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Feb
25

FRIENDLY FIRE

By
When:
November 12, 2017 all-day
2017-11-12T00:00:00-05:00
2017-11-13T00:00:00-05:00
Where:
Loyalhanning Camp before it became Fort Ligonier
200 S Market St
Ligonier, PA 15658
USA

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FRIENDLY FIRE

Compiled and written by Jim Moyer 2/25/2018, 10/4/2018, 10/9/2018, 10/10/2018

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SHORT OVERVIEW

MERCER VS WASHINGTON FRIENDLY FIRE HORROR

November 12 Night 1758

Friendly Fire Melee of the Forbes Expedition.

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Background is sketch by Jim Moyer. Photo shopped in is the Virginia Regiment Mercer Company reenactment group. Click or touch to enlarge.

 

Lt Colonel George Mercer’s men of the 2nd Virginia Regiment were already in the woods when Colonel George Washington’s men  of the 1st Virginia Regiment were called to help.

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GW writes it was almost dusk, but they were in the woods, a primal forest that would make the dusk darker.

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Unfinished Picture by Eric Cherry showing Colonel George Washington trying to knock upward his men from firing into George Mercer’s men. Click or touch to enlarge.

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They ran into each other mistaking the other for the enemy.  Almost a Full Moon evening, Nov 12, 1758.

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George Washington writes,

G.W. never was in more imminent danger by being between two fires, knocking up with his sword the presented pieces.”

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Two officers and 38 men were killed.

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Below are links to fill out more details:

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Confusion on which Mercer.

It was George Mercer not Hugh Mercer. Both were there  at Loyalhanna, which was called Fort Ligonier later.  But it was George Mercer and his men and George Washington’s men who engaged shooting at each other.

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Contemporary Sources are listed.

Below are what George Washington wrote about it, and what Forbes wrote about it.

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DISAMBIGUATION OF THE MERCERS

There was another Mercer.

Hugh Mercer on the Pennsylvania side.

Much confusion on which Mercer

when reading about the Forbes Expedition.

Colonel Hugh Mercer commands Fort Pitt  17 December 1758 after Colonel Bouquets meets with the Iroquois. On top of that, Hugh Mercer moves away from Pennsylvania and Fort Pitt to Fredericksburg Va.

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George Mercer now a Lt Colonel

It involves our former Captain George Mercer who has now graduated to Lieutenant Colonel, under Colonel William Byrd III commanding the newly formed 2nd Virginia Regiment.

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Mistakes:

https://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biomer.cfm

“From 1754-1760, he was lieutenant colonel in William Byrd’s Second Virginia Regiment.”  <– Those years are wrong. Captain George Mercer became Lt Colonel of the 2nd VA Regiment in 1758.

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Confusion on the Mt Vernon Website

http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/forbes-expedition/

“The last major action of the Forbes Expedition took place on the night of November 12, when a force of thirty French-Canadians and 140 Native Americans attacked British troops guarding a horse herd. Forbes sent Washington’s regiment and then Colonel Hugh Mercer‘s troops towards the gunfire. Mercer’s men moved in an arc behind the French positions as Washington’s men advanced. The events of that night are murky, but it is likely that Mercer’s advance guard opened fire on Washington’s men after mistaking them for the enemy.”   <— This is the wrong Mercer.  It is not Pennsylvania’s Hugh Mercer but our former Captain George Mercer, now Lt Col George Mercer of the 2nd VA Regiment. See link – http://fortligonier.org/history/george-washington/

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Another Correction

The Wikipedia article on William Byrd wrongly states he led the 2nd Va Regiment in the year 1756.  Byrd assumed the lead over the 2nd VA Regiment in 1758.

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Loyalhannon

This fort and camp was known later as Fort Ligonier.

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But during the Forbes Expedition, most letters refer to it as Loyalhanna or some spelling close to that.

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Very Little recorded by GW

Washington writes about EVERYTHING, but he writes next to nothing about this at the time it happen.   Decades later working on his memoirs for Humphrey, GW writes a little bit more about it.

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All the versions of that Friendly Fire Incident:

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Colonel George Washington’s first version:

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Picture of what might be Lt Colonel George Mercer. Author unknown. Page 60 of “George Washington Remembers, edited by Fred Anderson”. Fred Anderson is also author of the excellent “Crucible of War” about the French and Indian War and its world wide reach. It appears this might be from Virginia Historical Society in Richmond VA.

 

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This contemporary

but very brief account

is significant because

Colonel George Washington

of the 1st VA Regiment,

only chooses to mention

the dead bodies

they need to bury

but does not mention

those dead were from the

Friendly Fire skirmish

between his forces

and his former Captain and aid de camp,

the now Lt Col George Mercer

of the 2nd VA Regiment.

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Below is excerpt from Founders Online:

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GW’s  Orderly Book,

Camp at Loyall Hannon Novr 12th 1758.

1 Colo. 1 Lt Colo. 1 Major 5 Caps. 15 Subs. 20 Serjts 20 Corpls & 400 Private Men .

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to March to morrow morning at reveille

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beating to the Ground

where the Skirmish

was this Evening1 

and to Carry a proportion

of Spades

in Order to Enter the Dead Bodies.

