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God has been kind to me. My name will live."

A Pittsburgh historian pictures the scene aptly: "As a wild snow-
storm was deepening the dusk into black night, the banner of England
was hoisted over one of the ruined bastions by Colonel Armstrong ; and
the 'Iron Head* christened the place anew. Bearing in mind the great
statesman who brought about the change of flags, and had honored him
by making him the instrument for its attainment, Forbes called the col-
lection of ruined cabins PITTSBURGH."

"Long as the Monongahela and the Allegheny shall flow to form
the Ohio, long as the English tongue shall be the language of freedom
in the boundless valley which their waters traverse, his name shall stand
inscribed on the Gateway of the West."^

The march of Forbes and his little army was exhausting in the
extreme and only the grim determination of the commander brought
success. Bradley, an Englishman, writing of the weather conditions
of the season, says :

Autumn on the Atlantic slope of North America is of all seasons the most stimu-
lating and delightful Rain, as a rule, falls sparingly, or in short spells, and nature
decked in a rainment gorgeous beyond dreams, and rarely ni£9ed by storm or tempest,
slumbers in baln^ silence beneath an azure sky. Poor Forbes, like Washington, upon
nearly the same ground four years earlier, encountered, and in an even worse degree,
one of those climatk exceptions that prove the rule. Rain fell persistently, and
fell in torrents, while premature snow storms filled his cup of misery to the brim.
On the lower grounds the new-made road was impassable with liquid mud; 00 the
mountain slopes the torrents swept it away as fast as it was made. Forag^ began
to get scarce and the horses became poor and weak. The prospect lately so hope-
ful, seemed now well-nigh desperate. Bouquet labored hard, against the warring de-
ments, the miry swamps, the torrent-riven mountains, and with transport horses grow-
ing daily weaker. Forbes, whose indomitable wiU, rather than improving healdi,
had forced him on to the soaking misery of Loyalhanna, still gave his orders In per-
son. Tortured with pain, and scarce able to stand, he would listen to no suggesticas of
abandoning In the attempt or of himself returning to those comforts which were his
only chance of life.*

On the return to Philadelphia, through all the wilderness part of
the march, the men each day built a rude hut in which they placed a.
stone fireplace for the comfort of the dying general. One night, through
some mishap, the suffering Forbes became insensible through long
waiting in the bitter cold, before fire and shelter could be provided. It
took some time to bring him to by applications of cordials and other
stimulants. However, the return march was not made with the gloom
of the march out. Forbes left here December 3, 1758, as Post records
in his Journal,* and reached Philadelphia on his return January 14, 1759.
His condition was pitiful in the extreme. The terrible journey of about

3''i75&— Being a Sketch of the Founding of Pittsburgh;" by Charles W. Dahllnger,
1908, p. 17. "History United States;" Bancroft, Vol. II, p. 405.

•"Fight with France for North America;" A. O. Bradley, pp. 278-279.

^Post's "Second Journal;" Chap. XXI herein. See "Histoiy Western PAUisylTania
and West;" Appendix XI, p. 122.

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five hundred miles in winter, carried all the way, is unimaginable. Great
enthusiasm greeted him in the city. He had completed his task and all
was well but himself. He survived two months only, dying on March
9th, having drawn the breath of pain and anguish for many days. No
one has a better title to honor and remembrance than he. We have
Forbes street in his commemoration. It is slight enough.

In the building of the first Fort Pitt or the fort temporarily used the
first winter of the English occupation, Forbes had but little part. He
remained at the site of Fort Duquesne but eight days. When the fort
was under way he left. It was a matter of extreme doubt whether or
not his faithful men would not carry him into Philadelphia a corpse.

Craig says that : "Mr. Ross used to relate a story that had come down
by tradition. The disease which proved fatal to Forbes increased so
rapidly on the march, that in approaching Fort Duquesne he had to
be carried on a litter. This excited remark and derision among the
Indians. To counteract unfavorable impressions, it was stated that the
British chief had a temper so impetuous and irascible and combative that
it was not thought safe to trust him at large, even among his own people,
but that the practice was to let him out on the eve of battle."^ This
assertion of Forbes' irascibility has been ascribed to Conrad Weiser,
always politic and a diplomat by instinct and intuition.

