Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Trial of Edward Braddock--Part Fourth and Last

This is the fourth and last part of a series defending Edward Braddock against his detractors, specifically the movie Alone Yet Not Alone. Part 1 in the series can be found at:

Part 2 can be found at:

And Part 3 can be found at:

In Part 3, Charles Stuart charged Edward Braddock with slighting the Delaware Indians by insulting and self-confident language. Stuart’s narrative claims to be taken from the words of the Delaware chief Shingas, whom Stuart met while a captive. But what do other eyewitnesses say about Braddock’s interaction with the Delaware?

Captain Robert Orme was an aide-de-camp (assistant to General Braddock). Because of this position, he would have known much about any interactions the General had with others. This is how he describes the meeting:

“Some Indians arrived from the Delawars [sic], with whom the General conferred, and to whom he made presents. They promised to join him with their Nation upon the March, which they never performed.”—Captain Robert Orme

An important source of Braddock’s campaign is a journal known as the Seaman’s Journal, which was kept by Midshipman Thomas Gill. Haynes chronicles this meeting with the Delaware Indians thus:

“On the 28th:-- At 11, the Delawares met at the General’s tent, and told him that they were come to know his intentions, that they might assist the Army. The General thanked them and said he should march in a few days towards Fort De Quesne [sic]. The Indians told him they would return home and collect their warriors together, and meet him on his march.”—Seaman’s Journal, kept by Midshipman Thomas Gill

Not only does Gill make no mention of any altercation between the British and the Delaware, but he specifically states that Braddock thanked the Indians for their assistance.
The two previous authors were British, but this next testimony comes from a colonist named George Croghan. Croghan knew many Indians well; in fact, he was appointed Captain of Indians for Braddock’s expedition. These are his words regarding the conference:

"The general had a conference with these chiefs in company with those 50 I had brought with me and made them a handsome present, and behaved as kindly to them as he possibly could during their stay, ordering me to let them want for nothing. The Delawares promised in council to meet ye General on the road, as he marched out, with a number of their warriors, but whether the former breaches of faith on the side of the English prevented them, or that they had before engaged to assist the French, I cannot tell: but they disappointed the General and did not meet him.”—George Croghan (1)

Croghan specifically states that the General “behaved…kindly” towards the Indians. These three testimonies are powerful confirmation that Braddock did his best to establish good relations with the Indians. For more information on the real Braddock, and his interactions with the Delaware and other Indian tribes, check out the book Braddock’s Defeat by David L. Preston.

Why is this important? Edward Braddock met with some Indians. So what? Proverbs 17:15 states that “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.” This series has been written to right the record, to defend Braddock’s reputation against those who seek to distort and destroy his character.

(1) All of these eyewitness testimonies can be found in Winthrop Sargeant’s History of Braddock’s Defeat. This book can be read, for free, at:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Did Cornwallis "Arrogantly Underestimate" Lafayette in the 1781 Virginia Campaign?

“He invaded Virginia but arrogantly underestimated the 23-year old Marquis de Lafayette, wasting valuable time by attempting to engage Lafayette’s forces in pitched battle. Failing to do so, he retreated to Yorktown…”

This quotation describes the 1781 Virginia campaign which ended in the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. Obviously, the authors are not impressed with Cornwallis’ record in Virginia. He is alternately accused of not regarding Lafayette’s army as a threat (underestimating), and then overestimating its effectiveness (wasting valuable time to rid himself of it) in a single sentence! These two charges are contradictory, but a this scathing critique of George III’s best fighting general justified?

In June of 1781, Lord Cornwallis had arrived in Virginia from South Carolina. Cornwallis had about 7,000 British and Hessian soldiers in his army. (1) Many of Cornwallis’ British soldiers were the elite of the British army in North America. The 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the 33rd Regiment, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Light Infantry, and Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion were all fearsome troops. Each of these units had gained battlefield victories, despite being outnumbered by the rebels. These were true veterans. But the rest of Cornwallis’ army in Virginia was not comprised of second-rate troops. The 76th and 80th Regiments, though not as experienced in battle, would gain a victory at the Battle of Green Spring.

