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

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tion of the reins of government, our affairs, particularly in this new world, have
assumed so prosperous an aspect Another smaller fort, dependent of this, situated on
a branch of the Ohio, the Brigadier also honored with the epithet of Ligonier, to per-
petuate, in some measure, the just sense which he and the British forces entertain of
that experienced General's high merit and long faithful services. By our farther
accounts from that quarter, the late French garrison had perpetuated the most
unheard-of barbarities upon all our prisoners; in the ruins of the fort are found
pieces of human skulls, and other relics of their brutality, which were half burnt after
these monsters of butchery had sated themselves with this savage and unchristian
treatment of some mifortunate captives, on the parade within the fortress they gave up
the remainder to the Indians, who, according to their custom, tomahawked and scalped
them, one after another; and all this in the presence of the unhappy victims of their
rage and cruelty. Fort Ligonier is garrisoned by a detachment from Pittsburgh, which
is relieved weekly or monthly, at the discretion of the

Two magazines were in the fort. One was blown up by springing
a mine of powder. This was the explosion heard by Forbes at Turtle

i2«Writings of Washington;" Sparks, Vol. II, p. 321.

i>"Historical Journal of the Campai^s in NorUi America for the Years 1757, 1758,
1759 and 1760;" Captain John Knox, edited by A. G. Doughty, 1914* Reprint of Lon-
don Edition of 1769; Vol. I, pp. 299-301.

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Creek. The other magazine was not destroyed. In it were found sixteen
barrels of ammunition, many gun barrels, a large quantity of carriage
iron, and a wagonload of scalping knives — nice spoils of war — ^but very
necessary. There were no cannon; whether they had been removed or
sunk in the river was unknown.

About five hundred French retreated, part going down the Ohio, and
some overland with the French commander, De Lignery, to Presque
Isle and Venango. The fort at the latter place was called by the French
Machault. Bancroft's description is pertinent. He says:

As Armstrong's own hand raised the British flag over the ruined bastions of the
fortress, as the banners of England floated over the waters, the place at the suggestion
of Forbes was with one voice called Pittsburgh.

It is the most enduring monument to William Pitt. America raised to his name
statues that have been wrongfully broken and piles of granite of which not one pile
remains upon another, but as long as the Allegheny shall flow to form the Ohio, as
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

John Burk, followed by Irving, says Washington raised the flag over
the ruins. Burk should have known. He lived in Virginia in Wash-
ington's years and had opportunity to learn the fact. Historians gen-
erally ascribe the flag raising to Col. John Armstrong, hero of Kittan-

Thomas Carlyle, ranging widely in his great work, ''History of
Frederick the Great," has this footnote (Vol. VI, pp. 431-432) :

Here is a clipping from Ohio Country, "Letter of an Ofiicer^ (distilled essence of
two letters) dated Fort Duquesne, November 28» 1758 : ''Our small corps under Gen-
eral Forbes, after much sore scrambling through the wilderness, and contending with
enemies wild and tame, is, since the last four days, in possession of Fort Duquesne"
(Pittsburgh henceforth). "Friday 24th, the French garrison, on our appearance,
made-off without fighting; took to boats down the Ohio, and vanbhed out of those
countries,** forever and a day, we will hope. "Their Louisiana-Canada communication is
lost," which Mr. Washington fixed upon long ago, is ours again, if we can turn it to
use. "This day a detachment of us goes to Braddock's field of battle" (poor Braddock)
to bury the bones of our slaughtered countrymen; many of whom the French butchered
in cold blood, and to their own eternal shame and infamy, have left lying above ground
ever since. As indeed they have done with all those slain round the Fort in late weeks ;**
calling themselves a civilised Nation too!"

