Letter from Robert Dinwiddie to George Montagu-Dunk, Earl of Halifax
Dinwiddie, Robert, 1693-1770
Volume 05, Pages 431-436
[Reprinted from Dinwiddie Papers. Vol. 2. P. 220.]
Governor Dinwiddie to the Earl of Halifax.
Oct'r 1st, 1755.
My last to You was the 7th Ult'o, to w'ch please be ref'd. I suppose You will expect some particular Acc't of the Unhappy Act'n and Defeat of our Forces on the Banks of Monongahela. My Duty to You and the Liberty You have given me to write freely to You determin'd me to give You the best Acc't I c'd collect from the Officers y't have been here since y't fatal Defeat. G'l Braddock pick'd out of the Regulars and y's Provincial Troops ab't 1,300 Men, with the best of the Officers, and march'd with't any Accident to a Place call'd Rock Creek, where he encamp'd the 8th of July, w'ch is ab't —— miles from the Fort. Co. Dunbar, with half the Forces, being upw'ds of forty miles behind him. If the Gen'l had tho't proper to rem'n there till the other Forces had come up, I am of Opinion our Affairs w'd have succeeded much better, but he was pleas'd to order the forces with him to march, w'ch was the 9th of July. They cross'd the Monongahela twice, and got up in pretty good Order ab't 11 o'Clock. The Van of our Army continued march'g till ab't One, w'n they were told the Enemy was near them; the Ind's in the Woods behind Trees fired very briskly, w'n S'r P. Halket was killed, S'r Jno. St. Clair greatly wounded y't he was oblig'd to leave the Field. The Com'd of the advanc'd Party devolved on Colo. Gage, a brave, gallant Officer, who endeavour'd to draw his Men up in Order. The Gen'l came up to the Front, and, with his known Courage, gave Orders to the advanc'd Party, but the fire from the woods and behind Trees was so very violent y't they killed many of our Officers and Men, y't the advanc'd Party fell back with great Confusion y't all the Officers c'd do c'd not bring them to proper Order.
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The Gen'l mortally wounded, they made their retreat in very great Confusion, leav'g many brave Officers and Men in the field of Battle. The Gen'l did not allow our Men to go to Trees to attack the Indians in their own way, by w'ch our Forces were greatly expos'd, w'n the Enemy were protected by the Trees and long Grass. That Day the Gen'l and the Rem's of his Army got over to Monongahela River, w'n the Gen'l imediately dispatch'd Co. Washington, one of his Aids-de-Camp, to Co. Dunbar to send a Detachment to him immediately, with Provis's and necessary Refreshm'ts for the Gen'l and his much distress'd Party; 10th of July the Men were got into some better Order, and continued their Retreat till Noon, w'n most of them gave up w'th Hunger and Fatigue, y't with great Difficulty any of the Men c'd be prevail'd on to carry the Gen'l and at three O'Clock they got him on horseback, w'ch gave him great Pain, and ab't Sun sett they got to Yaughyaughany River, where they expected the Convoy with Provis's, &c., from Co. D——r, but were greatly disappointed; they crossed y't River and got to Gist's House by Dark, and were in very great Distress for want of Sustenance and Fear of the enemy's Pursuit. The 11th they were inform'd of some Waggons with Provis's were com'g from Co. D——r's Camp; they were then within six miles of his Camp; they had no Tents for the Officers y't were wounded or the other Private Men y't were wounded or sick. About 11 O'Clock the Waggons appear'd, to their great joy; took some Refreshm't and y'n decamped: march'd in pretty good Order and join'd Co. D——r, who was encamp'd in a most dismal lone Bottom. On their arrival they were told on the first Acc't of their Defeat Co. D——r resolved to set Fire to the heavy Baggage and make the best of his way for F't Cumb'l'd, and nothing c'd have prevented it but the Gen'l's Orders sent by Colo. Washington. Orders were given y't Night for the Forces to march next Morning