Born 1695 Perthshire, Scotland
Died July 13, 1755 Ohio Country (Farmingham, Pennsylvania)
British commander who led the disastrous 1755 Fort Duquesne campaign
British general Edward Braddock played a key role in the early part of the French and Indian War (1754-63; known in Europe as the Seven Years' War). In 1755, he arrived in North America with the full intention of chasing the French and their Indian (Native American) allies out of the disputed Ohio Country, a vast wilderness in the middle of the continent. But his first major military campaign against the French ended in disaster for the overconfident Braddock. His army was decisively defeated by a much smaller force, and the general himself suffered a mortal bullet wound.
Born and raised in a military environment
Edward Braddock was born in 1695, in Perthshire, Scotland. His father, also named Edward Braddock, was a high-ranking officer in the British Army. Little is known of Braddock's early life, but he was raised in a household that placed a high value on military service. At age fifteen, he enlisted in the British army's Coldstream Guards regiment, which was commanded by his father.
In the first years of the eighteenth century, Braddock took part in several battles of the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713; known in North America as Queen Anne's War) between England and France. Braddock rose rapidly through the ranks on the strength of his bravery and hard work, and by 1736 had achieved the rank of captain. He continued his professional advancement through the 1740s, earning praise in a variety of assignments for the British Crown. Braddock was promoted to major-general in 1754, the same year that the French and Indian War erupted in North America.
Though waged on North American soil, the war was mainly a conflict between Great Britain and France. Both of these countries had established large colonies (permanent settlements of citizens who maintain ties to the mother country) throughout the eastern half of the continent. The British colonies, known as America, stretched along the Atlantic Ocean from present-day Maine to Georgia. The French colonies, known as New France, included eastern Canada, parts of the Great Lakes region, and the Mississippi River basin. Both the British and the French hoped to expand their land holdings into the Ohio Country, a vast wilderness that lay between their colonies. This region offered access to valuable natural resources and important river travel routes. But the Ohio Country was controlled by the Iroquois Confederacy, a powerful alliance of six Indian nations who had lived on the land for generations. When the influence of the Iroquois Confederacy began to decline in the mid-1700s, the British and French began fighting to claim the Ohio Country and take control of North America. Once Great Britain and France officially declared war in 1756, the conflict spread to Europe and around the world.
A proud and stubborn general
By 1754, British leaders had become alarmed at events in North America. French forces over in the "New World" had succeeded in establishing alliances with a number of Indian nations. In addition, they had won a series of small clashes with British and American troops. Determined to turn the tide, Great Britain decided to make General Edward Braddock commander-in-chief over all British and American forces in North America.
Braddock seemed like an ideal choice for the job in many respects. A veteran with forty-five years of military experience, he had repeatedly displayed his bravery on the battlefield. In addition, he was regarded as a tough and proud disciplinarian with a strong sense of duty. Braddock set sail for North America in December 1754, with two fresh British regiments. He arrived in Virginia in February 1755 and quickly assumed command of all British and colonial troops.
Braddock was immensely confident that his years of military experience in Europe would enable him to make short work of the French and Indians. He gathered the colonial governors together to explain his military plans. He wanted to attack the French forces at several strategic spots. In addition, he personally planned to lead a major military offensive against Fort Duquesne, an important French outpost on the banks of the Ohio River (the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, now occupies the place where this fort once stood). Braddock assured the governors that, with donations of supplies and money, he could have his forces ready to go in no time.
To Braddock's surprise and anger, however, the colonies provided few supplies or funds for the military effort. As weeks passed, the general experienced great difficulty in acquiring the provisions and laborers that he needed. During this same time, he showed a scornful attitude toward the capabilities of America's colonial soldiers, despite their superior knowledge of the surrounding wilderness and their familiarity with the Indians that roamed the Ohio Country. One of the few Americans who met with Braddock's approval was George Washington (1732-1799; see entry). The young Virginian served as a military aide to Braddock, and the British general expressed a high opinion of his bravery and intelligence throughout their time together.
