and six light horsemen.
Then, Sir John St. Clair and the working party, with their waggons and the
two six pounders. On each side were thrown out four flanking parties.
Then, at some distance, the general was to follow with the main body, the
artillery and baggage preceded and flanked by light horse and squads of
infantry; while the Virginian, and other provincial troops, were to form
the rear guard.
The ground before them was level until about half a mile from the river,
where a rising ground, covered with long grass, low bushes, and scattered
trees, sloped gently up to a range of hills. The whole country, generally
speaking, was a forest, with no clear opening but the road, which was about
twelve feet wide, and flanked by two ravines, concealed by trees and
Had Braddock been schooled in the warfare of the woods, or had he adopted
the suggestions of Washington, which he rejected so impatiently, he would
have thrown out Indian scouts or Virginia rangers in the advance, and on
the flanks, to beat up the woods and ravines; but, as has been
sarcastically observed, he suffered his troops to march forward through the
centre of the plain, with merely their usual guides and flanking parties,
"as if in a review in St. James' Park."
It was now near two o'clock. The advanced party and the working party had
crossed the plain and were ascending the rising ground. Braddock was about
to follow with the main body and had given the word to march, when he heard
an excessively quick and heavy firing in front. Washington, who was with
the general, surmised that the evil he had apprehended had come to pass.
For want of scouting parties ahead the advance parties were suddenly and
warmly attacked. Braddock ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Burton to hasten to
their assistance with the vanguard of the main body, eight hundred strong.
The residue, four hundred, were halted, and posted to protect the artillery
The firing continued, with fearful yelling. There was a terrible uproar. By
the general's orders an aide-de-camp spurred forward to bring him an
account of the nature of the attack. Without waiting for his return the
general himself, finding the turmoil increase, moved forward, leaving Sir
Peter Halket with the command of the baggage. [Footnote: Orme's Journal.]
The van of the advance had indeed been taken by surprise. It was composed
of two companies of carpenters or pioneers to cut the road, and two flank
companies of grenadiers to protect them. Suddenly the engineer who preceded
them to mark out the road gave the alarm, "French and Indians!" A body of
them was approaching rapidly, cheered on by a Frenchman in gaily fringed
hunting-shirt, whose gorget showed him to be an officer. There was sharp
firing on both sides at first. Several of the enemy fell; among them their
leader; but a murderous fire broke out from among trees and a ravine on the
right, and the woods resounded with unearthly whoops and yellings. The
Indian rifle was at work, levelled by unseen hands. Most of the grenadiers
and many of the pioneers were shot down. The survivors were driven in on
Gage ordered his men to fix bayonets and form in order of battle. They did
so in hurry and trepidation. He would have scaled a hill on the right
whence there was the severest firing. Not a platoon would quit the line of
march. They were more dismayed by the yells than by the rifles of the
unseen savages. The latter extended themselves along the hill and in the
ravines; but their whereabouts was only known by their demoniac cries and
the puffs of smoke from their rifles. The soldiers fired wherever they saw
the smoke. Their officers tried in vain to restrain them until they should
see their foe. All orders were unheeded; in their fright they shot at
random, killing some of their own flanking parties, and of the vanguard, as
they came running in. The covert fire grew more intense. In a short time
most of the officers and many of the men of the advance were killed or
wounded. Colonel Gage himself received a wound. The advance fell back in
dismay upon Sir John St. Clair's corps, which was equally dismayed. The
cannon belonging to it were deserted.
Colonel Burton had come up with the reinforcement, and was forming his men
to face the rising ground on the right, when both of the advanced
detachments fell back upon him, and all now was confusion.
By this time the general was upon the ground. He tried to rally the men.
"They would fight," they said, "if they could see their enemy; but it was
useless to fire at trees and bushes, and they could not stand to be shot
down by an invisible foe."
The colors were advanced in different places to separate the men of the two
regiments. The general ordered the officers to form the men, tell them off
into small divisions, and advance with them; but the soldiers could not be
prevailed upon either by threats or entreaties. The Virginia troops,
accustomed to the Indian mode of fighting, scattered themselves, and took
post behind trees, where they could pick off the lurking foe. In this way
they, in some degree, protected the regulars. Washington advised General
Braddock to adopt the same plan with the regulars; but he persisted in
forming them into platoons; consequently they were cut down from behind
logs and trees as fast as they could advance. Several attempted to take to
the trees, without orders, but the general stormed at them, called them
cowards, and even struck them with the flat of his sword. Several of the
Virginians, who had taken post and were doing good service in this manner,
were slain by the fire of the regulars, directed wherever a smoke appeared
among the trees.
The officers behaved with consummate bravery; and Washington beheld with
admiration those who, in camp or on the march, had appeared to him to have
an almost effeminate regard for personal ease and convenience, now exposing
themselves to imminent death, with a courage that kindled with the
thickening horrors. In the vain hope of inspiriting the men to drive off
the enemy from the flanks and regain the cannon, they would dash forward
singly or in groups. They were invariably shot down; for the Indians aimed
from their coverts at every one on horseback, or who appeared to have
Some were killed by random shot of their own men, who, crowded in masses,
fired with affrighted rapidity, but without aim. Soldiers in the front
ranks were killed by those in the rear. Between friend and foe, the
slaughter of the officers was terrible. All this while the woods resounded
with the unearthly yellings of the savages, and now and then one of them,
hideously painted, and ruffling with feathered crest, would rush forth to
scalp an officer who had fallen, or seize a horse galloping wildly without
Throughout this disastrous day, Washington distinguished himself by his
courage and presence of mind. His brother aids, Orme and Morris, were
wounded and disabled early in the action, and the whole duty of carrying
the orders of the general devolved on him. His danger was imminent and
incessant. He was in every part of the field, a conspicuous mark for the
murderous rifle. Two horses were shot under him. Four bullets passed
through his coat. His escape without a wound was almost miraculous. Dr.
Craik, who was on the field attending to the wounded, watched him with
anxiety as he rode about in the most exposed manner, and used to say that
he expected every moment to see him fall. At one time he was sent to the
main body to bring the artillery into action. All there was likewise in
confusion; for the Indians had extended themselves along the ravine so as
to flank the reserve and carry slaughter into the ranks. Sir Peter Halket
had been shot down at the head of his regiment. The men who should have
served the guns were paralyzed. Had they raked the ravines with grapeshot
the day might have been saved. In his ardor Washington sprang from his
horse; wheeled and pointed a brass field-piece with his own hand, and
directed an effective discharge into the woods; but neither his efforts nor
example were of avail. The men could not be kept to the guns.
Braddock still remained in the centre of the field, in the desperate hope
of retrieving the fortunes of the day. The Virginia rangers, who had been
most efficient in covering his position, were nearly all killed or wounded.
