Life of George Washington

Notwithstanding all the kind assurances of Braddock and his aide-de-camp
Orme, it was with gloomy feelings that Washington saw the troops depart;
fearful he might not be able to rejoin them in time for the attack upon the
fort, which, he assured his brother aide-de-camp, he would not miss for
five hundred pounds.

Leaving Washington at the Youghiogeny, we will follow the march of
Braddock. In the course of the first day (June 24th), he came to a deserted
Indian camp; judging from the number of wigwams, there must have been about
one hundred and seventy warriors. Some of the trees about it had been
stripped, and painted with threats, and bravadoes, and scurrilous taunts
written on them in the French language, showing that there were white men
with the savages.

The next morning at daybreak, three men venturing beyond the sentinels were
shot and scalped; parties were immediately sent out to scour the woods, and
drive in the stray horses.

The day’s march, passed by the Great Meadows and Fort Necessity, the scene
of Washington’s capitulation. Several Indians were seen hovering in the
woods, and the light horse and Indian allies were sent out to surround
them, but did not succeed. In crossing a mountain beyond the Great Meadows,
the carriages had to be lowered with the assistance of the sailors, by
means of tackle. The camp for the night was about two miles beyond Fort
Necessity. Several French and Indians endeavored to reconnoitre it, but
were fired upon by the advanced sentinels.

The following day (26th) there was a laborious march of but four miles,
owing to the difficulties of the road. The evening halt was at another
deserted Indian camp, strongly posted on a high rock, with a steep and
narrow ascent; it had a spring in the middle, and stood at the termination
of the Indian path to the Monongahela. By this pass the party had come
which attacked Washington the year before, in the Great Meadows. The
Indians and French too, who were hovering about the army, had just left
this camp. The fires they had left were yet burning. The French had
inscribed their names on some of the trees with insulting bravadoes, and
the Indians had designated in triumph the scalps they had taken two days
previously. A party was sent out with guides, to follow their tracks and
fall on them in the night, but again without success. In fact, it was the
Indian boast, that throughout this march of Braddock, they saw him every
day from the mountains, and expected to be able to shoot down his soldiers
“like pigeons.”

The march continued to be toilful and difficult; on one day it did not
exceed two miles, having to cut a passage over a mountain. In cleaning
their guns the men were ordered to draw the charge, instead of firing it
off. No fire was to be lighted in front of the pickets. At night the men
were to take their arms into the tents with them.

Further on the precautions became still greater. On the advanced pickets
the men were in two divisions, relieving each other every two hours. Half
remained on guard with fixed bayonets, the other half lay down by their
arms. The picket sentinels were doubled.

On the 4th of July they encamped at Thicketty Run. The country was less
mountainous and rocky, and the woods, consisting chiefly of white pine,
were more open. The general now supposed himself to be within thirty miles
of Fort Duquesne. Ever since his halt at the deserted camp on the rock
beyond the Great Meadows, he had endeavored to prevail upon the Croghan
Indians to scout in the direction of the fort, and bring him intelligence,
but never could succeed. They had probably been deterred by the number of
French and Indian tracks, and by the recent capture of Scarooyadi. This
day, however, two consented to reconnoitre; and shortly after their
departure, Christopher Gist, the resolute pioneer, who acted as guide to
the general, likewise set off as a scout.

The Indians returned on the 6th. They had been close to Fort Duquesne.
There were no additional works there; they saw a few boats under the fort,
and one with a white flag coming down the Ohio; but there were few men to
be seen, and few tracks of any. They came upon an unfortunate officer,
shooting within half a mile of the fort, and brought a scalp as a trophy of
his fate. None of the passes between the camp and fort were occupied; they
believed there were few men abroad reconnoitering.

Gist returned soon after them. His account corroborated theirs; but he had
seen a smoke in a valley between the camp and the fort, made probably by
some scouting party. He had intended to prowl about the fort at night, but
had been discovered and pursued by two Indians and narrowly escaped with
his life.

On the same day, during the march, three or four men loitering in the rear
of the grenadiers were killed and scalped. Several of the grenadiers set
off to take revenge. They came upon a party of Indians, who held up boughs
and grounded their arms, the concerted sign of amity. Not perceiving or
understanding it, the grenadiers fired upon them, and one fell. It proved
to be the son of Scarooyadi. Aware too late of their error, the grenadiers
brought the body to the camp. The conduct of Braddock was admirable on the
occasion. He sent for the father and the other Indians, and condoled with
them on the lamentable occurrence; making them the customary presents of
expiation. But what was more to the point, he caused the youth to be buried
with the honors of war; at his request the officers attended the funeral,
and a volley was fired over the grave.

