[Footnote 174: N.Y. Col. Docs., VI. 788. Colonial Records of Pa. V. 625.]
[Footnote 175: N.Y. Col. Docs., VI. 813.]
It was to remedy this perilous state of things that the Lords of Trade and Plantations directed the several governors to urge on their assemblies the sending of commissioners to make a joint treaty with the wavering tribes. Seven of the provinces, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the four New England colonies, acceded to the plan, and sent to Albany, the appointed place of meeting, a body of men who for character and ability had never had an equal on the continent, but whose powers from their respective assemblies were so cautiously limited as to preclude decisive action. They met in the court-house of the little frontier city. A large "chain-belt" of wampum was provided, on which the King was symbolically represented, holding in his embrace the colonies, the Five Nations, and all their allied tribes. This was presented to the assembled warriors, with a speech in which the misdeeds of the French were not forgotten. The chief, Hendrick, made a much better speech in reply. "We do now solemnly renew and brighten the covenant chain. We shall take the chain-belt to Onondaga, where our council-fire always burns, and keep it so safe that neither thunder nor lightning shall break it." The commissioners had blamed them for allowing so many of their people to be drawn away to Piquet's mission. "It is true," said the orator, "that we live disunited. We have tried to bring back our brethren, but in vain; for the Governor of Canada is like a wicked, deluding spirit. You ask why we are so dispersed. The reason is that you have neglected us for these three years past." Here he took a stick and threw it behind him. "You have thus thrown us behind your back; whereas the French are a subtle and vigilant people, always using their utmost endeavors to seduce and bring us over to them." He then told them that it was not the French alone who invaded the country of the Indians. "The Governor of Virginia and the Governor of Canada are quarrelling about lands which belong to us, and their quarrel may end in our destruction." And he closed with a burst of sarcasm. "We would have taken Crown Point [in the last war], but you prevented us. Instead, you burned your own fort at Saratoga and ran away from it,—which was a shame and a scandal to you. Look about your country and see: you have no fortifications; no, not even in this city. It is but a step from Canada hither, and the French may come and turn you out of doors. You desire us to speak from the bottom of our hearts, and we shall do it. Look at the French: they are men; they are fortifying everywhere. But you are all like women, bare and open, without fortifications."
[Footnote 176: Circular Letter of Lords of Trade to Governors in America, 18 Sept. 1753. Lords of Trade to Sir Danvers Osborne, in N.Y. Col. Docs., VI. 800.]
[Footnote 177: Proceedings of the Congress at Albany, N.Y. Col. Docs., VI. 853. A few verbal changes, for the sake of brevity, are made in the above extracts.]
Hendrick's brother Abraham now took up the word, and begged that Johnson might be restored to the management of Indian affairs, which he had formerly held; "for," said the chief, "we love him and he us and he has always been our good and trusty friend." The commissioners had not power to grant the request, but the Indians were assured that it should not be forgotten; and they returned to their villages soothed, but far from satisfied. Nor were the commissioners empowered to take any effective steps for fortifying the frontier.
The congress now occupied itself with another matter. Its members were agreed that great danger was impending; that without wise and just treatment of the tribes, the French would gain them all, build forts along the back of the British colonies, and, by means of ships and troops from France, master them one by one, unless they would combine for mutual defence. The necessity of some form of union had at length begun to force itself upon the colonial mind. A rough woodcut had lately appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, figuring the provinces under the not very flattering image of a snake cut to pieces, with the motto, "Join, or die." A writer of the day held up the Five Nations for emulation, observing that if ignorant savages could confederate, British colonists might do as much. Franklin, the leading spirit of the congress, now laid before it his famous project of union, which has been too often described to need much notice here. Its fate is well known. The Crown rejected it because it gave too much power to the colonies; the colonies, because it gave too much power to the Crown, and because it required each of them to transfer some of its functions of self-government to a central council. Another plan was afterwards devised by the friends of prerogative, perfectly agreeable to the King, since it placed all power in the hands of a council of governors, and since it involved compulsory taxation of the colonists, who, for the same reasons, would have doggedly resisted it, had an attempt been made to carry it into effect.
[Footnote 178: Kennedy, Importance of gaining and preserving the Friendship of the Indians.]
[Footnote 179: On the Albany plan of union, Franklin's Works, I. 177. Shirley thought it "a great strain upon the prerogative of the Crown," and was for requiring the colonies to raise money and men "without farther consulting them upon any points whatever." Shirley to Robinson, 24 Dec. 1754.]
Even if some plan of union had been agreed upon, long delay must have followed before its machinery could be set in motion; and meantime there was need of immediate action. War-parties of Indians from Canada, set on, it was thought, by the Governor, were already burning and murdering among the border settlements of New York and New Hampshire. In the south Dinwiddie grew more and more alarmed, "for the French are like so many locusts; they are collected in bodies in a most surprising manner; their number now on the Ohio is from twelve hundred to fifteen hundred." He writes to Lord Granville that, in his opinion, they aim to conquer the continent, and that "the obstinacy of this stubborn generation" exposes the country "to the merciless rage of a rapacious enemy." What vexed him even more than the apathy of the assemblies was the conduct of his brother-governor, Glen of South Carolina, who, apparently piqued at the conspicuous part Dinwiddie was acting, wrote to him in a "very dictatorial style," found fault with his measures, jested at his activity in writing letters, and even questioned the right of England to lands on the Ohio; till he was moved at last to retort: "I cannot help observing that your letters and arguments would have been more proper from a French officer than from one of His Majesty's governors. My conduct has met with His Majesty's gracious approbation; and I am sorry it has not received yours." Thus discouraged, even in quarters where he had least reason to expect it, he turned all his hopes to the Home Government; again recommended a tax by Act of Parliament, and begged, in repeated letters, for arms, munitions, and two regiments of infantry. His petition was not made in vain.
[Footnote 180: Dinwiddie Papers; letters to Granville, Albemarle, Halifax, Fox, Holdernesse, Horace Walpole, and Lords of Trade.]
England at this time presented the phenomenon of a prime minister who could not command the respect of his own servants. A more preposterous figure than the Duke of Newcastle never stood at the head of a great nation. He had a feverish craving for place and power, joined to a total unfitness for both. He was an adept in personal politics, and was so busied with the arts of winning and keeping office that he had no leisure, even if he had had ability, for the higher work of government. He was restless, quick in movement, rapid and confused in speech, lavish of worthless promises, always in a hurry, and at once headlong, timid, and rash. "A borrowed importance and real insignificance," says Walpole, who knew him well, "gave him the perpetual air of a solicitor.... He had no pride, though infinite self-love. He loved business immoderately; yet was only always doing it, never did it. When left to himself, he always plunged into difficulties, and then shuddered for the consequences." Walpole gives an anecdote showing the state of his ideas on colonial matters. General Ligonier suggested to him that Annapolis ought to be defended. "To which he replied with his lisping, evasive hurry: 'Annapolis, Annapolis! Oh, yes, Annapolis must be defended,—where is Annapolis?'" Another contemporary, Smollett, ridicules him in his novel of Humphrey Clinker, and tells a similar story, which, founded in fact or not, shows in what estimation the minister was held: "Captain C. treated the Duke's character without any ceremony. 'This wiseacre,' said he, 'is still abed; and I think the best thing he can do is to sleep on till Christmas; for when he gets up he does nothing but expose his own folly. In the beginning of the war he told me in a great fright that thirty thousand French had marched from Acadia to Cape Breton. Where did they find transports? said I.—Transports! cried he, I tell you they marched by land.—By land to the island of Cape Breton!—What, is Cape Breton an island?—Certainly.—Ha! are you sure of that?—When I pointed it out on the map, he examined it earnestly with his spectacles; then, taking me in his arms,—My dear C., cried he, you always bring us good news. Egad! I'll go directly and tell the King that Cape Breton is an island.'"
[Footnote 181: Walpole, George II., I. 344.]
His wealth, county influence, flagitious use of patronage, and long-practised skill in keeping majorities in the House of Commons by means that would not bear the light, made his support necessary to Pitt himself, and placed a fantastic political jobber at the helm of England in a time when she needed a patriot and a statesman. Newcastle was the growth of the decrepitude and decay of a great party, which had fulfilled its mission and done its work. But if the Whig soil had become poor for a wholesome crop, it was never so rich for toadstools.
Sir Thomas Robinson held the Southern Department, charged with the colonies; and Lord Mahon remarks of him that the Duke had achieved the feat of finding a secretary of state more incapable than himself. He had the lead of the House of Commons. "Sir Thomas Robinson lead us!" said Pitt to Henry Fox; "the Duke might as well send his jackboot to lead us." The active and aspiring Halifax was at the head of the Board of Trade and Plantations. The Duke of Cumberland commanded the army,—an indifferent soldier, though a brave one; harsh, violent, and headlong. Anson, the celebrated navigator, was First Lord of the Admiralty,—a position in which he disappointed everybody.
In France the true ruler was Madame de Pompadour, once the King's mistress, now his procuress, and a sort of feminine prime minister. Machault d'Arnouville was at the head of the Marine and Colonial Department. The diplomatic representatives of the two Crowns were more conspicuous for social than for political talents. Of Mirepoix, French ambassador at London, Marshal Saxe had once observed: "It is a good appointment; he can teach the English to dance." Walpole says concerning him: "He could not even learn to pronounce the names of our games of cards,—which, however, engaged most of the hours of his negotiation. We were to be bullied out of our colonies by an apprentice at whist!" Lord Albemarle, English ambassador at Versailles, is held up by Chesterfield as an example to encourage his son in the pursuit of the graces: "What do you think made our friend Lord Albemarle colonel of a regiment of Guards, Governor of Virginia, Groom of the Stole, and ambassador to Paris,—amounting in all to sixteen or seventeen thousand pounds a year? Was it his birth? No; a Dutch gentleman only. Was it his estate? No; he had none. Was it his learning, his parts, his political abilities and application? You can answer these questions as easily and as soon as I can ask them. What was it then? Many people wondered; but I do not, for I know, and will tell you,—it was his air, his address, his manners, and his graces."
