The Engagement at Jumonville Glen, Part 2

Two Seneca scouts ran ahead through the forest as Washington and his 40 militiamen, along with Tanaghrisson and 15 warriors, followed close behind. The scouts soon returned to tell Washington and Tanaghrisson that the French force of about thirty soldiers was encamped nearby in a slight depression beneath a rocky outcropping. Apparently feeling secure, the French had not posted any sentries.

Washington decided to divide his force into three groups. The first, under his personal command, would move around to the right of the French camp, and Stephen’s men, including William Crawford, would march to the left. The Seneca, meanwhile, were to position themselves at the rear of the camp to cut off any escape route. With the orders given, all three groups moved out, took their assigned posts, and made themselves ready.

What happened next remains a historical controversy to this day, as various British and French accounts differ markedly. Everyone seems to agree that shooting suddenly erupted, leaving 10 Frenchmen dead, including Ensign Jumonville. Washington captured 22 others, among them Jumonville’s second-in-command, Ensign Pépin. There is also agreement that French fire killed one of Washington’s men and wounded two others. Moreover, after the French surrendered, the Seneca scalped their dead, later sending the scalps to other tribes as grizzly trophies designed to enlist their participation in a new war with France.

Washington insisted that Jumonville’s men discovered the Virginians, and the French troops began shouting the alarm. At that point, Washington ordered his troops to open fire. The French returned fire, much of which they directed at Washington’s right column, and the fight “only lasted a quarter of an hour, before the enemy was routed.” In his account Adam Stephen wrote, “A smart action ensued: their [the French] arms and ammunition were dry being sheltered by the bark huts they slept in, we could not depend on ours, and therefore, keeping up [withholding] our fire, advanced as near as we could with fixed bayonets, and received their fire.” According to Stephen, Crawford and the rest of the Virginians on the left rushed into the French camp shortly after the firing began to find Jumonville already dead.

Meanwhile, the French asserted that Jumonville was on a diplomatic mission to deliver a message to Governor Dinwiddie. This meant that the ensign was actually an envoy, just as Washington had been the year before. They stated that after the first two volleys from the Virginians, Jumonville’s interpreter shouted over the din of the rifle fire in an effort to get the Virginians to cease fire so that Jumonville could explain the reasons for his mission. At that point, the French claimed that the Virginians did stop shooting, which allowed Jumonville to read his message aloud through the interpreter. But before Jumonville could finish one of Washington’s men shot him through the head. This act, the French argued, was the assassination of a diplomatic messenger, and one ordered by George Washington.


The Engagement at Jumonville Glen, Part 1

William Crawford was a participant in several major historical events during his lifetime. One of those that had the greatest impact on the course of history was what it is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Jumonville Glen. It was not much a battle really, probably lasting less than 30 minutes. Nonetheless, it set off a chain of events thta resulted in a global war between Great Britain and France.

As with many of the major events in Crawford’s life, this one involved his friend and eventual business partner, George Washington. In April 1754, Washington set out for the Ohio Country from Winchester, Virginia with agroup of about 160 militia. Three months earlier, Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie had commissioned the 22-year old Washington as a Lieutenant Colonel in the colony’s militia, directed him to gather a force of volunteers, and take them north over the mountains into the Allegheny Plateau to counter French claims to the region. Specifically, Dinwiddie charged Washington to take possession of a small fort built by the Ohio Company on the Ohio River and hold it.

Washington had great difficulty assembling his small army of volunteers. Dinwiddie had ordered that the men come from the region around Winchester, but the young lieutenant colonel had little luck getting anyone to sign up for the job. So Washington switched his recruiting efforts to Alexandria, where he was better known. The results were far from satisfactory. With the arrival of spring, he had managed to recruit 134 men, but they were a sad lot whom Washington described as being “loose, idle persons that are quite destitute of house, and home.”

In March, he started moving his men to the Shenandoah Valley. Luckily, just as he was leaving, he learned that Adam Stephen, a physician and recent arrival from Scotland, had assembled a small militia company of 25 riflemen in Winchester. Washington wrote Stephen, directing him to prepare to join his small regiment, and told Dinwiddie on March 20 that, “I have given Captain Stephen orders to be in readiness to join us at Winchester with his company as they were already in that neighborhood—raised there.” Unknown to Washington, his former surveying partner, William Crawford, was a member of Stephen’s militia company. Once Governor Dinwiddie issued his February 19 proclamation, both William and his brother, Valentine, enlisted in the king’s service, likely in hopes of later receiving part of the 200,000 acre land grant Dinwiddie had promised to the volunteers.

Once the entire regiment was assembled in Winchester, they began the march north. However, just a few days into the expedition, Washington learned that a force nearly 1,000 French troops had seized the Ohio Company’s fort. Nonetheless, after consulting with his officers, Washington elected to continue marching north. Along the way, he made an important alliance with Tanaghrisson of the Seneca, known to the British as “Half King.” Tanaghrisson was a viceroy of the Iroquois Confederation appointed to oversee its people in the Ohio Country and Allegheny Plateau. Washington had previously met the Seneca viceroy on an earlier mission when Dinwiddie sent Washington to deliver a message to the French demanding their departure from the region.

