Military history


Indian Diplomacy and the Fall of Fort Duquesne


WHAT JAMES ABERCROMBY did on July 23 took a kind of courage that was none the less real for being expressed in the form of an administrative mandate. On that day he authorized Brigadier General Forbes to negotiate directly with the Ohio Indians, even though such negotiations violated the protocols of Indian diplomacy. Forbes and Governor William Denny of Pennsylvania had been making overtures to the western Indians through Teedyuscung since the spring, and these efforts had set them at odds with the Crown’s Indian superintendent, Sir William Johnson; Johnson’s connections to the Iroquois had made him deeply averse to approaching the Ohio Indians directly. By giving Forbes permission to act independently of Johnson, Abercromby opened a diplomatic channel that would otherwise have remained blocked. Doing so, however, required him to undercut a man with formidable access to the centers of power in Britain. Abercromby’s decision thus gave Forbes the opportunity to neutralize the Ohio Indians, but only at the price of adding Sir William Johnson’s name to the lengthening list of his enemies.

Perhaps no British commander in North America had ever needed Indian allies more than John Forbes; probably no officer ever tried harder to obtain them; and certainly none had a worse time getting and retaining them. Charged with succeeding where Braddock had failed, Forbes knew very well that the lack of Indian allies had doomed the expedition of 1755. Sir William Johnson had seemed either unwilling or unable to deliver Iroquois warriors to his army, so Forbes had turned southward in the hope of recruiting Cherokee auxiliaries. But the Cherokees came so early and in such large numbers—as many as seven hundred had arrived by mid-May—that Forbes had difficulty arming, equipping, feeding, and finding functions for them all. Moreover, he had no experience of his own in managing Indian affairs and neither Johnson nor Edmund Atkin, the Southern superintendent, sent anyone to help him. Within a month Forbes was complaining that “the Cherokees are most certainly a very great plague,” and that while he had done everything he could “to please them, . . . nothing will keep them.” The Indians understood him no better than he did them. Impatient with Forbes’s slow progress and offended by what he interpreted as Forbes’s efforts to reduce his warriors from allies to subordinates, the Cherokee leader Attakullakulla, or Little Carpenter, tried to withdraw from the expedition, only to find himself under arrest as a deserter. Forbes eventually understood his mistake and released the chief, but the Cherokees had taken permanent offense. Before the summer was out virtually all of them had gone home, taking along the expensive arms and presents with which Forbes had tried to induce them to stay.1

If Forbes was no more culturally sensitive than any of the other British commanders, he was virtually unique among them in that he grasped the strategic importance of the Indians and—notwithstanding his missteps and frustrations—never ceased to seek accommodation with them. Thus even as he was having such trouble in dealing with the Cherokees, he also entreated Governor Denny to fulfill the promises Pennsylvania had made to Teedyuscung at the Easton Treaty of 1757. Houses for the Delawares must at all events be built in the Wyoming Valley, Forbes wrote, in part because “he [Teedyuscung] has the Publick Faith for the making of such a Settlement,” and in part because Forbes wanted to use Teedyuscung’s eastern Delawares to guard the “Back Settlements this Summer.” But most of all Forbes needed to keep communications open with Teedyuscung because the eastern Delaware chief controlled the only channel through which he could send messages to the western Delawares and hence the other Ohio Indians. As early as the beginning of May he was trying to set “a Treaty on foot . . . between the Shawanes, the Delawares, and the people of this province [Pennsylvania]” in order to deprive the French of allies before his army arrived at Fort Duquesne. Arranging this treaty was a task to which Forbes applied himself with no less determination than to building the road itself. In the end it would prove an almost equally herculean undertaking.2

In June, while Forbes’s commander in the field, Colonel Henry Bouquet, was leading the expeditionary force westward from Carlisle to begin building the road and its supporting forts, Forbes himself was seeking by all possible means to employ Teedyuscung as a conduit to the Ohio Indians. He relied on allies of a most unconventional sort to promote these contacts, for he had established a close working relationship with Teedyuscung’s friend and patron, the pacifist merchant Israel Pemberton, founder and leading light of the Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures. It was Pemberton who advised him that Teedyuscung had sent wampum belts and messengers to the western Indians following the 1757 Easton conference, but that the Iroquois had done everything to thwart these contacts and to prevent direct negotiations that might lead to peace. Pemberton, likewise, explained the urgent need of the Ohio tribes to hear directly from the Pennsylvania authorities before they would agree to any change in their allegiance. As always in Pennsylvania, however, the very need for governmental action created formidable barriers to obtaining it. 3

