Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

. (page 8 of 126)
Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 8 of 126)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

transports, with the rest of the troops,
the artillery, and supplies, were to follow
as soon as ready.

There was considerable delay in get
ting the troops off, notwithstanding they
were so few in number ; it having been
determined to send out only two regi
ments the forty-fourth, with Sir Peter
Halket as colonel, and the forty-eighth,
Colonel Thomas Dunbar. These were to
make up their numbers each to no more
than five hundred before leaving, with
the intention of adding three hundred by
recruits in America. One thousand, there
fore, was the whole force of regulars sent
out by the government, and these were
to form a nucleus about which it was
hoped to gather, in the provinces, an ar
my of some four thousand. The soldiers
were finally recruited ; the stores, artil
lery, and ammunition, prepared and put
on board ; the whole force embarked ;
and the fleet of transports, amounting to
more than a dozen, sailed under the
convoy of two men-of-war, on the
14th of February, three weeks subse
quent to the departure of the command
ing general.

The hopes of England were not very
sanguine about the success of this expe
dition to America, if we can trust what
that gossip Walpole wrote : " The French
have taken such liberties with some 01




our forts that are of great consequence
to cover Virginia, Carolina, and Georgia,
that we are actually despatching two
regiments thither. As the climate and
other American circumstances are against
these poor men, I pity them, and think
them too many if the French mean noth
ing further, too few if they do. Indeed,
I am one of those who feel less resent
ment when we are attacked so far off: I
think it an obligation to be eaten the

After a voyage of nearly two months,
Braddock arrived in Hampton roads, in
Virginia, and proceeded at once to Wil-
liamsburg, to join Governor Dinwiddie,
and consult with him in regard to the
details for carrying out the proposed ex
pedition. Sir John St. Clair, the deputy
quartermaster-general, and Commodore
Keppel, commander of the British fleet,
soon after repaired to Williamsburg also.
On consultation with these officers, it was
determined by Braddock that the troops
should disembark at Alexandria. Orders
were now sent for the transports, as they
should arrive, to sail up to that place.
They came in at slow intervals, the last
vessel being as late as the 14th of March,
and, as was directed, after anchoring in
Hampton roads, proceeded up the Poto
mac to Alexandria, where the troops dis
embarked in fine condition, in spite of
the long voyage.

The colonies hailed this aid from the
mother-country with great joy, and gave
an enthusiastic welcome, after their pro
pitious voyage, to those ships-

Freighted with wealth, for noble ends designed ;
So willed great George, and so the Fates inclined,"


as a native poet, in anticipatory poetical
enthusiasm of the great event, had writ

Braddock, soon after the arrival of his
troops, had invited the governors of the
different British colonies to meet him at
Alexandria; and accordingly, on the 14th
of April, a great council was held.
Here were Robert Dinwiddie, gov
ernor of Virginia ; General William Shir
ley, governor of Massachusetts ; and here
also were the three lieutenantrgovernors,
James Delancey,of New York; Sharpe,of
Maryland ; and Morris, of Pennsylvania.
Braddock the general and Keppel the
commodore completed the number of this
august council. The various governors
were first reminded, by the reading of
the orders of the home government, of
the duty of their several provinces to
raise a colonial revenue, and make pro
vision for the expenses of the expedition.
They all, however, without an exception,
had a most unsatisfactory account to give
of their endeavors to fulfil the obligations
that had been imposed upon them. Their
several assemblies had been diligently
urged, but had refused to vote the tax
necessary to establish the fund; and the
governors now convened declared unani
mously that " such a fund can never be
established in the colonies without the
aid of Parliament. Having found it im
practicable to obtain in their respective
governments the proportion expected by
his majesty towards defraying the ex
penses of his service in North America,
they are unanimously of opinion that it
should be proposed to his majesty s min
isters to find out some method of com-



[PART i.

pelling them to do it, and of assessing
the several governments in proportion
to their respective abilities."

Braddock s arbitrary spirit was chafed
by this colonial recreancy, and he stormed
loudly, with anger, that " no such fund
had been yet established." He sent the
resolves of the council to the home gov
ernment, accompanying them with a let
ter from himself, in which he fiercely com
plained of the neglect of their duty by
the colonies, and urged the necessity of
compelling them, by taxation, to do it
effectually for the future. Here was the
little fire by which the great flame of
revolution was kindled, and which final
ly, after a period of unsettled, nebulous
light, concentrated in the glorious stars
of American Independence.

