After the departure of the prisoners, he wrote again respecting them: "I have still stronger presumption, indeed almost confirmation, that they were sent as spies, and were ordered to wait near us till they were fully informed of our intentions, situation, and strength, and were to have acquainted their commander therewith, and to have been lurking here for reinforcements before they served the summons, if served at all.
"I doubt not but they will endeavor to amuse you with many smooth stories, as they did me; but they were confuted in them all, and, by circumstances too plain to be denied, almost made ashamed of their assertions.
"I have heard since they went away, they should say they called on us not to fire; but that I know to be false, for I was the first man that approached them, and the first whom they saw, and immediately they ran to their arms, and fired briskly till they were defeated." ... "I fancy they will have the assurance of asking the privileges due to an embassy, when in strict justice they ought to be hanged as spies of the worst sort."
The situation of Washington was now extremely perilous. Contrecoeur, it was said, had nearly a thousand men with him at the fort, beside Indian allies; and reinforcements were on the way to join him. The messengers sent by Jumonville, previous to the late affair, must have apprised him of the weakness of the encampment on the Great Meadows, Washington hastened to strengthen it. He wrote by express also to Colonel Fry, who lay ill at Wills' Creek, urging instant reinforcements; but declaring his resolution to "fight with very unequal numbers rather than give up one inch of what he had gained."
The half-king was full of fight. He sent the scalps of the Frenchmen slain in the late skirmish, accompanied by black wampum and hatchets, to all his allies, summoning them to take up arms and join him at Redstone Creek, "for their brothers, the English, had now begun in earnest." It is said he would even have sent the scalps of the prisoners had not Washington interfered. [Footnote: Letter from Virginia.—London Mag., 1754.] He went off for his home, promising to send down the river for all the Mingoes and Shawnees, and to be back at the camp on the 30th, with thirty or forty warriors, accompanied by their wives and children. To assist him in the transportation of his people and their effects thirty men were detached, and twenty horses.
"I shall expect every hour to be attacked," writes Washington to Governor Dinwiddie, on the 29th, "and by unequal numbers, which I must withstand, if there are five to one, for I fear the consequence will be that we shall lose the Indians if we suffer ourselves to be driven back. Your honor may depend I will not be surprised, let them come at what hour they will, and this is as much as I can promise; but my best endeavors shall not be wanting to effect more. I doubt not, if you hear I am beaten, but you will hear at the same time that we have done our duty in fighting as long as there is a shadow of hope."
The fact is, that Washington was in a high state of military excitement. He was a young soldier; had been for the first time in action, and been successful. The letters we have already quoted show, in some degree, the fervor of his mind, and his readiness to brave the worst; but a short letter, written to one of his brothers, on the 31st, lays open the recesses of his heart.
"We expect every hour to be attacked by superior force; but if they forbear but one day longer we shall be prepared for them. ... We have already got intrenchments, and are about a palisade, which, I hope, will be finished to-day. The Mingoes have struck the French, and, I hope, will give a good blow before they have done. I expect forty odd of them here to-night, which, with our fort, and some reinforcements from Colonel Fry, will enable us to exert our noble courage with spirit."
Alluding in a postscript to the late affair, he adds: "I fortunately escaped without any wound; for the right wing, where I stood, was exposed to, and received, all the enemy's fire; and it was the part where the man was killed and the rest wounded. I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound."
This rodomontade, as Horace Walpole terms it, reached the ears of George II. "He would not say so," observed the king, dryly, "if he had been used to hear many." [Footnote: This anecdote has hitherto rested on the authority of Horace Walpole, who gives it in his memoirs of George II., and in his correspondence. He cites the rodomontade as contained in the express despatched by Washington, whom he pronounces a "brave braggart." As no despatch of Washington contains any rodomontade of the kind; as it is quite at variance with the general tenor of his character; and as Horace Walpole is well known to have been a "great gossip dealer," apt to catch up any idle rumor that would give piquancy to a paragraph, the story has been held in great distrust. We met with the letter recently, however, in a column of the London Magazine for 1754, page 370, into which it must have found its way not long after it was written.]
Washington himself thought so when more experienced in warfare. Being asked, many years afterwards, whether he really had made such a speech about the whistling of bullets, "If I said so," replied he quietly, "it was when I was young." [Footnote: Gordon, Hist. Am. War, vol. ii., p. 203.] He was, indeed, but twenty-two years old when he said it; it was just after his first battle; he was flushed with success, and was writing to a brother.
SCARCITY IN THE CAMP—DEATH OF COLONEL FRY—PROMOTIONS—MACKAY AND HIS INDEPENDENT COMPANY—MAJOR MUSE—INDIAN CEREMONIALS—PUBLIC PRAYERS IN CAMP—ALARMS—INDEPENDENCE OF AN INDEPENDENT COMPANY—AFFAIRS AT THE GREAT MEADOWS—DESERTION OF THE INDIAN ALLIES—CAPITULATION OF FORT NECESSITY— VAN BRAAM AS AN INTERPRETER—INDIAN PLUNDERERS—RETURN TO WILLIAMSBURG— VOTE OF THANKS OF THE HOUSE OF BURGESSES—SUBSEQUENT FORTUNES OF THE HALF-KING—COMMENTS ON THE AFFAIR OF JUMONVILLE AND THE CONDUCT OF VAN BRAAM.
Scarcity began to prevail in the camp. Contracts had been made with George Croghan for flour, of which he had large quantities at his frontier establishment; for he was now trading with the army as well as with the Indians. None, however, made its appearance. There was mismanagement in the commissariat. At one time the troops were six days without flour; and even then had only a casual supply from an Ohio trader. In this time of scarcity the half-king, his fellow sachem, Scarooyadi, and thirty or forty warriors, arrived, bringing with them their wives and children—so many more hungry mouths to be supplied. Washington wrote urgently to Croghan to send forward all the flour he could furnish.
News came of the death of Colonel Fry at Wills' Creek, and that he was to be succeeded in the command of the expedition by Colonel Innes of North Carolina, who was actually at Winchester with three hundred and fifty North Carolina troops. Washington, who felt the increasing responsibilities and difficulties of his situation, rejoiced at the prospect of being under the command of an experienced officer, who had served in company with his brother Lawrence at the siege of Carthagena. The colonel, however, never came to the camp, nor did the North Carolina troops render any service in the campaign—the fortunes of which might otherwise have been very different.
By the death of Fry, the command of the regiment devolved on Washington. Finding a blank major's commission among Fry's papers, he gave it to Captain Adam Stephen, who had conducted himself with spirit. As there would necessarily be other changes, he wrote to Governor Dinwiddie in behalf of Jacob Van Braam. "He has acted as captain ever since we left Alexandria. He is an experienced officer, and worthy of the command he has enjoyed."
The palisaded fort was now completed, and was named Fort Necessity, from the pinching famine that had prevailed during its construction. The scanty force in camp was augmented to three hundred, by the arrival from Wills' Creek of the men who had been under Colonel Fry. With them came the surgeon of the regiment, Dr. James Craik, a Scotchman by birth, and one destined to become a faithful and confidential friend of Washington for the remainder of his life.
A letter from Governor Dinwiddie announced, however, that Captain Mackay would soon arrive with an independent company of one hundred men, from South Carolina.
The title of independent company had a sound ominous of trouble. Troops of the kind, raised in the colonies, under direction of the governors, were paid by the Crown, and the officers had king's commissions; such, doubtless, had Captain Mackay. "I should have been particularly obliged," writes Washington to Governor Dinwiddie, "if you had declared whether he was under my command, or independent of it. I hope he will have more sense than to insist upon any unreasonable distinction, because he and his officers have commissions from his majesty. Let him consider, though we are greatly inferior in respect to advantages of profit, yet we have the same spirit to serve our gracious king as they have, and are as ready and willing to sacrifice our lives for our country's good. And here, once more, and for the last time, I must say, that it will be a circumstance which will act upon some officers of this regiment, above all measure, to be obliged to serve upon such different terms, when their lives, their fortunes, and their operations are equally, and, I dare say, as effectually exposed as those of others, who are happy enough to have the king's commission."
On the 9th arrived Washington's early instructor in military tactics, Adjutant Muse, recently appointed a major in the regiment. He was accompanied by Montour, the Indian interpreter, now a provincial captain, and brought with him nine swivels, and a small supply of powder and ball. Fifty or sixty horses were forthwith sent to Wills' Creek, to bring on further supplies, and Mr. Gist was urged to hasten forward the artillery.
