The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America - Walter R. Borneman (2006)

BOOK TWO. Mr. Pitt’s Global War (1757–1760)


The four roads that Major General Edward Braddock was charged with hurrying British troops along in 1755 had led to varied results. As the summer of 1758 waned, Louisbourg, of course, was in Amherst’s pocket; but the road north from Albany still stopped well short of Ticonderoga, which was held by the French. The thrust west to Fort Niagara had yet to materialize. That left the road Braddock himself had taken—west across the Appalachians to the forks of the Ohio. In the three years since Braddock’s defeat on the Monongahela, there had not been so much as a tremor in the supremacy of the fleur-de-lis flying above Fort Duquesne. Along with his other grand plans for 1758, William Pitt decreed that this must change.

No one cheered more loudly at this prospect than colonials in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Although they would come to disagree bitterly over the route to be taken and the division of spoils afterward, Pennsylvanians and Virginians were united in their disdain toward this bastion of New France. In the aftermath of Braddock’s defeat, raiding parties fanning out from Fort Duquesne had made their western frontiers run red with blood. At the very least, a more resolute successor to Braddock might have rallied the British retreat from the Monongahela at Fort Cumberland and provided some buffer. Instead, Colonel Thomas Dunbar had not stopped until he led his troops across half of Pennsylvania and declared his intention to go into winter quarters in Philadelphia even though it was only the end of July.

The result of Dunbar’s flight was that the French and their Indian allies killed British settlers and burned British villages and outposts from the upper Susquehanna to the crest of the Blue Ridge, effectively pushing Great Britain’s frontier eastward some 150 miles. In Pennsylvania, the towns of Carlisle, York, and Lancaster became armed camps filled with fleeing refugees. Much of the Juniata’s valley and the Susquehanna’s other western tributaries were emptied of inhabitants.

The upper Potomac fared no better. Passing through Winchester, Virginia, en route to Mount Vernon that summer, George Washington found the town jammed with settlers streaming eastward in a high state of anxiety. “Dunbar’s decision to march to Philadelphia,” Governor Horatio Sharpe of Maryland grumbled to Dinwiddie of Virginia, “has alarmed the frontier more than Braddock’s defeat.”1

Rumors of a French advance to the very outskirts of Philadelphia were merely that, but some uncertainty, fueled by countless skirmishes, continued unabated for the next three years. Throughout the early months of 1758, newspapers were still filled with widespread reports of brutal attacks, including scalpings. (These were by no means one-sided, as British and colonial troops were quick to visit similar atrocities on their attackers.) Pitt’s three-prong strategy, bolstered by his reforms in recruiting and compensating provincial forces, at last provided a plan to restore some semblance of peace to this frontier. The British would march along the main fork of Braddock’s roads again and strike directly against what most viewed as the chief source of all the trouble—Fort Duquesne itself.

To lead this third prong of his grand offensive of 1758, William Pitt chose a reserved but resolute Scotsman, John Forbes. He was born in Fifeshire in 1710 and initially trained as a doctor, but he discovered his real passion when he received a commission in the Scots Greys in 1735. He saw service in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession and was at Culloden along with—as it must seem by now—nearly every other officer of promise in the British army. By 1750, Forbes was a lieutenant colonel and, like both Amherst and Wolfe, had acquired considerable experience in logistics, serving for a time as the army’s deputy quartermaster general. In the spring of 1757, Forbes was posted to America to serve on Lord Loudoun’s staff as his adjutant general. When word of Loudoun’s recall reached New York the following year, Forbes’s good standing with Pitt and Lord Ligonier earned him advancement to brigadier general and command of the campaign against Fort Duquesne.

Initially, the bateau man Colonel John Bradstreet was assigned to Forbes as supply chief, but Bradstreet pleaded with Abercromby that he was an “utter stranger” to the Pennsylvania country—where, we might note, the rivers tended to flow across the general route west, not along it. Abercromby acquiesced and kept Bradstreet on the Mohawk. In his place, Forbes’s quartermaster responsibilities were given to Colonel Sir John St. Clair, who had performed exactly the same services under General Braddock three years before. Whether St. Clair had in the intervening time gained any experience that would prove valuable remained to be seen.2

As his second in command, Forbes was to have Lieutenant Colonel Henry Bouquet. Bouquet was born in Switzerland of French Huguenots who had fled there from France to avoid religious persecution; he, too, had fought in the War of the Austrian Succession and risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Prince of Orange’s Swiss Guards. He was recommended for the Royal American Regiment and came to Pennsylvania in 1756 to recruit for this storied unit of British regulars raised in America from among largely German-speaking immigrants. Before his assignment with Forbes, Bouquet commanded a battalion of the Royal Americans on the North Carolina border.

