Military history

CHAPTER 9

Disaster on the Monongahela

1755

THE TEAMS AND WAGONS that converged throughout May on Wills Creek and Fort Cumberland—the new fort-and-barracks complex that rose on the Maryland bank of the Potomac, opposite the old Ohio Company storehouse—gave Braddock what he needed to begin his expedition against Fort Duquesne. For three weeks after Braddock’s arrival, the fort buzzed with activity. Companies of provincial troops from Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina marched in to join the force, artillery and stores arrived, recruits drilled, and Braddock attended to every detail of preparation, down to ordering medical examinations for the camp women (sixty to a regiment) “to see who was Clean and proper” to accompany the expedition. Indeed, the only detail that Braddock neglected during these weeks of preparation was the one that mattered most: Indian affairs.1

Soon after his appointment as superintendent, William Johnson had made George Croghan his deputy and ordered him to bring what support he could to Braddock. Accordingly, Croghan had organized forty or fifty refugee Mingos—remnants of Tanaghrisson’s band, who had been living near his trading post at Aughwick—and brought them to Wills Creek. He had also sent a messenger to the Ohio Country with wampum belts to invite the Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingos to meet with the commander in chief at Fort Cumberland. Eventually six chiefs appeared: a group that included Scarouady, the Oneida who had succeeded Tanaghrisson as half-king, and Shingas, the leading war chief of the Ohio Delawares. It was a delegation of great weight, but Braddock failed to grasp its importance. In a few days’ time he managed to alienate them permanently, as well as most of the Mingos whom Croghan brought from Aughwick.

Braddock could understand Indians only as exotics, and troublesome ones at that. His dismissive remark to Franklin—“it is impossible that [savages] should make any impression [on disciplined troops]”—made it clear that he did not fear Indians as enemies; his actions now demonstrated how little he valued them as allies. First, believing that the women who had accompanied Croghan’s Mingos would prove a disruptive influence on his troops, Braddock summarily ordered them back to Aughwick. When they left, most of their husbands, sons, and brothers went with them, never to return. In treating with the Ohio chiefs, however, Braddock blundered even more seriously. Despite the lack of enthusiasm they had previously shown for the British, the Ohio Indians still hesitated to ally themselves fully and finally with the French. In fact they would have liked nothing more than to see the French out of the valley. If the British were willing to cooperate in removing them, the Ohioans would have welcomed their aid, and their trade—provided only that the British refrain from trying to assert direct control over the region. Shingas indicated his own willingness to help the British in the most direct possible way by presenting Braddock with a detailed plan of Fort Duquesne. Captain Robert Stobo, held hostage there since the previous July, had drawn the diagram in secret; Shingas himself, at considerable personal risk, had smuggled it out of the fort.

Braddock either did not understand what this gesture of goodwill meant or did not care. When the Delaware chief stood before him and asked the only question that mattered to the Ohio Indians—“what he intended to do with the land if he Could drive the French and their Indians away”—Braddock summoned all his considerable reserves of arrogance, and replied, “that the English Shou[l]d Inhabit and Inherit the Land[. Up]on which Shingas ask[e]d Genl Braddock whether the Indians that were Friends to the English might not be Permitted to Live and Trade Among the English and have Hunting Ground sufficient To Support themselves and Familys as they had no where to Flee Too But into the Hands of the French and their Indians who were their Enemies (that is Shingas’ Enemies). On which Genl Braddock said that No Savage Should Inherit the Land.”

The next day, hoping for a change of heart, the chiefs approached Braddock again and asked him to reconsider. “And Genl Braddock made the same reply as Formerly, On which Shingas and the other Chiefs answered That if they might not have Liberty To Live on the Land they would not Fight for it, To which Genl Braddock answered that he did not need their Help and had no doubt of driveing the French and their Indians away.” That ended the conference. Shingas and the other Ohio chiefs returned to the valley with news that so “much Enraged” the tribes there that “a Party of them went Immediately upon [hearing] it and Join’d the French.” Almost no Indians remained with Braddock. When on May 29 the first elements of his army marched from Fort Cumberland, his force was more than 2,200 strong but included only the Half King Scarouady and 7 other Mingo warriors.2

