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Battle of the Monongahela, 9 July 1755

Battle of the Monongahela, 9 July 1755

Battle of the Monongahela, 9 July 1755

Battle during French and Indian Wars. A British column, 1,500 men strong, led by General Braddock, the commander in chief in North America, aided by George Washington, was advancing towards the French Fort Duquesne (modern Pittsburg). Having crossed the River Monongahela, only seven miles from the Fort, the British column was ambushed by the much smaller French and Indian force of 1,200 men. The French and Indians, firing from the woods, were able to inflict high casualties without exposing themselves even to view, in particular amongst the officers. Braddock himself was fatally wounded after ordering a retreat, which was in effect commanded by Washington. Only one third of the force returned to safety. Braddock has received much blame for the disaster, although Washington himself blamed the ineptness of the regular British troops at frontier warfare.

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Battle of the Monongahela, 9 July 1755 - History

Major General Edward Braddock
General in Chief of His Majesty's Forces in North America

250th Anniversary of Braddock's Defeat
The Battle of the Monongahela, July 9, 1755
A Commemoration in Braddock, Pennsylvania

On a beautiful July day under a blue sky full of billowing white clouds people gathered to commemorate the most important military disaster of colonial American history. The setting was the famous Carnegie Library in Braddock as well as two sites on the original battlefield and a point atop a nearby hill giving a magnificant panarama of the Monongahela River Valley where the action happened 250 years ago to the day.

The morning began early with a series of four talks on the Battle and its aftermath. The presenters were well known authors or historians who are recognized authorities on the campaign. They included Paul Kopperman, author of Braddock at the Monongahela, Burton Kummerow on "The Famous Alumni of the Braddock Expedition", Martin West, Director of Fort Ligonier, on "Washington and Braddock" and Walter Powell, President, Braddock Road Preservation Assoc., on "The Aftermath of Braddock's Defeat."

Walter Powell speaking in the theater of the Carnegie Library.


Robert Griffing signs a poster of his new painting "The Wounding of General Braddock"
that was on display upstairs with some historical documents including a full display
interpreting George Washington's hand written remembrances of the battle.

Of course, there was a sales table with lots of interesting books and souvenirs.


After the lectures the crowd followed a march to the site of the farthest advance of Braddock's troops where a volley was fired in honor of all the fallen soldiers of the battle.

The volley was given at the site of an early monument to the battle. More recently the bronze placque has been moved to a more secure and accessible place on the side of the nearby apartment building. After the ceremony some reenactors stayed at the site to interpret the battle action for the visitors.

One of the most spectacular sites was the view from the Grand View Golf Course above Braddock. Click the link below for a large panorama.
View toward Pittsburgh - the skyscrapers in the distance.
For a Panoramic View Click Here! - Large File!

Our congratulations to the Braddock's Field Historical Society and the Braddock Carnegie Library for all they and the volunteers did to make this a memorable day. The General would be proud.

See Events Calendar for activities this coming weekend (July 6-17) at Jumonville and Fort Necessity.


Contents

Braddock's expedition was part of a massive British offensive against the French in North America that summer. As commander-in-chief of the British Army in America, General Braddock led the main thrust against the Ohio Country with a column some 2,100 strong. His command consisted of two regular line regiments, the 44th and 48th with about 1,350 men, along with about 500 regular soldiers and militiamen from several British American colonies, and artillery and other support troops. With these men, Braddock expected to seize Fort Duquesne easily, and then push on to capture a series of French forts, eventually reaching Fort Niagara. George Washington, promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel of the Virginia militia on June 4, 1754 by Governor Robert Dinwiddie, [6] was then just 23, knew the territory and served as a volunteer aide-de-camp to General Braddock. [7] Braddock's Chief of Scouts was Lieutenant John Fraser of the Virginia Regiment. Fraser owned land at Turtle Creek, had been at Fort Necessity, and had served as Second-in-Command at Fort Prince George (renamed Fort Duquesne by the French), at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.

Braddock mostly failed in his attempts to recruit Native American allies from those tribes not yet allied with the French he had but eight Mingo Indians with him, serving as scouts. A number of Indians in the area, notably Delaware leader Shingas, remained neutral. Caught between two powerful European empires at war, the local Indians could not afford to be on the side of the loser. They would decide based on Braddock's success or failure.

Setting out from Fort Cumberland in Maryland on May 29, 1755, the expedition faced an enormous logistical challenge: moving a large body of men with equipment, provisions, and (most importantly, for attacking the forts) heavy cannons, across the densely wooded Allegheny Mountains and into western Pennsylvania, a journey of about 110 miles (180 km). Braddock had received important assistance from Benjamin Franklin, who helped procure wagons and supplies for the expedition. Among the wagoners were two young men who would later become legends of American history: Daniel Boone and Daniel Morgan. Other members of the expedition included Ensign William Crawford and Charles Scott. Among the British were Thomas Gage Charles Lee, future American president George Washington, and Horatio Gates.

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, and because of a shortage of healthy draft animals. In some cases, the column was only able to progress at a rate of two miles (about 3 km) a day, creating Braddock's Road—an important legacy of the march—as they went. To speed up movement, Braddock split his men into a "flying column" of about 1,300 men which he commanded, and, lagging far behind, a supply column of 800 men with most of the baggage, commanded by Colonel Thomas Dunbar. They passed the ruins of Fort Necessity along the way, where the French and Canadians had defeated Washington the previous summer. Small French and Indian war bands skirmished with Braddock's men during the march.

Meanwhile, at Fort Duquesne, the French garrison consisted of only about 250 regulars and Canadian militia, with about 640 Indian allies camped outside the fort. The Indians were from a variety of tribes long associated with the French, including Ottawas, Ojibwas, and Potawatomis. Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecœur, the Canadian commander, received reports from Indian scouting parties that the British were on their way to besiege the fort. He realised he could not withstand Braddock's cannon, and decided to launch a preemptive strike, an ambush of Braddock's army as he crossed the Monongahela River. The Indian allies were initially reluctant to attack such a large British force, but the French field commander Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu, who dressed himself in full war regalia complete with war paint, convinced them to follow his lead.

By July 8, 1755, the Braddock force was on the land owned by the Chief Scout, Lieutenant John Fraser. That evening, the Indians sent a delegation to the British to request a conference. Braddock sent Washington and Fraser. The Indians asked the British to halt their advance so that they could attempt to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal by the French from Fort Duquesne. Both Washington and Fraser recommended this to Braddock but he demurred.

On July 9, 1755, Braddock's men crossed the Monongahela without opposition, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Fort Duquesne. The advance guard of 300 grenadiers and colonials with two cannon under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage began to move ahead. George 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 used by the British—but his efforts were ignored, Braddock insisted on fighting as "gentlemen". Then, unexpectedly, Gage's advance guard came upon the French and Indians, who were hurrying to the river, behind schedule and too late to set an ambush.

