By General Bradley T. Johnson
THE treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, while it settled all continental questions between France and England, left the great dispute between Catholicism and Protestantism on the new continent absolutely unadjusted. James I had granted to Sir William Alexander, his Scotch-English Secretary of State—created Lord Stirling—the great territory of Nova Scotia (New Scotland) lying on the north of the New England grant, together with the river St. Lawrence and a broad strip of territory along both sides of that river, and the north border of the Great Lakes, to the western extremity of Lake Superior, and thence in a wide belt across the continent to the Pacific, Lord Stirling had sold many baronetcies, with large estates appurtenant to the titles, in Nova Scotia, to raise funds to develop his great possessions. English gentlemen were settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and were building up in the wilderness a vigorous, robust British Protestant society. The French hemmed them in, the Jesuits surrounded them, and they incessantly demanded protection from home.
The French claimed the continent from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the head of the Mississippi and thence to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the source of the Ohio to the western ocean. The English held the Atlantic seaboard from the St. Croix to the Savannah; south of that the feared and hated Catholics had seized the country. It is difficult now to appreciate or sympathize with the terror, the horror, and the hatred with which the English nation regarded the Pope, and all his works and all his people.
In this generation we are accustomed to consider all such questions as matters of conscience, and, in the general latitudinarianism, look upon physical struggles over matters of faith as proofs of narrow bigotry and contracted zeal. But it was not so, in fact, then. England was the defender of the faith of the rights of man, of free thought, of free contract, of free labor, and of free commerce. The Pope was the incarnation of the philosophy of paternalism in faith, in morals, in conduct, and in trade. He had never obtained absolute control of the race of fair-haired, blue-eyed men in the British Isles.
From the day St. Augustine landed in Britain, the native race had stood firm on their principle that “the laws of England shall not be changed except by our own consent.” We make our own laws, we execute them, and we receive no regulations for our lives, our property, or our morals from any foreign prince or power, pope or potentate. This was the spirit that had resisted the pretensions of the Roman oligarchy, from Alfred’s time, to make laws for England in the convocations of the clergy; this the spirit that, directed by Henry VIII, had established a Free Church of England—free from the direction or domination of the Church of Rome. The fathers of the settlers of Virginia, of New England, and of New Scotland had fought the Armada. Some of the original colonists had actually served under Lord Howard of Effingham against Medina-Sidonia and Guise in the struggle between the yeomanry of England and the chivalry of Spain; and when Englishmen were pressed and hemmed in by the Pope and his followers, in the new homes they had carved for themselves with their swords on the new continent, the old Berserker blood fired, and the word was passed that no Frenchman, Spaniard, or Papist should interfere with the rights of Englishmen.
But the provincials, with a clear view of what were their rights, had an equally distinct conception of the duties of other people. It was their duty to drive out the French; it was equally their right not to be made cat’s-paws, but to require proper support to be given them from home; for it was the old home quarrel and the ancient British battle they were to renew on the Ohio.
The home government insisted that New York, Virginia, and the colonies should supply men, money, and subsistence for the war on France. The colonies as firmly required that British men and British money should support the British quarrel, while they furnished their fair share of the means. They were entirely willing to do most of the fighting, as they in fact did.
Just here came in another influence of potent force. It seems that all masterful races send out colonies, to subdue and conquer. It follows, as of necessity, that the sons look to their father for assistance and advice; and reverence for superior wisdom is added to love of home and of parents. Therefore the provincial always occupies a position of inferiority to home people; and it is the peculiar trait of the British that they are utterly unable to comprehend that youth ever arrives at maturity; that colonies can develop into independent societies, capable of thinking and acting for themselves.
Acting on this general theory of the unapproachable superiority of the native-born and home-staying Briton, the connection between the royal military organization and the colonial establishments was firmly founded on the theory, principle, and practice that the provincial must be inferior to the home-born, and that a royal commission of any grade, from the very nature of things, must supersede and overtop any commission from a provincial governor; that an ensign, fresh from school, outranked a Virginia colonel of many campaigns.
Lieutenant-Governor, Dinwiddie, acting on this theory, organized the new military establishment of Virginia into ten companies of a hundred men each, and offered the command of one of them to Colonel Washington. The result of this organization would have been that any understrapper from home, scion of the bastard of a duke’s mistress, would have commanded the experienced soldiers Virginia had already produced and trained for her defense. Washington—with the rank of colonel, which he had won by arduous service, and decorated with the thanks of Virginia, though her representatives—promptly resigned his commission and retired to Mount Vernon.
The administration at home prepared a campaign for America which would relieve them from pressure on the continent. They proposed an attack on Nova Scotia, directed from New York, and one on the Ohio, moving from Virginia. Governor Horatio Sharpe, of Maryland, was commissioned major general, to command all the provincial troops raised, and to be raised, for the war against the French on the Ohio. Major-General Edward Braddock, an experienced soldier in the wars in the Low Countries, was sent out with two regiments of regulars, and the proper train of artillery to support it. He established headquarters at Alexandria, on the Potomac. There, on April 14, 1755, he called a council of war, which was presided over by himself, and attended by Admiral Keppel, commander in chief of the navy in America, and the Governors of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Major-Genera1 William Shirley, Governor of Massachusetts, had been designated by the home authorities to rank next to General Braddock, and to command the forces to be directed against Nova Scotia. Major-General Horatio Sharpe, Governor of Maryland, was to command all the provincial troops under General Braddock.