The opinion of the governors in council
in regard to some other matters, showed
a wiser discretion. They proposed that
New York should be the point from which
the movements of the campaign should
be directed. Braddock would not or could
not listen to such suggestions. It was sup
posed that he had received positive or
ders to march upon Fort Du Quesne, and
that he was thus obliged to carry on the
expedition across the Alleghanies, with
all the disadvantages of a wild country.
It would have been wiser, doubtless, to
have attacked the French settlements in
Canada, as they could be reached by sea,
and the land-forces might have been sus
tained by a naval squadron. Fort Du
Quesne, however, was the point proposed,
and against this Braddock determined to
lead his forces. The two battalions raised
and commanded by Governor Shirley

and Sir William Pepperell, the hero of
Louisburg, were directed upon Niagara;
General Johnson was ordered to muster
his Indians for an attack upon Crown
Point, at Lake Cham plain; and the Brii>
ish colonel Monckton, with the provincial
colonel Winslow, were sent to do service
against the French in the bay of Fundy.

Sir John St. Clair had succeeded in ob
taining the Virginian recruits before the
arrival of the British troops, and they
now, on Braddock s men landing, pre
pared to join them. They were, hoAvev-
er, taken hold of at once, for drill, by an
ensign of the forty-fourth, who had been
ordered by the general " to make them
as like soldiers as possible."

There was one greater than all the
rest who at this time offered himself as a
volunteer, in a cause in which his beloved
Virginia was so deeply concerned. This
was Washington. " The din and stir of
warlike preparation," says Irving, "dis
turbed the quiet of Mount Vernon. Wash
ington looked down from his rural retreat
upon the ships-of-war and transports, as
they passed up the Potomac, Avith the ar
ray of arms gleaming along their decks.
The booming of cannon echoed among
his groves. Alexandria Avas but a feAv
miles distant. Occasionally he mounted
his horse and rode to that place ; it Avas
like a garrisoned toAA r n, teeming Avith
troops, and resounding with the drum
and fife. A brilliant campaign AA r as about
to open, under the auspices of an expe
rienced general, and Avith all the means
and appurtenances of European Avarfare.
HOAV different from the starveling expe
ditions he had hitherto been doomed to




conduct ! What an opportunity to efface
the memory of his recent disaster ! All
his thoughts of rural life were put to
llight. The military part of his charac
ter was again in the ascendant ; his great
desire was to join the expedition as a

When General Braddock heard of this
desire on the part of young Washington,
and learned who he was his high social
position in Virginia, his great personal
worth, and the experience he had already
had in border warfare he invited him
to become one of his aids. This is the
letter bearing the invitation:

" WILLIAMSBURG, 2d March, 1755.

"Sin: The general, having been in
formed that you expressed some desire
to make the campaign, but that you de
clined it upon some disagreeableness that
you thought might arise from the regu
lations of command, has ordered me to
acquaint you that he will be very glad
of your company in his family, by which
all inconveniences of that kind will be

"I shall think myself very happy to
form an acquaintance with a person so
universally esteemed, and shall use ev
ery opportunity of assuring you how
much I am, sir, your most obedient ser

" ROBERT ORME, Aid-de- Camp"

Orme was a young lieutenant of the
Guards, of a good English family, which
had supplied many a brave soldier for
the service of their king. He had now
nominally the rank of captain, and, being
a great favorite of Braddock, had been

appointed by him one of his aids-de-camp.
He was a spirited, well-educated, and
high-bred young fellow, and commended
himself greatly to the friendship of Wash
ington, with whom during the campaign
he became very intimate.

