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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 tựrn 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 General 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 tke walls of Fort Du Quesne.
*The steep and rugged grounds, on the north side of the Monongahela
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 northward 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
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 their 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 fell 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 manæuvring 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 upon 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 lest on the field of action, were stripped and scalped by the Indians. All the artillery, ammunition, provisions, and baggage, everything 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 separate 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 Contrecæur 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