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

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to the Carolinas was left exposed and frightened inhabitants were obliged
to flee eastward, abandoning most of their possessions. The merciless
Indian war on the borders became more merciless. Years of terror en-

25"Washington'8 and Braddock's Expeditions;" pp. loo-ioi.
^••Writinffs of Washington;" Sparks, VoL II, p. 77, -Works of Franklin;-
/«(/., Vol. Vlf, p. 94.

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sued. Then came Forbes, and Bouquet, and finally Wayne, and the
winning of the West was begun.

Braddock's defeat had two effects; one immediately bad; from the
other came good years later. First, the defeat inspired the Indians with
contempt for the English soldiers and respect for the military ability of
the French. The neutral tribes who had wavered, no longer did so, but
came over to the French. They began to regard their own prowess with
unbounded complacency and days of woe followed for the colonists.
The second effect, wherein the defeat was not a misfortune, lay in the
wide-open fact that the English army was not invincible. The American
colonist lost his reverence for the English soldier. Henceforth there
came always in mind the action of that soldier on the banks of the
Monongahela and the measure of his worth was taken accordingly.

Today from the heights of Kennywood, gazing across the placid
river towards the scenes of slaughter of 166 years ago, it is proper to
repeat the inquiry of the contrite general : "Who would have thought it?"
and we may add his last words also : "Next time we shall know how to
deal with them," for the next time, November 25, 1758, came Forbes and
victory, then Pittsburgh — then Braddock's Fields — as a home locality,
and a century and a half from the day the lilies of France came down
forever from the walls of Fort Duquesne the famous fields had been
transformed into a great industrial community as famous in the arts of
peace as it had been in war. One can see in imagination the scenes
of martial display remarked by Washington as the most beautiful he
had ever witnessed. Every soldier attired in his best uniform, the
burnished arms gleaming and glistening in the warm sun, colors waving
aloft, drums beating the stirring grenadiers' march to the shrill fifes*

All this at eleven a. m. By two o'clock the advance under Gage met
the first withering volley from the ambushed foe — confusion, panic, rout,
flight ensue. By five the little remnant was across the Monongahela,
no longer a fighting force — only a fleeing, helpless mob. Never so quick
and unexpected a defeat ^o British arms ; never so base conduct of war-
tried, proud-spirited soldiers. No glory for any who so valiantly crossed
the stream but a few hours before, save the glory of death to the officers
who fell by the score — dead on the field of dishonor. Standing on
Kenn3rwood, sorry history comes to mind from the contemplation of
the north shore. The vast industries tranquil in their ceaseless grind
have long since drowned the shrieks of Braddock's slaughtered braves
— the braves of other fields.

Washington was there ; Gist was there ; George Croghan was there,
and Daniel Morgan and others who later figured in Pittsburgh history.
There amid the terrors of the day there came to the minds of the few
American soldiers with Braddock the striking fact that the British
soldiery was not invincible, and twenty years later when the shots
heard 'round the world rang out at Lexingfton, the fact was made more
striking and again the royal standard of Britain was humiliated and
the red-coats fled.

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From Kennywood one looks towards where once were Braddock's
spring and Frazier's cabin — he sees the furnaces, the rail mill, the rush-
ing trains, the great works of the Edgar Thomson steel plant, the towns
of Braddock and North Braddock, Rankin, and Swissvale. Fifty thou-
sand people dwell on and around Braddock's Field; the slaughter is
forgotten, the shocking scenes of the battlefield are seldom reverted to,
and the gruesome relics found when the British arms triumphed at
Fort Duquesne in 1758 are no longer mentioned. Yet here in sight of
the throngs that daily seek the pleasure grounds of Kennywood there
sprang into being the germ of American Independence. "See them
run !" said the frontiersmen of Pennsylvania and Virginia under Wash-
ington. "We could have averted this disaster. We are better soldiers,
safer, saner soldiers. We know the French, we know the Indians and
now we know the British," and in the spirit of disgust for Braddock's
generalship, these same frontiersmen under Washingfton, Gates and
Morgan, showed the red-coats how Americans could fight, and the world
heard of Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Princeton and Yorktown. Thomas Gage,
who led Braddock's advance, heard it first in Boston. Braddock has
remained a synonym for defeat, just as James Grant on Grant's Hill in
Pittsburgh furnished the same spectacle of poor generalship and whose
most lasting fame is the stigma of defeat. Millions pass along Grant
street and never give a thought to Grant. Millions pass through Brad-
dock town and never think of Braddock. Millions come to Kennywood
and view the landscape o'er. They who know murmur, "It was a famous
victory" — for the French and Indians. Yes — Braddock is dead; yet
lives: Braddock's spring that flowed a hundred years has for half that
period been sewered. Millions of tons of rails have been made on
the site. The ravines where the intrepid Beaujeu hid his Canadians,
regulars and savage allies, have long years been cleared of their luxuriant
thickets of pea vines and trailers of brambles and wild plums, and their
fringes of tall wood g^ass. Only imagination acts now. The story
only appeals when first heard. Braddock died in the gloom of defeat,
yet Braddock's name is immortal. Erring, penitent Braddock I All
is wonderful history! Vast the changes of years! Astounding the
progress of years 1 Alluring the smoke of the furnaces and the red-hot
writhing rails on which are later to be carried the products of the world's
workshops! All is strange — "who would have thought it?"

