George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

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"We were attacked by a party of French aiul Indians, whose number did not, I
•am fnlly persuyded, exceed 300 men, while ours consif-ted of about 1,300 well-
arn^icd trocps, cliie'ly regular soldiers, who were seized with a panic and beliaved
witli more cowardice than it is possible to conceive. The soldiers behaved gal-
lantly, * * "^ there being ne:n-ly sixty killed and vroun'.ied. The A'irginia


troops showed a good deal of bravery, and were nearly all killtd. * "^ ^" The
General was wonnded and died three days after. I luckily escaped without a
wound, though I had four ballets through my coat and two horses shot under me."
It has always been a tradition that General Braddock was killed by one of his
own men. On that point, the Hon. Andrew Stewart, of Uniontown, said in his
lifetime that he knew and often conversed with Tom Fausett (who was supposed
to have shot Braddock), and that he did not hesitate to avow in the presence of
his friends that he had shot the General. Fausett was a man of gigantic frame,
of uncivilized, half savage propensities, and spent most of his life among the
mountains. He would occasionally come into town and get drunk.

Sometimes he would repel inquiries into tlie affair of Braddock's death by put-
ting liis tinger to his lips and uttering a buzzing sound; at others he would burst
into tears. In spite of Braddock's orders that the troops should not protect
themselves behiud the trees, Joseph Fausett had taken such a position, when
Braddock rode up in a passion and struck him down with his sword.

Tom Fausett, who was but a short distance from his brother, seeing the trans-
action, immediately drew up liis rifle and sliot Braddock through the lungs, partly
in revenge of his brother, and, as he always alleged, to get the General out of the
way and save the remainder of the band, who were being sacrificed through his

On the side of the French it is to be I'ecorded that Beaujeu fell at the first
fire, and under Captain Dumas the victory was gained.

These are the main incidents of the battle of Braddock's Field, as the scene
thereof was long called, but is now known as Braddock, the title of a borough of
sonje 9,000 or 10,000 inhabitants, wlio;re dwellings and workshops cover the area
of the fight, and where the largest steel works in the United States is situated.
The forest and the ravines where tlie French troops ambushed have been oblit-
erated by the impi'ovements.

From the date of this battle there aie few or no records that are germane to
the public history of Fort Diiquesne, or of the territory that became organized
or incorporated as Allegheny county until 1758. At that date the whole area
w^est of the Alleghenies was a vast wilderness, having no governmental bounds or
government, except such as might be claimed by the Provinces of Pennsylvania
or Virginia under quasi-treaties with the Indian tribes who still asserted their ter-
ritorial rights and disputed the accessation of their lands. Therefore, in sketch-
ing what may be termed the period of gestation of Allegheny county, it is dif-
ficult to avoid touching upon occurrences and movements in what are now West-
moreland, Fayette and Washington counties. In the area within which are now
embraced those counties, transpired or arose inci<lenfs which, while they are not
within the strict history of Allegheny county, were incidental to its final settle-
ment, and a necessary adjunct in the narration of its story.

Previous to the year 178S Westmoreland County, out of which Allegheny
County was taken, was a wilderness without mads otiier tlian Indian trails, as was


also Fayette, which was also taken from Westmoreland, that county originally in-
cluding the whole south-western corner of the State. The access to the "Forks,"
as the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela was designated, was up the Ju-
niata, thence by water down the Kiskiminitis to the Allegheny, or by Braddock's
road from Virginia. This latter road did not run in the same course as the one
opened afterwards by Ck)lonel Burd to Redstone creek, now the site of the town of

"The course of Braddock's road was N. N. E." says Colonel Burd in his journal,
"turning much to ye eastward." It crossed the Youghiogheny a little below the
residence of Colonel William Crawford, on the left bank of the river, and the
place is still called Braddock's Fort.

Colonel Crawford was an intimate friend of Washington, and a captain in
Forbes' expedition in 1758. He was the Colonel Crawford who was burned to
death by the Indians in 1782, on the Muskingum, having been captured in an ex-
pedition to destroy the Indians on that river.