The offer of Braddock was gladly ac
cepted by Washington ; and, in spite of
his mother s entreaties, and all the house
hold interests of Mount Vernon which
had gathered about him during his retire
ment, he determined, as soon as he could
settle his affairs at home, to join the ex
pedition. He was greatly gratified at
the appointment he had received. He
was fond of a military life, and had only
been prevented from taking a position,
as an officer in the Virginian troops, in
consequence of the contempt of those
bearing colonial commissions implied by
a parliamentary act, which gave all the
British officers the precedence of them
in rank and pay. Washington s pride, as
a Virginian gentleman, revolted at this,
and naturally ; for he might thus, at any
moment, be placed in an inferior position
to some ignorant, low-bred person, sud
denly elevated above him by a commis
sion which had been either bought for
money or truckled for by fawning servil
ity. The young Washington had conse
quently smothered all his burning ardor
for military glory, rather than sacrifice
his own self-respect.

The offer of Braddock now came to
give him, what he so much desired, an
opportunity for honorable service. The
position as aid-de-camp, which he had ac
cepted, gave him rank among the high
est of his years, and was one of those



gentlemanly offices for there was no
pay that particularly commended it
self to a disinterested Virginian cavalier.
There was the further advantage that,
as aid-de-camp, Washington would have
the best opportunity of improving him
self, and that this was a great object with
him he confesses in writing to Orme : " I
wish earnestly to obtain some knowledge
in the military profession ; and believing
a more favorable opportunity can not of
fer than to serve under a gentleman of
General Braddock s abilities and experi
ence, it does, you may reasonably sup
pose, not a little influence my choice."

Washington did not join the army for
several weeks after-receiving his commis
sion. When he presented himself he was
warmly welcomed by the general, and
received into the intimate friendship of
Braddock s two aids-de-camp and secreta
ry, Orme, Morris, and Shirley, who were
of about the same age as the young Vir

While the congress of governors was
being held at Alexandria, Sir John St.
Clair, the deputy quartermaster-general,
was sent again along the proposed route
of the army, to look up the contractors,
and find out how far they had kept their
engagements. He soon discovered that
their promises, of which so favorable an
account had been reported to Braddock,
were far from being fulfilled. The road
that was to have been made by Pennsyl
vania, had not yet been begun ; and there
was no sign of the provisions required of
that province.

Sir John became highly indignant at
this remissness, and stormed like a lion

rampant. He declared to the Pennsylva
nia commissioners that, instead of march
ing to the Ohio, he would in nine days
march the army into Cumberland county
to cut the roads, press horses and wag
ons ; that he would not suffer a soldier
to handle an axe, but by fire and sword
oblige the inhabitants to do it; and to
take away to the Ohio every man that
refused, as he had some of the Virgin
ians. He would kill all kind of cattle,
and carry away the horses, and burn the
houses. If the French defeated the troops
by the delays of the province, he would
with his sword drawn pass through it,
and treat the inhabitants as a parcel of
traitors to his master. He would write
to England immediately by a man-of-war,
shake the proprietorship of Mr. Penn, and
represent Pennsylvania as a disaffected
province. He would not stop to impress
the assembly ; his hands were not tied,
Sir John said, and they should find it out.
He did not value a d , the wrothy bar
onet declared, what the governor or as
sembly did or resolved, as they were dil
atory, and had retarded the march of the
army, and that the commissioners might
tell them so ; and, moreover, go to the
general if they pleased, who, if they did,
would give them ten bad words for one
he gave ! He (Sir John) would do their
duty himself, and not trust to them ; but
he declared with an oath that they should
have to pay dearly for it ? and " by G-d"
he was in earnest ! Even Braddock, as
little mealy-mouthed as he was, could not
approve St. Glair s violence, and, on its
being reported, rebuked him severely.
It seemed not to have been without its




effect, however, upon the Pennsylvani-
ans, who set about the road, though dil
atorily, and did not make much prog
ress in sending forward the promised

