Pittsburgh (AP) - More than 20 years before he fathered a
country, George Washington dispensed some bad advice that caused
the ambush of 1,200 British troops on their way to Fort Duquesne
during the French and Indian War.
Don't believe it?
Then you should check out "When the Forest Ran Red: Washington,
Braddock and a Doomed Army", a documentary scheduled to open
Thursday night at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional
Written, directed and produced by Robert Matzen, owner of
Paladin Communications in Bethel Park, the 55-minute documentary
dramatizes the ambush of British Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock's
troops on July 9, 1755.
With more than 2,000 troops, Braddock was heading toward Fort
Duquesne at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela
rivers - modern day Pittsburgh - which he hoped to capture from
Instead, he got an education in the perils of western
Pennsylvania's thick woods and the guerrilla tactics of French
troops and their American Indian allies who knew the land.
But Matzen said Braddock might have survived the attack had he
not split his troops before advancing on the fort - at the urging
of Washington, a 23-year-old Lieutenant Colonel with the Virginia
militia. Braddock took just 1,200 men with him, and left his
wagons and another 1,000 soldiers behind so he could reach the
fort more quickly.
"Splitting up his army was what caused his defeat" at the hands
of 250 French soldiers and 600 American Indians, Matzen said. "If
he had approached carefully like his officers wanted to do, he
might have won the battle."
Matzen's film is just the latest in a string of efforts by
local historians to chronicle the French and Indian War, the 250th
anniversary of which will be commemorated in 2004.
The newly remodeled Fort Pitt museum opened this summer and
Fort Ligonier, about 45 miles east of the city, will be renovated
in 2003. A new museum and visitor's center at Fort Necessity are
scheduled to open in April 2004 in Fayette County, about 50 miles
southeast of Pittsburgh.
When the war started, the English and French were jostling over
trading rights and alliances with Indians along the frontier. Fort
Duquesne was a focus of this rivalry and the war began with
Washington's aborted attempt in 1754 to seize it.
That triggered what Europeans call the Seven Years' War, which
led to the French leaving eastern North America to British
Andrew Masich, president and chief executive officer of the
Heinz center, said the film's historical interpretation is fresh
because it doesn't portray as inevitable the white man's conquest
of North America.
"This was a three-way struggle for empire ... with very strong
antagonists," Masich said. "It was by no means a foregone
conclusion that the Anglo-American element was going to win out."
On the Net: Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History
Center at http://mlc.lrdc.pitt.edu/History%20Center.html