This itinerary attempts to follow, as closely as possible by car, the original route of the Braddock Expedition through Northern Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania up to the crossing at the Monongahela River where General Braddock's ill-fated expedition ended and the young Colonel George Washington earned his fame.
- See also: Early United States history
In 1755, General Edward Braddock, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, was commissioned with expelling the French from the Ohio Valley by taking Fort Duquesne in present-day Pittsburgh. Additionally, Braddock's expeditionary force would clear a road from Fort Cumberland (Cumberland, Maryland) to Fort Duquesne. This action was performed in conjunction with several other campaigns against the French in North America that year. From April 9th to July 9th, Braddock's force of nearly 1,500 men marched approximately 250 miles. On July 9th, Braddock's force of British regulars, continental regulars, and militiamen fought a meeting engagement with 900 French soldiers and Indians just after crossing the Monongahela River south of Fort Duquesne.
The Battle of the Monongahela resulted in a tragic defeat for General Braddock. The British soldiers' poor discipline resulted in a panic-stricken rout, allowing the French and Indians to easily pick them off. Washington was recognized as Virginia's war hero as he was able to form a defense and save the remainder of Braddock's force. Braddock, however, did not survive the battle.
Washington also played a key role as an advisor to General Braddock. Washington spent his early adulthood surveying the lands granted to the Fairfax family. This gave him valuable information on the best route from Alexandria, Virginia to Cumberland, Maryland. He also held a deep interest in settling the Ohio Valley. Washington believed that the future of America lay in the fertile farm lands of the Ohio and a trade route to this area was key.
While Fort Duquesne was not taken, the trail blazed by Braddock's expedition proved to be a major commercial link to the West and provided part of the basis for the construction of US Highway 40 - the National Road, one of the first major improved highways in the US. The road also proved valuable during Washington's term as president: In 1794, he led 13,000 men up the Braddock Road to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion — the last time a sitting president of the U.S. led troops in battle.
Today, the trails followed by Braddock's men are much different than in 1755. In Northern Virginia from Alexandria to Leesburg, much of the original route has been broken up by housing developments and strip malls. However, there are still some fragments of the trail in original condition, such as the span in Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Virginia. As you travel further west, many of the roads traveled follow the same roads used in 1755. You will witness the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, discover countryside that George Washington spent much of his time traversing and speculating on, and discover the road that opened the Ohio Valley to a rush of settlement.
The route follows some city roads and mostly rural roads. Part of the route traverses the Appalachian Mountains. A typical first aid kit in your trunk will do. While a typical trip from Alexandria to Pittsburgh takes 4 hours, this trip will take from 6 to 10 hours. Plan on a whole day to allow time for all of the sites. A good road atlas of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania is highly recommended. A detailed road map (such as those published by ADC) of Northern Virginia is also good to have.
From points north (i.e. Baltimore), take I-95 south, cross the Wilson Bridge and take the Route 1 exit north into Alexandria. Take a right on King Street and follow it to the water's edge.
From points east (i.e. Annapolis), take Route 50 west to I-495/I-95 (Capital Beltway) going south toward Richmond. Cross the Wilson Bridge and take the Route 1 exit north into Alexandria. Take a right on King Street and follow it to the water's edge.
From points west (i.e. Winchester), take I-66 east to I-495 (Capital Beltway) going south toward Richmond. Follow the Beltway around to the Route 1 exit north into Alexandria. Take a right on King Street and follow it to the water's edge.
There is usually plenty of parking near the water's edge. You can walk to Founders Park by walking to the left when facing the river. The park is past the wharf area (where the Torpedo Factory and Charthouse restaurant are).
The tour begins in Alexandria, Virginia where King Street meets the Potomac River. This area used to be Alexandria's port. It was the main point of entry and departure for merchants shipping tobacco and food to the Old World and importing luxury goods into the New World. As shipping focused more on the port at Norfolk, Alexandria became the central marketplace in Northern Virginia for slaves. In the years leading up to the civil war, only slaves that were born in America were sold here as importing slaves from abroad was illegal. From 1790 to 1846, Alexandria was part of the District of Columbia but was retroceded to VIrginia as the Alexandrians across the river from DC shared little interest with those in the District. During the Civil War, Alexandria was occupied by Union troops, and heavily fortified in order to repel a Confederate assault on Washington for the duration of the war. As the Federal government grew in the 20th century, Alexandria has become a wealthy city home to government contractors but it has maintained its links with the past by keeping the "Old Town" area's shops and old homes intact.
Braddock's journey started in Cobh near Cork, Ireland. He sailed into Hampton, Virginia and then into Alexandria. It was here in this port where he arrived with his two regiments and began planning his march.
In Alexandria, Braddock established his headquarters at the John Carlyle house. To get to the Carlyle House from the port of Alexandria, travel West (away from the river) on King Street for two blocks and take a right onto North Fairfax Street. The house is on the right. Here at the Carlyle House, Braddock met with five colonial governors and tried to convince them to support his campaign against the French. The governors were unable to convince their colonial assemblies to support the mission. This incident highlighted the divide that was growing between the United Kingdom and the American colonies.
