Monthly Archives: July 2015

On this date in 1755, General Braddock was defeated by French and Indian Forces in what is now Western Pennsylvania.

There is a chapter in my book about the Battle of the Monongahela.  It includes extracts from the Scots Magazine, a contemporary periodical:

“According to the advices from Virginia, General Braddock, with 2000 troops including two regiments of Foot, independent companies from South Carolina and New-York, and provincial troops from Maryland and Virginia, had by the 12th of June passed the Alleghany mountains, and was within five days march of Fort du Quesne, built by the French last year on the Monongahela River, which runs into the Ohio.  He was long detained at Will’s Creek, and greatly distressed by the want of forage, provisions, wagons, and horses.  The landing of the troops in Virginia, is said to have been a most wretched error, as none of the necessaries before mentioned could be had there in any measure proportioned to the expedition; and we are told, that had they been landed in Pennsylvania, it would have saved £40,000 sterling, and shortened the march by five or six weeks.”

“While General Braddock was at Will’s creek, advice was received from the British Governor of Oswego, that 120 canoes and batteaus, having 600 French on board, had passed over Lake Ontario on the 28th of May, in sight of that place, going towards Niagara and the Ohio.  Meanwhile the General received various and contradictory accounts of the French already in those parts.  Sometimes Fort du Quesne was said to be garrisoned by 1000 men; at other times French deserters assured that only 200 troops were there, and but 500 more at Venango and Presque Isle, on the banks of Lake Erie, distant from Fort du Quesne about ninety miles.  The General being at length provided in necessaries, marched on towards Fort du Quesne; and we are told he wrote back, that he supposed it would be abandoned on his approach.  Major General Braddock and all the stores and provisions, advancing to the Little Meadows, (about twenty miles beyond Fort Cumberland, at Will’s Creek), found it necessary to leave the greatest part of his wagons, &c. at that place, under the command of Colonel Dunbar, with a detachment of 800 men, ordering him to follow as fast as the nature of the service would admit.  The General having, by this means, lessened his lines of march, proceeded with great expedition, his corps then consisting of about 1200 men, and ten pieces of artillery, together with the necessary ammunition, stores, and provisions.  On the 8th of July, he encamped within ten miles of Fort du Quesne.  On the 9th, General Braddock, with the main body of the army, had advanced within a few miles of Fort du Quesne on the Ohio.  Up until this time, they had marched without molestation, or even without seeing an enemy, except two or three small bodies of Indians. The General who seemed to think he would meet with but little opposition, gave an order for all the scouts and rangers forthwith to join the main body of the army.”

“At this time, Lt. Colonel Burton, who commanded the advanced guard, came up to a narrow defile, surrounded with trees and thick underwoods on both sides, and terminated by a very strong pass.  Monachatucha, chief of the Indians in alliance, prayed the General, not to enter this defile till both sides had been thoroughly reconoitred; telling him that it was a most dangerous pass, and that if the enemy intended to attack, he did not know where he could to it with more advantage.  But this advice was rejected.”

“The bushes and underwoods the French lined with Indians and some of their regulars, and posted 300 men at the pass to defend it.  When Lt. Colonel Burton came into the narrow lane, the Indians from behind the bushes galled them greatly; which put them into some confusion.  However, they continued their march; and the General, having intelligence of the interruption, detached one of the majors with 300 men to support the advanced guard.  The enemy still kept firing at our men, killed some, and disordered the whole, insomuch that when they came to the pass, and were opposed by the French, the men scarcely stood one fire, when they threw down their arms loaded and ran away.  The French pursued and the General marching up to support the advanced guards, brought on a general engagement.  But the panic which seized our two regiments was so great that the example, the threats, and prayers of their officers could scarcely prevail with them to look the French in the face.  The first fire quite disconcerted them; and though their officers rallied the greatest part of them, yet it was to no purpose for on the second fire, almost to a man they threw down their arms and ran away; notwithstanding the example of the North Americans who behaved with the greatest resolution and their own officers who were so transported with indignation at the cowardice of their men that they themselves killed several of them running off.  It was at this period that the greatest slaughter of the officers was made; for while they were endeavouring to rally their men, the French had nothing to do but to kill.  The engagement, or rather slaughter continued three hours and a half, when there was a total rout.”

