| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
HOW A TERRIBLE DISASTER BEFELL THE BRITISH ARMY
 WE have now seen something of the great struggle between French
and British for the continent of America. War after war broke out,
peace after peace was signed. But each peace was no more than a
truce, and even when the noise of cannon ceased there was nearly
always war with the Redman, for he took sides and fought for French
or British. And as years went past the struggle grew ever more and
more bitter. If the French had had their way, the British would have
been hemmed in between the Alleghenies and the sea. If the British
had had their way the French would have been confined to a little
strip of land north of the St. Lawrence. It became plain at length
to every one that in all the wide continent there was no room for
both. One must go. But which?
The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was not a year old before the last,
great struggle began. Both French and British had now cast their
eyes on the valley of the Ohio, and the spot where Pittsburgh now
stands became known as the Gateway of the West. The British determined
to possess that gateway, but the French were just as determined to
prevent them ever getting through it. So the French began to build
a line of forts from Lake Erie southward to the gate of the west.
Now, Virginia claimed all this land, and when two French forts had
been built the Governor of Virginia began to be both alarmed and
angry. He decided, therefore, to send a messenger to the French
 tell them that they were on British ground, and bid them to be
It was not an easy task, and one which had to be done with courtesy
and firmness. Therefore Dinwiddie resolved to send a "person of
distinction." So as his messenger he chose a young man named George
Washington. He was a straightforward, tall young man, well used to
a woodland life, but withal a gentleman, the descendant of one of
the old Royalist families who had come to Virginia in the time of
Cromwell, and just the very man for the Governor's purpose.
It was a long and toilsome journey through pathless forest, over
hills, deep snows and frozen rivers, a journey which none but one
skilled in forest lore could endure.
But at length after weeks of weary marching Washington arrived at Fort
le Bœuf. The Frenchmen greeted him courteously, and entertained
him in the most friendly fashion during the three days which
the commander took to make up his answer. The answer was not very
satisfactory. The commander promised to send Dinwiddie's letter
to the Governor of Canada. "But meanwhile," he added, "my men and
I will stay where we are. I have been commanded to take possession
of the country, and I mean to do it to the best of my ability."
With this answer Washington set out again, and after many adventures
and dangers arrived safely once more at Williamsburg.
In the spring the Frenchmen marched south to the Gateway of the
West. Here they found a party of British, who had begun to build a
fort. The French, who were in far greater numbers, surrounded them
and bade them surrender. This the British did, being utterly unable
to defend themselves. The French then seized the fort, levelled
it to the ground, and began to build one of their own, which they
called Fort Duquesne.
 Upon this, Dinwiddie resolved to dislodge the French, and he sent
a small force and when its leader died he took command. But he
was not able to dislodge the French. So after some fighting he was
obliged to make terms with the enemy and march home discomfited.
Up to this time the war was purely an American one. France and
Britain were at peace, and neither country sent soldiers to help
their colonies. It was the settlers, the farmers, fishermen and
fur traders of New England and New France who fought each other.
And in this the French had one great advantage over the British.
The French were united, the British were not. New France was like
one great colony in which every man was ready to answer the call
The British were divided into thirteen colonies. Each one of the
thirteen colonies was jealous of all the others; each was selfishly
concerned with its own welfare and quite careless of the welfare of
the others. But already the feelings of patriotism had been born.
Among the many who cared nothing for union there were a few who
did. There were some who were neither Virginians nor New Englanders,
neither Georgians nor Carolinians, but Americans. These now felt
that if they were not to become the vassals of France they must
stand shoulder to shoulder.
A Congress of all the Northern Colonies was now called at Albany
to discuss some means of defence. And at this Congress Benjamin
Franklin proposed a plan of union. But the colonies would have nothing
to say to it. Some took no notice of it at all, others treated it
with scorn, or said it put too much power into the hands of the
King. As to the King, when he heard of it he rejected it also, for,
said he, it gave too much power to the colonies. So for the time
being nothing came of it.
