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BRADDOCK. and colors flying in perfect order, to the sound of fife and drum, the troops marched to the river.
“I never saw a grander sight,” Washington declared.
" This is parade, not warfare," ventured Captain Stevens.
The troops made a gallant appearance as they forded the Monongahela, winding along its banks through the open forest. Drums and fifes were playing the most popular airs of the day, and the soldiers kept time to the music. Many a brave fellow was taking his last march. Between eleven and twelve o'clock, the second ford was reached. Gage, with the advance, was on the opposite side of the Monongahela, posted according to orders. The pioneer corps were digging down the banks to make them sufficiently sloping for the artillery and baggage. Thus the crossing was delayed until one o'clock. The main army had dinner on the west bank before crossing. When all had passed over, they came to Frazier's Run, where they halted until the general could arrange the order of the march.
First went the advance, under Gage, preceded by the engineers, guides and six light horsemen. Then Sir John St. Clair and the working party, with their wagons and two six-pounders, with flanking parties thrown out on each side.
"Had General Braddock retained Black Rifle and his wild rangers, there would be no danger of a surprise,” remarked Captain Stevens.
“Surprise!” roared Major Bridges; “egad! do you think there is going to be a surprise? Savages outwit British officers? Zounds! no more such hints, or, egad! I'll have you court-martialled.”
Captain Stevens made no response. It was not his place as a subaltern to quarrel with a superior, disgusted as he was with his haughty conduct.
General Braddock followed some distance behind with the main army, the artillery and baggage, preceded and flanked on either side by light horse and squads of infantry, while the Virginians and provincial troops formed a rear guard. This was the last and the supreme blunder of General Braddock. Like many self-conceited and haughty men, he refused advice.
Before the army the ground was level for about half a mile from the river, where the foot hills, covered with long grass, low bushes and scattered trees sloped gently up to the range of hills. The whole country, generally speaking, was a forest, with no clear opening but the road, which was about twelve feet wide, flanked by two ravines concealed by trees and thickets.
Had Braddock understood his business, he would have thrown out lines of skirmishers and scouts to
flank either side of his advancing army, and thus beat up any ambuscade which might have been formed. The Virginians and Indians were faithful and suitable for such work; but the foolish general kept them in the rear.
It was now two o'clock. The advance party and the pioneers had crossed the plain and were ascending the rising ground. Braddock had drawn up the main body and given the word to march, when, some distance in the advance, the air was suddenly rent by the crack of rifles.
"It's an ambuscade, general !" cried Washington.
Braddock deigned no answer, but, turning to Lieutenant-Colonel Burton, ordered him to hasten forward with a vanguard of the main army, eight hundred strong. The remainder, four hundred, were halted and posted to protect the artillery and baggage. The firing continued with fearful yelling, and the uproar was deafening.
Major Bridges! Major Bridges!" called General Braddock, greatly excited; "gallop forward and ascertain the nature of the attack."
“Egad! Zounds! General“Forward!”
Bridges' florid face was now of a deathly white. He clapped spurs to his horse and dashed forward like the wind. He dared not refuse the command. Without awaiting the return of the aid, and finding the turmoil increasing, Braddock marched forward, leaving Sir Peter Haklet in command of the baggage.
“Will you go, Colonel Washington?” asked the general.
“ Anywhere, general. You had better order up the provincials,” answered Washington.
The advance of the army had indeed been drawn into an ambuscade. From behind trees, stones, from the grass and the ground there came the constant puffs of smoke, and the sharp crack of rifles filled the air.
Gage, who was in advance, ordered his men to fix bayonets and to form in order of battle. They did so in hurry and trepidation. When he ordered the men to scale the hills and bluffs on the right, from whence came the hottest fire, not a platoon would quit the line of march. Dismayed by the horrid yells of the Indians, which were new to them, the boasted regulars huddled together like so many sheep and were shot down by the savages and concealed French. The Indians concealed themselves along the hills and in the ravines; but their whereabouts was only known by their demoniac yells and the puffs of smoke from their rifles. The soldiers fired at will wherever they saw smoke.
“Don't shoot till you see an enemy!” roared Gage; but his commands went unheeded.
At this moment, Major Bridges dashed on the scene amid whizzing balls and fire and death. Men were falling on every side, and before he could say a word a rifle carried off his hat.
" Zounds ! egad! what the d—1 does this mean?” he roared. " Where are the foe?”
"In the woods!” Gage answered. “ Drive them out."
“ That is what I am trying to do,” Gage responded.
Having ascertained the nature of the attack, Bridges was about to return, when a bullet killed his horse.
Colonel Burton came up with the reserves and was forming his men before the rising ground, when the two advanced detachments gave way and fell pell mell on the troops, who were forming, throwing all into utmost confusion.
“ All is not going well, Colonel Washington!" cried General Braddock, as they galloped up toward the scene.
" General, your whole army is thrown into confusion,” Washington answered.
“ Zounds! it is so, and British regulars, too!"
“General, they are not used to this kind of fighting. Let me hasten the provincials forward.”
“Do whatever you will!” Braddock answered, and, with drawn sword and a horrible oath, he dashed forward into the midst of the melee.