Braddock’s Defeat: An Evening with David L. Preston

On July 9, 1755, British regulars and American colonial troops under the command of General Edward Braddock, commander in chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, were attacked by French and Native American warriors shortly after crossing the Monongahela River while making their way to besiege Fort Duquesne in the Ohio Valley near modern-day Pittsburgh. The long line of red-coated troops struggled to maintain cohesion and discipline as Native American warriors quickly outflanked them and used the dense cover of the woods to masterful and lethal effect. Within hours, a powerful British army was routed, its commander mortally wounded, and two-thirds of its forces casualties in one the worst disasters in British military history.

Join us this Sunday evening at 7 p.m. for our latest Rev War Revelry as we sit down with historian David L. Preston to discuss his book and this critical event in America’s colonial history.

“Rev War Roundtable with ERW” French and Indian Sojourn

For the past few weeks, Emerging Revolutionary War has, naturally, centered our “Rev War Revelry” on topics associated with the American Revolution. However, our blog is dedicated to the the Revolutionary era and so to live up to that name, our historian happy hour will focus on George Washington, the French and Indian War, and the frontier, especially Western Pennsylvania, and see where the conversation goes from there.

This week, ERW historians will be joined by Dr. Walter Powell, who has been the president of the Braddock Road Preservation Association for the past 30 years and has been very active in French and Indian War events.

Joining Dr. Powell as a guest is John Miller, the Operations Director for Monterey Pass Museum and Battlefield ans the Executive Director of Shippensburg (PA) Historical Soceity.

We look forward to you joining Emerging Revolutionary War on our Facebook page at 7pm EST this Sunday. Along with your favorite beverage, remember to bring with your questions and comments as we embark on this sojourn to the French and Indian War in a history happy hour!

Visiting Carlyle House

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Carlyle House from the Front (Author Photo)

William Griffith’s examination of the Carlyle House Congress last month (The Carlyle House Congress and Britain’s Military Objectives for 1755) reminded me that I had been remiss in not visiting the site.   So, the family and I set off for Alexandria, VA and a visit to John Carlyle’s home.

Continue reading “Visiting Carlyle House”

Review: Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution, by David Preston. Oxford University Press, 2016. Reviewed by David A. Powell

Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome back guest historian David A. Powell. 

When George Washington opened fire on a small party of Canadian militia commanded by Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville in May of 1754, he fired the first shots of what would eventually become the French and Indian War – and the Seven Years War across the rest of the globe. Many scholars have also acknowledged that this incident set the spark for what would become our own American Revolution.

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Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution, by David Preston.

Of course, Washington intended none of those things; instead he was carrying out the British Crown’s policy of staking claim to and defending the Ohio Country, lately disputed between France and Britain.  However, Jumonville’s death set irreversible forces in motion, not the least of which was the capture of Washington’s own company of Virginia Colonial Militia at Fort Necessity by a much larger French response in June of 1754.

The direct consequence of that encounter was the creation of a new British army, including two regiments of regulars and a train of artillery, rushed from Ireland and England to re-assert Crown control over the forks of the Ohio. Command of this new expedition fell to Major General Edward Braddock. Arriving in 1755, Braddock’s mission was to lead this new force from Fort Cumberland, in western Maryland, to the site of the French Fort Duquesne (present-day Pittsburgh.) That campaign ended in disaster on July 9, 1755 when Braddock’s column collided with a combined force of French and Indians just a dozen miles short of Duquesne, resulting in horrific British losses – including Braddock.

Not surprisingly, this story has been fertile ground for historians. Fine monographs have already been written on the campaign, as well as on the French and Indian War as a whole. Having a particular interest in the period, I have read a number of those works. Naturally, I was curious when I first heard of Dr. David Preston’s new book exploring the campaign.

Preston, a professor at the Citadel, has delivered a tremendous book. Combining new research and close analysis of previously known sources, he provides fresh new perspective on General Edward Braddock, his ill-fated expedition, and the French & Indians opposing him.

Preston finds that Braddock, far from being an unyielding martinet uninterested in either the “savages” or using Colonials, worked hard (if unsuccessfully) to bring Indian warriors into his force, and showed more respect for the colonial elements under his command than some previous historians have portrayed. A number of factors precluded Braddock’s success here, but it was not for want of trying.

Where Preston’s interpretation really shines is in exploring the French and Indian sides of the war. A new account of the battle, located in a French archive, casts new light on the French efforts to defend Fort Duquesne – a venture whose success was by no means a sure thing. Preston also explores the Indian Nations’ complex and diverse reasons for casting their support with the French, which was also not certain. Preston makes it clear that the French defense was in many ways based on fortuitous circumstances rather than planning, especially in regards to the timing of the campaign.

