Franklin Ellis.

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

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men^ over the same route which Washinston had i

traversed to the Great Crossings of the Youghiogheny
(at the present village of Somerfield), and thence to
Gist's settlement. From Gist's he marched to the
Monongahela, at the mouth of Redstone Creek, where
his men were for a time employed in erecting a store-
house (called the "Hangard") for the Ohio Company.
After completing it they continued their march to
the present site of the city of Pittsburgh, which place
they reached on the 17th of February, and there met
Christopher Gist and several others. They imme-
diately commenced work in the construction of the
fort, preparation for which had been begun by the
party which AVasbington met on his way to Wills'

Not long after the commencement of the work.
Captain Trent returned by way of the Hangard and
Gist's to AVills' Creek, and Lieut. Frazier went to
his home on the Monongahela, at the mouth of Turtle
Creek, leaving the other commissioned officer, En-
sign AVard, in charge of the men engaged in the con-
struction of the fort.

The work progressed slowly (on account of the
severity of the weather) for about two months, when
suddenly, on the 17th of April, Ensign AVard found
himself confronted by a hostile force of about seven
hundred French and Indians, having with them eigh-
teen pieces of light artillery. This force, which had
come down the Allegheny River in sixty bateaux
and a great number of canoes, was under command
of Captain Contrecwur, who at once demanded a sur-
render of the work and position. The responsibility
lay wholly with AVard, as he was the only commis-
sioned officer with the force; but the Half-King, Tana-
charison, who was present, and firm as ever in his
loyalty to the English, advised the ensign to reply to
Contrecceur, that as he was not an officer of rank, and
had no authority to answer the demand, he hoped
that the French commander would wait until the ar-
rival of his superior officer, whom he would at once
send for. But Contrecceur refused to accede to this,
and demanded immediate surrender, saying that, in
case of non-compliance, he would immediately take
possession by force of arms.

It was of course impracticable for this ensign's com-
mand of about thirty-three men to hold the position
against a force of more than twenty times their num-
ber, with artillery ; and, therefore, the unfinished fort
was surrendered without further parley. The French

■ from George Crogliau to Governor Hamilton, dntcd March •2.'J,
In the letter firet referrcil to, Din« idilio snjs, "... In Jiinnarv
lissioncd Willium Trout to irtise one hnndred men; he liad got

'31r. Trent had


commander received Ensign AVard with great polite-
ness, invited him to 'sui)|)er that evening, and enter-
tained him for the night. On tiie morning of the 18th,
Ward took his departure, marched his men up the
valley of the Monongahela, and on the 19th arrived
at the mouth of Redstone Creek. From that point
he pushed on across the territory of the present county
of Fayette, by way of Gist's, and thence to the Great
Crossings of the Youghioglieny, and arrived at Wills'
Creek on the 22d of April. The fort which Ward
liad been compelled to surrender to Contrecanir was
completed by the French force with all practicable
dispatch, and named "Fort du Qucsne" in honor of
the Marquis du Quesne, the French Governor-Gen-
eral of Canada.'
While the events already related were in progress,

• Tlio following rr.Mii 111.) "CiilcM.liuof Vii;;liii:i
Miinuscripts li;:.i; t..l>l, II -■!.. 1 IN II. .,,
mngcd mid (dili'-l I' \' i I ^ 1 ,

Ltgblntnreof Vi.-ii _

Cll|ituillTreilfsop<.-l;ili..: - .11 I! - I..., I . 1 Hm (i:

llie pnrtiully coustructcU fuit hy Kusii^u \V;iid t
<ler, viz.:

•' Dciuisilion token Mnrcli in, 1777,
in I'ittjliiirgli, .U-. Agrcinl.le to Not
Agent for llie lii(liini;i fonipiiM.v, Ik-Iuh' .Ii.jiks Wood mid Cliiiilw Siuinis,

(wiutilig tlicni CnniiissioiicTs r..r Collicliiij} Kvidvlico on bclmlf of tlie
Coniinoiiwciiltli of Yiigiiiiii nguinst Uie sc-vcrnl I'ereons pretending to
cltiim Ljiuds witli in tlio Territoiy and Limits tlicreof, under Deeds of
Purclnises from IndinnR.