How strange and bitter these words sound in 1921 !
Bradley, too, tells well the story of subsequent events :

It now only remained to make the fort good for the reception of a winter garrison,
and to re-name it The heroic Forbes had entirely collapsed from the fatigue of the
march, and for some days his life was hanging in the balance. Once again, how-
ever, the strong will conquered and he was carried out among his men to superintend
their operations. A new and suitable name for the conquered fortress was not hard
to find, and Duquesne became Fort Pitt, after the great minister whose spirit had here,
as everywhere, been the source of British triumph. Colonel Mercer, with some Vir-

i«"History of the United States;" Bancroft, Vol. II, p. 49$* Inring's "Washing-
ton;" Vol. I, p. 288, and "History of Virginia;" Burk, Vol. Ill, p. 236, where we read:
"A short time after the explosion. Colonel Washir^n, with the advanced guard,
tntered the fortress amidst the ruins still smoking, and planted the British flag; but tjhe
enemy were beyond reach of attack, having dropt down to their settlement at Presque -
isle and Venango."

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gtnians and Pennsylvanians, was left in charge of the fort, and towards the close of
December, Forbes stretched upon his litter, was borne feet foremost in the midst of
his remaining troops on the weary homeward journey through the freezing forests.
Though his weakness and his suffering grew worse rather than better, his mind at last,
was now at ease. His task was accomplished and Ticonderoga was the only failure of
the year. The French were driven from the West, their connections between Canada
and Louisiana severed, their prestige with the Indians broken, and ^e demon of Indian
warfare on the Alleghany frontier apparently laid. That all this might have been
achieved the next year, or the year after, is no answer to the decisive nature of Forbes'
work. There might have been no next year, or year after, for military achievements
in America. Peace in Europe was at any moment possible. Events there might take
a sudden turn that would make boundary lines on the American wilderness appear to
most men a secondary matter. Pitt cherished no such illusions now; his intentions to
drive the French from America were fixed and clear. But circumstances at home might
weaken his arm ; or he might die, for his life was none of the best, and it was of vital
import that every stroke should be driven home before a general peace was made. A
French garrison anywhere in America would have been hard to move by diplomatic
means when once the sword was sheathed.iv

The little garrison left by General Forbes to hold the now historic
Forks of the Ohio had much to do. Their first duties were sad in the
extreme. The bodies of those who had fallen in the fatal engagement
on Grant's Hill yet lay scattered on the field, scalped and mutilated.
These were gathered and given Christian interment. Then burial parties
went to Braddock's battleground and gathered the whitened bones of
those sacrificed there, and these were also committed to soldiers' graves.
The capture of Fort Duquesne was hailed everywhere throughout the
colonies as a harbinger of better days. The ambitious views of the
French in extending their settlements to the Mississippi had been frus-
trated; the friendship of the Indians had been regained. They were no
longer the allies of the French and herein is the story of the daring and
suffering of Christian Frederick Post. Conferences were immediately
held at the site of Duquesne and the Delawares were the first to sue for
peace. This conference was held by Colonel Bouquet, with George
Croghan, deputy under Sir William Johnson, commissioner of Indian
affairs, present, and Col. John Armstrong and other officers also, with
Capt Henry Montour interpreter.

Subsequent conferences were held at the new Fort Pitt, participated
in by Colonel Mercer, Croghan, Trent and Thomas McKee, assistants
to Croghan, with Montour, "Joe" Hickman and other interpreters. All
the tribes that ranged the region seem to have participated and every-
thing went along nicely until Pontiac decreed otherwise.

The French had occupied their stronghold here and the key to the
West but a short time comparatively. Four years and eight months in
all, but in that time an appalling amount of suffering and bloodshed
had fallen upon the English. It was a period memorable for the terrors
and cruelties of unsparing warfare from the time Ensign Edward Ward
had been foiled at the approach of the formidable and motley-manned
flotilla of Contrecoeur, leaving the unfinished fortification upon which
rose Fort Duquesne, and happy indeed was the day when the proud
flag of England floated in triumph from its fire-scathed walls.

i5"Fight with France for North America;" pp. 283-284.

