American Historical Society George Thornton Fleming.

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

. (page 65 of 81)
Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 65 of 81)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

formidaUe English army, so that the attack upon Fort Pitt was countermanded, and
the French and Indians ordered to return towards Niagara with the utmost haste.
This was done, and when they arrived within a day's mardi of Niagara, the brave
Irish General Johnson ordered an ambuscade to a difficult pass, through which the
above troops were to march, and thus they were all killed or taken, to the great joy of
poor Ormsby and his associates.^?

Craig continues :

Niagara was then regarded as one of the most important military positions on this
continent. Through it alone, could France supply the Indians on the upper Ohio and
the Lakes. Well had the French commandant at Venango said, "If it (Niagara) is
taken our road to you is cut off and you must become poor." While, therefore, the
British held Niagara there was but little reason to fear the French at Fort Pitt. Still,
however, the British government resolved to erect here a formidable work, which would
insure their dominion for all time. We cannot fix the precise date of the arrival here
of General Stanwix, but it must have been after the 9th of July, 1739, as on that day
Colonel Mercer was the conmiandant; and we judge from the following letter that it
must have been before the ist of September: is

"Pittsburgh, Sept 24, 1759.

''It is now near a month since the army has been employed in erecting a most for-
midable fortification; such a one as will, to the latest posterity, secure the British
empire on the Ohio. There is no need to enumerate the abilities of the chief engineer,
nor the spirit shown by the troops, in executing the important task; the fort will soon
be a lasting monument of both. Upon the Generars arrival, about 400 Indians, of dif-
ferent nations, came to confirm the peace with the English, particularly the Ottawas and
Wyandotts, who inhabit Fort Detroit ; these confessed the errors they had been led into
by the perfidy of the French ; showed the deepest contrition for their past conduct, and
promised not only to remain fast friends to the English, but to assist us in distressing
the common enemy, whenever we should call on them to do it. And all them that had
been at variance with the English, said they would deliver up what prisoners they had
in their hands to the General, at the grand meeting that is to be held in about three
weeks. As soon as the Congress was ended, the head of each nation presented the
calumet of peace to the General, and showed every token of sincerity that could be
expected, which their surrender of the prisoners will confirm. In this, as in everything

i7"History of Pittsburgh" (Edition 1917), PP. 68-69. "Olden Time;" Vol. II, p. 3.

i8**We have no precise information as to what time he arrived here, but the fol-
lowing extract of a letter, written at this place on the 24th of September, 1759, shows
that he must have commenced operatkms about die last of August, or the first of Sep-
tember of that year." "Olden Time;" Vol. I, p. 195.

Digitized by



that can preserve the lasting peace and happiness of these colonies, the General is

General Stanwix did come to Pittsburgh during the summer of 1759,
and remained until March 21, 1760. Craig has Smollett for authority that
Stanwix spent the winter of 1759 and 1760 at this place, strengthening
it by fortifications, and cultivating peace and friendship with the Indians.
Speaking of the operations of 1758 Smollett says:

In the mean time, the British interest and empire were firmly established on the
banks of the Ohio, by the prudence and conduct of major-general Stanwix, who had
passed the winter at Pittsburgh, formerly Du Quesne, and employed that time in the
most eflfectual manner for the service of his country. He repaired the old works,
established posts of communication from the Ohio to the Monongahela, mounted the
bastions that cover the isthmus with artillery, erected casemates, storehouses, and bar-
racks for a numerous garrison, and cultivated with equal diligence and success the
friendship and alliance of the Indians. The happy consequences of these measures were
soon apparent in the production of a considerable trade between the natives and the
merchants of Pittsburgh, and in the perfect security of about four thousand settlers,
who now returned to the quiet possession of the lands from whence they had been
driven by the enemy of the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.20

All familiar with the topography of Pittsburgh will remark a curious
error in the use of the word "isthmus/* Smollett should have said, "the
bastions that cover the peninsula." A writer in Hazard's "Register," in
1832, refers to the site as a delta.^i

