Threatened by British economic dominance among the Indians of the Ohio country, the French secured the lines of communication between their two most prosperous colonies in North America, Quebec and Louisiana. In the 1750s, the French expelled British traders, and constructed a string of forts in the Ohio country, connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin. These forts controlled waterways and portage points from Lake Erie south to the Ohio River, and included Fort Presque Isle on the shores of Lake Erie, Fort La Boef, Fort Machault, and most importantly, Fort Duquesne, at the strategic confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, which form the headwaters of the Ohio River.
In 1754, Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia attempted to force the French out twice, once with diplomacy, and once with force. Both attempts were carried out by a young Virginia militia officer, George Washington. The French ignored the diplomatic attempt, and the second ended in the disastrous Battle of Great Meadows, in which Washington surrendered Fort Necessity. In the winter of 1755, British planners in Whitehall secretly authorized a “madly ambitious” four pronged assault to throw the French out of North America. Their plan did not take into account North American realities of distance, climate, ecology, logistics, nor had any regard for colonial and Indian culture and politics. In their comfortable London offices, they drew lines on maps over terrain that was nearly impossible to traverse with the troops assigned who for the most part didn’t exist. One prong was given to Major-general Edward Braddock and his two understrength Irish regiments, the 44th and 48th, who sailed for Virginia in the spring of 1755. Among the officers of the 44th, was young Lt Charles Lee.
Edward Braddock was a highly experienced and well placed officer of the Coldstream Guards. Though blunt, uncouth and boorish in polite society, he was a “soldiers’ general” and cared deeply for his men, like his idol, The Duke of Marlborough. The 44th and 48th were garrison units in the Irish Establishment, who had last both seen action in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. With the exception of a few officers, the men of neither regiment had been in battle or even on campaign. Due to their garrison duties, they had never drilled at the regimental level, much less together, and rarely at company level. Spread out in small platoon formation across the countryside, the strict rhythm and monotony of garrison duty in Ireland meant that most junior officers knew nothing of life on campaign, and little of the manual of drill beyond what was needed for daily tasks. For the expedition to America, the two regiments were reinforced by stripping other Irish regiments of “their dregs”. Still far below their authorized strength, the two regiments recruited in Virginia to make up the shortfall.
Braddock’s Expedition was to follow Washington’s trail north, capture all of the recent French forts in the Ohio Country, proceed up Lake Erie, capture Fort Niagara, and head east to link up with another prong sent to clear the French from Montreal. To prepare for this wildly fantastical plan, Braddock demanded support from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, and the Carolina’s. After browbeating the governors, assemblies, and the Ohio Company for men and resources at the Alexandria Conference in April, 1755, Braddock’s Expedition grew to an impressive size: 2100 men with siege cannon, field pieces and heavy mortars capable of leveling Fort Duquesne if need be, and all of the support necessary to make the trek across the Appalachian Mountains. 150 wagons were acquired for baggage and supply, mostly at the behest of Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania. Hundreds of camp followers accompanied the column. Each regiment, regular and colonial alike was allowed 40 women to accompany them, each inspected by Braddock’s surgeon to make sure they were clean.
Braddock was meticulous and exhausting in every aspect of his preparations for the expedition, and even adapted his men’s equipment to the realities of the Appalachian wilderness, such as leaving behind the NCOs’ halberds, the officers’ short pikes and the mens’ hangers (ceremonial short swords), and even had gaiters crafted for his men, to protect them on the march. Braddock took a direct professional interest in nearly every aspect of the expeditions planning and preparation, except Indian affairs.
Braddock didn’t ignore Indian Affairs, he just delegated it to William Johnson, a trader, friend of the Mohawk, and the Crown’s Indian agent in North America who was one of the most knowledgeable Europeans on the continent in the intricacies of frontier diplomacy. Johnson felt confident that he could bring the powerful Iroquois Six Nations, and thus their nominal vassals, the Ohio Indians, to fight for the British. Furthermore, Dinwiddie promised 400 Catawba and Cherokee warriors, but these refused to join the expedition once they found out the British were negotiating an alliance with their sworn blood enemies, the Iroquois. The Ohio Indians, even without direction from the Iroquois, were more than willing to help expel the French. It was their land that the French and Great Lakes Indians were on. George Croghan, a prominent Ohio country trader and sometime Pennsylvania diplomat was the quintessential “go-between” who lived on the frontier among the Ohio Indians, smoothed over any difficulties, and maintained colonial and tribal relations. Croghan sent wampum belts to arrange a meeting between the Ohio Indian chiefs and Braddock. Six chiefs and their entourages arrived, including from the Shawnee, the Delaware chief Shingas, and Mingo Half King Scaroudy. The French had brought their Indian allies to Fort Duquesne from the Great Lakes, and the Ohio Indians were keen to have them removed. The pretentious and arrogant Braddock alienated the chiefs almost immediately. When queried on the only subject the Ohio Indians cared about, whether the British would allow settlers into the Ohio Valley, Braddock replied absolutely and, “No savage shall inherit the land.” All but seven Mingo warriors departed. Scaroudy still clung to the old notion that the Ohio Country was under the complete influence of the Iroquois. When told of Braddock’s response, most of the Shawnee warriors, and many of the Delaware, joined the French.
In late May, 1755, Braddock’s Expedition departed Fort Cumberland led by Scaroudy, his six Mingo warriors, George Croghan and Braddock’s chief of scouts, Lt John Fraser, who had a trading post on the Monongahela about 12 miles from Fort Duquesne. They followed the path that Fraser usually took to his post, the same one Washington followed the previous year. The trail was completely inadequate for Braddock’s column, and the terrain took herculean efforts to conquer. The trail led through 110 miles of nearly uninhabited wilderness, “with steep rocky mountains and impassable morasses.” The column’s logistician and engineer, the indefatigable and irascible Sir John St. Clair spent months before the expedition arrived in America laying the logistical groundwork just to get Braddock to Fort Cumberland. Now he was building a road ahead of the column to accommodate the baggage wagons and the artillery train of six pound cannon and heavy eight inch mortars. Braddock’s Expedition averaged just two miles a day.
Nearly three weeks later, the expedition had travelled just 36 miles. At Little Meadows, the exasperated Braddock formed a “flying column” of about 1400. The flying column would have only five cannon and a few dozen of the lighter and studier wagons. The flying column didn’t have to cut as substantial a road, which made the rough going faster. The “supply column” left behind under the 48th’s commander, Colonel Thomas Dunbar, enlarged the road for the heavier wagons and artillery train. Braddock’s flying column averaged six miles a day, and soon left the supply column far behind.
Just behind the scouts in the flying column was a formation of 200 light infantry and grenadiers under a young Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage. Behind Gage was an independent militia company form New York commanded by Captain Horatio Gates. Gates was tasked with securing St. Clair’s 250 or so pioneers, with six tool laden wagons, who widened the road. The main body followed the pioneers, and consisted of the wagons, artillery, cattle, camp followers, and more workmen, flanked in the trees by two columns of 250 regulars. Braddock and his staff, including a dysentery wracked Washington who volunteered as Braddock’s aide, accompanied the main body. Small parties of flankers watched for French scouts. 100 Virginia rangers, most of whom were at Fort Necessity with Washington, brought up the rear of the column.
On 8 July 1755, the column reached the ford at the junction of Turtle Creek and the Monongahela River. The next morning of 9 July, Braddock crossed the Monongahela and expected to make camp that night about halfway between the ford and Shannopin’s Town, about four miles north of Fort Duquesne on the Allegheny River. There he would cross the Allegheny with half his column and travel down both sides of the river, and invest Fort Duquesne from the north and east, effectively isolating it from any outside assistance.
Across the ford was Fraser’s trading post which was at the limit of the wilderness. The Ohio Indians’ hunting grounds began at the now burnt out ruins of Fraser’s cabin. Unlike the dense terrain Braddock’s Expedition had spent the last month hacking through, the hunting grounds were relatively open and easy to traverse. The Ohio Indians managed their hunting grounds. There was little ground foliage because the Indian hunters burned the undergrowth annually. This improved animal fodder, removed cover for their prey, and allowed the hunters ease of movement. Whereas the column could see no more than twenty meters ahead before, the scouts could see 200 or even three hundred meters in all directions.
Surprisingly, the crossing of the ford was unhindered, though not unobserved. If the French were going to ambush, they would have done it in the wilderness, or at the ford. The British were jubilant, and believed that the worst part of the campaign were over. Most of Braddock’s column fully expected to hear the explosions of the French demolishing the works as they withdrew ahead of the far superior force. Fort Duquesne was just ahead, and the French had failed to respond.