The rival nations differed widely in military and naval strength. England had afloat more than two hundred ships of war, some of them of great force; while the navy of France counted little more than half the number. On the other hand, England had reduced her army to eighteen thousand men, and France had nearly ten times as many under arms. Both alike were weak in leadership. That rare son of the tempest, a great commander, was to be found in neither of them since the death of Saxe.
In respect to the approaching crisis, the interests of the two Powers pointed to opposite courses of action. What France needed was time. It was her policy to put off a rupture, wreathe her face in diplomatic smiles, and pose in an attitude of peace and good faith, while increasing her navy, reinforcing her garrisons in America, and strengthening her positions there. It was the policy of England to attack at once, and tear up the young encroachments while they were yet in the sap, before they could strike root and harden into stiff resistance.
When, on the fourteenth of November, the King made his opening speech to the Houses of Parliament, he congratulated them on the prevailing peace, and assured them that he should improve it to promote the trade of his subjects, "and protect those possessions which constitute one great source of their wealth." America was not mentioned; but his hearers understood him, and made a liberal grant for the service of the year. Two regiments, each of five hundred men, had already been ordered to sail for Virginia, where their numbers were to be raised by enlistment to seven hundred. Major-General Braddock, a man after the Duke of Cumberland's own heart, was appointed to the chief command. The two regiments—the forty-fourth and the forty-eighth—embarked at Cork in the middle of January. The soldiers detested the service, and many had deserted. More would have done so had they foreseen what awaited them.
[Footnote 182: Entick, Late War, I. 118.]
[Footnote 183: Robinson to Lords of the Admiralty, 30 Sept. 1754. Ibid., to Board of Ordnance, 10 Oct. 1754. Ibid., Circular Letter to American Governors, 26 Oct. 1754. Instructions to our Trusty and Well-beloved Edward Braddock, 25 Nov. 1754.]
This movement was no sooner known at Versailles than a counter expedition was prepared on a larger scale. Eighteen ships of war were fitted for sea at Brest and Rochefort, and the six battalions of La Reine, Bourgogne, Languedoc, Guienne, Artois, and Bearn, three thousand men in all, were ordered on board for Canada. Baron Dieskau, a German veteran who had served under Saxe, was made their general; and with him went the new governor of French America, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, destined to succeed Duquesne, whose health was failing under the fatigues of his office. Admiral Dubois de la Motte commanded the fleet; and lest the English should try to intercept it, another squadron of nine ships, under Admiral Macnamara, was ordered to accompany it to a certain distance from the coast. There was long and tedious delay. Doreil, commissary of war, who had embarked with Vaudreuil and Dieskau in the same ship, wrote from the harbor of Brest on the twenty-ninth of April: "At last I think we are off. We should have been outside by four o'clock this morning, if M. de Macnamara had not been obliged to ask Count Dubois de la Motte to wait till noon to mend some important part of the rigging (I don't know the name of it) which was broken. It is precious time lost, and gives the English the advantage over us of two tides. I talk of these things as a blind man does of colors. What is certain is that Count Dubois de la Motte is very impatient to get away, and that the King's fleet destined for Canada is in very able and zealous hands. It is now half-past two. In half an hour all may be ready, and we may get out of the harbor before night." He was again disappointed; it was the third of May before the fleet put to sea.
[Footnote 184: Lettres de Cremille, de Rostaing, et de Doreil au Ministre, Avril 18, 24, 28, 29, 1755. Liste des Vaisseaux de Guerre qui composent l'Escadre armee a Brest, 1755. Journal of M. de Vaudreuil's Voyage to Canada, in N.Y. Col. Docs., X. 297. Pouchot, I. 25.]
During these preparations there was active diplomatic correspondence between the two Courts. Mirepoix demanded why British troops were sent to America. Sir Thomas Robinson answered that there was no intention to disturb the peace or offend any Power whatever; yet the secret orders to Braddock were the reverse of pacific. Robinson asked on his part the purpose of the French armament at Brest and Rochefort; and the answer, like his own, was a protestation that no hostility was meant. At the same time Mirepoix in the name of the King proposed that orders should be given to the American governors on both sides to refrain from all acts of aggression. But while making this proposal the French Court secretly sent orders to Duquesne to attack and destroy Fort Halifax, one of the two forts lately built by Shirley on the Kennebec,—a river which, by the admission of the French themselves, belonged to the English. But, in making this attack, the French Governor was expressly enjoined to pretend that he acted without orders. He was also told that, if necessary, he might make use of the Indians to harass the English. Thus there was good faith on neither part; but it is clear through all the correspondence that the English expected to gain by precipitating an open rupture, and the French by postponing it. Projects of convention were proposed on both sides, but there was no agreement. The English insisted as a preliminary condition that the French should evacuate all the western country as far as the Wabash. Then ensued a long discussion of their respective claims, as futile as the former discussion at Paris on Acadian boundaries.
[Footnote 185: Machault a Duquesne, 17 Fev. 1755. The letter of Mirepoix proposing mutual abstinence from aggression, is dated on the 6th of the same month. The French dreaded Fort Halifax, because they thought it prepared the way for an advance on Quebec by way of the Chaudiere.]
[Footnote 186: Ibid.]
[Footnote 187: This correspondence is printed among the Pieces justificatives of the Precis des Faits.]
The British Court knew perfectly the naval and military preparations of the French. Lord Albemarle had died at Paris in December; but the secretary of the embassy, De Cosne, sent to London full information concerning the fleet at Brest and Rochefort. On this, Admiral Boscawen, with eleven ships of the line and one frigate, was ordered to intercept it; and as his force was plainly too small, Admiral Melbourne, with seven more ships, was sent, nearly three weeks after, to join him if he could. Their orders were similar,—to capture or destroy any French vessels bound to North America. Boscawen, who got to sea before La Motte, stationed himself near the southern coast of Newfoundland to cut him off; but most of the French squadron eluded him, and safely made their way, some to Louisbourg, and the others to Quebec. Thus the English expedition was, in the main, a failure. Three of the French ships, however, lost in fog and rain, had become separated from the rest, and lay rolling and tossing on an angry sea not far from Cape Race. One of them was the "Alcide," commanded by Captain Hocquart; the others were the "Lis" and the "Dauphin." The wind fell; but the fogs continued at intervals; till, on the afternoon of the seventh of June, the weather having cleared, the watchman on the maintop saw the distant ocean studded with ships. It was the fleet of Boscawen. Hocquart, who gives the account, says that in the morning they were within three leagues of him, crowding all sail in pursuit. Towards eleven o'clock one of them, the "Dunkirk," was abreast of him to windward, within short speaking distance; and the ship of the Admiral, displaying a red flag as a signal to engage, was not far off. Hocquart called out: "Are we at peace, or war?" He declares that Howe, captain of the "Dunkirk," replied in French: "La paix, la paix." Hocquart then asked the name of the British admiral; and on hearing it said: "I know him; he is a friend of mine." Being asked his own name in return, he had scarcely uttered it when the batteries of the "Dunkirk" belched flame and smoke, and volleyed a tempest of iron upon the crowded decks of the "Alcide." She returned the fire, but was forced at length to strike her colors. Rostaing, second in command of the troops, was killed; and six other officers, with about eighty men, were killed or wounded. At the same time the "Lis" was attacked and overpowered. She had on board eight companies of the battalions of La Reine and Languedoc. The third French ship, the "Dauphin," escaped under cover of a rising fog.
[Footnote 188: Particulars in Entick, I. 121.]
[Footnote 189: Secret Instructions for our Trusty and Well-beloved Edward Boscawen, Esq., Vice-Admiral of the Blue, 16 April, 1755. Most secret Instructions for Francis Holbourne, Esq., Rear-Admiral of the Blue, 9 May, 1755. Robinson to Lords of the Admiralty, 8 May, 1755.]
[Footnote 190: Liste des Officiers tues et blesses dans le Combat de l'Alcide et du Lis.]
[Footnote 191: Hocquart's account is given in full by Pichon, Lettres et Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire du Cap-Breton. The short account in Precis des Faits, 272, seems, too, to be drawn from Hocquart. Also Boscawen to Robinson, 22 June, 1755. Vaudreuil au Ministre, 24 Juillet, 1755, Entick, I. 137.
Some English accounts say that Captain Howe, in answer to the question, "Are we at peace, or war?" returned, "I don't know; but you had better prepare for war." Boscawen places the action on the 10th, instead of the 8th, and puts the English loss at seven killed and twenty-seven wounded.]
Here at last was an end to negotiation. The sword was drawn and brandished in the eyes of Europe.
"I have the pleasure to acquaint you that General Braddock came to my house last Sunday night," writes Dinwiddie, at the end of February, to Governor Dobbs of North Carolina. Braddock had landed at Hampton from the ship "Centurion," along with young Commodore Keppel, who commanded the American squadron. "I am mighty glad," again writes Dinwiddie, "that the General is arrived, which I hope will give me some ease; for these twelve months past I have been a perfect slave." He conceived golden opinions of his guest. "He is, I think, a very fine officer, and a sensible, considerate gentleman. He and I live in great harmony."
Had he known him better, he might have praised him less. William Shirley, son of the Governor of Massachusetts, was Braddock's secretary; and after an acquaintance of some months wrote to his friend Governor Morris: "We have a general most judiciously chosen for being disqualified for the service he is employed in in almost every respect. He may be brave for aught I know, and he is honest in pecuniary matters." The astute Franklin, who also had good opportunity of knowing him, says: "This general was, I think, a brave man, and might probably have made a good figure in some European war. But he had too much self-confidence; too high an opinion of the validity of regular troops; too mean a one of both Americans and Indians." Horace Walpole, in his function of gathering and immortalizing the gossip of his time, has left a sharply drawn sketch of Braddock in two letters to Sir Horace Mann, written in the summer of this year: "I love to give you an idea of our characters as they rise upon the stage of history. Braddock is a very Iroquois in disposition. He had a sister who, having gamed away all her little fortune at Bath, hanged herself with a truly English deliberation, leaving only a note upon the table with those lines: 'To die is landing on some silent shore,' etc. When Braddock was told of it, he only said: 'Poor Fanny! I always thought she would play till she would be forced to tuck herself up.'" Under the name of Miss Sylvia S——, Goldsmith, in his life of Nash, tells the story of this unhappy woman. She was a rash but warm-hearted creature, reduced to penury and dependence, not so much by a passion for cards as by her lavish generosity to a lover ruined by his own follies, and with whom her relations are said to have been entirely innocent. Walpole continues: "But a more ridiculous story of Braddock, and which is recorded in heroics by Fielding in his Covent Garden Tragedy, was an amorous discussion he had formerly with a Mrs. Upton, who kept him. He had gone the greatest lengths with her pin-money, and was still craving. One day, that he was very pressing, she pulled out her purse and showed him that she had but twelve or fourteen shillings left. He twitched it from her: 'Let me see that.' Tied up at the other end he found five guineas. He took them, tossed the empty purse in her face, saying: 'Did you mean to cheat me?' and never went near her more. Now you are acquainted with General Braddock."
