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French and Indian War: Braddock and Thereafter
How little credit is given to a Commander, who perhaps after a defeat, in relating the cause justly lays the blame on some individual whose cowardly behav'r betray'd the whole to ruin; how little does the World consider the Circumstances, and how apt are Mankind to level their vindictive Censures against the unfortunate Chief, who perhaps merited least of the blame.
George Washington, 1755
Who would have thought it?
General Edward Braddock's dying words, 1755
The war that raged in North America through the late 1750's and early 1760's was a piece of a large struggle between England and France for dominance in world trade and naval power. The British victory in that struggle, known in Europe as the Seven Years' War, ended the long struggle among the three powers in northeastern North America: The English, the French, and the Iroquois Confederacy, it confirmed England's commercial supremacy and its control of the settled regions of North America. The war helped to establish the develoment of the frontier and the ever moving progress that was about to begin in America.
The French and the English had coexisted relatively peacefully in North America for nearly a century. But by the 1750's, as the English and French settlements grew, religious and commercial tensions began to produce new problems and new conflicts. The French had explored and claimed a large region of the continental interior, ranging from Louisiana in the South to the Great Lakes in the North. To secure their hold on these enourmous claims, they founded a whole string of communities, missions, trading posts, and fortresses. The region was enclosed by the four major cities: Montreal, Detroit, New Orleans, and Quebec, the center of the French empire in North America. The English, meanwhile, were preparing for the great population leap accross the Appalachians into Ohio and beyond. In 1749 a group of Virginian businessmen secured a grant of 500,000 acres of Ohio valley land for settlement purposes. This prompted the French, in an effort to keep the English from expansion into French lands, to construct new fortresses in the Ohio valley. This caused the english, interpreting the French activity as a threat to their western settlements, to begin making military preparations and building fortresses of their own. 
For the next five years, tensions between the English and the French increased, until in the summer of 1754 the governor of Virginia sent George Washington to lead a militia force into the Ohio valley to challenge French expansion. Washington built a crude stockade and staged an unsuccessful attack on a French detachment. The French turned around with an assault on Fort Necessity, trapping Washington and his soldiers inside. After a third of them died in the fighting, Washington surrendered. This marked the beginning of the French and Indian War.
The French and Indian War lasted nearly nine years, and it moved forward in three distinct phases. During the first of these phases, from the Fort Necessity battle in 1754 until the expansion of the war to Europe in 1756, it was primarily a local, North American Conflict. The English did not do well these first years. There were few British naval reinforcements and so the colonists managed the war largely on their own. All indian tribes were now allied with the French. Only the Iroquois had seen themselves forced to the British side and they kept themselves as neutral as possible. 
In 1755, General Braddock experienced his famous encounter with death. Braddock's experience set off the eventual frontier camapign. Although he had seen little active campaigning before 1754, Braddock was reputed to have a good knowledge of European military tactics and was noted as a stern disciplinarian. He was promoted to major general in 1754 and early in 1755 arrived in Virginia as commander in chief of the British forces in North America against the French. His immediate objective was the French stronghold at the forks of the Ohio. With some 700 colonial militiamen, whom he regarded disdainfully, and over 1,400 British regulars, he moved across the Alleghenies from Fort Cumberland (now Cumberland, Md.), building a road (the foundation of the National Road) as he went. The march was so slow, however, that he feared the French would reinforce Duquesne before he could reach there. Adopting the suggestion of one of his aides-de-camp, George Washington, he left the wagons behind him with one of the two British regiments and pushed ahead with about two thirds of his total force. While crossing the Monongahela River, Braddock was met (July 9, 1755) by a force of not more than 900 men (a few French, some Canadians, and many Native Americans) under Daniel Beaujeu, who had already learned of the advance. The British regulars, as unfamiliar with Native American-style fighting as their commander (although both had been given fair warning by the colonials), bolted from their column formation under the steady fire from a ubiquitous enemy safely concealed in ravines and behind trees. The affair turned into a bloody rout. Since the Native Americans paused to collect scalps and other trophies of war, the demoralized troops were able to rejoin the rear guard and both retreated safely to Fort Cumberland. Of the 1,459 actively engaged, 977 were killed or wounded, including 63 of the 89 officers, who -- unlike the soldiers -- fought bravely. Braddock himself had four horses shot from under him before he was mortally wounded. He died four days later at Great Meadows and was buried there, near the site of Uniontown, Pa. Braddock's encounter serves to prove how apt the French were at fighting on the frontier. The French, proved superior in the complementary efforts of wilderness tactics and Indian diplomacy. Getting to the decisive battlefield with the decisive numbers of troops and supplies was, of course, only half the struggle. Proper tactics were as essential to victory as proper strategy. Although most Americans understood the nature of Indian warfare, their British overlords would never truly accommodate themselves to that reality. Reflecting on Braddock's defeat, Colonel Dunbar expressed the exasperation the British felt when fighting "an invisible enemy... this Manner of fighting confounded the people; they saw and heard fireing and the fatal consequences but few saw an Enemy. www.questia.com/14236628" (Pargellis, Loudoun in America, 165). During that battle, Braddock and his officers beat back into line those Americans who sheltered behind trees and fought Indian style. 
The ability of European commanders to adapt to Indian-style wilderness warfare varied considerably from one commander to the next. Braddock failed to do so; Dieskau quickly grasped what was necessary. Ideally, the leap from one mode of warfare to the other should not have been that difficult for either man. Guerrilla warfare was actually quite common in Europe-both Braddock and Dieskau had confronted it. Psychology explains their different responses to warfare in North America. By all accounts, Braddock was a rigid, unimaginative, and authoritarian personality who contemptuously disdained most advice given him. In contrast, Dieskau listened carefully to his veteran bush-fighters like Legardeur de Saint-Pierre and Louis Legardeur de Repentigny, and incorporated their experience into his strategy. In the end, of course, their similarity exceeded their differences -- both generals were defeated.
It became apparent that in order to fight in a frontier war, to win the ultimate prize of the frontier, one must learn how to fight on the frontier. While it took some time, the British eventually discovered how to capitalize on the notion of frontier war, and this led to their ultimate victory in the frontier campaign.
The second phase of the struggle began in 1756 when the governments of France and England formally opened hostilities and a truly international conflict began. The fighting now spread to the West Indies, India, and Europe itself. But the principal struggle remained the one in North America where so far England had suffered nothing but frustration and defeat. Beginning in 1757, Wiliam Pitt, the English secretary of state, began to transform the war effort by bringing it for the first time fully under British control. He did this at first by forcing supplies, equipment, shelter, and manpower from the colonists. This was cause for much resentment among the colonists, who resisted these new imposition and firmly, at times even violently, resisted them. By early 1758, the friction between the British authorities and the colonists was threatening to bring the war effort to a halt. 
Beginning in 1758, Pitt initiated the third and final phase of the war by relaxing many of the policies that Americans had objected to. This resulted in an immediate increase in American support for the war and an increase in American enlistment. Pitt also dispatched large numbers of additional troops. Almost immediately the battle began to turn in England's favor. The French, now even more outnumbered then before and plagued by poor harvests, could no longer offer enough resistance to the British troops and American militias. In July 1758, the…[continue]
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