Braddlock’s Alumni


On the evening of Washington’s Birthday last, my wife and I went to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania to hear a talk on “Pennsylvania—A State Neglected in Our Country’s History.”

After the lecture the ladies of the society served coffee and small sandwiches in the basement. There I chanced to see Mr. G., president of the Pittsburgh company I work for. I approached him and said:

“There is a little-recognized fact of history which never ceases to astonish me.

“I refer to the large number of men who were present at the defeat of General Edward Braddock’s army in 1755 and who later became prominent, important, and even famous figures. I think I am safe in asserting that there is nothing else in history to compare with this strange circumstance.”

“Indeed?” said Mr. G.

“This defeat was one of the worst in British history. It laid open the American frontier to attack by the French, Canadians, and Indians, even to within fifty miles of Baltimore. Fewer than a thousand of Braddock’s men survived. But among these survivors were more than a score of men who went on to achieve personal distinction and a place in history.”

“Name two,” said Mr. G.

Unfortunately, the names failed to come.

“Well,” I said boldly, “Colonel George Washington was there. And Anthony Wayne.”

“Young man, if Anthony Wayne fought at the Battle of Braddock, he did so as a child of ten.”

Next morning at the office I happened to run into Mr. G. in the hall.

“You were right,” I told him. “Anthony Wayne wasn’t there. I looked it up.”

“Thanks for telling me,’ Mr. G. said.

“But Daniel Boone was there,” I said. “He was twenty-one years old at the time and was a teamster and blacksmith with the North Carolina contingent. Daniel Boone later became a famous pioneer, a backwoodsman, and Indian fighter.”

“I know,” said Mr. G.

“Horatio Gates was there. Captain Gates was twenty-seven years old, a professional British soldier. He was severely wounded in the battle.

“Later on, Gates became a general in the Continental Army in command of the Northern Department. He defeated Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1778.”

“Seventy-seven,” Mr. G. said.

“There was a conspiracy, of which he was aware, to have Gates replace Washington as commander in chief. Did you know he was named for his godfather, Horace Walpole?”

“If I ever knew it, I’d forgotten it.”

“Thomas Gage was also there,” I said, following Mr. G. down the hall. “Lieutenant Colonel Gage was a thirty-four-year-old professional soldier who had fought the Scots at Culloden. He was in command of theflour hundred men who made up Braddock’s advance, and was wounded. Do you know what happened to Gage in later life?”

“I think I do.”

I felt he would want me to refresh his memory with the information I had obtained the night before, so I continued.

“Gage became commander in chief of the Royal Forces in North America. On the night of April 18, 1775, he started the American Revolution by sending an expedition to Concord and Lexington to destroy military stores collected by the colonists.”

“Very interesting,” Mr. G. said.

A few days later, on the way to lunch, I chanced to meet Mr. G. in the lobby of our building.

“How many this time?” he asked.

“Three more,” I said. “Lieutenant Henry Gladwin was there. He was wounded. Eight years later, as the major in command, he foiled the plot by Chief Pontiac to seize the fort at Detroit. With a small garrison, Gladwin defended Detroit heroically through a six-month siege.

“Gladwin was made deputy adjutant general in 1764 and a major general in 1782. He declined to serve against the colonies in the Revolution.”

“You've been cramming,” said Mr. G.

“Christopher Gist was there. Captain Gist, forty-nine, was Braddock’s chief guide. Hc had been hired earlier by the Ohio Company to survey their western lands. When he traveled with Washington in 1753 to warn the French away from western Pennsylvania, he saved Washington’s Iife once, perhaps twice. He surrendered with Washington’s little army after the nine-hour battle at Fort Necessity in 1754, and he was with General Forbes and Washington in 1758 when Fort Ducquesne finally fell to the British. You probably recall what finally happened to Gist.”