Major Muse was likewise the bearer of a belt of wampum and a speech, from Governor Dinwiddie to the half-king; with medals for the chiefs, and goods for presents among the friendly Indians, a measure which had been suggested by Washington. They were distributed with that grand ceremonial so dear to the red man. The chiefs assembled, painted and decorated in all their savage finery; Washington wore a medal sent to him by the governor for such occasions. The wampum and speech having been delivered, he advanced, and with all due solemnity, decorated the chiefs and warriors with the medals, which they were to wear in remembrance of their father the King of England.
Among the warriors thus decorated was a son of Queen Aliquippa, the savage princess whose good graces Washington had secured in the preceding year, by the present of an old watchcoat, and whose friendship was important, her town being at no great distance from the French fort. She had requested that her son might be admitted into the war councils of the camp, and receive an English name. The name of Fairfax was accordingly given to him, in the customary Indian form; the half-king being desirous of like distinction, received the name of Dinwiddie. The sachems returned the compliment in kind, by giving Washington the name of Connotaucarius; the meaning of which is not explained.
William Fairfax, Washington's paternal adviser, had recently counselled him by letter, to have public prayers in his camp; especially when there were Indian families there; this was accordingly done at the encampment in the Great Meadows, and it certainly was not one of the least striking pictures presented in this wild campaign—the youthful commander, presiding with calm seriousness over a motley assemblage of half-equipped soldiery, leathern-clad hunters and woodsmen, and painted savages with their wives and children, and uniting them all in solemn devotion by his own example and demeanor.
On the 10th there was agitation in the camp. Scouts hurried in with word, as Washington understood them, that a party of ninety Frenchmen were approaching. He instantly ordered out a hundred and fifty of his best men; put himself at their head, and leaving Major Muse with the rest, to man the fort and mount the swivels, sallied forth "in the full hope" as he afterwards wrote to Governor Dinwiddie, "of procuring him another present of French prisoners."
It was another effervescence of his youthful military ardor, and doomed to disappointment. The report of the scouts had been either exaggerated or misunderstood. The ninety Frenchmen in military array dwindled down into nine French deserters.
According to their account, the fort at the fork was completed, and named Duquesne, in honor of the Governor of Canada, It was proof against all attack, excepting with bombs, on the land side. The garrison did not exceed five hundred, but two hundred more were hourly expected, and nine hundred in the course of a fortnight.
Washington's suspicions with respect to La Force's party were justified by the report of these deserters; they had been sent out as spies, and were to show the summons if discovered or overpowered. The French commander, they added, had been blamed for sending out so small a party.
On the same day Captain Mackay arrived, with his independent company of South Carolinians. The cross-purposes which Washington had apprehended, soon manifested themselves. The captain was civil and well disposed, but full of formalities and points of etiquette. Holding a commission direct from the king, he could not bring himself to acknowledge a provincial officer as his superior. He encamped separately, kept separate guards, would not agree that Washington should assign any rallying place for his men in case of alarm, and objected to receive from him the parole and countersign, though necessary for their common safety.
Washington conducted himself with circumspection, avoiding every thing that might call up a question of command, and reasoning calmly whenever such question occurred; but he urged the governor by letter, to prescribe their relative rank and authority. "He thinks you have not a power to give commissions that will command him. If so, I can very confidently say that his absence would tend to the public advantage."
On the 11th of June, Washington resumed the laborious march for Redstone Creek. As Captain Mackay could not oblige his men to work on the road unless they were allowed a shilling sterling a day; and as Washington did not choose to pay this, nor to suffer them to march at their ease while his own faithful soldiers were laboriously employed; he left the captain and his Independent company as a guard at Fort Necessity, and undertook to complete the military road with his own men.
Accordingly, he and his Virginia troops toiled forward through the narrow defiles of the mountains, working on the road as they went. Scouts were sent out in all directions, to prevent surprise. While on the march he was continually beset by sachems, with their tedious ceremonials and speeches, all to very little purpose. Some of these chiefs were secretly in the French interest; few rendered any real assistance, and all expected presents.
At Gist's establishment, about thirteen miles from Fort Necessity, Washington received certain intelligence that ample reinforcements had arrived at Fort Duquesne, and a large force would instantly be detached against him. Coming to a halt, he began to throw up intrenchments, calling in two foraging parties, and sending word to Captain Mackay to join him with all speed. The captain and his company arrived in the evening; the foraging parties the next morning. A council of war was held, in which the idea of awaiting the enemy at this place was unanimously abandoned.
A rapid and toilsome retreat ensued. There was a deficiency of horses. Washington gave up his own to aid in transporting the military munitions, leaving his baggage to be brought on by soldiers, whom he paid liberally. The other officers followed his example. The weather was sultry; the roads were rough; provisions were scanty, and the men dispirited by hunger. The Virginian soldiers took turns to drag the swivels, but felt almost insulted by the conduct of the South Carolinians, who, piquing themselves upon their assumed privileges as "king's soldiers," sauntered along at their ease; refusing to act as pioneers, or participate in the extra labors incident to a hurried retreat.
On the 1st of July they reached the Great Meadows. Here the Virginians, exhausted by fatigue, hunger, and vexation, declared they would carry the baggage and drag the swivels no further. Contrary to his original intentions, therefore, Washington determined to halt here for the present, and fortify, sending off expresses to hasten supplies and reinforcements from Wills' Creek, where he had reason to believe that two independent companies from New York, were by this time arrived.
The retreat to the Great Meadows had not been in the least too precipitate. Captain de Villiers, a brother-in-law of Jumonville, had actually sallied forth from Fort Duquesne at the head of upwards of five hundred French, and several hundred Indians, eager to avenge the death of his relative. Arriving about dawn of day at Gist's plantation, he surrounded the works which Washington had hastily thrown up there, and fired into them. Finding them deserted, he concluded that those of whom he came in search had made good their retreat to the settlements, and it was too late to pursue them. He was on the point of returning to Fort Duquesne, when a deserter arrived, who gave word that Washington had come to a halt in the Great Meadows, where his troops were in a starving condition; for his own part, he added, hearing that the French were coming, he had deserted to them to escape starvation.
De Villiers ordered the fellow into confinement; to be rewarded if his words proved true, otherwise to be hanged. He then pushed forward for the Great Meadows. [Footnote: Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania, vol. iv., p. 22.]
In the mean time Washington had exerted himself to enlarge and strengthen Fort Necessity, nothing of which had been done by Captain Mackay and his men, while encamped there. The fort was about a hundred feet square, protected by trenches and palisades. It stood on the margin of a small stream, nearly in the centre of the Great Meadows, which is a grassy plain, perfectly level, surrounded by wooded hills of a moderate height, and at that place about two hundred and fifty yards wide. Washington asked no assistance from the South Carolina troops, but set to work with his Virginians, animating them by word and example; sharing in the labor of felling trees, hewing off the branches, and rolling up the trunks to form a breastwork.
At this critical juncture he was deserted by his Indian allies. They were disheartened at the scanty preparations for defence against a superior force, and offended at being subjected to military command. The half-king thought he had not been sufficiently consulted, and that his advice had not been sufficiently followed; such, at least, were some of the reasons which he subsequently gave for abandoning the youthful commander on the approach of danger. The true reason was a desire to put his wife and children in a place of safety. Most of his warriors followed his example; very few, and those probably who had no families at risk, remained in the camp.
Early in the morning of the 3d, while Washington and his men were working on the fort, a sentinel came in wounded and bleeding, having been fired upon. Scouts brought word shortly afterwards that the French were in force, about four miles off. Washington drew up his men on level ground outside of the works, to await their attack. About 11 o'clock there was a firing of musketry from among trees on rising ground, but so distant as to do no harm; suspecting this to be a stratagem designed to draw his men into the woods, he ordered them to keep quiet, and refrain from firing until the foe should show themselves, and draw near.
The firing was kept up, but still under cover. He now fell back with his men into the trenches, ordering them to fire whenever they could get sight of an enemy. In this way there was skirmishing throughout the day; the French and Indians advancing as near as the covert of the woods would permit, which in the nearest place was sixty yards, but never into open sight. In the meanwhile the rain fell in torrents; the harassed and jaded troops were half drowned in their trenches, and many of their muskets were rendered unfit for use.