The French didn’t respond to their scouts reports of Braddock’s progress because they were awaiting reinforcements from Quebec, and Braddock’s original progress was slow enough to allow reaction time. The reinforcements arrived in the first week of July, but Braddock’s relatively rapid progress in the last few days took the French commander Claude-Pierre Pecaudy de Contrecœur by surprise. He had 1600 French marines, Canadian militia, and Indian warriors. However, Fort Duquesne could only house 200, and he knew his Indian allies would disperse if he allowed the British to begin the siege. Also, Contrecœur’s Indian allies held a conference on 7 July to determine if it was more beneficial to abandon the post against such an intimidating force. The stubbornness of the Potawatomis caused the conference to go another day. Only when Contrecœur opened his stores up to the Indians to take what they wished, did they agree to attack. Thankful for the war chiefs’ renewed pledges, Contrecœur gave half his men to Canadian militia Captain Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu, about seventy marines, 150 militia, and 650 Ottawas, Chippewa, Huron, Shawnee, and Potawatomis warriors, to ambush Braddock. They never got into position.
On the afternoon of 9 July 1755, Beaujeu’s force was spotted cresting the ridge about 200 meters from the advanced guard. Gage formed his men into a line and opened fire, even though the range was more than twice what the Brown Bess musket was normally accurate at. Gage hoped to surprise the French and let them know they were dealing with disciplined professionals. But Beaujeu was also a seasoned professional, experienced in the ways of warfare on the frontier and working with Indian allies.
Beaujeu knew from the morning reports from the scouts that the British crossed the river and the delay had cost the French and Indians the good ambush sites. Instead he conducted a hasty attack after making contact, and planned to do so beforehand. Every one of his officers had years and sometimes decades living among the tribes, and fighting and trading on the frontier. Many dressed and looked so similar to the Indian warriors that they could only be distinguished by their gorgets. He attached one to each of the Indian small war parties that made up the bulk of his force. As Beujeau fixed Braddock’s vanguard, his officers would advise the small bands to envelop Braddock’s mile long column, destroy the flank guards, and prevent Braddock from creating a cohesive defense. The wagons at the rear was all the incentive the warriors needed to continue moving down the column.
Gage’s plan inadvertently worked on the Canadian militia, and Beajeu’s attack was seemingly aborted before it could get started. One of the first shots Gage’s men fired struck Beaujeu and killed him instantly. Seeing their leader go down, and unwilling to get closer and weather the fire, particularly from the two cannons, the Canadian militia and many Indians broke and ran back to Fort Duquesne to report the battle lost.
The death of their commander did not dissuade the French and Indians. Beaujeu’s officers knew his intent and they had discussed the battle plan ahead of time. His officers and cadets rallied many of the fleeing Indians, while those who did not flee continued enveloping the column. Beaujeu’s second, Captain Jean-Daniel Dumas and French Canadian Ottawa war chief Charles de Langlade rallied the marines and remaining militia and followed the Indian warriors into the attack. The open spaces of the Indian hunting ground were punctuated by stout old growth trees, fallen timbers, and tall shrubberies, essentially natural breastworks. The terrain was perfect for the Indians’ bounding advances. Instead of hunting game, they hunted soldiers in bright red coats clustered in small groups. In less than ten minutes, nearly all of Gage’s officers were killed or incapacitated. And dozens of his men were wounded on the ground, many more than were standing. The war whoops, and the Indians seen behind them unnerved those who remained. Gage ordered a retreat toward the main body before he was cut off and destroyed.
Gage’s men slammed into Gates’ who had hurried forward when they heard shots fired. Crude platoons formed and blazed away at the brush, while the Indians sniped the officers, or rushed in while the British were reloading. The Indians continued to envelop the British and colonials. The flank guards were isolated and destroyed. The British regulars had no idea how to fight in the wilderness, and their bayonets unwieldy against the tomahawk and war club. Soon the main body devolved into individual clusters of regulars doing the only thing they knew how to do in tough situations: reload and fire.
The pioneers and militia however did know how to fight on the frontier. Gates’ New Yorkers immediately took to the trees. They hid in the trees and brush and fought the Indians in the same way. Unfortunately, many British regulars mistook the colonials fighting in the trees for Canadian militia and fired on them. Many flank guards fell back to the column avoid fire from the main body. French marines pushed down the road and forced the main body back into the wagon train. Many of the wagon drivers joined in, such as Daniel Morgan, but many fled, such as Morgan’s cousin, Daniel Boone. The three cannon in the train kept the Indians at bay for most of the battle: until there was no more crew to reload.
Braddock rode forward and found most of his officers dead or wounded. He ordered the regulars near the baggage to reinforce the main body, but when they arrived, all they did was add to the confusion. For the next three hours, Braddock single handedly kept the main body in the fight, relying on British discipline and firepower to defeat the French and Indian attacks. Braddock had three horses shot out from under him. Nevertheless, he reformed ranks, while the British regulars loaded and fired like clockwork, defiantly taking the punishment from unknown sources. In the confusion, several groups of regulars fired upon each other. Braddock ordered several counter attacks to retrieve the cannon in the advanced guard and some high ground further up the slope to the right. Each attack was defeated by murderously accurate Indian fire as the Indians isolated then overran the attackers.
With the death of most of the British regular officers, the American provincials took to the trees to fight, the most effective being the Virginia rangers, and the South Carolina and New York independent companies. The Virginia rangers also attempted to take the high ground on the right, but were massacred when the main body on the road mistook them for Indians and put several volleys into them from behind.
Shrouded in smoke, the remnants of the column continued firing blindly, becoming even more unnerved by the Indian war cries and the prospect of a warrior appearing out of the smoke with a tomahawk and scalping knife. At Washington’s constant urging, Braddock finally saw the utility of fighting in the trees. Washington continually pointed out that Braddock’s most effective units were not the regulars in the open, but the provincials he readily dismissed fighting in the trees. But by then it was too late, there weren’t enough officers to effect the change, and the regulars were bunched together in the open seeking safety in numbers, oblivious to hell around them. Many were terrified, and few were still shooting since many of their muskets were fowled, and they were desperately attempting to clear them.
Shortly thereafter, Braddock was shot in the arm, possibly by his own men, whose ball penetrated into his lungs. When Braddock fell from his horse, the defense collapsed with him. The French marines pushed the assault. By ones and twos, and then by whole groups the expedition fell back to the ford over the Monongahela. No one wanted to be the last one on this side of the ford. Braddock’s staff carried him across the river. A silence descended on the battlefield, punctuated only by the screams and moans of the wounded. The French and Indians were reorganizing for the final attack. As one, the Indians resumed their war cries. At the ford, the victorious war whoops of the Indians broke what remained of British cohesion, as the men assumed they were going to be massacred.
Though he had no official position in the expedition Washington took command at the ford and formed a rear guard. After a brief fight the Indians quit the pursuit. There was no reason to continue the fight. Why get killed so late in the battle when back up the hill there were captives to round up, wounded and dead to scalp, and bodies to mutilate and loot? Braddock’s Expedition had 467 killed and another 450 wounded. The several dozen men who were captured were taken back to Fort Duquesne where they were ritually tortured and burned at the stake. The cattle provided the meat for the victory feast. Of the 50 or so female camp followers who accompanied the flying column as maids and cook, only four returned. The rest taken as slaves and assimilated into the various tribes.
At the previous camp Gage, as the senior surviving regular took command and reorganized the defenders. He sent Washington, who was sick with dysentery and had just fought a battle, to ride the sixty miles back to Dunbar, and return with all of the remaining troops. Washington did so, and eventually the reorganized column withdrew back to Dunbar. Fearing the French and Indians were pursuing after their orgy of victory, Dunbar, now in command, had the men set fire to 150 wagons and headed back to Fort Cumberland. Braddock finally succumbed to his wound on 13 July. To prevent his body from being taken as a trophy by the Indians, Washington and Dunbar had him buried in the road, and the entire expedition marched over it to conceal the grave.
Many junior officers, militiamen, and soldiers, including Fraser, Gates, Boone, Gage, and Morgan blamed Braddock for the defeat and not preparing his army to fight on the frontier. While his arrogance was certainly a factor, particularly with his potential Indian allies, Braddock went to war with the army he had, not the army they wished he had in hindsight. The Battle of the Monongahela would go down in history as the defeat of a regular army which refused to learn how to fight on the frontier. Washington learned the same, but also different lessons. He saw Braddock courageously rally his men who fought on for three hours, despite the French and Indians having every advantage. The disciplined British regulars broke because of a dearth of training and leadership. Washington knew how to fight on the frontier, but he would not forget what he saw Braddock accomplish with regulars. For the rest of his life, Washington would not disparage Braddock’s memory.