Lafayette comes in 1825. He visits the battle ground. He sleeps in
the old Wallace mansion that stands yet, the elegant home about where
the first volleys of the unseen foe brought consternation and death to
the slowly advancing front line under Gage, and death too to the daunt-
less Beaujeu. We see the Wallace home — ^we think of Lafayette and
victory. We are revived. Our spirits take on animation again. The
spirits of long gone years are passing; their deeds are passing; we live
again in the twentieth century. The spirit of a new age appeals. The
world is still bad. We know it all too well, but men still war.

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The French Regime in Western Pennsylvania.

The word regime here seems inadequate to express the exact shade
of meaning desired, however it will apply if taken in its secondary
meaning — ^administration.

After the defeat of Braddock the French were in complete control
of all of North America between the Rocky Mountains and the Apal-
lachian ranges. For more than four years their fort at the Forks of
the Ohio was strongly garrisoned, and was the starting point for the
ravaging bands of their red allies who brought desolation upon the
borders of Pennsylvania and far within them. "The French position on
the Ohio was as a floodgate," says Sargent, "to open ruin and woe upon
the adjacent colonies, and though its destruction was ever a main object,
yet opinions differed as to the wisdom of attacking it directly or through
connections on the Great Lakes." A few days after Braddock's battle
the Indians dispersed, returning to their homes as was usual with them
after a decisive battle. Then but a small French force remained as
a garrison at Fort Duquesne and a third of Braddock's army would
have been sufficient to have captured it. And herein stands forth the
unsoldierly conduct of Dunbar and his men.

After July 9, 1755, until the taking of the French fort here by Forbes
November 25, 1758, we have only occasional and transient glances at
the place. April i, 1756, one Paris, first name not given, with a scouting
party from Fort Cumberland fell in with a small body of Indians com-
manded by a French officer named Donville. An action took place and
Donville was killed.* The following instructions were found upon him :

Port Duquesne, 23d.
March, 1756.
The Sieur Donville, at the head of fifty savages, is ordered to go and observe the
motions of the enemy in the neighborhood of Fort Cumberland. He will endeavor to
harass their convoys and bum their magazines at Gonococheaque, should this be prac-
ticable. He must use every endeavor to take prisoners who may confirm what we
already know of the enemy's designs. The Sieur Donville will use all his talents and
all his credit to prevent the savages from committing any cruelties upon those who may
fall into their hands. Honor and humanity ought in tbis respect to serve as guides.


It appears that Contrecoeur had gone and Dumas was in command at
the fort. Craig remarks that from this fact it is possible to reconcile
the humanity evinced in this order of Dumas with the cruelty maniit- sted
Juy 9, 1755. He notes further that the extent to which Pennsylvania
and Maryland were laid open to the ravages of the enemy by Braddock's
defeat is shown in the suggestion that Donville might destroy maga-

iThis officer's name was most probablv Douville. It was found DonviOe in "Penna.
Archives," First Series, Vol. VI, which form Sargent and Craig have followed. See
^Braddock's Expedition;" p. 224, and the "Olden Time;" Vol. I, p. 75.