“General Braddock exerted the talents of a commander and a soldier.  He rode from place to place, and by his example endeavoured to inspire the cowardly miscreants with resolution.  He had five horses killed under him, and received seven wounds, the last of which broke his arm, and afterwards passed through his lungs.  He was then carried off insensible, but languished some time before he died.  The retreat was made with more safety than could well be expected from so fatal a beginning, and the remains of the army got safe to the British Fort Cumberland.  On the other hand, it has been alleged that the defeat is owing more to presumption and want of conduct in the officers, than to cowardice in the private men; that a retreat ought to have been resolved upon the moment they found themselves surprised by an ambuscade; and that they were told by the men when they refused to return to the charge, that if they could see their enemies, they would fight them; and they would not waste ammunition against trees and bushes, nor stand exposed to invisible assailants; the French and Indian Rangers, who are excellent marksmen, and in such a situation would inevitably destroy a great number of the best troops in the world.  Nay, some accounts go so far as to assert, that many of the officers, thoroughly dissatisfied with fighting, as it were an invisible enemy, strongly urged the General either to immediately retreat, or to send out irregular parties to clear the bushes sword in hand; but that he esteemed it much below the character of a general officer to engage in any manner contrary to the established rules of war: whence it is suggested, that he himself fell a victim, with many others to that resolute and undaunted resolution by which he was so remarkably distinguished.”

“When the General was first attacked, one such officer, Major Washington, who was defeated in the same manner the year previously, begged the General to let him draw off 300 in each wing to scour the woods: but he refused it and obstinately persisted in the form of field-battle, his men standing shoulder to shoulder; the unhappy consequence of which has been related.  This is, and always very probably will be, the consequence of Old-England officers and soldiers being sent to America.  They have neither the skill nor courage for this method of fighting: for the Indians will kill them as fast as pigeons, and they have no chance either offensive or defensive.”

“The French give the following account of the action near the Ohio, from letters which have been received from Canada.  ‘M. de Contrecoeur, Commandant of Fort du Quesne, having received advice that the English, to the number of 2000 men, were advancing in order to attack the fort, immediately held a council of Mess. de Beaujeu and Dumas, captains of the Marines, and several other officers, in which a resolution was taken to march towards the enemy when they were within three leagues of the fort.  These officers set out accordingly, with 250 Canadians, and 650 Indians; met the English in the open country; and attacked them very courageously, notwithstanding the fire of their cannon and small arms; of which they received two discharges, which killed M. de Beaujeu, de la Perade and de Carqueville, together with fifteen Indians, and four Canadians.  This fire did indeed a little disconcert the Indians, and made them give way; but they rallied immediately upon seeing M. Dumas at their head, who, as senior captain, took the command when M. de Beaujeu dropt.  Led on by this new commander, they and the Canadians rushed furiously upon the enemy, without giving them time to charge again, and with their little hatchets, which they call scull-crackers, made a great slaughter of the English troops.  There remained on the field of battle four brass cannon, eleven pounders, two ditto five pounders and a half, four brass mortars of seven inches and a half diameter, three other of four inches and a quarter in diameter for throwing grenadoes, 157 balls of 11 lb. weight, 17 barrels of powder weighing 100 lb. each, 19,740 cartridges for muskets, a great quantity of matches for the artillery, implements necessary for a siege, muskets and broken wagons, 400 horses, 100 head of cattle, a great many barrels of powder staved, besides baggage and papers, among which was found the plan of Fort du Quesne, and instructions and plan of the expedition.”

Chronology of Events for July 1755

July 4, 1755: Beginning of the British deportations of the French from Acadia as ordered by Lieutenant Governor Charles Lawrence of Nova Scotia.

