History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Life and Times of
Sir William Johnson, Bart.,
by William L. Stone
Albany: J. Munsell, 78 State Street, 1865.
Blood had been spilled, Washington defeated, and the scalping knife unsheathed from the Ohio to the Kennebec, yet England and France were still at peace. Notwithstanding the bold assumptions of France, the vacillating course of the Newcastle ministry rendered a definite policy toward that government impossible; and although the defeat at the Great Meadows roused the ministry sufficiently to ask the advice of Horatio Gates, a youthful officer just arrived from Nova Scotia, yet they soon relapsed into their former imbecility, leaving the charge of American affairs to the duke of Cumberland, at that time the captain general of the armies of Great Britain. (1)
The duke of Cumberland, who has been described as "cruel and sanguinary," regarded the opportunity thus afforded for indulging in his favorite pastime, war, with delight; and rightly judging that the French were bent on hostilities, he dispatched in January, while the ministry were still hesitating, two regiments to America under the command of Edward Braddock. The French, thoroughly cognizant of the intentions of the English, notwithstanding the flimsy diplomatic subtleties with which "England's foolish prime minister" was amusing the French court, immediately made preparations for sending large reinforcements into Canada. With this design, a fleet of transports carrying troops under the command of Baron Dieskau, a veteran soldier, and having also on board De Vaudreuil, who was to supersede Duquesne in the government of Canada, sailed from Brest early in May. Scarcely
(1) Bancroft. Walpole's George II.
had its sails caught the ocean breezes, when the English, who had watched this movement with a jealous eye, sent admiral Boscawen in pursuit. Both fleets arrived nearly at the same time off Cape Race, but were prevented by a dense fog, from seeing each other. The larger part of the French fleet, taking advantage of this circumstance, escaped up the St. Lawrence, and safely landed the troops, with Dieskau and Vaudreuil, at Quebec. Two vessels, however,-the Alcide and the Lys were not so fortunate, for on the sixth of June they fell in with the Dunkirk and the Defiance of the British fleet. The Alcide was commanded by Hocquart, and the Dunkirk by Howe(1), both brave men-and a sharp action ensued, which, lasting several hours, resulted in the discomfiture and surrender of the French men-of-war.(2) Meanwhile, as the prospect of a war became more certain, and the defenceless condition of the frontiers more apparent, the alarm of the colonists grew so great as to induce the lieutenant governor, with the advice of his council, to convene the assembly on the fourth of February. The opening message informed that body of the active measures which his majesty was taking for the security of his subjects in America, and of the armament which had already sailed under General Braddock. It farther reminded them of the weak state of the frontier fortifications, should the French make-which was quite possible-a descent upon the province. In order effectually to prevent this, the defences around the city of New York should at once be strengthened, and other works constructed, which the commander in chief, with the advice of his council and the best engineers, might think advisable. The northern frontier next demanded their serious attention. The defences of the city of Albany were in such a deplorable state, as to excite the derision even of the Indians; and yet should that city be taken, there was nothing to prevent the French from sweeping
(1) Afterward Lord Howe.
down into New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Albany should therefore be fortified without delay, and a strong fort built at some advanced place on the Hudson, whence scouts could be sent out to gain intelligence and give timely notice of the enemy's approach. All these preparations, added the message, would require a large amount of money; but as security could not be purchased at too high a price, it hoped that, throwing aside any ill-timed parsimony, they would provide such funds as would be sufficient to defray all expenses necessary for their own preservation. The assembly needed no urging to prompt action. Its alarm was too great, and the enemy too near for it to be indifferent to the exigency of the occasion. It immediately, in defiance of the royal instructions, authorized an issue of forty-five thousand pounds in bills of credit, to be sunk at stated intervals by a tax; prohibited any supplies of provisions from being sent to the French colonies; and made the militia subject to such penalties as should be imposed by the executive.
