HotFreeBooks.com
Montcalm and Wolfe
by Francis Parkman
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Footnote 606: Abercromby to Pitt, 12 July, 1758.]

[Footnote 607: Great-uncle of the writer, and son of the Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, a graduate of Harvard, and minister of Westborough, Mass.]

Pitt meant that the actual command of the army should be in the hands of Brigadier Lord Howe,[608] and he was in fact its real chief; "the noblest Englishman that has appeared in my time, and the best soldier in the British army," says Wolfe.[609] And he elsewhere speaks of him as "that great man." Abercromby testifies to the universal respect and love with which officers and men regarded him, and Pitt calls him "a character of ancient times; a complete model of military virtue."[610] High as this praise is, it seems to have been deserved. The young nobleman, who was then in his thirty-fourth year, had the qualities of a leader of men. The army felt him, from general to drummer-boy. He was its soul; and while breathing into it his own energy and ardor, and bracing it by stringent discipline, he broke through the traditions of the service and gave it new shapes to suit the time and place. During the past year he had studied the art of forest warfare, and joined Rogers and his rangers in their scouting-parties, sharing all their hardships and making himself one of them. Perhaps the reforms that he introduced were fruits of this rough self-imposed schooling. He made officers and men throw off all useless incumbrances, cut their hair close, wear leggings to protect them from briers, brown the barrels of their muskets, and carry in their knapsacks thirty pounds of meal, which they cooked for themselves; so that, according to an admiring Frenchman, they could live a month without their supply-trains.[611] "You would laugh to see the droll figure we all make," writes an officer. "Regulars as well as provincials have cut their coats so as scarcely to reach their waists. No officer or private is allowed to carry more than one blanket and a bearskin. A small portmanteau is allowed each officer. No women follow the camp to wash our linen. Lord Howe has already shown an example by going to the brook and washing his own."[612]

[Footnote 608: Chesterfield, Letters, IV. 260 (ed. Mahon).]

[Footnote 609: Wolfe to his Father, 7 Aug. 1758, in Wright, 450.]

[Footnote 610: Pitt to Grenville, 22 Aug. 1758, in Grenville Papers, I. 262.]

[Footnote 611: Pouchot, Derniere Guerre de l'Amerique, I. 140.]

[Footnote 612: Letter from Camp, 12 June, 1758, in Boston Evening Post. Another, in Boston News Letter, contains similar statements.]

Here, as in all things, he shared the lot of the soldier, and required his officers to share it. A story is told of him that before the army embarked he invited some of them to dinner in his tent, where they found no seats but logs, and no carpet but bear-skins. A servant presently placed on the ground a large dish of pork and peas, on which his lordship took from his pocket a sheath containing a knife and fork and began to cut the meat. The guests looked on in some embarrassment; upon which he said: "Is it possible, gentlemen, that you have come on this campaign without providing yourselves with what is necessary?" And he gave each of them a sheath, with a knife and fork, like his own.

Yet this Lycurgus of the camp, as a contemporary calls him, is described as a man of social accomplishments rare even in his rank. He made himself greatly beloved by the provincial officers, with many of whom he was on terms of intimacy, and he did what he could to break down the barriers between the colonial soldiers and the British regulars. When he was at Alban, sharing with other high officers the kindly hospitalities of Mrs. Schuyler, he so won the heart of that excellent matron that she loved him like a son; and, though not given to such effusion, embraced him with tears on the morning when he left her to lead his division to the lake.[613] In Westminster Abbey may be seen the tablet on which Massachusetts pays grateful tribute to his virtues, and commemorates "the affection her officers and soldiers bore to his command."

[Footnote 613: Mrs. Grant, Memoirs of an American Lady, 226 (ed. 1876).]

On the evening of the fourth of July, baggage, stores, and ammunition were all on board the boats, and the whole army embarked on the morning of the fifth. The arrangements were perfect. Each corps marched without confusion to its appointed station on the beach, and the sun was scarcely above the ridge of French Mountain when all were afloat. A spectator watching them from the shore says that when the fleet was three miles on its way, the surface of the lake at that distance was completely hidden from sight.[614] There were nine hundred bateaux, a hundred and thirty-five whaleboats, and a large number of heavy flatboats carrying the artillery. The whole advanced in three divisions, the regulars in the centre, and the provincials on the flanks. Each corps had its flags and its music. The day was fair and men and officers were in the highest spirits.

[Footnote 614: Letter from Lake George, in Boston News Letter.]

Before ten o'clock they began to enter the Narrows; and the boats of the three divisions extended themselves into long files as the mountains closed on either hand upon the contracted lake. From front to rear the line was six miles long. The spectacle was superb: the brightness of the summer day; the romantic beauty of the scenery; the sheen and sparkle of those crystal waters; the countless islets, tufted with pine, birch, and fir; the bordering mountains, with their green summits and sunny crags; the flash of oars and glitter of weapons; the banners, the varied uniforms, and the notes of bugle, trumpet, bagpipe, and drum, answered and prolonged by a hundred woodland echoes. "I never beheld so delightful a prospect," wrote a wounded officer at Albany a fortnight after.

Rogers with the rangers, and Gage with the light infantry, led the way in whaleboats, followed by Bradstreet with his corps of boatmen, armed and drilled as soldiers. Then came the main body. The central column of regulars was commanded by Lord Howe, his own regiment, the fifty-fifth, in the van, followed by the Royal Americans, the twenty-seventh, forty-fourth, forty-sixth, and eightieth infantry, and the Highlanders of the forty-second, with their major, Duncan Campbell of Inverawe, silent and gloomy amid the general cheer, for his soul was dark with foreshadowings of death.[615] With this central column came what are described as two floating castles, which were no doubt batteries to cover the landing of the troops. On the right hand and the left were the provincials, uniformed in blue, regiment after regiment, from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Behind them all came the bateaux, loaded with stores and baggage, and the heavy flatboats that carried the artillery, while a rear-guard of provincials and regulars closed the long procession.[616]

[Footnote 615: See Appendix G.]

[Footnote 616: Letter from Lake George, in Boston News Letter. Even Rogers, the ranger, speaks of the beauty of the scene.]

At five in the afternoon they reached Sabbath-Day Point, twenty-five miles down the lake, where they stopped till late in the evening, waiting for the baggage and artillery, which had lagged behind; and here Lord Howe, lying on a bearskin by the side of the ranger, John Stark, questioned him as to the position of Ticonderoga and its best points of approach. At about eleven o'clock they set out again, and at daybreak entered what was then called the Second Narrows; that is to say, the contraction of the lake where it approaches its outlet. Close on their left, ruddy in the warm sunrise, rose the vast bare face of Rogers Rock, whence a French advanced party, under Langy and an officer named Trepezec, was watching their movements. Lord Howe, with Rogers and Bradstreet, went in whaleboats to reconnoitre the landing. At the place which the French called the Burnt Camp, where Montcalm had embarked the summer before, they saw a detachment of the enemy too weak to oppose them. Their men landed and drove them off. At noon the whole army was on shore. Rogers, with a party of rangers, was ordered forward to reconnoitre, and the troops were formed for the march.

From this part of the shore[617] a plain covered with forest stretched northwestward half a mile or more to the mountains behind which lay the valley of Trout Brook. On this plain the army began its march in four columns, with the intention of passing round the western bank of the river of the outlet, since the bridge over it had been destroyed. Rogers, with the provincial regiments of Fitch and Lyman, led the way, at some distance before the rest. The forest was extremely dense and heavy, and so obstructed with undergrowth that it was impossible to see more than a few yards in any direction, while the ground was encumbered with fallen trees in every stage of decay. The ranks were broken, and the men struggled on as they could in dampness and shade, under a canopy of boughs that the sun could scarcely pierce. The difficulty increased when, after advancing about a mile, they came upon undulating and broken ground. They were now not far from the upper rapids of the outlet. The guides became bewildered in the maze of trunks and boughs; the marching columns were confused, and fell in one upon the other. They were in the strange situation of an army lost in the woods.

[Footnote 617: Between the old and new steamboat-landings, and parts adjacent.]

The advanced party of French under Langy and Trepezec, about three hundred and fifty in all, regulars and Canadians, had tried to retreat; but before they could do so, the whole English army had passed them, landed, and placed itself between them and their countrymen. They had no resource but to take to the woods. They seem to have climbed the steep gorge at the side of Rogers Rock and followed the Indian path that led to the valley of Trout Brook, thinking to descend it, and, by circling along the outskirts of the valley of Ticonderoga, reach Montcalm's camp at the saw-mill. Langy was used to bushranging; but he too became perplexed in the blind intricacies of the forest. Towards the close of the day he and his men had come out from the valley of Trout Brook, and were near the junction of that stream with the river of the outlet, in a state of some anxiety, for they could see nothing but brown trunks and green boughs. Could any of them have climbed one of the great pines that here and there reared their shaggy spires high above the surrounding forest, they would have discovered where they were, but would have gained not the faintest knowledge of the enemy. Out of the woods on the right they would have seen a smoke rising from the burning huts of the French camp at the head of the portage, which Bourlamaque had set on fire and abandoned. At a mile or more in front, the saw-mill at the Falls might perhaps have been descried, and, by glimpses between the trees, the tents of the neighboring camp where Montcalm still lay with his main force. All the rest seemed lonely as the grave; mountain and valley lay wrapped in primeval woods, and none could have dreamed that, not far distant, an army was groping its way, buried in foliage; no rumbling of wagons and artillery trains, for none were there; all silent but the cawing of some crow flapping his black wings over the sea of tree-tops.

