General Edward Braddock
disaster at Fort Duquesne

1695 - 1755

Edward Braddock, an English general, led British and colonial troops in a disastrous expedition against Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War. Braddock became commander of the British forces in America in 1754. He planned to capture Fort Duquesne (in present-day Pittsburgh) as his first move. Braddock landed at Alexandria, Virginia, in 1755 and assembled a force of some 1,200 men at Fort Cumberland, Maryland. George Washington was a member of Braddock's staff.

The troops took a path that Washington had marked two years before. Braddock had few Indians to act as scouts. His troops were surprised by 900 French and Indians on July 9, in the woods near Fort Duquesne. The Indians fired into the column for two hours. Then the British "broke and ran," said Washington, "as sheep before the hounds." Braddock showed great bravery but died of wounds he received. More than half his troops and most of his officers were killed or wounded. Braddock was born in Perthshire, Scotland.

Contributor: John L. Bullion, Ph.D., Prof. of History, Univ. of Missouri at Columbia.


The following letter, written by 23-year-old George Washington to his mother, Mary Washington, describes the battle just east of Pittsburgh in the French and Indian War in which the British and British Colonial forces under General Braddock were defeated.

As I doubt not but you have heard of our defeat, and, perhaps, had it represented in a worse light, if possible, than it deserves, I have taken this earliest opportunity to give you some account of the engagement as it happened, within ten miles of the French fort, on Wednesday the 9th instant.

We marched to that place, without any considerable loss, having only now and then a straggler picked up by the French and scouting Indians. When we came there, we were attacked by a party of French and Indians, whose number, I am persuaded, did not exceed three hundred men; while ours consisted of about one thousand three hundred well-armed troops, chiefly regular soldiers, who were struck with such a panic that they behaved with more cowardice than it is possible to conceive. The officers behaved gallantly, in order to encourage their men, for which they suffered greatly, there being near sixty killed and wounded; a large proportion of the number we had.

The Virginia troops showed a good deal of bravery, and were nearly all killed; for I believe, out of three companies that were there, scarcely thirty men are left alive. Captain Peyrouny, and all his officers down to a corporal, were killed. Captain Polson had nearly as hard a fate, for only one of his was left. In short, the dastardly behavior of those they call regulars exposed all others, that were inclined to do their duty, to almost certain death; and, at last, in despite of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary, they ran, as sheep pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them.

The General was wounded, of which he died three days after. Sir Peter Halket was killed in the field, where died many other brave officers. I luckily escaped without a wound, though I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me. Captains Orme and Morris, two of the aids-de-camp, were wounded early in the engagement, which rendered the duty harder upon me, as I was the only person then left to distribute the General's orders, which I was scarcely able to do, as I was not half recovered from a violent illness, that had confined me to my bed and a wagon for above ten days. I am still in a weak and feeble condition, which induces me to halt here two or three days in the hope of recovering a little strength, to enable me to proceed homewards; from whence, I fear, I shall not be able to stir till toward September; so that I shall not have the pleasure of seeing you till then, unless it be in Fairfax... I am, honored Madam, your most dutiful son.

[Washington led the survivors back safely and soon after this engagement was promoted to lieutenant colonel.]

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