About eight at night the French requested a parley. Washington hesitated. It might be a stratagem to gain admittance for a spy into the fort. The request was repeated, with the addition that an officer might be sent to treat with them, under their parole for his safety. Unfortunately the Chevalier de Peyrouney, engineer of the regiment, and the only one who could speak French correctly, was wounded and disabled. Washington had to send, therefore, his ancient swordsman and interpreter, Jacob Van Braam. The captain returned twice with separate terms, in which the garrison was required to surrender; both were rejected. He returned a third time, with written articles of capitulation. They were in French. As no implements for writing were at hand, Van Braam undertook to translate them by word of mouth. A candle was brought, and held close to the paper while he read. The rain fell in torrents; it was difficult to keep the light from being extinguished. The captain rendered the capitulation, article by article, in mongrel English, while Washington and his officers stood listening, endeavoring to disentangle the meaning. One article stipulated that on surrendering the fort they should leave all their military stores, munitions, and artillery in possession of the French. This was objected to, and was readily modified.
The main articles, as Washington and his officers understood them, were, that they should be allowed to return to the settlements without molestation from French or Indians. That they should march out of the fort with the honors of war, drums beating and colors flying, and with all their effects and military stores excepting the artillery, which should be destroyed. That they should be allowed to deposit their effects in some secret place, and leave a guard to protect them until they could send horses to bring them away; their horses having been nearly all killed or lost during the action. That they should give their word of honor not to attempt any buildings or improvements on the lands of his most Christian Majesty, for the space of a year. That the prisoners taken in the skirmish of Jumonville should be restored, and until their delivery Captain Van Braam and Captain Stobo should remain with the French as hostages. [Footnote: Horace Walpole, in a flippant notice of this capitulation, says: "The French have tied up the hands of an excellent fanfaron, a Major Washington, whom they took and engaged not to serve for one year." (Correspondence, vol. iii., p. 73.) Walpole, at this early date, seems to have considered Washington a perfect fire-eater.]
The next morning accordingly, Washington and his men marched out of their forlorn fortress with the honors of war, bearing with them their regimental colors, but leaving behind a large flag, too cumbrous to be transported. Scarcely had they begun their march, however, when, in defiance of the terms of capitulation, they were beset by a large body of Indians, allies of the French, who began plundering the baggage, and committing other irregularities. Seeing that the French did not, or could not, prevent them, and that all the baggage which could not be transported on the shoulders of his troops would fall into the hands of these savages, Washington ordered it to be destroyed, as well as the artillery, gunpowder, and other military stores. All this detained him until ten o'clock, when he set out on his melancholy march. He had not proceeded above a mile when two or three of the wounded men were reported to be missing. He immediately detached a few men back in quest of them, and continued on until three miles from Fort Necessity, where he encamped for the night, and was rejoined by the stragglers.
In this affair, out of the Virginia regiment, consisting of three hundred and five men, officers included, twelve had been killed, and forty-three wounded. The number killed and wounded in Captain Mackay's company is not known. The loss of the French and Indians is supposed to have been much greater.
In the following days' march the troops seemed jaded and disheartened; they were encumbered and delayed by the wounded; provisions were scanty, and they had seventy weary miles to accomplish before they could meet with supplies. Washington, however, encouraged them by his own steadfast and cheerful demeanor, and by sharing all their toils and privations; and at length conducted them in safety to Wills' Creek, where they found ample provisions in the military magazines. Leaving them here to recover their strength, he proceeded with Captain Mackay to Williamsburg, to make his military report to the governor.
A copy of the capitulation was subsequently laid before the Virginia House of Burgesses, with explanations. Notwithstanding the unfortunate result of the campaign, the conduct of Washington and his officers was properly appreciated, and they received a vote of thanks for their bravery, and gallant defence of their country. Three hundred pistoles (nearly eleven hundred dollars) also were voted to be distributed among the privates who had been in action.
From the vote of thanks, two officers were excepted; Major Stobo, who was charged with cowardice, and Washington's unfortunate master of fence and blundering interpreter, Jacob Van Braam, who was accused of treachery, in purposely misinterpreting the articles of capitulation.
In concluding this chapter, we will anticipate dates to record the fortunes of the half-king after his withdrawal from the camp. He and several of his warriors, with their wives and children, retreated to Aughquick, in the back part of Pennsylvania, where George Croghan had an agency, and was allowed money from time to time for the maintenance Of Indian allies. By the by, Washington, in his letter to William Fairfax, expressed himself much disappointed in Croghan and Montour, who proved, he said, to be great pretenders, and by vainly boasting of their interest with the Indians, involved the country in great calamity, causing dependence to be placed where there was none. [Footnote: Letter to W. Fairfax, Aug. 11th, 1754.] For, with all their boast, they never could induce above thirty fighting men to join the camp, and not more than half of those rendered any service.
As to the half-king, he expressed himself perfectly disgusted with the white man's mode of warfare. The French, he said, were cowards; the English, fools. Washington was a good man, but wanted experience: he would not take advice of the Indians and was always driving them to fight according to his own notions. For this reason he (the half-king) had carried off his wife and children to a place of safety.
After a time the chieftain fell dangerously ill, and a conjurer or "medicine man" was summoned to inquire into the cause or nature of his malady. He gave it as his opinion that the French had bewitched him, in revenge for the great blow he had struck them in the affair of Jumonville; for the Indians gave him the whole credit of that success, he having sent round the French scalps as trophies. In the opinion of the conjurer all the friends of the chieftain concurred, and on his death, which took place shortly afterwards, there was great lamentation, mingled with threats of immediate vengeance. The foregoing particulars are gathered from a letter written by John Harris, an Indian trader, to the Governor of Pennsylvania, at the request of the half-king's friend and fellow sachem, Monacatoocha, otherwise called Scarooyadi. "I humbly presume," concludes John Harris, "that his death is a very great loss, especially at this critical time." [Footnote: Pennsylvania Archives, vol. ii., p. 178.]
We have been thus particular in tracing the affair of the Great Meadows, step by step, guided by the statements of Washington himself and of one of his officers, present in the engagement, because it is another of the events in the early stage of his military career, before the justice and magnanimity of his character were sufficiently established which have been subject to misrepresentation. When the articles of capitulation came to be correctly translated and published, there were passages in them derogatory to the honor of Washington and his troops, and, which, it would seem, had purposely been inserted for their humiliation by the French commander; but which, they protested, had never been rightly translated by Van Braam. For instance, in the written articles, they were made to stipulate that for the space of a year, they would not work on any establishment beyond the mountains; whereas it had been translated by Van Braam "on any establishment on the lands of the King of France" which was quite another thing, as most of the land beyond the mountains was considered by them as belonging to the British crown. There were other points, of minor importance, relative to the disposition of the artillery; but the most startling and objectionable one was that concerning the previous skirmish in the Great Meadows. This was mentioned in the written articles as l'assassinat du Sieur de Jumonville, that is to say, the murder of De Jumonville; an expression from which Washington and his officers would have revolted with scorn and indignation; and which, if truly translated, would in all probability have caused the capitulation to be sent back instantly to the French commander. On the contrary, they declared it had been translated to them by Van Braam the death of De Jumonville.
M. de Villiers, in his account of this transaction to the French government, avails himself of these passages in the capitulation to cast a slur on the conduct of Washington. He says, "We made the English consent to sign that they had assassinated my brother in his camp."—"We caused them to abandon the lands belonging to the king.—We obliged them to leave their cannon, which consisted of nine pieces, &c." He further adds: "The English, struck with panic, took to flight, and left their flag and one of their colors." We have shown that the flag left was the unwieldy one belonging to the fort; too cumbrous to be transported by troops who could not carry their own necessary baggage. The regimental colors, as honorable symbols, were scrupulously carried off by Washington, and retained by him in after years.
M. de Villiers adds another incident intended to degrade his enemy. He says, "One of my Indians took ten Englishmen, whom he brought to me, and whom I sent back by another." These, doubtless, were the men detached by Washington in quest of the wounded loiterers; and who, understanding neither French nor Indian, found a difficulty in explaining their peaceful errand. That they were captured by the Indian seems too much of a gasconade.
