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following day. The tidings of the defeat preceded him, borne by the wagoners, who had mounted their horses, on Braddock's fall, and fled from the field of battle. They had arrived, haggard, at Dunbar's camp at mid-day; the Indian yells still ringing in their ears. "All was lost!" they cried. "Braddock was killed! They had seen wounded officers borne off from the field in bloody sheets! The troops were all cut to pieces!" A panic fell upon the camp. The drums beat to arms. Many of the soldiers, wagoners and attendants, took to flight; but most of them were forced back by the sentinels.
Washington arrived at the camp in the evening, and found the agitation still prevailing. The orders which he brought were executed during the night, and he was in the saddle early in the morning accompanying the convoy of supplies. At Gist's plantation, about thirteen miles off, he met Gage and his scanty force escorting Braddock and his wounded officers. Captain Stewart and a sad remnant of the Virginia light horse still accompanied the general as his guard. The captain had been unremitting in his attentions to him during the retreat. There was a halt of one day at Dunbar's camp for the repose and relief of the wounded. On the 13th they resumed their melancholy march, and that night reached the Great Meadows.
The proud spirit of Braddock was broken by his defeat. He remained silent the first evening after the battle, only ejaculating at night, "Who would have thought it!" He was equally silent the following day; yet hope still seemed to linger in his breast, from another ejaculation: "We shall better know how to deal with them another time!" 1
He was grateful for the attentions paid to him by Captain Stewart and Washington, and more than once, it is said, expressed his admiration of the gallantry displayed by the Virginians in the action. It is said, moreover, that in his last moments, he apologized to Washington for the petulance with which he had rejected his advice, and bequeathed to him his favorite charger and his faithful servant, Bishop, who had helped to convey him from the field.
Some of these facts, it is true, rest on tradition, yet we are willing to believe them, as they impart a gleam of just and generous feeling to his closing scene. He died on the night of the 13th, at the Great Meadows, the place of Washington's
1 Captain Orme, who gave these particulars to Dr. Franklin, says that Braddock "died a few minutes after." This, according to his account, was on the second day; whereas the general survived upward of four days. Orme, being conveyed on a litter at some distance from the general, could only speak of his moods from hearsay.
discomfiture in the previous year. His obsequies were performed before break of day. The chaplain having been wounded, Washington read the funeral service. All was done in sadness, and without parade, so as not to attract the attention of lurking savages, who might discover, and outrage his grave. It is doubtful even whether a volley was fired over it, that last military honor which he had recently paid to the remains of an Indian warrior. The place of his sepulture, however, is still known, and pointed out.
Reproach spared him not, even when in his grave. The failure of the expedition was attributed both in England and America to his obstinacy, his technical pedantry, and his military conceit. He had been continually warned to be on his guard against ambush and surprise, but without avail. Had he taken the advice urged on him by Washington and others to employ scouting parties of Indians and rangers, he would never have been so signally surprised and defeated.
Still his dauntless conduct on the field of battle shows him to have been a man of fearless spirit; and he was universally allowed to be an accomplished disciplinarian. His melancholy end, too, disarms censure of its asperity. Whatever may have been his faults and errors, he, in a manner, expiated them by the hardest lot that can befall a brave soldier, ambitious of renown- an unhonored grave in a strange land; a memory clouded by misfortune, and a name forever coupled with defeat.
NOTE. In narrating the expedition of Braddock, we have frequently cited the Journals of Captain Orme and of the "Seamen's Detachment; " they were procured in England by the Hon. Joseph R. Ingersoll, while Minister at the Court of St. James, and recently published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania: ably edited, and illustrated with an admirable Introductory Memoir by Winthrop Sargent, Esquire, member of that society.
THE obsequies of the unfortunate Braddock being finished, the escort continued its retreat with the sick and wounded. Washington, assisted by Dr. Craik, watched with assiduity over his comrades, Orme and Morris. As the horses which bore their litters were nearly knocked up, he despatched messengers to the commander of Fort Cumberland requesting that
others might be sent on, and that comfortable quarters might be prepared for the reception of those officers.
On the 17th, the sad cavalcade reached the fort, and were relieved from the incessant apprehension of pursuit. Here, too, flying reports had preceded them, brought by fugitives from the battle; who, with the disposition usual in such cases to exaggerate, had represented the whole army as massacred. Fearing these reports might reach home, and affect his family, Washington wrote to his mother, and his brother, John Augustine, apprising them of his safety. "The Virginia troops," says he, in a letter to his mother, "showed a good deal of bravery, and were nearly all killed. . . . The dastardly behavior of those they called regulars exposed all others, that were ordered to do their duty, to almost certain death; and, at last, in despite of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary,. they ran, as sheep pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them."
