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History of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 online

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ton determined to advance and reach the Monongahela at Redstone, now
Brownsville, and there fortify himself.

The French were readily kept informed of Washington's movements
and prepared to check him. Active operations ensued and these were in
what is now Fayette county.

May 8, 1754, Washington and his small command were at the Little
Meadows, near the Youghiogheny river. The next day he received
definite information that Contrecoeur had been greatly reinforced. May
i8th Washington reached the Youghiogheny at what was subsequently
called the Great Crossingfs, now the site of Somerfield, Pennsylvania.
Several days later he moved to the Great Meadows.

May 27th an express — ^the special delivery of those days — ^arrived
from the Half King, who was about six miles distant, with a party of his
Mingo warriors. He brought the news that the French were nearby.
The night turned out a terrible one. Rain fell in torrents and the march
was toilsome and tedious. Groping in the inky darkness of the intricate
forest, falling over rocks and logs, tangled in dense thickets, the whole
night was consumed in traveling the short distance, and at daybreak
Washington joined forces with the Half King. There was an immediate
council and a plan of joint action was agreed on.

The Half King — ^whose proper name was Tanacharison — was a friend
of the English. He was a Seneca by birth. He was- called the Half King
because he had not entire sovereignty ; only an over-lord of the Iroquois,
or Six Nations. The Half King remained true to the English. He died
at Harris Ferry, now Harrisburg, the succeeding October. The loss
of this Indian, who could be depended on, was a severe blow to the Eng-
lish. He has no commemorating name in Pennsylvania. Nor has Mo-
nacatootha, likewise the friend of the English, one of the eight Indians
who remained with Braddock; another, his son, whom Monacatootha
saw slain at his side

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Indian spies were sent out and the French position discovered. It
was half a mile from the road and surrounded by rocks. Washington
and his men went to the right and the Indians to the left and the advance
was made in single file. The alert enemy discovered this movement and
an action at once began, which lasted but a quarter of an hour. It was
disastrous to the French; M. Jumonville, the commander, fell at the
first fire, according to some accounts, and ten of his men were killed, one
wounded and twenty-two captured. Washington had one man killed and
two wounded. The Indians escaped casualties. A Canadian escaped and
hurried with the news to Contrecoeur at Fort Duquesne.

This short skirmish, so fateful in results, was the first bloodshed
in a great war in America that lasted nine years. In April, 1754, when
the French standard was flung to the breeze at our Point, the colors
signalized French dominion in North America that extended from Nova
Scotia by the St Lawrence, the Great Lakes, the Ohio and the Mississippi
to the Gulf of Mexico. The fleur-de-lis, the emblem of France, likewise
betokened sovereignty in parts of Africa and India. Vast were the
possessions of France at this period outside of her own geographical
lines. All her extensive possessions were well guarded by fortifications
and troops. When the war ended that began at our gates between
Contrecoeur and Washington, France was stripped of much of her ter-
ritorial domain, and this, too, by a treaty arranged at Paris.

Washington found among his prisoners at Jumonville's defeat an
old acquaintance in La Force, the commissary of the French forces,
whom he had met at Venango; also M. Drouillon and two cadets. La
Force had accompanied Washington and Gist the preceding winter from
Fort Venango to Le Boeuf. Washington was young and impulsive and
the leadership was thrust upon him by the accident which resulted in
the death of his colonel, Joshua Fry, May 27, 1754. In the intent to
recite the actual happenings of Washington's first campaign the French
and English accounts are given. They are at wide variance in one par-
ticular — the death of Jumonville. It was a sorry affair at best.