The public opinion at the time was that Van Braam had been suborned by De Villiers to soften the offensive articles of the capitulation in translating them, so that they should not wound the pride nor awaken the scruples of Washington and his officers, yet should stand on record against them. It is not probable that a French officer of De Villiers' rank would practise such a base perfidy, nor does the subsequent treatment experienced by Van Braam from the French corroborate the charge. It is more than probable the inaccuracy of translation originated in his ignorance of the precise weight and value of words in the two languages, neither of which was native to him, and between which he was the blundering agent of exchange.
FOUNDING OF PORT CUMBERLAND—SECRET LETTER OF STOBO—THE INDIAN MESSENGER— PROJECT OF DINWIDDIE—HIS PERPLEXITIES—A TAINT OF REPUBLICANISM IN THE COLONIAL ASSEMBLIES—DINWIDDIE'S MILITARY MEASURES—WASHINGTON QUITS THE SERVICE—OVERTURES OF GOVERNOR SHARPE, OF MARYLAND—WASHINGTON'S DIGNIFIED REPLY—QUESTIONS OF RANK BETWEEN ROYAL AND PROVINCIAL TROOPS—TREATMENT OF THE FRENCH PRISONERS—FATE OF LA FORCE—ANECDOTES OF STOBO AND VAN BRAAM.
Early in August Washington rejoined his regiment, which had arrived at Alexandria by the way of Winchester. Letters from Governor Dinwiddie urged him to recruit it to the former number of three hundred men, and join Colonel Innes at Wills' Creek, where that officer was stationed with Mackay's independent company of South Carolinians, and two independent companies from New York; and had been employed in erecting a work to serve as a frontier post and rallying point; which work received the name of Fort Cumberland, in honor of the Duke of Cumberland, captain-general of the British army.
In the mean time the French, elated by their recent triumph, and thinking no danger at hand, relaxed their vigilance at Fort Duquesne. Stobo, who was a kind of prisoner at large there, found means to send a letter secretly by an Indian, dated July 28, and directed to the commander of the English troops. It was accompanied by a plan of the fort. "There are two hundred men here," writes he, "and two hundred expected; the rest have gone off in detachments to the amount of one thousand, besides Indians. None lodge in the fort but Contrecoeur and the guard, consisting of forty men and five officers; the rest lodge in bark cabins around the fort. The Indians have access day and night, and come and go when they please. If one hundred trusty Shawnees, Mingoes, and Delawares were picked out, they might surprise the fort, lodging themselves under the palisades by day, and at night secure the guard with their tomahawks, shut the sally-gate, and the fort is ours."
One part of Stobo's letter breathes a loyal and generous spirit of self-devotion. Alluding to the danger in which he and Van Braam, his fellow-hostage, might be involved, he says, "Consider the good of the expedition without regard to us. When we engaged to serve the country it was expected we were to do it with our lives. For my part, I would die a hundred deaths to have the pleasure of possessing this fort but one day. They are so vain of their success at the Meadows it is worse than death to hear them. Haste to strike." [Footnote: Hazard's Register of Penn., iv., 329.]
The Indian messenger carried the letter to Aughquick and delivered it into the hands of George Croghan. The Indian chiefs who were with him insisted upon his opening it. He did so, but on finding the tenor of it, transmitted it to the Governor of Pennsylvania. The secret information communicated by Stobo, may have been the cause of a project suddenly conceived by Governor Dinwiddie, of a detachment which, by a forced march across the mountains, might descend upon the French and take Fort Duquesne at a single blow; or, failing that, might build a rival fort in its vicinity. He accordingly wrote to Washington to march forthwith for Wills' Creek, with such companies as were complete, leaving orders with the officers to follow as soon as they should have enlisted men sufficient to make up their companies. "The season of the year," added he, "calls for despatch. I depend upon your usual diligence and spirit to encourage your people to be active on this occasion."
The ignorance of Dinwiddie in military affairs, and his want of forecast, led him perpetually into blunders. Washington saw the rashness of an attempt to dispossess the French with a force so inferior that it could be harassed and driven from place to place at their pleasure. Before the troops could be collected, and munitions of war provided, the season would be too far advanced. There would be no forage for the horses; the streams would be swollen and unfordable; the mountains rendered impassable by snow, and frost, and slippery roads. The men, too, unused to campaigning on the frontier, would not be able to endure a winter in the wilderness, with no better shelter than a tent; especially in their present condition, destitute of almost every thing. Such are a few of the cogent reasons urged by Washington in a letter to his friend William Fairfax, then in the House of Burgesses, which no doubt was shown to Governor Dinwiddie, and probably had an effect in causing the rash project to be abandoned.
The governor, in truth, was sorely perplexed about this time by contradictions and cross-purposes, both in military and civil affairs. A body of three hundred and fifty North Carolinian troops had been enlisted at high pay, and were to form the chief reinforcement of Colonel Innes at Wills' Creek. By the time they reached Winchester, however, the provincial military chest was exhausted, and future pay seemed uncertain; whereupon they refused to serve any longer, disbanded themselves tumultuously, and set off for their homes without taking leave.
The governor found the House of Burgesses equally unmanageable. His demands for supplies were resisted on what he considered presumptuous pretexts; or granted sparingly, under mortifying restrictions. His high Tory notions were outraged by such republican conduct. "There appears to me," said he, "an infatuation in all the assemblies in this part of the world." In a letter to the Board of Trade he declared that the only way effectually to check the progress of the French, would be an act of parliament requiring the colonies to contribute to the common cause, independently of assemblies; and in another, to the Secretary of State, he urged the policy of compelling the colonies to their duty to the king by a general poll-tax of two and sixpence a head. The worthy governor would have made a fitting counsellor for the Stuart dynasty. Subsequent events have shown how little his policy was suited to compete with the dawning republicanism of America.
In the month of October the House of Burgesses made a grant of twenty thousand pounds for the public service; and ten thousand more were sent out from England, beside a supply of firearms. The governor now applied himself to military matters with renewed spirit; increased the actual force to ten companies; and, as there had been difficulties among the different kinds of troops with regard to precedence, he reduced them all to independent companies; so that there would be no officer in a Virginia regiment above the rank of captain.
This shrewd measure, upon which Dinwiddie secretly prided himself as calculated to put an end to the difficulties in question, immediately drove Washington out of the service; considering it derogatory to his character to accept a lower commission than that under which his conduct had gained him a vote of thanks from the Legislature.
Governor Sharpe, of Maryland, appointed by the king commander-in-chief of all the forces engaged against the French, sought to secure his valuable services, and authorized Colonel Fitzhugh, whom he had placed in temporary command of the army, to write to him to that effect. The reply of Washington (15th Nov.) is full of dignity and spirit, and shows how deeply he felt his military degradation.
"You make mention," says he, "of my continuing in the service and retaining my colonel's commission. This idea has filled me with surprise; for if you think me capable of holding a commission that has neither rank nor emolument annexed to it, you must maintain a very contemptible opinion of my weakness, and believe me more empty than the commission itself." After intimating a suspicion that the project of reducing the regiment into independent companies, and thereby throwing out the higher officers, was "generated and hatched at Wills' Creek,"—in other words, was an expedient of Governor Dinwiddie, instead of being a peremptory order from England, he adds, "Ingenuous treatment and plain dealing I at least expected. It is to be hoped the project will answer; it shall meet with my acquiescence in every thing except personal services. I herewith inclose Governor Sharpe's letter, which I beg you will return to him with my acknowledgments for the favor he intended me. Assure him, sir, as you truly may, of my reluctance to quit the service, and the pleasure I should have received in attending his fortunes. Inform him, also, that it was to obey the call of honor and the advice of my friends that I declined it, and not to gratify any desire I had to leave the military line. My feelings are strongly bent to arms."
Even had Washington hesitated to take this step, it would have been forced upon him by a further regulation of government, in the course of the ensuing winter, settling the rank of officers of his majesty's forces when joined or serving with the provincial forces in North America, "which directed that all such as were commissioned by the king, or by his general commander-in-chief in North America, should take rank of all officers commissioned by the governors of the respective provinces. And further, that the general and field officers of the provincial troops should have no rank when serving with the general and field officers commissioned by the crown; but that all captains and other inferior officers of the royal troops should take rank over provincial officers of the same grade, having older commissions."