Other provinces were equally back
ward with Pennsylvania. Only twenty
wagons, two hundred horses, and some
utterly worthless provisions, came in, out
of the twenty-five hundred horses, two
hundred and fifty wagons, and eleven
hundred head of cattle, which had been
promised by Maryland. Braddock was
thus detained at Alexandria, with the ar
tillery and military stores, for want of
means to convey them. He finally re
solved to proceed to Fredericktown, in
Maryland, to endeavor to hasten the levy
of horses and wagons. He left behind
him, at Alexandria, four companies of the
forty-fourth regiment, under the com
mand of Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, who
was ordered to forward the artillery, am
munition, and stores, as means should ar
rive for their conveyance. The main
body of the troops were at Frederick-
town, where the general now joined them.
The Virginian regiments had, however,
been ordered to Winchester, with the ex
ception of the rangers, sent to build stock
ade forts on Greenbrier river, under Cap
tain Lewis, subsequently, in our revolu
tionary struggle, a brigadier-general, and
an especial favorite with Washington for
his soldierly qualities. Six companies
of the forty-fourth regulars soon after
moved on also, under the command of
Sir Peter Halket, to Winchester, where
they were ordered to remain, with the
Virginians, until the road was in proper

condition, and then to march to Fort

Commodore Keppel had also detached
a number of seamen from his ships, who
by their knowledge of the use of ropes
and tackle, and practice in rowing and
hauling, might assist in ferrying the ar
my over the rivers, making the bridges,
and moving the heavy artillery up and
down the acclivities of the steep roads.
This naval detachment awaited at Alex
andria the movements of the companies
left there, to come on with the guns and
military stores.

When Braddock reached Frederick-
town, he found the troops in great want
of provisions, there being no cattle laid in
as yet. He applied to Governor Sharpe,
of Maryland, in the emergency ; but so
little influence had this official in his own
province, that he could not get either
wagons or provisions. The general sent
round the country, however, and succeed
ed in purchasing a few head of cattle.
While Braddock was thus harassed, and
his movements almost entirely stopped,
Benjamin Franklin fortunately arrived at
Fredericktown. The nominal purpose of
his visit, as he was then at the head of
the colonial postoffice department, was
to make suitable provision with Brad-
dock for the conveyance of despatches
to and from the provincial governments.
Franklin s real object, however, was un
doubtedly to acquaint himself with the
details of the expedition, and to reinstate
if possible, his own province of Pennsyl
vania in the good opinion of the army.

On Franklin s arrival in Fredericktown,
Braddock expressed a particular desire




to see him, and, from the first interview,
was greatly impressed with the superior
sagacity of his visiter, and solicited his
advice. Franklin now became a daily
guest at Braddock s table, and has left in
his autobiography an interesting record
of his occasional talk with the general :
" One day, in conversation with him,"
says Franklin, " he was giving me some
account of his intended progress. After
taking Fort Du Quesne, said he, I am
to proceed to Frontenac, if the season
will allow time ; and I suppose it will, for
Du Quesne can hardly detain me above
three or four days : and then I can see
nothing that can obstruct my march to

" Having before revolved in my mind,"
Franklin observes, " the long line his ar
my must make in their march by a very
narrow road, to be cut for them through
the woods and bushes, and also what I
had heard of a former defeat of fifteen
hundred French, who had invaded the
Illinois country, I had conceived some
doubts and some fears for the event of
this campaign ; but I ventured only to
say : * To be sure, sir, if you arrive well
before Du Quesne with these fine troops,
so well provided with artillery, the fort,
though completely fortified, and assisted
with a very strong garrison, can proba
bly make but a short resistance. The
only danger I apprehend of obstruction
to your march, is from the ambuscades
of the Indians, who, by constant practice,
are dexterous in laying and executing
them ; and the slender line, nearly four
miles long, which your army must make,
may expose it to be attacked by surprise

on its flanks, and to be cut like thread
into several pieces, which from their dis
tance can not come up in time to support
one another.

" He smiled at my ignorance, and re
plied : These savages may indeed be a
formidable enemy to raw American mili
tia, but upon the king s regular and dis
ciplined troops, sir, it is impossible they
should make an impression. I was con
scious," adds Franklin, " of an impropri
ety in my disputing with a military man
in matters of his profession, and said no

This was just the advice wanted, and
the general, with his wrong-headed ob
stinacy and old-fashioned camp prejudice,
was just the man to disregard it. In an
other matter, however, where his milita
ry self-conceit did not interfere, the gen
eral listened to Franklin, and, as we shall
see, to advantage. " It is a pity the troops
had not landed in Pennsylvania, where
every farmer has his wagon," remarked
Franklin. " Then, sir," answered Brad-
dock, " you, who are a man of interest
there, can probably procure them for me,
and I beg you will."