In the skirmish that followed between Gage's soldiers and the French, the French commander, Beaujeu, was killed by the first volley of musket fire by the grenadiers. Although some 100 French Canadians fled back to the fort and the noise of the cannon held the Indians off, Beaujeu's death did not have a negative effect on French morale Jean-Daniel Dumas, a French officer, rallied the rest of the French and their Indian allies. The battle, known as the Battle of the Monongahela, or the Battle of the Wilderness, or just Braddock's Defeat, was officially begun. Braddock's force was approximately 1,400 men. The British faced a French and Indian force estimated to number between 300 and 900. The battle, frequently described as an ambush, was actually a meeting engagement, where two forces clash at an unexpected time and place. The quick and effective response of the French and Indians — despite the early loss of their commander — led many of Braddock's men to believe they had been ambushed. However, French documents reveal that the French and Indian force was too late to prepare an ambush, and had been just as surprised as the British.

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 from the road and began to push the British back.

Following Braddock's example, the officers kept trying to reform units into regular show order within the confines of the road, mostly in vain and simply providing targets for their concealed enemy. Cannon were used, but in such confines of the forest road, they were ineffective. The colonial militia accompanying the British took cover and returned fire. In the confusion, some of the militiamen who were fighting from the woods were mistaken for the enemy and fired upon by the British regulars.

After several hours of intense combat, Braddock was shot off his horse, and effective resistance collapsed. Colonel Washington, although he had no official position in the chain of command, was able to impose and maintain some order and formed a rear guard, which allowed the remnants of the force to disengage. This earned him the sobriquet Hero of the Monongahela, by which he was toasted, and established his fame for some time to come.

We marched to that place, without any considerable loss, having only now and then a straggler picked up by the French and scouting Indians. When we came there, we were attacked by a party of French and Indians, whose number, I am persuaded, did not exceed three hundred men while ours consisted of about one thousand three hundred well-armed troops, chiefly regular soldiers, who were struck with such a panic that they behaved with more cowardice than it is possible to conceive. The officers behaved gallantly, in order to encourage their men, for which they suffered greatly, there being near sixty killed and wounded a large proportion of the number we had." [8]

By sunset, the surviving British and colonial forces were fleeing back down the road they had built. Braddock died of his wounds during the long retreat, on July 13, and is buried within the Fort Necessity parklands.

Of the approximately 1,300 men Braddock had led into battle, 456 were killed and 422 wounded. Commissioned officers were prime targets and suffered greatly: out of 86 officers, 26 were killed and 37 wounded. Of the 50 or so women that accompanied the British column as maids and cooks, only 4 survived. The French and Canadians reported 8 killed and 4 wounded their Indian allies lost 15 killed and 12 wounded.

Colonel Dunbar, with the reserves and rear supply units, took command when the survivors reached his position. He ordered the destruction of supplies and cannon before withdrawing, burning about 150 wagons on the spot. Ironically, at this point the defeated, demoralized and disorganised British forces still outnumbered their opponents. The French and Indians did not pursue and were engaged with looting and scalping. The French commander Dumas realized the British were utterly defeated, but he did not have enough of a force to continue organized pursuit.

The debate on how Braddock, with professional soldiers, superior numbers, and artillery, could fail so miserably began soon after the battle and continues to this day. Some blamed Braddock, some blamed his officers, and some blamed the British regulars or the colonial militia. Washington, for his part, supported Braddock and found fault with the British regulars. [8]

Braddock's tactics are still debated. One school of thought holds that Braddock's reliance on time-honoured European methods, with men standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the open and firing mass volleys in unison, were not appropriate for frontier fighting and cost Braddock the battle. Skirmish tactics ("Indian style"), which American colonials had learned from frontier fighting, with men taking cover and firing individually, were superior in the American environment. [9]

However, in some studies, the interpretation of "Indian-style" superiority has been argued to be a myth by several military historians. European regular armies already employed irregular forces of their own and had extensive theories of how to use and counter-guerilla warfare. Stephen Brumwell argues just the opposite by stating that contemporaries of Braddock, like John Forbes and Henry Bouquet, recognized that "war in the forests of America was a very different business from war in Europe." [10]

Peter Russell argues it was Braddock's failure to rely on the time-honoured European methods that cost him the battle. [11] The British had already waged war on the irregular forces in the Jacobite uprisings. And East-European irregulars, such as Pandours and Hussars, had already made an impact on European warfare and theory by the 1740s. Braddock's failure, according to proponents of this theory, was caused by not adequately applying traditional military doctrine (particularly by not using distance), not his lack of use of frontier tactics. [12] Russell, in his study, shows that on several occasions before the battle, Braddock had successfully adhered to standard European tactics to counter ambushes and so had become nearly immune to earlier French and Canadian attacks.


Contents

Braddock had been dispatched to North America in the new position of Commander-in-Chief, bringing with him two regiments (the 44th and 48th) of troops from Ireland. [7] He added to this by recruiting local troops in British America, swelling his forces to roughly 2,200 by the time he set out from Fort Cumberland, Maryland on 29 May. [8] He was accompanied by Virginia Colonel George Washington, who had led the previous year's expedition to the area. [1]

Braddock's expedition was part of a four-pronged attack on the French in North America. Braddock's orders were to launch an attack into the Ohio Country, disputed by Britain and France. Control of the area was dominated by Fort Duquesne on the forks of the Ohio River. Once it was in his possession, he was to proceed on to Fort Niagara, establishing British control over the Ohio territory.

He soon encountered a number of difficulties. He was scornful of the need to recruit local Native Americans as scouts, and left with only eight Mingo guides. He found that the road he was trying to use was slow, and needed constant widening to move artillery and supply wagons along it. Frustrated, he split his force in two, leading a flying column ahead, with a slower force following with the cannon and wagons. [8]

The flying column of 1,300 crossed the Monongahela River on 9 July, within 10 miles (16 km) of their target, Fort Duquesne. Despite being very tired after weeks of crossing extremely hard terrain, many of the British and Americans anticipated a relatively easy victory—or even for the French to abandon the fort upon their approach. [9]

Fort Duquesne had been very lightly defended, but had recently received significant reinforcements. [10] Claude-Pierre Pecaudy de Contrecœur, the Canadian commander of the fort, had around 1,600 French troupes de la Marine, Canadian militiamen and Native American allies. Concerned by the approach of the British, he dispatched Captain Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu with around 800 troops, (108 Troupes de la Marine, 146 Canadian militia, and 600 Indians), [11] to check their advance. [12]

The French and Indians arrived too late to set an ambush, as they had been delayed, and the British had made surprisingly speedy progress. They ran into the British advance guard, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage. Seeing the enemy in the trees, Gage ordered his men to open fire. Despite firing at very long range for a smooth-bored musket, their opening volleys succeeded in killing Captain Beaujeu.

Unconcerned by the death of Beaujeu, the Indian warriors took up positions to attack. They were fighting on an Indian hunting ground which favored their tactics, with numerous trees and shrubbery separated by wide open spaces. The rolling platoon fire of the British initially caused roughly one hundred of the French to flee back to the fort. Captain Dumas rallied the rest of the French troops. The Indian tribes allied with the French, the Ottawas, Ojibwa and Potawatomis, used psychological warfare against the British. After the Indians killed British soldiers, they would nail their scalps to surrounding trees. During the battle, Indians made a terrifying "whoop" sound that caused fear and panic to spread in the British infantry. [13]

As they came under heavy fire, Gage's advance guard began taking casualties and withdrew. 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. Despite comfortably outnumbering their attackers, the British were immediately on the defensive. Most of the regulars were not accustomed to fighting in forest terrain, and were terrified by the deadly musket fire. Confusion reigned, and several British platoons fired at each other. [14] 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 along the road and began to push the British back. General Braddock rode forward to try to rally his men, who had lost all sense of unit cohesion.

