Who Was General Edward Braddock?

Learn about the humiliating end of General Edward Braddock.

Edward Braddock was a British soldier's soldier. Born in 1695, Braddock followed his father's footsteps into the army. At the age of fifteen he entered the Coldstream Guards, a crack regiment. For the next 43 years he would establish himself in that regiment He distinguished himself in many battles and, in the process, developed a reputation as a stern disciplinarian. He also proved himself a master tactician. In 1754, Braddock was promoted to Major General. When Britain made moves to oust France from the American West a year later, the natural choice for the position of Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Forces in North America was Edward Braddock.

In February of 1755 Braddock arrived on American soil. At Williamsburg he set about training and drilling his men. His preparations were hampered from the start by inadequate funds, improper transport, and slow to arrive provisions. Braddock had been promised the aid of friendly Chickasaw but they failed to show. To Braddock this was fine. He felt he didn't need the help of some uncivilized savages to beat the French. He would count on his own professional soldiers to do the job. Braddock was also disdainful of offers of aid made by hardy frontiersmen. In fact, when Braddock was warned by none other than Benjamin Franklin that the Indian allies of the French should not be disregarded as enemies, the British Commander's reply was, "These savages may, indeed, be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia, but upon the King's regular and disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible that they should make such an impression."

Such an attitude was to cost him dearly. Braddock set his sights on Fort Duquesne, a fort that was garrisoned by about 600 French regulars and an 800 additional Chippewa Indian allies. Braddock felt confident with his 1400 British troops. He had, begrudgingly, accepted the support of 450 Virginia militia men. Among his command were two future giants of American history - aide-de-camp Lieutenant Colonel George Washington and a 21 year old civilian teamster by the name of Daniel Boone. The campaign began with Braddock's 300 axemen hacking a road westward from Fort Cumberland. The march was slow going. After eight days they had only travelled 30 miles. The impatient Braddock decided to split his forces, leaving 100 men behind with the slow moving wagons. The rest of the men then moved ahead, unencumbered. On July 7th the advance party reached Turtle creek, eight miles south of Fort Duquesne. Crossing the Monongahela river and continued the march along a rough track leading to the fort.

Meanwhile the French inside the Fort had got wind of the impending attack. Under Captain Hyacinth de Beaujeu, 250 French / Canadian Troops and 6750 Indians set out to intercept Braddock on the eighth of July. Before long these interceptors were hidden all along the sides of the trail that Braddock and his men were travelling along. Suddenly a massive barrage of fire power broke out all along the 2000 yard column of British soldiers, marching in traditional form. As the men around them fell, the perplexed Britishers could see no enemy. Despite wheeling around cannon, the English were able to do little damage against an enemy they couldn't see. A few of the redcoats made moves to follow their Virginia fellows and leave the track to fight Indian fashion in the woods, but Braddock drove these "˜cowards' back into formation, urging them to "˜stand and fight.'

Braddock himself tried to rally the advance guard. As panic began to set in, the Major General had four horses shot from under him. Then he was wounded in the arm and chest. As Braddock fell to the ground coughing blood, George Washington assumed command. But not even he could rally the men. The men broke into a disorderly retreat - a run for their lives. They ran for fifty miles. Washington had Braddock removed from the field, only to die four days later. Among his last words was the question, "Who would have thought it possible?" Washington had Braddock buried in an unmarked grave on the trail on which they were attacked. Then he had wagons driven back and forth over the grave to ensure that the Indians would not find and desecrate it.

The encounter was a massive blow for the British. Of Braddock's 89 officers, 63 were dead. And of the 1373 regular troops engaged in the battle only 459 escaped without being killed or wounded. Edward Braddock had, indeed, paid dearly for his arrogance.

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