Both the French and the English were anxious to acquire and hold dominion over Western Pennsylvania. In view of this scheme, the French had prior to 1752 erected and projected a line of fortifications reaching all the way from their strongholds in Canada to the mouth of the Mississippi River. They erected Presque Isle, on Lake Erie, near the present city of Eire; Fort Le Boeuf (no Waterford) in Crawford county; Fort Venango, where Franklin, Pennsylvania, is built; and one of French creek, in Venango county. They were about to erect Fort Duquesne, now Pittsburgh.
These apparently aggressive movements aroused the lethargic spirit of the English in Virginia, who claimed the whole of this territory to Lake Erie under their Royal Charter. Shortly before this the Ohio Land Company had been chartered by the governor at the request of the King. It had a grant of five hundred thousand acres on the headwaters of the Ohio river. The purpose of this company was to hold the territory for Virginia, and to secure for her people the Indian trade of that region. The Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, was a member of the company, and therefore, of course, lent an attentive ear to any story of encroachment on the part of the French. He promptly sent an agent with authority both from himself and the company, to inquire of the commanders of these forts the reason for these hostile demonstrations. This agent was then an unknown surveyor about twenty-one years old, of whom the English afterward learned a great deal, for his name was George Washington. His journey was fraught with particular interest to the student of Westmoreland history. Aside from being the beginning of his public life, he was on this trip one of the first white men to cross the unbroken wilderness now known as Westmoreland county. He came by the way of Will�s Creek, now Cumberland, Maryland, where Christopher Gist, as the agent of the Ohio Company, had the previous year established a small settlement. Thence he crossed the Allegheny Mountains, traveled down the Monongahela River, crossing Westmoreland county, and on November 23, 1752, his report shows he reached the mouth of Turtle Creek. The young surveyor had the eye of a soldier, and he learned a great deal about the French forts and their requirements. At Venango he ascertained from the French commander that it was the unconcealed design of the French to hold the territory by their lines of forts against all comers, and that they claimed it by right of discovery on the part of La Salle, the French explorer, who nearly a century before had sailed down the Mississippi river and laid claim for his country to all land drained by the Father of Waters and its tributaries.
When the intrepid agent returned and made his report, the Ohio Company did not by any means abandon the field. They built a blockhouse at Redstone, now Brownsville, in Fayette county, (1753) and early in the spring of 1754 proposed to erect a fort at the junction of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, for, be it remembered, that in his report Washington had particularly recommended the importance of erecting a fort at this place. Trent, Ward and Gist and other frontiersmen arrived at Redstone in February, and later arrivals swelled their number to about seventy-five. In order to descend the river to its junction they began to construct a redoubt, for they meant to at once build the fort advised by Washington. Before they had made much headway the noted French officer, Contrecoeur, with an army of nearly a thousand French and Indians, thoroughly armed, arrived from Fort Venango. Gist, Ward and Trent and their little company were compelled to surrender. This was the first step, the beginning of the French and Indian War, which for nine years desolated our western border, and which in the end resulted so favorably to the English � this war which so shaped the destines of our colonies that in a few years they surpassed in dominion and power the empire of Louis, and compelled the representatives of King George to surrender his sword to Washington at Yorktown.
The French immediately built a fort at the point recommended by Washington, and named it Fort Duquesne, in honor of Marquis Duquesne, the governor of Canada, then called New France. For its day, even, it was not a strong fortification, and we doubt whether it could have long withstood an attack of the English army. M. Dumas, its commander, said it was only fit to dishonor the officer who was entrusted with its defense. But the French greatly added to its real strength by forming an alliance with the Indians. This they accomplished in part by giving them presents. Bright colored blankets and beads, so common in France, were quite potent with the Indians, much more so than the plainer objects of utility with which the English were supplied. Then, it must be remembered, that the Indians affiliated much more readily with the French than with the English. One great reason for this was that the English were largely farmer colonists, who, of necessity, cut away the forests and spoiled the hunting grounds of the Indians, while the French in America then dealt largely in furs and skins, paying little attention to house building or agriculture. A French and Indian alliance was therefore most suitable to both races, while an alliance between the English and the Indians would have been equally detrimental to the interests of both.
