George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Augustine Washington, 28 June–2 July 1755

To John Augustine Washington

[Great Crossing of the Youghiogheny, Pa.,
28 June–2 July 1755]

To Mr Jno. Auge WashingtonMount Vernon
Dear Jack Brother

Immediately upon our leavg the C. at Geors. Ck the 14th Inst. (from whe I wrote to yo.)1 I was siezd wt violt Fevers & Pns in my hd wch con[tinue]d wtout the lt Intermisn till the 23 follg when I was reliev’d by the Genls absolty ordering the Phyns to give me Doctr Jas Powder; wch is s (one of the most excelt mede in the W.)2 for it gave me immee ease, and removed my Fevrs & othr Compts in 4 Days time.3 My illness was too violent to suffer me to ride, therefore I was indebted to a coverd Waggon for some part t of my Transpn; but even in this I cd not conte far for the joltg was so gt that I was left upon the Road with a Guard and necessys, to wait the Arrl of Colo. Dunbars Detacht, whh was 2 days M. behind us.4 The Genl giving me his wd and of honr that I shd be brought up before he reachd the French Fort; this promise, and the Doctrs threats that if I perseverd it woud endanger in my attempts to get on, in the Condn I was, my Life, wd be endangered, determind my e to halting lt for the above Detacht.5

As I expect the Comn betn this & Wills’s Ck will must soon be too dangerous for single persons to pass, it will possibly stop render the Interce of Lettrs in any measure slow & precarious;6 therefore I shall attempt (and will go through if I have strength,)7 to give you an acct of our proceedings, of our Situation, & of our prospects at present; which I desire yo. may will com[municat]e to Colo. Fairfax &ca of others, my Corrispts; for I am too weak to write more than this Lettr. In the Lr wch I wrote to you fm Georges Ck I acqd you that unless the numr of Wagns were retrenchd & the carryg H[orse]s incrd that we never shd be able to see Duquisne: This in 2 Days afterwards, wch was abt the time they got to the little Meadows with some of their F foremost. Waggon’s and strongest Teams, they themselves were convinced off, for they found that beside the almost imposy of gettg the Wagns along at all; that they had often a Rear of them of 3 or 4 Miles of Waggons in length; & th[a]t the Soldrs Guarding these em were so disunitd persd that if we had been attackd either in Front, Center or Rear that e part so attackd, must have been cut of & or totally defeatd routed before they coud be properly sustaind by any other Corps.8

At the little Meadws there was a 2d Council calld, for there had been one before wherein it was again representd to all the Offrs of the difft Corps the gt necessity there was urgentcy for Hs. & how laudable it wd be to retrench a further retrenchment of their Baggage and offer the Spare Hs. for the would be that the spare ones might be turned over for Publick Service. In order to encourage this I gave up my best Horse (wch I have nevr hd of since) & took no more baggage than half my Portmanteau c wd easily contn. It was also sd is said however th[a]t the numbr was to be lessend, but this was s reduced by this 2d attempt was only from 210 or 12, to 200 wch had no percept eiveable difference effect.9

The Genl before they met in Council askd my prive Opinn concerng the Expn; I urgd it in the warmest terms I was master off able, to push on forward; if we even did it with a small but chosn Detacht for that purpose Band, with the such Artillery and such other things light Stores as were absolutely necessary; leavg the <erasure>10 and other Convoys with the Remainder heavy Artilly Baggage &ca with the rear division of the Army, to follow by slow and regular easy Marches, which they might do safely while we were advanced in Front. As one Reason to support this Opinion, I inform’d th[a]t urged that if we cd credt our Intelligence, the French were weak at the Forks at present but hourly expectd reinfts wch to my certain knowledge coud not arrive with Provns or any supplys durg the continuance of the Droughth which we were then experiencing—as the the Buffaloe River (River le beauf) down wch is was their only commn to Venango, must be as Dry as we now fd the gt xing of the Yaughe; wch may be passd dry shod.11

This was a Scheme that took advice prevailed, & it was detd that the Genl, with 1200 Chosen Men and Officers of from all the differt Corps, with under the following Field Officer’s (vizt Sr Petr Halkett who acts as Brigadier, Lt Colo. Gage12 Lt C: Burton, and Majr Sparke,13 with such a certain number of Waggons as the Train wd absolutely require, shoud March as soon as things coud be got in readiness for them; which was compleated, and we on our March by the 19th, leavg Colo. Dunbar & Majr Chapman with the residue of the two Regts, some Indept Companys most of the Women and in short every thing not absolutely necessary behind: carrying our behind; except such Provision’s & other necessarys as we took, and carried upon upon Horses.14

