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A group of Virginia businessmen decided to launch a commercial enterprise to explore and settle the Ohio Valley. After French claim and occupation of the Mississippi/Ohio territories in 1749-1754, they decided to take military action and raised a force of 300 men under a young office named George Washington. Washington launched his expedition into the territory in 1754 and proceeded to the French post of Fort Le Boeuf. Washington and the Virginians were decisively defeated by the French and sent retreating back across the Appalachian Mountains.

The Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddle began sending repeated requests to Britain for help and after incessant pressure from the colonies Britain dispatched General Edward Braddock in 1755 to take control of the Ohio from the French. In the meantime the French had reinforced the Valley with 3,000 regular troops under the command of Baron Dieskau. Braddock, with Washington on his staff set out to capture Fort Duquesne and force the French out. Braddock's attack was a stunning defeat and the English once again stumbled back to their colonies to regroup. Although France and England were still at peace in Europe, these battles ignited the greatest war the world had ever seen and in 1756 the Seven Years War started in earnest.

Fort Cumberland, 18 July, 1755

Honored Madam

As I doubt not that you have heard of our defeat, and perhaps, had it represented in a worse light, if possible, than it deserves, I have taken the earliest opportunity to give you some account of the engagement as it happened, within 10 miles of the French fort, on Wednesday the ninth instant.

We marched to that place, without any considerable loss, having only now and then a straggler picked up by the French and scouting Indians.  When we came there, we were attacked by a party of French and Indians, whose number, I am persuaded, did not exceed 300 men; while ours consisted of about one thousand three hundred well armed troops, chiefly regular soldiers, who were struck was such panic, that they behaved with more cowardice then it is possible to conceive. The officers behave gallantly, in order to encourage their men, for which they suffered greatly, there being near 60 killed and wounded; a large portion of the number we had.

The Virginia troops show did good deal of bravery, and were not nearly all killed; for I believe, out of three companies that were there, scarcely 30 men are left alive… In short, the dastardly behavior of those they call regulars exposed all others, that were inclined to do their duty, to almost certain death; and, at last, in despite of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary, they ran, as sheep pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them…

George Washington - letter to his mother