Meanwhile, the Mohawks of the upper and lower castles became alarmed at the prospect of hostilities, which would let loose the hordes of French Indians upon their castles, now entirely defenceless. Hearing of Colonel Johnson's intended departure for New York to take his seat at the council board, they hastened to transmit by him a message to the executive, representing their unprotected condition and beseeching aid. Their appeal was delivered by the colonel, shortly after his arrival in the city, to Mr. De Lancey in person, who communicated it to his council on the twenty-eighth. The letter was addressed to the lieutenant governor, and was as follows:
"Brother Goragh: When we had the pleasure of seeing you last summer at Albany, the air seemed to be pleasant and the sky serene and clear, but to our great concern we now observe thick and heavy clouds arising on all sides and driving this way, which seems to portend a storm. Should it blow, we are very apprehensive of danger, having no shelter. To you, therefore, Brother, (in whose power it is to draw or disperse those dark clouds) we make known our fears, not doubting but you, out of a brotherly affection, will either remove them or ease the minds of our old and young people, or cover us from the impending storm." The council, after considering this letter, wisely resolved that to comply with their wishes would be a better argument in dissuading them from yielding to the intrigues of the French, than all the words that could be used, and determined forthwith to have both their castles stockaded and such other works erected as would best protect their uncovered old men. They also authorized the executive to draw upon the contingent fund for this purpose; and directed the colonel to estimate the expense of such works as the Indians desired, and construct, on his arrival home, such defences as, in his judgment might be deemed advisable.
While the assembly was sitting, Governor Shirley, who had for a long time been in correspondence with the ministry upon the importance and feasibility of conquering Canada, sent commissioners to the several colonies, urging them to assist him in his long cherished project of driving the French from the continent of America. Thomas Pownal,(l) the commissioner sent for this purpose to the colony of New York, met with so lukewarm a reception from De Lancey, as to lead him to seek sympathy from the party Opposed to the latter. This party had now acquired considerable influence, and as Mr. Pownal received from it cordial support, the lieutenant governor thought it not advisable to create any more ill feeling against himself, by provoking it farther. He accordingly sent down to the assembly, upon the twenty-sixth, a special message, in which lie requested supplies for the quartering of the troops, and informed it that the garrison at Oswego was in danger of succumbing through want, As Colonel Johnson had
(1) Brother of John Pownal, at that time one of the secretaries to the board of trade.
refused any longer to provision that post, while the debt which he had already incurred in supplying it was unpaid. Accompanying the message, were copies of Mr. Shirley's letters, and he urged it to take the suggestions therein contained into consideration. On the same day, Mr. John Chambers was sent by the council to request the house to unite in a joint committee to confer with Mr. Pownal upon the suggestions made by Governor Shirley. This was acceded to, and after the committee had met the Massachusetts commissioner, it was unanimously resolved "that the scheme was well concerted, and that if Massachusetts would raise fourteen hundred men, they ought to find eight hundred, and that they would agree to contribute to a general fund for the common charge of the war." Before however this resolution should be acted upon, it was proposed to submit it to General Braddock for his approval and the house adjourned on the twenty-ninth until his opinion could be obtained by Mr. De Lancey, who had been called to confer with that general and five of the colonial governors at Alexandria.(1)
This conference had been called by Braddock shortly after his arrival in Virginia, to meet upon the fourteenth day of April.(2) Its object was to devise measures for a vigorous prosecution of the war against the French. Yet at the same time it was distinctly understood that Canada was not to be invaded, but only French encroachment along the frontier repelled.
Four separate expeditions were planned by Braddock and the royal governors-the first for the complete reduction of Nova Scotia, was to be commanded by Lawrence, the lieutenant governor of that province; a second was to recover the Ohio valley, under Braddock himself; the
(1) The colonial governors present upon this occasion, were, De Lancey of New York, Shirley of Massachusetts, Morris of Pennsylvania, Sharpe of Maryland, and Dinwiddie of Virginia. Commodore Keppel was also present.
(2) Braddock sailed from Cork with one thousand men upon the fourteenth day of January, and arrived in the Chesapeake the latter part of February.