It was determined that Wills Creek, at its junction with the Potomac, should be the base of operations. Supplies could be boated there from Alexandria, and collected from the rich valley of Virginia and the fertile lands of western Maryland, just then being occupied by emigrants from Alsace-Lorraine, who had made homes in the wilderness, fugitives of Protestantism from the Catholic King of France.
Governor Sharpe promptly prepared proper support for the movement. He secured from the General Assembly of Maryland sufficient supplies of money to construct on the Potomac a substantial bastioned work which he called Fort Frederick, and his flatboats and canoes pushed up the Potomac, which sometimes presents rapids difficult to surmount and then for many miles flows in a deep and sluggish stream through mountain passes and primeval forest. The Maryland part of the arrangement was thoroughly carried out.
Colonel Washington of necessity was drawn from Mount Vernon to the gay life of a garrison town. He was a soldier of some experience; he had led in person a surprise party on an all-night march, and had held an indefensible position to the verge of rashness against an overwhelming force, and he had seen some soldiers among the French; but he never before had seen “real soldiers”—British soldiers, whose invincibility for a thousand years was as well established a fact as sunlight to the loyal mind, who on every field had proved their superiority to Frenchmen. He had commanded frontiersmen, the lean, gaunt, sinewy, bony Virginian of the woods and the mountains, who knew as little of the manual of arms as he did of fighting by word of command, and it can well be imagined with what interest the bush-fighting Virginian colonel inspected, observed, and pondered the operations of that intricate machine, a regular army.
The form and ceremony must have been a revelation. The dress parade, the guard mounting, all the minutiae of camp life, presented to him many problems. What was the reason of those ponderous movements by which a column was displayed into a line, and a front of a few was spread out into a line of many? To the untutored Virginian there must have appeared a great loss of time and prodigious increase of risk, and a consequent useless expenditure of life; and during that short time of observation, and criticism of soldiers in camp and of officers at mess, curious comparisons must have been made by the provincial, and grave doubts arisen as to whether such a machine would work in the woods.
The rank and dignity and state of the commander in chief required that he should be conveyed in a coach-and-six. Colonel Washington made no speculation about that, for he knew that that would cure itself. If the coach ever got as far as Fort Cumberland, he was sure that its wheels would never go farther except as wheels of ammunition tumbrels, or provision carts.
Colonel Washington was a gentleman of distinction in the neighborhood. He had the handsomest estate next to Lord Fairfax in the Dominion. He was a man of the world, had been to the West Indies, and thanked by the General Assembly of his colony for gallantry in action, and was withal a gentleman of force and experience beyond his years. Commanding generals like smart, active, brave, useful young men about them, and they are glad to attach them to their service when they can do so as volunteers, without rank or pay, where gallant conduct in action often wins promotion and fame. It would have been remarkable if General Braddock had not invited Colonel Washington to accept the position of volunteer aid-de-camp on his staff. He did so, tendering him the rank of captain by brevet, the highest rank he was authorized to confer on a volunteer aid. Captain Washington at once accepted the honor, and was the most valuable man on the staff.
He knew the country and the people between Alexandria and Fort Cumberland; he had ridden or marched over every foot of it. He knew the fords on the Shenandoah and the crossings of the Potomac, the trails through the woods as far west as the Monongahela and to the Ohio, and he knew what could be done and what could not be done in that country. He knew that a rapid march from Cumberland, of a column of a thousand men in light marching order, carrying ten days’ rations and their ammunition in packs on their backs, each man for himself, might get through the woods so fast as to strike Du Quesne before re-enforcements could be hurried to it from Lake Erie; and he also knew that no troops whose march was regulated by a six-horsed coach could do any efficient work.
In the woods, fighting is done quite as much with the legs as by the arms, and no soldier can, in the nature of things, accomplish much who is tied and shackled hand and foot by a cumbrous uniform. The shako of the British grenadier will of itself break down the best line of battle of its wearers, lose a position, end a war, and settle a boundary.
Sir John St. Clair, Deputy Quartermaster General, had come out to assist in the campaign, which was to save a ministry and settle the dynasty on the throne of Great Britain. Fort Cumberland was selected as the base of military operations against western Canada, and Governor Sharpe had collected magazines of provisions and munition there. He had drawn to him many hardy and enterprising pioneers, who made contracts to supply beef on the hoof, and wagons and horses. Sir John St. Clair required the Governor of Pennsylvania to construct a road from Philadelphia to Fort Cumberland, and from Fort Cumberland west to the great crossing of the Youghiogheny.