But the Virginia authorities and the Ohio Company, still anxious about the fort at the head of the Ohio, sent out two companies in 1754. These were under the command of Colonel Fry and George Washington. They were met at �Great Meadows,� now in Fayette county, at dawn of day on May 28, by the French and Indian army. The little English army was so successful that though Colonel Fry died May 31, and left Washington in command, they were not otherwise severely crippled. Learning of great reinforcements at fort Duquesne, Washington saw that it would be impossible for him to secure the desired ground. He therefore returned to his fort, called Fort Necessity, a most appropriate name, for here they were attacked by fifteen hundred French and Indians. All day long, in the dense shade of the forest, the battle raged. So ably defended was the fort that the two companies were in the end allowed to march homeward with their baggage and with the honors of war.
But these skirmished helped to make more enmity between England and France, if, indeed, they were not already deadly enemies. Three expeditions were now organized by England for America; one, under General Shirley, governor of Massachusetts, against Fort Niagara and Fort Frontenac; another, under General (afterward Sir William) Johnson, against Crown Point. The third, which more deeply concerns us, was under General Edward Braddock, and the objective point was the capture of Fort Duquesne.
There is perhaps no incident in American history which is fraught with so much interest to western Pennsylvania people, if not to all American readers, as Braddock�s campaign. So much has been written about it that we would be pardoned for passing it were it not so closely connected with Westmoreland county�s early history. Its bearing on humanity has given it a national, if not, indeed, a world-wide interest. In this campaign Washington for the first time came in contact with the trained English soldiers. It was, furthermore, the first campaign of drilled troops and modern artillery in the New World.
Braddock had by bravery and ability won very high honors in the English army. He was sixty years old when he arrived in America, January 14, 1744. He sailed from Cork, Ireland, with two regiments of Royal troops, each numbering about five hundred men. The Forty-fourth was under Colonel Dunbar, and the forty-eighth was under Sir Peter Halket. They reached Virginia, disembarking at Alexandria on February 20th. Two months later, April 20, the army left Alexander for Fort Duquesne by way of Frederickstown, Winchester and fort Cumberland. The entire campaign was badly planned. The army had no adequate base of supplies, and the country through which it would march could neither supply an army nor furnish transportation. The lack of transportation was largely supplied by Benjamin Franklin, then postmaster-general, who induced Pennsylvania farmers to turn out with their private teams and wagons and transport the supplies and baggage of the army. Franklin pledged his private fortune to repay them. This pledge he made good, and it was many years before he was finally reimbursed. Otherwise that this, Pennsylvania did very little for the expedition. She had but few soldiers in Braddock�s army, for they were nearly all with General Shirley in the north.
Braddock appointed Washington an aide-de-camp. In addition to the English troops he had with him about twelve hundred provincial troops, mostly from New York and Maryland. Then he had about one hundred and fifty backwoodsmen and Indians from Pennsylvania. The backwoodsmen were dressed like Indians, and fought after the Indian fashion. Braddock took but little stock in the rough-coated backwoodsmen. Before he reached western Pennsylvania they had nearly all left him, and he was undoubtedly glad of it. He reviewed the army at Cumberland, where they arrived may 10. He expressed great confidence and pride in the scarlet coats, bright buttons, polished muskets, and, most of all, in the Red Cross of St. George, and in the sound of the bugle which echoed through the forest. Braddock was unable to divest himself of the habits of luxury acquired in a lifetime of warfare in the beaten battlefields of Europe. He journeyed part of the way in a chariot, his bodyguard of light-horse galloping on each side, and his staff accompanied him with the drums beating the Grenadiers� March. He held a levee in his tent every morning from ten to eleven o�clock. He forbade theft and drunkenness, which he punished with great severity. He was, indeed, a martinet in discipline. He spurned the backwoods tactics of the Virginia Rangers, and, with a confidence born of conceit and bravery, said to Benjamin Franklin: �These savages may indeed be formidable to an enemy of raw American militia, but upon the King�s regulars and disciplined soldiers, Sir, it is impossible they should make any impression.� The great philosopher smiled and wished him well.