third, under command of Shirley, -was to expel the French from Fort Niagara, and form a junction with Braddock's forces; and the fourth was to be given to Colonel Johnson, having for its object the capture of Crown Point. This last appointment was made through the influence Governor Shirley. The energy which Colonel Johnson had displayed in his command of the militia of New York, and the vigor which he had infused into that branch of the public service, first led Shirley to desire that he should have the command of the expedition.(l) Early in this year, he had announced to the general assembly of Massachusetts, under a pledge of secrecy, his intention to appoint Johnson to the command of the expedition against Crown Point;(2) and at this conference, General Braddock, at his suggestion, gave the colonel the command, with the rank of major general. The latter was to have under him the provincial militia and the warriors of the Six Nations; and his acknowledged influence over the latter especially, gave promise of success. General Johnson held his commission from the governors of those colonies that were to furnish the provincials-the respective quotas of each being fixed at Alexandria.(3)
At this conference, Johnson, who was also present at the solicitation of General Braddock, received from the latter the appointment of superintendent of Indian affairs, with full power to treat with the Confederate Nations, and to secure them and their allies to the British interest. For the furtherance of this latter object, Braddock advanced Johnson two thousand pounds, which, it was understood, should be reimbursed to him by the colonies, according to the proportions which had been settled upon by the commissioners, the previous summer at Albany.
Immediately upon Johnson's return, he sent belts of wampum to all the castles of the Confederate Nations, now
(1) Manuscript letter: Shirley to Johnson.
(2) Letter to a Nobleman. Mass. His. Col.
(3) Johnson's commission from Governor Shirley as major general, is dated the 16th April of the present year.
increased to nine,(1) informing them of a grand council which he proposed to hold, and desiring that they would meet him at Mount Johnson with all possible dispatch. The Indians did not require urging to attend. The news that their brother Warraghiyagey had again been raised up among them, spread like wildfire;(2) and in a very short time, in response to his call, over eleven hundred Indians of every age and sex, assembled at the place designated. So unprecedented and unexpected was the number present -by far the largest assemblage of Indians ever before convened-that Johnson, as well as his larder, was completely taken by surprise.
On the twenty-first of June he opened the council by a speech, which was interpreted to the Indians by Red Head, the chief sachem of the Onondagas.(3) In this address the Indians were informed of the arrival of General Braddock who had come with "a large number of armed men, great guns, and other implements of war," to protect those Indians against the French, who remained firm in their attachment to the English. In the course of his remarks, the speaker-also took occasion to inform them in their own poetical language, of his late appointment from General Braddock. "The tree," said he, "which in your public speeches and private applications to me, you have so often and so earnestly desired might be again set up, is now raised and fixed in the earth by so powerful a hand, that its roots will take a firm and deep footing, and its branches be a comfortable and extensive shade for you and all your allies to take shelter under it. And by this belt, I now invite you and all
(1) By taking into the covenant chain the Tiederigoenes, Schanadarighroenes and Delawares.
(2) The Indians appear in extreme good humor, and mightily please at your having solely the superintendency of their affairs." Manuscript letter: Colonel Stoddard to General Johnson, June 13th, 1755.
(3) Although Johnson was perfectly acquainted with the Indian tongue, and could have spoken to them directly in their own language, yet it was always considered by the Indians as etiquette to be addressed at a formal conference through a third person.--Manuscripts of Sir William Johnson.
your allies to come and sit under this tree, where you may freely open your hearts and get all your wounds healed. I do, Brethren, at the same time, remove the embers which remain at Albany, and rekindle the fire of council and friendship at this place; and this tire I shall make of such wood as will give the clearest light and greatest warmth, and I hope it will prove comfortable and useful to all such as will come and light their pipes at it, and dazzle and scorch all those who are or may be enemies to it." In conclusion, they were informed that he had a message to give them from General Braddock, and also presents which the king had sent them by that warrior. These he would deliver to them in a day or two, together with a speech of his own.
On the twenty-third, however, the Indians having informed Johnson that they were desirous to answer his late speech, he consented to put off the delivery of the one he had promised for that day, and listen to theirs. Accordingly Hendrik rose, and addressing his brother warriors, announced that in accordance with their ancient custom, the speaker at a council was always chosen from either the Mohawks, Onondagas, or Cayugas, in deference to their being the elder brothers of the Confederacy; and he therefore gave them notice that Brother Kaghsuaghtioni (Red Head) would be the speaker on this occasion.(1)
The answer of this sachem was, in its principal features, an expression of satisfaction for the restoration of Johnson. The Six Nations, he said, had long been in darkness, and now were extremely obliged to the king their father, for restoring to them that clear and comfortable light which in old times cheered their forefathers, by appointing him to the sole management of their affairs-who had always treated them kindly and honestly, and whom they looked upon as their own flesh and blood. As to the fire at Albany, it was so low and bad that they could not even
(1) In the private council of the sachems held in reference to the reply to be given to Johnson's speech, Hendrik had been nominated as their speaker but he declined in favor of Red Head.
find a spark with which to light a pipe. "We look on you, Brother," concluded the orator," as the king, our father's representative. We are under your direction and disposition, and the fire you have kindled here, as well as that at Onondaga, we will cherish, and all other fires we thus kick away, as unnatural and hateful to us." Here, suiting the action to the word, Red Head gave a violent kick. Then presenting to General Johnson a belt of wampum, he bowed three times very low, and sat down amid an universal shout of approval.
