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Tactical Planning of War

Introduction

The action at Jumonville Glen in Pennsylvania is a starting point of the French and Indian war. This encounter is worth discussing in detail because the events which took place back then help to evaluate the tactics which the parties used. There were a number of factors which contributed into the defeat of the Washington’s troops. One of the most important was that his campaign lacked financing: “On paper, Washington’s force seemed formidable. All, told, the muster rolls named about 400 men of whom 300 were Virginians and 100 in Mackay’s regular company” (Nester 189). In reality however, Washington’s troops were totally unprepared for the battle and were “poorly supplied with wagons and horses and clothes and provisions and ammunition” (Anderson 51). Another fact was the tactics which was almost absent in case with Washington. In the course of the encounter under consideration both French and British troops used tactical planning with the Frenchmen employing diversionary tactics and choosing to disperse during the final attack and with Washington’s Virginians cooperating with the Indians and attacking the French camp at sunrise; Washington’s tactics was of no comparison with that of the French, which accounted for the troops having to agree to de Villiers’ conditions.

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French Tactics

First of all, the French used the diversionary tactics, which distracted the attention of the Virginians and reduced their number. When Washington’s troops encamped in Great Meadows, French emissaries were likely to report about this to their commandment. The French located their camp only several miles away from the Virginians and the French troops marching around five miles away from Great Meadow attracted the attention of the British. Gist reported about this to Washington, which made the latter send seventy-five men to intercept the French troops. When the message from Tanaghrisson regarding the French troops’ real location reached Washington, he understood his mistake. However, it was already too late to return the troops. This tactics, though it proved to be quite efficient, still was not advantageous enough for the French since they did not expect that the Virginians, despite their number reduced significantly, would still attack them. Though, taking into account that they thought their diversionary tactics would work, their actions can still be considered wise. Indeed, if Tanaghrisson did not encamp with his small group not far from the French camp, the tactics would have worked and the French would win some time for getting ready for the attack or would even attack the British first.

Another tactical action which the French undertook was dispersing the troops before the final battle. De Villiers dispersed his troops “along the forested hillsides that overlooked the fort” (Anderson 63), which gave the French troops a number of advantages. Firstly, they could literally see each of the Washington’s warriors and “rake his formations with musketry” (Anderson 63), which they did thus forcing Washington’s troops to move back to the stockade. Secondly, this allowed the French to avoid lethal fire. Targeting them from where the Virginians were was practically impossible, especially considering the fact that the English muskets got wet under the rain and became simply useless. Thirdly, small units are harder to trace, as well as it is difficult to identify their location, which deprives the enemy of the possibility to know where the fire is coming from. And finally, the French were sheltered under the trees, which allowed them to keep their muskets. Such a location gave the French all the advantages to destroy Washington’s forces. This explains the fact that after the battle was over, the British had thirty killed and seventy wounded, while the opposite party lost only three warriors with indeterminate number having minor wounds.

In addition to this, the French used wily tactics when making Washington to agree to their conditions. Washington was unaware that the French were afraid of another attack; they were short of provisions and ammunition and were unable to fight in case of the reinforcement which they expected to arrive any minute. Thus, employing these tactical actions the French defeated the British, though they themselves were also not far from the defeat.

British Tactics

In contrast, Washington’s tactics was much weaker, if it existed at all. Most of his actions were a result of coincidence. One of Washington’s tactical actions was cooperating with the Indians who brought him the message about the real location of the French camp. This was a wise decision because the Indians compensated for those warriors who Washington ordered to send to intercept the French between the Wills Creek and Monongahela River (A Map of the Country between Wills Creek and Monongahela River). This ‘union’ made the British army at least visually more numerous, even though the Indians did not participate in the battle as such (the witnesses who submitted the reports to their commandments stated this explicitly). When the Virginians attacked the French camp, the Indians helped them to encircle it, which gave the French no way to retreat. This is why it took Washington’s troops only half an hour to make the French troops rout. This action was of no tactics as such; if Tanaghrisson did not warn the British about the French troops locating several miles from Great Meadows, the Virginians would hardly win this fight if it took place.

Finally, attacking the French camp at sunrise was the wisest tactical action on the part of Washington. The French, calmed by the idea that Washington sent the troops in the wrong direction, did not expect the British to attack them, especially early in the morning “when some of them were asleep and some eating” (Anderson 55). Since the attack of the British troops was a complete surprise for the French, the former had all the advantages because they have been planning their actions on their way to the enemy’s camp. It was only due to this element of surprise that the British won this fight because the events which started unfolding further prove that Washington did not have a particular tactics acting mostly spontaneously or planning the fight in the last minute. Washington’s marching his men to the middle of the meadow counting on the fight in the open shows that he did not think the plan through and exposed his warriors to the unnecessary risks.

Conclusion

Thus, the absence of definite tactics was the main reason why the British army lost this war. The French thought through almost every step of their actions with their mistakes taking place only when somebody else (the Indians, in particular) intervened with their plan. Since Washington’s troops were not ready to the war from the beginning, the absence of tactics was fatal for them. Washington’s employing occasional tactics did not help to save the situation and the French eventually defeated his troops.

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Appendix 1

A Map of the Country between Wills Creek and Monongahela River
A Map of the Country between Wills Creek and Monongahela River

Works Cited

Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Nester, William R. The Great Frontier War: Britain, France, and the Imperial Struggle for North America, 1607-1755. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000.

A Map of the Country between Wills Creek and Monongahela River. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Web. 2009.

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