Copyright
American Historical Society George Thornton Fleming.

History of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 online

. (page 41 of 81)
Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 41 of 81)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


We all know the future fortune of the shrewd and more subtle North Briton. He
rose to a distinguished station, but of the faithful and heroic Stobo we have no
knowledge. Where were his later years passed? Did he long survive the capture of
Quebec? Or did his fiery spirit soon wear out his earthly tabernacle? Did the British



Digitized by



Google



TWO FAMOUS HOSTAGES 293

government overlook his past services or was he employed in some distant portion of
dieir widespread dominions? These are all questions which the writer would gladly
have answered. N. B. C.

Craig's questions are answered in this chapter.

In a paragraph in the Appendix to the "Memoirs/* Craig says :

My friend Lyman C Draper, in an article in Vol. I, of "The Olden Time," labored
with a zeal creditable to his feelings, and with all that ability which he possesses, to
exculpate Van Braam. I fear his task is a hopeless one. He relies much upon Burk's
"History of Virginia" (poor authority) and upon the expression, "we" and "us" in
Stobo's two letters. These he supposes to refer to Stobo and Van Braam, and Burk
says they escaped together from Quebec. But Van Braam's name is never mentioned
by Stobo. Besides, Lieut. Lyons, who was sent to Fort Duquesne with a flag of truce,
reported that on that day he left the fort, Stobo was sent to Montreal, but said nothing
about Van Braam. The mistranslation of the word "assassine" in the articles of cap-
itulation at Fort Necessity, the vote of the Virginia Assembly, the subsequent silence
of Van Braam, and his never reappearing in the colonies, leave little ground to believe
him to have been a true man. N. B. C.3

Craig admitted having been intensely interested in the story of
Stobo and in the man himself long before the publication of Stobo's
Memoirs. In the "Olden Time," Craig has inserted pages concerning
the famous hostage.

Perhaps it was this interest that led Craig to secure the copy of
Stobo's Memoirs three years after Craig published his "History of Pitts-
burgh," and six years after "The Olden Time" had been discontinued.

Among the many items published by him in "The Olden Time" is
this one :

Captain Stobo. — ^This personage, who was with Washington at the time of the
surrender of Fort Necessity, and who was then given up as a hostage to the French,
has always been a subject of interest and curiosity to us. His letters written from Fort
Duquesne while he was a prisoner, the fearless spirit which he displayed in those let-
ters, his great anxiety that the place should be recaptured, reckless of its effect upon
himself, has always excited a strong interest in our mind for further information about
him. We have made many inquiries about him, but have never until recently heard a
word more about him. We had never found person of the name of Stobo, so that we
could not even learn what countryman he was.

A short time since, however, we were on a visit to our aged mother in the country,
who has a very respectable old fashioned library, and while there happened to pidc
up an early volume of the "Port Folio" and upon opening it, the very first words that
met our eye were "Captain Stobo." Our attention, of course, was arrested, and we
found the following extract of a letter from David Hume to Dr. Tobias Smolle^, dated :

Ragley, 21st September, 1768^
I did not see your friend. Captain Stobo, till the day before I left Cirencester, and
only for a little time; but he seemed to be a man of good sense and has surely had
extraordinary adventures in the world. He has promised to call on me when he comet
to London, and I shall always see him with pleasure.

We were struck with the singularity of the whole matter. We entertained no doubt
that this was our Captain Stobo, and are equally confident that he was a Scotchman;
so we are a little wiser than we were. Perhaps if we could get the correspondence of
Smollet, we could learn something more about him. Will not some our Scotch friends
give us some aid in the search after the gallant Captain Stobo's adventures? He



^''Memoirs of Stobo;" Appendix, Craig's own footnote, p. 79. See "Olden Time;**
VoL I, p. 369^ gt sgq.



