England Supplants France in North America 1760

February 21, 2011

James Smith, our young captive friend, went with his adoptive father Tecaughretanego and son Nungany to Detroit for trade in April of 1759. They stayed there until early summer then left for Caughnewaga near Montreal. While they were there he heard of a French ship that had British prisoners on it to be shipped overseas and held for exchange.

He stole away from Caughnewaga and placed himself aboard that ship. However, his plan didn’t go exactly as he had hoped. General Wolfe had the St. Lawrence River blockaded and the ship could not leave Montreal. So Smith and the prisoners were transferred to prison where he was held for four months. Sometime in November of that year they were all sent to Crown Point and exchanged. He finally arrived home early in the year 1760.

Wolfe and Montcalm faced off in one of the final gasps of the war in that famous battle on the Plains of Abraham and the fall of Quebec. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 transferring all French holdings in North America to England. Both generals were killed at Quebec and General Jeffery Amherst was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all the British forces in America.

Amherst epitomised the height of British 18th century arrogance. The French had a policy of present giving to the First Nations which cemented friendships and alliances. Because of this policy the First Nations allowed them to build forts as trading posts on First Nations’ territories. It also gave the French safe passage to and from these posts. Amherst saw this policy as bribery. He wrote “Service must be rewarded; it has ever been a maxim with me. But to purchase the good behavior either of Indians or any others, is what I do not understand”

Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs George Crogan wrote to Amherst that the First Nations in those parts were uneasy with the cessation of what France considered their holdings to Great Britain. They felt the French had no right to give away their land. The British had taken over all the French forts and were increasing their arms. The First Nations couldn’t understand why since the French had been defeated and the war was over. Who were they arming against. All this had led to confusion on their part, so much so that it prevented them from bringing their prisoners as they had promised.

Amherst’s feeling toward the First Nations were well documented. He replied to Crogan that he was sorry that “the Indians should entertain such idle notions regarding the cessions made by the French Crown” and if they didn’t give up their prisoners as first promised he would be forced to use “harsh measures” to make them comply.

Amherst also wrote to Colonel Bouquet, “The Post of Fort Pitt, or any of the others commanded by officers can certainly never be in danger from such a wretched enemy as the Indians are…I am fully convinced the only true method of treating those savages is to keep them in proper subjection and punish without exception the transgressors…I wish there was there was not an Indian settlement within a thousand miles of our country; for they are only fit to live with the inhabitants of the woods, being more nearly allied to the brute than the human creation.”

The British traders were also far harder to deal with than the French had been. They no longer extended credit to the First Nations until after the fall hunt. Lack of credit could mean starvation. Amherst responded to First Nations complaints by extinguishing the policy of present giving. This included arms and ammunition which he said they had in abundance. This was untrue and only added to the threat of starvation.

The new policies of the British Department of Indian Affairs enacted by General Amherst only made the situation all the more fertile for hostilities. There was an Ottawa war chief from Detroit about to burst upon the scene and he brought with him the clouds of war. His name was Pontiac. Unfortunately Amherst failed to see the threat.

NEXT WEEK:  The Beaver War 1763

Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 3

February 13, 2011

In September Major Grant of the Highlanders asked Bouquet for permission to scout out the French fort and take any prisoners he might come across. Lieutenant-Colonel Bouquet consented so Grant left the advance post at Loyalhannon Creek with 800 Highlanders, Royal Americans and militia under his command.

They followed the horse trail used by Indian traders reaching their destination at about 2:00 am on the 14th. The darkness concealed their arrival. They took up position on a small hill about half a mile from the fort. This hill would be known hereafter as Grant’s Hill. Below them lay Fort Duquesne housing several hundred French regulars. Outside the fort slept hundreds of warriors from Detroit all unaware the enemy was perched above them. 

Grant’s first plan of attack was to immediately send Major Lewis and half the Virginians to attack the sleeping warriors in front of the fort. When the warriors responded they were to feign a retreat back to the hill where the rest of the force was spread out waiting for the pursuers. Just before dawn Lewis returned to report that the plan was quite impossible as his troops had gotten lost in the thick woods because of the darkness.