Pemberton and his colleagues in the Friendly Association, as promoters of peace initiatives based on concessions to Indian interests, had never found much favor with Pennsylvania’s proprietor and his appointees. Proprietary authorities (including, of course, the governor) generally opposed any measures likely to reduce income from the sale of lands, or, worst of all, anything that would call into question the validity of previous purchases from the Iroquois—especially that most flagrant of frauds, the Walking Purchase, which both the Quakers and the Delawares wanted to see invalidated. The previous year’s treaty at Easton, establishing peace between the province and the eastern Delawares, had been possible only because Governor Denny, in a most ungovernorly way, agreed to set aside the Penn family’s interests and accede to Teedyuscung’s demands for aid, trade, land, and an inquiry into the Walking Purchase. But Denny could go only so far without jeopardizing his job, and everyone—the Quakers of the Friendly Association, the antiproprietary leaders in the Pennsylvania Assembly, Forbes, and particularly Denny—knew it. They also realized that the interlocking interests of the proprietor, the Iroquois, and Sir William Johnson, none of whom wished to promote the independent standing of the Delawares or any other Iroquois client group, would inevitably delay and frustrate efforts to negotiate with the Ohio Indians.

In view of all this, and of his anxiety over the desertion of the Cherokees, Forbes asked Abercromby for the authority to conduct Indian diplomacy without waiting for Sir William to take action. By the time Abercromby’s reply of July 23 arrived the negotiations were already under way, for Forbes had already taken Pemberton’s advice and asked Denny to pursue contacts, through Teedyuscung, with the Ohio nations. These efforts had borne fruit early in July, when Teedyuscung had conducted two western Delaware chiefs to Philadelphia, where Denny assured them that Pennsylvania was indeed eager to end hostilities. The emissaries from the Ohio Country were both sachems of great stature; one of them, Pisquetomen, was the elder brother both of Shingas and of Tamaqua, the former the preeminent Delaware war leader, and the latter a civil chief inclined to seek accommodation with the English. Because there could be no doubt that the appearance of such representatives offered real hope of peace, Denny appointed a personal envoy to return with them to the Ohio Country carrying his invitation to attend a treaty conference in the fall.4

The man whom the governor asked to undertake the perilous journey to the west was a brave and shrewd Moravian proselytizer, Christian Frederick Post. This Prussian-born cabinetmaker had come to Pennsylvania in 1742 as a disciple of the religious visionary Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf; soon thereafter he began to act as a lay missionary, a calling for which his genius for learning Indian languages and his ability to understand Indian cultures made him uniquely suited. By 1748 he had taken up residence among the eastern Delawares in the Wyoming Valley, learned their language, and married into the community. All this made him the perfect ambassador to send to the western Delawares, but even so his life would have been worthless in the Ohio Country without Pisquetomen’s guarantee of safe conduct. As it was, the French learned of his presence and his mission as soon as he entered the region but could do nothing to stop him.5

By the middle of August, Post and Pisquetomen had reached Tamaqua’s town of Kuskuski on upper Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Ohio that joins the river about twenty-five miles below the Forks. There, on August 18 and 19, Post addressed the assembled chiefs and warriors of the Delaware, assuring them that the English wished to make peace. Thereafter, in towns down Beaver Creek and on the Ohio practically to the walls of Fort Duquesne, Post repeated his message to Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo leaders while the Indians protected him from French attempts to capture or assassinate him. Everywhere he went, his hosts expressed real interest in ending hostilities but seemed convinced that if they abandoned the French, the English would repay them by entering the Ohio Country and seizing their lands. Post tried to reassure them by pointing out that the English had undertaken military operations in the west only after the French had established forts there, and by reading to them the provisions of the 1757 Easton agreement that offered aid, and presumably guaranteed land, to Teedyuscung’s people in the Wyoming Valley. These facts, he argued, could be taken as proof that the English did not intend to colonize beyond the Alleghenies, but only to expel the French and then revive the trade that the Ohio tribes desperately needed. 6

The Ohioans remained skeptical. “It is plain,” they insisted, “that you white people are the cause of this war; why do not you and the French fight in the old country, and on the sea? Why do you come to fight on our land? This makes every body believe, you want to take the land from us by force, and settle it.” Yet no matter how skeptical of British intentions, the Indians could hardly mistake the rapid weakening of the French hold on the Ohio or ignore the fact that Forbes was advancing with a kind of deliberateness and power that Braddock had never shown. Thus despite their misgivings, the western Delaware chiefs decided to send Post back with a message for Denny, Forbes, and their “brethren” in Pennsylvania:

[W]e long for that peace and friendship we had formerly. . . . As you are of one nation and colour, in all the English governments, so let the peace be the same with all. Brethren, when you have finished this peace, which you have begun; when it is known every where amongst your brethren, and you have every where agreed together on this peace and friendship, then you will be pleased to send the great peace belt to us at Allegheny. . . . Now, brethren, let the king of England know what our mind is as soon as possibly you can.7

On September 8, Post, Pisquetomen, and a bodyguard of warriors set off for the English settlements. After two perilous weeks spent dodging scouts sent out from Fort Duquesne to intercept them, they arrived at Teedyuscung’s town of Shamokin, on the Susquehanna. There they parted company, as Pisquetomen traveled on to Easton where he would represent his people in the coming peace talks while Post headed for Forbes’s headquarters to report what he knew of French strength in the Ohio Country.8