Braddock, upon the rising of the council of war, moved his force from Alexandria up the south bank of the Potomac, above the mouth of Rock Creek, where he crossed into Maryland with the Forty-eighth Regiment, Colonel Dunbar, the Forty-fourth Regiment moving on to Winchester. He camped for six days at the new palatine settlement of Frederick, and became very indignant at the neglect of the Pennsylvanians to construct the road and to supply the two hundred wagons demanded by Sir John St. Clair as necessary for the transportation of the expedition. He proposed to send out into the country, and impress wagons and teams under the direction of the quartermaster general. Captain Washington, and Benjamin Franklin, postmaster general of the colonies, defended their countrymen, and excused the lack of provision made for the army. But Franklin, with that shrewd insight into common human nature which was to make him the philosopher of the commonplace, at once discerned the opportunity to make influence for himself and money for his people. He noticed that Sir John St. Clair wore a Hussar uniform. The German settlers of Pennsylvania, by experience and by tradition, well knew the atrocities of the Hussars in Germany and the Low Countries, in the wars, from which they had fled, and from which their ancestors had suffered for generations.
“Hussar” was a name of terror to them—the embodiment of war, of rapine, of fire and sword, of famine and death. So, from Frederick, Franklin wrote and published a letter to the inhabitants of the counties of Lancaster, York, and Cumberland, in which he informed them that the British officers “proposed to send an armed force immediately into their counties, to seize as many of the best carriages and horses as should be wanted, and compel as many persons into the service as should be necessary to drive and take care of them.”
He showed that if they furnished teams and wagons and drivers voluntarily they would receive in wages fully £30,000 in gold and silver of the King’s money. ̴If you do not come forward and do your duty,“ said he, “I shall be obliged to inform the general in fourteen days, and I suppose Sir John St. Clair, ‘the Hussar,’ with a body of soldiers, will immediately enter the province, which I shall be sorry to hear of.” The glittering suggestion of £30,000 in gold and silver acted in an agreeable and persuasive manner on the bucolic mind; but the touch of Nature, the sly insinuation about “the Hussar,” was convincing. The roads were crowded with four-horse teams, to earn the pay, and to escape “the Hussar,” all of which reported at Fort Cumberland about the last of June.
On April 30th Braddock left Frederick in the chariot he had purchased from Governor Sharpe; and, escorted by his bodyguard, a troop of Virginia Light Horse—the only cavalry in his command—passed over the mountain north of Frederick, across Middletown Valley, through a gap in South Mountain, which still bears his name (over what, in subsequent years, became the battlefield of Antietam), to the mouth of the Conococheague, where he crossed the Potomac. The town of Williamsport is now at the ford where he crossed, and Williamsport long afterward became one of the principal competitors for the site of the federal city. In the order of the day of April 27th the route is published, providing for the march to Wills Creek, a total of one hundred and twenty-nine miles to be made by May 9th.
The Forty-eighth, Colonel Dunbar, moved out on the 29th and made the route as by orders directed, first across Middletown Valley, then to Conococheague; there it crossed the Potomac, thence up the south bank of the Potomac by the mouth of Little Cacapon to Old Town, where it recrossed to the north bank, and thence to Fort Cumberland, where it reported May 9th, according to the route and time set out in orders.
A few miles below Wills Creek the command was halted, and brought to a present, as the commander in chief whirled by in his coach-and-six. The drums beat the Grenadier’s March, the colors drooped, and all “the pomp and pride and circumstance of glorious war” was displayed. At the fort this gorgeous apparition was saluted with seventeen guns—the number appropriate to the commander of an army in the field. In the afternoon the whole command was assembled, the Forty-fourth, Sir Peter Halkett, having arrived from Winchester; and on the 10th it was announced in the order of the day that “Mr. Washington is appointed Aid-de-camp to His Excellency General Braddock.” On the 12th the troops were brigaded, and the general order in Braddock’s orderly book, the original of which is in the Congressional Library at Washington, gives an accurate statement of the troops present for duty, and their number of effective men.
The First Brigade, under the command of Colonel Sir Peter Halkett, consisted of—
|Forty-fourth Regiment, Grenadier Guards||
|Captain Rutherford’s and Captain Gates’s independent
companies of New York||
|Captain Poison’s company of Carpenters||
|Captain Peronnu’s and Captain Waggoner’s Virginia Rangers||
|Captain Dagworthy’s Maryland Rangers||
| Total, First Brigade||
Second Brigade, Colonel Dunbar:
|Captain Demerie’s South Carolina detachment||
|Captain Dobbs’s North Carolina Rangers||
|Captain Mercer’s company of Carpenters||
|Captain Stevens’s Virginia Rangers||
|Captain Hogg’s Virginia. Rangers||
|Captain Cox’s Virginia Rangers||
| Total, Second Bride||
There was also a train of artillery and a force of engineers, and a detachment of thirty sailors from the British fleet. It was provided with one hundred and fifty wagons and two thousand horses.
