American Historical Society George Thornton Fleming.

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

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the lefty almost facing the Monongahela, in order to pot on a good couatenance and to
ccMivince our men they had no reason to be afraid, I gave directions to our drums to
beat the Reveille. The troops were in an advantageous post, and I must own that I
thought we had nothing to fear. In about half an hour after, the enemy came from the
fort in different parties, they advanced briskly and attacked our left where there were
350 men. Captain McDonald and Lieutenant Campbell were soon killed. Lieutenant
McDonald wounded at the same time, and our people being overpowereid gave way
where those officers had been killed. I did all in my power to keep things in order,
but to no purpose; the 100 Pennsylvanians were posted upon the right at the greatest
distance from the enemy, went off without orders, without firing a shot; in short, in
less than half an hour all was in confusion, and as soon as that happened we were
fired upon from every quarter.

I endeavored to rally the troops upon every rising ground, and I did all in my
power in that melancholy situation to make the best retreat I could. I sent an officer
to Major Lewis to make the best disposition he could with the Americans and Virgin-
ians till I could come up, and I was in hopes to be able to make a stand there and at
least to make a tolerable retreat Unfortunately, upon hearing the firing the Major
thought the best thing that could be done was to mardi to our assistance, unluckily they
did not take the same road by which I marched the night before and by which they
had passed that morning, and as I retired the same way I had advanced, I never saw
them when I found Captain Bullet and his fifty men alone. I could not help saying to
him that I was undone. However, though there was little or rather no hopes left I
was resolved to do the best I could, and whenever I could get anybody to stay with
me made a stand, sometimes with 100 and sometimes with 50 just as the men thought
proper, for orders were to no purpose. Fear had then got the. better of every other pas*
sbn, and I hope I shall never see again such a pannick among troops— till then I had no
conception of it.

At last, inclining to the left with about fifty men, where I was told a number of
the Americans and Highlanders had gone, ray party diminished insensibly, every sol-
dier taking the road he liked best, and I found myself with not above a dozen of men
and an officer of the Pennsylvanians who had been left with Captain Bullet Sur-
rounded on all sides by the Indians and when I expected every instant to be cut to
pieces without a possibility of escaping, a body of the French with a number of their
officers came up and offered me quarter, which I accepted of. I was then within a
short league of the fort; it was then about 11 o'clock and as far as I pan judge, about
that time the French troops were called back and the pursuit ended. What our loss is,
you best know, but it must be considerable. Captains McDonald and Munroe, Lieu-
tenants McKenzie, Campbell and Wm. McKenzie, Lieutenant Rider and Ensigns Jen-
Ions and WoUar are prisoners. Ensign J. McDonald is prisoner with the Indians;
from what I hear they have got two other officers, whose names or corps I know not
Mr. Rhor and the officers who conducted the Indians were killed. Major Lewis and
Captain McKenzie are prisoners. I am not certain that McKenzie was killed, but I
have seen his commission, which makes it very probable. I spoke to Ueutenant
McDonald, Sr., after he was wounded, and I think he could hardly make his escape. I
wish I may be mistaken. This is the best account I can give you of our unlucky affair.
I endeavored to execute the orders which I had received to the best of my power ; as
I have been unfortunate, the world may possibly find fault in my conduct I flatter
myself that you will not I may have committed mistakes without knowing them, but
if I was sensible of them I most certainly should tell you in what I thought I had done
wrong. I am willing to flatter myself that my being prisoner will be no detriment to
my promotion in case of vacancies should happen in the army, and it is to be hoped
that the proper steps will be taken to get me exchanged as soon as possible.
I have the honor, to be Sir,

Your most obedient and most humble servant

Jamss Gkant.

P. S. As Major Lewis is prisoner, I thought it was right to read to him that part
of this letter which particularly concerns him. He says when he came back to speak to
me, that he gave no orders for the troops to retire from the plaia That Captain

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Saunder, who was the next officer to him, can best account for that step; for they did
retire, and I took it for granted that it was by the Major's orders, till he assured me of
the contrary. Mr. Jenkins, of the Americans, is a pretty young lad, and has spirit He
is the oldest ensign, and is much afraid that being a prisoner will be a detriment to his
promotion. He begs that I may mention him to you and I could not think of refusing

Some letters of Washington's at this time are pertinent and convey
much information at first hand.

