Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers Gen. John Forbes & Fort Duquesne (1758) - May 26th, 2005
Posted on 05/25/2005 10:00:34 PM PDT by SAMWolf
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Rather than repeat Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock's disastrous march on Fort Duquesne through western Virginia in 1755, in 1758 Brig. Gen. John Forbes took a new route -- carved through the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania.
The Native American caught between the struggling superpowers of Britain and France. All three were victors in their time, and losers in the end.
Rationally, the decision was an easy one. His troops, having struggled through the wilderness of central Pennsylvania, were poorly fed, sick and deserting in alarming numbers. Provisions were difficult to transport by way of the crude road cut through virgin forests and over the four wall-like ridges of the Alleghenies that lay between Ligonier and Forbes' supply base in Carlisle; in winter they would be impossible to obtain. The number of hostile Indians encamped at Fort Duquesne was difficult to determine. Unclear, too, was the precise size of the French garrison. Moreover, even if the British and Americans reduced the fort, they were uncertain of holding it throughout the winter. In the laconic conclusion of Lt. Col. Bouquet, "The risks being so obviously greater than the advantages, there is no doubt as to the sole course that prudence dictates." Forbes and his officers agreed to delay the attack on Fort Duquesne until early the following year.
Within two weeks, however, the circumstances besetting Forbes' army underwent so dramatic a change that his expedition would stand out, in the words of historian Lewis C. Walkinshaw, as "one of the greatest in American history." Appreciating this paradox may be counted among the essential challenges confronting scholars of the French and Indian War.
Indian scouts watch as Gen. Braddock's troops ford a river on the way to attack Ft Duquesne
The campaign to seize Fort Duquesne had its origins in the French and British struggle for control of the fertile Ohio River valley. Erected at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers -- the "Forks of the Ohio," site of today's Pittsburgh -- Fort Duquesne revealed its strategic importance soon after its construction. At Great Meadows, Lt. Col. George Washington's attempt to secure a foothold for Virginia in western Pennsylvania was checked on July 4, 1754, when a French force based at Duquesne forced him to surrender the poorly situated Fort Necessity.
During the summer of 1755, a British expeditionary force commanded by General Braddock set out to seize Fort Duquesne. As nearly every schoolchild has learned since, Braddock's army, advancing north along the Monongahela, was ambushed and routed, and its commanding officer mortally wounded on July 9. A disaster for Braddock's combined colonial and royal army, the defeat also allowed the French and their Delaware and Shawnee allies to use Fort Duquesne as a base from which to raid with impunity the British settlements recently established on the western margin of the Susquehanna River.
"Plan of Fort Duquesne," c.1754-1758. The French built the first substantial fort on the point at the Forks of the Ohio, now modern Pittsburgh and the location of Fort Pitt. Named for the Marquis de Duquesne, Governor of New France, the fort was declared not "worth a straw" but defied all British attempts to capture it for more than four years.
British colonials on the Pennsylvania frontier panicked and began directing a stream of letters to Philadelphia, as well as to one another, recording the terror that swept through Cumberland and western York counties like a wildfire, and urging their provincial leaders to send soldiers and to build forts. Pennsylvania Governor Robert Hunter Morris could do little, however. Thwarted by a legislature that was dominated by the pacifist Quaker faction, he could not immediately obtain the militia and supply bills needed to meet the emergency. Morris did find a way around the assembly's stubbornness, though. Invoking powers he enjoyed under royal charter, he raised volunteer units of militia known as "associated companies." He also initiated the building of a defensive chain of fortifications beginning at the Delaware River and running west and southwest to the Maryland border.
Notwithstanding Colonel John Armstrong's destruction of the Delaware staging point of Kittanning in the autumn of 1756 -- a great morale-booster to the people of the Pennsylvania frontier -- the French and their allies continued to harass the frontier with lightning guerrilla raids. They also launched several well-organized military operations in the latter part of 1757 and early 1758. The British colonists soon reported "a large Body of Troops with a Number of Waggons and a Train of Artillery," in the words of John Dagworthy, marching south along the Braddock road toward Fort Cumberland in Maryland. Even as they threatened the southern access into the Ohio Valley, the French also began advancing east along a northerly route from Forts Niagara and Duquesne toward Fort Augusta on the Susquehanna (today's Sunbury), Pennsylvania's most powerful frontier outpost. At one point, Colonel Conrad Weiser reported that the French had actually cut a road to within 10 miles of Augusta.