[Footnote 192: Shirley the younger to Morris, 23 May, 1755.]
[Footnote 193: Franklin, Autobiography.]
"He once had a duel with Colonel Gumley, Lady Bath's brother, who had been his great friend. As they were going to engage, Gumley, who had good-humor and wit (Braddock had the latter), said: 'Braddock, you are a poor dog! Here, take my purse; if you kill me, you will be forced to run away, and then you will not have a shilling to support you.' Braddock refused the purse, insisted on the duel, was disarmed, and would not even ask his life. However, with all his brutality, he has lately been governor of Gibraltar, where he made himself adored, and where scarce any governor was endured before."
[Footnote 194: Letters of Horace Walpole (1866), II. 459, 461. It is doubtful if Braddock was ever governor of Gibraltar; though, as Mr. Sargent shows, he once commanded a regiment there.]
Another story is told of him by an accomplished actress of the time, George Anne Bellamy, whom Braddock had known from girlhood, and with whom his present relations seem to have been those of an elderly adviser and friend. "As we were walking in the Park one day, we heard a poor fellow was to be chastised; when I requested the General to beg off the offender. Upon his application to the general officer, whose name was Dury, he asked Braddock how long since he had divested himself of the brutality and insolence of his manners? To which the other replied: 'You never knew me insolent to my inferiors. It is only to such rude men as yourself that I behave with the spirit which I think they deserve.'"
Braddock made a visit to the actress on the evening before he left London for America. "Before we parted," she says, "the General told me that he should never see me more; for he was going with a handful of men to conquer whole nations; and to do this they must cut their way through unknown woods. He produced a map of the country, saying at the same time: 'Dear Pop, we are sent like sacrifices to the altar,'"—a strange presentiment for a man of his sturdy temper.
[Footnote 195: Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy, written by herself, II. 204 (London, 1786).]
Whatever were his failings, he feared nothing, and his fidelity and honor in the discharge of public trusts were never questioned. "Desperate in his fortune, brutal in his behavior, obstinate in his sentiments," again writes Walpole, "he was still intrepid and capable." He was a veteran in years and in service, having entered the Coldstream Guards as ensign in 1710.
[Footnote 196: Walpole, George II., I. 390.]
The transports bringing the two regiments from Ireland all arrived safely at Hampton, and were ordered to proceed up the Potomac to Alexandria, where a camp was to be formed. Thither, towards the end of March, went Braddock himself, along with Keppel and Dinwiddie, in the Governor's coach; while his aide-de-camp, Orme, his secretary, Shirley, and the servants of the party followed on horseback. Braddock had sent for the elder Shirley and other provincial governors to meet him in council; and on the fourteenth of April they assembled in a tent of the newly formed encampment. Here was Dinwiddie, who thought his troubles at an end, and saw in the red-coated soldiery the near fruition of his hopes. Here, too, was his friend and ally, Dobbs of North Carolina; with Morris of Pennsylvania, fresh from Assembly quarrels; Sharpe of Maryland, who, having once been a soldier, had been made a sort of provisional commander-in-chief before the arrival of Braddock; and the ambitious Delancey of New York, who had lately led the opposition against the Governor of that province, and now filled the office himself,—a position that needed all his manifold adroitness. But, next to Braddock, the most noteworthy man present was Shirley, governor of Massachusetts. There was a fountain of youth in this old lawyer. A few years before, when he was boundary commissioner in Paris, he had had the indiscretion to marry a young Catholic French girl, the daughter of his landlord; and now, when more than sixty years old, he thirsted for military honors, and delighted in contriving operations of war. He was one of a very few in the colonies who at this time entertained the idea of expelling the French from the continent. He held that Carthage must be destroyed; and, in spite of his Parisian marriage, was the foremost advocate of the root-and-branch policy. He and Lawrence, governor of Nova Scotia, had concerted an attack on the French fort of Beausejour; and, jointly with others in New England, he had planned the capture of Crown Point, the key of Lake Champlain. By these two strokes and by fortifying the portage between the Kennebec and the Chaudiere, he thought that the northern colonies would be saved from invasion, and placed in a position to become themselves invaders. Then, by driving the enemy from Niagara, securing that important pass, and thus cutting off the communication between Canada and her interior dependencies, all the French posts in the West would die of inanition. In order to commend these schemes to the Home Government, he had painted in gloomy colors the dangers that beset the British colonies. Our Indians, he said, will all desert us if we submit to French encroachment. Some of the provinces are full of negro slaves, ready to rise against their masters, and of Roman Catholics, Jacobites, indented servants, and other dangerous persons, who would aid the French in raising a servile insurrection. Pennsylvania is in the hands of Quakers, who will not fight, and of Germans, who are likely enough to join the enemy. The Dutch of Albany would do anything to save their trade. A strong force of French regulars might occupy that place without resistance, then descend the Hudson, and, with the help of a naval force, capture New York and cut the British colonies asunder.
[Footnote 197: Correspondence of Shirley, 1754, 1755.]
[Footnote 198: Shirley to Robinson, 24 Jan. 1755.]
The plans against Crown Point and Beausejour had already found the approval of the Home Government and the energetic support of all the New England colonies. Preparation for them was in full activity; and it was with great difficulty that Shirley had disengaged himself from these cares to attend the council at Alexandria. He and Dinwiddie stood in the front of opposition to French designs. As they both defended the royal prerogative and were strong advocates of taxation by Parliament, they have found scant justice from American writers. Yet the British colonies owed them a debt of gratitude, and the American States owe it still.
Braddock, laid his instructions before the Council, and Shirley found them entirely to his mind; while the General, on his part, fully approved the schemes of the Governor. The plan of the campaign was settled. The French were to be attacked at four points at once. The two British regiments lately arrived were to advance on Fort Duquesne; two new regiments, known as Shirley's and Pepperell's, just raised in the provinces, and taken into the King's pay, were to reduce Niagara; a body of provincials from New England, New York, and New Jersey was to seize Crown Point; and another body of New England men to capture Beausejour and bring Acadia to complete subjection. Braddock himself was to lead the expedition against Fort Duquesne. He asked Shirley, who, though a soldier only in theory, had held the rank of colonel since the last war, to charge himself with that against Niagara; and Shirley eagerly assented. The movement on Crown Point was intrusted to Colonel William Johnson, by reason of his influence over the Indians and his reputation for energy, capacity, and faithfulness. Lastly, the Acadian enterprise was assigned to Lieutenant-Colonel Monckton, a regular officer of merit.
To strike this fourfold blow in time of peace was a scheme worthy of Newcastle and of Cumberland. The pretext was that the positions to be attacked were all on British soil; that in occupying them the French had been guilty of invasion; and that to expel the invaders would be an act of self-defence. Yet in regard to two of these positions, the French, if they had no other right, might at least claim one of prescription. Crown Point had been twenty-four years in their undisturbed possession, while it was three quarters of a century since they first occupied Niagara; and, though New York claimed the ground, no serious attempt had been made to dislodge them.
Other matters now engaged the Council. Braddock, in accordance with his instructions, asked the governors to urge upon their several assemblies the establishment of a general fund for the service of the campaign; but the governors were all of opinion that the assemblies would refuse,—each being resolved to keep the control of its money in its own hands; and all present, with one voice, advised that the colonies should be compelled by Act of Parliament to contribute in due proportion to the support of the war. Braddock next asked if, in the judgment of the Council, it would not be well to send Colonel Johnson with full powers to treat with the Five Nations, who had been driven to the verge of an outbreak by the misconduct of the Dutch Indian commissioners at Albany. The measure was cordially approved, as was also another suggestion of the General, that vessels should be built at Oswego to command Lake Ontario. The Council then dissolved.
Shirley hastened back to New England, burdened with the preparation for three expeditions and the command of one of them. Johnson, who had been in the camp, though not in the Council, went back to Albany, provided with a commission as sole superintendent of Indian affairs, and charged, besides, with the enterprise against Crown Point; while an express was despatched to Monckton at Halifax, with orders to set at once to his work of capturing Beausejour.
[Footnote 199: Minutes of a Council held at the Camp at Alexandria, in Virginia, April 14, 1755. Instructions to Major-General Braddock, 25 Nov. 1754. Secret Instructions to Major-General Braddock, same date. Napier to Braddock, written by Order of the Duke of Cumberland, 25 Nov. 1754, in Precis des Faits, Pieces justificatives, 168. Orme, Journal of Braddock's Expedition. Instructions to Governor Shirley. Correspondence of Shirley. Correspondence of Braddock (Public Record Office). Johnson Papers. Dinwiddie Papers. Pennsylvania Archives, II.]
In regard to Braddock's part of the campaign, there had been a serious error. If, instead of landing in Virginia and moving on Fort Duquesne by the long and circuitous route of Wills Creek, the two regiments had disembarked at Philadelphia and marched westward, the way would have been shortened, and would have lain through one of the richest and most populous districts on the continent, filled with supplies of every kind. In Virginia, on the other hand, and in the adjoining province of Maryland, wagons, horses, and forage were scarce. The enemies of the Administration ascribed this blunder to the influence of the Quaker merchant, John Hanbury, whom the Duke of Newcastle had consulted as a person familiar with American affairs. Hanbury, who was a prominent stockholder in the Ohio Company, and who traded largely in Virginia, saw it for his interest that the troops should pass that way; and is said to have brought the Duke to this opinion. A writer of the time thinks that if they had landed in Pennsylvania, forty thousand pounds would have been saved in money, and six weeks in time.
