Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Approach to Fort Duquesne


Lieutenant Jefferson looked up to see a man riding back from the party of guides leading the column. The man reined up in front of him, "Begging yer pardon Sir, but 'ave ye seen Leftenant Colonel Gage?"

"Yes, he's gone back to check on the guns, what news?"

"The river Sir, we's at the Monongahela. Nobody in sight, but we're going to need the sappers to come up. The river bank at t'other side is pretty steep, the height of two of your grenadiers at least." The man looked anxious to continue on his mission.

"Very well, carry on lad," then turning to his company sergeant, "Sarn't Ashburnham, let's get the lads up to the river." Looking back at the company commander of the 48th's grenadiers he shouted, "River's ahead, let's go up and prepare to cover the crossing!"

That man answered by ordering his men to "Follow the 44th!"

Dark Moon, one of the Lenape present in de Beaujeu's force made his way to where the Gaudry's party was watching the column. "Big Bear! Les anglais are nearing the river, my chief thinks they mean to cross this day!"

Alain Gaudry, also known as Big Bear to the Indians, nodded and whistled like a bird, which immediately brought his brothers Jacques and Little Wolf to his position.

"Brother?" Jacques asked, Little Wolf said nothing, it was not his way to waste words.

"Les anglais have reached the river and mean to cross over." Alain said.

"Why, the fort is on that side of the river, they shall have to cross over again before they can attack?" Jacques didn't understand, but he hadn't seen that terrain, Little Wolf had.

"If they stay on the other side they will have the river on their left and a ridge on their right, hemming them in, a narrow path, a killing field for us. If they cross now, go maybe two leagues on this side, then re-cross, they will have an easier march." It was a long speech from Little Wolf.

"Little Wolf speaks the truth Jacques, les anglais could be picked off at will with little chance of them counterattacking us if they stay on the northern bank. Crossing now makes sense, the river is not that deep."


"Well Sir, this isn't bad at all, water's barely up to our thighs!" Sergeant Ashburnham was getting the grenadiers of the 44th over the river. Movement wasn't quick but the river crossing wasn't as bad as he had feared.

Jefferson had his firelock at the ready, he didn't believe in carrying a spontoon like many of the line officers. He preferred to be able to shoot back at his enemies. He was scanning the far bank, though he swore that he caught glimpses of people in the treeline, he couldn't be sure. Best to get everyone across and up that damned bank.

After a few more long moments wading the river, the company was out and scrambling up the steep bank. Fortunately there were numerous small trees and shrubs they could use to pull themselves up. There had been one humorous moment when Grenadier Lewis had grabbed a sapling and when trying to pull himself up, had ripped the small tree up by its roots, sending him tumbling back into the river.

"Come on Lewis, this is no time to be takin' a bath!" One of his mates had yelled down to him, while extending a hand to pull him back onto the bank.

"Bloody French tree!" Lewis sputtered as he attempted the bank once more, this time making it up successfully.

"All right lads, check your firelocks, make ready, we might have company nearby!" Jefferson yelled out.

Shortly thereafter the 48th joined them at the top of the bank and the grenadiers presented a solid red wall to protect the sappers pulling down the bank to make a path for the six-pounder cannon traveling with the head of the column.

Capitaine Daniel Hyacinthe Liénard de Beaujeu, though an officer in the French Army, was nearly indistinguishable from his Wyandot, Abenaki, Odawa, and Lenape allies. There were no regular French troops with his force. The only men in uniform were those of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, other than the natives, there was also a party of Canadian militia, whose clothing was that of the coureur de bois, not the army.

The Capitaine pointed at the crude map he had placed on a downed tree, "I will meet them here, they will be tired from the march, Gaudry informs me that their road builders are at the back of the column now and the track is very rough. We shall ambush them here, can we get our warriors in place in time?" He asked this of one of the Wyandot war chiefs.

"Yes Capitaine, it will be close, my men are foraging now. It depends on how fast les anglais can move."

"Call your warriors in, we must be ready for any eventuality." de Beaujeu ordered.

"This is pretty rough going ain't it Leftenant?" The commander of the 48th's grenadier company was sweating profusely, unlike Jefferson he insisted on wearing the miter cap of the grenadiers rather than the cocked hat which Jefferson wore.

"As I don't plan on throwing any grenades, I'll keep my own chapeau, thank you very much." Jefferson had quipped when questioned as to why he was wearing a line officer's hat and carrying a musket as well. Some of the other officers had sniffed and made rude comments about how Jefferson had "gone native" during the last war. Old habits being hard to break they figured.

Grenadier of the 44th Regiment of Foot, 1755

"Move along smartly lads, keep your intervals now." Sergeant Ashburnham was keeping the column moving along Jefferson was pleased to see. The track was rough and he didn't see how they could bring the guns up without clearing some of the smaller trees. But he was an officer of foot, he'd leave the cannon to those who knew how to take care of such things.