July 4, 1755: “Portsmouth, July 4.  Wednesday at four in the afternoon arrived the Rt. Hon. Lord Anson, attended by several persons of distinction.  At seven the blue flag was hoisted at the main-topmast head of his majesty’s ship Prince, and lord Anson was saluted with 17 guns from 31 ships of the line.  His lordship went in the evening on the glacis to see the marines exercised, and was pleased to express his satisfaction at the progress they have made.  The next morning his lordship embarked at the Sally-Port in his barge, at the head of which was hoisted the admiralty flag, the anchor and hop; and, after having viewed the whole fleet, he went on board his own ship, the Prince, accompanied by Sir Edward Hawke and admiral West.  Ever ship in the fleet was manned (that is, the seamen were placed on all the yards, bowsprits, stays and other parts of the rigging) and as his lordship went through the fleet, each ship gave him three cheers, and as soon as his own ship had saluted him on his arrival on board, as first lord of the admiralty, the whole fleet joined in giving him three cheers. The same evening at eight arrived his royal highness the duke, amidst the acclamations of many thousand people. His royal highness was met three miles from the town by the ropemakers of the dock-yard in white shirts and black caps, carrying streamers in their hands, who ran before his land in into the town. General Hawley received his royal highness at the Land-port gate, and delivered him the keys of the garrison. The guns at Port-bridge were fired as he passed through that fort; as were those all-round the garrison. The streets through which be passed from Land-port to the governor’s house were lined by the marines, who made a very handsome appearance; the bells rang, the colours were displayed on the tower, and everything was done that could be thought of to demonstrate the sincere joy and pleasure the inhabitants felt in feeing his royal highness among them. The next morning at eight o’clock Sir Edward Hawke, vice admiral West, and the several captains of his majesty’s ships, met lord Anson at the coffee-house on the parade, in their full uniforms, their barges attending at the Sallyport; and, after having been presented to his royal highness, attended him to the water-side, when the boats put off in the following order: 1. The eldest captain. 2. Rear admiral West. 3. Vice admiral Sir Edward Hawke, with his flag flying. 4. Admiral lord Anson, with his flag flying.  5. His royal highness the duke, with his standard flying. 6. The lords commissioners of the admiralty, with the flag of the office of admiralty. 7. The several captains according to their seniority. The boats rowed to the westernmost ship, from thence up to the Prince, each ship being manned, and giving three cheers as his royal highness passed, the drums beating a march, and the officers standing in the gangway. As soon as his royal highness went on board the Prince, the blue flag was struck, and his royal highness’s standard hoisted at the main topmast-head, upon which all the ships at Spithead saluted his royal highness with 21 guns each, Sir Edward Hawke beginning first; and after he had fired two guns, then the rear admiral; and when he had fired two guns, the rest of the ships as usual; and when they had all saluted, the Prince returned twenty one guns. When his royal highness left the ship his standard was struck, and the blue flag hoisted again; upon which the Prince saluted with 11 guns, and all the ships in the fleet with the same number, in the order before mentioned, Sir Edward Hawke beginning after the Prince had fired two guns: Each ship was manned, and gave three cheers as his royal highness passed, with the drums beating at before, and the admirals and captains attending in the fame order as they went off. His royal highness expressed great satisfaction at his entertainment, and gave the bargemen that rowed him twelve guineas ; to twelve rope-makers who ran in white shirts before him into the town he gave ten guineas; and ten more to the rope-makers who were twisting a large cable when he was at the dock.”

July 7, 1755: “Portsmouth, July 7. On Saturday morning his royal highness viewed fortifications, attended by Mr. Desmaretz the principal engineer, and the general officers: From thence he went to South-Sea-Castle, and Cumberland and Post-Bridge forts; and returned to town about two o’clock. The same day the governor, the admirals, sea-captains, general officers, &c. were entertained at dinner by his royal highness.  In the evening he reviewed the marines on the Glacis.”

July 8, 1755: “Extract from a Letter from Virginia, July 8. Since general Braddock got over the mountains the French have sent a party of their Indians (with some Frenchmen amongst them) into Hampshire county, who came within 10 miles of our fort at Wills’s Creek: In their way, it is said, they scalped 14 families, excepting a few persons who escaped. They dashed out the children’s brains on the door-posts before they scalped the parents. We hear that colonel Johnson has invested Crown-Point, and that governor Shirley has done the same by Niagara: There are seven men of war here; three of them have been up careening, and some of the rest are coming, that they may be in readiness in case of a rupture.  Governor Dinwiddie has ordered the militia on the frontier counties to be always on duty. Our assembly have agreed to grant 10,000l. to be raised by a land tax, poll-tax on blacks, and a lottery.”