Following Braddock's lead, the officers tried to reform units into regular order within the confines of the road. This effort was mostly in vain, and simply provided targets for their concealed enemy. Cannon were used, but due to the confines of the forest road, they were ineffective. Braddock had several horses shot under him, yet retained his composure, providing the only sign of order to the frightened British soldiers. [14] Many of the Americans, lacking the training of British regulars to stand their ground, fled and sheltered behind trees, where they were mistaken for enemy fighters by the redcoats, who fired upon them. [14] The rearguard, made up of Virginians, managed to fight effectively from the trees—something they had learned in previous years of fighting Indians. [15]

Despite the unfavorable conditions, the British began to stand firm and blast volleys at the enemy. Braddock believed that the enemy would eventually give way in the face of the discipline displayed by the English-led troops. Despite lacking officers to command them, the often makeshift platoons continued to hold their crude ranks.

Finally, after three hours of intense combat, Braddock was shot in the lung, possibly by one of his own men, [16] [17] and effective resistance collapsed. He fell from his horse, badly wounded, and was carried back to safety by his men. As a result of Braddock's wounding, and without an order being given, the British began to withdraw. They did so largely with order, until they reached the Monongahela River, when they were set upon by the Indian warriors. The Indians attacked with hatchets and scalping knives, after which panic spread among the British troops, and they began to break ranks and run, believing they were about to be massacred.

Colonel Washington, although he had no official position in the chain of command, was able to impose and maintain some order, and formed a rear guard, which allowed the remnants of the force to disengage. By sunset, the surviving British forces were fleeing back down the road they had built, carrying their wounded. Behind them on the road, bodies were piled high. The Indians did not pursue the fleeing redcoats, but instead set about scalping and looting the corpses of the wounded and dead, and drinking two hundred gallons of captured rum. [18]

A number of British soldiers and women were captured in the battle. Some of the soldiers were spared, as were most of the women, but around a dozen soldiers were tortured and burned to death by the Indians that night, witnessed by British prisoner James Smith. [19]

Daniel Boone, a famous American pioneer, explorer, woodsman, and frontiersman — and one of the first folk heroes of the United States — was among the soldiers involved in the battle. Boone served under Captain Hugh Waddell of North Carolina, whose militia unit was assigned in 1755 to serve under Braddock. Boone acted as a wagoner, along with his cousin Daniel Morgan, who would later be a key general in the American Revolution. [20] In the Battle of the Monongahela, Boone narrowly escaped death when the baggage wagons were assaulted by Indian troops - Boone escaped, it is said, by cutting his wagons and fleeing. Boone remained critical of Braddock's blunders for the rest of his life. [21] While on the campaign, Boone met John Finley, a packer who worked for George Croghan in the trans-Appalachian fur trade. Finley first interested Boone in the abundance of game and other natural wonders of the Ohio Valley. Finley took Boone on his first hunting trip to Kentucky 12 years later. [22]


Battle of the Monongahela, 9 July 1755 - History

The date was July 9 th , 1755. The war was the French and Indian War with the British. Both Franklin and Washington had warned British General Braddock of a possible ambush. Braddock, without concern marched his men in a line stretching four miles long on a narrow, twisting forest path, near modern day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Braddock was skilled in open field, European style warfare, and not what was to occur that day in the woods of Pennsylvania. To Braddock, to hide behind trees was cowardice.

A force of 72 French regulars, 146 Canadian militiamen, and 637 Indians (combined force of 855) ambushed the 1,300 English in the woods. The battle was very one-sided: 714 British soldiers were killed or wounded, of the 86 British officers 63 were killed or wounded – Braddock himself was mortally wounded The French side lost about 30 men and three officers.

Washington, at 23 years of age, was a part of this great battle. His coat was ripped four times by musket balls. Two horses were shot out from under him. A gold seal which hung around his neck bearing his initials was shot off him (this was found some 80 years later). Yet, Washington was unharmed.

Chief Red Hawk told of shooting eleven times at Washington without killing him. At that point, because his gun never had such trouble hitting its mark, he ceased firing at him, convinced the “Great Spirit” protected him. Washington met an Indian chief, 15 years after the battle, near what is now the border of Ohio and West Virginia. He said, “Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss –t’was all in vain a power mightier far than we shielded you. Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased firing at you.” Another Indian is said to have said, “Washington was never born to be killed by a bullet! I had 17 fair fires at him with my rifle, and after all could not bring him to the ground!” (The Bulletproof George Washington by David Barton).

George Washington believed that he had been protected by the providence of God. He wrote to his brother John on July 18, 1755: “But by the All-powerful Dispensation of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although Death was leveling my companions on every side of me!” (encyclopediavirginia.org).

Due to the nature of providence there is not a way to say with 100% certainty that this was due to God’s providence. (See Esther 4:14 Philemon 15). However, we do know that God is ultimately in control (Acts 17:26). It is so even today.

Furthermore, we know that we are to be good citizens. We are to obey the laws of the land (Matthew 17:24-27 22:17-21 Romans 13:1-2 Titus 3:1 1 Peter 2:13-14). We are taught to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2 cf. Jeremiah 29:7).

Clearly, this is a country with great prosperity and freedom. In the scriptures, it is taught that we are to be good stewards of what we have (1 Corinthians 4:2 Matthew 25:14-ff Luke 19:11-ff Luke 12:48b). No other people in the history of the world has been so free and prosperous. How are we using our blessings? Are we using our freedom and prosperity to spread the Good News?

No, I cannot say with 100% certainty that Colonel Washington was protected by God’s overpowering providence. Though it does make one wonder.

Here are a few thought on life in this(or any country). These are some things that I know. I do know that God wants us to obey this nation’s laws (with but one exception Daniel 3 6 Acts 4:18-20 5:29). I do know that we should pray for the leaders of this country, whomever they may be, that we may live a quiet, peaceable life (1 Timothy 2:1-2). I know that we are blessed to live here and with the great opportunities we have comes responsibilities. I do know that we are to live as lights in this world (Matthew 5:16). Furthermore, may we always remember that this world is not our home.


Map of the Route of Braddock

Map of the route taken by Major General Edward Braddock’s Army in
Maryland and Pennsylvania during its advance to Fort DuQuesne 29th May
to 9th July 1755.

24) 9th July 1755, at about 2pm, the Indians and French attacked Braddock’s army and the carnage began.

23) At midday Braddock’s army began the final march to Fort DuQuesne. It was now assumed that the French had gone and there would be no fighting. Elementary precautions, scrupulously observed until now, were abandoned. The army marched with fife and drum playing the ‘Grenadier’s March’.

20) 6th July, soldiers fired on a party of Indians killing the son of Monacatootha, the chief of Braddock’s Indians.

19) 6th July, the Indians returned with the scalp of a French officer. Flour and beef arrived from Dunbar.

18) 3rd July, Deer Lick Camp Sir John Saint Clair urged that the army should await Dunbar’s contingent. It was resolved to continue. Two of the Indians left to reconnoitre Fort Duquesne.