The First Brigade marched on June 8th, and the next day the Second followed, under Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, of the Forty-eighth. The performances of that march, if they were not proved by absolutely indisputable proof, would be simply incredible. But Braddock’s road is now (March, 1894) perfectly well defined, north of Cumberland. It looks as if intelligent purpose had exerted itself to waste time and labor. It is located without the slightest regard to grades or obstacles. Instead of blasting rocks—or, still better, avoiding them whenever possible—the engineers seem to have tried to leave monuments to their own stupidity. Great bowlders in the road, instead of being rolled or blasted out of the way, are carefully hewed down so as to present no obstruction. The third camp was only five miles from the first.
In seven days they reached the Little Meadows, twenty miles from Cumberland. Here a council of war was called by the commanding general, and he decided to move out with a light column of twelve hundred men and twelve guns, leaving Colonel Dunbar in charge of the reserve, the wagons, and reserve artillery, to push on as rapidly as possible. On the 23d of June the advance reached the Great Crossing of the Youghiogheny, thirty-seven miles from Fort Cumberland—fifteen days for thirty-seven miles. On the 8th of July he arrived at the Monongahela, fifteen miles below Fort Du Quesne. A defile on the north or right bank rendered it necessary to cross the river, and then recross eight miles farther down the stream. During the day before, small parties of the enemy had been hanging on the flanks and picking up stragglers, thus showing that the movements of the invading force were known and accurately observed.
The passage of the river then became a delicate and difficult operation. At 3 A.M. of the 9th Lieutenant-Colonel Gage was sent with a detachment of the Forty-eighth Regiment to occupy the crossing and cover the movement. An hour later Sir John St. Clair moved out with a working party, to construct roads, and make the fords practicable for wagons and artillery, by cutting down the banks, and at 6 A.M. the main body, under command of Braddock, took up the route. He intended to take Fort Du Quesne that day, and proposed that it should be done according to the rules and regulations of civilized war—by troops on dress parade, with colors flying, drums beating, and trumpets sounding—and not in a disorderly chance medley of wood rangers and hunting-shirt-clad, moccasin-shod hunters and scouts, who knew no more of the minutiae and elegances of war than they did of Almack’s or of White’s celebrated club.
After passing the first ford they reached the second about noon. The low land on that side of the river was level, open woodland, of heavy walnut timber, and no undergrowth, the ground well covered with grass. The enemy were frequently visible on the heights on the other side, and Braddock, to impress them with the kind of war they were to expect from him, spent an hour in putting his troops through battalion movements, in full sight of the French and Indian scouts, and his men were given their dinners.
A recent publication of the memoirs of Charles de Langlade, the French officer who led the attacking party, gives us a graphic description from their point of view. When information of the approach of Braddock with an army of over two thousand men came, the commander of Fort Du Quesne was in doubt whether to fight, to surrender, or to evacuate and destroy the post. The first course was decided on, and for this purpose De Beaujeu was ordered to take a party out and attack the enemy before he could invest the fort. He organized a force of two hundred and fifty French and six hundred and fifty Indians. Moving out at 9 A.M. of the 9th, De Beaujeu found himself at the ford of the Monongahela at 12.30 P.M., just as Braddock was going through his battalion drill, and witnessed the dinner of those well-trained troops.
On the north side of the Monongahela there was an open meadow or wooded glade, level, and without undergrowth, spreading back a quarter of a mile from the river; then the high ground usual in river formations begins to ascend until it rises into a ridge, covered with heavy timber, bushes, and thick undergrowth. From this ridge run two ravines several hundred yards apart down to the river’s edge.
The column was put in motion about 1 o’clock, the guides in front, then the engineers, with six light horsemen; then Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, with the Forty-eighth Regiment; then Sir John St. Clair, Quartermaster General, with two six-pounder guns and the men, wagons, and tools of the working party; then General Braddock, with Colonel Sir Peter Halkett and the Forty-fourth; then the artillery and wagons; then the provincial troops for rear guard.
While the advance was crossing the ford and moving into the forest the rear was cooking rations; for the column moved so slowly, the head would some days go into camp about the time the rear was moving out of the camp of the day before. De Langlade took in the conditions at once, and urged his superior to attack, which was done with energy and promptness. The first known by the British was that the guides saw a force of French and Indians, led by a Frenchman, De Beaujeu, gayly uniformed in hunting shirt and gorget, charging on them out of the woods in front. At the same instant a fire broke out of the ravines on each side of the column.
Captain Washington, the volunteer aid, would have committed a grave breach of the proprieties if on the field of battle he had volunteered to his chief advice unasked; but the emergency was so pressing, and time so precious, that he begged his commanding officer to let him bring up the provincials, and cover the front and flank with skirmishers, until the position and numbers of the enemy could be developed.
The trained soldier could not consent to veterans being protected by undrilled, half-armed, savagely clad countrymen, and said that his men should fight in line or not at all. The provincials had required no orders; the first shot told the whole tale to them; they were in the presence of the enemy in force, for half a dozen Indians alone would never fire at such a force. Killing was in order, and they proposed to be killers and not killees, and do their part of the work. Without waiting for word or order, they broke and took to the trees. Braddock was loud in damning their cowardice; but before one of his staff could ride up to Colonel Gage, the provincials knew all about it and acted accordingly. They covered the rear of the army, and the artillery and wagons. The French attack spread with the rapidity of fire in the dry grass. It ran along both sides of the English column and closed round the rear. The British stood in a road twelve feet wide, falling in their tracks without firing a shot in reply. Braddock sent an aid to the front to find out from Colonel Gage what was the matter.