The general, of course, did not know that Johnson had not even begun to treat with the Iroquois for support, and he still expected to receive the reinforcement of about four hundred Cherokee and Catawba warriors that Governor Dinwiddie had promised to procure. Why Dinwiddie should have thought he could produce them remains a mystery, since he knew well enough that the Catawbas and Cherokees were inveterate enemies of the Iroquois whom Johnson was supposed to recruit. Braddock, in his blunt, self-assured way, was too naive to understand the tensions of Indian-white relations in North America, let alone the character of relations between the various Indian nations. His naïveté would cost him dearly. But when his army marched out of Fort Cumberland— “the Knight [Sir John St. Clair] swearing in the van, the Genl cursing & bullying in the center & their whores bringing up the rear”—Braddock had no doubt that he had prepared for this expedition as fully as any man could.3

What lay beyond his control, as much as anything else, was the mountainous, heavily wooded terrain through which his army would have to march, building a road as it went to permit the passage of its baggage column and train of artillery. Only a man with supreme confidence in his own abilities and his men’s stamina would have dreamed of trying to haul siege guns, including monstrously heavy eight-inch howitzers and twelve-pound cannon, through “an hundred and ten Miles [of ] . . . uninhabited Wilderness[,] over steep rocky Mountains and almost impassable Morasses,” but Braddock never doubted he could do it. The terrain, of course, took its toll: at the end of the first week, only thirty-five miles from Fort Cumberland, Braddock decided to divide his army into a “flying column” of picked men that would press forward as rapidly as possible and a support column that would follow with the bulk of the baggage, improving the road as it went. Thereafter the lead element moved comparatively fast—at least three, and sometimes as much as eight miles a day—while the second division, hauling most of the army’s food, ammunition, and about half of its artillery, fell farther and farther behind. Men sickened with dysentery, wagons shook themselves to kindling, horses dropped dead at an appalling rate: eventually sixty miles separated the two divisions. Still Braddock pressed on, emboldened by the lack of opposition that the flying column encountered and by the ease with which his men dispersed the few Indians who appeared to scout his force.4

By the morning of July 9, Braddock’s force had advanced to within ten miles of Fort Duquesne. As the army forded the Monongahela River near the ruins of John Fraser’s trading post, the troops were short on food but high in morale. They expected to invest the fort on the following day, or even to hear the roar of its works being blown up and abandoned by the French. By now the march was proceeding in what had become its usual order, with its 7 Mingo guides and George Croghan in front preceding an advance guard of about 300 light infantry and grenadiers under an earnest young lieutenant colonel named Thomas Gage. Next came a New York independent company led by Captain Horatio Gates, guarding the 250 or so pioneers who widened the road under the direction of Sir John St. Clair and two engineers. A half-dozen wagons bearing tools and supplies accompanied the fatigue party. The main body followed, perhaps a hundred yards behind, with more guards, more axmen and laborers, Braddock and his staff (including Washington, “very weak & low” from dysentery and suffering such pain from hemorrhoids that he could ride a horse only by tying cushions over the saddle), and 500 infantry in parallel columns that flanked a long line of wagons, artillery pieces, camp women, and cattle. At the end trailed a rear guard of 100 or so men, mostly Virginia provincials under Captain Adam Stephen, a veteran of Fort Necessity. Sweating and swearing their way through the woods on either side of this mile-long column were small parties of flankers, alert for enemy scouts. Three days earlier the flanking parties had repelled Indian raiders, and now they were especially alert. Everyone knew that Fort Duquesne lay just ahead, and the force proceeded with great caution, skirting likely spots for ambush.5

Braddock’s opposite number at Fort Duquesne, Contrecoeur, had followed the reports his scouts had brought of the approaching army with mounting concern. Fort Duquesne was now complete and in good repair but too small to hold more than about 200 of the 1,600 French regulars, Canadian militiamen, and Indian warriors who were presently under his command. Moreover, Contrecoeur was experienced enough to realize that his Indians would not fight to defend ground but only to destroy enemies or take captives and trophies. They would, he knew, disperse if the English successfully invested Fort Duquesne. His best hope was to disrupt the English advance, and so on the morning of July 9 he gave Captain Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu command of half the men at the fort—36 officers, 72 colonial regulars (troupes de la marine), 146 Canadian militiamen, and 637 Indians—and ordered a sortie against Braddock’s column. The Indian group included a few Mingos and Delawares and a somewhat larger contingent of Shawnees but was mostly composed of French allies from the north and west—Ottawas, Mississaugas, Wyandots, Potawatomis—lured by the prospect of captives and booty. Among the leaders of the Far Indians was Charles Langlade, that tough and experienced officer who had destroyed Pickawillany in 1752. The party, well armed but otherwise unburdened with supplies and equipment, set out from the fort at about nine in the morning, intending to ambush Braddock’s column.6

image

Braddock’s advanced party. Another of Orme’s set, this plan shows the disposition of troops and pioneers at the head of the column, more or less as they would have been arrayed on the morning of July 9, 1755. Far from a column blundering blindly through the woods, Braddock’s advanced party had secured its flanks with the equivalent of a company on both the left and the right. The main body—including Braddock and his staff, the baggage train, most of the artillery, and five hundred troops—followed the advance guard, a hundred or so yards to the rear. Courtesy of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