As soon as the Onondaga orator had finished, the chief sachem of the Oneidas came forward, and presenting a boy to Johnson and to the Indians, announced the death of one of their sachems, and asked permission to raise up this lad in his place, and confer on him the name of that deceased. The general thereupon, taking the boy from his hand as a token that he was pleased with the selection told him that if the sachems of his nation would introduce the boy on the morrow, he would clothe him as became a chief. The Indians were then thanked for the cordial manner in which they had responded to his speech, and notified that the firing of two cannon would be the signal of his being prepared to answer their speech, when he hoped that all of them "great and small, would be in attendance to hear what he had to say."
On the twenty-fourth, the sachems and warriors of the nine cantons having assembled, Johnson opened his speech by pointing impressively to four large volumes of Indian records which lay on a table before him-- "These are," said he, "the records of the many solemn treaties which have passed between your forefathers and your brothers, the English. They testify that upon our first acquaintance we shook hands, and finding we should be useful to one another, entered into a covenant of brotherly love and mutual friendship. * * * And now my brethren, I ask you, and I desire every man present to put his hand on his heart and ask himself seriously this question; who have been, who are the friends and brethren of the Five Confederate Nations and their allies? the English or the French? Does it require any time to consider ? does it require any argument to determine? If you can be one moment in doubt, I must ! "' tell you, you will not act like the children of those brave and honest men, whom you call your forefathers, but like Frenchmen in the shape of the Five Nations. Are you indeed our Brethren? Are you the children of our ancient friends and brothers ? Are you those sachems and warriors of the Five Confederate Nations, whom the great king of England, the best and most upright prince in the world, loves and honors as his wise, his warlike and dutiful children? * * * Stand by your -Brethren the English-don't break your covenant chain with them; let not the French boastings or lies deceive you. The English have indeed been long asleep, but now they are thoroughly awake: they are slow to spill blood, but when they begin, they are like an angry wolf, and the French will fly before them like deer."(1)
After the Indian warriors had been wrought up by these stirring appeals to the highest pitch of frenzy, Johnson informed them that he had received a message from the Half King, stating that their brethren southward had already offered their services to General Braddock. This being the case, continued he, will you allow your southern brethren to outstrip you in zeal and bravery? No, rather set them an example. If you desire to treat me as a brother, go with me. "My war-kettle is on the fire, my canoe is ready to put in the water, my gun is loaded, my sword by my side, and my axe is sharpened. By this large
(1) In the first rough manuscript draught of this speech, in Johnson's own handwriting, now before me, the reading is "angry bear," instead of "angry wolf," as it is written in the speech published in the N. Y. Col. Doc. The expression in the text, however, is the most forcible. The wolf frequently preys on the deer; the bear, rarely, if ever-the food of the bear, especially in the northern wilderness of New York, being chiefly berries and young twigs. Johnson probably altered the first expression in the last draught.
belt, therefore,"-at the same time handing the Sachem Abraham a war-belt-"I call on you to raise up like honest and brave men, and join your brethren and me against our common enemy, and by it, I confirm the assurances I have given you."
The following day, the speech of General Braddock was delivered to the Indians by Johnson. The latter threw into its delivery all the fire and energy of which he was master, and at its conclusion flung down, in the general's name, the war-belt. It was immediately picked up by an Oneida sachem, and, at the same time, Arent Stevens, the interpreter, began the war dance, in the chorus of which he was joined by all the sachems present. A large tub of punch was thereupon brought forward for the Indians to drink the king's health, and the council broke up for the day.(1)
The result of this council was flattering. Although of late, the activity of the French had won over several chief warriors of the upper castles, among whom was Red Head, yet their minds were so mollified by the exertions of Johnson, that he was able to write to the lords of trade shortly after, "that there were very few amongst the whole Confederacy, who, in the present disputes between the French and our crown, do not sincerely wish us success, and are disposed to assist our arms."