Lord Howe, with Major Israel Putnam and two hundred rangers, was at the head of the principal column, which was a little in advance of the three others. Suddenly the challenge, Qui vive! rang sharply from the thickets in front. Francais! was the reply. Langy's men were not deceived; they fired out of the bushes. The shots were returned; a hot skirmish followed; and Lord Howe dropped dead, shot through the breast. All was confusion. The dull, vicious reports of musketry in thick woods, at first few and scattering, then in fierce and rapid volleys, reached the troops behind. They could hear, but see nothing. Already harassed and perplexed, they became perturbed. For all they knew, Montcalm's whole army was upon them. Nothing prevented a panic but the steadiness of the rangers, who maintained the fight alone till the rest came back to their senses. Rogers, with his reconnoitring party, and the regiments of Fitch and Lyman, were at no great distance in front. They all turned on hearing the musketry, and thus the French were caught between two fires. They fought with desperation. About fifty of them at length escaped; a hundred and forty-eight were captured, and the rest killed or drowned in trying to cross the rapids. The loss of the English was small in numbers, but immeasurable in the death of Howe. "The fall of this noble and brave officer," says Rogers, "seemed to produce an almost general languor and consternation through the whole army." "In Lord Howe," writes another contemporary, Major Thomas Mante, "the soul of General Abercromby's army seemed to expire. From the unhappy moment the General was deprived of his advice, neither order nor discipline was observed, and a strange kind of infatuation usurped the place of resolution." The death of one man was the ruin of fifteen thousand.

The evil news was despatched to Albany, and in two or three days the messenger who bore it passed the house of Mrs. Schuyler on the meadows above the town. "In the afternoon," says her biographer, "a man was seen coming from the north galloping violently without his hat. Pedrom, as he was familiarly called, Colonel Schuyler's only surviving brother, was with her, and ran instantly to inquire, well knowing that he rode express. The man galloped on, crying out that Lord Howe was killed. The mind of our good aunt had been so engrossed by her anxiety and fears for the event impending, and so impressed with the merit and magnanimity of her favorite hero, that her wonted firmness sank under the stroke, and she broke out into bitter lamentations. This had such an effect on her friends and domestics that shrieks and sobs of anguish echoed through every part of the house."

The effect of the loss was seen at once. The army was needlessly kept under arms all night in the forest, and in the morning was ordered back to the landing whence it came.[618] Towards noon, however, Bradstreet was sent with a detachment of regulars and provincials to take possession of the saw-mill at the Falls, which Montcalm had abandoned the evening before. Bradstreet rebuilt the bridges destroyed by the retiring enemy, and sent word to his commander that the way was open; on which Abercromby again put his army in motion, reached the Falls late in the afternoon, and occupied the deserted encampment of the French.

[Footnote 618: Abercromby to Pitt, 12 July, 1758.]

Montcalm with his main force had held this position at the Falls through most of the preceding day, doubtful, it seems, to the last whether he should not make his final stand there. Bourlamaque was for doing so; but two old officers, Bernes and Montguy, pointed out the danger that the English would occupy the neighboring heights;[619] whereupon Montcalm at length resolved to fall back. The camp was broken up at five o'clock. Some of the troops embarked in bateaux, while others marched a mile and a half along the forest road, passed the place where the battalion of Berry was still at work on the breastwork begun in the morning, and made their bivouac a little farther on, upon the cleared ground that surrounded the fort.

[Footnote 619: Pouchot, I. 145.]

The peninsula of Ticonderoga consists of a rocky plateau, with low grounds on each side, bordering Lake Champlain on the one hand, and the outlet of Lake George on the other. The fort stood near the end of the peninsula, which points towards the southeast. Thence, as one goes westward, the ground declines a little, and then slowly rises, till, about half a mile from the fort, it reaches its greatest elevation, and begins still more gradually to decline again. Thus a ridge is formed across the plateau between the steep declivities that sink to the low grounds on right and left. Some weeks before, a French officer named Hugues had suggested the defence of this ridge by means of an abattis.[620] Montcalm approved his plan; and now, at the eleventh hour, he resolved to make his stand here. The two engineers, Pontleroy and Desandrouin, had already traced the outline of the works, and the soldiers of the battalion of Berry had made some progress in constructing them. At dawn of the seventh, while Abercromby, fortunately for his enemy, was drawing his troops back to the landing-place, the whole French army fell to their task.

[Footnote 620: N.Y. Col. Docs., X. 708.]

The regimental colors were planted along the line, and the officers, stripped to the shirt, took axe in hand and labored with their men. The trees that covered the ground were hewn down by thousands, the tops lopped off, and the trunks piled one upon another to form a massive breastwork. The line followed the top of the ridge, along which it zig-zagged in such a manner that the whole front could be swept by flank-fires of musketry and grape. Abercromby describes the wall of logs as between eight and nine feet high;[621] in which case there must have been a rude banquette, or platform to fire from, on the inner side. It was certainly so high that nothing could be seen over it but the crowns of the soldiers' hats. The upper tier was formed of single logs, in which notches were cut to serve as loopholes; and in some places sods and bags of sand were piled along the top, with narrow spaces to fire through.[622] From the central part of the line the ground sloped away like a natural glacis; while at the sides, and especially on the left, it was undulating and broken. Over this whole space, to the distance of a musket-shot from the works, the forest was cut down, and the trees left lying where they fell among the stumps, with tops turned outwards, forming one vast abattis, which, as a Massachusetts officer says, looked like a forest laid flat by a hurricane.[623] But the most formidable obstruction was immediately along the front of the breastwork, where the ground was covered with heavy boughs, overlapping and interlaced, with sharpened points bristling into the face of the assailant like the quills of a porcupine. As these works were all of wood, no vestige of them remains. The earthworks now shown to tourists as the lines of Montcalm are of later construction; and though on the same ground, are not on the same plan.[624]

[Footnote 621: Abercromby to Harrington, 12 July, 1758. "At least eight feet high." Rogers, Journals, 116.]

[Footnote 622: A Swiss officer of the Royal Americans, writing on the 14th, says that there were two, and in some parts three, rows of loopholes. See the letter in Pennsylvania Archives, III. 472.]

[Footnote 623: Colonel Oliver Partridge to his Wife, 12 July, 1758.]

[Footnote 624: A new line of works was begun four days after the battle, to replace the log breastwork. Malartic, Journal. Travaux faits a Carillon, 1758.]

Here, then, was a position which, if attacked in front with musketry alone, might be called impregnable. But would Abercromby so attack it? He had several alternatives. He might attempt the flank and rear of his enemy by way of the low grounds on the right and left of the plateau, a movement which the precautions of Montcalm had made difficult, but not impossible. Or, instead of leaving his artillery idle on the strand of Lake George, he might bring it to the front and batter the breastwork, which, though impervious to musketry, was worthless against heavy cannon. Or he might do what Burgoyne did with success a score of years later, and plant a battery on the heights of Rattlesnake Hill, now called Mount Defiance, which commanded the position of the French, and whence the inside of their breastwork could be scoured with round-shot from end to end. Or, while threatening the French front with a part of his army, he could march the rest a short distance through the woods on his left to the road which led from Ticonderoga to Crown Point, and which would soon have brought him to the place called Five-Mile Point, where Lake Champlain narrows to the width of an easy rifle-shot, and where a battery of field-pieces would have cut off all Montcalm's supplies and closed his only way of retreat. As the French were provisioned for but eight days, their position would thus have been desperate. They plainly saw the danger; and Doreil declares that had the movement been made, their whole army must have surrendered.[625] Montcalm had done what he could; but the danger of his position was inevitable and extreme. His hope lay in Abercromby; and it was a hope well founded. The action of the English general answered the utmost wishes of his enemy.

[Footnote 625: Doreil au Ministre, 28 Juillet, 1758. The Chevalier Johnstone thought that Montcalm was saved by Abercromby's ignorance of the ground. A Dialogue in Hades (Quebec Historical Society).]

Abercromby had been told by his prisoners that Montcalm had six thousand men, and that three thousand more were expected every hour. Therefore he was in haste to attack before these succors could arrive. As was the general, so was the army. "I believe," writes an officer, "we were one and all infatuated by a notion of carrying every obstacle by a mere coup de mousqueterie."[626] Leadership perished with Lord Howe, and nothing was left but blind, headlong valor.

[Footnote 626: See the letter in Knox, I. 148.]

Clerk, chief engineer, was sent to reconnoitre the French works from Mount Defiance; and came back with the report that, to judge from what he could see, they might be carried by assault. Then, without waiting to bring up his cannon, Abercromby prepared to storm the lines.

The French finished their breastwork and abattis on the evening of the seventh, encamped behind them, slung their kettles, and rested after their heavy toil. Levis had not yet appeared; but at twilight one of his officers, Captain Pouchot, arrived with three hundred regulars, and announced that his commander would come before morning with a hundred more. The reinforcement, though small, was welcome, and Levis was a host in himself. Pouchot was told that the army was half a mile off. Thither he repaired, made his report to Montcalm, and looked with amazement at the prodigious amount of work accomplished in one day.[627] Levis himself arrived in the course of the night, and approved the arrangement of the troops. They lay behind their lines till daybreak; then the drums beat, and they formed in order of battle.[628] The battalions of La Sarre and Languedoc were posted on the left, under Bourlamaque, the first battalion of Berry with that of Royal Roussillon in the centre, under Montcalm, and those of La Reine, Bearn, and Guienne on the right, under Levis. A detachment of volunteers occupied the low grounds between the breastwork and the outlet of Lake George; while, at the foot of the declivity on the side towards Lake Champlain, were stationed four hundred and fifty colony regulars and Canadians, behind an abattis which they had made for themselves; and as they were covered by the cannon of the fort, there was some hope that they would check any flank movement which the English might attempt on that side. Their posts being thus assigned, the men fell to work again to strengthen their defences. Including those who came with Levis, the total force of effective soldiers was now thirty-six hundred.[629]

[Footnote 627: Pouchot, I. 137.]

[Footnote 628: Livre d'Ordres, Disposition de Defense des Retranchements, 8 Juillet, 1758.]

[Footnote 629: Montcalm, Relation de la Victoire remportee a Carillon, 8 Juillet, 1758. Vaudreuil puts the number at 4,760, besides officers, which includes the garrison and laborers at the fort. Vaudreuil au Ministre, 28 Juillet, 1758.]