Glancing back to the river on his left, he had spotted Indians moving rapidly to get ahead of them. He'd reported this to Gage and the lieutenant colonel had brought up more companies of the 44th and the 48th and was now leading the column himself, just behind the guides.

Jefferson had also noted that a company of provincials had joined the head of the column as well, New Yorkers led by a fellow named Gates he'd been told. Some officers belittled the performance of the provincials, but Jefferson had served with them. As good a soldier as any in Europe he'd told them. He'd also pointed out that their "regular" regiments, the 44th and 48th, had substantial numbers of soldiers recruited in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Fine men he'd noted.

Of course, some of those officers had scoffed at the idea that a provincial could match the professionalism of the regulars. The arrogance of some officers appalled Jefferson, who did they think they were going up against now? Indeed, most of the French they would be facing in the next few days were provincials themselves, and Indians, lots of Indians.

Which was one thing Jefferson felt they sorely lacked, Indian auxiliaries. They had a grand total of seven Oneida warriors with them. Though these men were superb scouts, there weren't enough of them. He would have felt far more comfortable with a few hundred warriors from the Six Nations, but all they had were seven scouts. He doubted it would be enough.

He hadn't forgotten that scalp nailed to a tree, nor had his men.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Suspense building as I imagine wearing that clothing and carrying a one shot musket in the forest and NOT a European forest either. That's a very interesting site, BritishBattles......Sarge, have to keep track of that one come the winter when stuck inside.

  2. That disbelief in the potential and practice of the "provincials" might come back to haunt the British one day...

    What a thing it would have been to see a forest like that.

    1. Get deep enough into New England and there are areas like that which still exist. Road network is better in these modern times, I'll give 'em that.

  3. Sarge, would like to recommend the current story of the French/Brit. struggle to a friend who hails from Cajun stock that were expelled from the Acadia region.
    I can only locate a link back to the 23 May installment-Ambush, which leaves a gap in the episodes from 22 May back to 30 April. Could you provide the link(s) for those episodes from the beginning to the 22nd May installment?
    Thanks and keep up the good work,
    Cletus Valvecore

    1. The first episode (14 May) is here. All of the Chant's fiction can be accessed from here. Hope that helps.

      Thanks for reading!

    2. Sarge, sorry for asking about the location of a previous installment when it's right before me at the end of every episode as "link to all the Chant's Fiction"...

    3. Well, in your defense, it's in a really small font.

  4. Hey AFSarge;

    The Legends are coming back to me, When I was a kid and a scout leader, I was(am) in the Order of the Arrow that takes a lot of its mythos from the Lene lenape, the indians of that area as part of the traditions of the order. Lt Jefferson reminded me of my first LT in the 1st Infantry Div, he wore a uniform like the rest of us, whereas most officers carried a pistol and "officer accoutrements" , he carried an M16 and gear like a line grunt, and blended in better. and unlike most LT's could read a map, he was an Eagle scout, LOL. A lot of the Europeans viewed with disdain the colonials both officers and men during the 7 year war and during the early days of the revolution until Francis Steuben taught us proper drill during the Valley Forge bivouac. Good post as usual.

    1. I just finished an excellent book recommended by Virgil Xenophon, The Indians of New Jersey: Dickon Among the Lenapes by M. R. Harrington, which is available here, among other places as well, no doubt. The book is excellent, gives a great look into the lives of the Lenape around the time of Jamestown.

      I can't recommend it enough.

  5. I looked up the hats...I'm not familiar with these things but I do understand what's happening!,

    Good writing, great story!

  6. There is hope in Jefferson yet. Maybe if he survives the war, he'll stay and turn colonial.

    And, yeah, nothing like wearing a giant 'I am extremely different' uniform or hat. I understand the reasons, but this ain't the peaceful, civilized Europe where they don't normally shoot at officers or snipe from behind things.

    The map was an excellent addition. Love the 'terrain' features they had to march through. That's a lot of weaving and humps and other unfun things to get over, around or through.

    1. When I find a good map, especially one dating from the period, I use it. Helps keep everyone anchored as to where all this is going on! (Myself included!)

    2. And that's a really really good map.

  7. One point, Sarge; you write of the "scalp nailed to a tree" at a time when nails were forged by hand ( done it) -dunno if such would be used in this case. Minor point, just thought of it.
    Keep up the good work!
    Boat Guy

    1. I actually read a reference from that time period of the Indians doing just that. So I went with it. Besides, other than the iron, what use would an Indian have for a nail?

    2. And you can use tree-nails, basically, yes, wooden nails... Take a convenient stick, make a point, hammer it in. (It's a little more complicated than that but...)

  8. It is well worth the effort to follow the "source" links Sarge provides below each of the images.

    As a warning(although no scalp or nails are involved) that most of those links are to excellent sites with a wealth of related information. You can spend hours on them (as I did) and happily learn a lot!

    Thanks for another great installment!
    John Blackshoe

    1. British Battles (where those links go) has awesome information on pretty near every battle the British have ever fought. Easy to spend hours over there!

      Thanks JB!


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