Sunday, July 9, 2017

On this day in 1755 Braddock's Defeat occurred.


 When news of the defeat at Fort Necessity reached British Prime Minister Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle, he called for a quick undeclared retaliatory strike against the French.

General Edward Braddock

The British Government sent General Edward Braddock to the colonies as commander in chief of British North American forces. Braddock arrived in Virginia in February 1755 to take command against the French in North America.
Braddock was about sixty, a short, stout, bad-tempered with little experience in action and none of the type of fighting that was in store for him. His rudeness and arrogance made a thoroughly bad impression on the colonials and were to contribute to a jaundiced view of the British officer class. On arrival, however, he received a congratulatory letter from a Virginian lieutenant-colonel of twenty-two named George Washington, who was privately thinking of a career in the British regular army. Braddock soon discovered that Washington knew the wilderness country and took him on his staff as an aide. His first objective was the French Fort Duquesne, deep in the wilderness at the Fork of the Ohio River, where the city of Pittsburgh stands today.
Two regiments of infantry, the 44th and 48th, arrived from England and after some difficult months making preparations and recruiting additional troops locally – with Braddock’s temper almost permanently at boiling point – the army began the march for Fort Duquesne.
The expedition progressed slowly because Braddock considered making a road to Fort Duquesne a priority in order to effectively supply the position he expected to capture and hold at the Forks of the Ohio. As progress was slow Braddock left about one-third of his force to bring the supply train on behind under Colonel Dunbar of the 48th, while pressing on through forest country with perhaps 1,500 men.

On July 9, 1755, Braddock's men crossed the Monongahela without opposition, about 10 miles south of Fort Duquesne. The advance guard of 300 grenadiers and colonials with two cannon under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage began to move ahead. Washington tried to warn him of the flaws in his plan, for example, the French and the Indians fought differently than the open-field style they were using but his efforts were ignored. It would cost Braddock his life for not listening to young Washington.

As Braddock’s advanced guard proceeded through the trees in their red coats they were surprised by an enemy force. Most of them were American Indians, the rest French and Canadians. Fiendish war-whoops sent chills down British spines as the Indians darted down each flank of the British and caught them in a cross-fire, while the French blocked the front.


After an exchange of fire, Gage's advance group fell back. In the narrow confines of the road, they collided with the main body of Braddock's force, which had advanced rapidly when the shots were heard. The entire column dissolved in disorder as the Canadian militiamen and Indians enveloped them and continued to snipe at the British flanks from the woods on the sides of the road. At this time, the French regulars began advancing and began to push the British back.
Following Braddock's example, the officers kept trying to reform units into regular order within the confines of the road, mostly in vain and simply providing targets for their concealed enemy.
Many British officers were killed or put out of action and the men ran for it, colliding with their comrades moving up in support.
After several hours of intense combat, Braddock was shot off his horse, and effective resistance collapsed. 

Colonel Washington put Braddock on a cart and led as many of the British as he could get to listen to him back across the Monongahela.



Washington's first order of business was to get Braddock to safety. Fortunately for Washington, most of the opposing forces chose to loot the battleground rather than pursue Braddock's men across the Monongahela River. Momentarily out of harm's way, Braddock ordered Washington to rally the fleeing troops. As best he could, Washington was able to collect nearly 200 men—an insufficient number to stage a strong counter-attack. With increasing despair, Braddock ordered Washington to locate Colonel Thomas Dunbar and retrieve the men and supplies that were being held in reserve.
Carrying out his assignment, Washington located Dunbar seven miles away. The next day, Braddock and the remainder of the army reached Dunbar's camp and plans began anew to orchestrate a deliberate retreat. Unable to effectively lead, Braddock relinquished command to Dunbar.
Braddock struggled on for another day before dying at night on July 13, 1755.
The following day, Washington fittingly chose a spot along Braddock's road and buried his commanding officer. Fearing that enemy soldiers would attempt to locate Braddock's body, Washington directed the wagon train and foot soldiers to march over the recently disturbed earth to cover any signs of Braddock's recent burial.


"Looking down the old road to the location of Braddock's original burial site."
The French commander Dumas realized the British were utterly defeated, but he did not have enough of a force to continue organized pursuit.

Washington's actions earned him the sobriquet "Hero of the Monongahela", by which he was toasted, and established his fame for some time to come.



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