to a more convenient Place. The 12th it was found impracticable to march for want of Horses, hav'g scarcely enough to draw the Waggons with the Sick and Wounded. Halted at y's Day, w'ch was employ'd in destroying and burn'g all our Artillery Stores. By whose Orders y's imprudent Affair, is not certainly known. The Gen'l was alive, but so very faint y't he was not in a Condition to give proper Orders. On the 13th all the Waggons y't Horses could be got for were fill'd with the Sick and Wounded, and the whole Army, except a few left with the Comissary and Provis's, march'd, and ab't 5 o'Clock in the Even'g encamp'd on an advantageous Ground. Orders were y'n given y't the Rem'd'r of the Light Horse and 200 from the Army sh'd march next Morn'g to escort the Sick and Wounded to F't Cumb'l'; the Gen'l died y's Night. Notwithstand'g the above Order,
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Co. D——r, on whom the Com'd devolved, order'd all the Troops to march next Morn'g, nor c'd the Sick and Wounded Officers, &c., procure Liberty to go on till the 15th in the Afternoon, w'n C't Dobson, with 100 Men, was order'd with them, and they got to the F't on the 17th in the Even'g; and a few Days after Co. D——r arrived at the Fort escorted by the Light Horse, and not a Man ordered out to reconnoiter till he tho't proper to march to his Winter q'rs. Give me leave, my Lord, to make a few Observat's on the above. G'l Braddock's Designat'n of his Forces and March I am not a Judge of, but he certainly was surpriz'd and attac'd on his long March, and I fear he was too sure of Victory—had not Scouts out before the Army to discover the Enemy in their lurking Places. On their seeing our Forces march in a Body they spread themselves in a Crescent or half Moon, by w'ch they had the Advantage of us on every side. Our People saw none of them but from their fire; they ret'd it to the same Places, and so y't fatal Defeat happen'd with the Loss of the Gen'l, many brave Officers, and ab't 600 Men killed and wounded. When the Gen'l came to D——r's Camp he was so emaciated with the Loss of Blood and Fatigue it c'd not be expected he c'd give so regular Orders as w'n in Health. But w'n the Com'd devolv'd on Co. D——r he yet had 2,000 Men fit for any action. How comendable w'd it have been in him to have entrench'd himself and built a Fort. I am convinc'd the Fr. and Ind's w'd not have disturb'd him, as I am inform'd his Numb's were much more y'n y't of the Enemy. Y's Fort w'd have kept the Fr. in awe on the Ohio, and they w'd not have sent their Men from thence to Niagara, as they were Masters of our whole Plan of Operat's by the Gen'l Papers fall'g into their Hands. If Co. D——r had build the Fort and Garrison'd it with five or 600 Men all the Winter, w't great Service w'd y't have been for any Operat's the succeeding Year; and they w'd have been properly supplied with Provis's from F't Cumb'l'd where there was great Plenty. However, he march'd into Fort Cumb'l'd. W'n I heard of his Arrival I offer'd to reinforce him with 500 Men if he w'd make a second attempt over the Mount's to do any Thing to retrieve the Dishon'r done to the British Arms. He answered my L'r the 1st of Aug. in the Negative, and told me he was to march next Day for Philad'a for Winter q'rs. He march'd with him all the Regulars, even the three Independ't Compa's order'd here to my Com'd. He carried four Six-Pounders and four Coehorns, (the last were necessary to be left in the Fort in Case of an Attack), and order'd the Light-Horse to escort him to Winchester, ab't —— Miles from F't Cumb'l'd. In his L'r to me, Copy of w'ch I sent You, he propos'd leav'g the So. Caro. Independ't Co'y at Winchest'r,
