Edward Braddock

Edward Braddock (1695-1755) was commander in chief of the British forces in North America during the French and Indian War of the 18th century.

Little is known of Edward Braddock's early life. In October 1710 he purchased an ensign's commission in the Coldstream Guards, his father's regiment; in 1716 he became lieutenant of the grenadier company; in 1734 he was captain lieutenant with an army rank of lieutenant colonel; in 1743 he was second major with an army rank of colonel; and in 1745 he became colonel of the regiment. He saw little action when he accompanied the 2d Battalion to Ostend, Belgium, in July 1745. That same year he served with the Duke of Cumberland in the suppression of the Jacobite rebellion. Two years later he commanded the 2d Battalion of the Coldstream Guards at Lestock's and was with St. Clair in the abortive attempt on Port L'Orient, France. Subsequently he was employed under the Prince of Orange at Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands. In 1753 he was appointed colonel of the 14th Regiment and joined his command at Gibraltar. Adored by his men, he was almost brutal in his relations with civilians and became the butt of satires by both Henry Fielding and Horace Walpole.

Promoted to major general in 1754, Braddock arrived in Alexandria, Va., in February 1755 as commander in chief of British forces in North America. His instructions bestowed more power upon him than ever held by any military officer in America. But his efforts were hampered by a lack of money, although Governor Dinwiddie, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin made material contributions.

With the objective of capturing Ft. Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio River, Braddock commanded a force of 1, 400 British regulars and nearly 700 colonial militia (whom he hated). Progress was slow as his column moved from Ft. Cumberland, for Braddock insisted upon using wagons rather than pack animals and so a new road had to be constructed. After 30 miles of a 110-mile march, Braddock accepted Washington's advice and left his heavy transport at Little Meadows, guarded by a regiment of his regulars; he pushed on ahead for fear the French would receive reinforcements. Poor relations with Native Americans left him open to surprise.

After crossing the Monongahela River on July 9, 1755, his advance guard was ambushed by 900 French, Canadians, and Native Americans under Daniel Beaujeau. Braddock refused to heed the advice of provincial officers to allow his men to take cover, instead holding them in the British traditional column formation. Exposed to an enfilading fire from the hidden enemy, the British regulars fled. It was only because the hostile natives stopped to take scalps that the British were able to gain the protection of their rear guard and retreat to Ft. Cumberland. Of the 1, 459 soldiers under Braddock, 977 were killed or wounded. The 89 officers suffered 63 casualties. Braddock had four horses shot from beneath him before he suffered mortal wounds in the arm and lungs. Four days later he died at Great Meadows. His last words, according to tradition, were, "We shall better know how to deal with them another time."


Further Reading on Edward Braddock

Lee McCardell, Ill-starred General: Braddock of the Coldstream Guards (1958), a sympathetic treatment, attempts to show that Braddock has been much maligned. An account of Braddock's American campaign is in Hayes Baker-Crothers, Virginia and the French and Indian War (1928). The campaign is also covered in Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington, vol. 2 (1948).

Additional Biography Sources

McCardell, Lee., Ill-starred general: Braddock of the Coldstream Guards, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986.