Century of Conflict: The Struggle Between the French and British in Colonial America

By Joseph Lister Rutledge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
THE LOST DISPATCH

A seemingly useless paper, found on the tragic field of Braddock's discomfiture at the forks of the Ohio, lays bare the larger strategy and alerts Vaudreuil to meet it. The timely coming of Baron Dieskau with four famous regiments equips him for the task. Shirley is lamentably lacking at Oswego--saved by the threat to Crown Point. Here a strangely romantic figure commands: William Johnson and his story. Dieskau's early attack and success --the death of Ephraim Williams and King Hendrick of the Mohawks. Fort William Henry begun. Its first defense. Defeat and capture of Dieskau. The strange wild enthusiasm at an empty victory.

On the site of what is sometimes called the Battle of Braddock's Field, a dark and bloody ground indeed, now stand the thriving towns of North Braddock and Braddock Hills and Rankin. Here so many years ago Fate played one of its strangest tricks. Yet perhaps it is not so strange. Those versed in the history of the great War between the States will remember the almost unbelievable story of three cigars wrapped in a bit of crumpled paper that may well have changed a fragment of history. For the paper was General Lee's army order No. 191, the order that outlined the proposed movements of his army as it moved to invade Pennsylvania. Coming into the hands of General George B. McClellan, it changed a chronic delayer into a man of quick and decisive action and made an almost unknown creek, the Antietam, in the shadow of the little Pennsylvania town of Sharpsburg, a name of greatness and of bitter and unavailing tragedy.

Almost a century earlier and still in Pennsylvania and less than two hundred miles away, there was another happening equally strange, equally decisive. The exulting Indians

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