" .^Iiijor Kdwnrd Ward Deposetli nnd sjfitli Hint in the liegiuning of
the year 1704, Willinni Trent K>,.inire «;,- ;,,.|. .,..;.. I I , d.v. ii„„ir I)in-
wiildieuf Viiginiii,Cnplain oruCVilnl'iiiiv t . . '.^i .lliiriDopo-

went WHS mipointcd Ensign, by till- siiid 111 '. : IlicCliiefs

nnd Deputies of Hie Si.>i Niition?, iiuil i..i(.-i . i Hi. i ■ : ri.hiiiin to
ErK-t a Tniding House at tlle Junetioii of tlie Alliglu'iiy and ilononga-
liale Hivcrs. to carry on a Free and open Trade w illi the Six Nalions,
nnd tlieir dependants ^wliiuli was granted liy tiie said deputies, with tiiis
restiiclion, tinit he wa.^ to form no Settlements or iniprovcnieiits on the
Riid Land, but on the Contrary to Evacuate tiiesjime when required by

**.\(ter wliich the said Capt, Trent iulisted n number of men not ex-
ceeding tliiity-tiireu. and itruceeded to erect u Fort at the place Iietbro
mentioned. That on the ITth of April following, and before thi- Fort
was nearly completed, this De|ionent, who eonimauded in the absence
ufCupt. Trent, whs put lo the necessity of surreudciing the possession
to a Superior number of Tl-oops. t-onimanded by a French Odicer, who
demanded it in the name of the ICin^ of France; at which lime the Ualf-
King, and a number of the Six Nntions in Iho English Interests were
present. This deiioneiit furlher saith that in the year 17.)J, and before
his surrender lo the French, there was a snnill Village, Inhabited by the
Delawares. on the Soulli ICast Me of the Allegheny Kiver, in the neigh-
borhood of that place, and that old Kitlanuing, on the same side of the
raid River, was tlieii Inhabited by the Delawares; that about one-third
of the Shawanese Inhabited Loggs Town on the Wist Side of the Ohio,
Rud tended Corn on the East Side of the liivcr— and the utiur part of
the nation lived on the Scioto Eiver. That the Deputies of the Six Xn-
tions alter the surrender Joined the Virginia Forces, Commanded by
Colonel George Washington, who was then on Ins march at tlie Little
Sleadows, and continued with him in the service of Virginia till afier
the defeat of Monsieur La Force and a party of French Troops under his
Command. And the deponent further saith that subsequent to the de-
feat of Odo. Washington at the great Meadows, the Shawanose, Dela-
wares, and many of the Western Tribes of Indians, and an inconsider-
able number of Itenegades of the Seneca of the Six Sations,
johied the French, and Prosecuted a War against the Frontiers of the
States of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, till the conclusion of
the Pence with the Indians in the yei'.r 1759, but that he ever nnder-
stooil the Body of the Six Nuti 'US continued the firm Friends of

troops, intended for the occupation of the " Forks of
the Ohio," were being raised and organized under the
authority of Governor Dinwiddle, in Virginia, and
the first detachment of these was sent forward under
command of Lieut.-Col. George Washington, who, on
the 31st of March, had received from the Governor a
commission {dated JIarch 15th) of that grade in the
Virginia regiment, of which Col. Joshua Fry was the
commanding officer, with others to take the troops
then quartered in Alexandria, and to march them to
the Ohio, "there to help Capt. Trent to build forts,
and to defend the possessions of his Majesty against
the attempts and hostilities of the French."

The detachment thus ordered forward under Wash-
ington, consisted of two companies of infantry, com-
manded respectively by Capt. Peter Hogg and Lieut.
Jacob Van Braam.^' Besides the commanding officer
and the tw^o company commandants, the force con-
sisted of " five subalterns, two sergeants, six corporals,
one drummer, and one hundred and twenty soldiers;
one surgeon,^ and one Swedish gentleman, who was a

On Tuesday, the 2d of April, at nnon, the force
marched out of Alexandria with two wagons, and
camped that night six miles from the town. From
that time nothing of note occurred in fifteen days'
marching, except that the detacliment was joined by
a small company under Capt. Stephen,* bringing the
total strength of the command up to about one hun-
dred and fifty men.

Washington kept no regular journal on tl.o expe-
dition, but he made hasty notes of many occurrences ;
which notes were captured by the French at the bat-
tle of the Monongahela in 175.5, and were by them
preserved and published, though Washington said
afterwards that they had distorted parts of them.
One memorandum, dated April 19th, is to this effect:
" Met an express who had letters from Capt. Trent, at
the Ohio,'' demanding a reinforcement with all speed,
as he hourly expected a body of eight hundred French.
I tarried at Job Pearsall's for the arrival of the troops,
where they came the next day. When I received the
above expre-ss, I dispatched a courier to Col. Fry, to
give him notice of it.

"Thc20ih.— CamcdowntoCol.Crcsap's[()ldTown,
Md.] to order the detachment, and on my route had
notice that the fort was taken by the French. That
hews confirmed by :Mi-. Ward, the ensign of Capt.
Trent, who had been obliged to surrender to a body

- The same person who, in the preceding autumn, had accompanied
Washington to Fort Le Btcnf as French interpreter.

3 Dr. Jamea Craik, aflerwards the f.imily iihysicinn of Washington,
nnd his intimate and life-long friend.

* .\flerwards Gen. Stephen, of the Kevolutionar}' army, under Wash-

5 Capt. Trent appears to have attempted to conceal the fact that lie had
absented lii'niself from his command at the Forks of the Ohio, leaving
Ensign Ward in charge, an offense for which he was severely censured

:tialcd foi


of one thousand French and upwards,' under com-
niaud of Capt. Contrecceur, who was come down from
Venango with sixty bateaux and three hundred canoes,
and who, having planted eighteen pieces of cannon
against the fort, afterwards had sent him a summons
to depart."

Ensign Ward, as before mentioned, arrived at Wills'
Creek on the 22d. Washington, on receiving Ward's
account of the surrender of the fort to the French,
convened a council of war at Wills' Creek to deter-
mine on the proper course to be pursued in this exi-
gency. The council was held on the 23d, and decided
"that it would be proper to advance as far as Bed-
stone Creek, on Monongahela, about thirty-seven
miles on this side of the fort, and there to raise a for-
tification, clearing a road broad enough to pass with
all our artillery and baggage, and there to wait for
fresh orders." The reasons for this decision were,
" First, That the mouth of Kedstone is the first con-
venient place on the river Monongahela. Second, That
stores are already built at that place for the provisions
of the company, wherein our ammunition may be
laid up; our great guns may be also sent by water
whenever we should think it convenient to attack the
fort. Third, We may ea.sily (having all these con-
veniences) preserve our people from the ill conse-
quences of inaction, and encourage the Indians, our
allies, to remain in our interests." When the council
had arrived at this decision, Ensign Ward was sent
forward to acquaint Governor Dinwiddle with the
facts as well as to make his own report, taking with
him an interpreter, and one of the young Indians,
while another Indian runner was sent to the Half-
King, at the Ohio, to notify him of the projected ad-
vance of the Virginians.^ " I thought it proper also,"
said Washington, " to acquaint the Governors of Mary-
land and Pennsylvania of the news."

After a few brief preparations Washington's forces
moved out on the path leading to the Great Crossings
of the Youghiogheny, cutting out the road as they
proceeded ; so that it was not until the 9th of May
that they reached the Little Crossings (Castleman's
Elver). While they were at this place (May 11th)
Washington sent out a reconnoitring party of twenty-
five men under command of Capt. Stephen and En-
sign Peyronie, with orders to scout along the line of
advance, as far as Gist's place, "to inquire where La
Force^ and his party were,— and in case they were itf

1 Ward overestimated the numbers of Contrec(cnr"8 force, as it -nas
very natural that he sliould do, under tlie circumstances.

••; Thellalf-King had sent by some of his Indians to Washington, at
Wills' Creels, an address or Biicecli with belts of wampnm. To tliat
speech Washington now sent back by the runner a written reply, .as-
suring him of the friendship and gratitude of the English, and that Uiey
were moving towards the Ohio iu force, and clearing a road for a much
larger army, with great guns. Ho also requested the Half-King to come
up and meet him on the way, to assist him by his wise counsel. To this
request Tanacharison responded by meeting Washington between the
Yonghiogbeny and Gist's, as will be seen.

3 La Force was a Frenchman, who had been sent out from Tort du
Qucsnc about the first of May with a small party of French aad Indians-

the neighborhood, to cease pursuing, and take care of
themselves;" and, also, "to examine closely all the
woods round about," and if any straggling Frenchman
should be found away from the others, to capture, and
bring him in to be examined for information. " We
were exceedingly desirous," said Washington, " to
know if there was any possibility of sending down
anything by water, as also to find out some convenient
place about the mouth of Red Stone Creek, where we
could build a fort."