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Dr. Cyrus Townsend Brady esteems Forbes a hero if ever there was
one. He calls attention to the fact that there is no mention of him
in the "Encyclopedia Brittanica" and none in a monumental work entitled
"The Dictionary of National Biography." Brady says Forbes was "a
man of liberal and enlightened views, courteous in his bearing, and tact-
ful in his methods, but determined — terribly resolute. By his generous
and kindly manner, he attached to himself those whom Braddock and his
officers had alienated by their contempt. The general was in himself a

Parkman says: "If Forbes' achievement was not brilliant, its solid
value was above price. It opened the great West to English enterprise,
took from France half her savage allies and relieved the Western borders
from the scourge of Indian war. The frontier population had cause to
bless the memory of the steadfast and all-enduring soldier."*^

It was the beginning of the end of New France in America, the pass-
ing of that strange civilization Parkman has so beautifully described
when in reverie, to him :

Again their ghostly camp-fires seem to bum, and the fitful light is cast around on
lotd and vassal and black-robed priest, mingled with wild forms of savage warriors,
knit in close fellowship on the same stem errand. A boundless vision grows upon us,
an untamed continent; vast wastes of forest verdure; mountains silent in primeval
sleep; river, lake, and glimmering pool; wilderness oceans mingling with the sky.
Sudi was the domain which France conquered for civilization. Plumed helmets
gleamed in the shade of its forests, priestly vestments in its dens and fastnesses of
ancient barbarism. Men steeped in antique teaming, pale with the close breath of the
cloister, here spent tiie noon and evening of their lives, ruled savage hordes with a nuld
hand, parental sway, and stood serene before the direst shapes of death. Men of
courdy nurture, heirs to the polish of a far-reaching ancestry, here, with their dauntless
hardihood, put to shame the boldest sons of toil.^^

It all passed, and in its stead there came that civilization that grew
out of the march of the pioneers, whose emblem, an axe, was the symbol
of progress. One highway of the marchers was through Pittsburgh and
Pittsburgh grew apace thereby. Speaking of the Valley of the Missis-
sippi a recent historian says :

The valley heard, as I have said, hardly a sound of the Seven Years' War/ the
"Old French War" as Parkman called it Only on its border was there the slightest
bloodshed. All it knew was that the fleur-ds4is flag no longer waved along its river
and that after a few years men came with axes and plows dirough the passes in the
mountains carrying an emblem that had never grown in European fields - « new flag
among national banners. They were bearing, to be sure, a constitution and institutions
strange to France, but only less to England, and perhaps no less strange to other
nations of Europe.

I emphasize this because our great debt to the English antecedents has obscured
tiie fact that the great physical heritage between the mountains, consecrated of Gallic
spirit, came, in effect, directly from the hands Aat won its first title, the French, into
the hands of American settlers, at the moment when a "separate and indiridual people"
were "springing into national liieJ*^^

But this is the story of the "Winning of the West," in which Pitts-
burgh had its full share.

i«"Montcalm and Wolfe;" Champlain Edition, VoL II, p. 371.
i7"Pionecrs of France in the New World ;" Introduction, pp. xii-xiii.
i8"The French in the Heart of America;" John Finley, p. lap^

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The Perilous Missions of Christian Frederick Post.

Forbes is a well commemorated name in Pittsburgh. Rightly enough
the place could have been Forbesburgh, but Forbes himself, in attesta-
tion of his high appreciation of William Pitt, bestowed the name Pitts-
burgh. Forbes street, one of the six main east and west thoroughfares,
is thoroughly familiar to all Pittsburgh people. The Forbes Public School
and Forbes Field are scarcely less familiar. The name and fame of the
dyi^g general, whose bloodless triumph gave us Pittsburgh, is immortal.
A far humbler person, none the less resolute, with a degree of intrepidity
that evokes surprise and admiration in the perusal of his journals, was
Christian Frederick Post, who made two perilous missions to the Indians
at Logstown and held them there until he convinced them of the good
intentions of the English and prevented them from going to the aici of
the French garrison at Fort Duquesne. Without this aid the French
were powerless to hold the work. The Indians were not desired merely
as a reinforcement to the garrison. De Ligneris, the commander, was
kept fully informed by his Indian spies of every move of Forbes' army.
De Ligneris knew Forbes' strength and his armament. One thing alone
would save the French fort — ^an attack upon Forbes from an ambuscade;
in truth, Beaujeu's tactics of July 9, 1755, must be repeated. There were
many places on Forbes' route admirable for the purposes of ambush.
This to be successful required Indians in great number. Adepts in this
their own and best method of attack, De Ligneris could rely only on
those Indians near at hand, who since Fort Duquesne was built had
been in alliance with the French and who were in greatest numbers on
the Ohio, principally at Logstown. These were mainly Mingoes, Dela-
wares and Shawanese. Post tells who, and how he fared while among
them ; of his extreme peril and the ultimate success of his missions. It is
a graphic and thrilling story. When his quaint language and German
idioms and the absolutely phonetic character of his spelling from the
German pronunciation are compared with the English versions of his
journals in Charles Thomson's book, "The Alienation of the Delawares
and Shawanese from the English Interest," and in the Colonial Records
of Pennsylvania, it will be apparent that the translators had no easy task.