Late in 1758, the British finally countered with a grand strategy for reversing the tide. In a three-pronged offensive, they would attack the French at their stronghold in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia; drive them from the ChamplainLake George valley of New York by taking Fort Carillon; and eliminate the small chain of forts extending south from Lake Erie to Fort Duquesne. To accomplish that third objective, the War Office appointed Brig. Gen. John Forbes to command a combined provincial and Regular British expeditionary force.
Instead of using the old Nemacolin Indian trail that ran west then northerly from Fort Cumberland in Maryland as Braddock's army had done, Forbes decided to blaze a new trail to the west. Besides its association with his predecessor's disastrous campaign, the old road required several river crossings over the treacherous Monongahela and Youghiogheny. Forbes wanted to take a shorter route, using only one easy crossing (of the Juniata), which could also give him easier access to Pennsylvania's fertile eastern farmlands and its busy port.
General John Forbes
Forbes did not completely abandon the old Braddock road, however, and even had work parties clearing and grading it. He believed that by not irretrievably rejecting the Braddock road, while simultaneously advancing on Duquesne over a route even he had not worked out completely, he would have a ready alternative route should he change his mind and keep the French uncertain of his movements, thus compelling them to widely disperse their reconnaissance elements. In this he succeeded, for by the time Duquesne's commandant, FranÃ§ois-Marie Le Marchal de Lignery (Ligneris), had obtained unambiguous intelligence regarding the route of Forbes' advance, the British had virtually secured their foothold at Fort Ligonier.
Building his road involved Forbes in two significant difficulties. First, nobody was certain how to penetrate Pennsylvania's largely uncharted western forests, nor where or how to clear an adequate way over four or five steep ridges of the Alleghenies that could carry not only 6,000 soldiers but also the continuous supply columns and wagons required to sustain that army.
The line of forts built on the Forbes road to Fort Pitt in 1758. These forts, garrisoned by British regulars and the provincial troops of Pennsylvania and Virginia, needed supplies for the garrisons. The South Branch Valley was uniquely positioned to take advantage of this need. Supplies were collected at Fort Pleasant, contractors were hired to move supplies to Fort Cumberland. From there the contractors moved northward on the road connecting Fort Cumberland with Fort Bedford. From there the contractors traveled on the new road built during the 1758 Forbes expedition until arriving at Fort Pitt.
Second, the Virginians, led by Colonel George Washington, did not want Pennsylvania to open a route into the Ohio territories, which both provinces claimed. Virginia's own interests lay in repairing the Braddock road that already gave it direct access to the Forks of the Ohio. This resistance by Virginia burgeoned into a major dispute within Forbes' command and threatened to undermine his campaign.
| How had the French at Duquesne, recently powerful enough to launch, if not execute, two expeditions, against Fort Cumberland in Maryland and Fort Augusta in Pennsylvania, come to this pass? Generally speaking, they lacked the resources -- great numbers of men and great quantities of materiel -- that the British could rely on. Add the fact that their outposts were situated too far from their sources of supply, and the advantage they had won and come to enjoy became precarious indeed. Nova Scotian Lt. Col. John Bradstreet of the Royal Americans demonstrated how vulnerable Duquesne's supply line was on August 27, 1758. On that date, he captured the principal French supply depot at Fort Frontenac (Cadaraqui) on Lake Ontario and destroyed vast amounts of provisions destined for Forts Niagara, Detroit and Duquesne, together with the boats that were to deliver them.
Cut off completely from Québec and Montréal, Commandant Lignery also lost the diplomatic war being waged to obtain and preserve Indian support. By means of Forbes' behind-the-scenes maneuvering with the Philadelphia Quakers to obtain the crucial Treaty of Easton (October 1758), and through the heroic efforts of the Moravian missionary Christian Frederick Post, who negotiated with the Indians virtually within the shadow of Fort Duquesne, the formerly hostile Delawares and Shawnees had agreed to make peace with the British and began returning to their homes.
Immediately upon hearing the new intelligence regarding the French weaknesses, Forbes ordered units of the Pennsylvania Regiment, 1,000 strong and commanded by Colonel Armstrong, to march on Duquesne the next day. A few days later, he followed with the main body of the army, 4,300 effective men.
