While Johnson lay at Lake George, Dieskau prepared a surprise for him. The German Baron had reached Crown Point at the head of three thousand five hundred and seventy-three men, regulars, Canadians, and Indians. He had no thought of waiting there to be attacked. The troops were told to hold themselves ready to move at a moment's notice. Officers—so ran the order—will take nothing with them but one spare shirt, one spare pair of shoes, a blanket, a bearskin, and provisions for twelve days; Indians are not to amuse themselves by taking scalps till the enemy is entirely defeated, since they can kill ten men in the time required to scalp one. Then Dieskau moved on, with nearly all his force, to Carillon, or Ticonderoga, a promontory commanding both the routes by which alone Johnson could advance, that of Wood Creek and that of Lake George.
[Footnote 303: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 25 Sept. 1755.]
[Footnote 304: Livre d'Ordres, Aout, Sept. 1755.]
The Indians allies were commanded by Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, the officer who had received Washington on his embassy to Fort Le Boeuf. These unmanageable warriors were a constant annoyance to Dieskau, being a species of humanity quite new to him. "They drive us crazy," he says, "from morning till night. There is no end to their demands. They have already eaten five oxen and as many hogs, without counting the kegs of brandy they have drunk. In short, one needs the patience of an angel to get on with these devils; and yet one must always force himself to seem pleased with them."
[Footnote 305: Dieskau a Vaudreuil, 1 Sept. 1755.]
They would scarcely even go out as scouts. At last, however, on the fourth of September, a reconnoitring party came in with a scalp and an English prisoner caught near Fort Lyman. He was questioned under the threat of being given to the Indians for torture if he did not tell the truth; but, nothing daunted, he invented a patriotic falsehood; and thinking to lure his captors into a trap, told them that the English army had fallen back to Albany, leaving five hundred men at Fort Lyman, which he represented as indefensible. Dieskau resolved on a rapid movement to seize the place. At noon of the same day, leaving a part of his force at Ticonderoga, he embarked the rest in canoes and advanced along the narrow prolongation of Lake Champlain that stretched southward through the wilderness to where the town of Whitehall now stands. He soon came to a point where the lake dwindled to a mere canal, while two mighty rocks, capped with stunted forests, faced each other from the opposing banks. Here he left an officer named Roquemaure with a detachment of troops, and again advanced along a belt of quiet water traced through the midst of a deep marsh, green at that season with sedge and water-weeds, and known to the English as the Drowned Lands. Beyond, on either hand, crags feathered with birch and fir, or hills mantled with woods, looked down on the long procession of canoes. As they neared the site of Whitehall, a passage opened on the right, the entrance to a sheet of lonely water slumbering in the shadow of woody mountains, and forming the lake then, as now, called South Bay. They advanced to its head, landed where a small stream enters it, left the canoes under a guard, and began their march through the forest. They counted in all two hundred and sixteen regulars of the battalions of Languedoc and La Reine, six hundred and eighty-four Canadians, and above six hundred Indians. Every officer and man carried provisions for eight days in his knapsack. They encamped at night by a brook, and in the morning, after hearing Mass, marched again. The evening of the next day brought them near the road that led to Lake George. Fort Lyman was but three miles distant. A man on horseback galloped by; it was Adams, Johnson's unfortunate messenger. The Indians shot him, and found the letter in his pocket. Soon after, ten or twelve wagons appeared in charge of mutinous drivers, who had left the English camp without orders. Several of them were shot, two were taken, and the rest ran off. The two captives declared that, contrary to the assertion of the prisoner at Ticonderoga, a large force lay encamped at the lake. The Indians now held a council, and presently gave out that they would not attack the fort, which they thought well supplied with cannon, but that they were willing to attack the camp at Lake George. Remonstrance was lost upon them. Dieskau was not young, but he was daring to rashness, and inflamed to emulation by the victory over Braddock. The enemy were reported greatly to outnumber him; but his Canadian advisers had assured him that the English colony militia were the worst troops on the face of the earth. "The more there are," he said to the Canadians and Indians, "the more we shall kill;" and in the morning the order was given to march for the lake.
[Footnote 306: I passed this way three weeks ago. There are some points where the scene is not much changed since Dieskau saw it.]
[Footnote 307: Memoire sur l'Affaire du 8 Septembre.]
They moved rapidly on through the waste of pines, and soon entered the rugged valley that led to Johnson's camp. On their right was a gorge where, shadowed in bushes, gurgled a gloomy brook; and beyond rose the cliffs that buttressed the rocky heights of French Mountain, seen by glimpses between the boughs. On their left rose gradually the lower slopes of West Mountain. All was rock, thicket, and forest; there was no open space but the road along which the regulars marched, while the Canadians and Indians pushed their way through the woods in such order as the broken ground would permit.
They were three miles from the lake, when their scouts brought in a prisoner who told them that a column of English troops was approaching. Dieskau's preparations were quickly made. While the regulars halted on the road, the Canadians and Indians moved to the front, where most of them hid in the forest along the slopes of West Mountain, and the rest lay close among the thickets on the other side. Thus, when the English advanced to attack the regulars in front, they would find themselves caught in a double ambush. No sight or sound betrayed the snare; but behind every bush crouched a Canadian or a savage, with gun cocked and ears intent, listening for the tramp of the approaching column.
The wagoners who escaped the evening before had reached the camp about midnight, and reported that there was a war-party on the road near Fort Lyman. Johnson had at this time twenty-two hundred effective men, besides his three hundred Indians. He called a council of war in the morning, and a resolution was taken which can only be explained by a complete misconception as to the force of the French. It was determined to send out two detachments of five hundred men each, one towards Fort Lyman, and the other towards South Bay, the object being, according to Johnson "to catch the enemy in their retreat." Hendrick, chief of the Mohawks, a brave and sagacious warrior, expressed his dissent after a fashion of his own. He picked up a stick and broke it; then he picked up several sticks, and showed that together they could not be broken. The hint was taken, and the two detachments were joined in one. Still the old savage shook his head. "If they are to be killed," he said, "they are too many; if they are to fight, they are too few." Nevertheless, he resolved to share their fortunes; and mounting on a gun-carriage, he harangued his warriors with a voice so animated and gestures so expressive, that the New England officers listened in admiration, though they understood not a word. One difficulty remained. He was too old and fat to go afoot; but Johnson lent him a horse, which he bestrode, and trotted to the head of the column, followed by two hundred of his warriors as fast as they could grease, paint, and befeather themselves.
[Footnote 308: Wraxall to Lieutenant-Governor Delancey, 10 Sept. 1755. Wraxall was Johnson's aide-de-camp and secretary. The Second Letter to a Friend says twenty-one hundred whites and two hundred or three hundred Indians. Blodget, who was also on the spot, sets the whites at two thousand.]
[Footnote 309: Letter to the Governors of the several Colonies, 9 Sept. 1755.]
Captain Elisha Hawley was in his tent, finishing a letter which he had just written to his brother Joseph; and these were the last words: "I am this minute agoing out in company with five hundred men to see if we can intercept 'em in their retreat, or find their canoes in the Drowned Lands; and therefore must conclude this letter." He closed and directed it; and in an hour received his death-wound.
It was soon after eight o'clock when Ephraim Williams left the camp with his regiment, marched a little distance, and then waited for the rest of the detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Whiting. Thus Dieskau had full time to lay his ambush. When Whiting came up, the whole moved on together, so little conscious of danger that no scouts were thrown out in front or flank; and, in full security, they entered the fatal snare. Before they were completely involved in it, the sharp eye of old Hendrick detected some sign of an enemy. At that instant, whether by accident or design, a gun was fired from the bushes. It is said that Dieskau's Iroquois, seeing Mohawks, their relatives, in the van, wished to warn them of danger. If so, the warning came too late. The thickets on the left blazed out a deadly fire, and the men fell by scores. In the words of Dieskau, the head of the column "was doubled up like a pack of cards." Hendrick's horse was shot down, and the chief was killed with a bayonet as he tried to rise. Williams, seeing a rising ground on his right, made for it, calling on his men to follow; but as he climbed the slope, guns flashed from the bushes, and a shot through the brain laid him dead. The men in the rear pressed forward to support their comrades, when a hot fire was suddenly opened on them from the forest along their right flank. Then there was a panic; some fled outright, and the whole column recoiled. The van now became the rear, and all the force of the enemy rushed upon it, shouting and screeching. There was a moment of total confusion; but a part of Williams's regiment rallied under command of Whiting, and covered the retreat, fighting behind trees like Indians, and firing and falling back by turns, bravely aided by some of the Mohawks and by a detachment which Johnson sent to their aid. "And a very handsome retreat they made," writes Pomeroy; "and so continued till they came within about three quarters of a mile of our camp. This was the last fire our men gave our enemies, which killed great numbers of them; they were seen to drop as pigeons." So ended the fray long known in New England fireside story as the "bloody morning scout." Dieskau now ordered a halt, and sounded his trumpets to collect his scattered men. His Indians, however, were sullen and unmanageable, and the Canadians also showed signs of wavering. The veteran who commanded them all, Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, had been killed. At length they were persuaded to move again, the regulars leading the way.
About an hour after Williams and his men had begun their march, a distant rattle of musketry was heard at the camp; and as it grew nearer and louder, the listeners knew that their comrades were on the retreat. Then, at the eleventh hour, preparations were begun for defence. A sort of barricade was made along the front of the camp, partly of wagons, and partly of inverted bateaux, but chiefly of the trunks of trees hastily hewn down in the neighboring forest and laid end to end in a single row. The line extended from the southern slopes of the hill on the left across a tract of rough ground to the marshes on the right. The forest, choked with bushes and clumps of rank ferns, was within a few yards of the barricade, and there was scarcely time to hack away the intervening thickets. Three cannon were planted to sweep the road that descended through the pines, and another was dragged up to the ridge of the hill. The defeated party began to come in; first, scared fugitives both white and red, then, gangs of men bringing the wounded; and at last, an hour and a half after the first fire was heard, the main detachment was seen marching in compact bodies down the road.