Digitized by



Google



294 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

appeared "extraordinary" to the great historian Hume, and would surely be interesting
on the site of Fort Duquesne.^

Craig's text of the letters reads:

Letter prom Captain Stobo, Jui,y 28, 1754.
The Indians are greatly alarmed at a report said to be brought up by an Indian
named Tuscarora John. He reports that the Half-King Monecatootha, and a Shaw-
anese King, etc, to the number of 37, were confined by the English and carried as
prisoners. That John Meinors, alias Jacob Cork, of Montour's company, told him as
soon as they got them to the inhabitants they would hang them all, and advised him to
make his escape. This was industriously reported the day before the Shawanese coim-
selled with the French and their Indians. The French made them a very long and
eloquent speech ; telling them they did not come to make war with them, but the Eng-
lish would not let them alone. That they expected their children would not see their
father abused in his old age; but that if they had a mind to join the English they might;
that if they had a mind to live in peace with all, there were goods for theuL This was
all I could pick up. The French gave two very large belts of Wampum and as many
strings. Their Indians gave an equal number. The French likewise gave them a large
present, viz: 16 very fine guns, 2 barrels of gunpowder, and bullets in proportion, 16
fine suits of clothes, several of a meaner kind, blankets, strouds, etc. The Shawanese
made no answer at that time, nor have I heard they have as yet 'Tis now reported for
certain, that the Half-King etc, are killed, and their wives and children given up to the
barbarity of the Cherokees and Catawbas, of whom they say there are 300 at the new
store. True or false, it has greatly alarmed them, and had it not been for that report,
I believe a great many Indians and several nations would have been with you now.
If true (which I cannot think) there will be no farther dependence on any Indians in
this way, and will make our return very hazardous, but that is not to be considered.
The Shawanese, Picts and Delawares have had a grand council by themselves; what
they have determined I know not; but I have persuaded some of them to venture to
see you, by assuring them they will be used in the best manner, and there b large pres-
ents at the new store. A present well timed now, will be of great service. If peace be
made with the Indians, Catawbas and Cherokees, I hope all will go well. I assure you
there was not any of those Indians we call ours at the battle, except six or seven. I
believe of the Mingo nation, two fellows not regarded by them, particularly one Eng-
lish John ; he was at Gist's with those that were suspected as spies. I am informed he
intends to see you with some of the rest Take care of them. I send this by Moneca-
tootha's brother-in-law; a worthy fellow; and may be trusted. On the other side, you
have a draft of the Fort, such as time and opportunity would admit of at this time.
The garrison consists of 200 workmen, and all the rest went in several detachments to
the number of 1000, two days hence. Mercier, a fine soldier, goes ; so that Contrecoeur
with a few yotmg officers and cadets remain here. A Lieut, went off some days ago,
with 200 men, for provisions. He is daily expected. When he arrives, the garrison will
be 400 men. I^ Force is greatly wanted here — ^no scouting now — ^he certainly must have
been an extraordinary man amongst them— he is so much regretted and wished for. When
we engaged to serve the country, it was expected we were to do it with our lives. Let
them not be disappointed. Consider the good of the expedition, wiUiout the least regard
to us. . For my part, I would die a thousand deaths, to have the pleasure of possessing
this Fort but one day. They are so vain of their success at the Meadows, it is worse
than death to hear them. Strike this fall as soon as possible. Make the Indians ours.
Prevent intelligence. Get the best, and tis done. 100 trusty Indians might surprise this
Fort. They have access all day, and might lodge themselves so that they might secure
the guard with tomahawks; shut the sally gate, and the Fort is ours. None but the
guard and Contrecoeur, stay in the Fort. For God's sake communicate this to but few,
and them you can trust Intelligence comes here unaccountably. If they should know I
wrote, I would lose the liberty I have. I should be glad to hear from you, but take no



sThe "Olden Time;" Vol. I, p. 283. The "Port Folx>" was a magazine of a cen-
tury ago.



Digitized by



Google



TWO FAMOUS HOSTAGES 295

notice of this in your's. Excuse errors, bad dicticm, etc. Pray be kind to this Indian.
Springes and Delaware George have been here. (A plan of the fort follows.)