Preston’s detailed description of the battle in question on July 9 presents a clear and detailed exploration of the sequence events as far as they can be known; where the author speculates he notes that, and explains the basis of his interpretation. Above all, his narrative is well-written, exciting and drama-filled.

Preston also excels in his summation of the long-term impact of Braddock’s defeat, both on the fortunes of British North America in the two years following the battle (which ran from bad to disastrous) and on the longer term consequences: the development of light infantry and ranger tactics, leadership, and the growing rift between American colonials and England.

Students of both the Seven Years War in America and the American Revolution will want to read Braddock’s Defeat. Get your copy today.

“The Old Wagoner”

Part One

The last battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in 1951 in Winchester, Virginia. Daniel Morgan, the “Old Wagoner” or ‘Old Morgan” as he was known to his soldiers, was front and center of the maelstrom once again just as he was on many a battle field from Quebec to South Carolina during the War for Independence.

Daniel Morgan Statute in Winchester, Virginia (courtesy of Winchester Star)
Daniel Morgan Statute in Winchester, Virginia
(courtesy of Winchester Star)

Residents of Cowpens, South Carolina, a small town near Spartanburg named for Morgan’s dramatic and strategically critical victory of 1781, arrived in Winchester, Virginia to claim the earthly remains of their revered hero. Morgan’s grave was overgrown and in decrepit condition. In Winchester, only one out of forty people queried by the Carolinians knew who Morgan was. Armed with shovels, a mortician, and a letter of authorization from Morgan’s great-great granddaughter, the Carolinians showed up at Mount Hebron Cemetery to dig up the general, take him “home” and reinter him at the site of his greatest victory. There he could rest among a populace that revered his name and cherished his significant contributions toward American independence. However, word of the Carolinians’ attempted exhumation of Morgan quickly spread through town and a contingent of devoted local admirers quickly headed to Mt. Hebron to stop the Carolinians initiative. In the end, a court ruled that the “Old Wagoner” would remain interred at Mt. Hebron in Winchester. Not only did he stay, but this episode kindled a reverence for the General’s legacy and place in history among Winchester’s populace.

Seventeen year-old Daniel Morgan moved into the Shenandoah Valley in 1753, with nothing but sheer determination to carve out a life for himself in the rugged frontier of western Virginia. His early years are shrouded in mystery that Morgan himself kept secret from even his closest associates throughout his life. He was born of Welsh parentage in 1836 in Bucks County Pennsylvania or Hunterdon County, New Jersey, the fifth of seven children. It was a hard life of work on the family farmstead with no opportunity for even a rudimentary education. His time was spent chopping wood, hoeing fields and other taxing physical labor. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried. A dispute with his father prompted the fiery Morgan to head west on the Great Wagon Road to Carlisle, Pennsylvania where he worked briefly during the winter of 1752-53, before continuing south to the Shenandoah.

Although Morgan lacked an education, the work on the family farm had hardened his six-foot, two-hundred pound frame into a powerful and muscular young man who was well suited for the physicality of life on the frontier. The blue-eyed youth initially obtained employment as a farm laborer in eastern Frederick County in what is now Clarke County. He worked hard and soon earned an offer of better employment. In spite of his youth, Morgan eared employment as the overseer of a saw mill where he learned to manage older and more experienced men, developing his leadership ability. Morgan’s energy and work ethic impressed Robert Burwell who offered Morgan a position as a teamster hauling valley produce across the Blue Ridge to Fredericksburg and other towns in the Virginia Piedmont and carrying badly needed supplies back to the frontier that was the Shenandoah Valley of the 1750’s.

Morgan enjoyed the freedom of the open road and in less than two years had earned enough money to buy his own team and Conestoga wagon. During this time, Morgan had become close friends with fellow teamster John “Captain Jack” Ashby, grandfather of the Virginia Civil War cavalryman. Ashby was noted for his “horsemanship, marksmanship and daring exploits.” Ashby taught Morgan to shoot, hunt, ride and live in the wilderness along the Blue Ridge.  The two men were kindred spirits and became good friends.

In 1755, the French and Indian War came to the Shenandoah Valley when British Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock’s column passed through the Winchester area on its way to wrest Fort Duquesne from the French at the “Forks of the Ohio,” now the site of Pittsburgh. Morgan signed on the haul supplies to Fort Cumberland in western Maryland and soon found himself as a teamster with the army, rolling into western Pennsylvania. When the French and Indians routed Braddock at the battle of the Monongahela in July, the teamsters emptied their wagons of supplies and carried wounded soldiers back to Fort Cumberland. At some point in this campaign, Morgan’s actions or words angered a British officer who violently chastised the young teamster and struck him with the flat of his sword. Morgan’s temper exploded, and the young wagoner knocked the officer out with one strong punch. A court martial sentenced Morgan to 500 lashes, a punishment that often killed its recipients. The stout Morgan endured the suffering and noted that the drummer miscounted and he had only received 499 lashes. He would proudly wear the scars suffered at the hands of the British for the rest of his life.