To Governor Fauquier he wrote several as follows :

Camp at Raystown, 25th Sept., 1758.
Honble Sir,

I think it incumbent upon me to give you the following account — altho' it i^ with
great concern I am furnished with the occasion.

The I2th instant Major Grant, of the Highland battalion, with a chosen detachment
of 800 men, marched from our advanced post at Loyal Hanna, for Fort Duquesne;
what to do there (unless to meet the fate he did) I cannot certainly inform you. How-
ever, to get intelligence and annoy the enemy, was the ostensible plan.

On the 13th in the night, they arrived near that place, formed upon the hill in two
columns, and sent a party to the fort to make discoveries, which they accomplished
accordingly— and burned a log-house not far from the walls without interruption.
Stimulated by this success the major kept his post and disposition until day, then
detached Major Lewis and part of his command 2 miles back to their baggage guard
and sent an engineer with a covering party in full view of the fort to take a plan of the
works,— at the same time causing the reveille to beat in several places.

The enemy hereupon sallied out, and an obstinate engagement began, for the par-
ticulars of which I b^ leave to refer your Honor to the enclosed letters and return
of the regiment Major Lewis it is said met his fate in bravely advancing to sustain
Major Grant Our officers and men have acquired very great applause for their gallant
behavior during the action. I had the honor to be publicly complimented yesterday
by the General on the occasion. The havoc that was made of them is demonstrable
proof of their obstinate defence, having 6 officers killed, and a 7th wounded out of &
Major Lewis who cheerfully went upon this enterprise (when he found there was no
dissuading Colonel Bouquet from the attempt) frequently there, and afterwards upon
the march, desired his friends to remember that he had opposed the undertaking to the
utmost He is a great loss to the regiment, and is universally lamented Captain Bul-
let's behavior is matter of great admiration and Capt Walter Stewart, the other sur-
viving officer, distinguished himself greatly while he was able to act. He was left on
the field, but made his escape afterwards.

What may be the consequence of this affair, I will not take upon me to decide, but
this I may venture to declare, that our affairs in general appear with a greater gloom
than ever; and I see no probability of opening the road on this campaign. How then
can we expect a favorable issue to the expedition? I have used my best endeavors to
supply my men with the necessaries they want 70 blankets I got from the Cseneral
upon the promise to return them again. I therefore hope your Honor will direct that
number to be sent to Winchester for his use. I must also beg the favor of having
blank-commissions sent me,— it will take near a dozen for the promotions and vacan-
cies. I must fill up the vacancies with the volunteers I have, and some of the best
Sergeants. I marched to this camp the aist instant, by order of the (General.

Having little else of moment to relate; I beg leave to assure your Honor that I
am, etc.ii

A footnote by the editor of these letters reads :

The Major (Grant) conducted the march so that the surprise was complete, and the
enterprise must have succeeded, but for the absolute disobedience of orders in a pro-

lO'^Fort Pitt;" Wm. M. Darlington, pp. 63-71.

"••Writings of Ckorge Washington, 1758-1775;" W. C Ford, Vol. II, pp. 98-99-ioa

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vincial officer, the night they reached the Ohio; and by this man's quitting hb post next
morning, the party was in a manner cut to pieces. Major Grants as he was unfortunate,
may be blamed, but from his letter to General Forbes * * * you will not only see
he was not in fault; but from the behavior of the provincial officer, yoo will be satis-
fied that a planter is not to be taken from the plough and made an officer in a day.
[Letter from an officer who attended Brigadier General Forbes, printed in the "Gentle-
man's Magazine," 1759].^^

Washington the same day wrote Mrs. George Wm. Fairfax as follows :

Camp at Ray's Town, 25th Sept. 1758.

Dear Madam : Do we still misunderstand the true meaning of each other's letters?
I think it must appear so, tho' I would feign hope the contrary as I cannot speak
plainer without— But I'll say no more and leave you to guess the rest.

I am now furnished with news of a very interesting nature. I know it will affect
you, but as you must hear it from others I will state it myself. The 12th past. Major
Grant with a chosen detachment of 800 men, march'd from our advanced post at Lc^l
Hanna against Fort Duquesne.