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but he has carried them all with him to Philad'a. I wrote Gen'l Shirley my Proposal to Co[l]. D[unbar] to make another attempt over the Allegany Mount's, w'ch he approv'd of, and gave Orders to him accordingly, but unluckily left it to him if he sh'd think it impracticable, y't y'n he sh'd march to Albany. Y's last he has comply'd with His Acc't is the most Genuine I c'd collect. On Co. D's leav'g our Frontiers so greatly expos'd, and the Provincials desert'g daily in great No's after the march of the Regulars, put our People of all conditions, under great Apprehensions of Danger; Frontier Settlers leav'g their Crops, &c., and com'g down to the more inhabited Parts of the Dom'n, full of Clamours, Heats and Compl'ts, w'ch I had great Difficulty to moderate, telling them it was not Time to complain, but to do some Th'g for our Protect'n and Safety, and y't if Co. D'r has acted improperly, no doubt but an Enquiry will be made into his Conduct. Several Flying Parties of Fr. and Ind's came over the Mount's and committed many robberies and Murders, w'ch probably might [have], in some Measure, been prevented, if the Regulars had rem'd on our Frontiers at F't Cumb'l'd, and Co. D'r had no Orders from Gen'l Shirley to quit y't Post. I sent up four Comp's of Rangers to our Front's, and the Assembly hav'g voted 40,000£ more to enable me to raise 1,000 Men for our Protect'n, and to be ready for any Operat's y't may be concerted from B't'n for the next Year's Campaign. My Endeav's with our Assembly were very troublesome and difficult, as the two Proprietary Gov'ts of Pensylva'a and M'yl'd contin'd refractory, quarreling with their G'rs, and, in Course, grant'g no Assist'ce to the necessary Expedit'n, and, indeed, as I understand there are many Rom'n Catholicks in Pennsylva'a, it may be doubted y't the Fr. will send their emissaries to withdraw them from their Allegiance to the Crown of Britain by Promise of great Tracts of Land on the Ohio River. I hope the Parliam't will take these Proprietary Gov'ts into their serious Considerat'n, and make some Alterat's in their Constitut'n, to compell them to a due Obedience to H. M'y's Com'ds. If the Officers of our Forces were hon'd with H. M'y's Com's, it w'd raise their Spirits, as our Field Officers have no Rank w'n they join the Regulars. I have given the Com'd to Co. George Washington, one of the late Gen'ls Aid-de-Camps, a Man of good Conduct and Resolut'n. I sh'd be glad if H. M'y w'd Hon'r him with His Com's'n. I forgot in the preceding Detail of the unfortunate and unexpected Defeate on the Monongahela, y't a quest'n naturally arises: Where was our Fr'dly Ind'ns? This I must answer as follows: The Six Nat's, so many as are in the British Int't, were engag'd with Gen'l Shirley and Johnson on the Expedit's to Niagara and Crown Point. The Twightwees,
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who I verily think are in our interest, are on the other Side the Ohio, and I believe [were] prevented from serving us by the Fr. being between them and us. Those Indians on the Ohio who, I had reason to think were in our Int't, were overaw'd by the Fr. and their Ind's, only Monecatoocha, their Chief, and a few of their People [who] rem'd at F't Cumb'l'd, march'd with the Gen'l and shew'd their attachm't to us by doing every Th'g in their Power for our Service. The So'ern Ind's, vizt: the Cherokees and Catawbas, I have been these 18 mo's endeavour'g to get a No. of them to join our Forces, w'ch they seriously promis'd. The Fr., who are always on the watch, knowing their Intent's, in March last sent 14 of their Ind's to perswade to lie Neuter, or declare War ag'st So. Caro., and they would assist them, or get a Meet'g with the G'r of y't Province to have some Prest's for their Interest. The last Proposal prevail'd, w'ch answer'd the Ends of the Fr. They kept them at a distance from the Scene of Action. The G'r of So. Caro. desired a Meet'g of their Chiefs, w'ch they staved of[f] till late—y't's to say, in June—w'n they met him, and the G'r then desir'd to purchase their whole Lands, w'ch he effected by a formal Surrender