Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Along the Forbes Road / Part # 2

The French and Indian War Series 
Along the Forbes Road / Part # 2 

Fort Ligonier
General John Forbes was making his slow methodical way toward Fort Duquesne along with his Cherokee and Catawba Indian allies.  Forbes had fallen ill from an intestinal disease that he would never recover.  His previous medical experience made the reality of his grave condition clearly evident and he knew he was dying.  He found it difficult to hide his condition from his troops, as they witnessed his daily spells of intense abdominal pain and severe migraine headaches that caused temporary blindness.  As his health continued to deteriorate, he became unable to ride his horse or even walk.  He fell further and further behind on the road but refused to resign his command. He led through his able-bodied second-in-command, General Henry Bouquet.  The two communicated through correspondence and all decisions were discussed between the two men but decided by Forbes who had the final word. 

 General Forbes' Arrival
General Forbes wanted to have an impressive fortress built about fifty miles from Fort Duquesne where their attack could be launched from a defendable position.  General Bouquet, with the help of his troops and colonial construction workers built Fort Ligonier.  The impressive military base made use of the natural terrain and rock formations with several lines of defense to keep the French and their Indian allies at bay.  Forbes Road carried a constant stream of supply wagons and weapons to Fort Ligonier before the winter months would make the route impassable.  The French mounted a four hour attack on the fort but were pushed back by the powerful British guns nestled in artillery batteries located near the fort's center. The last order of construction sent by Forbes was to have a small private officer's hut built away from the rest of the interior barracks for his private quarters.  General Forbes entered Fort Ligonier on November 2, 1758 carried on a litter, a hammock bed set between a team of side-by-side white horses. His health continued to deteriorate but he refused to relinquish his command until his mission had been fulfilled.

Forbes' Private Quarters
The most valuable asset to any military commander is information, intelligence of the conditions of the enemy.  General Forbes received word that the French stronghold of Louisbourg off the coast of Canada in Nova Scotia had been defeated by the Royal Navy, cutting off all French supply lines.  Fellow British commander General Jeffery Amherst, began to make plans for a Canadian invasion.  Unlike all of his fellow British commanders, Forbes was the only one who truly understood the role of the Indians and how critical they would be to the outcome of the war.  Forbes had noticed that the Indians were casual allies with a "what have you done for me lately" type of allegiance.  The Indians required constant financial installments of payments made in the form of various goods.  Forbes knew with the fall of Louisbourg, the French would not be able to keep the Indians demands satisfied.  Before he would attack Fort Duquesne, he would delay action one more time, sending his own Indian allies to talk with the nations allied with the French.  He hoped he could bribe them away with promises of hunting grounds and European goods.  Washington protested, not wanting to have to wait through the long cold winter before an attack on Fort Duquesne could take place in late spring.  He was scheduled to be married to a wealthy widow in Virginia named Martha Dandridge-Custis and did not want to delay his wedding plans.

The Conspiracy
Painting / Robert Griffing
Not unlike most other people looking out for their own self interests during the conflict, the Native Americans were no exception and sadly could not see the big picture.  The French to date, had never taken their land from them and the British had a poor track record, devouring Indian lands with an incredible appetite.  Despite this reality, the Shawnee and Delaware tribes sold out to Forbes' offer and began to quietly withdraw from Fort Duquesne.  Upon meeting with the former French aligned Indian leaders, Forbes learned of the poor condition of the French troops at Duquesne.  The lack of supplies from Canada had forced the French troops to butcher their own horses for provisions.  Forbes decided to take advantage of the opportunity and began to assemble his army for an sudden attack on Fort Duquesne before the winter could take hold of the region. 

Forbes at the Point
Painting / Nat Youngblood
The French commander  of Fort Duquesne received word of General Forbes' advance of over 1,000 troops, supported by 3,500 more, a short distance behind the lead force.  With no way of stockpiling supplies for the coming winter and his Indian allies no where to be found, Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecoeur decided to abandon the fort and retreat west into Illinois Territory.  On the morning of November 24, 1758, the French began to destroy the fort so the British would win the site but be denied the prize.  British scouts returned to General Forbes with accounts of Fort Duquesne engulfed in flames. Around midnight, a loud explosion echoed through the valley, the main ammunition magazine had ignited, destroying much of the fort's interior and remaining weapon stores.  Forbes and his troops arrived at the ruins of the fort the next morning and had finally seized control of the critical location of the Forks of the Ohio.  Forbes proved that sometimes diplomacy is the best weapon and the greatest battle is the one that is never fought.  The war would continue in the north with the capital city of New France, Quebec as the new target.
 Forbes Memorial 
Christ Church / Philadelphia
General John Forbes was removed from his liter and carried on a stretcher to survey the scene.  He ordered that a new British fortress be constructed on the site to be named Fort Pitt after British Prime Minister, William Pitt.  Following the war, the fort would eventually give way to a new great city called Pittsburgh, known as the Gateway to the West.  Forbes, with his mission complete, finally resigned his command to General Henry Bouquet and the command of Fort Pitt to General Hugh Mercer.  In early December, he prepared to make the arduous journey back east toward Philadelphia.  The journey back over the road that bore his name took a long three months as the condition of his health became critical.  A week after his arrival in Philadelphia he died and was buried in a place of honor at Christ Church.  He was laid to rest in the chancel on the right side of the alter.

Painting / Robert Griffing
Sadly, the promises made to the Native Americans by General Forbes died with him in Philadelphia.  The Forbes and Braddock Roads became super-highways for new settlers heading west, which meant disaster for the Indian Nations of the Ohio Valley.  Over the next 100 years the nations would bound together in a series of confederacies that only delayed their inevitable defeat and the loss of their tribal lands.

Point State Park / Pittsburgh, PA
(Credit / Flicker Images)
Today the former location of Fort Duquesne and later Fort Pitt at the Forks of the Ohio is known as Point State Park.  The fort's original location is behind the fountain on the point.  The outline of the five pointed star pattern of the fort's walls are outlined in brick and are partly visible in the photo above on the green lawn behind the fountain.  My journey ended at Fort Ligonier, a short fifty miles from the point.  It is my goal to get there someday to see the beautiful city of Pittsburgh and discover the history within.  I will miss the friends I have met and the unique opportunities I have had the privilege to experience through the Governor's Institutes for educators.  Perhaps if the economy rebounds this valuable resource will become available once again.

Mr. Martin takes a Picture
Did you Know... 

Most of the cannons at Fort Ligonier are period correct reproductions made by local licensed artillery artisans.  You can purchase one similar to the cannon pictured at the top of this article for about $40,000 in today's money.  It might look great in your front yard with lots of pretty flowers planted around it.  I'm told they make great Mother's Day gifts!  Personally, I'd rather buy a Mercedes! Dream on!

Please See My Additional Fort Photos of the French and Indian War at...


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