Life of George Washington

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.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 | View All | Next -»

Be the first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.