General Forbes died March 13, 1759. Announcement of the fact and
of the appointment of Stanwix in his place was made by General Amherst,
commander-in-chief, two days later. Stanwix arranged to go to Fort
Pitt immediately after his appointment, for there was, as Ormsby
relates, the greatest apprehension there of an attack by the French with
the forces they were known to have collected at Fort Machault, or Ven-
ango. The investment of Niagara by the English compelled the French
to abandon the project of an expedition against Fort Pitt. Stanwix was
subjected to the same delays on the part of the Pennsylvania authorities
that had exasperated Braddock and Forbes. Requisitions by Stanwix for
the necessary supplies and for the requisite number of men and artificers
were not honored by Governor Denny, despite Pitt's and Amherst's posi-
tive orders. The season was slipping by and Stanwix was becoming
impatient. He wrote, August 13, 1759, from his camp at Bedford,
beseeching Denny to furnish carriages, as Stanwix was stopped in his
march and could not proceed without them. Stanwix addressed a cir-
cular letter to the managers for wagons in each county appealing thus :
"The season advances upon us and our magazines are not full. All our
delays are owing to a want of carriages. The troops are impatient to

i»"History of Pittsburgh;" (Edition 1917). PP- 7^7"^- "Olden Time;" Vol I, pp.
195-196. Rupp has this letter in "History Western Pennsylvania^ etc, ;" footnote to p.
144. The letter was originally published in the "American Magazme/' printed at Wood-
bury, N. J.

20"A Compleat History of England;" Vol. II. p. 638.

2iSee footnote "Penn^vania Archives;" First Series, Vol. Ill, p. 579, and Chap.
XIX herein. Date in "Archives" is March nth.

Digitized by


• FORT PITT, 1758-1763 457

dislodge and drive the enemy from their posts on this side of the lake,
and by building a respectable fort upon the Ohio, secure to his Majesty
the just possession of that rich country ."^^

The number of wagons to be furnished was apportioned among the
several counties, of which Philadelphia was to furnish 84; Lancaster 200;
and Cumberland 50; Chester, Bucks, Berks, Northampton and York
their equitable portions. Rates were fair — 42 shillings 6 pence per hun-
dred weight from Carlisle to Ligonier; 17 shillings 6 pence, Carlisle to
Bedford, etc. If a wagon was destroyed, 15 shillings was allowed for
each 20 miles from place of abode. However, with memories of the
experiences of Braddock's wagoners still strong in mind, there was no
keen desire to team over the mountains and into the wilderness about
Fort Pitt. Stanwix's specifications were strict : Each wagon was to be
fitted in the following manner, viz: With four good, strong horses,
properly harnessed ; the wagon to be complete in everjrthing, large and
strong, having a drag chain eleven feet in length with a hook at each
end, a knife for cutting grass, falling axe and shovel, two sets of clouts
and five sets of nails, an iron hoop to the end of every axletree, a linen
mangle, a two-gallon keg of tar and oil mixed together, a slip bell, hop-
ples, two sets of shoes, and four sets of shoe nails for each horse, eight
sets of spare hames and five sets of hame-strings, a bag to receive their
provisions, a spare set of linch pins and a hand screw for every three
wagons. The drivers to be ablebodied men, capable of loading and
unloading and of assisting each other in case of accidents.^' Provision
was made and the same rates established per horse for pack-horses to
any of the posts between Carlisle and Pittsburgh, with 18 pence per
horse for every twenty miles from the places of abode to Carlisle. After
long delay a sufficient number of wagons were secured, and Stanwix was
appeased. How he would have fared had not Niagara fallen, can be con-

During the summer many Indians had collected about Fort Pitt, who
were dependents of the English, brought there by the Pennsylvania
authorities to attend conferences and councils. There had been a con-
ference immediately after Forbes' departure, the next day, December 4,
1758, as noted. Four weeks later Colonel Mercer held another, but the
great gathering was about two months after Stanwix's arrival, beginning
October 25th, 1759. Work upon the permanent fort was begun Septem-
ber 3, 1759, within a week at least after Stanwix came. The drain upon
the commissary for supplies for the gathered Indians became serious,
indeed ; by August 6th it had become so much felt that the garrison was
put to great straits. Mercer was compelled to reduce his garrison to 350
men, and when a convoy of provisions arrived the supplies brought by
the succeeding convoy had been exhausted. A failure of any convoy to

22"Colonial Records;" VoL VIII, pp. 37^-377>

28"Colonial Records;" Vol. VIII, p. 377.' "Pennsylvania Archives;" First Series,
VoL III, pp. 628-625.

