BRADDOCK’S EXPEDITION IN 1755.
How the News of Washington’s Defeat was Received in England English Ministry Determined to Wage a Vigorous War—-Arrival of Gen. Braddock at Alexandria, Virginia—-His Two Royal Regiments of Foot Joined by Provincial Forces—-The March to Fort Cumberland—-The Troops Composing Braddock’s Army—-Its Officers Benjamin Franklin—-Sir John Sinclair—-Details of the March to the Monongahela--Braddock Spurns the Assistance of Friendly Indians—-The Battle—-Braddock Mortally Wounded—-Defeat of the English—-Their Hurried Retreat—-Panic-Stricken Wagoners--Dunbar’s Camp—-His Culpable Conduct—-Braddock’s Death—-Final Retreat to Fort Cumberland—-Results of the Defeat.
The conflict known in America as the "Old French and Indian War" was now fairly inaugurated. News of the defeat of Washington and the consequent domination of the French over all the broad territory west of the Allegheny range was hurriedly dispatched to England, where it produced general alarm and excitement. The ministry, roused to prompt and vigorous action, were determined to retrieve the disaster and expel the French, at whatever cost, from the valleys of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. In pursuance of this determination it was decided to send out a military force to march from the Potomac to the "Forks of the Ohio," there to wrest from the French by force of arms their most menacing possession, Fort Du Quesne.*
The command of the expedition designed for the reduction of Fort Du Quesne was given to Maj.-Gen. Edward Braddock, of the British
*Two other expeditions, however, were projected—-one against Niagara and Frontenac, under Gen. Shirley, and another against Crown Point, under Gen. William Johnson; but the chief one was that intended for the capture of Fort Du Quesne.
army, who was also made commander-in-chief of all his Majesty’s forces in America. The expeditionary force was to be composed of the 44th and 48th royal regiments of foot (of about five hundred men each), commanded respectively by Col. Sir Peter Halkert and Col. Thomas Dunbar, besides a considerable body of provincial troops to be raised in Virginia and other American provinces.
Gen. Braddock sailed from Cork, Ireland, January 14, 1755, with the two regular regiments, on the fleet commanded by Admiral Keppel. Hampton Roads was reached on February 20, and the general and admiral immediately proceeded to Williamsburg, Virginia, to confer with Gov. Dinwiddie. There the general met his quartermaster-general, Sir John Sinclair, who had preceded him to America and had already visited Fort Cumberland to make the preliminary arrangements for the campaign. "Virginia levies" had already been raised, for the purpose of being incorporated with the two regular regiments, and these levies had been ordered to Alexandria, whither, also, the fleet was ordered for the disembarkation of the troops.
Leaving Williamsburg, Gen, Braddock, Sir John Sinclair and the admiral reached Alexandria on the 26th, which place was the headquarters of the expedition for nearly two months, during which time (April 14) a council was held there, composed of Braddock, the admiral, Gov. Dinwiddie of Virginia, Gov. Shirley of Massachusetts, Gov. Delancey of New York, Gov. Morris of Pennsylvania, and Gov. Shupe of Maryland. At this conference the plan of the campaign was decided upon, and arrangements made to facilitate the forwarding of the provincial troops destined for the expedition. We will add here, however, that the council had nothing to do with the adoption of the plan of operations, that being entirely according to the martinet ideas and opinions of the commander-in-chief.
