Gen. Edward Braddock
General in Chief of His Majesty's Forces
in North America
Who Would Have Thought?
A Series Commemorating the
“Season of Braddock”
French and Indian War 250th Anniversary
This is the second series of articles celebrating the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War, 2004-2010. The first series was entitled, “Some Events in the French and Indian War.” It dealt with the causes of the war from the perspective of the colony of Virginia. The first series was published in the Hampshire Review and is now available on the Internet at www.FrontierForts.org through the “History” button. These articles are usually posted on anniversary dates; the next articles will come in April when Gen. Braddock met the colonial governors at Carlyle House in Alexandria and then set out for Fort Cumberland.
Part 1 Embarking for Glory
On January 8, 1755 in the cold, wet winter of Ireland, troops of two British Regiments of Foot, the 44th commanded by Sir Peter Halkett and the 48th commanded by Col. Thomas Dunbar, began the process of embarking on troop ships at Cove near Cork, Ireland. It was several days before everyone was on board and the tide and weather were right. Finally, on January 13th the ships raised anchor and began the long, uncomfortable trip to America. Their commander, Major General Edward Braddock, had sailed just before Christmas to get to Virginia in time to arrange for the troops’ arrival.
The planning and preparation for this expedition had been going on for some time. Ever since the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, France and Britain had been suspicious of each other’s moves and motives. The French advances into the Ohio River Valley were one of the major causes for concern in America. When news reached England in August, 1754, about a small colonial force under a young Virginia Colonel that was defeated at Fort Necessity and forced by French arms from the Ohio country, the leaders in London decided it was time to take action. They would send British professional soldiers to do what the colonials seemed incapable of doing.
The Plan is Formed
By late September, 1754, the plan was formed and the participants were chosen. Major General Edward Braddock, aged 60, had long been associated with the Coldstream Guards, but in early 1753 he became Colonel of the Fourteenth Regiment of Foot and acting governor of Gibraltar where the 14th was stationed. His good work there and his earlier role in the Coldstream Guard in London had brought him to the attention of the Duke of Cumberland, King George II’s third son and Captain General of the British army. Braddock was chosen to be the commander of British forces in North America and was given two regiments with which to force the French from British land.
The 44th and 48th Regiments of Foot had been formed in 1741. Both regiments had seen action during the second Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, the 44th having been at Preston Pans with Peter Halkett as its commander and the 48th seeing action at Culloden. But now they were on duty scattered over part of Ireland; neither was at full strength. They would be supplemented by soldiers from several nearby regiments, but these transfers were always the worst that the sending regiment could offer. The rest of the strength would be raised in America in jails, taverns and other nefarious establishments where idle men could be found.
Sir Peter Halkett of Pitfirrane, near Fife, Scotland, was the commander of the 44th Regiment of Foot. He had been a Lt.Colonel with several companies of the Regiment at Preston Pans and had distinguished himself when many others had failed. Sir Peter was a member of Parliament from Inverkeithen.
The 48th Regiment was commanded by Col. Thomas Dunbar. Before becoming Colonel he had been in the Royal Irish Regiment. In the upcoming campaign he would be the 48th Regiment’s commander and second in command to Gen. Braddock. One of the lucky officers, he would serve in the British army for 30 years and die in 1777.
On October 15, 1754, Sir John St. Clair had been appointed Deputy Quartermaster General for the British army in America. He sailed as soon as he could and was in America by January 9, 1755. He set about inspecting the country and assessing its resources.
The plan proposed by the Duke of Cumberland was that Gen. Braddock should attack the French fort at the Forks of the Ohio River (Fort Duquesne) while two other locally raised forces under Gov. William Shirley of Massachusetts and Sir William Pepperell would attack the French strongholds at Niagara on the Great Lakes and Crown Point on Lake Champlain. Brig. Gen Robert Monckton would capture Fort Beausejour and secure other parts of Nova Scotia. The British Navy would keep French supplies and fresh troops from reaching America. This campaign would effectively cut off French access to the portages that afforded travel between Quebec and New Orleans. The French would then no longer be able to contain British expansion at the Allegheny Mountains and stop British advances into the Ohio country and all lands east of the Mississippi River.
base map courtesy N.P.S.
It was an ambitious undertaking, but it was very difficult for the planners in London to see from their maps (particularly the Fry and Jefferson Map of Virginia, 1751) the innumerable obstacles that lay in the path of such a great and complex campaign. Nor could they imagine the resources and methods that their enemies would use against them. Lord Halifax had suggested first advancing against the French northern strongholds because they were nearer British supply posts and easier to get to. However, the Duke of Cumberland apparently wished to have Braddock start early in the spring before the ice thawed on the Great Lakes to take the more southern fort at the Forks of the Ohio. Then, he reasoned, the campaign could move northward.
The Reality of the Situation
In America Sir John St. Clair was getting a firsthand look at the problems that would plague the campaign. He had traveled into the wilderness to Wills Creek by January 16, 1755. Here he found that British Independent companies from New York and South Carolina had been working at the site of the Ohio Company’s storehouse on the construction of what would become a King’s fort named for the Duke of Cumberland. The New York troops were so old and infirm that St. Clair sent many of them home. The South Carolina soldiers, many of whom had been with Washington at Fort Necessity, proved to be more capable. Later some Maryland troops arrived and constructed huts so they could winter at the fort. St. Clair met Maryland Governor Horatio Sharpe at the site and then traveled down the Potomac in a canoe to see if this waterway would accommodate the transportation of men and arms. It proved to be unsuitable for the task. This first look at the troops, roads, forts, country and military resources caused St. Clair some concern. But matters would get worse.
Next Time: The Grand Assembly: Braddock calls a meeting of colonial Governors to outline his plan and request support. (Check back in April.)
- July 3, 1754 Col. George Washington is forced to surrender Fort Necessity to the French and evacuate the Ohio country.
- Sept 24, 1754 Orders signed appointing Edward Braddock commander of all British forces in North America.
- October 1754 orders sent to officers; magazines carry story; French learn of expedition.
- Dec 21, 1754 Gen. Braddock on the H.M.S. Norwich and Adm. Keppel on Centurion sail for America.
- Jan 9, 1755 Sir John St. Clair, Deputy Quartermaster for Gen. Braddock, arrived at Hampton Roads aboard HMS Gibraltar
- Jan 13 Troop ships with the 44th and the 48th sail for America.
- Jan 16 Sir John St. Clair arrives at Fort Cumberland.
For further reference see:
Ill-Starred General, Braddock of the Coldstream Guard; by Lee McCardell; University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1958. This is a comprehensive biography of Gen. Edward Braddock.
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/repehtml/repemaps.html for the Fry & Jefferson Map
Go to Part II