The evacuation of Fort Duquesne and the occupancy of the strong
position known as the Forks of the Ohio by the English was a really
great event in the history of North America. This is acknowledged by
the historians; contra, the loss of the place was a severe blow to the
French. The Gallic power was steadily weakening, and the star of old
France, once high over the new France, was about to set, no more to
shine forever. Bradley tells the story well. He says :

There was great rejoicing in the middle colonies at the fall of Fort Duquesne, as
there had been in New England at the fall of Louisburg, and for much the same reason,
since each 1^ been relieved of a neighbour whose chief mission had been to scourge them.

Pltu.— 27

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In England the news was received with profound satisfaction. There was no beii ring-
ing and there were no bonfires. There had been nothing showy in the achievement, and
its import was hardly realized. The glory belonged to two men, and their patient heroism
was not of a kind to make a stir in the limited press of the period. But the cool fear-
lessness of Post was a rarer quality than the valour which faced the surf and batteries
of Louisburg, and the unselfish patriotism of the invalid brigadier was at least as noble
a spectacle as that of the Highlanders who flung themselves across the fiery parapet at

Schoolcraft, in his great work, writing under the head, "The Iroquois
Policy Favors the English," and narrating events after Braddock's de-
feat, says of the ravages of Pennsylvania Indians : "Foremost in these
forays were the Delawares and Shawanese, whose ire appeared to have
received an additional stimulus from the recent triumph of the Gallic-
Indian forces. The Delawares had long felt the wrong which they
suffered in being driven from the banks of the Delaware and the Susque-
hanna, although it was primarily owing to their enemies and conquerors,
the Iroquois, whose policy had ever been a word and blow."^

Schoolcraft could have added an additional reason for the ire of these
Algonquins, as Thomson fully shows — ^the failure of the Pennsylvania
authorities to keep the settlers off these Indians' hunting ground on the
Juniata, allotted them by the Iroquois, who desired and requested the
removal of the settlers.^

When the long-burning ire of the Delawares and Shawanese is con-
sidered, and the fact that it was well fanned by the French for many
years, the accomplishment of Post is all the more remarkable. Writing
the next year (1759), Thomson, prefatory to Post's first journal, gives
expression to the estimate of Post's services at that time, when he says :
"The event of this negotiation was that the Indians refused to join the
French in attacking General Forbes to defeat him as they had Braddock
on the march. So the French, despairing of the fort if the general should
arrive before it, burnt it, and left the country with utmost precipitation."*

The mission of some one who stood well with these tribes was greatly
desired by Forbes. Bradley tells us that

The provincial authorities thought lightly of the scheme, and moreover grudged the
expenditure. They regarded such suggestions as the theories of an Englishman without
experience of savages. Nor, indeed, was it easy to find any ambassador to cross the
Alleghanies and run the gravest risk of death, and that by horrible torture, in the Indian
villages, where English scalps were hanging by hundreds on the wigwam walls. Forbes,
however, gained his point, and a man was found who would face the fate that seemed
inevitable, and that too, without reward. This hero was a Moravian missionary, and a
German, Post by name, a simple, pious person, but intimate with Indian ways and lan-
guages, and married moreover to a converted squaw.

Post reached the Ohio villages in safety, and was received with tolerable civility;
but his hosts insisted on taking him to Duquesne, that the French might also hear what
he had to say. As his ostensible mission was to wean the Indians from the French alli-
ance to those peaceful paths of which his order, the Moravians, were the chief expon-
ents, it was not doubtful what the French would say, and little less so what they would
do. As he was the guest of their allies, they had to listen to Post, and did not venture to

^'History Indian Nations," Vol. VI, p. aip.
'"Alienation," etc., Thomscm, p. 50.
^''Alienation of the Delawares, etc.," p. 171.

