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be on his guard against ambush and surprise, but without avail. Had he taken the advice urged on him by Washington and others to employ scouting parties of Indians and rangers, he would never have been so signally surprised and defeated.
Still his dauntless conduct on the field of battle shows him to have been a man of fearless spirit, and he was universally allowed to be an accomplished disciplinarian. His melancholy end, too, disarms censure of its asperity. Whatever may have been his faults and errors, he, in a manner, expiated them by the hardest lot that can befall a brave soldier, ambitious of renown—an unhonoured grave in a strange land; a memory clouded by misfortune, and a name for ever coupled with defeat.
In narrating the expedition of Braddoek, we have frequently cited the Journals of Captain Orme and of the "Seamen's Detachment;" they were procured in England by the Hon. Joseph B. Ingersoll, while Minister at the Court of St. James, and recently published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania: ably edited, and illustrated with an admirable Introductory Memoir by Winthrop Sargent, Esq., member of that Society.
Arrival at Fort Cumberland—Letters of Washington to his FamilyPanic of Dunbar—Fortunes of Dr. Hugh Mercer—Triumph of the French.
The obsequies of the unfortunate Braddoek being finished, the escort continued its retreat with the sick and wounded. Washington, assisted by Dr. Craik, watched with assiduity over his comrades, Orme and Morris. As the horses which bore their litters were nearly knocked up, he despatched messengers to the commander of Fort Cumberland requesting that others might be sent on, and that comfortable quarters might be prepared for the reception of those officers.
On the 17th the sad cavalcade reached the fort, and were relieved from the incessant apprehension of pursuit Here, too, flying reports had preceded them, brought by fugitives from the battle; who, with the disposition ubual
in such cases to exaggerate, tad represented the whole army as massacred. Fearing these reports might reach home, and affect his family, Washington wrote to his mother and his brother, John Augustine, apprising them of his safety. "The Virginia troops," says he, in a letter to his mother, "showed a good deal of bravery, and were nearly all killed. * * »• The dastardly behaviour of those they called regulars exposed all others, that were ordered to do their duty, to almost certain death; and at last, in despite of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary, they ran as sheep pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them."
To his brother he writes: "As I have heard, since my arrival at this place, a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting the first, and of assuring you that I have not composed the latter. But, by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, though death was levelling my companions on every side of me!
"We have been most scandalously beaten by a trifling body of men, but fatigue and want of time prevent me from giving you any of the details, until I have the happiness of seeing you at Mount Vernon, which I now most earnestly wish for, since we are driven in thus far: A feeble state of health obliges me to halt here for two or three days to recover a little strength, that I may thereby be enabled to proceed homeward with more ease."
Dunbar arrived shortly afterward with the remainder of the army. No one seems to have shared more largely in the panic of the vulgar than that officer. From the moment he received tidings of the defeat his camp became a scene of confusion. All the ammunition, stores, and artillery were destroyed, to prevent, it was said, their falling into the hands of the enemy; but, as it was afterwards alleged, to relieve the terror-stricken commander from all incumbrances, and furnish him with more horses in his flight toward the settlements.1
1 Franklin's Autobiography.
At Cumberland his forces amounted to fifteen hundred effective men; enough for a brave stand to protect the frontier and recover some of the lost honour; but he merely paused to leave the sick and wounded under care of two Virginia and Maryland companies, and some of the train, and then continued his hasty march, or rather flight, through the country, not thinking himself safe, as was sneeringly intimated, until he arrived in Philadelphia, where the inhabitants could protect him.
Among the wounded survivors of the defeat, who found their way to Fort Cumberland, was Washington's friend and neighbour, Dr. Hugh Mercer. He had received a severe wound in the shoulder, and being unable to keep up with the fugitives, concealed himself behind a fallen tree. Thence he was a sad witness of a demoniac scene, which followed the defeat. The field was strewed with the dead and dying, and among them several gallant officers. White man and red man vied with each other in stripping and plundering them; those who were still alive were despatched by the merciless tomahawk, and all were scalped. When the plunder and massacre were finished, the victors set out for the fort, laden with booty, the savages bearing aloft the scalps as trophies, and making the forest ring with their yells of triumph. Mercer then set out on a lonely struggle through the wilderness, guiding himself by the stars and the course of the streams, and arrived at Fort Cumberland almost exhausted by sickness, famine, and fatigue. We shall have to speak hereafter of his services when under the standard of Washington, and his heroic death on a more successful field of action.