Craig has furnished us these items, from Franklin's newspaper,
headed, "Death of General Forbes."

Extract from the Pennsylvania Gazette, published at Philaddphia on the i8th of
January, 17^

Last night General Forbes arrived in town, when the gons were fired and bells rung.

The following notice of the death of General Forbes, is from the same paper of tiie
15th of March, 1759:

''On Sunday, last, died of a tedious illness, John Forbes, Esq., in the 49tfa year of

his age, son to Forbes, Esq., of Pittencrief, in the Shire of Fife, in Scotland,

Brigadier General, Colonel of the 17th Regiment of Foot, and Commander of his
Majesty's troops in the Southern Provinces of North America; a gentleman generally
known and esteemed, and almost sincerely and universally regretted. In his younger
days he was bred to the profession of physic, but, early ambitious of the military char-
acter, he purchased into the Regiment of Scot's Grey Dragoons, where, by repeated
purchases and faithful services, he arrived to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel His
superior abilities soon recommended him to the protection of General Campbell, of Eaii
of Stair, Duke of Bedford, Lord Ligonier, and other distinguished characters in the
army: with some them as an aid; with the rest in the familiarity of a family man.
During the last war he had the honor to be employed in the post of Quarter-Master
General, in the army under his Royal Highness, the Duke, which he disdiarged with
accuracy, dignity and dispatch. His services in America are well known. By a steady
pursuit of well concerted measures, in defiance of disease and numberless obstructions,
he brought to a happy issue a most extraordinary campaign, and made a wUling sacri-
fice of his own life to what he valued more— the interests of his king and country. As
a man he was just and without prejudice; brave without ostentation; uncommonly
warm in his friendships, and incapable of flattery; acquamted with the world and
mankind, he was well bred, but absolutely impatient of formality and affection. As an
officer, he was quick to discern useful men and useful measures, generally seeing both
at first view, according to their real qualities; steady in his measures, and open to

s^'Olden Time;" Vol. I, p. 26$. Senator James Ross, of Pittsburgh, is most prob-
ably referred to.

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information and council; in command he bad dignity without superciliousness; and
though perfectly master of the forms, never hesitated to drop them, when the spirit
and more essential parts of the service required it

"Yesterday (14th) he was interred in the Chancel of Christ's Church in this city.''*

Bradley states that the place of Forbes' grave has been obscured
by alterations and lost sight of, as may with equal truth be said of his
services and his unselfish valor in the memory of his fellow-countrymen.''

These items show the elaborate nature of the obsequies. The form
and order of march at his funeral was as follows :

I. Pioneers.

II. The Seventeenth Regiment, and two companies of Colonel Montgomery's Regi-
ment, the colors with crapes; the drums covered with black; and the officers with
crapes on their arms.

IIL Two pieces of cannon, with the Commanding Officer of Artillery.

IV. The Engineers.

V. The Staff.

VI. The servants, in mourning, uncovered, two and two.

VII. A led horse, covered with black, conducted 1^ a groom.

VIII. The Surgeons.

IX. The Physicians.

X. The Clergy and Chaplains of the army.

XI. The corpse and the pall held by six field officers.
Xn. The mourners.

XIII. The Governor, the Council, the Speaker, and members of Assembly, the
Judges, the magistrates, and gentlemen of the Province and city, two and two.

XIV. The officers from the different garrisons, two and two.

N. B. The Minute guns were fired from the time the corpse was brought out until
the interment was over; and the whole ended by a triple discharge of the small guns.
March 15, 17S9.*

Most graphically Dahlinger describes the arrival of Forbes in Pitts-
burgh :

In the morning the entire army moved forward, eagerly but cautiously. The com-
mander would not allow haste for fear of running into some unknown danger. Dur-
ing the last three miles of the march, the army passed the scattered bodies of those
who had fallen two months before, at the defeat of Grant. The route fell into a long
open racepath, where the savages had been wont to pass their prisoners through the
ordeal of the gauntlet. On either side, a long row of naked stakes was planted in the
ground, on each of which, grinned in decajring ghastliness, the severed head of a High-
lander, while beneath was exhibited his kilt This was the Indians' way of displaying
their contempt for the "petticoat warriors" who had run away at the time of Granf s

The early winter dusk was stealing on when the army emerged from the leafless
woods and reached the height where Grant had been so terribly punished. Here a short
halt was ordered. Before them, on the level plain below, were the smoking ruins of the
fort Thirty chimneys rose naked above the ashes of as many houses. Not a French-
man was to be seen. After the commands had been reformed, with flags flying, drums
beating and bagpipes playing, the army marched down the elevation to the plain and
onward to the fort. The southern Indians were in advance ; after them Colonel Wash-
ington and Colonel Armstrong, at the head of the provmdals led the way. Of the

•"Olden Time:" Vol. I, pp. 189-190.

