« PreviousContinue »
65 Washington (to whom the term wus falsely translated,) it was naturally regarded as an acknowledgment by him of the improper character of the attack of May 28th. Mr. Sparks, in his appendix to Washington's papers, vol. ii. pp. 447, 459, has discussed this matter at length, and fully answered the aspersions of the European writers; to his work we refer our readers.
From the last of May until the 1st of July, preparations were made to meet the French who were understood to be gathering their forces in the West. On the 28th of June, Washington was at Gist's house, and new reports coming in that the enemy was approaching in force, a council of war was held, and it was thought best, in consequence of the scarcity of provisions, to retreat to Great Meadows, and even farther if possible. When, however, the retiring body of Provincials reached that post, it was deemed impossible to go farther in the exhausted state of the troops, who had been eight days without bread. Measures were therefore taken to strengthen the fort, which, from the circumstances, was named Fort Necessity. On the 1st of July, the Americans reached their position; on the 3d the alarm was given of an approaching enemy; at eleven o'clock, A. M., nine hundred in number, they commenced the attack in the midst of a hard rain; and from that time till eight in the evening, the assailants ceased not to pour their fire upon the little fortress. About eight the French requested some officer to be sent to treat with them; Captain Vanbraam, the only person who pretended to understand the language of the enemy, was ordered to go to the camp of the attacking party, whence he returned bringing terms of capitulation, which, by a flickering candle, in the dripping quarters of his commander, he translated to Washington, and as it proved, from intention or ignorance, mistranslated. By this capitulation the garrison of Fort Necessity were to have leave to retire with everything but their artillery; the prisoners taken May 28th were to be returned; and the party yielding were to labor on no works west of the Mountains for one year: for the observance of these conditions Captain Vanbraam, the negotiator, and Captain Stobo, were to be retained by the French as sureties.* The above provisions having been agreed to, Washington and his men, hard pressed by famine, hastened to the nearest depot which was at Will's Creek. At this point, immediately afterwards, Fort
This fact would seem to show that Vanbraam's mistranslation must have been from ignorance or accident.
Washington retires to Mount Vernon.
Cumberland was erected under the charge of Colonel Innes, of North Carolina, who, since the death of Colonel Fry, had been Commander-in-Chief. At that time there were in service, 1st, the Virginia militia; 2d, the Independent Companies of Virginia, South Carolina, and New York, all of whom were paid by the King; 3d, troops raised in North Carolina and paid by the Colony; and, 4th, recruits from Maryland; of these the Virginia and South Carolina troops alone had been beyond the mountains.
From August to October little appears to have been done, but in the latter month the Governor of Virginia, (Dinwiddie,) so changed the military organization of the Colony, as to leave no one in the army with a rank above that of Captain; this was done in order to avoid all contests as to precedence among the American officers, it being clear that troops from various Provinces would have to be called into the field, and that the different Commissions from the Crown, and the Colonies, would give large openings for rivalry and conflict; but among the results of the measure was the resignation of Washington, who for a time, retired to Mount Vernon.*
It was now the fall of 1754. In Pennsylvania, Morris, who had succeeded Hamilton, was busily occupied with making speeches to the Assembly and listening to their stubborn replies; † while in the north the Kennebec was fortified, and a plan talked over for attacking Crown Point on Lake Champlain the next spring;+ and in the south things went on much as if there were no war coming. All the colonies united in one thing, however, in calling loudly on the mother country for help. During this same autumn the pleasant Frenchmen were securing the West, step by step; settling the valley of the Wabash, gallanting with the Delawares, and coquetting with the Iroquois, who still balanced between them and the English. The forests of the Ohio shed their leaves, and the prairies filled the sky with the smoke of their burning; and along the great rivers, and on the lakes, and amid the pathless woods of the West, no European was seen, whose tongue spoke other language than that of France. So closed 1754.
The next year opened with professions, on both sides, of the most peaceful intentions, and preparations on both sides to push
Sparks' Washington, ii. 64, 67, and generally, the whole volume, as to this war. + Sparks' Franklin, vol. iii. p. 282.
Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. vii. p. 88.
67 the war vigorously. France, in January, proposed to restore every thing to the state it was in before the last war, and to refer all claims to commissioners at Paris; to which Britain, upon the 22d, replied that, the west of North America must be left as it was at the treaty of Utrecht. On the 6th of February, France made answer, that the old English claims in America were untenable; and offered a new ground of compromise, namely, that the English should retire east of the Alleghanies, and the French west of the Ohio. This offer was long considered, and at length was agreed to by England on the 7th of March, provided the French would destroy all their forts on the Ohio and its branches; to which, after twenty days had passed, France said, “No."* While all this negotiation was going on, other things also had been in motion. General Braddock, with his gallant troops, had crossed the Atlantic, and, upon the 20th of February, had landed in Virginia, commander-in-chief of all the land forces in America; and in the north all this while there was whispering of, and enlisting for, the proposed attack on C.own Point; and even Niagara, far off by the Falls, was to be taken, in case nothing prevented. In France, too, other work had been done than negotiation; for at Brest and Rochelle ships were fitting out, and troops gathering, and stores crowding in. Even old England herself had not been all asleep, and Boscawen had been busy at Plymouth, hurrying on the slow workmen, and gathering the unready sailors. In March the two European neighbors were smiling and doing their best to quiet all troubles; in April they still smiled, but the fleets of both were crowding sail across the Atlantic; and, in Alexandria, Braddock, Shirley, and their fellow officers were taking counsel as to the summer's campaign.