While Cornwallis’ army numbered 7,000 trained soldiers, the Marquis de Lafayette (the American commander in Virginia) had about 5,000. Some of these were excellent troops, such as his three Light Infantry battalions, as well as the three Pennsylvania regiments. But almost 2,000 men of his army were poorly-trained Virginia Continental or militia soldiers. (2)

In Virginia, then, Cornwallis enjoyed both superiority of numbers and superiority of quality against Lafayette. He used this to carry out two lightning-fast raids against Charlottetown and Point of Fork. Lafayette was not able to counter these raids, and Cornwallis could be pardoned had he not regarded Lafayette’s army as a threat. But Cornwallis was too shrewd to do that.

Learning that Lafayette was following him towards the Virginia coastline, he set an ambush for him at Green Spring. In the ensuing battle, Lafayette’s force barely managed to escape defeat, thanks to Lafayette’s caution and timely darkness. The battle took place on July 6. Since Cornwallis fought and won against Lafayette, how can he be accused of failing to engage him in battle?

While Cornwallis did not arrogantly underestimate Lafayette, did he waste “valuable time” chasing him around Virginia? The assumption seems to be that had Cornwallis entrenched at Yorktown earlier, his fortifications would be more complete, the siege would have been slower, General Clinton would have sent British reinforcements from New York City, and Yorktown might not have been captured by Washington and Rochambeau.

Firstly, this is a precarious chain of events. There are no guarantees that more time entrenching would have changed the outcome of the battle. Had Clinton sent British reinforcements, they would likely have been defeated by the powerful fleet of Admiral de Grasse, prowling in the Chesapeake Bay with his French fleet.

Secondly, Cornwallis was hampered by contradictory orders from his superior, General Clinton. This resulted in a waste of time in marches and counter-marches around Virginia. Clinton and Cornwallis had different ideas on how to win the war. Clinton believed in fortifying key positions; Cornwallis preferred finding and defeating rebel armies.

In conclusion: did Cornwallis’ character faults doom him to defeat at Yorktown? Certainly not. Cornwallis was a wise general—probably the best Britain had in the American Revolution. His actions in the Virginia campaign against Lafayette were wise, not hampered by arrogant underestimation.

For more about the 1781 Campaign and the siege of Yorktown, check out my lecture: “A Providential View of the Battle of Yorktown.” It is available at:  While I gave the lecture, I do not make any money off its sale.

(1) Number of Cornwallis' troops taken from  pg. 37 and pg. 76 of Yorktown 1781 by Brendan Morrissey (Oxford: Osprey, 1997). It should be noted here that Cornwallis only had about 4,500 of these troops at the battle of Green Spring; the rest garrisoned points in Virginia.

(2) Lafayette's numbers are taken from pg. 34 and pg. 37 of Yorktown 1781 by Brendan Morrissey (Oxford: Osprey, 1997). Previously, Lafayette's forces had been much smaller; he entered Virginia in the spring of 1781 with about 1,200 Continentals.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Guest Post-Why Modern Readers Should Care About History

About a month ago, my friend Schuyler M., who blogs over at Lady Bibliophile ( asked me if I would like to guest post for her blog and I accepted.  She suggested the topic "Why Modern Readers Should Care About History."  I wrote it and it was published on her blog today. 

To read it, go over to  Do be sure to check out the rest of her blog, which is filled with book reviews and advice for writers.  I'm looking forward to more news on her World War I novel...

Monday, July 4, 2016

Behind the Scenes of the Declaration of Independence

Today marks the signing of America's Declaration of Independence.  This is a short article I wrote about the history behind the Declaration and a few of Jefferson's paragraphs that didn't make it into the final Declaration. 

For example, did you know that the original Declaration listed the raising of the 71st Highlanders as one of George III's crimes against the colonies?  I did not know that until I began researching for this article.

Also, check out my paper soldiers on CurrClick at