T'Tight with France for North America;" p. 385.

BThe whole Account of the funeral is in the "Pennsylvania Magazine of History;"
Vol. XI, pp. 190-121, and the same account, with exception of the form and order of
March at the funeral in Hazard's "Register of Pennsylvania;" Vol. V.

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provincials, Washington's Virginians in their hunting shirts and Indian blankets came
first; then followed the Pennsylvanians in green uniforms turned up with bu£F. Most
of the other provincials marched in the dress, now torn and ragged, that they had
worn when leaving their usual vocations; interspersed were frontiersmen dressed in
tyuckskins with fringed hunting shirts, leggins and moccasins, and wearing coon-sldn
caps. Then came General Forbes, now terribly wasted, reclining on his own litter, but
with bright eyes and eagei; interest, directing the march. Colonel Bouquet rode in front
of the Ro3ral Americans, who followed the provincials. Their three-cornered hats, and
dark scarlet uniforms faced with blue, contrasted markedly with the diversely-clad
provincials. The Highlanders, in bonnets and kilts and belted plaids, in a long pic-
turesque line, under their colonel, Montgomery, brought up the rear. Not a spectator
was there to observe that imposing martial array but a few vagabond Indians, who
had remained to tell of the departure of the Frenchmen.^

The best short account we have of Forbes' expedition has been
handed down to us by John Ormsby, who accompanied the expedition.
Later Ormsby settled in Pittsburgh and was the ancestor of the Ormsby
connection still prominent in the city. Craig says he was an industrious,
enterprising man, that his first home in Pittsburgh was on Water street,
one door south of Ferry street and next door to Samuel Sample's tavern,
where Washington and his fellow travelers stopped in 1770. From his
home Ormsby kept the first ferry over the Monongahela river, this fact
giving the name to Ferry street. He bore the character of an honest,
worthy citizen and, says Craig, in his later life, at least, was a pious man.
Of his early life Craig learned nothing. That Ormsby was a pious man
can be presumed from the fact that among the books he left at his decease
was a religious work called "A Prospect of Futurity, Containing Four
Dissertations on the Nature and Circumstances of the Life to Come,
etc.," by Thomas Broughton, Prebendary, etc., printed in London in 1768,
ten years after Ormsby's service with Forbes. Into this book Ormsby
had introduced some sixty pages of notes of his own covering various
subjects, and a short sketch of his life. A portion of this, however, had
been torn out. Craig in his remarks as editor of the "Olden Time," says
of Ormsby's notes that he published them in his magazine of history
because they contained some items of intelligence by an eye witness of
the early transactions in this quarter and that they give an insight into
the character of General Forbes that Craig had not hitherto possessed.

John Ormsby was an Irishman by birth. He had served in the Brit-
ish army, his rank not being stated. He became a traveler through the
different colonies in America and at one time was a teacher. He was
born in 1720 and died in Pittsburgh some time after the Revolution —
the exact date not known.

When Braddock came to Alexandria, Ormsby was in Philadelphia
and designed to accompany him but was prevented by sickness. When
Forbes was ready with his expedition Ormsby joined it and was present
when the forces of the "Iron Head" stood by the smoking ruins of
Duquesne. Ormsby begins his narrative by stating his intentions in
February. 1755, to take service under Braddock as, by reason of previous
service in the British army, Ormsby had been offered a captain's com-

•''1758— Being a Sketch of the Founding of Pittsburi^, etc;" C W. Dahlinger,
pp. 16-17.