These regulations, originating in that supercilious assumption of superiority which sometimes overruns and degrades true British pride, would have been spurned by Washington, as insulting to the character and conduct of his high-minded brethren of the colonies. How much did this open disparagement of colonial honor and understanding, contribute to wean from England the affection of her American subjects, and prepare the way for their ultimate assertion of independence.
Another cause of vexation to Washington was the refusal of Governor Dinwiddie to give up the French prisoners, taken in the affair of De Jumonville, in fulfilment of the articles of capitulation. His plea was, that since the capitulation, the French had taken several British subjects, and sent them prisoners to Canada he considered himself justifiable in detaining those Frenchmen which he had in his custody. He sent a flag of truce, however, offering to return the officer Drouillon, and the two cadets, in exchange for Captains Stobo and Van Braam, whom the French held as hostages; but his offer was treated with merited disregard. Washington felt deeply mortified by this obtuseness of the governor on a point of military punctilio and honorable faith, but his remonstrances were unavailing.
The French prisoners were clothed and maintained at the public expense, and Drouillon and the cadets were allowed to go at large; the private soldiers were kept in confinement. La Force, also, not having acted in a military capacity, and having offended against the peace and security of the frontier, by his intrigues among the Indians, was kept in close durance. Washington, who knew nothing of this, was shocked on visiting Williamsburg, to learn that La Force was in prison. He expostulated with the governor on the subject, but without effect; Dinwiddie was at all times pertinacious, but particularly so when he felt himself to be a little in the wrong.
As we shall have no further occasion to mention La Force, in connection with the subject of this work, we will anticipate a page of his fortunes. After remaining two years in confinement he succeeded in breaking out of prison, and escaping into the country. An alarm was given, and circulated far and wide, for such was the opinion of his personal strength, desperate courage, wily cunning, and great influence over the Indians, that the most mischievous results were apprehended should he regain the frontier. In the mean time he was wandering about the country ignorant of the roads, and fearing to make inquiries, lest his foreign tongue should betray him. He reached King and Queen Court House, about thirty miles from Williamsburg, when a countryman was struck with his foreign air and aspect. La Force ventured to put a question as to the distance and direction of Fort Duquesne, and his broken English convinced the countryman of his being the French prisoner, whose escape had been noised about the country. Watching an opportunity he seized him, and regardless of offers of great bribes, conducted him back to the prison of Williamsburg, where he was secured with double irons, and chained to the floor of his dungeon.
The refusal of Governor Dinwiddie to fulfil the article of the capitulation respecting the prisoners, and the rigorous treatment of La Force, operated hardly upon the hostages, Stobo and Van Braam, who, in retaliation, were confined in prison in Quebec, though otherwise treated with kindness. They, also, by extraordinary efforts, succeeded in breaking prison, but found it more difficult to evade the sentries of a fortified place. Stobo managed to escape into the country; but the luckless Van Braam sought concealment under an arch of a causeway leading from the fortress. Here he remained until nearly exhausted by hunger. Seeing the Governor of Canada passing by, and despairing of being able to effect his escape, he came forth from his hiding place, and surrendered himself, invoking his clemency. He was remanded to prison, but experienced no additional severity. He was subsequently shipped by the governor from Quebec to England, and never returned to Virginia. It is this treatment of Van Braam, more than any thing else, which convinces us that the suspicion of his being in collusion with the French in regard to the misinterpretation of the articles of capitulation, was groundless. He was simply a blunderer.
RETURN TO QUIET LIFE—FRENCH AND ENGLISH PREPARE FOR HOSTILITIES—PLAN OF A CAMPAIGN—GENERAL BRADDOCK—HIS CHARACTER—SIR JOHN ST. CLAIR, QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL—HIS TOUR OF INSPECTION—PROJECTED ROADS—ARRIVAL OF BRADDOCK—MILITARY CONSULTATIONS AND PLANS—COMMODORE KEPPEL AND HIS SEAMEN—SHIPS AND TROOPS AT ALEXANDRIA—EXCITEMENT OF WASHINGTON—INVITED TO JOIN THE STAFF OF BRADDOCK—A MOTHER'S OBJECTIONS—WASHINGTON AT ALEXANDRIA—GRAND COUNCIL OF GOVERNORS—MILITARY ARRANGEMENTS—COLONEL WILLIAM JOHNSON—SIR JOHN ST. CLAIR AT FORT CUMBERLAND—HIS EXPLOSIONS OF WRATH—THEIR EFFECTS—INDIANS TO BE ENLISTED—CAPTAIN JACK AND HIS BAND OF BUSH-BEATERS.
Having resigned his commission, and disengaged himself from public affairs, Washington's first care was to visit his mother, inquire into the state of domestic concerns, and attend to the welfare of his brothers and sisters. In these matters he was ever his mother's adjunct and counsellor, discharging faithfully the duties of an eldest son, who should consider himself a second father to the family.
He now took up his abode at Mount Vernon, and prepared to engage in those agricultural pursuits, for which, even in his youthful days, he had as keen a relish as for the profession of arms. Scarcely had he entered upon his rural occupations, however, when the service of his country once more called him to the field.
The disastrous affair at the Great Meadows, and the other acts of French hostility on the Ohio, had roused the attention of the British ministry. Their ambassador at Paris was instructed to complain of those violations of the peace. The court of Versailles amused him with general assurances of amity, and a strict adherence to treaties. Their ambassador at the court of St. James, the Marquis de Mirepoix, on the faith of his instructions, gave the same assurances. In the mean time, however, French ships were fitted out, and troops embarked, to carry out the schemes of the government in America. So profound was the dissimulation of the court of Versailles, that even their own ambassador is said to have been kept in ignorance of their real designs, and of the hostile game they were playing, while he was exerting himself in good faith, to lull the suspicions of England, and maintain the international peace. When his eyes, however, were opened, he returned indignantly to France, and upbraided the cabinet with the duplicity of which he had been made the unconscious instrument.
The British government now prepared for military operations in America; none of them professedly aggressive, but rather to resist and counteract aggressions. A plan of campaign was devised for 1755, having four objects.
To eject the French from lands which they held unjustly, in the province of Nova Scotia.
To dislodge them from a fortress which they had erected at Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, within what was claimed as British territory.
To dispossess them of the fort which they had constructed at Niagara, between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
To drive them from the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and recover the valley of the Ohio.
The Duke of Cumberland, captain-general of the British army, had the organization of this campaign; and through his patronage, Major-general Edward Braddock was intrusted with the execution of it, being appointed generalissimo of all the forces in the colonies.
Braddock was a veteran in service, and had been upwards of forty years in the guards, that school of exact discipline and technical punctilio. Cumberland, who held a commission in the guards, and was bigoted to its routine, may have considered Braddock fitted, by his skill and preciseness as a tactician, for a command in a new country, inexperienced in military science, to bring its raw levies into order, and to settle those questions of rank and etiquette apt to arise where regular and provincial troops are to act together.
The result proved the error of such an opinion. Braddock was a brave and experienced officer but his experience was that of routine, and rendered him pragmatical and obstinate, impatient of novel expedients "not laid down in the books," but dictated by emergencies in a "new country," and his military precision, which would have been brilliant on parade, was a constant obstacle to alert action in the wilderness. [Footnote: Horace Walpole, in his letters, relates some anecdotes of Braddock, which give a familiar picture of him in the fashionable life in which he had mingled in London, and are of value, as letting us into the private character of a man whose name has become proverbial in American history. "Braddock," says Walpole, "is a very Iroquois in disposition. He had a sister, who, having gamed away all her little fortune at Bath, hanged herself with a truly English deliberation, leaving a note on the table with these lines: 'To die is landing on some silent shore,' &c. When Braddock was told of it, he only said: 'Poor Fanny! I always thought she would play till she would be forced to tuck herself up.'"
Braddock himself had been somewhat of a spendthrift. He was touchy also, and punctilious. "He once had a duel," says Walpole, "with Colonel Glumley, Lady Bath's brother, who had been his great friend. As they were going to engage, Glumley, who had good humor and wit (Braddock had the latter) said: 'Braddock, you are a poor dog! here, take my purse, if you kill me you will be forced to run away, and then you will not have a shilling to support you.' Braddock refused the purse, insisted on the duel, was disarmed, and would not even ask for his life."]
Braddock was to lead in person the grand enterprise of the campaign, that destined for the frontiers of Virginia and Pennsylvania; it was the enterprise in which Washington became enlisted, and, therefore, claims our especial attention.