Five hundred men were detailed to guard the flanks of the camp. The rest stood behind the wagons or lay flat behind the logs and inverted bateaux, the Massachusetts men on the right, and the Connecticut men on the left. Besides Indians, this actual fighting force was between sixteen and seventeen hundred rustics, very few of whom had been under fire before that morning. They were hardly at their posts when they saw ranks of white-coated soldiers moving down the road, and bayonets that to them seemed innumerable glittering between the boughs. At the same time a terrific burst of war-whoops rose along the front; and, in the words of Pomeroy, "the Canadians and Indians, helter-skelter, the woods full of them, came running with undaunted courage right down the hill upon us, expecting to make us flee." Some of the men grew uneasy; while the chief officers, sword in hand, threatened instant death to any who should stir from their posts. If Dieskau had made an assault at that instant, there could be little doubt of the result.
[Footnote 310: Seth Pomeroy to his Wife, 10 Sept. 1755.]
[Footnote 311: Dr. Perez Marsh to William Williams, 25 Sept. 1755.]
This he well knew; but he was powerless. He had his small force of regulars well in hand; but the rest, red and white, were beyond control, scattering through the woods and swamps, shouting, yelling, and firing from behind trees. The regulars advanced with intrepidity towards the camp where the trees were thin, deployed, and fired by platoons, till Captain Eyre, who commanded the artillery, opened on them with grape, broke their ranks, and compelled them to take to cover. The fusillade was now general on both sides, and soon grew furious. "Perhaps," Seth Pomeroy wrote to his wife, two days after, "the hailstones from heaven were never much thicker than their bullets came; but, blessed be God! that did not in the least daunt or disturb us." Johnson received a flesh-wound in the thigh, and spent the rest of the day in his tent. Lyman took command; and it is a marvel that he escaped alive, for he was four hours in the heat of the fire, directing and animating the men. "It was the most awful day my eyes ever beheld," wrote Surgeon Williams to his wife; "there seemed to be nothing but thunder and lightning and perpetual pillars of smoke." To him, his colleague Doctor Pynchon, one assistant, and a young student called "Billy," fell the charge of the wounded of his regiment. "The bullets flew about our ears all the time of dressing them; so we thought best to leave our tent and retire a few rods behind the shelter of a log-house." On the adjacent hill stood one Blodget, who seems to have been a sutler, watching, as well as bushes, trees, and smoke would let him, the progress of the fight, of which he soon after made and published a curious bird's-eye view. As the wounded men were carried to the rear, the wagoners about the camp took their guns and powder-horns, and joined in the fray. A Mohawk, seeing one of these men still unarmed, leaped over the barricade, tomahawked the nearest Canadian, snatched his gun, and darted back unhurt. The brave savage found no imitators among his tribesmen, most of whom did nothing but utter a few war-whoops, saying that they had come to see their English brothers fight. Some of the French Indians opened a distant flank fire from the high ground beyond the swamp on the right, but were driven off by a few shells dropped among them.
Dieskau had directed his first attack against the left and center of Johnson's position. Making no impression here, he tried to force the right, where lay the regiments of Titcomb, Ruggles, and Williams. The fire was hot for about an hour. Titcomb was shot dead, a rod in front of the barricade, firing from behind a tree like a common soldier. At length Dieskau, exposing himself within short range of the English line, was hit in the leg. His adjutant, Montreuil, himself wounded, came to his aid, and was washing the injured limb with brandy, when the unfortunate commander was again hit in the knee and thigh. He seated himself behind a tree, while the Adjutant called two Canadians to carry him to the rear. One of them was instantly shot down. Montreuil took his place; but Dieskau refused to be moved, bitterly denounced the Canadians and Indians, and ordered the Adjutant to leave him and lead the regulars in a last effort against the camp.
It was too late. Johnson's men, singly or in small squads, already crossing their row of logs; and in a few moments the whole dashed forward with a shout, falling upon the enemy with hatchets and the butts of their guns. The French and their allies fled. The wounded General still sat helpless by the tree, when he saw a soldier aiming at him. He signed to the man not to fire; but he pulled trigger, shot him across the hips, leaped upon him, and ordered him in French to surrender. "I said," writes Dieskau, "'You rascal, why did you fire? You see a man lying in his blood on the ground, and you shoot him!' He answered: 'How did I know that you had not got a pistol? I had rather kill the devil than have the devil kill me.' 'You are a Frenchman?' I asked. 'Yes,' he replied; 'it is more than ten years since I left Canada;' whereupon several others fell on me and stripped me. I told them to carry me to their general, which they did. On learning who I was, he sent for surgeons, and, though wounded himself, refused all assistance till my wounds were dressed."
[Footnote 312: Dialogue entre le Marechal de Saxe et le Baron de Dieskau aux Champs Elysees. This paper is in the Archives de la Guerre, and was evidently written or inspired by Dieskau himself. In spite of its fanciful form, it is a sober statement of the events of the campaign. There is a translation of it in N.Y. Col. Docs., X. 340.]
It was near five o'clock when the final rout took place. Some time before, several hundred of the Canadians and Indians had left the field and returned to the scene of the morning fight, to plunder and scalp the dead. They were resting themselves near a pool in the forest, close beside the road, when their repose was interrupted by a volley of bullets. It was fired by a scouting party from Fort Lyman, chiefly backwoodsmen, under Captains Folsom and McGinnis. The assailants were greatly outnumbered; but after a hard fight the Canadians and Indians broke and fled. McGinnis was mortally wounded. He continued to give orders till the firing was over; then fainted, and was carried, dying, to the camp. The bodies of the slain, according to tradition, were thrown into the pool, which bears to this day the name of Bloody Pond.
The various bands of fugitives rejoined each other towards night, and encamped in the forest; then made their way round the southern shoulder of French Mountain, till, in the next evening, they reached their canoes. Their plight was deplorable; for they had left their knapsacks behind, and were spent with fatigue and famine.
Meanwhile their captive general was not yet out of danger. The Mohawks were furious at their losses in the ambush of the morning, and above all at the death of Hendrick. Scarcely were Dieskau's wounds dressed, when several of them came into the tent. There was a long and angry dispute in their own language between them and Johnson, after which they went out very sullenly. Dieskau asked what they wanted. "What do they want?" returned Johnson. "To burn you, by God, eat you, and smoke you in their pipes, in revenge for three or four of their chiefs that were killed. But never fear; you shall be safe with me, or else they shall kill us both." The Mohawks soon came back, and another talk ensued, excited at first, and then more calm; till at length the visitors, seemingly appeased, smiled, gave Dieskau their hands in sign of friendship, and quietly went out again. Johnson warned him that he was not yet safe; and when the prisoner, fearing that his presence might incommode his host, asked to be removed to another tent, a captain and fifty men were ordered to guard him. In the morning an Indian, alone and apparently unarmed, loitered about the entrance, and the stupid sentinel let him pass in. He immediately drew a sword from under a sort of cloak which he wore, and tried to stab Dieskau; but was prevented by the Colonel to whom the tent belonged, who seized upon him, took away his sword, and pushed him out. As soon as his wounds would permit, Dieskau was carried on a litter, strongly escorted, to Fort Lyman, whence he was sent to Albany, and afterwards to New York. He is profuse in expressions of gratitude for the kindness shown him by the colonial officers, and especially by Johnson. Of the provincial soldiers he remarked soon after the battle that in the morning they fought like good boys, about noon like men, and in the afternoon like devils. In the spring of 1757 he sailed for England, and was for a time at Falmouth; whence Colonel Matthew Sewell, fearing that he might see and learn too much, wrote to the Earl of Holdernesse: "The Baron has great penetration and quickness of apprehension. His long service under Marshal Saxe renders him a man of real consequence, to be cautiously observed. His circumstances deserve compassion, for indeed they are very melancholy, and I much doubt of his being ever perfectly cured." He was afterwards a long time at Bath, for the benefit of the waters. In 1760 the famous Diderot met him at Paris, cheerful and full of anecdote, though wretchedly shattered by his wounds. He died a few years later.
[Footnote 313: See the story as told by Dieskau to the celebrated Diderot, at Paris, in 1760. Memoires de Diderot, I. 402 (1830). Compare N.Y. Col. Docs., X. 343.]
[Footnote 314: Dr. Perez Marsh to William Williams, 25 Sept. 1755.]
On the night after the battle the yeomen warriors felt the truth of the saying that, next to defeat, the saddest thing is victory. Comrades and friends by scores lay scattered through the forest. As soon as he could snatch a moment's leisure, the overworked surgeon sent the dismal tidings to his wife: "My dear brother Ephraim was killed by a ball through his head; poor brother Josiah's wound I fear will prove mortal; poor Captain Hawley is yet alive, though I did not think he would live two hours after bringing him in." Daniel Pomeroy was shot dead; and his brother Seth wrote the news to his wife Rachel, who was just delivered of a child: "Dear Sister, this brings heavy tidings; but let not your heart sink at the news, though it be your loss of a dear husband. Monday the eighth instant was a memorable day; and truly you may say, had not the Lord been on our side, we must all have been swallowed up. My brother, being one that went out in the first engagement, received a fatal shot through the middle of the head." Seth Pomeroy found a moment to write also to his own wife, whom he tells that another attack is expected; adding, in quaintly pious phrase: "But as God hath begun to show mercy, I hope he will go on to be gracious." Pomeroy was employed during the next few days with four hundred men in what he calls "the melancholy piece of business" of burying the dead. A letter-writer of the time does not approve what was done on this occasion. "Our people," he says, "not only buried the French dead, but buried as many of them as might be without the knowledge of our Indians, to prevent their being scalped. This I call an excess of civility;" his reason being that Braddock's dead soldiers had been left to the wolves.