His secretary, Shirley, had fallen by his side. Many of his officers had
been slain within his sight, and many of his guard of Virginia light horse.
Five horses had been killed under him; still he kept his ground, vainly
endeavoring to check the flight of his men, or at least to effect their
retreat in good order. At length a bullet passed through his right arm, and
lodged itself in his lungs. He fell from his horse, but was caught by
Captain Stewart of the Virginia guards, who, with the assistance of another
American, and a servant, placed him in a tumbril. It was with much
difficulty they got him out of the field--in his despair he desired to be
left there. [Footnote: Journal of the Seamen's detachment.]
The rout now became complete. Baggage, stores, artillery, every thing was
abandoned. The waggoners took each a horse out of his team, and fled. The
officers were swept off with the men in this headlong flight. It was
rendered more precipitate by the shouts and yells of the savages, numbers
of whom rushed forth from their coverts, and pursued the fugitives to the
river side, killing several as they dashed across in tumultuous confusion.
Fortunately for the latter, the victors gave up the pursuit in their
eagerness to collect the spoil.
The shattered army continued its flight after it had crossed the
Monongahela, a wretched wreck of the brilliant little force that had
recently gleamed along its banks, confident of victory. Out of eighty-six
officers, twenty-six had been killed, and thirty-six wounded. The number of
rank and file killed and wounded was upwards of seven hundred. The Virginia
corps had suffered the most; one company had been almost annihilated,
another, beside those killed and wounded in the ranks, had lost all its
officers, even to the corporal.
About a hundred men were brought to a halt about a quarter of a mile from
the ford of the river. Here was Braddock, with his wounded aides-de-camp
and some of his officers; Dr. Craik dressing his wounds, and Washington
attending him with faithful assiduity. Braddock was still able to give
orders, and had a faint hope of being able to keep possession of the ground
until reinforced. Most of the men were stationed in a very advantageous
spot about two hundred yards from the road; and Lieutenant-Colonel Burton
posted out small parties and sentinels. Before an hour had elapsed most of
the men had stolen off. Being thus deserted, Braddock and his officers
continued their retreat; he would have mounted his horse but was unable,
and had to be carried by soldiers. Orme and Morris were placed on litters
borne by horses. They were subsequently joined by Colonel Gage with eighty
men whom he had rallied.
Washington, in the mean time, notwithstanding his weak state, being found
most efficient in frontier service, was sent to Colonel Dunbar's camp,
forty miles distant, with orders for him to hurry forward provisions,
hospital stores, and waggons for the wounded, under the escort of two
grenadier companies. It was a hard and a melancholy ride throughout the
night and the following day. The tidings of the defeat preceded him, borne
by the waggoners, who had mounted their horses, on Braddock's fall, and
fled from the field of battle. They had arrived, haggard, at Dunbar's camp
at mid-day; the Indian yells still ringing in their ears. "All was lost!"
they cried. "Braddock was killed! They had seen wounded officers borne off
from the field in bloody sheets! The troops were all cut to pieces!" A
panic fell upon the camp. The drums beat to arms. Many of the soldiers,
waggoners and attendants, took to flight; but most of them were forced back
by the sentinels.
Washington arrived at the camp in the evening, and found the agitation
still prevailing. The orders which he brought were executed during the
night, and he was in the saddle early in the morning accompanying the
convoy of supplies. At Gist's plantation, about thirteen miles off, he met
Gage and his scanty force escorting Braddock and his wounded officers.
Captain Stewart and a sad remnant of the Virginia light horse still
accompanied the general as his guard. The captain had been unremitting in
his attentions to him during the retreat. There was a halt of one day at
Dunbar's camp for the repose and relief of the wounded. On the 13th they
resumed their melancholy march, and that night reached the Great Meadows.
The proud spirit of Braddock was broken by his defeat. He remained silent
the first evening after the battle, only ejaculating at night, "who would
have thought it!" He was equally silent the following day; yet hope still
seemed to linger in his breast, from another ejaculation: "We shall better
know how to deal with them another time!" [Footnote: Captain Orme, who gave
these particulars to Dr. Franklin, says that Braddock "died a few minutes
after." This, according to his account, was on the second day; whereas the
general survived upwards of four days. Orme, being conveyed on a litter at
some distance from the general, could only speak of his moods from
He was grateful for the attentions paid to him by Captain Stewart and
Washington, and more than once, it is said, expressed his admiration of the
gallantry displayed by the Virginians in the action. It is said, moreover,
that in his last moments, he apologized to Washington for the petulance
with which he had rejected his advice, and bequeathed to him his favorite
charger and his faithful servant, Bishop, who had helped to convey him from
Some of these facts, it is true, rest on tradition, yet we are willing to
believe them, as they impart a gleam of just and generous feeling to his
closing scene. He died on the night of the 13th, at the Great Meadows, the
place of Washington's discomfiture in the previous year. His obsequies were
performed before break of day. The chaplain having been wounded, Washington
read the funeral service. All was done in sadness, and without parade, so
as not to attract the attention of lurking savages, who might discover, and
outrage his grave. It is doubtful even whether a volley was fired over it,
that last military honor which he had recently paid to the remains of an
Indian warrior. The place of his sepulture, however, is still known, and
Reproach spared him not, even when in his grave. The failure of the
expedition was attributed both in England and America to his obstinacy, his
technical pedantry, and his military conceit. He had been continually
warned to be on his guard against ambush and surprise, but without avail.
Had he taken the advice urged on him by Washington and others to employ
scouting parties of Indians and rangers, he would never have been so
signally surprised and defeated.
Still his dauntless conduct on the field of battle shows him to have been a
man of fearless spirit; and he was universally allowed to be an
accomplished disciplinarian. His melancholy end, too, disarms censure of
its asperity. Whatever may have been his faults and errors, he, in a
manner, expiated them by the hardest lot that can befall a brave soldier,
ambitious of renown--an unhonored grave in a strange land; a memory clouded
by misfortune, and a name for ever coupled with defeat.
In narrating the expedition of Braddock, we have frequently cited the
Journals of Captain Orme and of the "Seamen's Detachment;" they were
procured in England by the Hon. Joseph R. Ingersoll, while Minister at the
Court of St. James, and recently published by the Historical Society of
Pennsylvania: ably edited, and illustrated with an admirable Introductory
Memoir by Winthrop Sargent, Esq., member of that Society.
ARRIVAL AT FORT CUMBERLAND--LETTERS OF WASHINGTON TO HIS FAMILY--PANIC OF
DUNBAR--FORTUNES OF DR. HUGH MERCER--TRIUMPH OF THE FRENCH.
