Book Review: Braddock's Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution


by David L. Preston

New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xx, 460. Illus., maps, appends, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0199845328

The Defeat that Helped Make America

Working with the benefit of extensive primary materials on the campaign and its participants only recently discovered, Prof. Preston (The Citadel) gives us what is certainly the most comprehensive and insightful treatment to date of the British disaster in the wilds of Pennsylvania in the summer of 1755, and its consequences for the future of North America. This event once considered pivotal in American history, is now surprisingly often neglected or even omitted by many text books and school curricula.

Perhaps Preston’s most important contributions in setting the campaign within the globalized Anglo-French rivalry that culminated in the protracted French and Indian/Seven Years’ War (1754-1763). In addition, he reveals much about the important role of France’s Native American allies, men from some 20 nations who were the critical actors in the defeat of the British and Colonial forces in western Pennsylvania near what is now Pittsburg on July 9, 1755. He is also very good in explaining the differences in military systems that led to the stunning defeat of the British. After a detailed treatment of the campaign, Preston follows with a look at its influence on revisions to British tactics, which ultimately would lead to the defeat of the Native Americans and French.

Preston naturally considers the role of the campaign in rising American discontent, and its influence on many of the participants who would command on both during the Revolutionary War. Among them Charles Lee, Thomas Cage, Horatio Gates, and others. Most notable, of course was George Washington, who would later prove adept at coordinating regulars and irregulars, although Preston notes that his role in the campaign was not as towering as has been traditionally pictured in patriotic histories.

A volume in the Oxford series “Pivotal Moments in American History”, Preston’s Braddock’s Defeat is a major contribution to the history of colonial wars in North America and the coming of the American Revolution.


Note: Braddock’s Defeat is also available in paperback, e-, and audio-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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