Franklin undertook to obtain at once
what was wanted, and was as good as his
promise. A paper being drawn up by
the general, giving Franklin due authori
ty to hire for the use of the army, fifteen
hundred saddle or pack horses, and one
hundred and fifty wagons, to be drawn
by four horses each, that man, so prompt
and full of resource, had them all in read
iness to send in less than a fortnight.
The means he adopted were characteris
tic of Franklin s shrewd knowledge of




mankind, and his business tact. He had
a handbill printed, and sent everywhere
about the country. In this document
Franklin shrewdly appealed to the fears
of the people, by reminding them that
" it was proposed to send an armed force
immediately into the various counties, to
seize as many of the best carriages and
horses as should be wanted, and compel
as many persons into the service as
should be necessary to drive and take
care of them." "I apprehended," says
Franklin, " that the progress of a body
of soldiers through these counties on
such an occasion, especially considering
the temper they are in and their resent
ment against us, would be attended with
many and great inconveniences to the in
habitants ; and therefore more willingly
undertook the trouble of trying first what
might be done by fair and equitable
means." He concluded w.ith the most
telling point when he said, " If this meth
od of obtaining the wagons and horses
is not likely to succeed, I am obliged to
send word to the general in fourteen
days ; and I suppose Sir John St. Clair,
the hussar, with a body of soldiers, will
immediately enter the province, of which
I shall be sorry to hear, because, / am,
very sincerely and truly, your friend and ivell-
ivisher, B. FRANKLIN."

The inflammatory Sir John had already
made himself, by his explosive wrath on
former occasions, sufficiently formidable
to those who had been exposed to it;
but this threatening aspect of him as
" the hussar," was calculated to make him
still more terrific, particularly to the Ger
man farmers of Pennsylvania, who re

tained a very lively dread of the summa
ry proceedings of the hussars of their
fatherland. This home-thrust had such
an astonishing effect, that the Germans,
from being the most remiss- before, sud
denly became the most forward, and con
tributed more than their share of the re
quired supplies.

Braddock was so gratified with the
success of Franklin s exertions, that, in
his despatches to the British government,
he said emphatically it was almost the
first instance of integrity, address, and
ability, that he had met with in all the

Franklin volunteered to do another
act of gracious service to the army, and
did it with the same promptitude. While
at Fredericktown, he was supping with
Colonel D unbar, the second in command,
when that officer remarked that his sub
alterns were hard put to it, with their
small pay and the dearness of everything
on the route of an army on the march,
to provide themselves with what was ne
cessary to their comfort. Franklin, on
his return to Philadelphia, bore this in
mind, and succeeded in squeezing out of
the assembly sufficient money to buy a
small stock of luxuries for each of the
subalterns, of whom there were a score,
under Dunbar and Sir Peter ILilket.
Packages were accordingly made up, con
taining tea, good butter, some dozens of
old Madeira, a couple of gallons of Ja
maica, six dried tongues, and various
smaller comforts for the inner man, and
despatched. These timely supplies were
very welcome, and the officers who re
ceived them gratefully returned their





hearty thanks to those who " had been
so good as to think of them in so genteel
a manner."

The general, having sent forward the
forty-eighth regiment under Colonel Dun-
bar, soon after followed, accom
panied by his aids-de-camp and
secretary. Braddock had purchased a
coach from Governor Sharpe,of Maryland,
in which he now travelled, with consid
erable state, having, as he dashed along,

April 30.

a bodyguard of lightrhorse, with his staff
at their head, galloping on either side.
In this style the general reached Win
chester, and, not finding the Indians he
expected there, started for Fort Cumber
land. Coming up with the forty-fourth
regiment, under Dunbar, the general en
tered, with the troops following him, and
their drums beating "The Grenadiers
March ;" and, on his arrival, was saluted
with a volley of seventeen guns.


The Hard March to Fort Cumberland. The General swears terribly. Delay. What is thought of it in England. Am
val of the Artillery. Their Hard Experience by the Route. A Rattlesnake Colonel. Braddock s Force smaller than
expected. British Contempt of Provincial Troops. The Grand Display of Braddock s Camp. Order. Exercises.

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 8 of 126)