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

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officers is not yet fully told. Nevertheless, though Braddock's ideal of a British officer
may have been mistaken, it cannot be called low. In rout and ruin and disgrace, with
the hand of death gripping tightly at his throat, his stubborn resolutk)n never wavered
and his untameable spirit was never broken. He kept his head and did his work to the
last, and thought of his duty while thought was left in him. His body was buried under
the road, that the passage of the troops over it might obliterate his grave and save it
from desecration- from the Indians. But the lesson he had learned too late was not lost
on his successors, and it may truly be said that it was over the bones of Braddock that
the British advanced again to the conquest of Canada.^?

Fortesque's reference to Cumberland is to the able Duke of Cumber-
land, captain-general of the British army, the hero of CuUoden, who
succeeded the Duke of New Castle in 1754, who has been written into
the history of Great Britain as having been as perfect an ass as ever
held public office. To follow Fortesque, as he continues his estimate of
Braddock :

His faithful aide-de-camp. Captain Orme, though himself badly wounded, remained
with him to the end and has recorded his last words ; but there was little speech now left
in the rough, bullying martinet, whose mouth had once been so full of oaths, and whose
voice had been the terror of every soldier. It was not only that his lungs were shot
through and through, but that his heart was broken. Throughout the first day's march
he lay white and silent with his life's blood bubbling up through his lips, nor was it till
evening that his misery found vent in the almost feminine ejaculation, "Who would have
thought it?" Again through the following day he remained silent, until towards sunset,
as if to sum up repentance for past failure and good hope for the future, he murmured
gently, ''Another time we shall laiow how to deal with them." And so having learned his
lesson he lay still, and a few minutes later he was dead.

We can agree with Fortesque's remark that with all Braddock's
faults, this rude indomitable spirit appeals irresistibly to our sympathy.

i«"George Washington;" W. C Ford, Vol. I, p. 64.

i7«History of the British Army;" John William Fortesque, 1899; Vol II, pp.

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Halket is a name commemorated in a Pittsburgh street name in
the Oakland district. The story of his melancholy end will never lose
its sadness or fade while the name of Braddock endures. Like Brad-
dock, Sir Peter was Scotch, more so perhaps in actions and speech. One
may say he was broadly Scotch in all particulars. Sir Peter hailed from
Pitferron, Fifeshire, the county across the Firth of Forth from Edin-
burgh. He was a baronet of Nova Scotia. His father was Sir Peter
Wedderburne, who had assumed his wife's name, so that Sir Peter's
name was not Halket but Wedderburne. In 1734 Sir Peter sat in
Parliament (the House of Commons) for Dunfermline, noted as the birth-
place of John Forbes, who g^ve Pittsburgh its name, better known as
the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie. It may be noted we have Dunferm-
line street in Pittsburgh. Dunfermline is in Fifeshire, not far from
Edinburgh. Sir Peter Halket was lieutenant-colonel of the 44th British
Regiment at Sir John Cope's defeat in 1745 at Preston Pans. Released
on parole by Charles Edward, he was ordered to rejoin his regiment,
but honorably refused. Charles Edward was the "y^ung pretender" who
attempted to wrest the crown from Greorge the Second, "snuflfy old drone
from a German hive," but a really great general, then fighting on the
Continent in the war known in history as the "War of the Austrian
Succession," terminated by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, a treaty
that had much to do with events in far-off America, and especially the
region of the Ohio, as has been noted. Charles Edward, with Louis
XV of France as his ally, landed in Scotland and raising an army
defeated the royalist forces at Preston Pans and Falkirk, but was totally
defeated by the Duke of Cumberland in the decisive battle of CuUoden
in 1746. This was the last battle fought on the soil of Great Britain, and
"it terminated," says the historian lexicographer, Worcester, "the last
effort of the Stuart family to reascend the throne, which had been for-
feited by the most egregious folly, and the most flagitious attempts."

George the Second approved Halket's course. Halket married Lady
Amelia Stewart, second daughter of Francis, eighth Earl of Moray.

Sir Peter was the father of three sons. Sir Peter, his successor in the
army ; Francis, major in the "Black Watch" regiment ; and James, who
was killed with his father.