Meanwhile the Governors of the various
 home to England, and, seeing how serious the matter
was becoming, the British Government sent out two regiments of
soldiers to help the colonies. They were about a thousand men in
all, and were under the leadership of Major-General Edward Braddock.
As so as the French heard this they, too, sent soldiers to Canada.
It was just like a game of "Catch who catch can." For as soon as
the British knew that French troops were sailing to America they
sent a squadron to stop them. But the French had got a start, and
most of them got away. The British ships, however, overtook some
which had lagged behind the others.
As soon as they were within hailing distance a red flag was suddenly
run up to the masthead of the British flagship.
"Is this peace or war?" shouted the French captain.
"I don't know," answered the British, "But you had better prepare
for war." He, however, gave the Frenchman little time to prepare,
for the words were hardly out of his mouth before the thunder of
cannon was heard.
The Frenchmen fought pluckily. But they were far outnumbered, and
were soon forced to surrender.
Thus both on land and sea fighting had begun. Yet war had not been
declared and King George and King Louis were still calling each
other "dear cousin" or "dear brother," and making believe that
there was no thought of war.
But the little success on sea was followed up by a bitter disaster
General Braddock now commanded the whole army both home and colonial.
He was a brave and honest man, but obstinate, fiery-tempered and
narrow. He had a tremendous idea of what his own soldiers could
do, and he was very scornful of the colonials. He was still more
scornful of the Indians. "These savages," he said to Franklin,
indeed be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia. But upon
the King's regular and disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible
that they should make any impression."
The haughty savages were quick to see that he looked down upon them.
"He looks upon us as dogs," they said, and drawing their ragged
blankets about them they stalked off deeply offended. With the same
narrow pride Braddock turned away another useful ally.
This was Captain Jack, the Black Hunter. He was a white man, but
he roamed the woods dressed like an Indian, followed be a band of
men as reckless and lawless as himself. The Black Hunter, however,
although he dressed like an Indian, was the white man's friend,
the Redman's deadly foe.
He had been at one time, it was said, a peaceful settler living
happily with his wife and children. But one day he returned from
hunting to find his cottage in ashes, and his wife and children dead
among the ruins. In his grief and rage he vowed eternal vengeance
on the Indians who had done the evil deed, robbing him for ever
of home and happiness. Henceforth he roamed the woods a terror to
the Redmen. For his aim was unerring, he could steal through the
forest as silently and swiftly as they, and was as learned in all
the woodland lore. His very name indeed struck terror to the hearts
of all his foes.
Black Hunter now with his wild band of followers offered his help
to Braddock. They were well armed, they cared neither for heat nor
cold. they required no tents nor shelter for the night; not did
they ask for any pay.
General Braddock looked at the gaunt weather-beaten man of the
woods, clad in hunting shirt and moccasins, painted and bedecked
with feathers like an Indian. Truly a strange ally, he thought.
have experienced troops," he said, "on whom I can depend."
And finding that he could get no other answer Black Hunter and his
men drew off, and disappeared into the woods whence they had come.
On the other hand Braddock had much to put up with. The whole
success of the expedition depended on swiftness. The British must
strike a blow before the French had time to arm. But when Braddock
landed nothing was ready; there were no stores, no horses, no
waggons. And it seemed impossible to gather them. Nobody seemed to
care greatly whether the expedition set out or not. So, goaded to
fury Braddock stamped and swore, and declared that nearly every
one he had to do with was stupid or dishonest.
But at length the preparations were complete, and in June the
expedition set out.
From the first things went wrong. Had Braddock gone through
Pennsylvania he would have found a great part of his road cleared
for him. But he went through Virginia, and had to hew his way
through pathless forest.
In front of the army went three hundred axemen to cut down trees and
clear a passage. Behind them the long baggage train jolted slowly
onwards, now floundering axle deep through mud, now rocking
perilously over stumps or stones. On either side threading in and
out among the trees marched the soldiers. So day after day the
many-coloured cavalcade wound along, bugle call and sound of drum
awakening the forest silences.
The march was toilsome, and many of the men, unused to the hardships
of the wilderness, fell ill, and the slow progress became slower
still. At length Braddock decided to divide his force, and leaving
the sick men and the heaviest baggage behind, press on more rapidly
with the others. It was George Washington who went with him as an
aide-de-camp who advised this.