Braddock stayed three weeks at the house, and was reported by the house's owner to be "too fond of his passions, women and wine...” and that the general had “abused his house and furnishings...”
With the campaign planned and the army assembled, it was time to march on Fort Duquesne.
At the outset, General Braddock sent his two regiments on different routes to meet at Fort Cumberland, Maryland, the final staging point of the expedition. Braddock sent his 48th regiment under Colonel Thomas Dunbar across the Potomac, through Maryland, and up to Frederick. The 44th regiment under Sir Peter Halkett was sent to Cumberland through Northern Virginia. Since the roads past Frederick were unable to support a marching army, the 48th regiment was forced to head south and meet the 44th just northwest of Winchester, Virginia.
For the present, this tour will focus on Halkett's route through Northern Virginia.
Halkett's route through Virginia
Sir Peter Halkett led his regiment from Alexandria along a route roughly following today's Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) up to Leesburg. From Leesburg, he travelled across the Shenandoah, through Charles Town, and through the mountains of West Virginia to a ferry on the Potomac near present-day Paw Paw, West Virginia. After ferrying the Potomac, the regiment stopped at Fort Cumberland.
Alexandria to Old Fairfax Courthouse
From North Fairfax Street in front of the Carlyle House, continue north. Turn left onto Wythe Street. Follow Wythe Street until you veer left onto East Braddock Road. This road roughly follows Route 7, and is supposedly the road followed by Braddock's men. There are other braddock roads in Northern Virginia (including Route 620 through Springfield/Fairfax and its old continuation through Loudon County) but these roads do not actually follow the route of Braddock's troops.
Once on Braddock Road, follow it west through several suburban neighborhoods and across Route 7 and I-395. Suddenly, you will come to a college campus at N Beauregard Street. Take a detour left onto Beauregard and then right onto Seminary Road. You will need to veer left to stay on Seminary Road and avoid turning right onto George Mason Drive. Continue west on Seminary Road until you loop around and meet Route 7 again at Bailey's Crossroads. Take a left to head west on Route 7. Follow Route 7 through Seven Corners and Falls Church, and across I-66 and I-495. Just before you reach the intersection with Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road), take a left onto Aline Avenue and follow it until it becomes Old Courthouse Road. Just after you cross Route 123 you will be at the site of the Old Fairfax Courthouse. The 44th camped here their first night.
The area from Alexandria to Tysons Corner (Old Fairfax Couthouse) has changed drastically since 1755! It is now a jumble of old DC suburbs, strip malls featuring stores and restaurants from nearly every ethnicity, and skyscrapers housing government contractors and other businesses. This is life inside the beltway. In Braddock's time, this area was a collection of plantations growing tobacco, staple crops, and livestock. Important road junctions, such as Bailey's Crossroads and Tysons Corner usually were the site of inns and general stores (ordinaries). This area was largely rural until the latec30th century. In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, there was incredible growth in this area. Despite all of the development, the roads that existed in 1755 are still somewhat intact in the form of Braddock Road, Seminary Road, and parts of Route 7.
Fairfax Courthouse to Coleman's Ordinary
Coleman's Ordinary to Mr. Minor's Inn
Leesburg to Keyes' Ford
At this point, Halkett's regiment split into two groups. Halkett led his group through Waterford while the second group travelled along Dry Mill Road. The two groups rejoined on Charles Town Pike. This itinerary will focus on Halkett's route through Waterford.
From West Market Street, take a right onto North King Street. Travel two blocks and take a left on North Street NW. Veer right onto Old Waterford Rd NW. Along Old Waterford Road lies Morven Park. This grove may resemble the landscape that Halkett's men observed in 1755. Diaries described beautiful groves of oak and hickory.
Follow Old Waterford Rd until reaching a 3-way intersection with Hurley Lane. Take this right continuing onto Old Waterford Road. Approaching the village of Waterford, veer left onto Fairfax Street. Here is the town of Waterford. Take a right onto Butchers Row and an immediate left onto Main Street. Follow Main Street until it becomes Old Wheatland Road.
Old Waterford Road and Wheatland Road roughly travel the original roads that existed in 1755. Along the Old Wheatland Road used to stand a large white oak at the northwest corner of Jack Evans's farm. The tree marked a way stop for Halkett's men and was known as the "Braddock Oak." The tree came down after Tropical Storm Agnes in June 1972. Two miles west of Braddock Oak was Mr. Thompson's farm. Mr. Thompson was a quaker and supplied Washington's troops on his earlier journey to Fort Necessity. Washington recommended Braddock's men stop at Thompson's farm.
When Old Wheatland Road meets Charles Town Pike, take a right. Follow Charles Town Pike past HIllsboro and over a pair of mountain ranges. Just over the second range, turn right onto Chestnut Hill Road. From Chestnut Hill Road, take a left onto Keys Ferry Access Road. Follow this road until you reach the end. This site may have been the actual site where troops were ferried across the Shendandoah River.
Keyes' Ferry to Middleway via Charles Town
Since you cannot ferry your car across the river, go back the way you came and take a right onto Charles Town Pike. To see the other side of the ferry site, you can take a right onto Bakerton Road just after crossin the Shenandoah, or just skip it and continue on Route 9 (Charles Town Pike) into Charles Town. The army did stay the night at the Gershom Keyes plantation after crossing the river.