Depiction of Daniel Morgan on the frontier (courtesy of Fort Edwards)
Depiction of Daniel Morgan on the frontier
(courtesy of Fort Edwards)

With Braddock’s devastating defeat, the French and Indians went on the offensive raiding into western Virginia. Morgan enlisted in a Ranger Company commanded by his friend, “Captain Jack” Ashby. Morgan spent much of his time patrolling the wilds of the Allegheny Mountain posts of Hampshire County and building stockades to defend against the marauding French and Indians. On one occasion while carrying messages to one of the forts along with two other men, Indians waylaid his party at Hanging Rock on the Cacapon River, killing his comrades. They shot Morgan in the neck, but he raced away on his horse, narrowly escaping the tomahawk of a pursuing Indian. Morgan lost consciousness from blood loss, but luckily the horse had the path to fort ingrained in her memory and carried him back to safety. Morgan remained in the Ranger Company until Col. George Washington disbanded it in October. Morgan began a period of multiple pursuits. He sojourned himself in the wilds for several months trying his hand as a hunter. He likely spent time as a militiaman in Frederick County. By 1758, however, he almost instinctively returned to the open road, hauling wheat, tobacco and hemp across the Blue Ridge to eastern Virginia commercial centers such as Alexandria, Dumfries or Fredericksburg. In driving the wagons, Morgan had found his calling. The harsh life of the teamster suited his rough and tumble personality. He quickly gained a reputation as on the leading pugilists of the Shenandoah Valley. He could often be found at Berry’s Tavern in what is now Berryville but at the time was known as Battletown because of the constant brawling that occurred at the tavern. These were brutal affairs that included wrestling, punching, choking and gouging of eyes, but Morgan reigned as the champion. Although not always victorious, the stout teamster made sure there was a rematch which he usually won. In spite of his reputation for drinking and fighting, Morgan prospered as a successful teamster, even if his brawling occasionally landed him on the docket of the Frederick County Circuit Court. In 1762, he found love with Abigail Curry who became his common-law wife, introduced him to the Presbyterian religion and bore him two girls. At her request, he cut back on drinking and brawling. He also rented a tract of land began farming marketable crops. Morgan had finally found the good life he sought in the Valley of Virginia.

With talk of independence in the air in 1774, Morgan participated in Lord Dunmore’s War. He was part of a column that operated in the Wheeling, Virginia area. They attacked Indians along the Muskingum River in the Ohio Country and drove them off, but he did not participate in that war’s decisive action at Point Pleasant. As the war drew to a close, word of the troubles in Boston circulated among the men, and Morgan was among those who committed to solidarity with the Massachusetts patriots.

Part Two will cover Morgan in the opening years of the American Revolution, so check back next week.

A life-long student of military history, Scott C. Patchan is a graduate of James Madison University in the Shenandoah Valley. He is the author of many articles and books, includingThe Forgotten Fury: The Battle of Piedmont (1996),Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign (2007), andSecond Manassas: Longstreet’s Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge (2011).

Patchan serves as a Director on the board of the Kernstown Battlefield Association in Winchester, Virginia, and is a member of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation’s Resource Protection Committee.

ERW Weekender – In the Footsteps of Young George Washington

General Edward Braddock's grave, near Fort Necessity
General Edward Braddock’s grave, near Fort Necessity

Recently myself and two other Emerging Rev War authors took a trek to the mountains of western Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to follow in the footsteps of George Washington in 1754-1758.  Washington played a significant role in the beginning of the French and Indian War.  These were the developmental years for Washington, here he learned lessons of leadership, military command and gained the experience that earned him the future Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775.

 

 

 

Rebuilt cabin from Fort Cumberland
Rebuilt cabin from Fort Cumberland

One of the best ways to follow in the footsteps of Washington during this time period is to   start in Cumberland, MD.  Here, Fort Cumberland served as the stepping off point for many expeditions to the frontier.  Today, the fort is gone but the location is well marked and interpreted.  The City of Cumberland has established a walking trail and outlined the boundaries of the fort.  Also, a restored cabin interprets Washington’s time at Fort Cumberland.  From here, one can easily follow the famous “Braddock Road” by taking Rt. 40 west (the National Road).

