Life of George Washington

In reply, Croghan engaged to enlist a strong body of Indians, being sure of
the influence of Scarooyadi, successor to the half-king, and of his
adjunct, White Thunder, keeper of the speech-belts. [Footnote: Colonial
Records, vol. vi., p, 375.] At the instance of Governor Morris, Croghan
secured the services of another kind of force. This was a band of hunters,
resolute men, well acquainted with the country, and inured to hardships.
They were under the command of Captain Jack, one of the most remarkable
characters of Pennsylvania; a complete hero of the wilderness. He had been
for many years a captive among the Indians; and, having learnt their ways,
had formed this association for the protection of the settlements,
receiving a commission of captain from the Governor of Pennsylvania. The
band had become famous for its exploits, and was a terror to the Indians.
Captain Jack was at present protecting the settlements on the
Canococheague; but promised to march by a circuitous route and join
Braddock with his hunters. “They require no shelter for the night,” writes
Croghan; “they ask no pay. If the whole army was composed of such men there
would be no cause of apprehension. I shall be with them in time for duty.”
[Footnote: Hazard’s Register of Penn., vol. iv., p. 416.]


The following extract of a letter, dated August, 1750, gives one of the
stories relative to this individual:

“The ‘Black Hunter,’ the ‘Black Rifle,’ the ‘Wild Hunter of Juniata,’ is a
white man; his history is this: He entered the woods with a few
enterprising companions; built his cabin; cleared a little land, and amused
himself with the pleasures of fishing and hunting. He felt happy, for then
he had not a care. But on an evening, when he returned from a day of sport,
he found his cabin burnt, his wife and children murdered. From that moment
he forsakes civilized man; hunts out caves, in which he lives; protects the
frontier inhabitants from the Indians; and seizes every opportunity of
revenge that offers. He lives the terror of the Indians and the consolation
of the whites. On one occasion, near Juniata, in the middle of a dark
night, a family were suddenly awaked from sleep by the report of a gun;
they jump from their huts, and by the glimmering light from the chimney saw
an Indian fall to rise no more. The open door exposed to view the wild
hunter. ‘I have saved your lives,’ he cried, then turned and was buried in
the gloom of night.”–_Hazard’s Register of Penn_., vol. iv., 389.



General Braddock set out from Alexandria on the 20th of April. Washington
remained behind a few days to arrange his affairs, and then rejoined him at
Fredericktown, in Maryland, where, on the 10th of May, he was proclaimed
one of the general’s aides-de-camp. The troubles of Braddock had already
commenced. The Virginian contractors failed to fulfil their engagements; of
all the immense means of transportation so confidently promised, but
fifteen waggons and a hundred draft-horses had arrived, and there was no
prospect of more. There was equal disappointment in provisions, both as to
quantity and quality; and he had to send round the country to buy cattle
for the subsistence of the troops.

Fortunately, while the general was venting his spleen in anathemas against
army contractors, Benjamin Franklin arrived at Fredericktown. That eminent
man, then about forty-nine years of age, had been for many years member of
the Pennsylvania Assembly, and was now postmaster-general for America. The
Assembly understood that Braddock was incensed against them, supposing them
adverse to the service of the war. They had procured Franklin to wait upon
him, not as if sent by them, but as if he came in his capacity of
postmaster-general, to arrange for the sure and speedy transmission of
despatches between the commander-in-chief and the governors of the

He was well received, and became a daily guest at the general’s table. In
his autobiography, he gives us an instance of the blind confidence and
fatal prejudices by which Braddock was deluded throughout this expedition.
“In conversation with him one day,” writes Franklin, “he was giving me some
account of his intended progress. ‘After taking Fort Duquesne,’ said he, ‘I
am to proceed to Niagara; and, having taken that, to Frontenac, if the
season will allow time; and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly
detain me above three or four days: and then I can see nothing that can
obstruct my march to Niagara.’

“Having before revolved in my mind,” continues Franklin, “the long line his
army must make in their march by a very narrow road, to be cut for them
through the woods and bushes, and also what I had heard of a former defeat
of fifteen hundred French, who invaded the Illinois country, I had
conceived some doubts and some fears for the event of the campaign; but I
ventured only to say, ‘To be sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne
with these fine troops, so well provided with artillery, the fort, though
completely fortified, and assisted with a very strong garrison, can
probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I apprehend of
obstruction to your march, is from the ambuscades of the Indians, who, by
constant practice, are dexterous in laying and executing them; and the
slender line, nearly four miles long, which your army must make, may expose
it to be attacked by surprise on its flanks, and to be cut like thread into
several pieces, which, from their distance, cannot come up in time to
support one another.’

