Thursday, July 5, 2012


Canadian Militiaman circa 1755
Courtesy of the Canadian Armed Forces

20 June 1755
Boston Evening Post
     From an ‘Extract of a Letter from an Officer in Our Army in Nova Scotia, from the Camp before Beausejour,’ date 11 June.

‘We have landed our Cannons and Mortars, and the troops have been employed in clearing a Road for transporting them to the Place where we design to open our Battery, (which we hope will be effected this night) within 300 Yards of their Ramparts.  We had reconnoitering Parties frequently out within half Musket Shot of the Fort, which they sometimes Fire at, but have not as yet, hurt us a Man.  They have in the Fort about 150 Regulars, and as many of the Inhabitants, the Remainder, with the Women and Children are gone off to Bay Verte, and other distant Places.  We have not lost one of the Men we brought from New England, either by the Enemy or Sickness; and have only three slightly wounded.  An Officer of our Garrison was surprised by a Party of Indians, who were lurking in a Cops of Wood on our Side, and taken Prisoner, as he returning (alone) from our Garrison to the Camp, early in the Morning a few Days ago.  A Flag of Truce was sent to Col. Monckton from the French Commander, the same Day, with Letters from the Officer to acquaint the Colonel with his Misfortune, and that he was well dealt by.  The same Day we took one of their Garrison Prisoner, by whom we learnt, that they expect a Reinforcement from St. John’s, and Louisbourg, but I am in Hope, they will arrive too late.’

Five days later, the French surrendered.  This gave control of Acadia to the English, with no resistance.  On the excuse that some Acadians had fought with the French in Fort Beausejour the entire French population was deported.
This was the third part of the opening of the French and Indian War.  The main thrust was General Braddock leading an expedition of more than two thousand men to capture Fort Duquesne.  A secondary thrust was Sir William Johnson building Fort Edward at the southern end of Lake George (south of Lake Champlain).  His fifteen hundred men defeated an inferior French force that attacked the fort, but thereafter relied on Roger’s Rangers to harass the enemy instead of their attacking it.  The front was static for three years.  (The time allowed Robert Rogers to develop military ranger techniques that are still the core of Special Forces training.)

July 3, 1755
Edinburgh Evening Courant (Scotland)
     From a private Letter written in Edenton, North Carolina, April 5.

‘We expect here no less than a French War, before we get home. There are great Preparations making here for the Ohio Expedition, enlisting and impressing as many Men as they can; and the French, by late Accounts from the Northward, are as busy and indefatigable on their Side. They will have a warm Summer’s Work here in America; and by all Appearances it will not rest here alone; the People in general are for a War, which is the only Step that can be taken to curb the ambitious Designs of the French our dangerous Enemy.”

General Braddock arrived at Fort Cumberland in May 1755 and waited three weeks for the supplies and transportation he had demanded of colonial authorities.  Benjamin Franklin advertised for one hundred fifty wagons to be rented to the Royal Army, and got them.  (Braddock had wanted two hundred and fifty.)  Franklin also was able to rent one horse for each wagon, plus a hundred spares.  However, since the wagons would need to be pulled by more than one horse, the army was at least fifty short.  George Washington spread word over northern Virginia about this.  However, he rejected four out of five horses offered him as being old, infirm, or otherwise incapable of doing the job.  (This may have had something do with his losing his first political election, two years later.  His refusing to put easy money in the pockets of local farmers had not made him popular.)
Instead of starting in Philadelphia and going west until he ran out of road, and then building a road from there to Fort Duquesne, which would have been easier, General Braddock started his march from Fort Cumberland in Maryland on 29 May 1755.  He used the road to Fort Necessity over the mountains that George Washington’s men had built the previous year.  (Braddock may have been ordered to do this from London.)  EXCEPT—the road was too narrow for the wagons and cannons being hauled over it.  It had to be widened every foot of the way.  Understandably, this slowed the progress of the expedition.  Sometime in mid-June, the expedition was divided into two parts, with most of the wagons and cannons in the rear part.  This allowed the forward force to move more rapidly.

18 July 1755:
Letter from Colonel George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, Governor of Virginia Colony.

‘Honorable Sir – As I am favored with an opportunity, I should think myself inexcusable was I to omit giving you some account of our late Engagement with the French on the Monongahela, the 9th instant.
‘We continued our March from Fort Cumberland to Frazier's (which is within 7 miles of Duquesne) without meeting any extraordinary event, having only a straggler or two picked up by the French Indians.  When we came to this place, we were attacked (very unexpectedly) by about three hundred French and Indians.  Our numbers consisted of about thirteen hundred well armed men, chiefly Regulars, who were immediately struck with such an inconceivable panic, that nothing but confusion and disobedience of orders prevailed among them.  The officers, in general, behaved with incomparable bravery, for which they greatly suffered, there being near sixty killed and wounded--a large proportion, out of the number we had!  The Virginia companies behaved like men and died like soldiers; for I believe out of three companies that were on the ground that day scarce thirty were left alive.  Captain Peyroney and all his officers, down to a corporal, were killed; Captain Polson had almost as hard a fate, for only one of his escaped. In short, the dastardly behavior of the Regular troops (so-called) exposed those who were inclined to do their duty to almost certain death; and, at length, in spite of every effort to the contrary, broke and ran as sheep before hounds, leaving the artillery, ammunition, provisions, baggage, and in short, everything a prey to the enemy. And when we endeavored to rally them, in hopes of regaining the ground and what we had left upon it, it was with as little success as if we had attempted to have stopped the wild bears of the mountains, or rivulets with our feet; for they would break by, in despite of every effort that could be made to prevent it.
‘The General was wounded in the shoulder and breast, of which he died three days after; his two aids-de-camp were both wounded, but are in a fair way of recovery; Colonel Burton and John St. Clair are also wounded and I hope will get over it; Sir Peter Halket, with many other brave officers, were killed in the field. It is supposed that we had three hundred or more killed; about that number we brought off wounded, and it is conjectured (I believe with much truth) that two-thirds of both received their shot from our own cowardly Regulars, who gathered themselves into a body, contrary to orders, ten or twelve deep, would then level, fire and shoot down the men before them.
‘I tremble at the consequences that this defeat may have upon our back settlers, who, I suppose, will all leave their habitations unless there are proper measures taken for their security.
‘Colonel Dunbar, who commands at present, intends, as soon as his men are recruited at this place, to continue his march to Philadelphia for winter quarters, consequently there will be no men left here, unless it is the shattered remains of the Virginia troops, who are totally inadequate to the protection of the frontiers.’

For his actions in the Battle of the Monongahela and possibly saving the lives of hundreds of men, George Washington was put in charge of the Virginia Blues.  At twenty-three years of age, George Washington became a colonel.  There were no militia officers senior to him. 


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