Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Creek, where fort Cumberland was now erected Here the army remained until the 12th of June, collecting horses, wagons, and provisions. Colonel WAshingtoN advised the commander in chief to use as far as possible, pack horses instead of wagons, on account of the roughness of the country. Little attention was given to his opinion at the moment, but, after the commencement of the march, the measure frcm necessity was partially adopted. Soon after the army left Cumberland, Colonel WAshingtoN was attacked by a violent fever; refusing to be left behind, he was carried forward in a covered wagon. All the difficulties arising from the state of the roads, which had been foreseen by Colonel W Ash1NgtoN, were, on the march, fully realised. General Braddock now advised with him on the most eligible measures to be adopted to secure the success of the expedition. He earnestly recommended, that the heavy artillery and baggage should be left under the charge of a subaltern officer; and, that the commander in chief, with the flower of his army, should with the utmost despatch advance to the Ohio, in the expectation of possessing themselves of Fort du Quesne, before the French garrison could be reinforced by the troops that were known to be on their way for that purpose. The general closed with this advice. Twelve hundred men were selected, a few wagons were attached to the light artillery, and necessary provisions were placed on pack horses. Of this body General Braddock himself took the command, leaving Colonel Dunbar to bring up the other division by slow marches. General Braddock with his disencumbered troops did not move with the expedition that accorded with the enterprising spirit of his American aid. In a letter written at the moment, he says, “I found that instead of pushing on with vigour, without regarding a little rough road, they were halting to level every mole hill, and to erect bridges over every brook.” In four days they advanced only nineteen miles. The indisposition of Colonel WA shington now became so severe, that his physicians declared that his life would be the sacrifice of the continued fatigues of the march. The General therefore absolutely directed him to remain at Yohogany with a small guard, until Colonel Dunbar came up with him. Colonel WAshington at length consented, on the promise that he should be brought up with the advanced corps, before its arrival at Fort du Quesne. The day preceding the fatal action, he, in a covered wagon, rejoined the troops, and, in his debilitated state, entered on his duty. General Braddock was warned of the danger, to which the character of his enemy exposed him, and advised to employ the ranging companies of Virginia to scour the woods, and prevent ambuscades; but not looking for an enemy capable of serious opposition, he without caution moved his army in small columns. Within seven miles of du Quesne, he was suddenly JULY 8 attacked by an invisible foe; the assaulting #. ' party of French and Indians fighting under cover of the thick wood and high grass, with which the country abounded. Early in the action, the Aids de camp, except Colonel WASHINGton, were killed or disabled, and he performed the whole of the dangerous service of carrying the orders of the commander to his respective officers. Of all those, who on this fatal day did duty on horsepack, he alone escaped without a wound ; although he had two horses shot under him, and four balls through his coat. Doctor Craik, the physician who attended nim in his last sickness, was a witness of this scene: “I expected,” says he, “every moment to see him fall.—His duty and situation exposed him to every danger. Nothing but the superintending care of Providence could have saved him from the fate of all around him.” After an action of three hours, the troops broke, and the efforts of their officers to rally them were fruitless Colonel WASHINGToN assisted to bring General Braddock off the field, who was mortally wounded. He reached fort Cumberland, and there died, and was buried. During the arduous and dangerous conflicts of this hour, Colonel WASHINGToN exhibited that self possession and determined courage, which are essential to the officer. To his quick discernment and sound judgment, the preservation of the defeated troops was in a great measure attri', uted ; and had his advice been previously adopted, probably the disaster would not have happened. As soon as relieved from his attention to his unfortunate General, he was despatched to Cumberland, to provide for the retreating army. Colonel Dunbar being joined by them, destroyed the stores he could not remove, and marched his army to Philadelphia into winter quarters. The British troops had not been accustomed to Indian warfare; and, on this occasion, Col. WASHINGtoN indignantly witnessed their pusillanimity. In an official relation of the engagement, to the Executive of Virginia, he observes, “They were struck with such an inconceivable panick, that nothing but conflsion and disobedience of orders prevailed among them. The officers in general behaved with incomparable bravery, for which they greatly suffered; there being upwards of sixty killed and wounded; a large proportion of what we had. “The Virginia companies behaved like men, and died like soldiers; for I believe of three companies on the ground that day, scarcely thirty men were left alive. Capt. Peronny and all his officers, down to a corporal, were killed. Capt. Poulson had almost as hard a fate, for only one of his escaped. In short, the dastardly behaviour of the regular troops, so called, exposed those who were inclined to do their duty to almost certain death. And at length, in spite of every

AUGUST, 1755.

effort to the contrary, they broke and ran as sheep be. fore hounds; leaving the artillery, ammunition, provisions, baggage, in short every thing, a prey to the enemy; and when we endeavoured to rally them, in . hopes of regaining the ground, and what we had left upon it, it was with as little success, as if we had attempted to stop the wild bears of the mountains, or the rivulets with our feet; for they would break by in spite of every effort to prevent it.” The assembly of Virginia was in session, when the gloomy intelligence was received, that General Braddock was defeated and slain, and that Colonel Dunbar had left their frontiers open to the invasion of the ene my. They immediately voted to raise a regiment to consist of sixteen companies. The important transactions in which Colonel WAsriINGtoN had been engaged, developed his character, and his reputation rose by every publick trust with which he was invested. He now received a commission appointing him Colonel of this regiment, and Commander in Chief of all the forces raised, and to be raised, in Virginia ; with the privilege to name his field officers. He could, in the existing state of the colony, engage in the imilitary service of his country without an impeachment of his honour, and with alacrity he accepted the appointment. 1755. A scene now opened to Colonel WashingtoN, trying indeed to a Commander of his youth and degree of experience, but proving an excellent school, in which to form the General of the revolutionary war With an incompetent force he was to defend a fron. tier of three hundred and sixty miles. The French on the Ohio, aided by the numerous Indians, attached to their interests, embraced overy favourable opportunity to invade the northern and western borders of Virginia, spreading terrour and desolation in their course ; and having completed their work of slaughter and ruin, they retreated with their plunder over the Allegiany

mountain, before a force could be collected to attack them.—Governor Dinwiddie was not himself a soldier, nor did he possess a mind to comprehend the nature of this mode of warfare. Jealous of his prerogative, and obstinate in his temper, his orders were often inadequate to their object, or impracticable in their nature. The military code of the colony was insufficient, which rendered it impossible to bring the militia into the field with the despatch necessary to repel an Indian invasion; and her martial laws did not possess vigour to prevent insubordination in officers, or secure discipline in the permanent troops. The colony was at that time too poor, or too improvident, seasonably to lay up magazines for the use of her little army, or to keep money in the military chest for its regular payment. Under all these embarrassments, Colonel WASHINGTon entered on the duties of his commission. Having put the recruiting service in operation, he visited the line of posts on the frontiers, and established the best regulations their state admitted, to keep the petty garrisons vigilant and alert. He had accomplished this necessary business, and nearly completed a journey to Williamsburg, to settle with the Governor the plan of operations; and to press upon him, and other officers of government, the importance of Legislative interference to conciliate those Indians who were not already attached to the French; and to adopt effectual means and regulations to support and discipline the troops; when information reached him of an eruption of the French and Indians on the northern border. In haste he returned to Winchestel, and found the country in the utmost alarm and confusion. The small garrisons conceived themselves to be in danger in their fortresses, and were unable to protect the open country. The inhabitants on the extreme frontier, instead of uniting their force for mutual safety, fell back and communicated their fears to more

« ZurückWeiter »