On the night of the 13th he arriv'd at that place or rather upon a Hill near to it ;
from whence went a party and viewed the Works, made what observations they could,
burnt a Logg house not far from the Walls. Egg'd on rather than satisfied by tiiis
success. Major must needs insult the Enemy next morning by beating the Reveille in
different places in view. This caused a great body of men to sally from the Fort, and
an obstinate engagement to ensue which was maintained on our side with the utmost
efforts that bravery could yield, till being overpowered and quite surrounded th^ were
obliged to retreat with the. loss of 22 officers killed and 278 men besides wounded

This is a heavy blow to our affairs here, and a sad stroke upon the regiment, that
has lost out of 8 officers and 168 that was in the action, 6 of the former killed and a
7th wounded Among the slain was our dear Mr. Lewis. This gentleman, as ^
other officers also did, bravely fought while they had life, tho' wounded in different
places. Your old acquaintance, Captain Bullet, who is the only officer of mine that
came off untouched, has acquired immortal honor in this engagement by his gallant
behavior, and long continuance in the field of action. It might be thought vanity in me
to praise the behavior of n^ own people were I to deviate from the report of common
fame— but when you consider the loss they have sustained, and learn that every moutfi
resounds their praises, you will believe me impartially

Three days later Washington again wrote Governor Fauquier:

Camp at Raystown, the 28 Sept, 1758.

Hon'ble Sir : I forgot to notice in my last of the 25th instant that a flag of truce
was sent to Fort Duquesne by Colonel Bouquet. It is now returned, and we learn with
certainty (tho' few things have yet transpired) that Major Grant with two other High-
land officers, and Major Lewis, with two officers of the Royal Americans — and one
belonging to Pennsylvania, together with 2 sergeants and 30 private men, were made
prisoners in the late action, and sent immediately to Montreal. From all the accounts
I have yet been able to collect, it appears very clear, that this was either an ill-concerted
or very ill-executed plan; perhaps botl^; but it seems to be generally acknowledged that
Major Grant exceeded his orders in some particulars; and that no disposition was
made for engaging.

The troops were divided — ^which caused the front to give way, and put the whole
into confusion, except the Virginians, commanded by Capt Bullet, who were (in the
hands of Providence) a means of preventing all of our people from sharing one com-
mon fate. This mistake, I fear, may be productive of bad consequences to the c6mmoa

The promoters of opening a new road, either do believe (or would fain have it

i2"Writings of George Washington;" W. C. Ford, VoL II, p. 100.

""Writings of (korge Washington, 1758-1775;*' W. C Ford, Vol. II, pp. 101-108.

Pitts.— 26

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thought so) that there is time enough to accomplish our plan this season : but others
who judge freer from prejudice, are of a quite contrary opinion. As the road is not
yet opened half-way, and not 20 days' provision for the troops got the length of this
place — ^which cannot be attributed to a juster cause than the badness of the road; altho'
many other reasons are assigned for it. We find that the frosts have already changed
the face of nature among these mountains. We know there is not more than a month
left for enterprize; we know also that a number of horses cannot subsist after that
time, on a road stripped of its herbage — and very few there are who apprdiend that
our affairs can be brought to favorable issue by that period, nor do I see how it is pos-
sible, if everything else answered, that men half-naked can live in tents much longer.i^

Smollett has a page of our history of this time :