Digitized by



arrive would have put the little garrison to dire extremities.** Return
of provisions at Pittsburgh April 4, 1759, is of record as follows :

Pounds of flour 33499

Pounds of Indian meal 6,200

Pounds of beef

Pounds of pork 1,383

Bags of salt 6

Gallons of rum and whiskeyM 112

Beef was on the hoof, for cattle were always driven as a matter of
their own transportation. The minutes of Mercer's conference at Fort
Pitt beginning July 4, 1759, show that Col. Croghan was present as
"Deputy Agent to the Hon. Sir William Johnson, Baronet," who in addi-
tion to a command in the field has remained "His Majesty's Superintend-
ent of Indian Affairs in North America." Col. Hugh Mercer, command-
ant at Pittsburgh, and a number of officers of the Garrison — Capt.
William Trent and Capt. Thomas McKee, assistants to G. Croghan, Esq.,
and Capt. Henry Montour, interpreter, were also present. At this meet-
ing there were in attendance three chiefs and sixteen warriors of the Six
Nations, eleven chiefs and captains of the Delawares ; three chiefs and
fourteen warriors of the Shawanese ; five Wyandots, deputies represent-
ing their own and eight other nations, with twenty-two warriors, and "a
great number of other captains." Here are distinctly enumerated sev-
enty-six males, apart from the "great number of other captains." As the
Indians usually had their women and children at such conferences, we
may well believe that there were at least five hundred Indians present —
all good feeders and all guests of the province of Pennsylvania, for Vir-
ginia did not intervene under the circumstances. In October there were
probably more, but the figures then are not recorded by Rupp.2«

Events at Fort Pitt during the summer as obtained from Colonel
Mercer's letters have been noted. The minutes of the conferences he
held are of record also in the "Penna. Archives," and the "Colonial Rec-
ords," and have been in part reprinted by Rupp. While Mercer seems
to have been in no danger after the fall of Niagara, the determination to
erect a strong fort at Pittsburgh was not abandoned.*^

August 6th, Mercer reported the arrival of Capt. Harry Gordon, chief
of engineers, with most of the artificers, but Gordon could do nothing
until his superior arrived to lay off the ground on which to construct the
fort. Gordon, however, went to work immediately^ to prepare the
materials for building with what expedition he could with his small force.

a*"Colonial Records;" Vol. VIII, p. 30S, 39i.

aB'Tennsylvania Archives ;" First Scries, Vol. Ill, p. 579.

26Sce ''History Western Pennsylvania, etc.;" Appendix, pp. 133, 135, 138.

27«Colonial Records;" Vol. VIII, p. 391.

38There was always peril outside the fort: "Some Taway Indians, that had been
entertained here some Days, and met with equally kind Treatment of others, took off
two Highlanders, one of them a Sentinel from his Post, and we find, since killed them
botii* and were soon proceeding to Venango with their scalps." — ^Mercer to Gov. Denny,
Aug. 6, 1759. ''Colonial Recor4s;" Vol. VIII, p. 390. The Taways or Tawas were
Ottawa*— French allies.

Digitized by


FORT PITT, 1758-1763 459

Mercer was a good writer, and kept the authorities informed of every-
thing that took place. September 15, Mercer reported :

A perfect tranquility reigns here since Gen. Stanwix arrived; the works of the
new fort go on briskly and no enemy appears near the camp or upon the communica-
tion. The difficulty of suppbring the army here obliges the General to keep more of the
troops at Ligonier and Bedford than he would choose; the remainder of the Virginia
regiment joins us next week. Col. Burd is forming a post at Redstone Creek, Col.
Armstrong remains some weeks at Ligonier and the greater part of my battalion will
be divided along the communication to Carlisle.29

The fort at Redstone creek was called Fort Burd. After Forbes' suc-
cessful campaign it became necessary to establish more intimate and
accessible communication between the little settlement around Redstone
*'01d Fort" and the new Fort Pitt, *'and also the establishment of others
appurtenant to prevent predatory incursions of the savages into the set-
tled parts of the territory," wrote James L. Bowman, of Brownsville, in
his sketch of that place.*^