July 9, 1755: General Braddock received a total defeat from an ambuscade of French and Indians, within 10 miles of Fort Duquesne, which he was marching to besiege:   “that major general Braddock, having advanced with 2000 men, and all the stores and provisions, to the Little Meadows (about 20 miles beyond Fort Cumberland, at Wills’s Creek) found it necessary to leave the greatest part of his waggons, &c. at that place, under the command of col. Dunbar, with a detachment of 800 men, ordering him to follow as fast as the nature of the service would admit. The general, having by this means lessened his line of march, proceeded with great expedition, his corps then consisting of about 1200 men, and ten pieces of artillery, together with the necessary ammunition, stores, and provisions. On the 8th of July, he encamped within ten miles of Fort du Quesne; and, on the 9th, on his march through’ the woods towards that fort, was attacked by a body of French and Indians, who made a sudden fire from the woods, which put the troops into great confusion, and occasioned their retiring with great precipitation, notwithstanding all the endeavours of the general, and the officers, many of whom were killed whilst they were using all possible means to rally the men.”  The conduct of this unhappy General has been greatly censured, but his personal courage was indisputable; he had five horses killed under him, and died of his wounds. The English lost near 1000 men, killed and wounded, in this action; among the former, were Sir Peter Halket, Baronet, Colonel of the 44th regiment of Foot, and General Shirley’s eldest son, Secretary to Mr., Braddock; among the latter, were the Lieutenant Colonels, Gage and Burton, and Mr. Orme, and Captain Morris Aid-de-Camps. The French became masters of all the artillery, provisions, baggage, and the military chest; the usual fruits of a decisive victory.  General Braddock’s papers fell into their hands, of which they afterwards availed themselves, in a large memorial which they published against the British Ministry: by their own account, they had in this battle only 250 French Soldiers, and 650 Savages, commanded by the Sr. Beaujieu (killed in the engagement) and under him by the Srs. Dumas and Ligneris.

July 17, 1755 The Doddington Indiaman struck upon a barren uninhabited rock, in the latitude of 33 degr.’ 44 min. south, and distance about 250 leagues east of the Cape of Good Hope: out of 270 persons, 23 only gained the rock: upon which, they providentially subsisted themselves with the provisions collected from the wreck, till the 18th of February, being seven months complete on that day they set sail from the rock (to which, at parting, they gave the name of Bird Island from the quantity of water-fowl, called Gannet, found upon it) in a sloop, built by the carpenter out of the fragments of the ship. After a difficult and distressful voyage, they reached St. Lucia river on the coast of Africa the 6th of April and from thence, anchored in de la Goa Road at 4 o’ clock in the afternoon, on Wednesday the 21st. This sloop was afterwards sold to Captain Chandler of the Rose galley, for 2500 rupees, or about 5001 sterling, and sail’s in company with him to Madagascar. — It were to be wished, that all ships which happen to sail near any desert island or coast, would give themselves the charitable trouble of sowing a few seeds, and putting on shore a few animals, male and female, for the benefit of those unfortunate people; who, in any future time, might be exposed to greater calamities, than those which befell the Doddington Indiaman.

July 18, 1755. The French abandoned their fort at St. John’s river, and, as far as was in their power, demolished it. As soon as the forts upon the Isthmus were taken, captain Rouse sailed from thence with three twenty gunships, and a sloop, to look into St. John’s river, where it was reported there were two French ships of thirty-six guns each; he anchored off the mouth of the river, and sent his boats to reconnoiter; they found no ships there, but, on their appearance the French burst their cannon, blew up their magazine, burnt everything they could belonging to the fort, and marched off.  The next morning the Indians invited Capt. Rous on shore, gave him the strongest assurances of their desire to make peace with the English; and pleaded in their behalf, that they had refused to assist the French on this occasion, though earnestly pressed by them.  Some of their chiefs are expected at Halifax in a very few days.

