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of diplomatic formalities than was now to be seen in the rela-
Generai tions between Great Britain and France. In Novem-
Braddock < jjgj.^ gj (j^g opening of Parliament, the prevalence of

^The letter to Dinwiddie in which these views are expressed is quoted
textually by Mr. McCrady, vol. ii. p. 303.
^ This is stated in the letter referred to below.
' Dinwiddie Papers, vol. i. p. 378.
* In my account of Eraddock's expedition and death I have mainly followed


peace was mentioned in the King's Speech as a subject for con-
gratulation. At that very time a thousand men were embarked
for Virginia, to be strengthened by the enlistment of four hun-
dred more in America. Their commander was Edward Brad-
dock. His character as a man has been made the subject of
' more controversy than it is perhaps intrinsically worth. He
was abused by the colonists, among whom he fought and fell;
he has been handed down to us by a great master of social
satire as "a very Iroquois," and the picture set with appropriate
ornaments. His reputation has profited by reaction. It has
been held that the colonists who suffered by his errors as a sol-
dier are tainted witnesses, and that Walpole would never scruple
to sacrifice a character to an epigram. Against the latter plea
it may be urged that gallantry and patriotism never appealed
to Walpole in vain, prone though he was to hide generous
enthusiasm under a thin veil of cynicism. Nor should it be for-
gotten that Walpole expressly admits that Braddock was
^'adored" when he commanded at Gibraltar, and that he tells
a story of him illustrating a certain magnanimity which rose
above mere brute courage.

Braddock as a soldier offers an easier problem. His private
•secretary, a son of Governor Shirley, delivered himself of a not
wholly undiscriminating condemnation of his chief: "We have
a general most judiciously chosen for being disqualified for the
service he is employed in, in almost every respect. He may be
brave for aught I know, and he is honest in pecuniary matters."
The events of the coming year left little doubt as to the sound-
ness of Shirley's judgment.'

The really most effective condemnation is to be found in
Franklin's measured words. Braddock "might," he thinks,
"have made a good figure in some European war. But he had
too mean an opinion of Americans and Indians.'"' That was an
■error which was not merely calculated to bring about, as it
did, a crushing disaster in the field. No general could hope
to succeed in the task set Braddock unless he could excite the
enthusiasm and command the loyal co-operation of the colonists.

Parkman, and Washington's letters, printed by Sparks. The Dinwiddie Papers
also are valuable. I have besides consulted Mr. Sargent's monograph.

'Letter to Morris, quoted textually by Mr. Parkman, vol. i. p. 1 88.

^ Franklin's autobiography in his works, vol. ii.


Inability to do that would have made military talents of a
higher order than Braddock's useless.

Braddock's first step on landing was to hold a council of war
at Alexandria. It was attended by Dinwiddie, Shirley, Sharpe,
The coun- and three other colonial Governors. A plan of cam-
at'Afexan- P^ign was produced by Braddock in conformity with
'*'''^- his instructions. The attack was to be on four lines.

Braddock himself was to advance into the valley of the Ohio.
Three separate bodies of troops, all colonial, were to be sent
against Niagara, Crown Point, and Acadia.

The general conception was a sound one. Braddock was
taking into his own hands what was no doubt the most essential
part of the campaign. It was all-important to wipe out the
effect produced on the savages by Washington's defeat. A blow
struck at French power on the lakes or in the valley of the St.
Lawrence might isolate the Ohio valley, and make it difficult or
even impossible to replenish the garrisons there. But supplies
might be got from the country itself, and a mere handful of
Frenchmen would be enough to keep alive the hostility of the
savage to the British. Braddock and his advisers were no doubt
right, too, in their belief that the Ohio campaign could only be
of service as part of a connected scheme of operations.