Soon after nine o'clock a distant and harmless fire of small-arms began on the slopes of Mount Defiance. It came from a party of Indians who had just arrived with Sir William Johnson, and who, after amusing themselves in this manner for a time, remained for the rest of the day safe spectators of the fight. The soldiers worked undisturbed till noon, when volleys of musketry were heard from the forest in front. It was the English light troops driving in the French pickets. A cannon was fired as a signal to drop tools and form for battle. The white uniforms lined the breastwork in a triple row, with the grenadiers behind them as a reserve, and the second battalion of Berry watching the flanks and rear.

Meanwhile the English army had moved forward from its camp by the saw-mill. First came the rangers, the light infantry, and Bradstreet's armed boatmen, who, emerging into the open space, began a spattering fire. Some of the provincial troops followed, extending from left to right, and opening fire in turn; then the regulars, who had formed in columns of attack under cover of the forest, advanced their solid red masses into the sunlight, and passing through the intervals between the provincial regiments, pushed forward to the assault. Across the rough ground, with its maze of fallen trees whose leaves hung withering in the July sun, they could see the top of the breastwork, but not the men behind it; when, in an instant, all the line was obscured by a gush of smoke, a crash of exploding firearms tore the air, and grapeshot and musket-balls swept the whole space like a tempest; "a damnable fire," says an officer who heard them screaming about his ears. The English had been ordered to carry the works with the bayonet; but their ranks were broken by the obstructions through which they struggled in vain to force their way, and they soon began to fire in turn. The storm raged in full fury for an hour. The assailants pushed close to the breastwork; but there they were stopped by the bristling mass of sharpened branches, which they could not pass under the murderous cross-fires that swept them from front and flank. At length they fell back, exclaiming that the works were impregnable. Abercromby, who was at the saw-mill, a mile and a half in the rear, sent order to attack again, and again they came on as before.

The scene was frightful: masses of infuriated men who could not go forward and would not go back; straining for an enemy they could not reach, and firing on an enemy they could not see; caught in the entanglement of fallen trees; tripped by briers, stumbling over logs, tearing through boughs; shouting, yelling, cursing, and pelted all the while with bullets that killed them by scores, stretched them on the ground, or hung them on jagged branches in strange attitudes of death. The provincials supported the regulars with spirit, and some of them forced their way to the foot of the wooden wall.

The French fought with the intrepid gayety of their nation, and shouts of Vive le Roi! and Vive notre General! mingled with the din of musketry. Montcalm, with his coat off, for the day was hot, directed the defence of the centre, and repaired to any part of the line where the danger for the time seemed greatest. He is warm in praise of his enemy, and declares that between one and seven o'clock they attacked him six successive times. Early in the action Abercromby tried to turn the French left by sending twenty bateaux, filled with troops, down the outlet of Lake George. They were met by the fire of the volunteers stationed to defend the low grounds on that side, and, still advancing, came within range of the cannon of the fort, which sank two of them and drove back the rest.

A curious incident happened during one of the attacks. De Bassignac, a captain in the battalion of Royal Roussillon, tied his handkerchief to the end of a musket and waved it over the breastwork in defiance. The English mistook it for a sign of surrender, and came forward with all possible speed, holding their muskets crossed over their heads in both hands, and crying Quarter. The French made the same mistake; and thinking that their enemies were giving themselves up as prisoners, ceased firing, and mounted on the top of the breastwork to receive them. Captain Pouchot, astonished, as he says, to see them perched there, looked out to learn the cause, and saw that the enemy meant anything but surrender. Whereupon he shouted with all his might: "Tirez! Tirez! Ne voyez-vous pas que ces gens-la vont vous enlever?" The soldiers, still standing on the breastwork, instantly gave the English a volley, which killed some of them, and sent back the rest discomfited.[630]

[Footnote 630: Pouchot, I. 153. Both Niles and Entick mention the incident.]

This was set to the account of Gallic treachery. "Another deceit the enemy put upon us," says a military letter-writer: "they raised their hats above the breastwork, which our people fired at; they, having loopholes to fire through, and being covered by the sods, we did them little damage, except shooting their hats to pieces."[631] In one of the last assaults a soldier of the Rhode Island regiment, William Smith, managed to get through all obstructions and ensconce himself close under the breastwork, where in the confusion he remained for a time unnoticed, improving his advantages meanwhile by shooting several Frenchmen. Being at length observed, a soldier fired vertically down upon him and wounded him severely, but not enough to prevent his springing up, striking at one of his enemies over the top of the wall, and braining him with his hatchet. A British officer who saw the feat, and was struck by the reckless daring of the man, ordered two regulars to bring him off; which, covered by a brisk fire of musketry, they succeeded in doing. A letter from the camp two or three weeks later reports him as in a fair way to recover, being, says the writer, much braced and invigorated by his anger against the French, on whom he was swearing to have his revenge.[632]

[Footnote 631: Letter from Saratoga, 12 July, 1758, in New Hampshire Gazette. Compare Pennsylvania Archives, III. 474.]

[Footnote 632: Letter from Lake George, 26 July, 1758, in Boston Gazette. The story is given, without much variation, in several other letters.]

Toward five o'clock two English columns joined in a most determined assault on the extreme right of the French, defended by the battalions of Guienne and Bearn. The danger for a time was imminent. Montcalm hastened to the spot with the reserves. The assailants hewed their way to the foot of the breastwork; and though again and again repulsed, they again and again renewed the attack. The Highlanders fought with stubborn and unconquerable fury. "Even those who were mortally wounded," writes one of their lieutenants, "cried to their companions not to lose a thought upon them, but to follow their officers and mind the honor of their country. Their ardor was such that it was difficult to bring them off."[633] Their major, Campbell of Inverawe, found his foreboding true. He received a mortal shot, and his clansmen bore him from the field. Twenty-five of their officers were killed or wounded, and half the men fell under the deadly fire that poured from the loopholes. Captain John Campbell and a few followers tore their way through the abattis, climbed the breastwork, leaped down among the French, and were bayoneted there.[634]

[Footnote 633: Letter of Lieutenant William Grant, in Maclachlan's Highlands, II. 340 (ed. 1875).]

[Footnote 634: Ibid., II. 339.]

As the colony troops and Canadians on the low ground were left undisturbed, Levis sent them an order to make a sortie and attack the left flank of the charging columns. They accordingly posted themselves among the trees along the declivity, and fired upwards at the enemy, who presently shifted their position to the right, out of the line of shot. The assault still continued, but in vain; and at six there was another effort, equally fruitless. From this time till half-past seven a lingering fight was kept up by the rangers and other provincials, firing from the edge of the woods and from behind the stumps, bushes, and fallen trees in front of the lines. Its only objects were to cover their comrades, who were collecting and bringing off the wounded, and to protect the retreat of the regulars, who fell back in disorder to the Falls. As twilight came on, the last combatant withdrew, and none were left but the dead. Abercromby had lost in killed, wounded, and missing, nineteen hundred and forty-four officers and men.[635] The loss of the French, not counting that of Langy's detachment, was three hundred and seventy-seven. Bourlamaque was dangerously wounded; Bougainville slightly; and the hat of Levis was twice shot through.[636]

[Footnote 635: See Appendix G.]

[Footnote 636: Levis au Ministre, 13 Juillet, 1758.]

Montcalm, with a mighty load lifted from his soul, passed along the lines, and gave the tired soldiers the thanks they nobly deserved. Beer, wine, and food were served out to them, and they bivouacked for the night on the level ground between the breastwork and the fort. The enemy had met a terrible rebuff; yet the danger was not over. Abercromby still had more than thirteen thousand men, and he might renew the attack with cannon. But, on the morning of the ninth, a band of volunteers who had gone out to watch him brought back the report that he was in full retreat. The saw-mill at the Falls was on fire, and the last English soldier was gone. On the morning of the tenth, Levis, with a strong detachment, followed the road to the landing-place, and found signs that a panic had overtaken the defeated troops. They had left behind several hundred barrels of provisions and a large quantity of baggage; while in a marshy place that they had crossed was found a considerable number of their shoes, which had stuck in the mud, and which they had not stopped to recover. They had embarked on the morning after the battle, and retreated to the head of the lake in a disorder and dejection wofully contrasted with the pomp of their advance. A gallant army was sacrificed by the blunders of its chief.

Montcalm announced his victory to his wife in a strain of exaggeration that marks the exaltation of his mind. "Without Indians, almost without Canadians or colony troops,—I had only four hundred,—alone with Levis and Bourlamaque and the troops of the line, thirty-one hundred fighting men, I have beaten an army of twenty-five thousand. They repassed the lake precipitately, with a loss of at least five thousand. This glorious day does infinite honor to the valor of our battalions. I have no time to write more. I am well, my dearest, and I embrace you." And he wrote to his friend Doreil: "The army, the too-small army of the King, has beaten the enemy. What a day for France! If I had had two hundred Indians to send out at the head of a thousand picked men under the Chevalier de Levis, not many would have escaped. Ah, my dear Doreil, what soldiers are ours! I never saw the like. Why were they not at Louisbourg?"

On the morrow of his victory he caused a great cross to be planted on the battle-field, inscribed with these lines, composed by the soldier-scholar himself,—

"Quid dux? quid miles? quid strata ingentia ligna? En Signum! en victor! Deus hic, Deus ipse triumphat."

"Soldier and chief and rampart's strength are nought; Behold the conquering Cross! 'T is God the triumph wrought."[637]

[Footnote 637: Along with the above paraphrase I may give that of Montcalm himself, which was also inscribed on the cross:—

"Chretien! ce ne fut point Montcalm et la prudence, Ces arbres renverses, ces heros, leurs exploits, Qui des Anglais confus ont brise l'esperance; C'est le bras de ton Dieu, vainqueur sur cette croix."

