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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter VI. — Nationality of the Indians in Braddock's Defeat.

CIVILIZED communities regard success as the result of superior judgment; but, with the Indians, it is the effect of an impulsive, irresistible movement, under the operation of which judgment gives place to hope, and they are incited to such infuriate action as to produce confusion in the ranks of the enemy. Fort Du Quesne had no sooner been established, than it became a centre for the direction of Indian movements in the west. Far and near they resorted to it. Feasts, dances, and the distribution of presents, were the order of the day, and the vicinity resounded with shouts and songs. The frontiers of the English colonies were speedily subjected to Indian inroads and attacks. Dinwiddie, by his tardy movements, had lost his vantage-ground, and Virginia enterprise, though directed by its best men, failed to recover its former position. The year 1754 was characterized by alarms, murders, apprehension, the formation of plans, and their failure. There was no security on the frontiers, from Carolina to Pennsylvania, nor in western New York. The Catawbas and Cherokees had not been employed to counteract the movements of the western Indians; this measure was not thought of in the zeal of the Ohio company to effect settlements, or in the efforts of the local military forces to dislodge the French. Washington defeated Jumonville by a brisk movement, displaying great enterprise and decision; but he was himself compelled to surrender to a vastly superior force, at Fort Necessity.

The year 1755 afforded but a gloomy prospect for the cause of the colonies. Never before, perhaps, had they been so boldly threatened by the combined power of the Indians and the French. The Alleghanies were the natural barriers between the east and the west. To retrieve their position in the west, and to open the way for future emigration beyond the Alleghanies, where there are, at present, fifteen new States, the British cabinet sent out two regiments of veteran troops, under the command of General Braddock, who was a proud, high-disciplined soldier, despising the very name of an Indian, and deeming him incapable of making any impression on the solid columns of a regular army. Braddock had learned the art of war on the battle-fields of Europe, and disdained all skulking and dodging, which is the real art of Indian warfare. He underrated the colonial troops and frontiersmen, not only because they were not highly disciplined, but because they had, to some extent, adopted the hunter mode of warfare. His landing at Alexandria, the glitter and parade of war which pervaded his movements,

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his councils with the colonial governors, and the wide-spread fame of the expedition, which was designed to cross the Alleghanies, filled the entire country. Braddock was clothed with the fullest powers by the king. Colonial governors waited upon him, and expectation had reached the highest pitch of excitement. At no previous period had such an army been landed in America. Among those who waited on him at Alexandria, was General William Johnson, charged by the New York colonial government with the control of Indian affairs in the Mohawk valley, and among the Iroquois. Braddock appointed him Superintendent-General of Indian affairs in America, clothed him with ample powers, and provided him with funds. 264 Braddock completed his arrangements. Filling up his regiments with the best recruits, having an ample military chest, a well-arranged quartermaster's department, the most experienced guides and pioneers, and Washington himself as an aid in his personal staff, it is not strange that he conquered every delay, and surmounted difficulties of a semi-Alpine character, in conveying his troops and cannon over the intricate passes of the Alleghany range, and in reaching the dark and turbid, yet placid waters of the Monongahela. But it is wonderful that, after this long and laborious march, during which a passage for his platoons had been cut through forests of thick trees, tangled with brushwood, and the artillery had been sometimes lowered over steep precipices by sailors, with ropes; and, although he was aware that a wild, Arab-like enemy was shouting around him; it is wonderful that, under these circumstances, he should not have proposed to meet this subtle foe in the manner best calculated to defeat them, and that he turned a deaf ear to all the counsels of experience. Up to the fatal 9th of July, the army marched through a narrow vista, twelve feet wide, cut through a dense forest, into which the eye could scarce penetrate. But, in such a forest, it would have been strange, if eight hundred warriors, led by French commanders, and concealed behind trees, from the shelter of which they took sure and steady aim, should not, in a short time, shoot down every officer, whose cockade and sword were distinctive marks, and also quickly annihilate the common soldiers. This was, indeed, fencing against flails, and fighting against hope. The forest itself seemed to be armed; "Birnam wood" was advancing, and filled with hostile foes. In an almost incredibly short time, 700 men and their officers lay dead on the field; the advanced columns, panic-struck, commenced a flight, which nothing could check; the General himself fell, and that proud army which, in early morning had crossed the Monongahela in gallant array, with drums beating and colors flying, fled like sheep before wolves, abandoning their cannon, their ammunition, and their wounded to their implacable foes. Washington, who became the guardian angel of the remnant of the troops left on the field, had two horses shot under him, and four bullets driven through his clothes. This defeat was effected by the western and northern Indians, the

