Chapter XI
Back to the Harried Frontier


In both of its marches across the state of Pennsylvania, the Eighth regiment was unfortunate. The first, from Kittanning to Philadelphia, was made in the dead of winter; the second, from Valley Forge to Fort Pitt, was in the heat of midsummer, and included a long diversion up the valley of the Susquehanna.

General McIntosh, with the detachment of the Thirteenth Virginia, left camp toward the end of May and marched to Lancaster, where the fugitive Congress was in session. The Eighth Pennsylvania, under Colonel Brodhead, did not march from Valley Forge until the middle of June, and then proceeded by way of Lancaster to Carlisle. Before their departure into the borderland the men of the Westmoreland regiment received uniforms. The officers were outfitted with the traditional blue of the continental line, but the men were clad in hunting shirts, with broad-brimmed hats looped up, and long leggings. When organized in the West, the men carried long rifles, but these were replaced, on the advice of General Wayne, by muskets and bayonets, with the exception of a small detachment of sharp-shooters, who retained their rifles for scouting and skirmishing work.

While the Thirteenth Virginia pushed onward, over the mountain road toward the Ohio, General McIntosh waited at Carlisle until the Eighth regiment arrived there early in July. The most alarming news had been received from the upper branches of the Susquehanna. In May the Iroquois came down on the scattered settlements of the West Branch and in two weeks killed and captured more than 3o persons. This caused what was known as the Big Runaway, when nearly all the settlers on the West Branch, from Bald Eagle creek down to the junction with the North Branch, fled by boats, on horses and afoot to Sunbury, Carlisle, York and Lancaster. Great was the suffering of the thousands of fugitives.(1) General McIntosh reached the Susquehanna to find himself surrounded and beset by the fleeing settlers and their families, crying for protection and relief. He determined to send some of his troops up the Susquehanna to stop the Indian incursions, but before the Eighth arrived at Carlisle the news of a greater calamity was received.

On the 3d of July, 1778, took place the "massacre" of Wyoming, most notably but untruthfully commemorated by Thomas Campbell in his poem, "Gertrude of Wyoming." Four hundred British and tories and 700 Iroquois Indians, from Central New York, burst into the beautiful valley on the North Branch of the Susquehanna with gun, tomahawk, scalping knife and torch, and in a few days swept it clean of its inhabitants and habitations.

At once Colonel Brodhead was ordered to march up the Susquehanna, drive out the enemy and encourage the settlers to return to their plantations. The baggage and pack horses were left at Carlisle, and on July 12, the regiment marched in light order, about 340 strong.(2) Several small detachments had already preceded the regiment on the road toward Fort Pitt, to prepare provisions for the men and forage for the horses at points along the route. The command hurried to Sunbury, where Fort Augusta was held by ioo bold volunteers. From that place Colonel Brodhead sent details up both branches of the great river.

The British and Indians had retired from the Wyoming valley and the commander found that it was too late to assist the inhabitants there against their enemy. The ruin had been wrought, and all the settlers had either been killed, carried away captives or driven across the mountains otoward the Delaware river.

On the West Branch the situation was not quite so bad, for there the harvests had not been destroyed, and many cabins were yet standing. It became Brodhead's duty toclear the region of bands of prowling savages, guard the trails and place detachments at the principal centers of settlement to encourage the farmers to return and do their harvesting.

Major Butler was sent up the North Branch to Nescopec, with two companies; Captain John Finley, who had succeeded Moses Carson when that individual deserted, was detailed with his company into Penn's valley, west of -the Susquehanna, and with the remainder of the command Brodhead advanced up the West Branch to Muncy, to cover the harvesters in that rich agricultural region. On July a4 Brodhead wrote from Muncy: "Great numbers of the inhabitants returned upon my approach, and are now collected in large bodies, reaping their harvests."(3)

The Nescopec and Muncy detachments had few opportunities to fire their muskets at skulking Indians, but the men of Captain Finley's company, sent into Penn's valley, had the only serious encounter. They were posted at the settlement of Colonel James Potter, the pioneer of that region, who had built a stockade around his house, about nine miles southeast of the present town of Bellefonte, Center county. On an evening of July a detail of the soldiers, being at a little distance from the stockade, was attacked by a band of savages, and made a running fight for shelter. Two of the men were killed in sight of the fort, but their scalps were saved by a relief party. One of the Indians was killed and another severely wounded.

At Muncy a stockade fort had been built by Captain John Brady, the father of the famous Samuel, and there some of the bolder settlers had made a stand until the regulars came to their relief. John Brady had commanded a. company in the Twelfth Pennsylvania, had been wounded. at the battle of Brandywine, and had been honorably discharged from the continental service that he might assist. in the defense of the northern frontier. Lieutenant Samuel. Brady returned with his regiment to Muncy, and for the first time after three years of service in the army of the Revolution, was permitted to revisit his parents, brothers and sisters. The family reunion was not a long one. The-Eighth Pennsylvania was relieved, at the end of July, by the Eleventh Pennsylvania, and Colonel Brodhead's men returned down the Susquehanna to Carlisle, arriving thereon August 6.(4)

Before taking the road over the mountains to the West" the command rested at Carlisle one week. Just before it.. marched, Lieutenant Brady suffered a terrible blow. He received word that his younger brother James, from whom he had so recently parted, had been scalped by Indians and. wasdying at his home.

