"The General's been hit."
Those four words ringed hollow amid the din of battle.
"Come again, private?"
"Sir, the General's been hit."
Dammit, the British officer muttered under his breath. Edward Braddock was hit. The year was 1755. On July 9, the Battle of the Monongahela raged on the North American frontier. 2,000 British regular and militia troops under the command of General Edward Braddock went up against almost 900 French and Indians in the Western Pennsylvania wilderness. General Braddock was tasked with dislodging the French threat at Fort Duquesne. Before his army reached the fort proper, they engaged a much smaller French and Indian force. Thus began the Battle of the Monongahela. For the British, the battle was a disaster. Over 500 men were killed and 450 injured. The French and their Indian allies lost only 30 dead and roughly 50 wounded. On balance, the British were slaughtered.
"Thank you, private," the officer replied. With haste, he galloped away.
* * *
Private Mulberry is not an interesting guy. He never was. Born the son of English farmers, Mulberry enlisted in the British army at a young age. Shortly thereafter, he was shipped off to North America to fight the French. He rode hard and fast behind the unnamed British officer, finally stopping before a wagon laden with wooden crates. The officer conversed with the sergeant stationed there. Speaking in low voices, their exchange was brief. Mulberry managed to make out only some of what they said.
"Is it all there? All of it?" the officer asked.
"Yes, yes, I counted it myself." The sergeant replied. When they finished conversing, the officer wheeled his horse around, facing Mulberry and five others.
"You will escort this wagon and its contents to Fort Cumberland. Guard it with your lives. Do not stop for anything until you reach the fort. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir," the soldiers replied in unison.
"Good. Make haste and God save King George."
In no time at all, the wagon and its accompanying contingent set off down the road and away from the battle. The sounds of cannon blasts and musket fire gradually faded away. Despite their distance from the battle, danger was certainly near. Since the beginning of Braddock's expedition, Indians stalked the army, watching their every move. They dared not attack the army proper, but six riders and a wagon were easy prey. With determined regularity, native warriors beset the British party. Indian arrows and musket fire followed the caravan wherever it went. Not fifteen minutes into their journey, an arrow lodged itself into a rider's back. He screamed in pain and fell off his horse. The wagon sped on. The British soldiers rode hard for about an hour before a sudden volley of arrows rained down upon them. Three arrows struck the wagon, two struck the crates, and another buried itself in one of the rider's horses. Down the horse went, his rider along with him. A loud crunch emitted from either the horse's neck or that of the rider. Mulberry could not tell. Arrows whizzed around his head. His red coat must have been a very inviting color amid the green foliage that surrounded him.
A little while later, another ambuscade assaulted the British party. This time, one more rider went down. He howled in pain as a musket ball shattered his shoulder. Like wolves surrounding their prey, five Natives encircled the fallen rider. As Mulberry rounded a bend in the road, a bloodcurdling scream penetrated the air behind him. He rode on. Shortly thereafter, a few well-placed arrows shot the wagon driver in the chest, instantly killing him. Without a driver, the wagon stopped in the middle of the road. Abandoning their horses, the remaining soldiers hopped on the wagon, directing it down the dirt road.
Two men remained. Unable to contain his curiosity, Mulberry's comrade proposed they inspect the wagon's contents. Mulberry flatly refused to go along with the idea. The conversation went like that for a few more minutes until Mulberry finally caved in. When the coast was clear, the two men brought the wagon to a halt. They quickly broke into one of the crates. It was filled to the brim with gold coins. This was the British army payroll for Braddock's troops. They could not tell how much was there, and now was not the time to count it and find out. Rest assured; it was a fortune. Mulberry was amazed. He had never seen so much money before in his life. The soldiers agreed to bury the money. Given their present condition, they could not safely arrive at Fort Cumberland with the payroll in tow. They could reach the fort faster without the gold weighing them down. It took them a couple of hours to bury the gold. When they were finished, Mulberry's comrade proposed an idea. They should desert the army and take the gold for themselves. Mulberry protested. He believed they should report the payroll's location to officials at Fort Cumberland. Disagreements over what to do with the money grew heated until a fight sought to settle the affair. As the two men threw fists, an Indian scout happened upon them. He fired an arrow into Mulberry's adversary, immediately killing him. Taken aback, Mulberry ran away into the woods. Throwing caution to the wind, he tripped and hit his head on a rock. Before he knew it, the world around him went dark.
When he regained his senses, Mulberry aimlessly stumbled through the woods for several hours. Luckily, a troop of provincial soldiers from Fort Cumberland found him. Mulberry spoke of his mission and Braddock's payroll. When pressed for the treasure's exact location, he forgot where he buried it. The only information he could remember was that it was possibly buried somewhere around where Braddock's Run emptied out into Will's Creek. A party of soldiers ventured out into the woods to look for the gold, but they came back empty-handed. After Braddock's Defeat, the loss of Braddock's payroll was noted and eventually forgotten. Mulberry's fate after his wilderness ride is lost to history. As for Braddock's lost payroll, it is still out there somewhere in the Pennsylvania woods.