To Mary Ball Washington
[Fort Cumberland, Md., 18 July 1755]
To Mrs Washington
As I doubt not but you have heard of our defeat, and perhaps have had it represented in a worse light (if possible) than it deserves; I have taken this earliest oppertunity to give you some acct of the Engagement, as it happen’d within 7 miles of the French Fort on Wednesday the 9th Inst.
We Marchd onto that place witht any considerable loss, havg only now and then a stragler pickd up by the French Scoutg Indns.1 When we came there, we were attackd by a body of French and Indns whose number (I am
certain ) did not exceed 300 Men;2 our’s consisted of abt 1,300 well armd Troops; chiefly of the English Soldiers, who were struck with such a panick, that they behavd with more cowardice than it is possible to conceive; The Officers behav’d Gallantly in order to encourage their Men, for which they sufferd greatly; there being near 60 killd and wounded; a large proportion out of the number we had!3 The Virginia Troops shewd a good deal of Bravery, & were near all killd; for I believe out of 3 Companys that were there, their is scarce 30 Men left alive; Capt. Peyrouny & all his Officer’s down to a Corporal was killd; Capt. Polson shard near as hard a Fate, for only one of his was left:4 In short the dastardly behaviour of thos⟨e⟩ they call regular’s, exposd all other’s that were inclind to do their duty to almost certain death; and at last, in dispight of all the efforts of the Officer’s to the Contrary, they broke, and run as Sheep pursued by dogs; and it was impossible to rally them. The Genl was wounded; of wch he died 3 Days after; Sir Peter Halket was killd in the Field:5 where died many other brave Officer’s; I luckily escapd witht a wound, tho’ I had four Bullets through my Coat, and two Horses shot under me; Captns Orme & Morris two of the Genls Aids de Camp, were wounded early in the Engagemt which renderd
the duty hard upon me, as I was the only person then left to distribute the Genls Orders,6 which I was scarcely able to do, as I was not half recovered from a violent illness that confin’d me to my Bed, and a Waggon, for above 10 Days; I am still in a weak and Feeble condn which induces me to halt here 2 or 3 Days in hopes of recovg a little Strength, to enable me to proceed homewards;7 from whence, I fear I shall not be able to stir till towards Sepr, so that I shall not have the pleasure of seeing you till then, unless it be in Fairfax; please to give my love [to] Mr Lewis and my Sister, & Compts to Mr Jackson and all other Fds that enquire after me. I am Hond Madm Yr most Dutiful Son
P.S. You may acqt Priscilla Mullican that her Son Charles is very well, havg only recd a slight wd in his Foot wch will be curd witht detrimt to him in a very small time. We had abt 300 Men killd and as many, ⟨o⟩r more, wounded; and this chiefly done by our own Men.8
LB (original), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW; incomplete copy, MdAA.