13) The site where General Braddock was buried on the return from Fort DuQuesne.

10) 20th June, the army reached Bear Camp where George Washington was left, extremely ill. Washington rejoined the army on 8th July in time to take a heroic part in the battle.

7) 6th June, Major Chapman’s contingent reached Little Meadows and began construction of fortifications. The wagons returned empty to Fort Cumberland.

6) 11th June, after a council of war several of the wagons were returned to Fort Cumberland as too cumbersome for the country.

5) 10th June, General Braddock marched out with the remaining troops and wagons.

4) 9th June, the American Rangers and Independent Companies marched out.

3) 7th June 1755 Sir Peter Halkett marched out with a contingent of British and American troops.

2) 2nd June, Lt Spendlowe, RN, discovered the easier path along Will’s Creek.

The previous battle in the British Battles sequence is the Battle of Plassey

The next battle in the British Battles sequence is Braddock’s Defeat Part I

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Battle of Braddock’s Field

On July 9, 1755, George Washington distinguished himself as a leader at the Battle of Braddock’s Field, also known as the Battle of the Monongahela.

While in his early 20s, George Washington joined the Virginia colonial militia. One of his assignments was to build a road through the dense forests of Maryland to Pennsylvania, to set up an encampment, find water routes into the Ohio Valley, and await reinforcements. Following a skirmish with French troops that threatened to evolve into full-scale war, Washington and his men built a log stronghold named Fort Necessity.

On July 3, 1754, the French attacked Fort Necessity, firing the opening shots of the French and Indian War. Outnumbered three to one, Washington’s men were forced to surrender. The defeat was the only surrender of his military career.

U.S. #688 FDC – Braddock’s Field First Day Cover.

In 1755, Washington volunteered to act as British General Edward Braddock’s confidential assistant as he launched a campaign to retake the Ohio Valley from the French. Its purpose was to capture the French stronghold of Fort Duquesne in Pennsylvania and push north to Fort Niagara. However, Braddock failed to recruit Native American scouts and found that the road was too narrow and constantly needed to be widened to move artillery and supply wagons. He decided to split his army in two, sending a flying column ahead with the slower force of cannons and wagons remaining behind.

U.S. #1123 – Fort Duquesne was named after the Marquis de Duquesne, governor-general of New France.

Braddock’s 1,300-man flying column crossed the Monongahela River on July 9, 1755, placing them about 10 miles from Fort Duquesne. The men expected an easy victory as the fort was lightly defended. However, the fort had recently received French, Canadian, and Native American reinforcements. The Canadian commander of the fort received word of the approaching British and sent out about 800 troops and Native American warriors for an ambush. Though the British saw the ambush party hiding in the tree line, the Native Americans utilized psychological warfare to instill fear. They hung the scalps of their victims on trees and let out a terrifying “whoop” call that led the British to panic.

U.S. #1123 FDC – Fort Duquesne First Day Cover.

Coming under heavy fire, this British advance guard began to withdraw. However, the slower force sped up their advance when they heard gunfire. Though the British far outnumbered their attackers, they were on the defensive. The men were not used to fighting in the woods and were so confused they frequently fired on each other. As his men descended in chaos, Braddock rode to the front to rally his men. Some of his commanders followed suit and the troops held their ground. Several horses were shot out from under Braddock before he was shot in the lung.

U.S. #72 was often used on mail to foreign nations during the Civil War.

As Braddock was carried away, the British had no leader and began to withdraw to the Monongahela River. There they came under attack from Native Americans with hatchets and scalping knives. The British feared a massacre. But then Colonel Washington, despite having no official command, helped the men to calm down and establish order. He then organized and evacuated the men.

Although the British were defeated, Washington distinguished himself and became known as the “Hero of the Monongahela.” His reputation was known as far away as London, and the British governor of Virginia appointed him commander in chief of the state’s colonial militia. However, Washington became frustrated by the British military’s lack of respect for the colonists’ service. He resigned his commission three years later in favor of civilian life.

U.S. #1728 pictures Horatio Gates at Saratoga. Gates participated in Braddock’s Expedition.

The battle of Braddock’s Field featured several commanders besides Washington who would become prominent in the American Revolution: General Thomas Gage went on to become the British Commander-in-Chief at the beginning of the Revolution, Horatio Gates was a Colonial Army general who commanded American forces at the Battle of Saratoga, and Charles Lee became a major general in the Colonial Army.


MONONGAHELA, BATTLE OF THE

MONONGAHELA, BATTLE OF THE (9 July 1755). In the opening stages of the French and Indian War, a vanguard of British Gen. Edward Braddock's expedition encountered a band of French and Indian soldiers near Braddock, Pa., surprising both sides. The British opened fire immediately, scattering the enemy. The Indians occupied a commanding hill and worked through a gully on the other British flank. Surrounded, the vanguard retreated, abandoning its guns. Meanwhile, the main body rushed forward hastily, and the whole army became an unmanageable huddle. Most of the officers were killed or wounded, but Lt. Col. George Washington, who was one of Braddock's aides, was almost miraculously unscathed. Braddock, mortally wounded, ordered a retreat the soldiers fled in disorder.


Braddock’s Defeat — The Battle of Monongahela and the Road to Revolution

BY AUGUST OF 1755, grim details of the slaughter of Major General Edward Braddock ’s army on the banks of the Monongahela River had spread across the empire.

The reports described how a column of British regulars and American colonial troops were ambushed by French and Native American forces in the remote Ohio Country. Braddock’s expedition had spent the previous six weeks traversing more than 100 miles of wilderness with the goal of capturing Fort Duquesne , which sat at the strategically vital Forks of the Ohio River (modern Pittsburgh). The British were only a few miles from the enemy outpost on July 9 when they were attacked. In the space of just four hours, 976 out of a force of 1,469 Redcoats and provincials were dead or injured. Braddock himself was mortally wounded in the clash, and the remnants of his force struggled back across the Appalachian Mountains before abandoning the expedition altogether.

British contemporaries were stunned by initial reports that a mere 300 French and Indians had defeated a force of more than 1,400 British soldiers.

In faraway Nova Scotia, a Massachusetts officer thought it the “most extraordinary thing that ever [happened] in America and unparalleled in history that such a number of English regular troops (then which there certainly is none better) should be defeated by a handful of French & Indians, & directly to run away.” Even those who had witnessed the slaughter were similarly shocked.

George Washington , one of General Braddock’s aides who had barely survived, wrote to a friend following the battle:

“I join very heartily with you in believing that when this story comes to be related in future annals, it will meet with unbelief & indignation for had I not been witness to the fact on that fatal day, I should scarce have given credit to it even now.”

Yet Braddock’s Defeat, or the Battle of the Monongahela (as it was known by its French victors) was distinguished by far more than battlefield slaughter. Historians’ traditional emphasis on Braddock’s supposed arrogance has also obscured the immense historical consequences of his defeat. While it was one of the worst military disasters in British history, it was among the greatest victories ever achieved by Native Americans, who had composed two-thirds of the French and Indian coalition of around 900 combatants. The tangible evidence of their victory — captured war materiel, horses, uniforms, and scalps — brought Native nations into the French alliance in far greater numbers than ever before. Using Braddock’s road across the mountains in reverse, French and Indian war parties soon attacked and devastated the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

The events at Monongahela decisively swung the pendulum of military power to the French. The victors used Braddock’s captured artillery train and supplies to besiege and capture other British forts in America. The capture of Braddock’s headquarters papers was also a diplomatic and propaganda coup for the French, as they provided incriminating evidence that leading British ministers of state had plotted war against France during a formal peace. Braddock’s defeat powerfully escalated what had been a colonial conflict between Britain and France into a global struggle for supremacy known as the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763).