We set out with less than 30 Carriages (Inclg all those that transported the Ammunition for the Howetzers, 12 prs, 6 prs, &ca) & all of those em strongly Horsed;15 which was a prospect that conveyd the most infinite delight to me my mind, tho’ I was excessively ill at the time. But this prospect was soon over turned clouded, & all my Sanguine hopes brought very low indeed when I found, that instead of pushing on with vigour, without regarding a little rough Road, they were halting to Level every Mold Hill, & to erect Bridges over every brook; by which means we were 4 Days gettg 12 Miles;16 where . At this Camp I was left by the Doctrs Advice, and the Genls absolute Orders, otherwise I woud as I have already mentioned without which I should not have been prevaild upon to remain behind, my own Detachmt as I then imagin’d, and now believd e I shall now find it not very no easy matter to join my own Corps again, which is 25 Miles advanced before us;17 tho’ notwithstanding I had the Genls word & of Honr pledgd in the most Solemn manner, that I shd be b[rough]t up before he arrived at Fort Duquisne. They have had frequent Alarms and several Men have been Scalp’d, but this is only done with no other design than to retard the March; and to harass the Men ; who if they are to be turnd out every time a small party of them attack the Guards at Night; (for I am certain they have not sufficient strength to make head against the whole force to make a serious assault)18 their ends will be accomplished; by the gaining of time.19

I have been now 6 Days with Colo. Dunbars Corps, who are in a misserable Condition for want of Horses; not havg now one half enough for their Wagns so that the only method he has of proceeding is to March on himself with as many Waggon’s as those will draw, and then Halt till the Remainder are brought up with the same horses which requires two Days more; and shortly I believe, shortly he will not be able to stir at all; but there has been vile management in regard to Horses;20 and while I am mentiong this, I must not forget to desire, that you’ll will acqt Colo. G. Fx that I have made the most strict diligent enquiry after his Man & Horses, but can hear nothing of either; at least nothing that can be credited. I was told that the Fellow was taken ill upon the Road while he was with Sr Jno. St Clairs Detachmt, and <illegible> the certainty of this I cant not answer for, but I believe there is nothing more certn than that he is not with any part of the Army. And unless the Horses stray and make home themselves I believe there is 1000 to 1 whether against he is ever sees ing them again: for I gave up a horse only one Day, & never coud see or hear of him afterwards:21 My strength wont admit me to say more, tho I have not said half what I intended con[cernin]g our Affrs here. Business, I shall not think of but depd solely upon yr man[agemen]t of all my affrs, & doubt not not doubting but that they will be well conducted—You may thank my Fds for the Lettrs I have recd from them; wch tell them has not been one from any Mortal since I left Fairfax, except yourself and Mr Dalton[.]22 It is a piece of specimen of their regard & kindness which I shd endr to acknowe & thank them for was I able, and sufferd to write. All your Letters to me I wd have you send t to Mr Cocks of Winchester or to Govr Innis at Fort Cumberd, & then you may be certn that I may have the bettr chance of their comg safe to hand; otherwise I cant say as much<.> Make my Complimts to all who think me worthy of their Enquirys. I am

Gt xing on the Yaughe June 28th 1755

P.S. Added afterwards, to the foregoing Letter as follows

[Scalping Camp, Pa., 2 July 1755]23

A Great Misfortune that Serious inconvenience attended me in my Sickness and that was, looseing the use of my Servant, for poor Jno. Alton was taken abt the same time that I was, & with nearly the same disorder; and was confind as long; so that we did not see each other for several Days. He is also tolerably well recoverd. We are now advand almost as far as the gt Meadows; and I shall set out tomorrow morning for my own Corps, with an Escort of 100 Men which is to guard some Provision’s up; so that my Fears and doubts on that head are quite now removd.24

I had a Letter Yesterday from Orme, who writes me word that they have passd the Yaughyangane for the last time, that they have sent out Partys ies to scour the Country thereabouts, and have Reason to believe that the French are greatly alarmd at their approach.25

2d July 1755

LB (original), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

GW probably wrote the first part of this letter at Squaw’s fort about a mile east of the Great Crossing. See Roger Morris to GW, and note, 23 June 1755, and GW to Robert Orme, 30 June 1755, n.2.

1It was on 14 June that GW wrote to his brother Jack from Martin’s plantation near Georges Creek, but the army did not begin its march from that camp until the next morning.

