While on an expedition in 1755 to capture Fort Duquesne,
General Braddock and his 2400 British regulars were surprised by a force of 900
French and Native Americans at the Monongahela River. Most of his troops
panicked and over 1200 men were killed or seriously wounded. Braddock, himself,
was mortally shot through the arm and into his chest. He died during the British
retreat to Virginia. General Braddock was buried in the middle of the road near
Fort Necessity to avoid his body's detection by the Indians.
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Actual 1755 London Account Of Braddock's Defeat Courtesy of Estoric.com
BRADDOCK, Edward, British soldier,
born in Perthshire, Scotland, about 1695; died near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 13
July, 1755. He had attained the grade of major general after more than forty
years' service in the British guards, when on the eve of the French war he was
sent here as generalissimo of all the British forces in the colonies. He landed,
20 February, 1755, at Hampton, Virginia, and debarked his troops at Alexandria,
to which point the Virginia levies had also been directed. The house that was
his headquarters in Alexandria, shown in the engraving, is still standing.
The general was a good tactician, but a very martinet, proud, prejudiced, and
conceited. Horace Walpole describes him as "a very Iroquois in disposition,"
and tells an anecdote that sheds light on his character.
"He once had a duel with Col. Glumley, who had been his great friend. As
they were going to engage, Glumley, who had good humor and wit (Braddock had
the latter), said: ' Braddock, you are a poor dog! here, take my purse; if you
kill me, you will be forced to run away, and then you will not have a shilling
to support you.' Braddock refused the purse, insisted on the duel, was
disarmed, and would not even ask for his life."
When Braddock heard that not more than twenty-five wagons could be procured
for the use of the army, he declared that the expedition should not start.
Washington was made his aide-de-camp. At Frederick-town, Benjamin Franklin, then
postmaster-general, with his usual sagacity and energy, undertook to provide the
necessary conveyances, and records the conversation with Braddock in which he
unfolded his intentions.
"After taking Fort Duquesne," said the general, "I am to proceed
to Niagara; and, having taken that, to Frontenac if the season will allow
time, and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or
four days; and then I can see nothing that can obstruct my march to Niagara."
Franklin thought the plan excellent, provided he could take his fine troops
safely to Fort Duquesne, but apprehended danger from the ambuscades of the
Indians, who might destroy his army in detail. The intimation struck Braddock as
absurd, and he said: "These savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to raw
American military, but upon the king's regular and disciplined troops, sir, it
is impossible they should make an impression."
Similar warnings by Washington met with similar replies. The expedition made
slow progress, but at last drew near the fort, and crossed the Monongahela in
regular order ; the drums were beating, the fifes playing, the colors flying,
and their bayonets glittered in the sun. Suddenly, as the van was ascending a
slope with underbrush and ravines on both sides, it was exposed to a murderous
fire from an invisible foe. Braddock ordered the main body to halt, the firing
continued, and the British for the first time heard the terrible war-whoop. The
effect of the Indian rifles, directed by the French, was deadly; most of the
grenadiers and many of the pioneers were shot down, and those who escaped the
bullets were compelled to fall back. The British were ordered to form in line,
but the men were so frightened by the demoniac yells of the hidden savages that
they refused to follow their officers in small divisions.
The Virginians, familiar with Indian warfare, separated, and from behind
sheltering rocks or trees picked off the enemy. Washington suggested to the
general to pursue the same course with the regulars; but he scorned the
advice, and is reported to have said that a British general might dispense with
the military instruction of a Virginia colonel. He insisted that his men should
be formed in regular platoons; they fired by platoons at random at the rocks,
into the ravines and the bushes, and killed a number of Americans -- as many as
fifty by one volley -- while they themselves fell with alarming rapidity.
The officers behaved splendidly, and Braddock's personal bravery was
conspicuous; five horses had been killed under him, when at last a bullet passed
through his right arm and lodged in his lungs. He fell from his horse, and was
with difficulty removed from the ground. The defeat was total, and the rout
Washington's escape was almost miraculous; sixty-four out of eighty-five
officers were killed or wounded. There is little doubt that, but for the
obstinacy and self-sufficiency of Braddock, the disaster might have been
averted; for the crushing and sanguinary defeat of 9 July was inflicted by a
handful of men, who intended only to molest his advance.
Washington covered the retreat, and the remnant of the army went into camp at
the Great Meadows four days later. Braddock said nothing, but exclaimed in the
evening after the engagement, "Who would have thought it?" Then he
relapsed into silence, unbroken until a few minutes before his death at the
Great Meadows on the evening of 13 July, when he said: "We shall better know
how to deal with them another time."
He was buried before break of day, Washington reading the burial service, for
the chaplain had been wounded. His grave (though now well known, and pointed out
seven miles east of Uniontown) was at the time leveled with the ground to
prevent Indian outrage. See "The History of an Expedition against Fort
Duquesne in 1755, under Major-General Edward Braddock. Edited from the Original
Manuscripts by Winthrop Sargent, 31. A." (Philadelphia, 1855).
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