The English loss in killed, wounded, and missing was two hundred and sixty-two; and that of the French by their own account, two hundred and twenty-eight,—a somewhat modest result of five hours' fighting. The English loss was chiefly in the ambush of the morning, where the killed greatly outnumbered the wounded, because those who fell and could not be carried away were tomahawked by Dieskau's Indians. In the fight at the camp, both Indians and Canadians kept themselves so well under cover that it was very difficult for the New England men to pick them off, while they on their part lay close behind their row of logs. On the French side, the regular officers and troops bore the brunt of the battle and suffered the chief loss, nearly all of the former and nearly half of the latter being killed or wounded.
[Footnote 315: Return of Killed, Wounded, and Missing at the Battle of Lake George.]
[Footnote 316: Doreil au Ministre, 20 Oct. 1755. Surgeon Williams gives the English loss as two hundred and sixteen killed, and ninety-six wounded. Pomeroy thinks that the French lost four or five hundred. Johnson places their loss at four hundred.]
Johnson did not follow up his success. He says that his men were tired. Yet five hundred of them had stood still all day, and boats enough for their transportation were lying on the beach. Ten miles down the lake, a path led over a gorge of the mountains to South Bay, where Dieskau had left his canoes and provisions. It needed but a few hours to reach and destroy them; but no such attempt was made. Nor, till a week after, did Johnson send out scouts to learn the strength of the enemy at Ticonderoga. Lyman strongly urged him to make an effort to seize that important pass; but Johnson thought only of holding his own position. "I think," he wrote, "we may expect very shortly a more formidable attack." He made a solid breastwork to defend his camp; and as reinforcements arrived, set them at building a fort on a rising ground by the lake. It is true that just after the battle he was deficient in stores, and had not bateaux enough to move his whole force. It is true, also, that he was wounded, and that he was too jealous of Lyman to delegate the command to him; and so the days passed till, within a fortnight, his nimble enemy were entrenched at Ticonderoga in force enough to defy him.
The Crown Point expedition was a failure disguised under an incidental success. The northern provinces, especially Massachusetts and Connecticut, did what they could to forward it, and after the battle sent a herd of raw recruits to the scene of action. Shirley wrote to Johnson from Oswego; declared that his reasons for not advancing were insufficient, and urged him to push for Ticonderoga at once. Johnson replied that he had not wagons enough, and that his troops were ill-clothed, ill-fed, discontented, insubordinate and sickly. He complained that discipline was out of the question, because the officers were chosen by popular election; that many of them were no better than the men, unfit for command, and like so many "heads of a mob." The reinforcements began to come in, till, in October there were thirty-six hundred men in the camp; and as most of them wore summer clothing and had but one thin domestic blanket, they were half frozen in the chill autumn nights.
[Footnote 317: Shirley to Johnson, 19 Sept. 1755. Ibid., 24 Sept. 1755. Johnson to Shirley, 22 Sept. 1755. Johnson to Phipps, 10 Oct. 1755 (Massachusetts Archives).]
Johnson called a council of war; and as he was suffering from inflamed eyes, and was still kept in his tent by his wound, he asked Lyman to preside,—not unwilling, perhaps, to shift the responsibility upon him. After several sessions and much debate, the assembled officers decided that it was inexpedient to proceed. Yet the army lay more than a month longer at the lake, while the disgust of the men increased daily under the rains, frosts, and snows of a dreary November. On the twenty-second, Chandler, chaplain of one of the Massachusetts regiments, wrote in the interleaved almanac that served him as a diary: "The men just ready to mutiny. Some clubbed their firelocks and marched, but returned back. Very rainy night. Miry water standing the tents. Very distressing time among the sick." The men grew more and more unruly, and went off in squads without asking leave. A difficult question arose: Who should stay for the winter to garrison the new forts, and who should command them? It was settled at last that a certain number of soldiers from each province should be assigned to this ungrateful service, and that Massachusetts should have the first officer, Connecticut the second, and New York the third. Then the camp broke up. "Thursday the 27th," wrote the chaplain in his almanac, "we set out about ten of the clock, marched in a body, about three thousand, the wagons and baggage in the centre, our colonel much insulted by the way." The soldiers dispersed to their villages and farms, where in blustering winter nights, by the blazing logs of New England hearth-stones, they told their friends and neighbors the story of the campaign.
[Footnote 318: Reports of Council of War, 11-21 Oct. 1755.]
The profit of it fell to Johnson. If he did not gather the fruits of victory, at least he reaped its laurels. He was a courtier in his rough way. He had changed the name of Lac St. Sacrement to Lake George, in compliment to the King.
He now changed that of Fort Lyman to Fort Edward, in compliment to one of the King's grandsons; and, in compliment to another, called his new fort at the lake, William Henry. Of General Lyman he made no mention in his report of the battle, and his partisans wrote letters traducing that brave officer; though Johnson is said to have confessed in private that he owed him the victory. He himself found no lack of eulogists; and, to quote the words of an able but somewhat caustic and prejudiced opponent, "to the panegyrical pen of his secretary, Mr. Wraxall, and the sic volo sic jubeo of Lieutenant-Governor Delancey, is to be ascribed that mighty renown which echoed through the colonies, reverberated to Europe, and elevated a raw, inexperienced youth into a kind of second Marlborough. Parliament gave him five thousand pounds, and the King made him a baronet."
[Footnote 319: Review of Military Operations in North America, in a Letter to a Nobleman (ascribed to William Livingston).
On the Battle of Lake George a mass of papers will be found in the N.Y. Col. Docs., Vols. VI. and X. Those in Vol. VI., taken chiefly from the archives of New York, consist of official and private letters, reports, etc., on the English side. Those in Vol. X. are drawn chiefly from the archives of the French War Department, and include the correspondence of Dieskau and his adjutant Montreuil. I have examined most of them in the original. Besides these I have obtained from the Archives de la Marine and other sources a number of important additional papers, which have never been printed, including Vaudreuil's reports to the Minister of War, and his strictures on Dieskau, whom he accuses of disobeying orders by dividing his force; also the translation of an English journal of the campaign found in the pocket of a captured officer, and a long account of the battle sent by Bigot to the Minister of Marine, 4 Oct. 1755.
I owe to the kindness of Theodore Pomeroy, Esq., a copy of the Journal of Lieutenant-Colonel Seth Pomeroy, whose letters are full of interest; as are those of Surgeon Williams, from the collection of William L. Stone, Esq. The papers of Colonel Israel Williams, in the Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, contain many other curious letters relating to the campaign, extracts from some of which are given in the text. One of the most curious records of the battle is A Prospective-Plan of the Battle near Lake George, with an Explanation thereof, containing a full, though short, History of that important Affair, by Samuel Blodget, occasionally at the Camp when the Battle was fought. It is an engraving, printed at Boston soon after the fight, of which it gives a clear idea. Four years after, Blodget opened a shop in Boston, where, as appears by his advertisements in the newspapers, he sold "English Goods, also English Hatts, etc." The engraving is reproduced in the Documentary History of New York, IV., and elsewhere. The Explanation thereof is only to be found complete in the original. This, as well as the anonymous Second Letter to a Friend, also printed at Boston in 1755, is excellent for the information it gives as to the condition of the ground where the conflict took place, and the position of the combatants. The unpublished Archives of Massachusetts; the correspondence of Sir William Johnson; the Review of Military Operations in North America; Dwight, Travels in New England and New York, III.; and Hoyt, Antiquarian Researches on Indian Wars,—should also be mentioned. Dwight and Hoyt drew their information from aged survivors of the battle. I have repeatedly examined the localities.
In the odd effusion of the colonial muse called Tilden's Poems, chiefly to Animate and Rouse the Soldiers, printed 1756, is a piece styled The Christian Hero, or New England's Triumphs, beginning with the invocation,—
"O Heaven, indulge my feeble Muse, Teach her what numbers for to choose!"
and containing the following stanza:—
"Their Dieskau we from them detain, While Canada aloud complains And counts the numbers of their slain and makes a dire complaint; The Indians to their demon gods; And with the French there's little odds, While images receive their nods, Invoking rotten saints."]
Shirley. Border War
The capture of Niagara was to finish the work of the summer. This alone would have gained for England the control of the valley of the Ohio, and made Braddock's expedition superfluous. One marvels at the short-sightedness, the dissensions, the apathy which had left this key of the interior so long in the hands of France without an effort to wrest it from her. To master Niagara would be to cut the communications of Canada with the whole system of French forts and settlements in the West, and leave them to perish like limbs of a girdled tree.
Major-General Shirley, in the flush of his new martial honors, was to try his prentice hand at the work. The lawyer-soldier could plan a campaign boldly and well. It remained to see how he would do his part towards executing it. In July he arrived at Albany, the starting-point of his own expedition as well as that of Johnson. This little Dutch city was an outpost of civilization. The Hudson, descending from the northern wilderness, connected it with the lakes and streams that formed the thoroughfare to Canada; while the Mohawk, flowing from the west, was a liquid pathway to the forest homes of the Five Nations. Before the war was over, a little girl, Anne MacVicar, daughter of a Highland officer, was left at Albany by her father, and spent several years there in the house of Mrs. Schuyler, aunt of General Schuyler of the Revolution. Long after, married and middle-aged, she wrote down her recollections of the place,—the fort on the hill behind; the great street, grassy and broad, that descended thence to the river, with market, guardhouse, town hall, and two churches in the middle, and rows of quaint Dutch-built houses on both sides, each detached from its neighbors, each with its well, garden, and green, and its great overshadowing tree. Before every house was a capacious porch, with seats where the people gathered in the summer twilight; old men at one door, matrons at another, young men and girls mingling at a third; while the cows with their tinkling bells came from the common at the end of the town, each stopping to be milked at the door of its owner; and children, porringer in hand, sat on the steps, watching the process and waiting their evening meal.
