French & Indian War
     Part 2 ~ 1755

   aka ~ Seven Years War

     1754 - 1763

    The second expedition to take Fort Duquense would take place in the year 1755. It was set into motion with the sailing from Cork, on 14 January 1755, of Major General Edward Braddock along with the 44th and 48th Regiments of the Royal Army. The 44th Regiment was commanded by Colonel Dunbar, and the 48th by Sir Peter Halket. The troops arrived at Alexandria, Virginia on 20 February.

    A council was held at Alexandria on 14 April between General Braddock, Augustus Keppel (Commander-in-chief of His Majesty's Navy in North America) and the governors of the colonies of Massachusetts-Bay, Virginia, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The purpose of the council was to plan a course of action against the French. Four expeditions were decided upon:

1.) An expedition to be led by Braddock himself against Fort Duquesne, with the assistance of colonial militia from Virginia and Maryland. After taking Fort Duquesne, Braddock would march against Fort Niagara and Frontignac.

2.) An expedition to be led by Governor William Shirley to strengthen Fort Oswego and then to assist Braddock against Niagara and Frontignac.

3.) An expedition against Fort Saint Frederic at Crown Point to be led by Major General William Johnson with assistance of colonial militia from New York and New England.

4.) An expedition to be led by Brigadier General Robert Monckton against French strongholds in Nova Scotia including Fort Beausejour.

    Braddock commenced his expedition on 20 April 1755. He arrived with his regiment at Fredericktown, Maryland on the 24th. From there he marched to Fort Cumberland, arriving on 10 May. Fort Cumberland had been constructed during the fall of 1754, following the action at the Great Meadows, by troops from South Carolina under Captain MacKay and two independent companies from New York. The fort was equiped with ten four pounders in addition to a number of swivel guns. Braddock's army consisted of one thousand regular (i.e. Royal Army) troops and about twelve hundred colonial militia.

    On the 10th of May, General Braddock issued, as part of his General Orders to the troops, an announcement of the appointment of George Washington as his Aid-de-camp. Washington had resigned his commission in October 1754. His resignation was in response to Governor Dinwiddie's reduction of all the Virginia colonial army units to independent companies, to be commanded by officers of no higher rank than captain. The scheme was proposed by Dinwiddie and agreed to by Governor Dobbs of North Carolina and Governor Sharpe of Maryland, with the intention of avoiding the types of difficulties that arose between Washington and MacKay. The scheme would have demoted Washington from Colonel to Captain, and he would not accept that. Colonel William Fitzhugh wrote to Washington on 04 November in an attempt to convince the Virginian to reconsider and withdraw his resignation, to which Washington replied:

"You make mention in your letter of my continuing in the Service, and retaining my Colo's Commiピion. This idea has filled me with ブrpriテ; for if you think me capable of holding a commiピion that has neither rank nor emolument annexed to it, you muフ entertain a very contemptible opinion of my weakneピ, and believe me to by more empty than the Commiピion itテlf... I muフ be reduced to a very low Command, and ブbjected to that of many who have acted as my inferior Officers. In ドort, every Captain, bearing the King's Commiピion, every half-pay Officer, or other, appearing with ブch a commiピion, would rank before me..."

    Over the winter, Washington did reconsider his position, and in April, when General Braddock invited him to rejoin the army and serve as his Aid-de-camp, he chose to take the General up on the offer. To his brother, John Augustine Washington, George wrote on 14 May from Fort Cumberland:

"The Gen'l. has appointed me one of his aids de Camps, in which Character I ドall テrve this Campaigne agreeably enough, as I am thereby freed from all commands but his, and give Order's to all, which muフ be implicitly obey'd."

    From the start, General Braddock, by expressing his authority as Commander-in-chief of the British Royal Army in North America, alienated just about everyone he came in contact with. He did not consult the various provincial governors on his plans for attack, and as a result they generally refused to support the expedition he was undertaking. On 28 February, he sent a letter to Pennsylvania's governor, Robert Morris, in which he caustically remarked about Pennsylvania's indifference toward the situation on the frontier:

"I cannot help expreピing the greateフ ブrpriテ to find ブch puナllanimous and improper behavior in your aピembly, and to hear of faction and oppoナtion, when liberty and property are invaded, and an abバlute refuヂl to ブpply either men, money or proviナons, for their own defence, while they furniド the enemy with proviナons, which his majeフy has been informed of... It is aフoniドing to テe one of the principal colonies preテrving a neutrality, when his Majeフy's dominions are invaded - when the enemy if on the frontier: nay when it is undetermined if the Fort of Duqueハe is not in the Province of Pennペlvania....
 