Prior to the arrival of Braddock, came out from England Lieutenant-colonel Sir John St. Clair, deputy quartermaster-general, eager to make himself acquainted with the field of operations. He made a tour of inspection, in company with Governor Sharpe, of Maryland, and appears to have been dismayed at sight of the impracticable wilderness, the region of Washington's campaign. From Fort Cumberland, he wrote in February to Governor Morris, of Pennsylvania, to have the road cut, or repaired, toward the head of the river Youghiogeny, and another opened from Philadelphia for the transportation of supplies. "No general," writes he, "will advance with an army without having a communication open to the provinces in his rear, both for the security of retreat, and to facilitate the transport of provisions, the supplying of which must greatly depend on your province." [Footnote: Colonial Records, vi., 300.]
Unfortunately the governor of Pennsylvania had no money at his command, and was obliged, for expenses, to apply to his Assembly, "a set of men," writes he, "quite unacquainted with every kind of military service, and exceedingly unwilling to part with money on any terms." However, by dint of exertions, he procured the appointment of commissioners to explore the country, and survey and lay out the roads required. At the head of the commission was George Croghan, the Indian trader, whose mission to the Twightwees we have already spoken of. Times had gone hard with Croghan. The French had seized great quantities of his goods. The Indians, with whom he traded, had failed to pay their debts, and he had become a bankrupt. Being an efficient agent on the frontier, and among the Indians, he still enjoyed the patronage of the Pennsylvania government.
When Sir John St. Clair had finished his tour of inspection, he descended Wills' Creek and the Potomac for two hundred miles in a canoe to Alexandria, and repaired to Virginia to meet General Braddock. The latter had landed on the 20th of February at Hampton, in Virginia, and proceeded to Williamsburg to consult with Governor Dinwiddie. Shortly afterwards he was joined there by Commodore Keppel, whose squadron of two ships-of-war, and several transports, had anchored in the Chesapeake. On board of these ships were two prime regiments of about five hundred men each; one commanded by Sir Peter Halket, the other by Colonel Dunbar; together with a train of artillery, and the necessary munitions of war. The regiments were to be augmented to seven hundred men, each by men selected by Sir John St. Clair from Virginia companies recently raised.
Alexandria was fixed upon as the place where the troops should disembark, and encamp. The ships were accordingly ordered up to that place, and the levies directed to repair thither.
The plan of the campaign included the use of Indian allies. Governor Dinwiddie had already sent Christopher Gist, the pioneer, Washington's guide in 1753, to engage the Cherokees and Catawbas, the bravest of the Southern tribes, who he had no doubt would take up the hatchet for the English, peace being first concluded, through the mediation of his government, between them and the Six Nations; and he gave Braddock reason to expect at least four hundred Indians to join him at Port Cumberland. He laid before him also contracts that he had made for cattle, and promises that the Assembly of Pennsylvania had made of flour; these, with other supplies, and a thousand barrels of beef on board of the transports, would furnish six months' provisions for four thousand men.
General Braddock apprehended difficulty in procuring wagons and horses sufficient to attend him in his march. Sir John St. Clair, in the course of his tour of inspection, had met with two Dutch settlers, at the foot of the Blue Ridge, who engaged to furnish two hundred waggons, and fifteen hundred carrying-horses, to be at Fort Cumberland early in May.
Governor Sharpe was to furnish above a hundred waggons for the transportation of stores, on the Maryland side of the Potomac.
Keppel furnished four cannons from his ships, for the attack on Fort Duquesne, and thirty picked seamen to assist in dragging them over the mountains; for "soldiers," said he, "cannot be as well acquainted with the nature of purchases, and making use of tackles, as seamen," They were to aid also in passing the troops and artillery on floats or in boats, across the rivers, and were under the command of a midshipman and lieutenant. [Footnote: Keppel's Life of Keppel, p. 205.]
"Every thing," writes Captain Robert Orme, one of the general's aides-de-camp, "seemed to promise so far the greatest success. The transports were all arrived safe, and the men in health. Provisions, Indians, carriages, and horses, were already provided; at least were to be esteemed so, considering the authorities on which they were promised to the general."
Trusting to these arrangements, Braddock proceeded to Alexandria. The troops had all been disembarked before his arrival, and the Virginia levies selected by Sir John St. Clair, to join the regiments of regulars, were arrived. There were beside two companies of hatchet men, or carpenters; six of rangers; and one troop of light horse. The levies, having been clothed, were ordered to march immediately for Winchester, to be armed, and the general gave them in charge of an ensign of the 44th, "to make them as like soldiers as possible." [Footnote: Orme's Journal.] The light horse were retained by the general as his escort and body guard.
The din and stir of warlike preparation disturbed the quiet of Mount Vernon. Washington looked down from his rural retreat upon the ships of war and transports, as they passed up the Potomac, with the array of arms gleaming along their decks. The booming of cannon echoed among his groves. Alexandria was but a few miles distant. Occasionally he mounted his horse, and rode to that place; it was like a garrisoned town, teeming with troops, and resounding with the drum and fife. A brilliant campaign was about to open under the auspices of an experienced general, and with all the means and appurtenances of European warfare. How different from the starveling expeditions he had hitherto been doomed to conduct! What an opportunity to efface the memory of his recent disaster! All his thoughts of rural life were put to flight. The military part of his character was again in the ascendant; his great desire was to join the expedition as a volunteer.
It was reported to General Braddock. The latter was apprised by Governor Dinwiddie and others, of Washington's personal merits, his knowledge of the country, and his experience in frontier service. The consequence was, a letter from Captain Robert Orme, one of Braddock's aides-de-camp, written by the general's order, inviting Washington to join his staff; the letter concluded with frank and cordial expressions of esteem on the part of Orme, which were warmly reciprocated, and laid the foundation of a soldierlike friendship between them.
A volunteer situation on the staff of General Braddock offered no emolument nor command, and would be attended with considerable expense, beside a sacrifice of his private interests, having no person in whom he had confidence, to take charge of his affairs in his absence; still he did not hesitate a moment to accept the invitation. In the position offered to him, all the questions of military rank which had hitherto annoyed him, would be obviated. He could indulge his passion for arms without any sacrifice of dignity, and he looked forward with high anticipation to an opportunity of acquiring military experience in a corps well organized, and thoroughly disciplined, and in the family of a commander of acknowledged skill as a tactician.
His mother heard with concern of another projected expedition into the wilderness. Hurrying to Mount Vernon, she entreated him not again to expose himself to the hardships and perils of these frontier campaigns. She doubtless felt the value of his presence at home, to manage and protect the complicated interests of the domestic connection, and had watched with solicitude over his adventurous campaigning, where so much family welfare was at hazard. However much a mother's pride may have been gratified by his early advancement and renown, she had rejoiced on his return to the safer walks of peaceful life. She was thoroughly practical and prosaic in her notions; and not to be dazzled by military glory. The passion for arms which mingled with the more sober elements of Washington's character, would seem to have been inherited from his father's side of the house; it was, in fact, the old chivalrous spirit of the De Wessyngtons.
His mother had once prevented him from entering the navy, when a gallant frigate was at hand, anchored in the waters of the Potomac; with all his deference for her, which he retained through life, he could not resist the appeal to his martial sympathies, which called him to the head-quarters of General Braddock at Alexandria.
His arrival was hailed by his young associates, Captains Orme and Morris, the general's aides-de-camp, who at once received him into frank companionship, and a cordial intimacy commenced between them, that continued throughout the campaign.
He experienced a courteous reception from the general, who expressed in flattering terms the impression he had received of his merits. Washington soon appreciated the character of the general. He found him stately and somewhat haughty, exact in matters of military etiquette and discipline, positive in giving an opinion, and obstinate in maintaining it; but of an honorable and generous, though somewhat irritable nature.
There were at that time four governors, beside Dinwiddie, assembled at Alexandria, at Braddock's request, to concert a plan of military operations; Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts; Lieutenant-governor Delancey, of New York; Lieutenant-governor Sharpe, of Maryland; Lieutenant-governor Morris, of Pennsylvania. Washington was presented to them in a manner that showed how well his merits were already appreciated. Shirley seems particularly to have struck him as the model of a gentleman and statesman. He was originally a lawyer, and had risen not more by his talents, than by his implicit devotion to the crown. His son William was military secretary to Braddock.