Forbes and Bouquet made a good team. Each was every inch a soldier. Already plagued by the poor health that would persist throughout the campaign, Forbes quickly became the expedition planner; and Bouquet became the executor of that plan in the field. Well aware of the hazards that had befallen Braddock’s strung-out command, Bouquet quickly took wilderness warfare to heart and wrote his own recommended tactics for regulars marching through wooded terrain.

These were not exactly the rules of Rogers’ Rangers, but they were a decided improvement over the standard drill manual. Secure lines of communication among all units, constant scouting of the line of march, and the occupation of “all suspected places … where ambuscades may be concealed” were absolutely essential, Bouquet theorized. “In case of an attack,” he continued, “the men must fall on their knees; that motion will prevent their running away, and in covering them from the fire, shall give time to reconnoiter and to make the necessary dispositions.”3

As he made his own assessment of the troops under his command, Forbes was determined, of course, that there be no “running away.” He was glad to have Colonel Archibald Montgomery’s regiment of Highlanders newly arrived from England and Bouquet’s battalion of Royal Americans. When a company of artillery was included, these accounted for about 1,400 regulars. The remainder of his troops—5,000 or so—were to be provincial regiments, including the First Virginia under the command of George Washington.

A few provincial units had been in existence long enough to have acquired some measure of military discipline, but even Washington found plenty of frustration. Given the accustomed flow of liquor and rum, the young colonel declared in despair that it was difficult to maintain military discipline because of “the villainous behavior of those tippling housekeepers.” Forbes was more blunt. Observing the new troops answering Pitt’s most recent summons, the general complained bitterly to Pitt that “a few of their principal officers excepted, all the rest are an extremely bad collection of broken innkeepers, horse jockeys, and Indian traders, and that the men under them, are a direct copy of their officers” and a gathering from “the scum of the worst people.”4

By which route would they march? Braddock’s road from Fort Cumberland was choked with new growth and scented with the smell of defeat, but it still led to Fort Duquesne. Forbes seems to have initially assumed that this would be his route. It was certainly the obvious one. But as the quartermaster general, Sir John St. Clair, scurried about the Susquehanna Valley arranging teamsters and supplies for Forbes’s advance, he came up with a different idea. Whether it was a result of persuasive lobbying by Pennsylvania merchants, a true eye for tactical military advantages, or simply a desire to avoid revisiting the grim path of 1755 is debatable. The result, however, was that St. Clair suggested discarding Braddock’s route and carving a new road straight west through central Pennsylvania to Fort Duquesne.

By early May 1758, Forbes agreed and made plans for a methodical advance not from Fort Cumberland, but from tiny Raystown on the upper Juniata River. Although this decision regarding “which road” appears to have been made easily, it would have important ramifications far beyond the present military tactics.5

For one thing, young Colonel Washington was apoplectic. When Washington received an order to concentrate his First Virginia regiment at Fort Cumberland and then cut a thirty-mile road north to Raystown instead of preparing the way back over Braddock’s road, he could not believe it. How much of Washington’s dismay sprang from military concerns and how much was the result of whispers in his ear from Virginia’s own commercial interest, has long been debated—particularly by those who cannot imagine Washington acting with anything but the most noble of purposes.

Virginia, however, had long claimed lands in Ohio. Washington had been in the forefront of those claims. Both Virginia and Pennsylvania were only too aware that once the present conflict was resolved, a new wave of settlers would flow westward via whichever route had been taken. This would not only boost the economy of the colony of its origin, but also benefit it defensively and commercially with the new string of outposts to be built along it. Now, Forbes was determined to do just that through the center of Pennsylvania. On June 24, 1758, Colonel Bouquet’s advance troops reached Raystown, where they paused for the better part of a month to build Fort Bedford.6

By the end of July, Washington met Bouquet in Raystown and protested against the choice of routes almost to the point of insubordination. Bouquet, a proper Swiss officer, was not used to having orders questioned, particularly by a twenty-six-year-old provincial officer whose military record to date had been largely one of defeat. Washington found the colonel determined to pursue “a new way to the Ohio; through a road, every inch of it to cut, at this advanced season, when we have scarce time left to tread the beaten tract; universally confessed to be the best passage through the mountains.” Meanwhile, Colonel John Armstrong of Pennsylvania observed: “The Virginians are much chagrined at the opening of the road through this government [Pennsylvania], and Colonel Washington has been a good deal sanguine, and obstinate upon the occasion.”7