In America four points were to be attacked; Fort Du Quesne, Crown Point, Niagara, and the French posts in Nova Scotia. On the 20th of April, Braddock left Alexandria to march upon Du Quesne, whither he was expressly ordered, though the officers in America looked upon it as a mistaken movement, as they thought New York should be the main point for regular operations. The expedition for Nova Scotia, consisting of three thousand Massachusetts men, left Boston on the 20th of May; while the troops which General Shirley was to lead against Niagara, and the
* Plain Facts, pp. 51, 52.-Secret Journals, vol. iv. p. 74.
+ Sparks' Washington, vol. ii. p. 68.- Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. vii. p. 89.-Smollett. George II. chapter x.
68 Braddock's Defeat.
1755. provincials which William Johnson was to head in the attack upon Crown Point, slowly collected at Albany.
May and June passed away, and mid-summer drew nigh. The fearful and desponding colonists waited anxiously for news; and, when the news came that Nova Scotia had been conquered, and that Boscawen had taken two of the French men of war, and lay before Lewisburg, hope and joy spread everywhere. July passed away, too, and men heard how slowly and painfully Braddock made progress through the wilderness, how his contractors deceived him, and the colonies gave little help, and neither horses nor wagons could be had, and only one Benjamin Franklin sent any aid;* and then reports came that he had been forced to leave many of his troops, and much of his baggage and artillery, behind him; and then, about the middle of the month, through Virginia there went a whisper, that the great general had been defeated and wholly cut off; and, as man after man rode down the Potomac confirming it, the planters hastily mounted, and were off to consult with their neighbors; the country turned out; companies were formed to march to the frontiers; sermons were preached, and every heart and every mouth was full. In Pennsylvania the Assembly were called together to hear the “shocking news;" and in New York it struck terror into those who were there gathered to attack the northern posts. Soldiers deserted; the bateauxmen dispersed; and when at length Shirley, since Braddock's death the commander-in-chief, managed with infinite labor to reach Oswego on Lake Ontario, it was too late and stormy, and his force too feeble, to allow him to more than garrison that point, and march back to Albany again.f Johnson did better; for he met and defeated Baron Dieskau upon the banks of Lake George, though Crown Point was not taken, nor even attacked.
But we must tạrn back for a moment to describe particularly the events of Braddock's famous defeat, connected as it is with the history of the West; and we cannot do it more perfectly than in the words of Mr. Sparks in his appendix to the writings of Washington.
The defeat of Gencral Braddock, on the banks of the Monongahela, is one of the most remarkable events in American history. Great preparations had been made for the expedition, under that experienced
Sparks' Washington, vol. ii. p. 77, &c.-Sparks' Franklin, vol. vii. p. 94, &c. + For a full account of Shirley's Expedition, see the paper in Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. vii.
officer, and there was the most sanguine anticipation, both in England and America, of its entire success. Such was the confidence in the prowess of Braddock's army, according to Dr. Franklin, that, while he was on his march to Fort Duquesne, a subscription paper was handed about in Philadelphia, to raise money to celebrate his victory by bonfires and illuminations, as soon as the intelligence should arrive.
General Braddock landed in Virginia on the 20th of February, 1755, with two regiments of the British army from Ireland, the forty-fourth and forty-eighth, each consisting of five hundred men, one of them commanded by Sir Peter Halket, and the other by Colonel Dunbar. To these were joined a suitable train of artillery, with military supplies and provisions. The General's first head-quarters were at Alexandria, and the troops were stationed in that place and its vicinity, till they marched for Will's Creek, where they arrived about the middle of May. It took four weeks to effect that march. In letters written at Will's Creek, General Braddock, with much severity of censure, complained of the lukewarmness of the colonial governments and tardiness of the people, in facilitating his enterprise, the dishonesty of agents and the faithlessness of contractors. The forces which he brought together at Will's Creek, however, amounted to somewhat more than two thousand effective men, of whom about one thousand belonged to the royal regiments, and the remainder were furnished by the colonies. In this number were embraced the fragments of two independent companies from New York, one of which was commanded by Captain Gates, afterwards a Major-General in the Revolutionary war. Thirty sailors had also been granted for the expedition by Admiral Keppel, who commanded the squadron that brought over the two regiments.
At this post the army was detained three weeks, nor could it then have moved, had it not been for the energetic personal services of Franklin, among the Pennsylvania farmers, in procuring horses and wagons to transport the artillery, provisions and baggage.
The details of the march are well described in Colonel Washington's letters. "The army was separated into two divisions. The advanced division, under General Braddock, consisted of twelve hundred men besides officers. The other, under Colonel Dunbar, was left in the rear, to proceed by slower marches. On the 8th of July, the General arrived with his division, all in excellent health and spirits, at the junction of the Youghiogany and Monongahela rivers. At this place Colonel Washington joined the advanced division, being but partially recovered from a severe attack of fever, which had been the cause of his remaining behind, The officers and soldiers were now in the highest spirits, and firm in the conviction, that they should within a few hours victoriously enter the walls of Fort Du Quesne.
The steep and rugged grounds, on the north side of the Monongahela