Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 6 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 6 of 193)
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nicht .4 I. ii , iiiiiiiii.l(.r-in-cliief at the Ohio Fort du Quesne,
Presqn' Isk- and KiviCro aux Bceufs, liath given orders to M. de Jumon-'
ville, an ensign of the troops, to depart immediately, with one officer,
llireo cadets, one volunteer [La Force], one Englisli interpreter, and
twenty-eight men, to go up as far as the nigh Lands, and to make what
discovery he can ; lie shall keep along the river Monongahelu in Peiia-
guas, as far as the Ilangard, after which he shall nuirch along until lie
tinds the road which leads to that said to liave been cleared by the Eng-
lish. As tlie Indians give out that the English are on their march to
attack 110 (which we cannot believe, since we are at peace), should M.
do Jumonville, contrary to our expectations, hear of auy attempt in-
tended to be iiiiulc by tbe ICii^'li^li on tilt- lands bi'loiiging to the French

senger i ' i ■ i ■ . . ■, 1 all the dis-

nions, and al^n lu bring us an answer from llietii, witli all possible dili-
gence, after it is read.

" If BI. de Jumonville should hear that tlio English intend to go on
the other side of Ihe Great Mountain [the Alleghenies] lie shall not pass
the High Lands, ^or we would not disturb tliem in the least, being de-
sirous to keep lip that union which exists between the two crowns.

iug oi

ville I

I upm

nrd II

charged by the commandant at Fort du Quesne with
the duty of delivering a communication to the com-
manding officer of the English force; and that the
military party which accompanied him was acting
simply as his guard while performing this service.
But if it was simply a guard to a peaceful envoy, then
certainly its leader adopted a very strange cour e in
lurking near Washington's encampment for two days,
and hiding his men in an obscure and gloomy glen
among rocks and brushwood.

It having been determined to attack Jumonville's
party, Washington's men and Tanacharison's Indians
left the headquarters of the latter, and marched " In-
dian-file" to near the French camp,* where a line was
formed, with the English on the right and the Indians
on the left, and in tliis order the combined forces
moved to the attack. It was not a complete surprise,
for the French discovered their assailants before they
were within rifle-range. The right, under Washing-
ton, opened fire, and received that of the French.
The conflict lasted only about a quarter of an hour,
when the French .«urrendered. Their loss was ten
killed and one wounded. Among the killed was JI.
de Jumonville." All the dead men were scalped by
Tanacharison's Iiidians. Washington's loss was one
man killed and two wounded.

The prisoners, twenty-one in number (among whom
were La Force, M. Drouillard, and two cadets), were
marched to the Half-King's camp, and thence to the
Great Meadows. Two days later, they were sent to
Winchester, Va., with a guard of twenty men, under
command of Lieutenant West, who was also accom-
panied by Mr. Spindorph.

On the 30th, Washington "began to raise a fort
with small palisadoes, fearing that when the French
should hear the news of that defeat we might be at-
tacked by considerable forces." The defenses which
his men had constructed at the Great Meadows' camp
prior to this, probably consisted of parapets, formed
of logs (laid horizontally) and earth, along the crests
of the " two natural intrenchments," which have al-
ready been mentioned, and tlie discovery of which
at the Great Meadows, together with the advantage
of a small stream that flowed near them, seems to
have been a principal reason for his selecting that

* "Jumonville's Camp," says Mr. Yecch, "is a place well known in our
mouutains. It is near half a mile southward of Dunbar's Camp, and
about five hundred yards eastward of Bi-nddock's road,— the same which
Washington was then making. . . . There is not above ground in Fay-
ette County a place so well calculated for concealment, and for secretly
watching and counting Washington's little army as it would pass along
the road, as this same Jumonville's Camp." The spot is now well
kuowu by residents in that part of the county, and is frequently visited
by strangei-s fi-om motives of curiosity.

5 The killing of Jumonville was stigmatized by the French as tho
assassination uf a peaceful envoy, and their writers have covered thou-
~:iih1- .1 ]i,i-. > \\itli accusations against Washington as commander of
111- iiM Kii,^ i.i..<. Even a greater amount of writing h,i8 been dono

ly A iiji lilMcrianstorefutethosofalseallegations. But the charac-

I. r .1 w \ ins ,1. X needs no vindication, and certainly none will be



place as a site for liis iDrtitioil <:iiii|) and ti'iiiiKiraiv
base of operations.