First the French version: When Contrecoeur at Fort Duquesne
learned that a considerable body of English was marching toward him
he dispatched his half-brother Jumonville with a small force to meet them,
not to fight, but to warn them. He charged Jumonville with a written
summons in the form of a letter directed to the first English officer he
should meet. It was almost of the same tenor as the summons he had
before sent when he took possession of the little fort Ward had built at
our "Point.*'

Contrecoeur assured the English no violence would be offered them.
He desired the English commander to return an answer by Jumonville
and requested that officer be treated with that distinction and respect
which he deserved. The account that Contrecoeur received of the affray
was that on the morning after they sent out the little escort of Jumonville,
the commandant's deputy, he found they were surrounded by some
Indians and an English force. The English fired quickly two volleys,
killing some French soldiers. Jumonville made a sign that he had a

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letter from his commander ; the firing thereupoh ceased and the English
surrounded the French officer in order to hear the letter. It was im-
mediately read and as it was being read a second time the English
assassinated Jumonville. The rest of the French detachment were then
made prisoners except one, who escaped, who gave the story as above.
He assured Contrecoeur that the Indians who were with the English
had not fired a gun, but at the instant Jumonville was assassinated they
threw themselves in between the French and the English. With the alle-
gation that Jumonville had been treacherously murdered, the French were
greatly enraged. Contrecoeur sent immediate word to Duquesne and
received his instructions, which demanded retribution, and that the
English be driven out. Preparations were at once begun. In one month
the French force was under way, viz., on June 28th, and on July 3rd the
forces were in conflict. The French numbered five hundred regulars and
Canadian militia and as many Indians. The Canadian who escaped was
named Mouceau. Contrecoeur also wrote his story to Duquesne. Mou-
ceau alleged that the French were in platoons between the English and
the Indians, and that he dropped out and made his way through the
woods to the Monongahela and came down to the Forks by a small
canoe. The Indian account of the affray, which Contrecoeur likewise
wrote to Duquesne, states that Jumonville was killed by a musket shot
in the head, and that the English would have killed all the French had
not the Indians rushed in between them and the English, thus frustrating
the design. Contrecoeur, writing Duquesne, records :

I believe, sir, it will surprise you to hear how basely the English have acted. It
was what was never seen, even among nations who are the least civilized, to fall thus
upon ambassadors and murder them. The Indians are so enraged that they have applied
to me for liberty to fall upon the English.

The English are, no doubt, on their march with an army 5,000 strong. The
Indians say they have always 600 men going before in order to clear a broad road, to
bring up strong cannon ; this was the Indian expression.

How great a force Washington had is evidenced by the number sur-
rendered at Fort Necessity, about four hundred.

M. de Villiers, also a journalist, records under date of June 26, 1754:

Arrived at Fort du Quesne about eight in the morning with several nations
(Indians), the command of which the general had given me. At my arrival was
informed that M. de Contrecoeur had made a detachment of 500 French and 11
Indians of different nations on the Ohio, the command of which he had given to Cheva-
lier le Mercier, who was to depart the next day. As I was the oldest officer and com-
manded the Indian nations, and as my brother had been assassinated, M. de Contrecoeur
honored me with that command, and M. le Mercier, though deprived of the command,
seemed very well pleased to make the campaign under my orders. M. de Contrecoeur
called Messrs. le Mercier, de Longueil and myself in order to deliberate upon what
should be done in the campaign, as to the place, the strength of the enemy, iht assas-
sination committed by them upon my brother and the peace we intended to maintain
between the two crowns.

It must be admitted the French were magnanimous. Witness the
honorable terms accorded Washington at Fort Necessity. Washington
always kept an accurate journal of his transactions — ^in fact, he was one

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of the most careful and methodical of men. We must believe him, for
he is always specific and concise. May 27, 1754, he records:

At eight at night received an express from the Half King which informed me
that as he was coming to join us he had seen along the road the tracks of two men,
which he had followed till he was brought thereby to a low, obscure place that he was
of opinion the whole party of the French was hidden there; that very moment I sent
out forty men and ordered my ammunition to be put in a place of safety under a
strong guard to defend it, fearing it be a stratagem of the French to attack our camp,
and with the rest of my men set out in a heavy rain; and in a night as dark as pitch
alcHig a path scarce broad enough for one man.

We were sometimes fifteen or twenty minutes out of the path before we could
come to it again ; and so dark that we would often strike one against another.