These soldierlike tributes of respect to the deceased, and sympathy with
the survivors, soothed the feelings and gratified the pride of the father,
and attached him more firmly to the service. We are glad to record an
anecdote so contrary to the general contempt for the Indians with which
Braddock stands charged. It speaks well for the real kindness of his heart.

We will return now to Washington in his sick encampment on the banks of the
Youghiogeny where he was left repining at the departure of the troops
without him. To add to his annoyances, his servant, John Alton, a faithful
Welshman, was taken ill with the same malady, and unable to render him any
services. Letters from his fellow aides-de-camp showed him the kind
solicitude that was felt concerning him. At the general’s desire, Captain
Morris wrote to him, informing him of their intended halts.

“It is the desire of every individual in the family,” adds he, “and the
general’s positive commands to you, not to stir, but by the advice of the
person [Dr. Craik] under whose care you are, till you are better, which we
all hope will be very soon.”

Orme, too, according to promise, kept him informed of the incidents of the
march; the frequent night alarms, and occasional scalping parties. The
night alarms Washington considered mere feints, designed to harass the men
and retard the march; the enemy, he was sure, had not sufficient force for
a serious attack; and he was glad to learn from Orme that the men were in
high spirits and confident of success.

He now considered himself sufficiently recovered to rejoin the troops, and
his only anxiety was that he should not be able to do it in time for the
great blow. He was rejoiced, therefore, on the 3d of July, by the arrival
of an advanced party of one hundred men convoying provisions. Being still
too weak to mount his horse, he set off with the escort in a covered
waggon; and after a most fatiguing journey, over mountain and through
forest, reached Braddock’s camp on the 8th of July. It was on the east side
of the Monongahela, about two miles from the river in the neighborhood of
the town of Queen Aliquippa, and about fifteen miles from Fort Duquesne.

In consequence of adhering to technical rules and military forms, General
Braddock had consumed a month in marching little more than a hundred miles.
The tardiness of his progress was regarded with surprise and impatience
even in Europe; where his patron, the Duke of Brunswick, was watching the
events of the campaign he had planned. “The Duke,” writes Horace Walpole,
“is much dissatisfied at the slowness of General Braddock, _who does not
march as if he was at all impatient to be scalped._” The insinuation of
the satirical wit was unmerited. Braddock was a stranger to fear; but in
his movements he was fettered by system.

Washington was warmly received on his arrival, especially by his fellow
aides-de-camp, Morris and Orme. He was just in time, for the attack upon
Fort Duquesne was to be made on the following day. The neighboring country
had been reconnoitered to determine upon a plan of attack. The fort stood
on the same side of the Monongahela with the camp; but there was a narrow
pass between them of about two miles, with the river on the left and a very
high mountain on the right, and in its present state quite impassable for
carriages. The route determined on was to cross the Monongahela by a ford
immediately opposite to the camp; proceed along the west bank of the river,
for about five miles, then recross by another ford to the eastern side, and
push on to the fort. The river at these fords was shallow, and the banks
were not steep.

According to the plan of arrangement, Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, with the
advance, was to cross the river before daybreak, march to the second ford,
and recrossing there, take post to secure the passage of the main force.
The advance was to be composed of two companies of grenadiers, one hundred
and sixty infantry, the independent company of Captain Horatio Gates, and
two six pounders.

Washington, who had already seen enough of regular troops to doubt their
infallibility in wild bush-fighting, and who knew the dangerous nature of
the ground they were to traverse, ventured to suggest, that on the
following day the Virginia rangers, being accustomed to the country and to
Indian warfare, might be thrown in the advance. The proposition drew an
angry reply from the general, indignant, very probably, that a young
provincial officer should presume to school a veteran like himself.

Early next morning (July 9th), before daylight, Colonel Gage crossed with
the advance. He was followed, at some distance, by Sir John St. Clair,
quartermaster-general, with a working party of two hundred and fifty men,
to make roads for the artillery and baggage. They had with them their
waggons of tools, and two six pounders. A party of about thirty savages
rushed out of the woods as Colonel Gage advanced, but were put to flight
before they had done any harm.