The little stockade, whicli War>liin<;toii built alU-r
the figlit at Jumonville's camp, was evidently a very
slight and |)rimitive affair, for on the 2d of June if. was
completed, and religious services were held in it. In
the previous evening the Half-King had arrived, bring-
ing with him some twenty-five or thirty families of In-
dians, who had tied from the lower Jlonongnhela and
the neighborhood of Logstown forfcarofthe vengeance
of the French. The fugitive party numbered between
eighty and one hundred persons, including women
and children. Among them was "Queen" Alliquippa
and her son. Her heart had evidently been touched
in its tenderest chord by AVashington's present of a
bottle of rum to her in the preceding December, and
now she came to place herself under his protection,
she doubtless had visions of future favors from him.
But the presence of these refugees was very embar-
rassing to the young commander on account of pros-
pective scarcity of provisions, and for many otiicr
reasons; and the inconvenience was afterwards in-
creased by the arrival of other parties of non-com-
batant Indians. One of these was a party of Shaw-
anese, who came to the fort on the 2d of June, and
others came in on the 5th and 6th. Washington
wislied to be disencumbered of these hangers-on, and
tried to have a rendezvous of friendly Indians estab-
lished at the mouth of the Redstone Creek, but did
not succeed in effecting his purpose.

On the 6th of June, Christopher Gist arrived from
Wills' Creek, with information that Col. Fry, com-
manding officer of the Virginia regiment, had died at
that place on the 30th of May while on his way to the
Great Meadows with troojis. By his death Washing-
ton succeeded to the command of the regiment. On
the 9th, Major Muse arrived from Wills' Creek with
the remainder of the regiment, and nine small swivel-
guns, with ammunition for them. But although the of the regiment had now arrived, the total force
under Washington was but little more than three
hundred men, in six companies, commanded respec-
tively by Captains Stephen, Jacob Van Braam, Robert
Stobo, Peter Hogg, Andrew Lewis,' Poison, and
George Mercer. Among the subalterns were Lieuten-
ants John Mercer and Waggoner, and Ensigns Pey-
ronie and Tower. Major Muse, as a man of some
military experience, was detailed as quarterma.ster,
and Captain Stephen was made acting major.

Major Muse, on his arrival, reported that Captain
Mackay, of the South Carolina Royal Independent
Company, had arrived with his command at Wills'
Creek, and was not far behind him on the march to
Great Meadows. He (Mackay) arrived on the follow-

1 Afterwards Generni Lewifi, wlio fuuglit the buttle of Point Pleasant
in Bunmore's war of 1774. He was a relatire of Washington, and it is
said that in 1775 Ilie Litter recommended Iiim for ttic appointment wliirli
lie himself soon after received, that of connnander-iu-chief of the .\incri-

ingday (June 10th), having with him a force of about
one hundred men, five days' rations of flour, sixty
cattle on the hoof, and a considerable supply of am-
munition. As Capt. Mackay was a regular officer in
the royal service, he displayed from the first a disin-
clination to act under the orders of a "buckskin
colonel" of Virginia provincial troops. This feeling
extended to the private soldiers of the Carolina com-
l>any, but no act of pronounced insubordination
resulted from it.

Two days after the arrival of Capt. Mackay, some
of Washington's scouts brought in word that they had
discovered a French party, numbering, by estimate,
about ninety men, between Gist's and Stewart's Cros-
sings of the Youghiogheny. This intelligence caused
the colonel to start out with about one hundred and
thirty men and thirty Indians to find them ; but
before leaving the meadows, he took the same pre-
caution that he observed when he went out to attack
the party under Jumonville,— that is, he directed all
his ammunition and stores to be placed in the safest
possible position within the palisade, and set a strong
guard over it, with orders to keep the strictest watch
until his return ; for he still feared that the reported
movement by the French was part of a stratagem by
which they hoped to capture the work in the absence
of a large part of its defenders. On moving out with
his party, however, he soon met an Indian party, who
informed him that the alarm was unfounded, for, that
instead of the reported party of ninety, there were but
nine Frenchmen, and these were deserters. There-
upon he returned to the camp, leaving a small party
to take the deserters and bring them in, which they
accomplished soon afterwards.

