History of Hickory Farms - Braddock Road
By Bob Cosgriff (Cotton Farm Rd - 2015)
An intriguing question concerning the Hickory Farms area is whether Braddock Road was actually traversed by British General Edward Braddock and his young colonial aide-de-camp, George Washington of Fairfax County. The latter was dispatched by Governor Dinwiddie in October 1753 to deliver a message to the French Commander on the Ohio. In Washington's own laconic style, he states that he "left Alexandria and went to Winchester," thus leaving us in doubt as to his actual route. However, the main “road” to Winchester from Alexandria followed more or less what today is state route 7 (Leesburg Pike). A section of this route, called the “Vestal Gap Road” is still visible today in the Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Virginia (www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=20033). It is documented that a young George Washington did use this route on his many trips between Alexandria-Winchester-Cumberland in the years preceding and during the French and Indian War.
Indeed, only a year after his unsuccessful “diplomatic” mission, he went back again to the Forks of the Ohio in 1754 with a small army of Virginians, but no mention again was made of any of the route until the force was near present day Cumberland, Maryland, nearer to the enemy. But it can be inferred that he used the existing and well-traveled Vestal Gap road. Southeast of present-day Pittsburgh, Washington ambushed a small French force, precipitating a retaliatory battle in which Washington’s small force was defeated by the French and their Native American allies, resulting in Washington's surrender. He was paroled and returned to Alexandria. Surprisingly, he became somewhat of a hero for standing up to the French, even though he was defeated. One year later in 1755, he talked himself onto the staff of General Edward Braddock who had come to America with a larger force of regulars in a clear escalation of the situation, especially considering that England and France were at peace at this point.
Braddock’s initial headquarters was in Alexandria. You can learn more on this important time in American colonial history by visiting the Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria or take a virtual tour at http://www.nvrpa.org/park/carlyle_house_historic_park. His mission was to chastise the French and dislodge them from Fort Duquesne (present day Pittsburgh) to uphold British claims to the Ohio Valley. According to the diary of a participant, "one regiment and a portion of stores (was) to (go by way of) Winchester, Virginia, whence a new road was nearly completed to Fort Cumberland ... on the 8th and 9th of April, the provincials and 6 companies of the 44th (regiment) under Colonel Sir Peter Halkett, set out for Winchester." Halkett’s route followed what is now Route 7, although it could have started out on what is now Braddock Road in Alexandria, which basically parallels Leesburg Pike until it ends near the NVCC Alexandria Campus in the Skyline Drive area of Alexandria. There is no mention in any of the secondary sources I consulted that mention Halkett marching out through Fairfax County along what is now called Braddock Road in our area. This includes Thomas Crocker’s comprehensive 2009 book, Braddock’s March, which clearly traces Halkett’s march up through the present-day Tysons Corner, then to Sterling and on through the Piedmont to Winchester. (Braddock crossed the Potomac to Georgetown and proceeded with the rest of his army west along what is now Wisconsin Avenue and River Road to follow a previously “engineered” road cut through to Cumberland, Maryland.)
Despite all their efforts in hacking through the rugged mountains of Maryland west of Cumberland, the British were ambushed and thoroughly defeated in the Battle of the Monongahela, July 9, 1755. Braddock was killed (as was Halkett and one of his sons). Washington - a volunteer aide-de-camp, a staff officer with no official rank or authority - being one of the few officers remaining, took the initiative to rally the survivors and got them back to Fort Cumberland safely. He paused on the retreat to bury General Braddock in the roadway and ordered the wagons and troops to pass over the grave to obliterate it. (This is a very interesting historical site to see near Uniontown, Pennsylvania if you take scenic Route 40 towards Pittsburgh.) If any road deserves to be called Braddock Road, it is this segment of historical roadway in Pennsylvania. The site of the battle lies within the present-day city of Braddock, Pennsylvania and nearby Braddock Mountain. There is also the Maryland town of Braddock Heights on U.S. 40 outside of Frederick, which is on the route that General Braddock himself took to his ill-fated end. So the poor genreal is well-memorialized, including by a road through the Braddock District of Fairfax County that, as far as is known, he never traversed!
Last Update: January 02, 2020