Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 10 of 193)
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and the fulfillment of liis duties." On reaching
Gist's he found that no provisions, stores, nor surgical
aid had arrived there in obedience to the command
sent by Washington to Col. Dunbar, and thereupon he
sent still more peremptory orders to that officer to
forward them instantly, with the two only remain-
ing companies of the Forty-fourth and Forty-eighth
Regiments, to assist in bringing oft' the wounded.
The wagons arrived on the morning of Friday, the
Uth, and a party was then immediately sent back
towards the Monongahela to rescue such of the
wounded as could be found, and with a supply of
provisions to be left along the road for the benefit of
those who might be missed and come up afterwards.
Of the movements of the general and his party on
that day, Capt. Orme's journal has the following
entry :

" Gist's plantation.

"July 11. — Some wagons, provisions, and hospital
stores arrived. As soon as the wounded were dressed,
and the men had refreshed themselves, we retreated
to Col. Dunbar's camp, which was near Rock Fort.
The general sent a sergeant's party back with provis-
ions to be left on the road, on the other side of the
Yo-vhio Geni, for the refreshment of any men who
might have lost their way in the woods. Upon our
arrival at Colonel Dunbar's camp we found it in the
greatest confusion. Some of his men had gone off
upon hearing of our defeat, and the rest seemed to
have forgot all discipline. Several of our detach-
ments had not stopped till they had reached the
camp. It was found necessary to clear some of the
wagons for the wounded, many of whom were in a
desperate situation ; and as it was impossible to re-



4G



HISTORY OP FAYETTE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.



move the stores, thehowitzer shells, some twelve-pound
shot, powder, and provisions were destroyed or buried."

The terror and consternation at Dunbar's camp
had been constantly on the increase from the time
wlien the first of the frightened wagoners had gal-
loped in with the alarming news on the morning of
the 10th. Through all that day and the following
night terrified fugitives from the field, many of them
wounded, were continually pouring in, each telling a
fearful tale of rout and massacre, and all uniting in
the assertion that the French and savages in over-
whelming force were following close in the rear.
This latter statement was wholly false, for the enemy
liad made no attempt at pursuit from the shores of
the Monongahela; but the tale was believed, and its
effect was an uncontrollable panic at the camp.

On the arrival of Capt. Stewart with his escort,
bearing the wounded general, a decision was at once
arrived at to retreat without delay to Fort Cumber-
land, destroying everything which could not be car-
ried. It was a strange proceeding, and one which
must now appear cowardly, for an army of fully a
thousand men, many of them veteran soldiers, with
sufficient artillery and an abundance of ammunition,
to abandon a mountain position which might soon
and easily have been rendered impregnable, and to
tly before the imaginary pursuit by an enemy which
was greatly inferior in numbers, and bad already re-
tired in the opposite direction. But if the retreat was
to be made, then it wiis necessary to destroy nearly
everything except a meagre supply of provisions, for
tliere was barely tran.sportation enough for the sick
and wounded, who numbered more than three hun-
dred. There were more than enough wagons to carry
everything, but the number of horses was small, many
of the best having been ridden away by the frightened
wagoners and other fugitives, and most of those sent
forward with the trains of the advance column having
been captured by the enemy on the day of the battle.

Tlie work of destruction and preparation for retreat
were commenced immediately, and completed on the
12th. The howitzers and every other artillery piece
except two were bursted, as were also a great part of
the shell. Some of the shells and nearly all the solid
shot were buried. A great number of wagons (having
no horses to draw them) were burned. Only a small
part of the provisions was saved for the march, most
n{ them being destroyed by burning, or thrown into
the little pond of water that had been formed by dam-
ming the spring a short distance below the camp.
The powder-casks were opened, and their contents-
stated at fifty thousand pounds of powder — thrown
into the pool.' Of all the immense quantity of ma-



1 " Old Henry Beeson, the proprietor of Uniontown, used to relate tliat
vlien lie Jirst visited these locjilities. in 1767, there were some six inches
if black nitrons matter visihle all over this spring basiu."— Fcec;!.

Tlie inference was that the "nitrous matter" referred to came from
he great quantity of powder thrown into the water by Col. Dunbar's
urn, which may have Icon the fact.



terial and stores which had with such great expense
and labor been transported across the Alleghenies,
and to the top of Laurel Hill, there was only saved
the least amount that could possibly meet the neces-
sities of the retreat to Cumberland.