The reader must not forget that it was indeed a very difficult march. The distance from Alexandria was about two hundred and eighty miles, and much of this distance a road had to be cut through a dense forest and across the Allegheny mountains. The train with its wagons and supplies was about four miles long. The slowness of the march could not be understood in England. Horace Walpole, with his characteristic wit, wrote that Braddock was �creeping westward towards Fort Duquesne with a slowness which indicated that he was not in a hurry to be scalped.�
When the army reached Little Meadows, at the foot of the western slope of the Allegheny Mountains, Braddock held a council of war. In this he advised with Washington, whom he called �Young Buckskin,� because of his dress, and not entirely, at all events, in derision. Young Buckskin�s advice was followed, and the result was that the army was divided. The heavy wagons and main supplies were left behind, and the main army, a little more than half of the entire forces, with pack horses and a few wagons carrying only necessary supplies, with a few pieces of artillery and the ablest of the soldiers, the very flower of the English army, was to push rapidly on toward the fort. This had been advised by Washington at Cumberland, but its importance was not then apparent to Braddock. Twelve hundred well trained soldiers under Braddock himself thus pushed on rapidly, while the remaining stores, ammunition, heavy wagons, etc., were left with Dunbar to follow by slower marches.
On June 30th Braddock�s division crossed the Youghiogheny River, about one mile below the present town of Connellsville. After this the corked road they cut across Westmoreland county can be accounted for only on the theory that they had entirely lost their bearings. It is true that Washington had been twice over the way, and, more than any other, guided the expedition. Indeed, his special knowledge of the topography of the country mainly induced Braddock to give him the appointment. But, be it remembered, that at Little Meadows Washington was taken sick with a fever, and much to his chagrin was compelled to remain in Dunbar�s camp. Washington only joined the army again on the day before the battle, and was therefore not with them when they were wildly wandering across Westmoreland. After the crossing at Connellsville the direct route was of course down the river and then down the Monongahela. But they left the river at Connellsville and came across the country to Jacob�s Creek, in East Huntingdon township, Westmoreland County, crossing Jacob�s Creek about a mile from Mount Pleasant, leaving that town on the right. From there the route turned off more to the west and crossed the Big Sewickley near Painter�s salt works, between Painterville and Ruffsdale stations, on the South-West Pennsylvania Railroad. From there they journeyed nearly north, leaving Greensburg, Irwin and Jacksonville on the north, and finally reaching Brush Creek, a branch of Turtle Creek. About this time, July 7th, the army seemed to doubt the correctness of its route. They therefore turned to the south, passed down the Long Run valley and reached Crooked Run abut two miles from the Monongahela River. While they camped quietly at night their camp was watched by spies of the enemy, as, indeed, their every movement had been more or less for several days. The following morning, July 9th, they went down the valley and forded the Monongahela River where McKeesport now stands. The advance was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Gage. The army marched between the bordering hills and the river, down the river about four miles, where the river was again crossed. This crossing of the river seemed necessary to avoid high hills and defiles, yet visible on the right bank of the stream as one passes down from McKeesport to Braddock, the object being to keep on high ground and thus avoid Indian attacks while hemmed in by high hills. They were not expecting the enemy until they reached the fort, yet the General maintained most rigid discipline. The splendidly equipped army, with bright colors shining in the morning sun, marching along the river bottom, the high wooded hills on their left and the tranquil river on their right, was, said Washington long years afterwards, one of the grandest sights he ever saw. About ten o�clock, according to Washington, the rear of the army crossed the second crossing. They were less than ten miles from the long looked for fort, and buoyant feelings filled every soldier�s breast. The bank was high and had to be leveled so that the heavier wagons and artillery in the rear could ascend, this causing an hour�s delay. After the crossing the ground rose slowly to the hills beyond, and deep ravines extended from these hills to the river. They had crossed between two ravines, and these came together, or nearly so, at the top of the hills, and formed something like the letter V, with the apex pointed away from the river. These ravines, the hills beyond and between, were covered with a thick growth of underbrush and large trees. The rear of the army had scarcely emerged from the river before the fight began. In the forest on both sides of the advancing army, and behind almost every rock, large tree or clump of bushes, was concealed the enemy, watching every movement, and ready at the appointed time to make the attack. Thomas Gage with