Braddock’s Defeat ultimately changed how and where war was fought in America. The British army adapted to American warfare by creating ranger units and light infantry companies that could confront the threat of Indian and Canadian irregulars in the woods. In 1758, and with Braddock’s example before him, General John Forbes finally captured Fort Duquesne , and by 1760 the British had conquered New France itself .

During the Seven Years’ War, British and American forces had developed a new ability to strike at French and Indian targets deep in the continent’s interior. The military roads that Braddock and Forbes built across the Appalachians were crucial in shifting military operations from the seaboard to the interior. In the decades following the war, those military roads enabled thousands of British colonists to occupy lands the Ohio Valley. It marked the beginning of America’s westward expansion across the continent.

Braddock’s expedition also shaped a distinctly American identity and exposed many of the political and constitutional fault lines that would ultimately sunder the 13 colonies from the British Empire. Many colonists were awakened to a sense of “being Americans” — as George Washington expressed it — as they campaigned alongside British regulars who often denigrated their military abilities and provincial status. When the American Revolution erupted, only 20 years after Braddock’s defeat, revolutionaries remembered the Monongahela as evidence that trained British regulars could be beaten. Among the Continental Army ’s leading generals were George Washington, Horatio Gates , Charles Lee , Adam Stephen , and Daniel Morgan — all veterans of the Monongahela who carried its lessons forward into the Revolutionary War, as they sought victory over the British at places like Trenton , Saratoga , Cowpens , and Yorktown .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David L. Preston is an award-winning historian of American military history with a special interest in war and peace among the French, British, and Indian peoples of the 18th century. He is currently a professor of history at The Citadel . His first book, The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1783 (2009), received the 2010 Albert B. Corey Prize from the Canadian and American Historical Associations for the best book on Canadian/American relations. His most recent work is Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution . Since being published in 2016, the book has received six awards or distinctions, including the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History , recognizing the best book published on military history in the English language each year. It also received the Distinguished Book Award from the Society of Military History and was a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize .


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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06650 Author/Creator: Braddock, Edward (fl. 1755) Place Written: s.l. Type: Manuscript document Date: circa 9 July 1755 Pagination: 4 p. 32 x 20.5 cm.

From the expedition against Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War. Reports that Major General Edward Braddock died of his wounds and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage was slightly wounded. Mentions George Washington as participating officer.

A List of the Officers who were present, and of those Killed and Wounded in the Action on the Banks of Monongahela the 9th Day of July 1755.

Staff
His Excellency Edward Braddock Esqr Genl and Commandr in Chief of all his Majestys Forces in North America - Died of his Wounds
Robert Orne Esqr - Wounded
Roger Morrs Esqr
George Washington Esqr > Aid de Camps - Wounded
Wm Shirley Esqr Secy - Killed
Sr John St Clair Deputy Quarter Master Genl - Wounded
Mathew Lessley Gentl Asst to the Quarter Master Genl - Wounded
Francis Halket Esqr Major of Brigade - -
44th Regiment
Sir Peter Halkert Colonel - Killed
Lieut Col Gage - Slightly Wounded
Captn Talton - Killed
Captn Hobson - -
Captn Beckworth - -
Captn Getkins - Killed
Lieut Falconer - -
Lieut Littler - Wounded
Lieut Baley - -
Lieut Dunbar - Wounded
Lieut Pattenger - -
Lieut Halket - Killed
Lieut Freeby - Wounded
Lieut Allen - Killed
Lieut Simpson - Wounded
Lieut Lock - Wounded
Turn Over [2]
44 Regt continued
Disney - Wounded
Kenedy - Wounded
Townsend - Killed
Preston - -
Narthow - Killed
Pennington - Wounded
48th Regiment
Lieut Coll Burton - Wounded
Major Sparks - Slightly Wounded
Captn Dobson - -
Captn Cholmby - Killed
Captn Bowyer - Wounded
Captn Ross - Wounded
Captn Lieut Morris - -
Barbut - Wounded
Walsham - Wounded
Crimble - Killed
Wideman - Killed
Hansard - Killed
Gladwin - Wounded
Hathorn - -
Edmiston Wounded
Cope - -
Bereton - Killed
Hart - Killed
Monstrefeur - Wounded
Dunbar - -
Harrison - -
Cowhart - -
McMullen - Wounded
Crow - Wounded
Sterling - Wounded
Turn Over [3]
Artillery
Captn Ord. - -
Captn Lieut Smith - Killed
Lieut Buchannon - Wounded
Lieut McCloud - Wounded
Lieut McCuller - Wounded
Engineers
Peter McKeller Esqr - Wounded
Robt. Gordon Esqr - Wounded
Williamson Esqr - Wounded
Detachment of Sailors
Lieut Spendelow - Killed
Mr Haynes Midshipman - -
Mr Talbot Midshipman - Killed
Captn Stone of Genl Lassells Regiment - Killed
Captn Floyer of Genl Warburtons Regimt - Wounded
Indepent Compny of N York
Captn Gates - Wounded
Lieut Sournain - Killed
Lieut Miller - -
Lieut. Howarth of Captn Demeries Independt Compy - Wounded
Lieut Gray of the Same Compy - Wounded
Virginia Troops
Captn Stephens - Wounded
Captn Waggoner - -
Captn Polson - Killed
Captn Peronie - Killed
Captn Stewart - -
Hamilton Killed
Turn over [4]
Virginia Troops Continued
Woodward - -
Wright - Killed
Splitdroff - Killed
Stuart - Wounded
Waggoner - Killed
Mac Neal - -
According to the most exact Return we can as yet get, about 600 Men killed & Wounded

[inserted: 36 Wounded
25 Killed
21 Returned
82
1 Genl Died of his wounds
83]

[docket]
Report of Battle Monongahela.

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Braddock’s Defeat: Part 10

The account of General Braddock’s expedition to Fort Duquesne in 1755:

Part 10: ‘The Battle on the Monongahela on 9th July 1755.

Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington at the Battle of the Monongahela.” The British troops portrayed are wearing Revolutionary War uniforms: Death of General Edward Braddock on the Monongahela River on 9th July 1755 in the French and Indian War

The previous section on Braddock’s defeat on the Monongahela in 1755 is Part 9: Braddock’s army’s march from Little Meadows to the Monongahela River May to June 1755.

Map of General Braddock’s march from Fort Cumberland to Fort Duquesne on the Monongahela River, May to July 1755, showing A Spendlow’s Path and camps at 1 Grove 2 Martin’s 3 Little Meadows 4 Laurel 5 Bear 6 Great Crossing 7 Scalping 8 Steep Bank 9 Spring 10 Gist’s 11 Stewart’s 12 Main Crossing 13 Terrapin 14 Jacob’s 15 Salt Lick 16 Hillside 17 Ride 18 Turtle 19 Sugar: Map by John Fawkes

The Army’s formation for the final march on 9 th July 1755:

Advanced party (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gage):

Party of ‘Guides’ comprising a group of around 10 Native Americans led by Chief Monocatotha and 6 mounted soldiers of Captain Robert Stewart’s Troop of Virginia Light Horse.