Sbcond Letter Dated Fort Duquesne, July 29, i754-

Sir— I wrote you yesterday by an Indian named the Long or Mono; he will be with
you in seven days. This goes by Delaware George. If these discharge their trust they
ought to be well awarded. The purport of yesterday's letter was to inform you of a
report, and I hope false, which greatly alarms the Indians; that the Half-King, and
Monecatootha are killed, their wives and children given to the Cherokees. I wish a
peace may be made up between the Catawbas and the nations here; they are much
afraid of them. Many would have joined you ere now had it not been for that report
You had as just a plan of the fort as time and opportunity would allow. The French
manage the Indians with great artifice. I mentioned yesterday a council the Shawanese
had with the French, the present they gave, and if they made the French a speech yes-
terday, the bearer, who was present, will inform you to what purport. If yesterday's
letter reaches you it will give you a particular account of most things. I have scarce a
minute; therefore can add only one more thing; there are about 200 men here at this
time, 200 more expected in a few days; the rest went off in several detachments to
the amount of 1000 besides the Indians. The Indians have great liberty here; they go
out and in when they please without notice. If 100 trusty Shawanese, Mingoes and
Ddawares were picked out, ^ey might surprise the Fort, lodging themselves under the
platform behind the palisadoes by day, and at night secure the guard with the toma-
hawks. The guard consists of 40 men only and 5 officers. None lodge in the Fort
but the guards, except Contreoceur — the rest in bark cabins around the Fort. All this
you have more particular in yesterday's account. Your humble servant, La Force is
greatly missed here. Let the good of the expedition be considered preferable to our
safety. Haste to strike.

A list of deserters and prisoners at the French Fort:

Mercer's company— John Smith, John Baker. Did not get here till after the
detachment of deserters.

Vanbraam's do — Barnabas Deven.

Mercer's do. — ^Jacob Arants, John Ramsey. This man is the cause of all our mis-
fortunes. He deserted the day before the battle. The French got to Gist's at dawn,
surrounding the Fort, imagining we were still there, gave a general fire. But when.
they found we were gone, they were determined to return to the inhabitants — ^when up
comes Mr. Rascal, told them he had deserted the day before, and the regiment was still
at the Meadows, in a starving condition, which caused his deserting, and hearing they
were coming, deserted to them. They confined him — told him if true he should be
rewarded, if false, hanged. This I had from the English interpreters.

Mechas' do— John Stuerdfages, wounded in the right arm.

Montour's do^Daniel Laferty, Henry O'Brien, prisoners.

Taken at Guest's by an IncUan named English John, Lowre/s traders, Andrew
M'Briar, Nehemiah Stevens, John Kennedy, Elizabeth Williams.

The Indians offered their prisoners for sale. Enquired the price— 40 pistoles for
each. A good ransom.

All sent to Canada in custody of the Indian who took them, except John Kennedy;
he was given to the Owl to wait upon while his leg was curing. He was wounded with
ten others, and four Indians. All are recovering but one, who died after having his arm
cut off. Four were shot on the spot That is all the loss I can hear of. On the 3rd
three of the people deserted. I hope they all got with you by this time. I hear more
intend it soon. I spoke to the commander several times concerning the prisoners, tell-
ing him as long as we came to a capitulation, he had no right to make them prisoners —
he told me they were the Indians' and he could not get them from them.'*

Something in the way of biography is now pertinent concerning
Stobo, and some estimates of his character other than Craig's, who
became a hero worshiper, with Stobo the object of his encomiums.



^"History of Pittsburgh," N. B. Craig, Original Edition, pp. 33-40; Edition 1917,
pp. 19-24. "The Olden Time," Vol. I, pp. 59-62. "Mechas' " Stobo's spelling of Mackaye's.



Digitized by



Google



296 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

It appears from his Memoirs that Stobo was bom at, or near, Glas-
gow, Scotland, in 1727. His father was a merchant and Robert was his
only son. His mother died when he was young. He was a delicate
child. He early inclined to a spirit of adventure. He was sent by some
Glasgow merchants to serve in a store in Virginia, being perfectly willing.
Subsequently he sold his property in Glasgow and engaged in business
on his own account in Virginia. Leading a gay life, in modem parlance
"having a good time," his business did not prosper. However, he fell in
with Gov. Dinwiddie, a fellow-countryman, with whom he became a
great favorite. In 1754, when Stobo was 2j years of age, Dinwiddie
appointed him the senior captain in the Virginia regiment for service
on the border. This brought him under the command of Washington.

At Quebec, as at Fort Duquesne, Stobo and Van Braam had a meas-
ure of liberty. Stobo made good use of his opportunities and later we
shall hear of him in an event that changed the map of North America.
With the defeat of Braddock came misfortune to Stobo. He was put in
close confinement. So too. Van Braam. At times they were fed only
on bread and water. Ordinarily they were allowed a pound of bread
and a pound of horse flesh a day. It occurring to the French that Stobo
was deserving of severe punishment he was tried and convicted as a
spy and sentenced to be executed. Delays ensued in the carrying out
of the sentence, but the rigor of his confinement was made more so. In
a most remarkable manner Stobo and a companion escaped, and after
various hardships arrived at Louisburg on the island of Cape Breton.
Here he learned that Gen. Wolfe had left with his army for Quebec with
the object of capturing that city. Stobo immediately returned to Quebec,
joining the expedition in the siege.