Follow Charles Town Pike (Rte 9) into the center of Charles Town and take a left onto Route 51 (Summit Point Pike). As you leave the city, veer right onto Route 51. Just before you reach Middleway, veer left onto Old Middleway Road. Welcome to Middleway!
Braddock's route through Maryland
See The Braddock Expedition and Fox's Gap in Maryland by Curtis Lynn Older, published by Heritage Books.
Once Halkett's group met up with Braddock's group, they headed for Cumberland through present-day West Virginia.
Middleway to Brucetown
Braddocks' 44th and 48th regiments met in Middleway and continued their march to Fort Cumberland.
From Middleway, going south on Leetown Road, take a right onto Brucetown Road. Take a left to continue on Brucetown Road when you reach a T-intersection with Bunker Hill Road. Follow Brucetown Road around a left-hand corner and take a right onto Cr-1/11 (Hinton Road?). You will cross the Opequon at Abril's Ford. Follow C-1/11 as it becomes Sir Johns Road. Take a right (west) onto an entirely different Brucetown Road. Once you've reached this turn, you're in Brucetown! The army camped here at Widow Littler's Tavern.
Brucetown to Forks of the Cacapon
Going west on Brucetown Road, continue across I-81 by taking a left at US-11 and an immdiate right onto Hopewell Road. As you follow Hopewell Road, you will pass by the Hopewell Quaker meeting house. Take a left onto Welltown Road and a Right onto Hiatt Road. Where Hiatt Road meets Apple Pie Ridge Road stands an old, 18th-century springhouse now covered in ivy. Braddock's men camped here, however, it is unknown if this building predated the expedition. Continue straight onto Catalpa Road and take a left onto Old Baltimore Road. Cross over the ridge to Cedar Grove.
At this point, the trail is lost as it is now covered by Lake Saint Clair and there are no longer any passes over Hunting Ridge where the army marched. Instead, take a left onto Cedar Grove Road and a right onto Route 522 (North Frederick Pike). Follow it over Hunting Ridge and take a left onto Gainesboro Road. After passing through Gainesboro, the army camped for the night.
Continue on 522. You may veer off onto Cross Junction Road as it may have been the original road through the area and it loops back to 522. Take a left onto Red Oak Road. Take another left onto Redland Road. Follow Redland to the intersection with Old Mill Road. This is Whitacre, another campsite. Continue on Redland Road, and veer right, making sure not to get onto Whitacre Road. Readland Road becomes Il Pugh Road. Take a right onto Route 127 (Bloomery Pike). As you cross over Timber Ridge, you will enter West Virginia.
Where 127 crosses Cacapon River is the "Forks of the Cacapon". Henry Enoch owned land here and a fort was built here after Braddock's defeat. The army camped a mile south of the mouth of the Bloomery Run.
Just before you cross the Cacapon, you can take a right onto an unnamed road to visit the Bloomery iron furnace!
Forks of Cacapon to Fort Cumberland
After crossing the Cacapon, take a right onto Owl Hollow Road and cross the North River. Take a left onto an unnamed road at the T-intersection and an immediate right onto Route 29. Just after crossing the ridge, take a left onto Critton Hollow Road. Follow this road and veer right onto 2 3rd Street to cross over Spring Gap Mountain. This mountain was named for the spring located in the gap you are now crossing. Braddock's men camped here atop the ridge. 2 3rd Street becomes Anthoney Boher Road. Take a right onto Spring Gap-Neals Run Road. Follow it north all the way to the Potomac River.
Here, Braddock's army camped at Thomas Cresap's farm and ferried the Potomac. Since there is no bridge here, we'll head around through Paw Paw.
Head back south on Spring Gap Road and take a left onto Neals Run-Paw Paw Road. Follow the road into Paw Paw and take a left onto Winchester Street. Veer onto Route 9/51 going north and cross the Potomac. Follow 51 to Cumberland. Route 51 will take you straight into the heart of Cumberland. Take a left onto Baltimore Street to cross the bridge over Will's Creek. Just to your left is the former site of Fort Cumberland (now a church).
Fort Cumberland to Frostburg
When you cross Will's creek, Baltimore Street becomes Washington Street. Take a left on any block and then a right onto Greene Street. Follow Greene street out of Cumberland and it becomes Route 49. Follow 49 until you reach Route 658. Take a right onto 658 and then a left onto Route 40 - the National Highway. You will cross Great Savage Mountain.
Frostburg to Uniontown
Follow US 40 to Uniontown.
Uniontown to Mount Pleasant
Follow US 119 to Mount Pleasant.
Mount Pleasant to Greensburg
Follow US 119 to Greensburg.
Greensburg to Duquesne
Take a left on Lincoln Highway (US 30). Take a left onto Lincoln Way just past North Huntington. Cross the Green Belt bridge and take a right onto 837 (Duquesne Blvd) into Duquesne.
Duquesne to the Battlefield
Follow 837 to the Rankin bridge. Cross the bridge. Follow Green Belt/Braddock Avenue.