2The parentheses were added later by GW. “W.” is an abbreviation for “world.”

3Dr. Robert James (1705–1776) of London took out a patent for his popular fever powder in Nov. 1746. Composed primarily of phosphate of lime and oxide of antimony, it was sold and widely used over the next hundred years as a cure for high temperatures and inflammatory pains of all kinds. “James’s powder is my panacea,” Horace Walpole wrote Horace Mann on 21 Oct. 1764. “I have such faith in this powder, that I believe I should take it if the house was on fire” (Lewis, Walpole’s Correspondence description begins W. S. Lewis et al., eds. The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence. 48 vols. New Haven, 1937–83. description ends , 22:256–57).

4Braddock left GW on the morning of 23 June at Bear Camp, about 21 miles from Georges Creek and about 11 miles from Little Meadows. See Roger Morris to GW, and note, 23 June 1755. The first element of the rear division, now under Col. Thomas Dunbar’s command, seems to have reached Bear Camp that afternoon, but another marching day was probably needed to get his entire division to that place.

5The physicians with the advanced detachment of Braddock’s army were Dr. Robert McKinley, the surgeon for the 44th Regiment; Dr. James Napier, director of the general hospital; and Dr. Adair and Dr. Swinton, who were apparently assistants to Dr. Napier.

6For the past week small parties of French and Indians had shadowed Braddock’s force, testing its security and killing a few unfortunates who ventured beyond the sentry lines without adequate protection. Other enemy parties had appeared on the frontier in the vicinity of Fort Cumberland and had killed several settlers, spreading panic among the inhabitants of Frederick and Hampshire counties.

7The parentheses were added later by GW.

8The first brigade commanded by Sir Peter Halkett arrived at Little Meadows on 16 June, but “two very long steep Hills” prevented the second brigade under Colonel Dunbar from reaching the camp there until the next morning (“The Journal of a British Officer,” in Hamilton, Braddock’s Defeat description begins Charles Hamilton, ed. Braddock’s Defeat. Norman, Okla., 1959. description ends , 42). By then it was indeed apparent to all that the problems of moving an army through the North American wilderness had not yet been solved. In crossing Allegheny Mountain west of Georges Creek on 15 June, three wagons were, according to Robert Orme, “intirely demolished” and several shattered. During the day “the line was sometimes extended to a length of four or five miles” despite vigorous efforts to keep it closed up. When matters did not greatly improve the next day, the facts had to be faced. “It was found impossible,” Orme wrote, “to proceed with such a number of carriages. The horses grew every day fainter, and many died: and the men would not have been able to have undergone the constant and necessary fatigue, by remaining so many hours under arms; and by the great extent of the baggage the line was extremely weak’ned” (“Captain Orme’s Journal,” in Sargent, Braddock’s Expedition description begins Winthrop Sargent, ed. The History of an Expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755; under Major-General Edward Braddock, Generalissimo of H.B.M. Forces in America. Philadelphia, 1856. description ends , 335–36).

9The meetings of four formal councils of war are recorded in Robert Orme’s journal of the expedition: two at Fort Cumberland in May, one at Spendelow’s Camp on 11 June, and one at Jacob’s Cabin east of Stewart’s Crossing on 3 July. There is no mention, however, of any council being convened at Little Meadows on 16 or 17 June. See “Captain Orme’s Journal,” in Sargent, Braddock’s Expedition description begins Winthrop Sargent, ed. The History of an Expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755; under Major-General Edward Braddock, Generalissimo of H.B.M. Forces in America. Philadelphia, 1856. description ends , 336. For the appeal made for officers’ baggage horses at Spendelow’s Camp on 11 June, see GW Memorandum, 30 May–11 June 1755, n.15.

10The erased word may be “baggage” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 1 : 143).

11For the great drought, see GW to Robert Orme, 22 May 1755, n.5, and GW to John Augustine Washington, 28 May 1755. GW’s statement that the Youghiogheny River could now be passed dry shod at the Great Crossing may indicate that Braddock’s engineers had been able to bridge the diminished river there to facilitate the passage of the artillery. When Robert Orme was at the Great Crossing with Braddock on 24 June, he observed that the Youghiogheny was “about one hundred yards wide, about three feet deep, with a very strong current” (“Captain Orme’s Journal,” in Sargent, Braddock’s Expedition description begins Winthrop Sargent, ed. The History of an Expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755; under Major-General Edward Braddock, Generalissimo of H.B.M. Forces in America. Philadelphia, 1856. description ends , 340). The drought did not prevent the French from moving supplies by their well-established water route from Montreal to Fort Duquesne, but it did greatly hinder their efforts, particularly along Le Boeuf Creek. Le Boeuf Creek was a tributary of French Creek that formed a major part of the link between Presque Isle on Lake Erie and the waters of French Creek, at the mouth of which lay the important French outpost Venango (now Franklin, Pa.). Many of the reinforcements intended for Fort Duquesne had to be temporarily diverted to the Le Boeuf Creek area to help hasten much needed supplies down that stream and French Creek to Venango and thence by the Allegheny River to Fort Duquesne.

