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groan, and Noah Stevens, turning his eyes in the direction of the noise, saw the wounded major sitting at the root of an oak tree at the place where the rains had hollowed out the earth. The major was covered with blood and dust and was swearing like a trooper.
"Egad! general, they've got us down," he growled.
"Who would have thought it?" sighed the general. Braddock was still able to give orders, and had a faint hope of being able to keep possession of the ground until re-enforced. Most of the men were stationed in a very advantageous spot about two hundred yards from the road, and LieutenantColonel Burton posted small parties and sentinels. Before an hour, the thoroughly disheartened regulars had stolen off, and Braddock and his officers continued to retreat. He tried to mount a horse, but was too weak and had to be carried by his men. His wounds were bleeding quite profusely, and at every exhalation the blood gushed from his chest. Orme and Morris were placed on litters borne by horses; but Major Bridges was able to retain his seat in the saddle.
"Egad! I've had quite enough of such warfare. If they will come out and fight like Christians and gentlemen, I have no objection to taking a hand; but zounds! I can't fight ground-hogs."
General Gage, who had succeeded in rallying about eighty men, joined them. The retreat presented a constant scene of horror. At almost every rod some poor fellow pierced with a bullet had run until he fell. Wounded men and deserters were constantly joining them. The ground was strewn with muskets, drums, saddles and swords.
Notwithstanding that Washington was still weak from fever, he was the most efficient officer in the service, and Braddock sent him to Colonel Dunbar's camp, forty miles distant, with orders for him to hurry forward provisions, hospital stores and wagons for the wounded, under the escort of two companies of grenadiers.
He took with him Captain Noah Stevens and ten mounted Virginians. It was a hard and melancholy ride throughout the night and following day. The wagoners who had cut loose their horses and fled at the fall of Braddock had already carried the news of the defeat. They were constantly overtaking flying regulars who had deserted. Most of them had thrown away their muskets, and all were suffering from hunger. Many begged to be taken on their horses.
Late in the evening they came upon three regulars, who demanded their horses. Washington and Noah had fallen behind the others nearly a fourth of a mile.
"Stand aside!" said Washington in his calm, yet firm voice.
"We want those horses!" growled the brutal soldier, who had a musket. "Give 'em up, or 1 will shoot you. I have walked until I am tired."
"Stand aside!" thundered Colonel Washington.
The ruffian cocked his musket; but Washington levelled his pistol at his head and cried:
"Lower your gun!"
Another made a snatch at the rein of Washington's horse, when Noah struck him with the back of his sword and felled him to the ground.
"Off with you, cowards and ruffians!" cried Washington. They fell back and the horsemen galloped on. On the evening of the next day, they arrived at the camp with the orders, and everything was made ready to return. At daylight next morning, Washington and Noah Stevens led the convoy of supplies. At Gist's plantation, about thirteen miles off, he met Gage and his scanty force escorting Braddock and his wounded officers. Captain Stewart and a sad remnant of the Virginia light horse still accompanied the general as his guard. The captain was unremitting in his attentions to the wounded general during the retreat. There was a halt of one day at Dunbar's camp for the repose and relief of the wounded. On the 13th they resumed their melancholy march, and that night reached the great meadows. Braddock was sinking very rapidly and was so weak that Noah Stevens predicted he would not live until morning.
His defeat had broken the proud spirit of the British general. He was silent most of the evening after the battle, only ejaculating occasionally through the night:
"Who would have thought it?" The day after the battle, he was weaker and still silent; yet hope lingered in his breast, for he exclaimed with a sigh:
"We will know better how to deal with them another time."
He was very grateful for the attentions paid him by Captain Stewart, Washington and Stevens, and more than once when roused from his melancholy reveries, he expressed his admiration of the Virginians. During the night of the 13th, General Edward Braddock died from his wound, at the Great Meadows, the place of Washington's discomfiture in the previous year.
His grave was dug in the wilderness, and he was buried just before the break of day. With torches the soldiers gathered about the open grave, where, the chaplain being wounded, Washington read the funeral service, and the body of the haughty Briton was lowered to its last restingplace.
THE WAR CLOUD GROWS DARKER.
The war, that for a space did fail,
Englishmen are noted for tenacity, and Braddock's signal defeat did not discourage either the home government or the colonies. Braddock was severely censured for his obstinacy, and Washington and the Virginians praised for their coolness and bravery. The defeat of Braddock was calculated to inspire the Virginians with confidence in themselves. They had saved the army; regulars were not invincible, and the French and Indians had never had any great terrors for the continental militia, when they were anything like equal in numbers.
Governor Shirley was appointed Braddock's successor in the chief command of all the English forces in America. He had led an expedition to operate against Forts Niagara and Frontenac, which, though it did not accomplish much, suffered