Colonel Burd's road, according to his journal, "began a quarter of a mile from
the camp (Dunbars), the course N. N. W." He says — "Marked two trees at the
place of beginning, thus — ' The road to Bedstone, Col. J. Burd, 1759 ;' ' The road
to Pittsburgh, 1759.' "

From this it would appear that Fort Pitt was at that early date known as Pitts-
burgh, although there was at that time, by best accounts, only a few bark and log
cabins scattered around the fort.

In May, *1 755, the province of Pennsylvania agreed to send out 300 men to cut
a Avagon road from Fort London, in Bedford county, to join Braddock's road, near
the Turkey Foot, on three forks of the Youghiogheny. In 1758 it was determined
under the administration of the English government, by William Pitt, to expel
the French from the valley of the Ohio. General Forbes was placed in the com-
mand of a force of 7,850 men. Colonel Washington, who had been appointed the
colonel of a regiment of Virginia troops, when the route to be taken to Fort Du-
quesne was discussed, urged General Forbes to take the Braddock road to Fort
Duquesne, as it was already opened, which would indicate that the force of 300
men, in May, 1755, had completed the undertaking for which they were sent out.

The Pennsylvanians, however, jealous of the claims of Virginia on the Monon-
gahela, were determined not to lose the opportunity of opening a communication
with the "Forks" over their own territory.

Their counsels, backed by the arguments of Colonel Boquet, who was with the
force, prevailed with General Forbes, and in September of 1758, he, with a force
of 2,500 men, advanced to cut the road.

Washington, although chagrined at the change in the route, took a warm in-
terest in the movement, and solicited an advanced position for his own corps in
making the roa'l. He joined the advanced corps at Loyalhanna in October of that
year with the rank of Brigadier. His letters represent the party as "encountering
every hardship of an advanced season, want of clothes, and a small stock of provi-


sions." It was doAvn these two routes, the making of which has been briefly noted^
that for years the pioneers of the west came who settled in Allegheny County.

While General Forbes' advanced corps were cutting his way through West-
moreland county, he dispatched Major Grant with a force of 800 men to reconnoiter,
General Forbes himself with the main body moving slowly along by the new cut
road towards Fort Duquesne. On the night of September, 1758, Major Grant and
his force reached the hill near the fort. This hill has ever since had the name of
^'Grant's," its title being derived from that commander's battle with the French.
It had originally an elevation of about 100 feet above the level of the plain below.
Under the necessities arising from the growth of the city it has been largely graded
away, although as late as 1840, a section of its original height remained, upon
which was the first reservoir of the city's water works, occupying that portion of
the hill through which Diamond street now runs.

On the morning of the 14th of September Major Grant attacked the fort. This
attack of Major Grant is characterized by General Washington in a letter to the
Governor of Virginia as "a very ill-conceived, or very ill-executed plan, perhaps
both ; but it seems to be generally acknowledged that Major Grant exceeded his

It was eleven o'clock at night when Major Grant appeared with his troops on
tlie brow of the hill, about a quarter of a mile from the fort.

In the morning four hundred men were posted along the hill, facing the fort,
to cover the retreat of a company under Captain McDonald, who marched with
drums beating toward the enemy, Major Grant believing there was but a smal^
force in the fort. The garrison, who seemed to have kept an apparently sleepy
watch, was aroused by the music and sallied out in great numbers, of both French
and Indians. This force, accounts say, was separated into three divisions, two of
which were sent, under cover of the banks of the two rivers, to surround the
force of Major Grant, while the third delayed a while to give the others time, and
then displayed themselves before the fort as if exhibiting their whole strength.
The attack then began, and Captain McDonald, with his one company, was imme-
diately obliged to fall back on the main body under Major Grant, who at the
same moment found himself suddenly flanked on all sides by the detachments of
the enemy moving from the banks of the river. The struggle became desperate.
The provincial troops, as at Braddocks, at once covered themselves behind trees,
and made a good defence ; but the Highlanders stood exposed to the fire without
cover, and fell in great numbers, and at last gave way and fled. Major Lewis,
who had been posted in the rear with two hundred men, principally American
regulars and Virginia volunteers, with the baggage, hastened forward to the sujj-
port of Grant, but soon found himself flanked on both sides. The work of death
went on rapidly, and in a manner quite novel to the Highlanders, who in all their
European wars had never before seen men's heads skinned ; the}^ gave way, and
the rout of tlie troops became general.