It has been generally believed that the artillery
pieces were not bursted, but buried at Dunbar's camp,
as well as a great deal of other property. Stories
were told, too, that a large amount oi money was buried
there by Dunbar on the eve of his retreat; and in
later years numerous diggings were made there in the
hope of finding the treasure. Of course all such at-
tempts have proved as fruitless as they were foolish.
As to the statement concerning the burial of the can-
non, it was indorsed by and perhaps originated with
Col. Burd;- but it was disproved by a letter dated
Aug. 21, 1755, addressed to Governor Shirley by Col.
Dunbar, and indorsed by his officers, in which they
said, " We must beg leave to undeceive you in what
you are pleased to mention of guns being buried at
the time Gen. Braddoek ordered the stores to be de-
stroyed, for there was not a gun of any kind buried.''

The question, who was responsible for the disgrace-
ful retreat from Dunbar's camp, and the destruction
of the stores and war material at that place, has gen-
erally received an answer laying the blame on Dun-
bar himself; and this appears to be just, though in
his letter, above quoted, he mentions the order for the
destruction as having been given by Braddoek. It is
true that the orders were still issued in his name, but
the hand of death was already upon him, and he was
irresponsible. The command really lay with Col.
Dunbar, had he been disposed to take it, as he un-
doubtedly would readily have done had it not hap-
pened that the so-called orders of Braddoek were in
this instance (and for the first time in all the cam-
paign) in accordance with his wishes.

In regard to the issuance of these orders by the
dying commander, and Dunbar's very ready and
willing obedience to them, Sargent — who, however,
almost contradicts himself in the first and last parts
of the extract given below — says, " Braddock's
strength was now fast ebbing away. Informed of the
disorganized condition of the remaining troops, he
abandoned all hope of a prosperous termination to the
expedition. He saw that not only death but utter
defeat was inevitable. But, conscious of the odium
the latter event would excite, he nobly resolved that
the sole responsibility of the measure should rest with
himself, and consulted with no one upon the .steps he
pursued. He merely issued his orders, and insisted
that they were obeyed. Thus, after destroying the



= On the lltli of September, 1759, Col. Burd visited Dunbar's cam]
and concerning this visit his journal says, " From here we marched I
Dunbar's camp. . . . Here we saw vast .inantities of cannon-ball, mm



BRADDOCKS EXPEDITION IN 1755.



47



stores to prevent their fiilliiig into the Imnds of the
enemy (of whose jnirsuit he did not doubt), the march
was to be resumed on Saturday, the 12th of July, to-
wards Wills' Creek. Ill judged as these orders were,
they met with too ready acquiescence at tlie hands of
Dunbar, whose advice was neither asked nor tendered
on the occasion. . . . For this service — the only in-
stance of alacrity that he displayed in the cam|)aign —
Dunbar must not be forgiven. It is not perjevllij clear
that Braildock intelligentlij ever (/are the orders, but in
any case they were not fit for a British officer to give
or to obey. Dunbar's duty was to have maintained
here his position, or at least not have contemplated
falling back beyond Wills' Creek. That lie had not
horses to remove his stores was, however, his aftcr-
cxcusc."

The destruction of the guns, aiiiiiiiiiiitidn, and
stores was finished at Dunbar's camp on the ll'lh of
July, and on the morning of Sunday, the 13th, the
retreating troops, composed of Dunbar's command
and the remnant of the force that fought on the
Monongahela, moved away on the road to the Great
Crossings of the Youghiogheny. They took with
theni the only artillery pieces that were left (two six-
lHiun<lers), a small quantity of provisions and lios-
pital stores, and the remaining wagons, nearly all of
which were laden with the sick and wounded. The
commander-in-chief, now rapidly approaching his
end, was borne along with the column. The entry
for this day in Capt. Orme's journal re.ads: "July
18lh. — We marched hence to the camp near the Great
Meadows, where the general died."