The senior grenadier companies of the 44 th and 48 th Regiments and Captain Gates’ New York Independent Company.

Two 6 pounder field guns with their crews and ammunition carts (after the Monongahela River crossing these two field guns and their wagons moved behind Sir John Saint Clair’s road building party).

100 battalion soldiers from the 44 th and 48 th Regiments commanded by Captain Cholmley of the 48 th forming the guard for the two 6 pounder field guns.

Colonel Sir John Saint Clair’s road building party comprising Captain Polson’s Company of Carpenters and Captain Peyrouney’s company of Virginia Rangers accompanied by the engineers McKellar and Gordon.

The road making party’s tool wagons

Indian shot during the attack on Braddock’s army 9th July 1755 on the Monongahela

The Main Army (General Braddock)

Captain Robert Stewart’s Troop of Virginia Light Horse

Contingent of seamen and pioneers

Three 12 pounder field guns with ammunition carts

A van guard of battalion soldiers from the 44 th and 48 th Regiments commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Burton

The column of some 35 wagons in single file, 3 or 4 of them provision wagons, with the remaining body of troops from the 44 th and 48 th in files on each side and the cattle and carrying horses between the files and the flank guards in the woods.

A 12 pounder field gun with the ammunition carts of the artillery train.

Engineer Gordon records in his letter of 22 nd July 1755 (Pargellis) that Braddock’s section of the army carried with it 4 howitzers and 3 coehorns in addition to the 6 and12 pounders.

The Rearguard

Captain Waggoner’s and Captain Adam Steven’s Companies of Virginia Rangers.

The length of the whole column was probably around ¾ mile. The rear of the army was still at the crossing of the Monongehela when the French and their Native American allies began the attack at the front.

Orme’s and McKellar’s maps of the battle show Braddock’s army as having flank guards at a distance from the main line of march on each flank from Gage’s force to the rear. Orme shows the main army as having inner flank guards of a subaltern and 20 men and outer flank guards of a sergeant and 10 grenadiers. Both these maps are in the Cumberland Papers at Windsor Castle and are similar in many respects. Both maps show Saint Clair’s working party in front of the two 6 pounders whereas Captain Cholmley’s batman states that he was part of the escort for these guns commanded by Cholmley and that they found it arduous going because the guns were ‘in front of the road making party’.

British and American troops dragging a 6 pounder field gun in General Braddock’s advance to the Monongahela in 1755

Braddock’s troops marched on the morning of 9 th July 1755 with some anxiety. The march on 8 th July had been difficult and involved crossing the Sewickley Creek or Long Run some twelve times. The army had encamped part of the way down a long valley that led to the Monongahela River. The march on the 8 th had been conducted with all precautions against surprise, with parties of troops on each of the heights on either side of the valley. There was a general shortage of food. Captain Cholmley’s batman reported that some men had nothing to eat on 8 th July.

A Mingo Iroquois Warrior of the Ohio Region

Careful plans were laid for the march on the next day that would take the army up to Fort DuQuesne, the French fort that was the army’s destination.

Sir John Saint Clair, the deputy quartermaster general, proposed to Captain Orme that a party be sent on to reconnoitre the fort. Orme records that Sir John made this suggestion to him but not to Braddock. Unfortunately this militarily sound proposal was not taken up. The deputy quartermaster general, a Scotsman, was not one of the officers whose opinion was listened to by Braddock and his immediate entourage.

The advice of Christopher Gist, the general’s guide, was that it was too hazardous to march along the northern bank of the Monongahela, as there were steep cliffs over a narrow path along the riverbank. His advice was that the army should cross the Monongahela at the southern end of the valley, march along the southern bank of the Monongahela some 7 miles to the point opposite Frazier’s Cabin just beyond the junction of Turtle Creek and the Monongahela River, cross to the north bank and continue the march through the forest to Fort Duquesne.

A soldier of the 48th Foot on the march to Fort DuQuesne in Western Pennsylvania. The British soldiers left their uniform coats in Alexandria and marched in their waistcoats: Illustration by Mark Dennis of Petaluma and St Andrews.

It was generally felt in Braddock’s army that the French would finally oppose the advance at one of the positions that had to be passed to reach Fort Du Quesne perhaps in the woods during the advance to the river or at the first crossing of the Monongahela to the south bank or at the crossing back to the north bank. It seemed inconceivable that there would not be a fight at one of these points. It is an indicator of the senior officers’ expectation of French resistance that all troops were ordered to load with ball, as opposed to just pickets and certain guards as on earlier days in the march.

The army was to be led by the advance party under Lieutenant Colonel Gage and the working party of carpenters and pioneers to cut the road, supervised by Colonel Sir John Saint Clair and the three engineers who had performed this unrewarding function faithfully during the whole march.

Gage’s leading troops left Turtle Camp at 2am to march down the final section of the valley to the Monongahela River. The main section of the army followed at 4am.

Gage’s party reached the Monongahela River and crossed to the south bank. They marched west along the southern bank for some seven miles. Cholmely’s party had particular difficulty manhandling the two 6 pounders through the woods and scrub as the road making party was behind them.

The point at which Braddock’s army would cross back to the north bank of the Monongahela was immediately to the west of where Turtle Creek joins the main river, marking the end of the cliff along the northern river bank. Fraser, the trader and erstwhile officer of the Virginia Regiment, had his cabin here.

French Regiment La Marine: the few regular French troops at Fort DuQuesne were from this regiment: co-incindentally the regimental number was 44th.

Captain Cholmley’s batman described how Gage’s force formed order of battle on the southern bank and crossed the 300 yards of the Monongahela, wheeling the two 6 pounder field guns through the water, which he described as being knee-high. On the far side the soldiers found a precipitous bank, described by Engineer Gordon as at least 12 feet high, that had to be broken down to get the guns and waggons out of the river. During this process Cholmley’s batman stated that ‘some saw Indians and some did not’.

The expectation in the British army was that this was the last opportunity for the French and their Native American allies to mount a defence against them if there was to be any resistance.

Gage’s troops moved across the river in order of battle and scrambled up the far bank. There were no French troops or Native Americans to resist them.

By 9.30am Captain Cholmley’s artillery guard was also across the Monongahela and waiting on the north bank with sentries posted. Captain Cholmeley’s batman described that he ate his breakfast, ‘although only 1 soldier in 20 had anything to eat’.

At 10.30am the deputy quartermaster general’s working party came across the river.

At 11am the main army came up and began to cross the river, as working parties cut down the high riverbank on the north side.

Gage’s party and the two 6 pounder guns and escort moved off towards Fort DuQuesne, followed by Saint Clair’s party. Captain Cholmeley’s batman recorded: “So we began our march again beating the Grenadier’s March all the way

It is clear from this description and others that once Braddock’s army crossed the Monongahela River there was a change of atmosphere from the earlier apprehension of battle. Engineer Gordon recorded: Every one who saw these Banks, Being Above 12 feet perpendicularly high Above the Shire, & the Course of the River 300 yards Broad, hugg’d themselves with joy at our Good Luck in having surmounted our greatest Difficultys, & too hastily Concluded the Enemy never wou’d dare to Oppose us.”