Struggling through a huddled column in a packed road is slow work for man and horse, and it took time to get forward, and as much to get back. The fire in front increased, and Braddock, all afire, spurred forward, assumed command of the Forty-eighth, and ordered it to form by platoons, and charge the woods to the right and left. A platoon can not be formed in a wood road twelve feet wide. Each flank will extend into the woods, and the line be pinioned, as if its arms were tied.
In the confusion the men fell by rank. The French account says that many officers were killed with their dinner napkins pinned to their breasts. This one incident lets in a clear beam of light over the tragedy of folly and incompetence. When it was once reported to “Stonewall Jackson” that his adversary was marching up the valley attended by a herd of four thousand beef cattle, his reply was, “Good! we can beat people who have to drive their rations on the hoof with them.” And he did.
So the Frenchman might have said: “We can beat any soldiers who require dinner napkins on the eve of battle.” Napkins imply cooks, cooks require cooking utensils, wagons, all the vast impedimenta of a luxurious and overfed army, and prove lack of endurance. But they do not imply lack of courage. That the British breed has never shown, and the gamest, most gallant, most daring, most chivalrous class that ever lived is the English gentry, of which the officers of the army were then composed, and their American kin. On that field they proved themselves worthy of their blood. They showed every soldierly trait except sense.
Braddock was on his horse in front of the column, directing movements, shouting, gesticulating, swearing at the stupidity of his men, who would not form and would not charge. Said the men in the ranks, “We’ll fight men—we can’t fight bushes,” and as the slaughter increased they became rattled. The line officers tried to lead squads into the bushes.
Colonel Gage planted the colors of the two regiments in the road, to form on. Still the men fell, and Braddock stormed. The line officers, “with dinner napkins pinned to their breasts,” formed squads of officers by themselves, and showed the way to death. The bush fighters in the rear never lost their self-possession for a moment. They were at their accustomed work, and they went at it like days’ labor. Many of them knew Captain Washington personally and had served under him, and all of them knew him by reputation.
Hurrying up and down the narrow road, when the commanding general rode to the front and took command there, his provincial staff officer naturally was sent back to direct the provincials, and represent the general on that part of the field. As the French fire poured in on his flanks, Washington rushed Captain Waggoner’s two Virginia companies by the right down into the ravine, faced to the left, and then charged straight up it, driving everything before him, and relieved that flank of the British column.
In so doing, the command got up in advance of Gage’s column, when Braddock was swearing and the line officers dying. As they passed the English in the road, the latter, misled by the hunting shirts and head gear of the Virginians, poured a volley into their rear, and killed and wounded two thirds of them. That ended all check to the French, and the rest of it was merely a battue, where the hunter shot his game from cover, without risk, and hardly with any excitement.
The English, huddled up, fired into the groups in front of them, fired in the air. In the region of the battlefield, tradition to this day alleges that Braddock was not killed by Indian or Frenchman, but by Tom Fossit, a private in Captain Cholmondeleyes company of the Forty-eighth Regiment. Fossit had been enlisted at Shippensburg, Pa., and had a brother in his company, who was killed in the battle. He lived for many years, and doubtless enjoyed many a ”treat“ in exchange for his fable.
His story was that Braddock killed his brother for dodging behind a tree, and that he avenged his brother on the spot. This story is merely incredible. Braddock had five horses killed under him, and in the close fighting all around him the miracle is that he lived as long as he did. A mounted officer of the striking appearance, with the conspicuous uniform of a major general attracted a hundred bullets before the fatal one hit; and it is incredible that a private soldier should be guilty of the dastardly treason of killing his commanding general in battle. The military profession evolves a respect for rank as representing power, that increases and intensifies as rank rises and power enlarges, and in battle the commanding officer is the god, the human providence of the private soldier. He holds his life in the look of his eye or the crook of his finger, and can order the private to instant death by a wave of his hand, and does it constantly. Therefore no private soldier who ever carried a musket or drew saber, ever, anywhere could or ever did, in the heat of battle, with death looking right into his eyes, conceive of killing the superintending power which absolutely controlled his destiny.
If Braddock did kill Fossit’s brother—which is quite probable, for the general was likely to do so foolish a thing—it is almost certain that Tom broke for the nearest tree, and kept that between him and the general until he had an opportunity to escape official recognition. At last Braddock fell mortally wounded. That ended it. Most of the field and line officers were already on the ground, and when the general in front of or up with his first line fell over the neck of his horse, the first line broke and went back on the second, they two on the third, and the whole went sweeping down the road like a stampeded herd of buffalo. There was no withstanding the tornado. Washington afterward said that it was as impossible to stop them as to stop “a gang of wild bears from the mountains, or a mountain torrent.”