July 21, 1755. Sailed from Portsmouth, Sir Edward Hawke, with a fleet of eighteen men of war, viz. three of ninety guns, eight of seventy, one of sixty four, one of sixty, one of fifty, one of forty, and a sloop.

July 28, 1755: “There are 15 twenty gun ships contracted for in private yards, eight of which will be built in the river, and seven in out ports.”

July 31, 1755: “Charles-Town, July 31. His excellency the governor having, by the advice of his majesty’s council, yielded to the pressing instances of the Cherokees, to meet them at a place 200 miles distant from hence, set out on that expedition on Monday the 16th of June, and returned on Thursday the 9th instant, after having had several days conference with them, and received their renewed homage and submission to his majesty. The Cherokees have not, like some other Indian tribes, wandered from place to place, but inhabited the lands where they still dwell, long before the discovery of America. They have no tradition that they came originally from any other country, but affirm that their ancestors came out of the ground where they now live. It is a tract of 150 miles in length, extremely mountainous, but abounding with rich and fertile valleys. These mountains render the interior parts of the country, called the middle settlements, secure from enemies; but the out towns, and all the over- hill towns, lie open and exposed to the French and their Indians, against whom the Cherokees are the best barrier of this province; for which reason, and because they are of themselves a numerous and powerful people, and very near our back settlements, it has always been the policy of this government to cultivate a good understanding and friendship with them; perhaps we have done it the more assiduously, as the French have been incredibly eager of late years to get some footing and secure an interest amongst them. But though the tract inhabited by them be no more than 150 miles in length, yet the lands that are their undoubted property are of a prodigious extent; they reach from our back settlements quite to the Mississippi on both sides of Tennessee river that is, from east to west 800 miles. Tennessee river, called by Pere Charlevoix Riviere Cheraquis, has its source amongst their mountains, and most of the over hill towns are built upon its banks: After it leaves Toquo, the westernmost of the Cherokee towns, it directs its course to the Mississippi, running all the way for 600 miles through one of the finest countries in America, which is their hunting-ground, and to no part of which any other nation ever pretended any right or claim; but a little before it reaches the Mississippi it mixes its waters with the Ohio, and these three great rivers, Ouabach, Ohio, and Tennessee, fall by one mouth into the Mississippi, so that a strong fortress built upon the Cherokee lands, on the south side of the united stream of these three rivers, would prevent all vessels from going up or down either Ouabach, Ohio, or Tennessee; a single canoe could not pass without leave. They also claim all the lands to the northward as far as the great lakes; and it is to be observed, that at the treaty of Lancaster, made with the Six Nations, under the direction of Gov. Thomas in 1744, the commissioners from Virginia, who were treating with them for some lands to the westward of Pennsylvania and Maryland, told them, that they were informed that the southern Indians (Cherokees) claimed those very lands that they did, which the Six Nations did not contradict.  The Cherokees are computed to be three times the number of the Six Nations put together; they are a free and independent people, were never conquered, never relinquished their possessions, never sold them, never surrendered or ceded them.”

July, 1755: “Their high mightinesses the states general have not as yet, so far as we hear, given any answer to the memorial presented to them by the French ambassador; but as several of the chief towns in Holland have joined with Amsterdam in their opposition to any augmentation of their land forces, it is probable the answer of their high mightinesses will not be upon such a high key as might be expected from the title they assume, and the circumstances of Europe require.”

July, 1755: “In the mean time they (the states general) seem to have provided for the safety of their trade in the Mediterranean; for from Rotterdam we are told, that the squadron of 16 men of war, fitted out for that purpose, was ready to sail with the first fair wind, by the 2d of last month; that eight of them were to cruise against the Algerines in the Straights, and the eight others to serve as convoys for their merchant ships; and that the whole expence of this squadron was to be taken out of the money raised from their settlements in the East Indies during last war, which was some time since remitted home; so that no part of the expence is to be taken out of their present publick revenue, although their navigation was deeply concerned in it, for the whole of their Mediterranean trade was like to be carried on in English bottoms.”