Such was the quiet picture painted on the memory of Anne MacVicar, and reproduced by the pen of Mrs. Ann Grant. The patriarchal, semi-rural town had other aspects, not so pleasing. The men were mainly engaged in the fur-trade, sometimes legally with the Five Nations, and sometimes illegally with the Indians of Canada,—an occupation which by no means tends to soften the character. The Albany Dutch traders were a rude, hard race, loving money, and not always scrupulous as to the means of getting it. Coming events, too, were soon to have their effect on this secluded community. Regiments, red and blue, trumpets, drums, banners, artillery trains, and all the din of war transformed its peaceful streets, and brought some attaint to domestic morals hitherto commendable; for during the next five years Albany was to be the principal base of military operations on the continent.
[Footnote 320: Memoirs of an American Lady (Mrs. Schuyler), Chap. VI. A genuine picture of colonial life, and a charming book, though far from being historically trustworthy. Compare the account of Albany in Kalm, II. 102.]
Shirley had left the place, and was now on his way up the Mohawk. His force, much smaller than at first intended, consisted of the New Jersey regiment, which mustered five hundred men, known as the Jersey Blues, and of the fiftieth and fifty-first regiments, called respectively Shirley's and Pepperell's. These, though paid by the King and counted as regulars, were in fact raw provincials, just raised in the colonies, and wearing their gay uniforms with an awkward, unaccustomed air. How they gloried in them may be gathered from a letter of Sergeant James Gray, of Pepperell's, to his brother John: "I have two Holland shirts, found me by the King, and two pair of shoes and two pair of worsted stockings; a good silver-laced hat (the lace I could sell for four dollars); and my clothes is as fine scarlet broadcloth as ever you did see. A sergeant here in the King's regiment is counted as good as an ensign with you; and one day in every week we must have our hair or wigs powdered." Most of these gorgeous warriors were already on their way to Oswego, their first destination.
[Footnote 321: James Gray to John Gray, 11 July, 1755.]
Shirley followed, embarking at the Dutch village of Schenectady, and ascending the Mohawk with about two hundred of the so-called regulars in bateaux. They passed Fort Johnson, the two villages of the Mohawks, and the Palatine settlement of German Flats; left behind the last trace of civilized man, rowed sixty miles through wilderness, and reached the Great Carrying Place, which divided the waters that flow to the Hudson from those that flow to Lake Ontario. Here now stands the city which the classic zeal of its founders has adorned with the name of Rome. Then all was swamp and forest, traversed by a track that led to Wood Creek,—which is not to be confounded with the Wood Creek of Lake Champlain. Thither the bateaux were dragged on sledges and launched on the dark and tortuous stream, which, fed by a decoction of forest leaves that oozed from the marshy shores, crept in shadow through depths of foliage, with only a belt of illumined sky gleaming between the jagged tree-tops. Tall and lean with straining towards the light, their rough, gaunt stems trickling with perpetual damps, stood on either hand the silent hosts of the forest. The skeletons of their dead, barkless, blanched, and shattered, strewed the mudbanks and shallows; others lay submerged, like bones of drowned mammoths, thrusting lank, white limbs above the sullen water; and great trees, entire as yet, were flung by age or storms athwart the current,—a bristling barricade of matted boughs. There was work for the axe as well as for the oar; till at length Lake Oneida opened before them, and they rowed all day over its sunny breast, reached the outlet, and drifted down the shallow eddies of the Onondaga, between walls of verdure, silent as death, yet haunted everywhere with ambushed danger. It was twenty days after leaving Schenectady when they neared the mouth of the river; and Lake Ontario greeted them, stretched like a sea to the pale brink of the northern sky, while on the bare hill at their left stood the miserable little fort of Oswego.
Shirley's whole force soon arrived; but not the needful provisions and stores. The machinery of transportation and the commissariat was in the bewildered state inevitable among a peaceful people at the beginning of a war; while the news of Braddock's defeat produced such an effect on the boatmen and the draymen at the carrying-places, that the greater part deserted. Along with these disheartening tidings, Shirley learned the death of his eldest son, killed at the side of Braddock. He had with him a second son, Captain John Shirley, a vivacious young man, whom his father and his father's friends in their familiar correspondence always called "Jack." John Shirley's letters give a lively view of the situation.
"I have sat down to write to you,"—thus he addresses Governor Morris, of Pennsylvania, who seems to have had a great liking for him,—"because there is an opportunity of sending you a few lines; and if you will promise to excuse blots, interlineations, and grease (for this is written in the open air, upon the head of a pork-barrel, and twenty people about me), I will begin another half-sheet. We are not more than about fifteen hundred men fit for duty; but that I am pretty sure, if we can go in time in our sloop, schooner, row-galleys, and whaleboats, will be sufficient to take Frontenac; after which we may venture to go upon the attack of Niagara, but not before. I have not the least doubt with myself of knocking down both these places yet this fall, if we can get away in a week. If we take or destroy their two vessels at Frontenac, and ruin their harbor there, and destroy the two forts of that and Niagara, I shall think we have done great things. Nobody holds it out better than my father and myself. We shall all of us relish a good house over our heads, being all encamped, except the General and some few field-officers, who have what are called at Oswego houses; but they would in other countries be called only sheds, except the fort, where my father is. Adieu, dear sir; I hope my next will be directed from Frontenac. Yours most affectionately, John Shirley."
[Footnote 322: The young author of this letter was, like his brother, a victim of the war.
"Permit me, good sir, to offer you my hearty condolence upon the death of my friend Jack, whose worth I admired, and feel for him more than I can express.... Few men of his age had so many friends." Governor Morris to Shirley, 27 Nov. 1755.
"My heart bleeds for Mr. Shirley. He must be overwhelmed with Grief when he hears of Capt. John Shirley's Death, of which I have an Account by the last Post from New York, where he died of a Flux and Fever that he had contracted at Oswego. The loss of Two Sons in one Campaign scarcely admits of Consolation. I feel the Anguish of the unhappy Father, and mix my Tears very heartily with his. I have had an intimate Acquaintance with Both of Them for many Years, and know well their inestimable Value." Morris to Dinwiddie, 29 Nov. 1755.]
Fort Frontenac lay to the northward, fifty miles or more across the lake. Niagara lay to the westward, at the distance of four or five days by boat or canoe along the south shore. At Frontenac there was a French force of fourteen hundred regulars and Canadians. They had vessels and canoes to cross the lake and fall upon Oswego as soon as Shirley should leave it to attack Niagara; for Braddock's captured papers had revealed to them the English plan. If they should take it, Shirley would be cut off from his supplies and placed in desperate jeopardy, with the enemy in his rear. Hence it is that John Shirley insists on taking Frontenac before attempting Niagara. But the task was not easy; for the French force at the former place was about equal in effective strength to that of the English at Oswego. At Niagara, too, the French had, at the end of August, nearly twelve hundred Canadians and Indians from Fort Duquesne and the upper lakes. Shirley was but imperfectly informed by his scouts of the unexpected strength of the opposition that awaited him; but he knew enough to see that his position was a difficult one. His movement on Niagara was stopped, first by want of provisions, and secondly because he was checkmated by the troops at Frontenac. He did not despair. Want of courage was not among his failings, and he was but too ready to take risks. He called a council of officers, told them that the total number of men fit for duty was thirteen hundred and seventy-six, and that as soon as provisions enough should arrive he would embark for Niagara with six hundred soldiers and as many Indians as possible, leaving the rest to defend Oswego against the expected attack from Fort Frontenac.
[Footnote 323: Bigot au Ministre, 27 Aout, 1755.]
[Footnote 324: Bigot au Ministre, 5 Sept. 1755.]
[Footnote 325: Minutes of a Council of War at Oswego, 18 Sept. 1755.]
"All I am uneasy about is our provisions," writes John Shirley to his friend Morris; "our men have been upon half allowance of bread these three weeks past, and no rum given to 'em. My father yesterday called all the Indians together and made 'em a speech on the subject of General Johnson's engagement, which he calculated to inspire them with a spirit of revenge." After the speech he gave them a bullock for a feast, which they roasted and ate, pretending that they were eating the Governor of Canada! Some provisions arriving, orders were given to embark on the next day; but the officers murmured their dissent. The weather was persistently bad, their vessels would not hold half the party, and the bateaux, made only for river navigation, would infallibly founder on the treacherous and stormy lake. "All the field-officers," says John Shirley, "think it too rash an attempt; and I have heard so much of it that I think it my duty to let my father know what I hear." Another council was called; and the General, reluctantly convinced of the danger, put the question whether to go or not. The situation admitted but one reply. The council was of opinion that for the present the enterprise was impracticable; that Oswego should be strengthened, more vessels built, and preparation made to renew the attempt as soon as spring opened. All thoughts of active operations were now suspended, and during what was left of the season the troops exchanged the musket for the spade, saw, and axe. At the end of October, leaving seven hundred men at Oswego, Shirley returned to Albany, and narrowly escaped drowning on the way, while passing a rapid in a whale-boat, to try the fitness of that species of craft for river navigation.
[Footnote 326: Minutes of a Council of War at Oswego, 27 Sept. 1755.]
[Footnote 327: On the Niagara expedition, Braddock's Instructions to Major-General Shirley. Correspondence of Shirley, 1755. Conduct of Major-General Shirley (London, 1758). Letters of John Shirley in Pennsylvania Archives, II. Bradstreet to Shirley, 17 Aug. 1755. MSS. in Massachusetts Archives, Review of Military Operations in North America. Gentleman's Magazine, 1757, p. 73. London Magazine, 1759, p. 594. Trumbull, Hist. Connecticut, II. 370.]