It bore everything before it, and ran over horses, wagons, and men of the rear guard. Captain Washington held his provincials with a cool and steady hand until the torrent rushed by, and then deployed them across the road, and on each side of it, to check the pursuit. He pushed back to where some soldiers were struggling to carry off the heavy and cumbrous body of their general. Jumping from his horse, he jerked the official silk sash from the waist of the commanding officer, and using it as a litter, pushed the carriers behind his line. He then doggedly gave ground, for all that was left to be done was to gain time and save Dunbar.
As the stampede swept by the wagons, the wagoners cut their horses loose and whipped for their lives. After every great disaster the most frightened are the fleetest, and they invariably spread the news as they fly that “All is lost! Everybody is killed! The command is cut up!” So when the terrified wagoners flew through Dunbar’s camp, not a word of explanation was needed. The harnessed horses, the riders belaboring them at every jump, as they sped toward Fort Cumberland, told the story of rout and flight without words.
Colonel Dunbar by strict discipline held his command firm. He was forty miles in rear. As soon as the remnants of the army recrossed the Monongahela that evening, Braddock sent Captain Washington back to Dunbar to bring up wagons and provisions. The old soldier was thinking more of his wounded than of himself, and he sent back the best man about him to get help for them. His other aids were killed or wounded.
Captain Washington rode back that night on one horse, when the darkness was so intense, and the road so obscure, that he passed much of his time leading his horse and kneeling on the ground feeling for the road. Notwithstanding this, he and his two orderlies reached Dunbar’s camp at sunrise, and immediately returned with supplies and re-enforcements to the army. He met it at Gist’s plantation, and, returning, reached Dunbar’s camp that night, where they halted for two nights and a day.
Then continuing the retreat on the 13th, they reached the Great Meadows, where Braddock died and was buried before day next morning in the middle of the road, Captain Washington reading the service of the Church over him. The wagon train was driven over the grave to save it from the Indians. From Little Meadows Washington wrote to Colonel Inness, at Fort Cumberland, asking for aid, which that officer promptly dispatched to him. The melancholy party arrived at the fort on the 16th and 17th.
Dunbar arrived there on the 20th, and was obliged to stop until August id to take care of the wounded. On that day, with his entire command, consisting of the survivors of the Forty-fourth and Forty-eighth Regiments and of the Virginia battalion, and of the independent companies, numbering in all about fifteen hundred men fit for duty, he left the fort and marched eastward to Philadelphia.
He left Fort Cumberland in charge of Colonel Innes, with one company of Virginians and one of Maryland Rangers. About 1824, what were supposed to be the remains of General Braddock, were found by some workmen repairing the National Road. They were removed, reburied near the road under an oak, and marked Braddock’s grave. Some years afterward, English gentlemen visiting the spot caused, a plain fence to be erected around it, and thus it stands now, after nearly threescore and ten years.
This affair began about 1 P.M. and ended by five o’clock. It was short and sharp. De Beaujeu, the French commander, was killed early in the action. There were two hundred and fifty French and Canadians and six hundred and fifty Indians in the attacking force. On the English side were the two regular regiments of seasoned veterans of five hundred each recruited up to seven hundred, five companies of Virginia troops, fifty Maryland Rangers, one hundred South Carolinians, one hundred North Carolinians, but in the advanced column actually engaged only twelve hundred men were present. There were no Maryland troops in the expedition except Captain Dagworthy’s. The French account says they counted thirteen hundred and fifty dead on the field and on the retreat. There is no doubt that all they did count were dead, but only twelve hundred were engaged.
Colonel Sir Peter Halkett, of the Forty-fourth, his son, who was brigade major, and William Shirley, son of General and Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, were killed. Colonel Burton, of the Forty-eighth, and Sir John St. Clair, were wounded. Of eighty-nine commissioned officers in the two regiments of regulars in the fight, twenty-six were killed and thirty-seven wounded; four hundred and thirty-seven men were reported killed and three hundred and eighty-five wounded—a total loss of eight hundred and fifteen men.
All the wounded who were left on the field were killed by the Indians, with the exception of two remarkable men, Dr. Hugh Mercer and a comrade, who, left wounded, made his way through the woods to give up his life, as General Mercer at the battle of Princeton, fighting the king he came so near dying for at the battle of the Monongahela. The opposing force lost not thirty men and their commander.
Captain Washington was untouched, although he had two horses killed under him and several bullets through his clothes. He reported to the Governor of Virginia that his rangers had “fought like soldiers and died like men.” Beyond a peradventure, his coolness, his self-control, his will saved all that was saved. If it had not been for him, every British soldier would have been scalped. Twelve of them, taken prisoners, were burned alive at Fort Du Quesne the next evening.
And the endurance of the Virginian captain is wonderful. After the entire day, from four o’clock in the morning of the 9th until dark of the 10th, in the saddle, four hours of it under the fiercest fire, which is the most exhausting excitement known to man, he rode and walked all night back to Dunbar’s camp and returned at once to his wounded chief, and from the 9th until the 16th never took his clothes off or laid down to sleep undressed. The iron will was equaled by the iron frame and the iron constitution, and this prodigious effort was made by a man who had been left behind at Dunbar’s camp, too ill to accompany the command, and had only reached the army the evening before the battle, hauled in a wagon because he was too weak to ride. The exhibition of endurance by Captain Washington for seven days after the battle exceeded that of courage, coolness, and self-control by him on the disastrous field. He was then in his twenty-fifth year.