As soon as the plans of the four campaigns had been definitely arranged at Alexandria, Shirley hastened to Boston to prepare for the expedition under his command; to expedite the departure of the provincials who were to join General Johnson's command; and to urge forward thetroops destined for Nova Scotia. He was detained, however,
(1) The efforts of Johnson with the Indians upon this occasion were not confined merely to his public interviews. He labored incessantly with them in private; and finally prevailed upon the Six Nations to send a message to those of the Onondagas who had settled at La Presentation, and also to the Caughnawagas, urging them to remain at least neutral in the coming struggle.- N. Y. Col. Doc., vi.
a few days in New York, while engaged in removing some objections which De Lancey had raised to the form of Johnson's commission; and also in Connecticut, where he tarried to hurry forward the provincial troops from that province. Having at length arrived in Boston, he worked with so much diligence that the troops for Nova Scotia, under the command of Colonel Winslow, were soon on their way; and having seen them fairly started, he returned to New York, and sailed for Albany on the fourth of July,-his; own regiment having preceded him by a few days.(1)
Lieutenant Governor De Lancey likewise hastened from Alexandria to New York, and having convened his legislature, informed it in a short message on the twenty-third of April, that General Braddock had given his assent to Governor Shirley's plan, and urged it to act on the resolution of the joint committee. The assembly, now thoroughly aroused, entered with alacrity into the proposed expedition. Bills were immediately passed for levying and supplying eight hundred men to act under General Johnson in erecting forts near Crown Point, and for impressing ship carpenters and laborers to construct boats and other articles that might be necessary for the expedition.
On the twenty-seventh, in another message, the assembly were informed that Connecticut had consented to furnish three of the eight companies at the expense of New York, and that a loan of a sufficient number of arms to equip the entire eight companies had been requested, of Governor Dinwiddie. In case, however, the executive should be disappointed in obtaining a sufficient quantity, it was suggested that provision should be made for supplying the deficiency. Inasmuch, also, as it had been agreed at Alexandria that presents should be given to the Indians, it was thought that money should be appropriated for that purpose, and likewise for the expenses of Major General Johnson, suitable to his rank. The assembly responding
(1) Mass. His. Col; vii.
While the lieutenant governor and the assembly of New York were thus actively engaged in preparing to meet their share of the expenses of the coming hostilities, the expedition under Colonel Winslow, for the capture of the two French forts in Acadia, had already sailed. At the head of the bay of Fundy the New England troops were joined by Colonel Monckton with three hundred regulars, and a small train of artillery, and the forces now increased to about eighteen hundred men, appeared on the second of June, before Beausejour. De Verger, the officer in command of that fort, although having a plentiful supply of ammunition and artillery, yet, with a strange lack of energy, took no pains to prevent the English from disembarking. A day was spent by the provincial troops in repose, and upon the fourth of June they invested the fort. No sally or even a respectable defense was attempted, and upon the twelfth the garrison, "weakened by fear, discord and confusion," surrendered.(2) The garrison, by the terms of the surrender, were to depart forthwith for Louisburg ; and three hundred of the Arcadians who were found aiding in the defense of the fort, were pardoned, it appearing that they had been forced into the service much against their will. The fort was garrisoned with English soldiers, and its name changed to Cumberland in honor of the warlike brother of George Second.
Beausejour having been reduced, the provincials next directed their efforts against the small palisaded fort on the
(1) Journal of the assembly. Smith.
Gaspereau, garrisoned by only twenty men, and forced its surrender on the same terms. At the same time Captain Row was dispatched with four vessels, to attack the French fort on the river St. John. Before he arrived, however, the French taking alarm, burned the fort and the surrounding dwellings and fled, leaving a barren victory to the conquerors.(1)
Had the British and the New England commanders stopped at this point, the conquest thus achieved would have presented an unsullied record. But not content with a success which left them in safe and in undisputed possession of the whole of Nova Scotia, they next turned their attention to the dislodgement of the inhabitants of Acadia.
