Braddock's Defeat

Braddock's expedition was just one of a massive British offensive against the French in North America in the summer of 1755. As commander-in-chief of the British Army in America, General Braddock led the main thrust against the Ohio Country with a column some 2,100 strong. Braddock's command consisted of two regular line regiments, the 44th and 48th with about 1,350 men, and about 500 regular soldiers and militiamen from several British American colonies, along with artillery and other support troops. With these men Braddock expected to seize Fort Duquesne easily, and then push on to capture a series of French forts, eventually reaching Fort Niagara.

Setting out from Fort Cumberland in Maryland on May 29, 1755, the expedition faced an enormous challenge of moving a large body of men with equipment, provisions, and heavy cannon, across the densely wooded Allegheny Mountains and into western Pennsylvania, a journey of about 110 miles. The expedition progressed slowly due to a shortage of healthy draft animals, and because Braddock considered making a road to Fort Duquesne a priority. To speed up movement, Braddock split his men into a "flying column" of about 1,300 men which he commanded and a supply column of 800 men following behind.

Meanwhile, at Fort Duquesne, the French garrison consisted of only about 250 regulars and Canadian militia, with about 640 Indian allies camped outside the fort. Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecœur, the Canadian Commander, received reports from Indian scouting parties that the British were on their way to besiege the fort. He realised that his fort could not withstand Braddock's cannon, and decided to launch an ambush of Braddock's army as he crossed the Monongahela River.

On July 9, 1755, Braddock's men crossed the Monongahela without opposition. About 10 miles south of Fort Duquesne, the advance guard of 300 grenadiers and colonials with two cannon under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage began to move ahead, and unexpectedly came upon the French and Indians, who were hurrying to the river, behind schedule and too late to set the ambush.

In the skirmish that followed between Gage's soldiers and the French Gommander, Beaujeu, was killed by the first volley of musket fire from the grenadiers. The battle, known as the Battle of the Monongahela, or the Battle of the Wilderness, or just Braddock's Defeat, was officially begun.

After an exchange of fire, Gage's advance group fell back. In the narrow confines of the road, they collided with the main body of Braddock's force, which had advanced rapidly when the shots were heard. The entire column dissolved in disorder as the Canadian militamen and Indians enveloped them and continued to snipe at the British flanks from the woods on the sides of the road. At this time, the French regulars began advancing along the road and began to push the British back.

Following Braddock's example, the officers kept trying to reform units into regular order within the confines of the road, mostly in vain and simply providing targets for their concealed enemy. After several hours of intense combat, Braddock was shot off his horse, and effective resistance collapsed.

By sunset, the surviving British and colonial forces were fleeing back down the road they had built. Braddock died of his wounds during the long retreat, and on July 13, was buried beneath the road that his army had built on the way to Fort Duquesne. The retreating army marched over his grave to hide it from the Indians. Years later his remains were found by a road crew repairing the Braddock Road, and his body was moved within the Fort Necessity Parklands, and the grave properly marked.

Of the approximately 1,300 men Braddock had led into battle, 456 were killed and 422 wounded. The Commissioned officers were prime targets and suffered greatly: out of 86 officers, 26 were killed and 37 wounded. Of the 50 or so women that accompanied the British column as maids and cooks, only 4 survived. The French and Canadians reported 8 killed and 4 wounded; their Indian allies lost 15 killed and 12 wounded.

George Washington, then just 23, took command of the survivors. He ordered the destruction of supplies and cannon before withdrawing, burning about 150 wagons on the spot. Ironically, at this point the defeated, demoralized and disorganised British forces still outnumbered their opponents. The French and Indians did not pursue because the Indians were engaged with looting and scalping. Dumas, who had taken command of the French after Beaujeu was killed, realized the British were utterly defeated but didn't have enough of a force to continue an organized pursuit.

It has been written that Braddock's defeat was a major setback for the British in the early stages of the war with France and has been described as one of the most disastrous defeats for the British in the 18th century.

This acrylic painting was created in 2011. The size of the original is 36 X 48 and is painted on stretched canvas.

The Original Braddock's Defeat is for sale, and the 36 X 48 inch canvas is available for $3000.

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