Finding that there was as yet no French force in
his vicinity, Washington now resolved to advance
towards Redstone, and accordingly, on the 16th, moved
out on the Nemacolin path towards Gist's, taking with
him his artillery pieces, some of the wagons, and all
his men, except the Carolinians, under Mackay, who
were left behind at the fort to guard the stores. This
was done to avoid a possible conflict of authority
with Mackay, who was indisposed to have his com-
pany perform its .share of labor in clearing the way
for the passage of the train.

This labor was found to be so great that the force
under Washington was employed thirteen days in
making the road pa.ssable from the fort to Gist's,
though the distance was only thirteen miles. Before
reaching Gist's (on the 27th) Capt. Lewis was sent
ahead with Lieut. Waggoner, Ensign Mercer, and a
detachment of seventy men, to attempt the opening
of a practicable road beyond Gist's, towards Redstone.
Another detachment, under Capt. Poison, was sent
out in advance to reconnoitre.

On the 29th of June Washington arrived at Gist's,
and there received information that a strong French
force was advancing up the Monongahela. Tlioreupon,
he at once called a council of war, at which it was re-



solved to concentrate all the forces at that point, and
there await the French attack. Intrenchments were
immediately commenced and pushed with all possible
vigor ; a messenger was .sent towards Bedstone, to
call in Lewis's and Poison's detachments, and an-
other to the Great Meadows, with a request to Capt.
Mackay to march his force without deiay to Gist's.
He promptly responded ; and Lewis and Poison also
came in the next morning, having cut through nearly
eight miles of road from Gist's towards Redstone. On
their arrival Washington called a second council of
war, which reversed the decision of the first, and re-
solved, without a dissenting voice, to abandon the
work at Gist's and retreat to Wills' Creek, over the
route by which they had advanced. This decision
was at once acted on.

In the retreat, the means of transportation being very
deficient,' it is said that "Colonel -Washington set a
noble example to the officers by leading his own horse
with ammunition and other public stores, leaving his
baggage behind, and giving the soldiers four pistoles
to carry it forward. The other officers followed this
example. There were nine swivels, which were drawn
by the soldiers of the Virginia regiment, over a very
broken road, unassisted by the men belonging to the
Independent Company [Mackay's], who refused to
perform any service of the kind. Neither would they
act as pioneers, nor aid in transporting the public
stores, considering this a duty not incumbent on them
as King's soldiers. This conduct had a discouraging
effect upon the soldiers of the Virginia regiment, by
dampening their ardor and making them more dis-
satisfied with their extreme fatigue."^

The journey between Gist's and the Great Meadows,
which Washington, on his outward marcli, had been
unable to perforni in less than thirteen d.ays, was now
made in less than two days, notwithstanding the insuf-
ficiency of transportation and the severe labor which
the men were obliged to perform in hauling the artil-
lery pieces and military stores; and the retreating col-
umn reached the fortified camp at Great Meadows on
the l^t of July.

It had been the intention, as before noticed, to con-
tinue the retreat to Wills' Creek, but on the arrival
at the Meadows, Washington found that it was im-
practicable to go on, for, says Sparks, " His men had
become so much fiitigued from great labor and a de-
ficiency of provisions, that they could draw the swivels
no farther, nor carry the baggage on their backs.
They had been eight days without bread, and at the
Great Meadows they found only a few bags of flour.
It was thought advisable to wait here, therefore, and
fortify themselves in the best manner they could till

1 Sill-gent says, "Two miserable teams, and a few pack liorses being
I tlicir means of tmnsporting their ammunition, tlie officers at once
l.le'l their own steeds to the train; and, leaving half his baggage be-
ind, Washington, for four pistoles, hired some of the sokliers to carry

they should receive supplies and reinforcements.
They had heard of the arrival, at Alexandria, of two
independent companies from New York, twenty days
before, and it was presumed they must, by this time,
have reached Wills' Creek. An express was sent to
hasten them on with as much dispatch as possible."