The obsequies of the unfortunate Braddock being finished, the escort
continued its retreat with the sick and wounded. Washington, assisted by
Dr. Craik, watched with assiduity over his comrades, Orme and Morris. As
the horses which bore their litters were nearly knocked up, he despatched
messengers to the commander of Fort Cumberland requesting that others might
be sent on, and that comfortable quarters might be prepared for the
reception of those officers.
On the 17th, the sad cavalcade reached the fort, and were relieved from the
incessant apprehension of pursuit. Here, too, flying reports had preceded
them, brought by fugitives from the battle; who, with the disposition usual
in such cases to exaggerate, had represented the whole army as massacred.
Fearing these reports might reach home, and affect his family, Washington
wrote to his mother, and his brother, John Augustine, apprising them of his
safety. "The Virginia troops," says he, in a letter to his mother, "showed
a good deal of bravery, and were nearly all killed. ... The dastardly
behavior of those they called regulars exposed all others, that were
ordered to do their duty, to almost certain death; and, at last, in despite
of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary, they ran, as sheep
pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them."
To his brother, he writes: "As I have heard, since my arrival at this
place, a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this
early opportunity of contradicting the first, and of assuring you that I
have not composed the latter. But, by the all-powerful dispensations of
Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability, or
expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot
under me, yet escaped unhurt, though death was levelling my companions on
every side of me!
"We have been most scandalously beaten by a trifling body of men, but
fatigue and want of time prevent me from giving you any of the details,
until I have the happiness of seeing you at Mount Vernon, which I now most
earnestly wish for, since we are driven in thus far. A feeble state of
health obliges me to halt here for two or three days to recover a little
strength, that I may thereby be enabled to proceed homeward with more
Dunbar arrived shortly afterward with the remainder of the army. No one
seems to have shared more largely in the panic of the vulgar than that
officer. From the moment he received tidings of the defeat, his camp became
a scene of confusion. All the ammunition, stores, and artillery were
destroyed, to prevent, it was said, their falling into the hands of the
enemy; but, as it was afterwards alleged, to relieve the terror-stricken
commander from all incumbrances, and furnish him with more horses in his
flight toward the settlements. [Footnote: Franklin's Autobiography.]
At Cumberland his forces amounted to fifteen hundred effective men; enough
for a brave stand to protect the frontier, and recover some of the lost
honor; but he merely paused to leave the sick and wounded under care of two
Virginia and Maryland companies, and some of the train, and then continued
his hasty march, or rather flight, through the country, not thinking
himself safe, as was sneeringly intimated, until he arrived in
Philadelphia, where the inhabitants could protect him.
The true reason why the enemy did not pursue the retreating army was not
known until some time afterwards, and added to the disgrace of the defeat.
They were not the main force of the French, but a mere detachment of 72
regulars, 146 Canadians, and 637 Indians, 855 in all, led by Captain de
Beaujeu. De Contrecoeur, the commander of Fort Duquesne, had received
information, through his scouts, that the English, three thousand strong,
were within six leagues of his fort. Despairing of making an effectual
defence against such a superior force, he was balancing in his mind whether
to abandon his fort without awaiting their arrival, or to capitulate on
honorable terms. In this dilemma Beaujeu prevailed on him to let him sally
forth with a detachment to form an ambush, and give check to the enemy. De
Beaujeu was to have taken post at the river, and disputed the passage at
the ford. For that purpose he was hurrying forward when discovered by the
pioneers of Gage's advance party. He was a gallant officer, and fell at the
beginning of the fight. The whole number of killed and wounded of French
and Indians, did not exceed seventy.
Such was the scanty force which the imagination of the panic-stricken army
had magnified into a great host, and from which they had fled in breathless
terror, abandoning the whole frontier. No one could be more surprised than
the French commander himself, when the ambuscading party returned in
triumph with a long train of packhorses laden with booty, the savages
uncouthly clad in the garments of the slain, grenadier caps, officers'
gold-laced coats, and glittering epaulettes; flourishing swords and sabres,
or firing off muskets, and uttering fiendlike yells of victory. But when De
Contrecoeur was informed of the utter rout and destruction of the much
dreaded British army, his joy was complete. He ordered the guns of the fort
to be fired in triumph, and sent out troops in pursuit of the fugitives.
The affair of Braddock remains a memorable event in American history, and
has been characterized as "the most extraordinary victory ever obtained,
and the farthest flight ever made." It struck a fatal blow to the deference
for British prowess, which once amounted almost to bigotry, throughout the
provinces. "This whole transaction," observes Franklin, in his
autobiography, "gave us the first suspicion, that our exalted ideas of the
prowess of British regular troops had not been well founded."
COSTS OF CAMPAIGNING--MEASURES FOR PUBLIC SAFETY--WASHINGTON IN COMMAND--
HEAD-QUARTERS AT WINCHESTER--LORD FAIRFAX AND HIS TROOP OF HORSE--INDIAN
RAVAGES--PANIC AT WINCHESTER--CAUSE OF THE ALARM--OPERATIONS ELSEWHERE--
SHIRLEY AGAINST NIAGARA--JOHNSON AGAINST CROWN POINT--AFFAIR AT LAKE
GEORGE--DEATH OF DIESKAU.
Washington arrived at Mount Vernon on the 26th of July, still in feeble
condition from his long illness. His campaigning, thus far, had trenched
upon his private fortune, and impaired one of the best of constitutions.
In a letter to his brother Augustine, then a member of Assembly at
Williamsburg, he casts up the result of his frontier experience. "I was
employed," writes he, "to go a journey in the winter, when I believe few or
none would have undertaken it, and what did I get by it?--my expenses
borne! I was then appointed, with trifling pay, to conduct a handful of men
to the Ohio. What did I get by that? Why, after putting myself to a
considerable expense in equipping and providing necessaries for the
campaign, I went out, was soundly beaten, and lost all! Came in, and had my
commission taken from me; or, in other words, my command reduced, under
pretence of an order from home (England). I then went out a volunteer with
General Braddock, and lost all my horses, and many other things. But this
being a voluntary act, I ought not to have mentioned it; nor should I have
done it, were it not to show that I have been on the losing order ever
since I entered the service, which is now nearly two years."
What a striking lesson is furnished by this brief summary! How little was
he aware of the vast advantages he was acquiring in this school of bitter
experience! "In the hand of heaven he stood," to be shaped and trained for
its great purpose; and every trial and vicissitude of his early life, but
fitted him to cope with one or other of the varied and multifarious duties
of his future destiny.
But though, under the saddening influence of debility and defeat, he might
count the cost of his campaigning, the martial spirit still burned within
him. His connection with the army, it is true, had ceased at the death of
Braddock, but his military duties continued as adjutant-general of the
northern division of the province, and he immediately issued orders for the
county lieutenants to hold the militia in readiness for parade and
exercise, foreseeing that, in the present defenceless state of the
frontier, there would be need of their services.