Carving a path to Fort Duquesne
On May 29, 1755, Braddock departed from Fort Cumberland, Virginia, with an army of more than two thousand men. The force included more than fourteen hundred British soldiers, also known as "redcoats" because of the color of the long jackets they wore, and five hundred American soldiers from various colonies. The expedition also included a large number of supply wagons and massive cannons that would be used to attack Fort Duquesne, as well as two hundred engineers, laborers, and scouts.
Braddock intended to take his army westward over the Appalachian Mountains to reach Fort Duquesne. The army followed a faint trail through the thick forests leading into the mountains, but ax-wielding workers had to widen it every step of the way to make room for the big wagons and cannons. Every day, the army hacked its way through the deep forest, pushing up and down mountainous terrain. This exhausting work was made worse by summer heat and clouds of biting insects. On some days, the army managed to move only three or four miles from sunrise to sundown. All of these conditions combined to sap the strength and spirit of Braddock's soldiers. In addition, the threat of attack by hostile Indians or French forces kept everyone on edge. At one point in the journey, Braddock was approached by Shingas, an Ohio Delaware war chief who wanted to establish an alliance with the British. But Braddock coldly spurned the offer, and Shin-gas and his warriors left in an angry mood.
As Braddock's army moved ever deeper into the Ohio Country without being attacked, the troops began to think that the size of their force had scared away their enemies. Rumors that the French had abandoned Fort Duquesne swept through the camp. Braddock, though, ignored these rumors. In fact, he divided his army into two divisions. Eager to reach Fort Duquesne, he left the slow-moving cannons with the smaller of these divisions, and took the larger division—containing about twelve hundred British and colonial troops—forward. His plan was to use this larger force to surround the French fort, then attack once the cannons arrived.
On July 9, 1755, Braddock and his twelve hundred advance troops crossed the Monongahela River, just eight miles from Fort Duquesne. The general and his soldiers marched across the river as if they were on parade. The army band played marching songs, British flags fluttered in the breeze, sunlight glittered off gleaming gun barrels and bayonets, and the red coats of the British soldiers shone in the sun. Years later, George Washington said that the scene was the most thrilling sight of his life.
A few miles away, meanwhile, French forces were preparing a desperate defense against the large enemy force that they knew was approaching. The French officer in charge of Fort Duquesne, Claude-Pierre Pecaudy, seigneur de Contrecoeur (1706-1775), knew that the fort would fall if Braddock was able to use his heavy cannons. He knew he had to defeat Braddock before he reached the fort. With this in mind, French captain Daniel Lienard de Beaujeu (1711-1755) volunteered to lead an ambush. He planted about nine hundred French, Canadian, and Indian fighters on both sides of a deep ravine through which the British forces would have to pass.
Ambushed by the enemy
The first of the British to enter the area was an advance force of three hundred troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage (1719-1787). As Gage's men entered the ravine, Beaujeu sprung the trap. The Indian, French, and Canadian fighters under his command aimed a deadly barrage of gunfire from behind trees and rocks that covered the hillsides. Gage's troops tried to return fire, but they could not even see the enemy forces. As the Indian and French forces continued their relentless assault, Gage's forces retreated in confusion. They quickly ran into Braddock and the rest of the advancing British force. Riding back and forth on his horse, Braddock tried to restore order to his confused and panicked troops, even as musket fire continued to roar from the shadowy forest. Washington and others repeatedly urged Braddock to allow his men to leave the open road and take cover behind trees. But Braddock angrily insisted that his troops stay in formation in the middle of the road. His war experience had always involved armies that fought in neat formation, and he refused to believe that this European style of fighting could not prevail against wilderness battle tactics.
As the battle wore on, the Indians, Canadians, and French continued to fire away at the redcoats and Americans from their hiding places in the forest. The British and colonial soldiers tried to fight back, but most of the time they could only fire blindly into the woods. When American troops ignored Braddock's orders and tried to take cover behind trees, they were accidentally shot by their British allies.
Finally, after three hours of heavy fighting, the British and American soldiers fled in disarray. Braddock's military force, which he had believed was unbeatable, had been ripped apart. Musket balls had killed or wounded sixty-three of Braddock's eighty-nine officers. In addition, more than half of his army had been killed or wounded in the attack, while the French and Indian forces had suffered only minor losses. Braddock himself had four horses shot out from under him, and he received a serious bullet wound that passed through his right arm and into his lungs.