Post finally found the general at Raystown, within Fort Bedford’s palisade. Forbes was delighted to meet a man of such “ability and Fidelity” and so gratified to have reliable information on the enemy that he made him a personal reward of fifteen pounds sterling. But it was clear to Post that he had found a man sick and staggering under the duties of command. In addition to suffering from his painful skin condition, Forbes was in the midst of “a long and severe attack of a bloody flux”— dysentery—that left him so debilitated he could travel only “in a Hurdle carried betwixt two Horses.” Forbes was, in his own words, “quite as feeble as a child” and forced to spend much of his time “in bed wearied like a dog.” Yet to a remarkable degree he managed to keep up with his duties, issuing orders to Bouquet, sending weekly reports to Abercromby, pelting governors with demands for aid, and hurrying supplies forward to the expeditionary force.9

Post found the general burdened by cares and worries enough to dishearten a healthy man. The two Virginia colonels, Washington and Byrd, had been insisting throughout the campaign that Forbes would never reach Fort Duquesne before the end of the year if he held to the plan of building his road across Pennsylvania; he must shift his forces southward and use the Braddock road if he hoped for success. Forbes, convinced that their preference for the Braddock route grew from land-speculating interests in the Ohio Country, had lately found it necessary to reprimand them for having “showed their weakness in their attachment to the province they belong to” above “the good of the service.” Because Forbes did not value such “provincial interest, jealousys, or suspicions, one single twopence” he had been feeling anxious ever since word had come back from the roadhead that the last mountainous stretch, Laurel Ridge, would prove extremely difficult to cross. He feared in his heart that Washington and Byrd might have been right, and that the expedition might not reach the Forks before winter after all. 10

Nor was the difficulty of building the road by any means the worst news to have found its way back to Forbes’s headquarters. He had also recently learned that on September 11 Bouquet, acting on his own authority, had detached a large force to reconnoiter toward Fort Duquesne from Loyalhanna, where the bulk of the army was busy constructing Fort Ligonier. Bouquet and Major James Grant, the officer to whom he gave command of the eight-hundred-man detachment, had hoped to end the campaign with a quick coup de main, despite Forbes’s orders that they avoid all such risky ventures. The result of their boldness had been a coup of another sort, for early on the morning of September 14 a large party of French and Indians surrounded Grant’s force near the Forks. In what nearly became a small-scale reprise of Braddock’s defeat, a third of the British and American troops under Grant’s command were killed, wounded, or captured. The remainder saved themselves as best they could: some by fighting their way out in an orderly retreat, others by throwing down their equipment and running away. Grant himself—after Bouquet, Forbes’s most experienced field officer—had been taken prisoner and sent to Canada.11

The news of Grant’s defeat depressed Forbes all the more since it substantiated Post’s report that the French and Indians at Fort Duquesne were still strong enough to defend the Forks; but most of all it aggravated him, because Bouquet and Grant had gotten into the predicament by ignoring his orders. It was bad enough to be saddled with provincials who lacked discipline and devotion to the common cause, but holders of the king’s commission should not need to be taught their duty. In a stinging rebuke to Bouquet, Forbes wrote that he had rested secure, and plumed myself in our good fortune, in having the head of the army advanced, as it were, to the beard of the enemy, and secured a good post well guarded and cautioned against surprise. Our road almost completed; our provisions all upon wheels, and all this without any loss on our side, and our small army all ready to join and act in a collected body whenever we pleased to attack the enemy, or that any favorable opportunity presented itself to us.


Fort Bedford, Pennsylvania. The meeting place of Christian Frederick Post and John Forbes, this small pentagonal fort was Forbes’s supply base in the construction of the road to Fort Duquesne. Fort Ligonier, a similarly sized post on Loyalhanna Creek about forty-five miles to the west of Bedford, was the jumping-off point for the assault on Fort Duquesne. Between them, and along the length of Forbes Road generally, smaller blockhouse forts lay about a day’s march apart. From Rocque, A Set of Plans and Forts. Courtesy of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

Thus the breaking in upon—not to say disappointments of—our hitherto so fair and flattering hopes of success touches [me] most sensibly. How far we shall find the bad effects of it, I shall not at present say.

