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prevented the army from marching in that direction, and it was necessary in approaching the fort, now about fifteen miles distant, to ford the river twice, and march part of the way on the south side. Early on the morning of the 9th, all things were in readiness, and the whole train passed through the river a little below the mouth of the Youghiogany, and proceeded in perfect order along the southern margin of the Monongahela.
Washington was often heard to say during his lifetime, that the most beautiful spectacle he had ever bebeld was the display of the British troops on this eventful morning. Every man was neatly dressed in full uniform, the soldiers were arranged in columns and marched in exact order, the sun gleamed from their burnished arms, the river flowed tranquilly on their right, and the deep forest overshadowed them with solemn grandeur on their left. Officers and men were equally inspired with cheering hopes and confident anticipations.
In this manner they marched forward till about noon, when they arrived at the second crossing-place, ten miles from Fort Du Quesne. They halted but a little time, and then began to ford the river and regain its northern bank. As soon as they had crossed, they came upon a level plain, elevated but a few feet above the surface of the river, and extending north ward nearly half a mile from its margin. Then commenced a gradual ascent at an angle of about three degrees, which terminated in hills of a considerable height at no great
distance beyond. The road from the fording place to Fort Du Quesne, led across the plain and up this ascent, and thence proceeded through an uneven country, at that time covered with woods.
By the order of march, a body of three hundred men, under Colonel Gage, afterward General Gage of Boston memory, made the advanced party, which was immediately followed by another of two hundred. Next came the General with the columns of artillery, the main body of the army, and the baggage. At one o'clock the whole had passed the river, and almost at this moment a sharp firing was heard upon
the advanced parties, who were now ascending the hill, and had got forward about a hundred yards from the termination of the plain. A heavy discharge of musketry was poured in upon iheir front, which was the first intelligence they had of the proximity of an enemy, and this was suddenly followed by another on their right flank. They were filled with great consternation, as no enemy was in sight, and the firing seemed to proceed from an invisible foe. They fired in their turn, however, but quite at random, and obviously without effect, as the enemy kept up a discharge in quick, continued succession.
The General advanced speedily to the relief of these detachments ; but before he could reach the spot which they occupied, they gave way and sell back upon the artillery and the other columns of the army,
causing extreme confusion, and striking the whole mass with such a panic, that no order could afterwards be restored. The General and the officers behaved with the utmost courage, and used every effort to rally the men, and bring them to order, but all in vain. In this state they continued nearly three hours, huddling together in confused bodies, firing irregularly, shooting down their own officers and men, and doing no perceptible harm to the enemy. The Virginia provincials were the only troops who seemed to retain their senses, and they behaved with a bravery and resolution worthy of a better fate. They adopted the Indian mode, and fought each man for himself behind a tree. This was prohibited by the General, who endeavored to form his men into platoons and columns, as if they had been maneuvring on the plains of Flanders. Meantime the French and Indians, concealed in the ravines and behind trees, kept up a deadly and unceasing discharge of musketry, singling out their objects, taking deliberate aim, and producing a carnage almost unparalleled in the annals of modern warfare. More than half of the whole army, which had crossed the river in so proud an array, only three hours before, were killed or wounded; the General himself had received a mortal wound, and many of his best officers had fallen by his side.
In describing the action a few days afterwards, Colonel Orme wrote to the Governor of Pennsylvania :-" The men were so extremely deaf to the exhortations of the General and the officers, that they fired away in the most irregular manner all their ammunition, and then ran off, leaving to the enemy the artillery, ammunition, provision and baggage; nor could they be persuaded to stop till they had got as far as Gist's plantation, nor there only in part, many of them proceeding as far as Colonel Dunbar's party, who lay six miles on this side. The officers were absolutely sacrificed by their good behavior, advancing sometimes in bodies, sometimes separately, hoping by such example to engage the soldiers to follow them, but to no purpose. The General had five horses shot under him, and at last received a wound through his right arm into his lungs, of which he died the 13th instant. Secretary Shirley was shot through the head ; Captain Morris, wounded, Colonel Washington had two horses shot under him, and his clothes shot through in several places, behaving the whole time with the greatest courage and resolution. Sir Peter Halket was killed
the spot. Colonel Burton and Sir John St. Clair were wounded.” In addition to these the other field officers wounded were 'LientenantColonel Gage, (afterwards so well known as the commander of the British forces in Boston, at the beginning of the Revolution,) Colonel Orme, Major Sparks, and Brigade Major Halket. Ten captains were killed, and twenty-two wounded; the whole number of officers in the engagement was eighty-six, of whom twenty-six were killed, and thirty
1755. seven wounded. The killed and wounded of the privates amounted to seven hundred and fourteen. Of these at least one half were supposed to be killed. Their bodies left on the field of action, were stripped and scalped by the Indians. All the artillery, ammunition, provisions, and baggage, every thing in the train of the army, fell into the enemy's hands, and were given up to be pillaged by the savages. General Braddock's papers were also taken, among which were his instructions and correspondence with the ministry after his arrival in Virginia. The same fate befell the papers of Colonel Washington, including a private journal and his official correspondence, during his campaign of the preceding year.