[Footnote 200: Shebbeare's Tracts, Letter I. Dr. Shebbeare was a political pamphleteer, pilloried by one ministry, and rewarded by the next. He certainly speaks of Hanbury, though he does not give his name. Compare Sargent, 107, 162.]
[Footnote 201: Gentleman's Magazine, Aug. 1755.]
Not only were supplies scarce, but the people showed such unwillingness to furnish them, and such apathy in aiding the expedition, that even Washington was provoked to declare that "they ought to be chastised." Many of them thought that the alarm about French encroachment was a device of designing politicians; and they did not awake to a full consciousness of the peril till it was forced upon them by a deluge of calamities, produced by the purblind folly of their own representatives, who, instead of frankly promoting the expedition, displayed a perverse and exasperating narrowness which chafed Braddock to fury. He praises the New England colonies, and echoes Dinwiddie's declaration that they have shown a "fine martial spirit," and he commends Virginia as having done far better than her neighbors; but for Pennsylvania he finds no words to express his wrath. He knew nothing of the intestine war between proprietaries and people, and hence could see no palliation for a conduct which threatened to ruin both the expedition and the colony. Everything depended on speed, and speed was impossible; for stores and provisions were not ready, though notice to furnish them had been given months before. The quartermaster-general, Sir John Sinclair, "stormed like a lion rampant," but with small effect. Contracts broken or disavowed, want of horses, want of wagons, want of forage, want of wholesome food, or sufficient food of any kind, caused such delay that the report of it reached England, and drew from Walpole the comment that Braddock was in no hurry to be scalped. In reality he was maddened with impatience and vexation.
[Footnote 202: Writings of Washington, II. 78. He speaks of the people of Pennsylvania.]
[Footnote 203: Braddock to Robinson, 18 March, 19 April, 5 June, 1755, etc. On the attitude of Pennsylvania, Colonial Records of Pa., VI., passim.]
[Footnote 204: Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 368.]
A powerful ally presently came to his aid in the shape of Benjamin Franklin, then postmaster-general of Pennsylvania. That sagacious personage,—the sublime of common-sense, about equal in his instincts and motives of character to the respectable average of the New England that produced him, but gifted with a versatile power of brain rarely matched on earth,—was then divided between his strong desire to repel a danger of which he saw the imminence, and his equally strong antagonism to the selfish claims of the Penns, proprietaries of Pennsylvania. This last motive had determined his attitude towards their representative, the Governor, and led him into an opposition as injurious to the military good name of the province as it was favorable to its political longings. In the present case there was no such conflict of inclinations; he could help Braddock without hurting Pennsylvania. He and his son had visited the camp, and found the General waiting restlessly for the report of the agents whom he had sent to collect wagons. "I stayed with him," says Franklin, "several days, and dined with him daily. When I was about to depart, the returns of wagons to be obtained were brought in, by which it appeared that they amounted only to twenty-five, and not all of these were in serviceable condition." On this the General and his officers declared that the expedition was at an end, and denounced the Ministry for sending them into a country void of the means of transportation. Franklin remarked that it was a pity they had not landed in Pennsylvania, where almost every farmer had his wagon. Braddock caught eagerly at his words, and begged that he would use his influence to enable the troops to move. Franklin went back to Pennsylvania, issued an address to the farmers appealing to their interest and their fears, and in a fortnight procured a hundred and fifty wagons, with a large number of horses. Braddock, grateful to his benefactor, and enraged at everybody else, pronounced him "Almost the only instance of ability and honesty I have known in these provinces." More wagons and more horses gradually arrived, and at the eleventh hour the march began.
[Footnote 205: Franklin, Autobiography. Advertisement of B. Franklin for Wagons; Address to the Inhabitants of the Counties of York, Lancaster, and Cumberland, Pennsylvania Archives,II.294]
[Footnote 206: Braddock to Robinson,5 June,1755. The letters of Braddock here cited are the originals in the Public Record Office]
On the tenth of May Braddock reached Wills Creek, where the whole force was now gathered, having marched thither by detachments along the banks of the Potomac. This old trading-station of the Ohio Company had been transformed into a military post and named Fort Cumberland. During the past winter the independent companies which had failed Washington in his need had been at work here to prepare a base of operations for Braddock. Their axes had been of more avail than their muskets. A broad wound had been cut in the bosom of the forest, and the murdered oaks and chestnuts turned into ramparts, barracks, and magazines. Fort Cumberland was an enclosure of logs set upright in the ground, pierced with loopholes, and armed with ten small cannon. It stood on a rising ground near the point where Wills Creek joined the Potomac, and the forest girded it like a mighty hedge, or rather like a paling of gaunt brown stems upholding a canopy of green. All around spread illimitable woods, wrapping hill, valley, and mountain. The spot was an oasis in a desert of leaves,—if the name oasis can be given to anything so rude and harsh. In this rugged area, or "clearing," all Braddock's force was now assembled, amounting, regulars, provincials, and sailors, to about twenty-two hundred men. The two regiments, Halket's and Dunbar's, had been completed by enlistment in Virginia to seven hundred men each. Of Virginians there were nine companies of fifty men, who found no favor in the eyes of Braddock or his officers. To Ensign Allen of Halket's regiment was assigned the duty of "making them as much like soldiers as possible."—that is, of drilling them like regulars. The General had little hope of them, and informed Sir Thomas Robinson that "their slothful and languid disposition renders them very unfit for military service,"—a point on which he lived to change his mind. Thirty sailors, whom Commodore Keppel had lent him, were more to his liking, and were in fact of value in many ways. He had now about six hundred baggage-horses, besides those of the artillery, all weakening daily on their diet of leaves; for no grass was to be found. There was great show of discipline, and little real order. Braddock's executive capacity seems to have been moderate, and his dogged, imperious temper, rasped by disappointments, was in constant irritation. "He looks upon the country, I believe," writes Washington, "as void of honor or honesty. We have frequent disputes on this head, which are maintained with warmth on both sides, especially on his, as he is incapable of arguing without it, or giving up any point he asserts, be it ever so incompatible with reason or common sense." Braddock's secretary, the younger Shirley, writing to his friend Governor Morris, spoke thus irreverently of his chief: "As the King said of a neighboring governor of yours [Sharpe], when proposed for the command of the American forces about a twelvemonth ago, and recommended as a very honest man, though not remarkably able, 'a little more ability and a little less honesty upon the present occasion might serve our turn better.' It is a joke to suppose that secondary officers can make amends for the defects of the first; the mainspring must be the mover. As to the others, I don't think we have much to boast; some are insolent and ignorant, others capable, but rather aiming at showing their own abilities than making a proper use of them. I have a very great love for my friend Orme, and think it uncommonly fortunate for our leader that he is under the influence of so honest and capable a man; but I wish for the sake of the public he had some more experience of business, particularly in America. I am greatly disgusted at seeing an expedition (as it is called), so ill-concerted originally in England, so improperly conducted since in America."
[Footnote 207: Orme, Journal.]
[Footnote 208: Writings of Washington, II. 77.]
[Footnote 209: Shirley the younger to Morris, 23 May, 1755, in Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 404.]
Captain Robert Orme, of whom Shirley speaks, was aide-de-camp to Braddock, and author of a copious and excellent Journal of the expedition, now in the British Museum. His portrait, painted at full length by Sir Joshua Reynolds, hangs in the National Gallery at London. He stands by his horse, a gallant young figure, with a face pale, yet rather handsome, booted to the knee, his scarlet coat, ample waistcoat, and small three-cornered hat all heavy with gold lace. The General had two other aides-de-camp, Captain Roger Morris and Colonel George Washington, whom he had invited, in terms that do him honor, to become one of his military family.
[Footnote 210: Printed by Sargent, in his excellent monograph of Braddock's Expedition.]
It has been said that Braddock despised not only provincials, but Indians. Nevertheless he took some pains to secure their aid, and complained that Indian affairs had been so ill conducted by the provinces that it was hard to gain their confidence. This was true; the tribes had been alienated by gross neglect. Had they been protected from injustice and soothed by attentions and presents, the Five Nations, Delawares, and Shawanoes would have been retained as friends. But their complaints had been slighted, and every gift begrudged. The trader Croghan brought, however, about fifty warriors, with as many women and children, to the camp at Fort Cumberland. They were objects of great curiosity to the soldiers, who gazed with astonishment on their faces, painted red, yellow, and black, their ears slit and hung with pendants, and their heads close shaved, except the feathered scalp-lock at the crown. "In the day," says an officer, "they are in our camp, and in the night they go into their own, where they dance and make a most horrible noise." Braddock received them several times in his tent, ordered the guard to salute them, made them speeches, caused cannon to be fired and drums and fifes to play in their honor, regaled them with rum, and gave them a bullock for a feast; whereupon, being much pleased, they danced a war-dance, described by one spectator as "droll and odd, showing how they scalp and fight;" after which, says another, "they set up the most horrid song or cry that ever I heard." These warriors, with a few others, promised the General to join him on the march; but he apparently grew tired of them, for a famous chief, called Scarroyaddy, afterwards complained: "He looked upon us as dogs, and would never hear anything that we said to him." Only eight of them remained with him to the end.
[Footnote 211: Journal of a Naval Officer, in Sargent. The Expedition of Major-General Braddock, being Extracts of Letters from an Officer (London, 1755).]
[Footnote 212: Statement of George Croghan, in Sargent, appendix iii.]
Another ally appeared at the camp. This was a personage long known in Western fireside story as Captain Jack, the Black Hunter, or the Black Rifle. It was said of him that, having been a settler on the farthest frontier, in the Valley of the Juniata, he returned one evening to his cabin and found it burned to the ground by Indians, and the bodies of his wife and children lying among the ruins. He vowed undying vengeance, raised a band of kindred spirits, dressed and painted like Indians, and became the scourge of the red man and the champion of the white. But he and his wild crew, useful as they might have been, shocked Braddock's sense of military fitness; and he received them so coldly that they left him.
[Footnote 213: See several traditional accounts and contemporary letters in Hazard's Pennsylvania Register, IV. 389, 390, 416; V. 191.]