AVashington's forces remained three days at the
Little Crossings. Some accounts have it that they
made the long halt at this place for the purpose of
building a bridge over the river, but this is rendered
improbable by the following entry, having reference to
the day on which they moved ou from their three days'
encampment, viz. : "May the 12th. — Marched away,
and went on a rising ground, where we halted to dry
ourselves, for we had been obliged to ford a deep river,
where our shortest men had water up to their arm-pits."
On the same day Washington received, by courier,
letters informing him that Col. Fry was at Winchester
with upwards of one hundred men, and would start ia
a few days to join the advance detachment ; also that
Colonel Innis was-on the way with three hundred and
fifty Carolinians. On the 16th the column met two
traders, who said they were fleeing for fear of the
French, — parties of whom had been seen near Gist's.
These traders told Washington that they believed it
to be impossible to clear a road over which wagons or
artillery-pieces could be taken to the mouth of Red-
stone Creek. On the 17th, Ensign Ward rejoined
Wasliington, having come from Williamsburg, with
a letter from the Governor, notifying him that Captain
Mackay, with an independent company of one hun-
dred men, exclusive of officers, was on the way, and
that he might expect them at any day. Two Indians
came in from "the Ohio" the same evening, and
reported that the French at Fort du Quesne were ex-
pecting reinforcements sufiicient to make their total
force sixteen hundred men.

On the 18th the column reached the Great Crossings
of the Youghiogheny (Somerfield), where the com-
panies encamped, and remained several days. The
j halt at this place was necessary to wait for lower water
in the river, which had been swollen by recent rains ;
but besides this, the young commander wished to ex-
amine the stream below, hoping to find that it was
navigable for bateaux, or canoes of sufiicient size to
carry cannon and stores. It is not improbable that
the opinions so confidently expressed by the two fugi-
' tive traders, who came in on the 16th, and others, as
to the impossibility of opening a practicable road for
guns and heavy material to the mouth of Redstone
Creek, had impressed him so strongly as to cause him

ostensibly for the purpose of capturing deserters; but Washington, who
I had received information from an Indian runner sent by the Half-Kieig,
I believed they had other purposes in view, and therefore ordered tbo


to etitcrtaiu the idea of making iiis military base on
tlie Youghiogheny instead of oa the Monongahela as
first intended.

Whatever may have been his reasons, it is certain
that Washington decided on, and made, the explora-
tion, commencing the voyage on tlie 20th, in a canoe,
"with Lieut. West, three soldiers, and one Indian."
Following "the river along about half a mile," they
were obliged to go ashore, where they met Peter Suver,
a trader, who spoke discouragingly of their chances
of finding a passage by water, " which," says Wash-
ington, " caused me to alter my mind of causing
canoes to be made; I ordered my people to wade, ns
tlie waters were shallow enough, and continued myself
going down the river in the canoe. . . . We gained
Turkey Foot by the beginning of the night."

On the morning of the 21st they remained some
time at Turkey Foot, " to examine the place, which
we found very convenient to build a fort.' From
there they passed down the river, finding nearly every
variety of channel, sometimes rocky and rapid, and
then still and deep, until at last, at a computed dis-
tance of about ten miles below Turkey Foot, " it
became so rapid as to oblige us to come ashore."
Thus ended Washington's exploration of the Yough-
iogheny, and then the pju-ty returned to the camp at
the Great Crossings.

Upon the return of Col. Washington from his ex-
ploring trip the troops were put in motion, and crossing
the Youghiogheny without bridging (the high water
having then in a great measure subsided), marched
on northwestwardly towards the Great Meadows,
at which place they arrived on the 24tli, at two o'clock
in the afternoon. In the morning of that day, when
the column was a few miles southeast of the Meadows,
two Indian runners came in from the Ohio with a
message from the Half-King saying that " the French
army" wiis already on the march from Fort du Quesne
to meet the advancing force of Wasliington, and also
notifying him that Tanacharison and the other chiefs
would soon be with him to hold council, as Wash-
ington had requested in the dispatch sent to him from
Wills' Creek.

On the same afternoon that the troops arrived at the
Great Meadows, a trader came in saying that he had
come from Gist's, where the evening before he had
seen two Frenchmen ; he also knew that a strong
French force was in the vicinity of Stewart's Cross-
ings on the Youghiogheny. This report confirmed
the news received from the Half-King, and thereupon
Washington decided to remain for a time at the
Meadows, and avail himself of the advantage otfered
by the position. There were here, as he said in his
notes, " two natural intrencbments," which he caused
to be strengthened to some extent artificially, and

rhis soems to show thnl he then 1
niigitml plan of opemtions bj" m:il
:iul of tlic Muuongnhelii.