By early August, Bouquet had 600 Pennsylvanians, who were guarded by another 600 Virginians, hacking the way westward from Raystown up the main spine of the Alleghenies. Sir John St. Clair, who had pushed so hard for this route, had already had second thoughts and decided that Fort Duquesne could not be reached that year without “going into Braddock’s old road.” Hardly beyond the smoke of Fort Bedford, St. Clair reversed himself again and urged Forbes to “send me as many men as you can with digging tools, this is a most diabolical work, and whiskey must be had.”8

Whatever his misgivings and constant supply shortages, St. Clair soon reported to Bouquet that he had examined the early miles of the road west from Fort Bedford and pronounced them “good.” Bouquet passed this news on to the still disgruntled Washington and could not refrain from twisting the barb just a little. “I cannot therefore entertain the least doubt,” Bouquet wrote to Washington, “that we shall now all go on hand in hand and that the same zeal for the service that has hitherto been so distinguishing a part of your character will carry you by Raystown over the Allegheny Mountains and on to Fort Duquesne.”9

But for the moment, while Washington continued work on the road from Cumberland to Raystown, it was Bouquet who led off again, pushing the line across the main spine of the Alleghenies and Laurel Hill a total of forty miles farther west to Loyalhanna Creek. Here, his troops paused to build Fort Ligonier and await both Forbes with the remainder of his command and St. Clair’s snaking supply trains.

Suffering from what was probably dysentery, Forbes did not arrive in Raystown until September 15, in a litter strapped between two horses. Meanwhile, St. Clair had managed to antagonize half of Pennsylvania, but supplies were finally moving. His efforts were aided when the Pennsylvania assembly as late as September 20 authorized a bonus for anyone who would furnish four good horses and a wagon and haul at least 1,400 pounds of supplies, plus subsistence for the team, from Lancaster to Raystown.10

Fort Ligonier was within forty miles of Fort Duquesne, and Bouquet was caught between pressing onward and waiting for Forbes. Part of his quandary was not knowing the strength of Fort Duquesne’s defenses or the number of its garrison. Actually, the “impregnable fortress” of Duquesne existed far more in the British imagination that it did in fact. Even in the immediate aftermath of Braddock’s defeat, its commandant had admitted that “if the enemy had returned to the attack with the thousand fresh troops they had in reserve the defenders of the fort would perhaps have been ‘seriously embarrassed.’”11

Three years later, that still held true. Of the sorry state of the fort’s defenses, Jean-Daniel Dumas, who had held the field against Braddock’s advance, wrote that Fort Duquesne was “fit only to dishonor the officer who would be entrusted with its defense.” Now, in August 1758, that officer was François-Marie le Marchand de Lignery and even he couldn’t be certain of the exact number of troops under his command because of the free flow of Canadian militia and Indian allies into and out of his gates. Estimates ranged from 1,000 to more than 2,000, but some of these were no doubt strung along the Allegheny supply line from Presque Isle.12

With Bouquet strengthening his forward base at Fort Ligonier, Lignery no longer had any doubt as to which route the British were taking. Whatever his numbers, he lacked the manpower to force a confrontation in the open. And, with dwindling supplies made even sparser by Bradstreet’s raid on Frontenac, there was no way that he could survive a protracted siege. His only alternative was to make a series of rapid raids designed to stall the British at Fort Ligonier and hope that the fall rains would mire them in their tracks.

In the initial Indian raids against Fort Ligonier in early September, the attackers captured several British soldiers, killed and scalped a Highlander, and caused enough anxiety among the British rank and file that Bouquet weighed the option of sending out small raiding parties in response. Then, Major James Grant of the Highlanders proposed a bolder strategy. Give him 600 men, Grant offered, and he would lead a reconnaissance in force, not only roughing up the Indians a bit, but also harassing the fort and its supply lines, perhaps even putting it under siege. Bouquet chose to believe an erroneous report that gave Fort Duquesne’s garrison strength as only 600 men, and he sent Grant westward with 400 regulars and 350 provincials.