1. For the casualties incurred before the battle, see GW to John Augustine Washington, 28 June–2 July 1755, n.19.
3. Of the 96 officers and staff with Braddock on 9 July 1755, 26 were reported killed and 36 wounded, a total of 62 casualties (Mackellar maps in Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 114–15). “The Officers,” said Robert Orme, “were absolutely sacrificed by their unparallelled good Behaviour, advancing sometimes in Bodies, and sometimes separately, hoping by such Example to engage the Soldiers to follow them, but to no purpose” (Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 31 July 1755). See also Orme to GW, 25 Aug. 1755, n.3. Everyone agreed that there was great confusion in the ranks during the battle and that the men eventually panicked. One officer wrote that “the officers behaved extremely well as possibly Could be, which fact is strengthen’d by the number of kill’d and Wounded—tho’ I’m sorry to say the men are accused of misbehaviour, notwithstanding of the number of kill’d and wounded among them, which is Great, Considering the number of Effectives in the field: but I Can’t help thinking their misbehaviour is exaggerated, in order to palliate the Blunders made by those in the dirrection, as they make no allowance for regular Troops being surprised, as was manifestly the Case here, and no manner of disposition made—but one of Certain destruction” (“Anonymous Letter,” 25 July 1755, in Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 112–24). “If it was not for their [the Indians’] Barbaras Usage [with] which we knew they would treat us,” wrote Robert Cholmley’s batman, “we should Never have fought them as long as we did, but having only death before us made the men fight Almost longer than they was able” (Hamilton, Braddock’s Defeat description begins Charles Hamilton, ed. Braddock’s Defeat. Norman, Okla., 1959. description ends , 29–30). See also Dulany, “Military and Political Affairs,” description begins Daniel Dulany. “Military and Political Affairs in the Middle Colonies in 1755.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 3 (1879): 11–31. description ends 21–22; Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Hamilton, Aug. 1755, in Breslaw, “A Dismal Tragedy,” description begins Elaine G. Breslaw, [ed]. “A Dismal Tragedy: Drs. Alexander and John Hamilton Comment on Braddock’s Defeat.” Maryland Historical Magazine 75 (1980): 118–44. description ends 131–40; and Kopperman, Braddock at the Monongahela description begins Paul E. Kopperman. Braddock at the Monongahela. Pittsburgh, 1977. description ends , 67–76.
4. Capt. William La Péronie’s company of Virginia rangers and Capt. William Polson’s company of Virginia carpenters were with Sir John St. Clair’s road-building party in the vanguard of Braddock’s column on 9 July, while Capt. Thomas Waggener’s ranger company was apparently toward the rear of the column, protecting the wagons and providing a small rear guard. Shortly after the battle began, St. Clair ordered La Péronie’s and Polson’s companies to cover his two 6–pounders, and in the fighting that ensued they were caught in a cross fire between the British regulars behind them and the French and Indians in front. According to one secondhand account, “Capt Polson lost many of his men by irregular platooning behind him, on which he faced about and entreated the Soldiers not to Fire & Destroy his Men. They Replyed they could not help it, They must obey orders. And upon one or two more Fires of this Sort Capt Polson himself lost his life being shot directly thro the heart. He jumped at one spring a great distance from the ground and then fell. In Fine between the two Fires of Friends & Enemies that whole Company was destroyed but five” (Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Hamilton, Aug. 1755, in Breslaw, “A Dismal Tragedy,” description begins Elaine G. Breslaw, [ed]. “A Dismal Tragedy: Drs. Alexander and John Hamilton Comment on Braddock’s Defeat.” Maryland Historical Magazine 75 (1980): 118–44. description ends 131–40). Capt. Robert Stewart reported that 25 of his 29 Virginia light horsemen who were in the battle were killed. For the officer casualties among the Virginians, see GW to Dinwiddie, 18 July 1755, n.10. For other Virginia views of the battle, see John Martin to GW, 30 Aug. 1755, n.1; and Adam Stephen’s and Robert Stewart’s accounts in Kopperman, Braddock at the Monongahela description begins Paul E. Kopperman. Braddock at the Monongahela. Pittsburgh, 1977. description ends , 225–30.
5. Sir Peter Halkett was killed by a shot through the body early in the battle while directing the fire of his men. His son James, a lieutenant in his father’s regiment, also died on the field. Another son, Capt. Francis Halkett, Braddock’s brigade major, escaped unhurt.
7. GW apparently set out for Mount Vernon on 23 July.
8. According to Patrick Mackellar, one of Braddock’s engineers, 430 enlisted men were killed and 484 wounded, a total of 914 casualties out of 1,373 at the Monongahela. With the addition of officers and staff his figures were 456 killed and 520 wounded, or 976 casualties out of a force of 1,469 (Mackellar maps in Pargellis, Military Affairs in North America description begins Stanley Pargellis, ed. Military Affairs in North America, 1748–1765: Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in Windsor Castle. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn., 1969. description ends , 114–15). The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), for 21 Aug. 1755 also reported a total of 456 killed, but only 421 wounded out of 1,460 officers and men. No batmen, wagoners, or women were included by either source. For the casualties by friendly fire, see GW to Dinwiddie, 18 July 1755, n.7.