By Cavendish, Richard
History Today , Vol. 55, No. 7
Major-General Edward Braddock arrived in Virginia in February 1755 to take command against the French in North America. His first objective was Fort Duquesne, deep in the wilderness at the Fork of the Ohio River, where the city of Pittsburgh stands today. Braddock was about sixty, a short, stout, bad-tempered martinet with little experience in action and none of the type of fighting that was in store for him. His rudeness and arrogance made a thoroughly bad impression on the colonials and were to contribute to a jaundiced view of the British officer class. On arrival, however, he received a congratulatory letter from a Virginian lieutenant-colonel of twenty-two named George Washington, who was privately thinking of a career in the British regular army. Braddock soon discovered that Washington knew the wilderness country and took him on his staff as an aide. Two regiments of infantry, the 44th and 48th, arrived from England and after some difficult months making preparations and recruiting additional troops locally--with Braddock's temper almost permanently at boiling point--the army marched for Fort Duquesne.
Progress was slow and Braddock presently left about one-third of his force to bring the supply train on behind under Colonel Dunbar of the 48th, while pressing on through forest country with perhaps 1,500 men. They were greeted by rude messages the French had left scrawled on trees stripped of bark along the way. Soon after midday on July 9th, after fording the Monongahela River ten miles or so from Fort Duquesne, Braddock's vanguard proceeding through the trees in their red coats were surprised by an enemy force close to 900 strong. …