A grand council was held on the 14th of April, composed of General Braddock, Commodore Keppel, and the governors, at which the general's commission was read, as were his instructions from the king, relating to a common fund, to be established by the several colonies, toward defraying the expenses of the campaign.
The governors were prepared to answer on this head, letters to the same purport having been addressed to them by Sir Thomas Robinson, one of the king's secretaries of state, in the preceding month of October. They informed Braddock that they had applied to their respective Assemblies for the establishment of such a fund, but in vain, and gave it as their unanimous opinion, that such a fund could never be established in the colonies without the aid of Parliament. They had found it impracticable, also, to obtain from their respective governments the proportions expected from them by the crown, toward military expenses in America; and suggested that ministers should find out some mode of compelling them to do it; and that, in the mean time, the general should make use of his credit upon government, for current expenses, lest the expedition should come to a stand. [Footnote: Colonial Records, vol vi., p. 366.]
In discussing the campaign, the governors were of opinion that New York should be made the centre of operations, as it afforded easy access by water to the heart of the French possessions in Canada. Braddock, however, did not feel at liberty to depart from his instructions, which specified the recent establishments of the French on the Ohio as the objects of his expedition.
Niagara and Crown Point were to be attacked about the same time with Fort Duquesne, the former by Governor Shirley, with his own and Sir William Pepperell's regiments, and some New York companies; the latter by Colonel William Johnson, sole manager and director of Indian affairs; a personage worthy of especial note.
He was a native of Ireland, and had come out to this country in 1734, to manage the landed estates owned by his uncle, Commodore Sir Peter Warren, in the Mohawk country. He had resided ever since in the vicinity of the Mohawk River, in the province of New York. By his agency, and his dealings with the native tribes, he had acquired great wealth, and become a kind of potentate in the Indian country. His influence over the Six Nations was said to be unbounded; and it was principally with the aid of a large force of their warriors that it was expected he would accomplish his part of the campaign. The end of June, "nearly in July," was fixed upon as the time when the several attacks upon Forts Duquesne, Niagara, and Crown Point, should be carried into execution, and Braddock anticipated an easy accomplishment of his plans.
The expulsion of the French from the lands wrongfully held by them in Nova Scotia, was to be assigned to Colonel Lawrence, Lieutenant-governor of that province; we will briefly add, in anticipation, that it was effected by him, with the aid of troops from Massachusetts and elsewhere, led by Lieutenant-colonel Monckton.
The business of the Congress being finished, General Braddock would have set out for Fredericktown, in Maryland, but few waggons or teams had yet come to remove the artillery. Washington had looked with wonder and dismay at the huge paraphernalia of war, and the world of superfluities to be transported across the mountains, recollecting the difficulties he had experienced in getting over them with his nine swivels and scanty supplies. "If our march is to be regulated by the slow movements of the train," said he, "it will be tedious, very tedious, indeed." His predictions excited a sarcastic smile in Braddock, as betraying the limited notions of a young provincial officer, little acquainted with the march of armies.
In the mean while, Sir John St. Clair, who had returned to the frontier, was storming at the camp at Fort Cumberland. The road required of the Pennsylvania government had not been commenced. George Croghan and the other commissioners were but just arrived in camp. Sir John, according to Croghan, received them in a very disagreeable manner; would not look at their draughts, nor suffer any representations to be made to him in regard to the province, "but stormed like a lion rampant;" declaring that the want of the road and of the provisions promised by Pennsylvania had retarded the expedition, and might cost them, their lives from the fresh numbers of French that might be poured into the country.—"That instead of marching to the Ohio, he would in nine days march his army into Cumberland County to cut the roads, press horses, waggons, &c.—That he would not suffer a soldier to handle an axe, but by fire and sword oblige the inhabitants to do it. ... That he would kill all kinds of cattle, and carry away the horses, burn the houses, &c.; and that if the French defeated them, by the delays of Pennsylvania, he would, with his sword drawn, pass through the province and treat the inhabitants as a parcel of traitors to his master. That he would write to England by a man-of-war; shake Mr. Penn's proprietaryship, and represent Pennsylvania as a disaffected province. ... He told us to go to the general, if we pleased, who would give us ten bad words for one that he had given."
The explosive wrath of Sir John, which was not to be appeased, shook the souls of the commissioners, and they wrote to Governor Morris, urging that people might be set at work upon the road, if the Assembly had made provision for opening it; and that flour might be sent without delay to the mouth of Canococheague River, "as being the only remedy left to prevent these threatened mischiefs." [Footnote: Colonial Records, vol. vi., p. 368.]
In reply, Mr. Richard Peters, Governor Morris's secretary, wrote in his name: "Get a number of hands immediately, and further the work by all possible methods. Your expenses will be paid at the next sitting of Assembly. Do your duty, and oblige the general and quartermaster if possible. Finish the road that will be wanted first, and then proceed to any other that may be thought necessary."
An additional commission, of a different kind, was intrusted to George Croghan. Governor Morris by letter requested him to convene at Aughquick, in Pennsylvania, as many warriors as possible of the mixed tribes of the Ohio, distribute among them wampum belts sent for the purpose, and engage them to meet General Braddock when on the march, and render him all the assistance in their power.
In reply, Croghan engaged to enlist a strong body of Indians, being sure of the influence of Scarooyadi, successor to the half-king, and of his adjunct, White Thunder, keeper of the speech-belts. [Footnote: Colonial Records, vol. vi., p, 375.] At the instance of Governor Morris, Croghan secured the services of another kind of force. This was a band of hunters, resolute men, well acquainted with the country, and inured to hardships. They were under the command of Captain Jack, one of the most remarkable characters of Pennsylvania; a complete hero of the wilderness. He had been for many years a captive among the Indians; and, having learnt their ways, had formed this association for the protection of the settlements, receiving a commission of captain from the Governor of Pennsylvania. The band had become famous for its exploits, and was a terror to the Indians. Captain Jack was at present protecting the settlements on the Canococheague; but promised to march by a circuitous route and join Braddock with his hunters. "They require no shelter for the night," writes Croghan; "they ask no pay. If the whole army was composed of such men there would be no cause of apprehension. I shall be with them in time for duty." [Footnote: Hazard's Register of Penn., vol. iv., p. 416.]
The following extract of a letter, dated August, 1750, gives one of the stories relative to this individual:
"The 'Black Hunter,' the 'Black Rifle,' the 'Wild Hunter of Juniata,' is a white man; his history is this: He entered the woods with a few enterprising companions; built his cabin; cleared a little land, and amused himself with the pleasures of fishing and hunting. He felt happy, for then he had not a care. But on an evening, when he returned from a day of sport, he found his cabin burnt, his wife and children murdered. From that moment he forsakes civilized man; hunts out caves, in which he lives; protects the frontier inhabitants from the Indians; and seizes every opportunity of revenge that offers. He lives the terror of the Indians and the consolation of the whites. On one occasion, near Juniata, in the middle of a dark night, a family were suddenly awaked from sleep by the report of a gun; they jump from their huts, and by the glimmering light from the chimney saw an Indian fall to rise no more. The open door exposed to view the wild hunter. 'I have saved your lives,' he cried, then turned and was buried in the gloom of night."—Hazard's Register of Penn., vol. iv., 389.
WASHINGTON PROCLAIMED AIDE-DE-CAMP—DISAPPOINTMENTS AT FREDERICKTOWN— BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND BRADDOCK—CONTRACTS—DEPARTURE FOR WILLS' CREEK— ROUGH ROADS—THE GENERAL IN HIS CHARIOT—CAMP AT FORT CUMBERLAND—HUGH MERCER—DR. CRAIK—MILITARY TACTICS—CAMP RULES—SECRETARY PETERS—INDIANS IN CAMP—INDIAN BEAUTIES—THE PRINCESS BRIGHT LIGHTNING—ERRAND TO WILLIAMSBURG—BRADDOCK'S OPINION OF CONTRACTORS AND INDIANS—ARRIVAL OF CONVEYANCES.
General Braddock set out from Alexandria on the 20th of April. Washington remained behind a few days to arrange his affairs, and then rejoined him at Fredericktown, in Maryland, where, on the 10th of May, he was proclaimed one of the general's aides-de-camp. The troubles of Braddock had already commenced. The Virginian contractors failed to fulfil their engagements; of all the immense means of transportation so confidently promised, but fifteen waggons and a hundred draft-horses had arrived, and there was no prospect of more. There was equal disappointment in provisions, both as to quantity and quality; and he had to send round the country to buy cattle for the subsistence of the troops.