In the same letter in which Montcalm sent these lines to his mother he says: "Je vous envoie, pour vous amuser, deux chansons sur le combat du 8 Juillet, dont l'une est en style des poissardes de Paris." One of these songs, which were written by soldiers after the battle, begins,—

"Je chante des Francois La valeur et la gloire, Qui toujours sur l'Anglois Remportent la victoire. Ce sont des heros, Tous nos generaux, Et Montcalm et Levis, Et Bourlamaque aussi."

"Mars, qui les engendra Pour l'honneur de la France, D'abord les anima De sa haute vaillance, Et les transporta Dans le Canada, Ou l'on voit les Francois Culbuter les Anglois."

The other effusion of the military muse is in a different strain, "en style des poissardes de Paris." The following a specimen, given literatim:—

"L'aumonier fit l'exhortation, Puis il donnit l'absolution; Aisement cela se peut croire. Enfants, dit-il, animez-vous! L'bon Dieu, sa mere, tout est pour vous. S—e! j'sommes catholiques. Les Anglois sont des heretiques.

"Ce sont des chiens; a coups d'pieds, a coups d'poings faut leur casser la gueule et la machoire."

"Soldats, officiers, generaux, Chacun en ce jour fut heros. Aisement cela se peut croire. Montcalm, comme defunt Annibal, S'montroit soldat et general. S—e! sil y avoit quelqu'un qui ne l'aimit point!"

"Je veux etre un chien; a coups d'pieds, a coups d'poings, j'lui cass'rai la gueule et la machoire."

This is an allusion to Vaudreuil. On the battle of Ticonderoga, see Appendix G]



Chapter 21

1758

Fort Frontenac

The rashness of Abercromby before the fight was matched by his poltroonery after it. Such was his terror that on the evening of his defeat he sent an order to Colonel Cummings, commanding at Fort William Henry, to send all the sick and wounded and all the heavy artillery to New York without delay.[638] He himself followed so closely upon this disgraceful missive that Cummings had no time to obey it.

[Footnote 638: Cunningham, aide-de-camp of Abercromby, to Cummings, 8 July, 1758.]

The defeated and humbled troops proceeded to reoccupy the ground they had left a few days before in the flush of confidence and pride; and young Colonel Williams, of Massachusetts, lost no time in sending the miserable story to his uncle Israel. His letter, which is dated "Lake George (sorrowful situation), July ye 11th," ends thus: "I have told facts; you may put the epithets upon them. In one word, what with fatigue, want of sleep, exercise of mind, and leaving the place we went to capture, the best part of the army is unhinged. I have told enough to make you sick, if the relation acts on you as the facts have on me."

In the routed army was the sturdy John Cleaveland, minister of Ipswich, and now chaplain of Bagley's Massachusetts regiment, who regarded the retreat with a disgust that was shared by many others. "This day," he writes in his Diary, at the head of Lake George, two days after the battle, "wherever I went I found people, officers and soldiers, astonished that we left the French ground, and commenting on the strange conduct in coming off." From this time forth the provincials called their commander Mrs. Nabbycromby.[639] He thought of nothing but fortifying himself. "Towards evening," continues the chaplain, "the General, with his Rehoboam counsellors, came over to line out a fort on the rocky hill where our breastwork was last year. Now we begin to think strongly that the grand expedition against Canada is laid aside, and a foundation made totally to impoverish our country." The whole army was soon intrenched. The chaplain of Bagley's, with his brother Ebenezer, chaplain of another regiment, one day walked round the camp and carefully inspected it. The tour proved satisfactory to the militant divines, and John Cleaveland reported to his wife: "We have built an extraordinary good breastwork, sufficient to defend ourselves against twenty thousand of the enemy, though at present we have not above a third part of that number fit for duty." Many of the troops had been sent to the Mohawk, and others to the Hudson.

[Footnote 639: Trumbull, Hist. Connecticut, II. 392. "Nabby" (Abigail) was then a common female name in New England.]

In the regiment of which Cleaveland was chaplain there was a young surgeon from Danvers, Dr. Caleb Rea, who also kept a copious diary, and, being of a serious turn, listened with edification to the prayers and exhortations to which the yeoman soldiery were daily summoned. In his zeal, he made an inquest among them for singers, and chose the most melodious to form a regimental choir, "the better to carry on the daily service of singing psalms;" insomuch that the New England camp was vocal with rustic harmony, sincere, if somewhat nasal. These seemly observances were not inconsistent with a certain amount of disorder among the more turbulent spirits, who, removed from the repressive influence of tight-laced village communities, sometimes indulged in conduct which grieved the conscientious surgeon. The rural New England of that time, with its narrowness, its prejudices, its oddities, its combative energy, and rugged, unconquerable strength, is among the things of the past, or lingers in remote corners where the whistle of the locomotive is never heard. It has spread itself in swarming millions over half a continent, changing with changing conditions; and even the part of it that clings to the ancestral hive has transformed and continues to transform itself.

The provincials were happy in their chaplains, among whom there reigned a marvellous harmony, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists meeting twice a week to hold prayer-meetings together. "A rare instance indeed," says Dr. Rea, "and perhaps scarce ever was an army blessed with such a set of chaplains before." On one occasion, just before the fatal expedition, nine of them, after prayers and breakfast, went together to call upon the General. "He treated us very kindly," says the chaplain of Bagley's, "and told us that he hoped we would teach the people to do their duty and be courageous; and told us a story of a chaplain in Germany, where he was, who just before the action told the soldiers he had not time to say much, and therefore should only say: 'Be courageous; for no cowards go to heaven.' The General treated us to a bowl of punch and a bottle of wine, and then we took our leave of him."[640]

[Footnote 640: For the use of the Diary of Chaplain Cleaveland, as well as of his letters to his wife, I am indebted to the kindness of Miss Abby E. Cleaveland, his descendant.]

When Cleaveland and the more gifted among his brethren preached of a Sunday, officers and men of the regulars, no less than the provincials, came to listen; yet that pious Sabbatarian, Dr. Rea, saw much to afflict his conscience. "Sad, sad it is to see how the Sabbath is profaned in the camp," above all by "the horrid custom of swearing, more especially among the regulars; and I can't but charge our defeat on this sin."

It would have been well had the harmony that prevailed among the chaplains found its counterpart among the men of the sword; but between the British regular officers and those of the provinces there was anything but an equal brotherhood. It is true that Pitt, in the spirit of conciliation which he always showed towards the colonies, had procured a change in the regulations concerning the relative rank of British and provincial officers, thus putting them in a position much nearer equality; but this, while appeasing the provincials, seems to have annoyed the others. Till the campaign was nearly over, not a single provincial colonel had been asked to join in a council of war; and, complains Cleaveland, "they know no more of what is to be done than a sergeant, till the orders come out." Of the British officers, the greater part had seen but little active service. Most of them were men of family, exceedingly prejudiced and insular, whose knowledge of the world was limited to certain classes of their own countrymen, and who looked down on all others, whether domestic or foreign. Towards the provincials their attitude was one of tranquil superiority, though its tranquillity was occasionally disturbed by what they regarded as absurd pretension on the part of the colony officers. One of them gave vent to his feelings in an article in the London Chronicle, in which he advanced the very reasonable proposition that "a farmer is not to be taken from the plough and made an officer in a day;" and he was answered wrathfully, at great length, in the Boston Evening Post, by a writer signing himself "A New England Man." The provincial officers, on the other hand, and especially those of New England, being no less narrow and prejudiced, filled with a sensitive pride and a jealous local patriotism, and bred up in a lofty appreciation of the merits and importance of their country, regarded British superciliousness with a resentment which their strong love for England could not overcome. This feeling was far from being confined to the officers. A provincial regiment stationed at Half-Moon, on the Hudson, thought itself affronted by Captain Cruikshank, a regular officer; and the men were so incensed that nearly half of them went off in a body. The deportment of British officers in the Seven Years War no doubt had some part in hastening on the Revolution.

What with levelling Montcalm's siege works, planting palisades, and grubbing up stumps in their bungling and laborious way, the regulars found abundant occupation. Discipline was stiff and peremptory. The wooden horse and the whipping-post were conspicuous objects in the camp, and often in use. Caleb Rea, being tender-hearted, never went to see the lash laid on; for, as he quaintly observes, "the cries were satisfactory to me, without the sight of the strokes." He and the rest of the doctors found active exercise for such skill as they had, since fever and dysentery were making scarcely less havoc than the bullets at Ticonderoga. This came from the bad state of the camps and unwholesome food. The provincial surgeons seem to have been very little impressed with the importance of sanitary regulations, and to have thought it their business not to prevent disease, but only to cure it. The one grand essential in their eyes was a well-stocked medicine-chest, rich in exhaustless stores of rhubarb, ipecacuanha, and calomel. Even this sometimes failed. Colonel Williams reports "the sick destitute of everything proper for them; medicine-chest empty; nothing but their dirty blankets for beds; Dr. Ashley dead, Dr. Wright gone home, low enough; Bille worn off his legs,—such is our case. I have near a hundred sick. Lost a sergeant and a private last night."[641] Chaplain Cleaveland himself, though strong of frame, did not escape; but he found solace in his trouble from the congenial society of a brother chaplain, Mr. Emerson, of New Hampshire, "a right-down hearty Christian minister, of savory conversation," who came to see him in his tent, breakfasted with him, and joined him in prayer. Being somewhat better, he one day thought to recreate himself with the apostolic occupation of fishing. The sport was poor; the fish bit slowly; and as he lay in his boat, still languid with his malady, he had leisure to reflect on the contrasted works of Providence and man,—the bright lake basking amid its mountains, a dream of wilderness beauty, and the swarms of harsh humanity on the shore beside him, with their passions, discords, and miseries. But it was with the strong meat of Calvinistic theology, and not with reveries like these, that he was accustomed to nourish his military flock.

[Footnote 641: Colonel William Williams to Colonel Israel Williams, 4 Sept. 1758.]