By September 13, 1758, Grant’s detachment had moved to within five miles of Fort Duquesne, and Major Andrew Lewis led about 400 men in an attack against some of the fort’s outbuildings. The French certainly knew that the British were in the vicinity in force but made no attempt to sally forth to oppose them. Before dawn the next morning, Grant divided his meager command into three columns and prepared to move against the main French encampment. (More than a century later, a certain Colonel Custer would order a similar division of command with even more disastrous results.)

Lewis, 100 regulars, and 150 Virginia troops went first but ended up stumbling around in the dark and had to return to regroup. Somewhat disgusted with this first effort, Grant sent Lewis and these troops to lie in ambush near his baggage train should the French attempt to attack it. Captain William MacDonald and 100 Highlanders were then given the unenviable task of marching toward the gates of Fort Duquesne with drums beating to act as bait to lure the French out of the fort and into the open field. Grant and his remaining 400 troops waited in ambush on the nearby hills.

Forbes’s Road, 1758


The French did come out of the fort, but not with the result Grant had intended. Perhaps as many as 1,000 French and Indian warriors swarmed to the attack. “The 100 Pennsylvanians who were posted upon the right at the greatest distance from the enemy, went off without orders and without firing a shot.” The French spread out and soon were counterattacking furiously.

“We were fired upon from every quarter,” Grant admitted. He attempted to fall back to the baggage train, where he supposed Lewis was. Lewis heard the firing and tried to come to Grant’s aid, but his advancing troops took a different path and now both units were subjected to French cross fire. MacDonald’s Highlanders were cut off completely. By the time the engagement was over, Major Lewis and Major Grant, along with a large number of their troops, had been forced to surrender. Only Captain Thomas Bullit’s unit of about 100 Virginians held the line and “sustained the battle with all their forces.” Without them, there might have been a complete rout.

As it was, Grant’s battered force limped back to Fort Ligonier without him after losing almost 300 killed or captured. Once again, a Highlander regiment bore the brunt of the British losses. French losses were eight killed and eight wounded. In many respects, it was as one-sided a victory as the French had achieved over General Braddock three years before. The main difference was that instead of turning tail and running halfway across Pennsylvania, the British were able to fall back only forty miles to Fort Ligonier and regroup. Forbes’s strategy of advancing in force with heavily armed bases of support was paying off.13

The immediate result of Grant’s blunder was that it emboldened the French to launch a counteroffensive against Fort Ligonier. Fall was well along, and another bloody nose here might still send the British back over the mountains and buy Fort Duquesne another winter.

On the morning of October 12, 400 French regulars and militia along with about 100 Indian allies skirmished with British units outside Fort Ligonier. Forbes was still en route from Fort Bedford, and Bouquet was off inspecting portions of the road, but Colonel James Burd commanded the counterattack. After two hours of heavy fighting the French were forced to withdraw, but their Indian allies made off with the majority of the British herd of horses. The entire encounter proved brief, with minor casualties on either side; but when Montcalm heard of the affair, he thought that the French had gained “a considerable advantage.” In reality, it should have been a warning for them. Forbes’s plodding advance would not be brushed off lightly or sent back down its road as Braddock’s had been.14

Forbes’s military strategy of a heavily fortified advance was working, but now there occurred an event of strategic importance every bit as critical to Forbes’s advance as the hewing out of a road. As long ago as the Albany Congress of 1754, Sir William Johnson had been the designated point man for British negotiations with all Indian nations. While this had certain advantages, it presupposed a commonality among Indian nations that simply did not exist. This was particularly true of relations between the Iroquois, by whom Johnson was held in high esteem, and the Delaware, by whom he was not. This was in large measure because the Delaware strongly opposed efforts by the Iroquois to dictate Delaware policies toward France and England just as they did for the members of the Six Nations. Knowing that support from the Indians would be crucial to his advance, and remembering that Braddock’s lack of it had contributed his downfall, Forbes received authority to bypass William Johnson and negotiate directly with the western Delaware, Shawnee, and other nations sometimes collectively referred to as the “Ohio Indians.”

Because Johnson had a history of holding “his” Iroquois close to the New York campaigns, Forbes first sought to persuade the Cherokee and Catawba allies in the south to join his expedition. Aided by his cousin James Glen, a former governor of South Carolina who had long fostered close ties with the Cherokee, Forbes was able to recruit upwards of 700 warriors. These arrived in Pennsylvania in mid-May 1758 and were loosely attached to William Byrd’s Second Virginia Regiment. The problem was that at this time of year and given Forbes’s strategy of a plodding advance, there was not much for them to do. Despite Forbes’s protestations that he had gone to great lengths with presents to appease them, he found that “nothing will keep them.” The Cherokee and Catawba soon became disaffected by the incessant delays and dispersed to their southern homelands.

