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 The British Response to Washington's Defeat

A Four Part plan to attack New France

 

 

General Edward Braddock (January 1695 – 13 July 1755) was given overall command by the Duke of Newcastle, Thomas Pelham-Holles (1693 - 1768 ) . Braddock was to lead the expedition to Fort Duquesne and seize the Ohio Country .

 

William Shirley (1694 - 1771 )

Governor of Massachusetts

William Shirley, the Gov of Massachusetts, was to fortify Fort Oswego  on Lake Ontario in New York and attack Fort Niagara, further west in New York , also on Lake Ontario.  Commissioned a regular army major general and made Braddock's second in command. He had led the successful siege of Louisbourg in 1745. A rival in politics and for men and supplies of the New York based William Johnson.

 

William Johnson ( 1715 - 1774 )

Indian Superintendent

 

Johnson had lived in  Mohawk lands since 1738 and was extremely influential among the Six Nations of the Iroquois League . He was to march from Albany to Lake Champlain and take Fort Saint Frederic ( Crown Point ) on  Lake Champlain. Commissioned as a major general.

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Monckton ( 1726 - 1782 ) was to capture Fort Beauséjour on the frontier between Nova Scotia and Acadia. Only he would succeed in carrying out his part of Braddock's plan.

 

 

The British reacted with outrage to Washington's defeat and acted swiftly. Gen. Edward Braddock of the Coldstream guards ( This was a very aristocratic division of the British army, and the bodyguard of royalty ) became commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America and virtual viceroy over the fractious colonialists. He was ordered to lead roughly 2,000 British soldiers and colonial militia over the Appalachian Mountains to seize Fort Duquesne .

 

On November 25, 1754, Major General Edward Braddock was commissioned general-in-chief of His Majesty's forces in North America and received his instructions concerning his duties in relation to the encroachments of the French. Becoming impatient of the preparation of the troops he set sail from Cork aboard the "Norwich" on the twenty-first of December, 1754, and arrived at Alexandria, Virginia, February 20, 1755. His troops the Forty-fourth regiment, under Colonel Sir Peter Halkett ( 1695 - 1755 ), and the Forty-eighth regiment, under Colonel Dunbar set sail on the fourteenth of January and landed in March, 1755, and marched to Alexandria. These regiments were of the royal troops, and numbered five hundred men each.

 

In the spring of 1755, the colonial governors meet in Annapolis, Maryland . Here, they drafted a four part campaign against New France .  Governor  William Shirley of Massachusetts, who had led the expedition against Louisbourg in 1745,  would lead a force to capture Fort Niagara, an important trade link between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie . Gen . Braddock would seize Fort Duquesne. Forts would be built in the Champlain Valley to offset the French forts there. A naval force would attack Fort Beausejour in Nova Scotia . These were all planned even though there was no declaration of war, or conflict in Europe .

 

Marquis de Vaudreuil

( 1698 - 1778 )

Last Governor of Quebec

 

In Europe the rival powers were still maintaining the semblance of peace, while yet secretly abetting the open enmity of their American colonies.  France. sent Eighteen ships of war, carrying the six battalions of La Reine, Bourgogne, Languedoc, Guienne, Artois, and Béarn, and convoyed by an auxiliary squadron of nine battleships, were hurried off to New France under the joint command of Baron Dieskau ( 1701 - 1767 ) and the Marquis de Vaudreuil ( 1698 - 1778 ), the new ( and last ) Governor of Quebec.

 

William Johnson was named Indian Superintendent of the Northern colonies, a new office to manage Indian affairs. Braddock, however, did not offer possible Indian allies such as the Onedia aid against their French supported enemies and land to settle in the Ohio country, and they did not offer support. He regarded them as 'savages' and of no use to a professional army. This lack of understanding of the way of war in the colonies would soon cost him his life.

 

 Map of the area of conflict .

For a larger image click here .

 

Map of Braddock's military road, started by Braddock through Pennsylvania, after Braddock's defeat it was used by French allied Indian raiding parties .

 For a larger image click here .

 

The leadership of France was not eager to go to war. The huge debts of Louis XIV were being paid off and France was in the middle of modernizing and expanding it's fleet to match England's. France proposed the Ohio country be demilitarized. However, upon discovering the British plan France reacted by sending six regiments to Canada under the experienced general Jean Armand, baron de Dieskau.

 

Braddock leads his troops into the

wilderness in orderly, European lines

 

The Battle of the Monongahela or

the Battle of the Wilderness July 9, 1755

 

Gen. Edward Braddock tries to rally his troops

 

Braddock had 45 years of military experience in Europe, but none fighting in the wilderness of America. He planned to lead his forces in the standard European fashion and brushed aside warnings of Washington . The army of Braddock marched across the Allegheny Mountains, where they stretched for miles marching four abreast .

 

In providing the horses, wagons, and supplies necessary for the undertaking, Braddock was ably assisted by Benjamin Franklin, whose extraordinary efforts, tact, and courage called forth his warm appreciation. "I desired Mr. B. Franklin, postmaster of Pennsylvania, who has great credit in that province," he wrote on June 5, "to hire me one hundred and fifty wagons and the number of horses necessary, which he did with so much goodness and readiness that it is almost the first instance of integrity, address, and ability that I have seen in all these provinces.'