The critical event this essay focuses on occurred weeks later when Washington had made a final encampment at a large open spot in the forest called Great Meadows, about 25 miles from the Ohio River (near present-day Farmington, Pennsylvania). On May 27. Washington received a message from frontiersman Christopher Gist that a group of 50 French soldiers who were had arrived at Gist’s small settlement north of Great Meadows.

However, that night, Washington received another message from Tanaghrisson. In it, he told Washington that his warriors had discovered the tracks of two men near the Seneca’s current encampment, only a few hours’ march from Great Meadows. After following the tracks, the warriors came upon a French camp. After receiving this message, Washington immediately sprang into action by placing a heavy guard on the camp at Great Meadows. Next, he assembled a small force of 40 men (including William Crawford and the rest of Adam Stephen’s company) to accompany him as he set out to discuss the situation with his Seneca ally.

When Washington and his men arrived at the Seneca camp in the early morning hours of May 28, he consulted with Tanaghrisson, and the two leaders decided to join forces and attack the French camp. Given that there was no state of war between Great Britain and France, Washington had made a remarkable decision. Yet, given Washington’s ambitions and youth, perhaps this was not very surprising. Once Dinwiddie made him an officer in the colonial militia, Washington began to yearn for a royal commission, believing that a career in His Majesty’s army might be his destiny. He apparently believed that making an assault on the French might help achieve that goal. While Governor Dinwiddie had planted the explosives for war between the two empires through his demands to the French; young Lieutenant Colonel Washington was now about to light the fuse.

Adam Stephen

StephenOne of the many interesting figures associated with William Crawford was Adam Stephen. Stephen was a recent immigrant from Scotland when Crawford met him in February 1754. He was a surgeon who had served in the Royal Navy before coming to the American colonies and he established a medical practice near Fredericksburg.

When Governor Robert Dinwiddie called for militia volunteers to confront French incursions into the Allegheny Plateau in February 1754, Stephen went to Winchester, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley to raise a rifle company and both William Crawford and his brother, Valentine, were among the 25 men he recruited.

When George Washington began his march from Alexandria to the valley in March, he had only managed to gather, an ill-equipped group of 134 men, whom he referred to as being “loose, idle persons that are quite destitute of house, and home.” The original plan had been to recruit men from the valley around Winchester but the only success there was Adam Stephen’s company. Given the quality of the men recruited around Alexandria, Washington was glad to hear of Stephen’s small company, and he wrote Stephen, directing him to prepare to join Washington’s Virginia Regiment. He also wrote the governor about Stephen’s men saying, “I have given Captain Stephen orders to be in readiness to join us at Winchester with his company as they were already in that neighborhood—raised there.”

Stephen would accompany Washington into the Ohio Country and lead his company at Jumonville Glen and again at the disastrous battle at Fort Necessity. Following the retreat and the subsequent disbanding of the regiment, Stephen kept his company together, adding more men and training them as experts in wilderness warfare using native American tactics, subsequently referred to as “Rangers.”

His Ranger company would join the ill-fated Braddock expedition in 1755 on its march to take Fort Duquesne. It was a good thing for the British Regulars and the American militia that they were there, as Stephen’s company, which was acting as a rear guard, put up a highly effective line of defense that allowed the fleeing army to safely cross the Monongahela and escape almost certain destruction by French and native American forces.

Following Braddock’s defeat, the Virginia Regiment was reconstituted in the fall of 1755 with Washington again in command. Stephen also returned, serving as Washington’s executive officer. All went well until Washington suddenly resign his post following the successful Forbes’ campaign against Fort Duquesne in 1758. From that point on, Stephen became a rival of Washington, fighting him over the acquisition of frontier lands along the Ohio and then running against him for election to the House of Burgesses.

After the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Stephen was appointed as the commander of the 4th Virginia Regiment with the rank of Colonel. He soon became a Brigadier general and his regiment was eventually assigned to Washington’s main army. There, his sour relationship with Washington continued and became an issue. Stephen would later say that Washington was a “weak man” and he sometimes openly displayed his contempt for the American commander-in-chief.

Despite his problems with Washington, the Continental Congress promoted him to the rank of Major General in February 1777. However, in May of that year, Washington reprimanded Stephen for inflating casualty figures resulting from fighting against the British at Piscataway, New Jersey. Later, however, during the Philadelphia Campaign, Adam Stephen made his final error with Washington. His bad performance at the Battle of Germantown was deemed to be “unofficerlike behavior” and he was accused of being intoxicated. He was dismissed from the Continental Army and returned to his home in Berkeley County, Virginia, in disgrace.

He resumed his medicine practice, farmed, and remained a figure in local politics until his death on July 16, 1791.