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zines on the Conococheague, in the present counties of Franklin in Penn-
sylvania, and Washington in Maryland.^

Craig fixes the date of Contrecoeur's departure as March 23, 1756,
and in the "Olden Time" paragraph last cited (p. 76), says that Dumas*
directions were highly creditable to him as a humane as well as a gallant
soldier. He is right, for M. Dumas was a soldier in all the significance
that the word implies, and before the end of his long service attained
high rank in the armies of France as noted in the preceding chapter.*

Sargent states that Contrecceur continued in command at Fort Du-
quesne for several months after the battle. "It does not appear," says
Sargent, "that he was considered to possess all the requisite talents for
the maintenance of his difficult and precarious disposition; but it was
not until after Montcalm's arrival in May, 1756, and his conference with
Vaudreuil at Montreal that Contrecceur was superseded by the more
energetic Dumas."*

Several historians, Parkman especially, have sought evidence on
this disputed point, which led Dallas Albert to sum up the whole con-
troversy in these paragraphs :

That Fort Duquesne was built by Contrecceur as the commander
of the expedition and the chief officer in this region, and that it was
under his command for a time, has never been called in question. But
since the discovery of the Register and other documents of a later period,
a dispute has arisen as to who the actual commander of the fort was at
the time of the battle of Braddock's Field. On this subject Father Lamb-
ing in his translation of the Register says :

It was fonnerly asserted that he, Contrecoeur, was in command at the time of the
battle of the Monongahela, more commonly known as Braddock's defeat; and that he
was succeeded early in the spring of 1756 by M. John Daniel, Esquire, Sienr Dumas,
Captain of Infantry. It was farther stated that he was by no means disposed to favor
Beaujeu's proposed attack upon Braddock's army. But Uie discovery of the Register,
now published, would appear to prove this long entertained opinion erroneous; for in
the entry of the latter's death, he is said to be "commander of Fort Duquesne and of
the army." But on the other hand, there is not wanting evidence which would go to
show that Contrecoeur was in command He was commander of the fort from the
date of its construction, but in the winter of 1754-5, he asked to be relieved, and the
Marquis Duquesne, the Governor-General, dispatched Captain Beaujeu to relieve him,
ordering him at the same time to remain at Uie fort until after the engagement with
the English.

Albert has the following :

Francis Parkman, after giving the matter special attention in view of the state-
ments made on the basis of the baptismal register and elsewhere, has added a lengthy
note as an appendix to the latest edition of his "Montcalm and Wolfe," in which he
says: "It hiais been said that Beaujeu, and not Contrecoeur, commanded at Fort
Duquesne at the time of Braddock's Expedition. Some contemporaries, and notably
the chaplain of the fort, do, in fact, speak of him as in this position; but their evidence
is overbourne by more numerous and conclusive authorities, among these, Vaudreuil*
Governor of Canada, and Contrecoeur himself, in an official report."

fliistory of Pittsburgh ;" pp. 52-^ ''Olden Time;" Vol. I, pp. 75-761

argent, p« 224*

^••History of Pittsburgh;" pp. 52-54.
»Scc "Braddock's Expedition;''^ Sarj
^"Bniddock's Expedition;" p. 26a

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In the reports referred to by Mr. Parkman, the Governor of Canada states that
Contrecoeur was the Commandant at the Fort on the 8th of July, and that he sent out a
party, which was commanded by Beaujeu, to meet the English. In the autumn of 1756,
the Governor in asking the Colonial Minister to procure pensions for Contrecoeur and
Ligneris, stated that the former gentleman had commanded for a long time at Fort
Duquesne — from the first establishment of the English and their retirement from Fort
Necessity to the defeat of the army under General Braddock.!^

M. de Ligneris relieved Dumas of the command some time late in 1756, as he is
named as the commander on the 27th of December of that year. De Ligneris retained
command until the French were expelled from the soil of Pennsylvania. He was one of
the last to leave with his men from the btuning Fort Duquesne, whence he retired to Fort
Machault (Venango) where we hear of him later .0

The battle on the Monon^ahela was fought on the last day of Du-
quesne's term of office. The next day the celebrated Pierre Francois
Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil, assumed the duties of governor of New
France. This was July 10, 1755. Vaudreuil was troubled. There was
cause for it. He wrote De Machault that very day a long letter from
Quebec. One paragraph reads :

I had the honor to inform you that I should order 400 men whom I would take
from Presque' isle, to fall back on Niagara, but the danger to which Fort Duquesne is
exposed ha!s caused me to change my mind.