his division, was in front. Both this and another smaller division under Sir Peter Halket were between the ravines forming the letter V. Suddenly, �seemingly from out the earth,� came a terrible roar of musketry and a fiendish Indian yell. No enemy could be seen, and yet volley after volley was poured in the face of the leading army. Almost instantly following came a similar leaden hail on their right front. Braddock hurried forward, halted the advancing division, and sent Colonel Burton forward with the vanguard to assist the front rank. About eight hundred men were now in front, and about four hundred were left behind to guard the baggage. The fire was returned by those in position, with but little or no effect, for no enemy could be seen. Yet there was a moment�s cessation of the firing on the part of the enemy after the first fire from the English. The English soldiers could see nothing to fire at, yet men were falling in every direction. Confusion and excitement was the result, and the entire advance guard with its support fell back. When the dauntless Braddock rushed forward to cheer them on, he was met by bleeding and disordered ranks, fleeing from an invisible but most deadly enemy. In less time than we can conceive, so terrible was the onslaught and so complete the rout, that the pioneers, infantry, artillery and baggage, were a tangled mass, with the enemy almost surrounding them, yet still invisible. In the meantime the force left to guard the baggage was attacked, and this was in the more open plain towards the river in wild confusion. Mingled with the cries of anguish on the part of the wounded were the shouts of the officers, the rattle of the musketry and the roar of the cannon, while above all was the frenzied war whoop and yell of the infuriated Indian. Survivors for long years afterwards were not able to drive this horrible picture from their memory.
The battle lasted nearly three hours, the British much of the time huddled together like sheep, and even trampled under foot by dashing runaway horses. It is not to be wondered at that in this state of affairs many were killed by their own men. Captain Waggoner, of Virginia, attempted to secure a spot of rising ground where, partly concealed by a large fallen tree, he hoped to mend the condition of the army, or perhaps change its fortunes. With about eighty Virginians who were accustomed to backwoods warfare, he reached the objective point and for a brief space did splendid work against a body of Indians concealed from the panic-stricken soldiers, but in full view from his position. But very soon, in the whirl of confusion, the British mistook the smoke of his guns fro that of the enemy, and made against him one of the most effective fires of the day on their part. The little company soon fell back, leaving fifty of Captain Waggoner�s eighty soldiers dead and wounded on the ground.
When at length Braddock found it impossible to oppose the enemy farther, he tried to have them retreat in good order, and even in this he succeeded but moderately. Many of them were so wild and bewildered that they were firing in the air. By this time half of the army was killed or wounded, with most of the best officers among the slain. General Braddock had five horses shot under him and received his death wound. It will never by known whether he was shot by friend or foe. Quite likely it was an accidental shot from one of his own soldiers. In a letter from Washington to Governor Dinwiddie, (See Sparks� �Letters of Washington,� vol.2, p. 88) he avers that two-thirds of the killed and wounded in the battle received their shots from the cowardly and panic-stricken royalists. Washington had several bullet holes in his clothes, two horses wounded and one killed under him, but was unhurt.
Braddock was shot through the arm and lung. He was carried from the field and transported to Dunbar�s camp, thirty-six miles away, in a litter. The Indians even fired on the retreating army as they were crossing the river, and some were thus killed in the water. All the dead and wounded, with the baggage and cannon, were left on the field. The road to Dunbar�s camp was strewn with the abandoned accoutrements of war. Indeed, the Indians only ceased the fighting to hastily gather the rich harvest of scalps and divide among themselves the baggage and provisions of the English.
Washington, in describing the battle forty years afterward, has written these words concerning Braddock: �At an encampment near Great Meadows the brave but unfortunate General Braddock breathed his last. He was interred with the honors of war, and it was left to me to see this performed and to mark out the spot for the reception of his remains. To guard against a savage triumph if the place should be discovered, they were deposited in the road over which the army wagons passed, to hide very trace by which the entombment could be discovered. Thus died a man whose good and bad qualities were intimately blended. He was brave even to a fault. His attachments were warm, his enmities were strong, and there was no disguise about him.� (See Scribner�s Magazine, May, 1894). Braddock died on Sunday night, July 13, four days after the battle. In America, at least, his dauntless courage has gone far to recompense his faults and redeem his fame; still his memory will always be clouded by disaster, and his name forever inseparably associated with defeat.