Let us bring our imaginations into play and behold a drama unique
in the history of war. We see a procession of boats filled with English
soldiers steered silently down a mighty river. It is night. The stars
are out but the darkness is impressive. In one of the foremost boats sits
Gen. James Wolfe, going to his death. Close at hand is the erstwhile
prisoner of Fort Duquesne, the unconquerable Stobo. To relieve the
intense strain of his mind the general recites "Gray's Elegy," among the
verses the line soon to be illustrated by his own fate: "The paths of
glory lead but to the grave."

The flotilla nears its destination and will soon safely land its army
of scarlet uniforms. The tide is bearing the boats towards the shore;
a mighty wall of rock towers in the darkness on their left. The stillness
is broken: "Qm« Vwef" is the sharp resonant challenge from an alert
sentry on the shore, invisible in the gloom. "France," calmly responds
the Highland officer appointed to that duty because he understood
French.

The sentry was a soldier — ^a true son of Old France. *'A quel regi-
mentr* ("What regiment?") he demands. '*De la Reine" responded
the imperturbable Highlander, with the injunction: "Hush! We have
provisions. You will expose us to the English." A second challenge
followed ; this time the sentry could be seen running down to the water's
edge. Like questions were asked and like answers given.



Digitized by



Google



TWO FAMOUS HOSTAGES 297

The Queen's regiment was well known, and the custom of the French
in landing provisions by river was fully known to their soldiers. It
had been revealed to Wolfe by deserters. The sentry expecting provision
boats was satisfied and did not ask the password.

They land at the appointed place selected by Stobo, accepted by
Wolfe. It is at the foot of the cliflfs at a little cove, Anse de Foulon.
There was no sentry there.

The Scotchman, Stobo, leads the way up the cliflFs, Wolfe and the
officers following. They find, at length, the path barricaded.

Col. Howe, afterwards the antagonist of Washington on Long Island,
with twenty-four daring spirits, gained the heights by climbing. It was a
forlorn hope, but it succeeded and at the first sound of musketry the sol-
diers with Wolfe tore away the barricades and toiled up the cliffs, Wolfe
among the first.*^

The world has long known the story of Quebec. There is evidence
that Stobo did not engage in the battle that followed, for in his "Me-
moirs'' this paragraph is to be found :

The Major's service at Quebec was all obedience to command, and information, to
his great patron, best, and almost only known ; he pointed out the place to land, where
afterwards they did, and were successful ; and having contributed all that* s in his power
to this great work, the General wants a oourier to dispatch for General Amherst, and
he's the only one that's found that knows the route by which fhey needs must pass, and
straight his business is imparted, and he has leave to go. Kind recommending letters*
too, he bore from his great Patron, to the other General. Now from his worthy noble
Patron he must separate, and separate from his fortune too; for sure as he had faced
the enemy in field of battle, so sure he'd fallen, as known by sight by every soldier
in Quebec*

Bradley, a recent historian, says:

Wolfe, however, was chafing sorely under a sense of impotence. Montcalm would
not stir. Why should he? And there seemed no single point at which he was even
reasonably vulnerable to a far inferior force. Only one man in the army knew the
enemy's ground, and that was Stobo, who was Washington's brother officer in the very
first blow struck in this war at Fort Necessity. He had been left at Fort Duquesne as a
hostage on that occasion, whence he had been forwarded to Quebec He was now at
Wolfe's side, with a local knowledge that must have been acceptable.7

Craig has also these footnotes :

Extract from the journal of Captain Jno. Knox, of the British army during the
campaigns of 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760, in North America.

Under date of August 26^ 1759, says : "A gentleman at Quebec has written to a
Provincial Officer who was a prisoner there, to request he would obtain a protection
from the General for his country seat on the Island of Orleans; as that person was
always remarkable for great humanity and politeness to British captives, his suit is
cheerfully granted."

Here this note is appended by Captain Knox: "This is Mr. Stobo, an officer of
great merit, who had be^ an occasional Major of the Provincials, and for particular
good services, was rewarded with a company in the fifteenth regiment of foot"*



»Cf. "Montcalm and Wolfe," Chanq^lain Edition, Vol. HI, pp. 130, 131.
•"Memoirs Major Stobo;" Craig's Edition, p. 71.
7"Fight with France for North America;" A. G. Bradley, p. 307.
^"Memoirs of Major Stobo;" edited by Neville B. Craig; footnote, p. 69.