The Acadians were a simple, harmless, and pious people, leading a pastoral life among their flocks and herds; and tilling the soil, which, for more than a century and a half, had descended from father to son. Their morals were pure, their temper cheerful, and their religion sincere. The parish priest was the sole arbiter of their disputes, and beyond him there was no appeal. Happy in the consciousness of harboring no ill-will towards their fellow men, they lived contentedly in their little cottages; and while the husbands and brothers went forth with the early morn to the severer labors of the field, the wives and sisters nimbly plied the shuttle, or trained the woodbine and the honeysuckle over the doors of their peaceful homes. Their happiness was soon to be rudely shattered.
The fertile fields and rich meadows of the Acadians, brought into the highest state of cultivation by their own industry, had long been coveted for the crown by the governor of Nova Scotia ; and regarding this as a favorable opportunity for securing their possession, he lost no time in thus representing it to the ministry.(2) His representations were but too successful, and under the flimsy pretext, that to allow so large a body of French to reside
(2) Lieutenant Governor Lawrence to the lords of trade, Aug. 1, 1754.
in Acadia, would render insecure the possession of Nova Scotia, it was determined to send adrift the entire colony. Accordingly a proclamation was issued commanding the males of all ages to assemble at their several villages on the fifth of September. Utterly unsuspicious, in the simplicity of their hearts, of any hostile intent, four hundred and eighteen unarmed men assembled at Grand Pre, one of the places designated. As soon as they had been like a flock of sheep huddled together in the church, the doors were closed and secured, and it was told them by Colonel Winslow, that all their lands, houses and live stock were confiscated to the crown, and that they were to be removed immediately from the province. They were, however, "through the goodness of his majesty,"-to be permitted to take with them their money and as much of their household goods as would not encumber the vessels in which they were to sail.
It was a sad day, when for the last time the Acadians looked upon their homes which for so long had contained all that life holds dear. As the embarkation was in progress, the men, as they marched to the boats, were greeted with the blessings of the women and children, who kneeling, joined with them in "praying, and singing hymns." Although Colonel Winslow was a humane man, and exercised as much kindness as was consistent with his orders, yet it is to be feared that the New England troops, actuated by that same intolerance which caused their ancestors to burn out the tongues of Quakers, entered into this horrid work with alacrity. As there was not a sufficient number of transports to carry them all at one time, the women and children were left behind until they could be taken off in other vessels. "The embarkation of the inhabitants goes on but slowly," wrote the brutal Monckton; "the most part of the wives of the men we have prisoners are gone off with their children, in hopes I would not send off their husbands without them." They were indeed bitterly deceived; and as the last anchor was weighed, and the white sails, filling with the breeze, bore their loved ones from the sight of those that were left behind, one universal wail of anguish rose up to heaven.
Cruel was the fate of these unfortunates. Full seven thousand of them were distributed throughout the colonies. Some were sent to Georgia and South Carolina, and others to New England, where scorning to receive assistance from those who had so cruelly wronged them, they died in obscurity and indigence.(1) For many months afterward the provincial newspapers contained advertisements of husbands seeking their wives, lovers their betrothed, and brothers their sisters. A few, after weary months of wandering, found again their lost ones; but the majority never again beheld the faces of those whom they loved.
Thus was consummated a deed, the most needless, wanton and fiendish, that it has ever been the lot of an historian to record,-a deed which has left upon the reign of George Second, and upon all those who were engaged in this expedition, a stain so dark and damning, as needed not the pen of one of our most loved poets, to render its memory lasting, so long as the sanctity of the family tie shall remain in the hearts of men.(2)
General Braddock had intended to have advanced against Fort Duquesne in the early part of spring. Difficulties however, in procuring a suitable number of wagons and a proper supply of provisions, retarded his movements so greatly, that he was not ready to start until June. On the tenth of that month, with Washington as one of his aids, he left Wills creek at the head of twenty-two hundred men. The roughness of the roads and the impossibility of hastening forward the wagons,-loaded not only with the necessary
(2) English writers have indeed attempted to justify this cruelty on the ground of "military necessity ;" but the duty, which each one seems to consider himself under to explain it away by elaborate reasoning, is only confession of the utter needlessness and inhumanity of the act.
supplies, but with much unnecessary baggage, which the regular officers -would, not consent to leave behind, rendered the progress of the troops slow and tiresome. Under these circumstances, Braddock, at the suggestion of Washington, pushed ahead with twelve hundred picked men lightly equipped, while Colonel Dunbar, with the remainder of the troops and the heavy artillery, followed in slow marches. At length upon the eighth of July, the fork of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny was reached.
