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Maj. 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”
in the French and Indian War 250th Anniversary

 
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Part III Fort Cumberland, Frontier Outpost

Believing that there was a decent road in Maryland to Fort Cumberland, Gen. Braddock left Alexandria on April 20th and rode to Frederick to meet up with Col. Dunbar’s Regiment. Only when he got to Frederick did it become clear that there really was no wagon road to Fort Cumberland. This part of the army would have to cross the Potomac River again and meet Col. Halkett’s 44th near Winchester and then take the Virginia route to Will’s Creek. Another big disappointment was the fact that Gov. Sharpe of Maryland had no wagons and horses waiting to join the army in Frederick. The General was beginning to wonder if these colonials could get anything done right. Then he had the good fortune to meet Benjamin Franklin.

Mr. Franlkin to the Rescue

Mr. Franklin, the Pennsylvania postmaster, had come to Frederick supposedly on the business of setting up a postal express to forward the army’s mail as it traveled west. His ulterior motive was to placate the General and try to find a way in which Ben FranklinPennsylvania could overcome its failure to appropriate money for the campaign. In the course of conversation Mr. Franklin learned that Braddock was desperately in need of wagons and horses. He also learned that the officers had no ready supply of food since they could not purchase any on the frontier.

Mr. Franklin seized the opportunity to ingratiate himself to the General and better the standing of Pennsylvania. He explained that Pennsylvania did not have a shortage of farm wagons like Virginia and Maryland, and he arrange to send 150 to Fort Cumberland within two weeks. He also arranged for an ample supply of food for the officers. For this he received the General’s thanks and a recommendation from Braddock to his superiors that Mr. Franklin was a man of his word and of great abilities. This would be remembered when Franklin represented the colonies in London before the Revolution.

A Virginia Volunteer

The next individual who met the General in Frederick was the young Virginian who had earlier offered his services to the campaign. George Washington arrived in response to the General’s invitation to join his military “family” as an unpaid aide. It was the beginning of a most fruitful association that would bring fame to the young Virginian even though the General’s name would instead be ever associated with disastrous defeat.

Having finished his business in Frederick and hoping to meet some friendly Cherokee Indians whom Gov. Dinwiddie had summoned to Winchester, Braddock and Washington left Maryland for Virginia on May 1st. The General’s carriage did not follow Dunbar’s Regiment but took a shortcut to Swearingen’s ferry at present Shepherdstown and crossed the Potomac into Virginia. Then they traveled by John Evan’s (just south of present Martinsburg) to Winchester. Washington stayed at Cocke’s in Winchester; it is not known for certain if Braddock stayed in the town or in the army camp north of the small town. Much to Braddock’s disappointment there were no friendly Indians waiting for him. It seems that colonial politics had stifled Dinwiddie’s plan when North Carolina persuaded the Indians to stay out of Virginia. Braddock waited until May 7th and then left for Will’s Creek – Fort Cumberland.

Leaving the Last Town on the Frontier

When Braddock’s army moved northwest out of the camp at Pott’s near Gainesboro it was actually beginning its trek into the wilderness. Up to this point it had traveled on existing wagon roads. From this point it was taking a route along a trader’s path or packhorse trail that had to be widened for the troops and wagons. The beginning of the wilderness mountains was just ahead.

Leaving Pott’s the army moved in stages north of present Lake Summit through Whitacre and down Bloomery Run through Bloomery Gap. Then it turned north of the present Rt. 127 and crossed the Cacapon just downstream of its junction with the North River. The area at the Forks of Capon belonged to Henry Enoch; the army camped here. By this time the next year Enoch would have a fort here for his and his neighbors’ protection.

The Produgious Mountains

The next days march would take the army up the first difficult mountain (called in one journal, “prodigious”) to camp atop Spring Gap Mountain aptly named because in the small “saddle” or gap on the mountain top there is a spring to supply water for a camp. From here it was downhill to the Little Cacapon River. It is in the area of Bloomery Gap and the Little Cacapon that the army had its first experience following the meanders of a rocky streambed. One of the journals says that they crossed a stream 20 times in three miles.

Spring Gap Mt.5
This is the view from Spring Gap Mountain above the saddle where part of the army
camped looking east through the gap the army came through from Forks of Capon.
In the distance is Great North Mountain, the first mountain west of Winchester.

Spring Gap Mt.16
Below the west side of Spring Gap Mountain looking toward the
area where the army headed down to the Little Cacapon River.

It was downhill from the Gap to join the Little Cacapon River about six miles upstream of its junction with the Potomac where Friend Cox lived. When the army got to Cox’s at the mouth of the Little Cacapon (called Ferry Field), the advance party and the sailors had built small flats or boats to ferry the army across to the Maryland side. From this point the army marched on the Maryland shore to Thomas Cresap’s at present Oldtown and then on to Will’s Creek and Fort Cumberland where the Ohio Company had built a storehouse a few years before.