“He smiled at my ignorance, and replied: ‘These savages may indeed be a
formidable enemy to raw American militia, but upon the king’s regular and
disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible they should make an impression.’
I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in
matters of his profession, and said no more.” [Footnote: Autobiography of
Franklin. Sparks’ Edition, p. 190.]

As the whole delay of the army was caused by the want of conveyances,
Franklin observed one day to the general that it was a pity the troops had
not been landed in Pennsylvania, where almost every farmer had his waggon.
“Then, sir,” replied Braddock, “you who are a man of interest there can
probably procure them for me, and I beg you will.” Franklin consented. An
instrument in writing was drawn up, empowering him to contract for one
hundred and fifty waggons, with four horses to each waggon, and fifteen
hundred saddle or packhorses for the service of his majesty’s forces, to be
at Wills’ Creek on or before the 20th of May, and he promptly departed for
Lancaster to execute the commission.

After his departure, Braddock, attended by his staff, and his guard of
light horse, set off for Wills’ Creek by the way of Winchester, the road
along the north side of the Potomac not being yet made. “This gave him,”
writes Washington, “a good opportunity to see the absurdity of the route,
and of damning it very heartily.” [Footnote: Draft of a letter, among
Washington’s papers, addressed to Major John Carlyle.]

Three of Washington’s horses were knocked up before they reached
Winchester, and he had to purchase others. This was a severe drain of his
campaigning purse; fortunately he was in the neighborhood of Greenway
Court, and was enabled to replenish it by a loan from his old friend Lord

The discomforts of the rough road were increased with the general, by his
travelling with some degree of state in a chariot which he had purchased of
Governor Sharpe. In this he dashed by Dunbar’s division of the troops,
which he overtook near Wills’ Creek; his body guard of light horse
galloping on each side of his chariot, and his staff accompanying him; the
drums beating the Grenadier’s march as he passed. In this style, too, he
arrived at Fort Cumberland, amid a thundering salute of seventeen guns.
[Footnote: Journal of the Seamen’s detachment.]

By this time the general discovered that he was not in a region fitted for
such display, and his travelling chariot was abandoned at Fort Cumberland;
otherwise it would soon have become a wreck among the mountains beyond.

By the 19th of May, the forces were assembled at Fort Cumberland. The two
royal regiments, originally one thousand strong, now increased to fourteen
hundred, by men chosen from the Maryland and Virginia levies. Two
provincial companies of carpenters, or pioneers, thirty men each, with
subalterns and captains. A company of guides, composed of a captain, two
aids, and ten men. The troop of Virginia light horse, commanded by Captain
Stewart; the detachment of thirty sailors with their officers, and the
remnants of two independent companies from New York, one of which was
commanded by Captain Horatio Gates, of whom, we shall have to speak much
hereafter, in the course of this biography.

Another person in camp, of subsequent notoriety, and who became a warm
friend of Washington, was Dr. Hugh Mercer, a Scotchman, about thirty-three
years of age. About ten years previously he had served as assistant surgeon
in the forces of Charles Edward, and followed his standard to the
disastrous field of Culloden. After the defeat of the “chevalier,” Mercer
had escaped by the way of Inverness to America, and taken up his residence
in Virginia. He was now with the Virginia troops, rallying under the
standard of the House of Hanover, in an expedition led by a general who had
aided to drive the chevalier from Scotland. [Footnote: Braddock had been an
officer under the Duke of Cumberland, in his campaign against Charles

Another young Scotchman in the camp was Dr. James Craik, who had become
strongly attached to Washington, being about the same age, and having been
with him in the affair of the Great Meadows, serving as surgeon in the
Virginia regiment, to which he still belonged.

At Fort Cumberland, Washington had an opportunity of seeing a force
encamped according to the plan approved of by the council of war; and
military tactics, enforced with all the precision of a martinet.

The roll of each company was called over morning, noon, and night. There
was strict examination of arms and accoutrements; the commanding officer of
each company being answerable for their being kept in good order.