With his garrison starving and his Indian allies deserting, Lignery had no choice but to send his French militia back to Illinois and Louisiana. After obtaining undisputable evidence that Forbes' army was resolutely marching on his remaining garrison of about 400 men, he decided to cut his losses and retreat, after destroying what he could. On November 24, scouts brought news to Forbes' advance road cutters that Fort Duquesne was on fire. The army heard a tremendous explosion about midnight.
On the following morning, the entire force advanced along the trail, where they discovered the corpses of those killed at Grant's defeat. They also saw with horror and rage the corpses of numerous captured comrades fastened on stakes, where they had been tortured and murdered -- "so many Monuments of French Humanity," in the words of one writer.
That day, Forbes' expeditionary force took possession of the Forks of the Ohio and renamed the burned stronghold after British Prime Minister William Pitt. The same men who had only days earlier perceived themselves trapped, as it were, just below the summit of their goal now experienced jubilation that admitted almost no limits. They had suffered, but they had persevered and had been rewarded, as if by the gift of grace. Several letters announcing the investment of Duquesne expressed the army's elation, but none so unequivocally as an anonymous notice that appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette: "....Blessed be God, the long look'd for Day is arrived, that has now fixed us on the Banks of the Ohio! with great Propriety called La Belle Riviere....These Advantages have been procured for us by the Prudence and Abilities of General FORBES, without Stroke of Sword....The Difficulties he had to struggle with were great. To maintain Armies in a Wilderness, Hundreds of Miles from the Settlements; to march them by untrodden Paths, over almost impassable Mountains, thro' thick Woods and dangerous Defiles, required both Foresight and Experience consider his long and dangerous Sickness, under which a Man of less Spirits must have sunk; and the advanced Season, which would have deterred a less determined Leader, and think that he has surmounted all these Difficulties, that he has conquered all this Country, has driven the French from the Ohio, and obliged them to blow up their Fort....Thanks to Heaven, their Reign on this Continent promises no long Duration!"
In the surviving written record of the Forbes campaign -- in the Pennsylvania and Virginia archives, and particularly in the letters of officers Forbes, Bouquet and Washington -- present-day scholars can detect intimations that the new way west was, if only subconsciously, often viewed as something other than merely a military road. It led toward the setting sun, backward in time, into barbarism and a wilderness where no other roads existed and where the blood-edged tomahawk reigned supreme. At times, the march invited comparison with Biblical and classical descriptions of hell, as it certainly did for Colonel Stephen when he wrote, "a dismal place! [it] wants only a Cerebus to represent Virgil's gloomy description of Aeneas' entering the Infernal Regions."
Yet, this transit through nightmare, despair and the dark night of the soul was an essential prelude to the miraculous reversal. Snaking its way slowly through a gloomy, forsaken no man's land, Forbes' army finally ascended, in the words of the anonymous report to the Pennsylvania Gazette, into "the finest and most fertile Country of America, lying in the happiest Climate in the Universe," a vast fabled garden watered by the fairest and loveliest of all rivers -- La Belle Riviére.
In its own unwitting way, the Forbes expedition of 1758 anticipated in miniature the myth inspiring the pioneers' movement westward as they struggled, blindly at times, to take possession of the North American continent.
okay, it is morning in Texas - even though not in Oregon. :-)
To all our military men and women past and present, military family members, and to our allies who stand beside us
A major war for my Dad's Family, fought,as usual, for both sides. They were a bunch of real hillbillys who married into the local girls, mostly Indian, and raised wild indian children families.
A very interesting interpretation.
Were I more versed in the intricacies of 18th century warfare on this continent and its various and sundry repercussions, I'm sure we could have a most fascinating discussion.
However, I am hampered by both a lack of time, (I have several customers and their lots to deal with) and a dearth of intimate knowledge about the French and Indian wars and their ultimate influence in the formation in the great nation known as "The United States of America".
Thanks to the "education" I was subjected to during my formative years, I am woefully ignorant and therefore owe a great debt of gratitude to the "FReeper Foxhole" for broadening my admittedly limited knowledge of MANY historical events.
Please forgive me, as I must sleep now. I've had a ROUGH and excruciatingly busy last 2 weeks, and it's NOT going to get any better for at least another 3 weeks.
God Bless you and yours.
P.S. I actually beat AERONAUT in tonight!
Good morning, snippy and everyone at the Foxhole.