The real error lay not in the choice of operations, but in the
scale on which it was proposed to conduct them. To open a
British campaign with wholly inadequate resources, and

sufficient. thus to Create difficulties which have to be redeemed
at a heavy price alike in blood and in money, has always been
the besetting sin of British Governments. So it was now.
Even for the immediate task in hand fourteen hundred men was
a wholly inadequate force. If the Ohio valley was to be secured,
it would have to be secured, as Dinwiddie saw, not by one
decisive blow, though that might be needed, but by systematic
military occupation, and for a while at least by a chain of forts,
securing not only the valley of the Ohio but the communication
with the settled parts of Virginia. To do that securely and
effectively needed a far larger force than Braddock had at his

Even more short-sighted was the notion that operations on
the scale intended could be effectually conducted by provincial
troops without aid from the mother country. There it is


probable that Shirley had been unconsciously misleading the
Home Government. His strenuous and sanguine mind, flushed
with the success of Louisburg, may well have overrated the task
in hand. He may have imagined that a large proportion of the
colonists were as courageous and enduring as his New Eng-
landers, that all New Englanders were as zealous and public-
spirited as himself.

Yet the general scheme of the war conceived at the outset
was a sound one, as was shown by those who succeeded to the
responsibilities of Robinson and Braddock. The merits of Pitt
and Wolfe and Forbes were not that they saw things which had
been concealed from their predecessors, but that they measured
their difficulties and their resources justly, that they did reso-
lutely and persistently what others had only attempted feebly
and incompletely.

If Braddock imagined that the temper of Dinwiddle and
Shirley would be reflected in that of the colonists he was speedily
undeceived. All that the Assembly of Pennsylvania would do
was to vote twenty thousand pounds, with a special clause
attached to the vote making the Proprietors' lands liable to tax-
ation. To permit this was in direct opposition to the Governor's
instructions. His remonstrances are best quoted in his own
words. In December he addressed the Assembly on the sub-
ject: "Upon the whole you will consider, gentlemen, in what
light you will appear to his Majesty and a British Parliament,
who are expending great sums of money for the defense of these
colonies, while you, the very province most concerned, as being
invaded, instead of contributing towards your own defense, are
entering into an ill-timed controversy concerning the validity of
royal instructions which have been determined long ago, and
may be delayed to a more convenient time without being any
the least injury to the rights of the people.'"

Again, on the first day of the new year, he spoke in the same-
strain. "It gives me particular concern that you should pur-
posely enter into a dispute about the instruction, and choose to
express and publish such sentiments of his Majesty's Govern-
ment, at a time like this, when a French army are fortifying
themselves in your country; and I earnestly recommend it to
you to consider whether such expressions may not have a tend-

' For this and the following speech see the Pennsylvania Records.


ency to alienate the affections of the people of this province
from his Majesty's person and Government, and thereby greatly
•obstruct the measures he is taking at a vast expense for the pres-
ervation and protection of his subjects upon this continent."

There is, he points out, danger of invasion. The French
have a thousand soldiers on the Ohio, and they w^ill attack Penn-
-sylvania, as it is "the most plentiful and only defenseless part."

"I must therefore, gentlemen, once more entreat you to lay
aside everything that may admit of dispute betvv'een us till a
more favorable season, and enter seriously into the consideration
of the danger to which your country is exposed, and not only
grant the supplies recommended by the Crow^n, but enable me
to raise a considerable body of men to be employed in conjunc-
tion with the troops his Majesty has destined for this service,
and, by establishing a regular militia and providing the neces-
sary stores of war, leave us no longer for want of discipline an
easy prey to a much weaker body of men than are now encamped
within a few days' march of the city."

The curtailment of the needful supplies was not the only
way in which the slothfulness and disloyalty of the Pennsyl-
vanians had a prejudicial effect on Braddock's operations. He
might advance to the Ohio through either Pennsylvania or
Virginia. If one looked merely at the map, there was little
difference. But the route through Virginia traversed a wilder-
ness, that through Pennsylvania lay for a considerable dis-
tance in a civilized country, with good roads and abundant sup-
plies of transport and food. Braddock, however, could not be
expected to know that. It was but natural that he should
choose his route through the loyal colony rather than the dis-
loyal. It is said, too, that his choice was prompted or con-
firmed by the members of the Ohio Company, who took the
view that a military road made by Braddock would afterwards
profit their speculations. If that be so, it would be hard to
find a stronger instance of the harm done to the common cause
ty sectional interests.