Tidings of the rout and retreat of the army had circulated far and near,
and spread consternation throughout the country. Immediate incursions both
of French and Indians were apprehended; and volunteer companies began to
form, for the purpose of marching across the mountains to the scene of
danger. It was intimated to Washington that his services would again be
wanted on the frontier. He declared instantly that he was ready to serve
his country to the extent of his powers; but never on the same terms as
On the 4th of August, Governor Dinwiddie convened the Assembly to devise
measures for the public safety. The sense of danger had quickened the slow
patriotism of the burgesses; they no longer held back supplies; forty
thousand pounds were promptly voted, and orders issued for the raising of a
regiment of one thousand men.
Washington's friends urged him to present himself at Williamsburg as a
candidate for the command; they were confident of his success,
notwithstanding that strong interest was making for the governor's
favorite, Colonel Innes.
With mingled modesty and pride, Washington declined to be a solicitor. The
only terms, he said, on which he would accept a command, were a certainty
as to rank and emoluments, a right to appoint his field officers, and the
supply of a sufficient military chest; but to solicit the command, and, at
the same time, to make stipulations, would be a little incongruous, and
carry with it the face of self-sufficiency. "If," added he, "the command
should be offered to me, the case will then be altered, as I should be at
liberty to make such objections as reason, and my small experience, have
While this was in agitation, he received letters from his mother, again
imploring him not to risk himself in these frontier wars. His answer was
characteristic, blending the filial deference with which he was accustomed
from childhood to treat her, with a calm patriotism of the Roman stamp.
"Honored Madam: If it is in my power to avoid going to the Ohio again, I
shall; but if the command is pressed upon me by the general voice of the
country, and offered upon such terms as cannot be objected against, it
would reflect dishonor on me to refuse it; and that, I am sure, must, and
ought, to give you greater uneasiness, than my going in an honorable
command. Upon no other terms will I accept it. At present I have no
proposals made to me, nor have I any advice of such an intention, except
from private hands."
On the very day that this letter was despatched (Aug. 14), he received
intelligence of his appointment to the command on the terms specified in
his letters to his friends. His commission nominated him commander-in-chief
of all the forces raised, or to be raised in the colony. The Assembly also
voted three hundred pounds to him, and proportionate sums to the other
officers, and to the privates of the Virginia companies, in consideration
of their gallant conduct, and their losses in the late battle.
The officers next in command under him were Lieutenant-Colonel Adam
Stephens, and Major Andrew Lewis. The former, it will be recollected, had
been with him in the unfortunate affair at the Great Meadows; his advance
in rank shows that his conduct had been meritorious.
The appointment of Washington to his present station was the more
gratifying and honorable from being a popular one, made in deference to
public sentiment; to which Governor Dinwiddie was obliged to sacrifice his
strong inclination in favor of Colonel Innes. It is thought that the
governor never afterwards regarded Washington with a friendly eye. His
conduct towards him subsequently was on various occasions cold and
ungracious. [Footnote: Sparks' Writings of Washington, vol. ii., p. 161,
It is worthy of note that the early popularity of Washington was not the
result of brilliant achievements nor signal success; on the contrary, it
rose among trials and reverses, and may almost be said to have been the
fruit of defeats. It remains an honorable testimony of Virginian
intelligence, that the sterling, enduring, but undazzling qualities of
Washington were thus early discerned and appreciated, though only heralded
by misfortunes. The admirable manner in which he had conducted himself
under these misfortunes, and the sagacity and practical wisdom he had
displayed on all occasions, were universally acknowledged; and it was
observed that, had his modest counsels been adopted by the unfortunate
Braddock, a totally different result might have attended the late campaign.
An instance of this high appreciation of his merits occurs in a sermon
preached on the 17th of August by the Rev. Samuel Davis, wherein he cites
him as "that heroic youth, Colonel Washington, _whom I cannot but hope
Providence has hitherto preserved in so signal a manner for some important
service to his country._" The expressions of the worthy clergyman may
have been deemed enthusiastic at the time; viewed in connection with
subsequent events they appear almost prophetic.
Having held a conference with Governor Dinwiddie at Williamsburg, and
received his instructions, Washington repaired, on the 14th of September,
to Winchester, where he fixed his headquarters. It was a place as yet of
trifling magnitude, but important from its position; being a central point
where the main roads met, leading from north to south, and east to west,
and commanding the channels of traffic and communication between some of
the most important colonies and a great extent of frontier.
Here he was brought into frequent and cordial communication with his old
friend Lord Fairfax. The stir of war had revived a spark of that military
fire which animated the veteran nobleman in the days of his youth, when an
officer in the cavalry regiment of the Blues. He was lord-lieutenant of the
county. Greenway Court was his headquarters. He had organized a troop of
horse, which occasionally was exercised about the lawn of his domain, and
he was now as prompt to mount his steed for a cavalry parade as he ever was
for a fox chase. The arrival of Washington frequently brought the old
nobleman to Winchester to aid the young commander with his counsels or his
His services were soon put in requisition. Washington, having visited the
frontier posts, established recruiting places, and taken other measures of
security, had set off for Williamsburg on military business, when an
express arrived at Winchester from Colonel Stephens, who commanded at Fort
Cumberland, giving the alarm that a body of Indians were ravaging the
country, burning the houses, and slaughtering the inhabitants. The express
was instantly forwarded after Washington; in the mean time, Lord Fairfax
sent out orders for the militia of Fairfax and Prince William counties to
arm and hasten to the defence of Winchester, where all was confusion and
affright. One fearful account followed another. The whole country beyond it
was said to be at the mercy of the savages. They had blockaded the rangers
in the little fortresses or outposts provided for the protection of
neighborhoods. They were advancing upon Winchester with fire, tomahawk, and
scalping-knife. The country people were flocking into the town for
safety--the townspeople were moving off to the settlements beyond the Blue
Ridge. The beautiful valley of the Shenandoah was likely to become a scene
of savage desolation.
In the height of the confusion Washington rode into the town. He had been
overtaken by Colonel Stephens' express. His presence inspired some degree
of confidence, and he succeeded in stopping most of the fugitives. He would
have taken the field at once against the savages, believing their numbers
to be few; but not more than twenty-five of the militia could be mustered
for the service. The rest refused to stir--they would rather die with their
wives and children.
Expresses were sent off to hurry up the militia ordered out by Lord
Fairfax. Scouts were ordered out to discover the number of the foe, and
convey assurances of succor to the rangers said to be blocked up in the
fortresses, though Washington suspected the latter to be "more encompassed
by fear than by the enemy." Smiths were set to work to furbish up and
repair such firearms as were in the place, and waggons were sent off for
musket balls, flints, and provisions.