Digitized by



Google



298 HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH

Tlie adventures of Stobo in Quebec and his escape make too long
a story. It can be read in Sir Gilbert Parker's novel, "The Seats of the
Mighty," where Stobo masquerades as Captain Moray.

In Stobo's "Memoirs" after he had gained the welcome port of
Louisburg, thirty-eight days out from Quebec, the narrative proceeds
thus :

No sooner is he landed, than straight the news run through the town that Captain
Stobo has escaped from Quebec, and is just arrived, but it's believed by none, and
several run to see if such a thing could happen; and some who had formerly known
him, assure the rest that he's the very man, to their great wonder and amaze, after
such a great price was set upon his head, and guarded with such care. But now the
schooner's to be sold, and she had furs and sundry other valuable goods, besides the
vessel; his share he generously bestowed on the poor woman and children, as he has
nobler gains in view : his heart still glows for honor in the service of his country.

Two days or so were passed, and then a vessel's ready to proceed to Quebec ; this
wished for opportunity is embraced at once, and he's on board; and now, with equal
ardor, wishes for the place he strove so hard to shun. No danger on the river is now
dreaded, nor yet the light of day, and naught disturbs his rest by thinking on the
tedious hours that keep him from his duty, and hinder him to join his troops with their
united force to take Quebec and strive to join all Canada to Britain. At length the
different Islands take it in their turn to stand astern, and every land-mark's past, and
now fair Orleans is again in view, and with Britannia's lofty fleet adom'd; a cheerful
sight, indeed I Now here no time was lost till he was waited on Britannia's effective
General, immortal Wolfe, and thus addresses him:

Most excellent sir, I am glad this honor falls to me, to stand bef<M>e my sovereign's
mighty General, under the hostile walls of this proud city, whence, on the ist of May,
I did escape from a long imprisonment and harder usage. My name is Stobo; I stand
as Major of the Provincial Regiment of Virginia; through much difficulty I went to
Louisburg, there to join your troops, but missing them, I hastened back, and now pre-
sume to lay my service at your feet I believe who knows what I have suffered within
these walls, scarce well can doubt my best endeavors, under your direction, to discuss
this cruel enemy. My knowledge of the town and its environs has cost me very dear,
but not so much that I should rate it once in competition with my much loved coun-
try, and our gracious sovereign.

No more he said, his story was no secret, he is judged necessary, well received, and
constantly attends the General, and of his house makes one. But here his name, like
many a gallant soldier's, is hid in the great splendor of the mighty Wolfe, who, like the
sun with universal blaze, advancing from the East, absorbs in light of all the lesser
luminaries, who, though they shine, it is in his great orb, and only serve to constitute
one single ray of his triumph glory, the praise was justly his.^

Dr. Toner, editor of Washington's Journals, seems to have studied
Stobo's personality, for he says:

His traits of gayety did not further his commercial enterprises. Into the service he
carried his hospitable disposition providing himself liberally for the campaign. He had
ten servants, mechanics whom he had enlisted, and provided a covered wagon which he
filled with every necessary to make the mountainous deserts of the Alleghenies as agree-
able as the situation would admit On the march and in the field he kept open table
which was liberally supplied by the hunters whom he employed for the purpose. With
his other provisions he had A whole butt of Madeira wine. With all his conviviality he
was discreet and by his devotion to the service and attention to duty, won the good
opinion of his brother officers as well as the enlisted men. With all he had a daring
and adventurous disposition and had projects for the employment of a corps of
mechanics wherever the English should build forts. It was his courageous disposition



•"Memoirs of Stobo;" Craig, pp. 65-67.



Digitized by



Google



TWO FAMOUS HOSTAGES 299

that led him to offer to be one of the hostages that he might have an opportunity for
studying the country about Fort Duquesne. His plans were thwarted t^ long imprison-
ment and the coming on of war. He proved an active and efficient officer in the camp
and superintended the construction of the trenches, rifle pits and breastworks at Fort
Necessity. He bore a conspicuous and honorable part in the battle of the Great
Meadows and gave a ready assent, if he did not actually solicit to be one of the hostages.



Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 41 of 81)