As it was, Braddock soon learnt what difficulties resulted
from a march through a backward and sparsely populated coun-
Braddock's t^y. No means of transport could be found and
advance. ^.jjg expedition was at a standstill. Franklin, who
-was with Braddock, heard of the difficulty and went to get what


-vvas needed from his own colony. The Pennsylvanians might
object to voting money towards a British army even for their
own protection. But they had no scruple about making profit
out of the General's necessities, and Franklin returned with a
hundred and fifty wagons and a sufficient supply of horses. By
May lo Braddock reached Wills Creek. Beside his own two
regiments he had now four hundred and fifty Virginians. With
these he dealt characteristically. They were handed over to
one of his officers to be "made as much like soldiers as possible,"
in other words to be transformed from efficient backwoods
fighters into a poor imitation of regulars. In a dispatch to
Robinson he described them as slothful and languid — probably
because they did not take kindly to parade work, which was not
likely to advantage them much in the woods.

In the same spirit Braddock refused the help of a small party
of frontier men, painted like savages, and headed by a leader
whose house had been burnt and family murdered by the
Indians, and who had sworn a vendetta against them.

These errors of Braddock's may not have affected the result
of a campaign, though that is far from certain. They did affect
the conduct of the war as a whole. The refusal to accept such
help wounded the pride of the colonists. The spectacle of a
British General undertaking a forest campaign without a notion
of the special conditions and requirements, fighting on the
banks of the Potomac as he would have fought on the banks of
the Rhine, filled the colonists with contempt. Conduct such
as Braddock's begot a tradition, too often kept alive by his
successors, of an impassable barrier between Briton and colonist.
The French war might have done much to break down that
tradition. It did much to create and perpetuate it. When the
Virginians are reproached for supineness and lack of patriotism
these things ought not to be forgotten.

One set-off against this must not be forgotten. It was owing
to Braddock that Washington reappeared on the field. He
had sent in his resignation, indignant at the regulation which
gave colonial officers inferior rank to those who held the King's
commission. Braddock recognized that Washington's experi-
ence and courage, tested it is true only by one campaign, yet
fully tested, would be of service to him, and appointed him one
of his aids-de-camp.


On June lo Braddock resumed his march through the wilder-
ness. The tragedy that followed is one of the most familiar
incidents in history. The French and Canadian troops were
established at Fort Duquesne, on the site of the present town of
Pittsburg, with four hundred Indian allies.' From Wills
Creek to Fort Duquesne was a distance of about eighty miles
as the crow flies. In any case progress would have been slow,
since a track had to be cut through the forest. Beside that, the
march was retarded by the sickness alike of men and horses.
Washington seems to have been the one colonial soldier whose
judgment carried weight with Braddock. By his advice before
the march was half accomplished Braddock lightened his column
by leaving behind his heavy baggage with a rear-guard, under
the command of General Dunbar, and advancing with a force
reduced to twelve hundred men. Yet even so his progress
seemed slow to the active and hardy land surveyor, accustomed
to scramble amid forest tracks and streams, with his equip-
ment in a pair of saddle-bags. "They halted," Washington
complained, "to level every molehill and to erect bridges over
every brook."

Military pedantry, however, was not the only influence at
work to delay Braddock's progress. His transport was weakened^
firstly by the worthless character of the horses supplied by the
colonists, and secondly by the parties of horse-stealers who hung
on to the line of his march.''

On July 3, Contrecoeur, the French commander at Fort
Duquesne, heard of the approach of Braddock and decided ta
The attack him while still in the forest. That move-

and'the ment. One on which the whole fate of the campaign
Indians. tumed, was on the brink of being frustrated by the
caprice of Contrecoeur's savage allies. The tact of the French-
man in dealing with savages, his patient bearing with their
caprices, and his power of stimulating their enthusiasm, now
came into play. The Indians at first refused to leave the fort..
An English officer of the type of Braddock would have sworn,,
grumbled, and given up the native alliance as a broken reed.
One of Contrecoeur's lieutenants, Beaujeu, declared that he

^ There does not seem to be any evidence as to the exact number of French,

' This is stated by Mr. Sargent. He quotes his authorities.


would in any case go forth single-handed. Would the Indians
suffer their white father to fight unaided ? The appeal was not
made in vain and Beaujeu, himself in Indian dress and war
paint, sallied forth, at the head of over six hundred Indians
and two hundred and fifty Frenchmen.