12Thomas Gage (c.1719–1787), who as commander in chief of the British army in America from 1763 to 1775 was to play an important role in the coming of the Revolution, was at this time lieutenant colonel of the 44th Regiment, a position that he had held since 2 Mar. 1751. The second son of an Irish peer, he entered the army sometime between 1736 and 1740 and fought at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 and at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Gage led the vanguard of Braddock’s advanced division from Little Meadows on 18 June 1755 and was leading it on 9 July when the French and Indians attacked the column. In the subsequent fighting he narrowly escaped death. “I received,” he wrote the earl of Albemarle on 24 July, “a slight wound in my belly . . . , a graze of a slugg on my eye brow, some shots in my coat, and my horse twice wounded” (Alden, General Gage description begins John Richard Alden. General Gage in America. Baton Rouge, La., 1948. description ends , 27–28). During the campaign GW and Gage developed a cordial friendship that lasted for several years, and as late as 1773 the two men met on apparently polite terms in New York. Two years later, however, they found themselves commanding opposing armies at the siege of Boston.

13William Sparkes (Sparke, Sparks), commissioned major of the 48th Regiment in June 1752, was wounded at the Battle of the Monongahela on 9 July 1755.

14Braddock’s advanced division marched from Little Meadows in two parts. A vanguard of about 400 or 450 officers and men under Lieutenant Colonel Gage set out with Sir John St. Clair on the morning of 18 June to cut roads. The main body of about 750 or 800 officers and men left with Braddock the next day. Gage’s vanguard included 150 or 200 rank and file from the 44th and 48th regiments, 50 rank and file from Capt. Horatio Gates’s New York Independent Company, five Virginia light horsemen, Capt. Thomas Waggener’s and Capt. William La Péronie’s companies of Virginia rangers, and Capt. William Polson’s company of Virginia carpenters. The main body consisted of the senior grenadier company from each of the two regiments, an additional 500 or 550 rank and file from the regiments, Lt. Charles Spendelow’s detachment of seamen, and 18 Virginia light horsemen. All men taken from the two regiments were supposed to be “Old Standers,” veterans who had come with the regiments from Ireland and not provincials recently recruited to fill up the ranks (“The Journal of a British Officer,” in Hamilton, Braddock’s Defeat description begins Charles Hamilton, ed. Braddock’s Defeat. Norman, Okla., 1959. description ends , 42). Only two women per company were allowed to march with the advanced division rather than the previously allowed six for each regular company and four for each provincial company. The provisions, enough for 30 to 40 days, were loaded almost entirely on packhorses although three or four provision wagons also accompanied the advanced division.

15The carriages included the wheeled artillery pieces, ammunition carts, tool wagons, the three or four provision wagons, and a wagon loaded with gifts for Indians. Robert Orme said in his journal that there were “about thirty” carriages in the advanced division (“Captain Orme’s Journal,” in Sargent, Braddock’s Expedition description begins Winthrop Sargent, ed. The History of an Expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755; under Major-General Edward Braddock, Generalissimo of H.B.M. Forces in America. Philadelphia, 1856. description ends , 336). Engineer Harry Gordon reported 33 or 34 carriages (Gordon to —, 23 July 1755, in Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 104–9), while an anonymous British officer wrote that the number “did not exceed fifty” (“The Journal of a British Officer,” in Hamilton, Braddock’s Defeat description begins Charles Hamilton, ed. Braddock’s Defeat. Norman, Okla., 1959. description ends , 43). Braddock took with him all four of his 8–inch howitzers, his four 12–pounders, two of the four 6–pounders that remained with the army after two 6–pounders were sent back to Fort Cumberland from Spendelow’s Camp, and 3 of the remaining 11 Coehorn mortars. Nine horses were assigned to each howitzer, seven to each 12–pounder, and six to each wagon. Each 6–pounder was probably pulled by four to six horses. The mortars were carried on wagons.