While at one end of the lake the force of Abercromby was diminished by detachments and disease, that of Montcalm at the other was so increased by reinforcements that a forward movement on his part seemed possible. He contented himself, however, with strengthening the fort, reconstructing the lines that he had defended so well, and sending out frequent war-parties by way of Wood Creek and South Bay, to harass Abercromby's communications with Fort Edward. These parties, some of which consisted of several hundred men, were generally more or less successful; and one of them, under La Corne, surprised and destroyed a large wagon train escorted by forty soldiers. When Abercromby heard of it, he ordered Rogers, with a strong detachment of provincials, light infantry, and rangers, to go down the lake in boats, cross the mountains to the narrow waters of Lake Champlain, and cut off the enemy. But though Rogers set out at two in the morning, the French retreated so fast that he arrived too late. As he was on his way back, he was met by a messenger from the General with orders to intercept other French parties reported to be hovering about Fort Edward. On this he retraced his steps, marched through the forest to where Whitehall now stands, and thence made his way up Wood Creek to old Fort Anne, a relic of former wars, abandoned and falling to decay. Here, on the neglected "clearing" that surrounded the ruin, his followers encamped. They counted seven hundred in all, and consisted of about eighty rangers, a body of Connecticut men under Major Putnam, and a small regular force, chiefly light infantry, under Captain Dalzell, the brave officer who was afterwards killed by Pontiac's warriors at Detroit.

Up to this time Rogers had observed his usual caution, commanding silence on the march, and forbidding fires at night; but, seeing no signs of an enemy, he forgot himself; and on the following morning, the eighth of August, he and Lieutenant Irwin, of the light infantry, amused themselves by firing at a mark on a wager. The shots reached the ears of four hundred and fifty French and Indians under the famous partisan Marin, who at once took steps to reconnoitre and ambuscade his rash enemy. For nearly a mile from the old fort the forest had formerly been cut down and burned; and Nature had now begun to reassert herself, covering the open tract with a dense growth of bushes and saplings almost impervious to anything but a wild-cat, had it not been traversed by a narrow Indian path. Along this path the men were forced to march in single file. At about seven o'clock, when the two marksmen had decided their bet, and before the heavy dew of the night was dried upon the bushes, the party slung their packs and set out. Putnam was in the front with his Connecticut men; Dalzell followed with the regulars; and Rogers, with his rangers, brought up the rear of the long and slender line. Putnam himself led the way, shouldering through the bushes, gun in hand; and just as the bluff yeoman emerged from them to enter the forest-growth beyond, the air was rent with yells, the thickets before him were filled with Indians, and one of them, a Caughnawaga chief, sprang upon him, hatchet in hand. He had time to cock his gun and snap it at the breast of his assailant; but it missed fire, and he was instantly seized and dragged back into the forest, as were also a lieutenant named Tracy and three private men. Then the firing began. The French and Indians, lying across the path in a semicircle, had the advantage of position and surprise. The Connecticut men fell back among the bushes in disorder; but soon rallied, and held the enemy in check while Dalzell and Rogers—the latter of whom was nearly a mile behind—were struggling through briers and thickets to their aid. So close was the brushwood that it was full half an hour before they could get their followers ranged in some kind of order in front of the enemy; and even then each man was forced to fight for himself as best he could. Humphreys, the biographer of Putnam, blames Rogers severely for not coming at once to the aid of the Connecticut men; but two of their captains declare that he came with all possible speed; while a regular officer present highly praised him to Abercromby for cool and officer-like conduct.[642] As a man his deserts were small; as a bushfighter he was beyond reproach.

[Footnote 642: Letter from the Camp at Lake George, 5 Sept. 1758, signed by Captains Maynard and Giddings, and printed in the Boston Weekly Advertiser. "Rogers deserves much to be commended." Abercromby to Pitt, 19 Aug. 1758.]

Another officer recounts from hearsay the remarkable conduct of an Indian, who sprang into the midst of the English and killed two of them with his hatchet; then mounted on a log and defied them all. One of the regulars tried to knock him down with the butt of his musket; but though the blow made him bleed, he did not fall, and would have killed his assailant if Rogers had not shot him dead.[643] The firing lasted about two hours. At length some of the Canadians gave way, and the rest of the French and Indians followed.[644] They broke into small parties to elude pursuit, and reuniting towards evening, made their bivouac on a spot surrounded by impervious swamps.

[Footnote 643: Thomas Barnsley to Bouquet, 7 Sept. 1758.]

[Footnote 644: Doreil au Ministre, 31 Aout, 1757.]

Rogers remained on the field and buried all his own dead, forty-nine in number. Then he resumed his march to Fort Edward, carrying the wounded on litters of branches till the next day, when he met a detachment coming with wagons to his relief. A party sent out soon after for the purpose reported that they had found and buried more than a hundred French and Indians. From this time forward the war-parties from Ticonderoga greatly relented in their activity.

The adventures of the captured Putnam were sufficiently remarkable. The Indians, after dragging him to the rear, lashed him fast to a tree so that he could not move a limb, and a young savage amused himself by throwing a hatchet at his head, striking it into the wood as close as possible to the mark without hitting it. A French petty officer then thrust the muzzle of his gun violently against the prisoner's body, pretended to fire it at him, and at last struck him in the face with the butt; after which dastardly proceeding he left him. The French and Indians being forced after a time to fall back, Putnam found himself between the combatants and exposed to bullets from both sides; but the enemy, partially recovering the ground they had lost, unbound him, and led him to a safe distance from the fight. When the retreat began, the Indians hurried him along with them, stripped of coat, waistcoat, shoes, and stockings, his back burdened with as many packs of the wounded as could be piled upon it, and his wrists bound so tightly together that the pain became intense. In his torment he begged them to kill him; on which a French officer who was near persuaded them to untie his hands and take off some of the packs, and the chief who had captured him gave him a pair of moccasons to protect his lacerated feet. When they encamped at night, they prepared to burn him alive, stripped him naked, tied him to a tree, and gathered dry wood to pile about him. A sudden shower of rain interrupted their pastime; but when it was over they began again, and surrounded him with a circle of brushwood which they set on fire. As they were yelling and dancing their delight at the contortions with which he tried to avoid the rising flames, Marin, hearing what was going on forward, broke through the crowd, and with a courageous humanity not too common among Canadian officers, dashed aside the burning brush, untied the prisoner, and angrily upbraided his tormentors. He then restored him to the chief who had captured him, and whose right of property in his prize the others had failed to respect. The Caughnawaga treated him at first with kindness; but, with the help of his tribesmen, took effectual means to prevent his escape, by laying him on his back, stretching his arms and legs in the form of a St. Andrew's cross, and binding the wrists and ankles fast to the stems of young trees. This was a mode of securing prisoners in vogue among Indians from immemorial time; but, not satisfied with it, they placed brushwood upon his body, and then laid across it the long slender stems of saplings, on the ends of which several warriors lay down to sleep, so that the slightest movement on his part would rouse them. Thus he passed a night of misery, which did not prevent him from thinking of the ludicrous figure he made in the hands of the tawny Philistines.

On the next night, after a painful march, he reached Ticonderoga, where he was questioned by Montcalm, and afterwards sent to Montreal in charge of a French officer, who showed him the utmost kindness. On arriving, wofully tattered, bruised, scorched, and torn, he found a friend in Colonel Schuyler, himself a prisoner on parole, who helped him in his need, and through whose good offices the future major-general of the Continental Army was included in the next exchange of prisoners.[645]

[Footnote 645: On Putnam's adventures, Humphreys, 57 (1818). He had the story from Putnam himself, and seems to give it with substantial correctness, though his account of the battle is at several points erroneous. The "Molang" of his account is Marin. On the battle, besides authorities already cited, Recollections of Thomson Maxwell, a soldier present (Essex Institute, VII. 97). Rogers, Journals, 117. Letter from camp in Boston Gazette, no. 117. Another in New Hampshire Gazette, no. 104. Gentleman's Magazine, 1758, p. 498. Malartic, Journal du Regiment de Bearn. Levis, Journal de la Guerre en Canada. The French notices of the affair are few and brief. They admit a defeat, but exaggerate the force and the losses of the English, and underrate their own. Malartic, however, says that Marin set out with four hundred men, and was soon after joined by an additional number of Indians; which nearly answers to the best English accounts.]

The petty victory over Marin was followed by a more substantial success. Early in September Abercromby's melancholy camp was cheered with the tidings that the important French post of Fort Frontenac, which controlled Lake Ontario, which had baffled Shirley in his attempt against Niagara, and given Montcalm the means of conquering Oswego, had fallen into British hands. "This is a glorious piece of news, and may God have all the glory of the same!" writes Chaplain Cleaveland in his Diary. Lieutenant-Colonel Bradstreet had planned the stroke long before, and proposed it first to Loudon, and then to Abercromby. Loudon accepted it; but his successor received it coldly, though Lord Howe was warm in its favor. At length, under the pressure of a council of war, Abercromby consented that the attempt should be made, and gave Bradstreet three thousand men, nearly all provincials. With these he made his way, up the Mohawk and down the Onondaga, to the lonely and dismal spot where Oswego had once stood. By dint of much persuasion a few Oneidas joined him; though, like most of the Five Nations, they had been nearly lost to the English through the effects of the defeat at Ticonderoga. On the twenty-second of August his fleet of whaleboats and bateaux pushed out on Lake Ontario; and, three days after, landed near the French fort. On the night of the twenty-sixth Bradstreet made a lodgment within less than two hundred yards of it; and early in the morning De Noyan, the commandant, surrendered himself and his followers, numbering a hundred and ten soldiers and laborers, prisoners of war. With them were taken nine armed vessels, carrying from eight to eighteen guns, and forming the whole French naval force on Lake Ontario. The crews escaped. An enormous quantity of provisions, naval stores, munitions, and Indian goods intended for the supply of the western posts fell into the hands of the English, who kept what they could carry off, and burned the rest. In the fort were found sixty cannon and sixteen mortars, which the victors used to batter down the walls; and then, reserving a few of the best, knocked off the trunnions of the others. The Oneidas were bent on scalping some of the prisoners. Bradstreet forbade it. They begged that he would do as the French did,—turn his back and shut his eyes; but he forced them to abstain from all violence, and consoled them by a lion's share of the plunder. In accordance with the orders of Abercromby, the fort was dismantled, and all the buildings in or around it burned, as were also the vessels, except the two largest, which were reserved to carry off some of the captured goods. Then, with boats deeply laden, the detachment returned to Oswego; where, after unloading and burning the two vessels, they proceeded towards Albany, leaving a thousand of their number at the new fort which Brigadier Stanwix was building at the Great Carrying Place of the Mohawk.