Unfortunately for him, he had fallen out with Johnson, whom he had made what he was, but who now turned against him,—a seeming ingratitude not wholly unprovoked. Shirley had diverted the New Jersey regiment, destined originally for Crown Point, to his own expedition against Niagara. Naturally inclined to keep all the reins in his own hands, he had encroached on Johnson's new office of Indian superintendent, held conferences with the Five Nations, and employed agents of his own to deal with them. These agents were persons obnoxious to Johnson, being allied with the clique of Dutch traders at Albany, who hated him because he had supplanted them in the direction of Indian affairs; and in a violent letter to the Lords of Trade, he inveighs against their "licentious and abandoned proceedings," "villanous conduct," "scurrilous falsehoods," and "base and insolent behavior." "I am considerable enough," he says, "to have enemies and to be envied;" and he declares he has proof that Shirley told the Mohawks that he, Johnson, was an upstart of his creating, whom he had set up and could pull down. Again, he charges Shirley's agents with trying to "debauch the Indians from joining him;" while Shirley, on his side, retorts the same complaint against his accuser. When, by the death of Braddock, Shirley became commander-in-chief, Johnson grew so restive at being subject to his instructions that he declined to hold the management of Indian affairs unless it was made independent of his rival. The dispute became mingled with the teapot-tempest of New York provincial politics. The Lieutenant-Governor, Delancey, a politician of restless ambition and consummate dexterity, had taken umbrage at Shirley, of whose rising honors, not borne with remarkable humility, he appears to have been jealous. Delancey had hitherto favored the Dutch faction in the Assembly, hostile to Johnson; but he now changed attitude, and joined hands with him against the object of their common dislike. The one was strong in the prestige of a loudly-trumpeted victory, and the other had means of influence over the Ministry. Their coalition boded ill to Shirley, and he soon felt its effects.
[Footnote 328: Johnson to the Lords of Trade, 3 Sept. 1755.]
[Footnote 329: Johnson to the Lords of Trade, 17 Jan. 1756.]
[Footnote 330: John Shirley to Governor Morris, 12 Aug. 1755.]
[Footnote 331: On this affair, see various papers in N.Y. Col. Docs., VI., VII. Smith, Hist. New York, Part II., Chaps. IV. V. Review of Military Operations in North America. Both Smith and Livingston, the author of the Review, were personally cognizant of the course of the dispute.]
The campaign was now closed,—a sufficiently active one, seeing that the two nations were nominally at peace. A disastrous rout on the Monongahela, failure at Niagara, a barren victory at Lake George, and three forts captured in Acadia, were the disappointing results on the part of England. Nor had her enemies cause to boast. The Indians, it is true, had won a battle for them: but they had suffered mortifying defeat from a raw militia; their general was a prisoner; and they had lost Acadia past hope.
The campaign was over; but not its effects. It remains to see what befell from the rout of Braddock and the unpardonable retreat of Dunbar from the frontier which it was his duty to defend. Dumas had replaced Contrecoeur in the command of Fort Duquesne; and his first care was to set on the Western tribes to attack the border settlements. His success was triumphant. The Delawares and Shawanoes, old friends of the English, but for years past tending to alienation through neglect and ill-usage, now took the lead against them. Many of the Mingoes, or Five Nation Indians on the Ohio, also took up the hatchet, as did various remoter tribes. The West rose like a nest of hornets, and swarmed in fury against the English frontier. Such was the consequence of the defeat of Braddock aided by the skilful devices of the French commander. "It is by means such as I have mentioned," says Dumas, "varied in every form to suit the occasion, that I have succeeded in ruining the three adjacent provinces, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, driving off the inhabitants, and totally destroying the settlements over a tract of country thirty leagues wide, reckoning from the line of Fort Cumberland. M. de Contrecoeur had not been gone a week before I had six or seven different war-parties in the field at once, always accompanied by Frenchmen. Thus far, we have lost only two officers and a few soldiers; but the Indian villages are full of prisoners of every age and sex. The enemy has lost far more since the battle than on the day of his defeat."
[Footnote 332: Dumas au Ministre, 24 Juillet, 1756.]
Dumas, required by the orders of his superiors to wage a detestable warfare against helpless settlers and their families, did what he could to temper its horrors, and enjoined the officers who went with the Indians to spare no effort to prevent them from torturing prisoners. The attempt should be set down to his honor; but it did not avail much. In the record of cruelties committed this year on the borders, we find repeated instances of children scalped alive. "They kill all they meet," writes a French priest; "and after having abused the women and maidens, they slaughter or burn them."
[Footnote 333: Memoires de Famille de l'Abbe Casgrain, cited in Le Foyer Canadien, III. 26, where an extract is given from an order of Dumas to Baby, a Canadian officer. Orders of Contrecoeur and Ligneris to the same effect are also given. A similar order, signed by Dumas, was found in the pocket of Douville, an officer killed by the English on the Frontier. Writings of Washington, II. 137, note.]
[Footnote 334: Rec. Claude Godefroy Cocquard, S.J., a son Frere, Mars (?), 1757.]
Washington was now in command of the Virginia regiment, consisting of a thousand men, raised afterwards to fifteen hundred. With these he was to protect a frontier of three hundred and fifty miles against more numerous enemies, who could choose their time and place of attack. His headquarters were at Winchester. His men were an ungovernable crew, enlisted chiefly on the turbulent border, and resenting every kind of discipline as levelling them with negroes; while the sympathizing House of Burgesses hesitated for months to pass any law for enforcing obedience, lest it should trench on the liberties of free white men. The service was to the last degree unpopular. "If we talk of obliging men to serve their country," wrote London Carter, "we are sure to hear a fellow mumble over the words 'liberty' and 'property' a thousand times." The people, too, were in mortal fear of a slave insurrection, and therefore dared not go far from home. Meanwhile a panic reigned along the border. Captain Waggoner, passing a gap in the Blue Ridge, could hardly make his way for the crowd of fugitives. "Every day," writes Washington, "we have accounts of such cruelties and barbarities as are shocking to human nature. It is not possible to conceive the situation and danger of this miserable country. Such numbers of French and Indians are all around that no road is safe."
[Footnote 335: Extract in Writings of Washington, II. 145, note.]
[Footnote 336: Letters of Dinwiddie, 1755.]
These frontiers had always been at peace. No forts of refuge had thus far been built, and the scattered settlers had no choice but flight. Their first impulse was to put wife and children beyond reach of the tomahawk. As autumn advanced, the invading bands grew more and more audacious. Braddock had opened a road for them by which they could cross the mountains at their ease; and scouts from Fort Cumberland reported that this road was beaten by as many feet as when the English army passed last summer. Washington was beset with difficulties. Men and officers alike were unruly and mutinous. He was at once blamed for their disorders and refused the means of repressing them. Envious detractors published slanders against him. A petty Maryland captain, who had once had a commission from the King, refused to obey his orders, and stirred up factions among his officers. Dinwiddie gave him cold support. The temper of the old Scotchman, crabbed at the best, had been soured by disappointment, vexation, weariness, and ill-health. He had, besides, a friend and countryman, Colonel Innes, whom, had he dared, he would gladly have put in Washington's place. He was full of zeal in the common cause, and wanted to direct the defence of the borders from his house at Williamsburg, two hundred miles distant. Washington never hesitated to obey; but he accompanied his obedience by a statement of his own convictions and his reasons for them, which, though couched in terms the most respectful, galled his irascible chief. The Governor acknowledged his merit; but bore him no love, and sometimes wrote to him in terms which must have tried his high temper to the utmost. Sometimes, though rarely, he gave words to his emotion.
"Your Honor," he wrote in April, "may see to what unhappy straits the distressed inhabitants and myself are reduced. I see inevitable destruction in so clear a light, that unless vigorous measures are taken by the Assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below, the poor inhabitants that are now in forts must unavoidably fall, while the remainder are flying before the barbarous foe. In fine, the melancholy situation of the people; the little prospect of assistance; the gross and scandalous abuse cast upon the officers in general, which is reflecting upon me in particular for suffering misconduct of such extraordinary kinds; and the distant prospect, if any, of gaining honor and reputation in the service,—cause me to lament the hour that gave me a commission, and would induce me at any other time than this of imminent danger to resign, without one hesitating moment, a command from which I never expect to reap either honor or benefit, but, on the contrary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below, while the murder of helpless families may be laid to my account here."
"The supplicating tears of the women and moving petitions of the men melt me into such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people's ease."
[Footnote 337: Writings of Washington, II. 143.]
In the turmoil around him, patriotism and public duty seemed all to be centred in the breast of one heroic youth. He was respected and generally beloved, but he did not kindle enthusiasm. His were the qualities of an unflagging courage, an all-enduring fortitude, and a deep trust. He showed an astonishing maturing of character, and the kind of mastery over others which begins with mastery over self. At twenty-four he was the foremost man, and acknowledged as such, along the whole long line of the western border.
To feel the situation, the nature of these frontiers must be kept in mind. Along the skirts of the southern and middle colonies ran for six or seven hundred miles a loose, thin, dishevelled fringe of population, the half-barbarous pioneers of advancing civilization. Their rude dwellings were often miles apart. Buried in woods, the settler lived in an appalling loneliness. A low-browed cabin of logs, with moss stuffed in the chinks to keep out the wind, roof covered with sheets of bark, chimney of sticks and clay, and square holes closed by a shutter in place of windows; an unkempt matron, lean with hard work, and a brood of children with bare heads and tattered garments eked out by deer-skin,—such was the home of the pioneer in the remoter and wilder districts. The scene around bore witness to his labors. It was the repulsive transition from savagery to civilization, from the forest to the farm. The victims of his axe lay strewn about the dismal "clearing" in a chaos of prostrate trunks, tangled boughs, and withered leaves, waiting for the fire that was to be the next agent in the process of improvement; while around, voiceless and grim, stood the living forest, gazing on the desolation, and biding its own day of doom. The owner of the cabin was miles away, hunting in the woods for the wild turkey and venison which were the chief food of himself and his family till the soil could be tamed into the bearing of crops.
