Gen. Edward Braddock & the French and Indian War

Instructor: Matthew Hill
Edward Braddock was a British general who rose rapidly through the ranks of the British military. However, he is best remembered for a disastrous expedition in the French and Indian War that led to his death.

The Makings of a General

Edward Braddock has the misfortune of being remembered for his disastrous defeat and death in the French and Indian War. Edward Braddock was born in Perthshire, Scotland in January 1695. His father, also named Edward, was a major-general in the British guard. He was a member of the Coldstream Guards, which is the oldest branch of the British army still in active service. During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) he served with the Prince of Orange in Holland. He fought in the 1747 Siege of Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands, where he first experienced combat. Edward Braddock rose through the ranks quickly though he had rather limited military experience. His next and best known position would be as the British Commander-in-Chief for North America at the start of the French and Indian War. His real trial by fire was soon to come.

Edward Braddock
Edward Braddock

The Fort Necessity Background

Braddock's role in North America is grounded in the French and Indian War. In 1754, Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie ordered a fort built on the Forks-of-the-Ohio, in present-day Pittsburgh. Later, George Washington was sent to inspect it, but found that the French had run the British off and built Fort Duquesne in its place. At the Battle of Jumonville Glen, Washington drove the French away and then built Fort Necessity nearby in the event of a counter-attack. Eventually it came, in the Battle of Great Meadows, and Washington and his men were defeated. In response, the British dispatched Edward Braddock to North America.

George Washington during the French and Indian War
George Washington French-Indian War

Braddock's Expedition

Braddock landed in Alexander, Virginia in February 1755 with two regiments of British regulars. His goal was to capture the French garrison at Fort Duquesne, in present-day Pittsburgh. He started his journey from Fort Cumberland, Maryland, which meant that he had to undertake a 100-mile journey that stretched across the Allegheny Mountains through dense woods and forests and into western Pennsylvania. He brought a lengthy wagon train that was burdened with heavy cannons - the latter to bombard the fort with. Braddock also had an ensemble that was legendary. Traveling with him were the likes of Daniel Boone, Daniel Morgan, William Crawford, Charles Lee, George Washington, Horatio Gates, Thomas Gates, and Charles Scott, all of whom later served in the American Revolution.

A Stamp of Fort Duquesne
Stamp of Duquesne

Braddock had roughly 2,100 men under his charge and felt supremely confident that he could out-muscle the 250-man French garrison at Fort Duquesne. The problem, however, was that most of Indian tribes in the region sided with the French. Braddock was warned that an ambush was likely and was even offered the assistance of friendly Indian scouts to help him avoid this threat, but he refused their help. Braddock has been criticized for being stubborn and too embedded in European-style warfare to take their help seriously. This mistake cost him dearly.

Benjamin Franklin on Edward Braddock

Benjamin Franklin offered an interesting observation on Braddock and his mindset that is worth considering. Franklin wrote: 'This general was, I think, a brave man, and might probably have made a figure as a good officer in some European war. But he had too much self-confidence, too high an opinion of the validity of regular troops, and too mean a one of both Americans and Indians. George Croghan, our Indian interpreter, join'd him on his march with one hundred of those people, who might have been of great use to his army as guides, scouts, etc., if he had treated them kindly; but he slighted and neglected them, and they gradually left him.' It is telling that even Franklin recognized that Braddock's command style seemed out of place in the North American wilderness.

The Battle of Monongahela
Braddock at the Battle of Monongehela

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