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think we have much to boast; some are insolent and ignorant; others capable, but
rather aiming at their own abilities than making a proper use of them. I have a very
great love for my friend Orme, and think it uncommonly fortunate for our leader that
he is under the influence of so honest and capable a man; but I wish for the sake of
the public, he had more experience of business, particularly in America.

As to myself, I came out of England expecting that I might be taught the busi-
ness of a military secretary, but I am already convinced of my mistake. I would
willingly hope my time may not be quite lost to me. You will think me out of humor.
I own I am so, I am greatly disgusted at seeing an expedition (as it is called) so ill
concerted originally in England, and so ill appointed, so improperly conducted since in
America, and so much fatigue and expense incurred for a purpose which, if attended
with success, might better had been left alone. I speak widi regard to our particular
case; however, so much experience as I have had of the in judiciousness of public opinion,
that I will have so little reputation when we return to England, of being received with
great applause. I was likewise farther chagrined at seeing the prospect of affairs in
America, while we were in Alexandria. I looked upon the very great and preventing
causes through delays and disappointments, which might have been prevented till all is
grown cloudy, and in danger of ending in little or nothing. I have hopes, however,
that the attempt against Niagara will succeed, which is the principal thing — I don't
know whether there are any more but yourself to whom I would have written some
facts of his letter, or could have, at present, justified myself in doing it; but there is a
pleasure in unburthening one's self to a friend. I shall be very happy to have reason
to retract hereafter what I have here said, and submit to be censured as moody and
apprehensive. I don't comprehend my Father's reasons for building the vessel which
you mention. I hope, my dear Morris, to spend a tolerable winter with you. Pray
take no notice of any fact of this letter to me in your answer, for fear of accidents. I
refer you to Mr. Peter's for business.

Yours most sincerely,


loSee letter in "Colonial Records of Penna.;" Vol. VI, pp. 404-406, and in "His-
tory Western Penna., etc;" Rupp, p. 106.

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The records say that "The Governor then in confidence communi-
cated to Mr. Peters a private letter he had received from Mr. Shirley,
and as it contained Truths of Importance, he desired him to enter it
in the Council Minutes. After they were read that it might remain there,
and none at present be made acquainted with it."

Bradley has something tb say of Washington, whose estate at Mount
Vernon lay within a few miles of the camp at Alexandria, where Brad-
dock's troops had disembarked, and to which camp Washington was a
frequent visitor. "A stickler for punctilio, and with a keen sense of
justice, Washington," says Bradley, **had resented an order which
placed all King's officers over all provincial officers, irrespective of rank
or experience, and before Braddock's landing had resigned his commis-
sion. Such a keen soldier as he was sorely tantalized, we may be sure,
by all this pomp of war. Nobody ever seems to have thought of snub-
bing Washington, and to save him the indignity he would not stomach,
namely, that of ranking colonel as he was, under a British ensign. Brad-
dock with kindly forethought placed him on his personal staff."

Regarding the Indian help for Braddock, Bradley explains that
Governor Dinwiddie had undertaken that 120 warriors should be at his
service. It was not his fault that less than half that number, and those
anything but zealous, came straggling in. They were so hampered,
moreover, with women and children, that the provincial officers assured
Braddock that the tax on the commissariat would be greater than the
assistance of so small a number was worth. The general has been
roundly accused of despising Indian help, whereas he never had a
chance to reject it in any substantial form, though he made all the
advances which his somewhat helpless position admitted of; indeed he
made their backwardness one of his chief complaints. As it was, less
than a dozen went through to the end with him as scouts.

After Braddock had been two months in Virginia, in spite of inde-
fatigable exertions, he found himself thwarted and balked at every
turn. "If he showed some temper," remarks Bradley, "and used strong
language, he may well be excused, for though 1,500 horses and 125
wagons were needed by the end of April, 25 wagons only had been
secured and these mostly by his own exertions. No wagons were to
be had in all Virginia. Now comes Franklin, then postmaster at
Philadelphia, on the scene, and becomes the general's right hand," says
Bradley, "dining dail> «it his table — 'the first capable and sensible man
I have met in this couucry,' wrote poor Braddock to his government."