After mention of the meeting and council with the llalf King at
sunrise, Washington preceeds :

We formed ourselves for an engagement marching one after another, in the Indian
manner. We were advanced pretty near to them, as we thought, when they discovered
us; whereupon I ordered my company to fire, mine was supported by that of Mr.
Wagner's and my company and his received the whole fire of the French during the
greatest part of the action, which lasted only a quarter of an hour, before the enemy
were routed. I marched on with the prisoners. They informed me they had been sent
with a summons to order me to depart, a plausible pretense to discover our camp and to
obtain the knowledge of our forces and our situation ! It was so clear that they had
come to reconnoitre what we were that I admired their assurance, when they told me
they were come as an embassy for their instructions mentioned they should get what
knowledge th^ could of the roads, rivers, and all of the country as far as the Potomac.

Washington refutes the allegation that they could come as ambas-
sadors — rather were they spies, for they remained hidden for whole days
and were known to have sent spies to reconnoitre his camp. They went
back two miles only after doing this and sent Contrecoeur full intelli-
gence. "Besides, an ambassador," says Washington, "has princely
attendants, whereas this was a small petty French officer. He continues :

An ambassador has no need of spies; his character being always sacred Their
actions were suspicious, the summons insolent and favored the gasconade so much
that if it had been brought openly by two men it would have been an immediate indul-
gence to have suffered them to return.

Craig found copies of the papers that Jumonville bore in the French
"Memoire" and inserted them in the "Olden Time." They are as follows :

A copy of those orders which M. de Contrecoeur gave M. de Jumonville the 23rd
of May, 1754.

Be it known that the Captain of a company belonging to the detachment of
Marines, Commander in Chief at the Ohio, Fort du Quesne, the Peninsula, and River
Beef, have given orders to M. de Jumonville, an ensign of the troops, to depart imme-
diately with one officer, three cadets, one volunteer, one English interpreter, and
twenty-eight men, to go up as far as the High Lands, and to make what discovery he
can; he shall keep along the river Monongahela in Pettiaguers as far as the Han-
gard; after which he shall march along, until he finds the road which leads to that
said to have been cleared by the English. As the Indians give out that the English are
on their march to attack us (which we cannot believe since we are at peace) should M.
de Jumonville, contrary to our expectation, hear of any attempt to be made by the
English, on the lands belonging to the French King, he shall immediately go to them,
and deliver them the summons we have given him.

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We further charge hitn to dispatch a speedy messenger to us, before the summons
be read, to acquaint us with all the discoveries he hath made ; of the day he intends to
read them the summons ; and also to bring us an answer from them, with all possible
diligence, after it is read.

If M. de Jumonville should hear that the English intend to go on the other side of
the Great Mountain, he shall not pass the High Lands, for we would not disturb them
in the least, being desirous to keep up that union which exists between the two crowns.

We charge M. de Jumonville to stand upon hb guard against every attempt, either
from the English or the Indians. If he should meet any Indians he shall tell them he is
traveling about to what is transacting on the King's territories, and to take notice of
every road, and shall show them friendship. Done at the camp at Fort du Quesne, the
23rd of May, 1754. CoNTiEco«uit.^

A copy of the summons whereof M. de Jumonville was the bearer. A summons
which M. de Jumonville shall read. From an officer of the troops of the most Christian
King, to the commander of the English troops, if any he should find on the territories
of the French King.

Sir: — ^The Indians have already acquainted me, you were coming armed, on the
territories of the King my master, though I cannot believe it; but as it is my duty to
leave no stone unturned, to discover exactly the truth thereof, I have sent M. de Jumon-
ville on that account; and in case he should see you, to summons you in the King^s
name, and by virtue of the orders which I have received from my General, to depart
forthwith in peace with your troops, if you refuse, you will oblige me sir, to force
you thereto, by using the most powerful means, for the honor of the King's arms;
your buying those lands at the Ohio, from the Indians gives you so weak a right thereto,
that I shall be obliged to repd force by force. . I forewarn you, that if, after this sum-
mons, which shall be the last, there be any act of hostility, you shall answer for it; as
it is our intention to keep up the union existing between the two crowns. Whatever
your schemes may be, I hope, sir, you will show M. de Jumonville, all the respect that
officer deserves, and that you will send him back again to me with all speed, to acquaint
me with your intentions.^ I am, etc.

