Life of George Washington

“I have engaged between forty and fifty Indians from the frontiers of your
province to go over the mountains with me,” writes Braddock to Governor
Morris, “and shall take Croghan and Montour into service.” Croghan was, in
effect, put in command of the Indians, and a warrant given to him of

For a time all went well. The Indians had their separate camp, where they
passed half the night singing, dancing, and howling. The British were
amused by their strange ceremonies, their savage antics, and savage
decorations. The Indians, on the other hand, loitered by day about the
English camp, fiercely painted and arrayed, gazing with silent admiration
at the parade of the troops, their marchings and evolutions; and delighted
with the horse-races, with which the young officers recreated themselves.

Unluckily the warriors had brought their families with them to Wills’
Creek, and the women were even fonder than the men of loitering about the
British camp. They were not destitute of attractions; for the young squaws
resemble the gypsies, having seductive forms, small hands and feet, and
soft voices. Among those who visited the camp was one who no doubt passed
for an Indian princess. She was the daughter of the sachem, White Thunder,
and bore the dazzling name of Bright Lightning. [Footnote: Seamen’s
Journal.] The charms of these wild-wood beauties were soon acknowledged.
“The squaws,” writes Secretary Peters, “bring in money plenty; the officers
are scandalously fond of them.” [Footnote: Letter of Peters to Governor

The jealousy of the warriors was aroused some of them became furious. To
prevent discord, the squaws were forbidden to come into the British, camp.
This did not prevent their being sought elsewhere. It was ultimately found
necessary, for the sake of quiet, to send Bright Lightning, with all the
other women and children, back to Aughquick. White Thunder, and several of
the warriors, accompanied them for their protection.

As to, the three Delaware chiefs, they returned to the Ohio, promising the
general they would collect their warriors together, and meet him on his
march. They never kept their word. “These people are villains, and always
side with the strongest,” says a shrewd journalist of the expedition.

During the halt of the troops at Wills’ Creek, Washington had been sent to
Williamsburg to bring on four thousand pounds for the military chest. He
returned, after a fortnight’s absence, escorted from Winchester by eight
men, “which eight men,” writes he, “were two days assembling, but I believe
would not have been more than as many seconds dispersing if I had been

He found the general out of all patience and temper at the delays and
disappointments in regard to horses, waggons, and forage, making no
allowances for the difficulties incident to a new country, and to the novel
and great demands upon its scanty and scattered resources. He accused the
army contractors of want of faith, honor, and honesty; and in his moments
of passion, which were many, extended the stigma to the whole country.
This stung the patriotic sensibility of Washington, and overcame his usual
self-command, and the proud and passionate commander was occasionally
surprised by a well-merited rebuke from his aide-de-camp. “We have frequent
disputes on this head,” writes Washington, “which are maintained with
warmth on both sides, especially on his, as he is incapable of arguing
without it, or of giving up any point he asserts, be it ever so
incompatible with reason or common sense.”

The same pertinacity was maintained with respect to the Indians. George
Croghan informed Washington that the sachems considered themselves treated
with slight, in never being consulted in war matters. That he himself had
repeatedly offered the services of the warriors under his command as scouts
and outguards, but his offers had been rejected. Washington ventured to
interfere, and to urge their importance for such purposes, especially now
when they were approaching the stronghold of the enemy. As usual, the
general remained bigoted in his belief of the all-sufficiency of
well-disciplined troops.

Either from disgust thus caused, or from being actually dismissed, the
warriors began to disappear from the camp. It is said that Colonel Innes,
who was to remain in command at Fort Cumberland, advised the dismissal of
all but a few to serve as guides; certain it is, before Braddock
recommenced his march, none remained to accompany him but Scarooyadi, and
eight of his warriors. [Footnote: Braddock’s own secretary, William
Shirley, was disaffected to him. Writing about him to Governor Morris, he
satirically observes: “We have a general most judiciously chosen for being
disqualified for the service he is employed in, in almost every respect.”
And of the secondary officers: “As to them, I don’t think we have much to
boast. Some are insolent and ignorant; others capable, but rather aiming at
showing their own abilities than making a proper use of them.”–_Colonial
Records_, vi., 405.]