The danger to Fort Duquesne was then over. Yet Vaudreuil had not
heard the news on July 24, for on that day he wrote again, quite it
length, to Machault, this time from Montreal. He began:

My Lord : I had the honor to report to you in my letters of the 2d and loth of this
month, the sad condition of the Colony; that it was so much the more surprising too,
as it was quite unexpected by me relying on the assurance which the Marquis Duquesne
had given me that the government was quiet, that he had provided against everything
and that there was not a semblance of any movement on the part of the English.

When BraddDck's battle was fought there had been no declaration
of war, and none for months later — ^not until May 26, 1756. Hostilities
had been going on all that time. We find Vaudreuil writing a few days
after the last letter:

Fort Duquesne is really threatened. On the 7th of this month the English were
within 6 or 8 leagues of it ; I am informed by letter that they number 3000, being pro-
vided with artillery and other munitions for a siege. I would not be uneasy about this
fort if the officer had all these forces, they consist of about 1000 men, including regu-
lars, militia and Indians, with which he would be in condition to form parties sufficiently
considerable to annoy the march of the English from the first moment he had any
knowledge thereof; these parties would have harassed, and assuredly repulsed them.
Everything was in our favor in this regard, and affording us a very considerable advan-
tage. But unfortunately no foresight had been employed to supply that fort with pro-
visions and munitions of war, so that the Commandant, being in want of one and the
other, is obliged to employ the major portion of his men in making journeys to and fro
for the purpose of transporting those provisions and munitions which cannot even
reach him in abundance, in consequence of the delay at the Presqu'isle portage and the

^"Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania;" edited by George Dallas Albert, Vol. II, pp.
65-67. "Register of Fort Duquesne;*' copied from the Records in Canada, by Tonn
Gilmary Shea, LL. D., and edited with a historical introduction by Rev. A. A. Lambing.
A. M. Pittsburgh. 1885. See also •'Montcalm and Wolfe," Vol. I, Chap. VII, and
"Penna. Archives," Second Series, Vol. VI.

«*'Montcalm and Wolfe ;" Vol. II, pp. 350, 360.

Pitts.— 24

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lowness of the water in the River Au Boeuf. I must observe that Port Dttquesne has
never been completed; on the contrary, 'tis open to many defects as is proved by th«
annexed plan.

It seems strange to read these statements written fifteen days after
the battle on the Monongahela. News had to be sent by courier and
Quebec is far away. Presque Isle, as we write it, is the peninsula at
Erie. (The French elide the final vowel before another.) Au Boeuf was
French Creek ; the portage from Erie to the headwaters. Machault was
the minister of marine and the colonies at Paris. The fort at Venango
was named for him. By the middle of August the news of the great
victory had reached the government, for on August i6th Baron de
Dieskau wrote Commissary Doreil from Montreal. Among other news
he writes:

The defeat of the English on the Ohio and especially the death of Gen. Bradok.
who has been killed, must have furiously deranged their plans, and I calculate on
deranging them still a trifle more, provided they hold on. M. de Vandreuil is getting a
translation made of all the letters taken on the defeat of the English General on the
Ohio. They have had their General and 1,500 killed and all their artillery captured^
These letters will be sent to Court on the return of my expedition.

Dieskau, a Saxon, in rank a major-general in French service, was so
severely wounded at Lake George September 8, 1755, that he never
recovered. It is evident Dieskau was extravagant in his figures and
we know he failed in his prediction. Among the letters spoken of were
those from Capt. Robert Stobo revealing the weakness of Fort Duquesne
and urging an immediate expedition against it, furnishing the well known
map of the fort printed (see Chapter XV, ante). Delays were dangerous
in this campaign and the ultimate results appalling. The war whoop
and scalp halloo of the savages were heard as far east as Nazareth
and Bethlehem — ^within fifty miles of Philadelphia. Vaudreuil need not
have been troubled if he had only known. Afterward he had trouble
enough. When he wrote the letters above, Fort Duquesne was as safe
as Quebec.