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mission, and to act as adjutant. *'To this," says Ormsby, "I cheerfully
assented as a military life best suited my intentions; but alas! man
appoints but God does as he thinks fit. Just as I was preparing my
uniform, etc., I was seized with a nervous fever and ague which I was
afflicted till the year 1758, being near three years ; so that all my golden
hopes vanished." With the news that Braddock had so terribly failed,
no doubt Ormsby found another word to describe his hopes. Men-
tioning that the savages were "massacring" the frontier inhabitants
of Pennsylvania, "&c" and the proposed expedition under Forbes,
Ormsby is elated at the prospect of gratifying his fondness for a military
life, regrets the state of his health, and speaks of his resolution to go
to the frontier in some capacity and his offer of a commission by several
States which he accepted. In his own words:

Accordingly I set out for the Ohio, to act as Commissary of Provisions, which was
a wretched employment, provisions being so scarce that I could scarcely supply the gen-
eral's table. When the army arrived as far as Turde Creek, a council of war was held,
that it was impracticable to proceed, all the provisions and forage .being exhausted. On
the general's being informed of this, he swore a furious oath that he would sleep in the
fort or in h— 1 the next night It was a matter of indifference to the old, emaciated gen-
eral where he died, and he was carried on a litter the whole distance from Philadelphia
and back. You may judge the situation of near 3,000 men in the wilderness, 250 miles
from the inhabited country. About midnight a tremendous explosion was heard from
the westward; upon which Forbes swore that the French magazine was blown up,
either' by accident or design which revived our drooping spirits a little. The above
conjecture of the ''Head of Iron" was verified by a deserter from Duquesne, who
said that the Indians who watched the march of the English army declared to the
French that there was as many white people coming as there were trees in the woods.
The place had a most desolate appearance, as all the improvements made by the French
had been burned to the ground You may judge our situation when I assure you we had
neither flour, meat nor liquor in store. The only relief overed was plenty of venis(Mi and
bear meat which our hunters brought in and which our people devoured without bread or
salt. There were several parcels of pack horses, loaded with provisions, coming up from
the inhabited country, but the savages seized most of them and murdered the drivers.
Our emaciated General Forbes was carried on his litter bed to Philadelphia, where he
died a short time after his arrival. He was a brave soldier, but afflicted with a comi^i-
cation of disorders. A few hours before his death he swore a great oath that he died
contented, as he had got possession of Fort Du Quesne and made the d— d French rascals

The remainder of Ormsby *s narrative has reference to incidents during
1759 and 1760 and some strictures on Bouquet, whom he did not like.
The account of another eye witness has been preserved. John Haslet,
a captain in Forbes' army, wrote a letter to a certain clergyman — the
Rev. Dr. Allison. It is dated "Fort Duquesne, November 26, 1758."

Rev'd Sir : — I have now the pleasure to write you from the ruins of the fort On
the 24th, at night we were informed by one of our Indian scouts that he had discovered
a cloud of smoke about the place, and soon after another came in with certain intelli-
gence that it wast burnt and abandoned by the enemy.

We were then about 15 miles from it; a troop of horse was sent forward imme-
diately to extinguish the burning, and the whole army followed. We arrived at 6
o'clock last night, and found it in a great measure destroyed. There are two forts
about 200 yards distant, the one built with immense labor, small but a great deal of

io"01den Time;" Vol. II, pp. 1-3.

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very strong works collected into a little room, and stands on the point of a narrow
neck of land at the confluence of the two rivers. It is square and has two ravelins,
gabkms at each comer. The other fort stands on the bank of the Allegheny in the form
of a parallelogram, but not so strong as the other. Several of the outworks are lately
begun and still unfinished.

There are I thmk 30 stacks of chimneys standing-— the houses all burnt down. They
sprung one mine which ruined one of their magazines. In the other we found a pro-
digious quantity of old carriage iron, barrels of guns and a cartload of scalping knives.

They went off in such haste they could not destroy their works as they intended.
We are told by the Indians that they lay the night before at Beaver Creek 40 miles
down the Ohio from here. Whether they buried their dead or carried them down in
their batteaux, we have not yet learned.