When it had been decided to make a stand at the
fortified camp at Great Meadows, Washington gave
orders for the men to commence, without delay, to
strengthen the rude defenses which had already been
erected. More palisades were added ; the stockade
was extended, and salient angles formed, and a broad
but shallow ditch was made outside the fort, materi-
ally adding to the strength of the work. Outside this
ditch there was constructed a line of defense, similar
in character to the modern rifle-pits, — but all joined
in one extended trench, — further protected in front
by a low parapet of logs, embanked with the earth
thrown from the trench. The work was done under the
supervision of Capt. Robert Stobo, who had had some
I experience in military engineering. When completed,
I Washington named it " Fort Necessity," as expressive
of the necessity he was under to stand there and fight,
' because of his inability to continue the retreat to
j Wills' Creek, as he had intended. The extreme scar-
city of provisions, and other supplies too, made the
name appropriate.

Washington's selection of a site for his fortification
has been often and severely criticised by military
' men as being badly calculated for defense, and com-
manded on three sides by high ground and closely
approaching woods. The location was undoubtedly
chosen partly on account of the peculiar conforma-
tion of the ground, which V/ashington called " natural
intrenchments," and which materially lightened the
labor of construction, and still more on account of
the small stream (a tributary of Great Meadows Run)
which flowed by the spot, and across which, at one
point, the palisade was extended, so as to bring it
within the work, and furnish the defenders with an
abundant supply of water, a consideration of vital
importance if the fort was to be besieged.

The size and shape of Fort Necessity have often
been described by writers, but the difl^erent accounts
vary in a remarkable manner. Col. Burd, who vis-
ited the ruin of the work in 1759, five years after its
erection, says, under date of September 10th, in tliat
year, " Saw Col. Washington's fort, which was called
Fort Necessity. It is a small, circular, stockade, with
a small house in the centre. On the outside there is
a small ditch goes round it, about eight yards from
the stockade. It is situated in a narrow part of the
meadows, commanded by three points of woods.
There is a small run of water just by it. We saw two
iron swivels."

Sparks, in describing the fort and its location, says,
" The space of ground called the Great Meadows is a
level bottom, through which passes a small creek,
and is surrounded bv hills of moderate and gi-adual



descent. This bottom, or gliide, is entirely level,
covered with long grass and small bushes [Wash-
ington mentioned the clearing away of the bushes
which covered the ground wlicn the work was com-
menced], and varies in width. At the point where
the fort stood it is about two hundred and fifty yards j
wide from the base of one hill to that of the oi)posite. j
Tlie position of the fort was well chosen, being about [
one hundred yards from the upland or wooded ground
on the one side, and one hundred and fifty on the
other, and so situated on the margin of the creek as
to aflbrd easy access to the water. At one point the
high ground comes within sixty yards of the fort, and
this was the nearest distance to which an enemy
could approach under shelter of trees. The outlines
of the fort were still visible when the spot was visited
by the writer in 1830, occupying an irregular square,
the dimensions of which were about one hundred
feet on each side. One of the angles was prolonged
farther than the others, for the purpose of reaching
the water in the creek. On the west side, next to the
nearest wood, were three entrances, protected by stout
breastworks or bastions. The remains of a ditch,
stretching round the south and west sides, were also
distinctly seen. The site of this fort, named Fort
Necessity from the circumstances attending its erec-
tion and original use, is three or four hundred yards
south of wliat is called the National road, four miles
irom the foot of Laurel Hill, and fifty miles from
Cumberland, at Wills' Creek." If Sparks had been
in the least aci)uainted with military matters, be
probably would not have spoken of a fortified posi-
tion as being "well chosen" when it was commanded
on three sides by higher ground, in no place more
than one hundred and fifty yards distant, with the
opportunity for an enemy to approach on one side
within sixty yards under cover of woods.

The best, and it is believed the only reli.ible de-
scription of the form and dimension of the fort, is
found in Vcech's " Jlonongahelaof Old," as follows:
"The engraving and description of Fort Necessity
given in Sparks' Washington are inaccurate. It
may have presented that diamond shape in 1830, but
in 1816 the senior author' of these sketches made a
regular survey of it with compass and chain. It was
in the form of an obtuse-angled triangle of one hun-
dred and five degrees, having its base or hypothenuse
upon the run. The line of the base was about midway
sected or broken, and about two perches of it thrown
across the run, connecting with the base by lines of
about the same lengih, nearly perpendicular to the
opposite lines of the triangle. One line of the angle
was six, the other seven perches; the base line eleven
perches long, including the section thrown across the
run. The lines embraced in all about fifty square
perches of land, or nearly one-third of an acre. The
embankments then (1816) were nearly three feet