The immediate consequence of the rout of Braddock was a more vigorous effort on the part of the Government, which resulted in the Treaty of Paris of 1763, whereby Canada and Florida were both ceded to Great Britain, and the Roman Catholic power was eliminated as a political element on the North American continent from the Arctic circle to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River. West of that river the Spanish Americans claimed jurisdiction to the Pacific—a claim to be entirely extinguished in the next two generations.
The far-reaching results of that campaign were, first, the annihilation of British prestige among the provincials; second, fraternity and a tendency to cooperate among all the English in America; third, a distinct bias toward independence of the mother country. The seven years’ war in America was distinctly a war of race and religion. The English Protestants were pressed on the North by the French and on the South and West by the Spaniards, both adherents of the Church of Rome.
The conquest of Canada and the cession of Florida immediately relieved the provincials from the hostile pressure of the Roman Catholics and the Indians, and from their dependence on home. They had cooperated together during the war, each province by its own General Assembly voting men and money for the common defense, according to its judgment of what was just and necessary, and at the battle of the Monongahela with the two regiments of British regulars there were present companies from Virginia, New York, Maryland, and the Carolinas, who in the North had fought the French and Indians, and in the South the Spaniards and Indians—all Roman Catholics.
An extract from a newspaper of the day will give some idea of the sentiment pervading the English in America, for in the Catholic province of Maryland, the birthplace and nursery of freedom of thought in all the world, the fire of bigotry burned as fiercely as in Massachusetts Bay, where the idea of liberty of conscience had as yet never penetrated. In Green’s Maryland Gazette, published at Annapolis on July 31, 1755, is contained an account of Braddock’s defeat on July 9th, three weeks previous. “After the engagement,” says the newspaper, “the Indians pursued our people to the Monongahela, and scalped and plundered all that were left on the field, except five or six, who, not being able to keep pace with the victors in their return to the fort, were all treated in the same manner, one Virginian only surviving it. [Oh, horrid barbarity, to kill in cold blood! But, Protestant reader, such is the treatment we may expect to receive from his most Christian Majesty’s American allies if ever we should be so unhappy as to fall in their hands, except we give up our religious liberty, and everything that is dear and valuable, and submit to be his vassals, and dupes of the Romish clergy, whose most tender mercies are but hellish cruelties, wherever they have the power to exercise them.]”
The French Minister of War began immediately to intrigue to stir up dissension with the mother country, and to encourage the growing feeling of strength and maturity which began rapidly to pervade the English in America. The New England colonies had never been loyal to the Crown or to the traditions of their ancestors. Planted by refugees from social and religious ostracism, they had always been in sympathy with discontent at home. Enterprising, energetic, and intellectual, the necessities of their environment, the rigors of their climate, and the constant struggle with the forces of Nature, had developed a character which for self-control and concentration has rarely been equaled, and never excelled, in the history of the world. Their position had created a trade, arising out of natural conditions, which was very profitable. They smuggled sugar from the West Indies, converted it into rum in New England, carried the rum to Africa, where they bartered it for negroes, and the negroes to Virginia and Maryland, where they exchanged them for tobacco, which they sold at their home.
The breaking up of this profitable exchange by the enforcement of the regulations of trade between the colonies and the mother country, whereby all products of any colony could be shipped to any other colony only through home ports in home bottoms, naturally and justly enraged the New Englanders. They had never been monarchists, and they had become hostile to aristocratic institutions.
But in Maryland and Virginia the social organization was entirely different. Many cadets of noble families had settled in these colonies, or been provided with offices under the provincial governments. All their sympathies were with the established order at home. They were the pets of the monarchy. The trade regulations did not disturb them; they had no ships or commerce of their own, and there was no radical reason why they should participate in a movement that must, beyond a doubt, result in a separation from the mother country.
And there existed a sentiment in the two colonies on the Chesapeake widely differing from the sympathies of New England. Jacobitism, sympathy with the Stuarts, had never been extinguished in the old cavalier colonies. Their leading families were almost all cavalier. George Mason’s grandfather had commanded a royalist troop at Marston Moor, and Washington’s ancestor had held Worcester for the King. The grandfather of Thomas Johnson, a leader of the Revolution in Maryland, who nominated Washington for commander in chief, came over in 1690, and in 1693 was arrested and recognized for good behavior by the Governor and council for saying, “The people are all rogues to the King, and that he would swear to no king but King James.”
Charles II was proclaimed King as soon as the news of the death of his father reached St. Mary’s, and Charles was King of Maryland eleven years before he was King of England. The ancestor of Richard Henry Lee, author of the resolution of independence, had been sent by Virginia to Breda, to induce Charles to come to Virginia and establish his government there; and although the Commonwealth did send a fleet “to reduce the settlements on the Chesapeake,” and the old governments were reconstructed and Commonwealth governments actually set up by the bayonet in these two provinces, they never had the respect, sympathy, or support of the body of the people. They fell as soon as the prop was removed.