For the French, the Battle of the Monongahela was a massive logistics, intelligence, and propaganda victory. The French spent the weeks collecting equipment and stores form the battlefield. There was so much that Contrecœur had to build another large building outside of Fort Duquesne to store it. After some deserters informed him, Contrecœur did the same to Dunbar’s camp. Braddock’s artillery would be used by the French through the remainder of the French and Indian War. Braddock’s captured stores fueled the French offensive in New York. The greatest find, however, was Braddock’s own papers, which detailed the British plan to remove the French from North America, leading to the thwarting of the British thrusts in other areas. The papers were partially responsible for the British loss of Forts Bull, Oswego, and William Henry, and the failed expedition to capture Louisburg. Moreover, since the two empires were still not technically at war, the papers were proof that while the British crown and parliament preached peace with France, they were secretly planning for war. Braddock’s translated papers were published across Europe and were one of the catalysts of the Seven Years War.
The Battle of the Monongahela was the worst British defeat at the hands of an indigenous enemy until the Battle of Isandlwana, 124 years later. The British however, did not have to worry about the French or Indians in its immediate aftermath. The Indians broke into the 500 gallons of rum in the baggage, and many Indians got drunk. Between the booze, loot and captives, teh French would not be able to convince the Indians to \complete the destruction. France’s Indian allies started departing Fort Duquesne the day after the battle. Laden with scalps, loot, and captives, many Indians only wished to triumphantly return home. By August, Contrecœur reported that he had only 260 French Canadian marines and militia remaining, and just two Abenaki Indian warriors.
The warriors’ returned to their lands with tales of victory and loot. The Battle of the Monongahela was the “most glorious in which Indians were involved.” British loot decorated Great Lakes and Ohio Indian villages for decades. The battle became the standard by which Indian warriors came to judge all future successful battlefield encounters. Hundreds more Indian warriors flocked to the French. Ohio Indian tribes attempting to sit on the fence for economic reasons suddenly began attacking the colonial settlements on the frontier. The lack of British traders was made up by pillaging colonial homesteads. The Great Lakes and Ohio Indians sent wampum belts to the Iroquois and Cherokee, urging them to “drive the colonials into the salt water”. The frontiers of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia were set aflame, and the colonies brought to their knees. The frontier was rolled back behind the Appalachian Mountains once again.
For the colonists, the Battle of the Monongahela was a great awakening. The myth of invincibility enjoyed by British regulars was shattered. They fought “la guerre terra”, large war, and were defeated by “la guerre petit”, or small war. The most effective units in Braddock’s army were American, fighting as the Indians la guerre petit. The colonials took great pride in their culture that allowed them to adapt. Furthermore, after the battle the British regular army abandoned the Middle Colonies, leaving then to fend for themselves against the Indians’ “la guerre sauvage”, the total war on the colonists. The Americans were on their own, at least in the short term. Consequently, the term “American” came into more common usage to distinguish British colonials in North America from citizens of the British Isles.
When Washington was given command of the Virginia Regiment later that year to protect the frontier, he made sure it was trained in both la guerre terra and la guerre petit. They could fight in closed or open order on command. His Virginians fought jointly with the Cherokee who turned down The Great Lakes and Ohio Indian request to drive the Americans into the sea. Ranger companies formed in the colonies to protect the frontier.
The Battle of the Monongahela had more lasting effects on the French and Indian War, and even on the future United States of America. When Major-general John Forbes and Royal American regimental commander Colonel Henri Bouquet were tasked to take Fort Duquesne three year later in 1758, they did so with an army that could fight both conventionally and against the Indians on equal terms. Even more, Forbes made sure he didn’t have to fight the Indians at all, whom abandoned the French after they signed the Treaty of Easton. Most importantly though, they chose not to take Braddock’s Road from Fort Cumberland to the Forks of the Ohio. Two expeditions had departed Virginia via that route to seize Fort Duquesne, and both had failed. A new route, one not tainted in defeat was needed. Against the protestations of Washington, Forbe’s expedition set out from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and they cut a new road, Forbe’s Road, across the Appalachian Mountains. Their successful capture of Fort Duquesne, and subsequent construction of Fort Pitt, meant that the future of the Ohio Country lay with Pennsylvania and not Virginia.
Braddock’s Road wasn’t abandoned though. After the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s War in 1763, Braddock’s Road became a high speed conduit for settlers from Virginia to enter the Ohio Country. One such was Daniel Boone. While in Braddock’s Expedition he became great friends John Findley, an associate of George Croghan, who described to Boone the wonders of the Ohio Country. 12 years after the battle, Findley took Boone on his first hunting trip to a place called “Kentucky.”
Boone was one of tens of thousands. What Braddock’s Expedition couldn’t do to the French and Indians of the Ohio Country, Braddock’s Road did
After Great Britain’s victory in the Seven Year’s War, or the French and Indian War as it was known in the colonies, the British Empire took control of all of France’s North American territory. The new Governor General, Jeffery Amherst, instituted policies greatly expanding trade and settlement in the colonies but he did so at the expense of the Native American tribes. Most of the normally British aligned Indian tribes followed the Iroquois example and stayed neutral during the conflict and many even sided with French. The French were thought to be less of a menace than the expansionist British colonists who pushed the frontier ever westward. But those that stayed neutral were bought with gifts to influential chiefs and matrons. At the end of the war, Amherst greatly reduced these gifts, and completely discontinued those for tribes that sided with the French. The British debt for the French and Indian War needed repaid, and Amherst had to find ways to cut costs. To allay Indian fears of colonial expansion, the British confirmed 1758’s Treaty of Easton and stated no colonial settlements were permitted east of the Appalachian Mountains. The British army even kept regular regiments in America to enforce the proclamation and confrontations between settlers and the regulars were common that spring, much more common than encounters between soldiers and the Indians. This led to a general feeling that British were pro-Indian at the expense of their colonial subjects.
Despite the British Army’s presence on the frontier, settlers continued staking claims west of the Appalachians. Since most of the Indian normally pro-British Indian tribes stayed neutral during the war, or even fought for the French, British colonists felt no empathy to their plight and little respect for their boundaries. The colonists believed that they had defeated the French without Indian assistance. The colonists assumed they had lost the war just as surely as the French. While this not technically true, there were drastically fewer friendly Indians fighting with the colonists, on several orders of magnitude, compared to those with the French.
The Indians’ complete dependence on the colonials did not help matters. They were totally reliant on the colonists for the trade goods. Metal pots, knives, needles, hatchets, muskets, gunpowder, linen, fabric, even their currency, small beads called wampum, came from the colonial traders. The American Indians on the colonial frontier had no way to manufacture their own, and even worse, the old ways were gone for good. Delaware prophet Neolin preached a return to the old ways and gained many converts. However the knowledge was lost and the Indians couldn’t return to the old ways even if they wanted to. Neither the Indians nor the colonial traders wanted to close down their trading posts. Where trading posts were established, settlers followed, whom demanded protection. So hypocritically, the British refused to abandon forts on the frontier, even substantially expanding Fort Pitt. This greatly dismayed the Ohio Indians, the Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo and others who wanted colonial trade goods, but not colonial settlements.
Settlers pointed to the Albany Congress in 1754, where the Iroquois sold most of the Ohio Country to land speculators from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Connecticut, and New York, sometimes the same land to all four. The Iroquois wanted to chastise their troublesome vassals, the Ohio Indians, who had pretenses of independence from Confederation suzerainty during King George’s War in the 1740s, so they sold their land out from under them. The sales weren’t ratified by the Iroquois ruling Council Fire at Onondaga, but the colonials didn’t care. They assumed the Iroquois negotiators had the authority to sell the land since payment already changed hands at Albany. In any case, any excuse was enough reason to push the frontier. The colonial population was rapidly expanding, and the Indian population was not. Land was needed, and the only land left was held by the Indians.
The French and Indian War just delayed then exacerbated the problem. The tribes could no longer play the British and French against each other, as they had for nearly seven decades. The perception was the colonials had received little help from the Indians during King George’s War and the French and Indian War. The British paid for their neutrality, but the colonials never saw that. And in 1763, the British Army was seen as playing both sides: siding with the Indians against the colonials to stop frontier settlement while still maintaining the dozen or so forts in “Indian territory”. The colonials saw the Indian territory as far too vast compared to their population size, though they never took Indian cultural need for wilderness hunting grounds into consideration. This especially applied to former French allies, whose claim to lands were seen as forfeit since they lost the war.