1 FreoQiau Lewis.

above the level of the meadow. The outside "trenches"
were filled up. But inside the lines were ditches or
excavations about two feet deep, formed by throwing
the earth up against the palisades. There were no
traces of ' bastions' at the angles or entrances. The
junctions of the meadow or glade with the wooded
upland were distant from the fort on the southeast
about eighty yards, on the north about two hundred
yards, and on the south about two hundred and fifty
yards. Northwestward, in the direction of the Turn-
pike road, the slope was a very regular and gradual
rise to the high ground, which is about four hundred
yards distant."

Leaving Washington and his little army in occu-
pation of their frail defenses at the Great Meadows,
let us take a brief glance at the enemy which was
approaching them from Fort du Quesne by way of
the Monongahela Valley.

The French force, which was marching in pursuit
of Washington, was commanded by M. Coulon de
Villiers, from whose journal of the campaign a few
extracts are here given : "June the 26th. — Arrived at
Fort du Que.sne about eight in the morning, with the
several [Indian] nations, the command of which the
General had given me. At my arrival, was informed
that M. de Contrecreur had made a detachment of
five hundred French, and eleven Indians of different
nations on the Ohio, the command of which he had
given to Chevalier le Mercier, who was to depart the
next day. As I was the oldest officer, and com-
manded the Indian nations, and as my brother- had
been assassinated, M. de Contrecccur honored me
with that command, and M. le Mercier, though de-
prived of the command, seemed very well pleased to
make the campaign under my orders

" The 28th.— M. de Contrecccur gave me my orders,
the provisions were distributed, and we left the fort
at about ten o'clock in the morning. I began from that
instant to send out some Indians to range about by
land to prevent being surprised. I posted myself at
a short distance above the finst fork of the river Mo-
nongahela, though I had no thought of taking that
route. I called the Indians together and demanded
their opinion. It was decided that it was suitable to
take the river Monongahela, though the route was

" The 29th. — Mass was said in the cami>, after which
we marched with the usual precaution.

" 30th.— Came to the Hangard, which was a sort of
fort built with logs, one upon another, well notched
in, about thirty feet in length and twenty in breadth ;
and as it was late, and would not do anything without
consulting the Indians, I encamped about two mus-
ket-shots from that place. At night I called the sa-
chems together, and we consulted upon what was best
to be done for the safety of our periaguas (large ca-

- Meaning U. do JumoDvlIlc,

I Villiers' bair-brolli.;r.



noes), and of the provisions we left in reserve, as also
what guard should be left to keep it.

" July the 1st. — Put our periaguas in a safe place.
Our effects, and everything we could do without, we
took into the Hangard, where I left one good sergeant,
with twenty men and some sick Indians. Ammunition
was afterwards distributed, and we began our march."

The force of De Villiers consisted of five hundred
Frenchmen, and about four hundred Indians.' March-
ing from the Hangard iu the morning of the 1st of
July (at which time Washington's force was approach-
ing the Great Meadows on its retreat from Gist's plan-
tation) the French and Indian column moved up the
valley of Redstone Creek (over nearly the same route
which was afterwards traversed by Col. Burd's road)
towards Gist's, where De Villiers expected to find
Washington, his Indian scouts having reported the
English force to be at that place.

"At about eleven o'clock," continues the journal,
" we discovered some tracks, which made us suspect
we were discovered. At three in the afternoon, hav-
ing no news of our rangers, I sent others, who met
those sent before, and not knowing each other, were
near upon exchanging shots, but happily found their
mistake; they returned to us and declared to have
been at the road which the English were clearing ;-
that they were of opinion no body had been that way
for three days. We were no longer in doubt of our
proceedings being known to the English."

At daybreak in the morning of the 2d the French
force left its bivouac of the previous night and
marched towards Gist's. "After having marched
some time we stopped, for I was resolved to proceed
no farther until I had positive news; wherefore I sent
scouts upon the road. In the meanwhile came some
of the Indians to me whom we had left at the Han-
gard; they had taken a prisoner, who called himself

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 6 of 193)