Instead, however, of animated co-operation, Washington was encountered by
difficulties at every step. The waggons in question had to be impressed,
and the waggoners compelled by force to assist. "No orders," writes he,
"are obeyed, but such as a party of soldiers or my own drawn sword
enforces. Without this, not a single horse, for the most earnest occasion,
can be had,--to such a pitch has the insolence of these people arrived, by
having every point hitherto submitted to them. However, I have given up
none, where his majesty's service requires the contrary, and where my
proceedings are justified by my instructions; nor will I, unless they
execute what they threaten--that is, blow out our brains."
One is tempted to smile at this tirade about the "insolence of the people,"
and this zeal for "his majesty's service," on the part of Washington; but
he was as yet a young man and a young officer; loyal to his sovereign, and
with high notions of military authority, which he had acquired in the camp
What he thus terms insolence was the dawning spirit of independence, which
he was afterwards the foremost to cherish and promote; and which, in the
present instance, had been provoked by the rough treatment from the
military, which the waggoners and others of the yeomanry had experienced
when employed in Braddock's campaign, and by the neglect to pay them for
their services. Much of Washington's difficulties also arose, doubtlessly,
from the inefficiency of the military laws, for an amendment of which he
had in vain made repeated applications to Governor Dinwiddie.
In the mean time the panic and confusion increased. On Sunday an express
hurried into town, breathless with haste and terror. The Indians, he said,
were but twelve miles off; they had attacked the house of Isaac Julian; the
inhabitants were flying for their lives. Washington immediately ordered the
town guards to be strengthened; armed some recruits who had just arrived,
and sent out two scouts to reconnoitre the enemy. It was a sleepless night
in Winchester. Horror increased with the dawn; before the men could be
paraded a second express arrived, ten times more terrified than the former.
The Indians were within four miles of the town, killing and destroying all
before them. He had heard the constant firing of the savages and the
shrieks of their victims.
The terror of Winchester now passed all bounds. Washington put himself at
the head of about forty men, militia and recruits, and pushed for the scene
The result is almost too ludicrous for record. The whole cause of the alarm
proved to be three drunken troopers, carousing, hallooing, uttering the
most unheard of imprecations, and ever and anon firing off their pistols.
Washington interrupted them in the midst of their revel and blasphemy, and
conducted them prisoners to town.
The reported attack on the house of Isaac Julian proved equally an absurd
exaggeration. The ferocious party of Indians turned out to be a mulatto and
a negro in quest of cattle. They had been seen by a child of Julian, who
alarmed his father, who alarmed the neighborhood.
"These circumstances," says Washington, "show what a panic prevails among
the people; how much they are all alarmed at the most usual and customary
cries; and yet how impossible it is to get them to act in any respect for
their common safety."
They certainly present a lively picture of the feverish state of a frontier
community, hourly in danger of Indian ravage and butchery; than which no
kind of warfare is more fraught with real and imaginary horrors.
The alarm thus originating had spread throughout the country. A captain,
who arrived with recruits from Alexandria, reported that he had found the
road across the Blue Ridge obstructed by crowds of people flying for their
lives, whom he endeavored in vain to stop. They declared that Winchester
was in flames!
At length the band of Indians, whose ravages had produced this
consternation throughout the land, and whose numbers did not exceed one
hundred and fifty, being satiated with carnage, conflagration, and plunder,
retreated, bearing off spoils and captives. Intelligent scouts sent out by
Washington, followed their traces, and brought back certain intelligence
that they had recrossed the Allegany Mountains and returned to their homes
on the Ohio. This report allayed the public panic and restored temporary
quiet to the harassed frontier.
Most of the Indians engaged in these ravages were Delawares and Shawnees,
who, since Braddock's defeat, had been gained over by the French. A
principal instigator was said to be Washington's old acquaintance, Shengis,
and a reward was offered for his head.
Scarooyadi, successor to the half-king, remained true to the English, and
vindicated his people to the Governor and Council of Pennsylvania from the
charge of having had any share in the late massacres. As to the defeat at
the Monongahela, "it was owing," he said, "to the pride and ignorance of
that great general (Braddock) that came from England. He is now dead; but
he was a bad man when he was alive. He looked upon us as dogs, and would
never hear any thing that was said to him. We often endeavored to advise
him, and tell him of the danger he was in with his soldiers; but he never
appeared pleased with us, and that was the reason that a great many of our
warriors left him." [Footnote: Hazard's Register of Penn., v., p. 252,
Scarooyadi was ready with his warriors to take up the hatchet again with
their English brothers against the French. "Let us unite our strength,"
said he; "you are numerous, and all the English governors along your
sea-shore can raise men enough; but don't let those that come from over the
great seas be concerned any more. _They art unfit to fight in the woods.
Let us go ourselves--we that came out of this ground._"
No one felt more strongly than Washington the importance, at this trying
juncture, of securing the assistance of these forest warriors. "It is in
their power," said he, "to be of infinite use to us; and without Indians,
we shall never be able to cope with these cruel foes to our country."
[Footnote: Letter to Dinwiddie.]
Washington had now time to inform himself of the fate of the other
enterprises included in this year's plan of military operations. We shall
briefly dispose of them, for the sake of carrying on the general course of
events. The history of Washington is linked with the history of the
colonies. The defeat of Braddock paralyzed the expedition against Niagara.
Many of General Shirley's troops, which were assembled at Albany, struck
with the consternation which it caused throughout the country, deserted.
Most of the batteau men, who were to transport stores by various streams,
returned home. It was near the end of August before Shirley was in force at
Oswego. Time was lost in building boats for the lake. Storms and head winds
ensued; then sickness: military incapacity in the general completed the
list of impediments. Deferring the completion of the enterprise until the
following year, Shirley returned to Albany with the main part of his forces
in October, leaving about seven hundred men to garrison the fortifications
he had commenced at Oswego.
To General William Johnson, it will be recollected, had been confided the
expedition against Crown Point, on Lake Champlain. Preparations were made
for it in Albany, whence the troops were to march, and the artillery,
ammunition, and stores to be conveyed up the Hudson to the carrying-place
between that river and Lake St. Sacrament, as it was termed by the French,
but Lake George, as Johnson named it, in honor of his sovereign. At the
carrying-place a fort was commenced, subsequently called Fort Edward. Part
of the troops remained under General Lyman, to complete and garrison it;
the main force proceeded under General Johnson to Lake George, the plan
being to descend that lake to its outlet at Ticonderoga, in Lake Champlain.
Having to attend the arrival of batteaux forwarded for the purpose from
Albany by the carrying-place, Johnson encamped at the south end of the
lake. He had with him between five and six thousand troops of New York and
New England, and a host of Mohawk warriors, loyally devoted to him.