It is recorded as one of the incidents of this rout, that as Major Lewis was
advancing with his men he met a Scotch Highlander under full flight, and on in-


quiring of him ])o\v the battle was g')ing, tlie panic stricken soidier replied: they
were " a' beaten, and he iiad seen Donald McDonald up to his hunkers in nnid,
and a' the skin off his -heed." This would indicate that the Highlanders liad
reached or were passing the point or base of the hill, at the present line of Smith-
field street, between Fifth avenue and Third avenue, as a series of ponds or stretch
of swamp skirted the base of Grant's hill just here, and it was probably in passing
through this swampy portion of the ground that poor Donald McDonald sunk up
to his "hunkers in mud" and lost the "skin of his heed," and it is probable that
he was the Captain McDonald who led his one company with drums beating down
the face of the hill as if on parade.

A number of the men were driven into the river and drowned, and Major
Lewis taken prisoner. This officer is the celebrated General Andrew Lewis of the
Lidian war of 1774, commonly called Lord Dunmore's war. He was the com-
panion of Washington in the campaign of Braddock, and was a captain in the
detachment that fouglit at Fort Necessity, and it is stated that Washington's
opinion of Lewis' military abilities was so great that when the chief command of
the revolutionary armies was tendered to him, that he recommended it should
rather be given to General Lewis. Stuart, in his Historical Memoira, says, " General
Lewis was upwards of six feet high, of uncommon strength and agility, and his
form of the most exact symmetry. He had a stern and invincible countenance,
and was of a reserved and distant deportment, which rendered liis presence more
awful than engagina:."

Major Grant retreated to the baggage, where Captain Bullet, with fifty Vir-
ginians, endeavored to rally the flying soldiers. As soon as the enemy came up
Captain Bullet attacked them with great fury ; but being unsupported, and most
of his men killed, Avas obliged to retreat. Major Grant and Captain Bullet were
the last to desert the field. They separated, and Major Grant was taken prisoner.
It is not without interest in this connection to state that the point at which' Grant
was captured was at wliat is now the corner of Wood street and Third avenue^
wliere the St. Charles Hotel now stands.

This is the same Col. Grant who, in 1775, on the floor of the British Parliament
said that he liad often acted in the same service with the Americans ; that he knew
tliem well, and from that knowledge ventured to predict "that they would never
dare face an English army, as being destitute of every requisite to good soldiers."

Yrhile Grant and Lewis w^ere detained as prisoners at Fort Duquesne, Grant
siddressed a letter to General Forbes, attributing their defeat to Lewis. This
letter being inspected by the French, who knew the falsehood of the charge, they
handed it to Lewis. He waited upon Grant and challenged him ; upon his refusal
to fight he spat in his face in the presence of the French officers, and left liim ta
reflect upon his baseness.

Gn November 24th, the French, panic stricken at the approach of General
Forbes' main army, set fire to the inflamable parts of the fort, and blew n\) others,
and embarking in boats or batteaux, descended the Ohio. General Forl^es repaired


to wnie extent the ruined fort, and returned in a fev,- weeks to Pliiladelphia, wliei e
he soon afterwards died, in March, 1759, aged 49 years.

In the Pittsburgh Gazette, 1841, Neville B. Craig, Esq., says: "Two liundred
men of Washington's regiment were left to garrison the plac e." He makes na
mention, however, of Wasliington being at the fort, although in the same article
he says, writing of the advance of Forbes' forces: "Washingt(m was advanced to-
the fort to superintend the opening of the road, and the army moved after liim
by slow and laborious steps." The presumption would be that he was at or near
the fort on its occupancy by the English, but probably returned with Forbes to
Pliiladelphia or to Virginia, leaving a portion of his original regiment, as before
stated, to defend the fort. On this point, Col. Boquet, who was with Gen. Forbes
at the occupation of Fort Duquesne, and also subsequently ordered by General
Armherst to the relief of Fort Pitt, writes from Fort Duquesne, under date of
November 25th, 1758: " We marched this morning and found the report trne-^
Ihey have blown up and destroyed all their fortifications, horses, ovens, and
magazines; all their Indian goods burnt in the stores, which seem to have been
considerable. There seem to have been about 400 men, part is gone down the-
Ohio, 100 by land, supposed to Presque Isle, and 200 with Governor M, De Lig-
nerVj to Venango. The destruction of the fort, the want of victuals, and tlie-
impossibility of being supplied in time at this distance and season of the year,,
obliges us to go back and leave a small detachsuent of 200 men only by way of
keeping possession of the ground."