Colonel Burd was dispatched with 200 men to cut a road from Brad-
dock's road to the Monongahela so as to secure a more direct communi-
cation with Fort Pitt. This road of Burd's was selected by the commis-
sioners in laying out the route of the National road from Brownsville, and
but slight deviation made from it and Braddock's road. Traders and
hunters continued for some years to call Fort Burd the "Old Fort,"
which, according to Veech, stood on the site of the new work. Burd had
been instructed by Bouquet to march from Carlisle with the battalion of
the King's troops, and when his work was completed to garrison the fort
with an officer and 25 men and march the remainder of his battalion to
Fort Pitt. Fort Burd was erected in accordance with the science of
backwoods fortifications of the times, with bastions, ditch and draw-
bridge, built wholly of earth and wood. The bastions and central "house"
were of timbers laid horizontally, and the "curtains" were of logs set
vertically in the ground, like posts in close contact; thus forming a stock-
ade or palisadoes. The plans of Fort Burd can be seen in the "Pennsyl-
vania Archives," First Series, Vol. XII, p. 347. Joseph Shippen, who
accompanied Colonel Burd, was the engineer. The log house in the cen-
ter, to contain the women and children, was 39 feet square. The curtains
were 97}^ feet, the flanks 16, the faces of the bastions 30 feet. The ditch
between the bastions was 24 feet wide, and opposite the faces 12 feet.
The gate was six feet wide and eight feet high. The width of the draw-
bridge has not been recorded, probably wide enough for a wagon to cross,
or artillery. This fort became famous, and one of the best known in the
Western region. For a time during Pontiac's war the fort was aban-
doned for want of men to garrison it.

The gallant Burd was in as great straits as his comrade Mercer at

^•"Colonial Records;" Vol. VIII, pp. 391-392. "Pennsylvania Ardiives;" First
Series, Vol. Ill, p. 685.

80'< American Pioneer;" February, 1843- Extracts in "Historical Collections of
Pennsylvania;" Day, p. 342, q. v.

Digitized by



Fort Pitt, and from his journals there is ample corroboration that keeping
the frontier garrisons supplied was a somewhat difficult matter. Burd
wrote that he had kept his people constantly employed since his arrival,
with an allowance of only one pound of beef and a half-pound of flour per
man a day, and that at one time he had not an ounce of flour left and only
three bullocks, therefore he had to cease work until he could receive sup-
plies. These soon came, and he held resolutely to his task. His last
entry was November 4th — "Sunday, snowed to-day, no work. Had ser-
mon in the fort. Dr. Allison sets out for Philadelphia."

With Fort Ligonier, Fort Burd was a main place of refuge on the
lines of communication from Fort Pitt. Each figured extensively in our
frontier history. As Mercer stated, the greater part of his battalion was
kept employed keeping up communication, and the two forts were of
urgent need. While Burd was employed at old Redstone, work was
going on apace at the new Fort Pitt, as Stanwix's letters testify. On
October i8th, Stanwix wrote Denny as follows :

We are proceeding here to establish a good post by erecting a respectable fort.
Our advancements are far unequal to my wishes, beginning so very late as the loth of
September which was as soon as I got up working tools, and have continued as many
troops here as I can feed for the work, to have been often brought to eight days' pro-
visions. It is this that must bound every enterprise of every sort in this so distant a
country, and all land carriages. The troops in the garrison, and on the communication,
suffered greatly by death and desertions, although they were then paid to the first of
October, and now only to the first of August.* 1

Stanwix wrote Governor Hamilton, of Pennsylvania, who had suc-
ceeded Denny, a letter dated "Camp at Pittsburgh, 8th December, 1759,"
in which he stated that :

The works here are now carried on to that degree of defence which was at first
prepared for this year, so that I am now forming a winter garrison which is to consist
of 300 provincials, one half Pennsylvanians, the other Virginians, and 400 of the first
battalion of the Royal American regiment, the whole to be under the command of
Major Tulikens when I leave it. These I hope I shall be able to cover well under good
barracks, and feed likewise, for six months from the first of January; besides artillery
officers and batteaux men, Indians must be fed and they are not a few that come and
go and trade here and will expect provisions from us, in which at least at present they
must not be disappointed. 82

Craig wrote: "The work, erected by Gen. Stanwix, was five sided,
though not all equal, as Washington erroneously stated in his journal in
1770." Washington said in 1770:

The fort is built on the point near the rivers Allegheny and Monongahela, but not
80 near the pitch of it as Fort Du Quesne stood. It is five sided and regular, two of
which near the land are of brick; the others stockade. A moat encompases it. The
garrison consists of two companies of Royal Irish commanded by Captain Edmond-

8i"Colonial Records;" Vol. VIII, p. 427.

8a"Pennsylvania Archives ;" First Series, Vol. Ill, p. 693.

33Joumal, Oct 17. This officer's name was Edmonstone. Craig has it Edmonson
in the "History of Pittsburgh" (Edition 1917, pp. 94-97), and Edmonstone in his account
of the sale of the material of the fort by that officer in Oct., 1772. See "Olden Time;*
Vol. II, p. 95.