Soon after his arrival at Alexandria, Sir John Sinclair was ordered to proceed to Winchester, Virginia, and thence to Fort Cumberland, to complete arrangements for the army’s transportation. By his advice Braddock adopted the plan of moving his force from Alexandria in two divisions— one regiment and a portion of the stores to proceed to Winchester, whence a new road was nearly completed to Fort Cumberland, and the other regiment with the remainder of the stores and the artillery to move by way of Frederick, Maryland. On April 9 Sir Peter Halkert marched for the fort (Cumberland) via Winchester with six companies of the 44th regiment, leaving the other four companies behind under command of Lieut. Col. Gage* to escort the artillery. On the 18th, Col. Dunbar, with the 48th regiment, marched for Frederick, Maryland, and the commander-in-chief left Alexandria for the same place on the 20th. When Dunbar arrived at Frederick, he found (what should have been known before) that there was no road to Cumberland through Maryland, and accordingly on May 1 he recrossed the Potomac (near the present town of Williamsport), struck the Winchester route, and nine days later was in the vicinity of the fort. "At high noon on May 10, while Halkert’s command was already encamped at the common destination, the 48th was startled by the passage of Braddock and his staff through their ranks, with a body of light-horse galloping on each side of his traveling chariot, in haste to reach Fort Cumberland. The troops saluted, the drums rolled out the grenadiers’ march, and the cortege passed by. An hour later they heard the booming of the artillery which welcomed the general’s arrival, and a little later themselves encamped on the hillsides about that post." The artillery did not reach the fort until the 20th.
Braddock remained at Fort Cumberland about four weeks, during which time his force was organized. Two companies, Rutherford’s and Clarke’s, had been at the fort through the winter and were still there. The two regular regiments had been increased to a total of fourteen hundred men by the addition, at Alexandria, of Virginia and Maryland levies. A company of Virginia light-horse, under command of Capt. Stewart, acted as the general’s body-guard. A body of seventy provincials was formed into two companies of pioneers, and Lieut. Spendelow and two midshipmen from Admiral Keppel’s fleet were present with about thirty sailors, to take charge of the cordage and tackles, necessary for the building of bridges and the hoisting of artillery pieces and other heavy material over precipices. The other provincial troops brought the total number up to about twenty-
*The same Gage who as major-general commanded the British forces in Boston in 1775.
one hundred and fifty, including officers, but exclusive of wagoners and the usual complement of non-combatant camp-followers, among whom were a number of women. There were, also, eight friendly Indians who accompanied the expedition.
By Braddock’s orders his force was brigaded as follows: The 1st brigade, commanded by Sir Peter Halkert, was composed of the 44th regt. of regulars, Capt. John Rutherford’s and Capt. Horatio Gates’* independent companies of New York, Capt. William Polson’s Virginia company of pioneers and carpenters, Capt. William Peyronie’s Virginia Rangers, Capt. Thomas Waggoner’s Virginia Rangers, and Capt. Eli Dagworthy’s Maryland Rangers. The second brigade, under the command of Col. Thomas Dunbar, consisted of the 48th regt. of regulars, Capt. Paul Demerie’s South Carolina detachment, Capt. Dobbs’ North Carolina Ranger’s, Capt. Mercer’s Virginia company of carpenters and pioneers, Capt. Adam Stephens’, Capt. Peter Hogg’s and Capt. Thomas Cooke’s companies of Virginia Rangers. Capt. Andrew Lewis’ company of Virginians had been sent to the Greenbrier river to protect the settlers there; but he joined Braddock’s column on its way to Fort Du Quesne.
Braddock’s field-officers, acting under his immediate orders, were Lieut.-Cols. Burton and Gage, Majs. Chapman and Sparks, Brigade Maj. Francis Halkert, Maj. Sir John Sinclair, deputy quartermaster-general; Matthew Leslie, assistant quartermaster-general. William Shirley served as the general’s secretary, and his (Braddock’s) aides-de-camp were Capt. Robert Orme, George Washington* and Roger Morris. Christopher Gist and his son Nathaniel accompanied the expedition as guides, while George Croghan and Andrew Montour were along as Indian interpreters.
One hundred and ninety wagons and more than fifteen hundred carrying-horses were then collected at Fort Cumberland for purposes of transportation. When he landed in Virginia, Braddock expected that "two hundred wagons and one hundred and fifty carrying-horses"
*Afterward Maj.-Gen. Gates, to whom Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga.