A boy 12 years old who had been their prisoner two years, who escaped on the 3d
inst, tells us tiiey had carried a prodigious quantity of wood into the fort; that th^
had burnt five of the prisoners that they took at Major Grant's defeat, on the parade^
and delivered others to the Indians, who were tomaluiwked on the spot

We have found numbers of dead bodies within a mile of the fort unburied, as so
many monuments of French inhumanity. A great many Indians, mostly Ddawares,
gathered on the Island last night and this morning to treat with die General, and we
are making rafts to bring them over.i^

Whether the General will think of repairing the ruins or leaving any of the troops
here, I have not heard. Mr. Beatty is appointed to preach a thanksgiving sermon, for
the remarkable superiority of his Majesty's arms. We left all our tents at Loyalhanna,
and every convenience except a blanket and a knapsack.

You will excuse the errors of haste and believe me to be

Rev'd Sir, Your Most Obedient Servant, John Haslet.

To Rev. Allison.

Haslet led his troop of light horse in advance of the main army,
hurrying forward to extinguish the flames if it were possible. Haslet's
is a sufficiently succinct account. The island mentioned was Smoky
Island in the Allegheny, long since washed away. The minister was
the Rev. Charles Beatty, a pioneer missionary, a chaplain under Forbes.
Beatty came back and stopped at Fort Pitt in 1766 on his mission with
the Rev. George Duffield.

Washington was present alongside of Forbes and Bouquet and John
Armstrong and Hugh Mercer and other noted soldiers of the time at
the occupation of the site of Fort Duquesne, November 25, 1758. Of
the fort but some smoking ruins of the stockade remained.

In a letter to Governor Fauquier of Virginia, dated "Camp at Fort
Duquesne, 28 November, 1758," Washington writes :

Sir : — I have the pleasure to inform you that Fort Du Quesne, or the ground rather
on which it stood was possessed by his Majesty's troops on the 25th instant. The enemy
after letting us get within a day's march of the place, burned the Fort, and ran away
by the light of it, at night, going down the Ohio by water to the number of about five
hundred men, according to our best information. This possession of the Fort has
been a matter of surprise to the whole army, and we cannot attribute it to more prob-
able causes than the weakness of the enemy, want of provisions, and the defection of
the Indians.

Of these circumstances we were luckily informed by three prisoners, who provi-
dentially fell into our hands at Loyal Hanna, where we despaired of proceeding further.

A council of war determined that it was not advisable to advance this season
beyond that place but the above information caused us to march on without tents or

""Olden Time;" Vol. I, pp. 184-185. "Register of Pennsylvania;" Hazard, VoL
VI, pp. 226-227. "History Western Pennsylvania, etc. ;" App., p. 301.

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baggage, and with only a light train of artillery. We have thus happily succeeded. It
would be tedious, and I think unnecessary, to relate every trivial circumstance that
has happened since my last To do this, if needful, shall be the employment of a leisure
hour when I shall have the please to pay my respect to Your Honor.

The general intends to wait here a few days to settle matters with the Indians, and
then all the troops except a sufficient garrison .to secure the place, will march to their
respective governments.^^

Note that Pittsburgh was founded at the time by mere chance; the
capture of the prisoners who gave the information that pushed the tired
and hungry troops the fifty miles that lay between them and the fort.
Of the fatiguing character of the expedition Washington reminds the
governor in these words:

I cannot help premising in this place, of the hardships they (the Virginia troops)
have undergone, and of their naked condition that you may judge if it is not essential
for them to have some little recess from fatigue and time to provide themselves with
necessaries. At present they are destitute of every comfort of life. If I do not get
your orders to the contrary, I shall march the troops under my command directly to
Winchester. They may then be disposed of as you shall afterwards direct

Washington is here hopeful of lasting results. He urges the mainte-
nance of a strong garrison at the "Forks'* and urges that Virginia should
not neglect any means in her power to hold the place. This was Wash-
ington's second visit to the Forks of the Ohio, the first in 1753 with
Gist, coming down the Monongahela from Frazier's cabin at Turtle

Captain Knox is severe upon the French. He says :

As soon as Brigadier Forbes' army had reached Fort Duquesne, he set about the
necessary repairs, and having rendered the place as defensible as possible, he garrisoned
it by two hundred and forty Highlanders from Colonel Montgomery's corps, and fifty
of the Royal Americans: the remainder of his forces he marched back to Philadel-
phia; but, before he took his departure, he conferred on his new conquest the name
of Pittsburgh in compliment to that supereminent Statesman, the right honorable Wil-
liam Pitt, Esq.; by whose great abilities, excellent conduct, and the most steady exer-

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 58 of 81)