When Forbes had come and gone, one of the first duties of Col.
Hugh Mercer, left in command at the new fort here, and a perilous post,
was to send a detachment to Braddock's battleground and bury the
derelict dead, long the prey of the elements and the camivora of the
wilderness — bones only with cleft skulls lying where they fell, victims
of the strangest battle in history up to that time — ^perhaps since — more
a massacre than an engagement. Sir Peter Halket's remains were found
and identified under these circumstances: It was the firm resolve of
Gen. Forbes that the relics left on Braddock's field be searched for.
As European soldiers were deemed unqualified for this work, Capt.
West, the elder brother of the great American painter, Benjamin West,
was sent with a company to assist in the execution of this duty.

Some Indians who had returned to the British interests and who had

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been present in the battle, accompanied West Some English officers
also went along, including Maj. Sir Peter Halket, the slain colonel's
eldest son. It was a solemn and affecting duty and it seemed a hopeless
task that anyone could discriminate Maj. Halket's loved ones* remains
from the common relics of the many. An Indian assured the major that
he had seen an officer fall near a tree he had particularly noted, and this
warrior's memory was impressed with the fact that he had witnessed
a young officer running to the other's assistance who was almost instantly
shot dead and fell across the other's body. The Indians regarded the
expedition as a religious rite and were imbued with the spirit of the
occasion. They guided the troops with awe and in profound silence.

It was a serious expedition wandering through the vast forest, appalled
anon by the discovery of skeletons with cleft skulls lying here and there
and some, too, with whole skulls arousing the suspicion that these were
those of wounded men who had crawled away and perished of hunger.
There was ample evidence, too, of the havoc that the wild beasts had
made among the unburied dead. The warrior's memory was good. He
led the detachment near the place. The men halted and rested on their
arms. In a short time a shrill cry was heard from the searching Indians.
The troops approached and were pointed to the tree. The men formed
a circle while the warriors removed the leaves. Two skeletons were
exposed, the one lying across the other. Maj. Halket said his father
had an artificial tooth. The Indian lifted the upper skeleton and brought
into clearer view the under one. Maj. Halket looked close and exclaimed :
"It is my father." His emotions overcame him and he was supported
by his companions. A grave was dug and the bones laid in it together.
A Highland plaid was spread over them and the customary honors paid.

Gait relates:

When Lord Grosvcmor bought the picture of the Death of Wolfe, Mr. West men-
tioned to him the finding of the bones of Braddock's army, as a pictorial subject, capable
of being managed with great effect The gloom of the vast forest, the naked and simple
Indians supporting the skeletons, the grief of the son on recognizing the relics of his
father, the subdued melancholy of the spectators, and the picturesque garb of the Penn-
sylvania Sharpshooters, undoubtedly furnished topics capable of every effect which the
pencil could bestow, or the imagination require, in the treatment of so sublime a scene.
His Lordship admitted that in possessing so affecting an incident as the discovery of the
bones of the Halkets it was superior even to that of the search of the remains of the
army of Varus; but, as the transaction was little known, and not recorded by any
historian, he thought it (painting) would not be interesting to the public. 18

It was John Burk, classical in training .like Sargent and all the
writers of his time, who in reading the story of the derelict dead on
Braddock's field recalled at once the lost legions of Varus. He says :

This scene suggests a parallel situation in Roman history, described by the mascu-
line eloquence of Tacitus :

"Not far hence lays the forest of Teutoburgium, and in it the bones of Varus and
his legions, by report still unburied : Hence Gcrmanicus became inspired with a tender
passion to pay the last offices to the legions and their leader: and like tenderness like-
wise affected the whole army. They were moved with compassion, some for the fate of

is'Tife Studies and Works of Benjamin West;" John Gait, p. 83-83. See "Olden
Time;" Vol. I, pp. 186-188; and Rupp, "History of Western Penna., etc.," pp. 112-113.