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End quote.

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Terse.

“a proportion of Spades in Order to Enter the Dead Bodies”

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Noting only what needed done –

not what was done,

not observing what had happened.

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GW Limited Version

28 November 1758

GW does not mention this tragic incident when he writes to Fauquier on 28 Nov. about the success of the campaign except to refer to the “three Prisoners who providentially fell into our hands.”

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As an aside, those prisoners provide valuable intel.  This information convinces General Forbes decide to proceed instead of taking a break for the rest of the winter.  In fact, 13 days after The Friendly Fire Incident,  the Forbes Expedition claims the site of  the abandoned Fort Duquesne.

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Source: Founders Online footnote:

https://founders.archives.gov/?q=Date%3A1758-11-12&s=1111311111&r=1#GEWN-02-06-02-0106-fn-0001

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GW writes from a camp at Fort DuQuesne

to Lt Gov Fauquier

28 November 1758

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Although GW makes no mention of the Friendly Fire incident itself, he does say the moment was so dire, that the Forbes Expedition was not going to advance forward any further, but information from the prisoners told them the enemy was vulnerable.

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” . . . and desertion of their Indians:

of these circumstances we were luckily informed,

by three Prisoners

who providentially fell into our hands

at Loyal-Hannan,

at a time when we

despaired of proceeding;

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and a Council of War had determined

that it was not advisable to advance

beyond the place above-mentioned,

this season:2

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But the information above caused us to march on without Tents or Baggage, with a light train of artillery only; with which we have happily succeeded . . .”

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Source:

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-06-02-0133

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General Forbes’ Version:

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Letter from General Forbes to

overall commander of North America,

General James Abercromby on 

17 November 1758:

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The note below is not only important for several reasons:

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1. It’s contemporary.

2. Gives a count of killed and wounded.

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3. Notes that  prisoners were captured in a previous skirmish which changed Forbes mind for giving up on the expedition for the Winter.

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Below is from Founders Online Footnote:

Forbes’s report to Gen. James Abercromby

on 17 Nov.:

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“Two hundred of the ennemy

came to attack

our live Cattle and horses on the 12th

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I sent 500 men to give them chace

with as many more to Surround them,

there were some killed on both sides,

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but unfortunately our partys

fired upon each other in the dark 

by which we lost two officers

and 38 private kill’d or missing.

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Wee made three prisoners

from whom wee have had

the only Intelligence

of the Enemys strength,

and which if true

gives me great hopes”

(James, Writings of Forbes, 255–56).

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LATE version by George Washington

30 Years after the incident:

Written by GW  circa 29-30 years after the event in 1787-1788,  according to Page xii of “Washington Remembers, edited by Fred Anderson,”  (who wrote the excellent, “Crucible of War” on the French and Indian War and its worldwide reach.

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At the time George Washington wrote his “Remarks,” the artist Charles Willson Peale painted GW during the 1787 Constitutional Convention to fix the weak Articles of Confederation.

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And on page 24 of “Washington Remember, edited by Fred Anderson,” , Washington is quoted, as instructing his only authorized biographer and former aid de camp, Colo. David Humphreys “…that the whole of what Is here contained may be returned to G.W., or committed to the flames.”

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The picture shows GW how he looked in 1787 when he wrote the “Remarks” excerpted below.

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This picture is by Charles Willson Peale who also painted the first known picture of George Washington in 1772 wearing a French and Indian War uniform.  See the fascinating story on both that 1772 painting and the artist Charles Willson Peale.

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The following quote of GW’s writings are spaced apart for easy reading and to emphasize different aspects of the 2 skirmishes.

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Washington refers to himself in 3rd person as G.W.  and discusses 2 skirmishes at Loyalhanning, one with the enemy and one between his group and George Mercer’s:

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“Previous to this, and during the time the Army lay at Loyalhanning a circumstance occurred wch involved the life of G.W. in as much jeopardy as it had ever been before or since.

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the enemy sent out a large detachment to reconnoitre our Camp, and to ascertain our strength; in consequence of Intelligence that they were within 2 miles of the Camp a party commanded by Lt Colo. Mercer of the Virga line (a gallant & good Officer) was sent to to dislodge them between who a Severe conflict & hot firing ensued which lasting some time & appearing to approach the Camp …

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it was conceived that our party was yeilding the ground upon which G.W. with permission of the Genl called (for dispatch) for Volunteers and immediately marched at their head to sustain, 

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as was conjectured the retiring troops, led on by the firing till he came within less than half a mile, & it ceasing, he detached Scouts to investigate the cause & to communicate his approach to his friend Colo. Mercer advancing slowly in the meantime —

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But it being near dusk and the intelligence not having been fully dissiminated among Colo. Mercers Corps, and they taking us, for the enemy who had retreated approaching in another direction commenced a heavy fire upon the releiving party which drew fire in return

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in spite of all the exertions of the Officers one of whom & several privates were killed and many wounded before a stop could be put to it.