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Chippewas, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, and Wyandots, who were chiefly of Algonquin lineage. The French Indians, from the lakes, were present in great force; and it has been surmised that Pontiac himself was their leader. The Iroquois were not on the field in their tribal character, although some Mingoes 265 and Senecas were present. Johnson had urged the necessity of sending the warriors with Braddock, but they declined. 266 The utmost result of his efforts was, that they promised not to oppose him.

It is an error to suppose that Braddock was the only one who placed no faith in the efficiency of Indian guerilla warfare. Educated military men, in all ages of our history, have been prone to undervalue the Indian system; and these opinions are held by officers at the present day. If the battle is not always to the strong, it cannot be expected that David, with his sling, will always kill Goliath; but well-drilled armies must be efficiently protected on their flanks, and an accurate adaptation of means to ends must ever be preserved in the tangled forest, which cannot be penetrated, as well as on the level plain, where the view is uninterrupted. The heavy, camp-fed, clumsy-footed soldier is never a match, in the forest, for the light, active Indian warrior. A review of our Indian history, from Braddock's day to the present era, proves that a small Indian force in ambuscade, is an equivalent for, or will overmatch, ten times its number of regular troops, who adhere to the system of fighting in platoons. The regulars are either thrown into confusion, become panic-struck, are slaughtered in large numbers, or are totally defeated. Such was the result of Colonel Harmer's attempt to ford the Miami, and of St. Clair's to penetrate the Wabash woods. General Wayne, who was like a lion, where there was an opportunity to fight, as at Stony Point, was obliged to abandon the ground on which Fort Recovery was subsequently built. During two entire years he contended against tribes of active warriors, whose fathers, nay, some among themselves, had fought against Braddock. It was not until caution had made him wise, and he attained a true knowledge of Indian wood-craft, that he finally prevailed against them, on the Miami of the Lakes. It was there that he met the Miamis, Piankashaws, and Weas, under Little Turtle, and the same leaders who had opposed Harmer and St. Clair. They were leagued with the Chippewas, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, Delawares, Shawnees, and other Algonquin tribes, who, with the Wyandots, had overthrown Braddock. It is not, however, certain that, if the ambuscade so successfully and warily constructed, in a wide field of heavy grass, at the Miami rapids, had been laid in a dense forest, where horses would have been useless, the result would not have been very different.

What, but the neglect of caution, or temerity in underrating Indian prowess and

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aboriginal tactics, can be assigned for the occurrence of the dreadful massacre of Major Dade and his command, by the Seminoles?

It has been asserted, 267 that there were but 637 Indians engaged in the action which resulted in Braddock's defeat. These consisted principally of Ottawas, Odjibwas, and Pottawattainies, from Michigan; Shawnees, from Grave Creek and the river Muskingum; Delawares from the Susquehanna; Abinakis and Caughnawagas from Canada; and Hurons, or Wyandots, from the mission of Lorette and the Montreal falls, under Athanase, a Canadian. The whole were commanded by the popular Beaujeau, who was killed early in the action. This force, including the recreant Abinakis, was, as may be seen, entirely of the Algonquin family, with the exception of the Hurons, a segregated Iroquois tribe, who had always sided with the French, and a few "scattered warriors from the Six Nations." To this force were added 146 Canadian militia, and 72 regular troops, who fought according to the Indian mode. It is impossible that such a defeat could have occurred under ordinary circumstances; and the fact conclusively attests the efficacy of an Indian auxiliary force as a vanguard to regular troops, in a wild forest country, where they can screen themselves from observation, and bid defiance to the death-dealing artillery, or the attacks of dragoons. No event in American military annals cast such a blight on American hopes, as this defeat. After the lapse of a full century, a thrill of horror still creeps through the veins at the recital. 268

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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