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kill him opexdy ; but behind every thicket they had an agent vraiting to take his life, a
large reward being privately offered for his scalp. With indomitable courage Post
braved the whole thing out, and, wonderful to relate, with impunity. He had succeeded
in persuading the Indians to send some delegates, at any rate, to a grand conference near
Philadelphia, had shaken their allegiance to the French, and withal, though not without
many hair-breadth escapes, got safe back to civilization. A great meeting was held dur-
ing the early autumn, presided over by the Governor of Pennsylvania, to which Johnson
brought delegates of the Six Nations from the Mohawk, and whither also went some of
the chiefs of the hostile Indians of the West With much ceremony and a prodigious
wealth of oratory, it was resolved that the Ohio tribes should bury the hatchet with the
Six Nations, which was a step at least in the desired direction. Once more the brave
Moravian faced the Alleghanies, and again harangued the Indian allies of France under
the very tyes of the French themselves, and with such effect that the latter had to submit
to the open insults of barbarians they could not afford to offend. Post again escaped
safely, having done most valuable work, which was greatly aided by the scarcity of
provisions, a condition due to Bradstreet's brilliant stroke at Frontenac, the source of
their supplies. So after an alliance of three years, a record of hideous and ceaseless
slaughter, the Ohio Indians fell away from the French at the very moment when the
gallant Forbes was pushing forward to reap the fruits of his earlier policy, that imkown
to him had succeeded almost beyond hope.^

Charles Thomson, knowing Post well, and writing immediately after
Post's return, is unsparing in praise of Post's success, and he was Post's
first historian, his recording first apart from the records of the provincial
authorities of Pennsylvania in their official "Records." Thomson ob-
serves :

As the withdrawing of the Ohio Indians last summer from the French interest was
of great importance to the success of General Forbes' Expedition against Fort Duquesne, it
may be some satisfaction to the curious reader to be informed what means were made use
of by the General and the Government of Pennsylvania to bring about peace with these
Indians, or at least engage them in a neutrality. The great danger to the General's army
was that it might be attacked and routed in its march by the Indians, who are so expert
in wood-fights, that a very small number are superior to a great number of our regulars
and generally defeat them. If our army could once arrive beyond the fort there was no
doubt but a regular attack would soon reduce it. Therefore, a proper person was sought
for who would venture among the hostile Indians with a message and in the meantime
the General moved slowly and surely. Christian Frederick Post was at length pitched
on for this service. He is a plain, honest, religiously disposed man, who from conscien-
tious opinion of duty formerly went to live among the Mohickan Indians in order to con-
vert them to Christianity. He married twice among them and lived with them seventeen
years, whereby he attained a perfect knowledge of their language and customs. Both
his wives being dead he had returned to live among the white people, but at the request
of the Governor he readily undertook this hazardous journey. How he executed hit
trust, his journal will show. As he is not a scholar, the candid reader will make allow*i
ance for defects in method or expression. The form may seem uncouth, but the matter
is interesting. The Indian manner of treating on public affairs, which this journal
affords a complete idea of, is likewise a matter of no small curiosity, and in the event of
Post's negotiation (as well as the experience of our bad success in the Indian War)
shows the rightness of that measure continually inculcated and recommended by some in
Pennsylvania, of reducing the Indians to reason by treaty rather than by iorce,^

With like attestation of fidelity and the utmost sincerity on Post's
part, there came old Robert Proud, the first historian of the province,
who drawing largely upon Thomson says of Post and his mission :

4"Fight with France for North America,** A. G. Bradley, pp. 281-282.
s^Alienatkm,'* etc.» Tfaomaon, pp. 129-130. See Posfs Journals, Ibid., Appendiac;

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Christian Frederick Post was a plain, honest, religious disposed German, and one of
the Moravian brethren, who, from a conscientious opinion of duty, formerly had lived
among the Mohican Indians, with a view to convert them to Christianity. He had mar-
ried twice among them, and lived with them for seventeen years. It was a dangerous

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 59 of 81)