To his brother, he writes: "As I have heard, since my arrival at this place, a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting the first, and of assuring you that I have not composed the latter. But, by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability, or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, though death was levelling my companions on every side of me!
"We have been most scandalously beaten by a trifling body of men, but fatigue and want of time prevent me from giving you any of the details, until I have the happiness of seeing you at Mount Vernon, which I now most earnestly wish for, since we are driven in thus far. A feeble state of health obliges me to halt here for two or three days to recover a little strength, that I may thereby be enabled to proceed homeward with more ease."
Dunbar arrived shortly afterward with the remainder of the army. No one seems to have shared more largely in the panic of the vulgar than that officer. From the moment he received tidings of the defeat, his camp became a scene of confusion. All the ammunition, stores, and artillery were destroyed, to prevent, it was said, their falling into the hands of the enemy; but, as it was afterward alleged, to relieve the terror-stricken commander from all encumbrances, and furnish him with more horses in his flight toward the settlements.1
1 Franklin's Autobiography.
At Cumberland his forces amounted to fifteen hundred effective men; enough for a brave stand to protect the frontier, and recover some of the lost honor; but he merely paused to leave the sick and wounded under care of two Virginia and Maryland companies, and some of the train, and then continued his hasty march, or rather flight, through the country, not thinking himself safe, as was sneeringly intimated, until he arrived in Philadelphia, where the inhabitants could protect him.
The true reason why the enemy did not pursue the retreating army was not known until some time afterward, and added to the disgrace of the defeat. They were not the main force of the French, but a mere detachment of 72 regulars, 146 Canadians, and 637 Indians, 855 in all, led by Captain de Beaujeu. De Contrecœur, the commander of Fort Duquesne, had received information, through his scouts, that the English, three thousand strong, were within six leagues of his fort. Despairing of making an effectual defence against such a superior force, he was balancing in his mind whether to abandon his fort without awaiting their arrival, or to capitulate on honorable terms. this dilemma Beaujeu prevailed on him to let him sally forth with a detachment to form an ambush, and give check to the enemy. De Beaujeu was to have taken post at the river, and disputed the passage at the ford. For that purpose he was hurrying forward when discovered by the pioneers of Gage's advance party. He was a gallant officer, and fell at the beginning of the fight. The whole number of killed and wounded of French and Indians, did not exceed seventy.
Such was the scanty force which the imagination of the panic-stricken army had magnified into a great host, and from which they had fled in breathless terror, abandoning the whole frontier. No one could be more surprised than the French commander himself, when the ambuscading party returned in triumph with a long train of pack-horses laden with booty, the savages uncouthly clad in the garments of the slain, grenadier caps, officers' gold-laced coats, and glittering epaulets; flourishing swords and sabres, or firing off muskets, and uttering fiendlike yells of victory. But when De Contrecœur was informed of the utter rout and destruction of the much dreaded British army, his joy was complete. He ordered the guns of the fort to be fired in triumph, and sent out troops in pursuit of the fugitives.
The affair of Braddock remains a memorable event in American history, and has been characterized as "the most
extraordinary victory ever obtained, and the farthest flight ever made." It struck a fatal blow to the deference for British prowess, which once amounted almost to bigotry, throughout the provinces. "This whole transaction," observes Franklin, in his autobiography, "gave us the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular troops had not been well founded."
WASHINGTON IN COMMAND
MEASURES FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
HEAD-QUARTERS AT WINCHESTER -LORD FAIRFAX AND HIS TROOP OF HORSE INDIAN RAVAGES PANIC AT WINCHESTER CAUSE OF THE ALARM OPERATIONS ELSEWHERE SHIRLEY AGAINST NIAGARA SON AGAINST CROWN POINT AFFAIR AT LAKE GEORGE DEATH OF DIESKAU.
WASHINGTON arrived at Mount Vernon on the 26th of July, still in feeble condition from his long illness. His campaigning, thus far, had trenched upon his private fortune, and impaired one of the best of constitutions.
In a letter to his brother Augustine, then a member of Assembly at Williamsburg, he casts up the result of his frontier experience.
"I was employed," writes he, "to go a journey in the winter, when I believe few or none would have undertaken it, and what did I get by it?- my expenses borne! I was then appointed, with trifling pay, to conduct a handful of men to the Ohio. What did I get by that? Why, after putting myself to a considerable expense in equipping and providing necessaries for the campaign, I went out, was soundly beaten, and lost all! Came in, and had my commission taken from me; or, in other words, my command reduced, under pretence of an order from home (England). I then went out a volunteer with General Braddock, and lost all my horses, and many other things. But this being a voluntary act, I ought not to have mentioned it; nor should I have done it, were it not to show that I have been on the losing order ever since I entered the service, which is now nearly two years."
What a striking lesson is furnished by this brief summary! How little was he aware of the vast advantages he was acquiring