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 the field.
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 rapid march.
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 twelve miles."
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 "like pigeons."
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 his life.
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 Grenadier's March.
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 thickets.
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 and baggage.
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 the advance.
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 command.
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 a rider.
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 hearsay.]
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 the field.
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 pointed out.
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.
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