Towards night he returned; and as he issued from the forest shadows he saw a column of blue smoke rising quietly in the still evening air. He ran to the spot; and there, among the smouldering logs of his dwelling, lay, scalped and mangled, the dead bodies of wife and children. A war-party had passed that way. Breathless, palpitating, his brain on fire, he rushed through the thickening night to carry the alarm to his nearest neighbor, three miles distant.
Such was the character and the fate of many incipient settlements of the utmost border. Farther east, they had a different aspect. Here, small farms with well-built log-houses, cattle, crops of wheat and Indian corn, were strung at intervals along some woody valley of the lower Alleghanies: yesterday a scene of hardy toil; to-day swept with destruction from end to end. There was no warning; no time for concert, perhaps none for flight. Sudden as the leaping panther, a pack of human wolves burst out of the forest, did their work, and vanished.
If the country had been an open one, like the plains beyond the Mississippi, the situation would have been less frightful; but the forest was everywhere, rolled over hill and valley in billows of interminable green,—a leafy maze, a mystery of shade, a universal hiding-place, where murder might lurk unseen at its victim's side, and Nature seemed formed to nurse the mind with wild and dark imaginings. The detail of blood is set down in the untutored words of those who saw and felt it. But there was a suffering that had no record,—the mortal fear of women and children in the solitude of their wilderness homes, haunted, waking and sleeping, with nightmares of horror that were but the forecast of an imminent reality. The country had in past years been so peaceful, and the Indians so friendly, that many of the settlers, especially on the Pennsylvanian border, had no arms, and were doubly in need of help from the Government. In Virginia they had it, such as it was. In Pennsylvania they had for months none whatever; and the Assembly turned a deaf ear to their cries.
Far to the east, sheltered from danger, lay staid and prosperous Philadelphia, the home of order and thrift. It took its stamp from the Quakers, its original and dominant population, set apart from the other colonists not only in character and creed, but in the outward symbols of a peculiar dress and a daily sacrifice of grammar on the altar of religion. The even tenor of their lives counteracted the effects of climate, and they are said to have been perceptibly more rotund in feature and person than their neighbors. Yet, broad and humanizing as was their faith, they were capable of extreme bitterness towards opponents, clung tenaciously to power, and were jealous for the ascendency of their sect, which had begun to show signs of wavering. On other sects they looked askance; and regarded the Presbyterians in particular with a dislike which in moments of crisis rose to detestation. They held it sin to fight, and above all to fight against Indians.
[Footnote 338: See a crowd of party pamphlets, Quaker against Presbyterian, which appeared in Philadelphia in 1764, abusively acrimonious on both sides.]
Here was one cause of military paralysis. It was reinforced by another. The old standing quarrel between governor and assembly had grown more violent than ever; and this as a direct consequence of the public distress, which above all things demanded harmony. The dispute turned this time on a single issue,—that of the taxation of the proprietary estates. The estates in question consisted of vast tracts of wild land, yielding no income, and at present to a great extent worthless, being overrun by the enemy. The Quaker Assembly had refused to protect them; and on one occasion had rejected an offer of the proprietaries to join them in paying the cost of their defence. But though they would not defend the land, they insisted on taxing it; and farther insisted that the taxes upon it should be laid by the provincial assessors. By a law of the province, these assessors were chosen by popular vote; and in consenting to this law, the proprietaries had expressly provided that their estates should be exempted from all taxes to be laid by officials in whose appointment they had no voice. Thomas and Richard Penn, the present proprietaries, had debarred their deputy, the Governor, both by the terms of his commission and by special instruction, from consenting to such taxation, and had laid him under heavy bonds to secure his obedience. Thus there was another side to the question than that of the Assembly; though our American writers have been slow to acknowledge it.
[Footnote 339: The productive estates of the proprietaries were taxed through the tenants.]
[Footnote 340: The proprietaries offered to contribute to the cost of building and maintaining a fort on the spot where the French soon after built Fort Duquesne. This plan, vigorously executed, would have saved the province from a deluge of miseries. One of the reasons assigned by the Assembly for rejecting it was that it would irritate the enemy. See supra, p. 63.]
[Footnote 341: A Brief View of the Conduct of Pennsylvania for the year 1755.]
Benjamin Franklin was leader in the Assembly and shared its views. The feudal proprietorship of the Penn family was odious to his democratic nature. It was, in truth, a pestilent anomaly, repugnant to the genius of the people; and the disposition and character of the present proprietaries did not tend to render it less vexatious. Yet there were considerations which might have tempered the impatient hatred with which the colonists regarded it. The first proprietary, William Penn, had used his feudal rights in the interest of a broad liberalism; and through them had established the popular institutions and universal tolerance which made Pennsylvania the most democratic province in America, and nursed the spirit of liberty which now revolted against his heirs. The one absorbing passion of Pennsylvania was resistance of their deputy, the Governor. The badge of feudalism, though light, was insufferably irritating; and the sons of William Penn were moreover detested by the Quakers as renegades from the faith of their father. Thus the immediate political conflict engrossed mind and heart; and in the rancor of their quarrel with the proprietaries, the Assembly forgot the French and Indians.
In Philadelphia and the eastern districts the Quakers could ply their trades, tend their shops, till their farms, and discourse at their ease on the wickedness of war. The midland counties, too, were for the most part tolerably safe. They were occupied mainly by crude German peasants, who nearly equalled in number all the rest of the population, and who, gathered at the centre of the province, formed a mass politically indigestible. Translated from servitude to the most ample liberty, they hated the thought of military service, which reminded them of former oppression, cared little whether they lived under France or England, and, thinking themselves out of danger, had no mind to be taxed for the defence of others. But while the great body of the Germans were sheltered from harm, those of them who lived farther westward were not so fortunate. Here, mixed with Scotch Irish Presbyterians and Celtic Irish Catholics, they formed a rough border population, the discordant elements of which could rarely unite for common action; yet, though confused and disjointed, they were a living rampart to the rest of the colony. Against them raged the furies of Indian war; and, maddened with distress and terror, they cried aloud for help.
Petition after petition came from the borders for arms and ammunition, and for a militia law to enable the people to organize and defend themselves. The Quakers resisted. "They have taken uncommon pains," writes Governor Morris to Shirley, "to prevent the people from taking up arms." Braddock's defeat, they declared, was a just judgment on him and his soldiers for molesting the French in their settlements on the Ohio. A bill was passed by the Assembly for raising fifty thousand pounds for the King's use by a tax which included the proprietary lands. The Governor, constrained by his instructions and his bonds, rejected it. "I can only say," he told them, "that I will readily pass a bill for striking any sum in paper money the present exigency may require, provided funds are established for sinking the same in five years." Messages long and acrimonious were exchanged between the parties. The Assembly, had they chosen, could easily have raised money enough by methods not involving the point in dispute; but they thought they saw in the crisis a means of forcing the Governor to yield. The Quakers had an alternative motive: if the Governor gave way, it was a political victory; if he stood fast, their non-resistance principles would triumph, and in this triumph their ascendency as a sect would be confirmed. The debate grew every day more bitter and unmannerly. The Governor could not yield; the Assembly would not. There was a complete deadlock. The Assembly requested the Governor "not to make himself the hateful instrument of reducing a free people to the abject state of vassalage." As the raising of money and the control of its expenditure was in their hands; as he could not prorogue or dissolve them, and as they could adjourn on their own motion to such time as pleased them; as they paid his support, and could withhold it if he offended them,—which they did in the present case,—it seemed no easy task for him to reduce them to vassalage. "What must we do," pursued the Assembly, "to please this kind governor, who takes so much pains to render us obnoxious to our sovereign and odious to our fellow-subjects? If we only tell him that the difficulties he meets with are not owing to the causes he names,—which indeed have no existence,—but to his own want of skill and abilities for his station, he takes it extremely amiss, and say 'we forget all decency to those in authority.' We are apt to think there is likewise some decency due to the Assembly as a part of the government; and though we have not, like the Governor, had a courtly education, but are plain men, and must be very imperfect in our politeness, yet we think we have no chance of improving by his example." Again, in another Message, the Assembly, with a thrust at Morris himself, tell him that colonial governors have often been "transient persons, of broken fortunes, greedy of money, destitute of all concern for those they govern, often their enemies, and endeavoring not only to oppress, but to defame them." In such unseemly fashion was the battle waged. Morris, who was himself a provincial, showed more temper and dignity; though there was not too much on either side. "The Assembly," he wrote to Shirley, "seem determined to take advantage of the country's distress to get the whole power of government into their own hands." And the Assembly proclaimed on their part that the Governor was taking advantage of the country's distress to reduce the province to "Egyptian bondage."
[Footnote 342: Morris to Shirley, 16 Aug. 1755.]
[Footnote 343: Morris to Sir Thomas Robinson, 28 Aug. 1755.]
[Footnote 344: Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 584.]
[Footnote 345: Message of the Assembly to the Governor, 29 Sept. 1755 (written by Franklin), in Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 631, 632.]
[Footnote 346: Writings of Franklin, III. 447. The Assembly at first suppressed this paper, but afterwards printed it.]
Petitions poured in from the miserable frontiersmen. "How long will those in power, by their quarrels, suffer us to be massacred?" demanded William Trent, the Indian trader. "Two and forty bodies have been buried on Patterson's Creek; and since they have killed more, and keep on killing." Early in October news came that a hundred persons had been murdered near Fort Cumberland. Repeated tidings followed of murders on the Susquehanna; then it was announced that the war-parties had crossed that stream, and were at their work on the eastern side. Letter after letter came from the sufferers, bringing such complaints as this: "We are in as bad circumstances as ever any poor Christians were ever in; for the cries of widowers, widows, fatherless and motherless children, are enough to pierce the most hardest of hearts. Likewise it's a very sorrowful spectacle to see those that escaped with their lives with not a mouthful to eat, or bed to lie on, or clothes to cover their nakedness, or keep them warm, but all they had consumed into ashes. These deplorable circumstances cry aloud for your Honor's most wise consideration; for it is really very shocking for the husband to see the wife of his bosom her head cut off, and the children's blood drunk like water, by these bloody and cruel savages."
