Fighting The French & Indian War On The Tabletop: The Battle Of The Monongahela

January 18, 2016 by crew

Welcome back I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year’s so settle down and relax while we continue our journey through the French & Indian War. You can check out the rest of the series HERE.

Native Americans

In this article we’ll be looking at the Battle of the Monongahela and expanding on the tactics and methods used at the time plus a Scenario for you to try at home using the Muskets & Tomahawks rule set by Studio Tomahawk.

Braddock Sets Out

General Braddock set out from Ireland with the 45th and 48th Regiments of Foot and arrived in America to wage war on the French. General Braddock was tasked with securing the Forks of the Ohio which meant taking the French Forts in the area so their troops would be forced to retreat from the region.

Edward Braddock set out from Fort Cumberland in May of 1755 towards Fort Duquesne in the first organised military expedition of the war. General Edward Braddock decided to construct a road from Fort Cumberland via Fort Necessity to Fort Duquesne and the route of this road was a much debated political issue.

Many people were land speculators at the time and if this new road, that would be the lifeblood of the Ohio Valley, went past their speculations they would become rich and gain political power. General Braddock largely ignored the petitions of the land speculators and decided to take the most sensible route to Fort Duquesne.

Washington

Having a force of roughly 2000 men General Braddock’s expedition began to experience problems as their march got deeper into the wilderness. The roads that were originally wide enough for the main infantry body were not suitable for the artillery and wagons that followed the army forcing the men to widen the road and reducing the advance to a crawl.

Seeing his advance begin to stagnate General Braddock split his force into two parts. One was a flying column of approximately 1300 men with the second part containing the remaining men and most of the artillery and wagons. Thomas Gage (who many people may remember ordered the British to seize arms from the Whig’s [incorrectly called Patriots] at Lexington and Concord) was leading the vanguard of this column when they encountered the Native American scouts who informed them that the French forces were approaching.

Captain Baejue Responds

As we’ve seen earlier in the series the French side of the Battle of the Monongahela was commanded by Captain Beaujeu who only had approximately 100 Troupes de la Marine and approximately 150 Canadian’s. Captain Beaujeu however did not believe he could engage the British successfully with the troops he had and needed the help of the 600 Native Americans who were allied with the French.

Tracker

The Native Americans were reluctant to join the French for a variety of reasons including not wanting to get involved in what they saw as a European Conflict,  and not wanting to risk war with tribes allied with the British. Captain Beaujeuperformed his most famous act when he rallied the Native Americans by taking off his uniform and painting himself in war paint.

While to us this may seem like an impressive act of solidarity and respect it was seen as a hugely radical thing to do at the time – much the same as the President or Prime Minister giving a speech naked to appeal to Nudists. If Captain Beaujeu had survived the battle it is extremely likely he would have been shunned by other officers for his behaviour.

The Battle Erupts

Captain Beaujeu arrived too late to ambush the British and was killed in the opening salvo of musket fire but it is widely believed he had the largest impact on the battle in rallying the Native Americans. After the original volley the British began to organise themselves into the standard line formation that could fire a dense group of shots into a designated area.

However, while the French line troops formed lines and met the British head on the Native Americans and Canadians flanked the British and began skirmishing in groups of two or three. Skirmishing in a group gave you the advantage or being able to distract fire and to always be giving fire.

Infantry

With their flanks threatened the British began to follow normal protocol which was quite sensibly to form a U shape so you couldn’t be outflanked. This however was ineffective against skirmishing troops and while a group of men firing in line may be able to inflict casualties on another group of men in line they could not hit a man who simply stayed behind a tree.

Put yourself in the shoes of a Canadian skirmishing. You’re behind a solid tree and you notice twenty or so men pointing muskets at you. You wouldn’t leap out from the tree to get off one final shot before you die heroically would you!

You’ll most likely need a new pair of pants and will just stay behind your tree until the men fire at it or chose a new target. If they don’t fire but stay waiting for you to come out then you just sit there for the rest of the battle while the rest of your friends keep shooting at the men in a nice big group.

While we have detailed accounts of the battle it was a fairly simple and yet devastating affair. The British began taking casualties and, like you would do in a European battle of the day, began to pull back. However, there was a problem. There was nowhere to go.

As the British units in front began to pull back they were blocked by their allies behind them who were forced off the road and into the surrounding trees where their commanders soon lost absolute control of their men who became separated in the chaos and easy targets for skirmishers.

Firing Line

As General Braddock and his aide George Washington rallied the fleeing men General Braddock was fatally shot by a skirmisher and George Washington had between one and three horses shot out from underneath him although I believe one to be more correct as George Washington’s life has been greatly embellished by history (not that it really needed to be).

With the loss of their commander and the column in disarray the British began to retreat. This will be covered in the next article in more detail. All in all the British suffered over 500 personnel killed and 450 wounded while the French lost thirty killed and had fifty seven wounded.

Skirmish

To put these numbers into perspective more British troops were killed here than in Pickett’s Brigade than during the charge on the final day at Gettysburg (498).

Try The Battle Yourself

Now, since this is an article on gaming in the French & Indian War I thought I should give you all a scenario to play at home. I played this scenario with a friend of mine and it played quite well and resulted in a fun evening. Remember the scenario isn’t designed to be balanced but rather to re-create the circumstances of the battle while still giving both players the chance to succeed.

You will need…

  • 24x British Line Infantry
  • 12x Provincials
  • A Mounted Officer
  • 8x British Grenadiers

Versus…

  • 24x French Line Infantry
  • 12x Canadian Militia
  • 20x Indians
  • One Officer

Ignore the rule for Officers not being targets if within a certain distance of friendly troops. All Indian units count at rolling a six on their reaction tests while Captain Beaujeu is alive. If a unit falls back through another unit then that unit immediately loses any positive bonuses of that formation and must spend an action reforming to demonstrate the small confines of the battle.

Happy Gaming and please let me know if you have any questions…

Elessar2590

If you would like to write an article for Beasts of War then please contact me at ben@beastsofwar.com for more information!

"Captain Beajue performed his most famous act when he rallied the Native Americans by taking off his uniform and painting himself in war paint..."

"...more British troops were killed here than in Pickett’s Brigade than during the charge on the final day at Gettysburg"