Having failed to muster large numbers of his own Indian allies, Forbes continued his diplomatic efforts to deny the French the use of theirs. First, he urged the Pennsylvania legislature to honor its commitment of 1757 to Teedyuscung and his eastern, or Susquehanna, Delaware to reserve lands in the Wyoming Valley for them. Forbes then used a willing Teedyuscung as an emissary to the western Delaware and Shawnee. Teedyuscung was instrumental in arranging for a Moravian missionary, Christian Frederick Post, to visit the Ohio Indians in late August 1758. “Why do not you and the French fight in the old country, and on the sea?” they asked Post. “Why do you come to fight on our land? This makes everybody believe, you want to take the land from us by force, and settle it.”15

Post had no good answer to that, of course, but he could tell them of Pennsylvania’s promise to Teedyuscung and of Forbes’s dogged advance. The latter became even more obvious when Colonel Bouquet did not abandon Fort Ligonier despite Grant’s defeat and the French attack on Ligonier itself. The result of Post’s journey was that delegates from Teedyuscung’s eastern Delaware and the Ohio Indians met with representatives of Pennsylvania in Easton, north of Philadelphia, in October 1758. Also in strong attendance were members of the Six Nations who were determined to reassert their feudal control over the external policies of these nations. Teedyuscung may have been the mediator, but faced with the appearance of the Iroquois, he quickly lost any role as a power broker.

The outcome of the conference in Easton was twofold. First, the Iroquois demanded that the Pennsylvanians renounce their purchases, resulting from the Albany Congress, of all lands west of the Alleghenies. These included country around the forks of the Ohio long claimed by the Iroquois through their influence over the Ohio Indians. Pennsylvania’s agents agreed, and their acquiescence effectively recognized Iroquois hegemony over the other nations in the region, particularly as the lands were symbolically returned directly to the Iroquois, not to the Ohio Indians.

Second, however, the Delaware and Ohio Indians were appeased by a promise from Governor William Denny of Pennsylvania that despite whatever influence the Iroquois might have over them generally, Pennsylvania would continue to deal directly with them on matters of local concern. These were essentially a respect for past treaty reservations and a resumption of trade once the French were expelled.

This left all parties with most of what they wanted. The Iroquois had reasserted their dominance over the Ohio Indians in external affairs; the Ohio Indians and eastern Delawares had received certain assurances of territorial integrity from the Pennsylvanians; and the Pennsylvanians had won the Ohio Indians and eastern Delawares back into the fold of British influence.

Arguably the most important Indian conclave in Pennsylvania’s history, the Treaty of Easton was formalized on October 25, 1758. When word of it spread westward and reached Fort Duquesne, those Ohio Indians who had been allies of the French for more than three years quickly melted away into the forest. Suffering from a lack of supplies and now deserted by their Indian allies, the remaining French soldiers at Fort Duquesne were feeling increasingly isolated and alone as General Forbes, still in agonizing pain from his illness, considered his next move.16

As Forbes gathered the bulk of his forces at Fort Ligonier, time was of the essence. The other campaigns of 1758 had long since come to a close. Louisbourg was settled in for a winter under a British garrison. Abercromby and Montcalm were gone from the waters of Lake Champlain and Lake George. Bradstreet was back in Albany after his romp to Frontenac. With the skies of November darkening, only Forbes and his command were still in the field. Now, with some 5,000 troops assembled and the Ohio Indians neutralized, it was time for one final effort against the longtime French thorn at the forks of the Ohio.

In the British assemblage was the First Virginia Regiment. Its colonel was still complaining about the state of the Pennsylvania road, calling it “indescribably bad” and voicing his view that the campaign would grind to an end at Fort Ligonier.17 Forbes thought differently, however, and dispatched Washington and about 500 Virginians west in pursuit of yet another French raiding party that had stolen horses from near the fort. Perhaps thinking of Grant’s misfortune, Forbes quickly sent another Virginia unit under Colonel George Mercer on his heels. Washington was successful in capturing three prisoners: an Indian couple and an Englishman who claimed to have been recently kidnapped from Lancaster.