*As a result of the Fort Necessity campaign, Col. Washington’s rank, as well as that of other colonial officers, was reduced by royal order, which caused him to resign his commission, and at the time of Braddock’s arrival in America he was not in the military service. But Braddock, well aware of the importance of securing his services, urged Washington to take the position of volunteer aide-de-camp on his staff, and the offer so earnestly pressed was accepted.
would be furnished by the provincial authorities, but on arriving at Frederick, Maryland, he found that not more than one-tenth part of that number had been collected, and that some of these, even, were in an unserviceable condition. Learning this, the general burst out in fierce invective against the inefficiency, poverty and lack of integrity among the provincials; he declared that the expedition was at an end, and that it was impossible to move forward without 150 wagons and a corresponding number of horses, at the very least. But Dr. Benjamin Franklin, being present at Frederick, told the general that the Pennsylvania farmers were able to furnish the necessary transportation and that for a specified sum he (Franklin) would contract to deliver 150 wagons and the necessary horses at Fort Cumberland within a given time. Braddock proceeded on his march and in about two weeks Franklin had assembled more than the required number of wagons and animals at the fort. Gen. Braddock was very grateful for this service and warmly complimented Franklin in a letter addressed to the secretary of state, dated at Will’s Creek, June 5, as follows:
"Before I left Williamsburg the quartermaster-general told me that I might depend on twenty-five hundred horses and two hundred wagons from Virginia and Maryland; but I had great reason to doubt it, having experienced the false dealings of all in this country with whom I had been concerned. Hence, before my departure from Frederick; I agreed with Mr. Benjamin Franklin, postmaster in Pennsylvania, who has great credit in that province, to hire one hundred and fifty wagons and the necessary number of horses. This he accomplished with promptitude and fidelity; and it is almost the only instance of address and integrity which I have seen in all these provinces."
It has been related that in procuring the wagons and horses from the German farmers in the southeastern counties of Pennsylvania, Franklin was materially aided by the presence of Sir John Sinclair, Braddock’s quartermaster general. Sir John wore a hussar’s cap, and Franklin made use of the circumstance to terrify the Teutonic settlers with the belief that he was a hussar, who would administer to them the tyrannical treatment they had experienced
in their own country if they did not comply with his wishes.
That this same Sir John Sinclair was a man of rough speech and imperious and domineering character is made evident by the following extract from a letter written by Messrs. George Croghan,* James Burd,* John Armstrong,* William Buchanan* and Adam Hoops,* to Gov. Morris, of Pennsylvania, dated Fort Cumberland, April 16, 1755, at which time some of the companies, as well as Sir John himself, had already reached the rendezvous. The writers of the letter had been appointed to view and lay out a road over the mountains, and had returned from their mission to the fort. In the letter they say, "Last evening we came to the camp, and were kindly received by the officers, but particularly Capt. Rutherford. We waited for Sir John, coming to camp from the road toward Winchester, who came this day at three o’clock, but treated us in a very disagreeable manner, He is extremely warm and angry at our province; he would not look at our drafts, nor suffer any representations to be made to him in regard to the province, but stormed like a lion rampant. He said our commission to lay out the road should have issued in January last, upon his first letter; that doing it now is doing nothing; that the troops must march on May 1; that the want of this and the provisions promised by Pennsylvania has retarded the expedition, which may cost them their lives, because of the fresh number of the French that are suddenly like to be poured into the country; that instead of marching to the Ohio he would in nine days march his army into Cumberland county, to cut the roads, press wagons, etc.; that he would not suffer a soldier to handle an ax, but with fire and sword oblige the inhabitants to do it, and take every man that refused to the Ohio, as he had yesterday some of the Virginians; that he would kill all kind of cattle, and carry away the horses, burn houses, etc.; and that if the French defeated them by the delays of this province, that he would with his sword drawn pass through the province and treat the inhabitants as a parcel of
*These men all became prominent afterward in the history of Pennsylvania—-Croghan as an Indian agent, etc.; Burd, as the builder of Fort Burd on the site of the present town of Brownsville; Armstrong as the successful leader of the expedition against the Indian town of Kittanning; and Hoops, after having served most gallantly during the Indian wars and war of the Revolution as an officer of Pennsylvania troops, was granted a large tract of land, now occupied, in part, by the town of Olean, New York where he became the first settler during the latter part of the last century.
traitors to his master; that he would write tomorrow to England by a man-of-war, shake Mr. Penn’s proprietaryship, and represent Pennsylvania as disaffected, and told us to go to the general, if we pleased, who would give us ten bad words for one he had given."
