- Historic Sites
Or, a dogged attempt to assemble a most remarkable company—the famous survivors of the battle lost by a British general on the Monongahela. Everybody who was anybody was there, from George Washington to Daniel Boone. Everybody, that is, but B. Gratz Brown
February 1961 | Volume 12, Issue 2
“Well … ,”Mr. G. began, but he obviously needed some help.
“Gist became Indian Agent for the South, but in 1759, returning from a mission to win support of the Cherokee Indians for the British, he died of smallpox.
“James Craik was not only at the battle,” I continued, “but was the man who treated General Braddock’s wound on the field. During the Revolution Dr. Craik headed the Continental Medical Department. He was Washington’s personal physician and close friend for many years, and he was with Washington when he died.”
We had arrived at Mr. G.’s club. As he turned to enter he said, “You might look up Daniel Morgan.”
I continued on to meet some friends for lunch. As I approached the table I thought I heard one of them say to the others, “Here comes Old Braddock’s Defeat,” but I decided I was mistaken. Probably he actually said something like “This cold’s bad for the feet.” So I told them about Gladwin, Gist, and Craik.
Back at the office I looked up Daniel Morgan and found that Daniel Morgan had indeed been there.
Morgan, I discovered, had enlisted with his own team of horses and a wagon—an “independent wagoner,” nineteen years old, six feet tall, and with a fiery Welsh temper.
In the course of the Revolution, Washington formed a regiment of five hundred of the best marksmen in the country and placed Morgan in command. In Benedict Arnold’s unsuccessful assault on Quebec at the end of 1775, Morgan and his riflemen penetrated well into the city but were cut off and forced to surrender. He was freed in time to play a key part in the Battle of Saratoga. Brigadier General Morgan was in command at the decisive Battle of Cowpens, for which Congress voted him the thanks of the nation and a gold medal.
Famous survivors of Braddock’s Defeat had now become for me a consuming passion, and I had trouble concentrating on anything else. My wife questioned me closely about my work at the office and then said cryptically, “Just see that you don’t win the battle and lose the war.”
On her advice I decided not to bother Mr. G. again with the subject.
Five days went by. Then, following a conference, Mr. G. drew me aside and asked, “Don’t we have some more names?”
“Two more,” I said happily.
“How many does that give us?”
“Ten, counting Colonel Washington.”
I told him about Captain Roger Morris, one of Braddock’s aides-de-camp, who was wounded and carried back to Virginia on a litter. Morris survived to marry, three years later, none other than the celebrated Mary Eliza (“Polly”) Philipse of New York—the great heiress whom Washington had also courted. Captain Morris and his in-laws picked the wrong side in the Revolution, and their lands were confiscated.
I then told him about Adam Williamson, an engineer, who was wounded under Braddock, and again when Wolfe took Quebec. Williamson became governor of the islands of Jamaica and Santo Domingo.
“How many names do you think we’ll find?” Mr. G. asked.
“I don’t know. If I went about this thing seriously I think we could find as many as twenty prominent men who were there July 9. I’m going to shoot for exactly twenty and then stop.”
“Well,” said Mr. G., “let me know how it turns out.”
I spent most of that weekend in the Carnegie Library. Monday morning I dictated the following memorandum to Mr. G.
“I beg to report that I have established indubitably that the following men were present on July 9, 1755, and achieved distinction in later life:
“George Croghan, thirty-seven, captain in charge of Braddock’s friendly Indian scouts, was greatest of the Indian traders. In 1756 Sir William Johnson appointed Croghan Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs. During the sixteen years he held this post, he was the most important and powerful man on the frontier.
“Croghan was with Forbes at the taking of Fort Duquesne, helped Bouquet occupy Detroit in 1760, and conducted the final peace negotiations with Chief Pontiac. Owner at one time of several million acres of frontier land, he died poor. His journals are of prime historical value.
“Patrick Mackellar, second engineer of the expedition, was with Gage in the advance column and was wounded.
“Major Mackellar was captured by the French in a later engagement and imprisoned in Montreal and Quebec, where he drew engineering maps of the fortifications. He was exchanged in 1757 and sent to England, but he returned to North America, his maps in his pocket, in time to participate in the sieges of Louisbourg and Quebec. He was standing beside Wolfe when that general was killed.