In 1763, the Ohio Indian and former French allied tribes formed a loose confederation led by Ottawa chief Pontiac to drive the British off of the continent. The Iroquois Confederation stayed neutral, as they had for the last two wars on the frontier. The resulting war is variously known as Pontiac’s War, Pontiac’s Rebellion, or Pontiac’s Uprising. All are accurate, though “uprising” or “rebellion” may be more so due to nominal Iroquois suzerainty over the Ohio Indians, who provided most of the warriors against the British. Pontiac’s Uprising was initially extremely successful as his warriors ranged up and down the hills and slopes of the Appalachian Mountains killing or enslaving any white settlers they found and burning all settlements to the ground. By June, thousands were driven from their homes, hundreds were killed or captured, and there was nary a colonial settlement left west of the mountains. Eight British forts fell to Pontiac or his allies, and only one was left, Fort Pitt, at the strategic confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers that then formed the Ohio River. But it was newly built over the ruins of the French Fort Duquesne, and the strong blockhouse was completed just that spring. Pontiac and his main force led by Mingo chief Guyasuta settled in for a siege when efforts to storm it were deemed futile.
The loss of Ft Pitt, would have ended British power west of the mountains. Even worse, Amherst feared the loss of Fort Pitt would convince the Iroquois to join the war. The Seneca alone could put more warriors into the field than all of the tribes of Pontiac’s coalition combined. Moreover, the easternmost Iroquois, the Mohawk, sat astride the vulnerable New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut frontier. The other Iroquois tribes, including the vehemently anti-British Tuscarora had a clear avenue into Pennsylvania via the refugee choked Susquehanna Valley. Amherst would be forced to request additional troops from elsewhere in the British Empire, something that would inevitably lead to his replacement. Fort Pitt could not fall under any circumstances.
Amherst dispatched Colonel Henri Bouquet and the best troops in North America, if not the world. The 42nd Regiment (the Black Watch) was one of the British Army’s most senior regiments and the 77th Regt (Montgomerie’s Highlanders), though new, saw extensive action during the French and Indian War. The 60th Regt or Royal Americans (later the King’s Rifles) was formed after Braddock’s defeat during the French and Indian War specifically to provide the British Army much needed frontier fighting capability in North America. The Royal American were recruited from all over the North American colonies and Europe. Swiss mountaineers, German jaegers, colonial frontiersmen, British volunteers, and converted Indians were commanded by European Protestant officers. Col. Bouquet was originally recruited to command the Royal American’s 1st Battalion. Bouquet was a colorful Swiss mercenary and adventurer with extensive experience in frontier fighting during the French and Indian War. It was Bouquet who took command of Forbes Expedition to relieve Fort Pitt in 1758 after Forbes grew ill. There was no officer in America better suited to relieve Fort Pitt again in 1763.
Bouquet’s force, encumbered with wagons full of provisions for Ft Pitt, left Carlisle Barracks in June and began hacking its way across the mountains (His road would eventually become Rt 30). Bouquet quickly became frustrated with the very slow progress. At Ft. Ligonier, he abandoned his wagons and baggage, and loaded up his horses and mules with flour bags for the garrison whom were slowly being starved out by Guyasuta. But by this time Guyasauta knew of the relief column from his scouts. Guyasuta took most of the warriors from the siege to intercept and destroy them, just as they had done five years before to Braddock’s expedition.
Guyasuta (or Kiasutha) was originally a Seneca war chief, and was appointed by the Council Fire at Onondaga as a viceroy over the subjugated Ohio Indians. Over the years, the Iroquois viceroys, their families, and their adopted Ohio Indians (the Iroquois always took the best Ohio Indian children from their subjects into their own families) eventually formed their own identity, known as the Mingo. The Mingo grew apart from their Iroquois suzerains, and began to sympathize with their Ohio Indian charges’ desire for independence. When the Iroquois stayed neutral in the French and Indian War, the Mingo led the Ohio Indians in defiance of the Iroquois to fight for the French. Guaysuta was the most influential Mingo chief, and many earlier historians refer to Pontiac’s War as The Pontiac-Guyasuta War. Guyasuta was one of the Indian leaders at Braddock’s defeat in 1755, Guyasuta missed a confrontation with Bouquet in 1758, when he and the Ohio Indians departed Fort Duquesne ahead of Forbes Expedition in compliance with the quickly defunct Treaty of Easton. Guyasuta openly sought war with the British after the failure of the Treaty of Easton, which came with the support of Pontiac and western coalition of former French allied Indian tribes.
When Bouquet reached the ford over Bushy Run Creek (just outside of Greensburg, PA) on the morning of 5 August 1763, Guyasuta and his 800 warriors struck. Bouquet initially took many casualties. A quick bayonet charge was usually enough to break up a gathering of Indian warriors, but the initial charge was uphill to his front, and succeeded in just spreading his men out. A result that Guyasuta had planned for.
Contrary to what Hollywood, revisionist historians, or your university professor who never left the academy has told you, a properly trained soldier with a bayonet is the more than a match for any indigenous warrior with a one handed melee weapon. A musket with a bayonet is just a two handed spear, and spears have been used since time immemorial to provide its wielder a first strike and standoff capability against their non-spear wielding opponent. First strikes are almost always decisive, and surviving and overcoming a first strike is the stuff of epics. To survive a spearmen or bayonet wielding soldier requires a missile weapon, or two warriors: one to distract or fix and one to kill. If both sides have missile weapon i.e. musket with bayonet or musket and tomahawk, the wielder with bayonet has the advantage, as the time to switch between weapons systems is lessened, in addition to the standoff and first strike melee capability of the bayonet. The problem in frontier warfare was avoiding the individual over match. Guyasuta knew if he spread Bouquet’s men out, his warriors would overwhelm them individually. The typical European response to this was maintaining formation. However, if Bouquet maintained his formation, his warriors could wither it away with musket fire at such an inviting massed target while his men hid behind the abundant tree cover. After the initial bayonet charge failed to break up the Indian force, Guyasuta held all the advantages, just as the French and Indians did at Braddock’s Defeat.
Unfortunately for Guyasuta, Bouquet was not Braddock. He had trained his men in tactics that combined the discipline and efficacy of the bayonet armed soldier with the realities of frontier warfare . The trick was to avoid individual overmatch while maintaining the advantages of the bayonet equipped musket without being in an exposed formation. Bouquet’s men accomplished this by breaking up into pairs. One man with loaded musket and bayonet guarding another who reloaded. When both were reloaded, one would pick a target and fire, then the process would repeat. It took great discipline to maintain that posture. Only under extreme circumstances would both fire and be empty at the same time. To break this tactic in an old-growth deciduous forest demanded at least four, preferably five individual warriors attacking simultaneously. This is a level of coordination that was uncommon among Indian warriors on the 18th century frontier.
Bouquet’s tactic was effective but temporary. Guyasuta’s warriors hunted and fought for a living, and Bouquet knew they would quickly find and exploit a weakness in the jagger bush infested broken forested terrain. He knew his men stood no chance fighting it out with Guyasuta’s warriors if they got among them. So Bouquet ordered a retreat to a small hill overlooking the Bushy Run ford. In the clearing at the top of the hill, he collected his wounded and formed an ad hoc fort out of flour sacks and dead horses. Most of Bouquet’s men were outside the fort in their pairs or in formation. They then fought off all of Guyasuta’s attempts to storm it. That Guyasuta convinced his warriors to storm it at all is a testament to his leadership. By the afternoon, the battle was at an impasse. However, a new siege had begun, a siege that Bouquet had no hope of winning by staying put.
There was no possible relief force. And even if there was the siege of Bouquet’s flour fort wouldn’t last that long. The day was hot, as only a humid Pennsylvania August day can be, and Bouquet’s men were out of water and thirsty. Any attempt to secure water from the nearby creek failed. Prisoners and survivors from failed attempts to gather water were gruesomely tortured in full view of their comrades on the hill. Guyasuta planned to wait Bouquet out.
Bouquet’s devised a desperate and merciless course of action. Ruthless not just for the Indians, but also for his own men. He planned to break out with every remaining able bodied man, but he would leave his wounded and baggage behind. He knew Guyasuta did not a have as strong a hold on his warriors as he had on his soldiers. Indian war bands formed based on leadership and strength of will of their leader, honor gained from the kill, and immediate material gain. Any warrior was free to come and go as he pleased, no questions asked. Bouquet callously planned to exploit this. The ill-disciplined warriors would jump at the chance to loot and torture the wounded in the makeshift fort, and let the survivors escape. At 6pm, he did exactly that and soon the war whoops of the Guyasuta’s warriors were replaced by the screams of the wounded as they were scalped and mutilated.
Bouquet didn’t escape. Once the Indians were committed to their blood orgy, he quietly surrounded the hill and trapped Guyasuta just as he had been trapped hours before. At 7 pm, the remaining Highlanders and Americans attacked from all directions and stormed the hill at bayonet point. No quarter was given and the Guyasuta’s warriors immediately broke. Any that managed to escape continued home to their lodges and did not return to Pontiac or the siege of Fort Pitt.