Lieutenant Colonel Gage’s advanced guard of General Braddock’s army crossing the Monongahela River for the final march to Fort DuQuesne on 9th July 1755: by John Fawkes

Once they had crossed the river the various components of Braddock’s column moved off into the forest, turning west towards Fort DuQuesne as they passed Frasier’s Cabin. The fifes and drums played and the atmosphere would perhaps best be described as jaunty.

A number of more experienced soldiers associated with Braddock’s army had at various times urged the establishment of fortified bases as the army moved forward, to provide points of defence in case of difficulty. Governor Sharpe and Sir John Saint Clair made this suggestion. No doubt others did as well, perhaps including the Virginia officers who had fought in 1754. This advice was rejected, on occasions contemptuously, by Braddock and Orme. In his uncompromising refusal Braddock may well have been influenced by the Duke of Cumberland’s caustic comment that the American colonials seemed over-fond of forts.

At this late stage ordinary military prudence might have caused General Braddock to establish a position on the Monongahela and to hold the column of transport back while a force moved forward to establish the true situation at Fort DuQuesne. As it was, Braddock’s officers seem to have abandoned many of the precautions adopted during the march so far.

The anonymous letter written to Cumberland and ascribed by Pargellis to Captain Gabriel Christie, Saint Clair’s deputy stated: “… One thing cannot escape me, which is, that had our march been executed in the same manner the 9 th as it was the 8 th , I shou’d have stood a fair chance of writing from fort Du Quesne, instead of being in the hospital at Wills’s Creek.”

This is presumably a reference to the deployment of large forces to the heights on the army’s flanks during the march on 8 th July, with troops being sent to examine and occupy any eminence or position that might hide an ambush, precautions fatally absent on the following day.

Several accounts record that the close scrubby vegetation that had made the march so difficult so far, as the army began its march away from the river, gave way to open forest with very little under vegetation. One recorded that it would have been possible to drive a carriage through the woods.

Map of General Braddock’s defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela on 9th July 1755: by John Fawkes

The Battle on the Monongahela on 9th July 1755:

As Braddock’s relaxed soldiers marched to within seven miles of Fort DuQuesne a force of French soldiers and allied Native Americans came down the path towards them. The best estimates put the size of this force at around 300, mostly Native Americans with a small number of French Canadians and French regular troops.

General Braddock’s army at the Battle on the River Monongahelaon 9th July 1755

Engineer Gordon recorded how the battle began: “Gage’s party march’d By files four Deep our front had not Got above half a Mile from the Banks of the River, when the Guides which were all the Scouts we had, & who were Before only about 200 yards Came Back, & told a Considerable Body of the Enemy, Mostly Indians were at hand, I was then just rode up in Search of these Guides, had Got Before the Grenadiers, had an Opportunity of viewing the Enemy, & was Confirm’d By the Reports of the Guides & what I saw myself that their whole Numbers did not exceed 300.”

The French and Native Americans on seeing the British troops divided and ran down each of the British flanks firing at the troops from the cover of the trees. Those coming down the British right flank took possession of an area of high ground that overlooked the British troops. The British flank parties each comprising an officer and twenty men were quickly overwhelmed.

The soldiers of Gage’s grenadier companies formed line with the front rank kneeling on the ground and opened fire, maintaining their fire for several minutes and suffering some ten or twelve casualties. They can have had few targets as the attackers had swiftly moved around their flanks in the cover of the trees. However one of earliest of the few French casualties was their commander Captain Beaujeu, dressed as a Native American except for the officer’s gold gorgette hanging around his neck, shot dead by Gage’s grenadiers.

The appearance of the Native Americans on the high ground to the right caused Gage to order his men to withdraw 50 or 60 paces, ‘where they confusedly formed again.’(Engineer Gordon) Many of the British officers were by this time casualties, being particular targets for the hostile fire.

The French commander Beaujeu leads the first assault on General Braddock’s column before being shot dead

Captain Cholmley’s batman continued his account: “About half an hour after ten the working party came over the river and about at eleven the grand army begins to come over. As soon as they came to the river we rec’d orders to march on again. Sir John Sincklare asked Colonel Gage if he would take the two piece of cannon with us again. Colonel Gage answered, no sir I think not, for I do not think we shall have much occasion for them and they being troublesome to get forwards before the roads are cut. So we began our march again, beating the grannadiers march all the way, never seasing. There never was an army in the world in more spirits then we where, thinking of reaching Fort de Cain the day following as we was then only five miles from it. But we had not got above a mile and a half before three of our guides in the front of me above ten yards spyed the Indiens lay’d down before us. He immediately discharged his piece, turned round his horse cried, the indiens was upon us. My master called me to give me his horse which I tooke from him and the ingagement began. Immediately they began to ingage us in a half moon and still continued surrounding us more and more. Before the whole army got up we had about two thirds of our men cut of that ingaged at the first. My master died before we was ten minuits ingaged. They continualy make us retreat, they having always a large marke to shoute at and we having only to shoute at them behind trees or laid on their bellies. We was drawn up in large bodies together, a ready mark. They need not have taken sight at us for they always had a large mark, but if we saw of them five or six at onetime was a great sight and they either on their bellies or behind trees or runing from one tree to another almost by the ground. The genll had five horses shot under him. He always strove to keep the men together but I believe their might be two hundred of the American soldiers that fought behind trees and I belive they did the moast execution of any. Our Indians behaved very well for the small quantity of them. …”

Braddock hearing the outburst of firing from the vanguard rushed forward with his ADCs leading a substantial force from the main army. The anonymous officer described this advance: “upon the alarm of the advance fire, the General immediately rode to the front and his aid-du-camps after him, some officers after them, and more men without any form or order but that of a parcel of school boys Coming out of school- and in an instant, Blue, buff and yellow were intermix’d (that is the Virginian Rangers, 44 th and 48 th ).”

Some accounts of the battle have Braddock ordering Burton with the vanguard of the main army forward while he and his ADCs assembled the main force from its position along the flanks of the wagon column.

The vanguard grenadiers with Saint Clair’s and Cholmeley’s parties again began to retire but met the men of the main army rushing forward.

Burton’s advancing vanguard or Braddock’s main army, or both, opened fire on Gage’s retreating men inflicting significant casualties on them, particularly on the two Virginian companies which are likely to have been the first troops they saw.

James Wolfe in his letter commenting on Braddock’s defeat stated that the lack of proper discipline in British infantry regiments made them liable to fire on anybody, friend or foe.

General Braddock’s troops ambushed by the force of French and Native Americans at the Monongahela River on 9th July 1755

Braddock’s troops formed a mass up to 20 deep, firing as quickly as they could reload, but without having a target. Several officers commented after the battle that they only ever saw one or two Native Americans at a time during the fight.

The Royal Artillery crews of the two 6 pounders with the advanced guard seem to have stayed to serve their guns and died with them.

