- 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
“In 1762, Mackellar became chief engineer of the Island of Minorca, and later he became England’s Director of Engineers.
“Ralph Burton was second in command of the 48th regiment and performed gallantly in the battle until disabled by a wound. Lieutenant Colonel Burton commanded the same regiment at the taking of Quebec four years later. General Wolfe’s dying words were: ‘Go, one of you, my lads, with all speed to Colonel Burton and tell him to march Webb’s regiment down to the St. Charles River, and cut off the retreat of the fugitives to the bridge. Now, God be praised, I die happy.’
“Burton rose to major general in 1762. About this time, he fell madly in love with the tawny daughter of an Indian chief; some say that he married her.
“John Neville was a twenty-four-year-old private from Virginia. In 1775, as a colonel of militia, Neville commanded Fort Pitt for two years. He was later attached to Washington’s army for the duration of the war; in 1783 he was made a brigadier general.
“A Federalist and a wealthy man, Neville served as a member of the Pennsylvania Council which ratified the Federal Constitution and of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention.
“Now we have fourteen names and six to go.”
To this communication Mr. G. replied almost at once.
“I am surprised that you have overlooked two of the most important and interesting figures of all those present.
“Captain Adam Stephen was a hot-headed Scot, twenty-five years old, a bachelor, who had served with Washington at Fort Necessity—that ‘charming little spot for an encounter’ which started the Seven Years’ War, involved England, Prussia, Germany, Austria, and Sweden, devastated Germany, swept across India, and cost a million lives. Stephen was wounded at the Battle of the Monongahela, and later gave the widely quoted description of the British regulars standing ‘in a mere huddle” under fire.
“Stephen was disinclined to obey orders and inclined to drink, gossip, and engage in factional quarrels. During the Revolution he rose to the rank of major general in the American Army. He fought at Trenton, Princeton, and Brandywine, winning Washington’s commendation. At the Battle of Germantown he was intoxicated and was dismissed from the service.
“William Crawford was twenty-three when he served under Braddock. He was Washington’s land agent and was with him on his 1770 trip to inspect his holdings in the Ohio Valley. He served as a colonel in the Revolution and took part in six major engagements.
“Colonel Crawford retired from the army but returned in 1782 to lead an expedition of 480 horsemen against the Sandusky, Ohio, rendezvous of the Indian allies of the British. His force panicked, and Colonel Crawford was captured. The Indians tied him to a pole by a long rope and tortured him for four hours before he died. He pleaded with the renegade Simon Girty to shoot him, but Girty refused.
“You now have sixteen names and four to go.”
I turned up no additional names that week. When I suggested to my wife that she would enjoy spending a day or two researching in the Pennsylvania Room of the Library, she declined politely.
It was in this same conversation at the dinner table that a revealing incident happened. “Are you aware,” I said, “that Presley Neville, the son of General John Neville, married Nancy Morgan, the daughter of General Daniel Morgan, his old comrade in arms?”
My wife replied, “That’s nice, dear. We must invite them over some evening.”
On the weekend, however, I was able to do my own research, and I turned up the seventeenth and eighteenth names.
Charles Lee was present at the battle as a twenty-four-year-old English officer. In few other battles in history were so many officers killed or wounded in proportion to the number engaged—sixty-two out of ninety-six—but Lee, like Washington, escaped unhurt.
Lee’s career has been called “perhaps the strangest in the annals of the Revolution.” His military experience won him a commission as the second of major generals; but he felt strongly that he deserved Washington’s post as commander in chief. He repeatedly disregarded Washington’s orders in several engagements, apparently in the hope of discrediting him. As a prisoner of war he traitorously helped British General William Howe draw up plans for taking Philadelphia—treachery which was not discovered until Howe’s papers were published many years later. Exchanged, Lee continued in the American service until, because of disrespectful letters he wrote to General Washington and to Congress, he was court-martialed, suspended, and finally discharged.