The place where Dunbar's troops bivouacked after
this day's march was known as the Old Orchard i
Camp, about two miles west of Fort Necessity, and '
there, at eight o'clock on that midsummer Sunday
night, General Braddock breathed his last. He had
spoken very little after the time when he was brought
from the fatal field. It is related that on the first [
night he repeated, as if soliloquizing, "Who would
have thought it I who would have thought it!" and
after that wjis silent' until the fourth day, when he
said to Capt. Orme, " We shall better know how to
deal with them another time." He spoke no more, |
and soon after expired, Captain Stewart, of the light- i
horse, having never left him from the time he re- !
ceived his wound until after his death. Washington
and Orme were also with him at the last moment, and
it is said (by Sargent) that shortly before his death
the general bequeathed to Washington- his favorite 1

' Tills conflicts strongly with Sargent's statement that at Dunbar's
CHmp lie " issiicil his orders and insisted that they were obeyed." |

- Notwithstanding the Diany absurd accounts which have been given |
of the disagreements which occurred between Braddock and Washing- i
ton, and of the iusoleiit and contemptuous mauucr in which the latter {
vas ti eated by his chief, all evidence that is found tends to show that |
there existed between the two a friendship such as is very rarely known
hb between a commanding general and a mere youth serving under
him without military rank, for in this campaign Washington held none,
and was consequently never aduiitteJ to Braddock's councils of war.
He was l-y the Diiti^h otBccrs below Braddock contemptuously styled



charger and his body-servant, Bisho]>, so well known
in after-years as the faithful attendant of the [latridt
chief.

On the morning of the 14th of July the dead gen-
eral was buried at the camp where he died, and the
artillery pieces, tlie wagon-train, and the soldiers,
moving out to take the road to Wills' Creek, jiassed
over the spot, to obliterate all traces of the new grave,
and thus to save it from desecration by the savages,
who were expected soon to follow in pursuit. The
wagons containing the sick and wounded took the
lead, then came the others with the hospital stores
and the meagre stock of provisions, then the advance
of the infantry column, then the ammunition and
guns, and finally the two veteran companies of the
Forty-fourth and Forty-eighth British regular regi-
ments, with Stewart's Virginia light-horse as a guard
to the rear and flanks. In the evening of the same
day the Youghiogheny River was cro.sscd by the last
men of the force, and the rear-guard bivouacked for
the night on the eastern side of the stream.

It seems that the progress made on the retreat wjis
very rapid, for, although Braddock's road was rough
and in many places barely passable, the head of the
wagon-train bearing the wounded and sick arrived at
Cumberland on the 17th, and three days later the last
of Dunbar's soldiers reached the fort and lighted
their bivouac fires within the range of its guns.

The expedition of Braddock, from which such
brilliant results had been expected, had proved a
dismal and bloody failure. The objective point (Fort
du Qucsne) was still held by the French, who, with
their Indian allies, soon extended their domination
over the country lying to the southeast. Gaining
courage from their victory, they came to Dunbar's
camp a week or two after his forces had left it, and
there completed the little work of destruction which
he had left undone. Within two months they had



"Mr. 'Washington," for they disliked him, principally because of the
cousidernlion shown him by Braddock, and partly because he was
merely a "Virginio bucksUin," which latter fact made Braddock's
friendship for liim alt the more galling to them. In later years Presi-
dent Wnshington, in speaking to the Hon. William Fiuley (see Xikf'
Ite'jUlcr, xiv., p. 170) of Braddock. said, "Ho was unfortunate, but his
chavarter was much loo severely treated. He was one of the honestest
and best men of the British officera with whom I was acquainted ; even
ill the manner of fighting he Wits not nirjre to blame than others, for of
all that were consulted ojily .n. i t^ u • |. i- I t.. it. . . . Braddock
was both my general and my |ili\ ,. i 1,1, i::,.lii,_ ni the latter remark



>tliet



r the Lit



Meadows on tbpoutwiird niarrli, ^.n v Iji, i :(-i .ii Braddock gave his

personal attention to the case, leaving Washington with a sergeant to
take care of him, with medicine and directions (given by himself) of
how to take it, also with instructions to come on and rejoin him (the
general) whenever he should find himself able to do so.

As to the accounts, with which all are familiiir, of Washington as-
suming command after the fall of Braddock, and saving the remnant of
the force from destruction, its utter absurdity is made apparent by the
extracts which have been given from Capt. Orme's journal. Wushingtoii
exercised no command on that campaign, and the only circumstance
which can give any color to the story is that some of the Virginian.'*,
knowing him as an officer in the militia of that colony, were disjiosed in
the contusiou of the battle to follow him in preference to tli< Ihilish
officers, who desidscd their method of backwoods fighting.



