Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14




Hiram College

One of the things with which the reader of early American

history is most impressed is the remarkable courage and wisdom

of the American soldier. The Europeans it seems just did not

understand the ins and outs of forest fighting. Only the American

seemed to know that effective fighting on the frontier was by neces-

sity done from behind trees. History books are full of pictures of

minute men shooting redcoats, but they do not have many pictures

of minute men running away from redcoats. History books do say

that Von Steuben came to America to teach Patriot soldiers how

to fight like Europeans, but they do not point out clearly enough

that fighting behind trees was in those days a rather silly way to

fight. And this last fact, of course, explains the first. Part of the

purpose of this paper is to show how and why fighting from behind

trees was in the early days a poor way to fight.

From this misconception of forest fighting has come some

peculiar reports of forest battles, the most peculiarly reported of

all being Braddock's defeat at the Monongahela. In this paper the

story of that battle will be retold and some sort of evaluation of it

will be made. The evaluation will not be the customary one.

In order that the evaluation of the battle have validity, there

will be a brief review of the arms, soldiers, and tactics of the period.

The period to be considered is the last half of the eighteenth cen-

tury; the date of the battle was July 9, 1755.

The chief weapon of the armies of this time was the musket.

This weapon was inaccurate at any range over one hundred yards

and even at that distance or less it was so inaccurate that individual

firing was relatively harmless.1

Of the other weapons of the period only two require mention

here. One was the familiar three-sided bayonet, and the other was

the light field cannon used to fire upon infantry formations in the


1 Edward M. Earle, Makers of Modern Strategy (Princeton, 1943), 51.