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“Storys, scalping and mohawking”

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American tales, narratives, stories—“the rhetoric of fear”—and the defeat of General Edward Braddock

image of Journal of Early American History

This work examines an often underappreciated factor in the defeat of General Edward Braddock’s infamous expedition against Fort Duquesne of 1755. This, of course, was the influence of the frontier tales, narratives and other stories (or the ‘rhetoric of fear’) fed to the regular British soldiery by their provincial allies—and indeed the colonial civilian population—as they marched across Western Maryland and Virginia on the long and arduous route to the Monongahela. These frequently exaggerated rumors and tales, evoking what many British colonists considered the almost mystical martial prowess (at least in North America’s backcountry) and merciless brutality of American Indian warriors, large numbers of whom were allied to the French, severely undermined morale among Old World soldiers advancing through what was a foreboding and unfamiliar country. This paper establishes that such literature and stories were factors of far greater significance than is recognized in traditional accounts of the Braddock defeat.

Affiliations: 1: Swansea University,


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