Seeing the general’s impatience at the non-arrival of conveyances,
Washington again represented to him the difficulties he would encounter in
attempting to traverse the mountains with such a train of wheel-carriages,
assuring him it would be the most arduous part of the campaign; and
recommended, from his own experience, the substitution, as much as
possible, of packhorses. Braddock, however, had not been sufficiently
harassed by frontier campaigning to depart from his European modes, or to
be swayed in his military operations by so green a counsellor.

At length the general was relieved from present perplexities by the arrival
of the horses and waggons which Franklin had undertaken to procure. That
eminent man, with his characteristic promptness and unwearied exertions,
and by his great personal popularity, had obtained them from the reluctant
Pennsylvania farmers, being obliged to pledge his own responsibility for
their being fully remunerated. He performed this laborious task out of pure
zeal for the public service, neither expecting nor receiving emolument;
and, in fact, experiencing subsequently great delay and embarrassment
before he was relieved from the pecuniary responsibilities thus
patriotically incurred.

The arrival of the conveyances put Braddock in good humor with
Pennsylvania. In a letter to Governor Morris, he alludes to the threat of
Sir John St. Clair to go through that province with a drawn sword in his
hand. “He is ashamed of his having talked to you in the manner he did.”
Still the general made Franklin’s contract for waggons the sole instance in
which he had not experienced deceit and villany. “I hope, however, in spite
of all this,” adds he, “that we shall pass a merry Christmas together.”



On the 10th of June, Braddock set off from Fort Cumberland with his
aides-de-camp, and others of his staff, and his body guard of light horse.
Sir Peter Halket, with his brigade, had marched three days previously; and
a detachment of six hundred men, under the command of Colonel Chapman, and
the supervision of Sir John St. Clair, had been employed upwards of ten
days in cutting down trees, removing rocks, and opening a road.

The march over the mountains proved, as Washington had foretold, a
“tremendous undertaking.” It was with difficulty the heavily laden waggons
could be dragged up the steep and rugged roads, newly made, or imperfectly
repaired. Often they extended for three or four miles in a straggling and
broken line, with the soldiers so dispersed, in guarding them, that an
attack on any side would have thrown the whole in confusion. It was the
dreary region of the great Savage Mountain, and the “Shades of Death” that
was again made to echo with the din of arms.

What outraged Washington’s notions of the abstemious frugality suitable to
campaigning in the “backwoods,” was the great number of horses and waggons
required by the officers for the transportation of their baggage, camp
equipage, and a thousand articles of artificial necessity. Simple himself
in his tastes and habits, and manfully indifferent to personal indulgences,
he almost doubted whether such sybarites in the camp could be efficient in
the field.

By the time the advanced corps had struggled over two mountains, and
through the intervening forest, and reached (16th June) the Little Meadows,
where Sir John St. Clair had made a temporary camp, General Braddock had
become aware of the difference between campaigning in a new country, or on
the old well beaten battle-grounds of Europe. He now, of his own accord,
turned to Washington for advice, though it must have been a sore trial to
his pride to seek it of so young a man; but he had by this time sufficient
proof of his sagacity, and his knowledge of the frontier.

Thus unexpectedly called on, Washington gave his counsel with becoming
modesty, but with his accustomed clearness. There was just now an
opportunity to strike an effective blow at Fort Duquesne, but it might be
lost by delay. The garrison, according to credible reports, was weak; large
reinforcements and supplies, which were on their way, would be detained by
the drought, which rendered the river by which they must come low and
unnavigable. The blow must be struck before they could arrive. He advised
the general, therefore, to divide his forces; leave one part to come on
with the stores and baggage, and all the cumbrous appurtenances of an army,
and to throw himself in the advance with the other part, composed of his
choicest troops, lightened of every thing superfluous that might impede a
rapid march.

His advice was adopted. Twelve hundred men, selected out of all the
companies, and furnished with ten field-pieces, were to form the first
division, their provisions, and other necessaries, to be carried on
packhorses. The second division, with all the stores, munitions, and heavy
baggage, was to be brought on by Colonel Dunbar.

The least practicable part of the arrangement was with regard to the
officers of the advance. Washington had urged a retrenchment of their
baggage and camp equipage, that as many of their horses as possible might
be used as packhorses. Here was the difficulty. Brought up, many of them,
in fashionable and luxurious life, or the loitering indulgence of country
quarters, they were so encumbered with what they considered indispensable
necessaries, that out of two hundred and twelve horses generally
appropriated to their use, not more than a dozen could be spared by them
for the public service. Washington, in his own case, acted up to the advice
he had given. He retained no more clothing and effects with him than would
about half fill a portmanteau, and gave up his best steed as a
packhorse,–which he never heard of afterwards. [Footnote: Letter to J.
Augustine Washington. Sparks, ii., 81.]