The Siege of Fort Pitt was lifted the next day. Two more years were needed to completely subdue all of the Indians involved in the Pontiac War, including more raids in 1764 and the winter of 1764/65 by John Armstrong and Henri Bouquet to destroy Indian villages: the standard frontier tactic to defeat your enemy. The Pennsylvania Assembly passed another “Scalp Act” in 1764 which significantly sped up the process.
Pontiac’s Uprising and the Battle of Bushy Run was the culmination of 150 years of Indian, colonial, and imperial diplomacy and warfare on the American frontier. Sadly, they are indicative of the depths to which Indian and colonial relations fallen in that time. The perception that lines were crossed that could not be uncrossed hardened in the minds of colonials and Indians alike. The savage nature of the fighting, and the remorseless decisions of both Guyasuta and Bouquet showed the lengths that both sides would go for victory. The British and colonial victory at Bushy Run meant that the Appalachian frontier was permanently open for colonial settlement and expansion, regardless of Indian wishes on the matter, including the Iroquois.
In the words Delaware chief Keekyuscung, “They (the Indians and colonials) will never come to peace again.”
By the 1750s, the status of the Ohio Country was nebulous. Great Britain, France, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Connecticut and the Ohio Indians themselves all had claims to the lands bordered by Appalachians Mountains in the east and southeast, the Ohio River in the south, and the Great Lakes in the North. The Ohio, Iroquois for “good”, wasn’t always named so. Known as the “beautiful river” by its previous Algonquin and Sioux inhabitants, the Ohio and its tributaries teemed with one the 17th century’s most precious commodities: beaver.
In the 17th century the fur trade dominated Indian politics, but was still seconded to the demographic disaster that heralded the arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere. At the end of the 16th century, European childhood diseases swept through the Ohio Country, greatly reducing the Indian population. Most Indians spread out to take advantage of the increased space. One Indian nation did the opposite: the Iroquois Confederacy. Instead of breaking apart and spreading out, the Iroquois consolidated and centralized. Exploiting the insatiable demand by first Dutch and then British merchants for beaver pelts, the unified and powerful Iroquois embarked on seventy years of conquest, extermination, and expansion in order to secure the beaver trade and replace the population lost to disease.
The Iroquois and British formed the Covenant Chain, in which the Iroquois only attacked Indian tribes hostile to Britain or friends of the French. However, they struck a hard wall along the St Lawrence River against the Huron and Wabanaki Indians equipped by the French, so the Iroquois turned south and west against the Ohio Indians. Dutch and British trade goods, particularly muskets, fire strikers, and metal pots, hatchets and arrowheads, gave the Iroquois an asymmetric advantage over the Ohio Indians. These items greatly simplified the logistics for the ranging bands of Iroquois. No longer were hunting and war parties limited to the range at which they could carry a hot rock for fire starting, the amount of dried meat they could carry, or the length of time they could sleep cold and hungry in the elements. Fire starters could produce fire on demand to quickly cook game in metal pots efficiently killed by metal arrowheads and butchered by metal knives. But the Beaver Wars weren’t just about the all-important pelts but also the replacement of the Iroquois population killed by European diseases.
Small pox in particular took a toll on Indians nations. For the Iroquois, capture, enslavement and assimilation were the answers to mitigating their reduced population. Most nations defeated in battle disappeared. Men, wounded and anyone unable to make the increasingly longer trip back to the Five Nations, such as the elderly, infants and young children, were killed, while women and older children were taken back to the Iroquoian homeland. There they endured an initial period of brutal enslavement bookended by a gauntlet to enter the town when they arrived to an assimilation ceremony into the nation. If they survived they were welcomed into their clan as a full member. Many Indian nations disappeared, never to be heard of again, lost to history. The lucky ones were recorded by an intrepid European traveler or trader, and left in a dusty tome to be discovered by some future historian. The luckiest have a town or street named after them. The Erie Indians dominated the southern shore of the lake that bears their name, but that doesn’t change the fact that we know virtually nothing about them, so complete was their destruction at the hands of the Iroquois.
The decades of warfare became central to Iroquoian identity as young warriors wanted to emulate their elders, but had to range further and further afield for captives. Later, war was being conducted for its own sake, in many cases just to replace losses from previous wars. Consequently, Iroquoian conquests were so vast that they could not effectively control their own territory. Their hunting grounds were preyed upon by the southern Indians, such as the Cherokee. The Iroquois took to establishing buffer nations from their defeated foes, most notably the Shawnee, to protect the hunting grounds. To keep these subjects in line, Iroquois “half-kings” were appointed.
The half-kings were answerable only to the Five Nations council fire at Onondaga and lived among their vassal nations. However, the language differences and the animosity generated from the half-kings and their families choosing the best women for wives and the strongest and fastest boys for assimilation caused them to grow apart from their wards. The half-kings’ families and entourages eventually formed their own tribe, known as the Mingo.
As the Mingo were slowly forming their own identity in the Ohio country, the Beaver Wars were brought to an abrupt end. In 1697, the British Empire made a separate peace with France to end King William’s War, something they pledged the Iroquois never to do. It was the first break of the Covenant Chain. France and their Indian allies turned their full fury onto the Iroquois decisively defeating them. At the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701, the Iroquois pledged fealty to France, and to remain neutral in any future conflicts between France and England.
The Iroquois had no intention of remaining neutral and abdicating their commanding position as arbiter of all things Indian between the French and British Empires. They planned to play both sides. Barely three years after Montreal, the easternmost of the Five Iroquois Nations, the Mohawk, went to war as an ally of France during the War of Spanish Succession, or Queen Anne’s War in America. The other four nations remained neutral in order to continue trade with the British. The war ended in 1713 with a British victory. At the Treaty of Utrecht, the negotiations of which the Iroquois did not participate in since it was signed in the Netherlands, France gave their nominal sovereignty over the Iroquois Confederacy to the British, who were not so hands off as the French were.
The Iroquois had a few problems with their new status; the least of which was their new “Great White Father” across the sea, because militarily, the edict could not be enforced: the English traversed Confederation land only because the Iroquois permitted them. The problem was the Treaty of Utrecht could be enforced economically. The Iroquois could not go back to their traditional way of life. The trade goods had permanently altered daily life and the traditional skills of their great-grandparents were gone. Moreover, they had no industrial base to produce their own muskets, metal tools, and woven clothes. Even their currencies, little beads called wampum, were now manufactured abroad. The Iroquois had no choice but to reluctantly accept the terms.
There were further problems. The neutrality of the westernmost of the Five Nations, the Seneca, and the Mingo and Ohio Indians, allowed the British to successfully court the Cherokee to fight Spain’s Indian allies in the south. The Cherokee and their allies defeated the Tuscarora in 1713. The Tuscarora were an Iroquoian speaking people, and sought refuge from the Cherokee with the Five Nations. The Tuscarora were vehemently anti-British, and the elders gave them new lands east of the Mohawk to prevent British encroachment. They became the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy, but they were very problematic for the council and caused no end of trouble with their new British overlords.
Nonetheless, the unique Iroquois position allowed them to effectively maintain their sovereignty, if not in name but in practice. They were more powerful than any two other English colonies and were masters of their territories. They settled into a power broker role, and played everyone against each other to maintain their position: the British against the French, the Crown against the colonies, colony against colony, the colonies against the French, and the colonies against other Indians.
During “the Long Peace” between 1713 and 1744, the Iroquois were colonial muscle against recalcitrant Indians that bordered the English colonies. Several English colonies bought land from the Iroquois that was occupied by one of their subject nations, and the Iroquios sent them west to the Ohio country at colonial request. All for some extra trade goods to key elders which could be given to followers for their loyalty. Pennsylvania in particular routinely called on the Mohawk to enforce treaties. The Quakers in the Pennsylvania Assembly refused to fund a militia and outsourced the colony’s defense to the Mohawk, again just for some extra trade goods. In 1737, the Delaware Indians rightfully balked at the duplicitous “Walking Purchase” for the remainder of the Delaware River valley. The Assembly appealed to the Mohawk and the Delaware were quickly sent packing. Even worse, in the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster, the Iroquois sold all of the Ohio Country land south of the Ohio River, at least in Virginian eyes. The Iroquois thought they sold just the Shenandoah Valley. The dispute would have probably ended in the Six Nations’ favor had war not broken out again.
The thirty years of “peace” ended when another European war spilled over into North America. The War of Austrian Succession was known as King George’s War in the colonies. At the start of the conflict in 1744, the Iroquois decided to exert their sovereignty and stayed neutral, despite British protestations.