It was about one o’clock when Scarouady and Croghan spotted the French and Indians through open woods, no more than two hundred yards to their front. The French party, surprised, halted to organize itself. Gage’s men hurried forward and fired three quick volleys; despite the great range, one of the balls killed Captain Beaujeu as he stood in front of his men, waving his hat to direct their disposition. The sudden loss of their commander threw the regulars and militiamen into confusion, but the Indians needed no one to tell them what to do. Streaming into the forest along either flank of the British force, they took up positions wherever they found cover: behind trees, in a defile, on a hill to the column’s right. Then they began to pour fire into the British advance guard, which responded with a few ineffectual volleys and began to fall back.7

According to St. Clair, the woods for most of the march had been so dense and choked with vegetation that “one may go twenty Miles without seeing before him ten yards.” Once across the Monongahela, however, the forest had opened out and was now so clear of underbrush “that Carridges Could have been drove through any part.” The openness of the forest meant that Braddock’s column had entered an Indian hunting ground, a region from which the undergrowth was annually burned to improve the fodder qualities of its vegetation, to reduce the cover available to game animals, and to allow the easy movement of hunters. Conditions that ordinarily favored Indian huntsmen now favored Indian marksmen, who dispersed, took cover, and fired at will into the British column.8

The Indians fought in the ways they knew, and the redcoats did their best to do the same, trying repeatedly to form themselves into companies and return fire, a process that drew them ever more tightly together in the road. As the pressure of Indian fire drove Gage’s men back and the unarmed laborers fled pell-mell to the rear, Braddock ordered the troops from the main body forward. As the retreating and advancing parties collided, units mixed together in confusion. Officers tried to control and reorganize their men; but the officers themselves, mounted on horses, waving swords, and wearing glittering silver gorgets at their throats, made the best targets of all. Within the first ten minutes of the battle, fifteen of the eighteen officers in Gage’s advance party had been killed or wounded. Discipline and control disintegrated as more and more officers fell.

Braddock, who had ridden to the front at the sound of the first shots, tried to restore order by directing that the colors of the two regiments be “advanced,” or posted as rallying points for their units, but he never succeeded in reorganizing his men. Within minutes, nothing larger than a platoon retained its integrity. The regulars, “with little or no order, but endeavouring to make Fronts towards the Enemys Fire,” huddled together in a confused and hopeless mass, crammed into an area less than 250 yards from end to end and perhaps no more than 100 feet wide. The rear guard was left to defend itself and the twelve-pound fieldpiece it had been pulling, while the civilian teamsters unhitched their horses from the wagons and rode away. The women who had been traveling with the wagon train and driving the cattle fared less well. Of the fifty or so with the column in the morning, almost all would be lost—fewer than half of them, apparently, taken captive.9

We cannot easily imagine how the battlefield looked on that day; hardest of all would be to imagine how it looked to the British soldiers trapped in the road. Circumstances favored the French and Indians to an almost incredible degree. They were well fed and well rested, accustomed to the woods, and could easily see their enemies, who “were always in column, unfortunately for them, for that made them easy to kill.” The British, on the other hand, had endured days of hard marching, hunger, thirst, and heat; weeks of anxiety, compounded by tales of Indian barbarity; and now they found themselves in the midst of a battle that nothing in their training had prepared them to fight.10