So he abandoned this plan as light was upon them. He sent Lewis with 200 men two miles to the rear to guard the supplies which had been left their with Captain Bullitt and a company of Virginians. Then he spread most of his force out along the tree line except for a company of Highlanders which he ordered out on the small plain between the forest and the fort. When the fog lifted he ordered the drums to play the reveille and the Highlander to play their bagpipes.

The warriors and French soldiers startled by the noise sprung into action. Soldiers poured out of the fort to attack the British positions head on. The warriors skirted along the banks of the two rivers and surrounded Grant’s hill. Many of them took up position on a larger hill behind Grant’s Hill and began to fire down upon Grant and the Highlanders that had stayed there.

Other warriors took to the woods and attacked Grant’s men spread out along the tree line from behind. Their fierce war whoops and unseen musket fire cracked among the dense forest. This so unnerved the British that they fell into a panic. They rushed into a disorderly retreat down the horse trail toward Lewis and the supplies.

Lewis heard the gunfire so rushed to join the battle. He took a more direct route through the forest while the main force retreated pell-mell down the horse trail. Unknowingly they passed each other. Grant was horrified when he reached the supplies and found no one there while Lewis rushed headlong into a much superior force of French and warriors. Grant was taken prisoner. Lewis was taken prisoner. Only 540 returned safely to Loyalhannon out of 813.

When James Smith’s adoptive father heard of the affair he said he was at a loss to explain the British actions. He said the art of warfare was to surprise and ambush the enemy while preventing the enemy from surprising and ambushing you. Grant had placed himself in position to do just that but instead alerted his enemy by drumming the reveille and playing on the bagpipes. He said the only way he could explain such an error was that they must have had too much brandy through the night before and had become intoxicated by dawn.

General Forbes was dismayed to say the least. He was especially disturbed that such an exercise was approved without his knowledge. However, they pressed on cutting the road as far as Loyalhannon where his whole army had gathered by November.

Meanwhile, Captain Ligneris, the commandant of Fort Duquesne had run out of supplies. He had to send most of his command back to Quebec keeping only a few hundred regulars to garrison the fort. He tried to convince the warriors from Detroit to stay on and fight one more battle but they felt it was far too late in the season and they had to rejoin their families for the winter hunt. This would be the last time the First Nations would back the French as allies in any great numbers. Fort Duquesne was left all but defenseless.

General Forbes who was very sick the whole campaign had to be carried from Raystown to Loyalhannon. The fall rained had ruined the road they had cut so far turning it to a sea of mud. Washington and Colonel Armstrong of the Pennsylvania Militia had cut the road to within a mile of the French fort but with the advance of winter and the deplorable condition of the road they decided to winter at Loyalhannon.

Then they received word from their scouts that Fort Duquesne was defenseless. They decided to press on and finish the campaign. On the night of November the 24th the advance guard camped along Turkey Creek. They were close enough to the fort that they heard the distinct rumblings of kegs of powder exploding in the distance. The explosions were coming from the direction of the fort.

The next day the whole force marched on the French fort. The advance guard  was led by General Forbes being carried in a sling between two horses. They were followed by three columns. On the left Washington led the Colonial Militia and Bouquet led the Royal Americans on the right. The center column was commanded by Montgomery the new colonel of the Highlanders. When they arrived at the fort there was none. Ligneris had blown up the fortifications, burned the buildings and retreated up the Alleghany. He left nothing but a smoldering heap to conquer and no great victory to record. However, the campaign was still a great success because it gave the British the strategic ground at the confluence of the three great rivers in Pennsylvania. The following year they would construct Fort Pitt right beside the remains of Fort Duquesne and in later years it would sprawl into the important city of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

NEXT WEEK:  England Supplants France in North America 1760

Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 2

February 5, 2011

By May 1758 word has spread throughout the territories that the British under General Forbes was preparing to march on Fort Duquesne with an army of 7,000 men. This included 1,200 Highlanders, a detachment of Royal Americans with the balance made up of militia from Pennsylvania, Virgina, Maryland and North Carolina.