At last, encumbered with a vast and disproportionate train of wagons and artillery, the advance of Braddock’s army under the command of Maj. Chapman began the march from Will’s Creek at daybreak of May 30, but "it was night before the whole baggage had got over a mountain about two miles from camp. * * * The general reconnoitered this mountain and determined to set the engineers and three hundred more men at work on it, as he thought it impassable by howitzers. He did not imagine that any other road could be made, as a reconnoitering party had already been to explore the country. Nevertheless, Mr. Spendelow, lieutenant of the seamen, a young man of great discernment and abilities, acquainted the general that in passing that mountain he had discovered a valley which led quite around the foot of it. A party of a hundred men with an engineer was ordered to cut a road there, and an extreme good one was made in two, days, which fell into the other road about a mile on the other side of the mountain.(6*)
Having sent back to the fort much surplus baggage and "all the King’s wagons," they "being too heavy and requiring large horses for the shafts, which could not be procured, and country wagons were better fitted for powder in their stead," the advance of the column reached Martin’s plantation on the 13th, and on the 15th it "passed the Aligany mountain, which is a rocky ascent of more than two miles, in many places exceedingly steep; its descent is very rugged and almost perpendicular; in passing which we entirely demolished three wagons and shattered several." That night the 1st brigade encamped about three miles west of Savage river, and on the 16th the head of the column reached the Little Meadows, ten miles from Martin’s plantation; but the rear did not arrive there until the 18th.
Braddock now adopted a new plan of campaign—-to move forward with a division composed of some of his best troops with a few guns and but little baggage, leaving behind the remainder of his force to bring up the heavy
stores and artillery. This decision was taken largely through the advice of Washington, who, though not commissioned, possessed no small share of the general’s confidence by reason of the experience he had gained in the campaign of the preceding year. Washington had from the first urged the use of pack-horses instead of wagons for the greater part of the transportation, and although his advice was at first ignored by the general, its wisdom now became apparent.
The force selected to move in the advance consisted of nearly thirteen hundred men. "A detachment of one field-officer with four hundred men and the deputy quartermaster-general marched on the 18th to cut and make the road to the Little Crossings of the Yoxhio Geni,* taking with them two six-pounders with their ammunition, three wagons of tools and thirty-five days’ provisions, all on carrying-horses, and on the 19th the general marched with a detachment of one colonel, one lieutenant-colonel, one major, the two eldest grenadier companies, and five hundred rank and file, the party of seamen, and eighteen light-horse, and four howitzers with fifty rounds each, and four twelve-pounders with eighty rounds each, and one hundred rounds of ammunition for each man, and one wagon of Indian presents; the whole number of carriages being about thirty. The howitzers had each nine horses, the twelve-pounders seven and the wagons six. There was also thirty-five days’ rations carried on horses." The troops left behind with Dunbar numbered about nine hundred, including four artillery officers. Eighty-four wagons and all the ordnance stores and provisions not immediately needed by the advance column were also left in his charge.
Braddock, with the advance force, reached the Little Crossings (Castleman’s river) on the evening of the 19th, camping on the west bank of that stream, and in four days from his departure from the Little Meadows had made nineteen miles, passed over the southwest corner of the present county of Somerset, and arrived at the Great Crossings of the Youghiogheny. Deeming it needless, however, to attempt to describe the route taken by Braddock’s force, in detail, we add here, in as few words as possible, that from Fort Cumberland to Gist’s
*Meaning the Youghiogheny, but the place here mentioned was more generally known as the Little Crossings of Castleman’s river.
plantation the army followed the road opened by Washington the previous year. From Gist’s Braddock moved northward by the "Nemacolin path," which was part of the Catawba trail of the Six Nations. At Braddock’s Ford, a short distance below the present borough of New Haven, Fayette county, the Youghiogheny was recrossed; thence he marched on through the present county of Westmoreland to the Great Sewickley, crossing that stream near Painter’s saltworks; thence south and west of the post-office of Jacksonville to the Brush Fork of Turtle creek; then turning sharply to the left, Braddock moved toward the Monongahela, encamping on the night of July 8, about two miles east of the river, below the mouths of the Youghiogheny. At this camp Washington rejoined the army (although not yet fully recovered), having been left behind, seriously ill with fever, at the Little Crossings.