Beaujeu's intention was to wait for Braddock in ambush, but

that plan was frustrated by the capricious self-will of the Indian

allies, half of whom went off to fight independently

The battle. . , , . . ,

accordmg to their own ideas.

The result was that Beaujeu, instead of concealing his forces
in the wood and taking the enemy in flank, was compelled to
make a direct attack on the head of Braddock's advancing col-
umn. At the outset the English behaved both with courage and
good discipline. It was no easy matter to form line under fire
amid the foliage and undergrowth of an American forest in
July. Indian marksmanship was not conspicuously accurate,
and the savage could not be relied on to persevere when the first
fury of his attack was spent.

As it was, after the English delivered their first fire, it was
all that the French officers could do to rally their savage

There can be little doubt that, if Braddock's men had been
in any way familiar with the methods of bush fighting, all might
have gone well. But to a man of Braddock's training and
temper it was better to be defeated in conformity with orthodox
methods than to win by conduct which seemed lacking in cour-
age, and by imitating the hitherto unknown tactics of colonials
and barbarians. When his men would fain have followed the
example of the Virginians and fired from behind trees, Braddock
drove them Into the open, beating them, it is said, with the flat
of his sword.

It was little reproach to a force thus handled, fighting under
wholly unfamiliar conditions and against a mysterious and un-
seen foe, that they fell into hopeless confusion, and fired upon
the colonial skirmishers, mistaking them for the enemy.

Hopeless confusion and a complete rout ensued, and the
defeated British fled through the forest, leaving behind baggage
and cannon. Braddock, after doing all that mere individual
courage could do to repair his errors of generalship, was carried
off the field yet breathing, but stricken to the death; most of


the wounded were less fortunate, and were left on the ground to
be tomahawked and scalped.

Braddock's defeat put an end to any present operations
against the French in the Ohio valley. It did, though it need not
Conse- have done so, expose the English settlements to inva-

of defeat. sion. Both these consequences, however, were repa-
rable. Every year that the French remained in the valley of the
Ohio made their ultimate eviction more difficult. But the pos-
session of the Ohio was an issue to be settled in other fields
than the banks of the Ohio itself. A savage inroad might be a
terrible scourge, but it was a passing one. It was a raid for
plunder and blood, not an invasion for conquest.

But one consequence of the defeat was not transient. It
helped to imbue the colonists with a contempt, never wholly
eradicated, for British generalship and a distrust of English
courage. The latter was beyond doubt unjust. What Euro-
pean force would not have been demoralized, hemmed in on
• a narrow track with unseen foes firing upon them from every
side? We are so used to England's "small wars" that we have
almost come to look on a bush fight with savages as the normal
kind of engagement. The soldiers of Braddock's day had never
seen a savage in the field. They might have fought on Indian
plains or Scotch moors. But the military methods of the Indian
troops were not those of barbarians, rather of an incomplete
and clumsy civilization. It was a long step from a kilted High-
lander to a Shawnee in his war paint. On the battlefields of
the Old World it might be true that:

**TraIned through steadfast work and drilled,
Till as one thought they moved along,
By the old land's old memories filled,

Our English lads were calm and strong.'*

But what calmness could be looked for in a man reared in an
English village, exposed to the fire of an enemy dimly and
vaguely discerned through the trees, painted till he looked like
a wild beast, and yelling like a fiend let out of hell ? The colo-
nist forgot these things. He forgot that to ask an English regi-
ment to engage in a bush fight was like asking a band of back-
woodsmen to stand a charge of cuirassiers in the open. But
though the contempt might be unjust and unreasonable, that did
not make it one whit less of evil consequence.