Next to Louisbourg, this was the heaviest blow that the French had yet received. Their command of Lake Ontario was gone. New France was cut in two; and unless the severed parts could speedily reunite, all the posts of the interior would be in imminent jeopardy. If Bradstreet had been followed by another body of men to reoccupy and rebuild Oswego, thus recovering a harbor on Lake Ontario, all the captured French vessels could have been brought thither, and the command of this inland sea assured at once. Even as it was, the advantages were immense. A host of savage warriors, thus far inclined to France or wavering between the two belligerents, stood henceforth neutral, or gave themselves to England; while Fort Duquesne, deprived of the supplies on which it depended, could make but faint resistance to its advancing enemy.

Amherst, with five regiments from Louisbourg, came, early in October, to join Abercromby at Lake George, and the two commanders discussed the question of again attacking Ticonderoga. Both thought the season too late. A fortnight after, a deserter brought news that Montcalm was breaking up his camp. Abercromby followed his example. The opposing armies filed off each to its winter quarters, and only a few scouting parties kept alive the embers of war on the waters and mountains of Lake George.

Meanwhile Brigadier Forbes was climbing the Alleghanies, hewing his way through the forests of western Pennsylvania, and toiling inch by inch towards his goal of Fort Duquesne.[646]

[Footnote 646: On the capture of Fort Frontenac, Bradstreet to Abercromby, 31 Aug. 1758. Impartial Account of Lieutenant-Colonel Bradstreet's Expedition, by a Volunteer in the Expedition (London, 1759). Letter from a New York officer to his colonel, in Boston Gazette, no. 182. Several letters from persons in the expedition, in Boston Evening Post, no. 1,203, New Hampshire Gazette, no. 104, and Boston News Letter, no. 2,932. Abercromby to Pitt, 25 Nov. 1758. Lieutenant Macauley to Horatio Gates, 30 Aug. 1758. Vaudreuil au Ministre, 30 Oct. 1758. Pouchot, I. 162. Memoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760.]



Chapter 22

1758

Fort Duquesne

During the last year Loudon, filled with vain schemes against Louisbourg, had left the French scalping-parties to their work of havoc on the western borders. In Virginia Washington still toiled at his hopeless task of defending with a single regiment a forest frontier of more than three hundred miles, and in Pennsylvania the Assembly thought more of quarrelling with their governor than of protecting the tormented settlers. Fort Duquesne, the source of all the evil, was left undisturbed. In vain Washington urged the futility of defensive war, and the necessity of attacking the enemy in his stronghold. His position, trying at the best, was made more so by the behavior of Dinwiddie. That crusty Scotchman had conceived a dislike to him, and sometimes treated him in a manner that must have been unspeakably galling to the proud and passionate young man, who nevertheless, unconquerable in his sense of public duty, curbed himself to patience, or the semblance of it.

Dinwiddie was now gone, and a new governor had taken his place. The conduct of the war, too, had changed, and in the plans of Pitt the capture of Fort Duquesne held an important place. Brigadier John Forbes was charged with it. He was a Scotch veteran, forty-eight years of age, who had begun life as a student of medicine, and who ended it as an able and faithful soldier. Though a well-bred man of the world, his tastes were simple; he detested ceremony, and dealt frankly and plainly with the colonists, who both respected and liked him. In April he was in Philadelphia waiting for his army, which as yet had no existence; for the provincials were not enlisted, and an expected battalion of Highlanders had not arrived. It was the end of June before they were all on the march; and meanwhile the General was attacked with a painful and dangerous malady, which would have totally disabled a less resolute man.

His force consisted of provincials from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, with twelve hundred Highlanders of Montgomery's regiment and a detachment of Royal Americans, amounting in all, with wagoners and camp followers, to between six and seven thousand men. The Royal American regiment was a new corps raised, in the colonies, largely from among the Germans of Pennsylvania. Its officers were from Europe; and conspicuous among them was Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Bouquet, a brave and accomplished Swiss, who commanded one of the four battalions of which the regiment was composed. Early in July he was encamped with the advance-guard at the hamlet of Raystown, now the town of Bedford, among the eastern heights of the Alleghanies. Here his tents were pitched in an opening of the forest by the banks of a small stream; and Virginians in hunting-shirts, Highlanders in kilt and plaid, and Royal Americans in regulation scarlet, labored at throwing up intrenchments and palisades, while around stood the silent mountains in their mantles of green.

Now rose the question whether the army should proceed in a direct course to Fort Duquesne, hewing a new road through the forest, or march thirty-four miles to Fort Cumberland, and thence follow the road made by Braddock. It was the interest of Pennsylvania that Forbes should choose the former route, and of Virginia that he should choose the latter. The Old Dominion did not wish to see a highway cut for her rival to those rich lands of the Ohio which she called her own. Washington, who was then at Fort Cumberland with a part of his regiment, was earnest for the old road; and in an interview with Bouquet midway between that place and Raystown, he spared no effort to bring him to the same opinion. But the quartermaster-general, Sir John Sinclair, who was supposed to know the country, had advised the Pennsylvania route; and both Bouquet and Forbes were resolved to take it. It was shorter, and when once made would furnish readier and more abundant supplies of food and forage; but to make it would consume a vast amount of time and labor. Washington foretold the ruin of the expedition unless it took Braddock's road. Ardent Virginian as he was, there is no cause to believe that his decision was based on any but military reasons; but Forbes thought otherwise, and found great fault with him. Bouquet did him more justice. "Colonel Washington," he writes to the General, "is filled with a sincere zeal to aid the expedition, and is ready to march with equal activity by whatever way you choose."

The fate of Braddock had impressed itself on all the army, and inspired a caution that was but too much needed; since, except Washington's men and a few others among the provincials, the whole, from general to drummer-boy, were total strangers to that insidious warfare of the forest in which their enemies, red and white, had no rival. Instead of marching, like Braddock, at one stretch for Fort Duquesne, burdened with a long and cumbrous baggage-train, it was the plan of Forbes to push on by slow stages, establishing fortified magazines as he went, and at last, when within easy distance of the fort, to advance upon it with all his force, as little impeded as possible with wagons and packhorses. He bore no likeness to his predecessor, except in determined resolution, and he did not hesitate to embrace military heresies which would have driven Braddock to fury. To Bouquet, in whom he placed a well-merited trust, he wrote, "I have been long in your opinion of equipping numbers of our men like the savages, and I fancy Colonel Burd, of Virginia, has most of his best people equipped in that manner. In this country we must learn the art of war from enemy Indians, or anybody else who has seen it carried on here."

His provincials displeased him, not without reason; for the greater part were but the crudest material for an army, unruly, and recalcitrant to discipline. Some of them came to the rendezvous at Carlisle with old province muskets, the locks tied on with a string; others brought fowling-pieces of their own, and others carried nothing but walking-sticks; while many had never fired a gun in their lives.[647] Forbes reported to Pitt that their officers, except a few in the higher ranks, were "an extremely bad collection of broken inn-keepers, horse-jockeys, and Indian traders;" nor is he more flattering towards the men, though as to some of them he afterwards changed his mind.[648]

[Footnote 647: Correspondence of Forbes and Bouquet, July, August, 1758.]

[Footnote 648: Forbes to Pitt, 6 Sept. 1758.]

While Bouquet was with the advance at Raystown, Forbes was still in Philadelphia, trying to bring the army into shape, and collecting provisions, horses, and wagons; much vexed meantime by the Assembly, whose tedious disputes about taxing the proprietaries greatly obstructed the service. "No sergeant or quartermaster of a regiment," he says, "is obliged to look into more details than I am; and if I did not see to everything myself, we should never get out of this town." July had begun before he could reach the frontier village of Carlisle, where he found everything in confusion. After restoring some order, he wrote to Bouquet: "I have been and still am but poorly, with a cursed flux, but shall move day after to-morrow." He was doomed to disappointment; and it was not till the ninth of August that he sent another letter from the same place to the same military friend. "I am now able to write after three weeks of a most violent and tormenting distemper, which, thank God, seems now much abated as to pain, but has left me as weak as a new-born infant. However, I hope to have strength enough to set out from this place on Friday next." The disease was an inflammation of the stomach and other vital organs; and when he should have been in bed, with complete repose of body and mind, he was racked continually with the toils and worries of a most arduous campaign.

He left Carlisle on the eleventh, carried on a kind of litter made of a hurdle slung between two horses; and two days later he wrote from Shippensburg: "My journey here from Carlisle raised my disorder and pains to so intolerable a degree that I was obliged to stop, and may not get away for a day or two." Again, on the eighteenth: "I am better, and partly free from the excruciating pain I suffered; but still so weak that I can scarce bear motion." He lay helpless at Shippensburg till September was well advanced. On the second he says: "I really cannot describe how I have suffered both in body and mind of late, and the relapses have been worse as the disappointment was greater;" and on the fourth, still writing to Bouquet, who in the camp at Raystown was struggling with many tribulations: "I am sorry you have met with so many cross accidents to vex you, and have such a parcel of scoundrels as the provincials to work with; mais le vin est tire, and you must drop a little of the gentleman and treat them as they deserve. Seal and send off the enclosed despatch to Sir John by some sure hand. He is a very odd man, and I am sorry it has been my fate to have any concern with him. I am afraid our army will not admit of division, lest one half meet with a check; therefore I would consult Colonel Washington, though perhaps not follow his advice, as his behavior about the roads was noways like a soldier. I thank my good cousin for his letter, and have only to say that I have all my life been subject to err; but I now reform, as I go to bed at eight at night, if able to sit up so late."

