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
Part II The Grand Assembly
The sea journey aboard the Norwich was rather “troublesome” and Gen. Edward Braddock had suffered some slight sickness during the voyage. After a few days at Hampton and the arrival of Commodore Keppel, the naval commander, Braddock rode with Keppel to Williamsburg to meet with Gov. Dinwiddie. The General took rooms at the Raleigh Tavern. Upon his arrival in Williamsburg he was told that St. Clair had just left for Winchester, so a messenger was sent to recall the Quartermaster. Then Braddock proceeded to question Dinwiddie. The General wanted to know how arrangements were going.
The frustrations and disappointments that Gen. Braddock’s Quartermaster was feeling were nothing compared to what the General himself was about to experience. Sir John St. Clair was finding poorly trained troops, terrible roads and few supplies. Braddock, on the other hand was beginning to delve into the intricacies of colonial politics and the settler’s mindset. He was about to have a rude awakening.
One of the first orders in his correspondence was to write to the colonial governors reminding them of the instructions from London and requesting their presence at a meeting in Annapolis in early April. Although London had sent a letter to all colonial governors telling them to supply Braddock with the necessaries he needed and to create a general fund of money for him to draw upon, little had been accomplished. The planners had forgotten that Governors could only set up funds if money was appropriated by the colonial legislatures. As usual, the Burgesses and Assemblies of the various colonies were not happy about appropriating money for a British army. Several, including the Virginia Burgesses, had put up some funds, but others, most notably Pennsylvania, were very reluctant to offer financial assistance.
A Smuggled Map
Among all the bad news about money and supplies there was one unexpected treasure. Gov. Dinwiddie gave Gen. Braddock a drawing of the French fort at the Forks of the Ohio, Fort Duquesne. It had been smuggled out of the fort by Robert Stobo who was there as a hostage waiting to be transferred back to the Virginia Regiment after the release of the French captives Col. Washington had taken in the skirmish with Jumonville. It seemed to be a wonderful piece of luck, although its capture later by the French would cause hardship for Stobo.
After his initial conference with Dinwiddie and a meeting with St. Clair, Braddock and Keppel decided to bring the ships to Alexandria to unload the troops and supplies. It would place the army a bit closer to the frontier where several roads existed. After some problems unloading supplies, Keppel suggested that Braddock should take a contingent of sailor knowledgeable in the use of block & tackle and also in construction and use of small ferryboats. The general agreed they would be valuable in winching the large guns over steep mountain roads and in ferrying troops across the numerous rivers that lay in his path. He also accepted the loan of several more large guns.
Gen. Braddock used the home of John Carlyle
as his headquarters while he was in Alexandria
Mr. Washington Sends Greetings
Amidst all the correspondence concerning assemblying troops, other personnel and supplies, there arrived a very important letter. George Washington, recently retired from the Virginia Regiment after its reorganization by Gov. Dinwiddie, wrote to congratulate Gen. Braddock upon his appointment and offered his assistance in the coming campaign. Braddock had heard of the young officer and knew that he was one of the few British men who had ever been over the Alleghenies to see the Forks of the Ohio. The general ordered his aide, Robert Orme, to reply to Washington and invite him to join the campaign as an aide to the Commander.
By this time, Braddock was impatient to meet the governors of the major colonies and to set them straight on the need for their cooperation in the campaign. After all, he had been sent to protect their interests against the encroaching French. After some delay, a meeting was scheduled to be held at Braddock’s Alexandria headquarters, the home of John Carlyle.
The Troops Head West
When the governors assembled in mid-April the army has already begun to leave Alexandria in groups heading for Fort Cumberland which would be the final staging point before the push into the western wilderness. Since the roads were bad and forage was limited for the animals, the army did not want to travel in one body. Col. Thomas Dunbar’s 48th Regiment crossed the Potomac at Rock Creek and headed for Frederick, Maryland thinking they would stay on the Maryland side of the Potomac for the march to Fort Cumberland. Col. Peter Halkett’s 44th and the Virginia troops took the Virginia route toward Vestal’s Gap and Winchester. Finally, Col. Thomas Gage would follow Halkett with the artillery if enough horses could be found.
On April 15th the grand assembly (Mr. Carlyle in his letter to his brother termed it the "Grandest Congress" ever held in America) got underway in the “Blue Room” of John Carlyle’s new home overlooking the Potomac in Alexandria. Present were Governors Dinwiddie of Virginia, Sharpe of Maryland, Morris of Pennsylvania, Shirley of Massachusetts and De Lancey of New York; also present was Col. William Johnson, the experienced Indian Agent for New York. General Braddock presented his credentials to the Governors and then immediately brought up the subject of a common war fund. The governors unanimously rejected the suggestion saying their assemblies would not approve such a fund without explicit assistance from Parliament. Braddock turned to other matters. The council was in agreement with the war plan for the four pronged attacks against the French, and they also approved the appointment of Johnson as the agent to meet with the Iroquois to keep them neutral in the conflict. Braddock had won the point of strategy, but had made no progress in getting the money and supplies he desperately needed.
Many of the problems Braddock faced were caused by the nature of society and the economy of the colonies. Virginia was not the best place to begin his campaign. Its location on the tidewater meant that there were few wagons to be used for transport; people used boats on the many rivers. The fact that tobacco was the main “cash” crop meant that there was not much extra corn and wheat to feed the army or forage to feed the animals. Finally, the efforts of his recruiters to fill the two Regiments’ manpower needs among the tidewater common folk meant that his army would be supplemented by men who knew little of the mountains or of the Indians they would face.
The March Begins
But it was too late to do much about these problems. The army was already on the march westward. The artillery was still in Alexandria waiting for horses to haul the wagons. Even the weather was uncooperative; the early spring suddenly disappeared and Dunbar’s Regiment awoke to 18 inches of snow on the road to Frederick. But Braddock had to press on. On Monday, April 21st he departed for Frederick, Maryland where his luck would change in the form of a balding postmaster from Pennsylvania.
Excerpt from the Fry & Jefferson Map of 1754
showing the roads west from Alexandria.
Winchester is just off the map to the upper left.
Next Time: Fort Cumberland, Frontier Outpost. The army gets to the frontier outpost and makes final preparations for the wilderness campaign.
- January 7, 1755 Sir John St. Clair, Braddock’s Quartermaster, arrives in Virginia to prepare for the army’s arrival.
- Feb. 19, 1755 Gen. Braddock’s ship, the Norwich, sights Virginia.
- Feb. 23rd Gen. Braddock, Commodore Keppel and their aides drive to Williamsburg to meet Gov. Dinwiddie.
- March 2nd First of the troop transports arrives; Braddock goes to Hampton to meet it.
- March 15th George Washington responds to Orme’s letter inviting him to join the campaign as an aide to the General.
- March 18th Last of the troop ships lands.
- March 26th Braddock & Keppel arrive in Alexandria; the troops are already encamped there.
- April 4th Advance detail of the 48th leaves Alexandria for Frederick, Maryland.
- April 15th five Governors meet with Braddock at Carlyle House.
- April 21st Braddock leaves for Frederick with a small troop of Virginia light horse.
For further reference see:
Braddock Road Chronicles, 1755; compiled by Andrew J. Wahll; Heritage Books, Inc. This is a compilation of several journals of the march arranged in chronological order so the reader can follow the march day by day.
“The Grand Assembly,” a reenactment of Braddock’s meeting with the Governors, will take place at Carlyle House in Alexandria on April 9th, noon – 5 p.m.
Go to: Part III Previous Part I