My commiピion empowers me to テttle with the rioters as I ドall think proper. You may aピure your Aピembly, I ドall have regard to the different behavior of the テveral colonies, and ドall regulate their quarters accordingly; and that I will repair by unpleaヂnt methods, what, for the character and honor of the Aピembly, I ドould be much happier to テe cheerfully ブpplied."

    Braddock's arrogant attitude toward the colonists is illustrated in a statement he made to Benjamin Franklin, who cautioned him against the threat of an Indian ambush:

"Theテ Savages may indeed be a formidable Enemy to your raw American Militia; but upon the King's regular and diツiplin'd Troops, Sir, it is impoピible they ドould make any Impreピion."

    Braddock needed all the troops he could get, and hoped to establish alliances with some of the Indian tribes who had previously been cooperative with the English. But the attempts to do so failed miserably. Governor James S. Glen of South Carolina sparked a Choctaw uprising when he tried to woo that tribe from their alliance with the French. Virginia's Governor Dinwiddie likewise failed is his attempts to recruit any of the southern tribes. New York's Governor Shirley became embroiled in a dispute with the Indian agent, William Johnson, a dispute that discouraged the Iroquois from siding openly with the English colonists. George Croghan, another Indian agent, succeeded in obtaining fifty Mingo warriors to side with the English. But when they arrived at Braddock's camp at Fort Cumberland along with their families, he ordered the wives and children to leave the camp. With their families ousted, all the warriors, except eight, left too. Braddock then tried to gain the help of the Delaware tribes, and asked Croghan to convene a group of Delaware chiefs to discuss an alliance. But the conference ended in failure when Chief Shingas pointedly asked Braddock whether the English would allow the Delaware, Shawnee and Mingo Nations to live on the lands intended to be captured from the French. Braddock straightaway answered "no" and so alienated those previously friendly tribes.

    In 1754, the colonial militia companies under Trent and Washington, being small in size, were able to utilize the Nemacolin's Path (blazed by Christopher Gist and Thomas Cresap in 1752 with the assistance of the Delaware chief, Nemacolin) to venture into the Ohio Valley. In order for General Braddock to get his army of nearly twenty-five hundred men from Fort Cumberland to Fort Duquesne, including all the wagons required to transport the supplies and cannon, he needed to cut a more substantial road through the wilderness. Rather than blaze his own route, Braddock followed the route of Nemacolin's Path, passing by the Great Meadows and the site of Washington's ill-fated Fort Necessity. Five hundred soldiers under Sir John St. Clair and Major Chapman left Fort Cumberland on the 27th of May to begin cutting the road. Braddock employed thirty sailors from Admiral Keppel's navy to rig and operate blocks and tackle to lift the wagons up the steep slopes of the Allegheny Mountains.

    With the construction of the road underway, a brigade of troops under Sir Peter Halket left Fort Cumberland on 08 June. On the following day the remainder of the army under Braddock left Fort Cumberland, with the train of supply wagons and artillery bringing up the rear. The entire force made a line of some three or four miles in length.

    The English army reached the Little Meadows by 15 June, and there held a council. Washington suggested that the artillery and wagons be guarded by a small portion of the army, and make its way by easy marches westward, but that a smaller advance party be chosen from the different corps to press on at a quicker pace.

    By the second week of July, Braddock's army reached the Monongahela River. On the advice of Washington, Braddock had organized and led an advance force of about fifteen hundred men forward to make an initial attack on Fort Duquesne. His command was backed up by Sir Peter Halket, Lieutenant Colonel Gage, Lieutenant Colonel Burton and Major Sparks. Also on the advice of Washington, the advance party left wagons behind and carried their provisions on pack horses. George Washington had become ill with a fever at the camp at Little Meadows, and stayed behind when the advance party started out; but he joined General Braddock on the 8th of July at the juncture of the Youghiogheny and Monongahela Rivers.

    The advance force crossed the Monongahela River twice, in order to avoid having to cross at the river's dangerous narrows. In the morning of 09 July, the English crossed the Monongahela just a little below the mouth of the Youghiogheny. They then proceeded along the south side of the river to the place where a safe crossing could be made, landing in the vicinity of present-day McKeesport. It was noon, and the English were now within eight miles of Fort Duquesne. Colonel Thomas Dunbar, with the supply train and heavy artillery, reached a point about thirty-six miles behind the advance party and established a camp.

