General Braddock’s road through the wilderness

Posted by | August 15, 2011

Today realtors tout the Dingle neighborhood west of Cumberland, MD for its charming Craftsman houses of the early 20th century. But this placid upscale neighborhood was a fierce wilderness when Nemacolin, a Delaware chief, and Thomas Cresap, a Maryland frontiersman, first blazed a trail through here in 1749 or 1750.

The trail ran between the Potomac and the Monongahela rivers, traversing the land beneath this Cumberland neighborhood and leading on to the mouth of Redstone Creek, near Brownsville, PA.

John Kennedy Lacock postcardSite of the Dingle in Cumberland, MD. Braddock Road is on the right and it’s heading up Haystack Mountain. Today, right behind where the car is in this photo is a modern Maryland Historical Road Marker reading: “The National Road (called The Cumberland Road) was the first of the internal improvements undertaken by the U.S. Government. Surveys were authorized in 1806 over the route of “Braddock’s Road” which followed “Nemacolin’s Path”, an Indian trail over which George Washington Travelled in 1754 to Fort LeBoeuf.” Photo by Ernest K. Weller.

In 1755, during the French & Indian War, British General Edward Braddock of the Coldstream Guards led a 2,100-man army from the Washington DC area to what was then Fort Cumberland. The troops intended to dislodge the French from Fort Dusquesne on the “Forks of the Ohio” (now Pittsburgh) roughly 100 miles away.

Braddock had received important assistance from Benjamin Franklin, who helped procure wagons and supplies for the expedition. Setting out from Fort Cumberland on May 29, 1755, the expedition faced an enormous logistical challenge: moving a large body of men with equipment, provisions, and (most importantly for the task ahead) heavy cannon, across the densely wooded Allegheny Mountains and into western Pennsylvania.

Braddock’s aide, Captain Robert Orme, duly recorded the army’s 30 wagons, 400 horses, siege artillery and tons of supplies. Braddock built a road over Wills Mountain, across the Cumberland Narrows, continuing over Haystack Mountain through (what was not yet) the Dingle, close to Nemacolin’s path, and ending ultimately in Great Meadow, near Union Town, PA.

By the time he was ready to leave his 4th camp, Braddock acknowledged the ongoing challenge posed by advancing such a massive retinue, and so took a young George Washington’s advice and created a flying column, “leaving the heavy artillery and baggage behind to follow by easy stages under Colonel Dunbar,” according to the General Braddock’s 5th Camp Maryland Historical Road Marker.

Among the wagoners, incidentally, were two young men who would later become legends of American history: Daniel Boone, and Daniel Morgan.

Braddock met defeat east of Fort Duquesne and was fatally wounded. He was buried in the middle of the road he built and his soldiers marched over the grave in hopes of concealing its location from the Indians.

More than 150 years after Braddock’s march to his disastrous fate, John Kennedy Lacock, a Harvard Professor hailing from Amity, PA, led an expedition to retrace the original route of Braddock’s Road. Lacock spent countless days scouring the countryside and was able to identify the exact path of Braddock’s march.

“From Fort Cumberland westward Braddock had to make a road for his troops across mountains divided by ravines and torrents, over a rugged, desolate, unknown, and uninhabited country. The history of the construction of this road and a description of its course it is the purpose of this paper to set forth; for the growing interest with which the routes of celebrated expeditions are coming to be regarded, and the confusion that attends the tracing of such routes after a lapse of years, make it altogether fitting that the road by which the unfortunate Braddock marched to his disastrous field should be surveyed, mapped, and suitably marked while it is yet possible to trace its course with reasonable definiteness.”

‘Braddock Road’ by John Kennedy Lacock

Lacock hired photographer Ernest K. Weller of Washington, PA to document the road. Fortunately, Weller’s photographs survive in the form of postcards which Lacock published between 1907-1914 (see above).

The Dingle, Cumberland MDThe Dingle development then being built around Braddock’s historical path was no doubt one motivator for Lacock and his survey. The president of The Dingle Company, Tasker Gantt Lowndes, was the well-connected son of a recent Maryland governor, and contesting his development was probably difficult.

And why, exactly, was it named ‘The Dingle’? “After a beautiful private estate on the outskirts of Liverpool, England,” said Lowndes in a 1926 letter. “The Dingle lies between two roads (McMullen Highway and Braddock Road), and means a ‘Hollow between the Hills’ which is very appropriate”. When it was first developed it was a gated community that excluded Jews and African Americans.

sources: “Redcoats in the Wilderness: British Officers and Irregular Warfare in Europe and America, 1740 to 1760″, Peter Russel, The William and Mary Quarterly > 3rd Ser., Vol. 35, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 629-652

Who’s who in Finance and Banking, By John William Leonard, Who’s Who in Finance Inc., 1922

Western Maryland Regional Library
Allegany County, by Albert L. Feldstein, Arcadia Publishing, 2006
Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years War in America, by Francis Jennings,New York: Norton, 1988.
www.route40.net/ history/ braddock-lacock.shtmlJohn

General+Edward+Braddock the+Dingle Cumberland+MD John+Kennedy+Lacock appalachia Benjamin+Franklin Daniel+Boone appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

One Response

  • Rick Witt says:

    Thanks Dave. In my younger days I lived atop Haystack Mtn. Roamed the hillsides and traveled Braddock(s)Road almost everyday of my life. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken a bit more time to absorb the history that surrounded me. It’s always great to read a story about a place you know.

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