What worried him most was that the result of this setback would be the “alienating and altering the disposition of the [Ohio] Indians, at this critical time, who (tho’ fickle and wavering), yet were seemingly well disposed to embrace our alliance and protection.”12

To this crushing load of anxiety, the “unusual and unexpected rains” of October added one last straw. “I am ruined and undone by Rain,” Forbes complained on a day when the army could “not move one yard.” “Pray God send us a few fair days.” Under these gloomy circumstances, with the campaigning season and the enlistments of his provincials (the great majority of his army) both drawing rapidly to a close, Forbes fixed his hopes on the peace conference that opened at Easton on October 11. Although he no longer expected direct aid in the form of Indian auxiliaries, if the Ohio tribes could be neutralized he might yet—all other impediments notwithstanding—complete his mission. Thus on October 16 although Forbes was “quite tyred” he still dragged himself to his desk to write a long letter to Pennsylvania’s provincial secretary at the Easton Congress, urging him and his fellow delegates in the proprietary interest to do everything in their power to make it a success.13

“I am this moment flattering myself,” he wrote, “that from the joint endeavours of all with you, the dropping of foolish trifles, some measure will be taken with those originale Inhabitants[, the Indians, so] as to strengthen ourselves and diminish our Ennemys Influence with them [on the Ohio]. . . . As I see things giving up sometimes a little in the beginning will procure you a great deal in the end.” Although on the twelfth the enemy had made a strong raid against “our advanced post at Loyal Hannon,” Forbes reported, Bouquet’s men had repelled them, inflicting “Considerable” casualties without sustaining comparable losses of their own. The repulse of the raiders had actually raised morale, making “all the Waggoners, horse drivers &ca . . . on the road as brave as Lyons.” Therefore, he wrote, because “I have everything in readyness at Loyal Hannon, [and] I only want a few dry days to carry me to the Ohio Banks,” he had dispatched Christian Frederick Post to Easton, so that the moment peace had been concluded Post could return to the valley “with proper Messages (as the Governor shall direct) to the Ohio Indians to retire directly.” No one knew better than Forbes that everything now depended upon the success of the peace conference: “Pray heartily,” he concluded, “for fair weather and dispatch of Business.” 14

Post brought Forbes’s letter to Easton on October 20, the day that the congress reached its climax. From its beginning the gathering had been a large and confused one, fraught with tension and conflict.15 Although this conference had been convened under the joint aegis of the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the parties present and the interests they represented closely paralleled those at the previous year’s Easton treaty. As in 1757, the divided interests of Pennsylvania were represented by its governor, a delegation of antiproprietary commissioners from its assembly, a variety of officeholders attached to the proprietary interest, and the proprietor’s veteran Indian diplomat, Conrad Weiser. As in 1757, George Croghan attended as the deputy of Sir William Johnson; and as before Croghan was being shadowed by Johnson’s (and the proprietor’s) Quaker antagonist, Israel Pemberton. As in 1757, Indians of several nations were on hand: a few to speak and a few to counsel with the speakers, and many more to lend support to their nations’ spokesmen with choruses of assent or murmurings of disapproval. But despite these resemblances, the 1758 conference also differed significantly from its predecessor.

In the first place, there were more Indians present, from many more tribes, and their larger numbers and greater diversity made the internal dynamics of this gathering more complex than those of its predecessor. In 1757 there had been only one principal Indian negotiator, Teedyuscung, who had brought with him a sizable group of Delawares; a considerable number of Senecas had also attended, but they had come as observers from the Iroquois Confederacy, not as independent negotiators. By contrast, more than five hundred Indians from thirteen nations attended the great congress of 1758. The western Delaware delegation was the most important one, but it was also one of the smallest, consisting only of Pisquetomen and his counselors. The eastern Delawares far outnumbered them, for Teedyuscung brought along approximately sixty supporters; but even that group was dwarfed by the numbers of Indians from the Iroquois League. Each of the Six Nations had sent official representatives, and the Onondaga Council had encouraged many of the small nations that lived under its protection—Nanticokes, Tuteloes, Chugnuts, Mini-sinks, Mahicans, and Wappingers—to send observers. The large number of Iroquois gave the first indication that this congress would differ from its predecessor, for the Grand Council had decided that the time had come to reassert its claim to preeminence over its tributary peoples. Onondaga had therefore sent no fewer than three powerful chiefs—the great Oneida orator Thomas King, the Seneca sachem Tagashata, and the Mohawk chief Nichas (Croghan’s father-in-law)—with the express intent of silencing Teedyuscung and quelling the tendency he represented toward independent action.

Teedyuscung saw this from the start and realized that the gains he had made at the 1757 conference—the promise of an inquiry into the validity of the Walking Purchase and the promise of a permanent Delaware reservation in the Wyoming Valley—could all be lost if the Iroquois successfully reasserted their claim to power over himself and his people. But he also knew that, having already concluded a peace between his own eastern band and the English, and having helped to bring the western Delawares to this peace table, he had become dispensable. With nothing left to offer as a mediator, he had lost his power to make demands. Teedyuscung’s impotence helps to explain his behavior at Easton, for before the sessions began and frequently thereafter, he was loudly, belligerently, disruptively drunk. Whatever emotional reasons he may have had to drink, he gained nothing by it and made such a nuisance of himself that the Iroquois spokesmen scarcely even needed to argue that he was unfit to speak for his people. Once again, by virtue of adroit diplomacy if not the reality of control, the Iroquois reasserted their claims to hegemony over the eastern Delawares.