    Potawatomi and Ottawa scouts reported on the English army's movements to Fort Duquesne's commandant, Claude Pierre Pecaudy de Contrecoeur. Their reports worried the French commander, and it was said that he contemplated surrender. But Captain Lienard de Beaujeu suggested that rather than wait for the English to arrive and begin a siege of the fort, he would lead a force to attack on the English. Contrecoeur agreed to the plan and Beaujeu rallied a force consisting of seventy-two marines, one hundred and forty-six Canadian militia and over six hundred and thirty Indians. Initially their plan was to confront the English as they attempted to ford the river, and then to fall back and take up positions in the woods along the road, but the French troops arrived to late to carry out that plan. Instead, Beaujeu, arrived after the van of the English had already got across the river, and so he deployed his force along either side of the road along which Braddock's English army would be traveling.

    Beyond the place where the English army forded the river, the road led up a gradual slope and into a wooded countryside. Colonel Gage was leading the first body of about three hundred men, followed by a body of about two hundred. They were followed by General Braddock with the artillery, the main body of the army and the baggage train. At one o'clock the vanguard of the English army had just ascended the slope and a barrage of musket fire from the surrounding forest ripped into their front. That was followed by another against their right flank. Gage's men returned the fire, but they had no enemy in view against which to fire. Braddock, hearing the exchange, hurried forward with a column, but was met with Gage's men falling back toward the artillery. Braddock and his officers tried to rally the troops, but a general confusion reigned among the ambushed English soldiers. They huddled in groups and fired wildly into the forest from which their hidden foes maintained their position. It has been claimed that perhaps upwards of two-thirds of the English force killed during the battle had been hit by the wild firing of the panic stricken regulars. The Virginian militia held their own during the battle by fighting like the Indians, taking cover behind trees and firing every man for himself. But even the Virginians were annihilated after Braddock forcibly mustered them into column formation like proper English soldiers. The battle raged for nearly three hours.

    Early in the battle, an English bullet finally found its mark in Captain Beaujeu, killing him almost instantly. Beaujeu's second-in-command, Jean-Daniel Dumas, admirably maintained order, but Beaujeu's death momentarily caused a halt in the French army's firing. The suspension in the rain of bullets falling down on them at every side was only momentary; in an instant the deadly barrage was renewed.

    At one point during the battle, Captain Waggoner, of the Virginia militia, marched his company of eighty men up a slope to secure the summit. From that vantage point, Waggoner hoped to be able to be able to see the French and Indians in the nearby woods. The provincial troops assembled behind a fallen tree, whose five foot diameter trunk afforded a natural defence. The position of a body of the Indians was sighted by the Virginians, who discharged their muskets in that direction. A body of the English regulars, seeing the fire from the provincial troops' muskets, immediately fired in that direction, killing fifty of the Virginians.

    During the engagement, General Braddock had five horses shot out from under him. His aid-de-camp, George Washington, likewise had two horses shot out from under him, luckily avoiding being shot himself, although his clothes would reveal four bullet holes when the battle was over. Braddock failed to order his artillery to advance; if he had brought them up to the front and scoured the woods, the battle might have ended differently. Instead, the English general vainly tried to rally his troops back into European style platoons and columns. Braddock was eventually hit by a bullet that went through his arm and lungs. The mortally wounded commander was carried from the field by two provincial militiamen. He would die four days later.

    The demoralized English army fell into a rout and retreated. They made their way back along the road they had cut, reaching the camp established by Colonel Dunbar. Fearing that they would be followed by the Indians and massacred as they fled, the troops left most of their arms and ammunition behind, so that they might be able to move more quickly. Some twenty-five thousand pounds in money was left behind. More damaging to the English was the loss of General Braddock's personal papers which were left behind in the retreat. They provided the French with the plans for the attacks on Fort Niagara and Saint Frederic.

    Known variously as the Battle of the Wilderness or the Battle of the Monongahela, the engagement resulted in the death of nearly one thousand English and provincial soldiers. Of the eighty-six officers involved in the action, sixty-three were killed. Of the 1,373 enlisted men and provincial militia troops, 914 were killed or wounded. On the French side, only sixty were casualties.