Just as Washington was interrogating them around a campfire, Mercer’s troops appeared on the scene and somehow surmised that it was an enemy encampment. In the darkness, a furious exchange of friendly fire occurred that left two officers and thirty-five enlisted men dead. Only the intervention of Captain Thomas Bullit, hero of Grant’s last stand, frantically waving his hat in the midst of the melee, prevented further carnage. Washington made no contemporary mention of the unfortunate incident, although it was reported in the Pennsylvania Gazette and by Forbes to his superior. The only good thing to come out of the encounter was that the captured Englishman proved of dubious loyalty and was in fact serving the French out of Fort Duquesne. It didn’t take much frontier persuasion to make him give a full accounting of its current condition and declining garrison. Forbes was as pleased as his weakened physical condition would allow.18

For their part, Fort Duquesne’s French defenders were glum. Even if they could hold out militarily against Forbes’s advance and recruit approaching winter as their ally, they couldn’t survive a siege. There simply was no food, or other supplies, to permit them the time, no matter how gallant their intent. And there was no food coming. What succor there might have been had gone up in flames in the storehouses of Fort Frontenac a few months before. Now, the extent of Bradstreet’s raid really became clear. The trunk had been whacked, and the leaves were starting to fall from the tree of New France as surely as they were falling from the oaks and maples of the surrounding forests. “I am in the saddest situation one could imagine,” commandant Lignery lamented to Governor Vaudreuil.19

So Forbes sent Washington’s Virginian regiment and John Armstrong’s Pennsylvanians west from Fort Ligonier to hack out the remainder of his road. Finally, Washington seems to have embraced the road building. The units crossed Chestnut Ridge and pushed on to Bushy Run and then the upper reaches of Turtle Creek. Only about a dozen miles from Fort Duquesne, they established Bouquet’s Camp and waited for the arrival of General Forbes and the remainder of his little army.

According to an eyewitness account in the Pennsylvania Gazette, the following evening “a heavy firing was heard from thence [Fort Duquesne].” It “continued first for about an hour, then ceased for some time, and began again, and lasted half an hour; and that afterwards a rumbling noise was also heard, like that of great guns at a distance.” No one was quite sure what to make of it at the time, but an investigation the next day revealed the source of the huge explosion. As an express messenger to the New York Gazette reported: “Monsieurs did not stay for the approach of our army, but blew up the fort, spiked their cannon, threw them into the river, and made the best of their way off; carrying with them everything that was valuable, except the spot of ground where the fort stood.”20

Indeed, Commandant Lignery had followed his orders and blown up the principal works of Fort Duquesne rather than let them fall into British hands. He and his remaining garrison of about 400 men dispersed, a few going down the Ohio toward the Illinois country and the others withdrawing up the Allegheny to Venango and Presque Isle. “After much fatigue and labor,” wrote another British participant, “we have at last brought the artillery to this place, and found the French had left us nothing to do, having on the 24th instant blown up their magazines, and burned their fort to the ground.”

There were grisly scenes to be encountered. The unburied bodies of Grant’s fallen troops littered the ground for three miles to within 100 yards of the fort. By one account, the heads of a number of brave Highlanders were placed on “a long row of stakes that the Indians had erected along their well-beaten path to the fort … and underneath these were hung their Scottish kilts.”21

As Forbes and his troops assembled at the forks of the Ohio and hurriedly began work on a small stockade to accommodate a winter garrison, a number of Ohio Indians, who only a few weeks before had been on the other side, gathered to confer with the general. His subordinates assured them that it would be a small facility, intended to reestablish trade. Afterward, the Pennsylvania Gazette reported “that the French, by being obliged to abandon Fort Duquesne, have lost a vast tract of country, and the various tribes of Indians inhabiting it, seem, in a certain manner, reconciled to his Majesty’s protection and government.”22

That hadn’t been the bargain at Easton, of course, and the explosion that rocked Fort Duquesne did far more than signal the withdrawal of the French from the upper Ohio. The Treaty of Easton was scarcely six weeks old, but it was quickly forgotten. Give up British claims to the Ohio country? That was almost unthinkable. If Pennsylvanians and Virginians would argue over a road, they would certainly fight over the spoils of its destination, and they would certainly not abandon them.

