Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monongahela--Women and Children First

One of the first battles in the French and Indian War was General Edward Braddock's expedition against Fort Duquense. His army was routed by a force of French and Indians on July 9, 1755. One of the records that survived the battle is a diary by a British soldier who was likely a servant to Captain Robert Cholmley. This author survived the battle and captured some aspects of it in his diary.

When Braddock's army was finally shattered, the survivors fled across the Monongahela River to safety. Colonel George Washington and Lieutenant-Colonel Burton (48th) formed a rearguard to protect those crossing the river. According to the diary (18th Century spelling has been kept intact):

"In going Over the River there was an Indien Shot one of our Wimen and began to Scalp her. Her Husband being a little before her Shot the Indien dead. There was another Indien Immediately Shot him through the Arm, but he made his Escape from them. Just after we had passed the River a Captn [captain] that was wounded in the foot bege'd that I would lend him my Horse which I did, altho I had about two hundred miles to march on foot before he could get a horse."

Women did accompany Braddock's army as camp-followers, i. e. laundresses and cooks. To the Indians, killing an enemy woman was a great feat of courage. But to the men on Braddock's expedition, women (especially one's wife) were to be protected. One demonstrated pagan egalitarianism; the other, Biblical self-sacrifice.

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