Mr. Craig says: — "The first Fort Pitt, a slight works, composed of pickets with
a shallow and narrow ditch, was partly thrown up for the reception of 200 men.
The rest of the army returned to the settlement."

In the summer of 1759 General Stanwix arrived and began the erection of
Fort Pitt, on a plan drawn by K. Kutzer. A letter written from thence, in Sep-
tember, 1759, says: "It is now a month since the army has been employed erect-
ing a most formidable fortification, such a one as will, to latest posterity, secure Brit-
ish Empire on the OhioP

Considering this assertion, under the facts of subsequent history, the French
proverb, "■ L' Jiomme propose et Diea dispose," rises irresistibly in the mind.

To a clear understanding of these facts, 'round which two prominent historical
battles were fought, which has made Allegheny County classic ground in American
history, the subjoined engraving of Fort Pitt is given. It is a reduced copy of the
draft made by Engineer Rutzer, in 1761, afterwards presented to George III , and
given by George IV. to the British Museum, from which a copy was made by^
Km. Richard Biddle of Pittsburgh, in 1830, during his visit to London.

Tlie plan, it will be noted, shows the original site of Fort Duquesne, the first
Fort Pitt, or the slight stockade, so called, put up by General Forbes, and the-
second Fort Pitt, erected under General Stanwix's command. The more detailed
view of Fort Duquesne, wiiich forms one of the illustrations of this volume, is-
from a sketch made by Captain Strob(>, wh.en held as a hostage there by the
French, in 1754, as before mentioned.



a, Barracks, already built. 5, Commandant's House, not built, c, Store House, d, d, Pow-
■der Magazines, e, Casemate, completed. /, Store House for Flour, &c. g, Wells, in two of which
are pumps, h, Fort Duquesne. /, i, Horn Work, to cover French Barracks. A-, First Fort Pitt,
^destroyed, n, Sally Port.

Fort Pitt was finally finished on June 8tli, 1760, and is stated to have cost the
English Government sixty thousand pounds sterling, or about $300,000.

There is a natural tendency in the human mind to speculate on what might
have been the results had events been reversed, and the query arises as to whether
the United States would have been as they are now, or the same progress and the
same commercial and manufacturing character obtained around the forks of the
■Ohio and gradually spread westward, had the French retained control of the
■country west of the AUeghenies. The country would have, in that event, naturally
beea largely settled by the French people, as it would have been to the direct in-


terest of France to have encouraged tlie emigration of her subjects thither. France
would have then completed her policy of connecting the Canadas with Louisiana,
by a chain of forts and thus secured the control of the great rivers of the west.
Naturally the French are a pastoral nation, vy^hile the English are a manufac-
turing people.

The atmosphere of character has at all times dominated the spirit of the de-
velopment of a country. While natural causes would ultimately have engendered
the manufacturing enterprise that has placed Allegheny County so prominently
before, not only the country, but the world, slower progress would possibly have
been made. The colonization of Canada by the French is illustrative of the
thought where the social and commercial atmosphere made by them delayed and
still retards the rapid development of the resources of that section.

Less cruel than the English in their acquisition of new territory, the French,
as is apparent in all their history in the new world, fraternize largely with the
Indians; that policy and disposition being greatly dominated by the religious
aims of the Jesuits, which were always, primarily, to convert the people of the
country and increase the following of the church. The result of this policy was
to create a feeling of brotherhood, instead of a sentiment of antagonism, as
historically the case under English conquests.

