On this date in 1755, General Braddock was defeated by French and Indian Forces in what is now Western Pennsylvania.

There is a chapter in my book about the Battle of the Monongahela.  It includes extracts from the Scots Magazine, a contemporary periodical:

“According to the advices from Virginia, General Braddock, with 2000 troops including two regiments of Foot, independent companies from South Carolina and New-York, and provincial troops from Maryland and Virginia, had by the 12th of June passed the Alleghany mountains, and was within five days march of Fort du Quesne, built by the French last year on the Monongahela River, which runs into the Ohio.  He was long detained at Will’s Creek, and greatly distressed by the want of forage, provisions, wagons, and horses.  The landing of the troops in Virginia, is said to have been a most wretched error, as none of the necessaries before mentioned could be had there in any measure proportioned to the expedition; and we are told, that had they been landed in Pennsylvania, it would have saved £40,000 sterling, and shortened the march by five or six weeks.”

“While General Braddock was at Will’s creek, advice was received from the British Governor of Oswego, that 120 canoes and batteaus, having 600 French on board, had passed over Lake Ontario on the 28th of May, in sight of that place, going towards Niagara and the Ohio.  Meanwhile the General received various and contradictory accounts of the French already in those parts.  Sometimes Fort du Quesne was said to be garrisoned by 1000 men; at other times French deserters assured that only 200 troops were there, and but 500 more at Venango and Presque Isle, on the banks of Lake Erie, distant from Fort du Quesne about ninety miles.  The General being at length provided in necessaries, marched on towards Fort du Quesne; and we are told he wrote back, that he supposed it would be abandoned on his approach.  Major General Braddock and all the stores and provisions, advancing to the Little Meadows, (about twenty miles beyond Fort Cumberland, at Will’s Creek), found it necessary to leave the greatest part of his wagons, &c. at that place, under the command of Colonel Dunbar, with a detachment of 800 men, ordering him to follow as fast as the nature of the service would admit.  The General having, by this means, lessened his lines of march, proceeded with great expedition, his corps then consisting of about 1200 men, and ten pieces of artillery, together with the necessary ammunition, stores, and provisions.  On the 8th of July, he encamped within ten miles of Fort du Quesne.  On the 9th, General Braddock, with the main body of the army, had advanced within a few miles of Fort du Quesne on the Ohio.  Up until this time, they had marched without molestation, or even without seeing an enemy, except two or three small bodies of Indians. The General who seemed to think he would meet with but little opposition, gave an order for all the scouts and rangers forthwith to join the main body of the army.”

“At this time, Lt. Colonel Burton, who commanded the advanced guard, came up to a narrow defile, surrounded with trees and thick underwoods on both sides, and terminated by a very strong pass.  Monachatucha, chief of the Indians in alliance, prayed the General, not to enter this defile till both sides had been thoroughly reconoitred; telling him that it was a most dangerous pass, and that if the enemy intended to attack, he did not know where he could to it with more advantage.  But this advice was rejected.”

“The bushes and underwoods the French lined with Indians and some of their regulars, and posted 300 men at the pass to defend it.  When Lt. Colonel Burton came into the narrow lane, the Indians from behind the bushes galled them greatly; which put them into some confusion.  However, they continued their march; and the General, having intelligence of the interruption, detached one of the majors with 300 men to support the advanced guard.  The enemy still kept firing at our men, killed some, and disordered the whole, insomuch that when they came to the pass, and were opposed by the French, the men scarcely stood one fire, when they threw down their arms loaded and ran away.  The French pursued and the General marching up to support the advanced guards, brought on a general engagement.  But the panic which seized our two regiments was so great that the example, the threats, and prayers of their officers could scarcely prevail with them to look the French in the face.  The first fire quite disconcerted them; and though their officers rallied the greatest part of them, yet it was to no purpose for on the second fire, almost to a man they threw down their arms and ran away; notwithstanding the example of the North Americans who behaved with the greatest resolution and their own officers who were so transported with indignation at the cowardice of their men that they themselves killed several of them running off.  It was at this period that the greatest slaughter of the officers was made; for while they were endeavouring to rally their men, the French had nothing to do but to kill.  The engagement, or rather slaughter continued three hours and a half, when there was a total rout.”

“General Braddock exerted the talents of a commander and a soldier.  He rode from place to place, and by his example endeavoured to inspire the cowardly miscreants with resolution.  He had five horses killed under him, and received seven wounds, the last of which broke his arm, and afterwards passed through his lungs.  He was then carried off insensible, but languished some time before he died.  The retreat was made with more safety than could well be expected from so fatal a beginning, and the remains of the army got safe to the British Fort Cumberland.  On the other hand, it has been alleged that the defeat is owing more to presumption and want of conduct in the officers, than to cowardice in the private men; that a retreat ought to have been resolved upon the moment they found themselves surprised by an ambuscade; and that they were told by the men when they refused to return to the charge, that if they could see their enemies, they would fight them; and they would not waste ammunition against trees and bushes, nor stand exposed to invisible assailants; the French and Indian Rangers, who are excellent marksmen, and in such a situation would inevitably destroy a great number of the best troops in the world.  Nay, some accounts go so far as to assert, that many of the officers, thoroughly dissatisfied with fighting, as it were an invisible enemy, strongly urged the General either to immediately retreat, or to send out irregular parties to clear the bushes sword in hand; but that he esteemed it much below the character of a general officer to engage in any manner contrary to the established rules of war: whence it is suggested, that he himself fell a victim, with many others to that resolute and undaunted resolution by which he was so remarkably distinguished.”

“When the General was first attacked, one such officer, Major Washington, who was defeated in the same manner the year previously, begged the General to let him draw off 300 in each wing to scour the woods: but he refused it and obstinately persisted in the form of field-battle, his men standing shoulder to shoulder; the unhappy consequence of which has been related.  This is, and always very probably will be, the consequence of Old-England officers and soldiers being sent to America.  They have neither the skill nor courage for this method of fighting: for the Indians will kill them as fast as pigeons, and they have no chance either offensive or defensive.”

“The French give the following account of the action near the Ohio, from letters which have been received from Canada.  ‘M. de Contrecoeur, Commandant of Fort du Quesne, having received advice that the English, to the number of 2000 men, were advancing in order to attack the fort, immediately held a council of Mess. de Beaujeu and Dumas, captains of the Marines, and several other officers, in which a resolution was taken to march towards the enemy when they were within three leagues of the fort.  These officers set out accordingly, with 250 Canadians, and 650 Indians; met the English in the open country; and attacked them very courageously, notwithstanding the fire of their cannon and small arms; of which they received two discharges, which killed M. de Beaujeu, de la Perade and de Carqueville, together with fifteen Indians, and four Canadians.  This fire did indeed a little disconcert the Indians, and made them give way; but they rallied immediately upon seeing M. Dumas at their head, who, as senior captain, took the command when M. de Beaujeu dropt.  Led on by this new commander, they and the Canadians rushed furiously upon the enemy, without giving them time to charge again, and with their little hatchets, which they call scull-crackers, made a great slaughter of the English troops.  There remained on the field of battle four brass cannon, eleven pounders, two ditto five pounders and a half, four brass mortars of seven inches and a half diameter, three other of four inches and a quarter in diameter for throwing grenadoes, 157 balls of 11 lb. weight, 17 barrels of powder weighing 100 lb. each, 19,740 cartridges for muskets, a great quantity of matches for the artillery, implements necessary for a siege, muskets and broken wagons, 400 horses, 100 head of cattle, a great many barrels of powder staved, besides baggage and papers, among which was found the plan of Fort du Quesne, and instructions and plan of the expedition.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s