In all probability, the destruction of Frontenac facilitated the expedition against
Fort du Quesne, instrusted to the conduct of Brigadier Forbes, who with his little
army, began his march in the beginning of July, from Philadelphia for the river Ohio,
a prodigious tract of country very little known, destitute of military roads, encumbered
with morasses, mountains, and woods, that were almost impenetrable. It was not
without incredible exertion of industry, that he procured provisions and carriages for
this expedition, formed new roads, extended scouting parties, secured camps, and sur-
mounted many other difficulties in the course of his tedious march, during which he
was also harassed by small detachments of the enemy's Indians. Having penetrated
with the main body as far as Ray's-Town, at the distance of ninety miles from Fort du
Quesne, and advanced colonel Bouquet, with two thousand men, about fifty miles
farther, to a place called Lyal-Henning, this officer detached major Grant, at the head
of eight hundred men, to reconnoitre, the fort and its outworks. The enemy perceiving
him approach, sent a body of troops against him, sufficient to surround his whole
detachment ; a very severe actum began, which the English maintained with their usual
courage for three hours, against cruel odds; but at length, being overpowered by num-
bers, they were obliged to give way, and retired in disorder to Lyal-Henning, with the
loss of about three hundred men killed or taken, including major Grant, who was car-
ried prisoner to Fort du Quesne, with nineteen officers. Notwithstanding tiiis mortified
check, brigadier Forbes, advanced with the army, resolved to prosecute his operations
with vigour; but the enen^, dreading the prospect of a siege, dismantled and aban-
doned the fort, and retired down the river Ohio, to their settlement on the MisstssqipL
They quitted the fort on the twenty-fourth day of November, and next day it was
possessed by British forces. As for the Indians of his country, they seemed heartily
to renounce their connexions with France, and be perfectly reconciled to the Govern-
ment of his Britannic majesty. Brigadier Forbes having repaired the fort changed its
name from Du Quesne to Pittsburgh, secured it with a garrison of provinciab, and
concluded treaties of friendship and alliance with the Indian tribes. Then he marched '
back to Philadelphia, and in his retreat built a blocldiouse near Lyal-Henning, for the
defence of Pennsylvania; but he did not long survive these transactions, hb constitu-
tion having been exhausted by the incredible fatigues of the service. Thus we have
given a particular detail of all the remarkable operations by which this campaign was
distinguished on the continent of America ; the reader will be convinced, that notwith-
standing the defeat at Ticonderoga, and the disaster of the advanced party in the
neighborhood of Fort du Quesne, the arms of Great Britain acquired many important
advantages; and indeed, paved the way for the reduction of Quebec, and conquest of

Four years* anxious efforts culminated November 25, 1758, in the
possession of the Forks of the Ohio.

Parkman appends this footnote to the end of his account of Grant's
battle, showing his sources of information :

i4'*Writings of George Washington, 1758-1775 ;" W. C. Ford, Vol. II, pp. 104-105.
IB^A Compleat History of England^ (1757) ; Tobias George Smollett, M. D., Vol.
I, pp. 393-394.

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Letters from camp in Boston Evening Post, Boston Weekly Advertiser, Boston
News Letter, and other provincial newspapers of the time. List of Killed, Wounded
and Missing in the Action of September 14, Gentleman's Magazine XXIX, 173. Haz-
ard's Register VIII, 141. Olden Time, I, 179. Vaudreuil, with characteristic exaggera-
tion, represents all Grant's party as killed or taken, except a few who died of starva-
tion. The returns show that 540 came back safe, out of 813.1*

The. officers of the Pennsylvania contingent under Forbes are enumer-
ated in Vol. I, 'Tennsylvania Colonial and Federal," pp. 488-492. The
Colony furnished 2700 men. These rosters are in the Pennsylvania Ar-
chives, First Series, Vol. Ill, pp. 336-341.

le^Montcalm and Wolfe;" Vol. II, Champlain Editkm, p. 363.

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'1 Have CaUed the Place Pittsburgh.'*

The lilies droop and wither,

No more their might avails.
The power of France is broken.

And down the forest trails
The hordes of Britain hasten

Against their ancient foes ;
The lily banner pales before

The red flag of the rose.

G80. M. P. Baud.!

It was not an exultant army that came over the rugged AUeghenies
in the winter, whose bloodless victory under their intrepid, invalid com-
mander won for England a magnificent point of vantage and struck a
mortal blow to French power in America.

It was not a cheerful occasion for the founding of a great city. We
can see a weary, half starved body of once hardy men in the bleakness
of that November day looking only on desolation and solitude. The
inspiration of their dying chief must have been supreme. His iron will
and unconquerable spirit must have strongly appealed to these men.
It buoyed them up ; it raised their hopes. Undoubtedly they communed
with each other saying : "If our suffering general can stand it, why not
we?" They too were brave spirits of their stormy times.