The most contemptible spirit in the army was certainly Colonel Dunbar. It will be remembered that nearly half of the entire army remained with him to follow Braddock by slower marches. When the remnant of the advance army returned to him, though his army then numbered at least fifteen hundred, he showed no desire to reform it and march again against the enemy. A little fortitude on his part, a tithe of the Braddock bravery, and he could have stormed the fort and taken the field. But, instead, he and his soldiers, joined in the excitement of the hour, buried their heavy artillery in the ground, destroyed what stores and ammunition they could not transport, and hurriedly if not cowardly skulked away to Philadelphia.
The enemy so successful in this battle were sent out from Fort Duquesne, and were composed of French Canadians and Indians under command of Captain Beaujeu. It was originally their intention to remain in the fort and await the attack of the English, but Beaujeu insisted on the surprise which resulted so successfully. His force was about six hundred Indians and two hundred French and Canadians. It was his intention to attack the English as they crossed the river, but, having nine miles to march, they arrived too late, and so made the attack on perhaps more advantageous grounds, for the ground close to the river was partly cleared. Beaujeu was killed with the first regular fire. His followers dropped back, and there was a lull in the fighting which was noticed and remembered even by the frightened English. Then the enemy contemplated a retreat. Had the proper spirit been shown at the right time the field could have been won by Braddock�s forces. With that opportunity gone, the field was lost. Dumas, a cool brave Frenchman, took Beaujeu�s place and won the victory. The loss to the enemy can only be known by their own reports which have always been doubted They reported a loss of only thirty, and most of these killed from falling timbers cut off by wildly directed cannon balls. The British lost sixty-three out of eighty-six officers, and one-half of the private, that is, nearly seven hundred killed and wounded. Every mounted officer save Washington was carried off the field. It was at best a most terrible slaughter.
This victory was due mainly to the Indians. Of these the Wyandots and Ottawas, the latter it is supposed, under Pontiac, a warrior who afterwards became so conspicuous in Indian raids, outnumbered all the rest. The impartial reader cannot but attribute this ignominious defeat almost entirely to obstinacy on the part of General Braddock. He was long schooled in warfare, and his vaunted courage led the Americans to look up to him and to expect great things from him and his soldiers. Yet, instead of setting an example of bravery to the undrilled American troops, the English were the first to disobey orders, desert their comrades, and flee from the field in cowardly disorder. They were commanded, too, by brave and able men, many of whom lived in after years to show to the world the highest order of military skill. Braddock�s bravery has been admitted by friend and foe alike; indeed, it has become proverbial. Washington, either in victory or in defeat, was never aught but great, but he was particularly strong in the emergency of saving a waning army from destruction. Gage commanded the British army at Boston during the siege at the commencement of the Revolutionary war. Then there was Horatio Gates, who afterwards arose to distinction and was a major-general in the American army in the Revolution. There too was Colonel Daniel Morgan, still renowned throughout America as the hero of Cowpens. Then there were Lewises of Virginia, a name which will always be noted in the war annals of America.
Hitherto the world had been taught that the Englishman was invincible in arms. Perhaps no people in all the world revered and honored the English army as highly as did the American colonies. The defeat of Braddock most thoroughly demonstrated the fallacy of this opinion. Henceforth, in the mind of the average American colonist, the royal English soldier was measured by his actions on the banks of the Monongahela. And, when we remember that in less than twenty years these same colonies had so changed their ideas of the superiority of the English army that they were induced to engage in the Revolutionary war, we cannot doubt but that in one sense, at least, the defeat of Braddock was a benefit to the American people.