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their friends, others for their relations, here tragically slain. Th^ were struck with
the doleful casualties of war, and the sad lot of humanity. Gscina was sent before to
ersunine the gloomy recesses of the forest, to lay bridges over the pools, and upon the
deceUful marshes and causeways. The army entered the doleful solitude, hideous to
memory. First they saw the camp of Varus, wide in circumference; and the three
distinct places allotted to the different eagles shewed the number of the legions : further
they beheld the ruinous intrenchment and the ditch nigh choaked up; in it the remains
of the army were supposed to have made their last effort, and into have found their
graves. In the open fields lay their bones all bleached and bare, some separate, some
on heaps, just as they had happened to fall, flying for their lives or resisting unto death.
Here were scattered the limbs of horses ; there pieces of broken javelins, and the trunks
of trees bore the skulls of men. In the adjacent groves, were the savage altars where
the barbarians had made an horrible immolation of the tribunes and principal centurians.
Those who survhred the slaughter, having escaped from captivity and the sword, related
the sad particulars to the rest 'Here the commanders of the legions were slain ; there
we lost the eagles; here Varus had his first wound; there he gave himself another^ and
perished by his unhappy hand; in that place too stood the tribunal whence Arminius
harangued ; in this quarter, for the execution of his captives, he erected so many gibbets ;
in that, such a nund)er of funeral trenches were digged and with these circumstances of
pride and despite he insulted the ensigns and eagles.* Thus the Roman army buried the
bones of three legions six years after the slaughter. Nor could any one distinguish
whether he gathered the particular remains of a stranger or those of a kinsman; but all
considered the whole as their friends, the whole as their relations, with heightened
resentments against the foe, at once sad and revengeful; in this pious office, so accept-
able to the dead, Germanicus was a partner in the woe of the living, and upon the omo-
mon tomb laid the first sod."io

Craig remarks the circumstances attending the defeat of Varus and
the subsequent visit of Germanicus with his army. Craig says these
circumstances so closely resembled the details of the finding of the re-
mains of Braddock's slain that he could not resist the temptation to
notice them in the "Olden Time," although certain in so doing he would
depart widely from the design of his magazine.

We have this mention five years after the battle : "September i, 1760 —
Samuel Dominshear and myself set off through the woods for Braddock's
field, and when we came to the place where they crossed the river
Monongahela we saw a great many men's bones along the shore. We
kept along the road for one and one-half miles where the first engagement
began, where there are men's bones lying about as thick as leaves do
on the ground."2o

In 1776, twenty-one years after the melancholy event, Jasper Yeates,
a judge of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, visited the battlefield,
and found many skulls and bones of those who fell there, still lying in
profusion upon the ground unburied. The marks of cannon and musket
balls were then seen on the trees, some of them twenty feet from the
ground. He remarked that the detachment in 1758, "buried the remains
of more than four hundred and fifty ; many were afterwards interred and
many then remained unburied, as monuments of our shame." "It is now
more than ninety years since the battle, and yet the vestiges of this

ift'^History of Virginia ;** John Burk, Vol. Ill, p. 237-238, quoted from Tacitus,
"Annals," Book I, section 60-62. See also "Olden Time;" VoL I, pp. 190-192, a freer

20Joumal of Col. Jehu Eyre, "Penna. Magazine of History," Vol. Ill, p. 296.

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Three other tablets in the vicinity are as follows: (i) To indicate the location of John
Frazier's Cabin, the first white man's cabin west of the Alleghanies. near the Edgar
Thomson Steel Works. (2) To mark the location of Braddock's Spring near above.
(3) On the wall of the Wallace Mansion, where Lafayette was a guest during his visit
to America nearly half a century after the Revolutionary War.

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fatal day remain. Grapeshot are still cut out of the trees, and the
ploughman still turns up the corroded shot, and flattened bullets, and
the ornaments of the British troops," observes I. D. Rupp.^^

Sargent quotes from Judge Yeates as follows: "My feelings were
heightened by the warm and glowing narration of that day's events
by Dr. Walker, who was an eye-witness. He pointed out the ford where
the army crossed the Monongahela (below Turtle Creek, eight hundred
yards). A finer sight could not have been beheld; the shining
barrels of the muskets, the excellent order of the men, the cleanliness
of their apparel, the joy depicted on every face at being so near Fort
Duquesne — ^the highest object of their wishes. The music reechoed
through the mountains. How brilliant the morning ; how melancholy the
evening I" ("Judge Yeates' Visit to Braddock's Field in 1776;" VI,
Haz. Reg. 104).