This was possible because both Denny and his cosponsor, Governor Francis Bernard of New Jersey, were coming to see Teedyuscung more as a liability than an asset. If the promises previously made to inquire into the Walking Purchase could be permanently deflected, and if the Wyoming Valley could be left under the control of the pliant Iroquois rather than being deeded to Teedyuscung’s upstart Delaware band, they reasoned, so much the better. Such a solution suited the proprietor’s men, who wished neither to see the Walking Purchase invalidated nor to have two and a half million acres of superb land removed from their master’s control. Once it was clear that the Iroquois delegates at the conference would be speaking, as it were, in a chorus of agreement—and that the chorus was being harmonized by George Croghan and his father-in-law, Nichas—Teedyuscung was, for all practical purposes, isolated. Since the welfare of this man and his people was of no driving concern to the commissioners who represented the assembly, his sole remaining support came from Israel Pemberton. But Pemberton was present only as an unofficial observer and, saddest of all for Teedyuscung, he was not about to squander the chance for regaining peace by defending the claims of a drunk and frequently abusive chief. Thus between the rum that robbed him of his wits and the dynamics of power and peace that robbed him of his influence, Teedyuscung found himself abandoned at Easton; and before the conference ended, he sobered up and made the best accommodation he could with his, and his people’s, plight.

It was on October 20 that Teedyuscung formally submitted to Iroquois control in a moving plea for a Wyoming Valley homeland. “Uncles, ” he said, addressing the Iroquois chiefs,

You may remember that you have placed us [Delawares] at Wyomink, and Shamokin, Places where Indians have lived before. Now I hear since, that you have sold that Land to our Brethren the English; let the matter now be cleared up, in the Presence of our Brethren the English.

I sit there as a Bird on a Bough; I look about, and do not know where to go; let me therefore come down upon the Ground, and make that my own by a good Deed, and I shall then have a Home for ever; for if you, my Uncles, or I die, our Brethren the English will say, they have bought it from you, and so wrong my Posterity out of it.16

The Oneida spokesman Thomas King replied loftily that, for the time being, Teedyuscung could “make use of those Lands in Conjunction with our People, and all the rest of our Relations.” As for the “good Deed” that Teedyuscung wanted, that was the concern of the sachems of the Iroquois at Onondaga; King would not presume to speak for them, but he would pass along the request. The proprietor’s men rejoiced. Now they were prepared to make two carefully rehearsed concessions, the net effect of which would be simultaneously to hamstring Teedyuscung, seal the peace with the western Delawares, and reestablish the Iroquois hegemony that was invaluable to the Penn family.17

When Teedyuscung said in his speech that he had heard the Iroquois had “sold that Land [at Wyoming] to our Brethren the English” he alluded to the cession at the Albany Congress in which Conrad Weiser, acting as agent for the Penn family, had secured from the Iroquois title to all the land in Pennsylvania that lay west of the Susquehanna River, between 41°31’ north latitude and the Maryland border. Weiser had intended to preempt the Wyoming Valley land purchase that his competitor, John Henry Lydius, was attempting to negotiate for the Susquehannah Company of Connecticut: hence Teedyuscung’s anxiety to obtain a “good Deed” to Wyoming. But Weiser’s enormous purchase had also included all Iroquois claims to the region around the Forks of the Ohio, and thus the Albany purchase also went to the heart of Pisquetomen’s concerns. Everyone at Easton realized that the Ohio Indians would never make peace with the English unless they were satisfied that the Ohio Country would remain theirs once the war was over. Thus as soon as Teedyuscung had acknowledged his submission to Iroquois authority, Conrad Weiser, acting as the agent of the Penn family, formally returned to the Iroquois all the land from the Albany purchase that lay west of the Allegheny mountains.18

This masterstroke allayed the immediate fears of the Ohio Indians for their land even as it reaffirmed the Iroquois’s status as lords of the valley, but it also raised a second issue that needed to be resolved. Pisquetomen had no less reason to worry about the long-run consequences of Iroquois control than that of the English, since he knew as well as Teedyuscung did that the Iroquois had never hesitated to sell land out from under their tributary nations. Thus Governor Denny stepped forward to make the second of the two planned concessions, by promising to “kindle up again” the “first Old Council Fire” at Philadelphia—that is, making a pledge on behalf of the proprietor to negotiate directly with representatives of the Delawares (and through them, the Ohio Indians generally) in the future, as William Penn had negotiated with their ancestors in 1682. Thus the form of Iroquois predominance over the Ohio Country was revived but the substance of Iroquois control over the Ohio Indians was not, for the Ohioans would be free to act for themselves in future dealings with the Penns. With these concessions secured, Pisquetomen agreed to peace on behalf of the western Delawares and the other Ohio bands for whom he spoke.19