On the morning of the 9th of July the English and provincial troops under Braddock, to the number of about fifteen hundred men (the force having been increased by nearly 200 men after leaving the Little Meadows by guards sent forward from time to time with supplies) marched to the Monongahela and crossed to the southwest shore, moving thence on the left bank for about three miles; then recrossed the river at Frazier’s, just below the mouth of Turtle creek. The crossing was completed at about one o’clock in the afternoon, and when the column reformed on the right bank of the Monongahela it was within 3/4 of a mile of the place where the French and their numerous Indian allies lay hidden along the slopes of the forest defile, which, ere the sun went down on that memorable day, was to be reddened by the blood of the bravest, and made historic for all time as "Braddock’s field" of disaster.
Meantime, while Braddock was consuming forty-one days in marching from Fort Cumberland to the field of battle, his enemy, fully aware of his movements, had been reinforced and was eager to meet him, not doubting the result. French and Indian scouts met Braddock’s force east of Laurel Hill. They were there, not for the purpose of attacking openly, but to hover along the front and flanks, to spy out the movements of the English, to murder stragglers, and to keep the commandant at Fort Du Quesne informed from day to day of Braddock’s progress. And from the time the English troops crossed
the Youghiogheny hostile Indians were always about them, and evidences of their presence multiplied with each succeeding day’s march. Indeed, nearly all of the savages west of the Alleghenies were now ranged on the side of the French. A few only of the Indian allies of the English had remained true to them after the surrender of Fort Necessity, and among these were Scarooyada, the successor of the friendly Half-King, and Monacatoocha, whose acquaintance Washington had made on his trip to Le Boeuf in 1753. These two chiefs, with nearly 150 Seneca and Delaware warriors, had joined the English on their march to the Youghiogheny, and proposed to accompany them as scouts and guides. They could without doubt have rendered great service in that capacity, and, if the warnings of their forest experience had been listened to, might perhaps have saved Braddock’s army from the surprise and disaster which overtook it. But, Braddock rejected their services, and treated them with so much of slight and contempt that they finally retired angry and disgusted, leaving him to his fate.
The battle of the Monongahela has been too often described to require repetition here. It resulted in the utter defeat and rout of the English, and the headlong flight of the survivors to the south side of the river at the point where they had crossed. The force which entered the forest defile under Braddock was 1460 strong, including officers and privates. Of this number 456 were killed* and 421 wounded, making a total of 877, while only 583 escaped unhurt, many of the latter not having been in the fight proper at all. Of 89 commissioned officers, 63 were killed or wounded, including every officer above the rank of captain, except Col. Washington. Of the captains, ten were killed and five wounded; of the lieutenants, fifteen killed and 22 wounded. Gen. Braddock had four horses shot under him, and while mounting the fifth received the wound which proved mortal. Washington had two horses shot under him. Sir Peter Halkert (next in command to Braddock) was killed instantly.
*The great disproportion between the killed and wounded on this field, in comparison with more modern ones is accounted for from the fact that the wounded left on the field were nearly all killed and scalped, and their bodies, together with those who had fallen dead, were mangled most atrociously.
Secretary Shirley was killed. Col. Burton, Sir John Sinclair and Lieut.-Col. Gage were among the wounded, also Brig.-Maj. Halkert, Dr. Hugh Mercer,* Maj. Sparks and Capt. Orme. Of the naval officers present, Lieut. Spendelow and Midshipman Talbot were killed. A number of women and officers’ servants were also killed and scalped, though every wagoner escaped. One hundred beeves were captured by the enemy, also the general’s papers (orders, instructions and correspondence) and the military chest, containing £25,000 in money, as well as all of Washington’s papers, including his notes referring to the Fort Necessity campaign of the previous year. The journal of Capt. Orme alone, of all the military papers, was saved. All the artillery, ammunition, baggage and stores fell into the hands of the French and Indians, and the dead and badly wounded were left on the field to be scalped and tortured by the savages, who, however, strangely enough, made little show of pursuit.