The story of how Braddock was fitted out with wagons by Franklin
is well known history. Not only with means of transportation was poor
Braddock worried, but by rascally contractors for food. Rancid meat
and short weight in flour would exasperate a modern general; then,
too, some of the horses furnished Braddock were stolen by the very
men who sold them to him. Whatever may have been Braddock's
faults, admitting he cursed both the country and the government which
sent him there, "he at least spared neither himself nor his private purse.

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which last he drew upon freely, Orme tells us, in his struggle for ways
and means."^^

Bradley sums up thus :

Braddock, to be sure, was no great general. He was sent to carry out an under-
taking arduous and unprecedented in British experience and he did his best in the face
of inunense difficulties, human and physical. Both he and his people had perhaps grown
a little too confident after crossing the second ford. Till then, however, he was en-
tirely successful, and even so it was no ambush in the ordinary sense of the term. With
his scouts farther forward he would have had, it is true, a little more notice; but tmder
no circumstances were his regulars qualified to face even a lesser number of Indians in
their native woods, while there were not 200 provincial combatants on the field of
battle and many of these had no backwoods experience whatever. (^Struggle, etc;"
Bradley, p. 103).

In the pathos of his dying hours can be seen the proud spirit of
Braddock crushed by the awe of defeat. Too late he saw his error and
was repentant. The briefest of soliloquies, a mere ejaculation, the first
evening after the battle, gives clue to his thoughts: "Who would have
thought it?" he asked. Throughout the next day he was silent as on the
preceding, yet hope had not departed. Again he ejaculated : "We shall
know better how to deal with them another time." Who can say that
as his heartbeats slackened, the dying Braddock was not fully conscious
that he was leaving for all time his name a synonym for disaster and his
fame would be that of a leader utterly routed. We can present Irving's
estimate of Braddock with the others :

Reproach spared him not even in his grave. The failure of the expedition was
attributed both in England and America, to his obstinacy, his technical pedantry and
his military conceit He had been continually warned to 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 have been 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 un-
honored grave in a strange land, a memory clouded by misforttme, and a name forever
coupled with defeat.12

The character of Braddock has been well drawn by James Grahame,
a Scotch historian of the last century:

Braddock was a man of courageous and determined spirit, and expert in the tactics
and evolutions of European regiments and regular warfare. But, destitute of real
genius, and pedantically devoted to the formalities of military science, he was fitter
to review than to command an army ; and scrupled not to express his contempt for any
troops, however sufficient in other respects, whose exercise on parade did not display the
same regularity and dexterity which he had been accustomed to witness, and unfor-
tunately to overhaul, in a regiment of English guards in Hyde Park. Rigid in enforc-
ing the most trifling punctilios and in inflicting the harshest severities of military disci-
pline, haughty, obstinate, presumptuous, and difficult of access, he was unpopular among
his own troops, and excited the disgust of both the Americans and the Indians. There
are two sorts of vulgarity of mind; to the one of which it is congenial timidly to over-

ii'Tight with France, etc;" Bradley, p. 89.
i2"Life of Washington;" W. Irving, Vol. I, p. 20a.