The forest itself was entirely outside the experience of most of them, for the bulk of the troops whom Braddock had chosen for the flying column were hardy, thoroughly disciplined “Old Standers” who had come with the 44th and the 48th from Ireland. The woods hid their enemies almost completely. “The French and Indians crept about in small Parties so that the Fire was quite round us, and in all the Time I never saw one, nor could I on Enquiry find any one who saw ten together,” one survivor recalled. “If we saw of them five or six at one time [it] was a great sight,” another remembered; “and they Either on their Bellies or Behind trees or Runing from one tree to another almost by the ground.” The redcoats’ training had prepared them to confront adversaries they could see, to fire their muskets upon order and in volleys, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in orderly ranks, and to follow the commands of their officers and sergeants precisely, no matter how great the confusion and slaughter around them. But trapped as they were on the road, virtually all the sensory cues they had been trained to look for were missing. There were no massed enemies in sight; no drums beat them to order; few officers were visible in the tangle of men, and no one was giving coherent orders. Instead, all around them were trees, smoke, the screams of wounded men and horses, incessant gunfire. The war cries of the Indians—“ravenous Hell-hounds . . . yelping and screaming like so many Devils”—came from every direction, terrifying men whose imaginations had fed on tales of how Indians tortured and mutilated their prisoners. Weeks after the battle one witness would write that “the yell of the Indians is fresh on my ear, and the terrific sound will haunt me until the hour of my dissolution.”11

image

Disposition of Braddock’s column at the Battle of the Monongahela, July 9, 1755. Although this map radically understates the distance from the field of battle to Fort Duquesne, it gives a good idea of the organization of the British column at the moment of encounter with Beaujeu’s Franco-Indian force. The main body, drawn forward by the firing, collided with the advanced party as it fell back; the battle took place between the hill, at the right center of the map, and the ravine, or “Dry Hollow Way,” leading down to the Monongahela, on the left. From Captain Robert Orme’s set of plans and maps, 1768. Courtesy of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

Amid chaos and disorientation the regulars clutched at what shards of discipline they could. Even in the absence of their officers they maintained platoon formations, and indeed continued to fire together, as they had been trained to do. This was worse than useless under the circumstances, for “if any got a shott at one [of the enemy] the fire imediately ran through ye whole line though they saw nothing but trees.” So strong was the instinct to perform as they had been trained that, to their officers’ horror, platoons fired volleys directly into one another. “Capt. Mercer marching with his company to take possession of an advantageous post, was fired upon by our men from behind, and ten of his men dropt at once. Capt. Polson lost many of his men by irregular platooning behind him, on which he faced about, and intreated the Soldiers not to fire and destroy his men. They replied they could not help it. . . .” The only sign of order in the British ranks was Braddock himself, riding through the shambles with astonishing composure as horse after horse was shot from under him. Clinging madly to the patterns that had ordered their lives, the troops did not begin to break and retreat until a musket ball slammed into Braddock’s back and knocked him out of the saddle. By then his men had stood their ground for more than three hours.12

Not everyone in Braddock’s command behaved as his redcoats did. The Americans with the army, lacking years of training, fled or took cover as soon as the attack began; many of those crouching behind trees were mistaken for the enemy and killed by British volleys. In the rear guard, Captain Adam Stephen’s Virginia provincials even managed to fight effectively from behind the trees, because after his previous year’s experiences as a company commander under Washington, Stephen had taught his men how to load and fire from cover. Following the battle, recovering from his wounds, Stephen heaped scorn on Braddock, who he believed had allowed the enemy to “come against Us, creeping near and hunting Us as they would do a Herd of Buffaloes or Deer; whereas you might as well send a Cow in pursuit of a Hare as an English Soldier loaded . . . with a Coat, Jacket, & c. & c. &c. after Canadeans in their Shirts, who can shoot and run well, or Naked Indians accustomed to the Woods.”13

Yet it was not, as Stephen charged, Braddock’s absurd adherence to European tactics of “formal attacks & Platoon-firing” that destroyed his force, but rather the redcoats’ training and Braddock’s own courage. No matter how horrifying their losses or how terrifying their situation, the regulars had been conditioned to stand their ground and fight; and fight they did, even if they did it in suicidally dysfunctional ways. Braddock, brave and stubborn, sat calmly on his mount and waited for the enemy to give way, as he assumed all irregulars must, before the regulars’ superior discipline.

Instead it was his own men who gave way, without any formal order being given, once word spread that he had been shot. Yet even then the redcoats maintained a semblance of order until they reached the river, where the Indians charged them with hatchets and scalping knives and their retreat disintegrated into a rout. Men fled screaming in terror, sometimes running for miles before they collapsed, exhausted. Only when the panic had finally spent itself could the surviving sergeants and officers reassert control and organize the men into units once more.

The British broke and ran, of course, because they believed that they were about to be massacred. In fact they were in less danger at that moment than at any time since the attack began—not because the Indians lacked the capacity to pursue and destroy them, but because they no longer had a reason to try. Unlike European soldiers, Indians did not fight to destroy their enemies so much as to take the captives, plunder, and trophies by which they could gain spiritual power and prove their merit as warriors. What they valued most therefore lay behind them: the captives they had left tied to trees, the wounded and dead who lay on the field of battle, and the abandoned equipment strewn everywhere about.