When Braddock received his fatal wound he expressed a wish to be left to die on the field, and this wish came very near being gratified. Nearly all his panic-stricken followers deserted him, but his aids-de-camp, Capt. Orme and Capt. Stewart, of the Virginia light-horse, remained around him, and at the imminent risk of their own lives succeeded in bearing him from the woods and across the river. The wounded general then gave orders that the troops should be rallied and a stand made at that place, but this was found impossible. A few subordinate officers and less than 100 soldiers were all who remained around him. Of this movement Capt. Orme’s journal says: "We intended to have kept possession of that ground till we could have been reinforced. The general and some wounded officers remained there about an hour, till most of the men ran off. From that place the general sent Mr. Washington to Col. Dunbar with orders to send wagoners for the wounded, some provisions and hospital stores, to be escorted by the two youngest grenadier companies, to meet him at Gist’s plantation, or nearer if possible. It was found impracticable to remain here, as the general and officers were left almost
*Afterward Gen. Mercer, of the American army, who was killed at the battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777. Left on the field with others badly wounded, he managed to conceal himself behind a fallen tree, where he witnessed the atrocities committed by the savages on the other wounded men and the dead. When darkness came on he crept from the woods, crossed the Monongahela, and after wandering in the forests for many days with his undressed wound, and nearly famished, he at last reached Fort Cumberland in safety.
alone; we therefore retreated in the best manner we were able. After we had passed the Monongahela the second time, we were joined by Lieut. Col. Gage, who had rallied near eighty men. We marched all night and the next day, and about ten o’clock that night we got to Gist’s plantation."
While Gen. Braddock was advancing toward Fort Du Quesne, Col. Dunbar with the rear division was toiling slowly along, encumbered with the reserve artillery and heavy stores. He passed the ruins of Fort Necessity on July 2, and a few days later reached the place which has borne the name of "Dunbar’s camp" to the present time. This historic spot is situated southeast of the summit, of Wolf Hill, one of the highest points of Laurel Hill Mountain, and about 3,000 feet above the ocean level. The camp was about 300 feet below the summit, occupying land then cleared of its timber, and supplied with two fine springs of water. This point was the end of Dunbar’s outward march, for he there received from the battlefield tidings which forbade all thoughts of a further advance. Washington, in carrying out the orders referred to by Orme, set out with two private soldiers as an escort, and, traveling without a halt through the long hours of the dark and rainy night which succeeded the day of the battle, arrived at Dunbar’s camp early on the morning of the 10th. At about the middle of the forenoon several of Braddock’s Dutch wagoners (from the southeastern counties of Pennsylvania) reached the camp, announcing themselves as the only survivors of the bloody fight on the Monongahela. Soon after, Sir John Sinclair and another wounded officer were brought in by their men in blankets.
Dunbar’s camp was then a scene of the wildest panic, and as the rattle of the "long roll," beaten by the affrighted drummers, reverberated among the crags of Laurel Hill; each one, from the commander to the lowest camp-follower, believed that the savages and the scarcely less dreaded French were near at hand and would soon surround the camp. True to their cowardly instincts, Dunbar’s wagoners, and pack-horse drivers, like those in the advance with Braddock on the Monongahela, and like many others of the same base brood on scores of later battlefields, were the first to seek safety in flight, mounting the best horses and hurrying away with all speed toward Fort Cumberland, leaving their places on the wagons and with the pack horse trains to be filled by brave soldiers from the ranks. Their disgraceful example infected the numerous camp-followers, who, as well as many of those from whom better things might have been expected, fled toward the Great Crossings of the Youghiogheny, and it was with the greatest difficulty that Dunbar prevented the desertion and flight from becoming general.
