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.

Poet in a Patriot Prison

CONFINEMENT hail! in honour's justest cause.
True to our King, our Country, and our Laws;
Opposing anarchy, sedition, strife,
And every other bane of social life.
These Colonies of British freedom tir'd,
Are by the frenzy of distraction fir'd;
Rushing to arms, they madly urge their fate,
And levy war against their parent state.
Surrounding nations, in amazement, view
The strange infatuation they pursue.
Virtue, in tears, deplores their fate in vain; 
And Satan smiles to see disorder reign;
The days of Cromwell, puritanic rage,
Return'd to curse our more unhappy age.
We friends to freedom, government and laws; 
Are deem'd inimical unto their cause:
In vaults, with bard and iron doors confin'd,
They hold our persons, but can't rule the mind.
Act now we cannot, else we gladly wou'd;
Resign'd we suffer for the public good.
Success on earth sometimes to ill is given,
To brave misfortunes is the gift of Heaven.
What men could do we did, our cause to serve,
We can't command success, but we'll deserve. 

--- Dr. John Smyth

The American frontier west of the Appalachian mountains was a fluid place in 1775.  Settlers, officials, and Native Americans were all struggling to decide where their loyalties and interests lay, with the British government in London, colonial governments, or the rebelling Americans organizing themselves to determine their own fates.  Individuals often switched sides as the war unfolded

One man who was a constant in his loyalty to the crown was Dr. John Connolly of Pittsburgh.  Before the Revolution, he had led Virginia’s efforts as Lord Dunmore’s agent to seize control over the Forks of the Ohio and assert its claims westward, even receiving a promise of land in far-off Kentucky.  When the fighting started in Massachusetts, he developed a plan to mobilize Native Americans and Britain’s far-flung military forces on the frontier to attack Pittsburgh and then march on Virginia.  Dunmore and General Gage both approved.  So, Connolly and two loyalists, Allen Cameron of South Carolina and Dr. John Smyth of Maryland, plus Connolly’s enslaved servant travelled surreptitiously through Maryland, hoping to reach Detroit via Pittsburgh, the Ohio River, the Wabash River, and then anther overland trek.  Local patriots recognized them outside Hagerstown, Maryland and the trio was promptly arrested on the night of November 19.  A quick hearing by the local Committee of Safety decided to ship them off to Frederick, where a more thorough investigation revealed Connolly’s plan. Continue reading “Poet in a Patriot Prison”

General Edward Hand: The Squaw Campaign

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Eric Sterner. 

In February 1778, Brigadier General Edward Hand, commanding Continental forces at Fort Pitt on the American frontier, launched what may be one of the oddest campaigns of the American Revolution, more famous for its fecklessness than any benefit to the American war effort. Born in Ireland, Hand arrived in the colonies with the 18th Royal Irish Regiment as a surgeon’s mate.  He eventually left service in 1774 and set up a medical practice in Philadelphia.  The siege of Boston found him among the besiegers as Lieutenant Colonel of a Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion.  He fought under Washington on Long Island, at White Plains, and then Princeton, after which Washington successfully pursued the rank of Brigadier for him before sending him to Pittsburgh.[1]   Hand arrived in June, 1777, finding just two companies of the 13th Virginia.[2]   As was often the case on the frontier, Fort Pitt was under-garrisoned and Continental officers would have to scrounge constantly for troops, largely relying on local militia forces to defend the frontier.

General Edward Hand (courtesy of Ohio History Central)

Hand hoped to conduct a campaign to the west, driving toward British power at Detroit, but was unable to raise sufficient forces that fall.  Instead, he settled for a trip down the Ohio to ensure local garrisons were in proper order.[3]  Around Christmas, Hand received information that the British had established a small magazine on the Cuyahoga River, likely somewhere close to where it empties into Lake Erie in the current city limits of Cleveland.[4]  As December gave way to January and February, Hand resolved to do something about it.  At the beginning of the month, he wrote Colonel William Crawford, formerly of the 13th Virginia, currently of the Pennsylvania militia and a well-respected local leader, entreating the colonel to undertake an expedition:
“As I am credibly informed that the English have lodged a quantity of arms, ammunition, provision, and clothing at a small indian Town, about one hundred miles from Fort Pitt to support the savages in their excursions against the inhabitants of this and the adjacent counties, I ardently wish to collect as many brave, active lads as are willing to turn out, to destroy this magazine.  Every man must be provided with a horse, and every article necessary to equip them for the expedition, except ammunition, which, with some arms, I can furnish.” Continue reading “General Edward Hand: The Squaw Campaign”

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:

Fort Necessity/Jumonville Glen:

Fort Pitt Museum:

Braddock’s Battlefield Visitor Center:

The Church Brew Works:

Bushy Run Battlefield:

Fort Ligonier: