Braddock's military blunder
It's 1755. The French and Indian War
is in full swing, and the English
colonies are looking to lick it to the French in one fell swoop. The British Parliament
makes available one General
Braddock, haughty and experienced in European warfare
, with a large contingent of red-coat
s to engage the first battle. Joining his force when he sets off from Virginia
are a gathering of ill-disciplined colonial minutemen, the same men who would be one day fighting against the soldiers they stood side by side with at that time.
Braddock's military blunder was a disaster for the colonies, starting off the French and Indian War on an extremely bad note, which continued throughout the war until William Pitt came to the rescue. On the positive side (at least for the Americans), George Washington gained his military prestige serving under Braddock and cleaning up after his mistake. The car wreck unfolded like this:
Braddock led two thousand men from Virginia into the western wilderness to take on the French held Fort Duquesne (now surrounded by the modern city of Pittsburgh). They carried with them heavy, cumbersome artillery. Frontmen had to laborously clear a path with axes for the approaching army. A surprise attack this certainly wasn't. With superior forces, Braddock was arrogantly confident he could level the froggies and their little Indian allies (never mind the native populations were highly trained with their weapons and had plenty of military experience). He forgot homefield advantage.
At first, the enemy force was repelled. They took the smart route, however, and simply melted into the surrounding forest. From the safety of the familiar grounds, they fired a hail of attacks on the General's troops, devastating them. You can't hit what you can't see, and the army mostly ran about with its head cut off, the poorly trained American forces being of no help whatsoever. George Washington energetically and fearlessly aided his British commander, having two horses shot from beneath him and four bullet holes in his coat. General Braddock himself was felled with a mortal bullet wound.
This did not end the military blunder, however. Braddock had depleted the minutemen forces that defended the colonial border regions for his campaign, and in the rush of victory, Indian forces took to a razing path down the skirts of civilization. The whole frontier from Pennsylvania to North Carolina was ravaged, with scalping forays reaching as far inland as 80 miles from Philadelphia. George Washington, further compounding his reputation for military heroism, led the bedraggled 300 men left of the original 2000 in a desperate attempt to defend the colonies.
This opening shot of the French and Indian War laid the ground for a series of further mistakes by the British and Americans that cost many lives and prolonged the conflict. Although their forces were eventually victorious, most of the war was still a military embarrassment for Anglophones, and Braddock's military blunder was one of the worst.