Braddock's Defeat & Indian Wars

Robert Hunter Morris, 1754-1756

The Governor and the Money Bills — Robert Hunter Morris, the new [Deputy] Governor of Pennsylvania, was the son of a former Governor of New Jersey, and in disposition [that] was ill fitted for the position, for he was high-tempered and greatly given to quarrel with the Assembly. War had at length come to Pennsylvania, money must be had, but the two parties, the Governor and the Assembly, found it hard to agree.

The first dispute was, as usual, on a money bill. The Governor demanded supplies for the King's service, but when a bill was passed he refused to accept it, as its terms did not please him as an agent of the Penns. He made fresh demands, and in the end the Assembly voted a supply of five thousand pounds to meet imperative needs.

Gathering of the Forces — Former wars in the colonies had begun in Europe and made their way to America. The war now before the people was the first to begin in the colonies and there was danger of its being a long and ruinous one. When the news of what had taken place in western Pennsylvania reached England, the government at once decided to send troops to America, and Major-General Braddock was dispatched with two regiments. He was directed to raise two more regiments in America. The French were equally wide-awake and had already collected a force of six thousand men in Canada, regulars, militia, and Indians, to occupy the Ohio country. Six regiments, numbering about three thousand men, were quickly sent from France.

Braddock's March — The story of Braddock and his men may very properly be told here, from the fact that his famous defeat took place on Pennsylvania soil. The horses and wagons he needed were also obtained in Pennsylvania, Franklin getting the farmers to supply them on his promise to see that they were paid. The farmers trusted Franklin's word and gave him what lie asked for, though the debt proved serious to him afterwards.

The march of Braddock was a slow one. Setting out from Alexandria, Virginia, on April 8, 1755, it was July 8 before he reached the fatal point near Fort Duquesne where the French and their Indian allies awaited him. He had gone about three miles a day, making a road as he went, "halting," as Washington said, "to level every mole hill and to erect bridges over every brook."

Braddock’s Defeat — Braddock had in all about 2250 men, partly Virginians. Washington was on his staff, but the obstinate and conceited English general would take no advice from an American, thinking he was past teaching in the art of war. He paid dearly for his lack of sense and judgment, and the people paid more dearly. A force of not more than nine hundred French and Indians awaited him. But they fired from behind trees while Braddock kept his men in the open, a fair mark for their bullets. The poor fellows fell fast before the hidden foe, while their own bullets were wasted on the air. In the end the self-willed Braddock received a fatal wound and the men broke and fled in wild panic.

Washington and the Virginians fought under cover, in the Indian fashion, but they were not strong enough to stop the retreat, and the great expedition, which was expected to drive the French from the valley of the Ohio, was foiled by a handful of men.

Indian Warfare — Pennsylvania had so far been free from the horrors of Indian warfare. Now it was to become the victim of the merciless savage. Through all the frontier the blaze of burning buildings could be seen and the shrieks of women and children could be heard. The Indians made their way through the thinly settled regions, leaving death and ruin in their track. Crossing the mountains, they sought the eastern settlements. The Moravians and the Christian Indians under their care at Gnadenhutten were killed. The Minisinks made their way back to their old home region, of which they had. Been robbed by the treacherous "walking purchase," and took payment for their wrongs in the savage Indian fashion. Everywhere bloodshed and terror ruled.

A Vote of Money — Those of the dwellers on the frontier who escaped the tomahawk and scalping knife of the Indians fled eastward, praying for help and protection. But the old trouble between the governor and the Assembly stood in the way. The Assembly voted fifty thousand pounds for the King’s use, but the governor would not accept it, as the estates of the Penns, which were now of great value, were to be taxed. This he had been ordered not to permit. Nothing could be done to break the deadlock until the Penn family in England, finding themselves bitterly condemned on both sides of the ocean, offered to give five thousand pounds for purposes of defense. This for the time ended the difficulty and a new vote gave money enough to meet the pressing demands.

The Indians Approach Philadelphia — It was high time for something to be done. The hostile Indians had crossed the Blue Ridge and reached the Susquehanna, from which they ravaged the neighboring counties, some of their scalping parties coming within thirty miles of Philadelphia. Nazareth and Bethlehem were in their hands, and there they took their prisoners and plunder. The mangled bodies of a murdered family were brought to Philadelphia and even placed in the doorway of the Assembly building to induce that body to act.

Franklin in the Field — A militia law prepared by Franklin was now passed, and under this he raised a volunteer force of about five hundred men and led them to Bethlehem. Here he roughed it with the men through the winter, becoming very popular with them. He built a number of forts, and in the end a line of forts was built circling from the Delaware River to the Maryland line. These, with a large number of blockhouses and stockades, at length gave protection to the frontier. They were garrisoned by the militia, some of them being in the mountains, where they commanded the principal passes. Many of the settlers sought shelter in these forts, taking their rifles with them to the fields in the morning and returning for safety at night. Sentinels were often stationed to guard the farmers against Indian marauders.

End of Quaker Government — [Until now] the Quakers had been in large majority in the government, but a change in this was near at hand. The end came when the governor and council, in the spring of 1756, declared war against the Delawares and Shawnees and offered rewards for Indian scalps. At this brutal order six Quaker members of the Assembly at once resigned, and during the year several others withdrew, leaving only twelve Quakers in that body. They never gained the majority again.

Colonel Armstrong's Feat — While the whites were gradually regaining control in the east of the province, a decisive military step was taken in the west. An expedition led by Colonel Armstrong marched against the Indian town of Kittaning, on the Allegheny, twenty-five miles above Fort Duquesne. This was the stronghold of Captain Jacobs, the most active of the Indian chiefs.

The weather being hot, many of the Indians were sleeping in a cornfield near the town. The troops came up at daybreak, routed these and drove them into the town, and as they would not surrender, set fire to their huts. Many of the [Indians] were killed, others perished in the flames, and Captain Jacobs himself was shot as he leaped from a window. In the town eight white prisoners were found, who said that the Indians had enough powder, given them by the French, to last them ten years. This was captured, with large amounts of other stores. It was a severe blow to the savages, and Colonel Armstrong received a medal from the council for his valuable victory.

Quieting the Indians — Meanwhile the Quaker peace lovers were doing what they could to overcome by gentler means the hostility of the Delawares and Shawnees, and if possible to regain the confidence of the Indians. A treaty was held in Easton, in which the great chief Tedyuscung stamped his foot and exclaimed, "The very ground on which we stand was dishonestly taken from us." Yet he was induced to become a Christian and use his influence on the side of peace, and many of the Indians were pacified by presents given them.

A New Governor — Governor Morris had held office at a difficult time, and made matters worse for himself by his constant quarrels with the Assembly, which in return refused to vote money for his salary. 
He also had made himself greatly disliked by the people. Evidently his usefulness in this office had ceased, and in 1756 he was replaced by a new governor, William Denny, who, however, under the circumstances, was not likely to prove more satisfactory.

— History Of Pennsylvania by Charles Morris (1913)

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