[Footnote 347: Trent to James Burd, 4 Oct. 1755.]
[Footnote 348: Adam Hoops to Governor Morris, 3 Nov. 1755.]
Morris was greatly troubled. "The conduct of the Assembly," he wrote to Shirley, "is to me shocking beyond parallel." "The inhabitants are abandoning their plantations, and we are in a dreadful situation," wrote John Harris from the east bank of the Susquehanna. On the next day he wrote again: "The Indians are cutting us off every day, and I had a certain account of about fifteen hundred Indians, besides French, being on their march against us and Virginia, and now close on our borders, their scouts scalping our families on our frontiers daily." The report was soon confirmed; and accounts came that the settlements in the valley called the Great Cove had been completely destroyed. All this was laid before the Assembly. They declared the accounts exaggerated, but confessed that outrages had been committed; hinted that the fault was with the proprietaries; and asked the Governor to explain why the Delawares and Shawanoes had become unfriendly. "If they have suffered wrongs," said the Quakers, "we are resolved to do all in our power to redress them, rather than entail upon ourselves and our posterity the calamities of a cruel Indian war." The Indian records were searched, and several days spent in unsuccessful efforts to prove fraud in a late land-purchase.
Post after post still brought news of slaughter. The upper part of Cumberland County was laid waste. Edward Biddle wrote from Reading: "The drum is beating and bells ringing, and all the people under arms. This night we expect an attack. The people exclaim against the Quakers." "We seem to be given up into the hands of a merciless enemy," wrote John Elder from Paxton. And he declares that more than forty persons have been killed in that neighborhood, besides numbers carried off. Meanwhile the Governor and Assembly went on fencing with words and exchanging legal subtleties; while, with every cry of distress that rose from the west, each hoped that the other would yield.
On the eighth of November the Assembly laid before Morris for his concurrence a bill for emitting bills of credit to the amount of sixty thousand pounds, to be sunk in four years by a tax including the proprietary estates. "I shall not," he replied, "enter into a dispute whether the proprietaries ought to be taxed or not. It is sufficient for me that they have given me no power in that case; and I cannot think it consistent either with my duty or safety to exceed the powers of my commission, much less to do what that commission expressly prohibits." He stretched his authority, however, so far as to propose a sort of compromise by which the question should be referred to the King; but they refused it; and the quarrel and the murders went on as before. "We have taken," said the Assembly, "every step in our power consistent with the just rights of the freemen of Pennsylvania, for the relief of the poor distressed inhabitants; and we have reason to believe that they themselves would not wish us to go farther. Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Then the borderers deserved neither; for, rather than be butchered, they would have let the proprietary lands lie untaxed for another year. "You have in all," said the Governor, "proposed to me five money bills, three of them rejected because contrary to royal instructions; the other two on account of the unjust method proposed for taxing the proprietary estate. If you are disposed to relieve your country, you have many other ways of granting money to which I shall have no objection. I shall put one proof more both of your sincerity and mine in our professions of regard for the public, by offering to agree to any bill in the present exigency which it is consistent with my duty to pass; lest, before our present disputes can be brought to an issue, we should neither have a privilege to dispute about, nor a country to dispute in." They stood fast; and with an obstinacy for which the Quakers were chiefly answerable, insisted that they would give nothing, except by a bill taxing real estate, and including that of the proprietaries.
[Footnote 349: Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 682.]
[Footnote 350: Message of the Governor to the Assembly, 8 Nov. 1755, in Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 684.]
[Footnote 351: Message of the Assembly to the Governor, 11 Nov. Ibid. VI. 692. The words are Franklin's.]
[Footnote 352: Message of the Governor to the Assembly, 22 Nov. 1755, in Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 714.]
But now the Assembly began to feel the ground shaking under their feet. A paper, called a "Representation," signed by some of the chief citizens, was sent to the House, calling for measures of defence. "You will forgive us, gentlemen," such was its language, "if we assume characters somewhat higher than that of humble suitors praying for the defence of our lives and properties as a matter of grace or favor on your side. You will permit us to make a positive and immediate demand of it." This drove the Quakers mad. Preachers, male and female, harangued in the streets, denouncing the iniquity of war. Three of the sect from England, two women and a man, invited their brethren of the Assembly to a private house, and fervently exhorted them to stand firm. Some of the principal Quakers joined in an address to the House, in which they declared that any action on its part "inconsistent with the peaceable testimony we profess and have borne to the world appears to us in its consequences to be destructive of our religious liberties." And they protested that they would rather "suffer" than pay taxes for such ends. Consistency, even in folly, has in it something respectable; but the Quakers were not consistent. A few years after, when heated with party-passion and excited by reports of an irruption of incensed Presbyterian borderers, some of the pacific sectaries armed for battle; and the streets of Philadelphia beheld the curious conjunction of musket and broad-brimmed hat.
[Footnote 353: Pennsylvania Archives, II. 485.]
[Footnote 354: Ibid., II. 487.]
[Footnote 355: See Conspiracy of Pontiac, Chaps. 24 and 25.]
The mayor, aldermen, and common council next addressed the Assembly, adjuring them, "in the most solemn manner, before God and in the name of all our fellow-citizens," to provide for defending the lives and property of the people. A deputation from a band of Indians on the Susquehanna, still friendly to the province, came to ask whether the English meant to fight or not; for, said their speaker, "if they will not stand by us, we will join the French." News came that the settlement of Tulpehocken, only sixty miles distant, had been destroyed; and then that the Moravian settlement of Gnadenhuetten was burned, and nearly all its inmates massacred. Colonel William Moore wrote to the Governor that two thousand men were coming from Chester County to compel him and the Assembly to defend the province; and Conrad Weiser wrote that more were coming from Berks on the same errand. Old friends of the Assembly began to cry out against them. Even the Germans, hitherto their fast allies, were roused from their attitude of passivity, and four hundred of them came in procession to demand measures of war. A band of frontiersmen presently arrived, bringing in a wagon the bodies of friends and relatives lately murdered, displaying them at the doors of the Assembly, cursing the Quakers, and threatening vengeance.
[Footnote 356: A Remonstrance, etc., in Colonial Records of Pa., VI. 734.]
[Footnote 357: Mante, 47; Entick, I. 377.]
Finding some concession necessary, the House at length passed a militia law,—probably the most futile ever enacted. It specially exempted the Quakers, and constrained nobody; but declared it lawful, for such as chose, to form themselves into companies and elect officers by ballot. The company officers thus elected might, if they saw fit, elect, also by ballot, colonels, lieutenant-colonels, and majors. These last might then, in conjunction with the Governor, frame articles of war; to which, however, no officer or man was to be subjected unless, after three days' consideration, he subscribed them in presence of a justice of the peace, and declared his willingness to be bound by them.
[Footnote 358: This remarkable bill, drawn by Franklin, was meant for political rather than military effect. It was thought that Morris would refuse to pass it, and could therefore be accused of preventing the province from defending itself; but he avoided the snare by signing it.]
This mockery could not appease the people; the Assembly must raise money for men, arms, forts, and all the detested appliances of war. Defeat absolute and ignominious seemed hanging over the House, when an incident occurred which gave them a decent pretext for retreat. The Governor informed them that he had just received a letter from the proprietaries, giving to the province five thousand pounds sterling to aid in its defence, on condition that the money should be accepted as a free gift, and not as their proportion of any tax that was or might be laid by the Assembly. They had not learned the deplorable state of the country, and had sent the money in view of the defeat of Braddock and its probable consequences. The Assembly hereupon yielded, struck out from the bill before them the clause taxing the proprietary estates, and, thus amended, presented it to the Governor, who by his signature made it a law.
[Footnote 359: Minutes of Council, 27 Nov. 1755.]
The House had failed to carry its point. The result disappointed Franklin, and doubly disappointed the Quakers. His maxim was: Beat the Governor first, and then beat the enemy; theirs: Beat the Governor, and let the enemy alone. The measures that followed, directed in part by Franklin himself, held the Indians in check, and mitigated the distress of the western counties; yet there was no safety for them throughout the two or three years when France was cheering on her hell-hounds against this tormented frontier.
As in Pennsylvania, so in most of the other colonies there was conflict between assemblies and governors, to the unspeakable detriment of the public service. In New York, though here no obnoxious proprietary stood between the people and the Crown, the strife was long and severe. The point at issue was an important one,—whether the Assembly should continue their practice of granting yearly supplies to the Governor, or should establish a permanent fund for the ordinary expenses of government,—thus placing him beyond their control. The result was a victory for the Assembly.
Month after month the great continent lay wrapped in snow. Far along the edge of the western wilderness men kept watch and ward in lonely blockhouses, or scoured the forest on the track of prowling war-parties. The provincials in garrison at forts Edward, William Henry, and Oswego dragged out the dreary winter; while bands of New England rangers, muffled against the piercing cold, caps of fur on their heads, hatchets in their belts, and guns in the mittened hands, glided on skates along the gleaming ice-floor of Lake George, to spy out the secrets of Ticonderoga, or seize some careless sentry to tell them tidings of the foe. Thus the petty war went on; but the big war was frozen into torpor, ready, like a hibernating bear, to wake again with the birds, the bees, and the flowers.
[Footnote 360: On Pennsylvanian disputes,—A Brief State of the Province of Pennsylvania (London, 1755). A Brief View of the Conduct of Pennsylvania (London, 1756). These are pamphlets on the Governor's side, by William Smith, D.D., Provost of the College of Pennsylvania. An Answer to an invidious Pamphlet, intituled a Brief State, etc. (London, 1755). Anonymous. A True and Impartial State of the Province of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1759). Anonymous. The last two works attack the first two with great vehemence. The True and Impartial State is an able presentation of the case of the Assembly, omitting, however, essential facts. But the most elaborate work on the subject is the Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania, inspired and partly written by Franklin. It is hotly partisan, and sometimes sophistical and unfair. Articles on the quarrel will also be found in the provincial newspapers, especially the New York Mercury, and in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1755 and 1756. But it is impossible to get any clear and just view of it without wading through the interminable documents concerning it in the Colonial Records of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Archives.]