When New England began to move in resistance to the royal authority, the first impulse of the English on the Chesapeake was to stand by them, for with them and their ancestors, from time immemorial, the controlling element of character has been that “blood is thicker than water”; and the next feeling that stirred the people was that now they could get rid of the House of Hanover and all its disgusting surroundings.
Dr. Hugh Mercer, of the Braddock campaign—afterward General Mercer, of the battles of Trenton and of Princeton—had been on the staff of Prince Charles at Culloden, and both colonies were full of the defeated and disappointed adherents of the Stuarts. It is not probable that sympathy for the Stuarts and dislike to the House of Hanover was the dominating force that created the revolution, but it was one of the forces.
The Jacobite sentiment was strong on the Chesapeake, and led men more easily to recur to the fundamental principles of English liberty. Their ancestors had always insisted that they would be governed only by laws of their own making, made by their representatives in Parliament assembled. Every Englishman’s house was his castle. Every man’s property was his own, and no part of it could legally be taken for public use, to defend the State, or to support the Government, without his consent, freely given by his representative.
The belief was firmly imbedded in their hearts that there could be “no taxation without representation.” And another right, the inheritance of Englishmen, was the right to resist illegal government, by force and arms. The right of rebellion was as well defined as the right of representation, and rebellion was not necessarily revolution. Rebellion corrected the abuses of government; revolution overturned government itself. Rebellion secured new guarantees for liberty; revolution created new government.
Thus had the barons wrung from John the guarantees of the great charter—a grant from the Crown of security for rights to a class. Thus had the Parliament resisted the exactions of the Star Chamber and its attempt to levy ship money, taxes without the consent of the taxed. Thus had the body of the people overthrown the Commonwealth when it attempted to govern England without a king or House of Lords, and thus revolutionize the ancient constitution of the realm; and thus had the grandfathers of the leaders of the American Revolution expelled James Stuart when he purposed to establish absolute government in England. The idea of forcible resistance to illegal government was deeply imbedded in the American heart.
The convention between the Commonwealth and Virginia, in 1651, secured to the Virginians the right to make their own laws and to tax themselves. The charter of Maryland guaranteed to the people of that province the same rights; and when the Governor attempted to levy taxes by proclamation, fixing the fees of the land office, the General Assembly promptly denounced the illegal act, and, in a report on the inalienable rights of Englishmen—which, it has been said, was worthy of the most distinguished statesman of England—demonstrated that taxes could only be legally levied by the representatives of the people who were taxed.
When the Governor of North Carolina attempted to coerce the North Carolinians into paying taxes without their consent—disguised as illegal fees—they promptly applied the ancestral remedy, and in arms resisted the King’s Governor and the King’s troops at the battle of the Alamance, in 1771. They were defeated with heavy loss, and some were promptly hung as traitors; but that only proved that the King’s troops were better armed, better disciplined, and better commanded than the regulators. It settled nothing as to the right of taxation and the right of rebellion. In 1772 the people of Rhode Island captured and burned to the water’s edge the Royal armed vessel the Gaspé, in Narragansett Bay, for attempting to enforce the revenue laws; and Stephen Hopkins, Chief Justice of Rhode Island, refused to issue warrants for the guilty parties or to recognize their arrest as legal.
When the Stamp Act was passed, in 1765, requiring that all process of courts, conveyances, and legal papers should be on stamped paper, the County Court of Frederick County, Maryland, in November, 1765, decided that the act did not bind the freemen of Maryland, who had had no voice in its enactment, and committed their clerk to prison for contempt in refusing to obey their order to issue process without stamps. Thus in all the English colonies the right of resistance and rebellion had been claimed, asserted, and exercised.
A common sentiment, a common danger, and a common cause are potent forces toward creating sympathy and concerted action. The hearts of men are more efficient allies than their heads, for they do not calculate consequences. With the destruction of British prestige came of necessity the obliteration of provincialism—the admitted superiority of everything home-born or home-produced to everything colonial. Thackeray faithfully paints the picture of the time when he describes the young Virginian visiting the home of his fathers as regarded as a young Mohawk, and an object of surprise because he was white. Braddock himself and his officers did not measure up to the colonial standard of manners, of education, or of intelligence. Their superiors in every respect could be found in the routs at Williamsburg and Annapolis, or the parlors of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston; and in place of the provincial feeling of inferiority, rapidly developed a continental sentiment of present equality, with a swelling sense of a great destiny, when America would fill and act a great part in the future of the human race.
When the Stamp Act was passed the continent called the comrades of the battle of the Monongahela to come together and consult as to what the common right was entitled to, and what the common interest required to be done. The Braddock campaign was the author of the Stamp Act congress, as that was of the Articles of Confederation, and they of the Constitution of the United States. They were all the product of great historical forces which direct the march of nations and the development of races, and lead to results beyond human prevision, human fears, or human hopes.
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