Braddock was carried from the battlefield to a safe area called Great Meadows (now the Fort Necessity National Battleground at Farmingham, Pennsylvania). Over the next few days, Braddock was in great physical and emotional pain. His wound made it very painful for him to breathe. In addition, he knew that the stunning defeat had left his military reputation in tatters. He had acted with great personal bravery throughout the battle, but his stubborn refusal to change his tactics had cost many British and American soldiers their lives.
According to some reports, Braddock recognized his error. Some accounts even indicate that he expressed regret that he had not followed Washington's advice and changed his military tactics in the wilderness. "We shall better know how to deal with them another time," he told one of his aides. But Braddock never had an opportunity to repair his reputation. He died from his wounds on July 13, 1755.
Several major historical figures survived the clash on the Monongahela River, including Washington, who would go on to become the first president of the United States; Gage, who commanded British forces during the opening battles of the American Revolution (1775-83); Horatio Gates (1728-1806), one of America's greatest Revolutionary War heroes; and Daniel Boone (1734-1820), the famous wilderness pioneer. But the battle, which came to be known both as the "Battle of the Wilderness" and "Braddock's Defeat," shocked British and American political leaders and ordinary citizens alike. Americans began to wonder if the British knew what they were doing, and the leaders of Great Britain were forced to admit that the war in North America might be longer and costlier than they had first believed.
For More Information
Dictionary of American Biography. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center .Detroit: Gale, 2002.
Hamilton, Charles, ed. Braddock's Defeat. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959.
Kopperman, Paul E. Braddock at the Monongahela. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977.
McCardell, Lee. Ill-Starred General: Braddock of the Coldstream Guards. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1958. Reprint, 1986.
Sargent, Winthrop. The History of an Expedition against Fort Du Quesne, in 1755. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1855. Reprint, Lewisburg, PA: Wennawoods, 1997.
Edward Braddock (1695-1755) was commander in chief of the British forces in North America during the French and Indian War of the 18th century.
Little is known of Edward Braddock's early life. In October 1710 he purchased an ensign's commission in the Coldstream Guards, his father's regiment; in 1716 he became lieutenant of the grenadier company; in 1734 he was captain lieutenant with an army rank of lieutenant colonel; in 1743 he was second major with an army rank of colonel; and in 1745 he became colonel of the regiment. He saw little action when he accompanied the 2d Battalion to Ostend, Belgium, in July 1745. That same year he served with the Duke of Cumberland in the suppression of the Jacobite rebellion. Two years later he commanded the 2d Battalion of the Coldstream Guards at Lestock's and was with St. Clair in the abortive attempt on Port L'Orient, France. Subsequently he was employed under the Prince of Orange at Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands. In 1753 he was appointed colonel of the 14th Regiment and joined his command at Gibraltar. Adored by his men, he was almost brutal in his relations with civilians and became the butt of satires by both Henry Fielding and Horace Walpole.
Promoted to major general in 1754, Braddock arrived in Alexandria, Va., in February 1755 as commander in chief of British forces in North America. His instructions bestowed more power upon him than ever held by any military officer in America. But his efforts were hampered by a lack of money, although Governor Dinwiddie, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin made material contributions.
With the objective of capturing Ft. Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio River, Braddock commanded a force of 1, 400 British regulars and nearly 700 colonial militia (whom he hated). Progress was slow as his column moved from Ft. Cumberland, for Braddock insisted upon using wagons rather than pack animals and so a new road had to be constructed. After 30 miles of a 110-mile march, Braddock accepted Washington's advice and left his heavy transport at Little Meadows, guarded by a regiment of his regulars; he pushed on ahead for fear the French would receive reinforcements. Poor relations with Native Americans left him open to surprise.
After crossing the Monongahela River on July 9, 1755, his advance guard was ambushed by 900 French, Canadians, and Native Americans under Daniel Beaujeau. Braddock refused to heed the advice of provincial officers to allow his men to take cover, instead holding them in the British traditional column formation. Exposed to an enfilading fire from the hidden enemy, the British regulars fled. It was only because the hostile natives stopped to take scalps that the British were able to gain the protection of their rear guard and retreat to Ft. Cumberland. Of the 1, 459 soldiers under Braddock, 977 were killed or wounded. The 89 officers suffered 63 casualties. Braddock had four horses shot from beneath him before he suffered mortal wounds in the arm and lungs. Four days later he died at Great Meadows. His last words, according to tradition, were, "We shall better know how to deal with them another time."