Some descriptions of the famous fort have come down. There is
Stobo's — which got him into trouble. John McKinney, who was a
prisoner there after Braddock's battle, was taken to Canada, from whence
he made his escape and came to Philadelphia in February, 1756, when
he made the following statement:

Fort Duquesne is situated on the east side of the Monongahela, in the fork between
that and the Ohio. It is four square, has bastions at each comer; it is about fifty yards
wide—has a well in the middle of the fort, but water bad — about half the fort is made
of square logs, and the other half next the water of stockadoes; there are intrench-
ments cast up all round the Fort about 7 feet high, which consists of stockadoes drove
into the ground near to each other, and wattles with poles like basket work against
which earth is thrown up, in a gradual ascent; the steep part is next the Fort, and has
three steps all along the intrenchment for the men to go up and down; to fire at the
enemy. These entrenchments are about four rods from the Fort, and go all arotind as
well on the side next the water as the land ; the outside of the entrenchment next the
water joins the water. The fort has two gates, one of which opens to the land side,
and the other to the water side, where the magazine is built ; that to the land side is,
in fact, a draw-bridge, which in day-time serves as a bridge for the people, and in the
night is drawn up by chains and levers.

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Under the draw-bridge is a pit or well, the width of the gate dug down deep into
water; the pit is about eight or ten feet broad; the gate is made of square logs; the
back gate is made of logs also, and goes upon hinges, and has a wicket in it for the
people to pass through in common ; there is no ditch or pit at this gate. It is through
this gate they go to the magazine and bake-house, which are built a little below the
gate within the intrenchmens ; the magazine is made almost under ground, and of large
logs and covered, four feet thick with clay over it It is about 10 feet wide, and
about thirty five feet long; the bake-house is opposite the magazine; the waters some-
times rise so high as that the whole Fort is surrounded with it, so that canoes may go
around it; he imagines he saw it rise at one time near thuty feet The stockadoes are
round logs better than a foot over, and about eleven or twelve feet high; the joints are
secured by split logs ; in the stockadoes are loop holes made so as to fire slanting to the
ground. The bastions are filled with earth solid about eight feet high; each bastion
has four carriage guns about four pound ; no swivels, nor any mortars, that he knows
of; they have no cannon but at the bastion. The back of the barracks and buildings
in the Fort are of logs placed about three feet distant from the logs of the Fort;
between the buildings and the logs of the fort, it Is filled with earth about eight feet
high, and the logs of the Fort extend about four feet higher, so that the whole height of
the Fort is about 12 feet

There are no pickets or palisadoes on the top of the Fort to defend it against scaling;
the eaves of the houses in the Fort are about even with the top of the logs or walls
of the Fort; the houses are all covered with boards, as well the roof as the side that
looks inside the Fort, which they saw there by hand ; there are no bogs nor morrasses
near the Fort, but good dry ground; a little without musket shot of the Fort, in the
fork, is a thidc wood of some bigness, full of large timber.

About thirty yards from the Fort, without the intrenchments and picketing, is a
house, which contains a great quantity of tools, such as broad and narrow axes, planes,
chisels, hoes, mattocks, pick-axes, spades, shovels, etc, a great quantity of wagon-
wheels and tire. Opposite the Fort, on the west side of the Monongahela, is a long,
high mountain, about a quarter of a mile from the Fort, from which the Fort might
very easily be bombarded, and the bombarder be quite safe; from them the distance
would not exceed a quarter of a mile ; the mountain is said to extend six miles up the
Monongahela, from the Fort; Monongahela, opposite the Fort, is not quite a musket
shot wide; neither the Ohio nor the Monongahela can be forded, opposite the Fort
The Fort has no defence against bombs. There about 250 Frenchmen in this Fort;
besides Indians, which at one time amounted to 500; but the Indians were very uncer-
tain; sometimes hardly any there; and there were about 20 or jo ordinary Indian
cabins about the fort.

While he was at Fort Duquesne, there came up the Ohio from the Mississippi, about
thirty batteaux, and about 150 men, loaded with pork, flour, brandy, tobacco, peas and
Indian com ; they were three montiis coming to Fort Duquesne, and came all the way

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 52 of 81)