Crawford’s Service with Washington in the Revolutionary War

While researching William Crawford, I found another area that was somewhat confusing: his service in the Continental Army under Washington during the American Revolution. I found some historians placed him at the battles around New York in 1776 as well as crossing the Delaware to fight the Hessians at Trenton later that same year. In addition, he was shown as only being associated with the 5th and 7th Virginia Regiments, but not the 13th Virginia, which would have placed him at two other major battles.

I set about researching this and I could see why some historians had made certain assumptions regarding his wartime service. The problem was that one had to connect the dots via a variety of sources to come up with a more complete picture, and I think I came pretty close to that.

William Crawford started his military service during the war as a Lt. Colonel of the Continental Line with the newly formed 5th Virginia Regiment in February 1776. He travelled to Williamsburg where most of the new Virginia regiments were being mustered in and trained. The 5th Virginia did head north to join Washington’s army during the summer of 1776, and they fought under him at New York. But William Crawford was not there. Just as they were leaving, he was promoted to colonel and made commander of the 7th Virginia, which was training in Williamsburg. In fact, on September 23, he wrote Washington from Williamsburg saying, “I should have been glad to have the honor of being with you at New York.”

However, William’s work with the 7th Virginia was relatively short lived. Just as with the 5th Virginia, Crawford was transferred just as the regiment moved north, where they fought with Washington at Trenton. In November 1776, he was made commander of another new regiment, the 13th Virginia, which was being formed with men enlisted around Fort Pitt. Given his familiarity and popularity in the Fort Pitt region, Crawford was a natural choice for the job. On November 22, William published his farewell address to the 7th Virginia and headed for Fort Pitt.

Soon after he arrived, Washington ordered Crawford’s new regiment to join his army in New Jersey. However, two issues delayed the move. First, the regiment, while almost fully manned, had no weapons for two-thirds of its soldiers. Second, however, William’s brother, Valentine, and his half-brother, Hugh Stephenson, died in January 1777. He requested a leave of absence to attend to matters involving their estates, which Washington approved. Finally, while still ill-equipped, he moved the regiment over the mountains to join Washington’s army outside New York in May 1777.

As a result, Crawford and the 13th Virginia fought with Washington at both Brandywine Creek in September 1777 and Germantown in October 1777. At Brandywine Creek, his regiment was a key part of the rear guard action that saved the Continental Army from complete destruction. But at Germantown, things did not go so well. Caught in a swirling, dense fog, his men simply refused to advance, leaving other regiments exposed to flanking counterattacks by British forces.

Not long after Germantown, Washington moved Crawford to take command of a new brigade composed entirely of militia units. Again, Washington intended to make use of William’s long experience serving with militia forces, hoping he could train and organize them into a reasonable semblance of a fighting force. But just as he took command, Congress ordered him to return to Fort Pitt where he was to command all troops in the Western Department.

This is where some of the confusion about Crawford’s service comes into play. As he headed west, Washington moved his army to its winter quarters at Valley Forge. Lt. Colonel William Russell took command of the 13th Virginia and, for some reason, many records show him as being the first commander of the regiment. But a review of Washington’s correspondence clearly shows that William was its first commander. In fact, he was never officially replaced as commander, which would create some controversy later when the 13th Virginia was sent to Fort Pitt.

But that’s a story for another time.


Crawford’s Farm: Spring Garden

crawford-cabinWilliam Crawford had seen the lands in southwestern Pennsylvania as a soldier during both the disastrous Braddock expedition in 1755 and again with General Forbes during his campaign against Fort Duquesne in 1757. Apparently, he liked what he saw because, in the fall of 1765, he and his  half-brother, Hugh Stephenson, made the trek over the mountains from the Shenandoah Valley on the Braddock Road to a place then called Stewart’s Crossing on the Youghiogheny River.

The two men surveyed a tract of 376 acres and proceeded to build a log cabin near the river. It measured about eleven feet by sixteen feet and had two small openings in the logs that served as windows, one beside the door overlooking the river, and the other facing the hills. Rather than the typical dirt floors, they laid down split logs and dressed them with an axe so they were as smooth as possible, making Crawford’s new home somewhat luxurious for a frontier cabin. he then christened his new farm, calling it “Spring Garden.”

After they had cleared some of the land for planting the following spring, the two men returned to the Shenandoah, where Crawford began packing up his family to move to their new home. Packhorses would be needed for the journey because many places on the Braddock Road had grown too narrow for wagons. William and Hannah carefully packed the horses as they could only take the necessities to start their new life at Spring Garden. They left all of their furniture behind but packed as much bedding, clothing, cooking utensils, and farming tools as possible. In addition to the family and the packhorses, the family dogs and several cows would also make the journey. In the spring of 1766, William and his family left the Shenandoah Valley for the final time.

Their little caravan moved slowly over the rough terrain, making only a few miles each day. Spring rains and melting snows had swollen the creeks, forcing the Crawfords to take special care with their crossings to ensure that they not lose a single packhorse or cow. Finally, after more than a month on the Braddock Road, they reached Spring Garden.