 So the sick and all baggage that could be done without were left
behind with Colonel Dunbar. But even after this the progress was
Meanwhile news of the coming of the British army had been carried
to the French at Fort Duquesne. And when they heard how great the
force was, they were much alarmed. But a gallant Frenchman named
Beaujeu offered to go out and meet the British, lie in wait for
them and take them unawares. But to do this he had need of Indian
help. So council fires were lit and Beaujeu flung down the war
hatchet. But the Indians refused it, for they were afraid of the
great British force.
"Do you want to die, our father?" they asked, "and sacrifice us
"I am determined to go," said Beaujeu. "What! Will you let your
father go alone? I know we shall win."
Seeing him so confident the Indians forgot their fears, and the
war dance was danced. Then, smeared with paint and led by Beaujeu
himself dressed like a savage, they marched to meet the British.
There were about six hundred Indians and half as many Frenchmen.
Stealthily they crept through the forest, flitting like shadows
from tree to tree, closing ever nearer and nearer upon the British.
They, meanwhile, had reached the river Monongahela. They crossed
it gaily, for they knew now that Fort Duquesne was near; their
toilsome march was at an end, and victory was sure.
It was a glorious summer morning; the bands played, the men laughed
and shouted joyously. The long line swept onward, a glittering
pageant of scarlet and blue, of shining steel and fluttering banners.
Then suddenly out of the forest darted a man dressed like an Indian.
When he saw the advancing column he stopped. Then turning, he waved
to some one behind him.
 It was Beaujeu, and at his signal the air
was rent with the terrible Indian war cry, and a hail of bullets
swept the British ranks.
Shouting "God save the King" the British returned to fire. But it
availed little, for they could not see the enemy. From the shelter
of the forest, hidden behind trees, the French and Indians fired
upon the British. They were an easy mark, for they stood solidly,
shoulder to shoulder, their scarlet coats showing clearly against
the green background. Still the British stood their ground firing
volley after volley. It was quite useless, for they could see no
enemy. The puffs of smoke were their only guides. To aim at the
points where the smoke came from was all they could do. But for
the most part their bullets crashed through the branches, or were
buried in tree trunks, while the pitiless rain of lead mowed down
The American soldiers fared better. For as soon as they were attacked
they scattered, and from behind the shelter of trees fought the
Indians in their own fashion. Some of the British tried to do the
same. But Braddock had no knowledge of savage warfare. To fight in
such a manner seemed to him shocking. It was unsoldierly; it was
cowardly. So he swore savagely at his men, calling them cowards,
and beat them back into line with the flat of his sword. And thus
huddled together they stood a brilliant, living target for the
bullets of the savages.
Braddock himself fought with fury. He dashed here and there, swearing,
commanding, threatening. Four horses were shot under him, and at
last he himself fell wounded to death.
Washington too fought with fearless bravery, trying to carry out
Braddock's frenzied orders. And although he escaped unhurt his
clothes were riddled with holes, and twice his horse was shot under
For nearly three hours the terrible carnage lasted. Then
and blood could stand no more, and the men broke rank and fled.
All night they fled in utter rout, bearing with them their wounded
At length they reached Dunbar's camp. But even then they did not
pause. For the news of the disaster had thrown the whole camp into
confusion. Frantic orders were given, and obeyed with frenzied
haste. Waggon loads of stores were burned, barrels of
were staved in, and the contents poured into the river; shells and
bullets were buried. Then, the work of destruction complete, the
whole army moved on again in utter rout.
And now Braddock's dark, last hour had come. Brooding and silent
he lay in his litter. This awful defeat was something he could not
grasp. "Who would have thought it?" he murmured. "Who would have
thought it?" But his stubborn spirit was yet unbroken. "We will
know better how to do it another time," he sighed. A few minutes
later he died.
His men buried him in the middle of the road, Washington reading
over him the prayers for the dead. Then lest the Indians should
find and desecrate his last resting-place the whole army passed
over his grave.
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