Signed CoNntECOBXTR.

Done at the Camp at Fort Duquesne, the 23rd of May 1754.

The assertions that Jumonville showed a flag of truce, says Parkman,
are unsupported, as are those that Jumonville was killed in the act of
reading the summons. French deserters told Washington that Jumon-
ville's party came as spies, and were to show the summons only if threat-
ened by a superior force.

Washington faithfully recorded each day's happenings until the sur-
render at Fort Necessity where his weary, half-starved men lay down
their arms. He had been joined by a company from South Carolina
under Captain James Mackaye, who held a king's commission and who
refused to be a subordinate to a Virginia provincial officer even of a
higher rank. When the articles of capitulation were signed Mackaye
signed first.

De Villiers in his report to his superior, Contrecceur, gives a detailed
account of what occurred at Fort Necessity. He tells how he cooped the
English in their fort and how he "obliged them to leave us their cannon
consisting of nine pieces ;" also of destroying all of Washington's horses
and cattle," and "made them to sign the favor we granted them was only
to prove how desirous we were to maintain the peace between the
crowns." De Villiers destroyed all of Washington's cannon, even the

7"01den Time;" Vol II, pp. 188-189. Ibid, Vol. II, pp. 210-213.
^^Washington's Journal," 1754; Dr. Toner's note, p. 94-95-

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one granted them in the capitulation ; all the liquor, of which there were
several casks. The single cannon allowed Washington he could not
carry away. No animals were left to draw it. The first article of the
capitulation reads, under date "July 3> I754> ^it 8 o'clock at night,"

As our intentions have never been to trouble the peace and good harmony sub-
sisting between the two princes in amity, but only to revenge the assassination commit-
ted on one of our officers, bearer of a summon, as also on his escort, and to hinder any
establishment on the dominions of the king, my master; upon these considerations we
are willing to show favor to all the English who are in the said fort on the following
conditions : 'leave to retire and return peacefully to their own country," without insult,
with honors of war, etc., with all their belongings except artillery and draft animals.

The translation of the seventh article made trouble. The French
version is:

Article VII — Que comme les Anglais n'ont en leur pouvoir un officier, deux cadets,
et generalement les prisonniers quils nous ont fait dans Vassassinai du Sr, de Jumon-
ville, et qu'ils promettent de les renoyer avec sauve garde jusqu' au fort du Quesne, sitte
sur la Belle-Riviere, et que pour suretie de cet article, amsi qui de cet trait e, Messrs.
Jacob Vanbram et Robert Stobo tous deux captaines, nous seront remis en otage jusqua
r arrivee de nos Canadiens et Francois ci dessus mendoner, etc.

The parts here marked in italics were misrepresented by the inter-
preter, or at least the meaning of them was so imperfectly and obscurely
expressed by him, as to be misunderstood by Colonel Washington and
his officers. The words pendant une annee a compter de ce jour, which
occur at the end of the sixth article in the copy retained by Colonel
Washington, are not found in the copy of the articles printed by the
French government. The articles conclude :

And as the English have in their power an c^cer, two cadets and most of the pris-
oners made at the assassination of M. de Jumonville, and promise to send them back, with
a safeguard to Fort Du Quesne, situate on the Ohio, for surety of their performing this
article as well as this treaty, M. Jacob Vambraam and Robert Stobo, both captains
shall be delivered to us as hostages, till the arrival of our French and Canadiams above
mentioned We oblige ourselves on our side to return these two officers in safety and
expect to have our French in two months and a half at farthest, a duplicate being fixed
upon one of the posts of our stockade the day and year mentioned.

Signed Messrs. James Mackaye,
G. Washington,


Washington tells of the signing of this document and of Van Braam's
stupidity or deceit. Doughty old Grovernor Dinwiddie, grouch and French
hater, disavowed the terms of this capitulation, much to Washington's
chagrin, great enough on account of his forced surrender. We must
admire M. de VilHers as an honorable man and foe. He really believed
his brother was assassinated. He was truly magnanimous. He
restrained his Indians from slaughtering the English and kept them well
in hand. De Villiers records his feelings when he states :

The 4th (July) I sent a detachment to take possession of the fort, the garrison
filed off, and Uie number of their dead and wounded moved me to pity, notwithstanding
my resentment for their having in such a manner taken away my brother's life.