Fortunately, while the general was venting his spleen in anathemas against army contractors, Benjamin Franklin arrived at Fredericktown. That eminent man, then about forty-nine years of age, had been for many years member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, and was now postmaster-general for America. The Assembly understood that Braddock was incensed against them, supposing them adverse to the service of the war. They had procured Franklin to wait upon him, not as if sent by them, but as if he came in his capacity of postmaster-general, to arrange for the sure and speedy transmission of despatches between the commander-in-chief and the governors of the provinces.
He was well received, and became a daily guest at the general's table. In his autobiography, he gives us an instance of the blind confidence and fatal prejudices by which Braddock was deluded throughout this expedition. "In conversation with him one day," writes Franklin, "he was giving me some account of his intended progress. 'After taking Fort Duquesne,' said he, 'I am to proceed to Niagara; and, having taken that, to Frontenac, if the season will allow time; and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or four days: and then I can see nothing that can obstruct my march to Niagara.'
"Having before revolved in my mind," continues Franklin, "the long line his army must make in their march by a very narrow road, to be cut for them through the woods and bushes, and also what I had heard of a former defeat of fifteen hundred French, who invaded the Illinois country, I had conceived some doubts and some fears for the event of the campaign; but I ventured only to say, 'To be sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne with these fine troops, so well provided with artillery, the fort, though completely fortified, and assisted with a very strong garrison, can probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I apprehend of obstruction to your march, is from the ambuscades of the Indians, who, by constant practice, are dexterous in laying and executing them; and the slender line, nearly four miles long, which your army must make, may expose it to be attacked by surprise on its flanks, and to be cut like thread into several pieces, which, from their distance, cannot come up in time to support one another.'
"He smiled at my ignorance, and replied: 'These savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to raw American militia, but upon the king's regular and disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible they should make an impression.' I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in matters of his profession, and said no more." [Footnote: Autobiography of Franklin. Sparks' Edition, p. 190.]
As the whole delay of the army was caused by the want of conveyances, Franklin observed one day to the general that it was a pity the troops had not been landed in Pennsylvania, where almost every farmer had his waggon. "Then, sir," replied Braddock, "you who are a man of interest there can probably procure them for me, and I beg you will." Franklin consented. An instrument in writing was drawn up, empowering him to contract for one hundred and fifty waggons, with four horses to each waggon, and fifteen hundred saddle or packhorses for the service of his majesty's forces, to be at Wills' Creek on or before the 20th of May, and he promptly departed for Lancaster to execute the commission.
After his departure, Braddock, attended by his staff, and his guard of light horse, set off for Wills' Creek by the way of Winchester, the road along the north side of the Potomac not being yet made. "This gave him," writes Washington, "a good opportunity to see the absurdity of the route, and of damning it very heartily." [Footnote: Draft of a letter, among Washington's papers, addressed to Major John Carlyle.]
Three of Washington's horses were knocked up before they reached Winchester, and he had to purchase others. This was a severe drain of his campaigning purse; fortunately he was in the neighborhood of Greenway Court, and was enabled to replenish it by a loan from his old friend Lord Fairfax.
The discomforts of the rough road were increased with the general, by his travelling with some degree of state in a chariot which he had purchased of Governor Sharpe. In this he dashed by Dunbar's division of the troops, which he overtook near Wills' Creek; his body guard of light horse galloping on each side of his chariot, and his staff accompanying him; the drums beating the Grenadier's march as he passed. In this style, too, he arrived at Fort Cumberland, amid a thundering salute of seventeen guns. [Footnote: Journal of the Seamen's detachment.]
By this time the general discovered that he was not in a region fitted for such display, and his travelling chariot was abandoned at Fort Cumberland; otherwise it would soon have become a wreck among the mountains beyond.
By the 19th of May, the forces were assembled at Fort Cumberland. The two royal regiments, originally one thousand strong, now increased to fourteen hundred, by men chosen from the Maryland and Virginia levies. Two provincial companies of carpenters, or pioneers, thirty men each, with subalterns and captains. A company of guides, composed of a captain, two aids, and ten men. The troop of Virginia light horse, commanded by Captain Stewart; the detachment of thirty sailors with their officers, and the remnants of two independent companies from New York, one of which was commanded by Captain Horatio Gates, of whom, we shall have to speak much hereafter, in the course of this biography.
Another person in camp, of subsequent notoriety, and who became a warm friend of Washington, was Dr. Hugh Mercer, a Scotchman, about thirty-three years of age. About ten years previously he had served as assistant surgeon in the forces of Charles Edward, and followed his standard to the disastrous field of Culloden. After the defeat of the "chevalier," Mercer had escaped by the way of Inverness to America, and taken up his residence in Virginia. He was now with the Virginia troops, rallying under the standard of the House of Hanover, in an expedition led by a general who had aided to drive the chevalier from Scotland. [Footnote: Braddock had been an officer under the Duke of Cumberland, in his campaign against Charles Edward.]
Another young Scotchman in the camp was Dr. James Craik, who had become strongly attached to Washington, being about the same age, and having been with him in the affair of the Great Meadows, serving as surgeon in the Virginia regiment, to which he still belonged.
At Fort Cumberland, Washington had an opportunity of seeing a force encamped according to the plan approved of by the council of war; and military tactics, enforced with all the precision of a martinet.
The roll of each company was called over morning, noon, and night. There was strict examination of arms and accoutrements; the commanding officer of each company being answerable for their being kept in good order.
The general was very particular in regard to the appearance and drill of the Virginia recruits and companies, whom he had put under the rigorous discipline of Ensign Allen. "They performed their evolutions and firings, as well as could be expected," writes Captain Orme, "but their languid, spiritless, and unsoldier-like appearance, considered with the lowness and ignorance of most of their officers, gave little hopes of their future good behavior." [Footnote: Orme's Journal.] He doubtless echoed the opinion of the general; how completely were both to be undeceived as to their estimate of these troops!
The general held a levee in his tent every morning, from ten to eleven. He was strict as to the morals of the camp. Drunkenness was severely punished. A soldier convicted of theft was sentenced to receive one thousand lashes, and to be drummed out of his regiment. Part of the first part of the sentence was remitted. Divine service was performed every Sunday, at the head of the colors of each regiment, by the chaplain. There was the funeral of a captain who died at this encampment. A captain's guard marched before the corpse, the captain of it in the rear, the firelocks reversed, the drums beating the dead march. When near the grave, the guard formed two lines, facing each other; rested on their arms, muzzles downwards, and leaned their faces on the butts. The corpse was carried between them, the sword and sash on the coffin, and the officers following two and two. After the chaplain of the regiment had read the service, the guard fired three volleys over the grave, and returned. [Footnote: Orme's Journal. Journal of the Seamen's detachment.]
Braddock's camp, in a word, was a complete study for Washington, during the halt at Fort Cumberland, where he had an opportunity of seeing military routine in its strictest forms. He had a specimen, too, of convivial life in the camp, which the general endeavored to maintain, even in the wilderness, keeping a hospitable table; for he is said to have been somewhat of a bon vivant, and to have had with him "two good cooks, who could make an excellent ragout out of a pair of boots, had they but materials to toss them up with." [Footnote: Preface to Winthrop Sargent's Introductory Memoir.]
There was great detention at the fort, caused by the want of forage and supplies, the road not having been finished from Philadelphia. Mr. Richard Peters, the secretary of Governor Morris, was in camp, to attend to the matter. He had to bear the brunt of Braddock's complaints. The general declared he would not stir from Wills' Creek until he had the governor's assurance that the road would be opened in time. Mr. Peters requested guards to protect the men while at work, from attacks by the Indians. Braddock swore he would not furnish guards for the woodcutters,—"let Pennsylvania do it!" He scoffed at the talk about danger from Indians. Peters endeavored to make him sensible of the peril which threatened him in this respect. Should an army of them, led by French officers, beset him in his march, he would not be able, with all his strength and military skill, to reach Fort Duquesne without a body of rangers, as well on foot as horseback. The general, however, "despised his observations." [Footnote: Colonial Records, vi. 396.] Still, guards had ultimately to be provided, or the work on the road would have been abandoned.