HISTORY OF FAYETTE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.



advanced eastward to the Alleghenies and made in-
cursions beyond tliat range. There was not left west
of the mountains in this region a single settler or
trader other than those who were favorable to the
French and their interests. And this state of things
continued in the country west of the Alleghenies for
more than three years from the time of Braddock's
defeat on the Monongahela.

The precise spot where Gen. Braddock was buried
lias never been certainly known. Col. Burd, who
visited it in 1759, when on his way to erect Fort Burd,
on the Monongahela, said it was about two miles
from Fort Necessity, and " about twenty yards from
a little hollow, in which there was a small stream of
w.'xter, and over it a bridge." Gen. Washington said
that it had been his purpose to return to the spot and
erect a monument to his memory, but that he had no
opportunity to do so until after the Revolution, and
then, after the most diligent search, he found it im-
possible to recognize the spot where the general was
buried on account of the change in the road and the
extension of the clearing.

In 1812 a party of men who were engaged in pre-
paring the road under direction of Abraham Stewart
I father of the Hon. Andrew Stewart), dug out, near
the bank of the small stream known as Braddock's
Hun, the bones of a human skeleton, and with them
some military trappings ; from which latter circum-
stance the bones were supposed to be those of Brad-
dock, — and it is not improbable that they were so,
though there is no proof that such was the case.
Some of the larger bones were taken away by the
people of the vicinity as relics, but these were after-
Avards collected by Mr. Stewart,^ and they as well as
the others were reinterred about 1820, at the spot
which has since been known as " Braddock's Grave,"
and which was so marked by the words cut or painted
cm a board which was nailed to a tree over the place
of reinterment. This tree has since been cut down,
the grave inclosed, and evergreen trees planted over
it. The spot is in Wharton township, a few rods
north of the National road, southe.ist of the Chalk
Hill hotel, and northwest of Fort Necessity.

For nearly a century it has been believed by many
that the shot which took the life of Gen. Braddock
was fired by one Thomas Fossit, who afterwards be-
came a resident in Fayette County. This Fossit, it
appears, always wished to have people believe that it
was a bullet from his gun that gave the mortal wound
to the brave Braddock ; and many — perhaps a ma-
jority — of the people of this section of country did
for many years believe that such was the case. The
writer of this believes that Fossit's story (whether by
this is meant that which he implied by significant

1 It has lieen sni.l in »



silence, or that which he at other times triumphantly
asserted) is false. He believes this case to be similar
to several of which he had personal knowledge in the
late civil war, where private soldiers (always of the
worthless class), bearing ill will against officers who
had administered deserved punishment to them, made
mysterious muttered threats of biding their time till
the next engagement; and after the objects of their
hatred had fallen in the front of battle, could not re-
frain from expressing satisfaction, and in a boasting
way saying enough to have hanged them, if it had not
been susceptible of proof that they themselves were,
during the battle, skulking so far in the rear of the
line of fire that they could not have reached their pre-
tended victim with any weapon of less calibre than a
ten-pounder Parrott gun. This, however, is but a mere
opinion, and therefore entitled to no weight on the
page of history. Opposed to it — as has already been
said — are the opinions of a large proportion of the
people who have lived in Fayette County during the
past ninety-eight years. Under these circumstances
the only course which can properly be pursued by
the historian is to give, without comment, the several
principal statements which have been made in the
case. One of these ^ is as follows :

" There has long existed a tradition in this region
that Braddock was killed by one of his own men, and
more recent developments leave little or no doubt of
the fact. A recent [1843] writer in the A'ai(o;ia/ Iiitd-
Ugencer, w^hose authority is good on such points, says,
' When my father was removing with his family to
the West, one of the Fausetts kept a public-house to
the eastward from and near where Uniontown now
stands as the county-seat of Fayette County, Pa. This
man's house we lodged in about the 10th of October,
1781, twenty-six years and a few months after Brad-
dock's defeat; and there it was made anything but a
secret that one of the family dealt the death-blow to
the British general. Thirteen years afterwards I
Thomas Fausett in Fayette County, then, as he fold
me, in bis seventieth year. To him I put the plain
question, and received the plain reply, " I did shoot
him !" He then went on to insist that by doing so
he contributed to save what was left of the army. In
brief, in my youth I never heard the fact doubted or
blamed that Fausett shot Braddock.'