I contemplation a change in
M< Imse on tlie Y. ngliioghcMy

within these slight defenses he placed a part of the
troops with the wagons. The troops worked two or
three days in strengthening the position, and on the
27th of May Washington wrote : " We have, with
nature's u.ssistance, made a good entrenchiuent, and by
clearing the bushes out of the meadows, prepared a
charming field for an encounter." Probably he never
afterwards used so unmilitary an adjective in describ-
ing the construction and surroundings. of a fortifica-

On the 25th several small detachments were sent
out from the camp with orders to reconnoitre the
road- and the Indian trails, to examine the woods and
every part of the country thoroughly, "and endeavor
to get some news of the French, of their forces, and
of their motions." But these parties returned in the
evening of the same day without having made any
discoveries. On the 26th a messenger (Mr. William
Jenkins) arrived, bringing dispatches — though of no
great importance — from Col. Fairfax, who, with Gov-
ernor Dinwiddle, was then at Winchester.

Early on the morning of the 27th, Christopher Gist
arrived from his plantation, and re|)0rted that at about
noon on the preceding day a French detachment of
about filly men had visited his house and committed
considerable depredation there. He also said he had
seen their tracks within five miles of the Virgin-
ians' camp. On receipt of this information, Wash-
ington sent out a detachment of seventy-five men
under Capt. Hogg, Lieut. Mercer, and Ensign Pey-
ronie, in search of the French force. Information
had already been received that a party of Indians,
under the friendly Half-King, had come up the Mo-
nongahela, and was probably uot very far from the
Great Meadows. On the evening of the 27th, an In-
dian messenger from Tanacharison came to Wash-
ington with the information that the Half-King —
whose camp, he said, was only six miles away — had
seen the tracks of two Frenchmen, which he followed
stealthily, and had thereby discovered the French
party encamped in a rocky ravine, secluded, and diffi-
cult of access, and situated about half a mile from the

On receiving this intelligence, Washington was

- Tliat i-i, tlie path whicli had been slightly cleared by Capt. Trent,
and the Ohio Company's party which had preceded him In the previous

3 " On tlie27lh of JIny the Ilalf-Kirg sent Col. Washington Xolice that
a Taity from the French .\niiy was hankering about his Camp, if ho
would march some of his I'eople to join them, he did not doubt of cultiuK
them off. Col. Washington inarched that Night and came up to the In-
dians; one of the Indian Runnei« tracked the French Men's Feet and
came up to their Lodgment ; they discovered our People about one hun-
dred yards distant, flew to their Arms, and a small Engagement ensued.
We lost one Man and another wounded; the French had Twelve killed
and Twenty-one taken Prisonei-s, who are now in our Prison; the In-
dians scalped many of the dead French, took up the Hatchet against
them, sent their Scalps and a String of black Wampum to scveial other
Tribes of Indians, Willi a desire that they should also take up tlio
ITntchet agiiinst the French, which I hope tliey have done."— Iri/er of
Goc. litiiritlilie In Cor. jramiltou, of A'nK»ifrn»i:i, lUtcil Jiuie 21, IjdJ.

<;«, ^



suspicious thiit the secret movements of the French
Avere part of a stratagem to draw some of his forces
away from the camp and then attack it. He there-
fore ordered the ammunition to be placed in a safe
position, under a guard strong enough to prevent it
from capture in case of attack, and then set out im-
mediately, with the rest of his men,' for the camp of
tlie Half-King. The night was rainy and very dark;
the path over which they traveled was narrow, rough,
and hard to distinguish ; but they persevered, and in
the morning at a little before sunrise reached the Half- !
King's camp,^ where, at a council, held with the old
sachem, it was determined to proceed at once to attack i
the French camp.

The party whose movements had been reported by I
Gist and others was the " P'rench army," of whose
departure from Fort Du Quesnc Washington had |
been apprised. In some historical accounts of the 1
campaign it has been stated that it was under com-
mand of M. La Force, but this was not the case ; it
was commanded by M. de Jumonville,^ a French en- j
sign, who was accompanied by La Force, but the lat- !
ter was simply a volunteer, and held no military
command in the expedition. Afterwards the French
autliorities and writers claimed that Jumonville him-
self was not engaged in a military enterprise, but that
he was merely an envoy or bearer of dispatches I

1 Mostaccounts have it that the force which Washington took with liim
o;i th.1t niglit coosisted of only forty men ; biit the language of liis notes
— tliougli not entirely clear — indicatis that the ntiuiber left to guard the
ammunition was about forty,and that tlie reinaiuder of his force acci>m-

sjlr. Vc' Ii il,, - t!i< .;ir rib" Uiir-Kih-'s camp on that night,

"near 11 'r''"y. about fifty rods

iii)rllr,> i' I lit nf the present towu-

^ y.ill. _ ■ I i: -.iiImii uf tlie orders given by M. de Contrecoeur

"B' - ii I III. i, i[. tain of a company belonging to the dctach-

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 5 of 193)