< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: 4GW and Ambush

Thursday, April 06, 2006

4GW and Ambush

The Braddock expedition of 1755 into Ohio country was a logistical masterpiece. Over 100 miles of dense wilderness, all three ridges of the Appalachians, and several major rivers were magnificently overcome by a dedicated force of almost 2,000 British regulars and American recruits.

Braddock should have engaged the French at Fort Duquesne by going through Pennsylvania. But Virginia politicians and shareholders in the Ohio Company needed a road through the Appalachians, and they "convinced" Braddock to make his way through some rather untamed wilderness to engage the French, instead of using Pennsylvania and it's already vast resources.

Though the logicial masterpiece was complete, a force of less than half, comprised of a few "wily frenchmen" and several hundred Indians routed the British and their superior firepower at the Battle of the Monongahela. How did this happen?

Capt. Beaujeu, charged with the defense of the Fort Duquesne, convinced around 300 Indians to abandon their plans of retreat and stay and fight the British. He did this by appealing to their sense of nobility, their ideals of war, and perhaps most of all, by reportedly stripping off his officer's attire and painting himself in the traditional warpaints.

The Indians saw the signs of solidarity, and heard the appeals to avoid dishonoring their ancestors. They fought with Beaujeu, and were a major reason reason for the French success at Monongahela.

At the battle, the Indians scattered around the British in a horseshoe, not forming a single line anywhere. They hid in the hills, behind trees, and in pre dug trenches. They shot and ran to a new location. The British responded in a disciplined fashion. Forming lines and firing volleys on command. But what good is it if 9 men are commanded to shoot into a dark forest at only one of the enemy? The return on that type of return fire can, at best, only be 8 missed shots.

At some point, a group of French regulars deployed at the front of the battle line, and kept the British from outflanking the Indian snipers. Then, as the British at the front retreated, Gen. Braddock sent more up front in support. They collided with one another, adding to confusion and disorientation. A huge mass of disorganized redcoats began to form, and the Indians and Frenchmen in the hills poured lead all over that mass.

There are numerous paralles between this small battle in the French Indian War, and today's current fight in Iraq: business interests dictating military strategy, arrogant commanders unwilling to adopt native tactics, impressive logistical feats countered by inexpensive ruthlessness, superior firepower being turned into an Achilles heel.

What I would like to know though is whether or not the method of attack used by the Indians here meets what is currently held out as "fourth generation warfare".? Remember, the Indians were natives, not Army regulars. They had "teamed up" with French regulars based in the Ohio territory. But perhaps this was much the same as how many "Iraqi insurgents", who are really just natives, have "teamed up" with "al-Qaeda" regulars?

And another question along those lines, is it possible that the entire psychology of "ambush" is really the sine qua non of fourth generation warfare? Do all "natives" always fight in "the Indian mode"?