" The Hon. Andrew Stewart, of Uniontown, says
he knew and often conversed with Tom Fausett, \
did not hesitate to avow, in the presence of his friends,
that he shot General Braddock. Fausett was a mar
of gigantic frame, of uncivilized, half-savage propensi-
ties, and spent most of his life among the mountains
as a hermit, living on the game which he killed. He
would occasionally come into town and get drunk.
Sometimes he would repel inquiries into the affair of
Braddock's death by putting his fingers to his lips



• Historical Sketches of the Slate of



CAPTURE OF rORT DU QUESNE.



49



1111(1 uttering a sort of buzzing sound ; at otiiers lie
would liurst into tears, and appear greatly agitated by
conllifting passions.

" In spite of Braddock's silly order that the troops
should not protect themselves behind trees, Joseph
Fausett had taken such a position, when Uraddock
rode up in a passion and struck him down with his
swiinl. Toni Fausett, who was but a short distance
from his brother, saw the whole transaction, and im-
mediately drew up his rifle and shot Braddock through
the lungs, partly in revenge for the outrage upon his
brother, and partly, as he always alleged, to get the
general out of the way, and thus save the remainder
of the gallant band, who had been sacrificed to his
obstinacy and want of experience in frontier warfare."

But among all the authorities on the subject, prob-
ably the one which is entitled to the most considera-
tion is that of Veech's " Monongahela of Old," in
wliifli occurs the following in reference to the killing
of Braddock :

"For at least three-quarters of a century the cur-
rent-belief has been that he was shot by one Thomas
Fossit, an old resident of Fayette County. The story
is therefore entitled to our notice. Mr. Sargent, in
his interesting ' History of Braddock's Campaign,'
devotes several pages to a collation of evidence upon
the question, and arrives very logically from the evi-
dence at the conclusion that the story is false; got up
by Fossit and others to hcroize him at a time when
it was popular to have killed a Britisher. . . .

" I' knew Thomas Fossit well. He was a tall, ath-
letic man, indicating by his physiognomy and de-
meanor a susceptibility of impetuous rage and a
disregard of moral restraints. He was, moreover,
in his later years somewhat intemperate. When Fa-
yette County was erected in 1783 he was found living
on the top of Laurel Hill, at the junction of Brad-
dock's and Dunlap's roads, near Washington's Spring,
claiming to have there by settlement a hundred acres
of land, which by deed dated in April, 1788, he con-
veyed to one Isaac Phillips. For many years he
kept a kind of tavern or resting-place for emigrants
and pack-horsemen, and afterwards for teamsters, at
the place long known as Slack's, later Robert Mc-
Dowell's. His mental abilities by no means equaled
his bodily powers; and, like a true man of the woods,
he often wearied the traveler with tales about bears,
deer, and rattlesnakes, lead-mines and Indians. I
had many conversations with him about his adven-
tures. He said he saw Braddock fall, knew who shot
him, knew all about it ; but would never acknowl-
edge to me that he aimed the deadly shot. To others,
it is said, he did, and boasted of it. . . . The last
time I saw him was in October, 1816. He was then
a pauper at Thomas Mitchell's, in Wharton township.
He said he was then one hundred and four years old,
and perhaps he was. He was gathering in his to-



bacco. I stayed at Mitchell's two days, and Fossit
and I had much talk about old times, the battle, and
the route the army traveled. He stated the facts
generally as he had dt)ne before. He insisted that
the bones found by Abraham Stewart, Esq., were not
the bones of Braddock, but of a Colonel Jones ; that
Braddock and Sir Feter Halkct were both buried
in one grave In the camp, and that if he could walk to
the jilaco he thought he could point it out so exactly
— near a forked apple-tree — that by digging the bones
could yet be found. There arc parts of this story
wholly irreconcilable with well-ascertained facts.
There was no Col. Jones in Braddock's army. Sir
Peter Ilalket and his son. Lieutenant Halkct, were
killed and left on the field of battle. Braddock did
not die at Dunbar's camp, but at the first camp east-
ward of it, and it is nowhere said that Braddock was
buried in the camp. . . .

"Nevertheless the foct may be that Fossit shot him.
There is nothing in the facts of the case as they oc-
curred on the ground to contradict it ; nay, they rather



Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 10 of 193)