Braddock's battle ground was for many years an object of interest
to tourists. It was visited especially as such an object by military men.
Major Ebenezer Denny records. May 15, 1788: "A Mr. White, a member
of Congress and some gentlemen from Pittsburgh, accompanied the
General (Harmar) in the barge on a visit up the Monongahela to Brad-
dock's Field. We viewed the battle-ground. Saw several small heaps
of bones which had been collected with a little brushwood thrown over
them. The bones of the poor soldiers are still lying scattered through
the woods, but the ground where the heaviest of the action was, is now
under cultivation."**

Bxaddock's Grave.

Braddock's grave is i>rotected by American hands. November 2, 1871. Josiah King
of the 'Tittsburgfa Commercial Gazette/' and J. R. Murdock carried into execution a
plan for inclosing the grave with a fence and setting out trees around it They planted
an English elm, two English larches, two Norway spruces, a willow descended from one
imported by the late B. A. Fahnestock from die grave of Napoleon at St Helena, and
several varieties of American shrubbery. The grave is in Uie field belonging to the
estate of the late James Dixon, on the north side of the old National turnpike, nine
miles east of Union town, and William A. Gather, who lives on the adjoining farm, has
promised Mr. King to interest himself in the preservation of the trees, and the fence, is
to be repainted this spring.^s

In the words of Hulbert :

The traveller at Uniontown, Pennsylvania, is within striking distance of Braddock's
Road at its most interesting points. A six-mile dimb to the summit of Laurel Hill
brings one upon the old time route which vnW be found near Washington's spring. A
delightful drive along the summit of the mountain northward brings one near the notor-
ious "Dunbar's Camp" where so many relics of the campaign have been found and of
which many may be seen in the museum of the nearby Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphans'
Home. Here Dunbar destroyed the quantities of stores and ammunition with which he
could not advance, much less retreat The visitor should here find ''Jumonville's Grave"
about a quarter of a mile up the valley, and should not miss the view from Dunbar's

aiHazard's "Register of Pennsylvania;" Vol. VI, p. 104. Quoted by Rupp, "His-
tory Western Penna., etc :" p. 113.

aa"Military Journal ;'' p. 117.

ssCopy of a clipping from a newspaper pasted on inside cover of a copy of Sar-
gent's "Braddock's Expedition," owned by James Veech; now in Gunegie Library,

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Less than one mile eastward of Qialk Hill, beside a brook which bears Braddock's
nam^ beneath a cluster of solemn pines, lies the dust of the sacrificed Braddock. If
there is any question as to whether his body was interred at this spot, there is no question
but that all the good he ever did is buried here. Deserted by those who should have
helped him most, fed with promises that were never kept, defeated because he could not
find the breath to cry "retreat*' until a French bullet drove it to his throat — he is remem-
bered t^ his private vices which the whole world would quickly have forgotten had he
won his last fight. He was typical of his time — ^not worse.

In studying Braddock's letters, preserved in the Public Records Ofiice, London, it
has been of interest to note that he never blamed an inferior — as he boasted in the
anecdote previously related. His most bitter letter has been reproduced, and a study of
it will make each line of more interest. His criticism of the Colonial troops was sharp,
but his praise of them when they had been tried in fire was unbounded. He does not
directly criticise St. Qair—- though his successful rival for honors on the Ohio, Forbes,
accused St. Clair in 1758 not only of ignorance but of actual treachery. "This behav-
ior in the people" is Braddock's charge, and no one will say the accusation was unjust

There is little doubt that Braddock's dust lies here. He was buried in the roadway
near this briiok. and at this* point, early in the last century, workmen repairing the road
discovered the remains of an officer. The remains were reinterred here on the high
ground beside Cumberland Road, on the opposite side of Braddock's Run. They were
undoubtedly Braddock's.

As you look westward along the roadway toward the grave, the significant gorge on
the right will attract your attention. It is the old pathway of Braddock's Road, the
only monument of significant token in the world of the man from whom it was named
Buried once in it— near the cluster of gnarled apples-trees in the center of the open
meadow beyond — he is now buried and finally no doubt beside it But its hundreds of
great gorges and vacant swamp-isles in the forests will last long after any monument
that can be raised to his memory.

