By July 8, 1755, the Braddock force was on the land owned by the Chief Scout, "Lieutenant John Fraser. That evening, the Indians sent a delegation to the British to request a conference. Braddock sent Washington and Fraser. The Indians asked the British to halt their advance so that they could attempt to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal by the French from Fort Duquesne. Both Washington and Fraser recommended this to Braddock but he demurred.
On July 9, 1755, Braddock's men crossed the Monongahela without opposition, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Fort Duquesne. The advance guard of 300 grenadiers and colonials with two cannon under Lieutenant Colonel "Thomas Gage began to move ahead. George Washington tried to warn him of the flaws in his plan -- for example, the French and the Indians fought differently than the open-field style used by the British -- but his efforts were ignored, Braddock insisted on fighting as "gentlemen". Then, unexpectedly, Gage's advance guard came upon the French and Indians, who were hurrying to the river, behind schedule and too late to set an ambush.
In the skirmish that followed between Gage's soldiers and the French, the French commander, Beaujeu, was killed by the first volley of musket fire by the grenadiers. Although some 100 French Canadians fled back to the fort and the noise of the cannon held the Indians off, Beaujeu's death did not have a negative effect on French morale; Dumas rallied the rest of the French and their Indian allies. The battle, known as the Battle of the Monongahela, or the Battle of the Wilderness, or just Braddock's Defeat, was officially begun. Braddock's force was approximately 1,400 men. The British faced a French and Indian force estimated to number between 300 and 900. The battle, frequently described as an "ambush, was actually a "meeting engagement, where two forces clash at an unexpected time and place. The quick and effective response of the French and Indians — despite the early loss of their commander — led many of Braddock's men to believe they had been ambushed. However, French documents reveal that the French and Indian force was too late to prepare an ambush, and had been just as surprised as the British.
After an exchange of fire, Gage's advance group fell back. In the narrow confines of the road, they collided with the main body of Braddock's force, which had advanced rapidly when the shots were heard. The entire column dissolved in disorder as the Canadian militamen and Indians enveloped them and continued to snipe at the British flanks from the woods on the sides of the road. At this time, the French regulars began advancing from the road and began to push the British back.
Following Braddock's example, the officers kept trying to reform units into regular show order within the confines of the road, mostly in vain and simply providing targets for their concealed enemy. Cannon were used, but in such confines of the forest road, they were ineffective. The colonial militia accompanying the British took cover and returned fire. In the confusion, some of the militiamen who were fighting from the woods were mistaken for the enemy and fired upon by the British regulars.
After several hours of intense combat, Braddock was shot off his horse, and effective resistance collapsed. Colonel Washington, although he had no official position in the chain of command, was able to impose and maintain some order and formed a rear guard, which allowed the remants of the force to disengage. This earned him the sobriquet Hero of the Monongahela, by which he was toasted, and established his fame for some time to come.
"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."
By sunset, the surviving British and colonial forces were fleeing back down the road they had built. Braddock died of his wounds during the long retreat, on July 13, and is buried within the Fort Necessity parklands.
Of the approximately 1,300 men Braddock had led into battle, 456 were killed and 422 wounded. Commissioned officers were prime targets and suffered greatly: out of 86 officers, 26 were killed and 37 wounded. Of the 50 or so women that accompanied the British column as maids and cooks, only 4 survived. The French and Canadians reported 8 killed and 4 wounded; their Indian allies lost 15 killed and 12 wounded.
Colonel Dunbar, with the reserves and rear supply units, took command when the survivors reached his position. He ordered the destruction of supplies and cannon before withdrawing, burning about 150 wagons on the spot. Ironically, at this point the defeated, demoralized and disorganised British forces still outnumbered their opponents. The French and Indians did not pursue and were engaged with looting and scalping. The French commander Dumas realized the British were utterly defeated, but he did not have enough of a force to continue organized pursuit.
The debate on how Braddock, with professional soldiers, superior numbers, and artillery, could fail so miserably began soon after the battle and continues to this day. Some blamed Braddock, some blamed his officers, some blamed the British regulars or the colonial militia. George Washington, for his part, supported Braddock and found fault with the British regulars.
Braddock's tactics are still debated. One school of thought holds that Braddock's reliance on time-honoured European methods, where men stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the open and fire mass volleys in unison, was not appropriate for frontier fighting and cost Braddock the battle. Skirmish tactics that American colonials had learned from frontier fighting, where men take cover and fire individually, "Indian style", was the superior method in the American environment.
However, in some studies, the interpretation of "Indian style" superiority has been argued to be a myth by several military historians. European regular armies already employed irregular forces of their own and had extensive theories of how to use and counter guerilla warfare. Stephen Brumwell argues just the opposite, stating that contemporaries of Braddock, like "John Forbes and "Henry Bouquet, recognized that "war in the forests of America was a very different business from war in Europe." Peter Russell argues it was Braddock's failure to rely on the time-honoured European methods that cost him the battle. The British had already waged war on the irregular forces in the "Jacobite uprisings. And East-European irregulars, such as "Pandours and "Hussars, had already made an impact on European warfare and theory by the 1740s. Braddock's failure, according to proponents of this theory, was that he did not adequately apply traditional military doctrine (particularly by not using distance), not the lack of use of frontier tactics. Russell, in his study, shows that on several occasions before the battle, Braddock successfully adhered to standard European tactics to counter ambushes, and as a result had been nearly immune to earlier French and Canadian attacks.
In 1930, on the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Braddocks Field, a statue of Colonel Washington was unveiled, and a "commemorative postage stamp, modeled after the statue, was released for usage that same day.
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