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Attack on Braddock.
savages, he said to them, “I am determined to go out and meet the enemy. What! will
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 baitle 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 somewhat crown. ing 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 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 muskets.” A few scattering Indians were behind trees, and some were
Braddock killed by one of his own men.
killed senturing out to take scalps, but much the larger portion fought wholly in the ravines.
It is not probable, that either General Braddock or any one of his officers suspected the actual situation of the enemy, during the whole bloody contest. It was a fault with the General, for which no apology can be offered, that he did not keep scouts and guards in advance and on the wings of the army, who would have made all proper discoveries before the whole had been brought into a snare. This neglect was the primary cause of his defeat; which might have been avoided. Had he charged with the bayonet, the ravine would have been cleared instantly; or had he brought his artillery to the points where the ravines terminated in the valley, and scoured them with grape-shot, the same consequence would bave followed.
But the total insubordination of his troops would have prevented both these movements, even if he had become acquainted with the ground in the early part of the action. The disasters of this day, and the fate of the commander, brave and resolute as he undoubtedly was, are to be ascribed to his contempt of Indian warfare, his overweening confidence in the prowess of veteran troops, his obstinate self-complacency, his disregard of prudent council, and his negligence in leaving his army exposed to a surprise on their march. He freely consulted Colonel Washington, whose experience and judgment, notwithstanding his youth, claimed the highest respect for his opinions ; but the General gave little heed to his advice. While on his march, George Croghan, the Indian interpreter, joined him with one hundred friendly Indians, who offered their services. These were accepted in so cold a manner, and the Indians themselves treated with so much neglect, that they deserted him one after another. Washington pressed upon the importance of these men, and the necessity of conciliating and retaining them, but without effect.
A report had long been current in Pennsylvania, that Braddock was shot by one of his own men, founded on the declaration of a provincial soldier, who was in the action. There is another tradition also, worthy of notice, which rests on the authority of Dr. Craik, the intimale friend of Washington from his boyhood to his death, and who was with him at the battle of the Monongahela. Fifteen years after that event, they travelled together on an expedition to the Western country, with a party of woodsmen, for the purpose of exploring wild lands. While near the junction of the Great Kenhawa and Ohio Rivers, a company of Indians came to them with an interpreter, at the head of whom was an aged and venerable chief. This personage made known to them by the interpreter, that, hearing Colonel Washington was in that region, he had come a long way to visit him, adding, that during the battle of the Monongahela, he had singled him out as a conspicuous
1755. object, fired his rifle at him many times, and directed his young warriors to do the same, but to his utter astonishment none of their balls took effect. He was then persuaded, that the youthful hero was under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, and ceased to fire at him any longer. He was now come to pay homage to the man, who was a particular favorite of Heaven, and who could never die in battle. Mr. Custis, of Arlington, to whom these incidents were related by Dr. Craik, has dramatized them in a piece called The Indian Prophecy.
When the battle was over, and the remnant of Braddock's army had gained, in their flight, the opposite bank of the river, Colonel Washington was dispatched by the General to meet Colonel Dunbar, and order forward wagons for the wounded with all possible speed. But it was not till the 11th, after they had reached Gist's plantation with great difficulty and much suffering from hunger, that any arrived. The General was at first brought off in a tumbril; he was next put on horse-back, but being unable to ride, was obliged to be carried by the soldiers. They all reached Dunbar's camp, to which the panic had already extended, and a day was passed there in great confusion. The artillery was destroyed, and the public stores and heavy baggage were burnt, by whose order was never known. They moved forward on the 13th, and that night General Braddock died, and was buried in the road, for the purpose of concealing his body from the Indians. spot is still pointed out, within a few yards of the present national road, and about a mile west of the site of Fort Necessity at the Great Meadows. Captain Stewart, of the Virginia Forces, had taken particular charge of him from the time he was wounded till his death. On the 17th, the sick and wounded arrived at Fort Cumberland, and were soon after joined by Colonel Dunbar with the remaining fragments of the army.
The French sent out a party as far as Dunbar's camp, and destroyed every thing that was left. Colonel Washington being in very feeble health, proceeded in a few days to Mount Vernon.
To this we add a few paragraphs from the memoirs of James Smith who was a prisoner at Fort Du Quesne, at the time of this celebrated action."
I asked him what news from Braddock's army. He said the Indians spied them every day, and he showed me, by maing marks on the ground with a stick, that Braddock's army was advancing in very close
See also as to Braddock's defeat, Sherman Day's Historical Collections of Pennsysl. vania, published at Philadelphia and New Haven, p. 72 to 75; and for proof of the fact that Braddock was intentionally shot by one of his own men, p. 335. Also pamphlets named in the Preface to this volume.
77 order, and that the Indians would surround them, take trees, and (as he expressed it) shoot um down all one pigeon.
Shortly after this, on the 9th day of July, 1755, in the morning, I heard a great stir in the fort. As I could then walk with a staff in my hand, I went out of the door, which was just by the wall of the fort, and stood upon the wall, and viewed the Indians in a huddle before the gate, where were barrels of powder, bullets, flints, &c., and every one taking what suited. I saw the Indians also march off in rank entire ; likewise the French Canadians, and some regulars. After viewing the Indians and French in different positions, I computed them to be about four hundred, and wondered that they attempted to go out against Braddock with so small a party. I was then in high hopes that I would soon see them fly before the British troops, and that General Braddock would take the fort and rescue me.
I remained anxious to know the event of this day; and, in the afternoon, I again observed a great noise and commotion in the fort, and though at that time I could not understand French, yet I found that it was the voice of joy and triumph, and feared that they had received what I called bad news.
I had observed some of the old country soldiers speak Dutch ; as I spoke Dutch, I went to one of them, and asked him what was the news. He told me that a runner had just arrived, who said that Braddock would certainly be defeated ; that the Indians and French had surrounded him, and were concealed behind trees and in gullies, and kept a constant fire upon the English, and that they saw the English falling in heaps, and if they did not take the river, which was the only gap, and make their escape, there would not be one man left alive before sundown. Some time after this I heard a number of scalp halloos, and saw a company of Indians and French coming in. I observed they had a great many bloody scalps, grenadiers' caps, British canteens, bayonets, &c. with them. They brought the news that Braddock was defeated. After that another company came in, which appeared to be about one hundred, and chiefly Indians, and it seemed to me that almost every one of this company was carrying scalps ; after this came another company with a number of wagon horses, and also a great many scalps. Those that were coming in, and those that had arrived, kept a constant firing of small arms, and also the great guns in the fort, which were accompanied with the most hideous shouts and yells from all quarters ; so that it appeared to me as if the infernal regions had broke loose.
About sundown I beheld a small party coming in with about a dozen prisoners, stripped naked, with their hands tied behind their backs, and their faces and part of their bodies blacked; these prisoners they burned to death on the bank of Alleghany river, opposite to the fort. I stood on the fort wall until I beheld them begin to burn one of these