The closest Iroquois nation and the one that could offer the most immediate assistance, the Tuscarora in the east, wanted nothing to do with the British. New York and the New England colonies routinely used the Iroquois to keep their Indian neighbors in line, and when they decided to stay neutral, the British could find few Indian allies to fight the French and Wabbanaki in New England. The British got the worst of it, about ten percent of the male population of New York and New England were killed. Due to factors outside New England, the British won the war, and did it without the Iroquois assistance. The colonists who suffered during the war wouldn’t forget Iroquois neutrality.
King George’s War had a different effect in the Ohio Country. In the 1730s, the colonies were expanding, especially Pennsylvania and Virginia, and colonial settlers were pushing west over the Appalachian Mountains. The settlers and traders brought cheap trade goods to the Ohio Indians. French trade goods were three times more expensive and of an inferior quality. The French tried to entice the Ohio Indians to attack British trading posts but with the exception of a few gruesome examples, the Ohio Indians refused. Despite Iroquois sovereignty, and thus supposedly British control over the Ohio country stemming from the Beaver Wars, the French used the river systems at will. The Ohio and its tributaries were vital in linking Quebec and the St Lawrence River basin to Detroit, the Illinois country and Mississippi Valley to New Orleans. In 1739, Baron De Longueuil led an expedition into the Ohio country where he met with the Ohio Indian nations to secure French use of the Ohio waterways. When King George’s War broke out in 1744, the French flooded the Ohio Indians with gifts and trade goods at great expense to themselves, securing treaties to assist with fighting the British.
Flush with French trade goods, the Delaware, Shawnee and even the Mingo rolled back the frontier. The threat to settlers east of the Appalachians broke Quaker resistance to a militia. With no Iroquois help with Indian issues as they traditionally had, the Pennsylvania Assembly, led by Benjamin Franklin, approved the construction of a number of forts along the frontier and a large number of militia mostly composed of recent German and Scots-Irish immigrants who had no love for neither Quakers nor Indians. The threat never really materialized east of the Appalachians, but that didn’t stop the colonists from believing that they won the war without Iroquois help.
The Iroquois recognized that they might have over played their hand and wished to get back into King George’s good graces. They just needed a way to do so without losing any more sovereignty and without angering the French; the balance of power needed to be maintained. The actions of the Ohio Indians gave them the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. The elders at the council fire at Onondaga were furious with Ohio Indians for directly negotiating with the French, and toward the end of the war, with the British and colonies. All diplomacy was supposed to go through them. But after decades of absentee rule even the Mingo had grown weary of and chaffed at subjugation from the far away Iroquois Six Nations. The Iroquois would have none of it. They forcefully re-exerted control and to add insult to injury sold their land out from under them.
The dispute with Virginia over the Treaty of Lancaster wasn’t pursued. Even worse were the actions by the Iroquois at the Albany Congress in 1748. Though famous for Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” proposition to unite the colonies, more importantly was the fact that the Iroquois sold even more Ohio country land to the colonies, sometimes selling the same land to several colonies. There’s a portion of present day Pennsylvania that was claimed by four colonies, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and Connecticut, due to “shady bush deals” with Iroquois elders at the Albany Congress. None of this endeared the Iroquois with the Ohio Indians.
After the defeat of the French in King George’s War, the Ohio Indians were left out to rot, not just by the Iroquois but also by the French. French gifts and trade goods, plentiful in 1748, dried up completely in 1749, despite French insistence that they were subjects, as per the claims made by LaSalle in the 17th century and their agreements in 1744. Like the Iroquois after the Treaty of Utrecht, the Ohio Indians were forced to crawl back to the British and colonies for trade goods, if the French could not or would not provide. Their daily life depended on them and the Ohio Indians had no capacity to produce their own. The Virginians formed the Ohio Company to exploit and speculate the land sold to them in the Treaty of Lancaster and the Ohio Indian invited them and Pennsylvania to establish a trading post at Logstown (present day Ambridge, PA) on the Ohio River, which ironically the French built for the Ohio Indians in 1747 to stage raids out of.
The French were incensed. Later that year, the governor of New France sent Celeron de Blainville with 300 troops to reestablish control. He planted lead markers along the rivers and when he reached Logstown expelled the traders and confiscated their goods. De Blainville then berated the inhabitants for not resisting British expansion as subjects of New France should. Feeling that the Ohio Indians were sufficiently chastised, De Blainville returned to Quebec.
Enter Tanacharison, a Mingo half-king with dreams of a sovereign Ohio Indian nation free of French, Iroquois and (eventually) British influence. But the pragmatic Tanacharison knew he needed British trade goods, so taking a page out of the Iroquois playbook, he decided to set everyone against each other and profit. After an abortive attempt in 1751, Tanacharison’s council at Logstown in May 1752 was a who’s who of frontier fixers assembled to hammer out a treaty to keep the trade goods flowing. Marylander Christopher Gist and Virginian William Trent of the Ohio Company, Joshua Fry from Virginia, George Crogan from Pennsylvania, and Miami, Seneca, Delaware, Shawnee, and Mingo chiefs, all of whom were upset with the way they were treated by the De Blainville. To establish his authority and magnanimity, Tanacharison declared the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster voided but that any Virgina settlements south of the Ohio would be left in peace. Tanacharison’s statement raised an eyebrow from the Seneca chiefs, but as the Mingo chief had by far the most warriors, they chose to let it slide for the time being. He further stated that Pennsylvania and Virginia were allowed to reestablish their trading posts, but at different more defensible location, 19 miles upriver where Chartiers Creek empties in the Ohio(present day McKees Rocks, PA). As a representative of the Ohio Company, William Trent enthusiastically volunteered to build a fort there to protect against a repeat of De Blainville’s expedition. Tanacharison agreed as it was below the Ohio-Monongahela River boundary that he considered the southern boundary of his realm. The Ohio Company had been trying to get Iroquois approval for a fort there since DeBlainville threw them out in 1749 and Tanacharison just delivered on it. One Delaware chief told Gist that “You English claim the south of the (Ohio) river, and the French the north. Where is the Indian land?” So Tanarcharison added his only stipulation that the British limit colonial settlement to south of the Ohio River. The French claims to the north were void and Trent’s Fort would protect everyone’s claims. Finally, Tanacharison renewed his fealty to King George and expected to be treated no different than any other colonial governor. The Treaty of Logstown was approved by all parties, though the Seneca quickly returned to Onondaga to report the half-king’s usurpation of their authority and for violating their expressed orders to maintain strict neutrality between the French and British.
The French and their Indian allies were not idle while Tanacharison met with the British and colonials. In June 1752, Chippewa and Ottawa Indians under Charles Langlade descended on Pickawillany, (present day Pique, OH) where the Miami chief Memeskia attempted a similar arrangement with Pennsylvania. The town’s inhabitants were slaughtered and Memeskia was ritually boiled and eaten by the warriors. As they got wind of the Treaty of Logstown, the French established a chain of forts in 1753 securing their water transportation routes in the Ohio country. The first was Fort Presque Isle on Lake Erie, (present day Erie, PA) in May. In July, they built Fort Le Bouef (on present day French Creek at Waterford, PA). Then at the mouth of the creek where it empties into the Allegheny River, they confiscated a British trading post called Venango (good guess: Venango, PA) and converted it into Fort Machault. Tanacharison and other Ohio Indian leaders travelled to Fort Presque Isle to demand the French leave, but needless to say, the French threw them out.
In January 1754, William Trent was commsioned by Robert Dinwiddie, the governor of Virginia, a captain in the militia and ordered to raise a hundred men to defend the new fort. He finally arrived at the proposed site in February 1754, after cutting a road form Cumberland, Maryland to the junction Redstone Creek and the Monongahela River (US Route 40 to Brownsville, PA). But at the suggestion of another captain of the Virginia militia, a young 21 year old George Washington, Trent decided to move the fort to the far superior Forks of the Ohio about a mile away across the Monongahela. Trent was loath to break the Logstown Treaty but fortifications on that site made the Chartier’s creek position redundant in friendly hands and untenable in French hands. Moreover, Trent, a fur trader himself, had a small post there and he would be able to stay out of the elements at night as the weather got colder without having to row across the river twice a day. Trent broke ground on “Fort Saint George” at the Forks of the Ohio (present day Pittsburgh, PA) on 17 February, 1754. Tanacharison laid the first log of the first building: the storehouse.