The killing of the wounded and the taking of scalps from corpses went on for some time after the battle; so, too, did the consumption of the expedition’s stock of rum, two hundred gallons of which was soon discovered in the supply train. For Private Duncan Cameron of the 44th Foot (who had been wounded at the start of the fight and left behind in the retreat, but who managed to hide himself in a tree, from which he observed the battle’s aftermath), the Indians seemed “ravenous Hell-hounds” and their behavior mere savagery. Like most Europeans, he did not understand that in fact the warriors did not kill and mutilate indiscriminately. Captives were symbolically valuable because warriors demonstrated greater valor by taking men alive than killing them. Among groups that had not converted to Catholicism, prisoners had great cultural value as replacements for dead kin, whether as adoptees or as the objects of ritual sacrifice. Canada’s converted Indians saw another kind of value in them, as slaves who could be sold or ransomed. Unharmed or lightly wounded captives therefore stood a good chance of being spared, as children and female captives almost always were, provided that they were fit enough to make a forced march back to the villages of their captors. The deaths that came speedily to the more gravely wounded at least spared them further suffering, did not hinder the retreat of the war party, and provided the victor with a scalp, which, while less desirable than a captive, still offered evidence of prowess in battle.14

None of this was evident to the terrified refugees; nor, for that matter, did Braddock’s young aide, Washington, understand much more than the grisly horror of the experience. Unwounded though he had ridden beside the general all afternoon and had two horses shot from under him, he rode all night to bring aid from the army’s rear element. Years later he would recall “the shocking Scenes which presented themselves in this Nights march” vividly: “The dead—the dying—the groans—lamentation—and crys along the Road of the wounded for help . . . were enough to pierce a heart of adamant. The gloom & horror . . . was not a little encreased by the impervious darkness occasioned by the close shade of thick woods. . . .”15

Two days of flight brought the survivors of Braddock’s command at last into contact with the army’s second division, where they rested briefly and ate their first full meal in days. The only wounded who now remained with them were those who could walk or the few who (like Braddock) had been carried by their comrades; the rest had been abandoned to die in the woods. Now the troops destroyed mortars, ammunition, baggage, and supplies, and loaded the remaining wounded in the empty wagons. Covering the remaining seventy-five miles to Fort Cumberland took five more agonizing days. Braddock, with a musket ball lodged in his chest, did not live to see the fort. On July 14 his men buried him without ceremony in the middle of the road, then the entire army marched over his unmarked grave to keep it from being discovered by the enemy troops, who everyone believed were still in pursuit. The spot was within five miles of Jumonville’s Glen and perhaps a mile from the site of Fort Necessity.16

The British had suffered a devastating casualty rate, with fully two-thirds of the men and officers of the flying column killed or wounded. The French and their Indian allies in comparison had lost only twenty-three dead and sixteen seriously wounded, or about one in every twentyfive of those who had taken part in the battle.17 Yet victory, ironically, left Fort Duquesne more vulnerable than ever. Within two days most of the Indians had gathered their plunder, trophies, and prisoners and gone home, leaving Contrecoeur with only a few hundred men to defend the Forks. The English forces, despite the magnitude of their defeat, still numbered nearly two thousand when a muster was finally held at Fort Cumberland on July 25. More than 1,350 of them were fit for duty. Until the officers in the rear guard had ordered the destruction of the train’s supplies and mortars during the retreat, in other words, it would have been possible, in theory at least, to return to Fort Duquesne and destroy it.

But whatever the numbers of men and arms and barrels of beef at Fort Cumberland might be read to say, psychologically it was impossible for Thomas Dunbar, the sole surviving colonel of Braddock’s command, to do more than order the retreat to continue. After reorganizing the men who remained unhurt and giving the surgeons a chance to care for those among the wounded who could still be helped (“the wether being very hot [having] Ca[u]sed a great many magets in the mens wounds,” one witness observed), Dunbar headed for Philadelphia. There he compounded defeat with humiliation by demanding winter quarters for his troops, in July.18