Contempt for English generalship was better founded. A
historian usually in nowise favorable to Braddock acquits him
How far of having led his men into an ambush/ Technically
attached to that may be so, since no deliberate ambush was at-
Braddock. tempted by the enemy. But beyond doubt he did
place his troops in a position where they were exposed to a
most perilous form of attack. It may be true that he threw
out reconnoitering parties on each side of his track. If they
failed to report an enemy, that revealed deficiencies which
Braddock ought to have known and guarded against. Nor can
one suppose that under any conditions it would have been safe
to move a column of nearly a thousand men along a path twelve
feet wide, flanked by thick wood. There might have been
excuses for Braddock if there had been urgency, if he had been
moving to the relief of a besieged garrison. The only argument
that could have been used in favor of haste was the danger of
supplies failing and the difficulty of transport. It may be said,
and plausibly, that Washington gave bad advice when he urged
Braddock to press on without his heavy baggage. But Wash-
ington's own words show that he expected from that plan a rate
of progress far beyond that attained, and one can hardly deny
that he was justified in expecting it, though he might not have
done so if he had known English troops better.

Probably Braddock's best policy would have been to follow
Washington's advice, only in a much more thoroughgoing fash-
ion, and to secure his own troops with temporary log-huts and
earthworks, sending Washington with all the Indians and back-
woodsmen that could be raised to reconnoiter and skirmish.
They might have so dealt with the French and their allies as
to make an advance safe; at the worst they would have fallen
back, possibly with lessened numbers.

Perhaps the most unhappy phase of the whole matter was
that the colonists should have seen a British general pedantically
clinging to the inappropriate methods of the Old World, and
refusing to let even the irregular troops make the attempt which
might have won safety for themselves, possibly even for the
whole force.

A contemporary pamphleteer expressed the view, and it has
been accepted and approved by a modern writer, that Brad-

'Mr. Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe, vol. i. p. 214.


dock's defeat was a blessing in disguise, since it forced upon
the colonists as nothing else would have done the need for
united resistance. It is a somewhat obvious answer that Brad-
dock's defeat did not have that ejEfect, that it left the colonies as
it found them, disunited and unorganized, distrustful of the
mother country, yet not atoning for that distrust by any spirit
of self-reliance and self-help.^

Something might have been done even after Braddock's defeat
and death to redeem the situation and re-establish the good name
Dinwid- of the British army. The stout-hearted Dinwiddle
energy. in the Spirit of Varro refused to despair of the state.
There might yet be time for a counterstroke. With character-
istic energy he showered dispatches upon all from whom help
might be looked for: on the Governors of North Carolina,
Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massa-
chusetts, urging the need for action, and telling them what he
could himself do in the way of raising troops.^ The letters were
not mere reproductions of a circular or a common form, but
personal appeals differing in every instance. Glen is told very
plainly that if he had induced the Cherokees and Catawbas to
send auxiliary forces, as he might have done, the French Indians
would have been held in check and the disaster averted.'

Firmness was naturally to be looked for from Dinwiddie.
In his dealings with the Assembly he showed what was less to
be looked for, patience and forbearance. In his address to them,
when they met in August, there are no reproaches as to the past,
no attempt to fasten on them responsibility for failure, noth-
ing but forcible representations of the imminent danger, and
an assumption that it would be dealt with effectively.^

The Governor's confidence was not misplaced. In less than
a week from meeting the Assembly had voted forty thousand
pounds, and would, Dinwiddie believed, have made the sum up
to a hundred thousand more if they could have been promised
that offensive operations would be resumed at once.'

^ This contention is to be found in a pamphlet published at Boston in 1755.
It it entitled, Two Letters to a Friend on the present Critical Conjuncture of
Affairs in North America. Mr. Sargent adopts tlie same view.

^Dinwiddie Papers, vol. ii. pp. 126-31.

* Ibid. p. 125.

* Ibid. pp. 134-6,
° Ibid. p. 176.


Unhappily the apathy of the colonists themselves was no
longer the chief obstacle to be overcome.

It is shown from the tone of Dinwiddie's letters that he had
misgivings as to Dunbar's firmness. He adjures him at least
Dunbar's to Stand fast in such a defensive position as would

Online LibraryJohn Andrew DoyleEnglish colonies in America ... → online text (page 45 of 49)