The formal conclusion of the Treaty of Easton came on October 25 and 26, 1758, with feasting and the distribution of gifts. It had been the most important Indian congress in Pennsylvania’s history, and its significance was by no means limited to the restoration of peace with the Ohio tribes. By subtle and compliant diplomacy, the Iroquois had regained predominance over the eastern Delawares and had reestablished their claim to the Ohio Country, an asset of far greater importance to the Confederacy than the one they ostensibly surrendered—the ability to speak for the western Delawares. The Penn family’s representatives had staved off a considerable threat to the proprietary interest and had cemented anew the proprietor’s ties to the Six Nations. If the Penns’ enemies in the Pennsylvania Assembly and the Friendly Association were compelled to concede those gains to the proprietary interest, they could at least look forward to an end of bloodshed in the backcountry. Forbes could now strike at Fort Duquesne, supposing that the weather permitted and that word of the peace could be gotten to the western Indians before the enlistments of his provincial troops expired. And Pisquetomen had gained for his people the cessation of hostilities they could no longer afford to sustain, Onondaga’s recognition of their autonomy, and an English promise that the whites would not establish permanent settlements in the Ohio Country after the war.

Of all the parties present at Easton, only the two men most responsible for regaining the peace had sustained irreversible losses. Israel Pemberton and the Friendly Association would never again play so prominent a role in Indian diplomacy; Teedyuscung would forfeit the freedom of action he had striven to achieve. In the end, however, Teedyuscung’s people would lose much more. After a brief hearing in 1759, the Privy Council referred the promised investigation of the Walking Purchase to the Board of Trade, which in turn assigned it to Sir William Johnson. Teedyuscung’s request for a reservation in the Wyoming Valley was referred to the Iroquois Council, which of course took no action. The lack of satisfactory resolution in the issues of the Walking Purchase and the Wyoming question would prove, over the long run, to be among the most painful legacies of the Easton Congress—and not only for the eastern Delawares. On October 25, however, only Teedyuscung, weeping and promising to look to God for guidance as he bade Israel Pemberton farewell, sensed what the failures, as well as the achievements, of the Easton treaty might mean.20

Meanwhile, Christian Frederick Post, Pisquetomen, and their escorts were already hurrying back to the Ohio Country with news of the peace. Following the new road (which Post thought “one of the worst roads that ever was travelled”) they caught up with Forbes and the rest of his army at the Loyalhanna advanced post, Fort Ligonier, on November 7. Forbes welcomed them, feted them, toasted their healths, and hustled them on their way with wampum belts and letters to Shingas, Tamaqua, and the other Ohio chiefs. “Brethren,” Forbes had written,

I embrace this opportunity . . . of giving you Joy of the happy Conclusion of that great Council [at Easton], w[hi]ch is perfectly agreable to me; as it is for the mutual advantage of Y[ou]r Brothers, the Indians, as well as the English nation.

. . . As I am now advancing, at the Head of a large Army, against his Majesty’s Enemies, the French, on the Ohio, I must strongly recommend to you to send immediate Notice to any of your People, who may be at the French fort, to return forthwith to your Towns; where you may sit by y[ou]r Fires, w[i]th y[ou]r Wives and Children, quiet and undisturbed, and smoke your Pipes in safety. Let the French fight their own Battles, as they were the first Cause of the War, and [the] occasion of the long difference, w[hi]ch hath subsisted between you & your Brethren, the English; but I must entreat you to restrain y[ou]r young Men . . . , as it will be impossible for me to distinguish them from our Enemies; . . . lest . . . I should be the innocent Cause of your Brethren’s Death. This Advice take and keep in your own Breasts, and suffer it not to reach the Ears of the French.21

By the sixteenth Pisquetomen and Post were delivering Forbes’s message to the Indian settlements along Beaver Creek. The task was far from easy, for they arrived at a “precarious” time, just as many warriors were returning from a raid against the Anglo-Americans near Loyalhanna. For three days Post and his companions found themselves confined in a house in Kuskuski from which they dared not venture. In part their peril proceeded from the French officers present, who urged the town’s young men “to knock every one of us messengers on the head.” But most of all their lives were at risk, Post thought, “because the people who came from the slaughter . . . were possessed with a murdering spirit; which led them as in a halter, in which they were catched, and with bloody vengeance were thirsty and drunk.” Anxiously the emissaries waited first for calm, then for a decision to emerge from the Indians’ private debates over whether to accept the peace belts and messages from Easton. Everything depended upon their interpretation of English intentions. As Post well understood, “the Indians concern themselves very much about the affair of land; and are continually jealous, and afraid the English will take their land.” 22

After what seemed an eternity, Tamaqua and Shingas formally agreed to accept the messages and peace belts on November 25. Several days of speeches in public council followed, but these only served to ratify the decision, already made, to accept the Easton settlement. At the conclusion of the council on November 29, Tamaqua told Post that he and Shingas would take the word personally to the other Ohio villages and asked the missionary to carry the news of their acceptance to the English. Then, as “we made ready for our journey,” another sachem approached with a final request.