A few days after their cowardly flight from Dunbar’s camp several of those panic-stricken wagoners appeared at Carlisle, bringing with them, the first news of Braddock’s disaster. Thereupon, they were examined by Gov. Morris, at that place, and their depositions taken and subscribed before him are found in the Pennsylvania archives. One of these depositions, similar in tenor to all the others, was as follows:
Matthew Laird, being duly sworn, deposed and said:
"* * * That this examinant continued with Col. Dunbar. And on the 10th of this instant, the regiment being about seven miles beyond a place called the Great Meadows, at eleven o’clock of that day, there was a rumor in the camp that there was bad news, and he was soon after informed by wagoners and pack-horse drivers, who were then returned to Col. Dunbar’s camp, but had gone out with the advance party under Gen. Braddock, that the general, with the advanced party, was defeated by the French on the 9th instant, about five miles from Fort Du Quesne, and about forty miles from where Col. Dunbar was, at which engagement the wagoners and pack-horse drivers said they were present; that the English were attacked as they were going up a hill by numerous body of French and Indians, who kept a continual fire during the whole engagement, which lasted nigh three hours; that most of the English were cut off and the whole train of artillery taken; that Gen. Braddock was killed, as also Sir Peter Halkert, Capt. Orme, and most of the officers. This examinant further saith that he saw a wounded officer brought through the camp on a sheet; that about noon of the same day they beat to arms in Col. Dunbar’s camp, upon which the wagoners, as well as many common soldiers and others, took to flight, in spite of the opposition made to it by the centrys, who forced some to return, but
many got away, among whom was this examinant."
"Despite the intensity of his agonies," says Sargent, "Braddock still persisted in the exercise of his authority and the fulfillment of his duties." On reaching Gist’s he found that no provisions, stores nor surgical aid had arrived there in Obedience to the command sent by Washington to Col. Dunbar, and thereupon he sent still more peremptory orders to that officer to forward them instantly, also two companies of the regulars to assist in bringing off the wounded. The wagons, stores, etc., reached Gist’s on the morning of Friday the 11th, and as soon as the wounds of the injured were dressed and the men had refreshed themselves somewhat, the retreat of the wounded general and his small party of guards and attendants was continued to Dunbar’s camp. Meantime the terror and consternation at this camp had been constantly increasing from the time when the first of the frightened wagoners had galloped in with the alarming news, on the morning of the day succeeding the battle. Through all that day and the following night terrified fugitives from the field, many of them wounded, were continually pouring in, each telling a fearful tale of rout and massacre, and all uniting in the assertion that the French and savages, in overwhelming forces, were following close in the rear. This latter statement was wholly false, for the enemy had made no attempt at pursuit from the banks of the Monongahela; but the tale was believed, and its effect was an uncontrollable panic.
As before noted, Capt. Stewart, with his mounted troop, bearing the wounded general, arrived at Dunbar’s camp on the 11th, and it was at once determined that the army should retreat (10*) without delay to Fort Cumberland.
*Regarding who was responsible for the disgraceful retreat from Dunbar’s camp and the destruction of all the vast quantities of war material which had, with such great expense and labor been transported over the Alleghenies and to the top of Laurel Hill, the blame has generally been placed on Dunbar, and this appears to be just, though in a letter addressed to Goy. Shirley, under date of August 21, 1755, Col. Dunbar and his officers said: "We must beg leave to undeceive you in what you are pleased to mention of guns being buried at the time Gen. Braddock ordered the stores to be destroyed, for there was not a gun of any kind buried." True, the orders were still issued in Braddock’s name, but the hand of death was upon him and he was irresponsible. The command really lay with Col. Dunbar, bad he been disposed to assume it, and as he doubtless would have done had it not happened that the so-called orders of Braddock were in this instance, and for the first time in all the campaign, in accordance with his wishes.
Of this matter Sargent writes in the following rather contradictory manner: "Braddock’s strength was now fast ebbing away. Informed of the disorganized condition of the remaining troops, he abandoned all hope of a prosperous termination of the expedition. He saw that not only death but utter defeat was inevitable. But, conscious of the odium the latter event would excite, he nobly resolved that the sole responsibility of the measure should rest with himself, and consulted with no one upon the steps he pursued. He merely issued his orders and insisted that they should be obeyed. Thus, after destroying the stores to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy of whose pursuit he did not doubt, the march was to be resumed on Saturday, July 12, toward Will’s Creek. Ill-judged as these orders were, they met with too ready acquiescence at the hands of Dunbar, whose advice was neither asked nor tendered on the occasion. * * * For this service—-the only instance of alacrity that he displayed in the campaign—_Dunbar must not be forgiven. It is not perfectly clear that Braddock intelligently ever gave the orders, but in any case they were not fit for a British officer to give or to obey. Dunbar’s duty was to have maintained here his position, or at least not have contemplated falling back beyond Will’s Creek. That he had not horses to remove his stores was, however, his after-excuse."