On the eighteenth of May, 1756, England, after a year of open hostility, at length declared war. She had attacked France by land and sea, turned loose her ships to prey on French commerce, and brought some three hundred prizes into her ports. It was the act of a weak Government, supplying by spasms of violence what it lacked in considerate resolution. France, no match for her amphibious enemy in the game of marine depredation, cried out in horror; and to emphasize her complaints and signalize a pretended good faith which her acts had belied, ostentatiously released a British frigate captured by her cruisers. She in her turn declared war on the ninth of June: and now began the most terrible conflict of the eighteenth century; one that convulsed Europe and shook America, India, the coasts of Africa, and the islands of the sea.
In Europe the ground was trembling already with the coming earthquake. Such smothered discords, such animosities, ambitions, jealousies, possessed the rival governments; such entanglements of treaties and alliances, offensive or defensive, open or secret,—that a blow at one point shook the whole fabric. Hanover, like the heel of Achilles, was the vulnerable part for which England was always trembling. Therefore she made a defensive treaty with Prussia, by which each party bound itself to aid the other, should its territory be invaded. England thus sought a guaranty against France, and Prussia against Russia. She had need. Her King, Frederic the Great, had drawn upon himself an avalanche. Three women—two empresses and a concubine—controlled the forces of the three great nations, Austria, Russia, and France; and they all hated him: Elizabeth of Russia, by reason of a distrust fomented by secret intrigue and turned into gall by the biting tongue of Frederic himself, who had jibed at her amours, compared her to Messalina, and called her "infame catin du Nord;" Maria Theresa of Austria, because she saw in him a rebellious vassal of the Holy Roman Empire, and, above all, because he had robbed her of Silesia; Madame de Pompadour, because when she sent him a message of compliment, he answered, "Je ne la connais pas," forbade his ambassador to visit her, and in his mocking wit spared neither her nor her royal lover. Feminine pique, revenge, or vanity had then at their service the mightiest armaments of Europe.
The recovery of Silesia and the punishment of Frederic for his audacity in seizing it, possessed the mind of Maria Theresa with the force of a ruling passion. To these ends she had joined herself in secret league with Russia; and now at the prompting of her minister Kaunitz she courted the alliance of France. It was a reversal of the hereditary policy of Austria; joining hands with an old and deadly foe, and spurning England, of late her most trusty ally. But France could give powerful aid against Frederic; and hence Maria Theresa, virtuous as she was high-born and proud, stooped to make advances to the all-powerful mistress of Louis XV., wrote her flattering letters, and addressed her, it is said, as "Ma chere cousine." Pompadour was delighted, and could hardly do enough for her imperial friend. She ruled the King, and could make and unmake ministers at will. They hastened to do her pleasure, disguising their subserviency by dressing it out in specious reasons of state. A conference at her summer-house, called Babiole, "Bawble," prepared the way for a treaty which involved the nation in the anti-Prussian war, and made it the instrument of Austria in the attempt to humble Frederic,—an attempt which if successful would give the hereditary enemy of France a predominance over Germany. France engaged to aid the cause with twenty-four thousand men; but in the zeal of her rulers began with a hundred thousand. Thus the three great Powers stood leagued against Prussia. Sweden and Saxony joined them; and the Empire itself, of which Prussia was a part, took arms against its obnoxious member.
Never in Europe had power been more centralized, and never in France had the reins been held by persons so pitiful, impelled by motives so contemptible. The levity, vanity, and spite of a concubine became a mighty engine to influence the destinies of nations. Louis XV., enervated by pleasures and devoured by ennui, still had his emotions; he shared Pompadour's detestation of Frederic, and he was tormented at times by a lively fear of damnation. But how damn a king who had entered the lists as champion of the Church? England was Protestant, and so was Prussia; Austria was supremely Catholic. Was it not a merit in the eyes of God to join her in holy war against the powers of heresy? The King of the Parc-aux-Cerfs would propitiate Heaven by a new crusade.
Henceforth France was to turn her strength against her European foes; and the American war, the occasion of the universal outbreak, was to hold in her eyes a second place. The reasons were several: the vanity of Pompadour, infatuated by the advances of the Empress-Queen, and eager to secure her good graces; the superstition of the King; the anger of both against Frederic; the desire of D'Argenson, minister of war, that the army, and not the navy, should play the foremost part; and the passion of courtiers and nobles, ignorant of the naval service, to win laurels in a continental war,—all conspired to one end. It was the interest of France to turn her strength against her only dangerous rival; to continue as she had begun, in building up a naval power that could face England on the seas and sustain her own rising colonies in America, India, and the West Indies: for she too might have multiplied herself, planted her language and her race over all the globe, and grown with the growth of her children, had she not been at the mercy of an effeminate profligate, a mistress turned procuress, and the favorites to whom they delegated power.
Still, something must be done for the American war; at least there must be a new general to replace Dieskau. None of the Court favorites wanted a command in the backwoods, and the minister of war was free to choose whom he would. His choice fell on Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm-Gozon de Saint-Veran.
Montcalm was born in the south of France, at the Chateau of Candiac, near Nimes, on the twenty-ninth of February, 1712. At the age of six he was placed in the charge of one Dumas, a natural son of his grandfather. This man, a conscientious pedant, with many theories of education, ruled his pupil stiffly; and, before the age of fifteen, gave him a good knowledge of Latin, Greek, and history. Young Montcalm had a taste for books, continued his reading in such intervals of leisure as camps and garrisons afforded, and cherished to the end of his life the ambition of becoming a member of the Academy. Yet, with all his liking for study, he sometimes revolted against the sway of the pedagogue who wrote letters of complaint to his father protesting against the "judgments of the vulgar, who, contrary to the experience of ages, say that if children are well reproved they will correct their faults." Dumas, however, was not without sense, as is shown by another letter to the elder Montcalm, in which he says that the boy had better be ignorant of Latin and Greek "than know them as he does without knowing how to read, write, and speak French well." The main difficulty was to make him write a good hand,—a point in which he signally failed to the day of his death. So refractory was he at times, that his master despaired. "M. de Montcalm," Dumas informs the father, "has great need of docility, industry, and willingness to take advice. What will become of him?" The pupil, aware of these aspersions, met them by writing to his father his own ideas of what his aims should be. "First, to be an honorable man, of good morals, brave, and a Christian. Secondly, to read in moderation; to know as much Greek and Latin as most men of the world; also the four rules of arithmetic, and something of history, geography, and French and Latin belles-lettres, as well as to have a taste for the arts and sciences. Thirdly, and above all, to be obedient, docile, and very submissive to your orders and those of my dear mother; and also to defer to the advice of M. Dumas. Fourthly, to fence and ride as well as my small abilities will permit."
[Footnote 361: This passage is given by Somervogel from the original letter.]
If Louis de Montcalm failed to satisfy his preceptor, he had a brother who made ample amends. Of this infant prodigy it is related that at six years he knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and had some acquaintance with arithmetic, French history, geography, and heraldry. He was destined for the Church, but died at the age of seven; his precocious brain having been urged to fatal activity by the exertions of Dumas.
Other destinies and a more wholesome growth were the lot of young Louis. At fifteen he joined the army as ensign in the regiment of Hainaut. Two years after, his father bought him a captaincy, and he was first under fire at the siege of Philipsbourg. His father died in 1735, and left him heir to a considerable landed estate, much embarrassed by debt. The Marquis de la Fare, a friend of the family, soon after sought for him an advantageous marriage to strengthen his position and increase his prospects of promotion; and he accordingly espoused Mademoiselle Angelique Louise Talon du Boulay,—a union which brought him influential alliances and some property. Madame de Montcalm bore him ten children, of whom only two sons and four daughters were living in 1752. "May God preserve them all," he writes in his autobiography, "and make them prosper for this world and the next! Perhaps it will be thought that the number is large for so moderate a fortune, especially as four of them are girls; but does God ever abandon his children in their need?"
"'Aux petits des oiseaux il donne la pature, Et sa bonte s'etend sur toute la nature.'"
He was pious in his soldierly way, and ardently loyal to Church and King.
His family seat was Candiac; where, in the intervals of campaigning, he found repose with his wife, his children, and his mother, who was a woman of remarkable force of character and who held great influence over her son. He had a strong attachment to this home of his childhood; and in after years, out of the midst of the American wilderness, his thoughts turned longingly towards it. "Quand reverrai-je mon cher Candiac!"
In 1741 Montcalm took part in the Bohemian campaign. He was made colonel of the regiment of Auxerrois two years later, and passed unharmed through the severe campaign of 1744. In the next year he fought in Italy under Marechal de Maillebois. In 1746, at the disastrous action under the walls of Piacenza, where he twice rallied his regiment, he received five sabre-cuts,—two of which were in the head,—and was made prisoner. Returning to France on parole, he was promoted in the year following to the rank of brigadier; and being soon after exchanged, rejoined the army, and was again wounded by a musket-shot. The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle now gave him a period of rest. At length, being on a visit to Paris late in the autumn of 1755, the minister, D'Argenson, hinted to him that he might be appointed to command the troops in America. He heard no more of the matter till, after his return home, he received from D'Argenson a letter dated at Versailles the twenty-fifth of January, at midnight. "Perhaps, Monsieur," it began, "you did not expect to hear from me again on the subject of the conversation I had with you the day you came to bid me farewell at Paris. Nevertheless I have not forgotten for a moment the suggestion I then made you; and it is with the greatest pleasure that I announce to you that my views have prevailed. The King has chosen you to command his troops in North America, and will honor you on your departure with the rank of major-general."