CHAPTER 1: The Conquest
General Braddock's Disaster
Captain Daniel Lienhart de Beaujeu, circa 1750
(Click image to enlarge)
On July 9, Braddock's army advanced in ranks, with drums beating, when the forward party met the enemy and began to fire into the woods, where a corps of 105 officers and men of the Compagnies franches de la Marine, along with 146 Canadian militiamen and more than 600 Amerindians, waited in ambush. The troop was under the command of Liénard de Beaujeu until he was killed by the first English salvos, to be immediately replaced by Captain Jean-Daniel Dumas. Confusion soon reigned within the ranks of the Anglo-American army, decimated by the deadly fire of an adversary well hidden in the forest, from whence frightening Amerindian war cries were emanating; several officers were killed attempting to rally their men and then General Braddock himself finally fell, mortally wounded. The confusion was followed by panic and then flight. After four hours of combat, the routed Anglo-American army abandoned all its field artillery, baggage and approximately 25,000 pounds in silver on the battlefield. The English toll was 977 men, some 500 of whom were killed. It was a genuine disaster for the British forces. The French losses were only 23 dead - three officers, two men, three militiamen and 15 Amerindians - and 16 wounded, 12 of whom were Amerindians.
From the standpoint of the Canadian officers of the French colonial troops, the victory was undeniable proof that their tactics could win not only over the New England militiamen, but also over a strong contingent of regular troops from Europe. For the first time, a modest corps of skilfully camouflaged light infantry deploying quickly had shown that it could foil a powerful army by subjecting it to decisive losses with only muskets for weapons. Unfortunately for New France, the metropolitan officers did not learn from the tactical lesson they were given by the colonial officers in Canada.