The Three Fires Confederacy which included Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi warriors gathered at Detroit in July. The Wyandotte joined them and they all marched off to the defence of Fort Duquesne. The memory of Braddock’s defeat fresh in their minds and the vast amount of plunder gotten drove the warriors on. Their design was a repeat of 1756.

The first decision was which route to take. Washington, being a loyal Virginian, favoured the road that Braddock had cut which led from Virgina. Forbes favoured a new road that would have to be cut through the Pennsylvanian wilderness. It would be a more direct route and only have to cross one range of the Alleghenies. There would be time enough to accomplish the road as Forbes planned to take his time advancing on the French fort. He knew the warriors there would tire of waiting for him and would have to abandon the field to return to their territories for their winter hunt. Thinking Washington’s argument was more politically driven than sound military strategy Forbes won out. By July the advance guard under Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Bouquet was camped near Raystown the site of present day Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Governor Vaudreuil sent supplies to Fort Duquesne with reinforcements to follow. Unfortunately, the supplies were at Fort Frontenac awaiting the reinforcements when Bradstreet arrived and captured them. The reinforcements were on their way from Montreal when they got word of the fall of Fort Frontenac, so with no supplies they returned to Montreal. There would be no help for the under garrisoned Fort Duquesne except for the warriors who arrived that summer.

 Meanwhile, Forbes had received word of the discontent of the Ohio First Nations. He enlisted the help of Christian John Post a Moravian missionary who knew the Delaware well, had lived among them and had married one of them. Most importantly he was well trusted by them. He arrived at the Delaware town of Kushkushkee north-west of Fort Duquesne where he met with chiefs King Beaver, Shingas and Delaware George. His message from the Governor of Pennsylvania was well received there so they took him to another town nearby.

Post got a different kind of reception there. The young warriors were in a nasty mood. Some wanted to kill him on the spot but others wanted to hear what he had to say. His message pleased them but they insisted he go with them to Fort Duquesne to deliver the message to the chiefs and warriors there. He resisted the dangerous proposal but the Delaware would accept nothing less.

When they arrived at the fort the French insisted he be turned over to them. The Delaware refused insisting that they all hear the words of the Governor of Pennsylvania. So all the First Nations and the French officers gathered outside the fort to hear what Post had to say. He informed the chiefs that General Forbes was on his way with a large army to drive the French from Ohio and that they should remain neutral in the conflict. The governor also invited them to renew the chain of friendship and peace with the British at a conference to be held at Easton, Pennsylvania. This displeased the French very much but there was nothing they could do but watch the Delaware leave with Post under their protection.

The whole Delaware nation met in council and decided that they would take hold of the peace-chain again if the invitation did not just come from Pennsylvania but from all the British provinces. This was done and the conference was held at Easton in October. The Iroquois Five Nations attended it with William Johnson along with the Delaware, Mohegans and a few other nations. The British were represented by delegates from most of their provinces. The result was that the invitation should be sent by wampum belts to all their allied nations to the west. The Moravian Post was given the task of delivering the belts. The French/First Nation alliance was beginning to disintegrate.

Post was at one of the Delaware towns meeting in council with the chiefs when a French officer from Fort Duquesne arrived. He had a belt to present them inviting them to come to the fort and help drive back Forbes. The belt was rejected with disdain. Chief Captain Peter took the French wampum string and threw it on the floor. He then took a stick and flung it across the room and the other chiefs kicked it around from one to the other. Captain Peter said that they had given their all for the French cause and had gotten nothing in return so they were determined not to help them fight the British again. He was referring to Montcalm’s betrayal the previous year.