Cold terror gripped the heart of a soldier as mortar rounds whistled overhead, rifles cracked, and the enemy closed in. Suddenly he felt ripping pains as a bullet tore into his chest and arm. Yet it wasn't the end for this soldier. According to an article in The New York Times, the bullet was slowed by a New Testament he was carrying in his shirt pocket. Years later, the young man still treasured the blood-stained book with the ragged hole through the middle. He believes it saved his life.
This is a nice story, but it says nothing about the life-saving spiritual help the Bible was designed to give. In Ezekiel 33, we read that the ancient Israelites used the words of the prophets to make them feel good but not to change their lives. They misused God's promises to Abraham to support their own claim to the land (v.24). They found pleasure in listening to the words of the prophet (v.30), yet the Lord said to Ezekiel, "They hear your words, but they do not do them" (v.31). The result? They came under divine judgment.
Then as now, God's Word is not to be cherished as a good-luck charm or to soothe the mind by bringing temporary relief from anxiety. It was given to be obeyed so that its help would not be only for this life-but forever. -Mart De Haan
A light to my path alway,
To guide and to save me from sin
And show me the heavenly way. -Sellers
© Renewal 1936, Broadman Press
We don't really know the Bible until we obey the Bible.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
10 Reasons To Believe In The Bible
On This Day In history
Birthdates which occurred on May 26:
1478 Clement VII [Giulio de' Medici], Italy, Pope (1523-34)
1566 Mohammed III sultan of Turkey (1595-1603)
1667 Abraham De Moivre French mathematician (De Moivre's theorem)
1700 Nikolaus L earl von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf German evangelist
1759 Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin writer/mother of Mary Shelley
1799 Alexander S Pushkin Russia, writer (Eugene Onegin)
1806 Henry Knox Thatcher Commander (Union Navy), died in 1880
1835 Edward Porter Alexander Brigadier General of artillery (Confederate Army)
1853 John Wesley Hardin was born in Bonham, Texas. (meanest man in Texas, once shot a man for snoring)
1876 Jack Root boxing's 1st light heavyweight champion
1877 Isadora Duncan San Fransisco CA, free form/interpretative dancer
1877 Sadao Araki Japanese general/minister of War (1931-34)
1886 Al Jolson [Asa Yoelson] jazz singer/film actor (Mamie, Swanee)
1895 Dorothea Lange US documentary photographer
1895 Paul Lukas Budapest Hungary, actor (Watch on the Rhine, Sphynx)
1899 Pieter Menten Dutch war criminal
1903 Estes Kefauver (Senator-D-TN)
1907 John "Duke" Wayne [Marion Michael Morrison] Winterset IA, actor (True Grit)
1908 Robert Morley Semley Wiltshire England, actor (High Road to China, African Queen)
1910 Laurence S Rockefeller New York NY, CEO (Chase Manhattan Bank)(secret ruler of the world)
1911 Ben Alexander Goldfield NV, actor (Dragnet, Outer Gate, Mr Doodles Kicks Off)
1912 János Kádár premier Hungary (1956-58)
1913 Peter Cushing Kenley Surrey England, actor (Hound of the Baskervilles, Dracula, Star Wars, Dr Who)
1919 Jay Silverheels actor (Tonto-Lone Ranger)
1920 Peggy Lee [Norma Egstrom] Jamestown ND, singer (Fever, Why Don't You Do Right)
1923 James Arness Minneapolis MN, actor (Matt Dillon-Gunsmoke, Thing)
1939 Brent Musburger sportscaster (CBS-TV)
1948 Stevie [Stephanie Lynn] Nicks Phoenix AZ, rocker (Fleetwood Mac-Bella Donna)
1949 Hank Williams Jr Shreveport LA, country singer (All My Rowdy Friends Are Comin' Over Tonight, There's A Tear In My Beer)
1949 Pam Grier Winston-Salem NC, actress (Big Bird Cage, Tough Enough)
1949 Philip Michael Thomas Columbus OH, actor (Miami Vice)
1950 ? 1st whooping crane hatched in captivity
1951 Muhammed Ahmad Faris Syria, cosmonaut (Soyuz TM-3)
1951 Sally K. Ride Los Angeles CA, 1st US woman astronaut (STS-7, STS 41G)
1956 Joe Penny actor (Jake & the Fatman)
1962 Bob[cat] Goldthwait Syracuse NY, comedian (Police Academy, Scrooged)
1964 Lenny Kravitz singer/guitar (911 is a Joke, Are You Gonna Go My Way?)
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