Braddock's Road broke the league the French made widi the AUeghanies ; it showed
that British grit could do as much in the interior of America as in India or Africa or
Egypt; it was the first important material structure in this New West, so soon to be
filled with the sons of those who had hewn it24

James Hadden, of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, says:

Washington, on his visit to the west in 1784, sought to visit the last resting place of
his former commander, through respect for the same, but his search was in vain. He
wrote: "I made diligent search for the grave, but the road had been so much turned
and the clear land so much extended that it could not be found."

Abraham Stewart, father of the Hon. Andrew Stewart, was road supervisor, and in
1812, while repairing the Braddock Road at this place, fotmd human bones a few
yards from the road. The military trappings found with them indicated that the remains
were those of a British officer of rank, and as General Braddock was known to have
been buried at this camp the bones doubtless were his. These bones were carefully
gathered up and reinterred at a distance of one hundred and fifty yards eastward from
the place they were found, at the foot of an oak tree. Mr. Stewart caused a board to
be marked "Braddock's Grave," which was nailed to a tree. This tree was broken off
during a severe storm about 1868. Josiah King, editor of the "Pittsburgh Gazette,"
frequently spent a few weeks vacation at Chalk Hill, in the vicinity of the grave of
General Braddock, and noticing the dilapidated condition of this historic spot, made
arrangement to have it enclosed by a neat and substantial fence. In 1872 he procured
from Murdock's nursery a willow whose parent stem drooped over the grave of the
Emperor Napoleon at St. Helena and planted it over the remains of General Braddock,
but unfortunately it soon withered and died. He then planted a number of pine trees
within the enclosure, which still remain to indicate to the passerl^ the last resting plac?
of Major General Edward Braddock.

WBraddock's Road, etc;" A. B. Hulbert, p. aop-210.

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The British Govemtnent has never taken the slightest notice of the spot where sleep
the remains of one who gave his service and his life for the English cause. The situ-
ation is on the north side, and a few yards from the National Road, and a few rods
east of where BraddocWs run crosses that road and bout ten miles east of Uniontown.26

Since these words were penned by Hadden, the Braddock Park
Memorial Association of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, has appropriately
marked Braddock's grave with a suitable monument. The ceremonies
were held October 15, 1913.

In Braddock Borough the name Burton once commemorated in the
street now^ called Library, had to go before — we may call it the force
of literature. Anyhow, Burton was long dead. Not so with the fame
of Mr. Midshipman Talbot, and insignificant enough he was. The town
has Talbot avenue yet, and this led the Rev. G. E. Hawes of Braddock
to write: "Down before the march of a buildmg filled with books,
Talbot, a child of a book, becomes a man whose name is wntten on
lamp-posts and proclaimed from house corners, 'llie fates must have
sat down and giggled when they saw Burton unhorsed and Talbot

Burton was lieutenant-colonel of Dunbar's regiment and was slightly
wounded in the battle. Talbot was killed.

The effect of Braddock's battle is well phrased by Bradley— "it was
prodigious, for neither before nor since has any battle had an exact
parallel in British history. Shame and humiliation was felt in England,
unbounded exultation in France, while the American colonists' faith
in the invincibility of British soldiers was permanently shaken."

In the words of Franklin, "The battle gave us Americans the first
supicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular troops
had not been well founded." There was indeed an awakening for the

In the language of SparKs m an mtroductory paragraph to his detailed
description of the battle quoted by Albach and other writers of our
Western history : "The defeat of Braddock is one of the most remarkable
events in American history. Great preparations had been made for
the expedition under that experienced officer 'and there was the most
sanguine anticipation both in England and America of its entire success.
Such was the confidence in the prowess of Braddock's army according
to Franklin, that while on the march to Fort Duquesne a subscription
paper was handed about in Philadelphia to raise money to celebrate his
victory by bonfires and illuminations as soon as the intelligence should

It has been justly observed that people at this day have very little
idea of the terrible consequences of the defeat on the Monongahela. The
whole line of border settlements from the north line of Pennsylvania

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 51 of 81)