The next day's sun was just appearing above the eastern hills, when the army, having forded the Monongahela, pursued their journey along the southern bank of that river. Their polished helmets and rich trappings, glittering in the dewy foliage like so many diamonds, were in keeping with the cheerfulness visible upon each countenance, while a fresh breeze, which had just sprung up infused new life into the jaded steeds, who champed their bits, and seemed scarcely less impatient to hasten forward than their riders. At noon the river was again forded, and the troops were upon a level plain which, extending for half a mile, terminated in a gradual rise of ground to the hills beyond. The road from the fording place to Fort Duquesne, was across this plain and up this ascent.
"By the order of march, a body of three hundred men, under Colonel Gage, made the advance party, which was immediately followed by another of two hundred. Next came the general with the columns of artillery, the main body of the army and the baggage. At one o'clock the whole had crossed the river, and almost at this moment a sharp firing was heard upon the advanced parties, who were now ascending the hill, and had proceeded about a hundred yards from the termination of the plain. A heavy discharge of musketry was poured in upon their front, which was the first intelligence they had of the proximity of an enemy, and this was suddenly followed by another on their right flank. They were filled with the greatest consternation, as no enemy was in sight, and the firing seemed to proceed from an invisible foe. They fired in their turn, however, but quite at random and obviously without effect.
"The general hastened forward to the relief of the advanced parties; but, before he could reach the spot which they occupied, they gave way and fell hack upon the artillery and the other columns of the army, causing extreme confusion, and striking the whole mass with such a panic, that no order could afterwards be restored. The general and the officers behaved with the utmost courage, and used every effort to rally the men, and bring them to order, but all in vain. In this state they continued nearly three hours, huddling together in confused bodies, firing irregularly, shooting down their own officers and men, and doing no particular harm to the enemy. The Virginia provincials were the only troops who seemed to retain their sense(3), and they behaved with a bravery and a resolution worthy of a better fate. They adopted the Indian mode, and fought each man for himself behind a tree. This was prohibited by the general, who endeavored to form his men into platoons and columns, as if they had been maneuvering on the plains of Flanders. Meantime the French and Indians, concealed in the ravines and behind trees, kept up a deadly and unceasing discharge of musketry, singling out their objects, taking deliberate aim, and producing a carnage almost unparalleled in the annals of modern warfare. More than half of the whole army which had crossed the river in so proud an array only three hours before, were killed or wounded. The general himself received a mortal wound, and many of his best officers fell by his side."(1)
Upon the fall of General Braddock, Colonel Washington assumed the command, and having succeeded in rallying the troops, fell back with them in tolerable order upon Gist's settlement, where Colonel Dunbar was encamped. Here a panic again seized the troops, and hastily burning
(1) Washington's journal, ii, 469.
their stores and destroying their artillery, they retreated in the wildest confusion to Will's creek, which a second time received an army broken and routed by the French. The English left on the field dead seven hundred and fourteen privates, while, with the exception of Washington, not an officer escaped unhurt. The French remained in possession of the field, and vast quantities of ammunition, together with six brass field pieces, four howitz-carriages and eleven small grenade mortars.(l) Their loss in killed was only three officers and thirty men.
Thus terminated this expedition, from which so much had been expected, and upon the result of which the eyes of both continents had been turned in anxious solicitude. It was an expedition moreover lost through sheer folly. During the march, Washington had repeatedly urged his commander to accept of a body of Indians under the Half King, who, at the solicitation of Johnson, had offered themselves to serve as scouts,(2) but Braddock, who, though a brave man, was imperious and self-willed, at first refused and though he finally accepted them, yet they were treated with such neglect, that they left in disgust. Had Washington's advice been followed, so far even as to have sent in advance of the main body half a dozen Indians, the calamity would not have occurred.