The repeated firing of muskets and field guns generated a heavy pall of smoke that was hemmed in by the tree canopy, preventing the soldiers from seeing who they were firing at and further encouraging the general sense of panic.

General Braddock ordered Burton to take a body of men and storm the hill to the right, the source of some of the most devastating enemy fire.

Engineer Gordon recorded: “The General Order’d the officers to Endeavor to tell off 150 men, & Advance up the hill to Dispossess the Enemy, & another party to Advance on the Left to support the two 12 pounders & Artillery people, who were in great Danger of Being Drove away By the Enemy, at that time in possession of the 2 field pieces of the Advanc’d party. This was the General’s Last Order he had Before this time 4 horses killed under him, & now Receiv’d his Mortal wound. All the Officers us’d their Utmost Endearvors to Get the men to Advance up the hill, & to Advance on the left to support the Cannon. But the Enemy’s fire at that time very much Encreasing, & a Number of officers who were Rushing on in the front to Encourage the men Being killed & wounded, there was Nothing to Be seen But the Utmost panick & Confusion amongst the Men yet those officers who had Been wounded having Return’d, & those that were not Wounded, By Exhorting & threatening had influence to kep a Body about 200 and Longer in the field, but cou’d not perswade them Either to Attempt the hill again, or Advance far Enough to support the Cannon, whose officers & men were Mostly kill’d & wounded. The Cannon silenc’d, & the Indian’s shouts upon the Right Advancing, the whole Body gave way, & Cross’d the Monongahela where we had pass’d in the Morning. With great Difficulty the General & his Aid de Camps who were both wounded were taken out of a Waggon, & hurryed along across the River

Burton and his officers tried to lead the soldiers to the attack but they would not advance out of the main body and eventually Burton was hit and most of his officers killed or wounded as they tried to give their men a lead by rushing into the woods.

The British force lost cohesion with officers, some mounted, attempting various initiatives to try and resolve the situation, with no response from the panic stricken soldiers, who simply discharged their muskets.

During the three hours of the battle the French Native Americans remained largely unseen, firing from behind cover and advancing as the British fell back on the column of wagons. Braddock had four horses shot from under him and was hit by a round which struck his arm and penetrated his chest, fatally wounding him. Many of the other officers were wounded: Orme, Gage, Burton and Saint Clair. Halkett and his son were killed, as were Cholmley, Tatton, Polson, Peyrouney and many of the junior officers.

The Battle on the Monongahela: Major General Edward Braddock falls from his horse, mortally wounded

Several attempts were made to advance and rescue the two 6 pounders of the advance party, but the groups were shot down, in part by other British soldiers firing into the gloom at anyone they could see in the trees.

The army was pressed back on the wagon column where panic stricken drivers, Daniel Boone among them, cut the horses free and rode back to the ford over the Monongahela and crossed the river, leaving the wagons to the French.

Washington and Orme persuaded some soldiers by offering them money to assist in getting the wounded Braddock into a cart and back across the river.

It is probably at this point that the Virginia Rangers of the rearguard commanded by Waggoner and Stevens were directed by their Virginian officers to take cover in the trees rather than huddle in the pathway.

There was a mad scramble by the soldiers to get away from the scene of the battle and back across the Monongahela.

Engineer Gordon recorded his escape: “I am a Good Deal hurt in the Right Arm, having Receiv’d a Shot which went thro’ & shatter’d the Bone, half way Between the Elbow & the wrist this I had Early, & altho’ I felt a Good deal of pain, yet I was too Anxious to allow myself to Quit the field at the last my horse having Receiv’d three shots, I had hardly time to shift the Saddle on another without the Bridle, when the whole gave way. The passage that was made thro the Bank in the Morning, I found Choack’d up I was oblig’d to tumble over the high Bank, which Luckily Being of Sand, part of it fell along with me, which kept my horse upon his feet, & I fortunately kept his Back. Before I had got 40 yards in the River, I turn’d about on hearing the Indians Yell, & Saw them Tomohocking some of our women & wounded people, others of them fir’d very Briskly on those that were then Crossing, at which time I Receiv’d Another Shot thro’s the Right Shoulder. But the horse I Rode Escaping, I got across the River, & soon came up with the General, Coll Burton, & the rest of the officers & men that were along with them, & Continued along with them in the Utmost pain, my wounds not having Been Dress’d until I came to Guest’s.”

Indians scalping British troops and women in the attack on General Braddock’s army 9th July 1755 on the Monongahela

Most of the French-led Native Americans remained on the main battlefield, tomahawking and scalping the wounded. Some 50 followed the British to the river and fired into the mass of soldiers as they re-crossed the Monongahela, but none followed across the river. Nevertheless the panic-stricken soldiers kept going.

At a point about half a mile back along the southern bank of the Monongahela Lieutenant Colonel Burton attempted to rally some of the troops and take up a position. None of the soldiers would stay and the retreat continued.

Braddock was brought off the field by a group of officers, Orme, Stewart, Morris and Washington in particular, and conveyed back to Gist’s in a cart.

Indian standing on a British cannon after the Battle on the Monongahela 9th July-1755

Colonel Dunbar with his following force was at Rock Camp when the survivors from Braddock’s force began to arrive, led by the mounted wagon drivers. Orme arrived with the dying Braddock at about 10pm on 10 th July 1755.

As soon as they heard of the disaster Dunbar’s troops began to desert and make their way back to Will’s Creek or off into the country and the remainder ceased to be amenable to discipline. Dunbar was widely blamed for what now happened. The army began a wholesale destruction of the stores and equipment that remained, including burning and burying the guns and carriages. Artillery was at a premium in America and the loss of the guns was a major blow.

Dunbar’s subsequent explanation was that there were not the horses to bring the artillery and equipment back from Rock Fort. It is apparent that even if Dunbar had been of a mind to try and hold a position that far forward he did not have soldiers who were prepared to stay and such wagons and horse teams as there were were needed to convey the large number of surviving wounded.

Mortally wounded, General Edward Braddock is carried back from the Monongahela to Great Meadows Camp where he died on 12th July 1755: picture by Alonzo Chappel

On 13 th July the army retreated to the Great Meadows Camp where General Braddock died. He was buried and his grave site carefully covered over to avoid his body being dug up and desecrated.

The burial of Major General Edward Braddock after the battle on the Monongahela, shown in an idealised print. After the burial, waggons were driven across the site to ensure it could not be found by the French and Indians presumed to be pursuing the beaten army.

Dunbar continued the retreat to Fort Cumberland arriving on 22 nd July 1755. The survivors from Braddock’s force were without arms, equipment or in many cases proper clothing.

On 2 nd August 1755 Dunbar marched out of Fort Cumberland for Philadelphia to ‘go into Winter Quarters,’ leaving the western counties of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia open to a wave of Native American assaults inspired by the French.

Idealised post US Independence picture ‘Washington at the Battle of the Monongahela’. No British officer or soldiers are shown, other than the wounded General Braddock: Death of General Edward Braddock on the Monongahela River on 9th July 1755 in the French and Indian War

The previous section on Braddock’s defeat on the Monongahela in 1755 is Part 9: Braddock’s army’s march from Little Meadows to the Monongahela River May to June 1755.


Watch the video: Québec History 9 - Battle of the Monongahela (January 2022).