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Unfinished drawing by Eric Cherry of Colonel George Washington trying to stop his men from firing into Lt Col George Mercer’s men near Loyalhanna (called Fort Ligonier later)

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to accomplish which G.W. never was in more imminent danger by being between two fires, knocking up with his sword the presented pieces.”

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End quote of Page 23 from George Washington’s Remarks chapter in “George Washington Remembers, edited by Fred Anderson.”

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Linger on that last line: ” being between two fires, knocking up with his sword the presented pieces.”

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Eric Cherry, our artist, and also a reenactor in our Mercer Co of the VA Regiment (1756 to early 1758)  is being commissioned to illustrate that scene, as of 2/25/2018.

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THE MOON

The Moon is not shown, but perhaps its glow has cut through the canopy of the forest in the night.  The Moon was almost full that night by 10pm.  See link:  Moon on the 12 November 1758.  See link 1 and link 2 also.

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William Findley’s Version May 1818

Source: Founders Online footnote:

https://founders.archives.gov/?q=Date%3A1758-11-12&s=1111311111&r=1#GEWN-02-06-02-0106-fn-0001

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In May 1818 William Findley published

his recollections of a conversation

with GW in Philadelphia

which included the following paragraph:

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“Since I am in the way of writing about Washington,

I will add one serious scene

through which he passed,

which is little known,

and with which he concluded this conversation.

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He asked me how near

I lived to Layalhana old Fort,

and if I knew a run from the Laurel Hill

that fell into the creek near it.

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I told him the distance of my residence,

and that I knew the run.

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He told me that

at a considerable distance up that run

his life was in as great hazard

as ever it had been in war.

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That he had been ordered

to march some troops

to reinforce a bullock-guard

on their way to the camp—

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that he marched his party in single file

with trailed arms,

and sent a runner to inform the British officer

in what manner he would meet him.

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The runner arrived and delivered his message,

but he did not know how it was

that the British officer paid no attention to it,

and the parties met in the dark

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and fired on each other

till they killed thirty of their own men;

nor could they be stopped

till he had to go in between the fires

and threw up the muzzles

of their guns with his sword”

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(Niles’ Register

description begins Niles’ Weekly Register.

76 vols. Baltimore, 1811–49. description ends , 1st ser., 14 [9 May 1818], 179–80).

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PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE version

30 November 1758

This Version is reverse of GW’s account. 

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This version claims

Colonel George Mercer

was sent to assist GW.

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The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia) printed an account of the incident on 30 Nov. 1758: “On the 12th Instant, Colonel Washington being out with a scouting Party, fell in with a Number of the Enemy, about three Miles from our Camp, whom he attacked, killed one, took three Prisoners, an Indian Man and Woman, and one Johnson, an Englishman (who, it is said, was carried off by the Indians some time ago from Lancaster County) and obliged the rest to fly: That on hearing the Firing at Loyalhanning, Colonel [George] Mercer, with a Party of Virginians, was sent out to the Assistance of Colonel Washington, who, coming in Sight of our People in the Dusk of the Evening, and seeing them about a Fire the Enemy had been drove from, and the two Indians with them, imagined them to be French; and Colonel Washington being under the same Mistake, unhappily a few Shot were exchanged, by which a Lieutenant, and thirteen or fourteen Virginians, were killed.”

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Source: Founders Online footnote:

https://founders.archives.gov/?q=Date%3A1758-11-12&s=1111311111&r=1#GEWN-02-06-02-0106-fn-0001

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13 Days After the Friendly Fire event

Stewart’s men see a blown up and deserted Fort Duquesne November 25, 1758.

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Our formerly Captain Stewart (who a Winchester VA street is named after) now a Major appears to be the first to see the remains of Fort Duquesne.

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THREE YEARS AFTER

BRADDOCK’S DEFEAT

Then the men of the Virginia Regiments walk to a battle field fought 3 years earlier to see mostly the remains of skulls.

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See that story.

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Braddock’s Defeat occurred July 9, 1755

compiled, written by Jim Moyer   2015, July 2017, 8/29/2017

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To Give a Sense of this Story,

let us give you a scene

of the battlefield 3 years later.

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Battle of the Wilderness Virginia 1864. this may have been what it looked in 1758 when the men of Forbes Expedition after celebrating their victory over Fort Duquesne, did the grim hike to their own past 3 years ago.

A word that caught our eye – The skulls.

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The Forbes Expedition follows up on this scene 3 years later.

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The French gave up, leaving a burnt ghost of a fort, November 1758, three years after Braddock’s disaster.

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And now the victors will march to Braddock field.

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It is their first chance after 3 years to see their fallen comrads.

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In Volume 2, Young George Washington, published by Charles Scribner and Sons, 1948,  pages 366-367, Douglas Southall Freeman writes:

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“…a service of thanksgiving on the 26th

with a sermon,

a day of celebration on the 27th,

and then a solemn march to Braddock’s field,

where the skulls

of more than 450 men were buried.

Their bones long before had been scattered by wolves.”

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A Hallowed Halloween of a site greeted our Forbes Expedition victors.

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See  wolf behavior.  

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For the chronology on George Mercer see:

George Mercer

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