The defeat of Braddock was a sad blow to the settlers of western Pennsylvania. The Indians, spurred on by the temporary victory, became at once more hostile than ever, and more determined that the English should never obtain a foothold in this section. So far as it was possible our settlers were at peace with the Indians, for they had adopted Penn�s pacific principles very largely in dealing with them. But when the French and Indian war began, the entire frontier, being unprotected, was subjected to the ravages of this brutal race. Many isolated settlers were driven back to their eastern homes. They left their hard earned harvests ungathered; they say their log cabin homes in ashes, and their families murdered or taken as prisoners to Canada. Nothing short of a line of forts along the entire frontier could have protected these pioneers.
The most western English forts then were immediately west of the Susquehanna, viz: fort Louther, at Carlisle; Fort Franklin, at Shippensburg; Fort Shirley, near the Juniata; and Fort Littleton and Fort Loudon, within the limits of the present Franklin county. These forts were very poorly garrisoned, the provincial military being weak. There were however, a few blockhouses, and to these the settlers could flee in times of Indian raids, and thus united could in some degree protect themselves.
From month to month these Indian depredations grew more and more sever. Two chiefs, Shingass (or Shingast), and Captain Jacobs were considered the instigators of these depredations. Each had a following of a large band of warriors, and their general habitation was in what is now Westmoreland and Armstrong counties, with their principal town at Kittanning.
On the death of Braddock, General Shirley was made commander-in-chief of all the British forces in America. But General Montcalm, the French commander, who afterwards died so heroically when opposing General James Wolfe at Quebec, was then invading northern New York, and Shirley and his army were scarcely adequate to the defence of even that section. This left the French and Indian marauders of Western Pennsylvania but little opposition in 1755-56. In August of the latter year Colonel John Armstrong, a militia officer of Pennsylvania, but a most daring one, made preparation to surprise and if possible exterminate these tribes of Indians. He took with him what was known as the Second Battalion, which consisted of eight companies stationed on the west side of the Susquehanna. He left Fort Shirley on August 30th, with about three hundred men, and marched up the Juniata and stealthily down the Kiskiminetas, marching a great deal of the night. His objective point was the Indian stronghold at Kittanning town. The last night he marched thirty miles, and reached the town before daylight. At break of day he began the attack. Captain Jacobs discovered the presence of soldiers and gave out a few war cries to arouse the Indians, and then the fight began. The squaws and children were sent to the woods, and not one of them was fired on by Armstrong�s men. The Indians kept in their houses, and killed and wounded a good many soldiers in the early morning by firing through the cracks and portholes. Against this the soldier�s shots were almost futile, and at considerable loss of life Armstrong ordered these houses to be set on fire. In firing a hut Armstrong himself was severely wounded in the shoulder. The fire spread rapidly to the entire collection of houses and wigwams, and drove the Indians from their shelter. Just as they emerged from the burning buildings they were shot down, the soldiers being so placed that they commanded every retreat. Jacobs, the leader, was reported killed, but Armstrong doubted it. The stronghold was destroyed, and the Indian inhabitants were either killed or compelled to flee from the community. It was a most effectual blow to them. The entire secrecy of the march and the attack made it all the more, so, for thereafter they were afraid to join in large numbers to commit depredations, lest they might at any time be attacked and cut down as they were at Kittanning. This has been known as Armstrong�s Expedition. In its immediate results and in its salutary effects upon the peace and good order of our western border, it has justly been rated as one of the most effectual expeditions of our pioneer history. The reader will probably smile in this modern age of large armies, at three hundred men being called the Second Battalion. It is, however, the language of the colonies at that time, and, with their limited capacity, it was doubtless a pretty large army to them.
Still the French and Indian power over the British in America very largely predominated. This state of affairs dissatisfied England. She believed this deplorable situation was due to mad management on the part of its home government. A change was demanded, and in June, 1757, William Pitt, the Great Commoner, a name which should be revered by every American, was made premier. From the beginning he favored the colonies, and in return the colonies were loyal to him. Pennsylvania voted a large sum of money to their defense, and showed many other signs of loyalty.