It was the tenth of June before the army was well on its march. Three hundred axemen led the way, to cut and clear the road; and the long train of packhorses, wagons, and cannon toiled on behind, over the stumps, roots, and stones of the narrow track, the regulars and provincials marching in the forest close on either side. Squads of men were thrown out on the flanks, and scouts ranged the woods to guard against surprise; for, with all his scorn of Indians and Canadians, Braddock did not neglect reasonable precautions. Thus, foot by foot, they advanced into the waste of lonely mountains that divided the streams flowing to the Atlantic from those flowing to the Gulf of Mexico,—a realm of forests ancient as the world. The road was but twelve feet wide, and the line of march often extended four miles. It was like a thin, long party-colored snake, red, blue, and brown, trailing slowly through the depth of leaves, creeping round inaccessible heights, crawling over ridges, moving always in dampness and shadow, by rivulets and waterfalls, crags and chasms, gorges and shaggy steps. In glimpses only, through jagged boughs and flickering leaves, did this wild primeval world reveal itself, with its dark green mountains, flecked with the morning mist, and its distant summits pencilled in dreamy blue. The army passed the main Alleghany, Meadow Mountain, and Great Savage Mountain, and traversed the funereal pine-forest afterwards called the Shades of Death. No attempt was made to interrupt their march, though the commandant of Fort Duquesne had sent out parties for that purpose. A few French and Indians hovered about them, now and then scalping a straggler or inscribing filthy insults on trees; while others fell upon the border settlements which the advance of the troops had left defenceless. Here they were more successful, butchering about thirty persons, chiefly women and children.
It was the eighteenth of June before the army reached a place called the Little Meadows, less than thirty miles from Fort Cumberland. Fever and dysentery among the men, and the weakness and worthlessness of many of the horses, joined to the extreme difficulty of the road, so retarded them that they could move scarcely more than three miles a day. Braddock consulted with Washington, who advised him to leave the heavy baggage to follow as it could, and push forward with a body of chosen troops. This counsel was given in view of a report that five hundred regulars were on the way to reinforce Fort Duquesne. It was adopted. Colonel Dunbar was left to command the rear division, whose powers of movement were now reduced to the lowest point. The advance corps, consisting of about twelve hundred soldiers, besides officers and drivers, began its march on the nineteenth with such artillery as was thought indispensable, thirty wagons, and a large number of packhorses. "The prospect," writes Washington to his brother, "conveyed infinite delight to my mind, though I was excessively ill at the time. But this prospect was soon clouded, and my hopes brought very low indeed when I found that, instead of pushing on with vigor without regarding a little rough road, they were halting to level every mole-hill, and to erect bridges over every brook, by which means we were four days in getting twelve miles." It was not till the seventh of July that they neared the mouth of Turtle Creek, a stream entering the Monongahela about eight miles from the French fort. The way was direct and short, but would lead them through a difficult country and a defile so perilous that Braddock resolved to ford the Monongahela to avoid this danger, and then ford it again to reach his destination.
Fort Duquesne stood on the point of land where the Alleghany and the Monongahela join to form the Ohio, and where now stands Pittsburg, with its swarming population, its restless industries, the clang of its forges, and its chimneys vomiting foul smoke into the face of heaven. At that early day a white flag fluttering over a cluster of palisades and embankments betokened the first intrusion of civilized men upon a scene which, a few months before, breathed the repose of a virgin wilderness, voiceless but for the lapping of waves upon the pebbles, or the note of some lonely bird. But now the sleep of ages was broken, and bugle and drum told the astonished forest that its doom was pronounced and its days numbered. The fort was a compact little work, solidly built and strong, compared with others on the continent. It was a square of four bastions, with the water close on two sides, and the other two protected by ravelins, ditch, glacis, and covered way. The ramparts on these sides were of squared logs, filled in with earth, and ten feet or more thick. The two water sides were enclosed by a massive stockade of upright logs, twelve feet high, mortised together and loopholed. The armament consisted of a number of small cannon mounted on the bastions. A gate and drawbridge on the east side gave access to the area within, which was surrounded by barracks for the soldiers, officers' quarters, the lodgings of the commandant, a guardhouse, and a storehouse, all built partly of logs and partly of boards. There were no casemates, and the place was commanded by a high woody hill beyond the Monongahela. The forest had been cleared away to the distance of more than a musket shot from the ramparts, and the stumps were hacked level with the ground. Here, just outside the ditch, bark cabins had been built for such of the troops and Canadians as could not find room within; and the rest of the open space was covered with Indian corn and other crops.
[Footnote 214: M'Kinney's Description of Fort Duquesne, 1756, in Hazard's Pennsylvania Register, VIII. 318. Letters of Robert Stobo, Hostage at Fort Duquesne, 1754, in Colonial Records of Pa. VI. 141, 161. Stobo's Plan of Fort Duquesne, 1754. Journal of Thomas Forbes, 1755. Letter of Captain Haslet, 1758, in Olden Time, I. 184. Plan of Fort Duquesne in Public Record Office.]
The garrison consisted of a few companies of the regular troops stationed permanently in the colony, and to these were added a considerable number of Canadians. Contrecoeur still held the command. Under him were three other captains, Beaujeu, Dumas, and Ligneris. Besides the troops and Canadians, eight hundred Indian warriors, mustered from far and near, had built their wigwams and camp-sheds on the open ground, or under the edge of the neighboring woods,—very little to the advantage of the young corn. Some were baptized savages settled in Canada,—Caughnawagas from Saut St. Louis, Abenakis from St. Francis, and Hurons from Lorette, whose chief bore the name of Anastase, in honor of that Father of the Church. The rest were unmitigated heathen,—Pottawattamies and Ojibwas from the northern lakes under Charles Langlade, the same bold partisan who had led them, three years before, to attack the Miamis at Pickawillany; Shawanoes and Mingoes from the Ohio; and Ottawas from Detroit, commanded, it is said, by that most redoubtable of savages, Pontiac. The law of the survival of the fittest had wrought on this heterogeneous crew through countless generations; and with the primitive Indian, the fittest was the hardiest, fiercest, most adroit, and most wily. Baptized and heathen alike they had just enjoyed a diversion greatly to their taste. A young Pennsylvanian named James Smith, a spirited and intelligent boy of eighteen, had been waylaid by three Indians on the western borders of the province and led captive to the fort. When the party came to the edge of the clearing, his captors, who had shot and scalped his companion, raised the scalp-yell; whereupon a din of responsive whoops and firing of guns rose from all the Indian camps, and their inmates swarmed out like bees, while the French in the fort shot off muskets and cannon to honor the occasion. The unfortunate boy, the object of this obstreperous rejoicing, presently saw a multitude of savages, naked, hideously bedaubed with red, blue, black, and brown, and armed with sticks or clubs, ranging themselves in two long parallel lines, between which he was told that he must run, the faster the better, as they would beat him all the way. He ran with his best speed, under a shower of blows, and had nearly reached the end of the course, when he was knocked down. He tried to rise, but was blinded by a handful of sand thrown into his face; and then they beat him till he swooned. On coming to his senses he found himself in the fort, with the surgeon opening a vein in his arm and a crowd of French and Indians looking on. In a few days he was able to walk with the help of a stick; and, coming out from his quarters one morning, he saw a memorable scene.
[Footnote 215: See Appendix D.]
[Footnote 216: Account of Remarkable Occurrences in the Life of Colonel James Smith, written by himself. Perhaps the best of all the numerous narratives of captives among the Indians.]
Three days before, an Indian had brought the report that the English were approaching; and the Chevalier de la Perade was sent out to reconnoitre. He returned on the next day, the seventh, with news that they were not far distant. On the eighth the brothers Normanville went out, and found that they were within six leagues of the fort. The French were in great excitement and alarm; but Contrecoeur at length took a resolution, which seems to have been inspired by Beaujeu. It was determined to meet the enemy on the march, and ambuscade them if possible at the crossing of the Monongahela, or some other favorable spot. Beaujeu proposed the plan to the Indians, and offered them the war-hatchet; but they would not take it. "Do you want to die, my father, and sacrifice us besides?" That night they held a council, and in the morning again refused to go. Beaujeu did not despair. "I am determined," he exclaimed, "to meet the English. What! will you let your father go alone?" The greater part caught fire at his words, promised to follow him and put on their war-paint. Beaujeu received the communion, then dressed himself like a savage, and joined the clamorous throng. Open barrels of gunpowder and bullets were set before the gate of the fort, and James Smith, painfully climbing the rampart with the help of his stick, looked down on the warrior rabble as, huddling together, wild with excitement, they scooped up the contents to fill their powder-horns and pouches. Then, band after band, they filed off along the forest track that led to the ford of the Monongahela. They numbered six hundred and thirty-seven; and with them went thirty-six French officers and cadets, seventy-two regular soldiers, and a hundred and forty-six Canadians, or about nine hundred in all. At eight o'clock the tumult was over. The broad clearing lay lonely and still, and Contrecoeur, with what was left of his garrison, waited in suspense for the issue.
[Footnote 217: Relation de Godefroy, in Shea, Bataille du Malangueule (Monongahela).]
[Footnote 218: Dumas, however, declares that Beaujeu adopted the plan at his suggestion. Dumas au Ministre, 24 Juillet, 1756.]
[Footnote 219: Relation depuis le Depart des Trouppes de Quebec jusqu'au 30 du Mois de Septembre, 1755.]
[Footnote 220: Liste des Officiers, Cadets, Soldats, Miliciens, et Sauvages qui composaient le Detachement qui a ete au devant d'un Corps de 2,000 Anglois a 3 Lieues du Fort Duquesne, le 9 Juillet, 1755; joint a la Lettre de M. Bigot du 6 Aout, 1755.]
It was near one o'clock when Braddock crossed the Monongahela for the second time. If the French made a stand anywhere, it would be, he thought, at the fording-place; but Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, whom he sent across with a strong advance-party, found no enemy, and quietly took possession of the farther shore. Then the main body followed. To impose on the imagination of the French scouts, who were doubtless on the watch, the movement was made with studied regularity and order. The sun was cloudless, and the men were inspirited by the prospect of near triumph. Washington afterwards spoke with admiration of the spectacle. The music, the banners, the mounted officers, the troop of light cavalry, the naval detachment, the red-coated regulars, the blue-coated Virginians, the wagons and tumbrils, cannon, howitzers, and coehorns, the train of packhorses, and the droves of cattle, passed in long procession through the rippling shallows, and slowly entered the bordering forest. Here, when all were over, a short halt was ordered for rest and refreshment.