to H. M'y. The Fr. obtain'd their Ends by prevent'g their join'g our Forces. The Cherokees sent in to me five of their Warriors, and enclos'd You have their Speech and Excuse for not coming in and join'g our Forces, agreeable to my earnest Entreaty and their Promise. What view the G'r of So. Caro. c'd propose by y's Purchase I know not, w'n we were engag'd in a War to protect the Lands. The undoubted right of the Crown, and the assistance of those Ind's w'd have been of more Service y'n all their Lands. We sh'd never endeav'r to purchase the Lands of any Ind'n Nat'n, but as we settle backw'd agree for such Part as may y'n be tho't necessary. Suppose we were to insist on the Agreem't of the Gov'r's—those poor People must go further West, and the Fr. w'd receive them with open Arms and give them d'ble the Qu'ty of Land, they acknowledg'g themselves Friends to the Grand Monarch. Our Business at y's Time is to court y'r F'dship and Int't, with Promises to protect them in all their Possessions and Hunt'g Grounds. The use the Fr. will make of y's odd Agreem't of the Gov'r of So. Caro. will be: Do You observe Y'r Bro's, the Eng., want nothing more y'n y'r Lands and Possessions; and the next Step will be to make Y'r whole Nat'n their Slaves? I say y's is a natural Conclusion from y't perfidious Enemy, the Fr., and truly I cannot help observ'g y't y's Contract made with the Cherokees by the G'r of So. Caro. is the only Step he c'd take to hurt our Expedit'n, and I am convinc'd, w'n seriously considered, it will not meet with the Approbat'n of the Ministry, tho' the G'r thinks
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he has done great Things by add'g 40,000,000 of Acres to H. M'y's Territo's, and so many thous'd People. The get'g the F'dship of y't Nat'n was very meritorious, but leave them Y'r Lands and purchase as we want. Y's was entirely a P[iece] of Policy of the Fr. to keep them at a Distance from our Forces and the Ohio, and y't Policy succeeded to Y'r Wish and to the Loss of our Engagem't on the Monongahela—being convinced if these People had joined us, as they promis'd, they wou'd have attack'd the Ind's in their own Method of fight'g, and clear'd the way before our Forces; but the G'r of So. Caro. calls them his Ind's, and is offended if any other Gov'r gives them the least Countenance—an ill-judg'd way of thinking; for as allies to Gr. Britain, every Gov'r sh'd show them Countenance and Favo's. Those five Cherokees y't came to me have promis'd in the name of their Nat'n to come in with 150 Warriors to protect our Frontiers, and if a No. are wanted next Sum'r, I may Com'd them. I sent them away with Prest's, and very well pleas'd; but still no real Depend'ce can be put in y'r Promises. But w'n one G'r wants to counter act with another G'r, w'ch I fear has been too often the Case, y's must in course be a destruction to all Schemes for His M'y's Service, if otherways, they act in concert, much may be expected from their unanimity and real inclinat's for the Public Service. I dare say by y's Time I have wearied Y'r L'ds., if so, You must place it to the Indulgence and Liberty You have given me, at [the] same Time, I cannot but acknowledge the Pleasure I have in writ'g my Tho'ts freely, and to assure You y't I rem'n, with great deference and due Respects,
R't Hon. Y'r Ld's most ob'd't humble Serv't.
P. S.—Since writ'g the above L'r, we have rec'd an Acc't from N. York y't Gen'l Johnson had an Engagem't with the Fr.; y't he had defeated them, taken y'r Gen'l Prisoner, killed the second in Com'd and upwards of 600 of their Forces, on w'ch I congratulate You. I have not the Particulars, or [has] any Ex[press] come to me, y't the above is only from the N. York Prints. At Nova Scotia the Squadron had taken several Ships with Provis's, and y't they were in a very starv'g Condit'n at Lewisburg; y't I hope the Sword of Famine will do as much Service as the Sword of Steel.