    George Washington, in a letter sent to Governor Dinwiddie on 18 July 1755, described the battle:

"We continued our March from Fort Cumberland to Frazier's (which is within 7 Miles of of Duquiハe) with't meet'g with any extraordinary event, hav'g only a stragler or two picked up by the French Indians. When we came to this place, we were attack'd (very unexpectedly I muフ own) by abt. 300 French and Ind'ns; Our numbers conナフed of abt. 1300 well arm'd Men, chiefly Regular's, who were immediately フruck with ブch a deadly Panick, that nothing but confuナon and diバbedience of order's prevail'd amongフ them: The Officer's in gen'l behav'd with incomparable bravery, for which they greatly ブffer'd, there being near 60 kill'd and wound'd. A large proportion, out of the number we had! The Virginian Companies behav'd like Men and died like Soldiers; for I believe out of the 3 Companys that were there that day, ツarce 30 were left alive: Captn. Peyrouny and all his Officer's, down to a Corporal, were kill'd: Captn. Polバn ドar'd almoフ as hard a Fate, for only one of his Eツap'd: In ドort the daフardly behavior of the Engliド Soldier's expo'd all thoテ who were inclin'd to do their duty to almoフ certain Death; and at length, in deパight of every effort to the contrary, broke and run as Sheep before the Hounds, leav'g the Artillery, Ammunition, Proviナons, and, every individual thing we had with us a prey to the Enemy; and when we endeavour'd to rally them in hopes of regaining our invaluable loピ, it was with as much ブcceピ as if we had attempted to have フop'd the wild Bears of the Mountains. The Genl. Was wounded behind in the ドoulder, and into the Breaフ, of w'ch he died three days after; his two Aids de Camp were both wounded, but are in a fair way of Recovery; Colo. Burton and Sir Jno. St. Clair are alバ wounded, and I hope will get over it; Sir Peter Halket, with many other brave Officers were kill'd in the Field. I luckily eツap'd with't a wound tho' I had four Bullets through my Coat and two Horテs ドot under me. It is ブppoテ that we left 300 or more dead in the Field; about that number we brought of wounded; and it is imagin'd (I believe with great juフice too) that two thirds of both [ ? ] received their ドott from our own cowardly Engliド Soldier's who gather'd themテlves into a body contrary to orders 10 or 12 deep, wou'd then level, Fire and ドoot down the Men before them."

    In a letter dated 18 July 1755 to his brother, John Augustine Washington, George Washington assured him that the reports of his death 'were greatly exaggerated':

"As I have heard ナnce my arriv'l at this place, a circumフancial acct. of my death and dying パeech, I take this early oppertunity of contradicting both, and of aピuring you that I now exiフ and appear in the land of the living by the miraculous care of Providence, that protected me beyond all human expectation; I had 4 Bullets through my Coat, and two Horテs ドot under me, and yet eツaped unhurt."

    The bodies of the men slain during the battle were left unburied, being disturbed only by the wild beasts of the forest. The skeletons of Braddock's troops were still lying where they fell when, three years later, after the English finally captured Fort Duquesne, the majority of them were properly buried.

    As the survivors of the Battle of the Wilderness arrived at the camp of Colonel Dunbar, they brought with them the panic that had contributed to their downfall during the battle. Dunbar, likewise panicked and, despite the fact that he still had over one thousand men to effect a counterattack on the French, he ordered that all the stores, artillery and ammunition (except for immediate use) be destroyed. That would free up more horses to carry the troops back to the settlements of Maryland and Virginia.

    General Edward Braddock died during the night of 13 July, the day following Dunbar's retreat back to Fort Cumberland. George Washington read his funeral sermon by torchlight as the general was buried in the road, simply wrapped in his cloak. The English feared that the Indians might attempt to find Braddock's grave and desecrate it. By burying him in the road, the gravesite would become totally concealed, and secure from the savages, as the boots of the English army trudged over it. As it turned out, the French did send out a party of soldiers to destroy every vestige of the English intrusion, but they did not find the gravesite.

    The French troops returned to their fort secure in the knowledge that the English held no ground in the Ohio Valley as of that day. The Indians celebrated the victory in their own way, as described by James Smith, a sixteen year old prisoner being held at Fort Duquesne:

"About ブn-down I beheld a ノall party coming in with about a dozen priバners, フripped naked, with their hands tied behind their backs, and their faces and part of their bodies blackened; theテ priバners they burned to death on the bank of the Allegheny river, oppoナte to the fort. I フood on the fort wall until I beheld them begin to burn one of theテ men; they had him tied to a フake, and kept touching him with fire brands, and red hot irons, and he ツreaming in the moフ doleful manner; the Indians in the meantime yelling like infernal パirits. As this ツene appeared too ドocking for me to behold, I retired to my lodgings both バre and バrry."