[Footnote 221: Compare the account of another eye-witness, Dr. Walker, in Hazard's Pennsylvania Register, VI. 104.]
Why had not Beaujeu defended the ford? This was his intention in the morning; but he had been met by obstacles, the nature of which is not wholly clear. His Indians, it seems, had proved refractory. Three hundred of them left him, went off in another direction, and did not rejoin him till the English had crossed the river. Hence perhaps it was that, having left Fort Duquesne at eight o'clock, he spent half the day in marching seven miles, and was more than a mile from the fording-place when the British reached the eastern shore. The delay, from whatever cause arising, cost him the opportunity of laying an ambush either at the ford or in the gullies and ravines that channelled the forest through which Braddock was now on the point of marching.
[Footnote 222: Relation de Godefroy, in Shea, Bataille du Malangueule.]
Not far from the bank of the river, and close by the British line of march, there was a clearing and a deserted house that had once belonged to the trader Fraser. Washington remembered it well. It was here that he found rest and shelter on the winter journey homeward from his mission to Fort Le Boeuf. He was in no less need of rest at this moment; for recent fever had so weakened him that he could hardly sit his horse. From Fraser's house to Fort Duquesne the distance was eight miles by a rough path, along which the troops were now beginning to move after their halt. It ran inland for a little; then curved to the left, and followed a course parallel to the river along the base of a line of steep hills that here bordered the valley. These and all the country were buried in dense and heavy forest, choked with bushes and the carcases of fallen trees. Braddock has been charged with marching blindly into an ambuscade; but it was not so. There was no ambuscade; and had there been one, he would have found it. It is true that he did not reconnoitre the woods very far in advance of the head of the column; yet, with this exception, he made elaborate dispositions to prevent surprise. Several guides, with six Virginian light horsemen, led the way. Then, a musket-shot behind, came the vanguard; then three hundred soldiers under Gage; then a large body of axemen, under Sir John Sinclair, to open the road; then two cannon with tumbrils and tool-wagons; and lastly the rear-guard, closing the line, while flanking-parties ranged the woods on both sides. This was the advance-column. The main body followed with little or no interval. The artillery and wagons moved along the road, and the troops filed through the woods close on either hand. Numerous flanking-parties were thrown out a hundred yards and more to right and left; while, in the space between them and the marching column, the pack horses and cattle, with their drivers, made their way painfully among the trees and thickets; since, had they been allowed to follow the road, the line of march would have been too long for mutual support. A body of regulars and provincials brought up the rear.
Gage, with his advance-column, had just passed a wide and bushy ravine that crossed their path, and the van of the main column was on the point of entering it, when the guides and light horsemen in the front suddenly fell back; and the engineer, Gordon, then engaged in marking out the road, saw a man, dressed like an Indian, but wearing the gorget of an officer, bounding forward along the path. He stopped when he discovered the head of the column, turned, and waved his hat. The forest behind was swarming with French and savages. At the signal of the officer, who was probably Beaujeu, they yelled the war-whoop, spread themselves to right and left, and opened a sharp fire under cover of the trees. Gage's column wheeled deliberately into line, and fired several volleys with great steadiness against the now invisible assailants. Few of them were hurt; the trees caught the shot, but the noise was deafening under the dense arches of the forest. The greater part of the Canadians, to borrow the words of Dumas, "fled shamefully, crying 'Sauve qui peut!'" Volley followed volley, and at the third Beaujeu dropped dead. Gage's two cannon were now brought to bear, on which the Indians, like the Canadians, gave way in confusion, but did not, like them, abandon the field. The close scarlet ranks of the English were plainly to be seen through the trees and the smoke; they were moving forward, cheering lustily, and shouting "God save the King." Dumas, now chief in command, thought that all was lost. "I advanced," he says, "with the assurance that comes from despair, exciting by voice and gesture the few soldiers that remained. The fire of my platoon was so sharp that the enemy seemed astonished." The Indians, encouraged, began to rally. The French officers who commanded them showed admirable courage and address; and while Dumas and Ligneris, with the regulars and what was left of the Canadians, held the ground in front, the savage warriors, screeching their war-cries, swarmed through the forest along both flanks of the English, hid behind trees, bushes, and fallen trunks, or crouched in gullies and ravines, and opened a deadly fire on the helpless soldiery, who, themselves completely visible, could see no enemy, and wasted volley after volley on the impassive trees. The most destructive fire came from a hill on the English right, where the Indians lay in multitudes, firing from their lurking-places on the living target below. But the invisible death was everywhere, in front, flank, and rear. The British cheer was heard no more. The troops broke their ranks and huddled together in a bewildered mass, shrinking from the bullets that cut them down by scores.
[Footnote 223: Journal of the Proceeding of the Detachment of Seamen, in Sargent.]
[Footnote 224: Dumas au Ministre, 24 Juillet, 1756. Contrecoeur a Vaudreuil, 14 Juillet, 1755. See Appendix D, where extracts are given.]
When Braddock heard the firing in the front, he pushed forward with the main body to the support of Gage, leaving four hundred men in the rear, under Sir Peter Halket, to guard the baggage. At the moment of his arrival Gage's soldiers had abandoned their two cannon, and were falling back to escape the concentrated fire of the Indians. Meeting the advancing troops, they tried to find cover behind them. This threw the whole into confusion. The men of the two regiments became mixed together; and in a short time the entire force, except the Virginians and the troops left with Halket, were massed in several dense bodies within a small space of ground, facing some one way and some another, and all alike exposed without shelter to the bullets that pelted them like hail. Both men and officers were new to this blind and frightful warfare of the savage in his native woods. To charge the Indians in their hiding-places would have been useless. They would have eluded pursuit with the agility of wildcats, and swarmed back, like angry hornets, the moment that it ceased. The Virginians alone were equal to the emergency. Fighting behind trees like the Indians themselves, they might have held the enemy in check till order could be restored, had not Braddock, furious at a proceeding that shocked all his ideas of courage and discipline, ordered them, with oaths, to form into line. A body of them under Captain Waggoner made a dash for a fallen tree lying in the woods, far out towards the lurking-places of the Indians, and, crouching behind the huge trunk, opened fire; but the regulars, seeing the smoke among the bushes, mistook their best friends for the enemy, shot at them from behind, killed many, and forced the rest to return. A few of the regulars also tried in their clumsy way to fight behind trees; but Braddock beat them with his sword, and compelled them to stand with the rest, an open mark for the Indians. The panic increased; the soldiers crowded together, and the bullets spent themselves in a mass of human bodies. Commands, entreaties, and threats were lost upon them. "We would fight," some of them answered, "if we could see anybody to fight with." Nothing was visible but puffs of smoke. Officers and men who had stood all the afternoon under fire afterwards declared that they could not be sure they had seen a single Indian. Braddock ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Burton to attack the hill where the puffs of smoke were thickest, and the bullets most deadly. With infinite difficulty that brave officer induced a hundred men to follow him; but he was soon disabled by a wound, and they all faced about. The artillerymen stood for some time by their guns, which did great damage to the trees and little to the enemy. The mob of soldiers, stupefied with terror, stood panting, their foreheads beaded with sweat, loading and firing mechanically, sometimes into the air, sometimes among their own comrades, many of whom they killed. The ground, strewn with dead and wounded men, the bounding of maddened horses, the clatter and roar of musketry and cannon, mixed with the spiteful report of rifles and the yells that rose from the indefatigable throats of six hundred unseen savages, formed a chaos of anguish and terror scarcely paralleled even in Indian war. "I cannot describe the horrors of that scene," one of Braddock's officers wrote three weeks after; "no pen could do it. The yell of the Indians is fresh on my ear, and the terrific sound will haunt me till the hour of my dissolution."
[Footnote 225: Leslie to a Merchant of Philadelphia, 30 July, 1755, in Hazard's Pennsylvania Register, V. 191. Leslie was a lieutenant of the Forty-fourth.]
Braddock showed a furious intrepidity. Mounted on horseback, he dashed to and fro, storming like a madman. Four horses were shot under him, and he mounted a fifth. Washington seconded his chief with equal courage; he too no doubt using strong language, for he did not measure words when the fit was on him. He escaped as by miracle. Two horses were killed under him, and four bullets tore his clothes. The conduct of the British officers was above praise. Nothing could surpass their undaunted self-devotion; and in their vain attempts to lead on the men, the havoc among them was frightful. Sir Peter Halket was shot dead. His son, a lieutenant in his regiment, stooping to raise the body of his father, was shot dead in turn. Young Shirley, Braddock's secretary, was pierced through the brain. Orme and Morris, his aides-de-camp, Sinclair, the quartermaster-general, Gates and Gage, both afterwards conspicuous on opposite sides in the War of the Revolution, and Gladwin, who, eight years later, defended Detroit against Pontiac, were all wounded. Of eighty-six officers, sixty-three were killed or disabled; while out of thirteen hundred and seventy-three noncommissioned officers and privates, only four hundred and fifty-nine came off unharmed.
[Footnote 226: A List of the Officers who were present, and of those killed and wounded, in the Action on the Banks of the Monongahela, 9 July, 1755 (Public Record Office, America and West Indies, LXXXII).]
[Footnote 227: Statement of the engineer, Mackellar. By another account, out of a total, officers and men, of 1,460, the number of all ranks who escaped was 583. Braddock's force, originally 1,200, was increased, a few days before the battle, by detachments from Dunbar.]
Braddock saw that all was lost. To save the wreck of his force from annihilation, he at last commanded a retreat; and as he and such of his officers as were left strove to withdraw the half-frenzied crew in some semblance of order, a bullet struck him down. The gallant bulldog fell from his horse, shot through the arm into the lungs. It is said, though on evidence of no weight, that the bullet came from one of his own men. Be this as it may, there he lay among the bushes, bleeding, gasping, unable even to curse. He demanded to be left where he was. Captain Stewart and another provincial bore him between them to the rear.