The true reason why the enemy did not pursue the retreating army was not known until some time afterwards, and added to the disgrace of the defeat. They were not the main force of the French, but a mere detachment of 72 regulars, 146 Canadians, and 637 Indians—855 in all—led by Captain de Beaujeu. De Contrecceur, the commander of Fort Duquesne, had received information, through his scouts, that the English, three thousand strong, were within six leagues of his fort. Despairing of making an effectual defence against such a superior force,
he was balancing in his mind whether to abandon his fort without awaiting their arrival, or to capitulate on honourable terms. In this dilemma, Beaujeu prevailed on him to let him sally forth with a detachment to form an ambush and give check to the enemy. De Beaujeu was tc have taken post at the river and disputed the passage at the ford. For that purpose he was hurrying forward when discovered by the pioneers of Gage's advance party. He was a gallant officer, and fell at the beginning of the fight. The whole number of killed and wounded of French and Indians did not exceed seventy.
Such was the scanty force which the imaginations of the panic-stricken army had magnified into a great host, and from which they had fled in breathless terror, abandoning the whole frontier. No one could be more surprised than the French commander himself, when the ambuscading party returned in triumph with a long train of packhorses laden with booty, the savages uncouthly clad in the garments of the slain—grenadier caps, officers' gold-laced coats, and glittering epaulettes—flourishing swords and sabres, or firing off muskets, and uttering fiend-like yells of victory. But when De Contrecoeur was informed of the utter rout and destruction of the much-dreaded British army, his joy was complete. He ordered the guns of the fort to be fired in triumph, and sent out troops in pursuit of the fugitives.
The affair of Braddock remains a memorable event in American history, and has been characterized as "the most extraordinary victory ever obtained, and the farthest flight ever made." It struck a fatal blow to the deference for British prowess, which once amounted almost to bigotry throughout the provinces. "This whole transaction," observes Franklin, in his autobiography, "gave us the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular troops had not been well founded."
Costs of Campaigning—Measures for Public Safety—Washington in Command—Head-Quarters at Winchester—Lord Fairfax and his Troop of Horse—Indian Ravages—Panic at Winchester—Cause of the Alarm—Operations elsewhere—Shirley against Niagara—Johnson against Crown Point—Affair at Lake George—Death of Dieskau.
Washington arrived at Mount Vernon on the 26th of July, still in feeble condition from his long illness. His campaigning, thus far, had trenched upon his private fortune, and impaired one of the best of constitutions.
In a letter to his brother Augustine, then a member of Assembly at Williamsburg, he casts up the result of his frontier experience. "I was employed," writes he, "to go a journey in the winter, when I believe few or none would have undertaken it, and what did I get by it ?—my expenses borne! I was then appointed, with trifling pay, to conduct a handful of men to the Ohio. What did 1 get by that? Why, after putting myself to a considerable expense in equipping and providing necessaries for the campaign, I went out, was soundly beaten, and lost all! Came in, and had my commission taken from me; or, in other words, my command reduced, under pretence of an order from home (England). I then went out a volunteer with General Braddock, and lost all my horses and many other things. But this being a voluntary act, I ought not to have mentioned it; nor should I have done it, were it not to show that I have been on the losing order ever since I entered the service, which is now nearly two years."
What a striking lesson is furnished by this brief summary! How little was he aware of the vast advantages he was acquiring in this school of bitter experience! "In the hand of heaven he stood," to be shaped and trained for its great purposes; and every trial and vicissitude of his early life but fitted him to cope with one or other of the varied and multifarious duties of his future destiny.
But though, under the saddening influence of debility and defeat, he might count the cost of his campaigning, the martial spirit still burned within him. His connexion