Gen. Edward Braddock
in Chief of His Majesty's Forces
in North America
Who Would Have Thought?
Series Commemorating the
“Season of Braddock”
French and Indian War 250th Anniversary
5 Winter in August
When General Braddock was gravely wounded at the Battle of the Monongahela, the panic began to spread among the remaining soldiers. For over two hours the army had huddled in small groups firing indiscriminately in the direction of the war whoops of the Indians and often hitting their own comrades. Now they began to throw down their weapons and whatever equipment encumbered them and run wildly along the only avenue of escape – the route they had just traversed a few hours ago.
Nothing that the few remaining officers could do would halt the panic. Finally, even the officers realized that if they remained they would become prey of the savages lurking just beyond the clouds of smoke in the trees and ravines. Those who still had a grip on their senses did their best to help the wounded in an orderly retreat. George Washington and a few others managed to get Gen. Braddock into a small cart and begin their retreat. The Virginians, about the only soldiers left, although they had suffered severe casualties, did their best to cover the retreat.
“Our poor Virginians behaved like men and died like soldiers, for I believe that out of three companies that were there that day scarce 30 were left alive.”
George Washington to Gov. Dinwiddie
July 18, 1755
The remnant of the army made it across the Monongahela River where small groups of soldiers had managed to make a stand to cover the crossing. When they realized that the Indians were not going to follow across the river, they tried to make somewhat of an organized retreat. They marched through the night amidst the cries of the wounded and the dying laying along the road. Washington described it as a most pitiful experience that he would remember the rest of his life.
Notifying Col. Dunbar
General Braddock, though gravely wounded, had given orders for the retreat. Washington was ordered to take scouts and make for Dunbar’s camp to alert the other part of the army of the situation and summon aide for the fleeing troops. Riding through the dark night that at times necessitated dismounting and groping for the trail with bare hands on the ground they eventually covered the many miles to Dunbar and alerted the remainder to the defeat. Almost immediately the same fear that drove the survivors seemed to grip the supply camp. Col. Dunbar, following Braddock’s orders, began to prepare a company to take supplies to the fleeing troops while the rest of the camp prepared to destroy the many supplies that the limited wagons and horses could not carry and await orders to proceed back to Fort Cumberland.
No one knew at that time that there was no need for hurry, for the French and their Indian allies had no intention of mounting an attack. They believed that the remaining British army was too big to attack. Besides, the Indians were too busy collecting the booty on the battlefield and preparing to return to their homes with their trophies. It was reported that the British left 4 field pieces (6 pounders), 3 howitzers, several cohorn mortors, 51 wagons of provisions, about 200 horses and over 200 head of cattle on the field of battle not to mention the arms and personal effects of the dead, the wounded and the fleeing.
By the time the wounded Gen. Braddock and the remnant of the army got to Dunbar’s, camp preparations were underway to make a hasty retreat. The fleeing wagoneers and camp followers had already given a report of the defeat that fanned the fear in the camp. Because there were not enough horses to haul the supplies and the wounded much of the munitions and military supplies were destroyed at the camp.
"Who Would Have Thought?"
On the evening of July 13th as the army was preparing to depart for Fort Cumberland from Dunbar’s camp near Jumonville glen where George Washington had fired the first shots of the French and Indian War, Gen. Edward Braddock died of his wound. Among his last words were, “Who would have thought?” Later he murmured “We shall know better how to deal with them another time!” Apparently, he had forgotten the several words of warning given to him weeks before.
Early the next morning, before the army broke camp, George Washington read the burial service and the General was laid to rest in the middle of the road he had constructed and passed over about 10 days before. After the interment the army marched over the spot to obliterate all traces of the grave so the Indians could not discover and desecrate the remains. Here the body remained until the turn of the nineteenth century when a road crew discovered the grave and moved the remains to a safer, more prominent place where they remain today marked by a monument.
The army continued the long trek back to Fort Cumberland leaving food and supplies along the way for any survivors who might be following. By July 17 the remnant arrived at Fort Cumberland. Here an official count was taken showing 385 killed or missing, 328 wounded and 532 not wounded of the original column that engaged in the battle.