Fry Jefferson map-p3w
Excerpt from the Fry and Jefferson Map of 1754 showing roads
leading west from Winchester to Fort Cumberland. #1-Pott's;
#2-Bloomery Gap; #3-Enoch's at Forks of Capon;
#4-Spring Gap Mountain; #5-Cox's or Ferry Field;
#6-Fort Cumberland.

Braddock’s army stayed at Fort Cumberland for several weeks waiting for supplies and taking time to train the new recruits before the march to Fort Duquesne would begin. It was at Fort Cumberland that Braddock had his first encounter with a large group of Indians. Although the friendly Cherokees had declined to accompany the army, there were several natives from the Ohio area present and George Croghan, the Pennsylvania trader, brought a large contingent from his home. Gen. Braddock made an effort to impress the Indians with a show of military might and splendor. That did impress the natives, but when it came to actual talks on the strategy of the campaign and plans for the future, Braddock got everything wrong.

A Serious Blunder

Not understanding native culture and economy, Braddock demanded that the warriors’ families return to Pennsylvania; Ft Cumberlandthat blunder lost him all of Croghan’s Indians. The next misstep was even worse. When Shingas, a Delaware secham, asked what would happen to the land that Braddock’s victory would secure from the French, the General declared that the British would secure it and that no Indian would inherit it. The chief was incredulous. If he and his people were asked to help the British oust the French from the Indian’s ancestral land, they should certainly be able to live in it. But he realized that the General thought it would be British land. The chief and his warriors departed in disgust. Only eight Indians were left to accompany the army as scouts and warriors.

Gen. Braddock designed a line of march to reflect the harshness of the country, the possibility of Indian attack and the problem of moving the supplies. He divided the army into three segments with Halkett leading the first with his 44th Regiment. The second was under Lt. Col. Burton and consisted of the Independent Companies, the Virginia and Maryland soldiers and most of the artillery. Col. Dunbar’s 48th would bring the major portion of the supplies and the remaining artillery. The first group moved out of camp on May 29th and began the passage over the mountain behind the camp. Three of their wagons were smashed on the steep incline. Braddock decided to find another way. It was not a good start. It would get worse.

Next Time: Through the Wilderness to Disaster. The army wins the battle against the mountains, but not against the enemy.

To the Honorable Robert Dinwiddie Esq. His majesty’s Lieutenant Governor, and Commander in Chief of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia:
     The humble ADDRESS of the COUNCIL SIR,

WE, His Majesty’s loyal and faithful Subjects, the Council of Virginia, now met in General Assembly, beg leave to return your Honor our sincere Thanks for your affectionate Speech in the Opening of this Session; and from a just Sense of the inestimable Blessing of his Majesty’s Reign, and the many repeated Marks of his Goodness, to assure your Honor of our Zeal, upon all occasions, to give the strongest and most substantial Evidence, of our Duty and Gratitude to his Majesty, for every instance of his paternal Regard.

The Forces which his Majesty has been graciously pleased to send over to our Assistance, is a fresh Instance of his Royal Care; and from the Plan of Operations that has been wisely concerted, and the known bravery and Experience of the Gentleman who is appointed to command, we may reasonably hope to see the Peace of America settled upon a Foundation, that will not be shaken for Ages yet to come.

To drive the French from our Borders, to maintain the just Rights of the Crown, and to reestablish the Tranquillity of the British Empire in North America, are Views that must warm the patriot’s Breast. With these Views, Sir, You have been animated, upon these Motives you have acted with that Ardor, zeal, and Vigilance, as cannot fail of reflecting the most lasting Honor upon your Name, and Character.

The great and important Business of the Ohio, we have always considered in a nationally Light, not as Virginians, but as Britons and what Difficulties will not a Briton surmount, what Dangers will he not encounter, when he is engaged in the glorious Cause of his King and Country.

As these, Sir, are our Sentiments, we hope your Honor will be persuaded of our ready and cheerful Concurrence, and of our hearty Endeavors to do every Thing on our part, to promote his Majesty’s Services, the Prosperity of this Colony, and the Welfare of America.

The Virginia Gazette   May 5, 1755

Timeline:

  • April 21st Braddock arrives at Frederick with a small troop of Virginia light horse.
  • April 29th Dunbar leaves Frederick for Virginia
  • May 1st Braddock and G.W. leave Frederick for Winchester
  • May 7th Braddock and G.W. leave Pott’s for Fort Cumberland
  • May 10th Braddock arrives at Fort Cumberland.
  • May 29th First advance from camp over the mountain unsuccessful.
  • June 8th Finally, the army leaves Fort Cumberland through the Narrows.

For further reference see:

Braddock’s Road Across Northern and Western Virginia by Ralph E. Hersko, Jr.; InfinityPublishing.com, 2004. This book gives a good summary of the causes and course of Braddock’s campaign and a detailed look at his route through northern Virginia and Hampshire County.

In Camp with Gen. Braddock,” a living history encampment reflecting what camp life along Braddock’s march might have been like took place at Abram’s Delight in Winchster, VA on April 16-17.  See www.BraddocksMarch.org for a Report on the camp.



 
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updated: July 6, 2005
© Charles C. Hall 2005

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