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Pittsburgh authorities in naming a street De Villiers have commem-
orated a man of fine sensibilities, a soldier and a gentleman, though an

Van Braam has been characterized as a poltroon and a villain. Wash-
ington admits he was a good soldier, but lamented always the imposition
or ignorance Van Braam manifested in his translation of the articles of

"The interpreter," Washington says, "was a Dutchman, little ac-
quainted with the English tongue. Therefore he might not advert to
the tone and meaning of the word in English. But whatever his motives
were for so doing, certain it is he called it *the death' or 'the loss of Sieur
Jumonville,' so he received, and so we understood it, u^til to our great
surprise and mortification we found otherwise in a literal translation.''

Washington was not learned in French. He had in his command
a French Protestant, a chevalier, who had settled in Virginia. Unfor-
tunately, badly wounded in the engagement, he was unable to be of
any service. This was Ensign Peyronie, who became a captain the
next year and was killed at Braddock's defeat. Poor Van Braam
paid dearly for his errors, as will appear. He was a prisoner with
the French for six years. The sigpning of the capitulation was
highly dramatic. In fact it was a difficult task. A solitary candle was
with difficulty kept burning in the rain that was falling in torrents. Van
Braam stumbled through the blurred, blotted terms of the capitulation,
and Washington was satisfied and signed the papers.

Pouchot has an account of the Jumonville affair in his "Memoire."*
He says:

M. de Contre-coeur remained commandant of Fort Duquesne, which M. Merder,
an artillery officer, had laid out and built. De Villiers, Jumonville and several other
officers, were also left at the post

During the summer they were informed, that a party of English had passed from
towards the Forks of the Monongahela, and come to the Ohio to locate themselves.
The council at Fort Duquesne, determined to send Jumonville with a detachment of
thirty armed men, to require them to return, and he wa? the bearer of a letter demand-
ing a surrender from the commandant. The English officer, notified by friendly
Indians, of the approach of this detachment, awaited their arrivsd in a kind of ambus-
cade. Jumonville seeing himself the weaker party, sought to show his letter, of which
he was the bearer. The English, who did not wish to compromise themselves by a par-
ley, fired upon the party, killing Jumonville and some others, and took the rest prisoners.
When the news of this reached Fort Duquesne, Villiers grieved at the death of his
brother, asked leave to go and take vengeance in the Indian fashion. A council of war
was held, of which the leading spirit was Mercier, and in which they resolved in writ-
ing, that without wishing to impair the treaty of Utrecht, Villiers should march with a
detachment of three hundred men, to seek the English, who, to the number of five
hundred had begun a fort, in a place they had christened Necessity. The French coming
to this fort, took post behind the trees, and a little abattis built by the English. They
had begun a ditch, which was already excavated knee deep, as the earth lay piled up,
but the firing of the men, who aimed well, soon disabled a considerable number. The
English, seeing themselves crippled by this murderous fire, asked to capitulate. They
were received as prisoners on parole, upon the condition that they should at once return
those whom they had taken, and that they should give two officers as hostages. M. de
Villiers furthermore required them to give a statement as to how they had killed

9*'Memoire Late War in America;" Hough Edition, pp. 20-21.

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Jumonville so untimely, and then sent them away. They were obliged to do this,
because they had troubled to support those in the fort

The French returned in triumph to their garrison, and remained quiet the remainder
of the campaign. Several officers returned to Canada, among whom was Mercier, who
was there relieved by Lery, self styled an engineer. Mercier and Pean were sent to
France to report the glorious and interesting events of their campaign.

When the English learned of the events in this part of the country, they resolved to
send in the winter of 1754-55 Pepperell's^ Shirley's, Halket's and Dimbar's regiments
to America, to maintain their establishments. The first two were destined for Oswego,
and the other two for Virginia, and from thence to the Ohio.

1755. France, learning of the departure of these regiments for America, likewise

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 37 of 81)