The general was very particular in regard to the appearance and drill of
the Virginia recruits and companies, whom he had put under the rigorous
discipline of Ensign Allen. “They performed their evolutions and firings,
as well as could be expected,” writes Captain Orme, “but their languid,
spiritless, and unsoldier-like appearance, considered with the lowness and
ignorance of most of their officers, gave little hopes of their future good
behavior.” [Footnote: Orme’s Journal.] He doubtless echoed the opinion of
the general; how completely were both to be undeceived as to their estimate
of these troops!

The general held a levee in his tent every morning, from ten to eleven. He
was strict as to the morals of the camp. Drunkenness was severely punished.
A soldier convicted of theft was sentenced to receive one thousand lashes,
and to be drummed out of his regiment. Part of the first part of the
sentence was remitted. Divine service was performed every Sunday, at the
head of the colors of each regiment, by the chaplain. There was the funeral
of a captain who died at this encampment. A captain’s guard marched before
the corpse, the captain of it in the rear, the firelocks reversed, the
drums beating the dead march. When near the grave, the guard formed two
lines, facing each other; rested on their arms, muzzles downwards, and
leaned their faces on the butts. The corpse was carried between them, the
sword and sash on the coffin, and the officers following two and two. After
the chaplain of the regiment had read the service, the guard fired three
volleys over the grave, and returned. [Footnote: Orme’s Journal. Journal of
the Seamen’s detachment.]

Braddock’s camp, in a word, was a complete study for Washington, during the
halt at Fort Cumberland, where he had an opportunity of seeing military
routine in its strictest forms. He had a specimen, too, of convivial life
in the camp, which the general endeavored to maintain, even in the
wilderness, keeping a hospitable table; for he is said to have been
somewhat of a _bon vivant_, and to have had with him “two good cooks,
who could make an excellent ragout out of a pair of boots, had they but
materials to toss them up with.” [Footnote: Preface to Winthrop Sargent’s
Introductory Memoir.]

There was great detention at the fort, caused by the want of forage and
supplies, the road not having been finished from Philadelphia. Mr. Richard
Peters, the secretary of Governor Morris, was in camp, to attend to the
matter. He had to bear the brunt of Braddock’s complaints. The general
declared he would not stir from Wills’ Creek until he had the governor’s
assurance that the road would be opened in time. Mr. Peters requested
guards to protect the men while at work, from attacks by the Indians.
Braddock swore he would not furnish guards for the woodcutters,–“let
Pennsylvania do it!” He scoffed at the talk about danger from Indians.
Peters endeavored to make him sensible of the peril which threatened him in
this respect. Should an army of them, led by French officers, beset him in
his march, he would not be able, with all his strength and military skill,
to reach Fort Duquesne without a body of rangers, as well on foot as
horseback. The general, however, “despised his observations.” [Footnote:
Colonial Records, vi. 396.] Still, guards had ultimately to be provided, or
the work on the road would have been abandoned.

Braddock, in fact, was completely chagrined and disappointed about the
Indians. The Cherokees and Catawbas, whom Dinwiddie had given him reason to
expect in such numbers, never arrived.

George Croghan reached the camp with but about fifty warriors, whom he had
brought from Aughquick. At the general’s request he sent a messenger to
invite the Delawares and Shawnees from the Ohio, who returned with two
chiefs of the former tribe. Among the sachems thus assembled were some of
Washington’s former allies; Scarooyadi, alias, Monacatoocha, successor to
the half-king; White Thunder, the keeper of the speech-belts, and Silver
Heels, so called, probably, from being swift of foot.

Notwithstanding his secret contempt for the Indians, Braddock, agreeably to
his instructions, treated them with great ceremony. A grand council was
held in his tent, where all his officers attended. The chiefs, and all the
warriors, came painted and decorated for war. They were received with
military honors, the guards resting on their fire-arms. The general made
them a speech through his interpreter, expressing the grief of their
father, the great king of England, at the death of the half-king, and made
them presents to console them. They in return promised their aid as guides
and scouts, and declared eternal enmity to the French, following the
declaration with the war song, “making a terrible noise.”

The general, to regale and astonish them, ordered all the artillery to be
fired, “the drums and fifes playing and beating the point of war;” the fete
ended by their feasting, in their own camp, on a bullock which the general
had given them, following up their repast by dancing the war dance round a
fire, to the sound of their uncouth drums and rattles, “making night
hideous,” by howls and yellings.

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