Pitto.— 2S

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rate, and to the other presumptuously to underrate, the importance of scenes and cir«
cumstances remote from the routine of its ordinary experience. The latter of these
qualities had too much place in the character of Braddock, who, though totally uncon-
versant with American warfare, and strongly warned by the Duke of Cumberland that
ambush and surprise were the dangers which he had chiefly to apprehend in such cases^
scorned to solicit counsel adapted to the novelty of his situation from the only persons
who were competent to afford it Despising the credulity that accepted all that was
reported of the dangers of Indian warfare, he refused, with fatal skepticism, to believe
any part of it. It seemed to him degrading to the British army to suppose that he
needed directions of provincial officers, or could be endangered by the hostility of
Indian foes.^s

Craig naturally had recourse to Franklin's Memoirs for that worthy's
opinion of Braddock, and in "The Olden Time" (Vol I, p. 89), there will
be found the following headings and introductory lines with Franklin's
observations following :

Notice of Braddock's Defeat and of That Officer's Character.

Dr. Franklin was a good deal in his camp, had much personal intercourse with
him, and thus speaks of him in his Memoirs :

'This General was, I think, a brave man, and might probably have made a figure as
a good officer in some European war. But he had too much self-confidence, too high
an opinion of the validity of regular troops, and too mean a one of both Americans and
Indians. George Croghan, our Indian interpreter, joined him on his march with one hun-
dred of those people who might have been of great use to his army as guides, scouts,
etc., if he had treated them kindly; but he slighted and neglected them, and they grad-
ually left hinL In conversation with him, one day, he was giving me some account of
his intended progress. 'After taking Fort Duquesne,' he said, 'I am to proceed to
Niagara; and having taken that, to Frontenac, if the season will allow time, and I
suppose it will ; for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or four days ; and then
I will then see nothing that can obstruct my march to Niagara.' Having before
resolved in my mind the long line his army must make in their march by R very narrow
road, to be cut for them through the woods and bushes, and also what I had read of a
former defeat of one thousand five hundred French, who invaded the Illinois country,
I had conceived some doubts and some fears for the event of the campaign. But I
ventured only to say, 'To be sure, Sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne with these
fine troops, so well provided with artillery, the fort, though completely fortified, and
assisted with a very strong garrison, can probably make but a short resistance. The
only danger I apprehend of obstruction to your march, is from the ambuscades of the
Indians who, by constant practice, are dextrous in laying and executing them, and the
slender line, near four miles long which your army must take, may expose it to be
attacked by surprise in its flanks, and not be cut like a thread into several pieces, which,
from their distance, cannot come up in time to support each other.' He smiled at my
ignorance, and replied, 'These savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to your raw
American militia, but upon the King's regular and disciplined troops, Sir, it is impos-
sible they should make any impression.' I was conscious of an impropriety in my
disputing with a military man, in matters of his profession, and said no more. The
enemy, however, did not take advantage of his army which I apprehended its long line
of march exposed it to, but let it advance, without interruption, till within nine miles
of the place; and then, when more in a body, and in a more open part of the woods
than any it had passed, attacked its advanced guard, by a heavy fire from behind the trees
and bushes ; which was the first intelligence the General had of any enemy's being near
him. This guard being disordered, the General hurried the troops up to their assistance,
which was done in great confusion, through wagons, baggage and cattle; and presently
the fire came upon their flank; the officers on horseback were more easily distinguished.

i«"History, etc.. U. S. of North America;" Vol. Ill, p. 394, quoted hy I. D. Rupp,
in "Hist Western Penna. and West;" p. 115.

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picked out as marks, and fell very fast; and the soldiers were crowded together in a
huddle, having or hearing no orders, and standing to be shot at, till two-thirds of them
were killed; and then, being seized with a panic, the remainder fled with precipitation.
The wagoners took each horse out of his team and scampered; their example was
immediately followed t^ others; so that all the wagons, provisions, artillery and stores
were left to the enemy. The General being wounded, was brought of! with difficulty;
his secretary, Mr. Shirley, was killed by his side, and out of eighty-six officers sixty-
three were killed or wounded; and seven hundred and fourteen men killed out of eleven
hundred. These eleven hundred had been picked men from the whole army; and the
rest had been left behind with Col. Dunbar, who was to follow with the heavier part of
the stores, provisions, and baggage. The flyers, not being pursued, arrived at Dunbar's
camp, and the panic they brought with them instantly seized him and all his people.
And though he had now above one thousand men, and the enemy who had beaten Brad-
dock did not exceed four hundred Indians and French together, instead of proceeding
and endeavoring to recover some of the lost honor, he ordered all the stores, ammuni-
tion, etc., to be destroyed, that he might have more horses to assist his flight towards
the settlements, and less number to remove. He was there met with requests from the
Governors of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania that he would post his troope on the
frontiers, so as to afford some protection to the inhabitants; but he continued his hasty
march through all the country, not thinking himself safe, till he arrived at Philadelphia,
where the inhabitants could protect him. This whole transaction gave the Americans
the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular forces had
not been well founded.