During the halt at the Little Meadows, Captain Jack and his band of forest
rangers, whom Croghan had engaged at Governor Morris’s suggestion, made
their appearance in the camp; armed and equipped with rifle, knife,
hunting-shirts, leggings and moccasins, and looking almost like a band of
Indians as they issued from the woods.

The captain asked an interview with the general, by whom, it would seem, he
was not expected. Braddock received him in his tent, in his usual stiff and
stately manner. The “Black Rifle” spoke of himself and his followers as men
inured to hardships, and accustomed to deal with Indians, who preferred
stealth and stratagem to open warfare. He requested his company should be
employed as a reconnoitering party, to beat up the Indians in their
lurking-places and ambuscades.

Braddock, who had a sovereign contempt for the chivalry of the woods, and
despised their boasted strategy, replied to the hero of the Pennsylvania
settlements in a manner to which he had not been accustomed. “There was
time enough,” he said, “for making arrangements; and he had experienced
troops, on whom he could completely rely for all purposes.”

Captain Jack withdrew, indignant at so haughty a reception, and informed
his leathern-clad followers of his rebuff. They forthwith shouldered their
rifles, turned their backs upon the camp, and, headed by the captain,
departed in Indian file through the woods, for the usual scenes of their
exploits, where men knew their value, the banks of the Juniata or the
Conococheague. [Footnote: On the Conococheague and Juniata is left the
history of their exploits. At one time you may hear of the band near Fort
Augusta, next at Fort Franklin, then at Loudon, then at Juniata,–rapid
were the movements of this hardy band.–_Hazard’s Reg. Penn._, iv.,
390; also, v., 194.]

On the 19th of June Braddock’s first division set out, with less than
thirty carriages, including those that transported ammunition for the
artillery, all strongly horsed. The Indians marched with the advanced
party. In the course of the day, Scarooyadi and his son being at a small
distance from the line of march, was surrounded and taken by some French
and Indians. His son escaped, and brought intelligence to his warriors;
they hastened to rescue or revenge him, but found him tied to a tree. The
French had been disposed to shoot him, but their savage allies declared
they would abandon them should they do so; having some tie of friendship or
kindred with the chieftain, who thus rejoined the troops unharmed.

Washington was disappointed in his anticipations of a rapid march. The
general, though he had adopted his advice in the main, could not carry it
out in detail. His military education was in the way; bigoted to the
regular and elaborate tactics of Europe, he could not stoop to the
make-shift expedients of a new country, where every difficulty is
encountered and mastered in a rough-and-ready style. “I found,” said
Washington, “that instead of pushing on with vigor, without regarding a
little rough road, they were halting to level every mole hill, and to erect
bridges over every brook, by which means we were four days in getting
twelve miles.”

For several days Washington had suffered from fever, accompanied by intense
headache, and his illness increased in violence to such a degree that he
was unable to ride, and had to be conveyed for a part of the time in a
covered waggon. His illness continued without intermission until the 23d,
“when I was relieved,” says he, “by the general’s absolutely ordering the
physician, to give me Dr. James’s powders; one of the most excellent
medicines in the world. It gave me immediate relief, and removed my fever
and other complaints in four days’ time.”

He was still unable to bear the jolting of the waggon, but it needed
another interposition of the kindly-intended authority of General Braddock,
to bring him to a halt at the great crossings of the Youghiogeny. There the
general assigned him a guard, provided him with necessaries, and requested
him to remain, under care of his physician, Dr. Craik, until the arrival of
Colonel Dunbar’s detachment, which was two days’ march in the rear; giving
him his word of honor that he should, at all events, be enabled to rejoin
the main division before it reached the French fort. [Footnote: Letter to
John Augustine Washington. Sparks, ii., 80.]

This kind solicitude on the part of Braddock, shows the real estimation in
which he was held by that officer. Doctor Craik backed the general’s
orders, by declaring that should Washington persevere in his attempts to go
on in the condition he then was, his life would be in danger. Orme also
joined his entreaties, and promised, if he would remain, he would keep him
informed by letter of every occurrence of moment.

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