It so happened that a French force of upwards of three thousand men, under
the Baron de Dieskau, an old general of high reputation, had recently
arrived at Quebec, destined against Oswego. The baron had proceeded to
Montreal, and sent forward thence seven hundred of his troops, when news
arrived of the army gathering on Lake George for the attack on Crown Point,
perhaps for an inroad into Canada. The public were in consternation;
yielding to their importunities, the baron took post at Crown Point for its
defence. Beside his regular troops, he had with him eight hundred
Canadians, and seven hundred Indians of different tribes. The latter were
under the general command of the Chevalier Legardeur de St. Pierre, the
veteran officer to whom Washington had delivered the despatches of Governor
Dinwiddie on his diplomatic mission to the frontier. The chevalier was a
man of great influence among the Indians.
In the mean time Johnson remained encamped at the south end of Lake George,
awaiting the arrival of his batteaux. The camp was protected in the rear by
the lake, in front by a bulwark of felled trees; and was flanked by thickly
On the 7th of September, the Indian scouts brought word that they had
discovered three large roads made through the forests toward Fort Edward.
An attack on that post was apprehended. Adams, a hardy waggoner, rode
express with orders to the commander to draw all the troops within the
works. About midnight came other scouts. They had seen the French within
four miles of the carrying-place. They had heard the report of a musket,
and the voice of a man crying for mercy, supposed to be the unfortunate
Adams. In the morning Colonel Williams was detached with one thousand men,
and two hundred Indians, to intercept the enemy in their retreat.
Within two hours after their departure a heavy fire of musketry, in the
midst of the forest, about three or four miles off, told of a warm
encounter. The drums beat to arms; all were at their posts. The firing grew
sharper and sharper, and nearer and nearer. The detachment under Williams
was evidently retreating. Colonel Cole was sent with three hundred men to
cover their retreat. The breastwork of trees was manned. Some heavy cannon
were dragged up to strengthen the front. A number of men were stationed
with a field-piece on an eminence on the left flank.
In a short time fugitives made their appearance; first singly, then in
masses, flying in confusion, with a rattling fire behind them, and the
horrible Indian war-whoop. Consternation seized upon the camp, especially
when the French emerged from the forest in battle array, led by the Baron
Dieskau, the gallant commander of Crown Point. Had all his troops been as
daring as himself, the camp might have been carried by assault; but the
Canadians and Indians held back, posted themselves behind trees, and took
The baron was left with his regulars (two hundred grenadiers) in front of
the camp. He kept up a fire by platoons, but at too great a distance to do
much mischief; the Canadians and Indians fired from their coverts. The
artillery played on them in return. The camp, having recovered from its
panic, opened a fire of musketry. The engagement became general. The French
grenadiers stood their ground bravely for a long time, but were dreadfully
cut up by the artillery and small arms. The action slackened on the part of
the French, until, after a long contest, they gave way. Johnson's men and
the Indians then leaped over the breastwork, and a chance medley fight
ensued, that ended in the slaughter, rout, or capture of the enemy.
The Baron de Dieskau had been disabled by a wound in the leg. One of his
men, who endeavored to assist him, was shot down by his side. The baron,
left alone in the retreat, was found by the pursuers leaning against the
stump of a tree. As they approached, he felt for his watch to insure kind
treatment by delivering it up. A soldier, thinking he was drawing forth a
pistol to defend himself, shot him through the hips. He was conveyed a
prisoner to the camp, but ultimately died of his wounds.
The baron had really set off from Crown Point to surprise Fort Edward, and,
if successful, to push on to Albany and Schenectady; lay them in ashes, and
cut off all communication with Oswego. The Canadians and Indians, however,
refused to attack the fort, fearful of its cannon; he had changed his plan,
therefore, and determined to surprise the camp. In the encounter with the
detachment under Williams, the brave Chevalier Legardeur de St. Pierre lost
his life. On the part of the Americans, Hendrick, a famous old Mohawk
sachem, grand ally of General Johnson, was slain.
Johnson himself received a slight wound early in the action, and retired to
his tent. He did not follow up the victory as he should have done, alleging
that it was first necessary to build a strong fort at his encampment, by
way of keeping up a communication with Albany, and by the time this was
completed, it would be too late to advance against Crown Point. He
accordingly erected a stockaded fort, which received the name of William
Henry; and having garrisoned it, returned to Albany. His services, although
they gained him no laurel-wreath, were rewarded by government with five
thousand pounds, and a baronetcy; and he was made Superintendent of Indian
Affairs. [Footnote: Johnson's Letter to the Colonial Governors, Sept. 9th,
1753. London Mag., 1755., p. 544. Holmes' Am. Annals, vol. ii., p. 63. 4th
REFORM IN THE MILITIA LAWS--DISCIPLINE OF THE TROOPS--DAGWORTHY AND THE
QUESTION OF PRECEDENCE--WASHINGTON'S JOURNEY TO BOSTON--STYLE OF
TRAVELLING--CONFERENCE WITH SHIRLEY--THE EARL OF LOUDOUN--MILITARY RULE FOR
THE COLONIES--WASHINGTON AT NEW YORK--MISS MARY PHILIPSE.
Mortifying experience had convinced Washington of the inefficiency of the
militia laws, and he now set about effecting a reformation. Through his
great and persevering efforts, an act was passed in the Virginia
Legislature giving prompt operation to courts-martial; punishing
insubordination, mutiny and desertion with adequate severity; strengthening
the authority of a commander, so as to enable him to enforce order and
discipline among officers as well as privates; and to avail himself, in
time of emergency, and for the common safety, of the means and services of
This being effected, he proceeded to fill up his companies, and to enforce
this newly defined authority within his camp. All gaming, drinking,
quarrelling, swearing, and similar excesses, were prohibited under severe
In disciplining his men, they were instructed not merely in ordinary and
regular tactics, but in all the strategy of Indian warfare, and what is
called "bush-fighting,"--a knowledge indispensable in the wild wars of the
wilderness. Stockaded forts, too, were constructed at various points, as
places of refuge and defence, in exposed neighborhoods. Under shelter of
these, the inhabitants began to return to their deserted homes. A shorter
and better road, also, was opened by him between Winchester and Cumberland,
for the transmission of reinforcements and supplies.
His exertions, however, were impeded by one of those questions of
precedence, which had so often annoyed him, arising from the difference
between crown and provincial commissions. Maryland having by a scanty
appropriation raised a small militia force, stationed Captain Dagworthy,
with a company of thirty men, at Fort Cumberland, which stood within the
boundaries of that province. Dagworthy had served in Canada in the
preceding war, and had received a king's commission. This he had since
commuted for half-pay, and, of course, had virtually parted with its
privileges. He was nothing more, therefore, than a Maryland provincial
captain, at the head of thirty men. He now, however, assumed to act under
his royal commission, and refused to obey the orders of any officer,
however high his rank, who merely held his commission from a governor. Nay,
when Governor, or rather Colonel Innes, who commanded at the fort, was
called away to North Carolina by his private affairs, the captain took upon
himself the command, and insisted upon it as his right.