In the early part of 1758 Admiral Boscawan reached America with twelve thousand soldiers. Very soon the colonists began to enlist, and these, with the British soldiers here, swelled the number to more that fifty thousand men, all in the service of the colonies. Again three distinct expeditions were projected, viz.: against Louisburg, in the St. Lawrence; against Ticonderoga, in northern New York; and against Fort Duquesne. The latter expedition is, of course, the one of special interest to us in Westmoreland. It was under the command of a Scotchman, Brigadier General John forbes. He staarted from Philadelphia. The first question which presented itself to him was as to the route he should take. The Pennsylvanians wanted him to go directly through the province, presumably to open up a new road and new territory. But Virginia had the same claim, and she, too, was furnishing many munitions of war. The old road was of course Braddock�s route by the way of Cumberland, and the proposed new one was by way of Bedford. So much had been said about the slowness of Braddock�s march that his defenders had probably magnified its difficulties. Washing ton favored the Braddock route, which, in the light of after discoveries, was undoubtedly the better one to take. Colonel Henry Bouquet, second commander to Forbes, seems to have decided the matter in favor of the new route. It was fifty miles shorter than the other, and was taken with the further hope of avoiding the difficulties which retarded Braddock�s westward march.
Forbes� army was nearly three times as large as Braddock�s had been, which means that he had about seven thousand men with him. There were twenty-seven hundred Pennsylvanians, sixteen hundred Virginians, twelve hundred Highlanders who came with Forbes from England, three hundred and fifty regular soldiers called Royal Americans, and one thousand from Delaware, Maryland and North Carolina. There were also about one thousand wagoners, axe men, &c., which, if counted would swell his army to nearly eight thousand.
The Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland troops were brought together at Winchester and placed in command of Colonel George Washington. The Pennsylvania forces were assembled at Raystown (Bedford), Pennsylvania, under Bouquet. Forbes was long detained in Philadelphia by sickness and various arrangements incident to a military campaign. He did not reach Bedford until September, by which time Colonel James Burd, by direction of Colonel Bouquet, had, with twenty-five hundred soldiers and axe men, cut a road across the Allegheny Mountains and across Laurel Hill, a distance of fifty miles, and had encamped on the banks of the Loyalhanna, in Ligonier valley. Here he awaited the main army, and in the meantime by order of Bouquet, an expedition was sent out under Major Grant to learn something of the strength of the enemy. This expedition was composed of thirty-seven officers and eight hundred and thirteen privates. Grant was supported by Major Lewis, of Virginia, Captain Bullet and others. He was instructed by the wary Bouquet not to bring on a battle but to approach as near to the fort as safety would permit, and to collect all possible information concerning the enemy. The command left Loyalhanna camp on September 11th. They made very rapid marches, for they were but slightly encumbered with baggage. The first day�s march they passed over or through Chestnut Ridge. The route they took is not definitely known, but they most likely passed down the gap cut by the Loyalhanna. Doubtless the path which they took did not vary much otherwise from the route which Forbes afterwards took. Passing over the southeastern part of Derry township he crossed the Loyalhanna about half a mile below the Shelving Rocks. For the night they camped near the mouth of the Nine Mile Run, so named from its flowing into the Loyalhanna, about nine miles from the encampment they had left, now Ligonier. It is a plateau, then covered with heavy timber. On the east was the run, with a steep bank twenty feet high which formed a natural fortification. He threw up earthworks facing the west and north. They are all gone now, but are remembered by the oldest citizens, and the place is even yet known as Breastworks Hill. The second day he marched twenty-five miles westward, and was then within less than fifteen miles of the famous fort Duquesne.
The Indians and French in the fort had spies out, mainly Indians, who kept a close watch on the main army, but they undoubtedly overlooked Grant, who passed under the very shadow of the fort without being seen. About two miles east of the fort he left his horses and baggage under Captain Bullet, with about fifty men. About nine o�clock at night two officers with a company of fifty men crept up to the fort and found not even a single picket. They set fire to a store house, but, this being discovered by the inmates of the fort, was extinguished, they regarding the fire as an accident. A heavy fog hung over the entire community and in part prevented Grant from correctly ascertaining the situation. The following morning, misled by these appearances, he became overly anxious to win the great honor of taking the fortress over which two mighty nations had been for years contending. He overstepped and even disobeyed his orders. He sent Major Lewis with two hundred men back along the road a short distance so that he might claim the victory entirely for himself, it is said. His main army he posted on a low ridge and sent about fifty men to beat drums and play the Scotch bagpipes, hoping thus to draw the enemy from the fort. So stealthy had been his movements that the music aroused the French from their morning sleep. Unfortunately for Grant they knew the country better than he. The fort, it will be remembered, was near the point made by the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, where they unite to form the Ohio.