George Washington wasn’t a part of Trent’s expedition, but was just returning from his mission to warn the French to leave. Tanacharison reported the French response to his ultimatum to the Ohio Company of which Robert Dinwiddie, Virginia’s governor was a member. In September 1753, Dinwiddie received word from the King that he was authorized to use force to expel the French from the Ohio Country. Dinwiddie charged Washington to formally declare the British possession of the Ohio Country and then respectfully demand their withdrawal. Washington enthusiastically left Williamsburg on 31 October and slowly made his way north.
In mid-November, Washington slipped on a rock while crossing a small creek and soaked himself in the cold water (present day Slippery Rock, PA) so he had to stay there a day to warm up and dry off. He reached Fort La Boeuf, but was told to go on to Venango which he reached on 4 December. He made his proclamation, but was rebuffed. He dined with the French officers that night, when they reiterated that the Ohio Country was French and had been for almost a hundred years. Washington returned to Dinwiddie with the response.
Upon Washington’s return, Dinwiddie promoted him to major and authorized him to raise 100 more men to assist and resupply Trent, and take over construction and garrison of the fort. However, Washington was delayed while recruiting and by the middle of March, Trent was running out of provisions. So Trent left the fort to travel back down the road to request more supplies from Dinwiddie, leaving his second in command, Lt John Fraser.
John Fraser was also a fur trader, but he only accepted his commission on the condition he was able to conduct his business simultaneously. As soon as Trent departed, Fraser also left for his own trading post eight miles up the Monongahela leaving young Ensign Edward Ward in charge. Work proceeded quickly but not quick enough. In early April a French spy spotted the work reported back. In the meantime, belts were being tightened when Gist arrived and informed Ward that he had provisions at the Redstone post, if he just sent some men to gather them and bring them back. Ward dispatched half his men. The next day he was informed the French were enroute. Ward attempted to convince Fraser to come back but he was busy making money and couldn’t be bothered. Ward and Tanacharison constructed a hasty palisade around the completed storehouse but couldn’t do anymore because the French arrived quicker than expected. On 17 April 600 French regulars and another 400 militia and Indians under Captain Claude-Pierre Pecaudy Contrecoeur landed just outside musket range.
Ward and Tanacharison’s 41 men were no match and they surrendered that day. Contrecoeur tore the fort down and began building a new one. Tanacharison was furious, not that they surrendered but that the French would dare dismantle a structure in which he laid the first log. Ward and the Virginia militia departed the next day, but Tanacharison and his men stayed to observe the French.
Ward met Washington and his men on the way back and informed him of the loss. Washington was determined to retake the fort and sent a letter to Dinwiddie for artillery. He also sent a letter Tanacharison thanking him for his loyalty and asking him to recruit more men to help take the fort. Washington moved his force to Great Meadows (Farmington, PA) to await the artillery from Dinwiddie.
A French fort at the forks of the Ohio made all of the colonial trading posts on any of its tributaries untenable and unprofitable. This was an unacceptable situation for Tanacharison. The French had to be removed and Tanacharison did not personally command enough men to do it himself, and he would receive no assistance from his erstwhile superiors, the Iroquois. In fact he was probably going to be killed for what he had already done. Tanacharison needed a war between Britain and France.
Washington and Tanacharison exchanged several letters about the progress of the new fort the French were building. Named after the most recent governor of New France, Fort Duquesne was a proper star fort in the latest style and nearly impregnable against any small force if properly garrisoned. By the end of May, Dinwiddie promoted Washington again, this time to Lieutenant Colonel, and reinforced him with more Virginians and a company of South Carolina militia. On 24 May, 1754, Washington received a letter from Tanacharison that the French were on their way to defeat him and that he needed to strike first. Washington dispatched two groups, one under Gist and another under a Captain Hog to protect trading nearby trading posts and ambush any French attempts to torch them. On 27 May, Tanacharison gave Washington the location of a French camp of about 40 men, and that he should meet him there so they could both attack at the same time. Washington, who assumed hostilities between the French and British empires had already commenced with the loss of Fort Saint George the month before, agreed and decided to attack.
To the French this was not the case. The capture of the forks of the Ohio was bloodless affair and therefore not the opening salvo of a war. The camp described by Tanacharison was that of Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville accompanied by 40 French marines and Canadian militia. Jumonville was enroute to Washington, not to attack him, but demand his withdrawal from French territory, an identical mission to the one Washington made to Venango. Tanacharison almost certainly knew this, but did not pass this information to Washington.
That day, Washington took 40 men of Wagoner’s Company to meet Tanacharison outside the French camp. He was surprised to find Tanacharison had just twelve Mingo warriors with him, two of whom were little more than boys. Nevertheless, the young Washington was committed as he didn’t want to lose face in front of the much older and wiser half-king. They surrounded the glen where Jumonville had his camp and attacked at dawn.
The Battle of Jumonville’s Glen lasted less than 15 minutes. Washington and Tanacharison’s men fired two volleys into the exposed French, which prompted a wounded Jumonville to surrender. As the prisoners were sorted, Tanacharison found Jumonville, and in front of Washington, their men and the prisoners, planted his tomahawk in Jumonville’s skull, killing him. He then scalped him.
Tanacharison got his war.
The loss of Trent’s Fort, or Fort Saint George as it was known to the Ohio Company, was arguably the first act of war between Britain and France that would eventually grow into the Seven Years War or the French and Indian War as it was known in North America. What cannot be argued was that the murder of Jumonville by Tanacharison was the act that led to French to seek revenge, and eventually Washington’s defeat and surrender at Fort Necessity in July. The two battles convinced the prime minister of Great Britain, the Duke of Newcastle, to dispatch and expeditionary force led by General Edward Braddock, to North American to dislodge the French. Braddock’s defeat and the French alliance with Austria caused the war to expand to Europe. Frederick the Great’s Prussia launched a preemptive war against the Austrians, which cemented a British-Prussian alliance. The Seven Year’s War raged around the globe until 1763 and caused permanent split in Indian-American relations from which “they shall never come to peace again”.
Tanacharison didn’t live long enough to see his dream of an independent Ohio Indian nation, or even the rest of the war. He was scornful of Washington’s Fort Necessity at Great Meadows and took his men and departed before the French surrounded them. Cut off from his people in the Ohio Country, Tanacharison sought refuge with the ardently pro-British Seneca Queen Aliquippa, who had also broken with the Iroquois. However, he took ill late that summer with pneumonia. Aliquippa took him to the farm of the Susquehanna ferryman John Harris (present day Paxtang, PA, just outside Harrisburg) where he died on 4 October 1754.
The murder of Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville by Mingo half-king Tanacharison while under George Washington’s care was one of the seminal moments in Atlantic history, everything that happened before it led up to it and everything that happened after it was caused by it.
In the early days of the French and Indian War on the Pennsylvania frontier, newly formed Pennsylvania regulars and militia counter raided Ohio Indian villages, while the forts completed in 1757 brought some semblance of security to the frontier. In Philadelphia, the Quakers went on their own “peace offensive” against the Ohio Indians. The official position of the Pennsylvania Assembly was that the land west of the Juniata and East Susquehanna River valleys belonged to the Iroquois Confederation and that the colonists were interlopers. This caused a deadlock in the Assembly about negotiating with the Indians. Israel Pemberton, the Quakers’ leader in the Pennsylvania Assembly, formed the “Friendly Association for Preserving and Regaining Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures.” The “Friendly Association” took advantage of the lack of French and British traders in some Delaware lands to begin negotiations with Indians desperate for trade goods that weren’t forthcoming because of the war parties. Pemberton brought food and goods in exchange for temporary cease fires among the isolated tribes.
Pemberton’s efforts were rewarded when in 1758, the Ohio Indians, the Iroquois, and peace delegates led by Conrad Weiser from Pennsylvania met in Easton. The Delaware half-king Teedyuscung declared himself the “King of the Delawares” and he took the lead in most of the peace negotiations with the Pennsylvanians on behalf of the Ohio Indians. The Iroquois were neutral in the French and Indian War, and felt that to resume subjugation of Teedyuscung and the Ohio Indians, who had grown beyond their control, peace was needed on the frontier. Until the French and Indian War, the Iroquois ruled over their Ohio Indian subjects, the Delaware, Shawnee, and Monongahela, through the Mingo. The Treaty of Easton in October 1757 resulted in the nullification of the Albany Purchase and an agreement that no colonial would settle the lands beyond the crests of the highest mountains, as implied in the original Lancaster Treaty, but was specified in the Easton Treaty.
Along with the Quaker peace overtures at Easton, Christian Frederick Post, a Moravian missionary who was married to a Delaware woman and was known to most of the Delaware tribes, travelled the Ohio country spreading the news of the conference at Easton. Many of the Ohio Indians seemed to warm to the peace initiatives because Great Lakes Indians were no better overlords than the Iroquois, and the French didn’t seem to want to depart their land either. They were also concerned with Brigadier General John Forbes’ expedition which was just ascending the east slopes of the Allegheny Mountains, building a road and constructing forts along the way. Like the disastrous Braddock expedition the year before, Forbes was tasked with expelling the French from the Ohio Country. Post told the Ohio Indians that as long as the French were in the Upper Ohio Valleys, Forbes would continue and the British would stay.