Nobody can read the letters of Washington at this time without feeling that the imputations of Forbes were unjust, and that here, as elsewhere, his ruling motive was the public good.[649] Forbes himself, seeing the rugged and difficult nature of the country, began to doubt whether after all he had not better have chosen the old road of Braddock. He soon had an interview with its chief advocates, the two Virginia colonels, Washington and Burd, and reported the result to Bouquet, adding: "I told them that, whatever they thought, I had acted on the best information to be had, and could safely say for myself, and believed I might answer for you, that the good of the service was all we had at heart, not valuing provincial interest, jealousies, or suspicions on single twopence." It must be owned that, considering the slow and sure mode of advance which he had wisely adopted, the old soldier was probably right in his choice; since before the army could reach Fort Duquesne, the autumnal floods would have made the Youghiogany and the Monongahela impassable.

[Footnote 649: Besides the printed letters, there is an autograph collection of his correspondence with Bouquet in 1758 (forming vol. 21,641, Additional Manuscripts, British Museum). Copies of the whole are before me.]

The Sir John mentioned by Forbes was the quartermaster-general, Sir John Sinclair, who had gone forward with Virginians and other troops from the camp of Bouquet to make the road over the main range of the Alleghanies, whence he sent back the following memorandum of his requirements: "Pickaxes, crows, and shovels; likewise more whiskey. Send me the newspapers, and tell my black to send me a candlestick and half a loaf of sugar." He was extremely inefficient; and Forbes, out of all patience with him, wrote confidentially to Bouquet that his only talent was for throwing everything into confusion. Yet he found fault with everybody else, and would discharge volleys of oaths at all who met his disapproval. From this cause or some other, Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen, of the Virginians, told him that he would break his sword rather than be longer under his orders. "As I had not sufficient strength," says Sinclair, "to take him by the neck from among his own men, I was obliged to let him have his own way, that I might not be the occasion of bloodshed." He succeeded at last in arresting him, and Major Lewis, of the same regiment, took his place.

The aid of Indians as scouts and skirmishers was of the last importance to an army so weak in the arts of woodcraft, and efforts were made to engage the services of the friendly Cherokees and Catawbas, many of whom came to the camp, where their caprice, insolence, and rapacity tried to the utmost the patience of the commanders. That of Sir John Sinclair had already been overcome by his dealings with the provincial authorities; and he wrote in good French, at the tail of a letter to the Swiss colonel: "Adieu, my dear Bouquet. The greatest curse that our Lord can pronounce against the worst of sinners is to give them business to do with provincial commissioners and friendly Indians." A band of sixty warriors told Colonel Burd that they would join the army on condition that it went by Braddock's road. "This," wrote Forbes, on hearing of the proposal, "is a new system of military discipline truly, and shows that my good friend Burd is either made a cat's-foot of himself, or little knows me if he imagines that sixty scoundrels are to direct me in my measures."[650] Bouquet, with a pliant tact rarely seen in the born Briton, took great pains to please these troublesome allies, and went so far as to adopt one of them as his son.[651] A considerable number joined the army; but they nearly all went off when the stock of presents provided for them was exhausted.

[Footnote 650: The above extracts are from the Bouquet and Haldimand Papers, British Museum.]

[Footnote 651: Bouquet to Forbes, 3 June, 1758.]

Forbes was in total ignorance of the strength and movements of the enemy. The Indians reported their numbers to be at least equal to his own; but nothing could be learned from them with certainty, by reason of their inveterate habit of lying. Several scouting-parties of whites were therefore sent forward, of which the most successful was that of a young Virginian officer, accompanied by a sergeant and five Indians. At a little distance from the French fort, the Indians stopped to paint themselves and practise incantations. The chief warrior of the party then took certain charms from an otter-skin bag and tied them about the necks of the other Indians. On that of the officer he hung the otter-skin itself; while to the sergeant he gave a small packet of paint from the same mystic receptacle. "He told us," reports the officer, "that none of us could be shot, for those things would turn the balls from us; and then shook hands with us, and told us to go and fight like men." Thus armed against fate, they mounted the high ground afterwards called Grant's Hill, where, covered by trees and bushes, they had a good view of the fort, and saw plainly that the reports of the French force were greatly exaggerated.[652]

[Footnote 652: Journal of a Reconnoitring Party, Aug. 1758. The writer seems to have been Ensign Chew, of Washington's regiment.]

Meanwhile Bouquet's men pushed on the heavy work of road-making up the main range of the Alleghanies, and, what proved far worse, the parallel mountain ridge of Laurel Hill, hewing, digging, blasting, laying fascines and gabions to support the track along the sides of steep declivities, or worming their way like moles through the jungle of swamp and forest. Forbes described the country to Pitt as an "immense uninhabited wilderness, overgrown everywhere with trees and brushwood, so that nowhere can one see twenty yards." In truth, as far as eye or mind could reach, a prodigious forest vegetation spread its impervious canopy over hill, valley, and plain, and wrapped the stern and awful waste in the shadows of the tomb.

Having secured his magazines at Raystown, and built a fort there named Fort Bedford, Bouquet made a forward movement of some forty miles, crossed the main Alleghany and Laurel Hill, and, taking post on a stream called Loyalhannon Creek, began another depot of supplies as a base for the final advance on Fort Duquesne, which was scarcely fifty miles distant.

Vaudreuil had learned from prisoners the march of Forbes, and, with his usual egotism, announced to the Colonial Minister what he had done in consequence. "I have provided for the safety for Fort Duquesne." "I have sent reinforcements to M. de Ligneris, who commands there." "I have done the impossible to supply him with provisions, and I am now sending them in abundance, in order that the troops I may perhaps have occasion to send to drive off the English may not be delayed." "A stronger fort is needed on the Ohio; but I cannot build one till after the peace; then I will take care to build such a one as will thenceforth keep the English out of that country." Some weeks later he was less confident, and very anxious for news from Ligneris. He says that he has sent him all the succors he could, and ordered troops to go to his aid from Niagara, Detroit, and Illinois, as well as the militia of Detroit, with the Indians there and elsewhere in the West,—Hurons, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, Miamis, and other tribes. What he fears is that the English will not attack the fort till all these Indians have grown tired of waiting, and have gone home again.[653] This was precisely the intention of Forbes, and the chief object of his long delays.

[Footnote 653: Vaudreuil au Ministre, Juillet, Aout, Octobre 1758.]

He had another good reason for making no haste. There was hope that the Delawares and Shawanoes, who lived within easy reach of Fort Duquesne, and who for the past three years had spread havoc throughout the English border, might now be won over from the French alliance. Forbes wrote to Bouquet from Shippensburg: "After many intrigues with Quakers, the Provincial Commissioners, the Governor, etc., and by the downright bullying of Sir William Johnson, I hope I have now brought about a general convention of the Indians."[654] The convention was to include the Five Nations, the Delawares, the Shawanoes, and other tribes, who had accepted wampum belts of invitation, and promised to meet the Governor and Commissioners of the various provinces at the town of Easton, before the middle of September. This seeming miracle was wrought by several causes. The Indians in the French interest, always greedy for presents, had not of late got enough to satisfy them. Many of those destined for them had been taken on the way from France by British cruisers, and the rest had passed through the hands of official knaves, who sold the greater part for their own profit. Again, the goods supplied by French fur-traders were few and dear; and the Indians remembered with regret the abundance and comparative cheapness of those they had from the English before the war. At the same time it was reported among them that a British army was marching to the Ohio strong enough to drive out the French from all that country; and the Delawares and Shawanoes of the West began to waver in their attachment to the falling cause. The eastern Delawares, living at Wyoming and elsewhere on the upper Susquehanna, had made their peace with the English in the summer before; and their great chief, Teedyuscung, thinking it for his interest that the tribes of the Ohio should follow his example, sent them wampum belts, inviting them to lay down the hatchet. The Five Nations, with Johnson at one end of the Confederacy and Joncaire at the other,—the one cajoling them in behalf of England, and the other in behalf of France,—were still divided in counsel; but even among the Senecas, the tribe most under Joncaire's influence, there was a party so far inclined to England that, like the Delaware chief, they sent wampum to the Ohio, inviting peace. But the influence most potent in reclaiming the warriors of the West was of a different kind. Christian Frederic Post, a member of the Moravian brotherhood, had been sent at the instance of Forbes as an envoy to the hostile tribes from the Governor and Council of Pennsylvania. He spoke the Delaware language, knew the Indians well, had lived among them, had married a converted squaw, and, by his simplicity of character, directness, and perfect honesty, gained their full confidence. He now accepted his terrible mission, and calmly prepared to place himself in the clutches of the tiger. He was a plain German, upheld by a sense of duty and a single-hearted trust in God; alone, with no great disciplined organization to impel and support him, and no visions and illusions such as kindled and sustained the splendid heroism of the early Jesuit martyrs. Yet his errand was no whit less perilous. And here we may notice the contrast between the mission settlements of the Moravians in Pennsylvania and those which the later Jesuits and the Sulpitians had established at Caughnawaga, St. Francis, La Presentation, and other places. The Moravians were apostles of peace, and they succeeded to a surprising degree in weaning their converts from their ferocious instincts and warlike habits; while the Mission Indians of Canada retained all their native fierceness, and were systematically impelled to use their tomahawks against the enemies of the Church. Their wigwams were hung with scalps, male and female, adult and infant; and these so-called missions were but nests of baptized savages, who wore the crucifix instead of the medicine-bag, and were encouraged by the Government for purposes of war.[655]

[Footnote 654: Forbes to Bouquet, 18 Aug. 1758.]