The Pennsylvania Gazette of December 28, 1758, was quite straightforward about the matter. The recent campaign was not merely a struggle between France and Great Britain. At stake was “a vast country, exceeding in extent and good land, all the European dominions of Great Britain, France, and Spain, almost destitute of inhabitants; and will, as fast as the Europeans settle, become more so of its former inhabitants.” A letter from a correspondent on the scene at Fort Duquesne was more succinct but no less sure of the result: “Blessed be God, the long looked for day is arrived that has now fixed us on the banks of the Ohio.” The letter was dated November 28, from “Pittsburgh.”23

Leaving a small garrison of Pennsylvanians to guard the hard-won forks of the Ohio through the winter, General John Forbes retraced his road and arrived back in Philadelphia on January 17. Part diplomat to the Indians, part military tactician, he had managed to build his own road in order to complete Edward Braddock’s. Forbes would be called the victor of Fort Duquesne, but at least some of the laurels were due to John Bradstreet, who, with his raid on Frontenac, had cut the fort’s umbilical cord.

Perhaps Forbes’s real victory was that he negotiated in good faith with Teedyuscung of the Susquehanna Delaware and with the Ohio Indians and did not live to see his efforts repudiated. Shortly after his arrival in Philadelphia, while in excruciating pain, Forbes penned several letters to General Jeffery Amherst, who by now was Abercromby’s replacement as commander in chief in North America. Forbes implored Amherst not to take the Indian alliances lightly. If British influence was to continue at the forks of the Ohio, Forbes told the new commander, relations with the Ohio Indians would have to be “settled on some solid footing, as the preservation of the Indians, and that country, depends upon it.” Forbes bluntly recognized that “the jealousy subsisting between the Virginians and Pennsylvanians” over trade and lands was at the core of the problem and urged Amherst to exert strong leadership with both sides.24

Six weeks later, General John Forbes was dead at age fifty-one. It could quite rightly be said that he had given his life to follow Braddock’s road. Now, wherever the roads would lead in the future, they would all belong to Jeffery Amherst. No one could say that he had not been forewarned.

Photographic Insert


As governor of Massachusetts, William Shirley forged a model of cooperation between Great Britain and its colonies that soon evaporated.
Massachusetts Historical Society


George Washington in the uniform of a Virginia colonel, a line engraving from a 1770 painting by Charles Wilson Peale.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-99148


“Join, or Die,” often considered America’s first political cartoon, from the Pennsylvania Gazette, May 9, 1754.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-9701


An engraving showing Major General Edward Braddock being carried from the carnage of the battle of the Monongahela, July 9, 1755.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-63135


John McNevin depicted a much-too-young-looking Edward Braddock when he envisioned Braddock’s burial scene a century after the events.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-50571


With a wave of his hat in the surf off Louisbourg, Brigadier General James Wolfe set in motion Great Britain’s conquest of Canada.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-48404


This medieval-style image of Major General Jeffery Amherst, painted after his return to England, suggests a conqueror far more at peace than was actually the case.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-45182


This British officer’s rendition of a besieged Louisbourg, looking out from Lighthouse Point, shows the town surrounded and the French fleet bottled up in the harbor.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-2771


Harry A. Ogden depicted what may have been the high-water mark of New France: Montcalm congratulating his troops after the battle of Fort Carillon, July 8, 1758.
Fort Ticonderoga Museum


This simple drawing of Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) and the French lines from Rattlesnake Hill argues for the use of artillery and not a frontal assault by infantry.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-133910


Robert Dowling painted the gallant but futile charge of the Highlander Regiment against the French abatis west of Fort Carillon on July 8, 1758.
Fort Ticonderoga Museum


Louis Joseph, marquis de Montcalm-Gozon de Saint-Véran, patiently defended Fort Carillon but then impulsively rushed into the field on the Plains of Abraham.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ61-239


Pierre François de Rigaud, marquis de Vaudreuil, governor general of New France, 1755–1760, was born in Canada but spent his last years under a cloud in France.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-110256


Sir William Johnson, circa 1756, is shown looking more his role as a proper British aristocrat than as Indian commissioner.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-2695


Major Robert Rogers of the Rangers: there was plenty of adventure, but in the end the facts did not live up to the legend.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-45269


King George III of Great Britain and Ireland: “I glory in the name of Briton,” he intoned, but promptly made a mess of things.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-96229


This view of the action at Quebec first appeared in London Magazine in 1760 and shows the landing at Anse au Foulon and the subsequent battle on the Plains of Abraham.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-47


It did not happen quite so poetically, of course, but a dozen years after the event, Benjamin West painted his version of Wolfe’s final moments at the battle of Quebec.
Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-111