General John Forbes was a regular British officer sent to the colonies to attempt what had eluded Gen Braddock – seize Fort Duquesne and the French forts below the southern shore of Lake Erie. Fort Duquesne was the primary staging ground for all of the Great Lakes’ Indian raids on the Pennsylvania frontier and served as their “village.” To assist Forbes in this endeavor was the man who would come to epitomize the frontier soldier in Pennsylvania: Colonel Henri Bouquet.
Bouquet was a colorful Swiss mercenary with extensive experience fighting in the Europe and America. He accepted a commission during King George’s War in the 60th “Royal American” Regiment, a regular British regiment recruited specifically to fight in America and easily recognized by their distinctive forest green uniforms. Despite the only surviving portrait of him as a portly cleft chinned gentlemen, Bouquet was a rugged, creative and competent frontier soldier. Bouquet understood the realities of frontier fighting. Although he shared the typical British officer’s disdain of colonial militia, he recognized that militia understood frontier fighting and were better suited to a variety of roles that would cause regulars to be underutilized, such as vanguard, flank and rear guard, and manning fortifications. Moreover, he was quick to see that in the militia there were true frontiersmen sprinkled about. These special individuals could serve as scouts and raiders modeled of Maj. Robert Rogers’ Rangers in New York. Finally, Bouquet knew the potential of regular troops and if trained properly could assume the roles of light fighter and raider as necessary. To this end he encouraged his men to “brown their musket barrels”, doff their bright red uniforms and replace them with “browns and greens”.
Lt. Col. Bouquet’s scouts and rangers found that the best route to Fort Duquesne was not via Fort Cumberland and Virginia in the south, but from Fort Lyttleton in the east. The Pennsylvania militia agreed wholeheartedly, as the route gave them better claim to the Ohio country than the Virginians. The Virginians, led by Lt-Col George Washington, protested vehemently, and even suggested a separate thrust via Cumberland. Forbes, trusting in Bouquet’s assessment, ordered the expedition to assemble at Fort Lyttleton.
As Post and Pemberton were hammering out a peace treaty with Teedyuscung and the Ohio Indians, Forbes’ Expedition was slowly cutting a road over the mountains (Today’s US 22). Forbes periodically stopped and built forts to secure his communications and logistics to the east. These forts, such as Fort Ligonier and Fort Bedford among other smaller outposts, provided a secure place to withdraw in the event of difficulties, safely rest and water the horses, and stockpile provisions. They also provided spots for scouts to return to in a timely manner with information regarding Indian war parties transiting east or returning west. Unfortunately, Forbes became increasingly invalided with “the flux” (probably stomach cancer), and by the time Fort Ligonier was established, he was carried in a litter and Bouquet was the de facto expedition commander.
When Bouquet’s column arrived in the vicinity of Fort Duquesne, he dispatched Maj James Grant with his Highlander regulars and some provincial militia to conduct a reconnaissance in force of the fort. Grant was instructed to withdraw if he encountered any Indians, and ambush the inevitable pursuit. Grant, a British officer in the Braddock mold, advanced in formation with drums pounding and pipes playing. Grant’s column was ambushed and wiped out after torching several of Fort Duquesne’s outlying blockhouses. This was an unfortunate turn of events because at that moment Christian Post was negotiating the withdrawal of all of the Ohio Indians from French service. Had Grant done what he was supposed to do, his men would have survived. Post brought peace belts and the news of the Treaty of Easton to Fort Duquesne’s Ohio Indians. When Bouquet arrived with the main column, he met Post and the Ohio Indians on the way back to their villages. With most of their Ohio Indian “auxiliaries” gone, the Great Lakes’ Indians deserted the French, and with few Indian allies remaining the French withdrew to Fort Venango and burned Fort Duquesne to the ground. As Bouquet and Post approached the ruined fort on 25 November 1758, they were greeted with the scalps, bloody kilts, and mutilated bodies of Grant’s Highlanders.
Lt. Col. Bouquet, the senior capable British officer on the Pennsylvania frontier, had to return to Philadelphia with the incapacitated Forbes and the vast majority of the 5000 man army. He left 200 men under Cpt. Hugh Mercer to hold the Forks of the Ohio that winter, maintain relations with Indians, and keep track of French movements. Like most militia, Hugh Mercer was a recent immigrant, specifically from Scotland, where he was a doctor in the army of the Jacobite Rebellion. However, he was an experienced frontiersman. In the confusion during John Armstrong’s withdrawal from Kittanning in 1757, the wounded Mercer became separated, and it took the tough Scotsman 14 days of living on berries, hiding during the day and traveling at night to reach the safety of one Pennsylvania’s new forts. He received his commission in the militia after that, and became one of Bouquet’s most trusted subordinates, along with Lt.-Col Washington of Virgina, during the construction of Forbes’ Road to the Forks.
Mercers’ first priority after constructing a small fort to shelter his men from the winter weather and French attack, was maintaining the neutrality of the Ohio Indians. He could only do this by continually assuring the Mingo half-kings and Ohio Indian chiefs, such as Shingas and Tamacua, who were instrumental in Post’s peace deal that the British would depart when the French were gone. In December 1758, Mercer called a great council fire with the Ohio Indian chiefs where he stressed that the Treaty of Easton would be honored. He even recruited Iroquois to back his message, who were happy in any attempt to reassert their control over the Ohio Indians. However, as was suspected by the Ohio Indians, the British and their Iroquois allies had no intention of departing the Ohio Country despite the Easton Treaty, (or the later Proclamation of 1763). In the spring of 1759, the Delaware, Shawnee, and Mingo looked on with suspicion when Cpt. Henry Gordon, a Royal Engineer, with 200 artificers arrived at the growing village, Pittsburgh, outside of Mercer’s small fort. Gordon had orders to build what became the second largest fort in colonial America, Fort Pitt.
Though the French and Indian War continued for three more years, violence on the Pennsylvania frontier declined dramatically after Bouquet seized the remains of Fort Duquesne and Mercer constructed Fort Pitt.
In the early days of the Seven Years War, known in the British colonies of North America as the French and Indian War, Prussia was surrounded and isolated by its enemies France, Sweden, Saxony, Russia and Austria. Frederick II, King in Prussia’s only major ally was Great Britain. Unfortunately for Frederick, the British war would be conducted in India, the West Indies, the Americas, and especially on the high seas. King George II could offer no military assistance to the Prussians on the European continent. In 1757, the weight of numbers was immediately felt by Frederick and his small army. His initial invasion of Bohemia to knock Austria out of the war failed, the Russians over ran East Prussia, France steamrolled his small German allies to the west, and Austria was marching on Silesia to the south with a massive army from the heart of their empire.
Frederick however had two big advantages: he had interior lines of communication which allowed him to quickly shift his army to face the different threats, and his army was much more highly trained and disciplined than his opponents’. Knowing the French would be an easier target, he first engaged and mauled the French “mob” at the Battle of Rossbach; lest they fall upon him from behind as he moved to face the much larger and better trained Austrian Army. He then turned to face the Austrians.
At the town of Leuthen (Lutyia in modern Poland), Frederick’s 37,000 man force encountered the 80,000 strong army under Prince Charles of Lorraine. What Charles didn’t know was that the rolling hills around Leuthen were the Prussian Army’s primary drill grounds and maneuver training area. Every one of Frederick’s soldiers, officers and units had spent thousands of hours learning and mastering the rigid tactics of the eighteenth century linear battlefield there. And now they were going to fight a battle on the very ground they’d trained on.
On 5 December 1757, the two armies lined up opposite each other. In the early morning mist and fog common to Central Europe, Frederick disengaged from battle before it really even began. Prince Charles was surprised, but nonetheless let the Prussians leave unmolested, confident that Frederick would have to eventually face him. It would happen much sooner than he expected.
Frederick was just feigning retreat and marched south over the familiar terrain around the Austrians’ left flank without getting lost in the fog, all the while screened by the hills. Once south of the Austrians, Frederick’s entire highly trained army did the 37,000 man equivalent of a “Left Flank, March” and rolled up the Austrians from the south while the Austrians were still facing west. Unable to concentrate any sort of mass to the face the attack, the surprised and confused Austrians broke in short order.
The Seven Years War/French and Indian War would eventually become the planet’s first “World War” but because of the Battle of Leuthen, the next five years of that war would be fought on Prussian and British…and American terms.