Braddock’s expedition route the focus of history symposium


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In the spring of 1755, British Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock left Alexandria, Va., with an army of around 2,000 men, wagons and light artillery and headed northwest nearly 289 miles via Cumberland, Md. His goal — to capture Fort Duquesne from the French at the fork of the Ohio River.

To get to their objective, Gen. Braddock and his army had to build a road across the Appalachian Mountains, a feat considered one of the most impressive military engineering projects of the 18th century.

In his latest book, "Mapping the British Expedition from Alexandria to the Monogahela," contemporary historian Norman Baker, considered by his peers to be the foremost scholar of the Braddock Road, chronicles the road’s construction and provides the definitive mapping of Braddock’s route during the French and Indian War.

At 7 p.m. Friday at Old Main on the Washington & Jefferson College campus, Mr. Baker will be one of two speakers at a symposium co-sponsored by the college and the David Bradford House in Washington. Admission is $12 in advance, $15 at the door, free to students with I.D.

Mr. Baker is  a World War II and Korean War veteran and a graduate of Indiana Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. He has worked with the Boeing Pilotless Aircraft Division in Seattle, Wash., and was a development engineer on the Bomarc Missile Program.

Mr. Baker was also a White House correspondent who covered eight presidential administrations, a Senate and House Press Gallery correspondent and dean of the Pentagon Press Corps.

As part of his lifelong love for the nation’s history, he’s also researched American explorers and frontiersmen, with a large portion of that study focusing on the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars.

"Using journals and accounts written by soldiers in Braddock’s campaign, Mr. Baker mapped out the route and 20 sites used by the British army," said Clay Kilgore, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. "In his talk, he’ll speak mainly about the route, not about the expedition or battle in which Braddock lost his life."

Joining Mr. Baker as co-speaker, Bryan Cunning, an archeologist with the Michael Baker Corp. in Moon, has been impersonating George Washington for the past 12 years.

Washington accompanied Braddock on his campaign to take Fort Duquesne, and Mr. Cunning will give a first-person account of Washington’s observations along the route and back to Virginia and his plan for defending the colonial frontier.

Mr. Cunning has been portraying Washington since he was asked to do so in a movie by local filmmaker Robert Matzen. He and a group of friends had answered a call for re-enactors to participate in a scene about Washington's involvement during the expedition against For Duquesne.

Since that day, Mr. Cunning has appeared as Washington in several paintings by Andrew Knez and John Buxton, posed for the Washington statue on Mount Washington in Pittsburgh, spoke to countless school students and appeared as Washington in all three of Mr. Matzen’s films.

"Martzen’s second film went out with education packets to the schools, and I started getting calls from the schools to visit as Washington," Mr. Cunning said. "Soon, I also got calls from everyone from historical societies to the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Heinz Regional History Center."

Friday evening’s symposium is the fifth in an annual series sponsored by the David Bradford House Museum.

"Not only is our mission to preserve this historical house so significant to the Whiskey Rebellion, but it also includes educating the public on the importance of the rebellion to the development of the nation.," Mr. Kilgore said. "In order to understand the rebellion, it’s also necessary to understand what came before, such as the Braddock campaign."

Details: 724-222-3604


Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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