Ketiushund, a noted Indian, one of the chief counsellors, told us in secret, “That all the nations had jointly agreed to defend their hunting place at Alleghenny, and suffer nobody to settle there; and as these Indians are very much inclined to the English interest, so he begged us very much to tell the Governor, General, and all other people not to settle there. And if the English would draw back over the mountain, they would get all the other nations into their interest; but if they staid and settled there, all the nations would be against them; and he was afraid it would be a great war, and never come to a peace again.”23

The missionary agreed to carry this news, too. Somberly: for he could not guarantee that anyone would listen.

When Christian Frederick Post rejoined the army on December 4, he found that the Ohio world had changed forever. Forbes’s campaign was finished: the British controlled the Forks; a new fort was under construction a few hundred yards upstream from the blasted ruin of Fort Duquesne; the area was being called by a new name, Pittsburgh; Forbes himself was already being carried back to Philadelphia in a desperate attempt to save his life. 24 This is how it had all come to pass:

The Delaware raiders whose return to Kuskuski had caused such trouble for Post and his companions had set out on November 9 to carry off or destroy horses and cattle near Loyalhanna. They had undertaken this raid without much enthusiasm, at the insistence of François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery, the captain of la marine in command at Fort Duquesne, who hoped to create such havoc in the British transport service that Forbes would be unable to continue the campaign. It was a raid conceived in desperation. Lignery, a tenacious fifty-five-year-old officer who had been active on the Ohio since Braddock’s defeat, was a past master of hit-and-run warfare, but following Fort Frontenac’s fall he had begun to despair of his position. As his supplies dwindled and his scouts told him of the road-builders’ steady progress toward the Forks, he had launched raid after raid, hoping to keep the British off balance until the onset of winter forced them to abandon their expedition. But with each successful raid more and more of his Far Indian auxiliaries had taken their captives and trophies and returned home. Ironically, his greatest victory, the defeat of Grant’s reconnaissance party on September 14, had resulted in the departure of so many Ottawa, Wyandot, and other warriors from the pays d’en haut that soon thereafter he found himself with few Indians beside the local Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingos left to rely upon. Meanwhile the straitened state of his supplies compelled him to reduce the numbers of French and Canadian troops at Duquesne to a minimum. At the beginning of November he commanded a skeletal garrison of three hundred regulars and militiamen. Only a third of them were fit for duty.25

The raid on Forbes’s horses and cattle at the “grass guard” near Loyalhanna on November 12 was in fact a success, despite what seemed to Lignery the halfhearted participation of the Ohio Indians, for the raiders killed and seized more than two hundred animals before withdrawing. Warned that an attack was under way, Forbes ordered out two parties of five hundred men: one under Colonel Washington “to give them chace,” the other under Lieutenant Colonel George Mercer of the 2nd Virginia Regiment “to Surround them.” Night was coming on when Washington’s men finally ran three of the raiders to ground. Shortly thereafter, in the deepening dusk, Washington’s force collided with Mercer’s and the two formations opened fire on each other. Before anyone understood what was happening, two officers and thirty-eight men had been killed or wounded, a heavier toll by far than the raiders had exacted. Luckily the prisoners remained unharmed, and one of them, a Pennsylvania backwoodsman named Johnson whom the Delawares had adopted and who had joined the raid as a warrior, revealed the weakness of Lignery’s garrison. Forbes had been ready to abandon the campaign for the winter, but Johnson’s report convinced him to seize the chance that now presented itself. He ordered immediate preparations for an advance on the Forks. 26

With Washington’s Ist Virginia Regiment and detachments of Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina provincials in the lead, the army marched from its Loyalhanna camp on the morning of November 15. The troops left their camp women and even their tents behind at Fort Ligonier and advanced as rapidly as they could toward the Forks, cutting between three and five miles of road a day as they went. Each day a special detail built a hut with a chimney for Forbes, who though weaker than ever had himself carried forward in his litter, spending each night as close as possible to the head of the column. By November 21, the advance guard was encamped at Turtle Creek, twelve miles from Fort Duquesne.27

That was also the day that Lignery finally admitted that the game was up. Knowing that the Delawares were still debating whether to accept the peace belt from Pennsylvania, on the twentieth he had sent a war belt to Kuskuski along with a message asking them to join him in a new attack on the English. To his chagrin, the Delawares refused to accept the belt and instead kicked it about as if it were a snake. “Give it [back] to the French captain,” they told Lignery’s messenger, “and let him go with his young men; he boasted much of his fighting; now let us see his fighting. We have often ventured our lives for him; and had hardly a loaf of bread [in return] . . . ; now he thinks we should jump to serve him.” The French emissary, “pale as death,” endured their ridicule until midnight, then sent word back warning Lignery not to expect help from his erstwhile allies.28