Digitized by


FORT PITT, 1758-1763 461

Charles Edmonstone was a captain in the i8th Regiment of Foot, the
Royal Irish ; his commission as captain dated May 27, 1758. Edmond-
stone was promoted steadily, for the records show that he was lieuten-
ant-colonel of the i8th from 1768-1773. Craig alludes to him as Major
Edmonstone in 1772, when orders came from Gage, then commander-in-
chief in North America, to abandon Fort Pitt, which orders Edmonstone
carried out. Craig had some recollections of what remained of Fort Pitt
in his boyhood. His father, Maj. Isaac Craig, and his grandfather, Gen.
John Neville, could describe it accurately to him. Craig said :

The earth around the proposed work was dug and thrown up so as to enclose the
selected position with a rampart of earth. On the two sides facing the country was
supported by what the military men call a revetment, — a brick work, nearly perpendicu-
lar, supporting the rampart on the outside, and thus presenting an obstacle to the
enemy, not easily overcome. On the other three sides, the earth in the rampart had no
support, and, of course, it presented a more inclined surface to the enemy — one which
could readily be ascended. To remedy, in some degree, this defect in the work, a line
of pickets was fixed on the outside of the foot of the slope of the rampart Around the
whole work was a wide ditch which would, of course, be filled with water when the
river was at a moderate stage. In the summer, however, when the river was low, the
ditch was dry and perfectly smooth, so that the officers and men had a ball-alley in the
ditch, and against the revetments. This ditch extended from the salient angle of the
north bastion— that is, the point of the fort which approached nearest Marbury Street,
back of the South end of Hoke's Row — down to the Alleghany where Marbury Street
strikes it This part of the ditch, during our boyhood, and even since, called Butler's
Gut, from the circumstance of Gen. Richard Butler and Col. Wm. Butler resided near-
est it,— their houses being the same which now stand at the corner on the south side of
Penn and east side of Marbury.s^ Another part of the ditch extended to the Monon-
gahela, a little west of West Street, and a third debouche into the river was made just
about the end of Penn Street

The redoubt, which still remains near the Point, the last relic of British labor at this
place, was not erected until 1764. The other redoubt, which stood at the mouth of
Redoubt Alley, was erected by Col. Wm. Grant; and our recollection is, that the year
mentioned on the stone tablet was 1765, but we are not positive of that point Judge
Brackenridge, in a communication in the first number of the Pittsburgh Gazette, on the
29th of Jul}', 1786, stated that this fort cost the British Government sixty thousand
pounds sterling.35

There has been much discussion concerning Brackenridge's estimate
of the cost of Fort Pitt. Many have believed that a typographical error
was made making Brackenridge say £60,000, when he wrote £6,000,
which seemed more reasonable. That Brackenridge meant the greater
figures, there can be no doubt. His communications to "The Gazette"
beginning with the first issue, ran weekly until September, and he had
ample opportunity for correcting any errors. He is discredited in this
respect, however, for his extravagant statement regarding the population
of the town in 1786, made in these communications — 100 houses in which
there dwelt 1,500 people. As the houses were mostly log cabins, it will
be readily acknowledged that fifteen people to a house must have crowded

84ln 1868 Marbury street was numbered Third, in 1910 this designation was

changed to Barbeau. ^ ^^^^ ^ ^,

«»"History of Pittsburgh;" Craig (Edition 1917), PP. 71-72. "Olden Tunc;"
Vol. I, pp. 196-197.

Digitized by



them to some degree.*® Brackenridge, who came to Pittsburgh in 1781,
could easily describe Fort Pitt as he found it and knew it for more than
ten years, indeed until its complete demolition. In his "Gazette" stories
in 1786, under the heading "On the Situation of the Town of Pittsburgh
and the State of Society at that place," he records;

On this point stood the old French fort known by the name of Fort Duquesne^
which was evacuated and blown up by the French in the campaign of the British under
Gen. Forbes. The appearance of the ditch and mound, with the salient angle and
bastions, still remain so as to prevent that perfect level of the ground which otherwise
would exist. It has been long overgrown with the finest verdure, and depastured on by
cattle; but since the town has been laid out it has been enclosed and buildings are

Just above these works is the present garrison, built by Gen. Stanwix, and is said
to have cost the Crown of Britain £60,000. Be that as it may it has been a work of
great labor and of little use— for, situated on a plain, it is commanded by heights and

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 65 of 81)