[Footnote 655: Of the Hurons of the mission of Lorette, Bougainville says: "Ils sont toujours sauvages autant que ceux qui sont les moins apprivoises." And yet they had been converts under Jesuit control for more than four generations. The case was no better at the other missions; and at St Francis it seems to have been worse.]

The Moravian envoy made his way to the Delaware town of Kushkushkee, on Beaver Creek, northwest of Fort Duquesne, where the three chiefs known as King Beaver, Shingas, and Delaware George received him kindly, and conducted him to another town on the same stream. Here his reception was different. A crowd of warriors, their faces distorted with rage, surrounded him, brandishing knives and threatening to kill him; but others took his part, and, order being at last restored, he read them his message from the Governor, which seemed to please them. They insisted, however, that he should go with them to Fort Duquesne, in order that the Indians assembled there might hear it also. Against this dangerous proposal he protested in vain. On arriving near the fort, the French demanded that he should be given up to them, and, being refused, offered a great reward for his scalp; on which his friends advised him to keep close by the camp-fire, as parties were out with intent to kill him. "Accordingly," says Post, "I stuck to the fire as if I had been chained there. On the next day the Indians, with a great many French officers, came out to hear what I had to say. The officers brought with them a table, pens, ink, and paper. I spoke in the midst of them with a free conscience, and perceived by their looks that they were not pleased with what I said." The substance of his message was an invitation to the Indians to renew the old chain of friendship, joined with a warning that an English army was on its way to drive off the French, and that they would do well to stand neutral.

He addressed an audience filled with an inordinate sense of their own power and importance, believing themselves greater and braver than either of the European nations, and yet deeply jealous of both. "We have heard," they said, "that the French and English mean to kill all the Indians and divide the land among themselves." And on this string they harped continually. If they had known their true interest, they would have made no peace with the English, but would have united as one man to form a barrier of fire against their farther progress; for the West in English hands meant farms, villages, cities, the ruin of the forest, the extermination of the game, and the expulsion of those who lived on it; while the West in French hands meant but scattered posts of war and trade, with the native tribes cherished as indispensable allies.

After waiting some days, the three tribes of the Delawares met in council, and made their answer to the message brought by Post. It was worthy of a proud and warlike race, and was to the effect that since their brothers of Pennsylvania wished to renew the old peace-chain, they on their part were willing to do so, provided that the wampum belt should be sent them in the name, not of Pennsylvania alone, but of the rest of the provinces also.

Having now accomplished his errand, Post wished to return home; but the Indians were seized with an access of distrust, and would not let him go. This jealousy redoubled when they saw him writing in his notebook. "It is a troublesome cross and heavy yoke to draw this people," he says; "they can punish and squeeze a body's heart to the utmost. There came some together and examined me about what I had wrote yesterday. I told them I writ what was my duty. 'Brothers, I tell you I am not afraid of you. I have a good conscience before God and man. I tell you, brothers, there is a bad spirit in your hearts, which breeds jealousy, and will keep you ever in fear.'" At last they let him go; and, eluding a party that lay in wait for his scalp, he journeyed twelve days through the forest, and reached Fort Augusta with the report of his mission.[656]

[Footnote 656: Journal of Christian Frederic Post, July, August, September, 1758.]

As the result of it, a great convention of white men and red was held at Easton in October. The neighboring provinces had been asked to send their delegates, and some of them did so; while belts of invitation were sent to the Indians far and near. Sir William Johnson, for reasons best known to himself, at first opposed the plan; but was afterwards led to favor it and to induce tribes under his influence to join in the grand pacification. The Five Nations, with the smaller tribes lately admitted into their confederacy, the Delawares of the Susquehanna, the Mohegans, and several kindred bands, all had their representatives at the meeting. The conferences lasted nineteen days, with the inevitable formalities of such occasions, and the weary repetition of conventional metaphors and long-winded speeches. At length, every difficulty being settled, the Governor of Pennsylvania, in behalf of all the English, rose with a wampum belt in his hand, and addressed the tawny congregation thus: "By this belt we heal your wounds; we remove your grief; we take the hatchet out of your heads; we make a hole in the earth, and bury it so deep that nobody can dig it up again." Then, laying the first belt before them, he took another, very large, made of white wampum beads, in token of peace: "By this belt we renew all our treaties; we brighten the chain of friendship; we put fresh earth to the roots of the tree of peace, that it may bear up against every storm, and live and nourish while the sun shines and the rivers run." And he gave them the belt with the request that they would send it to their friends and allies, and invite them to take hold also of the chain of friendship. Accordingly all present agreed on a joint message of peace to the tribes of the Ohio.[657]

[Footnote 657: Minutes of Conferences at Easton, October, 1758.]

Frederic Post, with several white and Indian companions, was chosen to bear it. A small escort of soldiers that attended him as far as the Alleghany was cut to pieces on its return by a band of the very warriors to whom he was carrying his offers of friendship; and other tenants of the grim and frowning wilderness met the invaders of their domain with inhospitable greetings. "The wolves made a terrible music this night," he writes at his first bivouac after leaving Loyalhannon. When he reached the Delaware towns his reception was ominous. The young warriors said: "Anybody can see with half an eye that the English only mean to cheat us. Let us knock the messengers in the head." Some of them had attacked an English outpost, and had been repulsed; hence, in the words of Post, "They were possessed with a murdering spirit, and with bloody vengeance were thirsty and drunk. I said: 'As God has stopped the mouths of the lions that they could not devour Daniel, so he will preserve us from their fury.'" The chiefs and elders were of a different mind from their fierce and capricious young men. They met during the evening in the log-house where Post and his party lodged; and here a French officer presently arrived with a string of wampum from the commandant, inviting them to help him drive back the army of Forbes. The string was scornfully rejected. "They kicked it from one to another as if it were a snake. Captain Peter took a stick, and with it flung the string from one end of the room to the other, and said: 'Give it to the French captain; he boasted of his fighting, now let us see him fight. We have often ventured our lives for him, and got hardly a loaf of bread in return; and now he thinks we shall jump to serve him.' Then we saw the French captain mortified to the uttermost. He looked as pale as death. The Indians discoursed and joked till midnight, and the French captain sent messengers at midnight to Fort Duquesne."

There was a grand council, at which the French officer was present; and Post delivered the peace message from the council at Easton, along with another with which Forbes had charged him. "The messages pleased all the hearers except the French captain. He shook his head in bitter grief, and often changed countenance. Isaac Still [an Indian] ran him down with great boldness, and pointed at him, saying, 'There he sits!' They all said: 'The French always deceived us!' pointing at the French captain; who, bowing down his head, turned quite pale, and could look no one in the face. All the Indians began to mock and laugh at him. He could hold it no longer, and went out."[658]

[Footnote 658: Journal of Christian Frederic Post, October, November, 1758.]

The overtures of peace were accepted, and the Delawares, Shawanoes, and Mingoes were no longer enemies of the English. The loss was the more disheartening to the French, since, some weeks before, they had gained a success which they hoped would confirm the adhesion of all their wavering allies. Major Grant, of the Highlanders, had urged Bouquet to send him to reconnoitre Fort Duquesne, capture prisoners, and strike a blow that would animate the assailants and discourage the assailed. Bouquet, forgetting his usual prudence, consented; and Grant set out from the camp at Loyalhannon with about eight hundred men, Highlanders, Royal Americans, and provincials. On the fourteenth of September, at two in the morning, he reached the top of the rising ground thenceforth called Grant's Hill, half a mile or more from the French fort. The forest and the darkness of the night hid him completely from the enemy. He ordered Major Lewis, of the Virginians, to take with him half the detachment, descend to the open plain before the fort, and attack the Indians known to be encamped there; after which he was to make a feigned retreat to the hill, where the rest of the troops were to lie in ambush and receive the pursuers. Lewis set out on his errand, while Grant waited anxiously for the result. Dawn was near, and all was silent; till at length Lewis returned, and incensed his commander by declaring that his men had lost their way in the dark woods, and fallen into such confusion that the attempt was impracticable. The morning twilight now began, but the country was wrapped in thick fog. Grant abandoned his first plan, and sent a few Highlanders into the cleared ground to burn a warehouse that had been seen there. He was convinced that the French and their Indians were too few to attack him, though their numbers in fact were far greater than his own.[659] Infatuated with this idea, and bent on taking prisoners, he had the incredible rashness to divide his force in such a way that the several parts could not support each other. Lewis, with two hundred men, was sent to guard the baggage two miles in the rear, where a company of Virginians, under Captain Bullitt, was already stationed. A hundred Pennsylvanians were posted far off on the right, towards the Alleghany, while Captain Mackenzie, with a detachment of Highlanders, was sent to the left, towards the Monongahela. Then, the fog having cleared a little, Captain Macdonald, with another company of Highlanders, was ordered into the open plain to reconnoitre the fort and make a plan of it, Grant himself remaining on the hill with a hundred of his own regiment and a company of Maryland men. "In order to put on a good countenance," he says, "and convince our men they had no reason to be afraid, I gave directions to our drums to beat the reveille. The troops were in an advantageous post, and I must own I thought we had nothing to fear." Macdonald was at this time on the plain, midway between the woods and the fort, and in full sight of it. The roll of the drums from the hill was answered by a burst of war-whoops, and the French came swarming out like hornets, many of them in their shirts, having just leaped from their beds. They all rushed upon Macdonald and his men, who met them with a volley that checked their advance; on which they surrounded him at a distance, and tried to cut off his retreat. The Highlanders broke through, and gained the woods, with the loss of their commander, who was shot dead. A crowd of French followed close, and soon put them to rout, driving them and Mackenzie's party back to the hill where Grant was posted. Here there was a hot fight in the forest, lasting about three quarters of an hour. At length the force of numbers, the novelty of the situation, and the appalling yells of the Canadians and Indians, completely overcame the Highlanders, so intrepid in the ordinary situations of war. They broke away in a wild and disorderly retreat. "Fear," says Grant, "got the better of every other passion; and I trust I shall never again see such a panic among troops."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17     Next Part
Home - Random Browse