It was on Saturday, August 8, 1778, at the settlement of Peter Smith, about one mile below the site of Williamsport, on the bank of the West Branch, that James Brady received his mortal wounds.

On the preceding day 14 reapers and binders, accompanied by eight soldiers, went from Fort Brady to Smith's place to cut oats. The work of the first day was carried on without molestation. In the evening four of the men grew uneasy and went away. The morning of Saturday was very foggy. The cradlers began work at one side of the large field, under the protection of the soldiers. Six binders, of whom Brady was one, proceeded to the farther side of the field, separated from the view of the cradlers. and soldiers by a ridge. Five of the binders placed their rifles against one tree, but Brady stood his apart.

About an hour after sunrise, under cover of the fog, 30 Seneca and Muncy Indians slipped up on the binders and opened fire on them. The moment they were discovered Brady ran for his rifle, but the five other men took to their heels across the oatfield, leaving their guns untouched. Brady was shot and fell, but he sprang up, ran several rods, and fell again. Three Indians pounced upon him. He was wounded by a spear, struck on the head with a tomahawk and scalped. The soldiers and cradlers, hearing the firings appeared on the ridge. The Indians exchanged a few shots with them, killing two of the white men, and then ran away into the forest. In the other direction the soldiers and the harvesters, with one exception, fled as rapidly toward Muncy.

The one exception was Jerome Veness. He discovered that young Brady was not dead, but was trying to make his way toward Smith's cabin, near the field. Veness assisted the wounded man into the cabin, and remained with him during the day, dressing his wounds as well as he was able. In the evening a company of soldiers reached Smith's plantation from Muncy. They made a rude litter and carried Brady on it to the house of his parents. There he lingered in a delirium for five days, but expired before his brother Samuel arrived from Carlisle.(5)

The Bradys were a family of vigorous bodies and strong passions. Samuel Brady's rage over the cruel death of his favorite brother was intense, and his soul was possessed with a craving for revenge. Tradition tells us that he ascertained that Bald Eagle, of the Wolf clan of the Delawares, and Cornplanter, a Seneca, were the chiefs of the Indian band and that he was relentless in his pursuit of those two savages, Brady had the satisfaction of killing Bald Eagle at the mouth of Red Bank creek, on the Allegheny, in June, 1779.(6) He was never able to accomplish the death of Cornplanter.

Lieutenant Brady was excused, doubtless because of his brother's death, from accompanying the regiment on its march to Fort Pitt. During the month of September he was detailed as a recruiting officer in Cumberland county.

Before the Westmoreland regiment reached Fort Pitt it suffered another loss. Early in the year Captain Samuel Miller had been sent to Westmoreland county on the recruiting service. His home was about two miles northeast of the site of Greensburg. In July he was engaged, with several men of his company, in providing at Hannastown, near his home, a stock of forage and provisions for the coming regiment. On the 7th of July, while he and nine soldiers were conveying grain from a farm near the Kiskiminetas, they were waylaid and attacked by Indians, and only two of the white men escaped alive. The bodies of Captain Miller and his seven companions were afterward found, scalped and stripped.(7)

The Eighth regiment left Carlisle on August 13 and moved slowly.(8) It was two weeks going as far as Bedford, and two weeks more in making the journey over the mountains, past Ligonier and Hannastown, to Fort Pitt. It arrived at its destination, footsore and weary, on September 10, 1778, having been nearly three months on the road from the camp on the Schuylkill. (9) After it reached Bedford it was in its own country. From that place to Pittsburg, all along the line of march, there were many joyful reunions, and doubtless the travel-stained soldiers were well served with food and drink as they passed through Westmoreland. Yet many tearful women sat at the wayside cabins and sad-faced parents looked in vain for the familiar figures of beloved sons. Nearly three hundred of the stout frontier youths who marched away to the East to help Washington did not return to the defense of their own borderland.

1 Pennsylvania Archives, First series, vol. vi., pp. 499, 615, 631; Day's Hlet. Coll. of Pa., p. 451.

2 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vi., p. 635.

3 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vi., p. 660.

4 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vi., p. 680.

5 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vi., pp. 688, 689, 691; Conquering the Wilderness, Triplett, New York, 1883, p. 213.

6 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. xii., p. 131; Washington-Irvine Correspondence, p. 41; William Young Brady, in Pittsburg Post, January 8. 1898.

7 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vi., p. 673; Frontier Forts, vol. 11., p. 323.

8 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vi., p. 700.

9 Frontier Forts, vol. ii., p. 130.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 67-72: Old Westmoreland, A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler, J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900

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