'In the first march, too, from their landing till they got beyond the settlements, they
had plundered and stripped the inhabitants, totally ruining some poor families, besides
insulting, abusing and confining the people if th^r remonstrated This was enough to
put us out of conceit of such defenders, if we really wanted any. How different was
the conduct of our French families in 1781, who, during a march through the most
inhabited part of our country, from Rhode Island to Virginia, near 700 miles, occa-
sioned not the smallest complaint, for the loss of a pig, chicken, or even an apple !

"Captain Orme, who was one of the General's Aides-de-Camp, and being grieviously
wounded, was brought off with him, and continued with him to his death, which hap-
pened in a few days, told me he was totally silent all the first day, and at night only
said, 'Who would have thought it?' That he was silent again the following day, say-
ing only at last, 'We shall better know how to deal with them another time,' and died
in a few minutes after.

"The doctor mentions one anecdote of a favorable cast: 'As to the rewards from
himself, I asked only one, which was that he would give orders to his officers not to
enlist any more of our bought servants, and that he would discharge such as had been
already enlisted. This he readily granted, and several were accordingly returned to their
masters, on my application.'

"In another circumstance, we are bound to recognize a just and elevated accident,
Franklin learned afterwards, that Braddock in his despatches to Government had borne
earnest testimony to the Doctor's zeal and efficiency.

"The Secretary's papers, with all the General's orders, instructions and correspond-
ence, falling into the enemy's hands, they selected and translated into French a number
of the articles, which they printed, to prove the hostile intentions of the British Court
before the declaration of war. Among these I saw some letters of the General to the
ministry, speaking highly of the great services I had rendered the army, and recom-
mending me to their notice."

Bradley notes with regret that Dr. Franklin did not return Braddock's

Some extracts from historians of Braddock's times have peculiar
interest for us now. Thus John Entick :

Thus ended the tragical expedition, whose bad consequences to the British inter-
est were rendered worse by increasing the si»rit and activity of our enemies, and con-
firming the Indians in the interest of their new allies. Besides, the Indians, in the Brit-

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ish interest, despised us for not being able to protect ourselves; and such an universal
panic seized on all our colonies, that they seemed, for some time, to give up all for lost
At home great pains was taken by the public to fix the cause of his misfortune.
Some cast the whole blame upon the general ; others were as sanguine against the min-
istry. But a little impartiality and cool attention, will discover both the general and
the ministry at fault. The capital mistake was his orders to land in Virginia instead
of Pennsylvania, for the reasons already given. Then his march would have been
shortened six weeks and performed with less fatigue and expense. His obstinacy,
severity and inattention to the advice of his officers, etc., his contemptuous behaviour
towards the provincials, and his neglect to reconnoitre the enemy and to make a proper
disposition and use of his artillery on the day of action, fell heavy upon Braddock.^^

These paragraphs from the scholarly Burk appeal to us :

The absence of Dunbar from the battle of Monogahela was esteemed a fortunate
incident For amidst the panic that prevailed, numbers would have been rather an
injury; and but for the provisions found in his camp, no human expedient could have
saved the lives of the army. » » »