When the unwelcome news arrived at the Forks, the commandant took the only option left to him and ordered the fort evacuated and destroyed. Sending what provisions were left to the nearest Wyandot band (“to induce them always to take our side and attack the English,” he explained), he had the fort’s cannon and munitions loaded on bateaux and ordered the militiamen from Louisiana and Illinois to convey them, along with the remaining prisoners, to the Illinois Country. Finally, on November 23, while the remaining two hundred men of his garrison waited in their canoes, he ordered the fort to be set afire and a mine of fifty or sixty barrels of powder to be detonated under its walls. Pausing only long enough to make sure “that the fort was entirely reduced to ashes and that the enemy would fall heir to nothing but the ironwork of the community buildings,” Lignery and his men paddled up the Allegheny for Fort Machault, the supply station that stood at the mouth of French Creek. There he and a hundred of his healthiest men would hold the line for the winter, awaiting the return of spring and the reinforcements needed to reconquer the Forks before the English, too, could reinforce their winter garrison.29

Although the Anglo-Americans at ten miles’ distance heard the explosion that blasted Fort Duquesne into oblivion, they advanced with caution and did not occupy the site until the following day, November 24. By then, Forbes’s little army was within a week of dissolution, for the enlistments of the provincials who comprised two-thirds of its strength were due to expire on the thirtieth. Thus Forbes made haste to consolidate his gains, ordering a stockaded fort to be constructed just up the Monongahela from the rubble of the French post. Its purpose was to shelter a winter garrison of just two hundred Pennsylvania provincials under another Scottish physician-turned-soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Mercer. This was a tiny number, indeed a perilously small one; but not a man more could be provisioned from Fort Ligonier, forty miles to the east. Even more important than this fort, Forbes knew, was settling the minds of the local Indians, who would easily be able to overwhelm its garrison. He therefore dispatched George Croghan, who had joined him after Easton, to invite the local village chiefs to meet with him at the fort.

But Forbes himself could not remain, and when the conference opened on December 4 it was Colonel Bouquet who was there to distribute gifts and assure the assembled chiefs that the English had come not to settle, but only to reopen trade and guard against the return of the French. On November 26, Forbes’s health had finally, irrevocably collapsed: “being seized with an inflammation in [his] stomach, Midriff and Liver, the sharpest and most severe of all distempers,” he realized that if he was to survive he would have to return to Philadelphia, where he could receive proper medical care before going home to England.30

Although he had doubted that he would survive the journey, Forbes lived to reach Philadelphia about six weeks later. There he recovered only enough strength to set his affairs in order and to write a few letters: the administrative and strategic testament of a man who could feel his life ebbing away. The most important of Forbes’s last letters were addressed to Jeffery Amherst, recently named as Abercromby’s successor. Indian affairs continued to concern Forbes, for he worried that Amherst (still inexperienced in wilderness warfare) would assume that the Indians were primitives who would merely side with the likeliest winner and that relations with the Indians could therefore be reduced to a simple calculus of force. Forbes begged Amherst “not [to] think trifflingly of the Indians or their friendship.” If he hoped to preserve Britain’s foothold on the Ohio, Amherst would need to “have [Indian affairs] settled on some solid footing, as the preservation of the Indians, and that country, Depends upon it.” Relations with the tribes had generally been misunderstood, Forbes wrote, “or if understood, perverted to purposes serving particular ends.” In this regard the greatest problems had arisen from two sources: “the Jealousy subsisting betwixt the Virginians & Pensilvanians . . . as both are aiming at engrossing the commerce and Barter with the Indians, and of settling and appropriating the immense tract of fine country” around the Forks; and “the private interested views of Sir William Johnstone [ Johnson] and his Myrmidons.” Unless Amherst exerted a strong hand, Forbes feared, the result would be chaos in the west and the loss of a country that he had literally given his life to win.31

His last act was a sentimental gesture. Ordering “a Gold medal to be struck . . . [for] the officers of his Army to wear as an honorary reward for their faithful services,” he gave detailed instructions for the inscription. “The Medal has on one side the representation of a Road cut thro an immense Forrest, over Rocks, and mountains. The motto Per tot Discrimina—on the other side are represented the confluence of the Ohio and Monongahela rivers, a Fort in Flames in the forks of the Rivers at the approach of General Forbes carried in a Litter, followed with the army marching in Columns with Cannon. The motto Ohio Britannica Consilio manuque. This to be worn round the neck with a dark blew ribbon. . . .” 32 John Forbes succumbed to his “tedious illness” on March 11, 1759, three weeks after he ordered the medal struck, and a little less than five months short of his fifty-second birthday. Pennsylvania gave him an extravagant state funeral and buried him at public expense in the chancel of Philadelphia’s Christ Church.33

It was the least that Penn’s province could do, and not only because the general had secured its frontiers after three years of horrific bloodshed. What was already being called Forbes Road had opened a direct line of communication, with way stations no more than a day’s travel apart, from Philadelphia to the Ohio Valley. And that, from the various perspectives of Pennsylvania’s proprietary family, merchants, land speculators, Indian traders, and farmers, would prove to be the most important achievement of all.

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