No circumstantial account of this affair has ever been published by the French, nor has it hitherto been known from any authentic source, what numbers were engaged on their side. Washington conjectured, as stated in his letters, that there were no more than three hundred, and Dr. Franklin, in an account of the battle, considers them at most as not exceeding four hundred. The truth is, there was no accurate information on the subject, and writers have been obliged to rely on conjecture. In the archives of the War Department, at Paris, I found three sepa. rate narratives of this event written at the time, all brief and imperfect, but one of them apparently drawn up by a person on the spot. From these I have collected the following particulars :
M. de Contrecæur, the commandant of Fort Du Quesne, received early intelligence of the arrival of General Braddock and the British regiments in Virginia. After his removal from Will's Creek, French and Indian scouts were constantly abroad, who watched his motions, reported the progress of his march, and the route he was pursuing. His army was represented to consist of three thousand men. M. de Contreceur was hesitating what measures to take, believing his small force wholly inadequate to encounter so formidable an enemy, when M. de Beaujeu, a Captain in the French service, proposed to head a detachment of French and Indians, and meet the enemy in their march. The consent of the Indians was first obtained. A large body of them was then encamped in the vicinity of the Fort, and M. de Beaujeu opened to them his plan, and requested their aid. This they at first declined, giving as a reason the superior force of the enemy, and the impossibility of success. But at the pressing solicitation of M. de Beaujeu, they agreed to hold a council on the subject, and talk with him again the next morning. They still adhered to their first decision,
, and when M. de Beaujeu went out among them to inquire the result of their deliberation, they told him a second time they could not go. This was a severe disappointment to M. de Beaujeu, who had set his heart upon the enterprise, and was resolved to prosecute it. Being a man of great good nature, affability, and ardor, and much beloved by the
Attack on Braddock.
savages, he said to them, “I am determined to go out and meet the enemy. What! will you suffer your father to go out alone? I am sure we shall conquer.” With this spirited harangue, delivered in a manner that pleased the Indians, and won upon their confidence, he subdued their unwillingness, and they agreed to accompany him.
It was now the 7th of July, and news came that the English were within six leagues of the Fort. This day and the next were spent in making preparations, and reconnoitering the ground for attack. Two other Captains, Dumas and Liquery were joined with M. de Beaujeu, and also four Lieutenants, six Ensigns and two Cadets. On the morning of the 9th they were all in readiness, and began their march at an early hour. It seems to have been their first intention to make a stand at the ford, and annoy the English while crossing the river, and then retreat to the ambuscade on the side of the hill where the contest actually commenced. The trees on the bank of the river afforded a good opportunity to effect this measure, in the Indian mode of warfare, since the artillery could be of little avail against an enemy, where every man was protected by a tree, and at the same time the English would be exposed to a point blank musket shot in fording the river. As it happened, however, M. de Beaujeu and his party did not arrive in time to execute this part of the plan.
The English were preparing to cross the river, when the French and Indians reached the defiles on the rising ground, where they posted themselves, and waited until Braddock's advanced columns came up. This was the signal for the attack, which was made at first in front, and repelled by so heavy a discharge from the British, that the Indians believed it proceeded from artillery, and showed symptoms of wavering and retreat. At this moment M. de Beaujeu was killed, and the command devolving on M. Dumas, he showed great presence of mind in rallying the Indians, and ordered his officers to lead them to the wings and attack the enemy in the flank, while he with the French troops would maintain the position in front. This order was promptly obeyed, and the attack became general. The action was warm and severely contested for a short time; but the English fought in the European method, firing at random, which had little effect in the woods, while the Indians fired from concealed places, took aim, and almost every shot brought down a man. The English columns soon got into confusion; the yell of the savages, with which the woods resounded, struck terror into the hearts of the soldiers, till at length they took to flight, and resisted all the endeavors of their officers to restore any degree of order in their escape. The rout was complete, and the field of battle was left covered with the dead and wounded, and all the artil. lery, ammunition, provisions, and baggage of the English army. The
1755. Indians gave themselves up to pillage, which prevented them from pursuing the English in their flight.
Such is the substance of the accounts written at the time by the French officers and sent home to their Government. In regard to the numbers engaged, there are some slight variations in the three statements. The largest number reported is two hundred and fifty French and Canadians, and six hundred Indians. If we take a medium, it will make the whole number, led out by M. de Beaujeu, at least eight hundred and fifty. In an imperfect return, three officers were stated to be killed, and four wounded ; about thirty soldiers and Indians killed, and as many wounded. When these facts are taken into view, the result of the action will appear much less wonderful, than has generally been supposed. And this wonder will still be diminished, when another circumstance is recurred to, worthy of particular consideration, and that is, the shape of the ground upon which the battle was fought. This part of the description, so essential to the understanding of military operations, and above all in the present instance, has never been touched upon it is believed, by any writer. We have seen that Braddock's advanced columns, after crossing the valley extending nearly half a mile from the margin of the river, began to move up a hill, so uniform in its ascent, that it was little else than an inclined plane of a somewhal crowning form. Down this inclined surface extended two ravines, beginning near together, at about one hundred and fifty yards from the bottom of the hill, and proceeding in different directions till they terminated in the valley below. In these ravines the French and Indians were concealed and protected. At this day they are from eight to ten feet deep, and sufficient in extent to contain at least ten thousand men. At the time of the battle, the ground was covered with trees and long grass, so that the ravines were entirely hidden from view, till they were approached within a few feet. Indeed, at the present day, although the place is cleared from trees, and converted into pasture, they are perceptible only at a very short distance. By this knowledge of the local peculiarities of the battle ground, the mystery, that the British conceived themselves to be contending with an invisible foe, is solved. Such was literally the fact. They were
They were so paraded between the ravines, that their whole front and right flank were exposed to the incessant fire of the enemy, who discharged their muskets over the edge of the ravines, concealed during that operation by the grass and bushes, and protected by an invisible barrier below the surface of the earth. William Butler, a veteran soldier still living (1832,) who was in this action, and afterwards at the plains of Abraham, said to me, “We could only tell where the enemy were by the smoke of their muskels.” A few scattering Indians were behind trees, and some were