The food that had been left along the route for stragglers served its purpose. On July 26 the last recorded survivor arrived at Fort Cumberland. He told the story of traveling with six other wounded comrades. They had found the food left for them, but, unfortunately, only one lived to make it to Fort Cumberland. On that day, George Washington, still suffering from the malady that had plagued him before the battle, arrived at Mount Vernon to recuperate. His volunteer service to the British had ended, but his reputation as a fearless and dependable soldier had been established. He would soon be called upon again to serve the colony of Virginia when the House of Burgesses realized the consequences of Braddock’s defeat.
The army remained at Fort Cumberland while the wounded were tended and arrangements were made for further disposition of Col. Dunbar’s command. Gov. Dinwiddie of Virginia urged Dunbar to regroup and with the assistance of fresh Virginia troops he hoped to raise and quickly advance to Fort Duquesne and finish what Gen. Braddock had begun. Gov. Sharpe of Maryland urged Dunbar to leave his troops at Cumberland to protect the frontiers from an expected attack by the French and Indians. Dunbar considered the appeals and rejected them.
Going to Winter Quarters in August
In spite of all the pleas, Col. Dunbar marched his troops (except for those still too ill to travel) out of Fort Cumberland on August 2nd. The next afternoon they crossed the Potomac River into Hampshire County; they arrived in the vicinity of Winchester on August 5th. They then turned northeast and traveled into Pennsylvania. The route took them to Pawling’s Tavern and on to Shippensburg. They arrived in Philadelphia on August 28th. In October they would move up the Hudson into New York. The central frontier was now left without any regular British troops to protect it. Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia would have to protect themselves.
War on the Frontier
It soon became obvious that the frontier needed protection. One of the most famous captivity incidents of the war happened before the month of July was over. In southwestern Virginia at a place called Draper’s Meadow, Mary Draper Ingles was captured in an Indian raid by Shawnee Indians. She was carried with other members of her community across the Ohio River to a Shawnee town. Months later she was able to escape and make her way home by following the rivers she knew would lead her back to Virginia. This was just one of the many incidents of Indian attacks on the frontier to occur following Braddock’s defeat. But it would get worse. In October there was a rash of attacks and many captives were carried off.
"I tremble at the consequences that this defeat may have upon our back settlers, who I suppose will all leave their habitation's unless there are proper measures taken for their security. Col. Dunbar, who commands at present, intends as soon as his Men are recruited at this place, to continue his March to Philadelphia for Winter Quarter's; consequently there will be no Men left here unless it is the shattered remains of the Virginia Troops; who are totally inadequate to the protection of the Frontiers."
Fort Cumberland, Maryland
The cold of winter brought a respite from war. However spring would come and with it renewed attacks. In April 1756 the fury of the Indians would devastate the settlements; these attacks would go unabated for two years – the bloody years of the war on the frontier. This would continue until the next British army under Gen. John Forbes arrived to complete in 1758 the task that Gen. Braddock had begun. The years 1756-57 were a trying time for the settlers – a time of terror. Some left the frontier for safer areas; others stayed to fight for what little they had. Some died trying; others lived through it. For those who survived this time, it would deeply affect their lives. The experience of the defeat of a great British army and the years of struggle on the frontier played a great part in the rising spirit of independence that would change the course of history in 1776. But that is another story.
Soon Indians and some French began attacking frontier farms;
it was the beginning of the War on the Frontier.
- July 9 The Battle of the Monongohela
- July 26 Last recorded survivor arrives at Ft. Cumberland; G.W. arrives home
at Mount Vernon.
- July 30, 1755 Draper’s Meadow attack; Mary Ingles carried to Ohio
- August 3 Army remnant crosses Potomac at Cox’s (mouth of Little Cacapon)
- August 4 remnant arrives at Enoch’s at Forks of Capon
- August 29, 1755 Remnant arrives at Philadelphia and encamps at Society Hill.
- Aug. 15, 1755 George Washington commissioned Commander of the Virginia
- April 1756 French and Indians begin savage campaign against soldiers and settlers on Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania frontiers.
further reference see:
Breaking the Backcountry by Matthew C. Ward; well researched look at the war’s effect on the Virginia frontier.
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom; story of Mary Draper Ingles’ captivity and escape.
Gen. Braddock’s Defeat: Contemporary Reports and Later Remembrances, ed. by Charles C. Hall, published by The Fort Edwards Foundation, 2005. A very readable collection of articles from the eighteenth century.
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