It was about this time that the mob of soldiers, having been three hours under fire, and having spent their ammunition, broke away in a blind frenzy, rushed back towards the ford, "and when," says Washington, "we endeavored to rally them, it was with as much success as if we had attempted to stop the wild bears of the mountains." They dashed across, helter-skelter, plunging through the water to the farther bank, leaving wounded comrades, cannon, baggage, the military chest, and the General's papers, a prey to the Indians. About fifty of these followed to the edge of the river. Dumas and Ligneris, who had now only about twenty Frenchmen with them, made no attempt to pursue, and went back to the fort, because, says Contrecoeur, so many of the Canadians had "retired at the first fire." The field, abandoned to the savages, was a pandemonium of pillage and murder.
[Footnote 228: "Nous primes le parti de nous retirer en vue de rallier notre petite armee." Dumas au Ministre, 24 Juillet, 1756.
On the defeat of Braddock, besides authorities already cited,—Shirley to Robinson, 5 Nov. 1755, accompanying the plans of the battle reproduced in this volume (Public Record Office, America and West Indies, LXXXIL). The plans were drawn at Shirley's request by Patrick Mackellar, chief engineer of the expedition, who was with Gage in the advance column when the fight began. They were examined and fully approved by the chief surviving officers, and they closely correspond with another plan made by the aide-de-camp Orme,—which, however, shows only the beginning of the affair.
Report of the Court of Inquiry into the Behavior of the Troops at the Monongahela. Letters of Dinwiddie. Letters of Gage. Burd to Morris, 25 July, 1755. Sinclair to Robinson, 3 Sept. Rutherford to——, 12 July. Writings of Washington, II. 68-93. Review of Military Operations in North America. Entick, I. 145. Gentleman's Magazine (1755), 378, 426. Letter to a Friend on the Ohio Defeat (Boston, 1755).
Contrecoeur a Vaudreuil, 14 Juillet, 1755. Estat de l'Artillerie, etc., qui se sont trouves sur le Champ de Bataille. Vaudreuil au Ministre, 5 Aout, 1755. Bigot au Ministre, 27 Aout. Relation du Combat du 9 Juillet. Relation depuis le Depart des Trouppes de Quebec jusqu'au 30 du Mois de Septembre. Lotbiniere a d'Argenson, 24 Oct. Relation officielle imprimee au Louvre. Relation de Godefroy (Shea). Extraits du Registre du Fort Duquesne (Ibid.). Relation de diverses Mouvements (Ibid.). Pouchot, I. 37.]
James Smith, the young prisoner at Fort Duquesne, had passed a day of suspense, waiting the result. "In the afternoon I again observed a great noise and commotion in the fort, and, though at that time I could not understand French, I found it was the voice of joy and triumph, and feared that they had received what I called bad news. I had observed some of the old-country soldiers speak Dutch; as I spoke Dutch, I went to one of them and asked him what was the news. He told me that a runner had just arrived who said that Braddock would certainly be defeated; that the Indians and French had surrounded him, and were concealed behind trees and in gullies, and kept a constant fire upon the English; and that they saw the English falling in heaps; and if they did not take the river, which was the only gap, and make their escape, there would not be one man left alive before sundown. Some time after this, I heard a number of scalp-halloos, and saw a company of Indians and French coming in. I observed they had a great number of bloody scalps, grenadiers' caps, British canteens, bayonets, etc., with them. They brought the news that Braddock was defeated. After that another company came in, which appeared to be about one hundred, and chiefly Indians; and it seemed to me that almost every one of this company was carrying scalps. After this came another company with a number of wagon-horses, and also a great many scalps. Those that were coming in and those that had arrived kept a constant firing of small arms, and also the great guns in the fort, which were accompanied with the most hideous shouts and yells from all quarters, so that it appeared to me as though the infernal regions had broke loose."
"About sundown I beheld a small party coming in with about a dozen prisoners, stripped naked, with their hands tied behind their backs and their faces and part of their bodies blacked; these prisoners they burned to death on the bank of Alleghany River, opposite the fort. I stood on the fort wall until I beheld them begin to burn one of these men; they had him tied to a stake, and kept touching him with firebrands, red-hot irons, etc., and he screaming in a most doleful manner, the Indians in the meantime yelling like infernal spirits. As this scene appeared too shocking for me to behold, I retired to my lodging, both sore and sorry. When I came into my lodgings I saw Russel's Seven Sermons, which they had brought from the field of battle, which a Frenchman made a present of to me."
The loss of the French was slight, but fell chiefly on the officers, three of whom were killed, and four wounded. Of the regular soldiers, all but four escaped untouched. The Canadians suffered still less in proportion to their numbers, only five of them being hurt. The Indians, who won the victory, bore the principal loss. Of those from Canada, twenty-seven were killed and wounded; while the casualties among the Western tribes are not reported. All of these last went off the next morning with their plunder and scalps, leaving Contrecoeur in great anxiety lest the remnant of Braddock's troops, reinforced by the division under Dunbar, should attack him again. His doubts would have vanished had he known the condition of his defeated enemy.
[Footnote 229: Liste des Officiers, Soldats, Miliciens, et Sauvages de Canada qui out ete tues et blesses le 9 Juillet, 1755.]
In the pain and languor of a mortal wound, Braddock showed unflinching resolution. His bearers stopped with him at a favorable spot beyond the Monongahela; and here he hoped to maintain his position till the arrival of Dunbar. By the efforts of the officers about a hundred men were collected around him; but to keep them there was impossible. Within an hour they abandoned him, and fled like the rest. Gage, however, succeeded in rallying about eighty beyond the other fording-place; and Washington, on an order from Braddock, spurred his jaded horse towards the camp of Dunbar to demand wagons, provisions, and hospital stores.
Fright overcame fatigue. The fugitives toiled on all night, pursued by spectres of horror and despair; hearing still the war-whoops and the shrieks; possessed with the one thought of escape from the wilderness of death. In the morning some order was restored. Braddock was placed on a horse; then, the pain being insufferable, he was carried on a litter, Captain Orme having bribed the carriers by the promise of a guinea and a bottle of rum apiece. Early in the succeeding night, such as had not fainted on the way reached the deserted farm of Gist. Here they met wagons and provisions, with a detachment of soldiers sent by Dunbar, whose camp was six miles farther on; and Braddock ordered them to go to the relief of the stragglers left behind.
At noon of that day a number of wagoners and packhorse-drivers had come to Dunbar's camp with wild tidings of rout and ruin. More fugitives followed; and soon after a wounded officer was brought in upon a sheet. The drums beat to arms. The camp was in commotion; and many soldiers and teamsters took to flight, in spite of the sentinels, who tried in vain to stop them. There was a still more disgraceful scene on the next day, after Braddock, with the wreck of his force, had arrived. Orders were given to destroy such of the wagons, stores, and ammunition as could not be carried back at once to Fort Cumberland. Whether Dunbar or the dying General gave these orders is not clear; but it is certain that they were executed with shameful alacrity. More than a hundred wagons were burned; cannon, coehorns, and shells were burst or buried; barrels of gunpowder were staved, and the contents thrown into a brook; provisions were scattered through the woods and swamps. Then the whole command began its retreat over the mountains to Fort Cumberland, sixty miles distant. This proceeding, for which, in view of the condition of Braddock, Dunbar must be held answerable, excited the utmost indignation among the colonists. If he could not advance, they thought, he might at least have fortified himself and held his ground till the provinces could send him help; thus covering the frontier, and holding French war-parties in check.
[Footnote 230: Depositions of Matthew Laird, Michael Hoover, and Jacob Hoover, Wagoners, in Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 482.]
Braddock's last moment was near. Orme, who, though himself severely wounded, was with him till his death, told Franklin that he was totally silent all the first day, and at night said only, "Who would have thought it?" that all the next day he was again silent, till at last he muttered, "We shall better know how to deal with them another time," and died a few minutes after. He had nevertheless found breath to give orders at Gist's for the succor of the men who had dropped on the road. It is said, too, that in his last hours "he could not bear the sight of a red coat," but murmured praises of "the blues," or Virginians, and said that he hoped he should live to reward them. He died at about eight o'clock in the evening of Sunday, the thirteenth. Dunbar had begun his retreat that morning, and was then encamped near the Great Meadows. On Monday the dead commander was buried in the road; and men, horses, and wagons passed over his grave, effacing every sign of it, lest the Indians should find and mutilate the body.
[Footnote 231: Bolling to his Son, 13 Aug. 1755. Bolling was a Virginian gentleman whose son was at school in England.]
Colonel James Innes, commanding at Fort Cumberland, where a crowd of invalids with soldiers' wives and other women had been left when the expedition marched, heard of the defeat, only two days after it happened, from a wagoner who had fled from the field on horseback. He at once sent a note of six lines to Lord Fairfax: "I have this moment received the most melancholy news of the defeat of our troops, the General killed, and numbers of our officers; our whole artillery taken. In short, the account I have received is so very bad, that as, please God, I intend to make a stand here, 'tis highly necessary to raise the militia everywhere to defend the frontiers." A boy whom he sent out on horseback met more fugitives, and came back on the fourteenth with reports as vague and disheartening as the first. Innes sent them to Dinwiddie. Some days after, Dunbar and his train arrived in miserable disorder, and Fort Cumberland was turned into a hospital for the shattered fragments of a routed and ruined army.
[Footnote 232: Innes to Dinwiddie, 14 July, 1755.]
On the sixteenth a letter was brought in haste to one Buchanan at Carlisle, on the Pennsylvanian frontier:—
Sir,—I thought it proper to let you know that I was in the battle where we were defeated. And we had about eleven hundred and fifty private men, besides officers and others. And we were attacked the ninth day about twelve o'clock, and held till about three in the afternoon, and then we were forced to retreat, when I suppose we might bring off about three hundred whole men, besides a vast many wounded. Most of our officers were either wounded or killed; General Braddock is wounded, but I hope not mortal; and Sir John Sinclair and many others, but I hope not mortal. All the train is cut off in a manner. Sir Peter Halket and his son, Captain Polson, Captain Gethan, Captain Rose, Captain Tatten killed, and many others. Captain Ord of the train is wounded, but I hope not mortal. We lost all our artillery entirely, and everything else.