By sunrise the main body turned out in full uniform. At the beating of the
general, their arms, which had been cleaned the night before, were charged
with fresh cartridges. The officers were perfectly equipped. All looked as
if arrayed for a fete, rather than a battle. Washington, who was still weak
and unwell, mounted his horse, and joined the staff of the general, who was
scrutinizing every thing with the eye of a martinet. As it was supposed the
enemy would be on the watch for the crossing of the troops, it had been
agreed that they should do it in the greatest order, with bayonets fixed,
colors flying, and drums and fifes beating and playing. [Footnote: Orme’s
Journal.] They accordingly made a gallant appearance as they forded the
Monongahela, and wound along its banks, and through the open forests,
gleaming and glittering in morning sunshine, and stepping buoyantly to the
Grenadier’s March.

Washington, with his keen and youthful relish for military affairs, was
delighted with their perfect order and equipment, so different from the
rough bush-fighters, to which he had been accustomed. Roused to new life,
he forgot his recent ailments, and broke forth in expressions of enjoyment
and admiration, as he rode in company with his fellow aides-de-camp, Orme
and Morris. Often, in after life, he used to speak of the effect upon him
of the first sight of a well-disciplined European army, marching in high
confidence and bright array, on the eve of a battle.

About noon they reached the second ford. Gage, with the advance, was on the
opposite side of the Monongahela, posted according to orders; but the river
bank had not been sufficiently sloped. The artillery and baggage drew up
along the beach and halted until one, when the second crossing took place,
drums beating, fifes playing, and colors flying, as before. When all had
passed, there was again a halt close by a small stream called Frazier’s
Run, until the general arranged the order of march.

First went the advance, under Gage, preceded by the engineers and guides,
and six light horsemen.

Then, Sir John St. Clair and the working party, with their waggons and the
two six pounders. On each side were thrown out four flanking parties.

Then, at some distance, the general was to follow with the main body, the
artillery and baggage preceded and flanked by light horse and squads of
infantry; while the Virginian, and other provincial troops, were to form
the rear guard.

The ground before them was level until about half a mile from the river,
where a rising ground, covered with long grass, low bushes, and scattered
trees, sloped gently up to a range of hills. The whole country, generally
speaking, was a forest, with no clear opening but the road, which was about
twelve feet wide, and flanked by two ravines, concealed by trees and

Had Braddock been schooled in the warfare of the woods, or had he adopted
the suggestions of Washington, which he rejected so impatiently, he would
have thrown out Indian scouts or Virginia rangers in the advance, and on
the flanks, to beat up the woods and ravines; but, as has been
sarcastically observed, he suffered his troops to march forward through the
centre of the plain, with merely their usual guides and flanking parties,
“as if in a review in St. James’ Park.”

It was now near two o’clock. The advanced party and the working party had
crossed the plain and were ascending the rising ground. Braddock was about
to follow with the main body and had given the word to march, when he heard
an excessively quick and heavy firing in front. Washington, who was with
the general, surmised that the evil he had apprehended had come to pass.
For want of scouting parties ahead the advance parties were suddenly and
warmly attacked. Braddock ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Burton to hasten to
their assistance with the vanguard of the main body, eight hundred strong.
The residue, four hundred, were halted, and posted to protect the artillery
and baggage.

The firing continued, with fearful yelling. There was a terrible uproar. By
the general’s orders an aide-de-camp spurred forward to bring him an
account of the nature of the attack. Without waiting for his return the
general himself, finding the turmoil increase, moved forward, leaving Sir
Peter Halket with the command of the baggage. [Footnote: Orme’s Journal.]

The van of the advance had indeed been taken by surprise. It was composed
of two companies of carpenters or pioneers to cut the road, and two flank
companies of grenadiers to protect them. Suddenly the engineer who preceded
them to mark out the road gave the alarm, “French and Indians!” A body of
them was approaching rapidly, cheered on by a Frenchman in gaily fringed
hunting-shirt, whose gorget showed him to be an officer. There was sharp
firing on both sides at first. Several of the enemy fell; among them their
leader; but a murderous fire broke out from among trees and a ravine on the
right, and the woods resounded with unearthly whoops and yellings. The
Indian rifle was at work, levelled by unseen hands. Most of the grenadiers
and many of the pioneers were shot down. The survivors were driven in on
the advance.

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