Shrewd indeed was the maneuver on the part of the commander of the fort, who sent about one-third of the forces quietly and quickly up the bank of the Allegheny, and one-third with similar orders up the Monongahela River, while the others remained in the fort until the first and second deploys had passed up their respective rivers far enough to be practical on the rear of Grant and his army. When these positions were secured, the soldiers in the fort marched boldly forth toward Grant, while each of the other divisions moved in on the right and left rear of his band. In a few minutes they had practically surrounded his entire advance forces. From all sides came the attack. The Indians filled the woods with war whoops, and sprang on his men with tomahawks and scalping knives. Lewis heard the firing and hastened, perhaps by order of Grant, to his relief. But Grant had fallen back from his original position, and Lewis missed him. Both were captured by the French. There was really little left for the army to do but retreat, if, indeed, that was not entirely cut off. Just when the rout promised to rival Braddock�s defeat three years before, a relief came from an unlooked-for source. Captain Bullet, stationed in the rear with horses, baggage, etc. heard the sound of battle and hurried to the rescue. Knowing that his fifty men amounted to nothing in the face of the enemy, he secured them in bushes and behind rocks, and by firing gave such effective opposition to the enemy that they imagined a much larger force had appeared, and to a great extent ceased firing. Then he resorted to a stratagem. He and his men marched boldly up to the enemy with arms reversed as if they meant to surrender. The Indians, being pastmasters in the art of treachery, with undoubted sinister designs on their part, fell into the trap. When within a few yards of the Indians, as Bullet commanded, a death-dealing volley was thrown in their faces, and immediately the little command charged with bayonet. The Indians never withstood a bayonet charge, and by this means were thoroughly routed. It was learned afterward that the audacity of the onslaught convinced the Indians that a much larger force was near by in waiting. Meanwhile Grant�s army rapidly retreated and made the best of its way back to Loyalhanna camp, with a loss of two hundred seventy-three men. The loss was mostly among the Highlanders, who fought only in the open, as they were taught. This battle occurred on the hill where Allegheny county court house now stands, and the street traversing the hill or ridge (Grant street) was named after the unsuccessful commander of the battle. The fort, as was afterwards learned, had been the day before reinforced by four hundred men under Captain Aubrey, who planned the attack on Grant. Grant and Lewis were held as prisoners a short time and then exchanged. Grant was a man of ability, too, though he did not display it on this occasion. His stolen march was overlooked by the spies only because of its utter improbability and foolhardiness. Two years later he was made governor of Florida. He afterwards won high rank in the English army and fought part of the time in the Revolution, viz.: in the battles of Germantown and Monmouth Court House. He commanded at the latter, and defeated General Lee. Still later he was a member of the British Parliament, and died in 1806, aged eighty-six.
This battle occurred September 14, 1758, and the forces traveled therefore from Loyalhanna to Fort Duquesne in three days. They reached the camp on the 17th and bore the sad news to Bouquet. He was not by any means discouraged, but set to work to strengthen his camp till Forbes and his army should arrive. Flushed by this victory over Grant, Bouquet had little doubt that the enemy would soon storm his gates. And so it was, for on October 12 the enemy was arrayed in battle around the camp at Loyalhanna. There came about twelve hundred French soldiers, but only about two hundred Indians. The smallness in the number of the latter was due to the fact that many of them had deserted the French and gone to their homes to lay in a stock of venison before cold weather came, so that their families would not perish during the winter. James Smith, who was then a prisoner in Fort Duquesne and of whom much more shall be said later on, made this and many other disclosures on his release. He also said that a close watch was kept on Forbes� army during all its journey, and that they hoped to surprise and defeat it as they had done in Braddock�s case.
Source: Page(s) 1 - 32, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed June 1999 by Marilyn O'Leary for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed by Marilyn O'Leary for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)
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