Lee McCardell, Ill-starred General: Braddock of the Coldstream Guards (1958), a sympathetic treatment, attempts to show that Braddock has been much maligned. An account of Braddock's American campaign is in Hayes Baker-Crothers, Virginia and the French and Indian War (1928). The campaign is also covered in Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington, vol. 2 (1948).
McCardell, Lee., Ill-starred general: Braddock of the Coldstream Guards, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986. □
BRADDOCK, EDWARD. (c. 1695–1755). British general. Edward Braddock, son of an officer of the same name, was baptised in London on 2 February 1695. In October 1710 he became an ensign in his father's regiment, the Coldstream Guards, and then rose slowly by the purchase of higher rank. By 1745 he was a lieutenant colonel, but almost certainly did not see action during the war of the Austrian Succession. In 1753 he became colonel of the Fourteenth Foot and was a popular acting governor of Gibraltar in 1753 and 1754. In April he was made major general. This was the man—solid, aging, inexperienced in action—who in the autumn was ordered to take two weak regiments to roll back the French in North America.
Braddock's tasks were to get the colonies to organize their own armed forces, co-ordinate a three-pronged offensive against recent French advances, and lead the thrust against Fort Duquesne himself. He arrived with the Forty-fourth and Forty-eighth Foot in Hampton, Virginia, on 20 February 1755 and immediately ran into difficulties. The colonies resisted cooperation, and he found it difficult to get provisions, transportation, and recruits for his own expedition. He attempted to recruit hundreds of Cherokees, only for Governor James Glen of South Carolina to step in and induce the warriors to stay at home. When Braddock's force finally assembled, it amounted to no more than 2,000 effective troops, many of them of indifferent quality. The army finally marched on 10 June, hacking its own road through the wilderness, but Braddock rapidly became alarmed at their slow progress. On 16 June he left about a third of his force under Thomas Dunbar, colonel of the Forty-eighth Foot, to follow with the baggage while Braddock himself pushed ahead with the main body.
Braddock's precautions against surprise were effective: the enemy was unable to harass his advance and decided not to attack him as he crossed the Monongahela River. The next day, however, a fateful slip in vigilance left a key hillock and adjacent ravines unsecured. While a French frontal attack was repulsed, hundreds of Indians were able to stream down both flanks and pour deadly fire into the British column. The lack of light infantry training told as Braddock's orders to reform and advance against the foe in the woods were ignored. After three hours of vainly trying to stem the tide, Braddock was shot in the chest and the army fell back in disarray. On 13 July at Great Meadows, some sixty miles back, Braddock died.
The battle stimulated the development of new light infantry tactics for forest conditions which had a permanent, if uneven, effect on training of the British army. Braddock himself was awarded an undeserved share of the blame, and was caricatured as the archetypal, arrogant British martinet who refused to listen to American advice and had no idea of how to fight under American conditions. This travesty of the truth became widespread in America and had long-term effects upon the relations between colonists and the regular British army.
SEE ALSO Forbes's Expedition to Fort Duquesne.
Brumwell, Stephen. Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755–1763. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Kopperman, Paul E. Braddock at the Monongahela. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977.
Ward, Matthew C. Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years' War in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.
revised by John Oliphant
Braddock personally, and efficiently, commanded the expedition to Fort Duquesne in western Pennsylvania in the face of major transport shortages, minimal Indian support, and mountainous terrain that hindered movement of his heavy artillery. His army advanced 150 miles from Alexandria to Little Meadows; then Braddock led a force of 1,450 that reached the Monongahela River on 8 July. The next day, this column was surprised, completely disorganized, and defeated by a force of 783 French, Canadians, and Indians. Severely wounded after having several horses killed under him, Braddock died four days later. Although not personally culpable for the defeat, he came to bear the opprobrium that accompanied this disaster.
[See also Braddock's Defeat; French and Indian War.]
Lee McCardell , Ill‐Starred General, 1958.
Ian K. Steele