Parties instantly arose, and quarrels ensued among the inferior officers;
grave questions were agitated between the Governors of Maryland and
Virginia, as to the fort itself; the former claiming it as within his
province, the latter insisting that, as it had been built according to
orders sent by the king, it was the king's fort, and could not be subject
to the authority of Maryland.
Washington refrained from mingling in this dispute; but intimated that if
the commander-in-chief of the forces of Virginia must yield precedence to a
Maryland captain of thirty men, he should have to resign his commission, as
he had been compelled to do before, by a question of military rank.
So difficult was it, however, to settle these disputes of precedence,
especially where the claims of two governors came in collision, that it was
determined to refer the matter to Major-General Shirley, who had succeeded
Braddock in the general command of the colonies. For this purpose
Washington was to go to Boston, obtain a decision from Shirley of the point
in dispute, and a general regulation, by which these difficulties could be
prevented in future. It was thought, also, that in a conference with the
commander-in-chief he might inform himself of the military measures in
Accordingly, on the 4th of February (1756), leaving Colonel Adam Stephen in
command of the troops, Washington set out on his mission, accompanied by
his aide-de-camp, Captain George Mercer of Virginia, and Captain Stewart of
the Virginia light horse; the officer who had taken care of General
Braddock in his last moments.
In those days the conveniences of travelling, even between our main cities,
were few, and the roads execrable. The party, therefore, travelled in
Virginia style, on horseback, attended by their black servants in livery.
[Footnote: We have hitherto treated of Washington in his campaigns in the
wilderness, frugal and scanty in his equipments, often, very probably, in
little better than hunter's garb. His present excursion through some of the
Atlantic cities presents him in a different aspect. His recent intercourse
with young British officers, had probably elevated his notions as to style
in dress and appearance; at least we are inclined to suspect so from the
following aristocratical order for clothes, sent shortly before the time in
question, to his correspondent in London.
"2 complete livery suits for servants; with a spare cloak, and all other
necessary trimmings for two suits more. I would have you choose the livery
by our arms, only as the field of the arms is white, I think the clothes
had better not be quite so, but nearly like the inclosed. The trimmings and
facings of scarlet, and a scarlet waistcoat. If livery lace is not quite
disused, I should be glad to have the cloaks laced. I like that fashion
best, and two silver-laced hats for the above servants.
"1 set of horse furniture, with livery lace, with the Washington crest on
the housings, &c. The cloak to be of the same piece and color of the
"3 gold and scarlet sword-knots. 3 silver and blue do. 1 fashionable
gold-laced hat."] In this way they accomplished a journey of five hundred
miles in the depth of winter; stopping for some days at Philadelphia and
New York. Those cities were then comparatively small, and the arrival of a
party of young Southern officers attracted attention. The late disastrous
battle was still the theme of every tongue, and the honorable way in which
these young officers had acquitted themselves in it, made them objects of
universal interest. Washington's fame, especially, had gone before him;
having been spread by the officers who had served with him, and by the
public honors decreed him by the Virginia Legislature. "Your name," wrote
his former fellow-campaigner, Gist, in a letter dated in the preceding
autumn, "is more talked of in Philadelphia than that of any other person in
the army, and every body seems willing to venture under your command."
With these prepossessions in his favor, when we consider Washington's noble
person and demeanor, his consummate horsemanship, the admirable horses he
was accustomed to ride, and the aristocratical style of his equipments, we
may imagine the effect produced by himself and his little cavalcade, as
they clattered through the streets of Philadelphia, and New York, and
Boston. It is needless to say, their sojourn in each city was a continual
The mission to General Shirley was entirely successful as to the question
of rank. A written order from the Commander-in-chief determined that
Dagworthy was entitled to the rank of a provincial captain, only, and, of
course, must on all occasions give precedence to Colonel Washington, as a
provincial field officer. The latter was disappointed, however, in the hope
of getting himself and his officers put upon the regular establishment,
with commissions from the king, and had to remain subjected to mortifying
questions of rank and etiquette, when serving in company with regular
From General Shirley he learnt that the main objects of the ensuing
campaign would be the reduction of Fort Niagara, so as to cut off the
communication between Canada and Louisiana, the capture of Ticonderoga and
Crown Point, as a measure of safety for New York, the besieging of Fort
Duquesne, and the menacing of Quebec by a body of troops which were to
advance by the Kennebec River.
The official career of General Shirley was drawing to a close. Though a man
of good parts, he had always, until recently, acted in a civil capacity,
and proved incompetent to conduct military operations. He was recalled to
England, and was to be superseded by General Abercrombie, who was coming
out with two regiments.
The general command in America, however, was to be held by the Earl of
Loudoun, who was invested with powers almost equal to those of a viceroy,
being placed above all the colonial governors. These might claim to be
civil and military representatives of their sovereign, within their
respective colonies; but, even there, were bound to defer and yield
precedence to this their official superior. This was part of a plan devised
long since, but now first brought into operation, by which the ministry
hoped to unite the colonies under military rule, and oblige the Assemblies,
magistrates, and people to furnish quarters and provide a general fund
subject to the control of this military dictator.
Beside his general command, the Earl of Loudoun was to be governor of
Virginia and colonel of a royal American regiment of four battalions, to be
raised in the colonies, but furnished with officers who, like himself, had
seen foreign service. The campaign would open on his arrival, which, it was
expected, would be early in the spring; and brilliant results were
Washington remained ten days in Boston, attending, with great interest, the
meetings of the Massachusetts Legislature, in which the plan of military
operations was ably discussed; and receiving the most hospitable attentions
from the polite and intelligent society of the place, after which he
returned to New York.
Tradition gives very different motives from those of business for his two
sojourns in the latter city. He found there an early friend and
school-mate, Beverly Robinson, son of John Robinson, speaker of the
Virginia House of Burgesses. He was living happily and prosperously with a
young and wealthy bride, having married one of the nieces and heiresses of
Mr. Adolphus Philipse, a rich landholder, whose manor-house is still to be
seen on the banks of the Hudson. At the house of Mr. Beverly Robinson,
where Washington was an honored guest, he met Miss Mary Philipse, sister of
and co-heiress with Mrs. Robinson, a young lady whose personal attractions
are said to have rivalled her reputed wealth.
We have already given an instance of Washington's early sensibility to
female charms. A life, however, of constant activity and care, passed for
the most part in the wilderness and on the frontier, far from female
society, had left little mood or leisure for the indulgence of the tender
sentiment; but made him more sensible, in the present brief interval of gay
and social life, to the attractions of an elegant woman, brought up in the
polite circle of New York.