 

Franklin had this to say about Braddock ' This general was, I think, a brave man, and might probably have made a good figure in some European war. But he had too much self-confidence ; too high an opinion of the validity of regular troops; too mean a one of both Americans and Indians.'

 

 

 Québec History 9 - Battle of the Monongahela

 On July 9, 1755, Braddock's men crossed the Monongahela River without opposition, about ten miles south of Fort Duquesne. The advance guard of 300 Grenadiers and colonials with two cannon under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage began to move ahead, and unexpectedly came upon the French and Indians, who were hurrying to the river. The Battle of the Monongahela, or the Battle of the Wilderness, was officially begun.

 

Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu  ( 1711 - 1755 )

Leader of a French force against the British  at the Battle of the Monongahela, killed in the opening moments of the battle .

He was famous for using Indian tactics, such as the use of war paint during the ambush. He was buried under the walls of Fort Duquesne

 

The march was too slow and Braddock detached 1,200 of his best troops and 10 pieces of artillery to attack Fort Duquesne to be led by himself . Meanwhile, French scouts had brought news of the approaching column, and Beaujeu ( 1711 - 1755 ), an officer at Fort Duquesne, conceiving the idea of attacking Braddock as he came up a deep wooded ravine lying about eight miles from the fort, repaired thither with a force of nine hundred men, including French regulars, Canadians, and Indians. The British advanced in an orderly manner, while the French and their allies, the Potawatomi and Ottawa Indians waited in ambush.

 

In the following battle, known as the Battle of the Wilderness, was a rout for the British. The British were unable to defend themselves against the French and Indians hidden behind trees and rocks . The English troops toiled on, and when the defenseless vanguard was well advanced up the pass, Beaujeu gave the signal which sent down a hail of deadly bullets upon them. Still the redcoats held their ground bravely, firing steady volleys against the hidden foe.

 

By this time the main army also had entered the pass, only to be thrown into instant confusion, their solid ranks offering a target to the French sharpshooters. Bewildered by the converging fire, the column huddled together at the bottom of the pass, while the bullets mowed them down pitilessly. The brave but headstrong general exhorted them to preserve the order of their ranks, and when they would have fled in terror, he beat them back into line with his own sword.

 

The Virginians alone knew how to avert a massacre, and spreading out quickly into skirmish order, they took cover behind the trees and rocks to meet their wily foe on even terms. But the brave and stubborn Braddock was blind to so obvious an expedient, and with oaths he ordered the irregulars back into the death-line. Braddock was killed trying to rally his troops as they were breaking ranks in the face of the onslaught after three hours of fighting. His last words were" Who would have thought it ? We shall better know how to deal with them another time." Washington had three horses shot from under him.

 

 

 Scene from "George Washington"  miniseries (1984)

James Mason plays Gen Braddock

 

Out of the 1,400 English troops with Braddock, more than 900 were killed or wounded with only about 30 French and Indian causalities . The French had about 140 troupes de le Marine and close to 640 Indians of the Mingo, Delaware and Shawnee tribes . Washington placed the dying Braddock in a cart, who admitted to him ' Had I been governed by your advice,we  never should have come to this.' He died on July 13, 1755 . He was buried just west of Great Meadows, where the remnants of the column halted on its retreat to reorganize.  All the artillery, ammunition, baggage and stores, together with the dead and the dying were left on the fatal field. All the secretary's papers, with all the commanding general's orders, instructions and correspondence, together with the military chest, containing twenty-five thousand pounds in money, fell into the hands of the French.

 

Braddock was buried in the middle of the road and wagons were rolled over top of the grave site to prevent his body from being discovered and desecrated. It was rediscovered in 1804. George Washington presided at the burial service, as the chaplain had been severely wounded. Braddock's second in command, Colonel Dunbar could not organize his demoralized men to attack the weakly defended Fort Duquese.

 

Most of the French-allied Indians had gone home after getting loot from the fleeing British. Colonel Dunbar retreated to Philadelphia. French allied Indian raiders now used Braddock's road to attack British colonists, who fled the area in thousands.

 

The burial of Braddock, in the middle of the road of the

retreating army to hide his grave from the Indians

 

Braddock's field desk was captured and delivered to the New Governor of New France, Governor Vaudreuil, where the plans for the attack on Fort Niagara and Fort Beausejour and the plans to build forts in the Lake Champlain Valley . With this information, the new governor set about to surprise and defeat the British .

 

The governor of Massachusetts, finding Fort Niagara to well reinforced, abandoned his plans to take it . This dramatic defeat seriously shook the colonialist faith in Britain to defend them and they increasingly relied on colonial leaders . Two of the Iroquois tribes, the Senecas and the Cayugas switched allegiance to the French .

 

Grave of Gen. Braddock at

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

 

 

 

 Battle of the Monongahela

or the Battle of the Wilderness

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