Washington's "fort" at Fort Necessity National Battlefield
Washington’s “fort” at Fort Necessity National Battlefield

A must see site along Braddock’s Road is Fort Necessity National Battlefield Park.  Here the young and inexperienced George Washington found himself in July 1754 surrounded by French and their Native American allies.  As one gazes across the ‘Great Meadows” and see the small fort Washington built, one has to ask themselves “what was HE thinking?!”  The newly built visitor center and museum is excellent and worth the small fee.  The park preserves the site of the July 1754 battle, portions of the original Braddock Road and the early 19th century Mount Washington Tavern (that was built along the old National Road).  Nearby is Braddock’s Grave (buried after the disaster near Fort Pitt where he was mortally wounded).  Further north is Jumonville Glen.  Of all the places I have been, this place represents the most pristine historic spot.  Here in June 1754, Washington started the French and Indian War.  When one views the spot today, it is easy to take yourself back to 1754 and there is a real sense of history here.  Here Washington led his first command, here Washington set the stage that would lead him to command the Continental Army in 1775.

 

The Church Brew Works
The Church Brew Works

The Fort Pitt Museum, now managed by the Heinz History Center, provides a great timeline and history of the “forks of the Ohio” and also includes a rotating exhibit space.  Since we had followed the route of Braddock all the way from Cumberland, Maryland we decided to visit North Braddock, PA.  Here is where the French and Indians virtually destroyed the British force sent to capture Fort Duquesne under General Edward Braddock (Washington served as one of his aides).  The battlefield is gone today to major development in the early 20th centuries with local steel mills.  Unfortunately for the town, the collapse of the steel industry has left this once thriving town very much depressed.  But, one new bright spot is the Braddock’s Battlefield History Center.   Finally the story of Braddock and the battle along the Monongahela is being told.  The museum is worth a visit and the building is a testament to the efforts of an all volunteer organization led by Robert T. Messner.  While in Pittsburgh, a great place for a bite to eat or drink, a visit to Church Brew Works.  This local brew pub/restaurant is located in a former 1902 Roman Catholic Church.  The food and beer are excellent.

Fort Pitt blockhouse, only remaining structure from Fort Pitt
Fort Pitt blockhouse, only remaining structure from Fort Pitt

Outline of the French Fort Duquesne, with the Forks of the Ohio in the distance
Outline of the French Fort Duquesne, with the Forks of the Ohio in the distance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Braddock's Battlefield Visitor Center
The Braddock’s Battlefield Visitor Center

This Washington Statue is near where the British were attacked
This statue of Washington is near where the British were attacked by the French near Fort Pitt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bushy Run Battlefield is a hidden gem near the historic “Forbes Road” (modern day Rt. 30).  This much over looked battle of “Pontiac’s War” between the British and Native American warriors is well preserved and interpreted through great museum exhibits.

Bushy Run Battlefield
Bushy Run Battlefield, where the British made their “Flour Bag Fort”

New monument at Bushy Run Battlefield
New monument at Bushy Run Battlefield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the highlight of the trip was Fort Ligonier.  I have read about the fort and the historic site, but was pleasantly surprised by what I consider THE best museum on the French and Indian War.  The museum attached to the reconstructed fort has a full exhibit on the history of Fort Ligonier and also a large exhibit on the entire French and Indian War.   Artifacts range from Prussian firearms to Indian chain mail armor (yes, from Delhi, India!).  All nations that fought in this “first” world war are represented.  It is an exhibit that one would not expect at a small historic site.  The reconstructed fort itself is an excellent representation of 18th century fortifications.  The fort is fully interpreted, with all the buildings recreated on their original locations.  If you are within 100 miles of Ligonier, PA…this is a MUST see museum/historic site.

Fort Ligonier
Fort Ligonier

Fort Ligonier
Fort Ligonier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information to take your own “French and Indian War Trek”, see the websites below.

Braddock Road: braddockroadpa.org

Fort Necessity/Jumonville Glen:  http://www.nps.gov/fone

Fort Pitt Museum:  http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/fort-pitt

Braddock’s Battlefield Visitor Center: http://www.braddocksbattlefield.com

The Church Brew Works: www.churchbrew.com

Bushy Run Battlefield:  http://www.bushyrunbattlefield.com

Fort Ligonier:  http://www.fortligonier.org

 

George Washington Remembers

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Today, we are pleased to welcome guest author Bert Dunkerly.

WashingtonGeneral George Washington looks back at us from marble statues or stiff paintings with a grim-faced and determined look. Known for his dignity, resolve, and sound leadership, he seems cold and reserved. Yet he was also quite sentimental. In the midst of a campaign, with a massive British invasion force set to descend on him at New York City in July, 1776, Washington paused to pen these words: “I did not let the Anniversary of the 3rd or 9th of this Inst pas[s] of[f] without a grateful remembrance of the escape we had at the Meadows and on the Banks of the Monogahela. [T]he same Providence that protected us upon those occasions will, I hope, continue his Mercies, and make us happy instruments in restoring Peace & liberty to this once favour’d, but now distressed Country”.

Continue reading “George Washington Remembers”