At this place died general Braddock, a man by his ardour and resolution, his noble
contempt of death, his generous thirst for fame, deserving a better fate. His misfor-
times and those of the army arose from a fatal mistake, into which he had fallen in
common with all the officers of the regulars serving in America; an obstinate perse-
verance in the principles of the art of war conducted by large armies in Europe ; a too
high an opinicm of tfie courage and discii^ine of British regulars, one somewhat bord-
ering on contempt for the provincial troops. It was owing to this blind and fatal
presumption that the provincial corps was left bdiind at Fort Cumberland at the Little
and Great Meadows and with Dunbar: and only three companies of Virginians were
retained with the main army, and even these, perhaps, merely in compliment to Mr.
Washington and the colony, which was the immediate theatre of action.

But a mistake so general, that it becomes a sort of popular belief, ought to affect
only in a slight degree the fame of the commander in chief. In Europe his adherence
to system, added to hb genius and courage, would have probably insured success to his
efforts. In any event, his magnanimous courage, added to his misfortunes, will raise
up for him advocates among the brave; and the traveller as he walks on the banks of
the Monongahela, and contrasts the proud array and majestic spectacle of Braddock's
passage of the river in the morning, with the afflicting view of a shattered army with
their dying general repassing it in the afternoon, will mingle with his reflections on the
capricious tenure of human greatness, a sentiment of sorrow for the fate of this gallant
spirit! 5

Coming back to modern writers, Worthington Chauncey Ford,
biographer of Washington, furnishes his estimate of Braddock to go
with those who wrote before him. He is decidedly unfavorable. How-
ever, his remarks are to be considered. He says :

Braddock possessed faults of character, and faults that rendered him unfitted for
the service he was about to undertake. Ignorance of the country and the people was
not the greatest defect, for that could be overcome in part by the counsel of those who
did know this important matter. To this ignorance no greater than that of his super-
iors in England, was joined a contempt of the enemy to be encountered. A small body
of French, assisted by a few uncivilized and unnecessary natives who had never been
able to stand against the discipline and equipments of the regular forces, not even
against the crudely constituted armies of the colonies, was nothing to present a serious
obstacle to a commander confident of easy success. Even this great trust in his own
strength and abilities could be modified by the judicious advice of those who had faced
the Indians and met defeat at the hands of the French. The most difficult attitude to
overcome was an insolent contempt for his allies — the regiments and companies raised

i4"Hittory Late War;" John Entick, London, 1766; Vol I, p. 147.
iB"Hi«tory of Virginia;" John D. Burk, Vol III, pp. 205-aod.

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by the colonies, and die bands of Indians who had thrown their fortunes on the side of
the English. No persuasion, no warnings, no threats, could soften this crying fault, one
that was shared by oommander and royal officers alike. However able and even brilliant
Braddock might be in other directions, his offensive treatment and disregard of what
might have been the most useful part of his command threatened disaster from the

Washington at every opportunity urged the necessity of modifying the methods of
advance and attack to meet those employed by the Frendi and Indians. The very nature
of the country called for this, for die mountains and covered country did not lend them-
selves readily to the tactics of the regular army. Discipline and the rule of thumb laid
down in military manuals proved stronger, however, and ruled the policy of the General.^^

A recent historian, the Honorable John William Fortesque, says of
Braddock :

It was as a favorite exponent of Cumberland's military creed that Braddock was
sent to North America. He was bom and trained for such actions as Fontenoy; and it
was his fate to be confronted with a difficult problem in savage warfare. His task was
that which since his day has been repeatedly sent to British officers, namely to improvise
a new system of fighting wherewith to meet the peculiar tactics of a strange enemy in a
strange country. Too narrow, too rigid, and too proud to apprehend the position, he
applied the time-honored methods of Flanders and he failed. Other officers have since
fallen into the like error, owing not a little to a false system of training and have likewise
failed; and vast as is our experience in savage warfare, it may be that the tale of such

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 50 of 81)