Well would it have been for the colonists of Pennsylvania and Virginia had the effects of the rout ended here. But the French, when they unexpectedly saw that this defeat was followed by the retreat of the remainder of the army, found themselves at liberty to resume the offensive. The prestige of British troops among the Indians was gone, and taking advantage of this, the French prevailed on several of the Indian nations to take up the hatchet against the English-a result which was accomplished the more readily from the fact that the Indians still considered
(1) An account of the battle of the Monongahela.-Paris Doc,, x, 808.
(2) Manuscript letter: Johnson to General Croghan, April 23d, 1755.
themselves aggrieved by the sale of their lands by the Six Nations two years before at Albany. Although a part of the Shawnees were always perfidious and had declared for the French in the previous war, yet the majority of that nation, together with the Delawares, had always been depended on by the government of Pennsylvania, to preserve the western tribes in its interest, or at least to prevail on them to remain neutral. Now, however, those two nations, having declared war against the English with great solemnity, took up the hatchet with alacrity, and fell with great fury upon the settlements, carrying on a most sanguinary and cruel "war, and burning and laying waste all before them from beyond the Apalachian hills in Virginia to the river Delaware.(1) From the fact that the Indian towns Were scattered along both banks of the Ohio and Delaware, and on both branches of the Susquehanna, the Indians were capable of doing much mischief; and the terror of the inhabitants became so great, that it was feared, that following the Blue Ridge in their desolating course, they would fall upon the provinces of New Jersey and New York(2).
The Susquehanna and the Catawba tribes remained faithful. Rumors, however, becoming prevalent that the French were tampering with the Southern Indians, and a message being received to that effect from the chief warrior of the Cherokees, Governor Glen held a council among the hills of western Carolina, with five hundred warriors of that nation, with whom he renewed the covenant chain, and obtained from them a grant of lands, and also permission to erect a fort on the banks of the Savannah river.(3)
An evil star hung over the expedition against Niagara from its very inception. It was to have started early in
(l) Manuscript letter Governor-Morris of Pennsylvania to Governor Shirley, 3d December, 1755.
(2) Manuscript letter: Governor Morris to Governor Shirley.
(3) Fort Prince George.
the spring, but the troops who were to take part in it, composed, of Shirley's, Pepperell's and Colonel Schuyler's regiments, did not arrive in Albany till early in July. Just as Shirley and Pepperell, with their regiments, were embarking at Schenectady for Oswego-Colonel Schuyler's regiment having preceded them by a few days-the news of Braddock's defeat reached Albany. The effect of this intelligence was disastrous in the extreme. Such was the terror excited by it, that many of the troops deserted, and so great a number of the bateau men went home, that a large portion of the necessary stores had to be left behind, while over the spirits of all was cast a deep gloom. This caused more delay, and it was not until the latter part of July that General Shirley was fairly on the way to Oswego, where he arrived on the twenty-first of August.
At the council held at Alexandria in the spring, it had been determined that Oswego should be reinforced, and that vessels should also be built to intercept more readily the bateaux of the French. Accordingly, upon the seventh of June, three hundred and twenty ship carpenters arrived at that post; and at the same time Captain Bradstreet marched thither with two companies to reinforce the garrison. Meanwhile the carpenters worked so expeditiously, that when General Shirley arrived, he found several good vessels already built and ready for the transportation of his troops to Niagara. More boats, however, had to be built, and weeks passed before a sufficient number for transporting six hundred men-all that Shirley proposed to take with him-could be completed. Scarcely were they finished, when a storm set in so severe as to render it unsafe for the troops to venture on the lake in open boats. The storm abated upon the twenty-sixth of September, but hardly had the orders been given for their embarkation when a succession of head winds and tempests arose, which continued for thirteen days. Sickness now prevailed; the Indians dreading a voyage on the water, deserted; and the season was far advanced. Under these circumstances a council of war was held, at which it was the opinion of all, that it would be more prudent to defer the expedition until another year. Accordingly on the twenty-fourth of October, General Shirley, leaving Colonel Mercer in command of a garrison of seven hundred men, with instructions to erect two new forts for the farther security of the place, returned to Albany with the residue of his army.
Two of the expeditions so confidently planned at Alexandria, had thus signally failed. The hopes of all the colonists were now centered, in fearful suspense, upon the result of the expedition under Major General Johnson. Crown Point had been strongly reinforced. Dieskau, with the flower of the French army, was watching with eagle eye his movements. Should Johnson fail all hope is lost.
Thanks to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on the internet.
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.