Inauspicious as the birth of our city is shown to have been, in the
story of its founding we read courage, devotion, success, triumph. Had
not the French retreated, what the battle the intrepid Forbes had waged?
Retreat he could not. It was victory or death. No wonder in his
lurid language the great leader so vehemently expressed himself. He
knew the peril, the extreme peril, of his position. He must show no
shadow of doubt — fear he could not. It was not in him.

We may well believe that Forbes saw the advantage of the Forks
of the Ohio as a military situation and that he knew in the new land
of America the fortification became the nucleus of the town that soon
grew around it. Washington five years previously had made a note of
the topography and carefully examined it. (Journal 1753, November
23rd). Forbes not only named the fort he ordered to be built immedi-
ately, but doubly honored the great Premier by bestowing it upon the
place also, and then and there Forbes gave our city its name, spelling
the name as it is authoritatively spelled. In a letter to Governor Denny
of Pennsylvania on November 26th, the day after the capture, he says :

"I have called the place Pittsburgh."

Eight days later Bouquet, in the minutes of a conference with the
Delawares, signed them : "At Pitts-bourgh, December 4, 1758."

In stern justice, Forbes could have honored or had himself honored
in the name Forbesburg, and the whole British nation would have

i"Book of Words of the Pageant and Masque of Freedom;" published by author^
ity of the Pittsburgh Charter Centennial Committee, 1916.

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applauded. But the heroic soul was modest, so he honored the Great
Commoner, with keen appreciation of the master mind of William Pitt.
So Pittsburgh it has ever been, and we of Pittsburgh, sensible of the
appropriateness, and recognizing the self-sacrifice and modesty of the
suffering hero, have been ever proud of the name and mindful that it
commemorates one of the world's greatest characters — the brilliant,
eloquent, popular prime minister of Great Britain, in later years the
Earl of Chatham, friend of the colonists of the British Empire in North
America, who when he became the first minister of the realm saw
with enlightened vision the policy of treating those colonies with gen-
erosity and confidence, thus gaining their affections and bringing such
generous support to the government in the war with the French and
Indians that the conquest of Canada was achieved and French dominion
in North America utterly destroyed. Within the city's limits that bears
the name of Pitt the fitst staggering blow was struck by the indomitable
Forbes and the French dream — ^passion for empire — first began to fade
away. In the founding of that city there were few formalities and these
military in character. Practically the name Pittsburgh preceded the
birth, for the first physical act was the erection of the small fort for the
garrison, necessary to hold the place. It will appear that here again the
fates were kind, for the winter that ensued was of such rare severity
that the French and Indians could not return to drive Mercer and his
little band away, or capture them.

The founding of the city as usually regarded was by the occupation
of the peninsula between the two rivers by Forbes' army. Then, too,
the sovereignty of the region changed. A new king exercised power,
the Hanoverian soldier, George the Second, destined to reign but two
years longer, and then his grandson, George the Third. In the promul-
gation of the change of sovereignty a new standard was raised — ^it was
the royal standard of St. George. A bos then the fleur-de-lis, marking
an end of French intrigue and French power forever. Exit the Gaul
and all things Gallic. Enter a virile race, and a new regime begins ; to
last seventeen years.

The inclination to dwell upon this historic scene is strong. It is
possible to dress it in garments of rich imagery. We of Pittsburgh,
familiar with the locality, passing our lives within easy reach of it,
knowing well the weather conditions of the late season and the Novem-
ber skies when dusk has come and night is coming on, can readily
call up the bleakness of the hour and see the driving eddies as the
snow falls briskly on the dismal bivouac of Forbes' men. We can hear
the swish of the rapid waters of the Allegheny as they sweep past — ^as
we have heard them many a time and oft. We know well the wide
expanse of waters where the more sluggish and less clear Monongahela
joins to form the Beautiful River; we know the background now, and
may picture its appearance then — the rugged, wooded hills with an
extensive flat extending towards the rivers, and interspersed with morass
and ponds. We can ponder on the solemnity of the ceremony; the
formal taking possession. We may ascribe deep thankfulness in Forbes*

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heart and can believe he murmured to himself : **Now I can die content.
I have given my life to King and country and in the last of my slowly
ebbing days I have won a long sought goal. I have earned fame, too ;

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 57 of 81)