16Despite all of the changes in the line of march, Braddock’s decision to keep most of his artillery with the advanced division left him no choice but to continue building roadways adequate to accommodate the big guns in the wilderness terrain. “We Came on Extreamly well, Considering the Difficulty of making the roads,” said Harry Gordon (Gordon to —, 23 July 1755, in Pargellis, Milita, y Affairs in North America, 104–9). On 19 June Robert Orme reported that the main body of the advanced division covered only four miles before it caught up with Gage’s vanguard. There they had to camp for the night, as the road builders “were then at work in cutting a travers-road over an immense mountain [Negro Mountain], which could not be finished till the next day.” On 20 June the detachment marched 7 to 9 miles “over a chain of very rocky mountains and difficult passes” to Bear Camp. “We could not reach our ground,” said Orme, “’till about 7 of the clock, which was three hours later than common, as there was no water, nor even earth enough to fix a tent, between the great Mountain and this place. We halted here two days, having a road to cut in the side of a mountain [Winding Ridge], and some swamps to make passable” (“Captain Orme’s Journal,” in Sargent, Braddock’s Expedition description begins Winthrop Sargent, ed. The History of an Expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755; under Major-General Edward Braddock, Generalissimo of H.B.M. Forces in America. Philadelphia, 1856. description ends , 337–38).

17Braddock’s advanced division was camped on 28 June near Stewart’s Crossing about 30 miles from the Great Crossing.

18Both parentheses were added later by GW.

19Three batmen were killed and scalped and a wagoner was wounded fatally by Indians early on the morning of 25 June while they were looking for horses outside the advanced picket lines at Braddock’s camp east of Great Meadows. This incident and the ample other signs of the enemy’s presence in the area induced the soldiers to carry out the general’s detailed orders for posting camp guards “with great alacrity and dispatch.” It also convinced them that his insistence on having flanking parties when marching was not an “unnecessary fatigue” as they had earlier thought, but “their only security” instead (“Captain Orme’s Journal,” in Sargent, Braddock’s Expedition description begins Winthrop Sargent, ed. The History of an Expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755; under Major-General Edward Braddock, Generalissimo of H.B.M. Forces in America. Philadelphia, 1856. description ends , 342). No further casualties were incurred until 6 July when three or four stragglers were killed. Frequent alarms, however, clearly continued to occur. To prevent such alarms from being too disruptive, Braddock gave orders on the evening of 25 June that “the line is never to turn out upon any account but by order from the General, or the field officer of the picket” (ibid., 343). At the same time he offered a reward of £5 to anyone who brought in the scalp of a hostile Indian.

20Colonel Dunbar had been left with about 800 men and, according to his estimate, approximately 150 wagons and 300 packloads of “bread flower and Bacon,” but only enough horses to “furnish two thirds of the Waggons with four each and for back loads . . . as many as would take About One half of the provissions.” Given no hope of further aid by Braddock, Dunbar was obliged to move his division in stages, marching one day with everything that could be carried, while a small party guarded the remaining wagons and provisions, and then at night sending the horses back to bring up the second load the next day. A third and sometimes fourth day was required to rest the exhausted horses, which Dunbar found to be “very bad and Weak,” the worst of the entire army (Dunbar to Robert Napier, 24 July 1755, in Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 109–11).

21For George William Fairfax’s efforts to recover his two horses and his plowman Simpson, see GW to George William Fairfax, 7 June 1755, n.2.

22John Augustine Washington wrote to GW on 8 June, but the letter has not been found, nor has any letter from John Dalton to GW been found for the period 23 April–28 June 1755.

23Scalping Camp was the camp about 4 miles east of Great Meadows where Braddock’s advanced division stopped on the night of 24 June and where the next morning the Indians had killed and scalped three batmen.

24The provision detachment, commanded by Capt. Adam Stephen, arrived at Braddock’s camp on 5 July with about 100 oxen and a large quantity of flour loaded on packhorses. GW did not reach the general until 8 July. He was still too weak to ride a long distance on horseback and had to make the trip to the front in a covered wagon, which certainly moved more slowly over the rough new road than did the oxen and packhorses. See GW Memorandum, 8–9 July 1755. At Scalping Camp today GW paid 8s. for “8 days attendance of a Nurse in my Sickness.” Two days later he spent 5s. 9d. for milk and 9s. for three pairs of hobbles (Ledger A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 22, DLC:GW).

25Robert Orme’s letter has not been found. It was probably written on the evening of 29 June, the day the advanced division crossed the Youghiogheny at Stewart’s Crossing, or the next day when the division rested on the east bank of the river.

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