That he was an open admirer of Miss Philipse is an historical fact; that he
sought her hand, but was refused, is traditional, and not very probable.
His military rank, his early laurels and distinguished presence, were all
calculated to win favor in female eyes; but his sojourn in New York was
brief; he may have been diffident in urging his suit with a lady accustomed
to the homage of society and surrounded by admirers. The most probable
version of the story is, that he was called away by his public duties
before he had made sufficient approaches in his siege of the lady's heart
to warrant a summons to surrender. In the latter part of March we find him
at Williamsburg attending the opening of the Legislature of Virginia, eager
to promote measures for the protection of the frontier and the capture of
Fort Duquesne, the leading object of his ambition. Maryland and
Pennsylvania were erecting forts for the defence of their own borders, but
showed no disposition to co-operate with Virginia in the field; and
artillery, artillerymen, and engineers were wanting for an attack on
fortified places. Washington urged, therefore, an augmentation of the
provincial forces, and various improvements in the militia laws.
While thus engaged, he received a letter from a friend and confidant in New
York, warning him to hasten back to that city before it was too late, as
Captain Morris, who had been his fellow aide-de-camp under Braddock, was
laying close siege to Miss Philipse. Sterner alarms, however, summoned him
in another direction. Expresses from Winchester brought word that the
French had made another sortie from Fort Duquesne, accompanied by a band of
savages, and were spreading terror and desolation through the country. In
this moment of exigency all softer claims were forgotten; Washington
repaired in all haste to his post at Winchester, and Captain Morris was
left to urge his suit unrivalled and carry off the prize.
TROUBLES IN THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY--GREENWAY COURT AND LORD FAIRFAX IN
DANGER--ALARMS AT WINCHESTER--WASHINGTON APPEALED TO FOR PROTECTION--
ATTACKED BY THE VIRGINIA PRESS--HONORED BY THE PUBLIC--PROJECTS FOR
DEFENCE--SUGGESTIONS OF WASHINGTON--THE GENTLEMEN ASSOCIATORS--RETREAT OF
THE SAVAGES--EXPEDITION AGAINST KITTANNING--CAPTAIN HUGH MERCER--SECOND
STRUGGLE THROUGH THE WILDERNESS.
Report had not exaggerated the troubles of the frontier. It was marauded by
merciless bands of savages, led, in some instances, by Frenchmen.
Travellers were murdered, farm-houses burnt down, families butchered, and
even stockaded forts, or houses of refuge, attacked in open day. The
marauders had crossed the mountains and penetrated the valley of the
Shenandoah; and several persons had fallen beneath the tomahawk in the
neighborhood of Winchester.
Washington's old friend, Lord Fairfax, found himself no longer safe in his
rural abode. Greenway Court was in the midst of a woodland region,
affording a covert approach for the stealthy savage. His lordship was
considered a great chief, whose scalp would be an inestimable trophy for an
Indian warrior. Fears were entertained, therefore, by his friends, that an
attempt would be made to surprise him in his green-wood castle. His nephew,
Colonel Martin, of the militia, who resided with him, suggested the
expediency of a removal to the lower settlements, beyond the Blue Ridge.
The high-spirited old nobleman demurred; his heart cleaved to the home
which he had formed for himself in the wilderness. "I am an old man," said
he, "and it is of little importance whether I fall by the tomahawk or die
of disease and old age; but you are young, and, it is to be hoped, have
many years before you, therefore decide for us both; my only fear is, that
if we retire, the whole district will break up and take to flight; and this
fine country, which I have been at such cost and trouble to improve, will
again become a wilderness."
Colonel Martin took but a short time to deliberate. He knew the fearless
character of his uncle, and perceived what was his inclination. He
considered that his lordship had numerous retainers, white and black, with
hardy huntsmen and foresters to rally round him, and that Greenway Court
was at no great distance from Winchester; he decided, therefore, that they
should remain and abide the course of events.
Washington, on his arrival at Winchester, found the inhabitants in great
dismay. He resolved immediately to organize a force, composed partly of
troops from Fort Cumberland, partly of militia from Winchester and its
vicinity, to put himself at its head, and "scour the woods and suspected
places in all the mountains and valleys of this part of the frontier, in
quest of the Indians and their more cruel associates."
He accordingly despatched an express to Fort Cumberland with orders for a
detachment from the garrison; "but how," said he, "are men to be raised at
Winchester, since orders are no longer regarded in the county?"
Lord Fairfax, and other militia officers with whom he consulted, advised
that each captain should call a private muster of his men, and read before
them an address, or "exhortation" as it was called, being an appeal to
their patriotism and fears, and a summons to assemble on the 15th of April
to enroll themselves for the projected mountain foray.
This measure was adopted; the private musterings occurred; the exhortation
was read; the time and place of assemblage appointed; but, when the day of
enrolment arrived, not more than fifteen men appeared upon the ground. In
the mean time the express returned with sad accounts from Fort Cumberland.
No troops could be furnished from that quarter. The garrison was scarcely
strong enough for self-defence, having sent out detachments in different
directions. The express had narrowly escaped with his life, having been
fired upon repeatedly, his horse shot under him, and his clothes riddled
with bullets. The roads, he said, were infested by savages; none but
hunters, who knew how to thread the forests at night, could travel with
Horrors accumulated at Winchester. Every hour brought its tale of terror,
true or false, of houses burnt, families massacred, or beleaguered and
famishing in stockaded forts. The danger approached. A scouting party had
been attacked in the Warm Spring Mountain, about twenty miles distant, by a
large body of French and Indians, mostly on horseback. The captain of the
scouting party and several of his men had been slain, and the rest put to
An attack on Winchester was apprehended, and the terrors of the people rose
to agony. They now turned to Washington as their main hope. The women
surrounded him, holding up their children, and imploring him with tears and
cries to save them from the savages. The youthful commander looked round on
the suppliant crowd with a countenance beaming with pity, and a heart wrung
with anguish. A letter to Governor Dinwiddie shows the conflict of his
feelings. "I am too little acquainted with pathetic language to attempt a
description of these people's distresses. But what can I do? I see their
situation; I know their danger, and participate their sufferings, without
having it in my power to give them further relief than uncertain
promises."--"The supplicating tears of the women, and moving petitions of
the men, melt me into such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I
know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the
butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people's ease."
The unstudied eloquence of this letter drew from the governor an instant
order for a militia force from the upper counties to his assistance; but
the Virginia newspapers, in descanting on the frontier troubles, threw
discredit on the army and its officers, and attached blame to its
commander. Stung to the quick by this injustice, Washington publicly