Even if France had held control of the Mississippi Valley, England would no
doubt have continued to have held the country from the seacoast to the eastern
slope of the Alleghenies. While under the taxation of the English the colonies
might have rebelled, yet it is probable, with all the country to the west held by
France, the government of England would have long hesitated before they would
have forced their American colonies to declare their independence, under the
possibilities of powerful aid they might receive from the age-long enemy of Great

It is a singular coincidence in connection with this thought that, as the history
is, the English colonies should have, by the aid of France, established their inde-
pendence, as would have been the case had that government retained sway west of
the Alleghenies.

While, if such had been the case, there is some probability that a republican
form of government might have been established in the Mississippi and OhiO'
Valleys by the French, yet as such a revolt in French colonies has not been in
history, the probabilities are equally great that such would not have been the case
in America, as France, in view of the agricultural richness of that section, would
have endeavored by mild legislation to retain the loyalty of the colony instead of.
alienating it by unjust taxations, as did Great Britain witfi her American colony.
Had, however, in the course of time, a French republic been established, it would
have coalesced with the American.

While antagonism, leading to wars^ might not have resulted, the North Amer-
ican continent would have been divided between two distinct people. It might be
said, perhaps, three, for from the natural disposition of the French to fraternize-


<!nd intermarry with the Indians, and the equally natural efforts of the Jesuit
element of the Roman Catholic Church, there would have been an intermixture
\jf race, by intermarriage, resulting in a lower grade of civilization than has been
attained under the exclusive American control. The capture of Fort Duquesne,
therefore, by General Forbes, by which the power of France was broken in the
Ohio Valley, must be looked upon as the pivotal circumstance in the march of
events that created a great nation of freemen and gave it the control of tlie con-
tinent, and must be considered a very important event in the history of Allegheny

After the capture of Fort Duquesne and the building of Fort Pitt, there were
frequent conferences with the Indians and the commanders of the fort. On De-
cember 4th, 1758, one was held by Colonel Henry Boquet with the Delawares. On
July 4th, 1759, Colonel Hugh Mercer met for conference with the six nations of
Shawnees and Delawares, July 4th of the same year Colonel George Croghan
met in conference with an important delegation of the Indian tribes, at which the
prominent chiefs of the Delawares, Shawnees and Wyandots represented those
tribes, and also by deputation of the Ottawas, Chippewas, Putawatimes, Twitha-
wies, Cuskusrees, Kickapoos, Shokeys and Musquakes, October 25th of the same
year General Stanwix held a conference with the six nations of the Delawares
and Twithawies, At these several conferences the Indians assembled in large
bands, with all the pomp of Indian, council and the dignity of independent
nations, in treaty with the victorious English for peace and the preservation of
their own national integrity.

In the historical reviews of the early incidents at Fort Pitt this year is notable
as investing Allegheny County and Pittsburgh with a halo of the romance that
gathers with the passage of time, and the gradual dispersement of the Indian race
around localities wliere they were prominent in battle and in councils. Beyond
these important Indian conferences, there does not appear to be any mention of
general public importance at or about that time connected with the region at or
contiguous to what is now Allegheny County. Emigration came slowly in, and
under the protecting influence of the fort, traders pursued their business with the
Indians with comparative security.

The English historian, Smollett, in commenting on the actions of General
Stanwix while at ,Fort Pitt, says: "The happy consequences of these measures
were soon apparent in the production of considerable trade between the nations
and the merchants of Pittsburgh,"

The ground around the forts seem, under the quiet that prevailed among the
Indians, and the consequent security to settlers, to have begun appreciating in
value, and sales were made in 1792 at fifteen pounds ten shilling per hundred
acres, Pennsylvania currency. This calm continued until the outbreak of the
famous Pontiac war in 1763, That Indian chief had conceived the idea of uniting
all the northwest tribes in a simultaneous attack on all of the frontier forts.

In this famous Indian war, although its principal events were in the region of
Detroit, yet Fort Pitt was still a point of mark and of attempted capture. The


Indians surrounded tlie fort and cut off all communication with it. They posted
themselves on the banks of both rivers, and continued there from day to day with
great patience, pouring in showers of fire, arrows and musketry, hoping by famine,
fire, or by harrassing the garrison, to carry the works.

It was also planned to attack Fort Ligonier, in AVestmoreland county, and by
capturing it cut ofi^ the supplies of Fort Pitt, and so reduce it by starvation. The

Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 2 of 43)