History: Braddock Advance Man Arrives

History: Braddock Advance Man Arrives

<bt>250 years ago a British army led by General Edward Braddock arrived in Alexandria in route, unknowingly, to a bloody defeat at the hands of the French and Indians. Following is one of a series of articles on that army.

Feb. 1, 1755, Alexandria. Colonel Sir John St. Clair, Deputy Quartermaster General of General Braddock’s British army, arrived in Alexandria today in a canoe ("cut out of a Single Tree") accompanied by the Governor of Maryland.

St. Clair and the Governor had spent five days shooting down the Potomac from the British fort at Wills Creek (now Cumberland, Maryland), although at times, as St. Clair later reported, "we were obliged to get on Shore and walk on foot." He was the first of the army to arrive in Alexandria.

A Scottish baronet, St. Clair was "a very sensible Gentleman, full of Spirits and active." Yet he was traveling in the colonies for the first time and had the monumental task of scouting part of the army’s proposed route; arranging for wagons, horses, flour, and other supplies for the expedition’s advance; and supervising the raising of militia to accompany the regular British troops. The pressure of these duties made him also a short-tempered gentleman.

When St. Clair’s party paddled up to the Alexandria waterfront, the town was less than six years old. It consisted mainly of a number of bare wooden buildings strung along a few dirt streets. An exception was the new stone home of Scottish merchant John Carlyle (which still stands at 121 N. Fairfax Street).

Upon arrival, St. Clair contacted his fellow Scotsman and "empowered" Carlyle to buy "198,400 lbs. of hay or corn blades and 4,600 bushels of corn or oats" for 400 horses that would be needed for the army soon to arrive in Carlyle’s small town.

Ted Pulliam is a member of the Alexandria Archaeological Commission.