The work of destroying wagons, stores, guns, etc., made inevitable from the fact that many of the horses had been ridden away by the panic-stricken wagoners and camp-followers, leaving barely enough transportation for the sick and wounded, who numbered more than three hundred, began immediately, and on Sunday, July 13, the retreating troops, composed of Dunbar’s command and the remnant of the force that fought on the Monongahela, moved away on the road to the Great Crossings of the Youghiogheny. They took with them the only artillery pieces that were left (two six-pounders), a meager supply of provisions and hospital stores, and the remaining wagons, nearly all of which were laden with the sick and wounded. The commander-in-chief, rapidly nearing his end, was borne along with the column. Capt. Orme’s journal for this day reads: "July 13. We marched hence to the camp near the Great Meadows, where the general died."
Old Orchard camp, about two miles west of Fort Necessity, was the place where Dunbar’s troops bivouacked after this day’s march, and there, at eight o’clock on that midsummer Sunday night, Gen. Edward Braddock breathed his last. Washington* and Orme were also with him at the last moment. Sargent said that shortly before his death the general bequeathed to Washington his favorite horse and his body-servant, Bishop, so well known in after years as the faithful attendant of the patriot chief.
On the morning of July 14 the dead general was buried at the camp where he died, and the two pieces of artillery, the wagon-train and the soldiers, moving out to take the road to Will’s Creek, passed over the spot to obliterate all traces of the new grave, and thus save it from desecration by the savages, who were expected soon to follow in pursuit. The wagons containing
*The utter absurdity of accounts with which many are familiar, i.e., that Washington assumed command after the fall of Braddock and saved the remnant of the force from destruction, is made apparent by reading Capt. Orme’s journal. Doubtless he rendered very efficient services, but, as before stated, his position during that expedition was only that of a volunteer aide-de-camp.
the sick and wounded took the lead, then came the others with the hospital and the meager stock of provisions, then the advance of the infantry column, then the ammunition and guns, and finally the two veteran companies of the 44th and 48th British regular regiments, with Stewart’s Virginia light-horse as a guard to the rear and flanks. In the evening of the same day Youghiogheny river was crossed by the last man of the force, and the retreating army bivouacked for the night on the eastern side of that stream, within the limits of the present county of Somerset. Continuing the march the succeeding day, rapid progress was made; for, though Braddock’s road was rough, and in many places barely passable, the head of the wagon-train bearing the sick and wounded arrived at Will’s Creek on the 17th, and three days later the last of Dunbar’s soldiers reached Fort Cumberland and lighted their bivouac fires within the range of its guns.
Thus ended an expedition from which such brilliant, results had been expected. Fort Du Quesne was still hold by the French, who, with their Indian allies, soon extended their domination over a wide scope of country lying to the east and southeast. Gaining ‘courage as they advanced, they came to Dunbar’s camp a week or two after his forces had left it, and there completed the work of destruction which he had left undone. Within the next two months they had advanced eastward to the Alleghenies, and by sending incursion parties beyond that range, naught but death and desolation was left in many parts of the present counties of Bedford, Fulton, Franklin, Adams, York, Cumberland, Perry, Juniata, Huntingdon, Mifflin, Snyder and Union, where before had existed new but prosperous white settlements.
Says Gordon in his history of Pennsylvania:
"In the fall of 1755 the country west of the Susquehanna had three thousand men in it fit to bear arms, and in August, 1756, exclusive of the provincial forces, there were not one hundred left." ‘In the region west of the mountains there was not left a single settler or trader other than those who were favorable to the French and their interests. And this state of affairs continued in the division of the provinces last referred to for more than three years immediately succeeding Braddock’s defeat on the Monongahela.
SOURCE: History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, pp. 34-42.
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