The extent to which the debacle at the Monongahela could be blamed on Braddock himself was a matter of intense concern to contemporary Americans, who searched the event for its meanings and generally concluded that a mindless adherence to European tactics had caused his downfall. In their conclusion lay the origins of the myth that Americans were uniquely fitted for fighting in the wilderness, and by extension the belief in the superiority of American irregular troops (no matter how poorly trained) over European regulars. Fixing the degree of Braddock’s responsibility for the disaster is of less compelling interest today, however, than is the character of contemporary criticism. His civilian detractors were, of course, mainly armchair generals; but the reactions of two participants in the action merit attention.19

The man who remained closest to Braddock throughout the battle and who had a better chance to observe him than anyone else never criticized him at all. Rather he blamed the “dastardly behaviour of the Regular Troops.” “How little does the World consider the Circumstances,” George Washington exclaimed, “and how apt are mankind to level their vindictive Censures against the unfortunate Chief, who perhaps merited least of the blame[!]” Indeed, even after more than a quarter century had passed and Braddock had become one of the most vilified figures in American popular memory, Washington barely criticized the general’s behavior. Far from concluding that Braddock’s professionalism lay at the root of his defeat, the Virginian emerged from the battle determined to impose a more stringent discipline on his men when he resumed command of the Virginia Regiment. Scarouady had severer strictures for a man he thought proud and foolish. Braddock, he told the governor and council of Pennsylvania, “was a bad man when he was alive; he looked upon us as dogs, and would never hear anything what was said to him. We often endeavored to advise him of the danger he was in with his Soldiers; but he never appeared pleased with us. . . .” 20

Taken together, the opinions of Washington and Scarouady reveal much about the character of the war that was developing in America. Braddock, a confident and highly professional European soldier, had had little time for anyone who did not see the campaign as he did: that is, as a contest between French and British forces, distinguishable from any similar clash in Europe only by the smallness of the forces involved, the remoteness of the setting, and the uncommon difficulty of operations. For Braddock, war was war, an activity to be conducted according to the norms of civilized European powers, and those dictated preeminently that one fought for the control of territory. George Washington, a young and eagerly Anglophile provincial gentleman, affirmed Braddock’s system of values and his approach to warfare without question. That was why he believed that the fault lay not with Braddock but his men, and why he concluded that a combination of better discipline and training adapted to American conditions would have saved the day. Given such views, it is hardly surprising that Washington should have shared Braddock’s disdain for Indians, but he also shunned them as allies for powerful reasons of his own. In the first place, he was a speculator who knew that a continuing Indian presence in the Ohio Valley would only delay the day that settlers would begin buying Ohio Company lands. Moreover, because his military disappointments had all in one way or another resulted from the actions of Indians, he had strong emotional reasons to want them, no less than the French, driven from the Ohio Valley.

Scarouady, loyal to the old and now nearly defunct idea that the valley belonged to the Iroquois, had no choice but to make common cause with Braddock if he hoped to see the French expelled. But his hope that the war would be a fight of Indians in alliance with the English to restore Indian autonomy in the west was a vision shared by almost no one else. To Braddock he had not been an ally but a partisan auxiliary. To Washington he was more hindrance than help, a probable obstacle to civilized settlement. To his own people, living with the fact of French dominion in the valley, he was irrelevant. And so, although Scarouady would continue to seek English aid for the Ohio Indians until his death in 1757, the potential for Anglo-Indian alliance that he represented diminished almost to the vanishing point after Braddock’s defeat. Only the Mohawks in the north, swayed by an Anglophile tradition, the loyalty of Chief Hendrick, and the blandishments of William Johnson, would be actively allied with the English—and only for a little longer.

Braddock had been taught a valuable lesson about wilderness war at the Monongahela, but he did not live long enough to understand it: there could be no success without the cooperation, or at least the acquiescence, of the Indians. It was a lesson lost on Washington and other provincials like him, whose cultural preferences were entirely English and whose practical concerns for realizing the speculative potential of western lands made them even more averse to cooperating with Indians. By contrast, the French understood the importance of Indian alliances very well and used them to foil virtually every Anglo-American military initiative for the next three years. Thus on a strategic level the collapse of the British force at the Monongahela foretold much of the shape of the war that was to come. But the conflicting views and the underlying attitudes of Braddock, Washington, and Scarouady also hinted at what neither they nor any contemporary fully understood, the cultural dimensions of the conflict. Before it would end, the Seven Years’ War in America would become the stage on which the members of very different cultures— French, Canadian, British, Anglo-American, and Amerindian—would meet and interact in ways that were by turns violent and accommodating, shrewd and fraught with misunderstanding: encounters and actions that would define the character of American history for decades to come.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!