To Mr. John Smith and Buchannon, and give it to the next post, and let him show this to Mr. George Gibson in Lancaster, and Mr. Bingham, at the sign of the Ship, and you'll oblige,
Yours to command,
JOHN CAMPBELL, Messenger.
[Footnote 233: Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 481.]
The evil tidings quickly reached Philadelphia, where such confidence had prevailed that certain over-zealous persons had begun to collect money for fireworks to celebrate the victory. Two of these, brother physicians named Bond, came to Franklin and asked him to subscribe; but the sage looked doubtful. "Why, the devil!" said one of them, "you surely don't suppose the fort will not be taken?" He reminded them that war is always uncertain; and the subscription was deferred.The Governor laid the news of the disaster before his Council, telling them at the same time that his opponents in the Assembly would not believe it, and had insulted him in the street for giving it currency.
[Footnote 234: Autobiography of Franklin.]
[Footnote 235: Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 480.]
Dinwiddie remained tranquil at Williamsburg, sure that all would go well. The brief note of Innes, forwarded by Lord Fairfax, first disturbed his dream of triumph; but on second thought he took comfort. "I am willing to think that account was from a deserter who, in a great panic, represented what his fears suggested. I wait with impatience for another express from Fort Cumberland, which I expect will greatly contradict the former." The news got abroad, and the slaves showed signs of excitement. "The villany of the negroes on any emergency is what I always feared," continues the Governor. "An example of one or two at first may prevent these creatures entering into combinations and wicked designs." And he wrote to Lord Halifax: "The negro slaves have been very audacious on the news of defeat on the Ohio. These poor creatures imagine the French will give them their freedom. We have too many here; but I hope we shall be able to keep them in proper subjection." Suspense grew intolerable. "It's monstrous they should be so tardy and dilatory in sending down any farther account." He sent Major Colin Campbell for news; when, a day or two later, a courier brought him two letters, one from Orme, and the other from Washington, both written at Fort Cumberland on the eighteenth. The letter of Orme began thus: "My dear Governor, I am so extremely ill in bed with the wound I have received that I am under the necessity of employing my friend Captain Dobson as my scribe." Then he told the wretched story of defeat and humiliation. "The officers were absolutely sacrificed by their unparalleled good behavior; advancing before their men sometimes in bodies, and sometimes separately, hoping by such an example to engage the soldiers to follow them; but to no purpose. Poor Shirley was shot through the head, Captain Morris very much wounded. Mr. Washington had two horses shot under him, and his clothes shot through in several places; behaving the whole time with the greatest courage and resolution."
[Footnote 236: Dinwiddie to Colonel Charles Carter, 18 July, 1755.]
Washington wrote more briefly, saying that, as Orme was giving a full account of the affair, it was needless for him to repeat it. Like many others in the fight, he greatly underrated the force of the enemy, which he placed at three hundred, or about a third of the actual number,—a natural error, as most of the assailants were invisible. "Our poor Virginians behaved like men, and died like soldiers; for I believe that out of three companies that were there that day, scarce thirty were left alive. Captain Peronney and all his officers down to a corporal were killed. Captain Polson shared almost as hard a fate, for only one of his escaped. In short, the dastardly behavior of the English soldiers exposed all those who were inclined to do their duty to almost certain death. It is imagined (I believe with great justice, too) that two thirds of both killed and wounded received their shots from our own cowardly dogs of soldiers, who gathered themselves into a body, contrary to orders, ten and twelve deep, would then level, fire, and shoot down the men before them."
[Footnote 237: These extracts are taken from the two letters preserved in the Public Record Office, America and West Indies, LXXIV, LXXXII.]
To Orme, Dinwiddie replied: "I read your letter with tears in my eyes; but it gave me much pleasure to see your name at the bottom, and more so when I observed by the postscript that your wound is not dangerous. But pray, dear sir, is it not possible by a second attempt to retrieve the great loss we have sustained? I presume the General's chariot is at the fort. In it you may come here, and my house is heartily at your command. Pray take care of your valuable health; keep your spirits up, and I doubt not of your recovery. My wife and girls join me in most sincere respects and joy at your being so well, and I always am, with great truth, dear friend, your affectionate humble servant."
To Washington he is less effusive, though he had known him much longer. He begins, it is true, "Dear Washington," and congratulates him on his escape; but soon grows formal, and asks: "Pray, sir, with the number of them remaining, is there no possibility of doing something on the other side of the mountains before the winter months? Surely you must mistake. Colonel Dunbar will not march to winter-quarters in the middle of summer, and leave the frontiers exposed to the invasions of the enemy! No; he is a better officer, and I have a different opinion of him. I sincerely wish you health and happiness, and am, with great respect, sir, your obedient, humble servant."
Washington's letter had contained the astonishing announcement that Dunbar meant to abandon the frontier and march to Philadelphia. Dinwiddie, much disturbed, at once wrote to that officer, though without betraying any knowledge of his intention. "Sir, the melancholy account of the defeat of our forces gave me a sensible and real concern"—on which he enlarges for a while; then suddenly changes style: "Dear Colonel, is there no method left to retrieve the dishonor done to the British arms? As you now command all the forces that remain, are you not able, after a proper refreshment of your men, to make a second attempt? You have four months now to come of the best weather of the year for such an expedition. What a fine field for honor will Colonel Dunbar have to confirm and establish his character as a brave officer." Then, after suggesting plans of operation, and entering into much detail, the fervid Governor concludes: "It gives me great pleasure that under our great loss and misfortunes the command devolves on an officer of so great military judgment and established character. With my sincere respect and hearty wishes for success to all your proceedings, I am, worthy sir, your most obedient, humble servant."
Exhortation and flattery were lost on Dunbar. Dinwiddie received from him in reply a short, dry note, dated on the first of August, and acquainting him that he should march for Philadelphia on the second. This, in fact, he did, leaving the fort to be defended by invalids and a few Virginians. "I acknowledge," says Dinwiddie, "I was not brought up to arms; but I think common sense would have prevailed not to leave the frontiers exposed after having opened a road over the mountains to the Ohio, by which the enemy can the more easily invade us.... Your great colonel," he writes to Orme, "is gone to a peaceful colony, and left our frontiers open.... The whole conduct of Colonel Dunbar appears to me monstrous.... To march off all the regulars, and leave the fort and frontiers to be defended by four hundred sick and wounded, and the poor remains of our provincial forces, appears to me absurd."
[Footnote 238: Dinwiddie's view of Dunbar's conduct is fully justified by the letters of Shirley, Governor Morris, and Dunbar himself.]
He found some comfort from the burgesses, who gave him forty thousand pounds, and would, he thinks, have given a hundred thousand if another attempt against Fort Duquesne had been set afoot. Shirley, too, whom the death of Braddock had made commander-in-chief, approved the Governor's plan of renewing offensive operations, and instructed Dunbar to that effect; ordering him, however, should they prove impracticable, to march for Albany in aid of the Niagara expedition. The order found him safe in Philadelphia. Here he lingered for a while; then marched to join the northern army, moving at a pace which made it certain that he could not arrive in time to be of the least use.
[Footnote 239: Orders for Colonel Thomas Dunbar, 12 Aug. 1755. These supersede a previous order of August 6, by which Shirley had directed Dunbar to march northward at once.]
Thus the frontier was left unguarded; and soon, as Dinwiddie had foreseen, there burst upon it a storm of blood and fire.
Removal of the Acadians
By the plan which the Duke of Cumberland had ordained and Braddock had announced in the Council at Alexandria, four blows were to be struck at once to force back the French boundaries, lop off the dependencies of Canada, and reduce her from a vast territory to a petty province. The first stroke had failed, and had shattered the hand of the striker; it remains to see what fortune awaited the others.
It was long since a project of purging Acadia of French influence had germinated in the fertile mind of Shirley. We have seen in a former chapter the condition of that afflicted province. Several thousands of its inhabitants, wrought upon by intriguing agents of the French Government, taught by their priests that fidelity to King Louis was inseparable from fidelity to God, and that to swear allegiance to the British Crown was eternal perdition; threatened with plunder and death at the hands of the savages whom the ferocious missionary, Le Loutre, held over them in terror,—had abandoned, sometimes willingly, but oftener under constraint, the fields which they and their fathers had tilled, and crossing the boundary line of the Missaguash, had placed themselves under the French flag planted on the hill of Beausejour. Here, or in the neighborhood, many of them had remained, wretched and half starved; while others had been transported to Cape Breton, Isle St. Jean, or the coasts of the Gulf,—not so far, however, that they could not on occasion be used to aid in an invasion of British Acadia. Those of their countrymen who still lived under the British flag were chiefly the inhabitants of the district of Mines and of the valley of the River Annapolis, who, with other less important settlements, numbered a little more than nine thousand souls. We have shown already, by the evidence of the French themselves, that neither they nor their emigrant countrymen had been oppressed or molested in matters temporal or spiritual, but that the English authorities, recognizing their value as an industrious population, had labored to reconcile them to a change of rulers which on the whole was to their advantage. It has been shown also how, with a heartless perfidy and a reckless disregard of their welfare and safety, the French Government and its agents labored to keep them hostile to the Crown of which it had acknowledged them to be subjects. The result was, that though they did not, like their emigrant countrymen, abandon their homes, they remained in a state of restless disaffection, refused to supply English garrisons with provisions, except at most exorbitant rates, smuggled their produce to the French across the line, gave them aid and intelligence, and sometimes disguised as Indians, robbed and murdered English settlers. By the new-fangled construction of the treaty of Utrecht which the French boundary commissioners had devised, more than half the Acadian peninsula, including nearly all the cultivated land and nearly all the population of French descent, was claimed as belonging to France, though England had held possession of it more than forty years. Hence, according to the political ethics adopted at the time by both nations, it would be lawful for France to reclaim it by force. England, on her part, it will be remembered, claimed vast tracts beyond the isthmus; and, on the same pretext, held that she might rightfully seize them and capture Beausejour, with the other French garrisons that guarded them.