The French officer was the escorted to a Grand Council that had been called. Post delivered messages of peace from the council at Easton. They were accepted with great pleasure by everyone except the French officer. He was ridiculed by the chiefs and warriors. One called Isaac Still pointed at him and said, “There he sits! The French always deceived us!” They all began to shout whoops of agreement. The officer could take no more. He left the council to return to Fort Duquesne to give his report. The overtures of peace were accepted all over Ohio as far as the Wabash River. The Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo and Miami were no longer allies with the French but were at peace with the British.

NEXT WEEK:  Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 3

Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 1

February 2, 2011

After the fall of Fort William Henry Montcalm did not advance on Fort Edward. His forces had been severely reduced by the abandonment of his First Nation allies and the Canadians who had returned to their provincial farms. He would have had to use too many of  his regulars just to drag his heavy artillery down the fourteen mile portage. In short, he no longer had the resources.  After burning the conquered fort and levelling the ground it stood on he retreated to winter at Fort Carillon or, as the English called it, Ticonderoga.

In 1758 the British went on the offensive. After a failed attempt the previous year to take Fort Louisburg the British fleet arrived with Generals Wolfe Amherst, Lawrence and 12,000 men. The fleet of thirty-nine ships doubled the number of fighting men.

The French stronghold was garrisoned with 3,000 regulars plus a few hundred armed citizens. First Nation support waned after Fort William Henry. The warriors that filled the Acadian forests stayed home. All that could be raised was a small band of Micmac. In the harbour there were five ships, seven frigates and another 3,000 men. The fort held out for nearly two months until it fell July 27, 1758.

In the meantime General Abercrombie with an army of 15,000 arrived at Lake George intent on taking Ticonderoga. Abercrombie was a general only because of his connections. As a military strategist he was un-inventive and single-minded. However, he plodded forward toward Ticonderoga and Montcalm.

The French fort was under garrisoned and under supplied. Vaudreuil was slow to fulfill Montcalm’s requests. He had not quite 3,500 regulars, no Canadians, no warriors and only ten days worth of supplies. But he did have his extraordinary military prowess.

After a series of military blunders by the British over two days Abercrombie lost 2,000 men trying to breach Montcalm’s improvised barricades in front of the fort. Montcalm on the other hand lost only a little more than 300.

The next night the French general sent out a sortie to reconnoiter and they attacked the main British force in the dark of night. Not knowing the strength of the French attack they panicked. As they fled through the bogs the soft mud pulled the shoes right off their feet. It was a spectacular victory for Montcalm and a bitter defeat for Abercrombie.

Colonel Bradstreet who was with Abercrombie begged him for 2,000 of the 13,000 troops he had left to move north and take Fort Frontenac. It was on the north shore of Lake Ontario a French stronghold that kept the great lake under French control. Abercrombie, anxious for some semblance of a victory granted him his request. 

But again Vaudreuil was lax. He had let the garrison fall to below 100 men. The fort’s commandant received word of Bradstreet’s advancement so he sent word to the governor to send reinforcements as quickly as possible. Vaudreuil sent one man to survey the situation and report back. Not only did he just send one man it was a one-armed man!

The woods of Eastern-Ontario was filled with Mississauga villages but they stood idly by and watched events unfold. Normally their warriors were quick to come to the aid of their French “father” Onontio but after Montcalm’s betrayal at Fort William Henry they were strangely disinterested.

Bradstreet arrived to take the fort without a shot. The commandant was waiting for him with a white flag. This unbelievable victory not only gave the British command of the lake but effectively cut the French colony in two.

The previous year the British colony’s frontier was racked with raiding parties by the Ohio First Nations. Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa and Wyandotte warriors attacked settlers along the frontier with impunity. They burned farmsteads while killing or capturing pioneers. All that year they looted and ravished the countryside from Pennsylvania to Virginia. The provincials were terror-stricken.

 William Pit, the new British Secretary of State, could see the source of all the First Nation malice, Fort Duquesne, should be put out of commission. In the spring of 1758 plans were being drawn up to do just that!

NEXT WEEK:  Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 2